Monday, August 31, 2009

No more August sunrises - I promise !

But we're ending the month with a dandy to remember it by, anyway. Enjoy your day....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More than one way to skin a cat, or an O/S....

I solved the problem of the corrupted registry files, and avoided buying a new slice of Vista, (not having anything but what's on the PC) by having a nice long chat with a very helpful young gentleman at the nearby London Drugs computers department. He explained what I could and couldn't do, and then what I should do instead of buying a DVD of Vista which will be obsolete in a couple of months anyway.

His advice: Use the built-in Acer eRecovery system to restore the computer to its factory settings and programs. It means re-installing all my own files, but it puts the computer back to mint condition, with no altered files, and no tweaks or twitches, hitches or glitches. He said near the end of our chat: " I'd be happy to sell you a $269.00 Vista DVD that will install over whatever you have on there now, but I wouldn't be doing you any favours, so try the other way first." I thanked him profusely, and promised to come and see him when Windows 7 hits the shelves on October 22nd, for a 64-bit slice of that to replace this Vasta Vista on here. There really is more than one way to skin a cat - or an operating system.

While we were chatting, I asked him if I'd made a mistake getting a 64-bit system instead of another 32-bit to match my other one. He said that lately, the majority of computers they've been selling have been of the 64-bit variety, and that the 32-bit which has up to now been so popular is definitely on the way out - maybe not immediately, but within a couple or three years. He said my year-old 32-bit will probably do fine for Windows 7, but most computers these days can only be expected to last for 2 to 3 years before technology passes them by, so after that, I should plan on replacing it probably. Although he also said it all depends on what a person wants to do with it - and he knows of people who are still using Windows 98!
I didn't laugh, because I know someone who has been using Millennium Edition until just lately taking the plunge into the 21st century with the rest of us. So anyway, 64-bit really is the wave of the future, just like my local computer fixer-upper told me. A second opinion never hurts, though.

Missed the Sunrise? Here's the Instant Replay -

Looks quite a lot like last evening's sunset, doesn't it? There's still smoke in the air today. All those forest fires must be having an effect on our global warming problems, with all the carbon those have pumped into the atmosphere lately, and breathing some of that smoke isn't doing anyone a whole lot of good either. But it makes for an interesting picture. Try to enjoy your day, everyone.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sunrise, and now Sunset.....

Another smoky sunset, and it is working its way southward along the horizon as the weeks go by, and summer passes. Too bad it can't be July all year around....

And after crying tears the size of footballs this morning about the messed-up Vista on my newest PC, I found a website where Vista users can download a whole series of little patches for the registry, which will correct various problems caused by us rank amateurs adding and subtracting stuff in there. Have a look.

Note re: Vista Shortcut Arrow Remover 2.0 -

I'm not entirely sure why, but this little program for removing or resizing these humungous arrows that came as factory equipment in Vista and Windows 7 happens to work a lot better and more reliably in Windows 7 than it does in the Vista it was designed for changing.

So if you have Vista (you bear for punishment, you!) and you've tried this and been less than happy with the results, cheer up! There's hope for you yet - Use it on Windows 7, and see what it was really meant to do. Still wondering why those ace coders at Microsoft reworked Vista into Windows 7? Not me.... I know exactly why they did it. It was that or watch a modern incarnation of "The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire" as applied to the biggest software conglomerate the world has ever seen. Because us peasants who shell out hundreds of dollars per slice for that programming have become exceedingly disillusioned with the quality of the recent product, as compared to previous issues which actually worked like they were supposed to work. So they had to do something, and Windows 7 was the something they did.

Sometimes, I wonder if those guys are purposely creating a less-than-glorious product every few issues, just so we will express our gratitude and relief by buying piles of the next one that comes along, carefully engineered to correct all those glaring faults in the preceding clunker. Is this the name of the game? Does it explain 'Vasta Vista' the Edsel of operating systems? All I know for sure is that I can hardly wait for October 22nd, when Windows 7 hits the shelves at the local retailers, and I can grab a slice to install over the Vista Home Premium that came on my newest PC, just this month.

This little gem has a 64-bit system, and even though my spies tell me that the 64-bit is the wave of the future, I have news: the future isn't here yet, and this goddamned 64-bit isn't working worth a damn with the 32-bit programs I've known and loved for years on my older (but not by much) 32-bit computer, now running the 32-bit version of Windows 7. And you can't HomeGroup a Vista PC with a Windows 7 PC, because they simply aren't on good speaking terms with each other. That puzzles me, because the one is derived from the other. But getting back to this 64-bit stuff, this will teach me not to trust someone else to pick out my type of operating system for me, when I should have been making sure that each of my two PCs could share programming and operating systems of the same bit-count.

