Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The snow is getting closer today

Out here, it's not so much a matter of north and south as it is of up and down. We still don't have snow on the ground down here, but it is getting closer, as this shows.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Need a friend? Build one....

Here's a project for the do-it-yourself enthusiast with $60,000 and the skills required. Build yourself a girlfriend. She speaks two languages, slaps you if you get too forceful, and she won't run away because she can't walk. This might be something Charlie Sheen should have.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another discovery....

Here's where to find this When you go there, please watch the video which explains what it does, and how you can use it.

Who uses which operating system?

Here's the breakdown from on the various operating systems and the percentage of its users as of today. 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve on the West Coast

It's another green Christmas here this year, and that's not all bad.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Whatever happened to....

Christmas cards.... they're a vanishing item. Or I should say, they are being transformed into the electronic variety, as shown above. This is a 'snipping' from an animated greeting that I received the other day from friends.

I've only received two actual old-fashioned cards so far this year. One from friends in the building, and another from a distant cousin, who perhaps isn't as computer-oriented as some of the rest of us.

I think the electronic variety are just fine. It saves on trees, trips to the post office, and stamps. And it's easier to send a reply, too. I wish everybody did it.

Enjoy the Christmas season, everyone...

Monday, December 21, 2009

More this and that....

Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night in the northern hemisphere. The good news being that tomorrow, the days start getting longer again. And I don't think I'll get into a long rant about connections between Christmas and Winter Solstice. Do your own homework on all that, please.

Are you as sick of all this Tiger Woods bullshit as I am? In a national paper today, there's a bit comparing him to Tony Soprano. Let's face it, this kid's not a serial killer, he's a serial copulator - big difference. And he can't be too bright, or he wouldn't risk throwing away a career like his on dial-a-dates.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Today started well....

But it didn't last like that. It has now clouded over again.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Those climate talks in Copenhagen

Just as we suspected, it came down to all talk and no action, because nobody wants to settle for less of anything, even if it means as much as this does.

Here's a good piece about it in today's Globe and Mail, by Norman Spector, who has been around the halls of government and the media for a long time. 

If people are angry now about this lack of action, wait until they are told that the real problem is that there's simply too many of us making too much pollution. In my lifetime alone, the world's population has tripled from a little over two billion in 1932 to over 6.8 billion now. No matter what we believe about science, religion, human rights, or anything else, we simply can't keep on endlessly increasing the numbers of people the world must support. It's simply not possible, and we ought to be thinking about that now, before it becomes a much more severe problem.

'Tis the season to....

To enjoy all the seasonal nonsense typical of this time of year. I do enjoy some of the reruns of seasonal movies, which are a nice change from all those blow-'em-ups and shoot- 'em-ups we're constantly bombarded with the rest of the time. But I wonder about some of the other silliness that seems to be repeated every year. 

How about that ad on TV telling us to bring our dog down to someplace or other for a picture with Santa? Does your dog believe in Santa? Or would it rather do something on his leg? And how about those Chia Pets we never see any other time of year? Does your cat really need one that grows 'cat grass'? And what exactly is 'cat grass'? Any relation to catnip?

And what's the story on all those high-priced chocolates we never see any other times of the year? Are they made fresh each new season, or are they stuck in a warehouse from one Christmas to the next, until some fool buys them? Do you ever wonder about these things?

And what about electronic greeting cards? About 95% of my generation don't know the difference between a megabyte and a horsefly bite. They're computer illiterates in other words, and most of them don't own a computer. If they do, then they can barely peck out misspelled emails on them, or remember to update their security programs often enough to avoid catching some of the highly-sophisticated malware that's out there these days. And speaking of that, I continue to recommend Alwil's Avast anti-virus and ThreatFire from the folks at PC Tools.

