Microsoft bad, good then bad again

onejpgFor several years I’ve made effective professional use of cloud storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive, now known as OneDrive. I’d managed to accumulate about 25Gb of free storage on OneDrive and was using it to automatically back up files associated with current projects, plus my administration files. It was a bit of a kludge: I’d back up current work files to the cloud, then, once the jobs were finished, I’d archive those files elsewhere on my computer’s hard drive and to a USB hard drive.

Then earlier this year, Microsoft welshed on the deal and cut all users’ free OneDrive storage limit back to 5Gb. Bastards!

Office 365Five gigabytes was not enough, but there was a pretty sweet replacement deal on offer: a whole terabyte of cloud storage, plus free use of the latest Office 365 suite, for a fairly reasonable annual rental. I accepted the offer and now all my data files, including archived ones, live in the cloud. Two laptops plus two mobile devices are synced to it.

Since recently revitalising my older Dell Windows 7 machine via an OS reinstall, I find myself using that laptop quite a bit – partly because some of my key Photoshop plugins don’t work in Windows 10, which my Acer machine has. I set up OneDrive on the Dell and it immediately synced to my cloud storage, downloading about 160Gb of files. (Fortunately I have an unlimited broadband account!)

So now my files are always up to date, on the physical hard drives of two laptops and in the OneDrive cloud. And I still back up the most important files to a separate USB hard drive. Yes, I’m paranoid about backup but yes, I now have reasonable peace of mind.

Then a couple of days ago I upset the applecart by changing my OneDrive password – on the Dell. It worked fine and the sync to OneCloud was preserved. Not so dandy with my other laptop, which was now shut off from the cloud. The OneDrive icon in its System Tray wouldn’t stop ‘signing in’ and I couldn’t figure out how to tell it about my new password.

Fortunately, Microsoft came to the rescue. The company now has a pretty damn good ‘Answer Desk’ customer help system, based on text chat. After less than five minutes I found myself chatting back and forth with a very helpful young man from the Philippines. He offered to take over my computer and sort the problem out. I accepted and from there it was very simple. After a quick nosey round he went to OneDrive’s System Tray icon and told it to exit, then to restart. Bingo: OneCloud reconnected automatically, with no password being re-entered.

So simple, yet I never saw that solution on any of Microsoft’s web help pages.

A rip-off
Though I think the OneDrive/Office 365 deal, especially with the one terabyte of storage, is pretty good, Microsoft is grossly overcharging Kiwis compared with our cousins across the ditch. An annual subscription to the Home plan in Australia is Au$119. In New Zealand it is NZ$165. Right now the Aussie dollar isn’t worth much more than ours, and the Australian price would convert to NZ$123.50. Yet we’re being asked – sorry, told – to pay $165. How can they possibly justify such a difference? The software is delivered online and the product support for both countries is in the Philippines. Where are the extra costs to justify the Kiwi tax?

Posted in Office 365, OneDrive | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Heaven forbid that I get seduced by an Internet craze

I’ve been fascinated by the speed at which Pokémon GO has seduced news media and co-opted them as as free advertising shills, in the few days since the Android and iOS app was launched. Being curious, and given that the app was free, I loaded it onto my phone this afternoon.

Extremely easy to set up and use, it sent me on a tour of our back lawn, promising a Pokémon in the vicinity. Sure enough a creature was there, beside our cat who was oblivious to its existence. Here’s what I saw. Moments later I tapped the red ball and captured the intruder.

I don’t know what would have come next and I don’t intend to find out. I’ve had my cheap thrill.


Posted in Pokemon | Tagged | Leave a comment

More again on OneNote

Whoop-de-doo: after about 15 attempts, OneNote finally installed on my tablet. I might start taking the program seriously now and migrate my Evernote database to it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow-up on Evernote and OneNote

I had mixed success yesterday converting my Evernote database to OneNote. However, I was on the right track and I think I was going to be completely successful. I just ran out of time. I was pleased that the Evernote notes transferred completely, including graphics. I wasn’t impressed with the OneNote user interface, but I guess I’d get used to that.

But there’s a further spanner in the works.

