Thursday, December 27, 2012

Facebook Thinks I'm A Taliban

Facebook is giving me an identity crises
...At least that was the joke I made to my wife this morning when I saw the post below. The reply was "See, I always told you that you're on some list." A joke in poor taste and a much-needed chuckle after a busy and frantic holiday weekend. The amusement was short lived as I read some of the amazingly ignorant and shameful comments. This isn't a political blog, and I have no interest in politics- however, some of the comments were shameful in their level of xenophobia.

Now, I have a twisted sense of humor for sure. I'll throw pretty much any ethnic group (including my own) under the bus for a good laugh. But there wasn't a whole lot of laughing going on at the link I clicked on. It seems like I was the only one who found it amusing.

Clearly Facebook has a bug in their keep-stupid-ads-in-your-face algorithm, which decides what stupid ads to show you. Since I don't speak Arabic, I'm just going to assume that the ad they tried to show me stands for everything I'm against, and vice versa. Whatever algorithm that should have been deciding to show me bacon or boobs was clearly malfunctioning this morning.

Facebook must be getting ready to turn up the heat up on a big advertising push or something. It seems like those "suggested posts" have been gradually getting more annoying. My Aunt Bertha likes M&M's. Thanks for keeping that front and center in my news feed for the last 2 weeks!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's time to fix DNS

The Domain Name System- DNS- has been with us since the dawn of the Internet. It's one of the simpler protocols. You give it a name like "www.somedomain.com" and it gives you the IP address of that domain. Sounds simple, right? The way DNS works is actually fairly elegant, especially considering its age. It's a hierarchy, where each DNS server can kick the request up the chain of command, until an "authoritative" server-one which has the authority to speak on behalf of that domain- is found. But the functionality is simple conceptually: give DNS a domain name and it gives you back an IP address. That is supposed to be its only function.

What DNS has turned out to be, though, is the main front in the war to control what you, the Internet user, can see, interact with, and more importantly, purchase. Governments want to tinker with DNS to bring about censorship. They can for example redirect you to a warning page if they don't want you to visit www.someplace.com. That's pretty scary to type in a web address and see a large government logo warning you that you can be arrested, fined, tortured and so forth, just for visiting this so-called illegal content, the legality of which can even vary from place to place.

Corporations and large commercial interests like the entertainment industry also wish (intend) to use DNS for censorship. It's a different form of censorship from what governments do, but that's what it is - censorship. Instead of "illegal" bits of 0's and 1's, they would censor you from "infringing" content. Doesn't sound too scary so far, right? If we can use DNS to stop people from visiting child porn sites or downloading a movie without paying for it, then it's a small price to pay, right?

No, for a number of reasons. First off, there isn't and mostly likely won't ever be accountability for getting it wrong. There's just too much temptation and potential for abuse. Think about it: If it's in a company's best financial interests to abuse something, and there's no consequences to abusing it, then it's simply human nature. Your daughter will do a book report on the book Little Women, and the automated repress-o-matic system (tm) will incorrectly flag your content as unacceptable. And that'll be it. Without due process to protect you, the burden of proof is now on you to show that your book report isn't kiddie porn.

Or you might be a writer. You write a story, put it on your blog and some huge content mega-conglomerate simply flags your content as its own. Why? Maybe you made some reference to something copyrighted, even one that's considered fair use. Your work is no longer accessible. This kind of thing already happens to some extent. But add DNS censorship to the mix, and not only will some mega-corporation claim your content, but now when users type in the address for your web site, they are directed to an FBI logo telling that user that they are visiting an infringing web site. Left unopposed, these huge content providers will claim all content in existence, and turn the entire Internet into a pay-for broadcast medium where everything you click on deducts from your bank account.

It's already happened where a web site which was found legal by the court of the country it was operating in was set to redirect to a scary US government logo page informing those users that they were trying to visit an illegal site. They could do that because the US controls the DNS infrastructure, much to the chagrin of the rest of the world. So, it's already starting to happen. It's just a matter of time before scenarios like powerful people and companies using it to silence critics or harm their competition.

