James O'Neill's Blog

May 31, 2006

One care now available.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 12:21 pm

One good thing about getting BBC news as an RSS feed in Outlook, is headlines like “Microsoft Debuts security package” get my attention. Windows Live One Care is now available for users of Windows XP.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 24, 2006

Longhorn Beta 2 also now out

Filed under: Virtualization,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 9:38 am

John Howard – who did this job before moving to the Virtualization group in Redmond – told me to look out interesting stuff at the WinHEC conference which is happening now. Bill Gates’ keynote is online now [the time differences and yesterdays travel mean I haven’t seen it myself yet] and according to George OU on ZDNet he showed what Hypervisor (next generation virtualization) can do. Looks like I’m going to need a laptop that has 10Gig of RAM and 64 bit processor that I can use to demo Hypervisor. And I’ve only had John’s old Toshiba for a couple of weeks 😉

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Vista beta 2 released

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 9:19 am

More details here.

I’ve been saying for some time now: wait for beta 2 it is a big improvement over some of the other pre-release editions.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 23, 2006

Vista DOES HAVE Podcasting! (but it’s a bit ugly). The RSS screen saver is built in too..

Filed under: How to,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 9:39 pm

Regular readers (if I have any) will know that RSS is one of my interests. So I noticed Robert Scoble’s post “Windows Media 11’s lack of Podcasting gets noticed” which in turn followed up a post on Geek News Central

For background:

  • Podcasts are just RSS feeds with Enclosures.

  • Internet Explorer handles finding and downloading RSS feeds including Podcasts

  • Applications – certainly Microsoft ones – should use the IE service and NOT implement their own RSS

  • To look at Windows Media Player, it appears that the Windows media Team have never heard of podcasts.

So how do you get a Podcast into WMP 11 ?

  1. In Internet Explorer 7: Find and subscribe to your podcast..

  2. Still in IE, click the “Favourites Center” (Gold star) button, select “feeds”, and right click your podcast feed and choose “properties”

  3. In the feed properties make sure the “Automatically download attached files” option is checked. If have to check it you may also need to refresh the feed at this point. You may also want to limit the number of stored files.

  4. Click the “View files” button, a file explorer window will open. Copy the path from the file explorer

  5. In Media player, click “Library”, the “add to Library”. Press “Add” and paste the path you just copied. Hey presto. Media player now has your podcast

If your feed is pictures then you can choose the photos screen saver and paste the path in there too.

By the way, this 5 line VBS script is all that is needed to get a list of feeds and their folders.

Dim rssMgr
Set rssMgr = CreateObject(“microsoft.FeedsManager”)
For Each rssfeed In rssMgr.RootFolder.Feeds
   If rssfeed.DownloadEnclosuresAutomatically then _
      wscript.echo rssfeed.Name & “is stored in ” & rssfeed.LocalEnclosurePath

MEDIA TEAM IF YOU’RE READING. There is no excuse for not putting this into Media player directly. Let’s see it in there before RTM eh ?

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 22, 2006

Exploring Vista explorer

Filed under: Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 12:39 pm

Vista feels different even before you log on. The logon process itself has changed: fast user switching is longer disabled when the machine joins a domain. Smart card logon needs Ctrl-alt-del to start it (at least with this build and my smart card reader). Once logged on, the new look – changed fonts to make the best of clear type, “Glass” effects and new default colours – make vista look new .

Of the things explorer controls, the desktop has benefitted from the general facelift, but no more; the task bar too has only cosmetic changes; the start menu has changed, but is still recognisable, and the file explorer beyond recognition

The Start menu, – although no-longer labelled “Start” – is recognisable to most XP users. I say most, because I kept XP’s menu in “Classic” mode: a couple of innovations in Vista have persuaded me to leave classic mode behind – it looks so 1995 now. The configuration of the menu and task bar has been streamlined. As with XP the menu adapts to keep your preferred and recently used programs visible.

The new look menu

The major difference is the presence of search. If the program you want isn’t on recent list, you have a choice, navigate through the program menus or type the name in the search box and let Windows find it. You don’t need to use the run menu, Window Key + R still brings up the run dialog, but run is not on the menu by default. You can add it back through the single dialog which handles options for the Task bar, Start menu, notification area and Toolbars. This easier than XP with finer control over the start menu.

Search is a big thing in vista. With good attention to detail, when it is used from the start menu, it searches for programs, pauses for a second, then displays other items from the index, grouping together files emails and together. And it searches meta data too, so if you want to find documents by Barry, all you need to do is press the Window key and type “Barry”, want to find music by Vivaldi ? Type “Vivaldi”. Start a command prompt ? Type “cmd”. You only need to open a search window from the start menu (or with Window Key + F as in XP) and use it to build complex property searches: if I’m looking for a recent high-res picture of my daughter (without her brother) I can tell search to return pictures, where the tags contain “Lisa” but not “Paul” and the date is this year, and the size is greater than 1MB. Each step of the way I see results being narrowed down. Because search looks at the contents of your mail box and mail properties, you can have searches to view mail.

