Archive for the 'Irritants' Category

Miele Incognito Dishwasher; Just A Bit of Design Stupidity (In An Otherwise Awesome Product)

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

We have had a Miele Incognito dishwasher for quite a few years. Mostly, it is a wonderful machine; does a great job of cleaning the dishes and does so extremely quietly.

It does, however, have a couple of design flaws that I wanted to record here for other Miele owners to potentially stumble across when googling their frustrations.

Recently, or dishwasher would intermittently stop mid-cycle and flash the “Intake/Drain” light, indicating that the dishwasher either had no supply or the drain had failed. When this first happened, cleaning the filter basket was enough to let it complete the cycle (even when the filter basket didn’t have anything in it). Lately, the dishwasher wouldn’t even complete the initial drain cycle (the dishwasher always fires up the pump when first turned on to clear any sitting water).

Apparently, this is not an uncommon problem.

Once the filter basket is removed, there is a bit of wire that holds down the drain pipe on top of the pump impeller. For most with this problem, taking off the drain pipe reveals that the impeller is jammed by a bit of glass, a pit, hair, or other debris.

Not in my case. The drain pipe is actually not just a pipe, but a gravity/pressure activated ball valve. It exists to prevent backwash from the disposer or sink from entering the washer. That ball valve was entirely clogged with debris.

In particular, there was an olive pit wedge behind the ball valve such that the ball valve was barely opening. This led to bits of food being wedged between ball and pipe, quite effectively clogging the drain pipe. Once fully cleaned, the dishwasher works just fine again.

The real problem is that once there is any kind of problem in the dishwasher that prevents drainage, removing the filter basket causes whatever food bits that haven’t settled into the filter basket to end up falling into the pump intake area.

To avoid this, use a shop vacuum out any standing water (and food) in the bottom of the dishwasher before removing the filter basket.

On the inexcusably stupid front, the dishwasher — like most dishwashers — has a filter basket at the bottom of the dishwasher that is designed to catch bits of food and stuff before it hits the pump. The sump filter basket has a hinged bottom so you can open it up and clean it out periodically.

Unfortunately, the hinge isn’t actually a hinge. Miele’s designers cut a corner and the “hinge” is really just a thin spot connecting the door to the filter basket. Obviously, it is cheaper to make a single injection modeled piece than to actually have a mechanical hinged connection.

Expect the hinge to fail every 3 to 5 years. Replacement cost? $135 as of the spring of 2010.

Sony Hates Users; PS3’s “Restore Default Settings” Eats Your Data

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I’m the first to embrace that much of this was written in anger and, though I might now word it differently, I’m not going to because it captures the depth of frustration and crappy experience I endured (a first world problem, assuredly).

But, hey, let’s make the vitriol useful– if there were a means that I could report bugs, I would. If there were a way to capture the state of my machine for validation, I’d do it. If there is some way that my crap user experience could be used to prevent future user abuse, that’d be awesome.



To be completely blunt: The team responsible for the PS3 non-gaming user experience — the menus, data management, user interface, and everything else that doesn’t happen in game — are either incompetent buffoons or have a management chain and/or product marketing/design/definition demands that are ridiculous, stupid, and an insult to the customer. (Personally, I’m betting it is the latter — the PS3 is an impressive piece of engineering, both software and hardware).

It is unfortunate that the PS3 is the only vehicle via which one can enjoy such great titles as Ratchet&Clank, WipeOut HD/Fury, and Uncharted. It is insult to their greatness to require the user to have to experience but a moment of the steaming pile of crap that is the Playstation 3 user experience.


I did something incredibly stupid this evening.

I assumed that Sony remotely cares about user experience, that Sony understands that their users care about saved game data, and that Sony — after more than a decade in the game console business — might have a clue about how to implement a system.

Boy, that was a stupid assumption.

