Microsoft

Being the “Tech Guy”

Firstly, let me state I enjoy my geek status. I like the fact that some of my friends and family rely on, and hopefully value my support and assistance when it comes to all things tech. Whilst stopping short of giving my life meaning it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling when my nearest and dearest are tech enabled because of my actions.

When you go into PC World (or other Microsoft Certified high street tech store) with an issue, the solution is often a Nuke and Pave. A full wipe of the hard drive, and re-installing the OS and transferring personal data from back up. Depending on how good the back ups are you may lose data you will definitely lose £100 as they charge you for 15 minutes work.

I hate this.

I like to try and fix the problem rather than deleting it. For the most part on the Windows side I was successful. However, it is stressful being an amateur (self taught) tech guru. Here are a few tips to make your tech guy relaxed.

Backup Your Own Data:

This is vital. The more regularly you back up, the less data you will lose, even if the guys at PC World have at your machine. But from a “Tech Guy” standpoint a good backup is great in case I mess up. I am a amateur, I am not perfect. Your backup is my safety blanket.

Offer Tea (or drink of choice):

Second on the importance list. A thirsty tech guy, is a irritable tech guy. Also (and I speak from experience) if I’m spending eight hours removing 82 trojans from your PC so that you can salvage your data and you don’t give me a drink. The nuke and pave “I can’t recover it” solution will soon be arrived at.

Don’t blame me, It’s not my responsibility:

You have asked me to (or I said I would) look at your machine. I am probably your friend/relative. I will try to best of my ability and knowledge to fix it. However if I’m not able to or as part of me fixing it, it goes wrong. I need to know I will not be blamed for the next fifteen years. I will already feel worse than you do.

Don’t Expect it to be completely free:

I will, provide my time and “expertise” for appreciation, sexual favours and Tea. (not all at the same time unless I’m very lucky.) However to fix your issue You may need to purchase a component or a piece of software. I will try to use free (open source) alternatives, but I do not have a “special place” to order stuff from where the “tech pixies” pay for stuff.

“It’s Not Perfect” (but it’s mine)

I will try to make every effort to recover your machine to where it was before the issue. In doing so I may have to delete things, move shortcuts, destroy saved games. Small sacrifices necessary to get your machine working. It may not be perfect, but it’s working.

Lastly:

I will leave you with instructions for general maintenance or guidelines after the fix. This is so you don’t repeat the same mistake again.

 Do what your tech guy has told you. Everyone wins.

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Private Dancer

Before the advent of the “megapixel” camera when you had to wait 3 weeks for photos that the processing lab stuck little labels over. Before Flickr, Photobucket and Photostream two ways to share photo’s were. The Photo Album or the Slide Show. The only way to express a “like” in such arenas was to open your mouth and say “I like that one.” Voice activated before the X-Box was a twinkle in Windows 3.1’s eye.

Now we publish online. I am writing this piece to be published online, making it accessible to everyone with some type of internet connection. I publish other things too, I have a Gmail account, iCloud, Dropbox, Box.net, Yahoo. I am as online as you can be without involving Satan’s spawn itself Facebook.

Government spies enlisting the assistance of all tech’s major players has hit the news recently. It’s caused what can only be described as a kafuffle. All emails, blogs, pictures of your kids, pictures of the things you used to get those kids are apparently fair game for Mr FBI without your consent or knowledge .

Consent is a funny thing, Every email account, website or photo sharing service you sign up for has terms and conditions. Terms and Conditions that no-one ever reads. So chances are a high percentage of people (myself included) have consented to great deal of things we are unaware of. Granted letting the Government or anyone else look at your stuff probably wasn’t on the list.

Knowledge. You won’t know that anyone has looked at anything you put online. But you must be aware that they might. Even if you just look at human curiosity. If you worked at Flickr and saw a user account from MassiveNorks69, it’s only natural to want to take a sneaky peak. Google and the rest use your email to target advertising or have in the past.

The only way to keep your data safe from prying eyes. Don’t go online. Don’t phone anyone either. Don’t have a bank account, buy everything with cash. Not really practical. So what can we do?

