A Walk Behind Enemy Lines

Today was the first day of my few days off. The weather was not too shabby despite the low lying sea-mist enveloping the landscape. The sea-mist was dense enough to prevent the sun permeating the earth. I decided to start the day by taking the Dart to Howth.

On reaching Howth, I took a walk down the West Pier. Half way down, I realised I made a huge mistake. My workplace. What had I done? I had walked into a stronghold of our mortal enemies, the seagulls. The seagulls.

Last Friday, one of my colleagues, Annmarie, was walking down the steps to our office when she was brutally attacked by a dive bombing seagull. A large blob of bird-shit had added to the pattern of her Summer dress. A few days ago, another colleague, Frank, was cycling when he was side-swiped by another seagull. A large splat of seagull shit had carefully been aimed at the centre of his back of his good shirt, a place where it was difficult to see never mind clean.

They say pigs can’t fly. That may be the case, but elephantine gulls can. Curse those seagulls. Perhaps Ned O’Sullivan was right all along. Those ‘raucous seagulls’ had ‘lost the run of themselves.’

Despite this, I continued behind enemy lines. I was determined to defy The Trashmen and insist that bird was not the word. I decided to have a cup of coffee in Deep. If I was going to go down, I was going to do it in style, like Benjamin Guggenheim, except not in evening-wear, but wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of runners. Thankfully, I also wore clean underwear when I left this morning just in case my body was found somewhere a long the pier splattered with seagull incontinence. Thinking about it now, my underpants might not have been clean after the brutal aviarian assault.

I was having my coffee in Deep, when a man behind me succumbed to inquisitive starlings begging for food. I felt like the famous WW1 flying ace zooming through the sky in his Sopwith Camel.  The starlings must have been the seagulls trusty lieutenants. Swarms of… Murmurations of starlings proceeded to divebomb the trenches. I was informed by the waitress that one of the workers would not go out as she feared birds. I nodded understandingly. I was going to fight their corner whilst deep in the trenches. A local behind me and a group of French tourists occupied the other tables. The French, who could have been our allies, were lured by the caterwauling starlings and started to feed them their scones. Stuck in the middle of the gunfire, I bravely shooed the starlings away. I was Odysseus tied to the mast but my fellow seamen succumbed to starling-chant and drowned. I would like to say they fought bravely, but I don’t think they fought at all. I sat alone having my coffee and scone in defiance.  I didn’t share any. And I finished my coffee intact.

After, I put my jacket back on noticed I was injured on my shoulder. I bravely walked on, but feared for the remaining uninjured two colleagues, Áine and John.

Christmas Co-op

© Youtube

‘We’re out of ice,’ one guy says then turns to his housemate. ‘How can we have a party without ice?’ prompting his housemate to purchase ice from the local Co-op store whilst negotiating the hazardous icy path.

As he goes to the shop, he notices an elderly neighbour opening his front door. The neighbour looks out and decides that it’s better to stay in.

At the shops, the housemate makes numerous purchases, as well as the all important ice, and walks home.

What happens next is quite touching. He leaves a shopping bag outside his elderly neighbour’s house, knocks on the door, and walks home.

I’m not nor ever have I been a lover of Christmas, but this simple yet beautiful ad made me think there should be more of a campaign to make sure your elderly neighbours are looked after well this Christmas. Even if there isn’t a broader campaign of care for elderly or infirmed neighbours, make sure they’re looked after this Christmas. And not just to look after them for Christmas.

XP Armageddon

The 8th April, 2014 is two weeks away and pardon the cliché, and the days are counting down until the demise of Windows XP support.  This means Microsoft will no longer be releasing updates or patches for computers that run XP.  The logic is that XP users, including myself, are forced into upgrading or buying new computers.

I find it odd that no company, Apple or Google especially, is taking the opportunity to tempt XP users to their operating systems.  Unfortunately the many branches of Linux operating systems (distributions or distros) don’t have and never had a PR drive.  Even Microsoft does not seem to be pushing XP users to their new OS’s as strong as I thought they would and they probably should.  Similarly computer shops should take the opportunity to tempt potential customers in.

Let’s say you decide to buy a new computer. So what do you do with that old XP computer?  If you decide to keep it, you can try the less than scary world of Linux.  Trust me, it is not as scary as you think.  Possibly the scariest element of the Linux world is the many distros that inhabit it.  It is a great way to educate yourself as I will be.  Many distros allow you to try the product before you install it.  Most have an interface that is similar to Windows.  So don’t be too put off by the word Linux.  If you want a pointer, Linux Mint, an Irish based distro, is the most popular and is cited for its ease of use.

