Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Highly Incompatible

Today I drove to Fry's to take advantage of what seemed like a deal: a $70 wireless print server for only $20. When I got my AirLink101 model AMPS240W home and carefully followed nearly all the instructions for setup, I couldn't make it connect wirelessly with my good ol' Linksys WRT54G router. (The one instruction I didn't follow was to run another CAT-5 cable line from the wireless router into the printer room to connect to the wireless print server, which seems like a pretty pointless requirement) After doggedly following their "troubleshooting" advice of individually setting the router to each of the 11 possible channels, then unplugging and replugging the print server to see if it would connect (it wouldn't, from 3 feet away) I gave up and called Tech Support.

I joyfully listened to them tell me for about 10 minutes how important my call was to them (not important enough to staff up for it, though) before the phone connection died. So I called again, this time only had to wait about 7 minutes before someone called "Sam" answered. Judging by his accent, he didn't get this name in Cleveland; just call it a hunch that his real name might be Samir. He requires all my personal info before he'll consider my problems, of course. Finally he's got all he wanted, and consents to let me take a turn getting questions answered.

I told him about having tried all the channels. He didn't ask, but I would also have told him I turned off all firewalls and security. He didn't ask because it turns out that he not only considers the cable from my wireless router to the wireless print server to be a necessity (huh?!?), but he also points out that the installation guide says:
Note: ... Make sure that you are able to print, scan, and fax from each with your muti-functional printer directly connected to your computer(s).
So, part of the installation process of this wireless device, according to page 1 of the Quick Installation Guide, is to drag a USB wire from the printer directly to each computer to verify that each combination works. Or, more likely, pick up the printer and carry it into each room of my multi-room network, get all local drivers installed, hook up and test. Imagine my joy. Naturally I had decided not to do any of this until I could see a wireless connection from router to PS.

Suddenly, my brain clicks on something he says about "compatible printer". I ask what printer might be incompatible, if this print server follows the usual USB standards. He says, "What have you got?" I say, "Epson Stylus CX3810" (I hate this printer, it's terribly slow and has a real drinking problem, but that's off the point) and he says, of course, "That printer isn't compatible". After listening to me express my admiration for a bit, he points out that on the bottom edge of the bottom of the box in blazing 5-point type is the following:

Printer server may not support all printers. Please check our website to view the printer compatibility list.

Silly me, since I don't have portable Internet (and had neglected to use my Super Microscopic Vision to scrutinize for disclaiming fine print) I had not checked this while on the store floor. It was obviously all my fault. But after summarizing and triple confirming that this "wireless" unit will not talk unless it is wired (no usable connection on the front door), and will not talk to my Epson, my HP, my Lexmark or my Brother printers (no usable connection on the back door), we closed the support call.

So I got on the web and went hunting for this sacred list of the Blessed Ones. It was not easy to find, but I eventually did find it, and get this: when you do open the list of "compatible printers", that list which tells you what printers this device will actually work with... it's blank! Yup, blank - so, apparently, your chances of success (emphasis on the "suck") are zero. See for yourself!

Okay, to be fair, there was another downloadable version of the list nearby that did actually contain some printers, though none were mine. This was just another example of my whole experience with AirLink101, a company I will highly recommend to anyone I don't like.

So now I get to drive back to Fry's and try to return my "bargain", while absorbing the losses in fuel and time as a lesson to always buy defensively! It also reminded me that I haven't performed my song "Tech Support Blues" in a while.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Amazing Egg Creamer

Via BoingBoing.net - this incredible bit of engineering you just have to see for yourself, probably more than once. All this to smash those leftover Cadbury Cream Eggs you had laying around. Well worth it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New gigs, new name, a pretty good night

Many of you know that a few years ago Larry Griffith got inspired somehow to introduce me onstage as King George, and through repeated use that name has stuck. I wasn't crazy about it at first, after all King George was the main reason we Americans got fed up enough to have a revolution; he was insane with syphilis, and according to some accounts he wasn't even sure where America was on the globe and didn't really care as long as we paid our escalating taxes. But I digress. By now I rather enjoy the regal fun of it all, and Larry has just started billing the band that includes me (he has several lineups) as Larry Griffith and The King's Court. Thanks, Sir Larry, you may rise.

Wednesday nights continue to grow at Bella Bocca in Marietta. It's a sweet little venue, but hard to see from the street. Just go west from the Marietta square about 1.5 miles on Whitlock. When you see Burnt Hickory Road fork off to the right, you'll see the Clock Tower strip mall (no strippers there, for some reason) on the left. Turn in, and Bella Bocca is in the anchor position in the upper corner. We start there at 8PM.

