Getting things done..

I’m getting older now, feeling like I couldn’t have more than 5, or maybe at a stretch ten, years left of my life; and “old age” has given me quite a few “symptoms” to handle. None of which are helped much by my use of a computer. As a matter of fact, computers with all their passwords and arrays of settings haven’t done one positive thing for my memory, for instance, or my ability to “think” or “compute”. I’m constantly forgetting things now, and seem to have a strange bias in “computing” wherein when given a choice between 2 things – usually Vitamin pills or Clothes – I decide which one is best for me, and then the strange thing is that I always actually buy the other thing – the one I had decided wasn’t good enough for me. I don’t do it deliberately either. It’s a type of mistake I am now making all the time, even when I cook myself a meal. You know? Choose some ingredients, or at least decide what to use and what not to use, and then go ahead and use the stuff you decided not to use. It’s weird, and suggests I have an early stage of some well know illness people often get in old age. Or they can just get it at any age!

A little bit of it is caused by my constant disappointment with computer type of stuff I’ve bought to “improve” the functionality of my home made PC. I’m not alone in that either. PCs are all so unsatisfactory, except maybe your $2700 Lap Tops, that almost everyone buys something to try to “make it run better.” Things like Memory, or  Faster Graphics card, or a CPU cooler, or a faster CPU, or maybe some plug-in type of Card for extra USB-3, or extra SATA, or maybe just to support a boot SSD. I know I’ve tried all of these plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards + dongles, and almost all have either not worked from the start, or those that did work, stopped working after a short time. The latter category includes the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi stuff. The Wi-Fi worked as a PCI card for about 2 months and then some changes were made to the computer and it stopped working, and nothing could make it work properly again. The Bluetooth did the exact same thing. Used it with a music streaming device for 1 month, then something changed and it no longer would work and nothing I did changed it back to functionality.

Probably the worse thing was a Liquid Cooler for the CPU, one of those wider versions with two fans on the radiator. Supposedly they’re better than standard single fan radiator type CPU coolers, but after using one for 2 years, and then making the “upgrade” to a 2 fan job, what I found was that the new cooler, the larger radiator etc., was very noisy, and really couldn’t cool as fast as the single fan radiator model I’d been using all along. As a matter of fact, the new cooler couldn’t even cool the CPU as well as the old cooler. And I had to complain about it to the manufacturer, who’s Holiday policy is to go away and shut down the office until January 12, starting December 24! Obviously not a large firm! They did reply, though, with the usual: saying I had to be sure everything was plugged in correctly, and if it still didn’t cool adequately etc., they might give me a “ticket” so I can send it back either for a replacement or at the far end of improbability, a refund. With a refund I could go for a brand name liquid cooler with 2 fans, for around $150. But all this is going to take quite a long time, I know from experience, when I bought a new Hard Disk for inside the PC, only to have it fail within a month. Needing replacement.

The store took almost 70 days to give me a replacement and then it was only a REFURBISHED hard drive by the same manufacturer, Seagate. In the meantime I had to buy another hard drive to do what I wanted to initially.

Some marketing strategy eh?

With a little research, I’ve found that PC makers target young people, and the younger the better, as they tend to spend money on useless distractions and things. By younger I mean, kids less than 15. The 15 to 18 year olds are another demographic altogether, and they spend money too, but for things like “music” and stuff to make their computer good enough to play Hi-End games, often On-line. With gaming, they can spend $1000 or $2000 just to get the graphics right. A new Graphics Card + Monitor to handle the whole effect. Lots of very fast memory, and of course a liquid cooler for the CPU.

As for “music” and even “films” these days, you find the quality is really poor. They sell music that’s been “compressed” to make it easier and cheaper to download, and with that, the music loses a lot of definition and ends up sounding too much bass, not enough treble and the vocals if they exist, get drowned in the overall mix. You’ll really notice it if you compare the sounds from a CD and an Internet download of the same songs. Can you believe that? They sell individual songs for download, and apparently this has been very successful making huge profits. Even more than with CDs and records, because once set-up there are no physical costs. Just transfer costs etc..

Film isn’t so bad though. It gets compressed and loses some sharpness and clarity, but just because of its nature, remains quite watchable. I’ve paid for a couple movie downloads and the actual original movies were terrible and their quality was poor, which meant the download was terrible too. But the compression used didn’t really effect the film much at all. I think I had to pay a $60 joining “fee” and then it was $5 per movie, but the choice was severely limited, with no real Hollywood type films – mostly strange European films with psychological themes. This company probably made more money from the joining “fee” than they did from downloads. It was typical of the “new” type of person using the Internet for what amounts to a scam. With PCI cards and dongles its almost the same, but quality can be OK in rare instances.

hard roads..

