Monday, January 28, 2002

Expounding on a recent poll comment I made

Yes, dang it - I am a wrestling fan. In it's own way, that's even geekier than being a sci-fi watcher (I'm 35 - for me, Trek ended with Classic, and I haven't seen a sci-fi film that was truly worthwhile since Buckaroo Banzai). I grew up watching Ric Flair, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Andre the Giant, and Chief Jay Strongbow. Jesse Ventura. George (The Animal) Steele. I remember Rocky Johnson before his son out-famoused him (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock). Wrestling was different back then. You had clear-cut villains, heroic babyfaces, no complex storylines beyond the personal feuds that each story was told by, and champions who held the belts for years.

I watched it on the New York independent stations (WWOR and WPIX) back when I was a kid, and I watched it some during high school. When I left for college in the mid-1980's, though, pro wrestling was one of the things I left behind me. I missed the "rock and wrestling" days, I only saw Captain Lou Albano when he cavorted with Cyndi Lauper on MTV (did she suck last year at the Boston Pops July 4th concert or what?), and I missed most of the whole Hulkamania phenomenon. I was also MIA (busy with trying to establish a career and with a relatively young marriage) when Ted Turner bought a promotion and transformed it into the WCW, then going out and buying all the WWF's biggest names away from them. I was on the sidelines when the "sport" started changing from the competition. I missed the debut of Stone Cold, "Attitude", and the rise of "tweeners" like Triple H.

In late 1999, I happened to channel-surf to Channel 38 (the local UPN affiliate) one Thursday night. Never could stand "Friends". By chance, this was just a few months after "SmackDown!" began airing on the network. I watched it, and it was fascinating. This wasn't the wrestling I remembered. The moves were a lot faster, the ringside pyro was brighter and louder, the soap-opera plots had gotten more histrionic, and battles were spilling out into the audience. The plot twist I tuned in for that first day was the "marriage" of the owner's daughter (Stephanie McMahon) to the aforementioned Triple H ("Hunter Hearst Helmsley", in real life a gym manager from Nashua named Paul Levesque), the biggest heel in the Federation. I kept watching through the relevation the next month that the marriage wasn't a trick by Hunter - it was actually an evil plot by Stephanie to wrest control of the WWF away from her dad, revealed when she turned on him at the pay-per-view that month. Okay, it was hokey trash, but I was hooked again.

Since then, I've seen the rise of new stars (Kurt Angle, a real 1996 Olympic gold medalist, is particularly amazing to watch), the return of old ones (Flair is back! Whooo!), storylines that have been fascinating, storylines that sucked (the whole WCW invasion), characters go from heel to face and back again at a dizzying clip, and I've even gone to their live show (a SmackDown! taping in Boston last July). My wife has become a fan. It turns out that some of my friends (all technology professionals of some sort or another) were closet wrestling fans, too - one even collects them on his Tivo so he doesn't have to miss a show.

Why do I, a upper-middle-class professional person in his mid 30's with a wife and a (soon to be) family watch this mindless trash? For exactly that reason. It's escapist fun, nothing that happens on the show means anything in real life, and the performers are out there pulling off amazing stunts and violent activities that would leave you and I in traction, but they are skilled enough performers to make it look far worse than the harm they actually do one another. I can turn off my brain, watch the show, and not worry about the logic behind any of it. In the world we live in today, it's especially nice to be able to have a world like this that I can spend a little time in - a place where the good guys eventually win, the bad guys generally get their comeuppance, and nobody gets hurt for real.

And what fault can one find with that?

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Tech support ramblings...

Dell support sucks. Period. I've been trying to get a laptop at work fixed definitively for about two months now. We started with a laptop that had broken latches, a loose hinge, and PC Card slot doors that had fallen off. Our Top Gun Developer Guy is brilliant, but he abuses his machines horribly.

No problem - Dell is willing to fix things for free. Yay! So they send out a technician, after drop-shipping us a replacement screen (apparently it's not worth their while to just replace the latch. Whatever.). He shows up, replaces the screen, now the new screen doesn't work at all - all we see is backlighting.

This is not good. The tech calls Dell, and finds that now screen modules are backordered. So we go from a working, battered laptop to a dead laptop. Three weeks later, the replacement replacement arrives. The tech returns and installs it, all is now good. Right?

He forgot to take care of the PC Card doors, and he neglects to but the screwcovers on the new screen. It's also a little misaligned. So for the last three weeks I've been trying to get Dell back. So far no luck.

Dell's not the only company with issues, though. We have mainly bought Gateway systems over the last year or so (mainly because of Dell's ongoing support problems), and they were great until we bought a pair of Solo 9500 laptops. Both laptops have issues with random keyboard/mouse freezes when plugged into their docking stations. We bought these for Developer Guy and myself. When it happened to me, I could close the lid to sleep the laptop - I'd get the keyboard/mouse back when I then re-opened the lid to wake it.

Developer Guy can't do that - he uses Windows 2000 Server as the base OS on his laptop, which does not suspend. So we tried Gateway support with no success, tried the latest BIOS, brought the local SE in to help debug it, no luck. Finally, Developer Guy came up with a fix - he now uses a USB keyboard/mouse (with legacy support turned on in the BIOS), and that works for him. No PS/2 port splitting to deal with that way.

I, however, am determined to get this fixed right, so I spend oodles of time on the phone with the senior support folks. Finally, they make plans to have me send in the laptop/dock for testing. I grab a spare desktop PC, move my data over to the new one, and prepare for the promised contact for shipping materials and info...

Which never comes.

You know, it's real frustrating when tech support is this bad. Now I have to waste time chasing two vendors instead of one, and I'll be wasting more of the vendor's time trying to chase them than they would be wasting if they just did things Right to begin with.


Monday, January 07, 2002

OK, now what?

The new iMac. I have no use for one. I already own 1 Mac (I have a TiBook 667) myself, and my wife has an iMac DV-450, which is fine for her. My TiBook is almost as fast as the new iMacs, it has a bigger screen, and unlike the iMac, it runs on batteries. I have a CD burner I use with it (I bought mine before they made the Combo drive standard), so I can do anything they can do with the lower two models - I just can't write DVD discs. Big deal, right?

Unfortunately, Apple excels at the "gotta have" factor. They make computers that you look at and just want. Regardless of needs. Regardless of reason. You just want them. So I'll probably start trying to sell my wife soon on the idea. It'll take me about a year, and they'll come out with something even cooler the day after I buy it.


What I'd really like to see, though, is what Apple comes up with over the next month or so. Obviously, they didn't unveil the new Pro Macs for a reason. What that reason was, I really wonder about - and it makes me think even more about where the Pro systems are headed. For their own sake, they'd better follow thru with something worthwhile, and soon.