This 64-bit rig, running Vista Home Premium, includes what's called WOW64, which will theoretically adapt your old 32-bit programs into a compatibility-mode sort of semi-64-bit format so that the 64-bit system can digest them and run them alright. But one of the things this results in is two different folders for Programs; The regular folder for the native 64-bit programs, and another auxiliary folder named "x86 Programs" into which all those not-really compatible 32-bit or x86 programs go. So right off, you've got double folders for Programs. (How do you spell 'problems'?) And even though there may be no connection to that, the latest use of "sfc /scannow" reports that the system files are corrupt, and System File Protection is unable to repair them. I'm directed to a log file for details. Wonderful! I've only had this rig for two and a half weeks, and already, it's needing a re-install, and I don't have the disk for it - and I'm not buying one, because October 22nd is coming, and then it's going to be "Goodbye, Vista! May you rest in pieces!"

A promising day begins...

With sunrises, as with sex, a lot can change in just a few seconds. We have proof...
Enjoy your day, everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some rather inconclusive research....

....but first, another of my 'sunsets over Vancouver Island in the distance' shots from yesterday just because it's a nice picture and I like the variations and contrasts in it. (click to enlarge)

Now, for the inconclusive research: I was looking up various references on prostate cancer and especially the variations of PSA levels related thereto - and not even the experts seem able to agree on some of the results of trials and tests done with or for evaluation of PSA. It's difficult for an average confused schmuck like me to make sense of that whole picture when it's clouded with so many variations on a theme and so many contradictory or simply inconclusive results of various kinds of tests done by several different groups of experts. They babble on and on about causes and treatments, all the while not seemingly knowing for sure what actually starts the process in the first place. They go to some pains to point out that the PSA level tests are not exactly reliable, but yet they use those to decide whether or not to punch holes in your prostate to collect tissue samples for examination. It all seems like a bit of a 'by guess and by God' approach to the problem. I think I now have a better understanding of something I once was told by one of those 'experts' - 'medicine is not like mechanics; it's an inexact science.' (You can say that again, Doc!)

Here's a relevant quote from the famous Voltaire (1694-1778):- "The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This isn't a new house - it's a make-work project!

I snapped this just as the dust was blowing away from the rocks that tumbled out of that big truck this afternoon. This new house has been under construction now for over a year, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'll live long enough to see it finished and sold and occupied.

And I'm wondering where they will put those huge rocks, which are too large to be moved by manpower alone, and why they'd import such rocks, when most home owners would rather get rid of things like that. Obviously, these will end up as some kind of decorative landscaping but where and how remain to be seen. A couple of them are half the size of my first Volkswagen beetle - a 1957 Deluxe. Great little car! It could do everything but keep you warm in winter. But when the going got tough, it was better than a jeep. The modern-day copy of it is a hollow imitation. You simply don't get a second chance to make a first impression!

What am I doing up at this hour?

That's a damned-good question! And I have a good answer: I'm 76, going on 110, and my system just won't let me avoid bathrooms for more than two or three hours at a stretch, these days. Call that 'the joys of old age'. So here I am, having once again escaped from the bathroom alive, and sitting here drinking coffee, and reflecting on my past sins and yesterday's events of note.

One of those was another visit to the urologist, which happens to be another routine of our old age that we're not warned about in advance when we're younger. Obviously, that's so we won't get too discouraged about life and its future before we've enjoyed a goodly slice of it.

My urologist is a younger man, naturally, and a rather cheerful chap, considering the kinds of things he has to routinely do to practice his trade. I certainly wouldn't trade jobs with him! As visits to urologists go, this one went very well. I didn't require a physical exam, and the results of the latest test of my PSA Level came back a couple of points lower than the previous one of a few months ago. The good doctor and I had a rather pleasant visit, talking mostly about our computers, and the programs on them, and the soon-to-be-available new Windows 7, which I've been testing since January.

The doctor, like most people in business, is still using XP Professional, and he was quite surprised when I told him that even yet, if we want a fresh copy of that full program from an office supplier like Staples, it will cost us over $400.00. Personally, I think that's outrageous for an operating system that's what? - eight years old? Would you pay full new-car price for one that was eight years old? Of course not! So now you know why Bill Gates became one of the richest guys in the world. And also why some of us would like to fry his ass for sticking us with the kinds of crap found in Windows Vista Home Premium! We will, however, at least partially forgive him and his Mighty Microsoft if they make sure Windows 7 doesn't ever get as bloated and awkward to use as that damned Vista did. So far, Windows 7 is a smooth-running program that contains a lot of crafty improvising around Vista's most notorious faults, and it's a lot more user-friendly - as I've said repeatedly in this blog.

