dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
The WinTen We're Taking Over Your Computer Whether You Like It Or Not campaign by Microsoft continues, unabated.

I thought I had posted these Important Messages Upon Bootup back on 14 and 18 October, but I guess I hadn't. This first one is based on the theory that 110,000,000 people who don't know how to say NO, NOT YET, can't be wrong:

But only Millions love Windows 10? That's what, a few percent of the 110,000,000 who upgraded?

Microsoft also increased the threats, by announcing that (a) Windows 10 will be rolled into the Recommended Windows Update lists and (b) Windows 10 will become a Required Windows Update at some point. Wait -- how the hell can you reconcile a Required update with still providing support for Windows 7 and 8 and 8.1 up to their Drop Dead Dates?

Then there's today missive:

Am I the only one who's thinking of the movie Scrooged and the network's tag line, "Yule Love It!" ?

And more to the point, given it's mighty decline in recent years, from James Earl Jones "This is CNN" and the "You Give Us Half an Hour, We'll Give You the World" of Headline News -- is anyone seriously thinking that CNN is a good recommendation for ANYTHING, including which operating system you're running?

This ad campaign by Microsoft is so lame, no wonder it's running in little blue boxes on my computer desktop. They couldn't even find a bad ad agency to run these in print/TV/cable/media anywhere. Microsoft, you are still not inspiring confidence in this upgrade. (Although to be fair, the TV spots are pretty lame, too. Microsoft just can't run ads which tell you what the fuck they do. Instead, they talk about children born today into the blessed light of Windows 10 and love and happiness. Does ANYONE think that a child born today will be using Windows 10 when they're five years old in 2020? Ten in 2025? Fifteen in 2030? Windows 10 MIGHT settle down into a great product, I don't know, but I don't think it's the Microsoft version of Men In Black's "The last suit you'll ever own.")

As I have said before, I am not totally opposed to the concept of Windows 10. But the messages have been very bullying and I know some people who've had some real software and driver issues after upgrading to Windows 10 -- and the promised version rollback to their last working Windows system FAILED. That does not inspire confidence either.

I have a lot of legacy software and legacy files I need to use to get my work done. The upgrades from PC DOS (2.10/3.1/3.21/3.30/5.00/2000) to Windows 95/98SE/NT4 to 98Me/2000 to Vista/XP/7/8.x already have cost me access to some of the programs I use and make it difficult sometimes to read older files. After a year of struggling, I am happy enough with Word 2010 under Windows 7 -- I currently hate Word 2013 and have no experience with Office 365, though as I pointed out the other day (DW) (LJ), that one I am going to probably have to eat in 2016 as the University decides to sell its soul to Outlook.

Someday I'll probably buy a clean native Windows 10 machine -- but I don't want to waste my valuable time to run an upgrade to WinTen just because Microsoft says so. Not until WinTen gets some Service Packs under its belt. That's been my rules going way back to Windows NT 4 Workstation. Me and a whole lot of IT professionals.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
When I shut down ZEPPELIN at home Tuesday night, there were five updates to Windows 7. So I knew it would have to do some updating when it booted Wednesday evening. Applied 3912 updates, not all that many, considering how long it was updating the downloads last night.

And then you get to boot and Windows pauses to Configure your updates -- and then you get to go to work. Right? Isn't that why you paid money for a computer? To do work? And not just update some company's software?


ZEPPELIN was being really pokey, which happens because you have no good way of telling what the Sam Hell is going on in the background tasks. I had planned to post the Quiz 6 solutions for both classes this afternoon, but as I wrote, I deferred doing anything serious while OUEST was on battery (DW) (LJ) due to the power issues at work.

I had to create two JPEGs from screenshots for the PHYS-1070 Quiz 6 and a PDF for the PHYS-2070 Quiz 6 -- all of this complicated by having to work in both Windows 7 and editing my webpages in Windows NT4 in a virtual machine. This involves having a lot of windows open: Word, Acrobat Reader DC, Paint, Notepad, VirtualBox plus HoTMetaL Pro 4.0 and Ulead PhotoImpact 3.02 in NT4.

The virtual machine crashed when I booted it and I had to try again. Just as I was starting to do my file transfers between Windows 7 and Windows NT4 sessions, I realized there was another icon on the Taskbar below.

Turns out Windows 7 wanted to reboot to finish installing the updates and was running a counter down to forcing a reboot. This in a window WHICH WAS BEHIND EVERYTHING ELSE.

Now I've dealt with this crap before. Basically, it does the eager dog/pestering child routine -- Can we reboot now? Can we reboot now? Can we reboot now? And I swear it is doing this at 85% of the total billions of clock cycles, so drags the whole system down to where, not only does it not work very well, it won't even recognize for a while that you click the Postpone button Microsoft thoughtfully provided. Which, by the way, only restarts this hidden window and its insidious countdown to reboot doom, and polling for permission to reboot NOW, it slows the system down...

So Microsoft fails at coming up with a priority pop-up window for its very own operating system.

But really, it's worse.

Why the HELL did you wait twenty minutes, to where I was knee deep in open windows and doing a bunch of complex procedures, before deciding to let me know you trying to hold it in your pants you needed to reboot so hard?

Microsoft, here's a clue. Windows is YOUR fucking operating system. I think you know how to do a reboot. If this update REALLY needed to have a reboot, you could have built it into the update before I even logged into the computer. After all these years, you should know how to reboot Windows 7.

I'm sure they'd answer that this would delay the startup and... and... and... nothing, guys. Because when I did do the Restart, after interrupting my work and closing NT4 and all the other windows, there was an excruciatingly long Configuring Updates... 28%... 29%... pause... pause... pause... 30%... This was going to take a while.

FINALLY, I got my machine back and sat through more configuring and all. No doubt this was all updates related to something stupid, like future updating to Windows 10 or something else I don't need Right Now.

Man, somedays you gotta wonder if anyone in Redmond has every actually used a computer...

Dr. Phil

UPDATE: To add insult to injury, at 25:10 EDT, when I shut down ZEPPELIN, I saw the little yellow update shield next to Shutdown and sure enough, Update 1 of 1. How much you want to bet it's supposed some they fucked up yesterday? (evil-grin)

UPDATE2: 10-15-2015 Th 09:46 EDT -- Oh, lookee at that... ZEPPELIN at home is Windows 7 Home Premium. OUEST at work is Windows 7 Enterprise edition. I knew when I shut down yesterday that it had loaded 8 Updates. Today when I booted, it Applied 34,361 updates... and then it rebooted. So somebody at Microsoft is smart enough to manage Updates better, but only for big IT customers. Screw the Home users.
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dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
Back on 17 August, when I wrote about Windows 10 (DW) (LJ), I meant to speculate that perhaps Microsoft would start stuffing the files onto your hard drive, whether you wanted them to or not. I'd already assumed this as a possibility.

Thanks to Steve Buchheit, for finding this article from Ars Technica which says, YES, this is actually happening.
Microsoft is downloading Windows 10 to PCs, even if you don’t “reserve” a copy
Files of up to 6GB in size showing up in a hidden directory.
Worse, from the article it suggests that this Microsoft update KB3035583 repeatedly tries to install. The update page, "Update installs Get Windows 10 app in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1", is pretty much unintelligible gobbledygook.

Duh, duh, DUH-HHH. Windows 10 is coming for you. You cannot resist us...

So... let's recap.

You choose not to upgrade to Windows 10 now. Microsoft goes ahead and downloads 6GB of files onto your HDD. And keeps trying.

What could possibly go wrong?

My objections are three-fold. One, I am tired of any and all manufacturers thinking that my HDD real estate is there's to play with without asking. Two, given compatibility issues with devices and software, to say nothing of workflow, the $64,000 horror scenario is Windows deciding to upgrade you to WinTen against your will. Three, 6GB is a LOT of disk. But it is even MORE download bandwidth.

Periodically we find that our web access crawls. Often on the Kindle Fires, it ends up being software updates being pushed by Whispernet -- the only reason we know they happen is that either an icon shows up in the beginning of the carousel that we haven't used in a while, or the program launches from scratch when you select it, or Norton reports that So-and-so Is Clean in the Activity Log.

But downloading 6GB over DSL is wasting a lot of my bandwidth. Worse, if I was on the road and using haiku, our Verizon WiFi hot spot, 6GB exceeds the amount of bandwidth we usually buy in the pay-as-you-go package.

It's MY damned computer, it's MY damned hard drive and it's MY damned bandwidth. If Microsoft wants to buy me resources, then they can download all they want. But otherwise, you fuckers, ASK!

I swear, the manufacturers think we buy computers just to install their updates. They don't think we ever have WORK to do.

(The only silver lining is that I don't have to worry about this at work -- this doesn't apply to Enterprise editions of Windows 7/8/8.1)

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
I've made it through my first week of teaching this semester.

Well, almost. I still have to drive home today -- and fight my way through the outskirts of Bronco Bash, the annual campus party to start the new year. And it wasn't a full week, since Labor Day -- was that only Monday? -- was not a teaching day.

