BONE PICKING – LITTLE STUFF THAT GETS ME

Bone of Contention - Pick a contentious issue about which you care deeply — it could be the same-sex marriage debate, or just a disagreement you’re having with a friend. Write a post defending the opposite position, and then reflect on what it was like to do that.

Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It's Alienware!

Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It’s Alienware!

I definitely have a few bones to pick and I’m going to start picking right now. You see, I have these questions. Important questions. And there are, as far as I can tell, no answers to them.

1. Why does WordPress allow us to approve or disapprove comments, but anyone can follow us? Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? I leafed through my thousands of “followers” the other day and exactly as expected, most of the recent ones are spam bots. Short of using Captcha, which I consider cruel and unusual punishment, there doesn’t seem to be anyway to prevent the spammers from following. I can get rid of their comments, but I can’t get rid of them.

2. No matter what you do, every pingback has to be personally moderated … yet if you allow reblogs at all — and most of us do — these do NOT need to be moderated, not even for those who have never commented and are essentially anonymous. Thus my posts have been reblogged on all kinds of horrible sites where I would never venture to go, much less see my work posted. Forgive me if the logic of this eludes me.

3. Object linking has become the function that powers our internet experience. For those of you who don’t know much about programming and computer development, a “link” is really an embedded address. Thus a pingback is actually an object “pointer.” It takes the address of a website or some other thing on the internet (it could also be an email address or a picture … or a part number in a database), embeds it in a graphic or text so that when someone clicks on it, it takes them to that place. Like the transporter on the Enterprise. It’s the computer equivalent of “Scottie, beam me up.” The other day, all my links went wacko. If I clicked on a notification from a follower, I got sent to the Reader … but not to that blogger or that post. Just the top of the Reader. Sometimes, I got the message that the address didn’t exist.

I panicked, contacted WordPress. Who said they would check it out. Yet, before they even had a chance to look at it, it fixed itself and the problem disappeared. That was when I got a notice that other people had begun to have the same problem. What’s up with that? Is our technology beginning to fail because chaos reigns and magic is loose in the world? Just asking.

4. When my links went berserk, my knee jerk reaction was to get mad. After all the goofy “upgrades” WordPress has been making to their user interface (in my world, it is known as the GUI, pronounced Gooey, or graphical user interface), anything is possible.

I assumed this was another bizarre piece of programming they were foisting on me. Eventually, I realized even WordPress could not possibly consider this acceptable, much less an improvement. Not unless they were all taking some heavy hallucinogenic drugs up there in the office.

So there you have it. My contentious bone picking for the day. I know, I know. I was supposed to choose something Important. Something involving Truth. Justice. The Meaning of Life. But this is what I’ve had on my mind. Today seems a good day to air my thoughts.

Watch your links. Keep watching your links. Aliens are invading the servers.

WHY TABLETS CAN’T REPLACE COMPUTERS. WHY THEY SHOULDN’T.

I originally wrote a version of this in November 2012. At that time, agreement among “experts” was nearly universal: tablets would replace desktop and laptop computers. Within a couple of years — in other words, now — everyone would be using a tablet for everything. I disagreed then. I was right. (Don’t you love when that happens?)

Tablet sales have slowed, not because tablets aren’t fun or don’t have a place in our lives, but because everyone has one, or two, or three of them. And because, as it turns out, tablets do what they do, which isn’t everything.

I remember reading all those articles announcing how tablets will replace laptops and desktops. This, based on the surge in tablet sales and the slowing of computer sales. Every time I read one of those articles, I wanted to reach through my monitor, grab the author by the throat and shake him or her.

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I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have quite a few of them, but there are a couple of differences between me and those authors:

1) The reviewers apparently don’t do any work. Not only do they not do any work, they don’t even have hobbies.

2) They think their favorite device is perfect and can do everything.

Have any of the people extolling mini devices as the total computer solution designed a book? Made a movie? Used Photoshop? Converted a document to PDF? Tried playing games on a tablet? It’s nearly impossible. All other issues aside, the screens are too small.

Virtual keyboards are good for virtual fingers …

I just read an article explaining how you can type perfectly fine on the iPad’s virtual keypad. Having tried typing on a variety of tablets, that’s an outright lie. Not true. You can’t type on a virtual keyboard because (trumpets) there are no keys.

You need memory and a hard drive to run applications.

You can’t run photo or video editing software on a tablet. Or a Chromebook. Or a Smartphone. It’s not that it won’t run well. It won’t run at all. It has to be installed. It uses a lot of memory. Without a hard drive, you can’t install it. Even online versions of these applications won’t run on small devices. If you use a real camera — anything more than a basic point and shoot, or a telephone — you can’t even download your photos, much less edit them. If you shoot RAW, you might not be able to load a single photograph on your device.