I don’t know where the tax-payer money goes, here in South Australia.

They claim and say they have spent a fortune on roads here, and its true there are a couple new freeway type of things, but overall our roads seem to be in a state of disrepair.

I thought my suspension was bad earlier in the year, because where I live, very close to the CBD, you can’t go down any roads without getting jarred to the bone. The surface of these roads isn’t even. But I am not talking about 1 or even 2 cm, but something like 2 or 3 inches.

You drive along and hit a dent in the road that’s like a deep hole, and because of its size, your car gets jolted. Plus, it also wears out your suspension.

I think its awful.

I’ve even lived in the country, where roads are seldom given a face over, and yet none of them were as rough as these inner city one’s. Plus, they get 25,000 cars a day drive down them. And every driver has to feel those bumps.

Puts a dampener on Christmas for me.

So anyway, Happy Christmas to You All!

Global warming…

I’ve been quite aware for some time now, that the weather has changed here in South Australia, and not a slight change but a change that’s perceptible.

It comes in various ways.

Last Winter, for instance, we had the longest dry spell ever. And in Spring we had the 3rd longest dry spell ever.

It was also colder than usual on some Winter/Spring days.

You’d think Global Warming would just automatically make days warmer, right?

But now we’re 17 days into Summer and things have gotten dramatic already! I have lived in this state almost all my life, so am quite used to HOT Summers, which come frequently. It’s perfectly normal for Summer temps to reach 38 C and to stay there for days on end.

When it reaches 40 C it alerts people, normally, as that is VERY HOT. There are only 2 or 3 other places on Planet Earth where temps reach this height, including Saudi Arabia and the desert in California; but usually that temp is for 1 day or 2 at most. It usually cools down quickly after the event, normally caused by a storm front moving in.

However, just 17 days into Summer 2015, we have been placed on ALERT to expect 4 days of temps over 40 C, and today they says its going to reach 41.

What it means is that these 4 days are already listed as “the hottest December days” ever! Our weather records go back maybe 150 years, and right now they have all been surpassed by what is expected to come in these 4 or 5 days. Plus, there doesn’t appear to be any weather condition that is going to arrive and bring the temps right down below 30. They say it’s going to be above 30 C for the next 11 days! Including the 4 or 5 which should clock in at 40 or 41 C.

I don’t have air conditioning, you see, and my building normally stays around 22 C until outdoor temps stay above 35 for more than 3 days; that’s when indoor temps begin to rise to 26 or 27 C, and stay there. A lot better I know, that 41 C, but really quite uncomfortable.

I’d rush out to buy a portable air conditioner, they have them now for $299, but every store I checked has sold out. An in-window conditioner is out of the question due to building regulations. Of course they are much cheaper, some going for as little as $199.

My small fridge also suffers in the heat. When the temp is less than 23, the freezer stays at –21 almost 80% of the time; the inside fridge stays at 2 almost 75% of the time. But in this weather, the inside temp of the fridge goes up to 9.5, while the freezer can go down to 0. And they can both stay there for 25% of the time.

record heat

This weekend is the first week of Summer, here in Australia. Usually what happens is that after Christmas things heat up and stay very warm for at least 6 weeks until Autumn arrives, but things changed this years quite dramatically.

To start, very little Winter or Spring rain arrived. Not that even in an average year we get very much. But even so, usually there’s enough to fill up some reservoirs and make the bush go green.

This year you began to notice things weren’t the same during Winter because there were weeks on end where no rain at all fell. Spring wasn’t really any better. But there weren’t such long periods where no rain fell, only when it did fall it was scant at best.

There are several reservoirs Adelaide relies on for its water, plus the murky Murray River is always on stand-by for pumping, so there hasn’t been a panic as yet even though those reservoirs are around 45 to 55% full.

Summer just came this week and the heat has been awful.

On Monday last night-time temperatures dropped to 11 C, and I felt good about it thinking this could be a portent of things to come.

But no such luck!

