Friday, August 28, 2009

Windows Vista, How Do I Hate Thee?

Let me count the ways. No, wait, that'll take a couple years.

<-- begin techno-rant -- >

Since purchasing my new desktop computer, I have had problems with virtually every application I use daily. Most notably, iTunes and my Alphasmart Dana.

iTunes, I fixed, with the help of some really smart folks who knew how to rescue my MP3s from certain oblivion. My Dana is another matter. *sob*

I loved my Dana, but AlphaSmart has decided not to pursue a Windows Vista patch for this model, because they are pushing to get people to buy their new Neo. The Neo 2 has a smaller screen, however, and I don't feel it's fair that writers who use the Dana like me are SOL if they get a computer running Vista. My new desktop computer won't run HotSync either, which was a dandy little program that let you connect your Dana to your computer, and then electronically transfer all your writing files to your desktop PC, converting them as it went to .DOC or .RTF.

Can't do that in Vista. There's nothing out there yet that's capable of converting a file written on AlphaWord (they use WordSmart) from its native .PDB format to a .DOC or even .RTF. You can get an SD card (1 MB or less) and save all your files off the Dana to that, then plug it into your computer, but you'll still get a .PDB file that isn't properly readable by MS Word or Open Office. Does anybody recall that saying that your data is only good as long as you can read it?

You CAN right-click on the file once you've plopped it from the SD card into a folder on your desktop computer, and open it with a text editor like Notepad, but then you have to copy all that text to a new document in MS Word/OO and delete all the gibberish characters by hand. (It doesn't read the hard returns or italics or underlined text properly.) Then you can save the edited file as .DOC on your desktop PC. This is what I did, to rescue all my writing. Lucky for me, I didn't have much to edit because I updated so frequently and had backups I could just add the new text to. Still took me all night.

Any of this making sense? No? Just humor me, then. I'm always crabby when I have to waste good writing time making technology behave.

Anyway, I am eyeballing the HP Mini, or something similar, that will still give me a small and portable word processor, but play nice with my desktop PC when it comes time to transfer files. Too bad it will be so much more fragile than my Dana. I have dropped that sucker on a cement floor, picked it up, and continued writing with no ill effects.

I hold out hope that someday MS will release a Windows platform that doesn't require ten thousand patches, bug fixes, and updates the moment you get it. This could be a futile effort. Why has no one throttled MS for making Vista so unlivable? I miss XP. The more I know about Windows and Microsoft, the more I love open source software. Bleah.

<-- end techno-rant -- >

Hope your weekend goes better than mine! Heading off to the fridge now for a tiny bottle of Godiva liqueur ....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Looks Like A Pickle

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I went to lunch at a sandwich shop. With our sandwiches, we each received a dill pickle spear. Our two-year-old son picked his up and asked, "What's this?"

Normally, when he asks that about something he knows, it's just to get an answer. Thinking I was being smart, I asked, "What's it look like?"

"A pickle," said our son.

"What's it smell like?" asked my husband, clearly willing to play along with my game.

"A pickle," said our son.

"Then what is it?" we asked.

Didn't even hesitate. "A banana."

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Win! (iTunes Tech Support Loses): Problem #1 Solved

So, I bought my snappy new computer, and immediately ran into 2.5 biggo problems:

#1) iTunes version 8 won't read my songs on the Nano

I stood to lose over 400 songs I have amassed over the years. I called iTunes tech support - no help whatsoever. They basically told me, "Tough cookies." Then I checked in with the ol' Google, and found this article, which shows you how to pull all those songs off the iPod (including those purchased in other places than on stupid iTunes) - and for free. The whole thing's just a matter of plugging your iPod in, getting Windows to recognize it as a removable drive, and showing the hidden files. (A touch more complicated than that, but don't fret - there's a complete walkthrough even for us poor souls using Vista). So yay, my writing music is back on my computer, syncable to the iPod, and I can write. Which brings me to my next problem ....

#2) Vista won't recognize my Alphasmart Dana

Screech! This is how I write when I am not at my computer, and their patches at the Alphasmart website don't seem to be doing the trick. This is the older, 8 MB Dana. I am still working on a fix for this. If nothing else works, I might have to get rid of Vista and go back to XP, since Vista so far is sucking mightily.

#2.5) Why Microsoft sucks and Open Source doesn't

The third, less troublesome problem is that the Microsoft Works app (the newer version of the Office suite, including Word, Excel, etc.) that they bundled with this spiffy computer is a limited license. Once it expires, you're on your own, bucko, or you get to shell out the whatever-it-is-now that MS is charging these days to buy it - or hope your older MS Office suite disk is forward-compatible with your new computer. For the price I paid for this computer, you'd think MS could spring for a full license.

No problem. Open Office is a free, open source, never-have-to-pay-for-it suite of programs compatible with all MS suite documents. I highly recommend it for haters of Microsoft, or people who need an Office suite for any reason. Nice thing is, Open Office's Writer program can convert .DOC files to .PDF files, if you need that sort of thing. Open Office, I love you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Computer

I traded in the ol' dinosaur - finally - and got a snazzy new computer tower. Lots and lots more memory, much faster. Happy me! I can now work more efficiently, and actually click a button without waiting for a five-minute lag time.

I got it from Gateway, and I decided I love them as soon as I opened the box. NO Styrofoam in sight - just molded cardboard, which is recyclable. Yay, Gateway! You rock.

Hubby now has computer envy - but he's still the one with the bigger monitor.

That's next on my list. :)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wednesday Wit

A couple of laughs for you today, one toddler-related, and one writing-related:

Smart Boy

I was having a talk with my toddler earlier this week about ages. Lately, he wants to know how old all our family members and friends are. I went through the list one by one with him, including my own age (hint: it's between 30 and 40). About ten minutes later, he asked me again how old I am. Hoping to reinforce his memory, I answered, "I just told you, honey. How old am I?"

Without missing a beat, he said, "Twenty-one."

C'mon, how do you correct that without wanting to give your kid cookies? :-D

Rejection Ditty (to the tune of that Queen song)

Da, da, da
Another book bites the dust
Da, da, da
Another book bites the dust
And another "No" mailed, and another "No" mailed
Another book bites the dust
Hey, they'll reject you too
Another book bites the dust ...

(I'm considering writing the whole thing out, and singing it whenever I get one of those form rejections.)

Happy Wednesday, all! :)