I began micro-loaning with Kiva in 2008 and have written various articles on the subject. I’ve now given 24 loans in 17 countries. In one case, the local lending organization failed, impacting the loan repayment. In another, there was a small loss due to currency exchange values. But the rest of the loans have been doing fine – farmers, students, grocers, groups, and more. A small infusion has kept the process going and slightly expanded the number of loans I can make. The cost for me has been tiny compared to the impact. As the funds are repaid, I reloan them.
Kiva has recently released a video showing their history. It also gives a sense of it’s impact. This is a better repayment rate than in the west.
Tags: privacy, Security, settings, upgrade, Windows
If you’re using Windows 8, the free upgrade to Windows 10 is an obvious choice. Some describe it as what Win8 should have been in the first place. Windows 7 is a bigger jump but unless your hardware isn’t up for it, upgrading while it’s free may be a good idea. I waited for the dust to settle and the bugs to be fixed. But now, the end of the free upgrade period is coming July 29. Experts say it’s unlikely to be extended. If you’re considering it, it’s time to make your move and avoid a last-minute crunch.
If you’ve already upgraded, you may find the Protection section and below worth reviewing.
Usually, I install a fresh version of a new operating system so I’m starting from a clean slate without historical problems. But this requires reinstalling all the software and making all the settings changes from scratch. Because Win10 is a smaller change and my Win8 installs are newer, I opted for the free upgrade.
You first want to update Windows fully.
And update your major software to ensure it’s current & compatible with Win10. You may find PSI useful. I had a problem with several things hanging after the upgrade. Turns out I needed to install a new version of my Antivirus tool. I had thought it’s version was current but it turned out not to be.
Next create a full image of your operating system – the update gives you the choice to revert but if something goes wrong, you want to be able to get back to where you started. I had trouble with Windows backup on my tablet. It wouldn’t accept any of the media options that where available. Macrium Reflect (free) allowed me to choose a large thumb drive and get the job done.
For Windows upgrade, you can download the tool to start the upgrade process here. This is preferable to using the “Get Windows 10” tool Microsoft has pushed on many computers.
If you’d like a fresh install, you can get the media creation tool here. It has DVD and thumb-drive options. But you’ll need a prior Win10 activation. To get that, you first have to Upgrade to Win10, then Activate, and then you can wipe the drive and install fresh. When you come to activate that, Microsoft will recognize a valid install on the same system. Fred Langa goes into details here. (paid content)
The install software first spends time checking your system and downloading the upgrade files. This can be done while you continue to work. When the time comes for the actual upgrade, a lunch break would be optimum.
I upgraded a hybrid tablet and a custom desktop system. Both went smoothly and retained most of my customization and settings.
As the install is completing, it will ask you to log in to your Microsoft account. If you had been using a PIN or similar, be sure to have your original password ready.
Next you get the “Get Going Fast” screen – don’t. Click the tiny Customize link in the lower left and review some of the default settings. If you want some privacy, you’ll want to turn a lot of the initial settings off. Also the default apps if you already have programs you prefer.
After more processing, it will bring you to the desktop. Most of it should look about the same.
If you were using a third-party start menu, it will probably have been turned off. Microsoft told me twice Classic Shell had been “removed” but it wasn’t uninstalled, just tuned off.
For some reason, System Protection is turned off by default. In Control Panel, System, System Protection, turn on System Protection for your boot drive, set the space at about 2% and create a Restore point. Details. This gives you the ability to roll back if an update causes trouble. Windows Updates are now only automatic so this is important.
Windows key-X will give you a quick menu to access various admin functions, including Control Panel. Or right-click the Start menu icon.
Three areas that need attention are the new variation of the Start menu, Search, and Settings. We’ll look at Settings first.
Continuing in the trend of Win8, Windows 10 has settings in 2 places – Control Panel and the Settings app. The second is accessed by the Gear icon in the Start menu. You’ll want to review each area as some of the default settings are less than desirable.
