Computerdammerung: The Twilight of the Magazines, the Computers ... all the beloved gadgets and lies and stories

“Dammerung” apparently means twilight, both dusk and dawn. ... Which is just to state the obvious, so far at least in the history of our universe: whoever departs the stage will be replaced. ... (But be sure to see my scathing analysis of Microsoft vs. Apple below.)

... But my tale is of the gathering gloom, the end times of the adorable Personal Computers, particularly as reflected in the sad evaporation of their chroniclers of so many years, the ever-impartial truthful faithful computer magazines. ... In the U.S. they are gone — and forgotten. ... PCWorld stood alone before it too translated to the internet around 9/13? although to be sure accompanied still by an occasional December PC Magazine, left on the bookstore stands by the clueless staff, as the pitiful Barnes & Nobles itself faces certain extinction....

And the computers aren’t really disappearing, either; they’re just getting so cheap there’re no obscene profits in them anymore! ... For years, Microsoft, hardware manufacturers, and computer magazines have stood athwart history crying “Stop!” whenever markets tended towards lower prices, and were surprisingly successful with that peculiar American combination of outrageous incompetence and straightforward monopoly collusion. ... But, finally, the dream is dying. ... First Moore’s law got sick, and then the Kredit Krisis Krunch attacked our condos and all that entails, and then — well people just won’t pay $1000s for stuff they can get for $100s.

The Golden Years: Money for Nothing!

In brief, the Microsoft racket (from Windows 3.1 to half-past Vista approximately) was like this: each generation of Microsoft’s operating system would, strangely, amazingly, never run on the next generation of hardware! Nothing would work! ... It was as if the hardware manufacturers and Microsoft conspired to make it so! ... Unbelievable I know, but I remember trying to degrade a Windows “ME” machine back to Windows 98, and the utter blank refusal I encountered; I had to reinstall ME and return the thing. ... W98, you must understand, was an infallible cure in those distant days, for sickly Windows 95 and even 3.1 machines; it would install on any hardware, recognize any modem, any CRT — it was the sovereign remedy! ... But not for the h/w the manufacturers cooked-up for the next Microsoft OS, in this case the execrable Windows ME which, even before Vista, was known as Microsoft’s Big Mistake. ... The reason it was this way was so people wouldn’t get strange ideas when they noticed how fast the old operating system ran on the new, Moore’s-law-improved hardware; they might think the new Microsoft OS was pointlessly encumbered with useless features just so it could justify more-expensive hardware!2

... The new OS software would supposedly run on the old hardware, and indeed Microsoft ’n’ the ever-truthful and enthusiastic computer magazines urged users to upgrade their existing operating system. However, the Moore’s law improvements in the new hardware that made it so desirable would, if you were stupid-enough to upgrade the OS1, actually make your existing hardware slower and worse: Microsoft, for some mysterious reason, always designed the new operating system so it required increased disk/memory size and graphics capabilities that would, somehow, result in an average new desktop machine @ around $1200 or more — as if, in some mysterious way, they and the hardware manufacturers were working together to make sure every new computer would cost as much or more as the one you bought two or three or five years ago, even ’though Moore’s law should’ve made everything cheaper! ... But your old machine would, typically, still have the pitiful amounts of memory and hard drive and graphics which cost $1200 or so a few years ago; hence, would run the new OS poorly, if at all....

The Moore’s law effect made the collusion less obvious: they weren’t increasing prices, they were just keeping them the same. The point of the ever ridiculous increases in the operating systems’ “power” — pointless graphics and flummery, and anti-features like DRM — was to give new hardware something to do: think Vista’s pointless transparency effect. ... This was necessary so people didn’t notice you don’t actually need much power to do the average spreadsheet or edit a document. At least since around 1989. ... In short, it was personal computer featherbedding! And planned obsolescence of course....

... And everyone was happy! ... And the computers stayed around the same price, even ’though they should’ve gotten much cheaper like what happened everywhere else — TVs, cellphones, music systems — during the same period....

The British

Fortunately, the United Kingdom has the blessings of socialism bestowed upon themselves, and equipment is about twice as costly as in the good ol’ USA. ... Hence they have numerous computer magazines which I can buy in US bookstores — not as many as there used to be, to be sure (or bookstores!), and the UK “high street” retailers are falling-over like flies, and basically the sceptered isle is not so insular they can’t see across the pond and the fate awaiting them. ... But they publish, and print beautiful 4-color ads, and propagandize relentlessly about how the public really doesn’t want cheap (that’s around $800 there) computers, and about how Windows 7, the Operating System to Come, won’t be anything like how that nasty Vista turned-out to be so sadly — although it’s really working great now with all the wonderful SPs! — and which they fellated in its turn oh so many golden ages ago....

So I plan to chronicle the ridiculous mendacities and obfuscations of the magazines and the industry, month by month, issue by issue, especially-amusing pretentious wacko puffery fantasy by fantasy — and conceivably make this site even less attractive than it is already! ... Elsewhere I’ve noted the demise of poor Dr. Dobbs, but suffice it to say there are no programming magazines anymore. ... I actually let my Microsoft MSDN subscription lapse, since it became such total puffery (The Tide Recedes). So that’s out....

And I should note that it isn’t just that everything’s gone to the internet. ... Expensive computers didn’t go to the internet; conceivably the competitive forces brought to bear by a relatively-truthful advertising medium help make computers cheap, but the internet doesn’t make them cheap. ... And “hobby” magazines still survive, most admirably Nuts ’n’ Volts, and I believe that when the storm finally calms there’s plenty of room for written distributed dead-tree content. ... Model Railroad magazine still prospers, for instance, despite their seeming best efforts to torpedo the thing; and there are other precious remnants, which the tottering elderly continue to subscribe-to and enjoy....

... But on to the mortuary! ... Let the hypocrisy begin!


PCPro 7/09

Our first contestant is, of course, the inspiration for the entire exciting Computerdammerung exercise, reaching an utterly dazzling level of hypocrisy which I don’t think I’ve encountered before! ... On page 121 in the 7/09 issue, Dave Mitchell is exercised by evil web entities that pretend to be unbiased reviews but are, shockingly, actually mere created fictions of the hardware manufacturers! ... I quote in full the actual last paragraph of his outraged lament:

Our advice to the people behind this new rash of "reviews" websites is to stop insulting the intelligence of your potential customers and stick to selling products. As for us, we'll continue to provide unbiased and totally independent product reviews.

I literally gasped when I read that, particularly the thrilling last sentence! ... Why, that’s tellin’ ’em, Dave, I mentally cheered. ... Pay no attention to those glittering 4-color ads surrounding your diatribe; why, you couldn’t be influenced by those things! ... And how can we be sure of that, you may ask, you cynical scoffers!?!?! ... Why, because Dave just told us, right there in black and white — and Dave — and PCPro, and indeed all the toilers and floggers in the vineyards of the great computer magazine industry — why they would never lie; they’re as truthful and honest as the day is long and the snow is driven!!! ... My goodness, Owen!!

... And they actually don’t have glittering 4-color ads directly around the article; I’m not sure that’s the intention, but perhaps they’ve sequestered the “business section” off by itself — well, no, there are ads in the section. ... Sadly, not as many as there might be....

I like PCPro; very informative, often has stuff I don’t see anywhere else — which, to be sure, isn’t that hard now that the magazines are keeling over; but it’s still amusing. I mean, I’m paying for it! ... But do they really expect me to believe this nonsense? ... Is it that they maintain, maybe, a secret personal reservation “well we don’t really lie when we compare one product to another, even if we do lie about the product category”? ... I.e., all the remaining magazines ballyhoo Windows 7 (well, except the proud Macintosh bunch) and, for all I know, it is wonderful — compared to the previous OS, Vista — which of course is all they can legally compare it to, at least according to the strict strictures of the very strict magazine review comparison code, as written in blood and four-colors somewhere. ... Thus, they aren’t actually lying exactly when they claim W7’s wonderful, even ’though they are aware that, for instance, compared to the many-years-patched XP, it might suck the big one. ... I’ve actually seen this kind of justification printed!

... And I am cruel: of course they puff the advertisers, including the Windows 7 juggernaut! ... If somebody doesn’t buy Windows 7 — and I fear they may not, despite or perhaps because of Microsoft’s and the magazines’ relentless puffery — they can forget about four-color ads, and start thinking about fast-food preparation....

But of course, that’s my subject: the end times....


Microsoft and the Giant Stupid Download

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 7:33 pm. It’s a stigmata of really bad software; I’ve known it for years, like an old cranky drunken friend. ... It churns and grinds and churns, and then, after just-enough time so you’ve gone away to do something useful like drink coffee, it pops-up a query, a question, something it deeply wants to know: “store the files in the temporary directory, or one you choose?”; or “are you ready to install our Stupid Program?” ... Anything’ll do; just so there’s a question, and the endless grinding process cannot continue unless someone shows-up and tells the extremely stupid software something. ... It’s like it’s lonely; it knows it’s stupid and ugly, and it just wants a response, any response, out of someone....

