scribbles tagged ‘computers’

rough surface

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Since September 2013 I’ve been using a surface pro 1

4 frowns (NO! It’s just wrong) ūüôĀ ūüôĀ ūüôĀ ūüôĀ¬† Rating scale explained

In 20yrs of buying computers, this computer ranks as my single worst computer purchase. Expensive and ‘unfinished’.¬† The Microsoft surface range is already on Version3 and the company no longer manufactures compatible power-cables – that fail within 8 months anyway.¬† My current power cable has just died. This means I either have to get a new PC or try another power cable made by someone other than Microsoft. The last non-Microsoft produced power cable I tried lasted all of 2 months.

Furious, I was

When I first got the thing the software was all buggy, it took nearly a year of updates to get that working smoothly.

During skype-calls with mum, progressively we encountered problems where she could hear me, I couldn’t hear here her. Rebooting my surface solved the problem. Sigh.

The top volume has always been a bit too quiet for listening to music or watching films. I’ve been using a jambox to get a better volume but the sound keeps cutting-out, even when the Jambox is physically connected to the surface. It gives the impression that the hardware was too poor quality for sound production.

What to do now?

Microsoft will give me (up to) $150 trade-in on my current surface if I can take the risk that they’ve actually acted to change all the problems with the surface 1.¬† I’ll get a year’s free subscription to office 365 and free upgrade to windows 10 when it’s released.¬† Windows upgrades are not something that I enjoy spending half my weekend doing… I’m not sure $150 will cover the inconvenience because I have to mail them my old surface for them to assess if I’m entitled.¬† That means…

  • finding packaging, wrapping it, taking it to the post office, paying for the mailing.
  • Worst of all, that means being without a personal computer for how long? Days? Weeks?
  • I don’t get the advantage of checking the contents of my old computer against the contents of my new one

Oddly, there is still a risk I might buy a surface pro 3. I call this risk ‘optimism’ and a belief that Microsoft learns quickly from it’s mistakes..

Really, I don’t want a sensible plan, I want a new computer NOW!

rough surface
4 votes rating 3

3 bits of fabulous banter »

Buying a computer in John Lewis’s

Monday, February 10th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

We wandered around the computer displays.

Wendy: which one do you like mum?

Mumsie: I can only choose based on how they look dear

Wendy: They’ll all work for what we want them to do, so that’s an ok way to choose

Mumsie: This one has a big space-bar, I want a big space bar. Why is that one [an Apple] so expensive?

Wendy: It’s for people who like showing off that they can pay a lot for their computer, I can’t help you with using that one, I can help you using with all the others.

The large store was very busy in January. We asked for an assistant and were put in a notional queue, we browsed while we waited for an assistant.

Assistant: How can I help you?

Mumsie: I don’t know, we want a computer with a keyboard

Wendy: Mumsie wants to do emailing, share her digital pictures, use Facebook and write the WI minutes. And I don’t want to push her into getting anything she doesn’t feel comfortable with

Mumsie: Oh, is that what we want?!

Assistant: You want a Surface RT, it comes with Microsoft Office installed for writing your minutes

Mumsie: Wendy, is that the ‘Word’ thing that I use? I just copy last month’s minutes and make small changes each month

Wendy: Yes mumsie [turns to assistant] Do any of the others have a version of word installed, and how much would it cost to add Word [annoyed because my surface pro didn’t come with any version of Office, just the option to purchase the full version]?

Assistant: Only the surface comes with Office installed, it is a reduced version but should be sufficient for your Mum’s needs. You’d have to buy and install it on other Windows8 machines

He started talking about Bluetooth and other technical features at this point and I could see mumsie getting disengaged.

Wendy: can mum have a go with it?

He took us to see three Surfaces, each with a different coloured keyboard. Mumsie really liked the keyboard because it had a decent space-bar, but mostly because it was backlit so the letters on the keys were really easy to see. We bought the surface¬†because the value for money and enabling mum to keep using word was important.¬†¬†Then on with the shopping, we¬†wandered off to look at the winter coats. Mumsie carried the surface easily around the store as we continued browsing. Nice. It was like buying a computer had become just another thing you buy on a shopping trip. A bit scary for mum, but it was my money so it all went smoothly. The package even fitted under the table in John Lewis’s caf√© as we stopped to treat ourselves to coffee and cheesecake. Mum doesn’t use a walking stick, but if she did she would have been able to carry the surface easily around John Lewis’s. Well done.

I was a bit scared about how right the Surface RT would be for her, I¬†would soon¬†find out, but that’s another blog post…

Buying a computer in John Lewis’s
3 votes rating 5

5 bits of fabulous banter »

car over football

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

what does it mean?Mumsie: But how do I keep the email address so that I can find it again?

Wendy: You can ‘Save’ it in an address book on your computer. Can you see anything here that suggests ‘save’ or ‘keep’?

Mumsie: No

I look at the symbol of the floppy disk and wonder what dipstick in the Microsoft visual design icon set development team thought that a floppy disk would be meaningful to youngsters who’ve never seen one and oldies like mum who’ve never used one. While I can’t imagine a universal symbol for ‘save’, ‘keep’ or ‘store’, this symbol clearly misses the mark now and will miss the mark even more with the younger generations to come.

