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Comments

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UK Government Pays Microsoft £5.5M For Extended Support of Windows XP

bradley13 What "end of life"? (341 comments)

If Microsoft has half-a-brain, they will see this as the business opportunity it is. Charge a fee for additional support from every government and organization that will pay, and it's quite the business model

about two weeks ago
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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

bradley13 Re:Landfills again... (440 comments)

I'm not talking about individual companies or homes burning trash, but rather municipal incinerators with carefully controlled processes. Modern incinerators produce little beyond water vapor and CO2. You get substantial amounts of power, eliminate essentially all chemicals (that would otherwise eventually pollute the ground water) and you recover most of the metals that would otherwise be lost in a landfill. Municipal incineration is standard in much of Europe.

about two weeks ago
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An Engineer's Eureka Moment With a GM Flaw

bradley13 Dunno how to feel about this... (357 comments)

Here's the story as I understand it:

- There's an ignition switch. If you have a really heavy key-ring, it is possible that the weight of your keys can turn the switch "off".

- Over the course of a decade 13 People have died in car accidents that might have had something to do with this.

- GM apparently, at some point over all those years, altered the ignition switch to require more force to turn it.

So somehow the car manufacturer is evil?

This sounds a lot more like ambulance-chasing lawyers hoping to use publicity as a lever to pry out a big settlement...

about three weeks ago
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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

bradley13 Landfills again... (440 comments)

Other /.ers have covered the issues around the peanut butter well enough. What no one has mentioned is the continued idiocy of landfills in the US. Why doesn't the US incinerate? You get energy out of the trash, destroy poisonous chemicals, recover the metals, and at the end you have a much smaller volume of waste that needs to be disposed of.

about three weeks ago
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The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage

bradley13 Shortage of *good* scientists and engineers (392 comments)

I've taught off and on for 30 years now, and over the entire time one thing has remained pretty constant: About 10% of the students completing the programs are really good; they will be star programmers and eventually software architects. Another 40% are competent - they would be able to carry out plans created by others, but should never carry any larger responsibility. Good, solid programmers. The remaining 50% manage to graduate, but frankly should never work directly in the field. Maybe they can be testers or write documentation, but never let them write a line of code in a real project.

Unfortunately, it's not always obvious what kind of person you are hiring. Add to this mix the people who are self-taught, who are coming from some other field, and may have wildly inappropriate ideas. Just as an example, I am currently working with a company whose star programmer (and he really is very good) comes from process control - and has zero clue about testing or quality control. He writes code and assumes that it works, and his company is so glad to have him (at a grunt-level salary) that they refuse to insult him by testing his code - so they deliver his work untested straight to clients - you can imagine how well this works.

tl;dr: There is no shortage of bodies in STEM fields. However, there is a shortage of good people who also have a solid education in and understand of their field. This is true in computer science, and almost certainly in every other STEM field out there.

about a month ago
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All Else Being Equal: Disputing Claims of a Gender Pay Gap In Tech

bradley13 This is not news; it is also not PC (427 comments)

When you control for working hours and years of experience (as opposed to simply age - women more often take time off work to raise children), there hasn't been a male/female pay gap for decades. However, this is not PC. Feminists don't want to hear that they're done, that they have long since achieved their goals, and that feminism has become counterproductive. Hence, the studies that show this are routinely ignored, and certainly never publicized.

Taking months or years off for child raising, or working only part time, or refusing to travel - none of these things should affect your career or your pay. It ought to be possible to drop out of the workforce at 25, raise your kids full-time for 20 years, and then rejoin the workforce as a senior manager.

It makes as much sense as the rest of the progressive agenda...

about a month and a half ago
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Cops Say NDA Kept Them from Notifying Courts About Cell Phone Tracking Gadget

bradley13 Wow, let's try this! (235 comments)

Situation 1: Private citizen is in front of a court; the judge says the defendent must produce certain documents. Defendent says "sorry, judge, I refuse; I signed a private contract promising that I would never reveal that information". Judge says: To jail with you for contempt of court. Do this 200 times, and spend a long time in jail.

Situation 2: Police want to do a search, the law says they need a warrant. The police say "sorry, judge, we signed this here NDA". Two hundred times they did this. Anyone believe the police are going to jail here?

