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The 1st anniversary of Windows 10

July 30, 2016 // Posted in General, Main (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  1 Comment

It’s the 1st anniversary of Windows 10

How are you getting on with windows 10?

 

 

Here are a few of my observations:

  • Too many ads, you can’t even play solitaire now without getting bombarded with Microsoft Ads. When you are paying for a system such as Windows 10 you should NOT be bombarded with ads IMO.
  • Too memory hungry, constant hangs whilst windows swaps to disk swap file as memory is always full.
  • Start up time is longer than XP and 7.
  • Many more ‘program is not responding’ messages and then after several minutes the message disappears and the program continues, probably linked to my second point.
  • AVG and Windows 10 between them lock up the PC whilst any updates or scans are running. Doesn’t happen on 7 or XP.
  • I have had to disable active tiles to help speed up Win 10, and disable various other items or Windows 10 runs very slow even on my Quad Core Processor running at 3.0GHz on each core.
  • I still feel that Windows 7 is the best version of windows to date.

Please comment to add your findings.

regards

Steve

Upgrading Windows 7 to Windows 10

July 31, 2015 // Posted in Computer Tips, General, Main (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  1 Comment

The best one yet

‘The best one yet’??

My experience of upgrading from Win 7 to Windows 10:

 

‘The Best One Yet’ is Microsoft’s claim but is that really true?

Well I was all excited when I received my ‘Update is ready to Install’ message and had already read some of the claims for this important day.

  • Takes about 1 hour to update.
  • Get Cortana for Windows.
  • All your software will be available.
  • We will automatically update your Antivirus Software.
  • The best one yet.

But the problems started well before this day, as Microsoft said you will get an icon in your taskbar to claim and install your free upgrade if your current version is a legal version.

Well that failed straight away as I didn’t get my icon in the task bar. So after some checking, it appeared you had to install an Optional Update from Windows Update, (they said it was automatic), and you had to be running IE 11, mine was IE10, so that wasn’t mentioned. When I installed the optional update and IE11 I did eventually get my update icon in the taskbar. On clicking it said your computer is compatible with Windows 10 and all your software will run with Windows 10. That sounded positive.

Ok the ‘Your Upload is Ready’ button appeared, so I restarted windows to begin the install. After about 30 minutes of no apparent progress, the PC re-booted and there it was, Windows 7, as it was before. That was not expected, I expected a nice new Windows 10.

OK let’s try again.

In order to start again it had to re-download the update files (why, when it already had them), so a 2+ hour wait while it downloaded the 2+GB of files, and the ‘Your Update is ready to install’ again. So off we go.

Again after 30 minutes of what appeared to be doing nothing (but the hard drive light was going crazy), and the PC rebooted and hooray, Windows 7 again.

OK let’s check the update status, “Update failed error code –    failed code 80240020

What is this mysterious error code 80240020 (Why can’t make error messages meaningful, like ‘Could not do this or that’ instead of error Code 80240020?

Ok so it seems an issue with Windows Update so the solution might be to reset Windows Update:

So:

  • went to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download and deleted everything in the folder (not the folder).
  • open a command prompt with run as administrator and type wuauclt.exe /updatenow and hit enter, then type exit and hit enter again.
  • Go to windows update and The Windows 10 update is downloading again!! Another two hours.

After the download, the ‘Your update is ready’ message again, so another re-boot, 30 minutes of hard drive activity, but this time a message saying ‘Windows is configuring your updates 5%….’ etc. Perhaps this is a good sign?

After about 1 hour (remember Microsoft claiming the Update will take approx 1 hour’? Well we are at about 7 hours now already, and it isn’t because I have a slow machine, I have a Intel quad core processor with each processor running at up to 3.2GHz), another auto reboot and a new screen, looks like we are getting somewhere now, a big circle in the middle of the screen shows the current progress, this stayed on 1% for over 20 minutes. Almost 3 hours and 4 reboots  later 100%, Yay ..