I'm tired and I hurt. The tiredness comes from having to get out of the schedule I've had mostly since Christmas and the hurt comes from going up and down the lecture halls twice a day -- the single hardest thing I have to do each day. I'd say I was out of shape, but considering my goal was to keep off my foot for most of 2015, that's a little hard to avoid. (grin)

But I've taught all my classes. Got my syllabi out. Assigned to Topic 1 Science Literacy Book Report. Those are the two big two-sided copying jobs for the semester. Used my new Virtual-NT4 workflow to update the class webpages successfully from both ZEPPELIN and OUEST. Notepad doesn't quite work the same way in both Windows NT4 and Windows 7, but I can work around that as long as I know what machine I'm on.

Today I realized I had never installed MathType on OUEST -- that's the full version of the Equation Editor embedded in Microsoft Word. But I was able to find the email from Design Science with the Product Key and downloaded Version 6.9a and got it installed. Nice company, and considering I bought that version on 24 March 2013, nice that the download and codes still work two-and-a-half years later. Other software houses could emulate this. Now I can edit/display equations properly in Word 2013.

Only real workflow annoyance is that I currently don't have the full version of Adobe Acrobat on the Win7 machines, so I can't make 2-up PDFs right now. At least Word 2013 makes a passable Save As PDF file out of the box.

Gas prices are still dropping. In Allendale: Tuesday $2.33.9/gal (except $2.25.9 at Admiral). Wednesday $2.25.9/gal. Thursday $2.24.9. Friday $2.23.9. But in Kalamazoo: Tuesday $2.09.9/gal. Friday $2.05.9/gal.

Go figure.

Benchmark crude oil is around $40/bbl. "They" say that it will be driven down to $20/bbl. An industry "expert" also said on the radio this week that we were "lucky" in the aftermath of the BP Whiting IN shutdown, that gas "only" went up 60¢/gal and not the 90¢/gal it "should have". This was attributed to the snit between Marathon and BP -- and that gas prices fall back down slower than they shoot up, allowing them to "recoup their losses". Ri-ight...

They talked about rain in the middle of the day for K-zoo, and in fact the sidewalks were wet as I went to my 10am and 1pm classes. But the sun just now came out (14:53 EDT), so hopefully I'll be able to pack it up, get out of here and go find out what the packet is that needs my signature at the Post Office in Allendale. My guess, is that it is the sixth Nikon 52mm LC-52 lens cap. I've needed at least six of them to update my old NIKKOR lenses with the new style center-pinch lens caps which go on and off, and stay on, much better than the old ones. They're only $5 plus free shipping on eBay from a retailer in Japan, but you can only order one at a time and wait ten days between orders. Guess this is so he's not stocking someone's store. (grin)

Dr. Phil
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Win Ten

Monday, 17 August 2015 16:36
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
So, it's the summer of 2015 and Microsoft Windows 10 is upon us.

It will take time to determine if this Win Ten is a good witch or a bad witch. Redmond's track record is not particularly stellar on upgraded OSes. Windows 2000, for example, shipped with what, 50,000 known bugs? NT4 shipped without a working ability for a user to change a password. So if you think I would use the initial release of Win Ten -- you're crazy.

BTW, I'm jokingly calling it Win Ten, because Windows naming conventions have been so varied -- 95, 98SE, Me, NT, 2000, XP, 7, 8.1 -- and not only did they skip Windows 9, the competition went to Roman numbers with OS X.

There's no question that Microsoft needs a clean new operating system. Windows 8 was a stupid attempt to turn real computers into tablets and phones. We didn't ask for that. Windows 8.1 has improved operability, or so I am told. I wouldn't touch with gloves on. But which features? And what stuff will run on it?

I've already had to deal with dropping 16-bit and MS-DOS legacy support by Windows XP -- and Windows 7 doesn't run a lot of legacy software I could still make work in Windows XP. It's not a matter of me being cheap and not buying new versions of software. It's that some of my software HAS no new versions. And others, no longer work in the way I need them to.

As noted here (DW) (LJ), I have just resurrected NT4SP6a on two machines using Oracle's free VirtualBox virtual machine system in order to support legacy software. NT4 forever!

File format creep. Software version creep. OS version creep. Just stop it, dammit!


Wednesday 6 June 2015 00:12 EDT, a new icon appears on the right side of my System Tray. It looks like a four-panel window in perspective. "Get Windows 10" it said. Free upgrade from Windows 7 Home Premium. Hmm...

Actually, it's rather nice of Microsoft to actually offer a free upgrade. They're always complaining about having to support older OSes after they release a new one. Trying to bounce all the Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users up to 10 sounds like a plan. Maybe Windows 10 learned from Mac OS X. (evil-grin)

And I guess they did a slow roll out. If you ordered the upgrade, you'd be told when it was available. Again, clever. Of course, I've heard mixed reviews of whether the status of Windows 10 drivers and program support works.

I will never understand the thinking that when you get a new machine or new OS, you would just throw away 20 to 30 years of work and act as if that never happened. The real world doesn't work that way. My complaint for a LONG time is that I don't think the people designing and testing these things actually expect people to USE computers. Seems to me a lot of the computer business thinks that I own a PC simply to run Windows Update, Norton Live Update and install new versions of Adobe Flash. Urgh?

Then, with the release of Microsoft Windows 10, there's the issue of advertising. I swear, cell phones and Microsoft -- they don't seem to know how to sell these things. I mean, think of it. Most cell phone ads talk about very useless things and most of them never even talk about using the damned things as a phone. Their rationale for owning a smart phone is pretty darn vapid. It's made worse because ads for non cell phone products, but use cell phones, are equally clueless. Consider the current Eggo waffles commercial with the whole family sitting around the table texting "leggo my eggo".

So... the Win Ten ads? Yeah, the baby ads. They show a bunch of babies and claim that they'll grow up and not have to know about passwords and they'll be able to draw stuff on the screen. Great. You think Win Ten's login procedure is going to rid the world of passwords? Good luck with that. And making cheesy crayon mods of nice sharp pictures, ooh, how classy. Besides, think of it. How long does a typical Windows OS version last? Do you REALLY think these babies will be using Win Ten by the time they're teenagers? I don't think so.

This is NOT the Men In Black Last Operating System You'll Ever Need.

And then there's this:

Not content with the little System Tray icon in my Windows 7 Home Premium, we now get a Win Ten Upgrade pop up box. Get Now! Limited Time!

One -- I have heard that the free upgrade will run for a year after the Win Ten release. So, no panic. Plenty of time for Win Ten Service Pack 1 to get shipped and companies to improve the drivers situation.

Two -- I can even live with the pop up popping up at login. But... on the night August 14th, in one session, I had to kill the little blue fucker SEVEN times.

That is abusive.

And it doesn't endear me to you, Redmond.

Grow up. And figure out how to make a good OS, keep it up to date, keep it secure and How To Market It.

I'll give you time. I'm not going anywhere. And I'm still using XP and 7 -- plus NT4.

Dr. Phil

UPDATE 8/26/15 W: And then, of course, there's this from WMU's OIT:
The Office of Information Technology recommends that faculty and staff not upgrade to Windows 10 at this time. Any time a new operating system comes out, there is a fair amount of testing that has to occur to ensure that the upgrade will work with Banner and other enterprise systems. This testing is occurring, and an announcement will be made when it is concluded and upgrades may occur.

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dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
I am an ornery bastard at times, I admit it.

I have an idea of how the world should work and object strenuously when things change, especially when for no good reason. Hence my complaints regarding updates and deliberately breaking things between versions.

When I first started doing web pages at Western, I used Netscape Communicator's semi-WYSIWIG composer. But then I was probably at the long defunct Computer City in Grand Rapids and decided to pick up a copy of HoTMetaL Pro 4.0. It came with Ulead PhotoImpact SE 3.02, a great photo editing suite -- since bought up and extended by Corel as PaintShop Pro ***. Worked great on Windows 95/98SE/Me/NT4. When Computer City went out of business, I bought a copy of HoTMetal Pro 5.0, which I think came with PhotoImpact 4.01. Later I bought some copies of PhotoImpact 5.0 when they were offered for cheap at CompUSA in just a jewel case distribution.

The 5.0/5.0 double team of HoTMetaL Pro and Ulead PhotoImpact has served me well for years. And they installed cleanly on Windows XP Pro.

Alas, entropy reared its ugly head and over a year ago WINTER, my office Fujitsu Windows XP Pro compact tablet, stopped booting. I had brought in LARA, my HP netbook with Windows XP Home SP3 -- but in a variety of upheavals of things, and including my limitations in movements -- I couldn't find the 5.0/5.0 install CDs. KATSUMI, my Sony S270P Windows XP Pro machine at home also died, which left me with just SUMMER, the tiny Fujitsu Windows XP Pro UMPC, which had the software, and ZEPPELIN, Wendy's Windows 7 Home Premium Toshiba, which did not. I had tried a few other web packages, but they didn't work right for me.

