Tuesday, March 31, 2009

West Vancouver on March 31st, 8:46 A.M.

Sorry, Folks, but it looks like Spring has been cancelled this year. The outdoor pool had better be heated, and you'd better be wearing your fur-lined bikini.... Raquel? Hey, Raquel! Where are you? Get the hell outa that Seniors Center, damn it! It's very bad for your image, and the food's not worth a damn, either. Trust me - have I ever lied to you?

Internet Security (Continued from previous post)

Monsieur Beep writes that we should all be our own experts, perhaps because it's our ass and our data at risk - and he's absolutely right. The problem is that many if not most of us really don't know where to start or who to believe. So start with the obvious - Google for 'the ten best Internet security programs' or 'top ten security programs compared' or 'why do you say you love me when I know you've been a liar all your life?' - or something like that.... In other words, use what you've got to find what you need.

I started into the wild, wild web and computering with an old used Dell that had only 128 Mb of RAM, and was programmed with Windows 98SE, and had Symantec's 'Dr. Norton' for security. Now, there's a real learning experience for you! Dell makes fairly decent computers, but they use parts like memory components and hard-drives from a wide variety of suppliers, so that finding matching replacement parts years later is virtually impossible, as I discovered. And the Windows 98SE was OK as a 'learner' I guess, but it crashed quite regularly, because I was trying to do things with it that it was never designed for. And Symantec's 'Dr. Norton' installed literally hundreds of files onto my system, and slowed it down to a crawl, and created more problems than it solved. I didn 't even know enough about the system at the time to even realize most of that, until my friend who owns this ISP I'm on got chatting with me one night and asked me "What security program are you running on there?" When I told him, he sent back this advice: "Dump that 'Dr. Norton' because it causes more problems than it solves. Get something better, like Grisoft's AVG." That was several years ago now, and as we've also discovered, Internet security programs are like Hollywood Starlets - popularity of them is like the flavour of the month. What's hot and what's not can keep you busy figuring it all out.

Grisoft's AVG, during its version 7+ series was just about the best game in town. They caught the bad stuff, and those sweet young things in Prague who answered your tearful cries for help were some of the most polite and helpful service representatives you'd ever want to deal with. Then something happened. They merged with another company, Ewido, and got creative with their world-class program. Suddenly, it was not the same at all, and many of us were shocked, amazed, and disgusted. I had been using it for years by then, and I walked away from a subscription that still had most of its term unused, because I didn't like the way it was hogging resources and slowing down my system - much like the problems I'd had back when with the old Dell and the Symantec's 'Dr. Norton' - but more complicated now.

For a while Panda was all the rage, claiming to be the best, and costing around a hundred bucks a year for a subscription. That's about twice the going rates, by the way. And what was wrong with that? For starters, their program installs a hidden DLL which you don't know is there, and it denies you access if you try to dump that whole program - you can't get rid of all of it, because that hidden part refuses to leave, and if you keep it there, then it will mess up the next security program you try to use. So how do you solve that one? Where there's a will, there's a way - and there's also a great little program called MoveOnBoot made by EMCO in Iceland. It's freeware, and it's a life-saver for problems like this.

It works by letting you select the offending file or folder before you do a regular Reboot, and then when you do the Reboot, it will remove that offending file or folder during the time between when your machine shuts down and then reloads its running programs on starting up. In other words, it weeds out the unwanted stuff before it can be reloaded into active memory again during the starting cycle. - So 'goodbye, Panda's hidden DLL'.

These are just some of the problems you can get into with security programs. Some are better than others, and some probably cause more problems than they solve. Try their free version first, and if you like that, and need whatever else they offer in the purchased version, then go for it. Otherwise, stick with the freebie. Or two or three of them. There's safety in numbers, contrary to whatever they want you to believe. I've had programs that found stuff that others missed, because each is better at one thing than another, and they don't tell you which is which. You just have to experiment for yourself. One program I like right now is one called Threatfire and I like it because it claims it can stop 'zero day threats' without needing to have their definitions on file beforehand, unlike regular security programs. How do they do that? By having a scanner which looks at the behavior of the offending threat, rather than by analysing it and comparing that to a definition in reference files. So if it acts like malware, it gets treated as malware, period. I like that concept, and I hope they expand on it. So far, it seems to be working very well. And another plus is that it is compatible with most other security products, and it works on most operating systems, including the new Windows 7.

You just have to get over your fear of trying and learn to fly while you still have wings.
Enjoy your day, Everyone!

Monday, March 30, 2009

News Item: Internet spy network in 103 countries....

