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back to article Tech titans lose our loyalty: Are fanbois a dying breed?

We've hit an inflection point in computing this year; one where which company makes your widget, operating system or office package finally matters less than it did the year before. Windows 8, Android, the latest iWidget and so forth are becoming interchangeable for an increasing number of people. As I compose this article, I am …

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Two good reasons

There are two excellent reasons why punters are decreasingly committed to any single supplier.

1. Slowly, very slowly, but inexorably, technical cluefulness is spreading. More people are equipped to notice when they are being conned or swindled.

2. The really huge corporations - like Apple, Google, and Microsoft - are becoming ever more cynically greedy in their attempts to screw a regular vig out of hundreds of millions of customers - preferably with the least possible cost to themselves.

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Re: Two good reasons

What about the fact that none of them have innovated significantly in the last three years?

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Devil

3rd reason?

I think all the lawsuits over trivial patent issues are also showing punters that the companies' priorities aren't making the best products they can, but money, money, money.

Just look on a forum like Macrumors. Only a year ago the dominant attitude was that Apple was a benevolent company that existed purely to bestow perfect products upon us mere, unworthy mortals. Now, thanks to news of a new lawsuit almost every other day, that image has been severely tarnished, if not shattered - and the forums reflect that. Apple is no longer a company that can do no wrong - even to the former fanbois.

(P.S. Bring back the evil Steve Jobs (or Whatshisname Cook) icon, and maybe add an evil Sergey Brin and evil Balmer. No need to bother with the good versions - the scales have been lifted.)

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Coat

Are fanbois a dying breed?

Nah, they're devolving - instead of defending their platform, they're now out and attacking others. Just read the comments for pretty much any Reg article on mobile devices. More mud being slung than in parliament!

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Several points

I can't really determine the point of the article. It sounds like what you are really trying to say is that Microsft has lost its monoploy. I am afraid that this is not quite true and probalby wont happen for a long time yet. You gave RIm and Novell as examples, I could return the example of looking at IBM or Apple.....

There is a large distinction between Professional and Personal requirements. In the personal world I agree that we can do almost anything from a multitude of devices. However in the professional world that quite simply is not the case. There are far too many OS or Device specific applications that quite simply cannot be performed on anything but the original platform.

How many CAD/CAM professionals can move instantly from Windows to Linux or Apple or vice versa?.

How many companies have thousands/millions of hours worth of development on thick clients from which there is very little escape ?

How many devices are in existance that simply dont have Linux or Apple drivers ?

Hypothetically we can move about between platforms but in the real world things are a lot less simple, especialy within the large corporations. Smaller SMEs might intially have that luxury but they too become quickly "captured" because they find that the principal application/device/most cost effective solutions only exists within one platform.

By remaining on one platform we retain a certain homogenity which is required in order to be efficient. I am not avocating any one given platform, I am advocating that a multi of platforms does not necassarily make as any more proficient, which at the end of the day is the purpose.

Also, the web is a multi platform environment, which is almost platform independant, but in general it is only one of the many tools that companies need/require. There are a multitude of other requirements that force a lock-in to a given environment.

You quoted an example of writing your articles and the various multi platform solutions that you used but at the end of the day the only important item/platform amongst them was your brain. All you really needed was a pencil and paper, everything else is just a bunch of gadgets that we are led to believe increase productivity. I am sure that there are days when even all those gadgets won't help create interesting articles.....

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Re: Several points

"Losing their monopoly " - be it MS or anyone else - doesn't mean "every single user in every single use case has alternatives." It means the plurality of users in the plurality of use cases do.

I do believe that time has arrived where there exist few - if any - true monopolies in tech. Not that "a niche can find an alternative," but that "most users can find an alternative."

More succinctly: treat users/customers/clients like crap at your own risk. Even if you are Microsoft, Apple, Google...

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Re: Several points

"treat users/customers/clients like crap at your own risk" Sums it up for me.

It is going to change from the bottom up, as Trevor suggests. The large companies will still move very slowly, but small does also give the opportunity to be agile.

I would add Autodesk to your list of companies that behave badly towards customers - we dumped them a few years ago and have not regretted it. We are a small company of <50.

