OneDrive Is Poorly Designed

I found Microsoft OneDrive to be poorly designed.  I have Word 365 that I pay for every month to run in the cloud or on my PC, but I have found that OneDrive is not backing up the Word files from the folder that Word automatically puts them in.  I am changing my OneDrive settings to see if I can make it back up the files that Word creates, but it is pretty bad that the designers of Word and OneDrive did not work together.

I can’t tell either from my PC folders or from the OneDrive website exactly what OneDrive is doing with my files.  Often I can’t rename folders or delete them. I have found SyncBack and SecondBackup to be easy to use, logical and reliable, unlike OneDrive.

I have given up trying to use OneDrive in the way that I thought it was intended.  I will continue to work on files in the folder that I want to work with on my C: drive.  It doesn’t look like OneDrive will automatically back it up; so, I will use SyncBack to back it up to OneDrive, which apparently will just act as an external hard drive.

Windows 10 Blocks Chrome

My new installation of Windows 10 blocked Chrome from loading.  It continuously showed “establishing secure connection.” It turned out the problem was with the Windows service “cryptsvc.”  A link to the solution can be found here:

https://support.google.com/chrome/thread/2317512?hl=en

I had to modify the registry as it described., and modifying the registry can be tricky.

Facebook’s Libra versus Bitcoin

Facebook has announced that it will introduce the Libra cryptocurrency, which will be pegged to several international currencies and will be backed by several well known financial organizations, including Visa and Mastercard.  It appears to be something like a cryptocurrency dollar.  Bitcoin is more like cryptocurrency gold.  It has no set value, but it does a limit on how many Bitcoins can ever exist, making it more like gold, something whose supply is limited and that has a value depending mainly on how much people are willing to pay for it.  Thus, the value of the Libra should be fairly steady, while the value of Bitcoin may vary wildly.

A story in the Verge examines some of the downsides of Libra.  One of the first questions is whether the Libra will work at all.  It seems likely that it will, but its blockchain technology is different from Bitcoin’s.  Bitcoin’s chain is basically open to the world, allowing anyone to create a block in the Bitcoin chain through “mining,” i.e., using computers to create identifiers for the blocks.  It sounds like only a few insiders will be allowed to maintain the Libra blockchain, and that the Libra blockchain may not be a chain at all, but just one big block.

The most serious problem, however, may be privacy.  Facebook is notorious for ignoring privacy concerns, and if users use Libra, Facebook may have access to everything a Facebook user buys, enormously increasing Facebook’s power to target ads, alert sellers to who is looking for their product, report how much money users have and spend, and expand other invasions of privacy that Facebook users already see every day.

Bitcoin’s main early use was to pay for illegal transactions, such as buying drugs.  Hackers have used it because it is supposed to be untraceable to individual users, although the Mueller Report apparently was able to track some Bitcoin payments back to Russian hackers.  Still it is frequently used, most recently by hackers who encrypt important data for cities or hospitals, and then demand ransom in Bitcoin to restore it.

If Facebook tried to protect users’ identity, it could make it even easier for criminals to transfer money for activities like drug dealing, but also in huge amounts for money laundering.  The US government requires banks to release certain information about account holders’ identities and transactions to search for money laundering.  Would Facebook have to meet the same requirements?

Despite the downsides, it seems likely that the Libra will be widely accepted and used.  What then will be the implications for central banks like the Federal Reserve.  Much of their operation depends on increasing or decreasing the money supply. To what extent would the Libra be outside of their control and limit their power to regulate the economy?  Many Bitcoin users are techies who dislike government in general.  They like the idea that it is unregulated and uncontrolled except by the market.  For government regulation, will Libra be more like the dollar or more like Bitcoin?

Here is an additional explanation of Libra from the British version of Wired.  https://www.wired.co.uk/article/facebook-libra-currency-replacing-cash.    

