Sunday, March 01, 2009

I'm a PC


Before I get into the blog, I have to report on this news story. Stupid driver or Queen of Multitasking, you decide.

Breast-Feeding Driver Cited
KETTERING, Ohio (AP) — Police say an Ohio mother has been charged with child endangering after another driver reported she was breast-feeding and talking on the phone while driving. The caller told police in suburban Dayton that he spotted the minivan-driving mother dropping off children at a school Thursday morning. Officer Michael Burke says authorities used a license plate number to track down 39-year-old Genine Compton, who told them she was breast-feeding and wouldn’t let her child go hungry. He says the child was under 2 years old. Burke says the legal concern is that Compton had a child in her lap, not that she was breast-feeding in public. He says she faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,800 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.

Now back to the regular program.

How many of you reach for a pen and pad of paper when it’s time to write?
I thought so. A few occasional holdovers, but the majority use advanced technology.I’m going to show my age, but I’ve grown up with computers. In fact I can still remember my first. Well, the first computer I saw in person. It was an IBM 1620. A room full of heavy processors, tape drives, card reader, key punches and those CRT screens with the green letters. It touted a whopping 4,000 bytes of memory. OK, these days my car key has more memory, but in 1968 (I just started high school) it was da bomb.

The room was elevated to take care of all the wiring and they installed a separate chilling system to keep the room cool. I remember writing my first Fortran program to add 5 numbers and spit out the answer. I believe the actual program took 12 or so computer cards and with 4 K of computing power, the Fortran compiler (I suppose what we would call an operating system) had to be loaded each and every time for well over 100 cards. Total processing time? About 20 minutes.

It was real fun when we hung the processor in a do loop. For those less tech savvy folks and anyone too young, getting hung in a do loop was getting caught in a vicious circle that the computer couldn’t get out of. By the way, it happened all the time.

While co-oping through college with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I got to play with a GE 6000 that was housed in a remote location at The Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Yes, I occasionally caught that monster computer in a do loop. They didn’t have the sense of humor my high school teachers had. Not with the entire Corps of Engineers worldwide fighting for computer time. But the ladies that yelled at me on the phone had the most beautiful southern accents.

I even got to write a program for a Kray Supercomputer, which ain’t so super by today’s standard.

Four years after I graduated from college, I received my first PC. It was 1984 and that beautiful machine was an IBM 8088, with two 5 ¼ inch floppy drives and no hard drive. You loaded DOS, (pre-windows operating system) and then slid the Wordstar disc in and you were off and running. Of course when it came time to save a file, you swapped discs and then saved. Oh, no internet connectivity way back then. Al Gore still hadn’t invented it yet.

I think I pretty much had every version of PC as the industry blossomed. Hardware drove new developments in software and then software pushed hardware development as processing speeds got faster and storage grew from K’s to megabytes, to gigabytes and now to terabytes. Somewhere in there, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs came out with a revolutionary machine called the Apple Macintosh. I remember thinking that their endeavor would flop like a lead balloon. Of course, Mythbusters proved that a lead balloon could fly and the Macintosh is considered top of the line and preferred by the journalism industry.

So these days I write exclusively on my 5 year old 17 inch Toshiba laptop. I’m running Windows XP and forbid my family from using it. They have a tenancy to download trojans and other nasty viruses. However, my display is starting to flicker, I just spent $100 for a new battery and I’m realizing, it’s not all that portable. So, I just pre-ordered a new ASUS Eee PC 1000HE 10-Inch Netbook (1.66 GHz Intel Atom N280 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 10 GB E-Storage, Bluetooth, XP Home, 9.5 Hour Battery Life) Blue. It doesn’t ship until mid-March, but for $375, I couldn’t resist.

SO what do you use to write? Laptop, desktop, Mac, PC, Word, Open Office, Wordstar, notepad?

Tech tip. (DISCLAIMER: I am not recommending this product or suggesting you should use it, but it worked for me.

Is your PC notably slower than when you bought it? There are many reasons for slowdowns, including upgrading to new products like Office 2007, but for some, it’s likely to be anything from spyware to Windows Registry problems.

I just had my desktop machine “FIXED” after my aforementioned daughters downloaded a trojan that stopped my computer in it’s tracks. The trojan un-installed my virus protection and crashed my home office. The company that repaired it for me installed a little freeware program called ccleaner. You can find it on Cnet’s if you’re so inclined.

