James O'Neill's Blog

December 31, 2007

Another year comes to another ending*.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 6:45 pm

Eileen has made here own pick of  Gimundo’s “What I’ve learned” page (oddly termed the URL is “Thankful”… )  – though for pity’s sake clicking through 700 plus thoughts 5 at a time (140 clicks) must mean she’s read all the Christmas books. (Maybe next year I’ll buy some people in the management chain Up the organization – or just led them my commemorative copy , that and Plain words)

When asked to contribute anything to these I usually joke that the four words on my tombstone will be “None the bloody wiser”. Or send people to the “All I ever needed to know  I learned from Blake’s 7”  which has gems like A man who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken. 

At this time of the year I like to go back to the Mayfly project – sum up your year in 24 words. It’s quieter this year than in the past and I’m finding it hard to write something myself. Just a few hours left of the year to do it. …

 


* The title is a corruption of something in one of Anne Clark’s pieces

Another day comes to another ending
Another kiss seals another goodbye
We’ll retrace our steps
Only separately now
You spoke so enchantingly
Yet you let me smother your words with kisses .

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 22, 2007

Happy… whatever

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 3:08 pm

Paul as he and his sister drew him Part of me wants to call out people I don’t want to wish happiness, what I’d wish them is far too nasty to write at the season of goodwill to all…

Today is my son’s 4th birthday, and as we celebrate Christmas so close to it he has the advantage that comes with his parents tending to be off work, and the drawbacks of arranging a party and people needing to give him two presents in four days. Wishing him happy birthday (and having a flurry of birthdays in early January) reminds me that there are more things to say at this time of year than “Merry Christmas.” . If you celebrate one of the other festivals that falls at this time of year, then let me wish you Happy that.

For me there has been more to feel “up” about this year than feel “down” about. The new year has promise too. According to Amazon the OCS Resource Kit is out on January 19th, and I can *just* make out my name on the cover. Then we have Server 2008 and a raft of other new products due, the best times at Microsoft are always when we’re shipping products. And outside of work, 10 weeks today I’ll be on my way to go Scuba diving. 
Whatever would make a Happy new year for you, let me wish you that as well.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 21, 2007

Security … looking in the wrong places ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 9:16 pm

As I’ve explained before I like to do mail in the morning before I leave the house. Finding myself running behind, I was keener than usual to do my morning triage from the car. I call up Outlook Voice Access using Voice command, but OVA told me “Your pin has expired. You must change it to continue…  Aargh ! There’s no voice change of pin and whizzing down the M4 is not the place to change an 8 digit pin, and update the phonebook entry voice command uses. (Yes, to be legal I have to store my pin the phone book).  If my phone is compromised, so are my messages.  Exchange enforces a 4 digit PIN on the phone, that never changes.


I started wondering “Do OVA PIN changes do any good ?”. and “How much of a security breach can result from someone getting into Outlook Voice Access ?”. Someone could forward my mail – they can spam people with voice messages – both these leave a trail in Sent Items. The could re-arrange my diary or set my voice mail message to something frivolous. They can’t get to anything moved out of my inbox by rules, or anything protected by rights management and what’s left is, frankly, too dull to be worth breaking into. That thinking led on to something Steve Riley talked about at Tech-ed IT-Forum, and something Steve Lamb has been saying on the recent road show. There are two attributes in protecting information, controlling Possession of it and ensuring confidentiality.  


Controlling possession centres on access control, and much of our attention focuses on defence of passwords. Automatic account lock out protects against someone trying to guess my password (or try every word in the dictionary). It’s also a gift to anyone wanting to mount a denial of service attack.. Then we try to make passwords unguessable: length and complexity requirements also increase the time it takes to find passwords by a brute force on the accounts database; but if someone is able to copy the accounts database from a Microsoft data-centre, undetected, then getting my password is quite low on the list of worries. Guesses, dictionary attacks or brute force methods are theoretical, not real world risks. Passwords get compromised because a user tells someone, they leave a note or get tricked into it, in which case does changing a domain password every 6 weeks really help ? It’s going to be an average of 3 weeks before it gets changed, plenty of damage could be done in that time. 


