back to article 'Daddy, can I use the BLACK iPAD?': Life with the Surface Pro 2

“Daddy, can I use the black iPad?” my four-year-old daughter asks as she spots the Surface Pro 2 I'm reviewing for The Reg. She has, without knowing it, encapsulated Microsoft's problem on Surface in a nutshell. I’d been passing the Surface Pro 2 around to friends and family at a weekend gathering to garner their feedback. …

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Competition is good

It looks like Microsoft are chasing the niche, but without a nice solution. Adapt Windows for phone, fail. Adapt tablet for Windows, fail. Try try again. I hope they come up with something truly innovative, because a disruption in the marketplace is always welcomed. iPhone in my pocket and Macbook Pro tethered, gives me access to the computing power I need, and the 6.5 mbit connection I like. That includes my trusty and venerable Windows XP virtual image (the absolute pinnacle of usefulness and stability for a Microsoft product). Linux is everywhere I work. I regret not having had the time to have a Linux phone experience. Anyone can avoid vendor lockout by having private resources for the data most adored by people, but it seems many of us to choose to give up our privacy. This intrusion into privacy by phone, tablet and desktop appear to be the LCD. Surface is just another device for owning you.

Disruption, disruption disruption. Instead of devices, we should disrupt services.

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Perspective

"If you believe Microsoft, then the Surface 2 isn’t even a competitor to the iPad at all – the MacBook Pro is the target."

Why would it be competing with the MacBook Pro? It has infinitesimally small market share. It would be competing with a Lenovo Thinkpad or an HP Pavillion.

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LDS
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Disclaimer: I'm writing this on a Surface 2 Pro (8GB/256GB)

I've been using a Surface 2 Pro since its launch day, and I didn't find this review good enough - it looks more like a "first impression" by someone used to something else.

I bought a Surface Pro exactly because I was looking for a small PC which could also work like a tablet, and run almost any Windows software. Is it thick? Yes, a bit - but beyond style, does it really matter if it is a little thicker? It's heavy? Yes, a bit, but still a reasonable weight. After all my Canon DOS 5D MKIII and its L lenses are big and heavy too. And powerful. And the camera and Surface plays well together, because I can connect the camera thanks to the USB port, and run both Canon software and Lightroom for on the field checks and first editing. And I have no problem to carry both in my Lowepro bag for the whole day.

They Touch Cover is not really the keyboard you're going to get if you need to type a lot. The Touch Cover 2 works well - I have no problem to type as fast as on a standard one, its backlighting is really useful, and it turns on as you move your hands over the keyboard. It's slim enough it doesn't add much to the thickness and weight. The touchpad could have been better, though, although it also supports gestures too.

The screen is very good, and thanks to Windows full support I can also color-balance it with standard tools. It is true the 16:9 format is not always the best one, and I would have preferred a more "squared" one. Applications should be designed to work well with this, as many Bing applications (news, sport, finance, weather, etc.) do.

Touch is very responsive, the on-screen keyboards never lags while writing. The Surface has not a "stylus" it has a pressure-sensitive digitizer, and it adds a lot in terms of usability. I can take hand notes as easily as I could do on paper.

What is missing is mobile connectivity - you can buy a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or use your phone, but that's less practical. Microsoft should have added it in both models. The cameras have low resolutions, but they're enough for Skype calls or the like, and to get an image of a document or the like. After all, I'm using it to drive a full-frame DSLR often, thereby I really don't care about the built in cameras. After all taking photos with a tablet makes you really look a nerd.

SDXC support let you add a lot of storage for less critical files, and because the standard allows for 2TB cards, there is plenty of space for some time. High capacity cards are still expensive, though.

That author didn't understand how "Metro" apps work on Windows 8. Sliding from right brings in a standard menu where apps can add their own entries (and be part of the standard ones), usually settings/search/share ones, while system wide entries are also accessible in the lower pane (that's where PC settings are).

Sliding from left allows for switching to other applications. Sliding from top closes the current application, and sliding from the bottom brings in applications contextual commands.

It is also not true IE works in "vertical" and not "horizontal". Of course most sites are design for vertical scrolling, and horizontal swipes are meant for page back/forward actions. But click the "book" icon to the right of the URL, and IE will change the current page into a "reading layout" mode which works with horizontal scrolling.

Metro applications availability is a sore point - there are few (most are games), and only a handful are really useful. The built in applications are good enough to be used, but there is a lot of space for improvements. It's a pity MS made development with third party tools an issue, because coming late it would have been better to open it to as many as developers as possible.

