I WANT AN AUTONOMOUS HOUSE! Marilyn Armstrong

Autonomous house, autonomous life!

The self-driving vehicle is on the way. It’s on the news and in the news. A few accidents. One death. But considering the number of accidents just backing out of a driveway in suburbia, that’s pretty good.

I can actually see a day coming when Robert Heinlein’s vision will have arrived. Not exactly as he predicted, but close enough for folk music.

We could definitely use a self-driving car because neither one of us wants to drive anywhere, but we are driving a not-yet-paid-for second-hand 2012 Jeep Patriot, so a self-driving car doesn’t look likely to appear for us.

Autonomous cars would be great. Finally, we could blame everything on computers. Nothing would be anyone’s fault. The manufacturer’s of colliding cars could duke it out in court and all we’d have to do is recover from being slammed by a 40-foot moving van. Anyway, by then, medicine will be free. I know this because we are all moving in the direction of more freedom for all Americans.

We aren’t? Did I mis-hear the news again?

However much an autonomous self-driving vehicle would solve many issues, an autonomous, self-repairing, self-cleaning house would really do the job! If a tile on the roof gets damaged, the technology will grow another in its place. You’ll never know it happened. The furnace, will operate on hydrogen drawn from well-water and will never need filling. Rugs will be permanently free of dog hair, grit, pollen, and mud.

Pipes would never clog.

Of course, this presumes that we continue to get rain and have wells and aquifers. And we don’t turn into a charred desert or return to the Cretaceous period and have to live in trees.

Mostly, I want the autonomous house where everything gets fixed and I don’t have to figure out how to pay for it or even know I have a problem.

This whole “take care of your house” and “please don’t back into anything” is getting old.

I don’t think ANY of us should be driving. We are too distracted. Overly busy with phones, not to mention worries, conversations, and work. There are too many cars. Everywhere. Even where there aren’t a lot of people, there are still too many cars.

MAKE IT ALL AUTONOMOUS.

Anything you can run without needing me to do it, I’m a BIG yes. Please do not send me a bill.

Why is it always about MONEY?

MACBOOK AIR IS ALMOST – Marilyn Armstrong

I hate setting up new computers. Regardless of what benefit I hope to get from it, the process is boring, annoying, and full of “What do you MEAN that’s not my email address? Of course it is. ”

Then, there are updates. You think only PCs have updates? Have you gotten a new Mac recently? Not only do they have updates, but they take a really long time to install.

Just like PC updates, the machine gets increasingly funky until you give in and do the updates. After which it purrs nicely.

Without getting too nerdy about it, the browser — Safari  — is primitive compared to Chrome. It’s annoying and slow.

Spring from the kitchen

Essentially, the Macbook Air 13 is a stripped down computer. It’s very light and has great batteries. It is so portable, I think the cover on my PC is heavier. It won’t get viruses. Well, really, Macs do get viruses (shh). Also, these lightweight portables do not have quality video cards or room to put one in. If that’s what you want, this is the wrong computer.

The Macbook Air also comes with a 512 GB SSD hard drive which is the top end of their hard drive scale. Kind of small.  Any graphics work will have to live on an external hard drive. Not my first choice, but manageable. Mainly, I hope it won’t crash and burn if I use Photoshop Elements with Topaz filters. That would upset me.

Forsythia

If you need to do serious graphic work on a Mac, you should get a desktop. A big one with a graphics card that understands hard work and how to do it. The irony is that Macs were designed for graphics work and are the primary choice for editing in television studios. The laptops are not the same machines.

The Air should be fine for writing and editing and light processing. After I download Apache OpenOffice, of course. It is a sweet machine for people who have a limited needs for graphics and want something that won’t wrench their shoulder out of its socket. Which my laptop does.

With each year I survive, my ability to haul heavy loads gets more limited.

Maple leaf buds

Now. About Safari.