But getting back to the doctor's office, he hasn't any urgent plans to change over his system yet to anything newer - which may explain why they can still ask $400.00 a slice for that old XP Pro disk. The doc says I don't need to return until half-past January for my next check-up, and by then, we may all be using Windows 7 on our computers. I will, for sure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Everything Old Is New Again

It's only taken 103 years to do it, but finally, the world's speed record for steam-powered cars has been broken - but only by 12.183 mph. If a steamer went 127.66 mph in 1906, one wonders why they weren't more popular with the hot rod set. Even if you didn't win a race, you could always make tea with it, to console yourself....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is a panoramic view of the village of Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut Territory, which is at the top end of Hudson's Bay, near the mouth of the Inlet of the same name. The significance of all this being that away back in the summer of 1968, when I was working for a federal government subsidiary called Northern Canada Power Commission, I was sent up there to the arctic, along with a pile of supplies unceremoniously dumped in a big heap above the high tide line of the inlet there, and the object of that exercise was to renovate a small 3-unit diesel powerhouse belonging to the Department of Transport, and convert it with larger units, which would then be connected into the main grid of the small village there. Until then, the main village got its electricity from an improvised setup in a big shed, operated by the Catholic Mission, and its substantial crew, while the separate Department of Transport and its weather and radio installation had their own isolated system - and never the two had met. I was there to perform that rather dubious task.

That was one of the most unusual summers of my life, and living up there so far above the tree line, with only grass and moss, and low outcrops of rock here and there, and very few people, that was a very different kind of experience. In summer, the sun was above the horizon for about 22 of the 24 hours, and it was a rather bright twilight for those other two. The native kids, and there were lots of them at a big boarding school there, also operated by the Catholic Mission, played outside sometimes until one or two in the morning, and all our houses had 'blackout' type drapery, rubber-lined, so we could make it dark enough inside to get to sleep. The Mission had a small bulldozer and a small farm-type tractor, and I had the only real (and really useless!) pickup truck in town. I'd been assured it would be a 4x4 with big tires to run on the unimproved trails and open tundra there. Typically of government, though, there had been a last-minute mix-up, and what I got was a two-wheel-drive city-type pickup with ordinary summer tires - and it wouldn't go anywhere I needed to go with it without getting stuck in the soft sand near the beach, or digging holes and spinning its wheels where the ground was a little harder. Four or five inches below the surface was permafrost, and the surfaces above that in summer were often wet and mushy, and rather slippery for a vehicle with rubber tired wheels. So my pickup was useless. I parked it in front of the big school, and let the kids there amuse themselves by pretending to drive it. Most of them had never seen one of these things before, and they had fun with it. I rented a tractor from the Mission instead. About once a week, I'd fire up the new truck, load it with as many kids as could get in or onto it, and take everyone for a short ride around the few hundred meters of roads they had there. And calling those roads was being overly generous for sure.

I had four young native lads working with me, constructing about a half-mile of power line to connect that isolated powerhouse to the rest of 'downtown', and in between helping them and a lineman sent from another arctic site to do that part of it, I worked on the powerhouse getting that ready. But as the summer progressed, and we didn't receive any of the promised pay-cheques, and the annual re-supply ship got delayed for repairs, after hitting rocks further down south, the situation got rather uncomfortable. My solution was to arrange for meals at another government operation's cookery, and finally one day I went to the weather station's radio message center, and called my boss in Ottawa on the radio-phone, to request that he send me another tech-type from there to lend a hand. He agreed, and that's when I started packing. When the plane landed with that requested helper on it, I was all ready to throw my gear onto it, and take off for Ottawa to collect my summer's wages. I congratulated my helper for becoming my replacement as superintendent of the project, said a fond farewell to my four faithful native assistants, and hitched a ride down the coast to the nearest airport with scheduled service. Then, back to Ottawa, for a tersely-worded exchange with my employers, collected my pay, and headed for the west coast out here, where I've remained ever since.

A lot has changed in those intervening 41 years, and those natives up north are now voting and deciding their own fates, instead of being under the government's paternalistic thumb, and I'm a lot older now of course - but one thing's still the same - the arctic is a very different kind of environment if you've been raised in the south, and it's a lot like landing on a large foreign planet in the midst of nowhere. One that is only now catching up to the rest of us with its communications, and connections to the rest of the world. And what about the power network in Chesterfield Inlet today? It's modern, works well, and makes life better - but only if you can afford it. Check this map, and click on the place names for details of the rates of electricity up there. It will take your breath away I bet.... See what I mean? Told ya....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some days start wrong but improve...

After I stumbled out of bed this morning, I decided to rinse off my glasses so I could see better for the next part of my wake-up routine, which is making a hot cup of coffee. I turned on the tap, held the glasses under the stream, and the left lens promptly fell out and landed near the drain. We can blame that on a short length of monofilament fishing line which is used in a groove along the underside of each lens, to hold it snugly into the upper metal portion of the frame. It broke where it goes into the metal frame.

