Monday, October 16, 2017

Windows 10 - The Curse of the Error Message

I switched my pc on this afternoon, knowing that when it shut down a couple of days ago there were updates being installed, so I expected to receive the message that duly appeared to inform me that the completion of the process was taking place. Alas, having whizzed through the last ten per cent of installs it then mournfully put up the banner of failure
We couldn't complete the updates. Undoing changes. Don't turn off your computer
I have never had this one before. I did not turn off the computer but waited for a few minutes until a reboot. Then it told me it was applying updates again, then once more that they had failed. And it rebooted again. But this time system started up normally.

After some minutes the little box at the bottom that warns if there are system messages came to life (was it shy, or waiting for me to calm down?) to tell me that the updates had failed and I should click for further information. Well, you know me, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. So I clicked, and waited, and eventually up came more info telling me about a raft of successful system updates made a few days ago. And not a word about a failure.

So now I am baffled. What was it that failed to update? Will I get this all over again the next time I reboot? Why does the system tell me there are problems but not what the problems were or what the updates were that it was trying to install? Is this a game devised by some cunning mastermind at Microsoft HQ to see how many abusive emails they can receive?

Whilst waiting for the reboot processes to complete I checked out the internet on another device to see what others thought about this warning message. Depressingly, most of the so-called Microsoft Professionals advised making changes in Windows. None of them seemed to realised that a PC that is rebooting itself does not load Windows in a form that the user can manipulate, or alternatively that if Windows does load then the reboot issue has gone away (albeit it may return).

I hope I will not have to return to this topic.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Gone Fishing

A hard couple of days doing essential maintenance on the aquatic part of the estate [pond out the back: Ed]. Twenty years ago we put in a couple of baskets of snakegrass and of irises. Since then they have grown and spread, creating huge rootballs and great dollops of smelly mud, each generation of plants dying back to form a new layer of mulch for the next. Almost imperceptibly the plants had taken over more than half of the surface area and their weight was such that it was impossible to shift them. It was time to act.

Yesterday we managed to cut through the soft mud and remove it, piece by piece, until with some careful levering of a spade the rootballs could be freed and lifted. To my surprise the baskets were still there - I had assumed they must have rotted away long ago. Today we finished the job of clearing up and tomorrow I aim to take all the debris to the dump.

The final job is to put the fish back. They are slippery little blighters. Once we began cutting into the vegetation, the pond rapidly filled with filthy water and it was necessary to remove the fish. But because they hide under the plants, these had to be cleared first. This meant the water was so full of mud that nothing could be seen and the only way to catch the fish was to trawl around with a net or a bucket then inspect the contents as they were emptied. One by one, as I poured water into the drains, a flopping little body would emerge for me to decant into a fresh holding tank. I think I got them all in the end but I won't know for sure until they go back in.

We have been very fortunate with the weather. Last week we holidayed in the Black Forest (and very beautiful it was too) with average temperatures in the low teens. This weekend in the UK we are in the high teens, it hasn't rained and a touch of the low twenties is promised for Monday.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ryanair - Still Toxic after all these Years

Almost exactly four years after I commented critically on low-cost airline Ryanair's hatred of its customers, a fresh storm has hit the company. It seems that the holiday rosters of its pilots were switched so recklessly that the airline had to cancel thousands of flights this autumn. This screwed up the plans of people who had booked tickets with holidays or other travel arrangements in mind. The airline blithely assumed it didn't matter if hotel bookings or precious holiday days were lost.  Ryanair attempted to refuse the compensation required by law (whilst apologising profusely for PR purposes) then said they would pay full compensation, including the costs of finding alternative flights. Now the latest reports show it is still in denial and still attempting to screw its customers, especially those who it misinformed about their rights in the first place.

One might say that anyone who choose to fly with this sort of carrier must take the risk of being treated as expendable. But if you buy a ticket and pay upfront then you are entitled to fulfilment of that contract by the supplier. I am so glad that I no longer fly for business and don't have to fly when I go on holiday. This industry, or at least some of it, is not fit for purpose.

Poor old Spotify

For those ignorant of such things, Spotify is a website that permits users to play music directly from their internet-enabled devices. There is a large catalogue from which to choose. If one wishes to keep the music then it must be purchased. There are plenty of other such websites but I single out this one because it is one of the very few that I have used from time to time, and because today I received a plaintive little email from them displaying this desperate plea:

Apologies if you find this hard to read but this is exactly how it was sent. I suppose people who spend all day listening to pop music don't know much about image design.  Anyway, let us examine the contents forensically.

"It's been a while...".  No greeting. No "Dear Ramblings" or, if they wanted to be more formal "Dear Mr Commuter (Ruislip)". Instead they give me a phrase without a subject. What has been a while? How long is a while?

We then move from this unsubstantiated assertion to the baffling "So we made you a throwback playlist...". If they had said "So here is a gift voucher that you can spend in the retailer of your choice; please, please spend more time browsing our website" then this would definitely have grabbed my attention. I don't know what a throwback playlist is. Every single piece of music I (and, I suspect, you) own was recorded at some time in the past. At what point is a track sufficiently old to be dubbed as a throwback? Does anyone on Spotify even realise that there is a huge body of work produced in the past five centuries that is regularly performed? Clearly not, because for these dumbos the pieces included in this unwanted playlist are tracks from about twenty or thirty years ago.

The suggestion that I might have memories for works by a-ha and Eurythmics shows once again the inadequacies of data mining and prevalence of stupidity over thought processes in consumer websites. Spotify know the sort of thing I have browsed in the past. They also therefore know the sort of thing in which I have not the slightest interest, and pop songs of the past thirty years feature pretty damn high in this list.

And so we come to the summing up. Will I "love" their "throwback playlist"?  Here are the possible answers and you, dear reader, may select the one you feel is most appropriate.

  • No
  • No, no, a thousand times no
  • Do you really think I can be arsed even to look at their stupid list, never mind actually listen to it?
  • Er, that's about it, one of the above should be sufficient

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Across the Alps

Mrs. C. and I enjoyed a week in Piedmont recently, with a heavy (and I mean that in more than one sense) emphasis on the gastronomic delights of this beautiful region. As usual we travelled by train and this in turn meant an overnight stop in Lyon, following a fearfully early start in order to catch the only Eurostar that goes directly from London to Marseilles (thereby cutting out the usual faffing about trying to cross Paris). Our hotel was placed almost directly outside the main train station in Lyon and what could be more natural than to picture some of the highly modernist trams that serviced the area.

After Lyon we took the train to Turin, a wonderful journey cutting directly through the Alps and on to  four nights in Cuneo sampling what must be one of the finest cuisines in the world  (with an enormous emphasis on local production and rigorous standards) and then two nights in Turin, a city previously unknown to us. Unlike other Italian cities of its size, Turin is amazingly well-ordered, and easy to navigate. The whole centre (with only a few exceptions) comprises handsome buildings of some 5 floors in height, laid out on a regular grid system so precise that one can stand at the gates of the Royal Palace and look down through piazza after piazza to the equally imposing railway station 1km away. It has a large number of pedestrian only areas and many miles of porticos - wide streets with arched arcades running on both sides in Renaissance style. And it also has a tram system, but unlike those in Lyon, the impression is of a hotch-potch of styles that suggests either a devotion to preservation or a lack of cash. 

Perceptive readers will spot the that the two trams on the right, one rather old-fashioned in appearance, the other modern, are both working the no. 13 route. It's rather refreshing compared to the Underground where every train on each line is identical pretty well all of the time. Alas we were not able to ride any of them so as to determine which was the more comfortable.