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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Software

Wednesday September 24 2014

From early in the afternoon of Tuesday, yesterday, until early this morning, this blog was out of action.  I couldn’t read it myself, let alone post anything:

image

The non-functioning of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom took out my emailing abilities as well.  If anyone tried to email and got told to get stuffed, please try again - especially if it concerned the meeting at my home this coming Friday evening, at which Priya Dutta is going to speak about education.

I don’t suppose many people suffered much, but I did, because I didn’t know if and when BMDC was ever going to come back to life.

The problem was something to do with the internet provider (which has recently changed hands) for my Hoster.  But spare a thought for Hoster.  I wasn’t his only client ringing up in a state.  He had lots of others doing the exact same thing.  He told me that he will be changing his internet provider asap, but that he couldn’t do that until his internet provider came back on line and he was able to make the necessary arrangements.

Meanwhile, I really need to change how I do email.

More times like these.  I have had a great deal too many and too much of these sorts of times lately.

Monday September 01 2014

As threatened here many times, more and more postings here are going to be about getting old.  One of the symptoms, certainly for me, is short-term memory loss.  (That isn’t the only kind of memory loss I now suffer from, but forgetting immediately something that happened two seconds ago is particularly disconcerting, if for most of your life this has not happened.) Thank goodness for word processing.  Everything you just wrote is now there in front of you, rather than forgotten.  Right now, instead of wondering what that last sentence was, I can read it back again.  The problem just doesn’t exist any more.  When I am talking, on the other hand …

Which is one of the many reasons why the speed of a computer is so important.  I am now using my back-up computer, a very slow laptop, aka: Dawkins.  Mercifully, word processing, once I have persuaded Dawkins to concentrate on it, is fine.  Letters appear on the screen as soon as I type them, no matter how fast I type.  But when it comes to internetting, or any kind of switching from one sort of software to another, it’s like I’m back in the 1990s or even the 1980s.  It takes around ten seconds for Dawkins to switch his attention from this to that.  And ten seconds is easily long enough for me to forget what I am doing, and why I decided to make the switch I just tried to make.  Finally it appears.  But why am I reading it?  Did I want the link for something I am writing?  Was there some thought I was thinking?  Was I just bored with previous thing?

I can remember articles by unimaginative future-fearers (see Postrel: The Future and Its Enemies - no link, see below) saying Do We Really Need very fast computers to do boring old domestic stuff, computers which are massively faster than we are, and which we therefore can’t keep up with?  Well, maybe not “need”, but want, definitely.  And maybe not “we” but I, definitely.

I turns out that lightning speed is immensely useful, to someone with my kind of brain, still wise after a fashion, but getting less superficially clever by the month.  The lightning speed is not something I have to keep up with.  The lighting speed keeps me up to speed.

Lightning speed within a programme, which with dumb word processing I still have.  And lightning speed between programmes, which I do not now have.  It turns out that really quite a lot of my computering consists of switching from one programme to another, to add a link and to copy and paste something from somewhere, or just to meander, whether randomly or to follow a logical train of thought.  Straight word processing is still the instant joy that it was from 1981 onwards, but anything else is like wading through treacle.  (And I am now experiencing that 1981 joy again, by experiencing the contrast with everything else.)

Oddly enough, adding photos (see yesterday) is not too bad, because adding photos and writing about them can all be done in the same piece of blogging software. (Which reminds me, I haven’t made a word processed copy of yesterday’s posting, which I like to do.  That will involve more treacle-wading.)

You want links?  Give it another week.  As you can tell, all that talk (see … whenever) about God being back in business last Thursday or whenever did not materialise.  Maybe this week.

Thursday August 21 2014

I’m still suffering from God problems.  God needs a new everything.  New fan, new processor, new graphics card, even some new RAM.  His old body will do, and hopefully all his hard discs can stay where they are, and continue to have all the same stuff on them, but the stuff that enables God to do his mysterious work is all change.  Overheating, The Guru said.  There was much dust inside, which will not surprise anyone who has ever visited my home.

Here is a picture of God’s inner workings, not that it tells me much:

image

Apparently overheating is big deal in computing these days, and there are an amazing number of little systems inside a computer like God which are just there to stop things getting too hot.  The Guru pointed out various little cooling mechanisms, and there were about half a dozen of them.  Not just obvious things like big fans, but small things like strategically placed bits of metal to get ride of the head in some tiny little sub-system.

I recall reading a book about the man who invented the first Supercomputers.  Cray?  It said that Cray computers were actually of a rather conservative design, because that way they wouldn’t go wrong.  The brilliant idea was to combine such a computer with a refrigeration system.  Apparently nobody had thought of that, until Cray did.  But, said Cray, who says you can’t put a computer in a fridge?

