When Simplified Techi-Toys. . . Ain’t, Really

Interfaces on computing devices have been simplified to the point that most folks expect things to just work–almost magically. But it ain’t necessarily so, of course. Case in point: my Kindles (both the original Fire and the Fire HD) seem, most of the time, to just work. But. Not always.

Case in point (of more than a few): today, my Fire HD was handiest when I needed to take a picture of a couple of mugs (ordered trough Amazon, of course) out of a dozen that came broken. Pics were fine–perfect for my need sending documentation to the seller. But the pics just would not upload to my cloud drive, no matter how many times the device said it was uploading them.


So. . . connected the device to a laptop via USB. *sigh* Finally located the pics and offloaded copies to the lappy. THEN the device decided to actually upload ’em to my cloud drive.

OK, not pushbutton simple.

Book I bought listed by Amazon as delivered to the Fire HD. Yeh, could see it, but not open it. Rebooted the device. Nope. Back to Amazon to re-deliver it. Nope. Rebooted. Now it loads.

Simplified isn’t always simple.

Pleasant Surprise

Playing with one of the lil netbooks mentioned in the Playtoys post, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how nimble it is with Linux Mint 17.2 Xfce. It’s actually much more responsive than any of the other distros I’ve played with on the thing, so responsive in fact that I might just leave this distro on it for use. Heck, it works so smoothly even without the planned memory upgrade that I’m almost tempted to cancel the memory upgrade for this one. Almost. More memory is almost always better (especially since I found a source for the same memory modules that is less than 2/3 the cost of buying them from the manufacturer–Amazon, of course).

This lil thing is actually useful for more than just web browsing, now. Pretty amazing.

I Don’t Know Why More People Don’t Do This

N.B. Casual computing notes. Almost NONE of this is for a business setting, although securely accessing remote desktops can be a big help there. But that’s not something I’d push the Windows Remote Desktop Connection app for. Maybe that’s just me. . .

My lil “living room lappy” doesn’t have much horsepower, but it doesn’t need much to log onto the media computer connected to the TV, and a lil rdp file semi-automates even that. Just using it as a semi-dumb client works really well in that situation. Heck, it even saves steps if I’m too lazy (and you can bet I frequently am) to walk back to my “real” computer back in my office. *shrugs*

I really don’t know why more folks don’t use remote desktop access for everyday stuff. It is a wee tad less convenient accessing other computers from my Kindle Fire. Sadly, the best tool for it seems to be TeamViewer. *scratches head* That doesn’t really make sense to me, but at least it works when I need it to, for values of “work” that are a bit kludgy.

*heh* The first time–years ago–I accessed my Wonder Woman’s computer and took control of her mouse, it freaked her out. Of course, that was back in the day when I had to set quite a few things up well in advance for her computer to accept my access. I don’t remotely access as many computers nowadays–especially WAN computers–as I used to do (all the time, it seemed for some years), but I’d just not ever want to do with NOT being able to access–and use just as if sitting at it any computer (of mine) on our LAN, any time, from any of them.

Yeh, yeh, I access files and folders more than I actually do remote computing on different computers scattered around the house, but not a day goes by I don’t fire up an application on Z-I from Z-II that just works better on Z-I than on Z-II, or whatever (yeh, not the computer names). (My music transcription software is an example. I might want to jot a few notes *heh* or make some edits while on the lil living room lappy, but the office machine is better for that. So. . . rdp, baby.)

Yes, it does sometimes mean files are scattered around at different machines, but regular justifications of archives on NASes, etc., help keep everything pretty well organized. (And then there are the “families” of files that have specific homes “in the cloud” as well, and synch up on all registered machines. . . which are then synched/justified on NASes. For the few terabytes of data I want to protect, it works all right.

Oh, look. The voices in my head wander’d afield. Who’d-a thunk it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Yes, I know there are some approximations of full desktop access available for various Android and even *meh* iPad situations–see my comments about Kindle remote desktop access–but really? Notsomuch.)

Computer Security: the Value of Resident Anti-Malware

So, how important is having a resident, up-to-date anti-malware product for Windows users?

Middlin’. No, seriously.

Here’s a wee experiment I recently did:

  • Windows 7 box, mostly updated (I did not accept some problematic M$Office 2010 updates, but then I rarely fire up M$Office).
  • Removed all resident anti-malware products.
  • Surfed normally for a month.
  • Scanned with offline standalone scanners and online scanners from reputable anti-malware companies.

Result? No malware.

A properly-configured modern(ish) browser (Opera 12.17), decent firewalling and simple safe computing practices were all that was needed for me to avoid infections/infestations with malware.

I Still Haven’t Found a Better Browser Than Opera 12.x


Just one (but very important to me) reason why I have yet to find a browser as useful to me as Opera 12.x: bookmark management. I have 118 first level folders in my bookmarks, with many levels nested under them. And I USE this filing system daily. It’s a reference library compiled over years of browsing. (And yes, I weed it regularly as well.)

(Yes, I obscured folders and links.)

Some browsers offer to import my bookmarks. Some of them that offer to do so actually do (the new “Chopera”–an Opera skinned Chrome browser–offers to but doesn’t do it), but those that actually do present a jumbled mess that isn’t really even searchable and none of them have any real ability to sort, organize, and arrange bookmarks. Useless. ANd this is just one (very important to me) among many failings of every browser offering I have searched out as an alternative to the venerable and no longer developed Opera 12.x. Sad that so very much functionality and usefulness has been sacrificed.

And here is just one of three–the middle-of-the-road way–ways to tweak Opera 12.x in what seems to be (almost) infinitely variable ways. I know of no other browser that offers so many ways to customize its behavior. While I don’t often avail myself of the easy manual editing of actual config files (text files saved as ini files) for Opera 12.x, because I’ve just about got them where I want them, sometimes I make a less granular change using opera:config typed in the address bar. Just one–of, still, many more–reasons why pretenders to the browser throne on my devices have yet to dethrone Opera 12.x.


I keep trying to find a replacement, but every “new” browser–and new iterations of old ones–that comes along just seems like crap by comparison to “Ole Faithful.” *sigh*

When One Is a Windows User. . .

. . .no matter how experienced, educated and “crafty” *heh* sometimes the best answer is to throw one’s hands in the air and. . . go check OPE (Other People’s Experiences). Almost invariably, someone, even someone with all sorts of certs and official qualifications, has had the same intractable problem and has fumbled around and eventually churned up a workaround from the muck on the stable floor.

So it was with this problem/answer.

Short and sweet(er than not): error message stating some third-party security apps were blocked from running by group policy. Checked group policy editor and even did a “gpresult /h” (to have a nice html file report to read in a browser) and no, they were not. . . according to Windows. Still blocked, though.

Kludge-around: back up the Policy keys in the registry. Delete those keys. Force a GP update. Ta-da! All’s well. But. . . I really hate deleting keys, even when they’re backed up, so I’d not gone that far. I would have preferred fixing the problem the right way–in Group Policy Editor. Nope. *head-desk* “It’s Windows, dummy. Do it the roundabout, kludged-up way.”



Opera ASA, the Norwegian company that publishes various forms of Opera Browser for just about every platform out there, has apparently decided that its real growth market is among computer users with the intelligence of a rotten cabbage and attention spans that make mere nanoseconds seem like years.

Example: suppose one were to want to import one’s bookmarks from a previous version of the Opera browser to the current Chrome knockoff Opera browser. The Opera “help” (and I use the term derisively) file says,

“To import your bookmarks:

“From the main menu, select More tools > Bookmark Importer.
“Click the Select Bookmarks button.
“From the list, select which bookmarks you wish to convert to Speed Dial.”

Well, first off, that’s a flat out lie. “Bookmark Importer” has sporadically appeared and disappeared from the Chrome knockoff Opera since its inception. Not there in ver. 24.0.1543.0.

Secondly, “From the list, select which bookmarks you wish to convert to Speed Dial,” pretty explicitly says, “Choose a few bookmarks. We’ll let you sort of ‘import’ those few. You lose the rest AND your folder structure. Tough noogies. We only want users with the attention spans and intelligence necessary to make gnats seem like Steven Hawking in comparison.”

100s of bookmarks nestled in a folder structure that allows clear navigation and categorization with a bookmark management functionality that allows quick and easy searches to delve quickly into that complex tree structure and pluck just exactly the gem one wants? Gone, bubba.

So, then Opera ASA touts its “synchronize” function. . . which does no such thing at all. All it does is export bookmarks in an html file that COMPLETELY DESTROYS ALL ORGANIZATION INCLUDING ALPHABETIZING OF BOOKMARKS, making the thing almost completely worthless. . . especially since it also RANDOMLY LOSES BOOKMARKS.

Now, that’s just ONE of the many, many ways Opera ASA has screwed up a once exceptionally useful tool. *sigh*

I am trying Avant Browser and I find it to have a few useful, built in features even Opera 12.x doesn’t (the old Opera browser that’s still at least an order of magnitude better than the “new” Chrome knockoff Opera), but it, too, does not import Opera bookmarks (though it offers to and appears to attempt to do so), and in all other ways, excepting a few nice lil features, is about as capable as Opera 11.x.


It’s almost enough to make a guy give up on the web.