Category Archives: Computers

No Context For You – December 29th

What I really hate is the fact that I’ve started to have hazy, half-awake, falling asleep, drifting off, stress dreams about Excel. The spreadsheet program. The one that I’m using hour after hour after hour at work and at home, most of the time seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The usual sort of stress dreams, minor nightmares, only instead of not being able to find my car or get my camera to work or find the hotel front desk in order to check out, I can’t get something to work correctly in Excel.

More importantly, I have a serious question. Something that’s bugged me about the program for years and years.

In order to shield certain information from view, you have the option to “Hide” rows, columns, worksheets, and so on. When you want to reverse that and show those “hidden” areas, the command is “Unhide.”

“Unhide?” WTF? Was that even a word before Excel de facto made it one?

Why not use “Reveal?” Isn’t that already a real word that means the opposite of “Hide?”



Filed under Computers, Deep Thoughts, Photography

An Old Joke, But No Less True

Hey, what’s that feeling? Could it be … optimism? Satisfaction? Relief? Maybe even just a tiny touch of, dare I say it, happiness?

You met all of those deadlines today! Yeah, you! Sure, not everything on that to-do list from Hell got done, but that’s never going to happen. The important, critical stuff got done!

A couple of those things you have been working on for weeks! And maybe the whole project isn’t done, but at least those really big, hard, key components are done! The hard part might actually be behind you!

You might even get this upcoming three-day weekend off! Like, really REALLY off, not just that kinda sorta “I’ll just have to do a little work” off. It could happen!

Wait! What? I’m soooooooooooory! I didn’t mean it!

That wasn’t “happiness!” There’s no “satisfaction” or “relief” here! It was just gas!

I take it all back! Nooooooooooooooo!

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Beware The Birthday App!

It’s spam. It’s phishing. It’s bullshit and potentially dangerous.

And it also seems to be more clever than the run of the mill spam and phishing trash that’s out there today, flooding our inboxes and spam filters. You know…

Stuff like this is easy to spot as spam and trash, even when the odd one slips through and ends up in my inbox instead of the spam filter. Lots of emojis, a gazillion different fonts and “clever” misspellings to try to get through the spam filters, all trying to get you to click on a deal that’s just too good to be true or a mindless threat to catch the unwary.

But these!

  • Since it WAS my birthday and…
  • Since both folks mentioned by name (the image cuts off their last names in order to protect their privacy) WERE friends of mine and…
  • Since I DID get other email greetings and e-cards from other friends this weekend…

…it seemed quite plausible that there was a new app folks were using and it just was being incorrectly flagged as spam! I could have mistakenly clicked on either of these!

Except for one teeny, tiny little detail.

Both of the friends mentioned are deceased and have been for a while.

Maybe I got “lucky” in that the clever little bot in question picked two friends at random (I’m assuming it scraped my friends list and my birthday from Facebook) who were highly unlikely to be sending me birthday greetings from the Great Beyond. Maybe you won’t be so lucky.

So, beware the “BirthdayApp” spam. It’s working hard to try to fool you. I don’t know exactly what it does to you if it gets you to click on it, but I really hope you don’t find out the hard way.

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New Camera

I got a new camera yesterday and got it set up. I’ve been taking some test pictures to start.

This camera has been talked about a lot recently as folks anticipated its availability – they weren’t kidding! I just saw these images from the full-sized files on my desktop monitors. STUNNING!

These were all taken with just the ambient light from inside the houses and a couple of street lights. The street light in our front yard that’s been the bane of my existence (when I’ve been taking pictures of ISS passes) is out. It’s dark out there.

Poking through the clouds up there is Jupiter. Mind you, I haven’t done anything yet to learn about all of the features and settings on this camera. If you think these are cool, wait until I actually learn how to use it! All I did for these was push the button and see what happens. I didn’t even use a tripod, so the fact that these aren’t blurry or jiggly is amazing to me.

Again, Jupiter’s the bright one, Saturn is the one closest to the right edge, and if you blow this up to full sized you’ll see all kinds of stars it captured. And all I did was hold it while standing in my back yard and push the button.

What’s even MORE amazing about this camera is that it’s got two more lenses. These were taken with the regular lens, but there’s also a telephoto and a wide angle lens built in. Fun times ahead playing with those!

Oh, yeah, and this camera also has a small supercomputer built in, as well as wi-fi, bluetooth, it shows me TV, movies, streaming video, has a whole slew of business apps, GPS and maps, connects to the internet, can keep a huge music library as well as hundreds if not thousands of books, health apps, and on and on and on.

Yeah, I got an iPhone Pro Max.


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Filed under Astronomy, Computers, Paul, Photography

Rabbit Hole

Wow, what an internet rabbit hole that was!

