Newsletter Archives

  • A computer museum near you is closing soon

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    ISSUE 20.28 • 2023-07-10


    Brian Livingston

    By Brian Livingston

    You certainly remember your first boyfriend or girlfriend. You might also remember your first cigarette and your first drink (hopefully not while driving your first car). But who’s going to remember the pioneering computer technology breakthroughs that have put mainframe power on everyone’s desks and in everyone’s pockets?

    There are discouraging signs that much of our electronic history is going to be lost.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.28.0, 2023-07-10).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • 48 years and counting

    Love ’em or hate ’em, you have to admit… as we start another year – this company has dramatically changed computing.

    Microsoft was founded on April 4, 1975.

    I remember tax season when I first started at my firm – personal computers were relatively new and we filled out these paper input forms in order to prepare tax returns. The forms were then picked up by a courier, driven to the Airport, flown to Torrance, California where someone at CCH/Accutax/other tax vendors would input the information that we had entered on the input forms. They would print out the tax return, put them in envelopes, put them back on an airplane, flown back to Fresno and then a courier to drive around and drop them off at our office a few days later. If we messed up and got something wrong, we would have to enter a “revision” form and send them back for reprocessing. Once again having a courier pick up the change form, having it flown down to Los Angeles, and then back again with the revised tax return.  If the issue wasn’t THAT bad we would take whiteout liquid, cover up the error and type in the revisions ourselves. (I would ruin suit jackets getting not quite dried whiteout on the sleeves every tax season).

    Then came a tax year where farmer deadline was looming on 3/1 (Farmers get the ability to skip estimates if they file by 3/1) and the software company was behind on implementation of the tax changes that year and couldn’t get the farmer tax returns back in time. With four days before the looming deadline we installed a SINGLE IBM 8088 computer and a beast of an HP III printer.  The printer had to have tax font cartridges in order to print out a tax return (remember THOSE DAYS?) and we set up Lacerte tax software on that IBM 8088 (no, not built by Rene Lacerte of – but second cousins of his), and within a day we were cranking out our own tax returns and no longer relying on meeting the courier deadline, nor facing doing the farmer tax returns by hand.

    We have come a long way in technology in the years in between. Farmers this year are no longer facing a lack of water in Calfornia thanks to the storms we’ve had this year, but in some places too much water. As an aside, if you want to see the California wildflowers or extremely full waterfalls in Yosemite, this will be the year for it. When the snow finally starts melting up there it is going to be the year that will be picturesque for sure.

    I have no idea what the next 48 years will bring. However, I do know that all of us wouldn’t be here without Microsoft. For small businesses and individuals, it has been a game changer for sure. For all that the company can be annoying, it’s also been a dramatic game changer for how we interact with each other, with how we do business, with how we just deal with our daily lives.

    Here’s to the next 48 years.  Stick around and we’ll all see what happens.

  • Lunch with Brian


    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Brian Livingston was on the East Coast a few weeks ago and took the opportunity to make a side trip to Baltimore.

    Brian called in advance to set up the meeting, saying he preferred to meet the people he was working with face to face. He graciously paid his own way, and we had a nice afternoon.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.06.0, 2023-02-06).

  • Welcome to our twentieth year

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    ISSUE 20.02 • 2023-01-09


    Susan Bradley

    By Susan Bradley

    Time flies.

    It seems like only yesterday. Out of the blue, I got an email from Brian Livingston, asking to meet with him while I was in Seattle attending a Microsoft event. Over dinner, he explained that he wanted me to write a column in the Windows Secrets Newsletter that would track issues with Microsoft patches and analyze their impact on PCs and their users.

    It was the dawn of “The Patch Lady.”

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.02.0, 2023-01-09).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • The Windows Start menu: Trials and tribulations


    Lance Whitney

    By Lance Whitney

    Don’t get me started: Windows 11 saddles us with yet another major change to the always vital but never quite right Start menu.

    Another version of Windows, another version of the Start menu. With Windows 11, Microsoft has unveiled its most dramatic change in years to a feature that’s always been a core part of Windows. Instead of the traditional vertical list of all the apps installed on your PC, we get a sparse, boxy window with links only to pinned and recommended apps. Getting to all your apps requires an additional step.

    Read the full story in the AskWoody Plus Newsletter 18.35.0 (2021-09-13).