The Electric Wand

Weekly tips from the "Tip o' the Week" email distribution inside of Microsoft.

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  • Blog Post: The Design of Everyday Things

    In part 2 of my book post about design (part 1 was earlier this week ), I'll revisit an old title which is still great reading for anyone interested in cognitive theory or design. It was written by Donald Norman , and first published nearly 20 years ago as " The Psychology of Everyday Things ". The author...
  • Blog Post: Geek T-shirt cool - or not

    I always like reading Jason's blog, and had to laugh the other day when he posted a great picture of a now-favourite t-shirt, which glows when in a WiFi zone. I'm not much of a t-shirt wearer, but I think the best geek slogan I've seen so far is (from the same shop as Jason's Wifi catcher originates...
  • Blog Post: Some more useful Windows & Outlook shortcuts

    As I mentioned the other day , I've a penchant for using shortcuts in Windows: most (if not all) are documented in help files and the likes, but it is amazing how many people don't know about them or just don't use them. Continuing the list of shortcut keys that can save a few fractions of a second...
  • Blog Post: Technology changes during the Blair era

    So Tony Blair stepped down as the UK's Prime Minister this week, just over 10 years since his ascendance to the position. Funnily enough, I got my "10 year" service award at Microsoft recently (a fetching crystal sculpture and a note from Bill 'n' Steve thanking me for the last decade's commitment) ...
  • Blog Post: TripAdvisor - an example of the web <done right>

    I've been on holiday for the last 2 weeks. Whilst away (and trying not to think about work), we took a boat trip where 12 people went off on a catamaran for the day, 6 of us from the same hotel. During the chit-chat that goes on in such a scenario, we got to talking about the hotel and how its location...
  • Blog Post: How to really wipe a hard disk

    In one of those weird coincidences, someone asked a question to an email DL in MS this morning, about how to securely erase a hard disk (since, as every skoolboy kno, deleting files doesn't really remove them from the HDD, and even formatting a HDD still leaves residue that could be recovered). A few...
  • Blog Post: Snipping tool for OneNote users

    Following on somewhat from my off-topic Walking in the Country post, I thought I'd recount one useful tip that helps in grabbing the maps (or any other screen content, for that matter . at least anything that isn't rights-protected). If you have OneNote installed, press WindowsKey+S to initiate a snapshot...
  • Blog Post: Hosting of applications - the inevitable future?

    I've been musing over some medium term IT trends lately and one idea that keeps coming back into frame is the seemingly inevitable trend towards hosting of applications. Take Exchange, as just one example... Hosted Exchange * has been available for years, from lots of different providers all around the...
  • Blog Post: Tags as long-running transactions

    Tagging: Brett , John , Allister , Darren and Julius . When it comes to transaction processing, most systems think in terms of very short increments of time - eg taking money from an ATM, the whole transaction is done in a few seconds. Some may take longer - like transferring money between two different...
  • Blog Post: Happy 1,234,567,890 seconds since 1/1/1970

    Well there’s a thing. CNET reported that today officially marks the 1.2-odd billion seconds past the beginning of 1970, a standard that’s used in UNIX (and by the C programming language) as the basis for all time measurements. If you’re reading this before 23:31:30 on Friday 13/2/09 then you can see...
  • Blog Post: Sign of the times: new car registrations

    I recall the 1st of August in years gone by, as the day that new car registrations would be released – in the UK, if you didn’t know, car registration numbers are centrally issued and every year, the prefix or suffix letter used to advance. For a young boy, it was really quite exciting to spot the first...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #120 – The colour of time

    This week’s tip is a lovely little Windows app, recommended by Ceri Morris . It’s a little like the sunrise alarm clocks which start your day by gently lighting the room, or the sleep alarms which gradually fade out the radio instead of a sudden silence in place of music. This free application, called...
  • Blog Post: How to wash your car properly

    Another post from the "Random Stuff" category. Just over a year ago, I wrote on how to cook the perfect fillet steak , and amusingly, it's by far the most-read post on this blog - by a factor of more than two... So here's another one for the New Year, and it's about one of those ordinary jobs which...
  • Blog Post: Gibson Guitars "Riffs on OCS" (boom, boom)

    Information Week reported that Gibson, makers of the iconic Les Paul guitar (as used by just about everyone, maybe most famously Jimmy Page of Led Zep or Slash from Guns N Roses), are doing great stuff with Office Communication Server, and singing its praises. They found the level of integration with...
  • Blog Post: How to cook the perfect fillet steak

    OK, this is pretty far removed from the norm of an IT blog, but it is the weekend so I feel it's allowed. The topic has some technical (practical) aspects, and is something I've been talking with a few people about lately. I've seen various techniques on how to cook steak properly, but I came across...
  • Blog Post: Thought provoking stuff...

    I've no idea how accurate this information is, but in a short video on http://www.scottmcleod.org/didyouknow.wmv there are some wild predictions about the future... under the title of "Did you know?" This echoes somewhat " The Age of Spiritual Machines " by the eminent Ray Kurzweil ( I saw him present...
  • Blog Post: "Dealers of Lightning" - an insightful history in Xerox PARC

    Ever since reading Robert X Cringley 's excellent 1996 Accidental Empires book (which actually has the even more excellent full title of Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date ), I've been interested in some of the...
  • Blog Post: Some Handy Windows shortcut keys...

    I like the Windows GUI, and particularly since I'm use to it, the Vista UI. I don't think I follow a particularly usual pattern, though, because I tend to make use of lots of keyboard shortcuts which many people may not know, or may know about somewhere in the back of their mind but never bother to use...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #187 – A Route for old times

    Once upon a time, a company called NextBase wrote some software to help people plan routes across the road network, using a computer. It was expensive in the day (£130 in 1988 works out about £300 in today’s money ), but if your job was to schedule travelling reps or delivery drivers, then time was money...
  • Blog Post: When interaction design goes bad

    For various reasons, I've been testing & driving several different cars lately, a process I quite enjoy - getting to know the foibles of the car's cockpit, playing with the various toys and gadgets, as well as actually learning how to drive each one according to its size, performance etc. It's really...
  • Blog Post: The Campaign for Real Pedantry, erm, I mean numbers

    Hats off to James O'Neill for a display of true, world-class pedantry to which I could only aspire. It drives me nuts to get emails with badly formatted phone numbers which can't be dialled on Smartphones without first editing them, and now that I've started using Office Communications Server 2007 (more...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #105 - Productivity? Learn to type!

    Thinking about general productivity often leads one down the path of some methodology to get things done , or some great tools to try and silence the background noise. I've certainly featured plenty of both as Tips o' the Week, but one thing we've never covered is simply making correct use of the keys...
  • Blog Post: Measuring business impact

    I'm going to approach this topic over a number of posts, as something I've been thinking about rather a lot lately. Basically, the challenge is about finding out what impact making a change to the business environment will have: either positive or negative, and then using that information to either...
  • Blog Post: NASA's new server - with 4Tb of RAM and 2048 CPU cores

    Wow. George Ou from ZDNet wrote yesterday about NASA's new supercomputer, the most powerful single node computer in the world. It comprises 1024 dual-core Itanium2 CPUs with 4Tb of memory. The article doesn't say what OS the beast is running, but one of the comments says that they have used a custom...
  • Blog Post: Bird's Eye view on Live maps - how cool is that?

    The Windows Live search team did a pretty major update (a few months ago) to a number of elements of the search engine at live.com , but one of the nicest is the maps integration. Type in a postcode, a place or business name and click on Maps and you'll hopefully go straight there... As the Virtual Earth...