Archive for April, 2009

Great website for Acer Aspire One owners

April 25, 2009

I found this Acer Aspire One blog when trying to recover from a corrupted bios that had rendered my beloved Acer Aspire One netbook dead as a brick. It died the day before leaving for a five-day conference and I was frantically trying to revive it for the trip.

They had a detailed step-by-step detailed post on how to do an emergency bios restoration using a bootable USB memory stick. It even explained how to tweak it to install the latest bios in the process. My machine turned out to be very fussy about which USB port it would accept as a bootable one, but after trying all three available ports — the last one worked! Yippee!

This is the post that walked me through the restoration process:

My little Acer now lives again and will get to travel to Las Vegas instead of going off to Acer’s technical support to restore a bios.

Please note that this is not the standard way to upgrade an Acer Aspire One bios. It is reserved for emergencies that require a bios restoration – which describes perfectly my machine at the time. You pushed the power button and got nothing but a black screen. It was basically a little blue doorstop.

Anyhow, if you have an Acer Aspire One, this is a blog to add to your bookmarks.


Susan Boyle: A dream that didn’t die

April 17, 2009

Unless you have been living in a particularly primitive cave the last week, you have likely seen the world’s most unlikely budding superstar. Yes, I am talking about the 47 year old, somewhat dumpy, never-been-kissed Scot named Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent.

If you are like me, you have watched this clip multiple times. You also will, if you are honest, admit that it likely brought tears to your eyes. It is at 16.5 million views and growing. The world’s press has taken note of this most unlikely Cinderella story.

Miss Boyle came on a stage to face a crowd and judges clearly expecting to have a little fun at the expense of the plain-featured Scottish bumpkin who wanted to be a professional singer at the age of 47. Eyes rolled, people chuckled, though they did seem to like her for the obvious spunk. This was going to be campy. Then, it suddenly wasn’t…

The song I Had a Dream from Les Miserables is beautiful, sad, and not easy to sing. It tells the tale of the doomed Fantine, who had dreams of youth that died when the reality of her life got in the way.

The last lines are heartbreaking:

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seems
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

Susan Boyle also had dreams. Life also got in the way. She dreamed of being a singer since the age of 12, but she was frizzy haired, plain, had learning disabilities, was picked on, and ended up caring for elderly parents instead of on Broadway. She sang in her church choir and with the Karaoke machine at the local pub instead of at the West End. In 1999 she contributed a stellar version of Cry Me a River to a charity CD that had just a 1,000 copies pressed. Then ten more years went by, she got older and no closer to being a professional singer. Yet, she still kept singing.

Her very elderly mom died two years ago. Susan reportedly stopped singing afterward. But, mom had wanted her to audition for that TV talent show and Susan decided to follow through. She then fulfilled the show business cliche of walking on a stage an unknown and walking off a star.

Why does this 7:07 clip have such undeniable emotional depth? I think it because it is a glimpse of something “real”. We have plenty of celebrities, but not enough talent. We have plenty of attitude, but not enough genuine humanity. We want to cheer the underdog, but would secretly prefer it be a purebred.

Then a Susan Boyle comes along. She is plain, quiet, humble, and seems like a truly decent sort of person. She just wants to sing and a Creator with a wicked sense of humor has put a voice in her that would make angels ask for autographs. Yet, life keeps getting in the way. Then, one day, patience and persistence pays off and 35 years of practice leads to an “overnight sensation”.

Some beauty is simply so profound that our soul resonates with it. Great art moves us, whether it is a painting, poem, sculpture, or notes sung perfectly. It can change how we look at things because, at times, it can change us. Sometimes the change is for the better…

Susan Boyle is beautiful. She always was. It is funny how everyone just never seemed to notice it before. Perhaps the audience and viewer response was a collective “thanks” for being able to see a bit more clearly now. It is nice to be able to finally note the loveliness hiding all around us. What other examples of profound beauty will suddenly jump out where we didn’t notice them before?

