Friday, April 21, 2017

The Square Peg - I’ve Got Hardware, But My Software’s Floppy

The Square Peg - I’ve Got Hardware, But My Software’s Floppy
© S. Bradley Stoner

 Image result for Angry computer images

My oldest is being helpful. Yep, he decided I was living in the computer stone age. The old reliable computer I have used for the past eleven years apparently was too slow for him. It is for me sometimes too. Being on the cutting edge of computer technology, he decided to buy a government computer from surplus and rebuild it for me. It has a quad core Intel processor with a half terabyte hard drive. That means it is fast and can store a lot of stuff. Matter of fact, it can store everything I have on my current hard drive, my external hard drive, and still have plenty of room to spare.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like fast with lots of storage. I use a lot of program, some for my writing, some for research, and some for landscape and architectural design. Yeah, I know, I’ve got a lot of interests. Anyway, he also installed two monitor cards... you know, the fancy kind they use for gaming. I don’t game, but I do like the high resolution they offer. But, there was a problem. The cards are for DVI monitors. I have VGA. The connections didn’t fit. I told him about that.

“Well, that’s no problem,” he said. “You just need to get a couple of adapters. You can get them from Amazon. I’ll send you the link.”

Okay, one problem solved. On to the next. Once I get the adapters, I proceed to remove my old computer, replace it with the new tower, tighten all the bracket fittings (I have an under the desk mounting system) and plug all my connections into their corresponding receptacles in the new box. I turn it on. Poof! It’s up and running. Only it has Windows 7 loaded. I had a disk for Windows 8. Hey, why not be as new as I can without going out and purchasing new software? Yeah... I know. Cheap. By the way, to be honest, I don’t like either one. I like XP, but the new computer won’t load that... it’s out of date. Can anyone tell me why, when a company produces a software that is very user friendly and completely meets ones needs, they have to create something new and then suspend supporting the old one? Oh, shut up. I know it’s about revenue. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

So, I get 8 loaded up and, of course, I have to register with MicroMush. I don’t mind doing that, I’ve beta tested some of their software with my developer’s membership. They ended that program a couple of years ago, but more about that later. Back to the registration. I duly filled in all the info they wanted. Then you know what they do? They send me a message that I have to go to my email and get a code to enter a password. Okay, I can do that. So I did. Of course I had to do it from my laptop, because when I rebooted after the installation and registration, I had a little Icon with a generic profile picture on it with a password box underneath and it wouldn’t let me in until I entered the password. Twenty minutes later, I actually got on my new computer.

Okay... software loading time. I had a copy of Office 2013 from the old developer days. I know, I’ll load that! So I did. It asked for the code key. No problem... I had one... again from the developer days. I put it in the little box. You know what I got? “This is not an authorized Microsoft...” blah, blah blah. Apparently the viability of my developer code key was ended when they ended the tech program. What a crock! It’s that revenue thing again.

Well, I could buy 2013 for anywhere from $90 - $375 from a second party on Amazon or eBay, but guess what? The cheap copies are “unavailable.” Nuts. I could get Office 365 for only $99... per year! Wow, that sounds like a good deal, right? Um, no. I bought my original Office for around $275 and upgraded three times for a total of about another $200 for a grand total of $475. I’ve had the final version of that program for six years now. Six years of “leasing” Office 365 will run just shy of $600. Of course they will tell you that you get automatic updates to the program. Yeah... and then you have to go to the tutorial to find out how to use whatever it was they put in their update. Geez!

My oldest called me yesterday to wish me a happy birthday. I told him about my issues with MicroMush.

“Oh, no problem,” he chirped. “I have a copy of a newer version of Office with a valid code key. I’ll send it to you on Monday.”

Sigh. So, I’ll be setting up the new system on Monday... in the meantime, what am I writing this on? My laptop? Nope. I’m using old reliable. I’ll let you know how things go.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Square Peg - I Thought You Were Dead

The Square Peg - I Thought You Were Dead
© S. Bradley Stoner

Let me start out by saying it’s been a long couple of weeks. I was planning on working on one of my books. Apparently the Fates had other ideas. A fellow author asked me to edit his soon to be released SciFi novel. Then a colleague asked me to review an ISO 14001 plan and matrix. You might say, “Poof! There went two weeks.” Yep, it was gone, shot to pieces, and I didn’t get a blog or a single paragraph on one of my books written.

