Slow Computers

Feb - 27 2016 | no comments | By

Why Your Computer Is Slow–The Real Reasons

PC_tower-melting(A Slightly Tongue-in-Cheek Look at the Fine Art of Maintenance)

1. It was made that way. You wanted cheap, you got cheap. Manufacturers like to sell quantity, not quality, because they can turn over more stock faster. Walmart employees are paid to sell you stuff, not to know a lot. You looked at the price, not the bones and muscle, and you were impressed by the fat — that is, bundled snareware that you thought came along free, and other useless software.

2. It’s burdened with Windows, a notorious resource-hog. Since your cheap box has a puny processor and the barest minimum RAM to run Windows, it naturally horks up if you ask it to chew gum at the same time. It would probably be much happier running Linux.

3. Too much junk is running at startup. Not only all the normal default Windows bloat, but that lovely Norton or McAfee that came with, the other pre-installed junk you don’t use, and the 369 odds and ends that you let your printer (or other peripheral device) disk load on. A new video or sound card can be another great source of bloat. All you need is the drivers, Buddy; the rest of the load is 99% garbage.

4. You never think about maintenance until the poor thing can barely crawl. You’re always in such a hurry that you don’t even shut it down, you hibernate so that it comes back up faster. Then the humonguous hibernation file starts rotting and everything goes to hell. Temporary files? I bet you have 3GB and some of them are starting to smell.

5. On top of all that, you let installers/updaters do what they want. You hunt for popular stuff and download music and movies with Internet Explorer. Then you start trying out every computer tune-up program that comes into sight because your poor computer keeps getting slower because you (go back to the beginning of this paragraph, rinse and repeat).

I have a pet paranoid theory that malware programmers pay computer manufacturers to hobble their products, in order to encourage downloads of rogue cleaners etc.. Go ahead, laugh.

What Can You Do?

1. First, check whether your problem is slow computer or slow internet!
http://computerlearnhow.com/how-to-tell-if-you-have-a-slow-computer-or-slow-internet/

2. Maintenance! Clean regularly. CCleaner (get the “portable” version that you just unZip and run) is a very safe cleaner. Nuke the temp files othen. Clean the Registry once in a while; it’s not a big deal unless you do a lot of installing/uninstalling. Don’t defrag frequently, and when you do, clean first!

3. Get rid of pre-installed junk that you don’t use. Especially if it runs at startup and is always updating itself. Protect your computer with a HOSTS file. Use an ad-blocking browser extension. Do NOT use Internet Explorer. It is the #1 vulnerability of Windows. Firefox has better add-ons anyway.

4. Learn how to find safe downloads, and how to take care of your computer. Use DuckDuckGo instead of Google — you will not be tracked and shown “sponsored” links (ads) related to your searches. Even Google is often better than Yahoo or Bing. A search engine that runs on payola will give you what it’s paid to show first.

5. Don’t be a Software Cat Lady. Don’t run around picking up every new toy whether you need it or not. Research, find out what you really need, what works, what to watch out for. Find out what you can do with what you already have. Don’t just grab at anything that offers to do it all for you with no effort, no learning curve. There ain’t no such thing.

5A. You don’t need screensavers. You don’t need special smilies for your email. You don’t need Facebook games. Nobody needs toolbars or weather spy-bugs or shopping “helpers.” Grow the eff up.

6. Advertising is EVIL! NEVER use any computer speed-up or registry cleaning software that you see advertised anywhere. NEVER click on web-page pop-ups that tell you that your computer needs blah-blah, or is in danger of so-and-so. DO NOT DOWNLOAD from CNET, Tucows, Softpedia, FileHippo, or just about any major big-name download site if you can help it. They all bundle crapware. Sometimes you can find a small text link for a clean download, if you look hard enough. Most often, you will download a downloader which will then try to download a load of garbage and toolbars before it gets you the program you wanted.

If you end up with a crap-bundle-pack, Watch Closely! Quite often they use scary “Cancel” buttons that make you think clicking them will cancel the whole install. So what if it did. Do whatever you have to do to keep the crapware from installing. If it gets away, use JRT (Junkware Removal Tool) and/or Geek Uninstaller  (free version works fine) to get rid of the pests. You might need Malwayrebytes too. Do not let Malwarebytes get away with the premium trial trick, however (yeah, it never ends).

7. There are safe sources. There is good freeware. Most software authors’ sites are fine; just make sure that’s where you really are. LOOK at those search results closely. Some, alas, only redirect to CNET.  MajorGeeks, while not entirely bundleware-free, is at least still HONEST. Read everything before you click. FreewareGuide doesn’t have direct downloads, but tries hard to provide clean links; very few bad ones slip by. Ad-blocking will help anywhere, eliminating dangerous Big Green Download Buttons and flashing click-mes.

