Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Freakishly fast

Last Thursday, I found myself on a 55-minute tech service call with HP about an issue with our printer. (It had decided in no uncertain terms that it had absolutely NO further use for the paper tray with which it had been in a a close, ongoing – and to all appearances mutually consentual – relationship for three years.) As “Drake” in New Delhi very courteously informed me, the situation I described was “not a standard problem” and “highly unusual.” Alas, after much analysis and many unsuccessful attempts to remedy the problem, Drake broke the news to me as gently as possible: the printer could not be repaired and had to be replaced.

Now, being unable to print was somewhat more than a minor inconvenience because I use the printer nearly every day. However, Drake assured me right then (3:00 PM Thursday, November 8) and there that our new printer would be delivered in “six to ten business days,” and since I would need to sign for it, he gave me tracking information so that I could ascertain when to be available. I did the mental math and noted on my trusty Monster Grid calendar that the HP Officejet Pro 8710 would show up sometime between November 16 and 22.

I was not awake at 12:16 AM Saturday, November 10, but that is when an email from HP landed in my inbox, informing me that my printer had shipped and would be delivered “on Tuesday, November 13, by end of day.” O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! And bonus points for HP! I was pleased. Early would be very nice, and I made a different note on my aforementioned calendar to be available on Tuesday to sign for it.

At 1:00 PM on Saturday, November 10, there came a “k-nock” at my door, and by the time I trundled downstairs to answer it, lo and behold, the FedEx man was just exiting the scene through the side yard, his truck having been parked on Coffee Road, and a large, heavy, glossy HP box sat on the porch, mere inches from my front door. So much for six to ten business days! Can you believe it? That printer arrived in a mere 46 HOURS. I was duly impressed.

Still am.




Device grace

I have a new to me phone. It’s an iPhone 5 that Andrew bought used from a friend at TCA earlier in the year. He used it for several months until he bought himself a new and evidently much improved iPhone 6 something or the other. Jessica used this phone while she was in the States, and now I’m glad to have it. It’s really great to be able to download apps and put things on it without checking to see how many megabytes I have available!

One of the things I wanted to do was to back up my new phone so that if something happened to it, I wouldn’t lose all my contacts. Scott said he could back it up to my computer, but first, I wanted to put music on it. I had music on my old phone, but for some reason, when all my stuff from transferred from the old to the new, only one song made the leap! That was not a pleasant realization! Scott said we should get the music I wanted from my computer onto the phone before backing up the phone, so this afternoon we began that process.

I may have mentioned that I am not ultra tech savvy. Scott is pretty good that way, but even he had a rough time trying to figure out how iTunes works for this and why nothing about it is the least bit intuitive. He finally figured something out, and called me back to my desk. Supposedly, from whatever point he had things, I would be able to move the project forward.

I pulled out my handy-dandy “Technical Info” file folder, the one where I have the easy-enough-for-your-grandma-to-follow documentation Katie had created for me with the following detailed processes, among others:

Step 1: Transfer music from CD to computer

Step 2: Transfer music from computer to phone

I was merrily tripping along when I came to a problem. I was to click a certain icon, but that icon was nowhere to be found. It seems that (according to Scott) I now have a different version of iTunes, so my beloved instructions are no longer perfect. However, God’s grace was abundant, and between Katie’s blurb, Scott’s comments, and my own clicking around, I had success with an album that had been on my old phone, was stated as being on my computer, but which consistently disappeared every time iTunes tried to take it from my computer to my phone. I first had to look up my amazon order history to prove that I really had bough that CD last year. (I had.) Then I had to find the physical CD. (I did). I next had to import it to my computer (done), do some gyrations to prove to iTunes that it really was there (proven), and put the blessed thing on my phone. Yee hah! I felt so competent! And I know it was God’s grace.

The more important instance of device grace was Scott’s computer. He had bought a new one a week or so ago and had been using it to prepare many lessons for a Bible school series he’ll be teaching next week. Hours of work went into this prep. Yesterday, the new computer died. As in, wouldn’t power up. As in, when it did finally power up, the log-in screen was only visible for ten seconds. the thing was DEAD. Scott was extremely frustrated and discouraged. He began the process of re-doing all that work.

