Forced Windows 10 Update, The Next Steps (repost)

Well, it will soon be time for the Windows 10 Creators Update, with a raft of new things to help us. Quite looking forward to Paint 3D and a bit more control in relation to updates. However, what I am really looking forward to is advertisements in the UI. Yes, I know it can be turned off but it just adds to another annoyance that has been baked into Windows 10 since the launch.

It has been clearly stated by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella that the most important thing to the company now is data and not software, long gone are the days when Microsoft was primarily a software company, the new cloud first, a data-driven company is what we have now. So, Windows as a service is not about the software servicing you, it is all about your data being used as a service to Microsoft’s partners. That is why there is so much telemetry in Windows 10.

They must think we are complete fools though when they say it is anonymous information, come on if you have an advertising ID attached to your Microsoft account, how the hell can it be anonymous. Look I am not saying what they are doing is wrong but they need to be more upfront about it, after all, they are not even the worst sinners when it comes to data harvesting. That award falls squarely at the feet of Google, so don’t be bashing on Microsoft while giving Google a free pass. Check into the privacy options of your Google account at some point and see what is being collected by your web browser and your Android phone.

So, Microsoft has given the free giveaway of Windows 10 a whirl, didn’t really work so we have the forced upgrades by adding it to recommended updates. Hope you have changed your settings on those, by the way, to not install them automatically. Of course, we also got the silent app installs so they can force some Candy Crush Soda Sage onto your start menu and in the creator’s update we will be getting the advertisements in the UI.

So, let us see how well things are going with the take up on Windows 10. Well, they wanted Windows 10 installed on one billion devices. Well as of February 2017, Windows 10 had just over 25% market share, good you would say. Well, not really seeing as Microsoft has over 90% of the market share of desktop operating system usage. So, what are people using? Mostly Windows 7 still, with nearly 49% of the market share still. A nearly 8-year-old operating system with nearly 50% share still, even giving away Windows 10 could not get people to leave Windows 7.

So, why are people staying with it? Well, this is my opinion, but the main reasons are the privacy issues with Windows 10 and the fact that Windows 7 still works for now, however mainstream support ended in 2015 and extended support will end in 2020 at which time no more updates for Windows 7. An interesting thing came out in the last few weeks though, and that was they have ended support now for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 on certain new processor architecture which is clearly to get people to use Windows 10 for some creamy data harvesting.

So, come 2020 what are the options, well Windows 8.1 has extended support until 2023 so that would be an option. You could bite the bullet and just move to Windows 10 and deal with the telemetry that comes with the package. You could move away from Windows completely to Linux but you are really hindered by the lack of proprietary software support and I can’t see that changing as it would be a very low ROI with the market share Linux has. So, there are choices to be had but none are perfect. I am thinking possibly going with Linux and using a Windows 10 virtual machine to run my Microsoft and Adobe applications.

So, I will continue to use Windows 7 for the time being and when 2020 arrives who knows, maybe all software will be in the cloud anyway and your computer will just be a tool for giving you a gateway to the cloud. If that is the case it will not matter what basic old potato you are using.

Windows 10 has been a big shift in the way that operating systems are delivered and currently you would have to say it has been underwhelming, in addition to which they lost a lot of consumer support with the forced upgrades last year. Watch this space in the next few weeks and see how people accept the creator’s update.

It looks like the mobile first plan really is here to stay (repost)

So, it came out in the last few days that Android is the most used operating system to access the internet. So, does this mean that the king of all things operation systems, Windows is dying? Not necessarily, remember that Windows still has over 90% of the desktop market. That is the problem though, a lot more people use mobile to access the internet now, whether this is on a table, a laptop or a mobile phone. It is no great shock to Microsoft, if you look at things, Satya Nadella has been pushing the mobile, cloud first idea since he became Microsoft CEO.

Whether we like it or not, more people are accessing the internet on the move and with more software developed for mobile devices, the move towards the cloud will become even stronger. So, it does not matter if you need to use a photo editing app, a word processor or even a spreadsheet program, it can all be done form a mobile application. Most of the social media is done through mobile. So, it is not that the desktop operating systems have done anything bad but more the way thing generally in technology is going.

I will be honest, I use mainly desktop apps for my day to day work, whether that is productivity or communication. If I am at home even social media is done through desktop apps whether that is Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. I find that desktop just gives me more control over the way that information is delivered and what information that I do not want to be delivered. When I am out and about I will use social media apps on my phone or apps for two-factor authentication but that is all.

