Don’t close your 401(K)

So the UK voted to leave the EU, key political figures resigned, North Ireland and Scotland might want to leave the UK, and the stock market went into a free fall. What does it all mean? I don’t know, and nobody does. But don’t panic and close your 401(K) or move all the money into bonds.

I’ve seen this before.

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All-in-One WP Security and Firewall plugin can be spectacular, but be careful

Over the weekend I installed the All-in-One WP Security and Firewall plugin to fix another issue–more on that tomorrow–and I ended up breaking my site. Hopefully I fixed it to a better state than it started in.

The lesson, as with many security tools, is to proceed with caution.

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Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines. So was the Commodore 16.

What went wrong with those machines? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Read more

Training future cassanovas

Last week, a coworker and I had dinner with three representatives from a potential vendor. One said he was planning to celebrate his one-year anniversary with his girlfriend in Paris and Italy. It was going to be a really good time, he promised, and he was excited about it.

My coworker and I, both married, looked at each other. We were about to deflate the air from his balloon, but we had to do it.

“Are you planning to propose to her there?” my coworker asked. Read more

LOAD “*”,8,1 – what it means

The smartest guy in the room cited the Commodore command LOAD “*”,8,1 as something he used for years but never understood why it worked except it was the command he used to load games on his Commodore 64.

So I explained it. Now I can explain it to you too.  Read more

“It’s your happy place.”

Someone told me today that she didn’t quite get the appeal of model railroading, that it must be a male thing. And that’s fair: Model railroads were first invented by a dollhouse maker so they would have something to market to boys. That company still markets trains, but no longer markets dollhouses, so I guess you could say it was successful.

Here’s how I summed up the appeal.

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Commodore was more than a stock scam

From time to time, I see the phrase “Commodore stock scam” or something similar come up in my search engine logs. Commodore, in case you don’t know, was a high-flying computer company in the 1980s that was literally making computers as quickly as they could sell them while Apple struggled for its survival, and was in the enviable position of being the main supplier of chips for its competitors. Imagine if Intel sold computers at retail next to HP and Dell, while still selling chips to Dell. That was Commodore in 1984. I don’t have 1984 figures, but in 1985, Commodore had 38% of the computer market all to itself. IBM and its clones, combined, had 49%. Apple had 13%.

But a decade later, Commodore had squandered all of that away and was out of business. That’s why Robert X. Cringely sums up Commodore as Irving Gould‘s stock scam, then goes back to writing about Apple.

The real story is more complicated than that. More interesting, too.

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The greatest European tinplate train collection in the United States is on display

Two years ago, Jerry Greene made a splash when he attempted to put his huge, one-of-a-kind train collection up for auction. He had quietly amassed 35,000 train items, and only a handful of people knew about it.

Transporting the collection to Sotheby’s let that cat out of the bag. It became the subject of a short feature in the October 2012 issue of Classic Toy Trains, and relentless speculation on all of the major online toy train forums.

The collection, now known as the “Jerni collection,” didn’t sell–it was a one-buyer-take-all affair–so now portions of it are on display at the New York Historical Society. Read more

The trouble with Dell

Note: I wrote this in mid-2010 and, for whatever reason, never posted it. I found it this week. Although the information in it is no longer fresh and new, it’s still useful, so for that reason, I’m posting it now.

Dell is standing on some shaky ground right now. Bill Snyder has a good summary of the problem.

In recent years, Dell computers have, shall I say, made me nervous. Some of it’s been concrete. Some of it’s just been touchy-feely. Now one of those touchy-feely problems is more concrete. Read more

Why do European trains look so much better than U.S. trains?

I guess there’s something floating around Facebook right now comparing sleek, elegant European trains against clunker, junky trains that roam the rails in the United States. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve already had some questions about it.

There was a time when U.S. trains were pretty bleak to look at, but that time isn’t now.

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