Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
This morning, I came across a comment from a woman named Bev Stein -- she's president of Public Strategies Group, in, I think, Portland, Oregon -- about an article relative to the growth of consultancies that deal in metathinking -- helping corporations think about the way that they think, the way that they approach -- and even just recognize -- problems and opportunities. (They hate the word 'consultant', by the way. Tomato, tomahto.) Reading about the methods used by one of them, I thought about a comment that my daughter made the other night to the effect that when she's writing a paper -- which she really does not enjoy -- she finds that she can't do it on the laptop. Too constraining. She needs to write something, then cross it out, move it around, put comments in the margin -- none of which is easily done on the laptop. I thought for a moment about tablets like the iPad, and then just about the classic 'yellow tablet', and how you can scribble and scrawl to your hearts content, tearing sheets out and laying them on the table, moving them around. Which brought me to thinking about the Microsoft Surface product, that's essentially a coffee-table sized touch screen (more than that, but that's the gist) where you can summon up files, move them around, stack them. And then I thought about how you can't just do that, you need to have the infrastructure that can build such a thing, which means not only the physical plant, but the environment that can generate the thought - something like this would be useful, how can we make it, what should it look like?
Thinking about thinking made me think about the quality movement, where a basically decent idea got organized and codified to death, till it became a parody of its former vibrant self. Even now, remembering that makes me grit my teeth. You can do too much navel gazing.
But initially, it's fun.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
One of the things I had set up on my Windows XP PC was a pointer on my task bar aimed at my recipes folder. Click it, and Windows would know that it should start Explorer to open and display the folder. Surely, with all of its shortcuts this and pin to task bars that in Windows 7, this would be possible? Uh, no. You can shortcut programs, not folders. But this guy found a way. And it's relatively simple.
On the desktop, create a shortcut to the folder.
In the box with the path name (like C:Recipes), put the word Explorer and a space in front of the path name.
Hit next and give the shortcut a name.
Now tell Win 7 to pin the shortcut to the task bar.
Best I can figure, this works because it's no longer 'really' a shortcut to the folder; it's a shortcut to the Explorer program -- but you're giving it a parameter that says 'When you start, open this folder'.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
To add to the joy, we've had to upgrade the copy of Quicken that we use. Our fifteen year old copy would not run on Windows 7. You may recall that I did a Quicken upgrade a few years ago, and hated it so much that I not only uninstalled it, I destroyed the CD -- which pretty much made it impossible to return. This time, I'm keeping the disk safe Until We See.
I installed Q on the new laptop, and got several bright cheery messages about how they'll need ID and password access to all our financial sites so that they can provide instant information. Yeah. Right. And, of course, they'll need us to register so that they can send program updates, as well as darn-helpful information about this and other products! All festooned with many exclamation points, suggesting that the writer of that text was so carried away, he wet himself.
To me, money is a damn serious thing. It's not funny. It's grey and solid, and needs to be treated with a great deal of respect, not a giggle and a party hat.
But We'll See. Perhaps they'll surprise me.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
It's not terrific, but it's not as bad as I feared. They do seem to have tried to make things clearer. Somewhat. It feels as if they're trying to get a sense of the Mac operating system, where you never get to see the gears and wheels, and only get to turn a couple of knobs. Some of the things actually make sense. Some -- such as their god-awful start menu -- not so much.
And if you ever want to lose large chunks of time, try just listing all of the programs that you have on the old PC, and figure out how to get them migrated to the new one. It's not fun.
Almost makes French attractive.
Friday, January 21, 2011
In December, my wife's company had a sale on laptops. We bought one, with the intention of giving it to her when her birthday came around in a couple of months. I'm not exactly sure what moved us to do this. A little bit of it was that our own laptop was starting to be a tad unreliable. Like the desktop, it was good enough, but every so often,it would be really slow, or do something helpful -- as when the cat would brush against it, and the screen part would fall backwards (the famous poor Dell hinge). I understand that now they actually sell laptops where the hinge can be repaired without having to disassemble the laptop, but as we swore a mighty oath to never get a Dell again, I'll likely not know.
This month, we started thinking about replacing our cell phones. The model that my wife and I use is bare bones basic -- a candy-bar style that makes calls, and thats it. No web, no apps. I understand there are a couple of games on it -- my daughter's found them when she's borrowed one of our phones -- but I've never tried to play one. But over time I've noticed that it sure would be nice if the phone had a scheduling application. I remembered fondly when I had a Casio PDA where I could carry my schedule around, make notes, all that sort of thing. I really, really liked that PDA. And I was getting a little tired, whenever around kids of my daughter's age, of noticing that their phones were way better than mine. I have no use for mobile web or email access, but the things that their's could do amazed me.
So we started to think about replacing our phones. Verizon, which does our home phone (yes, we still have a landline - two, in fact) and our TV service, seems to have some decent ones. Of course, it would mean going from a pay-as-you-go, with ATT, to a contract plan with Verizon. (I understand that Verizon does have a PAYG, too.) But the prices aren't terrible -- though the net effect would still be a little more than twice what we pay now. We also thought that it might be good if any phone we got was GSM capable, so that we could use it in France. (Are we likely to call anyone while in France? Probably not.) So getting a phone that could do that would be fairly nice.
