Peter Zinovieff (1933 -2021 )

Peter Zinovieff, ca. 1969, with synthesizer equipment matching that shown in the block diagram image of an EMS, below.

This appears on what would have been the 90th birthday of Peter Zinovieff, (1933-01-26 – 2021-06-23) composer, hesitant engineer and reluctant synthesist.

There are some elements to Zinovieff’s life, that only happen because of his Russian aristocractic background. In 1960, Zinovieff married Victoria Heber-Percy (1943 – ). Her tiara was auctioned, to finance Zinovieff’s first computer. This was used to control an array of oscillators and amplifiers he had bought from an army surplus store. He claims that this was the first computer in the world in a private house. I am uncertain what benefits Heber-Percy got out of the sale of her tiara, but the marriage did not last.

Zinovieff closely followed some developments in computing related to sound generation. In particular this was happening at Bell Labs in New Jersey, where its owners had a vested interest in telephone research. There in 1957, Max Mathews (1926 – 2011) had written MUSIC, the first widely used program for sound generation. This had been further developed in the 1960s with new versions. In 1964, Jean-Claude Risset (1938 – 2016), had used MUSIC IV software to digitally recreate the sounds of brass instruments. He made digital recordings of trumpets and studied their timbral composition using pitch-synchronous spectrum analysis tools.

In 1963, David Alan Luce’s (1936 – 2017) doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology implemented a pitch-synchronous approach to analysis/resynthesis of instrumental tones. Luce  joined Moog Music in 1972, where he developed a polyphonic synthesizer, the Polymoog. Later, he became head of engineering, then president of Moog in 1981. He became a co-owner in 1984. Moog Music closed in 1987.

In 1966–67, Zinovieff, Delia Derbyshire (1937 – 2001) and Brian Hodgson (1938 – ) ran Unit Delta Plus, creating electronic music. Its studio was built by Zinovieff in a shed at his house in Putney, Greater London. Unit Delta Plus had a short life, and was disbanded in 1967.

Zinovieff worked with a medical technician with electrical engineering skills, David Cockerell (? – ) and software engineer Peter Grogono (1944 – 2021) to develop an analogue–digital (hybrid) performance controller. Grogono was tasked with developing a new musical composition and sequencing language, MUSYS, that was to be easy to use (composer friendly) and efficient, and working within the limitations of two Digital Equipment PDP8/S and PDP8/L older and newer computers, respectively, named Sofka and Leo, after Zinovieff’s two first children. The system saved output data files to disk. A musical keyboard was added for input, as an afterthought.

Block diagram showing components of original EMS synthesizer. Source:

In the mid-1960s electronic components were expensive, and the equipment being made exceeded Zinovieff’s means. Thus, it was decided to sell some machines to finance further development costs. Zinovieff, Cockerell and composer Tristram Cary (1925 – 2008) founded Electronic Music Studios (EMS). It is likely that the name was selected for this enterprise prioritizing a studio making music, while ignoring a product manufacturer making synths. EMS created a commercial, miniaturised version of its studio as a modular, affordable synthesizer for the education market. A prototype called the Voltage Controlled Studio 1 (VCS1) was designed by David Cockerell, consisting of a two oscillator instrument built into a wooden rack unit, and built for the Australian composer Don Banks (1923 – 1990) for £50, after a lengthy pub conversation.

Some of this equipment was subsequently marketed as a synthesizer system using the EMS label. It was considerably more portable than the existing Moog system. Possibly because Robert Moog recognized the limitations of his synthesizers, he offered to sell out to EMS for one million dollars. Zinovieff turned down this offer.

The EMS Synthi 100 was a large analogue/digital hybrid synthesizer series, of which 30 were produced. The first unit was orriginally a custom order from Radio Belgrade for its Radio Belgrade Electronic Studio. This order was the result of contact between composer/ saxophonist Paul Pignon (1939 – ), then living in Belgrade, and Zinovieff. The synthesiser was designed by David Cockerell who documented it in detail in 1971. The cost at that time was £ 6 500.