Nothing. The old adage of if you have done nothing wrong you will have nothing to hide applies. I am not one of the tin foil hat brigade, but I’m not stupid enough to assume big companies and governments will respect the sanctity on my online life. That is the price we pay for the convenience of “Likes” “Re-tweets” and “Followers” So Hi there Mr FBI Man…. (I thought they were all shaped like that)

(28DW) Geek Future

As a proud geek, I often wonder where we will be in the future in terms of the tech we have. A friend of mine just purchased a new MacBook Air, lucky bastard. It is light, thin and powerful. By comparison my 3 year old MacBook looks light years away.

By Paul Hudson from United Kingdom (11″ MacBook Air compared to 13″ MacBook) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking at Jonny Ive’s design (that all the ultra book manufacturers copied) I struggle to see where they can improve. Yes I’m sure they will get quicker and storage will grow (or become cloud based) the screens on all Apples machines will be retina displays but aside from that.

The keyboard on the Air is full size, a thing of which apple are proud, it makes the air easy to operate. So I can’t see them going smaller, nor can I see them doing away with the physical keyboard. Although currently I am typing this on my iPhone, the virtualised keyboards of iDevices don’t make for good long term typing options. The screens will not get smaller, for we need to see what we are doing. Google have their goggles, which incorporate a display onto glasses but again how comfortable will that be for long term use.

It’s not just hardware I ponder. Software too, games, graphics, operating systems. Microsoft have gone down the touch screen route for their latest version of Windows. Some operations easier to perform with a finger on the end of a cramped hand on the end of a achey arm. Than with a traditional mouse, but touch screens don’t work, thanks for playing. One division of Microsoft who has got it right is the Xbox. Their motion controlled gaming system Kinect, is truly revolutionary. I hate it, because you can’t use it sat down, but the tech behind it is amazing.

Couple this with the advances in graphics and its now increasingly the case that games look very real and you are performing real actions. Fast forward generations into the future and in Grand Theft Auto 8 you will be stabbing a very real looking prostitute in the face. All boyish prevado aside (y’know the inner 9 year old who says “that will be cool”) will that be fun? Really? If nothing else it will give the “video games cause serial killings” people serious ammunition.

Additionally no-one could have predicted how the smart phone has revolutionised our lives. I used to feel anxious when I mislaid my Nokia 3210, when I mislay my iPhone I go batshit mental. Now I would be lost without it. Everything is on this mixture of aluminium and glass. Who knows what they will do? If it will in the long term enrich our lifes or just extend the control these screens have on our increasingly Orwellian existence.


Please check out the work of my 28DW Comrades at The Resident Weeble and A Piece of Pandemonium 

Where is the “Any” key?

I understand how skill sets for different people vary greatly. One man can put up a shelf as easy as another man can write a piece of VBA code. Swap the roles and you’ll most likely end up with a debug error and a shelf on the head. It’s part of lifes great tapestry, if we were all skilled in one area life would be impossible.

But.. and you knew there was one. I work in an office, much the same as any other, surrounded by folks who get paid more than me. Since (and lets be generous here) the mid 90’s computers, much to my horror mainly PC’s, have been present on the desk of all office workers. I have one and a half PC’s on my desk at work. Running Windows Vista. The half is a thin client thing (no I don’t really know either) As a common slave to the office, I know how my PC and the software installed on that PC works. It is after all a tool which enables me to do my job.

Please explain to me why, several of the folks who get paid more than I, are as mystified by the box on their desk as the people watching the first “Moving Picture” of that train were. Being a office worker who can’t use a computer is kind of like being a mechanic who can’t use a spanner or a carpenter who chooses to bang in nails with his cheese sandwich whilst he gnaws on the business end of his hammer.

With the myriad of free computer courses available there really is very little excuse. Oh and incidentally I don’t mean you have to be able to programme sub-routines. I consider the following to be essential skills:-

  • Boot up and log on
  • Open email program, check and compose email
  • Write a document in a word processor (MS Word or Pages)
  • Use spell check
  • Copy and Paste
  • Maintain personal calendar
  • Enter data in a spreadsheet

Basic skills, all of which could be taught over a cup of tea and a bourbon in five minutes. What makes me laugh is a lot of the people who are unable to grasp these things in a professional setting spend their life on Facebook or Twitter. Facebook has changed so much since I joined that it now confuses me. So I can only draw one conclusion, these people aren’t perplexed by a basic word document. They are just lazy.

Whilst I Was Sleeping

Whilst my motivation has been lacking I missed:

Jimmy Carr and Tax
Team DB not for Team GB
Microsoft Surface
Euro 2012
Murray Mania

So because I know you are all dying to hear what I (the angry masses) thinks about all this microblog a go go.

