IT’S THE LITTLE STUFF THAT GETS ME – Marilyn Armstrong

EVEN WORDPRESS CAN’T BE THAT BAD, CAN THEY?
Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It's Alienware!
Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It’s Alienware!

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

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

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

3. Object linking has become the function that powers our internet experience. For those of you who don’t know much about programming and computer development, a “link” is really an embedded address. Thus a pingback is actually an object “pointer.” It takes the address of a website or some other thing on the internet (it could also be an email address or a picture … or a part number in a database), embeds it in a graphic or text so that when someone clicks on it, it takes them to that place. Like the transporter on the Enterprise.

Bonnie guarding my computer

It’s the computer equivalent of “Scottie, beam me up.” The other day, all my links went wacko. If I clicked on a notification from a follower, I got sent to the Reader … but not to that blogger or that post. Just the top of the Reader. Sometimes, I got the message that the address didn’t exist.

I panicked, contacted WordPress. Who said they would check it out. Yet, before they even had a chance to look at it, it fixed itself and the problem disappeared. That was when I got a notice that other people had begun to have the same problem.

Is our technology beginning to fail because chaos reigns and magic is loose in the world?

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

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

So there you have it, my contentious bone picking of the day.


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

 

NO SPELLCHECKER – Marilyn Armstrong

There will be no spellchecker. I asked and they answered. This was WordPress’s response:


A. Jay (Automattic)

Jun 22, 07:25 UTC

Hi there,

Thank you for contacting us.

The spellchecker was a part of the publication process. I don’t like Grammarly and it interferes with other apps — and Google’s isn’t very good. What was the problem with including it? Was it in someone’s way? Was it harming someone? I do not understand.

Spell checkers are a specialty product, and it’s not something we specialize in. The WordPress.com spell checker was developed years ago when there didn’t exist any alternatives yet. Since then things have changed and a lot of other companies have started specializing in this, which led to the decision on our end to step back from the field and focus instead on the things we do specialize in.

Modern browsers now provide built-in spell-checking tools, so we have removed this feature from our product to avoid maintaining unnecessary dependencies. I read that you do not like Grammarly or Google’s spell checker, however, following are our recommendations as an alternative option:

        • the spell-checking built into most browsers
        • a browser extension that offers additional grammar checks
        • a third-party service that offers additional grammar checks

You can read more about some of these options here – https://en.support.wordpress.com/proofreading/

Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can help with anything else.

Best,

A. Jay | Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com | Automattic Inc.


I’d be interested to find out in exactly what WordPress does specialize. Certainly not in helping bloggers do whatever bloggers do … or creating functional software for bloggers to use. They have been forging ahead with their preconceived notion of what we are supposed to want for years.

None of us were ever consulted. No user surveys were ever taken among users. So with each “update,” they make the software harder to use. More awkward, slower. Essentially, dumber.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It certainly didn’t surprise me.

WHAT NOT TO DO WHILE RUNNING DIAGNOSTICS – Marilyn Armstrong

Why is my computer freezing and sending me blue screens? I guess I should run some system diagnostics. I ran them recently and I was assured everything is hunky dory.

If it’s so hunky and dory, why does it keep freezing?

Diagnostics-89

FREEZE!

No, Marilyn! You cannot run diagnostics while surfing.  Bad Marilyn.

MORE FREEZING! 

No. You must not check email. Okay, check it, but don’t send anything. Shoot. Frozen again.

PUZZLEMENT

Why is it prompting me to update the drivers I just updated? Should I do it again? Nah. Waste of time.

BAFFLED CONFUSION

Why is Dell installing the software again? This is the fifth time. It’s installed. Geez. It’s just doing this to aggravate me.

HEADACHE, POUND, POUND, THUD

I need lunch. Afraid to leave the computer. Who knows what mischief it might get into?

STOMACH GURGLING

Bathroom, I don’t care what’s going on. I gotta go NOW. Computer? Sit! Stay! Don’t do anything while I’m gone.

FREEZE!

