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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Tuesday, 20 October 2015 11:04
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Sigh. Twenty-three years into service at WMU and I'd hoped to avoid it altogether. But no. I can not. The inevitable Borgification is coming. And during the Spring 2016, I shall be assimilated.

Damn, Outlook.

Western Michigan University has chosen Microsoft Office 365 to replace Webmail Plus. The migration from Webmail Plus to Office 365 will occur during the Spring 2016 semester. More information will be communicated to the University community and published here as planning progresses.
Of course, I am not thrilled with the current Webmail+, which has made a number of what should be simple tasks needlessly complicated -- or not available. I mean, the DEC VMS VAXmail we used when I first got here actually had some better functionality for certain tasks. And I know I filled out the survey WMU had and told them "No Outlook". But, as per usual, they didn't bother to listen to me. (sigh)

Mrs. Dr. Phil was absorbed by Outlook a few years ago. She still looks the same, but then pod people tend to, don't they? Or else she's really good at pretending to be One Of Them. I will never be One Of Them, even if I have to use Outlook.

Why do I hate Outlook so much?

For one thing, I really don't want my email program to have hooks into everything I do, thank you very much. And as one of the Big email products around, Outlook has always had a big Kick Me sign on it which hackers like to target. Security vulnerabilities in an email program can directly affect your writing and your spreadsheets. Grades, exams, etc.

Since forever, when I've installed Microsoft Office, I've unchecked Outlook. Or its stupider brother Outlook Express, for you oldtimers.

Will I _have_ to install Office 365 on my own machines? Will its installation screw up my installations of Office 95/97/2003/2010? Because I really hate Office 2013 on OUEST, the work laptop.

This, I am afraid, is not progress.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
So mainly my cellphone is off. This morning I needed to call someone. Turn on phone. It doesn't find my Bluetooth earset right away, so I manually go in and do it.

In the middle of this I am interrupted by Messaging popping up telling me my online bill is ready. Clear that.

So now I'm ready to start dialing my phone number. Got the first four digits in and...

Oh, given my previous posting, you can probably guess that it was a countdown screen saying that Verizon was going to download software improvements to my LG Cosmos 3 phone in 29... 28... No opt out. Press OK. It downloads. New screen -- it's going to run the update in 3 minutes and will take 3 minutes to run.

This one, at least, has a Delay button, but since it already interrupted me, I just went ahead and ran it. Actually, I had two students come in, so I don't know what other "important" messages Verizon had to say.

But I tell you, these vendors really have to come up with a more civilized way of pushing updates to the users.

Dr. Phil
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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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

First Cooks

Saturday, 16 May 2015 11:54
dr_phil_physics: (chicago-stuffed-pizza)
Yesterday I wrote about Thursday's new appliances (DW) (LJ):

Part of the joke was we got a pizza for dinner -- and used the new stove to place it on. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

But I'd joked on Thursday that the first cooking on the stove would probably be hard boiling some eggs. I've added a hard boiled egg to my lunch since my sabbatical began, to keep my protein levels up and help my heel heal.

And I was right! Lovely brown eggs from a guy at GVSU boiling along. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Of course, Friday's cooking also included rice. Mrs. Dr. Phil suggested that she was going to have to relearn how to make perfect rice. (grin) I seem to recall watching Chopped the other day and some chef was trying to pass his rice off as being caramelized and I think it was judge Scott Conant who said, "Oh that's what we're calling burnt these days?" (double-grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

New Shiny!

Saturday, 16 May 2015 00:53
dr_phil_physics: (kate-robot-chicken)
So we bought a new KitchenAid dishwasher at the end of December (DW) (LJ), as the one that came with the house in the summer of 1993 was dying. We'd been talking about upgrading the heavy kitchen appliances, since they were over twenty-one -- and replacing a fridge when it fails on its schedule is no fun.

Back on the day of the Earthquake (DW) (LJ) we'd been in Grand Haven back at Bekins looking at new refrigerators. No, the old one wasn't dead. But I've had too many people have to deal with old refrigerators which died. Less of a big deal in the dead of winter in Michigan, but Summer is Coming. And since, like the dishwasher we replaced at the end of 2014 (DW) (LJ), the refrigerator was going to be twenty-two years old this year, I'd say we got our money's worth out of it.

Besides, we hadn't yet deposited the Federal tax refund check yet. (grin)

We came to a decision about a refrigerator pretty quickly. We're on well water, so really have no need to waste door space with an ice-and-water maker. We both hated my mom's side-by-side refrigerator-freezer and liked the freezer underneath of our first unit. Ended up there was a nice KitchenAid which had the bonus of matching the stainless steel and curved handles of the new dishwasher. Why not?