Jimmy Carr

Rich man employs people to pay as little tax as possible shocker. “It’s not fair” scream the masses all of whom would have done the same thing if they had:

1. Thought of it
2. Could afford a decent accountant.

Life isn’t fair, people will always want more for less in return. Human nature folks, embrace it.

Team DB not for Team GB

David Beckham 25 year old footballer plays for Man Utd and England, he has the vibe of a man who has yet to reach the pinnacle of his career, he has a wicked right foot that can fizz crosses into the box and he can hit a dead ball with style similar to that of Roberto Carlos. So it is a travesty that this young talented player has been denied a chance to perform at London 2012. What do you mean he’s 37 and a bit part player in LA? You are kidding me???

The Olympics is supposed to be for athletes who are at the peak of fitness to compete with each other according to Olympic ideals and values. Yes David Beckham gave a lot to bring the games to London but so did Seb Coe. I don’t see anyone mounting a campaign for him to get out his running spikes. Why? Because he had his time. As has Beckham.

Microsoft Surface

Finally a piece of hardware that suits Windows 8. An iPad killer? No. I don’t think so one because the iPad fitted into an ecosystem that was already in existence, and the distribution plans are shaping up to be a nightmare. On launch the Surface will only be available at Microsoft Stores and online in the states. How many stores? Less than 30!

Euro 2012

England were ok. Despite all the press saying we failed. We played a defensive game versus Italy that nearly worked. Boring well maybe, but defending is part of the game too. Spain were a cut above. The dutch need to actually like each other, relax in each others company. Maybe over a smoke and a pancake.

Murray Mania

Tennis. I can watch. Not the greatest fan but I can watch. Wimbledon however seems to be surrounded by people who are unaware that Tennis is played as part of a world tour. They seem to think that Tennis pros play for 2 weeks in a year. I don’t think Andy Murray will ever win Wimbledon which is a shame for him and Scotland.

Nearly New Year.. Really New Name

Slowlycreepingdeath has died. What can I say it crept up quicker than creepy was expecting. So the One Button mouse reigns supreme. As always. You see Microsoft just don’t get it.

I have been known to be somewhat of an Apple fan boy and yes the number of products I own that were born in Cupertino and now the name of this site bear that out. However what may come as a surprise to some of you is that I want Microsoft to succeed. Not in a mass market high turnover way, although this would accompany it but in a technological way. I want Microsoft to produce products that “just work” I want them to produce a Windows Phone that does have technology to rival the iPhone.

I want Google to keep on not being evil. Bringing out many different deserts that give iOs a run for it’s money. I want Samsung to make quality handsets, HP to make great laptops with instant on. HTC to manufacture handsets that inspire their many users.

No honestly no sarcasm.

I want Microsoft Office to lead the world in more than units sold. I want the suite to be so easy to use that everyones Grandma could produce those sales figures. Database administrators would be free from the tyranny of the “query” because the management would know how to produce their own stats without needing to hard code anything. Ok this isn’t possible now, but isn’t what every tech company should be aiming for, ease of use, to enrich the user experience so that they spend less time learning how to get to that all important end product.

No-one wants a computer. In the same way no-one wants a whisk. You need a whisk to make an omelette, but it does it’s job without much thought from the user. Indeed even if you’d never ever seen a whisk before, one well spent second watching someone using one would give you advanced whisk certification for life.

Microsoft and Apple are both companies founded by geeks. The difference being one company had the forethought to realise that the geeks never get the girl, because geeks are seen to be moody and inaccessible. So how does a geek get laid? Switch on a charm offensive, look good, stay healthy, be friendly, easy to get along with and keep all that geeky conversation to a minimum.

So what happened to the geek who had none? Well he produced excellent software, shrewdly investing time, energy and money into projects that attracted other male business geeks. These other business geeks, forced their employees to use the products produced by the geeky project and everyone made a whole bunch of cash. The barren geek employed other geeks to enhance their products and year on year more geeky features were added until the whole pile of frustrated geekyness became rather unwieldy. Producing great technical products that are time and time again hampered by the inability to understand how people (not geeks) work.

In short I want Microsoft to get laid!

In long terms. I want someone to rival Apples “wow” factor, you know produce the tech that gives the world a hard on, not just geeks. Focus on the user, what they are doing, instead of what they are using.

Everyone wins. Competition is healthy.