Wendy: What does that look like?

Mumsie: the car driving over the football?

Wendy: Yes! Brilliant, that’s exactly what it looks like, a ‘hummer’!

Mumsie: What’s a ‘hummer’? Someone in a choir who’s forgotten the words?

She’s quickly learnt the symbol now I’ve told her that it means ‘save’, the car saving the goal strike. Mumsie is very bright. Gotta love her and question who was recruited by the windows 8 user testing team¬†to test the legibility of¬†this icon.

car over football
5 votes rating 5

1 wonderful musing »

Surface Super FAIL

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

The default (Microsoft) App for

  • mail crashes everytime I paste a link into an email, which is for most emails
  • calendar crashes every time I paste a link into a calendar invitation

Surface shipped too soon. I’m not a Beta tester, I paid full price for this half-baked product. Those are bugs that should have been found during the internal use, before even going to Beta testing or Preview. I’m Furious and want to return the machine and get my money back. Meanwhile, @surface behaves as if my anger is an opportunity to uncover the bug reproduction steps, to waste my time on something they should already know because its such a consistent behaviour.¬†How to make¬†a furious Wendy¬†fume even more!


Surface Super FAIL
1 vote rating 4

3 bits of fabulous banter »

hairstyle as behavioural indicator

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

You’re not quite as wild as your hairstyle suggests

Wendy bringing the Tea in Hawkins cafe June 1986My PhD supervisor observed 2 months into my PhD. I think he was a bit disappointed. I’d learnt that a key part of his interview process was to judge a person by their hairstyle.

I’d worn all green to my interview, with a large black belt and my back-brushed hair included streaks of green to match my outfit. I’d adapted gothic and rebranded it with¬†a green theme. The green streaks in my hair were an accident, but a pleasant one.

I’d seen an advertisement in the Guardian for a PhD on “Information Technology and Human Memory”. It sounded intriguing. The PhD I was currently lined up to do was:

  • sponsored by IBM
  • more money than my friends in employment were making
  • deadly boring – compare key-stroke mathematical equations that describe human interaction with the computer and find or develop a better model
  • stupid – even in 1986 I knew that there are things that influence human behaviour with a computer which are much more significant than keystrokes

So I was looking for something better. I wrote to the Psychology department asking for more information and bleached some white streaks into my black and orange hair (pictured). Next day I received a phone call asking me to come for an interview. Perhaps I should tone-down my appearance for an interview. I bought a brown hair-dye and died it to what I thought would be normal. Brown hair die is made from green and red colours. The red colour is very sensitive to the pre-existing bleach on hair, it doesn’t ‘take’. The green dye has no problem taking. Instead of turning my bleached streaks to a suitably humble brown the dye turned them green. Ho Hum. Too late now, I’ll go to the interview as normal me rather than professional looking me.

What a fun interview. The interviewer opened by asking

Wendy, is the paperless office a realistic goal?

We chatted about this and agreed on reasons why it was not the right goal, but it could happen. Finally I asked,

So what exactly is this PhD on?

Oh, that’s up to you, anything as long as it involves psychological theories of human memory and IT


This was the PhD for me, freedom to follow what interested me and what I might come to believe in with an excellent thinker to work with and guide me.

An excellent thinker who liked whacky hairstyles.

hairstyle as behavioural indicator
4 votes rating 4.8

2 bits of fabulous banter »

Office365 takes me back to the future

Monday, March 11th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

The default time on my work computer appears to have reset itself in the past. My Office365 email account appears to use my computer time to judge my local time. So emails sent to me today were all listed as arriving tomorrow. Got to love the Microsoft programmers logical and humorous way of dealing with this!back to the future

Office365 takes me back to the future
rate wendys scribble

1 wonderful musing »

more ungraceful failure messages

Monday, February 18th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Sparkle is running smoothly but there appear to be a few hiccups among the internet services Sparkle uses. Here’s a selection of recent bumps from McAfee, Optimalworkshop and SharePoint services and

MacAfee providing life safety instructions instructions for life More Sharepoint Errorness Oracle Error

McAfee is just being darn mysterious. This message lead to a support call. Optimal workshop eventually provided a rather nice personable note about their server being confused, they helped their server out quite promptly. To get SharePoint access I moved to another computer which solved the problem. Oracle’s messaging reminded me of the 1980’s. I’m so glad that most of the world has moved-on. Bu would appreciate a concerted effort to start including graceful failure messages.

more ungraceful failure messages
1 vote rating 4

6 bits of fabulous banter »

the blue flash of colonel panic

Sunday, January 13th, 2013 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

Blue Screen of DeathThe Blue flash of colonel panic is not a military award, one of the X-men,  X-women, a Transformer, or other superhero.

Windows 7 scary classic!

The file dump from Windows 7 “Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD)” happens so quickly that¬†we ¬†rush to capture an digital image for posterity because maybe there¬†will be a generation of computer users that have never see a blue screen. I hope so.

