James O'Neill's Blog

January 24, 2008

Vista vulnerabilities – a comparison.

Filed under: Apple,Linux / Open Source,Security and Malware,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 10:32 pm

Perhaps it’s a bit strong to say “if complete and utter chaos was lightning, Jeff Jones would be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards’ ” (as a favourite quote  has it)  but you must admit it’s a better opening than “Blimey, XP was better than we thought”, or “See, there was no need wait for Vista SP1“.

Jeff, you see, has posted on his blog an analysis of Vulnerabilities in the first year of life of Windows Vista, Windows XP, two popular linux distros and Apple’s Mac OS X 10.4. Here are the bare numbers (though you should read the whole thing)

Metric Windows Vista Windows XP Red Hat rhel4ws Reduced Ubuntu 6.06LTS Reduced Mac OS X 10.4
Release Date 30-Nov-06 25-Oct-01 15-Feb-05 01-Jun-06 29-Apr-05
Vulnerabilities Fixed 36 65 360 224 116
Security Updates 17 30 125 80 17
Patch Events 9 26 64 65 17
Weeks With at least 1 patch event 9 25 44 39 15

To explain the numbers a little, an update might fix more than one vulnerability, and more than one update might go out out in a patch event. Apple seem to roll all their fixes for a given event into a single update.

Vista is the newest of these operating systems and you could argue that the art of software engineering has advanced. But then Why did a 2001 Microsoft OS fare so much better 2005/6 products?

With all the claims of the Linux community like “With many eyes all bugs are shallow” – how did Red Hat have 360 vulnerabilities ? They released Patches 44 weeks out of 52, 20 of their patches came in weeks when there had already been a patch. Ubuntu didn’t fare much better on that score.

If security vulnerability counts are indicative of bugs in general then Vista shipped in a better state than XP; Vista will go longer to SP-1 than XP did, it seems that they’ll have roughly the same number of vulnerabilities fixed at SP-1.

So that’s all good – why the “Wet copper armour” quote – and Gizmodo agrees with me ? Well, to bend another favourite quote, “The Internet is more full of exciting trolls and excruciating fan boys and girls than a pomegranate is of pips”. Most times I mention Apple I get visited by one set or the other. Jeff just called their babies ugly. He’s happy to discuss it. His document explains how he got to the numbers and he encourages people to do their own analysis. And he faces down point that “Of course you think the Microsoft products are good because you work for Microsoft” by pointing out it’s the other way around, he works for Microsoft because he thinks the products are good. Like me. Like most of us.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 23, 2008

Touch phones.

Filed under: Apple,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 3:36 pm

I was wrong. People seem to get on better with “touch” phones than I thought. I understand that different form factors suit different people. Just as some want a PDA and some want a phone, it seems that some want 12 keys, some want Qwerty and some want touch.

HTC have sold 2 Million of their touch phones (thanks to Jason for that link). HTC don’t have the brand glamour of Apple. Apple have sold 2.3 Million iphones according to the BBC’s reading of their accounts, and 4 Million according a quote from Steve Jobs in the news story about HTC. (I suspect jobs is talking since launch, and the BBC is talking about the last quarter). And the HTC device isn’t as beautiful an object as the iPhone. It does corporate things well, like all the Windows powered phones from HTC, but people must like the interface. There’s no other way it could be out for just half the year but account for 1 in 6 of all the phones HTC sold. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 4, 2007

Thames Valley Park* …

Filed under: Apple,General musings — jamesone111 @ 12:13 pm

In my quest trying to find something for an earlier post, I found this image which was too good not to share.



In the Credits was a link to Janina Köppel’s Excellent SP-Studio site. It’s done in flash, which proves that although flash is often put to bad uses, that’s not always the case. 

We had a lot of fun at home doing members of the family, characters from Robin Hood, and finally other our the team – and that includes George while we’re on the Road (her picture is rather too flattering after the one she posted of me).  

andrew eileen George

james steve viral

Last year I was trying to draw some cartoons for this blog … Now at the weekend I was looking through a book of Banksy’s work, in which he poses the question “Many artists are prepared to suffer, but why are so few prepared to learn to draw ?” This might see the cartoons making a comeback


*Thames Valley Park is the address of Microsoft in the UK



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 2, 2007

It must be the truth #2. Astroturf and a rather less green Apple.