One patron/fan, Matt Chaney (no relation to the Dick) turned out to be a pretty decent bedroom guitarist, but with no stage experience. We talked guitar for a while, and he emailed me his YouTube links of himself playing along with a few popular records. I told him it's easy to get on stage, just bring a guitar and we'll go to Nik's after work at Bella Bocca. This week he did, we did, and Aaron was nice enough to put us onstage together. Matt performed more than adequately, and I consider him ready to start working in bands. I'm just sorry his sweetie Jessica wasn't there quite soon enough to see it, but she did see the backslapping and feel the nearly-sexual buzz that a musician gets from a group performance he's really proud of. Next time we'll time it better, Matt.

Which brings me to this: Folks, if you want to perform onstage, it's not hard to get started. Talk to me, and I'll arrange it. I have years of jam experience, hosting and playing, and I can give you lots of tips, or even private lessons to prepare. One of the best uses of the jams are as a farm system, to bring in new talent and keep our beloved music nourished and refreshed (so we don't just become a world of non-playing non-singing rappers). When it's done right, it's the best drug there is, and with none of the terrible side effects of other addictions. In fact, it can be healthy for you, like sex, as it stimulates many of the same chemical systems and can be quite physical. So, let's play.

The last couple of Thursday nights I've been performing with Larry at Joel's Tavern, and this is a venue I like. Right at the east entrance to Life University (Hwy 41 & Barclay) they draw a young crowd that has really responded well to our blend of classic rock, Motown and classic R&B. They built us a nice new stage, and have capacity for a couple hundred happy people. Thanks to my old pal Heather from Darwin's for hooking us up. South of the 120 Loop about 0.7 miles, turn at the big yellow Waffle House. We start there at 9PM.

I've had some pretty good radio shows lately too - in recent shows I've had Radio Cult (a very fun show band), Barry Richman, Chris Duarte, Gwen Hughes, and more. You can download my shows free here at Radio Sandy Springs.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Red Salt update

My friends at Little Alley have given me a time frame of 4 to 6 weeks until the opening of their second location, Red Salt, in old Roswell. The location is on the corner next to the old Peachtree Salvage, a few doors north of Pastis. Chef Richard tells me he'll be moving over, having thoroughly trained the Little Alley kitchen. I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Darth Feels Blue

You will click this video! Use the mouse, Luke!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Uh-oh, Troubling News in the Music Business

A couple quick items I found on tonight's edition of BoingBoing.net

House passes bill that will let the RIAA take away your home for downloading music

The poster notes:
This isn't a judgment on my part as to whether piracy is good or bad (I think copyright deserves to be protected through reasonable methods), but I am always horrified when civil enforcement morphs into criminal enforcement. Conservatives and liberals should be up in arms alike that local prosecutors and/or police could intervene as they desire in essentially a private affair arranged by the RIAA, and permanently seize thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in private property in addition to any civil penalties.
Oh goody. The RIAA greases the right palms in Washington, and they get to use our cops to bust in our doors. There's more good info at the link.

RIAA says DRM is coming back -- in the future, you won't own music

Oh, this is nice. The music you "buy" will not actually be yours. There was a recent case with Microsoft that should tell you how this will turn out. Microsoft sold (or licensed, if you prefer - in any case they took money) music that carried a bit of code that checked with Microsoft to be sure it was legal before allowing the music to play. OK, whatever, people paid up and rocked out. Then the decision was made to close down that enterprise, and the server that granted the play permissions was turned off. Now, none of that paid-for music will play. (If you buy iTunes music, it's encrypted to only work on iPods, right? What happens when Apple stops making iPods? When yours dies, what happens to the music you paid for?)

As a non-lawyer, I look at stuff like this and think they can't possibly be serious, that no judge would go along with it, and surely no lawmaker would pass such a law. Are our "representatives" actually under the impression that they are creating good laws? Or am I simply not squinting just the right way to see how good this is?

On a different front, songwriters and composers are urged by ASCAP to sign this "Bill Of Rights":

But what will it really mean? I've seen too many examples of people being asked to sign on to something that has vast consequences that were never explained up front. Careful with that pen, Eugene!

One thing that even I can see in this "Bill of Rights" is some declarations of worthless rights, such as the "right to decline participation in business models that require us to relinquish all or part of our creative rights" (which artists already have, but like "right to work" it really means the right to not do business with the music business, which is to say, the right to starve) and "the right to advocate for strong laws" which of course all Americans have had for at least a couple centuries. But item 4 is the real meat of it, basically an authorization (or at least an endorsement) of aggressive legal action against "pirates" which, in America, where ASCAP has any jurisdiction, means downloaders. The real pirate operations are in the other countries like China where ASCAP is nothing but a distant noise. So, coupled with the new HR 4279 mentioned above, it looks like the music industry wants to grind non-buyers into the dust (in fact, music buyers won't even own what they buy), to the point of taking away their computers or even their houses, and they want the artists to say we think that's great. Well I do not. And if you look at the lessons learned when Metallica pissed off (or on) millions of fans over downloading, no sane artist would want anything to do with the image, however improbable, of storm troopers bashing in citizen's doors in search of that kid who's been downloading music. (By the way, rent the video "Some Kind of Monster" to see inside the Metallica organization, and watch Lars lament what a fool he was in this matter)

I, as a songwriter and improvisational performer, want my joyful noises heard and hopefully enjoyed by the largest number of people for the longest time possible. That's why I've granted The Internet Archive, and my listeners, blanket permission to record my shows and post them, exchange them, or wear them as a hat if they want, until further notice. With the stipulation that nobody gets the right to do so for money without my written permission (which I probably will grant for a written check).

