Friday, 21 February 2014

08:23 – I never did hear back from USPS tech support, but things started working normally again as of this morning. We now have our backlog of kits labeled and ready to be picked up.

One would think USPS would have learned a lesson from the catastrophic rollout of the Obamacare website, but apparently not. They did a system “upgrade” with insufficient testing, and that caused show-stopping problems for a whole lot of people. Nor was it just the USPS Click-and-Ship website affected; eBay shippers were having the same problems. Here are just a few comments about what was going on. I hope they have the problem fixed, but who knows? Maybe I was just lucky this morning.

At least now we can get back to building and shipping science kits. Things are still going pretty well. With a week left in February, we’ve already exceeded kit sales for the first four months of 2013.


10:14 – Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. Before I was able to print postage labels this morning, I had labels in my cart from as early as Tuesday morning. The USPS site correctly updated the shipping date to today’s date, but they didn’t change the expected arrival dates. So, I ended up with labels with a ship date of 2/21/14 and an expected arrival date of 2/20/14 or 2/21/14. Geez.

17 thoughts on “Friday, 21 February 2014”

  1. We are flooded here in the heartland. In an attempt to save on gas, I went to my usually cheap Walmart/Murphy Oil location on the way to the back from Naptown to Tiny Town. Cheap alright at $3.06 when most of the rest of Indy is wildly varied but from $3.45 to 3.65. That cheap gas is just a mile from the back way home through farm country, but those back roads were bad in places. Farm fields totally flooded, out to and covering the roads in several places. And probably another 2 to 4 inches of snow yet to melt.

    Recording session went until about an hour after dark, and I had to deliver the tapes for shipping before heading home, so it was between 22:30 and 23:30 that I was making this trek. Stupid of me not to take the Interstate, but then, I’m stupid. Water up to the floorboards in places. I moved at a pretty good clip through them — partly because I could not see them in time to slow down more, and partly so nothing would short out by prolonged water contact with the electrical system. I made it but that was sheer luck.

    The Linux Mint Olivia notebook failed me at the session. It no longer boots straight into Mint, but gives me the boot screen at startup. Evolution was repeatedly asking for my password, which it repeatedly said was incorrect. I have sent email from that very office a couple months ago and the court reporter was having no problems emailing the transcript to her scopist, so I am pretty sure it was my computer. The bottom line is that I can always rely on M$, but Linux is just problematic — even using the same programs on a different OS.

  2. Some of the comments about the USPS site snafu were pretty good:

    “These jokers leave Friday at 5PM, they turn off lights and even if their building is on fire they don’t care till next business day 8AM. So till Tuesday after President’s day, they will come back to their office, get the paper, get their coffee and see if anything is wrong. Why am I for free enterprise and against any involvement of any business done by government? Proof is right here.”

    I recall working in state gummint and man, you did not wanna be in the way when they were booking for the exits at precisely 4:30. No weekends. No holidays.

    Interesting that so many were using Chrome; the Adobe Reader issues; and successes using incognito or private browsers instead.

    Geez, Chuck; you were lucky; it generally ain’t a good idea to attempt driving through standing water in flooded areas. It can come up moving wicked fast and mess you up bad.

    As for Windows vs. Linux; Mrs. OFD has had repeated issues/problems with two different Windows 7 laptops, one a Sony Vaio and the other a Lenovo Thinkpad. I had to tinker with both of them to get them running again. But meanwhile I’m having my own very annoying problem getting a RHEL 6.5 (Santiago) machine on the net; HP has been selling desktops with the new Atheros (now owned by Qualcomm) ethernet controllers and there is a paucity of Linux drivers for it; Ubuntu users seem to have managed, with a lot of tinkering, to make them work. Us RHEL/CentOS/Fedora people not so much yet; I have the correct third-party driver installed but no joy yet. Currently trying to work it out with the third-party guys and also RHEL support (obviously in India) and the RH Bugzilla site. Qualcomm and RH in no apparent hurry to move these controller drivers to the kernel. I wonder how many machines are sitting out there dead in the water right now because of this.