Linux Mint
(source DistroWatch)

Some shops in Ireland I notice had offered cash back deals on old computers.  You need to check yourself if what offers are still available and in what stores.  The EU has a Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) recycling programme, which allows people bring their old electronic equipment WEEE outlets (normally shops that sell electronic equipment).  Another important option to be considered is charity.  You can donate that old computer to charities such as Camara with a small donation.  Your computer will be used to educate people in disadvantaged communities.

Reboot Reuse - Camara
(source Camara)

 As it states on the Camara website, ‘Each reused Camara Education computer is installed in a low income school and provides digital literacy skills to 21 students.’  Now there’s a thought.

 

Me, Unemployed Life and Going to the Greendale Jobs Club

On the last day of the Greendale Jobs Club in Dublin 13, Trina asked me to write feedback for their blog. I was delighted to help them and give them the positive review they deserve for the help they gave me and to fourteen other people. Please see

On the last day of the Greendale Jobs Club in Dublin 13, Trina asked me to write feedback for their blog. I was delighted to help them and give them the positive review they deserve for the help they gave me and to fourteen other people. Please see an excerpt of it below. 

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A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the Social Welfare Office who volunteered my services to the Greendale Jobs Club for two weeks.  It contained a thinly veiled threat that Jobseekers Allowance may be withdrawn had I not turned up.  I was not exactly amused with this letter, nor would you be.  However reticent I was, I told myself if I had to go, I had to go.  Living on social welfare is not a happy place to be.

You do ask yourself what can you be doing for two bloody weeks that you’re not already doing.  Was the Greendale Jobs Club really going to stretch the monotonous task of job-searching for two weeks?  From 9:30am to 4:00pm for two weeks would probably make you want to run headfirst into a wall from 9:30am to 4:00pm for those two weeks.  I mean you tailor cover letters and curricula-vitae and send them left, right and centre in hope one of them might stick and you get a job offer.  Mostly, you’d be lucky if you get a response.  If you’re lucky.

The lack of closure in a way is more tortuous than a rejection letter as you live in false hope that you may be needed.  It’s not Hell.  It’s worse than that.  It’s Purgatory.  Hell is at least a definitive place whereas Purgatory leaves you at crossroads where all signposts are marked ‘Nowhere.’  It is a place so empty and dark.  It’s both claustrophobic and intimidating.  I therefore told myself that the Greendale Jobs Club is a lot better than sitting at home where there’s a temptation to either do nothing or procrastinate.  I had to give it a chance.  It was not in my interests, nor the other unemployed individuals, not to give it a chance.

It can be read in its entirety here.

Tech Wars

The days are counting down to Microsoft unplugging the support system for Microsoft XP (8th April, 2014). No longer will you be able to go to the Microsoft hospital to download updated drivers. That is a sad day.

The days are counting down to Microsoft unplugging the support system for Microsoft XP (8th April, 2014).  No longer will you be able to go to the Microsoft hospital to download updated drivers.  That is a sad day. 

The idea is that Microsoft wants the faithful Windows XP end-users to bury their old computers and buy Windows 8 machines.  As I still am an XP user that puts me and all XP users in a quandary.  Do I migrate to Windows 8 or not?  My poor laptop has seen better days.  Not only has it got the mental scars; blue screens of death or constant hanging, it has physical scars.  Some bits of it are, and I’m not joking when I say this, falling off.  Every so often the poor computer’s disk whines like it has a chesty terminal cough.  That’s ‘terminal’ as in about to die as opposed to computer terminal.  Okay, that was a bad joke.  Also, perhaps symbolically, it is about 8 years old.  That’s probably around 500 in human years. So, there is no point in me upgrading this poor computer, but should bite the bullet and buy a new one.  This feels like I’m writing my laptop’s obituary.  Strange, as I am currently writing this on it.  My laptop probably hates me for this.

The question still remains.  Do I buy a Windows 8 computer or not?

Image

There are not really that many alternatives to Windows. Sure there’s Apple and Google Chrome but I have issues with both.  Probably similar issues with Windows 8.  With each, it would be learning a new system.  I at least have the advantage that I’ve used Apple systems before.  All-in-all they’re not bad.  The cycloptic like mouse takes a bit of getting used to.  The keyboard I found strange.  Although in fairness, every new computer means a new keyboard.  Similarly with each operating system, each would have different programs all of which would mean you’d have to get used to them.  One Apple laptop I used didn’t have an octothorpe (#) probably one of the most important symbols in computing today.  Well, it is important on Twitter. 

