Saturday, March 17, 2018

Greatest Deliberative Body?

Whatever happened to "The Greatest Deliberating Body in the World", aka the U.S. Senate?

If it were a true deliberating body, it would have 100 opinions to begin with before settling into one or two.  Instead we start with two lock-step opinions arguing over a foregone conclusion reached by a small majority.

Comment to Maureen Dowd’s column “Trump, Flush With Power”  seems to think that Trump will be crashing soon after firing some competent people and replacing them with Fox News people.  But some commenters thought Trump would get away with a lot as long as the Senate enables him.

Posted at

Friday, March 16, 2018

Erratic behavior of online newspapers

I sent the following email to the publishers and editors of the Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune.

Good afternoon,

If this email is upsetting the end of your day, I’m sorry.  But the erratic behavior of the online versions of your newspapers has been upsetting my month and many months before.

In the case of the Star Tribune, it has unwanted pop-up ads that are difficult, if not impossible to delete. Several days earlier in the week it occurred almost every day and I was ready to cancel my subscription.  The telephone chain to do so was ridiculous.  Yesterday, the eEdition worked fine, and I relented on cancelling my subscription.  Today the pop-up ads were back.

Jon of Feedback was very patient and supportive, but one piece of advice I should never have followed: resetting my iPad.  That wound up clearing all my saved passwords.  Now I have to look these up for my next visit to any of a number of password-protected sites.  And the problem of unwanted pop-ups is back.

In the case of the Duluth News Tribune, it may or may not come up with the eEdition.  On my iPad it was going in a circle of getting halfway to the eEdition and then wanting me to put in my password again.

At the moment, the eEditions are working on my MacBook Air, but I would rather eat breakfast with an iPad by my side: it takes up much less space on the table.

See my blog entry: "A newspaper’s takeover of subscribers’ computers"

I am not alone in enduring these, but I wonder how many of your users have the knowledge and patience to work through this annoyance.  I know my wife who has over twenty years of computer experience wouldn’t and she is growing very impatient with my repeated complaints.  I know that I no longer wish to be an unpaid debugger of your software.

So, please cancel my subscriptions to the Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune.  I’ll renew them when you have fixed this problem.

Oh, yes!  I will post this email to my blog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A newspaper’s takeover of subscribers’ computers

Given the increasing complexity of software and its decreasing user-friendliness, I think 1984 has arrived.  We are supposed to follow robotically through the latest commands of the software designer, aka Big Brother.  And like in 1984, we have no idea what we are doing or should be doing.

I have almost 59 years of computer experience.  I started with a summer job in which I used a textbook to learn to program an IBM 650.  That was a set of large refrigerator size boxes with punched cards in and punched cards out.

Over the next twenty-plus years I went on to program and debug larger and larger computers.  I was often an advocate of newer techniques, like using compilers instead of machine code or using email instead of typed memos.

Then personal computers appeared on the scene.  Some of them easy to use, some of them opaque to use.  In 1984, the Macintosh appeared.  It was a real break-through in ease of use.  Many laughed at WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pictures).  They preferred the complex set of coding that had to be done for the simplest tasks.

I was hooked and became a Certified Macintosh Developer.  I was eager to get the latest Mac with many great features: color, faster and smaller storage devices, and more.

Then OS-X (operating system 10) appeared.  It had many nifty features except ease of transferring older programs to it.  I never got around to rewriting my genealogy program and have lost all that data (except that which I had printed out).  On the other hand, there were many new features that were a delight to use.

But as one OS X after another followed, the Mac started being persnickety.  Printers that were easy to use became a nightmare.  Where is the setting to print an envelope.  Why does the scanner work well with an old OS but gives dark blobs on a newer OS?

Then sin of sins, without asking me, Apple decided I should install the latest operating system just because I was using wi-fi at a coffee shop.  Not only did Apple decide that I should upgrade, it decided that all my files in the Document folder should go to iCloud.  But that was more data than my free 5GB.  It asked me to upgrade my account to 50GB.  The extra $0.99 a month was no big deal, but I still haven’t completely reorganized my Document file so that I don’t need be hooked up to the web to use those files.

The same increasing difficulty has struck many web-sites.  I now subscribe to four newspapers.  Most of them generally work well with only a few quirks that take awhile to figure out.  Just like the print versions, the newspapers are filled with ads.  Generally you can just scroll past them.

But sometime last year, the Star Tribune began to have intrusive ads.  They would take over the computer with no obvious way out.  Not only would the ad page take over the tab slot on a browser, there was no way to get out of it except close the tab or follow it on to other pages in the ad chain.

A similar annoyance is a side-bar ad with a misleading message: “Log In”.  It is not a log in to the newspaper, but an ad for using a Google product for signing in to web sites.

A friendly guy at Star Tribune’s support department helped me try to clear things up.  But it was drastic, including resetting my iPad.  Guess what that did?  It wiped out all my cookies so that I had to enter saved passwords all over again.  Good thing I have the passwords stored in an obscure place.

Rather than making my life simple by easily accessing my bank accounts, reading the latest news, and sending email to friends, I seem to have gone into standby debug mode.

Unfortunately, one of those pop-ups appeared again this morning.  That’s it.  I asked the Star Tribune to cancel my subscription.  Bye to “The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee” and many other comics that are not in the Duluth News Tribune.  Good-bye to many in-depth state stories and editorials.

I do have relatives who spend a small fortune calling Geek Squad every time time they need to make some software change.  Do you think the Star Tribune would pay me for all my efforts?  Do you think your phone will run forever without re-charging?

P.S.  Well, maybe I'll keep the Star Tribune subscription for a few more days.  It worked fine this morning.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Gun Control

I wonder what the writers of the Constitution and the Bill or Rights would think of the Second Amendment being interpreted as:
The people have no right to regulate a militia of one person.
If you read through the Constitution you will find that the writers knew quite well the difference between “the people” and “a person”.

Posted to Nicholas Kristof's 2018-03-08 column on the Florida school shooting.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Stay-aways gave the election away

We really should pay attention to the stay-aways who might have given the election away.  Were there more “Democrats” who stayed away because Hilary Clinton was not the best possible candidate, or were there more “Republicans” who stayed because Donald Trump was the worst possible candidate?

My comment to  “Trump King of Chaos” at

Also scroll down for “Quote of the day” to
“Remember no drama Obama---how I long for those days.”
ACJ, Chicago

Monday, March 05, 2018

Tweet of the Day: AR-15 and Marco Rubio

“We should change the names of AR-15s to “Marco Rubio” because they are so easy to buy.”
Sarah Chadwick, 2018-02-23.

294K likes compared to Rubio’s 23K likes

Included in Helaine Olen’s “The Parkland kids are revealing America’s failings for all to see”.

One of the commenters (kdog_wnc) quotes the Rev. Dr. William Barber: "There are those who say so much about which the Bible says so little, and say so little about which the Bible says so much."

No Apple today keeps the bill collector away

Some time ago I bought a Timex from a local jeweler, but I soon became annoyed with it.  I found it hard to reset the time, especially when the day of the month had to be reset on non-31 day months.  I had had a previous Timex that was a bit easier to use, but it wore out.

I started lusting after an Apple watch because I thought, like my other devices, the calendar would be reset automagically at the end of the month and that it would always be synched with some time standard.

But $250 for just that feature seemed a bit steep.  I wouldn’t use the exercise features, and I have an iPhone for listening to podcasts as I exercise.  It would be nice to say, “Hey Siri, when is the bus coming.”  The big drawback for me was that the Apple Watch had to be recharged every 18 hours in a special stand.  Best Buy did have an ad for the Misfit Vapor that was about $200, and Misfit’s website had smart watches for less.  But still…

I decided that I would visit our local Target store to look for some of the less “exciting” watches I bought years ago.  I remember them having a watch counter with dozens and dozens of styles.

Well, the watch counter with its helpful, knowledgeable clerk is gone and has been replaced by a set of shelves in a narrow aisle.  I saw some of the Seiko models that I had years ago.  I think these were in the range of $50.  But then I saw a familiar Casio among the Seiko watches.  It was only $19.99.  It had all the easy to use buttons to change the time, day, and month.  As I stepped away from the shelf, I saw the next shelf to the right was filled with Casios.  Many thanks of the person who left the Casio with the Seikos.

Once I got the Casio home, I found its most serious drawback: instructions that are very hard for seniors to read.  I remedied this by visiting the Casio site and downloading the direction to a PDF file.  I expanded the file to a comfortable viewing size and started in on the electronic playground.  The only foreseeable problem is the band wearing out and a replacement being hard to find.

I also found out that it has a replaceable battery with a seven-year life.  Also I can change the over-the-counter battery myself with a jeweler’s screwdriver, which I have.  That certainly beats charging every night.