hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley

It comes in many forms

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 29)

OS X rebranding further marginalizes Mac

I’ve always loved the Mac.
Let me put that right out there. But Apple’s recent announcement that OS X has gone bye-bye in favor of “macOS” will do nothing for the Mac except accelerate its downward spiral as a fringe hardware product.
Even though operating systems are now free of charge across the board — Linux, OS X/macOS and Windows (for the time being), the “Big Three” share the complexity of numbering suffixes when it comes to their OS names.
These systems are mature. The addition of numbers to denote specific releases and updates is not only appropriate, but helps users better understand what OS they’re using.

No dumbing down required

There are too many different kinds of Macs and subsets of Macs available for purchase. Apple seeks a return to simplicity regarding all of its choices. macOS is part of their simplification strategy moving forward. On the surface it would appear to make sense. If we look beyond that, however, we might see how this strategy could muddy the waters for both would be and current Mac users.
OS X has been around since 2001. Everyone who has ever considered, or has, a Mac, recognizes OS X as the Mac’s operating system. I understand that Apple has watchOS, tvOS and iOS in place for their Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPhone, respectively. Attaching “OS” to the end of a product’s name (as an operating system naming convention), is anything but representative of a company serious about simplification.

A disorderly jumble

The Mac is not a gadget like the Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPhone. It is the product that put Apple on the map in the first place. Changing the name of an already entrenched operating system (with a rich history of innovation) is consistent with Apple distancing itself from the Mac altogether.
Apple has operating system names for all of its products and that’s disconcerting. Their habit of throwing “OS” at the end of the name of gadgets they manufacture is not even practiced consistently. If it was, in addition to macOS, watchOS and tvOS, you’d still have iPhone OS, but instead, Apple saw fit to change the name of iPhone OS to iOS upon the introduction of the iPad. iOS is also the name of the OS for the iPod Touch. Perhaps Apple should drop the “i” from iMac as to avoid questions from Mac newbies as to why the iMac doesn’t run iOS (instead of OSX, I mean, macOS). But iOS is only for Apple mobile devices that just so happen to begin with ‘i”, iThink.

Everyone talks about innovation being what Apple is lacking these days. They’re in search of the next killer product. I understand they have a car (iCar?) in development, but this won’t require consumers to know something like “carOS” — or will it?
What about wearables and their OS naming possibilities? You already have watchOS for Apple Watch. Could “necklaceOS” be far off? What about “earringOS?” “sockOS” anyone?

The Mac deserves better

This is all anything but simple and completely juvenile wrapped up in one. Accordingly, I would suggest that an individual “whateverOS” name for every product Apple has is more simpleton chic than elegant simplicity.
It is embarrassing for the Mac to be lumped in with this lot. It deserves more respect than that.
OS X is no more confusing than Windows 10. Redmond hasn’t changed the name of its flagship operating system to microsoftOS. It’s Windows 10 and I think it’s no coincidence it is the numerical equivalent of OS X. Microsoft was due to attach the number 9 to its Windows operating system, but wisely bypassed this increment.
Ten connotes perfection. Bo Derek wasn’t a 9. Neither is the Mac. But macOS is an appropriate name for an operating system on a once iconic personal computer Apple would prefer fades away.

In praise of WordPress.com's Linux desktop app

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I’m using Linux Ubuntu Mate more and more as my primary work OS and in keeping with this shift from Mac and Windows I’ve decided to try the WordPress.com Linux desktop app.
It’s been out for five months now, but as I typically write and complete my columns on multiple computers before clicking “publish,” when I’m working from home and on one of my desktop machines, I’ve been thinking of making the Ubuntu Mate machine the test subject of sorts for this new blogging tool.
It’s different from how I normally blog for sure. I usually write in Microsoft Word and then transfer it to a new blogpost at my site. Here I finalize the post–proofreading, editing, adding graphics, images, inserting hyperlinks, etc., before submitting the final work.
As I work equally from portable devices and desktop computers, being flexible and using the hardware and software available always makes the formulation of blog posts a custom job. It never seems the same regarding how I get from point A to B. While this can create havoc from time to time, remaining patient and being committed to seeing the task through are always key to successful outcomes.


