Tag Archives: technology

This just in…


Wubby is still not in the house. Wubby’s stuff is.

Meanwhile, in other news….

Baby Girl had a group project to do in English. (Don’t get me started on group projects.) As part of the project, they had to create a Power Point slideshow, at school, on the school’s computers and saved to a folder on the school’s network. Notice that all of the technology is owned by the school. No home computers were harmed in this process.

They finished their work last week, saved their stuff, and waited for their turn to present. Monday was their turn, only there was a slight problem: the Power Point file would not open. No way, no how. The teacher could offer only the following: “You’ll need to figure out why your file won’t open.” Baby Girl came home Monday quite distraught.

“We don’t know what’s wrong. It opened last week, we worked on it, saved it where we were supposed to. We did everything right, but the file won’t open.”

I asked her a couple of questions, like “was it saved as a .ppt or a .pps?” and “Did you maybe save it in a previous Power Point format?” She had no idea.

So, Tuesday morning I sent an email to her English teacher:

Baby Girl has expressed a great deal of concern about her group’s PowerPoint slideshow for their project. According to BG, she and her group members worked on the file and finished it last week. She also says that it has been saved in the correct folder, but will not open now. If this is indeed the case, then one of the group members needs some technical assistance in order to ascertain the problem. If there is no one at NDHS with the expertise to help, then please allow her to call me. I have a technical computer background, and may be able to help her over the phone.

Thank you so much.

If you’re an aficionado of TNT’s series, “The Closer”, then you will understand exactly what “Thank you so much.” means. If not, refer to any previous discussion regarding the hidden meaning behind the Southern idiom “Bless your heart.”

I got a response from English teacher at the beginning of third period, Baby’s class:

I had one of the students from the group just stop by my room.  I tried to pull the power point up on my laptop, but it didn’t work.  I sent Allyson, another member of the group, to the library to see if it could be converted.  The librarian couldn’t get it to convert.  However, Allyson created another slideshow last night and has it pulled up on my laptop now.  They should be able to present today without any problems.

Hope this information is helpful.

Hmmm, she doesn’t have a clue about what is wrong. Converted? From what to what, exactly? But, her closing remark indicates that she also knows how to say “Bless your heart” without using those exact words. I don’t find this answer to be satisfactory:

That’s great! 

I do think the students should be able to find out what happened to the original file, just in case it was something they inadvertently caused. However, Baby Girl’s description of the problem sounded more like there was some kind of file corruption. I know she is going to be gun shy at working with PowerPoint at school. She takes everything VERY seriously, and was practically in tears yesterday afternoon over this.

Was there a particular error message displayed when you tried to open the file?

I waited. She replied, some time later:

The librarian told Allyson it had something to do with the antivirus software…maybe they downloaded a picture the software didn’t like.  They also did not save it in the correct folder.  It was supposed to be saved in my teacher folder labeled 3rd period, but I found it in the “general” teacher folder.  I don’t really think this was the problem, though.

This still doesn’t help anyone, and poor Allyson had to reproduce the group’s work, at home, so they could finish their project. I have a problem with that, too. Not able to leave well-enough alone:

Thanks for keeping me in the loop re: the folder issue. The problem does still seem to be a bit vague, with the potential of reoccurring without the students’ knowing about any problems until they tried to open the file for presentation. If the anti-virus software detected a problem, it would be logical for the software to issue an error when the file was saved, which could have happened and been missed by the students.

 I’ll work with Baby Girl on file location techniques in Windows programs.

 Thanks again.

We discussed all this when BG got home from school. Yes, they presented Allyson’s reproduced file. BG also told me exactly where they went to locate the misbehaving file, and her description matched where the teacher said the file should have been. BG could quote EXACTLY where they went to try and open their original file, and she’s not a computer geek like her mother.

The end result: no one knows what happened, and no one at school really cares enough to figure it out, which means that the students have gone through this annoying exercise without learning anything worthwhile about how to avoid this type of problem in the future.

So: my daughter, without really trying, has learned everything she needs to know about how to work as a help desk technician.

Every silver lining has its cloud, I suppose.


Back to school, sort of


Wubby came home from college for Christmas break and stayed. His first semester of on-campus college was “unsatisfying”. I love that word in that context; stole it from “The Breakfast Club” which is the best high-school movie ever.

Yesterday he and I went to the local community college and registered for the semester. It took a while because we had to go back to his high school and get a transcript and then go back to campus. There’s all this great technology the schools use in NC. NCWISE: every high school student in NC has a NCWISE ID. Their teachers use this site to store grades, etc. Then there’s CFNC, where high school students register and apply online for any college they choose, request that transcripts be sent to those colleges, check on their enrollment status w/ the colleges, etc.

You’d think that in our advanced technological society these 2 systems could somehow communicate such that yesterday, when the community college needed his transcript, they could have gone online somewhere and requested it, then had it certified and delivered electronically.

You’d be wrong.

So, we drove into Winston-Salem, back down here to the high school, back to Winston-Salem, then to another campus 15 miles east where he will have English on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I was uneasy about Wubby and all this college stuff. I wonder what went wrong. Did we not prepare him adequately? Did he goof off? Probably some of both.

So today he started the semester, went to his first class and met up with a friend from middle school that he hadn’t seen in three years or so. Good sign. His second class is a religion class that’s taught by a good friend of ours. She’s told me several times that she’s been impressed by conversations she’s had with the Wub regarding his faith and spirituality. Another good sign. The third class is Western Civ II; seems you can take history survey classes out of order. Anyway, he called when he got out and immediately said “I love my Wester Civ professor!”

Three for three. We’ll see about English tomorrow and hope for a home run.

