Friday, June 22, 2012
Monday, March 21, 2011
I've understood my mother's seemingly irrational fear of technology on some level, but it wasn't until today that I really, really felt her pain. Ironic that it should come on a day when she called me on her cell phone. My mother has had two cell phones before, both purchased under duress at the urging of someone in the family. She never used either, even when she needed a cell phone and went looking for a pay phone.
But somehow she saw an ad from AARP that spoke to her and all on her own, she ordered a cell phone. When it came, she learned how to use it all by herself. She asked me to add some phone numbers to it and today, when something happened to her land line and she had no phone, she actually figured out how to call me on the cell phone. Good Mom!
My understanding of my mother started yesterday when our issue of PC Magazine arrived. We have been receiving this magazine for years. It was a selection originally as a substitute when another magazine went out of business and we still had months left on our subscription (I'm not sure, but I think it was Ramparts magazine).
We've been getting PC Magazine now for at least 15-20 years. Each month, I glance through it, but more and more I'm understanding less and less. PC Magazine to me now is like reading something in French or Portuguese. I can recognize a lot of the words, but I don't have a clue what they mean in context.
There was a time when we were all learning how to use computers, when I read all the computer magazines, but you find that the more technology advances, if you don't need to know all the latest software or gadgets, you begin falling more and more behind at faster and faster speeds. And here is where I begin to understand my mother. She has no need for all the gadgets that we all use, so she scoffs at them and makes fun of us for using them...but today, when she needed a phone, she figured out how to use her cell phone and discovered it wasn't so difficult after all.
Now, I am going to tell you about my afternoon. I fully expect that this is going to be confusing to everybody including me, but I want to describe my pain and explain what happened--and how it all seems to have ended.
I was connected to iTunes and I noticed that when iTunes syncs your iTouch, it syncs the "notes" feature of outlook express or explorer or something. I had never noticed that feature before. I have been trying to find a way to type myself a note on the computer and move it to my iTouch ever since I GOT the thing. The best I can do, for a long note, is to e-mail it to myself on GMail, pick it up on my iTouch, and then do a cut and paste into the notebook app. This is definitely not ideal, but I was very proud of myself when I figured that out.
However, if there is a way with a simple sync that I could get notes from here to there, I was all for it. But I realized that in order to do that I would probably have to upgrade iTunes, which they have been bugging me to do for months.
The thing I hate about upgrades is that you just get something working the way you want it and somebody figures out a little tweak that THEY like and they upgrade the software and then you have to figure it all out all over again. I am using Version 3 of Front Page Explorer, dated 1995. I know that technology has advanced waaaay past this program, but it works for me and I don't need anything fancier, so I don't see the need to upgrade. I still use Word Perfect 9, which is so out of date that whenever I have someone here to work on the computer they have never heard of it--now it's all about "suites," which I don't need and never use. WP9 and I are old friends.
But I did like that potential "notes" function for my iTouch and so I started on my nightmare. I clicked "yes" when it asked if I wanted to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes. And it did its thing for what seemed like a very long time, until I got the message that something had gone wrong and it couldn't install. OK...I'll try again. (What is the definition of insanity? Repeat the same thing over again expecting a different result?) Again, it would not install and suggested that I download it first and then install it, making it a two step process. OK. Let's try that way.
There were some intermediate problems that I encountered that I've forgotten now, but ultimately I downloaded the new version of iTunes and started to installed it. But it seemed to get hung up about 3/4 of the way through. It sat there in one spot for more than half an hour and I finally decided that I wasn't going to be able to install it this way either, so I cancelled the install and figured the heck with "notes," I'd live with what I already knew.
But then I plugged in my iTouch and it told me that it could not recognize that machine because it was not turned on. What? I couldn't figure out what that meant. I tried everything to get it to recognize my iTouch, but it would not.
Finally, trying to figure out if it was a computer problem or an iTouch problem, I got out the laptop and set that up. I decided I would upgrade iTunes on that machine first while at the same time trying to install iTunes on the desktop. When the laptop install was done and I connected the iTouch, it did recognize it, but it said that I would also have to update the software on the iTouch (of course). This meant that, it told me, all of my apps and documents would be erased and to be sure they were backed up on my home computer. Well, I knew they were, so I blithely started the upgrade of the iTouch, only too late realize that I had no clue whether, after this was over, I would be able to connect the iTouch to the computer with the backup files.
I had things being installed on both computers and on my iTouch all at the same time and I was running back and forth from the kitchen to my office, keeping track of both. It took forEVER and I kept seeing messages like "uninstalling programs" which I didn't like at all. When the software seemed to be upgraded, then I got a picture which looked like it was wanting me to plug the iTouch back in. But it WAS plugged in, so I disconnected it and reconnected it again. Somehow that worked and it began syncing...for nearly an hour. It took all my willpower to just let it sit there doing its thing.