Out of the blue on Thursday everything just heated up and by Friday it was as hot as it can get in Summer without breaking any records. The sort of temperature change that makes you start looking at the cost of refrigerated air-conditioning. (Speaking of which, units you install in a window start at $320 while indoor portable units with no heating are in the $480 to $535 range. Conditioners that also heat – for Winter – started at $599. Of course there are the evaporative air-conditioners for less than $110, but their effectiveness depends on the humidity of the atmosphere. They can reduce temperatures 4 or 5 C if humidity is less than 55%.)

Then on Saturday, it just went over 40 and on Sunday did the same — becoming the warmest December 5th in 90 years!.

Meanwhile, in a nearby park, Bonython Park about 800 yards away, a Pop Music Festival was being held. No “name” bands were to play and in fact it was so low key an affair that the only reason I heard of it, was due to the deaths of a couple attendees. It was one of those “typical” pop festivals created as a money maker by some organisation which held these events almost simultaneously in capital cities on the East coast as well.

That’s where the first drug related death was announced and here on Saturday, early in the day before noon, a 24 year old died of a “suspected” drug over dose or Drug Toxic effect. No one is sure at this point in time and they haven’t added the weather as factor either.

The results so far has been a national call to have drug testing people attend such events so that if you have some “illegal” type drugs apart from Weed, you can get them tested to determine potency and to see if there are any toxins included in the mix. I know that in the 60s people who cooked chemicals up as “drugs” often put poisons into their mix in the belief it gave the user an extra “kick.” But the types of drugs they use nowadays include Amphetamine and Ecstasy. No one hears anything of LSD, or even Heroin.

Amphetamines can be cooked up as ICE in any kitchen once the raw ingredients are procured and that’s also quite easy to do. You can cook up several kilos of ICE at one time simply and make a lot of money, which is why it’s not uncommon for police to find mid level dealers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Their money comes in so fast they really don’t have time to store it properly or bank it.

But these deaths, or at least the one that happened here locally on Saturday should also be seen as Heat related; anyone who uses those type of stimulant drugs knows that you sweat a lot, and in this heat you need to drink at least 5  or 6 Litres every 4 or 5 hours just to stay moderately hydrated, even without drugs in your system. When these stimulants get to work, they increase your heart rate dramatically and your at-rest metabolism is increased at least 10% —  meaning you just chew up energy and also go through lots of water anyway. Add the heat and you get a lethal cocktail.

The government has also reacted quickly and announced a spend of over $200 million to target these types of drugs and the addictions that result. They claim there are more than 220,000 regular ICE users nation-wide these days, which is “up” from the 2010 figures of around 35,000.

It’s true that Grass Weed, Marijuana, has been sort of legalised in small quantities in some states, and this state is one of them. The result of that has been a huge increase in the price of Grass, from $28 an ounce in the 70s, to over $220 an ounce today, plus this new style of Weed appears less potent and contains very few seeds, which means you can’t plant your own crop, as you could back in the 70s when an ounce of Grass contained at least 5 or 6 grams of fertile seeds. If you managed to buy a pound of Weed then, for $250 to $320 you got at least one full ounce of seeds. That’s because the stuff was actually grown locally, or somewhere in Australia, and was very high potency and a very good price. The stuff you get now for $220 an ounce appears to be Hydroponic in origin and is small in size and just doesn’t have any seeds. And all this tells the story, which is that dealers in Weed these days are only in it to make a fast dollar. They don’t have the same political motives dealers espoused back in the 60s and 70s. Why, they don’t even care if weed is legalised or not.

My position is for complete legalisation, not the current situation which “allows” you to grow and keep up to FIVE – 5 – plants. If you want to see how it might work, there are YouTube videos that are based on TV reports from states in the US which have completely decriminalised Weeed. These docos describe how the new system works, and from what I saw, seems designed to avoid dealers taking over supply and making huge packets of money. You’d really be quite surprised at how their new system works.

This link can take you to such a 45 minute documentry

Windows 10

You have probably heard that Microsoft released an “Update” for all versions of Windows beyond 7, which amounts to a new operating system, and it was free. It started about 5 months ago in earnest, and in the last 3 months has been gaining pace. They introduced a couple new ways to get this “Upgrade” some of which involved downloading Beta versions of the new Operating System. If you signed up for this option they expected you to evaluate the software and give them some feedback.

I, of course, didn’t opt for this approach. I turned my “Update” notification to “OFF” and tried to stay away from all the hype. But it was coming through every available media, including print. So, eventually I decided I’d download a copy of the software and install it on a Virtual Machine, just so I could get to experience what it was going to be like. The version I managed to get wasn’t the “Final” version, and as such I had to agree to allow “Update” to be “ON” permanently, because that way when the Final release was available, my machine would just automatically install it.

