Category Archives: Webstuff

Fun and Games.

I didn’t like the Windows 10 Solitaire Collection for several reasons:-
a) There was no way of resetting the score to zero
b) If a game had to be restarted, holding Ctrl + Z down together no longer produced a fast return to the starting point, but went back only one card movement. It was the same in effect as the “back arrow” – one card at a time.
c) Many of the games available in Windows 7 were no longer available. This didn’t affect me so much, as I only ever played Spider Solitaire or Freecell, but other users were affected.

Checking around on the Internet, I found that Microsoft had made changes to a later edition, and scores could be reset, so I resolved to update my games.

The first step was easy enough – remove the present games. There are various ways of doing this, but I opted for an easy one – CCleaner – and it was done in a flash.

Now it got rather tricky. It was theoretically possible perhaps to download and install an updated games package, but I connected in to Microsoft, made the appropriate requests, … and nothing happened!

So, I gave up on that, and looked for an alternative. Ah, there it was! “How To Get Classic Windows 7 Games In Windows 10”
http://www.intowindows.com/how-to-get-classic-windows-7-games-in-windows-10/

“Luckily, restoring classic games in Windows 10 is fairly simple thanks to Eldiabl0 at MDL forums. The Windows 7 Games for Windows 8 and 10 tool brings back Chess Titans, Solitaire, Spider Solitaire, Purble Place, Mahjong Titans, and Hearts games to Windows 10.”

Step 1 in the instructions takes you to a developer page which you wont be able to read until you open an account and log in – all perfectly painless.
Download the installer package, its about 170 Mb.

Step 2 Run the installer, and select the games you want to install. I deselected all the games that require an Internet connection, and installed the rest.

Note! If you read the comments at the bottom, a number of people seem to have lost their Windows 7 games after an automatic Windows 10 update. Reloading the games after the update doesn’t seem to work, so if you want to keep your Windows 7 games, you have to stop Windows 10 updating automatically! Use a personal firewall, or whatever you have to do to stop Windows 10 accessing the Internet without your knowledge. Luckily, my Wifi Hotspot does it all for me. Nothing goes anywhere until I allow it, and I can see exactly where it is trying to go.

My favourite game used to be Spider Solitaire, but I have now switched over to Freecell, as I have found a couple of tricks to improve my score.

As long as you haven’t moved any cards, you can select a new game by pressing F2.
Inspect the layout you have been offered. The deck is divided into 2 blocks; the lefthand block has 4 rows, each of 7 cards, whereas the righthand block has 4 rows, each of 6 cards.

As a requirement of the game is to clear one row completely, it is easier to clear 6 cards than 7. And to improve matters still further, if we have 2 aces in one row, we only have to find homes for 4 cards to get it clear.
So, keep pressing F2 until you have a hand with 2 aces in one of the righthand rows. This gives you a distinct advantage.

Of course, you will also have to inspect the hand to ensure that it is worth starting to play. If you cannot clear a row without using up all of the free cells, then you don’t have much change ot getting it out to completion. It is possible, however, to get that first row clear, and have all 4 free cells empty.
It is also possible to get all four aces out with the first card moved!

However, even though the aces are available, it is also necessary to consider the position of the 2’s and the 3’s, and a big part of some games is piling up cards on top of the aces. As a rule, I try to make sure they are at least no higher than the third position in any row.

By the way, as long as you have that starting advantage, with 2 aces in one of the righthand rows, the likelihood of success is very high. If it doesn’t seem to work out, and you get to a position where there are no more moves left, go back to the start, and start in another row. Repeat as necessary – it will probably work.

Just to show that it is possible:-
Score500

Happy Gaming!

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Operamail.com is no more, but Opera lives on!

One of the things that attracted me to the Opera browser in the first place was its offer of a free email account. It was not only fast and simple to use, it was basically better than any of the other free emails on offer, such as Hotmail, and Yahoo, in my opinion. In fact, I had a second account under a different name which I used mostly for my Greenpeace activities.

As for the Opera browser itself, Opera was always ahead of the game with new ideas, such as ‘Speed Dial’, and the ‘Page Source’, (Ctrl U), in Developer tools. As such it was an ideal browser for people developing their own websites, and I still use the ‘Page Source’ function regularly – though now for a different purpose. (See below).

Furthermore, Opera was very fast to implement changes in accordance with HTML and CSS specification updates.
In the early days, updates to Opera came thick and fast. As development continued new ideas were tried out, such as pictures of the websites’ front pages in ‘Speed Dial’, and subsequently discarded. The pictures were “nice to have”, but came at a cost of speed and storage requirement. The current version is 48.0.2685.39, and I have only known 1 update to have caused a problem in all that time. Something of a record, I would say.

