Tag Archives: computers

Arrogant Computers

What I hate about computers is that they are becoming more and more arrogant. They say things like “access denied” while not fully understanding your identity and aims. They do that, for instance, when you are sensibly deleting unwanted system files you have just reluctantly ‘restored’ from an old backup with limited options! Computers should remain accommodating till they know exactly what they are talking about.

What actually provoked this outburst today was a small thing, but it strikes me that it says a lot about the attitudes of computers (or their developers).

I borrowed an old mini camcorder from my sister and discovered the joys of editing home videos in iMovie. I was going to call one project “Where Are They?” But do you know what iMovie said? “You may not use / . * ? : or the return key in names. Please choose another name.”

I was so ruffled I went and did something else for a while. I’m sure there’s a logical reason why we can’t use these characters, but you’ll note that the operative word is ‘can,’ not ‘may’! I would have been less annoyed if the dialogue box had said “certain characters cannot be used.”

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Temptation Aisle

With both Mac and PC struggling, I had high-falluting plans to buy a new computer with real power and space, something that wouldn’t make me wait three days to render a Bryce 3D picture or an Apophysis fractal. Sometimes I had to poke my old PC with a stick to get it to render at all.

I was waiting for this rumoured new chip in the iMac, and when it finally came, the prices seemed extortionate. Failing that, I was planning a high-falluting PC desktop with plenty of rendering power. But I got tired waiting…

One of Mum’s friends bought a Toshiba laptop from the supermarket. There was no model name on the box, and no specifications. What version of Vista did it run? How much RAM? No idea. I wouldn’t normally have touched it with a bargepole, but we went to help Mum’s friend set hers up.

It looked quite pretty, and it had wallpaper and games and a dinky little webcam (never had one before) and a nice shiny desktop and the specs weren’t as awful as I expected they would be… the screen was brighter and had a higher resolution than the old PC. In other words, I was tempted!

The supermarket also had laptop cases to fit; mine had a tiny mouse included. You look at it and think “ah, but I’ve got a mouse, and that looks cheap,” but it’s rather sweet, and there’s an LED on the top that glows all kinds of colours.

It’s faster, neater, prettier and roomier than my old PC — it makes me wonder why I waited so long. I’ve been enjoying using it so much that I’ve forgotten the old PC, and it’s still sitting there in the corner, behind the Toshiba… rather like No Face in Spirited Away: just lurking.

Kitten and Mouse Panic

The batteries in my PC’s cordless mouse started leaking, so I hastily ejected them and wiped the mouse clean. As I wasn’t using the PC at the time, I left the mouse aside for a while, empty.

The kittens were paddling about, and when Delilah stepped on the PC’s keyboard, a dialogue box appeared on the screen. It said “are you sure you want to delete this file?”

Uh… no!

I had a horrible feeling that the next time Delilah took a step, the PC would say “bye bye, file.”

I grabbed her and put her aside, away from the keyboard, then leaned forward to tap ‘N’ for ‘no’. Just then the other kitten put a paw out and stepped down behind my reaching arm, opening a new window so that the letter ‘N’ didn’t mean anything any more. I couldn’t see a way to close it (my knowledge of keyboard shortcuts is fairly limited).

The only other option was to put the mouse back into operation and cross my fingers it was still working. Pushing the kittens away again, I rushed off to get two batteries. Popped them into the mouse and closed the door. Tried to use it – the cursor on the screen didn’t move.

Scrabbled in the pencil tub for something with a fine enough point and used it to press the reset button on the mouse – cursor didn’t move.

Searched around for the receiver or whatever it’s called – pressed the reset button on that. Then pressed the reset button on the mouse again – cursor didn’t move.

Checked all the cables were fully in, then did it all over again: pressed the reset button on the receiver, followed by the reset button on the mouse.

Suddenly the mouse was working. The Start window (‘would you like to log off?’) disappeared all by itself, and I was able to deny the PC’s offer to delete my fractal art file.

Panic over….. for the time being.

This was my BlogFriday post for the word ‘panic’.

Lost in Translation – or Omitted from Translation Dictionaries?

