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Microsoft Teams will be built directly into Windows 11

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Happy Windows 11 day. Microsoft is giving us our best look yet at its upcoming operating system, which is due out over the holidays. Following a year when the vast majority of our interpersonal communications arrived through computer and phone screens, the company is putting its communication software front and center.

Windows 11 will have Microsoft Teams built in, in a bid to compete more directly with communication platforms like Apple’s FaceTime. And like FaceTime, the key here is cross-device integration, making the service more hardware-agnostic as people move from desktop to mobile and back again.

Image Credits: Microsoft

In an era when we’ve got more video chat platforms than we know what to do with, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we might be seeing the final nail in the coffin for the once-mighty Skype, which the company bought way back in 2011 for $8.5 billion. As it tried to do with Skype, Microsoft is looking to blur the line between consumers and professionals with the platform.

All versions of the new operating system will have Teams baked directly into the Start menu.

 

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npiasecki
216 days ago
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I actually really like Teams. We have the integrated phone system (oddly Skype for Business shows up in some places) and it’s really slick. It has replaced email for most people in the company.

But it’s a work tool. It’s meant for work with “work or school” accounts.

I can see how competing with FaceTime could use Teams technology underneath but it doesn’t need to surface to the consumer as Teams. It just needs to surface as “video chat with mom” which would work fine with Microsoft accounts.

Showing Teams channels and teams to consumers in the existing app is the wrong way to go. You can use the same technology but it should be a different app.
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LinuxGeek
217 days ago
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Nooo! I do not need yet another bloated and useless 'feature' forced onto my company machines.

Amazon isn’t to blame for the Postal Service’s woes, but it will need to innovate to survive

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In the past week, the 45th president has Twit-tacked Amazon three times and, potentially, cost their shareholders over $40 billion in market cap or just more than one Greek economy.

At the heart of our current President’s criticism is a claim that Amazon is making a mint and leaving a *failing* U.S. Postal Service holding the bag. It’s not a new critique from the Twitterer-in-Chief, but it is one that’s worth unpacking given the crippling effect technologies have had on the USPS — where email is even more reliable than a carrier undeterred by “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night.

Is it failing?

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” This infantile question was posed by President Trump on Twitter in December 2017. While it’s not clear what exactly prompted Trump’s criticism,  the tweet did spark a wave of debate as to whether the Postal Service is indeed failing and, if so, whether Amazon is to blame.

First of all, it’s true that the Postal Service is “losing billions of dollars a year” – $2.7 billion in 2017, to be more precise. In fact, the Postal Service has been losing money for over a decade. And the USPS does have a curious relationship with Amazon. While competitors UPS and FedEx charge the e-commerce giant $7-$8 per package, USPS only charges for $2 for the service. However, as with most stories, that of USPS is more complicated.

USPS and Amazon

The USPS-Amazon relationship may be seen as “dumb” by the 45th president, but to many it’s a piece of shrewd business on the part of the Postal Service. As of 2017, Amazon was USPS’s biggest customer, and an intelligent way for the independent agency – that traditionally made its money by having a monopoly on first class mail – to get a piece of the increasingly profitable package delivery pie. It’s not the first time that the Postal Service has tried to muscle its way in on the growing package delivery industry. Back in 2010, the entertainment company Netflix accounted for $600 million from its DVD subscription service. Of course, the Netflix DVD delivery service is fast fading and being replaced by on-demand streaming; and Amazon look to be preparing their own delivery service. It seems that the USPS may have to prepare itself to be jolted by another wave of disruption.

One-Two Punch of Email and a Financial Crisis

The Postal Service’s first major battle against the age of innovation came with the rise of email, and it didn’t take the beating that you might expect. Despite the fact that in 2002 the majority of Americans used email, the Postal Service still managed to make profit between 2003 and 2006. During this time, people were still writing letters, sending greetings cards and, perhaps most importantly, bills were still sent by post.

It wasn’t until the 2007 global financial crisis that the Postal Service took a hit that, arguably, it still hasn’t recovered from. After thousands of businesses suffered from the crisis, they started to cut back on expenses wherever possible, and one such place was mail. Back in 2000, nearly two-thirds of bills were delivered by USPS, and the total revenue from bill payments in this year was estimated at between $15 and $18 billion. Between 2006 and 2010, USPS volume fell by 42 billions pieces, with 15 billion of those being caused by electronic billing.