We're told that some businesses do 40% of their annual business during the Christmas season, and that probably explains how their owners can spend some of the new year enjoying a tropical vacation. This leads me to the conclusion that Christmas was invented by a storekeeper somewhere, in collusion with the local bishop so they could increase their fortunes at the expense of the impressionable unwashed masses.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Did I get the Ancient Egyptian game working?

Yes, I did. Here's how it looks during a game. The two opposing teams, green and blue, are moving in a reversed-'S' pattern trying to be first with all pieces off the board. The squares in the lower right with symbols are safe squares, where you can't be bumped from, except for the one with the water symbol (three wavy lines) four squares from the end. This game was probably a very early form of cribbage, and it was very popular about 4,000 years ago. It's still fun to play even now. 

About having control of files in Windows 7

If you're like most of us, then having to use a password to sign into your own computer, where you're the Administrator and perhaps the only user, can be a pain. But unfortunately it seems to be a necessary pain, unless you want problems with being denied access to files when you want to delete them, for example.

Even with logging in using a password, you still may have problems sometimes because of the security features in user accounts. If you find that's true, then there's a little registry hack that you can download and apply which lets you "take ownership" of your file when you use the right-click menu to show that entry on it and click it.

Here's where to find it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This little game from Ancient Egypt....

Uses Adobe's Shockwave Player, but Adobe hasn't made one that works properly for this since back about version 9 or 10, several years back. Every time I re-install the O/S for any reason, and I've been doing that a lot this past year, while testing Windows 7, I can't get my little game working again until I go looking for an archived version of Shockwave, from about version 8 or 9 - because all the more modern versions have missing bits called Xtras, which Adobe in all its genius took out of the former full versions, and put into separate files, and only include a few they think you might want, but never seem to need. The ones you need, like the decompressor one are always missing for some reason. So today's Question Everything is "Why the hell can't Adobe get all their little bits in the same goddamned file like they used to before they forgot how?" Do I have to tell them everything? 

Our blizzard fizzled out....

And I'm not complaining, you understand. Here's the neighbours' lights last night.

It's beginning to look like I was right about the climate talks in Copenhagen. They'd rather fight than eat, it seems. It won't matter a damn who is to blame if we all go down the drain from lack of action. But saying 'no' to the status quo isn't going to be easy.

I was surprised to learn that the Windows 7 Starter version is being installed on netbooks all over the world. Why am I surprised? Because, people with netbooks were installing the Ultimate version of Windows 7 Beta on them last spring, and running it OK. Microsoft themselves have said that they designed Windows 7 so that it can run well on the widest possible variety of hardware. So there's really no excuse for a stripped-down version like Starter to be installed on your average netbook with enough poop to run better stuff on it. I got onto that because a friend in the U.K. bought a netbook with that Starter version on it and found he can't change the wallpaper, and there's no Personalization, no Themes or Aero transparency, and you can't enjoy streaming audio or video in it. He's a graphics oriented kind of guy, and was very disappointed to discover how limited it was. Me too.

Here's where to find a program that can change that wallpaper on a Starter version of Windows 7, and it uses a separate process which doesn't depend on the Microsoft system for its success.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Live Better Electrically....The Nissan Leaf

This is the Nissan Leaf, being advertised as the first mass-produced all-electric 'real car' to come to market. 

It's supposed to preview in B.C. here this coming year, and will also do so in Washington state, across the border. So what do we think of it?

For starters, it looks nice. Much nicer than my 1932 Chevrolet, the first used car I ever had. But as someone pointed out in comments elsewhere yesterday, this is Canada, where it gets really cold in the winters, and unlike our internal-combustion engines, this battery pack powered cutie won't naturally be developing a lot of wasted heat we can direct into the passenger compartment for needed warmth on cold days, and to defrost or defog the windows prior to take-off. If it uses an electric heater, the battery will discharge much faster. So what to do? Add a propane heater? The whole concept of this vehicle is to get away from fossil fuels, so I'm wondering how it will be heated, and what that will do to its range on a full charge of the batteries. Is this really a 'real car' or just a glorified golf cart with extended range, for thirty big ones or so? Time will tell...

