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Editorial – June 2019: A taste of Internet vulnerability.

June 2, 2019 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

On the 12 May 2019, the year given for posterity and in case you’re reading this editorial much later, Outlook/Hotmail failed to send out messages but did receive them. I did all the standard checks from making sure the router was getting a clear signal by turning it on & off and even rebooted the laptop in case its wi-fi software was playing up. After an Internet speed test showed that was all right, I realised I was having a serious problem with communicating with anyone on the Internet. A check with my back-up computer and had a similar problem, I realised it wasn’t any problem with my computers which did bring a big sigh of relief. Even so, it also meant I was literally cut-off from sending messages on the Internet and that is a very powerful vulnerability issue no matter who your email server is or the device you are using. Oddly, the SFC newsletter arrived so I knew it wasn’t affecting everyone on-line using the same email server.

A side-step here. When Windows updates are issued, they are not all done at the same time but in cluster groups. That is, a chunk of users are done at a time or else you would have everyone using the likes of Windows 10 waiting a few hours for an upgrade to be completed and twiddling your thumbs in case doing anything else with your computer at the same time would slow it down or worse, not being saved properly before an enforced reboot. The latter can happen as much as being given the option to choose when to reboot.

Of course, I sent out a help message via its help screen but depending on traffic that can still take time and there’s no indication if I was the only on or how big the cluster group is. I wasn’t even sure if that would get through. Then again, if people with the problem can’t communicate it out, how does it become a news item to tell anyone else? News relies on communication.

Well, maybe easier for those with multiple email addresses on different servers and how many do that? They probably wouldn’t even see it as a fault. Just because you might have social media accounts as well doesn’t change things. It takes time for messages even that way to circulate to ever bigger numbers of people and, by then, the problem gets resolved and you have to send out that message so people might not even bother so why bother to worry about it? Who wants to become a boy/girl/biped who cries wolf? You see the problem? Many people only use the ‘free’ email addresses they get from their Internet providers rather than have an independent email address that doesn’t have to change every time you switch servers. In some respects because they have fewer customers and smaller tech working team, a glitch there can have serious repercussions.

Anyway, while I was waiting, I did some checks of my own. Had one of the ‘Settings’ controls been activated accidentally? That’s less likely to happen these days but you still have to be careful with pressing ‘Ctrl’ with letter combinations but it can happen. I even tried ‘outlook /safe’ in case Windows 10 thought Outlook was ‘hostile’. The options were getting limited as to what else to try from my end.

All that was left was to hope someone in the Help headquarters would get enough queries to realise there was a common problem and realise there was something that could be done right away. Just because one computer system is safe, if doesn’t mean the rest ar. After all, it looked like it was a menu line fault that turned off most of its controls beyond sending out emails than just the ‘Send’ button. Always a good point to remember to try adjacent control buttons in case they have a similar problem. A spread out of that correction and everything back to normal. Just a question of when and hoped it didn’t run into Monday.

Fortunately, it clicked back on late Sunday evening and a couple message out to check it was working. Hopefully, the remedy would be installed with any other Outlook updates.

The IT Crowd: The Internet Is Coming (special).

The IT Crowd: The Internet Is Coming.

Interestingly, I got a reply from the ‘Help’ people on Thursday explaining they had a glitch that weekend that affected some of us and that had been remedied. I did suggest back that they needed some kind of protocol to email out if something like that ever happened again so the people affected would know something was being done to remedy the situation from their end. It’s either that or having a lot of confused people wondering if they ought to find another email server.

The wider implication of this is that if whatever caused this happened to one email server, then it could happen to the rest out there that people use. We rely on the Internet so much for passing messages that if you were suddenly cut-off, you suddenly realise how vulnerable you are. Hopefully, this was only a software glitch that was repaired but a serious hack across the board would seriously be dangerous and even longer to fix so never be afraid to back down from updates because much of the time they are security upgrades.

