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Technology

The other day, I wrote about ripping my vinyl records and Noel said that he was interested in getting a turntable. The vinyl revival hasn’t escaped me, although it has puzzled me a bit. A compact disc revival I could actually understand. It did get me thinking to how these things change and that most alternatives have both pros and cons.

One thing that I believe has more cons than pros for many people is the laptop, as contrasted with the desktop. The main advantage of the laptop is that it is portable. Beyond that, I think they’re terrible. I have both a laptop and a desktop and I almost never use the laptop when I’m not traveling. I couldn’t imagine have that as my only machine. Almost everything I use a computer for I can do faster and better on my desktop. I can type more quickly. Editing photos is easier. I simply don’t do any graphics at all on the laptop. Plus, laptops are usually far worse for your posture. It’s much easier to find a comfortable position while using a desktop.

The screen on a laptop is almost always too small. I was surprised one day by someone saying that it was great to see their photos on a television because the screen was so big. For a moment, I was puzzled and then I recalled that many people have laptops. My own screen is so big that I’m pretty comfortable backing my chair up a few inches and watching a video, and it’s my favorite way to view photos.

I suspect these days people often choose a laptop without giving a desktop much thought. When my mother’s last computer finally died, her friends said, “Just go to the store and buy a laptop,” usually naming a particular line by a specific manufacturer. Instead, I built a desktop for her.

I would really encourage people, especially young people who may have never used a desktop at home, to try one.

If you do so, I’d also encourage you to build it yourself if you are so inclined. If you haven’t done it, it’s probably much easier than you think. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

The other day, I went to Micro Center, an electronics store, to pick-up a few items. If you’re not familiar with Micro Center, it’s a chain of 25 stores around the U.S. They sell computers as well as some other electronics, but where they really stand out is that they cater to hobbyists and sell computer parts and electronic components. As I was on their website making my shopping list before schlepping out to Brooklyn, I noticed that they had a video of Micro Center’s CEO being interviewed by the founder of Adafruit Industries. It’s a little embarrassing, but I fucking love Adafruit. I have to control myself when I look at their website because I can blow through an absurd amount of money. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe the video was on the Adafruit website. (Trigger Warning: The following website might cause excessive salivating in sensitive individuals. (OMG! OMG! OMG! I wanna make this!))

At one point in the conversation, Lady Ada, the interviewer, asks Rick Mershad, “Do people still go in and build a computer by, like, getting a motherboard and a processor?”

Mershad responds, “It’s funny you asked. That customer is so important to us. I mean, there must be in every market that we serve… there must be fifty thousand people that want to build their own pcs, the reason being that they have a lot of specific uses and a lot of the manufacturers they don’t build pcs that were…”

Lady Ada at this point suggest some uses like gaming or engineering. Mershad adds graphics, which only confirms that he really does know his market. As an artist, I know that some of the most processor demanding tasks are involved in producing graphics. For some reason, it doesn’t cross people’s minds as readily as gaming does. Ironically, programming is one of the least demanding tasks, unless you need to test a program which is itself demanding of processor power. One of the reasons I built my own computer was that I wanted a beast of a graphics machine. Hence the great big screen. I keep threatening to buy a second one for a dual monitor set-up.

One of the great things about building your own pc is that you can have one that is suited exactly to your needs. As I said, it’s easier than most people seem to think. I just got a book. The book had several sample “builds,” but I didn’t follow any of them exactly. The kind people on the subreddits buildapcforme and buildapc suggested parts – just be prepared for everyone to disagree about what’s “best.”

You probably won’t save a whole lot of money building it yourself, but since you’re getting exactly what you want it will be a better value.

Here’s the whole interview. I actually thought it was pretty interesting. Also, a fun thing to look up is to look for images of computer case mods.

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Still working on my long post about the center left. However I’ve been really good about posting regularly for the past couple of weeks and I don’t want to blow my streak. So, I’m putting up an old photo again. This was taken at an exhibition on robots. It is “Renard le Job,” “Job the Fox,” created between 1950 and 1953 by Albert Ducrocq, a pioneer in the field of robotics. The machine is situated in a lineage of artificial animals which includes the Bristol Turtles and Norbert Wiener’s Moth/Bug. Mounted on wheels and containing sensors, it would move towards a light source, react to sound and avoid objects. Interestingly, it could record its path in a magnetic tape memory.Renard-Electronique-ofwUpdate: How embarassing. I’ve posted this photo before.

If you’re new here, you might want to be warned that I’m verbose. If you scroll down there’s a step-by-step recollection of what I did that might be useful for some people.

Back in 2012, I was planning a trip to Europe. One of the things I wanted to do while I was there was to assess the viability of working while traveling. Previously, vacations for me had always been device free. Now, it was going to be the opposite. I was trying to be as connected as possible. I headed to the store to size up the latest, lightest laptops.

When I got there, a sign advertising the newest version of Windows was propped up on the table with the laptop display encouraging people to pre-order. “When will it be released?” I asked. “Actually, it was released today,” I was told. Convenient coincidence.

Although Microsoft has always been the subject of hatred among my acquaintances, I never fully understood their complaints. When I was young, some adults, especially my mother, always accused me of doing things the hard way. However, when it came to the operating system for my computer, I chose to go with the mainstream. I never had any real problems with Windows myself.

