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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- Printer changes: p) technology changing from inkjet to laser; q) change of supplier from Epson to Canon; r) change from wireless to Ethernet connectivity.
- 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.
- 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:
- Additional backup onto external hard-drives.
- 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.
- The decommissioning of landline equipment.
- Installing new SIM cards on new cell phones.
- Physically installing hard drives onto the new server.
Some involved assistance that was appreciated:
- Copying data from an old phone to a new phone.
- Setting up Signal messaging on computers.
- Setting up mail servers.
- Installation hardware and software on the new server.
- Creating new backup procedures on the new server, since the old server was not backing up data properly.
- Copying photos from hand-held devices, so they were available on personal computers, and also saved on the server.
- 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.