Thursday, April 24, 2014

Long weekend

Off to North Nofolk to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

Via Northumber1and. Ahem.

All recommendations for any good places to eat, or visit, in NN welcome. We're staying near Fakenham.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's England Day!

And there is plenty for St George to be cross about in this country.

The colour of the governmint is totally irrelevant these days. While MPs and senior civil servants (who, let's face it, are largely responsible for the legislation), have no experience in business, not much (in many cases) of life outside their cosy confines, it will continue to be the same old, same old, driven by corporate and financial greed - fed by the unrelenting me-me-me-ness of the Selfie Generation - with no regard to the long-term consequences.

We are only custodians of our homes, our land, and our planet, for the brief few years we exist. Too many people are doing too many irrevocable things, without thought for those who will inherit the mess they leave behind.

The latest scheme, of which I was blissfully unaware until delcatto pointed it out: the plan for HMRC to sell people's financial data. At least with the NHS similar scheme, one had the option to opt out (and one doesn't have to use the NHS)...


Monday, April 21, 2014

Free kitten for every reader

Mr BW says that there are at least 9. Given that they are ten feet up in the workshop rafters, and four feet back from any human access point, it is really hard to tell. He's not quite sure how the two mothers are dividing them up, or if they actually know whose are whose (they all seem to be part of a glorious furry black pile), but, it adds a whole new perspective to the "that child has two mummies" issue, doesn't it?

So, there should be just enough to go round, even if Debster takes her allocated quota of 3.

Alternatively, we might have to move in order that we have enough barns for them all. And even then we might not have enough cats for the rats and mice.

We woke up very early this morning, and the grey and rain of yesterday had been replaced by the promise of a better day, so we decided to go and check out the largest boot sale left in the area. Because, well, we might have cause to devest ourselves of some stuff, and we need to know what's what these days. We used to go a lot, most weeks in fact, years ago, when we first moved here, but it must be a good 5 years since we strayed anywhere near one.

There seemed to be a glut of fishing rods, and the only stuff that seemed to be selling (like hot cakes) was clothing. I couldn't believe that people (almost all Eastern Europeans) would pay £1 for an old t-shirt or sweatshirt (*looks pointedly at over-stuffed wardrobe, and considers sorting it out*).

Sadly, depsite our best intentions, we came back with some stuff: tools, glasses, old bottles, almost brand-new hen feeder, all for less than a fiver in total, so defeating the purpose of our visit.

Were we not currently residing in the Land of the Undecided, we'd have bought a lot more.

The troughs by the pond are just going over, but they have looked good for over a month now.

And, in terms of signs, I know today's Google Doodle is meant to be Charlotte Bronte (well, I do now, I had to look it up), but couldn't it be a BW by a house in a very isolated place?

Posted at 11:47 AM | Comments (8)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

Tired of breaking spades, even ones sold as 'indestructible', doing not-very-heavy tasks, yesterday Mr BW forged himself one that will never bend. It's so heavy that I can't even lift it.

Here it is from another angle. It's made for a giant, rather than someone who is 5' 10" (me) or 6' 3" (him). For leverage purposes, I'm told. And, apparently, with a lower edge sharp enough to cut one's foot off. I could think of other uses for it...

We now have 4 new children.

We skipped the 'chick' stage this year, and went straight for 17 week olds (the 2 grey and 2 black ones at the back of the photo: one speckledy, one French grey, and two maran cuivree). Two weeks on, they might get around to laying eggs soon.

This is all 17 of our current children earlier in the week before we moved them from the lawn, where they have been weed-and-feeding for the winter, back to the orchard with the b33s (all 6 colonies strong and doing very well for the time of year).

And, in other news, we have new kittens. They arrived in the night, in the heights of the rafters.

I'd rather not have new kittens yet as the two mothers are only 11 months old. I blame Mr BW.

Just before we went on holiday, two black cats got shut in the workshop for the night, as usual. In the morning one black cat was outside the workshop door. We couldn't work this out, and it happened again a couple of days later. Now, we have realised that there is a third black cat (which could well be the black son of PVC the tabby who disappeared and was never found, a couple of years ago).

There are two mothers and at least two kittens in that picture. Black cats do not photograph well. I've tried lightening it up a bit, but I still can't work out what is what. We can't reach them, but they all seem to be OK, so we won't disturb them for a couple of days.

Yes, there are rather a lot of new black and grey things around here. It's strange how the colours one chooses reflect one's mood.

Lots going on, and lots of far-reaching decisions to make. Amidst everything else, I could really have done without all the hassle of technology failure. Still looking for all the places to tweak things back to how I like them. And how to get email aliases working in Thunderbird. We've read every page on the internet about that, and it still doesn't work.