Remember, objectively, this kind of thing could happen to any email server. This appears to be a standard glitch but a deliberate hack across the board and the ability to communicate across the Net could effectively paralyse everyone who sees this as their medium of communication across the world.

Programmers at these various websites really do need to do more thorough tests before letting loose updates on-line, especially in the communication medium. Certainly using a ‘cold’ computer not already using the software/website would make more sense than one already having it already there as part of the tests just in case any residue programming is still in memory might help. It’s amazing how much is kept in regularly used computers that gets over-looked that could influence things that they think are all right.

Equally, there should be announcements sent explaining an upgrade is happening and for what. It isn’t as though they don’t have your email address after all. It doesn’t necessarily need a fully detailed account of what it’s all about but it is good manners as well as leaving a call note if you spot any problems to let them know. After all, ultimately, we are the final testers.

Thank you, take care, good night and you did receive this message all right, didn’t you?

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

A Zen thought: Never put off something you could do today when you can do it today.

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: To not only read instructions but apply them to ensure they work.

The Reveal: If your Windows 10 is taking its time getting out of sleep mode, press the ‘Windows’ button and ‘X’ on your keyboard to speed things up. I wasn’t sure myself when I read that but it does appear to work, although I added the space bar, other keys are available.

Computer Observation: Thinking further about last month’s editorial, how many people play with your computers in isolation, which is one of the ingredients that can lead to becoming a geek. However, put your hands down if you’re regularly on social media? There you see the problem. I’m not saying you shouldn’t network, just the lack of social communication that helps develop individualism also makes us geeky.

Observation: The 1976 film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ brings up some confusing contradictions. If their alien world is so devoid of water, how can it create propellant without some knowledge of hydrolysis which is the principle way to get hydrogen for part of its fuel, even if it’s combined into other compounds.

Computer Observation: If your USB port won’t recognise something like a scanner or printer, simply reboot with them plugged in and they should then be recognised. If that fails, remove the device in ‘Printers And Devices’ and reboot with it connected and let W10 find it again, that way all your software settings will be preserved so don’t delete the software as that tends not to be where the problem lies unless there was a faulty update.

Observation: Looking at the Legion Of Super-Heroes member Ferro Lad who never took off his mask, at least in public, there remains a burning question: How did he eat? Of course, he had to eat but I suspect the Legion canteen never had him as a diner.

Observation: Look at Ringworld. Considering the distance from one side to the other and width, would you believe you were on a ring although you might believe in a flat planet?

Computer Observation: How weird and this might not stay the same forever but try this: When your opening page onto the Net is slow after boot-up, press the ‘Home Page button’ – that’s the one that looks like a house in the top right corner and you instantly get the page appearing properly.

Feeling Stressed: Don’t think it’s always your own fault when things go wrong.

Missed Opportunity:

            Reviewers come in all ages and tastes and I’m sure I can find something for you.

            I’m always on the lookout for new writers, especially that rare breed called ‘reviewer’. Can’t get enough of them. Don’t feel because we are the top of the tree, that I don’t want new talent. I just want people who can write and improve with practice and a little coaching.

            What you have below are two choices. Send me a sample review and let me pass comment. The second choice is to read all the info below, just in case you want to understand more about the protocols.

            Some things are put in bold, not so much because they are any more important but more to add a little more emphasis. Welcome to my mind and be grateful you don’t have to live it in your ability to self-express.

            If you regularly read 50-100 pages of a book a day, then you might be reviewer material.

            The real technical details for the geeks who want all the details. If you don’t, just send me a sample review.

            If you aren’t seeing the types of book or authors here you would want to read, chances are that I don’t have any reviewers who do them. I’m stocking up on reviewers right now. The extended info is below but essentially, if you can write and breathe and make good observations, you stand a chance. If you make grammatical errors, then I have your back. Email me at: gfwillmetts at hotmail.com

NOTE: Although there are details below, please observe the bigger message elsewhere on site. I’m always recruiting reviewers and this is the time of year to recruit as the nights are shorter and so you might be sleeping less If you’re living in the UK, love books and feel a bit geeky then read the notes below. You have to love reading anyway. You might be what I’m looking for and I do train people up and it’s good for your writer’s CVs and books to feed your reading habit. As some of my team are discovering, they can also interview writers and write articles as well. You can do that without reviewing as well but reading and reviewing is a good discipline. We’re a good team to belong to.

