Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Norton Ghost 14 - a buggy install, but I'm getting there

I still haven't managed to get Norton Ghost 14 to run. I had version 12 before that and it too was a pain to install.

OK - I upgraded from Norton 360, not Norton Ghost 12 directly. I deleted files manually to clear a 750GB external USB drive for backup, I cleaned the registry manually, I removed stray entries in the registry with both Norton and Registry Cleaner tools. I don't like software that tries to do things automatically. As the Advanced Command kept disappearing I could not get "under the hood". Finally, I got it to appear and stay there!

So what's my computer's problem? Symantec says it doesn't support Dual Boot Systems or systems with software that compromises the Boot Files. This should be clarified - it can work within one operating system on a Dual Boot System (I'll find out - the old version 12 worked OK!). I have Avanquest's bootup software so that I can select an alternative operating system or another Vista installation should my usual Vista fail. I also have Avanquest's AutoSave product which backs up software. By contrast this installed easily and works fine. There's also Microsoft's own backup software. So I'm only being cautious putting on a 3rd backup package to my machine - I don't really need it.

At first, when I opened Norton Ghost it caused Vista to send out error messages that showed a disk was missing. Then Norton Ghost said it was trying to find info about itself on disk M: but it's installed on disk C:. I can't find the path to fix this. I'm backing up to disk O: (as I told it!). In fact I told it to backup to a directory called NortonGhost14 on disk O:, but it wrote some files to a folder called NortonGhost on disk O:.

Norton Ghost kept telling me it couldn't make a Recovery Point. I tried deleting the backup schedule and made a new one, but to no avail. I deleted the computer name, and added it back, again to no avail.

Apart from the Home command, the Norton Ghost commands, those on the left side of the screen, disappear when it can't make a Recovery Point. If it can't make one, why doesn't it just prompt you to make a new one.

Frustrated I search the Symantec website. First the list of most popular problems shows hardly anything. Then I find the Tech Support Forums where other people have had drive letters changed by Norton Ghost. The responses from the Symantec technicians show, by their to and fro conversations, that they don't have easy answers either.

So I try to send in some info from the Norton Ghost 14 application on their Feedback form. It can't do it - Connection Timed Out While Sending Feedback. So I send all the info in an email to support AT symantec DOT com. An automated reply comes back saying that Symantec no longer uses email for support (typical for most software vendors today) - obviously they were overwhelmed with support spam and probably too many problems.

So a couple of days later, I'm obliged to post this on my own site as my second attempt to submit a Feedback form also failed. Note to Symantec: bear in mind many of your Vista users may have security really tight on their websites and eliminate scripts and cookies - my cookies and Javascript are there - but IE didn't think so - and it's possible your apps also have problems with security. It would be really good if your other tools - Internet Security or SystemWorks - could actually check whether Norton Ghost can run on a machine or if it is too Secure or has Bad System Configuration - ideally Norton Ghost should do this itself. It should also show its logs in the app - not hide them away for you to open with a tool.

So here's what I was going to send to Symantec, but can't because of rejection by the server.
How likely would I be to recommend this product? 1 on a scale of 0 to 10 - where 10 is likeliest.
What can we do to improve your satisfaction with the product?
1. Make it install on machines that have multi-boot or use other managers to manage the Boot.INI file. This application should not have to look at the Boot.ini file.
2. Get the bugs out. All the versions I have had have been extremely buggy. The drive letters are not mapped correctly.
3. Enable the software to work when moving from another app - Norton 360, or prior version - and the user manually deletes backup and other registry data. Make sure that you can have an option for clean install with no memory of previous apps.
4. Have long timeouts for external drives that maybe slow.
5. Don't have all the commands except Home disappear if the app can't find recovery points.
6. Have a more complete knowledge base - you don't surface enough bugs - they are hidden in forums.
7. It's a good job I'm not reviewing this product - this is one of the worst products I have ever installed - and I've used many prior versions - all have been poorly programmed with vague error messages.

