I am still computer shopping. Online. Been doing it for weeks. Maybe months. Online is the only way these days, now that real computer stores have disappeared.

But that’s okay. I like comparing stuff online. I can see the prices and features, try out all the different configurations. Read user reviews which range wildly from “this computer is a total piece of garbage” to “this is the best computer ever made anywhere” —  and they are reviewing the same computer. In the end, you have to take all the reviews with more than a few grains of salt. “Garbage” and “great” are relative to the expectations of the reviewer.


There are people who will decide a computer is worthless because they don’t like the keyboard layout and others who will think it’s great despite having had to do substantial reconfiguration and upgrades on it.

I just want it to work well, all the time, and not give me any back talk. Also, I understand that the specifications are not the whole story. They ought to be, but there’s more to a great computer than its components.


A big, fast hard drive. Preferably two of them: a solid state drive (SSD) for booting plus a big ass 7200 RPM mechanical drive for storage. The drive on this machine is getting full. I never thought it could happen, but photographs take up a lot of space. Even with backups and off-loading some stuff to external drives, 120,000 photographs takes up a lot of space.  And there will always be more.


I have 12 gigabytes in this computer. I want 16 in a new one. I want at least 4GB of dedicated Video RAM (VRAM) in my next computer. I’ve got 2 in this model, but more is better. “Shared graphics” when you use Photoshop and filters results in Blue Screens of Death, locked up systems, and sudden, unplanned system reboots.

side view alienware closeup computer

Then there’s the size problem. All of this would be easy (and a lot cheaper) if I wanted a desktop. You get a lot more for your money when you buy a desktop rather than a laptop. But I don’t want to go back to being alone in my office all day because that’s where my desk is. I also know, because Tom told me, that I could get a desktop and use it as my server. Then, I could use a laptop — any laptop — as a work station.

I’m not hardware savvy enough to do the setup. I know people who can … but they don’t live nearby. I need something which will work out of the box.


The lighter, the better. I’m not getting any younger. I can’t go “tablet” because I can’t edit pictures on a tablet. Tablets don’t have SD card slots or sufficient graphic support to run the software I use. Besides: I’m a mouse and keyboard kind of gal. The whole finger-poking thing doesn’t do it for me. I have tablets and a phone, so I do understand how they work. For me, typing on a virtual keyboard is torture. Even playing a simple game on a tablet is painful.

The smaller and lighter machines do not have all the features I want, so it won’t be an ultra-light laptop. Compromise will be required.

my office and desktop computer

Next, there’s monitor quality and size. Most manufacturers are offering super high-definition monitors today. I run this computer at 1920 X 1080. It can run at a higher resolution and I tried it, but it made everything is so tiny, I couldn’t see it. You could give me the highest resolution monitor in the world, but my eyes are not going to be any better than they are now. This is as resolved as I can actually use.

The things I want, make it difficult to avoid getting the other stuff I don’t want. Or need.

It’s won’t be a Mac, either. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no known way to transfer formatted text from PC to Mac without losing the formatting. You can convert all your documents into PDFs, but I don’t want to do that.

I’m a writer. My work is not optional.


So finally, back to “value.” Money. Cost. Price.

I want a super high-end laptop — at about half what it actually costs. I can get what I want for the bargain price of around $1500 on sale. That would be a top quality machine from a dependable company with a solid reputation and a service department in North America. When all is said and done, I want this computer with more memory, bigger graphics card, and a faster hard drive.


I don’t have $1500. I could finance it, but they make you pay the money back. If they would give me the money, I could work with that.

So, my solution is — I’m not getting a new computer. Not until I have no choice. What I can afford does not offer me the value I need. If I can’t afford what I need, there’s no point in getting anything.

Value versus cost.

Maybe prices will drop or I’ll win the lottery. Of course, I’d first have to buy a ticket.




Google is spying on you. So is the government. And Amazon, and almost every single website you visit … even if you don’t actually visit it but just pass briefly through a photo that’s linked to the site. Every bit of raw data is collected by some database (search engine). Usually more than one. I know this because I helped build these databases. No kidding, I really did.

So unlike most civilians who didn’t think all this data mining would get personal, I figured it would inevitably spread to pretty much everything.

google-search-screenGoogle was the winner in the search engine war because it was, from the beginning, better than its competition. It still is. No one has created a better search or data mining engine, though this doesn’t preclude future competition. Technology never stops trying to build a better whatever.

Google built an empire on their engine. The best, fastest, most complete database in the world. Knowledge is power, so it is said. Google has continued to add to that base and use it in many profitable ways. Mostly, by making advertising personal.


Does Google spy on us? You betcha. ALL the Databases everywhere are collecting information about everyone around the world. Don’t think for a moment it’s just an American phenomenon. Not hardly. Google does it better and more thoroughly and more openly, but spying via computer has become the way the world turns.


google is watching you

Information gathering is a million times (or more?) faster than it was in the early years. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. But does that translate to everyone knowing your secrets?


