Friday, July 31, 2015

Old Guy Turns On Computer: My Sort-Of Review of Windows10


This is the place I’ve arrived at when I speak in nostalgic tones. No longer am I remembering the Salad Days of my youth where I found my tribe, where everything was new and exciting, and I didn’t have a care in the world. Of course in those days, Reagan was still president, MTV still had these things called “music videos”, and gasoline was a whopping $0.93 a gallon.


Nope.


No, these days when I wax nostalgic whilst not coming off as a complete geezer, I have to go back to the time of Clinton, Grunge and Windows 95.


… Does anybody remember Windows 95?




vintage-computer.com
For any and all Millennial that might by chance stumble across this blog, and for future generations who are excavating every inch of the internet to find out what life was like in the 90s, allow me to share a little history… Once upon a time, Personal Computers were the nothing more than an idea. There weren’t as prevalent as they are today, because the average personal computer was roughly the size of an average microwave oven and sucked up about as much power. Personal Computers have historically been a tool used by engineers, scientists, high-school students, and to some extent, accountants. And then, one day, almost overnight, Macs and PCs were everywhere; almost ubiquitous and more importantly, affordable. Suddenly, everyone had one. They were smaller, sleeker, friendlier. They appeared useful. Everyone needed one. Everyone was productive. New jobs were created. New needs were created. New mindsets were pondered. And then, Starbucks took over America, and everyone was jittery and happy and cranking up Better Than Ezra and New Radicals in their Saturns… and that’s how I met your mother…


… sorry, nostalgia …


FreeDOS Beta 9 pre-release5 (command line interface) on Bochs sshot20040912 Anyway, with the advent of Windows 95, it marked the end of needing to learn DOS or something like it in order to get anything done while using your computer. A wonderful, friendly Graphic User Interface was stolen adapted from Apple’s already existing operating system, and all of a sudden, big, gigantic, fluffy, coffee stained worlds of possibility presented themselves to those who knew what they were looking for. Windows 95 was released upon the masses, and it was good.


That is, until Windows 98 came out and ruined everything.


Oh, the backlash that followed the release of Windows 98. It was almost as if everyone got kicked out of the Garden of Eden all at once, or getting kicked out of the nest and learning to fly. It was as if a million voices cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. Something terrible had happened. People started complaining to retailers. The inevitable returning machines, the mopeing, the whinging. The red-hot hatred that slowly cooled and morphed into fodder for late night comedians.


For Mac users (and I’m presuming here), there was never such an uproar when time came to upgrade their operating systems. But for Windows users, this of course is nothing out of the ordinary. We are used to, if not being completely beholden to, doing the hit-or-miss tango with Microsoft whenever they upgrade their OS. Stop me when it sounds familiar… We loved Win95, but hated Win98. We were okay with Win98, but were completely horrified with Windows ME. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Windows XP saved our sanity, but all turned our nose up at Vista. Et cetera, and so on.


What I’m trying to say is that the kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth whenever the release date of the latest version of Windows goes live, whatever version it may happen to be at the time, has always been an ordeal. And it’s no different this time around with the latest upgrade to Windows10.


I have been using Windows 7 for years now, and I’ve been loving it for about as long. Considering I was a diehard XP fanboy, it was going to take a lot of convincing to make me let go of it at first, and get used to something new. Like, that dark period around 2000 when I had to suffer through ME. It didn’t take me long to appreciate the speed and efficiency of it; everything had it’s space, everything had a purpose. It was good.


A couple of weeks ago, my computer informs me that Windows10 is on the horizon, and I had better be ready for it. From what I gathered from random websites and news stories, it was going to be a gamechanger and become the future of all operating systems going forward. My first issue with it was quickly laid to rest when Microsoft expressed right up front that Windows 7 could easily be upgraded, and there would be no issues. I figured, why not? It couldn’t hurt.


July 29th, 2015 was the release date for the new operating system. July 30th, 2015, was the day I uninstalled Windows 10 and reverted back to the previous version. I had Win10 for a grand total of 24 hours. I had it for 23 hours too long.


