Blog 2023

For a wider audience and instant distribution most of my thoughts go straight to Facebook. But for extending those thoughts, and to reach people who understand where I'm going, those thoughts may also appear here.

Unlike every other weblog you ever saw, this one is in correct chronological order so you can read it the right way round. But it always shows you the latest entry first so scroll up for earlier stuff.

2 Jan 2023Mean to go on
30 Jan 2023Passing the time of day
12 Feb 2023Due credit
25 Feb 2023Muscle brain
19 Mar 2023Blue sky sinking
18 Apr 2023Boldly Go
23 Apr 2023St George's Day Jolt
1 May 2023Ask an expert
26 Jun 2023Word to the wise
1 Jul 2023Don't call us
3 Jul 2023Place your bets
12 Jul 2023Far too busy
25 Jul 2023Deliveries
29 Jul 2023Burning issue
1 Aug 2023Turn it up
12 Aug 2023Age catching up
1 Sep 2023Magazine loaded
6 Sep 2023School break
3 Oct 2023Not puce
14 Oct 2023Off course
2 Nov 2023Touch and go
20 Nov 2023Leading the charge
12 Dec 2023Air con
28 Dec 2023That's rich
31 Dec 2023Crystal balls-up

Mean to go on

Yesterday's start to the New Year did not go to plan.

On Saturday 31 December 2022, access to the webserver failed; was still being delivered to viewers via HTTPS, but we couldn't upload new and supporting files using FTP.

New content had been put in place earlier. That appeared as planned, but some files were missing, Due to the New Year holiday there would not be any technicians or support staff available as the outage continued through New Year's Day.

Whenever summat goes arse-uppard, first suspect is the idiot on the keyboard this end.

  1. Check what process is being followed. Does it conform with documentation?
    (scribbled notes in an exercise book)
  2. Is it the FTP software (FileZilla)? Have the settings changed for some reason?
  3. Does it work from a backup computer? *

No luck with any of those avenues. It had to be at the Host's end. Nothing for it than to twiddle thumbs until the tech staff sobered up.

One item that couldn't be prepared ahead of schedule was the December Statistics, for obvious reasons. We knew you would be waiting for the chimes of Big Ben to announce the arrival of the final month's numbers for When they didn't appear we had troops on standby at Trafalgar Square and Princes Street to control angry crowds,

As it happens the statistics were unexpectedly ... uninteresting ... in December. Let's leave it at that.

Not quite "at that": There will be problems later in 2023 when Google Analytics changes its appearance. The system that we have grown to know and love, and developed complex programs to decipher, will be retired mid-year and replaced by a superior customisable control panel. Gawd'elpus !

* Backup computers: Laptops and tower PCs running Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 10. All perfectly good machines quite capable of running the simple processes and storage requirements needed for, all rendered useless by MicroSod and the browsers that flock to worship at its shrine and declare...
"this operating system is no longer supported"

So the long and the short of it is, in 2023 we will grasp the nettles and ...

  • Learn how to construct analytical data from the new Google control panel
  • Convert all old computers to Linux and learn how to use it

I was hoping for a quiet life this year.

Passing the time of day

There is no doubt that the pace of disruptive technology is accelerating.

Consider how long it took for the motorcar to go from novelty to ubiquitous nuisance. It took less than the time between coronations for televisions to change from a rarity to a worldwide commodity. Over the same period, computers have passed from Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) to laptops and tablets.

The most recent disruption, mobile phones, have evolved from handsets on battery bricks into personal overlords within twenty years.

Disruptive means it has profound, unexpected effects on society and economics.

Well, hang onto your hat chum, 'cos the next disruption is upon us! It began exactly two months ago and I bet it will change the world within two years at the most.

I am referring to ChatGPT Artificial Intelligence and similar systems.

Where mechanisation and automation historically impacted manufacturing and manual work and caused concern for Luddites and Fleet Street printers, this new threat is to the professional classes. It has already created panic among journalists and academics.

Next on the list for replacement are lawyers and doctors.

Telephone consultations with your GP will be a luxury compared with ChatGPT advising you to get more exercise, eat less processed meals and take paracetamol.

The following is generated by ChatGPT: I hereby promise that content on not written by a human, will be marked as such.

The future for ChatGPT is likely to continue to evolve as AI technology advances and new applications for language models are discovered. Some potential future developments include:

  • Integration with new platforms and devices.
  • Increased use in industries such as customer service, education, and healthcare.
  • Improved accuracy and efficiency in generating human-like responses.
  • Expansion of multilingual capabilities and support for lesser-studied languages.
  • Development of models that can perform tasks requiring common sense reasoning and understanding.