All the way over to the optometry office where Doctor Deb and her crew keep us all seeing well or looking better or however you want to put it, I was worrying about possibly having to use my older previous prescription for several days while the latest was sent to the lab again for repairs. I worried for nothing. The lady on the adjustments desk ( the 'Fixer-Upper Lady') said, "Have a seat, and I'll fix these right now." Within about five minutes, I was on my way again, glasses repaired, and the old ones packed away in the case. While she was fixing the frame, we were talking, and she mentioned that Doctor Deb had just said that this year is her 25th in business. It's also my 25th of getting my glasses from her company. She does good work and I hope she continues to enjoy it for as long as she likes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Today is August 23rd, and....

on this date in 1950, I packed a bag and left home to go to work as a trainee in the hydro-electric power plants of Ontario Hydro. Ontario Hydro is now reincarnated as something only vaguely resembling its 1950 incarnation, and most of my peers of those days have already preceded me to The Great Beyond - or maybe the Not-so-Great Beyond. In any case, we're no longer howling at the moon together, nor chasing women, nor getting drunk. None of that worked out very well for any of us. Those of us who were smart cleaned up our acts, and the others didn't live long enough to wish they had.

1950 wasn't a very good year. The Korean War started, the Cold War was heating up, and the famous Al Jolson died of a massive heart attack while playing cards in his suite at a hotel in San Francisco shortly after returning from a trip to entertain the American troops fighting in Korea.
My first car was a 1932 Chevrolet sedan that cost $150.00 in 1950, and if it was around now and looked as nice as this (it almost did) then it would be worth maybe $29,500 or so.

It sounds like a worn-out phrase, but it really was a whole different world back then. In 1950 automation hadn't yet made power station operators redundant, and both cars and gas were reasonably cheap and easily available, and we didn't have TV filling our heads and our living rooms with the kinds of disgusting crap it throws at us today with its multitude of channels. Wherever we could get TV, it was usually poorly received on just a couple of channels, and it wasn't full of girlie ads, or x-rated movies, or other filth you'd be afraid to be seen watching if your mother came into the room. Like I said - a whole different world back then. And in 1950, the world population was just 2.55 billion. Now, there's that many stuck in the gridlock at rush hour someplace, and our total today is 6.8 billion and climbing. But are we worried? Hell, No! We haven't got sense enough for that....

Why I like Windows 7 so much....

Because.... It saves me from myself when I do something stupid without reading the directions first, or making a separate backup, or whatever....

Like last night - I decided to re-configure the active partition on the hard-drive from one huge partition back into the two smaller ones it was originally. I used a well-known partitioning tool which I've used before without any problems, but last night, I did something wrong, and the computer wouldn't restart Windows afterward.

Enter Windows 7's 'Save Your Ass' features, and it gives you choices for undoing the harm done and getting back to normal again, without having to re-format the drive and re-install Windows. At last, the folks at Microsoft are anticipating guys like me who will rush into something with too little preparation and too much unjustified confidence, and then get into a big mess. Not only are they anticipating our unpreparedness, but they don't punish us for it by making us do an hour's work to recover from it - like they once did. For that, I'm grateful.

And by way of learning from it, today after I had everything on my external drive cleaned off so it can start fresh, I made a complete image of everything on my C: drive, and stored it on the external one. So the next time I get stupid, or fall asleep in the midst of something, and unconsciously press a whole mess of wrong keys, I can use that image to restore everything to mint condition again in just a few minutes.

And after that mess was all recovered from last night, I found that the attempt at dividing the single partition into two had been successful, even though it wasn't booting afterward - and that was because the partitioning program had automatically re-assigned the drive letters even as I had manually chosen those myself. So it refused to boot, because it couldn't find the drive letters I'd given it, because those were different after the partitioning program did its own thing after I'd made the choices. So next time, I won't do any choosing of drive letters, I'll leave it to the automatic program, and hopefully avoid all that. So all's well that ends well. The drive is back to two partitions, and is rebooting and starting Windows normally again. Thank You, Windows 7 !

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Finally! Something new in the freezer section...

Found this nice little surprise tonight as I checked the freezer section for something that might actually be edible. This one's something new, and is using a different idea to actually steam cook the frozen ingredients. It's a two-part container, with the sauce in the basement, and the munchies above. The good news is that this one actually works to preserve the flavor of the food, and the results are quite tasty. Being an old fart who lives alone and doesn't have much imagination (or space) for cooking, I appreciate something like this. So I'm trying to spread the word, Folks. Give this one a try!

And my Question Everything for today is: "If my frozen dinner can cross the border between the USA and Canada without a passport, then why the hell can't I ???" How about answering that one for me, President Obama.... or should I start calling you ' Bam-Bam'? Our American cousins should quit worrying about international terrorism destroying their country - from whatever I've seen & heard lately, their own citizens have been doing all too well at it without any foreign interference whatsoever. 'Bernie Made Off', 'Fanny May', 'Freddie Mac', General Motors, - the list is practically endless. I'd say 'Osama Bin Missing' is the least of your worries, Cousins.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let's go backward when forward fails....

