ANOTHER DAY WITH CUSTOMER DISSERVICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTHING’S LIKE IT USED TO BE

A couple of weeks ago, I needed some new nightwear. Nothing fancy. No lingerie. That’s for display, not sleeping. I’m talking about the ubiquitous cotton sleep tee. For years, I bought them from L.L. Bean. They were comfortable, loose, soft. Lightweight in summer, heavier, long-sleeved for winter. Then, L.L.Bean stopped making them and offered only heavy flannel or pajamas. In ugly colors.

bz-panel-09-07-13store

I don’t want elastic while I sleep. I want soft, loose, breathable, comfortable. Priced so I can buy more than one. Colors other than flaccid pink and dainty floral on white.

When L.L. Bean stopped making what I wanted, I switched to Land’s End. I’ve been wearing their sleep tees for more than a decade. But with each passing year, the fabric has gotten rougher, and the cut skimpier. The neckline has gotten tighter to the point where it’s hard to get your head through it. The price keeps going up. I gave up. While the price has risen, the quality has dropped to completely unacceptable. I found quality sleep tees on Amazon. Not as good as the old ones, but at least affordable.

Have you ever tried to find someone to help you in a real store? Shops have cut staffing down so low that there’s no one to help you and they did this long before everyone started shopping on line. They decided they didn’t need to offer help, that we could all fend for ourselves. We did. We just didn’t do it at their shops. When online became available, it was an easy switch.

Then there’s the whole “changing brands” without regard for what people want. Did “new Coke” bring new customers to Coca Cola? Or did they give Pepsi a huge boost? Did Windows 8 improve business at Microsoft … or did it move huge numbers of computer users to Apple?

A while back, I decided to go buy a book and I went to the mall. There’s a huge Barnes & Noble there. Did you know that Barnes & Noble booksellers — their brick and mortar stores — charge 30% more than Barnes & Noble online? For identical merchandise. If you want a discount card, that will cost you more. Even with the “discount,” their stuff still costs more than it would online.

When asked why I should bother to buy at the store, I was told the online and “real” stores aren’t run by the same organization and have different price structures. That’s not an answer.

Original Coke came back. Windows 8 passed into oblivion — to no ones regret. Windows 10 is into its third round of updates and the Windows world has settled down. Amazon is opening its own brick and mortar stores. What goes around apparently comes around. I’m waiting for the same thing to happen with the presidency. Even DiGiorno’s is selling pizza with “original” sauce. Vote with your shopping cart and get out there for the next elections and maybe we’ll get a government we can live with. It worked on Windows, so why not on the federal government?

Yet, I’m pretty sure I’ll never fully trust Microsoft, Barnes & Noble, or the U.S. government. Sometimes, when you break a trust with enough brutality, there’s no going back. You smile when you  meet, but you don’t really mean it.

What’s the price tag on trust?

IMPRESSION: TOPAZ STUDIO V1.01

IMPRESSIONS – TOPAZ STUDIO V1.01

I’ve been a devoted user of Topaz filters for a few years, but now, they have come out with a more complete graphics processing application. I downloaded it yesterday, and I’ve been playing with it since.

I thought it would be a framework to hang their existing filters — which you can do — but that’s not even close to all of what it can do for you. You certainly can use Topaz filters from in the application much you use them through Photoshop or Lightroom, However, it includes its own filters, too. From groups of basic settings through a wide range of different artistic filters, you’ll find glowing, abstract, and line drawings and most things in between. Quite a substantial collection of highly usable filters to do everything from basic set up through art.

There are areas of the application I have not quite figured out. Yet. Resetting the size and pixel count of a photograph is one of those things. You can set the pixel count from 72 on up, but there does not (yet) seem to be a function to fix the perimeter of the photograph, something I do constantly as I move photographs from desktop to website. I may have missed it and I’m going to do another run through of the tutorial.

Nor have I found a way to knock out or paint (make disappear) pieces in the original photo. I’m pretty sure this function IS there, but I’m missing it. I’m not a real whiz kid with graphics, so every new application of this type is a big learning curve for me.



As far as working in larger groups of photos, they haven’t quite gotten there yet … and they use the same klutzy save process for this application as for early stand-alone applications. Missing, too, is a simple “flat line” to straighten a crooked picture. They have a very classy rotator — classier than my version of Photoshop — but not a straight line for setting up a flat horizon. They need it. It’s a basic tool which almost everyone uses.

The filters — new and old — are great. I have heard a lot of people complaining that a lot of the presets are not different enough from the others to make them worth using. I disagree. I love the subtle differences between filters. These small changes are often what takes a picture from “okay” to “special.” Not every filter is perfect top to bottom, but this application includes an excellent selection of filters and I can’t imagine not finding many of them very useful.