While EMS lasted until 1979, its key personnel soon began leaving the company. Cockerell left in 1972 to join Electro-Harmonix to design effect pedals. Cary left in 1973 to become Professor of Electronic Music at the Royal College of Music and later Professor of Music at the University of Adelade. Grogono left in 1973 but continued working on the MUSYS programming language and further developed it into the Mouse language. He became a computer science professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

The main challenge for Zinovieff was his aristocratic origins, that prevented him from doing technical work. In 2019 he commented on EMS as a business: “It’s always been a problem with me because I don’t like synthesizers. So this side of EMS was never interesting to me, it was always the studio. The basic purpose of EMS was to finance the studio, but unfortunately that’s not what happened. EMS got bigger and bigger and we made more and more products and it took up more time. And instead of making money, it started to lose it. In the end, when EMS went bankrupt, it pulled the studio down.”

Zinovieff then closed the Putney studio, which was sold to the National Theatre. The equipment was put into storage, and later destroyed in a flood.

He then moved to the remote Scottish island of Raasay between 1975 and 1983. His cottage had no mains electricity supply, so synths were powered by wind generation that charged batteries.

He then move to Cambridge where, in the 1980s, he received two commissions from Clive Sinclair (1940 – 2021) including a piano-sampling project and consultations on sound support for the Sinclair QL personal computer, launched in 1984.

Zinovieff as Composer

In 1968, Zinovieff staged the world premiere of Partita for Unattended Computer, notable for being the first ever unaccompanied performance of live computer music, with no human performer involved, with the piece read from paper tape.

Later in 1968, as part of Cybernetic Serendipity, the first UK international exhibition devoted to the relationship between the arts and new technology, Zinovieff et al created a computer system, that could analyse a tune whistled by a visitor to the show and improvise upon it.

Zinovieff collaborated with Harrison Birtwistle (1934 – 2022) on Chronometer (1971–2) with recordings of Big Ben ticking, and Wells Cathedral clock chiming. Zinovieff claimed that in this project he had invented the technique of musical sampling.

The soundtrack for Sidney Lumet’s (1924 – 2011) film The Offence (1972) was composed by Birtwistle with electronic realization by Zinovieff.

Zinovieff also wrote the words for Birtwistle’s Nenia: The Death of Orpheus (1970) for soprano, 3 bass clarinets, crotales and piano. Here the electronic realization was by Barry Anderson (1935 – 1987). Zinovieff wrote the libretto for Birtwistle’s opera The Mask of Orpheus (1973-84).

He also worked with Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012) producing a tape in Tristan’s Folly in Tristan (1975).

Through an association with Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza (1964 – ), Zinovieff was able to create an audio work for a large-scale installation, The Morning Line by Matthew Ritchie (1964 – ), Bridges from Somewhere and Another to Somewhere Else (2011). Good Morning Ludwig (2012) followed.

Following these projects, Zinovieff’s compositions typically combined sounds from live instrumentation and field recordings and multi-channel performances.

He collaborated with Kazakhstani violinist Aisha Orazbayeva (1985 – ), composing two concertos for violin and electronics: OUR (2010) and Our Too (2014).

From 2011 he collaborated with Scottish poet, historian and broadcaster Katrina Porteous (1960 – ) to combine her poetry with soundscapes created by Zinovieff using sound sources related to physics and astronomy. This resulted in Horse (2011), then with the Planetarium at the Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edge (2013), Field (2015) and Sun (2016). Live visuals for these last works were created by planetarium supervisor Christopher Hudson.

A retrospective compilation of Zinovieff’s work in the EMS era was compiled by English musician Pete Kember/ Sonic Boom (1965 – ) and released in 2015.

Zinovieff collaborated with cellist Lucy Railton (? – ) on RFG (2016). An album version was released as RFG Inventions for Cello and Computer (2020).

Between the years 2013–2017, Zinovieff composed South Pacific Migration Party, based on from hydrophone recordings of blue whales recorded by British oceanographer Susannah Buchan off the coast of Chile. In was released on the record label The Association for Depth Sound Recordings in 2021.

Zinovieff’s final work was, Under The Ice (2021), a 30-minute piece based on recordings of Antarctic glaciers.

Historians of British Columbia

Don Wong provided me with a photo of his grandfather’s $500 Head Tax certificate, that allowed him to become a resident of Canada, in 1912.

Hostile attitudes towards Asians in British Columbia, particularly those with Chinese origins, should vex everyone. A frequent excuse for discrimination throughout the 20th and mid to late 19th centuries, was that Chinese workers had the power to reduce wages being paid to others (read: people of European ancestry). When the Canadian Pacific Railway, along with other transcontinental railways (British)/ railroads (US), was constructed, the Chinese received minimal wages, but were assigned the most dangerous tasks. It was as if their lives were of no consequence. When the rail lines were finally completed, European immigrants expected the Chinese workers to return to China, while they themselves remained in North America.

