Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC - Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached

This is the kind of post that I do from time to time that sticks around.  I have a couple "Helpful Hints" (you can search that) that get read every day by a couple folks.   This particular one is how to remove an annoyance from the Thinkpad when Windows is installed.   If you are following along on how to do a "Bare Bones Install" of operating system and mostly open source software, hop onto this link after you read my rant below.

To whoever is in marketing at Lenovo that made this decision, I hope you end up working as a fry cook in a low end burger joint because you truly have no clue how to market to your customers.

After going through all the steps of installing software, I had been constantly annoyed by a pop up... but I am getting ahead of myself here.

The laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad T60.  I installed Windows 7 64 Bit onto it, and all the Lenovo software and drivers.  I also installed a laundry list of software onto it that you can see by doing a search back for anything with the tag "Implementation".

Since this is a laptop, it gets plugged into the wall from time to time or the plug gets kicked out when I'm half awake at 6am trying to get the dog out.

Here is my complaint.   When ever the power state changes from plugged to unplugged and vice versa, I get a rude message that begins with "Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached".


The person who upgraded the battery in this machine made the choice for me, repaired it for me, and was kind enough to give it to me complete.  It works.  The battery works.  The battery holds a charge and will power the laptop for an acceptable length of time.

So who are you, my dear friend, the Marketing Drone at Lenovo to question the wisdom of the market by putting this 6 or 7 line bubble up on my desktop and hold it there longer than I would prefer questioning my sanity with "Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached"?

Now I went out and found out how to turn that rude message off.   There should be a check in the message to allow me to dismiss it forever, but no, you in your infinite lack of wisdom deigned that from on high I should have to see this blather until I get annoyed enough to try all sorts of things.

Including search on the web on how to turn that hateful message off.

I found it and will share it.

First, with Windows up and running, mouse down to the task bar.

Find the Power Management icon that resides next to the Wifi Icon on the right of your task bar.

Right click on Power Management (The Battery Icon) and click on "Launch Power Manager".

When the window comes up, click on "Options" tab.

There is a check box next to "Show Power Manager Gauge in Task Bar" - clear that box, then click on "Apply".

You will now not have the battery in the task bar from Lenovo but SURPRISE! under Windows 7 you will still have the battery information reported from Windows itself.  If you right click on the Windows battery, you can get to the Power Manager by selecting it there.

There.  Message Banished.  Now lets find that Marketing Drone and tell him just what we think of him.


What would this blog be without a rant, now and again, I ask you?!?!?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Twisted Wit - Humor

Maybe I should have saved this for April 1... you know, Amateur Day?

At any rate, I got this one in the email box from a good friend Scott up in Philly.  It's just sick and twisted enough to share.

Twisted Wit

  • Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Don’t walk beside me, either. Just leave me alone. 
  • There are two theories to arguing. Neither one works…
  • It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.
  • Sex is like air. It’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.
  • Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
  • Always remember you’re unique. Just like everyone else.
  • Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
  • It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
  • It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.
  • If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car repayments.
  • Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
  • Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat & drink beer all day.
  • If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
  • Don’t squat with your spurs on.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
  • If you drink, don’t park; accidents cause people.
  • Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield.
  • Don’t worry, it only seems kinky the first time.
  • Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
  • The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
  • Timing has an awful lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  • A closed mouth gathers no foot.
  • Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side & a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.
  • Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your mouth is moving.
  • Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC - CDBurnerXP

There are a few more holes in the implementation of the new laptop.  But the story goes on and on and on...

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Then I installed Inkscape which went about as well as you could hope.

I covered the install of the instant messaging client Pidgin.

Now I need something to burn CDs.

Actually, I needed something to burn a DVD since I downloaded something from a website, Ubuntu, to get the latest version of the operating system.  I ended up having this file on my computer that was too large to fit on a single CD, needed to go onto a DVD as an image and resided here as what they call an .ISO file.

An .ISO file is an image of a CD or DVD.  The software that comes with Windows 7 promises to burn that image to a DVD but I personally couldn't wrap my head around it.

Open Source Software to the Rescue.

I was very used to software that works a certain way when it comes to burning a CD or DVD.  You grab the files up into a directory, you start a program, you drag them into the handy little window and you click burn.  Assuming that your PC has all the hardware, in a while you end up with a disc that can be used for many different purposes.

It's just that I tried to convince Windows' default software to work and got frustrated so I went "all old school" on it.  I burned a disc that actually turned out not to be a disc that was burned.  After two tries at it I gave up.

First, I went to the Nero Lite suite.  When I went to this free version of Nero, it said it wanted to install Microsoft Silverlight.   Silverlight is an alternative to Adobe Flash, and while Flash is waning, Silverlight was just "deprioritized" in the market by Microsoft.  They will continue to support it but won't push it for it's programming capacity - in short, Silverlight is going to die a lingering death.  Obviously I don't recommend Nero Lite 10.  I used Nero Lite 9 for quite a while on Windows XP and it worked well for me.  I won't install 10 or Silverlight.

Remember, a lean laptop is one that will last longer on your lap than one that is chock full of software you don't need. 

So after saying some rude words to my laptop, I cancelled the install, and looked elsewhere.

I have worked in the Philadelphia School System and at Temple University as in progressively more technically involved positions in IT, ending in where I am now, a Consulting IT Project Manager.  In the roles I played at the School Board, I learned that Open Source software can be very useful when your department budget is small or non existent.   To this day, I will look at "Free or Open Source Software" or "FOSS" first before considering pulling out the credit card.

CDBurnerXP is one of those "FOSS" programs and it works exceedingly well.  Where Windows' built in software to burn a DVD was confusing and intractable, CDBurnerXP worked for me, and did so exactly how I expected it to.  Drag and drop with lots of numbers to read if I needed to understand what the details were about the "project".  In short More Info Than I Needed meant All The Info I wanted.

And did I say Free?  Open Source?  Put the wallet away.

You can read more about how it works on the site, but this is all about how to actually get the software on your PC in case you need it.

First, surf the website.  There is a lot of information on there on what it does, how it does it, and how you can get it, but basically you have to get here first.

Then click the big green button that says "Download".  Firefox asked me immediately if I would like to save the file and I clicked "Save File".

When it was finished downloading, I went to my downloads directory and launched the file.   cdbxp_setup(Version_number).exe

I got the Open File - Security Warning window and clicked "Run" which was followed by Windows' warning me that a program wanted to make changes to the hard disc which I accepted by clicking Yes.

The Setup Wizard was launched and if you're actually following how to install all this software, this will look very familiar.  Open Source Projects tend to use similar installer programs on Windows, at least the last few programs did.  

Click Next to get to the License Agreement, then click the button next to "I Accept The Agreement" and then Next again.

You will be asked where to install the software to, and I decided that the default of C:\Program Files\CDBurnerXP was fine, so I clicked Next.

I was presented by a window asking me to "Select Components".  Since I only need English as the local language, I unchecked the box next to Languages and Next.

The window asking to "Select Additional Tasks" then presented itself.  Since I don't particularly need a desktop icon nor do I need it in the Quick Launch bar, I made sure both of those were unchecked.  On the other hand I wanted CDBurnerXP to be associated with .DXP/AXP and ISO files... so I checked both of those boxes.  Then I clicked "Next".

It then put up a window asking me if I wanted to install Internet Explorer 9.  No, I really don't like Internet Explorer.  It is my opinion that it is bloated and overly large.   I already have what ever version of Internet Explorer that came with Windows 7, I believe that it is Version 8, I hardly ever use it, and don't want to be annoyed with configuring it until I am told that there is a compelling reason to "upgrade".   So I clicked the box that says "Do not install Internet Explorer 9" and then Install.

At this point, CDBurner XP is installing/has been installed.

You have a window saying "Completing the CDBurnerXP Setup Wizard" and if you click Finish you will see CDBurnerXP launch.  Since I don't need it at this time, I cleared the check box that asks if I want to "Launch CDBurnerXP" and then clicked Finish.

To burn that pesky ISO file, all I had to do was double click on the .ISO in Windows Explorer, and have a blank DVD in the drive.   A click on the Burn Icon later and I had my Ubuntu DVD for that old computer that I need for a server.

Pretty easy and no mental gyrations at strange times in the middle of the evening!

Can't beat that, huh?

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Rose For Pat - Picture

Perhaps, Greeting Card is more appropriate with that Haiku at the bottom.