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As I type in the WordPress desktop app, however, I’m finding I like having the post be populated as a draft on my site simultaneously, rather than writing the initial draft in Word and copying and pasting it into a draft post on my site. The reason I like it is so far it “appears” that the post editor in the desktop app has most everything I need to blog as I like to.
Thus far this does not seem a better or worse platform than my multi-faceted approach; it’s just going to take some getting used to. Tools are here, available for my use, but I just have to find the effortless flow I need in order to write effectively. I do not want to have to worry about how quickly I can finalize the post once it’s written. And that is where I’m thinking this new methodology may fall short.
Microsoft Word is my word processor of choice on the Mac, Windows and Linux platforms. I am able to use MS Word in Ubuntu Mate via Wine software that allows Linux-based users to run many Microsoft-only programs. And I find the software that works in Wine in Linux, actually works quite well and fast, too, with all the features you know and expect that are available on the Windows version.
I am able to focus on writing the article first in Word, then blasting it into my website as a draft before tweaking and fine-tuning as it resides in draft form. Here, it feels foreign to be composing in something other than MS Word. For better or worse, over the years, Word has become familiar to me, allows me to write without thinking, chunks of words ripped off from the tips of my fingers fluidly flossing the keyboard characters.

Is it wrong to feel this isn’t quite right for me? Perhaps what feels wrong right now will only feel less comfortable as time goes by. And less comfortable begets more comfortable the more you try something new.

So, as the end of this column fast approaches, where do I sit on the proverbial fence with respect to this new (for me) desktop-app-on-Linux writing tool? Honestly? I’m not closed off to trying it again. In fact, I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on the formatting of this piece with the different assortment of tools to choose from.
Similar to a change of scenery for a slumping ballplayer, doing things differently, changing up, if you will, can breathe fresh life into work that may be in danger of becoming tired. Like businesses, writers are in need of growth, and breaking out of comfort zones of safe-feeling habits, is often just the trick for expanding horizons. At least for me, this is how I will justify the WordPress desktop app’s continued use.
Change sparks creativity. And I for one prefer to take change for a ride instead of watching change and all the promise it can hold, ride by without me.

With 5 Years of Official Support, Is Ubuntu Mate the last OS an old PC needs?

Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace ...

Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace File:Former Ubuntu logo.svg. Español: logo de Ubuntu + marca denominativa Français : Logo officiel d’Ubuntu. Remplace File:Former Ubuntu logo.svg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve been more than happy with Ubuntu Mate 15.10 on my eMachines T6528 tower. This was a PC that originally came with Windows XP and was until just recently running the latest version of Ubuntu Mate.
Now that the new Ubuntu Mate 16.04 is out, I decided to take the plunge and proceed with the update from 15.10 via the terminal and the usual commands one invokes to get there:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
And last but not least:
sudo update-manager –d


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These commands do everything needed to initiate the upgrade process and series of prompts to click “OK” on, to acknowledge some software packages not supported by the latest release as well as include new packages for installation.
From here on out, the update process is automated.
While it may have been nerve-wracking for me on older hardware just a few years ago, the Linux Ubuntu Mate developer community has done such a wonderful job with the latest releases that everything just works. When it comes to the big restart that brings users to the desktop of the latest Linux Ubuntu Mate distribution and all it offers, the word “easy” comes to mind.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


For me, personally, what I’m most looking forward to is official support for this operating system for the next five years. That’s right—all security and software updates will be officially provided by the Ubuntu Mate development community so that my 10-year-old PC running it may have everything modern and secure, software-wise, for what could be the final five years of its now lengthy, production life.
Think about it.

While I can still technically run Windows XP, the lack of official support by Microsoft dooms the eMachines tower to a status of not if, but when, it will become infected by malware that renders it useless.

With all the new “ransomeware” available to pounce on unprotected PCs, it just doesn’t make sense to fool with unsupported systems like XP on machines of this vintage any longer.
This tower that refuses to quit sports a 64-bit processor. I could never get any flavor of Windows 7 or 8 to run in 64-bit mode. It made me question whether it was truly a 64-bit capable system.

English: Screen Shot of Installing Ubuntu Server

English: Screen Shot of Installing Ubuntu Server (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Once I began experimenting with Linux on this tower, however, I finally was able to have a 64-bit operating system running on it. Since it is 10 years old, I wanted an OS that would place only the slightest of demands on its (relative-to-modern-day machines) grandfatherly state. That is, since resources are not in great supply (3 GB Memory, 2.2 GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor), I needed a lightweight, yet modern OS with accompanying software that wouldn’t drag performance down to an unusable state.
I had experimented with regular Ubuntu and Linux Mint before settling on Ubuntu Mate. While regular-flavored Ubuntu was alright, I had a lot of difficulty getting anything other than the 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 monitor resolutions. Linux Mint was equally tricky on that front, but I did finally have better results with Mint regarding the resolutions issue.
However, Mint’s performance was not good enough for me and even seemed to degrade over time. Perhaps it was/is my tendency to download, install and test lots of software. I never considered Linux for one of my production machines; I just liked to torture test it until something happened and I would move on to yet another flavor.