As for music and movies, legal downloads are safest but good ad-blocking in a decent browser will take you far…. At least you won’t get hit from so many “drive-bys” if you don’t use IE. Maybe you don’t need to collect so much anyway. Yanno?

8. Befriend honest geeks. Beware friends who think they know it all. And stay away from BestBuy and their often worse-than-useless Geek Squad.

9. Don’t let friends and family use YOUR computer! Especially if, like most lazy users, you run as Administrator. Even if you are careful, they may have sloppy habits, dangerous preferences, and an insatiable need for instant gratification of every desire.

10. Pay for what you use every day. One of the best ways to reward those who devote their time creating wonderful free software is to help them with a donation. It doesn’t have to be a lot — what you can, when you can. If everyone chipped in just a little, there would be less need for ad-blocking. Stay away from Starfucks a while and buy the other guy a coffee.

11. Install Linux. Your computer will breathe a huge sigh of relief. Ubuntu and Mint are extremely easy to use. Forget all you’ve heard about having to use esoteric commands; it’s all menus and eye-cons these days. And it’s all free! You won’t need to search out in the jungle for extras; you can get almost anything you want through your operating system’s own software channels. If you do need some Windows software, you will probably be able to install and run it with little more effort than in Windows.

Besides, then you can have a lol on the scummy scam callers who claim to be from Microsoft and tell you that your computer is “generating a lot of suspicious activity” or has been reported to be infected blah blah. Before I hang up in disgust, I tell’m, “I’m a hacker, I run Linux!” Doesn’t do much good for the machine calls, but the live ones — often rather amateurish — can be embarrassed.

CENSORED

Jul - 23 2015 | no comments | By

I followed this link from Twitter, enjoyed it immensely, retweeted it, and tried to post it on Facefuck. I was prevented from doing so. FINE! I will share it even more. If you think it is offensive, don’t share it.

3 Dads

I’ve encountered Facecrap’s nannying before, and I will never condone it. Why stop people from posting good things, but allow bullying and bullshit?

Wow I’m So Cool

May - 17 2015 | no comments | By

Yep, changed my site password and forgot to tell WordPress.

Office Clipboard

Apr - 29 2015 | no comments | By

For years I suffered from stuck clipboard in MS Office 2010, especially when setting up newsletters in Publisher. I finally got off my butt and found out what the problem was.

^#&$@#&%$ Office has its own &%^$^$$ clipboard. Sometimes, when you’ve been doing a lot of copy/paste within the working file, it sticks on the last copied item and won’t paste an item copied from another source.

The solution is to clear the Office clipboard — but they hid it so well that it might as well be an “Easter egg”. I always put my favorite commands, at least those that I don’t know a keyboard command for, on the Quick Access Toolbar. Today, I decided to see if I could do that with the well-hidden clipboard. It was so easy, I’m embarrassed.

Hers’s the skinny for those of you who are ribbon-challenged:

First…

Ribbon - Home

Ribbon – Home

Then, find the damned clipboard, and right-click on the nearly invisible corner-arrow-thingy

Find Clipboard

Find Clipboard

Do it!

Right-click menu

Right-click menu

And there it is

Quick Access button!

Quick Access button!

Click your new button to make the clipboard appear and disappear. Click “Clear all” for instant relief of Clipboard Constipation.

Clipboard

Clipboard

These screenshots are from MS Word, but the menu is the same for Publisher or Excel. I’m hoping it’s the same in Office 2013.

There is a keyboard shortcut, but it’s relatively complex. Much as I like using the keyboard, even I find the mouse version of this trick faster.

I’m still flinging out the not-so-rhetorical question: Why the HELL didn’t they make it more obvious in the first place? Why have something that is supposedly useful so well hidden, and with no option to turn the whole bloody thing off, when it can be such a butt-pain?

Quick-n-dirty screenshot series by IrfanView

Thanksgiving 2014

Nov - 27 2014 | no comments | By

Dinner is cooking, and it smells great. No turkey. No great expectations. No plans for the next artificial emotional pump-up. No one screaming and cursing at the TV, no after-dinner battles to sour the food. It’s quiet, peaceful. Enjoyable.

Not all families are like that, but I know mine wasn’t unique — there are enough divorces and warped personalities. Constantly shattered hope leaves deep scars, whether or not the victim is consciously aware of them. Life can be rotten for children of parents who can’t grow up.

If you can enjoy your holidays as they are, all is well. If not, if all the promises are only lies that smile, something needs to change. I refused to carry on a sickened tradition. I make my own.

