Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sourpuss Grumpyface ...

 Maybe I don't know what I'm doing, maybe my machines are - fragile - or just could be there's something sinister at work here, but I cannot help but get the feeling that every time I get a "security and stability" patch from Microsoft, things get worse. In the stability department, anyway.

It's bad enough that the system has to reboot maybe two or three times,  taking fifteen minutes in the process, and worse that sometimes the sucker will reboot all by itself in the middle of the night, having got bored of waiting for a reply from me. (I know, I should always save my work when I go to bed. Sometimes I don't, OK - one gets used to computers that just keep working for months,  like the mainframes I had to cosset as a youth - and even if I have done so bloody OpenOffice will still insist on recovering any documents that may have been open, even if unmodified,  when shut down - and about half the time it manages to corrupt them in the process.)

No, what really puts the fear of god in me is the certain knowledge that, some unspecified time after the update, I will plug in some USB device or whatever, and a while afterwards the screen will go a fetching shade of blue displaying the cheerful message "Windows has encountered a problem and needs to shut down. We'll just log some data and then restart for you". I do not know why this happens, but it does. Every bloody time.

And of course there's always the lurking dread that at some point I will try to start up a virtual machine under VirtualBox (which is, quite frankly, flaky enough on its own without any help from Microsoft: Oracle can do crap too), and it will stubbornly refuse and tell me that my machine image is corrupt, would I like to delete it or would I perhaps prefer to just delete it? (Have to love the error messages too. Not joking, the one I see most is "Failed to create a virtual machine. Error 7xxx (don't use this message)". Thanks for the QC, guys.

Mind you, I'm not entirely sure that it's Microsoft's fault. Wouldn't surprise me to discover that they've just yanked some error-handling code out of the core drivers, where it had no reason to be in the first place, and handed it off up the stack to the actual USB driver that came with the hardware. And as that driver was written about thirteen years ago and even back then didn't respect the guidelines, it dies horribly and, being itself a kernel driver, pulls the whole damn edifice down about my ears. Which doesn't make me feel any better, I still want someone to blame.

Also, when it comes to crap software, there's plenty of blame to go around. OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, to name but two culprits. Or Eclipse - which seems to be written entirely in Java so as to negate any speed advantage your grunty multi-core CPU might otherwise give you - and which, on my Linux machines, just ups and dies on me regularly, and for no apparent reason. Maybe I should retrain as a hairdresser.

Perhaps I should spend less time on the innertübz too, would stop me finding out about things like this*.

And once again, as Edmund remarked, the devil throws up on my eiderdown. I got Sarah back on Tuesday, and drove her home, and our plans for today were to head off to the market at Carcassonne and then on to Roullens, to learn about the elusive truffle. It all went well enough until the truffle part, for once I'd done at the market and the cherries, apricots and nectarines were nestling happily in the bag with the baby courgettes and the two kilos or so of duck sausage (I have become a dealer in that -  a duck dealer! Cash & Carry are starting to place orders.) and the sweetcorn - first of the season, yum! - we circumcised the place, going south of la Cité towards Limoux, when I noticed that I had no power at all, the fuel gauge was obstinately on empty ... you get the picture.

At that point we were only 5km or so from the garage so we limped there and various people came out and sucked their teeth seriously but - if I may give you a bit of advice, do not have your car break down in France on a weekend. Mechanics, when they work, do so only during the week. As do, it seems, the  people who handle the car guarantee. Also, as it's the start of the holiday season, everyone else has had their cars break down or in for servicing or something, and so the Alfa garage was fresh out of voitures de courtoisie ... eventually I got in touch with my insurance, who sent a taxi to take us home, and I confided Sarah and her keys to the tender mercies of the guy at the garage.

All that meant that we were kind of later than planned getting to the rotting mushrooms. So when we finally did turn up there was but one left, huge and warty, and I wasn't ready to pay the kind of money that'd be asked, so I am sadly deprived of truffles.

Not that we left empty-handed mind you: another mixed dozen of wine has been added to the cellar here in The Shamblings. Some of it might even stay there for a while, but hopefully we'll get to drink it in the next ten years or so: the serious guy behind the stall of Cave la Malepère reckoned it wouldn't last much longer, and I am not one to impugn his judgement.

Anyway, one of the reasons I was so pleased to get Sarah back is that I have a meeting tomorrow morning in Chambéry, and rather than travelling in effortless air-conditioned comfort I shall just have to slowly make my way there with little Suzy, whose a/c options are limited to how far down you wind the windows. Kind of limited, and when it's hotter out than in is of little use but never mind, at least she's still firing on all four cylinders. Better go pack, I guess.

*Bonus update: the link above stands corrected. Bloody blogger.


  1. SPSS, if you ever had to battle with it, used to be a dysfunctional ill-designed munter of a package, combining a software / plotting command language (apparently written with Cobol as its role-model) with a user interface from an alternative universe... but then IBM bought it out and re-wrote the latest versions as interpreted Java code.

  2. Yes, I do "fondly" remember SPSS. Hideously expensive, yes, it looked like a COBOL front-end because it was, but it did actually do the job of pulling data from disparate packages and putting up a graph to show the pointy-haired boss. (Excuses to J. Higgins.) Usually, in less than a life-time.

  3. Mind you, it was still a pile of shit. So IBM put lipstick onna pig?