I wanted to move the PS3 from TV A to TV B. No video; TV B doesn’t do 1080p. No problem; a google search or two later reveals that holding down the power button will reset the video and give you a menu where you can reset the video.

Nope — the closest is restore default settings. An internet search indicated this was the right thing to do. Wrong. The internet was wrong. Very very wrong. Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that. If you want to switch the resolution of a PS3 without losing data, do so on a TV that works with the PS3 in the current display mode first. If you don’t have one, you are screwed. Sony? Why do you hate your users?

In fact, what it does is worse than restoring the system to factory default. The first sign of trouble is when the PS3 says something like “Hey, I discovered there was user data I didn’t know about, I restored it”.

It lies.

It actually creates disconnected, unsigned, unblessed, shell accounts that have your data in an unusable form. They will have an asterisk in front; bbum became *bbum.

Uh oh.

Upon logging into the faux-*bbum account, many things are now broken. The worst — the single biggest insult — is that the original save game data is still there, but many games can’t use it.

Assasin Creeds II? Apparently, that saved game data will still work. Peggle? Nope, not so much. Oooh.. joy… looks like all data related to games purchased from the playstation network is trashed. WipeOut HD? Won’t even launch — key file missing, redownload dumbass user! But, Sony, All I wanted to do was make it work again? Why are you throwing rocks at me?

Better yet! When you redownload, the PS3 downloads all the bytes and then says “Hey, man, you already got the same crap installed. Do you really want to install it again?” The stupid. It burns!

Now, logging back into the Playstation Network let me sync my trophies. But there was also some warning that said that I might not be able to earn any more trophies, implying that online play was broken in some fashion. Of course, there isn’t anything that I can find to verify current status.

Wait. I played Peggle once and the challenge modes were locked. Now they aren’t. Huh… what? It appears that I didn’t lose Peggle data, but that something magically triggered the reconnection of the data. I’ll have to assume that it was the WipeOut HD “key” download as that seems to be the only “user authing data event” to have happened.

At this point, I renamed the account and have restored Playstation Network connectivity. I may or may not have a mostly working account. I have lost data — all Peggle data gone and deities knows what else. Even getting back to this point was a bunch of effort that I wouldn’t wish upon a non-admin user any day.

Of course, that I failed to maintain a backup was definitely a fault of mine. Then again, I didn’t actually lose any data, Sony just went to great lengths to make my data unusable without actually modifying it.

Or not. It might be that my data is now fully restored and usable. Or it might not be. There is no way to tell. Who knows? I might decide to fire up Uncharted One later this year only to discover that I can’t load the game save and have to start over.

Sadly, this abusive user experience is not unique to the PS3. I had a similar experience with the Wii, though — to be fair — Nintendo has apparently addressed that exact issue in the interim couple of years.

Year of the Aphids

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
Ants & Aphids on Oleandar Blossom

This year was mostly a great growing season for our garden. We got lots of beans, squash, tomatoes, and other goodies.

However, this year was also the year of aphids.

At left is a blossom on a red oleandar that I planted a few weeks before that photo was taken.

The ants are farming the aphids. That is, they herd and protect the aphids. In return, the aphids suck the plant’s sap and the ants carry off the waste product — the aphid poop — to store away in their nest for future feasting.

Two species acting symbiotically to irritate the hell out of me.

Ants Herding Aphids on Oleander

If this were the only infestation of this kind, I would be concerned that I had chosen a location for the plant that was sub-optimal and, thus, led to weakness that made the plant susceptible to such an attack.



Black bean aphid  (Aphis fabae)

But, not in this case. This is not the only massive infestation of aphids that I have seen this year!

The community garden was also plagued with aphids. And by plagued, I mean plagued.

This is a closeup of the blossom of a long bean plant. At a distance, the vine looked black because the aphids were this thick over the entire plant.

If you look closely at that photo, there are a handful of parasitic bugs attacking the aphids. Unfortunately, nowhere near enough to quell the infestation. The only solution was to remove the plant in its entirety.

