Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The day my love of being a Windows Insider died

The 27th of January 2017 was a significant day in my lifetime of being an Windows Insider. It was the day that my love of being an Insider died. The mojo has gone. When a new build comes out with new features and I cannot be asked to download it and check it out, you know something is seriously wrong. Much like the break up of any relationship, things start going wrong gradually but this isn’t no “It’s me, not you” excuse but a firm “It’s definitely you, and maybe a little of me”. As I drift apart from the insider programme, I expect that soon I’ll probably not even look out for new builds or bother reading what's in them. That still seems hard to believe but the last few builds I’ve resorted to watching videos of the new features rather than spending my own time exploring.

So, what’s gone wrong?

Well, I always knew that the primary perk of being an insider was getting to test out new Windows 10 features. However, there was secondary reason for me signing up to be an insider and one that quickly became an equal to getting new builds: feedback. Essentially us Insiders are glorified testers for Microsoft. We all know that. We’re Windows Fans who love the OS so much we’d happily get our hands on anything new and play with it. I too was very much blinded by the love of trying new builds for a long time, until the recent v1607 build. It was at this point in time that my eyes were opened wide on the lack of development in the feedback area by Microsoft. I wrote this post all about my issues with the feedback hub app http://reviewsofblah.blogspot.com/2016/07/windows-10-insider-hub-app-two-years-on.html at that time. After lapping up receiving builds and feeding back issues or suggestions for a long time, I lived in the belief that the insider programme would develop and the feedback hub would be improved. The insider programme was in it’s infancy early on, so things could only get better, right? Even when things dragged on and the one-way feedback via the app continued for ages, I was briefly renewed in my faith when the new feedback hub was born (combining insider hub with feedback hub) and I believed that Microsoft were really taking responding to feedback seriously.

Well, that last change to the hub app was a year ago now (yes, there have been minor revisions since) and the feedback is still very much one-way. Results of surveys and quests are never forthcoming. The VAST majority of feedback items are not responded to. The hub is like a brick wall where people insert their thoughts into slots in between the cracks and hear nothing back. Then those items are left there for years to come like some sort of landfill site. A hub is supposed to be a hive of social interaction, but the main insider interaction is on twitter, and not everyone wants to be there. So, alas, the hub is a dead-end of feedback, STILL, and unless you actually badger a Microsoft employee on twitter and get lucky, you might get actual help and feedback. That’s not how feedback or the hub should work in the insider programme.

I've had enough. It's not enough for me anymore to play with new toys, give my thoughts and hear absolutely nothing back in response. I'm wasting my time doing so. If I feedback, I hear nothing back. If I don't feedback, I'm also wasting my time. So, either way, I'm wasting my time, right?

I've never asked for much in terms of feedback. Just a simple pie chart of what responses people give to quests or those hub pop-up prompts would be something I could cling to as a reward to gauge how everyone else is thinking about features in Windows 10. But, we don't even get that. We get stupid achievement badges in the hub but even those have almost stopped recently. The closest we get to feedback at all from Microsoft is via odd mentions in the "What's new in this build" when apparently it's because of us that things like night light got created or something like that.

I've become far too cynical now about this insider experience. Whilst they are turning out builds, and lauding up the community atmosphere of throwing parties and conferences for insiders all over the world, the actual development of feedback for a Windows Insider has gone nowhere but backwards.

I'm fed up and I've had enough. No more feedback from me about new builds or my suggestions for changes. The hub is a disaster and there’s no sign of any time soon that it’s development will increase and give me something to look forward to and believe in.

I’ve been dismayed by the feedback system for too long and my tether has well and truly worn out. I can’t provide feedback anymore without feeling emotional and almost crying that I’m submitting it into the abyss. I want to feel valued but I’m just a number in a Insider machine where feedback means less to Microsoft than throwing glamorous conferences and parties for Insiders.

Surely things will change in the future? I’m not convinced anymore. The ironic thing is that the feedback system Microsoft used to use, UserVoice, was more responsive and two-directional than the hub system. It didn’t seem like it back then, but when you look at the hub, you see a system that’s no better than uservoice in terms of the user experience of feedback interaction. Microsoft have their telemetry being drained from our Insider devices and diagnostics via the Hub, so the desire for them to improve an aspect of the Insider Programme that provides little value to them and extra work (I.e. feedback to insiders) seems to be ultra low.

