very unfamiliar with this…

I managed to watch the memorial service for Mrilini Mata and although the link froze a few times, it was OK; even having stalkers adding notes to the side of the visual image didn’t really distract me much at all.

Stalking isn’t yet a crime in Australia, you see. In USA it’s a crime. You don’t need to show intent, just you’re being stalked. Here it’s a way of life to Oh so many.

I tend to think that politicians use stalking techniques just to get your attention. I could describe “how” in detail, but what the heck? Stalkers read this blog site too and have done for at least 3 years. Isn’t that right?

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Computer breakdown

I had a serious problem on Thursday last: I had just finished burning 65 DVD discs and used a system cleaner tool to get rid of any temp caches, and needed to reboot, which I proceeded to do. I have been using an SSD drive for “boot” for 6 weeks and it’s so fast there’s almost no delay. This time it wouldn’t get past “post.” And I noticed there was a red glow inside the case. Naturally I had a look after removing a side panel. It was a LED next to the DRAM slots, and meant there was some error with my memory. This same thing happened to me some years earlier when I had a Dell Inspiron PC that I used way too much. Then the error proved to be fatal and I had to re-buy a PC. I could hardly salvage any parts though. So this time I feared the worse. But my Motherboard was a Z97 by Asus and had advanced features, such as these red warnings lights which appeared next to whatever was wrong on the board. So my first step was to removed 3 of the 4 memory sticks, and see if the system would start, which it did. I then inserted another memory stick, rebooted and again the system started and seemed to be acting quite normally. I then inserted a 3rd stick but this time the board showed the red light again and would not go past it. Hence no boot up. Then I went to the bios Setup after a re-start and using the advanced Asus features simply disabled, turned OFF, the 2nd memory channel. That meant rather than having 20 G of memory, I only had 12. But the system rebooted as fast as usual and I was able to do everything I normally did with the computer. But I checked my warranty and Asus had given me a 3 year deal, and I was on 2 years and 2 months, had 10 months to go till it expired; so I contacted the shop I bought it from, via email, explained what had happened and they replied within 12 hours telling me to bring the board into their service centre along with receipts and it could get sorted out.

Removing the MB was a lengthy task. I had to unplug hard drives, PCI cards, Graphics cards, memory sticks, coolers and then unscrew it. And after that I needed to remove the CPU, which was an expensive i7 4770K I’d been using ‘Over clocked’ at about 20% faster than stock 3.5 GHz. That’s why I used a large cooler. It generated a lot of heat but did things lightening fast. Things like rendering video files etc.

I had what I called a Spare PC I used as a sort of file server. Network Attached Storage devices are costly anywhere from $200 to $2000 so when my very basic PC became redundant I filled it up with 6 Used hard drives 2T to 3T, and just ran Windows 7, and used a network cable via a switch to connect my computer to it. That way I could browse for files etc, change them, move them, copy etc etc. And do it quite fast, much faster than any normal NAS. This basic computer had around $150 worth of parts in it, aside from the hard drives and OS. It was a really basic 1150 CPU and a motherboard so basic it didn’t even have any PCI slots beyond one for graphics, and only 1 memory channel. Yet, I could transfer files from my computer to it at speeds up to 185 MB/s. And the other way, from it to me, up to around 155 MB/s, which in my estimation is FAST!

I took the motherboard I had removed over to the shop, and they did a quick visual check and tried to say some of the pins where the CPU is placed were bent, but I went over everything again saying the CPU etc all worked 100% except for that memory slot channel. I told them I could use the board and just turn the channel off but they said OK, we’ll get our technicians to look at it. How long will it take? From 4 to 6 weeks was their reply. Oh God I had many things to do.

When I got home early afternoon the outside temps were around 34 C, and it had been hot for weeks. The hottest February on record, 2 degrees on average hotter than ever before. Which meant cooling my CPU was made a lot more difficult. But I decided to switch over the motherboard from the Spare PC and use it with the High End i7 chip I had been using for around 2 years now. It took another hour to get it all in place and then the thing booted up nice and fast, but I soon realised that the board had no capacity to Over-clock the chip. It could do a “turbo boost” though, which amounted to a 5 or 6% increase in speed, from stock 3.5 GHz to 3.9 Ghz when fully utilised, which wasn’t often. I ran some tests only to find that the CPU was never utilised at more than 60%. Whereas on the Asus board at 4.4 GHz it would run at 100% doing encoding, for 20 or 30 minutes rock stable, but hot… 66 – 70 C!

There’s a point to this blog though, which is I’ve been using this stand-in motherboard for 3 days, 15 hours a day, and it’s amazing really because even without overclocking, the speed at which everything has gotten done is at least 92% comparable to what it was when overclocked to 4.4 GHz. I didn’t try any video editing though! So this is a warning not to be deceived. You don’t need the fanciest most expensive mother board, but a really High End CPU chip is essential. It will work fantastically even in the most basic of boards. Prices? My Asus board 2 years ago was cheap at $155, the Spare PC board was $75 in 2015; the rub however is that to get a replacement board for the Asus now, same specifications, will cost over $200. Seems they are now quite rare. And it’s far cheaper to just get Skylake 1151 CPU and boards. Plus, since Skylake has chips with stock speeds of 4 GHz, no overclocking required, overall it maybe cheaper just to get a basic 1151 board + a High End CPU for $350 or $400.