Windows Explorer as a mail client using search.

Crucially, searches can be saved – they’re XML files, which means they can be shared too, but to any application they look like folders, so Old applications can use saved searches, if they use the built in file-open dialog

Here’s an application from 1999 using saved searches to find files.

The file explorer has seen the biggest changes. In XP the left of the Window was either a mix of shortcuts to folders and tasks based on content OR it showed the folder hierarchy. For Vista, tasks are along the top of the window, and the left has become “places I can go” which is divided between favourites, and folder hierarchy. The Bottom of the window displays information about the file (no need to call up file properties), and the right can display a preview, which very useful as I mentioned before – you can see this in the mail search screenshot above. Each of the Panes can be turned on or off as needed. Stacking files is another new idea in Vista. Stacking is best explained by example; if I stack documents by author, all the documents, in the all the sub folders are arranged in new search folders, one per author. You can stack within stacks, so you can stack by document type within author, and because the stacks are savable searches, I can put a shortcut to “presentations by Eileen” on my desktop. Those presentations might be in 101 different folders based on event, or subject or time frame. My folder hierarchy doesn’t matter.

Application vendors need to support search, property display and reading view: it’s the difference between working on Vista and working with Vista. I don’t know what’s planned for application certification for Vista, but I’d require support for all three. Microsoft documents applications do support them as you’d expect, and Windows fetches the information from the EXIF data in JPEGs. By comparison the experience I get with a PDF file and the default Adobe reader looks very poor, I hope Adobe are working on this.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 19, 2006

The Mis-appliance of science pt2 – working for Microsoft

Filed under: General musings — jamesone111 @ 10:54 pm

Microsoft is a better place to work than it was last week.

I was out of the country on Friday. My phone downloaded the start of a long mail from Lisa Brummel – who I mentioned recently: A mail from a major name saying he was excited by Lisa’s mail, made it “Read NOW!” instead of “Read, eventually”. It takes something big for me to go “YES!” and throw my phone in the air when I’m in a customer’s building. That hoopy Lisa Brummel has only gone and got rid of the worst thing about working here: The Bell Curve

Mini-Microsoft feels like “Drawing hearts around her name” and Robert Scoble loved the changes (when he could say more than “Wow”). To quote the Seattle Times

The changes likely to have the biggest impact involve evaluation and compensation practices.The existing system doles out bonuses and promotions based largely on a controversial numerical rating scale. The number of employees who can receive a top score is fixed, sometimes forcing managers to give a lower score to a worker even though he or she might have performed at the same level as a peer.

Until Thursday Microsoft insisted that staff performances fitted a normal distribution. Other companies believe this myth of mis-applied science – that everything fits a normal curve. It doesn’t – not if you recruit the best people (and Microsoft does – new starters are often overwhelmed with the calibre of people.). If you do get a Bell Curve you’re failing. Why ? Let me draw you a picture.

The diagram on the left shows a Bell Curve for how the whole population would perform in a job: number of people is shown on the y axis, and performance on the x axis, 100% fall under the Green curve. If we recruit from top 10%, we’d get 100% under the red-curve – which is just part of the green one, stretched The actual performance people are supposed to deliver, is added in blue on the diagram on the right. The best possible performance is fixed, but the big spike in the “potential performance” (red) has been turned into lower performers (that’s the two shaded areas). There are 3 explanations for this

  • We didn’t recruit the people we thought

  • Our environment means about a quarter of people aren’t delivering their full potential.

  • The basis of the grading system is wrong,.

Previously, there was a distrusted and secret process where people were “stack ranked” (so helping others wasn’t in your best interests) . My previous manager sent his team a link to “Stack Ranking as a popularity contest”. Once ordered, grading forced the number of each grade in each group to match the Bell Curve – some people had to be doing well, the same number had to doing equally badly. Microsoft made $250,000 profit before tax per employee last year, how could 1/3 of our people be lousy ? THEY WEREN’T But the Bell Curve said they were. Common sense said some groups would have a greater proportion of “stars” the Bell Curve said they couldn’t

As a friend who runs European IT for another large American company who use the Bell Curve put it: “If a third of my people are turning in poor performances, why have I kept them? It’s just as well that every manager has the same number, otherwise I’d deserve to be fired”

The Bell Curve wasn’t enough to walk away from a job at Microsoft – though it would count against any company wanting to tempt me away. Even those who benefitted from it couldn’t make a case for it. How could we let it go on and still hold our values like taking on big challenges, openness, integrity, commitment to constructive criticism and self improvement ? A few railed against it, but most believed it couldn’t be changed, so said nothing, did nothing: proof that negative thinking is more potent than positive thinking, because it stops the possible from happening.

