Systems got bigger and more removed from ordinary mortals during 2016 as West Coast tech firms centralised more and more computing on server farms.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft wanted us to slap on virtual reality goggles and ask artificial intelligences to serve our voice-activated commands.
Cars, lorries and taxis minus drivers from Volvo, Ford, Uber and Otto came a step closer, with ever more vehicles tentatively tested on tracks and roads.
And yet, for all the attempts by Silicon Valley to force us into looking ahead, it was issues of the present and legacy past, and fears of an increasingly connected world of things that fascinated Reg readers and proved our biggest stories of 2016.
Pop-up windows incessant and escalating nagging of Windows 7 and 8 from Microsoft to upgrade to Windows 10 proved one of our most popular – and on-going - stories of 2016.
An essential guide on turning off the Windows 10 upgrade was therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, our biggest single Windows 10 story of our year as was the written advice from Windows PC partner Samsung to customers not to install Windows 10.
Microsoft’s ongoing inability to deliver a hassle-free Windows 10 update process proved another of the year’s most popular memes.
Installation of August’s Windows 10 anniversary update saw users previously functioning PCs unable to re-start and Microsoft advising a clean install.
Problems persisted and four months on, with a bug in an unidentified Windows 10 update taking out users network connections in December.
Microsoft’s continued exit from Kansas on open source and Linux was another top read: Redmond’s work on and release of a switch OS using Debian and after nearly 30 years ending SQL Server’s Windows monogamy and putting it on Linux.
A combination of fear and schadenfreude no doubt propelled articles on Dirty Cow into The Reg’s list of most read for the year. Linux has historically been the security good guy but Dirty Cow was a bug in kernel dating back to 2007 and present in the heart of millions of routers, Internet-of-Things gadgets and other embedded devices remain vulnerable – and many of which will be difficult to patch.
Elsewhere in paranoia, it was Internet of Things. The growing market for “things” went hand-in-hand with concern that routers, web cams, PoS and other non traditional computing device with an IP heart beat and web connection had either been hacked or was reporting back to state-sponsored snoopers behind the Bamboo Curtain. The discovery was crystalised in our top security story of the year about a $17 U8 smart-watch was quietly connecting you to an unknown Chinese IP address.
That as security guru Bruce Schneier warned this new, WSW – world sized web – is a security disaster in the making.
Our second most popular security piece was the compromising of accounts owned users of remote-control software TeamView. June saw a spike in complaints from PC and Mac claiming TeamView web accounts had been breached and through these hackers had taken control of their web browsers to empty PayPal accounts, access webmail, and buy on Amazon and eBay. TeamView had suffered a massive DDoS, but denied it’s servers had been hacked.
Another hit: Microsoft hitting the panic button after accidentally releasing the keys to unlock Secure Boot on Windows-powered tablets, phones and other devices.