It's Thursday afternoon, the mid-afternoon sugar rush is wearing off and we start to get a bit fidgety. Looking around for something to entertain us for a few minutes we spy an empty desk. It turns out that T-Man took the day off. Now, we don't know where he went or why, but we did know that his desertion needed to be punished in some way.
Of course, we can't just hide his chair or PC monitors. We've done that before (*glares at andrew_*). We needed something a little bit more creative. Well, one thing we did have was a pile of toilet paper. So, being the mature and responsible adults that we are, we TP'd T-Man's desk.
Now, we didn't just toss toilet paper willy-nilly all over the cube and make a mess. That lacks style and finesse. We wanted this prank to show that not only were we thinking of T-Man while he was away, but that we cared enough to really do the job right. So we wrapped everything on his desk in TP. Pens, mugs, empty coke cans, action figures, telephone, monitor, mouse, dry erase markers etc.
We even got the inflatable kangaroo Jafo sent us years ago into the act.
Here are the results:
A wide shot of the whole desk. Yes, we mummified the kangaroo and wrapped it to the chair. Oh, and if you look closely at the top right of the photo, you'll see we wrapped the doors to his overhead cabinets too.
Close-up shot of his desk. Each can was individually wrapped. The big package in the middle of the screen is T-Man's giant blue mug.
Keyboard, mouse, pens, even his pad of post-it notes.
When I go on vacation next month, I'm taking everything off of my desk and locking it away!
Today we announced that the subscription price for WinCustomize was going to go up $10/year from $20 to $30. Now, of course we had to come up with a good justification for this, something that would fool the sheep of the forums into believing we did this for their own good and that they're getting the better end of the deal.
But, just between you and me? Complete BS.
As some of you may know, today's Angie's birthday, so as a gift the company bought her a new car...
So that would have probably accounted for a $2.50 increase per subscription, but some of us were looking at that car and asked "What about us?" After some haggling and stomping of feet and numerous rude gestures, we sold upper management on the idea of the Stardock Porsche Fleet...
Each, of course, added $2.50 to the unit cost of a WinCustomize subscription.
That's why the subscription is now $10 more per year. Gotta pay for the fancy cars!
Now, I know some of you are probably getting worked up about this turn of events, especially considering how we told you it was really about the free skins, and not the Porsche fleet. To calm your nerves, here's a serene picture of some geese...
That's right, here at Stardock HQ we have a fleet of Porsches AND cute little baby geese!
As you've probably already noticed, we put out an update to the central Stardock Forum system today that comes packed with fixes, plus a handful of very useful new features. Instead of letting you guess randomly at what's new and how it works, I thought I'd give everyone a quick run-down of the new features.
- Forum Announcements
- Return of the Report Button
- Go to Top of Thread Button
- The New Karma System
In the past, we've been unable to let everyone know when there's a major bit of system maintenance coming up. If it was important enough, we'd run around to all the sites and make a front page news posting about it and hoped that people would see it.
Now, we can set a broadcast message that appears at the top of ALL forum pages. We can set these on a site-by-site basis.
Clicking on the Read More link will open a message with further details (if available).
Beyond the announcements, you'll notice a bunch of new buttons on forum comments...
Return to Top Button
Every comment has this little arrow now. Clicking it will return you to the top of the page.
The report post feature returns. It is limited to logged in users only, and you must provide a detailed reason for the report. We'll know if you're spamming it, and we will hurt you if you do!
This is a completely new feature for the forums. In the past, we had the "Insightful" and "Informative" buttons, but in actuality, they didn't do anything (rather, they had once long ago, but not in the last 2+ years). So with the new forums we decided to add a real karma system. Now, you can give comments a rating if you found them particularly good or helpful.
Karma Points are shown under your user picture on the left of your posts along with your user number and online status.
See that little number? You can click on it to see a report on when you received karma, on which posts, and why people gave you the rating.