I mentioned I did a spring clean of my documents. Among them I found “True communication is possible only between equals, because inferiors are more consistently rewarded for telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth.” There was a widespread assumption that no-one would tell Steve Ballmer that this needed to change. I also found some stuff entitled “Colin Powell on Leadership”, which contains some corkers such as “Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” Some aasumed Steve had too much invested in the Bell Curve to accept change.
I was introduced Thomas Kuhn’s “The structure of scientific revolutions”. last summer via William Leith’s book “The Hungry years” when it was book of the week on BBC Radio 4. It is about his experience of the Atkins diet; and he refers  to Kuhn’s idea that revolutions in thinking come from outsiders – Atkins was a cardiologist, not a dietician: people inside a comminity cling on to old assumptions. Lisa’s Channel 9 video explains that her first job in HR was to be head of it at Microsoft, at Steve Ballmer’s instance…did he put an outsider in because he saw we needed a revolution ?

On the flight home I made a list of 5 great things about this announcement – In descending order:

  1. Values. It proves they’re not just a puff piece, We do prefer the route which aids integrity. We do look for improvements. And we do take on big challenges.
    We shouldn’t assume that the person who prefers the hard truth to the easy lie can’t end up at the top of the company.

  2. Demonstrable Fairness. Some people stay out of management to avoid handing out unfair grades with “there weren’t enough arguments to stop others being pushed above you” .Now, if someone truly Underperformed they can be told what’s wrong (and what the possibilities are). And team members should see why one of them graded as “Exceeded”.

  3. Team working. It gets rewarded, rather than pushing others up the stack rank at your own expense. I think this means better products, and greater efficiency. We talk about “the people ready business” now we’re acting like one.

  4. Steve Ballmer’s ego isn’t an impediment to doing the right thing.

  5. A lack of cynicism. They could have announced this just before the annual MS Poll which measures organizational health. They waited till it had closed.

This change makes Microsoft a better company for all it’s stakeholders.

One other change caught the headlines; in a triumph of legumetrics over sense (or excessive attention to costs) in 2004 the company stopped providing towels in Redmond locker rooms. Adam Barr grasped that a towel has immense psychological value, and the change spawned public ill feeling. Lisa’s reversed that. I never thought I’d call our HR supremo “ a frood who really knows where the towels are” but as I said of her before it’s good to challenge those assumptions.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Now on the Vista web site…

Filed under: Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 8:52 pm

You get some idea how important vista is going to be when a web-site update makes the BBC news site. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked what the hardware requirements for Vista will be. It’s now on the Vista Web Site start looking for “Vista Capable” and “Vista-Premium ready” logos.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

The Mis-appliance of science pt1 – talking about the benefits of Vista

Filed under: Beta Products,General musings,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 7:02 pm

Talking about cost of ownership on its own is nuts.

There, I’ve come out and said it. There are two sides in most economic decisions, the gain side and the cost side. You can’t make a decision based on just one. So anyone with a budget should ask

  • Can I get the same gain for less cost (reducing TCO)

  • Can I get more gain for the same cost (increasing benefit)

  • If I spend more or less does the change in benefit outweigh the change in cost.

Consultants like to use terms like ROI (return on Investment) for the ratio of cost to gain. The rest of us call it Value for Money. My gut instinct is that concentrating on costs is usually the harder way to improve profitability, return or value. You can’t ignore costs, but more often the answer is on the benefit side.

In Vista we have done things on the cost side– reducing the cost of downtime and deployment. But after only a few days working with Vista and Office 12, I’m not going back to XP – there are many benefits, some big, some small. So for the time being my posts about Vista will be on that side, and not so much on the cost reduction side. This is just a random “Top 5 list” of things that

  1. Hibernate on low power. XP does this, but the first you know that your battery is nearly exhausted is when you boot back up to find a dialog box on screen. If you don’t shut down again or plug in really quickly the battery dies, Vista tells you BEFORE it resumes why it hibernated. Less panic, less risk of losing work.

  2. Printers. XP inherited its printer dialog from Windows 2000, so you had to tell it expressly to search Active Directory for near you printers. Vista appears to detect the AD subnet and search for printers automatically so you get a list of nearby (which you usually want if it is available).

  3. Search EVERYWHERE. When I wanted to find something I mailed 2 years ago – I knew it had the word “bathroom” in it – not a common word in my documents, I pressed the Window key typed in bathroom and had found the mail which contained the item as attachment in about a second. You search mail along with everything else, and the search “cracks” attachments. But it’s not just a desktop search, search in control panel means I no more remembering paths to stuff.

