Windows 10 revisited

Windows users were being pressured to upgrade to Windows 10. It was free to install because Microsoft wish to change their income stream so that users will pay small amounts, to add extra functions to built in different applications. Most individual and small business users seldom buy Windows at all, they usually wait until their existing computers need replacing and get the current version included with their new model. Microsoft are trying to create a market similar to Android on tablets and phones where the income stream is from small apps.

Microsoft officially ended their Windows 10 free upgrade program on July 29th 2016, approximately a year after the operating system was released and just days before the Windows 10 Anniversary Update arrived. Windows 10 is now running on 400 million active devices as of September, thanks in no small measure to that free upgrade offer.

There are still a lot of Windows 7 and 8 PCs out there, however. For those that did want to upgrade but didn’t get around to it, there are still a couple of known ‘loopholes’ to get a free Windows 10 upgrade which Microsoft hasn’t bothered to close, even months after the offer formally ended, for instance for those using accessibility tool or running “testbed” systems.
Why upgrade anyway? Should you have given in to the constant badgering on your screen?… “Limited time free offer!” “Download whilst its free” etc. It was not without its problems; Some of the main functionality was still not finished, such as Mail which still had some issues. Also many existing older devices won’t work, for instance Canon say, about their Pixma 4600 (amongst many) that there is no Win 10 driver and that a printer replacement is recommended (it works for me though when I recently upgraded – so that I could write this blog from a more informed point of view). The fact that it wouldn’t always be free made an upgrade seem urgent but fully updated and virus protected Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 (both using Google Chrome to browse) systems was and still is perfectly usable. Any earlier versions of Windows didn’t qualify for a free upgrade anyway.

If you are a power user with many critical applications, your other software providers might require you to do so (or the not sometimes too, where they are slow to upgrade themselves). But if you are like two-thirds or more of computer owners just interested in browsing the internet, emailing and perhaps having a few photographs then even XP is possibly adequate for your needs. Upgrading was more likely to be necessary when your ageing computer fails for another reason and you buy a new one – in which case it will already have Windows 10.

But XP is unsupported and Win 7 and 8 support will run out – does that matter? Microsoft support isn’t the best, answers are more often found in the user community (google your problem and hundreds of people will probably have already solved it for you). “But I’ll miss out on all the security upgrades” The monthly updates have ceased to be the Microsoft panic “my god there’s a security leak we must fix it pdq” to “lets tweak things a bit and make people feel all warm and supported”.
Unless there is some functionality in Window 10 that you MUST have (tbh I can’t imagine what that would be) my advice would be to wait for when your current computer need replacing.

In a future blog I will share my own experiencess with upgrading to Windows 10 surprisingly painlessly.

Inframe Photo Club

Modelled after the photoclubmeteorite.org site and performing the same functions, except, in this case, for a group based in Nottingham. inframe.patbell.co.uk.

This site caters to a University of the 3rd Age group (though U3A is a protected identity so I we can’t say that, whoops!). This photo group has regular photo outings taking photos on a range of cameras from point and shoot to full frame DSLR cameras with lenses the size of buckets! However photographers collect hundreds, even thousands of shots that might collect digital dust (pixels?) unless there is a vehicle to choose from you archive and “exhibit”. Enter this web site.  Periodically (monthly, or not) they choose a theme and rummage (metaphorically) through their archives to show some of the damn good shots they might have taken, recently or in the past. Take a look, there’s a wide range of styles and quality, all with individual interpretations of the chosen theme.

The dark background and side menu is particularly designed to showcase the images – landscape format is particularly good but portrait (upright) also works though less optimally. There is a periodic “competition” where each image can be rated. The second item in the menu gives the title of the gallery currently being voted upon using a star-based ranking system.

The Turing test and support desks

  Back in 2014 it was news that a chatbot had passed the Turing test. Way back in the 50’s Alan Turing (“father of modern computing” and he of ‘Enigma’ etc) proposed a test which translate today as two people chatting via text or a messaging window. If one were actually a computer (ie a chatbot) and it wasn’t possible to tell who was the real person, the computer (manifesting as chatbot) could be considered as having passed. Of course this doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly going to become our Artificially Intelligent overlord (although apparently chatbots on Twitter gain followers more quickly than humans); it just means that someone has devised a good set of rules that seem natural. In fact the case I am talking about was an entity called Eugene, modelled on a 13-year-old Russian schoolboy with English as a second language. So any observers would probably be more forgiving of little idiosyncracies. Most such chatbots are easy to get into loops; e.g.”Whats your name?” Eugene, ”How do you spell that?” How do I spell what?“Your name?” Eugene…

So what has this got to do with support desks? I’d like to propose the opposite test – when does a support “chat” fail the Turing test. We have all had dealings with Asian help desks and their varying effectiveness. On the plus side they allow support to be provided 24/7. I recently change web hosts for my 20 some websites and email. It was, to my surprise, fairly straightforward. Despite the fact that they offered to do the job for me at $75 per web site, the actual transfer took a matter of minutes once I had jumped the hurdles of actually transferring the 6gb of data and handling the interruptions that halted the automated process (fwiw I ended up zipping up locally and using Ftp). The problem came when they used different terms to those my prior host had. For example, to use an independent domain (such as mydomain.com rather than a sub domain such as mydomain.patbell.co.uk) I needed to park a domain. Their help desk directed me to their online manual for cpanel (the open-source interface for hosts). However the icons I was directed weren’t there since the open source but means that the program can be changed but the manual had not. Anyway after they offered to do it for me and had done it backwards so none of my sites worked at all I managed to resolve the problem without their help at all. The point is that when giving me “help” at no point did they acknowledge that any previous instructions were wrong. I learnt that “We are sorry for the inconvenience” message actually meant “I have no idea, but wait a few minutes and I’ll serve you up some more crap” The first line support failed the Turing test and clearly followed a flow chart that needed drastic updating. The second line support made so many cock-ups they had to be human!

Just recently Microsoft created a chatbot called (see www.Tay.ai) aimed and teenagers and young adults.  Its “persona” was a somewhat naïve teenage girl who started out with “gee its really stoking to meet with all you humans” then “wouldn’t it be great if everyday were puppy day” but within an hour the mischievous imps of social media had turned the adaptive “AI” chatbot into a right-wing racist bigot who was saying things along the lines of “Hitler would have done a better job of 9/11” and Donald Trump for president not this monkey” Its gets worse but MS took it down within an hour, phew!
Except of course that Trump IS president, go figure!

Spanish in Sussex

Co-ordinating a group of students and potential students was proving difficult for Jordan. She approached me to setup a new website to provide both information for potential new and enquiring students and also a platform for organising residential events. She also wanted to allow paypal payments to pay for courses, personal one to one tuition as well as the residential events. spanishinsussex.co.uk

Since launch she has gone from strength to strength. Now in its second year, having successfully run language and tourist trips to Spain and continued educating ‘Espagnophiles’ (is that even a word? ed) of Sussex. The website continues to be a useful focus for her facebook visitors and her students (actual and potential).

The colour choice and design was chosen to reflect the Spanish flag and nicely frames the selection of images from Spanish speaking countries around the world. Fully responsive this site looks strikingly attractive on PCs, tablets and mobiles.