Thursday, April 30, 2009

A maple tree's new leaves and blossoms....

Spring is again full of promises, and the sun is warming us up. This evening is the first time so far this year that I could enjoy working on my tan on the balcony before sundown.

A neighbour's flowerbed...

This is up in the next block, across the back street, taken at 15x with my Canon G9 + doubler.

Yesterday's sunset

As the days get longer, the sun is setting further toward the north each evening. In mid-winter, it is so far toward the south that I can't see sunsets from my side of the building, but in summer, there's actually an hour or so on nice evenings when it shines right into this apartment.

For Windows 7 fans, here's the latest on the RC1 (and only) availability. (Five more days until downloads)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And now, a look at the original XP Pro.....

... in its pure, unadulterated, official Microsoft version - for those of us who may have forgotten. And I ask you - have you ever seen a nicer, cleaner, more business-like desktop in your whole sweet young life? Come on, now - be honest. Admit it.... you really haven't!

Better late than never, while I was restoring good old XP to its original condition this morning, I made the neat discovery that I didn't have to order a CD of SP3 from Microsoft and wait for it to arrive, before using it to confirm the authenticity of these files. Because.... thanks to Microsoft, there's an ISO Image file of it available for download, and all you need is that ISO and the latest version of the freebie program ImgBurn from here which is version released on the 10th of April, 2009, and you're just minutes away from having your very own CD in your hot little hand. Just in case System File Checker asks you to insert your CD to let it copy files from it.

And in case SFC says "You inserted the wrong CD, you dummy! Give me the right one!" Just quietly send it back where it came from, and run your freshly-minted copy of the SP3 CD and let it tell you what it needs to do, and it will - just as soon as it creates a Restore Point and looks into all those cobweb-filled corners in your filing system. So relax - have a coffee, and wait a few minutes. Then you can reboot the PC, and voila! XP is back in its officially-approved Microsoft version with its files both complete and up-to-date. Good for another 8 years or so.... and don't laugh! I met a guy the other day who, believe it or not, is still using Windows 98SE. When I asked what he does for security he replied, "Show me a hacker that's busting his butt to chew his way into 98SE and I'll show you the next inmate of Ye Olde Funny Farm!" Now there was a "Gotcha" I deserved.

Guess the O/S that this desktop represents....

You will be forgiven for thinking it's Windows Vista, but it isn't - it's good old XP Pro, with the latest Vista Transformation Pack (9.0.1) applied to it. This is about as close to the real thing as it gets, Folks, and the good news is, I've still got XP's performance behind the whole thing.

So now, on one computer, I've got Windows 7, and on this other one I've still got XP, but it looks almost exactly like Vista. I had Vista on the one that now has Windows 7, so I know... and using this look-alike, it even acts like Vista. This was very well done by 'WindowsX'.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Outside the Safeway in West Vancouver....

This time, when I went for groceries, I took the camera along....

Speaking of SFC, here's a look at Win-7's in action

As mentioned in the previous post, it's still with us, and still working perfectly, and you can have one just as soon as Windows 7 is released.

Another look at Operating Systems being used...

Here's where it stands at the moment, with the Windows 7 RC just days away. XP is still the Operating System of choice for the vast majority, and that's probably why Microsoft has been trying so hard to come up with a viable replacement for Vista. As we know, Vista has failed to unseat XP as the favourite of the masses of users - because XP does it better. All this may change with the advent of Windows 7, which incorporates some of the best features of several past systems, even as far back as Millennium and its System File Checker ( remember?) and good old SFC is still doing its thing just fine in Windows 7, Folks - in case you wondered. And Windows 7 also is much more friendly to other programs than Vista was. It promises to be the next and even-better XP, and once we all get a chance to try it, you'll see what I mean. Even in beta, this is a better program already than Vista was after its SP1 ungrades. That tells me a lot, right there. And they're working right now on a method of making the change from XP to 7 easier and less-painful for us - because they'd really like to retire that great but old operating platform. All they have to do is convince us there's something better now.

Monday, April 27, 2009

ISOs and Disk Images and making them....

