24 April 2017

Meeting your 2 direct debit quota for bank accounts

If you are signing up for certain bank accounts they require you to be paying at least 2 direct debits every month. Here are some ideas of what you can use:

  1. Bills. Often, services like electric, gas, council tax, internet, mobile and TV licence will all permit direct debit. In some cases like Santander 123, you can get cashback on these as well.
  2. Magazine subscriptions. Some websites will connect via direct debit.
  3. Charities. Some of them will allow the minimum of £1/month on a dedicated day of your choice, including Oxfam, Unicef, Cancer Research, RSPCA. Just don't accept to share information or recieve any promotional material a.k.a spam. Maybe even try entering their own address as direct debit doesn't require an address.

20 April 2017

How to vote

How to vote:

1. Register to vote
2. Inform yourself by reading party policies on their websites
3. Inform yourself by getting to know all your MPs and their local activities and policies
4. Use a website to help you decide
5. If you are not happy with any of the choices available, vote no confidence/none of the above.
6. Cast your vote

Do not do any of these:

- Believe everything in the news
- Go with what your friend, family, colleague or random person says
- Choose randomly or based on colour
- Vote the same as you have before, for the sake of it or out of laziness

You can also get involved by:

- Becoming a paying member of parties
- Helping your areas and understanding their issues
- Emailing/contacting your MP in your ward: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/
- Attending and watching debates, PMQs and protests to ensure your opinions are heard

18 April 2017

Optimise Windows for gaming

Bender - Overclockwise - Futurama

Here's some tips for getting Windows into best performance mode for gaming or other demanding tasks.

  • Install all updates - see Windows Update
    • Windows 10 Creators Update includes Game Mode
  • Get all your drivers up to date and not in error states - see Windows Defender Security Center and Device Manager
  • Update all apps on the Windows Store
  • Update all your programs and games (e.g. via Steam or SUMo)
  • Disable DVR
  • Set Power Options to High performance mode
    • If there is no mode then edit the following settings:
    • Highest brightness
    • High performance for wireless and CPU
  • Windows animations - System > System Properties > Advanced system settings > Advanced > Performance [Settings] > Adjust for best performance
  • Set a reasonably large page file
  • Graphics card settings
  • Turbo boost on some CPUs (usually edited via BIOS or a program provided by your OEM)
  • Game boosters
  • Game mode on your antivirus/internet security suite, if available, so that scans and notifications are disabled during. If not on the internet, possibly temporarily disable all protection.
  • Close all apps/programs not in use
  • Disable explorer extensions and not-needed startup items - use Autoruns
  • Stop or disable any unnecessary services like iTunes, iPod, Bonjour, Dropbox and Google Updaters, telemetry, etc.

17 April 2017

Response to not upgrading your computer's operating system

Desk evolution - Fossbytes

What do upgrades provide?

Security updates

You need security updates. By not ever installing updates, you're leaving known vulnerabilities open. The best form of protection is prevention, by safeguarding. Leaving a system unpatched is like eating raw chicken or having unsafe sex. Even machines not connected to the internet need patches, because some viruses attack vectors like USB drives.


The features being added are usually improvements to make your experience better and introduce new functionality. In the same way that you wouldn't keep using a Nokia 1110 if you can get an iPhone.


If you don't ever update your systems, you're just holding back on being more efficient, having a less stable operating system, potentially having more vulnerabilities, and you're losing out on the latest technologies available. I think more generally, if you stay on older systems, you are rejecting the entire concept of change and progress.

There is an interesting aspect to opinions before and after change: we only know and appreciate the value of something new, truly, once we have it, so we can compare to what it used to be like. Without knowing the difference, we can be stubborn and intolerant of change.

And if it's Windows, Apple, or Android - operating system upgrades are also free.

16 April 2017

We must evolve

If we stay the same human species forever, we may survive, but we can be so much more efficient. Life isn't just about the survival of the fittest, it's about being adaptable.

Some examples:

  • Honey badger - one of the least endangered species: it is highly intelligent, resilient to snake venom, and has vicious power.
  • Chameleons - it is well known that they can regrow tails, but if this could be applied to us, then prosthetics may become a thing of the past. It probably won't ever be as good as Wolverine or Extremis in Iron Man 3, but it's a hope.
  • Trees - As per here, trees share DNA with other species in a symbiotic relationship.
  • How life evolved. From a scientific standpoint of history in general, DNA, eyes, brains, and language have been the biggest drivers in successful life. This TED video transcript explains how life began and cells specialised. 
  • GMOs. We have genetically modified food for hundreds of years - it's artificial selection. We did the same with dogs, but this is failing us because of pedigree species that breed within the same family, emphasising poor characteristics.
  • Cybernetics - there are many films and games (Ghost in the Shell, Matrix, Deus Ex, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Futurama) which all have varying degrees of cybernetic implants. In some ways, some people are already cybernetic - those with pacemakers, hearing aids, brain stimulation, mind-reading prostheses, iron lungs, respirators, and artificial kidneys are all hints of a future where having a microchip in your hand could become common.

