29 October 2021

The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis

An elder C.S. Lewis looks back on his remarkable journey from hard-boiled atheist to the most renowned Christian writer of the past century.

The film features award-winning actor Max McLean as the older Lewis and Nicholas Ralph – breakout star of PBS Masterpiece’s All Creatures Great and Small – as young Lewis. Beautifully filmed in and around Oxford, this engaging biopic follows the creator of The Chronicles of Narnia from the tragic death of his mother when he was just nine years old, through his strained relationship with his father, to the nightmare of the trenches of World War I to Oxford University, where friends like J.R.R. Tolkien challenge his unbelief.

Written for the screen and directed by two-time Emmy and BAFTA winner Norman Stone (BBC’s Shadowlands), The Most Reluctant Convert brings to life the spiritual evolution of one the 20th century’s sharpest minds and keenest wits.

The film is produced by Fellowship for Performing Arts in association with 1A Productions and distributed by Trafalgar Releasing.

28 October 2021

Royal British Legion - the Poppy Appeal 2021 has launched

Our collectors have been at the heart of the Poppy Appeal for 100 years. Last year collectors were unable to carry out face to face collections, but this year they are returning to local communities. In our centenary year, 40,000 collectors across the country will be back on the streets raising funds for the Poppy Appeal.

Every poppy counts, so look out for your local collector and donate to help us raise vital funds to support the Armed Forces community.

We will be offering several ways to donate, including:
Contactless terminals in some locations
QR code

You can also support the Poppy Appeal by donating via text or online. When you make a donation online, we'll include a link in your confirmation email to download an A4 poster featuring the iconic Remembrance Poppy. You can print and display your poster at home to show your support and remember those who have served and sacrificed. 

There are a number of other ways you can get involved in this year's Poppy Appeal. From taking part in our 11/11 Challenge or a Poppy Run, to buying poppy merchandise from our Poppy Shop, there really is something for everyone.


27 October 2021

Modifying your bike could be made illegal: New plans that could make fitting non-OEM parts a crime

The Motorcycle Action Group is encouraging motorcyclists to respond to proposals from the Department for Transport (DfT) that would restrict owners from modifying their bikes.

The proposals are part of the DfT’s ‘Future of Transport’ review and are lumped in with lots of other vehicle standards that the department is looking to modernise.

Under the proposed changes it would be a crime to ‘tamper’ with ‘a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road’. MAG were in attendance at the webinar where the proposals were first made.

"I was expecting the lack of motorcycle focus in policies for the charging infrastructure, but the anti-tampering proposals came as a real sucker punch," says Colin Brown, MAG’s Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement.

"As the owner of a motorcycle with less OEM parts than aftermarket ones you can imagine my reaction. This renewed attack on the right to do what you wish with your own property is not something that I can see many motorcyclists welcoming."

IMPORTANT! You can read the proposals HERE, and have your say HERE.

See also:

Stuart Fillingham: Government wants to make car & motorcycle customization an offence!

VisorDown: Government threatening make modifying any motorcycle illegal

In other news, Trudy Harrison (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport) says: Owning a car is so ‘last century’. Hmmm, how do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time...


25 October 2021

Windows 11: an exercise in aesthetics - don't bother!


Windows 11 seemed to come out of nowhere, and while it brings a host of aesthetic improvements and some performance changes under the hood, it feels like a minor update in the scheme of OS upgrades.

Some of the changes here: a redesigned store, DirectStorage for faster game loading, and a cleaned up interface, are appreciated, but to get there you have to wade through a complicated install/upgrade process that has us wondering whether the hassle is worth it.

I've been asked by a number of Donline clients whether or not to upgrade to Microsoft's latest Operating System - Windows 11. Here is my answer: don't bother (at the moment), wait till they iron out some annoyances. 

Usually I experiment with a new OS' in Beta & RTM using a Virtual Machine or on a spare piece of hardware. However, the crazy minimum hardware requirements of Win11 preclude that! So I upgraded my own laptop - the results are disappointing. Visually attractive - but that's NOT what I want from a business Operating System! I need an OS that makes me more productive. That isn't happening here. I can tweak some of the annoyances out of the system - but some are hard coded in - and not fixable. In a nutshell: Win11 is costing me time & money... 

The last time Microsoft released an OS like Win11 - was Windows 8, before that Vista, before that WinME. Remember them? Microsoft would prefer it if you didn't!

So, I'd say: give Win11 a miss - for now. Donline takes the pain, so you don't have to!

Have a look at Engadget's excellent review of Win11 on YouTube:

Ofcom orders phone networks to block foreign scam calls

Major phone networks have agreed to automatically block almost all internet calls coming from abroad if they pretend to be from UK numbers, Ofcom has confirmed.