Filed under: Apple,Linux / Open Source,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 12:10 am

Silly me believing stuff I read on the Internet.  First there was the  The register’s story about only 26,000 iphones being activated in the UK.

Next came Electronics weekly’s usual “Made by Monkeys” e-mail – I’m not sure how I ended up on the list for it, but I haven’t unsubscribed because once in a while there’s a gem in there like Gender specific user interfaces, which people seem to find funny on multiple levels.  Directly below that there is something about An Apple Power Mac G5 Oozing Coolant.

Then Russ came along with a comment to my iPhone post At least the iPhone isn’t packed with ‘toxic chemicals’!  That smartphone is making me feel ill! and a link to a Greenpeace report where Microsoft got a pretty bad review. We’ve made some environmental progress (especially in software packaging) but Microsoft can’t claim to be up with the leaders in the hardware industry. But (Russ) Microsoft doesn’t make Smartphones and PDAs we only supply the OS to companies like Dell, HP, HTC Motorola, Palm, Samsung and Toshiba, (HTC and Palm aren’t on the Greenpeace survey, off the others only Motorola ranks below Apple). Having seen that corrosive coolant story I wanted to find the link to it. Being sure I’d seen it on The Register I couldn’t find it, a quick search turned it up , but not before I’d got side tracked into two other items….

One was from Greenpeace (again). Titled “Missed call: the iPhone’s hazardous chemicals” it says that in May “Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple, claimed: “Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors” on environmental issues. Yet when the iPhone launched in June there was no mention of any green features of the phone from Apple. So they tested one and criticized it’s use of PVC and brominated fire retardants. [Their criticism of Microsoft’s hardware centred on the presence of these two, and the slow schedule we have for phasing them out].  They also comment “The disassembling also revealed the iPhone’s battery was, unusually, glued and soldered in to the handset. This hinders battery replacement and makes separation for recycling, or appropriate disposal, more difficult, and therefore adds to the burden of electronic waste.”.  I thought a non-user changeable battery was bad, but soldered and glued ? That’s just perverse.

The other was back at The Register, this time about Dell shipments of Ubuntu Linux. The Linux community bombarded Dell with 130,000 requests on their Idea-storm web site, but as the register put it only a fraction of these zealots were willing to back their votes with cash. Dell have sold something 20 Million PCs in the last six months, of which – if the register is to believed – 40 thousand are running Ubuntu. That’s 2 PCs in every thousand. 0.2%. Now I don’t want to big up Linux’s market share, and I don’t know what proportion of that is accounted for by Ubuntu; but I would have bet that it had more than 0.2% of the market. Do people who want Linux work build their own PC (Or have it built to their own spec) rather than go to the likes of Dell ? I don’t know. But what about those 130,000 requests? Were they all distinct individuals ? Were they potential customers ?  Or did Dell fall victim to an astroturf campaign ?

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 28, 2007

It must be the truth ‘cos it’s there in the news

Filed under: Apple,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 10:08 am

I have learnt better than to read everything I read on The register.

But, deary, deary me. It seems only 26,000 iPhones have been activated in the UK. That was against a launch forecast of 100,000 for the first weekend. Indeed the register paints a picture of carphone warehouse having stacks of unsold iphones being gradually fixed to warehouse shelves by layers of cobwebs.

Gizmodo have a survey which says everyone’s heard of the iphone but 72% of people asked say it’s too expensive

I’ve never had my grubby paws on an iPhone so I shouldn’t comment, but I’ll happily quote what one of my colleagues said about it by comparison with the HTC’s touch dual.
I’ve got an HTC Dual and an iPhone and the Dual is way better than the iPhone.  As a business device the iPhone is a joke, email is just cr*p.  Also, although the UX/UI on the iPhone is initially cool, what really struck me was that on the plane in airplane mode – nothing worked as everything assumed a live connection

No doubt the usual Apple fan-boys and -girls will be along shortly to rant at me for even commenting on the telephonic messiah

Talking of rants, it seems Attila the stockbroker’s “Ranting at the Nation” album, so much a part of my mis-spent youth – is now avaialble for Download.  It includes “Russians at the DHSS”, which gave my title for this post. It opens with the fairly quotable
“It first was a rumour dismissed as a lie
But then came the evidence none could deny
A double page spread in the Sunday Express
The Russians are running the DHSS”.

Somewhere in a loft I must have a bootleg cassette of this album. It would be nice to go legit finally.