People are beginning to recognise “Security Theatre”  when they see it – I’ve heard other people say what I’ve been saying since 2002… “Airport security” doesn’t make us more secure, those long queues for screening are a target. I love Hugh’s Cartoon “Business is run buy the people who hire and fire I.T. Departments”  (I don’t think he meant HR). Is “security” the excuse for IT impeding the business? If you work in IT department which doesn’t enable the business to it’s job better, how long before your job gets off-shored ?


Before anyone starts quoting me as the Microsoft person who says password security doesn’t matter, it does matter: but assume that if you reliably authenticate users then everything will be OK, and sooner or later a wrong action by an authenticated user will be your undoingStories which are in the news of late have been failures of confidentiality not authentication.  Protecting confidentiality means some kind of encryption possibly as part of rights management, and I’ll save discussion of that for another time.


Authenticating users doesn’t mean they won’t put confidentiality at risk or that we can trust their PCs. In a world where people expect to work anywhereand I’ve quoted Darren Strange (“The millennials are coming”) and Sharon Richardson (“The natives are leaving“) on why that’s increasingly the case – how far can we trust the PC being used ? (Quarantine and Network Access Protection help here). When I talked about Terminal services on the road-show, I asked Steve to talk about the idea of “VPNs – now considered harmful”  because they publish whole networks not services. By contrast the new features of Terminal Services in Server 2008 mean we publish applications. Exchange and Office communication server lead the way on this and 2008 terminal services will help other things catch up. Interestingly, terminal services now allows us to identify trusted servers and send default credentials without prompting the user to enter them; it takes friction out of the process.


I don’t think Microsoft is unique in using external companies to provide some services (I’ve grumbled here about our Travel tool). The idea that I need to connect to the corporate network, to validate to use an external service is stupid. Instead of my account easing things for me, it’s just one more hoop for me jump through.  So… when I got the following in my mail my heart sank


Currently … each Microsoft Subsidiary manages payroll independently resulting in inconsistent employee experience… the UK is one of the first subs to change to [our new  global payroll provider] our aim is to improve the employee experience by delivering consistent, user friendly services worldwide… … your pay slip can now be retrieved from  [external URL]


As I said, my heart sank. What kind of  doublethink allows the sender to write “We are changing things to make your experience consistent” ? He has form in this regard, so I read it as spinning a cost saving measure which will make life a little worse: more hoops to jump through, more grief etc …. but actually no ! It’s the first partner I’ve needed to use with support Active Directory Federation Services (on the corporate network the logon below should be transparent)

image

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 20, 2007

Virtualization futures revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 11:00 am

I’m not a winter person. Things which one would normally take in one’s stride become the end-of-everything at this time of year. There is nothing for it but to remind myself that the solstice is coming and read my Tennyson* to think on how things turn around with the obituary being written for one year and the birth notice drafted for another.

I’ve had to get through a couple of “time to quit blogging” episodes, most recently when someone important in Redmond told me off by mail for my earlier “Virtualization futures” post. He said

You should not be communicating product roadmap and futures… this post has created significant harm for us with press, analysts, partners and customers.

Ouch. My poor, sore ego did take some comfort from fact that Uncle Tom Cobley and all seem to read my postings. But significant harm ? I thought of the Microsoft legend of the country product manager for windows who blurted out a date for the release of Windows 95 (some versions of the legend have 3.1, some have Windows 98). He then answered his phone to the Chief Financial Officer calling from Redmond to explain the exact impact this had on everything from stock price to cash flow.

