Archive for January, 2010

Customer Experience Improvement Program

For those of you that use software and like to have your say, there are various methods to provide feedback.  For example beta testers of Office 2010 have SAS (Send A Smile – or Send a Frown):

office 2010 sas

For other programs that are full release products, there is the Customer Experience Improvement Program or CEIP.  It’s the little box that pops up when you first start most Microsoft products.  Most of the time, I choose to send this telemetric data to Microsoft to help improve their products.  However, I came across an interesting CEIP experience this morning.

A few days ago, I reported on using QuickBooks and Microsoft’s Small Business Accounting tool, and today when I went to fire up Small Business Accounting, I got the CEIP:

ceip - office accounting

Interestingly enough though, the title says:

Help design the next version of Microsoft Office Accounting

…Hmm, I guess the app must not check home first before it starts as there is no more Office Accounting package 🙂

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Quickbooks SimpleStart’s “extras” you probably don’t want

Anyone starting up their own business needs Accounting software of some sort of another.  Recently here in the UK, Microsoft discontinued their Office Accounting package which was a nice, easy to use package that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  It has recently been handed over to Mamut consulting who charge an annual fee, which isn’t so nice if you have the package doing what you need it do to (sure software assurance is nice, but that’s why you have the software upgrade option too).  What does this leave you with then?  Hopefully hosted Dynamics soon, but for now, not in the UK, so you’ve got Intuit QuickBooks and they have various versions from a “Quick Start” at £90 to a Premier at £450.  However, for the new startups, they’ve got SimpleStart which is a FREE (yep, free) version of Quick Books.  It’s limitations:

  • 20 customers & suppliers
  • Minimised functionality

Still, not too bad if you’re just starting out, right?  They’re website even says:

With QuickBooks, "free" means anything but watered down. The QuickBooks SimpleStart Free Edition has all the great SimpleStart functionality – but it’s built specifically for businesses with fewer than 20 customers and suppliers. Download & use it free – for as long as it fits your business needs

Aah, if only, right.  Download the SimpleStart installer and as it unpackages itself, let’s have a look:

intuit quickbooks free google desktop

Wait, what’s that say?  Extracting googledesktopsetup.exe – and interesting enough it says above “…files needed to install SimpleStart Free Starter…”, I didn’t know Google Desktop was needed for this free version to be installed.  I thought it was free and not watered down Quicken?  Why do you need to package it with extra software?  You could at least tell us you’re doing this like Adobe does…Naughty!

Summary: Those of you attempting to use this SimpleStart edition, user beware as if it’s packaged with Google Desktop (which is probably out of date unless they keep repackaging the MSI – opening potential security vulnerabilities), one can only wonder what else is inside the .msi…

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Windows Live Export –> Outlook Import = Missing Headers

For the past 18 months I’ve been using Windows Live Mail.  It has some great functionality and capabilities (newsreader, outlook like effects, etc) however it just wasn’t Outlook.  As I’ve been fully in to my Office 2010 testing, I thought, let’s export my Windows Live Mail to Outlook and start using the full monty.  First thing to be made aware of – Windows Live Mail only works 32 bit and the new Outlook has 64 bit capabilities.  You can’t export from WLM on an x64 machine to Outlook x64.  The MAPI handlers just don’t like it.  Therefore I built a 32 bit VM and exported WLM to Exchange (which in essence makes a .pst file).

Presto, the .pst contained all of my mail and I was happy as Larry (where does that saying come from?).  Any way, I went to respond to a mail and found out the export wasn’t really a true export.  In the mail listing pane I saw this:

outlook-import-icons

You’ll notice a difference between the top mail and the bottom two.  The icon on the bottom signifies I haven’t opened the mail…Well, not really true.  I had opened the mail, but I had done so in WLM.  The preview pane showed positive signs of transferral:

outlook-mail-header

It showed the mail name, but I couldn’t double click on it and if I chose reply, it put the full name, but there was no GAL to cross-reference it to, hence it wouldn’t send.  I though to myself, I wonder if it exported all of the details…I opened the mail to look at the headers and what did I find:

missing-headers

Oops, nothing!

