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Microsoft Losing the School Markets To iPads and Chromebooks

Retron Not really... (219 comments)

I work in a school. We've been through the whole "every pupil gets a computer" phase and it was a disaster - we used eeepcs running Xandros and initially there were complaints about how crummy the programs were. (IE people expected Office, but they got OpenOffice instead).

Then after a few days the breakages started - minibooks left in bags, being dropped, screens smashed, drinks spilt on them etc. So that meant that teachers couldn't rely on everyone having one any more and the whole point of them was lost. They stopped being used and we ended up getting about 30% of them back after the year was out, the rest were damaged or lost. It was an absolute waste of money and it still goes on with other schools today (those who are foolish enough to give tablets to all their pupils, anyway!)

We still use desktop PCs running Windows and Office, as it's what the real world uses (for now, at least). We provide access via UAG to our network for staff and pupils to access their documents remotely.

Google Docs, OneDrive etc are blocked for pupils. Chromebooks are pointless from our point of view due to Google Docs being blocked and lack of intergration into a Windows domain. They also don't run the programs which pupils use in school (which include some digital textbooks, additional educational needs programs, maths programs, Photoshop etc). iPads are beyond useless for our needs, as it's a faff to create spreadsheets or word process on them. Yes, it can be done, but a real keyboard and a decent PC make it much more pleasant.

So, like most schools around this part of the UK, we have several IT rooms with desktops. We have a media suite running Premiere (having phased out Macs a few years ago), a music suite running Cubase and a DT suite running SolidWorks. We have a couple of hundred staff laptops and a couple of hundred curriculum laptops, safely locked away at night.

We are looking at at BYOD implementation, but the powers that be aren't overly keen to have teenagers running around with expensive laptops, tablets etc. And there's the whole network file access issue, we can't add the machines to the domain so they'd have to go through the somewhat clunky UAG system to access their files. There's also the line of who has responsibility to ensure the machines accessing our network are patched and up-to-date, as we don't have the resources to look after people's personal equipment.

All in all, there won't be much change in the school where I work for the foreseeable future: Office and Windows look like remaining the main platform for a while yet. It's the same in the other schools in the area, Chromebooks and the like are simply not useful to the way that schools work around here.

about a month ago
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OS X 10.10 Yosemite Review

Retron Re:Minimalism Overkill (305 comments)

WIndows 95 eh? At least that had 3D buttons which "pushed in" when you clicked on them.

Of course, the old Windows 95-esque theme is *still* there, even in Windows 10, but they do try and hide it from you. You can see it if you run Word, embed a Graph object (which borks DWM, so you get Windows Vista's Aero Basic instead). Change the screen resolution and bam, DWM completely dies and you get left with the Windows 95 style controls and theme. (Well, technically it's more like Windows 98 as it has the gradient-shaded title bar, but the thought is there!)

about 2 months ago
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Windows Flaw Allowed Hackers To Spy On NATO, Ukraine, Others

Retron Zero-day? Really? (97 comments)

Blimey, get with the times!

22 years ago at school we were all using Object Packager in Windows 3.1 to smuggle in arbitary EXEs - long before any of this current hoo-ha erupted. Of course, we were more concerned with smuggling in games rather than using it for spying...

The only surprising thing is that it's taken them over 22 years to realise that yes, allowing random EXEs to be packaged up isn't really a good idea!

about 2 months ago
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ChromeOS Will No Longer Support Ext2/3/4 On External Drives/SD Cards

Retron Re:One huge customer - schools (345 comments)

I work in a school's IT department and we won't be touching Chromebooks with a 50-foot bargepole. We use a mixture of desktops and laptops running Windows 7 and Office 2013 - which costs far less than it would commercially. We also use SCCM to manage the 1,000 or so PCs and laptops (generic i3s and Core2 Duos from the likes of Lenovo and HP) we have in the school.

Data is kept locally and is backed up in various ways (ranging from blu-ray to SANs), with the data stored in various parts of the site. Nothing gets stored on the pupils PCs other than temporary data when they're using the PC - their work is all accessed from our network servers.