All this happy text stuff was done in one of those tools that I installed over the last few weeks. 

To please Kevin, I made a point to find an open source font.  The font was called "Journal" and can be found here.  I'm able to use it since it was released under that GPL thing that I was banging on about a couple days ago. 

To please my sister, Pat, I decided to use the Rose from my back yard and banged out the Haiku at the bottom off of the top of my head.

I will have to remember that font, if I have better text, it could make for a very nice greeting card or addition somewhere.

Anyway, the picture is a segment from a larger picture taken as a batch of five.  This was the best from color, content, detail, and composition.  Just to the right of the flower off frame was a rusted old tiki torch holder sliver, and to the upper left was the bud of the blossom that would bloom when this particular rose wilted away.  It stayed for a week and was one of the first things I would see after the sun came up from my bedroom window. 

I used Inkscape to add a layer of text to the picture, tweaked the font and size, added that copyright notice at the top and another hidden one at 15% opacity somewhere. 

You won't see it but I know it's there.   Inkscape allowed me to play with the text and do that sort of thing in a span of about 5 minutes.  Imagine what it would be like in the hands of a real artist.

Modesty aside, there's a lot out there that someone who has a basic level of knowledge of this Graphics Design stuff can do with a little fiddling around.  It is often said that if you look at a program that you use like Microsoft Office's Word or Excel, you only use about 10% of it.  Just like your brain.

The world was built with people applying that 10%.   Everything you see that was man made was done by many people applying what they could with their poor little 10% and over time you would end up with something quite beautiful, useful, or amazing.

Mom was right.  All you have to do is apply yourself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC - Pidgin

There are a few more holes in the implementation of the new laptop.  But the story goes on and on and on...

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Then I installed Inkscape which went about as well as you could hope.

Now I'm moving on to Pidgin.

What's a pidgin?  Something spoken in Papua New Guinea?  Something that is better known as a flying rat?  No, this is something different.

I use the chat networks to keep in touch with clients, family, and others around the world.  There are a number of applications that I use, and Pidgin is one of them, that tie together multiple chat networks like AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, IRC, MSN Messenger and others into one piece of software.   I also use it to monitor my three email accounts on Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail.  It puts up a helpful notice when I get mail.

Yes, complicated.

The software though isn't tough to use and it would allow people to stop using the bloated AOL client all the time, or having AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger all running at once.  It gathers all the functionality into one place.   There are competing software, but this is the one I use.  I tried Trillian and some others here and there and it just felt like it went too far.

1) Surf and download and save the installer for the client remembering where you put it.  The helpful Orange Download button is there for you to click.  You may also explore the site and find out more about this program.

2) Run the installer from where ever you hid the thing, and when it puts the window up, select the language.

3) You will now be presented with the Pidgin Setup Wizard.  Click Next to get to the GPL, then click Next to the Components to Install window.  The defaults should be good for you with one exception.  Click the Plus Sign next to "Spellchecking Support".  It won't break the bank if you don't have spell check turned on, but it certainly will make you sound more intelligent.   Select your language (or don't but I will judge you if you misspell things) and click on "Next".

4) Now that you have done all of that, click "Install".  The installer will count up the percentage of progress at this time until done.  It will be done when your window stops changing and you see "Completed" in the status window.  Click "Next".

At this point you are through the basic install.   I check the box that says "Run Pidgin" and Finish at this point so I can configure the program.

Accounts window:  Pidgin works with your current chat accounts.  In this case I am going to add AIM to Pidgin for the blog, but it works with my Yahoo Instant Messenger and MSN Instant Messenger as well.

Click "Add".  You will get an "Add Account" window.

On the basic tab:
  The Protocol is the Chat Network you want to configure.  Select AIM (or any other you need).
  The Username is your sign on.  You'll have to supply that one.
  The Password is the password you type to get onto AOL or AIM.
  I recommend checking the box that says "Remember Password" even if later down the line it means you'll forget your password for AIM.  Do what everyone else does - write it down on a post-it note and lose the note when you clean house.
  Check the box for "New Mail Notifications".  You'll get a handy notice in the Pidgin Window when you get email on this account that you will forget you ever had after you forgot how to log into it with the password that is on the post-it note that got cleaned up 2 years ago when you had visitors.
  If you have a small picture, you can add it here for your avatar by clicking the box for "Use this buddy Icon" and clicking on the default Icon.   At that point you will have to find the picture that you want to use for this account.  Easy enough to do, you have thousands of pictures on your PC.  Just remember not to use the "rude one" that you have on that "special" chat site showing you in front of the mirror that got you all those complements about your "abs".  Mine is a boring G Rated "Head Shot".  I'd go with that.  Leave those special pics for special times.  :)

When you click "Save", Pidgin will go out and try to log you onto the network.  If you put in the wrong password it will tell you in the main window which was covered up by the accounts window.  Not to worry, you can click back on AIM and the "Modify" button to enter in the correct Password. 

Of course I did forget mine, and you can surf and get it back by trying to log in.  AIM itself is kind of annoying in that your password can't contain "part of" the user name - but they don't tell you "how much" of that they need for you to enter it.

The process for any other network that Pidgin supports is identical.  Just click "Add" in the account window and you're on your way.

One other thing that you will want to do is to configure sounds.  I usually have mine only set to tell me when "Message Received Begins Conversation".  You can edit those preferences by clicking "Tools" then Preferences" and "Sounds".  You will also want to make sure chats open in their own window.  This is done on the "Interface" tab of the Preferences window and unchecking "Show IMs and Chats in Tabbed Windows".  I just happen to prefer having lots of little chat windows than having to shuttle between tabs.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Looking Up A Palm Trees, With or Without Wires

I went out into the backyard. 
I began taking pictures. 
Plants everywhere, Butterflies around my head.  Some may say Bats in My Belfry.

I was looking to take a picture for the background of the computer.  You know that pretty picture that you never see because your junk is all over the screen.

No, Eric, not THAT junk.   Your programs.

This is the original picture.  It has those pesky power wires because this was deep in the back of my yard next to the Utility Easement.

So why leave those wires in there?  I was installing software all over the place, taking pictures of things, and merging the two in the blog for the last week or so.  A couple days ago, I wrote about how to install GIMP and why you may want to do so.   The picture below is the result of my playing with GIMP on a late Friday Afternoon.

I erased the wires. 

Not just the wires, but in removing the wires, you had to go back and retouch some of the palm leaves.  If you look very closely and flip back and forth between the two pictures, you will notice my tweaks.  I removed, or trimmed some of the fronds on the palm.  I lightened some of the individual leaves on the fronds.  After all, the sun angle had cast a shadow on the leaves from the back.

Why bother?  I wanted to see if I could figure it all out, why not?  Someone who retouches the picture for a magazine, or a website will go through all of this.  I needed a little more practice using The GIMP to make sure that I could do it for some projects that are up and coming. 

You tell me, I think I did fairly well... not perfect.  You'll be able to spot some of the edits, especially if you had the full sized pictures.  You don't, these are around 1/4 size but they're fairly clear. 

Ok, it's obsessive... But I'm learning.  Enjoy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC - Inkscape

At this point, the frenzy of installing new applications and programs is slowing.  The machine is beginning to get more complete, but there will be other tweaks down the road.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Today I am beginning the install of Inkscape.

I would be willing to bet that most of my regular and irregular readers won't ever need this program.  I do.... but why?

Gimp will allow you to take a picture and type graffiti all over it to give your message.  Then typically you will save your new artwork as a JPG.  When you do, take a nice close look at the text.  It won't be crisp with clean lines.   There are times that you need that.  I have been "watermarking" my pictures that I put on the blog for quite a while now simply because... they're mine.  I'd rather not stumble across a website using my pictures because Cease and Desist orders can get expensive and all the content that I put on the blog is my own, unless expressly said otherwise.  Or perhaps I forgot.  I've only grabbed other people's pictures once in a while, maybe 5 postings in all the time I have had the blog.  Plenty of Velma Posts but that's a different story.

So in your JPG, if you "zoom in" to an area you notice things get fuzzy very quickly.  Having your text get fuzzy makes for sloppy work.  It isn't the fault of Gimp, but the fault of the way a "raster image editor" works.  They all do that.

