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Technology

Should I fix my six-year-old laptop or replace it?

Pablo asks if it’s worth patching up an old ThinkPad T510 or best to buy a new Windows 10 laptop

I have a Lenovo ThinkPad T510 purchased about six years ago. I’m perfectly happy with it, except the keyboard needs replacing and batteries seem to lose their ability to charge within a couple of years. The keyboard and battery could be replaced for less than $100. Other than those factors, is there any reason to replace the machine? If I buy a Windows 10 machine, could I or should I continue to run Windows 7 on it?Pablo

There is no universal answer to your first question. The time to sell, repurpose or recycle an old PC depends on a large number of factors. Some are technical, such as the specification, the build quality, and whether it will actually run Windows 10. Some are personal, such as what you use it for, how much money you can spare, and whether your time has any value.

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Kronman's "Assault on American Excellence"

Anthony Kronman at Yale wrote a book a few years ago called Education's End(a pun), which had some resonance with Excellence Without a Soul. He has another book out about higher education, The Assault on American Excellence. It's pretty much guaranteed to make you angry in places, either because you think he misrepresents something you think important, or because you think he exposes some stupidity you can't believe is actually dignified at places like Yale. For me it does some of both, but I tried to swallow all that and write a dispassionate review when asked to. I entitled the review "Overlapping Magisteria" in homage to Steve Gould, and used in part as an opportunity riff on a problem that doesn't get discussed much.

Let the stniching begin

Too much to discuss today. Of course I am ecstatic about the decision in the Admissions lawsuit; the opinion is well worth reading. (Even if you are just curious to learn how the process works.) And Senator Grassley has taken an interest in what I called The political execution of Dean Sullivan.

But other matters will have to wait. I wanted to call attention to today's report in the Crimson explaining how the USGSO policy will be implemented. From the beginning I have been asking how the College will know who is in a prohibited Unrecognized Single Gender Social Organization, given that only fellow students are likely to know. The published policy reads,
Student Organizations who are found to have elected a member of a USGSO to a leadership position will be put through the Student Organization Discipline process and that student will be removed from the leadership position.
And how will those errant students be found?
[Associate Dean of Student Engagement Stephen] Miller also said there is no formal process in place for reporting violations of the sanctions policy by student group leaders. The person launching the complaint cannot be anonymous but can be any member of the Harvard community.,“It can be email, it can be a phone call, it would have to be someone coming forward to communicate with our office, whether verbally or in writing, but there is no form,” Miller said. 
Could be anyone with a grievance, or even a dean who notices a student entering the Porcellian. Then what happens? "After the initial report, Miller said that the College would meet with the student in question and `find out more information.' ”

All this is in tension with with the Implementation Committee's commitment to keep other people out of the enforcement of the policy.
We consider compliance with the policy to be a matter between the individual student and the College. Other parties—faculty, faculty deans and tutors, athletic coaches, fellow organization members, teammates—should not be responsible for policing the policy or ensuring that it is complied with.  
Dean of Students Katherine O'Dair tried gamely to split the difference.
"We don’t consider it students’ responsibility to enforce University policy. …That said, students should know that our doors are open if they want to bring concerns to us about any number of policies.” 
So if you are the runner-up in the voting for the presidency of the Republican Club or the captaincy of the women's ice hockey team, and you think that the winner might be in an unrecognized club, you now have a strong incentive to walk through an open door to express what is delicately described as a concern about policy--a concern that just might make you head of the organization.

And there is no official list of prohibited organizations (so I still don't know if the Knights of Columbus is on it). Miller added, "We don’t give instructions to student organizations, but we do give them guidance on policy." One alum who wrote to me described this style as Maoist, another as Stalinist.

I am quite surprised that Harvard is going full speed ahead with enforcement, given the legal setback the policy suffered some weeks ago. To be going on the record in the Crimson today inviting students to start turning on their fellow students, the administration of the College must be confident that it will ultimately prevail on the question of whether the policy constitutes unlawful discrimination under Title IX. Won't Harvard be inviting a civil suit if it damages a student's reputation and professional opportunities by depriving her of a leadership position as it enforces what it has good reason to think is an unlawful policy?

Can I still use my Chromebook now it is no longer supported?

Bill’s Acer Chromebook C720 will not receive further updates. It works well so can he still use it?

I have recently got the message that my Acer Chromebook C720 will not be receiving any further updates as Google no longer supports Chromebooks older than six years. I use mine for surfing the internet, email and creating documents, which I send as email attachments. The machine still works as well as when I first bought it, and I’m reluctant to dump it for a new one.

I understand that I can install a new operating system myself but I really can’t be bothered. The reason I bought a Chromebook in the first place was because of ease of use, simplicity and reliability. What are the risks if I just continue to use it without receiving any more updates? Bill

There is no way to assess the risk because it depends partly on what you use your Chromebook for, and how careful you are. Nowadays, most attacks require some kind of user assistance. This can mean, among other things, installing fake Android apps with hidden features, installing bogus Chrome extensions, visiting malicious websites, falling for phishing attacks, falling for man-in-the-middle attacks and failing to install essential security updates.

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How can I force my Windows 10 laptop to update?

Windows Update tells Frank that Windows 10 is up to date, but he still needs to install a new version

Why does my HP Pavilion laptop tell me that Windows 10 is up to date, but at the same time tells me I’m running a version that’s nearing the end of support, and recommends that I update to the most recent version? Frank

First, some background. Microsoft used to provide new versions of Windows every three or more years, and support them for 10 years. Examples included Windows XP and Windows 7. They didn’t change unless Microsoft released a service pack update, such as Windows 7 SP1.

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