Another re-boot and a new welcome screen, logged in and, and, and just a black screen, better not do anything as the hard drive is doing something, goodness knows what. One hour later windows started (perhaps this is the One Hour Microsoft was talking about?

Then another message ‘We are updating some settings and apps for you’, after another 40 minutes ‘This is taking a little longer than usual – please wait’ , eventually the message changed to ‘Almost there now’ , wait, wait, wait.

Eventually a bright new windows 10 interface. (Looks pretty similar to Win 7, with a few display enhancements, perhaps that was why 7 could be upgraded and not a new install?).

Now the fun begins, remember Microsoft said , we will set up your programs for you and update your current anti-virus software? And they said my programs were all compatible with Win 10. Nuh. Windows 10 removed my antivirus software (AVG) and PC TuneUp (AVG) completely.

Tried a repair on them as they both still appeared in the Add/Remove programs, and although they both said successful, they both failed. So uninstalled both and re-installed, and eventually they are working.

I haven’t yet checked all programs, to see if they are all there, not very confident that they will be.

Ah Hah, just remembered, let’s try out Cortana or whatever it’s called, they say you must have an English System (Check), your region must be set to Uk,US etc (Check set to UK), try to access Cortana, message “You cannot use Cortana in your Region”), I live in Thailand., but my region is set to UK as is my language, and these are the requirements Microsoft says, so it looks as though it looks at your IP address and blocks it on that. So does that mean that if you have active Cortana in the UK if you take a trip to another unsupported region (by IP address) Cortana doesn’t come with you?

Then there’s the new Edge Shop – Can’t get that to work for love nor money, for free items, just keeps saying try again later.

It’s not going well is it?

Then there’s the unconfigurable display interface, the squared forms with no borders etc that are not very elegant or appealing, IMO, and no way to change them like in 7 and earlier versions.

There was another claim about Windows 10 that Microsoft made, ‘it’s Faster’ – Sorry Microsoft – I have to disagree there, it is much slower starting up that Win 7, programs load slower, Win 10 uses much more memory (and 32 bit still not able to use more than 4GB), which means the disk cache is used more and again slows things down.

So I am not that impressed as yet, and certainly think the “The best Yet’ is not a totally true statement.

I will now have a play for a few days and post again once I have fully tested it. Watch this Space!

Steve

 

 

 

 

 

Its All About Position!

January 9, 2014 // Posted in Main, Tips and Tricks (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

triplepivotPosition is important in many things in life, work, football, cricket and even sex.

If you are not in the right position something will go wrong!

It is the same with code on your pages, particularly with jquery and jquery-ui.

How many times have you added an additional jquery widget to one of your pages only to find something else that used to work, no longer does.

I get many requests for help for exactly the same issue and see many posts on forums with the same problems. When you look at the responses that others have given, you will often see complicated modifications to javascript libraries, or lots of additional code or changes to code that are supposed to fix the issues, such as jquery noConflicts and the like. In some cases these do fix the immediate problem, but involve quite a bit of work and some require a reasonable knowledge of javascript coding.

In almost all of the situations I have been asked to help with, however, I have found the solution to be much simpler, it’s about position and what is loaded and when.

Before entering into any complicated code changes here is something to try first, it won’t  require any modifications to code or re-writing javascript libraries and even those with little or no javascript knowledge can make the changes.

Let’s imagine you have a javascript gallery on your page, this will require a jquery library, some code in the head of your page and some in the body, when using WebPlus these will be added automatically by the program and will not be moveable as WebPlus controls their location.  You now add a third party javascript add-on that tells you to add some code to the head of your page and some to the body, they will also tell you to include a jquery library and perhaps a jquery-ui library. Well first of all forget adding the jquery library if WebPlus has already added it’s own, as if there is two on the same page that will in itself cause conflicts.

Secondly if the code you added to the head for your third party contains $ signs to call functions in jquery etc then you will more than likely find that something will not work after you add it, either your javascript gallery or your new add-on.