By the way, odd that fridge is spelt fridge, but refrigeration is spelt refrigeration, without a d in the middle.  Google it if you don’t believe me.  I only just found this out, from my spell checker and then from googling it myself.

The bad news is that without God I am without email.  I know, this is ridiculous.  I keep meaning to switch from FuckupMail (the system supplied to me by The Guru (who disapproves of Google “on principle")) to Gmail, because you can access Gmail from anywhere.  So what if you have to donate your soul to Google?  What would they do with my soul?  Very little, I am almost sure.

FuckupMail works fine, until you try to access it from another computer.  Then it causes me to call it that.  So, for example, on my recent French trip, I just ignored email and hoped for the best.  But now I have things coming up that need organising, and I can’t wait until the middle of next week for email, so FuckupMail has to migrate to Dawkins.  So, I am currently engaged in doing that.  But every time Dawkins gets to the emails concerning back-ups, which happen every day at three in the morning, he goes on strike for about five minutes and I often have to shut the email system and then open it again, after which it takes another five minutes before it deigns to transfer any more emails, which it eventually does until 3am comes around again.  I have had to stop the email system and start it up again about three hundred times.  “Should take about two hours” said The Guru.  Turned out more like forty, and it still isn’t done.  The only exception was when the emails concerned the fact that the back-up system wasn’t working, which it wasn’t for about one blessed month earlier this summer.  They transferred fine.  I know.  Ridiculous, but I had no idea it would take as long as it did.

Should.  This is a computer technical term meaning, “should but actually won’t”.  Whenever you hear this word coming out of the mouth of a Computer Guy, trouble.  Every time.

It’s only when you don’t have email that you realise how much you depend on it.

This is what Dawkins looks like:

image

Which I include just to tell you, in case you are confused.

This, on the other hand, is the new graphics card, which I include because I like it:

image

It looks like a cross between a helicopter and a bra, both fine inventions.

By the way, please don’t leave any “helpful” comments on this, about what, in your opinion, you think I ought to do about all this, instead of what I am doing.  I already know (a) why I am doing what I am doing, (b) why it is ridiculous but why I’m doing it anyway, and (c) what I intend to do about it all to stop similar absurdities in the future.  If you agree with me about how annoying this is, that’s okay, but if you have any opinions about any of this that are different from mine, keep them to yourself.

Monday August 18 2014

Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease).  This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again.  Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:

image

This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.

PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here.  That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.

I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all.  Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?

It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude.  It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by.  It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it.  And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.

To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist.  “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.

Monday July 07 2014

Not long ago my Computer Guru persuaded me to upgrade my version of OpenOffice to the latest version.  I then had to reset the default font for typing bog standard text into a bog standard word processing file in OpenOffice Writer, latest version.  It insited on using Times Roman 12 pt.  I wanted Verdana 13pt, and eventually I managed to persuade OpenOffice Writer to do this every time.  Then my computer got stuck and I had to switch it off, but when it came back on again, this resetting was forgotten, and I had to do it all over again.  I was back with bloody Times Roman bloody 12pt, again.  It was a small nightmare, again, to get it to do Verdana 13pt, again, without it having to be told, again.

At least there is an internet, to which questions of this sort can be put.  The answers are a maelstrom of gibberish, but at least you narrow the gibberish down a bit.  Main rule: beware any answer which includes the word “forum”.  Forums are full of wrong answers and answers to wrong answers along the lines of: I did all that but nothing happened.

The basic problem with computers is that because they can do more and more with each passing yeart, it is becoming harder and harder to persuade them to do the one simple thing that you personally want them to do.  You are surrounded by vast and growing explosion of things which the damn computer can do but which you don’t want it to do, which makes it almost impossible to find the one little set of buttons that, if pushed, will make it do the one little tiny thing that you do want it to do.  If there are only three available fonts to choose between, and changing that font setting is about all that can be changed, then it is relatively easy.  But the more complicated the programme gets, the more difficult it becomes to make it do “easy” things with it.

And now, with those sneer quotes, I have just discovered that they have to be reset as well.  This has to be done because if quotes are done the way the unmodified programme wants to do them, that buggers up links when I transfer the text to my various blogging locations.

That was a nightmare too, first time around.  Now, I must endure that nightmare, again.

The fact that there are now two – maybe several – versions of “Open Office Writer” (those sneer quotes are now working, it would appear) out there adds an extra dimension of shititude to this whole shitty shituation.

