When I first learned that Google Reader was going away, I was even more upset than when the demise of iGoogle was announced.  After a brief tantrum, I decided it was a good lesson in the importance of not becoming dependent on things over which I have no control.  I know:  We depend on city water, we're tied to the grid for power, and losing the Internet would be almost as crippling as losing the first two.  But a little independence is better than none.

Today I realized that I'm actually grateful for Google's nefarious actions.  Not to justify Google's leading people into addiction then cutting them off cold turkey, but what they did offered me the perfect opportunity to declutter my blog world.  And what a victory that was.

I began by looking at various Reader alternatives.  Because nothing jumped out at me as the obvious course, I decided to see if I could do without any feedreader at all.  The first step was to cull the many feeds that were outdated (some of them with no posts since 2009!), or in which I'd lost interest, or which I find too interesting (i.e. take up too much time, such as the Front Porch Republic, which is filled with frequent, thoughtful, interesting posts that take a long time to read and even longer to respond to).  It took much of the day to do it, but it made me so happy!

Thus I managed to whittle over 100 feeds down to a couple of dozen.  This is how I am dealing with those that remain:

  1. For many I was able to activate an e-mail subscription.  Now that I have my e-mail under control (what a thrill to be able to say that!) I'm not afraid to add this, and I have a filter that files my blog subscription e-mails directly into my "Read" Action folder.
  2. For some I determined that I was receiving the same information, or at least a link to the blog, from Facebook, so as long as I keep up with Facebook, I'll get the important news.  If I want I can even have Facebook e-mail me the posts.
  3. Some are updated at a rate that makes checking them weekly a viable option.  These I have aggregated into a folder on my Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar called "Blogs Weekly."  Once a week I can click on the folder, choose "open all in tabs," and rapidly flip through them to check for new posts.
  4. Others (mostly family blogs) I want to check daily, so I have a similar folder labelled "Blogs Daily."  Each of the Weekly and Daily folders contains less than a dozen tabs, and I plan to keep it that way.
  5. There are only two blogs I can't handle with any of the above methods:  Lime Daley, and Daley Pictures.  These are updated infrequently enough I don't want to check them unless there's news, but when there is news, I want to know quickly.  Fortunately, for both of them I'm likely to hear directly from the people involved if there's something I should know.

For now, I'm keeping my (radically trimmed) Google Reader feeds in parallel with my new system as I try it out.  But I think I'll like it.  It's neat, clean, orderly—and has been reduced to only those feeds that, per FlyLady, are a blessing!

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 8:02 am | Edit
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And newspapers wonder why subscription rates are down!  The news is bad enough without adding insult to injury.

The Orlando Sentinel had the nerve to run Grandpa, Meet Facebook, an article by Tribune author Jenniffer Weigel.  (The link is not to the Sentinel because they've adopted the annoying habit of charging for online story access.)

The author begins by telling us that it's "scary" that her mother wants to learn to use Facebook.  Then she quotes Mary Madden, from the Pew Internet Center.

"This is a pretty unique moment in time where grandkids and grandparents can be interacting at the same time, and more seniors are getting a taste of this and seeing the benefits," Madden said.

Whatever this generation may be good at, it's not history.  For most of human time grandkids and grandparents have been interacting just fine; it's recent times that have separated them.

Here's another insult:

But the learning curve for the older crowd to master a site like Facebook can be steep, according to Abby Stokes, author of the book "Is This Thing On? A Computer Handbook for Late Bloomers, Technophobes and the Kicking & Screaming" (Workman).

"I refer to anybody over the age of 40 as a digital immigrant," Stokes said. "You can learn anything but you learn it at a slower pace."

Excuse me?  We were busy inventing the Digital Age before you were born, you young whippersnapper!  It's not technology that keeps me from mastering smart phones and iPad-equivalents.  It's money, plain and simple.  We were brought up to be more careful with our money than to pour it into the latest electronic gadgets.*  Give me one of those devices (and a subscription, which is the worst of the cost) and I'll gladly take on the supposed challenge.


*I don't suppose I should try to get away with that statement, given that I've already confessed to spending $1500 on an intelligent terminal, then about a third of that to fix it when it broke, and then $800 on a dot-matrix printer.  And this was back in the 70's, when that was a lot more money than it is now.  Still, money is the biggest reason (along with a dislike of Apple) I don't go for the newer devices; it's not for lack of desire bordering on covetousness.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 7:35 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Once again, Eric Schultz (The Occasional CEO) has come up with just the right note.  My list of his serious posts I want to share and comment on grows longer, but this one popped right to the top.  So true, so true.