Criminals have been using internet-based calling technology to make it look like a phone call or text is coming from a real telephone number.

Almost 45 million consumers were targeted by phone scams this summer.

Ofcom said it expected the measures to be introduced at pace as a "priority".

So far, one operator has already implemented the new plans, the regulator told the BBC, while other phone networks are still exploring methods of making it work.


14 October 2021

City of London is set to become the UK’s first 15mph region

The City of London Corporation’s most senior decision-making body, the Court of Common Council, has voted to make the Square Mile the first area in the UK with a 15mph speed limit, subject to government approval.

The decision follows a public consultation into 54 proposals unveiled by the City Corporation last year, which together sets a 25-year framework for its first long-term Transport Strategy.

The plans have been developed to support the changing working, living and commuting habits across London.

Last month, after the morning of the Motolegends Open Day, I decided (foolishly) to ride up on Ariel & visit some of my old haunts up in the smoke: Roehampton, Richmond, Sheen, Barnes, Chiswick, Brentford, Ace Cafe, Greenford, South Harrow, etc. What a nightmare! Horrific traffic, 20mph zones everywhere, confusing new signage. Note to self - don't do that again!


Deal of the day: Microsoft 365 Family: Office 365 apps, up to 6 users, 1 year subscription - under £50!


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Renew your existing Office 365 Home of Personal subscription: simply purchase Microsoft 365 here and enter your login ID from your current Microsoft account

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Reading for today: Who do you look to for help?


I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man, then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, ‘because it must have been so easy for Him’. Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingratitude and ungraciousness of this objection; what staggers me is the misunderstanding it betrays. In one sense, of course, those who make it are right. They have even understated their own case. The perfect submission, the perfect suffering, the perfect death were not only easier to Jesus because He was God, but were possible only because He was God. But surely that is a very odd reason for not accepting them? 

The teacher is able to form the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher; and only because it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because ‘it’s easy for grown-ups’ and waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so had no ‘unfair’ advantage), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) ‘No, it’s not fair! You have an advantage! You’re keeping one foot on the bank’? That advantage—call it ‘unfair’ if you like—is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?

By C.S. Lewis

From Mere Christianity

13 October 2021

Reading for today: Jeremiah tells of God's love & Grace


For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart

Read Jeremiah 29 at Bible Gateway

11 October 2021

Hamburger menu? Kebab button? All this IT is making me feel hungry...

The ellipsis ... also known informally as dot-dot-dot, is a series of (usually three) dots that indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning. The word (plural ellipses) originates from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis meaning 'leave out'.

In computer menu functions or buttons, an ellipsis means that upon selection more options (sometimes in the form of a dialog box) will be displayed, where the user can or must make a choice. If the ellipsis is absent, the function is immediately executed upon selection.

The hamburger button, so named for its unintentional resemblance to a hamburger, is a button typically placed in a top corner of a graphical user interface. Its function is to toggle a menu (sometimes referred to as a hamburger menu) or navigation bar between being collapsed behind the button or displayed on the screen. The icon which is associated with this widget, consisting of three horizontal bars, is also known as the collapsed menu icon.

In mobile, web, and general application design, the vertical ellipsis, ⋮, is sometimes used as an interface element, where it is sometimes called a kebab icon. The element typically indicates that a navigation menu can be accessed when the element is activated, and is a smaller version of the hamburger icon (≡) which is a stylized rendering of a menu.


Automatic for the people – could this be the end of the manual driving licence?

New research by IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, has revealed how the ‘green agenda’ is radically influencing driving attitudes of young people aged 17-24.

The ban of new petrol and diesel vehicle sales from 2030, and the absence of manual gearboxes in electric vehicles, has prompted 61% of the 1,000 young drivers surveyed to tell IAM RoadSmart that they plan to apply for an automatic-only driving licence.

The green agenda is also translating into expected buying behaviours, as 81% of respondents stated they were likely to purchase an electric vehicle as their next car.  Only a very small number (5%) declared they were very unlikely to purchase an electric vehicle.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed more about the prospective buying habits of younger drivers with 51% saying that when it comes to buying a new car, they will save the money and pay upfront, with 17% stating they would use car finance and only 10% were in favour of getting a bank loan.


08 October 2021

Have you heard of the Dutch Reach? The changes to The Highway Code you need to know

With the government set to confirm major changes to The Highway Code, road users need to get up to speed with a range of changes to the rules of the road this autumn. The updates are the largest overhauls to the code since mid-2018, with a plethora of amendments and new rules including a hierarchy of responsibility that will affect all road users. 