More recently, some people have laid blame for the Covid-19 pandemic on people of Chinese origins, attacking anyone (everyone?) with a Chinese appearance – mostly verbally but aggressively – in public venues such as shopping centres. This is totally unacceptable.

Much of the current Asian hostility expresses Europhile exceptionalism, that has replaced an earlier Anglophile exceptionalism, that became codified into the history of the province as an anti-Asian consensus.

Confronting this Sinophobia is of personal importance to me. Should I ever become a grandfather, it is most likely, genetically, that my grandchildren will be 50% Chinese, and almost equally likely that they will be living somewhere in Greater Vancouver. Patricia and I will likely share these grandchildren with Louise Yeoh and Don Wong. Don Wong provided a photo of his grandfather’s $500 Head Tax certificate, that allowed him to become a resident of Canada, in 1912. Thank you, Don. Our families have roots going back more than a century to Kerrisdale, Marpole (Eburne), Steveston, Burnaby and New Westminster. Most of these communities are along Sto:lo, the Fraser River.

Much of the early history of British Columbia was researched, written and published by Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832 – 1918), born in Granville, Ohio, but who moved to San Francisco in 1852 where he started the largest bookseller, stationer and publishing house west of Chicago. His research into British Columbia’s history began on a trip to Victoria in 1878. He published a definitive history of the province in 1887, written by himself, William Nemos (Swedish), Alfred Bates (English) and Amos Bowman (1839 – 1894), from Blair, Ontario. The major challenge with this work is its emphasis on pioneer history, where settlers of European origin set the premises for the work. It is the migrants to the area that are intent on determining its history. Despite the First Nations populations far outnumbering these settlers, they were largely ignored, as were people of Asian origin. Despite this shortcoming, Bancroft did, however, manage to strike a balance between British and American perspectives on the province.

The next significant historian was Frederic Howay (1867 – 1943) born in London, Ontario, but who moved first to the Cariboo goldfields as a young child in 1871, and then to New Westminster in 1874. He studied law at Dalhousie University, graduating in 1890. He was appointed a judge in 1907, retiring in 1937. He used as much of his working day as possible writing history. Like his political opponent Richard McBride, Howay was opposed to Asian immigrants.

Walter Sage (1888 – 1963) was born in London, Ontario. He was educated at Oxford University and the University of Toronto. In 1918, he started teaching history at the University of British Columbia (UBC), from 1933 to 1953 as department head. Sage regarded himself as a teacher rather than a researcher. He specialized in the history of British Columbia, especially the personalities that had shaped the province, starting with a 1921 article on The Gold Colony of British Columbia. He was also appreciated for his sense of justice.

Henry Forbes Angus, (1891 – 1991), was born in Victoria, British Columbia. Rather than focusing on his education at McGill University in Montreal, or his prestigious law scholarship that allowed him to study law at Oxford, I will simply state that in 1919, he became an assistant professor of economics at UBC , subsequently becoming professor, department head, and dean of graduate studies.

In 1942 Walter Sage and Henry Angus, protested against the mistreatment and internment of Japanese Canadians. Geographer Kay Anderson (1958 – ) regarded Angus’ opposition as an important breakthrough in the dismantling of the anti-Asian consensus, in the province. Angus regarded Asian-Canadians as part of the “us” (Canadian citizens who regarded British Columbia as their home), and not a “them” (alien outsiders).

Margaret Ormsby (1909 – 1996) was born in Quesnel, raised in the Okanagan, educated in Vancouver and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She became a professor of history at UBC history in 1955, and department head in 1965. The first book I read written by her on the history of British Columbia was British Columbia: A History (1958). In Chapter 12, “The People’s Dick”, she writes: “The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 found British Columbia standing loyally at the side of the Mother Country: in no other section of Canada was there greater martial ardour or more enthusiastic endorsation of the British Cause.” (p. 327). I have often wondered how much the word British in the province’s name has had a (negative) behavioural influence on its citizens.

Despite the increased professionalism in history, the Canadian public often chooses to read the works of populists, such as Pierre Burton (1920 – 2004), who became editor of the Vancouver Sun, at the age of 21. To his credit, he also opposed the internment of Japanese Canadians.

