This is a very unusual cloud service. Most cloud applications require a lot of uploading of the customer's data to the cloud. But with this new Cloud for Five Eyes, the data's already there; the government is simply fishing through it and downloading whatever it finds interesting. What an efficient way to balance the cloud's access bandwidth!
121 posts • joined 17 Apr 2007
Re: But the elephant in the room...
The poor may not be "fully covered" by Medicaid. But what ends up happening is that they have to find a provider willing to take Medicaid, which pays less than private insurance, and then they may still be asked to put up some cash, just not big dollars which they obviously don't have. But the provider may end up eating a lot of it, and passing the cost along to others who do have private insurance.
Medical bankruptcy, though, is easier for those who have no insurance at all, since hospitals charge a "sucker rate" of 5-10 TIMES the Medicare (old person) rate, several times the private insurance rate, to suckers who are "private pay". The theory is that this is supposed to apply to the Saudi princes who flock in droves to the US for private-pay health care, and every little dipschytt hospital thinks they're setting rates for princes, when in fact it's a scam to take every last dollar an uninsured person will ever have. So a little appendectomy can cost over $10,000 if you are not insured.
It is impossible to enforce pi = 3, or no "fast lane"
Sen. Leahy is playing for the ignorant crowds, demanding that, since chickens are MUCH larger than hogs, that the hog industry must sell whole hogs for a lower price than whole chickens. And no scales are going to convince him otherwise, because the bacon lovers are demanding cheap bacon.
There are no fast lanes, of course -- all bits travel at the same 300 km/ms * velocity factor. Computers do trade off buffer space, and the internetwork itself is a trading space (the point Martin Geddes, referenced in the above-mentioned post, is always making). Neutrality is a myth.
Re: Heard of WiGig?
Of course you meant 60 GHz, not 60 MHz.
We have some 60 GHz point-to-point outdoor microwave links. They're useful for short hops, a km or so. But they're subject to a lot of rain fade. So the received signal strength indication makes a nice rain gauge.
ICANN is only consultative
DNS is distributed. You can point to any resolver you want, and it can point to any TLD authority it wants. For obvious reasons essentially all public Internet services accept the ICANN delegation of authority for TLDs. But DNS operators don't have to. So if for some reason ICANN un-delegated .ir, then the rest of the world could simply ignore them. It isn't the ITU whose numbers have legal authority, it's a consulting body whose recommendations only work because they're sane enough.
Dot-sex was a plain fraud case and the registry made a mistake; it's not precedent.
No, point to point only
GoTenna operates under FCC MURS rules, which allow point to point voice or data (rather narrowband, to be sure, by today's standards), but do not permit repeating (the heart of packet radio) or interconnection (to use it to extend cell coverage). So it basically does a little FRS-like thing for your smartphone, for fully off-grid use.
Multi-Use Radio Service, with five channels in the 151-154 land mobile range, is one of the more obscure FCC rules. I've never seen anything else use it.
I have a nice little clamshell phone that fits nicely in my pocket and I take it wherever I go. I also have a nice laptop computer that fits nicely in my briefcase and I take it to work, home, and on trips, but not to dinner, etc. So what good is a "phone" that doesn't fit in a pocket? The Passport's form factor seems unweildy. I am hoping the Q20 or Q30 or whatever they call it, with a physical keyboard and actual send/end keys for phoning, will reach the states in a form my carrier (VZW) can use. Not that I'm counting on it; until then my 4-year-old clamshell still works. I just can't text, and I don't feel a great loss for apps.
Agreed -- it looks like they forget about phone calls. Glass dialer apps are hostile to us tactile phone users. I stick with my ancient clamshell because it's good as a phone, and I need that more than stupid apps. The Q20 looks more promising, frankly; I hope that comes out and Verizon picks it up (not all that likely, given how few 'berries the still sell.)
The typewriter thing works. It is tactile, allowing users to type without the perfect hand-eye coordination needed for touch screens. The only other idea you mentioned that makes the least bit of sense is Morse -- I too can do Morse at 25 WPM and would love a Morse straight key (bugs are for wussies) phone, but alas nobody makes one. Handwriting is horrible -- again it is an obsolete skill that some folks have and others don't, and we shouldn't be regressing there. Cuneiform with a stylus is probably a less bad retro option.
Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.