The TV news programs today are making a big fuss about this story, as if it hasn't been going on for ages already. Spying and counter-spying is definitely 'old news' in cyberspace. After all, surely you don't think the Internet was invented just so we could exchange photos and enjoy the latest smut from the San Pornando Valley, do you? You aren't that gullible, are you?

If you look closely at the activities of some of our more sophisticated internet security programs such as the ones we can buy to protect our home computers, you'll likely discover that the newer ones especially are able to both send and receive packets of information back and forth between your computer and their own 'home base' - or what we hope is their own 'home base' - for the purpose of (they say) verifying the integrity of the signals and data being sent to and from your computer to others elsewhere while you're using it.

Let's assume for a moment that I'm the paranoid type - and just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean the world isn't out to get you - and let's say I can't explain or even read the contents of all those 'security program transmissions and receivings' - those thousands or even millions of bytes of whatever being exchanged by your fancy security program with its own counterpart someplace else, such as home base. How the hell do I know that all that activity isn't some fancy and carefully-crafted program for spying into all my files and reporting back to headquarters everything that's on my machine, and everything I'm doing with it? The plain answer to that is: I don't. I haven't a clue. The people who sold me the security program could be as honest and trustworthy as the day is long, or they could be a bunch of lying bastards.

And I can't prove one way or the other which is which, because I don't have the expertise to do that by myself, nor the money to hire someone else who could do it for me. Most of us, perhaps, are in that same boat. We have to take their word for it, and hope for the best. And guess what, Folks?
HERE'S a site where they will sell you a program that lets you be the spy on anyone else who uses your machine or one you have placed this program on. And this has been around for a long time - it isn't something new. So this kind of thing, like I said, is Old News.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Clouds: big, little, near, far...

I have a whole series of these that I've made into a set of backgrounds for the Windows 7 Themes. It's one of my Custom Themes in Windows 7's 'Personalize' feature... and a nice touch to have in the program. Why look at someone else's notions of nice backgrounds when you can make your own and use them just like the ready-made ones that came built-in?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tonight's Sunset: Once a day is all you get...

For Monsieur Beep in rainy Germany - Rain? What rain? Here, if we don't like the weather, we just wait 20 minutes... something else is bound to come over the hill. Tonight, it was this.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Using Windows 7 ? Want some helpful hints? 50 ?

You do? Good! Try these and you'll find that they get better
on page two. It's quite a long list, because he includes a lot of detail, which is good.

Want to see the Enterprise's navigation panel?

Well, this isn't it - but it's close. It's a Transrectal Ultrasound Machine, and that white cable with the gun on the end of it, in the tray on the right of the keyboard, is the gadget that holds the needle that takes the little bites of tissue samples, while its built-in eye shows the doctor where to aim.

Actually, the anticipation (as in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is much worse than the actual event itself. This is very much a case of mind-over-matter, and if you don't mind, then it don't matter. But this gadget strikes terror into the hearts of the bravest men, because it fires that needle into one of man's most treasured possessions. However, eventually even treasured possessions become a liability, especially if containing something that might speed you to the hereafter. So sooner or later - usually later - all of us guys will likely meet a machine that looks something like this older model ultrasound scanner. The newer ones have a one-piece console, with the screen right above the keyboard area, and maybe a few more keys. I tried to convince the Doc that we need a mirror on the wall beside the patient's bed, so that even facing away from the action, we could still get a look at what's on TV, but he didn't buy it.

And after starving to death for a day and a half beforehand (doctor's orders) you wouldn't believe how good a hot cup of coffee and a sandwich of medium cheddar on Chunky Cheese bread can taste. It's the simple things in life that really matter.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Monsieur Beep writes from rainy Germany...

... to say that it's fun reading other people's diaries, you know.

Jawohl, Monsieur - and very informative, too. Since I discovered computers in August of 2004, and got into whatever makes them tick, I've opened up a whole other world out there that I didn't even realize existed. I had no idea what can be learned from surfing the wild, wild web.

For example, I didn't know that things are so tough in Russia these days that all those sweet young things over there have to go naked whenever the weather's warm enough, and stay indoors the rest of the time :)

And thanks to our friend Eolake, I've also learned what girls look like in their natural state, and without a lot of plastic add-ons. My one regret is that all this vital information comes at a time in my life when I'm absolutely invisible to anyone not already collecting the old age pension - and how many OAPs have you ever seen that really ring your chimes? With the possible exception of Raquel Welch (69) or maybe Brigitte Bardot (75) or perhaps Susan Sarandon (63) of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' fame.

