ALL THOSE COMPUTERS: WHAT A MESS! – Marilyn Armstrong

Our computers have gone wacko.

I think it started when the last upgrades (calling them upgrades is absurd since they have made a mess of all the computers in the house — Macs and PCs alike. Google, Microsoft, iPad, and MacBook Air have decided to link to each other and I can’t tell what’s going on with any machine.

I want one that says “enraged.”

They no longer remember whose password works with which account. This is not a problem if you are the only user in your house, but here, it’s getting absolutely tragic. It isn’t just a Windows. It’s just as bad on the Macs. Maybe worse because for reasons I don’t entirely understand, we seem to have more Mac-operated devices than PC devices — and I don’t actually like Macs. I just own them.

The only electronics that still know what’s going on are the Kindles and they are Android. Everything else is a mess.

Oh, I almost forgot. Garry has a Chromebook. Since it’s a Google machine, it’s a mess, too.

All the endless “alterations” made to WordPress have slowed it down so half the time, it doesn’t even remember your name or password from one use to the next. How many times do you try to answer a comment on your own site only to be told that you have to “sign-in”?

Since you are signed in, it gets interesting.

Meanwhile, when they ask for passwords, they don’t specify what password they want. Is that the WordPress password or the Google password? One of each? Maybe looking for the computer’s key number? Plus the password? Which password? The one you had to add today or the one they made you add yesterday and the day before?

And it has to be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than any other password you use … as if you even remember your other passwords.

Each and every one of your passwords is supposed to be unique and not like any of the other passwords you use. Right. That’s what everyone does. Except I can’t remember any of my passwords anyway.

Seriously, can anyone remember that many passwords? Even if you write them down, the one you last wrote down may not be the one they are looking for. It might be the one before that or the one you were using a month ago. Only a hacker can figure it out and he/she is the one person you don’t want to figure it out.

ARRGGGH!

I used to have my own inbox and Garry had his. Our tools and internet links were linked to our email passwords. NOW you need a password for Google, for your inbox, and sometimes, they don’t seem to know what they want the password for. Meanwhile, the password manager stopped working, too.

They tell you your password doesn’t work, but it’s the same one you used yesterday and last night and finally, it starts to work again … and this is after you’ve been battling with it for an hour to accept a new password only to ultimately be told you can’t get a new password because you have an old password, so now you need a new email account — but I don’t have another mail account — and when I’m about ready to give up and throw everything out the window — which is when everything starts to work again. More or less.

What???

I have NO idea what’s going on. I sign in with my email account, but only Garry’s header shows up. Or Garry signs in with his password and MY headers show up. I don’t know what they think they are doing, but it’s a godawful mess. I’m pretty sure the last set of upgrades totally screwed the pooch.

Garry has an upgrade waiting on his iPad and he’s afraid to let it run. I don’t blame him. My last upgrade on the PC and the Mac were BOTH disasters. How are your machines running?

All my computers are a mess — and I haven’t done anything to them. This is the stuff they are doing.

I don’t know what they are trying to achieve, but it’s not working. I wish they would stop. If you think I’m confused, just imagine how GARRY feels.

TECHNO-ADDICT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I didn’t realize how dependent we are on technology, or more precisely, our household machines. Then our Keurig coffee maker had a glitch and wouldn’t work.

How were we going to make coffee??

!!XX??

We’ve always had a French Press and a regular drip coffee maker in the house. So I dug them out from the back of a bottom shelf in the pantry cabinet.

The only problem was, we had no real coffee to go into the real coffee makers. We only had Keurig pods. I used to always keep fresh ground coffee on hand. When we actually used it. But that hasn’t been for two years — since we got our Keurig.

We’re obviously not coffee aficionados. We buy our coffee, even our real coffee, at the supermarket. Not a gourmet store or a coffee specialty shop. We don’t know the difference (or care) between coffee from different countries, or different blends from the same country. We don’t need notes of fruits or nuts or wood or chicory in our coffee.

We know we like light roast, not medium or dark. That’s our only requirement.

I used to like flavored coffees and I tried endless different ones. I landed on a few that I liked. But after a while, I stopped liking them. Now I like plain coffee, with my own home flavoring. I add vanilla extract, cinnamon and/or nutmeg, or some combination of these flavors to my regular coffee. I like it much better than the artificial tasting flavored coffees.

Sometimes I’ll add orange extract to black coffee. Or if I want to go wild, I’ll throw in some flavored, sweet liqueur, like Kahlua,  Amaretto, or hazelnut.

I panicked when the Keurig wouldn’t make my morning cup of coffee. Tom stayed calm. He’s dealt with a lot of finicky machines in his life. He knows what to do. He had read the manual. He ran a mixture of vinegar and water through the system. He poked a toothpick into the part of the machinery that might be clogged. He puttered around while I paced and asked if it was fixed every five minutes.

Finally, it was working again!

Victory! Crisis averted!

Thank you, Tom!

Our hour without coffee-making capabilities reminded us that we are too dependent on our machines. Like when the power goes out and we lose phone and internet service.

But that’s another blog!

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?

