Archive for the ‘software’ Category

Ahem. . .Anyone still out there?

December 28, 2009

I’ve been flirting with getting back to this log for some time, and I always put it off for another day. But here I am.

I suppose I’m here at least in part because of a certain renewed confidence in my ability to manage computers. I defeated Microsoft’s attempts to squash me today (at least so far), and I feel a little rhapsodic.

I bought a new computer. I’ve been putting it off for years because I didn’t want to deal with Vista and it really fried me to contemplate paying extra money to have someone “downgrade” my computer to an OS that worked. But then Windows 7 was released, got pretty good press, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. The machine wasn’t supposed to come until January, but Dell cut their assembly time in half (or else they got a shipment of parts early) and Fed-Ex cut their delivery time in half, and my new machine arrived midday on Christmas Eve, a gift from Santa.

Last night I was wishing I had stood it a little longer.  As is my wont, I leaped in with little regard to manuals, instructions, pre-planning, and so forth. So I spent a couple of hours backing up old files to CD for transfer, fingers crossed the whole time. I dealt with file protection issues and waded through them. Then I booted my new machine and went through the setup and stuff only to discover that I couldn’t just load my files from CD. I suspect it has something to do with the shift from a 32-bit OS to a 64-bit OS. So I started over, actually following the instructions from Windows 7 on moving files.

It was less arduous that I was afraid of.

Then I got surprise number 2. There’s no e-mail program on Windows 7. So, fingers crossed, I loaded an old version of Outlook and–voila!–my contacts and e-mail archive appeared exactly as they had before I ran them through Windows 7’s little file transfer utility.

But I had a few permissions problems. MS has done a good job of trying to hide from Joe User anything that might be of any use to anyone, but I ferreted out the files I needed, gave the system permission to let me screw with them, and my problems went away. At least for now. All in all a satisfying evening.

So here we are coming up on 2010, and I haven’t posted anything since mid-2008. There are lots of reasons for that, some of which may appear in subsequent posts. But there appear to be a few stalwarts still looking for me to speak, so as the New Year approaches, I’m going to resolve to try to do a little better this year.

Here’s the Cliff notes version of 2009:

In February (pretty much on my birthday) I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I got to spend several months poisoning my body with yew extract and a platinum compound. Then I got to spend several more months letting my body recover from the abuse. If the truth be told, it’s still recovering. As I read somewhere recently, chemotherapy is useful, but it’s highly toxic.

On the plus side, I just got a clean bill of health at my 6-month post-chemo checkup. If I can maintain that condition for only 2.5 more years, I’ll be considered officially cured. This oddball apparently comes right back or it doesn’t come back at all.

In June I published my first book. That was pretty exciting. I spent the late summer and fall doing a variety of readings at some fairly prestigious venues (did you know people actually pay other people to come and read to a third group of people?). The book has been well received, so I’m working on a second collection.

Those two things pretty well ate up 2009. I can’t say too much about the second half of 2008 except that I think my brother’s death hit me a little harder than I thought it did.

But at any rate, I’m going to try to write here a little more often. And I have to type another sentence or two because my “word count” on this just hit 666 and I don’t want to leave it there. . .

Happy New Year to all, and the best to you in 2010.

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Solstice countdown

December 20, 2007

The winter solstice is expecially troublesome in our house. We are far enough north (approx. 44th parallel) that there is a substantial difference in the amount of light we get at different times of the year. It’s wonderful in the summer, when days last til after 10 p.m., but this time of year it’s totally dark by about 4:30.

Ben deals with it better since he learned to start counting down early in December the number of days until the light starts to return. Only a couple of days left now, so we’re all looking forward to the days being much, much longer. I believe it’s about seven minutes a day that the light increases. But psychologically, it feels like much more.

Some people take drugs for sinuses and headaches. I’m not one of them. So far Wii is working equally well, although it may be raising my blood pressure. I’m afraid to check. It’s time to go read the manual and see what those little crowns on the map mean. I think they mean you’ve cleared a galaxy, but if that’s the case, I have to go revisit some places.

But I have 14 stars, and I killed both the stupid mushrooms (goombas, I seem to recall from earlier Mario games?) on Yoshi’s head and finished off the tarantula, so things are going well. Josh is right, the game just keeps getting better and better.

I really enjoy the good Mario games. I like Zelda, too, but there’s a complex puzzle-solving element to those games that my brain just isn’t up to at the moment. Ben is much better at those than I am, and I’ve managed to give him my sinus infection, so he’s not very much in a puzzle-solving mood.

But Mario, at its best, is full of action and concentration. You have to pay attention when the game is teaching you a new skill, because you’re certain to need it very soon. This is the best Mario so far, and I’ll probably wear out the generator playing it.