I’ve used Linux a little bit, just out of general curiosity because I’m interested in computers, but it really never occurred to me to ditch Windows altogether. Some of the programs I use don’t have Linux versions. Sure, the operating system used to cost money, but a hundred bucks for something that will last me five years or so and that I’ll get daily use out of simply doesn’t strike me as that much.

Then came Windows 10. Honestly, Windows 8 wasn’t all that good either. 7 was a high point, in my opinion.

It’s really hard to enumerate all the things I hated about Windows 10. Cortana. The constant pop-ups advertising some Microsoft product. I would be trying to concentrate on my work when suddenly black box slides in from the right. “Get Office Now!” I found myself cursing more often than not. Another pop-up saying “Auto-rotate On!” which comes up again about ten minutes later. At best it’s distracting.

I’m ambivalent about the privacy issue. On the one hand, when I try to protect my privacy, I find myself in the company of people who seem paranoid to me. I tend to take for granted that fact that the government has no real interest in me and the interest that companies have in me is mainly how to part me from my money, which I don’t have nearly enough of to be anything other than matter of fact and practical about it. It does creep me out a bit. Once, I was allowing advertising alongside my emails. That lasted about a day. I wrote, in an email, something to the effect of “Don’t make me shit,” a figure of speech not to be taken literally. Soon, I saw an ad for a laxative. I realized that a program was reading the content of my emails. That really bugged me, so I downloaded Thunderbird.

It seems as if Microsoft has decided that it no longer wants to sell software to clients, but to give away software that gathers data and sell that data to their real clients. I would probably have continued using Windows anyway, but after a few months with Windows 10, it has become clear that they don’t want to simply snoop on you, they want to get in your way.

One of my main reasons to continue with Windows was because I’m a heavy user of Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Of course, Adobe has now gone to a subscription model, so it’s highly probably that, unless I become a professional photographer rather than a hobbyist, which is not in the least bit likely, when my current version becomes unusable I will switch to something else. Oddly, if they hadn’t done that, I’d probably be looking to upgrade to a newer version around now. Funny to think that I was exactly the sort of customer, the ones who bought ever other or every third version, that used to frustrate them the most. The price conscious consumers. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that we weren’t just being cheap. Spending more literally wasn’t in our budgets. In trying to get more money out of us, they have essentially driven us away. Well, their profits seem to be growing, so I guess they can do well enough without me.

However, I don’t use Photoshop on my laptop. Although I travel with my camera as well as my laptop, my laptop is too small to really want to spend much time processing pictures on it. Also, it doesn’t have the same processing power or memory that my desktop does. For serious photo editing, I’m not going to do it on my laptop. However, I have put up blog posts while traveling and I would like to be able to do basic things like download the photos from my camera and to some simple tweaks to the exposure or white balance.

Sometime around Christmas, I was using my laptop and I found myself gnashing my teeth yet again over how much I hated Windows 10. Then I didn’t use my laptop for several weeks. I realized that I hated 10 so much, my laptop had become more or less unusable. At the least, I was actually avoiding it. The only reason I hadn’t switched to Linux in the past was convenience. Well, it was looking as if convenience was no longer on the side of Windows.

Most of you probably know what Linux is. For those of you who don’t, it’s an operating system, or OS. Windows is also an operating system. It’s the software program that sits between your computer and other programs, called application programs. Apple brand computers run the Mac OS. Nearly eight-nine percent of personal computers run one version or another of the Windows operating system. Linux, by comparison, is less than two percent of the desktop operating system market. The most common alternative to Windows is Mac, but generally you need to buy an Apple computer and I wasn’t in the market for new hardware. There are a few other alternatives out there, but I needed something that was reliable, would work and had enough users out there that if I have a problem someone might be able to give me advice.

The history of Linux has been told many times elsewhere, so I won’t retell it here. What is relevant here is that the original project has branched into many projects, so there are different versions of Linux, usually called distributions, often shortened to “distros.” You will also hear people refer to “flavors” of Linux.

My own choice was not especially well reasoned. Since I wanted to simply replace Window on my laptop with something less annoying, that would hopefully work “out of the box,” I searched on the internet for the opinions of people with similar hardware. I found several posts from people using Arch Linux and Fedora Linux. I decided to try Fedora first since I had used it in the past. Actually, it seems to have changed quite a bit in intervening years, so perhaps that shouldn’t have been a factor.

One of the positive things about Linux is that it is free. It’s not at all uncommon for people to try out several different versions before settling on one they like. The only reason I didn’t do that is because I’m lazy. I’ll probably stick with what I’m running now, which is Fedora, unless I find a reason to do otherwise.

So, here are the steps I took. It was actually easier than I expected with only one real hang-up, which was easily overcome after looking it up on the internet.

One thing I would suggest if you are going to replace your operating system is to have another computer that is working on hand. Usually you can solve problems by researching them on the internet. It is not unlikely that someone else has had a similar problem and has perhaps put up a solution.

You will need a USB flash drive and I highly recommend having a paper and pen at hand. I don’t know about you, but I always find myself suddenly being prompted for a password and realizing that I have no place to write it down. Suddenly, I’m jumping and running around the room like chicken little and writing my password down just about anywhere and losing it. So, do know that you will have to create a password at a couple points.