If you're like me, and anxiously awaiting the release of the Windows 7 RC on May 5th, then you will need something like this program for turning the ISO Image file into a DVD for the actual installation of it.

I've tried one or two others, but this one's got it all, and does whatever you need to do with files, ISO Images, or creating disks from them - and it's a freebie. Check it out, Folks...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Windows stuff.....

This is something I stumbled across while reading something I'd found surfing. Its personal version is free for home use, and it promises to create a virtual O/S on which you can do everything you usually would, while preserving untouched your real one. Then, when you go back to the real one, the changes made in the virtual one are gone, and your original data is unchanged. It's another link in the old Security chain, and appears to have both good and bad points about it. But if you want to try it, this shows you where to look.

Looking at the above screenshot you may notice I've added a couple of new icons to the mess on the left side. These are for the folders 'Prefetch' and 'Temp' inside the Windows main folder. So why do I need these? They aren't absolutely essential, but they are very handy for helping to "take out the trash" periodically. As with previous Windows, like XP, periodically dumping the accumulated build-up of non-essential or automatically-recreated-during-reboot (as in Prefetch) files helps to keep the system slim, trim, and quicker-on-the-draw. So I'm proving that it also applies in Windows 7, and so far, I'm right. Prefetch files are automatically recreated during every startup or reboot, and the Temp folder doesn't contain anything that you can't live without, because it's only a temporary parking spot for stuff that's coming from and going to other places, and what's left of that is usually just empty folders, which are quite safe to delete. If in doubt, select one of them, click on 'Properties' and look at how many bytes or Kbs it contains. Usually, not more than those required to form the empty folder itself. So give those the heave-ho periodically and keep things running better.

Are we there yet? Is it really Spring?

The flowering trees are blooming, but the leaves are still struggling to come out, and it's practically the end of April already. Usually around here all this would have been weeks ago. When they talk about 'global warming', I don't doubt it, but I'm surprised to learn that it isn't what I expected. I thought it meant that temperatures everywhere would rise equally, and that isn't how it works, apparently. Like the weather itself, it varies from place to place and region to region. So here I am, still learning things at my age.

Speaking of which, one of the best learning tools known to man is good old Google. We can ask it anything, no matter how stupid or basic or silly, and it never says "Go ask your Mom" or "Go ask your Dad", or "Don't bother me just now - I'm too busy" or "It's in the book - just keep reading!"

Instead, it provides us with multiple choices of sources where an answer may be found, and it doesn't censor either the questions we ask it, or the answers when found. It leaves all that up to us, without wagging its finger and making critical comments. And that's good, because with Google, even old people like me can ask it really childish questions, and get straight answers to them. Like, for example, "How many time zones are there in the world?" And we learned that each time zone contains 15 degrees of the earth's 360-degree circumference, so 360 divided by 15 equals 24. But another answer said there are 40, because in addition to the ones for exact hours, there are others for the half-hours and even quarter-hours in some regions, (like Newfoundland for example) which increase the total from 24 to 40 world-wide.

So I learned that even a simple question that I thought I knew the answer to really wasn't so simple after all, and that I really didn't know the answer after all. And that's the really marvelous thing about Google. It provides us with information we probably couldn't get nearly as easily anywhere else, and certainly not all in one place, and for free.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Windows Blog - and my comments

While checking The Windows Blog for the latest news on the Windows 7 RC release, which will be available for public downloads on May 5th we're told, I decided to add my own two-bits worth to the l-o-n-g list of comments. I figured I owe them that, after all the mean things I've said about previous versions of Windows, like (Ugh!) Vasta Vista....

It looks like everyone's 'turning over a new leaf' these days, including me, and good on us!
Enjoy your day, Folks....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Life as we know it - is it all over but the shouting?

There's a lively discussion going on over on another blog about inflation and the money supply and whether or not the sky is falling or if we're about to fall off the edge of the world, or just what really is happening. Comparisons are being made to the 'Great Depression'.