Oddly, they only attacked some of the bean plants. No idea what made one plant more attractive than the next, given that the beans were in the same soil and climbing the same trellis.

AT&T Blocks 4chan?

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

It appears that AT&T has blocked a subset of sites that hang off of 4chan.org. As of 11:15PST, the block was lifted.

AT&T has released a statement:

Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to img.4chan.org. To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact our other customers, AT&T temporarily blocked access to the IP addresses in question for our customers. This action was in no way related to the content at img.4chan.org; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic.

Overnight Sunday, after we determined the denial-of-service threat no longer existed, AT&T removed the block on the IP addresses in question. We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any malicious traffic to protect our customers.

OK — so AT&T was acting to protect quality of service to customers that may have been impacted by a DDoS attack. Fair enough, though I question the means a bit (and admit fully that I have been too long out of the ISP business to claim these questions are anything but me being ignorant).

Was img.4chan.org hacked and, thus, AT&T walled it off because it was the source of the DDoS attack? Not sure how the “distributed” part comes in to play when an attack is sourced from a relatively small set of machines (I’m assuming img.4chan.org is more than one machine).

The initial report on the nanog list implies that the 4chan server was the source of the attacks and, thus, blocking ensued. Sounds like the server was hacked. Or spoofed?

Bottom line, though, is why the heck did it take AT&T so long to actually issue a statement somewhere useful?

I’m still in the market for a new ISP, just not quite as proactively.

Thus, I’ll continue to keep this post updated with suggested ISPs that folks submit. Feel free to add one in the comments. If you do, I’ll add the link/info to the article and likely delete the comment.

(To be precise, I don’t care about my ability to reach 4chan. I do care very much about network neutrality. I remember the last time the big providers went against net neutrality in the early 90s. It sucked.)


The suggestions, in no particular order:

Raw Bandwidth Communications, Inc.
No fussiness.
Speakeasy
No stupid policies of what you can/cannot do (within reason). I have heard good things about Speakeasy, too.
Sonic.net
Lots of raves for sonic.net. Shell access, no problems, good customer support, etc…
Verizon’s FIOS
Heard several good things about FIOS. Unfortunately, not available here (but keeping it in the “suggestions” because the reviews are good, where available).

The rejection(s). Companies that do stupid things to traffic.

Comcast
Comcast screws with BitTorrent traffic. I use BT for a variety of quite legitimate reasons, including for my day job. Doesn’t matter how easy it is to workaround, such a policy is a non-starter for me. Also, Comcast’s rates make it slightly cheaper to buy internet w/cable service. I don’t want cable TV in the house.

Canon T1i

Saturday, May 16th, 2009
Red Stapler
Canon EF-S 18-55m IS – 1/40 f/4.5 – ISO1600

After 4 years, Canon has released an upgraded camera in the Digital Rebel series that has compelled me to replace my Digital Rebel Xt.

The Digital Rebel T1i, which started shipping in North America this month, is quite an extraordinary camera and a huge upgrade over the Xt. Excellent low light performance (high ISO performance), extreme versatility with the ability to shoot entirely automatic through to fully manual, and lots of usability upgrades.

I won’t be positing a detailed review. That has been covered far more effectively than I ever could by the folks at DPReview.



At above-left is the first image I shot with the T1i. Nothing terribly special, but I couldn’t have taken the same with the Xt without a tripod or switching to the relatively special purpose Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens (but that would have yielded a very narrow depth of field). Since someone asked, I added a link to the Amazon product page, too.

Eddie Scorching Scallop Nigiri
Canon 50mm f/1.4 – 1/125 f/1.6 – ISO 500

While there are many features and refinements of the T1i that I’m looking forward to leveraging, the high-ISO / low light performance is the one that yields an immediate benefit to me.

