Tag Archives: technology

Interlude

In which The Author apologises for the
break in transmission and announces
an imminent change of location

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the last month or so, I can assure you that all is well. I’ve just been busy with various external matters, and I haven’t had chance to do very much online.
However, this might well be the last entry at this particular location. Ever since the people at WordPress decided to ‘improve’ the interface a couple of years ago, trying to write a new post has been like wading through treacle. They’ve added an ‘autosave’ feature, which seems to back up every time I take a breath; consequently, trying to type anything longer than about four words is punctuated by a long wait while the autosave executes. There’s no way to alter the settings, and I spend more time waiting for something to happen than I do actually doing anything.
(For the record, it saved no less than six times in the course of that last paragraph, and has already saved twice while I’ve been typing this fucking sentence!)
In fact, the whole new interface is a pain in the arse to try and navigate. Nothing is where you’d expect it to be, for a start. What was a fairly easy to use WYSIWYG word processor-style layout has now become some monstrous object, with pull-down menus which you have to remember to close before you can continue typing, and a whole host of pointless options (location, anyone?) which I’ve never had occasion to use and probably never will.
During the brief period after the introduction of the ‘improved’ layout, users had the option to switch back to the ‘classic’ layout if they wanted to. I’ve been using the hosted WordPress for my blog for over eight years. I don’t consider the old layout to be ‘classic’ – it was just so much better in many respects. It was faster, far more responsive, and didn’t clutter up the screen with menus which nobody ever used. Needless to say, soon after the transition the ‘classic’ option disappeared entirely.
As for the ‘improved’ layout – well, I’m sure we all remember what happened when a popular brand of soft drink ‘improved’ its recipe a few years ago.
Yes, that’s right – the sales plummeted!
Change for the sake of change clearly isn’t always a good thing.
I can only suspect that the ‘improved’ layout works nicely on a high-spec PC/laptop running Windows 10 with the latest version of Internet Explorer. As a recovering Microsoft user, I couldn’t possibly comment. One of the reasons why I switched to open source in the first place is that the software is written by users for users – in most cases. (See ‘Development Hell‘ for an example of what happens when that idea breaks down.) I don’t want to have to spend hundreds of pounds keeping my system up to speed with the corporate world’s latest fashions, only to have to junk it a couple of years later.
My system isn’t the world’s greatest, I’ll admit it, but it’s constantly updated and there aren’t any issues with obsolete browser plugins, add-ons, or software conflicts. That’s the only explanation WordPress were able to offer. Once you’ve eliminated the obvious, then the only conclusion I can reach is that the WordPress team have quite simply fucked up.
I’ve reported this issue several times in the support forums. Many other users have also complained about the autosave (which seems to have been configured with the short-term memory of a goldfish), so I know I’m not alone. The last time I raised a bug report was about a month ago, after it took me nearly three hours to post the previous entry. So far, nobody has even had the courtesy to reply.
So, boys and girls, I’m in the middle of setting up up a new blog elsewhere. The title will be the same, and the url will be almost the same, so you can find me easily enough. But I really don’t have the time or the patience to fuck around with WordPress any more.
Missing you already …

You Have Been Watching …

In which The Author finds yet another security leak from the future

I won’t recap the plot of George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four in detail. If you haven’t read it (and why not?), it’s set in a totalitarian Britain, where every aspect of society is dominated by the shadowy Big Brother. The story’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth, where he and his colleagues literally rewrite history to conform with the Party’s ideology. (Orwell had worked for the BBC, so he’d probably learned a trick or two about news management.)
To cut a fairly short story even shorter: every home has a ‘telescreen’ which broadcasts the Party line day and night. It also acts as a two-way channel, allowing the state to monitor the activities of the citizens:
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Anyway, here in free and democratic Britain, the telescreens are slowly becoming ubiquitous. I’m in Thereisnospoon in Aberdare at the moment. When Tim Martin first launched his revolutionary pub idea, one of his USPs was ‘no jukeboxes, no televisions’. But, of course, the punters wanted to watch soccer, or the Six Nations, or the Test matches, or royal weddings, and eventually the company caved in and installed TV sets.
Which would be all very well if they were only switched on for sporting events and royal weddings. But they aren’t. They’re permanently tuned to the increasingly misnamed BBC News channel. Even with the sound off (most of the time), we’re treated to inaccurately subtitled versions of whatever Winston Smith Laura Kuenssberg has decided is newsworthy on any given day.
And that’s just the start.
Get on a bendy bus in Cardiff city centre to travel down to the Bay, and there are telescreens there, too. Amazingly enough, they’re also tuned to the BBC News channel.
Back in the city centre, there are at least two massive screens in the middle of the shopping precinct. There’s one in Queen Street, just opposite the Friary, and another next to St David’s Hall, facing onto Waterstones. Guess what they show, day and night.
A few years ago I was on a river taxi (possibly in Bristol), and that was also showing the BBC News.
In fact, it’s becoming a refreshing change to call in for a pint somewhere that isn’t showing the British Brainwashing Corporation’s take on things.
Before I sign off: for the benefit of you who live in the rest of the world, Plaid Cymru won the Rhondda constituency in Thursday’s elections. Ms Kuenssberg, and Steve Richards on Radio 4’s The Week in the Westminster Bubble, seem to have omitted to mention this historic result in the one-party state. Now you know …
(Who needs the telescreen, eh?)