At some points, there were major policy changes. For one, the Email facility was deemed to be no longer necessary, and arrangements were made for it to be taken over by another company completely – Fastmail, in Australia. The transition was completely painless, and almost unnoticable as far as the user was concerned. The original addresses at “@operamail.com” were still operating as before, but were now being handled by a company on the other side of the world. This arrangement continued for some years, but this year (2017) Fastmail gave notice that “Guest Accounts” would no longer be available after the end of August, and if customers wanted to continue with Fastmail, they would have to pay for the service. I elected to switch over to another account I run at Hotmail, and my Operamail accounts were no more.

Meanwhile, Opera had taken a major policy shift in that they were no longer developing their own browser independently, but had based their current design on Google Chrome, which they had adapted to look like their own browser. Again, to the user, there was no apparent difference, so apart from a little disappointment that Opera was no longer fully independent, it really was not a big deal.

Advert Blocker.
For those who want to live advert-free, Opera is the browser you need. Adverts are not only an annoyance, they also cost you money, as it takes your bandwidth to download them. Furthermore. downloads will take longer if adverts are included. The Daily Telegraph site in the UK complains whenever I visit, as it can see that I am blocking their adverts. No matter, since they introduced “Premium”, I visit that site less and less!

Turbo Mode.
This is a great idea for saving you bandwidth, which also saves you money. The requested data is first compressed by Opera, transmitted, and then decompressed by the Opera browser. The result is the same, but with a reduced bandwidth requirement to transmit the same amount of data. With a fast processor, any time penalty in display is certainly not noticeable.

Switch on Turbo Mode by going to “Settings”, “Browser”, and checking the box labelled “Enable Opera Turbo” at the bottom of the page.

VPN.
For people wishing to download films, TV shows, etc. from the Internet, there is always the risk that their computer can be traced, and that they could suffer a hefty fine, or worse. It is therefore strongly recommended that you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to do such downloading, which you would normally have to pay extra for. Not with Opera!

Opera now has a built-in VPN facility which can be switched in by going to ‘Settings’, ‘Privacy and Security’, and checking the box labelled “Enable VPN”. Secure proxy is provided by SurfEasy Inc., a company based in Canada. Note that:- Turbo mode can not be used if VPN is selected. When you are finished with VPN, you will have to go back into “Settings” to switch on the Turbo Mode again.

‘Page Source’.
The Pirate Bay has been causing some problems recently. Where there is normally a link showing a magnet, and called “Get This Torrent”, mousing over the link has no visible effect, and the linked file is therefore not available. Until 2 days ago or thereabouts, there was a second link alongside the first, in the same line, called “PLAY/STREAM TORRENT”, which required you to download a program called “Bitlord”. Mousing over the second link produced the usual result of a pointing finger, which indicates that the link is working, and the file is available.

However, when I did my usual check on software that was new to me, it didn’t take long to find the problems.
Bitlord. How to remove? (Uninstall guide)
https://www.2-spyware.com/remove-bitlord.html

WARNING: Do not download Bitlord. It has major adware and will slow your system down hugely.

Now when I look for a file on the Pirate Bay, the PLAY/STREAM TORRENT link is no longer visible. Perhaps the Pirate Bay has finally come to its senses?
Rendered

When we now look at the page source, however, we see that both links are still in place, even though only the first is visible in the rendered page, and is inoperative.
Source

Here is the trick!

In the source file, both links are operative, and can be accessed by mousing over and right-clicking. My Vuze program swings into operation without a murmur as if the link were perfectly operational in the rendered page.

So, the moral of the story is “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet!” Use Opera’s (Ctrl U) function to look behind the scenes, and find out where the truth is.

Happy Browsing!

Second Wind.

DECEMBER 28, 2015. That was the date of the last post to my blog. It seems such a long time ago now, but circumstances have kept me away from doing anything more than a little maintenance now and again. Fortunately my Twitter feed is displayed on the left side of the page, and will assure people that I have not died in the interim, as luck would have it. But the accident I did suffer could have been a lot worse.

Its now been one and a half years since then, and I still have no memory of what happened. I doubt that I will ever recover that now, but it has made me a great deal more cautious crossing a road – even on a pedestrian crossing.

Subsequent to that, my computer started to play up. Nothing too serious – just an unexpected freezing of the program currently in use now and again. The problem was the “now and again” bit, for on no two consecutive days would it behave the same way. Some days it would behave perfectly well most of the day, then crash in the evening. The next day could be a real nightmare, with it crashing every 5 minutes or so.