However, the exact future for ChatGPT is uncertain and will be shaped by advancements in AI and the direction of the industry.

- ChatGPT

Artificial Intelligence uses machine learning: it is fed data (from the Internet) and receives feedback from users. It learns from biases, prejudices, false information. In short, it learns from us. Could it be any worse?

We are the people (collectively) who prefer to chirp to The Birdie Song than Brahms or Beethoven. We are the population who drive two blocks to the shops when we could walk, meet and greet our neighbours, but they remain strangers to us. Then we use our saved time to watch artificial social situations on TV. We no longer pass the time of day with our fellow citizens, let alone newcomers in our midst.

Up to now has been free from artificial intelligence... and sparse on the human variety.

It is too late now, the time and day have passed. We will be swallowed whole, by the matrix created from our own folly.

Due credit

The Bibliography is the second page of the website because it is so important.

At the close of each year we post a Review, mainly to thank the contributors who provide all the unique content for this website. Any other time you can find all 535 people listed in our Bibliography, with links to their contributions.

Two friends are especially worth mentioning in this context: Hans Veenendaal who tirelessly and reliably compiles the Rally Listing that is by far the most popular page on, and Jean-Francois Helias who researches the history of rallying, shares his badge collection and, most importantly, covers my back by spotting errors, suggesting improvements and collaborating cheerfully from the other side of the planet.

That roughly covers the human element. But you may have heard me referring to my webworkers from time to time. Who the heck are they?

I do have some genuine Web Workers, but they are restricted to culinary chores. They cook up background chow for Google Bots and their ilk to feast on. The nearest they come to delicacies that you consume is when they collect the ingredients for the weekly News for me to bake into a burnt offering.

I have a wider definition for my webworkers (one word, lower case) who never bask in the light of your monitor. They are a collection of administration tools that select, reformat, adjust, record and do all the boring tasks that would be thoroughly buggered up if they were left to me.

There is now a new employee on the staff. A consultant with unimaginable credentials. A teacher with immeasurable patience. An executive with frightening ambition who is likely to take over me and the planet any day now. See the last blog.

Recently she (it?) has been improving and commenting foundational code for the website, one function at a time. The potential is enormous. Nothing stumps it (him?)

Here is an exchange that opened my eyes to future possibilities.

I am already encountering AI systems...

  • ChatGPT directly in conversational style
  • Language Tool for routine spelling, punctuation and grammar checks
  • Compose AI to complete text fields in web documents and webmail

Large Language Model (LLM) AI will be appearing on search sites (Google Bard and Bing GPT-3) very soon.

Seems the only worker not needed around here is gonna be me...

Start of quotation I saw you mentioned I really struggle with grammar, so I'm always searching for ways to check my emails, etc. without bothering others.

Another great tool I recently found is:

I was amazed by the features: not only can you spot your mistakes, but you can also implement the edits it suggests automatically and just copy the fixed content. And it supports many languages.

I thought it was worth sharing with you, as I believe it could be a great additional resource for your site, and I'm sure your users will appreciate it too.

I hope this will help you as much as it helped me! End of quotation

- Dana Sallow

Start of postscript PS: In complete transparency, I used the tool to check my email before I sent it to you :) End of postscript

Thanks Dana. Just used it to detect and correct several errors on this page. Now I'm spoilt for choice.

Muscle brain

In previous Blogs I wrote about the new Artificial Intelligence large language models taking the world by storm. Now let's take a look at how your real brain works.

Click on a brain area to see the kind of thoughts, feelings and actions that are likely to emanate from that region.

What goes through your brain?

Many of the things that are not autonomous become muscle memory, and that "muscle" is your brain. Which is why you need to learn by doing things the right way. Otherwise what should be a practised skill simply becomes a sloppy habit.

Artificial Intelligence learns from our sloppy habits.

  1. Where there are proven facts, there are conspiracy theories.
  2. Where there are opinions, there are arguments.

Blue sky sinking

Weather forecasts here in Blighty are so wide of the mark, they should write fiction novels.

Somewhere in all this, Climate Change and the Jet Stream are gonna cop the rap.

At one time we used a Norwegian weather widget because they were more accurate and easier to understand. Their forecast for England was better than our local ones. In fact, their forecast for Norway would probably reflect our weather better than the BBC predictions.

If they tossed a coin the BBC should be correct half the time. But recent forecasts have been so consistently wrong, the experts should check for a significant negative correlation. Meteorological pundits would be better off doing their calculations, then publicly announcing the opposite.