But we had asked our church friends to pray about this, and lo and behold, this afternoon, while I was working at my desk on my phone/computer/music project, Scott was in Jo’s room and I heard a very loud clacking noise that continued for quite a while. It sounded like when a pinball machine re-sets, and all those numbers go flapping over. That sound usually lasts about three seconds, but this was even louder and kept going for about a minute!

Soon after, Scott came into the office with an evil laugh and a gleam in his eye, saying, “Oh, the grace of God!!!” I don’t know what he had done, but somehow he had gotten his files off that dead clacker and had them on a flash drive in his hand. AND THERE WAS GREAT REJOICING!!!!!

God’s grace clearly extends to electronic devices.

A passionate post as we approach April 15

Dear Quicken,

My goal in penning this epistle is to communicate and document in a clear and precise manner my truest feelings about you, my longtime companion. Yes, we have been together for a good long while. I know we go back at least to The Doomed Re-Format of 2009, and probably significantly longer than that. We have certainly had our issues through the years, but it’s only in the past few months that you have finally surpassed one of your compatriots, and that is why I’m bothering telling you so.

I used to love to whine about my Publisher ’97, and I still do. That program is admittedly testy, slow, and irrationally cumbersome,  but the difference between it and you, dear Quicken, is that with Publisher, once one learns and masters a workaround for each of its many maddening quirks (of which there are a finite number), the program actually does what it is supposed to do. You, on the other hand, do not, and it is not possible for the user to master workarounds for your quirks, because new ones are generated constantly.

Furthermore, I generally only have to use Publisher an average of nine times a year, but with my current responsibilities in both our personal and business financial realms, I now have spend time in your abhorrent presence every single day of my life!!!

O, Quicken, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. First, there is your most recent offense, which I documented in the following email to Scott today.



When I opened Quicken today, I got this:

“Critical Update Required: Install the latest free update for Quicken 2014

Quicken 2014 customers using version R8 or earlier must update before April 18th to keep access to online services (bank downloads, investing quotes, mobile sync, etc.).

As part of Quicken’s continuous efforts to keep your data secure, you are required to use version R9 or newer, which supports several security enhancements, including Multi Factor Authentication (MFA).

Download and Install Now”

Note that my machine is currently running R8 (

A few weeks ago, Quicken advised me to download an update. I asked you if I should and you say yes, so I did. It won’t run. Every time I open Quicken, it says it has detected a that I have downloaded a Quicken update and would I like to run it before opening Quicken. If I click yes, I get a “Bad image” error that says:

“C:\ProgramData\Intuit\Quicken\INET\COMMON\Patch\Update\patch32.dll is either not designed to run on Windows or it contains an error. Try installing the program again using the original installation media or contact your system administrator or the software vendor for support.”

So I always just exit that box and exit the next one and open Quicken.
1. I don’t know what that download was.

