The PC is dead? ZDNet turns stupid.

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

ZDNet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summary: PC shipments are expected to decline for the first time in over a decade. Is it the economy, or a post-PC evolution?

This is the kind of article that makes me wonder if the people who write them live on the same planet I do. Have they never considered that most of us have enough computers, so we are buying devices we don’t already own? Are they seriously so stupid and out of touch?

Do they think I’m going to write my next novel on my telephone? Or an iPad? Or edit my photographs on anything but a large high-definition screen PC with a lot a memory and a hell of a big hard drive? I might use a Mac rather than a PC, but it won’t be any kind of mobile device. No one else who is the least bit serious about their art would ever consider using any of these toys to do real work.

Sure they are fun, but they aren’t serious machines and remarkably, there are still people who actually take their work seriously. It makes me wonder whether these so-called writers actually work for a living. It makes me wonder how they got a job writing about technology since they are obviously ignorant and not particularly bright.

Oh, and if they think I’m insulting them? They are right. I am.

ZDNet used to be an intelligent source of information. These days, they are blatantly in the pocket of whoever is buying the most advertising.

Credibility? Facts? Another classic example of a kind of stupidity that has taken over the media. That so many people actually believe this crap is appalling.

Plug back into reality, ZDNet. Or just shut up.

See on

Animusic – Antimatter Raystorm, Jason Ward


Antimatter Raystorm Animusic style Animated Music Video New Age by Jason Ward

Okay. I admit it. I didn’t get it at first, but I can’t stop watching these. I find them fascinating. It’s as if I visualized the music myself, direct from my  brain. I can see from exactly where each sound comes, which animation is making every sound. Homage to the amazing people who do this, Here’s another one!


This is NOT a real instrument. Everything you see and hear on this video is computer-generated.

It blows me away.

What makes this so unique and probably why it feels like it’s coming straight out of my brain is that the music drives the animation. Animusic creates the “instruments,” then the music drives the creations to do what they musically ought to do. This a treat for my brain: ice cream with chocolate sauce for my gray matter!


Olympus PEN E-PL1


Olympus PEN E-PL1 12.3MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens 

Even though Olympus has brought out several new cameras since I bought my E-P3 less than a year ago, I still keep one of these as my “spare” and back up camera. I got it a few years ago when my big Canon became too much to handle … and I have never for a minute regretted it.

The pictures I get from it are as good as ever. It isn’t as fast as the newer PENs, but it’s a fine camera and if I had no other camera at all, this one would do the job.

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 is an excellent camera for most purposes. You can purchase one from Adorama, new including the lens for $259, less than many good point and shoot cameras. They are a fine piece of equipment, either as a back-up camera or alternative to a full-size DSLRs, or as a compact, high-quality all around camera for anyone. It’s also the perfect step up for someone who’d like to make the move from a point and shoot to something more flexible and sophisticated.

For me, it was love at first touch. The moment I got my hands on this sweet baby, I knew I’d found my camera. I was sorry I had spent all that money on the BIG Cannon (sic), but the Canon went to my granddaughter who takes great photographs herself, so I guess it all worked out they way it was supposed to.

It is fast. It focuses fast. It recycles quickly. It has a nice speedy multiple-shot burst, though not as fast as the bigger camera. The anti-shake is built into the camera, not the lens. This is an Olympus feature  — all the PEN cameras have it — so any lens that fits the cameras has anti-shake, even if it isn’t an Olympus lens. This is a fine thing for shaky old me. It is lightweight, easy on my wrists. The lens retracts to keep the camera even more compact.

The “kit” lens is as good as any lens I’ve got. Manual or auto focus, it’s just fine. The 2X factor on the camera means the effective lens is 28 – 84, a nice range for normal shooting and portraits. I have a 40 – 140 telephoto too, but I rarely use it. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just seems that most of the pictures I want to take are wide, close, or portrait. I rarely want a long lens.

