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Comment Re:Sort of the opposite of what I was hoping... (Score 4, Insightful) 80

Exactly this. Android isn't a fledgling OS anymore where Google has to suck up to carrier demands. It needs to require that Android phones be able to receive critical system updates. It's actually pretty inexcusable that Android has gotten this far without this -- and I say this is a die-hard Android user.

Comment Re:Linux Mint 17.2 with MATE from Windows XP (Score 1) 69

The only aggravation is the start menu still lags on first opening (a "paper cut" issue, but it's been around for a while).

Thanks for mentioning this. I've put Mint on a few old laptops since XP's EOL, and that start menu lag was a dealbreaker for me with Cinnamon. It really leaves a bad first impression, and frankly I hoped it would have been fixed by now.

Comment Most "new tech" will be lame tech in 20 years. (Score 1) 557

In 1972, when my parents built the house I grew up in, they put in an intercom system. At the time, I'm sure it was an "oooh, wow" gadget. We hardly ever used it, and today there's one terminal remaining in the house which, by today's standards, is incredibly dated-looking and ugly. On top of that, it probably lasted longer than the electronics produced these days. The lesson I take from that is to keep it simple, design for potential additions/upgrades if needed (the "add conduits" advice given multiple times in this thread) and make sure anything you do add can be easily replaced, upgraded or removed so that it's not an eyesore in 20 years. Things like in-floor heating sound like a great idea reading some of the other posts here, but I wonder: what will happen when that system fails down the road? Rip up the entire floor to fix it or replace it? (I'd actually like an answer to this if anyone knows.)

I'd put that "gadget" money into the better energy efficiency ideas which have been mentioned in other comments here -- especially simple design features that will continue to pay off throughout the life of the house with little or no maintenance. One simple non-tech suggestion I'd like to add: consider adding internal doors so that unused parts of the house can be closed off and left at a cooler (or warmer) temperature than the parts of the house you actually spend time in. For example, many houses have a ground floor where everything is open and the kitchen, family room, living room and dining room are all connected. If you live somewhere with cold winters, it doesn't make sense to be heating up the living room and dining room if you're spending all your time in the family room. With a closed door separating them you could shut off the heating vents in the unused room(s) and save on heating costs. This also helps limit noise travel when company is over. (Note that if you live somewhere with genuinely cold winters, you might not want to do this with rooms that have water pipes, as they could freeze and burst.)

Comment Streaming Internet Radio Player, Baby Monitor (Score 2) 110

Sorry few others here seem to see the value in finding a function for still-useful technology that you probably picked up for free.

Up until a couple years ago I used an old WM6 device as a streaming internet radio player. Perfect function for it, as it remained plugged in and so battery life was never a concern, and it meant rarely having to interface with the device (which was of course clonky and sluggish by today's standards).

Another possible use which I recently stumbled upon is using them as baby monitors. No idea if there are dedicated apps for this for WM, but it sounds like you might be willing to create one yourself, which is great (and if you do, I hope you share it). This is actually a brilliant use for old smartphones because:
1. many of the dedicated solutions on the market use analog transmission (which results in static) or, if digital, are quite expensive ($100+)
2. they can remain plugged in so battery life isn't an issue
3. it's not really an issue if the phone's screen is cracked
4. they can potentially interface with someone's current smartphone, which they probably have close-at-hand anyway

Comment I still don't get the love for WhatsApp. (Score 2) 65

Why do people use WhatsApp when, at least for Android (which runs on ~80% of the world's smartphones), it's an app that requires a $1/year subscription after your first year, and when there are many free services that do the same thing (any instant messaging service) and more (VoIP, video calls), and which have desktop clients (because I'd rather reply from my laptop when I'm already using it anyway)?

I've thus far refused to use WhatsApp because I find it pointless given the free, arguably better alternatives. Am I missing something? Does WhatApp have some killer feature that no other app/service has? What makes it better than, say, Google Hangouts or Viber (which even has a desktop client for Linux). Am I wrong in thinking that WhatsApp's continued popularity is only due to WhatsApp's existing popularity?

Comment Re:more direct connection to producers (Score 1) 191

I just remembered a 4th point:

4. Returns. Let's say you aren't satisfied with something purchased from a Chinese seller. They say they're happy to refund your money if you return it. Do you know how much it costs to ship a 1-pound package to China? $15 ($16.75 if done from the Post Office). Do you think they're going to reimburse you for that? And that cost is without any kind of tracking, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear that your package never showed up (whether lost or "lost").

Comment Re:more direct connection to producers (Score 1, Insightful) 191

The reason Alibaba will take over from Amazon and Ebay is simple.

Have you ever ordered from China before? Because your comments overlook a few things.

