James O'Neill's Blog

December 15, 2010

My review of Windows Phone 7 on the HTC trophy

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Music and Media,Office,Windows Phone 7 — jamesone111 @ 7:51 pm

I have already looked the move from Windows Mobile 6.5 to Windows phone 7, from the point of view of what’s gone. Now I want to look at what’s better.

The Trophy is the thinnest phone I have ever had, at 12mm. Its frontal area is fractionally larger than the Touch pro 2 I had before, but without the need to accommodate a keyboard, overall volume is down about 20% and weight down about 25%. By way of comparison it 3 grams heavier than the Iphone 4, and a whisker bigger in all dimension. It’s my sixth HTC device and the tidiest design, the finish feels nice in the hand, and the ergonomics are good; held in two hands – like a camera – the camera button is under right index finger, as it should be.  The camera has a 5MP sensor I remain to be convinced that the lens justifies even 5MP and an LED flash, so it is usable under more circumstances than its predecessors. The Touch Pro 2 had a second, front-facing, camera for video chat, but I never used it and so it won’t be missed..

Holding the device in the left hand to work with the right, puts the volume controls are under my thumb and (like the camera button and Power button) they work when the phone is locked.  When the phone is unlocked these buttons bring up a mini menu with Music player controls and access to the ring/vibrate settings; if the phone locks with music playing this menu appears when you tap the power switch – which is naturally under the index finger – so you can pause or skip tracks without needing to unlock the device.
By contrast, Mobile 6.5 devices locked out all the buttons  – even power – so the only way to silence one left on a desk to ring was to remove the battery. Now colleagues can turn a phone off or set it to silent and add a photo to remind you not to leave it on your desk when you go to meetings. You can enable Voice dialling while locked, on Mobile 6.5 you needed to add Voice command, now a subset of it is built in.

Music shows the change from previous Windows Mobile devices: Firstly Microsoft’s hardware spec demands a Micro-USB connector (which is becoming the standard for all phones), with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack: that means the end of HTC’s combination audio / Mini-USB connector which required an adapter to connect headphones. Pulling out the headphone connector pauses music (instead of blaring out to a carriage full of tutting commuters). And secondly the old devices tried to shoe horn Windows-Media-player into a mobile device:  sound quality was fine but the experience was way behind that of proper music player (which I never wanted to carry).  The new phone is a Zune:  Zune isn’t the market leader people who have them really like them, and I can see why.

Over the years I had grown used to the mobile mail/messaging, contacts and calendar applications being the round pegs of their Outlook equivalents hammered into the small square hole which is a mobile display. The same philosophy which got rid of Windows media player has seen these replaced with versions work better on a phone and took zero time to learn.

Volume, camera and power are mounted on the edge, on the front are three buttons which take longer to explain than to learn   “Back” and “Start” are the main navigation buttons going 1 step at a time or straight to the Start screen and “Search” which applications can use to start their own search (want to find a contact ? – Press search in people – it’s very intuitive), otherwise it launches Bing.  The search destination in Internet Explorer is fixed by the carrier: that’s out of character for the phone, you can remove the carrier’s or phone maker’s apps, but with Vodafone I’m stuck with Google in the all-new IE. IE supports multiple open pages, and “pinch zoom”: I’m still learning to tap accurately with a fingertip (the old touch screens worked with a fingernail or any stylus, the new ones don’t – though there are capacitive styli available to stop me obsessively polishing finger-marks off) so zooming in on a link is good and pinch zoom has come more naturally than using the on-screen keyboard.  Zooming is smooth and rendering is snappy which I attribute to having graphics acceleration as standard, rather than the faster processor. Competing phones have graphics acceleration but  introducing it piecemeal into Windows Mobile 6.5 (or earlier) wouldn’t have worked: the “Break with the past” means all apps can count on a certain level of graphics,  accelerometers and so on,  very little should be specific to one phone. Nowhere is the new hardware standard more obvious than in games. 

This is my first phone without built in games;  odd as Microsoft positions it as consumer more than corporate, but it means that people will find their way to the Market Place. Plenty on offer is free, and most paid games and apps have demo versions. The quality runs from truly great to truly lousy. Videos and music are downloaded in the same way as software, all three can be driven from the phone or the PC Zune software. I blogged early in the life of Vista that Windows had what it took to handle podcasts, it was just ugly and buried: finally Microsoft has decent podcast support through Zune. Microsoft are pushing Zune pass, all you can eat music streaming for £8.99 a month – which works from the Xbox, Phone or PC – as well as traditional purchase and download

There are some new look and feel elements, so besides the search button, when the built-in apps produce a long list – like songs or people – they break it up by letters: pressing a heading letter displays the whole alphabet, as a “jump-to” list To listen to “zest” or phone “Zoe”, a couple of taps saves a long scroll. It will be interesting to see how developers stick to the style – I  compared two Sudoku games one would look wrong on anything but WP7 and another looked like a port by people who hadn’t seen a finished phone. Chunky tiles on the start menu make simple targets to tap on)Word press have copied it for their newly launched app.) I already think of the icons interface we’ve grown as the Windows 3.1 program manager, the phone’s start menu is like what we’ve been used to since Windows 95/NT 4. “Start” button jumps to something like main part of the menu; and “All Programs” is off to the right. I looked in settings, for “Uninstall” without success: taping and holding anything brings up an action menu (think “right-click”) for a  program this has options to uninstall, pin to the start menu or write a review for Marketplace.

There is a distinction between Marketplace apps and the built in ones; the latter can run in the background (and update their tiles)  downloaded ones deactivate when they lose focus – although the phone locking doesn’t count. Storage for apps is compartmentalized –so a rogue app can’t do much damage, but the Trophy’s storage device isn’t removable (it is on some WP7 devices, but the phone does some weird magic with the file system, so the card won’t work anywhere else). There is a hack to make Zune files visible from the PC, but it can’t see any  other “compartments” The Zune software will only sync Music Videos and photos, Contacts and Appointments need to go via Exchange or Windows Live.

One-note syncs with Windows live, which is great, but you can only to get something from the other office apps to your PC via SharePoint or by mailing it to yourself. The button attach inside mail only offers photos. I had a look at the developer tools and there is no API for add-on apps to e-mail an attachment or to upload / sync to Windows live and so on.

These are among the things which I hope to see fixed in an update early in 201.1 Paul Thurrott has a long list of What needs to be fixed in Windows Phone, here’s my cut down version of his list.

  • Add Copy/cut/paste
  • Allow Custom ringtones, notifications, and alarms
  • Support Multitasking for Third-party apps
  • Appear as a camera to  photo importing applications, e.g.  Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Allow Zune PC software to be extended to Sync 3rd party file types.
  • Allow third party services to integrate hubs; The Pictures hub should share with and see photo services and Twitter should be able to add people to the people Hub
  • Support all the policies in Exchange ActiveSync (EAS)  instead of just a subset
  • Provide Access to Microsoft services in all supported locales (Voice search with TellMe is US only)
  • Provide a  service like MyPhone for Mobile 6.5 to deliver Cloud-based backup
  • Provide Windows Live SkyDrive in all of Office Mobile
  • Provide Developer APIS for all functions (speech, mail attachments, live sync)

Most of the list can be summarized as (a) Improve support of cloud services (or the Services themselves) (b) make it easier to get stuff on and off the phone (c) Allow developers to do more. The updates will come when Microsoft declares them ready, not when/if the device makers and carriers get round to it, and yes that’s another plus about saying goodbye to Windows Mobile 6.5

November 1, 2010

Thinking about the cloud – part 2, Office 365

Filed under: Azure / Cloud Services,Exchange,Office,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:03 pm

In my previous post I was talking in general terms about why BPOS was a sound idea. The recent announcement of Ray Ozzie’s retirement set people quoting his mantra “Three screens and a cloud” – the three screens being Computer, Mobile device, and TV.  The unwritten part of “Three screens” is recognising their diversity: people should interact with the best possible client – which means adapting to the specifics of each “screen”; it’s not “any browser and a cloud”: many phone apps do something which PCs do in the browser, they only exist because of the need to give a different experience on a different kind of screen. Instead of seeing a monolithic website (which in reality probably wasn’t monolithic) we see an app which consumes a service (probably the same service which was behind the web site).