But in a sense, it doesn't matter. All DNS does is simply map a name to an IP address. It's a simple protocol. If people stop using/trusting it (which is already happening) then they will just trade those mappings as another form of illicit information. It's still a meaningful form of censorship, but it's debatable whether it's a viable one.

The problem with using a common Internet protocol as a tool of censorship, is that it essentially breaks the Internet, in this case in a misguided attempt to enact a form of censorship that's easy to bypass. A famous nerd, John Gilmore once said: "The Net sees censorship as damage and routes around it." So, by breaking the Internet, they are only forcing its improvement by driving innovation.

The problem with DNS, and the main reason it needs to be overhauled, is that it's one of the few centralized points in the mostly decentralized Internet. Take away the enormous DNS cash cow of ICANN away, with the behind-the-scenes control that goes with it, and the Internet is pretty much just a bunch of computers all connected straight to each other, without a need for any central authority to mediate those connections. Somewhere along the line, this simple protocol became about controlling you, the user.

Decentralize DNS, Pretty Please, And Pronto!


Before we address other problems with DNS, we first need to think of decentralizing it. There's really no choice. The Utopian central authority doesn't exist, and besides, it's already starting to fray at the seams. If we do nothing, my guess is that DNS is going to just dissolve. At that point, the Internet will be less useful.

There are people already working on this problem. Solutions like ODDNS look promising.

Now, Make DNS More Secure


A protocol this important needs to be encrypted. If you can't DNS it to give you the address of something paypal.com or a financial institution, we're all pretty much screwed. It's almost too late for us not to use the Internet for our sensitive financial information.

The solution of course lies in encryption. Personally, I wouldn't trust SSL for the job, as it also needs an overhaul. But maybe the next generation of SSL, if there is one, would work. Whatever we use should have a really big key size too. Otherwise, anyone with a supercomputer could go right back to tinkering with it.

I would also make it algorithm agnostic, meaning that it should work with whatever encryption algorithm is the most secure at any given time.

I would also make it only use open source encryption algorithms.

Just like for decentralization, there are lots of people already working on DNS encryption solutions, such as DNSCrypt.

How Will It Play Out?


That's the million dollar question. Governments, corporations and international organizations like the ITU are all vying for centralized control over DNS. This should make it clear to anyone with half a brain that DNS cannot be allowed remain centralized, lest the Internet decay into a bunch of so-called "darknets." Traditionally, technical policy is made by those with the least amount of technical understanding. We need to look to another segment, the people who invented DNS in the first place; the Nerds. Outdated protocols like DNS need to be modernized, and pronto. Otherwise, everything we Nerds built will be turned into a paywalled sandbox, with content only suitable for the lowest common denominator.

It is my sincere hope that the Nerds will continue to mobilize, and pull the rug out from under these assholes. Fix DNS now, please, and thanks in advance.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Unboxing A New SSD: The OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3

OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3 SSD
Yep, it came with an "I <8 my SSD" sticker
Yesterday my new OCZ SSD arrived, and I wasted no time putting it to work. Since I do all my work using virtual machines, all I had to do was copy a file to the new drive and then boot up my work machine from the SSD! Bam!

So about 30 minutes after opening the package, I was compiling our .NET based insurance policy management system project. This was purchased for me by the company, and I got to thinking that even if it only survives 6 months, it's still worth the $179 the company paid for it.

Will it be reliable? That's the question in my mind. But if it's not, well then it sure is fast until it craps out. I understand a lot of huge data centers are moving to SSD, even with the fact that they don't have the same lifespan as spinning platter based drives. And now, I can see why.

Having my work VM run off of this new SSD turned it into a real beast. The VM has 2 cores (of 6) devoted to it, as well as 4 GB of memory and now its own SSD. The memory and SSD upgrades cut my compile time in half of my big projects as well as making the machine itself much, much snappier.

Gallery

OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3 SSD mounted to 3.5 inch adapter plate
It comes with a cool adapter to mount it into a desktop case

OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3 SSD with tape holding it on
My Antec case has these little drawers that slide out for drives

OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3 SSD with tape holding it on
...it was either tape or a drill, and I chose tape

OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3 SSD mounted in Antec 900 case
Here it is mounted in my Antec 900 case

OCZ VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G Vertex 3 SSD mounted in Antec 900 case with green light
It's got a green light on it




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Android Explained: File Associations

File ... what?


File associations are a relic of modern computing, where most data is stored in the form of files. Each file has a name and resides in a directory. Because there were no universal formats for storing data, or even for determining the type of data contained within the file, operating systems began encoding the type of data into the file name itself, by adding a "." and then a code describing the type of data contained in the file. Most seasoned users would recognize the now common ones like .TXT (text file) or .EXE (application).

Now, with a semi-universal scheme of file extensions, it because much easier to know what computer program(s) a file belonged to. Just so long as the format of the data in the file matches the semi-universally-accepted file extension, everything works without a hitch. In practice it's not as bad as it sounds.

So, a file association is just a list of a program or programs (if you're under 30, call them "apps" instead) which are believed to be able to read a file of that format. It's no guarantee, but most of the time it works.

Here Comes Android


Android File Association Prompt
File associations shown if there's no default selected
For decades, Windows has handled this smoothly and effectively. But Windows had a long, long time to get it right. Android is still fairly new, and it doesn't seem like they thought this through all the way.

In Android, an app registers its intent to work with a certain kind of data. So for example, a video player might register for one or more video formats, like MP4, AVI, etc. When you open a file in Android, the system looks through a list of apps which can work with that data, just like the system does in Windows.

Changing File Association Defaults in Android


The difference then is that where the default application for a file format is stored with the system itself in Windows, in Android its assigned to the app which is the default for that data type. So, when you open an AVI file, Android looks through all the apps registered for that data format (actually MIME type in nerdspeak) and looks at each one to see if it is the default app. This seems a little clumsy to me, but at least it's done seamlessly to the user.

BUT .. what if YOU the user want to change this default association? The answer is that you have to see what app launches, go into settings and then choose "apps" or "app management" on the settings menu, find that app, and manually clear that default association. At that point the system will start asking you from a list of candidates, until you choose another default.

Android File Association For App
In Android, the default file association belongs to an app, and you have to find that app to clear it!




Monday, December 3, 2012

Cat Signal: The Internet Defense League

Yesterday we received the "Cat Signal" and activated it on our site.

With the freedoms we enjoy on the Internet besieged from all sides from governments and corporate interests, it's nice seeing an organization like the IDL take up the banner on behalf of the Interwebs. It is absolutely vital that we stand our ground, so to that end, NerdJargon proudly supports the IDL.

One voice doesn't do much, but they've already heard our collective voices. They pulled the tiger by the tail with SOPA, so now let them hear us continue to roar!

Visit the Internet Defense League here, and tell the ITU to keep its grubby paws off our Interwebs.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lion Goes .... Squeak?

The elusive Tidbit
Daddy, why does a Lion squeak?
Today I was playing with my little friend, Tidbit. We were having a great time playing with all the toys, which were coincidentally all great animals of the Sahara. Dogs are really no different than little kids, and apparently, neither am I, so we had a good time. As we made our way though the toys, it dawned on me that they all make the exact same squeak sound. Even toys from different manufacturers.

At this point, I'm going to assume this is a worldwide conspiracy to deny our dogs the joy of knowing what each animal sounds like, just as we humans were taught as children.

So, as we made our way through the toys, I would tell Tidbit: "The Lion goes 'Squeeeeaak', The Monkey goes 'Squeeeak', The Rhino goes 'Squeeeak.'" It must have been very unsatisfying for Tidbit. He must think me a liar. Certainly he has unrealistic expectations of what animals sound like on the continent of Africa.

