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Comment Re:You missed the PC, too (Score 1) 207

I still haven't completely given up hope, though, that this will change one day.

Unfortunately, I have.

We'll talk exclusively about desktop apps, and ignore web-based applications and mobile apps for the moment.

Who are some of the big players in the desktop software market?
Adobe, Autodesk, Intuit, Sage, and Nuance are all in the list of top-100 software companies by revenue, admittedly a list heavily skewed toward the enterprise market - SAP and VMWare are clearly outside the scope of this exercise.

Most of these companies' flagship applications (Photoshop, AutoCAD, Quickbooks, ACT, NaturallySpeaking) are cross-compatible with MacOS/OSX, so to be honest, Apple is a more viable path than ever before...once one gets past the sticker shock of not only buying the hardware, but re-buying the software. The real cross-platform challenge is all the niche applications, everything from software that runs law firms and software that runs intelligent lighting arrays to software that runs dental offices to the knockoffs of industry standards.

However, none of those applications run on Linux. Look, I like Linux on the desktop. I too would love nothing more than for commercial software vendors to consider Linux a viable platform for development. Game developers have started to do so, which is a great start...but for commercial software houses, there's the classic chicken-and-egg problem. Who wants to wipe a computer that ships with Windows in order to install Linux when their line-of-business applications won't support it? What software vendor is going to take the plunge on making something like that happen, knowing it's a gamble that may well not pay off? Plenty of Slashdotters have made Linux their primary, and I am glad that they have, but there are very few lawyers here, and even fewer dentists.

The only thing that I think will push software vendors to make this happen is for Microsoft to fully depreciate the Win32 API and push for Modern-Only apps on the platform. Nadella may not always make the decisions I agree with, but I can't possibly believe he would be stupid enough to push *that* button. If he does, he creates a vacuum that will suddenly be viable for desktop Linux to fill.

Comment Re:Come on... (Score 1) 236

"There are certainly improvements (>1 million rows in Excel"

Encouraging people to use a spreadsheet for large amounts of data (or anything else!) is *not* an improvement!

Yes, but the alternatives are awkward. Obviously, that much data belongs in a database for actual-storage, but how does one implement that for end users?

"Use Access!"
Well, Access is only a part of the professional versions of Office now, and it's twice as expensive. Therefore, most users don't have Access.

"Use LibreOffice Base!"
The closest thing to an actual-answer, but there's still a solid learning curve there, as well as import problems.

"Use MariaDB!"
So, now end users need to learn how to use command line SQL?

"Use MariaDB and phpMyAdmin!"
So, now end users need a full LAMP stack?

"SQL Server Express and ODBC!"

Yes, Excel is a very crude application for database functions. It's also ubiquitous, and for relatively simple things like averaging a single column in half a million rows, spending hours getting that data into a database to then process it back in Excel is an absurd notion.

Comment Re:Come on... (Score 1) 236

One thing that comes to mind that made old software "better" was how much smaller it was. The oldest Microsoft Office ISO I have immediately available is 2003 Professional. It's 410MB for, if memory serves, everything including Access and Frontpage. The Office 2016 Professional installer is 2.4GB...

Why do you care? If I have a 2TB HDD then 400MB or 2.4GB is equally trivial. Same goes for RAM.

I'd much rather have features than save disk or RAM space that cost peanuts to upgrade.

For one program? No. The problem comes when *everyone* starts thinking that way. Applications use more and more RAM because "It's cheap" and "everyone has plenty". Nobody optimizing means that multitasking becomes needlessly more difficult. Applications use more and more hard drive space because "everyone has plenty". Everyone using twice as much disk space as they could if users were shown a real custom installer menu or simply optimizing their usage means that I *need* a larger hard disk to fit the same amount of personal data.

Optimized applications show that the developers value my resources.

Comment Re:Developers, developers, developers (Score 1) 207

The failure of windows phone had nothing to do with 'developer engagement'. Simply put they were far too late to market to compete with the already established iphone & Android.

