A few years ago I bought the Le Robert Correcteur. It is a spelling and grammar checker for French, something that is incredibly useful if one has the intention of writing in French. It's a grammatically complex language and even Le Robert doesn't spot all one's mistakes. But it at least weeds out most of them and will often flag a sentence that it believes to be badly constructed even though it can't pinpoint the precise reason.
It wasn't cheap and came with three licences. I used one on my iMac and one on my MacBook Pro. A while ago I rebuilt the MacBook with an SSD disk and restored from Time Machine. Most things worked but Le Correcteur was having none of it. The licence protection was obviously recognised that something had changed as a result of the upgrade. So I had to use my third and final licence. I've now upgraded to a 2018 MacBook Air. And guess what, I can't even get Le Correcteur to load let alone try to enter a licence key. All attempts to find help on deregistering the app on the old MacBook have failed.
I certainly wasn't going to fork out for another three licences so I decided to consider alternatives. I have used Bon Patron before, a web-based spelling and grammar checker that performs arguably as well as Le Correcteur. I tested a sample piece in both and in fact Bon Patron did slightly better in that case. Although both missed a fairly glaring conjugation error, which might have been because of the way I structured the sentence. Perhaps it wasn't French enough! The only downside to Bon Patron is that is web-based, so without a connection you can't use it. But with almost universal connectivity these days this is perhaps not a major issue.Read more
My Merc SLC will be two years old in September and since I took delivery the traffic announcements have refused to appear. Much playing around with settings in the information system produced no results and a software update at the first service didn't help either. The weird thing was that if selected to a local radio station, then the announcements from that station appeared, which was of little use of course, as you would hear them anyway while listening to the station. But with national stations, nothing, other than a slight dip in the sound when we thought one was trying to cut in.
More in hope than expectation, at the two-year service a week or so ago I again mentioned the problem. On that day the software updating system wasn't working, apparently, but today we returned and left the car for a couple of hours to have the system updated. Of course, the only way of checking if the update achieved anything is to await a traffic announcement, so when we collected the car we didn't know if the problem had been resolved. But, encouragingly, when I plugged in my iPhone to Car Play, I had to negotiate a number of pages of agreement terms that required acceptance, confirming that at least something significant had changed.
We were almost home, a journey approaching an hour, and no announcements had appeared. Beginning to fear yet another failure, much to our surprise Radio Cambridge traffic popped up.
Bingo, problem sorted.
I've had a Tesco email account for what seems forever, and I use it for all my online registrations and many other contacts. So when I received a message that the service is to close on 27 June this year my heart sunk. I have subsequently spent many hours going through all my login items in my password manager, visiting the sites concerned, and changing the contact email.
What I found amazing was the difference in trying to achieve this on the various sites. From simply just changing the address, to needing to phone up and organise it verbally (John Lewis!). In between these extremes there were various shades of complexity, from the fairly common need to verify the new address after setting it up, through to needing to add a new address and then delete the original, changing the 'primary' address in the process, or needing to send an email requesting the change. In some cases just finding where on the site you needed to navigate to was a challenge in itself.
While doing all this I was prompted for a Flash update one site, and with my attention distracted by the main job in hand, I fell for a malware download very convincingly masquerading as Flash. This infected all my browsers and rather than trying to clean the files out, I opted to revert the whole computer back a few hours using Time Machine. This cleaned things up, but it took a good couple of hours, and I think I might have lost some archived emails as I tried to work out which of the hundreds of 'Recovered Files' in Mail were indeed recovered, and which were just duplicates of what I already had. I also had to backtrack through the password items I had already updated in my password manager, changing again the login email address. My Apple ID brought with it further complications as the various devices prompted for the Apple password, while still quoting the Tesco email address even though I had changed it. Things have finally settled down but I had to play around a bit to get all my local files back into the iBook application, eventually enabling iCloud storage for iBook to synchronise all devices.
All the password related items are now done, with many deleted as I carried out a bit of housekeeping as I went through the list. Now I need to deal with mailing list items where there are no sign in requirements, and finally all the personal contacts to whom I've given the address over the years. A laborious and very unrewarding exercise that I could well have done without.
With Microsoft discontinuing support for Mac Office 2011, and suggestions that there may be problems with it should I upgrade to High Sierra, I took the plunge and bought Mac Office 2016. John Lewis were doing a £20 discount and I had some JL vouchers.
The first surprise, which shouldn't have been if I had read the product details fully, was that all I got was a pretty little box with a product key card inside. I would have preferred a disc. The instructions read that I should go to office.com/setup. This landed me on a web page that appeared very unlike what I would expect from Microsoft. Talk about Web 1, it looked like something a first time web builder would have knocked up. Totally misleading as to what one was supposed to do, and raising suspicions in my mind that it wasn't a site where I was going to enter my expensive product code.
After a bit of browsing I navigated to a much more official looking Microsoft site, where I was asked to open an account. So here we go, I've just paid good money for a product and I must open an account to get past go. Having done that MS emailed me to verify my email address, then I had to negotiate a captcha code, and finally I got to entering my product key. A file downloaded into my downloads folder. I opened it but nothing seemed to be happening. But then I noticed the download progress bar on the Safari menu bar. After a while an installer package appeared in the downloads folder and this launched the familiar (Mac) Office installation dialogue.
Everything installed, I opened Excel and was presented with the next hoop to jump through. I needed to sign in using the account details I had generated earlier. This done, I was ready to use the software. Why do Microsoft make software installation so complicated? What a performance.
