THREE IN THE MORNING AND THE PAGE NUMBERS WON’T WORK – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

I was up until very late last night because Garry got a new computer. Setting it up was easy because these days, everything is automated. And he didn’t have a lot of documents or photographs to move. They are all on my computer.

He has decided he’s going to try writing a book … and his Google book or iPad weren’t going to do the job. I did all the basic setup and downloaded Apache Open Office, which is free (but they will gladly take donations). It has everything (and more) than MS Office. It works on any computer. It really is free.

I have been using it on all my personal computers for the past 15-years. To be fair, I haven’t done any serious work on it. I wrote my book using Framemaker, which was Adobe’s anti-intuitive documentation software which I just happened to own at the time. But when I finished my book, I never renewed it. I’m not sure Adobe makes it anymore.

It was the software for non-fiction authors. If you were working on a doctorate or any material that needs glossaries, appendices, indexes, et al, Framemaker was the software. Expensive, but everything Adobe makes is pricey. I got Framemaker and Photoshop as goodbye gifts from my last job. It was great for designing my book, but for normal every day writing it was overkill.

Meanwhile, they kept charging more and more for MSOffice and it wasn’t worth it. It was so over-automated that it did what it wanted, but almost never what YOU wanted. OpenOffice is much less automated — and free.

But, as I said, I never used it for serious writing. While I haven’t been using it, the application has changed — for the better. If Garry is going to use it, I will have to teach him to use it. How can I teach him to use it if I don’t know how it works? So, after Garry went off to watch old Western movies in the bedroom, I created a small file. No problem with setting up fonts and formats.

Then I figured Garry was going to need page numbers. So hey, I’m a class act with software, right? I set up a footer then went to look for the page numbers. Two hours later, I still couldn’t figure out how to put in a simple page number in the middle of the footer. It would set it up left-right for a book, but I just wanted a simple number, middle of the page in the footer.

As the night began to turn into morning I found something that looked like it might work, but I think you can only see the numbers if you print the document. I was ready for bed, not printing. Oddly enough, I didn’t print it today either. Maybe tomorrow. Or Sunday.

I think I need to go back to Apache and watch some of their videos and read some of the documentation. During 20 years of retirement, I might have lost my touch! It was a humbling experience.

SKYPING FOR IDIOTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it, I never learned to use Skype. I have tried it. At least twice a year some friend or family member wants to see if we can make it work. I’ve never made it work.

There are a lot of reasons. One is that this computer has two sets of video and sound cards. It’s a gaming computer and for reasons best known to Dell (or more accurately, Alienware), they decided to do everything twice.

All well and good but getting Skype to run, you have to figure out which microphone it can use and which video card it needs and you have to use either the two high def ones or the two low def one. Not one of each. That merely confuses the system which is often confused without any help.


Then there’s Charter (Spectrum) which has a habit of dropping you for a few seconds here and there, usually when you are trying to save something. Most of the time, it comes back on its own, but sometimes you have to reboot the router et al. Sometimes, it doesn’t come back. Then you are glad you have a rarely used mobile device so you can call Charter and explain there’s no signal. Which they will deny has anything to do with them.

Last night, my friend Cherrie sent me an email and said: “Let’s try Skype … oh and by the way, I’ve never done this before.” I answered saying I’d never done it either — not entirely true … I’d been walked through it once before. I wasn’t sure I could make it work, but I’d give it a whack. What the hell. It turns out her son was urging her to use it.

“Why?” she asked.

“You could talk to your family.”

“I never talk to my family. Why would I start now?” But luckily, I’m not a family member, so she’ll talk to me. In theory.

This is a simplified version of Skype. It doesn’t look all that simple to me.

First, I did all the stuff to set it up. It told me I didn’t have a camera. I managed to turn on the camera. Then it told me that I couldn’t use that email (which is my only email) because I’d used it before and did I want to create a new email.

I did NOT want to create a new email. I gave in. I took out my cell phone and used that number. After which,  my computer started to ring, but when Cherrie tried to answer it, she couldn’t get it to connect. Our dialogue consisted of me asking “Are you there?” (text) and her computer saying “You missed your call” (more text).