Another annoying aspect of British exceptionalism, is the monarchy. Monarchies are opaque institutions. In the United Kingdom, over 1 000 laws have been vetted using a secretive procedure – The Queen’s/ now King’s Consent – where government ministers privately notify the Queen/ King of clauses in draft parliamentary bills and ask for her/ his consent to debate them. In essence, this asks her/ his permission to include clauses in legislation. This allows her/ him to change proposed bills before they are presented to elected members of parliament. According to the Guardian, the procedure has been used to conceal her/ his private wealth from the public, and to exclude her/ his estates, and those of her/ his heirs, from proposed laws relating to road safety, land and historic site policy. I do not know how much this has been done in Canada.

My political beliefs have not changed significantly in more than fifty years. At that time, there seemed to be more political understanding, if not consensus, between the left and the right. Now? Not so much. A three minute video by Robert Reich explains it. Because of the deterioration of this understanding, along with increased racism in some segments of the population, it is important to come to grips with anti-Asian sentiments.

Note 1. An inspired source for this weblog post was Chad Reimer (1963 – ), Writing British Columbia History 1784-1958 (2009).

Note 2. This is the first of three parts about British Columbia and Asian Canadians. The second part will examine the situation for Chinese immigrants to Canadians, from Chinese sources. The third part will look at the Komagata Maru.

Note 3. This is being published on the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Water Rabbit, that starts on Sunday, 2023-01-21.

A Lifetime of Music

This post lists core sonic moments that are permanently branded/ etched into my brain about music that I have listened to. These are organized by the decade they became influential. Since it is based on memory, rather than written notes, there is no guarantee that this map corresponds to the terrain.


Tom Glazer (1914 – 2003): Building a City (1948)

This is the first song that I remember. It appeared on a 78 rpm record, that was played on a child’s record player in the 1950s. I am not sure exactly when. I had to listen to a YouTube presentation of it, to be sure it was the same song. Surprisingly, I reacted to the mention of an architect and a banker on the first version I heard. I then found out that these were added later. The original version is what I remember from my childhood.

Maria Straub (1838 – 1898), lyrics & Solomon Straub (1842 – 1899), composition: God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall (1874). Of the hymns I experienced at Sixth Avenue United Church in New Westminster, this is the one that had the greatest impact on me as a child. The starting point for this hymn is Matthew 10:29, which the Open English Bible (OEB) translates as: “Are not two sparrows sold for a one copper coin? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. [30] While as for you, even the hairs of your head are numbered.” These two verses are disturbing, because God’s role is portrayed as that of an accountant.


At some point in the early 1960s, our household acquired a stereo record player which occupied a secluded place near the shuffleboard in the basement rec room. The record player could play LPs at 33 rpm, and singles at 45 rpm. It could not play 78s. I found its location to be a place of refuge.

The Highwaymen, a group of musicians with origins at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, whose album of the same name, was the first LP I remember owning. This was world famous for Michael [, Row the Boat Ashore]. They also made the first recording of Universal Soldier in 1963, on their March on Brothers album. It was written by Buffy Saint Marie. Part of my interest in this group came decades later, and relates to one of its founders, Dave Fisher (1940 – 2010), who graduated as an ethnomusicologist.

I also remember my father buying assorted LPs with traditional Scottish music, that I also listened to, sometimes even enthusiastically.

Surfing music, as performed by The Beach Boys and others. Unfortunately: Jan and Dean, were part of this repertoire until they recorded/ released Universal Coward in 1965; Dick Dale (1926 – 2014) and Misirlou, was not part of it, until much later in the 2010s.

The Animals, House of the Rising Sun (1964). I remember listening it for the first time sitting in the back of a Ford Econoline van, being transported to Hollyburn mountain to spend a weekend at a cabin with other scouts.

Other songs by English groups I remember well: The Zombies, She’s Not There (1964); The Yardbirds, For Your Love (1965); Herman’s Hermits, Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (1965); The Troggs, Wild Thing (1966).

Listening to The Beatles, Paperback Writer (1966) for the first time, moments before hearing about the deaths of two fellow students.

After this event, my musical interests changed, becoming decisively more American. I remember listening to: Country Joe [McDonald] and the Fish; Jefferson Airplane; Janis Joplin; Quicksilver Messenger Service. These were all living in the Bay Area of California. The Byrds, living in Los Angeles, added Turn, Turn, Turn (1965).