Inkscape is a "Vector Graphics Editor".  It saves things as points in an array... yeah I know "Science Content" as they say on Mythbusters.   Look at the picture on your monitor very closely, it's made of a lot of dots.  Put one finger at the top of the monitor, another one at the bottom.  You have just drawn a Vector.  That basically is what Inkscape does - sets out a lot of points and says what will connect them.   It makes for a very sharp picture.  Read this link if you're interested in a bit more deep detail. 

Inkscape also implies that it is "Alpha" or "Beta" software.  This means it is a work in progress.  If you break it, go back to Inkscape.  They may have a fix already or they may not know about it so you can report the problem and help them out.  I use Inkscape fairly heavily and I've been happy with the results.  The program may be rare, but it isn't a raw burger so to speak...

So how do we get it installed?

1) Surf and see if you really need it.  I do, but you probably won't.  I'm finding it's simplicity makes it very easy to use to get the kind of results I want.

2) In the upper right corner there is a "Download Now" link.  That is to the latest version, but this link will put you on the Download page for all versions.  It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and is probably available for more platforms than you will ever want to look at.  You most likely will want "Windows - Installer" which you will find under Official Release Packages.

3) Clicking on the link sends you to the Sourceforge download page and will start the download for you.  Save the file.  You will want to make a note of where it puts the file because I doubt you will have "C:\Users\Bill\Downloads" on your PC.  When complete, start the program.

4)  It will ask you to "Please Select a Language" and welcome you to the Setup Wizard.  Click next when you get there.

5)  You will click Next once you get to the GPL General Public License, and then you will be presented with a list of choices of features.  The only feature you may want to look into is whether you need an alternate language.  I did not need any extra features, so I clicked "Next".

6) Inkscape will then ask where to install it, and it does not have to be in the Program Files group, but you will most likely want to let it go there by clicking "Install".  It then will write the program out to the hard drive.  My installer ran almost to the end and inexplicably hung there for a while.  After it "woke up" eventually it came to say "Completed" and the Next button lit up.  It literally fell asleep 3 or 4 times waiting on background installs of subsystems.

7)  Click Finish and it will launch Inkscape.

Inkscape will present you with a window for "New Document 1".  It is here that you can build your projects by adding layers.   A picture can be layer 1 to use as the background, and you can add other pictures or objects by drawing them onto the page.  Basically you can save the file as a .SVG file, and export as a bitmap your project to show it to everyone on the web.  That's the very basic view on how to do things, you're going to want to play around with the program.  I go in and change the size of the document, add graphics, move things around and add text.   All of this can be done easily and sounds much more difficult than it actually is.

You have control over all the bits and pieces that you are adding to the project.   If you think of the project as a Collage, you're going to have a very good idea of how this all will work.

21st century scissors and magazine articles in elementary school art class is a good metaphor.

Another very complex program, and all Free and Open Source Software just like almost everything I run here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Butterfly in the Park - Picture

Remember, Always bring your camera.  Even if it is just a dog walk.

I was walking Mrs Dog past M.E. Depalma Park last week.  Brilliant sunshine lit the flowers in the small park.  Lettie was recovering from her stroke, so she had a wobble to her step.  

Since the Episode, she's been sniffing much more than usual and more "selectively deaf".   I've proven that she can hear by placing my hand over my mouth and asking "Do you want a cookie".

The result is massive tailwags and ear perks, and the dog equivalent of "Are you flipping crazy?".

We have gotten used to a slower walk through the neighborhood since then.  It forces me to stop and smell the coneflowers.  In doing so, I've managed to get this picture.

This picture convinces me of a few things.

Always bring your camera.  You never know what you will see.
I need a better camera since picture isn't as sharp at the 3200 by 2400 or so that it gives me.
Dog knows best.  Always listen to Dog.
That next camera will be a Digital SLR with a removable lens.

Much of the imperfections of the picture are missing when you look at it fullscreen.  This is a slice, and it showed the flowers to the left slightly out of focus, but on the small screen that I had on the camera it looked amazing. 

After the picture was taken I showed it to the artist Julie Shen and gave her husband very precise directions on how to get to the park.   He is planning on bringing her to the park so he can take pictures for her to paint from.  I hope that happens, M. E. DePalma's efforts deserve to be seen.  As for my photography, it is improving.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC - Firefox 4

At this point, the frenzy of installing new applications and programs is slowing.  The machine is beginning to get more complete, but there will be other tweaks down the road.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, and perhaps a little out of step, I found that a web page wasn't loading quite right.  I'm not in control of it so I couldn't have fixed the page.  What happened was that I went to check if Firefox had been upgraded.

It had.

To Version 4.0.

Now many professionals have a theory - Never Upgrade to a "Dot Zero Release".  I'm usually a bit less conservative about that, and well frankly everything.  So true to my liberal leanings and my Quaker upbringing, I jumped in full force.

I threw the baby out with the bath water, got a new baby, new water and a brand spanking new bathtub.

The good news is that I'm writing this to you, now, and am quite pleased.

Firefox 4 is faster than Firefox 3.6 was.  Noticeably faster.  Blisteringly faster.  Like they tacked a turbo charger onto the old diesel and now it is blowing the doors off things.

Hyperbole aside, the upgrade was painless.  I haven't yet found a problem with this.  Granted, this is "First Day" I am writing this, and will be posted the second day, but I have already opened a lot of web sites.  I'm sure I will find things that are broken, although I never did with the Old Firefox.

It does seem to use a little more of the processor, and it can use more memory depending on what you are doing.  The old Firefox 3.6 and it's predecessors would slowly eat up memory.  It would use more and more until *POP* it would crash.  This would take a couple days of use or abuse.  I would open my morning 160 web pages, do my thing, and leave the browser up with four email accounts, Facebook, and the login pages to CareerBuilder, Monster, and Dice.  At the end of the day I'd hibernate the laptop and go through the same process "tomorrow".   Eventually Firefox would crash, the operating system would become unglued and I'd readily take the time to restart the machine.  It would normally take a week.

The new Firefox 4 seems to be better at actually returning the memory it uses to the operating system.  I have a lot open at the moment, and this is after the system has been up, hibernated, and revived.  The memory use is what I would expect with 20 plus tabs and counting.

At the moment I have open more than 160 tabs worth of web pages.  Yes, 160, and I did count.

On Firefox 3.6, I'd be around 1GB of memory used for the browser and it would be creeping along... I'd be worried that it wasn't going to work and crash with loss of work.

Now on Firefox 4 with those 160 pages, I am watching the windows task manager show me between 1.50 and 1.60 GB of memory. Substantial increase, but at this point of the morning, it is smooth.  The nice thing is that it's also using my video card (Ok, GPU for the techies out there) to do some of the work - this is why it's faster.  Your Processor and Video Card - both are being used.  Now, while 1.5 or 1.6GB sounds like a lot, keep in mind, it starts out around 120MB and grows with what you're doing.  It's shrinking it's usage as I close tabs and windows.   The old Firefox was less gentle with it's memory use, and wouldn't always return memory to the operating system.

I'm currently doing all of this on a Core2Duo SU7300 (I think) Thinkpad T60 with 4GB of Memory and a 7200rpm 500GB hard drive.  Old but not decrepit.  Midspec - after all a Netbook is much slower and they're still selling THOSE.

I may be on the trailing edge with an "old" laptop, but I'm using all of it to get a LOT of things done and apparently all at once.  The last list of 38 pages loaded while I was typing in the last three paragraphs.  It would pause very slightly as Firefox found something it needed to "think" about, but nothing nearly as bad as the old version.

I am also having to change how I work with Firefox.  Before, I'd have an excuse to slack more.  I'd launch Firefox, launch 35 tabs, and idle away until they've loaded by playing solitaire, contemplating my navel, looking for pocket change in the chair, petting the dog, making faces at people who walk by.  You know, normal stuff.   Now, I select the same 35 tabs, and they load so much faster that I only have time to do a little dawdling before coming back to the work at hand.   After all, it is limited by the speed of my WiFi connection.

There are some famous tweaks out there to make "My" firefox run faster at the expense of more hits on the web server or fewer saves.  I still have them since they weren't set back to "factory default".

