Glutton …


I’m forever downloading free apps for my phone, iPad and even my laptop. I hear or see someone mention some piece of software or app and immediately think “… that might be useful or fun or whatever …” They very rarely are and I usually end up uninstalling the things and questioning what I was thinking!

Here’s an example: I received an email regarding a regular local meeting that was due to be cancelled. Within that email, was a link to what seems to be a ‘collaboration hub’ called Slack. As mentioned I thought “that might be good for…” although I cannot remember what I thought it would be good for. But me being me, I downloaded and installed the software.

I then spent the following hour, firstly trying to understand how to use the program and the next 20 minutes trying to figure out what I would do with it. As a result, I think it is a piece of software that would be useful in a workplace environment or a user group, but I don’t think it was for me. I mean, who do I need to collaborate with?

So I needed to say goodbye and as usual my trusty copy of Revo Uninstaller comes into it’s own. It’s one of the very few pieces of free software that I have kept for a long time. It is so easy to use, and I haven’t used half of the features. I often think I should cough-up and pay for a full copy, but as it works as is, I think I will stick with what I’ve got.

Internet abuse …


You may be aware that I work part-time in a local café. One of the many features of this café, is their free Wi-Fi. The access Wi-Ficode is displayed for anyone to use if you know where to look. Most customers will use the Wi-Fi for what it is there for i.e. so they can check their emails or show someone pictures on their phone, that kind of thing. However, there is an increasing number of customers that seem to visit the café with the sole purpose of accessing the the free internet.

On Tuesday this week, I arrived at work around 10:20, which is my usual time and noticed a customer sat at a 4 seater table. He had his laptop open and was also using his phone. I also noticed he was wearing Mikea pair of headphones and one of those ‘cheek mikes’ that seem to be the norm these days. I hovered around his table for a few seconds before entering the kitchen and realised that he was conducting some kind of interview Customerswith somebody. Over the course of the next couple of hours, he still seemed to be talking to someone and on a couple of occasions, he got quite animated. He eventually left at around 12:45, or at least that’s when I noticed he had gone. From what I could see, he had drunk one cup of coffee and who knows how many glasses of free water. I mentioned to the chef that he had gone and he explained that he had been sat at the table since about 09:00. Just one cup of coffee!! The table staff have been told not to move people on, but to keep asking if they require anything else. They call  it ‘good customer service’. But what about the ‘good customer service’ for the customers who cannot get a seat?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting free Wi-Fi in places I visit, but come on … lets not abuse it.



It comes in three’s …


Luck, that is. Or so people say. Well If it’s right, then I’ve just had my ‘three’ with eBay. The first one, with the mouses (mice … meece…?) was resolved, but since then another two issues have occurred. Both of them are leading up to a successful conclusion, but it’s the time and the trouble to sort out the problem that’s the real issue.

When I bought my new laptop, I did not realise that most do not come with a CD/DVD reader anymore. So it came as a bit of a shock when I found out. ‘No worries’ I thought, they DVD Writerare as cheap as chips on the internet, I’ll just buy a USB  one. The one I found wasn’t the cheapest, but it was a UK seller that appeared to have a good reputation, well from most of the reviews at least. It arrived and it was about a week before I had the chance to try it out. Guess what? It didn’t work. I tried various combinations of connecting, but nothing seemed to have any effect. What was happening was quite strange. I have two stand alone USB hard drives (labelled D: and E:), and when the DVD drive was connected, the E: drive disappeared from the device list. After a few message between me and the seller, we both came to the conclusion that the drive must faulty. It is now just waiting for me to go to the post office and then I can get a refund.