You can see the blue screen paparazzi in the reflection on an old Lenovo laptop. ¬†The windows 7 message is already teasing the user with more text than they can possibly read in the time it’s displayed! Squinting at the photograph I saw the phrase “BIOS updates” –¬†a phrase that produces a mild form of the gagging reflex.

Windows 8 is succinct, readable, understandable and less SCARY!

The message has changed for Windows 8, it looks like a more graceful failure¬†message because it has larger, more readable, and understandable text. It looks like they’ve actually written it for the normal people that will see it rather than for the developers. They no longer mention “Caching and shadowing”, “removing or disabling components” or the gaggable “Bios updates”.¬†¬†I wonder whether it’s still a ‘Blue Flash’. Excellent user experience enhancements.


the blue flash of colonel panic
2 votes rating 5

6 bits of fabulous banter »

dad’s been jackanaped

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

The sender of this email agreed to let me publish it because he’s entertaining and talking about buying a PC from PC world:

My Dad just bought a new computer, without asking me first *facepalm*.

He went to PC World and some jackanape sold him a win 8 machine. Apparently it’s ‘in the cloud’ and ‘blazingly fast’, something my dad doesn’t understand but was convinced is a good thing.


To cut a long story short, my dad has come to visit and is begging me to put win 7 on it.

He said ‘it took me 45 minutes to find the control panel on it and i’ve been deleting stuff but noting makes that f*cking screen go away’.

Thanks MS. Thanks PC World.

Sent from my phone


dad’s been jackanaped
2 votes rating 4

5 bits of fabulous banter »

have some babies for windows 8

Friday, November 9th, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Windows 8Several things make me think that Windows 8 is not for me.

The UK advertising campaign is my main source of thinking it’s not meant for me. For example, in an advertising email Microsoft appears to¬†be suggesting that Windows 8¬†has been designed for either:

  1. young women who can afford to have kiddies who wear smart clothes indoors on the bed, or for
  2. people who want to have a young woman with a kiddie who wears smart clothes on a bed.

I am neither of these things – but I can afford a decent personal computer, unlike many of the young people who can’t afford to leave home let-alone have a kiddy.

The promotional picture of the UK Windows 8 upgrade website is equally excluding me from its focus. Below we see¬†what looks like a young family, a beardyman wearing pink corduroy flares, a woman with a strappy dress and a child with a big smile. They are all bravely ignoring the wind storm that is about to take¬†down the palm trees in the background. Is this¬†the¬†Windows 8 user-group or¬†representing their aspirations.¬†I am very far from being either of these. I wonder if it’s Microsoft’s imagination of what they aspire to have their users be like. Tush. I can see I’m a disappointment to them – too old with insufficient babies.

Windows 8 upgradeI’m a bit peeved at this¬†persistent exclusion. When you see their TV adverts¬†for the¬†Surface, it gets worse. I’m not ready to go there yet.

Looks like my next computer will be the Nexus 7. Ironically,¬†a friend who’s a recent mother¬†is raving about how she can feed the baby with one arm while using the Nexus with the other….


have some babies for windows 8
2 votes rating 5

6 bits of fabulous banter »

welcome Sparkle!

Monday, November 5th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Sparkle on my tableSparkle a ‘Champaigne’ coloured Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook running windows 7 home premium¬†joins my list of personally owned¬†computers, dating back to 2004. Hooray!

Here’s how it all started:

In 2004 my¬†employer provided me with a really good laptop and didn’t mind me using it at home. No need for a 2nd computer.¬†¬†Until a¬†17 year old Swedish exchange student moved into my life, my home. My official role was “Host Mother”.¬† I didn’t think I’d be chosen when I offered my skills to the local Scandinavian society:

I drink, I smoke, I work long hours, live alone with 2 cats and have absolutely no experience of being a parent or living with teenage kids except with my brother but that was over 20 years ago so it doesn’t really count. If she and her mother are OK with that then I guess we can work something out

Much to my surprise, and slight horror, they choose me Рfor a year. At work my Canadian manager  told me I was crazy.   Unconvincingly, I tried to reassure him:

She’s a half Finnish Swede, studying cookery, we’ll work something out


You’re crazy, I left Scandinavia to get away from the bossy women and you’re inviting one home!

When a 17 year old moves into your home, is studying at Redmond High School¬†(almost everyone’s parents work at Microsoft), you have to make sure they’re equipped with a computer.¬† I bought a HP Compaq and set-up a home wireless for her. She would be able to do schoolwork with privacy in her room, or join me on mine downstairs. There were times when we sat next to each other on the Sofa using MSN Messenger to talk to each other.¬† It was surreal and fun.¬†When she left, she left the laptop.

Quickly I got used to personalising the machine and not carrying my work laptop home.  I started blogging and met other people who had their own laptops and blogged. I was hooked.  Sparkle makes me smile, helps me to sparkle.

