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Saturday, 30 December 2017

Techie Transitions From 2017

Turning the page on 2017...
First of all, let me say that it's alarming that I'm looking back on 2017, when it feels like I just hung up a new calendar a few months ago. (By the way, do you still hang calendars or is that too old school for you?)

Today's post is a series of ramblings about stuff that's happened over the past twelve months with regards to technology and the online world through which we connect. Some of it's personal, some not, but most of it has a sewing/crafting angle to it.

Oh, and be forewarned — it's going to be a long one. (I have to make up for the brevity of last week... LOL.)

If you're not intrigued enough to read further, please accept my best wishes for 2018!

Personal Technology Issues Continue in 2017


In January, I posted about my tech problems from 2016 and hoped for a better year. In fact, I said something about hoping for world peace and taking my technology for granted in 2017. As we all know, that first wish has almost gone nuclear and the second, well... here's the continuation of that story.

In April, my technology problems escalated to sky high levels. Not only did we have to ship hubby's new little Acer out for repairs (it was BSOD-ing several times an hour; turned out to be a motherboard issue), my own computer — running my preferred Windows 7 — died suddenly on the evening of April 30.

One second I was looking up something using Google Chrome, the next second the entire screen froze. As I've typically had to do over the past year, I performed a hard boot, but this time, the power wouldn't even come full on. All I heard was the fan.

Upon calling my tech guy the next day, he pronounced the unit dead over the phone. He then told me to save my money and forgo any further diagnostic visit.

Argh!


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While the new solid state hard drive that I purchased in June of 2016 would survive, the constraints of Windows 7 meant that it could not be re-installed on a new machine. Having just lived through a nightmare with the Acer failing, failing, failing and failing yet again to update (although we were now a bit reassured that the hardware had at least partially been at fault), I was dreading the move to Windows 10.

My computer was an all-in-one, a form factor that I prefer, even with the knowledge that when something dies on it, it's often more complex to fix. I had started to hone in on a Dell AIO when I discovered that Staples sold a wide variety of refurbished machines. (It wasn't an untried arena for me. I actually still have a working Windows 98 IBM laptop that was purchased refurbished; it's currently Mom's backup computer.)

Tsum Tsum Darth Chocolate Lip Smacker
At least my internet has been problem free this year,
what with Darth Vader protecting my router...
(That's a Lip Smacker for those who are curious!)
Not to bore you with too many details, I settled on a refurbed Lenovo ThinkCentre with Win 10 Professional. I had enough personal experience with Win 10 Home to know that I wanted to avoid that version like the plague. That, combined with 8 GB of RAM on board, has made my transition to a new computer as pain-free as possible.

[And if I can give you any advice, let me just say that if you haven't yet switched over to Win 10, when you do, ensure that your computer has a minimum of 6 GB of RAM. Yes, Windows 10 technically runs on as little 2 GB, but I guarantee you'll find yourself climbing the walls waiting for it to update.]

Oh, and the thing that totally made up my mind for me about this refurbed unit? It came with a three year warranty. That's virtually unheard of, even for a new unit!

In August, my mother's laptop began having issues powering up. While the current solution has been to keep it on all the time, I'm expecting that at some point, it will kick the bucket.

So goes my technology life.

Significant TOS Changes in 2017


Having owned a brick and mortar business for the better part of two decades, I'm always interested in keeping up with business news and sharing thoughts about what's happening on that front. Sort of like why I was moved to write a post about Sears a few weeks ago.

Two items came to my attention this year that merit further discussion, because they're about how online businesses make money. Specifically, about how they're finding new ways to do so on the backs of customers who initially made their business... and the semi-sneaky method that they use to communicate those changes: through terms of service updates.

A Story of How Free Ends up Being Very Expensive

In late June, I noticed that the slideshow widget at the top of my blog sidebar was showing this somewhat ominous graphic:

The Photobucket image that's now all over the the internet...

My initial fear was that my stuff had been hacked in some fashion. As it turned out, it may have been a better situation for some to have been hacked than for what actually happened.

If you were online in any fashion during the early part of the summer, you probably saw the unfortunate effects of Photobucket's decision to change their business model... that image was literally all over the place. People like me saw the end of free access to photo storage through that company, since their new plan for "not free" was about $400. Ha! Had it not been so very horrible for some webmasters and online businesses who truly did not see this coming, it would have been supremely funny.

