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September 2010

MicroPress: Resolve DNS and I'm Yours!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 0

A few days ago I wrote about how the Microsoft Tablet should embrace the other Microsoft platforms and seamlessly integrate all of these different services together – and I absolutely stand by that statement, the importance of integrated platforms is huge and one day perhaps I’ll sit down and write about why I think it’s so important. Previously I’ve also written about whether or not you could give up using Google products – see here for my conclusions.

Today, I want to write about a step forwards Microsoft have made that achieves both of these things; moves the reliance away from Google and also sees a deeper integration into the Microsoft Platform. I’m talking about the partnership Microsoft announced with blogging company WordPress to move their Windows Live Spaces platform to them.


This is important news for two reasons; the first is that Windows Live Spaces in my opinion sucked, the whole thing had too much of a ‘Facebook wannabe’ in that it was trying too hard to bring together social elements from Live Messenger, SkyDrive, etc without any real blogging platform where posts could be….posted or any customisation could be….customised. The second reason is that Microsoft finally has a platform that competes directly with Google’s Blogger service, which is important for getting user generated content onto their network/platform.


It’s important to remember that this is only a partnership deal, but some might say it does pave the way to a Microsoft acquisition later down the line. Buts lets not forget that WordPress is a big playing the blogging market and they host numerous clients, some of which are big players.


I sat down last night and actually signed up for a WordPress account and I have to admit I was extremely impressed with the amount of tools and options that were included within the default free package. I was so impressed that I seriously started to consider whether it was worthwhile moving this very blog over to the WordPress service.


I was all ready to commit to the move until I realised that WordPress want to charge me $12 a year for the pleasure of me re-pointing my domain name at their DNS servers. $12 a year?! Yes, this isn’t a lot of money considering that they are actually hosting the actual content for free, but I’m already paying for my domain name, why do I have to pay again?


This is where Google has the upper hand; I can point my domain at the Blogger platform for absolutely nothing at all. WordPress does have plenty of other features that they charge for and some of which I’d certainly consider purchasing, but playing for nothing other than a DNS entry is a bit much – especially as a reoccurring cost per year (I’d be more willing to pay a one off cost than a per year fee, no matter how small, knowing that I wouldn’t have to renew interest every year).


If Microsoft were able to change this and to allow customers to point their own domains at these blog pages, I think that it would open up WordPress to potentially a slightly bigger customer base, who don’t necessarily understand how DNS works – without doing the research into this, I can guarantee that most non-technical users who blog would want do so under their own domain name if they were willing to pay for it, but I also think that most won’t understand these re-occurring charges to keep that domain name pointed at the site, especially when Google can do this for free.


It’s a high hope, Microsoft haven’t been all that friendly in allowing you to run your own domain name on their platforms thus far (or I really have been missing some configuration pages in their online apps), but with their commitment to cloud based services and a bit of pressure on WordPress, they could change this on the blogging platform. It’s something I’ll be watching out for, for sure. In the meantime, this blog will remain on Google’s Blogger until at least I can be persuaded of any true benefits of switching over to WordPress.


Give me a reason if you want my custom.

A Food Revolution

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Jamie Oliver is a bit of a strange one – it seems people either like him or they seem to hate him with a passion. Personally, I like him; he’s the cheeky, chappie with a clear mission to change the way people think about food and hopefully make a conscious decision to eat healthy – which lets face it, is the goal of every TV personality chef.

Jamie though seems to do it in a more public way (compared to say Gordon Ramsay who is generally off transforming failing restaurants into cash making machines), such as the past two campaigns he’s done in the UK; the school dinner’s project and his food revolution for healthy eating.


The latest series showing on Channel Four has been “Jamie’s American Food Revolution” and I have to admit I’ve been enjoying the show immensely, three episodes in I’m hooked in and supporting the mission, whilst at the same time being totally bewildered at the lack of common sense that is being applied to healthy eating in the States.


