Monday, 31 August 2020

Apple IOS 14 is upsetting Facebook

 Facebook is getting upset with Apple. The new update going to Apple iphones and ipads this autumn will bring in new privacy features. Apple has been using privacy as a key differentiator of it's smartphones for some time. It has told the FBI that it can't hack it's own encryption. It says that it's imessage service is end to end encrypted. It has biometric access to devices via touch id or face id. This is in contrast to Google's Android where you do a deal with Google that for free services your data is used to deliver advertising.

Facebook adopts the same model. Your data is provided to advertisers. The Facebook app on smartphones tracks you. So if you have been searching the web for a new pair of trousers you suddenly find that Facebook is sending you deals for trousers on your feed. Tracking means that Facebook can tell advertisers what you are interested in. Its creepy and amazing simultaneously. 

With IOS 14 for the iphone each app will ask you if you want to be tracked. Say no and Facebook doesn't know what you want and will send you random adverts rather than targetted ones. According to Facebook it fears a reduction of 50% in its ad revenue because people will not consent to be tracked when they are asked. 

Privacy. The battleground Apple is choosing to fight for it's customers.  

Friday, 21 August 2020

Bart Simpson's MacBook


Sometimes an idea just hits you. I was scrolling through Ebay for no particular reason. With most browsing the aimlessness causes you to head off into various unexpected rabbit holes. On this day it became a list of Apple MacBooks. MacBooks are expensive. Although the word expensive is based on the sort of PCs most people buy. A premium Windows based laptop can easily cost the same as a Mac. Nevertheless most potential purchasers reach for a credit agreement or look at their bank balance before laying out cash for an Apple. Apple is a consumer brand.

Ebay is the destination for bargain hunters. A bargain being a low price for the highest specification possible. Matching the aspiration of high quality and low price being the buyer's challenge. The other challenge is avoiding those offers that are too good to be true, scams and counterfeits. 

What I saw was a reduced price MacBook. The previous week I had spotted it at £249. This week it was well below £200. The Mac was close to eleven years old. I discovered later it had a US keyboard. The memory was maxed out at 4gb and the hard disk was 250gb. The latter would be slow by the standards of 2020. The battery was probably shot and, in my own mind, would probably barely last a few minutes of mains power. On the positive side the OS was updated as recently as 2018, the keyboard would be good and a unibody MacBook of that era was going to be upgradeable. 

I bought it and a couple of days later it was at the house. The upgrade I wanted to do was an SSD disk. I had ordered a new screwdriver to match Apple's internal screws and I was ready to add an SSD.

Upgrading a MacBook

YouTube had some decent repair and upgrade videos. I found Ifixit the most useful site for information and step by step guides. 

Once I got down to business I found a stamp on the bottom of the Mac. It confirmed the device was secondhand. It also confirmed it was used in US education.

Barely visible were the words Property of Springfield School District. Had I got Bart Simpson's MacBook? 

He is a fictional character. I get that. However, the idea that this Mac kept Springfield learning was somewhat comforting. 

Once the SSD was fitted I booted the device from the old disk via USB, downloaded an operating system from Apple and got it installed. I put on Microsoft Edge as the browser, Office applications, Skype and made it a Microsoft Mac. These days Microsoft just want you to pay a monthly subscription for it's software and services. They no longer care if you use a Mac rather than Windows. It's the new Microsoft. 

Twenty four hours later the fast SSD disk is doing a good job and the Mac is working as advertised. I even found how to get a "£" on a US Mac keyboard. I might even name the Mac "Bart" in honour of it's history. 

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Microsoft Office for Free

Microsoft Office comes in several flavours. You can still buy a license for one PC. However, Microsoft would like you to buy a subscription. 

The single PC license still exits. It lets you use the Office applications on one PC. That's it. If your PC ends it's life so does your license. This is how many people used Office applications at home. They bought a copy of Office, usually at a discount, when they bought a PC. It got to the point where retailers just added in the cost and people assumed that Office applications were part of Windows. That was both good and bad. If consumers kept their PC for 5 years they never paid Microsoft any more cash. They also didn't get any enhancements from later versions. Suddenly they might get an Excel spreadsheet or a Word file with gibberish in the middle. A sign that a later version inserted a new type of data. 

A single PC license would cost quite a bit but it lasted for years. Students got lower prices that hooked them in to Office applications whether they used a PC or a Mac. Office across different devices became a larger business than Windows itself as the PC market declined and mobile devices took centre stage. 

Microsoft would prefer you bought a subscription. The subscription model is now branded Microsoft 365 Family. For a fixed monthly or annual fee you can have Office software for multiple people in your family for multiple devices with a large amount of cloud storage. The price over three or four years across the 6 permitted users and devices is significantly less the old model of upfront cash. You also get continuous upgrades and security updates. If you shop around on websites that highlight deals you can buy at an even cheaper rate. 

However, what if you really don't have much money? What if you rarely need a productivity application suite like Office? There is a way of getting Office for free. It's not all of the Office suite you can pay for but it's free. If you have a Microsoft Account (MSA) then you can go to and login for the web based version of Office. You may already have a Microsoft Account. Its any email address for,, or any other of the Microsoft services. You get a 15gb Onedrive space to store your documents and web access. Its what Google offer with docs and drive. The difference being you can create and use Office like paying customers. 

Consumers often don't realise there is a free option for Office. There is. For most people it may be all you need.