Of course, this would mean a new phone for my daughter, too. Fairs fair, after all. We thought she'd like that -- she's mentioned how she thinks her phone is awkward. I think she's noticed the nifty other ones, too. Whenever we see her cousin, she notices -- as I do -- that the cousin is totally wired, with a Kindle, a laptop, and a nifty little phone. The cousin's family has more money than us, and they are willing to Buy Her Things. We introduced the idea to the daughter, and at first she was cool to the idea -- the kid who said she could use a new phone now said Well, would I have to get a new phone? My wife thinks this is because we stress to her that she has to make choices, which she interprets as If I get a new phone, what don't I get that I would rather have? We don't know that this is her logic, but if it is, we like it.
Which leads us back to the laptop. Should she get a new phone and a new laptop at the same time? There's no inherent reason not to, but still.... so now we think Okay, we'll give her our old laptop and the new phone, and we'll take the new laptop. Which means leaving the comfortable environs of Windows XP for the slightly scary neighborhood of Windows 7, where you can't change the way things are presented in menus, no matter how much you hate it. But still: okay. Secretly, I start copying applications over to the new laptop. It's going well. And then my wife points out that I should try the absolute oldest application we have. Quicken. Its about, oh, fifteen years old.
It doesn't work. Apparently, some applications that old can be made to work under W7 via Compatibility Mode This and Administrator Rights That, but Q is not apparently one of them. We're going to have to upgrade it.
Rats. We tried an upgrade of Quicken about four years ago, and I absolutely hated it. Freaking pop-up ads everywhere. I didn't just throw it out, I destroyed the CDs on which it arrived. And looking at the promo for it on the Quicken site didn't delight me -- much, much bright lights and snappy colors, not much clear and sober detail. But I didn't like the idea of Mint (my data? in the cloud? Where anyone can get to it because, ooops, we forgot to secure it adequately? Not to mention, since Mint is owned by the same people that sell Quicken, perhaps mined for marketing opportunities? No thanks), and the other money-managers didn't seem all that great. Microsoft Money doesn't even exist any more. Others assume you have a Mac, or Linux. There is one other for Windows, but I couldn't remember its name.
So, because my daughter's laptop hard drive died, we're upgrading Quicken. I can hardly wait. But I'm buying it through Amazon. I don't like it, its going back immediately. Keep the box!
This morning, there is a light dusting on the ground. Schools in an arc around us are starting two hours late.
And our district? Opening as usual. On time.
As a parent, I should think that this is a good thing. But as a former kid.....
Ironically, since it's the local public broadcasting station that reports this, I'm mad at them.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I was lying in bed, using the laptop. Went to put it away, and I could barely move my left thumb. From up against the index finger, it'd move about a half inch, and stop. I rubbed it vigorously, and in about two minutes, I had normal flexibility.
I've had a bent toe for about two years -- just popped up one day -- which the doc says is arthritis. And every so often, I go to flex the fingers on that hand, and they're just a bit stiff. So I'm guessing that's what this is. Only, worse.
Did not like it.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Blue. As in, belt. As in, American Style Karate.
Okay, watching your only daughter get kicked in the face during the sparring part of the evaluation, such that two instructors went over to examine her, wasn't so hot. But being an intermediate rather than a novice? Someone who can now teach the white and orange belts? And learning that she has a fast, aggressive close-in sparring style?
Friday, January 14, 2011
Usually, it's because she's been up late the night before, and usually that's because she's been at color guard, which lately has been running from six thirty to ten at night. Twice a week. (Plus 'sectionals', which happens right after school. And Saturday practice, which tends to run about four hours.) Then she comes home, and if she's still got homework to do, she finishes it. Or she tells us she's finished it, actually planning to a) do that in study hall, b) play the odds that she won't get asked for proof of completion, or c) both.
My wife tends to regard having to drive her in as a nuisance, but the truth is that I kind of like it. We listen to the radio, and sometimes we talk about what they've discussed. This morning, the topic was assassins, and assassinations. I didn't catch the entire article, but apparently a massive study of assassins was concluded in which it was found that assassins are not, for the most part, crazy, and not, for the most part, acting on behalf of a political movement. They do tend to have some mental health issues, notably feelings of alienation, inconsequentiality, and depression, and they do occasionally ally themselves with a political point of view, but neither of those are primary factors. To over-simplify it, they're looking for a chance to get instant fame without having to actually do something fame-worthy in the normal course of events, and they conclude that assassination is the way to go. One fellow specifically targeted a sitting vice-president because he learned that no one had ever done that before, so he thought his chances of fame - they might even give me my own chapter in a book -- were greater. This is not the thought process of a crazy person.