If you travel a lot and want to share settings across devices, want to use mostly MS products, and want to share everything with Microsoft and the world, you may be happy with the default settings. If not, spend a bit of time reviewing them. This will also give you a better sense of what Win10 offers and what you can control.
Most in here are fine. You may want to review Notifications.
Offline Maps may be useful for you if you need map access where Internet service is lacking. But the maps are large files. If they don’t finish downloading before you reboot, you have to start again.
By default, it has Windows manage your default printer, based on the one you used last. I turned that off. My printer was off during the update and was not on the list. When I turned it on and asked it to search for new printers, it said there was none but added the printer meantime.
It’s notable Windows now tracks your data usage like a cell phone.
If you have wireless, in WiFi, Manage WiFi settings, turn off the automated connection options. You want to manage what hotspots you connect to, not your Contacts, etc. And why would you want where you connect being shared like this?
I found that Windows retained my prior settings but the accent colour didn’t look as good.
You may want to tweak the Local Screen settings.
Start is where you adjust the Start menu. If you use default Windows locations for your music and such, you can control which folders are displayed.
If you don’t plan to sync settings on multiple devices, turn off Sync. Key to understand here is it’s all synced through your Microsoft account on-line. That’s not exactly privacy.
You will need to keep your MS account but can add and use a Local account so you’re not obliged to sign in to Microsoft (and be connected to the Internet) whenever you’re using your computer. Of course, the later is required for some features.
To create a Local account, go to Family and Other Users: look for ‘I don’t have this persons sign-in’ and add a User without a MS account.
For security, it’s not recommended you do regular computing in an Admin account. One way to avoid loosing your personalizations is to create a new Admin user, then log into it and change the original account to Regular. You’ll need the Admin password to make changes but it prevents malware from running accidentally.
It was also recommended to create a 2nd Admin account as backup, in case the first gets corrupted.
Time and Ease
Worth browsing to see what’s here.
This is the big one. Your Advertising ID? There are a series of sections to go over, including which apps can access your personal data. If you don’t use the App, you can turn it off.
Updates are always automatic in Windows 10 Home. In Windows Update, Advanced options, change the setting to Notify. Otherwise it may reboot your computer to update while you’re working.
Some have suggested you can control updates by setting your connection to Metered. But that’s canceled whenever you connect to a new network.
Click Cortana in the Taskbar (by the Start menu), then the Settings icon and turn off online. Otherwise, everything you search for on your computer is also searched on Bing and tracked. Don’t know about you, but I don’t expect to find my work files on the Internet. I also find it more useful to use a browser to search on-line. I can also then use the search engine of my choice. You may want to turn off Cortana reminders at the top too.
You can also change the space it takes – an icon may be fine. For that, right-click the Taskbar, select Search, and then box, icon, or hidden.
As usual, there’s some junk in the Start menu to unpin. I prefer desktop programs over almost any of the apps. Once you clean out the “Get Office” etc, the right side is more manageable. You may also find you can make the tiles smaller. If you’re not on a touchscreen, the big tiles just take up space.
I find the lack of a Programs folder view annoying. The All Apps alphabetical view is much less useful as I group related programs in folders. But I was happy to see you can right click and Uninstall the undesirables.
At first I found some weird things on the list, like program Help links rather than just executables. But that seems to have sorted itself out. However, if you open folders, it shows everything in all the sub-folders together, including files like “legal” & “readme”. It doesn’t show which program they’re associated with. They apparently assumed no one organizes their Start Menu.
You can browse the alpha list and Pin your more commonly used programs, or create a folder with shortcuts for them and make that a new Toolbar (from the Taskbar). Woody shares many other tricks here.
I’ll have to decide how I will organize the Start menu – break programs out of groups? That will make the list vastly longer and require I remember the right name (Office? Microsoft Office?). Or use a third-party Start menu? The free Classic Shell still works for Windows 10 and is great for hierarchical menus. The exploration continues.