If only I could settle for standard normal... and if only property developers didn't tell lies, and the planning department in this area was staffed by people who could do their jobs properly, and weren't scared of specialist planning consultants threatening them.

Now, should we go or should we stay?


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Technology is now too complicated for many people

Found this article from the Guardian last autumn which perfectly illustrates the points I was rambling on about yesterday:

What are the options for elderly internet users?

If you are ageing, or have cognitive or sensory difficulties, or problems with fine motor co-ordination (ie hand and arm movements) computer technology is just too complicated.

When I went over to PC World (I know, I know, but there was really nowhere else) yesterday afternoon to pick up the barebones computer (this one, in case anyone else wants a sensibly-priced simple life) that had been delivered there (why they could deliver to a shop by courier in 17 hours but not to my home until next week baffles me), there was a long queue of people awaiting 'tech support'. From snippets of conversation I overheard, seemingly mostly for Windows 8 problems. Probably a dozen people, mostly clutching older looking PCs and laptops, that had obviously been updated from XP or an earlier OS and they weren't at all happy. One 50-something woman who'd bought a new PC last week was telling them in a very loud voice that she wanted a refund, and the old one she'd taken in for disposal back. They were trying to convince her to find someone to show her how it worked. "That's my point!" she screamed, "I have been using computers for 15 years and I shouldn't NEED to get my grandson to show me how it works!" The queue made sympathetic noises.

Microsoft's biggest con for a long time, discontinuing support for the OS on a quarter of the world's PCs and peddling myths about vulnerability that many took seriously and immediately acted.


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Friday Questions

(There are questions right down at the end of this missive that you may be able to kindly help me with if you haven't got the time or inclination for a long brain-dump for posterity saga...)

Where have the nearly 6 weeks since we got back from South Africa gone?

Ah, now, wait, that's probably the question you've been asking, isn't it?

Earlier in the week I said this to someone who asked: "Sorry to worry you folks - quite a lot of 'things that unfortunately can't be blogged about as they would Google too easily' and there would be far too many swear words in them - all externally driven and all outside of our control/ability to solve going on, plus technology is giving me a hard time, and my default/coping mode these days is to walk away."

Yesterday the technology malfunction turned into a technology total failure. Yes, XP support ended on Tuesday, but, given that a quarter of the world's computers still use it (including most of those in the developing world, and many of those used by small businesses, which lack of finance means won't be updated any time soon), one would hope that the OS on my main PC wouldn't refuse to boot the very next time that it was turned on. Coincidence maybe, but I knew as I clicked the button that I shouldn't have downloaded the last 'update' for XP that Microsoft released. I have a strong suspicion that update said "KILL COMPUTER" (although there is no evidence for this from other reports according to Google). Or else it was the computer's heart taking umbrage at me looking at an article on changing to Linux.

I don't know who technology is meant to help. It surely isn't the user. Most of it is now just too complicated for 90% of its users, 90% of the time.

I hate the new car I got at the end of October, because it doesn't work/drive as well as the 13 year old model it replaced, and the controls and displays are hard-to-use, unintuitive to set up, and mostly just totally unnecessary. Not to mention downright dangerous to attempt to use while driving along.

I hate new computers, mostly because they come pre-installed with loads of crap (eg 'free' trial versions of software) that can never be completely cleared. But also because 'support' (and later, spare parts) is only available on premium rate numbers from little men in Mumbai, who know less than I do, reading from scripts in some language that is not what I'd call English.

The main reason I put off buying a new PC, despite increasingly frequent problems making it obvious that it was increasingly urgent to so do, was because I have lots of old software that I know doesn't run on anything other than XP. Several of the programs are no longer produced, and use file formats that are obsolete, so unreadable by any other newer program. This software is needed for all our leaflets, letterheads, cards, jar labels, and, mostly, my second brain - aka my 18 years of carefully filed emails, that are in .dbx format that is now totally unreadable in anything but Outlook Express. Ergo, most of what I need to do on a computer these days.

After past computer disasters, all my data is on external hard drives. One for pictures and the other for documents. The few bits of data that went onto the PC were fully backed up just before we went away. So, as I've had that machine on maybe 4 or 5 times in the past 5 weeks, I've lost very little data. The only important and irreplaceable thing is some recent email discussion with Defra about preservation of h3dg3rows in rural areas that don't exist on my netbook email - and that is a huge loss in the light of current sad developments in this area. And all the passwords which were auto-stored in the system, are now only stored within the ginormous email files, inaccessible by anything other than OE, which doesn't run on Win7 or Win8. Paper is best, of course, but I lazily gave up diligently keeping the card index about 5 years ago. Some is there, but it's incomplete.

Changing passwords involves knowing where to go to get a new password sent by email, and which email address one has registered with in the first place. As soon as a new password is generated, access to that site is then blocked from any other device (which has autostored the password), until one has reset the password. The new password that one may or may not manage to retrieve from email. Which may or may not be accessible if you don't know the password to webmail.

