James O'Neill's Blog

February 11, 2011

Why IE9 might cause some unnecessary installations

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 1:22 pm

Have a look at this picture and tell me what the user Needs to do (apart from getting a life an not watching the Downfallen Meme on YouTube that is).

image

It’s pretty clear what they need to do … How about this one which I got this morning.

image

 

I have had various different versions of Silverlight on this machine, developer bits and so on. It seems the site wants a different one

image

I decided this was a beta issue, removed Silverlight, re-installed and yes, you’ve guessed, wound up with exactly the same version number showing under Control Panel / Programs and the same message on the web page.

Eventually I spotted this

image

That blue symbol means filtering is on – ActiveX filtering to be exact, and that means no Silverlight or flash. That’s a good thing. Until you forget. Which I did, and plenty of other people will too. I like that the notification is discreet. I certainly don’t want something trying to get my attention to say it has saved me from a distracting piece of flash. So web pages need to start saying something different.

December 8, 2010

One small step for IE9, one giant leap for privacy

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Privacy — jamesone111 @ 3:06 pm

After reading an an announcement from Microsoft , I feel the need to go back to an old draft post I saved 6 weeks or so ago –  parts of which appear in italics here. 

I’ve been playing with the beta of Internet Explorer version 9 and as with most betas there is stuff to like in it, with the occasional “why did they have to change that”. Certainly it is faster, and all the tests show it is a lot more complaint with standards – some of which are still emerging. Dragging a tab to the task bar to make a short-cut to a page (complete with support for jump-lists) is neat… …I expect more accusations that Microsoft is  half hearted over In-Private filtering – streamlining has made it less visible; it still can’t download a block-list from a a central service and still doesn’t stay turned on without going to the registry.

The Microsoft announcement means the last sentence is out of date.  Here’s a quote from  Christopher Soghoian’s blog , which I picked up courtesy of Privacy international. Soghoian needs a bit of convincing: early on he says:

Microsoft today announced that it will be improving the InPrivate Filtering feature in its browser — which would have been a great feature, if the company hadn’t intentionally sabotaged it in response to pressure from people within the company’s advertising division.

That’s the expected charge of being half hearted over In-Private filtering, but after seeing the change to IE he ends:

“This is a great, pro-privacy and strategically savvy move on Microsoft’s part. I am delighted to see companies competing on privacy, and building better features into their products”

Soghoian goes into a lot of detail and his post is worth reading. But I’m aware a lot of people either don’t know about In-Private-Filtering or muddle it up with In-Private Browsing, which is the history-less working sometimes called “porn mode”.  In-Private-Filtering is a system to compile a list of “Bad” third party sites, whose content is embedded on other sites’ pages – with the support of those sites’ owners. “Bad” ranges from ads with attention getting flash that stops me reading the content of a site, to a single invisible pixel which allows someone to track where you have been. In private filtering blocks this stuff – it can build a list of what to block or it can import an allow/block list from XML file. But filtering is off by default and only the registry hack I mentioned above will keep it on between sessions. The XML file is actually formatted as an RSS feed, IE8 can’t to subscribe to the feed; According to the WSJ article Soghoian links to, subscriptions were planned for IE8, then cut at the behest of Microsoft’s own ad business. 

I maintain one of these XML files – which today needs to  imported manually; back in that old draft post I wrote:

The feature I like best is the [F12] developer tools view, this was present in IE8,  [but new in ] IE9 there is a network tracking tool which helps developers spot troublesome pages – those that are slow or fail to load at all.

image_thumb5

No wonder this page is slow – the status bar says 75 items and 600KB , a lot a home page probably less than 10% is content and the rest is advertising slurry. In the middle of the list you can see it’s getting content from SmartAdServer,  which I might want to block. 

IE 9 will allow users to subscribe to a block/allow list – just by clicking on a link as they can in IE8 to add Accelerators, Search providers and Web slices. So now I can publish my XML file of bad sites, so can anyone else. And I expect that good lists – those managed with a degree of professionalism to filter the ever-shifting list of third party content that nobody wants – will be very popular. 

You expect this to be worrying for ad industry: the internet they have know so far has been good to them. If  it becomes easy people to withdraw their consent to be profiled or to have certain ads sent to them, some ad firms will die, and the likes of the Electronic Frontier Foundation will dance on their graves. It’s easy to categorize the EFF as the lunatic fringe – but now they seem to have dance partners in  Wall Street Journal and US government bodies including Federal Trade Commission in the US there is talk of legally enforcing this.  I’ve seen the same quote from the Direct Marketing Association  in multiple places.

“Any ‘do-not’ national list doesn’t work and undermines the basis of the Internet as we know it now, in terms of free content and companies being able to monetize the Internet… Self-regulation is the way to go.”

It doesn’t work, but it is ruinous… they would say that, wouldn’t they?  I’m looking forward to seeing how this one pans out.

March 15, 2010

IE 8 is safest. Fact.

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Security and Malware,Virtualization — jamesone111 @ 1:11 pm

Every now and then a news story comes up which reminds us that if people with bad intentions, even sensible people can fall into traps on-line. There was one such story last week where friends of the victim said she was “the sensible one” – if she wasn’t unusually gullible it could happen to anyone. I wrote about safer internet day recently and it’s worth making another call to readers who are tech savvy to explain to others who are less so just how careful we need to be trusting people on-line.  I got a well constructed phishing mail last week claiming to have come from Amazon I would have fallen for if it had been sent to my home rather than work account – it’s  as well to be reminded sometimes we’re not as smart as we like to think.