Please, save your sympathy for those who have not clawed their way to freedom. I’m having a great day.

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April Girl

Sep - 30 2014 | no comments | By

This is a song that I wrote during my early-90s burst of warped creativity. Some people have read things into it that annoyed me (one stupid bitch in particular whose name I have forgotten, whose soul is torn by the avenging spirits….). Needless to say, whatever you read into it has more to do with your perceptions than my state of mind, because this is a conscious work of esthetic engineering.

It all started with a dream that I had long before I even learned to play a guitar. The song in my dream was so powerful that I could never forget one line: Have you seen the April girl walking in the rain?. One night I set to work constructing this from that one line.

April Girl

When all the smoke has cleared, you’re there;
living with yourself, trying not to care.
Every heart of gold has pain enough to share.

Have you seen the April girl walking in the rain?
So many things are on her mind that she can not explain.
She can’t help crying sometimes when she feels so very much.
There’s nothing to hang onto and there’s no one there to touch.

Who are you, to think you know the way?
When all the colors fade, you’re there;
living with yourself, trying not to care.
Every heart of gold has pain enough to share.

Happiness is just a toy you play with when you’re stoned.
There’s nothing left inside you when you’re sober and alone.
Is there anything to live for when you face another day?
Can you save some for tomorrow? Should you throw it all away?

Who am I, to think I know the way?
When all the music ends, you’re there;
living with yourself, trying not to care.
Every heart of gold has pain enough to share.

The April girl is trying hard to walk away from pain.
Her tears are running down her cheeks and mixing with the rain.
No one sees her, no one gives a damn for what she feels.
The planet goes on spinning like a cast-off useless wheel.

Who are we, to think we know the way?
When all the smoke has cleared, you’re there;
living with yourself, trying not to care.
Every heart of gold has pain enough to share.

Star Dreamer

Jun - 18 2014 | no comments | By

A song that I passed some time with ca. 1991

Star dancer, far dreamer, my ship on the sea
Nightmist and starwind bring visions to me
Flowers are opening under the sky
Come with me, dream with me, just you and I
Breathe deeply the sweet air of earlier times
Rest in the soft darkness as the moon climbs
Soon we’ll be traveling far out in space
Safe in the shelter of our secret place

The other person in this scenario was a cat. Horbie Adorable was an angel who put up with me for many years. She still guards my heart.

A Better Mouse Trap

Apr - 20 2014 | no comments | By

How to Build and Use a Mouse Cannon

In a moment of desperation, I added what I know to what I have and came up with the simplest — and most effective — mousetrap I’ve ever used. Click the images to view full size.

pvc tube, can, duct tape

tape together

peanut butter bait

deployment

The main tube of mine is about 27 inches long, and it’s 4 inches wide. You can use a cardboard tube if it’s smooth enough, but you might want to paint the inside anyway to waterproof it. Metal would work fine too, of course. The bottom part has to be waterproof if you use the wet method of mouse deletion. It should not be any shorter, lest the mice jump out.

Getting rid of the mouse may be a problem for some. My method is to dump in some water and put the cannon on an unheated porch for an hour or so. Hypothermia takes down the wet mouse, and there is only body disposal to deal with. Whatever you do, don’t just softheartedly dump a live mouse outside, because it will just come right back in.

After deleting the mouse, add fresh peanut butter and re-deploy the cannon. Smearing the peanut butter with a small piece of cardboard or paper and dropping the disposable utensil in the tube adds to the allure. So will adding a slice of potato or apple, if your mice are seeking out moist food.

Good hunting! I caught 8 mice in about a week and a half.

Infographics hastily and crudely executed in InkScape, with a little help from The GIMP.

Absurdity of Spam

Feb - 08 2014 | no comments | By

mustclickspam

If you really have to follow a link in spam, if you just can’t help it, totally can’t control yourself, must do it, will die of stupidcuriosity if you don’t, SLAP YOUR HAND. Then, carefully move the cursor to the Delete button and annihilate the temptation.

Your computer will now have a slightly better chance of survival if the purpose of that linked page is to launch a hidden malware attack.

This post was inspired by a spam email from “Alaska Appellate Court” with a Japanese return address and a link to a page in a German gaming forum. I can hardly imagine a less likely mixture. Yet there must be people who will blindly bite on something this idiotic, or the crap would stop happening. Parasites can’t survive without a host.

Oh — how did I know where the link went? I copied it and pasted it into a text editor. Then I copied the part from “http” to “/com”, leaving out all the gibberish after, and pasted it into my browser. See, I’m curious. Just not curious enough to be a dead cat.