First of all, let me clear one thing up - the 'Great Depression' wasn't so damned great at all. My father was out of work for nearly 3 years, and pounding the pavement daily trying to find someone who might hire him. We'd have been in Big Trouble if my mother hadn't had a few dollars saved up from her school teaching job. She made most of my clothes out of others' hand-me-downs until I was around ten. It was not a 'fun time' for anyone to be here, and that's for damned sure.

However, comparing that so-called Great Depression to what's happening now is incorrect on several levels, because for starters, there are now three times as many people on the planet as there were back then. And those three times as many people have at least three times as many different problems. Back in the beginning of the 1930s, we didn't have television to show us the latest events. We had radio, and in bigger centers the daily newspaper. We also had Newsreels at the movie theater, preceding the main show. Those weren't up to the minute, but they were usually fairly recent events being show. That was as close as we came to being well informed on what was going on. Both news and people travelled slower back then, and that wasn't all bad. Incidently, the cars of the 1930s gave us just as good gas milage as today's creampuffs offer us, even if they were less well equipped. And there was nothing quite like riding in the rumble seat on a nice summer's evening, which we can't do now.

Back then, almost every week brought fresh promises of 'Happy Days Are Here Again' or some 'Good News' that never quite resulted in getting things back to normal. There was hope everywhere, but little or no improvements in the general situation - until Hitler invaded Poland, and the Second World War began in September, 1939. I was not quite seven, and I remember it. Very soon, rationing came in, and things like gasoline and sugar were obtained with coupons in a ration book, without which, you made do without them. Car tires and batteries were difficult or impossible to replace, and even tires for a bicycle were hard to get. The Depression was replaced by something even less attractive - wartime, and its various sacrifices and shortages and family members going off and sometimes not returning. I hope we manage this downturn in the economy with a little more intelligence and foresight than we did then.

With the tools and technology at our disposal now, I can't understand why our leaders are once more reverting to the same old gimicks that mostly served to prolong the agony in the famous Dirty Thirties. Surely, we're smarter than that. Unfortunately, I don't see much proof of it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day, - a few thoughts....

Today, as Google in its timely fashion informs us, is Earth Day. Like many of my generation, I've tended to take the Earth for granted. It's a lot bigger than I am, and it's a lot older than I am, and I haven't even seen most of it, except in pictures. All I know about it is whatever I've been told, and therein lies the problem, because there's a lot of very honest and well-meaning folks out there telling us things, and then there's a lot of two-faced, lyin' bastards out there, trying to bamboozle the uninformed into doing things they should have done more homework on beforehand. So some caution is well-advised. Perhaps a lot of caution in some cases.

Where am I going with this? (I thought you'd never ask!) - I'm going in the general direction of Healthy Skepticism, and I'm wearing my general-purpose Bullshit Protectors, because there's a distinct and pungent odor of fresh bullshit around certain parts of the environmental movement. The environmental movement, as you may recall, celebrates Earth Day as its own birthday. So what, exactly, is Earth Day? Googling the phrase 'Earth Day Canada' gets us this:

The word mark "Earth Day" and the Earth Day logo are registered trademarks of Earth Day Canada (1991) Inc. Charitable registration # 13195 1378RR0001. Use of either of these trademarks for mercantile, promotional and communication purpose is strictly forbidden without the written approval of Earth Day Canada.

A link on our Weather Network site about Earth Day pointed me toward another link to something called 'Bullfrog Power'. Right away, my active imagination kicked in, along with my sensitive sense of smell, and I began thinking of another eight-letter word beginning with the letters 'b-u-l-l'..... I think you can guess the one I thought of. But why would I think that?

Because, if you read the fine print, (and I have!) you'll discover that Bullfrog Power doesn't actually sell or distribute any actual electricity in and of its own accord. It simply sends you a monthly billing for the estimated consumption of electricity which you receive and are separately billed for by your regular electricity provider, who remains solely responsible for servicing your already-established account. And all this costs you is an extra two cents per kilowatt-hour, based upon that aforesaid regular provider's records. Now then, does anyone else detect the distinct odor of anything like bullshit here? Or am I the only one?

Happy Earth Day, Folks....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's a lovely day in the neighbourhood....

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the bikinis is....

