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Archive for July 8th, 2007

In Retrospect…

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

lizzylaptopkeyboard.jpgWarning: Mostly geek content, fairly grumpy Windows Vista post (with gratuitous Rhubarb Crisp Recipe) to follow… knitters and uke fans not interested in computers or rhubarb might like to return tomorrow for pretty pictures?

I’m assuming someone will be interested in one person’s experience with Vista. Remember that I taught software professionally as my primary job for over 6 years followed by about 3 years of Y2K Consulting and Access Database programming. I have taught computer software use from DOS to WindowsXP. I had a web page I wrote myself in HTML, in 1996, when most people didn’t have email… therefore, I have specific desires in an operating system/computer (mostly for power over changes in my system) than most computer users today might.


Maybe I should have trusted my gut, and bought a more expensive laptop with Windows XP. I would have been up and running for a week now, anyway. A year and a half ago I got a new hard drive for my old laptop, had to start from scratch (Ghost would not work to transfer files), and it only took 2.5 weeks to get up and running. Right now it has been 3.5 weeks and I’m not set yet.

The Good

I’m actually thrilled that a lot of my non-major-player softwares are working fine. My HTML Editor, Arachnophilia 4.0, was written when I had Windows 98 and it works like a champ. This is CareWare, a wonderful concept, and even though this version is no longer supported, I have never needed support since Windows98.

My (free) PDF writer, CutePDF, worked the first time and actually says on their site it’s set up for Vista. My Secure FTP program (for copying web pages from my hard drive to my website), FileZilla, worked the first time and even imported the old settings (I maintain several websites so this was really great, to not have to look up usernames, hosts and passwords for them all).

More standard softwares that fared well: Firefox (my browser rather than Microsoft Internet Explorer) did not flinch. Photoshop 5.5, copyright 1999, acted as if nothing were changed. Eudora 7.0 (email) works like a champ. Adobe Reader 8 is fine, as is OpenOffice (a free office productivity suite, with a word processor and spreadsheet that I use sometimes, and a PowerPoint substitute plus a few other goodies available).

The Bad

The down sides: My laptop came with Microsoft Word 2007 (a trial version, I need to pay in a little while if I want to keep it, which I will not do). It has such a different interface that I can’t figure it out. Maybe it would be more instinctive to someone who never used a word processor before, although personally I think that they put far too much visual clutter in front of the user and they hid all the basics.

For instance, it’s hard to find Undo (there is a tiny back arrow in the TITLE BAR/colored bar at very top where no useful menus have ever lived before). And there is no “menu bar” with File, Edit, View, etc… just a huge “icon” in the top left corner where the not-useful control menu used to live (it did minimize/restore/maximize but people tended to prefer the buttons at top right for those functions instead). When you click on that round button, you get Open and Save and Print. Sigh.

In many programs in Vista, you can tap the “Alt” key to display the hidden menu bar (since when is that instinctive?) but in Word 2007, if you tap Alt, you see letters telling you what keystrokes you can use to access the menu without your mouse. I use keystrokes but have them memorized. We will see if using this program for a while will make me more familiar and more friendly with these radical changes. As a computer instructor (I teach retirees once a week), this complicates things a lot… my students will be split between two different interfaces at home, and the classroom will only show one of the options.

For casual users who learn computers in a classroom or library, if they get this on the first computer they buy, they will be most definitely lost. I mean, *I* got lost and I have used a series of different types of computers since 1981 (mini, mainframe, and PC’s from DOS to Vista, Mac and a little Linux), and have been teaching Windows word processors since version 3.1 came out in the early 1990s.

If you are interested, you can click on the image below to see a full-sized window. You can either just slurp up Mom’s Rhubarb Crisp Recipe (it’s OK with her, she shares it all the time), or you can peek at the new look for Microsoft Word version 2007.


The Plan

What I am doing right now is just sort of dabbling in Word 2007 until it disables itself (hoping that I will pay for it). I will then uninstall it and instead install Microsoft Office XP/2002 for Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and perhaps Outlook (gasp). I also have a stand-alone copy of Access 2000 and will also install that.

lizzylaptopcover.jpgI will need to buy a copy of either MS Publisher or Adobe InDesign. The Adobe softwares are much superior but so expensive they make me hurt. I may have to just deal with it, after all I’m a pattern designer and most designers are going to this format.

Right now I just have a few things for The Fabulous Heftones in MS Publisher 98, nothing really big, and the program is not really good enough for anything more. Version 98 was written as if it were for Windows 3.1 (the Save As box gives this away) so it needs to be retired at this point.

The Muddled

Printing is also not working perfectly. Brian is pretty sure he can figure this out. I can print fine if I connect the printer directly to my laptop, but it prints off center and too low on the page if I print through the network. I am choosing not to worry about that too much yet.