Cloud access is something we work against for pupils, as it's an excellent way of them wasting time with Flash games etc - kids are very inventive when it comes to playing games (I know, I was exactly the same at school in the 90s!) and it's easier to curtail games on our system than it would be with Chromebooks.That's leaving aside the privacy situation, which doesn't fill me with joy: on a personal level I won't put anything of importance in the cloud, as I simply don't know who'll have access to it. Whereas data on my own network here is much easier to keep tabs on...

about 2 months ago
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Ubisoft Claims CPU Specs a Limiting Factor In Assassin's Creed Unity On Consoles

Retron Re:clockspeed really? (338 comments)

No 4.0GHz (stock) P4 was ever released. Note the fact there is only one sample in their database and it's only appeared in 2011 - years after such a chip, if it existed, would have been released.

At best it's a lone engineering sample. At worst, it's just a hack someone's done.

about 2 months ago
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The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made

Retron Using one right now... (304 comments)

...I bought one on eBay 7 years ago (with PS/2 connection) and I'm using it on the fourth PC I've owned since then, a brand-new Haswell-E build. It's still as clacky and tactile as it was back then. The only slight snag is no Windows key, but I don't really miss it.

22 years ago I first used a buckling-spring keyboard, the one that came with an IBM XT. That "Model F" keyboard was (and is, as I kept it) built like a tank and, if anything, it's even clackier than the Model M. Sadly it won't work without expensive adapters on a modern PC. The layout is odd by current standards (ctrl is where caps lock is and vice-versa).

That old XT keyboard gave me the taste for "clacky" keyboards and over the following decade I got thoroughly fed up with the spongy, lifeless keyboards that became the norm. I then found out about the Model M, looked into getting one from Unicomp but thanks to import duty, VAT and delivery the cost was over the equivalent of $170 - way too much to spend for me! So I snagged an old second hand IBM model M on eBay for a fraction of the price, cleaned it up and I've been using it ever since. Hopefully PS/2 keyboard ports will continue to stay on motherboards for many years yet!

about 2 months ago
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Possible Reason Behind Version Hop to Windows 10: Compatibility

Retron Re:How badly coded are Windows applications? (349 comments)

Actually there isn't and never has been. Let's see you post a link about it then, one that doesn't just point to speculation or to some hacked together fan version of Windows.

about 3 months ago
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Possible Reason Behind Version Hop to Windows 10: Compatibility

Retron Re:How badly coded are Windows applications? (349 comments)

There was not a Windows 97, unless you could the things cobbled together by wannabe-hacker kids.

about 3 months ago
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Lost Opportunity? Windows 10 Has the Same Minimum PC Requirements As Vista

Retron Re:Lost opportunity? I doubt it (554 comments)

Bingo. I work in a school where we rolled out the x64 version of Windows last year and even with the likes of SCCM and the other enterprise bits and pieces in the background, the commit charge on a freshly built machine is around 1.2GB.

We have plenty of laptops and desktops with only 2GB RAM and they run just fine - bearing in mind most people use their machines for email, interactive whiteboard use, YouTube (which is insanely popular with teachers, it seems), light Office work and general web browsing. There are some other programs used, virtual textbooks and the like, but they really don't take much RAM.

If a 4GB machine is a "complete dog of a machine", something is badly wrong with the way Windows is set up. Either that, or the person using the machine is running several heavyweight programs at once, or something like 60 tabs in their web browser...

about 3 months ago
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Lost Opportunity? Windows 10 Has the Same Minimum PC Requirements As Vista

Retron Re:No they won't (554 comments)

They just run under NTVDM, which is a bastardised version of SoftPC, as was the case since Windows NT 3.1. Ever wondered why a command /c ver returns MS-DOS version 5.0.500 under any x86 version of NT? That's why - it was the latest version of MS-DOS that was around when the version of SoftPC they licensed was written.