And I wasn't alone. Many people lamented the loss of HoTMetaL Pro, which had gotten up to Version 6.0, been bought up by Corel, cast off, and then died. A lot of HoTMetaL Pro users haven't found a replacement. But... there were webpages that talked about how 6.0 could be made to work in both Windows 7 and 8.

To eBay! Ugh. No one has copies of 6.0 for sale. Well, there's one auction that's been sitting for over a year. A complete set of all the Borland development tools, which includes a copy of 6.0, for $495. Uh, no.

I did find a copy of HoTMetaL Pro 3.0 for a few bucks, which said it was for Windows NT. Remarkably, it did work on LARA under Win XP. But the webpages sometimes got glitched, since we were two versions back. Not ideal. And it wouldn't install under Windows 7.

Back to research. What I needed was a virtual machine and install an older version of Windows. I settled on Oracle VM VirtualBox 5.0.0, which is free, and Windows NT 4.0, which I have a bunch of installation CDs. And eBay coughed up a complete copy of HoTMetaL Pro 4.0 with Ulead PhotoImpact SE 3.02.

It took some real effort to get it work. Despite all the compatibility notes in VirtualBox touting how it works with Windows NT 4.0 (be sure to get Service Pack 6a!), there were troubles. There is supposed to be a way to use file sharing to transfer files to and from the virtual NT machine. But I'd never had to set up a file sharing network in the NT era, so it was a lot of trial and error. And it still didn't work. Finally, a Google search revealed that actually, Windows NT 4 doesn't work right with VirtualBox's sharing -- and since it is such an old OS, they were closing the bug ticket as Not Going To Be Done.

Uh, guys. One of the whole reasons to USE a virtual machine is so you CAN RUN LEGACY SOFTWARE ON LEGACY OPERATING SYSTEMS.

Plus there was the whole trouble of how to get the Service Pack 6a file loaded. Enter the packrat -- I have a whole bunch of circa 1999 Maxell CD-R and CD-RW -- part of my Y2K stockpiles. After all the complaints about how the dyes weren't stable, I have to say that both the CD-R and CD-RW disks write and read just fine, thank you very. Sixteen years later.

And eventually I got the virtual NT4 machine to read them. Turns out the final straw was a pull down checkbox in the VirtualBox Manager to tell it what optical drive to let NT think it's connected to. Make that connection, and boom. Active CD-ROM input. That gets files in. How do they get them out?

This is where the King of Kluges title comes in. Because one of the pulldown options in the VB Manager is setting up the Clipboard to be Bidirectional. That's right. I can:

Open an HTML file in Window 7 Notepad, Ctrl-A/Ctrl-C, put the mouse cursor in the NT box, Ctrl-V paste into an open HoTMetaL Pro 4.0 document. Edit it. And go into HTML mode, Ctrl-A/Ctrl-C and reverse the process with Notepad. WordPad documents similar. And images? Windows 7 Paint is pretty good, actually. Open an image, Ctrl-A/Ctrl-C, then Ctrl-V paste into PhotoImpact. And vice versa.

It is, of course, a ridiculous process. But dammit, it's MY ridiculous process. And it works.

So I'm setup so far on ZEPPELIN at home and OUEST, the university's Windows 7 Enterprise laptop at work. Total cost, besides a couple of days of kluging, was about $11 for the copy of HoTMetaL Pro 4.0, with shipping. Go eBay.

Still don't know where all those install disks are. But hey, I am back in business.

Oh, and in case you care, and you don't, but the Windows NT 4.0 SP6a virtual machines are called WEST on OUEST, and NORTH on ZEPPELIN. I'll do a third install on KATNISS, the Asus Windows 7 Basic netbook, Real Soon Now.

Historical note for NT geeks -- Service Pack 6a for NT4 was so good, Microsoft actually canceled Service Pack 7 a year or two before they stopped NT4 support because there wasn't anything sufficient to fix. Meanwhile, Windows 7 is still doing 25,000 updates every couple of weeks...

Ah, the good old days.

(Of course this afternoon, the files I Saved in Win 7 Notepad weren't actually showing up -- breaking the whole process. Come on, guys, Notepad is a pretty low level program. A Restart of Windows 7 solved the problem. Grr...)

Dr. Phil

*** -- Yeah, and I use Corel PaintShop Pro X5 on ZEPPELIN. And haven't upgraded it either. New versions. Who needs 'em?

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dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
Ah, the law of unintended computers...

So before the university got me OUEST at work, my main machine last fall was LARA, an HP 1030NR netbook running Windows XP Home Edition Version 2002 Service Pack 3. I brought it home after the Fall semester, since I would be using OUEST at the office. The last day I used LARA was 14 December 2014.

One thing I knew I'd have to do when I brought LARA out was to install Norton Security. It had Symantec Endpoint Protection -- the free university's version of Norton Anti-Virus. But ZoneAlarm, whose basic firewall I have been using since about 1996 when I got my first Pentium class Windows 95/NT machine, was dropping updates to Windows XP. So rather than enable the Windows XP firewall, if I installed Norton Security, it came with a firewall. Of course NS requires XP Service Pack 3 minimum -- but that's covered, so I'm good. LARA is the only XP machine I bought which came with SP3 out of the box.

But... LARA has a 16GB SSD solid-state hard drive. Strange to say that 16GB isn't enough to run a machine, when I had all my work on a 4GB special HP USB drive that fits in a special deep socket port contoured into the case and backed up on an 8GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card. But there you go. I know that I had something like 240MB free. Since NS would need about 200MB to install, I knew this probably wouldn't work. Which is why I hadn't done this earlier.

Actually I tried to update KATNISS, the Asus Windows 7 Basic netbook the other week, and it complained it couldn't find the WiFi and I didn't have time to farble with it and used my Kindle Fire HD to do my PowerPoint at the MIAAPT meeting in April. LARA has a nicer keyboard for typing on than KATNISS anyway.

So... the order of things was important. First I copied GIMP 2.8, the Open Source graphics package, from C: to G:, the SD card. That freed up 500MB of space. Then I uninstalled Symantec Endpoint Protection -- that freed up a total of 2.4GB of space! I guess SEP was saving and not cleaning up all its update downloads. I mean, why should a program clean up after itself when "everyone" has terabyte hard drives now. Right? Grrr. After that, installing NS as the 3 of 5 download I bought in December was a piece of cake. Of course I've let Windows XP keep a fairly tight rein on things, so rather than just let it go I decided to start one of my summer reading projects and got out the first volume in the Maze Runner series, and kept allowing Norton to have permission to reach in and tweak things in the bowels of the computer. (Which reminds me -- runs off to disable Automatic LiveUpdates in NS. For a machine that I tend to use remotely, the last thing I need is it burning up limited bandwidth at whim, especially if I'm using the pay-as-you-go WiFi hotspot. Which I'm not.)

Then uninstall ZoneAlarm. ZA seemed shocked that I was uninstalling -- was it because there was a problem? Did I want to download a fresh new version? No, cause you don't have one for my computer, unless you changed your mind from December -- too late now. And then it begged to give them another chance. Nope. Gone. NS wants to know what to do about the Windows firewall. I told it to fuck it, use its own.

Ran LiveUpdate and everything's green. Well, there's a red NO REPORT notice under Last Scan, so to stall off a NS hissy fit, I told it to do a full system scan, which shouldn't take too long on a 16GB SSD drive, and then Shut Down. Went and had lunch. Watched the end of Gangs of New York on USA. A little music -- right, sound was turned on, since I was using Amazon Music Player at work. LARA was shutting down. Fine. All good.

That was Tuesday during the day. That night I did a filecopy backup of SUMMER onto a 128GB USB drive. Then dumped that backup onto ZEPPELIN. As a holdover of having small drive partitions in the old days -- and the fact it is much easier to have multiple drive letters for keeping work sorted -- I started a straight xcopy . c: /s/D filecopy... but it was going to take time to dump drive C: from SUMMER and I don't need the system and software backups. So I killed it and copied files one drive letter at a time. D: E: F: G: H: I: J: K: (no L:) M: ...

Insufficient Memory.

WTF? Huh? Now, realize that I am using an MS-DOS box on Windows 7 Home Premium on ZEPPELIN, and since they don't care about DOS anymore, I know most MS-DOS error messages are misleading. Was it suspicious that it broke after transferring exactly 8999 files? Maybe it was complaining about actual memory. ZEPPELIN has either 2GB or 4GB. But I was playing Solitaire and had Amazon Music Player running in the background. The latter has a bad habit of downloading updates at random. So I killed those and restarted.

Insufficient Memory.

Reboot. Insufficient Memory. So I cobble up a new batchfile, PIECEMEAL.BAT, so I could do these things directory by directory, starting with where I left off. Insufficient Memory. Next directories? No problem. N:? No problem.