Not really. Your buying habits are public even if you don’t shop online. Those discount cards and other store ID cards track every purchase you make using any kind of plastic, including your debit card. This information is mined by a parent company, sliced and diced and sold to other companies. Data mining a huge industry and you are both a product and a target. (Think about that for a while.)

But as for the rest of our lives …

Just because we can accumulate information at warp speed doesn’t mean we have the ability to do much with the raw data. The ability to collect information has far exceeded anyone’s — Google’s or the government’s — ability to analyze and make sense of it. Piles of raw data are accumulating on servers, but it isn’t doing anything.

I laugh at the idea that the government is tracking each of us. Personally. They are so buried in their own data, they are barely keeping their collective and individual heads above water. By trying to monitor everything, they effectively wind up monitoring nothing. The amount of data collected by satellites alone is overwhelming.

The terrorist they caught the other day wasn’t on the radar and probably, neither will be serious future threats. There’s so much information it has effectively become no information. Huge heaps of raw data is the same as no data. To make that data useful, an army of analysts would have to start working on it yesterday. No government is hiring an army of analysts, which means the data will grow old and meaningless without anyone having so much as skimmed it.

drone spy

Solving crimes and dealing with terrorism will continue as it always has. Live agents, police, the military — aka people — will use the same forensic methods “as seen on TV” to get the job done. They will rely on informants and citizens to report suspicious activity. They will follow clues, leads, and try to find people who are doing dangerous stuff. Let’s hope they are successful.

Relax. They are tracking your shopping, but they don’t give a hoot about the rest. If there’s information about you out there? Odds are no one will ever see it or be able to find it. You would have to do something to bring yourself to their attention — which I highly recommend you not do.

Meanwhile, all the information gathering engines are busily gathering everything.

Everything is, practically speaking, identical to nothing. Your secrets are safe from everyone except companies who want to sell you stuff. They can always find you.


It was our anniversary yesterday. I didn’t spend the day reading blogs and writing. Instead, I goofed off.

We went out to dinner. After we came home, I didn’t start putting together a post for today. I did put together something special for Saturday. Garry wrote it. I did most of the photography (and all of the processing … but I always do all the processing). It’s fiction and funny. It sure made us laugh. And we had a lot of fun putting it together. It took much more work than most of our posts and far more planning that either of us is usually willing to do. So it will be up solo (!!) on Saturday. Hope you like it.

It’s fiction. Those of you who know old movies will recognize bits of  Sunset Boulevard peeking through.


I spent the rest of the day not buying a new computer. I know I’ll have to buy something eventually, but I not sure what I need or want.

I’m not thrilled with Windows 10. I’m less than happy with the road Microsoft has been taking for several years. I’m least happy with their requiring you to take all update downloads automatically. I have not had good experiences with automatic updates and I’m reluctant to  surrender control of my computer.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Apple invented the word “proprietary” and having owned lots of Apple computers and other devices over the course of my life in technology, I’m not sure they would be a better choice. Just … different.

Most Apple computers I’ve looked at seem under-powered and over-priced. The tech support people are snobs. Sorry, but they are. Every time I have had to deal with them, I wanted to whack them.

After a lot of browsing, I’ve found a couple of computers I like. One is an Asus, the other is by MSI. Neither is a company with which I’ve previously dealt. The machines are priced right and have impressive specs. Both also have well-documented issues: Hinges and build quality on the Asus, and getting too hot to handle and weird software glitches on the MSI.

alienware side view computer

I have always found Dell/Alienware to be solid, long-lasting machines that work perfectly right out of the box. But — they are expensive. Almost all of them cost at least 25% more than equivalent machines made by other companies, yet maybe they are worth it. Every Dell I’ve owned has continued to run when other computers are buried in a landfill. Most are still running and essentially problem free many years later. I’ve moved up and on, but my former computers are running fine for people who aren’t Photoshop users. And don’t have a strong preference for listening to audiobooks while processing photographs, which is what finally forced me to get this machine. Discrete graphics makes a huge difference.

I’m putting computers on wish lists, hoping something will pop, be the perfect combination of specs, build quality, and price.

Until I find whatever, I’m looking, not buying. I’m open to suggestions and would appreciate them. Although I’m not a gamer, I’m addicted to having a computer that will do everything — at the same time. Fast. And never, ever crash.


I was terrified.

Was it a big hairy spider? A home invader? A tornado? A threatened lawsuit? A burst pipe? A volcanic eruption (in New England, that would really be something else!) … ?

No. My computer refused to boot. It got to the “welcome” screen then just sat there. Going around and around and around. It has never done that. It was fine when we left to go to the grocery store. No blue screens of death or anything at all. It was computering along uncomplaining. Fine, thank you.

But. It. Would. Not. Boot.

I put it in “safe mode with networking” and restored it to the last save point … two days ago. And now, it’s fine again. No idea what happened except for a tiny, brief message that said “new drivers installed” then vanished — this while it was in “safe mode.” What drivers? I didn’t install any new equipment and the only driver I regularly upgrade is for my graphics card.

72-Alien Computer-B_06

So I have no idea what happened, but my heart is pounding and I’ve got a headache. I think my blood pressure just went into the stratosphere.