Jamie has been hitting the schools hard as the first step in educating at the root levels, however despite getting the inevitable backlash from the cooks who refuse to make meals from scratch (read; lazy), his main challenge has been fighting the system that seems to be made up of incomprehensible rules. The example last night was a secondary school (or ‘High School’), lunch time – Jamie made a stir-fry chicken which included 7 different fresh vegetables, however the other meals on offer didn’t satisfy the requirement for a minimum number of vegetables that should be on offer, which does sound reasonable – if you don’t want stir fry, an alternative should be provided – however when Jamie asked if French fries would be classified as a vegetable the reply came back in the affirmative, that French fries, despite their high calorific content, were a potato staple.


In another episode Jamie asked a bunch of kids (6 to 7 year olds), to identify different fruits and vegetables put in front of them – the results were outstanding – not one kid knew any of them, yet as soon as he held up the chicken nuggets and French fries, they instantly identified both items without any hesitation.


This totally shocked me – America, the world’s greatest superpower – doesn’t teach their kids anything about staple ingredients and healthy food types. Now, I’ve watched “The West Wing”, I know that education and healthcare is always up as a topic of conversations for the American Government, how could they have missed this obvious concern in the health of their people?


Admittedly, the UK have faced similar problems in healthy eating campaigns and school dinner campaigns, but in a country as advanced as America, you’d instantly assume that someone would have looked at these issues and fixed the problem at root cause before a cheeky, London based TV chef arrived in their country to point out the obvious.

Carpets & Ovens

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Yesterday I picked the keys to my new house – an exciting, yet also daunting, time for anyone going through the process of purchase and getting onto the property ladder for the first time. An experience made all the more daunting after entering the property for the very first time seeing the rooms naked and empty and seeing exactly how much work there is to be done.

What shocked me most wasn’t the little bits and pieces that need to be picked up and where money/time needs to be spent, but what stood out the most for me was just how dirty the place was and how people every live in these conditions.

Haven’t they ever heard of pushing a hoover around the place? I’m both looking forward and know I’m going to be absolutely aghast when I take to the flooring with my Dyson cleaner. Dyson, with their ‘no-loss of suction’ promise, makes even the cleanest of carpets appear dirty; God only knows what it will do to an actual dirty carpet and how much is lifted.

Putting the carpets aside, what amazed me even more was discovering the oven, which they’d left, wasn’t even working. How do these people live without the basics in their own kitchen? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no chef but I can’t understand how anyone could live without a working oven in their kitchen. But perhaps this is more an indication of how people actual live in this modern era of fast food and deliveries being made after a short phone call.

Both the carpets and the oven have added two extra expenses onto my list of things I need, as well as the sheer amount of cleaning kit I’m going to need to get the place into a live-able condition.

My Blog Promise

Saturday, September 25, 2010 0

One day I’ll learn how to not write about technology in my blog posts and start to expand my writings beyond the latest thought in my head about technology.

 

…….Promise!

Platform Integration in Microsoft Tablet

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About a month ago I wrote about what I wanted from a Microsoft tablet – and my conclusion was that I wanted a device that would easily replace my laptop and would be well suited in both my personal IT life and my professional IT career.

 

I’d like to add a little bit more to that and its after reading an article by Microsoft aficionado; Mary-Jo Foley, who co-incidentally owns an Apple iPad.  Mary-Jo’s take on a Microsoft based tablet would be to have a device that seamlessly integrates between the existing Microsoft platforms such as Zune.

 

Personally, I’d want that too – a device that works with my pre-existing platforms; Microsoft Media Centre, my music library (Zune isn’t quite available in the UK yet), Microsoft Office,  my mobile phone, etc.  And there’s no reason why Microsoft couldn’t do this – how do I know this?  Its because Microsoft already do it – look no further than the Xbox 360.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ve recently bought an Xbox 360 after much deliberation on whether I wanted to get back into playing games again.  The deciding factor in my choice to purchase though was that the Xbox could already tap into my existing Windows Media Centre content meaning I don’t need to purchase another device to plug into my TV I have in my bedroom. 

 

But of course, there is more – the Xbox plays games, it connects to Windows Live Messenger, online market places that allows users to buy content related to their favourite games, Zune and video content, and probably a lot more as I continue to explorer around the Xbox Live menus.