Meanwhile, a few of you may remember my blogging from these laptops:

  1. Tinkerbell Silver HP Compaq Windows XP Home  Рsuicide in 2006 (Motherboard failure)
  2. Darling Maroon Sony Viao Windows XP Home  Рretired in 2008 (XP irritatingness Рtraded-in for Sparkle)
  3. Neverland Golden Sony Viao TT Windows Vista Professional Рsuicide in 2010 (Hardware failure Рpower socket Рmuch loved and missed)
  4. Cupboard Maroon Sony Viao Netbook – Windows 7 Starter – suicide in 2012 (Hardware failure – Screen-crack, touchpad left-click not working, some keys getting fussy and CRAP performance. I never liked the Cupboard much)

Can you guess how long I expect Sparkle to last and the likely main cause of her demise?

welcome Sparkle!
4 votes rating 4.3

11 bits of fabulous banter »

a few tricky questions

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

Display model (not powered-up)Before parting with my hard earned cash in return for a plucky little champagne coloured Acer Aspire S3 with an Intel i5 processor there were a few tricky questions that the store staff were well placed to answer.¬† Here are the questions I asked and the sales assistant’s answers:

  1. Does the ¬£150 trade in money back offer apply to all of the new PCs on display? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)
  2. Are there any conditions on the¬†trade-in of a laptop? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)
  3. The free upgrade to Windows 8, do you do that in the store for me or do I have to take¬†the new machine¬†home and upgrade it myself? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)
  4. How do I get to the control panel on this Windows 8 machine? (she showed me some Windows 8 features)
  5. Do you have one of these in stock? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)

She was trying hard. She was very personable, probably new to the job. I smiled at her and waited patiently while she researched the answers to my questions. I hope I was reassuring because she must have felt a bit bad about not knowing the answers.

I walked out of the store with a box under my arm, £350 on my credit card bill, and a smile on my face.


a few tricky questions
1 vote rating 4

2 bits of fabulous banter »

BONKERS price matching

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Sparkles boxFrom all the advice and a bit of playing with some Windows 8 laptops in store my plan was emerging. Fermenting ideas. The strongest ideas bubble to the top. The bubbliest plan is to buy:

  1. Windows 7 laptop Рwith hardware that meets with windows 8 requirements
  2. Intel i5 processor as minimum РI want fast
  3. Something pretty – not chunky but doesn’t need to be too small as long as it’s light enough not to pull my shoulder muscles
  4. Find a way to take an image of the Windows 7 drive then use the free upgrade to Windows 8 and take an image of that.  Try it out and go with my preferred image.
  5. Ask for the Google Nexus 7 tablet as a birthday or christmas pressie.

I LOVE my plan.

Gosh, I’ve gone and gotten all happy and I haven’t even spent a penny yet!

I know which of the in-store laptops¬†were most appealing and an online search found that even the manufacturers refurbished version was ¬£200¬† more than the instore model I’d seen, and that was BEFORE the ¬£150 cash-back trade-in on my ‘old’ laptop.

All the online versions were not only more expensive, they were¬†quoting a 3 week delivery period, what’s up with that?!¬†¬†Walking out of a store with a¬†laptop under my arm¬†is the cheapest¬†and quickest option!¬† Thomas and I roll up at¬†PC world who are¬†selling the Acer Aspire 3 for near ¬£200 less than¬†thier ‘Currys’ store.¬† Oddly,¬†Currys had a price match promise – but why buy more expensive and have to claim the money back in a price match within the same company – BONKERS!

BONKERS price matching
1 vote rating 5

4 bits of fabulous banter »

blue screen of temporary illness

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , , , ,  |

PC demo zone on Windows8 launch dayEver since the Cupboard’s face got smashed in I’ve been asking friends and colleagues for advice on what I should do – what sort of computer I should get and when.

My UK friends give diverse advice which naturally mirrors their own preferences. Though the IT professionals¬†quickly get side-tracked onto talking about virtual machines –¬†getting terribly excited at the thought.¬†They seem to run substantial Apples with dual-boot¬†from which they control lots of virutal machines. Not really for me.

I’ve also been popping into local¬†shops that sell computers¬†– Currys, PC world, Comet, John Lewis .¬†¬† In these stores I get the pleasure of chatting to young handsome fellows who’re very excited about the prospect of being able to save up for an Apple iPad. Cute, but not actually too helpful for me – they aren’t good at ucovering my criteria and herding me towards one of their products. I’ve got wads of dosh in my pocket for something special, yet no-one’s selling to me. They’re selling to themselves. Most bizarre.

On the day that Windows 8 released I pootled along to Currys to play with a copy on their display machines. Everything started well:

  • No queue outside the store of people waiting to get their sticky hands on the new fancy OS. Such good fortune. I do dislike all the jostling and the lack of diversity when everyone plumps for the same thing. Even the store’s Demo stand was enticingly empty.¬† I felt good.
  • 5 assistants all ready to help me and the other customer in the PC section of the store. wonderful. I do like having someone on hand to spend time chatting with me – especially if I’m planning on spending more than ¬£200.
  • A queue around the Apple stand.¬† Baffling.¬† Such ugly and expensive machines. Still not much choice – they’ve side-stepped having to make all the decisions that I’m about to take on…. which manufacturer, which processor type/size etc. More spacefor me to explore!

Store copy of windows 8 on release dayI wandered over to the windows 8 laptops that looked about the right size and design funkiness. Oh, a small blue one with ripples on the lid (Acer Aspire One).  My first experience of Windows 8 was a message that says:

¬†“Automatic Repair couldn’t repair your PC

Oh how I laughed!