While Mrs. Dr. Phil was across the room taking shelves and drawers apart, I was parked in a chair -- right next to this stove. A stainless steel KitchenAid with the same curved handles, two ovens, a smaller one over the usual big stove, a fifth "fish burner" with grill pan, and much easier to clean and heavier duty grates. Oh, and ball bearings on the adjustable racks, with a cutout handle to make getting in and out easier. Really nice.

At first Mrs. Dr. Phil said no, but a couple things became clear. One, and you can call this trivial, but those nice curved handles we like? Naturally, they are going away and all the new models from all the companies are having straight handles. Two, the ovens are convection ovens, too. The more we looked at the range, well, we had been talking about upgrading the stove, too, at some point. Apparently some point was now. And given the cooking Mrs. Dr. Phil does, and we didn't pick the stove 22 years ago either, why not? Call it in between your basic consumer gas range and those semi-commercial grade Viking units popular with the granite counter yuppie remod people. Pretty much same size as the old one, so it's a drop in.

Delivery day was set for Thursday. We have the 2.5 cu.ft. minifridge downstairs we bought for storing IV bags of antibiotics a year ago, so critical supplies like milk didn't have to depend on coolers or ice bags. And there was plenty of stuff to weed and certain things we've kept in the refrigerator that can stand to be out for a time. Plus we spent ten days eating down some of the reserves. Oh, blueberry-rhubarb crisp... from last year's wonderful bumper crop of lovely blueberries.

The Old

Our kitchen since 1993. Mrs. Dr. Phil at first declared the fridge a magnet-free zone, but between my mother and my sister and other friends and relatives, that was quickly a lost cause. These are almost all wide angle shots with the 12-24mm f4G DX AF-S NIKKOR at 12mm (18mm equivalent, 99°). (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

GE XL44 gas range. Converted to LP. (They ran natural gas down the road less than two years after we moved. Mostly we've saved money by not paying for the pipe and converting all our appliances... again.) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Sears Kenmore 21 cu.ft. refrigerator with 6 cu.ft. freezer. When we bought it, this was the first of new ultra energy efficient units, with an EPA estimated annual cost of $58/year -- and off the charts below the range listed for all 21 cu.ft. refrigerators. So we've been fairly immune to all the news articles saying CHANGE YOUR FRIDGE AND SAVE BIG MONEY! (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The New

Bekins is not the cheapest store, but they have a lovely showroom, really knowledgeable sales staff and really great repair and installation teams. With the fridge emptied and de-magnetized, and the stove top cleared in the morning, they came in at 1:30 and had both units out really fast. Hardest thing was figuring out if the doors needed to come off the fridge to fit through the door -- they did. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Old units in the garage. Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity will pick them up next week -- nothing wrong with either unit. Oh, and if you are prone to worry, yes we left the fridge doors open so it doesn't turn into some horrible biology lab experiment in the meantime. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Fridge in. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Bringing in the range. Mrs. Dr. Phil really liked the carrying straps the guys were using. Because we had stairs, they weren't going to use a handtruck or dolly. And you can clearly see the curved handles here, which won't snag or catch as you walk past. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Hooking up the LP line and checking for gas leaks. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Paperwork to sign. Well, it's ours now. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Our new kitchen for the next ten-fifteen years plus. Oh, and just like with the new dishwasher, there is an issue with the nice curved handles when their doors are shut and a small utility drawer. But, we can mostly make it work. The new stove can't get as close to the wall as the old one, since the cutout in the back isn't in the right place for the shutoff valve on the LP line. So much for standardization, guys. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I forget to take a close-up picture of the new fancy range display. Besides a clock, it displays the actual temperature of both ovens, you care barely make out the red numbers on this blowup, plus chase messages in blue -- these are saying Pre-heating. Both ovens were put on 350°F for half an hour to take off the oil all the inside parts are coated in.
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Open wide. The crew took a good long time to get this exactly leveled. Not so easy in a house where it's always had a few issues with horizontal floors. (We're built on sand and I think there's some settling over 20+ years.) (Click on photos for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

To Celebrate!

Three hours after the new appliances were installed... we drove to Coopersville and picked up the Bravada, which needed an A.C. recharge and picked up a pizza. What? You thought Mrs. Dr. Phil was going to cook after unloading and loading a refrigerator and cleaning stuff all day? When the fridge is purged and allowed to be understocked because... reasons?

327 Pizza and Pub, named for both their street address on Main Street in Coopersville, and Chevy's iconic 327 cu.in. V8 -- Wendy's used 1969 Camero had a 327. And they say they do: "Chicago Style Thick crust pizza that is just like a PIE! We build our pizza inside a deep dish pan, put another crust on top of that, and finish it off with another helping of sauce and Romano cheese."