Tags: conservation, humpback whales, kermode bear, pacific northwest, spirit bear, whales
The Great Bear Rainforest is a temperate rain forest along the NW coast of North America on the Pacific Ocean. It runs from the Discovery Islands (across from Campbell River*, BC) up to the Alaskan panhandle border. Much of it is mountainous and intersected by fiords. (a map)
First named by environmental groups, a large section became protected earlier this year (years after an agreement was reached) with other areas under some protection. Most old growth forest within is now protected.
A ban on the trophy hunting of bears was also negotiated, but a changed government brought the hunt back. Ironic they allow bear hunting in a place with this name.
A rather creative solution has been to buy area hunting rights and manage them as if they were being used for hunting. But instead, they’re used for eco-tourism – the bears are shot with cameras instead of guns. They even have to go through all the motions and procedures to behave like hunters: firearms handling, hunting licenses, and so forth. It’s rather ridiculous they have to go to such lengths to protect a single species of wildlife. The first videos below describe more.
The area is also highlighted due to an attempt to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the coast, dramatically increasing tanker traffic on a stormy, complex coast. Many remember the Exxon Valdez spill in the area. But tar sands oil is worse and much harder to clean up.
It’s a remarkable area, rich with wildlife. But it’s also remote. The most likely way you’d see it is on a cruise ship to Alaska while it travels up the coast. The area includes the world’s largest population of Spirit bears, also called kermode. A series of short videos have been produced speaking about the area and some healthy approaches to sustaining it.
1 – Raincoast’s Fight
2 – Banning The Trophy Hunt
3 – The Spirit Bear (Kermode or white)
4 – Revival of the Humpback Whales
5 – The Marine Detective
* about a half hours drive north of me. I live on the more moderate and populated SW coast on sheltered waters.
Tags: free tests, MBTI, Myers-Briggs, personality testing
Understanding who and how you are and what you have to offer is a big part of finding a fulfilling life and a place in society. Yet we often discover such things by happenstance or difficult experience. Most of what we’re given is generic rules and training that rarely suits us.
Often, we don’t entirely recognize our own abilities and temperament because they’re innate and we assume our experience is similar to others. Yet how we’re distinct points to what we have to offer.
This is where aptitude and related testing can shine a light for us. But testing without temperament can put you on the wrong track. I spent some decades taking pokes at a desired and recommended career goal before I finally realized it required a specific temperament I didn’t have.
The psychologist Carl Jung observed 3 personality polarities in the 1920’s, then his daughter added the 4th. The Myers-Briggs mother-daughter team extrapolated that into the Myers-Briggs test (MBTI). Various versions of mixed quality have shown up over the years and on-line.
Jung went on to develop the Jungian Archetypes from his research, a more symbolic approach to the memes underlying traits.
MBTI is essentially our preferences in how we see the world and make decisions. Some polarities can be quite strong and others less so, though we tend to moderate with age. The results also tend to evolve over time. While not seen as entirely reliable, many find them quite insightful.
(click the image to see a larger version)
It’s worth noting that the personality types are not evenly distributed in the population.
The full MBTI test is a 6 hour affair where you not only get to know your own type but your contrast with others of each of the opposite polarities. You can also get tested personally by certified testers.
Over the years, I’ve taken the full test and tried a few free on-line tests. One’s I found insightful:
Humanmetrics has a Jungian version.
Keirsey developed a variant based more on behavior and shifted the emphasis a bit. That has a test here.
And recently, I ran into another variant “16 Personalities” that adds a 5th polarity: Assertive/Turbulent.
(I didn’t have any trouble with any of these sites abusing my contact info)
After testing, I’ve also found these profiles useful.
Have fun with it.
Tags: controllers, pads
If you’re not a musician, you may be unaware of one trend in modern music – sequencing.
Many years ago, sequencing software first arose in tools like Cakewalk. You added a track for each instrument and placed “notes” that used MIDI data. MIDI is a digital language for music data that allowed various devices, instruments and computers to talk. It could produce synthetic notes from pre-defined instruments. Computer sound cards of the day added MIDI instruments to their repertoire.
You could compose complex songs in such software, or just use it for background tracks like drums and bass.
Over time, the ability to add pre-recorded sample sounds of live instruments was added, greatly expanding the quality and flexibility.
