From then to now …


With Christmas out of the way, I was now waiting for my transfer date. It had been my understanding that I was to move straight after the holiday. However, because of some delay with software I was to be testing. It was mid February when I took up my temporary position. The software was intended for residents so that they would be able to know when their bins were due to emptied.

Everything started well. I was able to work with my old team more easily than before, with being on the same site. The testing I was to work on was quite easy. The software company had listed the steps that were needed to do the tests, and it was simply a case of run through the list, making notes, until it broke. And ‘broke‘ it did! Often! When we came up with a problem, the full detailed notes were sent off and we waited for the next version to be delivered. This went on for about 6 months before the first beta version was put out for external testers. More problems were reported and so it went on. The testing and re-testing plodded on for a full year. Each time an issue was raised then a new version was produced, and the time it took to produce the latest beta was taking longer and longer. It was February 2016 when the first final version was put ‘on the shelves’ and could be downloaded.

Alongside this I was also working testing parts of the internal system and helping sort the IT problems that were happening with the Parking team. I was also expected to pick up some of the Housing IT issues, but I could always find a reason to miss these.

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Then came the moment, I was dreading. I was being recalled back to the main site, to carry on my main work. I was not happy and on the 29th February 2016 I was back in the City Centre office. But by now I had a little more knowledge and it was a little easier. The downside was that the person who had helped me the most, had been seconded to another team and didn’t have much time to help me. It was back to being helped by my old adversary “Nellie”.

But … things were about to change…

From then to now … difficult days


I was now back as a full time help-desk operator and I’m struggling. I had been more or less thrown in at the deep end. I had explained before I went into hospital, some 4 months previous, that I was going to need to retraining. But when asked again I was told that there was no individual training. The Government cuts to the Councils budget was beginning to hit hard and the only training that was available was the old school “sitting with Nellie!’ Now this would have been fine if so called ‘Nellie’ had any sort of patience. This ‘Nellie’ was the colleague that wanted the job that I got, so you can imagine that there was a little bit of animosity going on.

I plodded on through the next couple of months and managed to let colleagues believe that I knew what I was doing. In reallity, I was bluffing it. There was a few things that I did know, but these were the easy things that I tended to miss. One of my colleagues realised what was happening and began to take me under their wing. She pulled out a lot of training manuals and told me to ask if there was anything I needed. I found out months later, that she had been asked to help me by the service manager. I was still struggling, but it was starting to get easier.

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Then came the Christmas shutdown. That’s when the Council made non-essential office staff take leave from Christmas Eve to January the 2nd. But, just before that holiday, I was told that I was to be working on another project. I was to be part of the Waste Collectors team (bin men). The Council were developing some software to monitor the amount of waste that householder put in their waste bins. I was transferring back to the office where I had been working for years in the Parking Service. I had come home.

The project should last a year and I was back amongst real (sic) friends.

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.

Giving it another go …


At the end of last year, in fact my last post of the year I mentioned that I was going to stick with Open Live Writer as opposed to the WordPress block editor. I was also occasionally using BlogPad Pro on my iPad. But things have changed a little since then.

I had read about my sites Media Library and decided to have a look and see what was in there. I was rather shocked to find that most of the images I had uploaded for my posts had duplicates. They didn’t appear to be taking up much space, but I wanted to know if it was ‘the norm’ to have duplicated images.

I posted a query on the WordPress forum and after a few questions and answers, it became clear that it was the desktop software (Open Live Writer and BlogPad Pro) that were causing the images to duplicate. It looks like a thumbnail image was being created when the main image was uploaded which was linked to the main image. As I understood it, deleting the thumbnail image would prevent the main image from showing or something like that.

The crux of it all was that the only way to prevent this happening was to use the block editor. It was also suggested, that as I prefer to use desktop software to write a post, that I should use the WordPress app instead.

So, I’m giving it another go …

From then to now … all change


Within a few weeks, and a lot quicker than I imagined, I was ‘invited’ to attend an interview. It was one of those interviews where you know you have got the job from the very start. The team I was to be Interviewworking in were basically an IT help-desk for part of the councils Environmental Services department. We were the people that ‘sorted’ the problems that Environmental Health officers had with the software they used. ImprovingI found it difficult as a lot of the problems that cropped up were down to errors in the software, rather than user errors. To fix these, I needed to know the programming side of the software. Although I did know some programming techniques, the ones needed were far more complicated. There were five of us, and although I kept my grade, I was back at the bottom of the pile. I have to admit I struggled for the first couple of months, but gradually I began to gain more knowledge and my confidence increased.

Then it all went wrong again!