And if that weren’t enough, the rise of social media further confounded USPS’s problems. Between 2010 and 2014, postcard volume fell by 430 million. As more and more people began logging into Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to send virtual Christmas cards and birthday wishes, fewer people were sending mail, and therefore fewer profits for the agency that had had its fair share of knocks in the 21st century.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/André-Pierre du Plessis

Innovating within a Risk-Averse Government

To suggest that those in charge at the Postal Service have been idly watching as new technologies disrupt and threaten the agency would be unfair.

It is an organization that looks to engage with the latest technology. For instance, in 2014, it released a white paper on the impact that 3D printing could have on the industry and how the Postal Service could benefit; and again in 2015 it released another on the Internet of Things. Both papers were clearly commissioned with a degree of prescience, being published before either technology had begun to pervade the public consciousness.

Unfortunately, though, forward-thinking initiatives such as these have been blocked before they can enter the action stage. USPS’s status as a quasi government entity may have its benefits, such as a monopoly on all first class post, but in return Congress has a say in how the agency is run. It can outline the products and services provided by the Postal Service, and set its prices. However, unlike other Federal agencies, USPS receives no funding, and hasn’t done since 1982.

In 2016, the Postal Service wanted to make the most of its relationship with Netflix and other video rental business, but the proposal was blocked by the Postal Regulatory Commission. In 2013, USPS attempted to end Saturday letter delivery – a change that would have saved $2 billion a year. The proposal was blocked by Congress. And in 2016, it was ordered to lower the cost of postage stamps from 49 cents to 47 cents, resulting in a $2 billion annual cost.

At the heart of the troubled USPS-Congress relationship lies the problem. A big existential question mark hangs over the Postal Service’s head: what exactly is it? With 2.7 million people working for it, it’s the biggest employer in the US (Walmart, by comparison had 2.2 million as of 2017). It also delivers to remote locations that private companies like FedEx and UPS won’t touch. For these reasons, it exists out of necessity. There are also those who want to see the Postal Service fully privatized or even abolished, believing it to be an outdated relic of nostalgia.

Understandably, those within the Postal Service are equally unsure as to what they should be. On one side, they’re being encouraged to innovate and drive up profits, and on the other they’re being blocked making the changes necessary.

As it stands, the USPS motto “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” still holds true. Their resilience through massive shifts in consumer behavior is nothing short of remarkable.

They are at the service of the American people, and so it’s up to them to decide what they want it to be. Although it may be true to say the Post Office is losing money thanks to Congress and cutting Amazon a more-than-fair deal, its importance is far more nuanced and complex than he gives it credit. And without the Postal Service, it would be more than just Amazon that would be losing out.

As the world moves to more and more virtual communication channels it will be fascinating to see USPS evolve.

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npiasecki
1389 days ago
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How can you write an article on USPS problems without mentioning the 2006 PAEA which forced the USPS to “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span”. You’d lose billions of dollars too if you had that absolutely insane requirement. It was a way for Republicans to rob the “off-books” USPS (which does not receive taxpayer dollars for its operations) and shove it into the treasury to balance some budgets.

USPS is visiting homes anyway and FedEx and UPS absolutely hate doing onesie twosie last-mile delivery, so USPS putting itself at the forefront of last mile package delivery while transitioning away from a focus on letters is quite a transformation.

To be clear, the USPS has a lot of problems, but working at a warehouse that ships a lot of USPS, it has improved package delivery remarkably in the past ten years. It also had to prefund retirement for people who haven’t been born yet.
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Man stuck behind ATM slips "help me" notes through receipt slot

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Yesterday in Corpus Christi, Texas a contractor was changing a lock inside an ATM room when he got locked inside without his phone. So he wrote "help me" notes that he slipped through the working ATM receipt slot until someone took him seriously and called the cops. From KRISTV.com:

"We come out here, and sure enough we can hear a little voice coming from the machine. So we are thinking this is a joke. It's got to be a joke," (police officer Richard) Olden said.

It turns out it was true, and the employee said afterward he got stuck changing out an electronic lock. Later the contractor supervisor arrived, and police had to kick down a door to get the gentlemen out of the ATM room.

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npiasecki
1658 days ago
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Soda Sugar Comparisons

