Category Archives: computers

Anxiously awaiting an explanation . . .

. . . for that ACA website clusterf*ck. Official statements aren’t of much use yet, although I expect there will be hearings down the road.

I’m deeply curious about what went into the thinking, and then what went on behind the scenes with the legions of technocrats who built the site. They’re the ones who usually get it right and this time they got it so so wrong.

Most puzzling and bizarre – why does the site block users from browsing unless they register an account? Have the designers never visited a retail website? Shopping comes first, establish an account comes second, sign up (or add to your cart as we know it) is penultimate and finally it’s time to pay up and the transaction is done.

A puzzlement. Soon there will be some in-depth investigative reporting in reputable media outlets on how it went wrong. I look forward to reading those stories.

The angry gods of the interwebs came for me today

First WordPress shut me out of multiple functions, something that’s been building over the last few days. I couldn’t even access the WP help forums and found no solace in outside forums. Deeply frustrated, I turned away and decided to make some calls.

Uh-oh. Dialing yields only a dial tone. I unplug and replug, I reboot, I turn off, I turn on. I change clothes and even re-comb my hair. Nothing. Nada. Sorry. Have a nice day.

So it was on to MagicJack live chat help – for a 53-minute long chat. That’s 53, as in fifty-three. They sent a few updates and did some remote resets. Once again there was much unplugging and replugging and even more rummaging around in Device Managers and such.

But they did it. Those sweet sweet kids in Bangladesh or wherever, fixed it. I am grateful.

So now one thing is fixed, but the WordPress problem sits there, waiting. More tries but it was just hitting a wall.

And yet here I am. Posting – because I decided to try the desktop. And voila! Everything works fine over here!

So the problem is in my laptop somewhere. And it is something beyond my ken. This may require a visit from the good Todd, he who fixes all things.

It is now four hours since I sat at my desk, four lost hours.

I’m going to have a Diet Coke.

Later

I called in the cats, but it was too late

Light blogging . . . busy busy weekend and now swamped with work and two deadlines looming, tasks made more interesting since my printer breathed its last a few hours ago. HP says 4 days till new one – maybe I’ll get lucky.

 

I just got a reply to my blind Craigslist ad – from a young friend!

Coincidence?

Any reader here knows that I recently bought a Dummies-type book (my first since 1992) and it’s about as useful as MS Office 2010 (and it’s gruesome anchor Word 2010) is nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

So I’ve found myself using Publisher instead – even for quite ordinary documents. It’s easier, properly intuitive and seems relatively free of Microsoft’s usual ‘scold’ override function (My dear user, you really don’t want to do it that way, do you? Here, let me fix it for you. There. That’s better, isn’t it?)

But it’s a stalling tactic. I’ve really got to get a handle on this newfangled version of Word. I’ve decided a tutor is what I need – someone to give me a jump start. Having figured out what I needed, it was on to Craigslist! I put up a blind ad.

And the first reponse was from a friend. Whom I know to be smart and ‘puter savvy.  So Kris shall be my tutor. He’ll pretend he doesn’t want me to pay him which I will absolutely slap down. And since we’ll meet evenings after work/before rehearsal (he’s an actor poor fellow), I will of course feed him his dinner which will make me feel all maternal. Win-win!

Bill Gates does like his little jokes, doesn’t he.

I am dying here as I try to adapt myself to Word 2010 after being a WordPerfect user for over 20 years. When my laptop hard drive died, my data files were safe on Mozy, but my software was gone. So I had to make a decision about what to install on the new machine. I chose to ‘bite the bullet’ and – for the sake of compatibility – left my beloved WordPerfect behind and got a full Office 2010 suite.

Before 2010, I was able to use 2003 when I had to and though I didn’t much like it, I could manage whatever needed doing. No more. If you’re upgrading, think twice.

