Inappropriately Touching Windows 8

5 03 2012

It’s time to dust off the cobwebs here.

I’ve got a few things to do in 2012 technology-wise and I may shift the focus of this blog so that its content better includes what I’m actually doing. Including more content like photography and shooting information in addition to computing and technology topics.

Most of my technology these days involves cloud computing and lots of data management. Photography happens to be involved or reliant upon both those things!

Onto Windows 8…

Starting with the Developer Preview, I knew that this would be something interesting. In fact, prior to its release, I bought my new Tablet PC Convertible with multi-touch, and a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus (for Photoshop) knowing that “the future of computing” involved touchscreen computing.

(And, I have looked at the iPad for a long time. I’ve used them, and I’ve used the iPhone as a primary device, Mac OS X etc. I’ve also been watching Android tablets closely to see if they would fit my needs…)

Now, I’ve used Tablet PC’s for the past 8 years, so that’s nothing new. I know Apple says that “if you see a stylus, they blew it,” but Wacom appears to have made an OK business out of it. And now, I have a mini Cintiq that is also a computer with me (note – I would not refuse owning a real Cintiq!).

The Windows 8 Developer Preview was pretty lumpy. I did use it as my “primary desktop” for a few months. But, I used Windows 7 as my “photography OS” for using Capture One, FastPictureViewer, Photoshop, etc. while using Windows 8 for Office tasks and Visual Studio.

The current Windows 8 Consumer Preview seems like a totally new, much smoother experience. And, I will state up front, that this experience will be very familiar to me because of the following factors:

  • I have a Windows Phone 7 (going on 18 months) – but my LG is dying
  • I used the Developer Preview
  • I have a multi-touch device

That said, I use the keyboard and mouse just as much (I don’t use my tablet as a “tablet” – I just touch the screen).

You’re going to love this when Apple invents it!

If I’m in a public setting, inevitably surrounded by iPads, and I boot up my laptop, I have to touch the screen to boot into an OS… it’s a dual boot system. And the boot screen uses the Zune / Windows Phone 7 “swipe up” type unlock move which isn’t subtle on a bigger screen.

I get asked: “Did you just touch your laptop?!”

No kidding…

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Long term digital lifestyle vision

26 02 2010

I love it when a plan comes together… or at least, I like to watch someone put a long term plan together and execute it – especially when I am along for the ride. 

I’ve been told that I’m too impatient when it comes to proposing and executing strategic organizational and product movement.  Perhaps that’s true.  Sometimes the wait is internal inertia, sometimes it is for technology to catch up with the science fiction, and sometimes it’s waiting for the market to emerge.

Seeing the market before it emerges is what differentiates revolutionary plans from incremental plans.  While revolutionary plans come together on the backs of incremental gains, those gains are shaped and directed by a vision.

Your digital lifestyle

OK, this is going to sound like an advertisement, but I’m looking at it from a strategic roadmap and product management perspective.  Also, I already have a lot of this stuff lying around, so I’d like to see it work!  Now, onward…

Whether you knew it or not, the first thing to make progress toward the “paperless” (or perhaps “virtual”) anything was your house.  The office has too much inertia and weighty processes holding it back to really embrace the digital vision wholeheartedly.  It will move that direction, but nowhere near as quickly as your own household. 

That’s largely because you choose your own digital destiny.  New sexy products become available rapidly and the adoption curve for certain new technology items is based both on peer pressure and the desire for shiny objects.  Because of this, your house is very likely more advanced than your office.

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Windows copy and paste rants and raves

6 07 2009

Ever since Windows NT 4, I have had an issue with a very simple operation… copy and paste.  It may have existed prior to NT4, but that’s the OS where it started to matter to me.

It’s not something obvious like, resuming an interrupted transfer or having the progress bar be better integrated into the status of the files being copied (e.g. indicate they are in process or in queue so you don’t accidentally edit or delete them).

I can’t necessarily call this a bug, but it certainly is a pronounced behavior that exists today in Windows Vista and Windows 7.  It’s quite simple, and I’m going to talk about some of its effects. 

The steps to repeat the behavior are easy:

  • Multi-select several files (say file1.txt, file2.txt, and file3.txt)
  • Copy
  • Paste them into a new location

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Opera Unite + Windows Home Server?