It says Show Me What Will Be Sent. Here it is:
Details Data System.Collections.ListDictionaryInternal Message The remote server returned an error: (404) Not Found. Source System Stack Trace at System.Net.HttpWebRequest.GetResponse() at Poster.Send() at Symantec.UI.Forms.FeedbackDialog.OK_Click(Object sender, EventArgs e) Target Site GetResponse

I then tried to make a recovery disk, just in case it needed one before it could make a Recovery Point. Alas, it didn't recognize my brand new writable disk. It had terrible problems just browsing the list of files - finally I put in Z:\ and it then said the recovery disk was invalid.

So Symantec - if you are listening - please don't ship broken software. Get some decent QA (crowdsource if you like) - or withdraw Norton Ghost. I did actually get Norton Ghost 12 to install with difficulty.

Light is now coming at the end of the tunnel. After waiting about an hour, I actually have the commands down the left hand side working. I can now go and delete the history - finding the stray drive M: from 2007. I can also go through and look at each drive and find which were earlier recovery points from old Norton Ghost releases - the Advanced menu is finally giving me what I want - although it's still really painful to ensure each of three drives that at some time or other have been Backup Destinations are purged of the old backup files. I'm getting there after 3 fretful evenings!

Either after 14 releases it should be near perfect or the code is so old it needs to be completely rewritten. Maybe you should buy Avanquest!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Angela's Almond and Raspberry Pie Recipe (Bakewell Tart)

The almond and raspberry pie I created for the Portola Valley Town Picnic  on June 6th, 2009 is based on a traditional English Bakewell Tart.  The BBC has a picture of a Bakewell Tart, with a recipe.  Below is my recipe, with footnotes, as it is the details that make a difference.  I also listed the exact brand of ingredients in brackets.


For the Rich Shortcrust Pastry (can be made a day in advance)2

You may use any kind of pastry, including a purchased frozen pastry shell which saves time.  I chose rich shortcrust pastry because it is a bit softer and sweeter than regular pastry.

  • 2 cups + ½ a cup for dusting the rolling pin and rolling surface Self Rising (Self Raising (UK)) flour (Gold Medal Specialty Self Rising Flour) – regular flour, including wholemeal, is OK 3 below
  • 1 stick (4 oz) chilled butter (Clover Organic Salted)
  • 1 egg -  you need the yolk (save the white for glazing the pastry)
  • 1 tablespoon icing (powdered) sugar 4
  • Juice from one lemon 5
  • Approx. 3 tablespoons of chilled water 6   8  9

For the Filling



Making Pastry

Arrange an oven shelf so that it is in the middle of the oven. Turn on the oven, setting it to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).  Separate the egg yolk and save the white.  You can do this by cracking the egg on a flat surface (a sharp edge may break the yolk) and carefully pulling it apart slightly so that just the white drains out into a dish, then put the yolk in the food processor.

Squeeze the juice out of a lemon and strain out the pips and pulp.

Take about ½ a cup of flour and put it on a smooth counter top or large board.  Roll it around with the rolling pin until it covers an area that is about 12" by 12".

Chop the butter into thin slices. Take the butter wrapper and grease a pie dish, preferably a deep fluted one, very well (less well if it is non-stick).

Put all the pastry ingredients, except the water, egg white and the extra flour for dusting into the food processor, i.e. 2 cups of flour go into the food processor. I only have one chopping blade in my food processor, so I used that.  If you have a pastry blade, even better. Run it on high until the butter is mixed in and the mixture looks crumby.  While the motor is running, pour about 3 tablespoonfuls of water into the mixer, then trickle in the rest very slowly watching carefully until the pastry forms a single ball.  Hopefully, this won't burn out the motor of your food processor, if it starts to slip and there's a burning smell shut it off for a while. 

Take the ball out and put it on the floured surface. Take some flour and sprinkle it on top of it and make sure the rolling pin is covered in flour. Roll the pastry evenly and quickly, so that it stays cool, until it is big enough to cover your pie dish and the sides as well. 

When it is rolled out, put your rolling pin at one side and roll it around your rolling pin.  Take the pastry and unroll it over your pie dish.  Press it into the sides of the pie dish.  To stop the pastry falling into the pie dish take the pastry at the edges and let it go about ¼" over the edge of the pie dish.  Then trim it with a knife and save the trimmings.

