Nov 122014

This morning, a nerve-wracking Microsoft Windows 8.1 update hit my laptop.  Later in the day, though taking much longer, it seemed to go far more smoothly on a Vista machine.  But then in the second case I didn’t choose “Update and restart” – I reverted to what anecdotally always seems to be the far more robust “Update and shutdown”, plus manual restart.

The strange thing about this update – on my Windows 8.1 machine, I mean – was that all of a sudden of the habitually 30-odd Skype contacts of mine who normally show as online the whole 24 hours a day, only three to five were showing the aforementioned status.  Meanwhile, loading up the same Skype account on my Vista machine showed everything as normal.

A second curiosity: since Skype put chat in the cloud, when you send a chat message to someone offline, instead of the irritating “wait circle” you simply get the message delivered, and it’s waiting there for when its recipient goes back online – whether you yourself are online at the time or not.  Well, wouldn’t you know it?  Whilst the functionality remained as of late, and as expected under my Vista machine, and I was able to see messages delivered to people showing as offline, the irritating “wait circle” had returned to my 8.1, so much so that the messages didn’t get delivered at all.  Except to two members of my family.  Yes.  Under 8.1, I was still able to communicate with them.

In fact that “wait circle” reminded me of more private and secure Skype times, when chats weren’t held in distant servers but were either delivered or not from computer to computer.

Except this way of doing things, if I’ve understood correctly, has no longer been the case since the beginning of 2014.

Where am I going with this then?

If the problem was my Skype install (I did two clean reinstalls – one, myself, following online instructions; the other, under the guidance of the excellent support staff I was eventually grateful to stumble across), then why did four people continue to show up as online – even under 8.1?  And if the problem was my anti-virus (we’ll get to that later), the same argument surely would apply.

In truth, I was mighty puzzled by it all.  It was almost as if something was stopping the program from properly accessing the whole database of contacts – for some (for me) unfathomable reason.

Anyhow.  Finally the issue was resolved in the following way: after the aforementioned support staff suggested it could be my security software, I made Skype an excepted application for my anti-virus’ protocol filtering.  It was only then when – under 8.1 – all my contacts returned back to the online status, and the “wait circle” stopped appearing on my attempts to send messages to online and offline contacts.

In a minute you’ll be able to read the chat history of this excellent support individual, anonymised as it should be of course.  But before you do (and only if that is what you wish, of course), I’d also like to add to the mix the following additional information in relation to my recent experiences:

  • In order that the email client Thunderbird and the browser SeaMonkey don’t become incapacitated with security messages from within themselves, and after a previous suggestion of the anti-virus people themselves in relation to the same thing happening when I tried to access Gmail about two years ago, I’ve also found myself obliged to except both from the software’s web and email protocol filtering, in much the same way as with Skype this evening
  • Though I know very little about this subject, the fact that icky Gmail certificates were generating warning messages when my anti-virus was full-on didn’t impress me very much – and this was way before Snowden and stuff.
  • The fact that the pattern then repeated with two open-source programs like Thunderbird and SeaMonkey impressed me even less.
  • And the fact that the only way Skype is now usable for me under Windows 8.1 involves me engaging with the same rather strange, rather daft procedure makes me wonder if something else isn’t happening more generally here; even, if it mightn’t be symptomatic of silly shenanigans.*


To finish.

The raw data.  Attached below.



* Mind you, I’ve just been reliably informed (very reliably informed) that more than shenanigans of a sort we should tend to distrust, this is likely to be the consequence, once again, of rubbishly complicated software systems.

General Info
Chat start time  Nov 12, 2014 3:45:52 PM EST
Chat end time  Nov 12, 2014 5:00:26 PM EST
Duration (actual chatting time)  01:14:34
Operator  C
Chat Transcript
info: Please wait for an agent to respond.  You are currently ‘1’ in the queue.
info: Privacy Statement
You are now chatting with ‘C’.

Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Hi
C: Welcome to Skype Live Support, My name is C
C: If incase we get disconnected, simply click on the Chat Support Link and you will be reconnected to us in no time.
C: With that being said, how can I help you today?
C: Hello
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I updated Windows 8.1 this morning, Vista later in the day on a separate PC.
C: Alright
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Although on the Vista laptop everything has remained the same with Skype, on the 8.1 three-quarters of my contacts show as offline.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: When on Vista they all show as online.
C: I see
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I’ve uninstalled Skype; downloaded the new UI Skype for Desktops from your download page, installed that instead; the issue remains the same.
C: If I may ask where you able to have a chat conversation with this offline contacts?
C: Don’t worry, I have an idea of what the issue could be. Let me just ask you a few questions to narrow down the possibilities. Alright?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I sent a chat to someone who was intermittently online and offline; all I got was the wait circle (like you used to get before cloud chat).
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Thank you
C: May I have your name and your Skype name.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Miljenko Williams
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: oleokcom
C: Nice to meet you Miljenko
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Nice to meet you, too. :-)
C: Since you already did some basic trouble shooting.
C: Let me inform you that we are having an issue regarding the update of our online storage.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Skype is currently updating it’s online storage which we normally call as the ‘CLOUD”.As for effect some customers experience issues regarding seeing their contacts online but in reality they are offline or signed out.
C: I believe this is what happening on your part. If you are both online to your Vista an 8.1. If you see the contact online on Vista message the contact if he/she replies then that person is really online but appearing offline in windows 8.1.
C: But if the person appears online in Vista then no reply after your chat message then his status in the windows 8.1 which is offline is the real one.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK. However, the online status for practically everyone works under Vista and 8.1 for my other account miljenko.williams – no difference between the two. The difference only seems to be with 8.1 immediately after the 8.1 update this morning.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: And on the oleokcom account.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Different contacts in some cases, of course.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But it still seems a bit of a coincidence.
C: Can you confirm different account same contacts?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Someone messaged me under Vista, and was showing online – and yet was showing offline and unreachable to reply via 8.1.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Some same contacts, others different.
C: But can you reach the person via Vista?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: The message didn’t have the wait circle; I sent it a minute or two after trying under 8.1, when it wouldn’t send at all (got the wait circle).
C: Were you able send message or call the person using your Vista?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: So it looks like the message was delivered as per cloud features; whether this means the other person received it, I don’t know. They didn’t reply.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I can try to do it now if you are prepared to wait.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I can try with 8.1.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: to someone who is normally online.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: And I expect to be.
C: Since you mentioned that it is not workign properly on windows 8.1
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But currently shows offline.
C: I need to confirm if same goes with your Vista
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I’ll try on the Vista PC if you can wait.
C: Alright please take your time.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Have just sent a message to an “offline” person via 8.1; shows the wait circle just waiting to deliver (as happened with Skype in the past before cloud storage of chat).
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Will now try via Vista.
C: alright
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK. A contact shows online under Vista and the oleokcom account. I’ve sent a message and it’s been delivered (tho’ I don’t yet know if read).
C: I have two options for you here. 1. I can guide you on how to do basic trouble shooting to fix your issue or 2.If it’s okay with you , I can do basic troubleshooting on my end if you will allow me to share access to your device.Which one would you prefer?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I’ve now sent a message under 8.1 and the oleokcom account, and it refuses to deliver.
C: I see
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Can we try 1 and then if it doesn’t produce the result, can we try 2?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: If you don’t mind.
C: Alright
C: Let us make a clean uninstall to your skype for desktop.
C: THis are some basic trouble shooting.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Okey dokey.
C: 1. Delete skype folder in %appda%
C: 2.Delete skype folder in %Temp%
C: 3.Delete skype folder in Program Data
C: Make sure to quit skype before deleting them.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I think I did that this morning, as per online support at the Skype forum. But I’ll do it again.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I renamed it Skype_old