Forcefully entering the apartment for a physical search, also without a warrant, is just added some whipped cream on top...

about a month and a half ago
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Using Google Maps To Intercept FBI and Secret Service Calls

bradley13 Directly contacting gov agencies? Horrible idea! (137 comments)

Is there a recommended way by FBI or Secret Service where one can go, establish the non-criminal bona-fide of oneself and have an intelligent conversation with someone

I did some minor computer consulting for the Secret Service a long time ago. I was too young at the time to realize what was going on; only in retrospect years later did I realize that there had been zero effort to preserve electronic evidence, share it with the defense, or any of the other niceties one is supposed to expect from the justice system. They knew the guy was guilty, and that was all that mattered.

Given the direction law enforcement at all levels in the US has taken in the past 20 years or so, things today are far worse: increasing militarization at all levels, an even worse mentality of "us vs. them" (where "they" are the entire civilian population). If they decide to target you for something, you are SOL. Getting involved involved with these agencies has huge risks and essentially no advantages. This guy is bloody lucky they didn't charge and prosecute him.

If you've just got to play white knight, at least get a good attorney on board from the very start, and have your attorney with you for all interactions.

about a month and a half ago
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Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?

bradley13 Possible solution? (712 comments)

The problem has always been the "old boys network" where top executives take turns sitting on each others' Boards of Directors, approving each others' salaries. These nitwits are so disconnected from the lives of their workers that they probably sincerely believe they are worth such ridiculous salaries.

Starting this year, here in Switzerland, the shareholders must vote on the executive compensation package at the annual shareholders' meeting. This vote is binding: if they vote against (outrageous) compensation, then it won't get paid. I believe this will have a long-term effect, not only because of the vote, but also because it requires spelling out executive compensation in plain terms that the shareholders can understand.

I expect a number of Swiss companies will have a sudden urge to rethink things, before the next annual meetings take place...

about 2 months ago
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US Plunges To 46th In World Press Freedom Index

bradley13 Airbrush much? (357 comments)

So, press freedom in the US isn't really so bad, because the US has sometimes ranked higher? Even though it has never ranked above rank 20 or so? Is place 20 something to be pround of for the "land of the free"?

Read the report. It's not only about government abuse, which is bad enough, but also includes other factors. "Self-censorship" is a big one, for example, because of factors like "political correctness" (can't criticize minorities, don't dare offend the Christian right, etc.) and fear of lawsuits. However, the government abuses are already bad enough: metadata gathering, collecting specific phone records without warrants, etc.

about 2 months ago
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The Ultimate Hopes For the New Cosmos Series

bradley13 Under a rock..or outside the US (183 comments)

Never heard of it. And a science program for the US public is likely to be all flashy pictures and no depth. Still, if it is a success, maybe it will awaken some belated interest in science and education, as opposed to Justin Bieber and Oprah.

about 2 months ago
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Your 60-Hour Work Week Is Not a Badge of Honor

bradley13 EITC is the wrong solution (717 comments)

"Many" economists may believe that, but certainly not all - probably not even the majority.

If you are going to pay someone a benefit, do so: send them a check or a bank transfer every month. Hiding subsidies and benefits as "reverse taxes" has lots of problems, but the biggest one is that it is a deliberate attempt to hide welfare benefits so that no one can be entirely sure who is receiving how much. It also adds to the complexity of tax returns and expands the IRS bureaucracy - both of which are goals that benefit only the existing bureaucracy.

about 2 months ago
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HealthCare.gov Can't Handle Appeals of Errors

bradley13 Re:And all that being said ... (208 comments)

"Better coverage at lower rates"

Serious question, not a troll: How many of those policies are subsidized? From what I've heard, that's the way people wind up with a cost reduction.

- If they're not subsidized, then I hypothesize that the people should have shopped around - the policies were likely available.

- If they *are* subsidize, then we enter this discussion: Why should person A be able to pay their insurance using person B's wallet?

about 2 months ago
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Senator Makes NASA Complete $350 Million Testing Tower That It Will Never Use

bradley13 Re:Poor planning (342 comments)

I used to work on the government side of things, and this was a political requirement. Congress insists on individually approving annual funding for any program over a certain value. If a program was to be funded, we had to ensure that there were significant subcontractors in every relevant political district. This made no engineering sense, it raised costs immensely, and it made us all want to declare open season on Congresscritters (no bag limit).