I like shooting photos in restaurants and the like, but I hate using a flash. Beyond making the food look artificial and destroying whatever natural ambiance the restaurant has tried to achieve, the flash is a huge annoyance to everyone — staff, customers, chefs, etc..

The photo at right is another shot that I could have done with the Xt without the flash or disruptive use of a tripod and posing.

Certainly, I will also leverage the upgrade from an 8MP to 15.1MP sensor, too. While the whole megapixel wars thing was overhyped and appears to now largely be over, there are some serious advantages to having a lot more pixels.

On the interactive front, it means that you can zoom into a photo and see some interesting details that wouldn’t be apparent with a lower resolution image. Looking at the full sized version of Eddie searing scallops reveals the slight haze caused by the scallops scorching under the flame.

But the biggest advantage of lots and lots of pixels is that it stretches the value of your lenses. In particular, I can shoot a shot with the Canon 100mm macro lens, crop nearly half the picture, and still end up with an image that is of the same resolution as a full framed image from the Xt. That would have been very handy for pictures like this, this, and this.

While the camera is brilliant, the software is not. At least, not so much when you want to work with an all RAW workflow.

Whenever a new camera is released, there is a lag between the release of the camera and when Apple or Adobe releases updates that include RAW support for the camera. Thus, I can’t currently shoot in RAW and import directly into Aperture (or Lightroom).

As I had shot a bunch of the initial images in RAW, I decided to install and use Canon’s RAW processing software to convert the images to usable form.

I summarized the experience with this tweet:

Canon’s camera software is a gigantic turd in the box containing an awesome camera.


Read the rest of this entry »

1-31-2007 Never Forget!

Saturday, January 31st, 2009
2009-01-31 Never Forget

On January 31st, 2007, the Boston authorities completely lost their minds in a highly visible and ultimately humiliating way.

I am, of course, referring to the Mooninite Invasion.

For the first time in 8 years, we have the potential to live in a nation governed by the sane with policies grounded in reasoned thought.

But it is only potential.

We must remain vigilant and must never fail to ridicule figures of authority when they act like complete unreasoning jackasses!

Random Sampling of Apple Centric San Jose / Cupertino Area Eateries

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

A rather random Twitter conversation (WO ObjC is only real WO, No it isn’t, Ruby on Rails, Not Really, Pulled Pork, MMM… Food, Where to eat in SJ?) led to the question of “Anyone have suggestions on places to eat in Cupertino/SJ area?

Well, I do. Herein lies a list of random eateries that I — and many people I know — enjoy. It is centric to Cupertino and West San Jose simply because that is where I work [Apple] and live. Thus, you won’t find much from Mountain View (even though there are some awesome spots there).

In no particular order and of no particular focus (and very likely with obvious omissions). And, yeah, I have a thing about pizza. It has a thin crust. It should be crispy. It should not be a fracking cake. I love Chicago-style meat-and-sauce cakes, but they ain’t pizza. There are three kinds of pizza in North America; NYC style, Chicago style, and Shakespeare’s. Deal with it.

Sushi: Furu-Sato
Sit at the bar. Say hello to Young, Kevin or Brian for me. Consistently some of the best quality fish I have been served in a very friendly and well designed atmosphere. Straight forward sashimi, sushi, and rolls, though they also have an interesting menu, too. I live by Omakase here. Recently, they have often had excellent quality fresh mango which goes tremendously well with tuna or hamachi.
Ethiopian: Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant
As long as you don’t mind eating with your hands and can take a rather relaxed approach to dinner (a couple of hours, typically), Zeni offers one awesome dining opportunity. Zeni serves ethiopian food, beer, and a delicious ethiopian honey wine. The best bet is to get a vegetarian sampler platter and order a couple of meat dishes to go with it. The whole thing will be served on a gigantic platter covered in injera. Don’t forget an order of spiced home made cheese to go with your meal. Delicious.
Japanese Tapas: Tanto Japanese Restaurant
The chef and staff of Tanto has served the best Japanese meals I have ever had. Like Furu-Sato, Omakase works very very well at Tanto. Tanto’s menu is extensive, filled with many small dishes and you cannot go wrong ordering off of it. They also have an excellent Soju menu.