Well, it’s important to insiders and those who value the time they give to test new things and provide both suggestions and report problems. Who wants to talk to a brick wall? How would Microsoft feel if they released a new build and no one bothered to install it? Turn the table around and that’s the treatment us Insiders get in terms of any feedback to justify our hard work checking out Microsoft’s own hardwork.

I don’t feel valued anymore. The love of being an Insider has gone. At this moment in time I’m not sure there’s any hope I’ll get that love back. That saddens me. Does it sadden Microsoft?

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Curse of Oak Island S04E10


The Oak Island team returns to borehole 10-X in search of new clues.

What I thought

This week we start off where we annoyingly finished the last episode, which is deep down C1 in the Money Pit and the “revelation” of “hits” with the metal detector by current diver Mike Huntley. He was super confident that there were at least three hits, and that it wasn’t his watch or instrumentation, which you’d think they’d long been experienced enough to know the difference between. With his allotted time up for his dive (which I think is only 30 minutes) he begins the return to the surface. Thankfully, and unusually for this show, we are spared them dramatizing the unremarkable as we see Mike now out of the long tube and raving about his hits. I could have slapped him three times and got a little satisfaction because when chief diver John Chatterton then goes down C1 he finds diddly-squat. Worse than that, he could hardly see anything, and neither could we. But the news was to get even worse. Oh yeah. Because after numerous dives and huge money spent on these two large excavation shafts in the Money Pit, the debriefing by the diving crew led to the revelation that they don’t believe the cavity is man-made. After all that? Naturally the build up by the production team had really capitalised on everything leading up to the dives, even that they might discover world peace down the bottom of the Money Pit (ok, I lied on that one) but alas the Lagina brothers turn up absolutely nothing. Although, there’s still the question of the shinny objects they saw previously and which they seem to suggest are embedded in the bedrock. Why would they be in the rock? They would be man made in a natural cavity? Oh I dunno sometimes what to think.

After the debrief, there’s a “Knights of Oak Island” meeting as the stakeholders in the island all gather for a chat; the Lagina brothers, the Blankenships, and the other guy whose name escapes me right now. The toss up is on what to do next. Apparently there are financial constraints now, which is no surprise after you spend millions digging up random holes in the Money Pit, right?? Jeez. Anyhow, will they dig another hole in the Money Pit or revisit 10X? Without any clear indication of where to dig in the pit, I don’t know why they invested so much, but alas everyone finally agrees to do both. Yup, to hell with money. It’s only, ummm, money. We end the episode with an extraction of 10X with water being pumped down and up the hole to pull any “spoils” into a large skip. Sure enough, we’re left to sigh as the credits roll up and we’re as empty handed as the Lagina brothers.

However, between the uneventful tales of C1 and 10X, we had Rick and Charles Barkhouse go on a jolly trip many miles away to meet up with everyone’s favourite Oak Island historian, Terry Deveau, who has been wondering about Canada looking like a scary chap and found a large stone. Nothing remarkable there you say, but this one has been shaped by man (allegedly) to look like a human face. If not for the overlay graphics and pointers I’d have not noticed it for ages. I see what he is saying and he may be right, but due to my lack of geology knowledge, I’m unsure if I’m that willing to totally accept what he says as definitive just yet. He believes the carving was done an Indian tribe, who were resident in Canada before the whole of Europe invaded (sort of, kind of). Apparently this tribe worshipped a god whom many believe was a Knight of the Templar and thus we have another link to Oak Island because not only is this stone face pointing at Oak Island but a similar stone was found back on the island in the middle of “Nolan’s Cross”. I dunno how frequent these stones are in Canada to really grasp the significance of this, or if it’s nothing more than just something the tribe liked to do in numerous locations. It is, unlike C1, something more tangible that we can visualise and draw conclusions from thankfully.

So, overall, more mystery added to the endless supply that there is on Oak Island, but yet more grasping at straws and money being thrown about without any results, although at least 10X has actually produced evidence in the past. Here's hoping ...

