Inspired by Darren's recent post
Tagged as Microsoft Office Powerpoint
One of the talks we had here at Tech-Ready on Wednesday was from Kevin Schofield. Kevin's General manager for Microsoft Research, and he blogged about the experience of talking to us. I'm always pleased to be allowed to keep company with the people in Microsoft because we've got really, really smart people here. But when ordinary MS employees look over to MS-R we're always slightly in awe. Just about any talk from them is worth being at, and Kevin had more cool stuff to talk about than there was time for: he made up for this by speaking at the speed of racehorse commentator ... Which just adds to the feeling that he's excited by this stuff. Excitement has been a theme this week.
Kevin talked about Honey Monkey which we use pro-actively to hunt down websites with browser exploits - we also make sure that our search engines don't link to those sites, it's great to know we're doing stuff like that in the background.
Then he moved on to some photography stuff, starting with sense cam, which he was wearing on stage. I don’t know what it recorded, but Kevin, you should have put the pictures on your blog :-) .Researchers have had some great results working with people with memory loss using sense cam, and I can see everything from art projects to seeing what pre-school children have done at nursery being other niches where this will fit if it comes to market. Some hardware they do sees the light of day (the Roundtable device for example) some doesn't.
There is some software you get access to today. You know how when you to take a photo of a group of people somone's looking the wrong way, or got their eyes shut, or pulling a funny face ? In fact, above a certain size group you're sure to get someone ... Group shot lets you take a group of pictures and montage the best bits of them altogether. Just put your camera in multishot mode, take 3 or 4 and turn them into the perfect one - don't shoot many family groups ? I had 3 shots of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, with group shot I could take the cars out - I'm having a little trouble saving results from Group shot in Vista but I'll post when I have them. The other thing Kevin showed was photosynth. Really, really cool way of taking pictures and location information and merging them together. Go take a look.
Tagged as Microsoft
The IE team have announced on their blog that when it is finalized, IE 7 will be pushed out via Windows Update. It also explains what to do if you or your company DON'T want it. You have a little while to act because this isn't going to happen until the fourth quarter of the year: expect IE7 to be released at roughly the same time as Windows Vista.
The user experience of IE7 is superior - at the conference this week most of the machines set up for Kiosk style use are running XP, with Office 2003 and IE6. Having grown used to Vista, Office 2007 and IE7 going back feels crude and clunky. The security is better with the phishing filter, fix my settings and Active-X opt in (and better handling of SSL too). Personally I think everyone should have it, but it would be wrong to force people, hence the opt out.
Bonus link. When I was reading the story on CNet the page had a link to an artist who uses the same he receives as the seeds for his computer generated art. Some of his pictures remind me of the stuff I saw when I was diving last week.
Tagged as Microsoft
As I've mentioned over the last couple of days I'm at Tech-Ready - it's the event Microsoft runs twice a year in Seattle for it's technical field staff. On Monday we had the keynotes with Steve Ballmer and Kevin Turner. We have tradition of one-off videos which star executives is parodies of recent films; some have been dire, but this years went over well, and included Lisa Brummel making the first appearance by an HR person that anyone can remember.
Ballmer when he's on good form is inspirational. He was on Monday: you could sense the excitement in the man. He mentioned Bill Gates' change of role, and said something to the effect of everybody leaves a company sooner or later "Well, maybe not me. They might have to take me out on a stretcher.", So maybe he's not
planning to retire at 55 as I suggested.
Kevin Turner - came to us a year ago from Wal-Mart and that made me a bit doubtful of him. He's spent a lot of his time getting to understand Microsoft, and I went away from his talk thinking better of him. You can feel the excitement among the people here - and Turner put his finger on why: we've got the results of $20 billion worth of Research and Development about to hit the Market. We have New Windows, New Exchange, New Office, new Live Communications server - going into new territory, and Ballmer made brief mention of the Zune. With that line-up anyone who doesn't feel a bit excited probably shouldn't work in this business.
