Friday, April 23, 2010

Geek Speak

Since I got this desktop unit about 5 years ago the hard drive and the backup drive have been in racks so that I could insert, back up and yank out the second drive. Hubby decided that repeated connections was maybe causing the system to have problems and it was time to put both drives into the computer permanently. About a month ago I got the blue screen of death when I turned the computer on. Re-booting the computer seemed to fix the problem. A couple of days later hubby turned the computer on for me and it just wouldn't boot. So he took the computer apart vacuumed it out and made sure that the connections were all snug. It re-booted just fine, but just in case we bought new cables and everything was running along just fine, but you never know whether what seems to be a loose cable might, in fact, be a failing hard drive.

We have had a drive fail before. It was before the advent of the internet and viruses were rare especially if you didn't contaminate your system with disks that had been in other systems. The computer started acting up. A picture that got corrupted, a zip file that got truncated, and then more and more things went wrong. It was a Seagate drive and when it was replaced my geek of a husband had to recover hundreds of damaged files and repair them. In the end it took several months of work piecing things together sector by sector. Now we keep everything backed up, just in case.

So when my computer had this little problem he thought it would be prudent to replace the hard drive. I'm not unhappy with my computer, but I'm leaning toward a new system, not just a new drive. Five years isn't old except in computer terms. A new computer means not just a new drive but a new motherboard, new CPU, new graphic card, in short, a new everything that might be old and failing in the old computer. Not only that, but other new hardware is more compatible with a new system and new software. Of course a new hard drive is about $50 and a new computer about $500. There is that.

So we got a new hard drive and hubby backed up all my files one last time and installed the new drive. The old drives were IDE and the new one is SATA so it wasn't just a straight swap. Before he could make the change he had to change the BIOS and to make sure that it was up to date he downloaded the latest drivers for my motherboard and flashed the BIOS. Then he plugged in the drive. Nothing. Zero. Zip. This is where it's good to have other computers in the house so that you can search the internet for help when your computer is in pieces. The new drive is fast, the old motherboard is slow and it needed a jumper to slow it down so that the motherboard could handle it. This little issue took 3 days to finally resolve. Lucky he happened to have the itty bitty hard drive jumper.

Then it was time to install the operating system. I was using XP on the desktop and Vista on my laptop and I didn't really notice any difference between the two so I figured that if everything had to be re-installed anyway, I might as well move up to Vista. So hubby installed Vista, the drivers for the graphic cards, printers, scanners, cameras, and other peripherals, set up the network and installed my other software which took another couple of days. Then he imported all of my email and set up my email program which took another couple of days.

He was sure that I was going to need XP running on the computer as well so he partitioned the hard drive and also installed XP with all of the attendant drivers for the graphic cards, printers, scanners, cameras, and other peripherals, set up the network and installed my other software. That took another couple of days to get the secondary system all set up, and he set it all up to dual boot so that I could use either system. Good idea, in theory, except that the partition showed the XP drive as E and it needed to be C to work. The software that was supposed to run and fix the drive letter issue scrambled the operating system so that neither partition would run and since it was basically a blank drive anyway he just reformatted it.

So in between researching how to set things up first to get the drive working and then how to dual boot, and finally how to change a drive letter and actually installing the operating system and all it's bits and my software and tweaking it so that everything was working optimally it was more than a week's worth of work down the drain. Then he started all over again and for the second time we had the discussion over whether to install XP or Vista and again I said Vista even though I knew there was one software issue that would have to be resolved.

So again he installed Vista, uploaded all the drivers for the on board stuff and the drivers for the peripherals, set up the network and installed all my software and tweaked it so that it all worked properly and then imported all of my files and data and made sure that it all ran smoothly.

In the interim I had transferred any day to day information I needed to the laptop and just continued working from the laptop. So of course everything from the laptop had to be brought in as well. Finally everything was moved onto the new drive and I spent Monday patching things up between old system/new system/laptop and Tuesday was my first day using the new computer.

The one unresolved software issue is the creation of PDF files in Vista. My old desktop publishing software is Adobe PageMaker. I love it, it's slick. I can re-size a picture to fit the publication on screen or crop it, if I want or I can take an odd shaped diagram and flow text around it. I could take a picture of a snowman in a hat and shape the text to flow around the bulges and indents. and once I've done that I can drag the picture anywhere on the page and the text will just re-align itself to the new position. In producing books it will automatically create a Table of Contents or an index. It's just slick and anything else I've tried feels like using a club rather than a fine instrument. The software came along with Adobe's Acrobat Distiller for making PDF files and all I had to do to create a PDF was click on PageMaker's Acrobat icon and my PDF was made. Slick and easy. The PDF function doesn't work in Vista.