PS If you are serious, check out Julia Child's pastry tips.

I cheated here as I could not get the pastry to stay in one piece. So I put the pastry on the floor of the pie dish. Then I cut strips to go round the walls at the edge and stuck them to the bottom pastry with water. It was easier to let the strips hang over the edge of the dish and fit them into the fluted edge.

Prick the bottom of the pie crust with a fork all over. If you like you can put pie weights on the pastry to stop it rising, but if you prick it well this is unnecessary.  Put the pie crust in the oven for no longer than 5 minutes while you make the pie filling, just to dry it out a little bit.  Note: this goes against the grain of fine pastry chefs, but it helps make the walls of the pie stronger!

Squish the trimmings into a ball, then roll with the rolling pin into a long shape.  Cut the pastry into strips about 1/3" wide.

Making the Filling and Completing the Pie

If you don't have ground almonds, then use almond slivers or blanch some fresh almonds. Grind them in a small food processor designed for grinding nuts. Crack the eggs and get all the ingredients ready for the pie filling. 

Take the pie crust out of the oven – it won't be cooked but the base will be a bit drier. Let it cool a few minutes, while you clear up the floury mess from rolling out the pastry. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Spread the raspberry jam on the bottom. Cover the bottom with one layer of frozen raspberries (it doesn't matter if they are still frozen).

Put the fat (butter or margarine), flour, eggs and ground almonds into the food processor. Run the food processor on high until the mixture is smooth (about 2 minutes). Gently spread the mixture over the raspberries – spread it out evenly with a palette knife being careful not to let the raspberries show through the mixture.

Take the ribbons of pastry to make a lattice.  Put some across at about 2" apart – stick each strip at the edge to the existing pie shell with some water. Then put some at right angles to them about 2" apart. Go back to the original direction and put some more strips across between the first layer. Then put a final layer across them.

Here I had to cheat again as the edges of the pie looked raggy. So I bent over the crust into the pie and pinched it.

Decorate the gaps between the pastry strips with either whole or slivered almonds.  Get a pastry brush and dip it in the egg white, left over from pastry making, or dip it in milk or cream.  I used some left-over cream, but the egg white would be equally good.  Paint the strips so they go golden in the oven. Put the pie in the middle of the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes until it is starting to go golden on top.  I used a silicone pastry brush which was a disaster as it doesn't spread the glazing liquid evenly – use a brush with nylon bristles and if it looks like it will melt in the dish washer like mine did, resulting in my purchase of the silicone brush, then wash it by hand.

Turn on the oven light about 10 minutes before the pie  should be ready and watch it – don't open the oven door early on as it may sag and go sad. Take the pie out of the oven. If you are brave and think you can get the pie out of the dish without it breaking put it on a wire rack to cool (I dare not do this step in case it broke!).  Get a tea strainer or fine sieve and a teaspoonful of icing (powdered) sugar – dust it over the top before the pie has cooled. The pie can be eaten warm or cold with or without fresh cream (or custard).

Recipe Notes

I sifted through The Colour Library Book of Baking (1987 – out of print but many copies are available for a penny on amazon.co.uk) to get ideas for a pie recipe.  This book has an excellent choice of pie, flan and tart recipes complete with color pictures for any future competitions.  I modified the recipes for Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (p184) and Bakewell Tart (p234) to create my Almond and Raspberry Pie. The recipe in the book is for an 8" pie dish, but mine was 9" so I increased the number of ingredients.