To start, something came in to my personal email account that I needed to send to a couple folks at the company I work for. I decided to be lazy, and rather than send the email from my personal email account to my company email account and then forward it internally, I just sent it from my personal account. Now, I’m aware that my personal email account is really old and has a weird domain name, so there was a possibility of it being sent to Spam or blocked, or the folks I was sending to wouldn’t recognize that it was from me. On the other hand, my usual “first initial last name” user name was right there… What could go wrong?

But that got me wondering again about the age of that email account and domain name. I’ve looked a couple of times before but haven’t been quite able to ask the right questions. I vaguely remember some things, but it was a long time ago…

This was well before Gmail came along. This was before Google existed! This was before Windows XP. In fact, it was probably right around the time that Windows 95 came out, maybe just before. Now it’s administered by EarthLink, but before that it was Mindscape, and before that it was Netcom.

The email address is So how long have I had it, more or less, and what does the “ix” stand for?

I finally figured it out, more or less.

Yes, I remembered the Earthlink –> Mindscape –> Netcom evolution correctly. Netcom started in 1988, running as a local service in San Jose for college students who lived off campus. As they expanded and this thing called the World Wide Web started to be a thing, Netcom released a  program called NetCruiser. NetCruiser was originally released for Windows 3.1 in 1995, and I found a very old Cnet article from Jan 10, 1996 announcing that NetCruiser for the Mac would be available Q1 1996.

WOW! NetCruiser included the ability to display both GIF and JPEG files! It also included email, Usenet, IRC, Gopher, ftp, and Telnet! The Netcom/NetCruiser combo was $19.95 per month for 40 hours of peak time use and unlimited use off-peak (midnight to 09:00) and on weekends! And it worked up to 28.8 kbps, almost blinding speed!!

“Wow” indeed.

And that matches what I remember! I had a Netcom account for at least a while, a year or two maybe, before NetCruiser came out. I remember how much easier NetCruiser was than manually setting up programs for different parts of the Internet, like email, web browsers, usenet, and so on. I remember getting those CD’s with the NetCruiser distribution on them – probably have them buried off in the garage someplace.

So that places my usage back to at least 1994, possibly a year or two earlier. But where does the “ix” come from?

I finally found another article about Netcom that talks about that. The original Netcom email accounts were in the “” format. But during the development of what became NetCruiser, the original name was “Internet Xpress.” They ended up making the name change to “NetCruiser” due to legal issues with the “Internet Xpress” name. But the “ix” prefix stuck.

So the account and address are at least 26 years old, possibly 27 or 28 years.

To come up with a more precise answer, I’ll bet that somewhere on an old enough set of back up disks I have backup copies of my Netscape or NetCruiser emails. But that rabbit hole will have to remain unexplored for tonight.

Today I also have a couple of different Gmail accounts, plus my work accounts, plus my CAF work accounts, plus… But the primary is always the “” account. Occasionally I’ll meet a fellow geek who recognizes it and knows that it means that I’ve been doing this for a long time.

Geek cred – gotta love it!

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The photo isn’t from today, but seems appropriate for a Friday the 13th.

Things seeming a bit wonky today? My iPhone knew how you felt.

Not edited or Photoshopped – just…off

May your Saturday the 14th go smoothly!

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Filed under Computers, Curiosities

No Context For You – April 28th

I *hate* it when that happens…

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No Context For You – February 11th

By the way, DisplayPort cables are wonderful! When I upgraded my monitors last week I at first was using the DVI cables from the old monitors, which was fine, it worked. But it was obvious that I wasn’t getting 100% of the results I wanted. Turns out that with these fancier, newer video cards and monitors the various outputs and cables (HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, or, god forbid, VGA) all have different maximum resolutions. (I’m sure there are those of you going “DUH!” but while I may have plenty of experience with both hardware and software going back well over forty-five years, I don’t always do this on a daily basis and there are always new things to learn.) A little research resolved the issue and now everything’s WONDERFUL with my new setup. 27 inch dual monitors and 2560 x 1440 resolution might not be ideal for gaming (which is where a LOT of equipment is sold these days) but it’s wonderful for business.

Which is good, because it looks like when things open back up with COVID, I’ll continue to work from home along with a big chunk of the rest of our office staff. Why pay for all of that office when folks can work as well from home?

Brave New World. It’s here…

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Filed under Computers, Photography

What Could Possibly Go Wrong – February 09th

Chugging through my day, dealing with the usual…

My office desktop that I connect to in order to run our accounting software pops up with a message that there’s a Windows update it’s ready to install. Okay… I had heard that there’s one out there. The timing’s a bid odd, middle of the day and all, but sure, go for it.

Less than five minutes later, I’m back online. No problem.

About a half hour later, my office laptop, which I use to connect to that office desktop, gives me the same message about a Windows update. Sure…

Less than five minutes, no problem.

