Sunday, December 5, 2010

7 cool things to do with Windows Phone 7

I have been spending a lot of time with Windows Phone 7 and have a few tips to share with you as the launch kicks off on Monday morning. Try these out when you get your WP7 device and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have or actions you would like to know more about.
So, here are 7 cool things you can do with your Windows Phone 7 device:
  1. Find My phone: The ability to go to a website to find your phone whether you misplace it in silent mode or leave it behind is a very handy feature that is available for WP7 for FREE.
  2. Pinning miscellaneous items to Start: I am sure you know you can pin apps and people to the Start screen, but did you know that you can pin your favorite radio stations, games (even those within the Xbox Live hub), favorite web pages (even shows a thumbnail of the page), OneNote and Office docs, and more so make sure to tap and hold to find out what you can pin to Start.
  3. Voice Command: Microsoft included a very powerful Voice Command solution on Windows Phone 7 that is activated by pressing and holding the Start button. You can use this to call people or numbers, find destinations through Bing Maps, or launch applications on your device. As you build up your collection of apps you should find this to be the faster and more efficient option to control your device.
  4. Quick calling: You can call people in your Call History or ones that are pinned to Start with just two simple taps. Tap on the Phone tile and then tap the phone icon to the left of their number in the Call History. If you tap their name then you will open up their contact card instead. If they are one of your Start tiles, tap the tile and then tap Call…
  5. Change your Pictures Start background: I have had several people ask me about this since it isn’t that easy to find. If you tap and hold on a photo there is an option to set it as wallpaper, but this is the wallpaper for the lock screen only. To change the background image in the Pictures hub, that also shows up on your Start screen, simply tap and hold on the main Pictures hub page that opens up and select to change the background.
  6. Use Outline view to navigate: Within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files you can simply tap the Outline icon and see the words to quick navigate to other sections, spreadsheets, or slides within Office Mobile 2010.
  7. Let them know you will be late: If you have appointments set up that have attendees, they you will see an option in the bottom menu (access by tapping the More three-dot icon) that shows a person running as an icon. If you tap this as you travel to a meeting then you will see the quick option to inform other attendees you will be late.
Windows Phone 7 has quite a distinct and striking user interface and things may seem pretty simple and straight forward. However, you can dive deep into the settings and other areas to discover there are actually quite a few options, customizations, and capabilities down deep in the operating system.

Office 365: The future

Today is part three of a three-part series about Microsoft’s Office 365, the company’s software-as-a-service offering. (In part one, I focused on the history of the platform. In part two, I discussed the evolving services culture at Microsoft.)

When Microsoft announced its plans for Office 365 in October of this year, few were cognizant of the five-plus years of groundwork that preceded the launch of its hosted-application platform. Few also seemed to understand why and how Microsoft is attempting to coalesce its varied hosted app offerings under a single brand and infrastructure. I’m hoping with this series to explain the past, present and future of one of the most important elements of Microsoft’s cloud strategy.
Office 365 is the new name for the Microsoft services offerings currently known as Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Live@edu and Office Live Small Business. Office 365 is in limited beta now and will be available to customers in the first half of calendar 2011. More nuts-and-bolts details about Office 365 are available via my ZDNet Webcast, “Office 365 Essentials,” which is downloadable for free (with registration).
Unifying the underpinnings
Office 365 is, in part, a rebranding of a number of Microsoft’s existing Online Services. But it’s more than that; it’s a make-over of a number of Microsoft’s highest profile software-as-a-service offerings.
In the first half of 2011, when the company begins moving existing and new customers to Office 365, there will be lots of balls in the air. The Redmondians will need to keep their existing hosted services up and running (hopefully with few to no interruptions) as they update the underlying platform infrastructure. They’ll be implementing to new provisioning and commerce mechanisms, plus adding the first of a number of the new SharePoint, Exchange and Lync communications features that they’ve been promising for the past several months.
The end goal is for Microsoft to be able to take advantage of efficiencies of scale. Currently, Microsoft’s various Online Services teams each has its own schedule for providing updates to their respective platforms. With Office 365, Microsoft is shooting to align the update schedules for BPOS, Live@Edu and Office Live Small Business.
“We can release features every quarter,” said Eron Kelly, Senior Director for Office 365. Microsoft currently is delivering updates to its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) offering in the February/March; June/July; Fall; and just before year-end time frames.
To get to this point, the Office 365 team needs to move BPOS, Live@edu and Office Live Small Business customers onto a new Online Service Delivery Platform (OSDP). That platform consists of shared hosting infrastructure, commerce, user-experience/user interface, digital marketing and marketplace components. This will give the newly rebranded Office 365 services — small business, enterprise, education, federal, etc. — more consistency and provide tighter integration.