Monday, April 20, 2009

It was a good day.....

And the Spring blooms are showing at last....

It's probably going to be a good day....

Because.... I can see the Country Club, The Grouse's Nest, and our resident billionaire's place without any fog or clouds in the way.... maybe I should call this 'after the rain' - or maybe 'before the rain'. It could go either way today.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Here come the leaves, at last....

A telephoto lens is fun - gives it a 'you-are-there' feeling - or a bird's eye view.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Looking around for signs of Spring

Slowly, Spring is arriving, and not a minute too soon!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's election time in Beautiful British Columbia again

And it's basically the 'same-old, same-old' - there's only two choices: The Good Guys, and the bad guys, and there's really only one thing we're arguing about, and that's which is which....

I used to get all excited at election times, and fire off impassioned 'letters to the Editor', and rant & rave about this or that hot issue, but I've mellowed in my old age, partly because I finally realized that nobody's worth getting a heart attack over, and the guys I was ranting about didn't even know I exist. So why bother?

Dear Editor at the Vancouver Sun did a nice editorial about all this election stuff, in which we are almost begged not to consider this just another election and tune it out. I sent her a nice short little email saying "Just watch me!" In the past 40 years, I've heard it all and seen most of it, and I'm here to tell you that if voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal !

Monday, April 13, 2009

Slowly, coming into bloom....

It's a slow Spring - what can I say ? ( Help ! )

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How-come ?

How-come the weather on a long weekend only clears up when it's over? Is this Murphy's Law?

XP's 'eBoostr' and 'Ramdisk' - removed ....

Now that I've satisfied my curiosity about these two, I've once again reverted to 'square one' and deleted them both from the system.

'eBoostr' in its Demo form installed and ran OK, but if you purchase it, you're looking at $36.00 + tax, and you need to buy a flash memory stick optimized for 'ReadyBoost' (to get the kind with fast memory response time) which adds another cost to it. I didn't notice any real change in the system's performance using it with the available flash card I have, which has a fast-response memory itself.

Next, I tried 'Ramdisk', and it didn't seem to make any difference, or if any, it was slower than without it. So the system is back to as it was before these experiments.

I'm told that (a) using a flash memory stick as a paging file/supplementary RAM will wear it out faster than normal because of all the increased imprinting and erasing of it which is normal for that use. (b) The XP system isn't designed with programs like 'ReadyBoost' or 'eBoostr' in mind, and so it doesn't respond well when one of those is installed. That latter point may or may not be valid, because XP, as well as Vista and Windows 7, are all based on the NT and its NTFS format, so theoretically, whatever works on one should work on all of those operating systems. This isn't strictly the case, however, as we've already seen with Vista. But it does seem to hold true for XP and Windows 7. I can't explain that, except to say that Vista was the exception to more than one rule.

'ReadyBoost' for XP? Yes - it's 'eBoostr'

I've been neglecting my treasured old XP Pro machine lately, with all the fuss over Windows 7 Beta on the newer PC. I've just started using 'ReadyBoost' on the Windows 7 machine, and got wondering if there's anything like that for us dedicated XP users. The good news is that there is, and it's called 'eBoostr' and it will work with a flash memory card, or even (as I'm just discovering) an SDHC card plugged into any handy USB 2.0 port. A 4-Gb SDHC card gives you plenty of space to use for the page files that are moved onto this extra drive. And it saves me a trip to the store for another stick just now. I can use my spare 4-Gb card from the camera. (I knew this would come in handy!)

Additional Note:-
I've also found another small freeware program, no longer being developed or supported, but still available, called ARSoft Ramdisk. It's made for NT-based systems like XP, and almost everything in it is pre-configured. The only adjustable part of it is a sliding scale to adjust how many Mb you want it to use. I have 1 Gb of RAM on this, and I read a comment from another user with similar RAM who said that he configured his to have 75 Mb for Ramdisk, and that's enough for ordinary use - so I set mine the same as his, to try it out. It works by creating a virtual disk for the paging file's fast memory usage, as I understand it, and it seems to work OK. The advantage of this over the previous (above) method is that no removable flash memory is involved. It does it all with the hardware you already have, by re-alocating a portion of unused hard-drive for the virtual Ramdrive.

