Category Archives: My soap box

Climate change & Australia’s National Security

Australia’s current Federal government has been flogging the dead horse of ‘national security’ for a long time now, yet when it comes to Climate Change, they’re incapable of seeing the potential for true national security impacts.

What impacts?

Answer: the refugee crisis looming amongst low-lying pacific nations.

As sea levels rise, many of these small, island nations will either cease to exist altogether, or they will lose so much land mass that their populations will be squeezed past tolerable levels. One of the first to go will be Tuvalu:

Click the photo to be taken to Alltop10.org

As the largest, and emptiest land mass in the region, Australia will have to take responsibility for its share of displaced people. These Refugees won’t be from the other side of the world, they’ll be on our doorstep, and we will have a moral obligation to help.

In the Innerscape trilogy, I forecast that Australia would accept its responsibilities in the region, albeit grudgingly. The way things are going, however, I’m no longer sure we will. But what if we don’t?

If Australia’s government continues denying the impacts of Climate Change, we’re going to be caught without a paddle when reality proves the deniers wrong. There will be refugees, and if we refuse to accept them, our poorer neighbours will not be able to cope. That’s when they will look at our large landmass and tiny population and say “this isn’t right”, “they shouldn’t be allowed to shirk their duty”, “they’re letting us suffer while they live selfish, greedy lives”.

Guess what happens then?

Haven’t we, and our Western allies invaded other countries for similar, ‘humanitarian’ reasons?

For a more detailed analysis of the impacts, please read the article by Chris Barrie on the Conversation Room[Chris Barrie is Honorary Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University]

We have to stop thinking of Climate Change as a ‘choice’. It isn’t. We’re going to be hit from all sides in the not-so-distant future, and only a concerted, united effort with our neighbours will save us.

If the military can see that Climate Change is a problem for national security, why can’t the Liberal National Party?

Meeks

 

 


Drought proofing Australia

Drought is nothing new in Australia. Dorothea McKellar wrote about it in My Country, a poem that I, and all Australians of my generation, learned off by heart in school:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

But last night I saw something that truly shocked me. It was an aerial view of the reservoir of a small town in NSW. The reservoir was half empty, and the water was an unpleasant green.

But that was not what shocked me.

Snuggled up next to the reservoir was a huge tanker. It was pumping water into the reservoir because the town had run dry:

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/7-30/series/0/video/NC1901H153S00

But that was not what shocked me.

What shocked me was the realisation that much of the precious water going into the reservoir would soon begin to evaporate. Even as it was being pumped in, it was starting to evaporate out. And all of Australia’s dams and reservoirs are like that – open to the air, the wind, the sun and the heat. Water wasted by the gigalitre.

Open reservoirs were the only way water could be stored in the past. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It would take money, a terrifying amount of money, and a political will that has not been seen since World War II, but those outdated, primitive reservoirs could be updated into underground water storage units.

It is possible. If we can build concrete swimming pools, and massive damns like the Snowy Hydro scheme, we can build concrete reservoirs for the most threatened, inland towns of Australia. Or perhaps we wouldn’t use concrete at all. Maybe we could repurpose all that plastic waste and use it to line those underground water storage reservoirs.

We could also stop giving away the life blood of our rivers to mates with deep pockets. Our food security relies on irrigation. The water for that irrigation comes from our river systems. But instead of protecting those river systems, we’ve allowed them to be plundered for cash crops like cotton:

Part of why cotton takes up so many nutrients from the soil is its extensive root system. In order for the roots to develop enough to obtain those nutrients, lots of moisture is needed, especially early on.

Could someone explain to me why cotton is being grown [by huge agribusinesses] in an arid country like Australia? Without massive irrigation, taken largely from our rivers and flood plain harvesting, cotton could not possibly survive in inland Australia. Yet it’s happening, and it’s generating huge profits for multinational businesses such as CS Agriculture Pty Ltd:

“….(which owns Cubbie Station) in Australia. Shandong Ruyi is the ultimate shareholder of this new Australian group…”

“Since CS Agriculture took control of Cubbie Station, the struggling cotton property has been transformed by a major reinvestment into the business, including upgrades of water-saving infrastructure…”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/rural-news/2016-06-21/cubbie-ownership-changes/7517058

The ‘water-saving infrastructure’ includes massive damns that harvest flood plain water. I should also point out that Shandong Ruyi is a huge Chinese textile company:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shandong_Ruyi

Australia needs foreign investment, but as one of the most arid countries on Earth, exporting cotton via Shandong Ruyi is akin to exporting our water. In my not-so-humble opinion, that is insane. Allowing this to continue when said export is destroying land and communities in the rest of Australia is…criminal.