Another important event occurred 1967-12-26 to 1968-01-01, when I attended the Cleveland Week of Process, as a representative of the Canadian Student Christian Movement, at this American University Christian Movement event. This, along with the political assassinations of John Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Martin Luther King, Jr (1929 – 1968) and others, ignited an interest in protest songs, especially as recorded by Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014), a Unitarian, Joan Baez (1941 – ) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (1941 – ). It would take some years until I found kindred spirits like Joe Hill (1879 – 1915).

Soon after, I became a Unitarian, and became interested in the music of Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945) and Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907).

Not all musical choices are rational, including an enjoyment of Desmond Dekker (1941 – 2006) & The Aces, Israelites (1968).


In about 1970, I remember meeting a girl I had sat beside in the alto horn section of the New Westminster Junior Concert Band, some years earlier in the 1960s. We ended up drinking coffee at a cafe. She put a song on the jukebox, Play with Fire (1965), by the Rolling Stones, and asked me to listen very carefully to the lyrics. Over fifty years later, I am still trying to interpret her message. I have not seen her since.

Whenever, I think of the band, I also think of a trip to Ellensburg, Washington and a stopover in Seattle at the Green Onion cafe, which invariably brings to mind Booker T[aliafero Jones, (1944 – )] and the M.G.s, with their hit Green Onions (1962). Their Stax sound, named after their recording label, is noted for the interaction/ reverberation of the recording studio, the former Capitol Theater, in Memphis, Tennessee, with the musicians, to produce a deep bass and raw mid-range.

This was very different from the controlled sound produced by Roxy Music. Starting in 1972, all of their albums were purchased as LPs. At this point, I took an interest in art school musicians, where stagecraft/ theatre/ melodrama took precedence over any musical content.

Starting in the mid-1970s, I attempted to broadening my musical horizons with jazz. Influences included Django Reinhardt (1910 – 1953), Dizzy Gillespie (1917 – 1993), Miles Davis (1926 – 1991), Herbie Hancock (1940 – ) and Chic Corea (1941 – 1921). This, in part, was because many of the local Baha’is had an interest in jazz.

At about the same time musical tastes were being influenced by film. Notable examples include: Michelangelo Antonioni’s (1912 – 2007) Blowup (1966); the musical content of Putney Swope (1969); Issac Hayes (1942 – 2008) and his theme from Shaft (1971),

In 1978 I married Trish, who was an accomplished musician, singing as well as playing the piano and acoustic guitar. In 1979 we travelled to Europe together, taking with us recorders for entertainment. We returned to Vancouver in 1980-03, but departed permanently to Norway in 1980-08. All of our LPs was disposed of in 1980, prior to moving to Norway.

1980s & 1990s

From 1981, various classical music cassettes were purchased. In 1986, we purchased a used CD player. It allowed one to specify and play the first ten tracks. If one wanted to listen to, say, the twelfth track, one would have to specify track 10, then wait until the intervening tracks (10 & 11) were played. After this purchase, much of my musical listening involved CDs. Especially after 1987, Naxos CDs of classical music, were purchased at the rate of one per month. One important work was: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958): Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910). Works by modern British composers were listened to extensively.

1990s and 2000s

Continued investment in Naxos CDs, of classical music, but at a reduced frequency. The last CD was purchased in 2006. One important work from this time period was: Henryk Górecki (1933-2010): Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976). This was first heard in a documentary about a Ford rubber plantation in South America.

From about 2002, work started on digitizing CD content.

Works introduced to me by students included: Smells like Teen Spirit (1991) by Nirvana; Learning to Fly (1991) by Tom Petty (1950 – 2017) and the Heartbreakers; Zombie (1994) by the Cranberries; Tonight, Tonight (1995) by the Smashing Pumpkins, from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. In addition come assorted Finnish symphonic metal bands, such as Nightwish, and a somewhat more diverse list of Norwegian bands, of which the most interesting is Madrugada. In response, I introduced many of them to Mr Oizo = Quentin Dupieux (1974 – ), and Flat Beat (1999), featuring Flat Eric. For those interested, there is also a Flat Beat synth tutorial.

Work at Verdal prison brought me into closer contact with Goth, industrial and related music. In addition, there was considerable interest among inmates, both male and female, in various forms of metal and rock.


Second Flight (2011) by Approaching Nirvana, heard originally as background music on a long forgotten technical video.