I’ve also been reading about a libel case. I avoid making legal commentary and won’t risk repeating a libel: the contested statement said that something had been advocated for which there was no evidence. I read a commentary which said something to the effect that in scientific disciplines, if your advocacy is not in dispute and someone says you have no evidence for it, you produce the evidence. Without evidence you have a belief, not a scientific fact.  This idea came up on later in the week when I was talking to someone about VMware:  you might have noticed there is a lack of virtualization Benchmarks out in the world, and the reason is in VMware’s licence agreement (under 3.3)

You may use the Software to conduct internal performance testing and benchmarking studies, the results of which you (and not unauthorized third parties) may publish or publicly disseminate; provided that VMware has reviewed and approved of the methodology, assumptions and other parameters of the study

imageTesting, when done scientifically, involves publishing ,methodology, assumptions and other parameters along with the test outcomes and the conclusions drawn That way others can review the work to see if is rigorous and reproducible. If someone else’s conclusions go against what you believe to be the case, you look to see if they are justified from the outcomes: then you move to the assumptions and parameters of the test and it’s methodology. You might even repeat the test to see if the outcomes are reproducible. If a test shows your product and yours is shown in a bad light then you might bring something else to the debate. “Sure the competing product is slightly better at that measure, but ours is better at this measure”. What is one to think of a company which uses legal terms to stop people conducting their own tests and putting the results in public domain for others to review ?

After that conversation I saw a link to an article IE 8 Leads in Malware Protection . NSS labs have come out with their third test of web browser protection against socially engineered malware*. The first one appeared in March of last year, and it looks set to be a regular twice yearly thing. The first one pointed out that there was a big improvement between IE7 and IE8 (IE6 has no protection at all  if you are still working for one of the organizations that has it, I’d question what you’re doing there).
IE 8 does much better than its rivals : the top 4 have all improved since the last run of of the tests. IE was up from 81 to 85% , Firefox from 27 to 29%, Safari from 21% to 29% and Chrome from 7% to  17%:

Being pessimistically inclined I look at the numbers the other way round : in the previous test we were letting 19 out of every 100 through, now it’s 15 – down by 21%: in the first test we were letting 31 of every 100 through so 52% of what got through a year ago gets blocked today. Letting that many through means we can’t sit back and say the battle is won, but IE8 is the only Browser which is winning against the criminals:  Google,for example, have improved Chrome since last time,so it only lets through 83 out of every 100 malware URLs -  that’s blocking 11% of the 93 it let through before from each 100. With every other browser the crooks are winning, which is nothing to gloat over – I hope to see a day when we’re all scoring well into the 90s.

I haven’t mentioned Opera – which has been have been consistently last, and by some margin, slipping from 5% in the first test to 1% in the second to less than 1 in the most recent. In a spirit of full scientific disclosure I’ll say I think the famous description of Real Networks fits Opera. Unable to succeed against Safari or Chrome , and blown into the weeds by Firefox,  Opera said its emaciated market-share was because IE was supplied by default with Windows. Instead of producing a browser people might want, Opera followed the path trodden by Real Networks – complaining to the European Commissioner for the protection of lame ducks competition. The result was the browser election screen.

I’m not a fan of browser election screen – not least because it is easily mistaken for Malware. To see the fault let me ask you, as reader of an IT blog, which of the following would you choose ? 

  1. The powerful and easy-to-use Web browser. Try the only browser with Browser-A Turbo technology, and speed up your Internet connection.
  2. Browser-B . A fast new browser. Made for everyone
  3. Browser-C is the world’s most widely used browser, designed by Company-C with you in mind.
  4. Browser-D from Company-D, the world’s most innovative browser.
  5. Your online security is Browser E’s top priority. Browser-E is free, and made to help you get the most out of the web.

You might say (for example) “I want Firefox”, but which is Firefox in that list ? You are probably more IT savvy than the people the election screen is aimed at and if you can’t choose from that information, how are they supposed to ? You see, if you have done your testing and know a particular browser will meet your needs best, you’d go to it by name you don’t need the screen. People who don’t know the pros and cons of the options before seeing the screen might just as well pick at random – which favours whoever has least market share – which would be Opera.

The IE 8 Leads in Malware Protection  article linked to a post of Opera’s complaining that the results of the first test were fixed “Microsoft sponsored the report, so it must be fixed!” If we’d got NSS labs to fix the results a year ago would we stipulate that Opera should be so far behind everyone else? Did we have a strategy to show Opera going from “dire failure” to “not even trying”? Or that IE8 should start at a satisfactory score and improve over several surveys with the others static  ? But to return to my original point: the only evidence which I’m aware of shows every other browser lets at least 4 times as much Malware through as IE. The only response to anyone who disputes it is let’s see your evidence to counter what NSS labs found.Google have spent a fortune advertising Chrome: if Chrome really did let fewer than 5 out of 6 malware sites through they’d get someone else to do a [reviewable] study which showed that.

And since we’re back at the question of evidence, if you want are asked for advice on the election screen and you want to advocate the one which will help people to stay safe from Phising attacks – I don’t think you have any evidence to recommend anything other than IE.  But remember it’s not a problem which can be solved by technology alone. Always question the motives of something which wants to change the configuration of your computer.

tweetmeme_style = ‘compact’;
tweetmeme_url = ‘http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2010/03/15/ie-8-is-safest-fact.aspx’;

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 19, 2010

The Zombie cookie apocalypse (or how flash bypasses privacy)

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Security and Malware — jamesone111 @ 10:48 am

Earlier this week I went to “Oxford Geek Night” and the title of one of title of one of the sessions was “The Zombie Cookie apocalypse” delivered by David Sheldon (I wish his slides were on-line so you could read more and I could give him a proper credit), it wasn’t the only informative session – there were bunch of those -  but it was one which sent me away thinking “I should have known that”.

