Home > February 2012

February 2012

OneBlog: On The Ever Changing Office

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 0

Microsoft SkyDrive is one of my favourite online services – as is its close cousin Microsoft Live Mesh (which is the synchronisation tool for keeping files up-to-date between the cloud and all of your connected devices).  One of my gripes with the service has always been that SkyDrive and Live Mesh online storage is completely separate, but it looks like all that is about to change with Windows 8.

Announced on the EngineeringWindows 8 blog is that the synchronisation elements of Live Mesh will be baked directly into Windows 8 and straight into SkyDrive.  This is fantastic news for me and great news for all Windows users.  But there are far wider implications of this change in my opinion and it all revolves around Microsoft’s Office product.

Much has been speculated about what is expected to happen with Office as Microsoft makes the transition to tablets and ARM processing; will Office be subject to the ‘Metro UI’ changes that have taken the lead on the design front of all Microsoft products recently.  As tablets have become more mainstream, so too have email services, online sharing utilities (Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc) and Office has become less a “much have” application.

The creation of documents has become (or will become ever more), less important to these users – why create a document when an easy to share email can be created?  Why create a spreadsheet when you can download an app that will look after your finances without you having to do any of the set up work?  Our documents have become a thing of the past; modern day computer users are far more interested in photographs, web pages/blogs, apps and entertainment. 

No longer do users need or want to create a 100 page document that is difficult to collaborate on, publish, share and interact with.  That’s not to say that all document creation is dead; there will always be a minority and a need to create text documents and spreadsheet modelling, but the requirement has been significantly reduced as a result.

For me, on my home laptop, Word has been replaced by Microsoft Live Writer to compose my blog posts, my email editor is an application served up from my browser.  Whilst I still use Excel, it’s uses are becoming less – and the application I find myself using more and more as a result in Microsoft OneNote.

OneNote is a gorgeous application that has been around for years and I’ve used a lot, but the reason or need for many users to use it has not been there.  The inclusion of OneNote on the Windows Phone (and Apple iOS), platform has seen its usage rocket – I, for one, use it all of the time as a scheduling, to-do and reminders application, as well as to capture thoughts throughout the day and important snippets of information I need to keep close at hand for those just occasions.  The fact that these notes are automatically synchronised with my SkyDrive really means that OneNote beats Word as my go-to application.

Microsoft have hardly given in though; they are still expected to launch a new version of Office for Windows 8 and the new WOA (Windows On ARM), tablets that may or may not be given the Metro UI treatment in its entirety.  Microsoft Office for iPad is also rumoured to be just around the corner, making good on Microsoft’s stance as a “software company” first and foremost and not backing away from making those software applications relevant to only its Windows Operating System (just think how much Microsoft have made from writing their software for other platforms).

Additionally, whilst the home user market has shifted towards this ‘online’ culture of tablets and post-PC devices, enterprise and business are still required to maintain their professional approach to doing business, which means that documents need to be written, reports need to be compiled, spreadsheet modelling needs to be completed, which means those much loved Office applications are still very much in demand in this space, to be accompanied by other server tools such as SQL, SQL Reporting, Sharepoint and IIS Internet services; whether those are public or private cloud based services or more traditional ‘data centre’ set up at this time.

The way we work and create are changing and Microsoft are still making the tools and services to allow the provisioning of these changes, but they are coming at the expense of other, previously established technologies like Office that will continue to be used, but as times are changing, the elements within Office that we once saw as vital are now being replaced by other components (in the form of OneNote in particular).

Windows Upgrade!

Sunday, February 12, 2012 1

It was inevitable that this year I would upgrade windows….

…perhaps what I hadn’t quite bet on was the upgrade of my actual windows from the wooden frame, bad excuse for double glazing, drafty windows I currently have in place now!

After getting a quote last year for a quite large amount of money, I’d firmly put the idea to the back of my mind as a “nice to have” at some point – like when I next win the lottery jackpot – but after the cold of this winter, it was worth revisiting.

So I called up my folks, who had their windows done by a family friend, who agreed to quote me happy; which he did. A price that not only beat my previous quote hands down, but also included the replacement of two external doors too!

It just goes to serve as a reminder to all; the next time your looking for something or need a price, shop around, the first deal isn’t always going to be the best.

My next Windows upgrade will hopefully be a little bit less expensive though!

A Figure of 8 Completes the Circuit

Saturday, February 11, 2012 0

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been excited about Windows 8 for such a long while now (just as I was about Windows 7 before it), for so many reasons, but including:
  • One, I’m actually in what seems like a dwindling number of people who A) Like Microsoft an awful lot and B) Like their products an awful lot
  • Two, it finally brings them into the tablet market that Apple have dominated for far too long, given Bill Gates constant believe in the form factor
  • Three, they've not abandoned their roots (despite the insistence of some commentators, who would likely berate Redmond just as much for doing so) and have built a platform that spans both the desktop and mobile worlds without compromising on either

What I hadn’t quite put together – until now – was just how much an opportunity Microsoft was creating for new start ups to emerge, until I read this article (on my new favourite website PandoDaily) – here.