Update: Thanks to Finbar, I’ve fixed the link to the HTC phone. Note to self… don’t copy and paste links from OWA


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 8, 2007

Mobile phone round-up

Filed under: Apple,Mobility,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 2:07 pm

Steve has been had a play with the HTC “Touch” (lucky man). He asks “who on Earth would want an iPhone?!” That’s simple, any one who buys for what the badge says about them. The kind of person who thinks a £300 (after contract) fashion accessory phone is just what their image needs. I’ve quoted the description of Macs as “Smug, preening tossers” twice before (although after watching the SteveJ and BillG interview I think I should make it the last time.  Speed reading something Robert Scoble wrote I read “A good phone matters to me. But to [my wife] ? Not at all. So she’ll probably end up with the iPhone” which I thought put it brilliantly; but sadly that’s not what he said, re-reading it I find he actually said a good phone camera mattered.

After blogging that I want a new Bluetooth headset it would have a bit odd if I really had thrown my Jabra 250 out of the car on Wednesday night. I got close though. I told the phone “Call Jackie at Home”. “Call back 71077345 ? ” it asked. No! “Call Jackie” might sound like “Call back” but when I said “Call Voice mail” it asked to call back … I tore the headset off and through it to the back of the car….

It turned out that the phone had a moment of amnesia. It had lost all my contacts (and mail, calendar and server configuration). I think I know why …

I mentioned before that there were some new provisions for supporting rights managed mail on the phone. This needs a new version of the Vista Mobile Device Centre – I was running the beta and I think it has periodically hosed the phone. Well the final version is now available in 32 bit  and 64 bit versions. Hopefully it no-longer causes amnesia. You get easy certificate enrollment , rights management set-up, File sync, and you can keep your phone connected to WiFi when it is plugged into the PC – and other things described on the download pages.  


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 16, 2007

PCs and Macs. And smartphones.

Filed under: Apple,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 3:21 pm

Having had a go at Google, I suppose it’s time to look at Apple. Odd as it may sound Microsoft people don’t dislike Apple. iPod’s market penetration among Microsoft employees is probably higher than the population as a whole. Ask many of us what hardware we’d choose to run Vista on and a lot would prefer Apple to Dell, HP, Toshiba and the rest. Apple’s industrial design is some of the very best out there.

Apple punch above their weight, and nowhere more so than in their advertising. 23 years after it aired the “1984” commercial for the launch of the Mac is still seen as one of the great commercials. I’ve quoted a piece in the Guardian about the current “I’m a PC”/ “and I’m a Mac” ads – here in the UK they star David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb (Mac). A favourite bit reads

[Mitchell and Webb] are best known for the television series Peep Show… ..  in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, “PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers.” In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign.

Dell have responded in kind;  and now so have PC pro (PC pro’s Tim Danton has a good piece on the subject, too). Their “32 ways that PCs are better than Macs makes a good read”

A couple of times recently my new smartphone has come into its own. Last night, getting off the plane home I picked up a mail which said “was [this] meant to be in a blog post you made”. It wasn’t, and the web browser on the smartphone let me onto the blog site to make the correction before I got to front of the passport queue. A couple of times I’ve found myself using the camera as a way of grabbing a  note of something – as distinct from taking a photograph. One example was PC-Pro on the Mac adverts… If you want to know what their 32 reasons are you’ll have to get your own copy.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 8, 2007

Very much alive.

Filed under: Apple,General musings — jamesone111 @ 5:18 pm

It’s been great to spend the holiday weekend out and about with the family, and I spent Saturday evening been playing with the pictures I’d shot – I can’t say much about the software involved but it’s very, very cool. I set my laptop to record Dr Who and the qualifiying for the Malaysian Grand prix (yes I know I’ve still got to write part 2 of moving to ultimate. ).  

I was watching the Motor Racing in a Window while I was playing with pictures and reading blog posts.  One of the them was Darren’s which has a link to a peice in the Grauniad about the Apple’s Ads – here in the UK they star David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb (Mac). A favourite bit reads

[Mitchell and Webb] are best known for the television series Peep Show… ..  in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, “PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers.” In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign.

These ads do get under the skin of a few people. Dell have responded in kind; when I was at Tech Ready I reported that someone asked Steve Ballmer about them – his reaction “Given their market share…”   Funny enough that report linked to the same article – or at least to “the wonderful-if risqué Belle de Jour , who has an interesting take on Dr Who using a PC not a Macwhich stemmed from and linked to it. I wonder if Darren reads me, Belle, or if he’s taken to reading the Guardian since he became a marketing luvvie. 

