Cider Press Hill

It works!

Friday, 12:52 pm

By Kate





Yesterday Ubuntu released their new operating system software version 8.10. (I used the Wubi installer.) They named their new release Intrepid...and it is. I installed it last night and whoo-hoo. They fixed a few things. When I fired it up, it instantly connected to the internet and I’m off to the races again. Wheeee! Now my Dell laptop is a dual boot machine that runs Windows and Ubuntu. It’s kind of like the best of both worlds. Kate is one happy camper.


I hate Windows

Monday, 11:29 am

By Kate





When I first began using Windows Vista last autumn, I liked it. I liked what it did, I liked how it worked, I liked how it looked. I liked it a lot. But then, the little bugs started crawling of its woodwork. Every day there is something glitchy. The most annoying is when Windows shuts my computer off without any warning whatsoever to update and install the software. I know that it’s supposed to give me an option to postpone and all my settings tell it to give me an option, but Vista totally ignores my settings and does what it pleases. And the glitchiest part is that my screen goes black while Windows is doing whatever it’s doing and I can’t see what it’s doing or click anything to make it stop. And then it apparently freezes. Or something. The mouse moves, but I can’t get my screen back. My computer will stay in that condition for hours. Something gets stuck or whatever. I have to manually shut the computer off, which, of course, means that anything I was working on is gone. When I turn the computer back on, Windows finishes the updates and installation and I’m good to go again.

Happened again last evening and I lost a wad of stuff I was working on. Not pleased at all. In fact, I’m fed up to the teeth with Windows. Finally.

Is Ubuntu a good alternative? I wanted to try it out on my previous computer, but it wouldn’t work. Maybe this time. Anyone use it and like it?


Bad Site Meter

Friday, 5:24 pm

By Kate




heavy rain

When I checked in on the blog this afternoon, the page loaded so slowly that it was painful. I watched all the little link addresses loading on the web browser’s status bar and noted one that said Wait a second. I don’t have anything to do with specificclick. Why is that loading on my web pages?

I went into my Firefox options and removed the specificclick cookies. I reloaded my web page and it showed up again. In the Firefox Options area, the cookies were back. Several of them. I then blocked the cookies and my web page loaded fast and cleanly. But that only works for my computer. If you have noticed the same thing happening on my or other sites, you need to permanently block the specificclick cookies. It’ll make many web pages load a lot faster and stop your browsing from being tracked by this...disease.

The question remained, though, where did that cookie come from? Off to do a little Googling about it.

What I learned…

Info from WordPress
Info from (referred by WordPress)
Things you should know before using sitemeter - Michael Sync

Site Meter has apparently made the brilliant business decision to insert a specificclick cookie into websites that use Site Meter (through the coding). Without our knowledge. Without our consent. Without options offered. This has put website owners into the position of being somewhat viral. If we use the Site Meter stats service on our website, we have (recently) unknowingly passed along a tracking cookie to all our visitors. That’s thousand and thousands and thousands of websites and hundreds of thousands of website visitors? Scuse me, but that’s just wrong. And it slows our web sites down to a crawl at times in the bargain. Site Meter has attempted to explain this all as being a super duper method of providing their clients with better service. They apparently don’t understand that when you mess with people’s websites, it makes a lot of them really pissed off. Besides the stink of the ethics involved.

Anyway, just to make sure, I unblocked the specificclick cookies and removed the Site Meter coding. No problems, no cookies. And my blog loaded very quickly. I put the Site Meter coding back and the page loaded slowly and the cookies were back. Removed the cookies and the Site Meter coding and all was well again. Crap.

I liked Site Meter. I really did. They have very useful stats. But I have removed their code from my web site. Trust broken. Screw ‘em. I can live without them. My web site was not designed to provide free marketing stats to some one else or provide income to someone else (most especially without my knowledge or consent) or spread lousy rotten tracking cookies to my friends and acquaintances or anyone else.


Computer Maintenance

Friday, 3:41 pm

By Kate




When my laptop arrived in November, it was loaded with McAfee (a complimentary year’s subscription) and Vista’s pretty worthless firewall. I don’t like McAfee and have never wanted it on any of my machines. It doesn’t get rave reviews anywhere and I’ve had to do some remedial tinkering with a friend’s machine whose McAfee had let some pretty ugly stuff through. But Dell didn’t give me an option. It was fully loaded on my laptop and ready to go. So, I figured I’d put up with it until after the lad went back to school and the dust settled around here.

On Monday evening, I started looking under the laptop’s hood to see how to turn McAfee off...disable it. Well. I guess one doesn’t disable it or turn it off. At least I couldn’t find a way to do it. Which means, if it is an option somewhere, they’ve made it about as difficult as possible to do it. There should be an easy way to disable virus protection software when one wants to install some new software or run certain tests on the computer.

So, then I started looking around for the most effective way to get rid of it—remove it from my computer altogether. That’s not so easy, either. The uninstall feature leaves a lot of little bits and pieces behind that cause all sorts of trouble when one wants to install a different virus protection program. But, following directions that I found at a Dell forum, for people who similarly hate McAfee, I was able to get rid of every last vestige of McAfee. I spent a lot of time combing through the laptop’s directories, deleting crap that should have been removed with the uninstall utility. It took a couple of hours, but I was finally McAfee-free.

So, what to replace it with? I’ve had success in the past with AVG anti-virus (free), Spybot Search and Destroy (free), and Spyware Doctor (free). I also had Sygate Personal Firewall (free) on my Windows XP desktop machine and I loved it. But Sygate is no longer updated (Norton bought it) and the older version isn’t compatible with Windows Vista. So what to use? I settled on the free edition of Zone Alarm and ratcheted it down as tight as a drum. I don’t like the presentation as well as Sygate (I loved its real time graphs and visuals), but Zone Alarm seems to work very well.