When it’s set up, it looks like this. It does NOT mean you will really connect, but it’s the thought that counts.

I gave up. I picked up my (non-mobile) telephone and called her. I could see a frozen picture of her on my screen, but she couldn’t see or hear me. I figured we could forget the whole microphone thing have a nice chat. But she was determined.

“We used to be good at this,” she said. “What happened?” I declined to point out that we got old and hadn’t even tried to keep up with current technology. I have always been good at software, but there are things I can’t do. I can’t run my printer or change the ink in it. I hate copy machines and they hate me right back. Since we were already on the phone, she figured she might as well give it one more try. This was the start of a lot of clanging while both our computers started ringing like mad. Still no pictures.

And suddenly, she could hear me and I could after a while, I could hear her. We laughed a lot and figured we should make this a good conversation because we doubted we would ever make it function again.

Somtimes it works.

This morning I asked Owen if he knows how to use Skype. After all the explanations of what’s wrong with the technology, how they’ve oversimplified it so you have no control over anything, the answer was “No.” Meanwhile, Garry wants me — ME! — to set up Zoom for him for tomorrow. Does anyone think this is going to happen? I certainly don’t.

I find this process so utterly baffling I don’t know why it didn’t work and I don’t know why, eventually, it did work.

The telephone works fine for me because I am the idiot.

“BAD” IS THE NEW “GOOD” IN TECH SUPPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad customer and technical support is the new good. You only think it’s bad. The problem is your attitude. Or so they’d have you think.

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE

All the big technology companies are working hard to save a few bucks. Competition is fierce. Every penny counts. Since executives won’t accept lower pay nor will stockholders accept lower returns, it’s customers who fill the cost-cutting gap.

Death cust serv
In the race to be the cheapest, tech companies stopped including chargers with devices. No manuals. No system software. No reinstallation software. Short power cords that don’t go from an outlet to a desktop. No connector for printers, speakers or whatever. Everything you need to finish setting up costs extra.

Customer service was the first thing to go. They hired people who don’t know anything, don’t understand or speak English. For all I know, they don’t understand or speak Spanish either. They aren’t trained, don’t know the products. And since manufacturers no longer include documentation, you don’t have the option of taking care of it yourself.

No company — not cameras, computers or software — includes documentation. I became obsolete years ago when the industry decided no one reads the manuals. So they fired the tech writers, put some generated information in an online PDF. They figured customer service techs would handle the fallout. But they don’t. Many of us would be happy to fix minor glitches but have no alternative to spending our time on the phone, frustrated and angry.

THE PLAN IN ACTION

You can’t say they didn’t have a plan. Corporation had a really terrible plan. It was such a bad plan that everyone adopted it. Of course, these days any plan is a big deal being as we live in a nation that hasn’t had a viable plan for anything in more than three years. And now, we have a plague. How cool is that?Customer Service waiting It’s not a Microsoft issue or a Dell thing. It’s not a plan that anyone can claim as their own. It’s a cross-industry problem, affecting virtually every tech corporation in this country.

Bad has become the official new good. Really and truly good is remarkable and so rare.

WOULD IT KILL THEM TO INCLUDE A MANUAL?

In every industry, business, service — service support stinks. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’ll get the same lousy service. It’s the great leveler.

CustServCartoon

Sometimes, you get lucky. The guy or gal you connect with knows the product and you think “Wow, that wasn’t bad! Maybe it’s improving.” The next time, it’s the same old, same old. Mostly you spend hours online listening to the worst music ever written and every once in awhile they point out how important you are and the next time anyone can take your call, they will.

Okay then. I think it’s possible I’m still on hold.

NCIS AND MY PACEMAKER – Marilyn Armstrong

EPISODE: Need to Know (2012)

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade his info — which he says is about national security.

It concerns Agah Bayar, the arms dealer. Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

ncis-need-to-know

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked in and jacked his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.


What does this have to do with me?