Not only that, but my sweetie decided it would be nice to put a couple of bird feeders out. Boy, was that a mistake. Well, maybe not. I do enjoy watching the birds whenever I manage to take a break. Wow! I didn’t know how many different birds we had in the neighborhood. Purple Finches, House Finches, Gold Finches, English Sparrows, White Crowned Sparrows, White-winged Doves, Mourning Doves, Inca Doves, Cardinals, and even Red-winged Blackbirds. That’s the list of seed eaters I’ve cataloged and that doesn’t count the bug eaters like Grackles, and Wrens. I found out they tell all their friends about feeders. I counted over 70 birds in my back yard the other day.., okay, I estimated. Who knows how many were hiding in the bushes and trees? And, boy do they eat!

We went through two ten pound bags of seed in about three days. Being economy minded, my sweetie comes home from a shopping trip a day later with this 50-pound bag of sunflower seeds. I don’t know how long that’s going to last. The little chirpers go through two feeders-full a day. Oh, and that doesn’t count the local squirrel who also happens to like sunflower seeds. Does anyone know how to keep a squirrel out of one’s bird feeders? I swear, the little buggers are contortionists, not to mention persistent. But I digress. Back to the point of this tale.

We’ve been having beautiful weather punctuated by thunderstorms. This, of course, in south-central Texas means the grass and just about everything else grows. Yep, mowing and trimming season has arrived. So, two days after our last shower, I knew I’d better get busy before I had to hack my way to the door. I opened the garage, gassed up the mean green machine, and trundled it down the driveway, fully intending to mow my lawn. About then my neighbors noticed something different in the neighborhood. Yep... me.

Bingo Bob was the first to arrive on the scene. It seems he always does.

“Holy crap!” Bob exclaimed. “I thought you were dead!”

“I was,” I quipped, “but I decided to come back and haunt you.”

For a second there, I thought Bob was going to poke me, just to be sure. Bob’s a little superstitious... and he watches those paranormal investigator programs on TV. It makes him a bit weird at times. Well, he’s weird all the time, but he’s particularly weird about ghosts. It’s probably why he decorates his yard so elaborately on Halloween.

He eyed me suspiciously. “Where were you for the last two weeks?”

“Geez, Bob, I thought Duncan was the cop on the block.”

“Wha... Oh, very funny. I’m not the only one who wants to know,” he persisted. “Everybody I talked to was sure you’d bought the farm.”

I looked at my lawn. “Well, I am about ready to make hay, so I suppose you could consider this a farm.”

“Cripes! Be serious!”

“I don’t know how,” I replied.

About that time Duncan showed up. “Damn!” he declared. “Bob said he heard you were dead.”

I groaned and eyed Bob. “And where did you come up with that?”

You can tell when Bob is lying. He shuffles his feet, digs the toe of his shoe at the ground, and mumbles.

“Somebody told me... um... don’t remember who....”

I heard footsteps pounding on the sidewalk. Charlie was hurrying to join our growing little group.

“Good golly!” Charlie said loud enough for the folks on the next block to hear. “Bob said you were dead!”

This was getting to be a bit much. “Do I look dead, Charlie?”

Charlie scratched his thinning hair and said, “Well, no... you look pretty lively to me.”

About this time, old Bob was starting to feel just a little uncomfortable. Just about that time Patti Peeksalot comes striding by on her late morning walk. She gives me a startled look and then glares at Bob.

“You said he was dead!” she sputtered accusingly, then turned to me. “You aren’t dead! Why not?!”

I have to admit, that took me aback just slightly. “I’m not? Well crap... that means I have to keep paying taxes!”

“Do you know what this means?”

“Maybe you should develop a healthy skepticism when Bob tells you something?” I suggested.

“No!” Patti snapped. “It means I have to go and tell everybody that you’re not really dead! That’s going to make me look foolish!”

“Not as foolish as it would if people found out on their own,” Duncan offered.

Bob sniggered.

“What are you laughing at?!” she demanded of Bob. “You’re the one who started this!”

“Maybe,” Bob admitted, “but I wasn’t the one who telegraphed it all over.”