I went through that post line by line and could find places where just about all of it was public (for example we’ve published end-of-life dates for Virtual Server 2005, and Virtual Server 2005 R2). Jeff Woolsey, who  often posts to the Virtualization team blog, keeps us informed internally either with “Microsoft confidential” in large friendly letters or “You may provide this information to customers.” at the start of any news. That covered a load more. But not everything.
I do get asked about future versions of Virtual PC … a typical question being “Will there be a desktop OS with a Hypervisor” (a sort of “Hyper-vista”). I don’t know. Those people who do know aren’t ready to say. One thing I do try to do on this blog is distinguish between “I don’t know” and “I can’t say”, and I’ll only get into either if I’m being asked, or in my audiences position I’d be jumping up and down wanting to know. So what possessed  me to round up rumours I’d heard about System Center Virtual Machine Manager ?  It is public knowledge that the next version is to support Hyper-V. It doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes to work out that the SCVMM don’t want a big gap between Hyper-V’s release and their own.. after that well it’s guess work really.

I didn’t know until recently, that Rakesh Malhotra, a principal program manager for SCVMM and has a blog. The post SCVMM and the Hyper-V Beta, is well worth a read, it explains the situation with SCVMM releases far better than I could hope to. There’s some other very good content on that blog so it’s the first new one I’ve subscribed to in a while.

 

 

* Footnote.  “Ring out Wild bells” is from In Memoriam, it’s poem 105 of about 130, all to the same meter. At the Race of Champions over the weekend, during the tributes to Colin McRae the line “Ring out the grief that saps the mind, for those that here we see no more”  wouldn’t leave me.  

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 19, 2007

The Tafiti code

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 11:07 am

I blogged about Tafiti before, it’s had a “Halo 3” skin applied since, but you can still see the Original – It’s a very nice Silverlight front end for searches done in live search.

We’ve announced that we are releasing the Tafiti Search Visualization source code to CodePlex, which means any developer can download, modify, and resell the code (see MS-PL License for all the details).

I didn’t know it, but we’ve had “Windows Live quick apps“, on codeplex for a while, this is version 5…  Angus Logan has more on his blog. , but he tells me that this post on LiveSide has the best information.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 14, 2007

USB Battery

Filed under: How to,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 6:57 pm

**Warning** Neither I nor Microsoft will take any responsibility for what happens if you follow these instructions.
I am not recommending this, just reporting my experience.

For ages now I’ve had a bookmark for a hack to make a “USB Battery”. I wrote ages ago about making up cables to power things from USB… but and I have both mains to USB and  car cigar lighter to USB power Adapters. But what if I’m stuck miles from either. I prefer devices rely on AA batteries and SD cards to minimize the risk of being stranded. But what about my USB dependant things, like my phone. Wouldn’t it be good to be able to plug in a standard PP3 battery.

I thought I would do something equivalent so went to my local Maplin and bought the following (stock codes in brackets)

  • PP3 Clip (HF28F)
  • 5V Voltage regulator “7805 Value Brand” (CH35Q)
  • USB 2.0 Type A Line Socket (N99FK)

I stripped some of the insulation off the negative lead from the clip to solder it to the ground pin on the regulator. I clipped the positive lead off and soldered the two parts to the in and out pins on the regulator, and then the free ends go onto the USB connector: A check of the voltage showed I’d soldered them back-to-front initially (see the pictures below), so having fixed that and clipped off the USB data pins from the socket I just needed a wrap round with insulating tape to protect everything. I Plugged my smartphone in and hey presto I can charge it.  One more home made gizmo for the travel pack.

Left to right – first attempt to connect the socket, Second attempt, with the pins clipped off. I wrapped it once with tape, and then folded the leads back on themselves and wrapped round again. The regulator is taped to the PP3 clip, and you can see how the leads are connected to it. These also got wrapped in tape. In Final frame, the adapter is finished and charging the phone …

usb-battery

**Repeat** Neither I nor Microsoft will take any responsibility for what happens if you follow these instructions.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

MY reason for having Office 2007 SP1

Filed under: Office — jamesone111 @ 3:15 pm

I’ve blogged about this twice already, but now it’s on my system I have one bug-fix to report.

I read every thing in Outlook. I don’t go to blog sites to see if they have posts, I subscribe to RSS feeds, which get brought into folders in Outlook. In fact if something doesn’t come to me via outlook, it probably won’t get read. Web forums ? Forget it.

