23 April 2009

More geek talk + pictures and memories

Thanks to all who commented on my wireless adapter problem. The computer is a Compaq F500 laptop that I bought in late 2007 for a really good price (at Circuit City — R.I.P.). It came with Windows Vista, but I ditched that dog (can you "ditch a dog"?) a while back. Now I'm running XP Home Edition — or should I say Edition Familiale? — in French. It's a long story.

Susie, that thread on the HP support forum was especially interesting. The posts go back to 2007. Before reading it, I had stumbled onto a kind of solution to the problem, and one of the posts describes what I did. I rebooted into Safe Mode. When I again rebooted, using Selective Startup using the "Modified BOOT.INI" rather than the "Original BOOT.INI" option, the idiot light on the built-in wireless adapter changed from orange (not working) to blue (working!).

In this case, the blue light means "Go"...

The wireless adapter light had been orange for months, until about a week ago, when it turned blue all by itself. That's when I realized that it might not a hardware problem. I had been capturing video and making DVDs for a few hours. After all that work, the computer seemed sluggish. I rebooted. The blue light came on and the new hardware wizard popped up on the screen. The wireless adapter re-installed itself.

The wisteria we planted a couple of years ago is doing well.

This morning, after all the fiddling I did yesterday, when I restarted the computer the built-in wireless adapter was still working. This is my secondary computer we are talking about, not the one I use for writing blog posts or any other serious (?) work. The laptop sits on the coffee table in the living room and it's the one I use to look up recipes or information about people, history, language, and anything else I might hear on TV or the radio and have a desire to know more about.

When I thought that the wireless adapter problem was a hardware issue, I just gave up. I chatted one day back in January or February with an HP support representative. He told me the only thing to do was send them the computer so they could replace the motherboard. HP would send me a postage-paid FedEx box so both shipping and the repair would be free to me. Until I told him I happened to be in France...

Irises have started flowering...

Meanwhile, I had bought a Belkin USB wireless adapter to use in the place of the unrecognized, defective, uncooperative Broadcom adapter built into the laptop. The Belkin adapter worked just fine (we have our two desktop computers on USB wireless adapters now too) but it took up a USB port on the laptop, which has only three USB ports, one of which is for the mouse. That left just one for other devices, including my flash card readers and the USB video capture device.

...and the peonies are not far behind.

All of this just reinforces my realization that this rural life we lead, with few neighbors that we don't see very often and few good friends who live nearby — I'm not complaining, we love it — would not be possible without computers and the Internet for e-mailing, web-surfing, forum trolling... and blogging.

I'm a codger now so I can tell you what it was like 35 or 40 years ago when I lived in France. I always lived in cities — mostly Paris, but also Rouen in Normandy, Metz in the Lorraine region, and Grenoble and Aix-en-Provence for short times. Why, we didn't even have computers back then! Can you imagine?

The wild orchids that I rescued from the mower, and
Walt planted in a protected spot, are flowering like crazy.

Hell, we didn't have telephones. Cell phones didn't exist, and there was a two-year wait to get a land-line phone installed, even in Paris. I always had several good American friends in those cities when I lived there, and I don't know how we managed to stay in touch with each other. Nobody had a phone. We just had to meet up somewhere, or drop by hoping the other person would be at home when we got there.

The isolation back then was kind of exciting. You couldn't call friends and family in the U.S. because you couldn't afford the long-distance charges. And nobody could call you because you didn't have a telephone. So what did you do? You wrote letters. I've got several boxes full of old letters that friends and family wrote to me, and I've got all the letters I ever wrote to my parents back then, because my mother saved them all for me.

Nearby vineyards

It's easy to get nostalgic about all the time we devoted to letter-writing, about aerograms and beautiful postage stamps, about the excitement when you found a letter in your mailbox. But e-mail is better, let me tell you. And now we can devote our time not to a limited-distribution, hand-written letter but to blog posts for all the world to enjoy. We hope.


  1. From another codger - I can't imagine life without my computer!

    What would I do first thing in the morning if I couldn't read your, and Walt's, blog?


  2. guess i'm nearing codgerville myself....my 1969 jr yr abroad in Paris, I talked to my parents exactly once all yr.. around christmas...my mother also saved all my many aerograms...i wrote in smallish script back then so i could fit a lot on the single page (with a couple of flaps)...now i could only fit a line or two (my handwriting has gotten bigger like everything else!)I do appreciate the instant communication now.....i remember running very low on funds & having to trek over to the AmEx office near L'Opera every day just to see if my check was in the mail.....some days i had only a few centimes for lunch (usually enough for a yaourt tho)and not so long ago you had to get travellers checks before you left to cover your whole trip & actually figure out some sort of budget....now bless the ATM's

  3. >>blog posts for all the world to enjoy.

    This part of the world is certainly enjoying them!

  4. Oh, good! I'm so glad it was useful information.

  5. I used the American Express to get my mail also, Melinda. The summer I worked in Paris I made a trip to AM EX on Saturdays. There was a log where we would sign in. I would check out the log to see if any friends were in town. It's too bad that we didn't have cell phones back then, but we still could go to their hotels for a visit.

    I never called my parents in any of the three summers I was in Europe. These summers were all in the '60s. Those were the days!

  6. There were phone calls to the states from public phones in the streets of Paris.

    I used to get calls from friends who found "broken" pay phones. The phones made calls but didn't charge.

  7. Harriett, I certainly remember those "broken" phones. You'd be out and about in Paris, on foot or on a bus, and you'd see a phone booth with a long line of people standing in front of it. So you'd go get in line with them.

    You might have to wait 30 or even 60 minutes, but you knew you'd be able to call your friends or family in the U.S. for free. The problem was, you couldn't stay on the phone very long because all those people were waiting their turn to make their free calls.


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