Rating 5/10 (OK)

Mike is up from the shaft and glowing like he's seen gold.

Down goes John to check out what Mike saw ...

Much like the view on John's headcam, he draws a blank down C1.

A keen artist, John plays pictionary with the team.

Actually, he's drawing the layout of the C1 cavity.

Terry is back and he's got something significant to show Rick and Charles.

Yes, it's a stone. A big one.

Not just that, it's a stone with a carved face on it.

In the War Room, the gang discuss how to spend more incredible amounts of money.

Things are happening at 10X again. But what will they find?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Star Wars Rebels S03E15 "Trials of the Darksaber"

What I thought

Well, I wasn’t looking forward to this episode, or the next one, which is basically a part two to this one. I’m not excited about Mandalorian culture or history, aside from that they look cool and have fantastic gadgets. Sabine for me has been the weakest character in the show in terms of personality and development. She seems to be there to make up the numbers most of the time, or to occasionally kick-ass and be a chum for Ezra. Perhaps that’s all about the change now, as we have her reluctantly take up the mantle to train to use the darksabre and liberate her people.

This whole episode is about that training. Sure, she’s initially convinced to do it rather too easily for me, but a show trying to convince someone to do something wouldn’t have been very interesting, so perhaps it’s good they skipped that one on quickly. Kanan and Ezra take Sabine out into the middle of nowhere, or to us who have seen this area before, somewhere very close to where Bendu hides out. In fact, he shows himself in this episode briefly after Sabine was hanging around nearby talking to Ezra. Well, he shows himself to us, but not to them. What’s up with Bendu then? I’ve never trusted him myself. We’ll see how much of an ally he is going forward. Anyhow, a lot of training has Sabine using training sticks, much like those I’ve seen in gladiator training camps in TV Shows. Sabine really isn’t learning all that quickly. Her heart isn’t in it. Even when Fenn Rau brings her some arm gadgets (lasso and force blast propeller sort of thing) she’s more into using them as tricks than taking things seriously. A few heart to hearts later and Kanan introduces her to the darksaber, revealing how it actually bonds with the holder, which is interesting to know. He then leads her on a mental assault which brings out the past in her, leading her to get increasingly angry, but also revealing that she feels guilty for helping enslave her people, which is the main reason she doesn’t want to lead her people or go back there. Naturally this unleash of emotion empowers her. If she decides to lead, Kanan and the gang fully support her.

For a change, this was a totally character driven episode and considerably better than I thought. I even warmed to the Mandalorian cause a little more than ever before. Admittedly, I’m still far from won over about them or Sabine but I did at least start to feel more emotionally attached to them both than ever before thanks to this episode.

Rating 6/10 (Good)

What I liked: Character driven, atmospheric music throughout, development of Sabine, more history about Mandalorian that was actually interesting. Potentially something further interesting about Bendu.

What I didn’t like: Chopper was unusually very caring and non-funny this week towards Sabine. Don’t see that very often. Didn’t mind it, but prefer funny Chopper. Sabine was also rather too quickly convinced to train but alas I understand that was probably for sake of plot. Don’t also understand why Fenn Rau didn’t feel like stealing the darksabre for himself?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Curse of Oak Island S04E09


We get more sonar treatment down 10X and return to C1 in the money pit for multiple dives.

What I thought

The majority of the episode is dedicated to the one thing that’s defined the whole season; the money pit. Before we get to that ,we get a trip down memory lane, as the chap who did a sonar of the bottom of 10X back in 2014 returns to do another follow-up. When John Chatterton dived down there he found nothing. Zilch. Zero. Absolutely diddly squat, which is surprising considering this same guy gave a 90% degree of certainty that there was a wooden box. John Chatterton did find an object but said it was a rock. Today’s follow-up sonar is to see if the box has moved since the dive. Lo and behold, it is gone on the recent sonar, suggesting it is either covered in silt or, well, there weren’t any real conclusions. Marty and Rick are at odds over 10X with Rick still believing that there is something there, based on gut feeling (which is never a good thing to go on) and past evidence. I feel that might be it for 10X this season anyways.