I guess no matter how boring it is, I should NOT play Bridge while running diagnostics.

ANOTHER FREEZE!

I suppose this means running diagnostics is not a perfect opportunity to thoroughly clean the keyboard.

HUH?

My system is fine. Absolutely nothing wrong. So what’s with all those Blue Screens of Death referencing my video card? Let’s stress test the video card.

ZZZ

This is more boring than watching paint dry. Are we there yet?

Diagnostics-91

RESULTS!

Everything is freaking fine. I’ll tell myself that the next time it locks up. Thanks for nothing. Another afternoon I can never get back.

EPILOGUE

It turns out that the fancy sound I use is part of the video card. This is the “fancy” sound most people only use when they are playing video games. I use it all the time because the sound is so much better than the standard sound. But, that means I really am using my video card for the sound I’m playing — while I’m photo-processing.

So if I’m listening to an audiobook while trying to process photographs using both Photoshop and Topaz filters, everything runs fine unless there’s a particularly big draw on the memory. Then, it just locks up the computer. Sometimes it brings up the blue screen, indicating a video card problem. It isn’t video or at least, it isn’t only the video.

It’s the combination of video and audio together.

The answer? I could choose to not use the fancy audio sound which runs on the big graphics card. Except, I don’t like the other sound.

Better yet, I can play the book on my Kindle and process photographs on the computer. The audio doesn’t use much memory, but Photoshop with Topaz uses a ton of it. And I’ve got 16 gigs of memory on this computer. It was a lot worse on the old computer which had a mere 12 gigs.

I’VE MADE CONTACT! – Marilyn Armstrong

SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR THOSE WHO NEVER GOT THE MEMO FROM GOOGLE AND CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR CONTACT LIST

Google is always changing the browser. As soon as you get used to it, they do something to “fix” it. The most recent change was that “contacts” are now a separate section, not part of the email application.

I was lucky. I (entirely accidentally) read the single note Google sent to tell everyone that contacts would now be available only by clicking a group of small boxes on the right top of the screen which will be visible only if you have the email page open. If you aren’t using the inbox or you are, but another page is open, you can’t see the little boxes. Your contacts remain invisible until you realize that you have to have the inbox visible to see the other stuff.

I’m sure there’s a logical reason why they’ve done it this way, but I haven’t worked it out. Yet.

Even if you know how to find your contacts, you may not be able to find the contact you want. This is because you can’t categorize anything by company or profession. Everything is listed by the first name. This becomes a bit of an issue if your doctor’s name is “John” and so are 75 other people on your list. When I’m trying to find my cardiologist, I don’t remember his first name. I may not even know it. These days, it’s possible I don’t remember his last name either. What I remember is “cardiologist.”

Also, there’s nowhere to write addresses. You have to go into a section titled “more” and “advanced.” Within that section, search and thou shalt find a section for “address.”

Apparently, we don’t need addresses anymore. We can list as many emails as we like — but no physical address. This is inconvenient when it’s a place you need to go. Physically go. Like — the cardiologist, for example.

I should mention that they’ve made the calendar similarly inconvenient and I didn’t get a note about that one, but I wasn’t surprised. You have to keep those developers busy!

The company’s name is no longer a search column. The only way you can use it is to substitute it instead of the name. Otherwise, it’s the first name of whoever you are looking for. Period. No choice. A bit bizarre, but hey, it’s still free. That’s something, right?

You may think I’m picking on Google, but it took close to 45 minutes to enter the local pot shop information into my contacts form, including their email address and physical address. Fortunately, they still consider the phone number part of basic information, but who knows for how long?

So, just to back up a little bit, yesterday, in a fit of enthusiasm for Uxbridge’s newly opened Pot Shop, also known as “Caroline’s Cannabis Uxbridge Marijuana Dispensary,” I decided to add their address to my contact list. This was when I made the remarkable discovery that the contact list no longer automatically includes a physical address section. You have to ask for advanced material and then you get an insanely complicated bunch of stuff.