So, when choosing your mail tool of choice, if at any time you wish to swap to and or fro, realise that as with any program, when exporting or migrating the data, there are “quirks” to be aware of, and this is one of them (well two if you take in to account the x64 compatibility issue).

Happy e-mailing 🙂

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Get On ‘Yer Bike (Trike) Google

get on your bike google

As if they aren’t in the news enough already for upsetting China and blaming Microsoft for a zero-day flaw in IE:

<soapbox>

By the way Google, I quote from the MSRC:

Based on our comprehensive monitoring of the threat landscape, we continue to see only limited attacks. To date, the only successful attacks that we are aware of have been against Internet Explorer 6.

We continue to recommend that customers update to Internet Explorer 8 to benefit from the improved security protection it offers.

And, albeit that the successful attacks are only confirmed against IE6, they’re still going to patch it, and they’ll even talk about it:

Please join us Thursday, January 21 at 1:00 p.m. PST for a public webcast where we will present information on the bulletin and take customer questions. Registration information:

Date: Thursday Jan 21
Time: 1:00 p.m. PST (UTC -8)
Registration: http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032440627

And interestingly enough Google, in your own blog post Thursday May 14, 2009 you state:

We work hard to keep our users safe and secure when using our applications, and we believe that making sure users have the latest software available using automatic updates is a key component of that.

Guess what, Microsoft suggest that and does that too, and if you were updated (similar to your suggestions above), you’d have IE 8 which is safer than Chrome and this attack wouldn’t have been such a big marketing hoo rah for you, but at any rate, I digress…

</soapbox>

Google have a bloke on a push bike riding around the UK taking imagery of the National and Historic landmarks…Quite an interesting contraption and if you’re interested more in imagery of this bloke on his pusher, visit the BBC’s In-Pictures review.

If you’re interested in the aforementioned rant about Internet Explorer, I ask you…Which version of IE are you running?  If you’re not running IE 8, why?  Do you not take your car in for service and make sure it’s “up to date”? When you go for an MOT each year to ensure you’re “safe” on the roads, do you not have to do what they suggest to make your car roadworthy?

Microsoft Update is your MOT and your service call all in one…Best of all, it’s free of charge 🙂

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Opinions in IT

The world of Information Technology as we all know is a very big world, and it only is getting larger and more diverse.  As such, it comes with choices – many of them for that matter.  With choice also comes opinion.  According to Merriam Webster the definition of opinion is:

a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter

In most cases what bloggers write about is their personal viewpoints, or opinions on a topic at hand.  They often include facts, however at some point, if it’s IT related, there will be an opinion.  Let’s take a few examples that exist in the IT world today:

  • Browsers (IE v Firefox v Chrome v Opera)
  • Hypervisors (Hyper-V v VMware v VirtualBox)
  • Operating Systems (Windows v Linux v Mac)
  • Software (Exchange v Lotus v Scalix)

Looking at the aforementioned, there is loads of grey area and what defines the opinion of one versus the other really boils down to the project or question at hand.  IE might be best if you need ActiveX.  Mac might be best if you’re doing graphics design…

One of the greatest IT project management posters/comics I’ve come across is:

project-management

Which describes the IT lifecycle perfectly.  What it signifies in a sense is that everyone has a differing opinion.  Said best by Nietzsche:

“One often contradicts an opinion when what is uncongenial is really the tone in which it was conveyed”

And for that reason, IT is one of the most complex fields in the industry.  Everyone is allowed to think what they want and say what they want – it might cause controversy (as my opinion did the other day) – and due to the uncongenial way of reading blog posts, more opinions are formed.  Who is right, it really depends on how you look at it and what the point of the article/opinion was in the first place.  If we all had the same opinion, we’d all be running bland systems with no uniqueness to them whatsoever and IT wouldn’t be fun at all, would it?

So, here’s to another year of opinions, change and choice in the IT field, and just because I’m a Microsoft MVP and most of my day-to-day work is based on Microsoft technologies doesn’t mean that those solutions will be my defacto answer for everything.  What it does mean is that I have a passion for Microsoft technologies and I enjoy sharing that passion with the community, be it at conferences, on my blog, in forums or other various ways.  That said, I’m also got various other non-Microsoft certifications and have installed numerous variants of systems in my years as an IT Pro, henceforth, I’ll share my opinions, taking all of that in to consideration.

