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Comment Re:Give up PCs? Not likely... (Score 1) 222

"EFI firmware should check PCs for known checksums of child porn and report them to the authorities, and why would you want to disable that unless you're a paedophile yourself?"

"This technology isn't reliable. Just today another security flaw was found in the phone-home software that was supplied by a major PC brand, and it's the third one they've had recently. Cyber-crime is the fastest growing type of law-breaking and your bank spends a lot of money on IT security. Do you really want to force your bank to leave back doors so the hackers can get in and empty your account? What about hospitals? A back door there could mean the next big terrorist attack is breaking in and stopping all the equipment working so your loved ones die, without ever leaving their hideout on the far side of the world. Back doors let evil people into important systems to do evil things. The people who want your computer to include a back door are evil and you can't trust them."

Yet we have none of this for the machines that are locked down today.

But most machines sold today don't have this problem. There is still plenty of choice for those who want an alternative. Try locking things down so small businesses can't run Linux servers any more and have to pay a fortune to MS for approved Windows versions, and see how long your plan lasts.

The sad part is that this isn't true any more. A lot of children these days grow up with only a mobile phone, not a PC...

Well, I don't know where you are, but I recently had an interesting conversation about my old school. Back in the '90s, we had a dedicated computer room with maybe 1 PC for every 25 kids in the school. Today, I'm told, the ratio of computers to kids is almost 1:1, and the kids are actively taught how to use these tools in classes, including things like programming, making a simple web site, and so on. Being able to write a mobile app is something a lot of the kids enjoy, because they all relate to that kind of software now in a way that was reserved for the geeks in my generation.

Of course, I have no idea how representative that anecdote might be. It's based on second-hand information, and it's about one school that has always been successful, in one education district of one country. But if it's even close to the wider reality, surely that is a promising sign for the future. Enjoying the benefits of modern technology shouldn't be reserved for the privileged few.

Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 2) 358

I deal with a diverse range of web sites/apps (part of my work is freelance/consultancy, so I see a lot of variations). It's certainly true that some big businesses still use IE8, but in my experience even the stubborn hold-outs have been starting to give up, particularly since XP support ran out unless they paid serious money to retain it. I haven't had a mandatory requirement for IE8 support even in B2B work for several years now. Actually the highest use of older IE versions I see is often from places like China rather than big businesses, but again even that seems to be changing.

So while I would agree that IE8 still has some market share on some sites, the idea that 10% of all pageviews across the web are on IE8 is so wildly inconsistent with any primary data set I have access to that I still struggle to believe it. Given the other anomalies here, such as the relatively low Chrome figures compared to other summary sites and the insignificance of Safari despite Apple selling hundreds of millions of iSomethings per year where the Safari engine is the only one any browser is allowed to use, I'm still inclined to think this data set comes from sites heavily biased towards desktop/business use.

This is all something of a distraction anyway, of course. The original point was that Edge use is still down in the noise, and neither the IE8 nor the Safari data points change that even if they really are accurate and my experience really is wildly unrepresentative.

Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 1) 358

It is much more than Windows 7 which reached 100 mill after 6 months.

But early adoption is front-loaded so not as big a difference as that makes it seem, and this time they are literally giving Win10 away (and actively trying to push users into installing it, something they've been working on since well before it actually launched). So at this stage 100M might be satisfactory, but it doesn't seem to be anything special.

This is last month from one of them, where they are tied, you need subscription to see the latest where they have passed.

Safari is lost in the noise, Chrome barely over 20%, and IE8 at well over 10%? Those figures are laughable, presumably because whatever data sets they use are heavily biased. And they still don't think Edge has a significant share of the market.

Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 1) 358

I'm not sure what you're trying to say with the share price. MSFT was trading in the high 40s for most of the middle of the year, tanked badly around the time Win10 actually launched, and has since recovered and pushed up to mid-50s. That's not particularly impressive given the scale of the launch, and certainly no ringing endorsement of the Win10 strategy from investors.

An interesting comparison is Adobe's share price, which has risen strongly over the past couple of years since the move to their subscription-based Creative Cloud offering. Notably, that share price doesn't seem to reflect actual company performance: they've traditionally been conservative in their market guidance and have still missed targets on several quarters. Two years after launching, CC was still at around half the old user base of CS (ignoring individual product sales, so this comparison actually makes CC performance look better than it is) so adoption has been far from universal. Despite all this evidence to the contrary, investors still appear to believe that the SaaS model will be dramatically more profitable in the long term. Microsoft aren't seeing the same kind of growth so far.

So, it is Slashdot anecdotal "I don't know anybody using this", against independent reports about well over 100 million users (!) already several months ago.

Is that 100 million supposed to be impressive? Because at Microsoft's scale, it doesn't seem particularly impressive to me. Win10 is somewhere around the same level as WinXP according to various stats sites I just checked. That leaves Win10 still more than 5x smaller than Win7 in market share, despite Microsoft literally giving it away and actively trying to push Win7 and Win8 users into updating.

Microsoft Edge just passed Safari (and all Linux use combined) in market share, but if you don't bother to test web sites for Safari then Edge would be in the same category right now, yes.

