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Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support

Retron Broke for me... (538 comments)

I installed the update at work - it worked. I installed the update on my old PC - it worked. Tried to install it on my current PC - failed, after taking something like 20 minutes. It then took another half-hour to revert the changes. (On those machines where it worked, it took only 5 minutes or so to install).

Digging around online showed that fiddling around on the command line with dism might help. The online image is corrupted but it's repairable... that is, until you try and use /restorehealth, at which point it moans that there are no sources. Of course there aren't, it was upgraded to 8.1 from 8.0 via the online store.

So, after faffing around and grabbing an install.wim from an old 8.1 iso I had saved at work (not the 8.1 update 1 iso currently on the MS website) I find that dism won't use the image, even after mounting it.

I couldn't then even attempt to reinstall the update, as it failed immediately. Dism was called upon again to remove the update package, then at least it would let me try again... only to fail. Another 45 minutes wasted.

It looks as though the only way to "fix" it is to nuke Windows entirely, then go through the painful 8.0 > 8.1 > 8.1 with Media Center route. Except, of course, to get Media Center reinstalled you have to buy it again - there's no option I can see to re-enter your Meda Center key again because, guess what, when you upgrade to Media Center your Windows product key is changed. And a Windows 8.1 with Media Center key isn't accepted by the 8.1 iso (or at least wasn't when I tried earlier)...

Looks like a long and boring Easter weekend coming up.

On the other hand, I might just reinstall Windows 7 instead.

yesterday
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Microsoft Posts Source Code For MS-DOS and Word For Windows

Retron Re:Why are they posting old source code? (224 comments)

x86 versions of Windows 8.1 have the MS-DOS 5 based NTDVM in them. Run command /c ver from a command prompt and you'll see it's MS-DOS 5.0.500. Run command /c dir c:\ and you'll see the MS-DOS 5 directory listing (normally the dir command is handled differently, even if you're running command rather than cmd).

As a bonus, every copy of Windows 8.1 - x86, x64, ARM - comes with MS-DOS8. It's embedded in diskcopy.dll and is used when you format a floppy disk as an MS-DOS startup disk. Why it's on the ARM version I have no idea!

about three weeks ago
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VA Tech Experiment: Polar Vortex May Decimate D.C. Stinkbugs In 2014

Retron Whereas a few thousand miles away... (112 comments)

And on the other side of the Atlantic, the strong jetstream (caused by the abnormal cold in the eastern States) has led to one of the mildest and wettest winters on record in England. I was surprised when last weekend I saw swarms of newly-hatched flies buzzing around the fields of Berkshire; you don't normally see those until late March or early April. To see them in mid-February is quite remarkable. We'll be in a for a miserable spring and summer over here as there will be far more insects buzzing around than normal due to the almost complete lack of frost this "winter" (and I use the term loosely, as for millions of us in the south of the UK it's just been an extended autumn this year!)

about 2 months ago
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Windows 8.1 Passes Windows Vista In Market Share

Retron Re:Sort of (249 comments)

8.1 also has a load of inconsistent mush. Click the volume control - get a Windows 7-style popup. Click the network icon - get a Metro thing pop up. Open Media Player - see Windows 7 shiny style controls. Icons in Explorer are still from Vista (3D, nicely drawn) whereas the window controls were changed to an 80s-style flat look just before release. Except, that is, in MDI programs which still use the Aero Basic theme from Vista. Oh yes, insert a memory stick and you'll be invited to "tap to choose" what to do with it. Very useful on a traditional desktop PC! Adding some code to say "click" instead of "tap" if no touch input is available must have been too hard to do.

Windows 8 was an utter mess. Windows 8.1 has done little to improve things, it's still a confused bundle of touch, Metro and Vista.

Hopefully Windows 9 next year will get things back to some sort of consistent, polished feel. Until then, if you're on Windows 7 with a traditional PC/laptop I'd say you're better off just sticking with it. Doubtless there'll be some cheap upgrade offers again when 9 comes out.

about 2 months ago
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Schiller Says Apple Is the Last PC Maker From the Mac Era, Forgets About HP

Retron Re:!HP (474 comments)

Not really - "died" is traditionally the upper-class way of saying "passed on". As Wiki says, although the original list of U vs non-U English terms is obsolete in some ways, in others it's still a good indication of class (at least in the UK, I'm not sure how much that applies to the US!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U... has more info for those who are interested.

about 3 months ago
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Incandescent Bulbs Get a Reprieve

Retron Re:Greetings from EU (767 comments)

I'm in the UK too and the CFLs I have make the house look like it's an underground car-park - they're horrible things. They're better than they were 15 years ago (when we bought our first one), but they still give out a horrible light compared to incandescents.

