Pogo games; PC issues at work

So it seems that I am letting silly little games get in the way of my (supposedly) daily rant again. The game that I have been playing at some length recently is a a new Pogo.com game called Canasta. It is, I understand, a game that little old ladies have been playing for a long time, as my mother says that her mother used to play it, but with actual cards as opposed to a monitor and a mouse. The game is laden with weird rules (some of which are listed on that page are not totally accurate to the pogo version I am playing), but then most card games are, aren’t they? The quickest way I can think to give you an idea of how the game works is to say that it is like Gin, only you play two full decks -with wildcards.

I have been using the ‘Practice with Robots’ option on the game while I have been learning the rules. I am getting pretty good at smacking the crap out of the computer, but I am pretty sure that any woman over the age of sixty could hand me my ass, with a side order of mashed potatoes, if I actually tried to play agains another person.

If you have never played any games over there at Pogo, I really suggest you try a couple. Most of the games are free for play, though there will be a 45 second intermission every five minutes or so if you have not actually paid to become a ‘club pogo’ member. It is not all just card and board games either. It is either owned or sponsered by EA, and as such has some of their golf, basketball, football and such simulations there. There are also a couple of racing games, trivia, sports trivia, hell there are a lot of little games over there and you will certainly find one to your liking. Some of the games do require that you have a subscription to the service, I am not sure if Canasta is one of them, but I already have a subscription so play it I shall.

When Pogo first announced their subscritption service I thought I would just go ahead and quit playing their games entirely. In fact, there was a period of almost a year where neither myself or my wife really played many games there. I think the reason that I ended up paying for the subscription was that they had upgraded their old game ‘Word Whomp’ with one called ‘Word Whomp Whackdown’, but it was subscription only. Someone in one of the rooms gave me a 3 day guest pass, which gives you subscriber status for a few days, and I found that many other of the games were worth playing as well. With an annual membership fee of $29.00 U.S., it seemed silly not to do it.

For less than the price I paid for ‘Hoyle card games’ some years ago, I got the whole site, every game, multiplayer when necessary or possible at no extra cost. Of course there aren’t a lot of people out there who would admit to being ‘Cribbage dorks’, but cribbage would have actually cost me money per month through other sites and, though it is one of the free ones through Pogo, has a really nifty rating system and chat room and stuff.

Dear Random Fluctuations of Time and Space, I am starting to sound like a 3am infomercial for POGO.

• On to the crap about the computer problems at work!

Well, the little thingy that was broken has been fixed. It turns out that the little thingy was not the problem though. Tom, the guy who fixed the part for us in the first place, came over today to assist me in checking the wire from the pc to the register. By “assist” I mean that he had the tester and I didn’t and that was the next thing that we checked. The signal went through perfectly, thus the entire 120 feet of line was good, as well as the connectors. At this point I was pretty sure that the problem was in the circuit board in the register but, to be sure, we checked the rest of the variables as well.

Using a separate device through the communications port on the back of the pc, we were able to say, without a doubt, that it worked. The only other pc-based problem that would even be possible would be that the db-25 to db-9 convertor was not functioning correctly. Since we actually had a spare laying around, we tried it out with the other one. I don’t know what the odds are on one burning out while connected to the pc, while the other simultaneously blows out while sitting in a box, but I would say that those odds are pretty low.

At this point, Tom didn’t really have any new ideas. I checked a couple of other things after he left. First, I plugged the archaic db-25 to db-9 convertor into our hand-held system to make sure it would upload, which it did. I then used that same cable to plug the rj-45 from the register into the pc…Nothing…I even tried swapping the register interface to the other serial port, still nothing. At this point I know that the cable is good, I know that the pc port works, I know that the cables in the back room all work, what is left? It has to be the board in the register itself.

There has been an NEC technician down here to look at some problems we have been having with the registers over the last few days, he mentioned that there may be a problem with the main circuit board of the cash register that is making it so that the scanned items do not actually ring up on the register. He also mentioned that these were the oldest registers in the area, and while they are only eight or so years old, I guess that is kind of right. The fact that they are several years old should not keep them from functioning though. Sure you can get a new pc for 500, but when you are looking for a cash register, with a scale and scanner, go ahead and add a zero to that number. If the crap product that a company sells can not even perform the tasks for which it was purchased, for at least ten years or so, then the merchandise is just crap…Hell, they had been using the previous registers since the early ’70’s, and they still work perfectly!

Perhaps the store is going to start looking a lot more like an Old-West mercantile in the future, there is no way that the owners are going to pour a lot more money into technology that they don’t understand, especially when the out-of-pocket cost of the repairs is rapidly approaching the out-of-pocket for the purchase in the first place.

I know that no electronic device can go on forever without a bit of help. But when you have an old register still plugged in up front, and another in the storage room, that have both been going strong for thirty-some years, while the ones you bought in the late ’90’s are crapping out less than ten years later…I guess it is true of everything when they say, “Well, they just don’t build them like they used to.”

Every single circuit that you add to a system is going to make it both weaker and more likely to break. A Cash Register is something that really needs to be built pretty solidly, since it is going to get hammered on by everyone from here to Jesus and back. When the nerd shows up to say that, yes, the power surge a couple of weeks ago caused the problem, I am going to ask him why the 30 year old registers in the store can take that surge, while the much more expensive, newer, better, registers can not. I wonder what the response will be to that question….

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