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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Blue Screen - Windows Warning

For several weeks now I have been getting blue screen warnings with an audio message encoraging me to phone a Toll-free Help line (1-844-552-7825) in order to fix it. If you have this problem DO NOT call the number as it is a complete scam. You will get an Indian voice claiming to be a Microsoft Technician and may end up being scammed for a couple of hundred dollars. Here's how I eventually fixed mine, all thanks to a bright gentleman called Stelian Pilici .

I found the fix at the webpage. There are 4 distinct steps - don't be satisfied with just the one step and believe that the malware has been removed - be patient and take the time to go through all 4 steps.

STEP 1: Remove Windows Warning Error adware with AdwCleaner
STEP 2: Remove Windows Warning Error browse hijacker Junkware Removal Tool
STEP 3: Remove Windows Warning Error pop-up virus with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
STEP 4: Double-check for the “Windows Warning Error” malware with HitmanPro

In each case you will be able to download an executable file that you should run. Step 4 will prompt you for a product code after you have completed the scan. If you don't wish to purchase a license, opt for the free 30-day trial - this will activate the part of the program that carries out the cleaning of what malware remains on your computer.

There is also an optional 5th step you can take if you need to - you'll find that on the webpage. Please note that I cannot guarantee that this will eliminate your problem as scam artists are forever changing their methods, software etc.

I hope you have found this useful - if you have please share it wherever.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Letter from America

This week marks the 1st anniversary of my historic (for me) arrival in America - one giant step for me and just a small leap forward for mankind. I have learned much during these first 52 weeks in the States. Before anyone sets foot in this country, most people have already formed an impression in their minds about the place; an impression that has been fabricated mostly from television programs. Before I make any specific remarks, let me just say that my own impressions since being here have been fashioned by the region I am living in. America is a big country, so what I am reporting on may not necessarily be true for every region of every state. However up here in the North Country its validity holds.

Firstly, forget about all of those glamorous lady cops and agents you see on your black screens - people here are very ordinary, the sort of people that you would come across in any average city in the rest of the world. Okay I have seen a couple of the fairer sex that I've had to do a double take on, and they may be more common in New York City or southern California. Of course demographics come into it, so allow me to give you some local figures (by courtesy of Wikipedia). According to the 2010 Census, the population up here near the Canadian border was 94% white and just 1% black or African American. Of the total 23.3% are of French or French Canadian extraction, 20.5% Irish, 16.1%  English and some 30% from other European countries. 92% of the population speaks only English at home - indeed I have yet to hear or speak French - I guess I will have to wait for my first visit to Canada, only 47 miles away as the crow flies.

I have always been an avid reader - I love the novels of Nelson deMille and Umberto Eco, to give examples of the genre I prefer. This may have something to do with why I took to writing some ten years ago. A couple of weeks ago I joined the local library, which, although small, puts to shame those that I have been used to in southern Africa over recent years. Here, not only may I take out 30 items at a time, but I have been able to borrow such valuable sources of good writing as Harper's (no - not Harper's Bazaar), The New Yorker, Scientific American and an excellent magazine for any writer that was unknown to me until a couple of days ago, Writer's Digest.

So what have I achieved since I have been here? Well, at great expense and a lot of stressful waiting, I am at last a permanent resident with a green card, authority to work, a social security number, and a state driver's license. When that official notification arrived in the post saying "Welcome to the United States of America", a huge weight dropped off of my shoulders. All of the signs here point towards a buoyant economy, although at least 90% of the jobs advertised locally are for openings in one of the medical or nursing professions. I have been trying for a number of writing jobs, but prospective employers here are extremely bad at replying to my emails. They don't seem to realize that it is both courteous and considerate to reply to a cover letter, even if only to acknowledge its receipt.

Well, it is now the end of April. The snow that had been lying in our yard for four months without break, and up to 3 feet deep, has at last gone, although even as I write there are a few light snowflakes falling from the gray, overcast sky. However there are good signs everywhere that Spring has almost sprung. New green grass is sprouting in the yard, perennials that have been dormant under their white winter blanket have started to sprout new life, and the squirrels and chipmunks have reappeared in the yard, rummaging for last fall's hidden acorns and other seeds. Last week, before all the snow had melted, two white tailed deer strolled out of the forest opposite, and up the road right outside the house. And we no longer have to have both central heating furnace and the pellet stove going 24/7.

