Have your say to the government over the internet, Install on demand – what does it mean?

By | April 15, 2012
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In the Computers newsletter this time:
  • Have your say to the government over the internet
  • Install on demand – what does it mean?
  • YouView – another way to watch TV, say the BBC (but not just yet)
Hello 

Well, it’s been an exciting time for me – Edward Andrew Wakeling arrived just a few days late on the 10th April at half five in the morning. He weighed 8 lbs and he and Julie are both fine. We’ve got him home now and luckily enough he sleeps pretty well, so we’re not TOO worn out! Alastair is fascinated by him and keeps bringing him toys to play with!

Anyway, I’d cunningly written an article for this newsletter in advance so it looks like I’m still alert enough to write when really I’m only just alert enough to copy and paste. Except I’ve just given the game away – oh well, on with the article, explaining something I mentioned last time…

What’s an e-petition?
In my last newsletter (/NL010412.htm ) I mentioned an electronic petition in favour of putting Alan Turing on the next version of the ten pound note, where Charles Dickens is at the moment.

But I didn’t really explain about the e-petition itself. It’s something that makes it much easier to submit a petition to the government and get people to “sign” it.

It’s all done online, so it’s very easy to get people all around the country to sign up – and easier to create the petition in the first place.

You can see all the current epetitions here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.ukYou can search the list by typing in a few words, to find something you’ve heard about or just if you want to check if there is a petition on a particular topics.

The cynic in me wonders if the reason the government runs this system is that it’s easier to ignore an electronic petition than someone knocking on 10 Downing Street with a big sack full of signatures on paper, but if a petition gets to 100,000 signatures (and assuming the topic hasn’t been debated separately or is affected by a law that’s already changing) then it should be debated in Parliament.

Install on Demand – what does that mean?
Some programs come with several different features that are really like different programs. For example OpenOffice has a word processor, a spreadsheet for calculations, a drawing program and so on.

And the other day I was using a sound editing program that had noise reduction to get rid of background hiss, a CD burning program, a program for adding special effects and so on…

But I actually only wanted the bit that let you actually edit the sound files – cutting them up, chopping off silent bits at the end, that sort of thing.

If I’d installed the whole lot, it would be clogging up my hard drive and some other parts of the PC, like the “registry”, where Windows keeps track of all the installed programs and what they do. But if I didn’t install them all and wanted them later, I’d have to remember where I downloaded it from, find the right version and install them from scratch.

“Install on demand” gets around that. It installs the bit of the program you really want – and for the other bits puts icons in the start menu as normal. But when you click on them, it doesn’t straight away start the program. Instead it then installs it – and then starts it up.

So you end up with only the bits you actually use installed.

Microsoft use a similar approach for some of the features built into Word, for example. Lots of people who have Word only use the basic features, they might never use (say) the mail merge feature that lets you combine a list of names and addresses with a letter. So the option is in the menu, but it doesn’t necessarily install it. If you click on the option to use it, first of all it’ll install it, then let you use it. Next time you come to use it, it’ll already be installed, but it doesn’t install it and set it up until the first time you try to use it.

A new way to watch TV, say the BBC, ITV & Channel 4
Not to mention TalkTalk, BT, & Channel 5.

YouView is a new type of set-top box. You might wonder why I’d write about a set-top box in a computers newsletter, but bear with me – it’s to do with broadband.

At the moment, if you don’t want to pay a subscription fee (leaving aside the licence fee that is!) then probably the most popular way to watch TV is with a freeview box – where you get digital TV through an aerial. Some people use freesat, but freeview is probably the most popular.

But the other popular way is to watch it online. As long as you have a reasonably fast broadband connection, it works pretty well. You can watch things live (for which you need to have a licence) or in some cases for a few weeks after they were broadcast (for which you don’t need a licence).

But I find it a bit frustrating that I’ve got a reasonable TV to watch proper TV on, but when I watch something on the internet, it’s just on my laptop’s screen. I can plug the laptop into my TV, but I have to dig out the cable and crawl round the back to plug it in.

YouView is a set-top box that gets both freeview and connects to online TV – so you can access it all through one remote control and watch it all on one TV. It sounds like a good idea and in a way I wonder why it’s taken them so long. I suppose all the different companies having to work together slows things down!

Anyway, the plan is for it to come out later this year. I won’t rush out and buy one but if I wanted a replacement for my current freeview box, I’d be looking for one that was one of the new You View ones.

Then Alastair could have more choice between Roary the Racing Car, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion and Peppa Pig. I prefer Roary the Racing Car – the narration is by Sir Stirling Moss!

By the way, if anyone’s curious, there are some photos of Edward (and Alastair and the rest of us) here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/julesandtim/

That’s all for now.
Tim Wakeling
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