Merry Christmas the Geeky Mom Way!

Star Wars: The Old Republic
Image via Wikipedia

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having a joyous holiday season, whatever you celebrate! I am blessed to have my dear family and many, many friends both ‘in Real Life’ and online.  I have been sharing Christmas greetings with Trusty Friends and family from all over the world.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity getting ready for the holidays, finding a new job, and picking up a new Geeky Activity–writing for TORWars.com.  I’m quite tickled that they thought I wrote well enough to bring on board for a weekly column on the Jedi Consular class in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Yes, the game rocks, and yes, I am a confirmed fangirl. I love the KOTOR series, and TOR is a blast to play. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it approximately a bazillion stars, which, for those of you counting, is Officially A Lot.

The other project occupying my time was the creation of two sound files with Christmas greetings. One was for extended family, since we now live 800 miles away from them.  The other one was for Trusty Friend Athos, who is from my Star Trek Lotus Fleet group.  He has been deployed and isn’t able to be home this Christmas. We fleetmates decided that if Athos couldn’t go home, we were certainly going to bring some ‘home’ to him. 

Creating these gifts involved many Geeky Activities, not the least of which included using Audacity.  I spent many an hour cursing out that program when learning how to edit the LucasCast podcast two years back. The great thing about it? It’s free. The bad thing about it? You have to have a PhD in sound engineering to understand the darned thing.  GVerb? Are we talking about some new verb tense? Is a ‘hard limiter’ the bouncer at the bar who cuts you off when you’ve had one too many? Nope.  By the way, Audacity’s ‘phaser’ is not at all the same as Star Trek’s phaser. This is Important. I want to make sure my Trusty Friends are fully informed.

Anyway, after finally herding all the Lotus Fleet cats, and one resident self-described furry, into the Lotus Fleet chatroom, I was able to finish the recording of all the Christmas greetings and performances. Trusty Friends Jureth, Future, and Kheren should be commended for being brave and doing solo performances and putting mine to shame on top of it.  My son even contributed by playing a viola solo. I was humbled by everyone’s contributions to help make Christmas better for a serviceman who can’t make be at home this year.  I finished the editing, uploaded it to the Lotus Fleet site, and sent off a copy to Athos via Skype. He managed to get enough bandwidth half a world away to actually be able to download it.  I was tickled he received it in time for Christmas day.

My family, however, does not have Skype, nor are they Lotus Fleet members, so I didn’t have the option to send them download links that way.  This was A Problem. Short of burning the mp3 to disc and sending it to them, I was limited in ways to get the file into their hot little hands. No matter what guarantees the shippers make, when you ship at the busiest time of the year, it means that your package might arrive sometime by the 24th century. Besides, I wanted family to have it before Christmas, not after.

I tried to send the file via email.

Fail.  The file was about 22 MB bigger than Gmail’s 25 MB limit. Our little family of four had quite a bit to say to our family on top of the kids’ performances.

I tried to upload it to YouTube.

Fail 1: They don’t take just plain mp3s. It has to have at least 1 picture in it. It can be  a 1×1 pixel picture, but by God, that counts as a picture to make it into a movie. I opted to go with Renaissance paintings and stained glass pictures instead as something moderately more interesting than a 1×1 orange pixel.

I spent the day re-acquainting myself with Windows Movie Maker, which I had cheerfully learned in a weekend at the beginning of the year to help my son make a movie for his history class. After an extensive Google search of approximately .51 seconds, I found more Renaissance Nativity art than I could possibly ever use in a century. I happily added a number of images to the sound file and made a “movie”.  I then tried to upload to YouTube again.

Fail 2: YouTube doesn’t take projects longer than 15 minutes, and mine clocked in at 37 minutes.  I had actually read this before starting the movie project, so you’d think I would have paid attention to this Important Fact and that my sound file was entirely too long. Nope! Now, if you’re Special, you can indeed upload files longer than 15 minutes. However, this involves getting somewhere in the vicinity of a billion people to like your videos and confirm that you don’t post nasty stuff. I didn’t have time to become ‘Special’. The file needed to go out TODAY, darn it!! So, I tried to figure out how to break the freshly minted movie down into 3 parts smaller than 15 minutes in size to re-upload to YouTube.

Fail 3: Windows Movie Maker apparently does not like splitting music AND video at the same spot. The ‘split’ tool will split music, OR video. Not both, at least without jumping through about 15,853 hoops. I know this because I googled how to split the files on YouTube.