Before you get into complicated modifications here is a tip when your new add-on causes issues with your currently working javascript add-on :

Firstly forget the old addage of ‘You must add your scripts to the head of your page’, that’s a load of twoddle.

Move the code that you added for your new add-on to the body of your page, firstly just after the body tag (in WebPlus paste it over the !– Page Body Start — tag), so that all your new code is below your original add-on’s code.

If that doesn’t get both working move your new code to just before the body end tag, (In WebPlus paste it over the — Page Body End — tag).

In most cases the above will fix the issue and both your add-ins will work happily together.

Sometimes you may have more than two add-ins on a page and one or another stops working when the additional ones are added. Play around with the position of each script on the page  until you get the right combination, and you will fix most conflicts with positions. Don’t forget to also check for duplicate libraries, and make sure that the libraries are loaded before any scripts that call them come into play, It’s all about position again.

As I said at the start I have found that most problems with javascript conflicts can be fixed with position of the scripts, so you can save yourself a lot of work by playing with positions before anything else.

I hope that this helps someone.

Steve

 

 

 

 

 

Recovering from a Hard Disk Failure

July 6, 2013 // Posted in Main (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

Computer Crash

Computer Crash

A few days ago I returned from hospital to a catastrophic computer crash.

I switched on my laptop and my hard drive, that is monitored by software that reported it was in 100% condition and 100% free of errors, went pop and  was reported as ‘Not Present’.  I had two weeks earlier backed up most of my data files and some other files, but there was about two weeks work (a lot of work), that had not been backed up. I decided to try and read the drive in my wife’s PC, bad move, the hard drive obviously had a major short, as it wiped out the keyboard and USB controller of the wife’s PC (she was not happy!).

The next major concern came, as I was still on XP Professional, resisting the change to 7 or 8 as long as possible, so I had to get a new Laptop, and decided perhaps this was the time to upgrade to Win 7 or 8. Another bad move!

I bought a new Acer Aspire with an i5 Intel multi-core processor, 4GB of ram, Nvidia Graphics, USB3, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Webcam and HDMI which had Linux pre-installed, and a shiny new copy of Windows 7.

After several hours I did manage to get Windows 7 installed, but the windows drivers supplied with the PC, could I get them to work? could I hell. I couldn’t even get a network connection so I could search for drivers on the Internet, and I had already destroyed the wife’s PC, so couldn’t use that either. After about 10 hours I eventually managed to get an internet connection using some old drivers I had on disk temporarily and a USB Ethernet stick.  I spent a day and a half trying to search for the drivers and eventually managed to get most of the drivers.

The biggest problem was the graphics drivers and the drivers for the Nvidia card, all the drivers I tried from Nvidia said the card didn’t exist. Eventually I went to the Intel site, the site scanned my system and said it had found some better drivers than I already had and installed them for me, and interestingly, it found drivers for items that were not Intel components and that the Microsoft and Acer sites couldn’t find.

So eventually I got what appears to be drivers for every component and even the Nvidia card.

Installing Windows 7 was a nightmare too, after about 12 re-boots to get the basic installation complete, it took all of one day to install the basic system before I started looking for drivers.

Then there’s the updates, every time I shut down the PC, Windows says it has found a load of updates, ‘Do Not switch OFF your computer’. Surely when you buy new software it should be reasonably up to date on updates? Apparently not, the first six times I shut down, it found over 30 updates, and took at least 2 hours to install them each time. And then the next time I switched on  Configuring recent Updates – Do Not Switch OFF your PC ‘, which took another hour or so. On one occasion when I switched off it said it had found 143 Updates!   When will these updates stop?

OK, so now I have the PC set up after 5 days, time to put my software on, item after item first you get ‘Do you want this program to modify your system?’ – I just ran it – What do you think Windows? Who the hell put that prompt in that comes up every time you install or run a program? I hope he no longer works at Microsoft.

Time after Time, ‘The program you are trying to install is not compatible with this version of windows’, many of which were Microsoft programs.