But there was more than publishing stuff using services instead of HTML pages; more even than the likes of Groove or Live Meeting which used the cloud to enable new things.  From Ozzie’s vision, famously expressed in 2005, came a realization that services already used by business PCs and devices would increasingly be in the cloud, instead of on an organizations own servers. That was the cue to provide Exchange as a service, SharePoint as a service and so on. We’ve tried to make a distinction between “Software as a Service” – which in some people’s minds is “Any browser and a cloud” and “Software PLUS Services” – which covers a plethora of client software: from multi-player games on Xbox to iTunes to Outlook talking to an Exchange server. But when Office Outlook on a PC accesses Exchange-Online , Exchange is software and it is provided as a service –it just isn’t accessed using a browser: I haven’t yet seen a successful way to make the distinction between the two kinds of “Software as a service” just understand it has different meanings depending on who is speaking.

I don’t know if it was planned but it seemed fitting that we should announce the next generation of BPOS on the day after Ray’s announcement.  I prefer the new name Office 365. Mary Jo Foley posted something headed “This is not Office in the cloud” – in which she says “this was not some out-of-the-blue change in Microsoft’s business model. Microsoft is still pushing Office first and foremost as a PC-based software package.” Which is spot on: if you need office in a browser, Office Web App is there but it is not a replacement. I wrote in the previous post about the challenges of providing SharePoint, Exchange and so on, it is not Office but the services behind Office which are in the cloud. The key points of Office 365 are these:

  • At it’s core are the latest versions of the Server Software (Lync replaces Office Communications Server and provides Live Meeting functionality, and both Exchange and SharePoint are updated).  The FAQ page has a link to explain what happens to existing BPOS customers (and there are plenty of them – sending 167 million e-mails a day).
  • The ability to create a Public website (previously part of Office Live Small Business) has moved into Office 365 (Again the FAQ page explains what will happen to Office Live Small Business)
  • The update to SharePoint 2010 enables us to offer Office Web Apps – so documents can be viewed in high fidelity and edited from the browser.
  • Despite the the presence of Office Web Apps the main client will be Office on Desktop computers : Office Professional Plus for the desktop is now available as a part of the package on the same monthly subscription basis
  • There is a-la-carte pricing for individual parts of the suite and bundles known as plans targeted at different market segments.

I think the a-la-carte pricing option is a good thing – though some are bound to say “Microsoft are offering too many options”. The plans are just the combinations of cloud services we think will be popular; services can be added to a plan or bought standalone – for example “Kiosk” workers can get on the company e-mail system with Outlook web access from $2.  We’ve announced that the plans will cost between $4 to $27 per month,  that one of the enterprise plans closely mirrors the current BPOS at the same $10/user/month, and that there will be $6 plan with the features we think small business will need. In the run up to the launch I did see some details of different plans and options but I haven’t seen all of these in the announcements and it is not impossible that they will be fine tuned before the system goes fully live.  When will that be? The launch has a beta programme (sign-up is at http://office365.microsoft.com) , Mary-Jo said back in July that the plan was for full launch was early 2011 which sounds about right – it’s also necessarily vague, because a beta might reveal a lot of unexpected work to be done: if you want a more precise date I always say in these cases those who know won’t talk, and those who talk don’t know.

We’ve positioned Office 365 as helping small businesses to think big and big business to act fast – the link gives examples which range from the Starwood hotel chain to a single independent restaurant – it’s worth taking time to work out what it might mean to the organization(s) you work in/with: the cloud might be right for you, it might not – but if it isn’t I’d want to be able to explain why not and not have people think an opportunity was being missed through inertia.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 19, 2010

Thinking about the cloud (part 1).

Filed under: Azure / Cloud Services,Exchange,Office,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 5:49 pm

I was telling someone recently that before I joined Microsoft I spent the late 1990s running a small training company. The number of employees varied, averaging out at a dozen or so. I delivered training, did the business management, helped the win over customers and I looked after the IT. It was like doing two or three jobs.

I’ve been quite reticent about our  “Business Productivity Online Service“partly because it takes a long and closely argued post to cover why, from an IT professional’s point of view, getting rid of your servers isn’t abdicating. (This is not going to be that post). But as chance would have it I was looking at BPOS again with my old job in my thoughts.  B-POS sounds like it should be something… ”points of sale”, but it is Exchange,Communications server and Sharepoint provided as Pay-monthly “Cloud services”

In the training company we ran all our own IT services, but there’s no way I’d host my own web-server today: the sense of using a hosting company was clear before I left for Microsoft.  The launch of BPOS gave businesses a way to get hosted Mail (Exchange), Presence & IM (OCS) and Collaboration & Document management (Sharepoint) for $10 US per month – or in round numbers £80 annually – per user. Comparing that with the cost of server hardware and software and especially the time that in-house systems took up, if I were running that business today, my head would say get rid of the servers.  You can mix in-house and in-cloud servers; users keep the same desktop software which is crucial: you don’t give up Outlook to move your mailboxes to the cloud.

It needs a change of attitude to give up the server. If my head argued costs and figures,  my heart might have come back with benefits like “You are master of your own destiny with the servers in-house”. But are you ? Back then we couldn’t justify clustering our servers, so if hardware failed – work would stop until it was repaired. Paying for a service in a Microsoft datacentre means it runs on clustered hardware, which someone else maintains. Microsoft’s datacentre is a bigger target for attack, but the sheer scale of the operation allows investment in tiers of defence. Small businesses tend not to worry about these things until something goes wrong, and you can always tell yourself that the risk is OK if you’re getting a better service in-house. But the truth is you’re probably not getting  better service.  As a Microsoft employee I’m used to having access to my mail and calendar from anything that connect to the internet – laptop at home, or on the move, any PC with web access, or Sync’d to a phone. I doubt if I would have set that up for the training company but it’s part of BPOS – even to the extent of supporting iPhones and Blackberries.   Getting rid of servers could not only save money but give users a better set of tools to use in their jobs – an easier thing to accept now that I don’t run servers for a business.

Now if you’ve come across the idea of the HypeCycle (see Wikipedia if not) – I agree with Gartner that cloud technologies somewhere near “peak of inflated expectations”  – in other words people are talking up “the cloud” beyond it’s true capabilities, and if things follow a normal course there will be a “trough of disillusionment” before things find their true level. I don’t buy into the idea that in the future scarcely any business will bother with keeping their own server, any more than they would generate their own electricity.  Nor do I buy into the polar opposite – that very few organisations, and none with any sense, will keep critical services in the cloud – that idea seems just as implausible to me. So the truth must lie in between: the method of delivering services to users won’t change from one foregone conclusion (the in-house server) to another foregone conclusion (the service in the cloud), like so many things it will be a question of businesses asking “does it make sense to do this in-house”, and I think IT professionals will want to avoid depending on that question being answered one way.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 28, 2009

Hello Exchange 2010

Filed under: Exchange,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:52 pm

Inside Microsoft we have this custom of “dog-fooding” new software, and Exchange 2010 is now at the point where Microsoft IT feel they can run it outside of North America. So a few days ago I got a mail saying my mail box was going to be moved to a new server “using the new Exchange 2010 Online Mailbox Move feature, which means your mailbox should not experience any downtime during the migration.” It’s 3 years since I moved away from being an Exchange consultant and so I’ve not kept track of exactly how it handles storage better, but it does, so the move to 2010 is giving us 4.5 GB mailboxes instead of the current 1GB, so I shouldn’t need to empty my deleted items folder before the end of the year.

