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Comment Re:UPS (Score 1) 241

FWIW, I'm in the UK, in an area where the power supply is less than brilliant. We don't get many complete outages, but moderate surges and brown-outs seem to be happening all the time if the behaviour of a UPS is to be believed.

The working life of our electronic devices was surprisingly short across the board for the first few years after we moved here, with many formerly reliable devices all failing within a couple of years of the move, including (coincidentally or otherwise) multiple consumer-grade broadband routers. In contrast, in the years since installing a UPS for all the serious gear and at least basic surge protectors for everything else that plugs into a wall socket, we've seen almost no surprising failures of that kind.

Of course we don't know for sure whether it was really the dubious power supply that was responsible, and as other posters have mentioned there are several alternative explanations that would also make sense. But given how many things we saw fail within the window where the power supply was bad, and how few failed before and afterwards, the odds of the power supply being a factor seem quite high in our case.

Comment Re:Typical console developer rant, IMO. (Score 2) 157

Any attempt to raising a point about how you don't need to optimize everything but only few critical zones of your code (what matters) ... immediately results in myself being dismissed or treated as ignorant

To be fair, if you were debating with someone who writes applications that really do need the very top levels of performance, and you claimed that optimising trouble-spots would be sufficient to achieve that, then you were ignorant. For most software, being within a factor of 2 or 3 of hand-optimised low-level code is easily sufficient, and a bit of work with the profiler to identify the most serious flaws will go a long way. The rules change when you shift from that kind of performance standard to needing the very top levels, because then the emphasis on speed permeates everything.

Comment Re:UPS (Score 0) 241

Yes, that sounds unpleasantly familiar. It seems that these days a small business can't rely on any major vendor for a complete range of good quality, compatible gear. :-(

Maybe the likes of Cisco and HP are worth it if you have 24/7 IT teams running dedicated servers room full of equipment and measure the cost of downtime per second. For those guys, the high-end gear and management facilities and expensive support contracts might justify the cost.

For the rest of us, it feels like the best strategy now is to build heterogeneous IT systems and networks. Look for recommendations of individual devices, often from smaller and more specialised manufacturers, that do one job well. Anecdotally, I've found that in recent years these boxes tend to be pretty good at supporting the major standards, so if you buy best-in-class for each device you need then compatibility doesn't seem to be a major issue as much as maybe it used to be. And if anything does go wrong or you do need help with some awkward configuration, you have more than a snowball's chance in hell of speaking to someone who can help without coughing up most of this month's revenues for a support contract.

Comment Re:UPS (Score 5, Interesting) 241

Agreed, given the repeated failures here, the power supply might be less than wonderful.

It's also worth remembering that "enterprise" equipment is often more about the management features (which no home user is ever likely to need) than the hardware itself. Sometimes the low-end business gear actually turns out to be worse than decent consumer kit. For example, we bought a bunch of Cisco's small business branded equipment for a small office once, paying a premium for it but expecting that the quality and support would be better than some disappointing consumer grade equipment it was replacing. In fact, the NAS turned out to be a rebadged device from another vendor that Cisco never really supported properly, the wireless access point turned out to have buggy firmware that would just drop connections, and so on. It's a mistake we'll never make again.

Comment Apple Airport (Score 4, Insightful) 241

This may not be a popular opinion, but I'm a big fan of Apple Airport gear. They generally support the latest/fastest standards quite quickly, are easy to configure, have built-in PSUs rather than wall warts, and I've generally found their range to be better than average for consumer WiFi kit. Other than that latest models (which look ridiculous) they're generally neat and look OK in the living room. I've had one Airport Express die on me after 2 years of use, and that was already second hand when I bought it and spent its life behind a pile of hot hifi gear as an Airtunes sink.

Comment Re:What I fail to believe (Score 1) 186

The 'text mode DOS crap' is probably a proprietary pathology lab system, and it's likely not DOS at all but a unix running over telnet. Old but super fast and efficient, and not easy to upgrade without replacing expensive lab gear that interfaces with it well. You may also be seeing EMIS, or similar, a GP health informatics system that's again super-fast and reliable. There is an upgrade path to a Windows clients and more modern backend but most areas are following a phased rollout. As for path results - GPs can phone and get the results within 24-48hr, but it's not practical to do for every patient.

Comment Re:hmm...doctors just don't worfk as hard (Score 5, Informative) 107

No, because the point is that the false positive results lead to more invasive tests (which in themselves may do harm), over-interpretation of other physical signs, worry etc.. The parallel with terrorism is that people end up on no-fly lists, get invasively searched and questioned, might get turned down for jobs or credit etc.. The uselessness of screening tests for low prevalence diseases is well known in the medical world, which is why tests need to be targeted to a high-risk population to have any value.