Is it me? Isn’t there supposed to be a physical address to go with a contact’s phone number? For that matter, you need to go into “advanced” for the website address too.

Although I don’t go out as much as I used to, there are places I have to go. The Pot Shop is one such place. The grocery store, the bank, all doctor’s offices, and hospital too. There are places where I have to take my physical self that are not medical — like (for example) Home Depot.

Apparently, no one goes anywhere anymore, so getting somewhere to write down a physical address is an “Advanced Contact Item.”

Seriously?

One of the things I learned about writing software is that developers put information wherever it fits conveniently on the screen. They don’t actually care whether you — the user — will find that location useful or convenient. They say “Oh, there’s an empty space in the  “color droplet” menu, so I think I’ll put the leveling control there.” They have no idea how you will use the software and they really don’t care. They know how it works (or think they know). The rest is your problem. And now that there is no manual either … good luck with that.

No one would ever look there for a leveling tool since it has nothing to do with all the rest of the items on the list, but that’s where they put it and that is where it still resides. I had to do a deep dive into Google to locate the function.

It is for this reason that I have a little paper booklet in my bag that has basic information about places I go in it. Addresses, names, and a few little directions. Because my body needs to get there, too.

INSTALLING A PRINTER AND WHY I HATE THEM – Marilyn Armstrong

I hate printers. I also hate copiers, scanners, and fax machines. The only other things I hate are telephones. To be fair, I hate all telephones, not just cellular or mobile ones. I don’t understand them and they don’t understand me.

Just saying.


These days, when you buy a printer, you are also buying a scanner, copier, and it probably is wireless and can run on Bluetooth. I get an entire package of things I hate.

I still hate all of them, whether in one package or many. I got my new printer a while ago and finally got around to installing it yesterday. Maybe I should have waited.

When you are setting up a new printer, what can you do if your WiFi simply won’t “see” it?

It turns out, the most popular technique is highly technical denial. This means you turn everything off and go shopping. Really, any outside-the-house activity will do the job.

We went grocery shopping.

When we came back from shopping, I realized I had to confront the printer again. Another one of the small aggravations of modern times: new computers — like this one — don’t have DVD players. I bought an external one, but first I tried downloading the setup instructions from the website. This is supposed to work just like the disc, but unsurprisingly, did not.

Probably, because the WiFi did not find the printer. Or maybe there was some other inexplicable reason.

When your WiFi won’t find a device, there isn’t much you can do about it. You can wave your hands in the air like a fan. Maybe that will blow the WiFi in the right direction. You can shake your devices — but this may turn out to be a disadvantage because it might break. Then you’ll have to return it and start all over again.

Then, there’s cursing. For many people, that works well, but for me, it’s another distraction.

Turning everything off, then turning every back on is one of the most popular and effective ways of convincing something that isn’t working to work, but this time, it didn’t. I should have known. If going shopping didn’t fix it, I needed a new approach.

It’s so simple …

So, after we came home and I realized it hadn’t magically fixed itself (damn), I hauled my laptop and DVD player into the office. There are — as it turns out — alternate instructions which only appear when you click “NO, that didn’t work either”  for the third time. At which point alternate instructions pop into your browser.

These are apparently dangerous weapons of mass destruction and can only be used if your WiFi absolutely can not find the printer, even after you wave your arms and whisper the name of the manufacturer while burning incense.

It turns out, you have to press the WiFi button until the ALERT button flashes twice. Not three times. If it flashes three times, you have to start over.

Next, you have to push the start button again, at which time the WiFi button should start to flash very quickly. Not slowly. Slow flashing won’t work. They also don’t warn you there’s a pause before it starts rapidly flashing — but if you push it again, you have to start from the top.

If all goes well, at this point, unless your WiFi is actually out, you should have a connection.

Then you push another button while pressing the third button. Which prints a sheet which you will attempt to scan. Which inevitably produces an error message. If you try to do it again, all it will do is keep printing the same page.

