A few years ago I wrote about Wayne Green (Going Green), an influential and controversial editor and publisher of first Amateur Radio, and later, computer periodicals. Wayne had strong opinions about everything. I agreed with many of his ideas, but some of them just seemed nutty.
According to a notice on Wayne’s blog, he passed away on Friday the 13th. Born in 1922, Wayne lived to be 91 years old. Many moving tributes have been posted on his blog since Friday. His enthusiasm and vision kick-started a lot of people in the technology sector. Rest In Peace, Wayne.
(QRT is a radio telegraph abbreviation that means “I’m shutting down operations. This station is going off the air.”)
I recently replaced the hard drive in a three-year-old mini-tower PC that had spent its life on an office floor. It was a routine job with the expected dirt and dust inside the case. No vacuum was available, so I used the shop’s compressed air and blow gun to blow out the dirt, then reassembled everything. When I started the PC, it howled a loud screeching/ticking noise. I opened the case, removed power from the hard drive, powered on the PC, and listened with a stethoscope. The noise was coming from the power supply — probably its fan.
I removed the power supply, disassembled it, and discovered that the power supply fan’s 12 Volt DC supply wires — maybe 28 gauge, were rubbing against the spinning fan blades. A jet of compressed air through the power supply case perforations must have nudged the wires into the fan blades. I dressed the wires so that they were a quarter-inch from the blades, reassembled everything, and the PC worked quietly. Time lost to troubleshoot and repair this dumb problem which I had caused: 1 to 1.5 hours.
Use a vacuum — not compressed air — to remove dirt from inside PCs.
At one time, computers attracted loners. The first time I sat a terminal, I felt at home. Not with other people. With the machine. Its layers of mystery intoxicated me. It also satisfied a desire for control: the machine would do exactly what I told it to do, including stupid things. The machine was mindless, a blank slate. I could transfer my ideas to it. All that I needed to do was learn its language. I began with BASIC and eventually learned assembler. Its small vocabulary and strict syntax presented a challenge.
Years earlier, when I read Inside The Third Reich, Albert Speer described the thrill that he felt when, after 10 years of imprisonment, he was allowed to operate an electric floor polisher. He said that the feeling of power when he switched on the polisher convinced him that he’d not been cured. I know what he meant.
Today, computers attract people who wish to socialize via Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, forums, etc. The computer as a machine is becoming invisible.
Why? Giant strides in data communication and processing power. Most consumers today buy computers to communicate, not to compute. Maybe we shouldn’t call them “computers” and instead call them “communicators”.
Microsoft plans to discontinue support for Windows XP in April, 2014. What does that mean for most Windows XP users?
In general, I don’t recommend upgrading a Windows XP computer to Windows 7 or 8. (One reason: Windows 7 requires twice as much memory as XP and its Aero interface requires more CPU horsepower.) Wait until your Windows XP PC fails, and then replace it with a new PC with Windows 7 or 8 already pre-installed on it. (If your new Windows 8 PC lacks a touch screen, you’ll prolly want to install Classic Shell or Start8, so that it works like Windows 7.)
A client recently asked me to uninstall Corel WordPerfect Suite release 8 from a Windows XP PC. That sounds easy: Start / Control Panel / Add/Remove Programs, right? Wrong. The normal uninstall procedure resulted in a request that I insert the Corel WordPerfect Suite release 8 installation CD, which of course was unavailable.
Here’s how I uninstalled it:
Backup the registry:
Start / All Programs / Accessories / System Tools / System Restore
Within System Restore, choose Create a Restore Point
Delete contents of directory C:\Corel:
(Enter only the boldface commands)
Start / Run
C:\Corel>ATTRIB -R -S -A -H *.* /D /S
C:\Corel>DEL *.* /S
Enter ctrl-F to find each instance of COREL
Delete each instance of COREL
Choose Scan For Issues
Choose Fix Selected Issues
Warning: If you stumble, any one of these steps could destroy your Windows operating system and render the computer unusable. DOS commands and Windows Regedit are like dynamite — powerful, but dangerous. Don’t follow these steps if you’re not fluent in DOS commands and Regedit.