Or, maybe lots of people suddenly have dreams that don’t seem quite so unattainable now. Their dreams hadn’t really died. Not quite yet, though many were on life support. With a lifelong dream coming true right in front of them, all things became possible again. Maybe we can really go from the end of the song, with its heartache and sadness, and rewind back to the beginning:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high,
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Susan Boyle had a dream. Despite all that came her way that should have ended this childhood dream, she just wouldn’t let it die. She was blessed with talent. Yet, more importantly, she was endowed with inner strength, courage — and a capacity to do good and kindly things that needed to be done until it was time for her dream to come true.

She didn’t give up. She wouldn’t give up. We are all so much the better for it.

Fallout 3 TIP #8

April 12, 2009

When you start the game you spend a lot of time with no cash to buy stuff. The answer is to be a dedicated scavenger of the wastes. However, one tip that can help get a few spare goodies in a pinch is to remember that certain types of containers will respawn items. The best part: while the items respawn, the enemies inside a building (as a general rule) do not do so.

Containers that respawn items include metal boxes, desks, and filing cabinets.

Containers that don’t respawn include toolboxes, soda vending nachines, and fire hose boxes.

You can take advantage of these containers that don’t respawn as storage containers. Let’s say you are cleaning out an area and hitting your load limits. Just put the extra stuff in a fire hose box or toolbox. Then come back for it later. Just don’t leave it in a container that will respawn items.

You can also leave things on the ground inside buildings, but it is qucker to gather it back up again in you put it iside a container.

Also, to find more loot, remember that the game’s designers sometime put the good stuff in wooden crates, hide it under pots, or even set it on top of a lighting fixture (a mini nuke is hidden on top of one at a power substation). Take your time and look for stuff. Pull crates off shelvesYou may find things you missed the first time when you go through an area again.

One handly location to use to get few bucks via respawning items is Springdale School. It has a number of containers inside that may respawn and there are three raiders outside the building on one end of the school who will also respawn. They are an easy fight and are always good for some armor and weapons to sell.

You can always simply “wait” the few days it may take them to repawn inside Megaton and then go harvest them. There are other raider camps close to Megaton that also respawn enemies that can be good for items to sell after the killing is over.

One tip to carry more loot is to get good at repairing items early in the game. Then repair armor and weapons to reduce the weight in your inventory and to boost the value of the items when you sell them.

Blog spammers will have their posts edited before posting to highlight their weeniness

April 11, 2009

I have been weeding out the spammer posts, but have decided to go ahead and post them. I will delete anything that may benefit the spammer, like the links to their spamvertised web pages or email addresses. But, I will post the comments they submit so folks can see what techniques they use to try to get their ads into blogs.

What is funny is how similar the pitches are, with some of the posts looking like duplicates of each other. They want to try to make it look like they REALLY DID READ the blog and they REALLY ARE A FAN. They will come back all the time! Yeah, they will be back the next time they are getting paid to spam another ad.

Anyhow, I hope this has some entertainment value at the expense of those who pollute the Internet.

Fallout 3 TIP #7

April 10, 2009

Once you get to Megaton, get the mission to defuse the bomb from the sheriff. While doing this task, stand in the pool of water and drink some until you are radiated to the greatest degree possible shy of death.

Then go see Moira Brown at the supply store. Get the Wasteland Survival Guide mission and choose as your first mission to get radiated. Then, just tell her you are already so hot you should be glowing. Mission complete. She heals the radiation and you get a beneficial mutation perk that heals damaged limbs if you are thoroughly radiated at the time.

Later Moira will ask you to get inured and to cripple a limb. The safest and quickest way to do this is to use land mines. Either walk over a couple of hostile ones in the Minefield mission or set friendly ones and shoot them with a pistol or rifle while standing within the blast radius.

NOTE TO SPAMMERS: Don’t bother trying to post.

April 9, 2009

To the spammers:

This is a moderated blog. I read the spam you are trying to post before it goes up. It is a waste of your time. Go away.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging…

Fallout 3 Tip #6

April 8, 2009

When you are a newbie, pay special attention to those abandoned vehicles that litter the roads in the wastes. You see, they are highly explosive. They go off like a mini-nuke if they take a certain amount of damage. So, keep in mind where these parked car-bombs are located when enemies with ranged attacks are in sight. Duck behind a vehicle in a firefight and you may end up blown an impressive distance into the sky.

