Saturday, January 13, 2018

Grandma's Passing

My Grandma passed away yesterday, at age 94. I always liked this picture of her, which I took during a summer visit to North Carolina in 2007, the year before Grandpa passed away. You can see the sky and trees from her back porch (and me taking the photo) in the reflection.

But that picture doesn't show as much of her warm spirit as is warranted, so I'll submit this photo of us hand-churning ice cream (one of our favorite pastimes) with my cousin on my mom's porch in the mid 1980s.

We always held Christmas Eve at her house, and those are fond memories as well, but I couldn't find the photos of those times today. We would walk over from Mom's house through the woods to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas Even dinner every year, then open family presents and walk back home, full of food and family stories, in the crisp Appalachian December darkness, illuminated only with our flashlights, the moon or stars.

For the first six years of my life, I was lucky enough to be the only grandchild, and after that, my parents and I lived on the hill adjacent to ours in rural North Carolina. Grandma didn't have a job, which guaranteed that at any time from that point forward, I could expect to always have a gingerbread cookie and a bowl of hard candy waiting for me at her A-Frame house (shown below after they first moved in in the late 1970s). I would often stop by while riding my bike as a kid to talk to her as she worked in her garden.

Grandma loved hiking around in their 50-acre woodlands, and so did I, as an only child living out in the country. Here we are pictured on a hike that we and my parents took one day up to the top of a nearby mountain in the early 1980s.

Grandma came with us to the beach in North Carolina every Summer during my life until she couldn't travel. The photo below was taken just after Grandpa passed in 2008, but my most vivid memories are from 25 years before that, of getting up early (we were the only two that would) and taking a walk on the beach to find seashells (which, as legend says, were much more plentiful back then).

Grandma's passing didn't come as a surprise, but that doesn't always make it easier. She had suffered from Alzheimer's for more than 8 years, hadn't spoken much in the last year, and could barely wake up for the last month. And yet a life of healthy choices made her body's strength, even though her mind had left, amazing.

During all that time, my mom was her primary care provider, and it was a testament to both of their kindness, good nature and patience -- Filial piety at its best.

I last saw Grandma in August, and even though she was barely there, in the moment, I was glad that I did. This was my last picture, with her and my mom:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Installing a SSD in my Dell Inspiron 3650 Desktop

After weeks of working and ordering cables, I FINALLY got my SSD HD installed on my new desktop today. If I'd have known it was this hard I might not have done it, or might have spent the money to get a desktop with one already installed.

I've said it before and I'll say it again though -- having Windows on an SSD is THE BEST improvement you can make. Even on this brand new Inspiron 3650 computer, it was still slow to boot and launch programs until I completed this task.

(Sidenote: I got a great deal on this Dell Inspiron 3650 on CyberMonday 2017. It comes with a 2 TB HDD, 12 GB RAM & an i7-7400 processor, but no SSD)

I'm writing this blog to say that is IS possible to install the Samsung 850 EVO SSD on an Inspiron 3650 desktop, it just takes some research, specific parts, and work, especially if you're like me and haven't installed a hard drive since Windows 98.

One problem was the proprietary power cord that Dell puts in these computers, shown above at the arrow. It comes hardwired with one end proprietary to this motherboard, and is split into one SATA and one other power cord that goes to the DVD-ROM. So even if you purchase another of these proprietary cables with two SATA power ports, you can keep your old HDD but you will lose your DVD-ROM (I *think* a SATA power splitter will solve this but I still have to test that theory).
Another problem is that the SSD bracket Amazon gives you with this SSD doesn't work in the Inspiron 3650 due to proprietary brackets that Dell uses. Early on in the Inspiron Desktop line, and even shortly after they began selling the 3650, it was impossible to purchase the bracket without convincing a Dell salesperson that you needed it. Fortunately now you can purchase it on Amazon. (Supposedly -- I haven't tried it out yet). I suspect I may not be able to use it due to the long distance between the hard drives and motherboard in the 3650). You don't HAVE to have this, you can secure the SSD with existing screw holes or cable prongs, or you could leave it hanging (not a great idea but not a huge problem with SSD's since they have no moving parts).

