XP and the End of Days

End of days. Sounds like the world crashing down on our heads, doesn’t it? But in this case, all it signifies is that Microsoft is discontinuing support of its XP operating system. To hear tech people tell about it, it is the end of days. So many people are using this supposedly outdated system, that running a computer using Windows XP is a PUBLIC HEALTH RISK! Those outdated systems CAN BE USED TO INFECT OTHER SYSTEMS! They are a danger by becoming a part of a system of bots that ATTACK OTHERS online!

Yep, the end of days is here. And yet, how often have we heard the same old story? At the beginning, computers were called the devil’s work. The spread of computer technology was hailed as the end of civilization as we know it. The millennium bug was supposed to usher in an age of chaos. The current Heartbleed Vulnerability is supposed to make us defenseless against theft of personal information. And now the end of support for Windows XP puts us all at risk.

I suppose the risk factor is true. It is a matter of fact that the spread of computer technology brought massive changes to the world. The millennium bug did take one vast chunk of time to fix, averting disaster at the last minute. And there are always vulnerabilities in computer code that puts us at risk. That’s why we have constant updates to our systems, our browsers, the programs we use — to repair those vulnerabilities.

Apparently, what makes the XP problem so terrible is that more than 30% of personal computers still utilize that particular operating system. Microsoft obviously has never heard of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why else would they have followed up a program that worked, that people loved, with the excoriated Vista? But then, you don’t get to be one of the richest people in the world by embracing the status quo. Some people believe ending support for XP is Microsoft’s way of forcing all those customers to upgrade their systems, but the timing stinks since the newest system, Windows 9, won’t be available for a few more months, so people will be forced to buy soon-to-be-outdated systems.

Still, with so many people hanging on to XP, some because they trust the system, some because they can’t afford to upgrade, there will be plenty of support for “fixes” from outside sources — for a fee, I’m sure. 32% of all PCs is one huge mass of power.

I suppose I should worry about XP, but frankly, I’m more worried about my own operating system. I’m one of the few who have Vista who actually like it, though to be honest, it’s way too powerful for my needs. It’s geared to run the entertainment center for an entire household, and all I use it for is to run my rapidly aging laptop. I can already sense the doom for Vista. If support for XP has ended, can Vista be far behind? They have already stopped upgrading IE for Vista. IE9 is the best I can do, and there are so many bugs in the browser, it’s impossible to use at times. (For example, it keeps trying to open Adobe reader, and since the newer Adobe readers don’t seem to work with Vista, I have an outdated version of that, too, and it takes forever to load the page and the reader. Strangely, the reader has nothing to do with the web page, which adds to the absurdity.) Of course I also have Firefox and Google Chrome, but both of those browsers have features I don’t like and lack ones I do, so I’m never quite sure which one to use. I often have all three open (which is probably a technological mistake, but so far it’s the best I can do).

When Microsoft retires support for Vista, no one but me will care since most people have already updated their systems. There won’t be any furor, no rhetoric about end of times. Just a quiet sigh while I try to figure out what to do about the matter.

IGW_XP_EndOfDaysGraphic_V2

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Ah, the Small Joys of Life!

A few days ago I ranted about my experience with this area’s designated communications company, and the hassle the representative gave me when they called to tell me some upgraded equipment would be here on Thursday. It seemed important to them that I know the exact date, yet after all that frustration on both our parts, they got the day wrong. The equipment came today. Wednesday. Not a problem, of course, just ironic considering their unpleasantness.

Installation was supposed to take only a few minutes, but wise in the ways of technology updates, I waited until the afternoon when I had many free hours. And I needed them all. Setting up the equipment was easy. I just followed the directions. The hardest part was in moving the couch to access the cable connection. The next hardest part was figuring out which power cord went to the router and which to the modem since neither cord they sent matched the image on the instructions. (I don’t know why I need a router when I didn’t have one bcomputerefore, unless the router was somehow part of the old modem.) Still, my guess seemed to work because all the appropriate lights came on. I even connected my computer to the wireless network despite their having given me two different sets of passwords and network IDs. And then all my efforts came screeching to a halt. My computer didn’t recognize the connection, or maybe the connection didn’t recognize my computer. Every time I tried to open a browser, I got an error message saying they hadn’t sent a package and to call the communication company.

