Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Curse of Amazon Prime

Capture2


Amazon is great. I have been shopping with them since 1998 when you could only buy books and CDs. Today you can buy almost anything.


Over time the idea of delivery has changed. Amazon is online so they also deliver services online. Movies, TV, music and probably a few other things I haven’t spotted. However I just buy stuff occasionally. It does bother me that Amazon is the creator of zero hours contract low wage jobs but its really hard to avoid the low wage low cost economy.

Amazon have been doing Amazon Prime for a while now. If you are not a regular user of Amazon you may not be aware of this premium service where you can get free delivery, next day delivery, movies, tv and music for a yearly fee of about £79. They also throw in some exclusive offers, discount days and almost anything that gets customers into the store. I have no problem with this subscription model and that it has made Amazon founder Jeff Bezos a load of money. Briefly, as the Amazon share price went up on 27th July 2017, he became the world’s richest man. So business is good.

Many people find the Amazon Prime service great value and love all the bundled offers. I don’t. I like Netflix, Spotify and mixing up my online purchases. What I don’t like is being cursed by Amazon Prime. Most times I just want to buy something, get it delivered with free postage and I don’t care if it takes 5 working days to get to me. I don’t even care if I have to collect it next week from a locker or some other place. Prime now haunts me during the buying process. Without huge care you click the button for your free 30 day trial. By which they mean we hope you forget and we swipe money out of your credit card every month 30 days from now.

The curse is that we have been seduced by one click shopping. The continue button always just completes the purchase – right? Nothing sinister there?

Not on Amazon. Those large buttons in the final page offering free next day delivery are really now a passive sign up to Amazon Prime. I now have to double and triple check every option before buying anything just in case I get signed up for Prime, or drone delivery, or maybe (at some future stage) rocket launched orbital delivery. After all Bezos seems to want to go to Mars!

A few days ago they caught me again. It’s been a couple of years since I last unwittingly signed up for one month of  Prime trial. Then it’s happened again. I have one month of free Amazon Prime again!  I immediately switch it off because I don’t want to forget and then have them raid my account in 30 days. Switching it off involves going to a buried menu in “Your Account – Manage Prime Benefits”. They don’t just have an off button to undo the very big “Continue” button that signs you into the service you don’t want.

With all big successful companies there is a moment when they think they are so wonderful you will want to send them money all the time. Amazon has reached that stage. I call it the curse of Amazon Prime.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

OnePlus 5 and the hype

This week I watched a view by a Hungarian YouTuber who runs the Techaltar channel.

In some ways it's an unusual channel because it rarely does tech reviews but instead talks about the business models and strategies adopted by companies to sell their product. The channel does definitely make you think.

Recently one of the big tech launches for enthusiasts has been the OnePlus 5. Oneplus has established itself as the company that never settles, creates smartphones as affordable flagships at budget pricing, and has whacky advertising. Moreover it styles itself as a startup business.

Their product might be great but how does the image match up to reality. Techalter does a good summary of why it's not quite as simple as it appears.




If you are interested in the detail of smartphone companies story then it's a well put together alternative view of OnePlus.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Why digits might change the mobile world

On 31st May 2017 the US mobile network T-Mobile will launch digits - a virtual cloud based mobile number. This may just change the way we use mobile devices.


It's a mobile phone company that puts your number in the cloud. You could potentially have two numbers such as business and personal tied to the same device. A sales team could all have one number so all their phones ring. You could even have numbers in different countries. You have on-call shift workers that need the on-call number. No problem. Just re-assign the number to their device and you dont have to pass around the on-call phone between staff.

The T-Mobile version still relies on SIMs in phones but that may change with the SnapDragon 835. The 835, which I have written about before, includes LTE on the chip. This means that the chip is pretty much a self-contained phone. All you need now is some software on the device that can have your number programmed in with a suitable mobile operator supporting phone numbers "in the cloud".