Seriously, in the year 2012 we don't have the technology to make any dog toy sound different from any other dog toy? Shouldn't the animals of the Sahara sound like the animals of the Sahara? They can't put a digital recording of a Monkey inside a toy, stuffed Monkey? Please, mega-dog-toy-corporations and/or Santa Claus, let Tidbit hear the mighty roar of the Lion, or whatever-the-hell sound a Rhino makes!

Our dogs deserve better.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Still Beef With Dell

Around 20 years ago, I worked for a company who bought me a brand new Dell laptop. This was 1991, so just having any laptop was in itself impressive at the time. My new Dell was this amazing machine ... for about 3 days, after which time it completely crapped out. So, we sent it back in for warranty work, and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited for what eventually became an entire year, which co-incidentally was the entire one year warranty period. We eventually got it back with a note saying they couldn't fix it because the warranty was expired. We sent them a letter pointing out that the laptop sat pretty much the entire warranty period (minus a few days we had it) in their service center, during which time they didn't do anything with it. They replied back that we should have bought the extended warranty. So, the office manager had me send a letter to Michael S. Dell, who replied via a VP that they were really sorry they couldn't replace it, but that we should have purchased the extended warranty. Yeah, right.

Well, fast forward a couple decades and I'm looking for a new laptop on Black Friday 2012. It seemed like every single laptop on sale was a Dell. There were some great looking deals, too. It was even a little tempting to set my grudge aside. Maybe in the past I didn't make much effort to be frugal, but this time around it seemed like Dell had a contender for every price point, form factor and options I was looking for.

But I still remember the snarky, condescending letter I got from Dell all those years ago, so I went with an Asus K55N-BA8094C with an AMD A8 4500M processor, which I bought from Best Buy for $379.99 from their Cyber Monday sale. The last few years I've been buying Acer laptops, which we've had really good luck with. But I've owned a few Asus motherboards, and I have friends that swear by the brand, so I'm excited to see if it's as good as the Acers I've been buying.

It's just funny how the negative experiences like this shape our buying habits. What this experience taught me is that customer service should be a long term thing. I've personally talked probably hundreds of people out of Dell computers in the two decades I've had a beef with them, and I keep that in mind for my own work. I try to realize that my interactions with customers could have decades-long ramifications, not just for bad but for good, too. If a customer with a bad experience could talk hundreds of people out of my product, then a customer with a good experience can talk hundreds of people into buying my product!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twinkie-Shaped Hole in My Heart

If the past teaches us anything, it's that the future is uncertain, and humankind is historically and notoriously bad at predicting it. Will Twinkies, Ho Ho's and Ding Dong's be a relic of the past? All we can do is wait helplessly by while the events around Hostess' bankruptcy play themselves out.

Twinkies have always been a part of Nerd counterculture. What better to represent the supposedly sedentary lifestyle we Nerds live than a quick, sugary snack like Twinkies? It's like a burrito for Nerds, and the perfect compliment to the other (there's only two!) Nerd staple: The glorious Hot Pocket.

Now, I'm not going to predict the demise of the Twinkie, or the potential world-changing consequences that will assuredly happen if we lose this valuable, natural resource. I leave those predictions to folks more paranoid than me. But I will say this: we must be very careful with the forces at work here. We do not want to risk the consequences to society that the loss of Twinkies (and Ho Ho's, etc.) could bring. We just don't. We bailed out the banks, right? Well, this is a no-brainer.

So, I hope cooler heads will prevail, and Hostess will eventually emerge from bankruptcy with all of our snacks intact, hopefully along with the machines that make them. In the meantime, there's a Twinkie shaped hole in my heart.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Google Wireless?

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Google is in talks with Dish Network to possibly create a new wireless service to rival the big four incumbent carriers. Dish is reportedly also in talks with other potential partners, so who knows how this is all going to pan out. But certainly, more competition is always a good thing for consumers.

