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Unwanted updates

December 2014

It’s easy to forget just how fast computers have developed, and consequently how wide the gap in knowledge grows between those who try to keep up and those who can’t see the point.  This was brought home to me the other day when a retired chap in the village told me that he was “not on the internet at all” because he had never used email, looked at a website or owned a computer.

In a couple of minutes I was able to show him records of his address, phone number, regiment, who lived at his house (and next door), his past directorships and some other details Including a picture of him on holiday.

He was surprised and asked me to delete it all, immediately.  I explained that the internet doesn’t work like that, and that if he really wants to do something about it he needs approach the individual websites; I wished him good luck but suggested that he didn’t waste too much time trying.

This illustrates a common, perfectly reasonable, nervousness some people have about the internet, arising mainly from a lack of understanding about how it works, and what the real dangers are.

I really can’t blame them.  Computers are changing at breakneck speed, and the risks we run when using them are an equally fast moving target. 

However, whilst I can’t complain about to the computer industry advancing technology as quickly as it can, I do object to the way they are inclined to change the rules without warning.

If I buy a washing machine, I learn how to use it and it doesn’t change.  One day it dies, but until then I know where I am.

However, if I am using an online service – BBC iPlayer, Gmail, BT Email, Facebook, Twitter, or any of the innumerable others, the matter is out of my hands.  If the suppliers want to muck about with it they can do so whenever they want, and suddenly I can’t find the things I need because they’ve “improved” it – and there’s no going back.  They may even close it down completely.

This isn’t limited to online services; if I buy software for my computer, the time may come when it ceases to be “supported” and I have to buy a new version or risk exposure to hackers or worse.  This imposed obsolescence is infuriating.

Sometimes they make things worse by replacing a perfectly good product with something shoddier, as Microsoft did when they effectively replaced the perfectly acceptable Windows XP operating system with the hated Windows 8.   I’ve had more irritated emails about Windows 8 than I care to count.

Windows 8 is actually a very good operating system (leaner, faster, safer), but the controls are dreadful, and, inexcusably, they are far too unlike Windows XP.  These things need to be changed gradually.

Microsoft’s embarrassment at this disaster is clear; they have just announced the launch of Windows 10 next year – bypassing Windows 9 altogether.  This is only a marketing trick, to give the impression that they have abandoned Windows 8 and have moved much further on. 

I’ve had a brief look at Windows 10, and I’m happy to report that it feels much like Windows 7 (which we all understand) with the few good bits of Windows 8 retained.  Under the bonnet I suspect it is as good as you can get.

So here is my challenge to Microsoft: you owe anyone who bought Windows 8 an apology, but I suspect they would settle for a free upgrade to Windows 10.  The goodwill you will engender will be priceless, and the cost to you negligible. I’m waiting for your call, Mr Gates, and I can give you a long list of Oldie readers who would welcome the gesture.