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Gordy's Discourse

External link icon. Apple WWDC 2018 Summary

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, apple, ios, macos.
197 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Bryan Clark on The Next Web.

The Next Web provides a useful summary of Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developer Conference.

If I’m honest, a lot of it doesn’t interest me too much. Emojis (or Animojis or Memojis) are a gimmick I never use; I don’t have an Apple Watch or Apple TV; I’m not a parent so I’m not interested in restricting app use time; and I rarely use Siri. I appreciate these things may be of interest to others, though.

Even the things that did interest me only did so vaguely.

iOS 12 is going to have improved photo sharing options and notifications will be grouped so that they can be swiped away more conveniently.

Mojave is the nomenclature attached to the new release of macOS. It’ll have a ‘dark mode’, a new Finder view called ‘Gallery’ and a screenshot feature like iOS.

The most interesting thing to me was the planned improvement to Safari to stop more tracking by websites. This I welcomed, although I suspect it’ll start a tracking war and Facebook — one of the organisations Apple is specifically targeting with this — will probably figure out ways to track things regardless.

Over all, though: meh.

Infernal Windows 10 Updates

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, windows.
659 words, 3 minute read time.

Windows 10 is a lemon of the most lemony order. In my latest battle with it, it has the temerity to reenable the Windows Update service, despite me disabling it, and then it completely fails to install the update it so urgently wanted anyway. The ultimate solution to this failed update is, it says, to reinstall the entire OS. What a crock of shit.


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Washington Post Doesn’t Quite Get GDPR Right

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech.
892 words, 3 minute read time.

If you're in the EU, GDPR has been everywhere recently. I'm basically in favour of it as a stepping stone to my ultimate desire here, which is for us to have full control over our data as a commodity. I explain a bit more about this here and particularly look at what's right and what's wrong with the way the Washington Post seems to have handled GDPR.


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The Drake Equation and the Search for ET

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: science.
1245 words, 5 minute read time.
Icon for the `The Drake Equation and the Search for ET` article.

The Drake Equation, which estimates the number of planets currently inhabited by intelligent life in our galaxy, can vary greatly depending on the numbers you plug into it. The thing is, there isn't a lot of agreement about what those numbers should be. It makes the whole thing rather pointless and I have serious reservations about the usefulness of this equation but, just for fun, I plug my own numbers into it.


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Tech Companies Should Have More Email Support

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, apple.
625 words, 3 minute read time.
Icon for the `Tech Companies Should Have More Email Support` article.

I have recently had a fair amount of communication with Apple regarding a support issue and this has reminded me how many tech companies shun email support. I think this is a bad idea because it's the most efficient and convenient method of support in a lot of cases. This is a particular issue with me because I'm partially deaf and being forced to use telephone support makes things quite difficult. Technology companies in general need to offer more email support.


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External link icon. How Did Google Get So Big?

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech.
114 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Steve Croft on CBS News.

A CBS News article by Steve Kroft in which Gary Reback, an anti-trust lawyer, is interviewed about Google’s search and search advertising monopoly.

The thing is, Google’s job is to become dominant and maximise it’s profits and shareholder value. That’s what businesses do. You can’t expect them to voluntarily do anything that might damage their own earnings.

Government regulation is the only way you’ll ever tackle this sort of thing. The EU seems fairly keen on this sort of regulation and has already hit big tech with a number of fines. The US, however, doesn’t seem to have the stomach to take on the big tech companies.

The Importance of Backing Up Your Computer

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, apple, windows.
1162 words, 4 minute read time.

As someone who worked in IT for 35 years I often get asked to help out with the computer problems my friends and relatives have. One common thing I get asked is if I can get back some data that has been deleted. I then ask if they have a backup and the answer is often a disappointing no. It is essential you take backups because you'll most likely need them at least once. This article just gives the basics of how I think you should backup your computer and what data you should back up. I'm going to point all my friends to it.


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External link icon. Google Chrome to Flag Insecure Websites

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech.
171 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Peter Bright on ArsTechnica.

