www.mydfz.com > Valerie's Interests

Welcome to Valerie Kramer's Personal Home Page

You can send me email at: valerie@mydfz.com

April 2, 2014 - I knew this page needed to be updated (as does way too much of this whole site!) but I didn't realize just how bad it' was. I did a little emergency clean-up today to at least remove and/or correct some outdated email and snail mail addresses. I hope to do a complete make-over at some point but it won't be as soon as I could wish - too many other projects in process. Meanwhile, this page may be out of date, but at least it no longer has invalid addresses. I guess that's some progress.

Valerie's Interests

Seems like the older I get, the more things I find interesting. Here's a list of some of my interests. Some of them are links to take you to further information. Enjoy!

Genealogy My Ancestors

The Music of Tom Paxton

My kittens, Catherine and Margaret
Pretty In PinkCatherine and Margaret are pure-bred Maine Coon Cats from Bryerhaven Cattery in Coos Bay. They were born January 29, 1999 and are cute as can be! Their father is Val Kilmer and their mother is Isis. Both kittens are silver tabbies. Catherine is a bit lighter in color and a bit larger but is NOT the "alpha" cat. Margaret, smaller and a bit darker, is much more outgoing and inquisitive. Don't let the description fool you - they're both into everything! They especially like chasing the laser pointer around the floor. Click on the picture to see a larger image. (Left and back is Margaret, Catherine is front right).
The kids have been at it again! Take a large plastic pretzel keg, eat the pretzels, rinse the keg and leave it on the floor with the top open. Add two inquisitive kittens. You don't have to imagine it - just watch the movie! Click HERE.
(about 4Mb.)
The kids have grown a LOT since they were born. The two of them pretty well fill the top of a 4-foot card table. Sadly, both Catherine and Margaret have gotten old and died. We now have Rose and Meldrum IV. These two are both rescue cats, Rose from the animal shelter in Gold Beach, Oregon and Meldrum from the Cat House on the Kings.
All other cats, especially Tigers!
Reading (Click HERE to see what I've been reading)
I read a lot and enjoy many different subject matters. The linked pages will tell you about some of my interests and even give you links to order books for yourself from www.amazon.com if something sounds good to you too.
Computers and Programming
I got my BS degree in Computer Science from Michigan State University and my MS from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). I've been puttering with electronics since 1960. I spent more than a dozen years doing professional programming in COBOL before moving to Port Orford. These days I play with Visual Basic, PC Cobol, C, C++, or whatever takes my fancy. My favorite programming language for the last couple of years has been Perl.
I experimented with Linux for a bit and there is a LOT there to really be excited about. At this time (July 13, 2001) I no longer have any Linux machines up and running (though I may fire one up again any time). I've standardized on Windows 2000 and decided to devote my effort to it for a while.
July 13, 2001 - My latest adventures in technophilia have led me to download and install a Perl interpreter and learn to use it and to create CGI scripts. I'm also delving into various aspects of IIS, ASP, VBScript, JScript, and other related matters.
July 13, 2001 Update: I recently finished a two year program of classes on Cisco Networking through my local community college. Part of the course involved understanding IP numbers, subnet masks, and such delights. To help visualize these and to keep in practice with Visual Basic (ver 6) I wrote a small demonstrator program that allows you to enter an IP number and subnet mask. It displays them in hex and binary, tells what class the address is, and shows the possible number of subnets and hosts. At this time, it does not offer any instruction about these things - it just lets you see the results of the calculations. This version is freeware so have fun. constructive feedback and/or pats on the back always welcome. Click here to download netnums.zip.
May 3, 2003 - I recently had to reinstall everything on my hard disk. I kept notes on much of it. This page maybe interesting, and educational. There are lots of links to free programs that I've found very helpful. Installing Windows 2000
June 6, 2004 - I finally finished writing the new page about installing Windows XP. Be sure to read the Windows 2000 installation story too as it has information that will still be useful. Installing Windows XP Pro.
January 6, 2006 - Have you suddenly started having problems with your Email? I did and I have the fix for it. Click the link to read about Norton Internet Security Email Bug.
Ham Radio (AA7FB)
I'll list this one only because of the sweat it took to get the license and the many years of enjoyment I have had in the past. Times change and between the Internet and Cellular Phones, I'm doubtful about the usefulness and/or fate of ham radio. The only radio I have left is a 2M hand-held and I don't get on that very often.