However, since the normal paging file is also using a part of the hard-drive for its files, I'm wondering just how much of an advantage this Ramdrive can really provide. I'll have a better idea after I try it for a while. So far, I haven't noticed much difference.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another handy freeware = FileMenu Tools

You can get this here and it has just recently been updated to work with the latest Windows. This does all kinds of very useful things, like providing you with a shredder for files you really want to be totally rid of, and a tool for deleting those 'undeletable' files ( in case you don't have Emco's MoveOnBoot) and all of this can be easily reached with the button it places on your right-click menus. This is one of the handiest freeware tools you're likely to find, and I wouldn't be without it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New and Improved Windows 7 Build 7077.....

Above, the results of a speed test to Speakeasy, Seattle with Build 7077 of Windows 7.

Just when I thought I had the latest version of the Windows 7 Beta, I didn't - this one shows a release date of April 4th, 2009 making it just six days old. It's new, it's improved, and once again it has been tightened up and cleaned up some more. They are obviously getting closer to a finished system, and this one is a slightly smaller download than build 7068 was - but that may be because this doesn't contain any other choices but Ultimate. The 7068 build offered a choice of Starter, Basic, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. And like 7068, this is using the same license expiry date of 01-03-2010, and the same product key codes as before.

It takes about three hours to download the ISO Image, and about an hour and twenty minutes to install the program from the DVD you make from that ISO. Your reward is a newer and slightly smoother and more responsive O/S with a slightly more user-friendly user interface. I like the revised Control Panel layout, and a nicer Start menu window. And I'll have more comments after I use it longer - I've only had this up and running for about an hour....and I should mention also that this does a smoother upgrade from its previous version than the build 7068 did, and the nice part of that is that you don't have to re-install everything after it's done. It's looking like another 'keeper'.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Better late than.....

These are behind schedule this year, but they're most welcome after the long winter we had.
Maybe we will get some better weather from here on - we hope!

Flash Drives and backups....

Tired of being nagged to back up your files? I've never done this before, but with Windows 7, I thought maybe it's time - I'd like to be able to restore this if something stupid happened.

So I headed for London Drugs computer department, and a nice young man sold me one of these USB Flash Drives. The colour indicates its size in this series, and I got the 8 Gb one. I've just used it to back up my Windows 7 PC, and it was easier than I thought. I didn't even have to decide what to back up. Windows chooses whatever it considers to be required, and then it collects all that, and downloads it into the Flash Memory for you.

Out of 8 Gb, there was 7.5 Gb available after formatting and installing its own programming. Of that 7.5 Gb, there was 3.2 Gb unused after the backup was completed. The backup includes certain important Windows files, and everything from [All Users] of a personal nature such as your emails, documents, photos, etc. It takes a few minutes for the stick to be loaded but it's quite painless. This 8 Gb stick was $36.99 + tax of $4.44 = $41.43 total. And if we think about it, that's cheap insurance against a loss of data. It surprises me that such a small device can hold a complete backup for this PC. Technology is becoming simply amazing.

Ah, those April showers!

This Magnolia is still struggling to bloom, and the weather's at last beginning to moderate a bit.

This just in from Havana, Cuba....

This just in from my friend Lourdes Lopez, the head of Correspondence at Radio Havana Cuba in (where else?) Havana, saying that in May they will be celebrating their 48th Anniversary of being on the air from Havana, and asking for our comments and suggestions.

This all started because I discovered their station while surfing for streaming Internet radio, and came across their signal. I thought, "What the hell - I'll send them an email to let them know that they're reaching Canada's west coast loud and clear." And therein began a new penpal thing. Every so often, I get a short little email from Havana, just to make sure that I'm still out here, and have my ears on. I haven't the heart to tell Lourdes that my Spanish is non-existent, and unfortunately, they don't have a whole lot of programs in English - but that may change now that there's a new administration in Washington - who knows?