It had finally gone on so long that I decided it had stalled and disconnected it. I could now turn on the iTouch, but it had nothing on it. Photos gone. Videos gone. Games gone (though amazingly my kindle books were still there).
Now came the moment of truth. I plugged it into the desktop and after a couple of lurches it started synching. This was a better idea for a couple of reasons -- first, because everything is backed up on the desktop, and second, because with this synch, you could see how many more files needed to be backed up.
After about six hours, the sync was finished and (almost) everything was back as it once was, except for the videos, but most of those just needed to be moved over from the library. A few could not be moved, but I'll figure that problem out later.
Finally. I had my iTouch back. I have upgraded iTunes and the software for the iTouch.
The only thing is...I still can't figure out how to synch the "notes" feature.
Cousins day tomorrow.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I have heard more than once in the past 3 days the question "why do things have to change? Why can't things stay the way they used to?"
This morning, after she read my journal entry, Jeri (who rarely watches TV and still uses VHS tapes when she does need to record something) wrote, "I find it very frustrating how technological advances are forced on everyone, whether they want them or not."
I got to thinking a lot about that. It seems that we really aren't very realistic about our anger at "change," especially as we get older.
I have loved all the changes in PhotoShop because I use it every day and so I try to keep up with all the advances that I can see myself using. It's important to me that I know what fun new stuff it will do.
BUT, I am still using a very old version of Front Page to write my journal every day and still "can't" understand the new way that the program works, making a unifying web page that is easier to update. I say "can't" (in quotes) because if I really wanted to, I could probably spend time slowly going through a manual or a tutorial and learn how to do it, but I don't see it necessary for what I use it for 99% of the time.
When Ned started making really good movies with Adobe Premier Elements, I was jealous of what he had learned and got the program for myself, but I'm overwhelmed with the amount of learning there is to do. He doesn't want to let me watch him work and tells me I need to learn it myself, and I react the same way my mother does--I know that it's "too complicated" for me to learn. Obviously it's not too complicated for me to learn, obviously I just am not willing to put in the time to actually do the work. I want someone else to do it for me and then show me how.
Jeri asks why things have to change because she doesn't watch TV, can't see any value in it, and sees no reason why she should learn about a DVR. BUT, she composes music on her computer. She doesn't use paper and pen. The program she uses is very complicated and I couldn't even imagine learning it. But then, I don't write music and I have no need for some new technology which will let me do it more easily -- she does.
Tom hasn't weighed in on the subject, but since he works with computer programs which make doing calculation for employee benefits for corporations much easier and faster, I suspect he'll agree with me.
But it's always been that way hasn't it? If it weren't for "progress," we'd all still be riding horses instead of riding in cars. One of the stories my mother is fond of telling is of her mother, being given a car by one of her kids, and trying to learn to drive it out in a field and then slamming the door and saying she could never learn it. And she never did. But she didn't have to. She lived out in the country and had others in the family to take her places. Those "others" made the move from horses to horseless carriages and learned how to drive because it suited them.
How many people know how to drive a stick shift -- and how many people sit around bemoaning the invention of the automatic transmission. I learned to drive a stick shift (Jeri still drives a stick shift), but when it's bumper to bumper traffic as far as the eye can see, I am very grateful for my automatic transmission.
It's not true that we become "too old" to learn something new. I know a man, nearly my mother's age, who started making videos for the first time and posting them to YouTube a couple of years ago. He has literally thousands of followers and has taught several generations of young people about life in Britain during WWII. He has made nearly 100 videos. Yet his very first video was halting and he admitted he wasn't sure what he was doing. It was important to him, so he took the time to learn how to do it.
There has to be "progress" because we are human beings and we are always trying to make things better. If there were no "progress" we might still be walking around with our knuckles dragging the ground. Imagine the kid who first realized that he could do more if he stood tall on 2 feet. I can just hear his parents grunting about that damn kid, how weird he was and how difficult it was to learn how to keep your balance if you didn't use your knuckles to help you. Now we all walk tall on 2 feet.
I wonder if Mrs. Og complained when her husband brought home that stone he'd carved into a round shape and showed her how she could add an axel and another round shape and attach it to an animal to make carrying things and ploughing the fields easier. Did she tell him it was way too complicated and she'd never be able to learn it and ask why familiar things have to change?