This must be a Microsoft scam to get you to buy more software. Then another program said you must upgrade to Ultimate or Professional to run this software, OK let’s have a look at the anytime upgrade offer, £125 to upgrade!!! that’s almost double the amount I have already paid for this version, think we’ll pass on that.

So now I have a New PC eventually installed and now need to recover all my backed up files from my three Network Storage Drives, No problems here then, this is straight forward eh?

Wrong!  The first NAS, no problem copied the files, second NAS worked brilliantly on XP, why can’t I access it? Search through help and troubleshooter, ‘the type of NAS is not supported by Windows 7’ was the reply, GRRR!!!, third NAS, same problem.

So another day trying to get round the ‘Not compatible’ and I managed to make them compatible with a bit of jiggerie pokerie. So now I have my files, but of course all my online passwords and bookmarks were saved in the browsers on the last PC. OOPS, I haven’t got them any more. So another day trying to recover passwords of the main sites and services I need to use.

OK let’s check the emails, Oh No, what are all the settings and passwords for them? They were all in Outlook and I haven’t got a back up of them. That’s another day gone trying to re set up them.

This is turning into a nightmare.

So I now have about 50% of what I had before set up, and time to try out windows 7, ‘Better than XP’, Microsoft say. hangs, crashes, slow, weird things happening, stupid  messages popping up every time you run or open anything, I am as yet unimpressed. Yes it has a prettier interface, but what were simple tasks on XP appear to be very more difficult on 7, I have a multi-core processor now, whereas I only had a dual core before, I have double the memory but can only use half of it as the super gaming video card uses half of it, I don’t play games, can I have the memory back? Nope, and the system runs slower than the old machine with the ‘old’ software.

After all this and over a week getting up and running again, I feel like I have gone backwards, I want my XP back!!

I can now see why some people just give up, I feel that I am an experienced PC user and programmer, and even I was close to suicide at one or two stages during this process, so I can understand how less experienced users must feel.

Surely the idea is that as things advance, they get more sophisticated and more powerful, but with advancing technology, surely they should be made easier to use and set up. It must be possible (or at least should be) to make these things more intelligent so that they sort themselves out, and it wouldn’t take a lot to make them backward compatible with previous systems surely.

Well I have had my moan, now I have some advice for you, if you do not want to go through all this, make sure you back up EVERYTHING regularly, because if you don’t back up EVERYTHING, when you try to start again after your hard drive dies, there will be data files saved by programs, and by you, or other configuration files that you will need to get fully up and running again, or like me you will find that files you now need were not backed and you have to start from scratch.

In the past when I have had a hard disk failure, I have luckily been able to recover everything off the drives. This time I was not so lucky, and have learned a harsh lesson. I will not forget to backup everything from now on.

Speak to you again soon.

Steve

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to speed up a slow PC

May 24, 2013 // Posted in Computer Tips (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

Slow PC?

Slow PC?

We have all had the problem that as your PC gets older and you install more and more programs your PC gets slower and slower. So what can you do to speed it up again? Here are five things that you can do:

De-fragment
This goes without saying, it is an essential regular maintenance job, however, I am surprised at how few people regularly do this if you ask them. Do You do this regularly? — Once a month is a good interval. It doesn’t matter which Windows OS you use, make sure you either manually de-fragment or set the machine up to automatically de-fragment at least once a month. When your PC’s files get very fragmented, they suffer serious performance issues. The built-in Windows de-fragmenter works just fine, but if you are looking for something a little better, there are many Free and Commercial products available