Other concerns that come to mind:-
Our colder weather in winter reduces the power available from batteries. There's also the problem of providing electrical outlets for recharging in places like the 1,200-car garage underneath this six-tower high-rise condo complex here. At present, there's only an occasional outlet in the garages, for building maintenance purposes, and none of those would likely be suitable for vehicle recharging. I can see where this recharging will pose a problem that will require some major changes. Perhaps, in the future, your parking space will include a convenient recharge outlet, but until then, it's going to be a problem. And not the least of that will be where to find that needed electricity. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts on the climate change fiasco...

Let me start with my favourite search engine, Google. Today they have a new item on their main page linking to articles and videos about climate change. All well and good - but in the promo video, it shows how a fossil-fueled thermal power plant magically melts into the ground, to be replaced by a group of wind-power generators. Can't happen, Folks.

As an illustration, it effectively gets the idea across, but in the real world, we can't replace what's known in the business as 'base load' or 24/7 supplies with part-time supplementary ones like wind power. Just as a brief review, your power system consists of two kinds of supplies: the 24/7 always-needed base-load providers, and the part-time only as needed peaking supplies used during periods of maximum demand, such as during the evening supper hour. We can't replace the always-needed supplies with part-time or unreliable sources like those wind generators. And right here let me add that the energy produced by a wind generator costs many times more to develop and use than the energy we get from  a large hydro-electric station, for example. So we have to be practical about all this.

There's also been a lot of talk about hydrogen, and the so far mythical 'hydrogen highway'. The information I've seen so far indicates that with present technology, we are using more energy producing the hydrogen than we can recover by using it in fuel cells or other power producing devices. So don't hold your breath until we're all whizzing down the freeway in our hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The car of the near future is probably going to be electric, at least in part, and it will be using Lithium-ion batteries. The same kind we use in our rechargeable cameras, but bigger. Problem solved? Not quite - the experts say we've only got about a 10-year reserve of Lithium available for making those batteries. So those are going to be expensive and not too plentiful I would guess. Back to the drawing boards, Folks.

So far, the global warming problem has been compounded by misinformation and the hot air expended talking about it, mostly to avoid actually having to do something, because it all boils down to making certain sacrifices, and hardly anybody wants to settle for less of anything we're enjoying now. That's our first challenge - getting used to that idea. We can't have everything, because we're rapidly running out of somewhere to put it, and the resources to keep it going.  

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's that time again....

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone.

Today's weather report is....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Create your own Theme for Windows 7....

While on the subject of Themes, maybe you'd like to make your own. It's easy. Just pick out several of your favourite pictures for backgrounds, and then resize them to match your desktop's native resolution. Mine's 1680 by 1050, but yours may be different. Once you have them the right size, create a new folder named DesktopBackground (all one word) and put them in it. Number them consecutively in the order you'd like them to be when displayed. Now, put that folder named DesktopBackground into another you create named for your new theme. Put your newly-named theme's folder into your Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes folder. Now, open your new theme's DesktopBackground folder, and then click on 'Select all', and then click on any one of those and select 'Set as desktop background'. This will start your new theme on the Desktop. After it starts, you can go back to your Desktop, and right-click to get the menu from which to choose Personalize and then you can click on the 'Desktop Background' along the bottom of the window, and set the timing for how often it changes pictures, and whether to have them Shuffle, which is a random choice, or not. And that's it - your new theme is working. You can change to or from it just like the others, by going back into "Personalize" from the Desktop. When it first shows there under "My Themes", it will be shown as 'unsaved theme'. Right-click on it to get a little menu on which to choose 'Save', and then fill in its name. It will then be a  permanent part of your themes.

This is an example of a homemade theme in Windows 7, made up of a series of pictures of clouds that I took last summer. One thing to remember about making themes for your monitor's background is that you probably don't want them too distracting, so something like these clouds works out quite well. But do your own thing, and have fun with it.

