nullstream weblog - Rant

AT&T Data Plans and Tethering


June 8, 2010 11:06 AM PST

Some thoughts:

Previously AT&T charged 30.00 a month for an 'unlimited' data plan. In reality all of these plans have/had 'soft' limits of around 5g if you read the fine print, but I'm not sure it was widely enforced.

AT&T offered tethering plans for most of it's smart phones, excluding iPhone for some reason, for around another 30.00 a month. People complained that it wasn't fair to charge you more money just to access the data you already purchased from another device. The example of your home internet was used. You pay for the pipe to your house, and you can hang as many devices on it as you want. AT&T's response was that tethering to a computer would actually increase the amount of average data you consumed on your plan and they needed to cover those costs.

AT&T promised that tethering was coming to the iPhone almost exactly 1 year ago. It still has not.

Continue reading "AT&T Data Plans and Tethering"...

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No More Netflix Profiles


June 19, 2008 09:37 AM PST

Netflix jumps on the popular feature removal bandwagon. Starting Sept 1 they are eliminating profiles. Profiles allow you to setup multiple Netflix queues under one account. For example my wife has her own queue with one DVD out at a time. This way she can manage her own list of sappy chick flicks while I fill my own queue with, uh, more important stuff. So much for a good thing. Thanks Netflix.

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No More Google Browser Sync


June 18, 2008 11:31 PM PST

Lifehacker reports that Google Browser Sync has been discontinued and will not be updated to support firefox 3. That is so lame. It is my favorite Firefox plug in, and has completely changed how I use a browser. I have it installed on all my computers for syncing bookmarks and open tabs. Thanks Google.

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360 Divx Support - LAME!


December 4, 2007 08:20 AM PST

Ok after a long, long, long wait the 360 now plays Divx files. Let the let-down begin. This is the worst Divx support I have ever seen. It will only play Divx files made with newest codec versions. It will not play anything I have made with the original hacked Divx codec. Nothing I originally made with Vidomi (SBC) or Nandub. Basically about 80% of my library (which I just spent several days copying from CD to hard drive) will not play. And of those that do, some stutter so bad as to make them un-watchable. It seems to handle newer Xvid movies encoded with AutoGk ok. I'm guessing official Divx support is good but I haven't really tested that as I don't use that codec anymore. I'm sure we'll see a breakdown of support on the web soon.

Other info: The MP4 support seems unchanged (good but some issues with simple profile). I'm guessing mp4 5.1 is still not supported. Also there has been no attempt made to unify video support between the dashboard and the media center extender. MC Extender still cannot play divx or mp4, and dashboard cannot play mp2 or msdvr. This makes the 360 un-family friendly as a video solution.

After playing with Xbox Media Center (XBMC) for a week (a post about that coming soon) this is a real let down. XBMC plays every video file I have. I mean everything. Maybe MS will be pressured to fix this poor attempt at support, maybe they won't. Maybe I'm the only one who cares about original Divx support? Bottom line; don't throw away your transcoder yet.

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Experiment: XP


October 3, 2007 11:54 PM PST

osx.png Almost 7 months ago, I switched completely to the Mac at home. Since that time, I've picked up an iPhone and moved my home network to Airport Extreme.

It hasn't been completely trouble free, and I find my myself wondering if I shouldn't go back to my old set up: Mac OS X for my laptop and Windows for my desktop.

What caused me to start doubting my switch? There are a lot of little things that irritate me when using a Mac.

Continue reading "Experiment: XP"...

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Vista Virtualization Limitations


June 20, 2007 04:00 PM PST

About three months ago I wrote a blog entry to express my frustration with MS's attempts to limit Vista virtualization via the EULA to only the most expensive skus. I calmed down however and decided not to post it.

Recently MS decided to relent to user outcry and reverse their EULA restrictions. They had a press release preloaded and ready to launch, but then at the last minute they changed their mind. Well I changed my mind also. Here is my original post. Beware there be dragons.

Continue reading "Vista Virtualization Limitations"...

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Live Messenger Broken Features


June 20, 2007 09:34 AM PST

I have never managed to get messenger's white-boarding and application sharing activities to work. And by never I mean that I've tried it with every new version of messenger that has come out over the last couple of years. I have tried it across the web as well as with a contact on the same local LAN. I suspect that these features do not work at all.

