Walking Dead Tech Giants

Why are HP, Cisco, EMC, IBM and others the walking dead? See also Dell’s purchase of EMC, of great local interest due to EMC being based in Massachusetts and my knowing people who work there.

You can’t stop innovation and change. You can sometimes come close if you wield government force (regulation, barriers to entry…) on your behalf, but even that might merely be a delaying tactic.


Despite having been a font fanatic, having done support for Microsoft, and having been a big fan of the Lucida fonts, which turn out to have ties to Wingdings, I had no idea the full story of the Wingdings fonts. The one thing I could have told you, as a matter of logic, is why dingbat fonts arose, even though I was unfamiliar with the history of dingbats in traditional print.

Computer Adventure

I don’t always have much to blog about here (oh, does it show?) short of keeping an eye out for appropriate links and actually remembering to blog them. I really don’t do work on computers on the side any more, and that tends to be same old anyway. I recently experimented with Ghost but forgot to post about it. I have a graveyard of computer carcasses and parts to go through Real Soon Now, making my room look like I’m a hoarder (if the shoe fits…), but until I actually mess with those, no news or entertainment on that front. I have needed to replace my last good computer, which died I believe 4-5 years ago, since then, and have relied on first one, then another hand-me-down laptop.

However, I just bought a refurbished laptop to use specifically for business. There’s room for the business expense against revenue, my personal machine is getting gummed up with working files, and my personal machine provides distractions I will avoid on a new machine. I figure I will get around to building a fresh desktop machine Real Soon Now, ideally before the personal laptop can fail, and be back where I belong. The personal laptop can be spare, maybe used in part by kids as they need one for school. We’ll see. I really want that physical separation, though, so the business machine is clearly for business, which has become blogging and web site editing/updates. I’m calling it all “publishing.” But I digress.

A laptop gives me portability if I need it. I can take it wherever to work, especially if it’s just writing. It also was what I could afford offhand, at only $220 for something not as much newer as what I have now that I had thought, but with much better specs. I noticed a lot of the refurbs have tiny hard drives, like 60 GB. I didn’t want to have to replace the drive right out of the gate, so I found one with 750 GB. The machine originally had Vista, which is what my dead desktop had. It now had Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. Being 7 or higher, that gets me a free upgrade to 10 if I want it. That’s the plan, though I want to get it configured and broken in some first.

Making a short story long, I have a ton of e-mail accounts coming to Outlook Express. I’ve used it forever, with one brief break of sorts, and find it comfortable. Aha! I had forgotten that when I got Vista, there was no Outlook Express. There was Windows Mail. That was close enough, but frustrated me terribly by being unable to port mail from Outlook Express.

Then Microsoft eliminated that, which I also had known and forgotten. Web web web. No! Web mail is a pain to use. Convenient. Good for low volume, single account users. But a pain.

Turns out it didn’t stay gone. So I tried installing it from Microsoft, which resulted in a big package of other stuff installing. Net result? No mail client. In the Windows Mail folder the only thing is Windows Address Book.

I have dowloaded three free clients. I had heard of none of them before, and they apparently didn’t exist several years ago when last I ran into this. Heck, that was probably 8 years ago. I’ll test and try to report on them here.

Then there will be the matter of making the machine usable. I have no actual room on the desk yet for it, and things will have to be changed a lot for dual machines to work. I look forward to forcing myself to focus by that being for work and this being for personal/fun use. However, the new machine will need an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. It will need a USB hub even more than this one did, since it had but one USB port. This machine sits on the desk as a clamshell. It doesn’t matter that the keyboard has issues. It doesn’t matter that the touchpad can’t be used to do certain things. It doesn matter that the screen is uncomfortably small – scary, since it’s far bigger than the new one, though at least that bodes well for portability. I can use Photoshop with the mouse and not be frustrated. I can really see web site pictures. Well, I need that for the business machine, but I don’t want to give it up for the personal machine (the monitor is a hand-me-down my father no longer needed, or I might never have bought one). So I have to buy at least four more hardware items for the new machine.

This is a good place to grumble as I go. Plus, hey, this is part of the writing for which the new machine exists. And updating, since there are some seriously outdated installs and themes. Stay tuned.


It’s an awesome program for editing things like HTML, CSS and PHP, for opening text files that aren’t in CR/LF format, and for search functions.

However, I am amused that the spell checker is in British English.

A Look Back At OS/2

This ends up being a look back at the entire history of the PC, to do it justice and give it context. Via Bill Quick, who used OS/2 more than I did: Half an operating system.

In my case, I had a friend who ran a BBS that gave me my first online experience, and he was an OS/2 fanatic and Microsoft detractor. One of the newsgroups he carried (or maybe it was a Fidonet group) was Team OS/2, for fans and users of the OS. This was int he lead up to the release of OS/2 Warp 3.0, which I went out and bought. That was just before Windows 95 released, after I’d been doing Microsoft Word support for nearly a year. After fifteen months in Word support, I moved to Visual Basic support, but not until I’d received pre-release training on Windows 95. I was blown away by 95, especially given the quality training and a degree of relatively inside insight into the OS.