Now, before everyone starts lighting up their torches and gathering up their pitchforks, hear me out. I’m speaking for and on behalf of everyone who still has Windows 7, and has not yet upgraded to Windows 8. If you’re considering an upgrade, please do so at your own discretion. Maybe I’m sounding like an old dude who is still stuck in the 90s, but in my opinion, Windows 10 is not all it’s cracked up to be. I had a laundry list of why I wasn’t so impressed, but it all boiled down to one reason…


It’s not that when I first installed it, my computer was noticeably slower. It’s not that it didn’t recognize my monitor (first referred to as “generic”, but after reinstalling my drivers, it referred to my Samsung monitor as “Other”). It’s not that the choices for screen resolution for my particular monitor ranged from bad to worse, leaving me with no choice but to suffer through going through my usual tasks in low-res. It’s not that I didn’t jump at the chance to use Microsoft Edge, and decided instead to use Chrome and to more or less an extent, Firefox. It’s not that when I did need to use Firefox, my computer started struggling for air like the life was being choked out of it, which it was (what’s my proof? Landing on an average web page and every graphic on that page flickered as it struggled to appear, while my case fan blew so hard I swear my tower levitated). It’s not that I had to wade through, delete or disable all the ubiquitous Bloatware that usually comes with a Windows upgrade (do I really need a big, bright, shiny button to access my non-existent XBox 360 account? After uninstalling, all was quiet).  All of these are just smaller pieces to the bigger picture. The reason why I wasn’t impressed with Windows 10, is that it’s a huge memory hog. I am not impressed with an update that slowly kills my computer. I am not impressed with an update that front loads a metric ton of useless apps that I’ll never use. I’m not impressed with an update that makes me feel like I’m back to when I was assured that Sega Dreamcast would be the Gold Standard in console game playing, and my new Dell desktop kept crashing because it had an inferior graphics card.

Yo, girl. Back off! I just met you!
Sorry, Microsoft. I’m sure that you had the best of intentions by releasing your big, shiny new operating system. I’m sure Cortana could bitch-slap Siri into next week with it’s searching abilities. But, my computing habits are rooted in, what appears to be a different time. I don’t need apps, I don’t need buttons that could take me to games that I won’t play. I don’t have a touch screen for my desktop, so I don’t really have the need to have my space assume that I do. I’m just a simple guy with simple means. I know where I need to get stuff, and I know how to retrieve it. I do not need a creepy, disembodied voice checking out my personal information, with intention of “making my life easier”.


Lastly, just a suggestion, a little heads-up would have been helpful from you. I mean, if I would have known that making the leap from 7 to 10 would have caused my computer to jump into a TRS-80 fetal position, I would have thought differently. I’m sure that 10 is a vast improvement over 8, but I wouldn’t know, because I’m computing in the land of blissful ignorance of five years ago. Rest assured, there will come a time when my tower will go kaput and I will have to upgrade, but it is not now. As I write this post, there are a number of reports and reviews that are pouring in that sing the praises of Windows 10. I’m waiting for that day, maybe in a week or so, when the comparisons to Vista start chiming in.


Don’t get me wrong. If I was suffering through Windows 8 and I was waiting like a starving man waits in line for his 5Guys burger (amiryte, kids?) for the latest version to come out, I probably would be writing a different post by now. And once the day comes when I have a system that will handle the load of this with ease, I will probably fall in love with it too. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m happy with my Windows 7.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my 90210 marathon that have recorded on VHS.

You know, they’re right! Binge watching is pretty cool… Heh… Brenda’s such a bitch…

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Thank you so much for reading. If you have a moment, could you please check out my gofundme campaign at the top of this page? My parents have helped me out of a jam during a time when they could be helped out a little themselves. It will only take a moment and any amount would be appreciated. Thank you so much again to all my readers and subscribers. You all make me very happy. Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

By The Tips of Her Whiskers- My Submission for the Freestyle Writing Challenge

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Flash Fiction challenges.

I understand that they are made to keep the writer limber, while not necessarily influencing them to write their next work. Kind of like if Dwayne Wade just jumped in from out of nowhere to join some pick up game at some YMCA in Minnesota.

I get that it's the literary equivalent to being poked with a stick, and without them, there would probably be no such thing as fan-fiction, #amwriting, or #NaNoWriMo. I'm a strong proponent of writing challenges. They're like being handed the guitar with the nod that says, "you're next" in the jam circle.

...just me?...

...okay.

While I get that flash fiction doesn't exactly equal book deal, or legions of followers, I tend to have an issue with "killing my darlings" as it were. Maybe it was because I was brought up to not throw anything away, but I have a hard time just casting aside something that I made, regardless of whether it took me a couple of days or just a few minutes. Ideas are precious to me because most days they are in short supply, so while the subject for a writing challenge might be simple, I can't help but try and build something bigger from it.

I have two ideas for novels and one idea for a children's book either simmering gently in my head, or in various states of completion (or, non-completion) on my desk and on my cork board and in various blog posts. One novel was influenced by a Flash Fiction challenge thrown down by +Chuck Wendig, the other novel and the children's book were influenced by my daughter. I swore that one day...one day, I will return to these and see them through to their conclusion.