The browser should act just like it did.  It has some changes in how it looks - the "User Interface" or "UI".  The biggest one was that it put the menu bar folded up into an orange button that says "Firefox" with a little downward pointing arrow.  Like the start button.  I hated that and got rid of it by going into the orange button and clicked on Options and turned on the Menu Bar again.  I also lost my weather thing because they turned off the status bar at the bottom of the browser.  To turn that all back on, right click on the area to the right of the ugly-orange-button-that-says-Firefox and check "Add On Bar" as well as your "Menu Bar".  You'll be back to the old faithful look and feel.

I am NOT a fan of "Minimalist" computing when it comes to something like that.

Ahh Much Better.   Now it looks like a Windows application with the familiar "File Edit View" menu at the top.  Yes, I'm a traditionalist that way.  I don't want to learn how to use a program simply because someone made a design decision that turns it into the "Tallest Nail" and is trying to "be slick".

How to get it?

Simple, surf and click on the green "Firefox 4" button.
Accept and save the download.
Run the file.
Close your browser windows, yes all of firefox browser windows.  IE and Chrome don't count... ever.
It updated, painlessly.
It only asked whether I want icons on the desktop and start button menu and where to put the thing. 

If you are using Firefox, I'd say upgrade now.   If you aren't because of one reason or another, I'd say you should try it.  If you're one of my clients, this is what I'll be instructing you to use.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Egrets In The Yard

Other than having fun editing pictures, what use is a camera?

In the case of this particular picture, I was able to catch a flock of egrets land in a neighbor's yard and start to feed.  I don't know why birds decide to chose one particular spot to feed, but it must have looked tasty.

Around here, you get used to seeing egrets.  One here or there, they are fairly common to see, about as common as the flocks of feral parrots that scream through the sky or the hawks and buzzards hovering near sunrise or sundown.

On the other hand, usually when I see an egret, it is just that, "an" egret.  This particular day I was blessed by a flock coming by.  They landed on the roof, first by the lead bird, then the rest of the flock.  One by one, led by that pilot, they landed on this particular spot of weeds and began to feed.

As some of my friends are fond of pointing out around here, if you plant native species, wildlife will come.  I can look out any window and expect to see natives pass through, but they may not stay if they don't like what they find.   The curious thing about this flock of egrets is that they are on and stayed over a line.  The line separated the "Nice Green Lawn" of one property from the "Nasty Unkempt Weeds" of the one next door.  The Weed strewn lawn was that way because the house was not cared for since it was sold by the owner back in 2007.  It was then bought by a character that we of this block are happy to see the end of.  He basically walked away, brought in a house hold of 20-something bar crowd partiers that eventually moved on.  After the partiers moved in the younger set of an "Old Wilton Manors Family" who began to take better care of the place.  At least the place stopped it's decline.

All of that wordy prose leads me to wonder if we all let our lawns go more natural, might we not see more nature?


One of my regular readers, Constance, told me that I was mistaken.  I saw the white bird above and thought it was the Egrets that sometimes land around here.  This flock is not, it's an American White Ibis.  It looks like "my" flock was an adult and a number of juveniles.

Here are the wikipedia pages:

Snowy Egret:

American White Ibis:

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC - GIMP

The most work when you move into someplace new is making it your own.  Arranging the paintings on the wall, changing the carpets, and the drapes.  There is a very similar process going on when you get a new computer.  I am in the process of creating a workbench that I will be using for quite a while.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled (Link Needed)

Today it is the install of GIMP that I am attacking.

What is GIMP? To borrow from their web page, it is the GNU Image Manipulation Program.  That doesn't tell you much so we can break it down for you easy peasy!

GNU means it's Open Source and therefore free to download, use, and enjoy.
Image Manipulation Program means that basically you can use a picture as a canvas to change things, add text and drawings, change colors, move bits around.

GIMP is a "Free or Open Source Software" (FOSS) program that will let you do just about anything you can do in Photoshop.  It is not necessarily THE standard tool for graphics editing, Photoshop seems to own that title, but if I need to work on Photoshop, I need to pay for it and install software that snoops in the background to phone home and tell Adobe where I am.  Not really fond of that idea here... Privacy and all that.

I've never really progressed to the point where I need to shell out for Photoshop, and many graphics artists use it at a professional level in order to get their work done.  It is so complex that years later I still have to think how to do some subtle task, while to get some basic things done are fairly straightforward.

On the other hand, I had the experience recently to try to use Photoshop on its own on a professional workstation with no training.  I need the Photoshop for Dummies book... I'll admit it!

So to get Gimp installed on your PC, here is what you do:

1) Surf and let the page load.  If you want a somewhat more indepth idea of what GIMP can do for you, you can check out the features link and read for yourself.  I Grossly Oversimplified GIMP!

2) Select the orange on black link for Downloads.  (Halloween anyone?)  I'll forgive the colors, the software is worth the effort.

3) GIMP comes from the world of Linux and isn't directly supported by the project on Windows.  On the other hand, there's a handy package for you to download and I'm going to step you through it.  The link for download is the third link on the body of the page, but you can grab it from here until it's changed.  You may also want to grab the manual, again on the downloads page, but here's the direct link until it is changed for the English book...

4) When fully downloaded, launch the setup program.  You will be eventually presented with the GIMP Setup Program, and click Next, Next at the GNU General Public License, and Install Now button.

5) That is it.  It will present you with a helpful check box asking if you want to launch the program and a button that says "Done".   It took about a minute on my now becoming more trusty T60.

The program will launch, and load. It warns you that it will take some time, and it isn't kidding.  I'm glad for once they give you a little progress bar to tell you that it's loading because it takes more than a full minute here to load. 

At this point you will be presented with the "GNU Image Manipulation Program" main window, the "Toolbox" window and the "Layers, ..." window.  To close the program you click on the X Box at the upper right of the GNU window.   Alternately you can load in any picture and start to edit.   This is not your Grampa's Paint Program, its seriously powerful and if you need some pictures to edit, this is a good way to start.

I've been using it for years and frankly I don't know a third of the software.  I get things done, but in a lot of cases, I get things done by brute force.  You will want to read that manual that you downloaded at some point.

Also there are all sorts of extensions for The GIMP.  You can find them online, and since it is released under the GPL, you should be able to get them for free. 

If you can't "get the job done" with The GIMP, there's another piece of software called Inkscape that I'll be writing about shortly and show you... tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Roast Beef Recipe

At the Island City Art Walk on Friday night I had the chance to sit and chat with artist Julie Shen and her husband Chris.  We all got on quite well and as you might expect after reading this blog, I started talking about food and recipes.  Julie said that she hadn't eaten much beef before moving to the country, and her husband Chris said that he rarely eats red meat and could "take it or leave it".  My usual comment of "you haven't had it done right" in reference to the red meat came out without thinking about it, and I launched into a discussion of this Roast Beef that we make here for special occasions. 

This recipe is time consuming, and decidedly old school.  If you are going to do it, do it right though... or as I said "Honor the animal that died placing the food on your table". 

It turns a Bottom Round or a Sirloin Tip into something bordering a Boeuf Bourguignon or Beef with Wine sauce.  Instead of using a red wine one time, we had run out.  Remembering the rule that you never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink, I chimed in and said "Use My Port"!  This addition of the sweet Port Wine brought the dish to a completely new level. 

Everyone who we have ever served this masterpiece has been amazed at it, and frankly I tend to let the making of the gravy to Kevin since it's complex and fiddly and so very entertaining to watch.  When it is all done though, Beaver Cleaver's Mom couldn't do a better meal.

The sandwiches the next day with a dollop of Port Wine Gravy on some crusty bread are amazing, and if you have some properly strong horseradish stuck in the back of the refrigerator, you will want to find it along with a slab of extra sharp Vermont Cheddar Cheese.   The Beef will freeze well as will the gravy and you'll have enough sandwiches for weeks!

