email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Camera Troubles Fixed!

 On Sept 21st, I used a program called MacKeeper.  It cleans, defrags, and checks for viruses, but the main feature I was interested in was finding duplicate files, foreign language options, and leftover bits of deleted programs.  It found quite a lot of them.  Of course, it doesn't just go and delete them.  You have to check of a box for each file.  I examined the first dozen or so carefully and it seemed accurate, so I just started checking all the boxes of files it offerred and clicking submit.

Apparently, it moved seamlessly in my applications folder, and none of the names I saw at first seemed relevant to me (seeming like leftover bits of deleted programs) and I continued checking boxes and deleting them.  On one page, after I hit delete but before the screen cleared, I saw one was iPhoto (an Apple program for processing camera pictures).  I realized it was deleting programs and stopped.

Well, I went to my backup program, Time Machine, but I couldn't restore the program.  Actually, I couldn't get it to work at all on even small test files.  After messing around with that for a couple of days, I reread the instructions an discovered I was doing part of it exactly backwards.

So I restored iPhoto.  It was back in my applications folder, but I still couldn't upload pictures from the camera.  It worked for looking at old pictures and other functions, just wouldn't upload new ones, saying "camera not found".  I tried everything for another couple of days, until I noticed it was an old version of iPhoto.

So I went to the Apple store online to upgrade it.  Can't do that.  The old version was TOO old.  OK, I bought the new version.  That didn't work either!  I tried restoring the camera software.  That didn't solve the problem.  I went to the Canon site and downloaded the camera drivers and software.  That didn't solve the problem either.

I was (correctly) positive it wasn't the cameras.  Too unlikely both would good bad at the same time, and I had used a new cable AND tried different ports in the computer.

I gave up and got on live chat with Apple.  After 2 hours, the problem remained.  The technician said there were some more complicated things to try but I would have to call the Apple store in the morning because there were some things he could not access (it was late night).  So, I scheduled a call from Apple for 1 PM Thursday.  At 2 PM Thursday with no call, I went grocery shopping.  Naturally, I discovered they had called 5 minutes after I left.  They sent me an email saying I could reschedule online or just call a number.

I called the number Saturday and had a tech on the phone in 2 minutes.  We spent a merry 30 minutes searching various screens and programs until one said "camera device present", whereupon he said "Aha, you've lost a piece of your operating system"!  Somewhere apparently (a partition on the hard drive I surmise) hidden and protected, is a copy of the operating system.  It took a few minutes to navigate there, and then it said 50 minutes to restore, so the tech gave me a direct number to him in case it didn't work, and I hung up.

It worked!

I'll be a LOT more careful with MacKeeper in the future.  And I'm going to have to study Time Machine preferences/options because for some reason, the only application program it backed up since Jan 2012 was iTunes!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Hate To Break The Bad News

Bad news, kitties...

Just think "cans of stinky goodness" and "thumbs"...

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Cautionary Tale of Sad Computer News

A long post, and I won't blame you for not reading it to the end.  But there are some lessons that may be worth reading...

No, I haven't gotten a diagnostic call from the computer repair shop I mentioned in the last post.  Instead, I messed up my own working Mac Mini computer.

Over the past few years, I have tried out several anti-virus/disk management programs for the Mac, and not been really happy with them.  Viruses aren't really a problem for Macs, but they are good about detecting viruses that could go on to infect PCs that I communicate with, so I want to keep the anti-virus protection up to date.  Mostly, I want the programs for hard drive management and they are S-L-O-W.   Several hours to read all the files looking for viruses, and a lot of one-at-a-time decisions about most programs.

I like Macs, but it seems there are a couple of weaknesses.  They don't "hold" your name/passwords to some websites as well as PCs do.  So when I actually have to shut down the computer, I have to sign in again.  A minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, but it does get tedious when you have several program updates the same night and have to restart the computer after each one.