Every Australian needs to understand that the flood plains of a river are vitally important to the river and the land, both above and below:

‘The layered sediments of many flood plains can create important aquifers. Clay, sand, and gravel filter water as it seeps downward.’

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/flood-plain/

When you harvest the water of a flood plain, you starve the river and the land. You also starve the towns that historically relied on that river for their water. One such town is Broken Hill.

Broken Hill is not some small country town with a pub and not much else. Broken Hill is a major inland centre, and it too is running out of water. It used to supplement its water from the Darling river, but the Darling is almost dead so a ‘hurry-hurry’ pipeline is being built to the Murray river:

“The Wentworth-Broken Hill pipeline will fix things for Broken Hill, which can no longer rely on the Darling for its water supply. It will also ensure secure water supply for two new mines, Perilya Mines and Hawsons Iron Project.”

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/cry-me-a-river-mismanagement-and-corruption-have-left-the-darling-dry-20180226-p4z1uc.html

Makes you wonder whether the pipeline is actually for the town or the mines…

The biggest problem with the Broken Hill pipeline, however, is that the water it takes from the Murray will impact all the communities south from there, in Victoria. Victorian communities rely on the Murray too, as does South Australia. Allowing the Darling to be destroyed up north in Queensland and northern NSW will have a knock-on effect all the way down the line, with each ‘fix’ creating problems further south.

There is one ‘fix’ I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s desalination. We built a desalination plant here in Victoria, after the Millennium Drought. That desal plant may stop Melbourne from running dry, but what of the inland?

Australia currently has six desalination plants – one for South-East Queensland, two in Western Australia near Perth, one near Sydney [NSW], one for Melbourne [Victoria] and one for Adelaide [South Australia]. All of these desalination plants are on the coast…dah…because they make fresh water out of seawater. All of the communities supplied by those desalination plants are on the coast as well.

Now imagine how much it would cost to pump water inland from those desalination plants…

All of Australia’s water problems are of our own making, and could be fixed properly, but it would take serious nation building by a succession of Federal governments. It hasn’t happened.

Now ask yourself this: if we can’t fix the problems we created, what are we going to do when climate change truly starts to bite?

Sadly, the answer to that question appears to be ‘nothing’. Successive governments have sat on their hands, denying that we’re destroying the rivers, denying that climate is changing, denying that anything needs to be done. And we, the voting public have allowed them to get away with it because we’re scared our cushy lifestyles will become a little less cushy.

I truly hope I’m no longer around when life stops being ‘cushy’ and becomes a fight for survival.

Meeks


American politics, Australian echo

The structure of US politics is very different to what we know in Australia, but I read something today that really struck a chord:

If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing.

That quote comes from a joint editorial published in The Washington Post. It was written by three Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination. They put aside their own personal ambitions and political differences, to protest what they see as the sabotaging of democracy in America.

For Australians who are not familiar with the American system, candidates within each political party compete publicly with each other to determine who will be the best candidate to fight the actual presidential election. Usually this is done via state primaries.

But not this time. Four US states have cancelled their primaries on the basis that Donald Trump ‘will’ win in a landslide so why waste the money? But it’s not about the money. Each of those states will vote for Trump to be the presidential candidate without consulting any of the voters in that state. As primaries are a core step in the US electoral process, this is a massive departure from normal democracy.

You can, and should, read the entire post by Jill Dennison to understand how truly disruptive this development is:

https://jilldennison.com/2019/09/14/three-republicans-speak-up/

Sadly, the Australian experience of politics has been echoing that of the US since the sacking of Kevin Rudd in 2010. Our political system is very different, but almost everything that’s happened in the last decade has been about one party or the other giving democracy the finger in order to be re-elected.

  • Rudd sacked in favour of Gillard
  • Gillard sacked in favour of Rudd
  • Tony Abbot sacked in favour of Malcolm Turnbull
  • Turnbull sacked in favour of Scott Morrison

To be fair, in the Australia system, parties choose who will lead them into an election. Parties also have the right to choose someone else to lead them, even in the middle of an election cycle, so the revolving door of Prime Ministers is ‘legal’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Minister_of_Australia

But is the letter of the law abusing the spirit of the law?