Just to give you an idea of how good PageMaker is, Adobe stopped upgrading it several years ago. That's why it doesn't work in Vista. They've rolled it into a new product that does work in Vista, but it's just so darned popular that they keep on selling it. The new product has a lot more graphic capabilities and it lets you incorporate videos into your electronic publications and a whole lot more. Right now I can upgrade my PageMaker to the new product which come bundled with the new Acrobat for about $200 which is a good deal. Except that it won't run on my desktop because it's too old and slow, so I can update if I replace my computer which brings the bill to about $700 for a new system and new software.

Hubby has been scouring the net looking for software that will work with PageMaker and create PDFs in Vista some work, some don't, some can't handle big files, some might but you don't know for sure until you buy them. Wednesday he downloaded one and tried it on my computer. While he was using my computer I popped into his office to use HIS. When I looked on screen there was a black DOS type screen that looked like the standard backup screen and when behind it an error message. He apparently has been getting this error message quite a lot lately, but it seems to resolve itself when the system is rebooted and he hasn't had time to find out what was causing it because for the last month he has been working on fixing my computer.

This time his computer wouldn't reboot.

He started in Safe Mode and got it to reboot but the task bar and Start Menu were missing and none of the programs would start.

Virus scan wouldn't start.

Restoring the registry wouldn't work.

One possible fix was to create a new user with admin privileges, but that didn't work.

Each of these fixes that were tried and failed required rebooting.

Finally each reboot resulted in the blue screen of death.

The operating system was well and truly dead.

We need his computer working to do the income tax which must be in by the end of April.

It might be a virus but the only way to check it is to put on a working drive with a working operating system with a running virus program and scan the drive.

When we bought the new drive for my computer we bought 2. The plan was to install Windows 7 on the second drive and see how it runs. When you write software the only way to see if it runs on an operating system is to test it and see. We need to check all of our software packages on Windows 7 even if we don't use that operating system in house.

So we had a spare drive handy. It took several hours to format the drive and several more to install XP on it. Once we had a functioning drive, the first thing we did was pull off the vital information off the old drive and scan each file for virus. That only took until 5:00 AM. There was no point in going to bed when you have a potential catastrophe on your hands your mind is too busy whirling around with possible fixes and problems so we just worked through the night.

The next morning we started a full drive scan for a virus. Nothing. It's squeaky clean. A scan of the drive reports that it's physically sound. Something and we don't know what it was, but something, corrupted Windows so that it wouldn't run. None of the possible fixes have fixed it. we did get it fixed to the point of Windows booting again, but none of the installed software works so hubby is now re-installing all of his peripherals and software getting everything on his system back up and running.

At which point we are thinking that maybe I should go back to my old hard drive running XP off the IDE controller so that this new drive can be pulled and used to load Windows 7. That would put me, let's see, right back where I started a month ago.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I received an email today that has prompted me to do some tidying up. The email was an inquiry into the symbols that precede the crocus pattern. A long time ago when I started writing patterns, I wanted to let people know at a glance what they were getting in to. I have seen patterns labeled beginner, intermediate or advanced, yet I couldn't see any rhyme or reason for the labelling. Other patterns were labeled difficult because of the presence of split rings or split chains. To my way of thinking, if a pattern calls for a technique you can't do, you can't complete it no matter how easy or difficult the design.

So when I began designing I designated the pattern easy, takes concentration, or "throw the shuttles across the room". I've only ever designed 2 of the latter. I also mark the pattern to show which techniques they require. That way, a tatter knows at the outset what to expect. A catalog of these symbols and what they mean is printed at the front of each of my publications. I haven't included a description of what they mean in quite some time, so I've decided to put the information here, label it and then in future I can just refer to the label so that people don't have to wonder, "What do those odd symbols mean?".

Here's the symbols, or most of them.

The first one shouldn't be any surprise, it's an easy pattern. The second one means the pattern requires concentration; it's not a 'tat in front of the TV' design. The missing, "throw the shuttle across the room symbol is a 12 point star because you have to be a star to tat it, but I don't do many of those. That's the basic, easy to difficult symbols.

The next 2 symbols are ovoid shapes kind of like what a shuttle looks like. I guess it's no surprise that they mean there are shuttles in use. One symbol, one shuttle, 2 symbols, 2 shuttles, 3 symbols, 3 shuttles. (Yes you can occasionally use more than 2 shuttles.). The symbol beside it that kind of looks like a square with diagonal lines, also kind of looks like a ball of thread. That's because some patterns use a shuttle and ball of thread. I think it's better to know at the outset if you NEED a second shuttle, before you get in to the pattern and realize that things would have been much easier with 2 shuttles wound CTM. On the other hand, you can save a lot of precious HDT if you don't unnecessarily wind a second shuttle. Those are the, this is what I need to do this pattern symbols. If a pattern is easier to do with a double bobbin shuttle, the shuttle symbol will have 2 little circles on it.