  4. Preview in the shell. You’ve seen the filmstrip view for pictures in XP … imagine the same thing for Text, saved HTML pages (including MHT files), Documents, Spreadsheets and presentations. You can scroll through the document, look at each page in a spreadsheet or watch the slide show, without leaving explorer – you can even copy data from the reading pane – I’ve just moved to a new Laptop, and this meant I can do a “spring clean” of my documents folder for the first time since …. well the first time I can remember actually.

  5. DVD burning support. I never understood why XP had CD burning but not DVD burning built in. Backup burns to DVD too.

  6. Compatibility. Spotting a failure to run an setup and re-running in a self configured compatibility mode is like seeing a magic trick. I’ve hit two compatibility issues, one which is being worked on, and one with some very old copy protection software. Every piece of hardware I’ve tried has worked with XP drivers.

There are a load more but these are just the ones that have stuck me in the last couple of days. IE-7 has so many pluses that I’ve written about it before, and it’s not strictly a vista thing because I have it on my XP laptop. IE7’s implementation of RSS is great – doubly so when used with Outlook 2007. Media Player 11 is also available for XP, but having Media center in the standard product is better.

Vista is not finished, beta 2 is nearly out but we have more work to do – there were no working screen drivers for my laptop till recently, waiting to see what display(s) – if any – the current ones will select adds excitement to resuming the machine.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 15, 2006

Groove and Mind Mapping

Filed under: Beta Products,Office,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 10:45 am

In my post last Friday I mentioned installing Groove and the Mind Genius Mind mapping software which I use so much. When I had trouble explaining what Groove 3.1 did, I made a mind map – which has now been given the Mind Genius V2 treatment.

Darren Strange has a good post on using Groove, and Marc Olsen has one on Office Live Groove and another on Office Enterprise Groove

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 12, 2006

When was the last time you looked at Word and said “now THAT is cool” ?

Filed under: Office — jamesone111 @ 3:05 pm

This post, and the last one were made from Word 2007 Beta. I don’t mean typed and spell checked in word, then copied out to notepad, to strip words extra tags, then copied into the blogging engine, reformatted, links re-instated and posted. I do mean this. I chose “file, new, Blog post”, Typed the title in the space marked title, selected my account from a pull down on the page, clicked a category and one I was done I went up to the word ribbon and hit Publish.

Kudos to the word team and to Joe Friend for breaking the news.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Woof-woof: feed me that dog-food

Filed under: Beta Products,Office,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 1:43 pm

Unexpectedly a new-ish laptop came my way on Wednesday. Pre-installed on it were newer builds of Windows Vista and Office 2007 than I had been using. There was little else besides the standard Anti-virus product, and yesterday morning Windows defender reported that the anti-virus signatures were out of date. So I tried to download the new ones. AV is configured to try several internal servers, but not the internet, so I needed to add the vendors FTP site. This should take just a few clicks – except the downloader kept showing the original list: log off and on, no change, restart services no change, in desperation – reboot, no change. It was as if I was editing one file and the application was reading another… at which point a light came on. If a program isn’t told to run with Administrator privilege, Vista intercepts writes to the Program Files folder and redirects them to a user folder. The download service was reading from Program Files, and the UI was updating a Virtual copy. I wonder how many KB articles this security feature will spawn ?

I found that there was a later build of Vista available to me: a little time needs to pass yet before beta 2 emerges, but this is pretty close to it. Sadly this build wouldn’t upgrade the old one. So once it was installed I had to put Office 2007 back on. I can’t work without One note these days, and I experimented with Groove in the old job and decided I liked it so these two were added to the build, along with the corporate standard anti virus.

I got my mailbox and my RSS Feeds set-up. And an interesting side note here: because Outlook 2007 puts RSS feeds in your inbox, you can read them from any client, including Outlook Web Access. This also meant outlook took care of most the configuration of the feeds in IE – it found feeds my mailbox that weren’t on the common list so it put them there.

Next came adobe reader – which it’s hard to do without, and flash – which I could cheerfully do without, but it is easier to install it and then disable it in IE to get rid of all the adverts.

Then the last business productivity application is Mind Genius. In my early days at Microsoft I went on a course introduced Mind Mapping (and gave us Tony Buzan’s book) and it’s a technique I find enormously helpful. I’ve been using V1 of Gael’s Mind Genius for 4 or 5 years (I love Visio for diagrams, but it isn’t a mind mapping tool). The evaluation of V2 is looking very good on Vista.