That Tech Ready report focused on the shirts we had with Hugh MacLeod’s Blue Monster on them – the event felt like “Fly in, change the world a little, Fly home”  hence the title Change the world AND go home instead of the original “Change the world OR go home”. It’s interesting to look at Steve Clayton’s peice on the traction this is getting inside Microsoft.  And this Thursday Hugh announced he had a new client in Microsoft. 48 hours later he was telling us Why his client is dead –  which must be some kind of record for the PR industry. I think I know when I see someone giving the pot a stir, and I’m seeing it here (Hugh went back with a bunch of updates for why this is false – which might have been what he was after). He’d picked up on a post by Paul Graham which said Microsoft was dead due to

  1. Google.
  2. Ajax.
  3. Broadband Internet.
  4. Apple

I’m not sure about responding someone who makes it a plank of his argument that he lives in a different world from Microsoft, but lets look at these 4.

There’s no denying Google’s rapid profits growth and that they’re the darlings of the media and of Wall Street. We’ll see if things get harder for them. Google’s growth depends on taking more advertising away from TV and other media. In the UK we used to have a lot of great TV but now a shrinking pot of advertising to pay for more channels means there’s less worth watching. Google may mean the death of quality TV. But not a large scale replacement for desktop applications.

Ajax certainly means you can build decent web applications and Broadband means you can deliver them to consumers. But no one has ever shown me a side by side comparison between an app running in Browser and app running locally where the Browser app was better. Communicator Web Access is an Ajax app. It can’t kick off an e-mail, do voice or video, or remote call control, give you presence data in web page or your mail client, or do search-as-you-type for contacts but in other respects it’s as good as communicator. Apps where you want data off line or need to show legal complaince or meet freedom of information rules, or mine a collection of shared documents accross large teams don’t work so well in an on-line model – so “Road warriers”, Governments and large businesses won’t store their data in the cloud. Small business and small office/home office users might, do but if you need a Mac, Linux or Windows PC to on which to run the browser, the local application is better. Interesting to wonder how those who work in and around IT view a move of everything into to colossal internet data centres: I don’t see the Open-Source community embracing that.

Consumers have grown more demanding than business users. They run games (local processing isn’t negotiable), and music, photos, and Video. Music is geared to downloads. It would be quite possible to host the music you own on a server in the cloud, stream it to your PC, or download to your portable player; it would simplify a lot of DRM issues. The songs on my PC total about 800 MB – I can shoot 5 times that volume of photos in a day, so storing photos in the cloud is a big storage and bandwidth problem issue. But every photographer I’ve ever met wants their own storage. Adobe are dipping a toe in the water with an on-line editor (which presumably will still cost much more in Britain), but it’s rudimentary and designed to show people they need a proper editor on their computer. Since I mentioned recording TV: even at 480 line resolution this uses about 1.8GB per hour – you can do the sums for the storage this would need. Giant, free-to-access libraries of broadcast quality TV would reduce the storage requirement, if they existed (which the don’t) and who’s leading the delivery of TV over IP.

A blinkered desktop-only world is limitting.  So is an only-at-the-server world. The best combination brings together servers – whether local, hosted, or in the cloud – with Personal computing power, graphics and storage.  The best place for the server varies from case to case. There will always be an argument about what form Personal Computing should take. Which brings me to Apple. They’ve dropped computer from their name and are now about selling designer electronics (Phones which cost $500 with a contract for example) – a space traditionally occupied by the likes of Sony and Nokia. Apple punch above their weight, and their success since Steve Jobs came back proves that “Dead” isn’t forever (not a bad theme for Easter). But you can’t cite meeting a lot of Apple users – and then argue that Personal computing is dead, which Paul Graham does. 5 paragraphs in he says he lives in a different world to Microsoft – he’s a venture capitalist who deals with Californian start-ups who need to prove they “think different”. Sometimes the line beween thinking differently and being a “smug, preening tosser” is a fine one.

So here’s a list of 10 things which people thought kill Microsoft and haven’t

  • SCO open Desktop
  • Local Area networks
  • OS/2
  • Client/Server computing.
  • Linux
  • The Internet
  • The Millenium bug
  • Netscape
  • The NC
  • Wishful thinking


Happy easter


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 10, 2007

End of an era. Apple is no longer a computer company.