Seriously. I have had, now, three meals here that were better than Nobu in New York City.

Note: Tanto is now called Dan. Mostly the same staff and same chefs. Every bit as awesome, maybe even better, than ever.

Mexican: Los Dos Compadres II
Total hole in the wall mexican spot that serves extremely tasty food cheap. Has real Coca-Cola — made with actual sugar and not corn syrup. Awesome seafood this and that. When they say “spicy”, believe it. I usually eat tacos because they are as close to the ones I had on the streets of Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.
Pizza: A Slice of New York
Having lived in New York city, I was utterly and completely dismayed by what passed for “pizza” on the West Coast. Thin crust that was thick and chewy? Fail. While there are a couple of good pizza shops around the bay area (see below), nothing compared to a really good slice of NYC style “walking pizza”.

Fortunately, an ex-NYC’er who had moved out to join Cisco felt the same, gave up his high tech job, and opened a classic NYC pizza joint.

The key is to get slices. Why? Because truly good, thin, crisp, crust, can only be had by cooking twice. It is just the way it is. In NYC, we would often order whole pies of reheated slices.

Beyond a kick-ass pizza, A Slice of New York also makes an incredible meatball parmesan and they import all the parts to put together a genuine Long Island cannoli.
Halal Middle Eastern: Gulzaar Halaal Restaurant & Bakery
This little — and I do mean little — restaurant serves some of the best non-falafel oriented middle eastern food I have had in the bay area. Cheap. Fast. And utterly delicious. The beef kebab and vegetable samosas are delicious, served with a wonderful array of sauces. Everything is fresh and the focus is on the food, not presentation or atmosphere. They have two kinds of fresh baklava– pistachio and almond — both quite delicious. Very nice staff, too. This is likely to become a regular lunch spot.
Pizza: Pizza My Heart
A west coast pizzeria that actually does it right without just being a copy of an NYC joint. Quality pies with some delicious toppings. Good as slices and good delivered (ask for well done). Better yet, Chuck — the owner of Pizza My Heart and an iPhone — mentioned that a new location will be opening at De Anza & Stevens Creek with delivery to Apple! Never again will Dev Tech have a five hour brainstorming meeting with mediocre to awful pizza!
Pizza: Amici’s
Best NYC rip-off pizza in the bay area. Thin, crispy crust, with tasty toppings. Nice salads and sides, too. Small, but excellent, draft beer selection.
Gourmet: Sent Sovi
Our favorite gourmet meal kind of place. I wrote up a chef’s tasting experience a while ago. It was simply awesome. Unlike some “cutting edge” dining establishments, Sent Sovi maintains an awesome balance between culinary gastronomy and comfort food. A sort of culinary adventure with your world-class-chef mom, if you will… Has many special events throughout the year, centered around a particular local wine maker’s products or a specific theme ingredient. We have attended the King of Mushrooms and King of Duck dinners and they were, flat out, some of the most amazing meals we have had. Sign up for the mailing list, if interested. Meals not to be missed!
Gourmet: Manresa
Cutting edge high cuisine that challenges your palette. Christine and I had a phenomenal dinner at Manresa, but it was far from comforting. It was truly a culinary adventure and one that I’ll always remember fondly. Delicious and amazing creations often involving as much hardcore science as kitchen wizardry.
Location is everything: BJ’s Restaurant
I likely never would have visited BJ’s a second time if it weren’t for the fact that it is in the parking lot of Apple’s main campus. As a result, I eat lunch at BJ’s once a week and often have a beer or appetizer after work. They have some good beer (oatmeal stout, nutty, blonde, red, seasonals) and some bad (stout, porter, and occasionally bad kegs of anything else). Food is Pub Food. But there are some gems on the menu; sliders, appetizer pizzas (not the deep dish atrocities), and some of the sandwiches. You have to sort of zen with the service staff to enjoy the place; all things in good time. Even location cannot overcome such consistently crappy service and general food quality that leaves you feeling bloated and nasty after every meal. The healthy sub-menu has a handful of items that are pretty tasty, but the mis-management of this restaurant is to the point where it is no longer even comical. As well, their guest taps have stagnated and their beer service maintenance is lacking such that they’ve managed to serve skunked pitchers occasionally. BJ’s is also the only “bar” I’ve been to that has managed to screw up a gin and soda multiple times.
Cafeteria: Caffé Macs
The main Apple employee lunch cafeteria. It has undergone a major upgradte in the past year [2008]. From being one of the best company cafeteria’s around, Caffé Macs is now a gourmand’s paradise. Beyond an awesome salad bar, wood fired pizza, sandwiches, and the like, Caffé Macs features daily and weekly specials that are out of this world. Every day is an adventure. I have had duck confit, roast quail, Peruvian and Brazilian national dishes, quail & bacon risotto, stone fruit composed salads, herb seared scallops, and much much more. All reasonably price — cheap, really.
Mexican: Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
Yeah, like such a list as this would not include Tommy’s. Excellent yucatan style mexican food and the world’s best tequila bar (no, really). I generally stick with the specials, if available; molé, whole fried snapper, anything pork, anything beef. Awesome tamales. And, of course, great margaritas. Say hello to Julio for me.
Sammich: Amato’s Cheeseteaks & Hoagies
Awesomely delicious cheesesteak and chicken sandwiches. HUGE. Plan on 2 people being full after splitting a small. Good fries, too. This place pretty much does nothing but hoagie style sandwiches and they have been doing ’em for a long time. Nice folks, too. Be kind, they’ll serve you well. Be an ass, they’ll throw you out. As it should be.

