Friday, November 13, 2020

Stauf - A Cyberpunk Adventure

For nearly 21 years (wow, amazing it's been that long), I have been a big fan of the Trilobyte games The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour. I've seen a few interesting websites relating to those games over the years - including one page that used to be on GeoCities called "Stauf - a_Cyberpunk_adventure" by totalsystemtechnologies.

I found this page around 2002 to 2003, and I have found it interesting because of the additional, non-canon information written about the Stauf mansion and the town of Harley. It was somewhat like a fanfic - although that is not really the best way to describe it. Even now, I don't quite know how to explain the purpose of the web page, but since the index site seemed to have pages relating to Cyberpunk (which I know little about), it seems that the page was written to use the Stauf mansion and the town of Harley as a setting for a Cyberpunk RPG. Although it's not exactly a "story," I still have enjoyed reading this person's unique interpretation of the history of the Stauf mansion and the town of Harley. The page is especially interesting now - given that the current year of the setting described was 2020, which is the year that I am posting this blog entry. I have found somewhat fascinating abandoned buildings - as well as the concept of a town being abandoned as a result of the mysterious events at the Stauf mansion, which is why I've liked this page.

Anyway, this page was created back when GeoCities still existed, so it is now offline. Although there is an archived version on, it has been hard to find with search engines. Thankfully, I was able to find the original URL with the help of a saved version of the website and the Wayback Machine. Below is text from the page - modified slightly in places.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Brother IntelliFAX 950M and Fax Machine Collection

Since as far back as 2002, if not earlier, I have had a rather unusual fixation with fax machines. There exist plenty of people who are fixated with things like vacuum cleaners, escalators, elevators, but I have yet to find anyone else with a particular fascination for fax machines. In any event, my fascination with fax machines has recently led me to obtain a Brother IntelliFAX 950M - my family's first home fax machine.

For some background information, my father got a Brother IntelliFAX 950M in April 1994 and used it until around May 1997 when he changed careers. I might have been somewhat interested in the fax machine even back then (as well as my father's other work and office accessories - like his car phone and TeleVideo TS-1605 computer). Apparently, there was one time when my grandparents planned to surprise me by sending me a fax. Although it's possible that I had some interest in my father's fax machine in the mid '90s, I don't think that I developed a strong fixation with fax machines in general until late 2002 (although I could be mistaken).

It was between 2002 and 2003 that I got a lot of my own office accessories - including a desk and a filing cabinet, so it is not surprising that I would have an interest in fax machines around this time, too. Around this time, I even talked to my friend about getting a fax machine, and he said that I could find one on eBay for $30. He himself also apparently had a fax machine (at least at one time), but I don't think that he had a particular fixation with them as I did.

Despite my interest in fax machines almost certainly having been established in late 2002 (or early 2003), I would not get a fax machine of my own until December 2005: a Brother IntelliFAX 770 - purchased on eBay. Although this was a good-looking fax machine, it didn't work properly. In particular, I had trouble sending faxes or making copies. However, the IntelliFAX 770 did receive faxes and print documents properly. A few years later, two of my friends looked at the fax machine and found that a piece of plastic (meant for holding up a roller) had broken off inside. Although I can't say for sure, I don't think that I had a particular interest in collecting fax machines as of late 2005.

It wasn't until May 2011 that I purchased another fax machine at a thrift store. I don't recall the model, but the model that seems closest to what I remember is a Sharp CQ-130. This was a nice-looking machine, but it didn't appear to work. It also did not use plain paper like the IntelliFAX 770. I didn't have this fax machine for long because I got it while staying at my grandmother's house - then up for sale, and I left it behind upon returning home. Several months later, I returned to the house, and it was not present (the machine was probably among many other things that had been removed from the house in order to increase its marketability).

Interestingly enough, I had actually purchased a third fax machine in July 2011 at another thrift store. This was a Brother IntelliFAX 1270, and unlike the IntelliFAX 770, it appeared to work properly.

It was probably between 2011 and 2012 that I started paying particular attention to the IntelliFAX 950M that my father used to have. I found a few pictures of it online, but it seemed that model had become hard to find.

