New Laptop–My Discussion with HP & Microsoft

In the middle of my last on-line class, both my desktop and laptop computers died. I scrambled, and I first purchased a laptop while rebuilding the desktop. The desktop stays on my desk, the screen is larger (important for old eyes) and is closer to the printer (important for old knees). Both computers have their place, along with my weather computer (, my microcontroller and ham radio programming computer and my tablet. Having this pompous opinion of myself and my knowledge of computers, I thought that the mega-giant-oligopolistic-corporate-executive business typhoons would appreciate a customer’s honest reaction to their products.

The review I wrote was straightforward. I sent it to Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard, and to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I told them that I would be printing my letter and their response in my blog in a week. Actually, it’s been slightly over a week.

Here’s what I wrote:

An Open Letter to Microsoft & Hewlett Packard:

My old computer (a hand-me-up from my wife) started having issues. It began to claim that its CPU usage was too high; guess what? So is mine.

So I purchased a new HP Computer using an Intel CORE i3 with Windows 8.1. I found one computer online, but it wouldn’t be delivered in time. So, in order to get the computer in a timely manner—in other words, so I could complete some work before I got in trouble for being late, I stopped at the local store. The computer I was originally looking at was an online item only, and they had nothing similar, so I ended up spending twice as much as I intended. Mechanically it is sort-of, kind-of a nice computer with touchscreen, reasonable battery life and everything.

So, given that I ended up with a new toy, why am I not totally jazzed?

Windows 8.1.

When Windows 8 came out, I paid for 4 licenses, all of which I eventually removed, returning the computers to Windows 7. One computer did not have Windows 7, so I had to spend between one hundred and two hundred dollars to get a copy of Windows 7. If you have to do that, might as well get Windows 7 Ultimate—the top of the line.

The new computer came with Windows 8.1, and I did not have time to find, purchase, and load Windows 7, so Windows 8.1 it is.

I have tried to use Widows 8.1 as intended, using the tiles and applications. Unfortunately, the applications in Windows 8.1 apps are much, much slower than accessing things directly on the Internet. This does not seem like progress.

Incidentally, I have a Kindle and a cheap Android tablet, both of which I use regularly and neither of which operates so slowly.

Now I’m sure you can give me a thousand reasons why this happens. I’ll save you the trouble – I don’t care.

If something is inconvenient, I don’t like it. I don’t care whose name is on it. I don’t care that Bill Gates is still alive and Steve Jobs is dead. I wouldn’t even care if Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing reached back from beyond the grave and were the primary authors.

I know that Windows 10 is coming out soon. However, after paying for copies of Windows ME, Windows Vista and Windows 8, I can’t help but wonder if you release lousy products on a regular basis, just to force us to upgrade to something that works.

I’m getting better at Linux, but is it too much to ask for Microsoft to produce a customer friendly product and not charge and arm and a leg for it? Are huge corporations like Hewlett Packard held hostage to Microsoft and unwilling to either seek out an alternative or to pressure Microsoft into producing a quality product?

I anxiously await your reply.


Steve Nowak


Ms. Whitman did not personally reply, but one of her people did. The original reply had a small typo, as opposed to my note which was rife with typos. They corrected theirs. Here’s the response from Hewlett Packard:

Hello Steve Nowak

Hewlett-Packard Executive Customer Relations received your message along with the attached letter providing feedback about your experience with Windows 8.1 plus other operating systems you’ve used in the past, and your disappointment in the functionality and performance of the current software that was preinstalled on the HP notebook you recently purchased.

Thank you for your communication. We appreciate input from our customers. Your concerns and comments will help as the company makes marketing, service, or delivery decisions in the future.

To get assistance for a product/and or warranty related situation, the phone number to call HP’s support division is 1-800 474- 6836 or you can refer to HP’s website via

For other company inquiries, the phone number to reach our office is 1-800 756-0608 option 7 Monday-Friday from 8:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time and our agents will address or direct the matter accordingly.

Kind Regards,

Yun Sil

Hewlett-Packard Company

Executive Customer Relations


The response from Microsoft, on the other hand was, ” .”