My daughter, Shelagh, introduced me to the Lipdub concept in general, and a University of British Columbia lipdub production, soon after it was made in 2011. After failing to encourage students to produce a lipdub to promote their senior secondary school in Leksvik, by showing them several, including a favourite, Lipdub per la independeència de Catalunya (2010), I attempted to encourage them with something less ambitious, and with fewer people, by using Hideaway (2014) by Canadian Kiesza, born Kiesa Rae Ellestad (1989 – ) in Calgary, but of Norwegian ancestry, as inspiration.


Original works and covers by The Iron Cross, a Romanian band, including Fear of the Dark (2020).

YouTube provides a number of synth focused channels such as All My Friends Are Synths, the creative exploits of a slightly deranged Scotsman, Stephen Blythe, and Are Sound Electrik? with shockelectrik audio.

Lebanon-Hanover is more difficult to place musically. Larissa Georgiou = Larissa Iceglass (1988-08-24 – ) and William Morris = William Maybelline (1986-03-15 – ) a dark wave duo, founded in 2010 with roots in Switzerland, Berlin and Newcastle/ Sunderland.

Note: The writing of this weblog post was initially begun on 2021-03-27. It was again edited for publication on 2022-11-09, with additional materials added 2023-01-08.


Kevin Dooley 2016 Anxiety reigns. Note: Dooley states that this is not a drawing, but a photograph/ image of a plastic toy from Mary’s Nativity Scene 2016, straight out of the camera, a Sony RX100 using its watercolor feature.

There are times, when I actually believe that people can learn to cope with stress/ anxiety, and offer myself as an example. To cope with stress, I divide activities into six categories: Routine, Infrequent, Novel, Challenging, Frustrating and Overwhelming. As I approach an activity, I categorize it, as best I can. I have no problems changing a category, should it be necessary. I use the above terms because I can mark each activity I have planned with a single letter category code, without conflicts arising.

The category determines how the activity will be engaged. Routine activities can be performed at any time. The others, including infrequent activities, will be started when I am fresh, usually in the morning. Novel activities require me to write notes about the activity. Challenging activities require me to consult these notes. Frustrating activities require to me consult with another person about the activity, as well as notes. Overwhelming activities, require me to ask others to help.

In this weblog post, I will be looking at these with respect to dealing with some recent computer software and hardware issues, but they also apply to many other areas in life.

Routine Activities

Routine activities are those performed regularly, with little risk of extraordinary situations arising. Typical examples include: updating application and system software, which can occur many times in the course of a year. Some software manufacturers think their updates should take precedence. Thus, I remember one weather broadcast on television that was interrupted because Microsoft had decided that the computer being used to present a weather animation, should be updated, while the animation was being broadcast. I believe companies like Microsoft, now offer their customers the opportunity to specify time slots for updates.

If one is concerned, one can use expired software that is exempt for updates, such as Windows 7 as long as that part of the system is not exposed to the internet. One can also use software with better manners, such as assorted Linux distros. Because routine activities take place so often, there is usually no need to consult a user manual or check list, although pilots, surgeons and others may disagree.

Infrequent Activities

Some routine activity take place infrequently. When the frequency is about once a year, such as a major upgrade of an operating system to a new version, a different approach may be needed.

A typical annual event is the writing and sending out of an annual letter. While writing emails is a routine activity, an annual letter is often sent to many people. Hopefully, everyone has one or more computer address books used for assorted purposes, filled with contact information for family, friends, colleagues and providers of goods and services . One does not send an annual letter to everyone in one’s address book. Instead one makes lists for assorted groups of people. For the residents of Cliff Cottage, one such list involves people to be sent an annual letter in Norwegian. A second list is for those to be sent an annual letter in English. These lists have to be updated annually.

This year I had a strange experience working with these lists. The first one went fine, I was able to add and remove people from it, without any complications. I then waited ten days to work on the second list. By then I had forgotten how to add a person from an address book entry to a list. It did not take long to look up the procedure in the operating manual, and to remember. When working with infrequent activities, it is often appropriate to have a manual or check list available.

Novel Activities

Initial/ novel/ original/ unique activities are those that are being performed for the first time. It is important to write down the sequence of steps used in such activities, so that these notes can be consulted later, if this turns out to be repeated. I have folders of notes on various topics. There is always room in the folder for one more topic. Frequently, I copy then edit instructions from an online source, then paste them into a LibreOffice Writer file, complete with a link to its source. I often edit the file to suit my style of writing, because not every one writes well.