A young assistant noticed my standing looking at the computer, giggling,  he swooped in and offered his help.

wendy: is this manufacturer installed windows 8 or a windows 7 machine that’s been upgraded in the store?

assistant: it came from the manufacturer with windows 8 on it

wendy: it’s not working, that’s not good on a demo machine is it?

assistant: it just means it didn’t shutdown properly, that’s all, I’ll just reboot it


I fell over


(no broken bones)

blue screen of temporary illness
2 votes rating 5

7 bits of fabulous banter »

Windows H8

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

In my research for¬†replacing my home laptop¬†I’m stumbling across a lot of scathing press on windows 8. I’ve not seen or used a copy so this is all speculation based on rumour and such-like. I’m hearing that Windows 8 will alienate:

  1. current windows users migrating because it’s so different and current windows loyal customers are not seeking really different. Microsoft will alienate their core customer-base.
  2. software developers who produce the applications that run on windows because its a more significant investment (time and learning) to produce compatible upgrades of their programs.
  3. corporations who supply PCs for work because Windows8 is so different the cost of staff learning,  making mistakes, being trained, to use Windows 8 will be prohibitive.  Better to stick with, in many cases Windows XP  or Windows 7

I suspect Microsoft are trying to apply an approach that has worked well with the Office Ribbon. They deliberately chose to accept the initial backlash that comes when the first-use experience not optimised because they knew that once learned it the experience is significantly better for regular use. One suite of products, one release, one core user-group РCorporations. The Office user experience team undertook a lot of high quality research to make sure they knew the impact of introducing the Ribbon on ongoing productivity.

Does this strategy work for an operating system across multiple form-factors (phone, tablets, laptops, Desktops)?  Once Windows 8 has been on the market for 5 or more years will most of the use problems fade into distant memory? Assuming that Windows customers stick with Windows and undergo the pain while everyone adapts to the new interface, this could happen:

  1. Customers will experience of the new operating system’s interaction patterns on one or more devices and learn how¬†easy it is to¬†move between different devices re-applying the fundamental interaction concepts. Windows 8 will start to feel familiar and easy. Maybe it will even be fun?
  2. Software developers will have changed their development practices to align with the new Operating System requirements. New and innovative programs and updates will be efficiently produced. Maybe it will even be fun?
  3. Corporations research the total cost of ownership of alternative operating systems and realise that they are more expensive than Windows 8. Mainly because of things like outrageous hardware outlay costs (Apple) or lack of speedy, deployment infrastructures within secure environments. The need to shift operating systems will be becoming imminent as Microsoft removes support for the legacy systems that corporations will still be using. I have difficulty imagining that this could be fun.

The big risk that Microsoft is taking appears to be that in this time period¬†many customers¬†may have researched, learned,¬†built, commitments to other operating systems¬†(Mac, Android etc) and not be prepared to move ‘back’.¬† It’s a huge, brave,¬†bet by Microsoft. I hope they’ve done their groundwork research to know this is going to work.

I’m buying a computer in the next couple of weeks. Will it run Windows 8?¬† What’s your guess?

Windows H8
2 votes rating 5

7 bits of fabulous banter »

black screen of death – suicide computers

Saturday, October 20th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

Black screen of deathWhen I got to work I found the door kicked-in and half a dozen laptops stolen. Booo!

The desktop computer I was planning to use wasn’t stolen. Phew!

When I turned it on this¬†frustrating black message showed-up.¬†¬†Disbelievingly I rebooted the computer¬†3 x. Just incase. It didn’t make any difference.¬† Poo!taking the hard drive out to fix it

Our¬†IT department had a super-hero¬†taking-out the hard drive and getting my stuff on a working (Apple) hard drive, in less than 30 minutes.¬† Though I suspect that¬†actually having an external boot disc for the computer would have been much quicker.¬† But who uses external boot CD’s these days?!temporary replacement computer

After such a dramatic ‘where’s my computer gone’ day at work I was relieved to be home.¬†¬†The Cupboard had other ideas. She was considering a sympathy suicide. She¬†leapt to the floor. Bollocks. She may have shown me a blue screen of death, but all I can remember was¬†this monochrome thing when I attempted a reboot to fix it.¬†¬† She’s defintiely passed away.

Dad has always claimed that I have special powers over electrical equipment.¬†He’s an electrician, he knows these things. He says I can break electrical goods by merely looking at them.¬† I was never allowed to go near electrical equipment as a child.¬† At least it was for a good reason, not like –¬† ‘you can’t do that you’re a girl’. My life experience suggests that dad was onto something.

Cupboard bites the dustI need a new computer….. oooooeererrr.

Hooray!  New toy!

What should I get? ipad? Chrome thingy? Surface thingy?

black screen of death – suicide computers
2 votes rating 4

9 bits of fabulous banter »

tautological text

Friday, June 1st, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

I uninstalled chrome and all it’s components but apparantly this has left some unresponsive scripts that Mozilla kindly warns me about.

