SEARCHING FOR STUFF THAT ISN’T THERE

My granddaughter needed a copy of Windows 7 to try and reload the laptop I gave her last year. I found one, finally, after finding at least a dozen version of Windows XP. How old are the XP operating systems?  They are still sealed in their original envelopes. Would they run on newer computers?

I found a sealed version of Windows 7, but I had no idea what computer it was supposed to run on — or even if that computer is alive. I think it may be the one I have in my bedroom. If so, it already had its operating system replaced.

Kaitlin tried to use the DVD, but the computer said it didn’t know what that thing in it was. It didn’t even ask for the serial number. It wasn’t going to get fixed tonight. She finally gave up and called Jeremy, the Guy Who Fixes Computers.

The last DVD in my world

During all this racing around, I realized I had no idea where the stuff that came with my new computer might be. I tore the house apart looking for the set of discs I was sure came with this computer. I did find the ones that came with the computer that Garry is now using. That was when I realized … I don’t have a set of discs for this computer.

It doesn’t have a DVD player or writer. It can’t natively run a disc. I did buy a USB auxiliary for it, in case I want to play music or install something that does come on a disk, but otherwise, I’m searching desperately for something that never existed in the first place. If I don’t back up the system to a hard drive myself, I have no back-up. There’s little point in doing that anyway because they keep changing the system, so whatever you save is useless a few weeks later. I back up data, but as for the system?

How would I use the backup even if I made one?

I sat down. Tired, sweaty, and covered with dust.

The good news? I cleaned out a lot of junk. The bad news? There so much more junk remaining. I have crates of old software and manuals and widgets and connectors for computers I haven’t seen in years. We may not have as much paper as we did, but we’ve got a lot of everything else. DVDs and remote controls and batteries. Truckloads of stuff I have saved for years and have no use for. Never did.

And meanwhile, I am hunting for discs for a computer that came without discs.

Is there a Jeremy who can come and fix my head?

FLOATY BOATY ODDBALLS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: July 23, 2017


I don’t know if you could really call these oddballs because I took them on purpose. I’m one of the people who goes in for minor surgery and wants a local so I can watch the screens while doctors do whatever they do. Okay, probably not for heart surgery, but for other, less life-and-death stuff. I wanted to watch them do my knee years ago, but they wouldn’t let me.

Bridge and controls

So here I am, on the boat. And there are all these exciting controls with colors, beeping, and chirping. You can see how deep the water is. See the sandbars. Figure out current, waves, water motion. That’s totally cool.

My favorite control

Let’s not go thirsty.

I took pictures. What else could I do?

REAL REALITY, VIRTUAL REALITY AND REALITY TV REALITY – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m having a real problem with reality lately. And it’s not from taking too many drugs. I think it’s from not taking enough drugs. The problem is that we have too many realities to choose from. We have reality TV, which everyone knows is not real at all.

We have our real reality, which seems to be a really bad reality TV show and is very surreal.

And very now we have Virtual Reality, which is oddly, very real.

“Cool”

I recently made the leap and got a VR (Virtual Reality) system. In this case the Sony PlayStation’s VR platform. There are currently two others out there, the Occulus Rift and the HTV Vive. Which one is better? It depends. Mostly on which one you own. The Vive is the most expensive, the PlayStation the least. I’ve seen all three. Frankly, they look pretty much the same. By that, I mean AWESOME!!

“Whoa!”

Unfortunately, I can’t describe the experience. You have to experience it. Imagine being inside an HD movie. Everything is to scale. You can walk up to people, walk around them. They are human-sized. Not TV-sized or big screen movie-sized. It’s amazing. The only downside is that the games and movies available right now are sort of skimpy. There’s a Batman game in which you literally become Batman.

“I’m Batman”

It’s incredible, but the whole game only lasts about an hour. This is because of the enormous amount of data the system requires. That will change. Soon. Most of the games involve looking around at things and marveling at how real they are.

“I’m gonna need a bigger cage!”

That all changed when a new game came out called Star Trek, Bridge Crew.

In this game, you are on bridge of either the Federation Starship Aegis or the original Enterprise. The detail is amazing. You can sit at any one of four stations.:  Helm, Tactical, Engineering and, of course, the Captain’s chair.

Each station has its own console and responsibilities. Helm steers the ship, sets courses for both warp drive and impulse drive. Tactical fires phasers, photon torpedoes, scans other ships and objects, transports people on-board the ship and can disrupt enemy ships functions, such as disabling their shields, weapons, engines, etc.