I have my feeds offline, searchable, accessible from anywhere (although only updated when my PC is online). For reasons I never got to the bottom of Outlook dated all the posts on some feeds 1st Jan 2007 or 31st Dec 2006.

That behaviour is fixed in SP1 – though I’ve not seen that recorded anywhere.  

I’ve re-created some of the affected feeds. to force them to re-date the last few dozen posts, and life’s better already.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 13, 2007

Hyper-V BETA (not CTP) is now available.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 4:57 pm

In the UK we take the Mickey Bliss out of the Americans for saying they are super-excited. For once I’m super-excited myself , in another Window I’m watching the build of Server 2008 WITH BETA HYPER V download from an internal server. The news is out. The following is straight from the press release

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 13, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. this morning delivered a holiday surprise for customers and partners, unveiling a public beta for its hypervisor-based server virtualization technology called Hyper-V, a feature with some versions of Windows Server 2008. Customers and partners today can download Windows Server 2008 RC1 Enterprise with the beta version of Hyper-V to evaluate the new technology, test applications and plan future consolidation, business continuity and high-availability projects. The beta was previously expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2008 with the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Server 2008. The beta is available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/ws08eval

However at the time of writing, the original RC-1 build is the only one linked to at the WS08Eval URL. 6001.17051 is the original RC-1 with the CTP.  The build with the Beta will be 6001.171xx.  There is a separate link from that page to the new build, which is 6001.17119

 

Mike Neil, the GM for virtualization has posted a lot more detail to the Windows Server Team blog in the last few minutes.  He’s also announced a web cast next week which should be well worth attending, and has been clear about which OSes have integration components today, and that there are more to come (exact OS revisions still to be decided) . When it comes to what is happening with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Mike plays a very straight bat, and leaves it to that team to announce what their plans are. When they have news I guess it will appear on on their blog.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Slides, Slides and more Slides.

Filed under: Events — jamesone111 @ 1:23 pm

I’m presenting (again) in a few minutes, and still have a link which my friend David sent me on my mind.  (No doubt the Apple antagnophiles will pounce on the negative iPhone link on that page) Entitled How not to use PowerPoint it has a brilliant item embedded in it called “Death by PowerPoint and how to avoid it” – it looks like a flash movie, but it’s actually a silent slide show.  It starts:

  • There are 300 million PowerPoint Users in the world (estimate)
  • They do 30 Million presentations a day (estimate)
  • About a million presentations are going on right now (estimate)
  • And 50% of them are unbearable  (conservative estimate)

And the rest is what you can do about it. Well worth a look…  It points out that people use PowerPoint as Prompter, Handouts, data-dumps…. All true. I need to get away from PowerPoint decks which could stun an Ox. I’m already feeling sorry for this afternoon’s audience  But people ask for hand outs.
Road-shows and similar events should always have the slide decks posted via http://technet.microsoft.com but not all my events fall into this category. So for those people who want the decks that I have used recently here are

  • The Vista deck I used for the BCS event in Leeds
  • The generic Server 2008 deck I have been using as a starting point since the summer
  • The Virtualization Deck I have used a several recent presentations
  • The Windows Terminal services deck I used on the recent road-show

If the link to skydrive below doesn’t show up in your RSS feed it’s  http://cid-1efe2682bfbbd817.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/Presentations 

http://cid-1efe2682bfbbd817.skydrive.live.com/embedrowdetail.aspx/Presentations

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

More on office SP1 (pass the tin hat)

Filed under: Office — jamesone111 @ 11:44 am

It was an interesting journey to work. Between the fog, ice and roadworks and traffic police who seem to have become suicidal of late, I was listening to my e-mail through Outlook Voice Access. The time really has come to buy myself a Jawbone headset: OVA is perfect when I use the mobile handset (illegal in the car) but using my Jabra it can take 6 attempts to get words recognizable: “Next” sounds like “Help”, or “Delete” sounds like “repeat”, and “e-mail” is indecipherable. Reading works well and the mechanical voice read me this:

Microsoft announced publicly this week that Office 2007 SP1 is available on Microsoft Update for interactive, user-initiated installation, but will not be pushed for automatic installation for a few months. However soon after the release on Tuesday, customers began to report that the service pack had been automatically installed on some of their systems. 