I have a feeling that I will be a very late adopter of this, I know this will have a bigger impact on my web development rather than teaching in the short-term. Luckily there are plenty of options to help with my responsive web development from the desktop without having five different mobile phones to hand. So how are things going to go? There is already a shift towards online software, I am specifically thinking about the Google suite of productivity apps that really push collaboration to the fore. I still use MS Office for most of my productivity and teaching but I am not so blind that I can’t see the advantages of software being completely cloud-based.

Microsoft has moved away from being a software company, they will quite happily tell you that data and cloud services are the most important commodity they have, and the way things are going it would not be difficult to see why. I can see soon; all computing will be cloud-based. Your operating system will be cloud-based, all your programs will be and your data will be saved to the cloud. It won’t matter whether you are a Windows, Mac or Linux company as you will have basic workstations with small local storage requirements, connected to the cloud.

The gap is only going to get wider between the people using mobile/cloud-based systems and those with the old tried and tested local files system. As Satya Nadella has realized, you either move with the times or you get left behind.

Higher Tax On Digital Goods And Services (repost)

I was having a conversation the other day and it came up whether there should be a much higher rate of tax on digital goods and services. Now I am talking about everything here from online stores, to help lines and even automation within the workplace. If you look at the way “bricks and mortar” stores are folding now, due to the fact that everybody is buying online, something really needs to be done about it. There must be something we can do to help these people out of the situation of being severely disadvantaged in comparison to online stores. Now there are still people that do support these stores but not enough that they will be viable in the long term.

I do not blame the consumer in the slightest for choosing the online option, if you can get a product or service that is reasonably priced with the minimum of effort on the buyer’s part, why would you not take that option. So, I understand it make perfect sense from that point of view. I also have no issues with retailers and service providers that decide to take the online step as their main mode of business. At the end of the day on nearly all cases you are going to have less overhead when compared to the “bricks and mortar” shop. What I would like to see is either some kind of raise in taxes for online businesses, however this would most likely be passed onto the customer which would not be great. The other thing that could happen is some kind of tax breaks for “bricks and mortar” businesses to bring them in line with their online counterparts.

The larger issue in all this will be the way that automation is taking over in the workplace, now it seems strange that I am going to reference a workers’ revolution from the 16th Century, and I am by no means saying the workers should attack the machinery with their “Sabot”, however I do think that there is a real concern about job losses due to the amount of automation that will happen within the workplace in the next 10-15 years.

Maybe it is time to put some kind of a surcharge on automation. The thing I worry about in doing this though, is that it will end up stifling technology and that would be the last thing that I want to do. There have been some fantastic advances over the last 40 years, and long may this continue. Whoever makes the decisions on the way digital services, good and automation in run going forward, has no easy job and certainly not a task I would like to take on.

So encryption issue rears its ugly head again!!! (repost)

So, over the weekend the British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd pointed out that the Westminster terrorist had been speaking to somebody just before then attack using WhatsApp messenger. Of course, there is no way for the information to be intercepted as WhatsApp uses end to end encryption so the data cannot realistically be intercepted by security services. Now Ms Rudd claims that there should be a way that organisation with judicial authority should be given access to the encrypted data, and that the tech companies should cooperate to help with this task.

Now what you can take away from this is that the Secretary of State in charge of UK homeland security for all its citizens is asking for the tech companies to weaken encryption which could have a devastating effect in the long run for digital security. Now obviously, everything possible needs to be done to try and stop these horrendous crimes form taking place and clearly no tech companies are helping these people to facilitate their crimes. Something must be done to try and come up with a solution that stops potential criminal activity being organised through secure applications and the privacy of individuals that will stop hackers having a field day.

So, what can be done, as we saw last year, tech companies are unwilling to create back doors for governments to gain access to locked and encrypted devices. This was proven with the Apple vs FBI IPhone case. You need to have strong encryption especially when devices are used to transfer financial and payment information but doing so especially with programs that use end to end encryption basically does give criminals an undetectable haven to organise any activities they wish. I really do not think currently there is a solution to the problems. Maybe as bot architecture improves there will be a way identify and intercept possible suspect conversations. Online privacy is a minefield and one that needs to be walked over very carefully.

