Finding the right driver home for X-mas

7 January , 2012

Going home for X-mas… to me it means family, most likely the extended family. People you might not spend so much time with anymore, in my case. I try to visit a couple of times every year, but X-mas is special. It’s a tradition, just like the annual airings of Donald Duck on X-mas morning. And another tradition is “Can you fix and/or update the computer(s)?” It’s not such a drag, but fixing computers is not the funniest thing to play around with either. Although finally we academics can make ourselves useful for something. More often than not, it’s a bit difficult to “fix” stuff. Is it drivers, errors, hardware, software, modems, firewalls, whatnot.

Of course, the owners of the computers are not that likely to be interested in maintaining their own computers, hence, the returning son is up for it. I have found a few useful things to help me out with things like this. 

I usually install CCleaner (former crapcleaner), so that it’s easy for my parents or siblings to do a medium thorough clean-up. In addition, I install Ad-Aware and maybe Search & Destroy. They attack spyware, adware, and things like that. Another program I like is Revo Uninstaller – it’s very thorough and removes stuff other uninstallers don’t.

But what happens when you are not there…

When home, I go to  ninite.com and make a tailored installfile (very easy!) for my relative. Just tick the software you want them have and what you know they already have. You download a small file, and tell your relative to run it once pr. month! This will then fetch the newest and updated versions of everything you have chosen, it skips toolbars and other crap, and just update what is needed. Pure genius. This is extremely handy when someone in your family gets a new computer! 

On other occations it might be handy to control the computer of your relative remotely. Many options exist, Teamviewer LogMeIn etcetera. I landed on the free Crossloop Connect. Very simple to use. Your relative calls you tells the code the program gives you, and you input it on your computer. You then get their screen on your screen and can control their computer almost as if your own. (And head to java.com, because that is always were my relatives refuse to pay an interest! 🙂

So off we go, into 2012, hoping I can fix some more problems, and not only when I visit my parents 🙂 Happy new year!

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How not to make frinds via software

21 January , 2009

Trying to make a software friendly may be a good idea. Making it too friendly is a bad idea. Making software that annoys you might be the worst of ideas, still that’s the experience I most often feel around Vista. I rarely get the sensation that “wow – this is good”, but rather “is this wrong too?”.
My latest annoyance is the problem report. For no apparant reason Vista decides to suddenly and at random times run a problem report check to see if it can solve any of the heaps of crashes and problems Vista has encountered. Today this happened, and Vista searched for a couple of hundred errors (!). It found the solution to three (see picture).
The two first errors are anonymous, while the third is Firefox related. Clicking on the first took me to a screen where it said I should get Nokia drivers for my telephone. Well, I couldn’t think of why I needed that since everything has been working with my Nokia connection to the PC. So when I clicked “Information is confusing” I was asked “what where you trying to do”. And who can remember that, months after the problem may have occured?
Second problem took me to a Bluetooth screen. I am quite happy with my bluetooth antenna, it works perfectly and I can easily send files to my computer from around the house and using phones or laptops. So when I was recommended to go to this site to download a driver I was skeptical. Not to mention that when I arrived at the web site, I found that this was actually gonna cost me heaps of money. Just to upgrade something that works. No good help there.
The third one was Firefox related. The technical information in the corner said I needed to install latest version. Which I always do via the excellent filehippo.com update checker. So that was wrong info too. I tried to figure out what must have been the error, but the help I got was “this is community based”, and a link to Mozilla Inc. was provided (it did not work, but may hopes weren’t high anyway).

So out of hundreds of errors, Microsoft decided to fix three, making them all worse if I had follow through with their help. Thanks, Vista, but no thanks! I’d rather run my computer to a halt without your help…


Happy new year all!

4 January , 2009

Well, the academic life just started on Friday, and I love this period of a few days where you actually can prepare  yourself, read some of the stuff you should’ve read ages ago and perhaps even tidy up the office. Just a little bit.

I got this question about my profile photo (not the contrived serious one in the About Me page, but the small one on comments). The reason I love this photo (even if it is of myself) is that it shows myself learning some mathematical facts and connections on my Amstrad CPC 6128 computer. Also, it’s a rather amusing picture of myself around one of my favorite pass-times, with a lot of nostalgia on the walls… (A dog long gone, pop stars, a terrific hair cut, badges and medals, Bon Jovi, etc… ah.. the memories…). The Amstrad didn’t have a blue screen of death, it actually had a blue screen of life. With yellow text. Unfortunately blue (and red) was a colour not very suited for television sets, and the blue tended to blur so much it was hard to read blue text or text on a blue background…

Amstrad CPC 6128 - the wonder machine!

Amstrad CPC 6128 - the wonder machine!

I did not set out to learn mathematics on this computer, but it somehow forced itself into my motivation. I remember learning about sines and cosines in order to plot the circumference of a circle. If a teacher have told me this is what I should do, it wouldn’t have been half as fun. I remember learning about slopes in order to draw stars on the screen. This happened several years before sines and slopes entered my syllabus. I also subscribed to this magazine, named Amstrad Action, and there one could find listings of programs in Basic, which could be typed in and saved on floppies or cassettes. (Do you remember the sound of those tapes? You could listen to it, and after perfectioning your ear, you could say just by listening to the signal hiss whether the software was properly loaded or not.) Of course there was no hard drive, but the machine would ship with an enormous 128 Kb of memory. Not quite enough for everybody, according to Bill Gates, but nevertheless – endless possibilities in the eighties! One of the programs I typed in was a short program that would allow you to play with coefficients of quadratics. It would solve the equations and draw the graphs, and this was before we had ever heard of graphic calculators. I felt like I was on the edge of technical evolution… Anyhow, this “insight from within”, has been valuable to me when meeting the quadratics (and other functions) later on, and the Amstrad have also pointed me towards ways of treating my own students and pupils.

I later read Seymour Papert‘s “The Gears of My Childhood“, and things started to clear up a bit… I highly recommend the book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful ideas” where I read the mentioned article in the foreword, to anyone interested in the teaching and learning, particularily of mathematics.


Helpdesk

8 July , 2008

It’s not all fun and games, but this one is bound to cheer you up! It’s a Norwegian skit, by sometimes funny and sort of celebrated comedians… I think they really nailed it on this one. Someone (I don’t know who) has put subtitles on this one for all you no-Norwegian-speakers out there (what? No habla Noruego?) to enjoy!