An Afternoon Concert

Yesterday I went to an afternoon concert in which Lucas Jussen played Saint-Saëns 5th Piano Concerto with Het Gelders Orkest. I enjoyed it very much.

Also on the program were the orchestral suites of Daphnis et Chloé, but what was a revelation to me was the opening piece: Stravinsky’s Chant Funèbre. This was composed in 1909 as a memorial to his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, but the score was lost. It was only rediscovered in the spring of 2015. Worlds away from the Rite, which was to follow a scant few years afterwards, but a beautiful memento mori.

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Is There Life on Mars?

Simply extraordinary…

Posted in Performing Arts, Television | Leave a comment

Microsoft – still asleep at the wheel

Another day, and yet another rant at Microsoft.

I’ve already ranted about the fact that the OneDrive ‘Files on Demand’ feature is a step backwards from the old ‘Smart Files’ feature in Windows. I’ve also complained numerous times that the Microsoft Photos app is severely lacking in comparison with the Windows Photo Gallery, which Microsoft has withdrawn from the market, and no longer supports.

And now these two – ‘Files on Demand’ and the Photos app – have together created the perfect storm, which has blown into the latest version of Windows 10 running on my Surface 3 tablet.

A few weeks back, the Surface 3 began acting up – the screen kept on breaking up. It had all the appearances of a fault in the graphics hardware or the screen, but I thought I would try doing a factory reset on the device. That actually worked, and I was back up and running in Windows 10 in a couple of hours. Of course, I had to reinstall all my apps and Office, but at least I had a working machine again.

All my documents and photos are now held in OneDrive, and shared across all my devices. I’ve got about 500 GB of data in OneDrive, and my Surface 3 only has about 80GB free. So I instructed OneDrive to use the Files on Demand feature, and save space by only downloading files as I used them on the Surface 3.

OneDrive 23

That was all fine and dandy, but the following day when I picked up the Surface 3 to use it, it immediately became apparent that it was running really slowly. A restart had no effect, and it wasn’t until I looked at the File Explorer that I realised why – there was only 110 MB of free space left on the C: drive. I have 330 GB of photos up on OneDrive, and OneDrive was trying to download all of them into the Surface 3.

I straightaway set the properties of all the files and folders in Pictures to ‘clear space’ – so that space would be regained, and sure enough, the amount of free space began to climb as the ‘Files on Demand’ placeholders were used instead of the full files.

I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived, as it quickly became apparent that OneDrive was starting to re-download all the files again. Something was going through all the files and folders in Pictures and accessing them. It certainly wasn’t me. OneDrive was saying that the ‘Runtime Broker’ application was doing it, and this was enough to make OneDrive copy the file from the cloud storage down to the Surface 3.

It turned out to be that damned Photos app – even though I wasn’t using it, it now apparently runs in the background, and naturally includes the Pictures files and folders as a default location. It spawns the Runtime Broker for some devious purpose of its own. It’s probably running the facial recognition algorithm to look for people’s faces in photos, and in order to process the photo, it needs to have the photo present locally on the Surface 3.

I thought perhaps something might have gone wrong during the initial re-install of Windows 10 – after all, surely I can’t be the only person suffering from this issue? So I did a second factory reset, and the issue is still there – OneDrive is still trying to pour a quart into a pintpot at the prompting of the Photos app.

As a temporary workaround, I’ve deleted the Pictures folder from the locations scanned by the Photos app, and that seems to have stopped this unwanted behaviour.

But the question remains, surely I can’t be the only person with this issue? Looking through Microsoft’s Feedback Hub reveals others – but we seem to be relatively few. Certainly too few for Microsoft to have noticed that anything is wrong. Doubtless it will never get fixed.

Addendum 2 December: I had sent this issue through to Microsoft as feedback on the 26th November. I had the following reply:

We have received your request for assistance and are busy researching a potential solution. We may need additional information. You can count on us to get back to you within within [sic] the next 24 hours.

Naturally, I’ve not heard anything further… Why am I not surprised?

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Cries From Casement and Penda’s Fen

A long time ago, back in 1973, I heard a play on BBC Radio: Cries from Casement as His Bone are Brought to Dublin. It was an extraordinary experience, and a brilliant realisation of the script.