It's the system. It needs changed, but the very people to change it (Congress) are the primary beneficiaries. It's nothing more or less than corruption: one of the reasons that being elected to Congress is the same as being elected to the millionaire's club.

about 3 months ago
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Protesters Block Apple and Google Buses In California

bradley13 Re:You miss the point. (653 comments)

A disparity of third-world proportions? Get real.

The disparity in the US is huge, yes, but being poor in the US is a picnic compared to the third world. No one in the US needs to starve. You have a roof over your head. You have at least some money for luxuries like a mobile phone and a TV. Comparing this to third world poverty shows that you've never been to the third world.

These idiots want to drive the high-tech companies out of San Francisco? Maybe they should look at places like Detroit, where most industry is gone. They are idiots, pure and simple.

about 4 months ago
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Rough Roving: Curiosity's Wheel Damage 'Accelerated'

bradley13 Amazing machine! (157 comments)

I don't get all the people bashing the design?

Just think how long the rover has been on Mars - far longer than ever expected. It has a few dings in the wheels. Amazing machine!

about 4 months ago
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How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources

bradley13 Definitely not NASA (365 comments)

NASA is next to useless nowadays - a massive bureaucracy that puts out only the smallest of missions in return for it's massive budget. Sure, the Mars rovers are impressive, but that is just exactly how many missions over how many years for how much money? Pournelle's iron law at work...

Far better would be to offer prizes to private industry. First company to send a lander to Mars that does X and Y: prize $100,000,000. First company that manages this on Venus: prize $500,000,000. First probe to "land" on an asteroid. First company to refine metal from an asteroid. First company to refine fuel on the moon. You get the idea...

Close fricking NASA. For $16 billion a year you can buy a lot of private innovation.

about 4 months ago
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NSA Says It Foiled Plot To Destroy US Economy Through Malware

bradley13 Prove it (698 comments)

Right, sure they did. A BIOS attack of the sort hinted at in this interview is difficult to believe.

If they worked with computer manufacturers to close some such massive security hole, then they can easily point to the historical vulnerability. The technical community can verify their claims. Failing that, no, I do not believe such an attack ever existed outside the overheated imagination of some technically illiterate NSA bureaucrat.

In other news, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

about 4 months ago
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Polynesians May Have Invented Binary Math

bradley13 Humpf...so what? (170 comments)

From TFA: "But their special counting words are all decimal numbers multiplied by powers of two, which are 1, 2, 4, 8 . Specifically, takau equals 10; paua equals 20; tataua, 40; and varu, 80."

So, when working with large quantities, they tended to double things. One heap, two heaps, four heaps. (A) That's not binary math, that's just groupings that they found convenient. The fact that ancient traders introduced 12 and 60 as convenient grouping (because they can be easily subdivided) doesn't mean that anyone ever did base-12 or base-60 arithmetic.

Another sociologist looking for a quick paper to boost the all-important publication count.

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Secure Your Parents' PC?

bradley13 Hard problem... (408 comments)

This is a really hard situation. Not least because the stress of provided continual tech support for a low-skills user ends up putting a lot of strain on otherwise good family relationships.

My solution, in the end, was to practically force my mother onto an Apple. Apple is a better basis than Windows for users who otherwise muck things up. Also, dunno if this is still available, but at the time the "geniuses" provided her with decent support for a pretty marginal annual fee - relieving me of a lot of the tech-support stuff (why can't I print? I can't get on the Internet! - usually something silly). This was a relief all around.

Failing that, why not Linux. Mint/Cinnamon can be made to look a lot like Windows. Assuming it's an older version of MS-Office, LibreOffice is nearly a plug-in replacement. If Email isn't already in the web, put it there. Browsers are browsers, and no one should be using IE anyway. Set up a Linux machine with three desktop icons: Browser, Email (link) and LibreOffice Writer. Make everything read-only except where documents are saved, uninstall everything else (or at least remove the obvious shortcuts).

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Censorship in the West

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  about a year and a half ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Pussy Riot has highlighted censorship in Russia. With millions of news hits, the entire Internet now knows that speech in Russia will be suppressed with jail sentences.

