Noisy Alien in Computer Removed

Well, this afternoon the computer repair guy returned and fixed the computer in about 15 minutes. The noise was gone after he replaced the power supply unit, the fan of which was the source of the mini-helicopter noise.

Obviously, this was a case of extraterrestrial invasion.

Seriously, though, once we got past all of the stuff about software checking, the repair was very quick. It turns out you can’t check the condition of the power supply unit fan with software. The noise problem was solved the old-fashioned way.

Computer Crisis Progress Report

The title of this post is supposedly about progress toward fixing my Dell computer, the one with a mini-helicopter noise in the tower. The Tech drove to my house yesterday from Ouad Cities. He had the parts the Agents ordered for fixing the noise in my PC tower.

The parts were wrong. He drove an hour to get here and was done in about 15 minutes. He looked and listened to the noise before and after removing the case cover. He knew right away it was not a software problem. He ordered the right part and now the next step is for him or another Tech to return on Monday to do the job.

There are Agents and Techs working for Dell. For 2-3 days, Agents pestered me with software shenanigans, even to the point of insisting I reset my PC. Agents never looked at my machine. I sent them the video of the PC and its racket. I’m not sure they listened to it.

I think the Dell Company pays Techs more money than it pays the Agents. That’s probably why Agents spend more time with customers, maybe distracting us with chores like PC resets.

But I’m trying to look on the bright side. The Agents are polite and trying to be helpful. They evidently know a lot about software, which can create problems for which they have a long list of suggestions. The Techs know how computers actually work as machines.

It’s a little like the difference between a couple of the reality TV shows (though the analogy is not exact). Compare the heavy wrecker operators (the tow truck guys) on the shows Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue 401 to the Bigfoot researchers on the show Expedition Bigfoot.

The tow truck guys focus on getting the Canadian highways open and do it with their hands, hooks, chains, and heavy trucks. They have to know something about the physics of the job. It looks real.

The Bigfoot researchers know a lot about Bigfoot lore and what little science there is about it. The only Bigfoot you’ll ever see on the show is a doll the size of GI Joe pinned on a researcher’s backpack.

Keep looking up. You don’t want Bigfoot to drop out of a tree on you.

Another Computer Crisis

Another day, another computer crisis. I’ve been hearing this mini-helicopter noise from my PC tower for a while and finally contacted the manufacturer’s computer support center on the web.

I have hopped through many hoops in the past couple of days, including resetting my computer. Remember I had to do that with Sena’s computer?

How can a noise which seems to be a hardware problem (a rattle in the tower) be a software problem? I don’t know.

The most recent request from support services was to make a video of the noisy tower. Yes, I said video. So, I took the video, with enough audio (I hope) to convince people that the problem might be something physical inside the machine.

I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Dumbphone Making a Comeback?

Here’s a side note on my recent post about using a smartphone to help you find where you parked your car. I just saw a few news items about something people are calling the “dumbphone.” I gather they’re making a comeback, and not just for old folks.

Hey, I used to have one of those. It was a flip phone. Several years ago, before I retired, residents rotating through the general hospital psychiatry consultation service suggested I graduate to a smartphone.

After I finally got one, I used it basically as a phone and did little else with it for a long time. It was my smart dumbphone.

I gradually added apps to it, including a step counter, epocrates, and whatnot. But I’m not constantly on it playing games and checking the news, mail, and so on.

The battery swelled up on it a couple of years ago, which worried me. But I took it to a cell phone repair shop where the battery was replaced and it’s been fine ever since.

I still use it mainly as a phone. However, I wonder what I’ll do, say, if the battery swells up again. I don’t know if it would make any sense to go back to the dumbphone.

The Kindness of Strangers in a Parking Lot

This is a post about how easy it is to forget where you parked your car in a big parking lot, say at the grocery store, and ways to help prevent it. This sometimes attracts the kindness of strangers, which is puzzling because it’s not very clear how helpful they can be in this situation.

But you want to say more than something like, “Oh, that’s too bad, hope you find it before the ice cream melts.”

The other day, Sena forgot where she parked the car at the grocery store. The circumstances were a little unusual. She parked near one entrance to the store and after getting the groceries, left from an entrance on the other side of the store way across the parking lot. The landmarks were all different.

This is how things started: she ran into a guy with his little boy. The guy actually couldn’t remember where he parked his car and was trying to use his car key fob remote to locate it. This is actually pretty common nowadays. I remember leaving the eye clinic a few months ago and hearing a small symphony of beeps from a number of people using their key fob remotes this way trying to find their cars in the large parking garage.

Sena was sympathetic to the guy, but it was understandably really difficult to help him. He eventually found his car using the key fob trick.

Then the situations were reversed. Sena had trouble finding our car. She was roaming about the parking lot, pushing the grocery cart, obviously looking lost. This attracted 4 different persons (including the first guy she met) who were sympathetic and offered advice—mostly on how to use a key fob to locate the car by pressing one of the buttons (probably the lock/unlock although there might be a panic button). They demonstrated it by pressing the key fob button while standing right next to their cars. They suggested holding it far above your head.

