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Comment: Re:It'll be short-lived (Score 3, Informative) 392

by Torin Darkflight (#46373755) Attached to: Free (Gratis) Version of Windows Could Be a Reality Soon
Indeed, and 8.1 IS free to existing users of Windows 8. But it definitely is too big to be considered a service pack, yet also not enough of an update to be considered a proper new version.

One thing that bugs me about Windows 8.1 currently is that there is no legitimate way (to the best of my knowledge) to walk into a computer store and buy a DVD copy of Windows 8.1 (Only Windows 8), or even download the Win8.1 installer or an ISO and burn it to a DVD or flash drive for later use, it's only available though the "Microsoft Store" for immediate installation at the time of download. I fix computers as a side job. What if someone brings a computer that has been upgraded to Win8.1 to me and they need me to do a repair install of the OS? I can't do that without Win8.1 media of some sort, so my only option is a total reformat and reinstall of vanilla Win8, followed by a lengthy update process to Win8.1. There is no way as far as I am aware to slipstream Win8.1 into the ISO for Win8. Plus, there's no guarantee Win8.1 will remain a free update forever, so if Microsoft decides to yank that free update path, then PC techs like me and our customers would be screwed.

Comment: It'll be short-lived (Score 3, Interesting) 392

by Torin Darkflight (#46373431) Attached to: Free (Gratis) Version of Windows Could Be a Reality Soon
If Microsoft does indeed go through with a truly "free" version of Windows, I anticipate that it won't be long until they panic and decide to kill it because "it's diluting their profits from Windows". That's what happened to the free (and admittedly quite limited) version of Office 2010 they put out. As restricted as Office Starter was compared to the retail version, it was still "good enough" for many people, myself included. This supposedly began eroding their profits for Office. By the time Office 2013 came around, they had decided that they didn't like the idea of having a free version of a flagship product eating into potential sales, so they axed it. I imagine a free version of Windows would meet the same short-lived fate. Yes, I agree with the general consensus that Windows 8.x is terrible compared to 7 or even Vista. BUT, just like with Office Starter, there will be many people for which a free version of Windows, restrictions and all, is "good enough" for them. This will eat into their sales of Windows even further (If that's even possible at this point considering the failure that is Windows 8), and they'll panic and decide to axe it to forcefully regain their flow of income.

With all that said, I will admit I'm curious to see how this plays out re: their method of releasing a free version of Windows. With Office Starter, it was (officially) only available pre-installed on new computers and (technically) could not be downloaded. If they release free Windows as a downloadable ISO, that might garner a little more adoption, but not much considering Win8's reputation. But, if they go the same route they took with Office Starter and make it only available on new computers, then really the only benefit would be a lower-priced PC, albeit with the added cost of having to deal with ads. Kinda like what Amazon has done with certain models of the Kindle.

Comment: Re: Municipal Fiber (Score 1) 513

by Torin Darkflight (#46321151) Attached to: Why Is US Broadband So Slow?
Agreed, and there are quite a few cities and small towns that have plans either in the works or completed to provide their own locally-owned fiber internet. Unfortunately, there have also been several instances of monopoly/duopoly ISPs suing the cities or otherwise using questionable methods in an attempt to either block the fiber installation entirely, or force the city to halt work on their installation just so the ISP can then come in and install their own service to steal the cities' thunder. (Monticello, MN comes to mind - http://arstechnica.com/uncateg...). Unfortunately, the fact that the monopoly/duopoly ISPs can and often will do whatever they can to sabotage municipal fiber in turn makes some cities hesitant to even pursue it.

The major ISPs are crooked, plain and simple.

Comment: Re:Why not both? (Score 1) 354

by Torin Darkflight (#42272545) Attached to: ITU To Choose Emergency Line For Mobiles: 911, or 112?
I agree, it would be best for both to be used as emergency numbers. It shouldn't be technically difficult to set it up so that the system automatically forwards calls to 911 if someone dials 112, or vice-versa. In fact, unless I'm mistaken, I've read previously that some GSM providers already do this.

However, if I had to pick one and ONLY one...I would choose 911 simply because you'd be less likely to accidentally dial it, albeit only slightly (I've heard stories about dispatchers receiving butt-dial 911 calls from cell phones). But, it is more difficult to accidentally fat-finger dial 911 as opposed to 112 since 9 and 1 are on opposite corners of the keypad, while 1 and 2 are right next to each other.

Comment: Re:Why touchscreens? (Score 1) 398

by Torin Darkflight (#41861407) Attached to: Why Does a Voting Machine Need Calibration?
I agree, touchscreens are a bad idea. If you absolutely MUST switch to electronic voting, physical buttons are more user-friendly, and none of that "calibration" BS exists with them.