As you receive more points, the list will grow. You'll see your overall stats at the top with score and number of ratings received.
It's important to note that there is no way to rate someone DOWN. You can only give kudos to folks so it's a 100% positive system.
Here are the limitations on giving karma:
- The number of points you can assign is limited by your access level. Citizens can give +1, Apprentices +2 etc.
- You can rate the same person no faster than once every 10 minutes. Want to give Jafo a +1? See another post of his you want to give a +1? You have to wait 10min between ratings.
- You must provide a reason for your rating. It will be recorded on the reporting page. We also keep track on the back-end who gives what comments so we will find you if you're mean.
The points themselves don't DO anything yet, but there are ideas being kicked around on what we can do with these points. For now, it's a nice way to recognize people for their contributions on the forums.
So those are the major updates for the forums for April. If you have any questions, let us know!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008 by Island Dog | Discussion: Internet
If you spend any amount of time on the Internet then I would probably bet you have be subjected to some form of talk about social networks. Heck, even here on WinCustomize and JoeUser I regularly talk about the usefulness of such networks. We have a growing group on Facebook about desktop customization, and several of us use Twitter as well.
With all these current networks, and more popping up all the time, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. I use quite a few of these networks for both personal and work use, and I wanted to share a few tips on how I manage some of the more popular ones.
- FriendFeed is one of the hottest new sites around, and it's generating quite a buzz. FriendFeed lets you keep update to date with the happening of all your subscribed friends, favorite bloggers, etc. It will pull updates from services like Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, and a bunch more. It also allows users to comment on your postings, and see updates posted from your friends as well. You can see my feed here.
- Socialthing! is another website that does a similar function, but I think it has a much cleaner interface. Socialting! is still an invite only service, and I do have a couple of invites to give away if anyone is interested.
- TweetScan is for you Twitter users out there. It lets you search Twitter, and is a good way to find people with similar interests, or people that are just talking about you.
- Twhirl is an application powered by Adobe AIR. It's a Twitter client for your desktop, but the cool thing about this is it will also post to your Pownce and Jaiku accounts as well. It's also available for both PC and Mac, but my personal Twitter client of choice is Witty.
- Alert Thingy is another new application also powered by Adobe AIR. Instead of Twitter, this app focuses on keeping you updated of your FriendFeed feeds, and it also allows you to post messages to Twitter.
So those are a few of my top choices on how to make managing your social networks a little bit easier. If you have any tips or tricks, I would definitely like to hear how you manage yours.
So much unrealized potential
When it comes to social networking sites, Facebook is at the top of the list lately with it's powerful application platform and robust user pages. Unfortunately one of its most promising features, Groups, seems to have been left in the dust.
A lot of talk and attention has been directed towards Facebook lately, especially since the opening of the application platform so any user with a PC and an itch to code can add more or less any function they desire to the wildly popular social networking site. On the whole, the applications platform has done great things for the site and turned the profile pages into great information, productivity and entertainment tools.
Of course, all of this is great, except it’s not applied evenly. On one hand you have your amazing profile page system, with limitless potential thanks to third party applications, but on the other hand you have the Groups system. Like the name implies, a Facebook Group is a point for users with some common interest come together. In theory, you’d think this would be a fantastic opportunity to leverage all the vast amount of data each user represents in some really interesting way. Wouldn’t it be cool to see what countries of the world are represented in a particular group? There are tons of possibilities. Possibilities that are sadly ignored at the moment.
In a Facebook group, all you can do is post to the “wall”, a common bulletin board that is displayed on the main group page, post to a more traditional discussion board for your group, or post photos. There’s no way to integrate applications, no way to easily extend functionality. When you form a group, you essentially have a glorified web forum.
Things aren’t much better from an admin standpoint. I am the co-admin on the Desktop Customization group on Facebook, which has seen very strong growth since we launched it just a few short days ago. What can I modify? Group description, type, news, basic profile information, and who else has admin rights on the group. The options for which functions you want to have on your group number a massive four.