Much of the nitty gritty of Australian politics is ruled by convention rather than laws laid down by the Constitution. As such, our Prime Minister is important to the voting public, but isn’t actually granted special status in the Constitution. That said, convention or perhaps the rule of common courtesy has meant that once elected, a sitting Prime Minister is not ousted by his own party [note: I’m no historian so I’d welcome clarification of this].

When Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard – to win the looming election – many voters who liked Rudd and voted him in, felt they had been robbed. In the interests of honesty, I have to say that I’m one of them. Whatever the constitution may say, the Prime Minister who leads his [or her] party into an election is seen by the electorate as having their vote. Ousting that leader may be legal, but it takes something fundamental away from voters. And it undermines the concept of 1 person, 1 vote. Of course that concept has been undermined in a great many other ways, but this post is about the machinations within parties.

Personality politics is not a good thing, in my humble opinion, but once a political party is voted in because of the popularity of its chosen ‘face’, that face should remain until voted out in the next election. The only exception to that is if the ‘face’ commits an actual crime. In the wake of all this political turmoil, both major parties have created rules of their own that prohibit the sacking of a sitting Prime Minister. It should be noted, however, that these new rules apply only to the party concerned. The constitution has not been amended.

Constitution aside, I believe that having a revolving door of Prime Minsters for the sake of political expediency – i.e. just to get re-elected – is cynical and undermines democracy. More importantly, it raises the perception of popularity above the facts of policy.

Sadly, this seems to be the way Western democracy is headed. I hope I don’t live to see democracy wither and die completely.

Meeks


Sometimes you just can’t get a break…

I’m writing this post because I simply can’t believe the perfect storm of bad luck that’s hit me recently. It’s type or scream…

So, less than a week ago I received a traffic infringement notice. I’d been fined $207 for doing 65 km in a 60 km zone. Then today, I received a letter from VicRoads saying my car registration had expired on July the 16th, and I had until October to pay or my registration would be cancelled. Please note, my registration is not currently cancelled.

I was still going what the…? when I opened the second letter and almost had heart failure. It was a second infringement notice for being caught speeding while my registration was expired. This time the fine is for $826. WTF????

I immediately rang Vic Roads and was told that with short term renewals, they send me a letter 6 weeks before my registration expires, and a reminder 10 days after it’s expired. Had I chosen to be notified by email, they apparently send three reminders prior to registration expiring…

For those who have no idea what a short term renewal is, it’s simply a way of spreading car registration payments over four quarters instead of paying a huge lump sum once a year. As someone on a full age pension – roughly $900 every two weeks – being able to spread the payments evenly seemed like a wonderful idea. Except that four quarterly payments means four renewal notices per year. Four chances for that renewal notice to go astray.

The last renewal notice I received was in April. I paid it. I did not receive one for July. I did, however, receive the reminder sent 10 days after my registration expired. Guess what though? The speeding infringement was dated July 19. 3 days after the expiry I knew nothing about and 7 days before the warning letter arrived.

I was angry over the speeding fine because I know the spot where it must have happened. It’s either going up a very steep hill or doing down a very steep hill. If I was caught going up that hill I had probably taken a run at it; 30 year old Corolla’s need a bit of help. If it was going down the hill, you’re going to pick up speed even if you ride the brake. I imagine the company that has the contract to run the speed camera knows full well that that particular spot is as close to entrapment as you can legally get. And no, apparently the police don’t man the speed cameras any more.

So, a system that’s meant to make life easier for people on the lowest incomes has become a loaded gun just waiting to go off.

I honestly don’t know what to do. The Offspring wants me to fight it in court but…it’s my word against that of a whole system. I say I didn’t get the renewal notice; the system says I did. Or maybe it’s the hit or miss nature of it? I want to fight it, but what if I end up having to pay even more?

Apologies everyone. I just needed to vent. 😦

Meeks


Coal Seam Gas – destroying the Great Artesian Basin?

I stumbled on a tweet this morning.

It included this video.

Curious, I watched the video.

Shocked, I took a screenshot and added a bright yellow arrow to highlight the bubble of gas that has just been set alight. What you see under the flames is the water flowing from a bore drilled into the Great Artesian Basin [GAB for short].