Please comment if you have been able to make this work, or know anyone else who has.

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No love for multiple 360s


June 3, 2007 10:39 PM PST

Dear multiple Xbox 360 customer... thanks for buying more than one of our expensive products.. As a reward for your loyalty please accept this 'feature' as a token of our appreciation...

With the original Xbox, you could use recovery to put your account on multiple consoles and switch between them freely (also known as roaming).... you can now only have one Xbox Live profile active on one Xbox 360 console at a time. That means when you recover on one console, any copy you have on another console is invalidated. If you go back to that console, you'll have to recover again.

Ahh thanks. So instead of just being able to move from one box to the other by just logging in, now I currently have to go through some big recovery process. Oh and by the way, recovering your accounts takes over 15 minutes for some reason. But wait there's more... now that I've transfered all my data from my old box to my new box, I can no longer play Hexic on the old 360. This is because it was pre-installed, and has subsequently been deleted and it is not available for download.

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Xbox Elite Un-unboxing


May 23, 2007 02:37 AM PST

It seems I forgot to post the obligatory unboxing video when my Elite arrived. Oh, wait no I didn't, I think unboxing videos are dumb. It seems all the rage lately for people to clog YouTube with videos of themselves un-packing their new shiny and commenting in excruciating detail about the contents of every single plastic bag, accessory and widget. In the case of mobile devices they all end pretty much the same way: "Let me see if I can turn it on and show you... oh wait, I guess I'll have to charge the battery first..." Seriously, maybe a video review of a new product might be interesting, but I don't need to watch you take it out of the box. I can see what is included in the package easy enough from the product's web page thank you very much.

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Virtual Fridays


March 4, 2007 01:07 AM PST

Weekly meetings: the bane of productive engineers everywhere. They are doubly brutal when held on Monday mornings. There is nothing like a Monday morning weekly meeting to suck the energy out of the start of the work week. You know the drill: file into the conference room, every one taking their usual seat while trying to avoid sitting next to the guy with intense coffee breath or who farts too much.

Continue reading "Virtual Fridays"...

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Oh, come on


February 9, 2007 08:13 PM PST

Virtualization Illegal?
Specifically Parallels, won't release a version that can run OSX under virtualization because they don't want their users to do anything illegal, or to open them up to legal issues. VMWare is wrestling with the same moral issue. Apparently Apple's ELUA specifically forbids virtualization.

I was just talking about this very thing yesterday. I know Apple is worried about running OSX on non Apple, hardware, but why not just work with them to make sure it doesn't? How cool (or ironic depending on your point of view) would it be to run OSX in a VM under Windows on Mac hardware? In fact I think if Parallels could work it so that they can virtualize either way while accessing your native partition, it would be good for their business and Apples.

Oh and if you want a laugh, read the last couple of sentences of that article where they speculate if it is even technically possible to run OSX under virtualization. Are they serious? Just search a few torrent sites guys, people have been running it under VMWare on non Apple hardware since the first Intel developer version came out! I guess I expect too much from ARS.

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Heartbeat Post


January 7, 2007 08:37 AM PST

Well the blog has been a bit dead for a while now. I started several posts over the last few weeks but never finished any of them. I have been a bit distracted lately with the holidays and pre-holiday weather nonsense (floods, wind storms, snow, 7 days without power). But that is no excuse. Here is a random rant just to prove the blog is not dead.

Paul Thurrott finished his big Vista review. He has been in love it / hate it mode for so long now that frankly I lost interest. One side effect of the amount of time he has spent writing it is that it is not consistent at all. There are still a bunch of complaints in it, although he has sanitized most of them out now. Even after all the whining over the last year, he gives it 4 out of 5. I'm purposely not linking to his site here as I don't feel I need to help his page rank out. I reacted strongly to one minor side comment however. In his continued rant about Aero's glass effect making it hard to tell which window is in the forground (i.e. active) he offers this suggestion:

"Instead of the subtle differences between the foreground window and other windows as in today's Aero, Vista should instead dim or fade the other windows, making it far more obvious which windows are in front. Windows that are further back could be dimmed more, giving the desktop an interesting 3D perspective."