 

If rumours are true, the new Windows Phone 7 will integrate with Xbox too, expanding the experience beyond the console device and offering new and unique ways to expand the entertainment and gaming experience.

 

Microsoft need their tablet to do exactly the same in my opinion.  Allow integration with their existing platforms but with the flexibility for users to tweak settings and platforms to their hearts content.  Don’t use Hotmail for email?  Simply choose Gmail instead, etc.  Don’t like Zune, iTunes is just an install away.

 

Obviously, Microsoft are going to push their content and platforms over others and any Microsoft based tablet would benefit from users selecting Microsoft platforms, as these would provide deeper integration into the Operating System. 

 

Will they do it?  I think they have to.

Hot & Cold On This….

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The soon to be “Current Mrs Brand” recently appeared on Sesame Street with everyone’s favourite red monster Elmo.  However when parents saw the video, complains soon followed.

 

I’d like to add to those complains too…..that song was terrible, the acting wasn’t all that great and the punch line wasn’t great.  Katy, you can do better!

 

Then again, it is kids TV and you do look good.  I’m a little hot and cold on this one…..

 

Think Apple Own the Mobile Space? Think Again

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As I write this, both Apple and Google are the two main protagonists in the mobile phone market space and both are vying for majority share.  Microsoft, HP, Nokia and others have all been left in their wake, but is the mobile marketplace all sewn up?

 

Judging by the new concept mobile phone designs Mozilla have leaked onto the web, the answer is quite clearly not by a long shot!

 

The concept shows a full screen phone, which has a slightly bulky tear drop rear (which actually makes sense when you see what this concept does).  It has two mini projectors built into the phone, a bluetooth headset which also doubles up as a pointing and navigation device (possibly proving that the mouse is far from dead when it comes to touch screen), and wireless charging.

 

But its the two mini projectors that really make this phone stand out from the crowd – simply spin the phone 180 degrees and the phone suddenly becomes so much more than a phone, it almost becomes a direct replacement for your desktop PC!  And that’s where this device could really shine.  Imagine being able to combine your laptop, desktop PC, Television, phone and possibly even your work PC/laptop device into a single handheld unit.  Forget a ‘3 Screens Strategy’, a ‘1 screen/1 device’ strategy has clearly been born here in concept form and it breaks all of the rules we know to be true about phone design today.

 

Clearly the existence of any such device ever making reality is still a long way off yet and there are no doubt a series of problems that need to be overcome before this phone ever makes it into the hands of a customer.  Power being the major one that comes to my mind – undoubtedly, being able to produce a battery that would be able to sustain two projectors and all of the existing phone/OS processing for a period of time comparable to phones today is going to require a real break through, but there are already so many technologies out there in development that could really change this over the next few years. 

 

 

Are the mobile wars over?  Not yet in my opinion.  Your iPhone starting to look a bit dated yet with the glimpse of the future?  I’d say so!

When Blogs Attack...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 0



This morning I read an article on TechCrunch by one of my favourite writers – the lovely Ms Sarah Lacy – on how the recession in the US was declared over in June 2009 and that she hadn’t seen much of an effect inside Silicon Valley in that friends of hers didn’t lose their apartments “just” because of the financial crash.

Ms Lacy then compared today’s situation with that of 1999-2000 when the dotcom bubble burst and many Internet based companies simply lost their value over night and were forced to close, putting people out of jobs and lots of companies closing entirely.

I’ve never been to the Valley and nor am I best placed to comment on how bad one situation is against the other, but Ms Lacy – a tech journalist who has lived through both events – is far better placed to comment and compare and if she says the Valley got off lightly in comparison then so be it – and a well researched look at the numbers seemed to back up her theories. I read the article and I enjoyed.

I then did something that I very rarely do; I had a quick read through some of the comments on the site and was appalled by some of the ones that I read. Many of the comments asked if the article was serious and questioned Sarah’s judgement and ability to write and some even called for her to be put out of a job. I refuse to rehash any of those comments here.