One thing that it's difficult to get away from in America is her politics, and it's something that you don't really notice that much until you actually live with it, and yet it's here on a day to day basis. For example up here in the North Country we have at least six free local newspapers. Hardly a week goes by without some columnist having a dig at a national political figure. For my readers who are not that familiar with it, the United States is split down the middle in a number of different ways. There are just the two parties - the Democrats on the left and the Republicans or GOP (Grand Old Party) on the political right. But that is not the only split. To southerners, northerners are still "Yankees", the southerners are "Rednecks" to those living in the North, and there is a lot of sentiment on both sides in that regard. There is the split between those who favor abortion and the pro-life supporters, those such as the NRA (National Rifle Association) which advocates the widespread ownership of guns, and those who would like much more gun control. The NRA had more than 5 million members in 2013, according to Wikipedia. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Green Card

It's been a long wait - ten stressful months that pushed my blood pressure up to dangerous levels. However during the last few days of February I attended my Government Medical Examination and three days later an interview with an official of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Yesterday in the mail I received notification that my permanent residence had been approved and that I should receive my Green Card within two to three weeks. It actually arrived in the mail today, and I can now legally work in the United States.

I've learned a lot since leaving South Africa at the end of April last year, and much of what I have learned you will find in previous postings. My opinion of several airlines has hit rock bottom. Emirates is one of them. They would not even answer my emails, even after advising me that they had found the laptop that went missing in Dubai, and would forward it to me without delay. I also got to fly on Aer Lingus. Their Shannon to Logan flights are little more that cattle wagons, with three ageing flight attendants trying their best to serve nearly 200 single class passengers (there are no Business or First Classes on these money-saving flights).

After 42 years in southern Africa I have been thrown into the deep end of continental American winters. Yesterday the daytime temperature rose above freezing point for only the second time in almost four months. Thankfully this time it looks like staying in the 40's for a few days - not nights though, which will still be below freezing. The 2 - 3 feet of snow lying in our yard (garden) has started its slow thaw, but will probably be at least a couple of weeks before we can next see the grass on the lawn. Another thing I have learned - not to let your central heating furnace run out of oil - likewise the pellet stove out of pellets. And I have learned how best to conserve the two fuels so as to keep down costs.

Now that I am able to look back at my last few years in South Africa, I can see it with a completely refreshed mind. I see a country that has openly practiced reverse-apartheid since it became independent, a country rife with nepotism, corruption and bad management, and a country with a president who apparently needs his head examined. In 1998 I was privileged to meet and shake hands with the late Nelson Mandela, a complete opposite to today's president, and a total gentleman. But we've seen it before, haven't we? Up in Zimbabwe, for example, and in the majority of newly independent states in sub-Saharan Africa. Sadly many of the whites left in South Africa have nowhere else to go. I was lucky - I have a British passport (when I first came to southern Africa in 1972, I vowed never to give it up), and I have an American wife, daughter and grandchildren. My heart, prayers and love reach out to those of you who are now stuck in that country.  At least you have the beautiful countryside, climate and wine to enjoy.

America is vibrant. The economy is back on track, and the price of gas (petrol) has recently been at its lowest for many years. You learn things by just watching television ads though - apart from the fact that the models are better looking than those in SA. It seems that at least 50% of television ads are for drug companies. Ads that market expensive prescribed drugs for heart disease, obesity, shingles,  a variety of vaccinations, COPD and many others. With the buoyant economy, many of the ads are for motor companies such as Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, and Jeep (not so many); and there is a dearth of vehicle insurance ads. Naturally, all of the big fast food chains are regularly represented.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Central Heating in the Frozen North

Well, it's almost the end of February and still the snow is lying on the ground. Except for a brief period of two or three days when the daytime temperature hit the 40's (that's Fahrenheit by the way) we have been well below freezing since we moved in in mid-November - more than 3 months. Sometimes I wonder whether I've bitten off more than I can chew!

