Thursday, March 20, 2008

A More Perfect Union

Barack Obama's speech on "race" has already chalked up over 2 million views in 4 days on YouTube. I hope South Africans can learn from this man too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Powerlessness to the People

We switched our geyser off from 8am to 10pm every day. Why should we bother if we are "rewarded" with 4 hour power cuts?

Eskom and Joburg City Power struck a blow for economic progress in our suburb this evening with the first of many promised blackouts from 6pm to 10pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Just think of that: no possibility of cooked meals for 4 nights a week. This is not good.
On top of that our idiot President muses in public about how consumers haven't cut their electricity consumption by the required 10%. We are encouraged to get energy-saving light bulbs at R20 a bulb, but then they announce that these will be given out for free, so of course how many people are going to rush out and buy them in that case?
We are encouraged to save power during peak periods (like 6pm to 10pm) and our reward for doing this is that for 4 nights a week the power will be cut off anyway. Thanks, Eskom, but I'm #@cked if I'm switching off the geyser voluntarily of that's how you repay me!
Our darling bright spark minister says we should switch out our lights early, but does nothing to get the government offices to do so. She relies on the media to do it, even when she insults the intelligence of the general public. And Smart-Alec Erwin lies to everyone by saying that economic development will not be affected by Eskom. What an idiot!
Eskom wants us to save 10% power, so it puts up the costs by 14%, just to make sure, and requests a 60% price hike! It wants us to install solar-powered geysers, but adds in so much paperwork that it raises the cost of the equipment. And you expect these people to run a country!

Diskeeper 2008 Horror Story?

I received an email from "Zaphod", who told me of his experience with Diskeeper 2008 on Windows XP SP2 and a 105GB hard drive with 85GB free. Before he installed Diskeeper Professional 2008 trial edition he ran the built-in Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD) and obtained the following drive defragmentation:
It isn't great, but not bad either, so he decided to "improve" the defrag by installing Diskeeper. After running it for some time he was horrified by the result, shown at the top of this article. The files were distributed all over the disk, and fragmented as well. The red blocks in the picture indicate fragmented files.
Needless to say he removed the software from his machine. Then he ran WDD again, and obtained an improved layout:
I can only take his experience at face value, and have not been able to verify it or replicate it myself. I would be interested to know if anyone else has experienced the same problem.
What I can confirm is that DK2008 has some bugs, which I have tried to report via email, without success. It seems that the marketing department of Diskeeper Corporation is more keen on contacting me than the Technical Support team. Please leave comments if you have used DK2008 on drives of a comparable size.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

PerfectDisk Gets a Service Pack

Last week I missed it, but yesterday I checked for an update to PerfectDisk 2008, and found that build 44 was available. The download and update worked well. The "What's New" file lists the following improvements:
  • Improved defragmentation speed.
  • Added ability to work in lower screen resolutions, such as 800x600 or 1024x768.
  • Added print statistics functionality.
  • Updated help files.
  • Added ability to set license key via Active Directory Group Policy.
  • Added the logging of a reason why the StealthPatrol schedule was suspended.
  • Added "Every X weeks" field to the Exchange weekly schedule.
  • Added Help Button in PerfectDisk Settings window.
  • F1 opens Help.
  • Added a warning when manually starting Exchange Defragmentation that this will dismount the datastore/stop the services.
  • Added data validation check on Exchange schedule wizard.
There is also a list of 22 bug fixes. Not many software vendors are willing to own up to bugs, so this approach is to be commended.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Simply Audiobooks simply not working - updated

I buy and listen to a lot of audio books. Yesterday I was doing a search for a title not yet available to me on Audible, and found another web site called that allows members to download books and listen to them on a Windows Media compatible device. This is far from ideal, but better than not listening at all.
Not all the titles are available for download (or purchase for that matter), and judging by the unhappy comments in the community forums, the rental option also has its down side, so I wasn't able to buy or download the Earth's Children books by Jean M Auel, but I did find the unabridged version of John Grisham's "The Appeal", which Audible advertises but won't let me buy.
I signed up and started the download, which took some time because it is a long book. While it was downloading I read the FAQ to make sure that I had all the right components and stuff to make it work. I even tried the free book to make sure everything was working. But when it came to actually listening to the book I'd bought, the wheels came off.
The emailed instructions and the on-line Getting Started Guide tell you what needs to be done before you listen to your first book, but there is no help to tell you what to do after you try to listen and get nowhere. Nor is there a test file you can download and play to ensure that everything is working. DUH. And did I mention that their Technical Support is only available Monday to Friday? Not much use when you buy something on a Saturday.
So now I wait until Monday 9am EST, which is late Monday afternoon for me, and hope that the Tech Support people can actually help. Time will tell, but I'm not optimistic, given the amount of technical help available on the site.
Update Monday 10 March: To their credit, Gillian from Member Services sent me a reply at 11pm on Sunday night. That's awesome! Her solution was to reset the licence from "Claimed" to "Unclaimed" and then instruct me to delete the old book and download all 268MB again. I decided to risk it by just trying to play the book and see whether the DRM stuff was working. It was. So I am now listening to John Grisham's new book.
I had guessed the email address of Pete Wright, the VP of Software Development, and to his credit he wrote back on Sunday at noon (local time). I have suggested some changes to the site to help get the process going:
  • Warn Firefox users to download the extra ActiveX control using Internet Explorer;
  • Add a DRM'ed "Play Me First" file to the download shelf when users sign up, so they can test their setup and get it working before screwing up th liense on a "real" book; and
  • Add a test on the login screen in WMP to ensure the ActiveX control is installed.
I'm not sure if these will be implemented, but let's hope so. The more audio books the better, and hopefully the book publishers will drop this stupid DRM nonsense. After all, the CDs don't have DRM, so why should the downloads?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

BBC looks at Jacob Zuma's Corruption

"Jacob Zuma is one of the most powerful men in South Africa. He controls the ruling African National Congress and is poised to replace President Thabo Mbeki as head of state. But Jacob Zuma has a problem. Prosecutors say he's corrupt and hope to bring him to trial in August. Mr Zuma says the charges are political, designed to keep him from power. For Assignment Martin Plaut travelled to South Africa to investigate."
You can listen to the assignment podcast episode here. It explains why Zuma's finances were controlled by Mr Shaik, and details Mr Zuma's contradictory attitude to the Arms Deal probe.