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Time to Retire That Operating System?

Monday, February 28, 2005;

In yesterday's column, I beat up on some defenseless senior citizens -- all the older releases of Windows and the Mac OS that are still kicking around. In my column, I tried to offer guidance on which old versions are still viable and which ones are pushing up daisies. Read Fast Forward.

One thing, however, that I didn't get into was this: Why haven't any of the people running these antique operating systems ever been motivated to upgrade or buy a new computer? (Given how cheap these things are, I doubt that cost is the main reason.)

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Let's talk about that -- and other personal technology issues -- when I hold my Web chat at 2 p.m. ET today. If you can't be online at 2, please submit your questions early.

Elsewhere in the Sunday's personal-tech pages, Leslie Walker covered new search services from AOL and Google (as well as the Dave Barry-esque topic of people renting tattoo ad space on their bodies). Read Web Watch.

John Breeden told us about a new form of hardware virus protection, and our software reviewers assessed a racing game, a Mac graphics program and an Internet-search tool.

And in Help File, I explained one man's e-mail roadblock. Read Help File.

Flag Day

The broadcast flag -- a copy-restriction system for high-definition digital-TV broadcasts that the Federal Communications Commission approved in Nov. 2003 to require for all TV receivers by July 1 of this year -- finally got its day in court last week. Several consumer lobbies, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and the American Library Association, filed suit to have this regulation overturned, saying the FCC was out of line in enacting it without any congressional instruction to do so. That's the same point I made in a Nov. 2003 column. (Here's a link to a PDF on the FCC.gov site about the broadcast flag vote.)

Somewhat to my surprise, two of the three judges on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seemed to agree that the FCC went to far in comments they made during the first day of hearings. (Here's a list of news reports compiled by Public Knowledge.)

Many of the tech news sites jumped on this development, even though a decision won't come for months. Some of the most interesting commentary came in a blog written by a fast-typing, basketball-obsessed man in Dallas:

"If one of the networks threatens to pull their HD signal because of the broadcast flag ... call their bluff," he wrote. "The same applies to the Movie Industry. MPAA has been quoted as saying that 'without the flag, high value content would migrate to where it could be protected.' Yeah right. Just like the music industry switched their content back from CDs to cassette tapes and LPs."


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