Bitcoin & Blockchain

The excitement over bitcoin and blockchain is overblown.  Blockchain may be a relatively secure way of storing information about transactions, but it is not cost-free.  The electricity and computing power used to create blockchains is expensive.  If you are tracking something that is very valuable, it may be worthwhile. but otherwise, the expense of creating the blockchain may it unreasonable to use blockchain.

Several sources (Morgan Stanley, CNBC)   say the breakeven point for mining Bitcoin is about $8,000 to $8,600.  Currently, the price of Bitcoin would not cover the cost of mining it in most places in America.  It may still be profitable in some places where electric power is really cheap. Another Bitcoin-friendly site puts the cost at just under $5,000.  Where power is cheaper, the cost is much less; in Venezuela, it is only a little over $500.

Blockchain works by creating codes that are hard to break.  The cost comes from the amount of time and computing power needed to break the code and add a transaction as a link in the blockchain.  Presumably, a blockchain could make the code easier to solve, thus requiring less computing power and energy, but then the blockchain would be less secure.  The current Bitcoin-blockchain formula sets an upper limit of 21 million Bitcoins.  Thus, using Bitcoins as currency would be like using gold, or any other item with a finite or limited supply.  The money supply could not keep up with increased production and economic activity, creating deflation.  This was one of the main reason the US dropped the gold standard.

The blockchain concept is not necessarily linked to Bitcoin.  For example, the Litecoin network uses a blockchain formula that requires only 2.5 minutes to create a new block, versus Bitcoin’s 10 minutes.  Litecoin can accommodate up to 84 million coins, versus Bitcoin’s 21 million.

Apple’s Lack of Innovation

Apple’s new hardware and software is less than overwhelming for the iPhone and iPad, as well as the Mac.  Apple hardware is still good, but the difference between Apple and other brands is no longer as great as it used to be.  Perhaps the most glaring is the failure to build a Mac with a real touchscreen.  My wife, who uses her iPhone and iPad all the time, has difficulty using the mouse pad on my Mac when I try to show her something on it.  Apple should make a Mac that has a touchscreen that works just like an iPad and that will run iOS apps made for the iPhone and iPad.  From advertising, it looks like the Microsoft Surface has beaten Apple in this race, although I have never used a Surface.  I’m not sure exactly what features it has, but has certainly ended the perception that Apple is on the leading edge of technology.

Apple hardware is still among the best, but it is not without difficulties.  Highlighted is the inability to easily replace batteries or upgrade memory.  The iPhone is the most obvious, because weak older batteries have prevented older iPhones from running new software well.  Apple’s decision to slow down older iPhones certainly points to Apple shortcomings, whether in hardware, and in sales techniques, since it looks like Apple is forcing users to buy new phones when the phones worked perfectly well with the old software.

Apple has not had any new, exciting features to demonstrate either in hardware or software for the last few years.  Amazon’s Kindle makes Apple’s iBooks look bad as both hardware and software.  It’s hard to find iBooks, and they play on very few devices.  Apparently Apple thinks the people who use their devices are too stupid to read, and only listen to music.  Using facial recognition as a password has turned out to be interesting, but not a game changing development.  The Mac has been a neglected stepchild.  The iPhone is Apple’s bread and butter, but it hasn’t changed that much since it was first introduced.  It’s smarter and more powerful, but the voice features still don’t work well; it’s a better tablet than a phone.  I don’t think that adding emojis and cartoons has made the iPhone more productive, although it has made it more of a toy.

Basically, Apple has become the new Western Electric that builds sturdy, reliable, unimaginative hardware, like the phones that Western Electric built for the old Ma Bell AT&T.  Without Steve Jobs, Apple is just another phone company.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cloud and Mainframes

Yesterday IBM stock was up, apparently because of the success of a new mainframe it has introduced and because of its success in the computer cloud.  To some extent this illustrates how computer technology has fluctuated between centralized computing and stand-alone computing.  