In addition to which, as the computer had previously been damaged in a flood, the battery contacts were not doing their job. This mean that on every restart I had to enter the date and time anew. This gets very tedious, very quickly!

Eventually my monitor died, and had to be replaced with a new one. Then the computer finally gave up the ghost, and I took the plunge with a new motherboard, new memory and processor (64 bit instead of 32). The two hard drives, power supply, and the case I kept, – everything else was new. The power supply had a clean up, but only managed to hang on for about 2 weeks, then it too bit the dust. It was quickly replaced with a new 700 watt unit.

I also had to update the operating system, which was an unexpected requirement. The motherboard would have run the old one if I had been able to modify the installation files in time. I will look into that later, when I have a spare hard drive.

Since the rebuild, I have taken the time to find my way around the new system, instal what protection I could against malware, and of course, make sure that my Antivirus (Avira) is kept up-to-date.

As it happens, I am also using Zone Alarm again. You may remember a scathing article I wrote about it after it was first taken over by Check Point –
THE MONSTER IN THE MACHINE. JANUARY 10, 2012
Fortunately Check Point have got their act together in the interim, and it is all running very nicely now.

As you may expect, I am no longer running a copy of my blog on my own computer. It was an interesting experiment while it lasted, but is not a real necessity. I will manage without it for a while, and see how things go.

The “Follower” problem.

For those of you running a straight blog, with no fancy technical additions, there will actually be no problem visible, for the simple reason that you don’t have one.

If, however, you have had the temerity to aspire to the next Geek level, and have added your Twitter feed to your WordPress blog, you will be seeing the same problem as I do:-

The Follower count is never updated!

What happens when the two systems are merged is that the Follower count for the blog is added to the Follower count for Twitter, and the combined count is displayed.

For Twitter users, the Follower count is quite dynamic. I am seeing increases of up to 10 per day, only to be followed by a decrease of 5 the next day, for example. You would expect the combined account to follow the same pattern, but it doesn’t:- it remains completely static as the count calculated when the two systems were merged.

The problem has been reported, and I am awaiting developments.

In the meantime, if you are absolutely desperate to display the burgeoning number of your followers, you can always disconnect Twitter, and then reconnect it – at which time your follower count will be updated to the latest status.

No Wonder I’m Still Thirsty!

About a year ago, as part of the Blogging 101 course I was enrolled in, I revised my ‘About’ page. Shortly before that, I had decided to write the “Buy me a Beer” page, in the hope that happy readers would buy me a drink now and again. The idea of linking from one page to another was to make it easy for the reader, and hopefully increase the volume of donations.

It was a nice thought, but that’s all it was!

Why?

The link from the ‘About’ page didn’t work as I wanted – all it did was download another picture of a glass of Guinness to a new tab in the browser!

This morning, in response to a new Blogging 101 request to revamp my ‘About’ page, I checked it over – and discovered the problem that has been laying there for a year!

So, if you see one of these, guinessjust click on it, and you will land in the right place!

Want your own Owl? Here’s how!

I came across a web page entitled “Owl bar is London’s latest ‘just one thing’ hip bar”, which has a picture of a dear little owl on somebody’s shoulder. It really looked so cute, I wanted a copy of the picture myself, but when I did the customary right-click to start the copy sequence, I had a surprise:-

The picture was suddenly enclosed in a ‘light-box’. Its a relatively new device that enables you to sequence through all the pictures on a web page in turn, without being distracted by text.

In this case, however, there was a problem. Although there was a total of 6 pictures of different owls on the page, somebody had screwed up. Only one picture was available in the light-box – and that was the one I wanted.

Well, I didn’t want a copy of a light-box, just the owl; so I did what I usually do under such circumstances – look behind the scenes.

Although I use Opera, other browsers will have the same facility. “Ctrl – U” (View Source) takes you to a new page where you can see the source code that your browser is rendering for you.

Now we use the browser’s “Find” facility in this page to look for pictures. Its simple enough; you just put the extension for a picture into the search facility – that would be ‘jpg’, ‘gif’ or ‘png’ usually. In this particular page, the ‘Find’ facility indicated that there were 72 occurrences of ‘jpg’. I was lucky, I only had to step through to the third to find what I wanted:- the url of my chosen owl picture!

When you paste this url into a new tab in your browser, you can download the picture alone – no web page, no light-box – nothing. Then your usual right-click procedure will let you save the picture.

Here is the result:-
owl

I think there is something magic about owls, you might even say wizard?

Whatever, they really are a hoot!

