Concerning My Computer

Concerning my computer, there is little that will upset me more than when some big outfit will try to take it over.  In that respect, I would prefer to go back to Windows 3.1.  Back then, I installed my software and did my work.  Actually, I reformatted my hard drive 3, maybe 4 times a year.  It helped to keep things neat and I always knew I could recover from a disaster.

Nowadays, Microsoft has about put a stop to that.  Backups and recoveries, even with the best hardware, is very time consuming and iffy.  I still do the backups, but I guess I’ll wait for a disaster to see if I can truly make the recovery.

I do miss the good ol’ days of DOS in many respects.  On the other hand, I do like some of the newer software.  One nice program is Google Earth.  I have used it extensively.  So, when I got my new computer, I decided to install it.

Not only was I not able to load it, but Google took over my homepage.  Did I mention that I don’t like companies taking over my computer?

For the next few days, off and on, I tried to get back to my homepage, Firefox.  Oddly, I Googled “how to set my homepage to Firefox,” and got nowhere.  First, I could not find the URL for the Firefox page.  Second, it appeared to me that Google locked me onto their homepage.  Every time I tried to change my homepage at all, it just went right back to Google.

Finally, I figured on simply reloading Firefox.  At the first step, I saw two pseudo-buttons, one of which was labeled “Refresh Firefox.”  After I clicked on it, after a short time, my homepage was restored, even to the point that it still had all the modifications.

As I said, I like Google Earth, but not that much.  I don’t think I’ll use it anymore.

However, the main reason for my writing this is in case Google ever gets control of your home page, you know what to do to get back to Firefox.  I would like to give you the URL for Firefox, but I still can’t find it.  My URL box is effectively blank while I am on the homepage.  I don’t know how they do that.

Computers, Good and Bad

Ever since computers have become somewhat common, I have had an interest in them. It helped that my brother designed them. He had a master’s in math and an Electronics Engineer degree. When I went into the Marines, I went into Aviation electronics. Admittedly, I didn’t have my brother’s abilities. If I had, I likely would have never gone in the Marines. Even as it was, I almost went to work for Autonetics, the electronic division of the no longer existing North American Aviation.
After the Marines, I went into the repair of computers and then into operations. There is no way I ever thought I would start writing books. Most of my English teachers concurred. By the time I reached the 7th grade, I was starting to have problems. At the time I had heard of Dyslexia, but I had no idea what it is. Though I have never been diagnosed as dyslexic, I now realize I have many of the symptoms. Anyone who knows the symptoms and has read my books will realize what I mean, although it is more of a reading problem.
So during my youth, I spent a great deal of my time trying to hide my problems. Because reading is difficult for me and I read slowly, I generally shy away from reading. I am good at listening, which allows me to somewhat make up for it. I can attend a lecture and I remember it far better than if I read the same material. In spite of my efforts to hide my problems, teachers should have recognized it and taken proper actions. Instead they just punished me for not keeping up.
I am very bad at spelling. It’s not specifically part of dyslexia, but the two sort of go together. When I write, I leave words and even phrases out. I frequently use words like also at the front of a sentence and then too at the end. Homonyms drive me crazy. I really do know the difference between there, their and they’re. That does not keep me from using the wrong one in the wrong place. I haven’t the foggiest reason for it. I don’t know if that has is something common among dyslexics or not, but it does drive me nuts. In my more recent books, I do searches on many homonyms to make sure I use them correctly.
Actually, as I started this my purpose was to write about computers. I guess I got off on a rabbit path. Nonetheless, it isn’t too far off of the beaten path. The fact is, without computers, I’d never be able to write. It would be hopeless. I have heard of other authors who were highly successful. You can do a Google on dyslexic authors and there will be a big list of them. (Including Earnest Hemingway and Jules Verne.) The word processors, as great as they are, simply cannot find all my errors. I have no idea how the old authors managed it, but many did. Maybe they just had good editors.
Here lately, computers have really made a mark on recent history. The text-to-speech has really made things nice. First time I heard one, a man had a small box connected to a desktop computer. He had it set up so that anything he typed, it said, though it sounded a little like Robbie the Robot. Also, it did mispronounce things. In baseball, it pronounced the e. It sort of made it sound Italian. The problem was easily solved by separating the words… base ball.
Nowadays, the text-to-speech programs are very good, though some provisions have to be made for some words. The one I purchased always read the word read the same way, present or past tense. Nonetheless, I do use my program a lot. I use it to help me with my editing. Others might find the program far more useful. Even at seventy, I have full use of my eyes, for which I am thankful. Some are not so fortunate. People who are blind can listen to books. Before computers, the blind couldn’t read anything that is not in Braille.
On the other hand, computers help those who have a difficulty hearing. The old hearing aids, as great as they were had one problem; they amplified all frequencies about the same. That was fine for most, but sometimes people hear almost all frequencies but a small band, especially high frequencies. Current hearing aids are smaller, but they can also be programmed for a specific person. They are expensive, but for those who have problems hearing, they are well worth it.
Then there is the cochlea implant. What an invention that is. And it is only possible because of computers. Indeed, it is a type of computer. As far as I am concerned it is one of the greatest inventions of modern man. You might argue with me about it, but not with someone whose life it has changed.
I sat and watched TV one day and saw a cripple man walk. I was absolutely amazed. He didn’t walk well nor did he walk very far. He carried a computer on his back that had probes connected to his legs. …and when he wanted his leg to move, it moved, using his own muscle. I was floored. I worked around computers almost all my life and I was stunned to see what they did.
From that day, I understand that they have made large advances to help people walk with the help of computers. It is a wonderful thing, if for no other reason than to keep the muscles from atrophying.
What wonderful things these computers are. To be sure, they are a tool. They can be used for good and they can be used for things not so good. They can be used to spy on people. They can be used to track all that an employee does all day. For a while, I was even one of those employees.
I can’t help but think, why do people use computers for bad when they can be used for such good? Who knows? Maybe, one of these days they will make a word processor that can correct all my mistakes. I don’t think that will happen really soon though.