The Engineering station fixes the ship, re-routes power, etc. (I need more time!) The Captain runs the show.

Here’s where it gets cool. The whole program is linked  to IBM’s Watson super-computer. When you play in solo mode you are the Captain. Your crew are AIs (artificial intelligences). You can talk to them in normal language. You can say “Helm prepare for warp.”

Helm AI will respond “Yes sir.”

Engineering AI will say “Charging the warp coils Captain.”

When you are ready you actually can say “Helm, ENGAGE!” And it does!

“Engage!”

The Watson computer is constantly learning. You can just talk to it and it tries to figure out what you want to do. This means that when you are being attacked by five Klingon Cruisers, you can shout “Red Alert! Raise shields, arm photon torpedoes, fire phasers at that goddamn Klingon!  Helm! Prepare impulse. Get us the fuck out of here!” And it does.  Of course, there are glitches, but for the most part, it works.

The solo part is not what the program was built for. You can play the game with three other real people. It doesn’t matter what system they own. They all work together. You have to work together to finish a mission and the missions are not easy. Usually, you blow up the ship.

“I think we’re about to die”

It’s a lot of fun. The first time I tried playing with real folks I was at the Tactical station and our Captain was a 14-year-old. The conversation went like this.

ME: Tactical is ready Captain.

CAPTAIN: Helm, prepare to warp the Devos system.

VOICE OFF IN THE DISTANCE: Honey, it’s time to leave!

CAPTAIN: Ma! I’m busy!

MOM: I don’t care what you’re doing, it’s time to go!

CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m on a starship!

MOM: I don’t care where you are, get your butt up here.

CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m the Captain!

The rest of us were laughing our asses off. The engineer recorded the whole episode (you can do that) and posted it on his Facebook page.

One other time we sat at the space dock for a half hour because the engineer seemed to have no idea how to energize the Warp coils.  I was the Captain.

ME: So, engineering, figured out how to energize those Warp coils yet?

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

ME: Well, we don’t seem to be moving.

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

ME: Let me guess, you need more time?

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

Eventually we got so bored that the tactical guy started blowing up our own ships. Yeah, you can do that.

What I find odd is that many of the reviews of the game are sort of negative. They complain that you can’t get up and walk around. You are stuck in the chair in each station. Excuse me? That’s what they do in any Star Trek episode. They sit in their  friggin’ chairs and to their friggin’ jobs! I mean what would happen if Captain Picard ordered Worf to lock phasers on a Romulan ship and fire … and he’s off wandering around the bridge.

PICARD:  Worf! What the hell are you doing?

WORF: Uh, walking around the bridge Captain.

PICARD: Are you kidding me!! For Christ’s sake, get your ass back in that chair and fire those Goddamn phasers!

WORF: Well normally sir, I stand at my station.

PICARD: Oh for Christ’s sake!

Ever since November 8, 2016 I’ve been obsessively watching all the Star Trek series — because Star Trek Reality makes more sense than our real one.  Now, until our surreal reality TV show reality returns to real reality, I’m going to spend as much time as I can in the Star Trek Virtual Reality.


Engage!

ANOTHER DAY WITH CUSTOMER DISSERVICE

As soon as I saw that Microsoft was planning to make “updates” and “downloads” automatic for Windows 10, I knew it was going to be trouble. I had managed to completely evade Windows 8 and 8.5. I had stuck with Windows 7 and been really grateful, but a bunch of newer apps were coming out and they wouldn’t work on Windows 7. These included several new graphics packages and the reader for Audible.

It’s not that the windows Audible reader was good. It stunk, but it stunk less than the alternatives. The only other option I’d been offered was to listen online only and I have strong reservations about that. What happens on an airplane? In the doctor’s office? In the car?

They designed, finally, a new reader … but it would only work on Windows 10. The old “reader” was barely crawling along the virtual ground and several graphics packages just stopped working.

I got a new computer and yes, Windows. Because Apple is great, but I’ve never been  happy with its floating operating system. I like more organization than that. And I have a fairly big investment in Windows applications. So … I got this computer. Which is great. Remarkable. Fast, powerful. Terrific computer. And the first version of Windows 10 with which it arrived was a breeze to use. I should have known it wouldn’t last.

Windows makes operating system decisions based on what their Public Relation Department tells them is good. It has to be that because it isn’t based on conversations with users. As soon as I happily settled down, they decided to massively upgrade the BIOS, which killed a lot of applications. Killed the sound. Made a godawful mess and as I gradually unraveled from the quagmire and made peace with the new system — which included downloading and installing an entirely new version of Windows 10 Pro — I realized that they had no idea what the problems were. I eventually doped out how to fix everything.

