Windows 10 Guest Account

Apparently, Windows 10 has removed the Guest account. There is some debate as to whether this is a bug or a feature, but either way it’s left a lot of people wondering what is going on.

Even though though the new interface makes no mention of the Guest account, it is still possible to enable it using the computer Management Console. However, the account still does not show up at the logon screen and there are reports that even after fiddling around with the user settings, the account doesn’t work correctly anyway, often refusing to allow people to sign in or behaving erratically once signed in.

The obvious workaround is to simply create a new local account with restricted privileges (called “Visitor” or something similar, since “Guest” still technically exists), but even then, there is no way in the new Windows interface to create a local account that isn’t tied to a Microsoft account.

It is possible to create such an account using the Management Console, but at this point it’s fairly obvious that Microsoft don’t want you signing in to your computer without a Microsoft account.

Windows Management ConsoleI’ll be keeping an eye out for an update on this from Microsoft. There is a substantial base of users out there that make use of the Guest account, and to remove it without notice is definitely interesting…

Ello, ello!

Some time back, I was invited to try out the new social network known as Ello. I signed up, poked around a bit and then promptly forgot all about it.


However, I have recently started to fire up my web presence again, and I’ve decided to use Ello to manage the professional side of my internet persona. Facebook is cool and all – annoying “features” aside – but it’s not really the sort of thing I want prospective clients or employers to read.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed of my opinions, or photos of my kid or the dog, but it’s all too easy to glance down someones Facebook profile and make snap value judgements without actually knowing anything about the person you’re stalking reading about. I recently built a website for a really nice guy, whose services I have been using for many years. But I gotta admit… If I didn’t already know him, I’d be put off by his personal Facebook page because the opinions expressed on it are the polar opposite to mine.

So… I’ve decided to forgo using Facebook as a contact mechanism on my website, and go with Twitter, Ello and Email instead.

Ello seems more geared towards artistic and creative topics and much less about controversial subjects. Maybe that will change in the future, who knows? It’s certainly a refreshing change from the endless parade of narcissistic selfies, political shenanigans and foodie pics that is Facebook. I’m certainly not naive enough to think that my Facebook profile will never be found, but I’m not going to deliberately advertise it either.

At the very least, Ello’s manifesto is intriguing and honest enough to make me want to stay and do my part to make it a success.

Facebook and the meaning of social media

Quite often now, I will read an interesting or provocative post on Facebook and when I scroll down to “like” it or add a comment of my own, I find that I cannot. The “like”, or more often the “comment” link, is simply not there.

I’m assuming this is due to some arcane user setting, where I am either not a friend of the person that made the original post, or they have set their privacy in such a way that non-friends cannot interact with them.

This is all fine and good, and I have no problem at all with people being able to adjust their privacy settings. After all, not everyone wants to hear my witty insights on the American political system for example…

The real issue here  is that Facebook keeps showing me things that I cannot interact with. For a “social media” app, it’s doing a pretty poor job at the “social” part. I really don’t care that I cannot interact with everyone on Facebook, but what really grinds my gears, is being deliberately shown things I cannot interact with!

gearsWhy bother showing it to me, if I can’t do anything with it? It makes no sense, and it’s just irritating. Perhaps Facebook should add a couple more checkboxes to its already overly-complicated user management tools that simply say:

[  ] Don’t show posts that I cannot “like”
[  ] Don’t show posts that I cannot comment on.

And then I would be happy. But as it is, I’m just waiting for the day when Facebook goes the way of myspace and something more useful takes its place.

Ello perhaps.

Six Years Later…

I honestly would have thought that WordPress would have deleted this blog by now, but apparently not!

Looking back through some of my older posts is quite entertaining, and I’m feeling this strange desire to start writing again…

First thing I’m going to do though, is change that banner. It’s not a picture of me and I just find it a little disconcerting to look at.

Watch this space – it just might get interesting again very soon!

Reply from AmieStreet

Yesterday, I sent AmieStreet a link to my blog post regarding their decision to disallow multiple downloads of your purchased songs. Here is their response (bold added by

Thanks for getting in touch with the post you made about Amie Street’s forthcoming change in download policy.  Although I know this isn’t necessarily an ideal change for you, I hope you might understand that as a digital music retailer we have to walk a fine line between keeping our customers satisfied and still respecting the wishes of the record labels that provide us with music.  With regard to this relationship we have with record labels, I was hoping to clarify some things with regard to ‘licensing’ and the cost of internet sales.

Although many users see a qualitative difference between the sale of a digital album and the sale of a physical CD, the legal framework surrounding royalties and payments is not different – a digital album is still considered a ‘product’ accompanied by license for personal use as opposed to a ‘license to a product’.  As you might not be aware, that means that every distributed download of a song (note: download, not purchase) is considered equivalent to the creation of a physical CD and so accompanied by a mandatory mechanical license fee of 9.1 cents per song, an amount set by the US Copyright Royalty Board.  (To be more specific, I believe the rate is technically 9.1 cents or 1.75 cents per minute of playing time, whichever is greater.)

Within this legal framework, your purchase is for one copy of the album in question and a situation such as a hard disk crash is seen by record labels and publishers as roughly equivalent to breaking a compact disc; just as you would have to repurchase the CD in such a situation, you would also have to repurchase the MP3 if you haven’t backed it up elsewhere.  We will continue to offer DRM-free MP3s to all of our users, however, and provide no hindrance to making backups of your content as you desire.