Seriously? That’s the best Mac can do? I’m disappointed. But to be fair, it was designed to work very well on Mac’s laptops, use very little of the battery power — and keep the temperature down. Unlike Microsoft Edge, it does work. Not as well as Chrome, but it is a functional browser.

I have a hot date with the installation folks at Apple tomorrow. I hope for better answers and in particular, an optimistic response to the graphics manager I can use.

AN ELABORATE CONSPIRACY – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s an elaborate conspiracy

Someone commented that “working on a problem” was, for WordPress, their version of progress. So I got to thinking. What is the opposite word — the antonym as it were — of progress?

And after considerable research I discovered there is no antonym because “progress” is a contextual word and what is means depends on the way in which you use it. If you are talking in military terms, the answer would be “retreat.” If you can’t move forward, the way to go is backward — another antonym. Also, don’t forget “reverse.”

One way or another, “progress” in this case would definitely indicate some kind of “forward movement” on the project.

Today, as expected, they told me they’d solved my problem because now that I have had to change my title, they can find a few pieces of my newer posts and if you look up my name – or Garry’s or Tom’s or Ellin’s or Rich’s – we exist.

There are about 6900 posts missing and nothing shows up under Serendipity at all, even though I blogged under that name for more than six years. Also, apparently my followers are gone because, he explained, they needed to sign up again and make sure to accept the link they’d get from WordPress.

I had written:


I am comforted by the fact that you are working on this major issue. Please don’t worry that my post about it has been reblogged many times in a variety of languages. I’m sure no one really minds having you make a complete mess of their contacts with the outside world. After all, we only do this so you can make more money and have no personal stake in the matter at all.

Many people will be comforted knowing you are working on fixing your broken search engine. It’s touching, really it is. After all. I’ve written 7,000+ posts for you — and been a premium customer — yet my NAME — nor any of the names of the other four writers on my site — can be brought up through your engine — even though they always showed up in the past. How special is that? What I love BEST about you guys is how hard you work at “fixing” things without apparently having any clue as to the other issues involved with the work — like what happens to databases when you disconnect the names of customers, probably by eradicating the pointers that have so effectively worked for years.

Listen, if you need people who actually understand how this stuff works? I used to be in this business and I know some really top-notch people who can fix a database to perfection. Of course, that means that EVERYBODY in your tech department also has to learn how they work so they don’t casually destroy them without even knowing  what they are doing.

Have you considered hiring PROFESSIONALS to work with rather than kids just out of school? I know you might have to pay them a better salary and that’s rarely done these days, but it’s worth considering. Because as someone who spent a lot of years of my life working with databases, you guys are clueless.

Your friendly neighborhood paying customer with a 40 year background in the problem you can’t solve (because I’m sure you have no idea how you broke it in the first place),

Marilyn Armstrong


Which I thought was being too snarky, but apparently I wasn’t remotely snarky enough. No one has looked at my history. So as far as they are concerned, if a few older posts show up randomly, and you can dig me out of the search engine, FIXED.

Freaking HAPPINESS ENGINEERS? Do they blush when they have to say that in public? Doesn’t it make them cringe with embarrassment? Has a WordPress “happiness engineer” made you happy? Their job is fixing the problems that they — themselves — have created. So effectively, they are “technical assistants” whose job it is to fix the messes they make.

They have yet to actually look at my site in context and see what has happened since “they fixed it” about a month ago. No one has yet looked at anything except the title and my name. That’s it. That’s their entire process. And whether or not my followers are following the right way.

I am angry while being gloomy. I have a name on Blogger which presumably still exists, but I don’t think I have it in me to do this whole thing again. I’ve written, I’ve explained, complained, been angry, been patient, been helpful, snarky — you name the emotion and I’ve been there and back again.  Now, I’m simply tired.

I love writing and I can’t imagine not doing it, so I suppose I will.

Oddly, I feel like I just got fired from a job for which I was never hired. How weird is that?

I’m sure, in weeks to come, they will be sending me more meaningless notes asking me if my “new followers” — apparently  all you old followers aren’t in their calculations — are the real problem because you (whoever you may be) haven’t signed up the right way.

