Category Archives: Support

Netbook won’t run video-editing software: film at eleven

So apparently some of the computers bought with Digital Education Revolution money are underpowered for the software suite loaded on by state education departments.

The Lenovo netbooks handed out to NSW students in 2009 and 2010 sport a 1.66MHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 2GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive and 10-inch screen

A rig with these spacs this is my primary Windows machine, and for a while was the most powerful machine in my house.  It’s fine for not playing HD video or anything that challenging, although operating without the (maximum) 2 gig of RAM is a weedy beast (the raw boot memory consumption is 640 meg, leaving plenty of space to run Notepad or perhaps Windows Performance Monitor).  With 2 gig it runs browsers, spreadsheets and word processors without complaint, but:

A NSW education department spokesperson, in response to complaints from students that their free netbooks don’t have the performance to run Photoshop, said

“Slow performance has not been highlighted as a major issue with the laptops … As with all computers, after time they can slow down. The department regularly upgrades the versions of software and performs a tidy up to ensure smooth running of the devices. This helps avoid slow boot and operating times.”

A. Why are these kids whining about free computers?
B. What the hell do school kids need Photoshop for?
C. Why would the passing of time cause a computer to slow down?
D. How does upgrading software versions improve boot times or even operating times?

Maybe the “tidy up” is the important bit.

Maintenance nightmare

Unmaintainable Plumbing - kids, don\'t use silicon sealant to hold plumbing in place
Houses need maintenance, it’s just a fact of life. Things wear out. But programmers are not alone in creating artifacts without thought for the subsequent fixing of the going wrong of things.

Take a look at this tap. This tap is copper, as you can tell by the oxidation. Inside it is a washer that, as a function of how many times it’s been opened and closed, now needs replacing. This is normally a simple matter of turning off the water supply to the house, unscrewing the tap body, popping out the old washer and slipping in a new one. But if the plumber or whomever followed in their footsteps decided to make things more watertight by the liberal application of silicon sealant, you’re in for some fun times digging it all out so as to be able to get a spanner onto the bastard of a thing.

The plumbing all through my spacious bathroom continues in a similar vein.

One of the shower taps can’t be removed with a spanner because it’s too deeply recessed into the wall. So deeply recessed that the tap had to be extended out so that the cover could screw on. But rather than extend the tap out via a pipe extension, the tap was extended out with a thread extension. So, joy of joys, I can’t change the cold water washer.

Part of the house maintenance was to install a Residual Current Device, a saftey switch. This protection extends to the spa bath’s pump, which is how we found out the pump has a leakage problem – switch the pump on, and the whole house is plunged into darkness. Should be a simple matter of locating the pump, determining where the unit has degregated, and replacing it. If, say, it was externally mounted. Which it isn’t. I believe it’s mounted under our bathtub, in the cavity between the tub and the wall. There is no way to access this area, not via a removable panel or anything of the ilk – the whole lot has been tiled in. Which tile should I remove to get to the unit? The left hand side or the right? No one knows. Naturally, there are no spare tiles to replace any that get broken in the search. For all I know, the pump may be under the floorboards, but the bathroom’s just about as far as you can get from the underhouse access trapdoor, and I haven’t gotten up the courage to go looking for it yet. If the pump’s not under there, I hope there is under-floor wiring that will give a hint as to the location of the pump – but I’m not holding my breath.

What home maintenance nightmares have you seen as a function of poor design?

Winhelp vs HTMLHelp

Popup helpI know the move from the ol’ Winhelp to HTML Help was meant to be a good thing (and at the time made my life easier, as I could re-use HTML formatted text more easily), but the loss of the very handy “What Is?” help originally trumpeted in Win95 is a shame.

Nowadays if you click the question mark on Word 2003’s options screen, for instance, it just chucks you onto a help page which covers the entire dialog. Doesn’t even open the bit that talks about the tab you were on. They really should have ensured that all the functionality of Winhelp 4 (that fine granularity of context-senstivity) was available in HTMLHelp. (Is it? Did the Word 2003 people just get lazy?)

In fact, I reckon what they should have done was improve the help development tools, but leave the underlying technology alone. Winhelp4 worked well for users, but its authoring was a real pain. That’s why tools like RoboHelp won sales. If MS could have come up with a way of easily developing your help in HTML, but having it compile into Winhelp4, they would have been onto a winner. In the days before everyone had IE, it would have got around the issues with poor Win95 users having to install HTMLHelp (and thus, IE 3+), and suffering the performance hit of having to load up the browser just to look at the help.

Of course, at the time MS would have been trying to entrench IE’s hold on every desktop. Which I guess explains why they did it their way.