I have trouble believing that 'BB' is 75, but then I'm going to be 77 myself in a few more months, if I don't get hit by a bus beforehand. And that's not too likely, because I avoid buses every chance I get. To me, they`re nothing but hazards to navigation while I`m trying to get someplace down the street.

But to get back to `reading` you should hope I don`t decide to document my adventures tomorrow, when I go to the Ultrasound Department at the local hospital, for a biopsy on the prostate - or as I prefer to think of it, being shot in the ass to save the hide - we hope!
I get all puckery just thinking about it....

Monster home 1, family home 0 - there goes the neighbourhood.

I'm saddened to see this moving van in the driveway next to this gawd-awful monstrosity beside it. This lot where the small hotel-sized shack is slowly being constructed was once a nice quiet tree-covered lot with a three-bedroom rancher near the back of the lot, lived in by very quiet neighbours. Now, for almost a year, there's been nothing but banging and crashing and hammering and the growling of digging equipment as they've ripped up and tore down everything on the lot, and put up this goddamned eyesore. I really feel for the folks next to it - they've had a hell of a time lately. I'm sorry to see them surrender to the invaders. The Irish in me would prompt me to stay and fight, if I were them. I'm glad that's a decision that I don't have to make.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Better late than never....(where did the day go?)

I took these shots (there's four in the above spliced image) about 8:30 AM this morning, and then I got busy trying to sort out some computer problems (my new email program update is acting strangely - or at least not like I want it to, and I can't figure out what to do about it) - and with that, I forgot to post this to the blog. So 'better late than never'. It's been one of those days, folks. But please stay tuned - I'll try to improve with age, like good whiskey...

And if you hawk-eyed viewers see any little wonky parts in the above panorama ( and there are some) please blame Canon's Photostitch - I did everything it said, and the joints of the four images that were joined all showed straight lines for the seam areas, which means that
those joints were as good as it gets. But I learned afterward (by finally reading the directions for the Canon G9 camera) that there's a special setting for Panorama photos, which, if used, helps Canon's Photostitch computer program when it assembles the finished panorama - and I wasn't using that today, because..... I hadn't read the little book and didn't know about it.
Old know-it-alls are hard to change. But I'm trying... I'll give it hell next time!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pictures worth a thousand words!

We will all rise, turn to page 16 in our Christmas Songbook, and sing " Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!" - All together now.....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mountain Magic ?

Nah! Just fooling around with the tint controls. The sky was too wishy-washy, and we already knew the trees are some kind of green, so then I threw on some highlights where the sun was coming over the next hill and hitting this one, and there you go! Another mess all done. Almost like 'Paint-by-Numbers' but without the numbers. As you can see, I love messing around with images and making changes. Sometimes these are good, sometimes not, but always fun.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This one, I like....

This gets me thinking back to those 'dusters' at the Saturday afternoon matinees in the old Empire Theatre back home when I was about knee-high to a pool table. The endings of those often had a nice sunset for the hero to ride off into, after vanquishing the bad guys by firing about 18 or 19 shots each from his matched set of six-guns - so called because they only held six bullets in their rotary magazines. We sometimes got thrown out of the movie for loudly counting out the shots in gunfights, to the amusement of all present. Ah, those were the days! Try going to a full-length movie these days for the grand sum of twenty-five cents cash. And the movies back then were actually worth watching, too - which is more than I can say for the present crop.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First sunset of Spring 2009

And if you say, "Those trees aren't in focus!" I'll reply, "What trees? It's the clouds I wanted!"
I got 'em, too. For a shot being hand-held at 12X optical zoom, this isn't too shabby.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ah, Spring! Where are my new snuggies?

Google seems to have some very creative artists, and they do good work. I just wish it was possible to actually improve the weather we've been getting this year so far. Around here, our March has been colder and with more snow than we had in the midst of our 'real winter' months. It's almost like winter has been shifted around the calendar a couple of months toward what is normally spring. By this time of year here, our spring flowers are usually out in bloom and looking good, but this year, all we're growing is 'older', or so it seems.

Radiation and Power Lines: The facts

Click here for the website and the complete article.

Old Age would be a lot more fun if.....

....we didn't fall apart while we're looking for the gold in those 'Golden Years' that we hear so much about but never quite seem to actually reach.

But fear not, Kiddies - I've been doing some exhaustive and exhausting research into all that, and I'm now able to tell you that I know where the gold is. It's at the Doctor's office! The older we get, the harder they try to go 'prospecting' for whatever gold they can dig out of our pockets or our medical plans. They get very diligent about this in direct proportion to how feeble we look, and it's not hard to look feeble if you're awake all of the night before your appointment, worrying about the results of your latest tests. So it's a vicious circle...