This is, I repeat, very easy. Some actions had other options. I’m not listing all the alternatives that were possible, just what I did. I’m lazy. I like convenience and I like easy.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m not explaining things. I don’t know much, so I’m operating under the assumption that any one who finds the following useful knows less than I do. I think to myself, “What if my sister really got fed up with Windows and wanted to switch? How would I tell her to do it?” I’m going to but some longer explanations in footnotes at the end.

So this is a blow-by-blow of what I did. If you would like to do things differently (and there are other options) there is plenty of information out there to help. There are probably better ways of doing things, but I’m currently writing this post using the laptop in question, so this did work for me.

There are, by the way, plenty of alternatives to Fedora, and a lot of information at there on the web if you care to research it. I confess, I was being lazy and just wanted the pain of Windows 10 to go away and wasn’t at all in the mood to research it properly.

  1. Go to https://fedorahosted.org/liveusb-creator/ .1 Look under where it says “Download,” then beneath it “Windows,” then “Windows Installer” and click the link that follows it.live-usb-creator_download-pageIf you’re using Firefox, you should get a dialogue box prompting you to save the file. Click “save.” Your download should start. Type “Ctrl+J” to open the Download Library. Double click on “liveusb-creator-3.12.0-setup.exe.” You will get a dialogue labeled “Open Executable File.” Click “OK.” Install the LiveUSB Creator using the defaults, which should be something like “Next”, “Install”, “Next”, “Finish.” The LiveUSB Creator should open automatically. You can leave it open while you do the next step.
  2. Go to https://getfedora.org/en/workstation/download/ . Click the big green button that says “Download.” When the dialogue labeled “Opening Fedora-Live-Workstation-x86_64-23-10.iso” appears, make sure the radio button labeled “Save File” is chosen and then click “OK.”opening-fedora-dialogueThis is a very large file and, depending on the speed of your connection, it could take a long time to download. Wait.
  3. Stick your USB flash drive into your computer. Return to the Fedora LiveUSB Creator or launch the program if it is not open. There is a panel labeled “Use existing Live CD” with a button that says “Browse.” Click it. A file chooser should open. Navigate to your downloads file and find the file called “Fedora-Live-Workstation-x86_64-23-10.iso.”2 Choose it and click “Open.” Beneath that, there is a panel labeled “Target Device” with a drop down menu. To the right of the drop down menu is a refresh button. Click the refresh button and the name of your USB flash drive should appear. (I had no other removable devices installed at the time, so it was the only thing on the drop down menu. If you have other devices, you might have to choose it.) Click “Create Live USB.”Screen shotI actually did all this on a machine other than my laptop, so I ejected the flash drive at this point and turned on my laptop. The following directions are specifically for Windows 10.
  4. Make copies of any data, photos, or anything else you have stored on the machine because we will be destroying what is on there. On the machine on which you wish to install the operating system go to the Start menu. From the Start menu go to “Settings,”*3* which should open the Settings window. From Settings, go to “Update and Security.” Under Update and Security, click “Recovery.” Recovery has a section labeled “Advanced startup.” Under that is a button that says “Restart now.” A screen will appear labeled “Choose an option.” Click the box labeled “Troubleshoot.” This will open another screen labeled “Troubleshoot.” Click the box labeled “Advanced options.” Under Advanced Options, click “UEFI firmware settings.” Click “Restart.”
  5. This brought up something called the “Setup Utility.” This must be navigated with the right, left, up and down arrows, not the pointing device. Go to the “Boot” menu.Setup-Utility-1Here, I changed the Boot Mode and disabled Fast Boot. At the bottom of the screen the functions of several keys are described. F5/F6 changes the values of the options. Using the up and down arrows, navigate to where it says “EFI.” “Windows Boot Manager” should appear first. Highlight it and hit F5 to move it down on the list. Press F10 to save and exit.Setup-Utility-2
  6. Insert the live USB drive you made in steps 1 – 3 into your computer. Restart.
  7. This is what I saw. Unfortunately, the camera focused on me, not the screen, but what it says is “not a COM32R image,”*4* followed on the next line by “Boot.”Not-a-com32rThis line will keep repeating every few seconds until you do something. Hit tab. Options will appear. One of the options was “linux0.” I typed that. Not-a-com32r-2It started to Install. The rest is even easier.
  8. I was given an option to “Try Fedora” or to “Install to Hard Drive.”*5* Since I knew that I wanted to get rid of Windows and I’m too lazy to try several distros first, I just clicked “Install to Hard Drive.” From the Installation Summary screen, click on “Installation Destination.” From the Installation Destination screen, I chose the only hard drive on my computer. On the dialogue labeled “Reclaim Disk Space” I clicked “Delete all.” Follow the password prompts. Do not forget to write it down someplace safe! Then: Yea!
    ready-to-use
  9. After that, there are a few self-explanatory screens asking you for things like your language preference and time zone.

I confess, I was a little surprised by this, but I guess you’ve gotta keep up with the times:

Online-accountsThis was followed by a screen asking for your name. There’s no need to put your real name here, but you need to put something. Odd.

This makes finding software absurdly easy:
welcome-to-software

Too easy. Where’s the pain? You young’uns. When we were young, if you wanted a program, we had these disks and you had to carry the data to your computer with your bare hands!