For what sites? For some B2C sites that actually work well on mobile devices -- which seems to be the only case where that particular comparison is useful -- I can see Safari use at close to 20x that of Edge, in the same league as Chrome. In contrast, Edge is registering just above Amazon Silk, the old Android Browser, and something I've never even heard of.

Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 1) 358

MS share price is up and Windows 10 has largely gotten positive reception and very very rapid user uptake.

You would expect their share price to be way up this soon after the launch of their biggest project in several years. If it wasn't, heads would already have been looking loosely attached around the boardroom table.

As for positive reception... from whom? The trade press did their usual thing of waxing lyrical about the few headlines from the press release, while in many cases failing to mention the privacy or security implications at all. However, actual user studies show relatively little interest in digital assistants like Cortana. Edge is so insignificant in the analytics for every site I deal with that we're not even bothering to test with it. I literally don't know anyone, either socially or through work, who actually runs Windows 10 on anything, though I know a few people who have been actively avoiding it.

And as for "very, very rapid" user update, I don't know what figures you've seen, but the only data I saw the first few days after the Win10 launch that was confirmed by MS sources suggested rather mediocre adoption rates considering that they were literally preinstalling it on Win 7/8 machines and had been trying to nag/trick users into activating the free update for some time by then. In any case, as I've mentioned elsewhere, I think the real test will be where they stand 1-2 years after it launched, after the initial hype wave has faded, all the free updates are used up, and businesses have had time to consider their options.

Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 1) 358

Sure, but in the last six months they enjoyed the results of an extremely aggressive marketing campaign promoting their first new OS in a couple of years and a vision for locking in customers using it. The reality will be clearer after the early adopter wave has died down and in particular after a year when any final surge of interest in the free upgrade has passed. If most people are running on Windows 10 at that point, they'll be doing well. If businesses are still showing little interest and the majority of home users are still on older versions, Nadella is going to have some tough questions to answer, because MS can ill afford another Vista/Win8 fiasco.

Comment Re:Give up PCs? Not likely... (Score 1) 222

If we want to do this kind of lockdown

For the record, that's a mighty big "if".

It wouldn't take much at all to expand that to every machine; all it'd take would be MS adding "in order to keep machines secure, don't allow disabling Secure Boot" to the Windows Hardware Certification requirements

And the resulting monopoly-related lawsuits in every nation that would support them, not to mention almost inevitable regulatory action in jurisdictions like the EU, would most likely be the final nail in the MS coffin.

Even if that didn't do for them, Intel and the major manufacturers of Intel-related motherboards and other hardware within the same architectural family are already under pressure from tablets (most of which are sporting ARM-based hardware) at the casual end of the market. The last thing they want to do is put all their eggs in one basket, particularly a basket as wobbly as Microsoft has been in recent years.

There are so many existential threats to the businesses that would need to participate in such a move, and so many well-funded organisations including many in governments that would have a lot to lose, that I still think it's completely unrealistic for the mainstream Wintel ecosystem to go that way. If anything were to lead to that sort of result it would more likely be a steady creep from the direction of smartphones and tablets where relatively closed and inflexible ecosystems are the norm, but even there the signs are that the initial glow is fading as users both become more aware of the pros and cons of such devices and tire of the cost and hassle caused by the lock-in effects.

The coming war on general-purpose computing and The Coming Civil War over General Purpose Computing are a good idea to read.

They were thought-provoking articles back when they were written, but again I'd say the recent evidence is that people are increasingly tired of these games. A new generation has grown up never not knowing what it's like to have their own PCs and consoles and mobile devices, and fast near-permanent Internet access, and a huge range of software available at the tap of a finger, and all that comes with this kind of technology. They've also grown up more aware of related issues like privacy and security, and wise to a lot of the problems that caught older generations off guard, even as the patience of the older generations themselves is wearing thin and they become less tolerant of the ever-worsening experience as tech businesses try to squeeze ever more profit out of them.

Consequently, there's been a lot of talk recently about things like on-line privacy and ad-blocking. Perhaps more telling than the talk are the moves by some of the biggest businesses in tech to actively support such things, even if means shifting industry norms or taking on governments. In fact, there is even a hint that some in those governments are finally becoming aware of the issues -- there have, at long last, been some substantial steps recently to bring copyright laws and on-line consumer rights at least a little closer to the 21st century in some major jurisdictions, for example.

I do think the writing is on the wall for some tech firms at this point, but from my perspective it is because their customers are becoming less tolerant of junk and starting to demand better quality for their hard-earned cash. Firms that ship software that doesn't work or causes security problems, businesses that leak personal data like a sieve, content distributors that try to double-dip with subscriptions and then ads, communications networks that over-charge and under-provide, on-line businesses that offer minimal customer service... All of these are increasingly on borrowed time unless they change their ways, and that's just in the B2C world. As soon as you go B2B, there are many more examples of long-standing schemes that are under threat in our increasingly open and competitive world, and consequently businesses are likely to be even less tolerant of attempts to lock down what they can do than private individuals.

Comment Re: Micropayments? (Score 1) 222

Well, part of it is that even a small payment can still incur a psychologically large cost.