I said screw it and gave up. Then, I decided to register the printer. It turns out, I can’t. Because I am a Canon user — but have no idea what my password used to be. I’m exhausted from carrying the laptop around and having to follow all those instructions.

Since the printer has been found by the WiFi, it would surely print if asked. If the WiFi had found the printer all by itself like it should have, I wouldn’t have had to do any of this. Windows would have taken over and installed everything. Immediately.

Good news? The printer says it works. I’m trusting this is true because I’m not sure about the scanner. I’ll save that for some other day. Like maybe never would be the right day.

Have I mentioned how much I really hate printers? I used to hate fax machines and copy machines too, but now they’re all one thing. So I have just one thing to hate instead of three.

Is this a good or bad thing?

“COMMANDER? I’VE MADE CONTACT!” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Contacts

Google is always changing the browser. As soon as you get used to it, they do something to “fix” it. The most recent change was that “contacts” are now a separate section, not part of email.

I was lucky. I actually read the note they sent that reminded me that contacts would now be available only by clicking a group of small boxes on the right top of the screen which will ONLY be visible if you happen to be using email at that moment. If you aren’t using email, you won’t see the little boxes and you won’t be able to find your contacts. There’s logic in there somewhere, but I’m just missing it.

Company name is no longer a default search column. You have to look under the first name of whoever you are looking for. Like, say, your cardiologist whose first name is John. I don’t think of him as “John.” I think of him as “my cardiologist” or at least, “Cardiology, UMass Hospital.”

You may think I’m picking on Google, but yesterday, it took close to 45 minutes to enter the local pot shop information into my contacts form, including their email address and physical address. Fortunately, they still consider the phone number part of basic information, but who knows for how long?

So, just to back up a little bit, yesterday, in a fit of enthusiasm for Uxbridge’s newly opened Pot Shop, also known as “Caroline’s Cannabis Uxbridge Marijuana Dispensary,” I decided to add their address to my contact list. This was when I made the remarkable discovery that the contact list no longer automatically includes a physical address section. You have to ask for advanced material and then you get an insanely complicated bunch of stuff.

Is it me? Isn’t there supposed to be a physical address to go with a contact’s phone number? For that matter, you need to go into “advanced” for the website address too.

Although I don’t go out as much as I used to, there are places I have to physically go. The Pot Shop, assuming I go there for some reason other than to take pictures for a post, is one such place. The grocery store, the bank, all doctor’s offices, and hospital addresses too. There are places where I have to take my physical self that isn’t medical like (for example) the local Home Depot.

Apparently, no one goes anywhere anymore, so getting somewhere to write down a physical address is an “advanced contact item.”

Seriously?

One of the things I learned about writing software is that developers put information wherever it fits conveniently on the screen. They don’t actually care whether you — the user — will find that location useful or convenient. They say “Oh, there’s an empty space in the  “color droplet” menu, so I think I’ll put the leveling control there.” They have no idea how you will use the software and they really don’t care. They know how it works and the rest is your problem.

No one would ever look there for a leveling tool since it has nothing to do with all the rest of the items on the list, but that’s where they put it and that is where it still resides. I had to do a deep dive into Google to locate the function.

It is for this reason that I have a little paper booklet in my bag that has basic information about places I go in it. Addresses, names, and a few little directions. Because my body needs to get there, too.

AVID VERSUS DIVA – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Avid and Diva

First, there was Diva. It was a “big format” video editing tool meant for use in television studios or advertising agencies. I didn’t work there, though I did go for one of those insane interviews where you have to meet everyone in the company from the guy who runs it, to the overnight backup guy.

I was impressed by the product and spent 20 hours interviewing with them. They obviously hired someone else and didn’t so much as send me a postcard to tell me they’d weren’t interested.

I never understood that. It happened a lot of times over the years. They keep you coming for interviews and you figure — after the better part of a week of interviewing everyone — that while you might not get the job, the least they could do was let you know they’d decided on someone else.