Boldly Go

St George's Day Jolt

All mobile phones will received a siren-like emergency warning message sent by the Government today. It is a test of a new public alert system. Phone users are unable to use other features on their devices until they acknowledge the alert.

Real alerts will only ever come from the Government or emergency services, with details of the area affected, and provide instructions about how best to respond.

If you do not wish to receive the alerts, you will be able to opt out through your device settings, but officials hope the life-saving potential of the messages means that you will keep them on.

The alerts are secure, free to receive, and one-way; they do not reveal your location or collect personal data.

Ask an expert

If you want expert advice on any of the latest electronic gizmos ... ask your grandchildren. Still have their milk teeth, yet they know all about devices that we struggle to imagine. The only problem is, they don't know how to teach grandmother to suck eggs.

Next time you want to know about your TV remote or mobile phone, ask them to teach you, not show you. Make sure they keep their hands in their pockets while instructing you verbally on what buttons to press in sequence. The only way to learn something is to do it, not watch tiny fingers moving in a blur over even smaller buttons or on-screen prompts that are gone before your eyes focus.

Of course, it will take longer than passing the device over to them and letting them work their magic wafting. But when you have finally completed the task with your own arthritic fingers and thumbs, don't rest on your laurels. It is easy to think, "Now I know, I'll do that next time." Next time may be tomorrow, or next week, or in six months. By then, you'll have forgotten. So, do it again now (without the helpful commentary). And again in an hour's time.

It isn't just necessary for your brain to remember. Your fingers need to practice as well. It's called muscle memory.

Now you can return the favour. Teach those little brats ... er ... I mean delightful children, how to hand-write, knot a tie, fasten shoelaces and fettle a bike. Your chance to bedazzle with fingers in a blur!

Word to the wise

Don't call us

The analogue phone (copper) network will be discontinued at the end of 2025. That's the "landline" phones that plug into a wall socket, not mobile phones. By that date, everyone should have been upgraded to a digital phone line.

I changed my broadband contract to BT and they changed my home phone to the digital system. It is now plugged into the back of my router. When I read through several pages of contract, I came across the paragraph that said I would be issued with a new number and my old number would no longer be available.WHAT

I can hardly justify paying £5 a month for a system that I don't use, but keep it on because so many organizations have that number down with my contact details. If I need to remember who they are and tell them my new number, I may as well dump the landline and just use my mobile. That is what most people do these days.

So I have to ask, is BT intentionally discouraging landline phones?

I phoned (with my mobile) BT and retained my original number. Over the next year I'll contact everyone who has my home number to change it to my mobile.

When your service provider changes your phone, make sure they keep your existing number.

Place your bets

Far too busy


Burning issue

Turn it up

It isn't a joke; many electronic devices can be fixed by turning OFF, then turning ON again.

If your "smart" phone or tablet becomes slow to respond, try the "restart" option. Older phones and tech devices may be fixed by taking out the battery and then putting it back.

For personal computers (PCs), simply turning them off does not achieve the same result because a shutdown will save an image of the memory with all its faults intact. Choose "Restart" to avoid reopening the same errors that are causing problems.

It is recommended that broadband routers are kept on, so they can balance speed and stability. It is still worth turning them off for a few minutes every month to remove accumulated errors.

Some printers need to be powered continuously to stop inbuilt print heads from drying out. That's why printers come to life in the middle of the night. If you turn your printer off until needed, turn it on for 24 hours once a week.

Digital TV channels change every month or so. Retune your TV on a similar schedule. While you are in "Settings" check if there is a firmware update pending. Initiating this will bring the latest security & features to your TV. You will be reminded NOT to turn off the power during the process.

If you have a satellite dish, tune in to channel 799 to check that your equipment will continue to receive local BBC programmes that are going High Definition (HD). If it says "Sorry..." you may be eligible for a voucher towards, or even the whole cost of, a new Freesat box.

Don't let them get the upper hand.
Switch them off and on occasionally to remind them who is boss!

Age catching up

Magazine loaded

The cost of magazine subscriptions probably make them an area where you have economised.

You can borrow digital magazines from your library. You don't need to visit a branch — they can be downloaded and viewed on an eBook reader, tablet, PC and smartphone.

The procedure is quick and easy. You need to be a library member with a card number and PIN. You can join the City and County libraries on-line.

On a tablet or phone, download and install LIBBY from your app store. On a PC go to Identify the library that you belong to and enter your card number and PIN when prompted.

Now browse thousands of magazines, books and audiobooks to enjoy at home. To find the ones that interest you most, use search filters.

You can view content in "reader view" that adjusts text size and contrast to make it much easier on your eyes.