Personally, I love the idea of someday having Google as my wireless carrier. How many other wireless carriers have a "don't be evil" sign in their lobby? Yeah, that would be zero.

These aren't the first moves Google has made for becoming a service provider. They recently rolled out 1 Gbps fiber to select parts of the country. It's pretty clear where Google is going with this, and again, I think it's a great idea for them. And maybe now the big four might actually work to earn people's business instead of just lowering the caps and telling people how great low caps are and how great it is that everyone can share the low caps to hit them sooner. Google is definitely going to shake up whatever market they enter, and it's about damn time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Microsoft Surface: I'll Pass

When I first read that Microsoft was coming out with a Surface tablet, I was really excited. The main reason I was holding off buying an Android tablet was that with powerful new processors coming out, I was hoping to be able to run desktop applications if I wanted to.

Now, I would probably never want to compile a C# web site on a tiny tablet. That has always taken a notebook, or more recently, a netbook. But it would be nice on short trips if I could just bring one device that could function as a real computer in an emergency, like my netbook can.

So, I was very disheartened to learn that Surface isn't a Windows machine in the strictest sense. It's more of a Metro machine, meaning it can only run metro apps. Seriously? It just seems like just as computing technology gets concentrated in smaller and smaller devices, we're seeing less overall functionality instead of more.

Maybe someday I'll have that perfect tablet that will have the simplicity of the more web-centric operating systems like Android, but with the capabilities to run desktop applications as well. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to do that. In the meantime, I guess I'll finally break down and get a Galaxy or something, and just carry two devices.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disney Does Deathstar

And just like *that* the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other for the Star Wars franchise. We're going from locked down, metered doses of Star Wars to having it laser etched onto our bodies, it will be so prevalent. Of course I'm only half-joking. As a consumer, I think it's bad news whenever a mega-corporation (especially one so politicized) devours every franchise in its path. As a Star Wars fan, I am going to see what Disney does with the franchise before I form any opinions. Lucas kept such tight control over everything Star Wars, I always thought he was kind of stingy. But that doesn't mean I want it stamped on every single product I buy for the rest of my life. I guess time will tell!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rise of the App Barons

First Era of Computing: The Wild West


What we call "apps" have been around as long as computers have been around. It's a computer's primary existence. The computer runs the Operating System, which is a platform for launching various applications. That's all a computer is and ever has been: a platform for applications.

For most of the computing revolution up until fairly recently, you the user decided what to put on your computer and even where to get that software. In the earlier days, you bought that software from a brick and mortar store just like you would a book. You got it home and popped in the CD or floppy, which was your interface to the world.

Then, with the rise of the Internet in popularity it became possible to populate your computer with software and never touch a physical piece of media. You visit a web site-possibly a huge one like Amazon- click a button, and the software is on your computer.


Second Era of Computing: Here Come The Gatekeepers


We are now firmly into what I could call the second era of computing. The evolution and commoditization of computer applications was evolving quite steadily towards central clearing houses like Amazon and Download.com. But then Steve Jobs created what I believe his "real" innovation was, which is that of "app middleman."

It was a stroke of pure genius. So was making an "app store" so easy to use, someone's mom would be comfortable going into the store and making a purchase. It turned out to be a cash cow for Apple and later Google.

Does the app suck? The app baron still gets paid. Is it over-priced? Doesn't matter, the app baron still gets paid. It's a beautiful situation for a large corporation to be in. And not only that, as the gate keepers, the app barons get to decide what can even be in the store.

What's Next?


I'm actually not against a company having its own app store. In fact, I think it's a great idea. To me, the computing landscape should be like a shopping mall, where each user shops among the various stores and brings home a bag of the software they need.