I haven't started to play with the new ribbon layout yet, although it appears pretty much unchanged content wise. In keeping with recent trends the icons on the ribbons appear 'flatter', exhibiting a 'button' relief only when you hover over them. I think I may prefer the 2011 look, but no doubt I shall get used to the new one after a while. You can keep the previous version on the Mac; a fall-back if I really struggle! It may be imagination but it feels as if the individual applications open more slowly.
I'm really pleased that the only time I need to deal with Microsoft is in respect of the Office software.
This isn't the first time I've written about this, but each time it happens I feel moved to say something. I migrated to an Apple Mac in 2008 after years of Windows' frustration and can honestly say it's the best decision I ever made. I did, however, maintain a copy of Windows just in case I needed it for something that the Mac couldn't do, or I needed to access an archived Windows' file. Initially I installed Vista on a virtual machine using VMFusion, but in 2009 I moved the installation to a Bootcamp partition on a newly acquired MacBook Pro. There it has remained, Windows 7 replacing Vista, and more recently with the Windows' 10 free upgrade.
I very rarely use the MacBook these days but occasionally update the applications, as I did the other day. First the Mac running El Capitan (it's too old for Sierra) which involved booting up, updating one non App Store program, installing some additional Stacks in RapidWeaver, and then going to the App Store where there was one Apple update, involving a restart, and two apps. The whole thing took about 30 minutes, most of that time being during the restart process. Then I booted into Windows 10 and the fun started. It always takes me a while to remember exactly how to find Windows Update, but having finally got there it started to search for updates. It searched, and searched, and searched, the 'downloading updates' figure staying resolutely at 0%. After a considerable time I decided to reboot, having first searched the internet to see if this was known problem. As usual, there were lots of forum suggestions, ranging from registry tweaks to reinstalling Windows. After the reboot I suspected that I might not in fact have achieved anything, but then the download percentage started to move.
The last time I updated, the download percentage progressed from 0% to 100% as the complete list of updates were downloaded, but this time it seemed that the download percentage incremented from 0% to 100 % for each individual update, starting again for the next one. So my initial relief that the download was complete was soon shattered. What seemed an eternity passed before all the updates were downloaded, whence the very lengthy installation commenced. I couldn't tell you accurately how long all this took. It seemed like hours. I suppose it's my fault for only updating infrequently, but the comparison between updating OS X and Windows was indeed stark. Once my laptop is retired Windows will be retired with it. The Mac does everything I need and I can do without the hassle.
Following my previous post the DDoS situation deteriorated. What started on Monday evening wasn't over for me until the early hours of this Friday morning. It seems that initial attempts by the hosting company to move data to another server didn't deter the DDoS. It decided, therefore, to bring forward a planned migration of the data to a new data store, which was originally due to happen later this month. While this was all going on this Kilburnlad site was effectively down, as were others I manage. If you tried to visit the site you probably received an error message, although there were brief periods when it was functioning in between the various attempts to resolve the issue.
Such a long interruption to web hosting services is very rare and I'm sorry if this caused any confusion when trying to follow links to me from other sites. We're now in a settling down period and let's hope that with the data now moved to an upgraded server things will be more robust going forward.
Apologies to anybody visiting kilburnlad.net or my old blog on Google Blogger yesterday evening, as you will undoubtedly either have been met with no response, or an error message. My hosting company suffered a DDoS attack on the server that hosts my sites. This is the first time that this has happened since I signed up with them in 2010 and, of course, it was hardly their fault if some miscreants decided to bring down the server. Fingers crossed that this won't happen again.
I have a Time Machine backup on an external USB connected HDD and I decided, for reasons perhaps approaching paranoia, that I would create a second backup. The primary backup is an ageing full-size HDD in an external case whereas my new one is one of these ridiculously small 1TB things that can slip in your pocket. The paranoia bit is that I propose to use the new pocket-sized drive as a take-away device, so should we be burgled, or there was an equivalent disaster, I would have an image of my iMac and could restore things to a new machine. I should add that most of my data is not on the Mac but on (a different) external network-connected HDD, and I propose also to back that up to the new portable device. Thus I will have everything copied.
I went to the Apple support page to see how I should copy the primary backup to the new drive. I first needed to reformat it to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) with a GUID partition, and in fact I actually chose the encrypted option as I wanted the portable drive to be secure in case that was lost or stoled while I was transporting it around. That done I set the copy in progress using two Finder windows. The existing backup is 260GB and 'preparing to backup' took about 4-5 hours as it laboriously counted through the number of files to be copied. That done, the backup process started, only to fail after a short time with this error message: 'The operation can’t be completed because backup items can’t be modified.' So, after six hours or more I was at an impasse.
At some point Amazon obviously decided to abandon local delivery companies and take the delivery function in house. No doubt to save money and increase profits. The result has been a much less reliable delivery experience, with a different driver seeming to arrive on each occasion, or not arrive as the case may be.
Now I admit that our house can be tricky to find, but this was never a problem with the local companies. One such company even emailed the morning of the delivery to give a one-hour delivery slot, which it always met. Under the present system deliveries can appear up until late evening. Gone is the card through the door if you miss the delivery. Gone is the second attempt. If you're not there nowadays the parcel gets left somewhere outside. The other day after a knock on the door, I opened it to see the parcel on the doorstep with the driver disappearing up the yard. Absolutely no attempt to see if anybody was in.
Now I realise that these drivers have a thankless task. Paid peanuts with a ridiculous number of parcels to deliver each day, one can understand why their dedication to making a professional delivery is lacking. The fault lies with Amazon, which is trying to push down costs by using agency drivers who are part of the gig economy. The last few days have pushed me to the limit and I'm seriously considering my future with Amazon.