In September 2012, I found a Brother IntelliFAX 750, which was an interesting model because it looked just like the IntelliFAX 770 - but was black in color. I considered getting it but ultimately did not. I now wish that I had done so.

In March 2013, I took a number of old electronics to be recycled, and among them was the Brother IntelliFAX 770 - my first personal fax machine. I probably felt that I didn't need it since I had the IntelliFAX 1270, which was a similar-looking model that also worked properly. I think that I have sometimes regretted getting rid of the IntelliFAX 770.

Over the past few weeks, I have again become fixated on fax machines, and as a result, I learned that a Brother IntelliFAX 950M was actually for sale on eBay! That particular model seemed impossible to find anywhere else, so following in the spirit of 2012 and 2013 (recreating my childhood by getting a TeleVideo TS-803 and a TeleVideo TS-1605), I purchased the IntelliFAX 950M. Like with the TeleVideos, I figured that this could be my only chance at obtaining the same fax from my childhood. There also seem to be so few pictures of it online and so little documentation of it that I thought that it would be good to obtain.

After many years, there is again a Brother IntelliFAX 950M in my home. It is not necessarily in my favorite style of fax machine (like the IntelliFAX 1270), but it is still a fairly nice-looking machine, and I like its gray color. It also probably helped spark my interest in fax machines, so I figured that it would be nice to have just for that sake. Below are some pictures of the fax.

Something useful about getting documentation with the IntelliFAX 950M is that I learned of other models that likely were sold in the '90s - including the IntelliFAX 610, IntelliFAX 620, IntelliFAX 640, IntelliFAX 710M, IntelliFAX 720M, IntelliFAX 810MC, IntelliFAX 820MC, IntelliFAX 900, IntelliFAX 980M (I already knew of this one), and IntelliFAX 1500M.

Finally, here are some pictures of the IntelliFAX 950M with my IntelliFAX 1270 - as well as one of my HP laptops with a fake faxing program using Cool Retro Term in Ubuntu.

It is very nice to again have a Brother IntelliFAX 950M.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Vita-Stat 8000-C Blood Pressure Kiosk

For many years, as strange as it may sound, I have been somewhat fascinated with the automated blood pressure testing kiosks found in pharmacies – particularly the old Vita-Stat machines from the 1980s and 1990s. I guess part of it is nostalgia for my childhood when I would sometimes test my blood pressure on such machines, and part of it is an interest in the designs of such contraptions  – considering that the older Vita-Stat kiosks tended to be larger and had more buttons. Having said that, there has been one blood pressure kiosk with which I have been fascinated, and I think that it COULD possibly be a Vita-Stat 8000-C.

I saved the above picture of a blood pressure kiosk back in early 2007, which came from a pharmacy’s website. This kiosk is similar to the Vita-Stat 9000AT kiosks that I found in places like Wal-Mart and Eckerd as recently as the mid-2000s. Nowadays, they seem to be hard to find, but in any case, I have found them to be more fascinating than the newer Vita-Stat 90550 (even those are becoming less common – given that many pharmacies are now using newer healthcare kiosks that check weight, eyesight, and so on).

Anyway, I have found the 9000AT kiosks to be fairly interesting – given that they have more buttons and were larger than the 90550 kiosks. However, I have liked the pictured kiosk even more since it looks more retro and more complex. The 9000AT kiosks generally have three plastic red and white buttons, but it appears that the kiosk in the picture has metal green, white, and red buttons with silver rings around them. It also appears to have what could be a manual emergency cuff release switch, which is a feature that has been absent on newer blood pressure kiosks (including even the slightly newer 9000AT). That in particular is what has fascinated me since I thought that some blood pressure kiosks had those, but since I started paying closer attention to blood pressure kiosks in the mid-2000s, I have yet to come across such a kiosk – or find many pictures of such kiosks online.

This kiosk otherwise seems similar to the 9000AT except for the shinier buttons and the manual emergency cuff release switch. Regardless, I have wanted to find more pictures of similar kiosks but have been unable to do so.