If you feel like signing up again, please do, but don’t feel obliged. There’s no reason this should be so difficult. Meanwhile, I’m inclined to turn myself off for a while. Maybe a break will give me the breather I need.

I expect I will keep hearing from more (they are different each time which of course makes any kind of continuity of purpose in getting this repaired meaningless) “Happiness Engineers.” I’m positive they will explain why and how I’m supposed to be happy.

For now though, I will be at peace knowing I have a new sink in the bathroom I’m not allowed to touch, bump into, or even think about using for at least 12 hours and a week to ten days would be better.

I want to be happy too. I think I’ll be happy about my sink.


NOTE: Add this to the “high humor” of this event. I just got this right now and its original date is April 17th. I also just got a note from Sue dating to the 18th. Oh yeah. Everything is so fixed!


XXXX. (Automattic)

Apr 17, 19:47 UTC

Marilyn,

That note you received was an internal note that was not meant to be sent to you. This is why the link cannot be accessed. Indeed, we are working on the issue still.

Thanks,


XXXXX. | Happiness Engineer

HOW DELL DONE ME IN – Marilyn Armstrong

How a vague idea became real when the company you loved gives you the final boot. Dell, Apple, and why Apple has finally won the endless war.


I have been buying Dell computers for more than 20 years. Not only have I always loved how Dell’s were made, but they lasted a long time.

On the other hand, their customer service which had been great, was on a rapid downhill slide for the past 15 (or more) years. Above and beyond liking Dells because there’s no bloatware on them and they are designed to do a job, was their sturdiness. They were business machines for people who took their work seriously, even if their work was a hobby. I’ve used their equipment for work only, for work and play, for whatever I’m currently doing which you can call whatever you like. Dell did the jobs.

The old 14Z in its youth …

Many Dell’s I bought 10 years ago are still working. Some needed a reinstall of the operating system and a couple needed new hard drives, but that was small stuff, all things considered. I really use my computers. I push them hard, I make them work.

Until the past two — expensive — Alienware — machines. The one Garry has lost its battery after less than 3-years. The only other Dell that ever lost a battery lost it after 7 yeas and it was a cheap machine. I replaced it and it works again, though now it seems to be losing its monitor. It’s old. It doesn’t even have Bluetooth, so it has, I think, hit the end of its road. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

When the little old Dell was beginning to display not having enough video to do what I do, I got a new Dell with the biggest NVIDIA video card I could afford and passed the two-year-old Alienware machine to Garry. After which the battery died. It’s pretty new so the price of getting a new battery is high. The battery replacement was more than most laptops.

The old one works, as long as it’s plugged in, so I suppose you could call it a laptop-shaped desktop. It weighs more than most desktops at a solid 9-pounds including its brick.

My new machine is working fine and does what I bought it to do, but I’m out of service contract. The company got in touch (and back in touch, and back in touch) asking me if I wanted a one-year contract for service on the new machine.

Older Alienware

The price? I kid you not: $850 for a single year of service. I had tried to get service from them during my first two years with the computer and they were useless. No one had a clue how a dual hard drive machine worked and all the advice they gave me was wrong. I eventually doped it out myself, but I’m still not really sure it’s backing up the way it should. There are many things about this computer I love, but also a bunch that I don’t.

One of the problems is weight. The thing feels like two cinder-blocks. I have developed significant upper body strength picking it up and moving it off my lap to a side table. Taking it with me when we travel is just this side of a nightmare.

I’m sure most of the weight are the batteries which basically last for just over two hours. Which means effectively, even WITH a working battery, the machine is still a desktop.

I hate new computers. I hate moving material from machine to machine and moving the material from a PC to a Mac doesn’t sound like fun. I’m sure there’s an app for that and I will have to find it because all my photo and writing backups are for PC and won’t run on a Mac.