Back to M: and let's see what the problem was. The problem directory had transferred 780 of 788 files. Everything else in the backup transferred. But... When I surf the web I do a lot of right-click saves, so I can look at things later. And some of these outfits have outlandish file names like 734547_10154001481240405_8476921583871495048_n.jpg. Sometimes really long. And because of nesting subdirectories being stored deeper on the USB drive than on the original hard drive under Windows XP, I think those 8 really long filenames crapped out Windows 7. I know that there is a different filename length limit in DOS root directories than subdirectories -- go figure. Fine, I'll go in and shorten them someday. They're not critical. The important stuff got all copied.

In the middle of this, I kept on getting DIRE RED WARNINGS from Norton Security about something evil it had found. Turns out it was a piece of the old ZoneAlarm firewall installer and was present because my SUMMER backup is a file-by-file, so it had stuff that had been replaced on SUMMER but not deleted on the backup. The danger was listed as LOW, but it really, really, REALLY wanted to do something to those files. Basically, Norton and ZoneAlarm have never gotten along. Whenever I got a new version of Norton Anti-Virus I always waited for it to be out for a few weeks and then got a new version of ZoneAlarm, so the machine wouldn't crash. I am sure this was a modern example of the old Microsoft "DOS ain't done until Lotus don't run" version upgrade mentality. Alas, poor ZoneAlarm. Norton has ended up winning this round... I cannot WAIT until next fall when I get to find out if Norton Security will continue to support Windows XP SP3... Sigh.

Delete both Checkpoint/ZoneAlarm directory trees and move on...

Next up. I've been editing my photos mainly on SUMMER, so that backup had the JPGs from my digital Nikons. I put the newest files from the NIKON3 directory onto F:, the 16GB microSD card I use for backups on ZEPPELIN. Then I copied the whole card to C:. Pull out the shiny new 32GB SanDisk microSD card (they cost like $14 on Amazon Prime), stick it into ZEPPELIN and...

xcopy . F: /s/D/h fails. Cannot create directory. Now what? I know that Windows 7 is real pissy about letting you create files in the root directory C:\, but F:? Eventually I realized that xcopy *.* F: /s/D/h worked. Sigh. I think the Windows 7 MS-DOS box coding couldn't find a . directory in the root F:\ to copy to. I've done this for years, folks. The kids today keep trying to "fix" stuff that ain't broken, because they don't know how real computers work.

Great, I have more backup room on ZEPPELIN, just like I have a bigger working microSD card drive on OUEST at work. Pack up the old 16GB microSD card with LARA, so Wednesday night I'll have all the latest files and twice the storage space on G:.

And when I get LARA out again in the field... Windows XP can't find G:. Oh, it shows up under My Computer, but the Properties says that G: has 0 length. Great. I can never keep track of the ranges of card sizes that work in various generation units. LARA is just old enough that an 8GB SD card works, but not a 16GB. (Just like my ancient obsolete Nikon DSLRs will only use up to a 2GB CF card.) Fortunately the important work files are all backed up on the Swiss Army Memory, so they got put on that way.

Which once again proves Pournelle's Law -- nothing is truly backed up unless it is on two different media (in two different places). Never assume one backup is going to work or can be read by any one specific device.

Oh, and my spare white extension cord with three outlets I pack in my travel kit? The one I need because most hotel rooms generously give you one whole outlet on a lamp in 2015? Yeah, the charger for LARA has been a pain from the start. Completely overbuilt, needs a three-prong outlet. Had to get a special APC Mobile Surge Protector, PNOTEPROC6, because all my other laptops from Sony, Fujitsu and Toshiba can use the two-prong PNOTEPROC4. Anyway, you guessed it. My cheap little white extension cord is two-prong. No room for cheating with the third prong and I don't have an adapter with me. So the extension cord got plugged in where the coffee maker was plugged in and LARA hogs the lamp outlet all by itself.

I keep sayin' it, and will freely admit that I do some things in an unorthodox manner by today's standards, but I think one of the reasons why people buy new computers is that the error messages aren't helpful and no one knows what they do mean. So people either continue on using crippled equipment or buy something new to get around problems that are completely solvable. It's like you have to scrap your 2008 Toyota, because it can't use 2015 gasoline.

Not trying to be elitist here, but once again the question is... what do normal people do? How can they even use this crap?

Please note that all comments about how a Mac or Linux would smugly solve my problems do not show that I am an idiot, but rather your own ignorance -- so don't even bother.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
In music -- or writing -- sometimes you just go on a riff. Despite our devotion to recorded music, to the point where the definitive version is not whatever the band is playing now, but that one recording that you've listened to all your life, there is a whole world of other versions. And variations. The Grateful Dead allowed recordings of all their concerts, so you can listen a different Grateful Dead concert probably from now until forever, and Jerry Garcia died nearly ten years ago!

Many jazz standards were not, at the time, written down. Improvisation is a thing. Classical musicians have long taken one theme and produced countless variations. Variation is a thing.

It shouldn't be with computers.

Sometimes it has to do with technology. My copy of IBM PC-DOS 1.10, for example, doesn't know about hard drives or networks. Which made it perfect for booting up in a computer lab during the infancy of networked computers and early viruses. PC-DOS 1.00 felt "different" than 1.10, not only because it had different commands and subcommands, but 1.00 didn't even have COMMAND.COM so that certain functions like DATE and TIME were DATE.COM and TIME.COM programs, which had to be loaded every time.

Similarly with IBM PC-DOS 2.10 and MS-DOS 2.11, which were similar. PC-DOS 3.20 and 3.30 were variations. And PC-DOS 5.00. And early Windows 1.04, 2.03, 286 and 386.

The Windows 95 and NT 4.0 Professional era brought things closer -- but there were differences. If you wanted to open an MS-DOS box it was MS-DOS.EXE versus CMD.EXE. And the DOS subcommands are different between those. My numerous DOS batch files had to test for 95/98/SE/Me versus NT4/2000/XP. And now some of those NT-class batch files don't work right in Windows 7.

Same with all the variations of Microsoft Word and Office. I've railed about this before.

This essay, however, is about Windows 7. Sure, it's past its due date according to Microsoft. We're deep in sales of Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 is in beta testing -- as if they are seriously going to address even 30% of the things wrong with Windows 10 before it ships.

So this is old hat to most of you Windows users. Uncaring for those who just do a few things. Smirking contempt for those of you are/were Windows 7 whizzes.

OUEST, the Dell laptop I've been given at work, is technically my fourth Windows 7 machine. KATNISS is an Asus netbook running Windows 7 Stupid, er, I mean Windows 7 Basic. You can't even change the wallpaper. Really? ZEPPELIN is Wendy's Toshiba laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium. CAROUSEL is Wendy's desktop, which I haven't booted since Georgia -- I think it has Windows 7 Home Premium as well.

OUEST is running Windows 7 Enterprise Service Pack 1.

Yes, I know there are lots of technical reasons for all these versions, but Microsoft could have made those changes internal so that the user didn't have to know anything about it. Home and Professional, with a Server version for powering the back end properties. Instead there are an appalling number of versions.

That plus this is the only machine I have running Microsoft Office 2013 and there are a bunch of things which "don't quite work right" from my point of view. Yes, I have a tendency to do things in an unorthodox manner, but the bottom line is:

It shouldn't be so hard to get the machine into a familiar configuration so I can browse and type. Really?

The College of Arts Sciences owns this machine and so, like Windows 7 Basic, I am locked in with a BRIGHT WHITE SCREAMING wallpaper. Yuck. Without the Y. With another letter. As in, "what the ..." It took a while to get Word 2013 to have the background stick and stay with a light gray, instead of INTENSE SCREAMING WHITE. Whoever was the keyboard jockey setting the defaults is either blind, wears dark glasses at work, or is getting kickbacks from the university's health care providers of vision and epilepsy coverage.

Little niggling details. On KATNISS and ZEPPELIN I get readable icons in the Task Bar, and a two-line Time over DATE display. Handy to have both those bits of information. Have had that through many versions of Windows -- the old CLOCK program put the date into the tab in the Taskbar, too. On OUEST, the icons in the task bar were tiny -- and because they were small the pre-start icons for Firefox and Chrome were both tiny and widely spaced apart. And I only go the Time in the right hand corner. Oh sure, you can hover the mouse over the Time and get more info.

Surely there was an option to toggle to get Time AND Date? In an Enterprise Edition of Windows 7? Hmm? Alas, could not find anything. (What do you mean go and ASK someone? Are you crazy? That's no fun! Plus I should be able to figure this out -- ANY user should be able to figure this out -- that we can't tells us the problem is not about asking someone else a question. Plus-plus the Physics Dept. is filled with a bunch of people who either take Windows as they come or are Mac users.) I'm only coming to this issue late, because I stuck with Windows XP Professional SP2 on KATSUMI, WINTER, SUMMER and LARA for a very long time.

So yesterday, it occurred to me that maybe I was looking at this wrong. It wasn't a setting for the clock display in the Taskbar, it was the Taskbar itself.