First we had mainframe computers with dumb terminals connected to it by wires.  Then PCs came along, and everybody worked on his own computer at his own desk.  Then PCs began to be networked, so that they could talk to each other and to central database computers.  They could operate as stand-alone computers, or as dumb terminals connected to a mainframe.  Then the PCs shrank down to telephones, which had moderate computing power, but little storage for data nor enough display for complicated documents or data.  The telephones then began to connect to data in the cloud.  The cloud may be a warehouse full of servers, but it is still centralized computing, appearing much like the old mainframe with dumb terminals attached.  If you want to do any meaningful data processing on your phone, you have to connect to some centralized computing facility.  A distributed storage system like blockchain breaks up the central storage facility, but your phone is still pretty useless unless it is connected to some external source of data.  So, it’s not surprising that we are coming full circle back to the old IBM mainframe.  

A lot of the phone’s computer power is spent on internal processing of graphics or artificial intelligence functions, like Siri.  Despite having more computing power than the capsule that went to the moon, phones are still dependent on external computing power, mainly in cloud server farms.  

Windows 10 Mail Problem Fixed for Add New Account

Windows 10 Mail app began to malfunction contiurally.  It repeatedly gave me errors when trying to check my Hotmail account, although it worked fine for Gmail.  When I tried to repair the account, it said the repair was successful, but then gave the same error when I tried to check the account.  I tried to delete and reinstall the  Hotmail account, but when I did, the Mail add new account only produced a blank window.  There was no account to choose.  I sued several internet suggestions to remove the Mail app and reinstall it, but none worked until I tried this one:

https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/3175-reinstall-re-register-apps-windows-10-a.html

I used option 3 to reinstall and re-register all Windows apps for all accounts. This worked, and Mail is working again.  Thank you.

Gadgets

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I am disappointed that Microsoft Windows has dropped gadgets.  For a while in some version of Windows Microsoft offered gadgets.  Then they dropped them when Windows 8 came out.  Then someone offered gadgets that would run on Windows 8.  The 8gadgetpack was very nice; it looked good, worked well, and had the functions I was interested in.  As new versions of Windows 10 came out, they often disabled the gadgets, saying they were a security threat.  More recently there were reports that Russian hackers were targeting Microsoft Windows.  So, I decided to remove the 8gadgetpack, but I looked for a replacement.

The main replacement I have found is rainmeter.  There are many “skins” available for rainmeter that provide many of the same functions as the 8gadget pack.  My question is, however, whether rainmeter opens the same security holes for hackers that the 8gadgetpack does? From discussions on the Internet, it looks like some server farms use rainmeter; so, maybe it does not have the same vulnerabilities.

While working with rainmeter, I discovered a related program, xwidgets, that appears to work with rainmeter, but offers more interesting graphics and functions.  My favorite is “Old Time Widget,” which features a pocket watch much like my grandfather’s watch that I still have.  It also provides the functions I like to see how my computer is doing.  I hope it hasn’t opened a gigantic hole for hackers.

iTunes Update Destroys Driver

I was going to update an iPhone, and I got a notice that iTunes needed to be updated.  iTunes displayed a connection to the iPhone.  After I downloaded and installed the new version of iTunes, it no longer recognized the iPhone.  It would only connect to the the Apple Store.  This is not an improvement.  Apple messed up my evening.

This operation restored the driver, but then iTunes said it wanted to update again.  Crazy!

Connect your idevice to computer the go to device manager, expand other devices, you device should be listed there, right-click it the select update driver, click on search my computer for drivers, then browse to C/Program files/Common files/Apple/Mobile Device support/drivers click on Ok…..

From

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5803142?tstart=0

There is lots of bad advice on the web about how to fix this problem.  At least those fixes didn’t work for my problem.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update Kills WiFi

The Windows 10 anniversary update appeared to kill my wifi network.  I tried many suggestions which I found on the Internet, but none worked until I tried this one to reset the network adapter.   After you run it, you have to log into your wifi network again; so, you need your password for the wifi connection.

 

How to use ‘Network Reset’ to fix any Wi-Fi issue on Windows 10