And don't get me started on 'PSA Levels' or 'Needle Biopsies' or the probability that any of several other things may very likely kill me before Prostate Cancer gets the chance to do it. My PSAs have been up and down like the proverbial toilet seat, and next week I go for the second biopsy, even though nobody seems to be at all sure this isn't just something benign that happens to older guys as part of the aging process. If my specialist wasn't pretending to be in such a rush to hustle me out the door after each exam, maybe I could find out precisely where natural old aging leaves off and attention-demanding medical conditions begin. It's that big grey area in there that's making the doctor richer and me more nervous and worried... And I can't help suspecting that he's capitalizing on my ignorance of Biology 101. There's more to all that than meets the eye, for sure. Our health care costs aren't going through the roof without some serious and expert help. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.
Enjoy your day, Everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I can't believe this is March 18th in Beautiful B.C.

Normally, this picture would represent a day in January or February - not half-past March...
So tell me again, Grandpa - what's all that stuff about 'Global Warming' anyway? Has that got something to do with the coming of another Ice Age?

Worried about radiation from power lines? Don't be...

Just go to this website, and read the answers from the experts about any kind of radiation you may be worried about, and would like to understand better.

This society has about 6,000 members consisting of working professionals who are routinely dealing with problems of radiation and its relation to health and safety. They have a large and detailed section of 'frequently asked questions' and an 'ask the experts' section where you can ask your own question. Reading their information will also set your mind at ease about some of the more prevalent myths and rumours and misinformation going the rounds about such things as power lines and the dangers of catching leukemia or cancer from their EMFs. And if you don't know what EMFs are, they can help you with that, too. Most of these people have Masters degrees or Ph Ds, and your only real problem on this website may be that you may discover that they're talking slightly over your head, but the information is good stuff and you can trust it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Demonstrating CaptureScreen 1.6

Just because I forgot to mention in the earlier blab - I mean blog - that the picture of the Irish countryside (below) was grabbed using this CaptureScreen program, this is another short little demonstration of it in action. It works just like it was made for Windows 7, and that's because it's based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or higher - and we're now up to 3.5 or so, if I'm not mistaken - so this works like it belongs here. You should try it, but first, make sure you have the latest updates for Microsoft's .NET Framework. Those are freebies too!

About the post below, and screen-captures programs

When I was correcting a problem with my Wacom Graphire 4 Tablet yesterday, one of the things I had to do was turn off the built-in Windows Tablet PC Components in Control Panel -> Programs and Features. With that little box unchecked, and this feature no longer activated, it meant that I can't use Vista's Snipping Tool, which is part of the Tablet PC Optional Components.

I have been using that a lot, so without it, I had to go hunting for another tool which can do partial screen captures as well as the full-screen ones. The full-screen ones have never been a problem for me, because Irfan Skiljan's 'Irfanview' does a very nice job on those, and it works with every kind of Windows there are, plus two. But grabbing just a portion of the screen, and being able to adjust the size of that is another story. And the story goes like this: Just go on the web, and Google for 'CaptureScreen 1.6' which is a freeware program that grabs parts of the screen according to how you resize its little window. Right-clicking inside that little window reveals the drop-down of various choices for capture, saving, etc., and this works. Just a word of caution, however - there are two versions of this CaptureScreen, and only the version 1.6 is freeware. Its companion program, version 1.7 is shareware and if you download that one, you only have a 30-day free trial before you have to reach for your credit card.

I'm all for freeware programs (got lots of them!) so I stuck to the simple version, 1.6, because I don't need a lot of bells & whistles, I just want to grab the occasional image or slice of text from a website now and then. And I'm pleased to report that CaptureScreen 1.6 works just fine with Windows 7, in case you would like to try it. (You can find it here.)

Today's Trivia....

Old folks have a habit of waking up much too early in the morning. Often, it isn't even daylight yet. We also have a habit of nodding off early in the evenings, mostly because at our age, we've already seen almost everything, and we get bored easily. But this is about waking up, so I'd better stick to the subject, for now, anyway...

I woke up this morning at about the crack of dawn, and as I usually do, I turned on the TV for something to look at, because mirrors scare me these days. There's this commercial blasting at me, saying "Own a piece of History!" with a picture of smiling Barack Obama above that line. I looked at that, and said to myself, "What the Hell? I am a piece of History!" And that's true - they completed the Empire State Building in New York City the year before I was born, and I'm just as old as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and two years older than the discovery of nuclear fission. Franklin Roosevelt's famous New Deal was first introduced the year after I was born. So when I say 'Hell, I am a piece of History!' I 'm not kidding. I'm not quite as old as the famous George Burns, but nobody is....