Unresponsive x 2An unresponsive script warning is  not responding

I have no idea what this message really means or the implications of my choice.¬† I wish it would go away rather than repeatedly popping up after my laptop has snoozed, then unresponding in a ‘get in the way’ tone. It’s a passive aggressive sort of dialog. Using its unresponsiveness to get in the way of my doing what I want to.

Pish and Tush


tautological text
rate wendys scribble

6 bits of fabulous banter »

Sony Viao Performance Enhancement Software

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Performance Enhancement SoftwareJust incase you thought eveything in the Cupboard was running smoothly, here is error of the day – the dialog text just never arrived, I waited about 5 minutes and the dialog eventually just disappeared of it’s own accord. It’s as-if the performance enhancement software just couldn’t be bothered to enhance performance….¬† ….a software equivalent of “whatever”


Sony Viao Performance Enhancement Software
2 votes rating 5

3 bits of fabulous banter »

Apple Software Update has stopped working

Saturday, February 4th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Apple Software Update FailJust incase you thought eveything in the Cupboard was running smoothly, here is error of the day ‚ÄúApple Software Update has stopped working‚ÄĚ. This is how the story unfolded

Avoid using any Apple products or services because they:

  • are rumoured to treat their employees, vendors, contractors etc rather poorly
  • do not systematically promote and drive socially responsible behaviours – Bill gates rocks!
  • target being a monopoly. For example they undermine multiple hadware manufacturers. By contrast, companies such as Microsoft promote partnerships with other companies that sell Hardware (e.g. Dell, HP, Nokia, HTC etc). This approach enables those companies to thrive rather than competing with them. This strategy cost’s Microsoft in terms of time –¬†the liaison and planning¬†required and the lack of control leading to lack of consistency that introduces more potential for ‘errors’

Captured by BBC evil alliance

Unfortunately, when I started wanting to use BBC’s iplayer the only way to view the programs that my Licence had helped fund was to use Apple’s quicktime.¬†Furious that the BBC chose to align with a¬†company’s product rather than an industry standard. Darn, effectively the BBC was saying¬†download Apple’s quick time or eff off.

For a while I managed without the BBC iplayer and just fumed until the lure of quality drama on-demand got the better of me. I installed Quicktime and lost a little of my self-esteem in the process.

Pompositively indignant

When I buy or use Microsoft services, part of their profit goes to causes I support. Microsoft products may not be beautiful to look at and they may be error ridden but they genuinely show social values that I respect.  They can have my money and time before Apple anyday because of how they spend my commitment


Apple Software Update has stopped working
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beep beep machines

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The Beep Beep MachineThe ACCU (Adult Critical Care Unit) was full of Beeping, flashing, colourful, dynamic machines. Gadget heaven. The nurses were all very modest about their ability to read and use these fancy computers.

This is Tiger’s very own beep-beep machine. The yellow light at the top-right changes colour from green through yellow and finally to red when any of the meters plugged into Tiger measure something out of acceptable ranges. As we watched the beep-beep machine Tiger gradually learned how to make his vital signs move from yellow to green. Awesome!

The nurses could gather an impression of the patients status just by listening to the beeps. They could tell which machine, patient, from the direction of the sound and quickly check the lights and displays visually for confirmation. All very imrpessive

Unfortunately the noise keeps Tiger awake… and the songs of all the machines on the ward are sending Tiger messages. He thinks they are saying more, and more sinister, things than patients vital signs

I found the noise rather hypnotic, strangely calming. It was easy to imagine professional dancers swirling and leaping through the isles, coordinating their movements to the beep-beeps. My imagination is more kind to me than Tiger’s is to him

beep beep machines
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failure to display secruity and shutdown options

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

Failure to display shutdown and security optionsJust incase you thought eveything in the Cupboard was running smoothly, here is error of the day “Failure to display security and shutdown options”. This is how the story unfolded

Zap the unresponsive browser

I was getting impatient waiting for Firefox to decide to ‘respond’. Respond sounds like something a patient does to treatment. It’s probably an appropriate analogy for a wendy treating a computer. It feels like dealing with the dead when you’ve got an unresponsive program. I pressed CTRL+ALT+DELETE:

  • Control the computer – kick Firefox
  • find an Alternative way to do what I want to do
  • Delete the unresponsive program which the ‘task manager’ seems to call a ‘task’, loosing the medical analogy and shifting to what looks like Taylorism

I just wanted to stop Firefox and use another browser, not a computer based task and workflow analysis.

Wait for the darkness

There is always a ‘black flash’ before Windows 7 shows me it’s fancy blue screen with a list of ‘security’ options. The black flash is similar to the one I get before it shows me a dialog asking me to give some program permission to do something like install updates. Blackness arrived, but it wasn’t a flash. Layered over the top of the blackness was and XP Classic (i.e. Win2K) style error message which accurately recognised that I had just pressed CTRL+ALT+DELETE.

Boggle my brain-cells

The error message gives me three suggested actions

  • press ESC (Escape from what? the error message, Firefox, the computer, Reading town?)
  • restart the cupboard using the power switch
  • click the “OK” button

Hmmmmm. Which one should I try first? The

  • First suggestion (press ESC)?
  • Least dramatic suggestion (Click the OK button?)
  • The well-known troubleshooting strategy of switch everything off then turn it on again – and go off to make myself a cup of tea and ponder the meaning of life?

