Oct 11

Just the facts, how I bought a Ford Fusion

First, for weeks, I was like, hmmmmm

Then I was like, wooo!

But still, hmm; it was a lot of $$ for a very part time player.

And for awhile after, I was like arrrgh. But since I bought from

I was like, yeeeah.

Mar 11

The Best Buy Credit Card Scam

First off, the term “scam” should be taken with a grain of salt, hopefully one of many stuck to a margarita glass. Secondly, what HSBC Best Buy has going can definitely be termed a racket.

The Pitch: Open a Best Buy Credit Card and pay no interest 24 months!!

The typically skeptical Consumer thought process: Hmmm, free financing; what’s the catch? OK, so this is actually an HSBC bank credit card, sure… nothing else jumps out as odd in the immediate fine print.

This seems ideal for a large purchase like that washer and dryer we so desperately need. I’ll read the minimum payment from my first statement and put this baby on auto-pay. Score.

The reality:

  • Month 1-6: minimum payment $10
  • Month 7: minimum payment $23; auto-paid $10 minimum payment insignificant; $35 late fee assessed
  • Month 8: minimum payment $36; oh shit, what’s all this now? LATE FEE? WTF!

According to a HSBC representative, “a new law was passed in January and you received a notice in the mail about your minimum payment.” To date, I have yet to find said notice. I did however, find the exact same claim from a blog post in The HSBC Monitor, “there was a new law that passed in January that requires them to charge a higher percentage of the balance” which, interestingly enough was posted in 2006.

Eventually, the representative passed me to a “manager” and the late-fees were waived. All was ok, I was alright even though I had spent hours on the phone talking to human script reading machines. I Had Won. So, I figure OK – boost the auto-pay amount to $30, well above that old minimum and I’ll be good. Then *two* months go by.

Minimum payment: $46. Auto pay shy of $16. Late fee bitch +$35.

Conundrum: call HSBC, waste hour(s) pitching how wrong they are to charge this fee. Or, pay it, stfu and take it.

Moral of the story: Signing up for a free financing offer means to mentally prepare to add that to your monthly checklist. Do not rely on auto pay to “beat the system”. Pay close attention to each and every message sent from the company providing that “free” credit. They Will Try To Screw You out of some money.

Jan 11

Getting The Most out of Tools & Toys

I’ve always enjoyed wading through the underrated benefits-pool of owning just-sub mainstream products. My most recent two are an Android phone and a DLink file server (NAS). I left both “stock” for at least a month after purchase, satisfied with the performance provided out of box.

The devices, stock visuals:
* Samsung Epic 4G

* DLink DNS 323

Then the itch – spurred on by (profuse) reading of tweaks and hacks each device affords, that each can do more than what they do now – becomes unbearable. To scratch would appease but not without risk; each device will likely be void of warranty. Worse still is potentially “bricking” a device making it altogether unusable. Even with these consequences, temptation thrives and eventually overtakes.

Perhaps the greatest bit about these devices is that they are based on open source software. Getting to a Linux terminal shell (CLI) on either, is a relatively trivial task. Furthermore, due to the ease of stepping into such an accessible environment, the developer/enthusiast communities blossom.

Without having to write (or even look at) a line of code, both devices can be extended well beyond the consumer level they are marketed at. To tweak brings about such satisfaction, as deriving more function from form. The cost of which is a devotion of umpteen amounts of free time to push consumer hardware to its limits in exchange for paltry donations, “fame” and gratitude.

Even still, the software produced by these die-hards is dangerous. All the safeguards, QA, provided by these enterprise class companies with their tremendous R&D budgets, are effectively dissolved. When we step into rootshell, we leave the safe user level space established by the powers that be. But do we find glory or agony? Depending on the maturity of the community, generally the former.

And in my case? Most certainly the former. I had a few scares but all in all, both my NAS and phone are blazing far above stock. You’ve just got to be willing to put the time in and read read read. Don’t jump without reading everything there is to know about the “rooting” process. By the end, if you aren’t sure you fully understand what you are about to do, don’t.

The payoff, in screenshots from my phone:

ssh from my epic to the dns 323

Dec 10

Thrifty technology buyer’s bane

8GB RAM in my trusty thinkpad X200 laptop has been a desire / occasional-need for quite some time. As a point of perspective, since the 8GB DDR3 “kit” (2 chips by 4GB each) cost well over $300. When I finally bit the bullet, patience on a potential deal expired, the kit had been hovering around $110 shipped for a few weeks.

Today, no more than seven days after purchase and a day after installing, a comparable kit can be procured for ~$66. Color me irritated.

On the upside, the brand I bought is the same price and arguably of superior quality to the slickdeal PNY brand.

Oct 10

Unintentional Art via frozen Windows

Those clever engineers at Microsoft… what better way to deal with the frustration of having a locked up application than through art? I remember creating angry-art pieces back when frozen Windows applications, such as IE6 were common place. Good times.

Thanks to mr doob for re-creating the experience in a controlled environment.

Jun 10

Want to do something right?

Remember the Six P’s:
Piss Poor Planning Prevents Proper Performance.

Jan 10

Fallen Frank

When I first laid eyes on Frank, he was head down, on his hands and knees in the muddy grass. An adorable hound dog puppy bounded around him. He appeared to be looking for something. Thinking nothing of it, I prepared to jog past but as I approached, he called out to me.

Frank had slipped on the mud when the pup pulled him in an unforeseen direction. He’d fallen and was unable to get up.

Frank and his wife Julie have lived just on the outskirts of Casa Grande High (CGH) for over 40 years. He, his son and his grandson graduated from CGH and his grand daughter is on her way. When he finds out where I went to high school, he asks pointedly, “then what are you doing here?”

I don’t take offense because I understand well the historical rivalry between Petaluma High and Casa Grande. I grew up on the West side, and now I live on the East. One town, two high schools, no doubt a Classic American story. How could I betray my district?! Rather easily in fact, I never gave a shit.

I simply state that I like it here, as I grab hold of Frank’s arms to help him get up.  I maintain a somewhat reserved distance as he is a stranger. I lift, hard, only to find he really can’t help and to no avail as he goes back down. He says he weighs 220, oh, no, 210 now, and he’s too heavy for me to lift up. We negotiate that maybe, if he could make it to the fence, he could use it as a hand hold while I lift him. Frank then says, that he has leukemia, “…it’s a blood disease.  My fuckin’ arms are dead, there’s no strength left.”

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