This is the body of the email that we had sent to the near-vegetarian Chris this morning, reproduced in it's entirety:

Roast Beef

You will need

Reynolds Brown In Bag  (Large size or Turkey size)
6 - 7 lb bottom round or sirloin tip roast.  Butcher should tie it to a uniform size.  If you don't have access to a butcher,  Whole foods will do it also.
Adobo  (Either Goya or Badia)
Instant Read Oven Thermometer
Ruby Port Wine
3 bay leaves
2 large sweet onions cut in quarters
Worcestershire sauce
Beef Base
(Better then bullion is usually pretty good)
Kitchen Bouquet gravy thickener
Bag of organic baby carrots
Start by placing 1 T of flour in the Brown in Bag and coat the inside with it. 
Place the Brown in Bag in a large roasting pan.
Take your roast and season with adobo on all sides
Place roast in the center of the bag towards the bottom in the pan
Add to bag around the roast (but not on top)
  Bay Leaves
  1 1/4 cup Ruby Port Wine

Roast in oven at 325 degrees for the correct amount of time.  You want the inside of the roast to be at least 160F - this usually means about 30 minutes per lb. (at least)

Once the roast is cooked carefully take it out of the steaming hot bag (an interesting experience in itself), place it on a serving dish and cover to keep warm.   You will want it to sit at least 20 minutes before cutting in to it.

Now,  make the pan gravy.

  1. Dump everything in the bag into the roasting pan on the stove top.
  2. Carefully pick out all the carrots and place in a serving bowl and cover to keep warm.
  3. Take 4 T of flour and mix with 1/2 cup of water in a cocktail shaker
  4. Turn on burners under the pan (you usually have to straddle two burners here)
  5. add one teaspoon of beef base to the pan
  6. Don't let the gravy come to a boil just yet but it should be steaming
  7. Add flour mixture and stir it all in to mix.
  8. at this point you want to keep stirring and heating until the mixture has gotten thicker
  9. Once mixture is thicker,  add
  •   1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
  •    1 t kitchen bouquet
  •    pepper to taste

let cook a few more minutes stirring
dump entire contents into a blender and blend for a few seconds until smooth.

Enjoy !

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC - Irfan View

I'm in the middle of a migration.  No, I am not flying North for the Summer!  I am moving into a New-To-Me laptop.  The oldest one died, the daily driver is getting unreliable but will be "repurposed", and this is the newest one of the lot.

If you're so inclined, you can read the story here:

First the story of how I decided that it was time to move with limited funds.
Second, how I actually installed the Operating System and the minimum software needed.
Third, how annoying it can be to get PDF to work smoothly on a new install.

Today, I have to install graphics software.

As a part of the volunteer work that I do and all of the web development work that I have picked up over the ages, I require better than the very basic software that Windows 7 comes with to get pictures and text to the web.  Sure, for most folks this is enough, but you can get much more without spending any money.

Here is how I do it.

Irfan View - a Swiss Army Knife for picture viewing.
Ifran view does a lot more than just view pictures.  The software is amazingly flexible and takes the attitude that you don't need to be complex to get a lot of complexity done.  You can do some simple editing with crop and paste, play around with editing color schemes and remove things like that annoying kid who insisted on putting gang hand signs on his chest when you got the family photo back in 2005 at Christmas.

Yes, Jonathan, I am talking about you.

I have been using Irfan View for more than ten years now.  It is so easy to use that you forget just how much power you have at your fingertips.  If I need to take a picture for the web, I'm not going to post the original.  Typically I shrink them down from the massive to slightly smaller than "standard def TV sized" with this software.  I have used it to snip a single flower to share with my growing audience, and to have a little fun playing with pictures.

But enough of that.   Here's how to get it... and you really do want this software as your default viewer on Windows!

1) Surf

2) Click the handy "Irfan View" link on the right under "Downloads".  I'm not giving you the direct link because he really has done some amazing work and your going there directly will help him know how many people like his software... so play along, ok?  :)

3) That previous link will pop you onto another page with a link to download the base software.  Click on the Download Now link and it will ask you to save the file.  Remember where you put that file...  This time I'm downloading iview428_setup.exe from

4) Run the file, and once it launches it gives you the option of Creating Shortcuts, selecting how many users, and where to install it.   Simply accept the defaults and click "Next>". 

5) You will see the window change to "What's New In This Version?" and just click Next.

6) the next window asks if you want to associate any extensions with IrfanView.  I click on "Images Only", and Next.

7) Unfortunately he has a deal here with Google Chrome to push a download of it to your system.  Reject this.  Uncheck the box with Include Google Chrome...   You can always get it on your own.  I don't want Google Chrome and am wary of that software due to my concerns about Privacy.

Remember Uncheck the box for Google Chrome and then click "Next".

8) There is a question about "Set INI Folder".  I'm ok with what is happening here so I clicked "Next".

9) I then got a warning about resetting my file associations - and yes, I am really sure - so click Yes.

10) Installation Done!  When you click "Done" Irfan View will launch.  It starts a browser window with a lot of questions and the program which really doesn't look like it has much other than a black window and options.  Since the purpose of this is to get the software on the machine ... I'm done here... start to play around with the program, it's one of those rare programs that you can use with the keyboard extremely rapidly to view your pictures once you learn how you want to work with it.  It's beautifully integrated with the mouse as well and I find it to be extremely fast at getting chores done.

It's not the Be All And End All of graphics processing, but a great shortcut.  Since I needed this for a task TODAY, I'm going to cut off here, do some work with it, and post tomorrow the next steps.

For Picture Editing, Gimp.
For Vector Graphics like web page headers, Inkscape

Friday, March 18, 2011

Found on the Refrigerator One Morning - Humor

... a break from all that Computer Stuff I have been writing lately.  There's more of that to come, but since my friend Scott sent me this one, I wanted to share.  I've heard it a million times and it never fails to bring a wry smile to my face...

Found on the Refrigerator One Morning :

My Dear Wife,

You will surely understand that I have certain needs that you, being 54 years old, can no longer satisfy. I am very happy with you and I value you as a good wife. Therefore, after reading this letter, I hope that you will not wrongly interpret the fact that I will be spending the evening with my 18 year old secretary at the Comfort Inn Hotel. Please don't be upset----I shall be home before midnight.

When the man came home late that night, he found the following letter on the dining room table:

My Dear Husband,

I received your letter and thank you for your honesty about my being 54 years old. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you are also 54 years old. As you know, I am a math teacher at our local college. I would like to inform you that while you read this, I will be at the Hotel Fiesta with Michael, one of my students, who is also the assistant tennis coach. He is young, virile, and like your secretary, is 18 years old. As a successful businessman who has an excellent knowledge of math, you will understand that we are in the same situation, although with one small difference - 18 goes into 54 a lot more times than 54 goes into 18.
Therefore, I will not be home until sometime tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC - PDF

I started this whole mess a couple days ago.

First I had to decide which machine to save and which to recycle.

Then I had to load in the operating system and the basic software. 

Next are the PDF programs.  I use PDF very heavily.  I print to it from all my programs and I read the things I have printed.  It is easier for me to keep my documents in PDF on a memory stick than buy another filing cabinet.  So first, it's time to install Acrobat Reader.  Going to puts up an annoying survey.  I don't do free surveys - No Thanks.

Then off to the download page with the little grey box with the little lighter grey text.  Really, Adobe, how about something that is easy to read.  Are you so busy being a fanboy of your own work that you're forgetting that there are all sorts of people trying to use the site?

On the download page, there is a red box with white text (Bad color choice - ADA Compliance?) with "Download Acrobat Reader on it.  I'll save you all the effort, the link is here.  After clicking the Download Now link I was presented with a page telling me how to get past the browser's setting to allow the download to continue.  Probably that is the best way to manage that, since you should not download software without actively thinking about it.

Here's another annoyance I have with Adobe, they force you to use their own download manager.  Nobody else seems to use this software so I allow it to install then immediately uninstall it once I have finished with it.  Kind of a waste of time and effort if you ask me just to show me some annoying advertisements.  Ok Adobe, here's the worst thing about it... now that I have downloaded your garbage download manager, it wants me to close the browser.  That little dog is chasing it's tail.  So That just won't happen just yet.  I've got the blog article to finish.

Sidestepping the abysmal Adobe Acrobat reader installer, I'm going to get the printer.  Or rather CutePDF.  CutePDF is one of many free pieces of software you can install on the computer that will act like a printer and produce a PDF Document out of anything you are going to print.  Really sweet little piece of code and it makes life easy. 

Surf to get all the info on it.  Basically, you can download the CutePDF Writer from this link and use it for personal or not for profit use.  When you install it though, it asks if you want Yet Another Tool Bar so you will want to make sure that you DO NOT install the toolbar.  In this case it was the "Ask Toolbar" a worthless blemish on the browser world.  The installer has three check boxes asking nosy questions.  If you uncheck the first one where you do not accept the end user license, the others are turned off and you go on to install the Cute PDF Writer.  The next time you go to print a document you will notice a new printer called CutePDF.  It doesn't really need any configuration, just remember where it puts the PDF Documents so you can save them or print to paper later.

