Monthly Archives: July 2009

How far we’ve come: reflecting on Microsoft’s 2010 collaboration vision video from 2005

It might be the latest hit single from Matchbox Twenty, but in anticipation of the impending (official) reveal of Microsoft Office 2010, I thought it would be fitting to take a moment to reflect on what was envisioned of collaboration technology in 2010 by no other than Microsoft themselves almost half a decade ago in 2005.

Surprisingly, Microsoft has been able to realize many of the concepts illustrated. For example, Office Communicator and an Exchange server allows for a unified communications experience with support for availability information. It just so happens Exchange 2010 enables voicemail messages to be automatically transcribed too.

Furthermore, Windows 7 with DirectAccess allows remote access of internal corporate resources without VPN software. The Microsoft Roundtable is an amazing product too and makes video conferencing a breeze. The only thing that doesn’t appear entirely fulfilled yet is the user experience, although we’re definitely making strides if you look at WPF-powered software such as the Lawson Smart Client.

If this blog is still around in 10 years, I’ll be sure to remind everyone of Microsoft’s 2019 vision too. :)

Office 2010 revealed in great detail via Microsoft videos

Microsoft Office 2010I don’t know what timezone Microsoft’s web servers are running on, but it’s revealed the much anticipated Office 2010 release in great detail way ahead of the expected official announcement at the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference 2009.

Thanks to an earlier tip from Rafael Rivera on Twitter who noted hours ago the Office 2010 mini-site has gone live (update: now removed but Google Cache caught it), it appears just now the placeholder videos too have gone live with real Office 2010 preview videos, including the much anticipated Office Web applications plus some interesting new features never seen before.

Without a further ado, I’ll let the videos do the talking. Here’s a couple of videos discussing the most interesting applications (and online services) in the suite.

[flv:Office14_Apps_Intro_Video_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft Office 2010

[flv:Office_2010_Word_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft Word 2010

[flv:Office_2010_Excel_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft Excel 2010

[flv:Office_2010_PowerPoint_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010

[flv:Office_2010_Outlook_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft Outlook 2010

[flv:Office_2010_OneNote_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft OneNote 2010

[flv:Office_2010_WebApps.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft Web Applications 2010

[flv:Office_2010_Mobile_500k.f4v 600 337]

See What’s New in Microsoft Mobile 2010

You can find videos on the rest of the Office suite at the Office 2010 website.

Update: The videos appear to be up and down for some reason, if it says “an error has occured”, in which case just refresh the page and they should reappear. Microsoft seems to have noticed and removed the videos.

Update 2: Uploading alternative cached copies of the videos right now.

Reimagining file distribution: universal downloads

hash-iconForeword

For the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking and dreaming about hashes, file hashes to be exact. My fascination with hashes started with an idea to host a universal hash database that could be used to identify every file in the world. If you think that wasn’t bold enough, then I think I might have just come up with a system that in hindsight, abstracts data distribution across networks and protocols.

The main reason I’m publishing this idea, and not ringing a patent lawyer, is because I want as many eyeballs scrutinizing this idea as possible. Even though I’ve already put a lot of thought into it and got some talented people to help validate it, nothing would be worse than blindly driving down a dead end. On the other hand if the idea holds up, I really need the motivation and support of the wider community to realize it.

Background

Now to cut to the chase, my idea can be said to be a mashup of many existing technologies, some have been technically documented and others have even been implemented in existing distribution methods. But, I believe the idea as a whole – and can only work as a whole – has never been publically discussed or realized.

As a starting point, it is my understanding that currently the most popular file distribution methods – notably HTTP and BitTorrent among others – are all arguably “filename”-based. For example, to distribute a file from a HTTP server, you specify a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) such as “http://server.com/file.txt“, and using BitTorrent, you create a .torrent file which specifies the filename “file.txt” among other things.

A disadvantage to the “filename”-based distribution is that it does not consistently identify unique files. For example, a simple text file can have as many names as an appropriate file system supports. On that note, this is where my idea begins.