In order to reinstall Windows onto a 2015 Asus AiO computer, I attempted to burn an ISO file onto a USB stick = pendrive = flash drive, from my Linux desktop. This was a routine task, but somewhat irritating, because I had run out of 16 GB USB memory sticks, and felt I was having to waste a 32 GB stick for the installation of an old operating system. Then Linux gave me a warning that the program I had selected was inappropriate for burning a Windows ISO file, and invited me to investigate Ventoy.

I found that Ventoy was an improvement. It allowed multiple ISO files to be installed on a single USB stick. So, I was able to store several: Windows XP, Windows 7, Linux Mint 21.1 with Cinnamon desktop, despite a suspicion that Windows XP will not install from this drive. In the future, I intend to store other Linux flavours for specific purposes on this stick, especially related to CNC control and robotics. Should Mageia ever release a version 9, it will also be included. Then there are other tools, such as GParted (for creating partitions).

From one source, I made appropriate notes about working with Ventoy.

Challenging Activities

An electric vehicle should soon start occupying our carport. Once it arrives, it will have to be fed! The most convenient way is to have a charger in the carport. An Easee Home charging robot was installed 2023-01-04. To control the charger, a smartphone app is required. Installing this app was a challenging experience. There was no problem in downloading or installing the app itself, but it there was a problem opening an account, because a control number failed to arrive.

In the end, I used Easee’s chatbot, and explained the situation. While the chatbot could not offer any solutions, the issue was soon resolved. Easee seemed to have more data about the charger than I expected. They knew who I was, where I lived, even the serial number of the charger, and its pin number. Thus, they were able to open an account for me without me having to do anything.

Frustrating Activities

Recently, Trish and I discovered that our main communication channel, Signal, was disabled on our laptops, because Signal had not been updated. It was still working on our hand-held devices, and on my desktop machine. Signal provided instructions, involving three simple steps, on how to correct this issue. I decided that the most gallant approach was to solve the problem on my laptop, before fixing Trish’s.

After completing these steps, Signal still failed to work, and a message was received that the Linux Mint operating system on my laptop was compromised. Then, and only then, did I ask for advice from my son, who is more experienced than I am working with Linux. He suggested that I uninstall Signal on Trish’s machine, then reinstall it. I followed this advice, and her OS continued to work. Signal accepted the updates, and started working.

The main reason for this problem arose was that I had failed to install TimeShift, a backup and syncronization tool used on Linux systems that protects that system from corruption, by taking incremental snapshots of file system at regular intervals. Should an unfortunate situation arise, TimeShift can roll back the file system. It is the equivalent of System Restore in Windows and Time Machine in Mac OS.

Correcting the errors on my laptop proved to be more challenging. After three failed attempts to reinstall Linux 21 as the operating system, I had to examine what was happening. I had originally used this same USB stick to install Linux Mint on the two new laptops. Then I upgraded them to Linux 21.1. I decided that remnants of the system didn’t want anything to do with Linux Mint 21(.0). Thus, I burned Linux Mint 21.1 onto the stick. This simple change was all that was needed to get the laptop up and running.

Overwhelming Activities

The last situation involving overwhelming activities happened at the end of 2018. In an Email dated 2018-12-30, I admitted to feeling overwhelmed by some imminent digital technology transitions. When I was in my forties, that started in 1988, I had more serious mental health issues related to anxiety and depression. I was not going to allow this to happen again, as I entered my seventies.

  1. Internet changes: a) technology changing from asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) to fiber cable; b) digging a trench, laying then burying forty meters of orange jacket from our property line to our house, Cliff Cottage; c) preparing an indoor wall for placement of a fiber modem. Professionals would then insert the fiber cable into the orange jacket, and put the wiring into the house, and install the modem.
  2. Telephone changes: d) smartphones = hand-held devices replacing a landline; e) transitioning from two different mobile network/ SIM card providers to yet another provider; f) transitioning from two different smartphone models (Huawei 9 Lite & 10 Lite) to a single model from a different company (Xiaomi Pocophone F1).
  3. Server changes: g) technology changing from one server (Asustor AS1004T) to a completely different type of server (retrofitted Dell enterprise rack equipment, with ; h) new server components; i) transitioning from one brand of hard-drive (Western Digital Red) to another brand ( Toshiba N-300); j) transitioning from server access using WiFi to Ethernet cabling throughout the house, including placement of – k) Ethernet (RJ-45) wall sockets, and l) a network of Unify U6 Lite access ports; m) a new server operating system FreeBDS; n) a new file system OpenZFS; o) new server software FreeNAS (now called TrueNAS core).
  4. Printer changes: p) technology changing from inkjet to laser; q) change of supplier from Epson to Canon; r) change from wireless to Ethernet connectivity.
  5. PC changes: s) Transitioning from one laptop (Acer Chromebook 11.5″) to another (Asus Vivobook 14); with a change of operating system from t) Chrome OS to a more familiar Linux Mint.
  6. Media player changes: u) Relocating the media computer and screen; v) accessing the media player via ethernet, rather than WiFi.

