May 15, 2006

"Scary Movie" should've gone straight to video.

Don't ever see "Scary Movie". Ever.

I find the fact that this movie is so highly acclaimed is an unfortunate indicator of the collective IQ of 75-90% of the human population under 30 (hint: it's the same number as the rating I gave this film). I'm sure there were one or two funny things, but hell if I can remember. The matrix parody where Cindy freezes in mid-air is done extremely poorly. A lot of things they parodied have already been parodied better, and many of them are the kind of things that only need to be parodied once.

For instance, they parodize a zoom-in shot by accidentally going too far and bashing Cindy in the head with the camera. This was already done in Spaceballs, and it was done better. When Dark Helmet got hit with the camera, he fell to the ground unconscious and they went on to the next scene. In this atrocity, Cindy just backs up and fakely says "OW!" like the stupid brown-haired blonde she is. Some people may say the fact that the "OW" was fake was funny. It was not. Bad acting is not equal to comedy. Plus, she gets hit by the actual lens, which at this point looks like it must be the size of a TV screen, and obviously doesn't have that shroud around the front of the lens. But all that aside, the parody was done in Spaceballs. We get the point. Don't turn a funny thing like this into something that gets thrown into all parodies just as a cheap way to increase the lulz factor.

A good indicator of how funny someone is, is whether or not they can think of real jokes without having to resort to blatant and profane references to sex and drugs. The sexual innuendo was old before they even started it. I can just imagine some bozo behind a desk saying, "hey, I can't come up with any real jokes so let's just have the guy say 'LOL I WAS HOPING TO HAVE MY BALLS LICKED'". Yeah, that's good comedy right there. "Stop sticking your dick in the vacuum cleaner"? Wtf? As if that joke wasn't lame enough, two shots later they've got to show Doofus walking around the house with a vacuum cleaner hose and a hardon. The drug jokes aren't much better. "Lunch isn't a subject." "It is when you've got the munchies!" How is this even remotely funny? Because it's an obscure reference to the fact that the character is on cannabis? Please. His acting is an all too obvious indicator that he smokes more weed than your local police chief, and even if it wasn't, the joke is just not funny. Someone needs to realize that just because a joke has blatant references to sex and/or drugs does not make it remotely funny. And the shots of partially naked male actors, well that's just disgusting. Go back to your fraternity, you're a disgrace to real men.

If this movie wasn't bad enough, they've got to make not one, not two, but three sequels. Come on! Three movies is the limit in almost all cases, the only exceptions being ongoing series like Star Trek and Star Wars, and series that focus on one "ultra-hero" like James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Columbo. Even the Godfather, which was a series, was still only three movies, with no conceivable reason to make a fourth. They knew when to quit. The Terminator? Terminated, after three. The way they left it, I see no reason for them to make a forth. But Scary Movie's got to pass that three movie barrier, even though there's not enough content unique to the series to even be able to carry through so many movies. Why? It's not like the cast qualifies as an ultra-hero, because they lack character development and - no brainer for "ultra-hero" here - HEROISM. If the movies were simply better I could understand three. But without adding a lot to the movies as a series, even if they were good movies to start with there'd be no reason to break the trilogy barrier.

If they were good movies I could understand three. They're not. Two was already pushing it, but I could understand them wanting a second hit after the crack high the first movie seemed to produce. For some inane reason, though, people just keep lapping these movies up like antifreeze in a dog's bowl, and the producers keep selling out by laying more of these cables on the collective intelligence (or lack thereof) of society.

May 12, 2006

Dude, you're gettin' a piece of shit.

Thinking about purchasing a computer?

Here's an idea: don't get a Dell.

For the last week I've been fucking with my dad's almost brand new Dell Dimension 8400 Media Edition (I couldn't talk him out of getting it). The Media Edition is essentially the same as the regular 8400, only it has a TV tuner PCI card and Windows XP Media Edition, among possibly a few other things (the video card might be a little better too).

This whole thing actually starter a couple of months ago when my dad decided to upgrade his RAM. He initially had 2 GiB, and he wanted four. So I told him, that when looking for RAM, all he needed to know was to get DDR2 RAM; in other words, any RAM that was DDR2 would work on his system. Additionally, I told him he should find out the maximum clock speed his motherboard could support, which I looked up and found out was 533 MhZ. A higher clocked RAM would still work on the board, but it would just run at 533 MhZ, which would make the extra money spent on higher clocked RAM worthless.