Enemies seems to have enough targeting smarts to aim at vehicles near you. So, return the favor. A group of land mines set around a vehicle makes a dandy trap if you see enemies approaching. A tossed grenade into a parking lot may clear out a group of raiders.

Be very careful in circumstances where you are overloaded and can’t run. If you are near a car, stay outside the blast radius as you go by.

The strategic use of vehicles-that-go-boom is one way to counter those tough Talon Company guys who are looking for you. At the start of the game, you are hard-pressed to hurt them and their weapons do a lot of hurting to you. So, weaken them by firing on a vehicle until it blows up right as they pass by.

Just be careful that they don’t chased you towards a parked vehicle as you are back-peddling. I had such an encounter and fortunately heard the sounds of bullets hitting metal behind my back. I managed to run sideways as a fireball lit up the sky behind me. It peeled away a lot of health, but I survived.

On a side note, it is also easy to get killed while back-peddling in the hilly parts of the wastes or on overpasses. You can take falling damage. One feels silly after killing a series of tough critters while running backwards only to fall off a cliff. Oops…

Thoughts on beer.

April 5, 2009

The country singer Tom T. Hall may have captured my thoughts exactly when he wrote his immortal ode to the magic of hops: “I Like Beer”.

The chorus explains it well:

I like beer. It makes me a jolly good fellow.
I like beer. I helps me unwind and sometimes it makes me feel mellow.
Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much, vodka puts my mouth in gear.
This little refrain should help me explain as a matter of fact I like beer.

A wise Benjamin Franklin observed that: “Beer was proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

I tried to develop a taste for wines once in an attempt to be more sophisticated, but ended up giving away my wine rack. It all tasted slightly like grape kool-aid to me, no matter how much it cost.

While I do think highly of champagne (it seems closer to beer than wine, anyway), I agree with Mr. Hall that the cost of the good stuff makes it an expensive treat.

However, at the risk of appearing a “beer snob”, I don’t drink most of what is sold at the convenience store. I said I like BEER. Real honest, to goodness beer! Not “lite” beer, or the other mass-produced can-o-chemicals stuff. The great thing about beer, as opposed to wine or champagne, is that the really great stuff is still fairly inexpensive. I just grabbed two cases of the Samuel Adams brew-master variety packs for about $22 a case at the Austin Sam’s Club. Great beers at less than a buck each!

A case of Stella (light and refreshing) runs just a bit more. Sam’s Club used to stock my personal favorite, Newcastle Brown Ale (nectar of the gods!), but they have since discontinued it. I look for it on sale at the grocery store and stock up when I can. Bass Ale is also high on my beer lust-list.

However, now and then a Shiner Bock also tastes great and reminds me of my struggling days when I first came to Austin in the mid-1980’s. It was the national beverage of South Austin at the time. A close friend, Danny R. Young, (who has since gone to his eternal rest) really sold me on the stuff. I owned a woodworking business at the time and he was my single-best customer over the years. We would sometimes savor a Shiner Bock or two late at night after finishing project at his restaurant (the somewhat famous Young’s Texicalli Grille, in South Austin). Google it! It will be part of your South Austin history lesson.

Danny Young was also the person who introduced me to Newcastle Brown Ale when we ventured into a little downtown Austin place called the Dog and Duck Pub. He called it the “Arf and quack”.

There are friend, good friends, and best friends. Then there are those friends who open your world to Newcastle Brown Ale on tap. If there is a category above best friend, it would apply here.

Cheers, Danny.

Now, as with all pleasures in life, one must show a modicum of moderation. Good beers are not something to be consumed rapidly and in mass quantities. They are full, rich, and filling. They satisfy.

One theory of civilization is that we owe our transition from hunter-gathers to agricultural societies because of beer, not bread. Take some grains and toss them in water and they ferment. Wow, what was that! Tastes good and makes one feel a bit better after a hard day of chasing something to eat. Hey, let’s have somebody spend their time making this stuff!

My daughter Jennifer, a graduate of the Texas Culinary Academy, wrote a somewhat scholarly paper on this theory as part of her course-work.