As I said in a comment to his post, it reminded me of a Christmas scene from 2003:  Like this one, it's a living room setting with five people. Three are busy with computers on their laps. (This was almost 10 years ago: no iPhones, no iPads.) The fourth is also intently focussed, not on a computer screen but on the fifth, a newborn baby. No, not that newborn baby, but I did title the picture, We Three Nerds.  Oh, wait.  This is my own blog; I can include the picture itself.


Sorry it's such a lousy picture.  Our camera at the time was an old Sony Mavica, at one time high tech, but it created small files and saved them to a 3.5 inch floppy disk, which couldn't hold even one picture from my present (inexpensive, Kodak) camera.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 15, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Recently, I bought a new 500GB hard drive from Western Digital.  This despite the fact that the salesman told me external drives will soon be a thing of the past.  All will be in The Cloud.  I'm all for cloud storage, but I still like to have some of my data on a drive I can hold in my hand.

I still read books, too.  Paper ones.

But back to the matter at hand. 


What you see is the entirety of the instructions for installing the drive.  And it really was that simple:  I plugged one end of the cord into the drive and the other into a USB port on the computer; Windows 7 recognized the device, installed the drivers, and almost before I could blink, it was ready to go.  I wasn't expecting anything less; what made the experience noteworthy was subsequently reading the somewhat different instructions located in the instruction manual—which is a pdf located on the drive itself.  They begin as follows:

  1. Turn on your computer.
  2. Connect the My Passport drive to your computer as shown in Figure 3.
  3. If a Found New Hardware screen appears, click Cancel to close it.  The WD SmartWare software that is on the drive installs the proper driver for your My Passport drive.

They continue with instructions for making that installation happen.  But as should have been obvious to the manual-writers, the "Found New Hardware" screen isn't up long enough to cancel it.  And in any case, you can't read the instructions to cancel the installation until after you've finished the installation.

I ignored it all, and the drive works fine.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Edit
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All you Windows 7 users out there, can you help me with backup?  Here's the problem:  Windows 7 thinks it's smarter than I am, and I have my doubts.

I had a fine backup routine in place with Windows XP:

  • Every night, I did an automatic incremental backup of my main drive to itself.  I know it's not good to backup to the same drive, but any other system requires having the backup drive plugged in and powered on all the time, which is (1) a waste of energy and (2) risky in itself.  Either that or I'd have to remember to plug it in at the right time.  I know myself better than that.  And this way at least the files were recoverable barring a hard drive crash.
  • Once a week, I'd do a full backup of the main drive, this time to an external hard drive.  I keep many levels of backup, spread over multiple external drives.  (I know, I'm obsessive about it, but I've had two levels of backup fail at once before.)
  • Also once a week, I'd do an incremental backup of the external drive that is plugged in most of the time and holds much of my data.  I only do a full backup of that one twice a year, as it takes some 15 hours.
  • Occasionally I'd do an image backup of the whole primary drive.  (I added this after learning—the hard way—that even though the computer has the "factory settings" built in, you really don't want to go that far back if you can help it.)

The system seems to work well, and it doesn't take much of my time to give me some reassurance.  The computer's time, yes; my time, no.

So ... enter Windows 7 Backup.  As far as I can tell, I can't even specify where I want the backup to go, at any level lower than the entire external drive!  Worse, I can't specify "full" or "incremental"—Windows 7 does a full backup the first time, and then all subsequent backups are incremental, except that, "If you're saving your backups on a hard drive or network location, Windows Backup will create a new, full backup for you automatically when needed" (emphasis mine).

When needed?  How on earth does Windows 7 think it can tell when a full backup is needed?  I, and I alone, determine when a new full backup is needed!

Plus, if Windows is doing incrementals all the time, the backups are going to one drive only, and I really like distributing them over at least two drives.

I'm very new to Windows 7, and I like many of the features, but I do get ticked off when a feature I use all the time gets broken/removed.  I also know that I'm automatically resistent to change, which is often a fault, and that perhaps there's something better about Windows 7 backup that I'm just not seeing yet, which is why I'm writing this post.  Tell me what you like about it, what I'm missing, or how to do it better.

