SHARING MY WORLD – ANOTHER BIRTHDAY

The birthday bouquet

The birthday bouquet

How appropriate to be part of Cee’s Share Your World – Week 10  today. Birthdays aren’t as heartwarming as they were when I was a kid. As kids, we embraced each year. We were counting up towards a vast, unknown, and limitless future. Now, we are counting down. Most of what we were planning to do, either we’ve already done it, or we acknowledge it will have to wait for the next trip around the wheel.

I’m feeling pretty good about life, over all. Bumps in the road … okay some huge bumps … but I’m here. I plan to hang around awhile. Good stuff still lies ahead.

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When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles or turn on the flashlight? How many of each do you own?

We’ve been lucky. We haven’t lost power, even during blizzards, for more than a few minutes in several years. People living a few miles away have had outages that lasted weeks. So far, so good. We have flashlights. We don’t use them often and have to check periodically to make sure the batteries haven’t died. When power goes out at night around here, it is very dark. No street lights, no light from other houses. It’s dark as a dungeon — unless there’s a full moon, of course.

We use the flashlights to find the matches and the candles. We have probably more than a dozen scented candles in the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Older eyes don’t see well in low light … especially not myopic old eyes. My toes appreciate the courtesy of not bashing them into furniture and walls.

The dogs don’t care. It’s all the same to them.

You are given $5,000 and the chance to exchange it for one of two envelopes. One envelope contains $50,000 and one contains $500. Do you make the trade? Why or why not?

I’m not a gambler. $5,000 in the hand beats $50,000 in the bush. Las Vegas wouldn’t make much from me!

One year old!

One year old!

What’s your first memory?

It was a cold, pre-dawn morning in New York. I was in my crib. We were in a terrible old tenement in Freeport. I wasn’t talking yet. I started crying for no reason I can remember. Maybe that was the closest I could come to words. I was standing in my crib when my mother came. She picked me up. I stopped crying.

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep, toss and turn, or get up and try to do something?

Sleep is not easy for me. Ever. I have an iPad on which I listen to audiobooks. When I feel sleep coming on, I bookmark my current place, set the sleep timer for 15 minutes, and drift off. My problem has never been falling asleep. It’s staying asleep. If the committee meeting in my head could recess for a few nights, that would really help!

What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful to have made it to this birthday. It’s been  touch and go for the past 13 years. I’m looking forward to a peaceful week — and year — to come. I’ll settle gratefully for uneventful.

TABLETS. THE NON-SOLUTION TO FUTURE COMPUTING

I always wondered, when I wrote about tablets and computers, if lacking an iPad was the problem. I have Android tablets, windows tablets. A variety of Kindles. But maybe all these could not show me how tablets could rock my world, make me get rid of all my laptops and desktops. I figured that must be the key — because while I like my tablets, I would never use one for real work.

Well. I got an iPad. And just to round out my tablet experience, I unexpectedly fell into a Kindle Fire HD 8.9, the big dog of Kindles.

And now, with my bona fides in order, it’s time to say it again. Because now, more than ever, the truth is incontrovertible. A tablet can’t replace your laptop or desktop unless the only thing for which you use a computer is email and social media … and even then, it might be a bit tricky.

Getting an iPad

The lightweight laptop I used for simple tasks died. Again. A software super-glitch involving multiple areas of the system. The laptop isn’t old, hasn’t seen heavy use, but has required two reloads and now wants a third. I was unwilling to put more money into a machine which clearly has a problem. Computers should not eat operating systems. I just don’t know what the problem is, but it was a cheap laptop. Time to replace it.

Kindle and iPad

What to do? I needed something on which I can play audiobooks and which will access at least two, preferably three, Audible accounts — something Kindles cannot do. It needed to be light, highly portable, able to do basic Internet stuff, make minor corrections on my blog. Check email. Maybe play some music or a movie once in a while. I found a really good deal on an iPad 3. Between my credits with Amazon and the reduced cost of an older model, it came into my life for under $300, making it my least costly and (I assumed) most elegant computing solution.

I’ve had friends extolling the virtues of the iPad for years. So I figured I’d get this thing. It would leap from its box, embrace me. Configure itself (like the Kindle does), then clean the house, shovel the roof, and cook dinner.

Not exactly. Hours of configuring later (and the addition of Chrome as a browser), it began to behave like it should.