I also did buy a new Palm Device (my very old Handspring would not load its synch or driver softwares) and I do like that gizmo just fine. I thought I found a calendar program I liked (I do) but it does not allow me to synch my addresses, not to it and not to Palm Desktop. At this point I may actually try Outlook (since I already own a legal copy) just for address and contacts, and ignore the email part which is the part with the most security risk. I have to be able to synch my addresses!

The Fixed

Last night I had a bad spell with my Knitware Sweaters and Knitware Skirts and Shawls programs (both versions 2.5). I love these programs, though I don’t knit many sweaters. I did knit a dance top once (photo at left) using the sweaters version, although at the time I had to convert their pattern from flat to circular knitting (the current version supports knitting in the round). It just plain made things easier to figure out than plotting it all myself. And the top is so adorable my dance friends say out loud they could get one.

So I installed these programs. At the end of the install I could choose for the program to run right away. I did, and it worked just fine. Then I closed them and tried to re-run from the start menu. No luck. I was beside myself at that point.

Fortunately Brian calmed me down (he should not have to deal with me that grumpy at all, but he was so logical he did wonders). He walked me through a bunch of questions that made me more willing to keep trying. In the end, I first tried something called “compatibility mode” which did not work, and then I found “Run as Administrator” which did work. I have to enter the admin password in order to run the software, but then it works, and works very quickly. I am delighted.


Perhaps it would be good to remember why I got a new machine in the first place. My old machine would not burn CDs at all, and this was becoming more and more of a hassle to me. Then the cooling fan started making very bad noises. The fan cost really too much to replace when the laptop was already 4.5 years old, surely other things would start to go as well. So it was only a matter of time that I might be forced to change over and I wanted to do it while both machines were running.

Copying files between the machines was a hassle of the worst kind, I tried 4 different methods to do it and all of them would fail regularly, requiring constant supervision. However, that part is finally done (took 3 weeks) so now I just need to figure out the best way to back up the new hard drive (since the old backup software does not work in Vista). There is a backup program in Windows but I may not choose to go that route, we will see.

The Remainder

So now I’m down to address book woes and printing off-center issues. Maybe I will survive this transition after all. It would be a relief to my beloved Brian, I am sure. I often have grumpy mornings but I’ve had a grumpy three weeks and I think he’s really tired of it!!! To be honest, I’m tired of me this way, too.

The Artist in Me Deals with Her Frustration

How did I deal with my nervous energy today? I marked my geek territory, so to speak. I put a LOT of stickers on the inside of my laptop. (Besides being fun and colorful on a colorless laptop, the stickers are also a theft-deterrant.) I sure hope they stay stuck, because if they get caught under the keys of the keyboard I will have some trouble. They are metallic with really sticky backs so I am hoping for good luck.

On either side of the glidepad mouse are stickers that say “Lynn” which were a gift from Rainbow Julie, at the bottom of the monitor and keyboard are VW Beetles given to me by a music/knitting friend, and then there are a bunch of hearts and stars and daisies that Brian bought around Valentine’s Day last year.

Last week I put stickers on the cover. I have a Fabulous Heftones bumper sticker, musical notes and VW Beetles, and a photo sticker of a young Andy Warhol that came from some postage stamps. I admire how Warhol used the design element of repetition so effectively (since I do polymer clay, knitting and printmaking/rubber stamping, I also use this design element very heavily).

The Good News: Summertime

I think I feel better now. It is 97F degrees, perfect hammock weather. I made some iced tea and I think I’ll do some hammock time, either knitting or surfing wirelessly or maybe even reading. Enjoy your summer day (assuming you’re not on the other side of the globe) as well.

And the Promised Rhubarb Crisp Recipe (added to post much later)

LynnH’s Rhubarb Crisp (inspired by Mom)

Crumbly Crust Ingredients
1 cup flour (I use oat flour, can use all-purpose wheat)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup “quick” rolled oats (or half quick and half old-fashioned)
1/2 cup melted butter (can sub margarine)
a shake or two of cinnamon and/or nutmeg, if desired

Filling Ingredients
3 to 4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour (I use oat flour, can use all-purpose wheat)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, optional
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, optional
1/8 tsp. allspice, optional

Combine dry crust ingredients. Mix in butter until crumbly, sprinkle half to  two-thirds of the oat mixture over bottom and sides of nine inch pie pan. (Note from Lynn: I don’t press much, if I do it sticks too much after baking.)

Combine filling ingredients. Sugar should become moist enough to stick to the rhubarb. Late-season or grocery store rhubarb may need a bare sprinkling of water to get the right moisture.

Top crust in pan with filling, and sprinkle with remaining crust mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes. Should be bubbling when it is done.

Let rest long enough that it does not burn you! Add ice cream or whipped cream if you wish.

Mom’s Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup melted butter

Save 1 tsp flour. Combine flour, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, stir in oats. Mix in butter until crumbly, press 2/3 of the oat mixture over bottom and sides of nine inch pie pan. (Note from Lynn: I don’t press much, if I do it sticks too much after baking.)

3 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine rhubarb, reserved 1 tsp of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Fill crust and cover with remaining (1/3rd) of oat mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.