I'd really rather use the built-in system, and not have to resort to third-party software for something that Windows should provide—especially since it used to provide a backup that worked just fine for me.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 10:36 am | Edit
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I know that most of you are waiting for more important posts, with vacation pictures and grandchild adventures, but tonight you get the Blue Light Blues.  I saw this article in the Hartford Courant while on vacation; the link here is to Harvard Health Publications, but it's the same text.

In case you needed one more thing to worry about, all that after-hours screen time is exposing you to excessive blue light.  And blue light at night is bad.

At night, light throws the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Did you catch the bit about energy-efficient lighting?  Those highly-touted compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lights put out more blue light than incandescent bulbs.  Being green can make you blue, too.

The article offers some suggestions for reducing blue light exposure:

  1. Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  2. Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  3. If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses.
  4. Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.

According to #1, I need to stay up for at least another two hours, but that's not going to happen.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.  For now, I'll go to bed feeling happy that my bedside clock has a red display.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Edit
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I remember when Google was the new kid on the block, and I deliberately chose to use it as my primary search engine, simply because Google was the underdog.  (Does anyone else remember AltaVista?)  Well, no more.  Now, I'd gladly eschew Google simply because the company is so powerful.  But I can't.

Because Google is the best.  Hands down.  (Bing's not bad, but there's no point in avoiding one big company just to support another.)

When my husband has a question about one of his company's products, and searches the official company sites, sometimes we'll race:  Usually I can find more information, faster, through Google.  More and more often, if I need help on an issue I'm having with a particular piece of hardware or software, I skip the product's manual and official "help" feature and go straight to Google—because it does a better job.

Today we wanted the address of a friend from a previous church.  We had been told that there was a directory online, but after a frustrating, fruitless time on their website, I resorted to Google, which quickly led me to the needed information.

It's not a comfortable situation, being so dependent on one, powerful company, be it Microsoft or no-longer-the-underdog Google.  Mac and Linux users are a vocal and proud "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" against Microsoft, but who provides a similar challenge to Google?

We need a paradigm shift, if only to provide some competition.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 28, 2012 at 8:19 am | Edit
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Okay, folks, the spam comments have really gotten out of hand.  Heretofore I have always at least glanced at them, to make sure they truly were spam.  But only once, ever, that I can recall, was a comment marked as spam actually something worthwhile.  So I'm finally going to take advantage of the handy administrative button that says "Purge Spam" and delete it all without looking.  If this ends up deleting a comment you make, please forgive me and try again.  Comments from those not previously approved will still be delayed by moderation.  Those, too, are almost all spam, but I always check them out in person.  It's the comments the filters know are spam that will no longer be seen by human eyes.  :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 9:52 am | Edit
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It's not polite to think about items you didn't get for Christmas while we're still in the Christmas season.  But hey—at least no one thinks I'm hinting for a gift as I ponder things.

Those who know me will be shocked at what I am about to reveal, almost as shocked as when I admitted that I might actually want to own a Wii.  Oops, I haven't actually confessed that here yet.  But I had such a blast with the Wii Fit over Thanksgiving....

I am a book-lover.  That is, a lover of real, paper, take-'em anywhere, you-own-it-and-Amazon (or whoever)-can't take it away kinds of books.  Books that smell like books.  I dislike reading on a computer screen.  Back in the Dark Ages of last century, I tried reading a book on my then-leading-edge Palm handheld device.  Yuck.

However, the thought of owning an e-reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) is slowly breaching my event horizon.  For one thing, the price is coming down.  I had dismissed Kindle early on, at the mere thought of holding a $300 "book" that would likely to break if dropped.  But $100 is a little less scary.  More than 2/3 less scary, for some reason.

Then this morning I was struck by two prods in the e-book direction.  First, an e-mail from Janet inquiring about a certain book, which opened my eyes to the idea that one can give e-reader books instantly, without worrying about delivery time or overseas shipping charges.

Shortly thereafter I read Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes Friday, from which I quote: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

My e-mail and blog activity will be curtailed, either somewhat or a lot, until we get a handle on some serious computer problems.  Let me just say this about that:  Computers ought to last at least long enough for them to become obsolete, which even in this fast-moving culture is more than 2 - 4 years.  And laptops should last longer than their batteries.