Filed under: Apple,General musings,Mobility,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 1:08 am

I don’t know what has happened between Steve Jobs’ company and the one owned by the Beatles. It was always the case that the guys from Cupertino had to call themselves Apple Computer to keep themselves distinct. Not anymore.

Scoble got it from Om Malik who thought it was of the noteworthy part of Jobs’ keynote. I couldn’t face watching another whole Keynote at Midnight after watching Bill last night, but about 1hr 40 into the speech Jobs explains that they’re not really a computer company any more, what with the iPod and the new iPhone and Apple TV (formerly iTV which wouldn’t work in the UK. That device seems a bit weak I’m not the only one who thinks an Xbox does more.) . They’ve been the Mac company for 23 years – but their Computer has been eclipsed by their other offerings, so from now on they’re just plain Apple.

Back in April I wrote

Apple is a leader in industrial design: which is why my wife has an iPod Nano – the iPods have a magic to their design which no-one else seems able to match. The number of things which borrow from the original iMac design shows how other designers admire it. I’ve just bought a new Samsung TV and I didn’t consider Dell’s offering but I’d look at an Apple TV. As well as design, Apple has brand kudos that Samsung, Dell and (yes) Microsoft lack, so the idea of Windows on Apple hardware is seductive.

iPhone has that magic. I’ve got to hand it to Apple: it’s beautiful, even if it does less than my 3 year old smartphone – Jason’s more neutral in his analysis.

Steve quoted some interesting numbers. 26 Million Games Consoles sold world wide in 2006. Robbie Bach said at the CES keynote that we’d sold 10.4 Million Xbox 360s. If those numbers are calculated on the same basis then Xbox 360 has a 40% share of the market. I don’t know what the original Xbox sold in 2006, and what the rest of the non-Sony Market is. Steve compares this against 94M digital cameras, 135M MP3 players, and 209M PCs. And about 1 billion cell phones.

But iPhone is $499 US with a 2 year contract. Now I’ve no idea what the world market in $499 designer phones is, but it sure ain’t a billion – and it doesn’t look like it has the things which business users demand (like sync to the corporate mail server). I wouldn’t buy a $499 phone any more than I’d buy a pair of $499 shoes. But Steve want’s 1% of the whole market – 10 million phones in 2008. A man who wants to create a $5 bn market in it’s first full year: what can you do but be impressed ? 


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Postscript. I might have guessed that Hugh would have something witty to say about this

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 21, 2006

On QuickTime….

Filed under: Apple,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 11:56 am

I’ve just mentioned a post by Robert Scoble, and I mentioned Photosynth a couple of weeks ago. Before I went to Barcelona, I downloaded  Scoble’s video showing Photosynth – it was in QuickTime .MOV format and I hadn’t put QuickTime onto the build of Vista I was running.

I’ve been raving about Sony’s Bravia advert which is available as a QuickTime download, and since my children like some of the other bit of QuickTime I have this weekend the I reached the point where QuickTime had to go on my system.

Apple’s download page had a link to give feed back for QuickTime on Vista; and I had to tell them what a pain of an application it is. It doesn’t let the Windows mange its Window: it implements its own title bar, and Minimize/Maximize/Restore icons rather than using the standard Vista ones. There’s no system Icon in the top left corner, the Window doesn’t support glass or follow the system colours and font selection. I plugged my Samsung TV in as a secondary monitor and found that if you maximize the QuickTime Window it comes back to the primary screen (a consequence of not letting the OS manage the Window and implementing your own lash-up).

Then there are the “poor citizen under Vista” issues.  The “Rolodex-style” Windows Switcher will show the progress bar moving in QuickTime, but the Video freezes. Quicktime files don’t have preview “Live-icons” and can’t be played in Vista’s preview pane (something which annoys me with Adobe PDF as well). Explorer can’t show or set properties on QuickTime files – like a title, tag or author, but since Apple don’t provide a filter for Vista’s search engine setting meta data wouldn’t give you much benefit.

If I want to play multiple WMV files I can make a play list in Windows Media player. To do this with QuickTime Apple want me to buy the pro version of the software.  If you open multiple Quicktime files they show in separate windows (WMP assumes you want to stop the one you were playing and open the new one in its window), the QuickTime way might be better – except that the instances communicate so that only the foreground plays sound – even though Vista will allow multiple applications to make sounds at the same time.

