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Comment buh? there's non-Human scientists? (Score 5, Funny) 446

the first gravitational wave to be detected directly by human scientists

I had to go read the linked story to make sure it wasn't typical /. submitter reading failure.
Please, The Economist, do tell more, I think you buried the lead there.

sigh. At least it's not a Forbes link.

Comment Re:It's a wider issue (Score 1) 85

I agree.

That said, I think there is a fundamental difference between Apple's behaviour and Mozilla's here, for the simple reason that users of Apple gear paid for it and should therefore get what they bought, in proper working order. While it's certainly frustrating for many Firefox users that things keep changing and often not for the better recently, those users never paid Mozilla anything and so Mozilla owes them nothing in return.

Things get much more complicated when you bought the device from a vendor but the ultimate control rests with some third party, typically a software developer. This is where a lot of dubious things are going on right now, but in a lot of jurisdictions the consumer protection laws haven't yet adapted to the modern technology landscape and tend to place the original vendor with most or all of the responsibility when things go wrong, even though it's actually the software they're reselling that is the root cause of the customer's complaint. At some point we're going to have to deal with this, along with the various other third party issues like the legal basis (or otherwise) for an EULA or similar document, because clearly it's not realistic for every shop or web site that lets you buy a device or a copy of some software to fix technical issues they have no practical way to control.

Comment Re:It's a wider issue (Score 1) 85

I think we need to start consciously distinguishing between fixes and other changes.

If a device doesn't properly do what it was supposed to do when the customer bought it -- there's a security vulnerability, it's not quite in spec and so doesn't work properly with something, that kind of thing -- then like any other purchase, the customer should get what (they thought) they were paying for when they decided to buy, and the manufacturer should fix the defect.

The manufacturer is under no equivalent obligation to offer non-essential changes, like moving the UI around or adding new functionality, but might choose to do so anyway. IMHO in that case they should be free to offer them to others on whatever reasonable terms they want. If a user doesn't want them, they don't have to buy in, just as they don't have to buy the latest version of a device in the first place if they don't like it.

The key point is that if a purchaser chooses not to buy into any extra offers from the manufacturer, that should not be remove the purchaser's basic right to get what they paid for originally or negate the manufacturer's normal obligations to make defects good or compensate in some reasonable way, just like manufacturers of any other product under normal consumer protection and similar laws in many places.

Comment Re:It's a wider issue (Score 1) 85

Ultimately, the only way to do that is to give power to the users, and the only way to do that is to offer them a choice or a setting.

There is a middle ground: you separate updates for areas like security and reliability from updates to the UI and functionality. Got an existing system? Sure, you can patch your existing software to keep it as secure as possible, without also getting UI changes or new functionality. Want our latest features? You can update to a new version of the software, but you take it or leave it.

We successfully built software for some number of decades in this way, and in practice it wasn't a prohibitive maintenance burden for the developers to support a previous version or two for essential updates. Unfortunately, this level of customer support and actually making useful products doesn't play nicely with the trendy Agile, X-as-a-service, Lean, insert-other-buzzword-here mentality of a lot of young developers and startups today, and now the established heavyweights are seeing opportunities to save a bit of cash and exert more control over their users by adopting the same techniques.

Comment Not upgrading may not be a (realistic) option (Score 2) 85

Unfortunately, there is a trend for updates to be completely automatic and involuntary, both with certain devices and even now with Windows 10 on the desktop. All it takes is some sort of online component it depends on and you have a crank to turn the update wheel, even if the update actually has nothing to do with that online element. Again, it's clear why the developers would prefer only having to support their latest code base, but unfortunately it leaves users with no control over their own devices, including in cases where from their point of view the update makes something worse than it was before.

There are also all kinds of mechanisms that effectively compel updates even if they aren't directly made mandatory and automatic. For example, on iOS devices, you can only get apps from the App Store, and Apple can impose constraints on those apps if they want to be listed. This can drive app developers towards only supporting the latest version of iOS, and again that can be a problem for people who previously had an older version of the app installed on an older version of iOS that worked well on an older device where perhaps the new version does not. These cases are particularly nasty, because all the developers involved can point fingers at each other and say it's someone else causing the problem, yet to the user the reality is the same: their device and software used to work, and now they don't.

Comment It's a wider issue (Score 4, Insightful) 85

A wider issue is the general trend for devices with behaviour that is remotely changed after you buy them thanks to software updates. What is the situation if you bought an e-reader you were happy with and could use comfortably, but then after this kind of update it no longer works for you because, for example, your eyesight isn't good enough to read the new font? It's obvious why hardware and software vendors might want this kind of capability, but how do we protect the buyers who are using the products to make sure they're still getting what they paid for when they decided to buy?

Comment Re:What about telemetry/spying features? (Score 1) 56

Had it been made plainly obvious what they were pushing, no one would have installed any of it.

Ironically, I suspect that's not true. It seems quite realistic that if they'd pushed telemetry transparently as a recommended update, the average home user would have just said yes with all the others anyway, yet Microsoft would not have lost the confidence of the techie crowd and gained the unwelcome reputation for being deceptive and manipulative that they've managed to cement over the past few months.

Comment Re:Windows 10 is spyware (Score 3, Insightful) 56

Microsoft is certainly doing some very dubious things lately, but it does no-one any good to exaggerate or distort what they're doing. Please stop doing that.

In particular, they have issued telemetry updates for earlier Windows versions, and they have aggressively promoted the update to Windows 10, but they have not forced users of earlier Windows versions to update if they say no.

Comment Re:It's a nice start (Score 1) 56

Assuming that was intended to read "...complaining about not knowing..." the answer seems pretty clear: Microsoft have been serving up updates for all recent versions of Windows with little to no detail of what is actually in them for some time, and lately some of those updates have been outright user-hostile, and consequently a lot of power user or professional sysadmin types simply don't trust them any more.

Just about the one barrier they haven't crossed yet is serving up user-hostile updates under the guise of security updates rather than just recommended ones, which means you can still assume that something marked as a security update is likely to be worth installing with due diligence. Being more explicit about these issues on Win10 goes at least a little way towards maintaining that confidence.

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