Regarding the Police

I read an interesting editorial in today’s Virginian-Pilot by Coby W. Dillard addressing the interaction between the police and the citizens. It got me thinking.

My father was a police officer, although he threatened to disown me if I followed his career path. As he approached retirement, he commented that too many of the younger officers thought they were Starsky and Hutch. After retiring he told me that he was proud that in over twenty years on the force he never fired his gun except on the training range. Not even once.

He had his biases, as we all do:

  • People in the richest neighborhoods look at the police as beneath them—almost as servants, and inconvenient ones at that.
  • There are other neighborhoods in which the occupants believe the way to settle any dispute involves using firearms.
  • No matter what you catch someone doing, it’s not their fault, they’re innocent and it’s all a misunderstanding.

I remember when cops walked a beat, and really knew the people. I remember my father stopping home for dinner when his patrol area included our neighborhood. We lived on a dead-end street and all the neighborhood kids would pile into the police car for a ride to the end of the street and back. He didn’t run the siren and lights all the way, just for a few seconds, to the delight of every kid in the car.

What changed?

These are my opinions, biases, and suggestions. I’ve never been a police officer, but as a veteran I’ve borne arms in dangerous areas among people who weren’t to be trusted and were intent on hurting or killing me. I’ve seen death up close and personal a hundred times over. I’m old enough to perhaps even have a little wisdom.

  1. Everyone—both police and non-police—has forgotten that police officers are citizens. It is not police OR citizens. We are all in this together. It’s us; there is no “them.”
  2. Our country has an excellent military. On the other hand, people who are not in the military but who tromp around in military-like regalia don’t impress me. This ranges from the open-carry self-appointed militia bubbas to small town police with government surplus MRAPs (mine resistant ambush protected vehicles) and grenade launchers. By the way, MRAPs get about six to eight miles to the gallon, paid for by us taxpayers. They weigh about eighteen tons, which tends to collapse small bridges, crack roads and even collapse the sewers and pipes buried beneath the roads—requiring repairs also paid for by taxpayers.
  3. We’ve forgotten how to communicate. Chanting slogans makes great video for the twenty-four-hour-news monster but does nothing to support a dialogue. By the same token, no one “exits their ve-HIC-le.” We get out of the car. We need to talk with one another, not at one another.

Life is hard enough as it is. Let’s not make it harder.

Those Voices Ringing in My Head

W. C. Fields Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.

W. C. Fields
Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.

When I was younger, there were many movie and television stars that had great voices. Impressionists like David Frye and Frank Gorshin could make us laugh by using those distinctive voices in unlikely scenarios. I’d like to compare some of those great voices of yesterday to the great, or at least distinctive voices of today.


Ed Sullivan: “Tonight, right heere on our shtage, we have a really big shoe!”

Groucho Marx: “This morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never figure out.”

W.C. Fields: “Yesh indeed, yesh indeed. Anyone who hates children and small dogs can’t be all bad!”

Chico Marx: “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause!”

Jimmy Stewart: “Well, uh, uh, uh, now that’s an interesting question, you see, uh, …”

Harpo Marx: ” “

Burgess Meredith: “You know what you ain’t got, Rock? You ain’t got management!”

Marlon Brando: “Why do you come here on the day of my daughter’s wedding?”

Mae West: “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

James Earl Jones: “The Force is strong in this one!”

Rodney Dangerfield: “I get no respect—no respect at all.”


James Earl Jones: “This is CNN.”

Gilbert Gottfried: “Aflac!” [“You’re fired!]

Fran Drescher: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”


The Simpsons don’t count because I’m only including real people’s real voices.

Spam I Am – A Tribute*

Imagine what Sam or the Cat in the Hat could do today!

Imagine what Sam or the Cat in the Hat could do today!

I do not like to get this spam;

I do not like it, Sam-I-am!

I don’t want money from a prince,

Nor my [BLANK] to grow an inch.

I do not want spam on my phone,

I want my email left alone.

I bought my computer to be for me,

But spam is all I seem to see.