Today, according to Google, is St. Patrick's Day, when everybody's Irish, or pretends to be. I don't have to pretend, because my mother's whole clan are Irish, and at one time, she had something like fifty cousins still living over there. I can't imagine having fifty cousins, and I've always been more than a little suspicious of the Irish. That's because as far as I can tell, they survive on a mixture of primarily agriculture and bullshit, and being as old as I am, and being part Irish, I know a little bit about bullshit, and how it makes the grass grow green. I figure that's why it's so green in Ireland.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A fun do-it-yourself project....for Windows or OS-X

Over the past couple or three years, I've made hundreds of my own icons for Windows XP and Vista, and now Windows 7 using this wonderful little program. The reason I'm yapping about it again today is because this afternoon, I made some MacIntosh Icons for a friend in the U.K. who is a dedicated Apple user, and he has tried them out, and confirmed they work as this program says they will. So, no matter whether you're using Windows or OS-X for your operating system, this program is as good as its word - it makes icons in a range of sizes for use on either type of system. And today, I've proved it. You can also convert Windows icons into Mac Icons, and vice-versa, and you can make an icon from almost any image you choose, as long as you crop or re-size it to about 400 x 400 or less. For that, you need an editing program like PhotoStudio 5.5 or Irfanview or one of the more expensive ones. I use Irfanview sometimes, and PhotoStudio 5.5 the rest of the time, simply because I'm familiar with it. So, if you can't find ready-made icons to your liking, this will have you making your own in a very short while. It's easy to understand, and fun to use.

Attention Wacom Tablet users....

If you have a Wacom Tablet connected to your Windows 7 PC and it isn't behaving as it usually does for you, then you should check to make sure the Windows Tablet PC features are not causing some confusion. If you get a drop-down type menu when you tap your pen on the tablet, instead of getting the normal select or click action, here's what to do:-

Go into Control Panel ->Programs and Features, and in the left sidebar, select 'Turn Windows features on or off', and then look for and uncheck 'Tablet PC Optional Components'. Then go to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Services, and look for 'Tablet PC Input Service'. If this is running, stop it. Once stopped, change its operational mode to 'Disabled'. Click OK. Then do a reboot to let your system reset itself to the new configuration. It also wouldn't hurt to go onto the Wacom website and check for the latest driver for your tablet. And there are some, trust me.... The good news is, once you've done all this, your Wacom Tablet will be working perfectly once again, and both it and Windows 7 will be a lot happier. Trust me. Would I lie to you?

Update on the refrigerator story (below)....

Now that it has been running for about 24 hours since it was manually defrosted, I can report that it is running both better and quieter than it did before. The thermometer inside it shows that it is maintaining a temperature almost 10 degrees cooler that it has been recently with the controls set at approximately the same settings as before.

The other good news, which I appreciate even more, is that it is also operating with a lot less noise, and for the first time in a long time, I wasn't awakened in the night by any loud noises from it. I should explain that this is a small studio apartment, and the refrigerator sits only about six feet from my bed. So unless it is reasonably quiet, I don't get much sleep. I had a decent sleep last night, and I hope this continues.

While researching the problems with typical modern high-pressure refrigerators the other day in preparation for fixing mine, I learned that among other things, today's refrigerators are designed to be set up so that an upright model will sit on the floor leaning slightly backward. They say to adjust the adjustable front feet so that when the door is opened to an angle of 45 degrees, it will slowly close on its own. The adjustable feet on mine would not extend far enough to do that, so I had to use some shims under them to raise them up enough. Once set in the correct position, I noticed it was running quieter, and I suspect that this has something more to do with its operation than simply assisting the door to shut on its own. I think it also has an effect on how the fluids inside the unit are flowing. In any case, whatever I did made a big difference. So if your refrigerator is noisy, and many modern ones are, try making sure it is sitting properly in a position of leaning slightly backward. It can't hurt.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

They don't make 'em like they used to....

Refrigerators, that is. When this building was first built in the early 1970s, these rental units were equipped with Moffat stoves and refrigerators. They were relatively unsophisticated but they were very reliable, and they didn't keep you awake at nights with any weird noises. The stove in this unit is still the original from 1973, and everything still works on it, too. Its matching refrigerator died in December of 2006, after 33 years of valiant service with a variety of tenants, some of whom didn't treat it very well. Towards the end, it only had one functioning hinge on the freezer compartment door, and the regulating knob kept falling off the temperature adjusting control. But it still kept things inside at better than recommended temperatures, and it didn't wake me up in the night with any loud popping noises or sounds like some unfortunate little animal was trapped inside.