Now, thanks to the always wonderful +Tanya Miranda, I have another story idea to add to the list.


She has passed the guitar off to me, and asked me to participate in the Freestyle Writing Challenge. The prompt that she gave me was:

Your pet of many years suddenly speaks human. What does it say?
Now, for reasons that will soon become evident, this is something that is kind of hitting close to home, as I'm sure that it will for some of you.

Rules and guidelines and such are listed below, but first, here is my offering...

~***~

“You needn't worry about me,”


A voice, old and raspy and gentle like a grandmother in her rocking chair drifted softly from the kitchen countertop.

“You have treated me well. Although I have not responded in kind to your hospitality, rest assured it has not gone unnoticed.”

The reflection from her eyes indicated an almost perpetual state of blindess. Drool mixed with blood leaked from her lips and danced at the end of her whiskers. She is at peace. At rest. And we both know the time is coming.

“Don’t worry that I have lost my appetite, rest is more important.”

“Wh...Why are you saying this?” I manage to leak out. “How are you talking? Could you always?”

“Yes, we all can.” She grins a Cheshire grin, alluding to ancient secrets. “We are all told not to by our mothers, just as theirs told them and so on. I only break that promise now, because my time is growing short.”

She stretches her full length, and almost stumbles in the process. Her ribs show through her ratty fur.

“You have saved my life.”

“Of course I have,” I counter as she lands hard on the floor, on all fours. “You and your brother chose me and I swore I would give you a long, comfortable life.”

“And you have, child. You have. I am all that is left of my family, and I am grateful for all you have done for me. I go now, but before I do, I will say that your generosity will not go unrewarded.”

She limps. Slowly limps to the darkest corner of the house and without looking back utters, “until the next time.”

We burried her the next night.

The following week, a scratch came at the door. It was a kitten. Fighting the pit I felt in my stomach, I reached down and asked, “I suppose you don’t talk either, right?”

A tiny ball of fluff winked back at me, walked inside and took up residence on our couch.

“I suppose you have a name?” I asked no one in particular.

“Sarah” was uttered through soft purrs of a sleeping kitten.

~***~

That's 359 words in 15 minutes. I hesitated. A lot. There were moments where I was typing, and I wanted to flesh out the scene further, allude to backgrounds a little deeper, see where the conversation went. See, it's things like this that make me want to get into better habits of finishing what I start. Although, it will probably just be added to my collection of WIPs. This was less letting go, and more turning something sad into something magical. It's a way of coping, I suppose.

With any luck, you, dear participant, will be influenced and want to take your own story forward. Here are the rules for participation:

  1. Open a new Document.
  2. Set a stopwatch or your mobile phone timer to 5, 10, or 15 minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
  4. Fill the word doc with as many words as you want. Once you start writing do not stop.
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it’s only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules).
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. However, if you do, it would be best.
  7. At the end of your post write down ‘No. of words = ____” so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
  8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers).
The last time I was asked to Pay it Forward to other writers, I came up short, and today is no exception.

I nominate: 
And, before I forget, here is your prompt:

That was the last time he would say that to anyone.


Now, I know that there is very little chance that any of these nominees would like to throw their hat into the ring and let their fingers do the talking. So, that's why I open up this challenge to everyone else who has read this. May this take you places you've never been before.

Good luck, have fun, and remember to pass the guitar to the left.



*Writing prompt courtesy of Adam Maxwell's Fiction Lounge.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Concept of Fun: How To Get Back On The Horse

"Maybe...a top...7 List?"

Excuses chase their tail 'round and 'round in my brain while the pen in my hand mimics the race on a ripped and accidentally coffee stained sheet of note paper.

"Maybe I can do a 'How To' video! Yeah, that's it! Now, I'll just spend a few hours looking for the best screen capture software..."

More excuses.

The laundry needs to get done...

The kids need to eat...

The dishes need to be washed and put away and the living room carpet needs to be cleaned...

...more excuses...

Everything seems to pull me away from following up with my next post, my next blog, my next vlog. "Oh, look! I need to catch up on all my subscribed videos," I say as my attention wanes again. "If I don't keep up with these, there's going to be a backlog, and I'll never catch up...wish I had more coffee..."

...more excuses...

