WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up
Tracfone is great for people with light usage; those who just want a phone in their pocket to make that emergency (or semi-emergency, like "I'm in the store now; what was that thing you wanted me to buy again?") call. It is far less valuable for people who regularly use their phone for long conversations. And its data and messaging rates (and service) are terrible.
Mind you, I fall into the former camp and am happy with my cheap TracFone. In those instances where I actually need to discuss things with people, I just wait until I get to a landline (either at work or at home), and there are enough free wi-fi hotspots around here that I rarely need worry about not having access to the Internet (anyway, I suffer from fat-finger syndrome, and would rather use a laptop than try to punch out a message on the tiny keyboard of a phone any day). And I pay less than $100 a year, which is less than some people pay per month.
But it is definitely not a service for everyone.
Free (Gratis) Version of Windows Could Be a Reality Soon
Wait, wait, wait...
A company (Microsoft) with a dominant position in a market (desktop operating systems) is using that position to gain traction in another market (Internet Search)?
Oh Microsoft, didn't you learn your lesson in 1998?
Of course, now it has to be argued that advancing Bing is the real reason Microsoft is pushing Windows 8.1 (as opposed to an attempt to bolster the ailing sales of its reviled operating system) but you would think a convicted monopolist would have have learned to be more circumspect.
Does Microsoft have to go through this with /every/ new CEO?
Speedier Screening May Be Coming To an Airport Near You
Why not return to the pre-9/11 security?
Because that would eradicate 90% of the TSA bureaucracy.
Because then there would be no need for all those expensive and ineffective machines, and how would the politicians get their kickbacks?
Because long lines must mean that the government is doing SOMETHING good to provide security, giving its citizens a nice warm fuzzy feeling, even if its actual effectiveness is unsubstantiated.
And because then people might get the idea that they have the right not to be run roughshod by government goons just for the privilege of traveling to another state or country.
I mean, how can the advantages of cost-effectiveness, convenience and liberty compete with all that?
With 'Virgin' Developers, Microsoft Could Fork Android
There is a lot of duplication. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the Android or Windows Phone but on IOS, for instance, there are dozens of PDF readers as an example. And you can take any specific type of app and you will probably find a half dozen different apps that all perform the same thing.
Except... they don't, not exactly. There is just enough minor variation to attract different customers, and each will protest that their choice is the best because it suits their needs better than the rest. Myself, I like a PDF reader where all it does is read PDF files well, but others want a reader that handles EPUBs, TXT, AZW, as well as a dozen other formats. Or one that allows wireless transfer from the PC, or allows the user to edit PDFs, or sync them with DropBox. Or any combination of the above functions with innumerable other features.
When you have a smaller number of apps, you lose this variety. Arguably the customer is no worse off - he can still read PDFs, for example - but he loses a bunch of extraneous features that make the apps more useful to him. So duplication of apps is valuable in and of itself, and its lack reduces the utility of the platform.
Its easy to disparage the excessive focus on number of program in a platform's app-store as pointless duplication, but that variety exists for a reason; everybody's needs are different, and all those different apps are serving those different needs. Less apps means a platform is flat-out less useful to the user. Windows Phone does not offer this range of functionality and thus cannot attract the same number of customers.
With 'Virgin' Developers, Microsoft Could Fork Android
Because the days of a phone as a single-purpose device are long over. Modern phones are miniature computers and - like all computers - it is the software they run which is the most important part. No matter how good the hardware or underlying operating system may be, if it doesn't have applications to run on it, that computer is not going to end up being used. And Android phones have the apps, while Windows phones do not.
Sure, there are a small selection of apps for Windows phones, but it is nothing in comparison to what you can get on an Android (or an Apple IOS device). Apps come out first on Android and IOS, with ports to Windows Phone a secondary consideration (if they are ported at all). And there are no must-have applications only available on Windows Phone. Without the apps, they can't attract users, and without the users they cannot attract developers.
Forking Android is one potential method of getting those users. Once they have gained (embraced) a significant market-share, then Microsoft could follow up with their usual "extend, extinguish" methodology to control that market (love it or hate it, that policy works for them).
Of course, forking Android is unlikely to be a successful strategy. Increasing amounts of the Android API are being moved into Google's proprietary services and many applications are becoming more dependent on the functionality of those APIs. Forking Android would require Microsoft to create an incompatible replacement for those APIs or try to create a clean-room version of the GMS that maintains full compatibility. With the former, they have just traded a Windows kernel for a Linux kernel without gaining users because they still won't have compatibility with most apps. With the latter, Microsoft cedes control of the the platform to Google and will constantly be playing catch up to any changes the search-giant makes.
