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Comment My experience with the Band. (Score 1) 58

The Band is the perfect example of Microsoft's ability to come up with a great product but completely botch its execution.

I owned the first gen for a month before returning it. The thing actually died within that first month due to the ingress of sweat, and that was without doing any strenuous activity. I didn't want to be stuck with something this prone to failure, but the actual functionality was fantastic. It worked well, and it had GPS.

So when the Band 2 was released I decided to get that, assuming and hoping that issues had been sorted out. The device is definitely much improved, but there have been two major issues. One is the band tearing and the second is some kind of battery failure. I experienced the second issue 6 months in and got a replacement. As others have mentioned, getting the replacement was effortless, but these kinds of problems shouldn't be happening at all.

The big frustration for me, however, was that smartwatch functionality never worked properly between my Lumia 950 and the Band. You'd figure that Microsoft's own devices would work with each better than with anything else. I've since gotten an iPhone, but continue to use the Band, and it works reliably like it never has with the Windows phone.

It really is a joke how Microsoft is incapable of getting their shit together to make reliable products. It's also disappointing that so many opportunities have been squandered. The flaws aside, the Band is a fantastic device.

Comment Re:Only in America (Score 4, Insightful) 591

I went to public school in the northeast and not once was the bible used in school. Nor did any religious topics come up in any of my classes, beyond your standard Greek and Roman mythology. I wish they had dug deeper into other mythologies from around the world. I don't recall prayers in school, but at events it definitely came up which is inevitable given that the Hispanics comprised the majority of the student body.

If you don't think these topics aren't debated overseas then you clearly haven't traveled enough. I've seen both Europeans and Asians question evolution and not necessarily on religious grounds. While living in Asia one guy went on a tirade about it and how dissenting views should be taught in schools; similar to the crap we see here in the US. I disagree completely, but it's just not worth arguing with some people. I take it you've never met a born again Buddhist, because they're not all that different than your average fundamentalist Christian.

Comment I guess I'm in the minority. (Score 1) 698

MacBook... No wonder so few people use the right-click button. For me, that right-click is indispensable. It would hinder productivity to lose it, and people would be smart to learn how to take advantage of it. The capslock key is useful too, although less so because many page layout applications now allow you to set text as all caps. Although having that key available is sometimes quicker.

Speed and efficiency is what it comes down to. Just because most users do things a certain way doesn't mean they're doing it properly. I see coworkers constantly doing things inefficiently because they can't be bothered to do a simple online search to find a better approach. It's shocking, actually, because I've seen people stressed out, spending full days to do tasks that should take maybe an hour.

The point of input devices shouldn't be to strip them down to their bare useable minimum. I don't think we need over-designed keyboards with a million buttons, but there is a sensible middle ground that offers reasonable functionality. Removing an underused capslock key isn't going improve anyone's experience, but it will hurt those for whom it's useful. This is not to say I'm opposed to redesigns, but I think they have to be applied holistically and be sensible.

Comment Re:Finally! This is good policy (Score 1) 628

You talk like restarts are unique to Windows.

OSX updates typically require restarts, just like the one I installed this morning. All mobile OSs need to be restarted after an update. It's a nuisance, but it's the state of software today. And anyway, it's not like we're faced with minute long restarts anymore; in the scheme of things they're complete non-events.

Comment Bigger pixels. (Score 1) 175

A lot of people seem to be missing the point here. Pixel art is a visual style; just like cel shading, voxel graphics or realistic 3D common to most FPSs. That this particular aesthetic was borne out of technical limitations is irrelevant. All art styles had their foundation in something, some of those being technological advancements in ceramics, pigments or metallurgy.

Of course, certain art styles are more popular than others. If you're looking at this from the perspective of a commercial enterprise it might make sense to favor another aesthetic over pixel art. That, however, does not mean pixel art isn't a legitimate style.

I read the article and thought Blake Reynolds made some compelling arguments. However, I think he's also missing the point. I took a look at the game, Auro, that spawned this discussion and I wasn't really impressed. I don't think what we have here is a failing of pixel art but rather some poor aesthetic decisions.

The style doesn't work with the type of game that it is. More critically, he went for a pseudo HD pixel style. As he himself states, he wasn't going for a retro look, although it does hark back to mid 90s sprite-based PC games. But this is a style suited to larger displays, not the mobile screens for which it's been built. At that size those graphics just end up looking slightly off. And while the individual graphics look great, crammed together in the game the whole thing feels just a bit off.

Early in my design career I was taught one important rule: when you design something make sure it looks intentional. Go too subtle and you risk it looking like a mistake. That's what happened with Auro.

He might have actually had a better response if he had gone with the larger pixels of so many other games out there. In any case, he deserves credit for trying to be different.

Comment Re:An Odd Bird (Score 5, Interesting) 110

Authors improve with age? In my experience that's not true at all. There seems to be a range during which authors are at their optimum and even if the actual age range varies from person to person. The consistency is how the decline manifests itself.