But I said “we” went to register yesterday.

I’m taking Chemistry. I didn’t take it in college. I may need a job sometime in the next 4 years, and there this Nanotechnology program that looks like my kind of stuff: math, science, physics, with a tiny bit of engineering thrown in.

Really. I took Engineering Calculus at Virginia Tech, in summer school (4 hours of calculus a day, every day), for fun. I wanted to know why the engineering majors were failing it and changing majors. I aced it, and had a blast.

Yes, Virginia, there’s still a geek in here.

Did I mention, the chemistry class is 100% online?

So, I come in this morning to log on and get started and I can’t log on. Tried everything. Went down their list of potential problems: was my caps lock key on? did I put the userid in correctly? did I enter everything exactly as instructed, including the case-sensitive stuff?

Yep. Yep. Yep.

I changed the settings on my firewall.

I took the firewall down.

I tried IE7 and Mozilla 3.


Wubby gets home and we see if he can log on, since it’s the school site and everyone has an email account there, plus some other junk, even if not taking an online course.

Well, yeah, he can get on just fine.

Must be me.

I called the help desk and, of course, had to leave a message. They haven’t called me back yet.

I hope it’s not a sign.

P.S. I just tried to post this and the post failed. It’s a sign.

I used to be a geek, but I got better

Technology is a wonderful, and scary thing. I love this quote by Arthur C. Clarke:

Any sufficient advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In my programming days, one of the systems I cut my teeth on was named MAGIC. I don’t remember what the acronym stood for anymore, but the system was an allocation calculation system for 401k plans. The company I worked for hated it, but it made money. Go figure.

I came late into the iPod revolution. My pod is old and I bought it used. Sort of proud of myself for that, but now that I have one I can definitely understand the little gadget’s charm. Actually, I think the darned thing is psychic. Really. Every time I put it on ‘shuffle songs’ it instinctively knows EXACTLY what to play, based on what time of day it is, what mood I’m in, what the weather is outside, who’s in the car or wherever. I’m serious! I couldn’t get to sleep one night so I slapped on the headphones and turned on the pod. And it played all the quiet, classical stuff, and the ballads, and Secret Garden, all randomly…oh, and Music of the Night.

And today, I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and it was raining buckets, wind howling. I was in a melancholy sort of mood. Plugged in the pod. It plays Kathy Mattea, Knee Deep in a River Dying of Thirst. I thought, that’s weird, the pod’s doing it again. Wish it would play Seeds, also Kathy Mattea. So it did. Then it played Fade Away by Day of Fire, which perfectly matched my mood (I’m surprised it didn’t play their Rain Song, which is awesome.) It tried to cheer me up with some acoustic Decemberadio, the up-and-coming Christian rock band that my cousin Brian plays lead guitar in. Then another Decemberadio song, Are You Alright My Friend. Isn’t that sweet? The pod cares. Back to Kathy Mattea, I Am Ready for the Storm, as the storm drops more buckets of rain on me. (If I was still a techno geek I’d figure out how to make the song titles into links to somewhere so you could hear them. Oh well.)

I’m seriously thinking about how the people at Apple have programmed this thing. Yes, it has a calendar so it knows what time of day it is. It could have a database of basic day/night words. It could check the time, check it’s little database, check the song titles loaded into it, match ’em up, pick ’em out and play ’em. I’ve programmed harder stuff trying to read driver’s accident records, motor vehicle records and match up accident information with the appropriate drivers on insurance policies based on named insured, other insureds, driver’s name on the accident report, which may or may not be a driver on the actual policy…forget it, it’s complicated.

But I haven’t met a computer yet that could read my emotions, until this stupid, old iPod. It’s freaking me out.

Then I get to the doctor’s office and guess what? He has a new computer system. He comes in carrying his little wireless laptop, updates my insurance and pharmacy information, my drug allergies, yak yak. We discuss what nasty things fibromyalgia is doing to me right now, and we discuss the possible reasons why it might be doing those things. Doc pulls up my medical record, inputs some stuff, hits the update button, then says “Oh my God, I updated the wrong patient. What do I do? We only had 4 hours of training on this system.”

I’m glad to see not much has changed in the industry since I left it 4 years ago.

I go into programmer mode. Is there an option to delete the transaction just completed anywhere on the screen? Nope. He tries several different things. Nothing works, so he decides to finish with me. Then he’ll figure out how to correct the other patient’s record. He suggests we change a prescription. We discuss options and decide on a course of action. He taps the screen a few times and says “Done! Just stop by the pharmacy on your way home and pick it up.”

Like I said, technology is a wonderful, and scary, thing.

He decides to check my Vitamin D level, so I trot to the lab, back to check out and make a follow-up appointment and pay my co-pay. As I’m leaving he says, “Hey, I figured out how to fix that screw up I made. I had to go to a completely different part of the system.” To which I said, “What did you expect? You wanted to fix it at the same place where you messed it up? How silly of you!”

I used to get in trouble at work because of comments like that. “You mean, you wanted something to be in a logical place? You wanted it make SENSE?”

I’m getting sort of tense. I think I’ll go get the pod, put it on shuffle, and see what it plays.

Flickr pix

I’m really lazy and it’s been really hot around here, so today I finally took the time to put some pix from our trip on Flickr. Then came in here and added the little widget that, for some reason, only shows my very informative photo title (img_xxx), but will show other photos in the pop-up thingy.

Technology is great when it works like it says it will. Flickr widget, heal thyself.

The pictures turned out ok. We purchased a real digital camera before we left and are so glad we did. Of course, any bad digital picture can be prettied up. Like I said, technology is great when it works like it says it will.