This was another one of Those Days. Somewhere along the line, they downloaded something that ruined the fix I made the last time. Which was because my customer service top of the drawer super high-quality experts didn’t know when you have two hard drives, you can only recover the one on which the operating system resides. In this case, my solid state drive.

So I already knew that you can’t recover both drives. I back up the data on the D drive on external drives and I count on “recovery” to manage the operating system, registry, et al. Everything had been going well, so I had no reason to recover anything or roll anything back. This morning, WordPress got wonky. I tried to roll it back and realized Microsoft had completely changed the interface and the restore/recover function was effectively gone. What’s more, all my previous recovery saves were gone and all of the ones they had logged contained both C and D drives. Which meant none of them would work, but I (pointlessly) tried anyway.

Not only that, but they have eliminated the interface that lets you define which drive you want backed up. In fact, they eliminated the entire recovery interface. You could replace Windows (and save your data), but you couldn’t back up to a previous point in time. And the helpers couldn’t help me. They tried to restore me to an earlier version of Windows that had a recovery option, but it failed and finally, I tried deleting everything in the recovery folder and setting it up from scratch. That worked.

This is because I have bookmarked the older interface items which have the selections to make this stuff work.

I never ever call customer service on the telephone. I only confer online by text. Why? Because if I’m on the phone, I’m going to start to foam at the mouth and yell terrible things at the people who would like to help me, but don’t know enough.

Oh, and the updates don’t show up in the notification section anymore. You have to go into settings and look for them. They will never tell you what is coming, why it is coming, what is likely to happen, and how many — any? — of your existing application will still work after the updates.

I’m not that picky. I’ll take an email that warns me of what is coming, why, gives me the right to reject any I feel will damage my system. We should all demand of whoever who builds our operating systems to at least have minimal authority to say “no” until they convince us that “yes” is a better answer.

Use the chat function. Yelling is bad for vocal chords.

HP – UNSELLING THEIR PRODUCTS AGAIN

Every time Windows 10 does an update, it knocks my printer out. Not just offline, but off. It stops working. Add to that the small matter that Charter/Spectrum has been down for hours a day for nearly a week which I’m sure doesn’t help.

We don’t use our printer much, but it’s not even two years old. Very little mileage.

Usually when it decides to stop working, I reboot it and it figures out what its supposed to do. This time, it wanted a password (which it has never had). The printer apparently got the message and spit one out, but when I entered it, I was the password was too old. They are only usable for 90 seconds and it takes me more time than that to run up and down the hallway. Since I kept getting messages from HP saying if I need help, I should call them, I called them.

Printer with paper

I should have known, when they first locked up my telephone line and I had to reboot it before we could have a conversation, that this wasn’t going well. When we finally connected, I shlepped my laptop to the room where the modem, router, and printer live. And awaited instructions.

She started explaining how to find the menu.

I told her I know how to find the menu. She explained she was merely trying to “educate me.” I said I was well-educated and could she please tell me what to do to get the printer working. She asked me to “please wait a minute” and came back to tell me that it would cost me $99.99 for their kind assistance. Including downloading a whole new set of drivers which I knew I could get for free from their website or Microsoft. If I needed them. Which I didn’t.

I pointed out the printer had cost twenty dollars less their “repair” price and that was when I bought it — brand new — slightly more than a year ago. She said I could go to some local guy for repairs. Except we both knew the printer wasn’t broken and this was a software glitch. I told her to advise the company for which she works to go screw itself and hung up.

I went back. Deleted the printer. Rebooted the computer. Added the printer as new. It found the printer and asked for a password. I gave it whatever the printer had spit out. It told me that hadn’t worked, to try something else. I had no idea what else to try, so I deleted the password file, clicked “Add A New Printer” again — and instead of asking for the password, it simply installed the printer. Then sent me a test page and began to work as it had before.

Either the password worked, or it had never needed one. It hadn’t needed one in the past … and their solicitations to call for help was a cheesy way to get a few extra bucks for a company whose computers are selling poorly.

With good reason. The only computer I ever threw away in disgust was an HP. This is the company which believes in bloatware to the max. It had so embedded this crap in their system, I couldn’t make the computer usable. I gave up. Bought a Dell. I’m still buying Dells.