That wouldn't be too bad, except that I play computer games that use adobe flash a lot.  For some reason, Macs accumulate some files than clog the system.  Even THAT's not too bad; on my older PC, I would simply crash in mid-game.  One the Mac, things afterwards slow down and it locks up while searching something on Firefox or writing a letter and I have to restart the computer (meaning all those sign-ins again afterwards).

So I found a program called MacKeeper that promised to do all that better and great hacking protection (and had good reviews).  And since I had just run into a person who I thought intended to do me ill (old story, I won't go into that now except to say never blow up at a former friend whose past malicious behavior shows they know a LOT about computers).

I used the program and it seemed to work well.  Fast scanning of all files, etc.  No problems with hack attempts.  A couple of nights ago, I noticed some additional features.  The were sub-routines to identify and delete unused apps, find and delete "leftovers" (orphaned files related to deleted programs),  etc.  It wouldn't just do it automatically, I had to check each file to be deleted.

After tediously checking boxes carefully for an hour, I got a bit casual and just started taking its advice.  You can guess that was a BAD move...  It was in the applications part of my directory, and just after I clicked OK for the latest batch, I saw Firefox was on the list.  It was too late to stop it!

I have to admit the program is thorough.  When I could control the computer again, I found I had deleted Firefox.  OK, no real problem, I have TWO backup systems.  One is an external drive called FreeAgent, the other is a built-in Mac backup called Time Machine.  Both save your hard drive initially and changes to it thereafter.

Well, FreeAgent had told me last week that it was full and I should delete some older backups, and I had just done that, saving backups from Jan of the previous several years and a quarterly one for this year.  I didn't examine The Time Machine (I find it a little confusing to use).

So I examined my computer dock (graphic sidebar of active applications) and Firefox was gone.  So was the Mac word and spreadsheet suite called iWorks.  So was the MS Office Word and Excel.  I have NO word-processing or spreadsheet programs, and the only browser I had was Safari  (which seems to fight me all the time).

After spending a good part of yesterday and this morning trying to find the lost programs in the two backups, I gave up.  I downloaded Firefox (at least its free), but there were no bookmarks.  I had about 13 years of some useful and unusual bookmarks saved.  Well, at least I knew that I had seen a boormarks.html file in the backup list.

Yeah, it was from 2008!  Both backup programs had faithfully saved one old bookmark file for 5 years.  I checked both backups programs "every way from Sunday" (as my Dad used to say) for 2 hours before I gave up.  There was just that old one.  So I imported it.  The first thing I did was open every single bookmark.  Most were no longer working and I deleted them.  Some were still working but were "repurposed" and I deleted them.  Some I could not imagine why I bookmarked them and I deleted THEM!

It didn't leave me with very many bookmarks, but at least I still had the organization of the folders (blogs, reference, hobbies, garden, pets, etc).  The first additions were my blogs.  And you know, it was hard to get those.  It was easy to SEE my blog, but it took some thought to find how to get to my dashboard (my blog has "blogspot" in the url, but the dashboard has "blogger").

I slowly used Safari to get the urls of some other sites (like cat blogosphere) and bookmark them into Firefox.

I've lost a lot of bookmarks, but I had too many old unused ones anyway.  Old ones I want, I can find again easily enough and bookmark them.  And my Feedly bloglist RSS is safe because I set it up as my home page on Safari (open up Safari, and there it is).

I had the Mac iWorks and MS Office word and spreadsheet programs downloaded rather than owning the reloadable CDs, so I think I would have to buy them again.  Fortunately, I don't need the MS suite programs with their advanced features anymore.  The simpler Mac Page and Numbers apps will work fine.  And it seems they are only about $20 each.  MS Office for Mac costs $140. (and I'd rather not have any MS crossover programs on the Mac for security purposes).  And I used to make CD backups of some programs, I might find them.

But not tonight!  I'm worn out and (as calm as I may seem), very angry and frustrated.

Those backup programs (as I understood them) were SUPPOSED to allow me to completely restore my hard drive in case of failure.  I HOPE it was just my fault in not setting them up properly, but my recollection is that I was pretty darn careful about doing it right.  But I'm going to really triple-check it when I dig into them both tomorrow!

