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New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

darylb Re:Minivans are practical but ignored (205 comments)

I'll emphasize my previous post by noting that weight is a BIG factor. These minivans are large and heavy. As I recall from a couple of years ago, even the Mazda 5 (which is sort of a mini-minivan) was only getting low- to mid-20 mpg on its four cylinder engine. For that kind of fuel economy, you might as well get the power output of the six.

2 days ago

New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

darylb Re:Minivans are practical but ignored (205 comments)

I'd like to see 30+ mpg in a minivan myself.

My 2001 Odyssey had a 210 hp engine. My 2011 Town and Country has a 283 hp engine and gets slightly better fuel economy. The vehicle weight is about the same (i.e., HEAVY, at 4,000 pounds or so). The problem is that the manufacturers are caught up in the minivan horsepower wars. The current Chrysler delivers 283 hp, the Sienna about 270, and likewise the Honda. Add the weight of the big box, and it's a tough one. I suspect a reduction in engine power back to 210-220 hp would get us to 30 mpg, but such a model would suffer sales losses to the more powerful units.

I have to disagree concerning the other points. My minivans have all handled extremely well, with much better footing (being lower to the ground) than any truck I've driven. Leather interiors are available (my Chrysler has leather), although, long-term, cloth tends to last longer. (Leather is prone to drying and cracking from heat and UV exposure. The cloth can stain, although fabric protectant will mostly fix that, but the fabric in my well-used Odyssey looked very good when I retired the van.) Toyota offers AWD. That's a compelling feature, but I had concerns about reliability in the first iteration.

Minivan styling? Whatever. It's a box with a compact drivetrain to maximize interior room. You want swoopy style, it'll hurt the very thing you want the minivan for.

2 days ago

New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

darylb The death is greatly exaggerated (205 comments)

While there were 14 manufacturers of minivans 15-20 years ago, there are only five today: Chrysler/Dodge, Honda, Toyota, Kia (with a newly reintroduced Sedona), and Nissan. Still, that's five manufacturers all offering competitive products.

As a father of four minions, I've yet to find an SUV that equals the minivan in its ability to haul six or seven people AND THEIR GEAR in good comfort, all while achieving 25+ mpg. My 2011 Town and Country actually got 27.5 mpg on one tank of gas on a recent 2800 mile trip. My brother's SUV struggles to achieve 18.

Having rented several SUVs on trips, they can seat everybody, but squeezing in the bags is a real challenge.

I sure hope the minivan doesn't disappear. Truly, it is without equal for families up to about 7 people.

3 days ago

New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

darylb Re:Hmmm (205 comments)

Kia killed theirs off for one year, but a brand new Sedona model has just been introduced.

3 days ago

Microsoft CEO To Slash 18,000 Jobs, 12,500 From Nokia To Go

darylb BINGO in the first paragraph alone (383 comments)

We have buzzword BINGO in the first paragraph. Holy cow.

about a week ago

Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

darylb Re:Overstating things.... (300 comments)

I don't blame anybody. Use what you like. However, don't reject Windows Phone out of hand just because Microsoft makes it. If it doesn't suit you, pick something else for sure.

about two weeks ago

Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

darylb Re:Overstating things.... (300 comments)

Platform choice is no religion. You're right there.

I'm glad there are alternatives across the board. There is, however, a knee-jerk anti-Microsoft reaction here on Slashdot that rejects Windows Phone (particularly) out of hand. It has its merits. Really, it does. I don't think Microsoft subsidized the Lumia 520.

LibreOffice is fine for the word processor and presentations package. The spreadsheet is missing key functionality (as confirmed by several Ph.D. graduate students). I don't know about the other stuff.

As for cloud based apps, I still doubt that any enterprise with confidential information is going to hand it over to an off-site cloud environment. Microsoft already offers their own cloud alternatives (Office 365 particularly), which make it easy to move between desktop Office and cloud Office.

I'm a Linux fan (particularly Mint Cinnamon), but I still don't see Microsoft going away on the desktop soon.

about two weeks ago

Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

darylb Re:It's not as important as we think it is. (300 comments)

I don't myself think Xbox should be tossed. However, if it doesn't align with the internal vision and direction, then it can be jettisoned. Microsoft is not Nintendo.

Tablets have a tremendous business future. The offices of my family's doctors are full of them. The delivery drivers for a local Chinese restaurant use them. I can imagine these tablets being deployed all kinds of places, replacing these hacked up Palm things currently in use. That such tablets running Windows 8.1, especially on Intel hardware, can run all kinds of EXISTING software, is a huge benefit. Add to that the ability to secure the devices to restrict allowed applications (preventing the FedEx driver from surfing pr0n on a lunch break) and communicate via encrypted channels, and it's a clear win for a general purpose solution.

about two weeks ago

Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

darylb Overstating things.... (300 comments)

Eroding? Hah.