I'm going to try to tactfully suggest to Lourdes that she should encourage the boss to use more English programming, so that us gringos can understand more about their country. Can't hurt. We're all better off exchanging conversations rather than bombs or bullets, I figure. You can find their website here:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Attention Windows 7 users.....

Yes, Friends, you can customize your Taskbar icons, see ?

Still learning how to use a camera.....

This isn't what I thought it was, but it is what's in the photo just underneath this one. I've never really checked before, but this isn't a movie production studio as I've assumed - it's the semi-famous Hollyburn Country Club, where the rich & famous go to play, and see & be seen. If you live in the rarefied air of British Properties, known to us peasants as 'Snob Hill', then this is where you go to rub elbows with your peers. And thanks to Google Earth, I've now had a look at it from above - a location formerly beyond the reach of The Common Man - just as the club itself is. I can barely imagine what goes on in there, and I certainly can't afford to find out! Which is exactly how they planned it, I'm sure.
It's pure hell being a know-it-all, especially when you don't! Here I was, merrily snapping away with my little Canon digital, and cussing it for not producing what I thought I was buying with it, and all that time, (colour my face red), I hadn't bothered to read more than three pages of their 272-page User Guide. Shame on me!

So what did I learn by reading it? Not much yet, because I'm only on page four ( just kidding!) but I now know why some of my telephoto shots have been turning out a little bit weird...... It's because I hadn't yet discovered that [Converter] setting, with its choices of two kinds of converters, including the one for my doubler-with-adapter lens, called a Tele-converter. It seems to help if the camera knows you've mounted that extra lens in front of its own zoom lens. The picture above is an example.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Continuing about Image Stabilization....

Image Stabilization? What Image Stabilization? I turned the damned thing off, and look !
What's wrong with this ? "Dear Mr. Canon: Your Image Stabilization is NFG! Try again!"

Moving right along here - (let's, shall we?) - I was checking in the 'Everything' category in the ever-so-handy program Autoruns today, and this Windows 7 is a very cosmopolitan creation. It has DLLs from SIS, Brother, and other big-time electronics outfits, and here's something that surprised me, even though it probably shouldn't have - it has elements from Windows ME, too. You remember Millennium of course. That's when they gave us System File Checker. And why am I telling you this? Because.... you guessed it - System File Checker is back! And it works like a charm, too. When they designed Windows 7, they seem to have thought of everything. Now, all they have to do is polish up this RC1 a bit, and slap a few fancy graphics on the box, and stick a price tag on it, and get it onto the store shelves, preferably before I die of old age while waiting for it. (And I hope I'm just kidding about that!) - Seriously - from what I've seen of it so far, I'd say this promises to be the best Windows ever. They've been listening to all of our anguished cries and howling rants, and they've fixed a whole bunch of aggravations that have been bugging us for ages - and good on them! We deserved it - we're paying for it, after all. But I have to add that it's been great fun helping to de-bug this newest Windows, and I hope they continue using this same model for future new operating systems. Using feedback from the actual purchasers and users of the product is a hell of a good idea, and one that hasn't been used enough.

The white cliffs of....Vancouver Island ?

Lately, I've been increasingly dissatisfied with the Image Stabilization of this Canon G9, and its lack thereof, and the other day, Eolake blogged about such things, and I learned that it's a sometime thing - sometimes it works, and sometimes it don't. Mine, mostly don't. So I did some re-programming and shut the damned thing off completely, and these are test shots without it. Vancouver Island, by the way, along this part of it, is about 20 miles offshore. The ferry ride is about 90 minutes.

A tug pulling a barge across Georgia Strait....

...with the sunset's afterglow lingering over Vancouver Island's mountains in the distance.
Our temperature hit the mid-sixties for the first time this Spring, I think, and this was the first really nice afternoon in a long time. A most welcome change.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring has semi-sprung partly.....

These are some shots of a neighbour's over in the next block. One who usually has a great looking landscaped property, almost always with something blooming if at all possible.
This year, the Magnolia tree is barely started blooming, and all his flowers and shrubs are behind schedule with their leafing-out or flowering. It's coming, but very slowly....