While changing to the regular Windows 7 from the RC

As mentioned briefly elsewhere, if you've installed the Home Premium from its DVD, and then you wanted to add a new theme, and went to Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\ looking for Themes, and it wasn't there, don't panic. Just create a new folder in the 'Windows' one named 'Themes', and copy yours into it. When you go back to the Desktop and click on 'Personalize', you'll find them there.

And if you're a Firefox user, and you want the latest version off the website, there are now two little boxes or buttons on there for downloads - so be careful. One's for the British English version, and the other (below it) in the U.S. English version. Windows 7 likes the U.S. version better. I accidently got the British version the first time, by clicking on the wrong button, and it wouldn't respond to my efforts to set my home page. It kept going back to the Welcome to Firefox thing. So when all else fails, read the directions. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

A little more about upgrading your Windows....

As you may have read somewhere in a Microsoft site, if you install new Windows over an older version, then during the upgrading process, your previous Windows files usually get saved in the new installation as a folder called 'Windows.old'. The purpose of that weird extension '.old' is so that those files won't get used in the present installation, and we're told that we can't actually use what's in them.

Not exactly, Folks - what they mean is that whatever's in there can't actively interact with the stuff you upgraded to in the newer setup. But if there's something in there that you want to keep, you can. For example, after I got the new Windows 7 Home Premium up and running, I went looking for the Themes folder normally found at (your username) \AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes\ for the monitor's backgrounds displays. Guess what? It wasn't there! I had to create the Themes folder there. So then I went looking for the old Themes folder inside those Windows.old files, because I had some nice  themes that I'd made up from my own pictures. I found them, and decided to move all that into the new Themes folder in this new setup. A simple drag-and-drop did it. So now my old Themes are back and working again. So don't throw out your Windows.old folder until you're sure there's nothing in it that you might want to keep using.

PhotoStudio 6 - I got a deal...

I quickly got tired of being nagged by the previous version about it not being compatible, so I had a look on their website for the latest version 6.0 and it regularly is $80 or so, but me being a former customer, and this being Christmas, I qualified for the Upgrade version and the Christmas 30% discount off that, so I got the new one with an extended download add-on, all for $26.98 US - so I guess I can't complain too loudly. This new one does have a couple of added features, one I like is the automatic de-noiser, which will remove a lot but not all of the artifacts and clumps from older JPEGs. It also smooths out pictures like the one shown, from my Pentax X70, which in low light conditions shows a lot of static. So my $27 was probably well spent. And they do make good stuff, plus they also offer a few freebies and trial programs if you're interested. Here's where to find them.

Here it is, all fancied up....

I even made an icon out of the Win-7 DVD box for the Programs folder...and IcoFX still works fine in the retail version, if you want to make your own icons like I've done.

Installing Windows 7 Home Premium over Windows 7 Ultimate RC

They don't give you a lot of "heads up" on how this gets done until you find yourself into it, and then you literally learn by doing. In the post below, I mentioned that I read that the setup for the retail versions won't let you upgrade over the Ultimate RC by default. They should have added "or any other way - you have to do a clean install", meaning you have to save all your files beforehand, and then install the retail version over your (better) RC copy and then re-install all your files and programs and whatever. And I was right - it's a pain in the ass, and all because somebody in Redmond got paranoid about us putting one over on them if it was any other way.