Here’s the Gist. We all know about cookies, the little bits of information which web sites send to to your browser to make applications work, or to follow you round the web. Even IE6 knew that cookies could be bad and could reject the tracking ones. Adobe Flash keeps its own cookies, which bypass the normal rules.
Although it doesn’t seem to widely known (I was in a roomful of people where internet expertise was the top skill, and no one seemed to have heard of this before) – it is reasonably well documented – often using Adobe’s name of “Local stored objects. You can read more information in Wikipedia’s dispassionate style, or you can have it in they’ll suck out your brains style if you prefer (of course you do !)

This has 3 main impacts.

  1. If you run different browsers – say IE and Firefox (the demo I saw used Firefox and Chrome on Linux) each browser maintains (and can clear) its own Cookie store, so you can have different personas by using different browsers: but Flash is Flash wherever it runs so it uses a single store.
  2. Browsers don’t know about information held by add-ins (Flash or anything else) so it can’t clear their information. You might think you’ve killed off the cookies but flash ones will keep coming back (hence the Zombie reference).
  3. IE8 has “In Private Browsing”, so do Firefox and Chrome (I think chrome talks about Incognito Windows) .Adobe announced support for private modes recently, (you can read the IE team’s take on the this) but if you are running a version before 10.1 – and as I type this the current download is 10.0.45.2, so you are running something before 10.1 -  it uses the same store for browsing in Private that it uses for ordinary Browsing, and doesn’t clear cookies afterwards.

I thought “the handful of sites where I use In-Private Browsing aren’t flash sites.”, the flash handling the cookie is not always visible. When I did a quick search I found something from the Electronic Privacy Information Center which quotes one tracking platform vendor as saying "All advertisers, websites and networks use cookies for targeted advertising, but cookies are under attack. According to current research they are being erased by 40% of users creating serious problems.". Indeed: as EPIC puts a little later “By deleting cookies, consumers are clearly rejecting attempts to track them. Using an obscure technology to subvert these wishes is a practice that should be stopped”

So: How do you see, clear and block/allow Flash Cookies ? That announcement from Adobe suggests that in 10.1 you will be able to this by right clicking on flash in the browser and going to settings. Until you get 10.1, you have to visit a page on Adobe’s site –which isn’t espcially easy to find. 

image 

Clearing the information from my computer I made a note of some of the sites which were leaving information on my PC which I was certain I hadn’t visited and got a little PowerShell script to get the title from their home page. (Which worked for most sites, some take a little fiddling). Here are the names and descriptions.

atdmt.com Atlas Solutions – Online Advertising: Advertiser and Publisher Ad Serving Solutions
Clearspring.com Your Content. Everywhere -connecting online publishers and advertisers to audiences on the social web.
feedjit.com Live Traffic Feed & Other Awesome Widgets
flashTalking.com Video and Rich Media Adserving
gigya.com Social Optimization for Online Business
ooyala.com Video Platform, Analytics and Advertising
quantServe.com It’s your audience. We just find it.™
tubemogul.com In-Depth Tracking, Analytics for Online Video | Web Video Syndication
videoegg.com VideoEgg "innovative ad products"
visiblemeasures.com Measure Online Video Advertising
http://www.vizu.com Digital Brand Advertising Measurement. Market Research.

You can see what business they are all in. I’ve added them to my list of sites blocked by InPrivate Filtering. Which reminds me, I must post part 2 of that.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

The Browser Choice Screen for Europe: What to Expect, When to Expect It

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 9:34 am

Dave Heiner, one of our Vice Presidents and our Deputy General Counsel has posted an explanation of exactly what will be happening.

I would expect something in due course to explain how organizations can prevent their users being presented with the choice screen (if you are using WSUS – and you should be – you should be able to choose not distribute that update. If you are distributing images apply the update and make your browser choice before creating the image, etc.) .

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 18, 2010

How to Kill IE 6

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 12:05 pm

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be talking about IE8  (and depending on what gets announced at Mix maybe IE9 as well). Whilst I don’t have the data to prove it I’m convinced a lot of people running Firefox are doing so as a way of getting a modern browser when their company still has something from the last century tying them to IE6.  I suspect a lot of those people have seen demos which prove IE7 is much better than 6 and that IE8 is better, but the demos are always simplified, and you see pages with a single issue conveniently fixed using a click of a button. But it is definitely not that easy. You could have thousands of apps, many of them packaged, or you could be prevented from accessing the code because it is part of a product you bought.  

Why is that last bit in italics ? It’s part of the session abstract for a webcasts which is being run different times of day, over the next few weeks.

The presenter is Chris Jackson, Principal Consultant and the Technical Lead of the Windows Application Experience SWAT Team, Microsoft Corporation (a widely recognized expert in the field of Windows Application Compatibility) . Although I haven’t had a chance to watch it myself, I’ve seen the scores for the first run which said the audience rated it very highly. So if you still have IE6 in place and want to do something about it, this seems like a good place to start. 

tweetmeme_style = ‘compact’;
tweetmeme_url = ‘http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2010/02/18/how-to-kill-ie-6.aspx’;

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 9, 2010

Safer Internet day

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Security and Malware,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 8:06 am

I don’t often paste things from senior Microsoft folks into my blog, but I’d like to quote some things from our managing director here in the UK, Gordon Frazer

February 9th marks Safer Internet Day, a vital drive to promote a safer internet for all users, especially young people.