Being of an impatient disposition, when it comes to computers, I clicked OK which removed the black screen and returned me to the computer desktop and unresponsive Firefox. But what now? Should I now press ESC? Pah, I want the task manager, so I tried CTRL+ALT+DELETE again, and “Hey Presto!”¬† this time I got the black flash followed by the Security and Shutdown options

I wonder whether the task manager is a security or a shutdown option? Certianly I use it to shut things down, so it’s probably a shutdown option….


failure to display secruity and shutdown options
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9 bits of fabulous banter »

McAfee is a desktop BULLY!

Saturday, January 7th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

McAfee bullies its way onto my desktopMcAfee thinks that I need a shortcut on my desktop for quick access to it’s internet security software.

I disagree because I:

  1. can easily find McAfee with one-click from the desktop  from a system tray icon- the desktop shortcut is redundant
  2. NEVER need one-click quick access to McAfee – when it isn’t already open
  3. keep a clean desktop – it has no shortcuts or documents on it. I find this aesthetically pleasing and it doesn’t interfere with what I’m actually doing

But McAfee is not content to simply disagree with me, it proactively bullies me! Рeverytime I delete the desktop shortcut Рit REPLACES it!!!!!   This is worse than merely ignoring my request Рthis is reversing my request, ignoring me with knobs on!

Luckily, I’m prepared to spend time playing around in software settings, so I set off to find the “Don’t automatically place a shortcut cut on the desktop” setting in the main program.¬† Guess what? There isn’t one!!!!!! It take a lot longer to find out that something doesn’t exist, then to find that it does, because it requires a complete, exhaustive, search. That makes me 700 exclaimation marks ANGRY!!!!!!!

Maybe I can suggest to McAfee that they change this poor user experience, or maybe they can tell me how to remove the pesky, unnecessary, irritating, shortcut. A trip to the McAfee website might help. What do you think?

I had to install “Citrix Gotoassist” before I could chat to my “representative”. If this software is an integral part of the McAfee service then it should be pre-installed with the application and available from within the application. This would reduce the number of technical hoops that the wendy has to jump through when she needs support. It would also reduce the time taken to get first-time support.

My representative told me that the design team are working on an improvement that will be included in the next automatic update. Excellent.

If McAfee had employed user experience experts to review their software they would never have made such a basic software design error in the first place.

My security software should be inobtrusive, it should be there and accessible. It should not be bullying me and requiring me to install extra components before answering my support questions. Generally a very poor show by McAfee


McAfee is a desktop BULLY!
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8 bits of fabulous banter »

the cupboard has a hangover

Sunday, January 1st, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

The year started well as I rolled out of bed in my warm brushed cotton, red tartan, pyjamma set. Mumsy buys the best christmas pressies with her Marks and Spencers loyalty card. As the teapot brewed I lifted the cupboard‘s lid and logged in.

.Net error messageThe warm, fluffy feeling started fading as Microsoft’s .NET framework announced an ‘unhandled exception‘ in MY ‘application‘.¬† My cheeky little application had the afrontary to so something without proper handling? Naughty!’

This verbose .NET Framework message appeared to offer me 2 choices in the first paragraph:

  • ignore this error (continue button)
  • force my application to close (quit button)

The second paragraph is written in jargon about turning on functions, configuring, clients, trace-logs and SDKs.¬† This is 2012, good practice for producing software error messages has been around for decades. Why is Microsoft still showing me outrageously poorly designed dialogs? Especially first thing in the morning of the new year.¬† pfft. I choose to ignore this message because it didn’t enable me to make an informed decision – which ‘application’ of mine is exceptional?


Firefox crash reportA few moments later I got a BIG clue about the exceptional¬† ‘application’. Mozilla:

  • raised it’s hand with a message
  • started its conversation with me by¬† apologising. Nice! This takes ownership for having caused the problem and sets the tone of the conversation with me as one of respect to me
  • tells me firefox will try to fix the problem – doesn’t expect me to fix it
  • politely asks for me to give them diagnostic information. Which I did

I really like the tone of voice, the attitude, of Mozilla when talking to me

As I poured my second mug of tea another potential culprit for the ‘application’ that Microsoft .NET framework found ‘exceptional’ raised it’s hand


The large, ugly, Sony Viao update dialog insisted that I update my netbook software then told me I had to reboot the cupboard.¬† It’s direct instructional approach feels rather rude. I follow the instructions because I’ve been trained by years of poor software to feel helpless and follow this type of condescending instruction

Viao Update

It’s like being in the 1990’s all over again

Do0-do Doo-do


the cupboard has a hangover
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Installing Summer

Friday, July 29th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚Ėą‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ‚ĖĎ 44% DONE

Installation failed
Error 404: Season not found. The season you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later …


(copied from a friend’s Facebook status)
Installing Summer
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6 bits of fabulous banter »

Do Androids dream of electric wendys?