Right now T-Mobile US is the smaller of the mobile networks and it's adding this service to ramp up it's consumer offer. However the next generation of mobile chips could mean your number gets personal and you can have it on any phone that is charged in the morning and even that Nokia 3310 left in your desk for emergencies.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

I was definitely delusional




Yep.  I have to confess I was analogue delusional. Although I have been taking digital pictures on my phone and camera for a few years I suffered from being delusional.

Years ago I had a normal camera. Just to be clear I mean one with film. The 24 or 36 shots in a roll you loaded into a camera and then snapped away. Once you were done you could process the film in a camera shop or supermarket or even send it away.

You would then get back a bunch of prints and the negatives. In the 1970s and 1980s we all hoped to be David Bailey who advertised Olympus cameras. Just a compact camera and you would take great pictures. Off you went on holiday, got through a few rolls of film, mostly over-exposed them and made a mess and paid for a bunch of blurry pictures with the occasional good one.

The Louvre 
This was a snap of the Louvre in Paris that actually turned out quite well.

However for most of us we didn't have a clue and unless you became a photography anorak you just did a point and shoot.

With digital photography we became obsessed by megapixels and whether the new digital images were as good as film. Lots of people wrote articles about not going digital because good old film was better. Point and shoot photographers, who never really had a clue, began to get converted but were really looking for the camera that was as good as film.

It became a personal conceit of mine that I actually took some decent pictures on film and the last few years have been a disappointing digital experience due to lack of megapixels or not having the best camera tech. There are some legitimate problems with cheap digital but nothing like what was in my head for some reason.

I took a decision to scan all my old photos in boxes. It was a bit of a mess but as I looked through the out of focus blurry images that had become peculiarly stained and sun drenched I had a few thoughts.

The first was that my old film camera was better in my memory than in actuality. I took rubbish pictures. Not deliberately of course but largely because of the technology. Waiting for stuff to develop to work out you had someone standing with a tree coming out of their head with the angle you used is annoying. Particularly because you can't re-take them. Also cameras were too cheap. The lenses weren't great and point and shoot meant point and miss. You also only had one type of film with one ISO value.

Digital is now really good. The average smartphone, not the best, does take great pictures. You can also take as many as you want and select the best later. If you need to check a picture instantly you can on a screen and re-shoot.

I was delusional about the good old days of film. For most of us amateur happy snappers digital is genuinely better in every way that matters and people are taking the best pictures that have ever been taken. Now the issue is that all the pictures are digital and the photo album needs re-inventing somehow to preserve this century's pictures because developed film had one advantage - you could touch and feel the pictures. Therefore you could establish an emotional connection with photography that may be missing. However perhaps that's a conceit too.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Why was my email rejected ?


It's been rejected!. OK so I made up this completely rubbish address but if you get an email that has been rejected, a so-called "bounced" mail, you can do some good analysis of the reason if you can read the SMTP logs. SMTP being the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol that sends mail between servers and other places too.

Before you yawn this is what you get back.

Generating server: AM5EUR02HT096.mail.protection.outlook.com
kbmregregkrgrgktrgrtb@hotmail.co.uk
SNT004-MC5F20.hotmail.com
Remote Server returned '550 5.1.351 Remote server returned unknown recipient or mailbox unavailable -> 550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable'
Original message headers:
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed; d=outlook.com;
 s=selector1; h=From:Date:Subject:Message-ID:Content-Type:MIME-Version;
 bh=lURfIqW7JBVRaKyNHMwqLzWn5AAyxsprWeqWekgSchc=;
 b=rH8HpA6mqgsmvED575S7sZZ3m6fy36WII+18d68flJNvd0IaNC+lLUb7bpDA90kQ7JH3DJEX5hbER4tORPoZfJW51WYKlGZdFfjBBvTkph4HD3u+yXavkOWhdYK1uTPMKV8DxJusJNWJcX+7uK7zs6cWWaHLm0X4LjHozOhbR71dFXREGzI1eODcOHj7rw0Eb6JtCA7xPwNdCP7GBrfJjhBGX5VfwI0ld1EPPPEeNst3fiIvu2rzfy35uregBnhzZlqKmZDGbel2HeE7bDsO8a8Ix9HdQSIsjEBKBnzNGuKyoma4AKyOUtp/dgUFPgeVhjq+9Dd3rTQbw6eoAXxZRw==
Received: from AM5EUR02FT045.eop-EUR02.prod.protection.outlook.com
 (10.152.8.60) by AM5EUR02HT096.eop-EUR02.prod.protection.outlook.com
 (10.152.9.222) with Microsoft SMTP Server (version=TLS1_2,
 cipher=TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA384_P384) id 15.1.1019.14; Sun, 23
 Apr 2017 13:13:40 +0000
Actually it goes on a lot longer than this little segment. However this gives you a clue it's not easy to read.
If you use Outlook this is hidden inside the email. You have to expand the message and view the 'properties' of the message and the 'internet headers'. It's in a slightly different menu for different versions of Outlook so you will have to search.
To make the rejection reason a bit more readable go to the Microsoft Remote Connectivity Advisor at this URL; https://testconnectivity.microsoft.com/ 
Once there pick the tab option called Message header Analyzer.
Insert the entire SMTP rejection message. Click on "Analyze headers" and then you will get a neatly formatted mail failure report.