I haven’t been using it long enough to tell you what I think of it, but I’ve got to say, much to my surprise, so far it’s actually been easier than using Windows. That did surprise me.

I have a few other thoughts about this, and I apologize for the paucity of the explanations. While the installation was relatively easy, writing this out was quite time consuming and I need to get away from the computer.

One. (‘Cause fucking WordPress won’t let me start a paragraph with a number with turning on the damned numbering thingamabob. ‘Cause, ya know I’m too stupid to know what I want to do myself.) I don’t know if the live USB creator will work with other Linux distributions. I don’t see why not, but I didn’t try it. In the past I’ve used Rufus. Wikipedia has a list.

Two. “Fedora-Live-Workstation-x86_64-23-10.iso” was the name of the file I downloaded. The current release is numbered 23. If you this number almost certainly will change in the future, so the exact name of the file might be different. (I kinda figure most people can work that out, but I’m trying to be super specific and simple here.)

Three. This is very different from what I’ve done in the past. Previously, hitting F2 while the operating system was booting would take you into the BIOS and F12 would take you to the boot menu. This is what I initially tried to do and one of the reasons I’m taking the time to write that all out. I’ve read a couple of different explanations for why this didn’t work that way, but I’m not sure what explanation is correct. In any case, going into settings as I’ve described is what worked.

Four. I have no idea why this happened. I read found quite a few places on line where people brought it up, so it seems to be a common problem. It has a simple solution, but I have no clue why it is happening in the first place.

Five. If you want to try it to see if you like it before installing it, in other words you are unsure you want to get rid of Windows just yet, you can pick the other option. You can also try several different Linux distributions to see if you like one better than another before installing.

I’m a creaky old lady. Cranky, sometimes too. My age shows in attitudes that appear to be becoming quaint. For instance, I love technology, but I’m not oriented towards consumerism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude and am perfectly happy to have a new toy, but I don’t quite get the attitude that you have to have the latest even if it isn’t the greatest. The evident pride some people have in showing-off their new consumer devices is something I don’t quite feel. I’m happy enough to have an item myself, but I don’t really care if the whole world knows about it, or if they already have it.

Back when new technology came in a large, unsexy, beige box that sat at home and no one even knew you had, I was pretty much in tune with the attitudes of other people who were technophiles. Starting with the iPod, however, technology became something you took out of the house and was therefore easy to show off. Then the melding of a love of technology and consumerism created a new animal, technophile 2.0.

Which is a long-winded way of saying, “What’s up with that watch?”

Since I’m technophile 1.0, I’m more likely to read Tom’s Hardware than Gizmodo, which means I only have a vague awareness of what the new items are and what they do. Back when the new technology still sat inside, or at least was plugged into, that big, beige box, I had a tendency to buy technology that was not the newest. Right after the price dropped seemed to get you the biggest bang for your buck, then I’d use it until it was dead as a doornail. Back then, by the way, geeks were notoriously cheap. In recent years, that technique hasn’t been as functional because many of our new computer related items become less functional quite quickly. My cell phone, which was considered a “smart phone” when I got it, did about what an average “dumb phone” does today. However, despite not being able to access all sorts of applications, I was still using it until about a week ago when it became the worlds smallest doorstop. I just can’t bring myself to throw out something that’s still remotely functional. It feels unnatural. (And my apologies for any unreturned phone calls. It’s not you. For a change, it’s not even me. It’s my phone. As soon as I get a new one, I’ll return your call.)

Which brings me to the watch.

When I first hit that age when girls start pretending that they’re women and carrying purses, I learned a lesson. In fact, I learned the lesson many times. The lesson is this: Most people are really nice and very honest. You see, I had a bad habit of leaving my purse all over the place. Inevitably, it was returned. As a result, I’m absurdly trusting. Once, on a date, I lost my wallet. The man with me asked if I needed to cancel my credit cards. I said, “No, my wallet will be returned.” He thought I was being reckless. Perhaps, but I was right. (Thanks, Pia!) Still, over the years, I learned to not carry a purse. I adopted smaller men’s wallets rather than the strangely large things women carry. I seek out clothes with pockets. I go to the grocery store looking like I’m ready for a safari or a month in the Australian outback. Generally, however, I travel light. The rise of the cell phone has caused me to start carrying a purse again. How strange to have a whole bag just for one item. I’ve tried clipping it to my belt. I assure you that the old Blackberry could survive flying about ten feet and landing on hard pavement as you jog across an intersection. Despite the proven durability of the phone, I was less sure of the durability of my body and I felt that one day I might get hit by a car running back to retrieve my wayward phone. I gave up the belt clip.

So, my phone is now dead and, the other day, I roused myself to take a look at what was on the market to replace it. “OMG! A watch!” Ah, I had such fantasies of dashing around Manhattan, as free and bagless as I was in my twenties, phone strapped conveniently to my wrist. So what if the screen is a little small. I didn’t surf the web on my phone much anyway. I could feel like James Bond talking into my sleeve.

Alas, it seems that that unicorn was just a goat viewed from the wrong angle. On closer inspection, it seems that you still need a phone, and need to carry it with you. The watch apparently just syncs to the phone. It doesn’t appear to be particularly useful, just one more encumbrance, which leads me to wonder why anybody wants it.