For the second year in a row, Microsoft subsidiaries across Europe are organizing employee volunteering activities for Safer Internet Day 2010. Through local partnerships with NGOs, schools, customers and partners, around 650 Microsoft employees in 24 subsidiaries will train more than 50,000 people on online safety. Last year Microsoft UK educated 12,000 young people and 2000 parents in online safety

Through an accident of scheduling I’m going to be using one of the volunteering days Microsoft gives me today, but for a different cause.  Volunteering days are one of the distinct pluses about working at Microsoft and its great to see colleagues supporting things like this. I’ve also maintained for a long time when a company is Microsoft’s size it brings some responsibilities with it, and the protection of children has been an area we have concentrated on since before I joined the company 10 years ago.

We are part of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and Gordon’s mail also said This year as part of the “Click Clever Click Safe” campaign UKCCIS will be launching a new digital safety code for children– “Zip It, Block It, Flag It”.  Over 100 Microsoft volunteers will be out in schools in the UK teaching young people and parents alike about child online safety and helping build public awareness for simple safety tips.

Our volunteering activities today mark our strong commitment to child online safety. Online safety is not only core to our business, as exemplified by particular features in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) and our work in developing the Microsoft Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) which helps law enforcement officials collaborate and share information with other police services to manage child protection cases, but it is also an issue that our employees, many parents themselves, take very seriously. As a company we put a great deal of faith in our technology, however, we are also aware that the tools we provide have to be used responsibly. 

Indeed. I said in something else I was writing that there is an old phrase describing user issues  “PEBCAK  Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard”, and technology – however good – is no substitute for user education. We have a page of advice which you might find obvious but could be helpful to share with  friends and family that have children active online http://www.microsoft.com/uk/citizenship/safeandsecure/parentadvice/default.mspx

IE8 provides the best protection out there, and the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Centre (CEOP) have launched their own branded version of it which provides ease of reporting access for young people www.ceop.gov.uk/ie8, which again may be worth installing at home if you have children or passing on to Friends and Family who are running older versions of IE.

tweetmeme_style = ‘compact’;
tweetmeme_url = ‘http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2010/02/09/safer-internet-day.aspx’;

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 5, 2010

But I don’t want the default browser

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 9:47 am

OK cards on the table. I’m prejudiced. I don’t pretend to be anything else, and I try to open about my biases – flaunt them even. And Like most prejudiced people I can explain the logical roots that my prejudices spring from.

When it comes to browsers I think IE is pretty good .Actually let me qualify that: I thought IE 7  was when we got back to being pretty good and IE8 ups our game. Yes I know some organizations are stuck on the IE6 – I think being unable to move to current technology is a sign of badly run organization, so excuses for being stuck on 6 always sound lame to my ears. Usually it comes down to “We made a bad choice of something years ago and now we we can’t upgrade anything”. The investment to put this right which then makes people more productive, and reduces support costs etc is always a good one. When XP was still a current OS (early 2006) IE6 was looking old and tired and I tried Firefox and liked it. These days IE does what I want, so I haven’t felt the need to use the recent versions of Firefox, but to me it still embodies what is good in open source software development. I don’t hear its advocates talking open source ideology, and it strikes me that they want it to succeed on merit – the only way a competitor gets my respect. I can’t feel the same respect for Opera, since it was their complaint to the EU which nearly caused us to ship Windows 7 to Europe with no browser at all. Opera has a market share miles behind Firefox, (and well behind Chrome and Safari). If IE were to vanish it would seem a fair assumption that 3/4 of the total market would go to Firefox.  Prejudiced against Opera ? Guilty as charged m’lud.

image

image

So… It came a bit of disappointment to find that my new Windows Mobile device comes with Opera installed. Oh the irony: we can’t tell HTC and/or Orange what browser(s) should be on the device , even in our position as customer. On the first day I had the device, I hooked the device up to the corporate wireless (Windows Mobile Device Center handles getting the certificate that is needed) and configured the proxy for work networks. I pointed internet explorer at Www.getCoMo.com and downloaded Communicator Mobile which is working very nicely. Next I wanted to find some IP utilities to check what the network was doing. Sadly the beautiful photos on Bing’s home page are wasted on me – I don’t go to search pages (and my home page is set to blank) – I use the browser’s search box. Except Pocket IE doesn’t have one:  however there is a live search icon in the Programs folder but when I used that the result was an error in Opera. It seems Opera can’t connect through a proxy: it certainly doesn’t respect the global proxy setting which IE and Communicator used (it didn’t pick up my favourites either), and if there is somewhere to set, I can’t find it – it’s certainly not under settings. 

This produced an outburst which must have startled anyone who heard it. “Congenitally stupid” was one of the more repeatable phrases and I’ll draw a veil over the rest. Seriously. This phone is an evolved pocket PC, and I beta trialled the 802.1x drivers for the wireless LAN card which went in a jacket with my iPAQ 3600 series when Microsoft first started to use wireless LANs in 2001, and could use a proxy. It’s such a basic function I couldn’t believe it was missing.
IE at least will me set it as the default browser, so any attempt to jump to a URL at least goes there now. But, can I re-assign the short cut key on they keyboard to it ? That is beyond me. I can remove IE from a PC supplied with it (and presumably if the supplier replaces IE with something else , I can remove that,  and go to whatever I want) but there isn’t the same freedom of choice when you move away from the PC. [Unless there are hacks which the average phone user can’t find]

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 15, 2009

Add-ons and plug-ins – do you have a favourite ?