Setting up a Virtual Machine was relatively simple. The only thing I needed to do was go to Programs and Features in Control Panel, and click on the Windows Features button, and select “Hyper V”. Then a re-boot was in order and once that was done, I was able to open up a Microsoft app with which I could create a Virtual Machine and set all its parameters. What you do is set it up so that it will automatically install an operating system from an ISO file, which should be of the OS. Fortunately, Microsoft had allowed me to download Windows 10 as a 3.5G ISO file and so in less than 5 minutes my Virtual Machine was up and running with Win 10 as the operating system.

First reactions were that it appeared to be more “User friendly” than Win 8 /8.1, which is what I was using.

Second, it seemed to be slightly faster and more streamlined, and had some features that were quite innovative, like “virtual desktops”. It took me a few days to grasp even the basics of this new system, and I gave it a Thumbs Up in my Feed-back.

Then about 6 weeks after all of that, there was an “announcement” saying the Update was ready to download, did I want to do it NOW?

I said, YES, and the computer started to download it. It only took about 25 minutes, it was more than 4G, and after that all I needed do was burn it to a DVD so I could boot from it. I rebooted, pressed DEL, & chose to boot from my Optical Drive D:, and in ten minutes or so, was starting the procedure to upgrade the entire Operating System, even though I already had a version of Win 10 Pro running on the machine. What I didn’t like was the way it started to create a folder “Windows.old” where it just shoved everything. This took up over 20G of space, and I already had a similarly named folder from when I first Upgraded to the Beta version of Win 10 from Win 8 Pro.

Unlike last time, this Update took over 1 hour to reach the point where you are setting up your user account specifications. I chose to customize each setting and by the time it was ready to boot into 10 for the first time I was already fed-up with it all.

I had good reason too.

Once it re-booted, it took over 2 minutes to get to the log-in screen and then another 90 to 120 seconds to reach the desktop screen.

Everything seemed to be OK, and I just went on with my work until I came to a snag and then tried to resolve each issue as it appeared, and there were many. Almost all programs I had installed from 3rd parties would no longer work correctly and even the Compatibility Trouble-shooter couldn’t always solve the issue. Which meant quite a few large programs for audio and/or video editing were re-installed. I had to dig up serial numbers and keys, sometimes from my email account from 5 or 6 years previously.

And even then, some didn’t work correctly and had to have compatibility settings. Mainly they had to be recognized as Win 8 or 7 type programs, and once that was done, most seemed to function quite well.

However, Windows itself seemed to crash quite often. I was over-clocking my CPU by about 28% & it got very hot a lot of the time and the ASUS support program I used to control fans had real issues with Win 10. It had barely worked satisfactorily under 8.1, and now I was trying to get it to work under 10 and it just wouldn’t do it 100% of the time. So what would happen is a Blue Screen.

I tried to reduce the over-clocking and it helped make things more stable but in the meantime some essential Win 10 features wouldn’t work at all. And even though I consulted the Microsoft troubleshooting forum, none of its solutions would fix the problem.

I mean, I would get Blue Screened at least 3 or 4 times every week, if not more. Sometimes it would happen 2 times in one day and when it did, I’d have to use a System Image to “restore” the entire computer back to a time when it did seem to be working; and again this process required a lot of time wasting.

I was almost at the end of my tether and then just a week or so ago, came another “Update” of major proportions requiring a download of more than 3G. I allowed my machine to undertake it and set it on the job a little after 1 am (as that’s when my broadband becomes unlimited) and by 3 am everything had completed and it had re-booted successfully.

I now had access to CORTANA, and several other “features” of Win 10 I hadn’t had with the previous “Upgrade.” Not that I use the Voice activated features of Cortana; in fact I rarely use Cortana at all, finding it too clumsy and slow.

Microsoft seems to be using up the extra speed modern CPUs have in all these extra functions, and they seem to be aimed at pleasing a very young audience. School kids it seems to me. Windows is now too visual. You don’t seem to have to know very much about actual computing to make your machine work and work very well. It’s just that you’re quite limited as to what it can now do. All the built-in apps use the extra functionality of high-speed CPUs and hi-speed internet access. Plus, it seems to be the sort of set-up that would work nicely with school homework type of “work.”