I’m not a Mac fancier. The loose style that has been typically Mac/Apple since forever annoyed me. I like orderly computers. I like knowing where stuff is, where it belongs. How to find it. Ironically, the recent changes Mac is making to the operating system is going to make them much more PC-like and PCs are making their OS slightly more Mac-ish. The world comes round and round.

Reality bit. I couldn’t keep hauling the big, brawny, 10-pounds of Alienware and moreover, I didn’t want to. I’m not getting younger. Garry’s machine, now that it has to be plugged in, is developing other signs of flakiness that make me wonder if it will survive.

I knew I could not buy another Dell. I’ve used other bloatware special PCs and I won’t go there. Also, I know what I need, which is a honking big piece of video ram and equipment I can pick up which will not dislocate my shoulder from its joint.

Apple.

Then they offered me the Apple Card. Zero percent interest. 18 months.

I got a Macbook Air — as high-end a version of it as you can buy. It isn’t their top machine but it comes with sufficient USB 3 ports and other connectors, like an SC reader slot. Sometimes, the newest machine on the rack isn’t your best choice.

Meanwhile, Garry needed something. I thought long and hard about what Garry really does. After serious thought, I figured he could live his virtual life on an iPad with a keyboard. And enjoy it, too. Meanwhile, as long as the big Alienware works when plugged in, he has a full-size computer to fall back on.

My only question is why does this iPad have a mouse? You can’t use a mouse on an iPad. Even I know that. Did the photographer just happen to have a new mouse to show off?

In the end, you can’t take two heavy computer users and have only one fully functional computer in the house. It won’t work.

I need to point out to Dell that I was about as loyal a customer as you could find. It took them a decade to get me to where I couldn’t deal with their customer service department again. Ever. They did me in.


Mac/Apple did not win my custom. Dell LOST it. 

I’m pretty sure half of Apple’s new recruits are people who just gave up trying to stay with other companies and were driven screaming into the night.

I am one of them.

WHAT’S THE ANTONYM FOR PROGRESS? Marilyn Armstrong

Someone commented that “working on a problem” was, for WordPress, their version of progress. So I got to thinking. What is the opposite word — the antonym as it were — of progress?

William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).

And after considerable research I discovered there is no antonym because “progress” is a contextual word and what is means depends on the way in which you use it. If you are talking in military terms, the answer would be “retreat.” If you can’t move forward, the way to go is backward — another antonym. Also, don’t forget “reverse.”

If by progress, you mean “to go inside,” you can use “egress” which means “to leave” — but it really isn’t an antonym since progress is rarely used to mean “going into a building or room.” Generally, it means to “improve upon an existing state.” Or, to fix something that’s wrong. Or, to go forward when you haven’t been … well … progressing.

Regress is more mathematical than progress and has a lot of important applications in the coding world. But it doesn’t have much to say about making a bad situation better or worse.

I found this oddly amusing. Rarely do you find a relatively common word which has no antonym. In every case, the “antonym” was marked as “sense-specific” or as I prefer to put it, “contextual.” It means what it means in a limited, specific way.

One way or another, “progress” in this case would definitely be some kind of “forward movement” of the project, which happens to be figuring out why names suddenly don’t come up linked to the people who wrote the posts.


Ben C. (Automattic)

Apr 17, 12:50 UTC

Putting this back on hold

This issue is being worked on here: https://readersquad.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/site-not-appearing-in-reader-search/


Ben C. | Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com | learn.wordpress.com


First off, what does “putting it back on hold” actually mean? You mean — you took it off hold? Why when you never fixed it, would it have been on hold at all? It’s broken. Fix it. YOU broke it, not me.

So I wrote:


I am comforted by the fact that you are working on this major issue. Please don’t worry that my post about it has been reblogged many times in a variety of languages. I’m sure no one really minds having you make a complete mess of their contacts with the outside world. After all, we only do this so you can make more money and have no personal stake in the matter at all.