Yet another problem is the BIOS, which Dell was kind enough to include two confusing options (F2 & F12 on bootup). Before I reversed the SATA cables, putting the Samsung SSD on SATA1 and the other hard drive on SATA2, I could not find an option in the BIOS to boot to the SSD at all, even with their F12 boot-from menu, which either tried to boot from the network card (why in the world is that even an option), or said it was booting from the SSD but in fact booted Windows on the old HDD.

Here's a step-by-step process that will allow you to port your current Windows 10 installation over from the HDD to the SSD:

1.) Plug in your Samsung EVO SSD into a USB port on your computer. (To do this, you'll need a special cable that is rumored to come with the EVO, but didn't for me, and my Vantec HDD to USB didn't let Windows or Samsung software recognize the drive -- super surprising to me because the Vantec has saved my ass many times).

2.) Install and run the Samsung Data Migration software (the "Magician" software doesn't appear to do anything useful). This will clone your drive, and despite what some say, you DON'T need other software like EaseUs to do this.

3.) Shut down your computer, unplug everything and open 'er up (a little tricky but there are instructions online).

4.) Install your bracket & cables (you'll need one SATA data cable and whatever solution works for the bizarre Dell power situation, I'll explain more later with a picture, when I get a working solution that saves the DVD-ROM too).

5.) Plug your SATA data cable INTO THE SATA1 (BLUE) port. It won't work without this, I found out in the end, because the BIOS (despite all the options) will never boot from anything but the first port.

6.) Boot up. You shouldn't have to do ANYTHING to the BIOS, it should just boot up. If it's still slow, and you can only see your old HDD when you get into Windows, you can pop out the CMOS battery to reset everything. (Because I did this before doing #5 correctly, I'm not sure if this step is required, but it didn't work by itself).

7.) Now if you can't see your old HDD in Windows, it's because of something called a "Disk Signature Collision." Follow the instructions on Google to re-enable it. Now, you're good to go, you can delete Windows off your old HDD and use it for storage. Hooray!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Go Go Gadget VR!

Virtual Reality may be about to hit the masses. I think the Oculus Go *could* be a game changer for VR.

People have been trying to get VR to catch on since the early 90s when I was in college (see magazine cover from 1995 below, courtesy Sean Clark). Back then, it required a suit and a huge computer, ala "Lawnmower Man" -- I kid you not.

There was a company that brought VR games to campuses for a weekend -- these were basically triple-sized arcade games that you had to sit or stand in (in addition to wearing VR goggles and gloves). One tank game (not unlike "Spectre VR" if anybody remembers that) and I was hooked. And so were the teenagers that setup the equipment, with a tired look and bags under their eyes.

Fast forward to a few years ago... the idea to attach Google Cardboard to a phone made sense, because most people had phones already and the device was cheap. Oculus Rift could also be attached to a PC, if more computing power was needed.

Sidenote: I tested the Rift at Social Media Week in New York City this February, and was disappointed that it didn't have better resolution than Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear, both of which I own (Gear shown below). We're not even up to Lawnmower Man standards here, man.

The holy grail, however, has been the all-in-one device, and with a price of $199, it could *maybe* catch on in the masses. Any more expensive and they'd rather get a better solution like PlayStation VR. Any cheaper, and it won't be able to have the power needed for basic VR. An all-in-one device can battle VR motion sickness by having close-to-zero delay from head movement to screen, which is one thing that has held Google Cardboard back.

What do YOU think?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Clouds in my Covfefe

Yes, Donald Trump is still president. It wasn't a dream; it wasn't a nightmare. But no, he's not getting much done. Ironically, he's a lot like Barack Obama. He saw his election as a directive to "fix" government, but after getting in office, he realized how difficult it is to change anything in the red tape of Washington.

Really at this point, the only thing he has managed to officially pass is a bi-partisan veterans' bill. Even his attempt at an executive ordered "travel ban" the first week in office just last week was approved by the Supreme Court for a temporary stay.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What Does Facebook's "Jesse 2016" Video Tell Us?

It's almost a new year, and you know what that means -- Facebook is attempting to summarize it all for me. Here's their video of my "highlights" for the year:


 It wasn't a great year, but Facebook's algorithms were smart enough to leave out most of the bad stuff -- and so was I.  It picked events from June on -- which makes sense since the first half of the year really sucked ("The Year of Suck" as my wife would say.) 2016's about over -- "Another Trip Around the Sun," Facebook says, and good riddance, we say.

