Kids (and Many Others) Can’t Use Computers

I recently came across Kids can’t use computers… and this is why it should worry you. It is a blog posting by Marc Scott about difficulties he has encountered with people who supposedly can use computers. Many of us who do computer support can tell similar stories.

The trouble is that many people can not use computers as well as, say, cars. You know that you have to go to a gas station from time to time to refuel a car, but somehow, when it comes to computers, many people do not have the corresponding knowledge.

What is worse is that many people are proud of their ignorance. Try to tell them how to avoid a repetition of the problem you just dealt with, and they do not want to hear it. (It really is a relief when someone does listen.)

It is also thought that kids are digital natives and so they know all this stuff. That is not true either. By using a computer, you do not learn the technical side of computers any more than by driving, you learn auto mechanics.

This makes it difficult for those of us in computer support. Dealing with the same problem over and over because someone can not be bothered to learn is somewhat demoralising.

Please do not act as if computers are something you can not learn about. You can learn.


And it will make it easier for the both of us.

Odd Language #158: Jacked Up has a couple of sentences that looked odd to me: “I did install 14.04, only to find that the screen brightness settings were all jacked up. The machine booted with a very dim screen and you’d have to manually adjust it every time if you wanted to use it.”

The issue: The screen brightness settings were “all jacked up”. I read this as they were all set high, but the term “jacked up” can also mean “not working properly or as intended.” (See In this case, the settings were all jacked up, because they were all set low.

Puzzle #161: For the Birds

You have some birds: chickens, turkeys, and ducks. There are twice as many chickens as turkeys. The number of ducks is six more than the average of the number of chickens and the number of turkeys. If you have fewer than 50 birds, what is the maximum number of birds you could have?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #159 Solution: The Insurance Office

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

Whose Computer Is It?

A recent post in USENET’s, entitled “Re: Article on Win10 adoption”, had this paragraph: “I had a 10 minute deadline to email an important document. Having switched on the laptop which should have been ready to use in about a minute, Windows decided it was a good time to start installing the latest large update. Twenty minutes later it was ready for use but useless to meet my deadline. It was not a life or death situation but it has cost me a few extra days in time before I get a decision from the [recipient].”

I have had cases of Windows software deciding it knew better than I did. It once miscorrected my E-mail address on my resume. It was good that I noticed a flash at the top of the screen.

So whose computer is it?

Odd Language #157: Batty

In Deader Still, a novel by Anton Strout, the protagonist kept referring to his “extensible bat”.

The issue: Given that this is a fantasy novel, I did not know what it was. It was not until the end of the second chapter, that I realised that it was a bat-as-in-weapon rather than a bat-as-in-animal.

Puzzle #160: Oops!

Recently, I made an error in the solution for a weekly puzzle. Since it is possible to create a puzzle from just about any premise, I am going to use that!

Suppose that, for each puzzle, there is a 99% chance that I have a correct solution. In a ten-week period, I might make no errors at all, and it is doubtful that I will make as many as three.

What is the probability (to the nearest tenth of one percent) that I will make an error in the solution for exactly one or two of the puzzles in a ten-week period?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #158 Solution: Unfashion

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

A Dose of Simplicity

Gochapon are vending machines that dispense items in capsules. They are used heavily in Japan, and there are stores with banks of these machines.

In Father and son dissect a gachapon capsule toy machine to show us its magical insides【Video】/, a father and his son go to a gachapon store and see how they work.

They take one apart, and show that the mechanism is very simple. With a simple slider, one can set the price on the machine to 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500 yen.

In our computerised world, it is good to have reminders that not everything has to be computerised to be flexible.

Odd Language #156: Used To

Piers Anthony’s Visual Guide to Xanth, by Piers Anthony and Jody Lynn Nye, p. 168: “fast overland snail: A gastropod that can move faster than most birds can fly. Used to transport messages from one end of Xanth to the other.”

The issue: Does “[u]sed to” mean that it is put to the use of transport or that it formerly did transporting?