Monthly Archives: October 2015

Dave-ros evolves

evolution

Uh huh huh huh, he said “Homo erectus”!

Just a quick one tonight, expressing good news: they’re making me permanent in my current job, despite some prior uncertainty, and not only will I be getting a steady salary rather than weekly wages, but I’ll also receive health benefits (to the point that I wonder if the Conservatives will label me a scrounger?), meaning I won’t have to pay for dental checkups and treatment, and will receive a contribution towards gym membership (which in my case, of course, means the Castle).

It’s fascinating to think just how far I’ve come, from the days late last year and early this year when unemployment or being jerked around made me fervently wish I’d never even tried to get into IT and had instead saved my money, fought to keep my role at Camden, and spent my life doing something relatively high-paid but mind-numbing.  The most important thing to note is that I’ve got a very different attitude these days, and indeed I surprise myself at how patient I am with the staff whose IT problems I troubleshoot on a daily basis — I’ve evolved from a snappy, arrogant intellectual trapped in a dead-end clerical job into a caring, approachable IT guru who’s finally begun the career he should have had years ago.

(Ten years ago, perhaps?  Can I be 28 again?)

It’s very likely that St. John’s wort helped me get this far, by helping me to suppress my anxiety and thus get my foot in the door; I reckon my circumstances are sufficiently better now that I don’t need the happy pills any more, and so I’m going to get off them, though I’ll keep a supply handy in case the darkness returns.  However, now that the clocks have gone back, it’ll be lighter in the mornings and thus I’ll find it easier to drag my carcass (or the last three letters) out of bed!

hinotori

Kagaku Ninpou Hinotori da!

I’ve already changed a great deal this year, getting rid of loads of clutter and moving from posters to proper canvas (and other) art on my walls.  I’ve also got plans to leave this house, which has been more of a chrysalis, and get a mortgage at long last, even if I have to take my mother on as a lodger.  I’m a lot more grown-up than I’ve been in the past, and the fact that I read Judge Dredd comics at night time and watch Science Ninja Team Gatchaman on the Tube doesn’t detract from my newfound maturity: the most adult decision I’ve taken recently was to speak to my boss about having been offered a job elsewhere, to make it clear I would rather stay where I was — a place in which I’m comfortable and have forged relationships — than throw it all away and start my third job in one year.

Yes, I’d had an interview this week: it was in an organisation on Whitehall* that didn’t particularly appeal to me, even if it would have been permanent from the start rather than after a month or two as a contractor.  My memories were still too fresh of that shift-based job I started last November, where “permanent” translated into “trapped”!  My boss said she’d been planning to tell me I was being made permanent anyway, so perhaps all I did was cause her to bring forward the announcement… or perhaps I made her realise that she risked losing me, and thus she forced the issue with HR.  Either way, I’m being made permanent at a place I like, so who cares?

(* No, not governmental, though its 1970s incarnation is visible in the background as John Cleese strides up Whitehall in the famous “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch!)

All I need now is a girlfriend, and I’m all set… it’s high time I wrote that blog post about the kind of woman I want to find, isn’t it?

Microsoft really grinds my gears

beavbuttpcFirst of all, I’ve atoned for my failure in July by passing my Windows Server 2008 exam, though unlike passing Windows 7, or A+, or the other A+, I feel merely relieved.  The past eighteen months have come to this — I’ve been studying it through some of the biggest changes and the deepest depressions of my life, and I can honestly say I’m glad it’s finally over.  My room even seems slightly larger… because I’ve taken down the myriad Post-It Notes* upon which I’d written revision notes.

(* Other sticky notes are available… but aren’t as good or as noteworthy)

This follows getting a job in an IT department at long, long last (the six-week unpaid one last year doesn’t count, and the shift-based one after that certainly doesn’t count!), so you’d think I’d be pleased, wouldn’t you?  Indeed, grateful to Microsoft themselves for giving me a purpose in life?  After all, if something goes wrong with Windows, I have a chance to fix it, don’t I?