At some point several years ago, in researching information about Vita-Stat kiosks online, I learned that there was apparently a model called the Vita-Stat 8000-C that apparently was released in the early 1980s. I have looked for information on the Vita-Stat 8000-C online multiple times but have not been able to find any pictures of it. However, the kiosk in the picture seems like it might have come from the early 1980s, and I have not been able to find a picture specifically identifying a kiosk as an 8000-C, so it is entirely possible that the picture that I found in 2007 could be one of the Vita-Stat 8000-C.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Why I Prefer Traditional Computers to Mobile Devices

Although mobile devices like tablets and smartphones are enjoyable to use, there are a number of reasons why I prefer to do most of my computing on traditional machines like desktops and laptops.  These include ease of use for heavier workloads, ease of repair, lifespan, and privacy.

Probably the most immediate reason why I still do most of my computing on desktops and laptops is simply because I’ve always used such devices and haven’t had any compelling reason to switch to another type of device.  However, as summarized, there are other reasons why I feel that using desktops and laptops – at least for heavier workloads – are preferable to mobile devices.

Tablets and smartphones are obviously great devices because they make life much more convenient than before their existence.  Multiple devices can be combined into one unit – without having lug around multiple different, individual devices.  Finding addresses, listening to music, watching videos, etc. can be done just about anywhere thanks to mobile devices.  I am in no way saying that desktops and laptops are preferable for all purposes.  Mobile devices are preferable for most quick, non-intensive daily tasks (such as looking up addresses, playing music, taking pictures, etc.).  However, they are not ideal for heavier workloads – such as typing essays, video editing, etc.

Desktops and laptops are preferable to mobile devices for heavier workloads for a few reasons.  One is that it is much easier and more comfortable to type quickly on a keyboard than to peck on tiny screens where there’s a heightened chance that the wrong key (or multiple wrong keys) might be pressed – particularly on tiny smartphone screens where the buttons are smaller than a person’s fingers.  It would be uncomfortable to do such an enormous amount of typing in such a small space – compared to the more ergonomic traditional keyboard.  In this day and age, one could say that nobody really needs a keyboard anymore because voice recognition has gotten better and better.  However, I would imagine that nobody would want to wear out one’s throat by dictating an entire novel, report, or any other lengthy, text-based material.  I personally would not like to do that – at least not all the time.  Even if some people didn’t mind doing that, the issue of privacy is raised because others could hear potentially confidential material that they otherwise wouldn’t have.  Again, some people might not mind sacrificing their privacy, but there are likely others, including myself, who would not want to sacrifice privacy.

Another reason why desktops and laptops are better for heavier workloads is that, with mice, more precision is possible.  With smartphone screens in particular, buttons are just big enough to be able to be pressed by fingers, but many buttons are still pretty small, so there is a greater risk of pressing wrong buttons.  Mobile interfaces are generally adequate and large enough for quick, non-intensive tasks, but fingers lack the precision of mouse pointers, which can be very important for doing detailed and/or intensive tasks like using image editors, video editors, etc.  While it may be possible to do things like zoom in on individual pixels, the smaller screens of tablets – and especially smartphones – make it harder to be both precise and efficient.  There are fewer things that can fit on a mobile screen that can also be clicked with the same precision of a mouse pointer.  Therefore, work would become slow and tedious compared to on desktops and laptops.

Overall, one of the biggest reasons why I prefer working on desktops and laptops is that they are physically more comfortable to use for heavier workloads.  Doing tasks like writing and drawing would be much less comfortable on mobile devices – having to cram fingers – sometimes in awkward positions – within the small, limited workspace of a mobile screen – and in some cases get further strained by needing to use one hand just to hold the mobile device – compared to the more ergonomic, relaxed position of having one’s hands evenly spaced – and having a mouse just to the left or right of one’s hand (depending on whether one is left or right handed) – not forcing all the hand and finger muscles to work – and letting the arm muscles do some of the work to relieve the tension in the smaller and more sensitive areas.  One can work longer and with less fatigue with the use of larger, less compact devices like keyboards and mice.