1. Shipping. I have never received anything that's been shipped from China in less 3 weeks, and it's usually been closer to 5 or more. (Coincidentally, just before finishing my final comments below, a small package of keychain LED lights arrived which I ordered 4 weeks and 6 days ago.) Sometimes that's ok if it's a cheap gadget I don't need in a timely fashion (keychain LED lights being a perfect example), but for most things I'm willing to pay a few extra bucks to have something within a few days instead of a few weeks, especially when you factor in point #2.

2. Trust in the seller. If you have ordered things directly from China, as I've done through eBay, DealExtreme and others, you know that often what arrives after 5 weeks can be of shockingly poor quality and/or not what you paid for. For example, I recently ordered some US to Euro AC wall plug adapters. They were assembled so ridiculously poorly that I had to disassemble and reassemble each one for them to be decently functional (still scratched all to hell). In another recent instance, a seller got into a drawn out argument with me when I left them a bad review for shipping a terrible quality product: a microUSB cable that wouldn't charge any smartphone and which didn't match the one pictured, though it was close enough that I'm sure they were hoping I wouldn't notice. They were of the opinion that because they refunded my money I shouldn't leave them negative feedback, and whined like a 4-year old about how damaging it would be to their business. Granted, you can have such issues in any virtual marketplace, which brings us to point #3.

3. Trust in the marketplace owner. I trust that if something goes wrong with an Amazon Marketplace transaction, Amazon will go to basic lengths to make sure I'm not getting screwed over. The same goes for eBay to a lesser extent, but still more than Alibaba. I still haven't ordered anything through AliExpress. Why? Because I'm taking enough of a gamble already ordering from Chinese sellers on eBay, who is known for always siding with the buyer in disputes.

As someone who occasionally sells online, I am glad that Alibaba is getting some attention and creating some competition for eBay (and with it, Paypal). But to suggest that Alibaba will put the likes of Amazon out of business seems rather short-sighted -- or at least premature. You may have a point with eBay -- at least giving them a run for their money if Alibaba opens up to US sellers seeking refuge from eBay's excessive selling fees. If they're smart, this is exactly what they'll do with all this IPO money.

Comment Re:Performance (Score 1) 183

desktops are dying

LOL. People have been saying that for over a decade and it ain't happening. It seems like the myth lives on by being rekindled in new generations of geeks who weren't around to see the prognosticating last go 'round.

I agree that they're not dying as in becoming obsolete, but they're certainly dying in terms of consumer demand. I'd guess that 90-95% of my friends don't own and desktop and will never buy one again.

Add to that the fact that many companies automatically retire systems after 3 years (warranty expired) resulting in lots of incredibly capable enterprise-class desktops available for under $200 through Craigslist. Really, unless you're a gamer, there's little reason to buy a brand new desktop as a consumer.

Comment Two-factor authentication solves it. (Score 1) 383

The problem is already solved, it just needs to be more widely implemented. Secondary authentication by phone (i.e. receiving an SMS) ensures that no one can get into my Gmail account if they happen to have my password. If my phone gets stolen, I'm going to know to take action quite soon, and they still have to get past the lock screen (though this does raise a good argument for making sure calls/SMS are not be answerable/readable without unlocking the device). Regardless, it would solve 99.99% of the problem.

Another idea I could see catching on is some kind of token ring, like a mix of an NFC ring and those RSA SecureIDs that spit out a random 6-digit code every minute to authenticate, but instead of the user having to type in the code, they just tap their phone/palmrest/screen with the ring. Assuming the rings are available in a few varieties for less than $10, I think most people would opt to use one if it meant avoiding annoying secondary security questions and having to keep a list of impossible to remember passwords (which they still have to change because sites get compromised). It avoids biometric requirements and has the possibility for anonymity (buy a ring at the supermarket, link it to any email account).

Comment Re:Love my Pro (Score 1) 337

How do you typically use your Surface? That "I don't bother to turn on my desktop anymore" comment is the same comment you hear from a lot of people enjoying the instant-on trait of a tablet, and in the tablet and touch screen world, iOS and Android are more familiar if you have one or the other on your smartphone (over 90% of smartphone users) and probably cheaper. "But it has a keyboard" -- but do you actually use it much though? I see that keyboard, and especially that kickstand method of propping up the screen, and immediately think I'd rather have a proper lightweight laptop, or a sub-$200 Chromebook (instant-on, great battery life).

It's an expensive niche product. Hell, even tablets are kind of a niche product. I sold my tablet because between my smartphone and laptop, I found I was never going to the tablet. I imagine that will only become more common with large-screen smartphones becoming the norm.

"Just think, with VLSI we can have 100 ENIACS on a chip!" -- Alan Perlis