In desperation, because it was getting late on Christmas Eve, I turned to the Trusty Skype Posse ™, who are experts in all sorts of gaming and geeky goodness, and who, like me, were of course ONLINE on Christmas Eve. I’m not quite sure what this says about any of us, but it says something interesting, I’m sure.

Anyway, Trusty Friend Jeff had an outstanding suggestion–upload the file to Dropbox, and then send the family the link to the file so that they could download it.  It was the perfect solution.

Dropbox allows you to upload up to 2GB of items for free, and then you can share the files with anyone anywhere. You can pay a monthly fee to increase that amount. This is a great way to transfer files from home to work, or in my case, transfer larger files from my home to the homes of my extended family.  Uploads are quick, and the program is easy to understand. There’s also an Android app for it.

If you would like your own Dropbox account, you can use referral codes from either Jeff or me.  This will give you an extra 250 MB of free storage, and give Jeff or me an extra 250, too.  His referral code is http://db.tt/TCoPTlf.  My code is http://db.tt/TvaRxdnM.

Merry Christmas to all!

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Comcast: "No Internet–Your Modem Battery is Degraded"

Sometimes, I wonder if customer service people sit around making up complete BS answers to customer service questions just to see what we, the customers, will actually say. I can imagine some bean counter saying to the customer service folks “Hey, we’re going to have a contest! We’re going to come up with ‘31 Top Idiot Answers to Use in Place of Admitting Cable Outage’—one for each day of the month! In February, we’ll have 4 answers to use on day 28 to make up for not having day 29, 30, and 31, unless it’s leap year, of course.”  The winner probably got a free mocha latte frappucino chai spice coffee with a cherry on top from Starbucks. 
Well, today, I had an outage, and I got Top Idiot Answer 29.  
So there I was, happily gaming with Trusty Friends Evshell, Robert Oakley, Jureth, and Crist in The Old Republic beta. Around 11:30 pm, just 90 minutes shy of when the servers would go down, my internet sputtered and went out.  My poor Jedi Consular is probably lying dead in the middle of a bunch of pirates at the moment, because it’s Internet Law that you must lag out in the middle of a. a mob of enemies or b. a Boss Fight. Losing an internet connection is not allowed in any rest zones, and is Right Out in cantinas. 
When Skype and Firefox decided not to work, I looked over at my modem. Sure enough, the link light was blinking, indicating that the modem was not receiving a signal from Comcast.  I had learned this tidbit of info the other day when my internet went down and another customer service agent said service was out in the area and that it would be restored Soon ™.  I thought about going to bed, but the siren call of TOR was begging me to come back to the game, so I called customer service again. My call apparently was routed to Eastern Europe, where I spoke with a gentleman with an accent that indicated he was from somewhere in the vicinity of Outer East Bhadislavia. He was quite nice, but the poor guy had trouble understanding my Midwestern accent, and I had to enunciate ‘I’m calling from my cell phone’ several times before he realized I wasn’t ‘calling from (my Comcast cable) telephone’.  After sending signals to my modem, he gave me the verdict: 
“Your battery is degraded and it is affecting your internet signal.”  
Now, it might have been midnight, and I might be female. I suspect he thought both were in his favor and that I would actually believe Top Idiot Answer 29.  I’m sure he didn’t realize I’ve had three years of physics and, shockingly (no pun intended), know the difference between a resistor and a capacitor in a circuit diagram. However, I thought I’d start with the obvious and see what that got me: “Please explain to me how the battery can be affecting the signal when I have the modem plugged into the outlet and my telephone is working fine.” He replied, “It can affect either your telephone or your internet, and it affected your internet.”  
Now, last I knew, batteries don’t send signals out anywhere, unless you happen to be someone whose tinfoil hat regularly beams to the Mother Ship. This is also a backup battery—it doesn’t do anything except sit there until it’s needed when the electricity goes off.  As long as it completes the circuit, whatever it’s connected to is not going to do a damned thing.

Then, I asked him why Comcast would design such a ridiculous thing. He answered that he didn’t know, either.  Apparently, this followup question was not included in the script of Top Idiot Answer 29.