  3. I’m going to bag Mint because it has so many weird issues. I’m holding out for the Ubuntu LTS release in April or I’d have done it already.

    The latest weird issue is the clock. If I set the time from a timeserver and the TZ to NY/US, the system time is correct (file date/timestamps are correct), but the displayed time on the taskbar is five hours ahead. If I set the time to current in the adjust applet, it displays correctly there and in the taskbar, but the file date/timestamps are five hours behind.

  4. I also saw clock/time issues with Ubuntu/Mint, and just noticed my RHEL clock was off by 12 hours, easily fixed.

    Seems like we are bedeviled by pretty much all operating systems, whether M$, Linux or Macs. Gotta say that so far, in my own experience, I’ve had fewer problems with M$ from Windows 7 to 8 and stable 8.1. NT and 2000 weren’t bad, either. The Ubuntu family, including Mint, has been spotty over the years; Fedora used to be like that but lately has been working nicely.

    But then I’m not trying to run a fast-paced home business here, either; faced with that I’d probably be torn between Windows and Linux; the Apple garden being too little bang for too much buck. Probably either a Windows 2012 R2 or RHEL/CentOS server and hardened network with Ubuntu LTS machines on desktops and laptops, depending. Or maybe just Windows 8 desktops and laptops, whatever works best with the least hassle.

  5. “These jokers leave Friday at 5PM, they turn off lights and even if their building is on fire they don’t care till next business day 8AM. So till Tuesday after President’s day, they will come back to their office, get the paper, get their coffee and see if anything is wrong. Why am I for free enterprise and against any involvement of any business done by government? Proof is right here.”

    Do you remember when Congress was talking about running all emails through USPS servers and charging a nickle each to combat spam? We would be having massive failures every weekend on their Univac 1108 mainframes (lowest bidder) and the email cost would be $1.05 each now.

    Rush Limbaugh is talking about Commissars and Editorial Justice this morning. I am amazed that “journalists” would not rising up in arms over have a Commissar in the news room.

  6. “Journalists” and “reporters” and other media flacks and flunkies have been running scared for a while now and it’s been noticed. They are deathly scared of something, presumably their own livelihoods at minimum, and possibly bigger threats for, well, the biggest threats among them. Dumbass case-in-point on Drudge today: Jimmy Fallon’s kow-towing to the current regime and the Mooch, having replaced the fearsome fascist Jay Leno on the late-night show. A former senior writer for Carson from years ago sez Leno had to go, and it sounds almost like direct orders from someone at the WH.

    But it’s more serious than some late-night tee-vee show; the nooz media crowd is terrified of something and simply will not cover stories detrimental in any way to this regime and its rulers. It’s shades of Adams and Lincoln and Wilson again; they’re gearing up for something soon.

    Some of us out here have cause to believe that even high-ranking elites like HILLARY! and the Chief Justice have been threatened face to face. And other parties have simply been murdered.

    Stay tuned for some fun times ahead.

  7. I remember having early trouble with the Mint clock, but unlike Pournelle, I have not documented what I do with a lab notebook, so I forget now. Like the movie Groundhog Day, every time I need to do something, I have to learn it all over again. My recollection was that there was a configuration in a system file I had to change, because — even though it was not supposed to happen — my computer defaulted to European standards and time settings, even though the developers insist it is not supposed to. This is what I hate about Linux. Yeah, programmers and Linux die-hards love it that way, but ALL configurations should show up in the proper GUI. I do not have time to chase down that kind of stuff. I have to work for a living, not spend all my time tweaking computers.

    Clock is the first that that MUST work right for me. In broadcasting, there is a clock in every room — sometimes two — all synced to the absolutely correct real time. My wife thought I was crazy for putting a big wall clock in the bathroom in Berlin, but she quickly got used to relying on it to time her morning showers before work.

    Just switched on the Mint computer. Any thought that the Evolution problem was with WiFi at the law firm is now dispelled, because it will not accept my password here at home, either. Password is the same as the one for online, and I just signed on online with the password Evolution refuses to accept.