After thoroughly investigating the reports, we determined that the Office service pack was operating as expected on Microsoft Update but that some customers were confused about the expected behaviour of interactive and automatic updates on Windows Vista due to changes from the Windows XP functionality. We also confirmed that Office 2007 SP1 will automatically install on systems running a beta version of Windows Vista SP1 since those systems use a different Microsoft Update server for their updates and that server always pushes out all Important and Recommended updates to keep the beta products up to date.

 Further public communications on this issue will be posted on the Microsoft Update blog at http://blogs.technet.com/mu/.

The Microsoft update blog has a post with more detail. Darren also has more on his blog.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 12, 2007

Not dead ….

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 11:43 pm

 When I put new words to the Blue monster, I used the way Terry Pratchett got one of his characters to write it.  I have a shelfful of his books, including some very rare unsigned ones. I like his wit, and there are some great allegories to draw on.

 There’s a story on the Web site of Paul Kidby, who now draws the covers for Terry’s books, explaining that Terry has been diagnosed with “a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s”

 In my OneNote notebook I have a section of quotes with a page of Terryisms e.g.

 On work. If it wasn’t for the fun and money, I really don’t know why I’d bother.

 On the fact that modern people are so miserable:  You can’t make people happy by law. If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago “Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the world’s music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, travelling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you don’t have to die of dental abscesses and you don’t have to do what the squire tells you” they’d think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say ‘yes’.

 And guidance for interviewers – which I have in my head when I do them:  Write a list of your main questions to fix things in your mind; Throw it away; Start the interview; Then LISTEN to what  the guy is saying so that you can follow any interesting thread; Because if you don’t, then what you’ll get is a quiz, not an interview.

 Having met him a couple of times and read him quite a lot, I have to say it’s pretty typical for him to post this under the Title “An Embuggerance” , and to end by telling us that the news ” should be interpreted as ‘I am not dead’. ”  and “it’s a very human thing to say
 ‘Is there anything I can do’, but in this case I  would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.”

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Window borders…

Filed under: How to,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 10:41 pm

My carbon footprint has got worse: after the travel of the Road-show, I popped up to Leeds last night to talk to BCS. A round trip of 400 miles.

While I was there Dave threw me one of those questions… the kind where you know the answer. You know that you know it. But the harder you think about it, the more the answer refuses to come to you. And not remembering bothers you: it bothered me most of the way home.
The question was simple. “One of my clients has poor sight and relies on Windows Magnifier. He managed to dock magnifier on the side of the screen and  resize it down to zero width. He couldn’t find the edge of magnifier to resize it.”

Darn it, I know you can change the border size, on a window, it’s useful if narrow borders don’t work with your eyes or hands.  And it makes it impossible to lose a window. But where’s the settings ?  

So today I dug the settings out in Vista, it’s Control Panel, Personalization, Window Color and Appearance  Classic Appearance properties, Advanced. In XP it’s Control Panel, Display, Appearance tab, advanced. Then you can click the window border and set it to any size you fancy.

And Magnifier does respect the size of the border so now if it suffers the same mishap it’s easy to sort out.
Phew. That’s one question off my mind, now to deal with all the other queries I got during the road-show.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Office 2007 Service pack now out

Filed under: Office — jamesone111 @ 11:30 am

The title says is all really. Details of what is in the service pack are in  KB article 936982 and the download is available here.  I’ve been saying I’d rebuild my PC once we have the release of office and vista SP1 so I haven’t been running this one in beta, so I haven’t got experience to share, yet .