Before leaving for the office this morning I checked my calendar with Outlook Web Access and I was still on 2007. I got to work and Outlook told me to log off and log on again because of a change, and there was a mail saying my Voice mail had a new PIN a new access number for 2010. Outlook 2010 has a little status box in the corner telling me how near to full my mail box is, that was still reporting that I was down to the last of my space. Then at a few minutes past 11 I noticed that box had gone. I re-enabled it and woo-hoo I had a 4.5 GB mail box. As a user the Online Mailbox Move lived up to its billing. Something might have hidden some downtime from me, but the move didn’t appear to happen while I was driving into work and I didn’t see any down time. When things go badly with our internal IT, “Microsoft IT” gets a lot of flack: when things go this well, they look like heroes.

2010 gives me an update to the Unified communications bits, notably it transcribes voice mail – the jury is still out on how well it will do that overall, but you if you pick up mail on a mobile device you get some sense of the message without having  to dial in or download the sound file. With Exchange 2007 I’ve grown used to being able to call in and get my e-mail read to me and I’ll be interested to see  if 2010 copes better with bad mobile phone connections and still does some of the slightly comical translations of  internal abbreviations “MS” becomes Manuscript, and “Technical Sales Professionals”, TSPs in Microsoft speak were teaspoons. Someone whose initials are SJ let us know that this got translated to “Society Of Jesus”. 

This morning we also got chatting in the office about our use of the full unified communications suite. This means we have our own voice conferencing system based on Office Communications Server (so no need to spend money on 3rd party dial up conferencing services), and we can use Communicator as a soft-phone when travelling or working from home. The former means cheap calls from abroad, and the latter give me a workround or the patchy phone signal I get at home. I love UCs call routing abilities – or perhaps I should say I hate putting people through the dilemmas of “Do I call this number or that number” and “If I get voice mail, should I redial on another number”. So I give out one number: UC will simultaneously “ring” on my PC and on my mobile and I can answer from either. If I’m at my PC I can steer the call to a different number or to voice mail, and it’s easier to forward the call if need be (even forwarding it to my mobile so I can shut the PC down and walk and talk). The only caution here is setting communicator to “Do not disturb” routes all calls straight to voice mail: forget to take communicator off DND you get voice mails without the phone ringing.  I need to educate people “Yes you can have my mobile number to text me, but if I don’t answer on the landline number, there is no point ringing the mobile.” , “If you do ring the mobile and get no answer you’ll will have to ring the land-line to leave a message”.  No-one seems to have got a good way to tell who is more easily contacted by mobile for whom the “one number” is not the desk one but the mobile: everyone assumes the numbers they give out themselves are the best numbers to give out for other people.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 20, 2008

Supercomputers and adverts.

Filed under: Exchange,Windows Server — jamesone111 @ 8:01 pm

One of those Saturday morning serendipitous link chains.

Sometime in 1988  I was talking to Mike, one of my colleagues at Research Machines. It’s impossible to keep using increasing computer for ever I said. He had 16Mhz 386 computer on his desk with a 387 maths co-processor and a special cache board in it and people were cooing over the power of the thing.  Mike said however much power the hardware folks gave us, the software folks would find a way to use it: way beyond his awesome 386 he said. But there has to be a limit, I said "Even if you could give everyone a Cray ?". Even then said Mike….

You might have heard that we’ve been running some new adverts. The first couple were to get people thing "Oh Microsoft have something to say do they"… I greeted these with some skepticism. Bill transitions out of this full time job at Microsoft and we start running adverts with Bill as the star. Even now I can hear someone pitching "Bill" to TV studios , a sitcom about a guy in Seattle, "Think Frasier, but instead of Psychiatrist he’s a computer geek. And the great thing is the real Bill is available. We can bring in guest comedians from all over…"  Reflexively my toes began to curl when I saw Bill in an ad because I learned a little rhyme when I was young.

When the client moans and sighs
make his logo twice the size
If he still should prove refractory
show a picture of his factory
Only in the gravest cases
should you show the clients’ faces

The first ad passed me by. Part of recent Microsoft folklore (if you can call blog posts that) was someone asking Steve Ballmer "When will act like an international company and not like an an American company which does business overseas". I didn’t think people in Britain would get it. It seems a great many Americans didn’t get it either: it’s an advert so what does Microsoft want us to buy ? Vista, office, Exchange, Mobile , the ideas of Live ? Or just open our minds enough to accept that Jerry Seinfeld who is famously from New York and Gates – famously from Seattle – could possibly be in the same shoe shop. The second one did raise a laugh but would a British Audience get it ? Was there something to get ? Or is just the most expensive clearing of the throat in recent corporate history ?

My smoke alarm went off a couple of days ago. It does it every so often – this time was because I left a door slightly open and steam from the shower was enough to trip the thing. Burnt toast or frying some things can also set it off if the kitchen door is open. The thing is a nuisance, so why don’t I just take its battery out ? You know why. I mention this because its actually quite a good metaphor with User Account Control in Windows Vista. Most of the time you forget it’s there. When you’re doing some things it’s a nuisance… But one day it might save you. Granted UAC won’t save your loved ones from death by smoke inhalation. And I’ll take rebuilding an infected computer over even minor fire damage any day.  Trust me on this: I’ve caused a kitchen fire at home which needed two fire engines and men in breathing apparatus.

I mention this because Apple’s ad campaigns got the skin of Microsoft folks so much, that they get into any internal talk about our own ads in first few seconds. Someone brought up this mac ad which is the most inaccurate representation of UAC I’ve seen to date.  Just like the ad agencies take on Viruses – Apple have more published vulnerabilities than Windows but – even virus writers don’t bother with it as a platform. This one seems to be saying "Apple OS-X :  like a house without a smoke alarm".

As a Microsoft shareholder there are times when I think the money we’ve spent with advertising agencies has been wasted – worse than that: I can think of cases where it would have done us less harm to spend the money buying air time for those Apple ads. And for pity’s sake why can I do I see ads like this one for the first time when trying to find something on youtube ? Watch it …. Notice it says 25 years ago a company was founded: that dates it to 2000. And the breaking down barriers bit … well we might see more of that in the "Without walls" campaign. I tell you this because I think the latest ad might turn out to be a master stroke. 


They’ve taken Apples "PC" character and given him half a dozen words "I’ve been made into a stereotype" and shown a diverse set of people who are PCs. One of the comments I read  – and can’t find now – said Microsoft had missed that the "I’m a Mac" adverts asked "Who would you rather work with."  This ad tells people the PC is people like them, not just the guy in the Apple ad. It makes him look like that guy we’ve all met at some point in our working lives, the one with the ill-deserved superiority complex – the one who thinks the designer logo on the shirt he wears to work matters more than what he does when he’s there, the one who thinks constantly disagreeing with the consensus is proof of his creativity and superiority, when everyone else thinks its a sign of being a jerk. Long term readers might recall I linked to a Grauniad piece  which says the Adverts characterize  Macs as "Smug Preening Tossers". If people turn round and say "you know, the Mac guy isn’t someone I’d want to be around, much less someone I’d want to be " Apple can never run an advert with him in it again.

Whilst using Google’s (youtube’s) bandwidth to show the ad in flash form is all fine and good, the version above is the silverlight version which I got from my colleague Keith Combs. Keith has a couple of interesting links on the front page of his blog right now, he’s got the advance spec for Dell’s new monster laptop: with 3 times the CPU grunt and 4 times the memory of what I have now, in a package which can go in wheel on luggage – is could be the core of event delivery for the next couple of years. Since I’m going to be helping out with an HPC (nee Computer Cluster Server) event in October, his piece on the Cray CX1 caught my eye. With 8 nodes with 8 cores in a single box, and it would have made it onto the top 500 supercomputers in the world in 2004.  Which thinking about the power of those weird and wonderful beasts with the Stonehenge-inspired design that I was thinking of in that chat with Mike. Lordy, you have to love Moore’s law. According Wikipedia the Cray X-MP which was the top dog in 1988 was introduce in 1984 at a cost of $15M (call it £25M in today’s Money). It had 1/5 of the power of each core in my Laptop. And if you’ve got £50K to spend on the CX-1 it will buy you the equivalent of 500 X-MPs for 1/500th of the price (£100 a go, a 250,000 fold improvement. Based the traditional doubling every 18 months Moore would only give about 65,000 times improvement).  Watch Cray’s video which ends with the description "Unprecedented personal computing capabilities".  If a machine like that had a voice it would sound like James Earl Jones and it would be saying "AND I’M A PC"


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 28, 2008

Mail stress.

