Archive: August 2016

The English GCSE Exams

Tomorrow is results day for those GCSE students in the UK. I am one of them. These are my opinions on the GCSE system in England.

WARNING: This article is slightly colorful. Sorry.

There are some exams where I seriously wondered how they can be called a GCSE; the main one is the Computer Science exam. This was possibly the worst exam I have ever seen shoved in front of my face. Ignoring the fact it was easy for me, there were some serious concerns with the relevance of it. Part of our curriculum was to look at the IO of a motherboard and the various components, busses etc. to a computer. I would like to point out now that we are in the year 2016. In class, we were taught about IDE and AGP slots. Hello, this is 2016. The STANDARD now is SATA for disks and PCI-Express for high speed internal interconnects, not only for GPUs, but for other components too like SSDs. IDE and AGP are outdated, they were by 2005 or so, so why am I still being told that this stuff is relevant? And rear IO? Hahahahaha that was a joke. Printer\parallel ports were called “up to date” and serial was taught like it was an important connector. Hey. That died when USB came along an kicked its ass with faster speeds. Stupid.

The English exam also pisses me off. All about creative writing and emotions and shit. Hey hey hey, what about informative writing (there was a bit of this, but not much). I am abysmal at creative writing, yet I can write an entire article about the Dell Latitude E6410 (review anyone?). Seriously, it’s a bit shit. I write manuals  and EULAs, not stories about Megumi and  Tomoya going on a date (anime reference, Google it). Seriously, fuck off. I don’t write that stuff, fiction writers do.

However, I think that the History and Economics exams were perfect. They were interesting, challenging and covered what we needed to know and it was up to date (Econ had data from the previous year in it for gods sake!)

That’s a short thing on my views on the GCSE exams.

Longer Thoughts on Windows 10

When Windows 10 was first announced I was immediately a supporter. Oh cool! It’s got Cortana, a new browser and all sorts of extra features that made me reserve my upgrade. However, within 6 months I reverted to old reliable Windows 8.1, something I did to partly preserve my privacy, but mostly because of how unstable I was finding Windows 10.

Normally, I will upgrade as quickly as possible to a new Windows version. Back in the days of XP, I followed the development of Windows Vista (then Longhorn) and we upgraded around a year into Vista’s lifecycle. Yes it wasn’t perfect, but it was a cool OS with Aero and all the other things that Vista came with. I distinctly remember having a desktop with the Sidebar, full Aero Glass enabled and many other tweaks to show how cool Vista was.

Then came Windows 7. When I got my Windows 7 laptop (I had been using an Acer Aspire x3200 running Vista\Ubuntu and a Windows XP Dell Dimension 2400) it was really cool. Basically it was Vista ++.

I followed the Windows 8 development, running the Developer, Consumer and Release previews as my main OS on my x3200. It was good and it served me well for a long time.

Then Windows 10. The first issue I had was it’s performance. Windows 8(.1) was crazy fast on my SSD, yet 10 was really sluggish. It would take ages to boot, my software would take ages to load and all sorts of little glitches. It also would blue-screen randomly (they were completely unrepeatable), messing with may GCSE documents. And then the spying. Oh the spying. Constant, Relentless usage of my network to send data back to Microsoft. This got to be too much so I reverted back to 8.1. Thank goodness.

For me, Windows 10’s stability was awful. It was bloated, slow and unstable as I have mentioned, but I don’t see why it should be. It isn’t hard is it? They nailed performance with Windows 8(.1) and yet they mucked it up with 10. Is it the spying? I don’t know. I never did a detailed look into what was using my CPU and RAM. I had turned off all the extra features like Cortana and its “suggestions” and merely used it as a program search (I liked Win+Q search as an app launcher), much like how I use Synapse Launcher bound to CTRL+Space (Mimicing Command + Space). I don’t care about Bing and searching the web. To me, that is done in my browser, not in my OS (although Siri is good for converting between units and getting the current exchange rate, stock prices, etc.). Shame they messed it up.

Now to talk about the elephant in the room, the privacy. Quoting the Microsoft Privacy Statement:

Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to: 1.comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies; 2.protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone; 3.operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or 4.protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement.

How nice. For those who don’t understand what that means, it means that Microsoft hold the rights to collect and retain personal data. As in your files, folders, e-mails, bank details. Basically everything you type into your keyboard, every mouse click you make and every file that is on your hard drives. They have access to, in one word, everything. That I am not OK with. My computer is MY computer, not Microsoft’s. Yes, I pay to use Windows, but I paid for Windows 7, then later 8(.1), and back then this did not exist. So why should I upgrade and be forced into this agreement? Why should I be forced to hand over my life and what will most likely become my livelihood to Microsoft? This is not North Korea, this is the United Kingdom, where I have the freedom to do what I want in my home. It’s like Microsoft took a copy of Red Star OS, removed all the tracking code and plopped it into Windows 10. Shame, because I like Windows. It’s a good OS.

What made Windows 7 and 8 great (and what continues to make Linux and Mac OS X) was that it was private and fast. Windows 10 has neither of them. Hopefully, Microsoft realises their mistake and releases a Windows 11, even though Windows 10 is “the last version of Windows”. So please, Microsoft, take Windows 8.1, put the Windows 10 interface on it, and leave it without any tracking. Thank you! (Oh and bring back Aero Glass! I miss it!)

Thoughts on Armed Officers in London

In case it is not news to you, I live in London. Today, I took a trip into central London and my sister took a photo of me next to an armed police officer. It was interesting.

These officers are now on the London streets in increased numbers. However I am writing this just to say the following:

Everyone in London is being protected from men with big shouty guns by more men with big shouty guns.

Odd when you think of it that way. You would think we would have an alternative, but no. Shame really.