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Rant

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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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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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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HP cuts off upgrades to spite its loyal customers

Monday, February 10th, 2014

No updates for HP servers

If you have an HP ProLiant server, or a ProCurve switch, then you’d better set some time aside before February 19th to download the drivers, BIOS updates, patches and fixes for your model from the HP support website. Because after that date, unless you have a current warranty or a Care Pack Service Agreement, you will be unable to get your download.

In a startlingly brief five-paragraph blog post entitled, with no obvious sense of irony, “Customers for life”, senior HP staffer Mary McCoy lays out the company’s rationale for this move and slips in various interestingly chosen phrases, such as that this “aligns with industry best practices” and that HP is “in no way trying to force customers to purchase extended coverage”.

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Do parents understand web filters? Research says most do, actually

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Good parenting“Parents are unaware of internet filters,” according to the headline on a government press release that’s landed in my inbox.

This claim is (apparently) based on an Ofcom report, which certainly makes for interesting reading, but which doesn’t entirely back up that headline. The disconnect is clear from the first sentence from the DCMS release:

Around one in eight parents that do not have family friendly internet controls did not know they existed or did not know how to install them, says a new report.

Let’s unpick that, since the headline will clearly be parroted in news stories elsewhere.

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Google in my Nest? Not a chance

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Nest

I very much like Nest. I like its approach, which it’s neatly boiled down to “reinvent unloved but important home products”.

I like Nest’s products: a smoke alarm that issues verbal warnings — children are more likely to wake up to a human voice than a beeping alarm, apparently — and glows softly as you pad underneath it at night. I also like its learning thermostat, which reacts to how and when you use your heating and allows you to start warming your home as you, say, make your way back from the airport.

It applies clever design and technology to forgotten appliances you use every day which is, if you think about, everything innovation in tech should be.

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Tech City: Easy to score when you move the goalposts

Friday, December 6th, 2013

londonmap

Today is the third anniversary of the government’s Tech City project — I know, I’m excited too — and with that comes another report crowing about the success of the Silicon Roundabout project.

Among other stats, the report suggests that 27% of new jobs in London since 2009 were created off the back of Tech City. That’s right: all those ironically moustachioed, fixed-gear bike-riding hipsters are saving the economy.

Well, not quite.

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Painless Windows Updates: the great lie of Windows 8

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Hands on head

I’ve just sat here doing nothing for 20 minutes in the busiest part of my day. Why? Because of Windows sodding Update.

I was there at the Build conference in 2011 when Microsoft promised the problem of Windows Update interrupting your work day would be a thing of the past with Windows 8. The rotten, stinking liars.

Windows Update has, if anything, got worse. True, it no longer nags you from the System Tray when there are new updates to install. Now the warning is far too subtly placed on the Settings panel that I barely ever open.

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Driven to despair by Google Drive

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Google Drive

Last month I wrote a disappointed blog post about how Google seems to be losing sight of the user focus that once made it great. Over the weekend I experienced another example of this.

First, a bit of background. I love Dropbox. Everybody loves Dropbox. But over the years I’ve found its free space allowance a bit of a squeeze. I’ve tried SkyDrive as an alternative, but I don’t like the online interface. I’ve tried Barracuda Networks’ Copy service, which certainly gives you plenty of space – but it hasn’t proved wholly reliable when it comes to syncing file A to computer B.

So last week, when Google announced that anyone setting up Quickoffice before 26 September would get an extra 10GB of storage for the next two years, I decided to switch to Google Drive as my everyday tool for keeping my work PC, home PC and laptop in sync.

Big mistake. Huge.

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Why is Google going backwards?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

I'mBringingGoogleBackwardsYeah

A few months ago I wrote a column in the magazine arguing that we shouldn’t feel too aggrieved when Google tinkers with or discontinues free web services. But I have to admit I’m finding it hard to remain sanguine when so much about the company’s free offerings has changed for the worse lately.

For a start, January saw the unveiling of the new Google Image Search – an ugly step backwards, in my view, that wastes space while concealing useful information and functions. One site operator reported  an 80% drop in traffic from Google Image searches in the month following the redesign, indicating that users have been switching off in droves.

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