- Show related groups
- Enable discussion board
- Enable the wall
- Enable photos
That’s it. At this moment in time that’s what you’re limited to if you want to run a group on Facebook.
Here’s what I’d like to see added to the Facebook Group system. Adding in some of these features would make the group system as much of a killer feature as the profile pages are. Facebook could be the premier site for social groups as well as individuals.
- Applications for Groups
Let the ingenious developers get access to the group system. You’ve seen the success that resulted from profile applications. Imagine the possibilities when you have access to a much larger, and more diverse pool of information. Opening it up for third party applications also means less work for the Facebook core team as they don’t have to worry as much about developing new functionality themselves.
Tagging is the wave of the future man! Allow groups to tag themselves with keywords, making it easier for them to be found, and also for users to be better able to sort what’s out there. I’d love to see all groups at a glance that flag themselves with the keyword “Vista” While searching does accomplish this to an extent, single-click sorting from the group page is probably a lot easier for users to get their heads around. We have tags for photos, why not for groups?
- News Feed
Right now, you can specify one current news item for the group. That’s it. When you want to update it, you overwrite the current news. It would be nice to have a listing of news items to scan back through. This would help the Groups system supplant external web sites. Many group web pages are used to distribute news or information, and have a news page of some sort. Give users that same functionality as a group.
- Better Member Sorting
My group has 120 people in it right now. There is no easy way to sort through them. Who’s the most recent? How many people belong to the same main networks? I’d like to see if there’s any sort of commonality between my group members. Think of it almost as groups within the group. This information will help any group admin figure out how to best promote and manage their group.
- Posting Video & Audio
Ok, I can toss up photos, which are great and all, but video is where things are going… I mean, I hear there’s this new-fangled thing called YouTube out there that lets users upload their own videos to share with people. Also, a bit older but still cool, are these things called podcasts. Allowing a group to link and host rich media content adds a lot of value.
- Invite Users Who Aren’t Your Friend
Ok, this one could border on a spamming nightmare, but in general, groups should be able to invite users who might be interested but with whom the admins might not be friends with. Instead of having an internal method for this, I have been emailing contacts outside of Facebook with a group link to join. Make it easier to connect with people without having to resort to outside communication.
- Block Rearrangement
This one is more important once more features are added. On my personal profile I can rearrange blocks of content more or less as I please. I can’t move anything on the group. If we ever get more options on what to include in a group, being able to move things around is a must.
- Better User Access Management
Lets say I have an officer who isn’t an administrator. I would like them to be able to moderate the discussion board, but not the wall. Or maybe I want them to just be able to update the news item. Right now, if you want a user to edit more or less anything on the group, they have to be a full-fledged administrator. Granular access for officers is key for large and growing groups.
This is all off the top of my head after playing with Groups for a few days. I’m sure if I were to seriously sit down and try and design my ideal Group experience, I’d be able to come up with a lot more. I’d be happy though if even half of the above ideas were implemented. Facebook Groups stand to do for small online social sites (gaming clans, blog groups etc) what the Facebook Profile page did for personalized homepages. It could make them obsolete.
But for now, I remain frustrated with the lack of options and make due with what we have. It’d be nice if there was any mention on the official blog of any work on Groups being planned, but I know that right now all the attention and effort is being centered on the application platform for user profiles.
"It's a brave E-world but paper is still King!"
Sunday, December 17, 2006 by foreverserenity | Discussion: InternetHave you ever wondered if our society will ever be paperless? After all, we are so much more advanced technologically, why can’t this happen, or why shouldn’t it?
Did you know that there was a “1998 Government Paper Elimination Act”?  I didn’t! But yes there was such an act. Federal agencies were required by law to stop using paper when creating new or storing current documents. And they had to make sure that all of their forms and other pertinent documents were available on line; and those agencies that accepted payments had to be accepting electronic payments by 2002!