I stumbled on the Lost in Translation site some time before, but found myself back there the other day. I tried various snippets from my blog (sometimes edited to simplify) – most of it turned into garbage after being translated in and out of English multiple times, but the best results were as follows:

Original English text:
Sharky died of kidney failure in January.

Translated back from Portuguese:
Sharky is died to landslide of kidney in January.

Original English text:
Maybe it even masks the real tinnitus, which to many people is just the scream of a wasp (description courtesy of my mother).

Translated back from Japanese:
Perhaps that covers tinnitus of the substance which is exactly the scream of the sparrow drumstick (courtesy of description of my mother) to many people.

Original English text:
We finally got inside and looked out, and the slush was belting down in the gathering darkness.

Translated back from French:
We finally obtained inside and looked at outside, and the slush girdled downwards in the supercilious darkness.

Something that occurred to me when studying the translations of the phrase about tinnitus (this turned into mush as well) was that there was a translation of tinnitus into French, but no translation of it back into English, so you ended up with this:

Perhaps it masks even the true acouphène, which with much of people is right the cry boring of a wasp (courtesy of description of my mother).

After that, of course, none of the other language translators could handle it, as acouphène wasn’t recognized as an English word.

Lots of words get missed in that way, and whatever snippet you put in ends up being a mishmash of untranslated words from different languages, but of course I had to take this particular omission personally… laughs at self. (I’m at a loss with no smilicons here).

A View of the World

I set my Mac’s desktop picture to change every half hour at random. Life is exciting now – you never know what it’s going to be! I’ve had two violent purple ones already.

My desktop picture folder was tidied up and includes a large selection of old desktops from both Mac and PC, along with a few I made or downloaded from the web. My favourites are the dinosaurs from ITV’s Prehistoric Park. There’s one with a prehistoric croc eyeing a young dinosaur coming down to drink, and I pointed at the croc and said “you’re in MY world, croc, and in MY world you don’t get the dinosaur.”

I’m afraid my world isn’t a very nice one for crocs.

As for the PC’s old desktop pictures, the Mac has been trying them on and laughing wildly. “Look at these old bloomers!” It better watch out, as the PC has stormed off in a huff once already. Well, the Mac probably wouldn’t admit it in a million years, but it rather likes the PC’s old iceberg picture. It promptly chose that one when I said it could pick whatever it liked.

In fact, I’m now feeling guilty for all the years I’ve forced both computers to stick with whichever desktop I told them to use – they must have got very bored.

Anthropomorphism isn’t daft – it’s a curse. You spend so much time feeling sorry for every dead leaf and speck of dust that it’s just horrible. When I was six or seven, I was watching something on TV in which they were testing the wing or tail of a plane. It fell apart and I started weeping. My grandmother asked, “what’s wrong?” and I said I really had no idea. The piece of metal fell apart and it just made me sad. She laughed, and said “they were only testing it.” I’m not sure it made much difference. The world oozes tragedy from every pore.

Wrestling with the Printer

Thursday 28th September

It was nearly 5 and I was starting to give up on my new printer – then the courier came. He strode purposefully past my window with a large dark green box in his arms. Not wanting to keep him waiting, nor yet seem too eager, and not wishing to rush outside with open arms just in case he strode up a neighbour’s path instead, I jumped up and galloped out into the hall. There I stopped, and tiptoed a little nearer to the door, grimacing when a panel in the floor clunked noisily. I ran my fingers through my hair, straightened my shirt, and waited.

The bell rang, filled with slight reproach, as though to say, “I hoped you would be waiting right here.” Like something let off the leash, I scurried to the door and yanked it open.

“You are…?” he glanced at my face and saw from my look of happy expectancy that I was. The box was placed in the porch and he stepped forward to hand me a little machine for signing a digital squiggle.
“Ooch!” he said suddenly, dabbing at his face and plucking something away.
“Oh” – I said, apologetically. “It’s the cobweb.” I had seen a small brown spider spinning its home across the entrance a few days ago but had done nothing about it. I hoped the spider was alright.

