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Barry Collins

Windows 8.1 Update: an abject surrender

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update

Microsoft has become the Manchester United of the technology industry. After dominating for much of the 1990s and 2000s, it’s now suffering a crisis of confidence, crippled with uncertainty when it steps out on to the pitch. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Windows 8.1 Update, or Windows Compromise Edition – Wince for short.

In an effort to appease the Windows 8 haters, Microsoft is backpedalling furiously. You don’t like the Start screen? We’ll just hide that out of the way and pretend it never existed (on laptops and desktops, at least). You want the Start button back? You can have that next time. At this rate, we’re going to have rolling hills in the desktop background, IE6 set as the default browser, and a free trial of AOL waiting on the desktop of Windows 8.2.

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The insane economics of Sky Now TV

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Sky Now TV

A few months ago, after one price rise too many and a waning interest in top-flight football, I decided to cancel my subscription to Sky Sports.

I still get the urge to watch the odd game, and so this weekend – with my once-beloved West Ham giving title-chasing Liverpool a hoof for their money – I decided to investigate Sky Now TV, the broadcaster’s internet TV service. After ten minutes, I was left scratching my head at the sheer insanity of its pricing.

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Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Windows UI

Years ago, various regulators tore strips and billions of pounds from Microsoft for bundling applications with its operating system. Today, Windows software is plagued with a far more serious bundling problem that nobody seems to want to do anything about: bundling crapware.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to download any kind of free software without the installer trying to sneak some other piece of junk on to your system. Installers have become almost a puzzle game within themselves, in which the user tries to figure out the consequences of pressing a button.

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Why every PC buyer owes Richard Durkin a debt of gratitude

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

PC World

You’ve probably never heard of Richard Durkin, and until this morning, neither had I. I first heard his name in a report on this morning’s Today show on Radio 4, which claimed he’d been fighting a legal battle over a laptop he’d returned to PC World because it didn’t contain the promised internal modem.

Typical Today, I thought to myself. Getting its technology wonky again. Laptops haven’t come with internal modems for years. As I listened on, it turned out the reporter was absolutely right. The legal battle has been going on for 16 years. And today, Durkin finally won a victory that means a great deal to anyone buying expensive equipment, such as a PC, on credit agreements.

When Durkin bought that £1,500 laptop from PC World back in 1998, he paid just £50 up front, with the remaining balance going on one of those credit agreements the big stores foist on to customers, in this case with HFC (now owned by HSBC).

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Cut out the broadband jargon? What jargon?

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Hands on head

Consumer watchdog Which? has got on its high horse, telling broadband companies to “cut out the jargon” and “give consumers information they understand” when fixing problems with their connections.

Frankly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Our fearless lion of a telecoms regulator, Ofcom, cracked this problem back in 2010, when it introduced its Broadband Speeds Code of Practice, making it as plain as day what broadband companies should tell their customers when they ring up to complain about their broadband speeds.

To make it easier for the nannying, simpletons at Which? I’ve pulled out the relevant paragraphs on how ISPs should deal with speed complaints:

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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It’s time to fine networks for prolonged outages

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Coins and notes

We’re told that broadband has become the fourth utility, after water, electricity and gas. So why do big companies get away with depriving us of it so frequently?

Last night, EE’s mobile network went down for a period of anywhere up to ten hours, according to some of the comments from customers I’ve seen this morning, yet there’s no suggestion of EE being punished for failing to maintain a network that around 40% of the country relies upon.

Indeed, EE’s Twitter account treated the outage as something of a joke.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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AmIRunningXP.com: not as daft as it sounds

Friday, March 14th, 2014

AMIrunningXP

A cap doffed in the direction of The Register for spotting this website: AmIRunningXP.com.

The reporter used a WHOIS lookup to discover that the website was actually registered by Kristina Libby, a member of Microsoft’s PR team.

Although The Reg concludes that the website is “a little tongue-in-cheek humour”, I wouldn’t be so sure.

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Quickest way to upload 1GB? Hop on a train

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Train blur

I was in London last week when I saw the 4G symbol pop up on my HTC One handset for the very first time. I’m on the 3 network, which has upgraded its customers to 4G without fuss or extra charge — just one of the many reasons why I put up with its iffy reception down here in Sussex.

Naturally, I did the first thing any nerd would do: I ran a speed test. The results? 35.73Mbits/sec down, 12.45Mbits/sec up. Socks: blown off.

Then a rather sobering thought occurred to me, which was later confirmed by my back-of-an-envelope calculations. Just a day earlier, I had uploaded around 1GB of photos for a client from my ADSL connection at home in Sussex, which has an upload speed of only 0.71Mbits/sec. Would it have been quicker for me to make the one-hour train journey to London, upload the files using my (unlimited) mobile data account and head back, than to upload 1GB of photos from home?

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Posted in: Rant

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Getty joins the race to the bottom

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Last week, PC Pro would have had to pay Getty £90 to use the photo above on our website for a period of up to two years. Now it’s free.

Getty announced yesterday that it was making 35 million of its images free to embed on websites for what it very loosely describes as “non-commercial use”. That, apparently, not only includes the hordes of bloggers out there, but also (according to this interview in the British Journal of Photography), any “editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed”. I, for one, didn’t realise The New York Times was a non-profit organisation, or that Buzzfeed’s ceaseless Ten Ways You’re Going To Give Us More Traffic articles were for charity, but there you go.

However, my bigger concern – as someone who now earns part of his living from photography – is the way in which one of the world’s biggest agencies has completely devalued professional photography.

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Hour of Code: five steps to learn how to code

Friday, February 28th, 2014

ClassroomNext week sees the Hour of Code concept arrive in British schools. Imported from across the Atlantic, the Hour of Code aims to show children “how fun coding is in just one hour”, so that Britain has a future generation capable of programming more than the timer on a microwave oven.

Whilst the ukcode.org website claims that more than a million students in the UK have already tried the Hour of Code, some (perhaps, most) schools will inevitably be unprepared, so here’s how parents, teachers or indeed anyone can get started in programming.

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