So that’s why they all went on line! Of course it only made sense because from inception, the World Wide Web was becoming such a trend and gaining a strong foothold in our society!
After most Federal agencies went online, did this help them to become paperless? To this date there are many of them that still uses paper. Because some people are more comfortable with it.
What would be the benefit of being paperless? Let’s look at this for a moment. Especially for those companies whose main objective is paper, such as a publishing company; a book publisher or even a newspaper.
“• No more newsprint to buy – and other than the annoying cost of human beings, this is the single largest expense newspaper companies have.
• No more presses – as long and as heavy as oceangoing ships, and about as expensive – to buy.
• No more people to run those presses.
• No more circulation departments to run.
• No more circulation trucks to buy, gas up and maintain.
• No more delivery people to hire. ” 
So it seems that although it would be beneficial for those companies to go paperless because their costs would go down, it might not be beneficial for the people who might lose their jobs.
But let’s forget about those big companies and look at what this would mean for the rest of us. There are more people using the Internet everyday, 24/7. We do practically everything on line these days. We shop, read, talk, watch videos, television and movies; everything that we used to do offline in our real time world, are now available on line and has become such a convenience that most people no longer do some things without going on line first!
This is much easier because of, according to one article I read, the development of XML “a standard and metalanguage that offers a data-structuring flexibility and sophistication far beyond the capabilities of HTML (hypertext markup language)” .
It makes documents look like originals, the formatting much better and easier to understand and documents can open in any application. This is a major difference and a big help for people who are not Internet savvy!
After the development of the Internet, many sources said our Society would be paperless within a few years after its inception, it is now 2006, we’re on the cusp of the year 2007 and we are not a paperless society!
There was a Canadian study done to see how or where Society was in this digital age,  “Our Lives in Digital Times”, The Daily on Friday November 10, 2006 published the results of the study.
Although this new technology, (the Internet) had us communicating more with each other, whether by email or the telephone; we are also sending more postal mail, and courier and messenger services are growing. This could be because we are associating more with people outside of our usual communities. This is as true as we do here on JoeUser.
We are also spending more; sales on the Internet have doubled and this is a good thing because it has lead to more new companies and the hiring of more people; more people employed equals more spending which is good for the economy of any country. People are also willing to pay for the privileges that having the Internet provides for them.
Our use of paper has also doubled! Yes, doubled! Although documents can be scanned and converted online, some of us continue to print, read and sometimes even file a document taken from the Internet. Many people print a document to read later.
The Study also noted that although video conferencing is available and is being used by some, traveling to other locations whether for business or pleasure, has also increased.
Libraries, although not totally so, are also going paperless what with PDF formatted documents and forms and books available online. And having computers for its patrons use, the Library is trying to keep abreast with the technology age.
Books are still pretty popular. In fact there are now more creative things associated with books these days. “From having online counterparts to working hand-in-hand with simulation tools, books are becoming a launching pad for resources online.” 
Sandra Gittlen noted in her article “Paperless society falls by the wayside”, that when she visited a research center a couple of years ago, the researchers talked about a paperless society and said that everything from newspapers and training manuals would be digital. Today she still receives heavy-bound books by mail! Nothing happening there as yet! 
Many people are much more comfortable using their credit cards and giving out personal information online, such as when shopping and dating and doing other activities, chatting etc, these are the trends that have changed the face of the Internet as we now know it to be today.
Is this making us a paperless society then? Or are we just more technology friendly?!
Bill Virgin, Columnist of the Seattle Post said it best with this title in his witty article:
“It’s a brave E-world, but Paper is still King!” 