I gleefully bought Warp and installed it on a 386 I was able to spare for the purpose. In retrospect, I was not sure this was entirely fair, as I installed 95 on a 486. I thought OS/2 was cool, and it installed without real issue, apart from duration. Thing is, it crashed readily. I was shocked it was so unstable, given the hype among the fanatics. By comparison, 95 was a rock. It took almost no time for me to abandon even playing around with OS/2, but I always felt that they could keep trying and it would be great to have the competition.

Some of the details in the article are news to me. Some are not. The heavy hand of the mainframe division of the company was always a factor in the PC division, and even more deadly when it came to OS/2. What a shame. I hadn’t realized, or at least hadn’t remembered, that there was ever any connection between Microsoft’s NT effort and OS/2, apart from competing. I know Microsoft spent what was a staggering sum at the time on developing NT from scratch, which paid off brilliantly.

Finally, it’s easy to look back more dispassionately on Microsoft, now that they remain big and powerful but are no long scarily “monopolistic” in the post-PC era.

Firefox 4

I upgraded to Firefox 4 yesterday when prompted, with mild trepidation, but excited about what I’d read of its ability to eliminate the need for things like Flash, using functionality native to HTML 5.

So far so good. I haven’t hated it enough to go back. It does seem to load pages faster, which is always a plus. It’s tough getting used to the interface changes, some of which may not be gratuitous. YMMV. I hate the gratuitous change of menu position for opening in new tab versus new window on the right-click of a link. My surfing is a rapid series of right-click then click on 2nd item in menu. Every time I forget it changed, many times a day, I get a new window and I get annoyed. That may be recognition of open in new tab as the new normal, but it handicapped me for the moment.

There are shortcuts otherwise, like Ctrl + and Ctrl -, or Ctrl and the scroll wheel on the mouse, but I hate my zoom toolbar button add-on being disabled. I never got used to having scroll mice and am as comfortable with the old style. Surfing is a mouse-driven activity and pausing to hit keyboard shortcuts is a discontinuity. Much as it’s a discontinuity to have software in which a lot of typing takes place and most things are done with keyboad commands, then have some vital function that needs to happen regularly and can only be done by stopping to grab the mouse.

I am not sure I see the point of condensing the toolbar or moving the tabs. It confuses me and slows me down every time I want to switch or close tabs, and it feels harder to tall at a glance which tab is active.

I don’t miss there being a status bar, and rather like the tooltip style display of URL at the lower left when hovering over a hyperlink. I’ve been told there are add-ons for changing elements of the UI back to the way they were, so if I have not become comfortable with one or another after a while, I could look into that. I suspect I’ll be fine, though.

No idea how it will run on a slower machine. This one has Vista, 3.2 GHz CPU and 2 GB RAM. We haven’t tried it on the 2.4 GHz XP machine that only has 512 MB RAM and, interestingly enough, gets bogged down beyond belief by Flash. Since it’s possible to revert, we should probably try it.

First Real Vista Complaint

I have a history of paying retail for versions of Windows that are later considered duds, whether I have issues with them or not. Well, if two in all can be called “a history.” I bought WinMe when it was current, and when I built this machine, I bought Windows Vista Ultimate. The machine with Me had no issues… until it died, no fault of Windows. Hardware.

This machine has also had no real problems. I could see room for improving the OS, but maybe not the excoriation of it that happened. But if that led the what seems to be an amazing outome in Windows 7, all to the good.

Anyway, I have twice recently needed to boot into safe mode.

Both of those times have left me in the Windows Classic appearance. Not that I’d modified things before the first time it happened. After the first time, my six year old daughter art-directed me to her liking. New wallpaper. New colors. Not bad, but wallpaper made seeing the desktop items harder.

It did it again. How hard is it to retain changes to the appearance of Windows? And not merely betweem version upgrades, but between boot variants on the same install!

Also, I have noticed that when you first bring up Personalization, the “window color and appearance” option takes you into an entirely different set of options that it does later, once it saves your initialy changes as a “modified theme.” Then to get back to some if not all of what you’d played with before requires choosing “Themes” instead.

Now I need to go change my changes, since I seem to have made text in BlogDesk harder to read…

Brother MFC-240C

I hooked our new scanner/printer/copier/fax up today. It was delightful to be able to locate the fact that installation files were available for Windows Vista and download them from the company painlessly. The CD said everything through XP, so I was mildly concerned, but they’re working through their product line and released this one way back in March.

Apart from the fact that we have kids and limited space, it was pretty smooth. I hooked it to the Vista machine because that was where the device would fit in the room. I still haven’t setup the fax part, or programmed the date, but I’ve done so on similar machines for other people and it should be no big deal.

I made a color photocopy of Sadie’s drawing that included an apparent intentional stegasaurus in one corner, and Deb didn’t realize I was showing her the copy when I took the two of them to her with the copy on top.

This should be handy. I can start scanning in old photos I don’t want to lose, for instance. I can make printouts, even if low quality, of pictures of the kids to give the relative heathens who aren’t online.

I also have projects in mind like scanning in old handouts and training materials some of us created for VB support way back when.