The rest of the symbols refer to techniques. The circle with a line through it refers to split rings. Just like the ring is made part with one shuttle and part with the other. In earlier patterns I marked the ring with a line through it where the split occurred, but in later patterns I also shaded the section done with shuttle 2 as it seemed to help some people follow the pattern more easily.

Two parallel lines are just an indication of mock picots. Mock picots are such a non-entity. You make a picot but a mock picot just happens, If you do a row of split rings, you can't, NOT make mock picots. They're just a by product of doing the last thing and the next thing, but again it helps some people to know that they are there.

The figure 8 on it's side, aka the symbol for infinity, represents working CTM because like infinity, there aren't any ends.

The last symbol of linked chains is a symbol I use for split chains. In the pattern itself I show the chain with two arrows facing each other at the point where the chain is split. That shows the tatter to work the first part of the chain up to the arrowhead and then work the second part of the chain from the opposite direction back to meet it.

If there is cluny tatting I show a cluny leaf shape with lines across it. In the pattern I show the same symbol where the cluny appears with the number of wraps superimposed.

It's really all very logical and it helps users to know what they are getting into and to follow the pattern more easily. Doing a newsletter for 6 years and getting a lot of good feedback, has helped my develop better drawings that are easier to follow.

Now that I have explained my little legend, I've also gone through the blog and tagged all of the patterns. Just clicking on the Pattern tag should bring up all of the designs available on the blog.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Some spring time colour

The birds are singing, the black flies are biting, the flowers are blooming...Well not here they aren't. It's still a bit cold for most flowers. One of the earliest to poke their noses out of the ground are the crocus. A few years ago when the dark dreary depressing days were beginning to drag me down, I was really longing for some colour. Pristine white snow can change the world into a sparkling winter wonderland. When it's sat for a while and acquired a layer of dust, dirt and factory fallout, it starts to look like the world is covered in dingy dust bunnies.

To give my indoor world a splash of colour, I designed a crocus. A cheery little ball of colour on top of a spindly stem. Like a real crocus, it's only about an inch across done in size 20 thread. This one is Lizbeth Violet/Pink Dark #635.
The flower just uses rings and chains and isn't difficult to make. It starts with a central ring with 4 picots and ends with a mock picot and reverse work into another small ring. Then it's just ring and chain up one side of the petal and back down to the starting mock picot where you shuttle join to finish the petal. It kind of looks like this, except that I was watching TV and not paying attention so the mock picot got stretched all out of shape. I also forgot the picot on the last chain, so I had to wiggle the hook between the stitches to make the join on the next petal.

Crochet uses the term slip stitch quite often. It's not a term that used much in tatting, but it just means to carry the thread over to the next connection point. In this design it means that you do a normal join into the next picot on the central ring. From there it's just a matter of repeating the petal, joining into the matching chains on the first petal.

It gets a little tricky when you get to the last side of the last petal. Did I mention it's about an inch across? Ever try to tat inside a one inch space? It gets a little bit crowded. You could struggle with it, but I found it easier to turn the flower inside out and tat on the outside. That gives you lots of room to complete the flower.

I made a whole bouquet of them in blue, purple, yellow and white and have an indoor garden full of colour. They'd be kind of boring all on their own, so I made a matching leaf. The leaf does make use of split rings. It starts near the top of the leaf and there are graduated split rings that get larger as you work toward the base of the leaf. At the bottom, you start working a chain all the way up one side, make the outward facing ring at the tip of the leaf, and then continue the chain down to the base of the leaf. The leaf needs wire or some serious stiffening to keep it perky. I used stiff nylon fishing line because I don't like wire that can potentially rust, being used on my lace.

Here's my little bouquet and now you can make a bouquet just like this one. All you have to do is follow the pattern which is shown below.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


I didn't get to eat chocolate and tat today, mostly because I was busy with other things, and too full of this: Yesterday was hubby's birthday and when I asked him what kind of cake he'd like he said lemon. So I made a cake with lemon filling and lemon icing and the darn thing took most of the day to make. On the up side, the whole house smelled lemony fresh.

Poor hubby, it was his birthday and from the second he got up things didn't go right. He woke up not feeling very well and the first thing he did in the morning was to turn my computer on for me and it just wouldn't start. While I was busy baking, hubby was busy fixing my computer. He took it apart to see what was the matter and after checking the connections it came on. That could mean that it's a bad cable or it might mean that the hard drive is going.

In between rebooting the computer I made him stop long enough to retrieve some of the more critical files. I have back ups of everything, but if I want to use it while he's working on the desktop it needs to be moved to the laptop.

We had planned on going out for supper, but he was feeling so lousy we stayed in. He enjoyed his cake, but a day spent fixing a computer isn't exactly a fun way to spend your birthday. Today we got to make a run out to the computer store and pick up a couple of cables, which he has now installed. O well, maybe tomorrow will be a better day.