The number of offices (of any kind) that I've seen running non-Microsoft software on end-user systems can be counted on one hand. Offices -- which is to say, businesses -- are what counts. They don't just get software that comes with the computer. They pay for upgrades ("maintenance") and technical support. They pay for their actual usage, because they agree to be audited for license compliance as part of the deal. I don't remember the last office I saw that WASN'T an academic institution that wasn't running Exchange. Exchange/Outlook make the world go 'round at these places. After 20+ years of effort, it mostly works. Why would companies get rid of it in favor of an inferior solution? Just imagine the hell of migrating all that old email, required for all sorts of compliance, to another solution.

Maybe you don't have Microsoft software running your phone or tablet, but it still powers employee desktops and servers all over the place. All of that is quite high margin. An Intel-based Windows tablet can run an awful lot of software that is STILL unavailable for the other mobile platforms.

And, frankly, while I don't use the Modern UI on my Win8.1 desktop (in favor of Classic Shell), I quite like Windows Phone 8. I like it a lot better than iOS, in fact. I didn't think I would, but a missing smartphone had me using a $70 Windows Phone for a week. (There is no Android phone selling for under $150 that's worth using.) I was hooked.

about two weeks ago

Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

darylb It's not as important as we think it is. (300 comments)

You don't need consumer products to be successful, relevant, or profitable. Nor does one need business products for those results. Just look at Apple, which has transformed itself from a "computer company" to a "consumer products company," with its emphasis on phones, tablets and residual income from providing the infrastructure for delivering music and applications *created by others*.

Oracle continues to be quite profitable (and hated, I guess) while having nearly zero visible presence among consumers. Business markets are worth a lot, and demand a different sort of expertise as compared to consumer markets.

about two weeks ago

My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...

darylb Re:This one lasted a year... (278 comments)

Not the same thing.

This was a bulb in an upright lamp that just started smoking, out of the blue. I was in another room during the middle of the day, smelled the foul odor, and went looking for the problem. If the CFL had been knocked over, covered up, or otherwise compromised, that'd be one thing. But this malfunctioned in this way in the regular course of expected operation.

about two weeks ago

My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...

darylb This one lasted a year... (278 comments)

...until it gave up all its smoke. Good thing I was home before it burned the house down.

I won't run any more CFLs. LED or incandescent only for me, thanks.

about two weeks ago

Android Wear Is Here

darylb Instead of buying a phone every three years... (129 comments)

you can now buy a watch every one to two years.

C'mon. There are three broad categories of watch people these days:
1. The "I have a phone, so why do I need a watch?" category. Most people under 30 are here.
2. The "My watch is the measure of my style." category. They either view watches as cheap and disposable (watch as fashion statement), or expensive and long-lasting (watch as jewelry or mark of status). Who among these will buy a $100-$200 device that will be obsolete every couple of years?
3. The "My watch tells me the time without fuss and hassle" category. These people buy watches that last, but don't really want to think much about it. It needs to tell time, and perhaps have an alarm. They don't want to charge it every day. (I'm in this category. My Casio G-shock cost $40 5 years ago. I've changed its battery once. Otherwise, it requires no maintenance.)

I don't know which of these people these Android watches appeal to. What possible advantage does a tiny display on an expensive item offer that really beats out what your basic smartphone can do, and which is still required in the equation?

about two weeks ago

Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

darylb What was desirable about it? (71 comments)

Open hardware sounds cool, but as others have noted, good hardware design is both difficult and expensive. Considering how rapidly the components advance (CPU/SoC, I/O, displays, etc.), it would be hard for a small shop trying to live up to competing demands of "quick to market," "affordable to produce," "doable without a larger company's backing" to compete seriously against the likes of, say, Google's partners. Of note, even Google outsources the hardware.

But then there's the software. What does a "generic" Linux core with KDE offer that's a real improvement over the open source pieces of Android? Why not put a different UI (even KDE) onto Android? What am I missing here? Does anyone really want to reinvent the wheel of making a Linux kernel and its accessories meet the dual needs of good performance and economical power usage? Considering the variations already available for Android, what was the goal?

