Friday, January 23, 2009

Davy Crockett Was Here

Where I now live, Tomball, is a fairly small town of about 12,000 souls. Well, make that bodies associated with the souls, as a town of souls only poses some issues. For example, souls don't eat, so heading out on Saturday night hoping to find a good steak would be rather futile. But anyway, the town was once much smaller. The original area is known appropriately as Old Town Tomball, and features a number of antique shops, (a staple of any self respecting Texas town), a restored rail depot, and my wife's favorite, the Lighthouse Chocolate Store. Yes, it is store that sells chocolate and is shaped like a lighthouse. That's the store with that shape, not the chocolate. Tomball is, however, about 50 miles from the coast, so why a lighthouse? Who knows? But it sure looks cute.

One store that caught my fancy is Bob's Wild West. It has an amazing collection of vintage firearms, knives, books, stuffed hunting trophies, (elk, wild boar, a stray Winnebego with Arkansas plates), all those things that made the Old West, well, wild. My only experience with firearms was skeet shooting with a now ex brother-in-law. I blasted three clay pigeons and scared the rest. Too bad my lousy aim didn't make my ex brother-in-law ex that day as he turned out to be a jerk, but details. But I'm still interested enough in firearms to tell say a musket from a machine gun.

This store caters to collectors, though many of the pieces for sale could be displayed in museums. The owner is an interesting sounding guy named Bob Platz who is an avid hunter, and a talented artist. He looks like the type of guy who could regale you for hours with Texas stories, some of them even true.

But back to the collection. One group is guns owned by actual Texas Rangers, and I don't mean the ones who pretend to pass as a baseball team. I asked if there were any used by Chuck Norris, and was politely told no. I've often wondered what real Rangers thought of Walker, Texas Ranger, and while the show portrayed the Rangers in a very positive light, they must wonder why Chuck never had to do any paperwork.

I would like to go back, and do some more perusing. I do wonder if any guns used at the Alamo have passed through the shop. It would be fascinating hearing what type of authentication could be done on a gun with such a claim. I assume walking in with a claim you just found Davy Crockett's rifle in your attic would be met with more than a taste of cynicism.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vista Still Sucks

Time for a short technology rant. A little over a year ago, in other words long enough for the warranty to have run out, I bought a snazzy laptop from Hewlett Packard's website. I primarily used it for business trips while I was with the EPA, since the government issue machines I would have borrowed otherwise would have made any self respecting paperweight sneer in disdain. It came with plenty of speed, storage, memory, nice sound, graphics, even a built in card reader for a digital camera memory stick and a webcam. Unfortunately, it also was burdened with Microsoft Vista.

Vista is Microsoft's attempt to make a computer look like Mac's OS X. And while it does look nice, it lacks a couple key features of OS X, speed and stability. There's also the compatibility issue. In order to get some of my work software to... well... work, I had to download and install Virtual PC from Microsoft. To their credit, Virtual PC does work rather well. I was able to use it to set aside a part of the hard drive to accept Windows 2000. I could then install my older work software in the 2000 partition. Switching between 2000 and Vista was actually quite easy.

Alas, Vista was still a resource hog, though after some research, I found some tweaks that substantially improved the performance. So despite some lingering annoyances, I was able to treat Vista for what it is... an operating system.

Until two days ago.

A downloaded Vista update went badly, and I started getting the feared "Blue Screen Of Death". This is not a good thing, and has been known to make users perform acts of depraved violence on inanimate objects, like their computers. This phenomena has also lead to spikes in Mac sales, and wondering just what this Linux thing is all about.

Anyway, I tried restoring the computer to earlier dates when everything worked, tried deleting the errant Windows update that I'm sure was causing this disaster in the first place, then finally decided enough was enough, time to use the System Recovery files to restore the machine to its factory fresh configuration. Fortunately everything I had on the computer was backed up, so nothing was lost.


The System Recovery files were defective. The restoration would crash at certain point and refused to continue. Perusing some forums with my other computer revealed a number of angry to plaintive missives from other HP laptop owners with the same issue. So a couple of calls to HP were in order about my options. "Adolph", (kind of a strange help desk name for someone in India, where as with many other companies HP has there call center), was convinced it was the motherboard. I don't think so. A second call got "Rex", who deduced the original System Recovery files were at fault. He sent me a link to get a dvd with replacement files. Being impatient, I went with the Fed Ex overnight option for delivery.

Fortunately, the replacement files did the trick. My laptop lives again, though I now need to reload my software and files once again. And since there is a good chance I'll be traveling again with my future consulting business, I will need a functioning laptop.

And if they weren't so blasted expensive, a Macbook would be given serious consideration. Oh well, hopefully the HP will behave from now on. However, Vista still sucks.