.... And what would the computerdammerung be without Microsoft, the King of Dumb Software? ... In this case, the giant software company really really wants me to download Internet Explorer 8. ... And Heaven knows, I’ve tried! ... Of course, once it’s installed, as usual I tell my firewall to block its every move, but I like to keep up and am happy to oblige the giant monopoly with my attic zoo of computers....

But on numerous occasions I’ve told them to go ahead, do what you will with me, and walked off to something marginally more productive, only to return at lights-out shutdown time to see a Very Important Question: Microsoft wants to send my user experience back to Microsoft and, after churning for a minute or a half or half an hour or who knows, they stop everything and ask me if I would like that to happen. And wait for the answer. ... I don’t know how long they churned or how long they wait, and my answer wouldn’t make much difference — because of course I just turn the machine off. ... No downloads today, kids!...

But I am confident I am not alone, and all across the fruited plain thousands if not millions of computer users have the same invigorating experience. ... There are many innocent victims customers who prefer to do giant Microsoft downloads when they aren’t actively using the machine, and the IE8 download is carefully precisely relentlessly brilliantly designed to make that approach impossible! ... I mean, you can’t buy stupidity like that! ... You have to cultivate it, year after year, raising it from a tiny pup until it dominates your corporation and all its works!


MSDN MagazineThe Big Question

Which is, is it possible to have a magazine makeover rate larger than unity? ... Microsoft Developer’s Network Magazine seems to be approaching that lofty goal in their 2/10 issue. ... Which is also the most boring I’ve seen in quite a while; I don’t think a single article was actually readable. ... And it seemed just a few makeovers ago that I recall promises they’d stop flogging Microsoft’s dubious technology-of-the-week and get to more serious stuff like us diligent professional developers need to know — but none of that! Silverlight and Managed Extensibility Framework uber alles! ... The latter “MEF” being one of those wondrous component systems that have all worked so well and been so compatible and that you can invest tons of treasure and labor in, and they’ll never never be obsolete, no sirree, they can last for weeks! ... The article actually admits those bad old things might’ve been a little annoying — but not this time!

... Ok since you insist, let me offer a fits-all-sizes critique of the typical MSDN — and other scammy floggy technical puffy — article:

  1. The title preferably contains undefined TLAs.*

  2. The first topic paragraph leaves you knowing less about the subject than you did when you started. ... Where once you were simply ignorant, you should now realize your entire endeavors in the field have been pointless, since all the smart kids are doing something totally new & different which you will never understand.

  3. Throughout the article, there must always be the underlying assumption that the best thing in the whole world is more and more complexity! ... It is so keen! ... Why be simple ’n’ easy, when you can be ridiculously complicated — in a dubious scripting language no less! — and get those big bucks from the frightened cowering businessmen? ... Who, nevertheless, for some obscure reason, seem to be so scarce on the ground these days?

*Actually MSDN magazine’s pretty good about #1; I mean, they do it, but at least they define the things near the beginning of the article. The more canonical technical puffery scam will just leave that stuff undefined forever, so you know what an idiot you are and go buy the guy’s book. ... Or better still, attend the expensive & obviously fraudulent seminar/conference!

... And then, after all these years of relentless featureitis, they are dumping the .NET language what MSDN was devoted to puffing?! ... Ah the shame....


Microsoft in 2014: VSO

Which is “Visual Studio Online”, a promotion for which no-doubt enticing programming environment I received in my hotmail (aka Microsoft email). So I said to myself, let us engage; I will submit myself as a willing sacrifice, and will get a Facebook account and “like” them, I will let them install their stupid Cloud free storage, and I will get an owenlabs.visualstudioonline.stupid domain or something....

But I couldn’t. They were too stupid. My first attempt to access their page hung-up; 2nd try worked, but they wouldn’t let me sign-in. Not with my hotmail account; not with an Office Dead account I once reveled-in and cherished. ... They knew me not; I was expelled from the tribe, the painted bird. ... Now I won’t claim I am a celebrity to Microsoft, but among the teeming billions of the earth, surely I am one of the more likely? And indeed I have trafficked with them, like so many of us, for decades. And their obnoxious web page made no effort to apologize and conciliate, and it’s a certainty that my experience is repeated frequently if not every second. ... Nope; stern and opaque; the Giant Stupid Corporation omerta....

I’d guess the VSO scam is just not assigned to their best and brightest. ... But I can’t recall I have ever encountered the B&B of Microsoft — where are they hiding? In what remote undisclosed outpost do they work their intricate and subtle magic? ... And now I haven’t a chance of winning that xbox or something, the precious prize that led me on....


Office Dead?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 3:53 pm. Gee, it’s such fun to beat up on Microsoft! ... And so easy! ... And this exciting example shows something the giant corporation does so well: abandon instantly anything. ... In this case, apparently, OfficeLive! ... (But please note my jejune effusions on How to Compete with Microsoft....)

I mean, here I thought the up-to-the-minute OfficeLive project was a going concern, out there beating the stuffing out of those sneaky no-evil google docs guys! ... But then Internet Explorer 8 (?) suggests “ask.officelive.com” is up to something — something no good, I’d warrant; something “not recommended.” ... They said it! ... I ignored them, as I confess I often do with Mother Microsoft; but wasn’t the least bit surprised to find the help still useless....

... Long ago and far away ....

Actually our story starts a week ago or so, when my email provider at&t sent me a “dear user” letter that numerous recipients including myself thought was spam, to the effect that at&t was translating to a higher sphere — yahoo — and, basically, didn’t want my crummy business anymore, and certainly wasn’t going to give me that free web site they’ve devoted all these years of hopes and tears to anymore....

So eventually I moved on to the glorious setting you are gazing upon now, with my own domain name like a real adult web pro, but along the way I tried a few free alternatives. ... Well, two:

  1. Google
  2. Microsoft

Now let’s compare and contrast the two giant companies’ approaches. ... Google offered a free site which one can only access through an icky-poo so-easy-no-one-can-use-it web interface. ... Microsoft, on the other hand, offered a free site which one can only access through an icky-poo so-easy-no-one-can-use-it web interface — and lied about it! ... They claimed we professional brilliant digerati could somehow copy our web junk to them, which junk we’d’ve prepared with our exciting professional tools (in my case Kompozer), all this by activating Microsoft’s “use your own design software” feature. ... So, see, there’s that “no-evil” thing: Google didn’t lie. ... Microsoft, preferring the tools of the evil one, did. ... It’s all so simple! ... But like traditional satanic powers, it’s not enough for Microsoft to lie to me; I also must be tortured....

(Incidentally, we don’t want people ftping to our free free free web sites we provide out of the goodness of our hearts, because they’d miss the important messages we like to sprinkle the proprietary web site interface with! ... Even ’though, in Microsoft’s case, we’re probably too stupid to make any money off of the advertising anyway.)

Totally Non-Functional In Every Microsoft Operating System

Yes; Microsoft’s free site was broken no matter what I tried — well, I didn’t try Windows 98; but I could have. ... And of course the help has been hijacked by heaven-knows what evil entities! ... But I downloaded and installed only two stupid things, which is actually pretty good for Microsoft (to fix Vista, you can download forever). ... Of course, I tried the downloads on, as usual (with Microsoft), numerous PCs....

And today I got the little folder thingey — or at least the link next to it — to show some signs of life! ... This is where we’re supposed to “drop” our files to access our free web site without the icky-poo non-advertising-related proprietary Microsoft tools. ... On XP, no matter my two downloads / installs, I don’t think it’s ever done anything; maybe once it hung-up the browser. ... You don’t get to see the folder unless you use Internet Explorer, because it’s so safe and all (as per beautiful picture above) but when, in Vista, I used the brilliant and svelte IE and clicked the little caption next to the folder icon, I got to see the remote folder, right there on my desktop just as if it were a local folder, so convenient and all! ... But when I dropped a file in it, I got an error with the usual implausible excuses. ... Windows 7 didn’t get that far: the id/password dialog kept reappearing, until it suggested I check “support at the bottom of the page”. ... So I clicked “support” at the top of the page, and got the beautiful and menacing webbery above!

... Of course, I haven’t actually tried Microsoft’s icky-poo so-easy-no-one-can-use-it web interface, but I’m absolutely confident it will perform flawlessly....

... Pointless Reminiscing ...

This reminds me so much of one of my early formative Microsoft experiences, with one of these Windows CE PDA thingeys. ... It “integrated” with windows — 98 I guess — so wonderfully you could hardly hold back the tears! ... I mean, it was a groveling atrocity! ... The dogs barked — blocks away! ... But it kept the purchasers locked-in, which is apparently the only thing Microsoft has in terms of long-range strategery....



The Journalists Wept

This is the saddest thing I have seen, in the sad sad history of the computerdammerung: the last flailing attempt of mainstream print journalists to preserve their waning world — with a gadget. ... The heart is wrung.