Of course, the representative didn’t know what was wrong, either. She made me reinstall everything. (Luckily, it was just hardware I had to deal with, and hardware is easy —simply a matter of unplugging cords and plugging them in again.) In the end, after many different suggestions and attempts to connect to the internet, she told me to try restarting the computer, and that did the trick.

Although this updated equipment is supposed to make my computer run faster when on the internet, it seems the same to me. Of course, my computer is aged as computers go — more than 7-years-old — but still, there should have been some difference, especially since I added extra memory not too long ago. I’m just glad it doesn’t run slower, which is what happened after the last upgrade.

Despite the nuisance of the experience, I’m smiling as I write this blog. I learned something fun from it. Because of getting two different sets of login information, I could see a pattern in how they came up with passwords. joyfultuba265 was one. jaggedtomato193 was another. (Well, no it wasn’t. I’m not about to plaster my password all over the internet, though I don’t suppose it would matter. It only would work if you were camped outside my father’s house, and if you’re so desperate for free wifi that you would do such a thing, then be my guest.)

It used to be that people were cautioned not to use whole words for passwords, but recently I read that you should. That new decryption programs seemed geared more for nonsense. (Like those riddles where you rack your brain for a solution to no avail, and when someone tells you the answer, it’s so simple you feel like an idiot for not catching on, especially since your five-year-old came up with the answer hours ago.) Either way, from now on when I need a password, I’ll have fun with it. brokenapple964. crookedcucumber157. sillysink414. bananaunt762.

Ah, the small joys of life!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Rant About the Idiocies of Corporate Monopolies

I am not one to waste my blog time ranting about the idiocies of corporate monopolies, but at the moment I feel like ranting. (Feel free to head out and do something more interesting than listening to me. Like watching a pot boil or eating a liverwurst sandwich.)

The other day my father got a bill from Charter Communication that reflected a $50 increase in his monthly bundled rate. When I called them to find out what was going on, they said that his contract had expired, so the rates defaulted to the normal rates. I asked if they needed him to sign a new contract so he could get a lower rate, and phonethey said no, that their new rates were lower than his old rates, and they would just switch him over to the new normal rates.

By this time, I was thoroughly confused, so I asked why they hadn’t just automatically given him the lower normal rate. Their oh so logical response: “Because we couldn’t get into the account to change it.” But they could change it to the higher normal rate? Yep. That makes sense. (Apparently, their normal rates are whatever the representative decides. A friend tried to find out what her new rate would be, and she and her husband were each given three different figures.)

They also said my father was eligible for an equipment upgrade — a faster router and modem. I’m all for that. Some sites, including one of my email sites, have so many ads and videos going at once, that it takes forever to load the page. They ended the call by telling me I’d have the package in a week, which means it will come on Thursday.

Just now I received an automated phone call from Charter. They said there was a problem with my recent upgrade and they had an important message for me. I waited for a couple of minutes for a live representative to come on the line, and the first thing she asked me for was the phone number. Huh? They called me and didn’t know what phone number they called? (Her explanation, “It’s an automated system,” wasn’t much of an explanation, but it’s the only one she offered.)

I don’t know the phone number here — I never call it. And I have no need to know it since I never give it out. My father is 97-years-old, and he likes answering the phone when he is awake, so I don’t want to bother him with answering calls for me. (Since he was napping when Charter called, I got the all the fun, though I would have had to deal with them anyway. He can’t hear very well, and he gets easily confused, so he would have turned the phone over to me so I could get confused instead.) I went searching for his phone number, finally found it, and gave it to the woman. At her request, I gave her the address, which I do know. And then she asked for the security code. Yeah, right. That’s something I waste precious brain cells for, carrying that number around in my head. (When I called them, of course, I’d gathered all the information and had it ready. Since they called me, it was their responsibility to have the information ready. She didn’t see it that way, of course.)

The representative wasn’t very patient with my frustration and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thrilled to be talking to her. She kept saying she needed the information to get into the account so she could tell me why Charter called. The thing is, Charter had called me — yeah, I know, I keep repeating that, but it’s an important point. When I call someone, I feel safe (safer, anyway) giving out information on the phone, but for all I knew, it might not have been Charter who called. It could have been a scam and someone wanted the information to . . . well, to do whatever scammers do with personal information.

