We've introduced a Captain's Log page on the I.T.Free website.
This is a weekly blog to give you more of an idea of what takes place at the weekly I.T.Free sessions at Omega - the huge range of problems we sort out, the people we meet and some of the fun things we get up to:
I.T.Free is also currently seeking female volunteers to add to the expertise of the team.
Having videoed monthly presentations for Shrewsbury's University of the Third Age for the past three years, I'm now offering video recording to any speaker, event organiser or organisation who has the need for this tailored service.
If you give talks and presentations, it is extremely helpful to have a recording of your performance for publicity and promotion.
More details are available on the Services -> Services page.
On Thursday 18th January 2018 I will be presenting a compact 10 minute lecture about computer error messages.
The talk will feature as part of Shropshire Humanist Group's 'Hot Potato' event where a number of speakers will deliver short presentations on themes related to humanism.
I'll be zipping through a few examples of the most amusing, terrifying and iconic error messages as well as explaining a little about what's going on behind the scenes and who is to blame.
University Centre Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ
7.30pm Thursday 18th January 2018
Hmmm Squad is Shrewsbury's premier science and philosophy discussion group. The group meets on the last Thursday evening of each month at the UCS premises in the Guildhall, Frankwell. Each month a member of the group gives a science or philosophy-themed presentation and invites a short discussion. Hmmm Squad is a completely free event.
On Thursday August 25th at 7.30pm, I will be presenting a lecture that I originally gave back in 2009, when working on the cruise ships. Having spent my formative years foraging the internet before the dawn of the world wide web, I have taken particular interest in the most influential websites that have propelled the internet into popular usage. In this talk, you’ll be taken on a trivia tour of the tourist landmarks of the web, you’ll hear a few words of wisdom from our creator and you’ll be told the secret of how to become a ‘dot com’ millionaire.
I hope to see you there.
Extracting (ripping) videos and audio (MP3s) from YouTube is possible thanks to a number of websites like:
All such websites operate in similar way. The idea is that you find the video or music track in YouTube, copy the URL (web address) of the clip and paste this address into the website that will perform the extraction.
Let’s get an MP3 file for the 1979 hit ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by Buggles.
YouTube shows us a list of videos that match our search. Lots of cover versions, live recordings and other related videos are listed, so we need to pick the one we want. In this case, we want the original track from 1979, making sure it is a recording from the original artist Buggles, and we can check the length of the desired recording to see if it is what we expect (typical music tracks are 3-4mins in length).
In the search we have done, the desired video is at the top of the list and it is 3 mins 36 seconds in length, which sounds about right.
Now, click in the address bar of our browser (the line at the top of the window with the URL e.g. ‘http://www.youtube…’). The URL will now be highlighted in blue (in this case, ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8r-tXRLazs’)
The webpage will refresh and a large progress bar will grow across the page from left to right. After reaching 100%, the conversion has been performed and the webpage will refresh again.
Pay attention in the last step above, there may be other tempting 'download' buttons that are in fact adverts that will lead you astray. When you click on the 'DOWNLOAD' button, a pop-up webpage may also appear in an attempt to lead you astray (see below). Close any such adverts and check that your MP3 file has downloaded (normally placed in your 'Downloads' folder).
Websites like FlvTo and OnlineVideoConverter come under constant attack from powerful organisations like the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the MAFIAA (Music and Film Industry Association of America). These organisations pay lots of money to Google and internet service providers to discredit such websites by inserting spyware advertisements and other nasties to make the websites problematic.
When using converter websites you must be knowledgeable about what you are doing so that you don’t click on adverts or believe any bogus ‘system messages’ that appear.
This is what you must bear in mind:
In a bid to become environmentally friendly and more responsive to clients who live a little further away from Shrewsbury town centre, I am now mobile (weather permitting) thanks to my new E-Rider 15 electric bike.
The E-Rider 15 is an electrically assisted pedal cycle (EAPC), although it is designed to look like a moped. It has the same legal entitlements and restrictions as a normal bicycle and can be ridden on roads, cycle lanes, bus lanes and footways.
As well as requiring no fuel, the E-Rider 15 requires no road tax, no M.O.T., no insurance, no license plate and I don't even have to wear a helmet.
It's brilliant - it's just twist and go.
So if you see PC Mike on a bike in your street or neighbourhood, give me a call straight away - there'll be no call out charge and I'll pop round as soon as I've finished my current job.
A huge thank you to the hugely talented caricature artist and stone mason Karl Bradburn for producing his 'Host Rider' artwork, inspired by the PC Mike On A Bike concept. Karl specialises in designing non-exaggerated caricatures developing a particular aspect of his subjects. For just £40, you can commission Karl to personify you - contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Monday May 16th at 10.30am, I gave a presentation at The Walker Theatre, Theatre Severn, to Shrewsbury's University of the Third Age.
Drawing on my 25 years of desktop support analysis, I gave a potted history of the computer virus and mentioned a few things you need to know about the related topics of spyware, phishing and computer scams.
You can now watch a video of this presentation via YouTube:
The presentation will hopefully be repeated later in the year at Shrewsbury's Hmmm Squad.
We don't have a lot of choice for computer shopping in Shrewsbury but that is not necessarily a bad thing as you can be quite decisive about the best place to go.
For purchasing a new computer you should head over to PC World at Meole Brace. As a big chain store, PC World has the buying power to offer the most competetive prices. The only downside is that PC World's profit margins on computers is so cut-throat that the computer sales team will do everything in their power to force overpriced extras upon you like software, cables and extended warranty schemes. If you just want to buy a new computer you will need to be brave and confident to battle with the salesmen.
