If you have been trying to contact me by email at QMUL recently, please try my St Andrews address instead.

Inevitably, I suppose, technology tends to fail in the middle of a pandemic. Both QMUL and St Andrews use Outlook for email. While the St Andrews version continues to work fine, the QMUL version has gone into a sulk and does nothing. I get a page looking like it has been written in unadorned HTML with a very large font size; none of the links work, and no new mail has shown up for a week. The problem occurs on both the laptops I have access to now, and in both Firefox and Chrome, so I doubt that the trouble is at my end. I have put in a trouble ticket and wait for a response.

Of course, this has only been one of a rash of problems in the last couple of weeks. Just before I went to Prague for the Midsummer Combinatorics Workshop, my new Dell laptop started giving trouble. Mail and web pages would fail to download. At first I assumed it was a problem with the wi-fi. But when various other difficulties started happening, like failing to shut down properly, and failing to read USB drives, and then failing to work even when connected via an ethernet cable, it appeared to be more serious. Fortunately I was in Prague, where Honza Hubička took it as a challenge to get it working. The problem turned out to be way outside my competence, and I am not even sure I can describe it properly. On the Dell, it seems, everything connects to the USB rather than directly to the CPU; at some point Linux was upgraded, but the upgrade was incompatible with the USB driver in the Dell. So Honza was able to fix it by going back to an earlier version of Linux.

At almost exactly the same time, my fairly new compact camera broke. This seemed to be a mechanical problem: if you touch the zoom control, it seizes up and goes into a sulk, demanding to be turned off. So back to my old camera, which had no direct communication with the computer, so I have to take out the memory card and read that. Now I had a gadget which connects a card to a USB port, but I lost it before Christmas (I left it behind after giving a seminar at Imperial College). So what to do? Eventually I took both cameras to Prague, used the old one to take photographs, put the card into the new one, and transferred the pictures.

I didn’t take my ancient Acer laptop to Prague; it is big and heavy compared to the Dell. But soon after my return, it developed a problem of its own: the battery refused to charge, and was running down at an alarming rate. Fortunately this had happened once before. The fix is just to leave it for a couple of days, after which it behaves itself again.

My third (and preferred) laptop, by Entroware, is (sad to say) in London, and unavailable to me until I am brave enough to travel south.

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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4 Responses to Communication

  1. Joao Araujo says:

    Dear Peter

    This description is a time trip for me to the pre-mac time ūüėČ

    My conversion occured when I went to St Andrews and saw all those gap experts using Mac (or as they told me¬†¬†“the Linux that works”)

    Best wishes Joao

    • Ah, but the number of times I have seen people struggling to get their Macs to talk to the data projector in a lecture room…
      The incident that really left its mark on me was when I was addressing a room full of schoolchildren, and the organiser asked me to cut my talk in half. The speaker before me had a multimedia presentation on his Mac, and took more than half an hour to get it to talk to the data projector (with, as usual in such cases, half a dozen people standing round trying to help). And because of the way his presentation was structured, he coudn’t (or wouldn’t) cut it down, so I had to take the hit.

  2. I suffered the same problem with my QMUL email. After a week, a trouble ticket and two very long sessions with people from the “Helpdesk”, I had managed to sync my mail to my Mac in order to avoid the problem. But the problem with webmail remained. I tried again yesterday, and it now works, but the font size is now so small that my ageing eyes cannot cope with it. For standalone work, I am now converted to the Mac, but it does struggle with communication with the outside world in any form.

    • They fixed mine in about a week, without any need for me to go to the helpdesk (fortunately). The only problem was that they had told me it was fixed by an email to the QMUL account (although I had given them an alternative address), so I didn’t find out it was fixed until I checked to see what was going on.
      But it does seem to be OK now…

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