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I think the Nvidia 6100 onboard graphics may have greatly contributed to much of my performance and monitor resolution issues prior to installing Mate. I don’t know what the breakdown is regarding the complexity of union of all of the onboard graphics and the rest of the tower’s hardware, but Mate solved everything.
I use a Cisco Wi-Fi USB stick that works great. It’s not super fast, but it’s a more than adequate performer, stable, steady and beyond fine for surfing, email, and overall network connectivity. That is really all we can expect from our wireless connections on older hardware. In my case, though, the Cisco Wi-Fi stick and Linux Mate are a match made in networking heaven. Uploading, downloading and moving files is dependable on a mixed network environment of Macs and PCs running OS X and Windows 10.


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So, what was the final outcome of the two-hour upgrade process? It was totally devoid of any stress or drama. The re-start was uneventful. Everything works, none of my work was lost (can’t say that happened on one of my Windows 10 machines) and what else can I say, but Bravo Linux! If the old tower has five years of life in it, I will use it at least until Mate 16.04 loses support or the hardware finally gives out—whichever comes first.
Five years is a long, long time in today’s tech environment. Might Linux be the answer once again at the end of that period? I wouldn’t bet against it.

When a snorer of a bedtime story is what you must have

Ruth with the Boston Braves in 1935, his last ...

Ruth with the Boston Braves in 1935, his last year as a player (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When you get close to the time that you’re supposed to be going to bed and you know you’re still not quite ready, what is it that you do to make yourself tired enough so that when your head hits the pillow, you drift off in a matter of minutes?
I’m usually tired enough to go to bed almost any time. I need to sometimes stretch in bed and the way I do that is I just toss and turn…a lot. Can be quite disruptive to my two sleeping partners, but hey, if I’m anticipating excess tossing and turning, what typically puts me in the mood for good slumber is turning to writing.
Dear Bob,
When you were a baby, I heard you were the best baby. You just slept without nary a care. Never cried before bed or anything, you just would maybe hit the bottle some (or so I’ve heard) and then you’d go to sleep without any need of rocking or singing to. Even back then, I heard if you were interested in singing at all, it was typically your own singing that was all you needed to hear. You dabbled then, as now, with occasionally listening to other people sing, but even after hearing some pretty golden throats, you always felt happiest when it was you who was singing and other people doing the listening.
You were a happy baby, Bob. You used to play with a couple of clothespins for hours if anyone would bother to give them to you. Even back then, you were championing the underdog. In this case, the underdog was the clothespin. Every other baby whined until they got some kind of mobile toy (I’m not talking cell phone, either) or figurine. All you needed was the clothespin. Occasionally you would be among friends and try to get them to play with your clothespins only to find out they would end up crying for a real toy. You didn’t care, Bob. You just made use of the clothespin–probably the first toy from the land of misfit toys, too, and you enjoyed it. It was as if it was the greatest thing in the world. Even back then you didn’t care that others thought you somewhat off for being satisfied with clothespins as recreational devices.
English: The Beatles wave to fans after arrivi...

English: The Beatles wave to fans after arriving at Kennedy Airport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When you got a little older you enjoyed haircuts, but you didn’t like them much for awhile, especially around the time of the British invasion and the Beatles. You didn’t necessarily like the Beatles’ music, although you played it on guitar and sang their songs well enough–learning more than enough of a repertoire to do a good two hours of songs. Everyone loved the Beatles so that’s what you gave them. When you began writing your own songs, they hardly sounded anything resembling the Fab Four’s output. Your songs sounded like whatever long-haired kids play when they are alone and have time on their hands. Some of your friends thought they were pretty cool, though, so your confidence grew and you continued to write.
Typing was one of the things you learned in school and it’s continued to serve you well to this day. You type when you need to and while the pain of carpal tunnel has forced you to alter your technique, you can still rip off chunks of words at frightening speeds even if only for a fraction of the time you could before the malady struck. You’ve never had any regrets; you’ve just lived, tried to do the best you could and then you went home–wherever that was.
English: Wooden spring-type .

English: Wooden spring-type . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Your fingers start to tingle the more you stay at the keyboard these days. It’s a common reminder that carpal tunnel and other age-related conditions like arthritis catch up with anyone who lives long enough and gets his word on. Writing, like all passions of gluttony, is best served in moderation. You’ve always known this. But, your quest to continually outdistance those that would quit and go to bed is never denied.
So, you wonder where this sojourn after dark and after bedtime will end. They say the journey should be enjoyed and the destination is not that important. When the destination is my sleep, I say this tenet of life philosophers should be reversed in favor of the destination. I write, tonight, so that I might sleep. As always, the best of what I write is from ideas continually flowing from my brain out through my fingertips like a waterfall.
Such is the continual, daily cycle of the life that I live. Who is to say what is important or not? Yes, I understand that experts recommend we get eight hours of sleep a night. Well, life’s not perfect and neither are one’s sleep cycles–even the experts. If we could absolutely control our lives, then yes, I agree, it would be best to get eight hours of sleep every night. But, tonight, I think of eight hours of sleep each night as boring.