For components and accessories, you can't beat the range offered by Maplins in the town centre. Maplins stock a massive range of equipment like hard drives, memory, home-networking and all sorts of cables and adapters. Maplins is great when you need to buy something immediately (Maplins is also open on Sundays) but if you are not in a hurry, you'll find the same cable, adapter or component much cheaper online.
One shop that might not spring to mind is Poundland (there's two variants in the town centre). Poundland is a great place to pick up a spare mouse, a camera memory adapter, some blank media, photo paper and a few common leads and cables.
If you don't mind waiting a few days and feel comfortable with purchasing things over the internet, the best value is always found online. If you thought that eBay was all about auctions and bidding, you need to get with the times. Many businesses sell brand-new items via the eBay channel.
If you are patient enough to wait a week or two, China and Hong Kong offer electronic goods via eBay (and AliExpress) at nifty prices (generally with no postage charge).
Happy shopping and if in doubt, call me BEFORE purchasing
Back in August 2015, I presented a lecture about artificial intelligence to Shrewsbury's 'Hmmm Squad'. You can now watch an online version of the presentation via YouTube (see below).
Hmmm Squad is Shrewsbury's premiere science and philosophy discussion group. The monthly meetings are open to everyone and are completely free. The group meets on the last Thursday of each month at 1930hrs in Shrewsbury Library (Hobbs Room) and tea, coffee and biscuits are provided.
Each month a member of the group gives a lecture on a subject that they think might interest the group and stimulate discussion.
My own specialist subject is 'the internet' and the wonders it has created but I took a slight deviating from this subject in order to get one of my little annoyances off my chest... the concpt of 'AI Takeover'.
My aim with the presentation is to show that your life will never be under threat from an army of computers or robots. If you are a chess player, I'm going to explain how someone who has never played before can beat you every time and we'll use 'state-of-the-artificial intelligence' to build ourselves an 'Obama Identification Device'.
I hope you enjoy the presentation. Call me if you would like me to talk about artificial intelligence (or other computer topics) to your group or charity.
Click to find out more about Hmmm Squad on Facebook.
Windows 10 was released in the UK on July 29th 2015.
A more appropriate name for Windows 10 would be Windows 8.2 because it is essentially another tweaking of Microsoft's Windows 8 environment. It will install on top of Windows 7, 8 & 8.1, although I always recommend doing a full, clean installation. When booting up, it is identical to Windows 8 and you only begin to notice cosmetic differences at the login prompt. When the desktop appears (not the Windows 8 'tile mode', thankfully) the main difference is the appearance of 'flatter' more two-dimensional icons and the new all-in-one search bar resident in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.
One of the main changes is witnessed when clicking on the start button in the bottom left of the screen (or by tapping the Windows logo key on the keyboard). The new start menu doesn't switch to the Windows 8 'tile mode' (thankfully) but produces a compact desktop start menu hybrid which includes a shutdown/restart button (the Windows 8 'charm' menu which had to be swiped in from the right edge of the screen has gone).
The biggest shock comes when you want to surf the internet only to discover that Microsoft has ditched Internet Explorer. Twenty years' of market-branding down the drain. The replacement (although you can still find Internet Explorer lurking around) is called Microsoft Edge. Edge builds on the adopted simplistic style of Chrome and Firefox and is actually quite nice to use. In fact, for the first time, I think it is fair to say that Microsoft is now leading the browser competition. The only challenge with Edge is figuring how to set your default search engine as Google rather than Microsoft's Bing. Microsoft has applied almost every trick in the book to steer you away from their Google enemy.
The other new gimmick is 'Cortana' your personal assistant. I'm going to spend a lot more time with Cortana in order to comment fairly.
When Windows 10 is released, should you upgrade? Well yes, it is free but note that Windows 10 doesn't feel comfortable unless your PC has 4Gb of RAM or more.
Update 2nd May 2015
Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 in the UK on July 29th 2015. You can download it by clicking on the Windows logo that has already started to appear in the system tray of Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs.
Update 17th July 2015
Just two weeks to go before Windows 10 is publicly available.
I've been testing the latest release and there have been a number of significant changes and last minute tweaks.
To my great relief, 'Project Spartan' appears to have disappeared completely. 'Microsoft Edge' is the name of the flagship browser to replace Internet Explorer. And to Microsoft's credit, it feels smooth and fast. In fact, Microsoft Edge is instantly likeable. You can doodle on webpages. That gets my vote.
Although Microsoft Edge is superb, your first little puzzle is 'how do I set Google as my default search engine?'. I'll leave you to work through that one on your own.
Update 29th July 2015
Today is the day. Microsoft have announced that they will be flushing out Windows 10 in phases to avoid congestion, so don't be disheartened if the option to upgrade hasn't appeared for you yet.
Here is what the BBC have to say:
Update 30th July 2015
If your Windows 10 upgrade has not offered itself automatically, you can 'force' the upgrade with the help of Microsoft's 'Media Creation Tool'. Click to download:
When you run the Media Creation Tool you will be presented with two choices. You can 'Upgrade your PC' now' or 'Create Installation media' in order to upgrade at a later point or on another computer. It is wise to create your own installation media and to do so will require a USB memory stick (needs to be 8Gb or more and will be wiped) or a blank DVD (and DVD burner).
Finally, you need to choose your language (English), the edition to install (Windows 10 Pro) and your architecture (64bit unless your PC is rather old).
Desktop support analyst / Troubleshooter / Problem solver