What I am against is these companies playing gatekeeper to a device I own. Having to "jail break" my device just to get its full functionality is unacceptable to me. And I don't think I'm alone. It's ironic that in this age of openness and connectivity, companies are constructing artificial barriers to limit access to a lucrative platform, i.e. your computing device.

With Microsoft recently wiggling itself into a gatekeeper position the writing is on the wall. It's pretty clear to me that the Third Era of Computing is going to be the battle for control over your device, with all of us as pawns in that battle.

Will the current push by many for more openness overcome the push by the big corporations for more control ($) and give us the consumer more power, or will we lose whatever little bit power we currently have?

I have been building software for a living for more than 20 years, and I'm seriously leaning towards jumping ship for the open source movement. It's the sharing and openness I crave- the free flow of knowledge. I'm definitely not against people making their living selling software, but its the app store as a mechanism for control that worries me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How To: Fix Your Hoover FloorMate

Hoover FloorMate H2800
This post is to address the fact that there's so little knowledge on how to make a FloorMate work. They are very high maintenance machines, and if not properly maintained, will work fine for a few months and quit.

I almost just bought a new one from Amazon, but decided to see if I could figure this machine out.

Introduction


For someone with a big house and hard floors, the FloorMate is a great invention. When mine works, it leaves my tile and hard wood floors positively sparkling. When it doesn't work, it just pushes dirty water around.

From searching the Internet, the knowledge to make a FloorMate work and keep it working is scattered all over the place. It is my intention to put most of this knowledge into one convenient place.

How It Works


The FloorMate works by spraying cleaning solution from the clean tank at the top of the unit to the floor. As you the user make the mopping motions with it, the scrub brushes (which do not spin -at least mine don't) scrub the floor. So it's you, the user, who are doing the scrubbing.

The other half what the FloorMate does is pick up that dirty water and put it in the lower tank. So basically it just puts down clean water and picks up dirty water. This is unlike a normal mop which mostly just moves the dirty water around.

..but after a while, it will stop working. You WILL lose suction.

When It Doesn't Work


Search the internet for "FloorMate losing suction" and you will find lots of frustrated people. The real problem is that most people these days are just not used to having a high maintenance anything. So if something quits working, most people just buy a new one.

I used to just buy a new one myself. In this case, I read the reviews and discovered people were complaining about the new ones losing suction too! That's when it hit me that there was something deeper going on here. Not having one of these isn't an option, and I don't want to buy a new one every few months. So, I decided to learn how this thing works, and to share that knowledge.

All About the Suction


For better or worse, the FloorMate has a very precise design. It was designed by engineers to do a task well, within s (very narrow) set of parameters. And if you stray from those parameters, the machine stops working. 

The Achilles' heel of the design is that it has to pull the dirty water farther than is ideal, using a squeegee which wears out quickly, through an intake which could be clogged, through a tube which could crack, and using several seals which could be gummed up or damaged. 

There's so many points of potential failure that it's pretty much guaranteed that it will lose suction without proper maintenance and care. But once you learn how to maintain and troubleshoot it, there's no reason it won't stand up to heavy use.

Step One: Clean the Machine


Most of the time my FloorMate loses suction, it's because the machine is clogged or dirty. The best way to clean and inspect it is from the bottom up.

1. Start with the nozzle assembly. There are two thumb-latches you have to move and the whole thing comes right off. This gives you access to the squeegee, brushes and intake. Unclog the intake if necessary and then look at the squeegee. It should be firm, and there should be no dirt and debris on it. Next look at the brushes. Clean any hair, dirt and debris out of it. I usually run this whole assembly under hot water until the entire thing is spotless. Put the clean nozzle assembly back on.