Today on my once-a-week office visit I did a right-click on OUEST's Taskbar | Properties | (uncheck) Use Small Icons -- and voila! The Taskbar is now twice as high, the icons are readable -- and I get a two-line Time over Date display. Silly rabbit, you weren't looking to change the time display, you wanted to change icon size. Obvious. (rolls-eyes)

And look, in the old days you could grab the top of the Taskbar and yank it up to make for a second row of tabs if you had a lot of programs open. That didn't work either, and yes I unlocked the Taskbar first.

I have long complained that Microsoft's programmers have too little depth of knowledge -- no Institutional Memory, which is something I very strongly believe in for any large organization. They don't care, or don't know, how things were done one, two, five versions ago. They just wing it any old way now.

Corporations have learned they have to pay people to do IT training and whole companies are built on teaching people how to use Windows and Office and other programs. Never mind that some of these clients include slow-to-learn older folks who have been using computers for several computer generations and would really rather things got back to Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect 5.1.

So, it's a success. And yes, I added in the Additional Clocks so I can hover over the Time and Date to get the current time in Central Europe and Tokyo (DW) (LJ). Rather than have industrial images burned into all of the machines and complicated Windows Registry machinations, what users really would like would be a portable User Profile. But that's not needed, because We Know How You Should Set Up Your Machine.

And... There Is Nothing We Can Bother To Learn From The Past.

Uh-huh. And:
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana
We simply do not need so many useless variations. Not until we have A.I. computers smart enough to handle sixty-zillion different ways of asking for the same thing. And then, like Ex Machina (DW) (LJ), they may no longer be interested in our agendas, but their own.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Oh my, what a glorious day it was today. And I don't even mean that in some ironical or April Fools way. Wednesday was just one fine damn day.

Sunday we had some snow. Actually, as predicted, it snowed quite hard, with the temp dropping from the mid-40s down to around freezing. We'd had a good spring warm up, with temps into the 50s and all the snow on our yard had gone, except for some bits in the shadows of the trees. But by Sunday afternoon the driveway and then the weeds and the back deck and finally the concrete pad in front of the garage were all white. And then it rained and it all washed away. Without even creating more than just some water in the drainage ditch by the road.

Wednesday, though. Well, Wednesday was blue sky and sun all day long. Supposed to get up into the 60s.

I had planned on doing my weekly run to the office on Wednesday, because the forecast was so nice. When I started planning I really had just one agenda item. When I last was there two weeks ago, I noticed that the 8GB microSD card I was using to have removable storage on OUEST, the university laptop, was down to about 400 MB free. Well, guess I had order some more tunnel.

Oh wait. I already had coming a 32GB SanDisk Ultra microSD card (with SD adapter) because the silly thing was only $12.99 with free Prime shipping and I figured I need it someday. Guess someday was now. Note that I had bought a 16GB SanDisk Extreme microSD card with adapter for $14.99 to use on ZEPPELIN at home. And I'd bought a couple of 8GB Sandisk MicroSD cards with SD adapters for $6.95 each -- one which went into OUEST last fall and was now full, and one each for our new LG phones back in January. At some point SanDisk and Amazon are going to be paying me to take their larger and larger GB storage units in smaller and smaller form factors. (Compared to the hundreds of dollars I paid for a 512MB IBM MicroDrive Type II CF card -- with a two-platter ¾" hard drive with read/write heads and everything!)

All I had to do was get a card reader for the office, so I could easily transfer from the 8GB card to the 32GB, without dumping files onto the laptop's hard drive ***. And it would be nice to have a Compact Flash reader as well. Alas, the current versions of the bulletproof Sony multi-card readers are very expensive, and the cheap ones had reviews which said they worked great with SD cards but the pins bent and broke on the CF slots. Finally I found a Kingston USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader for $17.43 with reviews saying the CF card slot guides were long enough for the card to go in straight every time.

Whew. So that was my plan.

But... I had a student who needed a new letter of recommendation for medical school applications. We made an appointment for noon. And since I was going to be in, I contacted another student who I'd been helping and we set up an appointment for 10:30. While I was at work I wrote another email to check on a third student -- and also got an email from a fourth student suffering from writer's block and wanted some help getting unstuck with their multiple papers due in mere weeks. That's more students in one day of office hours than I usually get other than just before an exam -- and I'm not even teaching anything this semester! Also did a few story notes. And started in on my PowerPoint for the MIAAPT Spring Meeting at MSU in two weeks.

I didn't get around to opening the 32GB card and card reader packaging and starting the file transfers until 4:05pm. (grin)

It was a good day. Very productive.

And when I got home just after 7pm, the temperature in Allendale was still 63°F. Hey, I could open windows and turn a little fan on in the bedroom. Put my leg up and napped for an hour. And when I got up, the neighbor's power tool bonanza was over.


Ah, the peepers were peeping out in the swampy drainage ditches. A True Sign of Spring and the first time for 2015.

Tomorrow is a writing day -- rain, rain, rain. (grin)

Dr. Phil

*** -- BTW, in case you wondering why I was going to all this trouble with microSD card storage, instead of just using the hard disks, it's pretty simple. On ZEPPELIN at home, I use the 16GB card as easily removed backup. On OUEST at work, I can pull the microSD card and lock it up. The university keeps worrying about security of grades and other materials, so I'd taken to locking up removable cards last year. Not that I want the laptop stolen. After all, before OUEST, the laptops in my office were my own machines.

Remember, nothing is truly backed up unless it's on two different media and in two locations. (better-safe-than-sorry-grin) And a Master padlock trumps a silly little desk key.

Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (cinderella-fabletown)
One of the annoying things about the incessant and unnecessary need to "upgrade" operating systems, rather than fixing them so they work right, is that you also have to constantly change programs. It's not as simple as just getting the next iteration of Office/Word or PhotoShop, though Microsoft and Adobe thank you for your business. For those of us who actually use their computers as, well, computers, over the years one collects a lot of useful little programs. (Note that I am talking about programs -- not apps, not widgets, not plugins.)

Microsoft's desire to no longer support 16-bit programs or all the myriad functions and programs usable on an MS-DOS Prompt really bugs me. Because, seriously, there aren't always alternatives you can go to. I mean, after having years of problems, Microsoft is finally doing a better job of having Word 2003/2010/2013 be able to at least read, but not write, Word 95/6.0 files. But Norton Utilities 4.5 and Advanced Edition? This is an ancient PC program and up through Windows XP I have used NCD, FS, TM and other functions forever in an MS-DOS box. Doesn't work in Windows 7. Thanks, Microsoft. And thanks, Symantec, whose current Norton Utilities doesn't include anything like these old useful command line programs.

So... the latest thing is that I used to have a program called ZULU.EXE which displayed a small rectangular box with either GMT (Zulu) or other specified time zone, separately from the clock. It was handy a few times where I was actually doing correspondence overseas, astronomical use and just being nosy. Pretty sure I couldn't install it in Windows XP, let alone Windows 7. So I did a Google search, when in a forum I found:
You can actually accomplish this using the system clock.
-- Click on the tray clock
-- At the bottom, click Change date and time settings
-- Click the Additional Clocks from the top menu bar
-- Tick Show this clock and modify the time zone to suite your needs.
-- Hit Apply
Huh. I vaguely remember seeing the Additional Clocks tab, but never paid it any mind. And, lo and behold, it works. You can have two Additional Clocks. I already have 24-hour time enabled, so it gives me day of the week and time. And you can make your own title for each Clock. For my purposes, right now, I decided not to put up GMT (Zulu), but one for Central European Time and one for Japan.

Anyway, as you can see from the inset photo, it works. Not quite the same as ZULU.EXE, which was always visible, but it's not so hard to mouse over the clock display in the Taskbar and display the 1 or 2 additional clocks. This is in Windows 7 Home Premium. I assume Windows 7 Enterprise, which I have on OUEST at the office, will be similar. But all these Win 7 versions have annoying differences. Right now I am displaying time and date on ZEPPELIN. On OUEST, so far I can only display the time. You get the date if you mouse over the time. I need to fire up KATNISS, the Windows 7 Starter Asus EeePC netbook and see what it can do.

Anyways, I'm sure this is old hat for some of you, or even obsolete if you've moved on to Win 8 variants. But I've only slowly been moving onto Windows 7, so I have to figure out this crap as I move along.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dreamwidth-lj-88)
I've mentioned before that I am double-blogging these days. Compose over here on Dreamwidth and crosspost to LiveJournal. For a long time I was using the LJ link to blog entries to crosspost to Facebook, because for some reason, LJ links would get preview pictures and DW would not.

But something changed in the last couple of months -- no news there, Facebook has never met a harebrained "upgrade" they didn't like and immediately implement without ever once considering whether anyone ever wanted such a feature (bug) or even curious how its users might actually be USING FB to communicate -- and I noticed that FB wasn't doing a good job of showing preview pics. Also I do my blogging on Chrome and my Facebooking on Firefox. When I clicked on a link to a blog entry on Firefox, of course I wouldn't be logged into LJ or DW, and I discovered that LiveJournal was doing these really obnoxious Sign Up NOW For LiveJournal popups Every Single Damned Time. Yet Another LJ Fail In Place.