A Few Words About Self-Driving Cars

I am sure there is much to be said about this subject, but let me start with the obvious.  I would suspect there are hundreds, maybe thousands of lawyers that are salivating at the prospect of taking some big company to court over an accident piloted by a computer.

First, there is the possibility of suing the car manufacturer.  Then they might sue the company that built the computer, or one of the sensors.  Then there is the software company or person who wrote the programming of the computer.  Then again, why discriminate.  They can sue all of them and let the jurors sort it out.

Each time they level a lawsuit, it means 40% of something they would be able to put in their pocket.  My guess is, few if any of the suits would go to court.  The defendants would not want to set any kind of precedent, so they would likely settle out of court.  They would admit no guilt and the plaintiffs would agree to drop the suit.

It would mean, after an accident, the lawyer would raise his hand and say “Suit,” and the defendants would ask how much.  Then, the nation would have two more instant millionaires,  The lawyer and his client.

Then again, I’m not sure.  It might be four more millionaires.  It is entirely plausible that the parties from both cars might sue to to get a piece of the pie.  On the other hand, what if there are more than two cars involved.  The little glitch in the software just might cause a ten car pileup.  I don’t want to even think about that.

The point is, the lawsuits are no longer limited to the tens of thousands of dollars that an individual driver can cough up.  We are talking megabucks now, millions of dollars over what we now call a fender-bender.  Every dent is a possible lawsuit.

It is all ironic.  Eventually, the driver-less cars will be safer than those driven by humans.  It is quite possible that the computer just might reduce crashes and deaths on the highway.  The computers, after all, have three advantages over humans.

Computers are not distracted.  That little instant that a man takes his eyes off the road to look at that barely dressed woman will no longer be a problem.  That misbehaving child in the back seat will not keep you from seeing that car pull out in front of you.  Moreover, should you nod off from staring at that endless ribbon of highway, it’s no problem.  The robot has it all in control.

It takes us humans about 1/4 of a second to react to an emergency.  From the time we see some child dart out in front of us to the time we put our foot on the brake, it takes at least two tenths of a second.  On the other hand, the computer would apply the brake in millionths of a second.  Even at thirty miles an hour, a car can travel quite a distance in a quarter of a second.

It has often been asked, what if the computer fails.  What if a component goes bad.  Today’s computers are incredibly reliable and will likely become far more reliable in the future.  On the other hand, we humans can and do fail from time to time.  I have known of many accidents that were the result of someone pressing on the throttle instead of the brake.  Then too, there are a few of us that are old.  If a heart goes out while we are driving, it can cause people to die… besides the heart attack victim.  Besides, even young people can have heart attacks, or black out from other ailments.

In the long run, computers will be far more reliable, though I would still be hesitant to put my life in the hands of one.

However, until something is done with the legal aspects, autonomous cars will continue to be the exception rather than the rule.  It means that women will not be able to put their makeup on at seventy mph and men will have to ignore that good-looking woman walking by.  As usual, it will be the lawyers that will impede the progress.  Even when it makes the roads safer, the driver-less cars are going to have to wait.  There is no way that our legal system will be able to handle it.  Our courts will be so backed up that they won’t be able to deal with the less important things… such as rape, robbery and murder.

Besides the legal problems, there are the recalls.  One accident, and it would likely result in the recall of millions of autos.  Talk about a nightmare.

