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On updating Windows, whether you like it or not

By |April 22nd, 2016

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

By |April 8th, 2016

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 it’s a 30 […]

On Software Updates

By |April 1st, 2016

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 […]

What? Easter already?

By |March 24th, 2016

Coming up to Easter weekend I thought it was best I wrote a blog post, as it seems to have been a little while…..

What’s been going on these past few months? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

We’re still working hard in the background on our new Web site, as well as finalising details for a new support service aimed at creative individuals like designers and photographers. More on that soon; I’ve been aiming to get it launched since January but several things have conspired to slow me down – won’t be long now though.

There’s been a couple of long-running projects with corporate clients as well; one of which was a large rollout of Mac clients via a software distribution tool called Casper. That was great experience, being able to roll out a new version of an application to unlimited Macs, without visiting each and every one of them is a huge improvement to a techie’s daily life. Hopefully I’ll be getting involved in some more of these projects in the future for a change of pace from my usual client base of creative people and home users.

I’ve also just finished helping move one of my medium sized clients, a creative agency from North London, from one office to another. Obviously there was decommissioning their old networking environment and setting up the new place, but I also took responsibility for moving their phones. As you probably realise, moving a BT line isn’t cheap, or easy to arrange for when you want it, so the client and I decided that we’d move them to a hosted VoIP (internet telephony) solution, making any future moves much easier, and reducing their monthly phone bill to 40% of […]

Finding the best car mileage tracker

By |October 23rd, 2015

Over the past few months I’ve been searching for a replacement car mileage tracker app that automates the process of logging the miles I travel on business. So I started my own ‘group test’ and I think I’ve finally come to a decision.
My problem
Small Business owners will probably understand the frustration of having to log every mile travelled on business for tax purposes. For many of us, climbing into the car is an opportunity to switch off from work for a short while. For others, it’s the perfect time to catch up on calls, or listen to podcasts that keep you up to date with the industry in which you work. Whatever your choice, certainly the last thing on most people’s minds is to get in, note your mileage, drive, note your mileage, get out.

For the past couple of years I’ve relied on assistance from an app called Rove (no longer available after it was purchased by TripAdvisor). Rove logged every movement I made. Every drive. Every walk. Every photo I took. Every piece of music I listened to. Much of this was irrelevant to me (in fact for many people this was so much of a pain, they stopped using it), but the mileage aspect was very useful.

Unfortunately, when Rove was sold, it began to break. Suddenly the exporting of data from it stopped working. That was a nuisance but not insurmoiuntable. Then when iOS9 happened (at least I think that was the changing point), Rove really started to fail me. It was sucking up over 50% of my battery usage. And giving me continuous errors about it not running (even though it was, and was still logging data).

At that point I decided […]

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