You sometimes hear sequencing software used in live performances to duplicate studio techniques that can’t be easily reproduced on stage – like a backup orchestra. It may sound like prerecorded content – which might also be used – but sequencing software allows adjusting the tempo and changing other details live that can’t be done with recorded content.
A friend of mine, who is not a musician, composes entire songs with samples in sequencing software. He markets the resulting albums on-line and makes a small income from his hobby. Such software now has thousands of instruments available and more can be added.
A parallel development was in instruments like drum pads where rubber pads could be used to trigger pre-programmed drum sets. This allowed drummers to expand their available drums but also to practice much more quietly.
Similarly, piano keyboard controllers came out that were used to trigger software or other keyboards (via MIDI) rather than having built-in sounds. They were just a keyboard – like another form of your computer keyboard.
Over time, “pad controllers” were added to other instruments like keyboards as it was easier to play drums or trigger events with pads than keys. Then the controllers became instruments in themselves. They’re used to trigger digital events in computer software – either an individual sound sample (like playing an instrument) or an entire pre-programmed sequence.
Unlike a typical instrument where this key is middle C, and that one is C5; pad controllers are entirely programmable. Any given pad can be anything. And then be something else for the next song. Better controllers have pads that are both touch and pressure sensitive so they can be quite expressive, giving contours to the programmed sound.
Controllers are also inexpensive compared to traditional instruments as the basics are simple. They’re a group of fancy buttons. All the sounds and intelligence are in the software. That’s where you do the programming, assigning sounds to keys. Then you can record the result – as a song or as a sequence to further polish.
In this example, notice how even voice is used as an “instrument” via pre-recorded samples. Also notice the sound samples being played have various lengths – some short, some longer. This is different from a normal instrument.
You have to have good spatial memory for this.
Here’s someone with 2:
A basic 16 pad unit with “lite” versions of the needed software is only about $30. It also works with pretty much any sequencing software like the free Hydrogen drums. (a dedicated drum sequencer, what might be called a software drum machine)
At first, people used pads for programming sequences. But pretty quickly, they began using them in live performance too. I saw a single live musician with a digital drum pad lay down the bass drum beat, then the next drum, then the next, building up over a dozen instruments, then jamming over the top. It has an interesting crescendo effect. One musician playing multiple parts in a kind of time dilation.
A related example:
The next stage of that was recording acoustic instrument samples live into a sequencer and then having that play back while they added other layers. The lines between live and recorded, acoustic and digital all blur.
Here’s an example – watch them use the foot pedal to mark the end of a sample recording. The pedal is carefully triggered so the sequence repeats from that point. (this is called looping) Notice a pad controller also being used but they’re using various triggers.
You don’t see pad instrumentalists on mainstream radio much yet. It’s a new style of musician – but they’re quite common on the net. It will be fascinating to see where this evolves.
I’ve been a fan of the Android smartphone platform, partly because of it’s roots in Linux. But I have to say that Google’s behaviour has me questioning that, treating their users as a commodity to be monetized. Not that the other platforms are above this. Some of the worst aspects of the modern Internet have become concentrated on the cell platform. The “swiss army knife” of telephones becomes a Truman Show experiment.
Google is in a major conflict of interest around advertising. Junk web sites have proliferated with their ad model and they highlight them in search results. Ads get more hits but search results get much less useful. Witness the growth of services like DuckDuckGo that allow you to use Google with less of the manipulation.
But on Android, you’re in Google world so it’s everywhere. When you browse apps in the Play store, the “Recommended” free ones can be some of the worst offenders and there’s no way to filter them out. Reviews are almost useless and some are gamed.
I’ve found myself adding apps like QuickPic (photo gallery) and AIMP (music) to avoid the pushy Google apps you can’t remove.
In the history of computer games, there has been a long record of shareware, trialware and freeware. The last became almost ubiquitous on Linux. But in the Android variant, it’s all about advertising. On the PC platform, it would be called Adware, considered by some to be malware.