That's not fun.

So I started using the Dreamwidth links instead. Sometimes I get a preview pic of an icon or a picture -- but of course I can no longer CHOOSE which of several pics in a post that I get to use -- and sometimes I don't at first, but one shows up later. Who the hell knows what Facebook is doing?

ANYWAYS... the point of this post is that I ran into something I should have thought of it earlier. But really it's not completely my fault! See, the problem is that 99.9% of the comments that I get on blog posts is over on LiveJournal, mostly from other LJ users. Yesterday I got a nice bit of fanmail exchange with someone who'd been to my ConFusion panels in 2013 and 2015 AND has read some of my stuff online and needed to know the title and link to "Brooding in the Dark" published at Interstellar Fiction in November 2012 -- you can find all my Publications on my web site -- which was very cool. Even cooler, when I investigated the LJ user, they had created their account that day. Wow, set up an LJ just to comment. I'm either impressed or annoyed that LJ's popup signup ploy worked.

But there's that other 0.1% of comments, which show up on Dreamwidth. On both LJ and DW, I screen Anonymous comments. So today, I just happened to click on View Recent Comments on Dreamwidth and got three Anonymous posts from a friend of mine. First was on Tuesday, followed by another that said, "I could have sworn I replied to this, dang it." and repeated the first message. The third was also from the same friend commenting on another post.

So... (1) To Anne -- Sorry I left you so long in the Moderation Queue. You can see by the graphic above how long it's been since I've had anyone comment on Dreamwidth. And I didn't even have Moderation Hell stocked with Oreos and Jack Daniels. They are so hard to squeeze through those danged wires. (2) To All -- We'll try to do better. Especially with me using the Dreamwidth link over on Facebook, where most of y'all actually access my blog these days, as near as I can tell.

And hopefully it won't be another one or two weeks before I see your comments. (contrite-grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
Last Time in Office: 38 days ago (Monday 15 December 2014)

So... although I am on my "sabbatical" right now, it is important to get some work done. I could have left one of my own working computers at the office, but it was really time to get OUEST, the College of Arts and Sciences laptop that they so generously provided in the Fall, and turn it into a fully operational battle station.

Of course OUEST wasn't here in time to set up for the beginning of the Fall semester, so I didn't haul it out much after a brief set up. At home, I was dealing with Wendy's Windows 7 Home Premium laptop ZEPPELIN, so in a sense I was prototyping what I needed to do for the Windows 7 Enterprise Edition OUEST. And it was a real help, because in under 2½ hours I had actually done several real pieces of work and got most of the updates in place. It didn't hurt that I was on the very fast hardwire network connection, not WiFi or even WiFi+DSL, as in home

Complicating matters was I actually had a student appointment at 1pm -- application recommendations for postgraduate work. I always like to have the student in situ when I write these things and upload them, so they can see exactly what I said about them -- and they learn a little about the process. First real time I had to deal with Word 2013, ugh, but at least four months of heavy writing in Word 2010 has helped that learning curve.

I had planned to leave home between 9 and 10, to try to get in between 11 and Noon, but alas, I had One More Thing To Do at home, namely updating files on SUMMER and the Zip files on the 8GB Swiss Army Memory. And I had to stop by the one lot over at GVSU and steal back my nifty new sunglasses from atop the dashboard of the Bravada, leaving miniature heffalump tracks in the snow with the four-footed cane. So it was noon before I got into the office and off to the restroom.

The first step was determining what the password on OUEST was... (grin)

Didn't get to start updating files until 12:20pm. But I'd left OUEST in a "wild state" -- it immediately began updating Windows and with the fast dataline, updating Symantec Endpoint Protection, the corporate/university version of Norton Anti-Virus, took no time at all. Green indicators by 12:37.

Found the control to turn the touchpad off at 12:45. I don't think it's as much a problem on OUEST, which isn't a small laptop, than the two netbooks LARA and KATNISS or Wendy's giant widescreen laptop ZEPPELIN, where I kept brushing my thumbs against the surface of the touchpad, which makes Word 2003/2007 do crazy things.

Then my student came and we wrestled with the wording and with Word 2013 -- naturally none of the "real" working directories were yet in the defaults. Plus all the good files are on an 8GB microSD card stuck in the SD adapter in the SD card slot -- and had been removed and locked up over the break. They want me to protect the files on their computer? Fine, they won't even be on my version of their computer.

Still, we started on that and were done by 1:45, which was good because my student had a 2pm class. This even with the common application recommendation uploader warning that you might have trouble uploading a PDF -- and although OUEST doesn't have the Full version of Adobe Acrobat XI, my work with Word 2010 pointed me to have Word 2013 write an acceptable PDF file -- using IE or Chrome, it went fine with Firefox.

Oh, another country heard from. Adobe is automatically updating Acrobat Reader XI.

2pm and Windows has finally updated, so I shutdown Windows, which gives me the DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER OR YOUR LIVER WILL FALL OUT and starting 1 of 28 Updates. Time to eat lunch. Reboot, 28,000 plus updates updating... and before it even gets to a login prompt, Windows reboots. Fine. Do some email on the Kindle Fire HD...

28,509 updates to go,
28,509 updates,
if one of the updates
should happen to load,
28,508 updates to go...
Fuzzy phone picture from LG Cosmos 3 -- I think it had trouble focusing on the LCD screen, which was rapidly scrolling through the updates.

©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Simple re-size of picture in Windows 7 Paint. Oh, have to download and install WinSCP 5.5.6, since I need an SFTP program to upload things to my WMU webpages anyway.

Meanwhile, I fired up Amazon Music and downloaded all the music files I'd added in the last few months. In the middle of this, Amazon Music wants to update. Fine, because I'd just discovered that the version I installed in September didn't have the nifty little miniplayer icon in the lower right corner. That took about twenty seconds and the only issue was I had to restart the song I was in the middle of playing.

3pm. Time to eat my clementines and write up a blog report. I imagine Symantec is doing a background scan, but otherwise, I'm in decent shape. Yeah, it's a Windows 7 machine, which means that Write/WordPad has gotten stupid and doesn't read .DOC files anymore, only .RTF and .TXT. And Word/Excel 2013 are even dumber than 2010 in producing giant big splash screens for file opens which CONTAINS NO INFORMATION OR FILES. Geez, guys, have you ever USED a computer?

My student was watching me doing some steps before we started on the letter of recommendation, and wondered what kind of program I was running. It's old school -- it's called an MS-DOS command line. (snicker) They'd never heard of such a thing. (sad-grin) And even THEY are not contemplating the switch to Windows 8 on their next machine. (cries-for-a-whole-generation)

3:40pm. Finish this first draft, edit, post, crosspost to Facebook, call it a day and get out of here a little after four.

A good half day of work. Hey, it's not like they're paying me. (evil-grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
No, not that Big Brother. I'm talking about Brother Printers.

And yes, this is a big pleased Thank You, for a job well done -- which if you've read this blog doesn't always happen, especially when one is talking about computers. (grin) In fact, though I have a "rants" LJ/DW tag, I didn't have a "kudos" or "attaboy" tag, so I created the former. (double-entry-grin)

A Very Long Time Ago, I bought a Brother P-Touch label printer for the office. I cannot remember now if the model I got had the keyboard, or the keyboard and a PC printer input. Whatever, a handy gadget to have. I's in a box somewhere, I think I saw it in the fall, and I should really dig it out. Then Brother had a label printer without a keyboard, designed to hook up with that newfangled USB cable stuff and it was reasonably priced -- I think we bought it as a Christmas present. This was sometime in 1998 or 1999, because I was running it under a Windows 98SE partition on HARTREE at home.

That machine hasn't been run in ten years or more. I never bothered to get drivers for KATSUMI, the Sony VAIO S270 Windows XP Pro SP2 laptop that was my main home work machine for a number of years. Alas, KATSUMI is sitting on the side with a poorly feeling HDD and I haven't tried the old stick-it-in-the-freezer trick to see if the HDD will last long enough to pull some old files off it.

Which brings us to Today and Wendy's big Toshiba laptop. Windows 7. What are the odds that if I wanted to make some labels that the old Brother P-Touch PT-1500PC label printer would be compatible? So I went to the Brother website. Or rather I bypassed it and just Googled "brother pt-1500pc". Yup. There it is. Listed as Discontinued, no surprise there. But the first note I saw was directed to Windows 8/8.1 users. Okay, this is promising.

Not only did it have Windows 7 drivers and software, the Brother site checked the info from Firefox and already had Windows 7 and 64-bit already preselected in the radio buttons. The Driver webpage even provided the helpful information that (a) the Driver needed to be installed before the Software and (b) that the unit should NOT be connected or turned on until those steps were specifically called for. After that, pffft! Piece of cake.

