Considering my near-Pokemon relationship with respiratory diseases (“gotta catch ’em all, gotta catch ’em all!”), it’s little surprise I wound up visiting my death-bed for most of last week. A little overtime put in cleaning out my garage, setting up, shooting, then breaking down the International Festival, led to a breakdown of another sort. The more cynically minded among you might point out that this coincided a bit neatly with the arrival of my new computer, but those cynics will be guided to a trashbag full of mucus-soaked Kleenex.

I am feeling much more connected these days, in the thrall of updating my Twitter and Tumblr feeds every few minutes. This is a nice piece of machinery – quad core processor, more RAM than I’ve ever had (and capable of expanding to even more), and I managed to dodge the hideous bullet of Windows Vista. Yes, it came with Windows 7.

And I am finding that nothing I have works with Windows 7.

In all my Web shenanigans, I’ve been using the same graphics program forever, and it ain’t Photoshop. I long ago found Micrografix’ Picture Publisher much more intuitive – hell it was like using one of my hands, it was that damned easy – and stuck with it. Well, Micrografix got bought by somebody years ago, and last iteration they put out was compliant with Windows 2000, I think. Ditto for my ancient but still lightning fast and reliable ULead SuperSaver, which cut down graphic file sizes with little loss of resolution.

I’ve also found out if I plopped down $150 more for Windows 7 Ultimate I could run a compatibility mode that would allow me to use this stuff. Instead, I’ve been exploring the wonderful world of open-source programs.

But really, I kinda expected that. I’d hoped it wasn’t going to be the case, but… (and I’m going to guess Office XP is just going to produce evil laughter from the OS)

What really has me steamed is hardware. The digital video converter I got to use twice? Useless. The programmable game controller that I gave myself as a Christmas present? Works fine, but the programming software is not compatible. Sorry, no updated drivers will be forthcoming.A work-around is devised, a well-reviewed replacement for the converter is only $25, but…

I am ending sentences with but… quite a bit now.

I do keep hearing rumblings that what promises to be my next big writing gig has finally passed the funding hurdles, and at least now I can write at length. Especially since I replaced my broken computer chair. Yeah, that’s another expense we can mark down in the book.

Theoretically I can absorb all these expenses soon, but…


Man vs Machine

Caramba, that was a weekend. Or, rather, it wasn’t, if a weekend is defined as “time off”. There are a certain number of things which need to be accomplished this week, and I’m trying to spread them out so as to not get overwhelmed. Ha! I almost said that with a straight face.

My wife is in Florida at an education conference this week, and took her shiny new netbook with her. This, of course, was causing my pre-teen son to wither and die, as he was consuming gaming videos 18 hours a day on the damned thing and would now be forced to… oh no, do something. (again, ha! Like I’m any different)

SO I’ve been attempting to resuscitate my old Gateway M675 laptop, which is hard to do on a limited budget. I had figured out, long ago when it went to techno heaven, that it was the hard drive that was the main culprit, with a boot sector that was defying all attempts to repair. The model is now old enough that I can get a replacement on eBay fairly cheap, but then comes the next hurdle: where the heck did I put that driver disc?

That question is still not resolved, incidentally. Gateway’s support pages provided most of what I needed, and another week was spent trying to get those to work in harmony. Kept getting the dreaded blue screens with a different stop code every time, started over, same thing happened, pulled one of the RAM chips – sorry kid, you’ll have to get by on a mere 512 megs – and everything works. At least for a netbook substitute.

So now he’s wondering why he can’t play Half-Life on it (heavy pre-teen sigh).

Well, while wrestling with the damned thing yesterday I watched (deep breath) Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (long title) with him, because he’s a big fan of the books. I was entertained. Some of the CGI didn’t hold up too well; that may be one of the reasons, besides money, that I’m in nooooo hurry to upgrade to Blu-Ray; watching Spider-Man 3 on a monitor at Fry’s Electronics I found myself looking at each scene and cataloging the various CGI elements therein.

Back to the library this afternoon to turn in the Simon/Kirby Sandman collection, among others, and pick up more Osamu Tezuka manga. Then trying to get the laptop to play Half-Life without screwing up what I’ve accomplished to this point. Pray for me.

7 Bizarre Ways Google Chrome Can Kill You Instantly

First, let me quickly point out that the post title was created by the Linkbait Generator, providing some of the best laughs I’ve had since, basically, ever.