All I had stored on Photobucket's servers were ten to twenty photos that were circulated on that slideshow widget. As you can clearly see, that widget is still running; I easily found an alternative for the small bit of storage that I need. Plus, I had copies of those photos so I didn't even bother downloading them when I closed my account.

For those who ran Etsy, Amazon and eBay stores using Photobucket servers exclusively to hotlink their pictures, the magnitude of the loss was on another level entirely. And if they didn't have copies of those photos stored on their own devices, getting them downloaded from Photobucket was a problem compounded by the fact that Photobucket had gotten extremely slow to use over the years, with ads popping up with every key press and mouse movement. I even heard that at this juncture, downloading was only feasible one picture at a time. It's no wonder that users were complaining about being held hostage.

This is the only plan offered by Photobucket that allows 3rd party hosting...

The problem at Photobucket was that ads weren't creating enough revenue. All of those users who had come on board for free services over the years were going to pay, and pay mightily. At least that appeared to be the plan. I'm not quite sure how well that plan has unfolded. The company still exists, but I haven't heard any new news since the initial flurry in July. The price to have any sort of third party hosting has remained unchanged at $399, and I imagine that some of those users who were hit hard probably paid up just to keep their businesses going... at least for the immediate future.

Moral of the story: don't rely on a free service to stay free. Have a backup plan that can be implemented ASAP if there's a revenue stream involved. Most services likely won't be as completely asinine as Photobucket was in this instance, but this has surely set a precedent for "you just never know".

But then, I've brought this up before (here and here). By the very nature of something being free, you have no control over it. Blogger itself — the very platform by which you're reading these words — is free. And I admit, I have regular thoughts about what would happen if it were to go "bye bye" all of a sudden.

But that's a post for another day.


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Craftsy Launches New Subscription Based Service

Did you know about this one?

If you haven't yet seen, Craftsy has begun to sell unlimited access to its classes via monthly subscription. For $14.99 USD ($18.99 CDN; the price will depend on the conversion rate of your specific currency from USD) per month — less if you ante up for a whole year — you have a pass to an "all you can consume" buffet of crafting classes. The advertising indicates that there are over three thousand hours of high quality video at your disposal.

image courtesy of Craftsy.com...

Quite honestly, if you have a month off and want to go crafting crazy, it would be a tremendous deal. In that scenario, I can't complain about it at all. Or, if you've had your eye on several small classes, it would be an excellent way to check them out without the need to keep them. (Really, there are a lot of projects that — once you've done it once — you don't need much help to do it again... if you even want to.)

When this plan first came to light back in July, a minor volcanic eruption occurred among current Craftsy customers who thought that they'd be losing access to their purchased classes.

I've always been wary of this aspect of not being able to download something tangible when I pay real money for something. For those who have acquired many classes on Craftsy — and in a discussion thread, I found out that many people have purchased them for "future viewing" in their retirement years — that is putting a lot of faith in an online company being around "forever" without changing their terms of service.

The reality is that if you have purchased classes on Craftsy, you most likely won't lose access to them any time soon.

That is, unless it goes out of business. Or changes hands (again)... or


Screenshot from Craftsy's TOS, circa Dec 18, 2017

... they decide to "Photobucket" you. Their TOS more or less states that they can, just by changing it.

Ah, those pesky TOSs. The Photobucket debacle arose from a TOS change. The vast majority of customers didn't even bother to read it until it was too late.

Do you have any idea of what Craftsy's TOS is? I don't. I mean, I must have read it at some point, but am I clear about what it can and can't do over time? No. Have I kept up with what's changed over the past few years? No.

Here is a very important part of it:

Screenshot from Craftsy's TOS, circa Dec 18, 2017

You don't have to be a lawyer to know that any legitimate online entity's TOS is always going to be so skewed in their favour that you're left with virtually no rights... except to opt out of the service before ever opting in. I mean, what part of "EACH TIME YOU ACCESS OR USE THE CRAFTSY SERVICES YOU ARE ENTERING INTO A NEW AGREEMENT ON THE THEN-APPLICABLE TERMS" — displayed in all caps, even — protects either you or me as a user of their services?

Seriously, I don't know about you, but if I had a hoard of "unopened" classes on Craftsy, I'd at least get into them to download whatever patterns and other printed support materials are available and keep them on my own devices. As for the actual videos that can only be streamed but not downloaded, I can't offer a solution for that in a public forum.

Oh, and if you've purchased patterns via the Craftsy Marketplace that you still haven't downloaded, what on earth are you waiting for??