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I say boring because who hasn’t known the greatness that can be had while one functions in a sleep-deprived state? Everything is riding on your performance and you suddenly reach deep down (like Babe Ruth on May 25, 1935, when he socked three home runs for the Boston Braves against all odds), and perform better than your peers with eight hours sleep.
The Babe should have retired after that game, but he did not. I just suppressed a yawn, and unlike the Babe at the end of May so many years ago, I am going to retire after writing perhaps not the equivalent of a three-home run column, but maybe hitting the writer’s equivalent of a snoring cycle–a single, double, triple and home run all in one piece.
Agree or not, that’s all folks. In the immortal words of Edward R. Murrow and regarding all of our chances for sleep this evening, “Good Night, and Good Luck!”

When noise, engagement and their disdain form the rubber that meets the road

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Those who get away to have peace and quiet eventually end up getting away from the peace and quiet for the very noise they left behind. —Bob Skelley

Many humans thrive on turmoil and drama. We have to have it in our lives for us to remain engaged and interested. Case in point the individual who always has to have a significant other. The very thought of being single is terrifying to these individuals. If only they could see that they can manage being alone, if even for brief stretches of time, and not end up completely losing their mind (like they do when they are in an unhealthy relationship—the kind people get in because they’re petrified of being by themselves).


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We can substitute interacting with people for the times we would share with a significant other. Humans are gregarious by nature and can’t be alone all the time. Our bodies and minds would break down prematurely if that were the case. Even when we do something that isn’t the most fun, like seeing a modern day Bob Dylan show, we are often grateful for having attended with friends.


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We go to dinner before the show. We visit, we catch up, and we talk up the pending show with high expectations. We realize at these times that the show features a performer long past their prime, but it’s the whole experience leading up to, through and to the conclusion of the show that satisfies our need for the encounter.
It’s a good thing our clothes wear out the more you wash them. Some of us might never get to a store otherwise, if not for the necessity of replacing socks, undershirts and underwear. People that wait until their undergarments are in tatters actually prefer avoiding people until absolutely necessary. There isn’t a study I know of to back this up, but I’m suggesting it anyway. And these wearers of skivvies posing as Swiss cheese are rewarded for their brief exchanges with salespeople in the store.
“Where’s the underwear?”
“Over there next to the almost naked mannequin.”


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Those are the most words they’ve heard from another human being in weeks. That is, if you take away the times when they make random calls to customer service call centers to experience the power of asking to speak with somebody’s supervisor. This is what these non-engagers (“introvert” rhymes with big ol’ twerp and so I refrain from using it) find very satisfying—the chance to interact for brief moments on their terms.
We might look down upon these antics as strange, but those behaving this way don’t really care what someone else who is probably even more messed up than they are thinks.


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The ability to not care what others think is huge for the individual who constantly seeks out domiciles bereft of outside noise that strains, yearns and finally pounds its way in. The skill of not giving a rat’s ass about other peoples’ opinions actually gets better with age, too.
“Bob, you’re such a crank. Don’t you know everyone disagrees with everything you’ve said so far in this article?”
“They do? What makes you say that, Stella?”
“Well, because it’s all so ridiculous. Your proclamations, protestations, everything here!”
“I’m sorry? What’s that? Could you please repeat whatever you just said? I wasn’t trying to intentionally ignore you.”
“You weren’t? Really! Well, intentional or otherwise, that’s exactly what you did.”
“I really do apologize. Do you know they say it’s a form of weakness to apologize?”
“Who says that? This is just another example of how ridiculous everything you say is, Bob!”

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence Universit...

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence University in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve often wondered why it is my mind basically turns down the volume to my ears when I can see someone’s face just before they are about to say something I’m perceiving will have little or no value whatsoever. It’s not a reflection of the individual in front of me so much as it is my ability to filter out good stuff from the inane. And when this happens, I typically conclude the interaction with a nod of the head.
“Everything about this piece is inane and devoid of anything of real merit, Bob.”
“Says who?”
“Says me.”
What?
“Says me!”
“Oh.”
And this is the part of the blog where I astutely nod and move on to a blessed afternoon nap—the salve that is escape from salespeople, would be critics and idiot savants alike.