Filed under: Exchange,General musings,Outlook,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 1:15 pm

Click for full size image I started typing this blog post at 07:21. Outlook has already received the first 50 items of the day. Most of which were from night-owls in the US, a few from Asia/Pacific, and only a couple from European insomniacs. Yesterday it pulled down at least 426. I know this because yesterday I set up 3 new search folders. I’m not 100% sure when search folders came into Outlook – and which version of Exchange they need behind them, but they’re a useful feature – particularly for the "where are all the huge mails which are taking me over my quota" and the like. A few weeks ago Microsoft IT doubled the size of my mailbox so I’ve got a huge deleted Items folder at the moment – 8000+ items. But that means the except for items which I "shift deleted", all my mail is in still there somewhere. 2026 from last week 1139 since Monday of this week.

This is ridiculous. I am up at 7 in the morning to do mail. I sent a mail at 0:05 this morning. And this is not just a "Look at how hard I have to work post". The modern working environment is doing this to lots of people – the problem is worse than average at Microsoft, but it’s not confined to us either.

In an 8 hour day there are 480 working minutes. If I just did mail for those 480 minutes each of those messages would have had 68 seconds. That’s 68 seconds to read and action it if I did nothing else all day. I’m not a slow reader, and many of those mails can’t be read in 68 seconds. For quite a large percentage I can’t work out what the person sending them actually wants to happen as a result with 68 seconds…

What does all this mean…

  • Mail makes mediocre meeting manners. Eileen tries to ban laptops from meetings. But how many times do I go to a two hour meeting and find everyone has their laptop open and is trying to multi-task doing mail ? Why ? Because at peak times of the day when you get back to your desk after 2 hours there can be 100 new messages. If you can delete the junk and deal with the ones which are read and file/forward/or reply with one word – leaving the "go-back-to" ones for later – the classic triage – then you’re no so behind when you get back. (Of course the meeting wouldn’t be two hours if people could actually express themselves clearly, and not just vomit everything into Powerpoint, but that’s another story).
  • Mail mountains mean missed matters. I’ve had several incidents recently of missing something and having someone plaintively cry "But I sent you a mail about it 2 weeks ago" . This will get the reply. "I’ve had over 4,000 mails since then. What made you think yours would be remembered ?"
  • Ballooning Bystander syndrome. Mail a big enough group of people and everyone will assume that someone else will do it. Eileen recently had had cause to grumble that none of our team had volunteered to contribute at an event. The organizer had sent a diary placeholder to a huge group. She didn’t ask for help. If it had occurred to anyone that speakers and so on were needed they probably thought someone else would volunteer: that’s the Bystander effect.
  • Selfish Senders Suffer Silence. This is linked to the bystander effect and is actually a bit childish: if you don’t ask nicely I won’t help you. The classic "selfish sender" in Microsoft is one who mails to technical Discussion lists. "Here is a screen shot / log file of my problem , please tell me how to fix it " . No explanation of what was done, and no text description "It said Error 4096 had occurred – there are no fettlable widgets in this container". Mail clients on phones usually don’t download bitmaps, and Outlook Voice Access can’t process them. Blind readers can’t with screen reading software can’t read them either. I can only answer the question if I’m at my PC. If I’m somewhere else.. [DELETE]. So if the message is archived, it won’t be found if someone searches for the error in future.  Not the people who send these messages would check an archive anyway, but the next person to hit the problem will have no choice but mail their question out to the whole list. Those mails get the [SHIFT]-[DELETE] treatment (I don’t even keep them in deleted items.).

Next week I’m presenting on "Microsoft’s vision for unified communications" and I’m sure some of these will creep in. And the mail count for this morning is now past 100.

Update It’s 22:44. 15 hours into my day.  8 hour work days belong in fairy stories. Message number 407 of the day just arrived. Chillingly, George sent two mails at 21:22 and 21:31 – the latter had a reply within 6 minutes (from a UK person) and the former has grown into a 5 message thread (again all UK people).

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 16, 2008

On knowing your sh*t

Filed under: Exchange,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 8:43 am

It’s been an interesting few days, Monday was the Glasgow road-show event and Thursday was our day in Newcastle. The team didn’t look upon flying with any great enthusiasm. So rather than returning home, drawing breath and heading North again we decided to stop en-route for an extra day and night: since we’d missed off-site event that the rest of our group had to spend time doing team stuff and thinking about goals for the financial year that starts on July 1st, we used the time for that – while enjoying some of the best countryside the UK has to offer. It was time well spent and  – thinking as a shareholder – I was glad to see a reasonable chunk of money saved (not quite so glad that a quirk of our expense policy means I’m paying a little of the cost myself) 

And so to Newcastle; we’ve visited Newcastle twice and got a good reception both times so it’s a place I’m glad to come back to. (Some audiences seem pleased  that we bother going to them at all. London audiences expect us to go there and are the hardest to please.) Instead of being Travel weary, we were in a good frame of mind and delivered the best event we’ve done on this trip. Last time we were in Newcastle  Jonathan Noble met us and we ended up entering a pub quiz (and got close to winning!), so we gave him the task of finding another one and were joined by half dozen more "community" people. The quiz was fun and we might have won it, but we came in a contented third. There was an end-of-evening Jackpot prize for a one-off question: 25p to buy a slip, a £100 prize and one question asked after the slips were sold. The question. What are coprolites ?

Some years back a friend of mine – another of the Davids – bought the board game of Who wants to be a Millionaire ? Being on a few people’s phone-a-friend list I did fairly well and found myself at the "£1,000,000" question. It was "What date was the battle of Hastings" – everyone assumes 1066, but not what year, but what day-of-the-year.  I’d once sent my Dad a birthday card which said on the outside "Do you know what day it is ?" and on the inside I’d written "The 925th anniversary of the battle of Hastings ? ", because he (and Mrs Thatcher if I remember correctly) both have the day of the battle as their birthday. So when the answers were  "13th of August" , "13th of September", "13th of October", or "13th of November" it was too easy. While we’re on battles and anniversaries a different David celebrates wedding anniversary on Trafalgar day. I don’t know how this stuff sticks in my head, but it’s a useful trait for a technical chap.

I don’t know why I know about Coprolites. But I do know they’re fossilized dinosaur droppings. Whether to para-phrase something from the film broken arrow I don’t know if I was more surprised that dinosaur poo CAN be fossilized, or that it is common enough that we have a word for it it . So £100 came my way. One Geordie – a good 20 years my senior – asked me with a huge grin on his face if "that means you know a lot about old sh*te" quite a few Microsofties would say that was a fair description.  I told my daughter about football that "you win as a team or lose as a team" and I didn’t think of the prize as my money.  The winning team in the main quiz  put their prize in the Pub’s charity boxes (RNLI and RNIB) and when I suggested that we do the same, all of my team agreed. It might be the first time our charity matching scheme has been presented with a pub receipt to support a claim – all being well the two charities should get £50 each; and that still doesn’t wipe out the money we saved.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 15, 2008

You know that Virtualization is going mainstream …

Filed under: Exchange,Virtualization,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 12:04 pm

It’s not when you see articles like this from Mary Jo  (Self styled Linux guy and VMware proponent Jason Perlow thinks Hyper-V is pretty darn good… I want to quote so much of this that really is easier for you to go and read it).
It’s when it’s the subject of a sequence of Dilbert Cartoons.

Oh, and while we’re on Dilbert…
(a)  I hadn’t seen Sunday’s cartoon when I wrote Sundays’s post
(b) I’ve been trying to find a favourite strip which I’m sure is a Dilbert one form about 5 years ago to no avail. With mid year appraisals in the air at Microsoft I’d like to suggest this for some of the "mail bombers" around Microsoft. So with due acknowledgement to Scott Adams for the quotation/original idea (and the usual copyright act caveats which apply here in Britain if it was someone else) I’ve redrawn it roughly how I remember it.