It packs up almost as small as a point and shoot, but takes better pictures. Great color and you can get a pretty good selections of lenses, prime, telephoto, wide-angle. As a bonus, Panasonic micro 4/3 lenses are interchangeable with Olympus lenses, so you have additional choices.

It shoots RAW, RAW + JPG, and all the variations on a theme of JPG.

The controls are simple. The manual with which it comes is, unfortunately, awful. There is a PL-1 for Dummies book available from Amazon and it is terrific. It explains everything clearly, with pictures, and will help you enormously. I highly recommend it.

English: Olympus PEN E-PL1
Olympus PEN E-PL1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I-Auto is really smart. They all say they are, but this really is. It will literally find a face in the crowd. It is great for photographing my doll collection because it finds all the doll’s faces and performs color correction without any assist from me, even using flash. Amazing. It doesn’t have a built-in viewfinder, but I bought the electronic one that attaches to the hot shoe/utility port.

Surprisingly, I mostly use the LCD screen, which is big and bright. I’m surprised. I thought I’d use the viewfinder but as an eyeglass wearer, it’s just easier to use the screen. I could have save the money and gotten an extra lens if I’d known.

Lots of “scene” modes and art filters to choose from … and everything is easy to access. You don’t have to navigate though layers of menus. Most of the functions you use are on top where you can easily find them. The controls fit in my hands.

The camera feels solid and well-built and biggest shock? The kit lens is great! I did get a longer telephoto, but rarely use it. The prices of the lenses range from quite modest to wow, but that’s true of most good cameras.

In short, this is a great little camera and about the most camera you can get for the money.I’ve had mine for more than two years and it has never failed me.

The “Olympus Pen E-PL1 for Dummies”  is a must if you are new to this kind of camera. I’m not a camera dummy by any means, but a quick look at the info in this book made me realize that if I wanted to get the most from my camera, I needed instructions that made sense. The book has the information I need; the manual doesn’t.

You will need the software that comes with the camera if you plan to shoot RAW. It’s pretty useful for handling batches of photos not only for RAW conversion, but for batch renaming, re-sizing, formatting, and so on. You tell it what you want it to do, and then it does it, whether it’s 1 or 1000 pictures. It doesn’t require monitoring, either. However, there are no instructions on exactly how it works, so it may take you a little fiddling to figure it out. It’s not difficult and once you get the hang of it, it’s surprisingly useful and will work on JPGs from any camera. Only the ORF format for RAW, however, which is Olympus’ unique format. I believe Corel reads it too, but Photoshop so far doesn’t, at least not my version. Maybe newer versions read it.

Overall, it’s a great camera at a great price. Not the fanciest on the market, but for pure ease of use, price for value, convenient size, I think it’s the winner: the most, best camera for your money.


Back it up


I was just reminded of something. I go long periods and don’t think about it, but I shouldn’t, and neither should you. By “you” I mean absolutely everyone. Whatever you do — write, take pictures, or whatever — if you do it on a computer, back it up. I learned the hard way.

ILOVEYOU (aka Love Letter), was a computer worm that attacked tens of millions of PCs on and shortly after May 5, 2000. It showed up as an email message with the subject “ILOVEYOU” and an attachment: “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs“. The  ‘VBS‘ file extension was typically hidden by default on PCs back then. It wasn’t on my computer, but I worked on a development team on my own computer at home — an early telecommuter — so it wasn’t unusual for me to get files full of code as part of my job.

It took a mere few seconds to destroy every single jpeg file on my computer. That represented all of the photographs I had ever taken that I was storing on my hard drive, more than a decade of family and artistic pictures. It only took a few hours for a fix to be created and distributed, but it was too late for me.

I had been backing up to CDs, but I hadn’t backed up my photos, only financial records and my writing because that was work-related.

I lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of photographs.

External hard drives existed, but they were uncommon and expensive — very expensive. Now, there’s no excuse. You can get a huge external hard drive for short money. I back up intermittently to my two external drives, but a make sure to move files between my laptop and my big desktop everyday, and I save things online too

Eventually, I have 3 or 4 copies of everything, not counting whatever I store online. I don’t feel it’s too much. You can’t have too many backups of things that are important.