This is the complete video:

Why is this so shocking? Because without that bore water, much of the food production in the arid parts of Australia simply would not be possible:

Prior to European occupation, waters of the GAB discharged through mound springs, many in arid South Australia. These springs supported a variety of endemic invertebrates (molluscs, for example), and supported extensive Aboriginal communities and trade routes.[8] After the arrival of Europeans, they enabled early exploration and faster communications between southeastern Australia and Europe via the Australian Overland Telegraph Line.[8] The Great Artesian Basin became an important water supply for cattle stationsirrigation, and livestock and domestic usage, and is a vital life line for rural Australia.[9] To tap it, water wellsare drilled down to a suitable rock layer, where the pressure of the water forces it up, mostly without pumping.

Quote taken from Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Artesian_Basin

By Tentotwo – Basin extent: Geoscience Australia Revised Great Artesian Basin Jurassic-Cretaceous boundaryCoastline, rivers, state borders: Natural Earth dataset, 1:50MShaded relief: Kenneth Townsend, Shaded Relief Archive, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26822532

I know that everything in life is a balancing act between opposite and competing priorities, but destroying Peter to pay Paul is simply insane.

Yes, we do need gas to generate instant electricity until our power generation switches fully to renewables and storage [wind, solar, batteries]. But we also need to eat. If the water goes, so will much of inland Australia.

What makes this all so much worse is that we wouldn’t need to extract coal seam gas from the GAB if our offshore gas hadn’t been sold overseas for peanuts. Industry, AEMO*, and Federal and State governments are all to blame: Industry for not giving a shit about anything except shareholder profits, AEMO for allowing Industry to game the bloody system, and governments for putting short term gains ahead of long term planning.

When are we going to accept that Industry will NEVER self-regulate for the good of society as a whole?

It’s like leaving the door to the hen house wide open and expecting the fox to leave the chickens alone. Really?

Yet isn’t that exactly what all Western governments do? They allow multinational corporations to self-regulate and then go ‘tut tut’ when said corporations engage in shonky business practices.  And let’s not sugar coat reality: the Global Financial Crisis was caused by criminals on Wall Street. Closer to home we have the findings of the Banking Royal Commission. Apparently we have white collar criminals in the ANZ and Commonwealth Bank too. And then, of course, we have the thieves fronting social media and hiding behind the scenes in the ‘ad networks’. They just spy on us and steal our personal data for profit…

In a balanced ecology, you need foxes as well as chickens, but it is the role of government to protect the chickens from the foxes. Western governments are failing, in spectacular fashion. And in the process, democracy itself is under attack as never before. If we don’t stop the rot now, future generations will not be living in a democracy, they’ll be living in a corporate state, as peons**.

Meeks

* The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is responsible for operating Australia’s largest gas and electricity markets and power systems

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peon


Powerline fiasco in Nth Warrandyte

Residents in Nth Warrandyte were without power for 18 hours today. We were without power for 18 hours today, and you’d better believe that we were not amused. But the problem goes deeper than simple inconvenience. The powerlines that keep failing are these  super-dooper new ones:

As you can see from the photo, the new powerlines are much thicker than the old ones. They are also supposed to be much safer than the old ones, and therefore less likely to start bushfires in this highly bushfire-prone area.

Of course, the safest option would be to put all powerlines underground. But that would be expensive, wouldn’t it? So instead we get this half-baked alternative that keeps breaking down.

How do I know the problem is in the new powerlines? I know, because Nth Warrandyte is pretty much the only area in which these new lines have been completed. Nth Warrandyte also happens to be the only area where these long, unexpected, unplanned power outages seem to occur.

Don’t get me wrong – we’ve always had power outages in Nth Warrandyte, for as long as we’ve been here, but never like this. And never accompanied by bangs in the middle of the night. The Offspring saw and heard three explosions last night, just before midnight. Each one briefly lit up the night sky… from the exact area where the problems have been occurring.

The utility company in charge of our powerlines and electricity infrastructure is SPAusnet. This is the same company whose infrastructure may have caused the destruction of homes in Warrandyte in 2014.

The Offspring spoke to the utility today and described the explosions. The response was that ‘it was possums’.

Puleeeeeze. Possums don’t go ‘bang’. And even if it were possums, that would mean that the new, super thick, super ‘safe’ powerlines are even less capable of withstanding the ravages of nature around here. Not exactly reassuring when we’re facing a potentially catastrophic fire season in January/February.