A fight was brewing and I didn’t think my yard was the best place for it. I yanked the cord on my mower and the mean green machine roared to life. It was happily munching my grass when I looked back to see the row had moved to Bob’s yard. Better his than mine.

I just finished mowing. I think I’m going to go watch the birds and then take a nap.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Square Peg - Robocalls, Round Two

The Square Peg - Robocalls, Round Two
© S. Bradley Stoner

I’ve had it. After a brief, and I mean very brief, lull those annoying robocalls have started up again. I don’t know if it is because of some search I did on the Internet, or some national demographic survey, but now I’m getting calls from medical supply (or so they say) companies. Hey bozos, I’m not falling apart! And I’m not feeble minded, tinged with old timer’s disease, or forgetful.

I didn’t call you about a back brace, so stop with that, “We’re returning your call about the brace you ordered.” I didn’t order one. And, yes, I had a round with diabetes, but I’ve been off all medication for five, going on six years. My blood sugar is just fine, so I don’t need any of the crap you’re trying to sell me. And quit telling me your name is Sally or Bob. I recognize a Bombay accent when I hear it. So don’t be surprised when I hang up on you.

Oh, and who targeted me for catheters? Huh? I don’t and never have had any issues in that area. Hell, I don’t even like those aged-friendly ads on TV that encourage folks to try their catheter sample pack, assuring you that you’ll find one that is comfortable and easy to use. Why do they allow that crap on TV anyway? If you have issues in that area, see your doctor for crying out loud. I don’t want to know about it.

“Have you been tested for Hep C? You know, one in three baby boomers has Hep C and it can hide in your body for years...” Yeah, yeah, and blah, blah, blah. I don’t have that either, so peddle your papers somewhere else.

As a result of a drawing where I registered at a nearby mall, I’ve won a fabulous cruise for two. Really? I haven’t seen the inside of a mall for oh, I don’t know, maybe two years. And I don’t register for anything in a mall. That’s just their way of collecting your contact information. So, no, I’m not agreeing to the terms and conditions for this fabulous free cruise... and you’re not getting any of my personal info, especially not my credit card number, but if you’d like to give me yours... click.

“This is a follow up call to your request for information... for Spanish press 2. Did you know they don’t have a button selection to “blow up the call center?” I know, I’ve listened to all the options. They don’t have a “Go to the devil” button either. They really need to include that option. I’ll bet it would become the favorite button to punch. I’d wear the number right off.

The one I really hate starts off, “Do not hang up... this is not a solicitation. Your credit card...” Um, if it ain’t a real person, I’m not taking calls about my credit card. From anybody. Ever. Period. Got it? Unlike a lot of folks, I actually review my bill. If there is something awry, trust me, I’ll contact my credit card company. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to wait due to them “experiencing an unusually high call volume.” That, by the way is a load of crap too. What they’re experiencing is under-staffing. It’s a common problem in the electronic age.

After fielding all those political calls last year, I thought I’d get a respite. Wrong. Not only is there a local election looming here, apparently the lobbyists feel the need to call me to get me to call my representatives in Congress to express my support for whatever it is the lobbyists happen to be pushing at the time. Here’s a clue... if I want to voice my opinion on a political issue, I’ll do it directly, not at the behest of some voice on the end of a telephone connection. And oh by the way, you’re not getting my credit card number either and I’m not making a contribution to save the twerps or whatever it is you felt the need to ring me up over.

Just because we’re in the electronic age doesn’t make it okay for all you telemarketers to program my number into your computer dialer and connect me to your canned spiels. It’s bad enough that you fill my spam file with your crap. It went to the spam file for a reason... maybe somebody can invent a spam file for the telephone. The minute it detects an auto-connection, zippety zoo zah, right into the telephone toilet bowl. What about it, all you electronic wizards out there? At a paltry price of five cents per customer per month, you’d make a fortune. On the other hand, I’d probably get a robocall offering me the service.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Square Peg - Greenis Envy

The Square Peg - Greenis Envy
© S. Bradley Stoner

Bingo Bob was in fine fettle this morning. It wasn’t even ten o’clock and his red nose and rosy cheeks told me all I needed to know. Yep, he started celebrating early. I saw him sauntering down the street, aimed right at me. Oh great. It was too late to run and I couldn’t pretend I hadn’t seen him. He was hard to miss on the light gray cement of the sidewalk. You might say he provided contrast. Now if he had walked on the lawns, that might have been a different story. If you haven’t guessed at this point, Bob was decked out in bright Irish green. Green shirt, green knickers, green jacket, green striped socks, shiny black shoes, all topped off with a green top hat encircled by a black band with a gold buckle. He looked like a deranged leprechaun.