I found very little issues using standard Windows application, mostly because the Arc mouse was not yet available in Italy, and the USB port is on the left side, making my old laptop mouse uncomfortable to use.

The small screen size coupled to the 1920x1080 resolution requires a decent sight, yet the screen is clear and very easy to read. No problem to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint while on the road, or connecting via SSH to perform some remote administration. Performing presentations via a network projector works very well, and with a Surface you can also move easily in the room.

I don't play games - but FSX, but I have a dedicated PC with all the needed hardware for it. The built in stand is good, and allows for easy use both on desk and on legs while travelling. I used it on trains, on planes, and waiting both, and typing was comfortable enough, although being heavy on the other side compared to a laptop requires to be a little more careful.

Sure Windows 8.1 still suffers from some "split brain" issues, and some settings are too scattered around, and you may need a little time to get at them quickly.

I find the Surface a surprisingly good device, and very good for what I need to do with a device like such. If Microsoft can improve the software quickly, it has a very interesting device. Not for everybody, sure, because of price and maybe weight, but a powerful one that can shine when what you need is exactly power and versatility.

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Question about Surface 2 Pro (8GB/256GB)

Dear LDS

I have read the The Register Guidelines and u/stand I am allowed to ask questions of its members. Many of the posts on the Surface Pro 2 are so knowledgeable I email you to ask if you can help me with any of my queries.

I have never used a tablet and have waited for the MS Surface Pro 2 as it has a full size USB port; also I believe this model allows .exe files to be downloaded – is this correct?

I ask because specific things I would like to be able to do are: download Acrobat to enable me to look at .pdf files; download my VPN of choice (mine is My Private Network which connects me to a UK server so that I can watch BBC iPlayer whilst overseas).

I also have a very useful booster aerial that I currently use with my little netbook – as it vastly increases its speed and range of picking up wifi. I would like to use it with the Surface Pro 2, might you know if the Pro would accept an aerial?

Have you attempted to connect a USB hub to add extra USB ports ? This would enable me to connect the aerial, a keyboard and a mouse and, if I really pushed my luck, a memory stick!! But maybe that is too ambitious for tablets, I have no idea as I have never used one.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, if you have time to help me – thank you very much.

Kind regards

Sophie.

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Lack of Industry Knowledge

"The Surface Pro comes with two things I thought went out with PDAs from the early 2000s: a kickstand – to prop up the screen into one of two viewing positions (on the first machine there was just one position) – and a stylus."

I guess the author hasn't gone outside in a really long time then. Typical conference swag these days includes phone stands, some of which include dock functions, speakers, etc.

There is also a booming stylus market and they come standard on basically any touch device bigger than 5 inches these days.

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DxH

I like it!!!

Some of the complaints seem odd to me. I hear a lot of complaints about screen size. I LOVE the surface 2. I can "dock" it at the office to a 30 inch monitor. I connect a full size keyboard and mouse. I feel it turns into a full blown PC. When I am on the road, I can access all of the stuff from a small form factor that is easy to carry. I can vpn to my networks, remote desktop to virtual machines and servers. I mean, out of the box this thing works great for me. Try doing this with any other tablet out of the box, no apps added. I mean, this is actually a great device for road warriors or tech users IMO. When I am not working, I can play games on it, or watch Netflix or Hulu. I have an android tablet as well, and I manage a number of Ipads for clients, but for me the surface 2 is a winner.

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Problem: Kickstand!

The kickstand is an encapsulation of the problem with the Surface thingy. A nice traditional laptop has its screen attached nicely to the base where the keyboard is located, and it hinges nicely all by itself. This works out fine for a device sitting on your lap (thus the name!). The kickstand on the Surface thingy implies that it should rest on a desk of some sort, not up at a nice angle like a laptop screen. Even with the nice detachable keyboard, it doesn't balance well.

On the other hand, the iPad lies flat on a surface or can be held in your hand. Rarely is it propped up and used "desktop" style as the kickstand would have you do. So, the iPad (and its Android cousins) are of a different breed. They are meant to be "held", not "propped". As a previous commenter mentioned this makes them a "Consumer of information" product.

The "market" that Microsoft likes to sell into is the "Generator of information" segment, and a laptop is the device of choice here. It can sit on a desk, or it can be used as a lap device. The Surface goodie is a poor intimation of a laptop in this segment.