An hour or so later, my personal desktop, which I use for about 99% of everything else in this year of “work from home” (which is more like “live at work” sometimes), gives me the same message. Sure…

It goes through the usual Windows update screens with the progress reports and the spinny-balls thing and the warning about not turning of your computer…

And I get this:

Wait! What?

Ten minutes later both monitors are blank, but the computer still seems to be on. I’ll wait.

A half hour later, nothing on the screens, no beeps, no error messages, nada, zippo, zilch. Starting to sweat a bit – I’ll wait.

An hour later, having started a new book (pretty good so far, “The Second Star” by Alma Alexander), nothing, nothing, none, nada, zilch. I’ll wait. It’s time for Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist anyway. (WHAT! You’re not watching the show yet??! Jeez louise… Your loss. Best new show since probably Game of Thrones or The Good Place.)

Another hour later, we’ve gotten through the end of Zoe’s “fall finale,” check the computer and find the status quo. It looks like it’s on, but no sounds of any disks running, no blinking lights showing any CPU activity, nothing showing up on the screens. I know it said, “Do not power down your system,” and I’m a big proponent of following computer instructions in bold, red text, but c’mon. It’s been almost three hours.

So I hold the power button until it shuts down, give it a minute for the capacitors to discharge, then power it back up. Only to be met by about twenty seconds of disk activity, a click, and a shutdown.


I blame myself. I’ve got a dentist appointment first thing tomorrow and I hate going to the dentist about as much as I hate getting a colonoscopy, and I had been whining about needing and excuse to not go. It’s that whole “Monkey Paw” thing – be careful how you word those wishes. Having to do emergency computer surgery in order to be able to work from home without doing EVERYTHING on that laptops isn’t quite what I had in mind as an excuse. But I guess I wasn’t specific enough.

Try the reboot again. Same.

Breathe. Think. I’ve been fiddling with computer since (literally!) before there were IBM PCs. I started doing hardware and programming on paper tape on a PDP-8 using 32-bit machine language, one command at a time. I can do this…

Unplug the system and let it sit. Perhaps it’s not quite in a completely powered down state yet. There’s “off” and then there’s “OFF.” To make sure we’re getting a clean reboot, let’s make sure it’s OFF. Wait another fifteen minutes. (What did the Kings do tonight? Lost 4-3 in a shootout. At least we got the one point, but still in last place. I guess now that I won’t be wearing my Chiefs gear I should get out my Kings jerseys.)

Now, once more with feeling and four part harmony…

The system comes back online normally and seems to be working.

Some days the gods are just fucking with you to make sure that you’re not getting cocky. (Those would be days that end in “y.”)


Filed under Computers, LA Kings, Photography

Efficiency Strategy

Sometimes to get more done, and to be able to get more done in the future, even though you’re on tight deadlines NOW, you need to back off and do something else to make yourself more efficient. It might seem counterintuitive if you’re tightly focused on the goal and the methods you have to get there, but it’s a lesson to be learned about not losing sight of the bigger picture and being open to opportunities.

Case in point – it’s now been almost a year since the pandemic hit and many of us, myself included, ended up working out of a spare bedroom or odd space at home. When that crisis hit, and one crisis after another, we had to simply deal with it with the tools at hand. In my case, while I have a company laptop here for connecting to the server and accounting software there, the laptop with a single, smaller screen and fixed keyboard and trackpad isn’t the best form factor for me to get volume work done. It can work – it’s just not the easiest or fastest way to work.

However, I have my personal desktop computer here that is quite capable, has dual monitors, a full-sized keyboard, trackball, and so on. So I’ve worked out ways to get a lot of my work done on that computer, simply because it’s so much easier to work on.

But one thing I’ve noticed in the handful of times that I’ve gone back into the office is how much I miss my big 27″ monitors at work. The ones I’m using on my home desktop were picked up when my former office shut down about nine years ago, and while they were pretty cutting edge then, they’re small by today’s standards. They’re also slightly mismatched, different manufacturers, which is a little bit crazy-making in a dual monitor setup. But the price was right (they were being thrown out) and they work fine for what they are, so I’ve gotten used to it.

Earlier this week it struck me – I can do better. Those 27″ monitors today are about 1/3 the price of what those much smaller monitors were ten years ago. And I could use that extra screen space to get much more done, faster, easier…

The new monitors came in today, and while I’ve got deadlines, I took several hours this evening to NOT be working on those Excel files and deposit coding and data entry, and instead rearrange and clean my desk, move the old monitors out, and get the new ones in. It’s like a weight has been lifted, one that I didn’t even realize I was carrying.

Onward and upward! Work smarter, not harder! (Insert totally inappropriate non sequitur platitude here!)



Filed under Computers, Paul