Chrome currently specifically flags secure (https) websites but it’s going to be changed so that it specifically flags insecure (http) websites instead.

The trouble with this is it’s a blunt instrument. Take this site, for example. It’s statically generated and has no forms through which to submit personal data, so the http protocol is fine. There are no relevant security issues.

This site does, as it happens, support https and I encourage the use of it as a basic principle. Indeed, this site redirects to https automatically.

So I shouldn’t really have an issue with this but I’m not keen on Google becoming the sole arbiter of what’s secure and what isn’t. I’m particularly not keen on the use of the https protocol as the only security factor under consideration because a lot of sites are certainly not insecure when accessed via http. It’s just not true and by incorrectly flagging sites as insecure, Google could be damaging their business without justification.

What Does a Bona Vacantia Freehold Mean for Leaseholders?

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: rtm.
774 words, 3 minute read time.

I live in a complicated situation at the moment. I bought my flat from a company in receivership and the receivership process has been running all the while I've been here (over two years now). The freehold recently went bona vacantia, which means it's now owned by the Crown, and in this article I pass on what I know about this situation.


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External link icon. Medium Demonstrates Why You Should Publish Independently

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, blogging.
111 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by John Russell on TechCrunch.

An article by Jon Russell at TechCrunch reports that:

Medium has abruptly pulled a feature that allowed publishers to operate paywalls on its platform, leaving some independent media scrambling for alternative options to maintain a crucial source of revenue.

This highlights something I’ve mentioned before. If you hand your content over to a third-party publisher you’re entirely at the whim of their policies, and they can change those policies whenever they choose.

I maintain that it’s always better to publish your own content via your own website. Use third parties to market that content by all means but link back to your own internet property.

External link icon. Is It Illegal to Do Something Someone Might 'Take Offence' To?

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: society.
269 words, less than 1 minute read time.

I know the world went mad in the early 90s but sometimes it still astonishes me.

In the above article a Staffordshire police spokesman said:

We've received no complaints about signage outside J W Ash and Son butchers in Leek. However, the local chief inspector did advise the owner to give careful consideration to what was written on the boards in case anyone took offence.

There are a few problems here. If nobody complained, why are the police involved? Why, regardless, is a chief inspector involved in something so trivial? Why can’t the police see the context of this; that it is just light-hearted humour?

The big one, though, is when did it become illegal to offend someone?

If it’s now illegal to say or write something that someone might take offence to, we’re finished as a society. There will be no more discussion.

People should be free to say or write potentially offensive things and likewise people are free to take offence and respond as they see fit, but we can't go around silencing people just because what they say might be offensive to someone somewhere.

There is of course sometimes a fine line between ‘offensive’ and ‘illegal’ but context always needs to be considered in such cases and common sense should prevail (erring on the side of permissiveness in my opinion).

If however it is now illegal to give offence, then we can get rid of the Kardashians, Kayne West, Donald Trump and about a billion other people whose very existence I find offensive. Perhaps a chief inspector would look into that for me.

Bear Writer Update - Version 1.5 Released

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, apple, bear, gtd.
577 words, 2 minute read time.
Icon for the `Bear Writer Update - Version 1.5 Released` article.

I keenly await Bear Writer updates these days. The team have now released Bear Writer 1.5, which includes selectable TagCons, additional default tags for better searching/filtering, export to ePub and more. This is just a brief article looking at some of the best new features.


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Yohann iPad Stand Review

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, review, ipad.
856 words, 3 minute read time.
4 star rating 4 star rating 4 star rating 4 star rating 4 star rating
Icon for the `Yohann iPad Stand Review` article.

I initially struggled to find iPad stands that suit me for my 12.9 inch Pro. I always wanted two - one for use on my desk and one for use on my coffee table. In this article I review the Yohann iPad Stand I've chosen for my coffee table although, at the time of writing, it's the only stand I have and it's being used on my desk too.


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External link icon. Amazon Review System Rigged

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech.
298 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Dan Box and Sachin Croker on the BBC.

It’s nothing new. Once businesses saw the benefits of a bunch of five star reviews, an industry to game the review systems was bound to spring up.