I’ve got a big day ahead, so I’m just going to write a quick post to announce that my little media box seems to be working. Yesterday, I was up to my eyeballs in computer parts. I woke up this morning to realize that I’m now up to my eyeballs in empty boxes. Sissy and Mum are coming tonight and taking me out to a play for my birthday this weekend, so I’ve got to wrangle the boxes and get them to the garbage/recycling, give the apartment a quick, lazy-ass cleaning, do a grocery store run for coffee and maybe a nice Chablis for Sis (No promises!) and then clean myself up so I can greet them looking as relaxed and cool as Ginger Rodgers in high heels going backwards.

The good news, is that the hardware of my HTPC appears to be working. I’ve installed XMBCbuntu, which is the Kodi media playing software, which was formerly called XMBC, which comes already set up on the Lubuntu operating system, which is a lightweight version of Ubuntu, which is an easy to use distribution of Linux, which is an open source operating system. Got it? Actually, it’s pretty easy to get since it’s free. Link: Kodi.

After the weekend is over, I’ll explain in more detail what I did in case it’s helpful for anyone else.

I had a really, really nice morning. Just lovely. Then I came back here and I was going to download some pictures I took yesterday hoping a few of them would be worth sharing.

Before going out for breakfast, I got a prompt on my laptop to download Windows 8.1, a prompt I’ve been dismissing and ignoring for about a year now. So, I thought, this might be a good time to finally do it. I backed up all the stuff on my hard drive a couple of days ago and haven’t really used the computer since. I tried doing this about a year ago and it all fucked up and it wound up reverting to Windows 8. So, I downloaded Windows 8.1 before setting out for breakfast.

Came back, tried to click to install it.

Well, that didn’t seem to go well. I tried doing a custom install because I don’t want to share all my information with Microsoft. I don’t want to be a part of a corporate eco-system. I don’t like this new concept of renting rather than owning. I don’t like any of it.

The custom install was taking so long, and now I can’t remember what the fucking trigger was, the thing that set off my anger. I tried to click the “do it later” button regarding the networking because I’m traveling and I’m not using my own home network or even a work network. Anyway, this was a lot more involved than I expected. If you get a prompt saying that you need to download an update and “you can finish working” while it downloads, don’t be fooled by the implication that this is going to be an easy, quick and seamless experience. I started getting frustrated, started crying, literally, banged on my computer thinking, “I’m on fucking vacation. I want to do something else today.” Anyway, I was having visions of a computer that doesn’t work, of having to spend money that I’d like to spend on my vacation buying an Apple computer, which is no better because then I’ll be part of the Apple corporate eco-system. Really, is it that crazy to feel like one doesn’t want to become part of the Borg.

Then I get other crazy thoughts. It’s really been getting more and more difficult for me to avoid Twitter, and Facebook, but I feel like if my life is going to be an open book, then everyone else’s will be, too. Because, it’s either stop writing my memories or stop using pseudonyms.

Anyway, when I banged on my computer, the screen said something to the effect of “Windows has encountered a problem and is going to shut down.” Which it did.

Then, I started it up again, hoping that it would have reverted to the old Windows 8 like it did last time, not that I loved Windows 8, but I had made all the adjustments so I could use that dysfunctional piece of crap they think is an operating system interface.

Blech, so where the fuck am I, now. Honestly, I understand why non-tech people get frustrated with technology. The people who make technology see it as an end in and of itself. Non-tech people see it as a means to an end. The interface should not draw attention to itself. That doesn’t mean that it has to be slick and pretty the way Apple thinks it should be. It can be boring, like the old school gui menu bars. I like playing with technology when I want to play with technology. This morning, I wanted to download some pictures and put up a post – a happy post saying what a good time I’m having in Paris, which I am, and then get outside and do something.

Instead, I wouldn’t up playing with my fucking computer. I don’t know why I thought it would be a few minutes, that I could putz around and make myself a cup of coffee while hitting “next”, “next.”

Yes, I know. These are spoiled brat problems. I’m even thinking to myself, “Ooh, you poor baby. You might lose a morning in Paris because you’re updating the laptop you only use when you travel. It’s hard to be so spoiled” Still, it’s not like the damn thing was free, and no one likes not getting their money’s worth. Right now, the Windows operating system is garbage, mainly due to the interface. It hasn’t been crashing or anything. If you’re still using Windows 7 or XP, keep on going. I don’t know what to tell you about what to do when you have no choice but to upgrade it. If you need to install a new operating system on a desktop and you can get your hands on Windows 7, use that. I still use it on my desktop and it works great.

I’ve always preferred Windows to Apple, but now that Windows has changed, I’m not sure what the fuck to do.

Anyway, I turned the computer back on, and just hit the button to use the default settings. I can’t decide whether or not to download the photos from my camera right now, because I’m toying with the idea of just replacing the operating system with an easy to use flavor of Linux like Ubuntu. I’m not sure.

Or maybe I should see if I can make the adjustments like I did on Windows 8 so that it’s usable.

Then again, the weather’s beautiful, maybe I should just get out and enjoy Paris. Ah, the Ativan must be kicking in. I hadn’t taken one for a couple of months. Thanks, Microsoft.

(Oh, yeah. If anyone has tried using any Linux distros on a laptop with a capacitive screen and you have an opinion about them, let me know.)