Dinner in the oven–blackened pork chops baked with stuffing, to which I’ll add mashed potatoes, gravy, and spinach. I know I’m on the mend, because yesterday my appetite came back. I think I lost about five pounds last week (yes! but not my favorite way to do it) because food just didn’t sound good. But yesterday, suddenly, I was hungry again. Makes it easier to cook, too, when you can imagine how luscious something will taste.

Wii, Wii, Wii, all the way home

December 18, 2007

I’ve been fighting with a sinus infection and bronchitis for about a week now, and I’m tired of it. But interestingly enough, the only thing that seems to completely distract me from the sinus headache is “Super Mario Galaxy.” So the Wii’s been getting some heavy usage.

 I’m just about to tackle the first enemy base, but unfortunately I squandered all of Princess Peach’s second gift of five 1-ups trying to beat the Rocky Road. The scorching odor you can probably smell from wherever you are is the smell of flesh burning up in a black hole, repeatedly.

I love the wireless controllers. They resolve the only problem I’ve ever had with Nintendo games, which was leaping around and tripping over the controller wires. The movement took little getting used to, although I have to say the game threw me a curve in Surfing 101 and I kept trying to steer with the Nunchuk. I finally had to just put it down.

But I find two separate controllers much more user-friendly and ergonomic than the old “classic” style that always seemed to put your shoulders at a somewhat awkward angle, OK for a short time but not so good for extended play.

But I’m hooked. I understand why Wired magazine said, “If you only buy one video game this year, make it ‘Super Mario Galaxy.'” What Ben said was, “If only NASA could get an astronaut into space that easily. . .”

We bought the game quite a bit before Thanksgiving and are just now getting around to playing it. Watching people scramble to find one for their child or children, I guess I should feel a little guilty about depriving some poor kid of his dearest wish.

But I don’t. Kids come in all ages, shapes and sizes. . .

A customer manifesto: Pen or sword

May 11, 2007

Who knows?

But my desktop computer seems to be more or less up and running, and I have even reinstalled IE7, and so far none of the evilness I’ve been experiencing is happening again. So far.

I am declaring war on Microsoft. As with so many wars, it has to be adjudicated and waged in an environment in which I need the company. You can’t blow someone sitting on one quarter of the earth’s oil supply off the face of the map. At my age, I’m not sure I’m up to learning all of the stuff I would have to learn to divorce them entirely. I actually like MS-Office and know how to use most of the applications. XP works great for me, too, most of the time. And even IE7. . .most of the time.

But upon reflection, I think my problems started when I got tired of looking at the little yellow shield on my applications bar that said an update was pending. The update was Microsoft’s “Genuine Software Advantage,” a Newspeak name if there ever was one.

So I opened up the little shield and got to the place where I had to accept or decline the license agreement.

At this point I should tell you this about me: I actually buy software. I have no aversion to paying reasonable user license fees for the product of someone else’s brain. So it wasn’t the idea that Microsoft might find out I had pirated stuff on my computer that got me worked up. It was the thought of MS trying to be the morality police, I think, and I went a bit over the edge.

So I declined the license agreement. That’s when my troubles started.

Several days and I no longer know how many hours later, my desktop computer seems almost normal again. We’ll see what happens when I boot it tomorrow.

But I am still really angry. A couple of days of gardening and fixing some really good meals (I’ll write about wienerschnitzel later) can’t mitigate it, and these are my common refuges in an increasingly uncertain and annoying world.

My anger at the moment is focused on Microsoft, and I have to decide what to do about it. Some of you have suggested abandoning MS applications–loading Ubuntu as my OS, using Firefox instead of IE, and the like. But I actually like the applications. What I resent is the anti-customer attitude that MS seems to be adopting increasingly frequently.

I don’t need a policeman, for Pete’s sake, I need a software vendor. When something gives me value, I buy it. When it doesn’t, I don’t. And I sure as heck don’t need a vendor looking over my shoulder to check for the dotted i’s and crossed t’s. I have a moral code that Microsoft could only hope would be emulated throughout the land.

And I’m not willing to be subjected to the kind of nonsense I’ve dealt with for the last several days because others might not have the same moral code.

 Josh Bancroft turned me on to the marketer’s manifesto in “Cluetrain.” It begins with 95 theses, in emulation, I’m sure, of Martin Luther. Having once sat through Lutheran catechism classes (another story for another day), I always thought Luther was a bit long-winded. Here is my customer manifesto, which is a great deal shorter (Microsoft, I hope you’re listening):

  • Offer me something that makes my life a little bit easier and I will buy it.
  • I want things to work the way that you present them, with no ifs, ands, or buts, no fine print, no “beta” qualifications.
  • If something breaks, I want to be able to fix it quickly and at a reasonable price. Ask me sometime about boomboxes.
  • I trust you to deliver the product as advertised. I want you to trust me also. If you don’t, then we probably don’t have a good vendor/customer relationship.

But I’m not going to go blow up MS’s headquarters. I think instead I will write about this experience and see if someone like “Wired” won’t publish it. Maybe I can shame MS into treating customers as they should be treated.