The Rise of the Machines? No, in The Grip of

Opening Word to crack on with my new story, I was disconcerted to see a message flash up that support for Word 2011 would be withdrawn in 10 days’ time. Eyes on stalks at the screen.

Ten days? My other half and I did that clichéd thing of mutual dumbfounded disbelieving staring.

He recovered first. In my fevered writer’s mind, it was an evil world marketing conspiracy by Microsoft. He, the logical engineer, started looking for a solution. Should we ‘rent’ software in the cloud monthly or buy? What about multi user licences against single? Was this cloud thing going to develop into a perfect storm?

I know about the cloud – we are Mac users, but Windows now has a cloud. I see Olympian gods battling it out, thunderbolts hurled across the sky.


The other half  tells me to calm down. After an hour or two examining options, we make our choice to rent monthly. You get free updates and other stuff, apparently.

Now my reaction seems overdone, but earlier in the week we’d had a major operating system update; two desktops, two MacBooks, then the phones and tablets. Okay, fairly routine, but some fiddling about.

Oh, and did I mention our Internet speed here is is 5/6 Mbps download,1Mbps upload so updates and backups take a little while…? We are supposed to be getting fibre (FTTH) next year, so they haven’t bothered upgrading the Internet speed in the meantime.

Then, joy of joys, our WordPress backup to Dropbox provider stops service. My other half looks after 20 sites in all, so this is wonderful news. Not. He spends a day and a half searching and testing alternatives for usability, reliability and robustness and liaising with the server people about (?)php recognition fixes (Don’t ask!)

And this month’s additional project is converting all the sites from HTTP to HTTPS. We are enmeshed in a world of security certificates, fixes, insecure sites and cyber horror.

Now, I’m not a Luddite. I learnt my computing in 1989 on a Viglen PC using WordStar, SuperCalc and DBase. Windows graphical interface was a revelation; a wonky one, but still… I wrote my first web page in the late 1990s.

My first website. Bad, isn’t i? But it was first written in the 1990s when few (small) businesses had websites.

I was one of the first in my business circle to have a mobile (cell) phone, then a Nokia camera phone. I was the first in my family to buy a Kindle. You catch my drift.

Then, we had to learn fast, but it was all possible; a wondrous new world of email, text messaging, information at our fingertips. And for the record, I started Tweeting in 2009 although I came a little later to Facebook. And GPS – we had an early one but I did keep my trusty mapbook…

But now we’ve gone from wonderment at sending people into space to grumping when our phone loses signal in the middle of the countryside or our TV satellite receiver picture breaks up into pixels. Did we ever think this would be the main use of space exploration?

I love all the things I can do with photos, with researching plants, guns, diamonds and Latin poets, talking to people across five continents, posting stuff about life and books and getting reactions in seconds from Edinburgh, Sydney and North Carolina. So I’m a keen user.

But as products have become so sophisticated with new services and new careers burgeoning in and around the computer industry, the average consumer finds herself bamboozled. Despite the marketing, there is no ‘one quick fix’. And everything needs updating. Continuously. Online identity thieves and fraudsters lurk round every cyber corner, ready to mug us. You need to run a feasibility study on everything to check it meets your requirements.

With so much choice and complexity, we spend a high proportion of time trying to get through the maze, no, jungle of technology. And it all sucks up so much of that time. Even half-techie people can be overwhelmed.

All I really want to do is get on with normal life and write…


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

12 comments to The Rise of the Machines? No, in The Grip of

  • I’m a half-techie. I’m overwhelmed. I used to be ahead of the curve; now, so many curves have passed me by, I feel seasick.

    It’s not liberating – it’s depressing.

    • Alison Morton

      This is exactly where I am! Even Steve who worked in the area and while not a ‘super-expert’ is very experienced in handling sites, is having to make an effort to keep it all under control.

  • kathysharp2013

    I have a love-hate relationship with IT, Alison. I was doing well enough until my Facebook page got hacked a few weeks ago. Urghh! PS I remember grappling with Wordstar, SuperCalc, etc. too.

  • Carol McGrath

    Alison someone else may have said this already but make sure the notice re word did come from Apple and is not yet another scam.

    • Alison Morton

      No, it is not a scam. Carol. We always check back. Word 2011 as the name implies has been around for some time, for it was logical it was going to be abandoned. But doing it so quickly was the surprise.

  • Sick to death of perpetual ‘upgrades’ that result in the computers throwing an eppie. Also, I don’t WANT all this stuff they throw at me. I just want a basic computer. GO AWAY.

    • Alison Morton

      Sadly, Vonnie, those days are over. I don’t mind a reasonable number of upgrades, say one a year 🙂 but it seems like it’s everyday. The problem is that many of them are security updates, so we need to do them. But I wish they’d realise how much they are irritating their customers!

  • When Microsoft hijacked software I paid for and demanded subscription payments for the”new and improved” I switched to a Mac. Far less disruption but not as compatible with some tools in the publishing world. Many of these constant updates and technical redesigns don’t serve us well. Bringing a quality product to market to is increasingly difficult. I spend more time on technical issues than writing and, as you said, it sucks the joy out of what should be satisfying work. Thanks for addressing this issue.

    Sydney Avey

    • Alison Morton

      So frustrating, isn’t it, Sydney? Instead of helping us, all these systems are enmeshing us and detracting from what we actually would like to do. And the worst thing is the time suck.

  • I have continued with the old products. IMHO they are better because I don’t need the extra bells & whistles. I don’t even use all of 5he ones I already have. Yes support has been withdrawn but I have never used the support that was there since I bought them. I liked the feeling with the older products that I have bought them so I own them. With the new ones I feel that I am only borrowing them. I think that the reason 5he companies did this is because the market was saturated and they weren’t making enough fresh sales.

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