So, all the dancers in the world can't make it any better, as there are other devices that have better functionality (and probably at a cheaper price). My wife for one is (in my estimation) a "consumer" and the iPad suits her just fine. The times she actually uses a keyboard are for entering her mailing address/credit card number to buy something. She doesn't need/want the complexities of an attached keyboard and composing documents isn't there. Why bother with stuff more complex than it needs to be.

It seems as though Microsoft is trying to do what Microwave Oven makers are still trying to do: Add more and more useless features to a pretty basic device.

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LDS
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Re: Problem: Kickstand!

You should try to use one. The keyboard is an essential part of the Surface - and it's a pity MS didn't include it in the basic price. A Surface, especially the Pro, is designed to do more than just touching and swiping. Of course if you need Office and other Windows application, you need a keyboard, and maybe a mouse as well. The kickstand helps a lot to use the Surface on a table or in your lap. Sure, it's less comfortable than a laptop because the heavy part is on the "wrong" side, but that's something you have to pay to use it as a tablet as well. They could design an heavier keyboard with a stronger hinge to keep it upside - but it would make it also less portable.

Anyway many iPad/Android tablet users use covers that can keep their tablet upright at a given angle, to ease touching and typing. The Surface keyboard acts as a cover also, and the built in stand means you don't need anything else.

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Re: Problem: Kickstand!

And there lies the BIG problem regarding Surface/Windows tablets... You MUST have the keyboard?!

A person spends $1000+ for such a device... when in the end, a $500 14" 3lb notebook would be faster, have a larger screen and keyboard... and a much lower price.

That is WHY Microsoft is a failure today. They failed the desktop with a TOUCH-tablet UI... they failed the mobile market with over-priced devices that don't or rarely add any actual value.

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LDS
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Re: Problem: Kickstand!

You need a keyboard, especially with the Pro, if you need to use applications designed to keep advantage of the keyboard. When in a meeting, I usually take notes using the digitizer, not the keyboard, it's much faster. Of course, the longer you need to type the faster it is if you have a keyboard, How many tablet users bought a keyboard too for type-intensive applications?

Anyway, give me a $500 notebook with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, high-res screnn, touch screen, digitizer, and removable keyboard, and lighter than 2lb, and I'll get one. Otherwise I will spend $1000+ for such a device - unless you can't afford it, price is not the only driver when you buy something. If spending a little more makes you more productive - and in turns it means more revenues - why should you save money and get less?

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J 3

Productivity?

Who cares!? Microsoft always makes me cringe with this (sometimes misplaced) obsession on "productivity". People want to buy the cool thing, not the productive thing -- even if the typical Reg reader is not like that, most people still are, deal with it.

Sure, a tiny few will want to run Office or some specialized Windows-only software on a tablet, and will buy the specific machine to do that. But most everyone else buys these things as glorified toys, even if they later end up finding some interesting apps that are actually useful for something productive. Typical people want to play with a tablet, not work with (or on) it. Closest they will want to get to "work" here is usually email or conference calls. Otherwise, it's mostly web, social stuff, videos, reading, games. Playing. Stupid Microsoft does not get it, and will stay niche on this until they get tired of burning money and pull the plug. Except for the XBox (apparently, I don't know, not a gamer), MS is not good at fun.

Now, it's obvious that the iPad has by now got some cool apps and accessory ecosystem that make it be very useful in many areas (e.g. music). People buy it, but not due to that potential usefulness though. Same for other tablets -- small, works for web surfing, (sometimes) cheap.

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LDS
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Re: Productivity?

A lot of people care about productivity. Just they are not the ones who write reviews for the general press, or gadget sites, and those address a consumer market where, yes, device are adult toys.

It's more or less like reviewing servers or storage, they are all about productivity, and there's little interesting for toy-consumers, but a lot of interesting things for power users needing something to fulfill their productive tasks. The difference is that a consumer just spend money - the "produced" will spend money to make more from that. That's, after all, one definition of "productivity".

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Battery life

Lots in the article about standby. Did I miss the part where you can't even make it through The Hobbit if you're actually using it?

Also... 10" tablet has the same resolution as my phone. Retro.

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Unhappy

and yet I got 3 down votes for saying I wouldn't touch it for the MS account.

Let me be clear.

I won't touch Apple or Android either.

Had a frantic call last week from a friend.

Had Android phone, lost Android phone. Wanted to locate it but hadn't used his Google account since he set it up, because he lives on his phone and doesn't like computers.

Couldn't recall his password, hadn't written it down and hoped I could help him out.

Had to tell him, no password, no help.

It's not the sharing I mind. It's the coercion.