The one bright spot is that the bridge renovations are mostly complete. That gives Nth Warrandyte residents one extra lane across the Yarra River in an emergency. The new Traffic lights are great as well, and both of these measures make living here just that little bit safer. Thanks Daniel Andrews!

Pity SPAusnet can’t get the powerlines right. I wonder how much it’ll cost the company if the new powerlines cause a fire, and they’re hit with a class action suit by all the residents of Nth Warrandyte? I’ll bet that going underground would be seen as ‘cheaper’. Then again, SPAusnet only paid out $648 million dollars in out of court compensation payments after Black Saturday, so perhaps not…

Not happy

Meeks

 


7 year retrospective

Good morning all. Apparently, it’s my anniversary. According to WordPress, I started blogging on this day, exactly seven years ago. 🙂

To be honest, all I remember about that day, and that first post, is that I didn’t expect anyone to read it. Nevertheless, I decided that if I really did need to have a blog [as all the pundits said], it would be about my passions rather than just ‘marketing’. So I dusted off my soapbox, hopped on and let rip about climate change.

Sadly, little has changed between then and now. In case you’re interested, this is my very first post, dated December 29, 2011:

# # #

When I first started writing science fiction, I was aware of climate change, but I blush to say I did not take it very seriously. I assumed that global warming would be ‘fixed’, like the hole in the ozone layer, before it could become a genuine cause for concern. Oops…

Fast forward ten years and climate change is one of the hottest topics in the media. Thanks to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, climate change has become a part of mainstream consciousness. Yet despite multiple summits – Durban being the latest – and enough talk to float a thousand zeppelins, we seem to be further from a genuine solution than ever before. Everyone knows that the world should move to a low carbon economy, but no-one wants to suffer in the process. Understandable, but just a tad short-sighted given how much suffering there is likely to be if we don’t.

So who are the protagonists in this tragic comedy? Well, in terms of sheer numbers, ordinary people like you and me are at the top of the list. We don’t understand the science – no surprise there – so we only know what the media choose to tell us, and the media are having a field day playing both sides against the middle.

On the one hand they are gleefully telling us about island nations like Tuvalu that are already beginning to disappear beneath rising sea levels, but on the other hand, they are also telling us that scientists are divided about whether climate change is real or not.

To keep the pot boiling, the media give equal air time [and validity] to crackpots  like Lord Monckton who know less about the science than I do. They also keep us guessing by all the things they don’t say. For example when they talk about dissent in the scientific ranks they fail to mention that most of the dissenting scientists are not in the climate change discipline.

However the strangest aspect of the media coverage, is their lack of interest in ferreting out who is paying whom to say what.  I have yet to see a single mainstream article that names climate change skeptics who are paid thousands of dollars per day to ‘consult’ with the very industries that have the most to gain from raising doubt about the science.

These industries  [petroleum and coal spring to mind but they are not the only ones] are using the exact same tactics that Big Tobacco used so successfully to drag the smoking ‘debate’ out for thirty years or more. They are funding genuine scientists, as well as those with no credentials whatsoever, to raise doubt in the minds of governments and ordinary citizens alike in order to delay action on climate change for as long as possible. These delaying tactics translate into profit for them, and helpless confusion for the rest of us.

And the media either can’t or won’t report it.

I am realistic enough to know that libel laws make this kind of reporting difficult, however I can’t help thinking that a certain amount of editorial gagging is also going on. After all, the media is now run by a few, very large, very powerful media barons who have connections to other equally powerful corporate players, and all of them have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo [business as usual].

Little wonder then that ordinary people are confused. But what of governments? Surely they should be better informed than we are?

The problem with governments all over the world is that they are run by politicians who have all the same failings as ordinary people. Some are stupid, some are greedy, some are self-centred and ambitious, and some are simply short-sighted. They know that climate change is real and they know that hard decisions will have to be taken if we are to avoid the worst of the consequences climate change will bring, but they are afraid of what will happen now if they try to do anything. Millions of people are already out of work, and the industries that used to employ them are tottering on the brink of collapse. Surely now is not the time to slap them with a carbon tax. Surely now is not the time to insist that they clean up their act. Surely now is not the time to rock the boat.

Or is it?

Perhaps I have spent too long playing with plot lines, but it seems to me that this is a perfect time for Darwin’s theory of natural selection to kick in. I say we should let the deadwood die instead of propping it up with financial assistance that simply ends up in the pockets of those who caused the mess in the first place.