Based on file datestamps, this copy of Corel WordPerfect Suite seemed to be from 1998 — back when Windows 95 was still viable!
Reports have leaked from Microsoft that its upcoming Windows 8.1 release will revert to a classic Windows Start button (a Start button only, not a Start menu) — at least on PCs. I don’t know how it will behave on tablets with touch screens.
Microsoft has claimed that they ship twenty million copies of Windows 8 each month, yet PC sales fell 14 percent last quarter. Some observers claim that the unpopularity of Windows 8 is at least partially responsible for the downturn. The growth in mobile device sales and a weak global economy have eaten into PC sales, as well.
According to leaks, Windows 8.1, expected to be revealed at the end of June, will no longer boot to the “modern” (né “Metro”) interface and its “Start screen”, but instead it will boot to the familiar Windows desktop interface. In the meantime, if you’d like to make your Windows 8 computer work like Windows 7, give Classic Shell a try. (It’s open source and available for free.)
Here’s your chance to test-drive Windows 8 for 90 days.
Yesterday, Microsoft made a RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 8 Enterprise available for free download by everyone. It runs for 90 days only and cannot be upgraded or transformed into a production copy. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions are available. It must be activated within ten days and after 90 days, it becomes unusable. It is, though, a no-cost way to preview Windows 8.
After downloading it as a DVD image file (with a “.ISO” filename extension), you’ll need to burn it to a blank DVD, from which you can install it. Warning: Do not do this unless the target computer is currently unused, or you have a tested image (such as is created by Acronis True Image) of the disk, ready to restore after this Windows 8 Enterprise evaluation expires. After 90 days, the evaluation dies, and you’ll need to install a new operating system on the computer.
Windows 8 highlights:
The familiar Windows taskbar with Start button is gone.
Hardware requirements remain the same as Windows 7’s requirements.
Windows 8 (equivalent to XP Home)
Windows 8 Pro (equiv to XP Pro)
Windows RT runs exclusively on ARM hardware, including Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. It’s optimized for tablets’ touchscreens. It minimizes superfluous “chrome” that exists for appearance only, leaving more screen real estate, memory, and CPU cycles for information.
Windows 8 is faster at everything than Windows 7 (which isn’t saying much). One reason is because Microsoft scrapped Windows 7’s translucent windowing “Aero” interface.
There will be a carry-over upgrade available for Windows 7, and nothing else.
Your mouse should include a scroll wheel, as the opening window is wide and requires left-right scrolling.
Windows 8 includes a rudimentary antivirus program, called Windows Defender.
Windows Explorer is now called File Explorer. Why, is anybody’s guess. Typical Microsoft.
The UI (user interface) “Metro” term has been dropped because Microsoft lost a trade name lawsuit. The term “Martin” replaces it.
Does Windows 8 answer questions that nobody asked?
Many techies are sticking with Windows XP. One reason is that it includes Hyperterminal, which they use for telnet sessions to communicate with remote devices that lack web interfaces. Later Windows versions deleted Hyperterminal. Other reasons include XP’s stability, faster performance, and lighter demands on hardware.
It sounds like Microsoft has listened to the complaints about Windows Vista and Windows 7, and has tried to address them with Windows 8. Reviews are mixed. Here’s an August 15 Infoworld test center report: Windows 8 review: Yes, it’s that bad.
I mean clay tablet. Otherwise, you’ll need to backup your tablet’s data, just like you do with any other computer.
Today it’s possible to read inscriptions on 5000 year old clay tablets, yet it’s difficult to find a tape transport that can read data on 9-track digital tape that was recorded in the 1960s. One moral: keep multiple backup generations, on multiple media types.