I still prefer the Kindle. It’s faster, requires much less configuring. Except for that pesky problem with Audible access, which you’d think Amazon would solve since they own Audible. But never mind. Many of the same people who had been telling me that an iPad was going to solve my problems (and those of the world) were now emailing me, reminding me it’s “just a tablet, not a computer.” Funny. That’s not what they said before I got one.

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. And because, as it turns out, tablets do what they do, which isn’t everything.

I remember reading articles how tablets would replace laptops and desktops. This was based on a surge in tablet sales and a simultaneous slowdown of computer sales. Apparently no one who wrote those articles considered that people buying tablets didn’t have them. When everyone had one, tablet sales would level off. Many folks had recently invested in desktop and laptop computers and didn’t need another one. And of course, there was Windows 8 which caused a lot of folks to not want to buy a computer, including me.

Today, I am set for tablets. Two Kindles (big and little) and an iPad. My fantastic Alienware laptop does the heavy lifting and I still have a big desktop in my office.

The writers of those articles were, quite simply, lying. None of them wrote their articles on tablets. I don’t know who paid them off, but everyone who’s ever used a tablet knows it cannot replace a full-size computer or laptop. To say otherwise is intentional misrepresentation.

All the friends who told me how great their iPads are failed to mention any of its limitations until I already owned one. Is this the official “dirty little secret” of the iPad fan club? I had to become a member of the club before I could have the rest of the story?

I’ve made peace with my iPad, but it will never be my favorite device or even my favorite tablet. I prefer my Kindles and the big, 8.9″ Kindle is the top dog. Not the most portable among its brethren, but for aging eyes, it’s a life-saver. I can read again!!

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

One size does not fit all. You can’t replace everything with one thing. There’s no reason you should. It’s still a (sort of) free country.

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.

alienware computer front full

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.

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE FROZEN SIRLOIN

It started the other day. I reached for my sandwich and encountered a frozen sirloin steak. On my desk. Where my sandwich ought to be. I picked up the frozen beef, took it to the kitchen, and showed it to Garry.

“Why,” I asked him, “Do I have a frozen steak to my office?”

Camera bags in their natural habitat.

Camera bags in their natural habitat.

“I have no idea,” he said, “Offhand? I’d guess you took it out of the freezer and put it there yourself. Or the pixies are at it again. Maybe the dogs did it. They look guilty to me.”

“I think they are trying to sucker you out of another round of treats,” I commented. But that was a safe bet as they are always on the prowl.

I never got to the bottom of the steak mystery. Usually if something odd appears someplace odder, it’s because I meant to grab one thing, but instead, grabbed another. In this case, I also carried my drink and my sandwich, so the odd thing was one more thing. A frozen sirloin is not the sort of thing I have lying around, so I would have had to make a special effort to get it. Which is to say I’d have had to extract the slab of beef from the freezer.

I assume — unless someone out there has a better explanation — I was intending to put it in the fridge to defrost, but I got distracted. However, I don’t remember taking it out of the freezer and thus have no idea what (if anything) I had in mind (what mind?). Perhaps I was planning to eat it frozen and raw. Anything is possible.

It is not difficult to distract me these days. Truth be known, forgetfulness is my constant companion. It just gets worse.

We are planning another visit to friends. It won’t be until after the holidays, but the days are whizzing by. I’m trying to get things organized in hopes I’ll remember to bring everything. I’m passing along my oldest, favorite camera, an Olympus PEN PL-1, the first of my now numerous mirrorless cameras. I have long-since upgraded to newer Olympus PEN cameras. It will go to live with my best friend, so I can visit it often.

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That’s background. Here’s where it starts getting complicated.

During a pre-Black Friday sale (or Advance Cyber Monday) sale, I bought a pair of super fast SD memory cards. The camera I’m giving away has a good, premium chip in it, but after I replaced the card in one camera, I found myself with a spare card. One more than the number of slots in my card case.

Are you following me?

I thought “Okay, I’ll give her this one as a spare. I don’t need it anyhow. It’s not super fast, but neither is the PL-1.”

I put the chip on my desk in front of the monitor while I searched I-don’t-know-how-many camera bags for one of those little plastic cases in which to put the card. Not long ago, all these memory cards came in plastic cases, but no more. Today you have to buy them. Talk about a rip-off. Seriously, how much do they save by not giving you a case? A penny? Less?