If you have a backup system, I suggest you really examine it carefully.  Make sure that what you think is a saved program isn't just the sidebar graphic or the desktop shortcut.  Look at "properties" or "info" or whatever gives you file size amounting to MBs.  You may not actually have the actual program saved.

I got fooled because my older computers had a full-sized 2nd drive and when I copied the main drive to the 2nd drive it WAS a real copy of the whole drive, applications and all.  I was used to that.

It seems to me that, not matter how careful you try to be, a train wreck will occur on your computer every few years.  And something you assumed worked, won't work the way you think it will...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Computer Happiness

I dragged the old PC to a local PC repair shop.  I mainly want to use it to play Civilization2.  Its a 90's game.  My Mac is too modern to play even the old Mac versions and my attempts at downloading Mac-to-PC crossover platforms failed utterly.  So I brought my old PC in for cleaning and rebooting.  They said they could do that, though getting a Windows 98 reboot might take some research.


But then I casually asked them if they could clean a Mac.  Not work on it, just clean it enough so that the evil Apple Store (who considers a little cigarette smoke a "toxic violation of OSHA working conditions") would repair one.  And I'm not defending smoking here, I hate it myself.  Lets not get into that.

But OMG, OMG, OMG, they will work on Macs too.  They even have "a Mac guy"!  So after I returned home to retreive the Civ2 CD I meant to bring at the start, I brought them the old $3,500 Mac Pro that has been a doorstop for some years.

They said "sure, we can clean and fix that".

THUD!  I'm not kidding.  "THUD!!!"

I think there are the old pictures of Skeeter and LC on that hard drive.  There are old letters to Mom and Dad.  There are old family pictures.  There are old games of Civ2.  There is stuff I don't even know is on there!

And when I pick up the old PC and the original Mac, I will bring them the previous Mac Mini to clean.  I'll sell the old (working) Mac Pro (minus the hard drive) and will add the newly working Mac Mini with a wireless connection (I hope) so that I can visit our cat friends away from the desktop.

Assuming they can really fix Macs.

You have to understand that the nearest Apple Store is almost an hour drive away, AND you need an appointment you dare not miss by a minute (or you stand in a long line), AND its in the middle of a BIG CONFUSING MALL so you have to carry a 20 pound Mac Pro around for an hour, etc...

Man, if these local guys will actually clean and work on Macs, they have a customer for LIFE!!!

But we'll see...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Strange, Sad People

I play online compute games a lot.  Not arcade-style games, just calm strategic kinds like Risk and Backgammon.  Still, sometimes you meet really angry people.  Sometimes you can tell they are adults, sometimes you can tell they are teens.  I try to be really careful around teens.

I'm not talking about chat rooms.  I stay far away from them.  But just in games, you can tell sometimes when someone is REALLY angry.  I feel sorry for those people, whether they are teens or adults.  On very rare ocassions, I offer to just talk.

It doesn't usually work out.  Angry people are hard to talk to.  Just tonight, I came across a backgammon player who almost immediately accused me of using a cheat program.  Right, my rating is in the lower 20% I would guess.  If I was using a cheat program, I would have to be about the most inept cheater of all time.  You START at 1500 and my rating is 1274.  Some high level cheating going on THERE, right?

After being informed that he was reporting me for cheating (I rolled doubles once and that really upset him - and never mind that he did several times himself).  And never mind that he won 2 of 3 games.  But then he mentioned "reporting me" several more times.

Everything about this player says he is a teen (unreasonableness, anger, and lashing out), and I really don't want to ruin the slight personal validation that some teen gets by winning a game if he is alone in a basement or bedroom struggling to get some feeling of success in his life.

But still, I'm kind of pissed off about it all.  I'm thinking a game site for those only 30 and older might be a good idea.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Good Gardening Days

Some days, you just cant seem to get any useful work done.  You vacuum and it just looks the same a day later.  There are always dishes and pots to clean.