(click on the diagram to enlarge)
The actual products that comprise these offerings — SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online — also all will be getting refreshes which introduce various pieces of software functionality that Microsoft rolled out for their software counterparts over the past year-plus. As I’ve reported before, the services aren’t going to get every new feature introduced in the software; Microsoft has a staged rollout plan for which featues will be added to the services. As part of the Office 365 rollout, the Live Meeting conferencing service is going away (though it still will be available for purchase as a standalone product for those who want it) and will be replaced by the audio/video conferencing that is part of Lync.
(I’ve published some Microsoft slides from this past summer, detailing which features will be added when for SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Communications Online, which is now known as Lync. Microsoft may have updated these roadmaps since then, but I don’t have any more current information.)
In the second half of 2011, Microsoft is going to add its CRM Online offering to Office 365. Details on what this will look like for customers and partners, in terms of licensing and pricing, are few and far between at this point. Currently, the CRM Online team has its own infrastructure, billing system, etc. Microsoft’s Kelly said once it is added to the suite, CRM Online will become another “experience” from a customer perspective. In other words, CRM will become another “tenant” running on the OSDP, he explained.
Reading from the book of customer experience
The other product piece of Office 365 — locally installed Office Professional Plus — is going to be an optional add-on to the services to the hosted services bundle. The reason Microsoft opted for the highest-end (and most pricey) Office SKU is that it surfaces all of the functionality that Office 365 users may want/need to access, the Softies said.
“Office Professional is the place where so many of the (Office 365) capabilities can come to light,” said Chris Barry, Director of Microsoft Office Product Management. From early on in its hosted-app strategy, “we knew where the user experience would be,” Barry added.
Barry said there’s a possibility that Microsoft might offer other Office SKU options  (like Student and Home, for example) for different customer segments, given that something like Office Professional Plus is overkill for most students. But for now, he had nothing more definitive to say.
While Office 365 is not “Office in the cloud,” per se, the bundle does signal a change in Microsoft’s procurement process. Starting November 1 of this year, Microsoft made changes to its volume license Enterprise Agreements via an optional amendment, Barry noted. The amendment makes it easier for customers to acquire software, services and/or a combination of the two, he said. It also shifts the previous device-based licensing to per-user, he said.
In addition to changing the license agreements themselves, Microsoft is also changing the way it “sells” services to the field and channel, who’ve grown used to selling boxed product and Enterprise Agreements. The Online Services team authored an actual book about the customer UX/experience, which is read by all of the team’s engineers and business managers, according to Morgan Cole, a Director with Office 365. (I asked to read a copy, but no go.)
“It’s a whole different relationship with the customer now,” when it comes to services, Cole said. “The customer experience becomes the entire life cycle; it’s not just learn and try and buy. It’s a whole end-to-end solution.”
As part of this shift, Microsoft also is changing how it communicates with its Online Services customers, Cole said. That communication pattern also now includes a much bigger community element, meaning customers talking to customers, not just product managers talking at customers.
“We learned a lot from our Live@edu team” about communication, Cole said. “But we’re also looking at the rest of the industry for lessons learned” around programs like community rewards programs, he said.
As we go forward, we’re looking to “constantly improve our contactability,” Cole said. With services, “it’s a relationship-marketing thing.”

Has Linux Reached the End of the Line?