Spring ahead for what you need

Ink-jet-cartridge

Ink-jet-cartridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


How good you are at adjusting on the fly is often how good whatever it is you’ve planned out in advance turns out.
Everyone says, “Make a plan, Stan!
But, it should probably be more like, “Be ready to adjust the plan at all times.”
I figure this is how it should be with respect to weekend projects. You have to first of all have a realistic plan with lots of time built in for when things go wrong. Sometimes projects planned out do go smoothly and finish in the estimated time you’ve allotted.
Other times, not so much.
These are the times when you will be less frustrated for having built in extra time for things to get done when shit happens.
Technology, like cars, is inconvenient. Both typically do well enough in terms of providing good service, until you absolutely, positively have to have them perform flawlessly.

Let’s say you need your printer to work properly because you have a big paper you have to print out.

For over a week you’ve needed to get new ink for the printer, but you lead a busy life and would just go to the store when you must have it—like the Sunday before the Monday the paper is due.
Well, you go to the store, get all the ink cartridges you need (remember when there was just one color and one black cartridge?) and return home with your precious printer replenishments.

English: The nozzle of Canon PG-810 and CL-811...

English: The nozzle of Canon PG-810 and CL-811 ink cartridges. ‪中文(香港)‬: Canon PG-810及CL-811的墨盒噴咀。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


You install the cartridges, print out a test page, only to discover there is no black ink coming out.
You’ve had the paper finished for a few days, but you were “planning” on just getting the ink refills late Sunday afternoon and then printing out the paper before going to bed.
Panic strikes as you scour the Internet for possible solutions to your black ink problem as the office supply store is now closed (and wasn’t particularly close by to begin with).
You try one thing after another and the clock minutes go by as if seconds. Soon enough you’ve spent almost two hours trying various things from q-tips with alcohol to reseating cartridges to disconnecting the power cord. And nothing is working.
The thing that ends up saving your bacon is you’ve got another seldom-used printer that you can try. Voila! It works and your blood pressure goes back down.
This was a case of problem solved because of a solution that was available, yet you hadn’t consciously planned for it as you thought just replacing the ink cartridges would get you what you need.


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When it comes to weekend projects, what you need is more critical than what you want. Because of how quickly time passes when you are actually doing weekend jobs, in the case of the primary printer malfunction, having an alternate printer available ends up sufficing. You might have wanted your everyday printer to work, but it didn’t, and you were reminded that what you actually need–a decent print out of your paper, is more important.
I long ago stopped doing even the most routine of maintenance on my vehicle. Ever since we lost carburetors and everything went to computer diagnostics, it just isn’t feasible for a weekend tinkerer like myself to bother with something as simple as an oil change, even.
20160219_134816What makes me feel better about not being able to save some dollars in basic car maintenance labor is the fact I can use things like synthetic oil to increase the interval at which I require an oil change. It’s not the same savings as doing actual oil changes myself, but at least I feel better knowing I can plan on driving further on synthetic oil before needing said oil change.
In the case of paying for oil changes, what I need is to save some dollars because I’m not saving on doing it myself anymore. And, as the master of the obvious can tell you, putting in more expensive synthetic oil allows you to make up some of the cost savings difference. I want to work on my vehicles, but I need to not work on them more, in order to free up some precious time on the weekends for things like watching pro football (if that makes any sense). And now, reading up on what teams are doing in the off-season.
20160302_165122I guess I want pro football all year long and this is as close to that as I can come. What I need is the current 16-game season, playoffs and Super Bowl game.
I suppose it comes down to being happy, grateful and able to live with what it is you have and the solutions available when even the best-laid plans go awry. If your basic needs are met, who cares that it isn’t perfectly what you wanted in the first place?
I guess if you feel you must always have whatever it is you want, then it’s more than likely time that you lowered your expectations.
How’s that spring ahead thing working for you?

On Valentine's Day, get the gift yourself

English: 'I'm Lovin It' — HM1(FMF) Fred Turner...

English: ‘I’m Lovin It’ — HM1(FMF) Fred Turner swipes his gift card in McDonald’s new card machine, April 4. The new machine now allows customers to use debit, credit or gift cards to purchase food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I tried to pull the “Got so busy your Valentine’s Day present won’t come ’til Monday” card, and the florist tripped me up.
They actually delivered flowers, balloons and chocolates on Friday. I had paid for Sunday delivery, and the delivery dude called me to confirm if anyone would be home before he dropped off the flowers. I told him I had paid for Sunday delivery. He politely replied he could take them back and hold until Sunday or deliver them now. I said to deliver them now.
Ordering flowers and such online for Valentine’s Day somewhat parallels how Don Draper used to instruct his secretary to take care of things like that. Well, today, executive secretaries are still taking care of things like this but they are doing it via computer and mobile apps.
If you’re going to order flowers for Valentine’s Day for your significant other or that special someone in your life, you need to do it yourself. If you can’t manage a computer or smart phone then you need to get to the florist and just do it the old-fashioned way: facing a person and having a conversation.
English: Card and gift shop, St Marychurch Pre...