The other far more complicated issue was that Win 10, I had got the Upgrade, began to say it wasn’t activated and would often in the middle of something I was doing, pop up a screen telling me to active. When I tried it didn’t work automatically, saying I needed to phone, which I did, and that didn’t work either, so I needed to have a Live chat via computer links, to a Technician who was able to get into the OS and change things enough to enable activation. That took another hour, and after all was said and done, I found I’d copied down the activation numbers incorrectly and that’s why it failed. I had misplaced 2 digits! Oh God what a mess….

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.

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.”

Chrome Cast & YouTube

I’ve been very tense these last few days because 1. the weather here is getting so cold & 2. I bought a USB dongle called a Chrome-Cast and spent a couple days trying to set it up. Even bought another Wireless card thinking my present one must be faulty or just not advanced enough. Eventually I just went to the help page and looked for troubleshooting tricks and found 2 answers. Applied both, even though one was tricky, and immediately was able to complete my set-up of the Cast dongle, so that I could begin to stream stuff to my HD TV.

The drawback is that this dongle will only stream stuff in their webpage; you can get other dongles for the same money that allow you to stream from any enabled application, including Windows Media Player. Much more convenient.

But Chrome had something in mind when they designed this thing and I found what that was when I went to YouTube. Until now I’ve been downloading videos and then using a USB stick or even a DVD, to play them back through my TV which is in the other room. But today I was able to stream a 2 hour concert direct from YouTube and it worked really well. The audio was a little lacking in clarity, and the picture had lost some of its sharpness and contrast, but even so, it was one of the best concert films I’ve ever seen. Look it up yourself.

Plus it was “immediate” and simple to do, rather than all that downloading and copying to a portable device etc.

It was Lou Reed 1984 live, somewhere in New York.

Willie Nelson’s Own Brand

According to news reports here in Adelaide, the famous US pop star Willie Nelson, has his own brand named Marijuana; and he has a plantation. Seems grass is legalized in a few US states and one in particular is where Willie is to be found.
Its really quite remarkable how grass has been decriminalized all over the place; that doesn’t mean it’s ‘legal’ though, it just means, for the time being, that no prosecutions will result from possession. It’s gone past medical marijuana, you see. Down to smoking for pleasure. With expectations, according to the article I saw, of eventually being as big as Big Tobacco was in the early 70s.
While I’m on BIG BUSINESS, I should point out the extraordinary headlines this week about “the largest profit in the history of business” being ascribed to Apple with a total of more than 15 Billion in the first quarter only, of this year. Multiply that by 4 and you come up with a figure for the year, at over 60 Billion. You might ask yourself how is it possible to do that much business, legally, and one answer would be that Apple jacks up the prices of their goods by anything up to 200%. There’s no other way to explain this huge profit for the last 3 months. They don’t sell billions of computers and phones, and if you’ve ever tried buying some of their stuff you’ll know how their prices are through the roof for even the most mundane and unsurprising products. Sure, but they do look good don’t they? And that’s a major part of their marketing: making their products fashionable.
But in electronics? I hear you ask…

Got ADSL Broadband

I got wired broadband turned on a couple weeks ago; took them 9 days to actually get it coming into my house, because the phone wires had been labelled by TELSTRA a couple years ago, and mine were mismatched, or something. The broadband company came out within 3 days to flick the switch to turn the service on, but nothing happened and they had to send a technician out, 2 days later. He didn’t exactly speak English as a first language, and so he somehow missed a small tag that’d been attached to my phone line in the switch box. He wired my place to a line he believed was mine – the right one and just went away. I had to phone the company interstate and tell them the problem and they had to arrange for a Telstra technician to come examine the whole wiring set up. 3 days later around 8am there was someone ringing my front door bell, and I went to check out who it was only to find another technician. This one, however, had already found the problem, because he claims he had personally placed tags on  my phone line all those years ago. It was a simple matter for him to merely switch which lines were connected to my place, and after he did it, the phone and the broadband began to work.
After the initial surge of interest, I couldn’t think of anything I could do with the broadband. I didn’t wish to watch a live streaming of a movie; didn’t want to buy any music, didn’t want to watch any TV or download any of it either. The only thing I changed was my settings for Windows Update. I had turned it off because I was using a USB Mobile wireless broadband connection with very limited data allowances. But now I turned it “ON” and let it start checking. It came back 10 minutes later saying I needed 1.5 Gigs of updates! So, I agreed to install them all, adjusted the Power settings so the computer wouldn’t turn off after being idle for 10 minutes, and went out in my car. I expected it would take at least 35 minutes to download all the updates, and then, maybe another 15 minutes to actually install them all. So, I went to the shops, bought a newspaper, had a coke and read it through leisurely and when finished, returned home. Having been away for a good 30 minutes. To my surprise all the updates had been installed and the computer was sitting there waiting for me to allow it to re-start, so it could configure everything. Seems the ADSL I had signed up for allowed Microsoft to download it’s stuff – updates – at more than 1.3 MB/s, a speed unheard of during the entire time I had used Mobile broadband. And the plan I have signed on for, isn’t a high speed or high data one, just a standard speed, reasonable volume ADSL always on broadband service with phone….$10 more than what I’d been paying for the Wireless service.