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Re: Several points

<quote>It is going to change from the bottom up, as Trevor suggests. The large companies will still move very slowly, but small does also give the opportunity to be agile.</quote>

I very much doubt that change will come from the bottom, corporate strategy is almost always determined from the Top -> Down. It is in this manner that the upper management and bean counters can ensure their own survival. Unfortunately this same idea is replicated within politics, finance and the various legal institutions.

If corporate leaders bought into the Freeware/Alternative ideas there would be no more kickbacks, pots de vin and junkets that they have been accustomed to.

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Devil

Re: Thick Clients

Yeah... most businesses have problems with those...

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Re: Several points

You know Khaptain, I've thought about what you've said here long and hard. Went and nommed a pile of carrot sticks and enjoyed a Zen like moment of contemplation. In the end, sir, I believe you are probably wrong...though I must admit that my first instinct was to agree with your position.

The cynic in me would say "why yes, that's obviously Truth spoken to Power." The reality - admittedly in my n=1 anecdotal experience - is that, on balance, I have been treated better by freeware/open source companies than I have by Big Tech.

Some of this is to be expected; I'm a Great Big Nobody in the tech journalism (or sysadmin purchasing power) world. Why would Big Tech give two shakes of a bent damn about courting my interest? Freeware/Open Source on the other hand…they need all the exposure they can get!

I have been on exactly two junkets: one for VMware, the other for Spiceworks. One is Big Tech, the other is Freeware. I have gotten demo gear from small outfits: Unitrends, MobilePCMonitor, Ninite and so forth. I have gotten demo gear from Big Tech: Supermicro, Dell, VMware, Intel and so forth.

There are junkets and freebies to be had on either side of that corporate line. What changes is how they treat you during the process. Are you a highly institutionalised cog in a massive, scripted, heavily regulated and proscribed machine? Or are you someone that they want to legitimately engage with, get your feedback, help evolve their product to meet your needs and earn your loyalty as a long term customer and evangelist?

In large part, I find the smaller organisations leave me feeling excited. Like I have a voice in product development. Features I need and want will probably appear and the ages old bargain of "the more licences you buy, the quicker your features are dealt with" still applies here.

The larger organisations leave me feeling – for lack of a better word - processed. There is some secret, hidden social contract that I am just not privy to, but probably should be. They do these tickbox items I buy X number of widgets, or go forth and evangelise their thing. There is little to no feedback taking place: with big tech I am not a customer, or a journalist or so forth. I am an on message instrument of the hierarchy. Thoughts about product improvement be damned.

It's the smaller orgs that give me the warm fuzzies; I feel that I can bet the business on them because I feel my needs will be responded to.

Amongst the bigger orgs, I feel I can trust Intel; not because they'll listen to me, but because they Just Make Good Shit and I don't really have a reason to complain. VMware has engaged well with me and I feel I can trust them in a way that I can't trust any other big software companies. Supermicro have been mostly okay, a lot of the issues they had in the early aughties seem to have evaporated. Dell is a completely mixed bag, and you'll get awesomeness from one group and completely screwed over by the other.

So…are these junkets and back-patting going to drive corporate purchasing forever? I don't think so. Regardless of how nice the junket is, nobody wants to lose their job over a steak dinner and some mediocre wine. If vendors keep up with processing CxOs, they are going to start to clue in here…especially when they take the opportunity to get wined and dined by smaller orgs.

Dealing with startups who actually try to meet your needs seems like a far better deal – short, medium and long term – for your political existence within your company than selling out for the cost of a simple junket.

We have laws now that require accountability. Shareholder lawsuits are becoming more and more common. CxOs are actually being held accountable for their actions; some even have to prove they did things like due diligence.

So while at first blush it seems that the cynical view on this would stay correct forever…the truth is that the quality of the schmoozing on offer by the Tech Titans has declined as they have become more and more sure of the inevitability of their supremacy. Corporate hubris has led to Tech Titans that don't even bother to pretend that your input matters, or that your requirements will ever be met.

