Computer Phobias

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I Have a Thing About Touch Screen Interfaces

As one who has been working with computers since around 1964, I have developed a number of phobias based on problems I have had.

One of my main computer phobias sharply separates me from the millennial generation: I distrust and in fact despise touch screen interfaces. My new Lexmark MC3224 has a touch screen panel for commands that is sheer torture to navigate, unless I had fingers the size of a newborn lemur’s.

The absolute worst is a touch-screen “keyboard” on a 2” x 3” touchscreen that makes it virtually impossible to avoid fat-fingering errors.

A corollary is that I refuse, for the time being, to buy a smart phone. My 74-year-old eyes are not up to deciphering a micro-screen, so I will not even try.

There are certain brands that I avoid because of run-ins, particularly printers. Some people love Epsons and Brothers, but I avoid them like the plague. I have stuck by Hewlett-Packard for many years, and it was unusual for me to buy a Lexmark. (By the way, it’s still working!)

The same logic applies to software. After hours of rage attempting to update Norton Anti-Virus, I have consigned that particular brand to the dumpster. I may soon add AVG because of their predatory marketing of slivers of their security products.

One product that has drawn my contempt over a period of many years is the old Word Perfect word processing system. I have stuck my Microsoft Word and Excel, even when they adopted their stupid ribbon interface a few years ago.

And don’t even let me start on Apple Macintoshes!

 

Printer Hell

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Lexmark MC3224

I have not posted quite so much of late because I have had problems with my computer. My old HP inkjet printer finally died after a new version of Windows 10 was installed. So I ordered a reasonably priced color laser printer and immediately ran into problems.

There are so many ways to connect the printer to the computer that I was nonplussed. I tried first to connect it via USB to the computer. That didn’t seem to work, plus the USB plug didn’t sit firmly enough at the rear of the printer. Then, with the help of my friend Mike Estrin of Network Connections LLC, I tried connecting the printer to the router using Lexmark’s software.

Finally, I bought a network cable and with Mike’s help, hooked the printer to the router using it.using it. Now it finally seems to work without losing the connection or shutting down for no apparent reason.

My fingers are still crossed. My Lexmark has been functioning normally for the last twenty-four hours. I hope it continues to. The printer does produce nice copies, has good color, and is probably cheaper to run than an inkjet with a voracious appetite for expensive ink.

Boldog új évet!

And My Computer Is Now Working!

I will start 2019 with my old office computer, which has been newly updated with additional memory and a new graphics card. Apparently, the computer freezes I described were mostly the fault of the graphics card, which was installed late in 2015.

As long as the Trumposaurus is occupying the White House—or, even, earth, above ground, that is—2019 can’t really be a great year. But we can make the best of things. It’s how we tackle adversity that really counts. We cannot expect to live a live that is devoid of adversity. Real happiness is not the result of living in lucky times: It’s creating our own luck in dicey times.

So, to all my readers, I wish you all the best.

By the way, the title of my post is Happy New Year in Hungarian. All of you, be boldog.

 

Making Slow Progress

A Slow Return to Normal? (I Hope!)

While my computer consultant was out of town during the Christmas holiday, I have made several attempts on my own to understand why my computer would hard-freeze at irregular intervals. During the Christmas holiday, I would start each session with a scan, based on the suspicion that the problem could be the result of a virus or other malware. Whenever I selected the Full Scan option of the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MRT), the system would scan all umpteen million files on my computer in a little more than an hour. After that, the computer would not freeze for the remainder of the session.

Today, my computer has been up for approximately ten hours—a record!

In any case, I will not rely on this little trick, which may in fact be a fluke. I have two computers, both over five years old. My consultant will copy the hard drive on my existing computer, take the other computer to his lab, and install Windows 10. (I have been running Windows 7.) My alternate computer will have all my files (except for changes made in the next few days), and a new operating system. When he returns it, it will become my main computer, which will be fine with me as it has more storage and memory.

With luck, I will be able to resume my blog postings using my MRT trick as described above.

 

Crypto-Economics

Stack of Cryptocurrencies Including Bitcoin and Others

Today was my day downtown. After my mindful meditation session, I took the Dash B bus to Chinatown and had a delicious lunch of Beef in Black Bean Sauce at the Hong Kong BBQ on Broadway. As I ate my lunch, I read a long article in The New Yorker about cryptocurrencies. It was entitled “The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of” and was by Nick Paumgarten. I have held back from the subject because I used to be a computer programmer myself and know how tempting it can be to game whatever system I am designing to my advantage.

People are so mesmerized by the concept of a blockchain because it is something new and edgy. Therefore it exercises a powerful attraction, especially to people who are not quite conversant with the technology.

Do you know what a blockchain is? One can’t advance far into the subject without coming to terms with the concept. Here is a link to a graphic presentation from Reuters entitled “Blockchain Explained”: Click Here. I am familiar with hash codes in search algorithms, so I feel somewhat familiar with the ground. What disturbs me is that human nature keeps rearing its ugly head and leading to the system being easily scammed. Also, I am not happy about ransomware from hackers demanding payment in cryptocurrencies, because the transfer is untraceable by law enforcement.

I am always suspicious about economic activities that require more faith than I am willing to repose in them. There is such a marketing aspect to the whole technology that one feels one were being assailed by timesharing condominium salesmen, as I was when I landed at the Cabo San Lucas airport a couple years ago.

What if cryptocurrencies became more popular than the 1% share of the global financial services market they currently occupy. Even at the current level, blockchain software requires incredible computer power. According to the Paumgarten article:

This year, it is said, the Bitcoin network will use as much energy as the nation of Austria, and produce as much carbon dioxide as a million transatlantic flights. Mining rigs—computers designed specifically to do this work—are thirsty machines. Mining farms tend to sprout up where juice is cheap (typically, in proximity to hydropower projects with excess capacity to unload) and where temperatures are low (so you don’t have to burn even more electricity to keep the rigs cool). There are open-air warehouses in remote corners of sub-Arctic Canada, Russia, and China, with machines whirring away on the tundra, creating magic money, while the permafrost melts.

I can foresee Thomas Pynchon writing a sequel to his Bleeding Edge about this activity. It’s almost as if the subject of cryptocurrencies and the high priests who run them were made to order for him.

As David Chaum, one of the pioneers of cryptocurrency software, once said, “There’s never been, in the history of civilization, this much money aggregated as a result of doing nothing.”

An Excerpt from My Book List

My Excel List of Books I’ve Read Since Early March

I know it’s a little fancy, but I’ve been messing with computers since 1964, when I was a junior at Dartmouth College. There are a lot of abbreviations and symbols which may not make sense, but which I will try to explain here:

  • Col B: A star indicates a new author I have never read.
  • Col D: If an entry is in Italics, I read it on my Kindle. A Commercial-At (@) indicates a re-read.
  • Col H: Either a miniature Guatemalan flag for my vacation reading, or a 2-character country abbreviation. FR=France, AS=Asian, GE=Germany, IS=Iceland, IT=Italy, RU=Russia.
  • Col I: My rating from 0 (worst) to 10 (best).
  • Col K: Genre. FIC=Fiction, MYS=Mystery,BIO=Biography, TRA=Travel, SS=Short Stories, AA=Anthropology & Archeology, SFF=Sci-Fi and Fantasy, DRM=Drama, YAF=Young Adult Fiction, and so on.

The first column is a counter indicating I have read 2,096 works since 1998, when I started. Now that I am retired (for now), I am reading more than ever.