Not that the gadget is shabby or anything; it’s a surpassingly-cute gadget, and I wish it well. But the spectacle of the print journalists clinging to this machine, to save their sacred years of heroic and saintlike struggle, spreading the light of socialism through the ever-darkening shadows of the free-market world — words cannot express the poignancy.

... To be sure, the ad shows the New York Times, the arbiter of all thought in the known human universe, imprisoned in Apple’s latest iThing, but that presumably reflects a sense of tasteful self-sacrifice even in these pitiful scriveners, even in their last days: the first place in the lifeboat is offered honorably to their sister-in-liberalism....

That the salvation of a dying way of life will at last be found in a colorful lit-up screen, after decades of schemes to keep television and print afloat — I mean, those cargo cult guys weren’t that far off! ... Cargo planes were good; they would bring valuable supplies to remote islands. ... But they would never bring them forever to the naked savages under the empty sky, no matter how intensely they worshipped their imitation altar....3

And then under the wheeling heavens the years passed and they actually ran one of those stick-on ads over the cover of a New Yorker I got in the mail, puffing the wonders of Windows 8 — and, yes, The New Yorker....

The iPad/NYer Experience....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 1:37 pm. It is truly beyond belief. ... But I can report that after only half a day or so, deploying my years of computer skills, and random chance, I have managed to get my free digital edition of the NYer readable — kind-of — on my precious iPad 2. ... This is my story....

... At first, I could find no way to get from the “free” NYer App screen (on the iPad, in the App store) to actually download something. The LOL, as happens so often, showed me how: she accidentally pressed a button — she denies it, but it happens (to me at any rate) all the time, and she obviously did it while picking the thing up, before any intentional button-pressing — and the button she accidentally pressed was probably a little gray button at the top left of the screen that said “search”. ... True, it had a left-pointing arrow shape, which might have led the telepathic to sense that it magically led to the screen where I could actually download the free NYer app.

Which was not a free NYer app. It’s a scam, an advertisement, which will generously let you buy an issue, or enter your existing subscription information to get a free ipad subscription. ... So I tried to put in my info, having subscribed to the NYer, man and boy, for about 400 years. ... Foolishly, I didn’t see the button at the bottom of the screen where I could’ve entered my magic subscription ID number, so instead I laboriously entered my address. The NYer robot did not check this subscription info before forcing me to enter an email address and password for a required NYer “account”. Finally, when I clicked whatever I clicked, the robot said it couldn’t find my subscription. Which I typed exactly as it is on the mailing label of the NYer I got this morning.

And I couldn’t switch to the subscription number version of the form, to fix it! ... No no no, you’ve started with the address info, we won’t let you sneak around the back that way, you sneaky criminally-inclined would-be iPad NYer reader! ... So I deleted the “free” scam app, and regrouped in the Computer Attic....

... Try the 2nd ...

I have often found, with the iPad in our short time together, and with the Macintosh before, that it helps to get a real computer on the case, that is, a Windows-monopoly piece of junk I got at Walmart. ... To this faithful desktop device in the Computer Attic I consigned my NYer account login information — which I had cunningly saved on a real Windows-monopoly laptop downstairs, where I was attempting to use the iPad, so free and easy, in the gay and innocent morning, upon the arrival of my dead-tree NYer — as I say, I put my NYer login junk into a password program where it belongs....

I then proceeded to the starry web, on the Walmart monopoly Windows etc., and (1.) tried to login at the NYer (googled for “New Yorker login”), which failed, and (2.) instead created a new “account” with the data, so at least I would not be tormented again with that on the iPad.... (And fate laughed at me — laughed, I tell you!....)

At the keyboard of my pitiful macintosh imini, I got the “free” NYer advertising app again, and “synced” it to my beautiful gay iPad. Then, on the ipad, I went for a rematch, clicking the thing and I suppose clicking that “search” button; or whatever, or who knows? — but I insisted, this time, on the magic numbers part of the form hidden down at the bottom. ... And so it came to pass, that the form demanded my NYer subscription account number — without telling me which of the several numbers on my NYer label it was, and/or which part! ... These people are professionals!

... But I had not come this far for failure now! ... A moment’s googling on the real computer got me a page http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/digitaledition/faq where they told me which numbers to use. ... Indicating they know perfectly well people have no idea — of course! — but they left it out of the App anyway!!!! ... Oh so wonderful, in such an age, to be alive....

Tue 6/14/2011 1:20 pm. I MADE IT! I’m IN! ... I gasp with relief and astonishment....

... But Wait! ... No NO NO!!!! ... Not yet! ... I have to enter the email and password again. They did have an arrow pointing to where I was supposed to login, but first I tried “Current Magazine Subscribers” “Tap Here for Access to the Tablet Edition” — but of course, that was just a trick, to encourage me perhaps to subscribe yet again. ... So I got out of that somehow, got the correct login, managed to type my email and password yet again — and at last all the little magazine cover pictures said “purchased” instead of “buy”. ... I am so lucky....

... Of course actually reading it is absolutely awful. ... I mean, it’s really good at making sure you see all the ads. Which are very pretty, all lit up. ... A few days’ passing haven’t improved it. I discovered this morning that if I accidentally touched a cartoon, I was popped into a cartoon gallery of, I think, all the cartoons in the issue — which, if so, really hurts their chances, since I suspect some significant percentage of the readership would never bother if they can read the cartoons that easily! ... But numerous things appeared, disappeared, and didn’t appear without rhyme or reason. For some of this I acknowledge the lovely iPad’s contribution; it is hard to hold for any length of time, so that one tends to accidentally touch it and mysterious things happen. ... But the NYer seems to reach beyond that. ... It’s as if it’s the first experimental issue — which it well may be, I don’t follow that closely, but they seem to have been puffing it forever! And surely whole floor-throughs of silicon alley media geniuses were devoted to this thing + the united might of Conde Nast? ... One of my cranky suspicions is the writers did product testing; I mean, I can read my website for hours happily, never noticing anything wrong. Well, except for a probably unusual almost supernatural sensitivity to typos, once they appear somewhere public; if this site can be considered such. ... Maybe the NYer skipped reader testing? ... Not to exaggerate; I mean I certainly enjoy making fun of these flaming technical disasters, but it’s not that hard to get through the thing, and I’ll probably read more of this NYer than I have in years, just for the novelty. ... But after one NYer iPad session, my arm ached! ... Because I was holding it at an odd angle, keeping it away from my magic touchy goes-off-at-any-odd-moment beautiful shining iPad....

The Heart-Warming Conclusion

... The LOL tells me I stress too much; just like any normal computer-illiterate geezer, I flail, I fume, I am impatient. ... “The machine won’t do what I tell it!” I cry; I poke at the screen buttons, and they “don’t click” I shout, but contrariwise, often click themselves by accident/magic, taking me to amazing unknown places. ... But I am a Great and Powerful Computerist, long before the mast, years unnumbered, and I will not be demoted by this dubious Cupertino machinery to just another user....

So I will continue to install my amusing music apps on my iPad which, to be sure, are unruly and disobedient fairly frequently, but are so sweet — the $17 NanoStudio is adorable! ... But I do not think I will be reading the NYer that much this way, on the iPad. ... Although I’ve certainly learned so much in our time together!

The iPad-in-Chief

And just to round-out our adventures in technopolitics, that’s the president of the United States and his iPad with the “smart” cover on backwards. ... You, in your ignorance, might think the smartcover has no left or right, up or down — but not so! ... It wants its magnetic hinges to be on the left; and outside, for that matter, that is with a tiny bit of product writing on the thing facing the iPad screen. And the bottom of the iPad is the place where you plug in Apple’s proprietary connector; and I know that because that’s where I have to plug in my Apple keyboard accessory. ... You can clearly see the connector slot in the (official White House 4/6/11) photograph, along with the poor little seemingly-dumb cover buckled up, ’cause a bad person put it on the wrong way....

It’s this kind of inside info that makes me the technology expert and you — and the president of the United States — the ignorant user. ... But of course not really him, because the President of the United States — heck probably even the British Prime Minister, or even the CEO of Government Motors — doesn’t put the cover on their own iPad or even carry it, or anything, unless they’re doing some pitiful witless photo-op. ... So it’s Obama staffers’ fault, and shame on them, ignorant users....

Sun 10/26/14 update. I can’t even get my wretched ipad (2) magic Apple cover on that way; no magnets over there! ... However I must admit my oracular pronunciamentos as to left/right up/downness of the ipad are ignored by others beyond the oval office, like for instance my new-antique dubious-but-beautiful Behringer iStudio IS202 ($100; works with no current iPad) is horizontally-oriented of course, and thinks the button should be on the left, where for years I’ve assumed the canonical position was on the right. ... So sue me....

