Category Archives: Tech

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.

Repair missing UEFI entry for Fedora Linux

After a windstorm led to multiple power dropouts*, I found that my computer would no longer boot to Fedora. It booted to Windows still, but wouldn’t load GRUB.

Fixing it was confusing, because it wasn’t clear where the problem was. I found lots of references to how to reinstall GRUB2 or how to regenerate a GRUB boot menu (which you can fix by booting to a live USB stick and mounting the system image or using specialized recovery tools), and lots of references to how to modify a Windows boot menu (depending on whether you are using UEFI or MBR), and so on, but the problem turned out to be that the UEFI firmware had lost the menu item, so it wouldn’t load GRUB, so GRUB couldn’t load Fedora.

This is how I added back that missing menu item:

  • Boot to a Fedora Live image off of USB in UEFI mode.
  • efibootmgr -v to see if there was actually a boot entry in the firmware for Linux. (There wasn’t. Only an entry for Windows. Which I’d managed to accidentally rename as Linux somehow, but it was pointing to the \EFI\Microsoft\Boot\bootmgfw.efi file, which is why the system was able to boot to Windows.)
  • Use the Gnome Disks tool to identify which partition on which disk has the EFI boot system.
  • Create a new entry pointing to the shim.efi in the Fedora folder.
    sudo efibootmgr -c -w -L Fedora -d /dev/sdb -p 1 -l /EFI/fedora/shim.efi
    -L is a label, which you can assign whatever you want.
    -d is the disk with the EFI partition.
    -p is the number of the EFI partition.
    Make sure you write the path to shim.efi in UNIX style (/), even though EFI stores DOS-style paths (\), or you’ll end up with it trying to point to EFIfedorashim.efi, which still won’t work!
  • efibootmgr -v again to make sure the entry is present and points to the actual file (it should point to \EFI\fedora\shim.efi now).

*I forgot that I’d left the computer on sleep mode instead of turned off all the way. After one of the outages it must have turned on — I’m not sure exactly, since I was in another room, but I came back in and it was on, stuck with the drive light active, unresponsive, while the room lights flickered repeatedly. I shut it off completely and didn’t turn it back on until the wind died down and the power settled out.

Fix for “Among Us” not joining games on Linux

“Among Us” isn’t labeled as compatible with Steam Play, but if you tell Steam to enable it for all Windows games, it will launch, and it will run…with one weird glitch: It won’t connect to any games, public or private.

Until you change your server region and change it back.

🤷 No, it doesn’t make sense to me either. But at least it works.

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 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!

Workaround for Gmail being blocked by “Temporary Error” in Firefox on Fedora

There’s a problem with either Firefox on Linux or specifically Firefox on Fedora where Gmail won’t load and instead shows a Temporary Error page with Numeric Code: 9

Fortunately it’s easy to work around by holding down shift and hitting reload.

I mean, clearing the cache and deleting all my google-related cookies worked too, but that’s a pain to do every time you go back to the site after closing the tab.

Update It was indeed Fedora-specific, also affected several extensions, and has been fixed in the 82.0.2-3 packages.

Screenshot of the Gmail Temporary Error page including Numeric Code 9 and suggestions to try again, sign out, etc.