16 06 2009

I’ve gotten a lot of hits on my article about how I extended my Windows Home Server (WHS) with Hamachi.  I use Hamachi because I need a more direct way to interact with my WHS content away from home (beyond what Microsoft’s remote access supports).  But that’s really just file sharing.

The next step to me is socialization.  If you’ve listened to Seth Godin’s TED talk about enabling “tribes”, you could see that the most immediate tribe most people have is their family.  WHS can help fulfill your tribe’s interest in family photos and media, but there could be more to it…

Perhaps there’s a way to use Opera Unite to create a richer experience around WHS.  While Opera Unite says it’s designed to remove the middleman (or the middle machine?) from the content-sharing equation, I contend there is a role for a server in this brave new peer-to-peer world.

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Home is where the server is

27 04 2009

It’s time to make good on my threat to post about home technology.  This post will be part of a series about stuff that makes my technical home life functional, yet very geeky.  It’s a mix of things that anyone with a small office / home office (SOHO) might enjoy using.  Some of it may save your bacon.  Even if it’s Canadian.

Just to get some affiliations out there – I don’t have particular allegiances, but typically I’m Microsoft-centric these days.  I do maintain a Mac (a post on that later), iPod, and used to have some Linux boxes around.  So I’m no stranger to any of that.

Why you need a Windows Home Server

This is a product that Microsoft got right.  There are others as well (Microsoft OneNote, and I’ll post about that later).  But I digress.

A stay at home server is right for you.  Be sure to check out the children’s books for those inevitable questions. Read the rest of this entry »





Economic necessity: When all you have is a hammer…

16 04 2009

The lure of “Something as a Service” may not be for everyone, but I think some of (the few) positive aspects of hard times are discipline and innovation. 

Reflect on Michael Porter’s HBR article “What is Strategy” to see what I’m talking about.  As is validated in this blog post, everyone will cut costs and focus on operational excellence, but that opportunity is transient.

Innovation through discipline is typified in my work with small theatre companies.  The arts have known nothing but hard times.  Yet, we have pulled off miracles with zero money.  That’s not to say we couldn’t have used more funds, but creativity was the order of the day to make something out of nothing.

User innovation, like art, may actually thrive in hard times.

The sin of opulence?

Fifteen years ago great debates raged on USENET newsgroups about the merits of programming in constricted resource environments (yes, comp.sys.*.advocacy).  Assembly vs. higher level languages.  It was very geeky.

The premise was simple: relying on hardware for performance lead to undisciplined code.  Today’s constraints are different, but using existing assets better will force creative thinking – as long as there is incentive, and merit is recognized.

Users may not have access to anything in today’s buzzword parade (SOA, SaaS, etc.),  but they will discover great potential in tools like Microsoft Office.  Innovative users will exploit all their available resources if they have the time and incentive.

Problems will be solved in new ways, costs may go down, and new value may be discovered – if users are empowered.

The revolution may not be scrutinized

In almost any company, certain users have the flexibility to operate on the outskirts of IT’s control.  So experimentation could already be underway.  Using the Office example, users can install a long term trial version in stealthy manner and create the “next great thing” right under the nose of IT.

These installations can grow gradually with minimal impact on operations, and users can solve some really interesting problems for the business by just assembling components. 

D.I.Y. solutions to problems like document management, “Excel hell”, and rich application construction without programming are all possibilities given the capabilities of Office.

But companies must create a structure to reward the curiosity of its innovators.  Fear of job loss is not a motivator.  In today’s world where company loyalty has dwindled on both sides, a collaborative approach to surviving and thriving is not an option, but a requirement.

In a later post, I’ll write about how and where to draw the line in order to reap the benefits of these innovations sustainably.  Then we’ll discuss what this means for vendors.





Software maintenance: what have you done for users lately?

9 04 2009

I have several friends on both the vendor and customer side of the enterprise software fence.  The vendors always rely on a blend of license revenue and maintenance fees to pay the bills.  Sure, they do some service (consulting, installation, etc.), but the ratio of license revenue to maintenance revenue is the yardstick by which the health of a software vendor is measured.