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: (Step 1)
C: Yes
C: But how about the Temp folder
C: The Program Data ?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: The temp folder too. But I’m happy to do again.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Shall I close Skype down before doing so?
C: Alriht and please make sure to delete the Program Data
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Thank you
C: Still there?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Yes. Just doing.
C: Alright
C: After deleting all folders uninstall your skype
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Done.
C: Alright
C: Already uninstalled and installed skype 6.22 version?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Will do now.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I can do it from the download from this mroning, right?
C: Yes
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK. Installed.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Shall I sign-on?
C: Please
C: Alright what seems to be the update?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Well.
C: Well?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: The account shows 28 users online under Vista; only four or five under 8.1.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Also; this morning, some of the users lost their real names.
C: 5 online and the rest are offline?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: First under 8.1, presumably when I did a clean install.
C: yes
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Yes.
C: 5 online on windows 8.1 and the rest offline?
C: Okay now can you try calling the online on your vista if it rings or the call fails
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But this also affected the Vista install, so the real names dropped off too, although I have changed nothing with Vista, and I did do the MS update on Windows this afternoon.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Okay?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: The person didn’t answer on the Vista machine. And is offline on 8.1. Shall I try via 8.1?
C: It;s okay
C: if it’s offline it will not answer
C: Is there no contacts that are online on you Vista that is offline on your 8.1 that answers the message or call?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: What’s curious is that in the drop down to block people on Tools under Vista,
C: Why what seems to be the problem from there?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: only 4 possible names appear; and under 8.1 no names are possible. It doesn’t give the option, almost as if part of skype isn’t accessing the database of contacts.
C: But were you able to send chat message to your 8.1 skype contacts now/
C: ?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Nope.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: It does that wait circle.
C: can you try to turn of your fire wall and antivirus and try to send message.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Thank you
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I’ve just sent a chat to someone else who is online, via 8.1, and no wait circle.
C: No wai circle but it was sent?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Yes.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Under 8.1.
C: no it’s good?
C: The sendign message?
C: sending**
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Messaging seems to work with at least one contact, but not all.
C: If the problem was your skype then it must be all.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Don’t think it’s an antivirus issue, but I can uncheck Skype from protocol checking if you want.
C: Yes please
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Unless it’s the database behind.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: If it were the antivirus, it would stop all messages, not allow one.
C: Just to check
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Okey dokey.
C: What it was thinkin is that if the issue was on your skype then it should not have allowed 1 message
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But by the same argument, if it was the antivirus checking protocols, then it wouldn’t allow 1 message either.
C: Just to confirm
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Shall I log in to Skype and log off?
C: That is why I am asking you to try
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I’ve removed protocol filtering from the antivirus for Skype.
C: Alright please do.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Log off and log on, I meant.
C: Please go and try to use skype message
C: okay
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK. If I don’t use protocol filtering (which isn’t *terribly* safe) then all the contacts under 8.1 appear exactly as under Vista. The problem is the anti-virus, or how it interacts with an 8.1 update which maybe has affected how Skype interacts.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: The antir-virus product version hasn’t changed today; the anti-virus updates have continued throughout the day.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I use the same anti-virus on Vista and 8.1.
C: Alright so after doing everything are there any improvement in sending chat mesage?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: With the same settings.
C: I understand. And now what we are trying is to confirm since this is part of basic trouble shooting.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: That’s fine.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I understand.
C: And I want to know if there are some changes after the said action.
C: Now what i am waiting if after doing what i ahev asked is there any changes?
C: If not then fell free to change back the settings of your firewall or anti virus
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I’ve messaged someone else,