Did somebody say Chicago stuffed pizza in Coopersville, even closer than Crust 54 in Holland? Hello? ... sets Speed Dial 327 on phone...

Chicago style two crust pizza with sausage, mushrooms, black olives and green peppers. About $24. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Though it's really too thin to be a real Chicago stuffed pizza, it's a nice pizza pie. The sauce on top has lots of Romano and the crust was really tasty. They have other pizzas and calzones -- methinks this is probably closer to their calzones than Edwardo's.

Oh, and the appliances are really nice. They look like they belong. We think we'll keep them for a while.

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: (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: (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


Sunday, 11 January 2015 00:27
dr_phil_physics: (kate-neverland-cell)
Nearly 7 Years Ago -- 2520 Days

We bought a pair of Motorola RAZR V3a cellphones back on 16 February 2008 (DW). We didn't need to buy new phones, in terms of the phones, but the pair of Motorola V60i phones we were using covered both analog and digital bands -- and the FCC wanted to rid the country of analog band phones. So, Alltel had us come in and get new phones.

Realize that since 1994, we've only each had three cell phones: Motorola MicroTAC/TeleTAC, 2 x V60i, 2 x RAZR V3a.

In the course of time the RAZRs have done swell. We've replaced batteries twice. But Mrs. Dr. Phil, who in the last two years has left hers on most of the time, has had some flaky problems. Which came to a head Saturday around 1pm. Tried to turn it on and it hung while booting -- not a good sign. Got the Hello Moto splash screen and it stayed there. Except for flickering every now and then, momentarily showing a couple of vertical color strips against a black background. Oh that's never a good sign.

Ironically, we'd just been having a discussion the other day about which way we might go with phones the next time we needed to do phones. On the one hand, we really want our phones to be phones. On the other, it would be nice to be able to check a few things online from time to time. We have a Verizon WiFi hotspot which we use on a pay-as-you-go basis for travel and conferences. Mrs. Dr. Phil was even able to take a quick picture of some fall leaves in the U.P. on US-41 in the middle of nowhere with her Kindle Fire HDX, then post to Facebook using HAIKU, the hotspot.

But smartphones? Apple iPhone? Stick with Motorola and get a Droid MAXX or Turbo? The latter has really quick charge and with the Kindle Fires running a form of Android, it would make some sense. But they charge so much for the damned data plans. Our Alltel plan, grandfathered into Verizon, was so old -- and also pretty cheap for two phones.

So basically I figured we had three options: Plan A would be to just get Mrs. Dr. Phil a new phone. Plan B would be both get new phones. Plan C would be to jump to smart phones and get a data plan.

The little Verizon store in Standale was very pleasant -- it's actually a 3rd party franchise, but that's okay -- and they were very helpful. They even had just gotten in the Motorola Droid Turbo, so I could look at it.

But jumping to a usable data plan for smart phones would basically double the monthly cost for us.

Do they even make usable flip phones anymore? (grin) They had one, an LG model.

What about slider phones? I had always admired the original Motorola Droid when it came out. Actually they had two LG slider phones, one with a numeric keypad as well, and one with a touch screen.

Mrs. Dr. Phil finally decided on the last one:

The LG Extravert 2

And this turned out to be a problem. We could change our plan to one with unlimited voice and text and 500MB/month -- we have never really texted in our life -- for only about five bucks more a month. And at nearly seven years, we certainly qualified to get new phones. Our Alltel plan allowed my phone to have 20 texts a month, I think, but I never used it, except to receive free monthly notices from Alltel and Verizon about what the next bill would be. Mrs. Dr. Phil's number didn't have any free texts on it.

This is why we were looking at sliders, because if one was going to text, no way was I going to do the ABC DEF routine -- it was bad enough to input telephone numbers. And the Extravert 2 (which is not a typo by the way) with its touch screen AND slider could presumably text both ways. Plus, both phones would fit in the travel cases we already had.

The problem was... our Alltel plan couldn't be changed. To add a Verizon phone, we had to have a Verizon account. So Plan A, getting Mrs. Dr. Phil a new phone, was out. We were now on Plan D -- both get new phones and a new plan.

Our last two phones, covering a span of some twelve years, were identical models, which meant it was easy to trade batteries and use each other's phones. But I decided I liked the other, slightly smaller slider better:

The LG Cosmos 3

Now let's face it -- we had to do something today. LG is not a brand I would have just sought out if I was making a long-term purchase. I would've bought Motorola, Apple or Samsung. But I suspect that our text slider days are a stopgap before we go to smart phones, about the time that everyone has moved on phone glasses or Uberphones or something, and the ancient dinosaur smart phones will have become cheap. (grin) So I think these will be "good enough" for us for a couple of years. I am not expecting seven years plus from these phones.