Going slightly off topic, even in the days before tablets and smartphones became widespread, I disliked (and still dislike) using laptop touchpads.  They’ve tended to be located in the middle of the laptop, which means bending my arm at a somewhat awkward angle to reach it – and then having to swipe my finger across multiple times just to get the cursor to move.  A mouse, however, is more in alignment with my arm, so there’s no stretching or straining involved, and I can move the cursor across the screen with one long, simple move.

Having said all that, desktops and laptops are generally more ergonomic in design and, due to larger screens and input devices, allow both precision and efficiency.  Therefore, they are better suited for lengthy, intensive workloads.

Although comfort and precision are the biggest reasons why I prefer using desktops and laptops – especially for more intensive tasks, I also appreciate the ease of repairing and upgrading such machines.  Desktops in particular are relatively easy to repair and upgrade because the parts are larger, so they are easier to handle without worrying as much about breaking them or stripping the screws holding them in place.  Mobile devices are much smaller, and thus, more delicate and at risk for damaging, and since everything is condensed compared to desktops, if one thing gets broken, there’s a chance that the whole device could stop working.  Also, upgrading is next to impossible since mobile devices aren’t really designed for that purpose.  They are relatively disposable – meant to be replaced maybe every year or two.  Desktops are good because they are more easily repaired – as well as more customizable.

Similarly, desktops are preferable to mobile devices because they are more likely to have longer lifespans.  Since the computing components are larger and more spread out, they are, at least seemingly, less likely to wear out as fast since heat is ventilated better, and the components are generally thicker and more durable – and less delicate and prone to breaking.  Also, as stated before, if one thing breaks, it is less likely to compromise the whole system than if something broke in a mobile device.  While it is true that mobile devices generally run cooler than desktops, as stated, their components are still smaller and seemingly more prone to breaking, but also, mobile devices tend to use SSDs for internal storage – as opposed to traditional hard drives.  SSDs tend to be limited to 100,000 read/write cycles, and internal memory is next to impossible to easily replace in mobile devices, so that is yet another advantage for desktops (which ties in with what I said before about being more easily repaired and upgraded).  It is true that mobile devices tend to rely more on cloud technology than internal storage, but I think that it is important to not rely so heavily on the cloud.  For privacy purposes, I believe in the right to control one’s own data, and therefore, while the cloud is very useful, people should still be able to have a decent amount of internal, local storage available on their devices.  Given the larger, less delicate parts of desktops and their ability to ventilate heat better, I feel those things also make desktops a preferable computing choice for heavier workloads.

Finally, as touched on before, privacy is another big reason why I prefer desktops and laptops to mobile devices.  Since 2018, I’ve realized how important privacy is for things like freedom of thought, freedom of speech, etc., and nowadays, with the rise of mobile devices, online services, and the sharing economy, it seems that privacy is diminishing.  Cloud computing is becoming more widely used, and people store lots of their personal data with private companies.  They are at risk for having their files lost, deleted, shared, etc.  They no longer have control of their own data as they should.  Mobile devices appear to be designed to heavily rely on cloud computing, whereas desktops and laptops are more designed to use local storage.  Also, a number of countries require the registration of SIM cards prior to buying prepaid cell phones – putting up more red tape and bureaucracy – making it potentially impossible for a disenfranchised person, having no government-issued ID, to be able to use a computing device.  This makes such a person’s situation worse – given that the world is relying more and more on computers for daily life.  Not only that, but with a phone being registered to someone, the phone company and/or government can now track what that person is doing on that phone.  There is no sense of privacy.  On the other hand, people have not been required to register desktops or laptops, so even someone lacking a government ID – but still having some money – would have the potential to use a computer without worrying about red tape or being tracked by corporations or governments.  The increased privacy in using desktops and laptops is yet another reason why I prefer them to mobile devices.

