Restoring lithographed train cars

If you have vintage tin lithographed train cars made by American Flyer, Bing, Dorfan, Ives, Lionel, Marx, or another make I’m forgetting and some of them are worse for wear, there are a few things you can do to improve their appearance.

Keep in mind these won’t make them new, and they won’t fool anyone. One reason collectors like lithography is because they can easily recognize a touchup. But you can make beat-up cars look better, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

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Lenovo is penitent, but its customers aren’t out of the woods yet

After having an incredibly bad week last month, Lenovo started saying the right things, and perhaps doing some of the right things too. But some laptops with the Superfish malware preinstalled on them are still in the supply chain, which means some people are unwittingly buying them.

This isn’t terribly surprising. But there are a couple of things you can do about it, and they’re things worth doing anyway.

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What to look for in a cheap laptop in late 2014

So the sales fliers for the 2014 Christmas shopping season are out, and I’m seeing tons of cheap laptops. If you only have $200 to spend, they have something for you.

Some of them look like they’re even worth having. Yes, I’m shocked too. Here’s how to figure out which ones are worth taking home, and which ones are best left for some other sucker. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, you’ll probably want to keep the following in mind.

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Remembering Dolgin’s

Growing up in Missouri, a lot of my Christmas gifts when I was young came from a catalog showroom called Dolgin’s. One of my earliest memories is going to Dolgin’s with my mom and aunt, who showed me some Tonka trucks and asked me which ones I liked best.

I know a lot of people remember going through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, but I remember Dolgin’s catalogs the best. Read more

Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called sodahead.com, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney. Read more

Solving the Windows 0x13d error, aka the 317 error, and watch for the scams

Yesterday when performing a routine server inventory, I received a Windows 317 error, aka a Windows 0x13d error, when I tried to view some directories remotely from a batch file.

The exact text of the error message: The system cannot find message text for message number 0x13d in the message file for System.

If you’ve received a 0x13d error and you’re wondering what it means, it seems to be an unhealthy system’s way of saying “file not found.” In my case that’s what it appeared to be. If the lack of a human-readable error message bothers you, I found two possible culprits: One is system hardening–perhaps you’ve applied the recommendations from CIS, USGCB/NIST, or the DISA STIGs to the system–or the more likely culprit, services not running that need to be. Start with some very routine maintenance. Check the remote machine to make sure all the services that are set to start automatically are indeed running, and you might want to think about rebooting.

In case you need legitimate details, pay http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ms681382%28v=vs.85%29.aspx a visit.

When researching the error code, I found an interesting scam—tons of sketchy web sites, some that did a decent job of impersonating Microsoft, offer programs to fix the issue. Microsoft doesn’t offer downloadable fix-its for error messages like this because these are the kinds of problems that require some human intelligence to resolve.

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The Bing conspiracy

So my buddy Tom was working on a Windows 8 laptop, trying to fix it up, and he needed to uninstall a program. Tom’s been using Windows since about 1992, so he’s no newbie, but he couldn’t figure it out.

He had to resort to using a web search to find out how to do it.

I told him it’s a Microsoft conspiracy to get people to use Bing. But then Tom had to go and ruin it for them by using Google.

2011 retail tinplate finds, at Big Lots and Shack

If you’re a tinplate fan like me, it would behoove you to make a trip to Big Lots sometime this week. Big Lots has a selection of building-shaped cookie tins priced at $5 each. The buildings include a town hall, post office, bakery, and general store. Additionally, my old friend Radio Shack is selling a building tin full of AA and AAA batteries for $10 until December 10 (it’ll be $20 after that).
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A source of great inspiration evaporates

Google announced this week that it’s defaulting to https (secure) searches, and not passing search queries on to the sites its user clicks anymore. It’s the end of an era, I guess, and I’ll miss it.

Yeah, I looked at the search queries that come into this site. I’ve been doing it for years.

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Integrating WordPress 3.2 with Twitter

Rich P. tells me all the cool kids use Twitter now. And that some people, instead of using RSS feeds, want to get blog updates from a Twitter feed.

I’m about four years late to that party, but I’m not ready to become a total curmudgeon yet. So I signed up for a Twitter account–I’m siliconundergro, or is that #siliconundergro? Or @siliconundergro?–and spent a little while figuring out how to get WordPress to talk to it.

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