At long last, the representative accessed the account. The important message? That the equipment will arrive on Thursday.

Sheesh.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Every day we are faced with large decisions and small — decisions that make the difference between life and death, decisions that only make the difference between being lazy or productive. (Though who is to say that being lazy is unproductive. We often get our best ideas when we are lolling around, thinking of nothing.)

My decision each day is to write this blog. Most days, the choice is easy. I generally have no lack of things to say. But some days, like today, I have to coerce myself to write something. I have nothing to say, no new insights, no plans or hopes — just a blank “paper” on my computer, and yet, here I am, filling the blankness.

I could, of course, simply not write anything, but I’m one of those people who by default does what takes the least effort. Once I stop making the effortasking to write, once I break the infallibility of a daily blog, then it’s all over.

You dieters know what I’m talking about. When you go on a diet and then “accidentally” nibble on a cookie, you figure the whole day is a waste since you broke your diet, and so one by one those cookies disappear. If you’d never sampled the cookie, you’d still be on that diet. Or if you’d done the logical thing you’d still be on the diet — you’d have enjoyed the nibble and continued on as if you’re still on your diet, because you are. One nibble does not break a diet. It’s all those subsequent cookies that do the dirty deed. Even worse, once the diet is broken, it’s almost impossible to get back on it.

It’s the same thing with blogging. As long as I make an effort to write every day, I will continue to write every day. But if once I slack off, then it’s all over. First one day will pass, then another, because why not? The world wouldn’t end if I neglected to post my words. In fact, the world might even be a better place. But after not writing one day, then the next, I’d begin to think about it, wondering if I wanted to write. As the days passed, I’d even forget to ask if I want to blog, and gradually I’ll sink into wordlessness.

I’m sure that will happen someday. Just not today.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What to Charge for Social Networking

Someone just contacted me and asked how much I would charge to promote his books. Funny, that. Because I am so prevalent on the internet (or at least I was; recently, I’ve been curtailing my online activities), people think I know how to market, but I haven’t a clue. If I did, my books wouldn’t still be languishing in unbestsellerdom.

Spending time on the internet — researching, blogging, networking — takes so much time and expertise that there doesn’t seem money enough to charge for all the work and aggravation, and yet, considering my dismal results, any amount I’d charge would be too much.

According to my research, “the biggest factor in how much you can charge is your work experience. If you’re new to the working world, you might want to stick with $15-$40/hour. If you have five years of professional experience under your belt, transition into the $45-$75 range, and if you have more than five years experience, you can usually get away with charging $80-$100 or more.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But getting results is something else entirely. For a business, perhaps a local car repair place, any social networking is good. You find Facebook groups in the town and post occasional updates. You start your own Facebook page, and maybe promote it to people in your area. (FB can target such a localized audience.) You start a blog about car repairs, telling people the sort of thing to look for in a repair shop or giving them hints about troubleshooting and how much certain repairs should cost. You can twitter bits of car information, get people to post reviews on car sites, comment on other car sites, sign up for LinkedIn, perhaps, and try to network with people in your area. Whatever you do online helps because it keeps your name in front of people so they think of you when they need someone to work on their car.

As you can see, if you have a booksspecific business with a specific type of person you need to target, it’s a lot easier to social network than if you are trying to sell one book in a stack of millions of books similar to yours. Writers are always told to find their target audience, but the truth is, novels that go viral sell to people who have seldom bought a book before, so it’s impossible to target them. Targeting readers in your genre (especially if you don’t have a clearly defined genre as I do) is even more difficult. Readers already have piles of books they bought and want to read. They are not necessarily looking for another book to add to their backlog, so targeting such an audience, even if you know where to find it, is hard. (Except perhaps for romance readers. They seem to be voracious consumers of novels, especially titillating stories. Too bad I have no interest in romance.)

Even though I have a lot of experience in blogging and social networking, I wouldn’t hire me, that’s for sure. On the other hand, I know authors who hired an expensive publicist, and they ended up not selling enough books to pay the publicist’s bill, so the high-profile publicist didn’t get any better results than I do.

