Tuesday, March 4, 2014 0

Imagine. What would you do with no barriers?

Work like a Network

Monday, March 3, 2014 0

I've been watching this video all evening. 

It really asks lot of questions about where business and services are heading, towards how we all can participate in building better products, providing a faster, more efficient service or working smarter in new collaborative and informed ways using the data and knowledge that we, 'the collective' already possess.

It's sparked a number of ideas for me and I hope it does the same for you too;

Juice, Juice, Juice!

Sunday, January 5, 2014 0

Prior to Christmas, searching for the perfect gifts, I stumbled upon a story that I’d not heard of before but instantly hooked me.  The story was that of a guy called Joe Cross, who was "sick, fat and nearly dead"….and determined to do something about it.
Joe travelled to America, bought a juicer and hooked it up to a power supply in the back of his car and drove across America to film a documentary centred on how he would lose weight and regain his health, turning his life around.
Before I’d even managed to watch the documentary, which is available freely on YouTube, I’d decided that even if I wasn’t about to embark on a juice diet, a juicer would be the perfect gift this Christmas and a great way to replace those sugar filled cartons of supermarket juice I’ve always bought.
A couple of weeks later, I’d done my research and decided to buy the Sage Juicer I’d found online as a gift for my girlfriend Katie; who I knew would appreciate the health benefits of having fresh juice and generally enjoy having more fresh fruits and veg around the house.  Not that we never had any fruit and veg around the place to being with – we’ve always been careful about what we eat and prefer to cook from fresh anyway.
In the run up to Christmas, having gifted the juicer early, we experimented with a couple of different made-up fruity concoctions with mainly satisfying results. 
Having indulged over Christmas (who didn’t?), the New Year has brought with it the predictable resolutions of losing weight and bettering ones-self.  Whilst I’m not one for making resolutions (I see little point in setting “resolution goals” at the start of the year, when you can set goals and objectives at any time), we had already decided post New Year, having watched Joe’s documentary to partake in a 10 day juice cleanse at the start of January.
Today, is day one of the cleanse, and we’ve already created our “Good Morning Glow” juice for this morning and our fridge is full of fresh fruit and veg.  The Sage Juicer is about to be thoroughly tested and put through its paces.
The next 10 days are going to be interesting for sure….I just hope that we can survive on juice alone!
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, in full for an inspiring watch; 

Xbox One: PC in Disguise

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 0

The new Xbox Onecontinues to intrigue me as both a device and as a concept in where the future lies for Microsoft.  The humble ‘games console’ from 2001 has morphed into a full on “Entertainment PC” (and I use the term “PC” entirely on purpose), combining movies, music, apps and communication in the form of Skype messaging.
Despite a lot of the ‘futuristic’, forward thinking items being stripped from the device due early feedback from those who like to make a lot of noise and fuss – my initial reaction was to cancel my pre-order (which I did), but more recently, now that the device has actually landed, albeit momentarily, in stores I have place a new order and can’t wait to see what it can do.
The reasoning behind this post however, is more around the crossover of services that appear within the Xbox One and the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem.
Just like the Xbox 360, the Xbox One has a SkyDrive application which allows users to display their cloud stored photo and video content – which is great, as it totally complies with the vision of being able to access all of your data, everywhere, with whatever device you happen to be using at that time.
SmartGlass technology continues to play an important part in the Xbox experience; already movies, games and music content are tightly integrated together into a full media eco-system that spans across PC, Tablets and phones.
This tech has recently made its way into the Office application through a new feature that allows Windows Phone to “RemoteOffice” and control documents on screen.  This is a powerful feature that should extend to other Microsoft services and be refined further over time.
As I already talked about in a previous post, the under lying operating system of the Xbox One fascinates me as it really pushes the Hyper-V hypervisor, virtualisation software into new territory.  I can already envisage desktop PCs with similar multi-OS, fast switching layers – combined with “snap” functionality.
Live Television
The live television interaction is clearly something that is going to be ‘work-in-progress’ over the next few years as Microsoft refine their system and find their way in the myriad of different television protocols and systems from country to country. 
Recently, Apple acquired the company that developed the prototype Kinect (or should that be Natal), movement controller, which suggests that others are increasingly becoming more interested in the movement and augmented reality worlds that Kinect is able to manage in today’s version of the device.
All of these services are great in their own right and they go some way to demonstrate Microsoft’s reach across devices and services.  But the one element that I particularly wanted to focus on today was Skype.
With the acquisition of Skype and the introduction of the Xbox One it emerged on the Skype blog that the whole integration was re-worked for the console version to allow some unique features such as person tracking which permits the camera to zoom and follow the user(s), around the room.
The example on the demonstration shows two developers in an office/meeting room conversing with the presenter in another room.  The camera pans, tracks and tilts accordingly and the demo is a huge success.

