ramblings on IT

I started this a few days ago, and everything changes so fast in IT I’d better just post it.

Evernote changed their policy, telling us a couple of months ago that we could only have it now on two devices, or we would have to pay a monthly subscription. I find an app that I can use for notes, that syncs over all devices with the app useful, partly because I have an automatic backup, partly because the data is all in one place, partly because for a longer note I can type easily on a PC, but refer to it on another device like a phone, and that I can use it for anything – photos, voice etc., although 99% of it for me is text. So I found a program that would migrate it to Onenote, and while it imported everything it left it in a jumble that took a while to sort out.  But once I’d done that and I configured Onenote to suit me, and that was it. I did look at other apps, but Google Keep for some reason doesn’t sync all the time, and others didn’t seem to suit me so well.

This done, and it was actually reasonably painless, I uninstalled Evernote on all but two devices.  But I haven’t actually used it since at all.  Then today I receive an email from Evernote, who have probably noticed a dramatic fall in usage:

When we announced changes to Evernote Basic recently, many of our longtime customers had questions about the way devices are counted. We’d like to clarify some common misconceptions:
Access anywhere with Evernote WebEvernote Web does not count against the Basic device limits. If you’re near a computer with a web browser, you can get to your notes and notebooks.
Take it two at a time — Feel free to install Evernote on as many devices as you like. If you’re on a Basic account, you can log in from up to two devices at a time. Need to switch devices? Just log out from one and log in on the other.

Now, if they’d told us that in the first place I probably would have stuck with it.  But it’s too late now.

Onenote, being Microsoft, of course could change their policy in the future.  Earlier this year they reduced the free storage on Onedrive, from 15GB to 5GB.  If you requested in time you got to keep the 15GB, and I managed to do this.  I just found out in time when I noticed it in a PC magazine.  Who knows if I will catch such sudden policy changes in the future.

Starting soon Microsoft will offer Windows 10 Enterprise as a subscription service,  costing USD$7 per user per month.  28 months of subscription would be the equivalent of a permanent licence. Do they want to do this for consumers?  Almost certainly.  Will they?  We hope not, if it is forced upon us.  They say it’s the price of a cup of coffee and a donut.  Today so far I would have used probably at least 20 different programs, in the three hours or so I’ve been using my PC, tablet and phone. Well, if you add up all the (non-Microsoft) programs you use regularly, say 15 or 20 cups of coffee and donuts, soon we’re talking real money.   Mass migration of consumers to Linux Mint or Ubuntu, which would hurt Microsoft’s enterprise customers?  I should ensure my next computer has the specifications and components common enough to be able to run Linux.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update has been on my PC since Saturday. I did a blog on upgrading at the time.  It fixed a couple of problems I had that were Microsoft problems anyway – the start menu not working, and Onedrive not sync’ing, for example.  And it’s a bit faster – that will wear off in time.  Generally it works pretty much the same, and nothing different is that important to me.  I will have to go through the security settings again to make sure they haven’t been reset.

So I have been browsing PC magazines recently.  They are all enthused about IoT (Internet of Things).  I’m not.  I believe that electromagnetic radiation is bad for us, and we should limit our exposure.  We can withstand some without symptoms, just as we can air pollution, but we shouldn’t be increasing our dependence.  With IoT devices being largely wireless, I can’t see this as good.  There is a technology that uses the light spectrum for networking, and I believe this is harmless, but it relies on no barriers to work – it can’t go through walls and so on.  But IoT seems to be either WiFi or Bluetooth, with possibly ethernet in some cases, although I haven’t noticed it.  So now we have smart light bulbs that allow hackers into your home network – so IoT presents a security nightmare too.  All to do something I don’t really care about.  I can actually wait until I get home to turn on the aircon, or make coffee – I don’t need to have them start remotely so when I get home they are all ready for me.  Aircons have timers anyway – which I don’t really use.  Maybe there is some killer app which will make it all worthwhile.  Until then I will let it get cheaper and more reliable, and perhaps never get it at all.