Even if it doesn’t seem very important. it can suddenly become very important if you have lost it forever and can never replace it. Back everything up. If it’s important enough to save it on your hard drive, it’s important enough to back up.

You can, for example, get a 3 TB external Seagate drive from Amazon for $139 including shipping. One and two terabyte drives are less expensive. If you don’t like that, there are ample choices for every budget. Don’t make excuses. One day, something bad will happen. A hard drive dies on you. It happens. It has happened to me twice. The first time, it was a secondary hard drive and I got enough warning to get my stuff off the drive. The second time, a message in a black  message box — I’ve never seen one like that before or since — appeared on my screen saying that there was a problem with my hard drive, back up now. By the time I finished reading the message, everything was gone.

But that time, everything was backed up. It was an inconvenience, not a catastrophe. I had learned my lesson.

Skip learning the hard way. Back it up.


It’s Not Your Equipment … It’s a Lack of Documentation!

Maybe I should just give up, but I spent my career writing material to help folks use complicated equipment and sometimes very obscure software.

I should probably start by mentioning that I’ve fought this battle for long years … and was utterly defeated. About 7 or 8 years ago, high-tech companies, in a money crunch and driven by that bottom line that seems to be the only thing that matters anymore, began to eliminate technical writers. Entire departments were dismantled and eliminated. Jobs disappeared and what remained paid so badly it was insulting.

A decision had been made at the corporate level: YOU don’t need documentation. No matter how complicated or expensive the equipment or software you purchase may be, don’t need documentation. Companies provide the minimum the law requires or they can get away with. Quality is no object nor usability. Information is limited to basic stuff like how to install a battery and if you are lucky, where the compartment is.

I was a technical writer for about 75% of my career, the rest being divided between journalism, editing, promotions and advertising. But mostly, I wrote documentation and I though my work mattered. Probably naive, but I believe that if I documented a system, it should be well written, clear, organized, and useful., When a user needed to find something, it would be in the book and in the online help. It would be easy to find. I carefully avoided using mysterious search parameters that could be deduced via a psychic link to my brain. If you knew what you wanted, I made it easy for you to find it.

I was proud of my work. I still believe the fundamental goal of documentation is to make complicated things simple. Not necessarily easy because sometimes, the product was not easy to use, but that didn’t mean that it had to be hard to understand. My documentation was good for another reason: I used the product and tested what I wrote to make sure it was true. This testing makes the difference between a pile useless gibberish and a manual.

Thus, when you get something that appears to be documentation, stop and read it. Appearances are deceiving. Most “manuals”  are generated, not written, and never checked for accuracy or usability. Such “manuals” are as likely to increase your confusion as provide illumination.

I bought a PEN EP3 camera from Olympus. Seven months and hundreds of photographs later, it remains one of the mysteries of my world. It takes wonderful pictures, and it has hundreds of functions. I haven’t the slightest idea how to find most functions and have no idea what to do with them if I could find them.

I grew up in a pre-digital world. I know F-stop, depth-of-field, shutter speed, aperture and focus, film speed and composition. I have a good eye. I’m no genius, but my pictures are pretty and I enjoy taking them.

He solves the problem the way most do: Automatic everything, then shoot.

New digital cameras have a vast and overwhelming array of functions, most of which you or I will never use or need. I believe they are there entirely to impress us with the super high tech-ness of the equipment. I doubt that even the designers — especially the designers — expects us to actually use them. Which is good, because I don’t know what they are supposed to do anyhow or why I would need them. Ansel Adams didn’t need them. Neither did Edward Weston. Neither do I. But, the more you pay for a camera, the more of these obscure functions you get and I figure that the least they owe me is an explanation of what these setting do and how to find them.

I’m not sure whether to curse or say thank you. Maybe if Olympus provided a manual that explained these options, I’d be grateful, but that is not happening.

I spent half our shooting time trying to find the menu to change the ISO.