Let me be clear and say that I am not trying to fearmonger, nor do I have any inside information about Craftsy's plans. But just as I've always recommended that you back up what's important to you, I think you need to do all you can to protect yourself and your online purchases. Like I said above, Photobucket's audacious move set a dangerous precedent for TOS changes.

Here's the thing... I've gone the subscription route with intangible products. Earlier this year, I purchased a three or four month trial of Texture (the online magazine service). I liked that I could read whatever I wanted from a whole slew of publications, but whenever I found something that — in the old days — I would have torn out and kept, it wasn't possible.

When I buy a physical magazine, it's my property for life. After my trial period with Texture, I was left with no access to any magazine. I don't know if Craftsy is going to go the Creativebug route and allow subscribers to build up a collection of classes to keep over time, but even so, the ability to own any class in perpetuity depends on the site continuing to be accessible.

And sorry to say, but no one can guarantee that. (This doesn't apply just to Craftsy. Before you lay out money for access to streaming video from anyone, make sure you understand the full ramifications if the source of that streaming video is suddenly not available.)

You know what's really ironic? It may be old technology, but the only sure way I see of permanently owning any Craftsy class is to buy its DVD!

Thoughts?

Other than happy new year, of course... ◕‿◕


9 comments:

  1. That's probably the best blog post I've read anywhere in 2017. Thanks and Happy New Year!

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    Replies
    1. Oh my, such high praise and I can't even thank you personally. Please accept my deepest thanks for reading and have yourself a happy 2018 also!

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  2. Rochelle, thank you so much for the valuable information and tips! I’m going to check if I have all the patterns of the Craftsy classes ( I have delete some ��) I have a Mac mini, I’m going to ask my tech guy for help and I’m also going to use my old laptops, netbooks , PC so that I can save whatever I can . I have 122 or more,classes at Craftsy��.
    Thank you so much again for opening my eyes !
    Thank you!
    Carolina C. , from Costa Rica

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  3. Happy New Year! I enjoy reading your thoughts and inspirations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your support, Karen. Only the best in 2018 to you and yours!

      Delete
  4. I have seen stuff come and go online. My first online photo place was Webshots, which was free for years and then suddenly they were charging, but claimed you could still access any of your photos that were on there still for free. Well maybe I could access for a short period of time, but after that I was shut out. Now when you search for Webshots, they are no longer a photo storing site at all. Not even sure if it is the same business that changed or now someone else is using the same name?

    I save all my free and laid pdf and tutorials on my computer, with backups to a hard drive and a thumbdrive too. I have seen lots of freebies disappear online for whatever reason, so I was glad to have the pattern when it couldn't be found either for free anymore or was taken off entirely.

    With changes at Craftsy that weren't the best, they could sell that company and make more changes, which could be not allowing access to videos or patterns that you assumed would be there forver. I wrote a blog posting showing a Fabric basket I made from a free pattern I got on Craftsy, but when I searched for the link, it couldn't be found. In fact the woman who wrote the tutorial was no longer on Craftsy at all or on the internet when tying to search for her. So I was glad to have saved the tutorial on my computer!

    I do worry about blogger too. A lot of people have switched to other blogging platform like WordPress or TypePad, but there's no guarantee those will be around either.
    Happy New Year Rochelle! Oh and hubby has Lenovo, which our son recommended a few years ago and it's been a great laptop.

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  5. There are ways to create screen recordings where you could play the video on your computer and record as it plays. This would be one way to keep your own hard copy for if and when a website like Crafsty goes out of business. It's a huge concern of mine and why I steer away from online content--at any point the content could disappear. If I can't download it, I don't buy it. It's a huge advantage to have it available online, but it's a huge disadvantage that at some point in time I could lose access to it. I must have a means of downloading it and backing it up before I will spend money on it.

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    Replies
    1. That is a wise take on the whole subject. That said, some things just aren't available or convenient in other formats. Re: Craftsy, I would just encourage people to start "taking their courses" rather than to leave them for later. And yes, there are ways around the streaming video restriction (and that would contravene almost everyone's TOS), but you didn't hear any of them from me! ;-)

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  6. I mainly use the calendar on my phone, but keep one in the kitchen where we both add dates. I've often thought about Blogger not being free and that it could easily change. For the time being I don't want to make any changes, so I'll take my chances - and cross my fingers and toes.

    ReplyDelete

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