I signed my squiggle and thanked him, and off he went. As he passed the porch, he looked back and gave me a wide grin. I smiled, but wondered if he was laughing at there being a cobweb across the entrance to my lair.

I dragged the box into the house. It was unexpectedly heavy. My old printer was as light as a bubble. I tore off the dark green bag and there was a very strong cardboard box inside, with pictures all over it.

My Canon printer.

Humming happily, I opened up the box, pulled out some ink cartridges, a print head in a bag, some leaflets, a CD, a CD-Rom tray, a mains cable, and a packet of postcard-sized photo paper. I placed them all on the desk to one side, and one of the ink cartridges promptly fell on the floor.
“Rats,” I said, “bet the instruction manual says ‘do not drop the ink cartridges.'”

Somehow I wrestled the printer out of the box and got it up on the desk between the two computers. The sloth and I sat and looked at it. It wasn’t just heavy, it was huge. Big and heavy, to me, means strong and solid, demanding respect. My last printer felt like a child’s toy, and skidded across the desk if nudged.

“Um,” said the sloth, “I think you’ve put it the wrong way round.”
“What?” I stared hard at the printer. “Oh. I think you’re right. Well, while we’re looking at its rear end, we might as well check where all the sockets are.”
We had a close look.
“Yes, the main cable goes in… there. And… er… that’s for the USB cable.”
I was using my old printer’s USB lead and was relieved when it fitted exactly. It was already attached to the iMac as I hadn’t disconnected it after the demise of the original printer. Turned the printer round and plugged it in without turning it on at the mains. Grabbed the Quick Start Guide and began reading eagerly.

It said the computer must NOT be on.
Ulp. I hastily powered it down and turned it off at the mains, then resumed reading.
It said I shouldn’t drop the ink cartridges, and should store them out of the reach of small children. “Ha!” I thought. “I don’t have any small children! I’m alright there – smuggity smug.”
Something moved next to my chair. Sharky was peering up at me with his sharp oriental face, preparing to leap onto my knee.
“No! Gerrout of here! These are tricky operations!”
Sharky thought I couldn’t possibly mean it, and gathered his haunches under him, preparing to spring. I half-stood, and he took the hint and left the room, his tail twitching with annoyance.
Phew.

Somehow I got the print head installed, after slight confusion about what and where the print head was. After multiple repeated exhortations from the manual not to touch electrical contacts or anything inside the printer, my hands were shaking. Trying not to touch anything at all, I placed the first ink cartridge in its slot. It scraped slightly and I paused, feeling as though I was trying to disarm an explosive device. I seized the cartridge again and began to click it into place.
“Me eat naow!” cried a voice behind me, very loudly, and I jumped out of my skin. The red lamp in the printer flickered on.
“Fusspot, please! I’m busy!”
The Siamese cat turned and walked away, grumbling to himself.
Rrr.

I was only setting up the printer for 40 minutes or so but it felt like an eternity. I was convinced every move I made would damage the printer or one of its bits. When I finally put the paper in and printed my first page, it was much crisper than a similar printout by my old printer, and I was delighted.

What a palaver setting it up – but I love it.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments for this entry when it was on Blogigo:

1. Pacian wrote at Sep 30, 2006 at 21:59:
I’m going to attempt some html…

Sharky thought I couldn’t possibly mean it, and gathered his haunches under him, preparing to spring.

I know a cat just like that. Even if you shoo him away, he comes back a few seconds later. Once he’s got it into his mind to jump onto something he’s normally allowed to, he absolutely *has* to do it, even if he jumps back down a few seconds later.

2. Pacian wrote at Sep 30, 2006 at 22:01:
Failure! My beloved phasis tags, unrecognised!

3. Diddums wrote at Oct 1, 2006 at 14:32:
Bad luck about the failed tags!

Cats seem to think ‘no’ will turn into ‘yes’ two minutes later and that we can have no good reason for stopping them from sitting where they like. Maybe it’s partly our fault for saying ‘no’ and then feeling twinges of guilt at their woebegone faces and scooping them up for a big hug. And maybe that was their aim all along…