DEC had a better answer about 40 years ago. Commands in DCL were full words, like "DIRECTORY" and DELETE, but you never had to type them out; you only needed enough letters to make them unambiguous. (It was thus DIR and DEL to practically everyone.) The universe of commands was limited, as starting a program required the lengthy invocation command RUN, not just typing of the program's name.
TENEX (from BBN in 1972; it became TOPS-20 when DEC licensed it a few years later) did that and more; it allowed typing an abbreviated command and then visibly completing it. I think some Unix shells later did that, but TENEX commands were full words too.
Unix had the abbreviated, non-obvious commands that created a sort of geek secret handshake, like grep, ls, cat, and mv. Not designed for the public, but for labs types who couldn't touch-type, or were using 35ASR Teletype machines with hard-to-press keys.
Re: For all the metro haters
Now you remind me of why I have Classic Shell implementing the Win2000 start menu on a Win7 Pro system. But the Win7 native menu (I think similar to XPs) is not awful. It doesn't use up screen space but it is not hard to use.
Metro's start screen, on the other hand, is just hopeless. It commits a deadly sin -- it switches context, turning off everything on screen just to get to the start buttons. This is tolerable in a single-tasking environment, like say a phone, but when you have a large desktop screen, you're often starting and stopping multiple programs at once, and you don't want to lose them off screen just to do that. It's a single-tasking paradigm applied to a multitasking world, and fails badly.
Moto made money on Iridium
Fun fact (and a correction): Moto did not spend $5B on Iridium. They built the constellation using Other People's Money, so they got paid and the dumb "investors" lost. Several other LEOsat projects were proposed and failed in the same time frame. GlobalStar is however still in operation; it was a much simpler and less ambitious design, which made more sense.
Re: It's IPv6 that should die
Amen. IPv6 is a laboratory test of obeisance by theoretically-knowledgeable people to a claim of authority that is obviously full of guano. It is more filling and tastes worse, compromises security, and makes the Internet's real problems worse. But hey the "authorities" say it's necessary, especially if it helps Cisco sell more kit.
No local de jure cable monopolies
Daed, your local municipality has been prohibited since 1992 from making cable a monopoly franchise. Other cable companies are allowed to have franchises too. Of course it's meaningless -- the economics of cable mean that a second cable company -- it's called an overbuilder -- is almost certain to go bust.
And ISDN has been off the market in most of the US for years.
Re: "it can't really work any other way"
TOS headers didn't get used much, but there is a lot of jockeying around within networks. Put more capacity here and not there, use MPLS for this and not that, etc. The point is that the design was never meant to be "all packets are equal", and in practice that would drastically favor some (shorter paths) over others anyway. Which explains why CDNs are so popular.
Andrew, this is much better than the usual crap about NN; thank you for writing it.
I do point out that we have a problem stateside due to lack of competition. It is impractical for multiple companies to string fiber or wire to every house, which is why the duopoly is most common and monopoly very common. In almost every other civilized country, there is a choice of ISPs who ride the same wire. Many ISPs share OpenReach wire in the UK, etc. The FCC took that away here, and that monopoly at the ISP layer, not at the wire layer, caused the problem. They should reclassify the wire back to common carriage, as it was (and throw in cable modems for good measure), and then the choice of ISPs would take care of the rest.
The Internet is ungovernable, so why waste money?
People who don't understand the Internet assume that it must be governed by somebody, and since ICANN is based in the US, it must be a US government thing. Which is pretty silly. The Internet is ungovernable. It is not the telephone network, which the ITU oversees; it's a private activity. ICANN is technically just advisory, and anyone can start their own internet if they want to, or run their own DNS. So let's have people spend money on luxury hotels and meetings that can't do anything meaningful; the hotel business appreciates them.
ICANN doesn't control the Internet
The idiots in Congress (and we breed 'em good and dumb here in the colonies) are worried about an irrelevancy. ICANN does not run the Internet. It is merely a consulting firm, run by its own board and financed by its own fees. Its task is to recommend which top-level domain servers should be used by DNS server operators, and, via IANA, to recommend which IP address blocks advertised via BGP should be accepted, if anyone ever bothers to check. If ICANN's word is no longer trusted, network and server owners can just turn elsewhere. It is not like the ITU, which is a treaty organization coordinating actual government-regulated networks. It's literally a voluntary club, and it no longer needs USG sponsorship.
Nothing ICANN does has any impact on wiretapping by any party. That will go on no matter who owns the DNS root.