In Scotland, a blogger finds it curious: A man by the name of Stephen Birrell has just been jailed for eight months, for posting "religiously prejudiced abuse" on a Facebook page. But you won't be able to find out many details, because the press shows no interest. For bonus points, the blogger claims that the few news items that do exist are not findable in search engines.

The blog mentioned above does overstate the case: If you enter "stephen birrell jailed", some news items do show up, but nowhere near the number that do for Pussy Riot. Still, isn't it ironic that the free-and-enlightened West is jailing people for "hate speech" at the same time that it criticizes Russia for much the same action?"

Link to Original Source
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Choosing anonymous proxies

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "There are lots of anonymous proxies out there, and anyone concerned about their privacy probably uses one for at least some of their web-browsing.

The Megaupload story highlights the fact that having servers in the USA is not a great idea. There are also other countries one may not want to trust. Oddly, very few proxy services mention where their equipment is located.

What anonymous proxy services do members of the Slashdot community use? What criteria do you use to select them? How paranoid are you, and for what types of Internet usage?"
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Gibson Guitar raided again

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Practically everyone has heard of Gibson Guitars. In 2009, they were raided by the feds, who impounded stacks of ebony wood under asset forfeiture laws. No charges have ever been filed.

Well, they're at it again — the feds have again impounded palettes of topical wood and guitars. The wood is clearly certified by FSC. The feds have given no explanation of their raid, but apparently there is some evidence that they are enforcing a law from the wood's country of origin (India), even though no complaint has been made by India or anyone else.

Gibson claims that the feds are bullying them, probably because they continue to fight the asset forfeiture from 2009. There are less favorable interpretations, having to do with jack-booted thugs..."

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Simple email encryption - not possible?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  about 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Like practically everyone on Slashdot, I often play "free consultant" for friends. The most recent inquiry: local law will soon require small companies that send accounting information electronically, to do so "securely". Many small businesses outsource their accounting; correspondingly, some accounting companies handle the accounts of dozens of small businesses. Lots of sensitive information is sent by email — which ought to be encrypted.

So my friend asked me — from the perspective of one of these accounting companies — how they can exchange encrypted email with their customers. The problem: businesses to small to handle their own accounts are certainly too small to have read IT — some cousin set up a couple of off-the-shelf computers. This means: the solution has to be (a) easy for a non-technical person to set up and (b) has to work with people who use Outlook, or Gmail, or whatever else their company happens to use.

By now, one might think that there would be point-and-click solutions to this sort of problem. But no — you need certificates, implementations are platform specific, set up requires IT expertise. About the best thing available seems to be PGP (but who wants to do business with Symantec? Anyway, when did they buy PGP — that is just sad).

Can easy-to-use, secure, cross-platform email encryption really still be an unsolved problem? What do other Slashdotters use?"
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Do not show your ID when robbing a bank

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Combine a clever teller with, well, not the brightest bank robber. When poor Nathan went in to rob a bank, the teller told him she needed to see two forms of ID before she could give him the money. Nathan is now enjoying three hots and a cot."
Link to Original Source
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Best Internet payment method for young teens?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Many of us have kids in their young teens, who want to spend money on various Internet fripperies (browser games, etc.). Kids are too young to have their own credit cards (and that's probably not appropriate anyway), PayPal requires kids to be 18, etc. Yet it would be nice to give the kids some independence, so they don't always have to ask a parent to come and pay for them.

There are a few solutions, like Internet Cash, but the fees are pretty outrageous. What other solutions are out there? How do you handle Internet payments with your kids?"
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RPost suits Swiss Post for secure email

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "RPost owns a pile of software patents around the idea of secure email delivery. They are not a patent troll — they actually do offer a secure email service. However, their patents are classic software patents — simply algorithms. There is nothing non-obvious about them — any competent practitioner would come up with these or very similar ideas. Here are the two patents being used as a basis for the suit: Patent 1 Patent 2

Yet another argument to get rid of software patents?"

Link to Original Source
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Does GPS tracking violate the 4th amendment?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 writes "Last year, college student Yasir Afifi discovered a GPS tracking device that had been attached to his car. After he discovered it, the FBi showed up and demanded that he hand it over. They told him that they would make his life difficult if he did not cooperate by giving the device back. The FBI had no warrant or court order allowing surveillance.