Monday, June 20th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

While standing in the isle of a FGW commuter train from London Paddington I watched the young man seated beside me using his Blackberry phone. It looked like a mini Windows 95 – text-menu list overload! My gut reaction was yuck! The young man navigated the text-heavy grey menu with impressive speed. Clearly an experienced user.

Some of the things I love about my Android HTC desire are the way the designers have managed to

  • Use pleasing interaction styles –¬† I can gesture with flicks, stretches, squeezes. I can drag and drop all sorts of things across screens. I can use short and long presses on the screen to find different button behaviours. It’s fun to explore and learn
  • Create a simple, versataile information architecture. I don’t have to learn then relearn where everything is because everything is in a sensible place that’s easy to find and find again. The navigation system is clear and simple
  • Allow me to easily find and install useful, innovative, fun, relevant Apps. It’s my phone and it does what I want it to do!
  • Avoid looking like Windows 95, no battleship grey, no long text menus with uninspiring fonts
  • Include fun animations like the windscreen wiper blade running across the screen when its raining. I love how the designers have taken the notion of a dashboard design and then added a winscreen wiper extending the metaphor with humour. Fun!

My HTC Desire in the rain Hoorah for Android!

Do Androids dream of electric wendys?
1 vote rating 5

3 bits of fabulous banter »

computerisation increases paperwork

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

car on life supportAs I wait to pay for Thomas’s annual MOT I watch the Halford‘s service man sort through at least 10 pages of A4 documents, sorting them into piles, stapling them together. The queue of 6 people behind me is getting ancy. They’re leaning against the counter, the wall, adjusting their positions and loudly sighing.

Wendy: Wow! Thats a lot of paperwork

Halford’s Engineer: Tell me about it! You wouldn’t believe this company. All you need is a Tablet and one document, but not here. When they computerised the process it quadrupled the paperwork!

computerisation increases paperwork
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6 bits of fabulous banter »

the control key

Thursday, May 26th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

Time-off work to have a cold involves:

  • drink gallons of tea
  • sleeping
  • sneezing
  • working from home
  • making phone calls to co-ordinate town planners reviewing my pre-planning application for PV roof tiles
  • answering 3 urgent phone calls from “24/7 PC Care” about my infected PC -sounded like fraud
  • reporting potentially fraudulent phone calls to the local police

The potentially fraudulent phone calls were fascinating, I was trying to keep them on the line to find out about them  without revealing much about myself or my computer. It was tough. They quickly became irritated by my questions and in all 3 calls they got angry and hung up on me.

The calls went something like this:

Potential Fraudster: Hello, I’m from 24/7 PC care and I’m calling you because we’ve noticed that your computer has an infection

wendy: how did you find that out?

Potential Fraudster: Because you are a windows registered user

wendy: Oh, you have my registration details, so you know which version of Windows I’m using?

Potential Fraudster: No, we don’t have your registration details, but your computer shows as infected

wendy: how do you know my computer is infected

Potential Fraudster: if you turn your computer on and go to…

wendy: can you give me your company registration number and a call back phone number?

Fraudster: Yes, after we’ve finished mending your computer, see the key on the bottom left hand side of the keyboard marked c t r l That’s the control key


Be careful out there

the control key
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7 bits of fabulous banter »

Diesel Particle Filter Malfunction (part 3)

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Thomas alone in the Carparkwendy:¬† when I bring Thomas in for his new tyres I’d like you to upgrade the software aswell – but I don’t think I should pay for the software update

Service engineer: (disarming giggles) Good luck! You’re booked in

Diesel Particle Filter Malfunction (part 3)
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Diesel Particle Filter Malfunction (part 2)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

ParkedDuring Thomas’ annual service the battery was disconnected forcing his onboard computer to reboot. After reboot the Diesel Particle Filter malfunction warning still showed.

The mechanic said the filter looked ok. The nice chap at the Mini Dealership explained that the software might be malfunctioning and would cost me £90 to upgrade.

£90 for a software update!

What?! Software malfunctioning? Software not doing what it was designed to do? That sounds like a programming bug to me, a design fault. Software doesn’t suffer from ‘wear and tear’ like mechanical components. It sounds like Mini manufacturers, BMW, are passing on the cost of fixing their poor original workmanship to their customers! Atrocious. Most software providers release free fixes for software bugs. Hmmmmm…..

An internet search suggested that driving above 40 mph consistently for 10 minutes on a regular basis should burn-off the diesel particles and remove any mechanical problem – if one actually exists. There were lots of discussion forums talking about the warning light showing when there was no malfuntion on BMW cars. Consistent with an actual software design fault.

I changed my driving pattern to include regular periods of driving over 40mph for 10 minutes. Bye Bye to beautiful back-road Oxfordshire. The warning sign still showed. Sigh.

Time to re-visit those lovely chaps at MiniCooper Reading…

Diesel Particle Filter Malfunction (part 2)
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3 bits of fabulous banter »

usn journal verification

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

another file checkAfter another reboot and windows update

I was priviliged to again see the black screen of file verification. Apparantly my usn journal has been verified. Phew. Not that I needed to know about this. I’d rather they showed me a video of kitties playing, or potters potting, or even mentioned they are sorry for interrupting my usage.

usn journal verification
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