Polls And Opinions: We did have them for a time but the new version was causing a mess in WordPress so until a new version that doesn’t cause conflicts comes around, we’ll have to do without them but please use the answer option at the end of any material to express comments because we do read them.

For the record: For the odd query I have about being linked to media contacts. I do not have either a personal twitter or facebook account. There’s enough of me here to not outstay my welcome. I’m also puzzled why some people see SFC as a blog site when we’re not. We were in this format long before blogs. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tell the difference between blog and butter.

Beware Of Virus Attacks: December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com I won’t bite, although that doesn’t preclude others. In fact, I’ll settle for any more willing reviewers who love to read. Did I say I was after reviewers?

NB: We do get digital books and if you live abroad and not in the UK, then this avenue could be open to you. I’m not putting it in as a link to avoid spam. Just copy and paste into your emails to contact me with my address noted in the paragraph above. I’m always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page articles and stories as well. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean you’re going to read any less. We could do with some more fantasy readers right now! We could do with any of you interested in learning how to be reviewers period.

If you’ve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. It’s a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences and saying what they think.

For potential book reviewers in the UK, it’s a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you don’t think you’re up to scratch, you’ll discover why I’m the dutch uncle. Repeating this several times is for those who only scan and who don’t want to wind back up the page.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and aren’t likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

Zen for those who are scared by all the instructions below: Many of the instructions are things you should be doing automatically if you’re developing your writing skills. If you do them already then focus on the ones that you don’t get right. They are there to help you as much as me to get the best writing from you. If you think you’re 80% there then I’ll help you get the final 20%. Trust me, I’m an editor and I can get things right.

BOOK REVIEWS    – Don’t feel intimated by all the info below or linked to. If you’re any good as a writer, much of it should be second nature already. This is just the long hand version.

Do you love books? Do you like curling up and reading a book in preference to socialising, even on the Net? You might not even want to curl up, that’s only an option. Do you have a preference for fantasy, SF or horror? We really could do with some fantasy readers!!! Do you find it the greatest pastime you have next to being on your computer?

Are you very vocal about what you like and don’t like in what you read?

Would you like to share your thoughts with others about books?

Would you like an endless supply of books to do this with?

Do you live in the UK?

Can you spare an hour every day to read?

Do you think you can write about what you’ve read?

Are you finding the recession is hitting your book buying habit?

If you’ve been nodding your head up to this point then link in below and see if you have what it takes to be a reviewer at SFCrowsnest. If you have that special knack to read and write or want to develop said skill then the only way you’re going to find out is to take the plunge yourself rather than wait for others to do it first. Reading a lot of books is a requisite for any writer. Being able to say what makes them good or bad hones your own skills. Even if you’re just happy with reading with a little writing on the side then this might be for you. It’s got to be better than waiting for the sun to come out in this weird summer and now cold winter. It’s also amazing how much you can read in an hour a day.

If you’ve survived this far in the editorial, let me reiterate something from the website newsletter and the above editorial. As you can see from the main page, we have one of the biggest SF/fantasy/horror monthly reviews columns on the Net. Our success has increased the number of books that comes in and our policy is to read everything and give it a roadtest before giving a review so you have some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for. You want the bottom line about what you’re going to choose to read. That means we need people actually willing to read the book and tell others they’re opinion in reviews. For that, we’re always on the outlook for more reviewers.

Do you think you have what it takes to review a book? It’s a skill that can be easily mastered and we need a few more. If you love fantasy, we have more than enough to keep you busy for instance.