Mostly prior art
Most of these topics look like prior art, things that were developed in the 1980s that nobody bothered to patent because a) you couldn't patent software then, b) you can't patent math (legally; the USPTO now lets you patent pretty much anything and leaves it to the courts to fix), and c) nobody would adopt a patented technology. Nortel probably got these as defensive patents, in case some troll tried to use them against it. Now the trolls have the patents. There should be huge penalties for filing such obviously-bad patents. Although it frankly is good business for me since I help fight them for a living.
Re: someone (or several someones) at Target's HQ should be fired
The CIO was just fired this month. Sure, she "resigned". And Crimea will "vote" to join Russia.
Brain-dead understanding of the Internet
Prohibiting ISPs from managing the flow of traffic is a quick way to shut the whole thing down. The Internet is not only reliant on massive oversubscription, but its TCP depends on cooperation to work, or the network will go into congestion collapse. It is not a common carrier service with fixed bit rates and shouldn't be treated as one.
Of course teevee junkies don't care, and will happily destroy it if the think they'll get a few more shows to watch in the process.
Political posturing not based in reality
Whatever the NSA does has nothing whatsoever to do with ICANN. Both are based in the US, but so are a lot of other things, like say the Walt Disney studios, McDonalds, and Ford Motor. ICANN doesn't bug your hamburgers, and if they did, Mickey D's headquarters' being in Illinois wouldn't matter.
ICANN is basically self-funding, and is merely a consultancy. It recommends registries. You can set your DNS to whatever you want, though. ICANN has no authority to stop you, or to stop someone from setting up an alternative (as was done by Louis Pouzin, the French inventor of internetworking). The ITU deals through governments; ICANN "authority" is whatever users make of it.
Andrew, your analysis is largely right, but what is less well known is that the Section 706 authority that the FCC claimed and that the majority (but not Silberman's dissent) upheld really is not there, and could be easily overturned on appeal. The FCC claimed, and the court accepted, legislative history -- a Senate Report -- that treated Section 706 as a sort of backstop. BUT that report was describing an earlier draft of the law, NOT the one that Congress passed after the conference committee was done with it! Apparently nobody pointed that out to the Court. The final law removed the authority to act that the Senate draft referred to. So the real Section 706 doesn't grant power to regulate much at all.
What the FCC can (and should) do is reclassify the physical-layer access from the subscriber to the ISP as telecommunications common carriage, so that people can choose ISPs, while leaving the Internet itself unregulated. The Court opinion made it pretty clear that this option -- the Computer II rules in effect prior to 2005 -- was well within the law, and the FCC could go back there if they gave justification. Of course politically they're afraid; AT&T and VZ have too many friends in Congress. So nothing will happen.
This is very much like 800 service, where the cost of the connection is paid by the recipient. AT&T says it's non-exclusive, so what's wrong with that? Besides, "network neutrality" is an imbecilic rant about an internet that never existed and couldn't work, by people who don't know what is broken (lack fo access for competitive ISPs in the US), and who want instead to guarantee spammers access that they don't otherwise have. AT&T is not the nicest bunch of folks in the world but in this case they're being entirely reasonable.
Re: Sadly Trevor
BillG, for the same reason JohnE Hoover was able to stay in power for 40 years.
They have the pictures.
And this isn't necessarily of Obama himself doing anything all that bad. They have pictures on everyone and everybody, close to him and politically connected. And the "pictures" nowadays aren't just photos, it's stuff t they're hoovering up from phone calls and emails.
Of course Twitter is worth over $40/share... look at all the money they're making! Oh, wait. Maybe it's worth it because hashtags are becoming the new Internet identifier, and will soon be as important as AOL keywords! Oh, wait...
Phages have an interesting history. They were being studied some decades ago, but then antibiotics came along and seemed to do the trick. But antibiotic resistance (gee, thanks, meat industry) is spreading much faster than new antibiotics are being developed, so phages may yet turn out to be the only thing that works for many infections. At the risk of sounding like a Durty Kommy, it's so important that it really should receive government funding, on both sides of the puddle, so that they can be used without paying big pharma's patent pricing. Here in the US, prescription drug prices are several time higher than in any EU country.
Stallman's GNU at 30: The hippie OS that foresaw the rise of Apple - and is now trying to take it on
Now if only they'd clone a decent operating system
FSF has helped make Unix the default, keeping computing back. Unix was a 1969 project to build something smaller than the much better Multics, which required something like a humongous megabyte of memory to run, not to mention some unusual hardware features to implement its security rings. Unix worked, but its geekly origins require its innards to be hidden underneath front ends like MacOS and Android, and it still requires things to be put in the kernel because it lacks IPC between userland processes. Hence security holes.