The only thing I’ve bought from HP since then — during a full twenty years period — is this printer which I picked up at Wal-Mart. When I get the next printer? Back to Canon or maybe Epson. HP has permanently unsold me on HP for anything. Ever.

A hundred dollars? To tell me how to use their printer? I bet all they would have done is tell me to do exactly what I did, except they would have downloaded a bunch of new drivers I don’t need.

And, in the end, I ordered a printer that would work in Windows 10. It was not an HP. Twice ripped off? I’m done.


RIPOFF!


A top-notch job of convincing me to never use any of their products. Way to go HP!

WHEN THE WIFI CLOUD BECOMES TORRENTIAL RAIN

Last night, at just before midnight, the WiFi went down. Which meant the telephone also went out, though it was too late for much in the way of phone calls.

I went and rebooted the modem and router. Once, twice, … then three more times. At which point I figured it was Charter/Spectrum, not our router. I did all the getting ready for bed stuff  … fortunately, the cable was still working thus fending off a genuine crisis.

I fished out our cell phone. Which is when realized the entire point of our cell phone is so I can call Charter when their service goes out. I have a special wireless device so I can call the other wireless company to tell them something is broken.

Except I didn’t have to tell them. As soon as the call connected, they told me that there was a “problem in our area and their expert teams were working feverishly to fix it.”

I went to the kitchen and looked fondly at all the equipment that is not hooked up to WiFi and realized — again — how glad I am I don’t have all that stuff connected to our ISP. It’s bad enough losing the telephone and computers without also losing the kitchen stove and who knows what else.

Am I the only one that feels we are putting far too much faith in our ISPs? Do we really want absolutely everything in our lives to depend on one service provider? Is this a good idea? Talk about all the eggs in one basket!

At around 1:30, the signal came back. I turned off the cell, checked my email and felt a cozy sense of satisfaction that I have independent non-WiFi backup drives protecting my data.

The mobile phone can now rest until the next emergency. You guys can use all the clouds you want. Not me. I want my back ups accessible even if The Cloud turns to torrential rain — or a damned tornado.

AND FINALLY, THE COMPUTER IS FIXED. ENTIRELY. FIXED.

I installed the new operating system, taking everything down to zero. Rebuilt both drives. Added software for documents and photography. Added the plug-ins that I use more than the software. Added back all my photographs, then deleted half of them because what’s the point in having things on back-up drives if you put everything on your hard drives anyhow?

Then, I added the printer, sent a test page, and it printed. It’s 9:40 pm. I’ve been at this since ten this morning. I am one weary cookie.

300-virtual-sunday-home-290117_01

This doesn’t sound like much until you realize that merely downloading and installing the operating system is a two-hour job — on this computer. On a different computer, it would have been a much longer job. This computer is fast.

What really took a long time was downloading the photographs and the OpenOffice desktop application. The photographs, originally just over 68,000 of them, took about an hour and a half. Then it took me another hour to delete about a third of them. They all exist either in my site, or on both of the hard drives. They are not gone, merely … in hiding.

OpenOffice is a huge application and it’s free. I usually send them a little money anyway because they do such a great  job at creating a full-service application, but their servers are slow. It was nearly two hours downloading the files. Setting them up took a few minutes.

72-alientwo-10212016_06

My favorite was in Devices/Printers. I wanted to install my printer. When I added the printer, I got a mini-app which requested some kind of installation or other (?) number.

What?

I had no idea what they wanted, but I went dutifully to my printer. I found a serial code, wrote it on a piece of paper. Came back. Typed it into the file. Hit ENTER.


“Sorry, that didn’t work out. Please check further for the correct number.”

I sighed. It had been a long day. This was the absolutely last thing I had to do. The very last thing. I wanted to be finished, done, ended. So, on a whim, I clicked ‘Install New Printer’ again. Clicked the printer … and without asking for anything, it installed all the files and was up and running in a cat’s meow.

What? What about that serial or whatever number? No? Don’t need it after all? Okay, then.

300-alien-200217_002

I know doing a full computer installation can take a really long time, but I needed this to be finished. I was beginning to lose it. I have shockingly little patience with watching things load, download, upload, and in a pinch, side load.

As of this writing, I feel totally loaded.

But you know what’s really super hilariously funny?

I didn’t need to do this. They had given me incorrect information about the recovery function. All it needed was one click. I didn’t need this whole big deal. I didn’t need to spend almost 10 hours installing and loading. I suppose the good news is that everything is working brilliantly, but … I just needed someone to give me the right directions on how to use the recovery function.

I believe I have a headache. Then again, who wouldn’t?