Umm, no! Lets think for a moment why that would be a bad idea. It is basically taking the point that people only care about the active window, all other windows should effectively be grayed, and un-readable out to avoid distraction. Geez, does he do anything with his computer besides work on his 5 year old review? As for me I have invested in high res displays and multiple monitors over the years exactly so I could see more than one app at a time - not just the active one. He might as well just run all his apps full screen, sheesh.

That reminds me that I'm still working on my theory to explain the differences between multi-monitor users and non multi-monitor users. Maybe I need to factor in another group - full screen only users. But that is a story for another post.

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Ipod Enabled [insert random object here]


October 18, 2006 01:06 PM PST

For a while I thought the current trend to iPod enable everything from toilet paper dispensers to backpacks was a bit amusing. But seriously, please make it stop. An iPod enabled shirt? A guy could get beat up for wearing something like that in my neighborhood.

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Abandoning Google Desktop Search


July 5, 2006 11:07 PM PST

There is kind of a funny, sick feeling you get when you find out that something isn’t exactly what you believed it to be. I had that experience recently with my desktop search. I was lulled into thinking that once you installed a desktop search utility your days of hunting through piles of files was over. I mean there is just something about the name ‘Google’ that inspires confidence in search results. If Google says I don’t have a local file with that keyword, who am I to argue? Google must be right – that is unless you are actually staring at that exact keyword in one of your files.

Continue reading "Abandoning Google Desktop Search"...

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Sorry state of music DRM


May 30, 2006 09:16 AM PST

I hate DRM.
There are a lot of good reasons to hate it. For one, when it just doesn’t work. I bought a single for my daughter over the weekend. The purchase went through easy enough, at least they had NO problem billing my credit card, but the song will not play. It gives me some cryptic license error. Of course when I click on the link for more information it sends me to another error page. This page says it can’t find any info about the other error.
I tried to restore my license, but it gives me a different error. I tried to play my previously purchased DRM music (I have not tried this for over 1 year) – nope another error. I boot up my older machine, the one that I used to purchase those albums, (so it was known to at least work at some point in time) - same error. Ok, what is a consumer supposed to do at this point? Since it is Microsoft DRM and the songs were purchased from different music stores I don’t have a single point of contact. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen with CD’s, or MP3s for that matter.
Why should we put up with it? Your entire CD collection doesn’t just decide one day to say; “Well I’m not really sure you paid for me anymore – because I either can’t connect to my network masters, or I lost your license, or I corrupted it or something. So I’m just not going to play your music just to be safe. How about a nice game of solitare instead?”

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Visual Studio 2005 Distributed on a stack of Punch Cards


April 21, 2006 12:27 AM PST

Ok, not really, but close. I just picked up a copy of VS 2005 Pro from the MS company store. I went to install it and what do I find? A pile of CDs! Seriously this is 2006. All I want is for massive programs like VS to be distributed on a DVD. Is that too much to ask? I should not have to sit there and feed it 5 CDs. All the computers I own have DVD drives. How can you be a serious developer and not have a DVD drive? I mean they are less than $20. Have you seen what they charge for VS 2005 Pro? It lists for 499.99. Can you possibly afford that and not already have a DVD drive? Oh man.

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Sony, king of proprietary closed formats


March 31, 2006 12:30 PM PST

Sony just never stops trying to snare consumers into its overpriced closed solutions. UMD was just another example of that. Now it is being reported everywhere that (predicably) the format looks like it is going to fail. Duh. Have you seen how much they are trying to charge you for a low res, PSP only version of a movie you probably already own on DVD? Here is a random article on the topic: The bell tolls for UMD. It also doesn't hurt that there are readily available methods for ripping and converting DVDs to play on PSP. Well at least they'll sell some more (gag, retch) memory sticks.