Something else you should be prepared for while you're carefully saving your documents and your third-party programs and whatever.... Your documents will go back into the new setup just fine, but some of your programs that worked fine in the Ultimate RC of Win 7 may not survive copying to and from a DVD to make the transfer. You may find some will pop up a message saying it didn't install correctly, and you should contact your mother, or the program's makers, or anybody but Microsoft, the guys who engineered this goddamned problem. And for what it's worth, my favourite photo-editing program after moving told me that it doesn't work in this version of Windows.  I said, "Bullshit! It works fine in the  Ultimate RC, so why shouldn't it work in a version with less to it?" And I'm right - it tries to tell me it doesn't want to, but when I click on the box that says "Run anyway" it works fine. This is just a gimmick, because this program just brought out a new upgrade with more features and a higher price tag, and they're trying to bamboozle users of the old version into spending another $80 for the newer one. So they're telling you it won't work in the Home Premium version of an O/S in which it works fine in the Ultimate version. They must think we aren't going to find out for ourselves. I've got some news for those guys - Windows 7 can and does run a whole hell of a lot of programs that we couldn't run on Vasta Vista, and it even runs some that date back to the beginnings of XP. If it's NT-based, and runs on an NTFS disk, it can probably run on Windows 7. Why?  Because they intended it to.

So if you're upgrading from the Windows 7 RC to the retail version, be prepared to do the  clean install, or as Microsoft calls it, the Custom install, rather than the Upgrade. I even hacked the setup file like that expert suggested, so it wouldn't refuse the upgrade option, and it still wouldn't do it. So the expert's hack on the installing source file doesn't work. I've been hours replacing everything on here, by way of proving all that.  So you can't always believe everything you read from the so-called experts. But I will say this for it - once it gets started on the installing, it moves right along. The part that takes the time is putting back your own files and pet programs afterward.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Doing more reading about Windows 7...

I made a disappointing discovery today, while reading a popular blog about Windows written by a guy with his nose inside Microsoft's inner sanctum. Apparently, I can't simply do an ordinary upgrade from the RC version of Windows 7 to the retail version I bought recently. I have to go through a whole process of copying that DVD onto the PC, then editing a certain file to trick it into thinking it isn't doing what I'm about to make it do, and then do it.

Am I worried? Not at all - I've installed and re-installed this so often already I'm getting good at it now, and if all else fails, I can always do the clean install bit and then re-install all the programs and files - which is a real pain in the ass, I must say. I had hoped that after months of testing this thing, they'd make it easier for us to install the final version, but I was wrong. It's too bad I can't simply keep the test version, but that will be de-activated by Microsoft in a few months. Meanwhile, I have to get ready to make the change, whether I want to or not, I guess.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another useful program...

This is a great program that will show you a complete profile of everything on your computer including version numbers, license numbers, updates, and security status. And it also shows you the key codes for your Windows.

And don't forget to check MajorGeeks periodically for the latest in new programs or updates to older ones, and what's hot and what's not. These guys have all that, and they usually test the stuff before they list it, so we know if it works.

More of this and that....

The paper today says that maybe half of the H1N1 vaccine our province received may go to waste. And that's not our fault. They took too long getting it ready, and then they made it available only at special clinics in strange locations, instead of at our regular medical clinics and doctors' offices. By the time the vaccine arrived, half of us had already had the flu and recovered without help.

The paper also says that Tiger's sponsors are not using his ads. Could that possibly have anything to do with him being 7 or 8 over par in the mating game? For a guy that's so good with balls, it's too bad he isn't better at counting. And with a trophy wife like he has (or had) who should need to fool around? 

And while the climate talks go on, and the fingers get pointed, they're obviously talking about everything but the real cause of it all.  And that goes back to the first guy who said "Go forth and multiply!" - not perhaps realizing that we'd keep it up until there's nowhere left to stand. If planes and trains and buses and boats all have capacity limits, then shouldn't Spaceship Earth have one too? Experts have calculated that a sustainable population for it would be about half what we have now. But nobody's talking about that. It's too hot a subject for discussion. But logically, if we need to reduce pollution, then we need to reduce what's causing it, and the enemy is us. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunset over Vancouver Island

This shows the various features a bit clearer than some I've taken of it.