I’ve licensed a handful of photography programs for my laptop, Advanced Batch Converter is great for stamping copyright notices on lots of photos, and creating web sized versions went on with no trouble at all. Next came Capture One LE – which is the best RAW image converter I’ve found, which put up a message to the effect “I only run on Windows 2000 or XP, this is windows 6.something” and refused to install. At this point Vista pulled a trick which I’d never seen, it put a dialog box which I wish I’d screen captured it said, roughly “Windows detected that your application didn’t install, would you like try again with Windows’ recommended settings.” Whoosh. Capture one seems to run nicely – though I haven’t used it in anger yet. I’ve no idea what Vista did, but this is surely going to take a lot of pain out of the process for a lot of people.

In Microsoft, we talk about running beta software as eating our own dog food, or sometimes simply “dog-fooding” and I’m just about ready to start dog-fooding Vista and office 2007 – I’ve got some jobs to do yet – files to transfer, more software to Install (Visio, Map Point, Digital Image Suite, and a couple of other odds and ends I use for photography), drivers to track down for my Web cam and so on – my smart card reader is working but I need to configure a VPN. Then I’ll be all set.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Slides from Tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 9:25 am

I’ve had several requests for this week’s “Let’s look at vista” slide deck. The slides are in the technet archive

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 10, 2006

On Taxonomy …

Filed under: Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 10:55 pm

The following dates from 2002 when I was working a with Sharepoint Portal Server 2001. We used to talk a lot about meta-data (data about the data – file properties) and Taxonomy – the method we use to classify documents. I came up with a Taxonomy Ten Commandments to make Sharepoint document stores work. Looking at the way Vista uses meta data in its search, I’ve been thinking about this again – and I’ve mentioned it in passing in a couple of presentations. And a customer at last night’s presentation asked if I would share the full thing. 

Some of the points don’t carry forward to vista (like the question of making authors choose a profile for their documents) but the key points of gathering data, and breaking the dependency on folders and file name as the way to find things are important.

I’ve distilled what I’ve learnt about this subject in these basic rules:

  1. Gather useful meta-data. The meta-rule is “It’s all about gathering and using meta-data”.

  2. Do not add any field to a profile unless you are sure it will be useful. Authors want to write their documents, save them and get on with the next job: generally they do not want to spend time entering lots of profile fields. Remember that you need their co-operation.

  3. It is better to search for unique information in the document body than in a meta-data field. For example, getting the author to enter a serial number field allows readers to search for documents with that serial number. But in reality they will probably do a free text search for it, not a property search. The free text search has the side effect of cross referencing documents e.g. a search for DOC71077345 turns up a document which contains “This document supersedes DOC71077345”.

  4. Store data in the data, not in the field name. Do not create a long list of properties with yes/no answers. Not only is this awkward for users, but the sequence “Relates to product A, Relates to product B” stores Yes and No as the data. A multi select box “Relates to products…” stores the information where you can search it.

  5. The most important meta-data items are Title, Categories and Description: put these first in your profiles; other fields are a bonus. From a pure SPS point of view: if readers won’t use it in a property search, then don’t ask authors to enter it. SPS‑based applications can be exceptions to this, but generally see rule 1 and rule 2: don’t burden authors with requests for information that readers won’t use.

  6.  Authors should ALWAYS set a meaningful title: if a document has a short abstract at the start, then authors can (and should) copy and paste it into the description. Remember that the results of a search or category browse show the document title and description. Readers won’t open a document to find out if is useful.

  7. Ensure that authors understand the importance of title and description. Yes we know people don’t want to fill in properties in word, but remember that Sharepoint gives extra weight to words it finds in the title and description – a document with these filled in will come nearer the top in searches where they it is relevant.

  8. Where authors have to make choices make them easy:
     a. Don’t make lots of similar profiles e.g. If you deal with software specifications, don’t create profiles called, User interface Spec, Database spec, Search spec, etc: instead use “Specification” with an “area” field with these choices,
     b. Don’t make very fine grain categories (e.g. I use “Windows” and not Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT Server, Windows NT Workstation, Windows 2000 Pro… etc. A document for Windows 2000 might well apply to XP, and to Pro, Server etc. Authors would be unlikely to file their documents correctly and the categories would go out of date. I use a “product version” field to qualify them).

  9. Remember folders are for the benefit of authors and administrators, not for readers. You only need to create new folders for different security, different approval, and different document profiles. You will want other folders for authors’ convenience. If you find you’ve got lots of folders you’re probably using the folder path to imply something about the content of the document which should be in the meta-data.

  10. Readers will find documents by browsing categories or by searching. If readers are exposed to your folder hierarchy you are doing it wrong!