I will occasionally get draft beer when I go out, as a special treat. As mentioned before, Newcastle on tap is nirvana. However, alcohol served outside the home is usually more than I want to spend and I really don’t care to drink and drive. Austin drivers are some of the worst in Texas (our accident rates are 1/3rd higher than the Texas average). I “play defense” by being extra sober. Since I often travel on a 250 cc scooter around town (it is cheap and fun), I don’t want to risk even a split-second off my reaction times.

Anyway, I generally associated beer with the end of the day. It is something to savor when the day’s labors are done. It is quiet, and one is reading news or playing a computer game. Whatever good or ill was accomplished that day is behind you now. A cold bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Ale (tonight’s treat) is your reward for getting through it all once again.

Now, please excuse me while I rummage through the beer fridge.

Fallout 3 Tip #5

April 4, 2009

Fallout 3 offers a plethora of “perks” that can increase various character skills, add dialog options, or provide other benefits. Some perks are more valuable than others and some are not worth the bother.

Some may be useful or useless depending upon how you plan to develop your character (good or evil, melee or ranged weapons, etc.).

Here are the ones that I found most useful after 300+ hours in the game.

In general, get Strong Back at Level 8 to be able to carry more stuff. The extra 40 pounds of weight tolerance really adds up when you are hauling loot.

Get both perks that increase your ability to generate additional skill points as soon as possible. Comprehension doubles the skill points you get for reading a skill book, while Educated adds three additional points each time you level-up. These two add a ton of points to your late-game totals. Get them as early as you can. Also, stash the skill books you collect early in the game until you get Comprehension.

I also found Entomologist to be useful, as you fight scores of Giant Radroaches later in the game and the +50 damage saves a lot of ammo.

I grabbed Black Widow/Lady Killer right away, as it does at +10 damage when fighting foes of the opposite sex and sometimes the extra dialog choices are useful.

Gun Nut is a no-brainer, especially early in the game. Most of the weapons you find are small guns and they have more ammo lying around. The added repair skills ups the damage you inflict with weapons, toughens your armor, and makes the weapons and armor you barter worth more.

Toughness adds +10 percent to your damage resistance. It can be a lifesaver in tough fights.

Finesse increases your chances of scoring a critical hit and I found it very useful.

Pyromaniac makes you a killer with the Shishkabob improvised weapon, while Robotics Expert provides +25 damage to fights with robots. This can save your skin when you start running into those tough Sentry Bots later in the game.

Cyborg also makes you tougher and ups your energy weapons skills. I liked it.

Lawbringer lets you collect bounties for every evil character you kill. Since evil characters abound in the wastelands, the loot adds up quickly.

Better Criticals adds +50 percent damage to any critical hits you score. Be aware that you must have both a Perception and Luck of 6 each to get it.

Life Giver was good for an extra 30 health points, which is useful for characters playing in Ironman Mode (you die, you start over).

Some I had no use for: Here and now gets you an immediate level-up, but so what. You will hit the Level 20 cap too fast anyway, so why rush it. Swift Learner also added a 10 percent bonus to any experience points you gained. Again, you get points fast enough and hit the level cap long before you finish the main quest. Why hurry it up?

I found no use for Fortune Finder or Scrounger. One lets you find more caps and the other more ammo. Late in the game you will be overflowing with loot and ammo anyway, so don’t waste the perks picks.

Daddy’s Boy/Girl is useful, as it bumps both Science and Medicine 5 points each. I like to max out science, repair, and lock-picking early in the game. Getting Thief can add to the lockpick skills.

I found grenades and mines to be my saviors against tough enemies early in the game (like Talon Company mercs). For this reason, I grabbed Demolition for the +20 percent damage increase of things that go boom.

These are the ones I chose. I am more of a sniper and less of a melee character, but if you want to smack things, then get perks that boost melee damage and hand-to-hand skills.

Be aware that certain perks require various SPECIAL attributes beforehand, so plan accordingly. If you want a certain perk, but need to boost an attribute, try to get the appropriate Bobblehead. For example, you can get the Strength Bobblehead in Lucas’ Simms’ house in Megaton right after you leave the vault at the start of the game

Also, The quest Those in Greyditch offers a chance to get a permanent boost to either Strength or Perception, so you can use it to obtain the attribute point you may need to access a certain perk, like Strong Back.