Word 2010 was apparently designed by 500 monkeys who delighted in  complexity. Be gone intuitive functionality! Welcome multiplicity! If two keystrokes were needed before, there are four now – to do the same thing. If one pull down menu for tables or formatting worked well, why twenty of them must surely be better! And why use the same old words? Let’s rename everything. Who needs a task bar? Such a pedestrian word. Let there be a ‘ribbon’. Much better word (for the same thing). Choosing key words for searching “Help” is now an interesting (and mostly unsuccessful) exercise.

‘Help’ also assumes the user is trying to do the most complicated thing, not the simple thing. To find how to do a simple thing is like a kid’s game of tag. Look here, look there, look everywhere.

And of course there's this nonsense

There is no ‘format’ tab. Excuse me, no format ‘ribbon’. Things like fonts, margins, spacing, inset pix, even copy/paste are all located on different ‘ribbons’. If I am creating a document and want to perform a function within it, I must search the other ribbons and their attendant pull down menus – which are full of new words and phrases – in order to find what I need.

A simple example: remember choosing optional security settings? In 2010 it’ll take you a while – that happens now in the ‘Trust Center”, once you find that and figure out what the Elvis it means.

By the way, anyone know what a banded row is? I’ve been trying to create a very simple table – three columns, indeterminate number of rows, nothing fancy, plain old 12 point Ariel. Plain, plain, plain. This appears to be a very difficult thing to do. I’ve been at it for almost half an hour and have more questions than when I started.

What we have here is a tool designed to make the task more difficult. Well done Microsoft.

I feel like a first-grader again

Over the last few days I’ve been exploring my new laptop and digging into the astonishingly complex world of Office 2010, a challenge for someone whose last version was 2003. And even more challenging because I used Word only when absolutely necessary. For 21 years, since the green screen DOS days, I’ve been tethered to WordPerfect, an intuitive and logical program that is not a bit capricious. But, sigh, when my previous laptop went belly up, that also sounded the death knell for my WordPerfect days. (I could probably run down a copy to install but that would enable avoidance.)

So now I must do it. I must become proficient in Word and Publisher. I’ve even – for the first time in decades – ordered a book, an 861-page (!) dummies book.

Outlook works fine although it lacks many convenient features that ’03 had, and buttons – like SEND, NEW, CLOSE have been moved to less convenient spots – for no reasons I can discern. It’s full of (annoying) features useful only to someone who makes lists titled ‘action items’.  Simple things like ‘flagging’ an email are no longer simple and require answers to questions irrelevant to a home user.  (I’ve not dared yet to examine the newer version of Excel.)

Most puzzling to me is why MS felt it necessary to re-name ordinary things. A ‘task bar’ is now called a ‘ribbon’. And oddly, they’ve added keystrokes to common functions – to open an existing file now takes three clicks before the file directory appears. There is no longer a FOLDER icon in the ‘ribbon’ or elsewhere on the busy, busy, busy, top of the screen. I’ve yet to find a way to view two directories side by side without opening a new window, making it more difficult to move files from one folder to another.

But I shall forge ahead. The learning is not optional. (And just to sex things up, I also await resolution on two hardware issues – an erratic cursor that jumps around and HOME and END keys that don’t perform their proper functions.)

And I thought a new day was dawning and it was going to be easy.

Still lite blogging and unbloggy anyway. But there is this . . .

. . . from Las Vegas’ 8 News NOW: “Trump to make ‘major announcement’ on presidential race” He still thinks we care. I think that’s kind of cute.

In other newz, my new shiny silver laptop arrived today as did my all legal-like, brand spanking new Office 10 Professional Suite. Tomorrow is a big day as my digital life finally will come off life support and be born anew.

And once it does . .  I will immediately and completely re-organize every single thing in my life to absolute perfection, put everything I own in the right place, rearrange the contents of the bookshelves as they always should have been,  begin blogging on a strict schedule (probably after my 45 rigorous minutes on the elliptical – and the protein shake), never again handle a piece of paper more than once, and feel secure in the certainty that I will never ever misplace anything again. Ever.