“Top o’ the marnin’ to you!” he lilted.

“Bob, I hate to tell you this, but your accent is off... you sound like you tripped in a Boston bar and fell into a kettle of cod. Besides, you’re of Italian and German ancestry, aren’t you?”

“T’day we’re all a bit o’ the Irish!” he proclaimed with a broad sweep of his hand.

About that time, Duncan, seeing the green apparition from his front porch, came up behind Bob. Duncan can be stealthy when he wants to. “LOSE YOUR RAINBOW, DID YA BOB?!” he fairly shouted, causing Bob to jump about two feet in the air, which is no easy feat given Bob’s weighty attachment to Mother Earth.

Bob whirled on Duncan. Even with the shock of surprise, Bob maintained his horrible impression of an Irish accent. “Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph... didn’t ya know it’s bad play to sneak up on an Irishman?” he demanded.

I snickered. Duncan sneered.

“Irish? You’re about as Irish as I am Hottentot! Although I will allow that, for a Jerseyite, you’re about as full of blarney as they come,” Duncan snorted.

About that time there was a little shift in the wind and the scent of Irish whiskey wafted up my nose. I waved my hand in front of my nose to scare the devil away. “Been hitting the Jameson already? It’s a bit early, isn’t it?”

“I had an Irish coffee this morning,” Bob said defensively, although I have no idea why. He’s never been apologetic about partaking of the divine sauces as long as I’ve known him.

“More like two or three,” Duncan said, backing up a couple of steps.

Bob stuck out his chin. “Well, it’s a national holiday! I’m entitled,” he declared. “’sides, we get the day off and, like they say, it’s five o’clock somewhere in the world.”
“You get the day off?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, everybody does, don’t they? Like I said, it’s a national holiday. It’s on the calendar and everything.”

“Might be a national holiday,” Duncan offered, “but it sure as Sam Hill isn’t a federal holiday. I don’t know of any businesses that give their employees Saint Patty’s day off... at least not with pay. Hope you asked for the day off. Remember what happened when you took the first day of Oktoberfest off?”

I nodded in agreement. “I’d call in sick right now, if I were you.”

“You guys are kidding, right?” Bob said nervously.


“Not a chance.”

“But there are parades and everything... just like the fourth of July.” Bob’s face, now creased with worry, turned a bit redder.

Charlie stopped on his way home, took one look at Bob and asked, “What’s the matter Bob, somebody steal your Lucky Charms?”

“Naw, we just told him that today isn’t a federal holiday... and he doesn’t get a paid day off,” Duncan grinned.

Charlie shook his head, “Boy, talk about the luck of the Irish...”

“What’s that mean?!” Bob demanded.

“I was just thinking about the potato famine...”

“Ah,” I interjected, “there’s the old history teacher!”

“The what?” Bob looked annoyed.

“You know, the big reason so many Irish immigrated here,” Duncan said.

“You learn well, Grasshopper,” Charlie rejoined.

“Hey,” I offered, “grasshoppers are green too... wonder if they get the day off?”

Bob started to fume. “You guys are all...”

“Don’t say it, Bob,” Duncan warned, “or you’ll be contributing to the swear jar again.”
Bob threw a dollar at Duncan and finished his sentence. “...assholes! By the way... that dollar is green too, so if you pin it to your shirt, maybe nobody will pinch you.”

Bob eyed me.

“Don’t even think about it Bob, I’m standing on my lawn.”

“Not to mention, he’s holding a shovel,” Charlie added.

Bob frowned, spun on his heel and headed home, calling over his shoulder, “You know what you guys have got?”

“What’s that, Bob?” we chorused.

“You’ve got greenis envy, that’s what!”

Happy Saint Patty’s Day, y’all!