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Putting together the pieces of Microsoft’s “big announcement” next Monday

scoble-microsoftannounce

It might have been the day the Chrome OS is finally announced, but according to Robert Scoble, this was actually a timely stunt by Google in an attempt to steal some of the spotlight before what he claims to be a “big announcement” coming from Microsoft on Monday. Apparently he has seen and shot videos of it, but is not allowed to talk about. Let the speculation begin.

As it turns out, next Monday is not the ordinary first day of the week for Microsoft. On that day, Microsoft is kicking off it’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 in New Orleans and from just looking at the keynotes list, is nothing to be sneezed at. Long story short, it’s basically a who’s who list of Microsoft executives. However, this doesn’t actually help narrow down what the big announcement might be since almost every Microsoft division is represented extensively.

Potential announcements already on people’s minds include the announcement and subsequent availability of Windows 7 RTM code and pricing and licensing plans for Windows Azure, but this does not appear to be what Scoble is referring to.

Scoble made several comments in his Friendfeed post that provide clues to what the announcement is about. The first made a reference to “Microsoft’s 14 billion dollar business”. After tracking down Microsoft’s last quarterly financial results, they indeed have a $14 billion dollar business ($14.33bn to be exact) and that is the Microsoft Business Division.

Update: Some people have pointed out what Scoble meant is that Microsoft runs fourteen (14) billion-dollar (valued) businesses, which makes more sense grammatically. In which case, puts a dent in my speculation.

Whereas Windows falls under the Client division and Azure falls under the Server and Tools division (they have since merged as the platforms division, but remain separate in financial reports), the Microsoft Business Division among other (and obviously extremely profitable) initiatives is responsible for the Office suite.

The second clue Scoble provides is that it runs in a browser, Chrome and Firefox specifically, and at least witnessed being demoed in Firefox. Whilst it’s not impossible whatever this is is not a Silverlight application, I’m more inclined to guess it’s an AJAX web application.

To play devil’s advocate however, Scoble specifically refers to “part of the Microsoft announcement” runs in a Chrome and Firefox, which could be interpreted one of two ways. Either it is not entirely a web application or that it is not 100% compatible with Chrome and Firefox.

keithsecrettweet

To add a bit of seasoning to the salad mix if you will, Microsoft evangelist Keith Combs had been tweeting this week of some “secret Microsoft software”. Whilst I’m not sure if the two tweets are related to each other or related to this announcement, it appears at least one of the softwares would allow users to create content, which fits with the Office clue. If he is talking about the same software, why he doubts it might not work on Windows Server 2008 R2 remains a mystery. What Keith was referring to has since been revealled to be Expression Encoder Screen Capture.

Putting together all the clues, I’m going to speculate this is the public release of the Microsoft Office Web application that was announced back at PDC08, possibly with some new major features or capabilities that wasn’t demoed initially to take it above and beyond just Microsoft’s version of Google Docs. If it is indeed Office Web, it will certainly have to compete with the mindblowing collaboration features of Google Wave which sets the bar pretty high.

Nonetheless, there’s always the chance that I’m way off and it could be something complete different, but hey, that’s the price of admission for the speculative rollercoaster. :)

Update 2: Some people have provided me with more information that confirms the big announcement on Monday will be indeed Office Web application.

Update 3: Commenter “Bob” points out that the company that previously owned Office.com has recently changed their domain. Microsoft Office Web applications moving in? The plot thickens.

Update 4: It has been confirmed Keith wasn’t referring to the same thing as Scoble. The Office Web application prediction lives on nonetheless.

Windows 7 ISO Verifier, for your downloading pleasure

win7isoverifier

Just between you and me, I’ve heard that one could obtain copies of Windows 7, including builds newer than the public betas, from some not-so-sanctioned sources. Of course I would know very little about how this works, but I understand that there is a process of verifying the integrity of files to ensure files are as described and have not been tampered with, however not everyone does this.

Leading up to the inevitable leak of the Windows 7 RTM build like a bottle of champagne shaken once too many times, I wanted to make this process of verifying file hashes even simpler by making it easy and convenient to generate and compare the hashes. With the help of Sven Groot, we came up with this little applet for your Windows 7 ISO verifying pleasure.