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You can’t edit a 16 X 20 photograph on a 10 inch tablet. Much less a cell phone.

This is not a matter of opinion. It’s a fact. Can’t do it. Can’t see enough of the pictures to know what you are doing. It does not matter whether we are talking about a Kindle, an android tablet, or an iPad. Operating system is irrelevant. The device is physically too small to do the job. Even if it had a hard drive and enough memory (none of them do), you still couldn’t do it.

Who needs footnotes? Engineering drawings? Spreadsheets? I do, that’s who.

And good luck editing video on a tablet. Let me know how that works for you.

About that thesis: footnotes and bibliographies, and cross references? Explain to your adviser how you can’t include references and attributions because your tablet can’t do it. Surely they will understand. After all, computers are obsolete. And who needs attribution anyhow?

If you’re an architect or engineer? Return to your drawing table and start doing them by hand. I hope you still have those old-fashioned tools and remember how to use them, because you won’t be doing them on your tablet.

Need a spreadsheet? Not going to happen. Even if all you are trying to do is track your own household budget, you can’t do it on your tablet or telephone.

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It’s a big world with room for many operating systems and devices … you don’t need to dump one to have the other.

There’s room in our lives for many different devices. And operating systems.

I prefer stuff that’s dedicated to specific tasks or sets of tasks. I love reading books on my Kindle. I edit on my desktop with the big HD monitor. I use my laptop when I don’t what to be stuck in my office, which these days seem to all the time.

You love your iPad? Enjoy it, but respect its limits — because they’re also its advantages. If you make it big and powerful enough to handle the tasks it currently can’t manage — larger screen, real hard drive, RAM, keyboard — it’s not a fun, portable device any more. If you need that much functionality, you need a laptop or desktop.

You can’t replace everything with one thing. There’s no reason you should.

One size does not fit all.

It’s okay to be different. Whether it’s your political opinion or which computer or device or system you prefer, diversity and differences make our world interesting. Live your life as you prefer. Let others do the same.

TACHYON WAVES, WARP DRIVE, AND INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES

Garry and I have been watching “Star Trek: Next Generation.” We missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were our busiest years. Rebuilding a life. Restarting a career. Buying houses. Getting married. Moving. Moving again.

Watching TV wasn’t a big item on our agenda.

BBC America is showing the series, albeit not in any particular order. We are catching up, watching two or three episodes per night.

star trek next gen cast

They do a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. I accept it with alacrity. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side order of tachyon particles. I understand that science as well as I understand ours.

Which is to say, not at all. Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

I understand exactly as much about tachyon waves and warp drives as I do about the internal combustion engine. True, I studied this stuff in junior high school (middle school to you kids). The information didn’t “take,” and whatever is going on under my car’s hood is a mystery. As is the electricity that powers this computer. As is all technology.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, everything is a mystery. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st. I am equally comfortable in both.

How many of you know how the stuff you use all the time works? I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know how to do a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same. Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

DISIMPROVEMENT 101

It’s a trend. Developers and software companies, from the corporate level down think we are stupid. That we need everything to be made very simple lest we be overwhelmed by too many choices, too much information.

Statistics on the old, unimproved stats screen

Statistics on the old, unimproved stats screen – showing just about everything at a glance

How do I know this? Because the trend in software from most mainstream companies (excluding Adobe, which possibly accounts for their phenomenal success) has been to automate everything.

New disimproved stats page, showing less information in a thoroughly inconvenient format

New disimproved stats page, showing less information in a thoroughly inconvenient format

To leave us with few — or no — choices. Because if we have choices, we’ll screw it up, right? Because, we are stupid.

WordPress, not content with their poorly received “improved posting experience” which caused near insurrection by bloggers, has come up with an “upgraded stats page.” It’s even worse than the “improved posting experience.” Hard to believe, but it’s true.

Commonsense says an upgraded stats page contains more and/or better data. Perhaps a faster response time with improved navigation.

You would be wrong. Instead, we are getting much less information, no navigation other than scrolling (a lot of scrolling) and a slightly slower connection.

Why? Does it not occur to WordPress to test this stuff with users before dumping it on us and telling us these downgrades are really upgrades? How stupid do they think we are?

Seriously guys … how about some beta testing? Surely that would cost nothing but a little bit of time. I’m sure most, if not all, of us would happily do your beta testing. For free. Just ask. Really.