For years I have had great hopes for fibre.  I read may years ago that all the knowledge of mankind, digitised, could go down a fibre optic cable in 3/4 second, or something like that.  About three years ago Telekom Malaysia dug up our street (and cut the electricity cable – hmm, no maps for utility lines?) and installed fibre.  Since then I regularly asked them when we can access it. They tell me, in six months time.  Like free beer tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.  A couple of weeks ago I asked again – ah yes, about six months.  Really, the future should be fibre to the premises everywhere, with low powered wireless connections, minimising radiation, covering the short remaining distance to the devices.  I turn wi-fi off at night, but I wish I could have it only on in bursts when needed.  If it could sense incoming data, then turn on and transmit it, and similar for outgoing data, and then go back to sleep.  Using the light band when possible… While my PC connects through ethernet, my phone or tablet can’t.

Bluetooth 5 will soon be out.  I hope it’s more reliable than Bluetooth 1 -4, which I only really got to work for connecting a keyboard to my phone or tablet, for headphones (before I figured this wasn’t good for my health), to speakers, and a couple of other things.

Passwords are being denigrated – we should apparently use biometrics.  Well, I am not keen. Once your finger print, iris print or whatever is compromised, it is compromised for life.  Once you use it, it’ll be uploaded anyway,  so you’ve lost control. Two factor authentication like we use for banking online is better.

Drones have been around for quite a while, and are quite cheap now.  But I have yet to see one in Penang.

Then there are chatbots. e.g. on https://www.chatbots.org/ The Flowerchecker bot could be useful. Less so the future president – DonaldDrumpfBot.

How about Backpack PC’s?  It makes sense if you are tethered to your PC for VR, and the PC is on your back – if it has a decent battery. One example, HP Omen X.  I hear Intel has gone one better and incorporated everything into the VR headset.  Not much info on this yet, but it makes sense.

And foldable / rollable screens could be here as early as next year.  Interesting.

Before you sign a contract, you should, of course, read it.  And you are actually going to wet-sign with a signature. But clicking “agree” to Terms of Service  whenever you install an app it is not practical to read them, as they are deliberately, it seems, made very voluminous and difficult to read.  I would argue that this doesn’t really form a contract as you can’t reasonably be expected to read such material, for reasons stated above, and also given what I will say in the next sentence.  A study from 2012 found that it would take you about a month every year to read all the privacy policies for every website the average person visits in a year.  The way companies have deliberately made it difficult and very time-consuming to read, with terms often unfair, and thus created a culture of non-reading of these terms surely negates any claim to be a proper contract.

So far I’ve managed to avoid  using a VPN, but dire warnings of free Wi-Fi at coffee shops etc. being hacked means I really will have to.  The one that interests me most is USD$40 per year for use on five devices, so not so bad.

Driveless cars?  So many things to avoid – other cars, buildings, footpaths, pedestrians, road signs, roaming children and pets.  I would have thought that pilotless flying cars would be much easier, as there are only other flying cars and drones to avoid.  They’ve had flying cars for over 20 years, and if mass produced the price would be affordable for many now.  No more congestion, as flying is 3D, where driving is 2D.  When you arrive the car flies off and parks somewhere.  Fuel consumption is also similar to cars, especially as there are no congestion wasting traffic jams or traffic lights.

I recently heard about subscription boxes, which are mystery boxes of stuff that can be sent to you one off, or monthly with an annual subscription.  They are themed, so you can choose food, gadgets, comics etc. etc.  The last thing I need is more stuff, but the concept of this sounds fun.  http://www.expatgo.com/my/2016/06/14/monthly-subscription-boxes-malaysia  is a site for Malaysia.  If you subscribe to one abroad, you may of course, be subject to customs charges.

And finally, I put Google Duo on my phone – but I don’t know anyone else with it yet.  It’s a video phone app, but with no fuss, and immediacy just like a phone. Just call, someone answers, and they are there.

 

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