It couldn’t be any easier to use. Simple drag and drop an .ISO file onto this EXE, or double click on it and navigate to the file, then sit back and relax whilst it crunches the numbers. Once it generates a hash, it’ll compare it with a list of known and trustworthy hashes of ISOs to tell you exactly which build version and architecture it is known to be. This list will be updated live over the web so you won’t have to redownload the app.

Download the Windows 7 ISO Verifier (EXE, 253KB)

Disclaimer: Like most entrepreneurs, I take no responsibility for the consequence of using this application. The information is provided only as a guide and cannot be used as evidence in an internet argument.

Update: As a few users have noted, this only works for English versions of Windows 7 ISOs so far.

Update 2: Added support for official retail US English RTM ISOs.

Update 3: With the wider public release of Windows 7, this tool is no longer kept up to date with the many and numerous versions of Windows 7 SKUs and languages. It is recommended you take personal care when using any ISOs.

Get paid to talk about PC operating systems

strickmanrippsNeedless to say, there’s a lot of people here who are genuinely passionate about operating systems and generate a lot of constructive feedback, which is why I think this offer is going to be hard to top.

In short, Strickman Ripps, a people-casting and marketing research company is looking for people who have voiced concerns about operating systems regarding features and functions in the past and are offering $100 for a short 20 minute video interview over the web. Enough money to preorder a particular OS you might be after I might add.

Here’s the offer in full.

Strickman Research, a marketing research firm, has contacted us [or in this case, me] for assistance in reaching out to you [in this case, the plural you] with this invitation to participate in a paid research study. If you qualify for the study, they would ask for no more than 20 minutes of your time and would pay you $100 US:

What are we researching?

We are looking for people who have left comments on various blogs and forums about operating system software they’ve used. We are looking for people who have previously “published” their suggestions online and expressed their wishes for certain features or functions they would like to see in future versions of various PC operating systems [the Windows 7 Taskforce qualifies perfectly]. Such comments can run the gamut from very technical to very broad, for instance comments like: “I wish it would boot faster.” or “How can I share files between my home computers?” would suffice. The wishes and suggestions can be implied in a question where one is hoping to find a solution to a particular problem.

We are looking for comments published online between 1/2004 – 12/2008. More recent assessments of newer operating systems, published in 2009, may also be pertinent.

How do I participate?

If you left a written comment on a blog, forum or informational website which was, broadly speaking, a suggestion or wish for a certain feature or function you would like to see improved in your computer’s operating system, please find your specific comment or comments online and paste the link/s in an email to us at sri-uk@live.com.

Please include:

1. The link to your comment/s including the date when it/they was/were posted
2. Your username on that/those site/s
3. Full name
4. Email address
5. Phone number
6. Location (City/State/Country)
7. Best time to be reached

We are looking for participants age 19 and older in, or very near the following regions: UK, France, Germany, Australia, USA.

What should I expect?

Once we have received your email, and reviewed your comment/s, a representative from Strickman Research will contact you by phone to ask you a few qualifying questions. This call will take no more than 10 minutes of your time. If you qualify (95% of applicants should qualify) we will schedule you for a recorded internet video chat at your convenience that would take no more than 20 minutes of your time and for which you would be paid $100 US in the form of a VISA cash card.

What if I don’t qualify?

If you do not meet the criteria for our research study, we will most likely let you know in the first few minutes of our phone call. We will not trouble you any further and we will not store or share you contact information.

I know this might sound too good to be true, but I have since come across one person I trust who is already involved and assures me that this is indeed legitimate. Furthermore if you’re worried about the @live.com email address, the official company twitter page confirms that these email addresses are indeed real and provides further evidence of this research study. Those who can read between the lines can probably figure out what this is all about too.

If you have any personal concerns, feel free to discuss them in the comments or simply ignore this offer.

Disclaimer: In the spirit of transparency, I have been informed that I do receive a commission for every successful participant but I can safely say that it did not affect my decision to support this project since I made the decision without knowledge of any commissions.

Update: Added clarifications regarding age and region requirements.