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Powershell,Social Media — jamesone111 @ 2:13 pm

I was chatting with a couple of colleagues yesterday about internet explorer. Someone grumbled “When people think of browser add-ons they automatically think of firefox, but there are some really good ones for IE”. I have talked in the past about IE7 pro (which despite the name works with IE8).  I use it for four things – first it has a flash blocker. This gets round my issue of not being able to use a page when there is some animation going on, without needing to turn the flash add-on off  [yes, flash is an IE add-on, so is Silverlight.] Secondly it will block content being pulled in from selected external sites. This helps defeat flash but also stops those firms which want to track my visits to sites. Finally for things which get through the first two it has the ability to cut out some of the really annoying bit of a page – those which would circumvent the flash blocker. Although this is mostly targeted at adverts I used it to make the Independent newspaper’s web site usable.  The last trick it has contributes to my habit of having dozens of tabs open – click/drag opens a link in a new tab – it has other mouse gestures but that’s the only one I use. [Some people like the download manager  , but I’m not one of them]

I added an accelerator for twitter but after that I’m not really using any add-ons. In yesterdays conversation my other colleague said – roughly “I have no plug-ins at all and I don’t think many people use them, a lot a buggy and they all slow the browser down to different degrees”. So … if you have added anything to IE7 or 8 that you really wouldn’t be without  (or for that matter if you use firefox because of an add-on) , please post a comment.

I write my blog posts using Windows live writer and I’ve talked before before about one which adds tweetmeme support to each post. This morning I’ve been trying to help someone get the onefor Bit.ly – I had to add &history=1 onto the end of the password to get it to log my links to a history on bit.ly – which is much more useful as I can see which links people are following. It won’t work for him. I guess the same criticisms can be made for Live writer plug-ins as IE ones, but the same question interests me – if you blog with live writer and have a favourite plug in, please post a comment.

Finally, I was talking James Brundage – the guy behind the PowerShellPack which is in the Windows 7 resource kit and also available for download, part of that is an add-in for the PowerShell interactive scripting environment. It adds a menu and a set of short-cut keys – among other things to copy the text with syntax colouring. If you ever need the code to “un-bitly-fy” a URL here it is , in colour. Of course it works for more than bit-ly – it gives back the canonical URL for anything which is redirected from another URL.

            
Function Get-trueURL {            
    Param ([parameter(ValueFromPipeLine= $true, mandatory=$true)]$URL )            
    $req = [System.Net.WebRequest]::Create($url)             
    $req.AllowAutoRedirect=$false            
    $req.Method="GET"            
    $resp=$req.GetResponse()            
    If ($resp.StatusCode -eq 301 ) {$resp.GetResponseHeader("Location")}            
    else                           {$resp.responseURI}            
}            
 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 23, 2009

IE8 and privacy , part 1

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 3:06 pm

I wanted to talk about the privacy enhancements in IE8, and to save you from reading something of epic length this is only part 1. First, I do know there are some poor souls out there who work for benighted organizations which can’t get off IE6 – so the idea of working efficiently with a multi-tabbed browser like IE7 or IE8 is denied to them unless they get creative and install a second browser [Given a choice between the 8 year old IE 6 and the current Firefox, I would take the current product] but that is another story for another day. If you’re on IE7, then moving up to 8 is nothing like the step of getting off 6 so there really is no reason not to move from 7 to 8. Even if you’re on 8 already you may have missed the enhancements

I guess there is a decent chance that you know about “in private browsing.” which people laughingly call “porn mode”: the idea is it leaves no trace behind. In one of my more memorably titled posts “Pigs and Drugs and Naked Dwarves” I mentioned that “for the last five years or so a prescription drug has helped me lead a bit more normal life than would otherwise be the case.”. Two years on and I’m still taking it, and last time I saw the doctor he said he preferred on-line requests for repeat prescriptions. It’s easier for me too, but I don’t want my request lurking in IE’s history. It’s a model use for in private browsing. I was telling someone recently that the specialist who first suggested this drug told me “I won’t tell you about it because I know you’ll read about it on the internet anyway” which is what I did. Today I would have turned on in private browsing for that too.

imageI’m a lot less worried by what’s in my browser history than I am by the behaviour of those who sell internet advertising, who want to gather the maximum amount of information about what you and your interests. I don’t want to target Google but as the biggest they select themselves and their CEO Eric Schmidt* famously said he wanted Google to know everything about people – which produced some interesting press. There are things I don’t want Google et al to know about me (like which drugs I’ve shown an interest in) and I can’t really say where those things stop and the things I don’t care about begin. Google’s users are not its customers – its customers are its advertisers, so when advertisers’ desire to target ads comes into conflict with users desire for privacy, I’ve no idea how Google (or any of the others) would go about resolving the conflict. Even on this blog there is potential for someone to see what you’re interested in because links out of the site go via bit.ly so we can see what links people follow. My view (for what it’s worth) is if you can see before you click the link it goes via a central service and if you don’t like bit.ly having that information you can choose not to click the link. I like the fact that my projects on codeplex.com display in large friendly letters whose analytics are used by the site. I’m not so happy about organizations quietly siphoning up personal information, but that can be stopped by IE8. Since this paragraph is peppered with “My view” , “I like”, “I’m not so happy with”, this might be a good point to remind you that this the personal view of one Microsoft employee (see the in Private feature section of the IE8 Readiness kit for a more rounded view of the issues) but the important point is that we do like to give people choices. For me exercising  choice meant using IE7 pro for the last couple of years, it works nicely on IE8; there are other dedicated blockers though the ones for Firefox seem to be better known.  IE 8 has “In private filtering” lurking quietly on the status bar: this removes undesirable embedded content – so  it can also filter out servers of Ads, which is where the blockers focus their attention, and something I will come back to.  In Private filtering identifies those bits of content which come from one provider but are embedded in pages of multiple others, as you can see from the screen shot below.