Now comes the third issue. I have an old laptop, which plods along as a spare. It has it’s own printer, which I tend to use for printing text documents. It is not good enough for photos, but it is otherwise Ink Cartridgeokay. Because of this, I usually buy compatible ink cartridges to save cost. The only problem is that the printer does not show the correct ink level, but I can live with that. So when the colour ink ran out, I sought to buy another one. Of course, it had to be eBay again. The company I used was based on the Channel Islands (they all seem to be) and it arrived four days after buying. It came with the usual fitting instructions and a brief trouble shooting guide. Back to the guessing game … it did not work. The printer software was telling me that the cartridge was faulty. I used the trouble shooting guide and tried again. Still no luck. ‘Here we go again!’ I thought. A message to the seller brought a quick response, and after a few more messages back and forth, a replacement is on it’s way. So that’s the three bits of ‘bad luck’ with eBay (hopefully).

I just need the the bits of good luck, and I banking on the National Lottery for that.

More on that to follow.

Never usually bother …


Not quite the whole story … I never bother for small amounts! I’m talking about eBay purchases that go wrong. If the sum is less than £10.00, I tend to put it down to experience ebayand never use that seller again. I have a personal blacklist that I refer to when I’m buying something, and add new sellers that don’t come up to the mark.

About a month ago, one of my computer mice (or is it mouses?) started to fail. It was only a cheap wireless-mouseone, but it had lasted about two years. I thought at first it was just a bad battery, but it wasn’t and it had to be consigned to the “Tech Bin” for disposal when I next go to the recycling site. I started using a wired one, but it’s not the same after a wireless one so I looked on my favourite selling site … eBay! There were quite a few for sale within my price range, but I spotted an seller offering two for the price of one, or ‘make me an offer’. I made an offer, and it was accepted. I was well pleased with myself.

They arrived after about two weeks, and as they were coming from China, I thought that was an acceptable length of time. Now for the crux of the matter … they did not work. Angry FaceThe computer could not see either mouse. The seller started nattering a bit about feedback for the sale, so I simply put in the feedback box ‘Don’t work’ and gave it a neutral rating. I thought no more about it and left it at that. Meanwhile, my original mouse had been borrowed by a friend who had taken it to pieces and cleaned some part or other, and handed it back in full working order.

Skip forward to this morning, and an eBay message from the seller asking if I could amend the Refundfeedback, and he would issue a refund. After a bit of messing around with eBay, the said feedback was amended to something like ‘issue resolved with seller’. Within ten minutes I received an email from PayPal to say that I had received a full refund from the seller. I was surprised to say the least and there has not been a request to return the faulty goods.

So I have now raised an issue with another seller regarding another piece of IT equipment that I’m having a problem with. We shall see how that goes.

It is getting there …


I picked up the new laptop on Thursday. K*** ordered it Wednesday afternoon and it was ready for collection Thursday lunchtime. The thing with Argos and her cash-back site Happy bunny was a non-starter as her cashback site no longer deals with Argos. So that was a bit of a Happydisappointment. But we still managed to get a bit of a discount through her staff credit card (I think!!). So actually I’m what you might call a bit of a “happy bunny” so to speak.

I am now in the process of getting the machine up to the status/position that my last lappy was in. I speak of course about the software and applications that I’m used to. I think I have got to about 90% normal, but I’m fully aware that there will be some stuff I use that I have forgotten.

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Without meaning to get too technical, I decided to shy away from the more common names. The last two machines have been Asus and R*** has an AcerThe new beast. Both Asus machine have failed, but the Acer is doing okay. Other alternative in my price range were Dell and HP, both of which I used to use at work and they were a bit on the hefty side. This time, after reading a few reviews I went for a Lenovo. It has the same keyboard layout as the Asus machine, so R*** would be happy using it and it just looked the better machine.

I was quite surprised how easy it was to set up. Microsoft seems to have put in some work in the user set-up procedure. The machine talked me through the whole process, which is something that has never happened before. So all in all, I’m well satisfied … hope this continues.