I’ve been rather bemused by the volume of traffic trying to get into my machine and the stuff on my machine that wants to get in touch with the world. And more than a little disturbed to find one entity attempting to contact my bank account from within my computer. It surely wasn’t me. As much as I thoroughly enjoy using Yahoo’s Widgets, I wouldn’t recommend using it without a really good firewall in place. And the native Windows Vista firewall is not a good or user friendly firewall. I’ve scanned and cleaned and scanned some more. There was a lot of stuff in there that McAfee let in. My laptop seems to be very, very clean now.

Having said all that, I’m open to other suggestions and recommendations for firewalls or even anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall suites. I’ve looked around, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot available for Vista yet. In the meanwhile, I think I have a pretty good line of defense set up and established.


The next issue wanting a little attention.....

I’ve been using LCD screens with my computer for a couple of years now. I didn’t run into this issue with my previous one, but the LCD screen on my laptop seems prone to what the techies call Image Persistence. When a static image stays on the screen for a prolonged period of time (like the task bar or tool bars), the little LCD screen pixels develop a memory and they stick. Like glue. And a ghost image persists after the on-screen image is turned off or moved. I have a lovely grayish ghost image of my task bar at the bottom of my laptop screen. It’s just one of those things that drives me absolutely nuts. Because sometimes I like to move things around and I don’t like having a persistent image where one shouldn’t be.

After reading everything I could find on the problem, I followed some of the advice offered. I made a 1200 x 900 pixel pure white image and set up my screen saver to repeat that image over and over. All that does is make the screen totally white for as long as the screen saver operates. It is supposed to relax all those little screen pixels and, eventually, erase their memory. In my case, it is working, but slowly. If I left the white screen saver on longer, it would probably work faster, but I’m too cheap with the kilowatt hours.

For the near term, I have my laptop set to switch on the screen saver after one minute of idle time. It’s a little extreme for some, but it works for me. After 10 minutes of screen saver time, my screen shuts off and all the little pixels get to rest even more. And after 15 minutes, the machine goes to sleep and after 20 minutes, it hibernates. Meanwhile, I’ve also set my task bar to auto-hide. Same with the Yahoo Widgets dock bar. The LCD pixels shouldn’t have much of a chance to develop a memory with this set-up.

Although Image Persistence is usually temporary and/or reversible, it’s irritating, It was a surprise to find out that LCD screens are as susceptible to that as CRT monitors are to burn-in. Nuts.



Wednesday, 8:04 pm

By Kate




clear night

I like to decorate my computer with pretty stuff. Or at least interesting stuff. Since purchasing my laptop, I’ve more or less ignored the prettification process. But the wallpaper that comes with Windows Vista is just plain...generically blah. I took a good look yesterday and was underwhelmed.

So I went over to DeviantArt where there is usually a collection of pretty cool stuff, put on offer by a wide variety of artists or wannabe artists. Some are, admittedly, pretty awful, but there are a lot of eye grabbing images displayed. I waded through several pages and found some wallpaper that I liked. And then…

I stumbled across TinyPilot (Thomas Meldgaard) who is a 30-something artist from Denmark. He seems to have some aspirations toward Children’s Illustration and I find it incredible that he isn’t published yet. He kind of reminds me a bit of a young Chris Van Allsburg (who also offers wallpaper) with a smidge of Maurice Sendak mixed in here and there. When you stumble across someone that good, you can just feel it. Most of his work is digital art and I’m captivated by it.

Among his many pieces, this little fellow is currently serving as wallpaper on my laptop. There are several other of TinyPilot’s pieces that he offers as wallpaper (and several available as prints) and I’ve snagged them all. Definitely check out TinyPilot’s DeviantArt Gallery. Or you could check out his deliciously updated website where he also offers wallpapers in different resolutions. His illustrations really are wonderful.


My new laptop

Monday, 12:50 pm

By Kate





Christmas will come a little early to my house this year. I bought myself a laptop last night and, with a little luck, it will arrive on my doorstep early next week. This isn’t the laptop that I was looking at and drooling over. Nay. It’s better. Except it isn’t the color I’d have preferred (Ruby Red), but Jet Black will do just fine.

It’s a Dell and it’s pre-owned and refurbished and it has a scratch and a small dent on it. Since it’s not my Primary computer, I am willing to take the chance on a less than perfect refurbished one—I’ve owned two refurbished Apple computers in the past and they turned out to be terrific computers. So, for the astonishing price of $649, I got myself a sweet little machine that has Windows Vista Home Premium (meh!), 2GB of RAM, a dual core 2.2 GHz processor, 160 GB hard drive, a DVD/RW (with double layer write capability) disk drive, a souped up 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS video card, a Sound Blaster Extreme Audio sound card, and an integrated 2.0 mega pixel webcam (not that I’ll ever use that).

I’m taking a wild guess that the kid who owned it, before me, dropped it and sent it back under Dell’s accident protection plan. It’s a risk, but one I’m willing to take. The warranty is excellent, so I should have no difficulty returning it if the laptop turns out to be a total lemon. It’ll probably be fine, scratch and dent nothwithstanding.

And, I believe, under the rules of the 90% project, I can qualify and count this as a used purchase at 10% of the purchase price - toward my consumer goods allowance.

And my electricity use drop like a rock.

I hope they ship it SOON!


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