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Comment Re:It's a wider issue (Score 1) 80

Yep, agreed. I don't think there have been too many blatant examples of actually removing functionality through updates, though - at least that I can recall offhand. While US consumer protection laws aren't quite as strong as in some European countries, a company that altered a product post-sale so radically would quickly find itself at the receiving end of a class-action lawsuit.

One could argue that Sony did this with the PS3 when they removed the "other OS" functionality, but I think they got away with it* because:
a) It was a feature that very few of it's customers used, and
b) It can easily be argued that that functionality wasn't central to the functionality for which most consumers purchased their device.

* A class-action lawsuit was filed, but was eventually dismissed.

Comment Re:It's a wider issue (Score 2) 80

Devices updating is both a good thing and a bad thing from a customer perspective. You can get new features, bugfixes, and security updates, of course. But what happens if functional changes are made and you aren't happy with it? That's sort of a tough one. Almost any functional change you make is going to make a small percentage of people unhappy, because people don't like change, or it may genuinely be a worse experience for them for whatever reason.

Does that mean a company shouldn't try to genuinely improve their product? People might also complain about the opposite - that a device has been "abandoned" if nothing ever happens with it. We see the exact opposite problem with many Android phones today - especially the lower-end models. The manufacturers have a sell-it-and-forget-it mentality, and that simply isn't acceptable nowadays from a security standpoint.

I think one good example of changes negatively affecting customer experience is all the Xbox 360 UI updates. At some point in time during the console's lifecycle, MS decided they wanted to push a bunch of advertisements out to their paying customers, and so radically changed the console's UI. Moreover, the new UI felt like it was a lot less information dense, with a good deal of space reserved exclusively for advertising. That was a change made solely for the benefit of Microsoft's bottom line at the expense of their customers.

Comment Re: I was able to successfully use a docx (Score 1) 168

In my copy of Word 2010, under "Save As...", I see the following supported formats:
Word Document (*.docx)
Word Macro-Enabled Document (*.docm)
Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)
PDF (*.pdf)
Word XML Document (*.xml)
Word 2003 XML Document (*.xml)
OpenDocument Text (*.odt)
Works 6-9 Document (*.wps)
and a bunch more besides, like HTML, plain text, rtf, xps, etc...

For opening documents, there are even more options, like old WordPerfect 5.x and 6.x documents. I didn't see an option for opening .wri files from twenty years ago though, so there's that. Aha, gotcha M$!

Word 2010 opens lots of old file formats, and can save to quite a few of them as well. Did MS drop support for these in newer version of Word? I have no idea, but that would seem pretty strange to me. Smells like FUD to me.

Comment Re:Ouch (Score 1) 211

Because, sorry, but the "AI" is really just a set of rules still. A set of rules that can't take account of every situation. Sure, it can drive more carefully than a human driver, but it can also make just the same kind of dumb mistakes as a human driver too.

Yes, but at the heart of the algorithm is a big overriding rule of "don't drive off the road or hit anything". That's pretty cut and dried as far as rules go. The car's hardware can literally see in every direction and track everything around it, static or moving. It will react to danger and determine the best course of action even before most humans even recognize there's a problem. Unless there's a really serious flaw in the system, that means at worst the car is going to come to a stop or simply avoid all obstacles when it sees anything dangerous or that it doesn't understand.

Honestly, far more important is this: It won't ever get distracted. It won't drive angry, or intoxicated, tired, on medication, or while putting on lipstick or eating a sandwich. It won't freak out if a wasp gets into the car. It won't turn it's head and yell at the kids to be quiet and stop bouncing around in the back seat. It won't drive recklessly in an effort to impress it's girlfriend.

My prediction: Even the first generation of self-driving cars will be statistically 20 times safer or better than an average human driver (at least in terms of accident fault), and it will rapidly improve as incidents occur and the black boxes are analyzed to determine how said incidents could have possibly been prevented. Eventually, car-related deaths will be relegated to freak accidents, like when a tree falls on a car or an overpass collapses, etc.

Comment Re:So what should we do? (Score 1) 557

Sometimes in life, ubiquity and commonality trumps design logic. Look at the qwerty keyboard scheme. At this point, there's so much momentum in that layout, there's really no point in trying to "improve" it for the vast majority of people. I certainly have no desire to try to rewire decades worth of muscle memory to change schemes. The "save" icon is another one that occasionally get hipster designers foaming at the mouth - a floppy disc, for pete's sake, which kids under sixteen probably have never even seen in person. The imperial system in the US was also far more difficult to dislodge with the metric system than many believed. The steering wheel, petal arrangement, and more or less standardized shifting levers are just another example.

Whatever benefit you think switching schemes gives you, there's an argument to be made that it may not be worth the short-term pain during the transition. It's tough to know where that boundary lies, I think. Metric vs imperial? Yeah, I'm sort of sorry we didn't switch. Changing the behavior of a car's shifter? Probably not worth it.