Get this. You don't own those products. They own you instead.

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KPz

Re: and yet I got 3 down votes for saying I wouldn't touch it for the MS account.

You don't need an MS account to log into it, or run anything. Whilst it wants you to do so, to run the Calendar etc, you don't have to use their versions and you can happily install the Calendar of your choice - or indeed, the anything else of your choice.

But yes, I take your point about the coercion. I got driven crazy by the Nexus for this kind of thing, and weirdly, the Surface Pro 2 is actually better at this than either Android or iOS.

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Did you try installing Windows 7 on it?

That might have made for a more useful device overall, if you could have gotten drivers for everything.

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TLDR,but all i am gonna say is the Surface family is bad,becauce i have the RT version and the sides of the surface is corroding,growing weird grey bumpy dots that are extremely annoying.Covered with aluminium tape for now.Not covered in warranty btw.

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LDS
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It's not possible it is not covered by warranty, especially in EU, unless you exposed it to some corrosive substance.

But maybe you name yourself 'Goebbels' because you're some kind of propagandist...

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search on this

best page in the universe, padhole

sums it up nicely.

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Re: search on this

Matey, I'd use a tablet to take photographs just to piss that guy off.

Maddox is funny when he's pissed off. Doesn't make him always right.

Quite right when comparing his phone to the original iPhone 1 when it came out, though.

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negativity with out even using the pro 2 for a month.

My work college, a senior engineer purchased the pro 2 and asked me to set up he's email account from work and install full office suite. Guess what I now have bought one and can say most of you who dislike the device really should think again. I have the iPad 2 and mini which are great but no match for the pro 2 and I am typing this on my couch with the backlit keyboard and its a awesome experience.

Let me say for the record when I first got it I was dissatisfied and some what feeling ripped off because of the price, weight and some issues like little performance hiccup's and unresponsive internet use and the windows app store missing some big names (nearly took it back). Then I decided to check for an update (Microsoft here: always needs updates), and surprise- surprise there was a patch and almost all issues went away apart from some cursor jumping every now and then when typing on some forums and app store content.

When you actual get over just comparing it to the IPAD which we all do and start using it for editing, drawing pictures, sending and replying lengthy emails, using online flash applications for games, movies, photo creation for online printing offers, checking work files at home on Saturday after noon on the kitchen table, doing your tax return on the couch using the software that you downloaded and installed and replying to forums like this one it becomes apparent that this is amazing. The screen size is not a problem as some are saying, you just increase the size by pinching the screen oh and not to mention split screen which is very handy as I do a lot of searching on here also the weight starts to not be noticeable because the kick stand is allowing you to rest it on one knee with my leg crossed off the ground on the couch and its sturdy.

My college senior engineer uses his for plane spotting and attaches is radar box to it when he travels around the world, he absolutely loves he's and he also has an iPad, Samsung note 2 phone (awesome phone), MacBook air and windows laptop. He just emailed me from overseas on his pro 2 and states that the pro 2 has been his best computer/laptop/tablet he has every used especially the pen becoming a real powerful tool when using excel, outlook and browsing the net.

I would even say that the surface 2 would be a better buy for children as it also allows flash playing applications on the net (free) and office comes included, its lighter, better battery life (I think), not susceptible to viruses and cheaper.

Make no mistake its not flawless (pen holder is crap), still can get viruses like normal pcs (not the surface 2) but it really is close and when you can plug just about anything to it (external hard drive, mem card,Xbox controller, mouse, etc..) you get to feel it was the best thing you have bought to do you daily tasks play most full pc games from steam and sit on your couch and tap away on the net at night. My son and daughter 7&9 years of age play minecraft on it and asked if they can get one by saving up and not to buy them an iPad air to share for Christmas (as if). So here are my children choosing surface over the iPad and they have my iPad 2 and mini to use instead but they are more on my desktop pc writing stories with word and playing minecraft while I am using my pro2 and my wife uses the mini to play candy rush (still a great game if you haven't played bejewelled).

I wanted to share my experience and like always with all of us we like to think we made the right decision when buying these expensive gadgets. This is really a good investment, guaranteed after a month of use and understanding of the short cuts and gestures to navigate around windows 8.1 its more than a tablet its a pleasure to have around,-- last thing My WiFi printer (non apple certified)never worked properly with iPad after hundreds of apps but first time with my pro 2.

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Wrongs things in article, dum stuff in comments

Seems like no one here has ever used a Surface Pro 2 exept for the writer of the article, since no one mension wrong things in article.