English: Card and gift shop, St Marychurch Precinct Forget-me-not sells cards, balloons, and gifts. For nearby shops see http://www.geograph.org.uk/gallery/st_marychurch_torbay_shops_etc_9887 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The thing about Valentine’s Day and any other gift giving day for that matter is it is the thought that counts. When you slough off the task to someone else, it is not demonstrating much thought or consideration on your part. Yes, using a computer or smart phone to arrange delivery and such is somewhat impersonal, but it is more personal than having someone else do it, while being less personal than walking to the florist and taking care of it yourself.
Thoughtfulness and remembering go hand in hand on gift giving holidays. In addition to not having someone else perform the deed for you, another thing to keep in mind is that some people prefer gifts that demonstrate your thoughtfulness. That is, sometimes, we run short on time (and imagination) and opt for the convenience of a gift card. Then we try and justify the gift card purchase.
“They can get whatever they want.”
“They love that store, they’ll find something.”
“What person wouldn’t enjoy an all-day spa package there!?”
English: Assortment of gift cards

English: Assortment of gift cards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I was trying to recall if I ever gave the creative cash-in-a-card gift for Valentine’s Day. Seems I probably have for occasions like birthdays and such, but I can’t say as I’m fixated on Valentine’s Day for this column.
“Oh Bob, just what I wanted…cold, hard cash, thank you!”
“You know that’s one thing a girl can never have too much of, Bob, memory, good looks and money, thank you!”
Remember the time you had someone tell you they didn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day? That all they needed was you?
A woman thinking

A woman thinking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sure you do, because you made the mistake of taking them at their word and not giving them anything (and after committing a transgression like this you tend to remember it the rest of your life).
When someone tells you they don’t want anything for their birthday, their anniversary, your anniversary, for Valentine’s Day or for Executive Secretary’s day, you would be wise to remember that this is code for, “Pay no attention to what I just said and make sure you remember me with an appropriate gift that demonstrates your thoughtfulness of the occasion.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!

The doers and watchers of nothing


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If we are to continue to talk about doing nothing does it in turn become something? Such is my quandary on the first wintry weather morning of the New Year.


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I was thinking of making this the second in a series on doing nothing. In a nod to “Throwback Thursday,” I had people write in and say things like, “Technically-speaking, Bob, doing nothing is really doing something. Or, how else can you clarify it? Or, depends on your definition of nothing.”
Well, no matter your definition of “nothing,” doing nothing to me means just that, you’re doing, well, nothing. Furthermore, if you’re analyzing my version of nothing to quantify it as “something,” you really are part of that group of people mentioned in my first piece on nothing, who are incapable of truly enjoying nothing; you might be capable of enjoying anything but, but anything but is clearly not nothing. Crystal clear?

We are doers and we are watchers. The watchers among us like looking at the doers. And then there are the times when the doers and the watchers do absolutely nothing—sometimes together.

One of the most satisfying forms of doing nothing engaged in by the watchers is watching doers perform physical labor. This kind of work is anything but nothing, but if you’re looking at someone doing it (physical labor), it’s all about doing nothing.
Watchers can be looking at someone doing mental labor, but when watchers look at those who are laboring mentally, they risk falling asleep. Is sleeping doing nothing? Maybe sometimes. I don’t remember my dreams, so when I’m sleeping I’m doing nothing, essentially. The contrarians to this school of nothingness may suggest I am healing my body by resting so am not doing nothing. These are the kinds of people who kept asking teachers questions in elementary school until they were told to shut the hell up.


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When a watcher of a doer who is laboring physically becomes relaxed while doing so, I would suggest they are implementing the skill of doing nothing at high levels. Go ahead and try it if you don’t believe me. As someone who has worked his share of physically demanding jobs, I can attest to this. Every time I was on a crew and one of the bosses had to demonstrate what they wanted us laborers to do, I wanted to break out in the Eagles song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”


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If you’re going to analyze the song’s lyrics, again, you are ricocheting far from what I’m talking about. It’s the feeling that comes over you—relaxation, serenity, tranquility, that are the outcroppings of doing nothing (as you blurrily watch the boss lift mortar blocks, load them in a wheelbarrow and cart them off to the back of the job site).
Can you be healthier for doing nothing? I think I’ve just proven you can be in the previous paragraph. Most times you feel better for doing nothing, unless of course, you’re a pretty messed up person.


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When you get really good at doing nothing, your mind goes pretty blank. In the old days we used to call it spacing out, but we were really just doing nothing and didn’t know the correct terminology. When your mind goes blank as you do nothing, you pretty much cross over into expert status as you may be “technically” doing something, but you’re pretty much oblivious to any recall of it—one of the clinical examples of doing nothing.
It’s a sort of amnesia, but I like to think of it as just a chunk of time of which you have no memory whatsoever of. I’m sure somebody somewhere will suggest this is a mental condition worthy of a doctor’s visit of some kind. But, if I go to the doctor because I’m doing nothing well, it just means I’m not proud of the times I’m doing nothing, when I really am.

