Left 4 Dead, Half.com, Hancock, Max Payne

I’m trying to keep into the habit of posting once per day while not posting crap. For awhile I didn’t fire up knarrnia.com unless I had something legitimate to post. The model ended up not posting at all (or posting once a week).

Left 4 dead: Insanely fun if you have an XBOX 360. The first time I played it I had no idea what was going on or where to go. Once you get a handle on what’s going on and play with some people who know WTF they’re doing it’s a lot more fun. Unfortunately I am the only person who doesn’t own it because…

Half.com: I bought it on half.com and ended up getting screwed. I think the guy came down with seller’s remorse because he never shipped it. I opened up a claim. But it’s been over a month, which is the part that pisses me off. Half.com has sat on my money for over a month. I think it’s sellers remorse, but it may also have been a scam because the guy never entered a tracking number. He doesn’t have a leg to stand on for my claim, but the question is will I get my money back? Or more to the point – will I ever buy from half.com again?

Hancock: Don’t waste two hours of your life.

Max Payne: If you played the game the movie is merely muddled for the first hour, then it gets awesome. Kelly has never played the game and wasn’t familiar with the mechanics, so she said it was boring through and through. Also they changed it – Max’s wife did not sleep with her boss in the game and it was an important plot point that innocent people were getting caught up in the drug problem which plagued New York. On the other hand, the movie failed it quite badly in the visual effects department. It’s really bad when the videogame, released in 2003-ish, has significantly better graphics than a movie released six years later. In fact, the ending frames this well – the ending of the first game takes place on the Aseir building rooftops where the helicopter makes it to the pickup, and Max has to shoot the guide wires off an antenna to drop it on the chopper. This would have been an awesome way to end the movie and… Max just drops the guy with a single bullet to the chest. WTF?

HP 2600N Color Laser Linux Drivers

I think I’m one of two idiots who use Linux as a desktop. I’ve been flirting with this for years and finally when my current PC got too old for videogames, it finally happened that I realized I has no reason to run windows and put up with all the crap that goes with it. The primary attack venue is the browser, but even TurboTax.com works in FailureFox 3.x, so as far as I’m concerned the open source stuff scratches my itch. Since it’s my bread and butter, it also behooves me to use it at home so I can get it into weird places there too.

One of the majorly lacking things in Linux are “Win Printers”, or printers that eschew standards like “LPT” or “PostScript” and instead use Windows GDI. There’s been various efforts to reverse engineer it but the spec is intentionally ambiguous so that you can add features to the wire. HP does it with their “ink protocol” for telling the PC how much ink/toner/crayon is left, and basically any other transport from the printer to the PC is winprint only. PostScript lets you specify “Color” or not, and “tray 3” or “A4 paper”, but there’s no provisions to the best of my knowledge for talking back and forth. Up until now there’s been hacks to get winprinters to talk to Linux but it’s been… hacky. The foomatic print driver was it.

Unfortunately, this is the problem with open source. The guy is a bit of a whiney bitch (seriously, don’t give it away if you want money for it), and the level of polish was low. It requires a fairly involved installation and it didn’t play well with CUPS or Samba Print. In short, it was a mess, it was tough to install, the UI was rough, and as of SuSE 10 it didn’t work. I run OpenSuSE 11.1 here, so whenever I needed to print something I either e-mailed it to myself and printed it at work or fed it to the printer after picking up my mail in windows. I figured he would fix it at some point but it looks like he’s decided he’s not going to maintain it without money, so we were all screwed. Finally one day the lightbulb went on.

Gee I download Linux drivers from HP’s enterprise portal all the time, I wonder if the printer is in the enterprise portal?


You have to click through quite a bit but eventually you end up at HPLIP Open Source. And frankly, the HP driver is a lot nicer. For one, it covers printing, scanning and faxing, and for two the UI actually works well. No offense to anyone who actually makes their money out of this but if your open source product gets beat in both functionality and ease of use by the equally free but not open source product… There’s very little reason to continue working. For the curious, it works exactly the same way the ATI/nVidia loader works where the driver is really a loader for a “binary plugin” which handles the communication. Since the plugin is actually the zStream protocol HP uses, any ZJIS/HPLIP printer works. Which is all of them. This is why faxing and scanning also suddenly works in Linux. Good show HP!

Now, there’s one bug I ran into. If you choose “automatic install” it tries to call YAST to uninstall an older version of itself, then it gets hung up with YAST exits with a 1 (error) to indicate it can’t uninstall something which isn’t installed. Simply choose “manual”, spell out what you want out of the installer and when you’re prompted “should we uninstall the old driver?” tell it “no”. The GUI will come up shortly which automatically finds the printer (even on the network!) and downloads the correct plugin. All the settings normally available in the Windows driver are available in the Linux driver (color, black settings, halftoning, picture quality) and the toner monitor works also. All in all minus the yast bit it’s quite nice.

The HP 2600N shows up on ebay on the cheap. They were popular among the soho crowd for awhile then newer printers printed faster so these were discarded. I got mine for a penny from a liquidator and ended up paying $80 to ship it since it’s heavy as hell. If you do buy one, buy a sealed one so it comes with the toner. Mine wasn’t, and it didn’t come with toner carts, which is another $100 out the door for the HP ones or you can get them for $10 a pop (times four, black yellow cyan magenta) from a refiller. Or you can refill your own, the kits are cheap and the ones from the refiller are pretty rough.

