A few from Bromley

Saturday, January 24th 2015

Today we made a trip to Bromley. We had arranged to meet friends who had some errands to run there. We spent most of the time chatting in the cafe and the restaurant or wandering about the shopping precinct. There was little opportunity for exploration and photography. I did manage to take a few photos, however, mostly on the way to the station in the evening.

Bromley South Station
Bromley South Station
The first Bromley South station opened in 1858

There were the usual weekend disruptions to London’s transport system owing to a programme of repairs making up for years of neglect. We took the train to Bromley South Station. The first iteration of Bromley South was opened in 1858 but I don’t know when the present unprepossessing structure was built.

Looking up the High Street
Looking up the High Street

As noted we spent most of the next few hours under cover either in the company of our friends or, when they went off to do their business, wandering around the shopping centre, in particular the large branch of Waterstone’s bookshop.

Evening in Bromley
Evening in Bromley

Having taken leave of our friends we slowly made our way back to the station. By now the sun was setting and the light was fading. Possibly this is the best way to see Bromley.

The balloon seller
The balloon seller

Bromley’s Charter Market runs Thursday to Saturday and seems popular. In addition to stalls there are the usual extras such as balloon sellers like the one pictured above. I hope the balloons contain helium rather than hydrogen as he has a lighted cigarette in one hand.

Market stalls
Market stalls

We walked through the market and the stalls were by now illuminated.

Haberdashery stall
Haberdashery stall

There was the usual array of goods on display some more useful than others. I have great admiration for market stallholders who pursue their trade like this out in the open in all weathers.

Shops and market stalls complement one another

It may seem that shops and market stalls compete for customers and, to a certain extent, they probably do, but they also complement one another and shops are always busier when the market is operating in the street outside.

High Street, evening view
Looking up the High Street, this time at evening

We turned down he hill and reached Bromley South Station where we had started earlier in the day.

Station platform
Station platform

I decided to take a panorama shot of the platform opposite. For best effect, click to see a larger version.

Platform panorama
Platform panorama

Panoramas of distant views work quite well but if the subject is close by, then the photo suffers from barrel distortion. There doesn’t seem to be a remedy for this other than to use software to apply a perspective correction. I am trying to find a suitable application for the purpose.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 2 Comments

Hard copy

Saturday, January 17th 2015

The weather continues cold and this provides a disincentive to going out exploring. We did go out today, however, but it was an expedition of a more mundane type: we went shopping!

These days documents and pictures can be sent by email or “shared” by a variety of means so that making hard copies is becoming less necessary. Nonetheless, there are still ocasions when you do need to print out something on paper in the old fashioned way. For example, there is that letter to the bank or the travel documents you need to carry with you when you have booked a train or plane journey online.

We have had a number of printers, the most recent being a Hewlett Packard which performs the dual roles of printer and scanner. It usually sat on the end of my desk, pushed as hard against the wall as it would go because space is at a premium on my desk. The printer would tend to accumulate bills, letters, books, newspapers, and bric à brac of every description so that when I wanted to print or scan something, this heap would have to be dumped on the floor pro tem.

The Hewlett Packard connected to my computer via a USB cable. It worked perfectly well for me but left Tigger without the ability to print directly. If she wanted to print something, she would need to copy the item to a USB flash drive so that I could print it from my PC. Now that we have flashy new computers, I fell to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice if we could both print from our computers without resorting to copying and carrying? This would be perfectly feasible, of course, if we were to buy a WiFi printer. Hence our shopping trip this morning.

In Chiswell Street, off Finsbury Square, is a branch of Curry’s PC World and that’s where we went. We already needed to go there to enquire after Tigger’s Android tablet, bought from them, which had developed problems and had had to be returned. While Tigger waited for news of her tablet, I took a look at the printers on display.

There were plenty to choose from but I soon arrived at a short list of one: a Canon printer/scanner that just happened to be reduced in price. A wise person once defined a printer as “a device used by manufacturers to sell ink”. The definition is well taken as we were offered a set of ink cartridges at reduced price if bought with the printer and, even reduced, they cost almost as much as the printer.

The fun started when we arrived home. I had enquired about how you set the printer up but all the sales assistant could tell me was that there was a CD in the box. Manipulating the new printer pushed against the wall on the end of my desk was going to be difficult but I then realized the obvious: this is a WiFi printer and as such doesn’t actually have to be beside the printer! We put it on a table that happened to be near a power point, plugged it in and switched it on.

In the box we found one of those large sheets of paper with diagrams on and virtually no text. This had six sections, each with its set of pictures aimed at teaching us how to set up the printer.

The printer itself has a tiny screen and was soon churning our messages to us via this. So we did what it told us and all went well until the printer tried to link to our WiFi. Now, of course, you need a password to connect to our WiFi and we could see no way of getting the printer to log in. It was time to run the CD and see if this could help.

Yes, it could. It explained how to get the printer to display the log-in screen. The way you do it is a bit clumsy but it worked and anyway, you only need do it once.

Now that the printer was talking to our router, the next job was to load the drivers onto our respective computers. They were all on the CD and more or less loaded themselves. We were then instructed to print a test page. Would this work? Yes, it would! Both computers were able to print a test page, hurrah!