What got me thinking more though was if this is the power of the Kinect and Skype coming together on Xbox One, what would stop companies buying an Xbox One and using it as a fancy presentation device?  They’d be able to use the Kinect camera and Skype for presentations, SmartGlass/RemoteOffice combined with Skype and an Office Viewer to display content and use the “snap” features of the virtualised Hyper-V OS to split the screen between the ‘apps’ required.
The more I thought about this, the more it seemed to make sense to create a Xbox-like device that strips out the gaming element to create a high-end presentation room device that fits seamlessly into the Microsoft ecosystem and is controllable from multiple devices (Microsoft/Android/Apple tablets/phones/other devices).
Other Devices
The example I gave above, is obviously very focused on a particular presentation room scenario and would attract a very limited market in my opinion – which is why I ponder the question of businesses buying into the Xbox One rather than a separate, stand-alone device. 
With this though in mind, the Xbox One isn’t a games console any more, it really does become another “PC Device” in a supposedly “post-PC” world that could be applied to other locations and purposes outside of the living room.
I’ve been reading recently forums that ponder the question of Microsoft building TVs with Xbox One type elements built directly into them.  Whilst I think that is some way off just yet, it could become a reality – especially if they are able to build the Kinect directly into the screen.  Another element worth considering here is the acquisition of PixelSense by Redmond; 50-inch plus touch screen technology combined with the possibilities described above may well just be what business are missing from their board rooms, reception areas, lobbies, factories or elsewhere.
Testing the Waters
Make no mistake about it, Microsoft are becoming that “Services and Devices” company that they claim to be and the Xbox One is not only a tactical device to sneak Microsoft into your living room as your entertainment PC, but it is also a device that sits under your TV in disguise as platform for devices in the future. 
Much like the iPad targeted the home consumer and those devices transitioned (albeit unofficially in most cases, starting the BYOD movement), into business and enterprise arenas, the Xbox One similarly tests the waters within the home consumer of this multi-layered approach to its own services that will come full circle back into Enterprise Technology.
Like the Surface tablets, there is clearly more than meets the eye of the Xbox One - a PC device working in a “post-PC” world.

Hugh Laurie: Didn't the Passion Rain

Monday, June 24, 2013 0

Being the ‘House M.D.’ fan I am, I have a tendency to admire the acting talents belonging to the leading man Mr Hugh Laurie.  But it’s not only his skills in pretending to be someone else that I have been envious of in the past though – it’s also his work within the  music scene that grabs my attention in a big way.

Throughout his career Laurie has been able to show flashes of his musical talents in his previous comedy shows (“A Bit of Fry and Laurie”), in “House” itself and even with his former band made up of acting celebrities, who go by the hilariously named “Banned from TV”.

After the final series of House wrapped though, Laurie’s attention turned to his love of American Jazz and Blues music and released his first album “Let Them Talk” to huge success.  The story of how his love of this New Orleans’ inspired music was accompanied with a documentary charting the history behind the music and his progress in producing the album.

This year Hugh has returned with a new album entitled “Didn’t It Rain”, along with another documentary, briefly featuring a sarcastic Stephen Fry, showing how he travelled back to America’s south to explain how his love of this music came to be and to track down his new band “The Copper Bottom Blues” in order to play gig on the “Queen Mary”.

After a long wait, last night I finally got the opportunity to see Hugh and his band play live.  Sat right on the front row, the gig was outstanding and the music certainly flowed with ease; every track sounding key perfect and full of life.  But whilst Hugh Laurie was the big name to attract the audiences to the show, make no mistake, this show was all about a big band playing together rather than one man’s obsession with “old music” as he referred to it throughout the night.

Performances by gospel and soul singer Sister Jean McClain (who really took a shine to pointing and waving to me and few others in the audience throughout the night), and the pitch perfect Gaby Moreno (who performed an outstanding version of “The Weed Smoker’s Dream” that I could listen to forever), were weaved throughout the show, interspersed by Laurie himself who played piano throughout. 

Despite the singers taking front of stage though, it was clear that this was a band performance; the singers taking every opportunity to throw the limelight onto the superb band, who played just about every instrument you could possibly think of through the show.  It was clear to all that this was all about entertainment through song and music than it was about Laurie or the characters in the band itself.

The celebration of the music was enjoyed by all in the audience for sure, but watching Hugh as the band played and the singers did their thing, his eyes clamped shut as he played, intensely listening to every last note, you simply knew that this was his moment and he was loving every last minute of it.  The passion for the music, from the band, flowing through him and directly into the pores of the audience members who clapped, danced and sang along, feeding from that positive energy.

It was a show that I hope I will forever remember and I one day hope to have the same level of passion for the music that Hugh clearly possesses….and if I never really achieve that, I will claim I did anyway, because, after all – everybody lies.