But outside, the effort of work seems to last longer.  I spent some time watering the gardens the past several days.  I have a tripod I built (my own design) that lets me just set the hose spray on and let it run for 10 minutes at a spot.  Its easy to move to a new spot to water.
It takes 5 movements of the sprayer to do the flowerbeds, 3 to do the veggie gardens, and 3 to do the hosta bed.  Plus random local watering for the odd places too small to water largely.  Which usually means 120 minutes or 2 hours.

But September has actually had virtually no rain, so I gave each spot 20 minutes of watering instead of just 10 and spent the time waiting by weeding the watered flowerbeds.  I pulled out 3 wheelbarrow-loads of weeds.  Fortunately, them being deeply soaked, they came out with the roots.  There is something very satisfying about seein a weed pulled up with the roots still on!  Even if they survive, they are annual weeds and won't have time to grow again to produce seeds.  So THEY are GONE GONE GONE!

It was a very good 2 days.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Washington DC Pro Sports

Well, actually, the only two I really bother with are baseball and football.  My apologies to fans of other sports, but basketball is too much a contact sport these days, soccer is too boring to watch (and I even played it), hockey is unfathomable to me, tennis just doesn't seem to work as a team sport, and my interest in my alma mater (Univ of MD) is pretty much gone since they are moving to an out-of-area conference where they will be cellar-dwellers for a decade until they leave in shame.

And neither of the two I have followed are looking promising.  The Nationals are setting themselves on fire at the very end of the season, but it's too little too late.  Something like a 5% chance of them getting into the playoffs.  And with Atlanta coming to town next, that should pretty much end it. 

The Washington football team (with the team name I will not use) looks like it is setting up its fans for a seriously depressing season of falling behind at first and mounting a great comeback attempt that falls short each game.

So it looks like my evenings will be free of baseball until the World Series and the next 14 Sundays will be free for shopping at "guy-stores ".  Seriously, the best possible time to shop at a home project store is during a local NFL game!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weird Visitor Spike

Did I almost have a post go viral?

I don't often check the statcounter chart for this blog because it doesn't get very many visitors, I don't post there regularly, and the bookmark is set to open the site to the Mark's Mews chart.  So imagine my surprise when I saw THIS!

The Sept 11 post was a rather dark angry fantasy about having the 911 attackers alive today, and I can see why it might have gotten more attention than my usual home project and personal life posts.  But who would have ever found it to begin with?

If anyone spread the link around, please let me know so I can thank you for the excitement!  It really did make my day.

I can't go back and check the visitor list or other records because statcounter only displays the last 33 hours for free and I don't feel a great need to pay for 2 months of records every month, LOL!

Its also curious that I had so many on Sept 10th, when the only post of interest was the following day.  I considered that some hackers had gone into old posts to leave messages among themselves (that happened to me with a previous blog), but I've looked back at a bunch of the older posts at random and didn't find any weird messages.  I also have the blog set to require approval of any comments to posts more than 3 days old, and I didn't see any of those.

So if anyone has an ideas about the spike, I sure am curious!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

That Darn Ceiling Lamp

Minor rant...

Well, I finally got in touch with a place that repairs old ceiling lamps.  I should have given up calling them every few days for 3 weeks and just emailed them to begin with.  I would have if their website actually OFFERRED an email address.  I had to find it the hard way, indirectly (through their white pages sales office).

But at least I got a rapid response assuring me they could do the work.

So I drove up there yesterday morning.  Only got lost once.  I had to stop at a paint store to ask directions.  They asked "where are you from" and I gave the name of my town, but then they said "No, where is your CAR".  (It's in your parking lot DOOFUS, why do you think I'm in HERE).  But I'm very polite when lost and said it was right by their front door.

Like good little locals they gave me directions according to local landmarks.  You may have sufferred that yourselves ("drive out past Smitty's barn and turn left where the old oak tree used to be").  I finally got "first right, 2nd left and about 2 miles" and went on my not-so-merry way.  I did finally find the street I needed and figured that if I needed more directions someplace else, at least they could only tell me to go left or right.