The Eagles band from California. From left to ...

The Eagles band from California. From left to right are: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit during their Long Road out of Eden Tour in 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


By not becoming alarmed when you do nothing, among other things, it demonstrates the simple joy you take from it. Doing something is overrated. As I said in my first installment on doing nothing, those who insist on doing something more often than not, seemingly have better, more glamorous talking points when they come back from vacation. For example:
“What did you do on vacation, Bob?”
“Nothing.”


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“Seriously, man, what did you do?”
“Nothing.”
“C’mon, you must’ve done something.”
Nope.”
Sounds boring.”


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“You’re boring.”
“What?”
“Whaaaat?”


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“How can you take a vacation and do nothing?”
“What do you care?”
“Vacations are for going to new places and doing things.”
“According to you.”
“According to everybody.”


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“You’ve really got a problem with people who do nothing, don’t you, Herb.
“Well, if you’re saying I don’t like people who can’t get off their ass and be productive, then yeah, I guess I do.”
“That’s your problem, man, not mine.”
“How so?”
“Because you have no tolerance, respect, caring and yes, love, for those who do nothing. People who do nothing for what you think is too long a time, really don’t care what you think, either, truth be told.”
“Well, they should.”
“No, Herb, they shouldn’t.”


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“You really are a crackpot, Bob.”
“Crackpot? Did you seriously just call me a crackpot, Herb?”
“If the shoe fits, Bob…”
“Herb, I want to commend you.”
“To my point about you being a crackpot, Bob, what the hell are you talking about?”
“The entire conversation we’ve had here is the newest form of doing nothing. We’ve seen it many times on television for instance. But, we just didn’t know what to call it. Have you gone to the movies lately?”
“Why, yes, I have.”
“What did you see?”
“I can’t remember.”
“Herb, congratulations, I think if you think about it, but not too hard, you’ll realize you did nothing when you went to the movies.”
“How so?”
“Well, I would have called you a watcher if you had remembered any of it. But the fact you can’t shows me you actually did nothing.”
“Bob, I can’t remember what I did on vacation two years ago.”
“I believe you’ve got it, Herb. If you try real hard to remember something you did you probably can. But, if you don’t wrack your memory over it, you’re showing me you did nothing on that vacation by virtue of your memory of any of it escaping you, at least on the surface.”
“But, I could remember it, probably, if I underwent intensive psychotherapy, right?”
Yes, Herb, you probably could. And we just broke our newly set record for doing nothing via a conversation we won’t remember now that it’s done.”
“Does anything really, matter, Bob?”
“You’re getting deep, now, Herb. Remember, man, everything matters until it doesn’t.”

The vanishing outwardly cranky air traveler

English: PBair female flight attendant at work...

English: PBair female flight attendant at work on board of a ATR 72 (Thailand). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’m old enough to remember when airports weren’t so circuitously mammoth and passengers aboard planes applauded and cheered upon successful landings.
The silence of travelers in planes who land safely represents some of the modern day behavior of almost extinct, outwardly cranky passengers. If you, too, are old enough to remember these cranks, you don’t recall them with fondness. They used to make the jobs of flight attendants a nightmare—complaining and demanding incessantly.
Today with the takeover of airports by the security industry, these complainers contain their displeasure and ire for the most part. Those that cannot are removed from the situation. This procedure is arguably one of the best problem-solving techniques in the 21st century workplace; should a problem arise in the form of a particular individual or individuals, all that is necessary for the situation to be remedied is the extraction of the problem person from the scene.
The cranks who remain air travelers carry on in a passive aggressive manner. You can recognize them, still, today, if you are just even a little bit aware. They are the ones muttering under their breath while waiting at the self-serve baggage check-in kiosk. They are not emotionally disturbed so much as just, well, plain pissed off at the current state of air travel—paying for more service and room and getting increasingly less of each.
English: Deserted check-in stations as Schipho...