Why do I need a QuickTime application at all ? Since QuickTime comes with an ActiveX control that can be embedded in a web page it can’t be that difficult (surely) for the Windows

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Media team to embed the control in WMP…

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 18, 2006

Apple’s real problems shipping a virus

Filed under: Apple,Security and Malware — jamesone111 @ 4:40 pm

Apple have had to post the following on their website

We recently discovered that a small number – less than 1% – of the Video iPods available for purchase after September 12, 2006, left our contract manufacturer carrying the Windows RavMonE.exe virus This known virus affects only Windows computers, and up to date anti-virus software which is included with most Windows computers should detect and remove it.

They go on. As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.

Oh bitchery ! Actually Windows Vista would catch this twice over, once via User Access Control and once via defender. XP will only get hit if you run as an administrator (and the fact that people do is down to bad applications, not Windows itself)

But, what infected these iPods ? Surely Apple aren’t owning up to the fact that a Windows machine is better suited to mastering iPods than a Mac running OSX ? And as they say “up to date anti-virus software which is included with most Windows computers should detect and remove it.” so their production PCs don’t have upto date Anti-virus software… Admitting that has to hurt.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 20, 2006

Would Apple sue Scoble’s new company ?* . Don’t Google for Podcasts. And other stuff from my weekend reading.

Filed under: Apple,Beta Products,General musings,Music and Media,RSS — jamesone111 @ 3:16 pm

Before I was working for Microsoft,  I read Douglas Coupland’s book “Microserfs”. I visited Redmond in1997 and was amazed how close it was to the book. Half a dozen pages in Coupland writes “WinQuote … gives continuouse updates on Microsoft’s NASDAQ price … Most staffers peek at Winquote a few times a day … Last April Fools day someone fluctuated the price up and down by fifty dollars and half the staff had coronaries”

The value of stock roughly halved after I joined Microsoft in 2000 (not that I’m bitter about that), and we’re not quite so obsessive about it. But I  looked at last week’s stock buy back offer and felt “It must be worth more than that”.  According to The Financial Times I wasn’t alone. Disclaimer. This is not investment advice: consult someone qualified. The value of Microsoft shares can go up as well as down. Etc.

While I’m on the subject of Coupland. Some family friends recently opened a bookshop, and I picked up his latest “JPOD” last time I was in there (though I haven’t started it yet). JPOD is billed as “Microserfs for the Google Generation”, by the way, I love the home page for the JPOD book-site – and not just because the music listing includes an obscure cover of a Gary Numan song which I happen to have. I can’t remember the last home page I loved.

Back at the Financial times I read that Coupland or his publisher could be on the wrong end of writs from Apple and Google, who both appear to have been studying at the Gina Ford school of public relations.  Google want people to stop using their name as a verb. I can only think of a few tradenames which have become generic (like Kleenex) and also become a verb (you don’t Kleenex your nose though you might Hoover your carpet, or Xerox your documents).  Google don’t want me to talk about “googling” something on Windows Live Search, but while defending a trademark is all fine and good, “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the genie bottle” as one blogger put itThe Independent reports Dictionaries already include the verb “to google” and I was first aware of people using it in print when I read William Gibson’s 2003 novel “Patern Recognition” where it appears on the second page. In case you didn’t know, Gibson is famous as the man who coined the term “Cyberspace”.

Any Cricket fan will know of the term “Googly” maybe it will come to describe a kind of behaviour, and we’ll have to refine the verb “to Google” as “to search for people using terms to which you claim rights” , if Apple turn googly, they may complain about Coupland’s tittle as they claim to own the word “Pod”. I don’t know what we’re supposed to call the things peas come out of (no… not “freezers”) or groups of whales. I always thought that it was the ‘i’ part of iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhoto, iWeb, iLife which was the Apple specific part. Apple have gone after the makers of a datalogger called “profit pod”. If Yell can accuse Yellow wikis of passing off for using the colour yellow, how long before a name like Podtech attracts a “cease and desist” letter from Apple.