I haven’t used Chrome Operating System before.  Google calls these ‘laptops’ ‘Chromebooks.’ It is a Linux based operating system designed to work primarily with web applications.  I want my computer to be more than a ‘web-application.’  Google encourages everything to be online.  I, on the other hand, like my files closer at hand.  It’s a bit like the book or ereader argument. I prefer the tangible things in life. Also, I don’t want to be constricted to using only Google products.  That said, if I use an Apple or Windows system, I would be constricted by their respective compatible programs.  A Chromebook would probably be fine for people who only use computers just to be online.  I don’t think this is the right computer for me.

I have used Windows 8 (inc. 8.1) but I have a problem with its design.  It’s trying to move everything to the ‘App world.’  Installing third party programs is very difficult.  These need to be installed on the desktop interface and some have compatibility issues.  This tells me that software companies still have to reconfigure their programs to be compatible with Windows 8 and its variants.  That said, software companies will eventually issue fixes for, or update their programs for Windows as Microsoft has the most users.  Windows 8 isn’t my favourite Windows system and it does take a lot of getting used to as Microsoft have designed it from scratch.  This means that what you were used to in different Windows systems, it may not be the same in Windows 8.  Several people I know have ‘downgraded’ to Windows 7.  Still, as Microsoft has the largest market and has the majority of hardware and software to choose from, it has to remain an option.

Another option would be to have a Linux based computer.  Linux systems are like snowdrops, no one Linux laptop/computer is truly alike.  End-users may have the same systems – Mint, Puppy, SUSE, Manjaro, Ubuntu etc – but their operating systems would be totally different as each person tailors their system to what they want.  Linux users would suggest the fact you create your own system is the beauty of it.  The fact there are so many Linux operating systems (distros) alone sounds complicated.  Now that would mean a lot of getting used to but I would love it.  Eventually.  The good things about Linux are that its fast and free. Yes free. You don’t have to pay a penny for it. There are some systems that you can pay for but these would be geared towards companies. Also, unlike Windows’ systems its less susceptible to hackers and viruses. The problem with Linux distros is compatibility.  There are fewer programs to choose from than the other systems.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, compatible hardware is difficult to come by.  You may be able to get printer to work, but it uses every cartridge even to print black.  In Microsoft, you don’t have this problem, which leaves me in a quandary.

Dear Beth

This is the words of a pen-written letter I wrote to my niece earlier in the year. I did take a picture of it, but unfortunately and annoyingly I cannot find it. When I find it, I will upload it to the internet.

This is the words of a pen-written letter I wrote to my niece earlier in the year. I did take a picture of it, but unfortunately and annoyingly I cannot find it.  When I find it, I will upload it to the internet.

 

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Dear Beth,

I wanted to be the first person to send you a pen-written letter – odd in this day and age but it has its certain romanticism.  Also, I could not think of a more perfect person to send it. 

You are almost nineteen months old so the best years are ahead of you and you are the future.  You’re a bright, intelligent and funny girl something that pen-writing can be (maybe not in this letter).  Pen-writing, like my marbles, may diminish as time goes by, but it is something you will learn in the future, knowing you, that is tomorrow.  (Don’t worry; your marbles won’t diminish like mine as I self deprecate)

I remember being surprised and in awe of a little girl who started talking and walking, and learned so quickly.  You point at snowmen, stars, babies, lights etc. and saying each word with a radiant smile.  Last Wednesday (16th January 2013), I heard you made a scone and was told that it was very tasty (hopefully you may make one for me soon – hint).  This makes me believe you may be able to write by the time I finish this letter.

As everything moves online, pen-writing seems to be history.  Desktop computers are the thing of the past.  Some suggest laptops will be too as everybody will be using tablet computers soon.  Maybe pens have too, but I am a sucker for nostalgia thus I continue to use them from time to time.  Many people use phones to send messages.  This is not my preferred method.  I haven’t mastered it yet and suppose I never will.  You will probably teach me in the near future.

When you grow up, I cannot surmise what may be the preferred method of communication, but hope you will appreciate the art of a pen-written letter as you do crayons now. 

May you receive many letters as you deserve, hopefully pen-written.

As always,

 

Your Uncle D.