Large file copies from Windows to OSX failing?

Go read this:

It’s a discussion of why copies of large file from windows to macintosh fail, and includes a Windows registry change which fixes the issue. This was driving me nuts for months and had me on a set of wild goose chases (must be the router firmware….must be the mac since this doesn’t fail in other contexts … must be something in windows drivers … must have something to do with the drive mounted via usb where these files were usually headed, on and on). Anyway, 5 minutes after reading this my problem was gone.

Microsoft….does the right thing?!?!

Microsoft introduced a point system for purchases when they introduced the xbox (or 360? I forget when it began), a system that was mostly reviled by gamers. They announced over a year ago that they were ending that system in favor of straight cash purchases for their online stores, just like most everyone else uses (ie Amazon, Apple, Google Play, etc).

Both Sony and Microsoft sell debit cards at retail for making purchases in their online stores, so kids without credit cards can buy games online. Retailers periodically run specials on those cards, especially around the holidays, so you can get $50 for $40 or whatever.

Several Christmases ago, I stocked up on these cards when Target ran a $50 for $30 sale or something along those lines. I added those credits to my respective accounts, and then my Xbox 360 promptly died. My $50 of Microsoft credit has been sitting in limbo ever since, as I had no plans to replace the 360. Imagine me shaking my fist in irritation at Microsoft. Then imagine me bemused to receive an email from Microsoft letting me know that my points have been converted back to actual cash $$$ – I’m now sitting on $49.15 in credit for Microsoft’s stores. Bully for them for doing the right thing and me for getting my funds back.

Next, imagine me shaking my fist in mild irritation again when I discover I can only spend these funds in the Windows 8 and Windows Mobile stores, which I do no business with.   :-/

Amazon customer service rocks

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new waterproof camera (a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5A) to replace my aging Pentax Optio, in preparation for my annual camping trip on Lake George. Yesterday I noticed the price had dropped by $50 on Amazon’s site. One quick, somewhat automated support email later and I had a $50 refund. There are reasons Amazon’s the number one online retailer, this being one of them.

(the camera’s great so far – excellent image quality, nearly instant bootup time, and a host of cool new features, gps being the one I’m most pleased with)

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From the ‘there’s always someone out there nerdier than you’ file:

I present: Radio Rivendell. 24×7 streaming music channel featuring high fantasy themed tracks. I kid in the headline – I recently found this and started playing it while playing Dungeons of Dredmor on my PC. Dredmor is fantastic and at $5 a steal (or less on sale, which it is frequently). Rivendel’s perfect when you’re looking to set that high fantasy mood, which of course lots of you are…right?

😉   enjoy,


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Vladimir Propp still looms large in my life, sort of

English: Vladimir Propp, Russian philologist

English: Vladimir Propp, Russian philologist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I suppose I’m one of the few people on earth likely to say ‘Vladimir Propp had a profound impact on my  development.’ If I let that drop in conversation the most likely response would be ‘who the heck is Vladimir Propp?’ He was a Russian professor and theorist best known (I think) for authoring ‘The Morphology of the Folktale,’ a work which showed how to reduce folktales down to their base components and proposed amongst other things a way to author folktales algorithmically using those components.

His influence on me had less to do with his literary theories and more to do with how I encountered his work during an English Lit course I took back in the late 80’s. I had what seemed to me at the time to be a unique insight in that course. The course was a pastiche of material all connected in one way or another to computer mediated learning, narrative structures, and the study of literature. It was an experimental course two English faculty were collaborating on, and we students were sort of guinea pigs – they had some broad ideas about what they wanted to cover, and were looking to use us to help them shape subsequent offerings of the course. For the final project, we were broken into working groups and tasked with delivering something in hypertext based on the works of one of a set of authors. It occurred to me that we could use Hypercard to build folktales using Propp’s structures while taking input from the person sitting in front of the computer (ie the name of the hero and so on) to add some unique elements to each generated story. Each team had been assigned a student computer programmer, and I managed to convince my team that the idea had merit, then convinced the programmer he could actually pull it off.

To this day that work remains one of the things I’m most proud of from my college years, even though I found out later that the programmer had cheated and the software didn’t actually work – the story was more or less random and did not fully implement Propp’s structures correctly, though it did so well enough to fool both us and our instructors. The student programmer admitted this to me over beers at a graduation party at the end of that year. The instructors who taught it won a teaching award and took the ideas that came out of that course and turned it into a grant which later led to the release of  ‘The Linear Modeling Kit‘ [<- pdf link] that they used in subsequent courses.