CutePDF does depend on something called PS2PDF and wants to install it, so it will pop up a window asking yes or no.  Select yes so you can go on with it.  When through, Cute PDF will open a browser window with documentation on how to use it, but basically it's easy as pie.

Since Adobe doesn't know how to install their reader without clobbering my browser... I'll continue this post... Tomorrow.  Basically if the survey magically appears, I'm going to slam that practice.  There is no reason, AT ALL, to force someone to download a magically delicious download manager just so you can install some free software.  Another problem with the way software is delivered these days.  You just never know what it's doing in the background.

OK, maybe not "tomorrow"...

After having gone through the Browser Restart nonsense, I ended up watching this install happen.  Or rather just the install of this abysmal "Adobe DLM".   It did not actually install the software.  I had to go in and re-download the software and have it install again.  It dutifully put up a window saying it was downloading and installing "McAfee Security Scan Plus" - something that I DID NOT WANT.  That will be uninstalled immediately after I get this install to work with Adobe Reader.

Theoretically, it went through and installed both Adobe Reader and McAfee Security Scan Plus, but I wouldn't have known that unless I went and looked at the Adobe Download Manager.  Mangler more like it...

Closing the Download "Mangler", I noticed that all my icons for PDF have changed to the official Adobe PDF graphic.  Having an old PDF on a memory stick, I double clicked on it and lo and behold, I was presented with a Personal Computer Software License Agreement.  Pretty worthless, clicked through.  I'm not in the business of reverse engineering this steaming pile of software, and frankly if I knew of an open source alternative that actually worked in order to read PDF Documents, I'd uninstall Adobe Reader in a heartbeat.

Accepting the agreement and signing my life away, I was able to view the document.

Now to get rid of the hitchhikers...

Going into Control Panel on Windows 7 I found everything in Confusing Categories, so I selected "Small Icons" and it broke everything out into a large list.  They're not quite as easy to deal with but categories imply someone else is deciding how things are, and frankly it's easier to hunt for something in front of you than have something arbitrarily packed into little groups and given hints on how they are grouped together.

I selected Programs and Features to get the list of programs to uninstall.

First program to uninstall: McAfee Security Scan Plus.  I was presented with a small Uninstall window upon double clicking the name which allowed me to get the offense off of my computer.  From their own site you can see that all it does is go through and check your current firewall and virus scanner as well as some other things.  Useless since all of this is managed by Windows Firewall under Windows 7.  You can view that under Windows 7 in the Control Panel.

Second program to uninstall... Adobe Air.  I have never been able to find a site that uses it.  I have never been able to find a use for it.  I am not clear as to how this would make my life better by having it on my machine.  It reminds me of Silverlight, which is another "internet platform" that has not taken off.  The description I got from Adobe's website is this:

Adobe AIR, a key component of the Flash Platform, unleashes the creativity of designers and developers by providing a consistent and flexible development environment for the delivery of applications across devices and platforms. 

Thanks, but you're not needed.  It warns you that those applications that require Adobe Air will no longer work if you uninstall it.   If I find a site that uses it, I'll reinstall it - or more likely go to another site.  Buh Bye!

Next to go is the Adobe DLM.   It forces you to install this bit of crapware when you install anything by Adobe.  I don't need it otherwise and now that I have Acrobat and Flash on my computer, I can get rid of this bit of Computer Chaff....  Except it magically disappeared when I uninistalled Adobe Air and double clicked on the uninstall within the Windows Programs and Features list.

Remember, this is YOUR computer.  An application running on it will only slow you down, so if you don't need it, get rid of it.  If the program is suspect, search online as to what it does.  Take the time to read about that machine that you paid all that money for. You'll be surprised as to what you learn.

One other hitchhiker.  Apple Quick Time.  It decided that it needed to be installed on one of the pieces of software that I downloaded.  It is only very slightly more useful than a toolbar since just about everything else is compatible with Quick Time and on a PC it acts only a little more stable than a virus.  Time to get that particular program if not removed, at least neutralized.

In Windows 7 there is an area that all the currently running apps go to.  It used to be in the far right next to the clock under Windows XP, they grouped them together in a little triangle to hide them away.  In my case, it's to the right of the battery and to the left of the clock/speaker/wifi sentry/battery/Windows Action Center.   There's a little white triangle that you can click once on and it brings up a pop up.  If you hover over it, it shows the phrase "Show Hidden Icons".  Helpful but why hide them?  Sure, its all minimalistic, but not exactly helpful.  Ok, we can live with it this way, so click and find the Q for Quick Time, right click on it and select Preferences.

Under the "Update" tab I turned off "Check for Updates Automatically".  Quicktime is a bit of a security hole, and normally I uninstall it completely but I do that only after seeing if I have any QT movies to watch.  Usually that takes a week, so until then, I will just tell it to play well and leave me alone - don't check for updates until you're banished.  Furthermore on the Streaming tab, I'm turning off "Enable Instant-On".  I hardly use Quicktime so why keep it up and running?  Finally under the advanced tab, I select all the way at the bottom "Install QuickTime Icon in system tray" and turn that off.   I just don't need it.  Uncheck that box, select Apply and hope it actually goes away until I get annoyed and fully uninstall Quicktime.

After I click "OK", it goes away and I get a helpful pop up from Windows 7 "Program Compatibility Assistant" asking whether it installed correctly.  I tell it yes, because I really don't use Quicktime, but if you click that there was an error, it will submit a check to Microsoft to help you further check for problems.  Helpful, useful in determining problems if you need them, but not really a problem Right Now.  Thanks, Windows, I've got it from here!

Mind you this is just getting the computer up.  All this day's Blog posting was about installing three programs so I can watch movies on You Tube and the like, and read and print PDFs.  It should not have taken this long.  The Application Development Manager in me has come out in full force, gathered all the Project Managers and Business Analysts into a room and say "You Can Do Better!".

Software does NOT have to be this bad!

One last helpful hint for today.  Once Adobe Reader is installed, launch it with a file to read.  If you have the version 10.1 that I got, you will notice helpful little bubbles showing up under the tab that says "Comment" in the upper right.  I didn't like that so I went in to turn it off.   To do that....

Under Adobe Reader, Select Edit and Preferences.
Click on the General Categories and find the check box that says "Messages from Adobe".
I cleared both boxes in that group.  I don't particularly want messages from Adobe like they're a needy ex-partner.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC - Reloading

Part Two of a series.  The first part is at this link.

Having gone through the decision process of whether to stick with the old or get new, in this very tough economy, I went with Repair and Upgrade.

To get this Thinkpad T60 repaired and upgraded, I sent it off to have the dim panel swapped out and got it back from IBM/Lenovo repair within the week.  Out on Monday, back on Friday.  Had I had the parts, it was something I could have done on my own - I've done it on an old Mac iBook and if you can work on Apple Hardware, you can certainly do it on a Thinkpad.  After all, all the repair documents for a Thinkpad are on the web and available.  If you were presented with a box of parts, you could literally build a Thinkpad for yourself.

The Apples were not meant to be repaired... so think about that if you are planning on getting one. 

On the other hand, I have had good luck with Dell machines.  The one that failed me I had used for four years AFTER the corporation retired it and I got it on a bet.

While the machine was away I ruminated and finally decided to go at it full force.   This machine would take a maximum of 4GB of memory, and would take a fast for today 7200 RPM hard drive.  So I ordered a 500GB 7200 RPM Drive and the memory and it got here a week later.  Plenty of time for me to shake down the Thinkpad and make sure everything worked and could be moved off onto the server when the reload was going to happen.

Yesterday the hardware arrived and the great upgrade began.

First.  Ground myself, and open the machine up.  The old Thinkpads used to have a convenient door you could easily open and pop memory out.  User Upgradeable Parts are meant to be accessible like an old Tube Radio set. This thing made you take out four screws, snap the hand rest slash trackpad out and unplug it from the machine, then swap out the memory.  I wouldn't tell "Mom" to do it, but it isn't all THAT hard.  It took me 10 minutes and would have been less if I hadn't dropped a needed screw under the couch.