The Keyboards the Keyboards

And as long as we’re trusting my sage advice, I’ve gone through years of add-on keyboards and really, it works better the way Apple intended, with their awful software touch keyboard which, even bereft of arrow keys as inscrutable rules decree, is still better than the numerous add-ons I’ve tried. An Apple or other bluetooth keyboard works even better — because standard keyboards are considerably wider than the iPad, hence the keys will be much easier to type on. ... But an iPad + usable keyboard is not anywhere near as portable as an iPad + keyboard/case, for dunces like me who wanted an adorable little notebook thingey for motel wanderings — but there already was and is a gadget like that, the notebook laptop, immensely easier to type on than the wretched iPad, and much more useful for actual work in every way. And cheaper, then and now. ... But my ancient iPad is still cuter, particularly with its magic Apple magnetic screen-cover & handy tiny stand....



MaximumPC, 9/10, page 8. Note please that it’s not just a rumor; experts predict it! ... On the streets, the people cry for 3D TV! ... In the bazaars and the markets, the hope is raised high! ... In the 8th paragraph or so, they claim they’ve sold a million sets in the US. We saw two of them at BestBuy a few days ago (8/10); nobody else in the store was interested, including the salesthings. ... This could possibly be because there is no media to buy. But I’m sure those million purchasers somehow made-up for that. The 3D I looked at — and I’m an expert! — had noticeable ghosting, in a presumably carefully-tuned demo system. ... Later in the magazine there’s their feature article on this year’s super-duper Dream Machine; with nothing about 3D. ... To be sure, in a later review of some Asus 3D monitor they sort-of maybe possibly claimed they played 3D games with it on the Dream Machine; but they didn’t actually say that....

To poor MaximumPC’s credit, there is an extremely 3D skeptical column “3D or not 3D?” on page 10; they still permit dissent. ... But the powerful tidal tug of money shades their thoughts; the next page after the amazing 3D news they ask the perennial question, is the “End of the Netbook Era?” come yet already please let it be so. ... Those intolerably-cheapo machines are certain to be replaced by — touch-screen keyboardless tablets! ... Yes yes right away...



Apple vs Microsoft: It’s the Code, Stupid

No one else seems to have noticed this — except, in my infinite wisdom, myself! ... Which is, that Microsoft’s attempts at world domination — I mean, aside from illegal collusion, which of course never happens — their technical attempts, appear to consist — for decades now — of flinging into the arena huge assortments of software frameworks, languages, scripty junk, magical servers, and whatever else their 5 million programmers can dream-up. ... MSDN seems to have one per issue, at least. ... In the olden days, this served to imprison the weak minds of foolish acolytes worshiping at the altar, and was indeed known in the trade as “mindshare”. ... That is, once you’ve spent the ridiculous amounts of time and effort necessary to figure-out the Microsoft Way, you’re loathe to exchange it for some other presumably false idol....

Apple, on the other hand, bought — from itself, basically, that is when Jobs returned to Apple around 2000, he was part of the purchase of his Next computer company, which included the squirrelly Objective C language. ... Which was just as wacko as anything Microsoft flogs — but Apple’s used it ever since: in the Macintosh; in the iPod; in the iPhone; in the glorious iPad; and who knows what next?!?

Pure, Pure

In my time before the mast, it was a fashion for the adherents of a new programming cult to cry to the heathen they must abandon everything they knew if they wished to approach the seraphic beauty of the New Purity; the macintoshers certainly did that in their turn and time. ... But that was long ago, and to be fair as far as I know Jobs never was like that. ... Microsoft, on the other hand, still regards this as the current really sharp attitude, and repeatedly offers such chilling assurances with their weekly newest thing. I have detected some slackening in this, and the new Windows Phone 7 is not advertised as being a whole new exciting different thing. Except that it is: Microsoft Silverlight[5], one of their web technologies of the week which they apparently believe has been massively successful all across the web, but which I don’t think so....

And yes I actually saw some pitiful partisan whining that Apple’s Objective C was like going backwards to the bad old days of the primitive C-language, before the dawn of C++ and all the wonderful things which have made programming — well, what have they made it? ... Not easier, that’s for sure; perhaps more powerful, if that means exploding bugs of astonishing ferocity from the most innocuous-seeming code.[4] ... Indeed, Microsoft’s tech-of-the-week is tacit admission that C++ went under the bus years ago, along, to be sure, with numerous other revolutionary and continually revelatory Microsoft technologies....

Darkness and Despair: How to Code

Want to develop for the iphone? Learn a language / framework which’ll work for several other popular gadgets, and probably the next one from Apple. ... Write a Windows phone 7 app? Learn some wacko Microsoft thrill-of-the-week which, judging by the record, is almost guaranteed to be useless in a few years, if not weeks — they apparently have already promised their “pad” technology will be entirely different!

Apple Fights Back with Swift, a new pointless cranky language for the rest of us

At the overwhelmingly exciting 6/14 World Wide Developer Conference Apple finally responded with its own super new sexy different development language “Swift” for all iOS and OSX development — everything. The devs went wild with frenzied joy! At last they too could join the ranks of the cool and insiders, with their own language, incompatible with everything gone before. I understand to behold it was a deeply emotional experience. ... Of course Apple already had a pointless cranky language, Objective C, and the clever thing they did was not change it every two weeks. ... But now that’s over.....


Circuit Cellar, the SMT Soldering Cult, and the Chameleon

It is so wonderful to be a mature adult who doesn’t get all excited and angry and indignant and toweringly infuriated just because these low-lifes lie to my face! ... Ah no no all is quiet and serene; I will spend my time in the sun on the deck gazing at the quiet backyard vegetation. ... Quiet ... quiet. ... Yes....

The SMT Soldering Cult is a gentle band of devotees who gather at web forums to proselytize their holy way, which is the obvious ease of soldering SMDs by hand. These days, most other habitués of the forums ignore them, like other internet pests. ... The SMDs are tiny, tiny, little parts, and basically cannot be reliably hand-soldered, as everyone knows including me, and I’m an expert. ... The cult enthusiastically disputes this; they have higher, inner, knowledge. ... What they don’t have are any actual online pages where we can admire the results of their holy work, i.e. completely assembled SMT multi-layer boards that are at least apparently working. ... It is true, there are seemingly-rational folk on YouTube who claim to be wise in these deep arts, and there may actually be business reasons why it would make sense, under some very limited conditions — an obvious one is repair or rework, when for whatever reason one cannot get hold of an adequately-manufactured working card, in which case even if you destroy the card in the attempt, as is indeed likely, those odds are still better than nothing. ... But such are very limited conditions, and in general, it doesn’t make sense to hand-solder SMT, and most of us serenely ignore cult advocacy.

But not Circuit Cellar, the real-engineer American magazine acquired (and then returned) by the European Elektor bunch. ... No sirree! ... CC saw the light! ... With The Chameleon Platform (p 44 Circuit Cellar 6/11), “a versatile low-cost ($20) [!] hardware development platform”. As you can see from my scan of the article illustration, it’s a cute little thing. With an amazingly low price....

But bitter negativity got the upper hand. ... I looked and looked. ... Actually, the caption for the beautiful picture is a dead giveaway: “Eagle 3D was used to generate these ... images”. Why would they do that? Why not just use a photograph of the actual product? ... The answer of course is there is no actual product! ... Ha ha ha! Fooled us again! ... And that’s why it’s so cheap: $20’s the parts price! ... The author explains briefly down at the bottom of page 45, about ten paragraphs in, what a “useful tool” Eagle 3D is, “to check the silkscreen” etc. prior to “finalizing the design”, and “when the PCBs arrive and I am assembling the board” (my underline) he can also use the pictures “to identify component polarization and orientation”. ... Which is overdoing it a bit, because you can use more humdrum built-in Eagle features to provide easier-to-read guides for that sort of thing....

But the secret is at my underline, the “assembling” of the board. ... In this way he ever-so-casually informs us that he is one of the elect, those who can see where we cannot, those who can solder what we cannot! ... And in these few remarks he concludes any discussion of actually making the board; because he, and presumably you, are real engineers and can, therefore, do anything, including manually solder SMDs in a single bound. ... Like the cult members, on the forums....

Sadly, however, but consistently, he has no picture of the finished work! ... No lovingly hand-soldered artisanal SMT card! ... I wonder why....

... The Continuing Adventures of SMD Puffery ...

In the passing months and years, the ridiculous so-EZ puffery of DIY surface mountery has moderated. In the first flush of blessings and lies, the puffsters told us marvelous tales of amateur toaster ovens and professional monsters, exotic stencils and obscure tools and, to be sure, superhuman precision soldering described as EZ for anyone to do. And in those glorious bright days, the adepts routinely installed 40+ pin ICs in a single bound....

These days, no sadder or less enthusiastic, we have declined to more realistic stories — as, presumably, a significant percentage of those scammed by the initial celebrations encountered reality. ... “DIY Surface-Mount Circuit Boards” p 22 Circuit Cellar 6/13 was a sensible description of one man’s admittedly special-talent accomplishments in the area. And then “Getting started with surface-mount soldering” “PICAXE primer” p 14 Nuts & Volts 6/13 similarly concedes no easy road, and describes various strategies he and we might adopt to cope with the tiny little gadgets in the author’s forthcoming projects. ... And in both these articles, the number of surface mount pins we are advised to solder with such simplicity & ease has drastically declined....