Now Yasar Afifi is filing suit, hoping to get a ruling that installing tracking devices without a warrant violates the fourth amendment. Unfortunately, his local federal district court is the 9th circuit, which has already decided two similar cases, coming down in favor of tracking.

The key part of the reasoning in the previous cases is this: "attaching the tracking device ... did not constitute a 'search' cognizable under the Fourth Amendment because '[t]he undercarriage is part of the car's exterior, and as such, is not afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy.'” Very strained reasoning indeed, since the point of the tracking device is not a search of the undercarriage, but rather a search of a person's movements."

Link to Original Source
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Diagnosis of Tucson shooter

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "This article in the New York Times points out that Mr. Loughner, the person accused of shooting 19 people in Tucson, has shown increasing mental disturbances over the past few months, and offers this diagnosis: "the rambling, disconnected writings and videos he has left on the Web are consistent with the delusions produced by a psychotic illness like schizophrenia, which develops most often in the teens or 20s". If true, this means that all of the fans of political conspiracy theories will need to look elsewhere..."
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"Configuring VMware" for the complete idiot

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Another virtualization question... On the side, I play "sys admin" for a micro-company of 3-4 employees. This company has an old VB6 application that they still support, and until now the old Visual Studio and all associated tools have remained installed on the two developers' systems. This summer, it's time to replace the computers, and — because of the numerous problems with running an ancient Visual Studio, Tools, etc. next to more modern versions — I want to create a VMware instance that can be loaded up on the two developer systems "as needed" to maintain the old software. One developer works mainly under Ubuntu, the other under Windows.

This VMware instance, once everything is in place, will access a VSS repository plus home directories across the network. I intend to have it revert-to-snapshop after every execution — it should be able to live on unchanged for years. I have used the free VMware server a couple of times, for example, to set up test instances of various SQL Server environments, but we're talking maybe 8 hours per year of time I spend with it. It's mostly called "accept the defaults and pray".

Could Slashdot experts provide a list of "tips for the complete idiot" on how to set up VMware server instances so that they perform well, and will continue to do so for the long term?"
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Poll: How many lawsuits?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Lots of users post legal questions, and we all know that sharks never bite lawyers. How many times have you involved in a suit
Never ever ever
I have been sued
I have sued someone
I've done both
I sued myself, just for fun
I am a lawyer — I sue for other people
My name is not "Sue""
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The story of Windows version numbers

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Just a very nicely written summary of the history of Windows versions, from Windows 1.0 through Windows 6.1 (called, for reasons only Microsoft understands, Windows 7)

"...it is of course more complex than that, and I am going to attempt to explain it. Reading the rest of this post is unlikely to improve your life in any way, although it will teach you something about the mindset of Microsoft and/or that of nerds in general. Madness may lie at the end of it.""

Link to Original Source
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Office 2007 vs Office 1997

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  about 5 years ago

bradley13 writes "In a paragraph near the bottom of Jerry Pournelle's latest mailbag, Doug McAllister gives his opinion that Office 2007 is not a notable improvement over Office 1997:

I have found nothing in Excel or Word 2007 that would justify an upgrade from the 1997 versions of these products. For the most part, they have arbitrarily moved things around and made it harder for me to get my work done. I bought them because the earlier versions are no longer available and I try to stay legal with my software.

This got me to thinking that Microsoft is bad for the economy. They offer new versions of products that have no real benefits. Instead, users spend millions of hours installing new versions and dealing with issues such as I have described with no productive benefit. Microsoft has spawned an upgrade industry that is a drag on productivity as far as I can see.

I have probably used every version of Microsoft Office since it's inception. I was very happy with Office 1997. Office 2003 was most memorable for discarding the well-indexed help system in Office 1997 and putting in with a pretty-but-useless replacement. Office 2007 brings the ribbon, which — despite using it for two years — I find mainly frustrating, since controls appear and disappear arbitrarily, for example, based on window width. If it were possible, I would frankly move the whole company back to Office 1997 in a flash.

What do others think? What significant improvements has Microsoft made to the Office suite in the past 10 years?"

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