A lot of the commenter absolutely missed the whole point of the article – which this was specifically about the Internet industry and purely based around the Valley. The article was not about the state of the economy in other industries or in other parts of the world.

Both Ms Lacy and my other favourite writer – Mr Paul Carr – have long blogged about the issue of those who leave comments doing so behind aliases and not their real names and generally the comments attacking the writer rather than leaving any comment constructive to the discussion that the writer has tried to have with the audience. I’ve always thought it was a bit of a non-issue and couldn’t see what these writers were getting at – today I’ve witnessed it and sympathise.

A while ago I read a post on Sarah’s personal blog which basically said that she now refuses to engage the audience via the comments section due to the amount of hate that is directed at her for expressing her views or her interpretation of the facts as she sees them. During this particular article, she questions whether continuing a career in writing was really worth it when she could easily go off and do something that doesn’t set her up for this level of abuse.

I’ll say it again, I love Sarah’s writing style, I enjoy her articles and most of the time I agree with everything she says. If I strongly agreed or disagreed with her I would probably leave a comment, but I certainly wouldn’t attack her for what she had written. If I was that strongly against something she’d written, I’d either move on or avoid reading her future articles.

I was compelled enough to leave a comment on today’s article defending her against the barrage of abuse. The latter part of the comment read:

I'm amazed by the level of uproar and backlash against Ms Lacy, I believe she is a fantastic writer and whilst this subject is controversial, you've all failed to read the article in the spirit it was intended. I love that Sarah writes and presents on TC and would hate to lose her to the haters and negative comments that have been made on this or any other article she posts here. You all need to learn to grow up and stop attacking if you don't like something.

I purposely switched off comments this site sometime ago, not because I’m afraid to engage with my audience (I’m not even sure anyone actually ever reads anything I ever write anyway), and nor am I afraid of similar abuse being posted towards me for my views. The reason is that blogging on this site is something I do for myself – it’s a creative output that I enjoy writing, to express my own views or be a record of my thoughts and feelings at that time about a specific subject.

If anyone does wish to engage with me on anything I write, then I’m more than pleased to discuss further via Twitter or email – but comments are not something I’m planning on switching on any time soon. I just hope Ms Lacy doesn’t read the comments that were left on her article and take them to heart, some of us do like her work and appreciate the effort that goes into them – and I for one hope that she continues to write on TechCrunch.

UPDATE: Sarah just replied brilliantly to all of the comments directly on Twitter with this:
comments on my recession post = iq test to see if you can read a whole article. indefensible this recession worse than 2000 on tech. obvious
Classy Ms Lacy, classy!

The Broadband Blues

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In around 2 weeks I will no longer be wearing the ‘first time buyer’ badge any more but instead will be proudly exchanging said badge for one which reads ‘home owner’. The whole process of buying my first home has been long and in places complex (especially as no one ever really explains the process to you and there are so many requirements and legal terms along the way), but I’ve done it.

For the past month I’ve been very carefully selecting furniture and all of the things I’m going to need for my new place – I’ll admit that I’ve over spent on a few select items that I really wanted, but everything has been within my budget.

The one thing that has really surprised me though has been the decisions that have been presented in selecting a broadband supplier and as a knock on affect the selection in a wireless router. At the moment, living at home, we have a Virgin Media cable service which has never once let me down, is priced perfectly and I’ve been able to purchase and select the 802.11n router I wanted – the set up couldn’t be more perfect.

My house however is outside of the Virgin Media Cable area and as a result I’ve been forced to go down the ADSL route, which of course means that I will need to an ADSL compatible router – which is fine, I don’t mind spending the money. Now, I was on the verge of signing up with BT Broadband, who would have sent me a free 802.11n “Home Hub” router, however they can’t get the router hardware to me before they are able to connect up the phone line and activate the service. This means that my wireless Squeezebox Radio and Duet won’t play music from my server, which in turn won’t be able to pick up any tracks from my NAS!

I can already hear you shouting ‘why is that such a problem?’ – well, because my Squeezebox is also my alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. Now I can use my mobile phone in the meantime, but it’s a compromise solution in what should be an easy request for BT to fulfil.