And if I did know how to get results? I still wouldn’t accept his offer. I’d be so busy banking money from my royalties, I wouldn’t have time to do his work.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Gone Fishing

I’m going to turn off my computer for the next twenty-four hours and take myself on a fishing trip. Not to fish for fish, of course — such a hobby is only peaceful for the one fishing; the poor fish are scared, hurt, and fighting for their life — but to fish for life. See what happens when I am disconnected from my usual online pursuits. Just take off for a day. See what I can see. Feel what I can feel.

If you want to contact me, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Or whenever.

fishes

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Email Absurdities

Sometimes life online gets a bit too absurd for me. Once a long time ago, I had a fellow author I met on Facebook as a guest on my blog. Back then, I was less concerned with giving out my email address, and besides, at that time, you couldn’t include attachments in FB messages, so I really had no choice.

Computer attackEvery once in a while I’d get a promo message from him, but those emails were sporadic, so they simply got swallowed up in the great maw of Yahoo mail. More recently, I got a couple of mass emailings asking for support for his indigogo campaign. He is still a long way from his goal, and so needs the help of his “friends” to help fund his project.

After the first email, I sent him a message asking him to remove me from his mailing list. Just a pleasant non-confrontational request. (I despise group emails unless I am actually part of a group, and even then, I don’t particularly like them though I have to tolerate them.) Today, I got another email from him again asking for support.

I messaged him back: I have asked you to please remove me from your mailing list. A favor I did once a long time ago — having you as a guest on my blog — should not be punished by unwanted emails. Please remove me from your mailing list. I admit this wasn’t the kindest of messages, but since I am connected to thousands of authors all over the internet, the deluge of promos gets to be a bit much.

He responded: Just to let you know, I removed you from my contact list so you will never receive any emails from me again. Breathe easy. The punishment for your kindness is over. Thanks and good luck.

Me: Thank you

Him: You’re welcome. Please stop emailing me. I no longer want to hear from you. Ever.

I didn’t respond, of course, but a little later I got another message from him: I’m very sorry that I’ve upset you. It will never happen again. Ever. You will never hear from me again. Ever.

Then, fifteen minutes later, I got yet another message: Thanks for your understanding that I’m only human and have made a mistake. It will never happen again. Ever. Good luck.

Ah! The joys of the internet age.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Happy Anniversary, WWW

The World Wide Web is twenty-five years old today, just beginning to feel the full weight of adulthood. According to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web and the author of the first web browser, “the underlying Internet and the WWW are non-hierarchical, decentralized and radically open. The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don’t need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination.”

We’re so used to the internet as a vital part of our lives that it seems impossible that it’s so new. I got my first computer and first taste of the internet in 2007. Even then, the internet seemed old, and I felt as if I were jumping too late on the bandwidth wagon, but at that time, the internet was only eighteen years old, still just a youngster feedeskling the first stirrings of freedom. We now have music downloads, ebooks, videos available at a touch of a button. Anyone can publish anything on the web, anyone can promote whatever they wish, anyone can write a journal and maybe even be read. Odd to think that this is just the beginning. I cannot even imagine what the future of the internet will be and how it will affect us.

My computer, so awesomely powerful in 2007, is getting slow — not because of age but because of the proliferation of video ads. By design, I’m sure, ads load first, which means that the content comes long after everything else appears. If it weren’t for the slowness of my computer, I wouldn’t mind the ads — I’d just ignore them. I don’t much of anything anymore, except for the basics, and I seldom buy anything just to buy it. It is interesting, though, how ads dog us — a friend mentioned in a blog comment that he is reading Long Man, and now wherever I go, I see an ad for that book. It makes me wonder if in the future, the internet will be mostly ads with any content buried beneath a string of product links.