I am visualizing an improved electronic voting machine. It has a screen up top, but it is not a touchscreen, it is there merely to display information regarding the issue currently being voted on. Below the screen are four rows of four buttons per row. The first three rows of buttons would be used for the candidates, and the last row could be used to confirm the selection, clear the selection, go to the next ballot, etc. Each button is about 4 inches wide and 2 inches tall so they are large, obvious and easy to press, with a brightly-painted half-inch gap between the buttons to make the separation between the buttons stand out. Each button has its own small backlit LCD screen inside it that can dynamically change with the ballot to display various candidate names, yes or no, etc. Think similar tech to the Optimus keyboard, but with much bigger buttons and equally bigger screens inside the buttons. Whenever the voter goes to the next ballot, the displays on the buttons automatically change to the choices that apply to that particular ballot. Up to 12 candidates could fit on a 4x3 array of buttons, but in most cases there would be far fewer than 12, so I imagine the blank buttons could go completely black, to make it visually obvious that they will do nothing if pressed. If, somehow, there are more than 12 candidates, the 12th button could be used as a "more choices" selector that, when pressed, will change the candidate buttons to the next page of candidates, and it would be a different color to make it stand out so people realize there are more choices beyond the first 11 candidates.

Admittedly, there likely would be better designs that could be thought up. But, this quick off-the-top-of-my-head design still would be an improvement over touchscreens in my opinion.

Comment: Personal audio amplifiers (Score 1) 549

by Torin Darkflight (#41785129) Attached to: Why Can't Industry Design an Affordable Hearing Aid?
Less expensive alternatives do exist, but thanks to the FDA they're not called or legally recognized as hearing aids, but rather "personal sound amplifiers". Thus, any search for a less-expensive alternative is best done using that term.

No, I'm not talking about those cheap infomercial sound amplifiers that look like bluetooth headsets or small pocket-size radios with headphones. I'm talking about professional-quality sound amplifiers that actually resemble proper hearing aids in appearance. They do exist, because I have one, an RCA Symphonix. The FDA might not call it a hearing aid, but I do. That's effectively what it is to me, a hearing aid that I purchased over-the-counter at an electronics store, paying only $300 as opposed to the $1,500 my doctor was quoting me. Despite it not being properly tuned to my particular grade of hearing loss, it still works pretty damn well for my needs, and I've been quite impressed.

So, it is possible to purchase a decent "hearing aid" for a relatively inexpensive price. You just need to know where to look and what to look for.

Comment: Re:TNG set destroyed (Score 1) 131

by Torin Darkflight (#41722449) Attached to: Huston Huddleston Wants You To Help Save the Star Trek TNG Set
I would presume the set designers did additional work to hide the false nature of the set pieces after trashing them for the crash scene. I also imagine the dim lighting used during the filming of the final scene further helped obscure any obvious fakeness (Is that even a word?).

Comment: Relatively basic stuff (Score 1) 632

High school for me was fall 1997 to spring 2001, and the computer courses I recall taking were the typical "keyboarding" class, PASCAL and Visual Basic. We also did some stuff with AutoCAD in shop class, but I don't really consider that a computer course. Just about everything computer-related when I was in high school was incredibly mundane and elementary. Now, 10+ years later, I hear the same school has more advanced networking and IT-type classes similar to what I had to go to college to learn.

To be honest, I've found that I've learned a lot more about computers the past several years through simple hands-on experience than what I learned both in high school and college combined. Of course, the fact that tech is evolving so quickly as to render lots of knowledge rapidly outdated could have something to do with this.

Comment: Re:still using Office 2000... no point in newer... (Score 1) 711

by Torin Darkflight (#40697669) Attached to: Microsoft Office 2013 Not Compatible With Windows XP, Vista
I agree, there's truly no point in upgrading. Microsoft has a free compatibility pack that you can download and install which allows older versions of Office (2000 and higher) to be able to open and save DOCX, XLSX and so forth. I had Office 2000 with the compatibility pack, it met 100% of my needs without any problems whatsoever. I even got it to work on Windows 7 when Microsoft claimed it was incompatible (The ONLY problem I noted was that the stupid paperclip was pink whenever it popped up, but who uses that thing anyway?). I would still be using Office 2000, had my workplace not made upgrading to 2010 mandatory. I hate, hate, HATE the Ribbon.

