Wednesday, December 4, 2019

HP OfficeJet Pro 8035

The evolution of my home office setup has continued with the addition of an HP OfficeJet Pro 8035 all-in-one wireless printer/copier/fax/scanner. My poor old Canon Pixma just can't compete with the amazing features offered by the HP OfficeJet Pro 8035, chief of which is the ability to print from anywhere using the HP app. In theory, you can also scan from anywhere using the HP app, but that would require something actually being put in the scanner to begin with.

What can you really say about a printer? It prints. It scans. It copies. I assume it faxes but I'll probably never test that function. Overall, it's a small but powerful printer, delivering a printing speed of 20 pages per minute in black & white and 10 pages per minute for color. Setup was super-easy and I had this thing running within 10 minutes of getting it out of the box. I liked that it connects directly to your WiFi network via direct authentication rather than having to use a WPS button which my current router does not support. Print quality is fine and the ink doesn't smudge when the paper is hot off the press. I guess the only bad thing I can say about the HP OfficeJet Pro 8035 is that loading paper into the paper tray is a bit awkward.



Monday, December 2, 2019

The Google Pixel 4

It was hard to say goodbye to my Samsung Galaxy S8+ after over two years of service. It had been a good, reliable phone. Unfortunately, it started to develop some interesting "quirks" after I took it in the ocean to photograph some rays and nurse sharks. Ever since then, it wouldn't connect to the Samsung Dex station. Even more odd, whenever it was turned off and I would plug in the charger, it would complain that the charging port was wet. I could see those behaviors being a result of its dip in the ocean, as saltwater can be corrosive for electronics (I honestly don't know what I was thinking at the time. Maybe I just wasn't). I could deal with those minor issues, but once the batter started losing the ability to last an entire day on one charge, I knew it was time to put the old girl out to pasture.

I picked up the Google Pixel 4 as part of Google's pre-Black Friday deals. Although the Samsung Galaxy S10 appears to have a better battery life and an additional wide angle camera, I was intrigued by the Pixel 4's night shot mode. The lack of a headphone jack on the Pixel 4 also gave me pause, but, I have recently settled on a nice pair of bluetooth earbuds and haven't used the headphone jack on my Galaxy S8+ in months.

One of the best features of the Google Pixel 4 is the Google Call Screening option which is enabled by default. Every time the Pixel rings, the standard "Incoming Call" interface is shown with a "Screen call" button. Tapping on the button will have Google Assistant begin speaking to the caller. Google Assistant will tell the caller know you are using a screening service and it'll provide you with a transcript of the call while asking the caller to state the reason for the call. Once the caller begins talking, a transcript of their response will show up on the phone's screen in real time. I've only had the Pixel 4 for a few days, and I have already used the feature dozens of times to screen out unwanted telemarketer calls.

Google wants you to navigate the Pixel 4 using gestures, but I found that I just couldn't get the hang of it, so I dove into the settings and added the Back, Home and Tile buttons back. I'm not all that interested in the Face Unlock feature and, although I am excited to try out the Astrophotography feature, it's not new as it was released with the Pixel 3. I guess what I am trying to say is that the Google Pixel 4 is a good phone if you don't have to pay full price for it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Clovis Gets A Job Offer

I got an email from some fly-by-night tech recruiter trying to get me to sign on to some shady contract work. I declined the offer, but told them that my colleague, Clovis would be happy to have the work. I forwarded Clovis' resume on the condition that the recruiter would not tell Clovis that I referred him.

This guy gave me up almost immediately when Clovis asked how he got his number. And, of course, Clovis was not too happy to have been bothered.

Monday, November 25, 2019

I Nearly Got Trampled To Death

We were on our way back from catching the 2pm showing of Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theatre early Saturday night when we noticed that the crowd on Michigan Avenue was starting to bottleneck. I thought that perhaps there was a pre-pre-Black Friday deal going on at Lush or something. Why else would there be dump trucks blocking the through-ways? As we attempted to cross Michigan Avenue via Chicago Avenue, we found that the street had been blocked for the Christmas Tree lighting parade. Yet another example of people jumping the gun on Christmas and trying to decorate before the Thanksgiving leftovers are cold.

At this point, we had two choices: settle in somewhere until the parade was over or try to find a way around Michigan Avenue. I had remembered that the nice lady that we had met at the Starbucks Roastery had mentioned that the Du Sable bridge south of the Magnificent Mile would be closed, so I knew that there would be little chance of us going South to cut over. But, perhaps we could get to lower Wacker drive via one of the Michigan Avenue stairwells. With that in mind, we pressed on South. And it could have been a fatal mistake.