A few days ago, when I wrote that I was putting together a computer for my mother, I said that I’d put up photos. I’m sure many of you rolled your eyes and said to yourself, “I bet that’s going to go the same way as the posts about freedom of speech, the post about hate speech, the next installment of her autobiography….”  Aha! Well, here’s the pictures.

Conveniently for making me look like the world’s most wonderful daughter, I did this right before mother’s day.

First, box porn! Yay!

boxes of computer components

I originally planned to put this together for my sister. The requirements for my mother and my sister would have been a little bit different. My sister specifically wanted a quiet computer. We originally toyed with the idea of doing something like this completely silent computer shown on Tom’s Hardware, only a little less powerful, however the cost of a passively cooled power supply was a little too much. My mother probably would have gone in a more “budget” direction, so it’s just as well that we didn’t spend the money on that. Since my sister is a business person, I went with a fairly sober case, seen on the far right. Fortunately, that was good for my mother, too, although I probably would have gone with a smaller case for her. Although I felt that the case was a little expensive when I got it, it is nicely made and was very easy to work with.

 

solid state drive installed

I looked at the laptop my sister had been using and she had uses so little storage on her hard disk drive that I realized that we could get away with a single solid state drive making her computer super quiet. Again, my mother probably would have frowned at the expense, but it was more than enough storage for her, so that was good. Gosh, aren’t they small. We really could have gone with a smaller case without any problem.

 

motherboard

Here’s a birdseye view of the motherboard. Again, the fact that the motherboard came with bluetooth/wifi module would be good for my sister. For my mother, I could have saved a few bucks on the motherboard. Well, it’s there if she feels that she wants it.

socket

This is a close-up of the socket on the motherboard. I didn’t take a picture of the CPU. The central processing unit is the heart, or if you prefer the brains, of the computer. We went with an Intel CORE i3-3220. We decided on this so long ago, it’s hard for me to recall the reasoning. (It may have been on sale. I spent about a month or so watching for price drops on PC Part Picker, a very useful site, by the way.) The CPU goes into this socket.

 

cooler

Here’s the motherboard with the aftermarket cooler installed. The CPU is underneath all that. My main reason for getting this was on account of the noise. Most CPUs come with a little fan that you put on top to keep the chip cool. Gamers who are planning on pushing their computer to its limits or people with a fetish for silence like my sister might want an aftermarket cooler like this. In retrospect, I probably should have saved this for another project since my mother really didn’t need it.

The memory sticks go into the slots on right edge of the motherboard. This is what is called “volatile” memory. Unlike what you store on your hard drive, what is stored on these memory sticks disappears when you shut off the computer. It is “temporary storage and working space for the operating system and applications.” I already had the sticks of RAM, or I would have chosen something less expensive. Also, they didn’t fit well with the cooler. I took off one of the two fans. I’m going to check the temperature on the CPU, but the way my mother uses her computer I think it should be fine.

 

inside of case assembled

Here we’re almost done. The motherboard is populated and has been put inside the case. We just have to make sure it works, tidy the up the wire and close the case.

 

loading the operating system

Halle-fucking-lujah!

computer on desk

Here is the computer up and running on my mother’s desk.

I didn’t know if I should explain in detail or not, so please ask any questions if something wasn’t clear or you’re curious about something.

Ever since I put together my new desktop and spent time haunting hardware forums and reading online magazines that review hardware, I’ve been a bit fascinated by all the breathless announcements that tablet sales have surpassed pc sales. As I’ve said before, I find the comparisons between the two a bit ridiculous. It would be like comparing the sales between tractor trailers and bicycles. Finding that the manufacturers of tablets want to convince me that I want one is unsurprising because, of course, they’d like to sell them. Why there are people who write things saying that tablets are the way of the future, so get used to it, puzzles me.

The way of the future. The future, they say, will be touch, or, better yet, gesture. We all know the various gestures, first made commonplace with the iPhone and now having spread to tablets and laptops. They say that the gestures were taken from the movie Minority Report. In it, Tom Cruise works in front of a transparent screen, waving his arms. You can see his face – so much more interesting than the back of someone’s head. I liked the movie a lot. The director, Stephen Spielberg, spent time consulting with professionals in various fields to create a future that looks believable. Between the government trying to prevent crimes before they happen and the technology it portrays with screens all over, it sometimes seems like one of the most prescient. The computer interface that Tom Cruise employed in the movie was designed by  John Underkoffler, who was told by Spielberg to make it look as if Cruise was conducting an orchestra. That’s much more visually exciting than watching someone typing at a keyboard and reading a dense screen of type.

Whenever I see someone give verbal commands to their phones, I think of Harrison Ford in Blade Runner reclining on a sofa saying, “Enhance,” to his computer. As he finds something in the picture on-screen, he leans forward.

Anyone who has ever seen their profession portrayed in a movie has probably laughed at the contortions directors go through to make banal work dramatic. Most of us, in our daily lives, do not look like movie stars, and that’s not only because we are not as beautiful or handsome or buff. When we concentrate on work we sit with our shoulders hunched over, or leaning our head in our hands which squashes our faces in unflattering ways. From the candid photos in gossip rags, we know that movies stars don’t look like movie stars most days.