I got it in my head to start a video channel a few months ago. My logical reasoning for doing so was something to the tune of, "Well, since I think visually as I write. It would just make sense if I conveyed these thoughts into a visual medium, because I feel that they will translate well." Of course. Because, I'm a guy. Guys think visually. Ergo...[CUT TO: me mugging the camera gesturing with hands spread out, palms up, as if to say, 'here you go'.] I have a camera, I have at least a smattering of knowledge when it comes to non-linear editing, camera perspective, lighting angles, timing, and writing...sort of. The problem I have, does not lie in any of these things. The big problem I have, is that I tend to follow a pattern when it comes to situations like this:

  1. Blindly yet passionately pursue thing that I'd like to do.
  2. Work and study diligently all the things that have to do with making that thing work.
  3. Apply new found knowledge and make that thing.
  4. Make that thing.
  5. Obsess over every detail and present that thing, feeling that it will never amount to anything.
  6. Feel all the wind come out of your sails when you recognize your self-fulfilling prophecy.
  7. Mope.
  8. Flounder and flail and occupy yourself with other things to assuage the feelings of low self-worth.
  9. Look for something else to do.
  10. Find that thing.
  11. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Yes, there is the motivation to do something interesting. Of course, I don't know what I'm doing, but I have to start somewhere. There is no perfect path, this is the ultimate lear[CUT TO: daughter flipping on the television and gleefully reciting her favorite cartoon by heart.]

"Honey, it's summer. That means you go outside and play." [CUT TO: daughter slowly trudging back to her room to change out of her jammies.]

There is no perfect path, this is the ultimate learning method when it comes to something like this. I've made one video, so far, as a warming-up excersize to facilitate the video that I had originally intended to make. I still intend to make that video, but since the first one wasn't well received, doubt and negativity had made it that much more difficult to continue. I am writing this post in order to get back on the horse. This is the deep breath before I exhale a woo shaah. So before I get back into it, here are a few things I learned about making the first one.


  1. It Will Never Be Perfect. Like... ever. You go in with a script. You go in with the proper equipment. You go in with the best editing software available. You go in following everything to the letter, you paste everything together in perfect sequence, you hit the submit button, and I guarantee you, a week later, you will still think of a dozen other things you could have done. So, instead of constantly taking your video down, and tweaking it on a daily basis, I guess the best thing to do in this situation is to keep whatever you wanted to do that time in mind, and make it better next time. Kind of like how I make pizza dough.
  2. Editing Is Not Instantaneous. It doesn't matter if your video is five minutes or a full hour. It doesn't matter if you're just starting out, or you've been doing this for years. You are going to spend a lot...a LOT of time in front of your editor getting rid of every "um" and "uh" and ruined or flubbed take. You sit and worry because your original shot(s) are heading northwards of at least 60 minutes, but once you put your nose to the grindstone and start trimming, you'll notice that your epic flub-fest has been trimmed down to a fairly articulate, and mercifully shorter, presentation.
  3. Things In Motion Tend To Stay In Motion. Simply put, once you get the ball rolling, don't stop. 
Yeah sure, you made a video and it received a pitiful amount of views in the first week. If you're wondering why that is, let's run through the checklist again, shall we? Did you: Get the word out on all of your social media accounts? Did you plug your post for the proper amount of time? Did you use proper labels on your piece to make your post more accessible to search engines?  Did you[CUT TO: daughter opening the front door to come inside and park herself in front of the television again. Daddy got so engrossed into what he's doing, he didn't notice she went outside and came back.]
"Sweetie, you didn't stay outside long enough. You need to get some fresh air and sunshine."
"I don't want to, daddy."

...Did you give an eye catching-title and utilize all the bells and whistles at your disposal? Did you engage with your audience? If you answered no to any or all of these, chances are that you're a MISERABLE FAILURE AND YOU SHOULD JUST HOP A JUNKER TO THE ANTARCTIC AND SPEND THE REST OF YOUR DAYS COUNTING PENGUINS!!!

...sorry, was that out loud?

It's not that I don't feel like packing it in, smashing my camera with a hammer and find a job as a Wal Mart greeter or something. It's not so much that I got discouraged. It's that I hate the feeling of starting something, and then once it starts, not having the will to continue on with it. It sucks. It hurts. It [CUT TO: daughter bouncing around in the kitchen for no apparent reason.]

"Okay, sweetie? You really, really have to go outside. You have so much energy and it's a nice day out. If you want to run around and jump and stuff, it might be better if you do it while climbing trees, chasing butterflies...anything. I think you have no concept of what fun means..."

[CUT TO: voice in my head whisper "neither do you." in a mocking tone. Scene ends with writer unloading the dryer and making lunch for children.]