Windows Defender

windows-defender

I have a policy of never paying for anti-virus software; but is this stance justified? Why pay for software when the free Microsoft Defender comes with Windows?

Today the McAfee Live Safe trial that came with my new work ASUS laptop was the prime suspect in slowing down the loading of web pages in Google Chrome. I uninstalled it, Windows 10 defaulted to Microsoft Defender, and everything is now working fine.

I agree with those who say Defender isn’t the best out there, but it has to be said that no anti-virus software is 100% reliable. Defender’s advantages are that it integrates perfectly with Windows 10, it’s free and it’s not system hogging. I also immunise my PC regularly with SpywareBlaster and scan regularly with Malwarebytes (the free versions of both).

This is how I live with Defender’s limitations. But the best anti-virus protection is the PC user; don’t go to dodgy[dot]com and always pay attention to potential threats. This is my joined up plan around Defender, one that has served me well for many years, and remember that most PCs get viruses (and the like) because of users’ ignorance or gullibility. So, as I often say, ‘Keep up and pay attention’ – security is your responsibility, you know it makes sense.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

bulletcluster_comp_960

I’ve always had an interest in astronomy; it goes right back to my childhood, and it’s nurtured my love of science as well as my outlook on life. I’ll probably write about it in the future. In the meantime, one of the websites I visit on a daily basis (as well as the BBC and Facebook amongst others) is Astronomy Picture of the Day. Every day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. I often bookmark some of the best ones, although you need to save the link in the archive rather than the main page (otherwise you get taken back to the main page in future).

Footnote: As I was writing this the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon was announced. “We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.” – Cernan’s closing words on leaving the moon at the end of Apollo 17.

Microsoft Windows 10

win-10

I’ve now had experience of upgrading three computers to Windows 10, so I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts as you may be undecided.

My first upgrade was on a Windows 7 work laptop which I upgraded before the [Get Windows 10] taskbar icon appeared. I started the process on the Microsoft website, and this went smoothly with no problems. My wife Naomi’s Windows 8.1 laptop had been having a few problems and eventually wouldn’t boot up, and so I did a factory reset followed by the Windows 10 upgrade (called a clean upgrade) which again went well.

Things started to go wrong when I was upgrading a work Windows 7 netbook. It was a simple job to backup the files on the netbook to a USB flash drive before doing a clean upgrade. So far so good, and Windows 7 successfully updated to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1). The problem came when Windows Update froze during the upgrade to Windows 10, and the process wouldn’t complete. A little research (in the form of a Google search) showed this to be a common problem, and a simple manual fix from Microsoft sorted out the problem. On my third attempt Windows 10 installed successfully.

A couple of things are worth mentioning. It’s a good idea to review the default settings in the final stages of the upgrade, and to switch on System Restore when it’s completed (it’s off by default). System Restore is necessary to return your computer to an earlier state after you’ve made changes and can sometime be a life saver. Also, the option to return to your previous version of Windows remains in Settings for a while should you wish to go back.

Windows 10 retains the feel of Windows 7 and integrates the new features fairly seamlessly. The distinctive features of Windows 8 (generally not well-liked by users) are there, but in a restrained way, unless you choose to make them more prominent. In fact, it’s worth finding your way around Windows 10 and tweaking it to your personal taste.

Overall, I think ‪‎Windows 10‬ is a big improvement on both ‎Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, but this is possibly down to personal preference. If you’re upgrading from Windows 7 you’ll find 10 easy to use, and if you don’t like 8 you’ll love 10. However, the free upgrade period has now passed, and the latest version is the Anniversary Update (an improvement on the original release).

Living in a social media bubble

question-everything

Oxford Dictionaries decided that the word post-truth (or is that two words?) should be Word of the Year for 2016. They define it as an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Two major news events of 2016 illustrate how untruths (or should I just say lies?) were an an illustration of this; namely, the debate prior to the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union and the campaign that resulted in the election of Donald Trump in the United States of America (even if he didn’t win the popular vote).

Many people were surprised by these two events, and one explanation is the so-called social media bubble. This is a phenomenon which links us to like-minded friends and others; sharing and liking similar news stories, views and opinions. The algorithms of Facebook (and the like) decide our friends for us, those with similar views. Yes, this goes on in the everyday world, but the effect is magnified by the very nature of the medium. Many were surprised by Brexit and Trump because they weren’t aware of many people who favoured them, they just weren’t in their circle of friends, or possibly kept quiet. Add to this the problem of hoaxes, fake news and unreliable quotes, and things can get quite quite messy. What is truth in a post-truth world after all? Falsehoods are easily spread by people unwilling (or too busy) to make a simple check of their veracity – Google can be your friend, or possibly your false-friend in a post-truth world, who knows anymore?

In the space of the last two days I’ve heard both Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson speak about the feature on Amazon that shows what other people bought after you’ve made a purchase. Another example of the bubble effect? Wouldn’t it be better to have a reverse filter suggesting what they didn’t buy? Shouldn’t we be reaching out those with different opinions to our own and seeking to understand? Just my recent reflections, but what do you think? Do you possibly disagree with me? That’s OK, right?

Favourite Albums of 2016 Part 2

blackstar-logo

In any normal year The Ship by Brian Eno would be my favourite album of the year but for three outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it.

All my top three albums deserve the number one spot, and each of them have been number one at some time in the last few weeks. So I’m going to bottle out and give all three joint number one status, listing in order of release. They each have qualities that make them deserving of being number one.

David Bowie‘s twenty-fifth and final studio album Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday Friday 8 January 2016, two days later his death was announced. Blackstar is his swan song and parting gift. It’s a remarkable piece of work and the track Lazarus is my favourite single track of the year. The picture is imagery from the album simply because, of the three albums, this is the most significant.

Radiohead‘s ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool was released in May with minimal promotion, namely two songs and associated videos the week before. Several songs date back a number of years, one right back to 1995. It can be described as an art-rock album, notable for acoustic guitar and piano timbres and some wonderful choral and string arrangements.

The third album in my top three is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds‘ sixteenth studio album Skeleton Tree, a follow-up to their excellent 2013 album Push the Sky Away (my favourite album of that year). The album is not an easy listen, but worth the effort. Most of the album had been written at the time of Cave’s son’s death, but several lyrics were amended by Cave during subsequent recording sessions and feature themes of death, loss and personal grief (Wikipedia).

Let me know what you think of my choices, and why not share your favourites?

Favourite Albums of 2016 Part 1

16496dec

Widely regarded as a return to form, Dystopia by American heavy-metal band Megadeth is my number 10 album of the year. Back to their roots, and number 9 in my top ten, Blue & Lonesome by The Rolling Stones. Soulsville by the wonderful Beverley Knight comes in at number 8. Atomic by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai is number 7. A progressive rock marriage made in heaven, Invention of Knowledge by Jon Anderson & Roine Stolt is number 6 in my favourites. Sadly taken from us this year, number 5 is You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen.

My top 3 will feature in a separate post. In any normal year the final album here would probably be my number 1, but for 3 outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it, so The Ship by Brian Eno is my number 4.

Reasons to be cheerful in 2016

16563414-8

2016 hasn’t been a good year for many reasons, not least the large number of high profile celebrity deaths; from David Bowie to…..I hesitate as it’s only the 30th December as I write. There’s been war and terrorism, famine and a refugee crisis. There was the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America; both events marking a rise in right-wing populism, intolerance, fear and hatred. But my main reason to be cheerful in 2016 was the birth of my beautiful daughter Matilda, what’s yours?