Things I don't like

Guess it is time for some new pet peeves. Here you go.

Software - Part III (Yes, I know they are out of sequence.)
I just got the new Family Tree Maker 2008 program. I tried to import the nearly 500Mb file that I've been using just fine with the 2007 version of their software. It aborts and gives a meaningful message, "The import failed because an unknown error occurred." You see junk messages like that in all sorts of programs these days. When I was a baby programmer I would never dare to program in such a useless message. My boss would have skinned me alive and tossed me out the door. Back in the "good 'ol days" we were required to test for all possible error conditions and to handle them gracefully and meaningfully. If the program couldn't cope with the input and work around it, it would at least spit out a meaningful message to let the user know what needed to be corrected! It takes anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks to learn how to write programs in a given language, depending on the language and the student. It takes about five years of daily experience to learn how to do it right. Companies these days have a problem finding qualified programmers (though no shortage of people claiming to be qualified and often with impressive documents testifying to how wonderful they are.) When they do find good people, they are often unwilling to pay what they are worth and very few companies give their programmers the perks and benefits their unique skills deserve. Instead they give those to the ... well, I won't go there. It's no wonder most software belongs in diapers these days and unless the public unites and complains en masse, I see little hope of improvement. But now you know. It doesn't have to be like this!
Software - Part I
Why does it seem like every piece of software I get these days thinks it's the only program running on my computer? The authors all seem to feel free to interrupt whatever I'm doing whenever they want to check for updates or perform other mysterious things. Cool it guys! By all means give me an option to schedule regular updates or perform other automatic actions. Make it easy to turn such features on OR off! But don't enable automatically scheduled events as a default (and certainly not without a clear warning and option to disable!) What if my system was in some hospital running life-critical services, or perhaps a call center database support function for a suicide help line, or part of a nuclear power generation plant. Some things just can't be put on hold! YOU don't know what I'm doing with my computer and you have no right to make assumptions and to take control unilaterally. Even though my operations are not so critical, I find it very upsetting to have my antivirus/firewall [and I've tried several - they're all bad] program halt everything else while it goes into some update cycle several times a day. Grrr!
Software - Part II
Microsoft has a lot of money. They also have a lot of supposedly smart people working for them. So why do they write such bloated, buggy software? Part of the answer is that the original Windows design has some fatal flaws built in. For one thing, the operating system should NEVER allow application programs to add, change, or delete operating system files. New hardware added to the system may require installing some drivers that violate this edict but even that should not be permitted without very explicit informed user consent and such exceptions should be limited to only those files necessary to support the actual operation of the hardware and not all the applications that subsequently make use of the hardware. Yet Windows not only encourages programs to mangle it, it nearly demands it of programs! Almost every program you get will want to install parts of itself into the C:\Windows\System directory, C:\Windows\System32, or some other subdirectory of the Windows system area. Likewise almost every program will create or modify entries in the Windows System Registry which is a giant inscrutable database of information telling Windows how your system is configured. The problem is that it's very easy for one program to accidentally (or intentionally) change or damage something that was set up by Windows or by some other program. Identifying the problem and fixing it has gotten so difficult that even Microsoft has issued a bulletin saying it's often best to just re-install Windows when problems arise. So we're left with a situation where every program we install is a crap shoot. Will it, or won't it kill our system or make it unstable?
The bloat arises partly as Microsoft tries to compensate for their bad software design by having Windows identify and fix problems rather than just preventing them in the first place. It also arises from Microsoft continuing to add more and more features as part of the operating system. I wouldn't have a problem with Microsoft giving me free software if it were kept as separate from the OS (Operating System) as all applications should be. A good example is Internet Explorer. There is no reason why it should be built into the operating system (I won't argue about whether it IS built that way, just whether or not it SHOULD be.) If all the bloated pieces of code were kept separate it would be easy to remove them if they weren't needed. The operating system could run faster and there would be fewer points of inimical software to attack. A lean operating system kernel is a very good thing indeed! Linux is a good example of a clean, lean, mean design and I firmly believe it will someday replace Windows as the dominant system. (Don't hold your breath. I didn't say it would happen soon.)
I could go on but I'm out of time tonight.

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Send email to: valerie@mydfz.com
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Valerie and Evan Kramer
P.O. Box 49
Port Orford, OR 97465-0049