This became highlighted for me when I installed a paid anti-malware app on my cell phone, the mobile ESET. ESET includes a review of app security. I was surprised by some of what I’d OKed. One of the worst turned out to be a flashlight app – evidently many of them are rife with user tracking. For a high-rated flashlight?
Apparently, as a way to promote development on the Android platform, Google has been promoting advertising for income. It is certainly fair for developers to earn money for their work. But the implementation has often been at the expense of the user and their experience. A great program spoiled by pop-ups and appalling ads. Part of the game becomes where to click to close the latest interruption. Not to mention reporting your cell phone activity.
On the web, I don’t mind advertising such as you see in magazines and print (aside from “native advertising“). But they didn’t leave it there – many sites went over the top with pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing text, video, and sound. The ads are often obnoxious or inappropriate and they load tracking beacons. I was obliged to turn the deluge off with Adblock Plus and related browser plug-ins. But turning down the volume is not so straightforward when it’s built into the platform.
To add insult, all of this cell advertising is using your paid data. When the ads include video, they can soak up an amazing amount of bandwidth. If you’re using a basic plan, you really DON’T want your apps using up your data.
Sure, some (but not all) will use wireless if available. But generally, I’m using games during a commute, in a waiting room or some such where wireless is not an option. And if it is, do I want to go to the trouble of connecting to a public hot spot just for the ads? And further, you’re now sharing user information on a public network.
This kind of activity also uses your battery charge up much faster than simply playing the game. Pretty lame to have your phone die over ads.
In summary – some of the motivation against using ad-supported free games:
– low quality ads: obnoxious and inappropriate ads the feature nudity, violence and fake warnings. It surprises me legitimate companies put themselves into this mix.
– heavy data usage by ads, especially video
– heavy power usage by ads
– gamed reviews – app reviews are largely useless and some apps game them by asking you to recommend them after a few levels, then they turn on all the crap.
– Play Store “recommended” apps are some of the worst offenders
– tracking of user activity, data, and calls – just watch those permissions when you install. Does this app need access to your call records, etc? Just say no.
– hidden payware where you have to pay to continue the “free” game
I’m sure many of you have experienced other tricks too
If you’re looking for high quality games to play as a pastime, I’d suggest looking for real reviews and buying them. But if you’re looking for a few apps to amuse you while waiting somewhere, you want simple and ad free.
Here is a list of free games I’ve found that are currently free of ads and obnoxious permissions. Quality is a little mixed but I enjoy a few of them. You can find them in the Play store.
Frozen Bubble (bubble matching)
OpenSudoku (you can download other games free)
ShokoRocket (maze game)
Simple Missile Defense
There was a great Solitaire game I used to use but they went advertising badly. Not aware of one now.
If you have any of your own suggestions, let us know in comments. No promotions, please.
Tags: light pollution, Space, stars
We’ve developed the bad habit of leaving the lights on all night. On streets, on porches and in yards, on stores and in offices. A world that never sleeps and never sees the Milky Way.
“Stargazing is extinct in cities like New York City and London, but it’s also endangered in places all over the world because of urbanization. We rounded up the most incredible places to see the night sky, and a few places that need to be preserved.”
The Weather Channel has set up images from various low light locations around the world that are ideal for watching the night sky. Does the night sky above you look like this? Best is on New Moon nights, so they offer a calendar too.
Light pollution ruins star gazing but also restful sleep, natural rhythms and thus health. Blackout curtains can help but then you can’t wake with the sun. Motion detectors can make a big difference on your property.
Tags: discovery, Einstein, revolution
A couple of years ago, I wrote a short bit about gravity waves. It’s the last prediction of Einstein’s General Relativity that hadn’t been directly experimentally verified – after 100 years. Last fall, a major 3 year upgrade was completed on the Ligo detectors in Louisiana and in Washington state. Just after they where turned back on, they detected a merger of 2 black holes that happened long ago and far away.
That event released more energy than 1 billion, trillion suns – that’s more than we have in the known universe. So the event made waves in space-time. Such an event is expected about once every 10,000 years, so it was fortuitous timing.