The departmental heads still had to save money, and so our little IT support team (as we liked to call Helpdesk teamourselves) were to be merged with a much larger team that supported all of the Environmental service areas and also the councils Housing department. We went from being a team of five to be part of a team of over forty. This was a real help-desk job now. Sat in an office with a laptop, smart-phone and a head-set with a whole range of new software to learn. I knew from the start that it was not the job for me. I spent most of the time trying to understand the new work and really not getting very far.

And then the day of my heart operation arrived (see this thread for more) I was going to be off work for three months while I recovered, which was going to be an ideal time to find something I was more at home with. Or so I thought.

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.

Should I bite the proverbial …


I’m in a bit of a quandary. I use some old banking software to keep a record of my spending and to give some kind of warning of when bills are due. I’ve been using Microsoft Money for over 20 years now and although it was discontinued some years ago, it still works and does the job I want it to. Now the issue is, that I would like to be able to access the data from one of the two other computers that I have. In order to do this, I need to able to save the data somewhere other than the laptop I am currently using. The two ways I can see this being able to work is:

  1. I save the data file on a portable hard-drive (maybe even a flash drive) or
  2. I store the file in the ‘cloud’ on my Microsoft OneDrive.

I use the OneDrive for a few files, but none of which are really important so it feels a bit scary to use it for something as important as my bank balances. I have to state here that it is only the transactions that are stored. No bank or personal details are kept within the data files, but it does worry me. Does anyone else have the same fears?

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.

 

Too clever for my own good …


This is a little techy. I have been having a problem all week with the performance of my main laptop. Applications were slow to open and even slower to close. I scoured the internet for answers and did everything, bar re-installing Windows, that was suggested. But the problem remained, and it was getting worse. Some programs were now not even opening. Then today I had an idea. You see, I have two laptops on my home network, both with an attached printer. At the beginning of the week, I thought it would be good if I could print to both printers in an effort to save ink, as the other printer never gets used. After a couple of hours and a fair bit of stress, I got it working. I then installed the other printer on my main laptop so that it could be seen. Then all I had to do was to ensure the other laptop and printer were switched on and I could print to it. Really quite pleased with myself at that point.

I didn’t really want to have the other laptop and printer to be on all the time, so I shut both down. This was on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, I started to notice the performance issues. As Tuesday was the day when Microsoft updates Windows, I put the problems down to that. When there was a second update pushed on Wednesday, I was convinced that everything would now be okay. Not so. The performance had improved slightly, but not so as you would notice. It was getting so bad that I began to think I had a virus or something. I searched the internet for the problem and the answers were as I expected: run an anti-virus; run an anti-malware; run a disk clean-up even reformat hard drive and start again. Well I tried all except the last one, but nothing seemed to work. Then another search, came up with something. I may have a corrupt drive recently installed. Hmmm … the only driver recently installed was the printer driver for the other printer. I thought I would have a look at that. I removed the printer from the device list (an I assume that removed the driver) and did a full reboot, rather than a restart.

Now (touch wood) it seems to be back to as normal as it was before. I had a quick online chat with the printer help desk (free thankfully). It would appear, that when the other laptop and printer were switched off any software that you can print from would be looking for the printers when the software opens. As the printer was off, it was not visible and so the delays. I’m not entirely convinced, but it does seem to have been resolved.

(Written with Word 365 – blog template)

Just lazy … that’s all … or maybe not …


I started to write this post on Friday, but put it off. I didn’t have a title then and was trying to think of reasons excuses why I haven’t posted since 5th July. And they were just excuses … ‘didn’t have time’ … ‘nothing to say’ … ‘too late/early/drunk/tired etc ‘ … you get the picture?  The only one that really seems to crop up the most is (not ‘too drunk’ although …) ‘nothing to say.’ I often sit down at one of my laptops, or the iPad with good intentions, and then nothing. So I’m going to try a bit harder over the coming months/weeks, after all now I have a paid blog, I need to get my money’s worth Be right back

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Now it may sound a little extravagant to have two laptops and an iPad, but there is a reason. Since I got my first PC back in 1995, I have had a money management application (or program as it was called back then) called Microsoft Money. It was discontinued some years ago, although Microsoft did bring out some cut-down versions, but I understand even these are now extinct. It has always worked fine with the upgrades up until Windows 8.1 came out and users were advised that ‘some’ software would not work properly in future editions of Windows. I don’t use it as part of my online banking as it never really worked with my bank, it just keeps a record of my future, past and present incomes and expenses. A a pinch I could use a spreadsheet, but I think that over the years, it would get a little unwieldy.

A couple of years ago, I decided that my laptop was running very slow and convinced K*** that I needed a new one which I got. I thought it would be a good idea to keep the older one, just in case R***’s home laptop gave in. So the old one was consigned to a wardrobe shelf to gather dust. Then, along came Windows 10 and everyone was urged to upgrade with the free upgrade. This latest version was said to be the worst for compatibility of older software, so I held off upgrading for a long time. I then had a thought Thinking smile . What I should do is keep the old laptop on Windows 7 (which I knew would run the Money program) and upgrade my new(ish) laptop to the latest version of Windows 10. That way, if Money didn’t work I could always use the old laptop. Thankfully it did work and I now have Windows 10 on both machines. I’m still very wary when updates come out and I will not update the old laptop until I know Money works on the latest Windows version.