Their best bet - but the one they have been unable to achieve despite over a decade of trying - is to create a must-have feature that can only be had on Windows Phones (for instance, imagine a successor to Facebook and the only phone that you can access it from is a WinPhone). Microsoft was hoping that Exchange/ActiveDirectory integration might be this feature, but - because that was largely only of interests to large businesses - it failed to capture the market. But if they can find something that excites the market and only they offer - then they can succeed.
So even were Windows Phone OS the best and most advanced phone OS around, it doesn't matter a jot. It's always been the applications that have driven users to a platform, and right now Microsoft doesn't have those. And that is why people are throwing around ideas like forking Android.
FCC Planning Rule Changes To Restore US Net Neutrality
Thank you for that link; it was quite amusing.
I like this one:
"But common carrier regulation discourages infrastructure investment and network enhancement"
Because the telecoms have been doing so much of that otherwise. That's why I'm still stuck with the option of either using a 5Mbs cable line or a 2Mbs DSL line. It's all that infrastructure they've been investing so much in.
“It is the policy of the United States . . . to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”
Actually, it is true in 1996 - when the above was written - there was a vibrant and competitive free market; there were dozens of ISPs to chose from. Oddly enough, after the 1996 Telecom Act was passed, consumer options started dwindling away.
"Nothing in the court’s decision will change the basic incentives of service providers to offer consumers capabilities that meet all of their ever-increasing needs.”
Except running their own servers, or slowing down downloads that compete with ISPs own content delivery, or double-dip charges to keep competitors' prices unfairly high. A competitive free market might have allowed that sort of thing, but when there are only a handful of companies working in collusion with one another, none of them have any incentive to keep prices down and offer different services.
"When a company’s return on investment is dictated by the government, there’s little incentive to re-invent or improve the system, which is why copper phone lines are still prevalent, water main breaks are an all-too-common occurrence, and the electric grid is in need of serious repair."
Odd, my Internet goes down more often than all of those COMBINED. Probably caused by all those backhoes repairing waterlines and downed power-cables...
Asia's Richest Man Is Betting Big On Silicon Valley's Fake Eggs
Because it doesn't give any specifics in TFA, or int the article linked in TFA. Are they soy-based? Yeast? Cloned-meat that exists in a semi-alive state? Some sort of toxic mix of petrochemicals? I have no idea.
The fact that the articles seem to go out of their way not to bring this sort of thing to our attention seems a bit telling. Just telling me that "they're eggs, but better!" does not encourage me to eat them. If anything, given how frequently corporations use deceit and distraction, this absence of fact just makes me want to avoid them all the more.
A New Car UI
On the plus side, once the standard is set it will be considered obsolete, ignored and added to the pile of already existing standards. And then we can start all over again! Thus ensuring that UI designers (and lawyers) never want for business!
I mean, seriously; can you imagine the damage it would do to our civilization of the people behind some of the worst UI catastrophes (car UIs, Windows 8, Slashdot beta) had to go out and get real jobs?
NVIDIA Launches GTX 750 Ti With New Maxwell Architecture
Honestly, my three-year old GTX 580 makes games look amazing, and it is still surprisingly capable with modern games (really, only Crysis 3 on Ultra made it wheeze). This is thanks to how anemic were the GPUs in the last-gen game-consoles, but I'd wager it still holds up well with the launch titles released for the XBOne or PS4. I suppose I'll get a new GPU in a year or two, but after that I think I'll be find until the PS5/XBox-NextWhatever is released.
My days of upgrading video-cards on a yearly basis seem long gone; so much of the power we have available at our fingertips goes unused these days that it seems an unnecessary expenditure. I'd feel sorry for AMD and nvidia but, well, they did sort of bring it on themselves. ;-)
N. Korea Could Face Prosecution For 'Crimes Against Humanity'
Officially -as far as the governments on the peninsula are concerned - there is only one Korea, and a bunch of rebels.
Both sides have differing opinions as to who is the "real" Korean government and who are the rebels, of course.
N. Korea Could Face Prosecution For 'Crimes Against Humanity'
Not that I necessarily agree with the argument that the two Iraq wars were fought over oil, but...
America is not interested in the countries; they are interested in the oil. Imperialism is expensive; running a country is costly in men and money. The locals dislike being under a foreign regime, and your own people stand out as targets.