Well, glad you asked. This episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery in March 2014), that they decided to find out if it really could be done. One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it. My surgeon did point out as far as they could tell, to actually hack a pacemaker you had to be no more than a couple of feet from it. Nonetheless, they made the manufacturer change the programming.

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker.

I find this comforting. Garry finds it disturbing and I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek.

RBB-pacemaker

I find the technology sufficiently interesting to overcome its inherent creepiness. It is creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart would beat on its own, I wouldn’t need a pacemaker.

In the beginning, they used to stop my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation.

The blue tooth remote functions still work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were a couple of years ago before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious about it. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would still rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It sits on my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. I find it impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

And no matter what, I will always have that Pacemaker because, after all those tests, my heart absolutely will not beat without it.

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.

NO SPENDTHRIFTING THIS YEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spendthrift

There was a time when “spendthrift” meant spending too much money for something that wasn’t necessary. This was when we were both working and earning good salaries. Summer vacations were when we really spent money.  Great restaurants, jewelry, clothing, hotels, airfare. We worked hard. We deserved it. We still work hard, for our age and we still deserve it.

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. It used to have a huge rope hammock.

We did most of our summering on Martha’s Vineyard. We shared a house with a lot of other people — which made it sort of affordable. At the end of the season, everything went on sale, so I would buy all the Christmas presents in August on the Vineyard. People got interesting stuff.

Vineyard house – Originally part of the New York Yacht Club. The house where we stayed before it was restored.

Now we don’t go to the Vineyard — and we also don’t give much in the way of Christmas gifts, either. If someone really needs it, we can’t afford it. If we can afford it, they don’t need it.

Basically, these days, being a spendthrift would mean spending any money for anything unrelated to fixing the house. There’s no “fun money” lying around. Being a spendthrift was a lot more fun than being “house poor.” Although I dearly love our new bathroom, I wouldn’t object to a vacation, either.

I was a lot younger, too

I’d like to get some good graphics software for my MacBook Air, but all the good “full service” software that normally works on a Mac won’t work on this one. The MacBook Air is the lightest weight “real” computer made. It’s incredibly light. To make it so lightweight,  Mac removed a lot of stuff.  It weighs less than my more solid (older) 10-inch Kindle with its Bluetooth speaker. It also has a very small hard drive (half a gig SSD) and it feels kind of fragile. I’m very protective of it because I don’t think it would survive a serious fall onto a hard surface.

I wanted it so I could process photos while we were out of town. Without hauling the big Dell which weighs like a cinderblock. As it turns out, I can’t do it anyway. Either the hard drive is too small and the application won’t fit, or it doesn’t have the right graphics processor. Everything in the machine is rather miniature. It wouldn’t make much of a difference if it weren’t for photography. Photographs use a LOT of space.

I’ve been saved from myself. Most of what I want doesn’t exist.

Left: Bonnie, Right: Gibbs

Except for the vacation. I’d really like a long vacation. But we’ve got three dogs, two of whom are getting old. I’m not comfortable leaving them for long periods of time.

Never mind. We’ll save tons of money and enjoy that new shower!

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?

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.

NEW DRIVER? YES/NO/LET ME THINK ABOUT IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Driver

I just got a new download for Windows 10 — which was a followup to the new download I got for my Mac laptop and the one I got for my Kindle and whatever happened to make my mini iPod completely unusable. I didn’t use it anyhow, but having paid for it, it irks me that they’ve downloaded a “new version” of whatever was supposed to make it useful and now, NOTHING works. Among other things, they wiped out my password.

The iPad mini 4

I am too incurious to ask someone how to fix it, even though it’s insured and I could probably just get a new one … which will also sit unused. I must remind myself that unless I actually have a valid use for a gadget, DON’T BUY IT. Even if it is on sale.

Now, about drivers.

There are, unlike you and me behind the wheel of a vehicle, programs that tell other things how to do whatever they do. They link an application to the operating system and if it doesn’t work, nothing works. A driver is often linked to more than one thing on your computer. Many drivers are part of your operating system. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Apple, PC, or Android. Everything needs a driver.