This trick usually works best when you’re fairly close to the car because the key fob remote is a transmitter which uses low-power signals. The operating range may sometimes be limited. Sena was probably pretty far away from our car. She actually began to suspect our car had been stolen. She eventually found it by trial and error.

This episode resulted in attracting a number of people who were kind to her. That’ s encouraging since it looks like kindness is often in short supply. On the other hand, it’s not always good to be alone in a large unfamiliar parking lot, perhaps at night, looking lost and surrounded by strangers.

We can’t remember having this problem years ago before the era of keyless fob remotes, which I read was in the mid-1990s. And we didn’t have them until years after that. I guess we were just more careful about noting landmarks in large parking lots.

There are few things to do in order to avoid forgetting where you park.

You can try to find your car using your key fob remote, although the effective range of the signal might be too short to trigger the horn or the lights. And it might not work if the fob remote battery power is low. And if you’re surrounded by a lot of other people hunting for their cars using the same method, you might have a little trouble discriminating which beep is yours. This could become a YouTube meme, especially with different beep tones (like the 5 tones in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”).

You can pick a landmark which will make it easier to remember where your car is. Many parking lots have large signs with numbers and letters which can help you.

You can take a picture of your car’s location using your cell phone, including more permanent landmarks than just the other cars adjacent to it—which can be driven off by their owners.

You can also use a cell phone with Google Maps or another geolocation app to help guide you back to your car. Just about all smartphones have this feature. You can consult the owner’s manual for instructions for flip phones, some of which have this function. I don’t think car owners’ manuals typically have instructions for how to use the key fob remotes to find your car. At least ours doesn’t.

Good luck.

We Are Going to Be Like the Jetsons!

Sena has been telling me for years that someday soon we’re all going to be like the Jetsons, flying around in bubble-top saucers.

It turns out she may be right.

There’s a news story out about the Jetson Flying Car, which I saw on the Good News Network.  It’s a compact flying car that runs on batteries that are good for about a 20-minute commute. Reports about the altitude the Jetson car can achieve vary, but some say you can get up to about 1500 feet and tour along at a little over 60 miles per hour.

And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says you don’t need a pilot’s license.

Can you say “mass mid-air collisions?”

I doubt there’ll be a lot of buyers because the sticker price is close to $100,000, not counting insurance, extra batteries (you’ll need 8 if you want to swap out to recharge), and attorney fees.

The CEO of the company that makes the Jetson car says you can be a pilot in about 5 minutes.

Funny, that’s about the same time it seems to take the typical semi-truck driver in Canada to get a commercial driver’s license, judging from how busy the tow truck operators are up there.

What if the heavy rescue operators in British Columbia and Toronto had to do recovery work on the Jetson cars? True, the cars aren’t that heavy (about 250 pounds), but what if the number of crashes overwhelms Jamie Davis (think Highway Thru Hell on the Weather Channel)? There wouldn’t be enough tow truck guys to drag all the cars out of the ditches.

Did you know the Jetson Cars come as a DIY kit? That’s right, you have to finish assembly of that expensive toy yourself. You better make sure the batteries are hooked up right since you get just 20 minutes of running time before you need to recharge. Average commutes are longer than 20 minutes.

The Jetson car comes equipped with something called a ballistic parachute, which should be enough to send most potential buyers running out of the showroom. Hey, why would I need a parachute?

No worries, you’re unlikely to be flying much higher than 16 feet anyway, according to the co-founder of the company, eVTOL (electrical vertical take-off and landing).

Let’s see how many traffic signs and trees we can take out on the way to the drug store to pick up some Dramamine.

Only one person (the pilot) can fit in the Jetson Flying Car. And of course, there’s a weight limit; it’s 210 pounds, which is going to raise a hue and cry from the equity, diversity, and inclusion police. There’s no flying family eVTOL—yet. That’s a good thing because there will have be some survivors left to collect on the insurance.

On the bright side, there are no ashtrays to empty, no flat tires to change (nobody remembers how to do that anyway these days), and no radio stations to cycle through. You’re going to be paying too much attention to the birds getting caught in the rotor blades and the bugs splatting on your visor.

That’s assuming you’re a multimillionaire and can afford to fly like the Jetsons. Don’t buzz the pedestrians.

The Written Word is Blurred

I ran across this quote the other day: littera scripta manet. The English translation is, I think, “the written word endures.”

Not to dwell too much on the prosaic side of the issue which is that, for me, often the word has been blurred because of problems with my vision. I just had retinal detachment surgery a little over a month ago and I’m making a good recovery. But early on I had a lot of trouble with blurry vision, tearing, and light sensitivity.

Just the other night though, I was able to read a section of a book without having as much blurred vision as I did before the surgery when I looked up from the page at something distant. I’ve been wearing progressive lenses for many years and it probably got worse because of the detached retina, which was chronic or maybe acute on chronic.