Not so its modern Moffat replacement. This thing is a whole other story - and I can confidently predict that this story will not have a happy ending. Already, its automatic defroster system has failed twice. It isn't adequate for the elimination of ice which builds up inside the heat exchanger unit which is inaccessibly mounted within the rear wall of the freezer compartment. I know this, because the first time it plugged up with ice and stopped working, the repairman came and almost destroyed the interior of the freezer trying to get that panel out of the rear wall. Then, when he finally did, we saw the problem: ice everywhere because the heat sensor wasn't functioning properly, and wasn't telling the heater to turn on long enough to melt all the ice - instead of only a little of it. So the ice slowly builds up until it completely blocks off the air flow on which all the cooling depends. That first failure was just around the one-year warranty deadline. This weekend, it happened again, right on a late Friday afternoon, when I couldn't reach anyone in the rental management office until Monday.

Luckily for me, our weather's been cold enough that things will keep nicely outside on the balcony. So I emptied the refigerator into some storage bins, set them outside on the deck, and then left the refrigerator unplugged with its two compartment doors wide open all night and part of the next morning, until I was satisfied that all the ice had melted and the water had drained away from the interior workings. There was a puddle on the floor under it, but I didn't mind that, once I discovered that my old-fashioned manual defrosting was a success.

I looked on their website for some FAQs on refrigerators, and reading it scared me, so I quit. I don't need written descriptions of the noises and problems anyway, because I've got the real thing right here to entertain me, even when I don't want it to. Let me put that another way: If my name was 'Moffat' there's no way I'd let anyone put it on a contraption like this. And this is a classic example of starting from a sensible and reliable idea (the old original) and then literally improving it to death. I'm sure glad that I don't own a nickel's worth of it - listening to it is enough for me. If this was a horse, I'd probably have to shoot it....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Maybe the 'Golden Arches' are older than we thought...

Does this perhaps remind you of Ronald McDonald holding a hamburger?

Actually, it's a Benin cult figure done in ivory of an ancient divination spirit, and this picture is taken from the book 'Larousse World Mythology' illustration facing page 529.

But it still makes me think of a Big Mac....

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another new roof arrives across the street...

These guys have this right down to a science. They've now re-roofed five low-rise apartment blocks in the complex across the back street, and it's a pleasure to watch them work. Now that I'm retired myself, work fascinates me - I can watch it for hours!

I made an interesting discovery today, while re-connecting the Wacom Tablet which I've been moving from the old computer to the new one as it's needed. There's a handwriting feature included in Windows 7, which lets you write in a little skinny window something the same as you would write on a lined piece of paper, using your Tablet Pen. As you write, the program automatically converts your handwriting into printing, and you can edit it by using some buttons along the top of that little window. There are pop-ups which explain what those do as you click on them, and it shows you how to make your corrections. For example, to erase something in your line of handwritten text, just draw a solid line through it. If I had a computer designed for Touch on the monitor, I could also make corrections using a finger instead of tapping the pen on those buttons, and I could also use an on-screen keyboard if I wished. Ah, the marvels of science! It sure beats the old Etch-a-Sketch. Windows 7 is full of neat surprises. And did I mention, about that Wacom Tablet, it was made for use on my XP machine, and Windows 7 works with it even better than the XP does! You've gotta love it.

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A kinder and gentler sunset....

Something about this one really grabs me. It's almost like a pastel drawing instead of a photo. And it makes a lovely background on the monitor, if you like this sort of thing, and I do.

Moving along here, I somehow got interested this morning in the question 'how many blogs are there worldwide?' - and for answers, I got a lot of definite maybes, ranging from statistics too old to be really relevant, to 'guesstimates' ranging from sixty to seventy-two millions or so. Evidently, counting all of us sweaty-palmed, beady-eyed, pseudonymously-named blogosphere polluters has proven to be an almost impossible task. That's partly because many of us are seemingly 'here today, gone tomorrow' and of all the blogs started, only 21% are classified as 'active', which is defined as meaning those that have been updated at least once within the past 90 days. The 21% who are active however are a vibrant and prolific bunch of babblers, and we're doing our best to hold our own for the rest of the sixty or seventy-two millions who are obviously goofing off, lost interest, or are too lazy to finish what they've started.

