Another Technophobe Rant

Tuesday 17/5/2005

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Diary and Notes

Please don't be lulled into the deluded belief that I am one of those clever gadget type people who know how things work and can read manuals to guide them through the maze of our current Orwellian nightmare lives. I am, in many respects, a complete idiot when it comes to such things. Yes, I have a website which I write myself (in HTML by the way, not using some screen editor) and I also managed to work out (after some headaches) how to get my mobile phone working, but that's my limit. I felt I had enough information to keep me going and was happy with my simple life. Then everything changed.

If you've read my blog before, you may have heard that I've recently moved to Manchester and started a new job. Though I consider this on the whole a good thing, it has raised a myriad problems for my Luddite brain - especially as all the stuff I did in order to get my computer at work to do what I wanted, is now completely useless information. Things here are very different in a way that only Unix and Microsoft could engineer.

"Ah, now I know where he's going." Say the people who have been forced to dabble in different operating systems, "I spent months trying to figure out how to do the simplest things when I had to change."

And the same has happened to me - but not in the way you may be expecting.

I know nothing of Windows.

I may be one of the only people left in Britain who thought that windows were something you looked out of and opened on sunny days to let the flies and wasps in. Unlike just about everybody I know, I have absolutely no idea how to navigate my way around the funny little icons and pop up menus. I am an old school dude and have always been somewhere where Unix or Linux was the standard and only weird freeks considered using anything else.

Not here though - here it's all Windows this and Microsoft that - and nothing works the same - in fact, nothing really works at all - it's complete rubbish.

To explain I'll describe the steps necessary to update my blog (and this is easy, I'm trying to write a maths paper at the moment and need a program called LaTeX which is a Unix based thingy and isn't available here for Windows - this is proving a massive problem). Anyway, the blog:

Turn on computer (easy but takes about three minutes to start up) - give user name and password.

Wait for system to initialise everything.

Open Netscape (I tried Explorer but that drove me mad, I couldn't change the default search engine away from MSN to Google and every time I hit the refresh button it went back to the search page.)

Go to the programs menu and click Programs- core, then click Network and Email, then click secure shell, then click secure shell again. This opens a unix terminal. I give another user ID and another (different password) and get a terminal.

I then have to log onto the Exeter university server remotely (user id and password again) and I'm able to access my blog files, but if I want to edit them there's a problem. The windows system doesn't support the Unix graphics so I can only use a line editor (emacs) so there's no cut and paste, no spell checker and to move about the page you can't even use a mouse.

I can then edit my blog.

Photos are even worse and involve me emailing them from my phone to my gmail account, editing them using photo editor, then emailing them to my Exeter uni address, then loading them into the website. All the little HTML bits are impossible to read because the line editor only works in black and white and doesn't give you nice command colours like I'm used to and I keep making loads of errors and spelling mistakes and having to go through the whole process over and over again.

And the worst thing is, all the above steps I had to work out for myself. Nobody explains anything and the help systems don't ever mention how to operate dual operating systems. It's as if the Linux/Unix people and Microsoft people are tyring to pretend the other group doesn't exist. I think I deserve an award, a special prize for my perserverance in the face of overwhelming odds.

To people who are used to this sort of thing and trained in how computers go about their business this all probably sounds ridiculous, but to me it isn't, it's a complete pain and somebody must pay. Somebody is getting a punch in the balls and when I work out who it is I'll let you know. Maybe I should ring the helpdesk at Microsoft and ask them who's in charge - there's a rumour it's some guy called Bill Gates but I think it's actually the Devil spreading mischief and strife around the globe via dodgy software and imcompatability.

That's it, if I ever meet the Devil I'll punch him in the balls. He wont be expecting that!

Cake Blog

New York Style Vanilla Cheesecake (I think it came from Tescos but I'm not sure): Needed a little lemon to sharpen it I thought but my chums Matt and Fran seemed to think it was just dandy.


  • Griddled Chicken Breast
  • Wild Rice and Sweetcorn Risotto
  • Bread and Butter


    Griddled Chicken Breast
    1 Large Chicken breat
    1 Tbsp Olive Oil
    1 tsp White Wine Vinegar
    1 tsp Paprika
    1/2 tsp Oregano
    Black Pepper
    Wild Rice and Sweetcorn Risotto
    100g Wild Rice
    50g Sweetcorn
    1/2 Onion
    1/2 Carrot
    1/2 Stick Celery
    1 Glass White Wine
    1 Rasher Bacon
    1/2 Clove Garlic
    100ml Chicken Stock
    Salt and Pepper


  • Chicken: Make a marinade for the chicken usng the other ingredients. Cut some slits in the top of the chicken breast (to allow more marinade to soak in) and marinade for 2 hours. Heat a griddle pan until nearly steaming and sear the chicken on both sides then turn the heat down and allow to griddle for 10 minutes (turning occasionally)
  • Rice: Finely dice the carrot, onion and celery. Mince the garlic and chop the bacon into small pieces. Sweat in a little olive oil until soft. Add the rice and stir then pour on the wine. Reduce the wine by 1/2 then add the stock, sweetcorn and a little salt and pepper. Simmer gently until the rice is cooked and all the liquid absorbed (add a little more stock if it begins to dry out)


    *All quantities are very approximate and for a single person