Left Hand – Meet Right Hand…

Once again, Microsoft demonstrates that its left hand seemingly hasn’t got a clue what its right hand is doing.

The OneDrive team has been making “improvements” to the OneDrive service. A couple of weeks ago they blogged about these.

A couple of days ago, Martin tried to send some photos of the garden to a friend. He uses Windows Live Mail (WLM) as his email program. This has a very nice feature that allows the easy creation of a photo album in an email, and it uses OneDrive. What happens is that WLM will create a folder in your OneDrive to hold the full-size photos, upload those into OneDrive for you, and use thumbnails in the email message. So the email is small and efficient, and the recipient can view the photos in the OneDrive folder.

As I say, it’s a nice feature, and very easy to use.

Except that this time, the email got stuck in WLM’s outbox; it would never complete the publishing process. We tried it a couple of times, and the result was always the same.

It turns out that this problem is hitting a lot of people who are using the Photo Album feature in WLM. It’s been caused by a change made by the OneDrive team in the OneDrive service.

Clearly, no-one in the OneDrive team uses Windows Live Mail. It’s probably too old-school for them. I have a strong suspicion that Microsoft would love to drop WLM and the rest of the Windows Essentials software suite. It hasn’t had an update for several years now.

The big question now is what will Microsoft do? Will the OneDrive team fix the issue, and restore the photo album feature to WLM users? Or, as I fear will be the case, will this just be ignored in an attempt to shift users away from WLM and onto the Mail app that will be delivered in Windows 10? Conspiracy theorists will probably surmise that this breaking of WLM is a deliberate move on the part of Microsoft. I suspect it was probably unintentional, but it does now provide a useful lever to Microsoft to drive users away from future use of WLM. So I don’t think we will see a fix…

Posted in Computers and Internet, Photography | 1 Comment

Hung Out To Dry – Or Hoist By His Own Petard?

There’s been a disturbance in the Force recently over remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt at a luncheon organised by the Korea Federation of Women’s Science and Technology Associations. He stood up and said:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

Adding that he was in favour of single-sex labs, but allowing that he didn’t want to “stand in the way of women”.

Hunt was clearly unprepared for the wave of negative reactions that followed, saying that while what he said was wrong, the price he and his wife have had to pay for his mistakes has been extreme and unfair. “I have been hung out to dry,” says Hunt. He has resigned from his position as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

And just as night follows day, the wave of negative reactions has been followed by a wave of support from fellow scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox. However, I can’t help but feel that Dawkins, in particular, is certainly not helping with statements such as

“ the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.”

There’s none so blind as those who will not see, professor Dawkins. At least Sir Tim has recognised the enormity of his gaffe. As his hosts pointed out in a letter:

“As women scientists we were deeply shocked and saddened by these remarks, but we are comforted by the widespread angered response from international social and news media: we are not alone in seeing these comments as sexist and damaging to science. Although Dr. Hunt is a senior and highly accomplished scientist in his field who has closely collaborated with Korean scientists in the past, his comments have caused great concern and regret in Korea.”

They also noted that although Hunt belatedly called his remarks an attempt at humour, he had earlier defended them as “trying to be honest.” His remarks, the letter said, 

“show that old prejudices are still well embedded in science cultures. On behalf of Korean female scientists, and all Koreans, we wish to express our great disappointment that these remarks were made at the event hosted by KOFWST. This unfortunate incident must not be portrayed as a private story told as a joke”.

Sir Tim has written to them regretting his “stupid and ill-judged remarks.” He added:

“I am mortified to have upset my hosts, which was the very last thing I intended. I also fully accept that the sentiments as interpreted have no place in modern science and deeply apologize to all those good friends who fear I have undermined their efforts to put these stereotypes behind us.”

As is said in the article in which this exchange of letters is quoted:

The real point is our failure, so far, to make science a truly inclusive profession. The real point is that that telling a roomful of female scientists that they aren’t really welcome in a male-run laboratory is the sound of a slamming door. The real point is that to pry that door open means change. And change is hard, uncomfortable, and necessary.

What we certainly don’t need is other old, white, male scientists telling us that this is a “baying witch-hunt”.

Posted in Science, Society | Leave a comment

Showing Their True Colours

It would appear that the Catholic Church is not happy, not happy at all, about the result of the Irish referendum supporting same-sex marriage.

First we had the Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin saying that the church needed to take “a reality check” and “not move into denial”. The church, he said, had lost its connection with young people, and needed to work to reconnect with them. Now while some liberal Catholics have seen this as an outbreak of common sense, it was very clear to me that this was a brilliant piece of equivocation on the Archbishop’s part. While to liberal Catholics it could be interpreted as recognising that the Church has to change, for the rest of us it was perfectly clear that his message was: “our attempt to indoctrinate Irish youth has failed, and we must redouble our efforts – marriage can only be between a man and a woman for the sole purpose of procreation”.

Luckily, we now have the Vatican’s number two, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, making it crystal-clear for us all.  He is quite clear that Ireland’s vote was “a defeat for humanity”, adding that he was “deeply saddened” by it, and that the answer for the church is to “strengthen its commitment to evangelisation”.

Let’s just ponder that for a moment: a vote for equality and recognising that love can exist between two people of the same sex is seen by the Catholic Church as “a defeat for humanity”.

I truly wonder what goes on in the minds of the leaders of the Catholic Church. And for all the posturing of Pope Francis, I really do not expect him to correct Cardinal Parolin. He may equivocate, but he is unlikely to contradict the cardinal. Let’s wait and see; a miracle might yet happen.