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 9, 2006

Got the search I want in IE7

Filed under: Beta Products,How to,Internet Explorer,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 1:41 pm

So, last week I was talking about “getting the search you want” this morning I was looking for some information on Microsoft’s intranet. We’re testing the next version of sharepoint search internally and I as I putting my search in I was thinking, “I must write the XML to add this in…”. So I was more than pleased to see the text
Using Internet Explorer 7? Click here to add searchbeta to your toolbar search box!
on the results page.  Fantastic. Intranet web site owners please take note, it’s easy for you to do, and makes it easy for users to get to your content. The really smart ones will put in some redundant data so they can see what’s come from the tool bar.



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

RSS Stumbler now available for download

Filed under: Beta Products,How to,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 1:25 pm

It was a pleasant surprise to get a mention from Robert Scoble, for my “RSS in 90 lines of code”, and the I’m pleased to announce that it is available for download.  Before give you the link, please be aware that

  • Only the source code is included, you need Visual Basic 2005 (or express edition) to compile it. There is very little in the way of error checking and coments.

  • This  is sample code:  Any use you make of it is at your own risk

  • I do not code professionally, as a sample, it shows how things might be done, not necessarily how they should be done.

  • Microsoft’s copyrights in the code are licensed to you under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (version 2.5).  To view a copy of this license, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/.  

If you would like a copy of the code AND you are happy with these conditions, right click here and choose save targets as.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 8, 2006

Save the Planet with a little at a time [part 2]

Filed under: About me,General musings,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 9:53 am

One of the nice things about the new job is I get to walk round and bump into people I haven’t spoken to for ages. Sharon left Microsoft a few months ago, and was sitting in the coffee bar when I walked by on Thursday. Her web-site is called “joining dots” because she brings ideas together to “make sense of emerging trends and understand their potential.“. She has an interesting blog too – this piece on instant messaging is a must read – partly because of the way it brings ideas together. I like to weave themes together as well, this post is an example of that.

My daughter’s school is trying to encourage people NOT to drive right up to the gates, and instead park in a pub car park 400 yards away “to be kind to the environment”. If I driving 3/4 mile to the pub, drop my daughter at school and then drive 40 miles to the office, it makes very little difference if we walking 400 yards or not. It’s walk the full mile from home to school or park at the gates. So on Friday we did the walk, and enjoyed it.

Microsoft is about to build another building here in the UK – part of the information that has been circulated internally  was an energy assessment done on the existing buildings by the Carbon Trust. Although the details of the report are confidential, what amazed me was the heating bill per unit area for these modern buildings is much higher than my house – which was built about 150 years earlier.
I forgot all about it until I read something on Sharon’s site which said 50% of carbon emissions come from the work place, 23% from travel (20% from cars and 3% flights) and the rest from homes.

Wouldn’t it be better to use less office space by working from home more ? It’s good to see the people you work with, but seeing them on 5 days of a week is NOT 25% better than seeing them on 4, or 66% better than seeing them on 3. Having only a proportion of people in the office – and sharing the space among them with compact “Hot desks” is environmentally good, even though I’ve said hot-desking is the only thing I dislike about the working environment at Microsoft. Still, I’m sure that it’s postponed the need for a new building. 
I can save a lot of travel too: my car is 50% more efficient than the one I had 6 years ago but even so, saving one trip per week to the office will save roughly a ton of C02 over a year (and about 2 working weeks worth of time spent in the car).

So I’m, going to try to have a car free day per week – Mondays preferred. I’ll walk my daughter to school, and work from home, and today is the first of these days.
I’ll try to collect ideas together about how technology helps (or hinders), and post them here. Things like the use of Outlook or Communicator without VPNs, Groove and so on. It doesn’t matter where we are if we have good collaboration software. And collaboration software was Sharon’s interest when she worked here. That’s joined a few dots of my own.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 5, 2006

Programming RSS – a complete reader in just 90 lines of code !

Filed under: Beta Products,How to,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 9:24 am

I know – platfrom folks shouldn’t do code. But yesterday I wrote my first “proper” program in nearly 2 years. My university lecturers would hate me to call VB “proper” programming: but although I’ve done a some scripting I haven’t written anything with a user interface since writing a little Smartphone App back in ’04. Not only do I feel rusty, but I thought I’d try VB Express  for the first time

After reading the RSS team Blog I wanted to see how easy it was to use the API for RSS,  that is enabled by IE7. How difficult would it be to code with an updated language, and programming environment, and a new API ?  Astonishingly easy as it turned out. After 3 hours work I had a tool which will

  • Show your feeds and downloaded items in a tree view with unread items in bold (22 lines)
  • Shows item selected in the tree with its image, time stamp, and links to it and its feed (20 lines)
  • Let you mark the selected item as read or delete it (35 lines)
  • Resize properly (5 lines)
With 8 more lines of declarations and start up that’s 90 line of code. I doubt it will win any prizes, but it is a viable reader that can be printed on two sides of a page.
Here’s what it looks like.