And "commentateurs", why compare something like iPad vs Surface 2 or Macbook vs Surface Pro 2, if you havnt tried them both? Why write something that we other have to read that is nothing more than… what? All this "This sucks/this is the best"….!

To me it's a tablet and a desktop. Not a laptop. Of course you cannot use it all the time with the small screen. But the purpose is - plug it in, use as a desktop, then take it with you and use it as a tablet, or a full-"size" computer with a small screen.

The best part of it to me, is the hand writing part with pen in OneNote for exampel. Cmon, its from Wacom (leading on drawing tablets for animators/drawers).

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Cameras on Surface is to me for taking picture on something I want to remember or "scan in", like a document I want to read, or a poster with dates I want to use. Not as taking awsume pictures :P

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Apple vs Surface? I know quit some moving from OS X and Mac for Surface Pro 1/2.

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And, the big wrong thing exept for somtimes saying Surface Pro 2, sometimes Surface, sometimes Surface 2, and Surface Pro, (what does author mean?) is that you absolutly dont need a Microsoft account to use it nor enter the password when screen gets black. If you have a password you only have to type it when it has been shut down (fix in settings).

I really like Apple's laptops (not Googles thougt), but can't say much about Windows during 10 years only being reduced from ~95 % share of computer OS to ~90 %. I think people ignoring, dispite alternatives Windows went up 17 % last quarter in profit. Apperently they are not doing so bad as people (this author) says, hopes, thinks. Microsoft is the black sheap everybody saying "it's so bad", apparently Microsoft is not doing that bad (anymore?).

And except from I-N-S-I-D-E specs - ffs it's not a Macbook Air 11". Can't handwrite "perfect", can't touch (screen). SP2 can't be as stable as a 11" laptop. Don't absolutly compare a Macbook Air to a SP2, it's just to hard.

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KPz

Having Bought a Surface Pro 2

I'm liking it more and more, the more I use it.

Yes, there are challenges with the hybrid tablet/laptop format; some apps really don't like it. Yes, Win 8.1 is still a bit clunky. Yes, it's still Windows.

But...because it's Windows I can run anything I want. I'm not tied down to the Apple or Google/Android stores. I can run proper versions of applications, not cut-down "mobile" versions; anything from Civ V to iPlayer.

If I don't like a particular app, I've got the choice of hundreds, or even thousands. I'm not tied to whatever a huge corporation wants me to be able to run.

As for security...it's Windows. Again, pick and choose your security vendor.

I'm happily using it on my commute (a 40-minute train ride each way, always seated), so the form factor and weight isn't too much of an issue. And frankly, being able to run Steam apps (anything from Civ 5 through FTL to CK2, which displays acceptably), LibreOffice, proper iPlayer etc, is just great, and miles ahead of what I can do on an iPad or a Nexus. More expensive, yes, but you gets what you pays for.

(And yes, the performance is fine, and yes, it does get a bit toasty!)

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Horizontal then vertical scrolling

I understand that some things aren't meant for everyone but I swear some people just look for things to complain about. The one person found it odd to have to scroll horizontally through the apps but then found it confusing when they opened a browser they had to scroll vertically. What??? Last time I checked EVERY browser scrolls vertically so it isn't like this was something hard to understand and get used too. In fact, it probably would have been stranger to try to scroll vertically only to find out that you needed to go horizontally. A horizontal web page would not flow well at all. It would be more like a book with pages. Not to mention, last time I checked an iPad scrolls horizontally to flip through your screens of icons but then if you open the browser you scroll vertically. Come on people.

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Thumb Up

tried online gaming

I was a bit lost on the app store not a whole lot but its okay then I remembered the good old internet and there is thousands actually millions of online games and most are free. I don't feel confined any more you people should stop disliking the surface pro and do your self a favour and get one. I just played bejewelled 3 on pop cap site and its awesome and the graphics are awesome. Buy the older version if you cannot afford the new it will still make you realize the potential this device has.

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I haven't had an opportunity to try it, but judging by the amount of time I use Splashtop on my iPad so that I can use my Windows apps on my PC, I think this has real potential as my mobile PC. The forced Hotmail account integration is a pain on my Windows Phone 8 Lumia phone and would be no less of a pain on a Surface.

With a well thought out docking setup with 22 inch screen and full size keyboard at my home/office, this could work as a grab and run without having to sync my iPad. In the meantime, CompanionLink is my saviour!

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Interesting article...

This is an interesting article however, I do disagree with the view. I guess it all comes down to personal preference.

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