They might have had a shot if they had realized it and focused from day one on the business market (which they were already a player in), but instead attempted to compete with Google and Apple who had more cachet with consumers.

Smartphone history doesn't start in 2010. It didn't start in 2007 with the iPhone, either.

Those of us who have longer memories are aware of the iPhone's predecessors. For quite some time, it was a three-horse race between Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Palm. Blackberry was preferred by many businesses because of BES - it was a bit expensive, but it was super secure and made it possible to replace a lost or damaged Blackberry with a fresh one in about 20 minutes, with all the user's accounts and data intact. Palm was very simple to use, had great battery life, and Palm Desktop was like Outlook Lite and Salesforce Lite rolled into a bundled application.

Believe it or not, Windows Mobile was amongst the most versatile platforms of its day, and it was king of the third party apps. Those apps weren't purchased through the App Store, they were purchased at retail on SD cards or from developers' websites...but there were more for WinMo than anything else. It was kinda ugly on the surface, but in HTC's heyday with the Touch Diamond, Touch Pro2, and HD2, it had more eye candy than the iPhone. WinMo was easy to manage because it was treated like a desktop in Active Directory, and though Windows Media Player for WinMo had its idiosyncrasies, it wasn't until maybe the Blackberry Curve that there was a media playback application for a mobile platform that outperformed it. As an added bonus, XDA-Developers started with WinMo phones. If you think Android is customizable, you should see some of the mods that were done back when WinMo was a thing.

The writing was on the wall for WinMo when it became abundantly clear that stylus-based input was a compromise, not a desirable state of existence. With the exception of the HD2, everyone else had a resistive touchscreen, which has long since been obsoleted. If you've never used IE Mobile, be grateful - it'll make you pine for IE6.

Microsoft attempted to reinvent itself with Windows Phone 7, right around when Android hit the scene. It was definitely more polished at the time than Android was, but they bet on XAML and Silverlight-based applications, which wasn't the best start. They also bet that having a rooting/modding community was a liability rather than an asset, so they put the kibosh on it early and were pretty successful at preventing third party ROMs and mods from making the platform attractive to the technically savvy. Meanwhile, stability was a major problem, Nokia phones took *years* to arrive, and when they did, most carriers had more options in their iPhone lineup than their WinMo lineup. On top of that, Microsoft was still trying to not-suck at the media management department; WMP10-12 wasn't bad for local media syncing, but this was back when iTunes was actually good, and Microsoft still didn't have a good way for users to download music and movies.

Developers had to start from scratch upon the arrival of WP8. WP7 apps weren't compatible with WP8, and WP8 wasn't compatible with the majority of WP7 devices - keeping in mind that this happened when 2-year handset contracts were still very much a thing. Microsoft could have given themselves excellent mindshare by allowing WP7 users to trade their phones in for WP8 phones at no cost, but instead they released 7.8 which had about half the heralded WP8 features...and for all the complaints about Android fragmentation, the complete incompatibility between WP7 and WP8 was far worse. There was all kinds of attempts to do Google-style integration with Bing, which worked as well as you think it did, and Cortana tried to eat Siri's lunch, but especially in its early days it was terrible with doing anything other than transcribing Bing searches. Stability issues still abounded, there's still no third party keyboards for the platform, still no rooting or modding of consequence, and then they promised Windows 10 Phone.

And they broke backwards compatibility AGAIN.

So, once again, all the developers who made the attempt to invest their time into making a WP8 app were now told that, once again, they wouldn't be compatible with W10P. Now, to be fair, I do believe that Microsoft did provide a set of porting tools to facilitate the transition, but once again, there were WP8 phones left behind, so the WP8 apps still needed to be maintained. During this time, Microsoft spun off a bunch of their useful Nokia holdings, Steve Ballmer was ironing out the details of his golden parachute, and I'm certain the board was looking critically at their single digit market share, wondering exactly whether to double down yet again, or to just make it desirable for Microsoft apps to run on iOS and Android, while giving app developers reasons to put the back end on Azure.