Click for full size version

(Note. I have carefully drawn the boss to NOT resemble any manager in Microsoft connected with me;  and the employee to look as generic as possible. Any resemblance to a real person is an accident – OK ?) .

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 30, 2007

Exchange 2007 SP1 released

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 2:46 pm

The news went live on the Exchange Web Page yesterday. Technet Magazine has “16 new features in Exchange SP1” the one which is of most interest to me is Improvements to Unified Messaging“… that’s all about integration with OCS and communicator. 

Update: Jason thinks the mobility improvements are pretty major too,  more control over the device stands out there.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 20, 2007

PowerShell to Fix Phone number formats part II

Filed under: Exchange,How to,Powershell — jamesone111 @ 3:13 pm

I said when I posted about fixing the phone numbers in your Outlook Contacts that I’d come back and do the same thing for Active Directory. Richard told people to look out for that, so no pressure to get it done then…

Using the Active Directory Services interface (ADSI) from Powershell seems to fill some people with fear. One of the books I picked up said “don’t bother” use VB. I found the Mastering PowerShell in your lunch-break pages quite helpful on ADSI; and there are a bunch of tools worth investigating. I wanted to do this without creating a dependency on those, if I could.

So here are a few bits that might be useful before I dive into the code.

  1. [ADSI]LDAP://{path} will fetch an ADSI object. the LDAP part is case sensitive. You can specify LDAP://serverName:port/name to go to a specific server – if you leave the port out :389 is assumed, and you can specify the search should go against a Global Catalog server with GC://. Leaving the path empty – calling [ADSI]””, you’ll return the default naming context for the current domain.
  2. The LDAP bit is required, but when AD gives you a path it usually omits the LDAP:// , causing an error when you try to get the object. The exception to this is the “Searcher” object
  3. ADSI objects aren’t saved back to the server until you call their setInfo method
  4. ADSI objects have properties and children. To get the Children use $ADSIobject.psbase.children. Properties can be addressed as $ADSIobject.property.name. However this will return something if the AD property wasn’t set. A better way to check properties is with $ADSIObject.psbase.propertyName
  5. The DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher object is a very useful way to get a collection of objects

I’ve kept the same structure as I used in the Outlook Contacts version. I’ve kept the same function Format-number-as-E164 and I have another function which takes a user or contact object, checks to see if phone numbers are present and if they are, it calls Format-number-as-E164.  This follows the same pattern as the outlook one, but is named function Format-ADPerson-as-e164 and takes an LDAP path as a parameter. The AD fields it looks at are facsimileTelephoneNumber, homePhone, ipPhone, mobile, pager, PrimaryInternationalISDNNumber , TelephoneAssistant  and TelephoneNumber

Rather than show identical code for all these attributes, I’ve just shown one below.

function Format-ADPerson-as-e164 ($LDAPpath)

    {$temp = Format-Number-as-E164($contact.facsimileTelephoneNumber)
      if ($temp -ne $contact.facsimileTelephoneNumber)

     if ($changed) {
    write-host $contact.name changed

I  tested the code with the path to a single user e.g. Format-ADPerson-as-e164 (‘LDAP://CN=James O’Neill,CN=Users,DC=Contoso,DC=com’)

Then it needs to be called for many AD users, By using [ADSI]””, and filtering to the “Person” objectClass, I selected every user and contact in my domain but you could specify a single OU or a more restrictive filter.

    $searcher= New-Object directoryServices.DirectorySearcher([Adsi]””)


$searcher.findall() | forEach-Object {$_.path}

The last line is there to show which objects are going to be processed. When I’m happy that I’ve go the right objects and the right code

    $searcher.findall() | foreach-object {Format-ADPerson-as-e164($_.path)}

Does the processing.

The code is attached for you to play with, but as I’ve said before, and will say in the future; any code I provide here is for example purposes. No Warranty or support is provided. You should take steps to validate any such code or yourself before running it.


Technorati tags: , , , ,

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

July 20, 2007

How not to be read…

Filed under: Exchange,General musings,Outlook — jamesone111 @ 11:55 pm

Eileen asksSo how do I get my team to read my emails ?

Actually, she overlooks something very simple and important. Rule one: the nearer the author is to the reader in the company hierarchy the more likely the message will be read. If someone at the very top of Microsoft wants something done I could ignore their mail and wait for the reminders which come from someone nearer me. (In practice I don’t because Messrs Gates and Ballmer follow the rules below).  Eileen’s only one hop from me so it’s nearly certain I’ll read her mail, even if she breaks all these rules. What could she do to stop me reading what she has to say ?

Don’t get to the point . Typically short term memory is about 7 seconds. Rule two is Give the reader a reason to read the whole message in the first 7 seconds reading. Otherwise they may not bother. If the first 2 dozen words contain “Please can you …”, “It would be great if we…”, “I’d like to see…”  that makes it clear action is required, but – it’s amazing the number of messages that don’t start with the WHAT, but give lengthy WHY – a review of the  state of the world. Their 7 seconds is up  before their closing “Call to action” is read. Messages with PLEASE READ in the subject line beg to be deleted on sight, because it’s a fair bet the author doesn’t give you anything in the message to make you want to read it.

Only use Outlook. We have IM, SMS texting, Phones, face to face “coffee meetings”. Rule Three Choose the Medium which suits your message.Eileen mixes her media more than most people.

Assume I always read in Outlook if I get a message where the key part is in an attachment I can’t read on my smartphone, or is text in a graphic which Outlook voice access can’t read then the best it can hope for is that it stays in the pile of stuff to come back to. It may just get deleted. Rule four Make sure your message is in the message (body).

Mail the world. Douglas Adams had the idea of a “Someone Else’s Problem” (SEP) Field. Behavioural scientists have found When people won’t deal with things they think can be left to others. Rule Five. The probability that any reader will act on your mail declines with the other number of readers of the mail.  Of course is there is also the serial forwarder – the person who forwards everything to everyone. Sometimes with the prefixing “Filling your inbox” or FYI.

Write clumsy English. This has got worse with Outlook voice access, which uses punctuation intelligently. Long sentences with little punctuation are even harder to understand when read by a machine. Here’s an example: The first 99 words of a mail. 3 sentences 1 comma, and NO IDEA WHAT HE WANTS.

Further to blank’s email to all employees I wanted to follow-up with a UK specific reminder and call to action about [blank] ’07.  In FY06 we introduced some significant changes to the annual blank blank process as part of the launch of the blank initiatives.  In FY07 we are consolidating those changes and making further adjustments based on feedback received from across Microsoft – all with the continued aim of ensuring our blank blank process is world class and focuses on driving business results through quality blanks, transparency in our approach to blank blank and greater manager empowerment & responsibility.

Note the use of “Introduced some significant changes to” where the word “Changed” would have done. I recently pointed my Dad to my post about this kind of writing. He worked for a big American company too, and bought people copies of Gowers’ Plain Words. Maybe I should follow his lead. My copy of the 1986 edition has this quote from George Orwell

A Scrupulous writer in every sentence he writes will ask himself … what am I trying to say ? What words will express it … and he probably asks himself can I put it more shortly. But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing open your mind and letting the ready made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you – even think your thoughts for you to a certain extent – and at need the will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning, even from yourself.

Even with out the text, I evangelize Gowers’ message. Be brief; be clear; be human. Eileen is. Gates and Ballmer are, so is Gordon Frazer. It’s not universal.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 19, 2007

Campaign for real numbers update

Filed under: Exchange,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 4:28 pm

I’ve had an outlook rule in place for a while to tell people about broken phone numbers, I thought I’d report back. The first thing I found was that colleagues who forward lots of mail threads soon tired of seeing the message, so I’ve filtered out anything which is a reply or forward.

