I read a news story today (link) where some economists (or rather, analysts who focus on economists, which is a little like saying “con men who study charlatans”) speculate on the possibility of a zero percent prime rate from the Fed.

Aside from the obvious economic turmoil this would generate, if this were to happen, one hidden cost will be the computer downtime as software on Wall Street (and many other places) is patched to fix all the points where division by zero is tickled.

You read it here first.

Fry’s is Hell

Fry’s is Hell.  I’d forgotten what it was like to return a computer there.  Just unbelievable.

(lots of deleted stuff.  maybe later when I calm down)

Really don’t buy computers at Fry’s.  Just don’t.  Best Buy will be getting my money when I need a computer for something RFN.

(Yeah, I know that BB is bad, too).


I feel better now.

What happened was, I bought a RFN-class machine (actually a couple):

A) I found that one machine’s CDROM drive was busted halfway through an OS install (thus, the return), and

B) The Frydroid said, “I can’t re-image the hard disk, so I can’t put it back on the shelf for resale, so you can’t return it.”

After counting to myself “One valium, two valiums, three, three … argh, three fscking moron dumb-bucket waddlegut brain-dead donut-sucking nincompoop all-I-know-I-learned-from-Sams-books Frybots, wait, four, yes four valiums…” I managed to flag down a manager and make him hate me enough that he wanted me out of his store ASAP, whatever the cost, and I left with a replacement computer (it worked, what a miracle, etc.).


Digging deep

Some companies have very strange ideas about how to sell software.

“So, you want the Frangle SDK?”


“Okay, that will be $1995 for the compiler.”

“That’s kind of steep, software-wise. I’m just sayin’.”

“Or the Platinum version for $13,995. That’s the one with the unlimited number of compiles.”


“And options. Let’s see, header files; generally $4.95 each, but stdio.h is $9.95, ctype.h is $3.99. STL includes are $49.95 each, but we have a special on std::vector and std::map for $29.95.”


“Of course, you’ll need to buy the ZX-990-TX2500C library kit (version 3.2.11), and most of our customers also find it necessary to get a linker, too (trust me, get the Pro version). The debug libraries are $395, or $595 if you also buy the release variants. Import symbols are usually around $995 per kernel, on a developer-seat basis, but we can usually get this down if you also agree to buy a profiler package.”


“Do you anticipate needing to debug anything? I can put you in touch with our lease department so we can arrange terms on our line of symbolic debuggers.”


“And are you interested in any of this when it comes out of Beta?”

Joke of the day

I forget who told this one to me.  I am terrible at discussing politics, and this joke never fails to get me safely away from a discussion, or in some cases escape from people who approach me at random (e.g., at a gas station, or a queue for soup) and with whom I almost certainly share no political values, and it also never fails to get agreement from all parties:

“Politicians should be guaranteed two terms: Once in office, once in jail.”

And, with more wisdom than wit, Robert Heinlein:

If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.



Things must be pretty bad at Radio Shack.

An FM tuner that was given to my wife years ago had developed memory loss; it wouldn’t retain any presets. I finally got around to cracking it open, and sure enough, a largish capacitor had blown and was leaking.

Hey, I can solder (more about that later). So I headed off to RatShack, found where they keep their parts (in a bin now, rather than covering an entire wall), and spent $1.59 on a 1000uf 35v electrolytic cap, while fending off hard sells on bluetooth headsets, Xbox 360s (did you know that RatShack sells consoles?), a new phone, and other crap I didn’t need.

Got home, did the soldering deed: I know that polarity is important on electrolytics, and I made sure to solder ‘-‘ opposite the big ‘+’ on the circuit board.

Plug the tuner in . . . wot’s that wierd humming? . . . why is the tuner’s display flickering? . . . POP! Anyone who’s soldered a cap backwards knows that sound. The big ‘+’ on the board was a registration mark, not a polarity indicator. When I completely scrubbed off the dried-up innards from the old cap, I found the real polarity, which was of course opposite to the way I’d installed the new cap.  The cap had blown itself to confetti.  Sigh.

Off to RatShack again; a different one (trip logistics, not shame). I made a beeline for the parts bin, grabbed the cap I needed, and went to check out.

The salesman was not interested. “Is this all you want?” He practically sniffed.


“Just take it and go.”

“Uh, okay.”

Sign of the times: A RatShack salesdroid too depressed to charge for a component, or to do upsells on cellphone geegaws and overpriced speaker wire? In the 70s they would have been all over you, trying to sell you CB radio equipment and stereos. Batten down your bank accounts, this is gonna be a rough one.

The tuner works fine now; no internal fireworks.

The smell of melting solder brought back many memories of building stuff when I was a kid. More on that later. In the mean time, I checked out Heathkit for the first time in a couple of decades, and am sad (but not surprised) to see that their kit business is utterly gone.