A Momentous Decision

Today (25 June 2021) I made the momentous decision NOT to buy a physical diary for 2022, totally switching to an electronic one (Google Calendar) – one that I can access on my laptop or smartphone.

For many years I’ve used both analogue and digital diaries, focussing on the strengths of each format. I especially enjoyed the tactile pleasure of touching and using a quality Moleskine diary.

But the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 meant that many people ended the year with many empty pages in their paper diaries. For me, it also coincided with my retirement, and so the connection with a physical diary loosened somewhat.

This year, much as I love my Moleskine diary, using it is not coming as naturally as before, almost becoming a chore sometimes. So I made the sad decision to switch completely, sorry Moleskine! At least my bank balance will be a little healthier, it was a small luxury I allowed myself. At least I can still use their wonderful notebooks, I can’t see myself NOT using them!

Overdependent on technology?

As a total technophile, I’ve been reflecting recently on whether we’ve become overdependent on it in our interdependent world.

Technology seems to have taken over all aspects of our lives. Yes, it brings huge benefits, but what happens when it fails on a huge scale? Also, what about those who are left behind, unable to access or use it?

Technology in my first appointment as a Salvation Army Officer (Bideford 1980) comprised a portable typewriter (Cc meant carbon paper copy), a duplicator, a landline telephone, and snail mail. Oh, and a big black book for finance. Those were the days!

I’m not sure I want to go back to those days, but they were simpler times. I love technology, and (now retired) there were many aspects of technology I was highly delighted to say goodbye to!

Online File Merger (Free & Secure)

Whilst looking for a simple way to merge two images for a blog post, I came across FilesMerge, a really useful website. You can merge image files easily in a variety of ways, along with many other formats (although I haven’t tried these yet).

There’s also an online Voice Recorder, where you can use the microphone to record your voice, cut and edit it, and save it as an MP3 file. The recorder runs directly in the browser without installing additional software.

First Telegraph Message

My father served in the Royal Signals during the Second World War, and was a Morse Code operator. This fascinated me as a child as he remembered and demonstrated his skills, so much so that I learnt all the letters – not that I could remember them now!

On this day (24 May 1844) Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message over a line strung alongside a railroad between Washington DC and Baltimore some forty miles away. It was an early step in the subsequent rise of technological change upon society, one in which has resulted in me being able to write and publish this post to the whole world from the smartphone in my pocket.

Morse conceived of a rapid communications system using electricity and the electro-magnet while travelling from Europe to take up a post as an arts professor in New York. It was as a result of this idea that he first developed what became known as Morse Code, a method of rendering the alphabet in a sequence of dashes and dots which allowed the sending of messages by telegraph, though his system was significantly simplified by his colleague Alfred Vail. Source

The rest is history, as they say, for in less than two hundred years we have the whole of human knowledge at our fingertips. Unfortunately, we often sadly lack the wisdom to use it wisely.

Language Learning with Duolingo

I’ve been dabbling with other languages for many years, but retirement and modern technology makes the whole process a lot easier, and Duolingo is the perfect app.

I know and speak basic Spanish, get by in French and Italian, and want to learn some simple German. Language learning is now a piece of cake on my smartphone with Duolingo.

Learning a language on Duolingo is completely free, but you can remove ads and support free education with Plus. Source

Duolingo Plus is quite expensive, but nothing compared with the cost of actual lessons with a teacher, especially if you consider the daily cost of about 22p (UK).

Over the years I’ve basically taught myself with books and audio, now I find Duolingo is the perfect teacher. You can easily dip in and out of it in odd moments, dedicate longer sessions, or mix the two.

Es totalmente libre de aprender y muy divertirse también. ¿Por qué no lo intentas?

Simplenote: Simple Publishing

Simplenote is a cross-platform app/website that has one feature that is especially useful. You can use it to publish a page on the web with a simple click, share the link with your audience, and remove the page just as easily at any time. But it’s far more than that.

I use it to write posts for my blog before publication here. In fact, it actually comes from the company behind WordPress, so it makes sense.

Notes stay updated across all your devices, automatically and in real time. There’s no “sync” button: It just works. Add tags to find notes quickly with instant searching. Share a to-do list, post some instructions, or publish your notes online. Notes are backed up with every change, so you can see what you noted last week or last month. Write, preview, and publish your notes in Markdown format. Apps, backups, syncing, sharing – it’s all completely free. Source

If you’re not using Simplenote, you’re missing out. TechCrunch

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Enigma Machine Seized

The story of cracking the secret German Enigma Machine codes at Bletchley Park is well known, but on 9 May 1941 an extraordinarily brave salvage team boarded a sinking German U-boat and seized one of the encryption machines.

The U-boat was chased and hit with a depth charge. It surfaced after being badly damaged, and the bold decision was made to board it and remove anything that might prove valuable.

A sublieutenant named David Balme, who was given the job of leading the boarding party, found it empty and ‘abandoned in great haste’. When one of his men saw what looked like an unusual typewriter, bolted down and ‘plugged in and as though it was in actual use when abandoned’, he unscrewed it, managing to carry the heavy machine out and onto HMS Bulldog. Such a device had never been seen before. The salvage team also took various codebooks. This little heralded moment of bravery was one of the most significant of the war, assisting in the breakthrough that is credited with shortening the war by years and saving countless of lives. Source

Realising the importance of not alerting the Germans that an Enigma machine had been captured, Winston Churchill didn’t even inform President Roosevelt, his closest ally.

Windows 10 System Restore

System Restore is a lifesaver and might well get you out of a serious computer problem, as it has for me on a number of occasions. It’s a digital ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.

System Restore is a feature in Microsoft Windows that allows the user to revert their computer’s state (including system files, installed applications, Windows Registry, and system settings) to that of a previous point in time, which can be used to recover from system malfunctions or other problems. In Windows 10, System Restore is turned off by default and must be enabled by users in order to function. This does not affect personal files such as documents, music, pictures, and videos. Source

Unfortunately, as you can read above, it’s not turned on by default. I’ve also found out that, even if you have previously switched it on, it gets switched off with a Windows 10 upgrade. So, whenever your Windows is updated, it’s worth checking. As well as switching it on, you can decide how much space to allocate to the feature, and create manual restore points. I make a point of creating one each week to be on the safe side.

One day you’ll thank me!

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The title of this post will suggest it’s one for geeks.

I’ve just upgraded my Window 10 Home OS to the latest preview build using the Windows Insider Program. So far so good, although a driver for my printer appears to need updating. One friend has commented that he’s had nothing but problems since installing it.

The obvious difference is a change to the file icons, and I’ve also noticed that when you restart you have an option to restart apps after signing in. Time will tell what other changes there are.

PhotoScan (a favourite app)

Until recently I’d been using Microsoft Office Lens (part of Microsoft Office Mobile App) to scan documents on my smartphone, but I started having issues with focussing. It could be one of many reasons and nothing to do with the app itself, but I’ve gone back to using PhotoScan by Google to scan documents and photos.

I use it mainly to scan receipts and other text documents, but there’s all sorts of features to use with photos. I’d been looking at various apps to scan old family photos, but I think PhotoScan will do the job. The only cost would be if you needed extra storage on Google, and that’s relatively cheap on a monthly basis.

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