You're repeating "talking points" (euphemism for lies) that come from Republican politicians.
I queried our state exchange to see what policy options exist for someone my age (not quite Medicare eligible) and someone much younger. The prices were quite reasonable, competitive with my current small-employer group plan rate. The intrusive questions they ask are a) your income (to see if you get a subsidy; if you're above the subsidy range, it's just a check-off, no number required), b) your date of birth (old still pays more, though the range is limited), and c) if you smoke. That's it. Then you get a set of prices, and it's all guaranteed issue, so you don't have to worry about being turned down. In my case there are 90 plans offered from about ten private insurance companies.
Compare to the old system, where either your employer bought you a group plan, or you had to try to find private coverage. Which costs a fortune, has exclusions for pre-existing conditions, or they just flat-out refuse to issue the policy because of pre-existing conditions (Healthy Members Only). If the new system is communism (which is like saying that Groucho Marx was a duck), all hail Marx and Lennon!
Re: Palm Pilot with BMW prices
"The medical procedure you need will be denied at this time."" That's because brain transplants aren't available yet.
No clean upgrade path from XP
When they came out with ME II, I mean Vista, XP could be "upgraded" (I use that word loosely) to it in place. But Win7, while based on a fixed Vista, can't do that. You can't just run an upgrade disk. To replace XP with 7 or 8, a whole clean install has to be done. So applications have to be reinstalled, data copied, etc. It is a major job, and sometimes requires buying new applications. And on an existing system, it needs a lot of spare disk space, which many XP systems, being older, don't have. This was Microsoft's choice -- they made it hard to move off of XP and by gum we're not going anywhere until the hardware dies or is retired.
Re: I was very excited about BB10
Q10 lost one other key feature, the ability to dial from the keys. It only dials telephone calls from the fondlescreen. A forum rumor has it that 10.2 will restore at least speed dialing from the physical keys. Those of us who don't like touch screens would not be happy with a phone that still demands touch-screen use for the simplest functions that real buttons do so easily.
That's what killed Blackberry. They got greedy and released BB10 devices at a premium price, as if the world had only been buying fruitytoys and robophones while waiting for BB10 to save them. So the Z10 here in the Colonies is priced in the iPhone range and the Q10 is costlier. Sure, it's typically only $100/200 with the standard 2-year contract, but that's iPhone or Sammy G4 territory.
There is considerable margin in their hardware. Had they priced it lower, it might have attracted new users. Those who have bought the phones seem to really like them. Instead, they died from their own hubris.
Re: Browny Points for Brown Nosing
Elop's name has come up as a possible replacement for Ballmer. He was sent on a mission to Microsoft-ize Nokia. He did so, albeit not getting anyplace in the market with it, but his loyalty to MS products is clear. Since Nokia's running out of money, it would not be surprising if MS bought Nokia on the cheap and then promoted Flop to run the whole thing.
Into the ground.
So much of what's wrong with VCs today
Marc represents so much of why the VC industry is hurting the economy. First off, he worships the cloud, which is simply old-fashioned time-sharing reborn on networked machines, using OSs not designed for time-sharing. VMWare only exists, and is so needed, because Windows-type systems don't have the isolation capabilities that old systems like TOPS-20 and MVS/XA had. But then Marcs too young to remember any of that.
Likewise, by assuming that everyone uses Mac laptops, he confuses what might be the most common option in his millieu (rich, fashionable people) with the more diverse broader world. Hey Marc, how do you configure that WiFi access point that your Ethernet-less Mac (oh gee, the Ethernet jack is too wide for the sleep look that St. Steve wanted) depends on? Guess what -- somebody else has a Windows laptop with Ethernet!
So he's funding fads that bubble gamblers like (well, that's how he made his money) and ignoring the big world of niche markets, useful products that people really need, where real profits are made.
Amen. They started with a good idea but screwed it up.
NT 3.1 was basically the alpha test; 3.51 the usable beta. It had HAL, the hardware abstraction layer, which helped make it compatible with the DEC Alpha and later chips. But by 4.0, they threw it away and put the GDI into the kernel, making the whole thing unstable, in exchange for (I am told) about 15% more speed. So a few months' of Moore's Law was the payoff for ruining a much better system.
Re: The REAL reason that NT killed Netware...
Yes that was the killer!