Ah, the power of the new ‘puter.

 

“We are currently experiencing . . .

Me today - if I weren't a girl

. . . connection problems at Comast.net.”

I’ve been unable to access my email this morning. Withdrawal symptoms are appearing.

The laptop (with Outlook) had to check into intensive care yesterday; on this machine, I have to go directly to comcast.net – and I can’t. Are there drugs for this?

And ooohhhh . . . has Comcast been hacked?

UPDATE: Email back. Cable gone. Comcast is screwing with me today.

Captain Kirk’s replicator is here – almost

A commenter yesterday reminded me of the Star Trek ‘replicator’, that wondrous device in the wall that would, upon a voice command, deliver anything from new shoes to a cup of hot tea with lemon, easily and instantly manufactured and delivered from stored atomic information or something.

Now comes the Thing-O-Matic. It’s real alright. I saw it on Colbert last night. All the details are here:

. . .  you can simply manufacture your very own dishwasher knob. And bath plugs, drink bottles, spectacle frames, shin pads, helmets and even action figures.

It’s all thanks to the Thing-O-Matic, a ‘factory in a box’ that claims to create any three-dimensional object out of plastic in a matter of minutes.

It creates 3-D scans of actual objects into what they’re calling the ‘printer’ and the output is itself three-dimensional and made of a hard plastic. It’s real and really wonderfully weird.

Computer prediction from 1966

Don’t miss the line  at  :41 in; the predications weren’t bad, but it was a vastly different world.

Gubmint nevah could do nuffin’ right

Except invent the internet. And computers. And other stuff. And then give the technology to American businesses to launch entirely new industries. Damn gubmint!

From wikipedia, here’s how it came to be:

ENIAC (play /ˈɛni.æk/; Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer)[1][2] was the first general-purpose electronic computer.  . .  ENIAC was designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army‘s Ballistic Research Laboratory.[4][5]  When ENIAC was announced in 1946 it was heralded in the press as a “Giant Brain”. It boasted speeds one thousand times faster than electro-mechanical machines, a leap in computing power that no single machine has since matched. This mathematical power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists. The inventors promoted the spread of these new ideas by teaching a series of lectures on computer architecture.

The ENIAC’s design and construction was financed by the United States Army during World War II. The construction contract was signed on June 5, 1943, and work on the computer began in secret by the University of Pennsylvania‘s Moore School of Electrical Engineering starting the following month under the code name “Project PX”. The completed machine was announced to the public the evening of February 14, 1946[6] and formally dedicated the next day[7] at the University of Pennsylvania, having cost almost $500,000 (nearly $6 million in 2010, adjusted for inflation).[8]

Like so much Research & Development, it was financed with taxpayer dollars. We used to think that was a good way to spend money.

I think it’s safe now . . .

The good Todd spent an hour at my laptop and left a malware scan running for another hour, during which interregnum we had a nice long visit over Diet Cokes. I learned that his wife and I had bought the exact same ‘sensible’ shoes and we both did it yesterday. Somewhere Kevin Bacon is grinning.

By the way, Bacon was delicious playing a ‘Kevin Bacon fan’ in a recent commercial. Delicious.

It appears I am once again functioning. My laptop’s load is somewhat lighter since Todd entered into his frenzy of deactivation and uninstall, calling over his shoulder all the while  to ask if I used this or that or this. Or that.

My life is not my own

At present, my life belongs to an aging Dell VOSTRO that prefers to take its own sweet time doing whatever I ask it to do. It also thinks it’s just fine to leave in the middle of a task and go home for a nap. Sometimes, when I ask it to come to work and bring all its tricks, it leaves the trick bag home. It’s doing everything but putting thumbs in its ears and wiggling the fingers.

I seem to have periodic access – like right now – but  VOSTRO could experience  another PMS attack at any time. Longtime lifesaver Todd, who is really cute and quite shy, was alerted this morning and has already promised to get here today. A fine fellow is Todd.