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The key is portion control, which is why I've switched to eating smaller cans of frosting instead of full bottles.
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npiasecki
1820 days ago
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Cadbury Creme Egg? African or European? *dies*
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2 public comments
Screwtape
1821 days ago
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It's great to know how much sugar is in a 20oz bottle of soda, now I just need to figure out how many 20oz bottles of soda are in, say, a litre.
CaffieneKitty
1821 days ago
Google says it's 0.591471 litres. *metric fistbump*
lukeburrage
1821 days ago
I've often wondered why there isn't a XKCD METRIC feed, with all the jokes being in metric. You know, for the rest of the world.
2bithacker
1821 days ago
For that matter, are we talking American or UK Cadbury Creme Eggs? The US ones (produced by Hershey) have 20g of sugar, the UK ones have 26g.
thebassman
1821 days ago
For the rest of the world? The US is pretty much the ONLY country NOT on the metric system! LOL
sfrazer
1820 days ago
The comic references this xkcd which pegs a cadbury egg at 20g of sugar: https://xkcd.com/1035/
alt_text_bot
1821 days ago
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The key is portion control, which is why I've switched to eating smaller cans of frosting instead of full bottles.
sjk
1814 days ago
Same here. Instead of drinking an entire 20 oz bottle of cake frosting, I can drink several mini bottle of cake frosting per week. I don't always feel in the mood for having an entire week's ration of cake frosting in one sitting. Then again, a soda a day for six month vs 4 gallons of Skittles in one sitting? Challenge accepted!

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros

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Consumer Reports:

New Apple software fixes a battery issue found in CR tests. The software, now in beta, will be part of a broad update soon.

This makes it sound like CR found a problem with the batteries. They didn’t. They found a bug in a Safari developer mode. It’s a real bug, but it’s clear now that it didn’t justify the initial sensational “Wow, first ever Apple laptop not recommended by Consumer Reports!” report. There’s no way they would’ve published that rushed initial report for a laptop from any brand other than Apple. Clickbait, pure and simple.

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npiasecki
1839 days ago
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These are people who also test clothes dryers. If their test cycle discovered that the clothes dryer sometimes took 2 hours to complete a permanent press cycle and sometimes took 20 minutes, they would not recommend it because as a consumers' union it is not actually not in their interest to care why the clothes dryer is broken, *or to actually be experts in clothes drying technology*, just to report that consumers would be better off with a more predictable clothes dryer based on their good faith tests of usage. They found a problem, they asserted their position, the problem was fixed. It seems like they just did what they do....
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dannberg
1840 days ago
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As a former laptop reviewer, I completely agree with this.
New York City

Git

22 Comments and 43 Shares
If that doesn't fix it, git.txt contains the phone number of a friend of mine who understands git. Just wait through a few minutes of 'It's really pretty simple, just think of branches as...' and eventually you'll learn the commands that will fix everything.
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npiasecki
2280 days ago
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For us crusty old geezers still clinging to Subversion, this translates to "something didn't work, so 'svn update' and try again, and if that doesn't work, save it somewhere else and download a fresh copy" ... it's like the cirrrrrrcle ... the circle of source control
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20 public comments
jhudson
2216 days ago
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yup..
Olympia, WA
jsonstein
2276 days ago
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how it really works
43.128462,-77.614463
rhelewka
2278 days ago
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Xkcd on git and nails it:
ÜT: 43.642301,-79.378671
JayM
2278 days ago
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:)
Atlanta, GA
Brstrk
2279 days ago
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Git is really easy, once everything clicks. I'm waiting for it anytime now.
peelman
2279 days ago
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Yeah, this is more or less how it goes.
Seymour, Indiana
llucax
2280 days ago
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xkcd did it again...
Berlin
jshap999
2280 days ago
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You just need to appease the evil git elves.
gerweck
2280 days ago
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Git is amazingly productive if you *really* learn how it works and understand it. The problem is that its model is so abstract and sophisticated that it's unreasonable to expect users to all reach that level of understanding. Git's great failing is that it doesn't sufficiently hide its complexity from those users who don't fully understand its Merkle trees and how they compose.
ktgeek
2281 days ago
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I have lived this conversation multiple times.
Bartlett, IL
mrobold
2281 days ago
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Truth.
Orange County, California
jepler
2281 days ago
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how did you get this number? stop calling me
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
jimwise
2281 days ago
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heh
kafka
2281 days ago
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True.
Austin, TX
brianhoch
2281 days ago
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I'm not alone!
Saint Charles, IL
mburch42
2281 days ago
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My life.
ncsmith
2281 days ago
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This how I feel about git.
GeekyMonkey
2281 days ago
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It's sad, because it's true.

Alt: If that doesn't fix it, git.txt contains the phone number of a friend of mine who understands git. Just wait through a few minutes of 'It's really pretty simple, just think of branches as...' and eventually you'll learn the commands that will fix everything.
Ennis, Ireland
marcrichter
2281 days ago
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Touché!
tbd
alt_text_bot
2281 days ago
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If that doesn't fix it, git.txt contains the phone number of a friend of mine who understands git. Just wait through a few minutes of 'It's really pretty simple, just think of branches as...' and eventually you'll learn the commands that will fix everything.
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