April 22, 2014

Windows 8.X Tips

System.jpg

Hi,

Ummm... Might as well talk about it... Many of you folks are having your first experience with Windows 8.x, and my read is that in general people don't like the operating system (OS). For me (and others), it seems to stray a little too far from the old beaten path of stuff like XP. Often, there's no minimize button or close box. It's difficult to find browser tabs. Sometimes the Start Menu is available, but occasionally, not so much. To make matters much worse, there are different versions of the Win 8. (I'm running 8.1RT on the MS Surface, and a Dell 8.0 OS on a standard box.) So what works on one machine sometimes doesn't on the other. And every so often, what used to work on a single machine doesn't work anymore on the same beast. Keep in mind I'm not saying the OS is buggy -- I've been playing on these computers for many hours, and have made umpteen changes. But still, I don't feel comfortable stating, "Just do steps 'one', 'two', and 'three', and you'll get results' four' every time." Instead what I want to offer up are some general guidelines that will at least make the thing usable in the short term. Here we go...

  • First thing to do is read the OS literature that shipped with the package or machine. I know that's boring enough to put a rampaging Godzilla to sleep, but you really should white knuckle your way through it taking notes as you go.
  • Once you start the computer, take any and all tutorials you see. Again, take notes.
  • OK, so the creature is up and running and probably at the 'Start' screen... Slowly slide your mouse around the outermost perimeter and watch what happens. There's magic in the perimeter! Figure out what all that stuff means.
  • Never lose sight of the power of the right mouse button.
  • A right mouse click on the bottom left corner can lead to the Holy Grail -- the Desktop and then some. That will at least make a few things familiar.
  • Love the 'Windows' key. That will take you to the 'Start' screen.
  • When browsing, the address bar hides secrets.
  • For many screen games like Solitaire, you'll need to go to the 'Store' on 'Start', and download them. Some are free.
  • Alt F4 is interesting.
  • You may rarely see two panes displayed on one screen. Just use the middle slider bar to slide one out of the way.
  • Watch out for ellipses at the bottom of the screen.
  • You still get to a command prompt. Again, right clicking the absolute bottom left offers a ton of features when you're lucky.
  • Finally, I hesitate to tell you this, because if you're new to computers, I'm handing you a loaded gun, but here it is... All Windows since Windows 3.1 have a feature called 'Task Manager'. On the 'Processes' tab you can see the running 'Apps'. If you double click an app, you'll be there. If you choose to 'End Task', you'll kill it. And no matter what, don't play with anything else in 'Task Manager'!!!
I guess that should get you started. I have a Surface with a real, small, lightweight keyboard and I use a regular rodent... both are USB... It's a superb package -- light, compact, long battery life, great screen, inexpensive, quick...

Hope this helps...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 16, 2014

Two Murders in a Murder, Part 5 of 5

400_IMG_0829.JPG And the end did come in four blurry Plath days, and one final Hitchcock night...

The crows dictated the ritual for him now. During the day, he had to stuff broken windows, break up furniture to burn to stay warm, drink to the point of black out, suffer from night terrors, and then awaken to the cacophony of caws and a throbbing headache punctuated by yet more rocks. There were four days of this and occasionally a bit of lucidity. He reached a number of conclusions... He knew he was a dead man walking -- he'd have to move to the moon to get away from them. To that point, he gave up on the idea of concrete or even filling the well... He also realized that crows could not just learn mechanics from each other, but also loyalty and hatred. But something nagged at him...

Why was he so afraid of the night? Why couldn't he just walk out after sundown. It took much drunkenness and a bit of sobriety to finally come to grips with the truth -- he was afraid of being torn apart and eaten by animals. The seed was planted decades before when he was perhaps two or three... His brother made him watch a terrible black and white movie, "The Killer Shrews". The storyline was basically about a small group of people trapped on a remote island, and they were hunted by packs of genetically modified shrews. At best, the shrews looked like saber-tooth wolves with the mange. But they hunted in packs, and tore their prey apart. That's why the crows (and the bears) scared him -- he didn't want to be torn to pieces and devoured.

So there truly was no way out. If he killed himself in the cabin, the crows would eventually get in and eat him. Ditto for the Jeep. There was no pond to drown himself in, and even if there was, he was literally going to be fish food.

But in his sleep-deprived, drunken psychosis, there was one simple solution. He'd shovel as much sand as possible into the wheelbarrow, maneuver it to the edge of the hole, tie a clothesline to the handle of the wheelbarrow and toss the line in. That done, he could tie a heavy rope to a tree and lower himself to the bottom carrying only a flask and his gun. Then, all he had to do was go on one last binge, pull the barrow and sand over the edge, and eat a bullet as the contraption rained down upon him. And that might even have worked if he had taken into account his mental status and the cold of Caribou. He'd only descended a fraction of the distance, when he lost his grip and hurtled pinball style off the brick walls.

The agony and the stench delivered consciousness. He was lying crumpled, face up beside Brooke. His gun was broken as were his limbs. And the crows were frantic above and off to the side. This was too much. He yanked on the clothesline, and the line alone dropped upon him -- the crows had untied the knot.

That night was to be his last. He prayed for sleep, but that only brought the worst of the night terrors. Terrors of the Hindu Rakshasa eating him and leaving nothing but bones. He prayed for the peace of "Don't Fear the Reaper" by BOC, but Fate deprived him of even that. Instead, sunrise brought the crows back to watch, frostbite, shock, and a terrible Dickinson poem cycling in his brain...