If there were no progress, my mother would still be running her clothes through the ringer of a washing machine and then hanging it all out to dry on the clothes line instead of pushing the complicated buttons on her automatic washer and dryer (heck, if there were really no progress, she'd be down at the lagoon scrubbing her undies on a rock!). It's all relative. What you want to use, you'll find a way to learn how to use.
When I sit and try to explain that to my mother, I see that look come into her eyes, the look that tells me she's disagreeing with me and that it's not fair that things have to change, but she will be polite and listen to what I have to say and then do whatever she damn well pleases. I also recognize that I give that same look to Ned when he talks to me about Adobe Premier Elements and tells me how easy it would be for me to go through tutorials and learn it on my own.Sooner or later, my mother is going to figure out how to use her remote and I predict that within a year she'll be amazed at how easy it is, compared to the complaints she's had about her VCR over the past few years. And yes, sooner or later I will get tired of complaining about it and learn how to use Premier Elements on my own.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
I spent the morning putting together a how-to book for my mother, so it would be easier for her to do what she needs to do on her new DVR, assuming Comcast actually came through with a working box for her. It looked something like this:
I went through all of the functions I thought she might ever actually use and I was quite happy with it when the 12-page document was all finished.
At 11, I left for her house, just me and Harry Bosch again (what will I do when I am out of Harry Bosch books, which isn't going to be too long from now!) I got there in time for lunch and then we sat and talked while waiting for the Comcast guy to show up. I was falling asleep (remember I'd been up for a couple of hours around 2 a.m., when the power came back on last night). I finally agreed with my mother that I should take a nap, and so I did, waking up shortly after 2, when a rep from Comcast called.
I took the call and he asked what the problem was (again!). I explained it. He asked if they had tried a re-set from the office, I said they had. He said that he guessed we needed a new box and that, surprise, surprise, he could have someone there before 4.
And a young man did, indeed, arrive shortly before 4. We explained the problem. He explained that he wasn't sure he could help, that Comcast never gave the guys on the truck a new box, but merely boxes that had been returned, and that they had "fixed" at the headquarters. He didn't sound hopeful that he could get what he had in the truck to work, and said that if it didn't work, my mother would have to go into town, get a new box from Comcast, bring it home, install it herself and if she couldn't get it installed, pay a technician to come out and install it.
I...um...did not take kindly to that suggestion! I played the "c'mon...she's 90, for Pete's sake! and I can't be driving 80 miles every day to check on whether or not her box works!" card. He said he would go out to the truck and get what he had and that we would hope for the best. I have to admit that he really seemed like a very nice, likeable guy. I came to like him more as time passed.
He brought in a box that looked identical to the box he had just taken out. He hooked up to some gizmo and watched it go through all sorts of tests, then he installed it. One of the problems with the old box was that if you pushed the number buttons, nothing happened, so the only way to change channels was by cycling through the on-screen menu, which could take a bit of time if, for example, you wanted something on channel 109 and were starting on channel 2!
The numbers now worked on this box. Yay!
But it still did not show a space for "scheduled recordings" or that anything that was recorded actually could be played. He explained that this would not work until 45 minutes had passed, time for all the stations to reload all of their programs. I was skeptical because it seemed that we were back at square one, but he assured me that within 45 minutes, it would all work.
But better than that, he gave my mother his name and his cell phone number and told her that if it didn't work, to call him directly and he would see if he could get a new box from the main office.
That sounds good, but we won't know for sure. We left it that since Cousins Day (remember Cousins Day? We haven't had one since October) is this coming Monday and since my mother could now at least change channels and get to all of her favorite programs (and, more importantly, would be able to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday), we would leave the "recording" until Monday when we arrived and if it still didn't work, we would call the guy and see what he could do.We still aren't completely set up, but things are better than they were yesterday, at least. AND, the instructions I made seemed to be something she could understand, so between now and Monday I'm going to make another set of instructions so she can find my journal on her WebTV. If that happens, I will really feel like I've succeeded!
Friday, February 5, 2010
It was an interesting and not successful trip to my mother's.
I left at 9 a.m., eager to get there early, so I could also get home early. I thought about taking my bluetooth (I'm really getting into this bluetooth technology!) but decided that my mother wouldn't be calling me, at least not on my cell phone, so I left it at home.
Sure enough, I was about halfway to her house when the cell phone rang. I don't answer the phone when I'm on the freeway, so I let it go, but pulled off at the next stop to call her back.
It turned out that the place where I could pull over was some sort of truck place, with nobody around except me and this lovely egret. I took the opportunity to take a lot of photos of him.
But first I called my mother, who said she had hoped to catch me before I left the house and that a friend of hers had stopped by for coffee that morning and had fixed her television.
