Trying to Dictate (a little bit of a finished story)

This is not much of a post, but I was actually almost hard at work earlier, attempting to defy the continual and continuing issues created by Mountain Lion and the app that forced me last October to “upgrade” my system, Dragon Dictate (version 3). After I experienced one crash/forced hard restart mid-morning, I tried some dictation about 11:00 AM…

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Test. I started to dictate “Taking the Plunge” about a half an hour ago. I got the first two or three sentences done, but when I proceeded to orate into the Dictate window the remainder of the first paragraph, suddenly we were in spinning beach ball territory! Endlessly. I finally forced the computer to shut down and restarted.

Naturally, this time Spotlight began to run even before everything in the Menubar had loaded. (I just checked, and it is still grinding away. As always. Endlessly.) QuicKeys at first would not finish not loading so I force-quit it, and on the second try the (essential, for me) program did eventually load. So I moved on to try Dictate.

At first, as it did before the computer restart, Nuanceʼs program jumped straight to the Dictate text window (I am not sure if I feel altogether happy that it did retain the sentences I had uttered before the beach ball and forced quit), but this time it also tried to open the Load Profile window (which is supposed to be the first step when the program launches), and when I clicked on the JRB profile, we just got beach ball. Again? However, this time around, I was able to get Force Quit to force quit Dictate (the previous problem had been that intervention did not work, and so I had to physically forcibly shutdown the computer). I tried again. And after some stalling and closing the still-remembered Dictate window from before the crash, here we are with me successfully dictating (directly into MacJournal). Hurrah!

“Taking the Plunge” is a Tourist story, the second one completed. The first (and a segment from that story is one of the oldest posts on the blog) was set in London. “Plunge” takes place in San Francisco, written in the fall of 2009 in the first flush of freedom and getting “Underground” completed and typed (and unsuccessfully off for publication). Hereʼs how it starts:

Taking the Plunge

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

San Francisco sunlight, a surreal gift of certain bliss after days of fog and rain. The sun came out my fourth day in the city, my vacation having reinvigorated the old Mark Twain observation, “The coldest winter I ever endured was one summer in San Francisco.” My early experience this trip had been wet, cold and dismal.

The worst day had been Sunday, my second, when I had determined to take a ferry across to Sausalito, an excursion Marsha Kay and I had only contemplated when we were on the bay many years ago. Weʼd gone on a local tour (Dolphin Tours) to the wine country and Muir Woods, and the van in which we and five other couples were loaded had dumped us all on the highway through Sausalito to fend for ourselves for lunch. That had been one sunsparkled, bay-brilliant day — so thoroughly unlike my chillingly dismal return — and we both had discussed the pure California loveliness over lunch in a fish house on the water whose name fled from me in the hectic years since.

But I treasured the sensual bliss of my memories — yellowbright, windscoured and catarchingly warm — through the too-many midwestern winters we shared and then I suffered in weary lonesomeness since. Shoveling through eight inches of heartbreaking snow for myself alone in bitter predawn dark just to be able to get a car to struggle, swerve and skate over icy, scarcely cleared roads to work — among others only those fragments of solarkissed bliss on a July afternoon in Sausalito.

But the bleak reality of this return chilled me more thoroughly than any black midwestern morning, that well layered for the subzero darkness, I had endured in patient expectation of renewing the California sun. So I had suffered disillusionment those first days — dark, cold, drizzling — unimaginably worse weather than back at home, until that fourth morning frothed with solar effervescence in my uncurtained hotel windows, alluring me before 7:00 to awakened alertness, anticipating at last the day to come.

Showering I relived the bay crossing less than forty-eight hours previous. Icy drizzle from the moment I awoke — not quite so early on Sunday, not as early as I had intended, either — about 9:30. The boats I had explored started running at 8:45, and I had intended to cross the bay as early as possible and really explore Sausalito for most of the day. But the grey rain had soothed my mind, evidently, and the touch of frost in the air made me unconsciously snuggle deeper into bed as this most unsummerly summer day had dawned.

Noises in the hall, a family departing for the day, whining brats complaining loudly about the dank weather, stirred my consciousness again well after 9:00. I felt groggy — aware I was late to my schedule, but too dull to care much. And what did it matter? I only had myself to amuse.

So I lazily showered, shaving, dressed and prepared to leave the room for the maidʼs casual attentions in my absence, closing the door about 10:20 and heading off uphill to cross down to the ferry building, at least a twenty-minute hike. I figured Iʼd be in Sausalito for lunch by 12:30.