So looking beyond the services offered by BT Broadband; every solution seems to ship with a 802.11g router (rather than 802.11n), which means I’d still have to pay for a new ADSL router – providing that the broadband supplier I choose allows me to use my own router instead of ‘their’ supplied router. All of which is rather annoying, but here’s my real issue:

Every month I pay a mobile phone contract that gives me a certain number of minutes – which I never get close to reaching. In order to have ADSL broadband of any description I have to have a phone line coming into my house – which I’d, have to pay line rental for - yet cable customers can have pure (and in most cases unlimited) broadband without the added expense of a phone line, which I don’t want or need thanks to the free minutes I get from my mobile contract.

In my opinion one of two things needs to happen here; either the cable companies need to expand their network (unlikely due to the costs involved), or they need to make their ADSL options more attractively priced and available with or without a line rental cost. Hell, even a cheaper line rental for customers who don’t want to actually plug in a phone to their line would be far more beneficial than what is currently on offer.

Yes I’m one of those annoying customers that knows exactly what they want, yes I want the cheapest yet most reliable broadband connection available and yes I’m going to have to compromise and pay a lot of money for something I don’t actually want because no one can offer me exactly what I want. It’s a no-win situation for the customers, yet a huge win for the phone companies.

Android on the Rise?

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If our office is anything to go by and a reflection of what is going on out in the real world, then if I were Apple I’d be very afraid; for quite recently we’ve seen a spurt of Android based phones being purchased instead of Apple’s iPhone.

I need point out the numbers here. Of the people in the office we have as follows; 3 Samsung Galaxy S (Android), 1 Sony Xperia (Android), 1 iPhone 3G, 2 Blackberrys (RIM – although one of
these is a ‘work phone’, rather than a personal mobile), and I have my Palm Pre running WebOS. We also have a couple of other phones too, but these are neither iOS nor Android based.

What interests me the most is the quick succession of Samsung Galaxy S phones that have been purchased in quick succession by people in my office. It shows that Google really have got Android together after the disappointing G1 and it also demonstrates what a good job Samsung has done in bringing the hardware together to make the device as desirable as Apple’s iPhone 4 designs.

It’s quite a shift in dynamics from what I thought just a few months ago in that every man, woman and child looking for a new phone would automatically plump for the latest fruity Cupertino device. Is this a hang over from the antennagate issues or is this a genuine shift in the market? I think it’s too soon to tell, but antennagate has certainly scared Apple.

That’s not to say that Google have got the phone market cornered just yet. I’m still sceptical about the rate Android devices are appearing on the market and superseding the previous ‘hot’ device almost immediately. Also, from what I understand from skirting around a few web articles, Google have been slow in getting all of their handsets onto the latest releases of Android; this clearly is a problem for app developers and the software that users can or cannot run on their phone (active wallpaper is the big talking point in our office which is running on the Galaxy phones, but not on the Sony Xperia).

From my point of view, being the only WebOS user in the entire building never mind the office (to my knowledge), I’m not at all worried. In my opinion WebOS is still the best looking and intuitive Operating System and again reading through some websites out there, those within Palm Community continue to all seem to be unwaveringly enthusiastic about the platforms future, especially with HP now at the helm.

WebOS version 2.0 is on its way and both HP and Palm employees have confirmed that the software will make its way into other hardware devices (future phones, PalmPad, other devices/form factors?), over the next 12 months – which begs the question – will 2011 really be a Palm WebOS year and allow them to gain a foothold in a number of markets to compete with the likes of Apple and Google.

I will admit that I had been swaying away from WebOS and thought that their time had just about been called prior to the HP take-over. I was already watching the progression of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 as my next choice, but my recent look at the passion that is still abound the Palm Community and the talking up of the platform by HP, has really pulled me back onside and made me proud to be a Palm Pre owner.

Perhaps after Windows Phone 7 has been released and the reviews confirm that belief that Microsoft have finally got it right, of course I’ll be willing to review my selections when my current contract expires, but for now, I’m more than happy to be on the side of the Palm Community.

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