Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Opening That Annoying Plastic Packaging

It looks like Brad hasn't had much fun with packaging recently

I spent some time on Wikipedia trying to figure out the type of evil plastic that is used for this stuff and got bogged down in common plastics and their usages. I now know more about polycarbonates, polystyrene, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene than I thought I'd ever want to know.

Why, oh why, do consumer products companies insist on using this shit? There has got to be a better way. I'm sure I would have done better at Wii Table Tennis if I hadn't damaged my hands.

That type of annoying plastic packaging is the bane of a geeks life. Handily I received one of these OpenX package openers a couple of Christmas' ago and life has been much better since.


The Queen - On YouTube

According to The Guardian, the Queen (or more likely some footman) has launched her own channel on YouTube.

The Queen has taken a bold stride into cyberspace by launching her own channel on the video-sharing website YouTube. The Royal Channel launches today as Buckingham Palace seeks to promote Britain's monarch to a youthful global audience.

While aides were utterly convinced it was the way forward, the 81-year-old Queen - who only recently mastered emailing and had never used a personal computer until two years ago - was not immediately acquainted with the YouTube phenomenon. But after the concept was explained to her by, among others, her granddaughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie - both avid Facebook fans - she personally approved the channel's go-ahead after viewing its contents.

I guess we'll be watching the Queen's Speech online this year.

Bonus points to the first person to find the Princesses on Facebook…

Man Cold

Looks about right to me…

[Tip'O'Hat to the wife for the link. Are you trying to tell me something honey?]

Oh ma god

So the bar I just attended had a pretty good cover band playing. Standard classic rock. Not too bad and definitely not loud at all - if fact I think they could probably have cranked it up a couple of notches as I could still hear the conversation on the next table.

I stepped outside for a moment and heard a valley girl wannabe say "Oh ma god, could they turn it down a couple of octaves, I can hardly hear myself think!'

Her comment was wrong in so many ways that I leave it up to you, dear reader, to uncover them.

Useful Spam

A little while ago I received the first genuinely useful piece of spam at a catch all address for one of my sites. I reproduce it here for posterity:

To: xxx@xxx.com
Subject: Per your request.
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2007 15:15:27 -0500

Recipe for great BBQ Sauce: 

1 quart apple cider vinegar 
1 (20 ounce) bottle ketchup 
1/4 cup paprika 
1 pound dark brown sugar 
1/4 cup salt 
1 tablespoon black pepper 
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes 
1 tablespoon garlic powder 
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 
1/2 cup lemon juice 

In a large container, mix together the apple cider vinegar, ketchup, 
paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, 
Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Pour into an empty vinegar bottle, 
ketchup bottle or other container and store in the refrigerator for up to 
1 month.

Wonderful. I can't wait to try it out!

I'm sure the spam was just an attempt to find a valid email address by using an innocuous payload. It also looks like I'm not the only one to get this

CableCard Installation Woes, TiVo Goodness and Amazon Unbox

You get your moneys worth with this post…

As I posted a little while ago, I had finally had enough of the piece of technological rubbish that is the Comcast HD DVR box and purchased a TiVo Series 3 through Amazon. All that was left to do was actually have the two shiny cablecards installed by the “qualified” Comcast technician.

To be quite honest, I have no idea what they mean by “qualified” as he took a couple of hours to plug them in and sit on the phone chatting to a friend back at base while said person back at base kept pressing a button to send a signal to activate them.

My present and non-present technicians quite happily took ages to attempt this feat of technical brilliance and also failed to actually achieve it.

You see, it took my “qualified” guy eight cablecards to find two that actually worked and then left telling me that it was all working.

Well, at least it appeared to be working.

Later that day I figured out that you couldn't have both tuners set to channels 118 or above. One would work and the other would just show a black screen.

Uh oh.

It actually took me a while to figure out which of the cards wasn't working correctly, but once I did I called up Comcast and spoke to a sharp lady who actually appeared to know what she was talking about. She had me pop the duff card out of the box and read her the physical serial number.

Two of the digits were transposed between the actual serial number and the number that they had in their database.

Hmm. So my original “qualified” technician, didn't really check anything at all. I wonder if those other six, duff cards were actually ok, that he just couldn't read and that he just gave up?

Anyhow, I thought that now Comcast had the right serial number they would now be able to send the correct activation signal and all would be well?


I had to take the card to the local retail store and exchange it for another one. I have no idea why and couldn't get anyone to explain it to me.

I did as I was bid, wrote down the serial number of the new card and called up Comcast again.

“You'll have to bear with me as this is the first time I've done a cablecard pairing.”

Oh joy.

After thirty minutes I was told that I was all set and the new cablecard should be activated within ten minutes.

No joy after another thirty…

So I call up again and speak to another seemingly intelligent Comcast droid who looks at my account, says “Umm, the signal was never sent. Hang on a second.”

Bing! All channels received!

Thank you, mysterious Comcast technician…

And as for the actual TiVo itself? What more can I say, this thing is exceptional. Snappy and beautiful UI, gobs of storage (with the ability to add more via USB), lots of online features, the ability to move recorded shows around the net, etc…

And so far, the best thing is Amazon Unbox. Order TV shows and movies via the TiVo itself or via the web and have them show up almost immediately via the internet is a thing of beauty.

At the moment, the wife and I are heavily into Heroes (which we missed the first time around). All delivered via Amazon Unbox.

Highly recommended.

Amazon Recommendations

Due to my wife's recent use of my Amazon account to order stuff for the kids, and certain items of female clothing for herself, I'm firmly convinced after looking at my recommendations on Amazon that it thinks I'm a transvestite soccer mom with a penchant for SciFi and WiFi routers.

At least my TiVo still likes me.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.