This is a fine set-up for anyone who enjoys using filters and at this early point in the project’s development, you can be sure that even better things will be coming soon.

So what is my impression of Topaz Studio V1.01?

I like it. I am sure I will like it even more in subsequent versions. It’s still a bit awkward, but they will fix that. It works the way you’d expect Topaz filters “in a boxed set” to work.

They need to come up with a better naming method, precision sizing, and moving smoothly in a multi-photo array. But even at this very young point in the application’s development, you can get a lot of work done using their impressive collection of filters. Even if they didn’t change anything — most unlikely since Topaz is always developing new products — the tones, textures, and other transformations you get using this set make it worth your while.

This probably won’t be a substitute for Photoshop … but then again … with a bit more development, it’s not impossible.

MY NOTORIOUSLY NEW PRINTER

I hate printers. I also hate copiers, scanners, and fax machines.

Nowadays, you get one, you get the batch, but I still hate all of them, whether in one package or many. I got my new printer a few days 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 to Garry’s hearing place to see if they have a significantly better hearing aid for him. Not quite. Yet. Maybe it would be a little better, but not $4000 better.

When we came back from the hearing place and having briefly stopped at the grocery store, 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 surprisingly, didn’t.

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 work to your disadvantage. Then, there’s cursing. For many people, that works well, but for me, it’s a distraction from getting on with the job.

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

So, after we came home and I quickly 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 plead with the manufacturer.

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 … slowly won’t do the job). 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 over 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 a 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 was 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 to be true. I’m not at all sure about the scanner, but I’ll save that for another 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 big thing to hate instead of three.

Is this a good or bad thing?

I SHALL GO PEACEFULLY

I am in pursuit of nothing at all. I’m not working, so I’m not hunting down money. I’m not career-involved, so not going there. I suppose the only thing I am really pursuing is how to go from simply playing Civilization to winning the game, whatever that means. All I want to do is build handsome buildings. Collect Great People to improve my population’s learning skills.

I seem to lack a killer instinct.

I have encountered this problem before. With this same game. Years ago, when they had “Cheat Mode” as an option, whenever another nation got too aggressive, I made them disappear.

Note the Great Wall

Sadly for me, they have ditched “Cheat Mode.” I sorely regret the lapse. I don’t want to go to war with Peter the Great or anyone else. I merely want to build the Winter Palace and the Great Library. Develop medicine. Send spaceships to other planets. War is annoying. It is a distraction to the really important things in the world.

I have come to believe that no one makes games for people like me. Someone should. I can’t be the only person that would like to play without brigades and explosions.

That’s why I liked the old SIM games. Your battle was with building the right number of elevators to get annoyed people to the top of the building … and you could watch Santa Claus fly by in the Christmas sky. I always like that.

I want a game without wars. Where no one, real or simulated, will threaten to blow up my civilization up with nuclear (or other) weapons. Where I don’t need to spend most of my game building some version — old or new — of The Warrior.

It’s hard being a pacifist in a nuclear electronic era. No, really. It is.

PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY

There was an interesting article in the news concerning a porn site called xhamster.com I don’t know why it’s called that and I really don’t want to know. They’re in the news because they closed off their website to anybody living in the state of North Carolina. Why? Because of the harsh, horrible anti-LGBT law they passed. If you log onto their website from anywhere in that state, you get a blank screen.

blank screen

Blank screen for you!

The tone of all the news reports and nightly talk shows was that this was a funny but useless protest. There are thousands of other porn sites where North Carolinians can … well you know. But, as usual, the main stream media and the nightly talk shows missed the real story. I am not offering an opinion on the virtues or evils of porn. However, there is a larger truth which is widely known but rarely talked about regarding the porn industry. Porn has been a major driver, financial backer, and early adopter of technological innovation since the beginning. Since forever.

When mankind started drawing on cave walls, I guarantee you some of the first things depicted were people getting some Neanderthal Nookie.

thestar.com.my

thestar.com.my

Porn was very popular in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it utilized some of the earliest encryption technologies. I saw an exhibit in a museum once that showcased one of them. The exhibit consisted of huge tapestries painted with very strange distorted images. You couldn’t tell what they were.

What were they? Porn. The artist would draw the original naughty painting on a regular canvas. He would then look at the painting’s reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The image in the mirror would be all distorted. He would then paint that distorted image onto the tapestry. If you looked at the tapestry the painting made no sense.

anamorphic art

arthit.ru

But. If you looked at the tapestry’s reflection in the same cylindrical  mirror the artist used, the image would be reconstructed back to its original form. (“Naughty Knights 5”)

When photography was first invented in the 1800’s one of the earliest subjects was, of course, naked women. Having sex. When the telegraph was invented, telegraph operators were known to spend their off hours “telegraph sexting”.

I didn’t believe it either.

blog.kaspersky.com

blog.kaspersky.com

OPERATOR ONE: Who you talking to?

