Microsoft is strengthening its mandatory arbitration provision as of May 1, 2018

Once upon a time, consumers could band together in class actions against big companies when they were collectively aggrieved. Often, the injury to each person on her own was small — but the cumulative effect was a wrong on the business’s part. So, for example, Microsoft had been sued for various competition law abuses — class actions that the company expected to cost it $1.9–2.0 billion to resolve.[1] But those class actions are a thing of the past — as Microsoft and other companies have been making consumers surrender the ability to participate in one.

Arbitration agreements do more harm to consumers than merely prevent class actions, even if arbitrators are as fair to plaintiffs as judges would be; arbitration can make it more difficult to assert a meritorious claim on one’s own as compared to going to court. Procedural rules differ in arbitration, and the ability to conduct discovery — to force the other side, under pain of contempt, to cough up incriminating documents — may be more limited than the broad scope allowed under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. And as the #MeToo movement has revealed in employment-related arbitration agreements used to keep a lid on sexual harassment claims, the rules of arbitration could require you to keep quiet, even if you win — as contrasted to open dockets, public trials, and published judicial opinions in a real court system. So even if the consumer wins, the company wins tenfold more: first, they don’t have to deal with negative PR; second, in the aggregate, other plaintiffs could be discouraged from pursuing their claims because they don’t know that other similarly situated consumers have already prevailed.

Continue reading “Microsoft is strengthening its mandatory arbitration provision as of May 1, 2018”

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. See 2011 Annual Report — Contingencies, Microsoft Corp., (“A large number of antitrust and unfair competition class action lawsuits were filed against us in various state, federal, and Canadian courts on behalf of various classes of direct and indirect purchasers of our PC operating system and certain other software products. . . . We estimate the total cost to resolve all of the state overcharge class action cases will range between $1.9 billion and $2.0 billion. At June 30, 2011, we have recorded a liability related to these claims of approximately $568 million, which reflects our estimated exposure of $1.9 billion less payments made to date of approximately $1.3 billion mostly for vouchers, legal fees, and administrative expenses.”).

Removing useless Windows 10 preinstalled apps

Based on, with the additional refinement of a filter that removes only Store apps and not system apps or frameworks, using PowerShell:

1. List the apps that would be uninstalled.

The -AllUsers flag requires an elevated PowerShell run on an administrator account. Omit the -AllUsers flag if running as a nonadministrator for the current user.

Get-AppxPackage -AllUsers | where-object {$_.IsFramework -eq $false -And $ -notlike "*store*" -And $ -notlike "*calc*" -And $_.SignatureKind -eq "Store"} | select Name

On a 1711 newly installed VM, this resulted in this list:


2. Actually uninstall them.

Get-AppxPackage -AllUsers | where-object {$_.IsFramework -eq $false -And $ -notlike "*store*" -And $ -notlike "*calc*" -And $_.SignatureKind -eq "Store"} | Remove-AppxPackage

Certain apps that cannot be uninstalled might be listed in the output.

New fonts in Windows 10

Arial Nova in Windows 10?

Did anybody else notice this?

Update: Rockwell Nova also.

They’re hidden away in the optional features (“Pan-European Supplemental Fonts”), but easily installable from Settings -> System -> Apps & features -> Manage optional features.

Pan-European Supplemental Fonts in Windows 10

Most of these are a refresh on classic Windows fonts like Arial, Georgia, and Verdana, but they should come as a welcome surprise!

Georgia Pro Condensed Italic
Georgia Pro Condensed Italic

Happy prerelease testing!

Update: upon request, here are side-by-side comparisons of the new fonts. A subset of available weights/variants is shown in each case. Note that, in most cases, the “Pro” versions add new variants (e.g. Condensed, Light, Semibold, etc) but do not differ significantly in the Regular/Bold/Italic/Bold Italic weights from their ancestors.

Arial vs. Arial Nova
Arial vs. Arial Nova
Georgia vs. Georgia Pro
Georgia vs. Georgia Pro
Gill Sans MT vs. Gill Sans Nova
Gill Sans MT vs. Gill Sans Nova
Verdana vs. Verdana Pro
Verdana vs. Verdana Pro
Rockwell vs. Rockwell Nova
Rockwell vs. Rockwell Nova; in this case, the Nova font also has different metrics
Arial vs. Neue Haas Grotesk Text Pro
Arial vs. Neue Haas Grotesk Text Pro

Incoming college freshmen: Campus Backup Service is a ripoff

Campus Backup Service marketing letter

If you’re a freshman at Penn or many of the other universities that are raking in revenue from freshmen beyond tuition and fees, you may have received e-mails and letters offering all sorts of wonderful things. The one that caught my attention was something called “Campus Backup Service”.

