Friday, January 28, 2005

Monitor Replacement

I had to buy a new computer monitor. My three and a half year old ViewSonic flat screen CRT died suddenly,  deciding to display only a three inch high section of the screen. I had warranty work done a year ago for another problem, so it didn't seem worth the trouble to pay to have it fixed now that it is out of warranty. My first monitor lasted six years. I'm bummed that the ViewSonic didn't make four.

Shopping for a new one was a frustrating experience. It seems standard Cathode Ray Tubes are no longer in vogue. They lack the "cool factor" of the new flat screen LCDs, even though the newer technology costs three times as much.

Besides costing more, LCDs are overrated in many ways. They are still a youthful technology, while the good old CRT has been finely perfected over the course of 60 some years. LCDs don't display as many colors as a CRT, which is important for photo editing. Moreover, LCDs still look like you're viewing through a fine mesh screen door. A tiny grid pattern is always visible. They're not ready for me.

Unfortunately, cool sells and older technology doesn't. The available CRT selection this time around was severely limited. Making matters worse, the only stores that stocked more than one brand, Office Depot and Circuit City, have become less than helpful in their customer service. Circuit City is especially horrific in the customer service department. The place is now run by kids who don't know the first thing about service. Office Depot is a little better, but not much. When I inquired why one monitor looked better than another I was given some song and dance about how the refresh rate had to be dumbed down because too many monitors were being run off of one computer. Hell, if they're not going to make the effort to display the product properly, why do it at all?

I finally bought one at Monterey Computer Works in Seaside, the only place where I could get someone to talk to me with respect in sensible English. They only had one brand of CRT, made by another acronym, CTX. It wasn't a flat screen, but the brand seems to be highly rated. It is a nice monitor, giving a good half inch more display area (16.5"") than my old ViewSonic (16").

So I'm back in business.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tsunami Warnings

We've all seen the horrible news showing the Indian Ocean tsunami damage. I made my contribution to the Red Cross, and I hope you have too.

Now, I have a question about this that's been bugging me for two weeks now. They say the Indian Ocean, unlike the Pacific Ocean, does not have a formal tsunami warning system, and that's why nobody was prepared.

That sounds like a cop out to me. It is common knowledge among scientists that a large earthquake in the ocean will almost certainly create a tsunami. Warning system or not, the earthquake was detected by scientists in the region, and its offshore location determined fairly quickly. Did none of these scientists consider that a tsunami might follow? Did they try to contact the authorities? They didn't need a formal tsunami warning system to get the word out. All they needed to do was contact radio and TV stations, and direct local police to warn people away from the beaches.

Back in the mid '60s, long before the Pacific Ocean had a warning system, my family was having a picnic at Stewart's Cove with some friends. A California State Parks ranger came by to evacuate the beach because a "tidal wave," as tsunamis were then called, was anticipated. My sister and her friend heard the message first, as they had walked to the Carmel River Beach parking lot where the ranger made the first announcement. I still remember seeing them running back with panic in their eyes shouting "There's a tidal wave coming!"

Of all the countries that were hit last month, why didn't authorities in even one of them make the connection between the earthquake and the potential for a tsunami? I've only seen one news organization attempt to answer this question, MSNBC spend a fair amount of time asking it last week, but no satisfactory answers were forthcoming. Another report indicated that Thailand's official policy was to issue a tsunami warning whenever there was an offshore earthquake exceeding 8.0. But for some reason, they didn't implement their own policy.

By the way, the tidal wave we were warned about at Carmel River Beach never materialized. But at least we were ready in case it did. In the last 20 years, I have heard two more similar warnings, neither of which amounted to anything, though I think one did raise local ocean levels a couple feet for a brief time.