This week I bought the BFI’s Blu-ray transcription of Penda’s Fen, one of the plays in the BBC’s “Play for Today” series, that was first broadcast on television in 1974. I’ve just sat down and watched it, and it was equally extraordinary.

pendas-fen.png

Something nagged at my memory, and I realised that both works were written by David Rudkin. Whilst I doubt that you will be able to hear the radio play again, the BFI/BBC release of Penda’s Fen is available. It’s well worth seeking out.

Posted in Folklore, Performing Arts, Television | 2 Comments

I’m Getting Nervous…

It’s the little things that gradually mount up. A series of changes, often small in themselves, that suddenly align and bring about a situation that can cause a major catastrophe.

Over the years, I’ve built up about 500GB of personal data stored on my computers: documents, emails, photos and videos. Naturally, I have this data backed up, in several locations, both locally and off-site.

Over the years, I’ve used a variety of techniques to make the backups. In the early days, I used writable CDs, then tape cartridges, and then a local data server, backed up to hard drives that were then stored off-site. I’ve also gone through a variety of backup software, ranging from simple to sophisticated. For a long time, I was using Microsoft’s Windows Home Server to take backups of all our home data, and make copies for off-site storage. But as is Microsoft’s habit, Windows Home Server was dropped and no longer supported. As is also Microsoft’s habit, no decent alternative was forthcoming from them at the time.

As a result, I started using Veeam’s Agent for Windows, which was perfectly satisfactory, if not as intelligent as the backup solution in Windows Home Server. VAW would take backups to our local data server, and I would then make copies for offsite storage.

Then came Microsoft pushing the use of OneDrive as cloud storage. Over time, we started to make more use of it, but I also ensured that VAW was also backing up any data we stored in OneDrive.

So far, so good. But then came the next change. Microsoft introduced the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update in April this year (a.k.a. Build 1803), and suddenly, VAW was no longer able to backup any of our data that was being held in OneDrive, and failed giving an error. According to Veeam, it is related to the reparse points mechanisms which are included in the ‘Files On-Demand’ OneDrive feature. This ‘Files On-Demand’ feature was added in the 1803 build and it doesn’t work with Veeam Agent.

So, OK, I thought, OneDrive is itself a form of backup – our data is being held both locally and in the OneDrive cloud, do I need a second backup taken by VAW and a third copy stored offsite? What could possibly go wrong? And so I left things as they were.

In August, Microsoft started pushing a new folder protection feature for OneDrive. Folder protection will offer to automatically sync your documents, pictures, and desktop folders to OneDrive to ensure a PC’s important folders are backed up to Microsoft’s cloud service. It sounded good, so I converted all our PCs to use the service for backing up our local data to OneDrive automatically. It meant that now the majority of our data was being backed up to OneDrive, and very little was being backed up by VAW. What could possibly go wrong?

A week ago, Microsoft released the next major update to Windows 10 – Build 1809 – the Fall Creators Update. I let it be installed on all our PCs – Windows Update said it was available, downloaded it and installed it. And VAW was still failing to backup data held on OneDrive. However, I had the new folder protection feature for OneDrive in place. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, disaster could strike.

During the upgrade process to Build 1809 of Windows 10, Microsoft displays this on your PC:

files-where-you-left-them-800x436

Unfortunately, for some unknown percentage of people who have upgraded to Build 1809, the upgrade process has deleted all of their personal data, so their files are no longer exactly where they left them at all – they have gone – probably for good. They are not in OneDrive, they are not on the local PC, they have shuffled off this mortal coil…

It’s not the first time that Microsoft, as a result of changes to its testing procedures, has released buggy software, which, under Windows 10 design, will be installed on unsuspecting customers’ PCs automatically. But this has to be the final straw. Changes have to be made, and heads will probably roll.

So far, touch wood, we have not lost any of our personal data, but now do you see why I’m getting nervous? I only hope that Veeam Software fix the problem about backing up OneDrive data quickly. One can never have too many backups.

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Selfie Deaths

Selfie deaths – a report. But I disagree strongly with the conclusion. It would only serve to affect the number of Darwin Award winners in a negative fashion.

Posted in Photography, Society | 2 Comments

Here was a Plague

That’s the title of an excellent article by Tom Crewe in the London Review of Books about the history of the Aids crisis.

It seems so long ago now, and I count myself amongst the lucky survivors, but we lost so many friends and lovers in that dark period. It should not be forgotten.

Posted in Health and wellness, LGBT Politics, Society | 2 Comments