If you've got time for some relatively heavy reading on this subject, there's an annual report about it on Technorati at:- http://technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere/ where you can get much more detail. And if you have a blog, and you'd like to know how it ranks in the world's pecking order of blogs, Amazon's Alexa - The Web Information Company, can tell you, and they even have a Widget for it that you can put on your blog, just by copying their code and pasting it into your main page. Alexa can be found here and on the right side of their page you'll see something about the Widget. Enjoy your day, everyone.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two of a new set of desktop backgrounds

If this don't get the old eyeballs working, then nothing will. It's two of seven in a set I made up for a custom desktop background for Windows 7. One of the nice features of Windows 7 is that you don't have to settle for just one background picture always there on the monitor.

You can make up a set of several pictures and name their folder 'DesktopBackground' and put that folder into another named for the theme you've just made up. Then, you simply add that to your personal custom themes folder.

Using Windows Explorer, go into Tools -> Folder Options, and choose View -> Show Hidden Files and Folders. This lets you see your user AppData hidden folder. Now, you're ready to follow the file path to the location for adding your new theme. And that would be something like this:- Users -> (Your user name) ->AppData ->Local ->Microsoft ->Windows ->Themes -> (Name of your Theme). Drag & drop your new theme folder into the main Themes folder, and then to actually get it working, go back onto the Desktop, and right-click it, and choose Personalize. Then choose Desktop Background along the lower part of that window, and then choose "Browse", so that you can go back to where you just left that new theme folder. Click on its name to open it, then click on its inner folder DesktopBackground (be sure you typed that as all one word, like you would for an item in Registry) and then, select all your pictures, if they aren't all selected already. Choose 'Save changes', and you're done - your new theme's pictures are now being shown on the desktop according to the timing you picked for it. (You did check that, didn't you?) - And that's all there is to it. Now all you have to do is go back into Windows Explorer -> Tools -> Folder Options -> View and remove that check-mark you added to 'Show Hidden Files and Folders', so those are again hidden. You're done - buy yourself a beer!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not your typical March 10th here....

It's been a nice sunny day, but colder than a mother-in-law's heart!

Today's Question Everything is:- "Is Global Warming the prelude to another Ice Age?"

Maybe it's started already, you think ? (I hope I'm just kidding!)

The dawning of another day....

....and it looks a lot nicer than yesterday, too. It's still quite cold, but it's going to be a nice day. Let's all try to enjoy it.

Thought for the day: Too many people these days are trying to make the planet greener by covering it with plain old bullshit.

Enjoy your day, Everyone!

P.S. - The first of these pictures was added last, and it's the result of applying the 'equalization' setting to another photo of this morning's sunrise. I thought it looked nice, so here it is....

Monday, March 9, 2009

The ski season continues, Kids....

It's a little sloppy on the streets this morning, but it sure looks pretty. Slow down and enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Our March reprise of Winter

This is pretty-much how our day's gone here on the Left Coast. We had an uncharacteristic snowstorm this afternoon and it really came down for a while. Fortunately, it didn't last long and cleared up nicely just before sunset.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Looking out the window with the Canon G9....

This is maybe my best yet of the upper terminal on Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, B.C. and the weather doesn't seem like the usual for early March. Spring will be a little late this year, from the look of it. I've seen years when the kids were swimming in the outdoor pool by now, but not this year for sure. It's still snuggies weather here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

So what happened when you started your computer?

My hardly more than 6 months old Acer began making a combined shuddering and growling noise, and had to be shut down for further investigation.

After the side panel was removed, and I could see and feel and pinpoint the unhappy parts inside, I started it up again for another listen. The fan on the CPU was the culprit, so I shut off the power again, and decided to try fixing it. Just by coincidence, I'd been surfing recently and found a how-to article about curing a noisy fan without replacing it. So it seemed like a good idea, because I had nothing to lose. If it didn't work, the fan would still need to be replaced, and if it did work, I would save taking it to the shop for a fan replacement.

The short version of this is that it's now running quietly again after a good cleaning and oiling. And I'm glad I'd found that article the other day about doing all this for yourself. These modern components in computers are marvelous little creations, and that fan had a notation on its label saying 'hydraulic bearing'. I have no idea what that means, but I do know enough about bearings to know that they usually need some kind of lubrication to avoid premature failure. If this is an indication of Acer quality, I'm definitely not impressed.