My dad didn't quite believe me when I told him that any DDR2 RAM would work, so he goes on to the Dell website to see what they reccomend. How they have the site layed out, you search for your computer's model. So we type in what appears on the front of the case, "Dimension 8400". We got two results - the Dimension 8400 and the Dimension 8400 Media Edition. At this point we couldn't remember which one we had, but we didn't think it mattered until we noticed that the 1 GiB, 533 MhZ sticks of RAM they were selling for the Media Edition were fifty bucks more than the same for the regular 8400. What the fuck? The 8400 and the Media Edition have the same motherboard. There was no reason for the Media Edition to have "special RAM" of any sort. Dell was trying to scam us.

So I checked the specs, and sure enough, I was right - identical except for differences in wording which just might be enough to confuse the average moron Dell user. Not only that, but they wouldn't let you buy only one, you had to buy them in pairs - because it's inconcievable that the end user might simply be replacing a defective stick of RAM, and because Dell knows better than we do that the whole "DRAM doesn't need to be installed in pairs" thing is a fallacy. To be fair, they do clarify that while you can install them separately, the best performance comes from instaling them in pairs. They're still leading you to believe you need both.

My father is pretty smart, and he and I both agreed that Dell was trying to pull a fast one and charging a fortune anyway, so we went to Crucial technologies. Their RAM is pretty solid, and we've dealt with the company before, so we figured it was a safe bet. They've got this deal now where, like on the Dell website, you can tell the website what computer you have and it'll show you what RAM will work on your computer. They've even got a computer scanner that tells you what computer you're running, in the event that you don't even know that much, in which case you don't need to be installing RAM anyway. So we scrolled through the list. Again, the Dimension 8400 and 8400 Media Edition were listed separately. I maintained the same assumtion that I'd made earlier, that there was no need for "special RAM" on the Media Edition, but we compared the two anyway. Well wouldn't you know it, Crucial was in on the fucking scam too, because the "Media Edition" RAM was around 30 bucks more. They didn't even bother to cleverly reword all their specs - they all lined up perfectly.

Apparently these big companies feel that the elite people with big, mighty, "Media Edition" PCs (hint: it's still a piece of shit Dell) can afford to cough up a little extra for the same RAM, whilst at the same time be stupid enough to think there's a difference - after all, they're still using piece of shit Dells.

So after giving him a little bit of an explanation of how RAM works, I told my dad why that as long as it was DDR2 DRAM it would work, that for best performance he should get 533 MhZ, and that's all you really need to know when buying RAM unless you're into overclocking. So we picked up some Corsairs from Newegg. Now, we were expecting this because we didn't have Windows XP Pro, but after installing the RAM, the operating system only recognized three GiB of it. So, as planned, he went ahead and bought Windows XP Pro. He got scammed by some asshole and had to buy it twice - but that's another article.

So, planning to reformat the drive before installing Windows, I put the CD in the drive and rebooted the Dell. It takes me to the blue screen, and after waiting the usual five minutes while the Windows shit loads, I finally get the screen that says "To set up Windows XP now, press enter." I go to press Enter, and the setup tells me that it was unable to detect any hard drives on my system. What the fuck? So, thinking it's a fluke, I check cables and try to boot up again. Still no luck. So next time I loaded setup, I decided to press "R" to go into the recovery module, instead of Enter for setting up Windows. It gives me the same bullshit again.

So this time, I go into the existing operating system and try and run setup from there. I get as far as were it says to enter the activation key in and bitches out on me in the form of a "The activation key you have entered is invalid". I checked it about five times. And then I had my dad check it about twenty times. I retyped it with him dictating. I had him type it with me dictating. I went and had a cup of coffee whilst he checked it a few more times. There was no getting around it, the activation key was not going to work. At this point, I'm thinking it's a good thing I wasn't able to format the drive because the disc they gave us had the wrong key. So my dad called the place and they had him fax a copy of the activation key to them.

I can't install XP Pro from the existing XP because the activation code won't work, and I can't install it from boot because it won't recognize that there is in fact a hard drive looking the computer in the ass.

Several hours of screwing about later, I theorize that the drive is screwed and decide to hook up the drive to my computer and see if I can format it with Partition Magic. Well there was something wrong with the drive because when I went to resize the partition (to fill the hole that I left when I deleted Dell's bullshit "DELLUTILITY" partition), it wouldn't let me. But after I formatted the drive I was able to resize it just fine. Thinking I'd solved the problem, I put the drive back in the Dell and tried to boot to the disk. No joy.

So back to the CD possibly being the problem.