The Cycling and Walking Review and the recent Summer of Cycling show that government is firmly committed to promoting active travel alternatives to the car, although traffic levels are now quickly returning to normal. The focus of the review is to improve road safety for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders in an effort to make active forms of travel easier and safer.

Among the highlights of the updated code is the inclusion of the Dutch Reach, the safety practice whereby drivers and passengers use the hand furthest from the door to exit their vehicle. This naturally turns the driver or passenger towards the window, making it easier to spot approaching cyclists. 


Collaboration on unique resin spurs creation of the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse

How can something as small as a mouse make a such big impact in Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability? It all starts with plastic water bottles and the desire to make positive change.

According to the National Ocean Service, scientists estimate there is more than eight million metric tons of plastic found in the ocean. By 2050, one study estimates there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. The environmental impacts are staggering. For the product and engineering teams at Microsoft, trying to figure out how to utilize this plastic waste in a new way represented a major undertaking.

The start of what eventually would lead to the development of the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse, which is now available for pre-order, sprang from a series of questions asked by a dedicated group of individuals across several teams determined to crack a difficult challenge.

“The team wondered, why couldn’t we make a resin out of plastic in the ocean and make a dent there?” said Patrick Gaule, senior designer on the Windows & Devices design team. “We started formalizing this idea. What type of resin? What kind of product? We came up with a plan to look into it. We were sure it was going to be very hard. We weren’t sure it was going to work.”

Plastic resins are made by heating hydrocarbons until they are broken down into smaller molecules. Synthetic plastics contain polymers as a backbone ingredient. Polymers consist of repeating covalent bonded units known as monomer residues. These polymers have specific characteristics that are utilized in applications like water bottles, caps, packages and other everyday plastic materials. Polymer resins in pellet or bead form are then put into moulds to create products.


05 October 2021

Can your PC run Microsoft's new operating system: Windows 11?

These are the minimum system requirements for installing Windows 11 on a PC. If your device does not meet these requirements, you may not be able to install Windows 11 on your device and might want to consider purchasing a new PC. If you are unsure whether your PC meets these requirements, you can check with your PC Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or, if your device is already running Windows 10, you can use the PC Health Check app to assess compatibility.

Your device must be running Windows 10, version 2004 or later, to upgrade. Free updates are available through Windows Update in Settings>Update and Security.

Processor   1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC).

RAM  4 gigabyte (GB).

Storage  64 GB or larger storage device Note: See below under “More information on storage space to keep Windows 11 up-to-date” for more details.

System firmware  UEFI, Secure Boot capable. Check here for information on how your PC might be able to meet this requirement.

TPM  Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. Check here for instructions on how your PC might be enabled to meet this requirement.

Graphics card  Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver.

Display  High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9” diagonally, 8 bits per colour channel.

Internet connection and Microsoft account  Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account.

Switching a device out of Windows 11 Home in S mode also requires internet connectivity. 

For all Windows 11 editions, internet access is required to perform updates and to download and take advantage of some features. A Microsoft account is required for some features.

Certain features require specific hardware. System requirements to run some apps will exceed the Windows 11 minimum device specifications. Check device compatibility information specific to the apps you want to install. Available storage on your device will vary based on installed apps and updates. Performance will scale with higher end, more capable PCs. Additional requirements may apply over time and for updates.

The hardware requirements for Windows 11 are ridiculously high - especially at a time when IT components are in serious constraint, and we are meant to being reducing waste in our work & home lives... 

I ran Microsoft's PC Health Check app on the Donline Workstation (a Fujitsu Celsius W530 Workstation, Intel i7-4770 3.3Ghz, 24Gb RAM, 1Tb SSD, etc) - amazingly it failed to meet the minimum hardware requirements! It is still a very serious beast & significantly more powerful than the vast majority of the computers that I support.

This invariably means that a significant proportion of the PCs & laptops in use in homes & businesses at the moment cannot be upgraded to Windows 11. So what I hear you ask? So this: Microsoft will end support for Windows 10 on 14th October 2025. In 4 years time there will be no more Win10 updates or patches!


04 October 2021

Michael Robotham’s novel The Suspect is being adapted for TV. Can't wait: MR is one of my favourite authors!

Poldark star Aidan Turner is to play a doctor with a dark side in a new drama for ITV from Bodyguard and The Pembrokeshire Murders producer World Productions. The British broadcaster has ordered a small-screen adaptation of Michael Robotham’s novel The Suspect.

The five-part series will also star Shaun Parkes (Small Axe), Sian Clifford (Fleabag), Camilla Beeput (Peep Show), Adam James (Doctor Foster) and Anjli Mohindra (Vigil). The series is being written by Gangs of London writer Peter Berry.