That experience, which took place my Junior year, was a pivotal moment in my life. I had not yet figured out what I would do with my degree when I graduated, and truth be told by that point had started to second-guess my choice of major. I know this sounds hopelessly naive, but across my Sophomore and Junior years I had slowly come to the conclusion that there was no such thing as objective truth, and my passion for textual analysis was waning in the face of the fact that the study of literature was not the path to conclusive meaning I had been grasping after. Feel free to picture me as a possibly drunken young undergrad shaking his fist at a cold uncaring universe if it helps you set the scene 😉

Anyway, until that course I had started thinking History, not English Lit, should have been where I had focused (yep, there’s that naivete again – at that time I thought something along the lines of ‘unlike literature, history is full of unambiguous cold hard facts and data that I can sift through and make categorical statements about’ ;-), but the experience got me really interested in computer mediated textual analysis and authoring, which a few months of study on my own, coupled with influences from my Dad’s career as a journalist, slowly focused into a fascination with hypertext and its possibilities. Mind you, this was years before web browsers existed – almost all of this was notional, with me reading texts and imagining things.

All of this comes to mind because of this piece on boingboing, which covers a piece of software called ‘The Infinite Adventure Machine,’ which, you guessed it, authors folk tales using the basic structures Propp sketched in the Morphology of the Folk tale, while leaving space for the user to influence and be additive to the basic narrative. I hadn’t heard Propp’s name in probably 20 plus years until I saw that, and it brought all of these old memories bubbling back to the surface. Fun how these things work when they come over you, isn’t it. It’s also lovely to see a cherished idea turned into something more functional and aesthetically pleasing.

My meandering point, I suppose, is that I owe the career I have today to that experience at The College of Wooster one semester 20 something years ago, and tangentially to a somewhat obscure Russian theorist, and I loved having that reinforced so randomly and with such an unlikely reference point.

The new PC build

After the death of my gaming rig in December, I pulled together parts and built a new machine. I kept the old case, power supply, and optical drive. Everything else I bought new. I used two new resources to help this time round, after years of using the techreport system builders guides. I still referenced them, but this time I relied more on a wonderfully maintained thread and associated resources from neogaf – the “I need a New PC!” 2013 Part 1″ thread. There’s a google spreadsheet linked from there with parts lists for a number of different cost, performance and form factor builds, which is embedded in the first post of the thread. There’s also a link to, which has this great tool that lets you build a shopping list which is sharable and which can be configured to find the lowest price for each component in your build from whichever vendors you want to select from. It’s great. Here’s my build list, by way of example. For the record, since who knows how long that link will work, below is also my partlist:

Intel Core i5-3570K
Asus P8Z77-V LK ATX LGA1155 Motherboard
Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Samsung 840 Pro Series 128GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk (this is the Operating System drive)
Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive (this is the apps drive)
Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB 3.5″ 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive (this is the drive backups are written to)
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card
Asus Xonar DGX 24-bit 96 KHz Sound Card

This is the first time I’ve added a soundcard in years, maybe a decade even. I did it because I became frustrated with the driver situation for my previous build, where the mobo manufacture (Gigabyte) and the audio chipset manufacturer were not in sync on their drivers, and I had a number of compatibility problems with games. The Xonar stuff has been on my radar for a while – it was cheap enough so I figured I would give it a shot. So far it’s great, and having two independent audio devices is actually handy (voice comms on one, game audio on the other).

The build itself was uneventful – about as easy as they come, and so unremarkable that I have nothing to say about it beyond that. The machine’s been running well for a couple of weeks now, I definitely got a performance improvement in a number of games, which is great, even if truth be told I wasn’t feeling like I needed it before the old machine died. Plus, so far all my game saves have been successfully migrated to the new build, which was the thing I was most worried about. Now I can just cross my fingers I get 2+ years out of this build. Insofar as I can tell, the videocard will be the only likely weak link.

It is worth noting that it’s possible this will be the last time I do this. Intel is signalling that eventually you won’t be able to buy processors anymore – you’ll have to buy a motherboard/cpu combo or manufactured machines, and even the machine vendors like Dell and HP are signalling that they want to get out of the PC business (!!! – they can’t make money). I think what they’re trying to do is get PC’s to the point where they are consumer devices – no one picks which audio chip goes into their stereo, and Intel figures no one should think about PC’s, you just go to best buy and buy model a, b, or c. We’ll see if they succeed. In theory by the time I need another new machine, they’ll be close to or at that point, and Dell may be out of the consumer PC business.