The rule now goes

  • Apply this rule after the message arrives
  • with+44(0) or +44 (O) in the body
  • Unless RE: or FW: appears in the subject
  • have server reply using {specific message}

I’ve noticed several people changed their signatures. One person has told me they will set up a similar rule.  Another got in touch to say that if he didn’t write in the broken format i.e. +44 (0), his signature would be 10 lines long. I think I convinced him of the point:

Not everyone or everything understands +44 (0) 118 909 3080, but anyone who does, also understands +44 118 909 3080.

Interestingly someone who works in Microsoft HR says she has been told she must write her phone number in that format. Sigh.

Some of Microsoft’s own Global address list entries have broken numbers. Since we now have Outlook Voice Access, I can dial into the system from my car and say “Directory”, the system will ask who I want to call, and if I say “Joe Blogs” it will call up Joe’s information and I can say “Call the office”, “Call the Mobile” or whatever numbers it has. If these are in the proper E.164 format +44 1234 56789 – no zero before the area code – then all is well: but if Joe (or who ever entered his phone number) was a numpty and wrote +44 (0) 1234 56789 instead. I can’t call him. Perhaps I shouldn’t be rude about people write their numbers in this way – I know two senior people in Microsoft UK who do.


Obviously as an early adopter of Voice access this bothers me, but today it got more important because I have dumped my desk-phone. I’m now on the pilot for Unified Communications. So have the new version of communicator running on my desktop and an “engineering sample” of a “Catalina” phone. Yipee! Call me King Sad of the Sad people but I’m actually excited. Mark Deakin has comprehensive summary of the devices for UC on his blog the Catalina is the phone which will come to market as the LG-Nortel UCT-100DSK and Polycomm CX200. Sound quality is quite nice at my end. I’m not quite sure what it sounds like at the other end.

The first two numbers I dialed were entered in a BROKEN FORMAT: One had the dreaded leading zero, in the GAL and the other had ;ext=1234 added to the end in communicators local address book… actually RFC 3966 says this is OK – I’d better file a communicator bug 🙂   

By the way if you follow RFC3966 and make your phone number a link in the form with a URL of TEL:+44-1234-56789 (n.b. there’s no // in the URL) people who have a supported dialer (like communicator) can click to dial. Why don’t I feel optimistic that we’ll do that on our web pages any time soon.  ?

But if your future includes OCS Telephony, Outlook Voice Access, Windows Mobile Devices which can query the GAL, or Mobile devices where people read mail and make calls then

  1. Clean your GAL and work to keep it clean – which you won’t do without 
  2. Educate users to write numbers in machine readable format.
  3. If you can get people to make phone numbers clickable, that’s a bonus.

Bonus Link. Some good stuff about why this is NOT Rip and Replace at a newish site we have called VOIP as you are.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 6, 2007

Manuscript Teaspoons and why Jason’s getting a better voice experience than I am

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 5:36 pm

voice command2 I was going to write about my Experience of using Outlook Voice Access.  And Voice command on my phone. I have phone set up so that when it sees my Bluetooth headset, it announces my calls.

On a typical day I’ll clear mail that came in overnight before I leave home, drop one or other of my kids at school/nursery and head into work. That way I miss the worst of the traffic, get time with the kids and have a clear conscience.

On the journey Voice command will often hawk in my ear that I have a message – it only reads the subject line. At some point in the journey I’ll call into Exchange and get it to read my mail. On the way home I’ll call in again and kill off a bunch of mails that have been attended to. It works … although sometimes I think of Dr Johnson’s description “like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.“. The problem is that I want to use voice access when my hands are busy (e.g. Driving at 60-70 MPH.) and that usually means there is background noise.

A call should go something like this.

ME: {Press headset button, wait for beep} Call Voice mail
VC: Call voice mail ?
ME: Yes {Phone Beeps}
E2K7: You are connected to Microsoft Exchange please …{phone sends extension number}
E2K7: James O’Neill. Please enter …. {phone sends pin}
E2K7: You Have: no: new voice mails and ….
ME: E-mail
E2k7: Opening your mail box. First a message from Joe Spammer, subject ….
ME: Delete
E2K7: Message Deleted. You can restore …
ME: Next !
E2K7: Next a message from forwarded by E-lean Brown, subject, Manuscript Events in Seattle. I think this one is for Teaspoons e-Lean Brown vertical bar Manager it pro Evangelist Team vertical bar Developer and platform team.
ME: Goodbye
E2k7: I heard you say goodbye…
ME: Yes
E2k7: Thank you for calling.

Woah … Who’s E-Lean … oh it can’t say Eileen. Manuscript Events… what the heck is it talking about ? if you check in the dictionary MS is the abbreviation for Manuscript. So what if we use it to mean Microsoft ? and Teaspoons ? TSP is what we call a technical sales professional to the dictionary it’s a teaspoon. And if you don’t put a closing full stop the reader just ploughs into the next line – and it reads some things out loud. The vertical bar isn’t too bad, but the way it reads URLs is painful.

But here’s what can happen, with a 3 year old headset calling from a poor signal area at 65 MPH.

ME: {Press headset button, very loud beep follows} Ouch (expletive deleted) …
VC: Call Jackie at home ?
ME: what ? No !! {turns volume down and tries again} Call Voice mail
VC: Call Eileen Brown ?
ME: No.  Call Voice Mail 
VC: Call voice mail ?
ME: Yes {Phone Beeps}
E2K7: You are connected to Micro{crackle}ange please …{phone sends extension number}
E2K7: James O’Neill. Please enter …. {phone sends pin}
E2K7: You Have: no: new voice mails and ….
ME: E-mail
E2k7: Sorry I didn’t catch that. You can say…
ME: {louder} E-mail
E2k7: Opening your mail box. First a message from Joe Spammer, subject ….
ME: Delete
E2k7: Repeating. A message from Joe Spammer
E2k7: Repeating. A message from Joe Spammer
ME: {Angry} Delete the damn message you stupid bitch
E2k7: I didn’t catch that, you…
ME: Oh yes you did.
E2k7: Sorry I still didn’t catch that. You can say …
ME: Delete message ?
E2K7: Message deleted You can …
ME: Next !
E2k7. Sure You can say…
ME: Next !
E2K7 I heard you say goodbye .
ME. WHAT ? No !!
E2K: Returning to the main menu, you can say
ME: E-mail
E2k7: Sorry I didn’t catch that. You can say…
ME: {louder} E-mail
E2k7: Sorry I still didn’t catch that. Let’s try using the keypad.
ME: No
E2k7: Press 1 to .
ME: {disconnect}

Jason thinks it is amazing to use on his commute. But now I think I know why: he tells us just how great he thinks the nose reduction on the Jawbone “Wow! Is all I can say.  The Noise Cancellation is nothing short of amazing.  My car doing over about 60 mph gets quite noisy and normally Outlook Voice Access couldn’t understand me… similarly if I took a call in the car no-one could hear me” . Jason also says “I’ve seen many of my US Colleagues use these and swear by them”. Indeed. They’ve had Outlook Voice Access for a year longer than we have. 

So this is now top of my gadgets-to-get-work-to-buy list.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 9, 2007

Voice control … sooner than I thought.

Filed under: Exchange,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:17 pm

Maybe I’m getting mellow in my old age, or maybe things in Microsoft IT are changing. There was a time when I really didn’t think much them – directly after they off-shored the help-desk was the low point. But since then they’ve been doing this and that to improve the service they deliver to us. One thing I mentioned a number of times is how easy it is to receive a new computer and get it working – thanks to Windows deployment services. Another is rolling out the latest Windows Mobile powered phones with all the supporting stuff from Exchange 2007 – and I’ve mentioned that before.

However. There has been one annoyance with Exchange 2007. My colleagues in the US get access to Unified Messaging – i.e the service which used to be voice mail now reads your e-mail to you and manages your calendar, and incoming voice mails arrive into your mailbox. We don’t get it. Here in the UK our switchboard presented a stack of problems for deploying UM: one of my customers who is based just across town from the Microsoft office has teased me because he has UM and I don’t. My expectation was they’d be hosting the Winter Olympics in Hell before we sorted it. I was wrong. Perhaps this is linked to the completion of building 5 – the rumour mill suggests this will be first non-US deployment of the Tanjay IP phones for OCS that I’ve mentioned before. Perhaps the necessary gateway has become available. Perhaps some of the changes that we’ve put into our software have helped our own IT folks do less firefighting, and more service development. I really don’t know. Either way we’ve been told that the deployment is happening soon.