Apart from the ability to put words into sentences, you also need to know how to précis, do a little research on associated subjects and can express opinions constructively about the good and bad points about the books you read. We even let you choose from our pile of received books rather than foster something on you that you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll even get a little editorial help in how to write good copy and that can always lead to other things. I’m not as scary as I sound editorially and it’s better to do the test review and see how you fare than not attempt to see how well you did. I did say you have to love books and willing to read beyond your favourite authors, didn’t I?

If you like reading books in the genre and can average two or maybe three a month, can really think and show you can write a decent review and, most importantly, live in the British Isles (sorry, expense, time and distance travelled mostly prohibits elsewhere), then use the link below and see our requirements. We can’t pay you but writing a review has to be cheaper than buying a book and a good incentive to see if you have what it takes to develop your writing skills.

Do you think you’re up to writing a review? If you think you can, then you’re really going to think you’ve landed your hands in the biscuit tin. It won’t hurt to try and see if you have the right stuff by sending me a sample review to show me you can write. If you want an added incentive, it can also be good for your CV.

Look up the Review Guidelines by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_reviews.php”></a> with a press of a mouse button.

SHORT STORIES

We always have an interest in running short stories which can be anything from one to thirty or so pages long. We’re always willing to give short story writers a chance to be seen if they can withstand my scrutiny even if we can’t pay for their efforts, your material will be seen by a lot of people if it’s shown on the SFCrownest website. If you can get a short story written well then it’ll make it easier to move up to novel-length.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse.

FLASH OR ONE-PAGE FICTION

We’ve also a teaching ground of one page stories, so check out the rules elsewhere on the website. It’s a lot tougher than it looks and far too easy to just write and write and hope something good comes out of it. What writing a one page story does is test your ability to control your word count and still tell a story in a concise way. This doesn’t mean we don’t accept stories of different lengths – a short story can be anything up to 30-40 pages long after all – but opens up the means for really short stories from ideas that don’t need as much space.

Flash fiction stories by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_flashfic.php”></a> with your mouse.

NOVEL-LENGTH SAMPLES

For those keeping track, I’m actually now caught up but don’t tell everyone as I’m undecided as to whether to keep looking at novel-length story samples, move over specifically to short stories – which we do anyway for the website – or get a couple of my own book projects completed. The latter, I still intend to do anyway and now actually working on but don’t let that put you off too much. If you want me to look over a sample, you can contact me through the links on this website.

Before you submit, study the next section below as it’s there to help you do some of the right things and reduce the number of times I’m repeating myself over silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that you shouldn’t be making if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It makes editing a lot easier if any editor has less work pointing out poor English which you should have been sorted out in the first place and more focused on other areas of your work that deal with plot and the other serious elements of storywriting. As a writer, it is your command of the English language and its grammar that will show how serious you are about writing.

There might not be much of a wait unless I get a deluge, however those sending in ebook samples, please read the Guidelines by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse here or through the bottom line menu on the opening page of the SFC website.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING BUT AFRAID TO ASK

General advice for those who want to become writers of any sort: There’s an old editorial adage: If you can’t aim for perfection why should an editor nurse-maid you to that state? Nominally, my job is to catch minor glitches not total mishaps. If you’re a writer, then you should understand the words, sentences and grammar of the job you’re supposed to be writing or are you considering it as mundane and boring as any other job to get right? Fall in love with making every sentence the best you’re ever written, read up and understand the rules of grammar. Put the time in researching any subject you’re using in the story. Be prepared to put a story away for a few weeks and go back to it for a self-edit until it’s as good as you can make it. Even I do that. You look good. I make you look better but you have to start off with good.

A lot of the time, errors will just stare you in the face when you didn’t see them the first time round. Once you know where your weaknesses are, they can be sorted out and allow you to move a little higher up the ladder towards making your material look its best and more importantly, getting your material seen by readers.

The link here will show you the Common Problems Link page and what I see mostly <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_commonprobs.php”></a>

with your mouse. It’s the smart writer who doesn’t get caught out with these.

Good luck.

Geoff

Category: Offworld Report

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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