To make sure it wasn't, I put the hard drive back in my computer by itself and tried to install Windows XP Pro. Well I was able to completely install Windows XP Pro, and have my activation key accepted, on the drive in question. This fact pretty much ruled out both the drive and the disc from being defective. So I put the hard drive into the Dell. I knew I wouldn't be able to boot to Windows since it was on a different motherboard than it was installed on, but I figured I'd at least be able to boot up in safe mode. Wrong.

At this point, the only thing it can possibly be is the motherboard. I've ruled everything else out. So I go to Intel to get a BIOS update, hoping it would solve the problem. Luckily they had a CD version of the update. Unluckily, it didn't work; it simply told me "system does not support flash memory" when I booted with the disc in. Intel had a floppy version of the BIOS update too, but we didn't have a floppy drive. So, thinking that possibly this BIOS flasher was a different program that might work this time, we went up the road and bought a floppy drive.

I was half right. The floppy version was a different program. Unfortunately that doesn't mean shit to me as it still didn't flash the BIOS (I got the same error message but this time it appeard after a bunch of letters and numbers flew around the screen).

Intel has one more version of the BIOS flash, and that is the version that you run right from your operating system. It doesn't require any removable media at all. Unfortunately I don't have a working operating system on the computer I'm trying to flash, so there goes that idea. But I figured that if I at least got a working operating system going, I'd have more options. So I go to put in the original operating system that came with the Dell. It's essentially a Windows XP CD with a Dell label on it, and probably some of Dell's shit slipstreamed onto it as well.

The computer will not boot to the OS install CD. You have to put the CD in and run it from Windows.

So let me get this right. Dell gave my dad an operating system installation disc, but you have to already have a working operating system installed on the computer. And evidently, the only operating system that /will/ work is the one that you'd be trying to install with the CD. Who comes up with this shit?

It's evident to me that Dell has some kind of malware in the BIOS that won't allow you to install any operating system you didn't get from Dell. At this point, I can't even do that much, because their CD isn't bootable, or at least on the computer I need to install it on.

I can get a new motherboard. Unfortunately, Dell has designed the case so that the CPU needs to mount in a certain spot on the board. This is because its large tower heat sink extends right to a hole in the back of the case, where it is covered by a plastic shroud and vented straight out the back by a single 90mm fan. Any play in the location of the CPU at all, and the shroud won't go over the heat sink, and as a result the immense weight of the heat sink may pull itself away from the CPU and there won't be a fan on it unless I can mount one directly to the sink itself.

This is the same kind of shit Apple tries to pull. Like Dell, everything you do to your computer needs to be discussed before a committee and approved by them, and then bought from them at three times whatever it's worth.

So what's this going to cost us? I have a few more tricks up my sleeve. Best case scenario: one of my last-ditch attempts works and my hours of frustration at least got myself a floppy drive because my father doesn't want it. Worst case scnario, my father will need a new motherboard, possibly a new case, and possibly a new heat sink/fan for his CPU.

I will never buy a Dell. I will never let my family buy another Dell. And neither should you. They think they're the shit? I built my computer for half the price and it performs better. If you're sick of these scams, tell your family, and tell your friends. As a great man once said, let's hit these bastards where it counts.

Here's a quick update now that I've tried a few more things. Turns out the Dell XP CD is in fact bootable, because I hooked the Dell's hard drive back up to my computer again and managed to install their version of XP. The Dell's motherboard is just screwed. I tried running Knoppix (live CD Linux) to see if I could possibly install XP from there, but the setup program is a .exe which is a Windows executable, and Knoppix doesn't seem to know what to do with it. I tried clearing the CMOS which didn't do jack.

However, I found out that you have to load AHCI drivers when you boot from the CD for the Windows XP setup to recognize that there's a drive in the system. You press F6 when setup loads to install SCSI or RAID drivers. I had already tried this, but apparently the Dell website gave me the wrong drivers for this purpose. So when I first tried it I figured that it just wouldn't work. What I ended up doing was searching the Dell website for AHCI drivers for the Dimension 8400, and I FINALLY got this piece of shit working.

How did I find this out? I was searching for a new motherboard, and the fact that I was ready to give up says a hell of a lot. Turns out we didn't waste a penny, no thanks to the assholes that designed this piece of shit. It was a big battle, but as always, I won. -GS

UPDATE 5-16-2011: After a couple of viruses, a couple of "online virus scanners" (i.e., more viruses) some voodoo e-necromancy by yours truly to get his old files off, a baseball bat and a good mixture of thermite, the infamous Dell is no more.