2. I don’t know how to install it again.

3. I don’t know who my system administrator is or how to contact him or her.

4. I don’t know who the software vendor is.

It sounds like we only have about four more days until we won’t be able to download anything with Quicken. Unless we are going to go back to paper and pencil, PLEASE make getting this fixed on both our machines your highest priority.
Thank you for your help with this.
But there’s more. Oh, there’s much, much more, dear Quicken, for while Publisher is only expected to store and print relatively insignificant (and recreate-able) information like Bible reading bookmarks and return address labels, you, esteemed Quicken, are commissioned with the task of storing, updating, and downloading very significant financial information for our family and our business. And yet you have the unmitigated gall to only do these tasks if and when you feel like it. Honestly, you act more like a peri-menopausal woman than a computer program.
2. For the past three years, your silence on my machine has been deafening, as well as infuriating. Why you will make a nice “cha-ching” sound on Scott’s machine when he enters a transaction and a nice “scissors slice” noise when he cuts a transaction, but you remain silent on mine drives me to distraction. The only way I can ever know if you have accepted what I have entered is to inspect it visually, a true pain when I need to do a great number of tasks sequentially.
3. While any normal, self-respecting program will instantly rise up from the status bar and fill the screen when clicked, you, in your great pride, refuse to maximize with one click or even with a double-click. Oh, no. You have the audacity to require three clicks to maximize. Do you not realize, O Quicken, that pride goes before DESTRUCTION?!?!
4. And your disdainful habit of spinning for a hideously long seven or eight seconds before acknowledging Every. Single. Transaction. . . dear Quicken, be it known to you that this got old well over a year ago.
5. Of course, behind every nasty, pendulously slow, bug-infested program, stands a marketing company determined to get its share, and you are clearly of your father, Intuit, which exists only to steal – and kill (our peace of mind?) and destroy (our financial records?) – from us every two years, by forcing us to either lose all our information and download capability OR pay cold, hard plastic to upgrade to a significantly nastier, slower, and buggier version than all the versions that have come before. Neither option is acceptable, but you have us over a barrel, so every two years we acquiesce, pay the money, and hope against hope that your new version will fix the bugs in the current version. Sadly, it never does, and instead it adds a lot of new problems.
6. And just when I thought you couldn’t get any worse, this last scheme of yours, the one to automatically categorize every transaction that you do deign to download as “Medical/Medicines/Prescription,” well, that one may just be enough to consign you to the Lake of Fire. With literally HUNDREDS of categories in our file to choose from, why you consistently land exclusively on that one escapes all logic. Perhaps it gives you some twisted sense of delight to force me to manually go in and (guess how to) categorize each charge. I suppose that’s a choice I have to make: I can either have no transactions download, or I can have a subset of them download and all be categorized as “Medical/Medicines/Prescription.” But WAIT! I don’t even have the luxury of making that choice. YOU make it for me, and frankly, dear Quicken, I deeply resent that.
Scott just downloaded your “Version 9,” which (optimistically speaking) will surely fix some of these issues without introducing new ones. May it be it unto me according to my faith.

Woe is we

We in our family have become totally dependent on electricity and technology.  When either of them fails us, we are seriously inconvenienced and mildly (Scott) to moderately (Andrew) or intensely (Patty) frustrated.  Two cases in point.

For the past several weeks, Scott’s phone has been acting out.  It disconnects at weird times, most often when Scott is talking to me(!), and from time to time it completely dies and will not take a charge.  Initially this occurred on Sunday mornings, but then it started happening at other times throughout the week.  Not only did this adversely affect Scott’s primary job, his secondary job, and his ministry responsibilities, it affected me because on no notice he had to use my phone for his conference calls – when I was planning to use it for other things.

Quite a bit of research, two trips to the phone repair place, several Q-tip shafts of cleaning, and lots of frustration later, it was still intermittently working. . . or not.  As he headed out of town on a business trip one day, he took it to a different repair place that switched out the battery for $50.  Hopefully it will continue to work now.

In July, Andrew forked out $400 to buy his dream (Lenovo) computer.  It’s a dandy, with loads of great features, and it does everything he wants it to do.  He uses it all the time – for web surfing, for facebook, for looking at cars, for making purchases, for email, and especially for music.  He listens to music on his computer while doing the dishes, while cleaning the church, and while doing his vacation rental cleaning job.  He took the computer with him to Michigan right after he got it, and he pretty much takes it everywhere he goes except school.

A week ago, it stopped working.  Black screen of death stuff.  He tried all the usual things and nothing worked.  Scott tried lots of things.  Nothing worked.  This is maximally frustrating to Andrew, and hence, VERY upsetting to all of us.  He has no music, no connectivity, none of the usual things for which he uses his computer on a daily basis.  With Scott, he contacted Lenovo support and the helpful first guy figured out that it’s not a hardware problem, so it must be a software problem.  He sent them to the significantly-less-than-helpful second gal, who took a long time to basically say, “too bad, so sad.”  Andrew has a warranty, but I guess it’s only for hardware.  The gal gave him two options:  he could spend $100 for something that might or might not fix it, or he could spend $200 for something that might or might not fix it.  As he has neither $100 nor $200 – not to mention the fact that the computer is BRAND NEW (Hello?!?), neither of those options is viable.  And so, he is now out $400 and has a dead computer to show for it.

One of the things they tried was some kind of factory re-set deal, and when it started running, it said – are you ready? – two hundred ninety HOURS remaining!  Andrew moaned, “That’s over twelve DAYS!!!”  But, as is often the case, it went down and actually only took something like 35 hours.  And didn’t work.  So he did it again, and it didn’t work.  And this evening he’s been trying not to cry.  I feel really bad for him.  He did nothing wrong, and yet he’s getting reamed.