OPERATOR TWO: I don’t know, but she sure can dit my dot!

The VCR became popular because porn producers started switching to videotape, abandoning film. Finally, you didn’t have to go to a movie theater for porn. You could “bring it home.” VHS beat out Betamax because the porn industry chose VHS. Really. No kidding. That’s the way it happened.

alf.image.com

alf.image.com

Porn money propelled other technologies, too. Online payments, DVDs, streaming video, and two-way internet chat rooms. Virtual Reality headsets have only been available for a few months and there’s already Virtual Reality Porn.

truvisionvr.com

truvisionvr.com

(I wouldn’t know this personally, but I read a lot).

So here’s the real story that everybody has missed.  One porn site blocked off an entire state. It has been viewed as a symbolic, but mostly useless protest.

What if they all did it?  What if all the porn sites got together and said to North Carolina: “NO PORN FOR YOU!”

no porn for you

I’ll bet you that anti-LGBT law would be overturned in about an hour and a half! Maybe less. Then, the porn industry would realize it’s true power! Imagine, Lysistrata on a national, even a global, scale!

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

“You won’t do what we want? NO PORN FOR YOU!” All the porn industry needs to do is come together. Organize.

Organize into a cartel.
A conglomerate
 A Ring.
lotr.wiki.com

lotr.wiki.com

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Pray they use their power for good.

WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG … OR MAYBE NOT

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I was in Israel for nearly 9 years, from the very beginning of 1979 through the end of 1987. I sort of missed the 1980s and from everything I’ve been hearing about it, I didn’t miss much. A few TV shows, but with all the reruns available everywhere these days, I’m catching up on them.

72-lr-technology-remotes-10062016_04

More interesting is that I came from a high-tech world in Israel and returned to a high-tech world here. It wasn’t quite high-tech when I left, but it was considering it. There were many new ideas that would morph into even more new ideas.

Video discs, which, I think, eventually became DVDs. Other parts of the same thing became the life-force of “computer-generated” creations we now see everywhere. I left at the beginning of this mad rush to technology and came back in the middle of it, a hardened veteran of the high-tech wars. I went directly from what I’d been doing in Israel — documenting software — to documenting software. Here. I’m pretty sure that some of it was the same stuff I’d worked on in Israel.

Yet, for all my high-tech-ness, there are things from which I will never recover.

IT’S NOT WORKING! WHAT’LL I DO?

You’d think this would only happen if a major piece of equipment punks out.

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You’d be right, most of the time. Except — I don’t know how many times I reinstalled operating systems for machinery that had a loose plug. I just needed to … plug it in. To the machine. Sometimes, to the wall.

OH NO! MY CAMERA IS DEAD!

I panic when I turn on my camera and I can’t see anything.

“Oh NO! My camera just died.”

Total panic. Full hysteria. Something is terribly wrong and I … Oh. Never mind. My camera didn’t die. I forgot to take the lens cap off. What a ninny.

CALLING FOR HELP

Despite my frenzy of panic, I have never called tech support because I forgot to remove the lens cap … or because I needed to push the plug back in the wall. This isn’t because I’m too smart for that. I’m plenty dumb enough, thank you. It’s that I don’t like having to call customer service for any reason.

It’s my last port of call, when all else has failed. Most of the time, I’m grateful. And, in the end, most things “fix themselves.” Unplug it, count to ten, and plug it back in. Fixed.

You will never find out what was wrong anyway. If rebooting doesn’t work, sometimes making a sandwich, eating it, and coming back to the desk will take care of it. Like, 90% of the time.

customer-service-f1-for-help

I had a boss who commented there really is a reason for everything that happens. The problem is, the amount of time and effort it would take to discover exactly what went wrong can take weeks. At which point you’ll discover it didn’t matter anyway.

You have to make decisions about what matters. First, reboot.

THE SPIDER ON THE CEILING IS IN THE BED

Yesterday morning, there was a spider in my bed. This is a bad thing. Not merely do I not like spiders (okay, I’m terrified of spiders), but a spider in my bed can cause me to stay up all night and refuse to leave the sofa in the living room. Yesterday, it was there. In my bed. And Garry was in the shower. By the time I could extract him from the shower, who knows what that spider might be doing.

But it wasn't quite this large

But it wasn’t quite this large

I solved the problem. I got paper towels and screamed hysterically while I removed the spider from the bed. Garry can’t hear me when I scream (no hearing aids in the shower), so I just screamed. A lot.

Having removed the spider. I (later) asked Garry how there could be a spider in the bed? Practical man, he said probably one of the packages I’d brought in from outside had a spider on it.

“Oh,” I said. “That makes sense.” Because until that moment, I was ready to tear the entire room to pieces to find that lair of spiders.

Just saying.