It’s a cleverly marketed service that tries to leverage the anxiety of freshmen and parents to sell you something you don’t need — or rather, something you need, but not from this company.

Campus Backup Service marketing letter
They use the same scare tactics to market the service that are used by scammers. Don’t fall for it. Scan courtesy of Hannah C.

There’s a disaster scenario — a student without backup suffers a virus infection on her laptop and… “her sleep, her composure, and her GPA all suffered… it was horrible”. There’s an alternate scenario — someone uses this company’s service, and avoids the disaster.

Yes, college students need a convenient and viable form of backup, just as all computer users do, but not from this company. This is almost a scam (but not quite). (Notice how they target “parents of incoming students”, who might be less tech-savvy than college students?)

Vinay Dinesh and I are both Information Technology Advisor Managers (ITA Managers, for short) at the University of Pennsylvania, and we are writing, as individuals, to help you find the right backup solution, whether it’s as simple as copying files to an external hard drive, or syncing files to the cloud. But Campus Backup Service isn’t right. (See our upcoming collaborative post to see how you can back up your files the right way.)

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Windows Live Essentials Wave 4 — Messenger

Happy New Year!

It’s the end of another year and the end of a ground-breaking decade. Let’s look back at what’s been accomplished in the years of 2000–2009, focusing on technology.


Windows has entered a new era

The decade—indeed, the century—began with Windows 2000, which I consider the first great version of the operating system. XP was the version that brought widespread success, and people just seem to refuse to upgrade; even today, almost three quarters of the computers on the net are on XP.

Despite the dismal failure of Windows Vista, it too brought change, which was followed by the enhancements of Windows 7. Compare my desktop today to the ugly screens of a decade ago:

Microsoft Store
Windows 98 desktop screenshot

Apple deserves an honourable mention for the ground-breaking work they’ve done on the Mac, elevating it to a newly trendy status.

Portable media players have completely changed

A decade ago, CD players and tape-based Walkmans were still the norm for ‘portable’ audio players. The iPod, launched in 2001, entirely changed the game. (I suppose this and the iPhone were the “comeback of the decade”.) It was no longer a device that played removable media. That was followed by thousands of other portable media players, to which the public generally refers inaccurately as “MP3 players”, reflecting the popularity of the 15-year-old MP3 format that has also been notorious for illegal file sharing (see below).

Cell phones and mobile devices have become ubiquitous

These devices used to be ugly, huge and heavy objects. As we move into 2010, cell phones have become more compact (usually this means thinner and lighter) and more powerful.

In China, about 739 million people have cell phones; that’s more than there are Internet users in China (which is about 360 million).

Mobile devices have become truly powerful. The iPhone, purportedly the most popular cell phone of 2009, is one of the biggest platforms for software development. And it has a touch screen. RIM’s BlackBerry, initially launched in 1999, is the most popular smartphone among business users.

Ordinary people begin to embrace ultra-portable netbooks for lightweight computing. The move to mobile is probably the most noticeable trend in end-user gadgetry in this decade.
Continue reading “Happy New Year!”

I give up

I absolutely give up on writing about the Technical Preview for Office 2010. I’ve simply had way too many problems with it over the past two months of testing. Word’s typographic features are admirable, but I’ve seen a TON of the issues; anything from Word taking the content from a text box and showing/printing it in a different text box, and random crashes that occur when moving shapes around. Strangely, too, a Word 2010 document with an embedded font loses about 30% of its file size when re-saved in Word 2007.

There is reasonable hype about Office 2010, but I don’t recommend using pre-release versions — at least until a new one comes out — and I will also be uninstalling and going back to Office 2007. (I’ll note, of course, that I’m usually a bleeding edge software user who ignores the warnings that “pre-release software is unsafe for production use”. Windows 7 RC is my main machine’s operating system, I’m using the dev channel of Google Chrome, and I use pre-release versions of Firefox.)

In short, I’m not going to write any more about my experiences with the Technical Preview.