 

 

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

News in the pipeline …

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 11:12 am

Every now and then I get forewarned of some news, and with due warning not to be the one who breaks it. So I’m saying nothing, but Thursday morning Redmond time (late afternoon in Europe) I’m going to be watching these very closely

Windows Server Division blog

Windows Virtualization team blog

System Center team blog

and of course Press Pass 

 


UPDATE The news is out. The following is straight from the press release

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 13, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. this morning delivered a holiday surprise for customers and partners, unveiling a public beta for its hypervisor-based server virtualization technology called Hyper-V, a feature with some versions of Windows Server 2008. Customers and partners today can download Windows Server 2008 RC1 Enterprise with the beta version of Hyper-V to evaluate the new technology, test applications and plan future consolidation, business continuity and high-availability projects. The beta was previously expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2008 with the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Server 2008. The beta is available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/ws08eval

I got the news when the press release was mailed out 16:30 GMT: however at the time of writing, the original RC-1 build is the only one linked to at the WS08Eval URL. 6001.17051 is the original RC-1 with the CTP.  The build with the Beta will be 6001.171xx.

Update 2, There is a separate link from that page to the new build, which is 6001.17119  

   

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 9, 2007

VMware and patching

Filed under: Virtualization — jamesone111 @ 8:57 pm

When Steve and I were on tour talking about Microsoft Virtualization, we were asked similar questions about Server 2008’s virtualization several times: “Since this is running on Windows, you still need to patch it, right ?”. To which the answer is “Yes”. If Hyper-V is running on server core there are fewer things to be patched; and we’ve reduced the number of patches which need re-boots. Windows VMs will need patching at the same time and with proper management the whole process can be streamlined. But there is no getting away from it.  A few people seemed to think that VMware doesn’t need patching.

Virtualization.info quoted me the a few days ago and I’d like to return the compliment. They have a story “Patch Tuesday for VMware” which explains how a couple of VMware experts realised that “it is starting to become a trend in some ESX environments; not all patches are installed by the admins” “this is VMware’s ESX server! The product that we used to tell people didn’t need patching that often since there wasn’t much code to have to patch.”

It makes an interesting read – so go read it!. Although they point a server built 5 months ago would have been patched 8 times (once every three weeks), the authors say they’re not out “to beat VMware over the head for patching/updating their product.” so it would be a cheap shot for me to do so. But I will observe that getting patching right for all the products you use is a key part of any IT managers job. Don’t get to thinking there are any you can ignore, whatever their advocates might have you believe.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Vista SP1 to drop "Reduced functionality mode"

Filed under: Security and Malware,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 11:36 am

I guess I’m not the only person in Microsoft who thought that stopping software working when it seemed to be pirated was a good idea. To be honest, I still do. However, the process has to be infallible. If it’s 99.9% correct and you sell 100 Million copies that’s 100,000 people who get the wrong experience. There have been enough documented cases of the system going wrong to create worry in people’s minds. In reality the risk of a legitimate system getting dumped into reduced functionality mode (and then only until you had called the activation line) was very small in indeed, but people felt like it could happen to them.

So it’s changing… Here are two quotes from the press release.

All copies of Windows Vista still require activation and the system will continue to validate from time to time to verify that systems are activated properly. What is changing with SP1 is the nature of the experience for those systems that are never activated or that fail validation

and

Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine. They won’t lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action

In other words if your system looks like it’s pirated you’ll get nagged until you sort it out.

The BBC picked up the story. Over at ZD-Net everyone seemed to be talking about it. Mary Jo had the story with some interesting quotes very early.  Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, had a piece called See, complain loud enough and Microsoft will listen (people often think complaining to a huge company, Microsoft or anyone else, won’t achieve anything. It can, but it takes more than person to do it).
Ed Bott said “The case for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 just got a lot stronger”  A lot ? my first reaction is that Ed’s over-stating it. He is not the only person who calls the feature a “Kill Switch” either, he notes that “The Softies responsible for WGA, wince when they hear the term “kill switch.” They prefer a more benign description, reduced functionality mode”.
Ed does have a track record of knowing what he’s talking about. I’d flag his recent piece Five secrets to faster Vista starts as evidence of methodical research and a knowledge of Vista (ditto his piece How green is your PC). So I’m wavering a little in my conviction that we had it right to start with. But if we can’t convince legitimate customers that the system won’t accidentally treat them as pirates, then we need to change.