Back to 1C in the Money pit and John Chatterton and co are back for more diving. First up they send down a new sonar piece of equipment which is using the colour of the moment; blue. Everyone is talking about blue light, although I expect that’s not the same thing here but it does give a lovely 360 degree sweep of the cavity at the bottom of 1C. I have to say, I couldn’t make head of tail out of the result, which looks more like a rainbow that’s been blown up and scattered all over the screen to me, rather than anything like the inside of a cavity. Anyhow, they all like it, reckon it’s at least 7ft high, and good enough for a dive. Down goes 'John Chatterton the brave', and he concludes that aside from being really silty at the bottom, that there’s little water flow and that the rocks look rough and cut. There’s also further suggestion of a tunnel extending off in one direction. This all seems very familiar right? We had this a few years back and it turned out to be nothing! Anyhow, John comes up, and another guy goes down. This chap has a metal detector and makes multiple hits. What has he found? Is it buried treasure? His helmet? Or the lost city of gold? There’s lots of questions thrown up by the narrator, but like in every good episode of Oak Island, the credits start rolling and we’re left to wonder for another week if this is just another Oak Island red herring or something that’s finally a tangible a substantive find.

Rating 6/10

Fire torpedos! The sonar is back down 10X.

Spot the difference? Yes, the year has change, but also the black "box". 

Down 1C we send the BlueView Radar which looks like an impressive piece of kit, and expensive right?
I'd expect a better graphic from such new technology. I've little clue what I'm looking at.

They've brought in their own decompression chamber! Blimey. $$$$$$$s

Down go the divers into 1C; this one is John Chatterton himself.

Yup, once again silt is everywhere and we see very little except the credits roll.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Star Wars Rebels S03E14 "Warhead"


Zen & Chopper discover a discarded robot outside of Chopper base, which they don't realise was sent by the Empire across the galaxy to track down the Rebel's base of operations.

What I thought

After last week’s double header of nostalgic tie-in to Rogue One and the mystery of Geonosis, we’re back into pure Rebels storytelling, as the majority of the gang go off on a mission and leave Zeb, AP-5 and Chopper to look after the Rebel Base. It seems to be completely forgotten that there are other rebels about the base. Most of the time it looks abandoned, but during scenes in the control room there are a few personnel about. This makes me totally unsure on numbers in the base. Surely it’s not just the gang and a few others here? I’m left wondering if it’s down to budgetary requirements that we hardly see anyone else, although generic rebels tend to all look the same anyway. They may as well all wear Star Trek red shirts for all the likelihood they have of saying little and getting shot.

Anyhow, Zeb and Chopper discover a robot (one of many sent by an Imperial cruiser to many star systems) that’s been deactivated after being attacked by those pesky spider-like creatures outside the base. Defying logic, Zeb treats the robot like it’s a piece of litter they’ve found or a misaddressed parcel, because he seems to think nothing much about random discarded robots and takes it back to base. Chopper voiced his disapproval; a fact he gets to remind Zeb of later. At the base, AP-5 is boring everyone regarding his need to inventory everything, but helps restore power to the discovered droid. Less than a minute later and the imperial droid works out he’s at a Rebel Base and starts going ape like after whispering his secret word like SuperTed does, and becoming ultra-big and strong. As AP-5 points out later, it’s amazing that none of the blasting that Zeb or the droid does doesn’t blow up the whole place. They eventually do restrain the robot, reprogram it somewhat, and help it head back to the Empire, where it spectacularly detonates, blowing up one of their cruisers. Very impressive!

There’s a whole head of award-winning sarcasm from AP-5 this episode, largely directed at Zeb. It’s absolutely LOL a minute at times, especially the occasion when AP-5 pauses for a second and then explains he was too startled by Zeb having a good plan to say anything. LOL. As much as I love Chopper’s humour, he’s merely a sidekick when AP-5 is about. Sure, it’s a little ridiculous how people can be so amusing in a tense situation but this is a cartoon, and its Star Wars, so this is the kind of stuff we know and love. It’s great also to see Fulcrum/Kallus again, as he risks detection twice to warn the Rebels and then follows up with a “Glad you’re ok” message, which seems totally unnecessary when the robot didn’t get to report anything. Thrawn though is very happy (in his straight faced happy way) as he knows he’s now narrowed down the search for the Rebel Base.

