Category Archives: Computers/Internet

Overload the Cores

I finally got around to trying out No Man’s Sky a few weeks ago. I started on a super-hot planet, where you need to find shelter and/or resources to recharge your suit’s hazard protection system to keep cool. Got killed a few times trying to figure out what I was doing. And after about 20 minutes, my computer spontaneously shut itself down.

I waited a few minutes to let it cool down, then tried again. Managed to figure out a bit more of what I needed to do in the game, and then the same thing happened.

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What is up with MacOS system updates?

On Monday, the home laptop mysteriously started lagging on heavily-modded Minecraft worlds that it had been just fine with the day before. Katie tried all kinds of troubleshooting over the next few days: using different launchers, trying local and server-based games, disabling mods, reinstalling Sophos, rebooting the system repeatedly. Nothing helped.

Until she checked the system update panel. Sure, it had a notification dot, but it always has one because it wants us to update to Big Sur, and we’re not quite ready to upgrade the system from Catalina. So it wasn’t obvious that it hadn’t actually installed Monday’s macOS update despite multiple reboots and a checkbox to automatically install updates.

Not that you’d expect a missing update to be the cause of the problem, since the lag only just started happening. But still, worth a shot. Especially since it started around the time the update was released.

(Incidentally, 2.3 GB? It’s only been a few weeks since the previous update. Did Apple just give up on deltas a while back and start shipping the entire OS every time there’s a bug fix?)

She had to manually tell it to install, and then force-shutdown the machine, because it wouldn’t restart on its own. Then the update installed.

And the Minecraft lag mysteriously disappeared.

Which means one of two things happened. Either:

  • Just knowing that the update existed caused something to chew up or block resources.
  • The OS silently started to install the update and got stuck, leaving the system in a broken state without telling anyone.

Neither of those is what I’d call encouraging.

Ya-who? Flickr and Tumblr Were Lucky!

Huh. Verizon has sold what remains of Yahoo! and AOL.

For half of what they paid for them. 🤦‍♂️

To a private equity firm. 😬

Apparently the division formerly known as Oath and later as Verizon Media Group will be called Yahoo going forward, which is probably a good move.

I’ve got to say, though: Flickr and Tumblr really lucked out that Verizon sold them to companies that actually had something to do with their core service. Flickr went to SmugMug, a photo-sharing company, and Tumblr went to Automattic, a blogging company.

I’d like to think someone at Verizon put in the effort to find a good fit for each. It’s probably more likely that they just weren’t in a hurry at the time, since they still thought they could get something out of the rest of what they bought from Yahoo.

Farewell to Fry’s

I’m going to miss two things about Fry’s Electronics, which shut down this week:

  • Being able to walk in and grab random parts immediately.
  • The decor.

And yeah, there’s nostalgia for the old days, but they’re already gone.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s they really were a one-stop shop for computers, software, appliances, all kinds of electronics hardware, and the random snacks you might want to munch on while tinkering or upgrading. You could check out, or better yet try out – they had a huge number of computers available for demos – all kinds of cool tech.

I bought a lot of components for my desktop PC over the years, replacing pieces bit by bit. Sure, you could get complete systems at Micro Center or Best Buy or Circuit City, but none of them had the long tail of components that Fry’s did.

(There was also the generous return policy — I knew a lot of people who used the “Fry’s rental” when they needed something for a single project.)

Service was a mixed bag, though. Sometimes you’d get someone really knowledgeable who could help you pick out the best hardware combination for what you wanted. Sometimes you wouldn’t be able to find anyone. And a lot of the sales staff tended to be proto-techbros, so if you were shopping while female, or looking for Apple products — or worse, both — there was a good chance you’d get someone overly condescending.

Fading Away

They’ve been going downhill for a while. They dropped a lot of the middle range and focused on the high-end and low-end markets. All the articles talk about competition from online stores, and I suspect friendlier brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy took over a lot of the mid-range consumer market.

When I built a gaming PC a few years ago, I tried Fry’s first, but I couldn’t find most of the parts I wanted. I only bought the case and power supply there, then ordered other parts from NewEgg, Amazon, or direct from the manufacturers. And I went back to Fry’s when I tried to put everything together and discovered I had the wrong mounting rails and needed another case fan.

They never really adapted to online shopping. Their website is still terrible (or was until Wednesday). Before 2019, big deal, I’d just walk into the store and browse anyway. But in 2020, after Covid-19 hit and in-person retail shut down, curbside pickup and shipping were the way to go. The search results were a pain to sort through, even for products that didn’t have nationwide shortages (like webcams). Even when I told it I wanted to look for shipping or local pickup, it kept trying to send me to San Jose, hundreds of miles away.

The Fry’s Experience

Ultimately, though, the most memorable thing about Fry’s couldn’t translate to a website. The locations I’ve been to were all converted warehouses or small office buildings. And each one was decorated with a theme.

Burbank’s store had a flying saucer crashed into the front, with statues of 50’s sci-fi aliens with ray guns scattered around as if they were invading the building. A giant squid’s tentacles supported the computer demo tables.

Anaheim had a giant mock-up of the Space Shuttle. If I remember right, the audio demo room was inside it.

Manhattan Beach had a Pacific Islands theme, with tropical plants, tiki statues, and murals based on Gauguin’s paintings from Tahiti.

Fountain Valley’s store was decked out in a classical Roman style, with columns, a mural of Roman gods, and a broken aqueduct that poured into a fountain in the center of the store. (I always thought that was a risky choice for an electronics store.)

Las Vegas had a giant slot machine for an entrance, but nothing special inside that I can recall.

Sad to say, I don’t seem to have taken photos inside any of these locations, though I do have a shot of the Vegas entryway, and of course now I can’t.

Wacom Registration error: “Profile ID Missing” (solved?)

This doesn’t seem to be a very common problem, given that when I searched for it I only found a single result on Google, but in case someone else out there runs into the same issue, I thought I’d write it up so they can find it.

I tried to register a Wacom Intuos drawing tablet. The way you do this is you open the Wacom software and click on the registration banner, which then opens your default web browser to the registration page on Wacom’s website, pre-filled with a serial number and some authorization token. If you’re already logged into a Wacom account, it should just register it immediately. Or you can create an account first.

The problem: I got a banner at the top with the error, “Profile ID Missing.” I went back to the Wacom Desktop Center, which popped up the registration banner again. Clicked again. Same problem.

Google search for Wacom register "Profile Id Missing" with one result, and the we've omitted similar results message.

Technically there was another result…which was another view of the same reviews.

The only reference I found when searching for wacom register "Profile ID Missing" was a German-language review review on the Amazon.de listing for an Intuos tablet. “Was zum Teufel ist eine Profile-ID?” They solved it by uninstalling and reinstalling the Wacom software, and for whatever reason, the registration link worked that time.

Before I got to that point, I tried something I didn’t think would work: I clicked in the URL bar on Firefox and hit Enter, causing it to reload the page. (I forget whether I’d already tried hitting the reload button.) Weirdly enough, it worked, and it registered the tablet. Finally!