Now, the only thing that sucks is the printer will complain about the toner being low, especially if you use non-HP products. Be sure to use the TONER OVERRIDE command and suddenly your toner will last twice as long.

All in all if you can get past the rough spots, and it’s pretty easy compared to setting up a lot of other stuff, the HP 2600N is a strong buy for network printing and Linux needs.

Savannah Cats

Normally I don’t watch Animal Planet. Normally it tries to toe the line between “common sense” and “PETA” and produces some really mired stuff. On the other hand, they had a program called CATS 101 on yesterday, and while it showed off some really interesting breeds, they had one which really caught my eye.

The Savannah Cat.

The cats have become parodies of themselves since cats were always treated as work animals in America for the first 200 years or so. The Pilgrims kept cats on the ships to keep bugs and rats out of the rations, and then introduced them to America for the same purpose. Basically the American take on the cat was for pest control for the longest time. The Savannah isn’t the only wild mix of a domestic (for our purposes we’ll use American Short Hair as “domestic”) and wild cats, SavannahCat.com has a list of other cats including the Bengal. Now, for all intents and purposes these are simply cats with a specific gene type for their coat and they’re no different than Happy Cat (Russian Blue) or Sad Cat (Scottish Fold). The Savannah, you will note, isn’t on the list.

The reason for that is because Savannahs are the size of medium dogs, and that as a breed they don’t have an affectionate personality. In order for a cat to have a breed standard, it has to not want to EATED UR JUGULAR. Unfortunately since the breed has such a small gene pool, the individuals are assigned a number on a scale. F1s and F2s aren’t recommended for indoor cats, but F3s forward are. The F1s are 50% wild (one wild and one domestic parent), the F2s are 25% wild, and the F3s are 12.5% wild with the wild cat being the great grandparent. The F3s are where the breed seems to resume being “housecat-like”. Since we all know what happened to whats-his-name with the white tiger, I think we know what kind of cat we want.

Anyway, it’s a neat breed, but there’s still a ton of cats in the local animal shelter, many of which are perfectly suitable to being housecats. Tricks comes from the local shelter, and while he’s skittish around new people, he’s plenty affectionate otherwise. Since the American Shorthair (Tricks and Libby) are both 20 year cats, that will give the Savannahs plenty of time to work out the quirks.

Rocky Patel Winter Collection

Apparently people get free cigars to review these. One of these people isn’t me.

My Rocky Patel was given to me by a buddy who wanted me to try it and to get my observations. Generally cigars in boxes should max out at about $5 per stick, $7 individually. I hate to admit it but I’ve been in the $3 range when they’re “on sale”. My jewishness preserves my health, you see.

My brother’s take on it was roughly the same as the review on her humidor, which was “leather”. Now, one thing I hate about cigar reviews is that “leather” is the generic term for “I can’t taste it”. Sort of like “pepper”, now that I’ve got this figured out I realize that “pepper” is a red flag for doing it wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong, I got a bit of leather out of the light, but then leather or earthy is what you get out of 90% of cigars on the first third. More interesting is the fact that I picked up on the chocolate aroma too. In fact, my first thoughts were TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE, just on the pull and the smell of the wrapper.

After lighting the cigar, there’s the peppery and earthy notes I come to expect. Some reviews, including my brother, called this “old leather”. I personally think most cigars on the first third taste just about the same. There’s variations on how much pepper you get out of it, but generally the first third is “earth”, “leather”, “pepper” or “cedar”.

The middle third is where the CHOCOLATE is. Did I mention this cigar featured CHOCOLATE? I might want to remind you that the cigar is made from, stored in, and pressed together with sweet, sweet CHOCOLATE. Yes, it’s got chocolate. But it’s good chocolate. It’s like coca. It reminds me of dark, creamy chocolate. Almost to the point about being boring. However, my burn by this third was way off the mark and I ended up using a torch to play catch up. Had my burn not been weird, it might have given me something else. Then again it was so chocolatey, I doubt it. I’m not saying it’s bad, and I wouldn’t fault it, just that peppery chocolate is going to be weird if you get the pacing wrong. Next time you open a packet of hot coca, smell it, and that’s the flavor. It’s really well done.

The last third gave me the generic tea flavor some cigars take on when it’s done. Soft of disappointing, I was enjoying smoking hot coca. Nothing really to write here except that it didn’t go sour, it just went bland and boring. If you like the tea flavor, this is a good way of finishing it out. Since I’ve had enough of it, I discarded the butt.

Odds and ends – The wrapper was nice. I just wish it burned better. The labeling was really nice, I think it’s classy and I loved the colors. The label, however, did not come off the wrapper nicely as the flame approached it and I had to knife-tip it off. This is after I had to clean up the uneven burn, so I’m not terribly impressed with the construction here.

I would give it an 7 out of 10: The flavor is nice, but it gets zero points for construction. The aroma is fantastic, I like the label, but the burn hurts too much to ignore. If you’re wondering if I am going to qualify cigars, it’s going to work like this: I start at 10 and every fault I find with it deducts a point based on how much it pisses me off.