"End of life for GNU/Linux? No way," says blogger Robert Pogson. "GNU/Linux is still a kid, with growth-spurts and all. Sometimes the rapid changes are annoying, but GNU/Linux is a child of the world and we will always love it." On the other hand, "that other OS is standing at the edge of its grave waiting for the coup-de-grace, which could come as early as next year: ARM + GNU/Linux on desktops and notebooks."

Fans of FOSS are already all too accustomed to the many barbs and insults Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) tends to sling at any free competitor, but one of the latest was so mystifying as to leave many Linux bloggers scratching their heads.
To be precise,"Нужно иметь в виду, что Linux не является российской ОС и, кроме того, находится в конце своего жизненного цикла" was the comment from Nikolai Pryanishnikov, president of Microsoft Russia. Translated, it reads, "We must bear in mind that Linux is not a Russian OS and, moreover, is at the end of its life cycle."
Now, those who have been paying attention know that Russia is in the midst of what might be called an on-again, off-again affair with free software, as Glyn Moody notes in a recent blog post on the topic.
But to say Linux is at the end of its life? That was just too much for most bloggers to bear.

'Good OS Dies First'

"The idea that 'Linux is at the end of its life cycle' is rather rich coming from the vendor of a platform that is increasingly losing market share, both at the top and bottom end of the market, while Linux just gets stronger," Moody wrote. "I'd wager that variants of Linux will be around rather longer than Windows."
Slashdot bloggers had similar views.
"I just think it is just the way they see things in Microsoft," wrote Slashdot blogger jgardia, for example. "When an OS is stable and works reliably, then it is at the end of its life cycle (like Windows XP)."
Similarly: "In Soviet Russia, good OS dies first," agreed Stregano.

'Lifecycle ENDS YOU!'

And again: "In Soviet Russia, FUD spreads Microsoft Russian exec," chimed in marcello_dl.
"I think I know why MSSR is depicting Linux as an end of line OS: I hear MS has a beta of an operating system, has been in the works for a loong time (beta 1.0 came shortly after the first Mac)," marcello_dl added. "One of these days it will be good for release. Possibly."
And one more time: "In Soviet Russia, Lifecycle ENDS YOU!" Jeremiah Cornelius wrote.
The conversation devolved from there, so Linux Girl knew it was time to hit the streets of the blogosphere for more insight.

'Still Growing'

"Saying a thing doesn't make it so," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told Linux Girl. "Linux still has legs it hasn't even walked on yet."
The operating system is "still growing in the server space, and Android looks poised to utterly dominate the smartphone landscape," Espinoza explained. "Meanwhile, the desktop computer is on its way out; less and less people need one, and more and more Internet citizens lack one.
"The year of the Linux desktop just may end up being the year the desktop is replaced by tablets and smartphones," Espinoza concluded.

'Still a Kid'

"End of life for GNU/Linux? No way," blogger Robert Pogson agreed. "GNU/Linux is still a kid, with growth-spurts and all. Sometimes the rapid changes are annoying, but GNU/Linux is a child of the world and we will always love it."
On the other hand, "that other OS is standing at the edge of its grave waiting for the coup-de-grace, which could come as early as next year: ARM + GNU/Linux on desktops and notebooks," Pogson added. "Desktops and notebooks could completely change before M$ releases '8'."
Windows 7, meanwhile, "will not run on ARM," he noted. "The world needs small, cheap, efficient computers, and Wintel won't supply them.
"OEMs are squeezed hard by M$ and Intel," Pogson concluded. "There will be a breakthrough next year with OEMs and retailers giving the world what it wants. That change will be too fast for the dinosaur, but GNU/Linux will just make the jump as if nothing had changed."

'The War Is Long Over and MSFT Won'

Linux is at the end of its life cycle in the sense that the old "'Linux year of the desktop' horse needs to be taken out and shot, as the war is long over and MSFT won, same as DirectX won over OpenGL," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet asserted.
It's not the end, however, "in that there are gonna be NEW markets opening up," he added.
"I'd say it depends how quickly Linux can get ahead of the curve," hairyfeet opined. "I do think the future will NOT be the ton of distros we have now but will instead be a small handful of distros designed for specific tasks, like Android and MeeGo."
The question, however, is "whether the mobile space will continue to get more proprietary like we have seen with laptops, or will it embrace more open designs?" hairyfeet added. "If it is the former, the future honestly doesn't look good for Linux because with the fast hardware turnover on mobile, Linux will always be a day late and a version behind."
For that reason, "corporate distros like the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) offerings will come to dominate, because they are the only ones that can afford to throw the kind of bucks at R&D to get ahead of the curve," hairyfeet concluded.