NT offered a flat-rate pricing opiton. Pay what, about two grand per server? And it didn't count seats. Netware always sold seats via server licensing. Now an NT server might have been less efficient, but it sounded like a good deal. So it won on price, especially for users who had a lot of users that didn't put much load on the server. And with local hard drives growing, file and print server loads weren't always that high.
Re: The real issue is - once again - IBM
IBM tried to market OS/2 but Microsoft had a dirty trick up its sleeve which killed it.
Microsoft's oem contract in those days charged per PC sold, not per PC using DOS or Windows. So if a PC vendor sold an OS/2 machine, it would still need to pay Microsoft for the unused DOS/Windows license. This was a lock-out. So OS/2 mainly sold at retail, to enthusiasts (like me) who recognized its superiority.
Of course an oem could get a different type of license from Microsoft, but the price would be prohibitive.
Re: It is even worse than fragmentation
Chika, "simplified" doesn't quite describe it. Ubuntu off the shelf insults the user's intelligence. I just tried DreamStudio, which packages a lot of A/V apps atop it. I hadn't tried straight Ubuntu in years -- I like Mint, but that offers several other desktops.
The Ubuntu desktop was bizarre, a mix of old Mac tropes sloppily implemented. And then it was missing things. No "list" mode in the file browser, because "simplified" means only icon mode? Eccchh. No menus in Firefox, because they'll confuse your pretty little head? Gaaag. The dumbed-down look made it harder to use than KDE or Cinnamon. No wonder Mint is getting more attention; it takes Ubuntu repositories and makes them usable by people who don't have pea-brains that happen to be of the shape Shuttleworth imagines.
I think it's fair to say that X11 is obsolete. X is almost 30 years old, and it was designed to be the "VT-100 for the 1990s", when graphical terminals were to replace character-cell text terminals that used the VT-100 escape sequences. Hardly the way the world went. A more modern purpose-built API would be helpful. Of course getting the fragmented Linux world to adopt anything uniformly would be harder than herding cats.
Patentts trump trade secrets
The red flag should be that he is keeping it a trade secret. Patents exist in order to allow inventors to disclose their inventions while keeping the rights to them. This would be a real invention, none of that software patent hockey puck. So he could file a patent application, establishing his first-to-file rights, and then immediately disclose the "secret" for scientific review. But he doesn't.
Linux fans are touchy
Why do Linux fans get so sensitive when others point out weaknesses in it? I get downvoted all the time when I just report the truth, that no matter which distro I try on which desktop hardware, something always doesn't work right. I think it's mainly that vendors don't put the effort into good drivers, perhaps because they don't want to open-source them or perhaps because they just don't care about the small Linux market. This doesn't apply to servers, which don't have the range of multimedia peripherals and where Linux is the mainstream, but it does apply to laptops and desktops. I've been trying this since Yggdrasil Linux ca. 1993, and it still applies to the latest Mint, which I have to say almost had it right, much better than I'd seen before, but the audio and video were not quite reliable.
It seems to me that historically, and possibly in some places today where they lack things like refrigerators, some non-meat-eating people get a significant protein and nutrient boost via the bugs or worms that are already in some grain-type food supplies.
Re: It's whether the degree is *hard* or *soft*
Excellent comment, sorry it's from an AC I can't credit!
University CS programs are mostly second-string trade schools, and many of the students aren't very good at it either. A friend of mine teaches at a prestigious uni here in the colonies (New England), and he thinks the majority of his students are pretty badly prepared, though a few do "get it".
You also have to distinguish between university education for job training vs. one for education per se. Skills-focused learning is as the AC noted best left for apprenticeships, self-teaching, or on-the-job training. That probably should include a lot of computer skills. The hardest schools to get into here in the states are the small liberal arts colleges. They represent maybe 3% of total seats. They don't promise any particular job skills, but do provide a very broad education among other very smart kids with similar interests. Of course they don't turn out code monkeys like the big unis do, but these graduates often become the managers, creative thinkers, and other leaders who can synthesize ideas from different domains. It's not for everyone but it works really well for its audience.
Bear in mind that university education here in the states is ridiculously expensive; list price at some is $60,000/year, and even our state universities can cost around $25,000/year for in-state students, much higher for out-of-staters. This leads to huge debt and limits access. And we have a big "profit-making university" sector now, phrauds like University of Phoenix, where you pay top dollar to attend a class at a rented office buidling or take an online course. Most never graduate, and the degrees are only valuable in government-type jobs where having a degree is a check-off, not where a selective hiring manager reads the resume. The majority of their money comes from government loans to students who think it's a ticket to wealth and success.