I will not stand for all this spam,

I will take action Sam-I-am.

While others may say I’m a nut,

My Internet cable I have cut.


* With apologies and fondness to Theodor Suess Geisel – “Dr. Suess”

It’s Time to Come Together


Sometimes only a few words are needed to say a lot.

Originally posted on Wordsmith's Desk:

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: (Matthew 12:25)


It’s a time for prayer…not politics; it’s a time for healing, not hurting; it’s a time for unity, not division…for a house divided against itself cannot stand.

View original

Does Watson Keep Getting Smarter?

Original illustration by Sidney Paget.  Dr. Watson (left) listens as Holmes explains what he has deduced from a pipe.

Original illustration by Sidney Paget. Dr. Watson (left) listens as Holmes explains what he has deduced from a pipe.

It seems like everybody is doing an update on Sherlock Holmes.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are doing an excellent British version. Then there’s Robert Downey, Jr. switching back and forth between Iron Man and Sherlock, and, of course Johnny Lee Miller on Elementary whose Watson is female and now working as a peer, so he’s added a second sidekick—also female. Then there are the thinly disguised versions, including House, MD (House instead of Holmes; Dr. Wilson instead of Dr. Watson; both House and Holmes were opiate users and only took cases that intrigued them.)

Modern versions all seem to be intent on reinventing Watson. Of course, if you base your impression on the old Basil Rathbone movies in which Nigel Bruce portrayed Watson as generally befuddled with intermittent periods of amazement, you’d agree that Watson needed some improvement. (No reflection on Bruce–I blame the writers and the director.) However, in the original stories, Watson was a physician who had been wounded in Afghanistan and returned home (my, how history repeats itself). He was an intelligent, educated man who was outshone by Holmes’ genius.

I admit that the stories needed to be updated. I read them about fifty years after they were written, and I had to look up (in a book, not on the Internet) what a hansom cab was, and was fascinated that the mail was delivered several times each day. Even the media—well in those days, the press—was interesting in the books. The paper published more than one edition each day, and in the event of “Breaking News!!!” an Extra edition was run.

Besides, Holmes opium use and habit of firing his pistol at the wall in his flat might have been outrageous in his day, but would have dire consequences today.

So, I agree with updating the stories, but I stand by John Watson, MD (although after he marries, his wife refers to him as “James.” Mysterious.) Wounded in the shoulder by a Jezail bullet followed by enteric fever (typhoid) he was packed onto a ship and sent home with a modest pension for nine months. (“Thank you for your service to King and Country. All right. Now off with you!”) I mentioned that he was intelligent and educated, but he also had courage, accompanying Holmes and even being asked to bring his service revolver at times.

He was also just a touch Avant-garde, given the tattoo on his wrist. No Abby Sciuto, but not generally a mark of gentry.

Watson may not have been the one to deduce the solution, but Arthur Conan Doyle created his character as the one who observed, understood and explained the events.

Ladies and gentlemen, I say ye, Dr. John H. Watson. Hear, Hear!

Black Friday

bfYears ago Art Buchwald wrote a piece that parodied Thanksgiving. If memory serves, one of the Pilgrims, who was in sales and marketing, thought it was a great idea. Start with a big feast to begin “Thunderhead Month,” a month of mad shopping and spending leading up to Christmas.

If only Art could see things today. We’ve exceeded his wildest imagination – and Art Buchwald had a wonderful imaginations.

But beneath the advertisements, and the specials, there is some very real and special magic. The daylight is shorter, the temperatures colder. We stick closer to home and hearth—in other words family. We decorate the house inside and out. Neighbors and passers-by may see the outside, but only family and friends—those near and dear to us get to see the inside. The inside that needs just the right tree with just the right lights and decorations. Everything needs to be perfect for those who are oh so important to us.

You’d almost think that there was a higher power telling us to love one another the way He loves us.

So as you venture out during Thunderhead Month, keep that love in mind when you’ve stood in line just a little too long and the clerk is just a little inattentive and the sale price doesn’t go through. It makes all the difference in the world.