Clean up the hard drive
Have you ever filled up a hard drive? If this hard drive contains both your OS and your data files, your machine is going to die! This is often a major cause of slow running PC’s. You need at least 10-15% free on your hard drive for your PC to work, creating temporary working files. If  you haven’t got at least 20% free space, I would recommend you to start a clean up. The built in Windows Disk Clean Up utility quickly clears out all temp files for you, in various categories such as Internet Temporary Files, temporary download files, windows temp directory and more. Access it by right clicking the drive in MyComputer and click Tools > Disk Clean Up. Once you’ve done that, check your pictures, music and videos, as these are usually quite large files. Delete the ones you no longer need or copy them to an external drive or CD/DVD’s. Then check all your document files, delete those no longer needed and back up those you want to archive to another drive or DVD/CD. Once you have sorted those out, you can remove old Restore Points and Shadow copies (from the System Restore Utility) .Then check your installed programs, Do you need them all? There is probably some that you haven’t used for years, get rid of them using the Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. After you have done all this Empty the re-cycle bin, and check your Drive Space again. Right click the drive in MyComputer and click properties.

Now it’s time to clean up the registry
Errors in the registry cause major slowing down of the PC, and can cause it to stop altogether. Modifying the registry is not something the novice or inexperienced user should attempt on their own, as incorrect changes to the registry can prevent your computer from even starting up. Before you make any modifications to the registry, either manually or using a professional tool, ALWAYS backup the registry first, then you can always restore it if something goes wrong. There are many software tools available, some free and some commercial. Most of them will find many errors in your registry, it’s not always something you’ve done, over time removing programs, upgrades and driver changes will leave remnants in the registry that should not be there. Run a registry fix tool and let it fix the errors it finds. Reboot to confirm your PC still works, (Most registry fixes will make a backup of anything they change, so that you can restore them in safe mode if something goes wrong, but that doesn’t happen very often if you pick a good tool.) After the re-boot run the registry fix again, as some more errors will be found, that do not become apparent until some of the first ones removed have taken effect. Re-boot again and Run the tool again, repeat the process until no errors are found.

Remove spyware/malware
If you are using Windows you MUST have an anti-malware program installed or your machine is guaranteed to get infected with spyware, which will gradually make your PC slower and slower, not to mention the potential privacy and security issues. Malwarebytes is good for this, although most anti-virus packages have anti-malware included, they do not always find all of it. Malwarebytes, is good and there are free and commercial versions available. I have found, that this usually finds anything that my anti-virus package misses (I’ve tried various anti-virus packages and Mawarebytes always finds something that each one of them didn’t). Get free program updates regularly and run it at least once a week. You can even trigger it to start at a specific time and day each week using the Windows Scheduled Tasks facility.

Check the hard drive for errors
After long periods of use the hard drive develops ‘Bad Sectors’, fragments of files get left behind in the indexes and other information in the file descriptors etc. can become corrupt. To fix it, you’ll need to check the drive for errors. Right click the drive in MyComputer and click Properties > Tools > Check Now >  Check the options to Automatically fix file system errors and also to scan and attempt recovery of bad sectors, then click start. If this is your Windows drive, or contains files that windows needs to operate (e.g.Swap file, system files and some drivers), you will be told that Windows needs exclusive access to this drive, so cannot perform the check now, and then asks you if you want to schedule the check when Windows next starts. Click Yes and reboot. The Disk check will start before windows does when you restart. This may take some time as it will check every piece of the drive surface, every file,folder, descriptor table etc. You can also get third party disk checkers, but the built in windows one seems to work just fine.

How to remember many Strong Passwords

May 24, 2013 // Posted in Computer Tips (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  No Comments

We all use the Internet more and more, and now regularly visit many sites that require a password.

Strong Passwords are Good

Strong Passwords are Good

 

But how do you remember so many different passwords as it is best to set a different password for each site?
You can do this effectively by:

 

 

  1. Write just part of your password down, or store in a file, or on your mobile phone. But what if someone steals my phone or computer or finds my paper? That is OK, because you are only writing down part of your password, and they will not know what site it refers to, as we will see in a moment.
  2. Create STRONG passwords with letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters, and keep them as long as possible. Mix upper and lower case characters. This way they cannot be guessed. Never use your date of birth, or house number/post code or name in your password, as people can get these off the Internet in places like Facebook etc.
  3. Now you need to create your passwords:
  • Think of a PIN that you will always remember, 3 ,4 or 5 characters long, something like  3478# or 8#7 or 23&4.
  • For each web site you need a password for create a code that helps you remember what site it is for e.g.,  FBk for facebook, RSoF for RichoSoft, TWit for Twitter etc.Next add some random characters  e.g., 4556, or zc98@.  Use different random characters for each password.