You are believed to be addicted to their software/hardware/services. They can treat you however they like, and you'll be back on the front steps the next morning, begging for another hit. For some use cases, they are probably still right.

I argue however that this simply isn't the case for the majority of use cases, anymore. The pendulum of power is shifting back into the hands of "people who buy widgets." Big Tech is going to have to start pretending they care, or they are going to start bleeding market share; eventually, they may even bleed the high-margin market share that actually matters.

Meanwhile, a whole new generation of tech startups are coming onto the scene with corporate cultures that say "listen to the clients, do what they need, and you'll get all sorts of customers, money, etc." The balance of power will shift and the dance will begin anew…

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Anonymous Coward

Are fanbois a dying breed?

I hope they're a dying breed. Every time I read the word 'fanbois' I like to replace it in my head with 'religious nutjob'.

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Re: Are fanbois a dying breed?

"I hope they're a dying breed."

I've been happily buying and using Apple kit since 1989 and will continue to do so; and I attend Eucharist almost every Sunday morning. So I'm on your hit list twice over. I don't really know why I've upset you, though.

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Linux

Re: Are fanbois a dying breed?

There's a difference between buying/using kit from one company for a long time and only buying from one company because you believe they're the best and can do no wrong, no matter what anyone else says.

I only have Android phones and tablets, not because Android is teh bezt!, simply because it does what I want in a way I've grown to like with hardware choices I like.

I don't believe that Android completely defeating iOS would be a good thing for consumers, in much the same way that Microsoft/Apple "winning" the desktop wouldn't be. But I agree with Trevor that those days are likely long behind us as people tend to be more tech-savvy.

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Re: Are fanbois a dying breed?

Well said Mr. Yates - I've encountered far too many Android jihadists on these comment boards, +1 for your commendable attitude, sir!

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Re: Are fanbois a dying breed?

@Fatman: "I've been happily buying and using Apple kit since 1989 and will continue to do so; and I attend Eucharist almost every Sunday morning."

These do not make you a fanbois or a 'religious nutjob'. What would IMO, would be to proselytise that others should copy you and that other devices or religions are somehow wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

You and I

I'd love to think this is a reflection of functionality but it seems simple to me: consumers get bored of user interfaces. Basically. Apple's iOS ecosystem is starting to look dated. Its ubiquitous nature out in the wild could signal an almost exponential increase in UI boredom over the coming years. Now on to the most important revelation in your article: that bloggers are happy to think about and dictate their blog posts when they should be concentrating on the road. Do it on the toilet or the shower like the rest of us.

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Anonymous Coward

How we as system administrators, software developers, widget designers etc deal with this will determine the degree to which our users, clients and customers will work with us, or treat us as damage and route around us.

Very true (and nice to hear the articles main point actually said), but also equally true the other way around. It's not just how well users work with the sys-admins, but also how much the sys-admins will work with the users.

As long as there's some dialogue to understand that the corporate ways may not be the best, and that the end user way may be better/simpler/more flexible then everyone can win. Generally it works out, although unfortunately I can attest to the occasional situation where admins have been so adamant that "this is the corporate way, and it is how you will do it" whilst being so out of touch with the field user that it made their (in more than one case "their" being "my") job much more difficult or impossible.

If the give and take is there (that the user way may be better, but equally that the admin shouldn't have to jump through flaming hoops to make a one-off and highly singular/abstract method work) then everyone should gain. If it's platform-neutral then so much the better, if the fixed assets allow it.

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Vic
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> "this is the corporate way, and it is how you will do it"

The SysAds often have no real choice in this; policy gets laid down by The Management, and the admins simply don't have to authority to tell them to bog off.

Even if that's not the case, they're frequently busy people, and time is expensive. Spending a couple of hours getting some strange piece of kit working might be loads of fun, but that cost has to be paid by a budget somewhere. If the budget controller won't pay for the work, it ain't gonna happen...

Vic.

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Added value : more than downloadable apps.

Can't speak for anyone else. Just me.