Anyhow, somewhere along the way in my search, I unearthed a couple of empty plastic cases.

I turned around to get the card to put into one of the new-found cases, then realized I had to take the cases out of the bag. I wheeled my chair around, but couldn’t remember in which bag I’d found the cases. I looked where I thought I’d seen them, but they weren’t there. I rotated again. The card had vanished.

During this exercise, my butt never left my desk chair. I never stood up. No one else was in the room, even briefly. But somehow, I had lost the cases and misplaced the card. It eliminated my problem since I no longer needed a case, having lost the card. On the other hand, it left me with one more mystery.

Nothing is lost. Just temporarily misplaced. The cases are in one of the bags and the card is somewhere in my office. I’m sure of it.

But what about the frozen steak?

GOOD MORNING BABY

Reverse Shot – What’s your earliest memory involving another person? Recreate the scene — from the other person’s perspective.


You asked for an early memory. This certainly fits that bill. Funny how I have to come back to life to write this for you, but we all live on, at least in the memories of our children, friends, family.

It was a cold, pre-dawn morning in New York. Marilyn was in her crib. We were still been living in that terrible old house in Freeport because Marilyn was not speaking yet. After she found her words, she never stopped talking … so this had to be early.

I heard her crying. When I came into the room, she was standing there, in her crib. Just looking around at the lights, at the old dresser. There wasn’t much light. No sun is shining at four in the morning and in those days, you didn’t automatically turn on lights when you entered rooms. The legacy of the war, I suppose.

The room was mostly empty except for my little daughter, that old dresser — I think it came from my parents house — and the white, wooden crib. Painted white. Probably with lead-based paint. We were terribly uninformed in 1948.

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Marilyn, April 1948

I stood there. Looking at my daughter. She stood there, looking at me. And smiling. I was so tired. The house was cold. The steam wouldn’t be up for hours yet. But she was happy, glad to see me. Too young to worry or be afraid. Life is simple for the very young.

We watched each other. Exhausted mommy, perky baby. After a few minutes standing, holding onto the crib’s railing, she let out a wail. It startled me and I turned on the lights, lifted her from the crib. She cooed a little something. A happy noise. I cooed in answer, a mommy sound with no special meaning. What mattered was I was there and holding her. Easy to make a little one happy.

She stopped crying. Mommy was there. I wrapped us both in blankets, moved the rocking chair in front of the still-dark window. Then, we sat, rocked, and waited for sunrise. And the steam to come up.

It’s going around. I’ve got it. Garry’s got it. My best friend is just getting over it. My son had it last week and my granddaughter got it and recovered in a couple of day. If you’re a teenager, you get a cold, feel cruddy for a few days, then you’re better. No biggie. 50 years later, it’s a different ball game.

“How do you feel?” I ask Garry. I can take a good guess but I’m obliged to ask because this is how I express concern. And how he knows I care.

“Lousy,” he says. Succinct, to the point. That’s why they paid him the big bucks for all those years.

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I remember when an inventory of bodily functions would pinpoint problem areas. I could assume everything else was fine, thanks for asking. Standing was one smooth movement, no grunting. I could eat anything that didn’t eat me first. I could (did) live on pizza and donuts with a side of diet Coke. It wasn’t healthy, but who cared?

We weren’t as obsessed with food as everyone seems to be these days. I doubt the current obsession with “healthy and natural” is going to make anyone live longer. Or forever, which is the underlying fuel for the obsession (beat death by eating healthy).

But we’re old school. We eat healthy because we like it. If we didn’t like it, we’d probably eat junk. It’s not a religion, just dinner.

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In my 50s, I hiked from the Stop and Shop to our apartment on Beacon Hill carrying 20 pounds of groceries in each hand without breaking stride or breathing hard. Thighs of iron. On days off in the summer, Garry and I walked from our apartment to the Commons, then strolled to the Public Gardens. Rode a swan boat then stopped for dinner. And rambled on home just pleasantly tired.

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I don’t want a younger brain (the body is another matter). I like my wise old brain, the way my thoughts dodge and weave through the mind’s object-linked file system. Each thought evokes a complete set of memories including pictures, music, smells and emotions. Whole experiences recreate themselves as the little electrical impulses fire. Good for you, old brain!