Many people will be comforted knowing you are working on fixing your broken search engine. It’s touching, really it is. After all. I’ve written 7,000+ posts for you — and been a premium customer — yet my NAME — nor any of the names of the other four writers on my site — can be brought up through your engine — even though they always showed up in the past. How special is that? What I love BEST about you guys is how hard you work at “fixing” things without apparently having any clue as to the other issues involved with the work — like what happens to databases when you disconnect the names of customers, probably by eradicating the pointers that have so effectively worked for years.

Listen, if you need people who actually understand how this stuff works? I used to be in this business and I know some really top-notch people who can fix a database to perfection. Of course, that means that EVERYBODY in your tech department also has to learn how they work so they don’t casually destroy them without even knowing  what they are doing.

Have you considered hiring PROFESSIONALS to work with rather than kids just out of school? I know you might have to pay them a better salary and that’s rarely done these days, but it’s worth considering. Because as someone who spent a lot of years of my life working with databases, you guys are clueless.

Your friendly neighborhood paying customer with a 40 year background in the problem you can’t solve (because I’m sure you have no idea how you broke it in the first place),

Marilyn Armstrong


Too snarky?

Freaking HAPPINESS ENGINEERS? Do they blush when they have to say that in public? Doesn’t it make them cringe with embarrassment? Has any WordPress “happiness engineer” made you happy? Their job is fixing the problems that they — themselves — have created. So effectively, they are “technical assistants” whose job it is to fix the messes they make.

Why do they make the messes? Because as far as I can tell, they really don’t know what they are doing. They just do stuff and when it stops working (duh!) they say oops. With luck, they attempt to fix it. Some things never get fixed because they have no idea what they did to break them. Talking to our happy band of Happiness Engineers, I am often confounded by how little they know about the stuff they are doing. How lost they are and how obviously young and clueless they seem to be. Every now and again, you get a smart one and it’s such a relief.

Finally! An engineer who knows what a pointer actually IS and can recognize a database when he sees one — and even knows how important the database and search engines are to the platforms of which they are, in theory, in charge.

Such is progress. They are making progress. Well, actually, no one has said they are making progress. That’s actually my own inference.

Are they making progress? Are they in full retreat? Are they moving backward? Are they in “slow progress” mode – which in the development world is identical to “no progress” mode?

Inquiring minds would love to know. By the way, I tried their link and it is blocked to plebes like me who don’t “get” development. You need a password, which of course I don’t have.

No problem. I’m sure, in weeks to come, they will be sending me another note letting me know that they have yet to make any progress, so they are taking this “off hold” because they are “Happiness Engineers” and they really want us to be happy.

I want to be happy too. Let’s all be happy together.

THE ULTIMATE INEFFICIENT LEARNING OF A GRAPHICS APP

INEFFICIENCY AT IT’S BEST – LEARNING ACDsee WHEN WORDS MEAN NOTHING


I have been using a very old version of Photoshop for a long time. It’s CSS5 and I know I got it when I left my last job — and that was 2008? Maybe a year earlier. It could have been 2007. That it actually works at all is amazing and works quite well is more amazing.

But the clock is ticking. Sooner or later, Windows 10 will upgrade and  Photoshop CSS5 will stop working. I refuse to subscribe to Adobe. We are on a fixed income. Today, Adobe wants $10 a month. In ten years, what will they want? $25? $50?

Our income is not going up. Ever. That’s what they mean when they say “fixed” income. It never goes up . What may be a reasonable income when you retire can easily be half of what you need 20 years later. Many of us live longer than we used to and since I’m not planning to quit taking pictures until they pull the camera from my cold, dead hands, I need to make arrangements that work for me.

I needed a new graphics program.

I finally settled down to two possibilities: ACDsee and Corel. I had used Corel for years until I lucked into Photoshop, but back then it was highly destructive to the original photograph. Rumor had it that Corel has come a long way. I downloaded the trial versions of both applications.

I required a few things:

1 – The application had to work with my Topaz and NIK filter

2 – It must be non-destructive.

3 – I need to be able to figure out how it works without a masters in that application.