As I’ve said before – touch tone controlled voice mail is a relic of the 1980’s and as way of controlling systems, touch tones need to go the way of the punch card 

Voice mail’s interface – keying in DTMF tones –  was designed for an era of desktop phones which were used two handed. But when you keep having to take a one piece phone from your ear to tell the system what to do, it’s clunky at best – and as for listening to messages while driving – that’s downright Dangerous.”.

In a a world where voice command means we can speak to a phone to tell it play music or call a messaging service; shouldn’t we also be able to speak to the messaging service and tell it what to play ? I’m looking forward to that. And since I’m lousy at polling for Voice mail, when the system goes live I’ll know I’ve got a message a great deal sooner and won’t keep people waiting for a reply for quite so long.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Webcasts on Certification – and 40% off !

Filed under: Events,Exchange,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 10:05 am

With all the new products which we’re seeing this year, the question does bubble up “How does this impact certification ?” .

The people who run the MC* programmes have put together a set of web casts. These have already happened (click to see more and watch the web cast)

2007 Office System Certifications for IT Professionals and Developers

Windows Server Certifications Overview

Exchange Server 2007 Certifications

SQL Server 2005 Certifications

Update on Windows Vista Certifications

Some are still to come – click the time for more information and registration.

Protecting the Integrity of Microsoft Certification
May 23, 2007  7:30 A.M. Pacific Time (That’s 3:30 PM UK / 4:30 PM C.E.T) or 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time

Review of Windows Vista and Exchange Server 2007 Training and Certification   
May 30, 2007
7:30 A.M. Pacific Time (3:30 PM UK / 4:30 PM C.E.T) or 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time

Introducing the Windows Server “Longhorn” Certification Roadmap *
June 13, 2007 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time (3:30 PM UK / 4:30 PM C.E.T) or 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time

1 Year In: The Microsoft Certified Architect Program
June 20, 2007 7:30 A.M. (3:30 PM UK / 4:30 PM C.E.T) Pacific Time or 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time


Now, you’ll notice that we’re not introducing the Longhorn certification roadmap until June; read from into that “We don’t know what the upgrade process will be – yet”. However if you go to the MCP PAGE you can register for 40% off the Exam(s) whatever the upgrade turns out to be. You have to be an MCSE or MCSA by the 30th of June to qualify. This is where future webcasts will be announced too.  

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 27, 2007

Rights managed mail. Windows Mobile 6 pulls a new trick.

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Security and Malware — jamesone111 @ 2:38 pm

Digital rights management get a bad press. To most of us, as consumers of music or video it’s something which limits what we do. We can tell right from wrong, we don’t need stuff to limit us … right ?

Of course People who create “intellectual property” have a different view. And that’s not just record companies, it’s us with mail and documents. People do daft things with content. They send company confidential information to the outside world (in Microsoft lore there is the tale* of a message from Brian Valentine entitled “When I find out who you are I will come to your location and fire you myself” after one of his mails appeared on the Register.)  They forward stuff to people who shouldn’t be included. I still recall telling my (then) manager about a customer situation and saying “part of the problem the way [their account manager] is handling the situation”. Various other people got added as the discussion of what to do rambled on, until finally someone added the account manager … ouch.   Then Rights Management becomes your friend – it’s protecting what you say, your content – it has to be used with care: sending something with a flag of “This is serious, really not to be shared” which DRM implies is helpful, but “I don’t trust you.” isn’t. We already provide Windows Rights Management – though I’m surprised how few people use it. In Longhorn server it will be integrated with Active Directory

Whether we’re talking DRM for music, or Information rights Management for documents, the content is encrypted, and decoded by client software which allows the reader only to exercise only the rights they are given. (Which is why you don’t see Open source DRM software – people would quickly turn on all rights, regardless). Everything depends on the client – and that’s been the trouble with protected mail there hasn’t been the client support so it doesn’t work on a mobile devices. Until now that is but something magic has happened with Windows Mobile 6. Look at the left picture below.

So… Mobile 6 not only understands IRM, but it gives you instructions on how to use it on the device. Being on Vista I have the Windows Mobile Device Center, not running active sync, and you might go running to your version only to try to find this function is missing. You’ll have to guess whether the Right picture above is a mock-up or if I have been able to set my phone up with something internal. But either way the ability to do something like what you see on the right isn’t far away.


By the way the screen shots are made with Soti Pocket controller pro


* I was going to say – In the Lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale… they tell of a Man called Valentine who sent a great letter to all the people of the Northlands … I wonder how many people would get the reference without resorting to a search engine.  

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 26, 2007

3 days with the E650 phone and Windows Mobile 6.

Filed under: Exchange,How to,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 6:54 pm

Teething troubles with the new phone have proved to be pretty minor. I’m finding more things to love about this phone.

I’ve got one major annoyance: on the C500 with Mobile 2003 I could go to Settings/Phone/Call options and program the Microsoft voice mail number with my account code and Pin as +44118909xxxxPyyyy#Pzzzz# (where xxxx is the voicemail number, yyyy is my extension and zzzz is my pin, so dials , P inserts a pause and then it enters my number followed by the hash sign, pauses for the password prompt, enters the pin and another #).
On the E650 with Mobile 6 only + and digits are allowed.

I’ll forgive the device this for a four of it’s mail features. Here are the first three, I’ll save the other one for another post.
Click for a larger image

 On the left we can see a Rich Text mail … I like the way Exchange 2007 does these mail notifications – and I let deleted items build up it had got to 5660 items by this afternoon.
In the middle – I’ve gone back to the tools menu at my inbox: notice I can set my Out of Office from my phone. The number of times I’ve set off for a trip and realized I’ve forgotten to do it doesn’t bear thinking about.
I selected Empty deleted items from the tools menu and on the right you can see the warning I got. It was interesting to watch the deleted items folder in Outlook as the messages drain away. About this time of year 2 years ago, I was on holiday, without my laptop checking (and deleting) mail from my phone and my mailbox hit its limit. I had to pay to clear my deleted items from a cybercafe.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 25, 2007

A new day, a new phone.

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 4:52 pm

Bias declaration: I’ve been a fan of Windows Mobile since before we started using the name. But having picked up my new Orange E650 aka HTC S710 codename “Vox” I’m left thinking “Boy oh boy Mobile 6 devices are a jump forward“. You could dismiss some of the changes as cosmetic, but I find they really help readability especially with the new screens – as with my new camera, small screens seem big step in the last couple of years. Jason’s got a run down of the changes in mobile 6 and a demo on youtube. Instead of repeating his work,here’s a run down of my first few hours with the E650

Orange activated my existing number on the new phone less than an hour after I collected it – about 12 noon. Vista’s Mobile Device Centre set itself up automatically when I plugged the phone in. That walked me through setting up Server and let me get the certificate needed for corporate WiFi access (a bit of a fiddle), and I installed OneNote mobile and Communicator mobile: both worked first time (although communicator was wrongly configured).
I had to do a telephone interview at 4PM – when I was sorting out a problem with my car. I needed the other interviewer to set up a 3 way call. I tried to IM him (and discovered the configuration gremlin). So I used the (new) GAL look-up to find his phone number and call him. The candidates CV was in a word document in my inbox, so I downloaded that and was able to view it on the phone while we were talking to him. I wanted to make some notes, so I switched to speaker phone, slid out the keyboard and tapped them into onenote. Fantastic. When I got home I setup the Bluetooth pairing with the laptop, syncing my interview notes into OneNote on my PC, and put together my own home screen layout, finally I tried to charge the phone with a standard cable and my Swiss Word Adapter – success! no more special cables. I picked up mail over the home WiFi network – including one from expansys saying they’ve shipped my memory card, Y adapter – which will live in the car with a double USB car power adapter (which will also power my GPS puck with the lead pictured here), and. All I have to do now is sort out a satisfactory Bluetooth hands-free solution – the result of an unsatisfactory one is pictured here

I compared the amount of stuff I used to carry and what I have now. So I’ve taken 4 points.