Then again, there is one thing that I am really looking forward to… keeping all those alcoholics from driving.  That in itself would save uncountable lives, pain and suffering.  The problem is, as long as lawyers make the laws, driver-less autos will remain quite rare.

The Big Hoax

I purchased a new laptop Sunday. After getting home, I began setting it up. Almost immediately, I was notified that it needed to be updated. Approximately two hours later, it downloaded the updates, checked them and started applying them. It was about 85% done when, inadvertently, I pressed the power button and the system powered down.
Honest, I didn’t mean to. It’s kind of the problem with computers. They don’t know if something is intentional or not. I waited a while, and then pressed the button again. The computer started, but not properly. It was about then that I wished I was working with my first computer. It was running on DOS 6.1 and Windows 3.1.
I used to reformat my drive and reload everything once a month. It took a little more than any an hour… and I was working with 3.5 inch floppies. If I didn’t have the latest version of software, it was of little concern.
Of course, I had to start all over with my new laptop. Actually, it was worse than that. Before I could start over, I had to restore the computer to the point it was when it was new. That took about an hour.
When the updates were done, HP decided it needed to update my bios and drivers, so I got busy on that, close to another hour. Then, as per the suggestion of HP, I created a backup copy of my system. By the way, they said I needed a minimum of a 16 GB thumb drive.
Again I wished for the good old days. My hard drive was 40 MB. It meant that the restore volume was more than 32 times bigger than the drive I was running my old system on. Fortunately, there is plenty of room on my new system drive… one TB. I’m not sure how long that will last. I am sure in a decade or two, I might need ten TB. I’m 70 years-of-age now. I likely won’t be around in a decade.
As I sat there watching my system generate the recovery volume, I pondered what all I have gained with my new system. Let’s see. I can now interface with many USB devices. My first system could only directly access 1MB if memory, actually, there was a limit of 640 KB, but there was something of a workaround.
The old system was limited to 8 bits, though my processor was able to run at 16 bits. As mentioned, I can store 1 terabyte. For all practical purposes, it is limitless. My DOS could only access a volume of 32 MB. The rest of the 40 MB had to be formatted as a separate logical volume.
Other than that, there really isn’t that much that I can do with the modern system that I wasn’t able to do with the old one. The fact is… if Windows 98 wasn’t so unstable, I would much rather use it as the new system, even with its limits. The biggest disadvantage of the new system is that the new system keeps trying to take control of my computer. Some might like that, I don’t.
However, there are other real disadvantages of the new system. I would like to format my system disk once a month, or at least every three months. With the current system, that is not practical. It might not even be possible.
As a computer professional, I learned one of the most important things a person should do with a computer is to perform backups on a regular basis. It would appear that Microsoft has gone out of their way to make this difficult if not impossible. At best, I can back up my data. Because of their registry files, backing up individual applications is not possible. This is especially important considering many programs are purchased on line.
(I paid quite a bit for one program. When I went from Windows seven to Windows 10, the program disappeared. It is gone. If I want it again, I will have to again pay for it.)
Maybe one of the most aggravating things with the new systems is that I can no longer write programs in Visual Basic 6. I can write in the newer versions but it is next to impossible to interface to the printers with the later versions of VB. (Even the Pros say as much.) I never wrote anything professionally, but I did write many programs for my personal use. By the way, they don’t work now either. In fact, when I went to Windows 7, I had to give up all my old software. I had to start all over.
I foresee, a big opportunity for the right person. If a person releases a Windows 3.1 look-alike, I will be one of the first in line to buy a copy. Anyone with an once of common sense would join me. We have gone from a system that helps us to a system that needs constant attention. Then too, we are always susceptible to all different kinds of malware. A windows 3.1 type system would not be subject to such things. …and, by the way, I could regain control of my system.
I might have to give up a few bells and whistles. Then again, I survived them before Microsoft took over my system. I think I could survive quite nicely without it all again.
As near as I can tell, it is a big hoax. They claim we need the bigger faster computers to run the software. On the other hand, we need the latest and greatest software to take advantage of the computer’s abilities. In the end, we have gained very little, other than, perhaps a headache.
All together, before I was able to use my new computer, I spent about 30 hours on updates and such. I certainly don’t want to go through this again. Maybe next time, I’ll just get one of those other little Chrome books. From what I understand, the things work right out of the box.
To me, the new systems are one of the greatest hoaxes of the modern era. Sitting, waiting on my new system was all it took to convince me of it. Apparently, I stand alone and I don’t think Microsoft is listening to me.
Well, I now have a spare system. I think I will use it to try out that other operating system, you know, the one that is free, Linux. I’ve kind of wondered about it anyway. Who knows, I might like it enough to replace Windows 10 on my new system and sat good bye to the Microsoft hoax.