So yes, there was plenty to do with developer engagement, they were established in the market long before iOS and Android were ever a thing, they had a focus on the business market that didn't pan out, and they lost cachet with consumers because they were focusing on all the wrong things and didn't have a good enough reason to jump ship from iOS or Android.

Comment Re:Welcome to the rental economy (Score 2) 43

I concur that the benefits of "upgrades" have been a matter of diminishing returns for quite some time now. Even if there's upgrades and features now, I worry that in five years from now, the real value will be "not losing access to your data".I share your staunch aversion to software subscriptions for that reason.

The problem with relying on the Open Source community to fill the vacuum is that there are lots and lots of factors that are involved. People genuinely do appreciate and benefit from ubiquitous access to their data. That's certainly possible with a whole lot of self-hosted software, but those methods require back end resources, a firewall of consequence, backups, and an internet connection that not only has enough upload bandwidth to support these applications, but an internet connection that doesn't block ports 80 and 443. Here at Slashdot those things aren't a problem, and the Synology NAS units (as well as a few others) help to streamline these through things like QuickConnect, but now we've left OSS solutions.

If we're looking at desktop applications, Quickbooks' greatest asset is the fact that every accounting firm will take a .QBW file, and any Main Street business owner can talk to any other Main Street business owner and probably find out how to do what they need to do. Meanwhile, virtually every OSS accounting package I've looked at has either had a Spartan UI, doesn't do payroll, is gross overkill, or is cloud-only...and all of them are double-entry. The closest I've found from a UI perspective is Xtuple, but its server requirements are insane compared to Quickbooks for a single-machine install. Thus, I submit that the reason why Intuit (whose level of evil in the software world is only eclipsed by Oracle) owns the small business accounting market is because there aren't any single entry OSS financial management applications at all...and with the exception of GNUcash, the only reason why there are the higher end OSS products is because all of their commercial packages have massive price tags attached to them that will rival Intuit's enterprise editions.

On the creative software front, OSS is still very difficult to acclimate to. GIMP can generally do the job in spite of its suboptimal interface, Inkscape is limited but can do the basics well enough, and Scribus is in the uncanny valley between Publisher and InDesign. KDenLive isn't the worst thing ever, but video editing = patent encumbered formats = OSS license hell. Ardour and Audacity can do the job, but they definitely lack the polish of Audition. Honestly, the best competitor to Adobe is Corel, not Github.

There are lots of places where OSS shines (pick just about anywhere in the server closet - you're crazy to run Windows Server as a router, but pfSense, Untangle, Smoothwall, Endian, ClearOS......). There are, however, going to be areas where OSS just will always play second fiddle to commercial software houses. As my very loose rule of thumb, I've found that the further away from programming a discipline is, the worse the OSS software packages are for it.

Comment Re:Come on... (Score 1, Insightful) 236

The definition of the term "better" is the key here. In broad terms, a product is "better" if it more closely meets the needs of the person or organization than what was previously being used.

One thing that comes to mind that made old software "better" was how much smaller it was. The oldest Microsoft Office ISO I have immediately available is 2003 Professional. It's 410MB for, if memory serves, everything including Access and Frontpage. The Office 2016 Professional installer is 2.4GB, and doesn't allow for any installation customization unless you use the volume licensed editions. There are certainly improvements (>1 million rows in Excel, multiple Exchange server support in Outlook, sparklines, and better PDF support and WordArt in Word), but a sixfold upshot in installer size? Those don't align. A kitchen-sink installation of the current version of Winamp is about 50MB - a number that is incredibly bloated by 2.91's 26MB full install, but a bargain compared to the 200-300MB required by iTunes. Then, there is the train wreck that are HP printer drivers...