    These you write down, save in a file or store in your phone. Anyone finding these would not know what they refer to, and the password is not complete anyway, so would not work.

You now have passwords that look like this:

FBk298745+C
RSoFhgTf89%F
TWitBV65W_u

 

  • Next we use your PIN. Decide whether your PIN will be at the beginning or end of your password, and when using the passwords add  your PIN, to this position. So if we had a pin 3478#  our passwords above  would become:
FBk298745+C3478#
RSoFhgTf89%F3478#
TWitBV65W_u3478#
OR
3478#FBk298745+C
3478#RSoFhgTf89%F
3478#TWitBV65W_u
  • These full passwords are the ones to use on the sites, and now we have STRONG passwords that cannot possibly be guessed, and you only need to remember the PIN Part and whether it is at the front or back. The rest is written down or saved  so you do not forget it. By having a different password for each site, if someone does actually find out one of your passwords the others are totally safe.

About Prestel

April 22, 2013 // Posted in Main (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  1 Comment

In my first post I mentioned Prestel, and some readers have asked for more information on what it was and what it did, so here goes:

 

Prestel Logo

Prestel Logo

The innovations on which it was based were credited to Samuel Fedida at the then Post Office Research Station in Martlesham, Suffolk. In 1978, a team of programmers was recruited from within the Post Office Data Processing Executive. Under the management of David Wood they developed the software for the public access Prestel system. In 1983, as privatisation of British Telecom loomed the staff of the software development team were moved into the Prestel Division of BT.

Prestel was the GPO, later British Telecom’s, answer to teletext.  With two-way communications between user and servers, many more pages could be offered, and user interaction could be achieved through response frames to the Information Providers, user to user emails, and public chat lines.  It was launched in 1979.

The public Prestel database consisted of a set of individual frames, which were arranged in 24 lines of 40 characters each, similar to the display used by the Ceefax and ORACLE teletext services provided by the BBC and ITV television companies. Of these, the top line was reserved for the name of the Information Provider, the price and the page number, and the bottom line was reserved for system messages. Thus there remained 22 lines (of 40 characters each) in which the Information Provider (IP) could present information to the end-user. Each frame was stored in a block of 1 kilobyte (1024 bytes), out of which at least 104 bytes were reserved for routing and system information. This left 920 bytes for the frame contents, 716 bytes in the case of response frames. The IP logo on line 1 occupied at least 43 bytes, depending on the number of control characters, so the space available for the IP’s data is 877 characters at most. Lines could either occupy the full forty character positions, or be terminated early with a CR/LF sequence. Each control character took up two bytes, despite displaying as a single space, so the more complex a page, the less actual information could be presented. It was almost impossible, therefore, to display a right hand border to a page.

Available characters consisted of upper and lower case alphanumeric characters as well as punctuation and simple arithmetic symbols, using a variant of ISO 646 and CCITT standard. This layout was later formalised in the 1981 CEPT videotex standard as the CEPT3 profile. In addition, mosaic graphics were available in which individual character positions were divided into six squares which could be used in any combination, giving the possibility of 64 different graphics characters. Alphanumeric characters or mosaics could be entered in white or any one of six foreground colours (red, blue, green, yellow, cyan, magenta) and set against a background of the same colours as well as black. Special control symbols were employed so that characters or mosaics could be made to flash, appear double height, be separated by a border or be “concealed” (which were made visible by means of a special “reveal” button on the Prestel keypad).