I am not stupid. Or a newbie. Neither are most of the people with whom I connect with on WordPress. If you want to put out a “statistics lite” version for your baby bloggers, that’s fine. Offer it as an option to those who feel less is more.

I don’t think the new page is easier to understand or better in any way at all. It’s less informative and has lots of links for people who are clueless about blogging without providing anything useful to experienced bloggers. That’s a world away from better. Less is not more, not if you are talking about statistics.

Better ought to mean more statistics, additional layers of information. It should include improved navigation tools — and scrolling isn’t navigation.

A bigger typeface doesn’t improve the quality of the data, especially if you’ve eliminated everything but data for one previous week.

Yup, that’s right. You can’t get stats on previous years. No depth. No way to chart overall progress unless your blog is a week old.

It’s sad. Unnecessary. And infuriating.

For other opinions, see If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Anyway and My iPod Has Issues – WordPress Has Joined the Crazy Club.

THE “MISSING” REPORT

I sat here last night. Pondering the differences between this computer which runs Windows 7 Professional and all my other computers which run Windows 7 Home Premium. That was the precise moment I realized I had not the slightest idea where I’d put the system disks for this computer.

And then there is the software and the manuals for all the applications I no longer use, books, a few antiques, and more, mostly obsolete, software. And one music box.

Software and the manuals for applications I no longer use, books, a few antiques, and more, mostly obsolete, software. And one music box.

It was alarming. It got more alarming the more I thought about it. I also realized I had no idea where I put the system disk for Windows 7 I installed on another laptop. For that matter, I was a little hazy on where to find the disks for any of our computers. The only stuff I can locate quickly is for a computer I no longer own, but gave to my granddaughter.

I have every version of Quicken I ever bought — a lot of Quicken — and I no longer use Quicken. I do know where my DVDs for Photoshop are. I have located at least half a dozen versions of Scrabble, none of which run on this operating system.

Sometime around midnight, I went into a frenzy of searching for the system disks for this computer because I doubt they are replaceable. Garry found them, on the keyboard of the electric organ (as opposed to the piano).

I must have been in some kind of daze when I did the setup on this computer. Normally, I take system disks, put them in a manila envelope, label them in big fat markers as “red laptop” or “silver XPS” or “Garry’s 14Z.”

So many computers have come and gone, I have system software for computers that left my possession years ago. I’m not sure what “Garry’s 14Z means, because at some point, his 14Z had to be reloaded and I gave him my 14z. After repair, what had been his 14Z became my “spare laptop,” the one I use to listen to audiobooks as I fall asleep. Or make a final check of email late at night. So what, exactly does “Garry’s 14Z” mean? My bedroom computer or his laptop?

I have every version of old software I used. Manuals too. Empty boxes for each camera I bought. Which is a lot of cameras and a lot of boxes. I have empty Kindle boxes back to the first keyboard Kindle I owned.

I should throw at least some of the stuff away. I finally got rid of the boxes of floppy disks as I no longer have any way to read them. But I kept CDs of documents and photos going back more than a decade, even though I have this same data on three different external hard drives.

No wonder I can’t find anything. Between junk and having become increasingly distracted and absent-minded, important pieces of my life are vanishing.

Everything is “somewhere.” Nothing is lost. Just … missing. I can’t even blame it on the pixies. It’s definitely me.

A Final Note: I bought the carved zebras (in the photograph) at a yard sale 7 or 8 years ago. While I was running my online shop, I got a call from the buyer for a major (you’d know the name) retailer. She wanted 3,000 of each. Sadly, I only had those two. They are one of a kind hand-carvings.

We all wait for our ship to come in. Mine came. I couldn’t board. It left without me. That’s the way my life goes.

TESTING 1-2-3

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This Christmas cactus was too dark, too grainy, very crooked and distorted. In a single operation, I straightened, skewed, cropped and de-noised it. Surprise!

I finally made the decision to buy onOne’s Perfect Enhance 9 module. I had already decided against buying the full suite. Too many of the tools in it were ones I’d rarely or never use, or duplicated tools I had in other software.

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This picture was not only out of focus, but so crooked I did not expect to salvage it.

The enhance module has a bunch of features I can and will use, and they may help me rescue borderline pictures which are too grainy or too soft. The sharpening and noise reduction functions in this software are exceptional.

Cleaned up, with the tones more even. And, of course, straightened.

Cleaned up, de-noised, and straightened.

Another feature I didn’t expect but am enjoying is the multi-faceted crop function. It lets me straighten, skew, and crop in a single operation.

Adjustments were made on just about everything, from brightness, to contrast. It has been straightened and sharpened.