Second.  I tied the machine back together and swapped in the brand new hard disc drive.  Five minutes max.  Yes, I dropped the screw on the floor, what did you expect?  Easy replacement, really.  I've done it dozens of times.

Now I have a machine with 4GB of memory, new hard drive, and no operating system.

Since it was 5pm, I grabbed my official shiny and Oh So Legal copy of Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64bit that I had gotten in a care package for answering a survey along with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, and Visio.  Yes, I'm that guy who LEGALLY has all that stuff.  Just wanted to make that clear.

I dropped in the copy of Windows and started the installer.  It wanted to format the hard drive into one partition of 100MB for scary weird unknown System Stuff and a 465GB partition for what we call "userland" where we put all our "stuff".   You know, pictures of LOLCats and links to You Tube and the operating system.

When the format was done, I nudged the installer on to load up the operating system with Redmond's Finest and of course fed the dog.   While Lettie was eating, I grabbed her gear, checked that the machine was still installing and went out for a lap around town.

When I got back, it was asking another question and was done.  Restart, clear it's head, prepare for first use.

Been there and done that.  Windows 7 Pro install is pretty painless.  It asks you which network you want to use, a password if you have it, whether it is Home/Public/Private... all straightforward questions.  It was basically installed.

The rest of the night I was spending getting the required software on the machine for a bare bones minimum for what I need to do my 160 web pages worth of job search this morning.

Not knowing where the Microsoft Office discs were (They were hiding inside my credenza behind the old equipment, later found late that afternoon), I installed Libre Office.  I needed a spreadsheet, and Libre Office is a Free and Open Source alternative that 99% of the people out there could use instead of using MS Office.  If you don't use Excel or Word as a power user, Libre Office is a great alternative.  What it doesn't tell you is that if you download it you need to grab JavaOpen Office, from which Libre Office is derived, was a Sun product.  It was packaged with Java and now both Open Office and Java are part of Oracle.  Libre Office is not.  So download Java and all is well.

The problem is that Java seems to feel that you need some piece of garbage that is called the "Yahoo Toolbar".  Under no circumstances does any user need a toolbar from any of the search engine companies, nor from any virus company or any other.   It merely is spyware.  It watches what you do and reports back to the company what you're doing.  Toolbars are evil.  Got it?

When you install your software, take the Expert or Custom install and watch for that "Free Software".  Make sure you uncheck that box because when you ask me why your machine is slow, that will be the first thing I will look for.

I needed Firefox and grabbed that installer.  Got through the install easily and installed two required "addons" to Firefox that makes life easier.

1) Adblock Plus which will block about 90% of those annoying blinky advertisements as well as a significant amount of spy sites and spyware from ever infecting your machine.  When you install it on Firefox, it forces you to restart your browser and asks you for a subscription.  I took the Easylist subscription that was offered when I restarted the browser.

2) Forecast Fox which merely puts the temperature and the weather conditions along with radar on the bottom stripe of your browser.  It strictly speaking is not a requirement, but if you live in a Hurricane or Tornado zone, it will tell you when you have an event coming.  Peace of mind is a requirement.

Virus Scanner.  For Windows, I use Microsoft Security Essentials.  If you have a legal copy of windows like I do, Security Essentials is completely free.  It also is seen as one of the best virus scanners out there and you won't be forced to click through a lot of nonsense to do your work - like McAfee or Norton will make you do.  It is highly effective unlike AVG or Trend Micro.  It has caught quite a few trojans trying to install themselves on my computer in the past and it is what I recommend.

Or you can pay through the nose and be annoyed.

When I got all that installed, I found I needed the annoying to install Flash from Adobe.  Why is it annoying?  Well you start the installer and it will glower at you until you close the browser window that you had open in order to get the software in the first place.  So make sure you save all your web pages and all your work in this time that we're transitioning to The Cloud.

One other install that was a requirement for me is Winamp. I start the morning grind and I have a lot of websites that stream music that I like instead of listening to commercial pablum on the radio here out of Miami.  The nice thing about having Winamp playing music is that I will know if Comcast and their shoddy infrastructure here "burps" and I lose connection.  I pay for an always up connection, I expect it.

When you install Winamp, take the custom install path, do not take the Yahoo Toolbar, and don't take the extra links to the 50 free MP3s.  I'm sure you have enough music to listen to.  If you don't surf DI.FM or the excellent Discover Trance for their 192KB Streams or if you don't like trance, theres always my disco fix at for your listening pleasure.

That got me so I could get online, listen to music, and go through the morning routine.  There are a few things that are still missing, but that got me through the Morning.

Tomorrow, I start on installing PDF Reader and Writer software.  Yes, all for free.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC - Triage

More like the trials and tribulations, but that is entirely a different story.

I am what you call a "Power User".  I am that guy that people go to after they have found that their computer has stopped working, they went to a shop and found that a complete reload costs $200 and that they followed through and now it's not working like it used to so "could you help me fix it".

Er... maybe... depends on whether I've got the time, the inclination, and if I'm getting paid.

Hey it's a capitalist economy, innit?

Recently I was handed a laptop.  It's "surplus".  It's an older machine, specifically it is a Thinkpad T60.  Core 2 Duo processor that is still being sold as a bottom of the line machine today, but this is 3 years old.  The monitor was very dim to the point of not really being usable over long periods of time.  The hard drive was too small for my video editing and web development chores.   There wasn't enough memory in it.  It ran Windows XP.

Since it is a Thinkpad, it will have a longer expected life than a bargain basement computer.  This one was loaded to the gills and was the "Screamer" when it was bought three years ago.

I had started to use it as my Multimedia Workspace when I got it.  It was more than adequate to do video editing.  I'd grab the video and "render" it into a final form after clipping out such things as I would not want to see in a finished product and it will render that video in less time than it takes to watch it.  If it's not showing me the preview window, it does a 21 minute video in about 3 minutes.

The problem is that the panel was too dark to do "fine" work like the graphics that I am doing for the blog and for the various websites around town that I'm beginning to work on.  So this machine went back home to the repair centre in Memphis TN and got a brand spanking new panel.  Shiny bright and lots of little pixels for me to spread out on after being cramped on my old Acer.

Basically it's a solid machine, although were I to buy a new in box machine, it wouldn't be this one, it would be one with an i7 Quad Core Processor since I run a virtual PC in background as a rule, not an exception.

It will do, and it will do nicely, but it wasn't my first choice until the visit of a client a couple weeks back.

As I was doing some changes to a flyer for the church, I handed him the laptop to show him live what the changes would be like and found that the old graphics workbench had locked solid. The only thing I did on that machine was to do Desktop Publishing and it just had locked.  Again.  I turned it off, recovered and the creaky six year old laptop that was "good enough" failed me again.  Clearly it wasn't going to survive.   The data was safe on the hard drive, but the machine was giving up on me.

I switched over to my "production machine" a 5 year old Acer Aspire 5610 with a very cranky Left Mouse Button.  That machine was my "daily driver" that I did everything on it.  Much better than I expected an Acer to be, I forgave the cantankerous mouse button for its brilliant display that was just a wee bit too small at a widescreen 15 inches with the same resolution as a 720p HDTV.  Cramped for video editing and graphics work.

The Acer worked fine but as I handed it to the client, it too locked solid.  I questioned my technique but clearly there were two machines that needed to be retired.  The old Dell Inspiron was a Pentium M 1.6, way too slow for what I was doing.  The Acer was starting to act up.

Turning to the Thinkpad, we decided to get it fixed since the guts were new and the only thing wrong was the panel was dim.

I got it back last week and decided that while I could spend $900 to get the new machine it just was not happening.  Consulting is just barely breaking even for me, and this black T60 would have to do.  

So basically I'm going to recycle the Dell, 'repurpose' the Acer as a server (yes, a laptop server for low power consumption), recycle my old desktop server (P4 3ghz just doesn't cut it) and move into the Thinkpad.

One for the price of three.

I've been living on machines that people have decided were not worth using any more since 2000 when I bought the last parts to upgrade the machine that eventually became my Server.  In all the time I have used PCs, I have bought exactly zero computers "New In The Box", preferring to build my own desktops.

You see, I'm the Cobbler's Child in a way.  My shoes are scuffed but serviceable.  They have to be because I have to fix them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pet Fish - Humor

Velma's been sending me joke emails to share.  Since I got a laugh out of it I thought I'd pass it on to you. 

After last week and all the unfortunate drama we need a break.  I'm hoping that the climate in Japan calms down.  First the Earthquake, then the Tsunami, then the news where one of the Fukushima Reactors exploded and they're basically "sacrificing" it by filling it with sea water to hold off a melt down... finally there was a volcano in the south of Japan that erupted, all within three days.  My heart goes out to the Japanese People with hope they'll be able to catch a break and begin to heal after whole cities were simply erased.

With one eye on the news from Japan, the other on the news from the Middle East, and I will hold off a third eye because then I'd be a three eyed Springfield Fish. 

Subject:  Pet Fish
A hillbilly was stopped by a game warden in East Tennessee recently with two ice chests full of fish.  He was leavin' a cove well-known for its fishing.

The game warden asked the man, 'Do you have a license to catch those fish?'  Naw, sir', replied the hillbilly. I ain't got none of them there licenses.  You must understand, these here are my pet fish.'

Pet fish?

Yeah. Every night, I take these here fish down to the lake and let 'em swim 'round for awhile. Then, when I whistle, they jump right back into these here ice chests and I take 'em home.'

'That's a bunch of hooey!  Fish can't do that.'

The hillbilly looked at the warden for a moment and then said, 'It's the truth Mr. Government Man.  I'll show ya. It really works.'

OK. said the warden. 'I've got to see this!'

The hillbilly poured the fish into the lake and stood and waited.  After several minutes, the warden says, 'Well?'

'Well, what?,' says the hillbilly.

The warden says, 'When are you going to call them back?'  Call who back?'

'The FISH,' replied the warden!

'What fish?, replied the hillbilly. .............

Moral of the story: We may not be as smart as some city slickers, but we ain't as dumb as some government employees.

You can say what you want about the South, but you never hear of anyone retiring and moving north.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Set It And Forget It Movement for Daylight Savings Time

That topic says it all.

Did you set all your clocks yet?  Yes, spring ahead and fall back means you have to advance your clock an hour.  If you are setting an antique clock, especially old chime windup clocks, you may just want to let the thing run down and stop, then wait 11 hours.  If you're reading this in November, make that 13 hours.

There are always a few clocks that never get set.  The clock in Mom's Car for example.  My mom had a 90s vintage Lincoln Continental that even I had to get the owner's manual out to set the clock in.  After a couple years of ownership, we set mom's clock in the car to "Summer Time" or "Daylight Savings Time" and just delayed.  If we were lucky it got close to the time that it would have to Spring Ahead anyway and told her that in a couple weeks it would be fine.

Some time in May or June we'll discover The Last Clock, or the one that had been missed and try to figure out how to set the clock on that.   With all the appliances that we have like ovens and washing machines and phones that don't get set automatically it becomes an annoyance to remember whether you found them all.  I have a Motorola Razr that is unlocked and as a result it must be set manually.  Thankfully it's a "Backup Phone" now.

My dog never really quite gets reset.  She's up like clockwork on Summer Time all year.  Whether you like it or not.  It is fine for the 7 1/2 months that we're in Summer Time, but in the dark days of winter, getting up at 5AM is not pleasant. 

Time is an artificial construct that we all depend on.  But there's a better solution than setting clocks or stubbornly refusing to set your mom's intractable car clock or having to remember to set the Shortwave Radio in the living room... or just how to set the blasted thing.

Just Set It And Forget It.

Simple huh?  We are slowly but surely extending summer.  A week here, a week there.  Why not just hold a referrendum and say the majority wins.  Let odd places like Arizona excluding the Navajo reservations or the Western corners of Indiana not change, but those areas where people live and have to go through this twice a year decide what they want to do and stick to it.

Britain is now discussing "Double Summer Time" where instead of shifting from Standard to Summer Time, it's spring ahead two hours.  Talk about Jet Lag.  You get used to laying in at 6AM but 6AM is really 4AM and then the time shifts back and the dog is getting you up two hours earlier.

So how about it world? Sure there are benefits to Standard Time, just as there are benefits to Daylight Savings Time.  So lets just choose one and stop this all in its tracks! 

What's that I'm hearing?  Is it?  Oh... the sound of crickets and silence....

Oh well, then for now, I've got another bunch of clocks to set...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How NOT to Make Espresso

After commenting on Facebook that I was "contemplating a mug of espresso", I decided to act...

For most people who choose to make the warm beverage of choice, it is usually not a life threatening act.  In my case...  Well just judge for yourself.

It started when I was broken out of the Disco Cave.  I have been listening to all morning on the noise canceling headphones.   Just loud enough to drown out the background noise that is not canceled by the headphones, it makes for a very productive mindset.  Basically it's just good enough that I can't hear people in the house speaking at a normal volume from 10 feet away.  

I had been searching all morning through the job boards for Project Management and Senior positions in the Broward County Florida area and it gets tiresome.   300 pages on a Saturday, 160 every other day.  I decided I needed some of the brown life giving fluid that so enamored itself to me years ago.

Yes, Espresso.

Getting out of the big green chair, I grabbed all the equipment and laid it out on the counter.  I have a can of unopened decaf Cafe Bustelo, my own roasted Hawaiian estate grown coffee, Hazelnut simple syrup, saccharine packets, and some optional leftover from Valentine's Day Whipped Cream. 

Going into the kitchen means that of course, everyone in the house follows.  Kevin got out there and said "I see it's time to make Waffles".  After a quick back and forth, we got the mix that we bought on the clearance rack at GFS, laid out 5 eggs and 1 cup of home churned butter.  The dog decided to come in and look at us with a slight tilt to her head that is leftover from the stroke. 

As I'm looking at her and back to the burners that were warming, I realized that the non stick skillet should not be on the burners since if the thing is scorched, it will kill the parrot.  Bending down, I wrench open the cabinet under the burners and set the skillet on top of the "mulch" that has grown from the collection of baking sheets and pots and pans.   Closing the cabinet, I manage to give blood to the art by scraping my elbow on the little metal doo-dad that holds the door closed too tightly.  While all of this is happening, the skillet falls on my right foot.

At this point, Kevin takes pity on me, and the skillet out of my hand and puts them on the other side of the cabinet, safely.

Step over to the sink and away from the metal mulch and begin to prep the espresso as the burner warms...

I have to open the can of Cafe Bustelo, so reaching into the Idiot Drawer to get the can opener, I'm showing that the world is not built for a man who is 6'4" and built like a baseball player... I stick my hand on a fork that is in the drawer.   To add injury to insult to injury, I manage to stick my hand on the lid of the coffee can as I toss it into the recycling.

Yes, I can see that it will be an interesting morning...

Luckily I manage to scoop out two scoops of Decaf Cafe Bustelo into the Espresso Maker and three scoops of my Hawaiian home roasted coffee to top it off without further injury.  Screwing the water and coffee chamber onto the rest of the maker, it goes onto the now glowing red hot stove. 

Believe it or not, I didn't burn myself!  


The espresso went on without a hitch, but espresso is always made by forcing live steam and boiling hot water under pressure through grounds.   There is a fair amount of steam, bubbling, and aroma that is released into the house.  Toward the end, the maker will sputter and spit out some hot lava of espresso at you so you should make sure that the lid is securely down over the coffee vessel.

I didn't.

Yours truly had to watch.  Oooh Shiny Things.  Brown Coffee syrup! 

It was then that I decided to take a closer look.   If you see me later and notice a small red dot on my right cheek just under the eye, it was at this point that I acquired it as well as a spray of coffee.  211 degrees by my guess.

Cursing at my own confusion, I walked over to the sink and poured the steaming beverage over the Sweet N Low, thus steaming off the rest of my right arm in the process.  Luckily it wasn't a burn, merely a major annoyance...

Ahh Art...

Yeah Drama is an Art Form, isn't it?

Swirling in the big 16 ounce mug, there was 12 ounces more or less of espresso.  I added to it some Hazelnut Syrup, creamer to lighten it, then a nice layer of Whipped Cream to the top and walked it over to the desk. 

After the doorbell rang and I managed to answer it after running through the house pulling up my pants... I had a short talk with Lisa about her impending salmon dinner.  I was able to get back to my big green chair and start on the cooled espresso.

The warm laptop was placed on my lap, and Diva Disco went back on my head with a familiar classic that I remember from the 1970s...

Oh no, not I
I will survive
as long as i know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive...

Good espresso ...