Thus, I wanted to alert people close to me, that twenty-two technological changes (a – v) were demanding attention, and asked for help in dealing with them. These fell into six categories:

Then I also commented on other things that to be done, including a need to replace the media player computer. Then added that this would not be happening during the next few months, as the entire computing budget for 2019 has been used up, before we even entered the year.


People can legitimately ask why there were so many changes happening, in such a short space of time? The answers are grouped. Categories 1 to 3 involve changes initiated by others. Categories 4 to 6 increasingly involved my own decisions.

Much of the time a person does not have control over technological choices. Their role is that of a technological bus passenger. At some point they decide to enter that bus and take a ride, not knowing precisely where the route goes, or even where they want to transfer to the next bus. Adventures happen.

For example, we have never had any real options about an internet service provider (ISP). We could either accept ADSL provided over a copper cable network by Telenor, the Norwegian telephone company, or we could use a lower speed, but more expensive local solution, that failed to operate when it was windy, with communications equipment on a tower of Skarnsund bridge. There was no real choice.

Then, Inderøy municipality decided that our rural area would have internet served by fibre cable, provided by our electrical power supplier, Nord-Trøndelag elektrisitetsverk (NTE). We were further told that after it was installed, support for landlines would be terminated, and we would be dependent on smartphones and cellular base stations for telecommunications, including internet, if we didn’t opt in to the fibre solution. Again, there was no real choice.

Some of these transitions felt minor, some felt less so. Most of the transitions went well:

  1. Additional backup onto external hard-drives.
  2. The transition to fiber went well, despite a couple of misunderstandings, where the supplier enrolled us into using numerous television packages, and an internet speed in excess of what we asked for. These were resolved with a telephone call.
  3. The decommissioning of landline equipment.
  4. Installing new SIM cards on new cell phones.
  5. Physically installing hard drives onto the new server.

Some involved assistance that was appreciated:

  1. Copying data from an old phone to a new phone.
  2. Setting up Signal messaging on computers.
  3. Setting up mail servers.
  4. Installation hardware and software on the new server.
  5. Creating new backup procedures on the new server, since the old server was not backing up data properly.
  6. Copying photos from hand-held devices, so they were available on personal computers, and also saved on the server.
  7. Setting up the printer.


When I look at the original floor plan for Cliff Cottage. I don’t understand the placement of anything. I feel the house should have been rotated 90 degrees , counter clockwise, with the kitchen and living room facing the view. It wasn’t, and I have spent the first years of my retirement improving not just the relationship between the house, and the property it sits on, but also changing access between different parts of the house. Among the changes was a better location to access to the living room from the hallway. This was straight forward, but also required the home theatre/ media centre to be moved to a completely different location.

For those who do not know me, I am a sliding/ pocket door junkie. If a conventional door can be replaced with some form of sliding door, it will be replaced. Cliff cottage has seven sliding doors, as well as four sliding doors in the kitchen cabinets. This will increase to thirteen, when the kitchen remodelling is complete.

On 2023-01-13 a 10 year old Acer Revo mini PC computer complete with Windows 7 arrived in the mail. This was acquired to work with a 10 year old 24″ Acer screen, and to work specifically with our household’s library system, BookCAT, with about 4 000 records, and our 35 mm PlusTek OptiFilm 8200i SE slide scanner, and our 4 000 slides. Except, when the computer arrived, I realized that it could be better put to use as a CNC controller in the workshop. I decided that it would be better to use an existing Asus AiO (All in One) computer for the library system and slide scanner. This had had its original Windows system removed, which meant that it needed to have it reinstalled.