This is true of cameras, but the lack of documentation on your computer is actually worse … much worse because most of us depend on our computers. We need them to work and we need to have some control over the environment in which we work. Configuration of our computers to suit our needs is not a minor detail: it’s the difference between having a tool that does what you need and one which is a burden … an enemy with which you do daily battle.

I spent all last night — until dawn — trying to figure out how to turn off the touchscreen functions of my monitor. Before Mac users jump in and point out that it’s because Windows doesn’t work, that’s irrelevant and untrue. Windows works fine. It’s just that the company doesn’t provide any written documentation. There is embedded information in the operating system, but much of it isn’t logically arranged. It’s rather like looking for your car keys after you’ve dropped them someplace you don’t normally put them. You know they’re in the house, but where? It could be years before you find them..

On a new computer, you typically get an “introductory” video and that’s pretty much it. I watched it. It showed me in exquisite detail how to do what I already knew how to do.

Operating systems are designed to be used the way the system’s developers expect you to use it. If you prefer a different setup, trouble starts. The only way to figure out how to do something differently is to keep querying the system and hope you’ll stumble on the right  key word — the word that will bring up the information you need. What is most frustrating is that you are sure it IS there, but whether or not you will ever find it is a different issue.

If you are sufficiently persistent and a bit lucky, you will eventually find a mystery menu after which you fix your problem in a few seconds.

Last night, I searched, searched again and again. It didn’t call Dell because I knew the support person wouldn’t know the answer either. They pretty much never do.

So I tried one word combination after another, recombining them in the hope that it would lead to a menu buried in the system. There had to be a way to deactivate touch input.

Around 5 in the morning, I found it. It took me less than 30 seconds to eliminate the problem that had been driving me nuts since I got the computer. Now, it’s a monitor. A great, high-definition, 23-inch monitor that’s a joy to work on and makes photo editing a pleasure. No more configuration by crawling insect. I am mistress of my virtual world at last!

A technical writers earns less than an entry-level developer. I understand the guys in India who provide telephone tech support work cheap, but I bet a tech writer would cost less than a network of telephone support no matter how cheaply they work.

Assuming you are under warranty and you can get through the voice mail  maze … and further assuming you get someone who understands the problem and don’t get blown off because software is not part of your warranty (Note: If someone can tell me how, without using software, you can determine if you have a hardware problem, I’d like to hear it) … Round and around you go.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Would it blow the budget to hire a competent technical writer to embed online help that will live on even after the warranty period is over? Wouldn’t it be nice to help users avoid needless aggravation and not wind up with angry, frustrated, exhausted, and homicidal customers whose problems remain unsolved?

Granting that many home users have a limited understanding of how their computers work and for them, it wouldn’t much matter what documentation you supply. Most problems result from insufficient understanding of a product or process. If you are talking about a novice user, perhaps more information wouldn’t help. But …

I’m not inexperienced and I still can’t find essential information I need to configure my monitor. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect a menu on the control panel that I could use to configure the monitor’s capabilities, not merely its resolution but any other functions it may have. Functions not available on a particular model could be grayed out. How about that?

There is nothing wrong with my computer that better organized and easier to find information would not solve..

Every issue I’ve had or the last 5 or 6 years was ultimately fixed with a few clicks of the mouse. The problem was never something broken. It was always lack of documentation.

That pisses me off. Because tech writers — even highly experienced ones — work pretty cheap. Users do need documentation, and not just for software and computers. We need documents that let us use our cameras and telephones and DVD players and all those other pricey little devices that we own and often, don’t know how to use. Online FAQs are insufficient.

This is an old battle I’ve already lost. I know it’s hopeless. I find it infuriating that I can barely figure out my telephone without customer support, so rather than spend time on the phone with customer service, I don’t use anything I can’t easily configure.

I had to buy a separate book on how to use Photoshop and another for my first camera. I was able to get some help from a fellow user of my new camera, but that only goes so far. For my PEN P3 camera, there IS no customer support nor any after market book. I depend, as Blanche DuBois said, “… on the kindness of strangers.”.