I understand that you might not see it this way but as a business we must respect the laws of the country in which we operate; although we would prefer to continue with our existing manner of handling downloads, this is a policy change about which we have absolutely no choice.

Once again, I appreciate your understanding with regards to this situation, and please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.

The luddites at the Copyright Royalty Board apparently fail to realize that there are millions of songs available for free on the internet with no limit on the number of downloads.

Sigh. I am just going to let the bold parts of the letter speak for themselves. I wish AmieStreet and all other digital media vendors the best of luck in this market. They are doing their best to provide an excellent service in the face of true adversity.

AmieStreet removes ability to re-download your music

I just recieved the email below from AmieStreet, an online music store that charges increasing amounts for songs as they become more popular. You can often pick up a great album for next to nothing, recommend it to others and actually make money back as the songs grow in popularity. It’s a great website and a very novel way of distributing DRM-free digital music.

In several weeks we’re going to be making a change to how Amie Street handles downloads, and we want to be certain you are fully informed in advance about this change. In brief, starting on August 5th we’ll only be able to offer a single download of your purchased music unless you’ve encountered a technical problem.

Although most people only download their music one time, we’ve noticed that you have done so more than once on occasion. We realize that the ability to re-download files has been important to you, so it’s understandable that you might be disappointed to see this no longer available. Unfortunately a number of factors beyond our control, including legal and royalty concerns, have made this impossible going forward.

We’re very happy to say, however, that you can continue to stream all of the music you’ve purchased on Amie Street. That means wherever you have access to the internet, you also have immediate and unrestricted access to stream the entirety of your Amie Street music collection from your library.

To make sure that downloading music continues to be as easy as possible, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the user experience and making updates to the site as needed. The primary voice that directs any such changes will be yours, so if you have suggestions based on your experiences using the site, we’d love to hear from you at Tell us exactly what you like and don’t like, and we can make Amie Street even better!

The truth is, that I have only re-downloaded music on a couple of occasions, most likely because I purchased the music while at work, forgot to take it home with me and then re-downloaded it when I got home.  The other re-downloads have been due to technical issues involving pop-up blockers and an old design of the AmieStreet website, that was fixed long ago. In other words, this is not a service that I use a great deal. Once I have downloaded my music, I know where it is and I do not (generally) need to download it again.

However, I can’t help but feel a little irritated by this move.  It’s not that I want or even need to download my music multiple times – it’s that it feels like a step backwards.  The days of purchasing a physical medium are drawing to an end and more and more services are provided as digital downloads. I haven’t purchased a physical CD for months, probably years, and yet I bought two digital albums from Amazon a copule of weeks ago.

I have dozens of old CD’s that are scratched and no longer play without skipping. To obtain new copies of these albums requires that I buy them again, either digitally or as physical items. This is a constraint of the media, and one that I was perfectly happy with when there was no other alternative. If you break something, you have to buy a new one – it works the same way with all physical property.

On the other hand, AmieStreet (and all other digital media vendors) already know that I purchased the music. Or at least, they know that I purchased a license to listen to the music, which is something entirely different and yet completely meaningless to most people. If my computer bursts into flames or something, why can I not re-download music that I have already paid for? It isn’t going to cost any more to throw a few megabytes acrosss the internet to my new computer, as it would cost to create a new product then package and ship it to me.

Perhaps the idea is that I bought a license to listen to only the version that I downloaded, and no other digital copy of the same song? So by copying it to my iPod or another computer, I’m breaking the license agreement? I would like to think that this line of reasoning is nonsense, but by allowing customers to download a song only once, this is the model that is being applied. AmieStreet (or more likely, a team of lawyers barking at their heels) is trying to apply a physical model to a virtual world which is not constrained by the laws of physics.

Whatever the reasoning behind this move, it is an utterly pointless restriction and ultimately self-destructive. People that actually pay for their music are once again being hampered for doing the right thing.  Why add artificial barriers for people that actually want to give you their money? When there are unlimited free downloads of almost everything you can imagine, why make the paid version worse?

Those people that do not want to pay for their music will continue to recieve high-quality, DRM-free, re-downloadable media whenever they want it. Those of us who choose to do the right thing and buy their music, will end up with an inferior service and in many cases DRM-encumbered music that treats the customer like a thief .

It doesn’t matter who you are, or how powerful you think you are – like King Canute, you cannot stop the digital tide.

sudo for Windows

I recently had the pleasure of re-installing my sons XP gaming machine after he infested it with viruses, worms, rootkits and everything else he could find on the internet. It’s my own fault really, as I let him run with administrator priveleges because I couldn’t be bothered to set up his games to work properly under a limited user account.

So, now that he’s back up and running (with very limited access), a handful of his games don’t quite work properly and still require administrator access. The “RunAs” command in Windows is practically useless because you still need to enter the administrator password – and then the game launches with the administrator profile, including the registry and documents and settings, and not the profile of the logged on user.

What’s really needed is an equivalent to the Linux sudo command, so that the game can be run with admin priveleges, but with the correct user profile. Enter the greatest utility that I’ve found so far this year – surun.

Surun implements privelege elevation in a safe, secure, and trivially easy way. It makes the “RunAs” command look as useless as it really is. And best of all, my sons games all work flawlessly and he can only elevate those applications that, as the system administrator, I specifically add to a list of known programs. This means that he can’t start an elevated command prompt or anything like that and wreak havoc on the system again.

If you need to run programs that require administrator access on a limited user account, do yourself a favor and get this program. It is completely free and it makes Windows security work in a sensible and painless way. Get It!