Click for a larger version

I went through the sites which IE had picked up: here are what some of them say about themselves:

What is STATCOUNTER? A free yet reliable invisible web tracker
Quantcast says. “We show you who is clicking your ads, browsing your website, and purchasing your products… Once you know, it’s easy to buy an audience of millions — even tens of millions — who look like them”
Media6°claims it ‘provides major brand marketers with targeted audiences using the power of social graph data.’
Site meter says with their detailed reporting you’ll have a clear picture of who is visiting your site, how they found you, where they came from, what interests them and much more”
Kontera says “patented technology performs real-time semantic analysis of content and other information to dynamically hyper-link the terms that most accurately represent and predict user-intent and engagement”
ScorecardResearch is a domain used by Full Circle Studies, Inc. to help with the collection of Internet web browsing data on specific websites that have enrolled in a broad market research effort to create reports on Internet behavior and trends.
YieldManager turns out to be part of the “Right Media Exchange” which calls itself the first largest market place for all buyers and sellers [of ads]

Underneath the list of sites there is a link to find out more about the organizations sending you content – only two of follow the standard (Google Analytics, and Audience Sciences [RevSci.net] ) . The others needed me to go digging to find out who they were, and what they wanted my information for; reason enough in my mind NOT to trust them. What was interesting was that Audience Sciences is a member of the Network Advertising Initiative who have an Opt out page . I recommend you visit that page it shows you how many NAI members have got their cookies onto your computer (a staggering number in my case), and allows you to say that you don’t want those organizations to put the information they have about you to use. To me that’s solving the wrong problem. Blocking with In-private browsing stops them getting the information in the first place.

I said I would come back to the question of blocking adverts. Some people will tell you that visitors to a web site somehow have a duty to look at the ads it serves up. Did anyone ever argue that you should must stay in the room when ads appear on TV ?  And whilst such arguments might have merit if talking about universal blocking, they look staggeringly weak when its a personal, one-off decision. Remember that ads are usually paid by click-through, not by views. I am never going going to click through any of the ads in question, so I am not costing the sites any revenue. Secondly I’ve written here and here about my “aspergers-like” reactions to distracting (Flash) content on web sites – the impetus for this piece was using a machine with out IE7 pro and hitting a one site where an ad for Windows Server bounces up and down in the margin as you scroll the site, oh the shame of it. I am less likely to buy the product of an advertiser who shows me an ad like that, so I am doing them a favour by not filtering out the ad, as well as saving everyone’s bandwidth.

Next up – how to configure it:

 


*Two thoughts on Eric Schmidt (1) He ran Novell for a time so I think of him as “The man who turned Novell into the company it is today.” (2) He famously talked about Microsoft having an evil room. In all the real-estate Microsoft owns it is comforting to know he thinks our evil is confined to one room. Actually I’m sorely tempted to propose that we rename one of rooms from, say, “Great Ouse” to “Evil”, and hang a picture of Eric and some of his sayings on the wall. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 21, 2009

Another reason why I like IE8 – dealing with broken scripts

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 12:35 pm

IE 8 just locked up on me. This in and of itself is a Bad Thing. I’ve got into the habit of having lots of tabs open in IE  – I checked it’s currently 70 (why … ? because I can, it’s a pile off stuff I’m thinking about, going back to or what ever). IE 8 will recover from being killed off in task manager. But 70 pages to re-open ? I’d rather not. Then this box popped up 


image


Ooh. Now that’s rather clever. I’ve popped the offending site into compatibility mode and it’s behaving. Chalk another one up for IE



Update. This is the second post in quick succession where it’s been pointed out that his wasn’t actually new.  I’d never seen it before so perhaps it is better in 8. Thanks to andy for the comment and the reference. I’m off to make a dunce’s hat and sit the corner.

tweetmeme_style = ‘compact’;
tweetmeme_url = ‘http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2009/05/21/another-reason-why-i-like-ie8-dealing-with-broken-scripts.aspx’;

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 30, 2009

Now available on ebay … I’ll have a slice of that !

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 11:36 am

I’ve been pretty enthused about IE8 since it got to Beta 2. Yes there are some sites which need to be put into “Compatibility view”, which would be better called “IE 7 view” as it renders sites correctly which rely on IE7’s departure from standards. There is an argument for saying “Stuff what the standards bodies do, we’re the biggest browser, that makes us the the standard”, but it’s not really a sustainable one, and very “old Microsoft”. Falling into line with the standards will cause pain whenever you do it, so the sooner it’s done the sooner it’s over. I like the accelerators (see this post from February about customizing them)

“Web slices” are something else which looked interesting, and e-bay had a trial of this going before release, but I was looking for an adapter to attach something to a new lens for my camera and hit this

image

Notice the little green icon on the right click it and this box pops up

image

and a pull down appears list on the main tool bar for all the items on the page.

image

And then it a “slice” shows up on my favorites menu, not quite a gadget, not quite a preview it’s a little bit of the page which lets me check on what’s happening with an item, without the need to sign into ebay.

image

There is a web slice gallery and I can see some great uses being fount for this

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 21, 2009

IE 8 – something else I’m growing to really like

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 11:40 pm

A few days back I wrote about acceleators in IE 8 and talked about how search box had been streamlined as well. I knew we’d re-worked how tabs worked but my first reaction was “yeah … but so what”.
I’m a big fan of tabs: IE 7 changed my experience of the internet. I guess other tabbed browsers did the same for other people – but tabbed browsing is such a huge jump forward I just can’t remember how I managed without it. IE gets opened up within a few minutes of my machine booting, and quickly gets to twenty open tabs. The beta of IE8 in Windows 7 beta isn’t perfectly stable, but I’m running it for days on end and saved a block a 57 tabs when I had to shut down . Following links from twitter means I’m getting more tabs open especially since I still make use of IE7 pro , which has a feature named “super drag/drop” –  if you drag a link and drop it on the same page it opens in a new tab. In practice this means a flick or a “smudge” of the mouse opens in a new tab. IE7 pro also trap pages trying to open in a separate window and open them in a new tab instead.