While OneNote works on my Nexus 5 phone, I can’t install it on my Asus ZenPad Z580CA tablet, which is a grunty machine with storage and RAM to burn. OneNote downloads from the PlayStore, but gets stuck at the installation stage. The word ‘Installing’ appears and stays forever. I’ve tried installing several times and rebooted the device several times during the process. 

I spent some time in a text chat with Microsoft, but they couldn’t help and asked me to contact Asus. I went to Asus chat and they told me to talk to Microsoft! 

Interesting that Microsoft Word installed OK from the PlayStore. It’s from the same stable as OneNote.

I suspect that things might not improve until my tablet gets an OS update. It’s still only on Android 5.0, which is appalling for a model that was released less than a year ago. (However, to be fair, this ancient OS has only been a (possible) problem with OneNote.)

I asked the Asus rep if an update can be expected and she said yes,  but didn’t know when. Then I asked her if she knew there would definitely be an update and she admitted she didn’t know.

Looks like I’ll be staying with Evernote, even at its increased cost, until I can make OneNote work on my tablet. An app like this has to work on all my devices.

I must say that the text chat system worked well. I was answered straight away by both Microsoft and Asus. The Microsoft person (in India) was clued up and helpful, even if he couldn’t help in the end. The Asus person was not as good. But at least I didn’t have to wait 45 minutes before I got no help at all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Time to move on from Evernote?

Evernote logoEvernote has been an indispensable application for me for a long time, first on my PCs and more latterly on my mobile devices – phone and tablet. Back in 2009  I blogged about my serious attachment to the program.  I found Evernote a much improved version of the InfoSelect note-taking program I’d previously been wedded to.

I’ve continued to find the Evernote useful. For instance, yesterday I was in a library doing research for a book I’m writing. I took all my notes in Evernote, using a Bluetooth keyboard linked to my Android tablet. It was comforting to know that those notes were automatically making their way to my phone, laptop and the cloud. It was also very convenient, because I can start working on them immediately on my laptop.

But Evernote has become slow and unwieldy – infected by the same swissarmyknife feature-creep that ruined InfoSelect. And it’s no longer the only game in town. Other apps such as Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote can do the job – to lesser (and greater) degrees.


Evernote has been in financial difficulty for a while. This no doubt was behind its announcement this week that the free version will now only work on two devices, and the premium version subscription will go up from US45 a year to $70.

I’ve been a premium subscriber for many years because it has a few nifty extras that are worthwhile for me. But are those extras worth the price rise? Mmmm…

I’ve been using Google Keep as a simple note taker for some time. It’s simple and it does a simple job well. But I also need note program with more features and I don’t want to lose the really valuable personal database I’ve built up in Evernote.

Now I don’t have to lose it.  There’s now a Windows utility, Evernote2OneNote, that lets you migrate an Evernote database to OneNote. And OneNote is entirely free to use on as many devices you like. See

I’ve played around with OneNote and read reviews and comparisons with Evernote. I doubt it’s as good as Evernote for my purposes, but saving US$70 a year in perpetuity puts a different complexion on things.

I renewed my Evernote subscription quite recently, but I’ll do a trial migration to OneNote sooner rather than later, in case the process needs to get at Evernote’s cloud database, or in case Evernote manages to put a spanner in the migration works.

The cloud database might disappear if Evernote goes bust – and going bust would be no surprise. When you’re in financial strife, it’s hard to fix things by raising prices and increasing restrictions, when your competitors are free.

Posted in Evernote | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Cemeteries here and abroad

Yesterday I was asked about a photo I might have taken at a cemetery. I couldn’t remember when I took it, or its likely filename. No problem for my Google Photos app. Searching for ‘cemetery’ found it easily.

Nearly every photo I’ve ever taken is in my Google Drive repository and the Photos app searches by both filename and what it recognises in a photo. It served up a few images that weren’t cemeteries, but mostly it was very accurate.

I found the photo I was after, but I also noticed there were dozens more cemetery photos from all over the world. It may be morbid, but Liz and I like poking around graveyards. And they have plenty of character to attract the photographer in me.

