Digital TV Coupon Program Broke

If you own an analog television and get your programming via an antenna instead of cable or satellite, you probably know that you’re going to need a converter box to continue receiving TV after February 17, 2009.

You might also know that the federal government set up a $1.34 billion program to give away $40 coupons to help defray the cost of a converter box.

What you might not know is that the program is now broke; people are still allowed to sign up for the coupons, but they’re being put on a waiting list on the off chance that Congress will give the program more money.

If you need such a converter box, apply for one NOW. Right now… as in “this second”. At least get your name on the list before the Feds cut it off.

The “Detox” Myth

For years, I’ve been arguing with New Age nuts over the whole concept of “detoxing”. It seems to me that human evolution created a prefect mechanism for “detoxifying” the body: the liver, kidneys and colon. As far as I’m concerned, those three body parts can handle almost anything you can consume, and any other substance is probably a poison (in which case you should stop reading this and call Poison Control immediately) or a recreational drug (in which case you should stop reading this and put on some music and a trippy screensaver). Anything else, in my view, is hokum.

And it appears that the British charitable trust Sense About Science agrees with me. In a recent study, the organization found that most of the more outlandish products (think Kinoki foot pads) made completely false claims, while more mundane products used a very loose definition of “toxins” in order to claim that they “detoxify” the body. For example, a Garnier face wash claimed to “detoxify the skin”, but the company defined “toxins” as  “dirt, make-up and skin oils” – toxins that any soap could remove.

Read more about it here.

Football Notes

– What a crappy weekend for football. The Falcons apparently got shell shocked in the second half of their game; I wouldn’t know – I had friends coming over that night and I was out running errands… and listening to the game on the radio! Ewwww! But then our friends came over, and I could only watch the last couple of minutes of the San Diego-Indy game (I still have it on the DVR, however). So then, my friends and I started to drink. Since I was at home, I really drank. So I didn’t get up until 15:30 on Sunday… just in time to tune in and see the final minutes of Baltimore smacking down Miami. So the only game I really got to see was the Philadelphia-Minnesota game… only the batteries in my remote died, and when I replaced them, my DVR went crazy, so I lost a large chunk of the third quarter. You can bet that I’ll have the situation under control next weekend!

– Speaking of betting, all of next week’s home teams are favorites: Tennessee is favored by 2½ over Baltimore, the Panthers are favored by 9½ (yes, ) over Arizona, the New York Football Giants are 4 point favorites over Philadelphia, and the Steelers are 6 point favorites over the Chargers.

– The New York Giants baseball team moved to San Francisco in 1957. I was born in 1971. There is, therefore, no reason whatsoever for me to say “New York Football Giants”… but I like saying it anyway, even if it is pretentious.

– Congrats to Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison for winning the Associated Press 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award! Silverback is the fifth Steeler so honored, and he joins the august company of other winners Joe Greene (1974), Mel Blount (1975) , Jack Lambert (1976) and Ron Woodson (1993). That’s pretty good company to have! Harrison had 16 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and 12 special teams tackles on the league’s best defense this year. Read more about it here.

Slimming Down AVG

There are many companies out there that offer a free antivirus programs to home users. Avast! is one, as is Avira, BitDefender, and AVG. AVG, however, appears to be the sole vendor to offer a free antivirus program for the x64 versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. And since I just got a new x64 computer running Vista Home Premium, I was in the market for a new AV solution. So I downloaded and installed AVG Free 8… only to recoil at how bloated the whole thing had become!

AVG Free 8 has, in my opinion, two big problems: the Link Scanner and the Notification Area.

According to, Link Scanner is “a tool that protects the user from visiting malformed sites from a search engine. So for example, if you were to open up Google and type ‘skiing’ and Google returned 100 sites concerning skiing, Link Scanner would visit each of those sites and determine if you were at risk by clicking on any of the supplied links”. This is a giant waste of bandwidth for nearly everyone involved – especially since the same types of sites that Link Scanner blocks are easily blocked by Internet Explorer and Firefox’s phishing filters, as well as OpenDNS’s servers if you use that service. More importantly, Link Scanner visibly slows down Google and adds these annoying green icons all over your results page:

AVG Link Scanner

So – how do you disable the Link Scanner?

Continue reading “Slimming Down AVG”

Windows 7: MP3 Warning!

The latest beta (test) version of Microsoft Windows – currently known as “Windows 7” – leaked to the Internet just before Christmas. Millions have downloaded it illegally… but you might want to hold off on actually installing it. Microsoft recently admitted to a bug in the included Windows Media Player 12 which can delete the first couple of seconds of every mp3 file it plays!

What actually happens is that Windows will corrupt any MP3 file with a header larger than 16KB if that file’s metadata is overwritten. So your data will become corrupted if you manually edit the ID3 tags in Windows Explorer *or* have WMP set to automatically fetch the artwork and other information over the Internet (which is the default setting if you picked the “Express Setup” of WMP 12).

This bug applies to leaked build 7000 of Windows 7 only. It does not apply to any other Microsoft operating system, or any other build of Windows 7. Although Microsoft is working on a patch for this, you can avoid it completely by not using WMP12 or using any built-in tool for editing metadata. Risk takers are advised to turn off the “download artwork” option if they must use WMP12 in Windows 7.

Read more about it here.

What’s Wrong With This?

Quick – what’s wrong with this sign?

Welsh Sign

OK, it’s a trick question of sorts… unless you speak Welsh.

You see, all signs in Wales are required by law to be in both Welsh and English. No one on the Swansea council knew enough of the tongue to translate the English portion of the sign into Welsh, so they emailed the text to a translator they’d used before. Unfortunately, the translator was out of the office, and he or she had the “Out of Office Assistant” turned on. When the Swansea council got a reply to their email, they simply assumed that this was the correct translation. And so… the Welsh portion of this sign reads…

“I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”