To borrow a line from that old song 'Everything Old Is New Again'......Anyhooo.... last Sunday, the 16th, in my rant of the day here, I described a Registry hack which removes those rather large and unsightly shortcut arrows from icons on your desktop. I'm recalling this just to tell you that the same hack for the Vista Desktop also works in Windows 7.

I know, because I just replaced the Acer Empowering Technology features which I had deleted from the PC on which Windows 7 is installed (because they can be a goddamned nuisance, Mr Acer!) and as soon as those several files were replaced and installed again (like as new) and I did a reboot to get everything happy in there, back came all those icon arrows I thought I'd got rid of with that other little program. So rather than play around trying to again banish arrows from icons, I went back into Regedit -> H Key Classes Root ->lnkfile and clicked it. Then when its various attributes were displayed in the right-hand column, look for and choose IsShortcut, which is a String Value (Reg_SZ) and delete it.

Windows 7 wasn't terribly pleased during its next reboot, and momentarily flashed a blue screen at me, but then its own recovery kicked in, and it went on to show me a screen all about not shutting down properly on the last reboot (it shut down just fine, Thanks, because I've got a "Reboot" shortcut which includes the 'dash f' for 'force programs to close' - but I guess it had to say something. Anyway, choosing Start Windows normally... got everything up and going again, and without those cotton-pickin' arrows. So Win-7 is touchy about having its Registry hacked, but it does accept the changes and carries on nicely. Without arrows.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This just in from a friend at Emco...

Exchanging email lately with the nice folks at EMCO, the subject of suggestions came up, so I rather hastily suggested an unlocking tool for files and folders to which we are denied access. I got a very nice email back this morning from Igor at their IT & Support Center in Kharkiv, Ukraine saying he appreciates my kind words about their MoveOnBoot, and that they already have another free program for doing the unlocking of files and folders.

Now I have to admit that I never checked before making the suggestion - and once again I have to remove my foot from my mouth - but the good news is, this tool already exists, and coming from EMCO, we know it is going to work. To read all about it and get your own copy of it, please click here, or check the link in the right-hand margin.

And before I head into the kitchen for another cup of coffee, let me say thank you very much to Igor for pointing out all this to me. And I do have an excuse, Igor, for not looking before I leaped.
My trusted old XP computer died last week, and I've been busy setting up and loading up this new one, and my attention has not always been on the right things. Sorry about that. This new computer has the x64 operating system with Vista Home Premium, so that may explain why I have not been reading many web pages this last few days.... I am about |------| this far away from once again dumping the Vista like I did on my other one, and install the RC of Windows 7,
which is everything we hoped Vista might be but wasn't. Windows 7 fixes all that, and nobody is more pleased than I am. At last, Windows that really kicks ass!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our evening sun, obscured by smoke clouds...

This is why the struggle against global warming is so difficult. Even if our stupidity can be cured, we still haven't found a remedy for Mother Nature's lightning-strikes igniting forest fires in terrain which is very difficult to reach.

This isn't fog, it's smoke, and here's why...

Looking out the north window, there's a lot of smoke around today, and if we look at the map of British Columbia from the Forest Service website, we see why. There's a lot of fires burning around the province just now, and this map only shows some of the more important ones. It's one of those years when the government's projected budget for fighting wildfires has already gone up in smoke, with no end in sight.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And they say pot won't trash your brain...

From the 'In Photos' section of the Globe and Mail's on line edition today, this little gem.
A picture really is worth a thousand words.

And speaking of on-line editions, Google News this morning prompts me to ask "Where have all the proofreaders gone?" - because of this headline: 'Celine Dion preganant with second child'. - huh? Since when are there so many letters in the word 'pregnant'? And for that matter isn't the semi-lovely Celine a bit long in the tooth for 2:00 AM feeding times? Maybe I should be asking "Where has all the common sense gone?" - Enjoy your day, everyone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Today's best flower picture.....

And it makes one helluva nice background wallpaper on the monitor, too. :)

I just used that little Speakeasy icon on the right-hand margin to connect to Speakeasy's Seattle site, for a comparison "race" between this Vista Home Premium and Windows 7 Ultimate on my other rig.....and there isn't as much difference as there used to be before Vista got its SP2. However, my favourite, the Windows 7, is still clearly the winner by a nose!

Vista Home Premium with SP2:-
Downloads at 2774 K-bits/sec. = 346.8 K-bytes/sec.
Uploads at 685 K-bits/sec. = 85.6 K-bytes/sec.

Windows 7 Ultimate Release Candidate:-
Downloads at 2829 K-bits/sec. = 353.6 K-bytes/sec.
Uploads at 687 K-bits/sec. = 85.9 K-bytes/sec.