Addendum: Grania Spingies has an excellent commentary on the Catholic Church’s position over at the Why Evolution Is True web site. In summary:

  • First, yes, they really believe this stuff.
  • Second, they are so out of touch with people that they have no idea how unintentionally funny and simultaneously insulting they are.
  • Third, they fear the Internet
  • Fourth, they have no intention of changing the Church’s position
Posted in Folklore, LGBT Politics, News and politics, Society | 2 Comments

Reading Between The Lines

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore has published a blog post today that has caused a slight disturbance amongst the company’s fans: Your Windows 10 PC will love all the devices you own.

The reason for their discomfiture is that Microsoft is intent on bringing features, which hitherto have been unique to Windows, to rival smartphone operating systems. Personally, I think it’s an understandable strategy, and one that Microsoft has already shown that it wants to pursue.

However, the post also caused me some discomfort, but not for the above reasons. My hackles went up with Belfiore’s opening sentence:

Whether it’s a 3-year-old printer or projecting to your brand new TV with Miracast, we’re building Windows 10 to be terrific at connecting all your devices.

Mr. Belfiore seems to be implying that a 3-year-old device is pretty well obsolete, and at the limits of supportability. I have an HP Laserjet 5MP printer that is still going strong, 20 years after I bought it. It almost sounds as though it will be more by luck than judgement that such devices will continue to work in Microsoft’s brave new world of Windows 10.

The other part of the post that caused a slight intake of breath was where he wrote:

Join the Windows Insider Program to try out the Phone Companion app on a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build we’ll flight out in a few weeks.

“…flight out”? That’s a new verb to me, and a particularly ugly one to boot. What’s wrong with simply saying “we’ll release in a few weeks”? I realise that language constantly evolves, but does it have to do so in such awkward ways? However, I’m probably fighting a lost cause for British English here. I remember, with a shudder, the first time I heard an American airline stewardess announce on arrival in America that we should deplane. That was years ago, and I still haven’t got used to it.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Consumer Electronics, Language and Reference | Tagged | 3 Comments

Ireland Has Voted

And it’s a vote for sanity, equality, and same-sex marriage… I’m delighted, and not a little surprised – I had thought that reactionary forces, e.g. the Catholic Church, would have been able to make a greater dent in the majority view. It is clear, from the results, that rural areas are further behind, but hopefully, with this result, attitudes will begin to change in the country as a whole.

Well done to all the “Yes” campaigners, and thanks to all those who voted Yes.

Posted in LGBT Politics, News and politics, Society | Leave a comment

Banning the Burqa

Back in 2010, I wrote about my misgivings about the fact that the Netherlands was considering banning the burqa. Fast forward to now, and the government has indeed now proposed a ban on wearing the burqa in certain places, including in courts, schools, townhalls, and on public transport.

I remain unconvinced that this ban is going to help our samenleving (literally: living together, but usually translated as society). Kenan Malik’s words at the time about the ban remain as true today as they were back then:

The burqa is a symbol of the oppression of women, not its cause. If legislators really want to help Muslim women, they could begin not by banning the burqa, but by challenging the policies and processes that marginalize migrant communities: on the one hand, the racism, social discrimination and police harassment that all too often disfigure migrant lives, and, on the other, the multicultural policies that treat minorities as members of ethnic groups rather than as citizens. Both help sideline migrant communities, aid the standing of conservative ‘community leaders’ and make life more difficult for women and other disadvantaged groups within those communities.

As I wrote at the time:

While I have qualms about why women should choose to wear the burqa, the answer is not to ban it. The answer is to make it as ludicrous as a codpiece, and that must emerge from the women themselves.

Posted in News and politics, Society | Leave a comment

How Not to Delight a Customer

According to an article in Forbes, delighting the customer is not just profitable, but hugely profitable. It’s a win-win situation, both for the companies who pursue ways to delight the customer, and for the customers themselves.

I’ve just been on the receiving end of the opposite experience: disappointing the customer; and the company who provided this experience was Microsoft.

When the Surface 3 was announced, I wrote that it promised to be a good machine. It would suit me very well indeed. As a result, I pre-ordered a Surface 3, and it duly arrived on the release date of the 7th May.

It is indeed a very nice machine, so where’s my disappointment? Well, Microsoft advertise the machine as including a one year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The fine print advises that the subscription is:

Available on Surface 3 with Windows 8.1 purchased prior to December 31, 2015. While supplies last. Office activation required within 6 months of Windows activation date.

As it happens, I had already purchased a one year subscription to Office 365 Personal back in February. The subscription allows Office to be installed on two machines, a PC and a Tablet (which can also be a Windows Tablet, such as the Surface 3).

On the Office site, there’s a section where you can enter a product code key to renew/extend your Office 365 Subscription. So I tried that, and entered the Office product key that the Surface 3 told me it had. Nothing happened once I clicked the “Continue” button. The expiry date of my subscription remains as February 2016.

I had a chat with Office Support, and was told that the Surface 3 Office 365 Personal subscription cannot be used to extend a current subscription; it can only be used by creating a new Microsoft Account specifically for my Surface 3.

That seems particularly pointless – I don’t want to create a new Microsoft Account for my Surface 3 – I want to use my existing Microsoft Account on all my devices, and access all my documents in my OneDrive space. The subscription offer is thus worthless to me, and seems to me to skirt close to false advertising on Microsoft’s part. 

And what is really annoying is that apparently the other way round works without problems. That is, had I first set up my Office 365 Personal account using a Surface 3 product key, and then purchased a year’s subscription, the purchase would have extended my subscription by a year.

Thanks a bunch, Microsoft. Consider me very disappointed.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Organizations | Tagged | Leave a comment