That's certainly true in my experience. It's probably the second thing you rapidly discover when building your first B2C web site, right after "If you build it, they probably still won't come."

I think the main requirements for a micropayment system to be successful would probably be simplicity and transparency. Anything that requires lots of interactions, like paying x cents for each and every post on a site like Slashdot, is doomed before it even starts because it's far too much hassle. On the other hand, something where the user's experience was reading a one-liner that said access to the site for a week cost x cents and then making literally one or two clicks to accept this might actually catch on, particularly if there was a very limited number of payment types and all participating sites were required to comply with some simple, transparent, universal terms set by the micropayment service so users could trust that they weren't getting scammed.

I think given such a simple but effective foundation, you could then build sensible policies about access control, security, and the like on top. But I think you need simplicity, transparency, and of course trust in the system before anything else matters.

Comment Re:Micropayments? (Score 1) 222

I agree with you that ad blocking is also a safety issue. I have only ever been hit by a virus once that I'm aware of. It was a zero-day in a well-known plug-in, on a system that was fully patched and running AV software, navigating a big name site you would have expected to be completely safe, via a popular link aggregator/discussion site.

I now have a 100% ad-blocking policy. I don't turn the blocker off for anyone, and if a site doesn't like that then I say fair enough and go elsewhere. I have some sympathy for sites I use regularly that lose out because of this, but it was two of those sites that led to my system being compromised so I don't have that much sympathy. I might pay a reasonable amount to support such sites if there were a convenient and safe way of doing so, but my policy on blocking ads and similar third-party content is never going to change as long as anything resembling the current software and web landscape is the norm. My feelings on this are only being strengthened by the evolving software and firmware situation, since these days if a machine is compromised you can't even count on a total reformat and reinstallation clearing the infection.

That being the case, and knowing that others will be similarly stubborn, I can't help thinking that your suggested approach would be fundamentally undermined because it relies on people to actively opt-in to receiving ads. I doubt more than a tiny fraction of users would choose to do so, and surely someone would produce a browser that had these ads off-by-default and use that as a competitive advantage.

Comment Re:Micropayments? (Score 1) 222

Yes, the payment mechanism would be the big question.

Personally, I suspect anything more complicated than 1-2 clicks using a preconfigured payment tool that it integrated into the browser is likely to be too much friction.

On the other hand, if you could actually have a system where, say, you get to read the first section of a long form article and then there's a button you can click to pay them x cents to immediately access the rest via that payment tool, I could see that working and I think you could build a useful degree of standardisation, flexibility and safeguards on top of that basic model.

Comment Re:Give up PCs? Not likely... (Score 1) 222

Now, are you still thinking it will not happen?

Yes, I'm still thinking it will not happen. For one thing, it's completely unrealistic that governments would co-ordinate such a move effectively in that global economy you mentioned. It takes them years to put together a big trade deal, with plenty of controversy and opposition in many cases. Heck, they still haven't managed to close the gaping tax loopholes used by multinationals, despite every government except the tax havens saying for years that they want to.

Even at a single country level, huge amounts of business also relies on that free software to do things like... Well, almost everything. The moment CIOs at Fortune 500 companies start explaining to the board that it will no longer be possible to do (insert 9-figure-revenues project here) because no-one is offering the software to do it without a 10-year lock-in and 8-figure per annum support contract, people are going to start noticing what they've lost, and 8/9 figure political lobbying efforts to reverse the madness will immediately start. Not to mention the billions in lost tax revenues from small tech businesses that can't afford to continue, the millions of unemployed developers who all have a vote, and so on.

Comment Micropayments? (Score 1) 222

One potential solution to this would be an efficient micropayment system, but unfortunately that seems to be the idea that eternally "has potential". I don't know what's holding it back in reality. Maybe it's financial regulations in different countries, maybe it's pressure from the existing payment industries, maybe it's that no-one has found UI with sufficiently low friction yet, or maybe too many people just want everything for free to give a critical mass of early adopters.

In any case, I'm actually kinda hoping that the increasingly bitter ad-wars will force us to fix that. I believe it would be good for society to move back to the kind of model where producers of good, original content can actually generate a useful level of revenue directly as their incentive, and where they in turn can concentrate on presenting that content in a useful and attractive way to their readers instead of distorting the presentation to maximise ad revenues.

Comment Give up PCs? Not likely... (Score 1) 222

I think you forgot all the people who use general purpose PCs to create the content that the smartphone/tablet brigade so enjoy consuming. Oh, and almost the entire business world.

If any government were foolish enough to attempt something like what you describe, enough people and businesses who wanted/needed to use technology sensibly would relocate that the economic damage alone would probably bring down that government at the next election.

Comment Re:No, I'm really not (Score 1) 316

I typically distinguish between security patches and general feature/UI patches. The former are essential and obviously time-sensitive. Moreover, they evidently represent defects in the original product, which the developers might reasonably be expected to fix. However, shoving more general changes down users' throats if they want to keep up-to-date on security patches is abhorrent behaviour as far as I'm concerned.

All Finagle Laws may be bypassed by learning the simple art of doing without thinking.