Twenty years ago, Zip and Jaz disks were viable backup media. Before that, Bernoulli drives made sense. Going WAY back, 360 KB 5.25 inch floppy disks were viable. Today, I don’t know where you’d find the hardware to read any of these media.
Tape formats have come and gone over the years, as well. Though data on good tape formats such as DLT last a long time, they don’t last forever, either (magnetic field bleed-through between layers of tape). And neither do CDs or DVDs (oxidation of metallic film or dye layer). Thumb drives are less reliable; they both have a finite write life and may randomly fail without warning.
Are you backing up to an external hard drive? Good, but all hard drives eventually fail. In fact, their complexity means that they can fail at any moment for any number of reasons: head crash, electronic failure, surface failure, motor failure . . . You get the picture.
My point is that we need to keep our data backed up on more than one type of media, and keep a copy off-site. An alternative is to inscribe your data in a wet clay tablet and then fire it in a kiln. Burying your freshly-baked tablet for safekeeping through the millennia is optional.
Remote support is great, when you initiate it and the support person is
not a crook.
You may have received a phone call from an earnest-sounding “representative of Microsoft” who offered a free security scan and then warned you that your computer was at risk. The friendly voice at the other end offers to save your data for a nominal fee . . .
A new client of mine reported that he fell for this scam six months ago. Another told me that she almost did, before she called me. Microsoft reports that the average loss is $875. The exact ploy varies, but there is a common theme: deception; what hackers call “human engineering”.
Don’t accept unsolicited technical support. (If you’re in doubt, call me at 954 873-4695.)
StorageMojo, in Google’s Disk Failure Experience by Robin Harris, did a great job of summarizing the results. The article points out that when a disk’s SMART reports
the disk is failing and should be replaced before it dies completely.
For most users, the most relevant conclusion is that a disk is more likely to fail as its power-on time reaches 3 years and more. I usually recommend replacing working disks when they have 40,000 hours or more of power-on time. (There are 8760 hours in one year.) As usual, your mileage may vary.
The IBM PC was introduced on August 12, 1981, at NYC’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. I remember first reading its specs: aside from the 8088 CPU (which ran at 4.77 MHz and executed instructions in 16-bit chunks but had only an 8-bit external instruction bus), it wasn’t impressive. Its metal case looked good, and the fact that it had expansion slots was good, but why didn’t IBM use big manly S-100 expansion connectors, rather than those wimpy little proprietary expansion slots . . . and why didn’t it interface with a real terminal such as a Hazeltine 1500?
I was wrong, of course. A host of aftermarket hardware and software vendors climbed aboard the IBM PC train as it pulled out of the station, leaving the 8-bit 8080/Z-80 S-100 computers behind, like so many dinosaurs that sank into the swamps of yesterday.
Our quad-core 3 GHz PCs owe their existence to the humble IBM PC. Long may it live.
P.S.: Have you noticed that today’s PCs still take forever to boot?
People value mobility . . . and Microsoft’s playing catch-up.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, Smartphones (such as iPhone, Blackberry, and Android phones) outsold personal computers. This is a historic first. Sarah Perez summarizes the significance of this.
Based upon Microsoft’s small share of the smartphone operating system market (check out the pie graph), this is not good news for Microsoft. When Bill Gates ran Microsoft, he set the course for the industry. Is this surprising surge of smartphone sales going to leave Microsoft in the industry’s wake? What has Steve Balmer been doing since Chairman Bill gave Steve the CEO position?
A desktop PC was dead as a doornail. All tests indicated a failed motherboard. Before tossing it, I closely examined the motherboard and noticed that several of the radial lead electrolytic filter capacitors ("caps") had bulging ends. A Google search revealed that indeed this was a problem when this motherboard was built: gas pressure pushed out the ends as the electrolyte "boiled" over time. I bought replacement capacitors and, though I was skeptical that the repair would work because of the tiny traces and solder pads on the motherboard, I replaced the bulging capacitors. To my surprise, the PC came back to life!