After rigorous verification, that discovery has been officially announced and the last prediction is experimentally verified.
The upgraded equipment can also detect other sources of gravity waves. This opens a new window on the universe. We can now explore the universe not just with light waves (electromagnetic spectrum) but with gravity waves.
Here Brian Greene reviews the discovery:
For more background, you may enjoy these:
Rumour of the discovery and more detail on gravity waves.
Tags: choices, diet, health, vegan
I’ve concluded that this body isn’t going to go that far but I will favour a mostly vegetarian approach. I learned a great deal from the CHIP program to support good lifestyle choices.
When I watched the film Cowspiracy, I discovered their web site had an offer for a free 30-Day Vegan Challenge by vegan author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. There are a lot of reasons to make dietary changes but the motivation on the site was to reduce meat consumption so we reduce our impact on climate change*. Even eating one less hamburger makes a surprising difference. Colleen also speaks about the compassionate treatment of animals, something modern factory farms have left by the wayside.
I decided to take her program – not to become vegan but to enhance my healthy choices and options.
I quite enjoyed the program and have picked up some great tips. Much like the CHIP program, she broke through some myths and went into some detail on key nutrients. She even covered a few details CHIP had not.
The program is designed for those with a typical North American diet, so there was a lot of recommendations for what I’d call “faux food” – foods designed to mimic meat and dairy products. That is – replacing one processed food with another possibly even more processed. Now I certainly enjoy a good veggie burger but am more interested in yummy dishes than eating foods pretending to be something else. I can see where such products might have a transitional role until we have more menu diversity but long-term use of heavily processed foods is not a great idea, vegan or not.
I also cringed when she got into calorie counting for weight loss. It’s very true that weight changes come by shifting the balance of intake and output in calories but tracking that is not something I’ll ever do well.
But the program is full of recipes and healthy food choices, shopping tips, and food knowledge. Leaning veggie is not as difficult as it might seem. Many of the foods we already eat are vegan and there are many very tasty options. We just need a little knowledge and a few new habits and choices.
I would describe the CHIP program as superior but it’s not available everywhere and is not cheap. This program is free and can serve as a good introduction to making some healthy changes. Healthy for all of us. And she can help you save money too.
*research indicates meat production produces vastly more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. See the article with links.
Tags: diet, food, plant-based, vegan
Eating based on beliefs or special diets that are not designed for your specific body can have unintended consequences. Variety is what makes food interesting and ensures we get the diversity of nutrients required.
Readers of this blog know I did a series on the CHIP program. This included some of the science for shifting to a more plant-based diet, minimizing cancer risk, and overall self care. The program was originally designed for heart patients but was expanded to the whole population.
I quite liked the approach as it looked at how and what we eat, fitness, emotional health, and more. CHIP recommends a primarily plant-based diet but suggests you move in that direction rather than mandating anything.
The weakness however is not differentiating recommendations by body type. For myself I’ve found Ayurveda adds some useful extras. For a start, they begin with your body type and make dietary recommendations accordingly. They recognize that not all of us will respond to the same vegetables or other foods in the same way. Each of us needs a certain emphasis or balance of food types.
Ayurveda favours a vegetarian diet that includes dairy, but they allow for the full range and can recommend some occasional fish or white meat. They have a food as medicine approach. Dairy is also prepared in specific ways. Clarified butter, soft cheeses, and boiled milk, for example.
Ideally, we begin with initial recommendations and then experiment. Pay attention to how foods make you feel afterwards. But be very careful where sugar is involved. Sugar confuses the bodies intelligence so it messes up the signals and creates craving. Also, you may find dietary needs change with age and life, so we may need to tune up choices periodically.
But if we can learn to take the bodies lead in our eating choices rather than some dietary rules or beliefs, we’ll do much better and enjoy life more.
Science is beginning to catch on to this. Programs are being developed (as yet far too expensive) that make science-based diet and exercise recommendations that are specific to your body. By combining DNA, blood, and other tests, we’ll soon be offered more personalized recommendations.
Meantime, enjoy the experiment.