But they didn’t and as the years went on, this became common practice. Whatever happened to simply being polite?

Then, I was interviewed by Avid who was producing a nearly identical product. Diva did much better than Avid in the professional market in the beginning, but eventually Avid sold better, even though the products were nearly identical.

Today, both of them are “box” software, though Avid is also available as a subscription, like Adobe. Their “Pro Version” costs $999 if you want to buy it outright, which is a lot less than it used to cost.

Diva went another way and is available free as an open source product for the Gnome operating system.

Avid is a “paid” product sold largely to private users who want to make videos for the internet.

I have no idea who creates the software currently used by television studios, but from my encounters with that software (AVID — admittedly quite a few years ago), it sucked.

If you understand the concept of “look alike, feel alike,” it means that modules in a software “package” feel and look similar. That means a user can slide effortlessly from module to module with minimal training. The people who built that ridiculously expensive software apparently never heard of it.

They needed to hire real developers to produce software that made sense for people who just wanted to get a job done — without memorizing seven separate formats unrelated to each other. As it is, they had software using many modules. Each module was completely different from every other one. Their only connection was the main menu and the only function of that menu was to allow access to a particular area of the software. Which was limited by your job.

Thus a reporter could write scripts, edit film and post-editing (a separate function — I suppose you had to be an official editor to edit a written script), after it was sent back as “approved,” link the script with the digitally edited “news” and forward it to whatever slot to which it was assigned. To say this was confusing doesn’t begin to explain it.

I understood it because that’s what I did for a living. I figured out what the software — any software — did, then explained it (in a book) to people who had to use it. In this case, I had to figure out the software that Channel 7 was using, then teach Garry to use it. In one weekend.

If he didn’t get it, he’d lose his job the new old-fashioned way: inability to understand the computer.

My car had been hit by a truck that Friday and it was (I think) the fourth of July weekend, so we had three days. I told him I’d do it, but he had to never object to the tone of my voice and he had to do exactly what I told him to do no matter how many times I told him to do it. Repetition is the key to using most software and he had to keep doing it until he didn’t need to think about it.

First I asked him what he did. He told me. I looked at the main menu, doped out which parts of the product did the things he needed to do and by the end of those three days, he knew it. Of course, by now he has completely forgotten it — as have I. This is stuff you use or lose. I have dumped more technical data from my head than most people ever learn. At this point, my head is surprisingly empty. I barely remember what I used to do.

I was particularly good at learning very complicated material for a very short time, them emptying my brain and learning something completely different — for a very brief interval. That’s how people like me functioned in those days of tech. Everything was new and everything was a first. You didn’t really need experience, just a knack for computers and an exceptionally good short-term memory. Oh, and the ability to write and teach. Basically, I was teaching — just via a book, not usually in person.

Garry was my singular exception to teaching a real live person how to do something. I wasn’t bad in the classroom for the couple of years I taught, but I didn’t really like it. I like writing better than talking. And yet, I made more friends in the classroom than I made in all my years of office work. Hmm. I never thought about that before. I’ll have to do some pondering.

This is “Nerd History.”

You had no reason to learn it, have gained nothing by learning it, and I’m sure you wonder why I bothered to write about it.

Diva “product”

It’s the words. Avid to me is that “other” video editing company. Diva came first and Avid flipped the name around. Voila!

Diva always felt they should sue Avid for stealing their name — backward. But you couldn’t prove who came first and I don’t think they ever settled it, in or out of court. Eventually, it didn’t matter because other players entered the game and both companies stopped being especially important.

I’m sure this goes to show you that getting an early start in the tech field doesn’t mean you’ll still be a player a few years later. Almost all these early companies that I knew when they were effectively just getting started have gone bankrupt or just faded into the woodwork.

What was interesting for me was watching them come, get really big, become very important, then vanish as if they’d never existed. It’s a reminder that “big” in this world is temporary. Just because you used to be someone doesn’t mean you will be someone next year.

Just a little thought to keep in mind as you “bigly” your way through life.