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?

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