After determining this guy was reading from the Holy Writ of Comcast Bullshit Excuses to Give Customers and that my problem was not going to get resolved, I got the address of the local Comcast office so that I could exchange my modem and ‘degraded battery’ in the morning.  I also  tried taking the battery out to see if that would help matters. Not a signal in the world. At this point, it was 1 am, and the siren call of sleep drew me to bed.
So, this morning, I sat down to continue working on my blog. What did I see? Working internet! Without any battery in the modem whatsoever! Clearly the ‘degraded battery signal’ answer was a complete and utter lie. I’m shocked, truly shocked.
You know, Comcast, if the internet service is down because of damaged wires, I can understand that.  After all, my region got hit with some two nasty storms and an earthquake a couple months ago. I’m not naïve enough to think you’ve given me new equipment, either. I’m sure it’s been in someone else’s house before it entered mine. You might even have cleaned it before bringing it to mine, too, but I never assume these things. In any case, the modem might not be working quite right, too. 
 
If you had just been honest with me, Comcast, I would have actually been rather understanding of the situation. Now, I’ve lost respect for your staff and you for lying to me to cover your butt because you had an outage and didn’t want to admit it.

Update: I spoke with another Comcast customer service agent this morning.  He couldn’t understand the excuse given to me either, and after more testing decided there was possibly a problem with the line going into the house. So, he scheduled a technician to come out tomorrow morning.

Update 2: A technician came on time and replaced the line going from the pole to the house. He confirmed that the line was bad and that was what was causing the problem. He was just as confused about the first guy’s ‘degraded battery’ reasoning as I was. He also took the time to hook up the cable box in our living room, which we had disconnected the day before to move furniture around to a better configuration. It might not have been a big deal to him, but I appreciated the extra touch. The internet has not gone out since his visit.

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OMG! TEH WOMENZ!! THEY GAME!!!

On the left is an Atari 2600 with Freeway, a g...Image via WikipediaSo, there I was, being a Geeky Mom, checking out Twitter after an extended session of mining and building in Terraria with Trusty Friends NEligahn and Ellif, when @HMXThrasher made this tweet:

Being someone of the female persuasion, of course I had to check this article out.  I read it, re-read it, and face-palmed (appropriately on Captain Picard Day, I might add).

OK, CNN writers–just where the hell have you been for the last, oh, 40-ish years?  I probably was gaming before half of you were even born. My dad and I played Cat and Mouse on the Magnavox Odyssey. I played Pong with my aunt when it first came out.  The Pac-Man game at the arcade ate a ton of my quarters along with my time. I shot up millions of Asteroids and a few thousand AT-ATs in The Empire Strikes Back game on the Atari 2600.  I play games on multiple platforms now.  If it’s fun, I play it. If it’s great, I play it for years. I still play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) for Jolee Bindo one-liners.  I play Star Trek Online with my son.  My dad, kids, hubby, and I all play Beatles Rock Band together–can’t beat three-generation gaming. My daughter and I trade Pokemon. All of us in my family are going to be playing Star Wars: The Old Republic when it comes out.

Lest CNN and others who are ‘speedbumps on the Clue Highway’ think that I am an aberration in the female gamer category, Hubby and I quest through Tyria, Cantha, and Elona in Guild Wars, along with our guildmates in The Lost Haven–many of whom are female! I’ve shot down my share of orcs in Neverwinter Nights (NWN) 1 and 2 and LOTRO, all while gaming with other women.  I’ve installed mods for NWN 1 and 2, KOTOR 1 and 2, Dragon Age, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and Mass Effect–many of which were created by–shock, horror, FEMALES.

Even more–we talk, write, and tweet about gaming.  Trusty Friend leXX and I podcasted for 2 years about gaming on LucasCast, and share about different games regularly in forum posts and tweets.  Several women host the podcast ‘Corellian Run Radio‘.  Trusty Friends NEligahn, Ellif, and I are working on the Crossed Lightsabers podcast. There are any number of women writing for gaming websites and magazines. I’m certainly not the only female gamer who blogs, either.

Welcome to the 21st century, CNN.  Glad you made it out of your mom’s basement to discover that we gals have been upstairs for years, XBox controllers or Orochi gaming mice in hand, fragging VC in Call of Duty: Black Ops or slicing and dicing the bosses in Fallout: New Vegas and Red Dead Redemption. I’ll even share my controller with you if you promise to quit being so idiotically surprised that women actually game.  Try and keep up with us, boys. We women aren’t going to hold back on our leet gaming skillz for you.

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