Older software was much more frugal with its system resource usage. Today's software couldn't care less. Whether the increase in user friendliness really justifies the much larger increase in application size is an exercise left to the reader - there are plenty of examples in either direction. Install size is just one example. The increased requirement of an internet connection is a point of contention for me. The mass migration to "cloud applications" that are indefinitely rented, but never owned, isn't something I'm generally a fan of. The increase in telemetry and decrease in customization options are two things that I find are not things from which I benefit. There is a reason why is a thing - because newer is not always better.

Comment Depends on what you get (Score 1) 183

I am a simple man. A touchpad from ten years ago can fit my needs - left button, right button, edge scrolling. I do like the "chiral scrolling" as well, but that's a bonus. These are all provided with every Synaptics touchpad ever, and Synaptics even awesomely has a driver right on their website that'll handle basically every touchpad you install it on. They have enable/disable/optimization controls for every gesture control available, as well as tutorials on how to use them. It's great. I can't speak highly enough about them. I only realized that there were worse touchpads because I'd been spoiled by getting Synaptics touchpads on my laptops for years, and boy was that lucky.

Alps touchpads aren't too bad either, but that entirely depends on whether you get a Dell branded driver or not. Alps drivers are pretty feature complete, but when they're rebadged as Dell, it's luck of the draw whether there's useful stuff or not. Literally, there are Dell touchpad drivers that don't allow the disabling of tap-to-click.

The ones I can't stand are the touchpads with the "virtual buttons", and HP I'm looking squarely at you. May the lovechild of Carly Fiorina and Leo Apotheker be sentenced to use one of those atrocities until the end of time. They think you click when you don't, and they invariably end up with a slight mouse movement when you do actually click. It's nearly impossible to get an exact location clicked without a mouse on those stupid things, and the drivers for them don't do much to compensate.

The somebody-hates-you company when it comes to touchpad, though, is Sentelic. I returned a $3,100 Origin laptop because the touchpad was THAT bad. I attempted to use the multi-touch features, but it was terrible at its ability to discern exactly how many fingers were on the pad. The PalmCheck discernment was abhorrent, and the button placement was such that I was right-clicking when I typed because I'd hit the button. The drivers were a year old when I got the laptop, and good luck finding Sentelic online. It was the worst touchpad experience I've ever had.

So yes, Windows providing a standardized interface is a godsend for people who have Sentelic touchpads or the crappy Dell drivers on the Alps ones. I do hope that Precision is able to be overridden by my Synaptics drivers though, because I'll take them over the Windows implementation any day.

Comment Honest Thought: Free Speech + No Platform = ? (Score 5, Interesting) 369

If I can get a bit more theoretical here, a number of people have posted the Free Speech xkcd comic. It's absolutely right that there is a difference between 'the government won't arrest you' and 'no one should be compelled to host content they disagree with'. For this reason, I am indeed glad that Milo is keeping 4chan as a place where people can indeed post unpopular opinions.

However, I've been thinking about this recently: to what end is it not required for there to be a platform given? Twitter doesn't want to host offensive tweets. Fine. I'll join the four people on Google Plus and do it. Well, seems the other three people on Google Plus don't like my offensive speech, either.

Okay. I'll head on over to HostGator and install Friendica and make my own place where I can post my offensive things. Well, HostGator says I can't do that on their servers, rinse and repeat for GoDaddy, BlueHost, and 1&1. I head over to Amazon and rent some server time there, but Amazon says I can't post my offensive things there.

Fine, no more cloud for me - want something done right, DIY time. So, I call up Verizon and get their you-can-have-a-web-server FiOS package and load up an old desktop with a LAMP stack and host it myself. Verizon says they're not obligated to give me a platform, and when I call Cablevision, I get the same story. So, "no one is required to give me a platform" is, at its logical conclusion, a statement that can prevent a sufficiently offensive message from ever reaching the internet.

What is the reasonable expectation here? Should someone sufficiently down the line be expected to provide the same platform to hate speech as they provide to acceptable speech? Obviously I paint a picture of a fairly remote possibility, but it does raise the question of how "freedom of the press" works if no one will sell you a printing press.


