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On updating Windows, whether you like it or not

This week I find myself rather bemused by writing a blog post on updating Windows. As much as the majority of my clients are Mac users, there’s no way of getting around needing some knowledge of Windows to support those people that need to use both types of computer.

Today I wanted to tackle the subject of Microsoft automatically updating current users of Windows 7 and 8.1 to Windows 10 without their express agreement, a process which I find terribly presumptious on their part. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I have a number of Windows machines running different versions of Operating System (in my case so I can support users of each variant, but in a typical users case it may be that software they need for their job will only run on a certain version of Windows). In this instance, I don’t want Microsoft to assume that I am ok with them updating Windows on MY computer to Windows 10!

Recently there’s been a spate of users reporting that their version of Windows has been updated without their approval. Microsoft did release a patch that allowed users to prevent their machines from being forcibly changed, but the interface to do this was unnecessarily cumbersome, preventing most people from using it. But I wanted to let you know of a way of doing it yourself using a piece of software.

Steve Gibson of GRC Research, one of the most trusted security specialists in the industry, has written a very small piece of software which is completely free to use, and does ONLY the job we need – preventing your system from updating Windows to Version 10 (you can run it again to turn […]

On email, unsubscribing and junk mail

This blog post is about ten years in the making. Silently, well not that silently, I’ve been cogitating my thoughts on email, unsubscribing to marketing mails and junk mail for that length of time, and here’s my conclusions.

7,000+ unread emails (you know who you are….) is not an acceptable way of managing your Inbox
Marketing emails from a company you deliberately, or mistakenly, signed up for are not spam
There’s no such thing as free email

Now, let me explain what led me to these conclusions!
Inbox management
Over the years I’ve been involved in Technology Support, I’ve seen countless people’s email clients. And it still astounds me when I see people with literally thousands of unread emails on their devices.

There’s a couple of reasons why, in my opinion at least, working this way is not acceptable.

If you have lots of unread emails, how can you be sure you haven’t missed something vitally important (a business opportunity, a new job, a friend or relative that needs to talk)? If it were real, old fashioned letters coming through your door, you wouldn’t pick out the ones that looked important and leave the rest of them piled up below your letterbox (nor would you assume that if it were important, the sender would contact you again), so why people do this with the electronic equivalent I have no idea!

For the record, I’m not an Inbox Zero person, but I do keep my unread emails as low as possible (4 right now, I’ll deal with them when I’ve finished typing this). I like to check my mail in between tasks, deleting anything irrelevant (or unsubscribing if it’s marketing junk – more on that in a bit), replying quickly if […]

On Software Updates

Another week down, with summer finally beginning to look that bit closer. It’ll be so nice to wake up in sunlight, and get the vast majority of the evening before darkness sets in – I love that about the summer months.

Anyway I wanted to talk about something I mentioned briefly in social media posts this week (check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) – software updates.

There’s been a steady change of attituides over the past several years, encouraged by software providers, to UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE! I wanted to explore that a little after the latest iOS 9.3 updates caused users some problems.

I’ve always been an early-adopter, and I think as a support person, that’s part of my job. But I don’t believe that to be necessary for most people. Why try to fix something that ain’t broke….and risk breaking something else?

My advice to general tech users is to wait at least two weeks after a software release is shipped before applying it. The only time I would say differently is when the new software is an urgent fix for a flaw of the dangerous kind (i.e. risk to security or of data loss). If the new release is to patch minor issues, or rollout new features, surely a two week wait won’t hurt? At least then you can let some other sucker find the ‘oopsie’ the software author never noticed during beta testing.

Let’s consider iOS 9.3. It was released originally on March 21st. Immediately there were reports of older devices being prevented from activation (rendering them temporarily useless), which Apple resolved by releasing a new build of the software fairly quickly (March 25th). But there were still reports of many users suffering from […]

Thoughts on Cloud backups

I’m seeing a lot of posts these days about which is the best offsite backup system to use, and a lot of people are going for the obvious choices of Backblaze, Carbonite and Crashplan. But there are definitely some things you need to seriously consider when looking at your backup options. Here’s my own thoughts on cloud backups.
1. It should never be your only backup
This, in my opinion, is the most important thing to bear in mind. Cloud services can, in theory and practice, come and go. If your ONLY backup is with a cloud service, you don’t really have a backup.
2. How large is your backup, and how long will it take to copy to the cloud?
Cloud backup services typically take a copy of all your data at day one, and then they’ll copy any changed files thereafter. If you have a large amount of data to copy, that first backup is going to take a looooong time. And if you’re creating new, and potentially large, files all the time (photographers, videographers, designers, I’m thinking of you here, but not exclusively those people!) will your backup be able to keep up with the ever changing data?
“Oh, I’ll be OK, I have fast broadband”…..if I had a pound for every time I’d heard that! If you’re in the UK, there’s a good chance that your broadband speed is reasonably good. But what most people are looking at with broadband speeds is the download speed, which is (almost) totally irrelevant when it comes to cloud backups. What you need to look at is your upload or upstream speed. I normally describe this in terms of pipes. Coming into your house (the downstream speed) is a […]

iOS9 Content Blocking – should you use it?

There’s been a whole wealth of controversy over iOS9 content blocking (sometimes called ad blocking), a new feature in the latest iPhone/iPad operating system, and I was unclear where I stood on the debate. That is, until I ran some tests.

Many Web site owners make an income from showing adverts on their sites (some make all their income this way). But in the past couple of years, the size, quality and sheer invasive qualities of ads has grown to be annoying. I won’t pick on any particular advertisers, but we’ve all seen them – huge ads that have a tiny close button on them (somewhere you don’t see initially is the usual form). Or lots of ‘promoted stories’, or ‘clickbait’ as it’s often known (gossipy/sensational stories that have you click into them to be presented with more ads than story).

What you need to remember is that the ads don’t come from the actual Web site. Each site will ‘sell’ space to one of a limited number of web ad agencies, and have limited or no control over the ads served through their site. So when you go to that site, it will then send your browser off to many other domains to pick up content to display on the page you see. A good content blocker knows which of these other domains are known advertising networks, behaviour analysis and tracking sites…..and prevents your browser from referencing them. The advertising networks pay the actual site owner a small fee for every advert that gets loaded into your browser.

The arguments against content blockers is that it removes this source of income from site owners. There’s also the ethical argument that some content blockers may begin to […]