13 April 2017

Uber Star Ratings

Nosedive - Black Mirror - Charlie Brooker

Article in question: https://www.buzzfeed.com/carolineodonovan/the-fault-in-five-stars?bffbmain&ref=bffbmain&utm_term=.euD11bDkb#.km8ddRKgR

Here's my thoughts on Uber's star rating system.

This is Black Mirror all over again.

The problem is that we already use a 5 star rating for films, restaurants, and schools.
That's because we have a choice at the end of the day. We can choose which movie to watch, which restaurant to eat at, which school to send our kids to. It's a competition.

Giving a 5 star rating means, out of other ones you've compared against that are available to you, this one is the best.

On Uber, you don't get that choice, you're just given the nearest driver who accepts. With Uber, it's not a competition, you have nothing to compare to; all you can compare to is other trips and other modes of transport.

This ties into the other aspect that is different - the rewards system.

For movies, restaurants and schools, getting a 5 star rating means this is an excellent choice and everyone should pick this one. The rewards are Oscars, recommendations, and grants.
With Uber, rewards are purely monetary tips, on a one-off, personal basis, that aren't publicly known or become shared information.

So how could a 5 rating system ever work for a company like Uber, where there is no choice, no competition, and no reward scheme.

What Uber could do is explain what each level means as someone votes. Or, it asks a series of yes/no questions, rather than asking for a star rating that people are confusing based on a choice/competition/rewards basis.

12 April 2017

Changing the attitude on the silence of mental issues

- God, Godfellas, Futurama

Remember to not ever feel like you're burdening someone with your problems.

Mental illness and depression are just as important as heart attacks, and getting urgent medical help is required. We need to tell each other that it's okay to have a mental breakdown in public, if it avoids suicide.

There is too much of an attitude of being schtum and not wanting to help strangers, and not putting a burden on them. At least in the UK.

However, when we have personal issues, but it can be just as much of a crisis as a physical wound and bloodletting. I believe GPs should be extended to deal with matters more openly, it shouldn't ever feel like an inconvenience to others when your life is at risk. Help from others is the only way some people can recover from depression. Crying in public is seen as unacceptable and annoying, but it shouldn't be when someone's life is in danger.

People need to know that anyone should be able to put everything aside to do whatever it takes to be there for those in need. Anyone should want to stand up and listen to them anytime, no matter how big nor small a problem, if it will save a life.

26 January 2017

Organisation and Software Engineering techniques and principles

These are just some reminders I learned from Software Engineering that I feel are applicable to other situations.

  • STAR - when giving an example e.g. in an interview
    • Situation
    • Task
    • Action
    • Result
  • SMART - for defining objectives
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Results-oriented
    • Time-constrained
  • MoSCoW - prioritisation
    • Must
    • Should
    • Could
    • Would ("never")
  • Risk Management
    • Mitigate
    • Manage
    • Monitor
  • No silver bullet / Lesser of the necessary evils. There is no perfect solution sometimes, only best practices.
  • CRUD - methods that you carry out on data
    • Create
    • Read
    • Update
    • Delete

25 January 2017

How to fix Windows 7 stuck on 'Checking for Updates'

Manually download and install the following patches.
I recommended to disconnect your PC from the internet and do a restart before you install these.
  1. Service Pack 1, if you don't have it already
  2. KB3020369 Servicing Stack 2015
  3. KB3102810 High CPU Fix
  4. KB3125574 Convenience Rollup 
  5. KB3177467 Servicing Stack 2016
If you still have issues after that, then try WSUS Offline to download and apply the updates.

For a walkthrough tutorial and more information, see this video.

18 January 2017

Desktop Operating System Market Share and Fragmentation (Updated Jan 2017)

Here's a nice chart I made to show the fragmentation of desktop operating systems - so I'm combining what the current market share is for each O.S, against when it was released. Basically what we are seeing here is Windows users are running some of the oldest operating systems available, whereas the Mac creates a trendline.

Information for Linux isn't available, but generally they are patched very fast, and account for a very small amount of desktop computers on the internet. I've explicitly not included other operating systems older than 2000 because they are less than 0.01% usage share.

Raw data source: Net Market Share