Comment Re:The most most seriously needed LEO database (Score 3, Insightful) 185

I get, and to a certain extent agree with your premise that the newsworthy cases of police brutality are most certainly the exception and not the rule, there are two parts of your post with which I shall formally rebut:

While it is true that there are a few officers that deserve jail time (and the do get it most of the time) 99.99% of the LEOs our there are the good guys. They go out every day with a target painted on their back to protect the rest of us for crap pay. I am fine if they want to make sure their neighbors/acquaintances/dates don't have drug or assault convictions. Using that information to blackmail is different, but just having the information is fine as long as they are responsible with it.

I think the 99.99% figure is exaggerated, but I'll roll with it for the moment. I don't get to check if my date has an assault conviction. Just because the police office is in a place where such information is readily accessible doesn't mean that they are allowed to just use it for whatever they want. As an IT/support tech, I have remote access and admin passwords to dozens of servers for dozens of companies. Only once have I ever used one of my clients' servers for personal use, and that was to demonstrate a particular piece of software for a friend of mine, with explicit consent of the owner of that server. LEOs don't sign up to be LEOs with the promise of a $250,000 salary and then realize it's between $40K and 70K a year. That information is abundantly clear long before they ever step foot in the police academy. Access to my confidential data is not penance for making less money than a doctor or lawyer. Even if you are okay with it (as is your right), I am not. The question is which one of us should be able to impose our feelings upon the other.

The second issue I have is with this part...

Put yourself in their shoes. [snip] You have no clue if he just murdered his girlfriend, has $5M in heroine in the trunk, is off his meds or is high out of his gourd.

Nope. But the foundation of everything LEOs are required to uphold is summed up in the following sentence: Innocent until proven guilty. Maybe he did just murder his girlfriend...but unless there's a dead body in the front seat, he didn't. Maybe he's got $5M of heroin in his trunk...but until there's probable cause to search the vehicle, he doesn't. Maybe he is indeed high...that will become bleeding obvious in about 30 seconds of interaction.

If he is not obeying orders and is putting his hands in places where a weapon might be concealed, you have a very reasonable fear for your life. So while not 100% of police shootings are justified, you are a sociopath if you can't at least empathize with the people in our society who put their lives in danger to protect us from the criminal element.

My level of empathy is strenuous at best, for two reasons. First, if the job is too hard, quit. It's not hard to stop being a police officer. There is no shame in saying, "being a competent police officer is too hard for me". It is a tough job, but the difficulties of that job are no secret. If someone signs up to be a police officer, they are signing up to carry a gun that they will hopefully never have to use, but are lawfully authorized to use far more liberally than the average citizen. With that authority should come accountability...and the perceived lack of said accountability is the root of the challenges at hand.

Comment Genuine question - Why Modal Text Editors? (Score 3) 131

I've done some minor Linux administration, generally in the realm of getting some Turnkey Linux appliance or other to run. When I've done so, I've always used nano - it tends to do what I need it to do, it has command cues on the bottom so I don't need to memorize the man file to use it, and it seems to be available basically-everywhere. I used vi a bit in college, and the concept of a modal text editor with next-to-no window dressing doesn't seem, at first blush, to have any real advantages to using something more like nano.

I am *not* looking to enter into some sort of flame war, but I do hope that someone would be generous enough to help me understand the draw to either vi or emacs.

Comment Re:DVB-C (Score 1) 149

Windows Media Center... which was free in Windows 7, cost you a bit (if you didn't grab it during the first year) in 8, and is no longer available as part of Windows 10.

Much hope is being held out for the SiliconDust effort to make a working DVR app... however they are a year behind schedule.

It took a few tries to get it to work, but I can speak from personal firsthand experience that it works on Win10 the way you remember it, down to the guide data downloads.

With respect to other options, I'm hoping that the PlexDVR app allows for live streaming eventually, if SiliconDust doesn't get their life together.