I have a lot of high-end stuff on this monster and every time I see the question “Would you like to download the new driver for … (fill in the blank) …?” I go into a panic. The most panic-producing issue is the driver that links my graphics super NVIDIA stuff which handles both what I see and what I hear to everything else on the unit. NVIDIA is not part of Microsoft, but Microsoft — and every other computer company — use their products. They constantly introduce new drivers, many of which are designed for whatever the latest video game is. Because this is a gaming computer, even though I don’t game. I would, but I don’t have time.

Douglas Adams inspired “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” AND he shares my birthday, so I feel bonded

I have this machine so I can process pictures. Still photographs. Also, it has — if you can figure out how to tune it properly — a really good set of speakers in it. But it has two full sets of graphics in the machine. A generic set from that another company (a Microsoft product?) plus the NVIDIA set up.

I feel like the robot in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

“DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT DRIVERS.”

I managed to get through the last collections of updates apparently undamaged. So far. I haven’t, I admit, gone in to check the setting, so the next time I try to listen to an audiobook, I’m sure it’ll sound all weird and I’ll have to reconfigure the entire thing. Again.

Drivers. Don’t talk to ME about drivers!

SOME NOT-SO-BAD NEWS, THE LOCAL EDITION – Marilyn Armstrong

Sometimes complaining helps. All the people who complained that they can’t use the new format have been offered the option of retaining (forever, apparently) the “classic format.” I was up at the Forum and there were tens of thousands of complaints, mostly from long-term bloggers.

The thing is, there IS a Classic Editor plug-in, but you can’t use it unless you are a Business Plan user — which is a $25/month hit for retirees. Most of us really can’t afford much more than we already have.

I certainly can’t do it. Forget about the minor detail that I don’t have a business nor have I any plans for one. WordPress is going whole-hog for getting a lot more money. I guess they figure Google, Amazon, and Facebook are rolling in the big bucks, so why shouldn’t WordPress be rolling in it too?

WordPress is not hard up for money. They are earning more than enough, but in today’s world, there’s no such thing as enough money.

Greed is good.

Remember when “good” meant doing something kind and generous for someone else? Now “good” means getting it all for yourself and keeping it while making sure no one else gets any.

It’s an international trend. Not, I think, a healthy one.

But — just this once, WordPress is willing to offer anyone who asks for it (you have to go to the forum and complain officially, but they may make this available for everyone soon) the option to dump Gutenberg and keep the classic. They admitted there’s a strong possibility that even business users may not want such a complicated formatting app, so probably they will keep the classic format intact and let only those who prefer Gutenberg use it. The Forum shows an incredible number of complaints and I suspect I wasn’t the only one who said either I can use an application that makes sense in the context of what I really do, or I will finally give up.

They heard me.

So now, if I genuinely need an application this complicated, I will wait until it is properly tested and then do my own testing. See if it works for me. I’ve got a lot of stuff packed into this site.

WordPress’s search engine hasn’t been sturdy enough to deal with the thousands of photographs, images and 8,400 posts in the “old” format and the new one is worse.

Anyway, if you have somehow gotten yourself into the Gutenberg loop and you don’t like it, you can get out of it. For once — for the first and probably only time — WordPress heard us. I didn’t think it was possible.

I am deeply grateful.

AN AWFUL TERRIBLE HORRIBLE DAY AT WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

I went to take a look at the brand spanking new format for WordPress.


WARNING: If you do that, you will NOT be able to go back to your old format. I think what they have done is eliminate all the old versions of the editor we used, so you can use the new one, or hope they don’t delete the old ones entirely and leave you with this mess.

Which is what I think is really going to happen. 


Now, there are things about the “new new new new editor” that may — eventually, when they get the bugs fixed — be useful. But right now? You can’t even get a set of standard editing functions across the top of your page. 

They also (apparently, unless it’s a bug) have a limited number of categories — AND they no longer offer you the option of picking up an old post so you can rewrite it.