Ballmer said - in so many words - that for him job #1 is to nurture innovation: I think seeing products come to market does make him feel he can go on for ever. He talks about setting bold goals, and making big bets. Innovators have to have the optimism to make those bets, and, he said, they must also not be afraid to be second to market and to come from behind (e.g. Xbox, Zune). It's not a short term game: Word, Excel, Windows itself were not overnight successes. BUT our goals were too optimistic when we set out on the road that led to Vista. It didn't serve us or our customers well to have such big gaps between releases.
This morning it was Jim Alchin's turn. No slides, no videos, nothing flash, just the man in charge of Vista sharing his thoughts.
1. He's said that Vista won't release until the quality is good enough, but he still has a good level of confidence in the dates we've quoted.
2. Jim gave some details on bug counts which were confidential, so I didn't write them down :-) But the gist was this: His confidence in the ship date is because existing bugs are getting fixed faster than new bugs are being logged.Incidentally, anything which someone thinks is wrong is logged as a bug, some don't need to be fixed. I filed a bug for the lack of drag and drop in IE: that will still be there when the product ships. Now sometimes this leaks out as "this OS has X number of bugs still in it". These aren't things that will bring your system down.
3. Top of Jim's list of worries is driver coverage. We're talking to manufacturers and it's their concern too, together with various applets they have breaking under the new OS. Some computer makers don't like the rating tool in Vista because it sets particular store by having a balanced system: a machine with a headline grabbing CPU speed and lousy graphics will get a poor score.
Nothing very surprising, which is actually good news.
Jim called out some of his favourite features and I'll be writing more about those over the coming days...
Tagged as Microsoft
I don't like posting mails to my blog, but the following extract from a "Good news" e-mail which I picked up earlier today, was explicitly marked as sharable and didn't need rephrasing.
The RTC Product Group has now completed testing of Live Communications Server 2005 SP1 with SQL Server 2005 SP1, and is pleased to announce that LCS 2005 SP1 Enterprise Edition can now be deployed using either SQL 2000 or SQL 2005 SP1. We’re also able at this time to communicate support for LCS 2005 SP1 (both Standard and Enterprise Editions) on Windows Server 2003 R2.This means that customers who have standardized on SQL 2005, or beginning to deploy Windows Server 2003 R2, can now more readily deploy Live Communications Server.
Supported Scenarios: LCS 2005 Enterprise Edition and LCS 2005 SP1 Enterprise Edition
No changes have been made to the supported scenarios for LCS Standard Edition with respect to SQL 2005.
Product groups don't like making these changes because they have to test their products on all the supported permutations of operating system/database and so on. My experience with the RTC group means I'm not surprised that they responded to customer demand and made this change, even though I'm sure they would have preferred not to.
Tagged as Microsoft
Live Communications Server
OK, OK I was wrong when I said
My gut feel is that if we are [working on a player], it won't be branded Microsoft.
Chris Stevenson told Billboard that there is a music player in the works and it will appear under the brand name of Zune. Chris is listed in the Microsoft Global Address List as "General Manager, Global Marketing " in Robbie Bach's organization. Robbie is sometimes positioned as "Mr X-Box" but devices, and "entertainment management" - where Chris sits - are in his part of the company. Richard Winn, who works for Chris, has started a blog. So has Cesar Menendez who says
Today, we’re admitting officially announcing Zune, via an article in Billboard. So what’s Zune? It’s Microsoft’s new, holistic approach to music and entertainment. And yes, this year, we’ll be releasing a device as part of the project. Under the Zune brand, we’re looking to build a community for connecting with folks, all to discover new music and entertainment.