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: who messaging before produced the wait circle.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: This time no wait circle.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: What puzzles me is why one message did get through, even with protocol filtering, when the rest didn’t.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: In fact, I messaged quite happily with a family member about an hour ago, from 8.1.
C: Since you mentioned this was an update made to th system of your device.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But a number of Vista (and now 8.1) online contacts produced the wait circle.
C: Im afraid only microsfot can answer that what I am trying to do now is do basic trouble shooting until it worked.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Well.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But Skype *is* Microsoft!!!!!
C: Since everything happen after the update of your operating system.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But I understand.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Yes.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: The anti-virus engine hasn’t been updated.
C: Yes it is but for microsoft we have a different specialized team for Micrososft Operating system itself.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I understand that too.
C: We are only being trained on how to work on skype.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: And appreciate it.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Now what I am doing now is working on your device based on what I have learned.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Thank you
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Do you need to know the anti-virus product? I don’t usually say, but it might be useful to track issues.
C: For anti virus do you have the option to allow skype as priority?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Not sure about that. What I’ve done is make Skype an exception for protocol filtering under advanced settings for web and email. That has brought back all the contacts as online.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: And allowed me to deliver messages without the wait circle.
C: Alright
C: good
C: Good that you have set it as exemption then that means your antivirus is running till?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: What I don’t understand is why some contacts were reachable (two, max three) and the vast majority were not.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Yes.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: And the firewall.
C: Good
C: that is the 2nd thing I want to confirm
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Even with protocol filtering on, those two or three were chattable.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK:
C: Hold on
C: Please listen
C: Please read this carefully
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: I want to confirm if those contacts that are offline on windows 8.1 are reachable on Vista now that they are online in Vista and offline in 8.1?
C: Now please confirm it.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: There are 27 online under 8.1, 27 online under Vista.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: I don’t know if they’re really online.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: But they now sync the same information in the same way.
C: Exactly
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Unfortunately it’s a bit late here,
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: so I can’t be calling people at this time.
C: Hold on
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: can we try to do this?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
C: Just let your skype be online for 12 hours or 24 hours
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Yep.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: On both machines or just one?
C: Since you mentioned taht is updating late on your 8.1.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: 8.1 was updated this morning.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: It took about 45 minutes to complete.
C: But wich one is havin issue isn’t it the 8.1?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: With the MS update.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Not any more. Not since I removed protocol filtering from Skype.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Just now.
C: Alright then no issues already/
C: ?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Well.
C: Well?
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: If Vista is correct and OK, and 8.1 is reading the same, they’re either both right or both wrong. But similarly so in each case.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: That’s all I can say for the moment.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Shall we see if it works tomorrow, when I can call people,
C: Alright so is there any more concern I can help you with?
C: Sure please do.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: and if there is still an issue, I’ll get in touch with you again?
C: Anyways we are open 24 hours 7 days a week
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: OK.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Many thanks for the support you’ve provided.
C: Youa re welcome anytime.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Have a lovely morning/evening/night!!! :-)
C: Thank you aswell
info: Your chat transcript will be sent to at the end of your chat.
C: I’m so happy that I was able to help. In case you have more concerns or issues please don’t hesitate to contact us again or you can visit for more information.
C: Once again, I am C. Thank you for contacting Skype Live Support and giving me the opportunity to assist you. Have a great day .
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: Okey dokey.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: And apologies it took so long.
Mil @ OLE-OK Communications: You too!