Windows 7 is not only a little quicker, it's also smoother and more user-friendly, and now that I've got another new machine with Vista on it for comparison, rather than trying to judge it by my old hopped-up home-built with the XP Pro, I can easily notice the advantages of having the Windows 7 instead of its parents. There's just no substitute for youth and good looks!

After update to SP2 for x64 systems...

For Monsieur Beep in sunny Germany - and anyone else who just got a new computer with Vista installed on it - have a peek at your 'Computer' window for the fine print, and just make sure that you've got the Service Pack 2 (SP2) installed. Sometimes, because it takes time to download and install it, a dealer may not do that, and on mine, even with Windows Updates set to automatic, that wasn't trying to give me the Service Pack 2 either, until I began to get it manually from the Microsoft site - which kept crapping out on it part-way through, perhaps attempting to tell me that they'd finally caught onto my lacking it, and were now trying to send it via the Automatic Updates. (That's how it finally came!) - So anyway, please just have a look at yours, and make sure it's OK and has its SP2 cumulative upgrades.

If you download the one on the website's page, (KB948465) it shows a size of 577 Mb. That's because it has all sorts of stuff like language packs and files for variations of other versions like Server 2008, which an ordinary Vista Home Premium doesn't need and can't use. Mine from the Windows Updates when I finally got it was only about 73 Mb - a far cry from 577 - so try to get the site for Windows Automatic Updates to give it to you, if you can. I can't explain why I had to practically kick-start something to get it going for mine. I hope you have better luck :)

(Or grab a quick download of Windows 7 before August 20 when that ends...) And do try to enjoy your day, everyone! You too, Sally, wherever you are...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The cleaned-up Vista desktop

And it looks like this ^

The new Vista desktop...

"Why?" you ask.... Simple: to show you that icon up top, for the Ultimate Windows Tweaker on this page that does a lot of good things to the O/S for you, like changing the "New User" account name to yours, in case you hadn't figured out how, or making many other little changes for convenience.

The other reason is just to show how to have the sidebar gadgets visible without that big dark and gawd-awful sidebar itself. Why they never made its opacity variable, like other Aero features are, I'll never know - but that another of those reasons few of us fell instantly in love with Vasta Vista after it came limping out of obscurity following all that overblown hype a few years back. It's also why we bombarded Mighty Microsoft (are you still there, Sally?) with all kinds of rants and suggestions, almost but not quite including where to put it so it won't get a sunburn.

Anyway, getting back to explaining this, what you do is, you drag the gadgets you want on the un-sidebarred desktop out of that sidebar onto a spot away from it. Then you right-click on that little thingy at the top of the sidebar, and bring up the menu offering "close sidebar" - which you then click on. It disappears, and then you can drag your desired gadgets back over into their parking spots on the side - or wherever else you'd like them.

P.S. -
I didn't have any luck using the program for removing the arrows (from Frameworkx) maybe because his site is defunct now, and others have copied his program, and it don't work for me. But there's a Registry hack you can use to remove those ugly arrows, as follows:-

Start Button -> In Search box, type Regedit, and press Enter.
In the first section, H-Key Classes Root, scroll away down to the 'L' section of it, and look for the listing for Linkfile, shown as (all lower case) lnkfile. Click on that word, to show its other values in the right-hand column. Look for IsShortcut, of type Reg_SZ, (a String Value). It will not show any other information beside the Reg_SZ. Right-click on it and choose delete.
You'll be asked if you really want to do this, and yes, you do. Delete it, and close Registry.
There goes those ugly arrows! If you want them back, you have to put back that item where you found it, so make some notes in case you need them later.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

As the sun sinks slowly in the west....

A large plane settles into the circuit for the airport on the south side of the city, giving us some perspective on those clouds it's flying through.

It takes all this equipment to patch a crack...

....but I should add that these driveways around here are actually built on the roof of our 1,200-car garages, and it gets rather wet down in there lately, with all the cracks that have developed over the 35 years or so that this place has been here. It was built in the early to mid-1970s, and I first lived here in 1980 or 81, just after my second marriage became history. Which probably explains why I never bought one of these units - but I've often wished since then that I had. It would be all mine by now, and I'd be saving money. Anyway, this guy and his big noisy truck got my attention this afternoon, as I was downloading a copy of Windows 7 64-bit from Microsoft's website - just in case I get tired of the Vista on this newest PC.

Speaking of which, for anyone who would like to - those free trial downloads of the Release Candidate of Windows 7 Ultimate are still available until the 20th of this month - so get it while you can. These will be good until late spring of 2010, so you'll have several months to
use the latest and greatest, before Microsoft switches them off on us, and we have to get the retail versions instead.