I’ve got nearly 8,000 posts, so yes, I go back and rewrite material. After you’ve been doing this for a long time, why not?

In this new format, I opened categories and it dies after the letter “C.” What happened to “D” through “Z”? You can’t even find the missing pieces by typing the category name in the search list. Nothing comes up. This will effectively lose thousands of posts and pictures.

I went through and deleted all the one I used very rarely. That got me all the way to “D.” When I eventually found my way back to the “classic editor,” all the deletes were not made.


NOTHING IN THAT SOFTWARE IS WORKING. NO ONE BETA TESTED IT. NO ONE.


I don’t object to change. I object to untested changes and buggy software. I pay to use WordPress.  I object to being forced to do stuff the way they decree. If this is such a great interface (it might be POTENTIALLY, but it definitely isn’t there yet), then people will use it. You don’t have to club us over the head.

Also, they are no longer offering help to anyone but business users … so they’ve forced me to use this very buggy interface and there’s no one to talk to. Maybe this will finally push me over the edge.

You know that whole thing about this being a free country? Well … this kind reminds me that anyone who doesn’t follow orders is not free. What is wrong with having more than one interface? How does it hurt anyone?


A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with pop culture. We retire. We don’t feel impelled to learn to do it differently unless there’s a really good reason to do it. Unless you’re paying me to do it your way, try not to get too bent out of shape if I prefer to do it my way. It may be different, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

We are happy with the way we do things. They are comfortable and trust me, retirement and comfortable go together like guitar and bass. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and by fifty, you drop any pretense of caring any of “the latest things.”

It doesn’t mean that nothing new makes the cut, but I’ve been a writer my whole life and any product that requires me to access multiple pages to accomplish the same task that previously could be done on a single page is NOT an improvement. This is poorly designed software.

That’s right: it’s BAD SOFTWARE. 
That’s not how the pros do it, kids. 
was one of them.


I’ve been reading about this upcoming new interface for a while. I really had my fingers crossed that just this once, WordPress would have the grace to fully test it and make sure it worked. It is not an UPGRADE if it’s harder to use than the old one — especially if the task is identical.

Drop down lists for everything? Dumping most of my categories? Completely changing how media is handled without so much as an introduction? Discovering that we no longer have access to help?


So, they did it again, but this is the worst yet. I’m wondering if it’s worth it. WordPress doesn’t want writers and photographers. They want business accounts.

I’m not a business. I am not selling anything. I’m trying to just enjoy life. 

This isn’t going to be fun. It’s going to be a major league headache. They’ve been cutting down on what they offer “premium” users for years and at this point, nothing seems to be what they are offering. Platform, templates, and good luck. What they are clearly saying is simple.


WORDPRESS DOES NOT CARE ABOUT USERS. 


You know how Sears is going out of business? Well … guess what? I’m pretty sure driving away all the people who do creative stuff which brings in new people is not going to help WordPress get richer (they are already making plenty of money) than they already are. But not to worry.

There’s always bankruptcy. 

FRETTING WHEN YOUR NAME DISAPPEARS IN WORDPRESS’S SEARCH ENGINE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fretting? Why would I be fretting? After all — the “Happiness Engineers” are still working on solving “my” problem!

It’s comforting to hear that “our team” is continuing  to “work” on this issue or are they working on it again. Or “still”? It’s hard to know since they have yet to get my name or any of our four other co-authors back into the database.  

Do they even understand the problem? That the most likely reason we are “missing” is that they eliminated the pointers that made our posts visible to the general public? Or are they still dicking around with kids just out of college who don’t actually understand that doing “A” can result in a broken “C” and “L” and “Z”? Have they bothered to hire any experts in the staff or are they working — as I suspect — with a bunch of barely trained “kids”?


If you are on your dashboard and you go to Reader (I don’t know what dashboard you are using because they keep “fixing it” and this latest fix has REALLY fixed it but good). Open Reader, go down to “Search” and type in your name. See what you get. If you are lucky, you will see most or all of your posts including recent posts.