 

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 7, 2007

The voice of Co-pilot 7

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 2:56 pm

When I had my previous smartphone, I decided I’d try running Satellite Navigation software on it. ALK were the first to support the phone with Co-Pilot. Co-pilot 5 had it’s foibles but basically it worked. It didn’t work with Windows Mobile 6 which is what my current phone uses. I looked at the upgrade to version 6, but then ALK made me an offer buy Co-pilot, get version 6 now and version 7 when it’s shipping. Version 7 dropped on my doormat last week.

Installing proved to be a bit of a challenge, as the version ALK shipped didn’t have a version for non-touch screen smartphones, only Pocket PCs. 10 minutes after calling ALKs support I had the files I needed, installation was unremarkable and hey presto I was up and running with the new version. ALK didn’t make changes with version 6, but version 7 is practically unrecognisable. After the initial disorientation – “Why are you adding that to the display ?”  – I’m starting to prefer it. I’ll try to post something more about it at a later date. One of the things in Version 7 is it has more pre-configured voices. You can have Australian, British or US English and various European languages in Male or Female voices. I think the voice files used to be WAV files (they might have been WMV) and Windows media player on my PC was prone to deleting them if I told it to shuffle music onto the device. In changing versions the format has gone to .ogg

Recently, Emma Clarke has been in the news, famous as the voice of London underground Emma recorded some spoofs of things announcers might say. You can read on her blog how a combination of sloppy journalism and stupid management cost her that job.  (follow the links to announcements). Someone at ALK thought it would be a great idea to have some spoof Sat-nav announcements – there are a couple of additional ones on Emma’s site. They’ll have a full set of voice announcements by Emma soon. I quite like the idea of replacing “You have reached your destination” with “Are we there yet ? Are     we    there   yet ?  AreWeThereYet ?”  Sadly they say one should use the Co-pilot central software to put it onto the device, and after installing 3 GB of it I discovered it doesn’t work with 64 bit Vista. Grrrr.

More coverage: BBC, BBC (again), Jason

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 6, 2007

Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP1 Release candidates

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 4:50 pm

I had a mail overnight from the Microsoft Connect service saying that as registered user Vista SP1 Release candidate is now available for download for suitably registered customers. It doesn’t seem to be on the technet site at the moment. In any event the news is out that we’ve reached that milestone.

*** UPDATE ***  SP1 RC is now on the Technet site. I was told it would go onto technet and MSDN together. I can’t check MSDN, but I’d expect it to be there too.

I also saw a press release yesterday about the launch of Server 2008, which contains the nearest thing to naming a release date.

Windows Server 2008, which is scheduled to release to manufacturing (RTM) by the Feb. 27 launch event, reached the RC1 milestone today and is available to customers for download at http://www.microsoft.com/ws08eval.

That’s it.. go and download it! Apparently 1.8 Million people already have tried the earlier builds.

It’s widely understood that some of the stuff in Vista SP1 is linked to Server 2008, so they should ship pretty much together, but exactly when each of the ships is still to be decided. The launch event is the big fanfare thing which has to be booked months in advance. Release to Manufacturing happens when the product is deemed ready, and if you’re looking to buy the product, the date it appears on the price list / in the shops is different again.