I still have to make the damn programme refrain from adding extra space between paragraphs.  I do spaces between paragraphs with an extra carriage return, because that too is how text needs to be when I transfer it to a blog.  Bugger bugger bugger.  The nightmares just keep coming.

If you are a geek who understands computer stuff but not people, then your response to all this will be: “Easy – you just to “^)3y6t65+££@{{{ +++ %*%&%**%% ==== XYZXYZXYZ” - what could be simpler?” Answer: Just about anything in the whole damn world would be simpler.

The real nightmare is that soon, all appliances will also be computers.  Whereas it now remains possible to simply switch, say, a vacuum cleaner, you know, on, soon that formerly simple process will become another nightmare of persuasion and internet interrogation, simply to get it to vacuum the way you want rather than the way you absolutely do not want.  People will be buying whole new machines, entirely because they can’t make the damn machine do what the machine is perfectly willing to do, provided only that you know which of seventy-nine buttons to push and what order to push them in.  Ditto kettles, washing machines, fridges, everything.

As I often warn readers, this blog will, as I get older, be, more and more, about the process of me getting old.

Don’t get me started on automatic supermarket checkout machines.

Thursday June 26 2014

From City A.M. today (again):

Chequeholders will soon be able to cash their payment almost instantly by taking a photo on their smartphone and sending it to the bank.

The government’s Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will allow banks to process cheques using “digital imaging” technology for the first time.

As well as removing the hassle of a visit to the bank, the new scheme is expected to allow cheques to be cleared in two days, instead of the current six.

Yet another surprising impact of digital photography.  Had I known about it when I gave that talk I did about this, I’d have given this a mention.

Tuesday June 24 2014

Here’s a piece entitled Google Glass:10 reasons Brits won’t buy it.  The basic argument is: it’s creepy, it’s uncool, it has various other more specific disadvantages.

I think that the writer of this piece, Robyn Vinter, makes the very common error of saying that a piece of kit won’t catch on because, in her opinion it is, in a general sort of way, not nice or not good.  I know it’s only a jokey piece, pandering to ignorant prejudice and general technophobia, but it contains a serious and wrong idea about how technology gets established in the wider world.

Technology doesn’t catch on because people like Robyn Vinter think that it’s cool.

Technology or software, or whatever, catches on because it solves a particular problem for a particular group of people, and they start using it.  People like Robyn Vinter then say: ooh, how very uncool you are.  And the people using the thing say: guess what Robyn Vinter, we don’t care what you think, we are finding it extremely useful, to do what we want to do.  If you don’t think we look cool, this is entirely your problem and absolutely not our problem at all.  Gradually other uses for the thing in question accumulate, and quite a few people use it for several different things and get really excited and try to use it for everything, because they now like it so much.  If enough uses are found, then the alleged uncoolness of the thing just gets overwhelmed by people using it, in public, in full view, and to hell with the coolists.  If the coolists still want to write articles about how uncool this thing is, even though thousands of their potential readers are now using it, then they are pushed aside and other writers willing to say that it’s cool after all are told to write that instead.

So the question is: will Google Glass be useful enough?  Basically, it would appear to be a screen that you can use while you are doing something else, to do computer stuff and regular stuff at the same time.  Sounds extremely useful to me, for ... various things that I now know not of.  But I am sure things will turn up that it is very useful for, even essential for.  Work, basically.  Not strutting about in the street.  No.  Getting worthwhile things done, more efficiently, faster.  That kind of thing.  We’ll soon see, anyway.

This guy is much more optimistic.  Better, he understands how Google Glass will or will not catch on.  What can it do?  Not enough, yet, seems to be his answer.  But that may change.  My guess is it will change.

See also, this piece by me from way back, about another sort of coolist with delusions of grandeur.

And see also these pictures of another useful thing being used in an allegedly very uncool way, namely people taking photos with tablets.  This tendency has in no way abated since I took those snaps.  Quite the opposite.

There is also a definite whiff, in Robyn Vinter’s piece, of the status anxiety I wrote about in this recent piece here, if not in Vinter herself then in the readers she is appealing to.  What if this gizmo makes us look and feel stupid?  What if it demotes us in the pecking order?  The answer is: if it does, it does.  That won’t stop it being used.

City A.M. is now one of my go-to places first thing, and there I read today:

Transport for London (TfL) will be introducing screens displaying how many people are sitting upstairs and which seats are available, in a trial system to begin in two weeks.

The display screens will be situated next to the driver as people board the bus and between the driver and the staircase before passengers go upstairs.

I am struck by two electronic sign innovations that have already arrived on the London transport scene.

There are those invaluable signs at bus stops, telling you what is due, when, and where it will go.  The only problem with these signs is that not every bus stop has them.  I know, I know, you can crank up the bus app on your mobile.  But I prefer not to have to bother, and anyway, that’s a lot of fuss just for a bus.  (Note the vagiaries of the spelling there.)