Mar 022013

This, from Iceland, on their campaign against online porn, is absolutely spot-on (the bold is mine):

Jónasson’s adviser Halla Gunnarsdóttir told the Guardian this week that the country is “not anti-sex, but anti-violence”, and that “what is under discussion is the welfare of our children and their rights to grow and develop in a non-violent environment”.

As I pointed out recently, sexual abuse is primarily the abuse of power – and any society which criminalises the former should also be prepared to criminalise the latter.  Similarly, the generation of pornography – indeed, the generation of any content which involves the exploitation of people who would not otherwise participate, were their financial, or other, circumstances different – is, above all, an analogous abuse of power.

Iceland’s current move to remove such violence from its children is entirely coherent with earlier reported moves:

The draft legislation follows laws passed in 2009 and 2010 that criminalised customers rather than sex workers and closed strip clubs.

The problem of course, in this particular case, is that the tools which they wish to use involve filtering an open Internet.  Tools which replicate the interventions in human rights that less salubrious regimes across the world are currently using.  Tools which would give these regimes the kind of democratically-stamped approval to continue in their oppressive ways.

A difficult call for everyone who believes in freedom of information.


There’s another matter, however, which I’d like to raise in this post: we must accept we live vicarious lives.  From latterday social media to traditional Hollywood films, this commonplace existing through the actions and creations of others is more or less generally accepted.  No one really questions, for example, the right Daniel Craig has to earn a living from the explicit violence of putting imaginary bullets through anonymous bit-parted actors – nor even the creeping-up-behind naked actresses in movie-lit showers of sexual abandon.

Is it fair, then, to say that Daniel Craig and his cohort of stars are being exploited in order to put violence of one kind or another on silver-plattered screens for our repeated delectation and delight?  And if it is fair to say so, should we strive to prevent such processes too?

I’m not really sure we shouldn’t, to be honest – if, that is, we’re really going to get serious about the abuse of power more generally.  Interfering with the freedom of information flow is, undoubtedly, a very big issue.  But so is what I assume to be the increasing exploitation of sex workers as a result of that insatiable content-black-hole that is the worldwide web.

A suggestion then.  Not just a rant.  Maybe it’s time for a new kind of content.  Given that the instinct for sex is about as old as Adam and Eve’s adult teeth, has anyone considered CGI porn as a wider solution to sexual exploitation – and its corresponding abuse of power – which so many people currently find themselves affected by?

How would this work?  Groups of existing sex workers could form officially-sanctioned cooperatives with the right to apply for government-funded training courses.  These courses would serve to train them up in computer-generated film-making.  There would, of course, be strict control over the content – a kind of Hays Code for our time.  Just because the content was computer-generated wouldn’t give the creators the right to reproduce and duplicate in the virtual world the kind of abusive relationships we were aiming to eliminate in real life.

In such a way, the whole balance of power would be altered.  Sex workers could find a gainful living as unexploited, and unexploiting, generators of porn; porn users would be safely educated away from the violent stuff through a plentiful, cheap and consistently benign exposure to non-violent (perhaps even government-subsidised) narrative; and, most importantly, the Internet could then be properly policed as per the canons of the code in question.

Obviously, there would still be significant and unresolved issues: people would almost certainly, for example, not find it easy to agree even on a definition of non-violent porn.  But nothing was ever solved by an overbearing awareness of the challenges.

Technology, in part, got us to the bind we now find ourselves in.  Technology, properly shared out and distributed, and through a generous and intelligence analysis of the whole process involved, could serve to get us out of it.

If only we were prepared to be coherent.

Mar 062010

The following video, via Tim O’Reilly’s Twitter feed, explains why computers are bad for the relationship between doctors and patients.

More here.

I don’t know enough about the subject to be sure that the thesis is true.

I do have uncomfortable prejudices, however, which lead me to believe that – in some ways – it may be.

I wonder if it is right that in the same way as presentations all become squeezed into the itsy-bitsy bottle that is PowerPoint, so medical records should find a rigid common software format.  As we medicalise society’s ills to a level unheard of a generation ago, at the same time – most curiously – we find ourselves taking doctors’ precious time up with more and more IT-related tasks.

Of course, there are clear drivers.  Paper was copyright-free.  There’s a whole business and industry to be built on the backs of bespoke software for medical purposes.  More importantly, most people who communicate in a medical context are specialists who have spent years learning how to do what they do – precious years they have been unable to dedicate to the task of knowing when and why software is good or bad.  Plenty of room for pushy salespeople to encourage those who really don’t know to buy what they really will never understand.

Yes.  I’m reverting to a bygone age.  Never did think it could happen.