It took 1.5 hours to get to the lamp place (but only 30 miles). I should have FedExed it!

The front counter folks LOVED the lamp and guided me to the repair specialist.  Do I need to tell you what specialists in moderately arcane specialties are like?  First thing he did was demand to know why I hadn't answered his email question (I checked the email when I got home and it only said "what you need is a canopy kit, which consists of a canopy, a crossbar, a loop, and a threaded nipple or pipe. I have crome, black, white, and brushed brass finishes").

Then, when I didn't know what nipples, ceramics and canopies were, he became insulting.  I finally had to just beg him to "Please just do whatever an electrician requires to mount the damn lamp on the stairway ceiling".  Not satisfied with THAT victory, he further said that "any damn good electrician could get all this stuff from Home Depot".  Well, apparently, electricians these days don't have a price box to check off for "rebuilding old lamp".

He scribbled wavy lines on a list of repair items on a receipt ticket  and wrote $55 at the bottom.  I left with the ticket stub and a promise he would call in "a couple of days".

You know what "staircase wit" is right?  The killer comeback you think of as you leave the room after a dispute?  I didn't even have THAT...  I just drove all the way home pissed.

I didn't ever even WANT the damn lamp.  It was Gramma's lamp and my mother and a sister of hers fought over it for years thinking it was real Tiffany.  It isn't.  But my mother won the fight and she was so proud to hand it down to me, her eldest son...  She's dead, and while its a pretty impressive lamp, it not worth anything, but I still have to show it off for MY generation.  Click white elephant.

But I will have the lamp in a condition an electrician can install and my siblings will be able to visit and go "ooh, ahh" and be grateful they didn't receive it.

The only good parts are that I probably WILL like it once installed AND I get to choose who to inflict it on in my Will.

That's assuming I can FIND the lamp store again to pick it up.  No, I don't have a working GPS device...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



I have such a hard time with this day every year.  The anger won't go away.  I try to write something thoughtful and it veers off into bitterness and hatred.  Most years I just post some picture I find to mark the date because I don't want to post the bitter angry words I write.

I choose not to post the bitter words for the benefit of you who kindly read this blog, though I am fine with those thoughts myself.  And once again, I have written and deleted a dozen angry posts about 911 this past week.

But this time, there is something I will post.

I wish...

That I could have bin Laden, his top lieutenants, and the individuals who carried out the 9-11 attack alive again today in one place.  That place would be a large office-sized metal mesh frame.  That frame would be covered in hot-burning wood with one open window.  The whole thing would be dangling from a helicopter 110 stories high.

The wood frame will be lit at the opposite side from the window.  The occupants can choose to stay inside and burn, or they can jump.  I grant them the same choice most of their victims had.

I would light the box.

And then I wish they could return to life to experience it again and again, once for every person who died in the attack (minus their own number).   Let them see they have not gone to Paradise.  Let them experience the horrible choice again and again.  And for those who simply jump each time, there will sometimes be no window. 

But let there be mercy of a sort.  Let those who truly come to understand and abjure the horror they created not return to life to suffer the same deaths again.  Let only those who do not understand, repeat the experience to the last number of victims and let them finally die too, for if they do not understand after that many personal death-experiences, they are beyond all hope.

And I tell you again, I WOULD light that box as many times as there were victims, with grim resolve...


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Risks of Risk

I joined an online game of Risk last night blind.  By which I mean you can investigate the conditions of the game and have someone jump in while you are doing that, or you can jump in blind yourself.  I went in blind.  The situation for my color was horrible!  

The only human player had half the board (and she outpointed me 3-1, 12million points to my paltry 4 million) and was attacking my poor few nations.  I was fortunate that she ran out of armies while I still had 2 nations.  It may seem bad that she surrounded me, but it DID mean I was isolated from the computer players for a turn.   And she SAID she would kill me on her next turn.