If you are me, you will find nothing — not the name of your site or your name or any post from your site at all. Almost everyone else can find at least their older posts. In my case, I effectively do not exist in the WordPress search engine.

Why is this such a big deal? Because the search engine — otherwise known as “the database” — is how WordPress hangs together. It’s the core information about who is who and what is what on their gigantic server farms. That’s how you can look up “Serendipity” and find all the various posts on Serendipity — despite there being other posts that have included the word in their titles and a few that just plain stole it. All of this is linked to our URL, which is our “address” on the  world-wide web — the big virtual world of which we are part.

CBS Images

I have been posting pretty much daily for six-years. That’s more than 7,000 posts, almost 11,000 WordPress followers (probably half of them are Russian bots) and another 3500 (give or take) individuals from social media. I have 669,975 views including almost every country on earth. I’m missing North Korea (we all are) and a couple of central African countries, but otherwise, I’ve gone everywhere and most of you have also traveled the globe, at least virtually.

Right now, those who are already following you or me or anyone (and vice versa) will continue to get emails and notices in the Reader. No one new will find us in the Reader — or at least won’t find any of our new material. They may find you through Google, though. As long as Google keeps crawling through WordPress, we are alive. Sort of.

Search engine history

For me, it’s a complete wipe out. None of the five of us who write on Serendipity show up as existing at ALL in the search engine except as reblogs on other peoples’ sites.

By the way, I had no idea how many reblogs of our pieces were around. Thank you, all of you!

So, the regulars who follow me can (so far) continue to follow, but casual drop-by people looking for pictures or information or book reviews or whatever we write about won’t find it if they are searching for us on WordPress.

Google is alive and well, so far. I’m assuming that’s true of whatever other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are crawling through WordPress.

This is a major issue for WordPress. A broken database is serious business.

Databases were what I worked on for most of my professional life. Technical writing — with a VERY heavy emphasis on data management. A company’s  search engine is the center — the core — of a system. It’s not a spare part.

The database is how a system knows about itself and can find its various pieces. If it breaks down, that is very bad. The “old bloggers” — we who have been doing this for years — are the hardest hit and I think I’m the only one who has been obliterated completely. We aren’t completely dead as long as our links still work and Google picks up the pieces, but if the whole database (search engine) collapses, WordPress will collapse with it.

And then, there is WordPress

It’s important that you make sure WordPress knows you know what’s going on and they need to fix this. Pronto. They are working on it, but it’s possible I was the first person to get on their case and make them realize how deep this issue goes.

They have been messing with the “reader” and “search engine” for years without giving a thought to what might happen if things went terribly wrong. And with databases, thing go terribly wrong pretty fast and rather easily. Just know that a database is how your system remains A SYSTEM and not a lot of random pieces floating in cyber-space.

The longer it goes on, the more pieces of our work will disappear and possibly never be found again. Anyone who codes will understand what I’m talking about. This should not have happened and they should have been working on it from day one instead of just doing their “we’re just messing around, don’t let it bother you” thing. Eventually, mindless coding will break something serious.

They finally did it.

Most of us only use a few search engines. Amazon for its own products. WordPress. Google. Bing. But there are thousands and thousands of search engines dedicated to specific tasks — finding cheap hotel rooms or airplane tickets — or anything else you might need or want. There are local bases and international bases. Medical and scientific bases. Every subject and science has a variety of databases, some of which charge fees for their use. Some require that you have degrees in the subject or are teaching in the field.

WordPress’s database is its fundamental tool. It isn’t “just” WordPress, either. It hooks into all the other databases. It matters. Its absence matters to us more than most of you may “get.” Time for them to stop messing around and start addressing the real issues on the platform — while there still is a platform.

The final bottom line is not the “name of my site” but MY NAME. The names of the other writers all of which should be pointing at the pieces they have written and until a month ago, were doing exactly that. Now, they are not doing anything. My name is a blank and so are theirs.

How many other names are blanks where they used to be pointers and parts of an index? What did they do to make such a mess? It didn’t happen by itself and this is not a “glitch.”