Overall, a very entertaining episode that isn’t pure filler as it fits into Thrawn’s great plan and helps build towards what we expect to be a massive battle at Chopper Base in the Finale.

What I liked

Zeb, Chopper and AP-5 played off each other perfectly and were thoroughly entertaining. AP-5 was at his most sarcastic and pun laden best. We got to see Kallus/Fulcrum and more calculating tactics by Thrawn. That massive explosion on the Imperial Cruiser was spectacular.

What I didn’t like

Who finds a robot in the middle of nowhere and thinks little of taking it back to base? Zeb should never be left in charge again. As entertaining as it was, perhaps the seriousness of the situation was a little too washed away at times because of the puns. Lastly, how many people are there at the rebel base as I couldn’t tell if Zeb was left there to look after inanimate objects or not.

Rating 7/10 Very Good

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Curse of Oak Island S04E08


The Lagina brothers find important evidence linking an 18th century American slave to the Oak Island mystery.

What I thought

When we left last week the hammer grabber was about to scoop up what’s at the bottom of the second hole they’ve drilled in the pit but this week we start up with sending a camera down the hole - nice continuity. The water is reasonably clear but there’s little exciting to be seen, unless bland stones and a very dark lower section are your thing. There’s some suggestion that some of the rocks look like they were hand carved but really, they are grasping at straws if you ask me. Sure, there was wood down there but was it from below the bedrock they drilled through into this cavity or did it come down from above? No one seems to mention that possibility. The hammer grabber brings up plenty of sludge in the form of clay in which the gang find bits of wood and marvel at a piece of the cavity. Sadly, there’s diddly squat discovered. What’s next? Well, it’s time to call on the crazy duo of divers, led by John Chatterton. We saw him last season do the craziest tight squeeze down another deep hole in 10X. It’s almost 5 minutes of TV to simply tell us that he’s agreed to dive in the Money Pit. Naturally that will be in next week’s episode.

Randall Sullivan is back in the War Room this week to spin yet another theory that someone has come up with for Oak Island. We must be up to 4,891 different speculative stories by now, right? This one centres on Sir Francis Fagan and that he brought the original works of Shakespeare to Oak Island, and possibly had links to the Oak Island myth favourites: the knights of the Templar. Everyone in the War Room loves a speculative theory, so naturally Randall gets the nod to go investigate.

If you watch this show hoping for tangible evidence, you’ll often be disappointed but the man with the golden touch of metal detectors, Gary Drayton, is back in Plot 24 with Jim Blankenship. Gary could get excited about a tin can ring you feel. Anyhow, they find a handful of genuinely interesting items this week in several coins of King George II (early 1700s), some lead that was use in musket guns and a tag from a gun with some writing etched into it. This all links to a military camp being on Oak Island way back, which would rewrite history if confirmed.

Overall, a very bland episode, much like watching paint dry down a cavity in the Money Pit but redeemed by the finds in Plot 24.

Rating: 6/10

The water down there is very clear. I suppose because it's freshly being pushed in via the cavity?

This is man made, they suggest. Maybe, but it could be natural.

Gary digs up coins for fun on Oak Island. Wonder if they'll work in slot machines?

When I see writing, I get super excited!

A very good lot of finds for super detector ninja, Gary.

You'd almost expect someone to try making pottery with all this clay.

Who'd be crazy enough to dive down the Money Pit? Oh ... these guys would.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Star Wars Rebels S03E12 & S03E13 "Ghosts of Geonosis"


The crew returns to Geonosis in search of a missing rebel team.

