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Comment Seriously, who uses Skype these days? (Score 3, Insightful) 66

Skype was a big deal back in the day. I can remember holding my laptop up to a window in Paris to steal an unsecured wifi signal and phone home. Wowza! But that was ten years ago. I have dozens of VoIP and video conferencing choices. The world has moved on and Microsoft is the backwater, not the mainstream.

I spent a week in Ukraine a few months ago and wound up on a three-hour conference call with work back in the US, using Google Voice. (Whether that's progress or not is open to debate.) But I was not concerned about losing the 10-euro credit on my Skype account when I got an expiration notice from the Borg.

Like the VHS tapes I just hauled off to Goodwill ... I just don't need it any more.

Comment How do they handle security/identity? (Score 1) 46

When I was in India several years ago, it was not possible to get onto the Internet without proof of identity. In order to use a computer at a cyber cafe, I had to provide my passport, whose number was duly recorded in a register along with the beginning and ending times of my session. Considering the terrorism attacks since then, I would expect that practice to continue.

So how is the Google/RailTel access handled? Do people have to provide proof of identity to establish an account? Is it actually open? Encrypted?

Comment Amazon already goes beyond this (Score 1) 83

The current tablet FireOS predicts what you might want to watch and, if you have plenty of space on your SD card, preloads video content when you're on wifi. You don't have to manage the downloads (they are purged if the space is needed). The external SD integration is actually better than that of Android Marshmallow.

Comment The future is already here.... (Score 1) 268

This Linux vs Microsoft vs Apple thing is like watching three angry old men rant at each other while the kids and their kids have moved on.

Netflix. Hulu. Google Translate. Swype. Google Now. Alexa. Quit thinking of the world as bounded by 20th century desktop computing paradigms and Microsoft/Apple business models. Linux is already everywhere, on phones and watches and TV sets and cameras and devices that don't quite have names yet, and it's running closed-source apps on open-source foundations.

Comment Softlanding Linux System (Score 1) 136

In 1991 I was an Atari ST user. I'd learned C, written some software to connect it to Usenet, and spent most of my time in a command line or MicroEMACS rather than in the graphical interface. At that point it was clear that Atari was headed for oblivion, and I jokingly told some of my friends that I was thinking about kicking it aside for something really crazy -- a PC running Minix, or maybe even that new Linux thing people were talking about.

The following year I used the U of M Gopher system to download SLS Linux (the very first distro) to a handful of floppies, and took them to a computer junk store across from the Minnesota Supercomputer Center. I told the proprietor that if he could bolt something together that would boot SLS, I'd buy it. I went home with a '386 with a 10MB hard drive, a keyboard, and a cheap monochrome monitor, and never looked back.

The big breakthrough was switching from Miniterm to a TCP/IP dialup connection made available by a friend at the university. I downloaded alpha kernel patches from and recompiled about once a week. I hovered over and Swapped in a '486 motherboard and I was on a roll. I wound up putting Linux on a spare Pentium at work for the mission-critical functions of file sharing between PCs and Macs and Friday afternoon Quake.

Now I run Linux on my wristwatch.

Comment Re:Cheers for Mint (Score 5, Interesting) 89

Linux has been a great platform for the elderly for years.

My mother, who also is in her 80s, bought a Toshiba Latitude in 2007. It came with Vista and not enough RAM to run anything other than Solitaire. I installed Ubuntu, which took about 15 minutes, and fixed the sound config, which took about two days, and she's been fine ever since.

But her version of Ubuntu is no longer supported, and rather than try to upgrade -- she lives 12 hours away, so it's not exactly convenient -- we bought her a self-updating Chromebook on Black Friday. So far, so good, although she's going to have to switch to an HTML5 solitaire game instead of AisleRiot, which has been her go-to for the last seven years.

I'm still running Ubuntu on my own laptop, but Cinnamon may lure me away. I need to upgrade, and I am not a fan of what Ubuntu has done to the UI.

Comment It's not the same (Score 4, Insightful) 290

I lived through 14 Minnesota winters, and after a similar period in the South, I can say they're really not similar.

Southern pines are spectacular, much taller than those typical in Minnesota, because they can grow for years without being beaten down by the weather. When once in a decade or so they get coated with ice, the result is chaos -- whole trees snapping five feet above ground, crashing through attics into living rooms, tearing down power lines along the way. It sounds like cannon fire echoing through the woods.

The problems of winter hitting the South are not limited to lack of equipment, preparation, or winter driving skills. Nature just isn't ready for it.

Comment Missing the real story (Score 1) 470

The real story, not in this report because the "market" has been artificially restricted to "desktop" visits to websites, is that total Windows usage (ALL versions) has tumbled to a minority position overall because of the rise of mobile/tablet devices. iOS and Android have rebalanced the personal computing world into a heterogenous environment where open standards are more important than corporate fiat. Fanbois call this fragmentation; I call it healthy.

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