I'm in the enviable position that when I consider a purchase I don't have to look at the price alone. 'Is it really necessary' is a relatively moot point. If our spending pattern was driven by necessity we would all be driving Fiestas, live in a chicken coop and survive on bread and water. Because, really, most of what we spend our hard-earned on is ultimately 'not necesary', as in 'if you don't you die'. YMMV. You get the point.

So we could argue that most of what we purchase is a luxury purchase. You don't 'need' a desktop if you own a half decent laptop, you can read books from you library, and you can sit down and make article notes on recycled paper. You don't 'need' a Galaxy S12 wit dropthings an speech recognition.

But we strive to make our lives more comfortable with all kinds of gadgets and stuff that fall in the 'not required for breathing" categories, and derive a certain amoint of entertainment and joie de vivre from all manner of gadgets.

When I buy these gadgets I generally son't mind paying over the odds because I find a phone 'nicer' than another one, or get a car with a bigger engine because of some very subjective notion of it 'driving better' than the Fiesta. Ultimately, my average speed over a year would be exactly the same in the Fiesta than in the big Benz, and believe it or not, the Fiesta is dry inside too.

Now, as I said, i don't mind baying OTT, I don't even mind gving in to my repressed 'fanboi' every once in a while, but when I do I expect to be treated accordingly. I don't mind paying for an iPhone, but when I go to their store I expect them to have all varieties in stock for me to take away, I expect to pe spoken to and not at by a salesperson with produt knowledge and an elementary notion of manners, and when something goes awry (and it inevitably will) I expect to be treated with the service onbe expects from a premium brand. I also expect said brand to be of better quality than something osting a quarter of the price.

(Note : I use the Apple brand as an example here. You may insert any vendor you wish)

But when I do pay a premium, and I am not listened too, lied to, the sales drone walks off in the middle of a demo, subsequently receive a product that is seriously flawed (AND I'm accused of 'holding it wrong), get dismal warranty coverage and am charged silly prices for repairs because 'I must've dropped it', there comes a point when I am no longer prepared to pay the premium.

And this, IMO, is what everyone is started to find out : the ads try to sell you the idea that you are an upmarket, valued customer, but one the sle is made it turnes out you're just an average slob parted with his/her money and no one has any further interest in you.

So, manufacturers of premium brands : premium does not mean 'more expensive'. It means 'better than everything else'. In EVERY department.

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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

Speaking as one who is currently driving a Fiesta (one of my kids need a vehicle to get some driving practice while they learn to drive, and I'm not paying to keep 3 vehicles on the road!) I will say that almost *ANYTHING* is better than a small-engined Fiesta for anything other than local journeys.

I am getting to work later (it is not fast enough and falls behind other traffic, mainly due to a lack of acceleration) and is significantly more fatiguing to drive than a larger car, and I certainly would not want to do long business trips in it. All of these issues are arguments for getting something a little better, merely to improve the ability of the driver to work at the end of the journey.

If you had chosen a Focus as the comparison, then I may not have bothered to reply, but a Fiesta is really too small.

I think that what I am trying to say is that there is a range of options between cheapest and most expensive, providing something that is good enough without having to go up to the premium end of the product spectrum.

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Vic
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Joke

Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

> most of what we spend our hard-earned on is ultimately 'not necesary'

Nonsense.

I *need* to fly. It is an essential, not a luxury.

Vic.

[Did my 22nd landing yesterday, and I'm feeling rather pleased with myself :-) ]

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Vic
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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

> falls behind other traffic, mainly due to a lack of acceleration

Go and buy yourself a copy of "Roadcraft".

You don't need much acceleration to keep up with traffic, you need to maintain momentum. This basically comes down to plannig and observation.

I first did the Roadcraft course when I bought a big bike. It did indeed reduce my top speed, as I expected it to - but what I didn't expect was that it made me faster...

Vic.

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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

Vic.

Congrats on your 22nd landing.

I agree, but only up to a point. I drive somewhere hilly and through small villages where there are speed restrictions (rural England is like that), thus momentum in a light car (a European Fiesta is what I believe you call a sub-compact in the US) cannot be maintained, and raw acceleration is what matters. My Fiesta is an old one, and does 0-60....... eventually (I think it's about 17.6 seconds according to the Ford stats). I know that on one part of my journey, I regularly get overtaken after a standing start by cars like Landrovers. There are plenty of BMWs, VW Golf GTIs etc. that drive at the same time as me that are much more nippy, and get right up my bumper!