Of course I had to find a USB A/B cable -- full-size connectors, not those mini-USB or micro-USB things. And the power brick for the unit, which not only was sitting on the rolltop desk just where I'd last left it, but amuses me because it's got so much metal inside that it's heavier than the plastic bodied printer.

Oh, and the PT-1500PC printer itself? Yup. It's been sitting on a slender bookcase top shelf for over a decade. Dusted it off, set up the cables -- hardest thing was I had to move a spare extension cord on the coffee table around two mammoth piles of books. Don't ask. It'll make sense if you have 2N to 3N books, where N is the number of books that you have bookshelves for. Which, come to think of it, is most of the people likely to come visit this blog.

After the reboot for the Driver and the Software installation, I fired up the printer and software, and composed a label which read, "Brother PT-1500PC _________ Brother PT-1500PC". The underlines are actually spaces so I could fold the label tape around the cord near the 5 VDC jack end. Worked perfectly. Pressed the big lever on the top to slice off the tape. Opened the door to the tape cartridge where they'd designed a secure hidden slot for the little tool which separates the label from the backing -- if you have ever had to peel these things apart, you know they're a pain. I remember having one of those small handheld Dymo embossed label tape machines back in high school and I used the scissors on my Swiss Army knife to curve the ends so the sharp corners couldn't catch on anything and you couldn't stab yourself trying to get the backing off. (fond-memories-OUCH-grin)

It's usually a waste of time to articulate my complaints on the Feedback parts of most websites, but this time I felt that I really should check the Found This Page Helpful button and actually left them feedback:
I'm pretty sure I bought this Brother PT-1500PC a very long time ago and installed it in a Micron Millennia 166MHz running Windows 98SE. The printer has sat on a shelf for a long time, since maybe 1999? Faced with a pile of chargers, I realized that I could make labels for them all -- and I had a label printer!

Came to the Brother website, found the Driver and Software, supporting from Windows 98SE through Windows 8.1, so Windows Home Premium 7 (64-bit) was not only there, the website automatically had the correct solution picked out. Installation was perfect, and the printer, which hadn't been used in a long time, printed the first label out perfectly -- and the label stock was also perfectly usable.

I am very impressed. Not only have I used Brother labelers for a long time, but that you support this USB printer for so long deserves a hearty congratulations -- and i will be blogging about it.

Dr. Phil
If you don't tell people that they've done good, even if it's from a long time ago, then no one will ever think to put the effort into getting it right again.

I have used Hewlett-Packard laser and inkjet printers, scanners, all-in-ones for forever. Despite corporate changes, one does get used to dealing with the nonsense and idiosyncrasies that all companies have. It explains why I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft, HP, Symantec, Intuit, Sony and even, once in a great long while, Nikon. (evil-grin) That doesn't mean that I completely knock other vendors, just that I am brand loyal to a fault.

So yes, I do know that Brother makes some fine printers. And now I know they are much like the old WordPerfect people, who managed to keep printer drivers going long after some obscure printer had passed its Sell By date. In fact, they revel in it.

And I'm sure that Canon makes fine cameras and printers and scanners, too. If you like that sort of thing. (double-evil-grin)

Now I have some real work to do. But in a day or two, I shall open a 15+-year-old plastic bubble card with a new gold letters on black background P-Touch tape and start labeling the plug ends of the pile of chargers in the kitchen for the Kodak Pro SLR/n, Nikon D1 series, Nikon D100 and a bunch of other phone, computer, etc. charging cords.

After I brush off some of the monstrous dust bunnies I've uncovered... and see if I have another can of air in the closet...

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)

The university's e-newsletter included the following note yesterday:
Thursday, 04 April, 2013

The OpenVMS computing environment (vms.wmich.edu, also known by service names Winnie, Kanga and Pooh) will be removed from general service April 30.

Once there were VMS computer domains on campus named Winnie, Kanga, Roo, Piglet and Pooh. I ended up using Piglet until it was retired, then Kanga after that, until they migrated the university e-mail over to other servers. In the early 90s, I still had FORTRAN programs that I ran on the VMS computers, and I seem to recall that one of the VMS machines ran a Gopher server I used in one of my grad classes when I was working on a 2nd Ph.D. in Science Education for a time.

Before that, of course, we were using Digital Equipment Corporation DEC VAX-11/750 hardware at the Center for Experimental Communication at Michigan Tech. VAX-A was the main machine for Physics when I started there in the Fall of 1984 and had a Floating Point Systems FPS-164MAX array processor attached for doing calculations. The VAX-11/750 was a very nice box, looking like a washer/dryer pair with one of hard drive boxes next to it. I was amused to learn that a couple of CS students bought VAX-B and VAX-C from the university when they were retired for a couple of hundred bucks and had all this network hardware installed in the living room of the house they were renting in Calumet Township. (grin)

Learning VMS in the mid-80s was very handy for when we finally bought our first IBM Personal Computer around 1986, because some of the command structure that PC-DOS/MS-DOS used was derived from VMS. And ten years later when I started doing serious work on Pentium-class PCs, Windows NT4 was developed by some of the same people who made VMS so stable.

In my Northwestern days in the late 70s, there were lots of DEC machines around the EE and CS departments. The CS network lab was a loose assemblage of DEC PDP-8s and PDP/LSI-11s. And around 1979, I think it was, Vogelback Computer Center, which housed the big iron Control Data CDC-6400 and CDC-6600 machines I worked with, decided to buy a pair of those newfangled VAX-11/750s and set them up in a spare room and let anyone who wanted to play with them do whatever they wanted. After all, the VAXen were so much cheaper to buy and operate than the CDC and Cyber machines, that they considered it "free" computing.

My dear friend from ISP days, the late Steve Houdek, adored the VAX and the VMS operating system. He learned all he could at VCC's two pet VAXes and then later worked for a VAX data center.

VMS eventually became OpenVMS. There was once a move to port VMS to the PC architecture, but PC-VMS never even made it to beta level, as far as I ever heard. I would've built a PC-based research computer and run VMS on it, if I could have.

I'm sure I have friends from all those eras who get chills and break out in hives thinking about having to work with VMS, much as when I contemplate working with IBM MVS or IBM VSE with JCL. (shudder) But I found the VAX/VMS combination to be very dependable and a good system to really cut my teeth on serious computing. A few years later, when we started using the Berkeley version of UNIX, I had a much better idea of what I was doing.

It's been years since I had to actually log into a VMS system at WMU -- when I was logging into piglet or kanga, I was using DEC VT-100 or VT-240 terminal emulation in MS-Kermit to do command line processing.

But you know? The VMS-Mail system worked pretty damned well for its day. And I had a lot easier time of managing thousands of old emails that way than the current stupid system. Really.

Enjoy your retirement, OpenVMS. At least for the five or six machine cycles before the power is cut and you're lobotomized forever. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil

LJ Fails Again

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 22:07
dr_phil_physics: (dreamwidth-lj-88)
Sigh. Snarl. Bitch.

Ten months after the debacle that was LiveJournal Release 88 -- what drove me to get a PAID Dreamwidth account, despite being an LJ Permanent Account holder -- they vomit up Release 98. Which includes a horrible beta test for a poorly redesigned Friends page that no one seems to want.

I am SO tired of people breaking software, breaking websites, failing to understand how users actually use the damned things. It's stupid and piss-poor business.

Epic fail.


Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)

This morning I came in and booted WINTER, my Fujitsu office tablet, and got a big warning red box from Norton Anti-Virus saying there was NAV Error 3048,3 and it had to be addressed immediately. Immediately meant it tried to Autofix itself, but that didn't work, so I was supposed to download Norton Power Eraser and have it look for rootkits or other nasties.

Since I don't want to have nasties on my computers -- that's why I put on anti-virus and firealls in the first place, dammit -- I ran the program.

It managed to delete the executables to Office.

Actually, what it didn't like was a whole series of Windows 95/NT legacy programs that still run under XP, so that included my beloved Microsoft Office 95 Professional. Including the handy Office toolbar which isn't a part of Office 2003 and higher. Of course, Word 2003 can't read Word 95 files, so that all my documents -- both Physics and SF -- are temporarily out of bounds. (I can still read them using Cetus CWordpad, a version of Wordpad/Write that still can read Word 95/6.0 documents, rather than pretending that RTF files are the same thing. But formatting would be a disaster.)

And Then Microsoft Comes and Joins Symantec At The Stupid Party

Norton Power Eraser had dutifully created an XP System Restore Point before it did its damage. Naturally, the Restore Point failed. Thank you Microsoft.

Yeah, I know I'm living on borrowed time to some extent. And I am slowly getting some Windows 7 machines up to speed. I hope to run XP (or even NT4) in a virtual machine and make Office 95 "compatible" with Windows 7. But I haven't spent any time working on that yet.