I definitely like the convenience provided by mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.  However, that’s primarily what they should be used for – convenience – things like getting driving directions, messaging someone while out in the middle of nowhere, quickly looking up an article on Wikipedia, and so on.  However, that doesn’t mean that they should be a complete replacement for desktops and laptops.  As stated, there are some tasks just better suited for traditional computing devices – and some reasons why they are preferable to use to mobile devices.  Having said that, I think that a computer in the future could very well incorporate some of the best of mobile and traditional computers – perhaps in the form of a mobile device (like a tablet or smartphone) that can also be docked at a station hooked up to a keyboard and mouse.  In any case, I do prefer doing much of my computing on desktops and laptops.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Computer Sound Latency

Lately, I've had an issue with the sound on my main desktop computer having latency.  Even in the past when I had temporarily high CPU usage, and even when my mouse would freeze during high CPU and/or I/O load (mainly within the first several hours of the computer being turned on), I didn't usually have sound latency issues.  Back in 2017, I did notice a sound latency issue when I adjusted a setting to allow Process Lasso to act on system processes, but the problem would go away after changing back to the original setting and restarting the computer.  Despite still having that setting, I have been having sound latency.  It is very strange.  I downloaded a program called LatencyMon, and it seems to have identified some files associated with the latency.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Process Lasso Is Garbage

This afternoon, I had an experience which showed very clearly that Process Lasso is ineffective at preventing computer freezing.

I had just started the computer and was starting to browse the internet, when suddenly, everything froze except the mouse pointer.  Everything was frozen for a long time - although after a minute or two, I did briefly hear some of the music that I had playing in the background.  However, it didn't seem that the computer was going to unfreeze - at least not anytime soon, so I abruptly cut off the power and restarted the computer.

At some point - either before or after restarting the computer, I found that, according to Process Lasso, the culprit was AVG...which had been using 99% of the RAM!  NINETY-NINE PERCENT!  Within a few minutes, AVG was using 99% of RAM yet again, and I had to abruptly shut off the computer and restart it.

I then decided that enough was enough.  Process Lasso wasn't stopping AVG, and AVG was going to keep suddenly using resources - rendering my computer useless - unless I could remove AVG - at least temporarily until I could figure out why AVG was acting so strange.  So after the computer restarted, I uninstalled AVG, but just as it was about to finish uninstalling (or so it seemed), the computer froze YET AGAIN!  I turned off the computer and restarted it again, and thankfully, AVG seemed to have been removed.

This whole incident was ridiculous.  Process Lasso let a BACKGROUND PROCESS use 99% of the RAM!  Nominally, it was using over 4 GB of RAM!  ONE PROGRAM was using 4 GB of RAM!  And yet, Process Lasso did NOTHING to prevent this from happening!  The point of Process Lasso should be to PREVENT bottlenecks from taking place instead of automatically adjusting priorities, but IT DOESN'T DO THAT!  A BACKGROUND PROCESS should not use anywhere EVEN CLOSE to 99% of RAM or CPU!

Most of the people that I've observed online seem to think positively of Process Lasso, but it seems odd as to why since the program clearly doesn't intervene effectively enough to prevent system freezing.  It let a BACKGROUND PROCESS use 99% of the RAM.  What does that say about the program's effectiveness?

Keep in mind that this is the only time that I've had issues with AVG before.  Even though it did tend to have high resource usage - especially when starting the computer, it never even came close to using 99% of my RAM.  None of my other programs have come so close, either - not even the foreground programs.  I was even using the computer early this morning and had no problems with freezing.  Something happened to cause AVG to start acting weird.

One might ask, "Well, if AVG is the problem, then why hate on Process Lasso?"  I'm not saying that Process Lasso caused the system to freeze.  I criticize Process Lasso because it is a program supposedly designed to stop system freezing, but it let ONE PROGRAM use all the memory and ultimately allowed the computer to freeze.  Such a program should not allow such things to happen.  They should PREVENT them from happening by not allowing programs - ESPECIALLY BACKGROUND PROCESSES - from using so many resources, but for some reason, it wasn't designed that way!  And yet, people somehow consider it a helpful program.  It's crazy.  Basically, even if AVG were the problem, it shouldn't matter.  Process Lasso should neutralize whatever problematic program exists, and if it doesn't, then that shows that it is ineffective at the task for which it was supposedly designed.