Have a look inside NTVDM in Notepad (or a hex editor) and you'll see:

"SoftPC-AT Version 3 (C)Copyright Insignia Solutions Inc. 1987-1992"

Fun fact: the x64 and ARM versions of Windows still come bundled with a copy of MS-DOS 8, complete with Windows Millennium copyright message. It's in DISKCOPY.DLL. They also come with icons for Lotus 1-2-3 and other obsolete programs, in MORICONS.DLL (which was from Windows 3.1, 22 years ago).

Windows is full of legacy stuff if you look.

about 3 months ago
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Microsoft Announces Windows 10

Retron No 9? (644 comments)

When I was a kid I remember reading that in Japanese, "4" sounded like death and "9" sounded like suffering. A quick bit of Googling 25 years on and:

"[In Japanese] Nine is also sometimes pronounced ku, which can mean suffering."

I'm guessing they skipped Windows 9 because they didn't want it to sound like "Windows Suffering" in parts of the world!

about 3 months ago
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I think next winter will be:

Retron Effectively no winter last year, so... (148 comments)

....voted for notably more severe. It was one of the mildest winters in years where I am (SE England). We had around 2 seconds of sleety rain at the back end of a thunderstorm in February and all of 2 air frosts during the whole winter.

Normally there would at least be a couple of days with snow falling and there would be a dozen or more air frosts.

Of course, it *had* to be the first year I'd bought winter tyres for my car! (The previous year had the typical couple of inches of snow causing chaos...)

about 3 months ago
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Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

Retron Re:TCO (158 comments)

It's nothing to do with pay, more what managers expect from their staff. Some schools are happy to put up with poor infrastructure and so on, while others, such as the one I work in, pride themselves on offering an up-to-date network for the students. (We skipped Windows 8 though, sticking with Windows 7 x64 - and getting old educational programs working with that was no mean feat!)

You won't have any problems around here recruiting tech support staff for £12 to £14K. I was effectively running the school network on a salary of £17K last year and I wouldn't describe myself as a monkey. Far from it, unless you count administering Exchange, AD, creating build images, SCCM etc as monkey work (which is isn't).

about 5 months ago
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Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

Retron Re:TCO (158 comments)

It's actually nowhere near that, at least in the UK. (Disclaimer: I work in a school in the IT department).

The actual cost is based on the number of full-time *staff*, not pupils, and the rates are far lower than the $1000/year you quote. This gets you Office, Windows, all the CALs you need, SCCM and lots more besides. You still have to pay for server licences (Windows and SQL), but they're deeply discounted.

I don't know what it's like in the States, but in the UK school sysadmins (or network managers, to give them their more usual titles) will be on salaries of around £16K to £30K - or $27K to $50K, more biased towards the low end rather than the high end of the wage bracket. Or, at least, that's the going rate down here in the far SE of England. In our case, that involves using VMWare products, such as vSphere and ESXi, in addition to the various Windows servers.

NB, I got into this by playing games, as an earlier poster mentioned - it's a common thing to use Windows at home for games, as I did over 20 years ago, then start networking PCs, move on to running a home server or using server products on a home PC and so on. I made the jump with Windows 2000 (when I was at Uni), as Microsoft kindly sent out CDs of their server products to anyone who asked. Yes, they only lasted for 180 days unless you tinkered with registry files, but it was enough to ignite the spark. These days of course pupils and students get the full thing from Dreamspark.

I don't have an MSCE. Never saw the point of them, I prefer academic qualifications as it shows you're capable of learning anything rather than a specific method of one vendor's products. I'd never rule out a move to Linux, but for now our Microsoft-based network is serving us well.

about 5 months ago
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Microsoft's CEO Says He Wants to Unify Windows

Retron Re:Best Wishes ! (322 comments)

No evidence of that whatsoever - indeed, the earliest leaked versions of Windows 95 include a great deal more 16-bit code (such as Explorer) when compared to the final version. There are plenty of sites out there with screenshots and details of the early versions of Windows 95 - search for "4.00.58s" to find them.

about 5 months ago
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Russia Moves From Summer Time To Standard Time

Retron Re:Hail UTC (158 comments)

Same goes for the clock in my fla.