I’ve been using Photoshop for years and I’ve learned maybe 10% of its potential. Possibly less. I’ve learned what I need to know and nothing more. Photoshop is difficult. Although photography is my hobby, it is not my profession. I love taking pictures, but I’ve served my time in the high-tech world. I’m just not willing to work that hard these days. Lazy? Absolutely. I’m retired.

No one makes a better graphics processor than Adobe, but no one has created any application as non-intuitive. Functions are put wherever a developer felt like putting it — without regard for logic or reason. Why is the “level” option located under the color dropper? What does one have to do with the other? Answer: Nothing. They had a slot, so that’s where they put it.

I wanted something I could figure out without a spirit guide on my shoulder whispering in my ear.

Corel was clearly the winner in the “ease of use” department. I could almost immediately understand what the little symbols meant and pretty quickly deduce how to use them. But the application would not install properly. It first refused to install on my C drive. I have two drives. Drive C is a 256 GB solid state drive. It’s where I put applications and where Windows lives. I eventually tricked it into installing on Drive C, but it was determined to live and die as a document.

Nothing would make it install as a graphics application. I installed it, uninstalled it. Reinstalled it. Got in touch with technical support and they were fuzzy about exactly how to add the Topaz filters and whether or not the trial version would even support them — regardless of whether or not the full version would allow them. Or, for that matter, how to convince it to not be a document.

Meanwhile, ACDsee installed exactly as it should. The Topaz and NIK filters installed perfectly and worked fine. While Corel was diddling around, trying to find a time to figure out how to make their application install, I had ACDsee working, with filters. Work was slow, but it was working. Which was more than I could say for Corel.

So I bought ACDsee.

And this is where words began to matter.

In ACDsee, every item you need to use is worded differently than it is in Photoshop — or for that matter, Corel.When I was a working technical writer, I wanted to set up a cross industry group to try and create a dictionary of words we commonly use in building applications for the high-tech industry. They said “Good idea” and moved one. Every other industry has a basic, standard vocabulary.

Electronics has a dictionary. Regardless of what kind of electronic item you work on, any electrician can read the schematic and know what each item is. They don’t have to relearn their entire vocabulary to use a new device.

But in applications and particularly in graphics applications, each company called each function whatever someone felt like calling it. And put it wherever someone felt like hanging it. You think a word like “file” will mean a file, but it may be an image or a document or a schematic. Or some other word that may make no sense to anyone but the developer.

The thing is, there’s absolutely nothing in any of these applications I haven’t seen and used before. What’s different are the words describing them. Every item is listed in a category unlike other similar applications — and each of them not merely confusing. It’s downright abstruse.

I’m no longer in the tech business, but what I predicted happened. Without a standard dictionary, every application requires an exceptionally high degree of relearning.  Users are left working twice as hard to do something that ought to be transparent.

Words matter. Even though there’s nothing I can do about it, I resent having to waste the time simply figuring out what “geometry” means and why filters don’t contain my filters, but merely their filters. Meanwhile, my filters are actually located under “Tools” and subbed as “Photoshop plugins.” Even though they aren’t part of Photoshop and not made by Adobe. Apparently ACDsee’s developers decided anything that can work with Photoshop is a Photoshop plugin. Regardless of who makes the filter. I’m sure Topaz will be happy to hear that.

I bought ACDsee because I know it works, but I’m not using it. I’m using my old version of Photoshop because I know how. I realized finally that I will not use the new application until the old one breaks down and I can’t make it work.

And why not? Because the amount of learning I need to do to figure out where the simple things I need are located. No simple leveling tool — I have to use the perspective or distortion correction device. No easy way to save the photograph and exit. Two hundred questions about whether you want to save it and every other version of anything you did to it before you exit. I did actually complete fixing one photograph and it looked okay, but it was so slow and painstaking … It’s going to take a real poke in the ribs to get me to really use it. If they had named everything in some normal way, that might have helped.

Words really DO matter.