To an unbiased observer — that is, to my Olympian sensitivities — the lesson of both articles is obviously “Don’t do that”. Which is clearly not the intent of the puffsters, who wish reader enthusiasm to continue unabated in the glorious future of hobbyist electronics with parts too small to see. ... And both articles recommend magnifying equipment.

... And I must admit that in the fullness of time and pointless accomplishment, someone soldered my board. A professional technician with professional equipment at a for-profit company. He and/or similarly-talented associates did it more than 10 ot twenty times. It was a single 52-pin IC, but that’s still a lotta pins. ... But I couldn’t do it; or you neither. If I mistake you, then congratulations! ... But don’t bother me with your silly tiny parts....

Must Our Hobbyist Dreams Die?

I don’t know — I used to know everything, but I’m younger than that now. The actual reality, as much of it as I’ve encountered in my sheltered career, is a lot less prototyping and a lot more demo boarding. Because of the ridiculous difficulty of manual surface mount construction to be sure, but also because many more functions have been “absorbed” by the super new microcontrollers. The approximate plot is one gets a hot demo board, often available for ridiculously-low prices at least compared to the bad old days as today’s manufacturers competitively flog their wares, and then build-on any additional proprietary circuitry. The demo boards typically have a “prototype” area which’ll accommodate a few parts, but more likely one runs wires from it to some monstrous hacked breadboard kind of thing — i.e. the typical prototype dog’s breakfast of yore. Which might well include a few surface mount parts hacked-on with only occasional fits of towering profanity....

Part of the difficulty here, for the magazine puffsters and the real engineers, is the modern demo + prototype road really presents a much easier product development cycle — for the software. I cannot express how much easier, compared to the bad old days and clunky ICE equipment. For those whose horizons are pitifully limited to hardware, however, the road seems much worse. Of course that’s mostly us old guys, excluding my uniquity; the kids coming up today don’t understand the distinction. So, ad astra y’all....


Notes

1. Idiots are often advised in the pitiful magazines to “upgrade” their Windows operating system, instead of buying the new operating system built into a new machine. Microsoft does this because it can, and because idiots will pay $100 or $200 for some stupid piece of plastic, instead of the software they’d get with a new machine for a far lower price — although to be sure, in the golden days the price would always be amazingly consistent with the last generation of hardware, but nevertheless far spiffier because, indeed, Moore’s law did make it that way. ... But buying the operating system as a separate purchase and installing it onto hardware you already owned or, even more ludicrously, purchased in premium bits at a store so you can have your own super machine — that is stupid. Even installing it as a download for free, like the glorious beautiful Windows 10, is stupid. ... You can tell it’s the expensive route because the magazines are so uniformly tolerant and enthusiastic about it. ... The Linuxoids, when they’re not lying about how EZ their precious free operating system is to use and install, rightly complain that installing Windows under such circumstances is comparably annoying and ridiculous. ... We peasants know of these things as the “driver problem”. Which is why we pay the hardware manufacturer to install the $180 OS which he gets for $20, so we can return his hardware when it doesn’t work.

2. This amazing coincidental restriction — that the previous Windows operating system would never run on the new hardware — was violated in the XP netbook phenomena, which is why that product category was so disastrous for Microsoft’s fortunes. ... Now everyone knows that Vista “costs” at least half-a-gig of memory over XP — but no one knows why! ... The “added security” is the usual bogus fiction. ... See, in Vista’s case Microsoft forgot the plot; or at least, misread the future of Moore’s law, since it was probably a bad idea to continue pointlessly-jiggering the operating system to take up more hardware resources when Moore’s law wasn’t going to compensate for it....

3. The next issue of the NYer had a serious lengthy treatment of the iPad annunciation by serious media expert Ken Auletta. Mr. Auletta is expert in filling pages with filler which normal human beings — or me, at any rate — can’t possibly bother reading.

4. Oh all right; I actually use C++, particularly the exciting string class, which is almost as cool as the comparable thing in the 2000-or-so Borland Delphi....

5. Actually Windows Phone 7 supposedly could be programmed in an alternate gee-whiz technology “XNA” which, apparently, is what the lucky folk who wrote games for Microsoft’s Xbox got to do. ... Another industry standard, that is, although undoubtedly antique technology in 2016....


Finalize the String: The Language Bar Redux

Old Windows lags know the “language bar” of old, where its pestilential talents mostly consisted of an annoying question mark or some wacko icon on the task bar where it was difficult to eradicate. In Vista, and now Windows 7, being so advanced and all, the perennial pest is now much more annoying: While you’re typing and you commit some unknown sin — unknown to you, to me, to the heavens above, but not to Microsoft — you will be punished by a small modal dialog box opening somewhere on the screen demanding that you “Finalize the String”. Pressing control+space will sometimes get rid of it — or perhaps start it up? — but my poor text editor seemed a little shell-shocked and broken afterwards, requiring a restart. I’ve had my Windows 7 system for weeks before this started around 11/14/10, so I assume it’s some helpful update the Microsofties sent on in their serene wisdom and cosmic indifference.

I made it stop like this (in Windows 7):

  1. Go to the Windows Control Panel.
  2. If you’ve set the “view by” to one of the rational “icon” methods, switch it back to the stupid “category” view.
  3. Click on “Change keyboards or other input methods” under the “Clock, Language and Region” category.
  4. Select the “Keyboards and Languages” tab.
  5. Click on the “Change Keyboards” button.
  6. Then on the “General” tab, goto the window that says “installed services” on top. Click every keyboard listed in there which isn’t your language — in my case, everything that wasn’t the all-but-deprecated “English (United States)” — and Remove it. When you’re finished, there should be a single keyboard left; for me, so surprisingly, the oddball “English”.
  7. Click Ok, Apply, close, until you’re out of the fiendish world of control panel.

On my pitiful crate, the obnoxious “Finalize the String” box has not reappeared for hours now. ... Of course usux may get wind of this, and another update may come....

Nothing Works

Note that I tried various other web remedies. You can “hide” the language bar, you lucky peasant — and I did — but that doesn’t stop the “Finalize the String” pest from its wacko duty. ... Some people described how to disable the language bar forever with command-line mumbo-jumbo, but I tried, even in administrative super-user secret decoder ring mode, and the operating system just sniffed at me. ... There is no language bar uninstall in Programs and Features....

And note that the language bar is not, even now, entirely dead! Even after I removed all the non-English keyboards, evil unregenerate colonialist that I am, and made the thing “hidden” as much as I could! ... No, no, still, whenever the thoughtful caring obviously mentally-troubled operating system demands my collusion in some fiendish scheme involving elevated privilege — why, there it is again! Over in the corner, offering its inestimable incomprehensible services for free! For no reason! ... Don’t make any sudden moves....

Is usux just nuts, or what?!?!

I suspect as usual it’s a combination of stupidity and trickery aka the crucial question of the 20th and now the 21st century: knave or fool. ... I suspect that over in Asia’s fabled lands, the stolen operating systems could all type in Chinese; actually I’m almost certain of it. Not explicitly stolen; there was some kind of add-on feature which of course didn’t actually work; unless you bought, for $1.50, the stolen Windows where it was hacked-in and worked great. ... Because, as usual, the usux minions were stupider than dirt. ... Now I don’t know all this; I just suspect it. It’s just a story; I’m making it up. ... So then, anyway, Microsoft added this language bar feature in a belated and typically-incompetent effort to sell a legitimate product that provided the facility. And to make sure it worked, they made it compulsory on everything, see? ... That way, those stupid users couldn’t screw it up, see? ... And then in the fullness of time and the wandering winds of Redmond, they just accidentally made it too compulsory. ... I saw at least one poor fellow who was typing in Korean — fluent in English of course — who was hysterical about this stupid box popping up and assaulting his deadline paper....

We all remember those golden days when Internet Explorer was an inalienable part of Windows? ... Well, I do. ... Microsoft apparently doesn’t anymore, at least after the European Union got so snippy about it, so now amazingly it’s just another program. ... I suspect the language bar has been elevated to that inextricable-part-of-the-operating system role; at least for a little while....

And probably the whole thing’ll blow over in a week or two, as the vast Microsoft recycling mechanism gets around to eliminating their boo-boos. ... And if I could’ve just been patient, everything would’ve been OK. ... In a little while. ... The story of my life, I’m afraid....

The Kultur Korner...

Well it turns out maybe I didn’t want to rail at the stupid lying dying magazines so much. Or at least I’ve railed enough. ... So let’s fill-out the page and go Komputer Kulture Krazy....

  • Joel on Software; one of these relentless know-it-alls, he’s at least as annoying as me — but is sometimes right! ... And he’s actually made $million$! ... But now (3/16/10) he will blog no more he writes! ... Somehow it cost too much or something; he threw in the towel, I think — but where?! ... Whoops hold the phone, Spolsky says his column was lying; he just won’t do what he did before, different flavor, whatever. ... He claims he misquoted himself or something....