It's a good little email tool for rejected mail. 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Windows Azure (almost) free for IT pros

A long time ago IT Pros could get quite a lot from Microsoft to set-up test environments as a "home lab". If you are in IT you can really only understand technology by using hands-on. You can only make recommendations from personal use. Unfortunately not all employers give people resources to keep their knowledge up to date. Instead home learning is a thing.

You can build a home lab with either the free version of ESX from Vmware or a free Hyper-V host from Microsoft. Next an old server or an HP Microserver would get you a basic home virtualisation platform. Software could come with Linux or you could splash out on a Technet Subscription at £99 per year.

Sadly Microsoft ended Technet Subscriptions and replaced them with time limited evaluations. Not so good if you want to set up domain controllers and a test SQL server that you want to return to periodically. However it's better than nothing.

However IT moves on. IT Pros need to understand about cloud services. From a Microsoft perspective this means Azure.

They offer a month trial with £150 of credit. Just sign up with a credit card. I have discovered that the card basically isn't billed because the default billing is set not to charge when you exhaust your credits but just turn it all off. So the £150 is good for 1 month.

If you want to run up some vms and build a virtual network over 30 days then this is a good deal. However I rarely get that concentrated time. So a little more often would suit me. Fortunately you can do that too.

First you need to sign up for Microsoft's cloud essentials; https://www.microsoft.com/itprocloudessentials/en-GB



It's free to join. Sign in with a Microsoft account and you are ready. Once inside head to the offers page.



Finally activate an Azure subscription with £20 per month credit.

So $25 (£20 in the UK) isn't huge. You could run a couple of VMs for maybe a day but looking from the perspective of  a weekend of training that isn't too bad. The main thing is that you get 1 year of this. Over time you have a lot of flexibilty to learn what Azure is all about.

I think it's a good deal for IT Pros and I will be trying it out over the next few months.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Last Version of Windows

When Microsoft said that Windows 10 was the "last version of Windows" a lot of people didn't really know what that meant or were more concerned with the "free upgrade for 12 months".

Over time it is really become clear what this is all about. There simply aren't any versions any more unless you are an on-premises IT Pro.

What we are seeing is the monthly patch cycle on patch Tuesday and a couple of feature updates each year designated by year/month numbers. The first year anniversary update was 1607 was the July 2016 update - eventually released in the first few days of August 2016. The point is not to pick apart exact release schedules in the old style monolithic update every few years but rather to recognise we are in a new world. The cloud has now changed versions. You just sit there and your new feature update just piles in until your PC just stops working. Upgrades for life.

Similarly businesses that have gone to the cloud just use Office 365 and Exchange Online.

You can add Office 2016 to your local PC if you have an Office 365 subscription but it's updated monthly. If there is an Office 2018 you will get that. Its an all you can eat buffet. If your small business has an Office 365 account with email you have Exchange Online. Your OneDrive is really Sharepoint. No versions.

So the continuous updating cloud is removing versions. It's a new world for the PC user.