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Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 1) 231

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) 231

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) 209

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) 209

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) 209

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:It's the IT service providers that need fixing (Score 1) 248

"So, there's proof that they're not doing it for cost savings."

Their positive cash flow and profits "prove" nothing about their motivations. To a corporation, profits are never high enough.

  "bringing in H-1B labor for purposes that don't meet the original intention of the program."

The federal government publishes a set of "guidelines" and describes the "intentions" of the program for sure. Unfortunately, neither the guidelines nor the intentions are codified in actual LAW. Therefore, corporations like Disney can simply ignore them.

"According to federal guidelines, the visas are intended ... to fill discrete positions when American workers with those skills cannot be found. Their use, ... should not âoeadversely affect the wages and working conditionsâ of Americans." (NYtimes 6/3/15)

Great, except for the fact that we're supposed to trust that corporations will follow the "guidelines" as opposed to exploiting the LAW to maximize their profits? Ha! That's why the fired workers can't accuse Disney of breaking the law and have to resort to this "discrimination" theory.
Once again, we get royally screwed by the Federal Government and the corporations get blamed.

Comment Re:Micropayments? (Score 1) 209

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) 209

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 Re:Good! (Score 1) 752

Talk about "freak outs". This type of nonsense is happening all over the country. It's the new normal under "zero tolerance" policies.

*Finger gun at a Virginia grade school: suspension
* Breakfast pastry "gun" at a Maryland elementary school: 2 day suspension
*Hello Kitty bubble gun at a Pennsylvania kindergarten: 10 day suspension

If a pop-tart gun is grounds for discipline, then why does clock boy deserve $15m for a freak out about a timing device in a metal case?

Comment Both parties are wrong (Score 1) 752

On one side, the police and school administrators acted like total a$$holes in their handling of this situation. On the other side, the whole act of bringing a disassembled clock to school in a metal briefcase was a deliberate attempt to provoke this sort of over-reaction. Both parties are in the wrong.
I call it an "over-reaction" but we live in a time where gun-shaped things made of pop-tarts or cardboard are grounds for disciplinary action under idiotic "zero tolerance" policies. The disassembled clock clearly wasn't a bomb, but a timing device in a metal case looks more like a bomb than a pop-tart looks like a gun.
The kid's father is/was an activist with political ambitions. My guess is that he orchestrated the whole thing and it succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

2 pints = 1 Cavort