Gone to meet its maker I think …


I knew it would happen at some point. It’s been a bit off for a week or two now. Then a week last Thursday, there was a major issue starting it! Before I go further, I need to explain what I’m talking about. My trusty (?) and faithful (?)Laptop laptop gave up the ghost last Sunday. Thursday issue was very scary. The stupid machine just would not re-boot. I had just updated some software and it needed a restart to finish. Some three hours later, I finally managed to get it going. Everything appeared to be working fine, if a little slower than White onebefore. All was good on following Saturday, but then just after R*** had finished his lunch the bl**dy machine started playing up again. Serious this time. It took 5 hours to get from switching on to getting to a usable state. So a bit of a panic to ensure that R*** could use my laptop after his dinner. I managed to get his old laptop up and running and logged in as me. His “old” laptop was the same model as mine, but his was white. There had been a problem with it early last year, whilst on his respite. We think that someone had turned the laptop off during an update, which totally wrecked the machine. In November I read an article about how to update a computer to the latest version of Widows, free. So now the ‘White Laptop’ was running with  Windows 10 and Internet Explorer 11. Panic over and we would be hopefully safe from any problems.

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Last night, I was busy doing a crossword when found I could not work out a word that I did not have all the letters for. “I know,” I thought to myself “I’ll use The Sage” only to find that it was not on this laptop. The Sage The Sage screenshotis a dictionary, thesaurus and anagram solver. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that is what I tend to use it for. I then realised that there were a few programs/applications that I used to use but were not on the ‘white’ laptop. I fired up the old machine to try and identify some of the software that I was missing. This time it only took 45 minutes to start, which was a great improvement on last Sunday. I think I have got all I need, although my full back-up seems a lot smaller than before, so maybe I need to check that.

Can’t believe it worked …


This might get a little bit ‘techy’ so look away now, if you’re uninterested.

The youngest son has two laptop computers. He has an old Windows 7 machine that he keeps in his bedroom. He uses it to watch YouTube videos, and that’s about all. His other machine is a Windows 10 laptop thatNontworking lappy he takes when he is on respite and sleeping away. Some months ago, we got a message that the laptop he took away had a problem. When he got home I found that the machine was stuck in a ‘Repairing Windows’ loop. The IT people at his respite could do nothing with it and neither could I. So for the past six months it has sat at the back of the sofa doing nothing.

Fast forward to the beginning of November and an interesting article on a news-feed that I subscribe to. The article related to updating Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10, for free. The so called ‘offer’ from Microsoft(MS) to upgrade to Windows 10 expired some time last year, but the article explained that it was still available, and it gave instructions on how to get it. After reading the article a few times, I began to think that I may be able to do something with the trashed laptop. At worst it would still be trashed and at best it could  be a working laptop.

I downloaded the files and yesterday I bit the bullet and began the process. I was expecting the task to take 4 or 5 hours, but in the end it took just over 3 hours. It actually worked!! Of course, there were a few issues that made the process difficult. working againNot least, the laptop battery expiring when I was trying to login with my current MS account. By 21:50 the machine was up and running with the latest Windows 10 operating system. As you may imagine, I was beside myself with joy. I could not believe that it had worked. I rebooted the machine again and it was still working. I installed a couple of bits of software that I knew was needed and rebooted aging. Still working !

So I go to bed thinking that I’m a genius.

This morning, with bated breath I switched the said laptop on … still working !! I still can’t believe it worked, but work it did, and I’m one happy, ecstatic, cocky bunny and think I can do anything  !!

Problems still ongoing…


When I started to compose this post at the beginning of the week, the problems I was having with my laptop were indeed ‘still ongoing’. However, and I am touching as much wood as I can find, things seem to be a little better at the moment. Many of the problems seemed to be with my Microsoft Office 365 applications. I was getting a lot of ‘xxx not responding’ messages when using Word, Excel and Outlook which seemed to point to an issue there. Although, other software was often slow to open and close. The internet gave me a few ideas, and one of the more prominent ones was to ‘repair’ my Office application. So I gave it a go, and (here’s when the touching wood comes into play) at the moment it seems to have worked.