Ah, but wait a mo. My Inner Pessimist wasn’t satisfied. We had set up the printer, loaded the drivers and printed. Yes, but the printer had been on all the time. What, asked my Inner Pessimistic, would happen if you switched the printer off and then switched it on again? Would it work or would it have forgotten its settings? (My Inner Pessimist may sound like a bit of a wimp to you but I have to admit that he has been right more often than I care to recall…)

I switched the printer off and waited a minute or two. Then I switched it on and told the computer to print a file. It worked! Printer 1, Inner Pessimist 0. Happily.

There remains only one problem: what do we do with the old printer? It is in perfect working order and someone may be able to get good use out of it. We will recycle it as we recycle all our old equipment – via the front garden. For this, we need a large transparent plastic bag which will protect the printer from the elements but allow it to be seen. We shall also need an A4 sheet of paper. On the paper we will write “Printer in working order. Please take.” and put this inside the transparent bag where it can be seen. We will then place the package in the front garden and I am confident that within 48 hours it will be gone.

Manufacturers these days like to sell you something called an “extended warranty”. In exchange for a dollop of cash, they will undertake to repair or replace your equipment should this fail for two or three years beyond the normal warranty period. A good deal? No. The printer is already guaranteed for a year and if it breaks down after that, we’ll buy a new one. After all, printers only cost as much as a set of ink cartridges, don’t they?

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers | 2 Comments

Wading a little faster

Thursday, January 15th 2015

My last post about adapting to the new computer was on January 9th and since then I have become more used to it. Today I finally closed down the old computer and lodged it in its new temporary home under the bed. This decisive action means that I now feel that the future, computationally speaking, lies with the new computer.

All my familiar software has been installed, with a couple of exceptions. The portable app that I used for reading blogs, RSSOwl, does not work on the new computer. It throws up an error message saying that it cannot find Java. I remembered WOL talking about NewsFox and decided to give it a try. For now it is my RSS reader of choice.

Another failure was Cryptomite, a paid-for encryption and secure deletion software by BAxBEx Software that has followed me across several generations of computers. Unfortunately, my registered version doesn’t function on the new computer. For all I know, a later version might work, but I have instead replaced it with AxCrypt which performs the same functions and is free (donations invited).

On XP, File Explorer was an elegantly simple application that did all I needed. The Windows 8.1 version is, frankly, a mess. It tries to do too much and doesn’t do it particularly well. The only thing I like about it is that it has a bookmark section where I can put my most often accessed folders and thus reach them quickly. For the rest, I put up with File Explorer rather than use File Explorer. This prompted me to look at alternatives, of which there are quite a few. I had never seen the point of them while I was using XP but now, with Windows 8.1 in the frame, they suddenly make sense.

So far, I have tried four: Xenon File Manager, Cubic Explorer, Explorer++ and FreeCommander XE, all in portable editions.

The selling point of such apps is that they do all that MS File Explorer does and a lot more besides. For me, this is in itself a disincentive because it implies even more complexity on top of that endured with File Explorer. I don’t want complexity; I want efficient simplicity. For this reason, I find Xenon the one most suited to my purposes. On the left is the usual folder tree which can be negotiated in the usual way. On the toolbar is an item appropriately named Bookmarks into which you can put clickable links your most frequently accessed folders. If you install Xenon on your hard disk, you can pin it to your Desktop Toolbar. As with File Explorer, you can load several instances of the app, the first by clicking on the pin and subsequent ones by right-clicking on the pin and choosing the app from the menu. The only problem I have encountered with it is that it doesn’t have the right-click menu that you have with File Explorer. So if I want to encrypt a file, for example, then I have to use File Explorer  to right-click on the file and choose AxCrypt from the menu.

I did say that some of my favourite apps had become unusable, not because of Windows 8.1 but because of the display. It makes the icons and menus of some of my apps so tiny that I have to use a magnifying glass to see them. I mean that literally: as I write this, I do have a magnifying glass on the desk beside the PC. In one case, the menus are so squidged up that I can’t use them.

Nonetheless, I have somewhat revised my judgement of these programs’ unusability. I can in fact use them, though their use is no longer as pleasant as it used to be. In one case, functions have been lost because of the aforementioned illegibility and unclickability of menu items. Not all is lost, then, just a few things.

I had used the old computer and software for so long that I worked on tasks without having to think about what I was doing. I edited a photo, for example, as one rides a bicycle, paying attention to the result not to the actions necessary to obtain it. That situation was reversed on the new computer, even when I was using familiar software. I now had to think about everything I did. When I wrote my first post with photos using Windows Live Writer (Shoreditch backstreets and some wall art), it was like wading through treacle.

Humans are adaptable creatures, which is, of course, why the human race has achieved such technological heights and is on the point of destroying the environment and thus taking itself out of the gene pool. Put more simply, we get used to things quickly and manage surprisingly well even in adversity. Regarding Windows 8.1 as an adversity, I am nevertheless managing. My jangled reflexes have not yet entirely recovered but there is progress in a positive direction. I am wading a little faster, as it were.

Will I ever come to like my new computer? Ah well, the jury’s still out on that question though I have to say that the challenges it has presented me with have been interesting and even exciting at moments. I have inevitably learned a few things too, something which never comes amiss.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers | Tagged | 8 Comments