May 19th, 2005

Brad @ Burning Man

Some PC Related Questions for My Audience

I hope you all won't mind if I take a break from Deep Thoughts (grin) to ask y'all some PC-related questions? I've been out of the business for a lot of years, and since then they've found whole new ways to screw me up.

Here's the biggest one. I had to install the latest version of iTunes to view the Serenity movie trailer in full screen. Ever since then, no matter what I do, it starts a Quicktime application in my toolbar every time I restart the machine. And every time that application runs, even though I have iTunes set to only be the default application for Quicktime movies, it hijacks all my mp3, m3u, and whatever else audio to start up in iTunes. Which, in addition to running slower than Winamp, uses one heck of a lot more RAM and system resources than Winamp. It keeps doing this despite the fact that I have nothing in my Startup directory, and nothing Quicktime or iTunes or iPod related still left turned on in my Services control panel. Worse, it keeps doing this despite the fact that I do have Winamp User Agent running at all times just to prevent this kind of bullshit, and it somehow defeats Winamp User Agent's efforts to keep control of mp3 and m3u files and streams for itself. The only way to get it back to Winamp is to manually quit that damned Quicktime applet, manually start Winamp, and run one mp3 or m3u, at which point Winamp User Agent wakes up and steals its control back.

This is exactly the kind of crap that's why I won't have RealPlayer or any of its bastard offspring on my PC any more. Real Networks pulled this kind of shit once. They eventually apologized and promised never to do it again. But they did so only after their stock went into the toilet because people like me were fleeing in droves and the industry press was endorsing boycotts. And since they had promised the first time that they wouldn't do anything like that, what good is their word to me? Now Apple is pulling this shit. I'd rather not yank Quicktime completely off the machine if only because damn it, the exclusive deal that Apple has with several studios means that most movie trailers on the Internet are in Quicktime format. But I'm getting close to that point, if I can't figure out how to defeat this damned piece of unkillable suspected spyware that Apple installed on my Windows box.

The next question is kind of a "freecycle" thing. Do any of my in-town friends have an old audio card laying around in a drawer that they'll never use again? The motherboard audio on this PC hasn't worked in years. The last time I had it in the shop, they "solved" the problem by giving me one of their trash-can video cards, an ancient and crappy ESS1969. Now, while it's unmistakeably not worth my spending money on it, I have a minor use for a free piece of software called Ventrilo. Anybody got a card that's compatible with it that they won't miss sitting around in a drawer somewhere?

The final question is about IP phone service. I need to save some money, so I'm probably going to ditch the cell phone and switch to some voice-over-IP phone service. I've already priced Vonage, and I gather that Charter Pipeline offers phone service in my area. Does anybody here have any experience with either? And since Charter won't put pricing info on their web page, if you've used (or are using) Charter phone service, what do they charge for the lowest level of phone service?
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