Another thing that could throw a spanner in the works on this issue is, who would have access to the data. Now I am guessing in the UK it would be accessed by GCHQ, but who would have the authority to request the data. I know with the new UK data retention and investigatory powers act, it is basically every UK government department and their brother can request your data. I mean I understand the Home Office may need potential incriminating data about you, however I find it a bit much that the Food Standards Agency needs to know what I bought my wife off Amazon for her birthday.

So, this story has a lot of running still to do and I am sure there will be plenty of talking form lawyers of all sides before anything happens on this one. Strong encryption needs to stay to protect people’s privacy but to offset that with the need for law enforcement to get much needed data, I do not have a clue.

Who is going to sell your data today? (repost)

Well it looks like those nice internet service providers in the USA are going to have the chance to sell your data, now I am not going to get all smug as I am at this side of the pond as our own Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill is hardly anything to be happy about. To be honest it is no real surprise that this has happened as I always thought of Republicans as the friend of the big corporation rather than the normal day to day person.

I do find it extremely worrying the way things are going with the way that or data is handled. Now form what I understand is that this has been done to level the playing field between Internet Service Providers and web based companies like Facebook and Google. Due to the fact that the ISP’s had much more stringent regulations they had a adhere to. Now of course this could have been a perfect opportunity to move things the other way by putting more regulation into the internet companies and give Facebook and Google the rights to distribute our web histories to the highest bidder.

Now as I am writing this, President Trump has still a chance to veto this and after all he does claim to be a president of the people rather than big corporation. So is he going to do the right thing and get rid of this. Of course, I am sure he would not do that as it would put him on a complete collision course with the Republican party, but I guess one can hope.

Now let us look at the Internet Service Providers role in this, it has already been announced that Verizon will be adding software to phones that will harvest telemetry data and send it back home. So, will this cost Verizon a lot of customers, will they see this as not really a problem or is it going to be a big issue. Is this a chance for another provider to say, we are not going to sell your data because privacy is a big thing for us.

What will the next step be for consumers, well some could just lice with it if they do not see It as a big deal, after all this is already being done by the internet companies. It is probably going to be a pretty big boost to the VPN providers, as I am sure people that are worried about privacy will take this option.

From a personal point of view, I feel the same about this as I do about the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill here in the UK. It is extremely poor for the consumer and all it is doing is to line the pockets of big corporations.

Is Your Company Moving To The Cloud Or Sticking With Desktop Apps (repost)

So there is a great push at the moment with companies moving to the cloud for better collaboration, rather than sticking to desktop applications. Most of the places I have worked and even in my personal productivity has been based on Microsoft and Adobe applications. So whether it is in my ICT teaching role, delivering training using Microsoft office or in a Web Development environment using Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver or Illustrator that has always been the way to go.

 

What I have been noticing within the last 18months though, is that more and more organisations are moving to Google Cloud Apps/G-Suite and I have had requests to deliver training on the Google suite of applications. Whether it is Docs, Sheets or Forms. Now I would not say I am 100% comfortable in this environment myself yet. What I have realised that I am going to have to do is up-skill on these applications, as I can only see more and more people moving towards them as they become better specced in relation to Office 365.

 

I will say currently that they do not stand up to Office 365 as a standalone application, whether it is mailmerge, styles, macros, Power BI or some other things that G-Suite is sadly missing. I Know i can achieve some of this with add-ons and I can start using JavaScript instead of macros, but it does not currently stack up on its own against Office 365. Saying that though, it is improving all the time and i can only see it getting better, so it is imperative that alongside my Office 365 knowledge, is that I am well versed in delivering training using Google applications.

 

Do you see your organisation moving to a cloud-based solution? Maybe they have already done so? If they have do you find that Google applications offer you everything you need for your daily productivity, or do you miss the better tooled Office 365 and its familiar environment. I find it currently uncomfortable thinking that if I lose internet connectivity that my productivity has stopped, although this is probably just a mindset thing on my part. We lost AWS a few weeks ago for a day, what happens if the same thing happens to Google Cloud? At least if I am using local desktop apps, I can carry on with my work even with a cloud outage.

 

I am finding the transition difficult but I know that is the way things are going. I fully expect even Office 365 to be a full cloud program in the next five years, especially with Satya Nadella’s cloud-first philosophy that is growing within Microsoft. I may not like what is happening but know change is on the way, so it is no doubt time to bite the bullet and move along.