What Facebook thought was "important" were these items (in reality these are probably picked based on popularity & engagement):

- June 14th -- I give a tour of AccuWeather HQ to my brother-in-law and his wife
- June 24th -- I finally meet Reed Timmer in person at AccuWeather hQ
- July 30th -- I get a cat (I think the cat got short shrift, as this was a major milestone)*
August 5th -- I spill Mountain Dew into my laptop (hilarity ensues, except in our IT department)
- August 27th -- I pose with a skeleton at Home Goods
- September 25th -- I go to Kristi's family reunion
- November 8th -- I vote in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (you know, the one where love lost?)

It does allow you to also edit these events, so I stuck in a second picture of the cat. Then I realized I had forgotten to create a "life event" that would probably have triggered additional shrift for said cat in the Facebook algorithms. Well, consider that problem fixed.

Facebook also sends me these additional statistics: 

I became friends with 294 people this year, most notable of which are (I think) Jesus and Santa, indicated by the red arrows. A couple of buildings and a storm made it in there too!

Some of the people in this graphic, however, I have been friends with for even longer so it's possible this is also based on some sort of engagement algorithm. Facebook also summarized where I visited on this map. I checked into 144 places this year. 

This map is very telling. Because of the hospitalization of our daughter, 100% of my travel in 2016 was related to her care -- I never left the state except for when she was in New Jersey.  This was the first year I hadn't taken a Summer vacation since probably 2006, when I had just purchased a new house and dog and couldn't afford the trip or the time off. 

And finally, Facebook Reactions -- the new emoticon buttons that launched this Spring. I clicked the "Like" button over 4,000 times, and 95% of my reactions were "Like" alone. No offense intended, it's just the easiest button to hit. I was most likely to be sad, and least likely to be angry. 

I can tell you that most of those sads were for my friends pet's passing. Because I've been through that sort of thing too many times before (most recently in 2012), I make it a point to always "Sad" peoples posts when they've lost their pets, and post "Sorry to hear" in the comments, because it was important to me to hear those things when Star passed away. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dewey Defeats Truman

At 3:01 AM on November 9, 2016, in Alabama, newspaper printing machines at two locations grinded to a halt. The unexpected had happened: Donald Trump had won the presidency. Per normal procedure when a front page is printed and the headline changes overnight, hundreds of printed front pages were destroyed and the "alternate" front page was loaded in, and printing started again. Few, if any, paper copies made it out into the world and were promptly retrieved. 

Unbeknownst to the technician who saved the day, 60 seconds earlier a computer had automatically and electronically transmitted their "first print" papers over the Internet to, just like 900 other newspapers do every day, and have been doing for years.

The Birmingham News in Alabama proudly displayed their headline "Madam President" but listed the electoral count for both candidates as "XXX" -- awaiting a final count from their editors. A truly "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment.

The Huntsville TImes hadn't loaded the winner's picture in yet, but carried the same headline, with the entire lead text in nonsense Latin placeholder text. 

Preparing two different newspaper editions is not unusual, of course, because historically print media has had to be created far in advance of its release date. The double edition of Newsweek Magazine caused a stir when the Trump-only version was leaked. "The election was rigged!" was the chant, because everyone, including Trump's supporters, didn't expect him to win. is currently not responding, and when it comes back up, it will probably not have these copies anymore. I have the PDFs saved if anyone is interested. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Where To See (Real) Election Results Tomorrow

By this time tomorrow night, we just might know which of these Newsweek magazines will be published:

Here's how to watch the election results: 

1. Watch Cable TV (stick with the big guys, CNN or FOX probably) or use their apps. They will probably make a final call around 10pm-12am, depending on results.

2. Type in "Election Results" on Google.

3. Don't believe ANYTHING you read on Facebook or Twitter unless it's from a reliable source.

Here's one more possibility: The VoteCastR app (or visit their website). Here's what it's all about:

Today we're making HISTORY... not just with the election but with Votecastr REAL-TIME voting data & predictions, without the pundits. Who knows how accurate this will be, as this technology is untested, but it will be interesting.

"This will break a decades long journalistic tradition whereby media outlets obey a self-imposed embargo on voting information. For the first time, you’ll have access to the same kind of data that campaigns use to monitor voting activity." --Slate

Whether or not you use this is up to you. If you're on the fence, I certainly wouldn't look at this before you vote.