Home At Last

Jan - 19 2014 | no comments | By

…Or, Why I Kicked Windows into the Bitbucket and Started Living.

cracked Windows
My computing life began with Windows; I “grew up” in it. Sometimes I dual-booted one or another Linux distro, but Windows, whatever version, was my main workspace since early 2001. From 95 to Vista (and 7 at work), I slogged through Microsoft’s increasingly baroque file systems. The inadequacies of Windows’ default apps — and the cost of popular “Big Box” software — drove me to become an expert at finding and acquiring whatever I needed in the realm of freeware. I became the Queen of Free, the Crocodile Dundee of the Internet, exploring the hostile jungle of third-party software unscathed.

When 8 reared its ghastly hybrid head, I knew the end had come. However, I was reluctant to abandon the relatively comfortable work environment I had struggled for years to build. When I get my next computer, I said, then I will leave Windows behind.

But Windows secretly plotted its own demise. On October 31, 2013, I rebooted to a nasty surprise: I could no longer log in to my normal user account. As far as Windows was concerned, it didn’t exist.

My first thought, of course, was to restore or re-create it. Then I came to my senses. Why waste the rest of the day beating a dead horse? After backing up some files, I re-partitioned the primary drive and installed Debian.

The honeymoon was fantastic.

I still have to deal with Windows at my day-job and on client computers. I also have to use it now and then at home — but it’s not my home any more (if it ever was). For the sake of the one video game I’ve let myself get addicted to, I keep Vista on a small partition, booting in a few times a week to play and socialize with my clan. A virtual Win7 machine takes care of odd take-home jobs that require windows-specific software (read MS Publisher, aghhh). These occasional exposures to Windows remind me how good I have it.

There are occasional bumps in the road. Not long ago I did something dumb, during a groggy morning, that resulted in complex damage to my beloved Debian. Unable to log in, and knowing that what I had done had left more mess than I wanted to clean up, I simply re-installed the OS. There was no loss of significant data and very little need to re-configure anything. Programs lost in the process were re-installed on demand with no fuss, and with their old configurations. Can you imagine a fresh install of Windows coming back with the same color scheme and wallpaper? Browser bookmarks still there, custom spell-check dictionary intact? With anything not reverted to default?

What makes this possible is the file system. Windows hoards every scrap of data, keeping its precious secrets in deeply nested hidden places, and doesn’t even want its users to understand where their own files are. Linux is open and logical. You do have the option to toss everything in one place when installing, but if you at least give Root and Home separate partitions, your personal files and preferences are kept apart from the nuts-and-bolts of the system. You can fix a broken engine without ripping the seats out of the car; your maps and your sunglasses are safe in the glove compartment. A full Windows re-install is always more like melting everything down for scrap and buying a new car.

Windows is selfish, inflexible, and unforgiving. It’s a control freak. It protects itself first, at the expense of its users. You pay for it, you jump through legalistic hoops every time you install it, and it rewards you with uncaring disdain. It makes a great show of security, temporarily blocking your every move, while all the time it leaves itself vulnerable to the simplest hacks from outside. Because of its awkward complexity, nearly every slow, aggravating update requires a reboot. Why do people put up with it all, when most of them don’t do anything but email, socializing, and other system-independent trivia? Mainly, I think, because it absolves them of responsibility for their own actions.

Linux does not assume that you are a moron. It will not insult your intelligence by hiding 99% of its file system behind a facade of symbolic links. Nor does it try to keep you confused about what is on your computer and what is on the Web. It provides you with more tools right out of the box than you’ll ever see in Windows, including easy means of installing thousands more free utilities without risk. With a few mouse-clicks, you can add software that will do almost anything you can imagine. No need to sift search results for safe downloads–or clean up a mess if you didn’t sift well enough. Linux is certainly not foolproof, but it doesn’t try to fool you or make a fool of you.

My move from Windows to Debian involved no trauma or hardship; I was simply coming home. At last I had an operating system that welcomed me, inviting me in rather than arbitrarily restricting me. There was nothing that I was accustomed to doing that I couldn’t do as well or better.

How can I not love it? Debian is the only operating system I’ve ever lived with day-to-day that returns my love.

P.S.
I was truly in love with Debian, and might still be using it now if the first major version upgrade hadn’t stripped away half of what I loved about it. “Jessie” was intensely disappointing. The beyotch didn’t last 24 hours on my computer. I downloaded the latest version of Mint and replaced the thing of horror! Again, my personal files were not affected [wink wink].

Since then, Mint has also had a major update, which I let it manage, with no problems and no uncomfortable or inconvenient changes. This is true love.

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