It's been said that in recent decades the music industry "has consumed itself". So I wonder, when the last gullible musician has been ripped off by sleazy contracts, and the last shred of creativity has been starved out for not being "commercial", what will we have in the future instead of music? Who will play the music at music's funeral? Fortunately, we won't have to face a world without song because the RIAA's devil is our savior; the Internet will be where new art is found and purchased. Or, not purchased. Help yourself to LOTS of free legitimate media here.

I may be mistaken about parts of this. Oh Lordy, I sure hope I am. If so, please tell me.

UPDATE: It pays to watch your web tracker. I use StatCounter (an excellent freebie) and it spotted a reader in California who had just come from a website called OpenCongress, which looks really impressive! Check out what they show for HR 4278 as discussed above.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pleasant Surprise Videos!

Looking over my web stats tonight, I see that I had a visitor come here after looking at a video on YouTube. Oh really? So I checked it out, and was very pleased to see that Ellen Hamby (a diligent fan of the Atlanta music scene who shoots and posts lots of performance videos) had actually captured a three-song performance I did at the final Darwin's Wednesday Jam. Joined by Terry Bradley, Jon Schwenke and John McKnight, we did a short but (I believe) scorching set, which I thought was lost forever, but Ellen's Eyes see all! Ellen, you rock!

This one is my favorite:

(Ellen has over 550 videos posted on YouTube so far, covering several years of Atlanta's blues scene, and several other musicians she just likes. She drives a lot and spends a lot to come out and support live music; she's just the kind of fan that musicians hope to have someday. Those who know of her various acts of kindness think very highly of her. And if you call her "Hotlips Hamby" at just the right moment, you can make Bailey's squirt out of her nose.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

A couple of sweet links for you

Back in the 1960s, during the space race, we were all amazed and fascinated with the space program (me more than most, as a geeky 7-year-old). What most Americans didn't realize, and didn't want to, was that Russia did everything but the moon landing first (and they tried that too). First satellite, first living creature in orbit, first man in space, first man in orbit, etc.

They didn't do the first space shuttle, but theirs was much bigger. You probably didn't know they had one, as information was rare, let alone photos. Those Soviets, always keeping secrets. I have found a collection of amazing photos from the glory days of their huge shuttle craft (the Buran) and the way-past-huge booster (the Energia). Check them out, and click the photos to enlarge.

Also, Cory Doctorow has a new book out called Little Brother, a "rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion". Some teenagers get accused of being terrorists, and draw heavy heat from Homeland Security. The kids are forced to use their tech skills to outwit and evade, and... well, read the book. Lots of useful tips for those who want their privacy back. The author is giving it away FREE right here:

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Someone in Eugene?

Some of you may know that I'm an Oregon boy, and lived in Eugene for a few happy years before moving to Seattle and then to Atlanta.

So when I see that this week someone in Eugene spent hours looking over what appears to be my entire blog and its years of archives, I'm intrigued.

Mystery guest, sign in please - are you an old friend? One of my cousins? Use the Comment icon below and let me know.

This reminds me, I've got a lot of great old Eugene stories for you. Like, how I used to play in the actual frat house where Animal House was filmed, right next to University of Oregon (and, I've also played the Dexter Lake Club, and my Aunt Joanne is somewhere in the parade scene). I might tell you about the 3AM phone call I got from my drummer (rooming with Cray's) to come party with them and Belushi. Or how the Blues Brothers were actually a product of a chance meeting during that filming, because Robert Cray and Curtis Salgado and friends were the house band of The Eugene Hotel where Belushi was staying. In fact, if you look you'll see Robert playing bass in The Knights, which also featured local music luminaries (and nice guys) Robert Bailey, Sonny King, Tommy Smith, and Ron Steen. Belushi took that inspiration (some say "stole the act lock stock & barrel") and ran with it, pretty much causing the blues resurgence in the late 70s and early 80s. Or how Kenny Gorlick used to play there with Jeff Lorber, before he became Kenny G.

But there's no time to tell these stories properly right now, maybe later. Meanwhile, who's my mystery guest? Mitch Matthews? Dave Mischak? Monti Amundson? Drix Rixmann? Or do you know them? Speak up!

go Ducks!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Congrats, Geoff Achison

Big grins to Geoff Achison for being named at the top of Guitar Player Magazine's "Ten Hottest New Guitarists"! (June 2008, pg 64) Guitar Player is the oldest and most respected of the guitar magazines, and they know how to pick 'em. Good on ya!