It’s not just Amazon — Trustpilot is also mentioned in the article — but Amazon’s system has been set up for rigging for a long time now. Not only can a company buy a review, but then Amazon’s platform allows them to up-vote their own fake reviews and down-vote everyone else’s proper reviews via the “Was this review helpful to you” buttons?.

In fact, it has the look of a system that was specifically designed to allow review fraud.

The trouble with anything like this is automation. Amazon want a self-moderating system but that leaves it open to both fraud and stupidity. There’s the fraudsters we’ve already mentioned but there are also the stupid, where people up or down-vote a review based on whether or not they agree with it rather than whether or not it’s a good review.

A good review stands alone, whether you agree with it or not. It will be analytical, truthful and it will justify what it says. That would make for a good review even if my own opinions and experiences of the product were the complete opposite. Honestly, you see five star reviews being up-voted where the only thing a person has said in the review is “fine”.

The only way they’ll prevent review fraud is to remove the voting buttons and use humans to moderate all reviews, but they won’t do that because they simply won’t pay for the manpower.

So I think we’re stuck with it, which is a shame because good, honest personal reviews are really helpful when making product choices.

External link icon. Facebook Profits and Revenues Up Despite Privacy Scandal

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, social-media.
161 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Sheera Frenkel and Kevin Roose on The New York Times.

Watching some of Zuckerberg's testimony about the privacy issues, I got the impression he was only concerned about it to the extent it might affect his income. It seemed that privacy in and of itself didn't interest him, which is understandable from a financial perspective because Facebook's whole business model is based upon invading privacy.

But I'm convinced this is far from the end of things. It has served to highlight privacy issues with the general public but there's more to come. We largely ignored these things when social media took a hold but I believe there are many more privacy breaches and scandals to come and, slowly, we'll demand more control of our personal data. This in turn will (again slowly) lead to more legislation to protect us and that'll be a big problem for a lot of the internet giants.

I could be wrong of course. I was wrong once back in 1976 when I swore I'd always wear flares.

External link icon. A Monkey Can’t Sue. Surprised?

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech.
110 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article by Cyrus Farivar on ArsTechnica.

How does something like this ever even get to court? Well of course somebody somewhere has to be trying to get some money out of it and in this case that was PETA. They claimed to be the monkey’s friend and as such, no doubt, the people who should get the monkey’s copyright fees.

That anyone should think a monkey is entitled to copyright casts doubt on which is the most intelligent species after all. It’s certainly not lawyers.

I know the world went mad somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s but this sort of thing beggars belief.

Props to the monkey though — great selfie.

There’s Too Much Pointless Fuss About Politics

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: society.
1139 words, 4 minute read time.

I'm not a massive fan of talking about politics. I find the partisan-based decisions people make about the subject to be irrational and illogical. But in this article I point out that I don't believe politics at the level we usually talk about it is a valid route to real change anyway.


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External link icon. Zuckerberg Wants Good Privacy for Facebook, as Long as It Doesn’t Affect Profits

Posted by Gordon Ansell on with tags: tech, social-media.
203 words, less than 1 minute read time. External link to an article on the BBC.

Astonishing, really. Giving people more control over their privacy is undoubtedly a good thing, yet Zuckerberg is going to try and exclude as many users as possible from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

He’s essentially saying that he’ll only comply with good privacy regulations where he absolutely has to, otherwise he’ll sell your data on to all and sundry, without your permission, as he sees fit.

It further demonstrates he is really only paying lip service to the scrutiny he’s under following the Cambridge Analytica debacle.

Privacy’s a nice idea ... as long as it doesn’t interfere with profits.

It’s just greed because it’s perfectly possibly to have privacy and profits. Give users the control they deserve and then tempt them to hand over their data voluntarily. There’ll still be millions of takers and it can all be done in a transparent and morally justifiable way.

Regulation can be a double-edged sword that often creates more problems than it solves, but we need to regulate the shit out of a lot of these internet giants that surreptitiously abuse our privacy. If that’s their only business model then they deserve to fail.