What I thought

Well, what did we learn from these episodes that we didn’t already know? Really, it was very little. We already knew the Geonosians were wiped out by the Empire through piecing together the pieces of the puzzle. There was, however, confirmation of that although none of that evidence made it back to the Alliance or Senate. Interesting that politics was brought into this. I guess it was somewhat typical that at least one native survived, and a queen egg. I’d assume it wouldn’t take too long for a decent number of Geonosians to get born, given their numbers previously suggest a very high birth-rate. The main thing I expected to happen this episode didn’t; I was convinced Saw would do something courageous to save everyone and end up getting infected by the gas that the Empire used on the planet. That would have gone on to explain his breathing apparatus in Rogue One, but alas that didn’t happen. So, in all, there was little new material learned here. Even though the surviving Geonosian drew out the Death Star twice for the Rebels in the sand, they didn’t pick up on the hint, and who can blame them? We know what he was on about but they would not be thinking about a massive planet sized weapon. I really aren’t sure exactly what Clink Clink's (Ezra's name for the Geonosian) motives were in this episode towards the Rebels. Sure, he was protecting the egg, hence the shield and battle droids, but why would he tell them anything? I guess the destruction of his race might be a motivation reason. I was surprised no one spoke Geonosian though, especially Rex. It never was much of a problem in the movies although I guess not everyone can speak other languages.

Thank goodness they showed the two episodes together on Disney XD, because it would have been soul destroying to have to wait a week between them. The ending of part 1 wasn’t really much of a set-up for anything anyway, what with them having just found the native and Saw mouthing off. So, it’s kudos for having them on the same day in order to maintain the flow and the little tension that the episode just about managed to build up.

This was an enjoyable return trip to Geonosis with the usual gang, plus Rex, in tow, which revisited numerous Clone War references, not least with the return of Saw Gerrera, battle droids (yes, they are still about), one remaining native and of course the actual planet of Geonosis itself. The visuals were stunning: the gloomy caves, sandstorms, and towering deep casam. After the first season of Rebels, I never thought I’d be praising it for it’s detailed scenery, but as said before, it’s really ramped that up in recent times. Geonosis looks beautiful, even though it’s just rocks and tunnels. We also got to see both sides of Saw Gerrera's nature and lots more of him than in Rogue One! He was brilliantly played this episode. His determination to get results no matter what was very convincing and that he still had a little part of humanely in him to not destroy the egg. I feel somewhat that it wasn’t quite fully explained why they couldn’t have taken Clink Clink with them and protected him and the egg, as they’d most likely have someone who speaks Geonosian who could talk to Clink Clink. With the Empire attacking them, how’d they think Clink Clink would be safer on the planet that the Empire eradicated?

Lots of rebels kicked some serious ass this week; Sabine taking out Rocket Troopers (wait? When did these become a thing) in a nanosecond, but why did the Imperial Commander send in troopers? Kanan showed advanced force abilities by holding up a massive rock ledge for Rex and Saw to cross a chasm. And Hera was really dynamic and performed dramatic piloting of the ship down the tunnel and then helping take out the Imperial freighter on exit. I had so many flashbacks to Empire Strikes Back during this section, as well as A New Hope when the gang had to cross the ledge.

So, overall, really enjoyable, but doesn’t get a higher rating as there was nothing really revolutionary discovered here, but then, there couldn’t be given we know how the story goes. I think we got almost everything we could have done out of this story arc but I would have loved for just a little more.

Rating 7/10

What I liked: Awesome Saw Gerrera, Kanan’s advanced force abilities, Rocket Troopers cool, Geonosian scenery, Hera’s captaincy action. Mention of the Senate.

What I didn’t like: Rocket Troopers? Why send them in? Bit easily taken out. There was very little actually learnt that we didn’t know already. No-one speaks Geonosian?

The gang enter a Geonosian Cave. I'm still amazed Kanan can avoid trip-hazards.

"Master. Destroyers!"
ok, no one said that today but it's what we all thought, right?

I'll have one shield generator to go please.

Ezra gets a force push by Kanan

I'm thinking Master Yoda when I see Kanan do this.

Very handy to have a shield generator at times like this.

Meet Clink Clink, the last of his kind*

*that we know of. Until that Queen gets busy.

It's the Death Star!!! Why can't the rebels see it :p

Another incompetent Imperial commander shows up.

Bombers go in and are quickly dispensed off by the Rebels.

Hera takes down the Ghost into a narrow squeeze.

Agree with me or the egg gets it! Saw threatens big style.

Rocket Troopers? Seriously?

Sabine gets rid of them in super quick fashion.

Clink Clink is released and left alone. I still expected him to be hiding much more than an egg.

Now that's how you exit a cave!

The Senate gets a mention this week!