In today’s economic times, I’ve heard many of their customers talk about going on a “maintenance holiday” (a “version staycation”?) in order to cut costs.  After all, many software applications and infrastructures that are in place today aren’t going to get upgraded in the coming 12, 24, or 36 months unless there is a mission-critical feature added or addressed in a vendor’s product.

To prevent this, some vendors have put in place a measure of protection.  Sometimes these show up as maintenance-lapse penalties which are more of the “stick” side of the balanced “carrot and stick” equation.  This usually results in user grumbling.

A user-mandated, semi-collaborative approach comes from SAP’s base.  In response to its users, SAP has created a practice to measure the value of their maintenance contract with customers in order to justify the expense.  It will be interesting to see how that story develops.

But there may be a more proactive way to go.

Vendor revitalization strategy: remain relevant

As the SAP example suggests, the rules are changing in more places that just the economy these days.  We’ve watched the government provide stimulus packages to revitalize the economy, but for most of us, the benefits will be fairly intangible.  I believe vendors have the ability to make a tangible difference to their users by creating a stimulus package of their own.

Vendors should adopt the three R’s: be responsive, relevant, and required for success.

Clearly the best way to do this, if you’re a vendor, is release something so compelling that customers will flock to it.  But not all vendors have the next-generation iPhone or Palm Pre up their sleeve.

Another approach is to adjust licensing policies to encourage wider adoption of a product or further “adhesion” to the platform. Continued customer reliance on a software platform is like an insurance policy against being “ripped and replaced” (a disruptive act for everyone), or “congestive software failure” (where your product just atrophies in place and is consumed by something else).

You can see evidence of this from Microsoft as they court developers away from the LAMP stack (open source tools).  Over the past few years, they have released very capable, free editions of Visual Studio, SQL Server, and a mashup tool (Popfly) for free.  Most recently they have released SharePoint Designer for free in concert with their open sourced ASP.NET MVC Framework.  This is all to stimulate their developer base and get people in the community to use their tools to make new components like Silverlight into compelling offerings.

Create a hero, be a hero

Out there in user land, the prospects are bleak.  Layoffs and belt tightening may also mean that a vendor’s champions inside a company will disappear.  Once that happens, the vendor’s product could “go legacy” and be the next target for consolidation and “standardization” (i.e., migrate to your competitor’s product).

Vendors should realize that any team leader within a customer worth their salt will be in a protectionary mode.  It’s a fight for survival.  They will be trying to demonstrate the value of their team to avoid being part of the next wave of cost-cutting measures.

So, vendors, listen up: if users can find a way to replace or prevent the acquisition of a vendor’s software product in exchange for saving their team from layoffs, you can bet that software licenses and maintenance fees will be the first to fall.  I’ll post on that later.

This is why I’m calling on vendors to invest in becoming the ally of their customers and users.

The buyer persona of a company isn’t enough to address. Vendors that want their maintenance fees paid or their software upgrades installed must take an active role in making their users succeed as well.  Keep those users as your champions and your software will remain relevant.

Vendor stimulus packages

Vendors have ultimate flexibility in this situation.  By working out creative licensing terms or enabling a feature that the customer or user has been trying to justify purchasing, vendors can maintain an active, positive presence at a customer and become part of their economic success story.

Another approach is the help users use your existing product for something that is new and valuable to them.  I don’t mean go build it for them, but pony up the training, webinars, or prescriptive whitepapers and architectures to help their teams build the thing that will be valuable enough to save their jobs AND assure your place in their hearts (and wallets).

It could be true that there are some vendors that are “too entrenched to fail.” But, user and buyer morale is still important to maintain lest that software product become “too entrenched to upgrade.” 

Look for competitive vendors to examine fallow customer bases and create programs to migrate customers away from existing platforms.  In some cases, software that’s difficult to upgrade represents an equal opportunity for replacement to a user.  If a responsive vendor courts a customer and portrays equal or greater value plus a “low switching cost” to the customer, some established players may not be so established anymore.

Economic necessity is the mother of user innovation.  We will see creative uses of products that become “good enough” to replace or postpone purpose-built products.  Let’s talk about that in another post later on.

For now, be responsive, relevant, and required in your customers’ recovery plan.