So, I’m amused by the fact that the new interfaces for our tools appear to have been shaped more by a need to make characters in a movie look exciting than with the ostensible purpose. Thankfully, writing was invented before the movies, or we all would have been doing our math homework by writing on the window like Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.

First things first: Gimp.

As someone who’s used Adobe’s products for over a decade, I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s been going on with that company lately. Like many of their customers, I have a love-hate relationship with the company. Their products are not cheap. The first version of their Creative Suite that I bought was actually an old version because the computer I had at the time didn’t wasn’t sufficient to run the version that was most current. I remember searching around for an old copy. Even still, it felt like an indulgence, a very expensive toy, because I was not, nor was I ever, a professional graphic artist. I had already been using a stand alone copy of Illustrator for a few years at that point. When I received a digital camera as a gift, I was the first person I knew, outside of the person who had given me the camera, to have a digital camera. At that point, the Creative Suite, bundled with Photoshop, made sense, or at least I could justify spending the money. It came with Adobe’s website editing software, GoLive. I had a bit of fun learning how to make a web page. Eventually, Adobe acquired Macromedia and its products like Flash and Dreamweaver. GoLive, which I preferred to Dreamweaver, was discontinued. However, that didn’t matter much at first because I wasn’t a web designer and I continued to use that old version of the Adobe Creative Suite until that computer went belly up and I had to get a new one.

Generally, I get a new computer when the old one is too dead to repair. I go as long as I can between new machines, which is about a year or two longer than the average. I rarely buy a computer simply because I want something shiny and new.

It’s hard to explain my behavior in terms of the paradigms used by marketing departments. When I was in my mid-thirties, I dated a marketing executive for a time. He told me that he originally wanted to be an engineer, but was rejected by the engineering school because his grades and test scores were not high enough. Instead, he majored in business. He was exceedingly amused by the fact that he now told engineers what to do and made tons more money than they did. Needless to say, he didn’t increase my respect for marketing people. I have been in every category of the Diffusion of Innovations theory. The funniest part of that theory is the ascription of personality traits to what should be functional categories. So the early adopters are “younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward,” while laggards are “focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends.” I have been both, sometimes in consecutive years.

I was among the first non-tech people I knew to have a personal computer at home, and the first woman by several years. Consequently, when I don’t like a new innovation, like that jumping paper clip that totally freaked me out, and I’m told that I should accept it because “it’s the future” and my only reason for not embracing it is that I’m “afraid of technology,” I am not convinced. Clearly the person who is saying these things has no clue what he or she is talking about. By making sweeping generalizations about my personality, which I know to be untrue because, after all, it’s my personality, the writer is demonstrating that he or she has no interest in facts or analysis and is posturing for some reason that is beyond my ability to understand. Some of the people I know who are the least interested in touch screens, the most skeptical of “the cloud”, dislike terribly Windows 8 and don’t engage much in “social networking” are tech people. They are not afraid of technology. Mindless consumerism, however, doesn’t appeal to them much.

When Windows 8 was not installing correctly on my computer a few weeks ago, I looked on the internet to see if anyone else had had the same problem and if there was a solution. Instead of finding a discussion of real problems I found article after article of psychic psychologists masquerading as tech writers that helpfully offered that people having problems with Windows 8 were just laggards afraid of the future. Do these people even realize how stupid they look when they write that crap? Hello? You’re a tech writer and you don’t understand “Windows 8 operating system crashes” is not a choice I made?

Finally, I built my new computer, yes, a desktop, installed Windows 7, installed Slackware Linux (yes, I’m old), and took out my three-year-old disks of Adobe’s Creative Suite and installed it on my new computer. Considering that I just spent a load of money on hardware as well as paying for both Windows 7 and Windows 8 (yes, I’m unhappy about that) I wasn’t about to spend money to upgrade to the next version of Creative Suite, at least not right away. However, I tend to plan big purchases ahead of time so I can save up or adjust spending in other areas if necessary, so I looked on Adobe’s website to find out what version they were up to. Everything was Creative Cloud, Creative Cloud, Creative Cloud, as if they had only one product. So, when Adobe announced last week that they were no longer offering their Creative Suite and now only selling their Creative Cloud, it came as no surprise to me. Their website had been reflecting that decision for a few days at least.

So what is this Creative Cloud? First of all, it’s loved by Wall Street and deceptively named. If that doesn’t raise your suspicions right there, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

First of all, it has relatively little to do with the “cloud.” Just the other day, a friend of mine, a programmer, editor at a technology magazine and all-around knowledgeable guy, writing about a different subject, said to me, “Most people don’t know what they mean when they talk about the cloud. Marketing people are the worst. They call things the cloud that have nothing to do with it but it sounds innovative.” He wasn’t talking about Adobe’s Creative Boondoggle, but he may as well have been.

In “cloud computing” most of the resources do not sit on the users’ computers. This WordPress blog that I maintain is a great example. I access the dashboard where I do most of the work of writing, organizing and posting through my browser. None of this resides physically on my computer. The text files and image files are all stored on a server that is maintained by WordPress.com. I access all of WordPress’s wonderful bells and whistles via the internet.