Since I was already halfway there, I decided to continue on down to her house anyway and have lunch, since I hadn't seen her in a couple of weeks.
First, I took several more photos of the egret, who finally decided that I was somewhat suspicious and flew away.
I continued on down the freeway to my mother's and got there around 10:30, I guess. The TV was, indeed, fixed and she didn't know what her friend had done to fix it. But I learned one thing--she now has the same Comcast box that we do, which greatly simplifies things because now I know what she's looking at when she is using her remote. She seemed surprised to know that I didn't know she had gotten a new box. She was also, as I suspected, in over her head as far as how to work the thing.
Well, THIS was something I could do. I have worked with a few technophobic people and I know how to be very patient and I am usually successful in teaching them. The problem was that in setting the box up so I could show her how simple it was, I ended doing so many things that she already felt she would never learn it. I told her to totally ignore me, that she would never need to do the things I was doing, and that, trust me, when I was finished it would be very, very simple. The skepticism was writ large on her face.
As it turned out, it was not as simple as it should have been. I'm sure a lot of you have ComCast. When you press the "MyDVR" button...
...this is the menu you are supposed to see:
Only with my mother's box, you didn't get this screen. All you got was a screen which said (I think) "scheduled recordings." I tried recording something, the box showed it was recording, the "scheduled recording" screen shows a percentage of the DVR had been filled, but nowhere did it show any program that had been recorded. I also scheduled a series recording and there was no place that would show that recording.
So, I called Comcast, thinking that this was going to be a horrendous hassle because--face it--calling ANY business these days is a horrible hassle. It wasn't a horrendous hassle, but even though I had not indicated that I wanted a Spanish speaking customer service rep, the one I got was Spanish speaking. I managed to explain my problem clearly enough that she told me she would have to transfer me to a technical rep.
The next rep spoke English, but after I explained my problem, he told me he would have to transfer me to a technical rep. I told him I thought I had been transferred to a technical rep.
The next rep also told me that I needed to speak with a technical rep. By now I felt like I was trapped forever in a pool of incompetent, albeit very polite and trying-to-be-helpful customer service reps, but finally I did get connected to a bona fide technical rep.
He reset the system, which meant we had to wait 20 minutes for all the channels to load again. He promised to call me back and, God bless him, he actually did. But the problem still existed. He finally gave up and said that he thought she needed a new box and scheduled another rep to come out tomorrow to bring a new box. I am going back to her house to be there, because I know what it should look like and can tell if there is going to be a problem, which she can't.
Interestingly, my mother told me that the first rep had installed THREE boxes before he found one that worked (and obviously it didn't work either). She also asked him to please show her how to work the remote but he said he was late for his next appointment, handed her a book that was waaay too complicated for her to understand, and left. The woman is 90 years old, for Pete's sake. Would it have killed him to show her how to find her soap opera and record it? (If he had, he would have discovered the problem that I did!)
I hope I made her feel a little better because she kept saying she was stupid-stupid-stupid and I told her about a couple of appliances that I had purchased and then felt overwhelmed when looking at the instructions and so had not used them until I finally decided to sit down and really READ the instructions step by step. That seemed to help a bit when she realized she wasn't the only one overwhelmed by having to learn new stuff.
Written at 10 p.m.
Around 4:45 this afternoon apparently a transformer blew up somewhere in the neighborhood and plunged us into a brownout. The computer and TV went off and would turn on, but would not power on (no whirring in the computer, TV would start and then stop again).
I didn't realize it was a brownout until I realized that the lamp in my office was not as bright as usual and then saw that everything was very dim, especially the lights inside the refrigerator.
When Walt got home, he called PG&E and found out that they were aware of the problem and that it would either be fixed by 7:45 or there would be an update. The TV in my office, which apparently doesn't pull much energy, still worked so we waited until Jeopardy was over (it went in and out, but we got about 80% of the show) and then went downtown for sushi, this being David's birthday.
By the time we got home, the brownout had become a blackout and the dogs were very confused. We were trying to stumble around with flashlights and get candles lit. Walt was just going to go to bed. Me, of course, being antsy until I've posted this, had to go back to Mishka's (which is open until 11 p.m.), to get something posted.
I did get an entry posted and when I got home we were all still in darkness, which lasted until 2 a.m. It is now 2:20 and I am revising what I posted from Mishka's
My task for the evening was going to be to put together a VERY SIMPLE how-to book for her, complete with illustrations and step-by-step instructions for how to do the most simple of things and then be sure I don't leave her house tomorrow until I'm convinced that she knows what she is doing, that she can at least turn on the TV, find the channel she wants to watch and, if she wants to record something, know how to record it.Because of the black-out that didn't happen. but I hope I'll have a chance to do it before I leave later in the morning. For right now, I'm going back to sleep!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
This was definitely a day of highs and lows, technologically and otherwise.