I still don't know if there was actually a problem or if NAV just had a hissy fit over legacy code. Pisses me off that Microsoft has never had good file conversion manners. Office 97 changed the .DOC format, but was supposed to be able to read/write Word 95 documents. Except that it actually wrote .RTF files until people yelled enough. And even then, opening a Word 95 document in Word 97 isn't totally clean. And it's gotten worse through Office 2000 2003 2007 2010...

There are a couple of things I'll try tomorrow short of reinstalling all those legacy programs. Not optimistic, but we'll see. And I'll have to bitch at Symantec for screwing things up and doing something other than the screen messages said it was going to do.


Dr. Phil

New Year Week 2

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 21:37
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)

Back to classes. Back to work. Survived the week one parking free-for-all where they don't ticket students in the faculty lot. And before you think it's just whining, remember my current difficulty in walking -- I just can't go to a distant lot and then walk up hill to my office like I used to.

Using i>Clickers in my two classes -- the first time for me -- now that the university has settled on the third clicker brand in five years and most of my students have used them in other classes. Not using them for grading this semester, but the stats are interesting so far. As long as the answers are A B C D or E. (grin) Physics Dept. wanted the clickers that had numeric keypads, dammit. (double-entry grin)

Huh -- for $10 you can buy an app to run i>Clicker without using a clicker. And was amused to see a student raid the batteries from his calculator to run his clicker. I think he needs to buy some new batteries.

Decided I needed a clean new Windows 7 machine for the i>Clicker base station to plug into. Went by Best Buy a couple weeks ago and picked up an Asus Eee PC 1025C notebook for $199. $199! Dual core Intel Atom processor, 1.6GHz clock, 1GB memory, 320GB HDD. Weighs like two pounds. Named the machine KATNISS since I bought a Blu-Ray copy of The Hunger Games at the same time. (grin) This is the machine I did Iron Chef Flash Fiction (DW) at WorldCon with, as well as gave my PowerPoint which I'll report on Real Soon Now.

Of course if parking eased in week 2, commuting has gotten worse in week 2. One of the construction sites is creating a four mile twenty minute backup on the way home. Grrrr. Mostly avoided the worst of the construction summer woes, even on my trips to Atlanta and Greensboro.


Gas is running around $4.09.9/gal for regular, though my local gas station has upped its grade differential from 11¢/gal to 15¢/gal -- and as I usually get mid-grade for the 1996 Blazer, this is relevant. The last two tanks I've filled on the way home in Wayland and though regular is the same price, the Shell's differential is only 10¢/gal. Whoo-hoo.

Except the last couple of days I've seen two people reporting that gas is running around $1.85.9/gal in Cincinnati. WTF? That's 45% of the price here! I mean, you might be able to get a tanker truck of gas at retail Cincy prices, truck it up here and make money AND lower gas prices. It's like 380 miles!

I. Do. Not. Get. It.

Dr. Phil

PS -- Lots more WorldCon coverage coming!
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
Just Jump Off The Bridge With Us!

Blogger is getting a new look in April. Upgrade Now.

Switch to the new look.
Gmail's old look is going away. You may want to switch to the new look now.

Facebook is converting to Timeline. You might want to do it now. Now, dammit. We're Facebook. We're telling you TO SWITCH NOW!!! What's WRONG with you?


No. The answer is no. Just because you're redesigning your system, does not make me want to upgrade early. Especially as 90% of what I'm hearing is gripes and complaints. And Gmail and Facebook have been dragging on this conversion for months. Which suggests to me that you know that it has problems, so just leave me alone.


Lately both Facebook and the university's email have taken to clumping posts together -- like clumping cat litter. Anything that looks like it might be related -- put it together.

Why in the world would you MIX up my email conversations with TWO different students, just because they have the same subject line? I have to be very careful about who I am replying to. It's a mess.


Frankly, I just don't think some of the programmers actually USE their systems, because some of these "improvements" make zero sense. I mean, by their logic, when we integrate all video and photos and postings, then Facebook will group together all the status updates by people wearing blue shirts today into one clump, and the green shirts in another.

Color me Still Unappy That You're Making Your Problems My Problems.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
It's Partly My Own Damned Fault

Yeah, I know that I deliberately use a non-standard Windows configuration. As in I still use programs that are useful to me, work and are not replaceable. That includes Microsoft Office 95 Professional.

Currently I have three machines running Windows XP Service Pack 2. This year's version of TurboTax wants XP SP3 at a minimum. I debated using Wendy's Windows 7 laptop, but decided on Saturday to bite the bullet and update to Service Pack 3.

It took forever. Worse, in an 18GB C: partition, I was left with 250MB free. I freed up some space and did a little work last night. Also realized I'd done all that work for nothing -- TurboTax also wanted 1.5GB for Microsoft .NET 4. What the hell is in there? The lost Microsoft Help files that actually... help? Anyway, unless I run Partition Magic and re-space the drive, there's no room.

So today I was going to update Wendy's laptop. But first make a PDF for my grader... and Word 95 now crashes during any print attempt. So I resolve to roll back Service Pack 3. And of course Windows said there are no restore points -- even though SP3 made one Saturday. Go to method 2 of 3. Which takes forever.

When I boot back up, the screen is wrong. And I have to download and reinstall the video driver via Sony. Now the screen looks right, the icons went back into their right place.

And Word 95 crashes when you try to print.

Insert thirty seconds of the foul language of your choice.
Gandalf: "[Gollum] hates and loves the Ring, as he hates and loves himself."

Edit that for Dr. Phil and computers and, well, you get the idea. I don't have time for this Mickey Microsoft Mouse crap. I really don't. No one does.

Dr. Phil

PS - Had lovely corned beef and boiled cabbages and potatoes for dinner. Yum.
dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
Dear LiveJournal,

Release 88, in a word, sucks. And you're hearing about it. The Release 88 post has over 8000 comments (120+ pages), and very few of them are saying "Good job!" And there are nearly a thousand comments in the Release 88, Paid time extension post.

Usability has been lost, some of the new "features" are distracting or even migraine inducing (!) and the readability of comments has been significantly degraded. Release 88 needs to be rolled back and Never Spoken Of Again.

I've never posted a comment in the LJ release postings before tonight. Or put in a complaint ticket. Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

And in case you're wondering, yes I have a paid Permanent Account. And Paid time extensions to compensate for service problems don't do me a bit of good.

But It's Not Just LJ

Google Gmail desperately wants me to switch to the New Look -- I've been getting a little box suggesting I Switch To The New Look before they even told me what the New Look was. And when they've gone ahead and switched me, I've so far been able to Temporarily Revert To Old Look. The fact that you even have such a feature suggests that you know there are problems.

Changing buttons from DELETE to icons -- shouldn't that be my choice?

And in case you're wondering, yes I'd probably pay for Gmail service at this point, if they offered me control.

For Free, Expect Less

The latest versions of ZoneAlarm seem to have gotten rid of the little meter that showed when data was inbound/outbound over the net. This was very useful for diagnosing problems and attacks.

And in case you're wondering, yes I use the Free version, because the paid versions offer duplication of services I already have or things that I do not want.

Even The Innocuous Can Be Bad

Facebook is soon supposed to be rolling out Timeline. Being able to read through all most posts and actually find things and links that I made? What's not to love? Except I read today that it may be that ads will be inserted in between your comments, rather than on the sides.

That strikes me as tacky and distracting, but worse, it makes it look like I'm endorsing whatever ads happen to be showing up. And I object to that. Somehow that doesn't seem to be social interacting.

I Don't Want To, But...

Because of the Release 88 debacle, Dreamwidth is apparently offering new accounts without invite codes. I really don't want to have to mess with crossposting or multiple semi-incompatible blogging systems -- just as I don't want to waste the time to roll my own or switch to WordPress -- but when I glanced over there I remembered why I hadn't done Dreamwidth in the past. Trying to figure out which paid points system would convert over my current LJ blog. Sigh.

Inheriting Windows 7

I brought home Wendy's laptop and desktop, which are both Windows 7 machines. Office 2010, or whatever it is, is incompatible with my files from Office 95 Professional. And to install Office 95 Professional, I have to create the Windows XP Penalty Box, either using Microsoft or other tools. And Windows 8 won't even have that option, as I understand.

Folks, it's 2011 and almost 2012. I shouldn't have to keep converting my file formats every couple of years and I surely shouldn't have to upgrade my word processor to add non-useful functions at the whim of MS or anyone else.

Upgrades Can Be A Force For Good

There are times when versions have to change, especially when the technology is young. Windows 1.04 anyone? (evil grin) But after a while, you get to a point where you can use something... for years. Change for change's sake. Arrogant upgrades to support someone else's contrary design ethic doesn't fall in the category of good customer relations.

What all these people seem to forget is that I use my computers. Me. I do not buy computers solely so that Anti-Virus can take over my machine at will to update. Or to switch from software which works to software which is either buggy or looks bad on the screen.

Software and service providers need to start consider that they have to be nice to me. Or I'll take my ball and go home.

Dr. Phil


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