The ferries didn’t keep to my schedule, however. And the sea-spray, rainy crossing — me on deck, almost alone, drenched and shivering (at least, after the icy hike to the waterfront, Iʼd decided to purchase a fleece at one of the businesses in the ferry building — overpriced but warm enough, though by the time we docked it was much more than damp), brought us across the bay about 1:30. In my misery, I had even missed Alcatraz in the dreary damp. Late for the lunch I had come for, I elected with rare wisdom to forgo the nostalgic waterside deck and eat indoors, too utterly iced through already for more freezing drizzle so soon.

I got busy with other stuff after that. But apparently dictating works again (although with at least a dozen quite strange errors I had to catch while posting), and I have plenty of digitzing talking ahead of me when I donʼt choose to really write (fresh material).

Come on, computer, keep with it: do your job, finally.

What do you know? No footnotes. Almost a first in the past year or more.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Tech Frustrations (3) — Apple Edition, part one

Having resurrected Janetʼs laptop (at least to an almost acceptable point, admittedly lacking virus protection), I proceeded almost immediately to screw everything up to an almost unbelievable degree by upgrading my iMac from Snow Leopard (MacOS 10.6.8) to the current Mountain Lion edition (MacOS 10.8.2 — with another improving update already available and suggested).

Big mistake. Huge, as a matter of fact.

My computer couldnʼt even restart the first time after the Apple App Store application had installed the new system. (And I had hesitated over the many complaints in the reviews section, wondering why Apple didnʼt think anyone needed an installation CD from which to restore the system when necessary, and it has been necessary — five times up to now, and thatʼs not shutting down daily as I had formerly done). And the installation took four hours (maybe a little more)!

I made my twenty-dollar mistake on Thursday evening, September 27, and I was frustrated and computer-deprived for the next three days, reinstalling the system all over again twice (and learning all about what the new installation had done, not to mention getting almost instantly sick of that tan cordillera/sierra felineʼs glare). The biggest flaw (for me at least) with Mountain Lion is that the software cannot restart from a hard shutdown/restart (meaning pushing the little  power/startup button on the rear left of the computer when everything suspends activity unalterably — freezes or hangs) or in my experience from an ordinary restart sequence (even the one Apple imposes with the installation — and upgrade — packages).

As I reported in my own review of the product once I had successfully gotten my iMac operational again (the following Sunday, then Monday):

Got really tired of seeing this visage on this screen in the past three-and-a-half weeks (five times, friends and comrades — so far)

Installed Mountain Lion (MacOS 10.8.2), foolhardily, Thursday afternoon (four days ago, as I write) — net result: couldnʼt get my iMac to fully restart afterwards… Constant, invariable hangs/freezes once the lovely new constellation desktop picture loaded.

Reinstalled said system, using the hidden Recovery partition this installation creates (and, buyers, do make sure you already know your Apple ID and Password [and LAN/Wi-Fi access code/password!!] without software assistance when installing this premature ejaculation of a product) on Friday evening after a whole night and day of forced restarts after start-up hangs, but no go on fully loading on restart, even after the four-hour download and installation. 

However, Saturday morning, inexplicably and without any changed approach on my part, when I tried another start-up, the system loaded and worked… until some programs wouldnʼt open and I decided to restart the computer… Naturally: hang city all over again…

No luck all day Sunday, either (even leaving the stalled start-up alone for hours and hours). The “consult the Apple Support Forums” option presented by the recovery partition merely takes you to standard info, no real help. Except perhaps for restoring from Time Machine and runnning Disk Utility (no problems of that kind in my case), none of the options works without internet connection (thus the need to have your LAN password ready before trying anything from the recovery partition).

Reinstalled for the third time this morning, Monday, and even before the promised three hours and 41 minutes (download and installation) had elapsed, we were up and running. Wowza.

Iʼm planning to leave my poor, abused machine continuously on for a long time today (tomorrow… into next year?) to let Spotlight index (if it actually is — estimate is back up to 20 hours, after ten hours on). And get three or twenty good Time Machine backups complete. Surviving so far without troubling Apple support by phone, although they were VERY helpful once in the distant past.

Anyone think I can afford to shut down (ever) without needing to reinstall yet again?

Hardware Overview:

  •   Model Name: iMac
  •   Model Identifier: iMac9,1
  •   Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
  •   Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
  •   Number of Processors: 1
  •   Total Number of Cores: 2
  •   L2 Cache: 6 MB
  •   Memory: 4 GB
  •   Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz
  •   Boot ROM Version: IM91.008D.B08
  •   SMC Version (system): 1.45f0

Not really recommended, based on my experience. I should have heeded all those earlier reviewers with problems!

Too harsh, thinkest thou, O Gentil Reader? Itʼs only gotten worse…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Technological Frustrations (2)

…continued at long last…

Before I am unable to proceed (yet again*), perhaps I should wrap up my now long-ago post on Janetʼs laptop and our (still incomplete) effort to upgrade and continue her virus protection.