But I am glad, anyway; Spolsky’s stuff is often funny, and is probably worth reading even in his non-blogging essay form or whatever he ascends to. ... Indeed it was his site that led me to the BOFH (at least in this era; I’d seen his stuff in previous lives) and from him to ...

  • Verity Stob is a national treasure; sadly she’s a British national treasure, but she’s been writing funny things about the exciting microcomputer world for ages....

  • The B--tard Operator from H-ll “BOFH” is a rather different, fiercer, less-literate but very funny guy.

Both BOFH and Stob are hosted at http://www.theregister.co.uk/, which is perhaps the last decent remnants of a computer magazine left us. ... Between the two, one can glean a complete history of “how we were” in the microcomputer trenches (Stob) and IT (BOFH) — although there is much cross-over. ... I find BOFH achingly funny, but I’m pretty sure it’s a special taste. His stories follow the adventures of a psychopathic IT guy, whose goal in life is to murder the “bean counters” and at least seriously injure the lusers. ... I realize that doesn’t sound terribly amusing, and every single story pretty-much embodies that spirit — but I laugh and laugh, I really don’t know why, and that’s the best test isn’t it? ... And I didn’t even work in IT....

Stob, on the other hand, is a better-spelled, subtler force of nature, and nearer my tragic endeavors with the little computers. ... Both, I should add, provide the most panoramic view of where we’ve been when one includes their earlier stuff, in BOFH’s case lurking in odd corners of the web (i.e. google for it), and for Stob, in a lovely convenient dead-tree book I bought for $25 or so at Amazon The Best of Verity Stob, with selections from the late 80s until 2004 or so — a tremendously funny work. Even the back cover is funny! ... Probably the index — it has an index! — is funny! ... Fittingly, paradoxically, Amazon doesn’t have a dead-electrons digital Kindle e-reader version. ... So I finished it and, shockingly, discovered that Ms. Stob is not a fan of the Linux text editor “Joe” or it’s “Jstar” WordStar key combinations! Which, as all men know, are sacred. ... I may have to rethink this cultural stuff....

... The Really Kultural Poetry Corner ...

And now gentle reader, Real Poetry I actually wrote; in defense of which I can only plead youth and a lifetime of low expectations. ... First, my haiku.

I forget
the early mornings
I forgot
all poems are lies
             — j.g. owen

... After the avalanche of praise and requests pour in, I’ll think about adding some more. ... But, really, that’s the high point. ... There are of course words in my music, but you have to listen to that. ... Whoa I just realized last night when I woke up @ 2 am — my haiku is one of them recursive paradoxes! ... At least the last line. ... No wonder it sort of shimmers....

Apple Jumps the Shark: Extorting iCloud Adoption by Destroying iPhone USB Contacts-Syncing in Mavericks

That’s because Apple’s iCloud is so keen and fun-to-use that everybody wants to get in line and use it yessiree all the kids and their pets! ... So nobody needs that tired old USB thingey anymore and they can just stuff it even if it’s the only reason many of us keep a mac computer around anyway! ... No No kids now you’ll HAVE to join the pepsi generation it’s COMPULSORY!

... In a way it’s thoughtful of Apple to destroy USB iphone/mac contacts sync in the macintosh Mavericks OS, to give us a peek into our future in Apple’s proprietary iCloud prison — which is, they’ll screw you any way they can. ... In the current “ramp-up” period — i.e. when, like Windows 8, nobody can stand it, which period has lasted quite a while longer than Apple planned I’m sure — Apple entices us to use their wonderful monopoly cloud environment: it’s free! Costs nothing! ... But by screwing us into using their free free free iCloud they foolishly telegraph their hopes and dreams, which are to get you imprisoned, turn the screws, and then extort monthly / weekly / hourly / millisecondly charges from you. ... Money! ... Won’t be free no more!

Money

... It’s called monetization and after all it’s what people do in their corporations. Many of us had the delusion Apple was better than that, trading quality instead of extortion for money ... which latter course is, indeed, the preferred American Giant Corporation style aka “subscription fees” aka as per millions of drooling anecdotes “getting into the razor blade biz.”

... Ah well, now I don’t have to replace my iphone with another; I can get one of those cool Android thingeys. ...

Incidentally, Mac Contacts Sux

I don’t want to leave the impression in this fervent encomium that the Mac contacts program has anything to recommend it; it’s been appalling as long as I’ve known the machine, incompetently programmed and dangerously prone to lossage; it just doesn’t work. ... I recently spent half an hour trying to enter a multi-line address, which for some reason it had decided wasn’t permitted in this star sector for the term. ... Even the suck-up magazines have given-up, occasionally running tips ’n’ tricks about how to make it actually do something, and I expect to find some wide-eyed tip how it is possible to enter multiple-line addresses with a harmless little workaround. Which won’t work with whatever version I have since Apple “fixed” it some more to force proprietary iCloud-that-everybody-loves usage; or who knows what....

... And now, it doesn’t sync! ... Perfect together at last....

Submission ...

Of course I will enable iCloud on my iThings and the pitiful imini and join the huddled masses yearning to be enslaved, now that Apple’s made me a proposition I can’t refuse. ... So the all-important “automatic downloads” is in the ithings’ “settings” “iTunes & App Store” / “Automatic Downloads” section; my raison d’être contacts syncing was somewhere in the iCloud entry. ... And then at some point as I was strapping on my chains, they really really REALLY wanted me to make-up a 4-digit “iCloud Security Code” for keyring or something; but amazingly, after I made one up, the feature, whatever it is, turned-out to be dependent on a “phone that can receive SMS messages” the scurvy curs! — they wanted me to give-up my cell phone number! — i.e. willingly; to invite the vampire further in. ... Which I refused, still, pitifully holding on to a shred of self-respect....

... And after all this, they still pop-up and try to con me into signing into my icloud account. ... At least that’s what I think it is; the beauty of this kind of exploitative racket business strategy is that maybe it is some evil ne’er-do-well what has got hold of my iphone; I mean, aside from Apple. ... And then, when I had to shutdown and restart after it got into some kind of tizzy — stuttery, and Dropbox — the working cloud — got broken, freezing when it tried to upload my photo — Apple asked me to signon to icloud! Maybe the previous invitations were after silent crashes. ... So appropriate ’n’ all....

Reprievement!

Then I discovered in some magazine that the next precious Apple updates will once again flawlessly synchronize contacts and calendars via USB! ... Oh joy we cry, oh wondrous day, that the beneficent Lord of Computing is so compassionate and generous! ... But no, I will not attempt to be the first to successfully turn from the iCloud without reprisal. ... How will the subsequent updates fare? — what they give, they can take.

The beloved iCloud is so universally beloved that they’re still puffing it desperately relentlessly in the totally-objective magazines, so it will be here forever, like mac.me or whatever the last 37 iterations were called. ... And I realized, in the 8/14 Mac|life puff, that Apple is still hesitant about puffing the email account aspect of your wonderful iCloud experience, presumably because the previous so-uniquely-successful Apple email efforts are still regarded with such loathing deep affection....

So that Android phone in my future looks better and better — although to date, it’s been an obvious amateur-night free-for-all, relentlessly puffed by the freedom-loving media — those pesky monopolies really cut down on advertising! At least by Apple; I gather Microsoft massages the media adequately, or at least has a lot more money to throw around even in these amazing latter days; the suck-up puffsters were never so freedom-loving against the Microsoft death star....

But it looks like Apple’s going the distance, and will hammer away until its products are just as mediocre and stupid as any johnny-come-lately google junk. ... Apparently they’ve kicked the “creatives” — the touchy-feely types who made Apple everything it is today by slavishly adopting it wherever brush, pen and typewriter ruled — well Apple threw them under the bus — again — when they recently dumped some beloved photography software, offering instead the new-age broader-market kiddy-wheels junk they favor today....

(Why I Care)

I use the iphone contacts to laboriously copy/paste addresses to Google maps, which then guides me serenely through the endless byways of my glorious and mysterious new land. ... Apple maps, as all men know, hasn’t worked for years, jiggered as it was in some incompetence-for-money scheme by Apple, which resulted in the division guy being fired presumably because he didn’t lie good-enough. ... And even if Apple maps did work it doesn’t speak like Google maps, at least not on my iphone 4 which of course can’t have the infinitely-desirable Siri voice capability because, like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, it’s “part of the operating system” as was the notoriously and obviously bogus excuse back in the bad old days. Apple has actually advanced some pathetically-fraudulent murmurings about the trisilistors or something in the advanced iphones performing an equivalent planned-obsolescence / anti-competitive function. ... But even on the iphone 5 Apple Maps in some baffling pursuit of mediocrity is distinctly less audible than the Google rendition — which, I hasten to assure my doubting readership, is also infuriatingly difficult to use but, like the dancing cat, is much better than nothing....