    I LIKE Mint; I just wish it would work. I should have stuck with the LTS version, though. I may have to go back to it, because I clearly have problems with Olivia (15), which has already been replaced with Petra (16), and that will only last until July 2014. Maya, the LTS, (13) will be good until April 2017.

  8. Yeah, if it’s reliability and stability you need for work, stick with the LTS versions. I have Petra on another desktop up in the developing attic workshop but it hasn’t been on for a while; will undoubtedly have to do updates and suchlike because it will be an entertainment and workshop assistant (videos) and not crucial to any work here. The RHEL box is for my certification studies and test bed and if it isn’t working, again, not crucial. My ancient Toshiba laptop running CrunchBang is badly behind on updates but I haven’t had it on for quite a while now; the Santoku netbook/laptop likewise, although it’s more up to date.

    For an all-Linux shop, LTS distros all the way around.

  9. The Mooch.

    For obvious reasons. She parties like it’s 1999 and spends our tax money on bullshit entertainment and transportation like a drunken jarhead or swabbie on his first shore leave in a Third World port. (No offense to any jarheads or swabbies here; I’m a former zoomie and dogface, but most of my family’s veterans were swabbies).

  10. General consensus amongst my peers is that Linux as a desktop OS is basically dead. It’s a fun hobby for enthusiasts, but that’s about it. Most of them have, grudgingly, gone back to Windows or OS X.

    As for a server OS it still shines, but it never got the market share, attention to detail, or polish that a desktop OS demands.

    YMMV

  11. As a desktop, I’ve been OK with both the most recent Fedora and the LTS Ubuntus and Mint. No more problems than, and less security headache, than Windows has. But I got a similar response recently when I asked a guy (well-known blogger) why he was still using XP and not a Linux distro (he was describing a probably dead mobo or hard drive at that point) and he said because he likes it and he’s not a hobbyist. This from a guy who has gone whole-hog on a home aquarium setup, has a pilot’s license, and plays lead guitar in a popular regional rock band. His regular day job is lighting engineer/director for rock bands around the world. So peeps do what they wanna do, I guess. XP had twelve or more years to get that desktop right. And M$ has the corporate and gummint desktop markets locked up, and they had that from the git-go, deliberately and with malice aforethought.

    Otherwise, points taken; I’ve commiserated with other Linux users here when stuff didn’t go right or didn’t work as advertised. There is still too much pain and suffering involved and even Linux enthusiasts will recommend WINE and suchlike to run Windows apps; why bother? In that case, just stick with Windows. It’s whatever works best with least headache.

    Still hassling with getting a RHEL machine on the net; sent in terminal output and the sosreport file to RH just now; I know which driver will work the ethernet controller but still, no joy in Mudville yet. Third-party driver folks take a day or two to respond and the RH guy is clearly in a different time zone. A way different time zone.

    Hit 44 today but it’s 38 now with drizzle and overcast.

  12. Agree wholeheartedly. Although my assessment is that Linux takes no more time and effort than did pre-XP Windows. Geez, remember all you had to go through to get various things to load in the right order, because if you did not, certain resources were inadequate? I have been using XP since 2004, and have only had a complete lockup once or twice, and I have run 24/7 since the late ’90’s, with months of uptime. When a program crashes, at worst I just log off my account and back on, and everything works again. No reboot necessary. Cannot say the same for any flavor of Linux I have tried.

    Just had a complete lockup to reboot on the Linux notebook — most likely caused by Evolution. I am in the middle of a tight deadline on some paid video editing (doing it in good old reliable Windows), but as soon as that is done, I am reinstalling the Mint LTS. Looks like we are going to have some Linux-only software at the radio project, so I have to make it work. I do think the LInux future looks brighter. As I mentioned from Berlin, a no-cost OS is very important to both business and people there. I think that will be increasingly the case in the US. As that happens, there are going to be more commercial entities contributing back to FOSS, the same as Libre Office has been underwritten by German and French enterprises that need it as a free alternative to M$ Office.