It started with the morning feeding at 5-something. I stayed up to work on the photo show for my mother's party. Jeri got up, had breakfast and went off to a nearby coffee shop with free wi fi. Walt got up, had breakfast and went to work. I sat in the recliner and fell asleep until the puppies woke me at quarter to eleven!
Jeri, who had an on-line discussion for the on-line class she teaches, got home about the time I was up to my elbows in formula and when the puppies were all back asleep again, she suggested we work on installing the router so she didn't have to go back to the coffee shop again tomorrow. I was thrilled.
Well, this is a Linksys router that comes with an installation disk. The first thing the disk does is to check if you have an internet connection, and it told me that I did not, despite the fact that in order to see what to do next, I used my non-existent internet connection to get onto their web site and try to find out what to do next. Jeri finally used the low-tech way of getting the answer (since I was having no success with the high tech way). She called customer service.
Miracle of miracles, the phone was answered by a real live person. Whoda thunk. This nice lady in the Philippines spent about an hour on the telephone with us trouble-shooting, her in the Philippines, me at the desktop, and Jeri on the floor with the cords and plugs and stuff. It was alternately fun and annoying. Fun because in the down times when we were waiting for my computer to reboot (3 times), we chatted a bit about personal things. Annoying because she seemed to be reading from a script when in her "tech" mode and called me ma'am about 3 times in each sentence. She never listened to what we were saying. She asked Jeri which lights were showing on the router, for instance, when Jeri had plainly said more than once that she did not have the router plugged in or turned on, according to the directions she read.
Ultimately, after trying three lengthy work-arounds to the installation disk, she decided I had a local server problem and referred me to my local provider. I thanked her profusely, Jeri packed up the modem, and I realized that in doing all the stuff we had been doing for the past hour, I had erased all of my settings for the local LAN. This is the blessing of a local connection and why it's worth it to me to pay more for it...I called the DCN office and in a matter of seconds, was back on line again. But we've given up on the router for now. The coffee shop isn't THAT far away.
Jeri invited me to go with her and Phil for lunch and then to take the dogs to the dog park (I hadn't seen Lester yet). But there were all sorts of problems with that, not the least of which was what to do with badly behaving Sheila and Lizzie at a restaurant (Lester is well mannered). I also was in the midst of the photo project (and tearing my hair out about that), so I suggested they go off to lunch and the dog park with Lester and I'd stay here and work.
But first Phil brought Lester by. She is taller, definitely heavier, but other than peeing in my office (submissively, when surrounded by 3 dogs, all sniffing her) and tearing up the pergo strip between my office and the family room, it's nice to see her back. She seemed fascinated by the puppies.
"Hey! That was my bed!!!"
It's difficult to believe that when Lester first got here and was called "Tot," with her sister "Tater," that she was the size that these puppies are now!
(But speaking of puppies, it appears that after an initial rally, Alfie isn't doing well even with Mom, even when he has one on one time with her. Ashley is thinking he's not going to make it.)
While Jeri and Phil were out, I found out how to fix my most vexing problem on the photo frame and so went to town scanning, tweaking and saving photos. Then I discovered that I could not get the new photos on the thing. Many expletives were uttered. I was about to give up entirely, but kept going back and trying just one more thing. I finally figured out a back door work-around and was thrilled.
Time for a celebration ("Dark and Stormy" for Jeri, Walt and Phil; water for me and a plate of bruschetta for us all)
(dogs convinced they will get their share)
Then we had dinner -- some beef strips Jeri and I bought at Costco and spaghetti with some great pesto sauce that Pat's husband Rich had brought to me after we returned from our Europe Trip party the other night.
Then I brought out the top of the wedding cake I've been storing in my freezer for a year, and gave Jeri and Phil some martini glasses for their first anniversary.
In deference to their >4000 mile "jaunt" to get here with Lester, I found an anniversary card with a photo of two dogs in a car.
They were a bit dubious about cutting a year-old cake...
But except for the outside frosting, it wasn't bad and we each had a piece. But everyone was quite tired, especially Walt...
...and everybody went to bed shortly after dinner, except me. I went through all 2,000 photos from last year's wedding, taking out the best ones of my mother to add to the photo project and when it was all finished and I confidently did what I was sure I needed to do, realized that I couldn't get the new pictures on the frame again. I just cried.
BUT, as I was typing this, I tried one more thing...and it worked. I'm not touching this frame again until I set it up for the party on Saturday!!!