 See the full article Imaging Integral Part of a Total E-Solution – Toward a Paperless Society 06/19/00; Vol. 15 No. 6, at the following link: Link
 Toward a Paperless Society By Thomas Kunkel, (firstname.lastname@example.org), president of AJR, is dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Link
 The article from The Daily can be read here Link
For more information on the article "Our lives in digital times" is now available as part of the Connectedness Series (56F0004MIE2006014, free). From the Publications page, under Free Internet publications, choose Communications.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Heidi Ertl (613-951-1891; email@example.com) or Ben Veenhof (613-951-5067; firstname.lastname@example.org), Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.
 Paperless society falls by the wayside by SANDRA GITTLEN - [link http://www.nwnetsmart.com/ns/getsmart/ARCHIVES/082802.html ">Link you will see an error message, scroll down and you will see Ms. Gittlen’s article.
It's a brave e-world, but paper still king by Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-intelligencer Columnist, can be reached at 206-448-8319 or email@example.com.
and you do too
Tuesday, October 10, 2006 by rabidrobot | Discussion: Internet
The spam watchdog group spamhaus.org was recently sued by "Bulk Emailer" e360Insight in an Illinois court. Because spamhaus.org is based in the UK, spamhaus.org simply did not "accept U.S. jurisdiction." As a result summary judgment was issued, to the tune of $11.7 MILLION dollars, and there is a chance that the judge may further punish spamhaus.org by forcing (or attempting to force) the powers that be to delete spamhaus' domain name.
I'm not a lawyer, certainly not an international law lawyer. I'm not British either, so I hope I am using this right when I say to spamhaus, "Bully for you!"
Not being a lawyer, I find much of the legalities too boring to get into. But the gist of the case seems to be, spamhaus.org called e360Insight, a company run by one guy, David Linhardt, a spammer. And in so doing blocked many of the millions of emails this creep sends out from reaching the mailboxes of folks like you and me.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once wrote an opinion on the difference between art and hard-core pornography, saying of porn, "I know it when I see it." Apparently he later realized that was not a tenable legal definition, but the basic idea still fits, especially for us laymen.
Linhardt claims his massive mailings are not spam. Well, again, I don't know the legal definitions. But here is a list of some of the emails e360Insight sends out.
And that, my friends, is spam.
Spammers claim that people want their mail. Yet they falsify their email headers and alter the email content constantly, in an attempt to get past our spam filters. If we wanted their mail, we wouldn't be trying to filter it out. So no, spammers, we don't want it.
I don't think I need to tell you all how irritating spam is. What a drain it is on the internet, sucking bandwidth from legitimate use. Remember, we are talking about billions of emails a day.
I hope that spamhaus.org eventually prevails, that the Judge in Illinois realizes he has no jurisdiction, and that David Linhardt is a spammer.
But I also wonder one thing. How do spammers make money? Who is out there buying penis enlargement creams? Who buys stock based on a misspelled multicolored gif stocktip? We should continue, as netizens, to encourage legislation to deter spammers. We should encourage grass-roots efforts like spamhaus.org. But I think we should also wonder, who the heck are these idiots who keep spammers in business, and how can we educate them.
Keep the faith, spamhaus.org. We're on your side.
This month, we sit down and chat with icon artist, 47songs, about what exactly is involved in how she creates her icon sets, how she got started skinning, and a look at some of the interesting icons she's currently working on.
How did you get your start in skinning?
I honestly don’t remember what brought me here, or how or why I navigated online to Wincustomize.com. But I do remember that once I found it, I couldn’t leave. Like most, I started customizing my desktop with the different components of OD. Reading through some of the individual program descriptions and tutorials, the first set of instructions that I understood and thought were simplistic enough for me to work with were the ones about making your own icons. ID proclaimed you could take most any small graphic and make an icon out of it. So, that I did. My first icon was the Martin guitar icon (I’ve played the guitar for many years).
Then came the real challenge. In a forum thread, Koasati suggested I make a guitar icon from scratch. I thought it would be a great idea, if only I knew how. But before I could attempt what I thought was so daunting a task, I knew I needed to learn how to design and make simple default windows icons. It took a year, but I eventually got the first of the Les Paul type replica icons made. (tutorial to come soon)
I thought that making something so small couldn’t possibly be all that difficult. Plus, at the time, the program had the shortest tutorials.