According to the AARP, coffee drinkers are 40% less likely to develop dementia than non-coffee drinkers. I drink a lot of coffee. I always knew it was the best brain fuel. Brew me another pot, would you?

INVENTORY, MEMORIES AND BRAIN FUEL

ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION, GET A SIMPLE — WRONG — ANSWER

I bought a small Dell tablet that I hope will serve a purpose … something compact that I can use to connect to the larger world, but tuck in my bag for quick excursions when I’m not going to be processing photos or writing posts for my blog. It has been ordered, but not yet received. When I ordered it, I was told it accepted a standard SD memory card up to 128 GB in size. Cool. Adorama was advertising a sale on memory today, so I popped over to see what bargains were to be had. I figured I’d get — depending on price — one or two 64 GB cards. And realized that anything larger than 32 GB is XC, not HC.

So I used Dell’s chat to ask a question. I thought it was a simple question. Will the Venue Pro 8 read an SDXC card?

This is how the first call went. After this, I went to working the phone.

This is an automated email sent from Dell Chat. The following information is a log of your session. Please save the log for your records.
Your session ID for this incident is …
Time Details
01/20/2014 11:07:21AM Session Started with Agent (A-D)
01/20/2014 11:07:21AM Marilyn Armstrong: “.”
01/20/2014 11:07:27AM Agent (A-D): “Welcome, my name is A-D. I can be reached at … How may I help you?”
01/20/2014 11:07:45AM Marilyn Armstrong: “I have one question about the Venue Pro 8 which I’ve already ordered”
01/20/2014 11:08:15AM Agent (A-D): “No problem you are free to ask questions Marilyn”
01/20/2014 11:08:19AM Marilyn Armstrong: “I know it takes an SD card, but does it read the newer SDXC cards?”
01/20/2014 11:08:55AM Marilyn Armstrong: “HC is the older format, but all the larger cards – 64GB and up — are SDXC, not SDHC.”
01/20/2014 11:09:42AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Hello??”
01/20/2014 11:10:15AM Agent (A-D): “Yes you can still use other SD card …”
01/20/2014 11:10:24AM Agent (A-D): “I mean other brand”
01/20/2014 11:10:24AM Marilyn Armstrong: “SDXC?”
01/20/2014 11:10:34AM Marilyn Armstrong: “This isn’t a brand. It’s a FORMAT.”
01/20/2014 11:10:46AM Agent (A-D): “Yes it can”
01/20/2014 11:10:53AM Agent (A-D): “It is back ward compatible”
01/20/2014 11:11:21AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Are you sure? Because this is a NEWER NOT AN OLDER FORMAT and I don’t think you understand what I’m talking about”
01/20/2014 11:11:50AM Agent (A-D): “let me double-check for you”
01/20/2014 11:11:53AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Please connect me with someone who understands the technology.”
01/20/2014 11:13:27AM Agent (A-D): “Upon double checking the format can only support SD, SDHC only”
01/20/2014 11:14:08AM Marilyn Armstrong: “So it can’t actually accept a 128GB card because they are ALL in SDXC format. The bigger cards are all SDXC
01/20/2014 11:14:16AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Is there someone I can really talk to?”
01/20/2014 11:14:27AM Agent (A-D): “yes it is …”
01/20/2014 11:14:54AM Agent (A-D): “you can go on this link http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=mn for you technical support”
01/20/2014 11:14:56AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Where? Not on dell, not on Amazon, not on Tiger Direct, not anywhere.”
01/20/2014 11:15:01AM Agent (A-D): “You’ll be able to contact our Technical Support Department at 1-800-624-9896, they are open 24/7”
01/20/2014 11:15:39AM Marilyn Armstrong: “This is a simple question. I don’t want to spend hours on the damned phone. Just have someone who actually knows the specs of the item I already ordered.”
01/20/2014 11:16:41AM Agent (A-D): “I already give you the information that you want…”
01/20/2014 11:18:38AM Agent (A-D): “that is the only format that can support the tablet is SD, SDHC only”
If you require further assistance, please visit us at support.dell.com

Two phone calls later:

The Venue Pro 8 only accepts micro SD cards and only SDXC format. Wow. There’s nothing like really terrific customer service to start the day off right, eh?

The previous is an actual transcript of the conversation. Only the name and other identifying information have been changed to protect the guilty.