Too many authors shift from storytelling to exposition in their later years. Instead of describing a compelling narrative into which thought provoking concepts are intertwined they get totally fixated on those themes. So you get a book full of exposition in which virtually nothing happens until the very end; it's a book full of people talking instead of doing. It seems exacerbated by sticking to the same universe but I've seen it happen with unrelated novels by the same author.

I always bring up Frank Herbert and the Dune series as a case study for this phenomenon. It's not that there aren't facets of the later books that aren't interesting, but as a novel those later novels are not as engaging as the first, even when they had the potential to be so much more. And it seems that first novel is usually the best.

Comment Re:Doesn't matter (Score 5, Informative) 130

I didn't realize Obama was a Republican. You do know that he attended private raisers held by Comcast executives, don't you? He's golfed with the CEO of Comcast. Oh yeah, and the current FCC chairman, nominated by Obama, has close ties to the telecom industry and has long been a lobbyist for companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. In 2012 Comcast employes donated roughly 4x more to Democrats than Republicans.

But sure, keep believing all the bullshit you're fed; it will just make it that much easier for Democrats, and Republicans along with them, to screw you over.

Comment Re:Face it America ... (Score 3, Insightful) 131

I'm curious to know who this collective "we" is that you're talking about. There is a lot that the United States does that is cause for concern, but there's also plenty the US does to help. You give me the impression that either you're either ignorant about everything that happens around the world or you're very selective about where you get your news.

As for the US military, for a whole host of reasons the US is endlessly doing Europe's dirty work. They sure are averse to getting involved, even when something's happening in their own backyard or their own meddling was the source of those problems. And in the end, while Europe enjoys the luxury of keeping its hands clean they have no shame in getting on their high horse about American involvement around the world.

Of course, the US could always take the Chinese approach of superficially not getting involved in anything, but supporting oppressive regimes so that they can strip nations of their resources. Take a look at what they're doing in Africa.

Comment Re:should five per cent appear to small (Score 1) 164

I have family in Portugal, France, England and a couple of other countries. I've never heard a single one of them say they like the tax rates. I do hear plenty of complaints about how high taxes are but social programs constantly getting scaled back. In fact, a couple of my uncles in France have had to get private health insurance, oh ironic, to compensate for what the government has cut. France just hit record unemployment again, something my cousins have felt for a while. Don't even dare ask about stuff like bank bailouts and immigration.

Maybe it's different in some northern European countries, but I hear plenty of complaints from that part of Europe too. It seems like the only people who think things are good in Europe are the wealthy or Americans who irrationally think Europe is some kind of wonderland utopia.

Comment Neverending hyperbole... (Score 2) 328

I suspect too much is being read in to these numbers. For the most part updates to tablets have been incremental over the past several years. Other than a fixation in owning the latest and greatest, there's no real reason to upgrade. PC updates have stalled a lot earlier than that for the very same reason. It's not that there aren't tangible performance gains, but for what most people do the difference is negligible.

The mistake that so-called experts have made is to assume that the purchase of gadgets is some sort of zero sum game. When PC sales stalled they assumed that it was because of some sort of technological paradigm shift. The fact is that most PCs were still perfectly serviceable. So when it came time to spend on something they gravitated towards tablets. Of course, the economy was another big factor which was largely overlooked. Although, admittedly, that doesn't seem to stop many consumers from careless spending.

So now we're at a point where tablets have largely saturated the market and people have been using them long enough to know where their utility lies. This likely means growth is going to permanently remain modest for both PCs and tablets.

Comment Re:Cheaper (Score 1) 349

I guess you don't know much about business then. Yes, there are business travelers who have predictable schedules, but those are guys rare. In my experience flights are often booked only a couple of weeks before the trip, and that's if you're lucky. You might be aware that a particular project will require travel, but the exact timing of a meeting is often unknown up until the last moment.

Comment Like it or not, this was flamebait. (Score 0) 681

I like Neil Degrasse Tyson but his goal was obvious from the first tweet; he comes off like he had a chip on his shoulder and was looking to get a rise out of people. He posts a tweet that amounts to flamebait and then defaults to the usual tactic of criticizing those he sought to offend. In contrast to what he claims in a later tweet, people are offended by the obnoxiousness of his tweets, not the mundane nature of their truths.

Guess what? The world is comprised of a diversity of ideas and beliefs and many of those probably won't fit your particular worldview. This is the kind of nonsense you'd expect from a petulant teenager lashing out at the world.

That said, he's entirely free to say whatever he wants. He just has to accept the fact that the rest of the world is also free to criticize him.

Comment Some perspective. (Score 1) 528

Wasn't Lockheed hacked a couple of years back? My understanding is that quite a good amount of data regarding a variety of weapons systems, including data on the F-35, was stolen. I don't know how the volume of data stolen compares, but it seems to me like a far more significant hack than stealing a bunch of shitty film scripts and some employee data.

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