Both phones have microSD card slots. A while back I had bought an 8GB SanDisk microSD card with SD card adapter for dirt cheap on Amazon, to provide some removable storage on OUEST, the College of Arts and Sciences laptop I got this year. Still available on Prime. Two cards for $13.90.

Most of the $99 we paid today covered taxes, a protector for the touch screen and other bits, not the phones themselves. The $10/month/phone credit on our bill pretty much covered the "cost" of my phone and just about all of Mrs. Dr. Phil's. It was actually cheaper than what we paid the day we got the RAZRs, partly because my Motorola 720 Bluetooth Borg implant works with the new phone. Must use handsfree while driving in Michigan.

The one problem we had was the age-old problem. Couldn't get the contact list off my RAZR onto the Cosmos, by either wire or Bluetooth. One of techs offered to take it home with him, but no... that would leave me (a) without a phone and (b) without the phone numbers I need. I was always too cheap to spend $50 and get Motorola's USB cable and CD-ROM software, and too not trusting to buy the same kit for $4.95 from any of a hundred vendors on eBay. Now, at least, the new phones have a backup through Verizon, which wasn't available in the Dark Ages seven years ago.

So, not the way I intended to spend the afternoon -- I had just booted ZEPPELIN to do writing when this all came down -- and not the way I intended to spend the weekend -- I have done A-G in the contact list manually. But we stopped what we were doing, had lunch, then hopped in the Blazer and drove on passable roads to Standale, then back to Allendale for the grocery run that had started all this. (grin) On the other hand, I'm getting good real world training of the slider keyboard, and a chance to see some of the crap I have in my contact list, so in a way, it's all good.

But I am glad I got my ConFusion reading story massaged into place last week. (evil-grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dr-mrs-phil-xmas09)
Christmas Eve our dishwasher started making some alarming noises -- gears not meshing right or tearing themselves apart in the transmission? Who knows? But the RCA dishwasher was new in the summer of 1993, so after twenty-plus years of service, there was no incentive to put a dime into its maintenance.

Besides, it was terribly noisy.

It came with the house when we bought it -- who buys an RCA dishwasher? -- and I figured we'd probably replace it in ten years or so with a nicer unit. But other than being REALLY LOUD, it worked fine.

Funny thing, we never bought a dishwasher before. Oh the new duplex we rented when we came down in 1991 had a nice brand new Panasonic dishwasher. And the newly built house had the new RCA, so technically we bought it, but didn't shop for it. But we have a lovely appliance store in Grand Haven -- Bekins -- who've done repairs and sales on our washer and drier.

Christmas in Chicago, Christmas Dinner II on Friday. It was Saturday at noon when we drove out to Grand Haven. We were the only customers. There were at least a dozen models to choose from. We went over our rough estimate for cost, based on Lowes prices and models, but got the machine we wanted. And it was in stock. And, after saying they couldn't deliver until Tuesday or Wednesday, when they found out it was Allendale, they had a crew that could come Monday morning -- 9:30 or so.

They came at 9:05, which was a good thing, because it was noon before they left. You'd think kitchens would be standard, but Oh No...

The 1993 RCA still did two more loads for us on Saturday and Sunday. So it didn't die on us. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Two decades of well water stained it a bit, but it did a good job and the racks weren't stupidly laid out. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Unfortunately, when we bought the house, we had the basement finished. But they'd run the piping under the floor and now above the ceiling, and it seemed they clamped the two lines together. So you couldn't pull it out. They had to cut a hole in the floor just to disconnect the old dishwasher. But it's under the counter so who cares. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The water line was copper, so they used that. Put in a new drain line and we had them snake it through the utility cupboard on the other side of the island. The old drain line was capped at both ends and left in place. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And here's our shiny new KitchenAid dishwasher. Note 1: There must be steel behind the stainless, because our magnet that says Clean/Dirty still works. Note 2: After fighting with the recessed grip on the RCA for 20+ years, I wanted a handle -- the KitchenAid was available without or with a really nice curved handle. Note 3: Um, the drawers to the right? And that handle? Mrs. Dr. Phil swapped the two top drawers -- the Baggies/Ziplock drawer doesn't need to be pulled out far to work. Note 4: The rose came from Bekins. Aw-www. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Stainless steel interior. Energy saving -- also means longer cycles and probably won't last twenty years. The controls are along the top edge of the door. Lots of adjustments on the two main drawers -- plus a third silverware drawer on top. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And yes, that interior really did have that new car smell.

And it is SO quiet, you can hear the blower fan on the Rinnai inline water heater running in the basement.

Why did we wait twenty years to replace the old one? (grin)

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
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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