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My First Apple Product


January 28, 2006 10:42 PM PST

For Christmas I got my wife an Ipod Nano 4g. Anyone who knows me understands the significance of this. I am not exactly an Apple fan, and this purchase was difficult for me. But I got through it and managed to get one in time for Christmas. My first impressions where pretty positive, despite the fact that it got pretty scratched up in the 5 minutes it took me to get it from the packaging and into a protective sheath. (Seriously what is up with that)? My wife took right to it and loves it. I should say she ‘loved’ it. It died today, 1 month and 3 days since first use. She was using it on and off all day. She turned it off for 15 minutes and then it wouldn’t come back on. It doesn't respond to reset or charging, It’s dead Jim.

Ask me some time what I think of Apple.

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Sony Who?


November 9, 2005 12:04 PM PST

As if Sony hasn't been acting dumb enough with the recent DRM root kit nonsense. Now they appear to have applied for a patent that will lock a video game to the first console that plays it. This is an attempt to destroy the pre-owned gaming market. There is not specific mention of the PS3 in the patent, but boy I hope they put it in. If that happens the PS3 will be dead from the starting gate. He's dead Jim.

Just another example of how these guys don't get it. This one has nothing to do with controlling piracy - just another example of trying to screw their actual paying customers. (Disclaimer: the timing of this revelation seems a bit fishy, so I won't be too surprised if it turns out to be a hoax).

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Hey, wanna try some iTunes?


October 26, 2005 09:12 PM PST

That crazy Apple is always trying to trick you into installing iTunes. It reminds me of those car salesmen who are always pushing the undercoating. Uhhh, I just don’t want it, ok?

Last week I installed the new QuickTime because I wanted to view an H264 clip. I tip toed around all the sharp jagged rocks and found the link to install it without the bundled ITunes. I thought I was safe. Now when I start QuickTime I get this start page with ads, music links and trailers and stuff. It reminds me of that annoying MSN start page that messenger defaults to – yuck. Anyway I digress. So today I bring it up and I click on a trailer for a movie I’m interested in… and instead of the movie a web page pops up that reads in large print:

You Need iTunes.
The link you just clicked requires the free iTues jukebox software. …

And then it happily offers to install it for me.

I don’t even want ITunes, and I certainly don’t NEED it. Nothing against it, I’m just happy with my current long distance carrier, err, music solution, thank you very much. I don’t want yet another app competing for ownership of my media file associations – gosh! Besides why would I need iTunes to play a QuickTime movie trailer? They even said ‘requires’ not just ‘we recommend.’ Even as aggravated as this makes me, I still want to see the trailer. So I head over to and click on the one I want and wouldn’t you know it, it plays just fine in plain ole QuickTime. No iTunes required. Shame on you Apple for trying to trick us.

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Fool me twice...


October 26, 2005 12:52 AM PST

Well my second hitachi microdrive just died today. This one made it less than 6 months. As George pointed out after the death of my last microdrive (read comments), the actual usage specs on these things are pitiful.

Continue reading "Fool me twice..."...

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September 15, 2005 10:52 AM PST

Wow, I mean wow. Now I remember why I hate these guys. You'd think after being screwed over so many times by Verizon in the past I'd learn my lesson. I'll skip my past rants about their over charging me for years on a local long distance plan, and my long saga to try and get DSL from them for 5 years at my old house. Most of you guys have heard this already.

So I email them (cause they keep putting me on infinite hold) and ask why I can't get the rate I signed up for. I slanted the mail as if I was concerned that the order might have been taken wrong. Or maybe they just forgot to press the 'high speed' button or something. I'm not sure what kind of answer I expected but this is what I got: "If you would like we can lower your DSL price $14.95 for DSL speeds up to 768k/128k. This pricing plan is a commitment plan... if you cancel your DSL before the plan has ended then your termination fee will now be $79.00."

Continue reading "DSL Part II"...

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September 15, 2005 12:29 AM PST

I finally got my DSL up and running at the new place. I am totally amazed that it takes Verizon over 2 full weeks to get the modem to you and enable the line. So I've been without internet access at home all that time. That's the first time I've ever gone more than a few days without it in the last decade. Crazy how much I depend on it.

Of course after waiting all this time I now have blazing access right? Of course not. I signed up for the cool and shiny 3M / 768K access and what am I currently getting? Hmm 768K / 128K. That's just great. If a phone call doesn't get this fixed tomorrow I guess I'll have to go with Millenium Digital's seriously overpriced cable access after all.

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