So when going up a hill, or when leaving a speed restricted areas, momentum does not help.

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Vic
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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

> Congrats

Thanks!

> a European Fiesta is what I believe you call a sub-compact in the US

I'm not in the US - I'm in sunny Hamsphire :-)

> My Fiesta is an old one, and does 0-60....... eventually

I drive a knackered Peugeot Expert...

> momentum does not help

Seriously - buy that book. It's a tenner. It will save you from at least one crash. And it will make underpowered vehicles much easier to drive...

Vic.

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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

If its hilly, you probably want torque rather than speed. Get a diesel. When I was at uni I had a friend with a 205 diesel we took to Cornwall and Tintagel. It made mincemeat of the hills and many of the faster petrol cars.

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Go

Good, good

I look forward to the moment where people will use a computer without even noticing what brand it is, or what kind of OS it has.

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Meh

Well it had one point that most tech journos are forgetting.

That one solution does not fit all. Fair point.

I have seen too many articles written recently by tech journos whose job is mainly creating large blocks of text to send to someone to throw up on a website somewhere claiming the end of desktops, laptops and basically any IT device weighing more then a kilo.

Well yes when you job revolves around a task that is no more difficult that tapping two fingers on a 10" slab of glass, it may seem that way. However, some others have proper work to do.

"Well I can do all my job on a tablet sitting in Starbucks, I don't see why everyone else shouldn't be able to as well!"

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IT Angle

Well then..

"No one device design will meet all needs"

And that's exactly why we need high levels of customization, not what the majority of popular IT industry is getting to - locking everything down, closing itself, making things mandatory, etc.

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Tech tool box

Couldn't agree more - it's all about what you need to do, not what you do it on. For instance, this is being written on a Windows lap top, and a very fast and powerful one. It's used for most of my corporate applications. I'll soon transfer to a Mac to produce some video, because Final Cut Pro gives us the easiest method of doing so and it runs on Macs. The video will be uploaded to a bunch of Linux servers via a Flash inteface but in a format that can be viewed on any screen, tablet or smart phone. I have a Blackberry for the corporate push email and an old iPhone for personal use because it runs a couple of apps that aren't available for anything else.

The software our company produces is written on Windows machines but will run on Windows, Linux, Unix, Sun servers, etc.

It's all about picking the right tools.

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Indeed.

Imagine if we just had one brand of computer gear to use for everything.

God what a dull world it would be.

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Re: Indeed.

"Microsoft everywhere"

Shudder.

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I almost agree

Yes, if I am a good example, I find that I care less about new widgets simply because there are so many nice ones to choose from. This contrasts heavily with a few years ago where your only choice was Microsoft who could dictate to the market. Now, we appear to have diversity. That's great and pleas let it continue. I really don't want to be a prisoner of *any* corporation!

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On the other hand...

Fanbois will never die out entirely. The whole thing would seem to me to be an extension of the human desire to belong to something. You might view it as a logical extension of youth cults (bikers, punks, hippies, mods, etc). Adults get to play too, religious sects, political parties, exclusive city clubs, etc. Of course, any group that you belong to is of course superior to any other group, you want to be one of the chosen, the holders of the secret knowledge, part of the exclusive bretheren.

In order to prove your loyalty and bolster your belief you may try to attack or convert the unbelievers, the stupid Windows users, the Capitalist lackeys or the heretical Protestants for example. It's just part of human nature and will probably always be so.

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I've said this before about server-side applications or services, but equally its true for end-user\consumer devices.

Consumers no longer have to buy a specific device because it is the only one that has function z. All devices do function z. Its not important what device the consumer uses, as long as they have the choice of which device to use. Which one does a specific function better?

I have a computer that I use for recording music, editing video and playing games. Its a dual-boot linux and win7 box

I have a core I3 laptop for when I'm mooching out and about for a week or so, or for when I want to write a blog, but don't want to sit on my horrid office chair but instead sit on my comfy sofa. It is also dual boot, because linux boots faster, and sometimes I play games on it.