Comment: F#&@ing Robocalls (Score 1) 167

by Torin Darkflight (#40611585) Attached to: FTC To Revisit Robocall Menace
Robocalls have gotten more aggressive than ever. I get at least two of them a day, most of them about lowering my credit card interest rate (I don't even have a credit card!). ALL of them have the Caller ID info spoofed or missing, usually saying stuff like "Wireless Caller", or "Unavailable", or just the name of the state they're (supposedly) calling from. I've even gotten some that have the Caller ID spoofed using local names and numbers! Then, if somehow you DO answer (Such as at work, where you are required to answer the phone whenever it rings), it starts playing the recording IMMEDIATELY. It doesn't even wait for you to say "hello", the very nanosecond you pick up the phone, it starts playing. Things like Tele-Zapper or playing the tri-tone error sound on your answering machine doesn't work anymore. They used to, but then the criminals got smart, and now the robodialers are programmed specifically to ignore the tri-tone error sound. That's why the recording starts playing immediately the very instant you pick up the phone. It doesn't even wait and listen for "hello" or the tri-tones.

Something else I've noticed...a majority of the time, they hang up during the fourth ring, before my answering machine can pick up. My guess is they do this so that they don't get charged a connection fee when the machine answers. So, I changed my answering machine to pick up after only three rings. Now, instead of them getting money from me, they're losing money whenever they call me. I know it's not much...but anything to help put these people out of business is better than nothing!

Obviously it's useless for robocallers, but one trick I used to do with real-human telemarketers...if I KNEW it was a telemarketer calling, I would answer the phone and say "[Random city name] police department, Officer Randall speaking". 99% of the time, they would immediately hang up, and not call back.

Comment: Re:Office Starter ISN'T "worthless garbage" (Score 1) 132

by Torin Darkflight (#40424479) Attached to: Microsoft Phasing Out Office Starter Edition
Bad wording on my part. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for me to say that Starter has "the highest level of Office compatibility". Provided it is created and formatted properly, a document created in paid Office should typically appear identical when opened in Starter, or vice-versa. But, I could see situations where there might be some incompatibility, especially if it was created using the handful of features in paid Office that genuinely are missing or crippled in Starter. I don't anticipate the average home user or moderate SOHO user would encounter them, though (I myself haven't yet...knock on wood).

Comment: Office Starter ISN'T "worthless garbage" (Score 4, Interesting) 132

by Torin Darkflight (#40419163) Attached to: Microsoft Phasing Out Office Starter Edition
I'll say right off, I actually use Office Starter for my SOHO work. I know this post is gonna get voted down simply for that reason, regardless of how insightful or informative this post ends up being. But, as someone who has no need for PowerPoint or Outlook yet still requires absolute 100% Office compatibility for my work, Office Starter has met all of my needs. That right there is perhaps the biggest pro of Office Starter. Even though it might not have all the features of the full Office suite, it is still 100% across-the-board compatible. A Word document or Excel spreadsheet created in Office 2010 Professional will look pixel-to-pixel identical when opened in Office Starter, and vice-versa. Although LibreOffice and similar FOSS office suites are good programs in their own right, they simply are not absolutely 100% compatible with Office. As others have mentioned above, I too have recommended Office Starter to those who only need Word and Excel (Or even just Word), and haven't heard any complaints from them. I even found the actual installation files for it in the recovery partition on my new ThinkPad laptop, and have successfully used them to install Office Starter on my home-built Windows 7 desktop. So, when Microsoft does away with Office Starter, I'll still have a way to install it on any new computers I buy or build in the future. Yes, ads are annoying. But, at least Microsoft did something right with the ads in Office Starter, and made them unobtrusive. No rapid flashing, no popups, no ads with audio. They just sit there in the corner, slowly cycling, and are quite easy to tune out once you start focusing on your work. So, I can understand why some people dislike Office Starter...but I legitimately don't understand the mass hysteria about it being a bad program, and the "good riddance" attitude of most people in regards to the news of it being discontinued. I LIKE Office Starter. Yes, I could buy a full version of Office if I wanted to...but I don't NEED to. Office Starter meets all of my SOHO requirements. Thus, I'm part of the incredibly small minority of people who actually think it's dumb for them to get rid of Starter.

Comment: Still a Leo either way (Score 1) 468

by Torin Darkflight (#34891064) Attached to: Stars Remain In Their Usual Places; People Panic
Even if the new zodiac calendar did affect me, my sign wouldn't change. I was born August 15th, which puts me in Leo on both calendars. The closer you were born towards the end of your sign, the more likely you'll retain the same sign on the new calendar, as most of them have a brief overlap if you compare the dates on both calendars. I guess I could be considered one of the lucky few that falls in Leo's overlap.

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