By embedding cursor-control characters within the page data, it was also possible to encode simple animations by re-writing parts of the screen already displayed. These were termed “dynamic frames” and could not be created online using conventional editing terminals, but required specialist software and uploading via the “bulk update” facility. No timing options were available beyond that imposed by the available transmission speed, usually 1,200 baud download (receiving) and 75 baud upload (sending keypad entries).

The service was never as popular as it was envisaged.  Although it was taken up positively by the Travel and Financial services industries, the in-home market was never the success it could have been.  Televisions with built-in adapters were exorbitantly expensive, and hard to find, and dedicated terminals were only really affordable to businesses.

Despite this, Prestel was instrumental in developing many of the technologies we now consider commonplace on the Internet and World Wide Web today.  The Bank of Scotland had their HOBS “Home and Office Banking” service whereby you could manage your bank accounts online.  Club 403 offered online grocery shopping.  British Rail offered access to timetables.  Kays had mail order shopping from their catalogues.  There were several forums and chatlines where ordinary users could post messages and chat among themselves, and later, Micronet allowed anybody to publish their own pages, for a fairly modest fee.

Prestel was also instrumental in providing the first taste of electronic mail that many people would experience. Being able to send simple messages for free to friends and family would seem to be a novelty, but it would soon turn out to be one of the most used features of the service.  Many friendships were started and flourished through the interactions made possible via Prestel Mailbox, and Prestel was certainly responsible for more than one marriage, and perhaps the failure of several others.

Telex Link Info Sheet

Telex Link Info Sheet

To get more business users, Prestel launched Telex Link, which allowed any prestel subscriber to receive and send telex messages.  In the days before Fax machines, the telex was the official business-to-business communications medium:  Telex messages could be held to be legally binding just like a written letter.

In fact, it was only with the arrival of Micronet 800 in the mid 1980s, started as an online computer magazine by East Midlands Allied Press, and whom for a period gave away free modems for home computers with their subscriptions, that domestic usage began to rise.

This was helped by access only being a local telephone call throughout most of the country – a facility otherwise unheard of in the times before “0845” and it’s like.  Even so, Prestel subscriptions peaked at less than 100,000 subscribers – far below the “millions” of subscribers aimed for when launched.

During the daytime, when business usage was high, there was a per-minute charge to use Prestel, but in the evenings and weekends, traditionally the quiet times, it was free apart from the telephone call.

Unfortunately, with Micronet being so popular, suddenly the quiet times became fairly busy!

Prestel actually took over Micronet in 1989, and merged it with their other online offerings, forming the BT Dialcom Group.

In 1991, Prestel decided to introduce a charge during the previously free times, effectively doubling the cost of accessing the service, and within months managed to kill off the home usage almost completely, confirmed by the closure of Micronet that October.

After a decision to concentrate on core network services and not value-added services, the whole lot was sold off to a private consortium, and from there it ended up with Financial Express, where, after a brief appearance as ‘New Prestel’ it was closed down completely.

This is just a brief overview of Prestel probably one of the innovations that led to the Internet and communications systems we have today. The equipment that was used to create the Prestel service has all disappeared now it seems, not even is there any trace in any museum, unless you know better!

 

 

Some background

April 13, 2013 // Posted in Main (Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ) |  1 Comment

 

For the first main post I thought I would give you some background on how I got into creating Software, Web Sites and Web Applications so here goes…

I was born at a very young age, and whilst I was at Grammar School got a Saturday and Holidays job at Currys, the Electrical People.

A Currys Shop

A Currys Shop

Morris-1000-Van-Currys

Morris-1000-Van-Currys

It was here that I got my first taste of technology, although it was very different to what we have today. The closest thing we had to a personal computer was Prestel from the Post Office. This involved a TV and a telephone line, and the data retrieved from the telephone was displayed on the TV, but it was only text, no images similar to Teletext.