Better to allow the locals to rule themselves, but set up the situation so their only real option is to sell you the local resources. That way you get the benefit of harvesting the valuables without the vast expenditures necessary to hold a hostile people. Better still, your own people are less exposed, as they are not the only target of local aggression (that's why let the locals rule themselves; nobody likes a politician, even if he is a neighbor).
Just because America allowed the Iraqis (and Kuwaitis) self-rule in no way proves that their aggressions in the Persian Gulf were /not/ about ensuring itself a continued supply of petrochemicals.
Killing Net Neutrality Could Be Good For You
You can narrow this down to two categories:
- Carriers (be they wired or wireless)
Carriers carry data. If its digital, the byte-stream needs to move up and down the tubes regardless if it decodes into a voice-call, a website, or a blockbuster movie.
Customers are everyone else. They either transmit data, or request it. It doesn't matter if this is an 4KB HTTP GET going up, or 3GB .AVI file going down. They pay the carriers for the privilege of accessing the network. It doesn't matter what sort of data they access or where they are requesting it from or sending it to. The volume of the data might affect the cost to access the network, but not the type or destination of the data.
And the two categories should never, ever be merged into one.
Killing Net Neutrality Could Be Good For You
It's called the Big Lie.
Say something so outrageous - and repeat it so often - people have no recourse but to believe you. After all, nobody would say something that ridiculous - and do it so stridently - if it weren't true.
You have to wonder what the overuse of this technique is doing to our culture and psychology, however. We are all learning to immediately distrust anything anyone says - even if it sounds plausible - because too often the messages we receive are blatant lies. How can a society continue to exist if nobody has any trust in anyone else?
Killing Net Neutrality Could Be Good For You
And we've seen where this sort of consolidation means for the average person; they have less and less of a voice in how their country is run.
One of the great things about the Internet is how easy it let people voice their opinions. Although prior to the arrival of the net, it was already cheap and easy enough that anybody could print their own newsletter or pamphlet, gaining an audience for said publication was a costly endeavour and usually required you to deal with the devil to get widespread exposure. With the Internet, your views were open to the entire world and - if enough people agreed with those view (or at least thought them worthy of attention), you could quickly gain a significant market. In other words, it was the message that was important, not how rich or connected you were.
Intentionally or not, without net neutrality, the carriers are pushing the genie back into the bottle so that only a favored few will have a voice again. This is contrary to the spirit of the nation, and it is sad to see that so many people are willing to allow such a powerful tool for democratization be tossed to the wayside.
Gabe Newell Responds: Yes, We're Looking For Cheaters Via DNS
Mind you, it's less checking if you visited a site and more if your computer accessed a proscribed host.
Many of the cheats VAC is checking for are not only sold, but protected by a form of DRM that checks an authorization server before they let you use the cheat. VAC is more often looking to see if your computer is connecting to the authorization server; e.g., they are more interested in seeing if you visit authorization.cheaters.com than forums.cheaters.com
Not that I think that is much better, and I imagine that - especially now that the method has become common knowledge - it will become far less effective. The hacks will probably start using some sort of commonly used proxy to redirect and obfuscate the authentication request; perhaps the next version of WallHack.exe will come bundled with a TOR client.
Of course, the best option would be to give customers a choice: play on sponsored, VAC protected servers - albeit at a cost to your privacy - or allow VAC to be turned off and play the game on player-hosted servers, where you may (or may not) encounter people using cheat tools.
Dear Asus Router User: All Your Cloud Are Belong To Us
Which works until you use this method to "advise" the wrong person, who contacts the cops and you end up arrested for computer trespassing. Too often we hear stories about people intending to do good are blamed for the message they bring.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any "right" way to bring these problems to the attention of the user or the developer since the laws all seem to be unfairly balanced against the whistleblower. There is an automatic assumption that anyone providing the information could only have come upon the data because they were intending to do something malicious.
Having said that, there are many the times I've been tempted to rename the SSIDs of wireless networks that still use WEP in some vain attempt to knock some sense into the user's head. Never gave into that impulse, but boy, sometimes it was quite a struggle.
Windows Replacement? ReactOS 0.3.16 Gets Themes, CSRSS Rewrite, and More
I see the new Beta is managing to attract new readers! Welcome!