I’ll add more as I remember ’em. Sadly, I’m at a complete loss to recommend a good dim sum spot in the area. Any recommendations?

Appliance Hell: GE Refrigerator & Samsung Microwave

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Recently, we have been experiencing a bit of appliance stupidity in our house.

Replacement parts for our refrigerator seem to be a major profit center for GE and our microwave was clearly designed by jackasses.

Read on for many too many details.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Spammy Comment Policy

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I am seeing an increasing number of spammy comments that are obviously written by a semi-intelligent human actually responding to the content of the targeted post, but for which the content is almost completely devoid of useful signal. Almost, but not quite.

So, I have decided I’ll employ a new policy.

I’m going to let such comments stand. Especially when they bend over backwards to complement my work. I like that. I’m shallow that way.

However, if the URL and/or email address associated with the comment is nothing but a marketing splurb, those particular fields will be deleted.

Cannon Multimedia PC: Design Over Usability

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
htpc_shot1.jpg

From the press release, this device contains features such as “a 28-in-1 media card reader, front IO, USB and fire wire connections, dual NTSC and HDTV tuners (with CableCARD shipping soon), 8 channel HD audio”, etc.etc.etc…

Sounds neat enough. Especially with the six terabytes of potential storage. Put some decent multimedia control software on it and… well.. not bad!

Except who the hell designed it? Clearly not someone who actually thought through how to use it!

Anything that sticks out at all from any of those “front IO” ports is going to obscure the screen! Can you imagine trying to download photos or video with your video camera balanced somewhere — because, most likely, this behemoth will be inside a big old media center cabinet — while trying to deal with a touchy/feely UI with cables constantly flopping on the screen?

And, of course, you’ll probably want to plug in a keyboard and/or mouse to be abel to properly annotate and edit whatever media you capture into said unit. That’ll be convenient.

I wonder if it is even smart enough to know not to open the DVD drawer when the screen is in the retracted position (assuming, of course, the screen retracts).