Cesar's job title is Online community manager, so it looks like he's going to be responsible for connecting with folks ... The first step in this is the coming Zune website
I read a quote from Michael Gartenberg
a Jupiter research. Various people have selectively quoted him to support a "Microsoft screws its partners" story. Actually what he says is rather more rounded. It remains to be seen what the Zune will be, exactly. As a Microsoft employee I envy Apples brand cachet; I don't think a “just-like-an-iPod-but-by-Microsoft” device is a compelling sales proposition, so I think we have try to innovate and create something with a niche of its own - wireless networking and the community aspect might be it. Will we "Screw partners" ? Those partners who want to sell music rather than devices are certainly going to be pleased. And the player makers ? If we try to differentiate the answer is "not really" - as a big player entering the market we will have some effect, but the assumption that everyone who doesn't commit to Apple's player will go for Microsoft's is too simple minded.
Tagged as Microsoft
Since this blog appears under the TechNet brand , it seems a good place to spread the following news.
From the start of August TechNet "standard" is going away in favour of 3 versions of TechNet Plus.
TechNet plus Single user is what we have known for a long time, but it will now have a subscriber download service, much like MSDN. TechNet now contains full versions of software for evaluation and the downloads service means you don't have to wait for us to make CDs when you products come out. I don't have UK pricing right now, but the US price is $499 - with 2 bundled support events which would cost $500
TechNet plus single server is the same thing but licensed for multiple users on one server at US $999.
Thirdly is TechNet plus direct, it's TechNet plus, but WITH NO DISKS - it's all downloaded. If, like me you can't do without TechNet, but you feel bad about throwing those disks away every month, this is for you. It costs $349 and still includes 2 support incidents .
If you call the TechNet customer service centre they can change an existing TechNet plus subscription to the direct version - because it's cheaper it will result in some extension of your subscription.
Eileen posed a question in her blog recently.
"with everyone over the age of 6 using IM for social related chat, and interaction, just how do we get the message out about corporate Instant Messaging as a useful business productivity tool "
Simple: IM is more productive than e-mail. Or put another way more and more e-mail is a waste of time. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I'm Canada en-route to Seattle for a Microsoft event, one of the event dinners has a competion for simple equations which tell people something about messaging. Mine is V = 1 / (r*B)
And its more complex form is V = ( 1+log(S) ) / (r*B)
The expected Value (V) of a message to a recipient is inversely proportional to the number of recipients (r) and the size in Bytes (B). The value of the mail increases with the log of the number of sentences (S) in it. A mail with 10 sentences has more "content" value than a message with one, but not 10 times more. A message has some overhead, so increasing from one sentence to two doesn't double the byte count. Net: Short, targeted messages are valuable; we know that from Instant messages and SMS texts. But more and more people tell me much of their mail is Big, vague, widely distributed, and of low value. To borrow from Marx "E-mail contains the seeds of its own destruction". That doesn't mean it is doomed, but if it dies off it will because of things which were part of it. Voice mail now means we don't have any confidence of reaching someone by phone, and the result has many people don't bother with the phone any more. We could be going that way with mail - unless people develop strategies for using mail and other kinds of communication (voice and IM)
With this in mind, and since it is Friday, which means a little levity, I thought I would post an old piece on how not to have your mail read. The top 5 ways are, in ascending order.
5. Tag your mail as pointless by putting “FYI” (Filling Your Inbox ) or “Please read”. If you forward stuff to the whole office with no explanation beyond "FYI" they will ask themselves why you keeping reminding them you’re still there. "Please read" tells the recipients “This message won't look like a good use of your time but I need you to read it” see also #2.
4. Send people lots of messages that they are unlikely to find useful Several kinds of people exhibit this, besides the FYI bunny. For example the rounder-up - here are "10 links you might like to visit", and the urban believer "Sign their petition complaining about what Tango did to this Welsh town," (it's a viral advert - quite a good parody of a Sony one). For Pity's sake, when a message asks you to forward, it check it on a search engine. And the Big Boss "I hope you will all join me in congratulating John Q. Doe III on his promotion to head up our operations in Timbuktu. I will tell you when we have filled his former position as chief assistant to the assistant chief of legumetrics [See foot note ]" A friend who gets these most days said: "None of us know John, or our operation in Timbuktu. Once, just once, I wish everyone would reply to the chief and to John saying, 'Yeah, well done mate'. Clearing thousands of those e-mails would stop this practice." When you multiply the time these messages take by the number of people in his company they waste the equivalent time to one person's whole working life each week.
3. Save up slightly interesting small items up to make a 5,000 word newsletter.I don't think I'm the only person who looks at each mail asking "can I delete this ?". Short term memory lasts about 7 seconds: that's how long you have to convince readers your message is worth reading. They won't trawl through thousands of words, even if you make them look pretty or include a photo. If you have lots of things to say use RSS so people can skim read and pick out the ones which ARE interesting.
2 Ignore your readers' needs / WishesBreak people's outlook rules by sending to a distribution list using Bcc. Use fixed width HTML which doesn't fit in the Outlook 2003 / 2007 reading pane. Such HTML is probably unreadable on a mobile device, text in graphics certainly is. Want to annoy and frustrate a mobile user ? Put the content in an attachment instead of the message body of a mail. (Our corporate Travel agents send flight details as an attached PDF - what good is that to me when I'm trying to check them on my phone ?) Or provide a link to something inaccessible from outside the corporate network.
1 Be hard to read.Use long words. Use abbreviations only the inner circle know. Use complex terms instead of simple ones. (Or should I say prefer the use of expressions with a high complexity factor ... ). Make them read through a lot of explanation before they get to what it is you want to tell them. Everyone who writes for big audiences should read this piece of Jakob Nielsen's
[Updated with some typos fixed]
I'm afraid this one is a bit big, so you'll need to click on it and open it larger.
We've announced Windows Server 2003 DataCenter Edition R2 - which is quite a mouthful.
There are two big changes here. One is the systems that can run DataCenter Edition; previously the DataCenter High Availability programme meant the OS was only available pre-installed on qualified hardware systems, with special support arrangements. That route still exists, but now system builders and Volume licence customers will be able to install it, outside of the high availability programme.
Number two is that it has licenses for unlimited Windows VMs ...
Now... I was watching one of the Winhec sessions "Windows Server Virtualization Scenarios and Features" I was struck by stories of customers who just can't have any more servers. There isn't space, or the power grid can't cope. That's a pretty horrendous state of affairs - not do all those servers create a lot of CO2 emissions, but the air-con to dump the heat they create causes even more. In much of the world, for much of the year, more fossil fuels are being burnt to heat the building. When you check, many servers run at 10-15% utilization and those not using SANs typically have multiple disks to get spindles for throughput and redundancy... This is a problem crying out for virtualization. The VHD files for many virtual machines can be stored on a SAN using multiple spindles, but requiring fewer drives overall, so less power and cooling. A system with 4 or 8 processors doesn't use 4 or 8 times the power of a single processor system, so even if virtualization meant one VM per processor there would be a saving. But the ratio is more likely to be 3-5 VMs per processor... Or rather per core - with quad core 64bit processors you could be looking at 12-20VMs per processor - 100+ VMs on an 8 proc system. And with DataCenter supporting 1TB of RAM you could have 250 VMs with 4GB each. Note that Longhorn server’s virtualization is going to be 64 bit only – so you’re planning large systems you need to look at 64 bit. Of course if you ran that many VMs and a node failed. You'd really need clustering; and with 8 way clustering in DataCenter you could have 1000 VMs on a cluster. You could get rid of a lot of servers that way... now if only someone would find a way of using that waste heat.
I've already mentioned that I am testing an interim build of Vista. One of the things that we have changed in this build is the way the OS deals with public and private networks. Vista can recognize a domain network and the chances are you only connect to one or two private networks. So, logically Vista now assumes that any network you join is a public network, unless you tell it otherwise. It takes a couple of steps out of joining a new network.
In the shot above you can see that I'm at the buccaneer inn - on Vancouver Island in the West of Canada, another Hotel where the internet access is free. That's not why I came here though. I'm here for the diving and they took the trouble to advertise to divers and hook up with a local dive outfit. I was reading "The tipping point" on the plane out here, and one of the things I've picked up is that you've got to make your product or idea "Sticky". Other things I've read talk about making people want to do business with you. That's what the people who run this place have got (on top of having somewhere nice to stay).
Still with Diving, I have a diving computer made by Suunto , I sent it to them for a new battery last week and they had it back in my hands 48 hours after they received it - which is pretty good, but last time they turned it round the same day. I've heard other great customer service stories about their UK office. I don't know if the company is the same world wide - or perhaps all the companies in that business are as good. They've got the idea when it comes to making people want to do business with them.
This Friday the BBC carried a story Microsoft has said reports that the company is planning an MP3 player to rival the iPod are based on "speculation and rumours". Indeed, they are. Speculation and rumours aren't always wrong. It made me go back to something I started last Friday after reading a story French lawmakers pass 'iTunes law' from Associated press which was carried in Business week.
Microsoft has also heard a French accent delivering bad news about media players and opening up secrets. The EU action against Microsoft stems from a complaints by the self styled "European Committee for Interoperable systems" - their membership includes only one European company in a rag-tab and bobtail collection of Microsoft opponents. Adobe Systems, Corel, IBM, Linspire, Nokia, Opera, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems. Call me biased but interoperability isn't a word I associate with IBM or Oracle. But then I thought that the people who made a product decided what went in it and customers chose to buy or not: ECIS's lawyer complained that "Microsoft chooses itself what users will have as product."
Apple are used to being a minority player, and choosing what users will have. The French say Apple's share in the Music player market means they can't be allowed to do that with Digital Rights Management. DRM can't be truly open, the player enforces the license as it decrypts content: open up the code you'd soon have a version which saved the decrypted content. Even so, anyone can license Microsoft DRM technology and make their own player or start a music store. I wrote earlier about, making it easy for other people to use your product in their solution, there we are, doing it again.Conversely downloads for the iPod must come from iTunes (or be available unprotected). And once you have licensed content from iTunes, no other player can decrypt and play it, so customers are locked in to Apple.
According to the AP report, the French law "states that companies are expected to share the required technical data with any rival that wants to offer compatible music players and stores". If iTunes customers are to switch brands and take the content they've paid for, then Creative, Phillips, Samsung and the 20 other Microsoft's licensees must opt to license Apple DRM.
A compromise for Apple would be a "DRM transcoder" which replaces their protection on files with Microsoft style protection - allowing playback on other peoples' players. They could also license the Microsoft playback technology so iPod owners can play music from other stores. Customers would need to want to change, but the ties would be loosened. This might not satisfy people like the EU or ECIS who seem to think that once people have something they are too stupid and/or lazy to move on to a better alternative. The failure of anyone to take up Windows XP-N (no Media) gives the lie to the idea this. People didn't buy Real Networks product because Microsoft included media player: they didn't buy it because they didn't want it.
AP quoted the French culture Minister saying "Any artist's work that is legally acquired should be playable on any digital device." Very laudable, but no-one has said why this should be true for digital music. It's not true of DVDs thanks to regional encoding, it was physically impossible with VHS and Betamax tapes. And it isn't true of software (unless you invest in virtualization) - Mac owners can't move to a Dell or HP or Toshiba PC without changing their software. The EU has done nothing about the high prices which stem from region locking of DVDs, the market dealt with Betamax and Mac owners understand the software situation before they buy. Apple might conclude that if a product doesn't win much market share it can be as closed and proprietary as you like: but if you win lots of customers your competitors lobby governments to interfere to give them access.
It's interesting to ponder how much technology Apple would license to stores and player makers, and how much Microsoft technology they would license for themselves. Would iTunes sell onto other players ? Could both iTunes and the iPod end up supporting the Microsoft format - meaning the French makes everyone license the same (Microsoft) technology. That would be ironic, especially if we are working on a player.
No information I can find tells me that we are working on a player - but if we are it would be under wraps, so that's no surprise. My gut feel is that if we are, it won't be branded Microsoft. Reports that a player with integrated Wireless networking is being hawked around may be a bit like the reports about Origami - also reported as a Microsoft branded "iPod killer" before it launched. We went as far as making production samples of "Stinger" phones, and I hoped we'd see a Microsoft branded phone, but the strategy of design but don’t implement seems to have worked and I think the same attitude will hold for players.
My wife has a Nano because it is beautiful object, not because it is better at playing music. Anyone who wants to take on Apple needs to start by hiring great design talent and building a product that people want more. Apple also has brand chic, and I doubt that a Microsoft label will combat that – even if we called it the X-Pod. Personally, I don't understand why anyone wants a phone and an MP3 player when they can have a device that does both. Back in 2000 I was using my iPaq as a music player and for the last 4 years I've been using a smartphone to do the same job. Some of the wider ranging reporting (like Gizmodo) suggest that's where Microsoft - at least Steve Ballmer - sees the future. But Steve, It needs to be SMALLER !
Tagged as Microsoft ipod Mp3 France
Earlier this week I was reminded that there is pain in being a beta tester. Some of that is peculiar to working at Microsoft. It seemed simple: I thought I'd try to upgrade my hard disk and my version of Vista, in one go.This laptop arrived fitted with a 60 GB drive, split into 2 equal partitions. With it came a 100GB drive in a caddy. I wanted to switch to using the 100GB drive, because 30GB was looking a bit cramped - my previous machine had more than 30GB of photos on it.
My home back system is a bare drive with a USB-IDE adaptor; my plan was use completePC backup onto that and restore to the 100GB drive. Having done that I could upgrade from May's Beta 2 build (5384), to the June version (5456). On Sunday afternoon it seemed so easy.
You don't have to install Vista only to overwrite it with a completePC restore - restore runs in the recovery environment (RE). You boot from the Setup disk and go into system recovery. You can also install RE onto the PC so you can press F8 at boot time and load it from Vista's boot menu
I'd installed from the network, I didn't have a DVD - to get one I connected to the office stared downloading the ISO image from the "IT Supported" share, and went to bed.
Now here's great news for anyone who's going to have to manage installations of Vista, you can customize the installation disk. I discovered on Monday that Microsoft IT's "Supported" image also installs a standard set of applications, the recovery environment has gone ! Just to be sure I installed Vista from the disk I'd made to see if the boot menu had the recovery environment option. It hadn't.
Not wanting to come into the office just to get a DVD. I thought I'd use MSDN to get a copy, only to be hit with a 36 hour delay because of a subscription problem. While I was waiting I thought I'd try upgrading to the 5456 build to see if that gave me a Recovery boot option; it didn't nor could I discover how to add it. 5456 also decided it would do a clean installation not an upgrade, too. This was looking like a software reinstallation.
By Tuesday evening I was able to get beta2 from MSDN; my broadband connection slowed practically to a halt: so I hope we make an ISO freely available for the recovery environment, I had to download gigabytes of Vista which I didn't need. Having got it, it didn't take many minutes to do the complete PC restore. The restore process creates the same partitions as the original system. This is a pretty smart thing to do, but it wasn't what I wanted. So I had to rearrange the partitions with diskpart. I had another try at installing 5456 and this time it offered me the option to upgrade; all my software and documents were preserved. The process - and I can't tell if it was the restore, or the upgrade - left me needing to rebuild my outlook OST file, the thumbnail caches for pictures, the media player library, and the RSS enclosure folders.
This build is faster, fit and finish is better, although the text in some labels has become corrupted. As I've said already some things I hoped to see fixed aren't, and there are a couple of irritations IE isn't the full Beta 3 of IE7. Still it's the right size of step if we're going to ship Vista on the revised schedule.
Tagged as Microsoft Vista Longhorn Installation
Following on from last week...