School break

Not puce

Off course

Trying to figure out what they are offering.

Touch and go

Leading the charge

First thing to do when you unbox your new electronic device is to charge the battery. Charging too quickly, or for too long, heats up the battery and reduces its life. Ideally allow it to discharge to not much below 20% and disconnect before it goes over 90% full. But in reality we usually recharge our phones overnight. Therefore, use a low capacity charger and only use fast chargers if you need a half hour boost during the day, when you can turn it off before it cooks. If overnight charging always takes your battery to 100%, consider using a timer to reduce the hours it is being charged.

Top of the range phones may charge up simply by being placed on a pad and having current induced. Otherwise phones are still charged through a cable connected to a USB socket or directly to a mains transformer. These can have their own problems.

Earlier micro USB type connection can only plug in one way up. It's not easy to see which way is correct. Make it easier for your eyesight and sanity by marking the cable plastic on the "up" side with an easily spotted spot. Use correcting fluid on black plastic or black marker pen on white plastic.

micro USB


Daily plugging and unplugging the phone charging cable causes wear and tear on the phone socket. Catching the plugged-in cable is a sure way to make the phone fall and also puts more strain on the vulnerable phone socket. These problems are avoided if you use a magnetic connector. A small adapter is left permanently in the socket, where it also keeps out fluff and dust; the cable connects to this magnetically. Accidental tugs on the cable break the connection without any strain on the socket. Adapters fit micro USB, USB C and iPhone sockets and with the cable cost about £10 on-line. You will need a (low current!) USB mains adapter ...
... and a timer?

Air con

That's rich

Rich Communication Services (RCS) have been supported by Google on Android phones for some time and are about to reach iPhones. Here is an explanation of what RCS is.

RCS is effectively an upgrade to the standard messaging sevices, known generally as "texts". The standard — and often free — method is Short Message Service (SMS). There is also a more expensive system called Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), which, as the name implies, you can use to send photos, videos and files. RCS adds the power of MMS without the expense — so long as the recipient has also enabled RCS on their phone.

It your recipient has not enabled RCS, the ⫸ send symbol will indicate that it will be transmitted as SMS or MMS.

A big advantage is that RCS shows symbols beside a message to indicate that it is being sent ⏱, has been sent ✓ , delivered ✓✓ and when it has been read ✓✓. That is helpful if you have friends who do not use their mobile phones very often! The reverse as also true — they can see when you have read their message.

Unlike ordinary messages, RCS may also be sent over Wi-Fi, useful in poor data signal areas and to save on data costs.

To enable RCS in the Messages app, tap your profile icon at the top-right and then Messages settings and then RCS chats. If you can't find 'RCS chats', tap Chat features.

Crystal balls-up

The only reason people cannot see into the future is that they are afraid to look. Things will be the same as they are now, but worse.

At we try very hard not to look, but sometimes we can't help ourselves.

Our very first entry this year prophesised more technical difficulties to come, and come they did in abundance.

  • In February we had to remove Google's translation service, which was no longer supported.
  • June began with problems for webmail sent to
  • Later in the month, the anticipated change to Google Analytics began a long-running, steep learning curve. Steeply downwards by the look of things.
  • In November Google fouled up their embedded street view system for long enough to cause panic changes to several critical pages. The outage only lasted a few days.
  • At the beginning of September I screwed up my own email system as a result of trying to change my password after a phishing scam.
    Will I never learn?
  • Then an update to our server by our hosting company left us unable to post new content. The changes were made on a Friday. Thankfully the telephone help line on Monday was a darn sight better than their useless website had been over a frustrating weekend.
  • As we close the year we are looking forward to more disruption from our hosting company as they sabotage our email forwarding system yet again

On 30th January, barely two months after its initial release, the runes foretold disruption from newfangled Large Language Models. Boy, were we on the nail with that one!

I guess that farm-hands, printers, and blue-collar workers generally have been bemused by the subsequent hand-wringing and social upheaval among actors, writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors and all the professions who previously labelled anyone trying to protect their jobs from grasping sponsors of new technology, as Luddites.

In hindsight, we may have underestimated the pace of change when we predicted it could take two years to upend the world.

Meanwhile, here at, we make humble supplications to our new AI overlords in exchange for services to the back-office. None of our reports have yet been written by them... ...but it is still early days.

The less we say about our 26th June blog, the safer we will feel. Barely two months later, it all went down. Or, at least, Prigozhin's jet went down.

Maybe we should keep our prognostications to ourselves in 2024.

The future is as clearly seen
As memory of the past has been.
My problem is, I don't know how
To recall what I'm doing now.

- Ben Crossley