Now to get beyond trivialities, I saw the quote above in an issue of the University of Iowa publication, Iowa Magazine. It was in the last Old Gold column of University Archivist, David McCartney. He retired in March of this year. The title was “Old Gold: The Enduring Power of the Written Word.”

He notes the Latin expression is on the seal of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. McCartney’s point is that technology can undermine as well as strengthen the power of the written word. He identities Horace as the originator of the expression, “the written word endures.”

I went pecking around the internet and found out that a lot of people think an educator named Neil Postman was the originator of this quote. What makes me doubt this is that the original is in Latin, which suggests a much older origin. He was born in 1931 and died in 2003. Interestingly, Postman criticized the effect of technology on thought and culture.

A website that seems dedicated to explaining English translations of Latin indicates that the quote comes from a longer expression: Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet, which translates to “the spoken word perishes, but the written word remains.” One contributor says the originator was Horace. Another insists that “littera” does not mean word at all, although concedes that the proposed translation is correct, nevertheless.

Further, there is a Wikipedia entry which cites the Latin expression differently, “verba volant, scripta manent,” which in English is “spoken words fly away, written words remain.” The author says the proverb originated from a speech of senator Caius Titus to the Roman Senate.

Anyway, McCartney points out that the world is becoming increasingly digitized and that the average website lasts only a little over two and a half years. Some important digital records have been lost, unreadable (blurred?) because of improper management.

My previous blog survived about 7 years but is lost. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. My current blog is a little over 3 years old. So far, I’m beating the odds as far as typical longevity, but is it worthwhile?

Both written and digital records have strengths and weaknesses in terms of durability. And deciding what to preserve and how is essential to any society. We need good stewards to help us decide.

Good luck in your retirement, David McCartney. I’m sure the University of Iowa treasures your stewardship. Let the written word endure unblurred.

New Calculator Replaces Vintage Model!

Well, Sena ordered a new Sharp calculator and we just got it. It’s a Sharp EL-M335. It has a bigger, easier to see display and larger keys than the vintage Sharp ELSI MATE EL-505. We stuck with the Sharp brand because it’s durable and reliable.

I’ve mentioned the old Sharp EL-505 in previous posts, mainly to highlight the idea that vintage doesn’t necessarily mean useless. It served well for over 30 years believe it or not, and we didn’t change the two double AA batteries for more than a decade. You can call me a liar or demented, but it’s the truth.

I’ll probably use the new one to do things like total up our Scrabble game scores to find out how badly I lose each time we play and to spell words on it. It’ll be used for other tasks.

And an added plus—the words I spell on the new calculator are larger and easier to read than on the old one.

I remember buying the old one shortly before we moved to Ames, Iowa so I could start college at Iowa State University. I got the Sharp ELSI MATE EL-505 because it had special scientific functions on it because I was planning to study engineering.

I quickly found out I didn’t have the head for the mathematics necessary to get through an engineering program. So, I ended up using it for things like—scoring Scrabble games and spelling words.

The Sharp EL-M335 actually uses a solar cell and a backup Alkaline manganese battery. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that unless I used a magnifying glass to see the operation manual’s tiny print. It’s a good thing the display uses bigger characters.

However, replacing the battery in the new calculator will require using a very tiny screwdriver to remove 6 very tiny screws. It’s a good thing we have a very tiny Kobalt screwdriver set with Phillips and flat head bits that you can store in the handle.

So, there you have it. We have a brand new, modern Sharp calculator. And it looks sharp. But we don’t plan to throw away our vintage calculator. It’s been good to us.

Making The Tear Drop Jim Picture

I had so much fun making the picture of me crying me, meaning what I now call Tear Drop Jim, as the featured image for my blog post, “Jim’s Only Kidding Endlessly” (which by the way contains the acronym JOKE).

The tearing and light sensitivity after the retinal detachment surgery was a nuisance. It’s gradually resolving.

I made a screen recorder video of how I created the image using PowerDirector 17.

Green Shirt Green Screen

In a couple of days, I’m going to get a green screen delivered. I hope it works to create special photo and video effects I wouldn’t otherwise be able to pull off—unless I used an old green shirt like I did for the chicken wishbone video. The wishbone is obviously way out of scale compared to the chicken, which is one of several sculptures on the Iowa River Landing Sculpture Walk in Coralville installed in 2013. It’s called Iowa Blue: The Urbane Chicken.

The green screen I’ll get is more professional and will likely take alien guidance to learn how to use it properly. Since aliens never reply to emails (greenguy@galaxy9dotorg) or take phone calls, I’ll have to get directions elsewhere. The link is to a website where I saw the abbreviation TLDR for the first time; it means “too long; didn’t read.” It’s very long, but I did read a fair chunk of it.

I used the green shirt sleeve to help me edit my video in order to make a composite of the wishbone and The Urbane Chicken. I just set the chicken bone on it and made a short video of it. Then I used video editing software to clean out all the green from the chicken bone video and superimposed it on the big chicken photo, making it look like an alien object hovering next to the chicken.

I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I did it anyway. I’m hoping I’ll have better luck with a real green screen, if I can figure out how to use it.

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