How long have you been doing icons?
About 2 years.
What tools do you use?
I use CorelDRAW and Axialis Iconworkshop. I use CorelDRAW mostly because, well, mormegil said to. And also, because after viewing his tutorials, I found that, because I’m a teacher, I could buy this program at a bargain "education" price of $99 (much easier on the purse than Photoshop). I’ve tried Photoshop and Illustrator, and of course they are everything the biggest top selling graphics standards should be. But what I quickly discovered that I liked more about CorelDRAW was that it had tools that let you work and create effects interactively right on the screen canvas. In Photoshop, you create those same effects with graphs, tables, and numbers. Being more a visual person rather than a math or science person, DRAW is much easier for me to work with.
At first I used ID to turn my bitmaps and pngs into icons, but eventually purchased Axialis Icon Workshop at the advice of a friend. It has more options, but one in particular that appeals to me is that Axialis Iconworkshop allows you to convert your pngs into Windows and/or Macintosh icons. Plus, the screenshots are basically just that, screenshots. The only way I know how to make a screenshot of a pack of icons that I put together myself is to use the icons themselves against a backdrop. However, using that method means having the sizes of the icons added to the screenshot. Some of the smaller skinning web sites cannot handle the large sized files that Wincustomize can, so making your own screenshots lessons your likelihood of being able to upload at those sites.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of new pack ideas. One I might consider for the GUI Championship, one for Christmas, and one for the spring! I’ve just finished up on the Nautical Mile pack, which took me a long time to do. I’m an administrator at Skinartistry.com, and I’m working with bones2112 on producing a newsletter for the site. It’s not as easy as it might seem! Plus, I have a new private business venture that I’m working on that includes graphic design. Since it deals with graphics, I’ll be introducing it to the various skinning sites when it’s ready.
Can you provide a screenshot, or any concept work for it?
In Velvet Shadows, I used blends on the face of the folder to give it a rounded look. But making blends produces multiple objects so it increases the size of each icon and ultimately, the entire pack. This new folder (and pack), which is very much in its beginning stages, has no blending. I’m trying to go for a sharper, more techno look. It has a deeper perspective and a more 3Dish look to it than the earlier packs. I have no name for it. Right now I’m just calling it "Red."
This is a peak at a spring pack I’m working on. I wanted to do something with flowers or plants, in a kind of vibrant coming to life color and style, although I’m not sure if that’s what I’ve actually come up with! I’ve also started this xmas pack, but since it is at this point still a convoluted mess, it seriously might not get finished until next xmas!
How do you go about planning an Icon set?
I like to come up with a concept or an idea first. With comPewter, I was doodling in CorelDRAW and accidently crossed two paths from opposite sides of a rectangle that overlapped each other. That accident produced an effect that I thought looked very much like pewter. I just continued to developed icons (starting with the folder) based on that effect. The name came later. I like being influenced by different entities. To me it allows for more diversity in creativity. The idea for my first pack was the result of an accident.
The Velvet Shadows suite was a collaboration with boopish and teddybearcholla. I was asked by boopish to make some icons to go with the Velvet Shadows WB. I was looking for something new to start anyways and I liked the fact that her style was different than mine. It’s one thing to design a skin by applying your own style and acquired techniques, but quite another to collaborate on a project that requires applying someone else’s. Working on this suite provided me an opportunity to unearth more of CorelDRAW and to discover more of it’s capabilities. I really enjoyed it!