Prestel Dr Alex Reid

Prestel Dr Alex Reid

Viewdata (Prestel) Ad

Viewdata (Prestel) Ad

When I left school I joined Currys full-time as a Trainee Manager, and it wasn’t long before I got my first store in a small market town called Diss, which is also where I went to Grammar School. The nearest we got to a computer at that time, was the Company Mainframe. All stock came with a stock docket, that was a machine readable piece of paper. When you sold the product you marked a line in a little box with an HB pencil and sent it off to Head Office. This along with millions of others, was then fed into a hopper and read by the mainframe and your stock was adjusted. A few days later you received a dot-matrix printed report detailing what had been processed.

I was promoted to Thetford, and this is where I got my first taste of a ‘personal’ computer. The Sinclair Z80 and Commodore VIC20 both arrived on the scene at around the same time. Both had memory of 2Kb. The Z80 was available only in kit form, and you had to build it yourself.

Sinclair ZX80

Sinclair ZX80

Sinclair ZX81

Sinclair ZX81

Commodore16/Vic20
Commodore16/Vic20

Later Sinclair launched the ZX81, which was available in kit or ready built form. You could add a 16Kb memory pack onto the rear connector to increase the ‘power’ of the macine, but if you moved the computer the connection to the ram pack inevitably came apart and everything you had done was lost. Saving programs and data on both the VIC20 and Sinclairs was done by saving the data to a standard cassette tape recorder, which was neither fast nor reliable. However, this is where I got my first programming experience. The Sinclair’s ‘Basic’ was not typed in as characters, but as key programming words, so if you wanted to use the PRINT command, you couldn’t type in P,R,I,N,T, whilst in programming mode, you pressed P, and the command PRINT appeared on the screen. You also had to have a TV to view the output from these computers.

The Apple IIe, the BBC and Acorn computers also appeared and they used 5¼” floppy diskettes. These too had limited memory and still no graphics.

BBC Computer

BBC Computer

Apple IIe

Apple IIe

Acorn Electron

Acorn Electron

I did some ‘real’ programming on an Apple IIe that my District Manager had been given, and wrote my first program that used data and stored it as separate data files from the users entries.

Later Amstrad started to devlop computers, with the Amstrad 64 and 6128, and later the 1512, 1640, PCW, PCW512 and then the PC2086, and PC2286.

Amstrad 64

Amstrad 64

Amstrad 6128

Amstrad 6128

Amstrad 1512/1640

Amstrad 1512/1640

Amstrad 2086

Amstrad 2086

The 64, 6128 and PCW range used CPM instead of Basic and DOS, It was similar to program as basic and I soon started writing applications for CPM. I wrote some applicatons for use by Area Managers at the Divisional Office and they were vey successful.

I was promoted to Divisional Office and soon started using the Amstrad 1512 with it’s dual floppy 5¼” disks and started learning Microsoft Basic. Graphical displays could now be achieved. But it wasn’t until I got into the Amstrad 2086, with it’s 3″ floppy diskettes (with hard plastic cover) and it’s 20Mb hard drive, that I got my first taste of Windows. (3.1). Although you could have several things open in ‘Windows’ at the same time, only one could actually run at a time.

Then things started to develop in leaps and bounds, first bulletin boards accessed via modems (300bps, and 1200bps/75bps) and then the Internet at speeds of up to 14.4Kbps, later 28.8Kbps and even 56kbps. This is when I created my first web site, everything was manually coded then, there wasn’t any fancy Web Authoring Software then and even images were limited as was what you could do with them. There wasn’t even javascript then either.

Over the next few years I changed jobs in the Currys/Dixons/PCWorld group and became more involved with writing applications in Paradox, Access and the like and also devloping web applications in ASP.

In 2006 I was made redundant, and later the same year took early retirement. This gave me plenty of time to spend on my hobby (computers) and to develop more software, web sites and web applications.

So there you have it, I have seen the advancment of the technology, from it’s infancy to the current day and like to think that I have developed and kept up with it too, at least a little anyway. And you know, all of the principles I learnt all those years ago, are still so relevant today, some may have been forgotten or not even learnt by some of the newer programmers now on the scene, but I will never stop remembering or using them where they are appropriate.

 

 

 

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