Here’s to hearing your opinions 🙂

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Yet another reason why Hyper-V (or SCVMM) is better than VMware

Today I got called to a client’s site who recently moved from premises A to premises B.  This meant they turned off their VMware ESX 3.0 server for the first time in a while.  When they relocated they couldn’t authenticate nor could they get to their file/print server.  A quick analysis showed a few things:

  • New building = New IP scheme (ugh)
  • Upon logging in to the ESX web portal, the two servers were still off

Noting this, no worries, in the web portal, lets start them up.  Easy and straightforward.  Now, here’s the kicker.  I wanted to remote control the servers via the console or via the VI client (to look at potentially changing IP addresses or find out what the old scheme was and change it to match/overllap the new scheme)…Wrong move.

The server first told me I had a non-supported browser.  I was using IE 8 (as it is standard with Windows 7).  Ok, no problem, as an IT Pro, I’ve also got other options…Firefox 3.5.7…nope not supported either.  Opera?  Guess what, no go.  Ok, so let’s download the VI Client and do it that way.  Downloaded no problem but when starting it, the woes began again:

only on 32 bit

Thanks VMware.  Your client only works on 32 bit architectures.  So that means most IT professionals who have more than 3 GB of memory can’t use your client?  Oh, one other thing, nice UAC prompt:

contact your admin

Program name: Contact: Your local administrator

OK, so my rant now done, why does this upset me?  Well, Hyper-V can be managed:

  • locally on 32 or 64 bit with RSAT
  • remotely with RDP
  • in just about any browser using SCVMM

Yet another reason why I think I’m going to be sticking with Hyper-V.

NOTE: Yes, I know there are ways around installing the 32 bit client on a 64 bit OS, but I didn’t want to, nor did I have the time, to pull apart the installer with an MSI builder and have it bypass the OS checks.  That’s not my job and that’s not why customers pay VMware loads of money for their software – OH, payment…that’s right Hyper-V is FREE too and it has this functionality in built 🙂

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How your iPod can earn you an ASBO

ipodNano5g

As part of my New Year, New Regime I reported to you that I’ve started to walk to work and have began to utilise my iPod’s pedometer functionality.  As such, today I’ve come to the conclusion if I keep up my antics, my iPod is going to earn me an ASBO.  For those of you unfamiliar with an ASBO, it stands for Anti-Social Behavioural Order.  Essentially it’s being tagged as a social misfit in a sense…So, you ask, how is my iPod doing this to me?  Well, let’s look at what happened on my way home from work today (it’s only a 1.5 mile walk)…

I left the office and turned on the iPod to listen to music and to count my steps…pretty normal, right.  Well, it all changed when the first song ended…I can’t remember what the first song was, but at any rate, the second song was Witch Doctor covered the Cartoons (Smash Hits 2000 [Disc 2] if you’re curious).  At any rate, as the song was playing, I decided to get well in the groove –

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bing bang

and without even noticing it, I was “dancing” down the pedestrian path on my way home (through one of the dodgier parts of the island I live on, might I add).  Ok, embarrassing you might think, but not ASBO material right?  Well, song 3 was rubbish and another feature of the iPod (alongside the pedometer) is “shake”.  You shake it and it randomises a new song for you.  Well, my iPod lives in my trouser pocket to keep it dry and also to keep up on the steps.  Well, rather than get it out to “shake” it to find a new song, I began to shake my leg as if I were a dog who had just relieved himself.  Mistake 2 right?  I didn’t mind and even more so, a new problem was now Europe’s Final Countdown was on and I began air drumming to it.  By this time, I was on one of the main roads where I live and cars were passing thick and fast and there I was air drumming as if nothing was going on around me…

Morale of this?  If not careful your iPod will in fact earn you an ASBO as it:

  • makes you air drum to songs in public
  • makes you shake your leg like a dog in public
  • makes you dance for no reason in public
  • makes you walk longer routes than normal just to try and beat your previous step counts

My suggestion….Stay away from the iPod, stay far far away 🙂

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How a Computer Engineer gets Exercise

As a computer engineer, a.k.a. Geek, people often think all we do is sit behind the keyboard and monitor and scoff down sweets and drink loads of caffeine.  Well, they’re not too far off.  However, we do have to get every now and then and recently I found a cool little tool that helps me do just that.