And she sure tried!  I got JUST enough to survive her next turn and slowly managed to control Africa and then South America.  She decided to try to take North America and the bots fought back stopping her plan.

I moved into NA and slipped from Alaska into Kamchatka (Asia) breaking her bonus for that continent.   I had JUST enough armies to stop her getting Kamchatcka back, but killing that last bot in Europe got me extra armies and I swept through Asia, pinning her in Australia.  She had no more armies that turn (takes 3 right cards to get more armies and she only had 2).   I took Australia.

I could tell she was really pissed.  You routinely tell the winner "good game" as you leave.  She didn't.

It doesn't get much better than that.  When you come from almost nothing, and win, that's special.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It Was 27 Years Today...

...that I moved into my "starter home".  I'm still here! 

I went through a long string of bad apartments and many roommates to slightly better apartments with a 2 roommates to a rented house with one roommate, to the same rented house alone.  And then FINALLY came the day when I was 36 and could get my own house.

I did a lot of research.  The Washington DC area is expensive, and the several counties surrounding it were not much better.  A co-worker pointed out that e lived just beyond the county line of the 2nd level of counties out from DC, and I learned that a house there cost only half of what the same house (on a smaller property) cost closer in.  The trade-off was a slightly longer commute.

I had to look around a lot before I found what I was looking for (large property with a decent house size).  I told the realty agent that I didn't care about schools, community activities, shopping, or restaurants.  Well, I'm a real homebody; you plant me in a decent house and yard and sometimes I don't leave it for a week (except for commuting to work before I retired).

The realty agent kept showing me tiny ranch house on tiny properties.  He was convinced that, as a single guy, all I needed out of life was basically a one-bedroom apartment with barely space for a M/V and a TV, a living room for parties, planted on the smallest possible yard (because who wants to mow a large lawn anyway).

After being driven the the umpteenth tiny house and yard I finally grabbed him by his cheap shiny garish tie and made him listen to me.  The next day, he drove me to a newly-built dead-end street just being developed.  30 lots available and I could choose any one.  Plus the developer had several varieties of houses to choose from.  I identified the best one by size and flatness and available sunlight.  It had 5 sides (comes to a point in the back because the street behind it is curved.

And I discovered "split-foyer" houses.  I grew up where basements were below ground and there was a one or 2 story house above that.  Split-foyer means that the basement is at ground level with basically a large ranch house on top of it, and the front door is halfway up so that there is a half stair leading up to the living area and a half stair going down to the basement.  So the front door is 6 steps up from ground level.  It's weird.  But I like it.

With 3 "bedrooms" there is a master bedroom, a computer/library room, and there was a guest bedroom that is now the cat playroom.  The basement has an enclosed garage and the rest is a nice woodworking shop.  The dining room is now the TV room and the living room is now the dining/cat tree/library room.

The yard is a half acre.  Half of the back yard is left relatively wild and half is flowers and garden with some small lawn.  I keep the front yard rather standard for the benefit of my neighbors.  My one gift to my neighbors is a standard routine appearance.  I live mostly inside or in the back yard, so I don't really care about the front; so let it please the neighbors.  The front yard is planted with some hostas and a few showy shrubs. 

After 27 years, I know every stone, weed, and mole tunnel.  My friends and siblings say I must be bored living in the same old place for so long.  Why should I be bored?  I LIKE this place.  The inside is perfected to my tastes (which don't change by fashion demands), and the outside is so familiar and comfortable.

For a "starter home", its pretty good.

So I am celebrating this 27th anniversary here, remembering how it was the day I moved in vs how it looks today.


I have no idea why my squirrel cage catches birds, but I found a 3rd one in the cage today.  I let it go of course. They sure fly out fast when I open the cage.

This time it was a titmouse.  I didn't even bother to go back to the house and get the camera.

Apparently, most birds love peanut butter.  So far, 2 sparrows and the recent titmouse.  And I guess they peck at it hard enough to trigger the cage doors to close.