Adjustments were made on just about everything, including exposure, saturation, and contrast. It was straightened and sharpened.

As far as I can tell, it is not well-integrated with the Windows Photoshop CS-6. All the onOne tutorials use a Mac version which has different menus from my version. I’m not sure what version of Photoshop they are demonstrating, but I have not (yet) been able to integrate this module as a Photoshop plug-in. It remains essentially a standalone application which uses some Photoshop features and formats. I like it anyway.

END OF THE WINDOWS ROAD?

It appears to be the end of the road for me and Windows.

I’m just bought what I suspect will be my last Windows machine, the most powerful Alienware computer I could configure — or afford. It had better last a long time. I’ve tried using Windows 8.1 on Microsoft tablets (two of them) as well as my friend’s desktop. I hate it.

alienware side view computer

From everything I have read, the worst of the problems of Windows 8 will morph into “features” on Win 10, the classic “smoke and mirrors” approach to software.

“Oh, it isn’t a bug … IT’S A FEATURE!”

You got that right. It’s not that Microsoft has made it impossible to run non-Microsoft products on my computer .They are protecting me from the big, bad, world. Nor will they provide me with alternative software to perform those tasks. Microsoft wants me locked into their universe and I must use their applications to do whatever I want or need to do.

If by some chance I have a twisted urge to do other things and Microsoft doesn’t have appropriate applications or tools? Gee, that’s too bad. Microsoft has set the bar, made the rules. All you zombies will march in step and pay us for the privilege.

Not this zombie. Nor a whole lot of my fellow zombies.

Mind you I am no super fan of Mac, either. I have a heavy investment in Windows-based software, which is how come I have put up with this crap so far. But there is a line over which you cannot push me because I won’t let you.

You cannot tell me to live in your universe to the exclusion of all others “for my own safety.” No matter what you believe, it’s my world too. My computer. My money. My investment, work, effort, creativity. You cannot, will not force me to do it your way. This is not happening. Thanks for warning me.

I’ll start saving now for the investment I will have to make in the future to change to a different system. And shame on you writers for not doping out the obvious end result of this shill game … the end of freedom of choice for anyone who buys into the Microsoft system.

And so, Mr. Bott, author of “Microsoft reveals audacious plans to tighten security with Windows 10” — the latest in a long line of ZDNet shill articles about the wonders of Windows 10: What happened to journalistic ethics? Did they pay you to lose them or just make it clear you have to tow the party line or else? I can’t believe you actually believe the drivel you’re writing.

When I started in the high-tech writing biz, we limited shilling for sponsored products to the “new products” columns. We didn’t feature them. We were encouraged to use our best judgment and commonsense when writing lead articles.

I’m embarrassed to have been a member of the same profession. Ashamed. You should be too.

A G-SPOT FINDER APP?

Back when I was very much younger and hornier, there were lots of discussions about The Spot. You know. That critical, yet somehow elusive spot on the female anatomy?

I assumed I knew what everyone was talking even though it never had a name. We never call anything by its proper name because despite there being nothing dirty, offensive, or immoral about using correct names for body parts, we are prissy about sex.

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This bashful unwillingness to just say what we mean produces some bizarre communication problems between the sexes. It’s akin to taking a vacation but not being allowed to say the name of the hotel. You can only identify it as The Resort. You are also forbidden to give the street number. It’s “somewhere on Main Street.” Good luck finding your destination.

It’s not only men who can’t find The Spot on wives or girl friends. It’s also persons of the female persuasion who (apparently) can’t find it on themselves.

Say what? A friend of mind commented that even if the finger can’t figure out which does what, the spot itself should immediately contact the brain with the information — DING, DING, DING, THIS IS THE SPOT!

So what’s with all these girls growing up who can’t find it? I’ll bet every little boy in the world knows where his Spot is. He didn’t have to take a seminar. His brain said “Right here!”

More relationships have been destroyed by a woman’s inability to say “A quarter inch to the left, please” than by adultery. The same people who fight, argue, email, text and post online the most intimate details of their lives, are unable to tell a partner that he (she?) is missing The Spot. Oh puleeze.

I thought we got squared away on this 50 years ago. Or more. Apparently not. What are all the people who can’t find The Spot doing in bed?

The time has come for technology to take a hand (no pun intended). We need an app for that. How about one for the iPhone? Grab your phone and like a Geiger counter, it tells you when you’re hot — and when you’re not.

As you zero in, the Hot Spot Finder App says “YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION!” in stentorian tones. The Hallelujah Chorus starts playing.

Everyone uses a mobile phone for everything, so let’s solve this problem once and for all. Please, give us an app for that!