I got grumbled at for talking to much about Virtualization futures, so to prove I never learn … the RC0 and RC1 builds of Server 2008 contain the same preview code for Virtualization. Hyper-V will go into beta at the release of Server 2008 and it will release with 180 days. We’ve been pretty clear about this for months. That doesn’t give us much of a date for the release though – we might RTM server 2008  as soon as we get back from the Holiday season, and within 180 days could mean “the very next day” – theoretically at least – or we might not release Server 2008 until Feb 27th (it could even slip from that schedule) and Hyper-V might need the full 180 days. So its release could fall anywhere between January and August.  I have nothing to indicate where in these ranges it will come [note. This isn’t a “know but can’t say”, but a “really don’t know”]. It’s stating the obvious to say that System Center Virtual Machine Manager wants to support Hyper-V as soon as possible after it launches, but how soon they can finish their product is one unknown, when Hyper-V is a second unknown, so predicting the gap is doing algebra with no knowns.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Word of the day: Schadenfreude

Filed under: General musings — jamesone111 @ 12:15 pm

Some years ago now we were visiting the a German cousin of my wife’s; and the conversation somehow got to German words which are used in English. We were struggling for examples and she came up with schadenfreude 

If you want a definition of schadenfreude here’s a practical example.

When one day the news tells you

In 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, 1.92 million speeding tickets – up from 712,000 in 1997 (The number of road deaths has fallen by 7% since 1998 to 3,172 in 2006.)

and the very next day it tells you

The former chair of roads policing at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has been banned from driving for speeding at 90mph.

What you are feeling is schadenfreude.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 5, 2007

Product life cycles (and Virtual Server 2005)

It’s always nice when someone says James O’Neill, IT Pro Evangelist at Microsoft, reveals that Virtual Server 2005 support will end in 2014 – except that then people come and demand to know why you’re revealing product plans.


So, lets start with a basic question. “Where do I go to find out when support for [Product X] expires ? (or if it has already expired)”
Answer:  http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifepolicy , It’s quite a long FAQ but two key pieces are:



Microsoft will offer a minimum of 10 years of support for Business and Developer products. Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products will be provided for 5 years or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer. Microsoft will also provide Extended Support for the 5 years following Mainstream support or for 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer. Finally, most Business and Developer products will receive at least 10 years of online self-help support.


and



The Support Lifecycle policy went into effect October 15, 2002, with a major revision on June 1, 2004. This policy revision covers most products that were available through retail purchase or volume licensing as of June 1, 2004, and most future products versions. For information about end-of-support timelines and Extended Support options for all products, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site.


I commented recently on the life of Virtual Server 2005. Since it released in the last quarter of 2004, you can easily do the sums and work out that mainstream support runs to the end of 2009 and paid extended support runs to the end of 2014 – in fact because of the way we set the dates support ends early the following year. The dates are given here , 12th Jan 2010, and 13 Jan 2015.


What about the R2 versions ? It’s simple: Windows server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 are treated as one product. Since the product is getting near to it’s 5th birthday, mainstream support will be covered by the “2 years after its successor” rule. Virtual Server 2005 R2 is listed as a separate product with its own expiry dates. Because it was launched in Q1 of 2006, mainstream support ends at the of Q1 2011, and extended support at the end of Q1 2016 (again the actual end date is a few days into the next quarter).


You may be thinking …What about applications which launch late in the life of an OS ? as the FAQ puts it



If the problem is specific to the program, Microsoft will provide support. If the problem is a result of the combination of the operating system and the program, that particular problem will not be supported.


The other question is What about Service packs ? from the FAQ again.


Microsoft will provide 12 months of support for a service pack after the successor service pack is released.


There’s a detailed break down here. So when Service Pack 1 comes out you have 12 months before we require that service pack in order to be supported.

However  if we need to support a product or service pack beyond these limits we will. For example, because we knew that Windows XP Service Pack 2 was a bigger change than most service packs we extended that one year deadline.

Spare a thought for the people in Redmond who have to test software on different OS/Service pack combinations. If we are have service packs coming out frequently (as was the case with NT4) then they might have to test on as many as 4 different service pack levels. Testing becomes so long and so complex that another service pack is out before you’ve finished testing your product. If the service packs are widely spaced, you might be lucky enough to have only one supported version of a given OS. When new service packs or Operating Systems come along they have to test their product against those. Generally it is acceptable to say a product will not work against a whole new OS (e.g. Exchange 2000 didn’t work on Windows Server 2003), but we don’t like to say that something only works with an out of date service pack – that tends to bring a patch for the application.  [And please note these are generalizations].

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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