The Best Deal in Town!

You may have noticed a new panel in the right-hand column entitled “Like Music?”

I am a recent convert to the wonders of “Spotify”. Its a never-ending source of free music, as long as you are connected to the Internet. It has been available for some time now, of course, but I have only recently (in the last two weeks) decided to see what it is all about.

Well, I’m completely sold!

What’s not to like?

Stream any song, anywhere. Listen to millions of songs on your mobile phone. Browse for a playlist, create your own playlists, search for an artist or a specific track. Skip a song if you don’t like it. Its really easy to handle the program. And if you don’t want advertisements, go for the Premium version!

Spotify

I love music. I used to have about 12 Gigs of it saved on my hard drive. Unfortunately, when the flood hit the computer, the hard drive died, and my music went with it.

I don’t have problems like that any more with Spotify! I don’t have any storage requirement at all, but have free access to millions of songs. And when I found out that I could hook Spotify into my website, I just had to try it out.

Ok, so you may not like the choice of music. No problem, get your own!

If you would like me to change it to a different tune, just let me know! I only heard this one recently, and I liked it straight away. I don’t know if that has anything to do with having read the books. More of this in another post later, perhaps. It seems that the film “50 Shades of Grey” has become rather controversial, there’s already a campaign to boycott the film. We’ll see how that develops, but in the meantime, we can enjoy the music.

Anyhow, if you are interested in getting the App yourself, just click on the picture above, it will take you straight to their website.

Happy Listening!

The Death of a Website!

It is sad to see a website change in such a negative way that it becomes an unpleasant experience to visit it. When this happens to a website that was one of the best in its class, it is even more tragic. Unfortunately, exactly that has happened to my favourite news site:-
The Guardian.
Guardian

This is not only my personal opinion. If you go to
“Welcome to the new Guardian website”
the comment labelled “Guardian Pick” says most of it in a nutshell:-

“As a Grauniad reader for over 40 years and a daily website user/consumer, I agree with many of the negative comments, most of which are much better articulated than I could manage. The new design generally feels awkward, unenticing, and hard to navigate – no longer a newspaper with a front page, headlines, and sections any more. I guess that’s the point, but I’m sad to see it go and will undoubtedly spend a lot less time on it after these awful changes. That said, the first thing I was able to find was the crossword!”

And flicking through the 69 pages of comments which accumulated before commenting was turned off, the above comment is accurate, but very mildly stated compared to some.

Where did it all go wrong?

I have tried to pinpoint some relevant factors, as I see them, and will offer them as clues. But first, I need to clarify one point:-

In my experience, engineers want a full set of documentation for anything they are working on in the smallest format possible. The back of a cigarette packet would be good, the back of a postage stamp would be even better!

How is this relevant to a website?

Well, if we think about the home page, and its function, we realise that it is nothing other than a list of contents. It may look a bit fancy to make it attractive, but its function is to convey in the quickest method possible what is available on the rest of the site.

If we couple that with the requirement for minimum area, we end up with a single page, with everything listed on it. Ok, it might well be a long page that you have to scroll down, but the main thing is there is no need to click on anything, or fiddle around. Apart from the scrolling, it is not interactive – it doesn’t need to be. After all, we are not playing a computer game; we are reading a page of text, for goodness sake, interspersed with pictures!

The old Guardian site was pretty well organised. There were three main columns. I would sweep down the page scanning the first column on the left, looking for topics of interest. If I found something, I would load that in a new tab in the browser, and continue on down. When I reached the bottom of the page, I would scroll upward, checking the centre column for items of interest. The third column I could mostly ignore, as I have no interest in sport, etc.

Often I didn’t need to scroll right down the page. The practice of moving older items further down from the top meant that as soon as I had reached an item that I had already seen I could scroll back up again in the next column.

The whole process was quite quick, unless there was a lot of interesting material at one time. But even so, once I had loaded up my various tabs, I could disconnect from the site altogether, and leave it free for someone else.

So right from the start there is a mismatch:- The Guardian wants me to spend longer on their site, and I want to spend as little time there as possible.

While I appreciate that the requirement to present content to devices of differing size and capability may present some problems, they are by no means insurmountable, as we can see by this blog. The theme is designed to be read equally well on a desktop computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone. I don’t have to take any notice of who is using what at all. I just write the content and post it.

The same should be true of the Guardian website, but unfortunately, with the new version, it is not.

The reason for this is that the new site is slanted in favour of the mobile phone, with its very small display area. Containers may be a perfectly good way of dealing with presentation here, but they are certainly not needed for a desktop display, as we already know that a single page presentation offers the best experience. I have no experience of using a tablet as yet, and so will have to reserve judgement on that.