Doing a bit of computer housekeeping …


I (currently) own two laptops. My main one sits on my computer desk in the living room but the previous one lives in S****s (the spare bedroom) bedroom. Both work fine but the old one was beginning to get a little slow. So on Friday I decided to give a good clear out and try and bring it to a more reasonable speed. I first spent about three hours getting the system up-to date. As I tend not to use it as much as I use the more recent one, it had fallen a little behind with the “up-dates”.

On Saturday morning I ran a small piece of software that checks most of my applications to see if there re any updates for them. The list was quite large, but as I was not going to be using all the applications on the laptop, I only updated a few. Later in the day I began to uninstall some of the bigger software apps. I managed to get three done before I got fed up with it. Started again this morning and after around four hours, I was in a position to write this post. The machine is now much faster, and it is my intention to use this one to work on any creative writing I happen to be engaged in.

The problem I had was the the Microsoft cloud storage on the ‘old’ laptop was called “SkyDrive” whereas on the ‘newer’ laptop it’s called “OneDrive”. It caused me a bit of grief to get the two synchronised, but I eventually got it sorted. You see if I wanted to do any work, such as write this blog on a Sunday, it was a problem. R*** like to use my newer laptop before he has his lunch, and this has now become part of his routine. It meant that any ideas I wanted to write down had to wait until he had finished.

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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A Rant, A Query and a bit of a Moan


I’m going to start with a bit of a rant. I know I have mentioned this before, but I can knit. Not huge amounts of clothes but usually small crafty items, such as daffodils and hearts and the like. DaffsI’ve done it on and off since I as about 8 years old, and when I’m in the mood, I really enjoy it. Now the issue I have, is that nearly all the magazines and websites dedicated to knitting do not seems to tailor any  of their content to the male knitter. Men have always knitted, and while todays society is a little less ‘macho’ enforced it is still rare to see a man knitting in public. I’ve done it, and you do feel very self conscious. It is not until your public realise that it can be quite intricate and that you are quite good at it, that some semblance of normality creeps in.

It annoys me when you see articles about knitting STheSin magazines or on the internet, that they almost always show pictures of women with their needles (never call them pins!) in their hands. It is the same with sewing and embroidery … never men. I recently signed up to an online knitting forum, with the intention expressing my concerns in the area on male knitting. I was more than disappointed when my registration confirmation email, which was addressed to Anthony Huby, started with “Dear Ms …” I’m still awaiting comments on that first post!

Here endeth today’s rant.

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I’m pondering at the moment, as to what software to use to write. I have Microsoft Word, which I tend to use mostly. However, there are a lot of suggestions that I need to write with software that has a cleaner interface. By that I mean not as many ‘whistles and bells’. Something a little plainer. More than a simple text editor such as Wordpad though, and possibly software that is dedicated for writers.

The two top mentioned software applications seems to be Scrivener and yWriter. I found both very confusing to use. Scrivener was a trial version, and had a number of features that were not available, but even so, I found it difficult to understand. yWriter is freeware, but was even more confusing as it tries to concentrate your mind on breaking chapters down into what it calls ‘scenes’.

I have tried both but think I am going to go back to Word. It’s an application that I know quite well and have used for a long (long) time. I’m loathe to pay for more software (don’t like paying for anything if the truth were known) if what I have got does the job.

What do all you writers out there in WordPress land use, and just as importantly, is it free?

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Back to work tomorrow! Not looking forward to it at all. I still feel a little under the weather, but not ill enough to warrant any more time off. Of course, the question I always get asked (we have a ‘return to work interview’) will be “Are you back to 100%?” I’ve not been 100% for many years, I tend to hover around a normal level of around 92%, so the question always winds me up a little.

I’ll get the usual raised eyebrows when I mention I’ve been off with a ‘cold’. These are the same people that would complain if they caught a cold, that “…they got it from ‘so and so’ who has been sneezing all over the place …” Can’t win with a simple cold!See what I mean

We are also starting with a new telephone system tomorrow. It uses Skype for Business as its exchange and means that laptop users, which most of us are, will have to wear a headset, when making or receiving a phone call. I’m expecting to look like an overpaid telephonist (no offence). It is supposed to save the Council. The theory, as I understand it is that as we already use Skype for Business for instant messaging, using it as a phone does not coast any more. Training on the new system seems to be a bit sporadic, but as ‘The Team’ are classed as IT people, I think we are supposed to just get on with it. That part of tomorrow could be quite intriguing.