My camera will remain a mystery until someone writes a “Dummies” book for it. Hopefully I’ll still own the it when the book finally gets published.

It’s not fair. The reason they get away with it is because we let them. Think about it.

So how did I finally figure it out? The “monitor” menu should have been a gateway, but was useless. The only thing you can the “Monitor” menu lets you do is lower your screen’s resolution. That’s useless.

Finally, I typed: Touchscreen.

Up came something that I hadn’t considered. Flicks. Now, for me? That means the movies. Having never used it, I had no idea it had anything to do with the monitor or its touchscreen technology. Once I got to “Flicks,”, I started opening menus and voilà, there were two check boxes allowing me to toggle an option:

  • Enable finger as pointing device.
  • Do not allow finger as pointing device.

I un-checked the first one by checking the second. I clicked “Apply.” As the sun rose in the east, my problem was solved and I went to bed, to sleep, perchance to dream  … of murder, destruction and vengeance.

Don’t Touch That Screen!

This is really a two parter …. because the day started out great. We actually went out and had fun. We don’t go out much anymore, so this was an occasion. Noteworthy because we were actually going out, but more so because we first went to dinner with friends, then to a showing on the big screen of a fully restored “Singing in the Rain.”  It’s the 60th anniversary of the movie and TCM is celebrating by letting us enjoy it too.

I’d never seen this on a movie screen before and it was great, like seeing it for the first time though I’ve seen it on television many times. I didn’t remember it as being so very funny, but it was.

And another great routine:

This final one is simply a beautiful pas de deux …not funny, but wonderful choreography:

Dinner was good. Fine company, great movie, and we got back home just before 10 in the evening, tired, but feeling pretty good.

If this final piece doesn’t make you feel good, nothing can …

As bad as the day before had been, this was that much better. Okay, no one called back as promised, but hey, did I expect them to? Nah. No way. I’ll worry about that some other time. This was a time to just relax and enjoy something we love with people who love the same things.. And earlier, I actually got out and took some nice pictures, revisiting the old fire truck around the corner and discovering a wonderful display of wildflowers in the field by old Number 2.

And the little farm stand just down the road had fresh veggies … cucumbers and squash and zucchini. No tomatoes yet, but soon. So I stopped and bought some. They work on the honor system, leaving a note with the prices, some bags in case you don’t have your own, and a coffee can into which you can stuff some money. So, I took a few pictures and got some produce. It’s so much less expensive the grocery store and so much fresher, too.

That was before lunch, and I downloaded the photos, converted them from RAW to TIFF, figured tomorrow I’ll do some editing and sorting. Then the husband and I went to go watch some TV and hang out with the dogs.

Now, bedtime, and I stopped by the office to put away my eyeglasses and a couple of other things, make sure the phone was back on the cradle and charging. That’s when I looked at my computer and I knew it had happened again.

And then, as if it were simply too good a day … I had been assaulted by an unknown — bug.

Reconfiguration by insectivore. A bug had been at my screen. There had to be 25 windows open and at least half a dozen applications including Photoshop and Corel, Audible Manager, multiple windows of the audible downloader — apparently with downloads in progress — and just about every folder on the desktop was open.

The sound controller and video controller panels were both open. My task bar was gone disappeared had become a semi transparent area that was taking up half the screen with the icons scattered all over the screen.

There were all kinds of things pinned to the taskbar, and error messages layered on one another. I just sat here and closed things, then closed MORE things. I have no idea how many settings have been changed. I guess I’ll find out when I try to use stuff tomorrow and I’m not a happy camper. Not happy at all.

I hate that this otherwise gorgeous monitor is a touchscreen and that worse, the monitor IS the computer. On any other computer, I could just turn off the monitor when I’m not in the room … but I can’t because if I turn off the entire computer, the phone won’t work, the printer won’t work. My computer is the Grand Central Station of our network..

How could something that seemed such a grand idea go so terribly, hideously wrong? This 23 inch full high-definition monitor would be a world-class monitor and I would love it to death …. if it wasn’t a touchscreen.

