Digital exclusion

Digital exclusion in later life

This article on digital exclusion has provoked much discussion here and online (ironically) this morning: Being online is for everyone – age shouldn’t be an excuse. The article is commenting on another article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph today: Go online or lose access to government services, Maude tells pensioners.

Government saves billions, excludes millions

The original Telegraph article covers Francis Maude’s presentation to civil servants lauding the billions of savings made by government through moving public government services online (we’re making a distinction here between public facing, and internal, government IT projects). The Tinder Foundation’s short article makes the point that digital services are of benefit to everyone, whatever age, and that access to the internet can make a huge positive difference to people’s lives in later years, but that we can’t abandon the oldest in our society to sink or swim after a one-off digital lesson, which is what the government is proposing to provide, and that Maude’s tone is unhelpfully negative about “online refuseniks”.

We at OpenSure wholly agree with this point and very much support the Tinder Foundation’s aims and achievements. Clearly we see the benefits of technology of all sorts and would love to see everyone benefitting from it, but to hector those less familiar, or entirely ignorant of, the concepts, the hardware and the logistics behind regular, home-based access to web-based services is not the way to achieve this.

Tailing-off of traditional services

From a personal point of view I will always prefer to book doctor’s appointments, reserve library books and shift money about through a website – it’s quick, it works and I can do it whenever it suits me (and I don’t have to run the gauntlet of doctors’ receptionists). My view is that the more I do that, the tiny bit freer the phone and the counters will be at these institutions for those that prefer to go in person or ring up to make their arrangements.

As time moves on and the oldest in our society have comfortably been using the internet for years, then naturally the call on traditional services will tail away. Can we not allow this to happen in a painless and pensioner-friendly way? Having seen the struggle an elderly lady had in the bank today using the key pad at the counter, even with the help of a very patient clerk, I fail to see how Francis Maude can kid himself for a moment that his policy can work.

Easter Eggs

Easter EggHidden jokes

According to Wikipedia,

An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, movie, book, or crossword.

We all know what that means in the context of a film (no children’s film seems complete without multiple references to nostalgic films to keep the grown-ups awake), but have you ever come across an Easter egg in a software program? It’s a hidden gem that pops up only in response to a specific set of commands, and which is not included in the software manual. In a game this might give you an extra life or level, it might produce an unexpected message on-screen, or it might even be a feature completely unconnected to the original program, such as the pinball game included in the 1997 version of Microsoft Word.

Hidden signatures

This RadiantMinds article suggests that Easter eggs originate with developers wanting to sign their work. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have blown hot and cold on Easter eggs, possibly because in the context of giving credit to individual software programmers, it enabled the competition to know whom to lure lure away. Gizmodo adds that it really all begins with the Russian royal family, which concealed surprises within Fabergé eggs.

Hidden nasties?

Surprises aren’t always nice, though. What if an Easter egg, by its nature hidden from everyone, contains something designed to damage, rather than to amuse? This AVAST! blog article approaches just that subject, with Filip Chytrý of the AVAST! Virus Lab. Chytrý makes the very good distinction that an Easter egg reacts in response to the user’s input, whereas malware simply operates on its own.

Where to find them

You want to find a few Easter eggs now, don’t you? The RadiantMinds article is worth a read as it includes a few classics. This Choice article also includes a list of Easter eggs, including a nifty one for Android. Easter eggs even pop up in hardware such as circuit boards.

If you think you know your Easter eggs, how about taking TechWeek’s Easter egg quiz?

Ubuntu 14.04 USB drive giveaway

Ubuntu logo

Ubuntu 14.04 is released 17.04.14

Ubuntu 14.04 USB Drive Giveaway

Ubuntu 14.04, Trusty Tahr, is released this Thursday, 17th April. To celebrate, we’d like to give five lucky users a 16GB bootable thumb drive pre-loaded with either Ubuntu Gnome or Linux Mint, whichever the winners prefer. This will enable them to run an entire open source environment without touching a hair on the head of their existing set-up.

Anyone with a machine dating from 2003 or later will be able to run these systems. Mint is a good solution for lower-powered machines, but if you’re looking for an operating system for a system with even less juice, you might want to consider Crunch Bang.

What’s the big giveaway?

Anyone can download Ubuntu – that’s not what this giveway is about. We’ve called it the Ubuntu 14.04 USB drive giveaway because we’re giving you a 16GB USB nano-drive completely free, together with email support.

This giveaway will appeal to open source-curious Windows users who are interested in seeing for themselves what open source has to offer, but without committing themselves or getting in a tangle.

If you’re a Windows XP user and you find yourself in the wilderness now that Microsoft has cut support for XP, this is the giveaway for you. However it is open to everyone. We’d like to carry out a wee bit of follow-up with the winners, and feature their experiences (anonymously if they prefer).

How do I enter?

From Monday a Twitter campaign will be running. Watch out for tweets from @OpenSure for further details. The competition will close on Good Friday and the winners announced on Tuesday 22nd April.