Re: It's whether the degree is *hard* or *soft*
Ethical Hacking is a very valuable skill -- it means hunting down security vulnerabilities, so your employer or client doesn't get hacked by the bad guys first. It probably pays better than a lot of grunty CS or BOFH jobs.
Re: Some hope, still
Lars, most Americans don't know what "amendment" means. But in the case of the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, they were adopted along with the original text, not added later. They're amendments because the drafters wrote the base text, literally constituting the form of the federation, but couldn't get it ratified without adding the Bill of Rights. Actual amendments come along very infrequently and in the present-day context of the US are virtually impossible, unless perhaps they're really really stupid.
Re: He's right about hardware and driver issues
Marcus, if nobody's using it, then it's not a success! It may be to you a technical success (it works, to your satisfaction), but it's not a market success. Linus simply recognizes that and concentrates on server-side issues, since Linux is a huge success there. Hmmm, no sound, video, or WiFi to worry about on servers, lots of disks and RAID arrays which it handles really well.
Patents do not lead to bad code; that's a cop-out. Bad coding leads to bad code. And while the Windows XP/7 kernel is by no means free, it does permit free code to run on it, and lots does. It's a more open environment than the Mac, except for that BSD emulator layer which hides most of the Mac-ish-ness. Don't get me started on IOS or Win-RT though; those really are evil.
The Mac's advantage is that the hardware is bundled, so it doesn't need as many drivers as Windows or Linux has. Windows just gets more support from vendors so the drivers work better, and so as an end user, it's far easier to get running.
He's right about hardware and driver issues
I've been playing with Linux distros since Yggdrasil in 1993 or so, but quite frankly the only option for my real work is Windows. It is not fashionable but it's what the hardware makers support best, and it has the most available applications, including some I use that don't have Mac or Linux versions. It is quite stable nowadays (I once kept an XP desktop machine running over 6 months between reboots) if you don't screw up and let ActiveX or its other virus vectors run.
So I built myself a new desktop machine recently. Asus mobo, AMD A10 CPU/GPU. Nothing exotic; the mobo handles almost everything. Win7 Pro installed easily. It doesn't run all of my old Windows software, but if I care, its VM runs an XP image which can thunk back to old 16-bit code. Macs don't have that kind of backwards compatibility, and MacOS won't run on homebrew hardware. I guess my wardrobe isn't up to Apple standards either.
I also installed Linux Mint (KDE edition) on it. That's an enhanced Kubuntu, some non-free stuff thrown in. It looked good at first, and supported the sound, video, and Ethernet. Knoppix literally wouldn't run on the AMD GPU, Mint did. The sound's a bit buggy, some audio players generate a few seconds of noise at the start of a song, but generally it works. Okay, maybe they finally got a Linux desktop to work! But when I rebooted into it recently after running Windows for a while, the video was AFU. I had to reboot again to get the GPU to initialize right. Typical...
Even Linus admits that Linux is basically a server OS. Miguel was of course no help with GNOME, which started off-base and went further astray. I actually like KDE. But compatibility remains a real issue. Fixing it is a nice hobby project for those who like such things, but after 20 years it's still not ready for prime time. So I get why Miguel bugged out.
Re: Discounting the cheap boxes
These are mostly regular laptops that also have touch enabled. My son has one of the Asus laptops. He installed Classic Shell on it and never hast to touch the screen or use the blanketyblank fka-Metro substitute for the start menu. Heck, I put Classic Shell on my Win7 machine because I like the more compact Win2k-style start menu and old-style Explorer better.
So once you tame Win8 that way, it works pretty well.
Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills
Well, you know the old saying. 98% of Linux fans make the other 2% look bad.
The distro that had the friendliest user community, really not hostile at all to newbies, was MEPIS. It was a very nice distro too, but hasn't been updated enough lately.
Yes, Base is the big hole in the suite. It compares to office the way a kids' trike compares to a Jaguar. While Writer and Calc can import MS formats nicely, Base seems stuck as a 1980s "wine cellar inventory demo" sort of toy. There is just no competitor who can actually do the complex chained queries on medium-large databases that Access can. And Access itself is terribly limited; it looks like 1990s code not updated except cosmetically. The 2GB file limit in Jet is ridiculous. But it's a few orders of magnitude more than Base can actually handle.