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -

I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portions of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -

With Blue - uncertain stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see -

And there in the putrid darkness his heart stopped. The crows flew away.

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April 7, 2014

Notice: the eBirdseed.com Live Cam will be Down...

Hi,

Just a quick post... The eBirdseed.com live cam will be down through 4/13 for maintenance purposes So, don't expect the link below to work. :)

With a little luck, the system should be more stable (though it actually hasn't been bad), and faster. I guess time will tell on that one.

In the meantime I get to do battle with our home network, our firewall, new software, a new hardware interface, etc. Oh goody...

By the frustrated feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 5, 2014

Two Murders in a Murder, Part 4

Continuing our story...

420_crow on gazebo.jpg

There was always the next day to start filling the well. His plan was a couple buckets of concrete to slow down the cadaver dogs and then shovel the sand from the pile the previous owner left into the hole. Hey! it was a dry well... it was only going to take just so much sand... But then there were the crows. He couldn't shoot them -- as soon as they saw him go near the gun, they flew away. So maybe the solution was to keep the gun always by his side. That plan was about to be demolished. In the mean time, he could take care of the FaceBook stuff and get roaring drunk, which he did.

The next morning broke with an ugly hangover and the sound of breaking glass. There on the floor was a rock, air delivered by a crow. He tried to stuff the broken pane with an old shirt, but he could hear the side of the cabin being occasionally pelted. They almost always missed the windows, but occasionally... He couldn't grasp that one of them had watched him close a window and came to the conclusion he couldn't withstand the elements. Consciously, he didn't understand the significance, but subconsciously he knew it was the beginning of the end...

Depressed by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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March 29, 2014

Two Murders in a Murder, Part 3

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Continuing our story from the last time...

There was no time for ruffling feathers. After the killings he simply got drunk and fell asleep. And when he awoke it was almost dark and it was time to hustle. He quickly gathered her minimal travel kit, her wallet, her notebooks -- anything she might take with her, and dumped it all on the kitchen table. Her phone stayed with him -- her leaving it behind was a classic Brooke move... typical of her to cut off the world. All that was left was to gather it up and dump it and then start the burial process. The corvids had another idea...

Clutching the bundled items in the table cloth, he dashed outside only to discover quite the audience, and they weren't happy. As he tried to wrench the pallet off the well top, they swarmed like wasps. He flailed and the birds backed off just enough to be beyond fist, but came right back in as he delivered the load, repositioned the cover, and then tried to stumble back into the cabin. One of them even made contact and scratched his face. With that the gloves were off, and he started uselessly throwing stones at them. And it was at that exact moment that there seemed to come some strange epiphany for both parties -- the crows weren't just watching him -- they were watching the rocks fall from apex to ground and learning, and he knew it.

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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March 26, 2014

Blizzard!

Hi,

Very quick post... (Not sure if/when we'll lose power!) But the below is not a weather warning wants to see...

420 blizzard_2014-03-26_045839.jpg

And this is what it looks like... a classic Cape Cod Nor' Easter'...

driving snow 420 DSC01614.JPG

Oh goody!

I'll continue with 'Two Murders in a Murder, Part 2' as soon as possible, but it looks like I've got my hands full right now...

Huddled by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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March 19, 2014

Two Murders in a Murder, Part 2

Continuing from last time, I thought I'd take a break from the usual and write a short story based on our experiences with crows. Know that none of the following is beyond our experiences (except the murder stuff) and certainly within the realm of entertaining fiction...

But something did go horribly wrong... All he really wanted to do was sit on the cabin stoop and try to pick and drink his hangover away. Screw the Jeep. But the crows wouldn't shut up, and he threw a rock at one of them. That was a sin in her world, and she attacked him. Too bad for Brooke that she was no match and a simple backhand knocked her down. (He firmly believed that occasionally a woman needs a good smack.) And that led to the fight which led to the guitar and the skull fracture. Hence the well deposits.

Now he needed time to drink and think, but not too much of either. So he went back in the cabin and began to swill and calculate. "Damned Fall weather", he griped to himself. And it was at that very moment when he closed the window that he saw one of them stealing the distributor cap. By the time he was outside, that crow was gone along with the part, but many more had amassed just beyond anything but a miraculous shot. She'd warned him that the Crow is an intelligent bird -- one that shows incredible loyalty, cleverness, gregariousness, and the ability to learn from almost anything including humans.

"Think!" "Think!" he thought. The most immediate problem was making her disappear for good. In a way, that wasn't too tough. Before they became an item, she once hiked the entire Appalachian Trail alone without even telling anybody beforehand. (Brooke liked to say, "Only one person at a time can really be free.") And therein was his solution -- She'd simply walked away... but why? He thumbed through her notes and found several references to the Sinaloa Crow in Mexico. She'd talked about that stupid bird before... everyone knew she wanted to go. All he needed to do was post on her FaceBook that she was off to study the Sinaloa and sign off using her 'alone and free' mantra , and they'd all understand. That was just Brooke. The plan was almost done, now all he had to do is fill the well, plant some grass seed and tough out the winter. It was all too easy. But something made his skin crawl. He glanced outside and there were crows... lots of them... just staring at him, and they all were ruffling their wings.

By those spell binding feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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