The further South we pushed, the denser the crowd got in both population and intellect. What kind of idiot parent carts their kid around in a wagon through a dense crowd? What kind of parent thinks that they can let their kid run wild through that same crowd? What kid of moronic blogger thinks he and his girlfriend can successfully navigate this kind of human sea?

The northmost access stairwell under Michigan had been closed, but I still had hopes that the southmost one, just North of the Du Sable bridge would be open. The two of us pressed on until the crowd bottle-necked to a stop. We were packed shoulder-to-shoulder like passengers on a Tokyo subway car. And then the crowd suddenly lurched forward and I tripped over a stroller wheel or a wagon wheel or something and I went down. I managed to stick my wrist out in order to save myself from completely face-planting. For about two seconds, images of my death via crowd trampling flashed through my brain. The headline "Old Man Crushed By Indifferent Crowd" seemed to have a particular ring to it. But, thankfully, a number of hands grabbed me, set me up right, brushed my back clean and didn't attempt to steal my wallet. Thank God for Chicagoans. If this had been New York City, my entrails would be been dragged across the Five Burroughs without anyone giving it a second thought. We pressed on, with the waning hope that the stairwell would be our salvation.

When we got in sight of the Lower Wacker Drive stairwell, it appeared to be blocked and I didn't see anyone moving down it. We ducked into the lobby of a building close by in the hopes that the elevator would be able to take us down to a lower level. No luck. On our way back out, we met a frazzled woman who was frantic about getting out of this mess. She said that she thought she could see heads moving down the Lower Wacker Drive stairwell, but wasn't sure that she could push through the crowd. The mere prospect of being able to get free was good enough for me to try. But, what to do to clear the crowd?

I told the woman that she was with us and that she should grab my girlfriend's hand and follow behind us. I started yelling as I approached the stairwell "I have a pregnant woman in labor! Clear the way!". Our new friend took the cue and started huffing and puffing while holding her stomach. This was enough to part the crowd and we managed to get to the stairwell which was filled to overflowing with people trying to get up. I spat forth more exclamations of an impending birth and that got us enough room to squeeze through the throng, placing us safely below Michigan so that we could cross under it and head East. We bade farewell to our fellow crowd swimmer and got the hell out of there.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Barrel Aged Menu
I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks. I don't mind their blonde roast coffee, and I like the occasional iced caramel frappuccino in the Summer, but, in general, I think that their coffee tastes like they over-roasted the beans. So, when Starbucks announced plans to open a 35,000-square-foot facility in the old Crate and Barrel location on Michigan Avenue, I was underwhelmed. And, after hearing reports of crowds of people waiting for over an hour to get in, I didn't want to go anywhere near the place. But, the girlfriend really wanted to, so I figured we'd get a hotel room close by the night before and walk over right before the Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened so that we wouldn't have to wait very long out in the cold to get inside. The strategy worked, as we waited for less than 15 minutes to get in. And, honestly, it's a pretty interesting place.

Looking Down From The 4th Floor
The Chicago location is just the latest in a line of gigantic experiential Starbucks stores that have been opening over the last few years. The Chicago location is the only one so far that offers whiskey-barrel aged coffee. It’s also the first to concoct a cocktail featuring coffee and Malört, a locally-made liquor only some die-hard Chicagoans appreciate. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is divided into five different sections, one on each floor.

The first floor offers coffee-to-go and hosts the gift shop. I picked up a pretty cool coffee mug for myself and a shirt for my daughter while my girlfriend bought the Chicago exclusive mug and some Christmas Blend coffee beans. The second floor is home to the Princi Bakery and Cafe where we had some yummy pastries with names I had a hard time keeping track of. I had some kind of raspberry muffin-type thing.

Irish Con Crema
The third floor is where you'll find an experiential coffee bar with coffee flights that feature coffees made with various brewing techniques. The Arriviamo Cocktail Bar is on the fourth floor. We had an absolutely amazing Irish Con Crema and some Mulled Spice coffee there (at over $10 per cup, they'd better be amazing). We also tried the Smoked Cold Fashioned, which is a sweet, whiskey-barrel aged cold brew with aromatic bitters. It’s alcohol-free, but you can change that by adding a glass of Knob Creek bourbon on the side. The fifth floor is the Michigan Avenue viewing terrace which was closed due to the cold weather.