WOULD IT BE PREMATURE TO ASK … Marilyn Armstrong

Premature vs. Post-mature

Premature indicates a time “before maturity” has imposed itself. Like –“childhood” or “infancy.” Or still budding, yet not bloomed.

Personally, I am post-mature. I flowered, then I got old and my petals fell off. No amount of putting stuff in the water is going to fix it.

Right now, I’m dealing with a lot of stuff. Getting the car fixed from a small but significant accident. This requires setting up a time with the appraiser, renting a car, making a date with the repair shop — at least a four-way deal. It’s also long past the point of finding out exactly which surgery Garry is supposed to be getting for his ear, not to mention and finding out about the technology.

We need to get the chimney fixed though I’m assured it will survive at least one more winter, or so we hope.

There’s a lot of tearing down coming up, too. Removing the collapsing shed. Tearing down the long out-of-use outdoor shower. Fixing the mangled back lawn where the snow plow kid hit it hard with the plow and left it a mess. He was the one who was going to come back and fix it. I think he left town.

What are the odds of my getting this stuff done? {Possibly approaching zero on a close order. Effectively, if I wait for texts and emails., it could also be never. It’s amazing how many texts and emails you can send without accomplishing anything. Without ever setting a time, or place. Whether it’s surgery or appraising the damage to the car.

I’ve given up on emails. They don’t get stuff done. It’s the procrastinator’s tool for prolonging something you don’t really want to do anyway. It turns out, despite rumors to the contrary, a month of emails back and forth doesn’t get an appointment made as fast as a five-minute phone call.

No number of emails to and from your doctor will make you feel like you actually know what your surgery involves. There are many things requiring a personal encounter and a conversation. With questions asked and answered. Especially when you want to know exactly what is going to happen, you need to talk. If you need to know precisely how and when it will happen, ask the questions and get real answers.

More wires!

And — oh yes — how much is this going to cost? You can run through a month or two of emails when a short call will handle it 100%.

Yesterday, we made a date to meet someone for lunch — and we did it in (gasp) one quick 3-minute call. He’ll email the address for the GPS, but we have a date, time, and location for FOUR PEOPLE! Imagine that.

That is my post-mature opinion on the matter of talk versus endless electronic messaging.

–  Texting is for people who don’t want to really be involved.
–  Talking is for people who want to solve a problem.
–  Emails are for people who want to say they never got the email. It is the ultimate procrastinator’s tool.

All life feels pretty much premature. We don’t have a date for the surgery, don’t know the technology involved. Don’t have a date with the appraiser or the repair guy or a car rental. Neither of us know when or even if the chimney is getting fixed. Garry is doing errands and I’m on telephone and email patrol. Which is like doing nothing — with purpose.

I thought all this technology was going to speed up the processes of our world?

As far as I can see, all we have done is extend the amount of time and effort it takes to do every little thing. We are also managing to avoid doing a lot of things entirely. The dates never actually get made. The appointments you only remember because you get an automated call from the hospital.

Doves on the wires in Phoenix, Arizona

It really is living in a bubble with no fixed address. That’s apparently what people really want.

Personal? No one has time to be personal. There’s no time to talk, no time for a leisurely conversation. No time to hear the sound of a friend’s laughter because that’s not available on an electronic communications device.

“I’ll text you.”

And I’ll be waiting.

DOCUMENTATION WITHOUT WORDS ISN’T DOCUMENTATION – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago I bought myself an iPad Mini. It was $100 less on Walmart because it had iOS 9 on it rather than the current iOS 11. Anyone who knows anything about Apple knows it doesn’t matter what iOS is on it.

The moment you turn it on, it will instantly update to the new iOS — even if you would prefer it not do that.

I bought it. Less than $300 with 128 GB innards. Nice cream color. Brand new and their 4-year support was only $40 instead of the $69 Apple charges. Moreover, it’s local. Our nearest Apple outlet is a long drive from here and has been one of the reasons I’ve been loathe to get involved with Apple.

But it turns out, getting customer service is hopeless anyway. Whether it’s local or in some foreign country, service will be awful. Given the awfulness, you might as well pay less.

So now I have this iPad Mini which I got the next day. Cute little thing. We were on our way to visit Tom and Ellen, so instead of unpacking it, I stowed it in my computer bag and took it with me. Tom set it up in a few minutes and voilà. A functional iPad Mini 4.

I looked at it. “So what’s next?”

The cover (yes, purple)

I have no idea what to do with it. I read and listen to Audiobooks on my Kindle. So what do I do with this? My theory had been that I wanted something small and light that would get me into my email and let me correct typos on my blog without hauling 9 pounds of Dell wherever I go. I love my computer, but it weighs like two cinder blocks.

Tom has an iPad (regular size) and he uses it for almost everything. Almost. He also has a keyboard that also works as a case and a stand.

“Should I get the ridiculously expensive Apple keypad for this?” I ask him.

“God no,” he says. I look at his. It was a Logitech. No problem. I’m good with Logitech.

I go home and look it up on Amazon. Instead of $159, it’s $69.95. Except if I don’t mind getting it in purple, it’s $42.50. Purple is good. Goes well with the lovely cream. I order it. This is my “less than $300 solution to the $2000 problem.” What I really need is a lightweight but powerful computer, but that’s big money and we have home repairs lurking.