Hoover FloorMate H2800 shown with nozzle detached
The nozzle assembly detached from the unit


Hoover FloorMate H2800 nozzle assembly
The mostly-clean nozzle assembly. Clean it early, clean it often

Hoover FloorMate H2800 squeegee
The squeegee should be nice and firm. This one is brand new
2. Next look at the dirty water tank. Take the tank out and clean it under the sink using hot water. Pay close attention to getting any dirt off the rubber seals which line the top and bottom halves of the tank. Any dirt or debris on this big seal will screw you out of your suction. Also take off the filter and use the sprayer attachment on your sink to clean the elements of the filter by exposing them, spraying them, and moving on to the next element. When all the parts of the tank are clean, put it back together, making sure that the two tank halves are well seated together.


Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank
The two places where the tank is most likely to leak
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank filter grate
Make sure to clean under the filter
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank filter
Make sure to get all the debris out of the filter
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank: underside of filter grate
Make sure to clean the underside of this little grate too

3. Before you put the tank back into the unit, look closely at where the dirty water tank sits. Behind the tank is a semi-transparent hose and assembly. You can see if there is any debris inside the hose, running up all the way to to the tank. If you seen any debris at all inside the hose, you will need to take it apart and clean it. It may not look like a lot of debris, and you may be tempted to leave it there, but this machine needs every last bit of suction it can get. Finally, check the top seal where it meets the back of the tank. Make sure there is no debris on this seal. Now, put the tank back on. Make sure it sits firmly against the top seal and has no play.

Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery channel and seal
The recovery channel, connecting to the recovery hose on the right
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank lip
Don't forget to clean the little lip where the tank goes together
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank hose
The recovery hose at its connection point
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery channel rubber seal
Gunk on the seal, and it's only been a week since I cleaned it all out!

Now put some cleaning solution in and take it for a spin. Well, does it work? It probably does. It seems like I need to go through this routine about every 6 or 7 uses. I have lots of little dogs, so I am really tough on my cleaning equipment. I've settled into a happy routine that involves my floors being clean.

Still doesn't work? You'll want to troubleshoot the problem, starting again at the bottom of the unit. 

Step Two: Squeegee


Remove the nozzle assembly with the two thumb latches. Now flip the assembly upside-down and look at the squeegee. It should stand straight out and be nice and firm all the way around. Does it waver in one or more places? Does any part of it lie flat or is any of it missing? When I replaced mine, most of it was flat and it was ripped in several places. If the squeegee isn't perfect, then you need a new one. Parts for your FloorMate are easy to find on the Internet.

Hoover FloorMate H2800: wasted squeegee
This squeegee is totally shot

If your squeegee is pristine, then power the unit on and check for suction without the nozzle assembly. You should be able to fit your hand over the square hole and feel a nice, solid suction against your hand. 

Hoover FloorMate H2800 nozzle intake
Block the intake to check for suction. Make sure to check the seal


Still no love? You'll want to move to the recovery hose next. 

Step Three: Recovery Channel and Hose


The recovery hoses have a repuation for cracking and losing suction, though the hose on mine has held up well over time. With the dirty water tank taken off, you can see the recovery channel (that long white thing the tank plugs into) with the recovery hose connected to the bottom of it. You'll want to take that hose off and inspect it for cracks. You should be able to make a basic seal on it with your mouth and hand plugging the other end. It should be pretty obvious if the hose is cracked. If the hose is fine, take off the recovery channel and do the same to it. Make sure it has no cracks or leaks in it. Now check the rubber seal. Make sure it sits right on the channel and isn't cracked or damaged.

Still no suction huh? If you did everything right, then your problem is somewhere in the tank. At this point, with the tank taken out, power on the unit and first make sure there's suction to the top of the tank by putting your hand over the hole where the top of the tank meets the unit. You should feel strong suction there. If not, your motor is damaged. 

Step Four: Recovery (Dirty Water) Tank



This tank has 3 different seals, and you need to check all three. First, check where the two halves of the tank meet. Make sure the two halves are seated right, and the seals (one on each half) look right. Double check again for debris and make sure the seals themselves are seated right. Next, look how the filter is seated on the tank. The filter cover should be seated right, and the filter should be clean. If the filter is too dirty, or damaged, it'll hurt the suction and basically act like a clog. Finally, check where the tank meets the seal on the recover channel. Make sure there's no debris and also make sure the tank itself isn't cracked or damaged. You should be able to put your mouth over the filter hole with your hand blocking the side port. Even with a working tank there will be a little air loss, but it shouldn't be excessive.