I think we spent about two hours at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Even though the place was pretty crowded, and there were some pretty long lines, everyone there, customers included, were very friendly. We met a nice older lady who invited us to sit with her and was kind enough to snap a photo of us. When we left, there was still a pretty large line outside of people waiting to get in. And when we walked past later in the afternoon, there was an even larger line. I'm sure that, as the newness wears off, the long lines will be come less and less of a thing. As it stands, though, I'm glad we visited the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I had quite a bit of fun and I really did enjoy the pastries and some of the coffee creations, especially the Irish Con Crema.

I actually feel pretty bad for the Starbucks location around the corner on Ontario. I'm sure they have to deal with the occasional overflow from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and have to tell people that they don't serve barrel aged coffees. "Sir, you can have a coffee to go or you can have a coffee and sit in the lounge, but we don't have any damn Irish Con Crema. You're like the eighth person to ask this morning!".




Friday, November 22, 2019

Dublin 4 Irish Pub

We're downtown this weekend to take in a few events and do some touristy stuff. We're staying at a hotel on Lake Shore Drive not far from Navy Pier. For dinner tonight, we decided to try out the Dublin 4 Irish Pub and I had such a great experience that I just had to write about it. You see, my grandmother made a pretty amazing shepherd's pie. Over the years since she passed away, I've encountered a number of people who have made attempts at shepherd's pie, which I have always dutifully tasted, and, ultimately choked down. Unfortunately, I have never tasted a shepherd's pie that even came close to tasting as good as Grandma Mac's. Until tonight.

The shepherd's pie at Dublin 4 is, without a doubt, the best shepherd's pie I have tasted outside of Grandma Mac's. The big difference is that my grandmother used lamb and carrot chips while Dublin 4 uses beef and carrot chunks. Still, I nearly cried when I tasted this, it was so good. And the portion size was perfect.

It's A Work Of Art. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Numbers The Cards

Clovis got yet another call from a Credit Card Scammer. When asked which card he wanted a lower rate on, Clovis said he needed a lower rate on all of them. The rep then asked Clovis to get all of his cards and read off the numbers. Clovis assigned a number to each card and read them off with #1 being a Visa Card, and Number 2 being a MasterCard, etc. The rep got impatient and told Clovis that he just wanted the Visa card number. Clovis said that there are six of them. The rep told Clovis to grab any of the cards and read the number. Clovis started to list the cards again and the rep hung up.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Cool Kills In The Outer Worlds

I recently finished my first run through The Outer Worlds on "Normal" difficulty. It has been a lot of fun to play The Outer Worlds, and the ending was very satisfying. There's still a lot of replay value in The Outer Worlds, though, and my next adventure is going to be a "Kill Em All" run on a higher difficulty. I don't know if I'm up for Supernova difficulty yet. Anyway, here's a short compilation of my best kills from my first run through in The Outer Worlds:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Card Services Asks For A Ballpark Figure

Clovis got yet another call from Card Services, except Clovis thought that the guy's name was Carl Services. When asked for a ballpark figure on how much debt he has, Clovis said that he got a figure of Jose Abreu from the ballpark.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Resurrecting The Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop

I had just taken delivery of some beautiful furniture for my home office when I decided to fire up my old HP Pavilion p7-1490. It's an eight-year-old machine that I've upgraded quite a bit over time with a better processor, more memory and a Blu-Ray drive. Alas, it seems to have developed some cooling problems with the processor as it would switch off after about 10 minutes. So, I ordered a new machine. It's going to take about a week to get to me, so I pressed my Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop back into service while I wait.

I've had the Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop in storage for over a year now. I can't remember the last time I used it with any seriousness, but I would assume that it was sometime around April of 2017 to play some movies via a hotel TV. I may have also used it from time to time as a thin client for work. At some point, I stuck it in a box with the hopes that I'd eventually turn it into a Plex client or a network file server or something. Since then, the Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop has been discontinued and I've heard some horror stories about expanding batteries that burst through the case.

I'm happy to say that my Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop is still in fine shape. It booted up and threw a few memory errors and did some auto-restarts before finally starting Windows 10 up and updating itself to Windows 10 version 1903 build 18362.476. I was able to connect my Canon Pixma printer to it so that I could scan and print as needed. Everything is working fine, and I'm able to get a respectable amount of work done while I wait for my new computer to arrive. I even managed to install Oracle 12c Desktop even though the process took nearly 4 hours. But, SQL Plus runs fine and I'm able to get some class prep done without any issues.