As I live in Europe where the Zune is still yet to be sold (I’ll get one soon, a Zune HD no doubt), I have an iPod.  It’s a fancy 6G Nano.  It’s got video (woo hoo, big deal).  It plays music, ok, that’s what an iPod is for, but moreover, the silly little thing that it has that’s amazed me is a pedometer with a cool add on called Nike+.  What does this mean?  Well, this week I decided to walk to work all week…Not sure why, it’s not part of some new exercise regime…it’s not part of some New Year’s resolution (let’s face it, how many people stick to ‘em)?  None the less, it counts steps and then when you sync it, the results go to a Nike website:

nike-results-wc1101

Then the cool thing is once it gets uploaded, it tells you approximately what your steps are doing for you.  For example two things I’ve accomplised:

compact car challenge

mt fuji summit

So in essence, 21,000 of my steps taken was enough horse power to power a small car 1 mile and another 50,000 of my steps would have taken me to the summit of Mt Fuji (and burned 2,500 calories).  My current challenge is “ripping through a pizza” which takes approximately 64,000 steps and is the equivalent of 3,200 calories, wow.  At any rate, so far since my iPod purchase I’ve accumulated (in just over 2 months) 139,249 steps.  Do you have a nano and if so, how many steps are you up to (or did you know the functionality even existed)? 🙂

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Dear Adobe, I Don’t Want Your Stupid Desktop Icon (nor your software anymore)

Adobe

PDF’s…they’re everywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great format and I love to use it.  You can share, you can secure, you don’t have to worry about the recipient editing it (as 80% or more users only have viewers) and most of the time WYSIWYG with a PDF – i.e. the recipient doesn’t need your fancy font collection to view it in the way you meant for them to view it.  The main drawback to it – PDF usually is powered by or is synonymous with Adobe.  This brings me to my point.  Adobe’s install and update process/procedure.

First off, let’s look at Acrobat reader since 9.0.  The first installer of 9.0 not only put an icon on my desktop for Acrobat Reader, but also for Acrobat.com.  The Acrobat.com icon/shortcut disappeared with the 9.1 release, but the desktop icon still remained.  That icon alone is the bug bear of my life and today Adobe, yep, I’m on my soap box.

EVERY other installer in the world (or ok, 99% of them) have a tick box saying “add a desktop shortcut”.  Why can’t you give us that option?  Then not only to add insult to injury, I install Acrobat Reader and it has to be updated…Interestingly enough, security experts estimate Acrobat is going to be one of the largest attacked pieces of software in 2010 (more so than Microsoft technologies)…Here’s the quote:

Based on the current trends, we expect that in 2010 Adobe product exploitation is likely to surpass that of Microsoft Office applications in the number of desktop PCs being attacked

which means more updates now than ever.  Any ways, back to the point.  If it is one of the most attacked pieces of software in 2010, that means even more updates than we have already, and with each update, guess what…That bloody desktop icon reappears.  WHY!?!?  Well, Adobe, your silly little icon antics has driven me away and now I’m using another utility – FoxIt Reader – which happens to do all of the main jobs your software does, is less of bloatware and guess what, they let me choose if I want a desktop icon or not. 

foxit-install

You can learn a lot from your competition (by the way, I unticked it before I clicked Next).

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We’ve moved (the site has at least)

recently-moved Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been trying to move the site from one hosting provider to another and (fingers crossed) it’s all gone well.  If some things don’t work like they used to, honestly it’s not my fault.  I did the project management, I did the prep work, and I didn’t get any errors…Hopefully no news is good news.  Hope you like the new server the site is now running on.  Faster and more responsive, or so I’ve been told 🙂

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