And while the market is sorting out which companies are the fittest,  government support can be given to  all the new, emerging, low carbon industries that have been starved of funding for so long.

Let’s reward these new industries for being innovative and efficient. Let’s reward them for being lean and mean. Let’s allow them to move into the spaces left by the old dinosaurs. Let’s allow them to revive our flagging economies, and in the process give jobs to those people prepared to learn the relevant new skills.

Yes, there will be disruptions and yes, we may have to adjust our standard of living a little, but surely that is better than suddenly waking up to find that the global markets have collapsed completely because every nation on earth is threatened by rising sea levels, crop failures, famine, floods, fires, drought, disease and all the other lovely things nature can throw at us?

I love the good things in life as much as anyone, so I too I like things the way they are now. Nonetheless, if things must change then I’d rather get used to those changes gradually. And I’d rather have some choice in the matter.

– If  power production is part of the problem [as it is] then I’d rather pay a competitive price for solar panels than keep on  paying for dirty power.

– If petrol driven cars are part of the problem [as they are] then let me choose to buy a hybrid or electric car instead [which I can then charge from those lovely solar panels I put in].

– If shipping food from one end of the globe to the other is part of the problem then let me choose to eat only food that is in season and grown locally.

Adjusting to change does not have to be horrendous. Those who have money only have to change their priorities. Those who do not have money should get assistance, and most importantly re-training opportunities so they can take advantage of the new jobs the new industries will bring.

A smooth transition is possible, but only if we get our collective heads out of the sand, and only if we recognize that helping the most vulnerable amongst us is not charity but an investment in the future.

As a writer I can see the possibilities for a better, brighter future, but only time will tell whether we make the transition smoothly, or fall in a heap as a species.

As a human being I’m hoping we don’t go the way of the real dinosaurs, but as a writer I have to acknowledge that at the moment, an end-of-the-world scenario is more likely.

# # #

Thank you to all my online friends. You’ve made the last seven years fun. I hope the next seven are even better!

-hugs-

Meeks


Microsoft Windows 7 update – ‘known issue’ never resolved

Warning: technical post with rant.

Because I’m a baby geek, I have my Windows Updates set to notify but not install. This gives me the chance to look at all the updates and decide which ones to install and which ones to ‘hide’.

Why bother?

Because of ‘known issues’ such as this one:

 

There is an issue with Windows and a third-party software that is related to a missing file (oem<number>.inf). Because of this issue, after you apply this update, the network interface controller will stop working.

Not ‘may stop working’ but ‘will stop working’. Ut oh.

Note: a ‘known issue’ is a problem introduced into the system by the update that the Microsoft developers couldn’t fix in time for that update. The problem with the ‘network interface controller’ [lovingly known as NIC] not working is that your internet connection stops working too.

Most of these ‘known issues’ get fixed as part of the next round of updates, so it pays not to be an early adopter. Sometimes, however, a ‘known issue’ comes with a workaround, or a fix. The fix for the ‘known issue’ with the NIC is this:

  1. To locate the network device, launch devmgmt.msc; it may appear under Other Devices.

  2. To automatically rediscover the NIC and install drivers, select Scan for Hardware Changes from the Action menu.

a. Alternatively, install the drivers for the network device by right-clicking the device and choosing Update. Then choose Search automatically for updated driver software or Browse my computer for driver software.

I’m not a complete n00b when it comes to my computer, and I do know how to install drivers, but it seems to me that something is missing from step 1. Where am I supposed to launch ‘devmgmt.msc’ from? I suspect it’s the Run command line but I’m not sure.

The alternative might be easier as I think I know where to find the device listing, but if the old driver has been corrupted during the ‘problem’, I have no idea what driver the pc will re-install.

Will I have to dig out the very old motherboard setup disk which I may or may not be able to find?

Or will I have to carry my pc down to the repair shop to get someone more knowledgeable to ‘fix’ the update problem for me?

For all these reasons, I have not installed that particular update, but Microsoft continues to sneak it in under each successive optional ‘quality rollup’. It’s become so ridiculous that I just have to look at the size of the update – 229.2 MB – to know what’s in it.

When I first started ignoring this nasty update, I did so because I expected Microsoft to resolve this ‘known issue’ in much the same way as they resolve most other ‘known issues’. Better late than never, right?

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no intention of resolving this particuler issue. Or perhaps they can’t. Just for fun, I followed the link to More Information today and followed the trail of updates back as far as March 13, 2018 before I gave up. The issue with the NIC, and it’s nasty fix, were repeated in each and every update.

So now I’m wondering what happened to other Windows 7 users out there. Did they all install the original nasty update, fix their pc’s and move on? Or was there a tsunami of outrage that I missed?

I’m never going to install this update until Microsoft resolves the issue because this is a problem of their own making, and no company is so big that it should be allowed to get away with such obvious cheating.

Not happy,

Meeks

 


#WordPress – new vs old

I’ve been blogging with WordPress since December, 2011, so I still have access to the old WP dashboard. I still prefer the old WP dashboard… because it works, but today I thought I’d give the ‘new’ interface a try.

The task: to find the shortlink [abbreviated URL] for one of my older posts.

I found the post in question [an interesting journey in its own right], and then went looking for the shortlink command:

[Click the screenshot to see the full sized image]

It wasn’t under any of the options on the menu to the right, so where was it? I knew it had to be there somewhere and kept looking.

I finally found the shortlink feature…hidden behind this tiny, clear-as-mud icon :

…with an even clearer context sensitive description of ‘Edit post URL’

Now, I didn’t want to edit the URL, I wanted to copy it, but for lack of a better option, I clicked the icon. A popup appeared with the option of copying the post URL. Eureka!

This is what the URL looks like when it’s pasted into the address bar of a browser:

Not exactly short, but at least I found it… :/

Now, let’s compare the new version with the old. The screenshot below is from the old dashboard interface:

As you can see, the feature I want is clearly labelled…in words, shock horror.

When I click ‘Get Shortlink’ this is what happens:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a shortlink. If you use Twitter like I do, the difference between the two URLs couldn’t be more stark. The ‘new’ version is long, the ‘old’ version is short. Now, you can get a ‘short’ URL by using the online app ‘Tiny URL’, but why bother when you already have the option in WP itself?

I’m all for progress. I’m all for software interfaces being pitched to the newest of users; giving them lots of help is only fair because they’re the ones who need it the most. I even like nice, clean interfaces where there’s little clutter to distract the eye. Unfortunately, the current WordPress interface ticks only one of those boxes – the lack of clutter.

I know they say that one picture is worth a thousand words, but the WordPress GUI [graphical user interface] is not empowering new users because:

  1. Advanced, and not-so-advanced features are hidden behind icons that have no intrinsic meaning – i.e. the icon doesn’t look like the thing it’s meant to represent.
  2. This results in users not even knowing what is possible,
  3. Learning to associate a random looking icon with a particular function requires a great deal of trial and error on the part of the user,
  4. Learning by trial and error involves making mistakes,
  5. Making mistakes takes curiosity and a great deal of courage,
  6. Most new users are terrified of making mistakes, therefore they don’t venture past the functions that are ‘obvious’,
  7. Obvious functions usually involve words with which new users are already familiar.

I’m not sure if this is still a buzzword amongst the young but…fail, WordPress, fail.

Teaching theory

I’ve been teaching both children and adults for a very long time, and the one thing I know for certain is that humans of all ages learn best when new material is linked to old material.

For example, if I wanted to teach someone the difference between a post and a page [on a blog], I might say that a page is like a billboard because it’s permanent, whereas a post is more like an article in a newspaper – i.e. constantly changing. The analogies don’t have to be perfect, they simply have to tap into something the user already knows. Once the similarities are established, it’s much easier to learn about the differences.

So how does this teaching theory relate to the WordPress GUI? It doesn’t, and that’s the problem. The new GUI makes one piece of new information dependent upon a second piece of new information, and that usually leads to poor learning outcomes.

I can only assume that the WordPress GUI is aimed at very young people who may already be familiar with certain symbols from their use of mobile phones. But where does that leave the older user, or those who use their blogs on pc’s and laptops rather than mobile phones? Come to think of it, does anyone actually pick out the words of a post on a mobile phone? I can’t think of anything more tedious.

Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Now I’m off to use old fashioned words to write another how-to book.

cheers

Meeks


Profiting from the ‘war on waste’

I rarely watch commercial TV and almost never during the morning, but today I did, and it made me hopping mad. I don’t know the name of the show as I only tuned in when the panel started arguing about shopping bags, but essentially, one guy was being very vocal about how great the new ‘multi use’, plastic shopping bag initiative was. Another guy was making the point that it was a pointless exercise because the bags were still made of plastic AND Woolworths was now charging for them as well.

I don’t have a picture of the new, you-beaut plastic shopping bags [because I refuse to buy any], however I think most of us know what they look like. They’re thicker and look suspiciously like the bags we used to get shoes and other jazzy apparel in.

Yes, these bags are a bit bigger and yes, they are a bit stronger too, but they’re still plastic. Worse, they’re made of a plastic that is even harder to get rid of than the so-called single-use bags. I do have a picture of those:

They are ugly, and a menace and impossible to recycle…but they can be re-used. I use at least some of mine as rubbish bin liners in the kitchen [in Nillumbik we have to sort waste into 3 bins]. I also use them to pick up dog poop and other nasty things, thereby saving on plastic gloves as well. At the end of the day, however, these plastic shopping bags still end up in landfill, so I’m all in favour of getting rid of them. The big problem is: what do we replace them with?

Greenies bring their own heavy duty shopping bags which look something like this:

These are fine, in theory, but hands up how many of you forget to take them with you when you go shopping?

I have about 10 of these stupid bags – in the house, in the boot, even on the back seat of the car. D’you think I remember to take them? Nope.

“I just need to pop into the supermarket for milk and eggs…”

Yeah right. I’ve yet to leave a supermarket without at last four bags of unplanned necessities. And you guessed it…they’re in grey plastic shopping bags.

It’s not that I don’t want to do the right thing for the environment, I do. But I’d really love to know why this debate has been hijacked by the supermarkets and the plastic bag manufacturers?

Am I the only old[er] person who remembers string bags that scrunch up into next to nothing? And how about those heavy duty paper shopping bags?

I admit paper bags don’t last as long as the plastic ones, old or new, but when paper becomes unusable, it can be recycled, or used to start a fire, or thrown into the compost where it really will decompose. In fact, if we’re talking about paper, how about using up some of our recycled paper to make paper bags? All kinds of paper bags. What’s the point of zeroing in on plastic shopping bags when almost every single items that goes in those bags is also wrapped in yet more plastic?

Can’t be done? Bull$hit. From memory, the green grocer in Eltham [next to Coles] provides customers with the option of using small paper bags instead of clear plastic bags. And IGA in Warrandyte is selling heavy duty shopping bags made from paper. Each bag costs 10c,  and is surprisingly durable. Wet things will put a hole in the bottom of the bag, but for them, you can use these:

The dark blue plastic lump next to the cup-and-saucer is a plastic shopping bag. Yes, I know, but bear with me. I bought 2 of them a couple of days ago from the Eltham 2 Dollar shop. I’d gone in there to ask about old-fashioned string bags [they are trying to order some in for me], and decided to make do with these tiny plastic ones in the interim.

When you open them out, they look like this:

Each one of these bags can take a heck of a lot of shopping, yet will fold up into a package small enough to fit into a pocket. And that’s exactly where I keep mine, in the pockets of my hooded winter jacket. As I wear this jacket whenever I leave the house, it means I now have two re-usable shopping bags with me at all times. No more old lady memory. If I pop into a supermarket for milk and eggs, I’ll always have a bag to put them in.

Oh, and one more thing, when you shop with a trolley, why put fruit and veg into clear plastic bags? Small things like fresh peas or green beans I can understand, but apples, potatoes, lettuce etc can sit quite happily in the trolley without any packaging at all. And once you’ve paid for them, they can all get thrown into a shopping bag. If you’re worried about loose fruit and veg falling out of the shopping bag, just tie the handles.

And people…there is no excuse for buying fruit and veg in polystyrene ‘trays’ with plastic wrap over the top. Seriously.

I’m all for the war on waste, but I fear it’s become a trendy ‘fad’ that will disappear after a few months of inconvenience. The problem is real and has to be tackled realistically. And that means there is no room for purists. Convenience will always be an issue. Poor memory will be one as well. We need to address the worst case scenario and find solutions that everyone can live with. String bags are one. Tiny, foldup plastic bags are another. Durable cloth bags and paper bags should be readily available as well.

The one thing that should not be promoted is heavy duty plastic because it’s worse than the problem it’s trying to solve. And no, supermarkets should not be making a profit out of our desire to make this world a better place for our kids and their kids.

Get real Australia

Meeks

 


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