I have a tablet that lives on my bedside table or the coffee table in the lounge, or in the kitchen or for surfing the web, looking at the news, looking up recipes or for googling facts to support conversations and things because its always on.

I have a netbook for when I'm sleepless in bed and want to write something, or if I'm going to be away for a weekend and need something small I can type on reasonably well.

I have a smartphone for calling people and googling stuff in the pub.

Too many devices? Maybe. But they each have a purpose, and they each run a different OS.

I haven't got time to be a fan of any particular company, and I'm not stupid enough to get locked into anything I don't want to be locked into when I have the choice.

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Linux

Geez, not this s41t again...

Back in the pre-piost-PC era, we used to get this kind of argument coming from desktop linux zealots. The platform doesn't matter, all users need is a copy of Tuxyfreeasinbeeroffice 3.2 and Firefox, and bammo, job done.

Until you couldn't access the needs-ActiveX finance app and you couldn't staple doubled sided jobs on the copier. Or use the proprietary database. And the head of finance's RSI reducing special mouse wouldn't work. Nor the wifi in the FD's laptop so someone spent 98 hours at his house trying to get on their home DLink router, and....

Yeah, the terms have changed and things have got a bit more webby and appsy. Underlying gotchas are the same.

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Re: Geez, not this s41t again...

Why you're so right, how didn't I see this obvious point before? The world is binary! If one person doesn't have an alternative solution to meet the needs of their quixotic use case, then obviously nobody else, anywhere does either.

n=1 determines all things! It's so clear to me now!

In the words of my generation - I hope I'm doing this right, it's been a while you guys - and monkeys come flying out of my butthole.

n=1. Oy vey.

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Seems to me that the biggest fanboys run most of the media.

To me we have a dual world where we get the media truth and then we have consumer truth.

I have an inkling that the media truth is backfiring in being so distorted that loyalty is pushed to the limit.

I guess it has always been like that, with main media, loyal as ever to their major sponsors and advertisers, even after the ship has long sailed away.

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Re: Seems to me that the biggest fanboys run most of the media.

You can count on me to be loyal to nobody. Well, except Ninite. Those guys are baller.

Other than that, I hate everyone equally! Some just actually - for now - make a widget or a whotsit worth using. Of course, if you're a fanboy, that means you will inevitably hate me. Your company will inevitably screw up and I will gleefully call them on it.

Oi! You there! That's a dumb idea! Now back away from the user interface…

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Re: Seems to me that the biggest fanboys run most of the media.

Painters in?

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Re: Seems to me that the biggest fanboys run most of the media.

It's a catch 22 situation ::::

The fanbois loyalty initially creates momentum.

This in turn increases the user base.

A large enough user base allows the company to grow.

Company growth expands its R&D.

Company brings out new Fanboi products.

Fanbois happy but market reaches saturation.

Saturated market turns Fanbois elsewhere.

Company implodes due to unsustainable internal costs.

Moral of the story : The Fanbois will always exist but they are constantly evolving, changing growing like a cancer and they themselves will eventually destroy the source of their existance.

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You're using it wrong

Now if we can just get rid of the smug, superior gits who insist that everyone who uses technology differently from them is an idiot, the world will be a much better place. Sadly, the two go hand in hand:

Technology Zealot: "Why don't you just switch to <Technology X>? It's so much more awesome than what you're using!"

Me: "Because I want/need to do this thing over there which is unsupported by or outrageously difficult on <Technology X>."

TZ: "If you just employ <horrendous, semi-functional workaround>, you'll be fine!"

Me: "<Horrendous, semi-functional workaround> is semi-functional and horrendous, and I have neither the time nor the particular inclination to try to implement it just for the achievement of using <Technology X>. Also, the user interface looks like it was shat out by a five-year-old."

TZ: "Your a idiot lol"

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Re: You're using it wrong

Dude, nowhere in that rant were the words "your mom" used. I think you may not understand how the mind of the YOUR MOM LAWL!!111!!111oneoneone

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