Later yesterday, I got what IT people call the “Blue Screen of Death” or BSOD. For those that don’t know, it’s when Windows decides something is amiss, produces and ‘error code’, uploads the code to Microsoft and restarts your computer. I checked out the error code, which told me nothing at all but I was advised to run a system security tool. This tool, called Windows Defender Offline, which is part of the Windows security system, runs a much deeper scan for viruses and malware than the normal scan. It takes about 40 minutes on my laptop and (back to the wood touching again) seems to have done the trick, although I’m not holding my breath.

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I’m going to try a new approach to my posts. For a long time I have been combining the topics I want to say into one post. I usually separate the topics with a divider (as above) and the post can often have 4 or 5 topics. I have now decided to use single topics in each post, and post more often (how many times have I said ‘post more often’). I shall see how it goes.

Problems might just be gone …


For a few weeks now, I’ve been having performance issues with one of my Windows 10 laptops. I’ve uninstalled software that I rarely use, but the issue seems to have remained. What happens is that I’ll be using for example Microsoft Word and suddenly it hangs with the message “Word is not responding” and this will happen three or four times during the session. I end up having to restart Windows and hope the problem has gone away. Often this fixes the issue, but occasionally it doesn’t.

Today, while I was looking at the Task Manager application, I noticed something called ‘software reporting tool’. I had not seen it before and so I ran an online search and discovered that it is a program that checks to see if any software is going to affect the Google Chrome browser. There were reports that it has a high CPU usage when checking and the check often takes 20 minutes or so to run. The date on the file is 4th October which seems to coincide with the second time I had problems. Things seemed to improve after I removed my other printer, but then problems re-emerged a few days later.

The sites I looked at (and I always check a few to see if they say the same thing) told me that the process is not necessary and can be stopped. They also said that Google may restart the process again whenever the Chrome bowser updates. It gave instructions on how to prevent it running and how to prevent Google from restarting it. The instructions for this can be found at https://www.ghacks.net and searching for ‘how to block the Chrome Software reporter tool’.

It may not fix the problem, but the tool sends scan information back to Google, so there may be privacy issues here.

We shall see if there is any improvement.

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On another point, this was written using the WordPress editor on an iPad Mini. I had not thought of that as an option, but it seems to work quite well. I do need to understand how the HTML style tags work for formatting, but there must be a tutorial out there.

 

Must be getting soft …


I recently decided that I needed a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. Never really liked typing on screen as I have more or less grown up with ‘proper’ physical keyboard. So I scoured eBay and found one that looked to Keyboardbe just what I wanted. Not the cheapest and not the most expensive either. It was about the price I was willing to pay so I ordered one. It duly arrived on time and I quickly read the instructions for setting up and pairing with my iPad. That done, I began to look at the features of the keyboard and its basic operating procedures. The first thing I needed to do was to charge it with the ‘ … enclosed micro USB to USB cable …’ and here was a problem. There was no cable! I was not worried as I seem to have more than my fair share of these cable which seem to come with everything. But, I thought, if there is one supposed to be included then there should be one. I decided to message the seller and advise them that the cable had not been included.  I told them that I did not need a cable and that I was just letting them know so that they could contact their supplier in case there was a problem. After a few days I received a very polite reply, apologising for the delay and asking me what I wanted to do. Did I want a full refund or did I want a replacement? The caveat was that I would have to dispose the first unit myself. I emailed back and explained again, that it was only the cable, that I didn’t need another and wasn’t seeking a refund or replacement.

The email had only just been sent, when I had one of those “Doh!” moments. What had I done? The guy was going to either send a second unit or refund my payment. He didn’t want the first one back. So I would have had either a free unit or two units, and I turned him down!  What can I say? Either getting soft or getting too old.

Small steps …


This is going to be a little bit techy/geeky, so feel free to move on.