Here’s some of the photos, beginning with my own family:

My great-great-grandparents John and Jane MacGibbon in Mataura Cemetery, NZ, 2007

My great-great-grandparents John and Jane MacGibbon in Mataura, NZ, 2007.

Mataura Cemetery, NZ, 2007

Mataura, NZ, 2007.

My great-grandparents Thomas and Isabella MacGibbon, Anderson's Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, NZ, 2001

My great-grandparents Thomas and Isabella MacGibbon, Anderson’s Bay, Dunedin, NZ, 2001.

Kingston, NZ, 1979.

Su, Dan, Liz and Guy inspecting graves at the tiny Kingston Cemetery, NZ, 1983.

Kingston, NZ, 1979.

Kingston, NZ, 1979.

Waihenga Cemetery in Martinborough

Monuments in the pioneer Waihenga Cemetery in Martinborough, NZ. “One less at home, one more in heaven” is the rather curious sentiment on the left, while on the right the monument marks the grave of the entire Wilson-Smith family – mum, dad, son and daughter – who died in what was considered New Zealand’s most disastrous homestead fire to that date. The family’s cook also died in the blaze.

Maori grave, Martinborough, NZ, 2015.

Maori grave at the main Martinborough cemetery, NZ, 2015.

Maori grave, Martinborough, NZ, 2015.

Martinborough, NZ, 2015.


Waitangi, Chatham Islands, NZ, 2007.

Waitangi, Chatham Islands, NZ, 2007.


Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, USA, 2015
The Bonaventure Cemetery was immortalised in John Berendt’s best selling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, published in 1994. It was later made into a movie. In the book, the cemetery was highly spooky, with dastardly deeds in the dead of night. We still felt quite an atmosphere in daylight – partly because we’d read the book and seen the film, and partly because of the lush vegetation, including bright pink azaleas, palmettos, and live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.

USA2015-Savannah Bonaventure Cemetery-001

USA2015-Savannah Bonaventure Cemetery-015


USA2015-Savannah Bonaventure Cemetery-006

USA2015-Savannah Bonaventure Cemetery-020_DxOVP

Bonaventure Cemetery angel Savannah


United Kingdom

Highgate Cemetery, North London, 2007.

Highgate Cemetery, North London, 2007. Best known for an elaborate tomb housing Karl Marx.

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Inside church in Cley, Norfolk, UK, 2014.

Inside St Margaret’s Church in Cley, Norfolk, UK, 2014.


Church of St Mary the Virgin, Turvill, Buckinghamshire, UK, 2007.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Turvill, Buckinghamshire, UK, 2007.

Twickenham, London, 2007.

Twickenham, London, 2007.

Dunsford, Devon, UK.

Dunsford, Devon, UK, 2007.

Dunsford, Devon, &UK, 2007.

Dunsford, Devon, UK, 2007.



San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy, 2007.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy, 2007.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy, 2007.

San Michele Cemetery Island - Venice, Italy. We passed the island while travelling to the Murano by vaporetto ferry.

San Michele cemetery island in the Venetian Lagoon, Italy, 2014. We passed San Michelle while travelling by vaporetto ferry to the ‘glass island’ of Murano.














Posted in Cemeteries | Tagged | 1 Comment

Call me a curmudgeon, but…

Princewith logoThere’s been a huge media wailfest about Prince Rogers Nelson since he died last week. The man is supposed to have been a total musical genius who changed music — if not mankind itself!

Let’s get some perspective. Sorry you didn’t make it, Prince, but you were just a better than average pop-soul-r&b performer who wrote very average songs and built up a mystique way beyond your actual musicianship with your androgenous antics (copying Bowie, who I also think was over-rated), fancy clothes, troweled-on make-up, bizarre guitar and renaming yourself, first with just your first name and then as an unpronounceable  graphic symbol.

You were by no means a musical charlatan. You had talent, but mostly you were famous for being famous.

I’ve always felt this about you and my mind was not changed by a solid session today of listening to your big hits. I heard nothing earth-shattering. Stevie Wonder’s songs – even Michael Jackson’s – have far more going for them.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think you took a lot of people for a ride.

Rest in peace.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments