UKTechdays – Microsoft share the word

Had a very good day with Microsoft today at the first day of their UKTechdays here in London.  Good presentations on VDI, WDS, migration to Win 7, “Modern” platforms deployments and App Migration tools and challenges.  Will tell you more later (now that I have finally recovered my password.

From Windows to MacBookPro – Can You Go Back?

So I finally got my HP Pavilion DV2 back from the worst support experience in living memory!  Meantime I had finally bitten the bullet and moved over to a MacBookPro, my first experience of the Mac OS.

It’s intuitive, it’s much better than Windows, it’s so easy….  I could go on, but that is the advice I was given as I opened the excellent packaging  that came with my new toy.  Build and design quality are of course outstanding and without a doubt the OS is not difficult to come to terms with.  As a slight aside you may remember that almost a year ago I attended a moving from Windows to Mac “workshop” at the flagship London Apple Store.  I can safely say that it was the worst training event I have ever attended and probably was the main reason that I didn’t get around to taking up the corporate “free” MacBookPro until I really had to (when HP sold me a lemon and then took months to repair it).

So 5 months on how do I feel?  Would I go back to Windows?  Well yes and no.  I finally got used to the differences such as the ap bar on top of the screen, not on the window and the inevitable wanting to shut the window by going to the top right rather than top left.  I can use the cmd key now.  The usability of the apple is great, keyboard and keyboard illumination; airport and connectivity in general; and mostly perfect suspend and resume simply by closing and opening the screen are all outstanding.  The touch pad is just fantastic and is probably the one big thing that kills me when I find myself using a Windows laptop.

Would I let anyone take the Apple away from me – not a chance, but that’s not the whole story.  At 50 I have so much Windows baggage it’s embarrassing.  Even though Redmund have tried their best over the past 10 years to change their OS look and feel and destroy my ability to use their software applications effectively by making wholesale and unintuitive changes in every release – I have still found myself having to use Windows and Office on Windows in order to remain moderately productive.  I didn’t quite have to move back to the HP to do this, I use the excellent VMWare Fusion which allows me to fire up a virtual machine on the Apple and there I am in Windows 7 with Office 2007.  I am getting better at using Office 2008 native on Snow Leopard, but boy is it hard, it is not a port or even a near neighbor, it is very very different.  Don’t even get me started on Outlook and my historic email archives.  So the irony of having two versions of Office, sometimes running in parallel whilst I rush to churn out another excellent PowerPoint or throw up an Excel model of the next financial crisis.

If I had written this blog two months ago I would probably have even more high praise for the Apple as compared to Windows hardware software combo the MacBook was fast, responsive and not prone to inexplicable slow downs.  Unfortunately that is not the case now and I get a fair amount of the spinning colour wheel to frustrate me when I am working.  OK so I may have too many apps open, or confused it by not rebooting when I change locations, but  it has now ground to a halt a couple of times and can be a pain just like bloaty Windows.

Is it better?  Yes it is (there I said it), is it perfect?  No it is not.  Would I go back?  Not exactly, but I will co-exist.  My desktops remain several and are all Windows in one way shape or form (some running VM’s for LAMP stuff) and, much as I may lust for big and powerful Apple desktops the wholesale replacement is not an option.  Forget the hardware replacement costs, much of my long term investment is in software and the blood sweat and tears of how to use it effectively (or not), so even if I was a brainwashed convert it would not be happening anytime soon.

So what about the HP?  It’s smaller, lighter and very well specified (for what it is), so yes it will get used.  In fact Mrs Bladesey is making eyes at it as I type.

Customer Service – HP Style

Dear HP

Thanks for calling me today to say my laptop – that you have had 20 working days is still awaiting parts. Also thanks for transferring me to complaints, who kindly pointed out that HP aims to repair new hardware within 7-10 working days. Finally thanks HP for telling me that you would not even consider a replacement until the new laptop has not been repaired for 10 weeks! Now that’s customer service.

Security – after the horse has bolted!

So I had my laptop and bag stolen in a restaurant last week.  It is amazing what a trauma that turns out to be – especially when you discover that your clever system to take back-up using Windows Live Sync stopped working 2 months ago.

The amount of ones life now reliant upon what is stored on a computer becomes clear when it is gone.  So plenty of time for regret and frustration at so much data lost.  So here are a few “notes to self” about what I need to do properly on my next bag full of technology:

  1. Set power on passwords on all devices (laptop, cellphone, pda, etc.)
  2. Set a password for Outlook personal folders
  3. Set Encrypt folders for this user in Windows  (user accounts admin)
  4. Ensure you have windows set to user account and password – not simply direct access without a password.  (I had this set up, which will slow someone down or foil the casual thief,  but without step 3 (above) it’s possible to get around this and access your data.
  5. Take regular back-up’s and CHECK THAT THEY WORKED!  I was confident that all was well with my data strategy till I got home to find that the PC that was linked to my laptop by Windows Live Sync had not actually succeeded in syncing since April.  I still don’t know why this failed – it was working so well!   p.s. Outlook .pst files don’t do well on Live Sync – so find another way to copy them.
  6. Don’t store passwords on your computer.  (I don’t, but see note 7, below).
  7. Change all your passwords if you do lose your computer.  Remember that your browser probably saves most passwords to web-sites and the like, that Outlook and other email programs store your email account details.

My Nokia E71 (not in the bag that was stolen, fortunately) has some neat security features BTW, including a remote lock option.  If you lose the phone, simply text it with the remote lock code – and then no one can use it without the unlock code.

Now going to spend the rest of the day following my own advice on all the other devices I own.

LinkedIn Groups

Over the years I have found LinkedIn to be a useful business orientated “social” networking site.  In the past year LinkedIn has had to up its game quite a lot as more networking and peer reputation sites have appeared, often with new and interesting innovations.

One of the improvements LinkedIn made was the groups, where motivated individuals could expend their time and energy building affinity and shared interest groups.  (Disclosure – I have built several groups on LinkedIn – but am not part of the activists I mention here).  When someone joined a group they exposed their email details to the group owner and LinkedIn provided functionality to upload and download contact details.

About a month ago LinkedIn withdrew the ability for group managers to see and contact group members via email.  This has caused a lot of consternation for some group managers, who feel their efforts at building and communicating with their groups has been hijacked.  More they feel that the way the change was imposed without notice was wrong and all attempts to protest and discuss with LinkedIn have been ignored.

Now, some group owners have started an online petition to have their rights to manage the group as they did initially reinstated.   Some of the comments on this site seem reasonable.

This week a number of the groups have effectively closed themselves down, asking members to re-join a new group (some on other platforms, some on LinkedIn) – it remains to see how sucessful a plea to migrate will be with the usually conservative majority.

Video over IP

I was pleased to renew my acquaintance with Dan Cordingley of Teradici last week.  Dan and I caught up over dinner during his visit to London to launch some specialist bank trading floor products with partner Amulet-Hotkey.

The Amulet product is a very neat trading desk solution that does the KVM for the entire desk (4 screens or more) including the complex stuff like Reuters or Bloomberg – but with the new product the actual PC’s in a remote location – and no limitation on the distance.  It’s all carried over IP.  This is where Teradici’s PCoIP  chip technology is leveraged (in the Amulet solution they have embedded their and Teradici’s chips into a Dell blade).  I sat in on demonstrations with a number of investment banks, all of whom were extremely enthusiastic.  Think secure, managed data centre environment rather than chaotic under desk.  Then think how much heat and power drain just moved off your trading floor.  Interesting.

But Teradici have not stopped there, they also demonstrated their chips embedded in a flat screen with build in ethernet – linked via IP to a VM Ware host.  Are you getting excited yet?  If not I should also mention this is the tip of the iceberg for what Dan plans for his product set over the coming years.

One to watch.

Mobiles get interesting again

IPhones’ have become the jewelry of choice for many and rightly so, they are attractive and supremely use-able.  They have also introduced real world smart phones to a generation of mobile users who never had a reason to have one before.  What was once the domain of “business users” is now a mainstream expectation for the trend following majority.  Disclosure – I come from the UK, where the culture of changing phones as often as you buy new clothes has developed the way the mobile carriers price and retain customers.

Equally interesting was an afternoon I spent with a couple of CTO’s from a computer behemoth and an innovative Internet player.  Both of them had IPhone’s and in  a sad “my toy is better than yours” session I found myself learning lots about my Nokia E71 that I had never taken the time to explore.  The (unanimous) conclusion was that the E71 had better features and functionality than the IPhone.   I was pleased that I hadn’t bought a “pup” but it didn’t stop me from being envious of the touch screen and it’s usability.  Now the (Apple) countdown is moving towards the announcement of the details of  IPhone 3.0 (today US time) where some of the things that forced techie IPhone friends to accept defeat may well be fixed (cut and paste, tethering, MMS for example) – lets see what the day brings.

My long time fave Palm are also making UK news with speculation on which carrier will have the exclusive rights to sell the forthcoming Palm Pre.  By all accounts (including mine) the Pre will offer genuine competition to the IPhone at all levels including the business user.

Still to rise to it’s full potential is Google’s Android, and announcements on O/S updates and new hardware will keep this on the boil too.

This is great – technology (and technology choice) that can be used effectively and intuitively and kill off some of our legacy tethers – am I being too optimistic?

UPDATE – Apple detailed their 3.0 IPhone software features.  As widely predicted Cut and Paste will feature along with MMS, Systemwide search, push notifications and P2P communications.  So all the things a good smartphone should have then – except still no support for Adobe Flash.