Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Tuesday, June 27, 2017



What's new with Bitter Grounds

June 24 2017

Time to catch up. April saw a few weird glitches after I moved to a new host. Changed to Host Papa and the move went smoothly. Except for the unfortunate hickup a few weeks later when the entire site became non functioning. Readable, but impossible to post new stuff. Was a weird glitch that took over a week to repair. Had to reload a couple of the newest articles and lost the hit count for a few. Which was a shame, they had nearly 2,000 views. 

Switched back to experimenting with Google Adsense because they have flexible sized ads. Not a lot in the way of dollar making, it's more an experiment in seeing what happens when changes are made to ad size/placement etc. Google ads allows for much more flexibility than so I'll play with them for a bit. You'll see the ads shift a bit over the next few months.  I'll be experimenting with effects of ads within the posts themselves. Not fond of them, more curious to see what happens. 

Thinking of a new banner header.  New font hunt is under way. Any suggestions, drop them on me. 

Changed the focus of the Philately section. I've been posting interesting tidbits happening in the stamp world along with interesting auctions I stumble across. 

Trying to adjust the "Read More" banner so it's cleaner looking. Come to loath the colour of the banner and poking it with a big stick to see what  blends best. 

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Read more: Changelog

I went old school with this site. I’m not a fan of the endless scroll fad – too damned hard to find content that way. I prefer a linear, clean interface that reminds me I’m reading a magazine and I can always find my way home.

Abt Bitter Grounds

This website used to be called Diary of a Mad Cat - a much simpler format. Over time my tastes have adjusted and my interests have changed. The old diary didn't mesh with the vision of a more mature & eclectic magazine. It's currently evolving as I fine tune what I'd like to write about. In an effort to move away from regurgitating everything else on the internet, I'm moving towards all original content. I'm torpedoing tech news because it's done over and over to the point of being meaningless. There are so many sites covering the same issues, it's becoming nauseatingly bland. How many times can you read reviews of the same pieces of tech. 

Something else sparked the shift. After hearing someone ask what life was like before technology ... meaning prior to the turn of this century .... I realised people don't get technology isn't shiny new and 21st century. Tech is everywhere. So, I've embarked on a journey exploring the history of technology and how it's led us to where we are now.  What's that old quote? Nothing exists in a vaccuum. This change of focus allows for more creative writing and far more entertaining research/writing.  

I'm keeping the App Review section.  Not a lot of Wn 10 app reviews out there, and most keep insisting "these are must have apps", which boil down to the same commercial nonsense.

I've also begun to explore another area that brings me a great deal of joy - design and typography.  The joy of design was brought out by a friend and her family. They love typography - something we take for granted - and it's rubbed off over the years. I'm tackling this area from an educated amateur's point of view. I'll make some mistakes along the way, but the voyage to learn more about graphic design will be a hell of a lot of fun.

Philately? Well ... of course. If one is going to brag about being a tech fangirl, then somewhere philately must be lurking. I've collected stamps for decades, enjoying the art, history and beauty of stamp design. It actually meshes in nicely with the design & typography part of the magazine. They are related. Not as much content here, yet. It takes a tremendous amount of time to research some of the stamps, so I'm a bit slower in posting here.

I've embarked on a subscription and donation path, in hopes of moving to writing full time. This will take time, but hopefully I'll be able to write full time.

The cat in the image

The cat in the postage stamp was my cat. His name was Cat. Seriously, why waste a perfectly good name on a creature that won’t listen to you to start with. He lived for 19 years happily demanding we pay homage to his greatness. He was a weird little tabby who could carry a grudge for years. I’m glad I was always on the miserable little sod’s good side … he’s still missed greatly.

Cat behind the keyboard

I’ve been at this for a very long time. My websites/blogs have undergone many incarnations over the last 20 years, all leading here. My first site was, in some ways, the most fun. That was in the days before tables and we were all struggling along trying to figure out this internet thing. The day I upgraded from a 2600 baud modem to the mighty 14.4, I trotted down to the only ISP in town and signed up for their Bronze account. 15 hrs wkly online time over the phone lines – no more bulletin board lurking for me! A shiny new world out there for me.

I used the internet to source information on how computers were built, what HTML was, how to do basic research. That was back in the day of Mosaic, Archie, finger, Veronica and telnet, years before either Yahoo (are you a Yahooligan?) and Google. Aliweb and Altavista ruled… for a short time. It led me astray, away from my previous life as a radio broadcaster to a fledgling techie. Eventually, powered by espresso, ego and way too much time on my hands, I launched my own business helping small offices and homes get a handle on technology.

