Sunday, June 14, 2009

Techno-conspiracy Theory

14 June 2009
I have come to believe that tech writers deliberately leave out important instructions in order to stymie non-techies who foolishly think they can upgrade their technological appliances all on their lonesome. Perhaps it’s in retaliation for childhood bullying inflicted by “normals”. Who knows, perhaps their are just intrinsically evil. Whatever may be the cause, I’ve again been the victim of techno sabotage.

It all started months ago when my internet browser suddenly went senile. A newer version of Firefox popped into existence and refused to play nicely with my two fairly mature computers. I tried to download the new browser to my laptop and ended up deep-sixing the previous version, at the same time that I learned that I didn’t have the right stuff after all to upgrade - new browser didn’t browse so much as just sat there in the dock like a lump. My operating system was too old, I didn’t have enough RAM, bla-bla-bla. This was coincidentally (or not) about the same week I decided to switch from my dial-up modem to something speedier and called Comcast to “bundle” me. A month later when they had finished the installation, I no longer could access the internet from my laptop but had to use my antique iMac, “Blueberry”, which cannot be upgraded in any way since it is destined to become a key exhibit at the Smithsonian.

This was the same week my 401K plan’s web site stopped functioning with the previously mentioned earlier version of Firefox (and Safari for that matter) and I could no longer check my net worth (a mixed blessing). Since I couldn’t upgrade the browser on either computer because of the elderly operating systems I sprung for OSX.5 to the tune of . . . well, you don’t want to know. Suffice it to say, there went the lunch money for awhile. I also bought an Airport Express thingy that theoretically would let me use my laptop wirelessly, my notion being I’d upgrade all the bells and whistles on the laptop (the iMac being firmly stuck in the 20th century like an ant in amber) and be blazing away on the keyboard in no time, writing great novels, blogging, poetizing . . .

That was the vision. Understand that the Airport Express needs OSX.4 or higher to operate - so my new OSX.5 would do the trick, right? Wouldn’t you think? The instructions were so clear: stick disk in the slot and follow the prompts. Piece-a-cake. Even I could do this, I thought. I slid the disk into the slot, whereupon several prompts moved me toward my goal - I hesitated only briefly before pressing “install” - the computer made loud grinding noises and started to sweat. Two hours later the little swirlything-of-death was still swirling in the upper left hand corner of the screen. I tried to abort using every combination of deletes/escapes/ejects that I could think of to no avail. It would not spit out the dang disk. I was ready to reach for a can opener. Finally I just turned off the computer and wept like a baby.

First chance I got I took the laptop to the Apple store for a disk-ectomy. The twelve-year-old at the help desk had the disk out in two seconds flat but delivered the news that, no, I couldn’t possibly install OSX.5 on my laptop because it needed twice the RAM available. He recommended I go up to 1G to be on the safe side. And no, he didn’t have any RAM to sell me at that location. And no, even if he had some they didn’t install at the store - he wrote down the numbers to several Mac guys who could do the upgrade for me (You better believe I wasn’t dumb enough to start taking my laptop apart by myself!).

I have to wonder why the guys (and it’s always guys) who work in these places feel they have to make their customers feel like complete idiots. I toted “Pippin”, my poor little laptop, off to the repair joint to get its memory augmented and the first thing the guy said to me was: “Why do you want OSX.5 on this machine anyway? You really should be going to OSX.4. You got a late 2004 G4 here. OSX.5s goin’ to be slow.”

“But I already bought the OSX.5, so what do I do? Are you saying it won’t work?” I was beginning to panic.

“Oh, it’ll work but it’s going to be slow.” I wondered what that meant. What would “slow” prevent me from doing?

“Well, if you have a .4 could I trade my .5 for it?” I asked.

“Sorry, I don’t have an OSX.4. You could try Amazon.” I didn’t tell him that was where I bought the OSX.5 which was the only one they offered.

“But you’ll install the 1G stick for me?”

“Sure, no prob. Just so you know, OSX.5 is goin’ to be slow.” He looked at me as if I had just asked him to install a turbocharger on a tricycle.

I get it, it’s going to be slow.

Update: When I got “Pippin” home I managed to install the OSX.5 without any problem - though I can’t see a bit of difference aside from two new icons on my dock, the function of which is a mystery. This morning I set about installing the Airport Express so I can go wireless. You can guess where this is going. I plugged in the proper plugs, inserted the install utility disk thingy, followed all the instructions to the letter. Nothing. To post this blog at the end of this paragraph I will have to save it to thumb drive, move it to “Blueberry” (which still has a functioning internet connection albeit with an earlier version of Safari), paste it to my blogger account and PRAY it posts! Now do you understand why my posts have been sporadic of late? I had no idea my computers would retire before I did!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


My fixed income prompts me to examine expenses from fresh angles. Do I need this item? How might I reduce the cost of this service? It seems on the surface to be an austere and negative stance yet as I go back to basics I’ve been finding that the “belt tightening” process is producing unexpected joys.

This week as the weather revs up toward summer, reaching for record temperatures I gaze with longing over the backyard fence at my neighbor’s clothesline - to the crisp fragrant sheets and bright shirts. A few years ago her husband had scaled a fir tree at the property line and attached a pulley half way up in a horizontal line from the back porch. Soon laundry was flapping cheerily in the breezes forty feet across the yard. If I gave it any thought at the time it was to wonder if it would adversely affect our property values!

But heck, in an economy when property values are in free fall anyway there are other values to consider - energy conservation for one. (And consequently saving a buck or two on the electric bill!) So I dragged my antique wooden drying rack out of storage. How it had escaped becoming kindling decades ago I’ll never know - could have something to do with being buried under boxes of Christmas ornaments and a selection of dusty mouse traps. I washed off the spider webs and grime and set the rack on the deck in the sunshine.

As I write, my third load of wash clings to the rack in the heat - jeans, underwear, towels, polo shirts. At twilight I’ll fold each stiff, sun bleached item, proud of my enterprise and frugality. I’ll bury my face in the towels luscious with the scent of fresh air and lavender - while being alert to the possibility of hitchhiking honey bees. I have no idea how much money I’ve saved by giving the electric dryer a rest this week - probably no more than a few cents - but I have taken an enjoyable trip back in time, have resurrected memories of my mother’s double clothesline from our back porch to the apple orchard.

Memories of the womanly lore of wash day - which as I remember was usually Monday. Remember that there was a particular order in which the wash was hung. Supposedly every woman knew from birth the proper way to hang a load of laundry - though beyond the importance of hanging like items together, the vast storehouse of hereditary knowledge seems to have passed me by. Mom tells me her Irish grandmother’s laundry line was a masterpiece, a legend in the land - but then Great-grandma Tierney was a pro, doing laundry for the mansions “up on the hill” in Cincinnati in the days when rich ladies wore starched white cotton gowns dripping with lace to afternoon tea parties. Great-grandma Tierney would be utterly horrified if she could see how ineptly I’ve managed the ancient art - not to mention how scandalized she’d be by the items themselves! Jeans and polo shirts for women! Horrors!!