Joseph O'Loughlin appears to have the perfect life - a beautiful wife, a loving daughter and a successful career as a clinical psychologist. But nothing can be taken for granted. Even the most flawless existence is only a loose thread away from unravelling. All it takes is a murdered girl, a troubled young patient and the biggest lie of his life.

Caught in a complex web of deceit and haunted by images of the slain girl, he embarks upon a search that will take him from London to Liverpool and into the darkest recesses of the human mind. Ultimately, he will risk everything to unmask the killer and save his family.


Big Brother Is Watching! Speed limiters to be fitted on all new cars by 2022

The top speed you can legally drive on UK roads is 70 mph. So why can cars reach speeds over 100 mph? The European Transport Safety Council has investigated this. It says that 26,000 road deaths happen in Europe every year, and speed is one of main reasons for this figure.

As a result of this research, new speed limiting software called the Intelligent Speed Assistance system (ISA), has been developed. The software will be mandatory for all new cars from next year, despite the UK leaving the EU.

The ISA uses either a video or a GPS-linked system to detect speed signs. The system alerts the driver if they’re going over the speed limit, and if the driver doesn’t slow down the ISA should intervene.

The system doesn’t involve the car’s braking system, though. After a series of alerts, if the driver doesn’t apply the brakes, the vehicle reduces power to the engine.

The car should then naturally slow down to the new speed limit. Automatic detection of pedestrians and cyclists was also approved alongside the ISA. 


Windows Server 2012 support ends 10th October 2023. Be aware, plan & migrate...

If you're still running SQL Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 or 2012 R2, you have a little more time to plan ahead for upgrading. Extended support for SQL Server 2012 (including the R2 version) will also end soon, on July 12, 2022; Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 extended support goes away on October 10, 2023.

At that point, you can pay for Extended Security Updates, which include critical and important patches, critical updates for SQL Server and access to support if you have an active support plan with Microsoft. They're distributed through the usual update channels, like Windows Update and WSUS.

ESUs for SQL Server 2012 and 2012 R2 will be available to purchase from April 2022 (so you know you won't miss any security updates when extended support stops). ESUs for Windows Server 2012 and R2 can be bought from July 2023.

ESUs are an expensive way of sticking with the older versions after the end of extended support. You have to have at least one month of Software Assurance or an Enterprise Agreement with subscription licences, you buy ESUs in in 2-core packs for SQL Server and 16-core packs for Windows Server 2012 and you'll be paying 75% of the licence cost for the latest version of SQL Server and Windows Server (not the version you're still running), just for the first year. For the second year, you're paying the same as the licence cost for the current versions and 125% of that licence cost for the third year.


Microsoft begins the rollout of Windows 11 on 5th Oct 2021

The rollout of Windows 11 begins on Oct. 5 for for eligible devices in a "phased and measured approach to focus on quality," Microsoft announced in a blog post. First up for the free upgrade: Eligible Windows 10 PCs and PCs pre-loaded with Windows 11 that will soon become available for purchase, it said.

Microsoft took the wraps off its latest operating system in June to developers and invited insiders to poke around a preview version a month later. The blog post from Aaron Woodman said engagement and feedback were "unprecedented," adding, "The Windows Insider community has been an invaluable community in helping us get to where we are today."

After eligible devices, the upgrade continues over time to "in-market devices based on intelligence models that consider hardware eligibility, reliability metrics, age of device and other factors that impact the upgrade experience," Microsoft said. It expects all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022. 


An open letter from Andrew Lindsay, CEO of Utility Warehouse

We’re going nowhere! It’s an energy shambles out there. Deals are being withdrawn, suppliers are going under and customers are facing huge price increases, hassle and stress.

For something as important as the energy that powers their homes, we believe people deserve better: a company they can rely on and the confidence they’ll always pay a fair price for what they use.

That’s exactly what we offer, and that’s because we’re different.

We’re more than just an energy company. We bundle together all your home services into one - energy, broadband, mobile and insurance - and the more of them you take, the more you save. What’s more (and unlike companies who are in difficulty at the moment) it also means we aren’t solely reliant on energy.

We promote our services differently too. Over the past two decades, we’ve become the biggest utility company you’ve never heard of. We now have over 650,000 customers and we’re currently the Which? Utilities Brand of the Year. But we don’t spend money on flashy TV ads or splash our name all over footballers’ shirts. Instead, we’ve grown thanks to thousands of UW Partners who recommend us to their friends, colleagues and neighbours.

And we take a responsible, long-term approach to buying the energy our customers use, meaning we can always guarantee to beat the price cap set by Ofgem - today and in the future.

Let me reassure you, our customers and all our UW Partners, that we’re here to stay.

In fact, after more than twenty years in business, we’re only just getting started.

Andrew Lindsay, CEO