Comment Re:So what should we do? (Score 1) 557

The "standard" automatic shifter layout has been around for many decades. I can't imagine there would be any patents still valid that prohibit its free use. At least, I certainly hope not, or our patent system is broken far worse than I fear.

If anything, I would suspect the opposite - that this new design scheme was patented, and the auto maker was hoping to popularize it as an exclusive feature that the competition doesn't have. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems like greater care should be taken when screwing around with long-standardized core operational controls.

Comment Re:So what should we do? (Score 1) 557

I recently drove my dad's car when dropping my folks off at the airport, and noticed that the gearshift was bifurcated. P-R-N-D, and then you had to shift the lever over to explicitly use specific gears. Given that the 99% use case is just putting the car in D and stepping on the gas, this makes a lot of sense to me.

The *worst* design was my mom's car, which, instead of stopping automatically at D after pressing the release, like my car does, instead stopped at the location just below it - either second or third gear, I can't remember which at the moment. Who the hell would purposefully design something like that?

It's especially easy to stay in the wrong gear if you're not used to the sound and feel of the car you're driving. And with an automatic, drivers are trained to NOT have to look at the RPM gauge, so unless they can hear the difference, I can't really blame people for making this mistake.

Comment Re: The downside (Score 1) 83

I had Flash uninstalled from my computer for several years for safety purposes. I actually only re-installed Flash once I got the ability to control auto-play Flash content - there are still a few annoying holdouts that only have Flash solutions, like video streaming services. So, yes, you can control Flash's auto-play behavior as well, except you're essentially controlling whether you want to turn Flash on for a particular website or not.

Comment Re:It's going to take some time still (Score 1) 86

Yeah, I can see that for decent-sized operations. I've actually been looking at cloud services (EC2 and Azure) lately in order to gather telemetry data from beta software, in order to help with the design and refinement process. We're such a small operation that there's no way we could or should do dedicated servers, nor would it be economical. I can actually rent the smallest server for less than $15 a month with continuous operation, and proportionally less than that if I'm only turning it on part-time, like during development and testing. Best of all, as the need arrives, I can simply scale up as needed. Both Microsoft and Amazon's offerings are roughly on par regarding pricing and services.

For all the idiocy about the cloud bandwagon and people using it inappropriately, the ability to rent and dynamically scale virtual servers on demand is actually really handy in many cases.

Comment Re:Better transistors? (Score 1) 337

Don't get me wrong... I've always lambasted the pundits who seem intent on declaring the PC "dead" - that's only true for people who don't actually do any work on a computer. Mobile devices are best at consuming content or *very* light work. Only idiots would argue otherwise. But let's face it - that's the bulk of what most people actually *do* with their personal computers outside of actual work.

And I'm not saying that there isn't still a need for high-powered workstations. It's just that the market for those machines isn't nearly as big as it used to be. And I think PCs have reached a tipping point where, at least outside of gaming or specialized jobs, there's less pressing need for them to be more powerful, so I think that's also contributing to the slowing market.

Don't worry - PCs and workstations aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Submission + - Verizon Tests Net Neutrality with Zero-Rated Streaming Video Service

Dutch Gun writes: Ars Technical reports that Verizon is releasing its own video streaming service called Go90. Bandwidth consumed by this service will not count against a customer's data cap, but rival services like Netflix will — unless they choose to pay up. Unlike T-Mobile's zero-rating plan, in which any service can sign up at no charge, Verizon will charge streaming services for this privilege. This is similar to AT&T's data cap exemption program, launched a year ago.

The FCC has recently requested meetings with these companies about their zero-rating programs to discuss what the implications are regarding net neutrality.

Comment Re:Revoke it (Score 2) 39

Signing software prevents it from being surreptitiously tampered with by a third party. Other platforms do not require you to purchase a developer certificate from them - this is specific to Apple and it's walled garden (or other closed stores and platforms). Don't conflate whatever issues you have with closed ecosystems and the security benefits of signed software in general! That's as flawed as blaming encryption because bad actors might use it to avoid being snooped on by law enforcement.

Comment Re:Better transistors? (Score 3, Interesting) 337

I'd argue that it's also the case that most computers for the past decade have been ridiculously overpowered for what most average consumers are asking of them. That's partly why the market is moving to mobile. For many common tasks, a tiny mobile computer is still more than enough to do the job just fine. And in the case of Windows, the required minimum specs for an OS hasn't jumped nearly as substantially since Windows Vista, as MS focused quite a bit on performance optimization rather than letting things keep bloating up. If you had a reasonably powerful computer that could run Windows Vista when it first came out, you could almost certainly still run Windows 10 on it.

Vista recommended specs:
1-gigahertz (GHz) 32-bit (x86) processor or 1-GHz 64-bit (x64) processor
1 GB of system memory
40-GB hard disk that has 15 GB of free hard disk space
Windows Aero-capable graphics card w/ 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)

Windows 10 minimum specs:
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver

Note that I'm comparing recommended to minimum specs, but it's still fairly impressive given the time between these two OS releases. In general, I just think there's less market pressure to keep creating faster and faster CPUs.

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