Modern technology certainly isn't made for anyone with any kind of physical or eyesight problem.

I can't use touch screens reliably (my fingers are too dry and too cold). I can't always co-ordinate the two sides of my body well enough to use a trackball (especially when I am tired). I can't read small screens. So, I need devices operated via keyboards and mice, with large screens that don't flicker (ie the Sony screen that I currently have), and the ability to run voice activated software.

No-one will ever persuade me that cloud storage or web-based email is the way to go. My data and my security are much better under my control. I'd rather use my own domains' email facilties and download everything to my own machines.

No-one will ever persuade me that Windows 8 is a good idea (even the 8.1 version where Microsoft begin to acknowledge the error of their ways in attempting to force a visual touchy interface on users who would have bought iCrap if that's what they'd wanted).

But, those who make technology don't want me to work in the way that has worked wonderfully for me for the past 19 years. They think they know what is best for me, but they don't. Plus, I know far too much about Big Brother's Brothers' nasty surveillance habits to want to follow the pack.

Now, yesterday I spent more time on the internet than I've spent, in total, in the past couple of months. The day, planned for planting, wool carding and holiday photo filing, had to be surrendered to research and finding and ordering new hardware and software. I was bemused by how frequently Mr BW and I, working independently, on separate machines in separate rooms, came up with the same potential solutions to the same questions.

I'm more and more frustrated by the difficulty in finding good information when searching the internet. I have Google set up to return 100 results, rather than the default 10, and I have every adblocker and popupblocker known to Witchkind, but, even so, by the time that one has trawled through all the advertising and the paid-for-dross forced up the returns list by paid-for unscrupulous SEO, it's really hard to find good info written by real people who know what they are talking about. One can't even trust blog posts these days as some people have no scruples and will say anything if they're sent a freebie or sponsored text to publish.

Anyway, we eventually decided to go with the cheapest, most basic solution, first. If that doesn't work, or doesn't work well enough, we will try something else. But, why pay high hundreds for something that one will never use to its potential?

Hopefully by 7pm tonight I shall have everything I need to solve the Main PC problem. New blank barebones PC. Copy of Windows 7 Pro (which should be able to run my old software in its XP mode). (Aside - why is Win7 software twice the price of Win8, and why have Microsoft restricted its availability to non-physical-premises sources? Things are usually cheaper when they have been superseded). Mr BW can get a (legitimate) download of Office 2013 for £8.95 through work. I/we have set up many PCs in my time, including ones running Win7.

I have loads of links to 'useful information' saved from yesterday's research, but, I'm just wondering if anyone has any first-hand personal experience or recommendations on:

  1. Installing Windows 7 Pro onto a blank barebones PC (NB the required answer isn't 'don't try'; despite info saying it's put disc in, let it do its stuff, then search for any missing drivers, I have already been warned ;)) And... once one has installed the Win7 OS on a barebones PC, how does one get online to download a browser (ie FF), without a browser?

  2. Email client (Pop3, not web based, and definitely not googlemail, yahoo, hotmail or any other similar product). I have Thunderbird on my 2nd Netbook that already runs Win 7 (the only machine that is still reliably working), but I failed miserably to set it up effectively so don't use it. I could use Outlook - presuming it comes in Office 2013, I've not checked - (just for email, don't need all the other included junk), or get something else. I need to be able to set it up to send out of various (of my own domain) addresses that aren't the one that receives messages. Future-proofing the file storage format, so that the current situation doesn't recur, is high priority here.

  3. (Which may be tied to 2) Importing Outlook Express .dbx format files into an email client that uses a different file format (it can be done, I have lots of instruction links saved, it's just which is the easiest and most reliable way).

  4. Best firewall, antivirus, antispyware, anti-popup, anti tracking, anti-all-advertising programmes. I've been using (successfully and without problem) the free versions of AVG virus, Zone Alarm firewall, Ghostery and a couple of others I can't remember. But I have no idea what is current thinking, or what works well on Win7. Free, but no advertising or nasty data collection potential (I know that there is never any such thing as a free lunch, but...)

All comments from anyone else who finds the evolution of technology utterly unhelpful and unnecessary for anyone seeking a simple life, doing just basic things, and preferring to make their own entertainment rather than expecting it to come out of a box, are welcomed ;) It's not that I don't know the potential of what it will do... it's just that I neither want, nor need, it to.

Comments about iCrap or online storage or Windows 8 being better will be subject to spells and/or deleted. Presuming that I can find the necessary passwords to so do ;)


Monday, April 7, 2014

Thought for the day

We live in an age of digital dementia causing us to turn to a keypad for our every requirement. This overlooks the fact that you can converse five times faster than you can type.

- Mike Gooley