Luckily I have a stock of Osram 100W bulbs for the living room, so that at least continues to have a decent, warm quality of lighting. The Chinese-made "rough service" bulbs (which exploit a loophole to get round the rules) are universally terrible, I've gone through a dozen and none lasted more than 2 or 3 weeks.

about 3 months ago
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60% of Americans Unaware of Looming Incandescent Bulb Phase Out

Retron Incandescents (944 comments)

Over here in the UK 100W incandescent bulbs were phased out around 4 years ago and 60W bulbs not long after. As a result my house now has a mixture of old incandescents and newer CFLs, as well as a halogen bulb or two. The halogens give a harsh light and the CFLs make the room look like it's lit like a multi-storey carpark - not exactly a "homely" look. The living room still has two 100W incandescent bulbs but due to the ban they're becoming really hard to source; there's a loophole where less-efficient 100W bulbs can be sold (as "rough service") but they only seem to last for a few dozen hours rather than 1000 or so. Whether that's because they're cheap Chinese tat or whether it's because they genuinely aren't made to work indoors I couldn't say.

Thankfully old pre-ban bulbs are still available on eBay etc so I've stocked up with a couple of years' worth... hopefully by the time they run out alternative lighting will finally have caught up with the quality of light you get from an incandescent.

about 4 months ago
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UK Retailer Mistakenly Sends PS Vitas, Threatens Legal Action To Get Them Back

Retron Bad PR for Zavvi (617 comments)

It's interesting to see the wide variety of responses to the story. I guess the only way we'll ever know the exact legal situation is if the case makes it to court, but I'd bet that Zavvi will try anything they can to settle out-of-court in order to save themselves the chance of receiving even more bad PR.

It's one of those situations where Zavvi can't win. If they let the person keep the Vita then those who sent them back will be annoyed. If they set the legal eagles loose then it'll just generate more bad PR for them. Zavvi itself had loads of bad PR a few years ago when the original company went bust; it was one of those situations where gift cards weren't honoured during the administration period and the media was full of people moaning about the company. That didn't bother The Hut, though, who bought the rights to the name and then set up a new online shop.

FWIW, my thoughts are that it'd be pretty obvious upon opening the packaging that a Vita+game had been sent rather than just a game. As such, I'd have felt pretty guilty if I'd tried to keep the Vita and I'd hope that I would do the obvious thing and send it back, although it wouldn't be at my expense (a pre-paid Special Delivery label would be my request, as that way the returned package would be insured - sod's law says that it'd go missing on the way back and then you'd have no Vita, no game and would still have the company hounding you for its return!)

The whole sorry mess could have been alleviated by giving a gift voucher upon the return of the Vita, or some other token to say "sorry for messing you around". Doing it the way they did just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth!

about 4 months ago
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Should companies start using drones for common tasks, like package delivery?

Retron Chavs (378 comments)

All it means in the UK is that chavs will have a new sport, that of stealing people's deliveries.

about 4 months ago
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British Operator EE Offers £8 Million Petabyte 4G Data Bundle

Retron Stupidly expensive (53 comments)

Stupidly expensive, which has been the story of EE's 4G in general.

3, for example, offer consumers 7 GB for £25 (=£3.57/GB) on their network - and that's as a PAYG thing. If you're a business and bulk-buying it'd be way cheaper than that. The only snag is that 3 doesn't offer 4G (yet)... when it does, expect EE's pricing to plummet!

about 5 months ago
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Microsoft Admits Windows 8.1 Update May Bork Your Mouse, Promises a Fix

Retron Re:MS knew the Win8.1 DPI scaling was messed, yet (326 comments)

Wow, setting it to 150% actually works with SIMS...