Robert Scoble is Podtech’s famous employee. He picked up a link from someone with no hands on experience of Zune, who asserts that it won’t have support for Podcasting: presumably non-Apple devices won’t be allowed to call it that . Robert, knows more about RSS than that, he linked to one of my posts about it.  Podcasting support is not in the iPod device, but the iTunes software. Sadly, I’ve no inside information about the Zune and I find the Zune blog by a Microsoft employee to be pretty feeble: so I’m forced to rely the same leak as everone else. That says nothing about the PC software and says that Wifi was disabled on the test device. Who knows what it will be able to fetch over wireless ?

That Zune story contains a reason why (if true) I might want one: built in FM transmitter. I was reading The 10 most annoying car innovations. My Citroen C5 has 5 of these 10 (and the automatic wipers and lights work well. It has lane departure warning – because it would have prevented an accident I was involved in last year). However Citroen have removed the Cassette player – it has a 6 CD multi-changer and a further CD player in the dash. I have to use an FM adapter to play WMAs and MP3 – which I do from my phone but it is such a fiddle to set up I rately bother. An FM transmitter would mean I could play music in the car and on any of the radios dotted round the house. This would be an inspired move, but who knows. Producing the player of choice for in-car use wouldn’t hurt the stock price.

Tagged as Microsoft Zune Apple  iPod Legal Google Gina Ford Yellow wikis

* Note I have no idea if they intend to or not: I’ve subtley changed the title from the original post so it doesn’t imply that they will.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

July 10, 2006

iPod Killer ? Only if it has a French accent.

Filed under: Apple,General musings,Mobility,Music and Media — jamesone111 @ 11:01 am

This Friday the BBC carried a story Microsoft has said reports that the company is planning an MP3 player to rival the iPod are based on “speculation and rumours”. Indeed, they are. Speculation and rumours aren’t always wrong. It made me go back to something I started last Friday after reading a story French lawmakers pass ‘iTunes law‘ from Associated press which was carried in Business week.

Microsoft has also heard a French accent delivering bad news about media players and opening up secrets. The EU action against Microsoft stems from a complaints by the self styled “European Committee for Interoperable systems” – their membership includes only one European company in a rag-tab and bobtail collection of Microsoft opponents. Adobe Systems, Corel, IBM, Linspire, Nokia, Opera, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems. Call me biased but interoperability isn’t a word I associate with IBM or Oracle. But then I thought that the people who made a product decided what went in it and customers chose to buy or not: ECIS’s lawyer complained that “Microsoft chooses itself what users will have as product.”

Apple are used to being a minority player, and choosing what users will have. The French say Apple’s share in the Music player market means they can’t be allowed to do that with Digital Rights Management. DRM can’t be truly open, the player enforces the license as it decrypts content: open up the code you’d soon have a version which saved the decrypted content. Even so, anyone can license Microsoft DRM technology and make their own player or start a music store. I wrote earlier about, making it easy for other people to use your product in their solution, there we are, doing it again.Conversely downloads for the iPod must come from iTunes (or be available unprotected). And once you have licensed content from iTunes, no other player can decrypt and play it, so customers are locked in to Apple.

According to the AP report, the French law “states that companies are expected to share the required technical data with any rival that wants to offer compatible music players and stores”. If iTunes customers are to switch brands and take the content they’ve paid for, then Creative, Phillips, Samsung and the 20 other Microsoft’s licensees must opt to license Apple DRM.

A compromise for Apple would be a “DRM transcoder” which replaces their protection on files with Microsoft style protection – allowing playback on other peoples’ players. They could also license the Microsoft playback technology so iPod owners can play music from other stores. Customers would need to want to change, but the ties would be loosened. This might not satisfy people like the EU or ECIS who seem to think that once people have something they are too stupid and/or lazy to move on to a better alternative. The failure of anyone to take up Windows XP-N (no Media) gives the lie to the idea this. People didn’t buy Real Networks product because Microsoft included media player: they didn’t buy it because they didn’t want it.

AP quoted the French culture Minister saying “Any artist’s work that is legally acquired should be playable on any digital device.” Very laudable, but no-one has said why this should be true for digital music. It’s not true of DVDs thanks to regional encoding, it was physically impossible with VHS and Betamax tapes. And it isn’t true of software (unless you invest in virtualization) – Mac owners can’t move to a Dell or HP or Toshiba PC without changing their software. The EU has done nothing about the high prices which stem from region locking of DVDs, the market dealt with Betamax and Mac owners understand the software situation before they buy. Apple might conclude that if a product doesn’t win much market share it can be as closed and proprietary as you like: but if you win lots of customers your competitors lobby governments to interfere to give them access.