I’ve taken to colour coded tab groups in 8 in a big way: it sounds so trivial that I sat here and wondered if I dared call it out, but I will:

click to open in a bigger window

Open a page as new tab and it forms a tab group with the original page. You can see on the left the tabs are green, they’re the things I’ve jumped to from Twitter, then there are a couple which aren’t grouped, followed by a couple in a fetching shade of peach which were on Geo-coding, then some purple ones which where the results of a couple of searches, next come some green ones on Aviation accidents and finally some in blue from MSDN for something I’ve been working on in PowerShell. It’s just easier to get around; when you have dozens of tabs open you can lose track of where you are.

IE 7 pro remembers recently closed pages and lets you re-open them – with a short cut for the most recently closed one.. The problem is it just remembers the last URL: the tab doesn’t open in a group (you can drag it into one) and if you want to go back through the history on the tab, no joy. In IE8 if you click on the tab strip you get the option to reopen the last closed tab in the right place with its history.  The menu can also close a whole group in one go – done with the MSDN group? Right-click, click, 4 tabs gone!  There are some bits missing: there’s no option to refresh or save a tab group and grouping tabs which aren’t yet in a group is a bit long winded. Something for the IE 7 pro folks to add for IE 8 pro

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 12, 2009

Accelerators in IE8

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,Windows 7,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 4:40 pm

Internet Explorer 8 seems to be  guided by the same “many little improvements” philosophy that has driven Windows 7 – or put another way it’s not packed with radical new features , and in some cases I find it hard to be sure if something really wasn’t there before:  I think the “Privacy Policy” is new and it lets find out where pages are including something which violates my privacy or which produces a hyper-active advert (where these are scripts they go into IE’s distrusted sites list ! )

image Here’s the kind of incremental improvement I’m talking about, look at the search box.

Image 1 on the left shows how things worked in IE 7, you needed to pull down the list on the right to select a different search provider.

Image 2 in the middle shows how things have changed with IE 8, the icons for the different providers show up under the search box, click the one you want to select and click off the search (3 clicks become one).

But what’s that on the right ? in image 3. Previously to search your history you needed to go to favorites tab, go to history, choose Search history, enter my search term and then click search. In 8, just type into the search box and the history gets searched as you type

One thing that is brand new in 7 is the idea of accelerators: when you highlight some text on the page you can take some actions with it. Highlight an address and you can go to a map, highlight a word and you can look it up in a dictionary. Use an a browser based tool for composing your blog entries (and I don’t) then jump to your blogging tool . The specification for the XMLfiles which describe accelerators is on MSDN. There were plenty of things I could have tried, but I decided to one one for Twitter… then found that David Sim has done that already, and here’s what the XML looks like

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<os:openServiceDescription xmlns:os="http://www.microsoft.com/schemas/openservicedescription/1.0">

<os:homepageUrl>http://www.twitter.com</os:homepageUrl>

<os:display>

<os:name>Send to Twitter</os:name>

<os:icon>http://www.twitter.com/favicon.ico</os:icon>

<os:description>Send text to Twitter</os:description>

</os:display>

<os:activity category="Send">

<os:activityAction context="selection">

<os:execute action="http://twitter.com/home?status={selection} {documentUrl}" />

</os:activityAction>

</os:activity>

</os:openServiceDescription>

So once this is installed if I run my mouse over some text I get this ….

image

All very fine and good … except why do I have to go to a submenu ? and Why is the top menu filled with stuff from Windows Live – some of which I’ll use but some I won’t ? The answer is it has to default to something, but you can change it by going to Manage Add-ons from IE’s tools menu and clicking accelerators (and there is a short cut on the “All Accelerators” Menu)

image

I’ve removed the Email with Live mail and Blog with live spaces (I don’t use them) and just to show the search isn’t fixed I changed the default search to “My blog”, which changes the “Search with” entry. Each accelerator has a category – this one is “Send”, and one item in each category can be flagged as “Default” to appear on the top menu, which is what I’ve done for the twitter entry. Now that’s more like the “few clicks for common tasks” ethos of 7.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Windows 7 federated search.

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 1:08 pm

I was a little surprised to find it was nearly 3 years ago that I first wrote about Open Search… So first off… 

Open search provides a specification for XML to describe search services. It’s easy to build this XML, and there’s a Microsoft Page which builds it for you, so here’s an example for IMDB, which I need to add to my Windows 7 installation:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">

<ShortName>IMDB</ShortName>

<Description>IMDB provider</Description>

<InputEncoding>UTF-8</InputEncoding>

<Url type="text/html" template="http://www.imdb.com/find?s=all&q={searchTerms}" />

</OpenSearchDescription>

 

The XML tells something like IE 7 and 8 that there is a search, with a name and a description, and the URL to search it and return data as Text/html. IE can use a Link tag on a page that you are viewing to enable a context sensitive search here’s an example from OpenSearch’s own site.