Good on MS for deciding to fix the crummy programs which ignore Windows' DPI settings (such as the aforementioned SIMS). The method for doing it does generate fuzziness, but that's because it's resizing everything (effectively lying about the resolution Windows is running in). That's actually *way* better than the way it was before, which means programs like SIMS would enlarge fonts in some areas and not in others, leading to a right old mess.

A toggle switch for XP-8 or 8.1 behaviour would have been a good idea though for those who find the fuzziness of non-DPI aware applications annoying.

about 5 months ago
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OpenPhoenux Neo900 Bills Itself As Successor To Nokia's N900

Retron Spiritual successor? (111 comments)

Hmm, it's more like the spiritual successor to the old Psion palmtops. They were amazing for their time and every so often I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't just given up in 2001...

about 5 months ago
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Firefox 23 Arrives With New Logo, Mixed Content Blocker, and Network Monitor

Retron And another 3D icon bites the dust... (365 comments)

...well, a bit at least. This anti-skeuomorphic craze is pretty damned irritating - the new logo looks worse than the old one in my view, just as the Windows 8 theme looks worse than Aero Glass and iOS 7 looks worse than iOS 6. I had enough of 2D, flat icons in the 80s (when there weren't the resources to do better); I can only imagine the designers doing all this 2D stuff today weren't around back then.

about 8 months ago
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Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

Retron Re:Bad Science (96 comments)

Interesting, but is it possible that the younger pups were just playing, while as they got older deeper hunting instincts were kicking in and they used those tactics?

Oh, I've no doubt the behaviour is instinctual - they were definitely honing their skills on me. The thing that makes me wonder is "how did they decide which wolf would have which role" - there has to have been something which made them decide that the male would ensnare me while the females went in for the "kill".

about 9 months ago
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Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

Retron Re:Bad Science (96 comments)

Here's something which I can't explain. Maybe a reader here can shed some light on it?

Back in 2006 we had three wolf pups at the wolf centre (I became a volunteer after adopting Kenai, mentioned above). They were hand-reared, so were used to people right from the start.

I decided to do a fun experiment, knowing it'd be the only chance I'd get. Nobody else was this daft!

* When they were three months of age, I ran away from them in their enclosure. They chased me, but when I zigzagged away from them they gave up.
* At four months old, I repeated the experiment. This time they followed me even after I zigzagged, before catching up with me (whereupon they licked me profusely).
* At six months old, I did it for the final time. This time the two female wolves ran away from me and vanished behind some trees. The male wolf came straight towards me, staring at me intently. When he reached me, he wrapped himself around my legs, causing me to wobble a bit. As I was working out how to extricate myself, there was an almighty "whomp" from behind as the two females jumped upon me. That knocked me over and I was licked half to death by the happy pups.

To this day, I don't know how they communicated their tactics to one another, although clearly they did somehow. Wild wolves do the same thing, of course, as you'll have seen on those nature programmes where they use the pincer movement to get a bison calf away from the herd. FWIW there was no noise from the wolves beforehand, just the rustling of grass as they executed their manoeuvre.

about 9 months ago
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Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

Retron Re:Here I am! Here I am! (96 comments)

You won't hear a wolf bark very often (and it tends to be distinct "wuff"s rather than a long, continuous series of barks - Mosi at the UKWCT barks if a particular person comes into the centre) but certainly with howls you can that there are different scenarios. For example, the wolves at the UKWCT will do long chorus howls when the nearby church bells ring, but if you take one particular wolf out she'll howl a few times when she's out of sight of the other wolves - presumably to let them know she's still around. If the wolves are feeling playful, they'll sometimes "rally" (which is a real cacophony, you can hear one of my recordings on the wolf page on Wiki, which someone has labelled "rallying cry"). Before the rally properly starts they'll howl, but the pitch varies rather than being a pure note.

Fun fact: when I played one of the wolf howl recordings I'd made, the oscilloscope on WinAmp showed a perfect sine wave for a few seconds. I was impressed!

about 9 months ago
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Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

Retron Re:Here I am! Here I am! (96 comments)

FWIW, wolves do emit different types of howl - a given wolf won't produce the same howl each time.

Although nobody can say for sure what the meaning is, wolves will make different types of howl if they're separated from their pack, if they've completed a kill, if they're about to "rally" with the pack and, interestingly, if a wolf dies.