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to learn a computer programming language. I have had a free programming environment (Visual Studio Community 2017) on all my computers for many years but simply have not had the inspiration to get on and learn something. The bad weather on Thursday suddenly gave me that inspiration. I found an online tutorial called Home and Learn, that went through the basics in Visual Basic.net, but at a pace that wasn’t either too slow or too fast. Many of these tutorials show you how to create the ubiquitous “Hello World” programme. As much of a novice that I am, I think I was past that phase.

So by the end of the day, I had completed a few exercises and had started on a project to build a basic calculator. AndVB Calculator I mean a basic calculator. A calculator that only had a single function … addition. Nothing else … just adding up numbers. By Friday evening, after a few false starts I had successfully built this very simple calculator application. I was feeling very pleased with myself. This self-smugness left me feeling that I could do more. Knowing what I had learnt I felt that it would be not such a difficult task to add another function, such as subtraction. The main issue I had was how to use the coding that I had spent so much time on without losing the initial work. What I needed was a ‘Save as …’ option. But could I find one? It seems that there is no ‘Save as …’ in this version of Visual Studio. I searched the internet but was coming up with various ways that didn’t seem to work for me. I then realised what I needed to do. All that was required was to copy the original project to it’s own backup folder, in another area and then I was free to use the original.

VB Calculator Ver 2Well I won’t bore you with any more details, but after even more false starts than before and a lot of brain-racking I managed to get the subtraction function to work and the calculator now has both an addition and a subtraction button. Can you imagine how much the smugness factor has risen by! I even managed to find out how to make the buttons look like raised buttons instead of the default flat style that seems to be the fashion these days. The next challenge is to add a multiplication and a division button. I’m even thinking ahead for things like a percentage button, but I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself.

At the end of the day though, this not going to get me anywhere. It’s just another hobby that I can enjoy and get satisfaction from.

It’s been a while …


It’s been a few weeks since my last post. No particular reason except laziness really! I tend to post when I have something I want to get off my chest and usually wait until there are a couple of things that rile me. Well there has been some things that have ‘annoyed’ me somewhat, but I’m wanting to break away from the rant style post which may account for the ‘laziness’ I just mentioned. But until then …

I just about survived Christmas, as usual. Saying that, I wasn’t well from Boxing Day to the 29th. I had what I thought was a variation of the Norovirus. I did not have the sickness, but had all the rest. The one thing that seemed to floor me was the lack of energy. On the Friday, I spent the whole day in bed, most of it asleep, which is unusual for me. Lost about 8 pound in weight (sadly not permanent), but by New Years Eve I seemed to be a lot better and by the 2nd I was nearly up to my pre-Christmas weight again!

K*** and me had a trip out to the Designer Outlet at York on Friday. R*** was on respite and was due home that day, so K*** wanted to get out whilst we could. The weather was terrible. One minute it was raining, and the next it was foggy. K*** was driving as I had driven to Harrogate on Wednesday and wanted a rest from it. You know I lost count of the number of cars/vans/lorries that did not have any lights on. Many didn’t even have sidelights switched on. It’s no exaggeration to say that most of them were grey vehicles. So that’s a grey vehicle on a grey road on a grey day! I was told by my driving instructor that those types of day need headlights. I saw one police-car on the whole 25 minute journey and he was at the side of the road eating some food. What cay I say to that?

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K*** (or more accurately, me) has been having issues with her email. She does all her stuff on her iPad which suits her as she has not been much of a fan of my laptops. So ever since the latest update the iPad Mail App has been playing up. Emails have not been showing up when they arrive (as they did before) and I have tried to get it sorted. The problem is that I’m not an Apple expert so I have had to hit Google a lot. The problem was exasperated by the fact that her email client is Sky.com or the be more precise Yahoo! It did used to be Gmail until a couple of years ago and it’s not been the same since. Don’t get me wrong, when Yahoo works, it is very good, but when it doesn’t work there is noting worse. It seems to be a little better now, but she now has to refresh the app and wait until the emails appear now instead of them being there when she opened the app. It also does not help that she never deletes any emails. Still, Yahoo tells us that she space for another 54 million emails, so ‘she’ is not too worried. I may have to do a clear out for her at some point.