Whilst I don’t quite agree with everything in the article (renaming WOA or “Windows on Arm” to “Windows Mobile” in what is an engineering blog produced by Microsoft – though I should point out, it would be good if they could get the naming of these things right when it comes to product launch for the average Joe), the possibilities to create new applications on Microsoft’s Metro platform.

Coupled with Windows Phone 8 and Kinect for Windows, I think that Micorsoft are really starting to build a platform that could not only take on Apple at their own game, but also potentially beat them in the long run.

I’ll qualify that again just in case you missed it – in the long run – I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that Microsoft cannot turn over their Cupertino rivals easily.  More importantly though, it should easily see off Google’s Chrome OS platform (though, I’m still not convinced that it was ever a real challenger).

Kudos to Microsoft I say – and I hope to be able to read many more positive articles on Windows 8 over the coming months till launch.  The potential is high in this one.

Rule One: Take Opportunities


When my career in the world of IT Support inevitably comes to an end, the only real thing I want to replace it is being able to become a blogger full time.

It’s perhaps no surprise though; I have a number of favourite writers – such as the talented Sarah Lacy, Paul Carr, Jeremy Clarkson and Charlie Brooker (and I’m sure they are many more I could name too!).  Whilst I’m under no illusion that it has to be a difficult career to pursue, yet alone master and become a big name like the aforementioned superstars, the profession, looking in from the outside, appears to be a lot of fun and provides all of the benefits of being able to work from anywhere in the world and being able to work on your own time and terms (give or take the deadlines and skill to always provide great content).

t this moment in time though, I know that I don’t quite have the skillset to reach the dizzying heights of actually being published on some great platform where I can attract the page views and readership I can only dream of.I blog here because it’s an outlet for my views that I can express to the world and it gives me some level of satisfaction hitting the ‘Publish’ button at the end of making my viewpoint known. 

In the meantime though, I have bit of a dream job for a company that I am awfully fond of and as well as having a great boss (the same guy who gave me my very first job 10 years ago!), it provides me with a great challenge and satisfaction at the end of every week (I’m not going to pretend things are always rosy, because that’s just not true).

Watching the news this evening, the main report was that youth unemployment is at an all time low in the UK and they interviewed a number of young jobseekers who were affected by the shortage of paying jobs and it struck a nerve.

Being young and getting a a job has never been an easy thing – the balance of qualifications and ‘on the job’ experience cannot be achieved without someone giving you that experience; that was true when I was first starting out and it’s true now.  But there are no excuses; when I was at college, I was also working for free in an IT department to boost my skillset and experience ready for the search for a job (I was fortunate in that the company I gained that experience eventually hired me). 

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to interview some hopeful candidates for an apprentice role (with the added benefit of working directly with me), and I was struck by just how uninterested these potential young candidates were in securing the position that was on offer.  Admittedly it wasn’t paying much money, but it’s certainly a lot more than the free work I did when I was in their position.

The problem is that these candidates just simply couldn’t see the opportunity that was being placed right in front of them and therefore they arrived ill prepared and uninterested in putting themselves ‘out there’ to get the chance.The main reason for this, in my mind, is two fold; first they are the generation that believes that good things will simply be delivered to them on a plate and in healthy doses too – like the “X Factor” or Zuckerberg/Facebook instant fame should be delivered to them too and that they should have “instant success” in what they are doing.  The second reason, I believe, is that they simply don’t want to put in the hard work required.

Let me give you an example; when we finally selected a candidate from the applicants and hired him (naming no names), his initial interest in the role went downhill almost instantly when it became apparent that a job in IT wasn’t quite as easy as he thought and that work was going to be required to get to the levels expected of him – and has now almost given up – a few times this past week, I’ve caught him with his head on the desk in a bid to ignore what is going on around him – and when questioned about it, has woken up and gone back to surfing around on the Internet and pretending to be busy.

As his supervisor, and being as cunning as I am, I’ve found a way to close out those sites and focus his attention; and hell I’m not saying that I don’t spend any time on the Internet, look at my stats and you’ll see and endless assault on PandoDaily, the occasional visit to TechCrunch and the like, but when I was that age, I was out to prove myself and that’s what has got me to where I am today as “IT Systems Manager” – a flashy title that I am embarrassed to tell people I actually have, but I am extremely proud of it by the same token because I believe I have worked hard to achieve it and everything that goes with it.

No instant satisfaction.
No X Factor/Zuckerberg moment.
No easy way, other than hard work.

And these are exactly the same reasons why I know that if I ever did want to become a successful blogger, I’d have to work just as hard as I have to achieve what I have today to get to where I would want to be in that field.  No head against the desk and no instant expectations – but maximising opportunities and working hard.

Perhaps the unemployed youth, with their ample amount of opportunities that the Internet and belief in the “entrepreneurial way” the modern day seems to look towards, would be able to do so much better…..just realise the opportunity, aim high and work hard.

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