So we talked a little about assassins, and about protective societies. I said that I'd hate to be the people who have to take this new knowledge and do something useful with it. I can just see people saying Well, the President's coming to town, we need to lock up all of the crazies, but also all of the disenchanted and alienated. Which sounds funny, but it's not. Used to be, I told her, that the Fourth Amendment pretty seriously protected against unreasonable search and seizure. You couldn't be jailed or even interrogated just because a cop didn't like the style of your hat. But with the terrorists being so prevalent, that amendment, and the definition of what's 'unreasonable', is being stretched a lot. Quite a lot. Check the TSA gropers, for example.
Talking with your daughter. Good stuff.
Monday, January 10, 2011
please can you stop to comment my publication and one my friends because they didnt understand why you speak him and they dont know you please
Okay, so her English isn't so hot. Neither is my French. I figured out (once you get past the syntax problems of him/her/it) that she was asking me not to comment on her Facebook wall. I exchanged notes with her, and it turns out that her friends wonder who this bearded guy is that occasionally posts in stilted French, and it's embarassing her. Well, okay, I can understand that. In fact, I asked her a few months ago if it would have that effect, and she said no, her friends didn't do that. Well, guess they're learned.
Even so, it makes me just a little sad - ma petite fille grandit! - which makes me think Do I really want to see her again? And the answer is Of course you do - and her family, and the Saône et Loire area where she lives, all of which seems to be quite pretty. So I suck it up. The double 'please', though likely simply a translation artifact, helps. It reminds me that I really do like this kid.
I did consider adding a phrase to the little cheat sheet of phrases I absolutely want to be able to say (I carry it in the car and review it when at stop lights) just in case I meet any of her friends, that being: L'âge légal du consentement en France est encore quinze ans, non? -- but my wife says I can't do that.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Here's what she had to say on the subject, speaking of a friend with much the same quest:
Her dream: read French novels, newspapers and magazines on a conveniently portable device like the Kindle. Current releases, not just 19th century public domain books. Because she’s passionate about perfecting her French comprehension and pronunciation skills, she’d love to read while listening to a simultaneous playback via MP3 (or equivalent).
French is not her native language, so she wants to be able to select unfamiliar words on the Kindle, thereby launching a built-in dictionary whose entries explain their meaning. She’d also welcome the option of viewing French-to-English translations of unknown words and slang (a must-have for people whose French is less fluent than hers.)
The conclusion is: the technology and infrastructure are not hardly there at all, at the moment. And no immediate prospect of improvement, either, due to multiple factors.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
So it's quite surprising to me that when I read this article on a simple thing to do with the last five minutes of your day, I thought you know, that might just work.
Perhaps I've been away from work long enough for some of the cynicism they taught me to wear off.
Just exactly how she was hoping to start her day.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
Take our Lexmark printer, for example. It's plugged directly into our desktop PC. Any of the wireless laptops (is that redundant?) can print to it -- the address is \\Desktop\Printer, which means that it's logically part of the desktop. That computer has to be on in order to print to the printer. This is a minor pain when you want to print, but since you usually have to go into the room to turn on the printer anyway, it's not that big of a deal.
Now that we find that the new Windows 7 PC can't print to that printer -- don't know why; my guess is that its a driver problem, but I have to admit that I have only a general idea of what that means -- we're thinking that we should get a new printer. We don't want to, but we do want the new PC to be able to print, so, barring a driver specifically for Windows 7 showing up for the HP laptop, what choice do we have? (Lexmark says use the vista driver, but that doesn't work. Why it doesn't work, I have no idea. It just doesn't.) So we did some research, and found that the HP 4500 printer, which is a wireless printer, would work - supports XP and Windows 7. It also has wireless connectivity, so we could plug it in anywhere and print to it. Not necessary to turn on the desktop. Okay, this is good. We went to Staples to look at it.
First off, we were dismayed to find that it makes a lot of noise when it starts. Thats something the Lexmark does, too, and we really don't like it. I don't know if its the cartridges moving or the scan head positioning, I don't like it. But, okay, it has a power saver mode, so I suppose it would be okay to leave it on all the time. It does say wireless, so that's good. The wireless feature adds $30 to the price, but that is okay. Then we think: the printer is going to sit about four feet from the router. Why can't we just connect it to the router and forego the 'wireless' part? In which case, why can't we just buy the non-wireless version? In fact, why can't we just connect our existing printer to the router? Well, sure, that wouldn't address the Windows 7 problem, but until that is, we wouldn't have to turn on the desktop PC to get to it.
So when we get home, we look, and the cable from the printer to the desktop is a USB cable. I unplug it from there, plug it into the router, which has five CAT5 plugs and one USB plug. Try to find it on the network. Nope. Try to add it to the network. Nope. Try printing to the existing definition, the one that includes the desktop as part of its name. Nope, though I'd have been surprised if it did. So we conclude that just plugging it into the router isn't going to work. Plug it back into the desktop, the printer immediately starts and kicks out the page I'd created. We talk about it. If plugging THIS printer directly into the router didn't make it addressable, why should I assume that plugging the NEW one would? Maybe they assume it'll be plugged into a PC, not a router? Which would bring us pretty much back to where we started. Then again, if its wireless, it doesn't need the cable, so maybe it could work directly with a router. Maybe.