The Cloud For the Rest of You

And Apple’s iCloud is so wonderful, my imini has taken to begging me every morning to come join the others; learn our way, play our games, bathe in our deep Apple spirituality. ... Somehow I am still able to resist....

... But that’s perfunctory compared to the beloved iPad: upgrading my pitiful iPad to the supposedly-working version of iOS 8, it tried to gull me me no less than three times, and more like 5 or six, into joining the wonderfully enjoyable just-fun-for-you iCloud, with which I would have so many wonderful features, tricks and games.

Upgrade Fun

In order to do the upgrade, I had to delete some ipad apps because the update needed more room — apparently it needs lots more than it actually will eventually use, to download the entire update image before bungling the upgrade. ... So fine; I just assumed it’d be a piece o’ cake to bring the beloved apps back, and now I will tell you, since it was utterly unknown:

  1. I couldn’t do it on my mac. I probably could’ve but it is omerta; it must not be spoken. We are iCloud beings; we belong to the Cloud, the proper home of the free spirit, and must cast off earthly computers into their pitiful darkness....
  2. Find the app store on the ipad; I used the search.
  3. Poke “purchased” on the bottom of the screen.
  4. Find the app; they’re in crack technical programmer random order.
  5. Poke the “cloud/down-arrow” button. It turns into a little square, and then a little circle around it gradually completes a bolder line as the download proceeds.

So that worked great. ... Foolishly optimistic, I plugged the thing into my imini and it started downloading 36 updates! Whoa! Would it overfill my pitiful machine? ... But not to worry; it was probably just downloading all the updates I had been idly accumulating on the mini while I was refusing the generous ipad’s offer to connect to the all-embracing cloud.

So figuring I was toast anyway, I plugged my phone into the mini — and no begging to upgrade! Indeed, when I checked the iphone 4 somewhere in the settings, it said I had ios 7.1.12 and that my “software is up to date”!?! ... Oh Apple! How bleak!...

Trouble in Paradise...

Sometimes I think they’re getting desperate. ... I just turned-on my iPad for a few minutes, and it tried to get me to sign-on to the beautiful serene we’re-all-going-there iCloud thrice! And then I went to the iCloud entry in settings, and there was a “sign-out”, which I poked, and after warning me how forlorn everything would be forever and ever world without end — it told me I would have to sign-in to the rapturous iCloud, the very thing they’ve been trying to bludgeon me into, I’d have to do that, to sign-out! ... Their robots must think my mother raised stupid children — a little nutso maybe, but not that stupid....

Surrender ...

Tue 12/9/14 7:47 am. This morning I signed-in to the iCloud on my pitiful imini. I have given in. ... It wasn’t so bad; I’ve seen worse. ... Actually nothing happened. Maybe I was expecting a prodigal son moment....

... Forever

And then it turned-out I never had to sign-in again; once you invite the vampire in, he can’t be uninvited, so the internet helpfully informs me. But if I’d known that, I might well have given-in earlier; one of the major annoyances of these stupid passwords is entering them every 15 minutes. I of course use a real computer and my own password program to remember the things, and I’d have to carry one of those around with my iThings if they demanded constant reassurance. ... But Apple couldn’t tell me, because that would make it seem more irrevocable; which of course, it is....

Macintosh Windows 10: Automatic Update

And then, sometime around 1/16, Apple upgraded both of my wretched macintoshes without asking me. ’Jes like that industry-beloved Windows 10 that everyone loves so very much they lick the computer screen in delirious joy!!!! ... You haven’t noticed? You believe Windows 7 + XP still have a 60% market share? ... You obviously have failed re-education camp....

But the update achieved the desired goal: it destroyed my aged imini, in the inevitable and harsh march of planned obsolesence.

— the heartbreakingly-disillusioned programmer
4/16

Microsoft Limits Hotmail (aka Outlook.com) to Internet Destroyer

Usux ie taking a minute or two to
locate its extensions. In a modal dialog.

I know we’re all so shocked. Anyway I still peruse the Great Behemoth’s works, and hotmail will work no more in my firefox, at least as of Thu 7/31/14 with the admirable and holy Adblock Plus installed. But it works as well as anything works in Internet Explorer — also with Adblock Plus, or at least I think it’s installed. The svelte and sensitive IE is so crazed and apparently broken it’s hard to tell, but no matter. I’m sure this’ll fix Microsoft’s numbers big time....

Oh yeah the pitiful “official” name for hotmail is “outlook.com”. I keep using the old address because I feel it disrespects them hurtfully and I relish their pain. But they’re entirely capable of dumping everyone with a hotmail address some dark night, if they feel like it; or forget something....

!!! Security Alert Security Alert — Wonk!! ... Wonk!! !!!

... Tue 8/12/14 Oh it’s so sad. They wanted me to enter some kind of security code so they would have permission to text message me only in very important super high security cases like if they need some money. ... I was prepared to let them pester some poor innocent with my old phone — I suppose I shouldn’t do that and I probably would’ve stopped before they let me — but still, they won’t let me. They’ve promised to “lock me” out of my valuable hotmail account if I don’t comply with their demands — I mean it’s just like one of those security alert scams from mysterious Nigerian forces, isn’t it? — but I couldn’t discover any way to comply. Although it’s true I did not click “learn more” and I’m not going to. Nor will I crawl to Redmond on broken glass and beg piteously. ... It’s more fun to wait and see if they’ll actually lock me out of my account. ... SPECIAL OWENLABS PUBLIC SERVICE WARNING: DO NOT GO NEAR THESE PEOPLE. They are demented and dangerous....

The next day they’re still at it! ... After they let me on — 5 days to oblivion I was told — I tried to enter the exciting exclusive Sweetwater giveaway with valuable prizes — and it was obviously broken! Fields improperly defaulted — the form was unable to fill-out the “country” field, and neither could I! — and then when I filled-it out as best I could anyway and clicked “submit” it gave me an un-found server error! ... All of which — since I begged Sweetwater yesterday to send their entertaining junk mail to AOL — worked perfectly in Firefox. ... This is a serious matter, folks — Microsoft is dissing the sponsor! ... I suppose your typical mega-zillion$ monolithic monopoly has trouble with that concept. ... A further brilliant insight: this must mean Microsoft is losing too much money on their stupid free email, and their new CEO has told ’em “monetize — or else” and of course they’re entirely too incompetent to execute, so it’s probably else. ... Still, an odd way to go about it. ... I guess they couldn’t even think of “selling” it to AOL or Yahoo or some other pitiful loser. ... Or maybe it means it’s such a basket case they can’t sell it aka give it away....

Tue 8/19/14: The last day has come

Well they really did it; I’ve been locked-out of my free hotmail account because they couldn’t extort my cell phone number. This is why all the with-it kids avoid Microsoft and all its works as much as possible: Usux™’s no stupider than many other of our modern internet entities, but they have so much money their stupidity has an almost infinite scope. ... Example: Yahoo is trying the same cellphone # extortion scam, but they merely degrade my existing account with malignant neglect because I won’t upgrade to the new supposedly-maintained superior Yahoo, which super high-technology gee whiz upgrade of course includes extorting my cellphone #. But they don’t have enough money to just throw away subscribers i.e. the product they sell to advertisers. ... And in due course, all that promotional scammery disappeared like the mist in the morning....

But Microsoft’s got the dough to scam forever, no matter how self-destructive, and no doubt outlook.com will in a few months just fall off the horizon and no one will notice. Not even me — because I can’t go there anymore. Even in the sacred so with-it Internet Destroyer, which ridiculous requirement has presumably already blown-off the majority of internetters....


The Endless Last Decades of the Decadent Sacred Delphi IDE (& C-- Builder)

What’s amazing is how long it’s lasted. ... I will go as far as to concede that this month’s (~6/15) adventure with a 30-day trial of “RAD Studio XE8” wasn’t as unspeakably appalling as my one or two previous excursions — well, until I was stupid enough to buy it — but it’s not likely to tempt me from my tattered ~2002 Delphi 7 — even after Usux™ stold my help. ... The installation software is pitifully amateur night, wacko bugs and stupid behavior. A highlight: when I edited the destination directories (to get, as usual, as far away from Usux™ as possible), the XE install’s feckless reaction to the “\” backslash was to throw me back to the beginning of the edit string. Consistently....

But the C++Builder install in its cranky destructive way could get the prize. After installing Delphi, I went on to Builder and foolishly accepted the default (“modify”?) options on the separate install — and, of course, reinstalled Delphi! ... (In a high moronic squeaky voice) That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?!?!? ... Oh. ... You thought you were installing C++Builder? Because that’s what you downloaded? ... Oh. ... I think you just don’t unnerstand perfessional software. ... Which requires clicking the “actual install” radio button or whatever the *(&)(*&(* it said (“upgrade”). ... But what’s an hour extra download between us perfessionals and a toweringly-wacko software company? We live for senseless delay....