I've added a screen-shot showing the temperatures about 12 hours after fixing the noisy fan, and it seems that everything's running quite normally once again. It's amazing what a little oil can do. And changing the subject, I've again created a shortcut to 'Task Manager' and given it my home-made Dana Delany icon, from her movie 'Exit To Eden'. (I loved it!) This icon isn't so bad either. You can make your own icons too, with IcoFX - check the link on the right. ->

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mixed Cursors = Windows 7 + Vista + XP

Today, I've been "fine-tuning" my active cursors file in Windows 7, and made an interesting discovery. If you wish, you can mix and match cursor items from the official ( and unofficial) sets made for Windows 7, Vista, and XP Pro. I've always liked the "3D Bronze" from XP Pro, and as you'll notice in the above screen-shot, I've now got that mouse pointer working with parts of two other sets, as my present active set of mouse cursors. So just because you're using the next version of Windows, it doesn't mean you can't keep using something you liked from a previous version - within limits, of course, because some things from the old days are best left behind. Your favourite cursors don't have to be one of those, however.

And if you want those official XP cursors, look here for a zip under the paragraph titled 'Resolution'.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My new Mouse Pointers....

So, Windows 7 users, if you would like a change from the standard 'spinning blue doughnut' in your Mouse Pointers theme, there's a cure - just go surfing for other cursors themes for Vista, and the good news is, you can install them into Windows 7.

When you've downloaded a new third-party cursor set, unzip it into a folder you can find easily, and then look in it for the ".ini" file, (installer) and right-click on that. Then from the drop-down menu choose "install", and zippidy-doodah! - you've got it on the list when you go to Control Panel -> Mouse -> Pointers. To get it working, just select it and apply. And I guess I don't have to say "Works for me!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

SyncToy for Windows 7 - Yes, there is...

If this looks familiar, you're right - it's SyncToy 2.0, as in XP, Vista, and now Windows 7. And the good news is that it's still a free download from Microsoft, and if you'd like a copy of it, then you can get it here.

A word about word processors....

And the word is 'AbiWord', a great open source freeware word processor that works with your Windows 7, Vista, XP, or whatever. If all you really want is a solid and useful word processing program with all the usual features and none of the bloat of Open Office and other complete suites that you'd have to accept just to get the word processor part, then this is for you! Think of it as a free-range WordPad....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Want voltages and temperatures readings ?

After a couple of days of stewing about temperatures, especially of the Nvidia GeForce 8600GS, and trying various programs for reading the sensors that are built into the hardware on the motherboard, I finally settled on this one. It doesn't take a lot of configuring, like the SpeedFan program seems to need, and it gives a fairly good set of readings. It only sees two fans on mine, when there are really four, but I can forgive that, because two of those fans it doesn't list are the ones that are mounted on and part of the CPU and GPU respectively. The others that it does list separately are exhausting air from around the power supply, and from the main interior of the casing. So it does cover all the bases, really.

I got onto this because the GPU temperature is reporting 65 degrees Celsius to 67 or 68, and yet if I open the case and put my finger on the side of the heat-sink of it, it sure doesn't feel like nearly that hot to me. And even with a 12-inch 3-speed household fan blowing air directly into the air intake of the casing, I can't get that GPU temperature to come down below 62 degrees Celsuis - so I have to suspect that this reading is reporting inaccurately high. If it wasn't, then why would it be reporting above 50 C as soon as it is started up after being off all night and colder than a dead mackerel? There's something fishy about all that.... and when some guys say that these temperatures are all just approximate, I can believe that.

The latest statistics on Operating Systems....

I was just surfing for this information, and I came across another site that must be a spoof of this one in the image above. It looked the same, but the data in the chart was different, and not as detailed as these folks usually are. So I Googled them again, and got the right one this time.

This shows Windows 7 on the list, and I can't help noticing, we're in between Windows 98 and Windows Millennium, which I fervently hope isn't prophetic! Windows 98 was the one I started my computer learning on, and Windows Millennium nearly finished it. Microsoft's logos frequently used 'Windows Me' for Millennium, and after I'd used it for a while, I'd look at that and say "Not Me!" Fortunately, I soon discovered XP Pro, and then I got serious about trying to learn how this is done.

Speaking of which, the above screen-shot may look different today. That's because it's from this XP machine, for a change. I've been using the Windows 7 one so much lately, I'm almost forgetting the XP routines... Not that I want to, just yet. As you can see above, XP is still right up there, and with very good reason - it's a hell of a good program. But I have a feeling that Windows 7 is going to take over that spot in the near future, as soon as Microsoft fixes its last two or three bugs, and puts it in a nice fancy box, and makes us an offer we can't refuse on it. (And don't I wish!)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Latest from Nvidia for Windows 7.....

Attention all Windows 7 fans - there's a new driver update released February 18th for Nvidia graphics cards. The file name is "182.06_geforce_winvista_32bit_english_whql" and it does improve the performance from the previous driver. So if you have an Nvidia graphics card, this is for you.