March 9, 2017 – Elections – The Process

At the March meeting, we will have two scheduled presentations:
• Confirmation of the PCCC officers for 2017
• How your vote is recorded in North Carolina
Time permitting, we will entertain general technical questions and complete a discussion from February on VPNs, including checking our internet speed.

A Message from the Common Table
March 4, 2017

Where did winter go this season? I only remember one cold spell that only lasted a week or so. My azaleas are blooming and daffodils are almost done. My maple tree is already budding out. That did not happen until late April last year.

I have recovered from last month’s trials of lost key and breaking into my own house. I replaced the glass and re-glazed the frame. Now I just need to get a few coats of paint on it. That will probably take a year or more to do for only an hour or two of work!

This issue of my dialog will be short compared to last month. I am padding this with small talk to fill the space. I hope Bill will forgive me for the tardiness of this writing. I started to write this on my new, old MacBook earlier this week. I had cloned it to be like my old Mac and then updated the OS to a supported version and updated Libre Office. I had not used the Libre software after installing until now. It would not run. WHAT!, something not working on a Mac? Of course I tried to “fix” it. Well, here I am on my old Mac writing this. Do any of you know anything about Mac’s?

We will have our Elections this week for our officers. We amended our By-Laws last month for this process. If you missed the amendment, it’s all written up at

Bill B and I will also present on the Election process. Not our election process but the Elections of all our Representatives, Senators, President, Governor and all. Bill and I have worked many local, state and national elections and will explain how all this works in North Carolina. We hope to explain that elections we are familiar with are fair and accurate. There are too many “news” reports out there that say that is not the case and elections are “rigged” and much fraud is going on.

I look forward to seeing all of you this week, March 9, 2017 at the BBB in Matthews. Look for where the BBB is in this newsletter or online at We still have dinner before the meeting, so bring a bag dinner or your favorite take out and come at 5:30 PM. Our program starts at 6:30 PM.

Galen Bolin
President PCCC

Trying To Work On The Road

I have three computers that can function without being plugged in and have an attached screen and keyboard. None of them is more than barely adequate to use for a presentation at a meeting. Two are netbooks with 1 GB of RAM and a 1 GHz Atom processor designed for computing with low resources. The third is a decently configured laptop; but it’s been failing for two years.

I bought that nice computer so I could experience Windows 8 and a touch-screen to better support my clients. Its upgrade to Win 8.1 was straightforward. Sometime later it started having difficulty shutting down or rebooting. That was only an issue when I needed to travel with it – maybe 15% of my use. That is, until I kicked off the Win 10 upgrade.

However I tried: Windows Updates, GWX automatic, DVD or USB offline install; the upgrade would not complete but rolled back to 8.1. So I turned to my trusty deep repair tool – Spinrite. It stopped on an early screen telling me I had a critical hard drive failure even it couldn’t get around. I emailed their support with the error code and got a quick response that my partition table was corrupted.

This is a sleek, modern, light laptop with everything integrated and sealed including a high-tech hybrid hard drive. I knew replacing the drive would entail a lot more than the 30-second, 1-screw task I was familiar with a few years ago; so decided to live with what I had until a total failure.

Surprisingly after sitting powered up on my bench for a week or so, I came back to a Win 10 welcome screen.

A year later I decided I really needed a decent portable computer and would take a scorched earth view on the problem. I disabled UEFI in the BIOS which “protects” the system at power-on against early-loading malware or unauthorized changes to the OS, among other things. Then I booted from a new instance of the Win 10 Media Creation Tool. When it asked what to do with the data already on the disc, I wiped everything out. This forced the installer to re-partition the disc and format a new drive for Windows.

Now I have a fully capable Win 10 laptop. But it has no functionality beyond Win 10. I am going to attempt to make it a usable system without installing any software that has a price tag on it. Right now I’m writing this in LibreOffice which supports .docx and .xlsx files that are fully interchangeable with MS Office 2007+. Previous programs I’ve used that said they were compatible could reasonably go one way. But higher features and formatting tended to get wonky after multiple moves from one “standard” to the other and back.

Unfortunately, full compatibility does not extend to the user interface. Besides intimately knowing where all the commands and shortcuts are in MS Office, I’ve significantly modified it with templates, macros, and extended menus; some dating from Office 97. None of those will move seamlessly to LibreOffice.

And … about those underpowered netbooks.

One of them has a dead screen. It is sitting in my bedroom with an external monitor. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch it before it got an automatic Win 10 “upgrade;” nor did I take the initiative to roll it back within the 30-day grace. So I have a hopelessly underpowered Win 10 computer that does have a complete, unusable Office 10 suite and many other utilities. It’s destined to become my first “boots to Linux” computer – when I get around to it.

The other netbook I jealously protect with its many ports that are not on modern portables as the computer I carry to clients. I pulled it out of a trash pile after the free upgrade ended so it still has the capable Win 7 Starter that runs adequately on low resources. I’ve added my networking tools and it has a physical switch to turn off the WiFi so I can be sure I’m testing Ethernet rather than some random hotspot.

Bill Barnes, PCCC