So anyone who writes RSS software or wants to – leave the subscribing and downloading to IE, and get on and write something great on top of it. Newsgator’s CTO already gets this

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 4, 2006

Save the Planet with a little at a time with Windows Vista

Filed under: Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 10:00 am

You may have heard claims about how Vista can help you save electricity. It has 3 features which play a role in this.
Firstly it’s “Sleep” and Hibernate modes work better than their equivalents in XP – various things have lost their veto over Hibernation.
Secondly the machine can “wake” from it’s sleep state to run a scheduled task, so you don’t need to leave PCs on overnight for software updates, disk de-frags, virus scans and the like.
And Thirdly we’ve added power to the set of things which can be centrally managed with group policy, so PCs which are left on 24/7 and spend most of their time running screen savers can now be powered down.

The numbers go like this,
There are 8760 hours in a year, and a PC only needs to be on 10 hours per day 5 days a week = 2600 hours a year. So those 24/7 PCs could be in sleep mode for 6160 hours per year. [That’s the basis we use, and I think the savings are bigger – a PC isn’t used from 8AM till 6PM in most offices, it can power down when we’re away in meetings or at lunch, and we don’t come into the office 260 days a year… you might have a further 1000 hours of sleep. Those PC produce heat – reduced it, and you reduce air conditioning requirement too]
A PC and monitor use about 125 Watts when running and 5 Watts when on standby a saving of 0.12KW. Multiplied by 6160 hours per year that’s 740 KWh per year. The national energy foundation have a useful “calculate your CO2 emissions” page which says 1 KWh of electricity makes 0.43 Kg of C02, so 740 KWh is about 1/3 of a tonne of C02. Multiply by the number of PCs you have and it’s quite a big saving.

I found a paper from the UK parliament which makes that about 3% of the average C02 emissions per person here – France emits less Co2 than us – because their electricity is mostly nuclear, so their Co2 saving will be less. US emits twice as much (4.6% of the worlds population contributes 23.8% of green house gasses) so they need all the savings they can find.

It’s hard to estimate the number of “Sleep hours” we can get (how many PCs run 24/7 ? What can it be reduced to ?), and I don’t have a world wide average for C02 emissions per KWh, and I can’t predict how much power an average PC will consume in the future … but with hundreds of millions of PCs, saving hundreds of Kilowatt hours, that makes tens of millions of tons of C02 – equivalent to whole output of a small country. Doing something about global warming means both big changes (like electricity generation) and small ones (in its consumption). This is a small change, but as the Chinese proverb has it, “The Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 3, 2006

Get the search you want in IE7

Filed under: How to,Internet Explorer,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 1:16 pm

I guess people who worked for Microsoft a few years ago must have some idea what it’s like to be Google right now. A huge market share means people want to criticize you, you seek solace by  watching your stock price, but that only makes you worry that the whole thing is built on sand and someone could sweep it away at any moment. 

few days ago,  I mentioned the search box in IE7, and it seems Google is worried about it (the search box, not my blog post.) And Robert Scoble points out that lots of people are blogging about that.

According to a piece in the New York Times,
Google, which only recently began beefing up its lobbying efforts in Washington, says it expressed concerns about competition in the Web search business in recent talks with the Justice Department and the European Commission, both of which have brought previous antitrust actions against Microsoft. 
You have to wonder if Google is aware of its the extent of its dominance in the web search business – because this would colour the views of the regulators. Since they are sponsoring the adoption of Firefox – which has search for highlighted text hard coded to Google – there are tough questions which they could be asked: one of the bloggers has a few And if Google’s search is so good, another wonders what they are worrying about.
This complaint also says a lot about Google’s confidence in its customer/brand loyalty — if Google is worried about people dumping it for MSN Search because it’s not worth the extra effort to click twice in IE7 to change the default search setting, perhaps Google fears it really does have a one-click brand loyalty problem

Maybe they’ve compared the Windows Live powered search on A9.Com  and think that (unlike today’s MSN search) no-one will switch to them from the new search…. Whatever, the IE team have been at pains to point out that “the search box in IE7 is not Microsoft’s. It belongs to the user“. The search box is managed with   Opensearch XML descriptions of how search engines accept queries: here’s an example.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ ?> 
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns=http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/”>
<Description>Google Web Search</Description>
<Url type=”text/html”
&startIndex={startIndex?}&startPage={startPage}” />
Once this is in an XML file it’s easy to add the search engine to list on the toolbar. Here’s the code
<a Href=”#” onClick=”window.external.AddSearchProvider(&quot;URL of XML file &quot;);”>
Click to here add our search

Click to enlarge Here are the clicks to open the Microsoft providers library and make Google your default search engine.
(I copied XML and the code from there).