Comment Re:Why did they "cut them a break"? (Score 3, Insightful) 77

You misunderstand my question.... I was asking why heavier penalties for false DMCA takedowns would make any difference when anytime high penalties for piracy are ever talked about around here, someone usually brings up the point that higher penalties for crimes is not an effective preventative.

Lemme break it down...

Suppose that I, Voyager529, were to download a copy of Fantastic Voyage, and that I was one of a million people to do so. Suppose I was stupid enough to leave a nobody-doubts-it evidence trail that I personally committed that specific act of copyright infringement. It goes to court, the judge decides to make an example out of me and give me a $150,000 fine for my misdoing. My current socioeconomic status is such that a $150,000 fine would basically be life ruining. Whether it was $150K or $150M, I'm screwed for life; the fact that there's a few orders of magnitude difference between those two numbers is inconsequential. I downloaded the film figuring that I wouldn't get caught, but since I did, I'm screwed. 20th Century Fox can try to file a few more lawsuits, but since I had the most clear paper trail available and the case was the easiest to win for them, even if they went down the line to the next 5-10 people who were similarly easy to successfully sue, any one person would have less than a 0.01% chance of being a target. Increasing the fines to "ruin the defendant's life even more" isn't going to be much more of a deterrent.

By contrast, 20th Century Fox sends a DMCA notice for Fantastic Voyage to one million random Youtube videos. that guy smoking a pipe? infringer. Pewpewdie? Infringer. Jenna Marbles? Infringer. Justin Bieber music video? Infringer. One guy who did, in fact, upload a ten second clip from the film? Infringer. Rinse and repeat a million more times, except that last one. 20th Century Fox has spent a few hundred dollars sending out those mostly-automated takedown notices. Google treats all million of those takedown notices equally, which takes weeks to sort out. The one guy with the ten second clip gets hit with an infringement suit. He loses and the judge says the defendant has to pay $10,000. 20th Century Fox says "oops" 999,999 times and made thousands of dollars on the one guy, meaning that there is incentive to basically treat DMCA takedowns like phishing e-mails - send 'em out, see who bites, and the cost of being wrong is $0.

Now, the GP says that $10 per invalid notice is a reasonable number. I'd personally make that $100 plus any expense incurred fighting the invalid notice (including down time, lost wages, etc.), but we'll keep the math simple and stick to ten bucks per 'oops'. Same scenario as above: one million takedowns sent, one technically-not-valid-but-judge-says-so $10,000 ruling. 20th Century Fox isn't making a few grand, they're paying $9,999,990. Even if they got ten times the maximum $150,000 penalty, it's still a losing proposition by millions of dollars.

tl;dr: The fines for infringement are extremely high, but the enforcement rate is very low. Increasing the fine without increasing enforcement isn't going to change things much for the unlucky person, but giving copyright holders a disincentive for sending out massive numbers of DMCA takedowns is clearly a requirement as a result of its abuse.

Comment Re:No surprise - same erorrs in finance & ops (Score 1) 349

In the year 2016, a disturbing amount of human activity is run through Excel instead of proper databases.

A similar study from 2009 tested for errors in various operational spreadsheets and concluded, "Our results confirm the general belief among those who have studied spreadsheets that errors are commonplace." The Financial Times commented on the prevalence of spreadsheet errors in business, saying it's probably a function of training and organizational culture.

I've heard from a few salespeople in the software industry that their biggest competitor in the SMB space isn't $BigCRMCorp, but Excel spreadsheets that have acreted over the years.

This absolutely doesn't surprise me. The concept of thinking about where one's data lives is nearly extinct outside of technical circles, and even Access is seen as "too complicated" by a lot of people. The utility of third normal form is obvious to us, but lots of people are perfectly served with pivot tables. How many people receive formal training in any form of database anymore? Even lots of web designers who use MySQL on the back end of their CMS software don't do a whole lot in PHPMyAdmin unless they have to.

Excel is very simple, ubiquitous, and has a low ceiling of functionality. It's the lowest common denominator, and unfortunately, it's "good enough" for lots of people.

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