Friday, 26th March, 2021

[Day 375]

Today’s blog will be somewhat concerned with some technical computing issues for which I apologise in advance but I think you will understand why before I conclude. In the middle off the night (what other time is there?) I thought I would hunt around in a cupboard to see if I could locate any copies on 3½” diskettes of any of the suites of statistical software that I wrote in the 1990’s. Whilst looking for something else, I discovered one stray floppy disk with the interesting label which read ‘PhD_2.doc’ (Seems complete! Saved: 15/7/1999) This would have been saved approximately 2½ years after it was written but we are talking about things that were written about ¼ century before to put things in context and where the originals were presumed lost. My next thought was to see if I could locate a USB (external) disk drive which could read the file from my 3½” floppy and rummaging around underneath a bookcase, I did find the disk drive. I then saw if I could read the file into my present computer system (even though it was formatted as FAT32) and in this I was successful. So far, so good. Then of course problems start to mount up. My existing version of Word for the MAC refused to read a file composed under versions of Word far too long before for it to be able. But, the current version of Word did suggest I try an Apple program (TextEdit) which must have had the ability built into it to read earlier version of Word.doc documents. This I succeeded in doing more or less. The problem was that something had appeared to garble the program towards the very end when half of the references appear to be garbled in a strange way – characters were increased in font size to about 1000% or something mad. So I made a copy of the file I had and chopped out all of the extraneous bits that appeared garbled so I finished off with a file that was about 98% complete – good enough! Then my problems really seem to multiply. In my first theoretical chapter, I had made considerable use of tables constructed as boxes in which I was developed some typologies. The problem is that the lines of the boxes were written by a once-popular font called ‘MS LineDraw‘ The trouble is that Microsoft in its wisdom has decreed that using MS LineDraw is not the MicroSoft way of doing things – one is instructed only to use the ‘official’ Microsoft drawing packages and routines to draw boxes ‘ab initio‘ The trouble is that there might be thousands, not to say hundreds of thousands, of computer users all over the world who have considerable investment in DOS based programs in which box-drawing is still important. The arrogance of a large corporation like MicroSoft making users conform to ‘its’ way of doing things is mind-boggling. Now I suspected that copies of the MS LineDraw font are out there ‘in the wild’ as it were and I did manage to locate a copy of it and download it into the computer. But now although incorporated into my Fonts list, my current version of Word just refused to accept it. So I go on the web again to see if there are any other fonts functionally equivalent of MS LineDraw that I could use and, of course, I met a barrage of people with the same complaint but no apparent solution. However, one reply to a plaintiff plea for a solution suggested that an alternative font that might work is a Lotus font called ‘lotuslinedraw’. This I found and I did manage to incorporate it into my fonts and it worked (just about – only a regular font and not one that cab be emboldened but I am not complaining) So at the very end of the day, I managed to get a readable (and electronic) version of my PhD and as our University of Birmingham friend has a parallel interest in quality matters, this is something else I can press into his hand.

Whilst on the hunt for various past statistical programs, I did discover the text-based version of a DOS program called EzeStats which I had written as a self-tuition package for social science students to teach themselves/refresh some elementary (and not so elementary) statistical concepts and procedures. This I ran off as a couple of ‘landscape’ oriented pages (to simulate a computer screen) so I bound them together using my now familiar techniques to stapling and binding and pressed a copy of this into my friend’s hands as well. The whole software was actually included in another statistics textbook so it has seen the light of day but I must confess I haven’t bothered to look at it for many a long year. It is amazing to think about it of all the things you might have done in the past that now you have completely forgotten about and such is the case here!