In an extremely minor frustration, truly not even worthy of being numbered with the above two, I am trying to learn to do a certain small part of the vacation rental financial stuff, and when I went to do what I was supposed to do, I could not for love or money log into the site I needed to access.  I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and it didn’t work – even though it had worked perfectly the day before when Scott was sitting beside me.  His “mouth hold” situations are well-known, of course, but the very fact that there is absolutely no logic to them makes them even more maddening.  I spent more than 15 minutes doing the same procedure over and over and over and over and getting absolutely nowhere.

I have learned some lessons from all of this.

1. Buy all your electronics new and with a warranty.

2. Realize that even if you have a warranty, it may be meaningless.

3. When learning a new procedure that involves electronics, write out a back-up plan for when it doesn’t work.

4. Never, under any circumstances or for any reason (including, but not limited to great price, outstanding features, or your brother’s stellar experience) buy any product made or marketed by Lenovo.

This is real life in our electronics-dependent world.  Technology is truly wonderful when it works.  When it doesn’t, paper, pencil, and a calculator start looking really good!

“Searching. . .”

“No Service”

So my phone began saying suddenly Friday evening.

I tried again to send the same text.  Same result:  “No Service.”

I went out on the front porch and tried again.  Same result:  “No Service.”

About every 30 seconds it switched back and forth between “Searching. . . ” and “No Service.”

I looked at the phone and wondered.  Wondered why on earth my phone suddenly didn’t work, and wondered, embarrassingly, what it said about me and my priorities that the inconvenience of having a cell phone not work for a few minutes was such a big a deal.

After waxing philosophical, I did the next logical thing.  I turned the phone off and let it sit.  I was planning to turn it back on in a few minutes, but I got busy with other things and didn’t remember to do so until a couple hours later.  Same result:  “No Service.”  I put it on the charger and decided that it would probably work in the morning.

In the morning, it still said, “No Service.”  Or sometimes, for variety, “Searching. . . ”  I took it with me to walk, and over at Blansit Road, lo and behold, I had three dots!  Suhweet!  I assumed either it had fixed itself or Scott had held his mouth right, but not true.  Back at the house, I had “No Service” inside, “No Service” on the porch, “No Service” on the front walk, and “No Service” at the mailbox.  Maybe there was something holy about Blansit Road?

I was advised to take the battery out (and put it back in, duh).  That was a hopeful-sounding suggestion, but I didn’t know how to take the battery out.  Shoot, I didn’t even know where the battery was!  I went online and found a tutorial for taking the battery out of an iPhone S4, but I faced several challenges.  For one thing, the two screws it said I needed to remove were so small I had never even noticed them before because they just looked like pinpoint dots; for another thing, it appeared that in order to do this trick, I would need to use a microscopically small five-point(?!?) screwdriver which I did not have; and for yet another thing, a bold warning stated that removing the battery WOULD void the warranty.  I decided, wisely, as it turns out, to leave the battery right where it was.

Instead, I took the phone to the AT&T store.  Now, these stores are a bit over the top.  I am admittedly overweight, but I am quite capable of walking through one normal-sized door, so I felt a bit like the victim of a used car salesman when TWO friendly AT&T gentlemen simultaneously opened BOTH doors for me.  (Really, I’m not six feet wide!)  The one guy asked what he could do to help me and I told him that my phone had suddenly decided not to work at my house. I didn’t tell him it worked on Blansit Road because we were eight miles from that holy place, and I had no way of proving it still worked there, if, in fact, it did.  He told me that it wasn’t just me; it was “everyone.”  I was greatly relieved!

It seems that some fiber optic line was cut, and a lot of people’s AT&T phone service is out.  It’s a known problem and they are working to restore service, but they don’t have time estimate of when that will be completed.  Wondering if perhaps all the AT&T customers in all of my fair unincorporated area were out, I told him I was in Walnut Shade.  He replied that the problem was in Kansas City(!!!).  The affected area must be GINORMOUS.  He also told me that since it’s such a big problem affecting so many people, he thinks they will get it fixed quickly, maybe by tonight.

Back home, I googled the situation and found this article.

So, I am much happier, although my phone is still “Searching. . .”

