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by Dr. Colin Fincham
Published on December 29, 2016

It was the Greek Philosopher who wrote in the 4th Century BC, “There is nothing permanent except change”. As we head into another New Year nothing could be more appropriate especially in the field of Information Technology.

Technology is a bit like a car or a boat, whether you own it, lease it or hire it, it vies for your attention whether performing those simple everyday things to keep it running or the less frequent but just as important servicing tasks. Whether adding fuel to a vehicle or replacing the oil, software is no different. In a way it can be even more needy. If you left your car alone in garage or your boat in the mooring, it will probably do nicely for a few weeks or even months, but in the world of technology there are people out there who are trying to continually exploit the fact that you haven’t done that servicing.

It was not long ago that I would postpone the inevitable upgrade that my technology required, taking the attitude ‘well it still works why fix it’. But the world has moved on, those weaknesses and holes are there to be exploited by anyone with the skills and the knowledge (and there are a lot of those about). The postponement of upgrades and patches does not just allow those vulnerabilities to be evident for longer but also when the inevitable comes the scale of the change is such that it requires massive effort and change management.

But should we be worried, I would suggest we be worried if it was not happening. A very recent report showed 90 per cent of the NHS continues to run Windows XP machines, two and a half years after Microsoft ditched support for the ageing OS [1]. This is surely unacceptable on machines that access sensitive patient data. Whilst in our personal lives you are now 20 times more likely to be robbed while at your computer by a criminal based overseas than held up in the street[2] Although nothing will make things 100% safe regularly closing the exploitable holes is one thing that definitely helps.

There is another reason for all this change, our clamber for something new, as humans we are always looking for something better, something to improve our lives and the technology within it is no different. Research shows that since 2009 the average lifespan of a phone app is 30 days [3]. In 2015 Microsoft announced with Windows 10, “it's time to start thinking of Windows as something that won't see a big launch or major upgrade every few years anymore. Much like how Google's Chrome browser gets updated regularly, with version numbers nobody really pays attention to”. For all Facebookers out there who have woken up to find Facebook saying good morning and telling you the local weather, you probably don’t remember ever upgrading the Facebook app and adding that feature, no because like the majority of individuals the default auto-update is enabled, it’s a challenge to find where to turn it off.

It does not matter how long you have been using an application or tool, the automatic and endless upgrades will make us all Newbies. But rather than having to go endure the massive upheavel when jumping from one level to another; the gentle slope, or more appropriately tiny steps, means that we do not have to go through the ‘agony of the upgrade’ but rather sale our ‘new’ boat with more features without having to relearn to sail.

Whatever your age, technological experience, the one thing that joins us together in this technological era is that come tomorrow there will be a new feature a new icon or new function that makes our life that little bit better but we have never come across before and we are in this together and “There is nothing permanent except being FOREVER NEWBIES”

[1] http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2479315/90-per-cent-of-nhs-trusts-are-still-running-windows-xp-machines

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/21/one-in-people-now-victims-of-cyber-crime/

[3] https://techcrunch.com/2009/02/19/pinch-media-data-shows-the-average-shelf-life-of-an-iphone-app-is-less-than-30-days/

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