A Cat-of-all-things.

I still have many of my original customers, 20 + years later. I’m writing this missive as I mourn the death of another customer. I’ve outlived many of them now. I get depressed every time I get an email from a family member that starts “So and so would want you to be notified as soon as possible, he/she passed away ...” We had many great times together. It isn’t just about fixing their computers or helping them with their websites – it’s about the endless cups of tea and homemade banana bread. The little bag lunch one customer always prepared for me because she was sure I wasn’t eating properly. Chats about gardens, vacations, work and children while I was bent over the keyboard trying to figure out how they went spinning down a technological rabbit hole. Or phone calls from customers asking if I could stop and bring some milk and lettuce with me (yes I’m always reimbursed) when I came. Or the time I was asked for my recommendations on some fine stinky cheese … I really must talk about food a lot when I’m fussing with customer’s computers.

Time Passes

It was the introduction of tables that really changed things for many of us. We could finally throw structure onto a page and control how it flowed … kind of. It was clunky but some performed design miracles with it – they were gods. And when we could change the background colour of the webpage? WHOO HOOO! Heady design times boy. Netscape ruled <- try saying that now and watch people fall off their chairs laughing.

…And the browser wars began, creating a nightmare for designers and users alike. Remember these messages “this site optimized for <insert preferred browser> and <insert ridiculous screen size demand>. “ That ranked up there with designers who insisted users should reset their screen resolution because they were too lazy to create a universal design. Yea, some things never change.

Virus checker? Who needs a virus checker.. that changed with lightening speed when the century flipped over.

Speaking of a new century – what ever happened to Y2K? Well, nothing. Not because it wasn’t an issue, but because of the legions of coders around the world who worked their asses off fixing the issue. Media did their best to blow the issue out of rational proportions, creating a sense of hysteria among the great unknowing public. When the calendar flipped and no airplanes fell out of the skies, the same people who created the panic, blamed the computer coders for creating the hype. They just couldn’t win. Thanks by the way.

And time ticked on – we have security worries we never envisioned in the shiny new days of the Internet. We can stream anything, watch anything when we want, play games with thousands of people from around the globe 24/7 and have the world at our finger tips. We really live in a time of instant communication.

… and yet …

I’m still a basic, analogue person. I don’t multi task, I gave up on that pipe dream when I realised I was doing 10 jobs badly simultaneously. I become impatient with people who won’t put their phones down and talk to me, and no it’s not “interfacing”. One person used that term with me. He stopped using the phrase (to me at any rate) when I couldn’t stop laughing. That meeting ended rather abruptly.

No I didn’t drop everything and answer your email the moment it arrived. Why? Because I was in the middle of a job and I don’t feel obligated to drop everything because you sent an email. That’s what an inbox is for. It’s pretty cool because it holds the mail until I can read it. What? You’re feelings are hurt? Good grief.  I loathe some of the new design – if I have to guess where the home button is, I’m leaving. Piss off with endless scroll when you neglect to put in a back to the top button. Forcing readers to endure your teeny tiny font choices isn’t cutting edge, it’s daft so stop it.

So, yes, my site is retro, which is a flattering way of saying old fashioned. I’m a dated person, with a dated design for a reason. It’s a lot like me – functional, no frills and a shocking lack of fashion sense. It’s about content, not layout.

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About Catpaw Computer Consulting

I started in the early 90s after after 10 years as a community broadcaster. I think it’s that training in communication that gives me an edge in dealing with customers. Fixing tech problems isn’t just about fixing the computers/software. It’s also making sure the customer understands what has happened and why.

The company name dates back to the nickname I used when I lurked around on BBS (bulletin boards) pre-Internet. It served me well so I co-opted it into my business name:

Catpaw Computer Consulting – user friendly tech support for the home and small office environment.

Changes in the tech market have been swift over the last 3 years with people moving over rapidly to tablets. I’ve also done quite a few “house calls” via the Internet with people out of the country. I now run a service for customers who travel outside of the GTA. If they run into issues, they can text me for quick answers or setup an online call where I can log into their system and fix the issues. To date, I’ve fixed laptops in Mexico, Texas, Portugal, UK, Vancouver BC, around Toronto and Hungary. Distance is no longer a barrier.

So what do I do? Setup software and configure it, trouble shoot pretty much ever problem that crops up with software, wifi setups and training. I've now brached out into administrative support for customers who have migrated away from traditional office setups and need a bit of word processing and printing. 

If you'd like to talk to me about what services I can supply, fill out the  form below.


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