'Rumors of Tux's Death Are Premature'

Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, who goes by "Tom" on the site, had a different point of view.
"It's not dead, it's pining for the fjords," Hudson began. "Oh, wait -- that's the Kin's next of kin, Windows Phone 7.
"Still, if you work for Microsoft Russia, I guess you have to toe the Party line," she added. "Otherwise, they'll make you trade your iPhone for a WP7."
All joking aside, "the rumors of Tux's death are certainly premature," Hudson asserted. "Linux will be around a lot longer than, say, Steve Ballmer."

'Linux Is Just Getting Started'

Perhaps the best -- and most optimistic -- view of all, however, came from Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.
"Linux finally has most of the hardware makers on board with proper drivers and a distro that makes Linux easy to use, with no end in sight to the kernel and usability improvements," Mack pointed out. "I'd say Linux is just getting started.

A River of Leaks, a Torrent of Rage

Wikileaks did it again. The website exists solely for the purpose of making secret information public, and some of its greatest hits -- or worst disasters, depending on your point of view -- have consisted of tens of thousands of leaked military documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
This time around, Wikileaks tattled on the U.S. State Department. It put up for public view 250,000 private cables, or messages, exchanged between the State Department and 274 worldwide embassies. Some are from as recently as this year, others date back as far as 1966, and 15,000 of them are classified as "Secret."
Reading through the documents is like flipping through an extremely long and mostly very boring diary. It goes blah blah blah for page after page, and every once in a while you find a juicy part, but there aren't any revelations that really turn the world inside out. No Reptilians, no proof that Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing, nothing like that.
What you will find is a whole lot of catty diplomat name-calling. For example, some guy called North Korea's Kim Jong Il a "pudgy chap" -- the nerve!
Other documents reveal the specifics of all the shady, underhanded, back-stabby maneuvers most of us kind of expect from international relations but were never actually privy to. Discussions about Iran using ambulances to smuggle arms to Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia buttering up both the U.S. and Al Qaeda simultaneously, and the paranoia of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
Then comes the stuff like how China is growing more and more frustrated with North Korea's behavior, and that's the kind of revelation that could have a bearing on a situation that's growing very tense right now.
In fact, anyone with the time and will to comb through everything that Wikileaks dumped into public view could easily pick out dozens of incidents or even hundreds of tidbits that could be drummed up into international scandals, if you gave them the right spin. It's just that with all this stuff coming into public view simultaneously, it's almost too much to process. Our capacity for outrage is already working double shifts.
Still, this stuff is supposed to be secret, and airing it out in public like this could potentially erode a lot of trusting relationships. And even though Wikileaks didn't exactly spill the launch codes for the nukes or anything, some have stated its action amounts to a terrorist attack.
The damage is done -- many personal relationships will be affected, and even attitudes between entire governments could be altered. What also might need changing is the way the U.S. government goes about keeping its documents and communications systems secure. In this case, a whole mess of intelligence was scooped up by an organization intent on showing the whole world what it managed to find. At least we're all on the same page -- everyone knows that everyone knows. It could be much more dangerous if a group used the same method to spy on State Department cables and then just pocketed the info for its own personal advantage, whatever that might be

LastPass acquires Xmarks, premium service announced

In late September, Xmarks, the popular browser add-on that syncs bookmarks, saved passwords, open tabs, and so on, took its some 4.5 million fans on a roller-coaster ride.
It announced the imminent shutdown of the service because of lack of funding just to retract that a few days later when CEO James Joaquin hinted that a knight-in-shining-armor rescue was likely.
Now that rescue has been confirmed. In a blog posted today, Xmarks announced that it has been acquired by LastPass, a cross-platform password management service. This also means that Xmarks is now in transition from a "free" to a "freemium" business model.
The new model, which is similar to that of LastPass, allows people to utilize most of Xmarks' existing functions for free. More-savvy users, however, can also opt for Xmarks Premium, which costs $12 per year and includes new enhanced features such as support for iPhone iOS and Android, priority support, and more.