Google could put this on their home page in 5 minutes flat. 
But there is a second thing which OpenSearch enables, which I found in Erik Porter’s blog : If you put a link tag into a page  – like you would for a style sheet, icon, or RSS feed – then you can have a page specific search. Instead of users hunting for “search this site“, it’s on the same pull down as search this page and search the web. Wouldn’t it be great of users had a consistent way to find a site’s search ? Of course some people would be bound to complain about that too.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 2, 2006

Media Centre Edition is dead, Long live Windows Media Centre.

Filed under: Apple,Photography,Windows Vista,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 12:31 pm

I want an Xbox 360. Someone gave me an original Xbox and the games still impresses me. When I got the Xbox I already had a cable TV decoder, VCR, and DVD player lashed into the back of the TV. I gave the DVD player to my Dad because the Xbox did that job. But it’s not a pretty piece of furniture and it’s noisy. The 360 is better in that regard, wireless controllers are tidier, and it’s ability to display photos, play music and so on makes gives it greater “lounge appeal”.

Part of the 360’s advantage is high definition pictures – so a few weeks ago I replaced my 16-year old TV with a widescreen TFT one. The new TV supports DVB-T – “Freeview” to anyone in Britain, which means farewell cable decoder (and £20 a month saved). But I can’t tape digital stations; and my 16-year old VCR isn’t widescreen either, I need to play my old tapes, but it’s time to find a new recording solution

Windows Vista does away with a Media Centre edition, “Ultimate” and “Home Premium”  include Windows Media Centre as an application. The Xbox 360 can act as a media extender, so you don’t need a PC under the TV. I think that’s ideal: with a TV decoder and Vista on the PC in my study, it can be a big store for music, photos and recorded videos.  Except: that PC is old and underspecified for the job. So I need a new PC, maybe even a 64-bit one, and no doubt the monitor will be replaced at the same time. I learnt about backup the hard way, and with more storage my backup system will need a re-think too.

Vista is going to solve another problem for me. I have something like 15,000 digital photos, and little by little I’m digitizing my way through 20 years of film. No filing system I’ve found works. Back in 2002 when I was a Sharepoint Portal Server Guru, I summarized what I had learnt amount managing thousands of documents in “The Taxonomy ten commandments”, the last of which was: Readers will find documents by browsing categories or by searching. If readers are exposed to your folder hierarchy you are doing it wrong! The things that applied to documents in Sharepoint then apply to photographs on my hard disk now. Category driven search folders in SPS have given way to Tag driven ones in Vista – and Vista’s are much easier to use.
For example: I have hundreds of photos of my daughter and her friends. If I tag pictures with the names of people in them, then two clicks “stacks” my pictures by tags, each tag becomes a search folder – all the pictures of a particular friend are in one place.. two more clicks burns those pictures to CD. Further, the tags are  EXIF fields just like technical details of a TIFF or JPEG. If someone looks at the CD in 20 years time, they can see who else is the picture and when it was taken: I wish I had that for all my old negatives.

Trying to get control over all this content, causes some other headaches. My wife’s music is in Apple’s AAC format for her ipod – mine is in WMA for everything else. It seems we need to stick to MP3 as the only common denominator. Formats are a nuisance, even without DRM, or   Content, Restriction, Annulment, and Protection as  zdnet calls it http://news.zdnet.com/2036-2_22-6035707.html . DRM’d files either work on Windows media player (including mobile), or on the ipod, but not both, plug the iPOD into the Xbox 360 and it will play

 [Rhetorical question] Our server folks think about the customer who has some Unix/Linux as well as Windows.  For Vista I wonder if our media folks have considered households like mine with both an iPod and a Windows mobile device ? Media sync is broken in the interim build of Vista I have at the moment, so I can’t check.

I hope to avoid wiring a TV aerial connection for the PC – it is difficult  to wire anything in the old house where I live. For that reason, I use 802.11b to provide internet connections to laptops, desktop, and Xbox. I’ve had it since the summer of 2000, when I imported my own Linksys box from the US. I noticed that Linksys’s free-standing Media extender supports only 802.11A or G variants, so my 11Mbit/sec network may be too slow and need upgrading.

I can’t help feeling something’s gone wrong here.  I wanted a new HDTV games console. So I’ve upgraded to an HD TV screen, which caused me to change my digital TV provider, which in turn has made look at changing how I record TV, to do that I’ll be replacing my OS, which means changing the PC hardware. To make it all work may mean reformatting all stored music, going back and tagging photos and revamping my wireless networking. And the one thing that’s staying ? the 16 year old VCR because I still need to play old tapes. Maybe with Vista I will finally digitize them.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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