Ah well. ... Every few years when I revisit Embarcadero or whatever its name is this week I have the same eerie sensation: “how do these people stay in business?” ... Maybe it’s just a rogue AI....

64-Bits

A big selling point for our modérne compilers is creating 64-bit executables — and Delphi XE8’s do compile, and run — but don’t debug. ... In my beloved 64-bit Windows 8.1, of course; and as Embarcadero’s chaotic web site blared somewhere, they’re “Ready for Windows 10”. ... But apparently this is a long-standing defect: googling for “rad XE8 unable to create process” turns-up parades of pilgrims who get the error with numerous different versions of Delphi — some fellow on StackOverflow had it with “Delphi 2007”, which was apparently before the “XE”s. Some suggested running Delphi in elevated mode — which sends chills down my spine — but I’d guess Usux™ fixed that in Windows 8.17, at least it didn’t do anything for me. ... So my googling turned-up the afflicted in many different languages, non-Roman alphabets, and ideographs. ... This little mishap is indeed ready for Windows 10....

Cheapo Starter Edition?

(See glorious dubious 2nd thoughts below.) In 2011, they introduced $200 (?) “starter” editions of Delphi and C++Builder, in an obvious / pitiful attempt to get poor fools like me back into the cult. As is the nature of broken software companies, they still puff it, but it does not appear to be actually for sale anywhere. But then again, none of the Delphi/Builder products seem to attain that exalted state, so maybe they’re all hiding under a rock in some undisclosed location. I am carrying-on an endless and philosophical email dialogue with an “account exec” or perhaps some kind of javascript entity, who has yet to divulge any of the inner knowledge — how to buy and what is the price — and I don’t really expect it to. And then again, perhaps it’s deliriously happy with the Embarcadero Cult, and worships every morning at the Broken Website of Dreams.

... So maybe I’ll check-in again in five years. ... Oh wait, here I’ll support my scurrilous charges with an email:

From: Sales (sales@EMBARCADERO.COM)
To: owenlabs@xxxxx
Cc: xxx.xxx@embarcadero.com;
Date: Monday, June 1, 2015 9:07 AM

Good Morning James,

I can see that Xxx has indeed been in communication with you on and trying to assist you with the right product for your needs. Once the right product is determined he can provide you with a secure credit card link to make your online purchase as you requested.

Regards,

Xxxx Xxx
Director Sales Services

Embarcadero Technologies, Inc. | www.embarcadero.com
275 Battery Street 10th Floor | San Francisco, CA 94111
xxx.xxx@embarcadero.com

This in reply to my pitiful plea for a price/place to buy. ... Such is software sales as confidence racket. But I still lean towards the javascript theory....

Use Usux™?!

I hasten to add for any innocents who have stumbled on this page, if you want to program in the Real Man’s language C, you could do worse than the free Usux™ Visual Studio, at least the one I got a while ago was free & OK. You certainly have no place with C++Builder; it is not the thing for innocence. ... And of course it’s priceless, from a rogue AI....

Knave or Fool? www.embarcadero.com/radoffer

Well my cynical observations are scattered and utterly confounded! Not only did the account exec reply with a link and a quote, it also foolishly referred me to a page with cheaper prices! ... www.embarcadero.com/radoffer actually had a “buy online” button that appeared to work, and led to various other pages and buttons and eventually to prices! $148.50 each for Delphi and Builder “starter” XE8 “upgrades” from any Delphi/Builder or windows IDE I think it said — I qualify, and I can’t imagine why anyone not qualifying would buy these things. I may actually attempt a purchase, considering my Delphi/Builder addiction problem. ... And then again, I tried using the help on my 30-day demo — the brief absence of which, after all, is the impetus for this adventure — and XE8 consistently hangs-up when I try to type something in the help Index tab. ... Same with builder of course. Although the all-important context help and the other tabs still work. ... So the executable — what I kill after it hangs-up — is “bds.exe”. Which used to be a very early CP/M C compiler, standing for “Brain Damage Software”.....

Anyway, the account exec and its supervisor must’ve thought I was some kind of dummkopf for not ferreting-out the “radoffer” page which, to be sure, they religiously avoided mentioning, until now, even ’though I begged them piteously. To recover some of my spiteful disdain and snooty attitude, I will assume they just cackled amongst themselves, thinking I was a real senile old guy — who else buys Delphi anyway? — who couldn’t even find the right page ha ha ha — so let’s take advantage of him! ... Thus, I return again to the “knave or fool” question, a central unfathomable puzzle of our times. ... Then again, perhaps the “radoffer” page wasn’t there before; or will disappear tomorrow. ... If I’m ever actually foolish-enough to buy the thing, and able to, I’ll be sure to update here....

I did find this puff page: https://www.embarcadero.com/products/delphi/starter, probably by googling, which looks much like the “radoffer” page, down to the “Get Ready for Windows 10” scare graphic, but whose “buy” buttons lead to the usual endless circular dump of what-me-worry trash. So when I clicked “contact us” and wrote to info@embarcadero.com, I guess I was still so naive as to imagine that my question — “Could you direct me to some online location where I can transfer money to Embarcadero in exchange for Delphi/C++Builder starter editions?” — would be answered truthfully....

The Money & the Pity

So I paid $300, and even as I type this I am in the process of laboriously installing the XE8 Studio starter edition, Delphi flavor, I hope. I got to this towering summit after uninstalling the 30-day test thing for half an hour — I tried my new-bought serial numbers but it wasn’t interested, but that could easily be the fog of incompetent installation software — and now I’m installing the “starter” stuff. After rebooting, after the install crashed the first time....

But Delphi worked! It doesn’t include the hot new 64-bit compilation, but that’s OK since that doesn’t work anyway. ... But Builder didn’t work; but I made the same foolish mistake I made before, and accepted the defaults! Stupid, eh? ... So I sent them an indignant email which they almost certainly never figure-out, and now I’ll try installing Cbuilder again with the right option. ... The default stupid option is “modify”; the correct all-the-smart-kids-know-it-already option is “upgrade”! ... Of course! What a fool I’ve been....

There Can Be Only One: Embaradero’s Scam of the Week

And now, after I managed to execute the “proper” “upgrade” option — neither Delphi nor Builder works! Each makes a “boinging” noise on my test projects: crashing. As does just running the embarcadero XE8 environment by itself. On my beloved Windows 8.1, and on a Windows 7 machine. Although it made a different-sounding “boop” on Win7. So I then tried a “modify” uninstall, got rid of the nasty Cbuilder — and Delphi “worked” again! Same deal getting rid of Delphi on the other machine, making Cbuilder “work”. Despite the 30-day “demo” accommodating both environments, despite its many other manifest flaws.

No doubt this is Embarcadero’s idea of a clever copy-extortion enhancement, so we starter customers couldn’t get too many treats. The email robot neither affirmed nor denied that I could run both starter editions on one machine, but told me to file a help request. I.e., copy-extortion disguised as Embarcadero incompetence. ... Inspiring....

I sense the wonders of Embarcadero and XE8 slipping softly away, with a parting credit card disputation. ... I only got involved with this junk after the Usux™ stolen help episode. Being forced to maintain the compilers on different machines does not improve that inspiring goal, and probably violates the copy-extortion terms anyway. But I must admit that in my brief experience, the XE8 software is so flaky it almost feels like quibbling with the poor criminally-inclined inmates at Embarcadero, should I demand that the product actually work. ... But I won’t be shy....

The remarkable thing is how inferior this trash is to my 2002 Delphi version 7, or even the 2000 Builder 5. The XE8 demo was flaky, and obviously broken; the “starter” installation is, of course, terminally broken....

There is No Help

And finally, just to seal the deal, I searched for the Borland “findfirst” function in my test XE8 CBuilder source. The sad inability to do this was what started me off on my Usux™-cursing Embarcadero-buying spree. And ... it’s not there! ... FindFirst, with capital Fs, the beloved super VCL component / function / whatever — it has help. But the lower-case “findfirst”, the old included-for-compatibility’s-sake for you geezer sots — is not to be found. ... My Builder 5 help has both. ... The XE8 Builder compiler has it, you understand, and compiles the program as well as it does anything; but we’re just not supposed to know about it. ... Because that would be hurtful to ... sensitive things. To the flowers and little birds. ... For the children....

— the serene autumnal programmer
6/15

The Beautiful Android Phone

The beautiful LG Optimus Exceed 2, $22 @ Amazon, 11/23/15; the next time I looked, it was $16! ... The “Verizon prepaid” version but I of course evaded activation.

It’s incredibly cute; I was thinking, maybe Apple’s missed the boat? ... But then I had trouble logging into Google Play, and cursed its eyes. And the Blue Tooth keyboard wouldn’t connect the 2nd time. ... But then it connected the third time, and I maneuvered around trying different things and finally logged into Google Play (with correctly-spelled email)....

I was inspired in all this by the availability of $20 endoscopes — flexible cables with a camera on the end — but they won’t play on an iPhone, to which you are forbidden to connect anything without an Apple brand.....