STILL no suction? Assuming you didn't miss anything up to this point, it's probably not good news, but it's still worth continuing.

Step Five: Motor Assembly


With the tank off, make sure the top seal that meets the tank is in good shape. With the unit turned on, you should feel a strong suction by putting your hand over that seal. Take the seal off and inspect it to make sure it isn't dirty, cracked or damaged. 

Hoover FloorMate H2800 top air seal
The top seal near the motor should have never came in contact with water


Now is time for a reality check: If you're still not getting good suction, you probably need to replace or rebuild the motor. If you are getting good suction with your hand on the seal, your problem is not the motor. You missed something - try again from the squeegee up. The goal is to check every point of possible failure from the floor right up to the motor.

Conclusions


I hope this post has helped you better understand your FloorMate. With a little bit of care and maintenance, this is a great machine that saves a ton of time mopping. Since my wife is disabled, I'm the one that does the mopping at our house. When I first assumed the duty, I found the FloorMate buried in a closet with a comment of "that doesn't work anymore." Now that I have done the research and understand the thing, I use it twice a week and the floors have never been cleaner.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Virtual Box with Windows 8

A few years ago I had compared Virtual Box, VMWare Workstation and Virtual PC, and ultimately I chose VMWare for running my development environments. At the time, VirtualBox came up short in a few key areas and wasn't even really a contender in my opinion.

With my recent snafu involving trying to get a stable Windows 8 machine running under VMWare Workstation 9, I decided to give VirtualBox a try since it's free. I didn't have anything to lose at that point.

Now I have a stable, 64 bit install of Windows 8, and the performance is superb. It didn't do much for me the last time I tried it, but now I'm really impressed. I am running Visual Studio 2010 and 2012 as well as some basic software like Office 2010, and everything runs smooth as silk. VMWare Workstation 9 has been giving me some grief lately with my Windows 7 machines too, so I'm strongly considering moving to VirtualBox for all my development.

VirtualBox with Windows 8: Start Screen
Not a big fan of Metro, but it works fine under VBox
VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox main window
VirtualBox main window - you can see VM info at a glance
VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox Media Manager
It has a nice media manager - it shows all your hard drives and ISO files
VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox Guest OS Settings
Guest settings are intuitive and on par with VMWare Workstation

VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox Log Window
It has an extensive log


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rant: Patch Tuesday with Virtual Machines

It took me a while to figure out why my work computer was so slow on Wednesdays. With a six core system and lots of RAM, I pretty much got used to my computer always being fast. Then I started using Virtual Machines to do my development work, and it's been a challenge ever since.

One thing I noticed was that my computer ran a little slowly on Wednesdays. It took a while for it to dawn on me that with the host computer patching at the same time all the VMs are patching, Wednesdays are not going to be very fun. Sometimes when I remember, I'll shut some of them down before they patch and let them patch staggered at a time of my choosing.

Today, I forgot to make them patch staggered, so I'm just letting them all finish. Hah, maybe next Tuesday night I will remember!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle
When my sister invited me on this trip, the main tourist draw for me was for King Tut, which, don't get me wrong, was completely awesome.

Before this trip, I had never even heard of Chihuly Gardens, but there I was after King Tut, standing right there next to it. So, we took the tour. Wow! It has to be one of the most amazing things I've ever seen - much better than King Tut.

I managed to get a whole bunch of pictures, with the ones I am posting here whittled down from the big set I took. But the pictures don't do it justice. It's worth spending the 20 bucks and seeing it for yourself!


Gallery


Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle
Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in SeattleChihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle


Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle


Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle
News helicopter landed as I was taking pictures

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle