Monday, 9 January 2017

Another Windows troubleshooting mission

An early start today, with the alarm going off just after six, and after a suitable breakfast, out of the house by twenty to seven, walking to the National Express coach station in Sophia Gardens for the seven fifteen coach to London to see my sister June and fix her computer. On my way down Cathedral Road, with relatively little traffic around, I was delighted to hear singing, first a wren, then a robin, then a blackbird, then a starling, and then thrush. All in the trees and garden bushes along one of Cardiff's main arterial roads into the city centre. What a lovely surprise to start the day!

The coach fleet has been upgraded since I last took the journey a year ago. Seats are better upholstered, if a bit narrow for me, and there's more legroom. Best of all, there's free wi-fi, which allows one to receive and send emails, also to surf the net, though not to use social media apps, it appears, probably because they gobble up too much data. Some video streaming is possible via a Sky app, and e-magazines are available to read, but not much to interest me. 

I slept on and off, and browsed a little, and the journey seemed to go much quicker than usual, despite arriving about forty minutes late because of traffic congestion around Newport and beyond the Severn bridge on the approach to North Bristol. Google kept issuing notifications of traffic delays throughout the journey, and it was possible to follow the trip on the Maps app in 'real time'. If you're not driving, this is quite interesting as you get to put names to the hamlets and villages along the M4 corridor which do not appear in motorway exit signage. Then if you're curious, you can Google further info about them. This time last year, on a trip like this, I would have been struggling to do office tasks on my Blackberry in response to a crisis phone call from Ashley, or prepare a document draft on a policy change. This was a much more relaxing and leisurely an outing.

I arrived at June's place at half past midday, having done some shopping for her on my way from coach to Victoria train station. June's laptop is identical to Kath's, and as soon as I switched it on and examined it, the same problem problem presented itself. A broken network configuration, meant that there had been no updates since 9th November, and the anti-virus software was also out of date. It was a matter of re-setting the network software from the command prompt window, with the recommended single line of code, rebooting the machine and forcing it to update everything immediately, a process that took about an hour, all told. 

This was a lot more straightforward than with Kath's machine, as in her case the update mechanism was broken, and it took ages just to find out how to repair it. Would I have been able to remember how I did the full repair two weeks later? Glad I didn't have to put that to the test.  Being risk averse, I'd brought with me the little Acer Aspire E11 I bought recently, to leave for June's use, while I took the other one back home to sort out. But that wasn't necessary. After lunch, I spent some more time, removing some of the useless redundant software, installing and using CCleaner to keep her Acer ES1-521 running as well as it can. So, hopefully there'll be no more problems, unless Microsoft does something equally as stupid and dangerous to render its flagship software system unfit for purpose again. I wonder how many millions of hours have been wasted and money expended by individuals and businesses unable to sort out critical technical problems forced upon them for themselves?

My sister starting using a home computer of her own fifteen years after retirement, and that was ten years ago this year. She gets along reasonably well with surfing, emailing, writing and printing off letters, scanning documents, shifting photos from camera to computer, but finds changes in the user interface, layout and terminology imposed by Windows quite baffling and dis-empowering. I wish that I had introduced her to Linux at the outset, where it is possible to choose your own user interface and modify layout until you get it the way you want it, then stick to it through all the necessary updating processes that improve the work the software needed to do in the background, to keep users safe and stable. Too late for that now however! 

I am pleased, however, that she gets on well with Libre Office, as I never put MS Word on her first laptop. So, she has benefited from having basically the same user interface throughout the decade, as its appearance changes have been cosmetic and minor. I'm glad to see reports that the next Libre Office will replicate the ribbon tool bar familiar with many users of recent iterations of MS Word, and that it will be optional - if only Microsoft would make optional appearances available easily, without fuss and palaver.

My trip home took just three hours and ten minutes, as the traffic on the streets of West London was relatively light, so it only took about half an hour to get as far as Heston services, when it can take twice as long when things are really busy. Despite spending seven hours of the way in coach seats, my gammy leg didn't stiffen up too much, so the twenty minute walk home wasn't an effort. With 'mission accomplished' I arrived with a sense of modest satisfaction, and devoured the welcome late supper Clare had left for me. She retired to bed early, in anticipation of early rising tomorrow to attend the Heath Hospital for her next eye operation. 

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