It takes care of a multitude of issues and cleans up cookies and a host of other things that could be slowing you down. It also has a Registry cleaner. Windows Registry is the heart of Windows, so be careful when messing with it. What happens over time is that programs leave remnants in the registry that Windows has to go through every time it runs something. These extraneous lines of code just start slowing the machine down. For me, running the registry cleaner on ccleaner brought my PC and my laptop out of the thick mud and brought new life to them.


Gina said...

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, Will. I did my undergrad minor in computer science, back when we had to communicate with computers via punch-cards, so I remember all the programing that went into even the most simple operations. The standard experience at the University of Pittsburgh was:
1. spend hours trying to figure out how to write the program in Fortran or Cobol (or machine language, which was even more fun for someone as math-challenged as me because it expressed binary numbers in octal);
2. keypunch a stack of card;
3. wrap an identifying piece of paper around the stack of cards with a gum band (that's a rubber band to those of you who don't speak Pittsburghese);
4. turn in the card stack to an office to be run;
5. come in the next morning to see a sign: "We lost 47 jobs last night." Or worse, to find that you had to minutely examine thousands of lines of text or numbers on a printout to try to figure out why your program didn't work.
The good old days. Now I write on a Dell desktop but I've been taking some film courses that rely on PhotoShop and FinalCut Express, so I'm seriously considering acquiring a Mac.

Joyce said...

We got our first PC way back in the mid 80s. I think it had 1MB hard drive--state of the art back then. The next one had 2MB and I upgraded it to a whopping 4. I have no idea what our computers have now.

I use a laptop (Dell Inspiron 600m) exclusively for writing. I only use the desktop when I have to print something.

I use C-cleaner, too. Also AVG anti-virus. As far as writing goes, I use Word 2000. I refuse to upgrade to 2007--it's horrible. Way too many problems.

I'm thinking about trying some writing software that was mentioned on the Kill Zone blog. One is called Liquid Story Binder and the other is ywriter5. They both look like they have some interesting features that will keep track of notes, outlines, characters, timelines, scenes, etc. And you can convert your doc to Word to send it out.

Oh, and as for that mother in the news story? Did she never think of pulling over to feed the kid? I hope they throw the book at her.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Gina, never learned Cobol. Actually, learning Fortran in high school helped me get into the CO-OP program and switch majors from Civil Drafting to Civil Engineering. One step in my crazy life.

Joyce, this morning on the way to work (YEAH) I had a Jaguar in front of me weaving around on the cloverleaf entrance ramp. At the first oppotunity, I passed and sure enough, Lady plumping up her eyelashes.

Dana King said...

Thanks for the tip about ccleaner. The Beloved Spousal Equivalent and I have had some performance issues lately and this might be just what we need. (COMPUTER performance. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.)

I write on a Dell Vostro 1000 using Word 2007, unless I'm stuck, or have to do enough thinking to interfere with my limited typing skills. Then I grab a clipboard I always have handy and go back to good old pencil and paper until I've sorted out my thoughts. Might take two minutes, might take to hours, but the pencil and paper removes one distraction for me.

Wilfred Bereswill said...


Make sure you set a restore point on Windows Restore prior to running any registry cleaner. Just in case you need to go back.

I have a hodgepodge of different versions of Word. Mainly 2003 and 2007. I've been using 2007 on my laptop and I'm still not comfortable with the menu system.

Normally, I don't like change merely for the sake of change.

Anonymous said...

Wow, a lot of geeks here, aren't there! I bought my first PC the year before you did, Wil, but mine had DOS loaded. It had 256k of RAM, can you imagine trying to fit any GUI into that teeny amount today? Fat chance. That system, along with a wide-carriage daisy wheel printer, cost me a whopping $5,000, too. Think of all the toys you could buy today for that much money.

Al Gore NEVER said he invented the Internet. Please don't even joke about that.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Don't get me started on Daisey-wheel printers. I'm glad I could forget about having to have a "Driver" for every printer (on your computer) you wanted to print on.

I received my first laptop in 1991. It was a Zenith 286 model. The battery was at least 6 pounds by itself and ran the computer for maybe an hour.

sz said...

Well I feel the lady was wrong to not have her child secured in a car.

I have a tendency to write in my head sometimes. Put me in an airport and I come home with a bunch of napkins !

Funny you should bring this up, last night I grabbed one of my notebooks and wrote some quick notes as my Dell was not turned on !

Handwriting has always allowed me to get out what I want better.