Is it possible that no one really tried to use a big upright touchscreen to do any normal task before marketing them?

Touchscreen was never meant to be upright. The position is all wrong for your hands. It puts a painful strain on your wrists. That’s bad, but the inaccuracy is worse. The tip of your finger is not sufficiently precise to do anything but the broadest strokes. Nor can you turn off the touch functionality or even adjust it to be less sensitive.

The house seems particularly buggy today. I think it’s because of the vegetables. Maybe there were some kind of little flying buggies on them, because now they are everywhere in the house. This has happened before. Whatever they are, they don’t live long and don’t seem to be more than an annoyance …they eventually just die off by themselves. In any case, this is a very bug-ridden area … living in the woods and all, and it being summertime as well. But of course, the last time we had them in the house, I didn’t have touchscreen computer. That’s a game changer.

To make it even worse, we have dogs and the doggy door and our dogs just love sitting at the doggy door with their heads out the door, bodies inside to enjoy the air conditioning, and every insect in the world just sees that open door and comes right in. Flying or crawling, the find their way into my office. And all hell breaks loose for me.

It doesn’t have to be a big insect. These tiny fruit fly thingies seem to be just as effective as anything bigger and they are significantly more difficult to get rid of. They’re harmless really. They don’t bite. They don’t set up shops and really live here. They die off, just annoy you for a while, then they’re gone. The big ants are worst because they make an awful mess when you finally swat them, but in terms of how effectively they can reconfigure my computer, size is not an issue. A gnat can be as devastating as a big black ant or a spider.

Spiders just love my monitor. I don’t know if it’s the static electricity it generates that attracts them or maybe it’s the bright light or the heat generated. Whatever, they do love it and once they get in, it is very hard to get them out again.

They will meander across every icon until not one single thing is untouched. I wouldn’t mind nearly so much if they didn’t reconfigure the settings for the desktop. the sound system, and the video. And all at the same time.

This time, they’ve just gone too far. I mean really, downloading audiobooks? Did they buy any new ones? Have they figured out how to use my credit cards? Maybe they ordered a new computer … anything is possible.

More than once I have mindlessly taken aim at an unwanted visitor and paid the price. Last time I tried to kill a spider, it took me weeks to figure out how to get things back the way they had been. Among the many scary things that were open and apparently being adjusted were all my printer settings and I don’t want to go there, not now.

So I ask you again: Have you ever had your system configured by a bug? It is very much like having a dog do your landscaping. Our front yard has been landscaped by several generations of canines and it looks like a bomb testing site.

Meet my new partner. He is in charge of configuring my system.

This is touchscreen technology at its finest. This is the wave of the future? Oh no, no. It’s too awful to contemplate.

Say no to touchscreen, unless it’s a table or a laptop that you can keep closed. Save yourself!

It’s seems to work okay for tablet, but I have a camera with touchscreen and the best I can say for it is that I can turn it off and not use it as a touchscreen. Were that I could do the same on this computer.

Despite current trendiness, fingers are not precise pointing devices. And don’t even think about it if you have long fingernails. Bad, evil things can happen to your monitor when sharp hard fingernails poke at it.

You cannot edit a document or a photograph with your fingers. Finger painting is generally confined to very young children for a reason. It is not by accident that trained artists use more refined tools. Beware, my friends, beware.

If you use it — even a little bit — for example, because your mouse just fell off the desk and you need to press “Okay” or “Next”, your high-definition monitor will be covered by oily fingerprints. It doesn’t take a lot of fingerprints to make the screen hard to see clearly. Skin oil has a way of spreading itself around. I’m not sure how, but you’ll just have to trust me when I say that a little finger schmutz goes a surprisingly long way. You do not have to have dirty fingers. Natural skin oil does a fine job of gunking up the screen.

Tomorrow I will see how much damage has really been done. I tried to close everything and not accept any changed, but who know what the bug did before I got there?

Meanwhile, I shall sleep … and dream of enterprising insects trying to destroying my virtual world.