Although I had a thirty-day trial actually working (having, I was almost absolutely positive, not succeeded in downloading the current app before the five-download limit was imposed by TrendMicro), I was pretty sure that this application wasnʼt accepting her overly extensive activation code not (in this case, at least) because the goons at TrendMicro were so conveniently incompetent as to acquire my fifty dollars without writing the activation portion of their software correctly but because (as I vaguely recalled) the downloaded installation package I had belatedly discovered wasnʼt new at all but rather one I had downloaded months in the past and never installed.

So how could I get around TrendMicroʼs determinedly profiteering limitation on downloads from their website (a particularly stupid restriction if the package still needed activation to fully work**)?

I had received a confirmation e-mail on the software purchase in my msn account***, so reading it, I decided to click the link for the download (on my iMac) and, accessing the download site, tried the download again. And it worked, downloading the complete .exe file to my Mac desktop. I promptly copied the file to a flash drive that I thought was still configured for Windows, started up Janetʼs laptop, plugged in the flash drive and copied the program to her desktop (or whatever Windows calls that level).

Unfortunately, upon double-clicking the installation package, it informed me that it wouldnʼt work unless we made use of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (about which I had not heard, believing Microsoft to have abandoned XP years ago). However, some extensive searching procured a disk image of just that service pack**** to download and burn to CD.

Now comes the good part — actually bad, very very bad. Installing the Service Pack 3 failed (twice). And on the second failure and forced restart, her computer no longer restarted. At all.

Her laptop was dead, useless — a worthless, nonfunctioning lump of metals and plastic (exactly what HP and Microsoft wanted such antiques — six years old — to be considered). Unless I could figure out how to make use of the back-up/restoration partition (drive D, I think I had learned at one point) HP had created originally on her computer. But I had no idea what to press during startup to activate that restoration.

So her computer sat worthless for a week or so while I pondered (and basically also just forgot about the problem, admittedly, taking the low and easy road to personal satisfaction by ignoring what was wrong in our lives) and diddled away at other things (on my lovely, brushed aluminum, June 2009-vintage, 27-inch iMac).

Entering our “office“ in the morning, I might contemplate the inert laptop briefly, frustrated that I had no idea was key-combos might accomplish what during the startup process (and too lazy/forgetful to investigate that problem online). Did we have a restoration/installation CD for XP (as I had purchased a couple years back to upgrade the iMac to Appleʼs Snow Leopard)?

Finally, I roused myself from my habitual (and habituated) inertia to search out the collection of mini-manuals and materials, including software CDs, we had originally received along with the laptop. And eventually I discovered a little CD-sized piece of paper informing me that we didnʼt need an installation CD because we had the restoration back-up on the computer itself, even mentioning the appropriate key combo to use to access the back-up.

So I did as the miniature sheet instructed, re-installing the saved version of her operating system, and it worked. Kind of. Suddenly her computer was back almost completely to its original state (that of six years ago). That position left me needing to simply install the service packs (1, 2 and 3) again to attempt finally the TrendMicro anti-virus package. As it turned out, just service pack 2 before 3, and I discovered Microsoft did indeed have a site to download the service pack installation packages without resort to burning CDs.

Service pack 2 worked just as it had before, meaning successfully. But I am currently hovering in hesitation about attempting that service pack 3 without backing up her drive (as it exists now in its somewhat more modernized state, rather than attempting to start essentially from scratch once again should/when the service pack 3 installation again fail and trash the entire Windows system) to an external drive. I have the drive I would like to use, but currently itʼs loaded to reinstall Snow Leopard for my Mac, if necessary (which has been necessary at least twice already in the last two years).

Time to buy another (our fourth) back-up drive, I supposed.

And thatʼs when I made the foolish mistake of upgrading the iMac to Mountain Lion…

* There have been serious disasters and troubles preventing the promised continuation of this misadventure (and keeping me offline and discomputered for days at a time, not just this past week), resolved, maybe, just today.

** Why not post unlimited downloads of the trial software to attract customers? Most (if not all) other software suppliers do that…

*** Why my e-mail account, rather than My Belovedʼs? Long story, involving the important aspect of which one of us takes a real interest in maintaining (even using our home computers).

**** I had a feeling that particular package wasnʼt the one I wanted, but it was absolutely all I could find (Windows auto-updates having never really worked on her computer from the beginning). Later in the misadventure, I found, as told above, a downloadable package which we will use just as soon as, for safetyʼs sake I back up her entire computer to the currently available external drive (but needing to be reconfigured, again, for Windows use), an activity I may just begin right now…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.