So we see that the limitations of the mobile phone have dictated the format of the whole site, which means that the advantages of having a desktop computer have been thrown away.

While I appreciate the desire to move everything onto a single code base, this does not mean that the data so stored cannot be presented differently for different types of device. The data just needs to be filtered three different ways:- mobile, tablet and desktop.

Much is made of the new faster download time, which might mean that the data is in your computer a few seconds earlier. It does not mean, however, that you will find what you are looking for quicker – you won’t. The difficulty of finding things with the new layout far outweighs the saving in download time.

Note also that although you can’t see everything that has been downloaded on a single page, as before, the data has already been downloaded – even for the sections that you may have switched off because you have no interest in them. This means that you are consuming more bandwidth than necessary, which may involve a cost penalty.

I could continue to pick out individual aspects that cause irritation, but instead I will just state that while a responsive site may be perfect for a mobile, or even a tablet, it is of no value whatsoever on a desktop computer, where instead of helping it can only hinder.

I sincerely hope that the Guardian will realise that there is an easy fix for desktop computer users –
GO BACK TO THE OLD SITE FORMAT!

At one stroke, you will make more than 41 million people very happy!

And suddenly there is Access!

Although I haven’t been so active on the blog of late, that doesn’t mean that I have been idle. On the contrary, I have been busy trying to get the hang of Twitter and its many facets. I found another one, quite by accident, today.

I decided to send a direct Tweet to a certain person, and once it had been sent it was only visible in my browser. The repeated version of Twitter that is sent to my blog didn’t have that particular Tweet at all. Curious, I thought, and did a couple more just to confirm the fact. Sure enough, they were invisible to the rest of the people reading my Twitter line.

While I was doing this, I was thinking of people who I would like to write to, but could find no access for. I don’t know if you have had similar problems, but some people just don’t seem to have an email address – or of they do, (and its almost certain they do), they are doing an excellent job of keeping it private.

Not so with Twitter!

You want to send a Tweet to Gordon Brown, for example, just search for the tag in Twitter, and up it comes:- @gordon_brown

For Tony Blair, though I can’t think of a possible reason for wanting to contact him, unless its to be very rude, there are several – @tonyblairoffice, @Plaid_Blair, and @TonyBlairEurope. Curiously enough, the search for “tony blair liar” leads also to @tonyblairoffice.

David Cameron? Yes, he’s the US at the moment, and I did send him something:- “@David_Cameron If you are not bringing Shaker Aamer with you after 13 years internment, you might as well stay there!”

cambo

I must admit, knowing that it is a private conversation, there is a tendency to be more rude than usual. I really will have to watch that, or I might find myself upsetting the wrong people!

So, if you want to contact someone, and are having a difficult time finding how to do it, try Twitter – you will probably succeed.

All of a Twitter!

This blog has been inactive for a while now, unfortunately, and although it has caused me some concern to leave it alone so long, I have had other matters to attend to that had to take priority.

What I jokingly referred to as “Fat Feet Syndrome”, was not just a temporary problem caused by higher temperatures, as I had expected, but a sudden drop in urinary output for some unknown reason, which was ongoing.

My doctor diagnosed this as Burger’s disease, and uttered those dreaded words “STOP SMOKING”.

Every time he had said that before, I had studiously ignored him, and told him that I wasn’t going to do that. This time was different, however. I could see that he was completely serious about it. He also said that if I didn’t stop, I would start to lose body parts at the extremities, as the blood supply to them would just not be sufficient to maintain them in good condition.

Besides which, my swollen feet didn’t feel like my feet any more. Walking, although not exactly painful, was no longer comfortable. I realised that If I couldn’t walk any more for any reason, life as I knew it would be thing of the past, and I didn’t relish the thought of what would replace it!

Although I had tried giving up smoking before, I’d had no success with it – probably because I had no real incentive to do so. Now I had. And it made all the difference. I went cold turkey! I have not smoked since the end of August 2014, and have no intention of starting again.

Although not writing anything in the blog, I have not been completely inactive. On the contrary, I have become much more familiar with the niceties of Twitter, and am now quite active on that program. You can now follow what I am doing there very easily, as I have now fixed the connection, and the links are displayed on the left side of the page.

For those of you that are considering giving up smoking, and are having difficulties, you may be able to use the same trick as me. Whenever I found an urge to smoke getting too insistent, I went to sleep. By the time I woke up, the problem had gone away! Ok, for me its easier – I am retired. But if you have the time available, and need the extra help, its heartily recommended.