English: Deserted check-in stations as Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, due to the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Nederlands: Verlaten check-in balies op Schiphol als gevolg van de luchtvaartverstoringen door de vulkaanas 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


If you are unfortunate enough to let them have your ear, you do, indeed, get an earful of a sour-laden state of the union address on air travel.
Some of the things they take issue with are laced with irony.
Airports have never been bigger and more of a marathon to get to your gate than now.
This is pretty true for the most part, especially in big cities. An air traveler can lose track of how many escalators they go up and down in order to arrive at their gate. Plus they need to take a train oftentimes, not to mention the amount of straight up walking they have to do as well, moving walkways robotically chatting you up to “Stand on the right, walk on the left,” notwithstanding. They harken to what could have been with respect to trains and how aside from cheap freight moving, the rails these air conditioned robots ride on now are in airports.
The way people wander, and for lack of a better word, stagger (seemingly devoid of purpose), around airports is incredible. You would think they were auditioning for the part of “walkers” in AMC’s The Walking Dead.
I can’t disagree with this one. People will be flying down the main drag of a gate area like a plane getting ready to take off, when they suddenly slam on the brakes and either, a) look at their phone; b) stare off into space in search of something that doesn’t exist; or, c) double shuffle a couple steps to the left and one to the right before stopping and looking at their phone again.
On Board Pakistan Intl Airlines.

On Board Pakistan Intl Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Phones should be used in airports like motorists use theirs: pull over to the side of the road and get out your phone once you’re safely out of the way (of oncoming traffic).
I felt bad for the flight attendant who was of a medium-size build and had to navigate the beverage cart down the skinny jeans path they call an aisle these days. And, all without cracking the elbows and arms of passengers who are trying their best to compress themselves into spaces they never were meant to squeeze into.
This is the final insult that awaits all air travelers, not just the cranks, as they board for their final destination. But there’s (not so good) news for passengers making the return trip home. Unless you’re an infant, the amount of space you have to “sit back and enjoy the flight,” is slated to continue to diminish.
Lucky cranks.

Old tech blending in a new tech world

Photo of HP Tablet PC running MS Windows Tablet Edition. Modified with Picasa2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I have to whip something up fast, there’s nothing like the power, ease and comfort of a desktop computer with a keyboard of choice.
And it’s definitely the golden age of computing for users with less than the most modern kit. The way to achieve computing bliss on older machines, however, is to employ the right operating system for your box.
Windows 8.1 for all of the criticism runs fabulously on the lowest forms of Intel Core 2 Duo processors–and with only 2 GB of ram installed.
For PowerPC PowerMac users good times continue to abound as TenFourFox and Leopard WebKit browsers are regularly updated so users of these ancient repositories of Apple goodness can float along on the Web as if on a cloud.
And there are all manner of flavors of Linux for uber geeks wishing to use their old Intel and AMD processor machines with modern, secure operating systems.
I am one of the many luddites who’s shifted to mobile computing for most of what I do. When it comes to limiting fatigue, wear and tear, though, there’s nothing like using an ergonomic keyboard on one of the functioning desktop computer museum pieces.

Intel Core 2 Duo - an example of an x86-compat...

Intel Core 2 Duo – an example of an x86-compatible, 64-bit multicore processor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Microsoft Surface RT is my go to device when blogging while on the road. It isn’t good for daily writing as long hours at its keyboard will invariably result in claw hands.
While Windows 8.1 is fine on older machines, many users are still running Windows XP. I read there are more users of XP out there still than Windows 8 varieties. That is a shame, too, in my view as 8.1’s effective realities on older machines far outweigh the criticisms this operating system has taken.
Many users on XP machines could make the move to Windows 8 and enjoy doing so. I had XP, then Windows 7, 8 and now finally 8.1 on the relic of a PC that shares my easy-typing keyboard via a TRENDnet KVM switch with my FrankenMac PowerMac G4.
I’m always way behind the curve when it comes to latest and greatest. While I abandoned my old iPhone 3GS in favor of a refurb Samsung Galaxy S3, the phone recently felt slow and old. This was especially so after seeing the new Galaxy S6 commercials.
I went in search of a solution to my old and slow dilemma. Old and slow can be looked at as a driving force in much of how I arrive at the hardware technology solutions that I do. Whether it’s keeping my old Macs and PCs going to the best of their abilities or re-thinking how I can avoid upgrading my phone sooner than I’d like, it typically only takes a little time, imagination and research before I come up with a solution.
Truth be told, the S3 has been a great phone and its slowing hasn’t been the biggest issue for me. The rapid, unexplained battery drains I’ve experienced on and off in the time I’ve had it, have been the most vexing and annoying problems for me.
KVM-Switch 4 User / 16 PCs

KVM-Switch 4 User / 16 PCs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I thankfully discovered the ZeroLemon battery and now go four days without recharging. It set me back a mere $39 and allows me to use the phone’s GPS reliably and without fear for the first time since I’ve had it. If this battery miracle holds up and stands the test of time, I don’t see myself in the market for a new phone any time soon.
Phone, tablet, computers and keyboard–use what works best for you and don’t succumb to the marketing we’re all blasted with. No one, and I mean no one, needs new devices as often as manufacturers would have us believe. Unless you’re rich and devoid of imagination, there’s no reason you can’t be smiling while you use your older technology right now.

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