In this climate one of the essential jobs around the house is to keep the driveway clear of snow. If you don't, it builds up and builds up, freezing next to the ground and soon becoming impassible and unusable to all but 4-wheel drives with high ground clearance. During the first few weeks we accomplished this with a snow shovel - not a good idea when you are suffering from chronic spinal issues such as I have. We were having to supplement our shoveling with a snowplow company, but they were charging $60 a visit - $90 when they also laid down grit. Anyway Liz and I decided that it would be a wise investment to get a snow blower, since our driveway is about 900 square feet. With the amount of snow we have had here this winter the snow blower has already paid for itself several times over.

One thing that I have had to necessarily become educated in after my 42 years in southern Africa are the basis of central heating. There is no central heating in that part of the World, but it is an absolute necessity up here in the frozen north - we are about 60 miles further north than Toronto in Canada. This morning we awoke to a cold house, the temperature ten degrees down from its usual 70˚F. The reason - at some time during the night the furnace had stopped because we had run out of #2 Oil. Then came another Quantum event. Liz and I were discussing the situation when my cell phone rang. It was my daughter asking how our oil was doing. As we are getting a big delivery in a couple of days, she came over and we were able to pick up a few gallons from town - enough to tide us over till Monday. The moral of this - always make sure you have at least a quarter tank of oil.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Deflated Balls - an explanation!

The answer to the problem of deflated balls has been staring people of intelligence right in the face since day one. It all boils down to those laws of physics that we learned way back in High school. Remember Boyle's Law, Gay-Lussac's Law and Charles' Law - all those laws relating to pressure, absolute temperature and volume. Just apply the Kinetic Theory to the Patriots' balls.

"Particles are in constant random motion, and they collide with one another and with the walls of the container in which they are enclosed (the football). Each particle has an inherent kinetic energy that is totally dependent upon temperature only."

If the footballs were inflated inside at normal room temperature, and were taken outside into temperatures that, during the game in question, were below freezing, then the pressure of the air inside the balls would have to drop, simply because the air would get colder, the kinetic energy of the air inside the footballs would reduce, and there would be a lower pressure than when they were first inflated. QED.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Snow time

I arrived in the North Country after the last of the previous winter's snows had fallen. Cherry trees were in blossom in the suburbs of Boston, but the oaks, the birches, the beech trees and the maples were yet to receive their Spring foliage. There was still snow on the mountain-tops, and even a still-frozen waterfall by the side of the road at Kinsman Notch. I remarked that I had not seen snow close up for more than 42 years, only to be told that I should not worry as I would see plenty within the following 12 months.

The first snow of this winter just happened to fall on November 14th, the day Liz and I moved from the minuscule apartment we had occupied since my arrival on May 1st. At the time of writing, more than 2 months later, it is still lying on the ground. I recall following New Hampshire's weather last year while still in the Eastern Cape, and remember that the daytime temperature had hardly risen above freezing for more than 3 months. Well, I can now tell you that apart from a period of about 4 or 5 days, the daytime temperature has remained below freezing since that first snow of winter fell, and as I write, it has actually risen as far as freezing point before falling again as the sun goes down.

Not having seen snow close up for several decades, I had forgotten what it looked like. The last time I can recall was at Christmastime 1969 or 1970 in when a group of naval aviators and Wrens spent time in a rented chalet in Kitzbuhel, Austria, on a skiing vacation. I can clearly remember seeing ice crystals forming in mid-air while on the slopes - I witnessed the same here a few days ago too. On that particular day it was 20 below in the North Country - that's -30˚C for those of you who no longer use the Fahrenheit scale. What I had forgotten was how the snow sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight, particularly when temperatures are well below freezing. Back in the 60's and 70's there were no smart phones of course, and it would have been difficult to capture such shots as these while strapped to a pair of skis.

Liz and I are very Nature oriented. One of the reasons that we chose our last several places of residence was that each was "out in the countryside". Our first "joint" venture was a rented cottage in Blue Hills in Midrand. Then, on my retirement, we bought the farm in Martindale in the Eastern Cape. Then Liz found that rented apartment in Bath - on the edge of the forest and visited by squirrels, a friendly chipmunk and even once by a skunk. Now we are once more on the edge of a forest. We rarely see as many animals because of the snow, but it is clear from the fresh tracks in the snow that they have been in the yard during the night. I did see a white tailed deer the other day, picking her way through the fallen trees just a few yards away.