In contrast, Adobe’s Creative Clouding the Issue is comprised of core programs, the same programs you know and love to hate like Photoshop, that sit on your computer. So, you may reasonably ask, what’s the difference between Adobe’s Creative Suite and their new Creative… uh… uh… you know. Mainly, the difference is pricing. Instead of a one time cost, you will now pay on a monthly basis. Whereas the Creative Suite was last released in several different versions that catered to different groups, contained a different set of programs and  were priced accordingly, there will be only one level of subscription which costs $600 a year or $80 a month. Currently, you can buy an old version, Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium 5.5, on Amazon for $569.98 for the Mac version and use it until your computer conks out. Adobe maintains that the Creative Cluh… Cluh… Cluh… Thing will be less expensive than purchasing the current version of the Creative Suite Master Collection, their most expensive, most complete offering, and updating to newer versions regularly. Okay. But I didn’t do that. The Creative Suite Master Collection is currently available at Amazon for $2,149.75. When choosing which creative suite to purchase, I would try to decide which programs I would really use and choose accordingly. Now, if I was rich….

Hell, who are we fucking kidding. If I was rich…. If I was rich I would be the female goddamn Tony Stark. My computer wouldn’t be running Windows, or Linux for that matter, it would be running my very own operating system, you know, the one with the AI interface that gets my sense of humor. My “office” would look like the bridge to the Starship Enterprise. I wouldn’t be driving a cute little economy car, I’d have a Maserati. Yeah, I know I never go over the speed limit because I’m super-duper law-abiding, but that’s not the point. The point is that I have lots of plans for my spare cash, the spare cash that Adobe is eying so greedily.

Perhaps it was just bad timing for me to learn about this. As I’ve described else where on this blog, I just spent a lot of money putting together a computer. I went through a literal nightmare with Windows 8. I have so many thoughts racing around my head about all the garbage I’ve been reading, it’s hard to get it out in a coherent fashion. I’m just getting to something of a saturation point with hearing people proclaim, “It’s the future!” as if this is supposed to be a meaningful statement. It reminds me of when I was young, living in New York City and spending far too much time in bars and nightclubs. I never read fashion columns. I never read about what was “hip”, “cool” or “trendy,” because I knew that things were hip, cool or trendy because of me and people like me. The lifestyle journalists were reporting on our collective behavior. It’s stupid to do something because it’s cool. You do it because it’s fun, or you like it and, if enough people agree with you, lifestyle journalists will declare it a trend. So, when CEOs of tech companies declare something “the future,” they have it backwards. They get to offer products to the public, and we declare what the future is. Let’s also not forget that the future may very well be more than one thing. We have both motorcycles and eighteen wheel trucks, and vehicles of almost every conceivable size and shape in between.

As my mother likes to say, “That’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate.” However, reading tech news these days is like watching people proclaim “the future is chocolate!” It doesn’t seem to occur to them that some people will choose to not have ice cream. I last owned a television on which I could watch broadcast t.v. in 1998. I just didn’t watch it enough to replace it when it broke. Some people do opt for “none of the above.” More and more the web feels to me like t.v. with an order form attached, a future that I think would suit corporations just fine.

The future is the cloud. The future is mobile. The future is touch. The future is software as service. These are nothing but marketing slogans by hucksters with a product to sell. It may be a good product, or maybe not, but they’re still nothing but marketing slogans. I really can’t believe apparently functional adults take these statements seriously.

I’m apparently not alone in feeling uncomfortable about Adobe’s Creative Accounting. There’s actually a petition on Change.org objecting to Adobe’s new pricing scheme. I don’t expect any of these companies to “reverse” their decisions. After all, technology rarely, if ever, moves backwards. However, I think it will move forward in a different direction. Here’s the bad news for Adobe and Microsoft: I am your market. If you don’t please people like me, you’re in trouble.

Some final thoughts about where Adobe’s heading: Tossing up a word salad that makes Sarah Palin sound like Shakespeare, David Wadhwani of Adobe explained the company’s direction to Digital Arts magazine.

The way we do that isn’t necessarily to take what we’re selling now and make it cheaper and cheaper because I think there is an inherent value that what we’re creating gives creatives some of the new value we want. However, I think that there are decided opportunities that we can take some of the technology that we have now and surface them in different ways that are more affordable and more approachable to a broader set of customers. And so if you’re asking: am I interested in leveraging this new platform and the flexibility it gives us? Then the answer is absolutely yes.

“…there is an inherent value that what we’re creating gives creatives some of the new value we want….” What on earth does that even mean? What does it mean to “surface” something? Admittedly, I’m one of those stick in the mud people who can’t stand the word “gifting” when “giving” would work perfectly well. This puts me in mind of what Fred Vincy in Middlemarch calls “shopkeeper’s talk.”

It’s also important to note that Adobe has ventured into social networking and hardware. I can’t help wondering if they fancy themselves a total creative ecosystem.

Here’s some lists of alternative software:

LifeHacker: Build Your Own Adobe Creative Suite With Free and Cheap Software

Inconsequence: It’s time for a change: Adobe jumps the shark

I’ve used Gimp and like it a lot. If you don’t have to collaborate with other people who use Photoshop, I really recommend trying it. Inkscape, at least when I last tried it, doesn’t hole a candle to Illustrator. I tried Corel Draw a very, very long time ago and thought it was comparable to Illustrator, but it was so long ago I can’t vouch for it. Illustrator, not Photoshop, has been the main program tethering me to Adobe.