Also speaking of Vista, just a reminder for Monsieur Beep and his computering wife, and all you others with Vista - some 3rd-party freebies you'll find really handy are:- the Image Resizer 2.0 for Vista, which goes into your right-click drop-down menus and lets you easily do batch resizing (or one at a time) of your photos, which usually come from the camera as huge files. This little tool is a copy of the XP PowerToy Image Resizer, except this newest version has now been re-written in CC+ so it works in versions for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. I have it on here in 64-bit form, and it works great. Another handy program, especially if you're downloading an ISO Image of Windows 7, or whatever, is ImgBurn, the free image-burning program. It's compact, easy to use, and works like a charm on ISO image files, and for turning your o
ther files into ISOs if you like. And in case you do re-partition a big hard-drive into two smaller partitions, perhaps for a dual-booting arrangement, then Easeus Partition Master is a must. It's also a freebie, and you can do a lot of neat things with it. Like re-sizing the various partitions on a hard-drive, or creating new ones, and the instructions explain how.

Now that I can compare Vista to Windows 7, nose to nose, and program to program, there really is a difference, and it's Windows 7 out in front, with Vista against the rail away back. Just like I've been saying since January.... and Thank God those youngsters in Redmond have been listening to us old farts and our suggestions - we're finally getting all this together, and it's really kicking ass!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The new computer....

It comes home from the shop this afternoon, after it gets prepped for use on the wild, wild web with all its updates and SPs - so I won't have to do it myself. I'm getting lazy in my old age. Why not? Now, I'll have a modern computer to match my other modern Acer monitor.
I don't need the speakers because I already have a better set - the Edifier, with two little stereo desktop speakers plus a bigger subwoofer for the heavy-duty stuff. I'll have more on all this after I give it a good workout later on.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today: Off to a great start....

It's a great day for British Columbia, everybody - (to borrow an intro from Craig Ferguson, the late late night show host, and Semi-Gay Ranchero) - anyway - (get on with it, Ray!) as I'm about to say, the day's off to a roaring start: woke up to booming thunderstorm, and headed for the bathroom, where the power went off in the midst of proceedings. Have you ever tried to wipe your ass in the dark, without a flashlight, while wishing your bathroom was against an outside wall where it might have a small window so you might see what you're doing while the lights are out? - Well, that's how my day's started. I fervently hope it improves as it gets older, like good whiskey. I'm about to find out, I guess...

This tree is in the parking lot next to Hydro's John Lawson Substation in West Van, and the thing that's unusual about it is that it doesn't have needles like an ordinary evergreen, but rather those are shaped like long narrow leaves with serrated edges.

Here's a closer view of those 'needles' on this big tree. Anyone know what it is called? If so, please leave a comment on here for us.

And while I was over there, I noticed that Hydro is finally changing out one of the main power transformers at that John Lawson Substation. I say 'finally' because one of them needed changing 25 years ago, while I was working on that maintenance crew for that area - but nobody wanted to get into such a big job, so we kept giving it the old 'Band-Aid solution' and hoping it would hold together. It did - until our generation were all retired. It's nice to see the younger generation is smarter than we were, and not afraid of tackling major and very expensive upgrades. That old transformer's automatic voltage controller gave us trouble for years, and nobody could fix it, because nobody wanted to take it out of service long enough to do it properly. It's nice to see it's finally been replaced.

The thunderstorm now seems to be over, our nine-minute power outage hasn't been repeated, and it looks like peace has returned to the valley.... I think I'll have another cup of coffee.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The once-upon-a-time Ferry Building....

While taking the pictures of the trees below, I took a couple of this little Gallery across on the other side of the railway tracks, in a waterfront park. Back in the 'good old days' before the Lions Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 or 1938, this was the Ferry Building, where you got tickets for the ferry which took you across to the far side of Stanley Park, in what's now called 'the West End' of downtown Vancouver. This is now owned by the city, and used as a Gallery for local artists to show their stuff. Everything old is new again.

Those blooming trees in West Vancouver...

Again, I must confess I don't know what these are called, but they are very lovely, and again this year I almost forgot to take some pictures of them. If anyone knows the name of these beautiful little trees, please leave us a comment below. Leave a comment anyway, if you like.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Those clouds are full of rocks....

After another of those overcast weekends during our annual air show here, it's finally trying to clear off again. It couldn't have been much of an air show at Abbotsford this year, with our weather the way it was. Maybe it will be better next time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More tricks with Windows 7...

The old Windows key plus Tab trick. Hold 'em down, and the stuff flies by...

And the latest version of Irfanview is now working in Windows 7, unlike its previous version. Irfan didn't think it needed fixing until I talked him into it a while ago. Now it's much better.

Old Faithful's 'New Look' with Windows 7

Dressed up with customized icons and my own 'Clouds' set of changing backgrounds on it, Old Faithful is hardly recognizable. Here's the proof that a several-years-old computer can run Windows 7 with all its new stuff.

And as I just discovered, now that both my PCs are running Windows 7, they can share files and folders through the common HomeGroup, so I don't need any special cables to exchange stuff between them. There's even a provision for streaming your music or videos among the HomeGroup participating PCs - and that's going to be a fun feature, I'm sure. More of the good things in Windows 7, and it's obvious they've given this a lot of thought. Good on them!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More fun with Old Faithful, my oldest PC...