For general howling, then yes, it's been known about for years that you can identify a given wolf by their howl. My old adopted wolf Kenai (who lived at the same wolf centre as the original research author used for their studies) had a very recognizable two-tone howl.

about 9 months ago
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Intel Removes "Free" Overclocking From Standard Haswell CPUs

Retron Re:Nice biased wording there (339 comments)

Most MMOs rely on server-side stuff for generating the numbers - meaning the bulk of the work is displaying the results to the user, ie more in the way of GPU rather than CPU usage. WoW, for example, is very light on CPU usage but much heavier on the GPU (to the extent that on a 2600K going from a 460 GTX to a 670 GTX resulted in something like an 80% framerate boost in Pandaria.)

about 10 months ago
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Can Microsoft Survive If Windows Doesn't Dominate?

Retron Re:Server & Tools too... (497 comments)

Bear in mind that the pace of performance growth has slowed markedly in the last decade in terms of day-to-day usage, with each new generation of Intel chips, for example, only adding around 10% performance each time. That means a 3-year-old PC's CPU isn't far behind the latest ones and it'll be more than adequate. Compare that to, for example, a P3-500 from early 1999, which was the fastest consumer CPU you could buy. 3 years later you had your choice of a 2533Mhz Pentium 4 (which cost around the same), or, if you jumped ship, a 1733MHz Athlon XP.

Things are advancing way more slowly than they used to, meaning PCs stay current / acceptable for longer and thus need replacing less often. And that, in turn, means less will be sold.

(NB, the one exception to this is high-end gaming - GPUs are still advancing a bit more quickly, but even there a decent 3-year-old GPU is still adequate for most things).

about 10 months ago

Submissions

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British retailer mistakenly sends Vitas, threatens legal action to get them back

Retron Retron writes  |  about 4 months ago

Retron (577778) writes "The BBC brings news that British retailer Zavvi mistakenly sent out PlayStation Vitas to people who had preordered a game called Tearaway. It's now threatening legal action against those who have kept theirs despite a request to return them. It's unclear whether the Distance Selling Act protects consumers who have mistakenly been sent an expensive item and forums such as Eurogamer seem divided on the issue."
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Sony closes ex-Psygnosis studio

Retron Retron writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Retron (577778) writes "Sony is to close its LIverpool studio, formerly known as Psygnosis. The studio created games such as Lemmings, Shadow of the Beast and Wipeout.

A statement posted on Kotaku said "It has been decided that Liverpool Studio should be closed... by focusing our investment plans on other studios that are currently working on exciting new projects, we would be in a stronger position to offer the best possible content for our consumers.""

Link to Original Source
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New nVidia GPU for HPC only

Retron Retron writes  |  about 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "nVidia has at last unveiled the GK110 "full" Kepler graphics module. It's not for gamers though as they're keeping it solely for their HPC cards. The GK110 is what was originally expected to be the GeForce 680, before nVidia decided to rebrand their midrange GK104 as the 670 and 680."
Link to Original Source
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Details emerge of the PlayStation 4 - Orbis

Retron Retron writes  |  about 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "Reports are appearing on the Web of the PS3's successor, tipped for a late 2013 release. Backwards compatiblity with the PS3 is said to be non-existant, with the platform being based on an AMD x64 CPU with a Radeon 7xxx "Southern Islands" GPU. Furthermore, it looks like draconian controls will be put on games, all but snuffing out second-hand sales."
Link to Original Source
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Windows 8 Consumer Preview released

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "The Consumer Preview of Windows 8 is now available to download (in both x86 and x64 variants) from Microsoft. The App Store is also open for customers.

If you have MSDN access there's a copy of Windows Server "8" Beta available in x64 form only."

Link to Original Source
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Windows 8 Developer Preview to be released later t

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "Although various leaked versions of Windows 8 have been floating around the Net for the past few months, Microsoft will release an official developer preview later today. The options include x86, x64 and x64 with developer tools and sample applications, all in ISO format. Upgrades from Windows 7 aren't supported, so best to use a VM or spare partition."
Link to Original Source
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Ice Ace permafrost found in Poland

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "The AFP reports that geologists got an unexpected result when drilling a borehole in Poland — they came across permafrost buried 350 metres below ground. The permafrost is reckoned to date back to the last ice age."
Link to Original Source

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