Excel escapes me

I keep the records of donations given to Jessica.  I use an Excel spreadsheet to do this.  It’s a slightly complicated beast that Scott set up for me a few years ago.  It calculates totals and averages and things like that, and it has a separate sheet for each month.  Therein lies the rub.  Over a year ago, I had created a bunch more monthly sheets, but they only went through February 2015.  Since February is now upon us, today was the time to make more worksheets (much like “time to make the donuts”).

Now, it having been so very long ago that I had last added new sheets to the beast, I didn’t remember the details of how to do it, so I started looking at the formulas in the various cells to try to figure out exactly what I needed to do.  I did remember that this had been an incredibly frustrating little procedure the last time I tackled it, and in that, my memory proved painfully accurate.

At one point, I was looking at this formula:  =H2+’Oct 2014 (29)’!12  But on my computer screen, I couldn’t tell whether or not there was a space between the 4 of 2014 and the open parenthesis.  So I did something that seemed innocent enough to me, but evidently was strictly forbidden; I dared to put my cursor to the right of the 4 and then – shock and horror! – click to see if there was a space beside it.  Hear Ye!  Hear Ye!  This is blatantly illegal in Excel!!!  If any fool is stupid enough to violate this unwritten law, his or her entire Excel spreadsheet – not just the specific worksheet on which s/he placed the cursor and clicked, oh, no! – will be completely hosed.

And so it was.

And so I was maximally frustrated.

And so I sent Scott an email asking him to please fix the stupid spreadsheet when he got home.

And so I decided to scrap the whole stupid spreadsheet (which has given me various fits through the years, anyway) and create a new one that actually makes sense to me, which works for me, which I can update on my own, and to which I can add as many new months as I jolly well please.

And said creation took me about an hour-and-a-half.

It was indescribably tedious and, since no formulas could be copied and pasted, I did all the manual work of typing 36 different formulas about as complicated as the one above.  But I did eventually get the silly thing to do what I wanted it to do, and I did, yea and verily, feel competent.

And Scott came home and offered to fix the old one.  Which he did, and then he showed me how to add the sheets I needed.  Which I did on the spot (well, on the 15 minutes) because it was so detailed and complicated (well, not for the average 21st century brain, but definitely for mine) that I knew if I didn’t do it RIGHT THEN I’d never remember how to do it.  And I added months through January 2017.  I was going to go through March 2017, but I made some dumb mistake in February 2017, which I couldn’t figure out how to fix, so I just deleted February and March and left well enough alone, thinking, “at least I won’t have to add any more sheets for a couple of years!”

Much was time eaten, but my mission was accomplished.  The main thing was that I proved that I really can figure out how to make Excel do certain things.  I cannot, however, figure out how to make it do anything that involves going from one worksheet to another; although this is okay, because, given that I have lived 54 years without having to personally make Excel calculate between two worksheets, it’s fairly likely that I will be able to live the rest of my natural life quiet successfully without ever having to make it do so.

Note To Whom Whichever Programmers It May Concern:  Since computers and programs are now so darn smart, they definitely should display warnings stating that they will implode if normal humans do perfectly logical things.  For example, if simply clicking on a space in a formula is going to cause my entire collection of 20+ worksheets to significantly malfunction, then it’s really not asking too much to have the program give me some sort of notification of that fact beforehand.  Really.

Magic phone

I am adjusting well to my new smart phone, and as much as I hate to admit it, I really do like it.  = )  It is sleek and can do a lot of things that may eventually prove helpful and even essential.  Right now, I am limiting myself to making and receiving phone calls, checking voicemail (hmm. . . do I even remember how to check voicemail?), and sending and receiving texts.  I have ordered a case for the phone and a travel charger, all for a total of $12.  When they arrive, I will find out whether or not  I only got what I paid for.

In other phone-related news, although I have set water drinking alarms on my new phone and turned my old phone off and stashed it in my desk, it still makes aquatic sounds every hour on the hour.  I am not sure how it can do that!  With the new one, I need to turn it off whenever I’m not using is, so that it will stay charged all day, but with the old one, I just left it on all day and connected it to the charger at night.  I thought I would have to take the battery out of it to get it to shut up, but it’s such a creative (but not smart) phone that I figured that even with the battery gone, it would probably find a way to remind me to drink water.  So. . . I turned it on, silenced it, and turned it back off, and voila!  No water alarms from the desk drawer.  It is gratifying to know that I am still smarter than my phone – at least my old one.