Although the computer is essential to my life, in fact everything on it would be easy enough to restore. Photographs and documents are safely stored on two external hard drives. My virtual life is on various clouds somewhere out in the Ether World — WordPress, Google, the bank, Amazon and probably a few others I can’t think of offhand. Other than Photoshop which I have on DVD, all my software is easy enough to replace by downloading.  Yet having my computer not boot filled me with dread and a horrible feeling of powerlessness. I think I’m less afraid of spiders … and that’s saying something because I’m really phobic about arachnids.

I will never know what happened. A virus? A bad download? Nothing is supposed to download to this system without my permission. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like Windows 10. You can’t turn off automatic downloads. I hate when things happen and I have no control over them.

If I wasn’t sure how important my computer is in my world, this absolutely showed me the bare, ugly truth. I need my computer like I need air. How did it come to this?

And wasn’t it a long way down.


Everything — or nearly everything — runs on batteries. Rechargeable batteries. Laptops, tablets, Kindles, cellphone, headphones, cameras, mouses (mice have fur and make squeaky noises, mouses attach to your computer using USB transmission), GPS, clocks, flashlights, remote controls, electric razors, tooth cleaning machines, and a mind-numbing array of other small electronic devices I can’t remember until I need them. Even our bed has a remote control … and it runs on four rechargeable AAA batteries.


To keep the world running, I have to charge things that recharge and keep a stack of AAA and AA rechargeable batteries ready to go.

I have never lived in a house that had enough electrical outlets for things like lamps and televisions, but with all these chargers to accommodate, I own big power strips. Everywhere you look, and in many places you would never think to look, in every room, power strips keep the chargers charging and other electrical devices functioning. The strips range from high-end hubs with surge protection to whatever was on sale at Walmart when I needed a power strip. Every strip is as full as the size and shape the chargers allow.


Power strips are mostly designed by people who don’t use them. I have come to this conclusion based on the stupid design that presumes you will never have anything larger than a lamp plug that needs a socket. Not even a vacuum cleaner cord fits properly, much less a laptop power supply.


No room is left on either side that would make it possible to fit more than two or three chargers in a strip theoretically designed for half a dozen plugs. There’s no allowance for odd-shaped power supplies that will use half a strip.

I don’t understand why chargers have to be so inconveniently shaped, or why they can never make a 3-pronged plug that will fit into an outlet without a fight. Why do most chargers require that you insert them at the end of the strip. No one ever seems to consider that there are only two “ends” and only one without a cord in the way. There’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that say if you are going to need two wall outlets, both devices will need to be on top or on the bottom.

I have 2 electrical sockets in the bathroom and 3 devices that require electricity. Fortunately, I never use more than one at a time because only one will fit. The other socket is unusable. One charger blocks both outlets. Always.

black and white wires power lines

I don’t typically notice how dependent we are on batteries until I’m packing for vacation. An entire carry-on is allocated to chargers and batteries and that’s just for stuff we use while we travel: laptops, accessories, Kindles, phone, mouses, etc. I used to pack this stuff carefully. Now I just shove the chargers and wires in a bag and untangle as needed.

If you think our civilization will endure, remember this. In fact, given the scandal of the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries, it’s surprisingly timely.


Our world depends on electronics and those gadgets are dependent on batteries. All which need to be recharged. From an electrical outlet. Without electricity and batteries, life as we know it would end in about two weeks. A month maximum. After that?

Our society would disintegrate, becoming a jungle in which every person will fight to the death for a working battery.



There’s a major kerfuffle about the new iPhone 7. I am not an iPhone fan. We’ve owned them, both the four and the five and were underwhelmed. We were much happier back when we could use a Blackberry, a mobile phone that was designed to be used as an actual telephone. You know, with sound you could hear. Even a real keyboard. Since the end of the Blackberry, it has been downhill. Our current phone, a Samsung Galaxy that we picked entirely based on the quality of its sound, is okay. It works and does what we need to do with it. I’m not in love with it, but I’m satisfied that it was almost worth the ridiculous amount it cost.

72-Mobile and regular Phones_08

Which is less than half what the new iPhone 7 will cost.

So what are the new upgrades that make it so special? They dumped the analog earphone jack which everyone used to listen to music. They have, instead, put in another speaker. Which, my good friend the audio engineer says will make its tinny sound louder, but not better. On a more positive note, it will force buyers of the new iPhone to get those expensive blue-tooth earphones which, at $150 a pop, should add a nice pop to Apple’s bottom line.

They have also (finally) made it water-resistant. You can drop it in the toilet, pull it out and go right back to sticking it on your face. What could possibly go wrong with that?

It is heartwarming to see how corporations “get” us and respond to our needs, isn’t it? Have you ordered your iPhone 7 yet? Don’t forget to buy those new blue-tooth earphones! You’re going to need them.


Since today is all about cell phones, somehow, this seemed the perfect companion to the fantastic, new iPhone 7 announcement!

Please visit Evil Squirrel’s Nest for lots more cool and usually hilarious stuff!!

See the rest of the story and other stories & comics: Evil Squirrel’s Nest Comic #225 – 8/18/16