How I Use my Surface

Friday, June 21, 2013 0

One year ago I sat in complete and utter awe as a then-unknown to me Panos Panay graced my television screen, along with Steven Sinofsky and Steve Ballmer, to reveal a tablet device designed around productivity and having fun; that device I fell in love with that day was, of course, was the Microsoft Surface.
A Productivity Device for the Modern Day
The Surface was designed primarily as a productivity device, hence the inclusion of a keyboard with the device to allow users to work and create when the need to just ‘get stuff done’ is essential and unclip or fold back when the time for work is over and the play can begin.
Microsoft were obviously very aware of this “productivity paradigm” they were creating; so much so that they have started to produce videos of everyday Surface tablet users explaining to the audience exactly how they use their devices to create and produce.
My favourite of these videos thus far has been this one;

My Computer
So, in homage to these videos, let me quickly explain why I love my Surface device and exactly how I use it. 
My Surface Pro is my primary device, demoting my Sony Vaio laptop to my second choice, and I take it just about everywhere I go – to my work place, to my local Starbucks, to my parents’ house when I visit.  It is the device I can use for just about everything, where ever I am.
I use the device to keep up with current affairs via the Bing News application included with Windows 8 and when I feel like unwinding I can fire up the Fresh Paint app and colour in using the digitiser pen (it’s surprising just how relaxing and how much of a regression that app can cause when just colouring in digitally between the lines!)
But by far the main use for my Surface device is the combination use of both OneNote and SkyDrive.
Taking my Surface into meetings with me to draw and take notes directly on the screen and have those notes follow me across devices thanks to the SkyDrive synchronisation is simply a magical experience.  Being able to search through my notes and bring my own information straight to the front of mind, directly from my fingertips.
But what I really love about my Surface Pro and One Note most of all is being able to sit down with my boss and my associates in the work canteen, sit around a table with the Surface in the centre, talk through some ideas whilst scribbling and drawing directly onto the screen to create plans and refine designs of our latest IT projects and infrastructures.
It’s truly a collaborative and social device, as well as one that allows so much productivity.  I really do love my Surface.  Thank you Microsoft!

Why I Cancelled my Xbox One Pre-Order


Before finally entering my credit card details into the order page on Microsoft’s ordering page, I’d read all of the reviews, even tried it for myself and was convinced that it was the right thing to do.  I’d perused the negative comments and pondered the view points of the faceless names who had let their views be known on the subject – but I was determined, it seemed right, was a new dawn and the only way is forward… I ordered…..two!
Fast forward six months and the detractors have made their views heard and Redmond have listened, adapted…..the ‘Start’ button is back in Windows 8.1! 
The One        
After watching the launch event for the Xbox One, I was fired up – enough so to write a whole blog post all about its virtues and how this new console was a step in the right direction towards the modern and ‘one’ home entertainment system you would ever want to put under your television.  Even in my non-gaming life style, it had registered on my Richter and rocked my world.
Although I never drilled into the details in my previous post (although I did note the DRM checks and second hand games markets would blow over), I was quite enthralled by the prospect of finally completing the removal of my physical media (just like I have with CDs, DVDs and even books), in favour of downloaded content.
My pre-order was placed on Amazon for the “day one release” edition.  The very next day, Microsoft announced that they would be reversing their policies and that the DRM online, disc-less console was to return the PlayStation 4/Xbox 360 previous console generation practices of requiring game discs to be inserted into the drive.
I cancelled my order.
The question you’ll no doubt be asking now is, if I’m not a gamer then why would a change in policy regarding DRM downloaded games bother me so much?  The answer is simple and it was answered by Xboxes very own Don Mattricks when he said the following;
"Fortunately we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity; it's called Xbox 360, if you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device."
I already own an Xbox 360, that I can get up from my sofa, dig through green boxes that clutter up my living room and insert the shiny disc into the drive, so what is the benefit of the One right now?  Improved graphics?  Live TV integration?  Skype?  I have a slim line PC, running Windows 8 and a webcam sat under my TV for those things.
The one thing that the Xbox One really had with downloaded games content was that it had the potential to flash up games in front of my face that I could purchase on a whim and enjoy playing straight away, dragging me into these storybook games and potentially holding my attention long enough to hooking me back onto gaming within the next generation.
Taking these things away by reverting back to the old methods doesn’t enhance the experience for me and it doesn’t draw me in for a ‘day one’ purchase.  I can now sit back and wait until next year before decided whether to purchase an upgraded console or not based on a draw to a future game release (read: Halo 5), and who knows by that time, perhaps the console will be offered in a more competitive bundle or at a slightly reduced rate.
It took me eight years to buy an Xbox 360, it could take another eight – or another console release – before I’m tempted to buy again.  Or perhaps, just perhaps, Microsoft will reverse their decision again, refine their product and just like Windows 8.1 bring back thing we want most of all.

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