Alas, Microsoft have started doing something for which they criticised Google: harvesting user information.  Windows 10 gathers all sorts of stuff from you and transmits it to MS — even your keystrokes — and requires visits to various options screens to turn it off, but at least they let you know about this kind of thing in the agreement you electronically sign at installation (hey, you do read those things, don’t you?).  However, they’ve also begun back-patching some of that “telemetry” into Windows 7 and 8, in very sneaky patches that simply say “resolve issues in Windows”.  Do they really think that not having access to our private information is an “issue” that needs to be “resolved”?

It gets worse: they’ve also really begun pushing upgrades to Windows 10 onto users, including those who didn’t signal their interest in the programme.  And since this involves secretly downloading gigabytes of installation files onto your PC, if you’re on a metered connection (such as, $DEITY help you, 3G or 4G), they’ve just cost you a load of money or even gotten you cut off completely, haven’t they?  They claim the auto-ticked upgrade was a mistake (they would, wouldn’t they?), but they haven’t apologised for their habit of unhiding the Windows Updates that nag you to upgrade to Windows 10 after you’ve taken the trouble to hide them.

I’m thus going to post this link to a program, whose honesty I can confirm, that will enable you to keep all the Windows 10 upgrade badness off your PC.  I also have this link to a thread at MS’s own forums about how to cancel the Windows 10 upgrade if it’s inadvertently triggered.  I would advise you to tinker with your Windows Update settings and untick “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates”… and then keep unticking it after every big patch download, as MS seem to be re-ticking it (it seems even their essential security updates are getting dishonest).  If any of those nasty telemetry patches have infected your system, check this list and uninstall them.

The idea of Microsoft claiming the right to lists of filenames on our PCs, the nature of our web searches, the stuff we type out (including passwords, remember?) and other private information is so nauseating to me that I’m actually considering getting rid of Windows on my own PC and installing some form of Linux instead, and buying a games console for gaming instead.  This, of course, would mean only using Windows at work, which would perhaps resolve the issue of “bringing work home with me”…

— — —

On a related topic, online advertising also really grinds my gears: we’re all sick of advertising that doesn’t just sit there at the top or side of a page, and insists on moving around distractingly, playing music, claiming you’ve “won” something or have a “virus”, and (once again) using up your bandwidth with something you didn’t ask for and don’t need.  However, a lot of online advertising now tracks you across different websites (I should point out I don’t mind Amazon showing me stuff related to things I’ve viewed at Amazon while logged in as myself), and in some very bad cases, can even infect your PC with malware thanks to ad brokers taking no real care regarding the advertising they show.  I’ve got two solutions for this:

  • Go to this site, save the text into a text file called “hosts” (not “hosts.txt”), copy it into your Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc folder, and as a result your PC will not have any contact with ad servers (as a side effect, this particular list also blocks out some of Microsoft’s nefariousness).  This works even better than solely using browser ad-blocking plugins (which reminds me, ditch AdBlock Plus and go for uBlock Origin, and also grab Ghostery).
  • Uninstall Adobe Flash, because YouTube works through HTML5 now, and BBC iPlayer is trialling the same.  Flash is so full of security holes it makes even Windows look safe, and deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history.  Yes, a lot of online games use Flash, but sacrifices have to be made; however, if it’s absolutely essential you have Flash on your PC, at least install a Flash blocker in your browser, so you can control which Flash elements appear on a case-by-case basis.

Together we can beat the scumbags who see our private information as something to be exploited rather than protected… and then maybe we can get to work on the government organisations who think they need to spy on us all the time to make sure we aren’t terrorists?

Forging ahead

ygdwygdIt’s only a couple more days until my retake of the Windows Server 2008 exam, which means I have to keep taking online tests to make sure I know how to pass.  They’re exam dumps and thus a form of “cheating”, but as I said before, I no longer feel I have a duty of honesty when it comes to passing these damned exams.  In any case, pass or fail, I’m done with this particular exam that’s been the one thing I’ve studied since May 2014.