  13. I can’t figure out all the trouble many people have using Linux for a productivity box. I have two Linux boxes, neither of which give me trouble.

    The first, a 12-year-old tower that’s been running Debian 24/7 except for moves and extended power failures, is currently used mainly as a web, samba, and mail server but formerly was my main user box. The only problem that can be blamed on the OS is the Debian people misidentified the dependencies for some package in an almost-end-of-life Deb version and when I installed the package it borked some system libraries so I had to upgrade the entire OS version. Big PITA and several hours wasted, but I lost no data.

    The second computer is my day-to-day laptop, a Lenovo running Ubuntu 10 LTS, which I’ve been using for over three years and which is older than that. It has a couple oddities in terms of OS support for the hardware, but nothing I can’t live with, and fewer than there’d been with XP (which it shipped with) or Win7 (which I upgraded to). I use this box for just banging around on the internet, writing, software development, writing music, watching videos, editing videos, and about anything else you’d want to do. I don’t think it’s ever crashed, which cannot be said for either version of Windows on this hardware.

    In both cases, I basically just stuck a minimal install CD in the drive, made sure the computer was connected to the internet, and fired it up. There were questions to answer and settings to set, but you’d have to, for instance, set your time zone regardless of OS. I will acknowledge that I’m more computer savvy and especially more familiar with installing Linux than most, but I don’t think there’s anything in the operation that an average Joe couldn’t figure out.

    Something that a lot of people forget when bemoaning the difficulty of installing Linux versus Windows, which “just runs”, is that their computers came with Windows pre-installed, and usually customized for the hardware. For that matter, the hardware is often customized for Windows. If you give the average schmoe a computer with a fresh hard drive and an out-of-the-box Windows install disk, he’ll likely be swearing about the lack of driver support, stupid install programs, and things that just don’t work right. And he’ll have to screw with getting Microsoft to acknowledge the license, which doesn’t always work, and which Linux users don’t have to screw with.

  14. “I have two Linux boxes, neither of which give me trouble.”

    Sure. Because the developers involved with Debian and Ubuntu and your hardware heard about you leaving bodies all over the landscape, so they wait until you’re not home or you’re fast asleep and they either send a team by or dial in remotely and make goddam sure all your shit is good and stays good.

    The rest of us law-abiding citizens have to punt.

  15. Steve F,
    Agree that Wintel boxes and the OS loads they ship with are usually well put together. I have years of mostly positive experience. In addition, I have built and set up my share of Windows systems. I also have (fewer) years of fun getting Linux to work well, both on ready-made and home-built systems (thanks, Robert and Barbara.)

    I think Linux could be helped if there were more systems that shipped with a fully debugged installation of a solid distro with a nice assortment of business apps. I know quite a few people who would consider this, but who would hesitate (or have failed) to set up a system with either Linux or Windows. The market is there, but very few seem able to succeed.

  16. Dell offered a “Linux developer notebook” for a while. I bought one for my son for Christmas, because (at 16) he’s already a damned good programmer. Buying the laptop was surprisingly hard – I couldn’t actually get it from the website, but had to call and convince the sales-droid that such a thing actually existed.

    However, it seems to have exactly the benefits mentioned above: Dell ensured that the hardware and software (Ubuntu) play nicely together. It’s a sweet little laptop with a really nice display.

    I have issues with my various Linux installations, no denying it. But Windows has it’s own problems, different from Linux but still there. My employer provides a Windows installation that is tightly locked down and takes for-fricking-ever to start up. After the last time their update software rebooted the machine while I was in the middle of a presentatation, I stopped using it for anything important. The only place I have no choice is accessing SAP, which I do once-a-quarter for project reports.

    The thing is: I think either operating system will work just fine for undemanding users: Set it up and leave it alone. The problem comes with demanding users. Power users installing complex software, special device drivers, funny hardware – we can screw up any system. Right now, I am happiest with my Mint-15-Cinnamon installation on the laptop, and Xubuntu on the desktop. Both have their issues, but so does my Win7 gaming installation that I hardly ever use.

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