One might say, "Well, programs aren't infallible.  They're bound to screw up once in a while."  The point is that Process Lasso has virtually NEVER been effective.  For one, Process Lasso didn't screw up just once.  I had to restart my computer THREE TIMES IN A ROW because Process Lasso didn't stop AVG!  Also, the only reason why I haven't had constant freezing in the past is because none of my programs, including AVG, ever did use excessive memory, and no, it was not because Process Lasso was in some way effective.  In regards to CPU usage, programs have run at 100% for lengthy periods of time - even with multiple rules set - even with multiple requests to terminate the program (which are almost always unresponsive (another reason why Process Lasso is junk)).  The occasionally high CPU usage has slowed down computer performance - but has not caused it to come to a halt (the computer would have acted the same even if I didn't have Process Lasso installed).  Whatever the case, Process Lasso DID NOT STOP the high CPU usage of BACKGROUND PROCESSES.  I have had occasional system slowdowns because of this - despite having Process Lasso, so it has proven to be ineffective with CPU.  Despite having programs running with high CPU, I haven't had any issues where memory was maxed out - until today.  If I had programs constantly using all my memory, then that would be further proof that Process Lasso was ineffective.  But I didn't lack high memory usage because Process Lasso was doing its job.  I just lucked out in that regard since my problematic programs seem to be mainly CPU hungry.  I only have had to deal with CPU-related issues, and even those Process Lasso was NOT effectively handling.  It could be seen as an illusion of, "Hey, no freezing, so I guess that means that the program's working, right?"

To be clear, I have felt that Process Lasso was ineffective since at least a year ago, and I didn't hold much confidence in it afterwards.  I just felt like writing this as an even clearer example in which Process Lasso utterly failed to do its job.  It failed to stop ONE BACKGROUND PROCESS from using 99% of RAM...THREE TIMES!  This was not a one-time screw up.  This was the result of an inherent flaw in Process Lasso's design.  It should focus more on PREVENTING high resource usage - and not on adjusting program priorities.  Sometimes that may help, but other times, that's just not enough.  Process Lasso should focus on actually RESTRAINING processes - and capping resource usage - ESPECIALLY FOR BACKGROUND PROCESSES.

Anyway, I don't want to be bitter toward the developers of Process Lasso, so I hope that they can improve the program.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Automation: The End of the Fourth Amendment?

Earlier today, I was looking at a tab in Google Chrome in which I searched for information regarding anarcho-capitalism and basic income, and when I got to the bottom of the page, I happened to notice a link regarding automation and capitalism.  Upon some quick internet searches, I became aware of the possibility that capitalism could end as a result of automation.

Although I'm no particular fan of right-wing economics, the potential end of capitalism is somewhat concerning because of its potential effect on civil liberties and protections - such as rights granted to American citizens under the Constitution - like the Fourth Amendment.

Before elaborating on the issue of constitutional rights, one should think about what might take place of capitalism - if capitalism were to somehow end as a result of automation.  Quite possibly, socialism - or something similar to it - could take over.

The potential problem with socialism is that it is related to anarchism - an ideology that, from what I've observed from online discussions, generally scoffs at the right-libertarian concept of the NAP (non-aggression principle).

If socialism or anarchism were to replace capitalism as a result of automation, there is a concern that socialist states could water down or eliminate protections like the Fourth Amendment.  Anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians generally support the idea of private property, but anarchists generally reject the idea of private property, and so the NAP (something that for the most part would protect private property and individual autonomy) is naturally also disregarded.  I think that the Fourth Amendment in a way is the protection of private property, so under an anarchist society, private property wouldn't exist, so people wouldn't have constitutional guarantees to reasonable privacy and non-interference in their own homes.

I feel that either capitalism must somehow survive automation - or if somehow socialism or some other system supersedes it, that system must guarantee the same protections that many modern countries now grant their citizens.