I didn’t have much luck with Google Chrome when it first hit the Web. I’m willing to take the blame for that. I’d been using Firefox for a long, long time, even after people I trust had warned me that it had turned into a real resource hog. It was familiar, it was comfortable, it was serviceable. The bookmarks folders were bloated, hideous things, like long-ignored crisper drawers, in dire need of trashing and steam-cleaning.

So. I’ve been moving toward an Android phone (a process rendered much more gradual lately), and in the process I’ve been exploring a lot more of Google’s offerings. I don’t know how long Google Calendar has been staring at me from the iGoogle page, but I do know I’ve been pining for a calendar as effortlessly and elegantly simple as iCal on my work computer for over a year. And there it was, begorrah, right on me home page. Fancy that.

Now, wait a minute, Chester, you might say in an inexplicable fit of Band quotation, you have a Crackberry – why haven’t you been using Outlook Express? Sorry, mate, I come from a generation that regards Outlook and Outlook Express to be horrible cesspools of virus and hack bait, oscillating its hips on a street corner of the Information Superhighway, and saying Oo-la, sailor, fancy a butcher’s at me user’s contact list?

I have no idea where all this strange dialect stuff is coming from. It may be time to explore medication.

ANYWAY. This has led me to explore other Googlesque offerings, and as I am sure you know, there are many.  Poking around the “Labs” tab on many of the apps brings up even more chimerae lurking in the menagerie. I’ve been using Gmail for years, but I’ve now unlocked functionalities within it I had only dreamed of, previously.

So obviously, it was time to revisit the Chrome Plunge, which should really be the name of a techno pop group.  My first encounter with it was marred by the fact thatit was just different enough to put me off my stride, and, remarkably, the Scott McCloud comic that accompanied its launch didn’t help – in fact, I may have been suffering from sensory overload, much like the first time I read Understanding Comics.  McCloud’s a smart guy, and unfortunately, I think he believes I am just as smart. No, don’t be put off by my blitherings, this is good stuff. I can’t read philosophy texts either, I’ll read the same paragraph three times and then wake up covered with brightly colored scraps of paper and a slightly inebriated pug-dog.

Man, all this just to turn on a light switch. (Ah, Rube Goldberg, you are the gift that keeps on giving!)

So I eschewed McCloud’s illustrated tract, uninstalled the old version of Chrome lying fallow on my hard drive,  installed a new one, and found the process unexceptional and friendly. That was two days ago, and I have not yet turned into some sort of cyber-zombie or suffered any other sort of doom normally associated with mucking about with alien technologies one does not fully comprehend.

So what we’re really getting at here is, as a geek, I am sadly lacking. I continue to poke at Chrome, and I am finding it a slightly different beast on my work computer (which is a Mac) than I am at home (a PC). Wrestling it into a form on the Mac similar to what I was using at home was more involved than I had assumed, but the dust has settled, I’m still standing.  I’m looking at an extension list quite different from what I use at home, because I use Chrome for different things at home, and that is one of the best things I’m finding about the browser – I am loving the customization. There have been a few times I’ve been surprised by what it won’t do – with an unspoken “yet!”  lurking somewhere in the background – but overall, I guess I’m ready to be welcomed into the fabulous world of  2008.

And I’m going to take another crack at that Scott McCloud comic. Maybe I got smarter.

Aw, Poor Geek

Yesterday was a day of surprising highs and lows.  Finished the dinosaur story in one day instead of the expected two (the music of Akira Ifukube was a definite help), and the response to it was quite positive. Then off to avery nice lunch meeting, and an afternoon that ended in severe disappointment when I discovered we had been misinformed, and my cell phone account was not yet eligible for an upgrade. Especially sorrowful, as I had been playing with the display Droid while waiting. Sob wail choke boo hoo.

So close. So. Very. Close.

If there’s any upside to the gadget-lust heartbreak, it’s that by the time I am eligible, the next generation of smartphones will have been out for a few months, and I’ll be a little snappier for it. In the meantime, I soldier on with my Crackberry.

There is nothing wrong with Crackberrys, per se – the Blackberry is a damned fine smartphone. I love mine almost unreservedly. The “almost” comes from a flaw in the Tour model, which renders my trackball occasionally – and by occasionally, I mean far too frequently – unusable horizontally, reading rightward motion as leftward. When I correct my tweets or e-mails, I have deleted entire lines of text rather than try to wrestle the cursor to the point I require. There’s a reason all the newer models have a touchpad instead of a trackball. Past that, the damned thing’s magic.

But the Droid is close to black magic.

Lisa continues to improve; the majority of sugars have fallen below 100, and when spikes occur, they’re below 200. I’ll take that, gladly.