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So, in the spirit of blog posts to come (hopefully). Happy New Year

Random Microsoft rant …


Yes, it’s that time again when I have a bit of a rant at, what is arguably the most successful IT companies ever. I have to say, that I/we have a fair bit of personal IT equipment in the house. I have two laptops, three tablets and two smartphones, K*** has a tablet and a smartphone and R*** has two laptops and a tablet. The laptops are all Windows laptops with mine running Windows 10. R***’s laptops are still running Window 7 and 8 respectively, but that is because of the way he uses his computers. He only uses Internet Explorer and YouTube so he has no need for all the ‘whistles and bells’ that later versions bring.

To get to the point. Windows 10 is now ‘provided as a service’ as Microsoft says. This basically means that for home users, there is no choice but to update their computers when Microsoft say so. It is different for business and educational systems, who can refrain from updating if they like. But for us mere mortals, we do as we are told. There are ways around this, but it is often too much hassle.

So on Friday, I noticed that my main laptop was showing that an update was ready to apply. This is what Microsoft called the ’Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’ and is a major update to the system. The main issue I have with this forced update regime is that sometimes Microsoft will remove files that it deems are no longer useful. Now I have a piece of software that I use for my banking. It is what they call ‘legacy software’ which one way of saying outdated. But I call it ‘critical software’ as it suits my purpose and without paying a lot of money, there is nothing similar out there. The same software is on my other laptop, as a backup, which for the past month had been disconnected from the internet in order that it did not update with the possibility of breaking the software. So I bit the bullet and ran the update. It took two and a quarter hours to run! But, in the end, the software ran without issue, so all was good. I now felt that it was safe enough update the other laptop.

It was now 09:30 on Saturday morning. I started up the other laptop and ran the update checker which advised me that there were a number of updates waiting. Clicked on the update button and sat back waiting for it to finish. After about two hours I had a quick look to see what was happening, only to find that two of the updates had failed to install. I did a reboot and tried again. Still nothing. So later in the evening around about 21:15, I ran a utility that cleared some files and tried again. This time I saw that the updates were going through. I turned the screen off and left it too it. I checked about 23:30 and it was still running. It actually finished at 04:20. Just over seven hours to update! Amazing!

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Aaaaaaagh …


This is the closest word(!) I can think of to describe how I felt, when I turned on my main laptop yesterday evening.  The next few words were da*n, sh*t, bug*er, fu*k, bol*cks and many others, far too obscene to even asterisk out!

Yes, the day I had been dreading since early May had arrived. It was the day that the Windows 10 Anniversary update hit my main computer. There was no way of stopping it. I checked my settings, and see that the update had downloaded during the day sometime. Windows was now telling me that it would install the update at 03:10 the next morning. Ah ha …I thought. Windows is expecting me to leave my machine on for the update to take place. I very rarely shut down my laptop, as I prefer to ‘hibernate’ so it does not take too long to start up.

So here is me thinking that if I hibernate, then effectively my machine is not on and as a consequence the update will not happen. I felt that I was in charge. WRONG !!!!!

I came down this morning at around 06:40 to find my laptop was on and had had a proper restart. Those certain words that I had used the evening before had come into play again. The conversation going on in my head was quite something:

     Positive me: The laptop has restarted without an error. That didn’t happen before, so it must be ok.

     Negative me: Means nothing!

     Positive me: Let’s have a quick look.

     Negative me: It will have failed. There’ll be something wrong. Microsoft … pah.

     Positive me: We’ll check tonight.

     Negative me: Mumble, grumble, told you so, mumble, mumble, bl**dy Microsoft etc etc

This argument went back and forth for until I got back home this afternoon and could have a proper look.

It would appear, that all my misgivings were unfounded. Everything ‘seems’ to work as before. That is, that banking app  I was so worried about was working as it should.

Maybe, I’ll sleep better tonight!