I'm in the UK and I keep my PCs on GMT (or UTC) all year round - I can't see any point in fooling yourself that it's an hour later than it really is. I adjust times on the fly for work and social purposes. One of my PCs runs a weather station and if that automatically changed time then I'd end up with duplicate or lost observations - not good.

This far north you're always going to have a lack of daylight in winter and too much of it in summer, tinkering with clocks won't change that (in London daylight ranges from just under 8 hours in late December to just over 16 hours in late June, but even at midnight GMT at this time of year there's a faint glow on the northern horizon on a clear night).

Side note: I always used to suffer from a lack of sleep in the summer. Once I stuck to UTC it stopped all that and I now sleep soundly year-round. Of course, as far as everyone else is concerned I'm just going to bed an hour later and getting up an hour later in summer...

about 6 months ago
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Windows 9 To Win Over Windows 7 Users, Disables Start Screen For Desktop

Retron Re:And here I'm hoping... (681 comments)

"much like they said a year and change ago."
Citation needed!

No, Microsoft have never said anything about client versions of Windows going 64-bit. Various uninformed people have *speculated* that the x86 version would be dropped, but Microsoft have never confirmed it.

Server versions went x64-only a few years ago, but that has no bearing on the client version.

(And bear in mind too the whole "x86 / 4GB maximum RAM" thing is due to Microsoft licensing rather than any technical reasons... 32-bit versions of Windows can use 64GB of RAM - via PAE - if you fiddle with the kernel to remove the restriction. http://www.geoffchappell.com/n... has more info).

about 6 months ago
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How Free-To-Play Is Constricting Mobile Games

Retron Re:Entitlements vs. consumables (115 comments)

Frankly, though, what irks me most is when companies double-dip, or even triple-dip. Some MMOs would not only charge a monthly fee, but also made you purchase the box as well. Then on top of that, they started selling in-store items. Seriously? Thankfully, no one can really get away with that anymore - possibly the only positive thing I can say about the F2P trend.

World of Warcraft is doing pretty well by all accounts - you have to pay monthly for that, buy the base game and expansions as they come out, plus it has an in-game store where you can buy, for example, a flying horse for the "bargain" price of a couple of months' subscription.

EverQuest does the same thing too, but that has far fewer subscribers than WoW.

about 7 months ago
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Previously Unknown Warhol Works Recovered From '80s Amiga Disks

Retron Re:Amiga Floppies (171 comments)

22 years ago I was given my first PC - one which my dad's works had thrown out. An original IBM PC, complete with dual floppies and a mono screen (and cassette port around the back). Sadly it was thrown out a couple of years later when we upgraded to a 486, but I kept the keyboard... an IBM Model F which is built like a tank. It can still, in theory, be used with a modern PC if you use a signal converter... which costs a small fortune. Not that I'd want to, though, as the keys are in odd positions (eg control is where caps lock now is).

I'm typing this on an early 90s Model M keyboard which I bought from eBay many years ago. It connects via a PS/2 port and seems indestructible, albeit not quite as nice to type on as that Model F was. It's quieter than the F though, which is handy. The Model M was available back in 1984... hmm, 30 years ago this year!

Side note: due to spending far too much time on that PC as a 12-year-old, I ended up using the numeric keypad for cursor control. It's a hard habit to kick, as I do the same over 20 years later - I very seldom have numlock on, instead using the numbers above the letters for numeric data entry.

about 8 months ago
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I expect to retire ...

Retron Re:Frist pots (341 comments)

Yup, although it's being phased out. Traditionally it was 60 for women, 65 for men, but it's being changed to 68 for both. As I won't be able to get a state pension until I'm 68, I've voted for the "75" option - the 65 one being irrelevant as I'll still have 3 years to go.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U...

about 8 months ago

Submissions

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

Retron Retron writes  |  1 year,11 days

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  |  more than 2 years 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  |  more than 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  |  more than 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 3 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 4 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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