All that to say, if you need to reach me, e-mail might not be the best medium for a while.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I started 2011 early, being at the time six hours ahead of most of my readers.  But as I did not get back into this country until very late last night, I lost that advantage and then some.  In an unusal and daring move, I did not take my computer with me this trip.  (At each of the many airport security checks, I proudly answered, "no" when the agent pointed to my backpack and queried, "computer?")  This step was not as meritorious, nor as risky, as it might seem, since I had three other computers at my disposal at my destination, but one must begin somewhere.

Despite the opportunity to indulge in e-mail and blog checking on an almost daily basis, real-life events (remember real life?) pared that to essentials.  In other words, I returned home to an intimidating backlog for both.  By eating the elephant one bite at a time I am making progress, but some areas are not getting their usual attention, so if you wrote something important and I haven't responded, feel free to try again.

And Facebook?  I'm not even going to try to catch up.  If I missed a major life event you posted only on Facebook, have pity on me, forgive me, and let me know about it some other way.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Edit
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Being an avid reader of science fiction, I was sure that the big technological change to mark our time would be space travel.  But it’s apparently an idea whose time has not yet come, because it never took off (yes, I meant to say that) the way the science fiction writers prognosticated.

Personal computing and the Internet, on the other hand, took me—along with most of the S-F writers—by surprise, even though they were part of my world from the era of room-sized machines and paper-tape input.  I never imagined how drastically they would change our lives.  Instead of exploring outer space, we have opened the inner spaces of our world. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 7:57 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] The Good New Days: [first] [previous] [newest]

I am of the last generation to know what life was like before pocket calculators.  Even that name is revealing; who calls them that anymore?  Who remembers when “adding machines” were big, clunky things like typewriters?  (Have you seen a typewriter outside of a museum or an old movie?)

I remember my parents doing their taxes with a nifty little plastic device with a set of numbered dials like a telephone.  (Uh, who remembers dial phones?)  There was a 1’s dial, a 10’s dial, a 100’s dial, etc. and you used a stylus to turn them to the correct numbers.  You could add and subtract by turning the dials clockwise or counterclockwise.  The device was handy for checking all those tax numbers, and lots of fun for me when I could get my hands on it.

As a science major in college, I had many tedious calculations to do, and often found it worthwhile to make a trek through the cold and snowy winter night to use one of the half dozen Wang calculators made available to students by the physics department.

When I graduated from college, I received a thrilling (and expensive) gift:  A Texas Instruments SR-10 calculator!  It was especially cool because it handled scientific notation.  Take a look at the keyboard and note that it did a whole lot less than the calculators you can buy today for $10 at your friendly neighborhood Walmart.  The last time I visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, I found my wonderful graduation present on display amongst the other relics.

I firmly believe that everyone should know how to do basic arithmetic functions easily and quickly, and think it’s deplorable that we have cashiers who can’t make change without a register to do the calculations.  I’ve never forgotten Isaac Asimov’s prescient story, The Feeling of Power (1958).

I also believe that everyone should know how to make bread, but that doesn’t stop me from being thankful to be able to buy bread at the store.

Thus, without apology, I am thankful for the handy, portable, convenient, powerful, inexpensive, labor-saving pocket calculator.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 6:02 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] The Good New Days: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I've removed the Feedjit live traffic feed from the panel on the right because of the ads that are now there.  I didn't mind the ads for Feedjit itself, but I have no control over the others they are now showing.  I have, however, retained the link (under Links/Other) so you can see the feed there if you, like me, find it interesting to see where people come here from and (sometimes) why.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 9:41 am | Edit
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MMG is one of my Facebook friends. I've known her since before she was born, so technically she's more the daughter of our friends than my own friend.  Yet thanks to Facebook, in recent years I've had more contact with her, and know more about what's going on in her life, than with her parents.

This is a particular blessing, not only because it keeps up a connection that would otherwise have been lost, but because I enjoy her perspective on life.  She and I differ and disagree in multitudinous ways, from thoughts about God to the importance of televised hockey games.  As Hercule Poirot is fond of saying, she "gives one furiously to think."  But best of all, she is adept at finding (and posting) links from all over the Web, some of which lead me down very interesting paths.  Here's a recent one: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7:32 am | Edit
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