Maybe you've recently revived a Kangaroo PC too. Maybe you've purchased one off of eBay or had one handed down to you. In case you are starting from scratch and need access to the drivers for the Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop, here's a link:

https://infocuscorp.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115004403923-Kangaroo-Driver-Links


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Confuses Me

These credit card scammers keep calling and I keep messing with them. This particular rep called to offer the lower rate and when she asked for my information, I kept putting her off with various distractions and feigned confusion.

When she asked me about the balance on my credit cards, I started listing cards at random and included The Ace of Spades and The Draw 4 Wild card. When she asked me to verify my Visa card's expiration date, I kept asking her how I could verify it. She then asked for the card's number and I said "It's number 1. It's the first card I took out of my wallet".

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Outer Worlds - Nyoka Is Drunk. Again.

I love the little interactions between crew members that The Outer Worlds has sprinkled throughout the game. The's one particular randomly generated interaction between Nyoka, the drunken hunter from Monarch, and SAM, the modified cleaning robot that had me laughing. At some point, you will arrive at your ship and be told that Nyoka is drunk again. Surprise. And you will then find her being tended to by SAM.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Television Service Scammer Calls

Clovis got a call from a scammer pushing some sort of TV service provider. Clovis was anxious to get some television service for his six televisions. He was proud to tell the rep that he likes to watch TV while pooping on the toilet. The rep called Clovis a "TV Lover" and Clovis said that he lives television, but not transvestites. Clovis likes watching Reverend Brian Lasphemy on the Praise Newtwork and is hoping that God isn't going to literally touch him.

When asked if he was allowed to have a satellite dish, Clovis said that, as a big man, he isn't very light. Clovis then talked about his dish that has a spaceman on it. The rep promptly hung up.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Outer Worlds

I don't pre-order video games often. Heck, I don't even BUY video games often. But, I was hyped enough about The Outer Worlds to pre-order it for the Xbox One. It's the latest action RPG from Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind Fallout: New Vegas, one of my all-time favorite games. The Outer Worlds is set in an alternate-reality future where President William McKinley was not assassinated. As a result, Theodore Roosevelt never succeeded him, which resulted in large business trusts dominating society. Megacorporations eventually begun colonizing and terra-forming alien planets. In this strange future, The Hope, a colony ship bound for the Halcyon colonial system, is disabled and declared lost after its faster-than-light travel goes astray, leaving it adrift at the edge of colony space. The player character is awakened on board from cryosleep by a crazed scientist with a mysterious agenda, only to find that most of the other colonists are still in hibernation. The player then begins a journey to a nearby colony to investigate the true nature of the corporations and acquire the chemicals to bring the rest of his fellow colonists out of hibernation. The game features several factions and a branching story that reacts to the player's choices.

For an entire week, I hotly anticipated playing. I eagerly awaited 11pm on October 24 (Midnight, October 25 on the East Coast). I spent a decent part of the weekend playing The Outer Worlds between work, rehearsals, and date night. I played enough to get a good feel for how the game works and where it's going to go. I like the story and the way the factions function a lot more in The Outer Worlds than I did in Fallout: New Vegas. The combat mechanics take some getting used to, especially the Time Dilation effect which is similar to the V.A.T.S. system used in Fallout. The characters of the companions/crew seem to be very well fleshed out and they all have interesting backstories and offer unique side-quests.

By far, the most surprising thing about The Outer Worlds is the lack of game-breaking bugs. I sadly come to expect a number of bugs from games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, but several hours into the game, I haven't noticed any bugs in The Outer Worlds yet. If I have any complaints, it's the lack of variety of weapons and armor along with some of the dodgy enemy behavior. You can see in the video below that I am often able to easily approach an enemy from behind or even the side during heated combat without being noticed. Plus, I'm at level 15 and I'm still using the same scoped hunting rifle that I found early in the game to snipe with. Hopefully some game updates and/or DLC will be used to address these issues.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Swears At Me

A "lower your interest rate" credit card scammer called me and attempted to get my credit card number off of me under the guise of giving me a lower interest rate. When asked which card I had a high balance on, I said that I had a high balance on all of them. The rep eventually got frustrated and just told me to use my Visa card. When he asked the expiration date, I pretended that I thought he was wondering what today's date was. He eventually just told me to Eff off and hung up