And the other innovation, much more recent, is those little signs that tell pedestrians - i.e. me - how many seconds will elapse before the pedestrian sign will be turning red.  Very helpful.  I don’t want to freak out motorists by getting in their way, but nor do I want to neglect an opportunity to cross if I can do so without freaking out the motorists.  These latest signs tell me what I need to know.  And it’s amazing how far you can travel in three seconds, if you know that three seconds is all that you have, but that you definitely do have three seconds.

So, will these new sign inside buses be any use?  Judging by earlier TfL electronic signage efforts, my guess is yes.

(More rhyming fun with esses (?) there.  It could so easily have been and gues and yess.  And before that, fus and buss.  (Does such tangenting pis you off?  (And are you fed up with this multiple bracket gag? (This, I think, being the record.))))

As politically controlled entities go, TfL is not too shabby, although goodness knows what it costs.  Especially given that they are now dragging their feet (which is all it will take for Uber to get truly motoring in London) when it comes to crushing Uber.  It’s the same mentality, d’you think?  TfL likes electronic signage, whether the signs are public or personal.  Could be.  Do you think the next thing will be big public Uber signs that you can use to whistle up cheap and cheerful transport, if you don’t have a mobile on you? Again: could be.

TfL electronic signs (etc.)
Capturing moments
Ubernomics
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
My blogging software is behaving badly
Classical Amazon
Green screen blue screen
Art has its uses – but where did it have its uses this time – and what is it?
Another photographer photo from the archives
Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Digital photographers holding maps
Mark Steyn on Obama’s Hoover Dam and me on paywalls
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Simon Gibbs last night at the Rose and Crown
RNSQotD
Alex on Quentin
Twisted picture from Burgess Park (untwisted with Photoshop Elements)
Finding Rover app tracks lost dogs using facial recognition
Richard Stallman on software patents
Interesting software NewZ
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
The Johnathan Pearce Samizdata gap
Testing again
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Panoramic view of London from the top of the BT Tower
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Doing libertarian business at the Libertarian Home social
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane
Is Samizdata in danger of becoming a photo-blog?
Nice blog you have here … shame if something happens to it
All change at Samizdata and another outage here
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
More photographers photographed
Outage here last night - and the possible Wordpress future of this blog
PID at Samizdata
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
Celebrity photoshoot?
Untrue colours from Windows Photo Viewer
Google Earth and Mr and Mrs Goose
The Jobs difference
Notes to self but not to you
How can I change the double inverted commas in openoffice.org writer from curved to straight-up?
Empty tables and empty chairs
Infrequent flyer
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
OpenOffice.org 3.2.1 Writer font default setting help wanted
Problems here (now sorted)
I can do squares!!!
Is this blog somewhat broken?
Help with Audacity please
Brianmicklethwait Dot Com headline of the day
Google rolls out computer controlled cars
Links to this and that
Bay Bridge plus a new bridge next to it
Big box computers versus laptops
Alex Singleton on Photoshop CS5
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
Green cat email mystery solved
Brian Sickle-feather?
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
What’s up with this?
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Twitterings
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Chrome now seems better than IE or Firefox
MP3 Haydn symphonies
Is the original version of this with all the spelling mistaks what goes on all teh uther blogs?
A photo of the Samsung NC10 and the original Asus Eee-PC next to each other
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
A question about double inverted commas in OpenOffice.org Writer
Embedded video
Milk containers ancient and modern
Has the Linux moment passed?
Billion Monkey with red mittens on
Jesus gets a big new keyboard
Another resizing test
Resized picture done with Jesus but quickly
JD gets PTD
Imperfect day
Pink bunny successfully resized and posted only with Jesus!
Now I’m going to try to stick up a picture with Jesus
Baffled
Cats are (as of) now being counted in permanent italics
Permanent Bold Disease strikes Brassneck
PID hits DK
Coffee House struggles with Permanent Italics Disease
Instapundit succumbs to PID
Permanent italics disease at the Coffee House
A cheaper competitor for the Eee PC
The Eee PC just got better
Eee PC and Brahms CDs
Typed man walking
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
Vista won’t work on the new small and cheap computers
Blu-Ray - HD DVD – IBM – Microsoft - Google
I love competition
A job well done
Eee PC not eeesy to get in Asia either
Facebook – not so social
Engadget suffers from intermittent giant text disease
I listened to both of them at the same time!
Smelling the smoke in the Microsoft machine
YouTube - Internet Explorer - Firefox
The permanent italics disease