Comment Re: It gets worse (Score 1) 165

This is the nub of the problem. Drilling down through the bullshit, Windows 8 seems to be the archetype of what Ballmer has in mind... and it sucks. Apple have been criticised for making OSX too like iOS but in reality most of the changes can be ignored, the only thing that really confuses people is reversing the mouse wheel scroll (which can be reverted easily). The whole 'magic corners' thing on Win 8 is stoopid, particularly when Win 7 is such a great OS (and I say that as a card- and iPhone-carrying Apple Fanboi).

Microsoft's main competitor is themselves, and their best strategy right now would be pushing and incentivising the replacement of XP with Win 7 in the corporate environment to drive sales of updated Office and server software.

Comment A course change for MS, but is it the right one? (Score 4, Interesting) 387

or else by 2020 when Win 7 reaches EOL it'll see MSFT reach EOL with it

I doubt even Microsoft would have made it to 2020 on its previous course, mostly because it didn't really seem to have one, so it's not surprising that things are changing.

Whether things are changing in a good direction is a different question. Microsoft have, with some justification, dominated business desktops for decades, and they have a serious presence in the server room/back office as well. They appear to be almost throwing that away and betting the farm on mobile and clouds with this new strategy.

If I were a betting man myself, I'd wager that the current cloud/software-as-a-service trend is going to overstay its welcome long before 2020. Objectively, there just isn't enough in it for the customers and it's being sustained more by groupthink than actual merit. When CIOs stop being cool just because they're moving everything "into the cloud", they'll start evangelising the security and reliability and performance and financial benefits of having everything in-house, under their direct control.

If I were in Microsoft's position, I'd be tempted to build a client/server model based on "private clouds" for business, probably with a three-way split between back-end tools, portable devices, and less portable but more flexible/multi-purpose devices. I'd want a unified set of ideas in the software and I'd want silky smooth data sharing and real-time collaboration and easy software management around the network, but I'd expect a different presentation style for the software in each of the three cases. They've got the war chest and continuing revenues to wait out the current cloud boom. They could be better placed than anyone else in the industry to lock up the business market for another generation, if they could just offer the right balance between cloud/mobile flexibility and depth/power of traditional business computing, without the cheap-and-nasty feel of most cloud and mobile experiences today.

Comment Re:Budgets out of control? (Score 1) 132

That's a fair point. Things really started going downhill when graphics card drivers become all about the benchmarks, which seems like an eternity ago now. I personally gave up on most PC gaming a few years back, at which point the last few AAA titles I'd bought as a keen gamer had all been in the crashes-too-often-to-be-fun category, often due to those flaky graphics drivers. Sometimes it was flaky game code instead, and occasionally it was trying to do things to my computer that my security software routinely blocked because it looked like malware.

It's funny how plenty of us have managed to write high performance applications for the PC throughout that time without those applications crashing every few minutes, yet for all their huge budgets the gaming and graphics card companies often couldn't.

Comment Re:Budgets out of control? (Score 1) 132

But the reality is that PC's for most people are too difficult to maintain.

Unfortunately, that is certainly true. Installing and updating software on Windows is absurdly messy and error-prone, and Microsoft haven't fixed it in literally decades. (And before anyone dives in with the obvious troll: desktop Linux distros are actually worse, if you need anything that strays from the canned packages you can apt-get or similar.)

If we've learned anything from the rise of web apps, and more recently the rise of mobile apps, it's that software doesn't always need to be huge and complicated. Something simple, effective, and easy to install and use, can go a long way.

So I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that browsers are turning into operating systems, mobiles and tablets are the new shiny, and development of applications for heavyweight desktop systems is stagnating. I'm as guilty as anyone. I used to love programming little toy programs just for fun, and there are plenty of quick utilities that would be handy to make my daily work more efficient, but the tools and development processes are so onerous now that I don't think I've ever installed anything to develop native Windows executables on my latest PC.

Comment Re:Playing together on a sofa (Score 1) 132

Some people like to play together on a sofa instead of in the basement over the Internet

Sure. I'm not arguing for PC gaming at the expense of other platforms, I'm just arguing that treating a substantial part of the "serious" gaming market as a second-rate platform that you might support as an after-thought is not smart for business. It's a huge industry, and there's plenty of room for both on-the-sofa-together games and over-the-Internet games, and for single-player games for that matter.

I've been reassured by several other Slashdot users that the number of living room gaming PCs is negligible.

Whereas I know plenty of people who have a computer in their living room, and probably not as many who have consoles. Who's to say which is really more representative? Does it even matter? It's clear from the sales figures that both are huge groups as a whole.

If console-style controls and user interfaces are inherently poor, then how would anyone make good controls or user interfaces for a local multiplayer game?

With respect, I think you're falling into exactly the same trap as the industry execs. You seem to have a view of gaming as something you do with multiple players on one large screen. And if you enjoy fighting games or racing games or other console-friendly genres, that's fine. But when was the last time anyone made an RTS or RPG for a console that didn't have a dumbed-down control system? Some of the most interesting user interfaces in console gaming in recent years seem to be the ones that don't use the standard controllers at all.

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