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Friday, 31 July 2015

Walking on Broken Glass

As you all know I'm at the cutting edge of new technology, ahead of the curve when it comes to all things IoT ("Internet of Things"), and will try anything if it's free.

No surprise then that I signed up to a free Windows 10 upgrade.

It's taken old Bill Gates an age to realise that his days of monopolistic grip on the software market are well and truly over. It was he, you will remember, who in the late 90's (so last century) was going to set up a gated rival to the Internet. In the old days when things  moved at a snail's pace; he was able to buy up any upstart that threatened to take business away from him.

In those far off days every Windows upgrade cost. Microsoft lost their touch. XP was a high point: after that "Vista", "Millennium", Windows 7 & 8 really didn't take the Windows story any farther forward. In fact, all these "new" products became an increasing burden.

XP was, and still is, hugely popular both at the home and in business. Only Windows 7 came close. And Microsoft have had to service all these editions with patches etc over the years. Announcing not to service XP caused an outrage and I suspect lost loads of users to Apple.

It's not, however, the main problem for Billy Boy. PCs are no longer dominant, tablets, pads, phones have taken the game away from Microsoft. Windows for phone is not bad; the trouble is it has a minuscule piece of the pie. Microsoft's attempt at aping Apple - owning both the hardware (iPhone) and software (iOS) by buying Nokia is a $6 billion write off.

Frankly, Windows appeared to be cracked. Then with one bound Microsoft is back in play. Windows 10 - their attempt to out Apple Apple. Windows 10, the last pane. No more new launches after this, just upgrades. Just like Apple's iOS and just like Apple it's free. And just like Apple it's the same across all devices, inter-connected and powerful. Visually it has that clean crisp slightly tart Apple feel.

Windows was clunky, it was slow. Its web browser Explorer - once with 98% of the market - was slow, far too heavily engineered - and dying on its feet. Compared to Google's Chrome it was a dinosaur. It's replacement Edge ( I know) is much better.

The thing is, even giving it away won't necessarily mean people will load it. Battalions of Windows users have upgrade horror stories. So the installation process had to be straight forward and painless.

If my experience is anything to go by: Billy Boy you have cracked it. I pre-ordered my free upgrade. Microsoft alerted me that I was eligible for an upgrade and that my machine was compatible. Yesterday, there on my old Windows 7 task bar was an upgrade icon. I clicked on that and that was that. The process was quick (I loaded Windows 95 from 30 floppy discs onto my old Compaq - it took 12 hours), unobtrusive and very re-assuring. At every stage I knew what was happening. And there it was: surprisingly familiar ; reassuringly so, but different enough to be exciting. The promise of new stuff. All, I mean, all my existing software was carried over. No need to upgrade or ditch non compatible stuff.

There is so much to like: Having all your e-mail accounts in one place. It makes Apple's e-mail client seem so clumsy - Apple will address this with the release of their next upgrade. Getting onto Micosoft's version of the cloud "OneDrive" was a dream. The start button's there but enhanced, with the addition of Window 8's slate design allowing access to your fav programmes.

Well done Microsoft. Now can you, Apple, Google and Facebook sort out the Middle East and fix the World economy. It can't be that hard for geniuses like you. Can it?

1st August update: one problem. I need a new printer. Lexmark don't provide Windows 10 or Yosemite drivers for my 7 year old printer. So free upgrade comes at a price.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


I blame it on "New Horizons" - space scientists are shit at sensibly naming space probes. It's those pics of flat, flat Pluto plains - stretching like the Serengeti as far as the eye can see.

The thing is the whizz kids at NASA had expected to see a pox ridden Pluto - not a face washed with Camay. All this means is that in the last 100 million years there's been a significant re-arrangement of the sub planet's mush . They expected ol' Pluto to look a bit like the moon - full of craters, telling a story of cosmic bombardment billions of years ago, when our solar system wasn't a nice place to be in. Loads of large pieces of ice,rock and other exotics slamming into poor Pluto, and then nothing for a few billion years.

The Plutonic plains, smooth as a baby's bum, suggest activity less than 100 million years ago. Something happened not that long ago - when Diplodocus was munching its way thro' our primordial savanna. That something might have been major seismic activity: outpouring from Pluto's still warm interior.

Which is when I start to worry.  You've heard about the Deccan Traps haven't you? Some 66 million years ago the Earth burped: and spewed out a volume of  lava enough to cover half of India. It's still there, but after 60 million odd years it's not that obvious. Some scientists, however, suggest that it, along with a fucking great meteor slamming into what is now Cancún, around the same time: well, good night Vienna for the sauropods and their friends.

This is where I start to worry. We may not be as stupid as Jurassic Joe, but frankly we have difficulty coping with a wi-fi outage. I don't think planet Earth has completely settled down - like the Moon - which is good in one sense, 'cause if it had we'd be in r..e..a..l trouble. But if it's still full of plate tectonic vigour and deep plume up swellings, what's to stop another Deccan Traps happening. Leaving much of humanity buried deep in volcanic ash or wondering why the sun's disappeared and the strawberries at Wimbledon weren't up to scratch.

The trouble is, I start thinking like this and it's "2012", "Prometheus" and "Interstellar" rolled into one. But hold on to this and it's extremely powerful. We'd never be here if the Earth suffered regular catastrophes. You need an undisturbed period of cosmic quiet for life to evolve from small mammals, left after the near extinction of the dinosaurs - don't forget the birds  - to us. Regular cosmic impacts are inimical to advanced life forms.

Unless, of course, you're a Creationist, in which case all bets are off.