And just a reminder - if you haven't checked for an update of your graphics card driver lately, maybe you should. There have been recent updates to support Windows 7 with both ATI Radeon and Nvidia graphics cards. One of my PCs uses an AMD/ATI Radeon card, and the other uses an Nvidia card, so that's how I know...and of those two, I like the ATI Radeon best. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

sunset on the hilltops

This evening's sunset.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

That 'trojan' problem a couple of days ago....

I've just received an email from Avast about that, and it was a false positive, not malware. They corrected the problem on their next automatic update, and apologized for any inconvenience. Everything is now back to normal again. And it was good of them to let me know.


A moon shot...

This is what a small digital camera with a good long zoom can do, and the camera used is a Pentax X70.

I had an interesting time last evening. Tried to delete a program whose trial period had expired, and which had quit working. It didn't want to leave, and when it did, something went terribly wrong, and suddenly I had no icons nor thumbnails anywhere, and in my photo files, there were just empty frames where there should have been small images. 

I tried everything - removed and renewed the IconCache.db, reinstalled the graphics card driver, used System Restore several times, but none of that fixed everything. Adding to the problem, for a while it seemed like the computer couldn't recognize its DVD Drive. But I finally got that solved by using Task Manager's File menu,  New Task (Run) to get the Windows install DVD started, and then going through the whole process of re-installing the operating system. And while we're on that subject, yes, you can do an Upgrade install over an already-installed Windows 7 RC, instead of having to replace all your programs & files. That was the one good thing about all that last night. 

While I was doing all that, I also cleaned out a few things from the system. For example, I replaced the Avast 4.8 Home Edition which had those 25 bad files locked up in its vault with a fresh copy that has an empty vault, and also got rid of a couple of other things that I wasn't really using much. So it wasn't entirely a wasted evening, but almost.  

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ever seen a fluffy crow?

Well, you have now.... It's a chilly day here, and this one is all fluffed up to stay warm.

If you use Firefox.....

Then you should get this add-on for it.  Why? Because: there's a new kind of cookie called an LSO which normally remains hidden on your machine, and never expires, and it allows its sender to track your information without you knowing it is there. Your normal cleaning process for regular cookies will not remove these LSO ones. So you need this little add-on to root them out and get rid of them, or give you the option of keeping certain ones if you want to do that. 

I've had this on one computer for a while, but not on my other one until yesterday. As an example of what this does, before I installed it on the other machine, I did a cookie search and removal of the normal cookies, removing them all. After I installed BetterPrivacy on it, it discovered and removed 18 more items that couldn't be found by normal means. So if you are concerned about being spied on by things you don't even know are on there, then  you should have this. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Today's snow report...

Not as much as we might have thought.... but it's still early in the season yet.

Another short story about a computer...

But first, here's a look at our local billionaire's seasonal light display, taken with the Pentax X70 at maximum optical zoom. It came out quite well, I think.

And here's that same scene in the daylight, just for comparison.
Now for the computer tale:
Yesterday, I found an update to an older program I've had for years which promises to find and remove trojans. While getting that all done, I used it to scan the machine, and it found a file it said was a trojan, but it couldn't clean it because it couldn't open it. Wonderful. It had also picked on a file which happens to have been a normal part of Windows ever since back in the XP days, years ago. So I was more than a bit curious about what was really going on.

I have Avast 4.8 Home as my regular anti-virus so I set that for a thorough scan of the drive, and it found an entirely different trojan, which kept jumping from one file to another in six different programs, until finally trapped and locked up in the virus vault. During all that, it had replicated itself 25 times, and trashed parts of those six programs, which then had to be deleted. But the good news is that Avast 4.8 Home Edition did get it locked up eventually, and another thorough scan showed no problems. So if you want a security program that really works, get Avast. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frosty morning....

This is why we don't have camels around here - they're too hard to winterize!

Speaking of winterizing, I took in the car for that $70 special at the dealer's the other day and all it cost me was $134.58. That beats the hell out of the $1400 or so it cost last year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just a note...

This now works with Windows 7, and still finds things that others miss. If you'd like to try it you can find it here.