Apart from that, according to the blog, together with this merger, users can now opt for both the Xmarks and LastPass Premium services bundled for a reduced subscription rate of $20 per year, $4 less than if you pay for each separately. This bundle, however, doesn't mean the two services will be merged into one. Rather, they will remain as separate browser add-on downloads with their respective management Web pages.
This is great news for those who need to keep their browsers in sync. Though there are many bookmark-syncing services, most allow for syncing within a single browser. Xmarks, on the other hand, supports the three most popular browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome. It's likely that it will also support Safari and Opera in the future.
In the days after its shutdown was announced, according to Xmarks, a significant number of users pledged financial support to keep the service alive. If you're one of those people and you want to make good on your promise, the upgrade is available here.

PayPal shuts out WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks logo
PayPal, the popular online payment service owned by eBay, has "permanently restricted" the account hitherto used in fund-raising efforts by WikiLeaks.
The service posted a short statement about the matter on its blog Friday:
"PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We've notified the account holder of this action."
Wikileaks, meanwhile, updated its Support page, crossing out the PayPal option.
Wikileaks has been playing Internet hopscotch this week since it released to the media and posted on its site about 250,000 confidential cables sent by U.S. diplomats. Among many other things, the cables revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had ordered spying on U.N. officials.
U.S.-based EveryDNS.net killed the wikileaks.org domain on Thursday, saying service to its other customers was being threatened by huge floods of data aimed at the WikiLeaks domain by unknown parties and presumably designed to bring down the WikiLeaks site.

WikiLeaks responded by tweeting its numeric Internet address, http://88.80.13.160. It also found new homes at Swiss, German, and Finnish domains: http://wikileaks.ch/, http://wikileaks.de, and wikileaks.fi, respectively.
Supporters of WikiLeaks see the site as a defender of transparency in government and of freedom of information. Critics, including some members of the U.S. Congress, say that through the release of its latest information, as well as releases earlier in the year of documents regarding U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the site is putting lives in jeopardy and undermining the national security of the United States. One Congressional representative has gone so far as to say that WikiLeaks should be designated a terrorist organization.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Amazon cuts off WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks no longer has a home at Amazon.
The controversial site, which has roused the ire of the U.S. government for leaking classified information, is no longer being hosted by Amazon's Web servers as of yesterday.
WikiLeaks had been tapping into Amazon's EC2, or Elastic Cloud Computing service--including earlier this week. WikiLeaks said yesterday it's now being hosted by servers in Europe, according to Reuters.
In response to its expulsion from Amazon, WikiLeaks tweeted two comments:
"WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free--fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe." and
"If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books."
Amazon may have dropped WikiLeaks following inquiries from Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Ind.-Conn.), who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman's staff contacted Amazon officials on Tuesday asking them to explain the company's relationship with WikiLeaks.
In response to Amazon's move to drop WikiLeaks, Lieberman issued a statement that reads in part:
"I wish that Amazon had taken this action earlier based on Wikileaks' previous publication of classified material. The company's decision to cut off Wikileaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies Wikileaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organization that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them."
Lieberman added that he plans to further question Amazon about its relationship with WikiLeaks and determine what it and other hosting providers can do to make sure they're not used to "distribute stolen, classified information."
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNET.
WikiLeaks has repeatedly found itself in trouble with the U.S. government over its leaking of sensitive information. But the latest release of classified and in many cases embarrassing documents from the U.S. State Department has prompted calls among some politicians to brand the site a terrorist group, putting it in the same category as al-Qaeda.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is among those looking to clamp down on the site, saying that "WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States."
WikiLeaks has faced other pressures as well. It was hit by hackers since last weekend. The cyberattacks, which included distributed denial of service attacks, were seen as an attempt to take down the site to keep people from reading the latest round of classified disclosures.