Maybe more dark violet than purple

It arrived today. In a nicely padded envelope. I open it. Take out the box. Eventually figure out how to open the box (I hate packaging) and remove the item. I’ve read a lot of angry reviews on how easily it breaks. I look at it. Yeah, I can see if you mistreat it, it would break. But in my entire life, I’ve never broken a computer or a cell phone. I take care of my equipment. If it breaks, it’s something internal, not because I dropped it or stepped on it or abused it.

I did notice a couple of people who suggested if everyone would treat their equipment gently, it would last longer. My sentiments exactly.

On the back of the box, it tells me what’s inside — including documentation, the keyboard case and a charging cord.

“Documentation” with REALLY SHORT cord

The documentation is missing the one thing that means documentation to me. No words. It’s a piece of cardboard with small, incomprehensible pictures. Which I follow until I get to a point where all I can say is “WHAT????” I know they want me to do something, but I have no idea what.

Documentation and the cord. Could they have made it any shorter?

I have no idea how to get it to pair with the iPad. It’s a Bluetooth device and I’ve got other Bluetooth stuff. It’s usually pretty easy, but I’m baffled because nothing is happening.

Finally, I say “Screw it.” I open my computer and look for installation instructions for the keyboard. Online. At Logitech.com.

Logitech says:


LOGITECH

Before you connect your iPad mini to the Focus keyboard case, make sure it’s inserted correctly into the case:

1 – Place your iPad mini so the camera lines up with the camera lens cutout on the Focus case.
2 – Snap the corners of the iPad into the holder to secure it.

To connect for the first time

1 – The Focus case doesn’t have an On/Off switch. To turn on your keyboard case, open it and rest the iPad mini on the strip directly above the keyboard. The status indicator on the top right of the keyboard will glow green.
2 – On first connection, your keyboard enters Bluetooth discovery mode and the status indicator will blink blue rapidly.
3 – Go to the Bluetooth settings on your iPad and select Focus Keyboard Case in the Devices list.
4 – If your iPad mini requests a PIN, enter it using the keyboard (not on your iPad mini).

Once the connection is made, the status indicator will turn solid blue. Your keyboard is ready to use.


There were no illustrations. They didn’t need any.

There were other instructions in case you want to connect the same device to a different iPad, but I only have one. It took me about 3 seconds to connect it once I had WORDS as instructions. Two paragraphs of WORDS.

No tiny pictures. One picture in the original “document” which had words in it, but no amount of squinting and changing angles enabled me to read those teeny tiny 4 point letters.

Now I have a lovely purple keyboard case that types. It’s a bit small, but so is the iPad. If I can figure out what to do with the iPad, that will make me happier.

I could use it to play games, but I can play games on my Kindle and my computer. I could watch Netflix, but … why? This is basically the problem I have always had with iPads — not having any idea why I need one and what it can do for me that isn’t already being done by something else.

Tom says I need to mess around with it and find cool stuff for it to do. Okay. I’ll do that. Whatever cool stuff is. It is possible I’m not really cool enough for devices.

A BROKEN MOUSE

EDITORIAL NOTE: Mice to me means multiple tiny furry creatures who slip into my house and eat anything they can find. Mouses, on the other hand, are computer accessories. I call them mouses in the plural. Please try and cope with it, even if it sounds odd to you.


My mouse stopped working. It was fine, then suddenly, it wasn’t fine. It seemed to be multi-clicking everything. It seemed to hang the computer on most menus and was particularly persnickety working on graphics.

Logitech Mouse

I figured it must have been the last Windows “upgrade.” I probably attribute everything to one or another Windows upgrades. Why didn’t it occur to me that the mouse wasn’t working properly? Because I’ve been using some version of this same Logitech mouse forever. More than 20 years at least and I have never had one stop working.

I’ve had Microsoft mouses go bad and a couple of Dell’s too. Some of them never worked properly in the first place, but the Logitech mouses have proved as close to indestructible as anything in my electronic world. I have replaced them when they wore out. Sometimes the feet wear out and occasionally I eat one too many pieces of toast and jelly and wind up with a sticky wheel. I’m pretty sure jam is not good for mouses.

The feet can come unglued or the buttons stops spinning properly. Fair is fair. I work my mouses hard and everything will wear out.

But. None of them ever stopped working.

I had finally concluded that there was something wrong with the mouse having tried every other thing that ought to have fixed it. That’s when I read that there was a thing called the “dreaded double-click effect” that apparently has been known to occur in Logitech mouses. Never to one of mine, but apparently well enough known as a glitch that it was worth mentioning.

I ordered two more mouses — one exactly like this one (which is from the other computer that I use only occasionally). It is smaller, almost a “travel-size” mouse … and a bigger one. I will let my hand decide which one it likes better.

But the thing that’s funny is that it took me almost a full week to dope out the mouse was broken. I am so used to these mouses always being just fine, it never crossed my mind that something — other than a dead battery — could go wrong.

I think you could call that a strong recommendation for the product. Even though this particular mouse up and died.