It’s interesting to ponder how much technology Apple would license to stores and player makers, and how much Microsoft technology they would license for themselves. Would iTunes sell onto other players ? Could both iTunes and the iPod end up supporting the Microsoft format – meaning the French makes everyone license the same (Microsoft) technology. That would be ironic, especially if we are working on a player.

No information I can find tells me that we are working on a player – but if we are it would be under wraps, so that’s no surprise. My gut feel is that if we are, it won’t be branded Microsoft. Reports that a player with integrated Wireless networking is being hawked around may be a bit like the reports about Origami – also reported as a Microsoft branded “iPod killer” before it launched. We went as far as making production samples of “Stinger” phones, and I hoped we’d see a Microsoft branded phone, but the strategy of design but don’t implement seems to have worked and I think the same attitude will hold for players.

My wife has a Nano because it is beautiful object, not because it is better at playing music. Anyone who wants to take on Apple needs to start by hiring great design talent and building a product that people want more. Apple also has brand chic, and I doubt that a Microsoft label will combat that – even if we called it the X-Pod. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone wants a phone and an MP3 player when they can have a device that does both. Back in 2000 I was using my iPaq as a music player and for the last 4 years I’ve been using a smartphone to do the same job. Some of the wider ranging reporting (like Gizmodo) suggest that’s where Microsoft – at least Steve Ballmer – sees the future. But Steve, It needs to be SMALLER !

Tagged as Microsoft ipod Mp3 France

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.

April 18, 2006

The Virtual Mac – a little idle speculation

Filed under: Apple,Virtualization,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 2:14 pm

Apple’s “Boot camp” software has created a big stir, hasn’t it?

Apple is a leader in industrial design: which is why my wife has an iPod Nano – the iPods have a magic to their design which no-one else seems able to match. The number of things which borrow from the original iMac design shows how other designers admire it. I’ve just bought a new Samsung TV and I didn’t consider Dell’s offering but I’d look at an Apple TV. As well as design, Apple has brand kudos that Samsung, Dell and (yes) Microsoft lack, so the idea of Windows on Apple hardware is seductive.

Some comments have suggested that Boot Camp is the start of unbundling the Mac OS from Apple hardware. As I see it (and remember a blog IS a personal view not a company one), this would give Apple two problems. Firstly could they be the Bang and Olfusen of PCs – selling good designs at a premium? I’d love a B&O television but I bought a Samsung. How many people would covert an Apple PC but actually buy a Dell or whatever their retailer has on special offer ?

Secondly, if they sold the Mac OS separately; who would buy a “Dell Mac”? Mac users – at the expense of Apple hardware sales. The “Anyone but Microsoft” brigade might buy one as a nicer alternative to a Linux desktop. Corporate customers? 6 years in Microsoft Consulting Services have shown me the difficulty of making changes. Anti-Microsoft people say this makes us complacent – but they just don’t get it. Our biggest competitor is old versions – customers don’t blindly upgrade – indeed I saw customers refuse to run the latest service pack never mind the latest OS; so I don’t see corporate customers stampeding to a new OS.

In any case, does Apple want to support all the graphics cards, network cards, sound, motherboard chipsets etc used in PCs ? Microsoft has been doing it for 20 years and 3rd party drivers are still the biggest cause of crashes. To me this looks like an expensive way for Apple to deprive itself of hardware revenue.
So, for now at least, Boot camp is as far is goes. My wife would love a Mac at home but doesn’t want to spend the money. I need Windows, and neither of us want to booting a seperate OS (especially as we have come to expect fast user switching on XP).
If we had a Mac, we’d be better off with Virtual PC , which doesn’t run on Intel Macs (or some equivalent which does) That made me stop and think.
I discovered Virtual PC Express will be part of Vista Enterprise. Full Virtual PC allows as many machines as can run in the host’s available memory, but requires a license for each. The Express edition allows only one Virtual Machine and is for Software Assurance customers who get rights to run a copy second of copy of their OS (or a downgrade of it) on a licensed PC. In this way they get a “parachute” for software which isn’t supported on the new OS.

Now… Virtual PC emulates fixed hardware – like Intel Macs do. Mac OS under Virtual PC (express or otherwise)? Given a suitable (licensed) extension to Virtual PC it might just work, it’s incremental business, not cannibalization, for Apple. The odds are that it will never happen, but if it does, you saw it here first.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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