2015 has been a momentous year for MakeUseOf. We’ve grown tremendously as a site. We’ve seen a wave of new talented writers join our ranks, and we’ve seen old friends leave. But one of the biggest changes of this year was the launch of Ask the Experts.
This was a brand new section, launched from the remnants of MakeUseOf Answers. Readers with a tech problem could write in, and a team of dedicated writers (myself, Bruce Epper and Kannon Yamada) would respond with advice.
Already, we’ve helped dozens of readers with their tech problems. Here are some of the questions we answered this year (scroll to the bottom of this article to ask your own question).
How to Turn Off Automatic Updates on Windows 10
Windows 10 launched this year, and was an immediate success, largely thanks to Microsoft giving it away for free. It was lauded as the “Best Windows Ever”, thanks to the polished visuals, improved security, and significantly improved performance. But it was a more “locked down” Windows, with Microsoft uncharacteristically exercising a larger amount of control compared to earlier editions.
For example: Microsoft now makes updates mandatory for users of Windows 10 Home Edition.
One reader, unhappy at the change, dropped us a line to ask how he could turn these updates off. Bruce Epper looked into it, and found out that there’s two possible options. First, you can roll back to an earlier version of Windows 10 where you could turn off app updates. Another option is to pay $100 to upgrade to Windows 10 Professional Edition. One commenter suggested disabling the Windows 10 update service entirely, although that would render the machine totally unable to receive updates.
What Accent-Training Apps Actually Work
If you’ve ever learned another language, you’ll probably know how frustrating it is to have an accent that is noticeably different. From the moment you open your mouth, people simply know you’re a foreigner.
One reader wanted to know if we could recommend an accent-training app or website. We put a few through their paces, and found that most didn’t work as advertised. One American-accent-training iPhone app, for example, said my fiancé sounded like an “American wannabe”. She’s from New Jersey, while I’m from Liverpool.
The problem with accent training is that computers simply aren’t suited to it. It’s very much a personal and imprecise art. Which is why we suggested that the reader, rather than focus on using apps and algorithm-driven websites, instead try to speak to as many native speakers as possible. We recommended a few websites to accomplish that.
Windows Visual C++ Runtime Errors Demystified
One of the most common, and opaquest, Windows error messages is the all-too-common Windows Visual C++ Runtime Error. It will stop any program in its tracks. But what does it actually mean?
This is what one reader asked, who’d been repeatedly been seeing it while trying to access a part of the Windows file system on a Windows Vista laptop. Bruce Epper had a look, and found the problem. In the process, Bruce explained what a runtime error actually is, and what might cause them.
How to Know When Your Hard Drive Is Talking to You
Mechanical hard drives are prone to failing. After all, they’re mechanical. They’ve got motors and servos, and when these fail, your hard drive fails, taking your all-important files with them.
One reader had a Western Digital hard drive that was making mysterious beeping noises, and was worried that it might be on its way out. Bruce Epper investigated, and listed the various reasons why a hard drive would be making suspicious noises. It’s a must-read for anyone worried about the safety of their files.
How to Diagnose Google Play Problems
The Google Play Store is Android’s app store, offering access to millions of unique third-party applications. When it breaks, as it so frequently does, it’s hugely annoying.
One of our readers found themselves with a Play Store that wasn’t updating. Kannon Yamada looked into it, and explained how you can easily fix most Play problems, either by clearing caches, reinstalling the store, or solving Play account problems.
How to Use Periscope on PC or Mac
Periscope was one of the hit apps of 2015. Like Meerkat, it allows anyone to live-stream their current surroundings from their compatible iPhone and Android device, and was so popular it was even used at campaign rallies in the US.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t available for PC or Mac. One reader emailed in to ask if there was a way to get it working.
We tried using a number of emulators, including the Chrome ARC Welder, Andyroid, and Bluestacks App Player, but none failed to run the app to a satisfactory standard. Some refused to run. Some were prone to crashing, or persistently displayed visual artifacts.
MakeUseOf emailed Periscope to see if they had any plans to launch a desktop version, but they kept mum. The good news is they’ve launched an app for the new Apple TV, meaning you can now watch people’s livestreams from the comfort of your own home.
Here’s to 2016!
We’re looking forward to another year of Ask The Experts. If you’ve never asked us a question before, consider checking out these helpful tips. When you’re ready, click the button below and let us know what tech problem is ailing you.
Do you have a favorite Ask the Experts article of 2015? Were we able to help you? Let us know in the comments below.