As long as I have my small corner of the web (this blog, of course!), I’ll be happy. How I access this blog in the future, however, will be a different matter. I like PCs with its unvirtual keyboard (as long I can attach a mouse to the computer), but PCs are going the way of vacuum-tube computers. I’m not interested in tablets, and phones, no matter how smart, are difficult to use to write a blog. As for voice activated software, no thank you. I like silence. Still, progress beckons whether I wish it to or not, and who knows, someday there will be a device I like as well as I do my PC.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Requiem for a Website

In October of 2007, I entered a contest on gather.com — the Court TV Search for the Next Great Crime Writer contest. The winner of the contest would win a $5,000 advance and a publishing contract. My entry, More Deaths Than One, was not a detective story, and it certainly was not a cozy mystery, but it is the story of a crime: identity theft. This theft is an actual theft of a man’s identity, not a paper one.

I did very well in that contest, too. As of November 17, 2007, I was ranked number one, but I finished up about sixth or seventh. (I could tell you it was because my mother died and I had to go to California for her funeral and I broke my ankle while there and was off the internet for a week, but the truth is . . . come to think of it, I don’t know what the truth is.)

The contest started out being great fun but devolved into all sorts of infighting, faked votes, and terrible reviews that RIPwere posted for no other reason than meanness. Still, it turned out to be a pivotal point in my writing career.

I became friends with many of the contestants, and casual acquaintances with others. I met other writers that I am still connected with today.  Because of the contest, I eventually found a publisher. The link to the publisher’s website was posted as a comment on one of the writer’s articles, and since I was in querying mode, I immediately shot off a query letter. The publisher loved my book A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and sent me a contract. Turns out, I already knew him through the contest, and he asked if More Deaths Than One was still available. It was. Second Wind Publishing has now published five of my books — four novels and one non-fiction book, Grief: The Great Yearning.

Until the crime writer contest, my online presence had been confined to my blog, but after the contest I posted articles on gather, and I also migrated to other sites, such as Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. I mostly hang around Facebook now because of my discussion groups there, but I always return to Gather, especially on Thursday evening when I used to do a live chat with my No Whine, Just Champagne discussion group. I started out knowing only a few people online, now I know hundreds.

And all because of a contest.

Now, Gather is in its death throes. Because of the spam that clogged the site, Google stopped referencing its content in searches. The site has been sold a couple of times, and neither of the new owners seemed to have any interest in revitalizing this once active online writers community.

Most of my Gather posts have been posted elsewhere, usually here on this blog, but a lot of the discussion topics were too brief for a blog post, so I’ve been mining the site so my content doesn’t get lost. Considering that there were almost two hundred live chats alone in my discussion group, that’s a lot of content! I hope I get time to go through the discussions and look for pithy comments I might have made, but if I don’t, well, no problem. Maybe my comments should pass into oblivion along with the site. And who knows, maybe someday the site will be resuscitated.

Until then, rest in peace, Gather.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

If You Didn’t Get a Chance to Listen to My Radio Interview . . .

Several people have mentioned that they didn’t get a chance to listen to my radio interview on Sunday — it really is hard for anyone (even me!!) to compete with the Academy Awards. If you are one of these people who didn’t get to listen, perhaps didn’t want to listen and are simply using the Oscars as an excuse so you wouldn’t have to hear to me yammer on and on, you’re not off the hook. The interview is posted online for all of eternity (or as eternal as the internet).

I hope you listen to the interview, “The Authentic Woman – with Host Shannon Fisher and Special Guest Pat Bertram.” I am at my charming best, scintillating, even, with flashes of wisdom. (Just don’t count how many times I say “actually.” Eek.) In fact, I’m listening to the podcast now — I wanted to make sure it isn’t an embarrassment. And it isn’t. Actually (there’s that word!) it’s quite compelling.

Part of the reason for it being such a compelling interview is the host. Shannon Fisher was easy to talk to, asked the perfect questions to get me to open up. We started with a discussion about my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, segued into a discussion of writing, which of course, turned into a mention of Grief: The Great Yearning, and a brief discourse of the grieving process. And continued to talk about life, vulnerability, possibilities.

And part of the reason for the compelling interview is that I didn’t treat it as an interview. We were simply two friends talking. The only glitch showed up at the very, very end. Apparently, the show didn’t click off when it was supposed to, but other than that, we did great for a premiere.

Feel free to listen in to this intimate conversation.

You can find me here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairbookstoo/2014/03/03/the-authentic-woman–with-host-shannon-fisher-and-special-guest-pat-bertram (Or click on the photo below.)

AW

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,403 other followers