Thursday, November 6, 2014

Learning how to use my new laptop computer

The Scientific Method

This morning I found a link HERE which explains how to fix the "two finger scroll not working" problem.  There's a different solution HERE.  The technician I talked with on Tuesday spent a lot of time looking at the solution described on the web page HERE.  Other possible solutions may be found HERE.

My experience has been as follows:

I bought my laptop a month ago, on October 1, 2014.  The instructions on how to use the touchpad included two finger scrolling, right-edge swipe to show the "charms," left-edge swipe to switch between apps, and other features.

I had a LOT of difficulty adjusting to the touchpad AND the fact that if the cursor landed on some link and remained there for more than a fraction of a second, the link would activate.  Or if the cursor was on a link when I completed a scroll motion, when I touched the touchpad again to complete the scroll it might be the same as activating the link that was currently under the cursor.  Within a few days I somehow clicked on a link or did something that filled my computer with malware.  So, I had to take it back to the store to have it cleaned out.  They restored all the software to its original state.  The two finger scroll was still working fine.  (I was also having MAJOR problems figuring out the best way to copy and paste.)

So, that was how I used my lap top from October 1 to November 2 when the touchpad suddenly stopped working altogether.  I couldn't even move the arrow around, because there was no arrow.

I took the laptop back to the store, and they seemingly fixed the problem.  However, when I got it home I found that, while I could move the arrow around, the two-finger scroll didn't work, nor did the left-swipe, etc.

The next day, November 3, I contacted the store's on-line site and they restored the two-finger scroll function in about 20 minutes.

But, on November 4, while visiting, I started getting "unresponsive plugin" and "unresponsive script" messages over and over, like it was in a loop.  And, I think the cursor arrow changed to a small hand for awhile.  When I managed to get out of that web site, the touchpad on my laptop was once again totally dead.  It didn't work at all.  (I think it's possible that the first time the touchpad went totally dead I'd been either on that same site or on 

So, I again contacted the store's on-line site.  This time, the technician spent two hours prowling around trying to find a solution.  He finally restored some functionality to the touchpad, but not two finger scrolling.  When it was clear he was just doing the same things over and over and over without any change in the results, I told him I was going to take the laptop back to the store technicians so that they could see what I was doing on the touchpad.  (The on-line technician had type into a communication box when he wanted to ask me to use the touchpad to see if some fix had worked or not.)

So, on November 5, I took the laptop back to the store.  And that's where the situation is at the moment.

But, I'm concerned that there may be no current workable solution to the problem. And, I'm thinking that the store technicians just can't say that it is a " currently unsolvable problem."

Plus, it had taken me a month to discover that I probably shouldn't be using the touchpad anyway, since the mouse is VASTLY easier to use.  I just need the touchpad for the rare occasions when I might take my laptop out of the office to some place where it isn't convenient to use a mouse. (That's why I bought a laptop and not another desktop computer.)

Some history:

I started working with computers in 1964 as a programmer.  Later I became a systems analyst and systems manager for major corporations.  I think I got my first home computer sometime in the 1980s.  I use my current home computer all the time, but I don't keep up to date on software changes.

On my old computer, I'm currently running Windows XP.  I use my old computer to maintain my web site, which I update on average once per day.  I use Netscape 7.2 (which I think is from 1998) as my email software AND as my web site composer.  I use Lotus-123 (1998 version) for my spreadsheets.  I use Word 2003 to write my books.

I'm having problems with emails.  It sometimes takes a half-dozen tries to send an email, and it may take five minutes or more to receive/download an email.  

So, I decided I needed to upgrade.  But, I can't switch to Windows 8.1 on my old computer without reloading all the application software, and I'm not sure how much of my old software will work on 8.1.

So, I bought a new laptop.  The plan was to switch everything over to the laptop, and then convert to Windows 8 or 8.1 on my old computer.  And one of the two computers could be used as a backup.

It took me nearly a month to realize that I shouldn't be using Firefox as my web browser on my laptop.  (I had been using Firefox for many years on my old computer, but the "current" version on my old computer with Windows XP is NOT the same as the current version of Firefox on Windows 8.1.)

I didn't think it would be a good idea to try to continue using Netscape 7.2 as my composer.  So, I tried finding a composer in Windows OFFICE 365.  But, they don't have one for Windows 8.1.  I did research and found out about Firebug.  I downloaded it, but I couldn't do anything with it.  It's a totally different kind of composer.  Talking with people on the Firebug forum, I was told that I should be using SeaMonkey.  I'd never heard of SeaMonkey, but when I downloaded it, it looked to be PERFECT for my needs.  Of course, someone else quickly said that a different program, Bluegriffon was better. Maybe so, but first I'll have to see if SeaMonkey does all I need it to do.   

I also use my computer to argue with conspiracy theorists on my blog HERE.

I haven't even tried to switch my two email accounts to the laptop.  My old computer still uses "pop servers."  (I have an archive of 50,000 emails that would probably need to be switched over, too.)

But, mostly I want to use my computer to write books.  I just need to get this computer changeover completed first.

If the two-finger scroll and other features on the touchpad can't be made to work, I need to find out how to get to the "charms" functions some other way, along with finding a different way to do all the other things that don't work.  There would only be a "serious" problem if the touchpad could not be used to visit web sites because I might visit one that triggers a total shutdown of my touchpad.   


Sunday, October 26, 2014

About Writing

I've been writing for a hobby since I was in my teens, which was a lonnnnnng time ago.  Initially, I wrote short stories.

Of course, I also tried to sell my stories.  But, all I did was collect a heap of rejection slips.

While I was serving in in the U.S. Air Force in Japan, I became interested in oil painting.  That more or less took me away from writing for about ten years.  After I got out of the Air Force, I continued with the oil painting and actually sold quite a few of them.

But, gradually I lost interest in oil painting.  My true love was writing.  Plus, I was writing every day as I worked as a computer programmer, and then as a systems analyst.  It was technical writing, as it was part of my job to explain how business systems currently worked at my place of employment, and how a new system would do things differently, thereby solving problems that had plagued the company for years.  At home, I wrote a non-fiction book about how difficult it was to convince some people that computers were not magic and it was the systems designer and programmer who made the computer do things, computers didn't just do them automatically.  (This was in the early days of computing, when the average person had no idea how a computer worked and the idea of a "home computer" wasn't even imagined yet.)  The book was evidently too self-serving, and I couldn't get an agent interested.

Then I started writing novels.  And somehow I got the idea of trying to write screenplays, since I was a BIG movie fan and had been all my life.

I managed to get an agent interested, and he arranged for a producer to option one of my screenplays.  But, none of my scripts was ever actually bought and produced.  I entered screenwriting contests and did fairly well.  That went on for years, and I had a half dozen screenplays in circulation.  (They're described on a page on my web site HERE.)

Meanwhile, I again returned to writing novels.  I wrote a novel about the early days of World War II, which at various times I called "That December," "Dangerous December" and "Clipper."  A well-known agent became interested in the novel and tried about 50 different publishers, but it was no sale.  (One of the publishers liked the idea of an adventure on a Pan-Am flying boat and mentioned it to one of his writers, Ken Follett.  Follett then wrote a novel titled "Night Over Water."  It had nothing to do with my novel, other than that the story took place on a Pan-Am flying boat.)

After the terrorist hijacking attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, I became interested in the anthrax letter attacks that occurred shortly afterward.  I created a web site and began discussing (and arguing) the case with people on the Internet.  I was fascinated by arguments between "experts," where it was clear that one "expert" was arguing his personal beliefs, while another expert was looking at the facts and evidence.  I enjoyed figuring out which was which. 

In 2005, I wrote a non-fiction book titled "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks," which was my analysis of the information known at that time.  Since I had no "credentials" for writing such a book, I couldn't find an agent or a publisher. So, I published it myself (a major adventure and learning experience for me).

The experience in self-publishing "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks" convinced me that I should self-publish a Kindle edition of "Clipper," which I did in September 2010.  Since there was no publicity for the book, no one knew about it.  However, I did sell a few copies from time to time, particularly when ABC television aired a series titled "Pan Am" in 2011 and 2012.   

In 2012, I self-published a second non-fiction book titled "A Crime Unlike Any Other: What the Facts Say About Bruce Edwards Ivins and the Anthrax Attacks of 2001."  Once again, because I had no "credentials" for writing such a book (other than examining and discussing all the information about the case for over 10 years), I hadn't been able to get any agents interested.   Even though it also had no publicity, it has sold enough copies to off-set my costs in self-publishing the book and make it profitable (albeit only slightly so).

In October 2013, I started work on a new novel - a science-fiction novel which incorporated and expanded upon an idea from a screenplay I never finished, which was called "Gizmo."  I finished the third draft of the novel in January 2014.

Once again, I had problems getting an agent.  This time, however, the reason was different.  It appears no agent wants to work with a 77-year-old wanna-be novelist.  (Some agents even say on their web sites that they do not handle writers over 65 or so.)  Also, the book business has changed.  The big thing in novels these days is "series books," i.e., books where a character or group of characters have adventure after adventure in a series of novels.  Examples: Lee Child's 19 novels featuring "Jack Reacher," Janet Evanovich's 21 novels featuring "Stephanie Plum," James Patterson's "Private" series, and the "Nikki Heat" novels by Richard Castle (which are real books by real writers posing as a fictional author from the TV series "Castle.")

But, I was undeterred.  Since I truly enjoy writing, I decided to work on a second sci-fi book involving the same characters from the book I had finished in January 2014. I finished the first draft of that second book in August 2014.  The plan is to have three books in the series finished before I once again try to find an agent.  And, if I can't find an agent for the three books, I'll self-publish.

I think I understand why I haven't been more successful with my fiction.  I have good plots, but my main characters do not excite the reader.  Readers are interested in following what happens to some interesting character, even if the story is kind of far-fetched or dopey.  It's certainly better to have a good story AND interesting characters, but it's almost impossible to get a novel published if the characters are not interesting.

Knowing what the problem is doesn't automatically make the solution easy.  I'm working on it.  Hopefully, agents and readers will find the characters in my three sci-fi novels to be interesting and exciting.

Time will tell.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Converting to a new computer

Last week, I bought a new Hewitt-Packard laptop computer.  It works fine, and I'm totally pleased with it.  But I was stunned to see how many differences there are in the way things are done on new computers versus how I've been doing them on my old computer for the past 10 years or so.

It's like I've entered a different world.  Nothing works the way I've been accustomed to doing things.  I'm going to have to learn new skills.  And, while learning, I have to try to avoid disasters.

The main problem seems to be the differences between Windows XP and Windows 8.1.  But there are also major differences in using a touchpad versus using a mouse.  It's as if everything has changed.

1.  Most times, it seems that just holding the cursor arrow over something is equivalent to clicking on it.  That means if I see an icon and don't know what it is for, and if I hold the cursor over the icon to see what information pops up to explain the purpose of the icon, I may also activate some function.
ADDED NOTE:  It appears that this could be a difference between Internet Explorer and Firefox.  The problem seems to only occur with Internet Explorer.  I've switched to Firefox where the problem doesn't seem to happen.
2.  I'm having a serious problem figuring out how to copy and paste things.  It seems to be different with each application.  On my old computer, clicking on the right button on the mouse would bring up a menu that included "copy" and "paste" and other functions.  Clicking on the touchpad equivalent accomplishes nothing. And there doesn't seem to be any way to copy many things. 
ADDED NOTE:  I viewed some videos on how to use the touchpad, and from one of them I learned that copy and paste is a two handed operation. You have to press the lower left corner of the touchpad with the finger of your left hand while using a finger on your right hand to move the cursor over the area you want to copy.  With a mouse, it's all done with one hand.  Learning it was a two handed operation was a major discovery for me. 
3.  There are no longer any manuals on paper to refer to.  You have to find things on-line, like help videos which never seem to address my current problem.  Somewhere there may be an explanation, but it's not like looking things up in an index and flipping to a page.
ADDED NOTE:  This is still an issue.  But I'm becoming accustomed to it.
I didn't have any problem creating this blog - ON MY OLD COMPUTER.  I shudder to think what would be involved if I tried it on my new computer.
ADDED NOTE: Apparently, it would be no problem at all.  I found I can access this blog as easily on my new laptop as I can on my old computer.
While looking for something else, I discovered Microsoft Paint.  This is a MAJOR find for me.  I had it on my old computer and didn't even know it.  It means I can do most of my graphics work without the need to buy Corel Draw.