We're in a world where a first generation Nexus 7 tablet sells for $140 or less. At Walmart.

about three weeks ago

Sony Warns Demand For Blu-Ray Diminishing Faster Than Expected

darylb Streaming's great until it not available (477 comments)

I'm an old fart (comparatively) on Slashdot, and so I still buy physical media. Streaming is great until the content provider yanks it from the service you use, or moves it to a competing service in an exclusive deal (cf. HBO's recent deal with Amazon; no more Wire on Netflix, I suppose). Do people really want to subscribe to ALL of these streaming services? Or, hey, go pirate it off some torrent and hope the DRM cops don't start sending letters with invoices for $2,000 in fines.

In contrast, you can buy the DVD or Blu-ray and (hypothetically) rip it to whatever format, or make a backup DVD or SD card for the family minivan.
You can also give it to someone else, sell it, or even bequeath it to your heirs.

about 3 months ago

Microsoft/Nokia Deal Closes

darylb He's right. Windows Phone is pretty decent (81 comments)

Kalriath notes the built-in bias against Microsoft's Windows Phone. I had it, too, until my brand new Galaxy S4 went missing. So I bought a no-contract Lumia 520 runnings WP8 for $75. (The sub-$100 Android phones all suck.) After about 20 minutes, I was completely impressed. It was easy to setup and configure. The apps and navigation mostly made sense. It was no speed demon, but it WAS usable, on $75 hardware even. (The Lumia 520 runs a dual-core 1GHz CPU, with 512MB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage and support for microSD cards. The battery is even user-replaceable.) I ended up returning the Galaxy S4.

Face it, the Android phones worth using have an inordinate amount of CPU horsepower. Windows Phone seems optimized to run better with less, and it showed. The built-in hubs for social networking (freeing me from the disastrous Facebook mobile apps) were a stroke of genius.

WP8.1 holds even more promise. It goes backward in a couple of ways (like doing away with hubs, and the new Xbox Music is, at present, a disaster). Nonetheless, it's making technological progress.

It's all precarious for Microsoft. They've got a lot of ground to regain (or gain in the first place), and Google and Apple aren't sitting still. However, you can get devices that run Windows Phone very well for very little cash. It's nice to use a sub-$400 device that actually works.

about 2 months ago

Reports Say Satya Nadella Is Microsoft's Next CEO

darylb Re:John Thompson as Chairman? (177 comments)

Sorry, but there's a difference. Compare the high-end iPhones and Galaxy devices with their oil-resistant coatings to, say, an entry level Lumia 520. (I own the latter.) The entry-level Lumia lacks the coating, and it needs a daily cleaning. My wife's iPhone 4S needs it only after a sloppy toddler coats it with spaghetti sauce or yogurt.

You're right that gestures aren't always very precise. A finger is bigger than a 2-pixel point on an arrow driven by a mouse. Yet the touchscreen allows for direct manipulation of something. Turn here, pull that, etc. I didn't think I'd like it, but, after a couple of days, I notice that I use the mouse for (as you say) very fine work. But for other stuff -- clicking OK, or resizing a window -- the touchscreen is easier.

about 6 months ago

Reports Say Satya Nadella Is Microsoft's Next CEO

darylb Re:They sell something other than exchange? (177 comments)

Skydrive (soon to be OneDrive, after their settlement with Sky Network) is more than a Dropbox knockoff. It's more similar to Google Drive. Namely, it's an online storage area for documents that aren't tied to a particular computer. Edit that Word document on your Windows Phone? Save it to Skydrive, and it'll magically appear on your tablet or desktop.

Office 365 is just following in the steps (or alongside of) Adobe in offering a continual-pricing model. You get all the upgrades, and the up-front price is cheaper than a perpetual license. But you'll pay the annual fee perpetually. It DOES cover up to 5 machines. Whether it's what any given person wants is up to them. Being the family dad, I can see the appeal of having the software available for everyone in the house to use, on whatever machine. I don't like the recurring cost, though.

Active Directory has displaced pretty much all the other directory services. There's some suckage with it, but less suckage than their former competitors.

Exchange! Microsoft was the one company that, over time, figured out how email-contacts-calendar-todo-scheduling should really work in an in-house environment. (Google's suite in the cloud works well, but companies won't want a cloud solution for corporate-wide use.) I hated Outlook forever. DESPISED IT. In the end, the Outlook-Exchange combo does a lot of very valuable things. As you note, Lotus is hardly a competitor, and POP3/IMAP solutions are stone knives and bearskins compared to Exchange/Outlook.

The rumors of Microsoft's demise are premature. They need some fresh leadership, to be sure. But there's lots of talent and lots of research at Microsoft, backed up by their entrenchment in a lot of companies' infrastructure. It'll be a long time replacing all of that.

about 6 months ago


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