  • What I had the day after I got my original iPaq in 2000
  • What I had the day before the first Smartphone arrived in 2001 
  • What I’ve had for longest (the C500 – functionally not much different from the original SPV, but worked better)
  • What I have now.







Phone Model and size
(my reaction)

Nokia 7110
141g, 125cc
(125 x 53 x 24 mm)
(Reputedly Nokia’s worst phone to date)

Ericsson T39.
94g, 108cc
(105 x 49 x 21 mm)
(Great battery life, but dreadful UI)

SPV C500
103g, 86cc
107 x 46 x 18mm
(A proper smartphone not a prototype)

SPV E650
140g, 90cc
101 x 50 x 18mm
(WOW !)

PDA Model and size

iPAQ 3650
170g, 173cc
130 x 83 x 16 mm

iPAQ 3650 + CF/Bluetooth jacket
235g, 320cc (139 x 92 x 25)
or PCMCIA jacket 270g, 383cc (139 x 92 x 30mm)




Phone: “multi tap”
PDA: Stylus only

Phone: T9,
PDA: Stylus or Targus keyboard 335 g 367cc
140 x 105 x 25mm

T9 or Bluetooth Freedom keyboard
204g 278cc
(145 x 99 x 19mm)

T9 / Integrated Mini Qwerty

Memory + Expansion


32mb + CF via Jacket*

32mb + Mini-SD

64mb + Micro-SD



CF/PCMCIA available for Jacket*








Works in US







Jacket* Available

Via Bluetooth

Via Bluetooth


Word & Excel





Power Point & PDF





Onenote and Communicator



Yes (Orange require developer unlock)



PDA: plain-text sync with PC,

PDA: plain-text sync with MIS Server PC
Phone: WAP (MIS)

Plain-text sync with E2K3 Server

Rich text sync + mailbox search with E2k7 server

Personal contacts


Sync PC-PDA (MIS sync broke addresses)

Sync E2K3Server-Phone

Sync E2K7 Server- phone

Corporate Address book


Via WAP on phone

Add on Application

Yes, integrated

Web Access

Offline sync

Offline sync or On-line WiFi

On-line, GPRS

Online, WiFi or GPRS

Corporate Management








802.11b via PCMCIA Jacket*


802.11g integrated



Not authorized


Yes + Edge



Yes (phone)
Via Jacket*(PDA )


Yes, with stereo support

Connection to PC & charger



Bluetooth or Mini USB (non standard charger)

Bluetooth or Mini USB (Standard charger)


3.5mm Jack

3.5mm Jack

2.5mm jack

Proprietary or Bluetooth


So is anything wrong with the new phone ? I don’t like having to buy an adapter to connect headphones or changing my memory card again – what was the point of mini-SD? At 140g it is a shade heavy (conventional wisdom says the optimal weight and size for a phone is about 100g and 100cc) . Installing communicator doesn’t enable IM functions from Contacts or Mail. And Mail doesn’t support voting buttons … not much really.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 15, 2007

Windows Vista "breaking" OWA

Filed under: Exchange,Internet Explorer,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 5:39 pm

One of the things that annoys any technical person is when you get asked a question and have to shrug and say “No, never seen that one”, even if you suspect there is a genuine problem. I’ve had a couple of people ask me about problems with Outlook web access under Vista. The symptoms are usually in the form that the user can read mail but not reply to it. I’ve known for a while that there is a patch for OWA but until recently I didn’t know what the cause was or where to go for the resolution. A post on the IE Team blog explains what the root cause is (removing the DHTML control), where to get even more information, and where to go for the patch.

So now I know (and so do you)

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 4, 2007

Ooh ‘eck. Now I’m the blog Police ?

Filed under: Exchange,General musings,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 3:50 pm

No sense denying it, I like Mary Jo Foley linking to something I wrote. Although being cast as a member of the thought Blog Police seems odd. I doubt if many people think of me as someone who filters what he says inside Microsoft 🙂

I searched for an FBI saying I’d heard and found it with the same citation in lots of places: ‘J Edgar Hoover spent as much time polishing the image of the FBI as he did solving crimes, and the unofficial motto of the FBI remains, “Never embarrass the bureau” ‘. The reference to “Stupid posts” in the title of a post about Blogging Smart was a comment on people who never seem to wonder if they might “embarrass the bureau”. Mary Jo quoted my comment that it was right this should lead to “a certain amount of discomfort”. Robert Heinlein was tougher: Stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.

The post I “chastized” disclosed information about Exchange Server 2007 SP1. You can make your own guess about when it will be released. For background, Longhorn Server and Office Communications Server are both labelled “Coming soon” on beta central (you can register an interest there). Exchange 2007 SP1 is going into beta in April according to the Exchange team blog. It needs to work on Longhorn and with OCS’s voice features. So Mary Jo’s belief that the final version of Exchange SP1 “is slated to ship simultaneously with Longhorn Server, which is due out before the end of this year.” seems reasonable, although how it turns out is another matter. I hate doing “roadmaps” because changes make forecasts look stupid or open me up to accusations of selling vapourware, and both are embarrassing

Here’s an expansion of Blog Smart. In his book “Up the Organization” Robert Townsend told how, at Avis in the 1960’s they made people accessible to the press without going through a PR department. The people were given 3 rules.

  1. Be honest. If you don’t know, say so. If you know but won’t tell, say so.

  2. Pretend your ablest competitor is listening. If he already knows your latest marketing plan, you use the call to announce it; if not shut up. (This mind-set also prevents knocking the competition, which is always bad for everybody).

  3. Don’t forecast earnings. If asked why not, tell them we don’t do in public anything we can’t do consistently well (and believe me, nobody can forecast earnings consistently well).

I’d say “don’t forecast ANYTHING outside your direct control”

In a different post, Mary Jo asked “So what happened to the whole idea that Microsoft might do away with Service Packs all together, starting with Exchange 2007, and replace them with regular hotfix rollups?” I guess Exchange 2007-SP1 could be called “R2” instead.
I was asked about Vista Service packs recently. With fixes going out via Microsoft update there’s less need for service packs as vehicle for fixes. If you check our list of ‘what shipped when‘ you’ll see we Shipped NT4 on 29 July 1996, and SP4 on 25 October 1998 – 27 months later. XP Service pack has been out longer than that is still current. It would be stupid to claim any piece of software was perfect (or even unbreakable), but newer software is built with better tools and gets more testing than was the case in the 1990’s – I believe we had more beta testers for Vista than customers for NT 3.1, 3.5 and 3.51 combined; the result bugs were found and fixed in Vistas beta stages which would taken one or two service packs to fix in NT4.

Mary Jo took issue with Eileen’s contention that “before the end of the year” is “quite a while” she says “I know I sound like a broken record. But business users with whom I speak tell me that they want and need to know when service packs (especially SP1s) are slated to ship. Many still won’t deploy a new product until SP1 is available”. To me “wait for SP1” is a way of thinking that belongs to the 1990s. Sometimes it’s a way saying you are not a laggard , just prudent. In 6 years in Microsoft Consulting I met IT departments whose agility was a business enabler or a strategic asset. And I met others so risk averse they would do nothing before their competitors. The latter think they are prudent and their departments are well run; what I saw was often people too busy fire fighting to understand what was coming next. When I first came across our Infrastructure optimization model , this stuck a chord. Those who are at the “dynamic” end of the spectrum don’t always deploy new technology, but they can, they’re the ones who tell me that forthcoming feature X will make the product compelling for their business. Those at the “Basic” end of the spectrum find all changes harder, they’re the ones who just wait for SP1 without knowing what’s in it. And Mary Jo is right, there are lots of them.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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