After tuning it up and getting it going nicely earlier today, I got the urge to put Windows 7 RC on it, to see how it can run it. The Good News is: it runs it just fine, Thank You. I did a clean install which wiped out the old XP Pro, and I'm still adding back some of the many programs that got lost in the process, but this old single-core Intel CPU is doing quite a nice job with Windows 7.

I just installed the Java, and tried a Speed Test to Speakeasy in Seattle, and this old machine is downloading at 2810 k-bits a second (351.3 K-bytes) and uploading at 585 K-bits (or 73.1 K-bytes) a second. That's not too bad for a machine that's somewhere between 6 and 8 years old, and was already 2 or 3 years old when I got it in 2005.

So in case anyone's interested, you actually can run Windows 7 on an older PC - assuming that it has had a couple of improvements along the way, like a modern graphics card with its own memory, and a recent-vintage hard-drive with lots of spare room on it. It's not all quad this and duo that, when we get right down to it. This 2-gig CPU still gets it done with the latest Windows. And I'm just as surprised as anyone by that. So it's "Goodbye, XP, Hello Windows 7."

PC Wizard 2009 was released July 12th.....

And for us Windows users, this new one also works on Windows 7, we're told. So if you'd like a handy program for finding out what's going on with your hardware, click here to go to their downloads page. You may be surprised at just how useful this program can be, especially with its latest improvements - and it's still freeware, Folks.

Another rant about computers....old ones.

Monsieur Beep recently retired his cherished old computer loaded with Millennium Edition, or at least he took it off-line, in favour of newer equipment. Maybe that's what I ought to be considering, after my recent adventures with this old 'whitebox' PC that has the XP Professional on it.

Over the years, I've loaded it up with a long list of programs; to be exact, 1.63 GB of them, in 1,612 folders, containing 11,772 files. I know, because I've just put all that onto a DVD for safe-keeping.

Why? Because...after the past couple of weeks with this old rig, I got nervous about how and when I might be able to access that stuff if I wanted it. That's because a couple of weeks ago, Old Faithful suddenly started taking fits of not wanting to boot up without several repeated attempts, and then those got more prolonged, with less running time between, until finally, I just couldn't coax it into loading its Windows at all. So I took it to the shop, just in time for it to sit there while the computer guru took a week off for a bit of a holiday. Good thing I have another computer now.

Dwight sent me an email yesterday to say he had it up and running for most of two days and could not find anything really wrong with it. That's not been my experience with it lately. I brought it home, connected all the wiring, and then spent hours trying to get it to first of all start up, and then stay running for more than two or three minutes without 'freezing' in the midst of something.
During all that, I was also frantically searching the web on the other computer for bits of good advice I'd remembered seeing on there recently. Some said it must be the BIOS, but mine is right up to date. Others said check the CMOS Battery, which needs to have more than 2.5 volts - mine's got 3.13 volts yet, so that's OK. And someone else said he'd solved a mystery like this once by taking out all of his RAM, and carefully cleaning all those dozens of little contacts with an ink eraser, and then wiping away the particles of it, before replacing the RAM carefully in its slots.

I removed that little lithium battery and cleaned its contacts while checking it for voltage, and then I removed both strips of 512 MB RAM, polished their contacts, dusted out their sockets, and then carefully clamped them back in again. Then, I dusted out the CPU fan while I was in there. Making a long story short, I don't know what I did that fixed the problem, but since I got it up and running again, it hasn't gone into a 'freeze-up' since - so I'm going to call it "fixed" until I find otherwise.

I haven't any idea why cleaning the contacts on bars of RAM would stop the rig from freezing up in the middle of doing things, but it seems to have something to do with it. And my boot-up problems were definitely related to that CMOS battery, which seemed to be a bit insecure in its mount when I pulled it out for testing. One expert said if you remove that battery in an older machine, you lose all the BIOS data it stores on its chip. Luckily, this one of mine is new enough that it isn't like that. It hunts in the hard-drive for backups of that, and then will start up once you've replaced the battery again. All of which, I've just learned the hard way. Just passing this along in case anyone finds it helpful.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sunrises, as requested by Monsieur Beep....

Just to prove that sometimes - not often, but sometimes - I do get up early enough to see it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another day, another sunset -

The same as last evening, but without the clouds.

"Who killed the blogosphere?"

I posted this link on another blog several months ago, and came across it again today, so I thought I'd post a link to it here, because it's worth reading if you haven't already seen it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tonight's sunset

Taken on a Canon G9 at 6x optical plus a doubler, for a total of 12x optical.

Why we need rain...

An example of the local lawns.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Especially nice this year....

The neighbours' garden across the street looks especially nice this year.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another nice sunset...

Our nice weather continues.