  1. The trick to making good pastry is to keep it very cool outside the oven – as I was in a hurry I put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes – which was not enough.  It rolls better if you put it in an air tight container or wrap it in clear film and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  2. Handle the pastry as little as possible so that it does not go rubbery.  Since the pastry was fresh with minimal water, and had not been in the fridge long, it kept breaking so I had to roll it 3 times, not a prize-winning tactic.
  3. You don't need self-rising flour for the pastry, but you do need it for the filling. If you don't have self-rising flour, then use any other flour add either 1 teaspoon of baking soda, or ½ a teaspoon of tartaric acid and ½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda for the filling.
  4. The original recipe had 1 tablespoon castor (powdered) sugar. Castor sugar is fine grained sugar, it's not readily available in the US, where the normal sugar has quite small grains – so you could use normal sugar.  To make sure it mixed evenly, I used powdered (icing) sugar.
  5. Fresh lemon tastes best, but you can use bottled lemon juice or juice that comes in a plastic lemon, to save time.
  6. I did not use chilled water, but it makes better pastry if you do.
  7. Use as little water as possible that forms a ball. If you have too much water, the pastry gets hard.
  8. The original recipe called for about 4 tablespoonfuls of water. The flour tends to be dry in CA, so I used more. I trickle the water into the blender as it is running.
  9. The original recipe asked for a pinch of salt. I omitted salt as the flour and butter were already salted.
  10. Split almonds are usually used for decoration.  The split almonds I found in Bianchini's had skin on them and I couldn't slice some whole almonds very easily, so I used whole, blanched almonds for decoration.
  11. I ground my almonds from almond slivers. If you have fresh almonds then you can blanch them by putting them in boiling water to remove their skins and then let them dry and grind them. the best almonds come in mid-summer from the Central Valley, but I bought two 3 oz packets – one of slivered almonds and the other of whole blanched almonds from Bianchini's.
  12.  The original recipe called for a few drops of almond essence in the pie filling. I didn't have any, so omitted it.
  13. The original recipe called for 1/3 cup of castor (powdered) sugar.  I used 1 tablespoon to save a few calories, but you can add sugar to taste.
  14. The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of raspberry jam. The raspberry preserves that I used were not as sugary and fruity. You could omit the fresh or frozen raspberries and just use jam, as in traditional Bakewell tarts.
  15.  I augmented the recipe with raspberries, as I did not have enough jam or raspberry preserves.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Layoffs - a failure of persuasion

Why do airline's layoff people in a recession? I believe it's because they are unable to persuade people that it is one of their highest priorities to fly. Anyone with capital equipment needs to be able to amortize them over more customers in hard times.

They need to create reasons for people to fly. In these days of IM and WebEx, business travel is sharply curtailed and airlines sigh. They make the flying experience uncomfortable and miserable for many. What do people want out of a flight? Maybe they want some peace and quiet to work. Maybe they want business connections. Maybe there are potential customers on their plane.

How can airlines help consumers? Maybe they need a family tribe to come to a wedding or funeral - how can the airline help people book economically and efficiently. How can groups be persuaded to take trips? Maybe there's a local tennis club that would love to have people go to the US Open - but there's no direct flight to New York from their town. How about the ski club wanting to try a new resort? Maybe someone wants to meet a lifetime partner on a plane.

The US is weak on charter flights compared with many parts of the world. Why not create events in obscure places that lead to exciting holidays - dining with a couple of movie stars in Burbank, seminars from Warren Buffet in Omaha. How about having special luggage rates for special events - Biker planes - where mountain bikers can take their bikes on a plane to go to a mountain biking resort and meet each other on a flight.

Can airlines train passengers to be volunteer crews? We have volunteer firefighters? Why not volunteer flight attendants who know about the safety regulations and how to evacuate a plane. They could get a discount for flying and augment a smaller regular crew.

Where is personal transportation heading? One has to commend Virgin for picking up executive customers in its limos. Why don't airlines contract with local vendors and - like FedEx for packages - transport people from door-to-door without them having to think? We containerize goods - can we containerize people - so they sit in an office-like pod that is shipped from their home to their destination and moved automatically?

We have school buses? Why don't the airlines promote school plane trips? Getting children on board could make them lifelong travelers? It would do wonders for world peace to take some potential hooligans to another country and work on projects with locals.

How can airlines fund these trips? Maybe they use less traveled airports for one-off trips reducing gate costs and landing fees. Maybe they offer payment by instalment or holdiay savings plans to encourage people to save their coffee money for a trip.

Not only do people have to be persuaded. Airports and towns have to be persuaded to let planes fly at odd hours so that capital assets can be fully used. Flight attendants, check-in personnel, security screeners and baggage handlers may need to smile more. Maybe an entertainer or short YouTube video would enliven waiting areas - rather than CNN.

It seems there's masses of opportunity for rethinking aviation marketing and persuading people to fly.