A VM or "virtual machine" is a type of computer program that creates an emulated software environment. Not that any real person actually knows what that means. Think of it as a sort of a computer that runs on another computer. You can run multiple "virtual machines" on a single computer; then you give access to individual "VM" to all your clients or employees. Busy executives like yourself love VMs because it saves them so much money on hardware; why waste money on 100 servers when you can just buy one and make it look like you have 100 computers! All your peons down in IT would probably recommend against running it on Windows8, but that's just because they like running complicated things like Linux. Windows 8 can handle VMs just fine, and - thanks to its colorful and touch-friendly interface - it's so easy to use that you can fire all those overpaid geeks and have your secretary handle everything for you. Think of the cost savings!
I hope that helps; this is just one of those useful tips you'll find on the new Slashdot, now featuring shorter articles and nice big pictures. Not only has Slashdot has been redesigned to make all this computer gibberish more palatable and understandable for management and accounting types, but we've hidden all the comments from all those grumpy greybeards and nerds to make for a better C-level executive experience! Thanks for coming, and enjoy your stay!
Snowden Used Software Scraper, Say NSA Officials
You know, whether you agree or disagree with what Snowden did, that in no way justifies killing him without a... oh, what was that quaint thing we used to require? That's right, a trial. Rule of law, and all that. I think that's what the country was based on originally.
Of course, it's embarrassing for the NSA that Snowden waltzed out with so much confidential information, and arguably he should have been ARRESTED within 24 hours of "that flight to Hong Kong", but killed? To even think that sort of thing is disturbing.
Having said that, I am glad he managed to get away, since his revelations are shining an absolutely necessary light on the murky behavior of our government and its actions. An educated populace is necessary to ensuring our freedoms and for too long the government has been hiding its wrong-doings from the ones it purports to serve. Whether Snowden acted as a foreign agent, or for his own advantage, or out of idealism, his actions were necessary and should not be so readily scorned.
(oh right, and fuckbeta and all that jazz. It's gonna be hard doing that boycott tomorrow)
Dead Reckoning For Your Car Eliminates GPS Dead Zones
Don't forget nntp://comp.misc on Usenet
(although I doubt there are any modern browsers that support the nntp:// protocol* anymore so you will have to join mainly by downloading a free usenet client, sign up to eternal-september.org and adding comp.misc to your subscribed newsgroup list)
Still, if people are willing to use old school IRC then Usenet isn't much worse ;-)
* similar to PIN number
Ask Slashdot: Can some of us get together and rebuild this community?
That is one possibility. Given other recent changes (such as the addition of the Business Intelligence - SlashBI - section) and the fact that Dice owns numerous career-related websites - such as ITJobBoard - there seems some evidence that they are less interested in community-driven sites and more one where they have stronger editorial control of the content. The new design does seem more in line with what we see on other business-related sites (low-density content which does not require an overly long time to digest, especially with regards to how they are minimizing the impact of the comment section).
But is this really what is going on? Maybe not. If we take them at their word, Dice still wants to maintain a community-driven site while at the same time expanding the potential audience. This is different from the above as instead of switching to a more lucrative demographic, they hope to retain the current audience while at the same time attracting new eyeballs to the site. Who this new audience is remains a mystery: Business folk? Ordinary users? Tech-geeks who don't know about Slashdot or find the current community too intimidating? Is a website redesign enough to attract a new readership, and can Dice manage to increase their presence on the web without sacrificing their current readers?
Alternately, it could very well be that the changes made to Slashdot were done with the very best of intentions - to improve the site for the current audience - but it all went drastically wrong. It may be that pride and internal politics are keeping them from simply rolling back the changes. It is even possible that the changes ultimately will be beneficial to the community (but if the last is the case, Dice has not adequately shown how the updates are an improvement over what is currently being served).
Unfortunately, there is not sufficient information for us to determine which of the above possibilities are the truth (or if the story lies somewhere else entirely). All we can say is that the community is very, very unhappy with the redesign. Dice has completely misinterpreted the community's attachment to the site and has done a very poor job communicating its side of things.
Personally, I recommend a bit of patience on our side. Hopefully Dice will be more forthcoming with their intent in the next few days or week. They have stated that our feedback is important; they need to give some evidence that this is the truth. We, on the other hand, need to give them the time to show their earnestness. But while small individually-owned businesses can change direction immediately, larger companies need a bit of time to turn things around. We should not expect beta to disappear overnight, but hopefully Dice will engage the community so we can understand their point of view through more blogs and responses to questions asked by comments. Rather than unilaterally force a change upon us, perhaps they might consider giving some options that the community can discuss and vote on.
Of course, if there is no significant change in attitude over the next few weeks, then the war is back on :-)
But until then I suggest we back off for a week or ten days and give them an opportunity to reassess and consider their options.