Ah, May 2014, back when I still worked for Camden council, and had a steady job that I knew I could do… well, okay, at that point I’d already accepted voluntary redundancy, but rose-tinted spectacles and all that.  I was certainly in a less precarious financial situation then than I am now, where I’m living hand-to-mouth as a contractor, but I was doing a job I didn’t enjoy, in an office where the people I liked were leaving one-by-one while the people I didn’t like were staying put, so I think I made the best choice in trying to get into IT.

It’s just a pity I feel like I “lost” a year between 2014 and 2015, thanks to that horrible job in November that meant I was unemployed for two months and filled with anxiety (the six-month admin job I did after that being a form of recovery therapy), as I’d like to have been in a permanent IT job by now, and thus able to make more firm commitments about the future.

I had my 38th birthday recently, and while it’s pretty cool to be told I look much younger, it pains me to feel like everyone I grew up with has left me behind, getting married and/or having kids, and much as I’ve enjoyed the “playboy lifestyle” I’ve had since finally coming out of my shell in mid-2013, I’m aware that age is more than “just a number”, and that I’ve got to make long-term plans instead of bumbling through life doing whatever feels good, as I have for too many years.

(Can you believe a manchild who plays video games and watches anime is somehow “living it up” like some kind of wild, irresponsible party animal?)

Thus it is that I’ve decided this will be the last year I rent my room here in Finchley; next year I’ll work with my mother to get a mortgage on a place somewhere, preferably close to a decent Tube line so I can commute to work (and all the other things I like in London).  This of course depends on me getting a well-paid permanent job, which I reckon I’ll be able to do in the New Year with all this experience under my belt.  I don’t enjoy changing jobs (I’ve already “started” as many as five jobs over the past 13 months), and I’m happy where I work now, even if it’s low-paid and insecure, so I want to make the most of what I have at least until the end of the year, making a name for myself in IT.  And then, if they’ve not come to their senses and hired me permanently by 2016, I’ll get looking again (perhaps to cajole them into hiring me).

The only way to get enough money for a deposit on a house is to sell the flat in Worthing where my family’s lived since late 1994, and if I don’t want my folks to be homeless, it means having my mother as a flatmate.  I’d much rather she and my grandmother (for whatever years the latter has remaining) remain my “safety net” in case I screw up and lose my chance to live in London, but my mother’s very unhappy living in Worthing and finding it hard to get a new job (thanks to employer ageism), and so, scary as it is, we might have to face the prospect of living together, with me paying the mortgage.

It would suck if I had to have my mother living with me like in Frasier, and I know I have to be responsible to myself primarily and not give up my own happiness for her, but it wouldn’t be forever: she would find a new job in a higher-paying area and thus be able to pay the mortgage herself (possibly through me), and I could then rent somewhere else and have a separate life (and thus a prospect of a girlfriend).  There’s also the possibility she may be able to buy a small place outright, and I could visit her there occasionally (and continue to have her as my “safety net”) while continuing to rent somewhere else; this is something I’ll need to establish with her.

Obviously the best solution would be for my mother to win the lottery, buy a new place of her own somewhere and live out her days in luxury, writing novels and holidaying in Japan (and taking care of my grandmother until she passes on), while I sell the Worthing place and put the money down as a deposit somewhere I want to live, or possibly emigrating entirely… come on, Law of Attraction, help my Mumsy — you know it makes sense!

(Yes, all right, the best best solution would be for me to marry a rich American, and leave the country entirely… and of course, the best best BEST solution would be for me to somehow land that dream job massaging oil into bikini models in Hawaii, all expenses paid!)

In the meantime, I just need my mother to have faith that I’ll succeed, and the patience to hold on just a little bit longer, because this is a critical time and I really need a stable home to which I can retreat if the worst comes to the worst…