The last one? After making a couple of darkish feeling IP’s, I wanted to do something light and summery (summer was coming). To me that meant the sun, the beach, the ocean, and boats. Teddybearcholla and I sent many an email back and forth discussing the direction to take with this. There was the pirate concept, the fishing concept (rusty can of worms for recycle bin), the mermaid concept (coral reef, seashells), the Jimmy Buffet concept (houseboat, wasting away in Margarita Ville), and there was even a suggestion of combining the mermaid/Buffet concepts into one ("some people say that there’s a woman to blame," could have been the mermaid! hehe!), but ultimately we decided on the sailing concept. Thus was born Nautical Mile. For my part, Nautical Mile took some research. I needed to find ideas for nautical objects that I could make into icons that would represent the default Windows icons. That took much more time than the other packs. We really wanted a summer release, but unfortunately, because of several setbacks, including illness, the suite wasn’t released until just two weeks ago.
Who would you say is your favorite skinner in the community right now?
Paul Boyer (mormegil – brilliant technique), Dario Arnaez (the 3d wizard), Jairo Boudewyn (impeccable design).
Thank you to 47songs for taking the time to answer my questions, and for providing the icon artwork included in this article.
Have someone you think should be Skinner of the Month? E-Mail me at mikec [at] stardock [dot] com with the subject "SOTM Recommendation"
Tuesday, October 3, 2006 by terpfan1980 | Discussion: Internet
Verizon is out and abouts in my neighborhood lately, or at least their contractors are in the area doing a lot of work (and a little damage to our water main, but that's a different story) to apparently get their fiber cables run to get FiOS run to my neighborhood.
All I can say is bring it on bee-tches. Please bring it on. Bring on the fiber like a geezer taking a double dose of metamucil.
Not that Comcast has been bad by me, but I'm tired of over paying them to get hi-speed and reliable internet. Before I had my Xbox systems, I never really needed hi-speed internet, but I've always needed reliable internet access (to keep in touch with work as necessary, so that my children could do research for school, and so that I could play online games like Diablo 2, Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft, etc.).
Before Comcast wired up my neighborhood some years back (actually about 4 years ago now), I was at the mercy of Verizon (then possibly called Bell Atlantic) for some of the worlds crappiest phone service. It was beyond horrible, but that could have been in large part because of 50 and possibly even 60 year old copper lines that had long since outlived their useful lifespan. The copper in my area is old, brittle, subject to interference and damage because of rain and other weather events, and just about completely useless. Unfortunately it costs money to replace the stuff and as long as it carried voice "ok" Verizon wasn't gonna do it. They didn't want to spend the money on it, and I really don't blame them since they knew that fiber was eventually coming.
Flash forward 4 years and Verizon is finally running fiber every where (or at least throughout most of the state of Maryland, and many other Atlantic area states). Within the next 6 months (if all goes well), FiOS will be an option for me. I am very much looking forward to being able to call Comcast with more than an idle threat to take my hi-speed internet business elsewhere. I don't need Comcast's TV service and yet I'm forced to pay for it at a minimal level just to pay the same price for their hi-speed internet service that I would pay for it without being a cable TV customer. Why have I had to pay $15.00 extra to Comcast for every month for 4 years? Because that is the way it works and I didn't have a choice.
Well, uh, Comcast, I have some news for you guys and gals. I will have choice soon, and I will likely be choosing Verizon. Given their promised pricing, promised internet speeds, and the chance to go with one provider for both phone and internet (rather than using Vonage paired up with Comcast as I currently do), I'll probably at least sample Verizon's offerings, if not jump entirely and never look back.
Comcast could have offered other package levels all along but didn't. They could have given me discounts and not required TV service, but didn't. They could have offered additional TV channels (such as their regular basic service) to encourage me to use their service on some of the TVs in my house and they didn't. They'd offer very short period of time specials, or tell me I could get a great deal if I gave 'em my satellite dish (as if!) and then jack up their prices through the roof after their specials expired. No thanks.
I hope to soon be sayin' nice knowin' you Comcast. We'll see if that happens, as I suppose they could offer some nice discounts to keep me around, but if they aren't offering long term price reductions, I'm not sure I'm interested.