<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" 
     href="/opensearch_desc.php" title="OpenSearch (English)" />

That was as far as my interest went when I first heard of Open Search, but there is a use for these descriptions in Federated Search. Federated simply means taking the results of more than one search and merging them together. But if every site comes back with an HTML page that is no good for merging, so Open Search defines an XML schema, or to be more accurate it defines extensions to RSS and Atom. Now the Description file can contain another URL line which specifies a type of “application/rss+xml”, or “application/atom+xml”. Each item in the RSS feed becomes a search result, and any search services which can return RSS format can be included in a federated search.

We already use that in our Enterprise Search products. What’s new for Windows 7 is that we use an OSDx (Open Search Description XML file) to add Federated Search parts to Windows Explorer. As far as I can tell, plain Open Search files can be used for this, but there is extra information which can go in, and the best place to start is this post by Brandon. So a OSDx file for twitter looks like this.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
  <ShortName>Twitter</ShortName>
  <Description>Search for a person @name, tag, #tag or anything  else</Description>
  <Language></Language>
  <Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q={searchTerms}"/>
</OpenSearchDescription>

and the results look like this (click for a bigger version).

image

The key thing is that this could be any site (internet, intranet you name it) which can return search results as RSS or Atom, and once the search is defined you put a shortcut to it anywhere you’d have a shortcut to a folder.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 4, 2008

IE 8 testing – part 2

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 11:15 am

image One of the things about a new browser is that various web sites expect particular ID strings to identify browsers they know and get awkward if they don’t recognize the browser ID. So one of the nice things in IE 8 beta 2 is that you can select compatibility mode for particular sites and send the string which says "I am IE 7."

I’ve mentioned a few times that Microsoft has quite a sophisticated set of benefits; employees get to check their payslip on line, and wouldn’t you know it… the payroll system is outsourced and is one of those sites which keels over if confronted with a new browser (actually that makes sense – you don’t want to assume a previously unknown browser will render all your columns correctly when it’s showing people what’s been added to or removed from parts of their pay).

So a quick tip-of-the-hat is due to our finance people.Within a couple of days of beta 2 going live they warned there was a problem. And in some companies that would be it. Want to see your payslip, don’t run beta software. Not here: they went and tested it and came back with the conclusion that, yes IE8 works just fine in IE7 mode, and with instructions on how to configure it. And after my notes on people’s bad mail habits they even sent it out with an opening sentence which lets you triage it correctly: bin it (I don’t use on-line payroll or IE 8) , Act on it now (I’ve just installed IE8 and I use the on-line payroll) or file it for the future (I use on-line payroll, and I’m going to try IE8 sometime)

I said before that letting users put the latest versions of software on their machines before IT have tested everything is the Microsoft way, but it wont’ work for many companies. Notice also that by empowering people in this way, finance deal with issues involving a finance application; I’ve been to companies where this would get stuck between finance and IT for weeks. Getting the testing done up front, involving internal customers (pilot users) and recording the problems and fixes, IS something that everyone can and should do, starting with the sites where you either don’t control the client (that’s outward facing sites where your customers go) or the server (that’s partner/extranet sites where your people go).  This is also one of those cases where using sharepoint to create a Wiki works, because the same people -pilot users -  have both questions and have answers to share. (See Raymond for why Wikis and the like fail )

 

.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 30, 2008

IE 8 is coming: are you ready ?

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 12:59 pm

IE8 has features to please users, which makes me expect a pretty rapid uptake (Read Eileen for a user’s eye view of accelerators) .

We’ve also tried to remove the standards issues which annoy developers. Here’s the problem though. If you have diverged from official standards in the past, then what do you ? (a) preserve that difference for ever – so the product is always broken in the eyes of some, or (b) insist that "we have the biggest share of the market. What we do is the standard or (c) Fix it and know that it will break some things.
Path (b) is very "old Microsoft" behaviour, so let’s cross that one off the list straight away. We can have a compatibility mode to deal with the old stuff, but here’s another problem: HTML is HTML – how does a the browser know if it needs to be in compatibility mode ? The browser could tell which code would render differently in "standards" mode and "IE7 and prior" mode but which did the author intend ?

There are two solutions to this, one is that the user can toggle compatibility mode at will, and the other is that if you know pages rely on one of IE7’s "divergences" instead of correcting them, you can add a header to tell IE8 to go into IE7 emulation mode.

If you have externally facing web sites, and you’re not testing already with IE8, you need to start. Seriously. How many of your users do you want to annoy ? 1 in 50 ? 1 in 20 ? 1 in 10 ? How quickly do you think IE8 will get to 2% , 5%, 10%  share ?  If people see your pages breaking because you didn’t flag them, some won’t go into compatibility mode. They’ll just see the site is broken and wonder "for how long did they know a new browser was coming, and not fix this ? What does that tell me about their responsiveness  ?" 

What abut internal sites, ? Apart from the handy collection of links here that is ?  I had a mail this morning about what we’re doing internally

IT is actively testing all applications with the goal of providing timely and accurate information regarding compatibility. To find more information about which Line of Business (LOB) applications are supported and which are currently being tested, please go to {URL} for up-to-date information. The site will be updated continually by IT as additional applications complete testing

That’s very Microsoft IT. "Yes you can deploy it but be warned the apps still are catching up". So if you’re responsible for IT, what is your plan for IE8 ? Are you doing compatibility tests ? If you’re a theory Y company which lets users have some control over their software are you being pro-active in your role as trusted advisor and telling them what you’re doing and how long to wait before they can feel safe about using IE8 ? Or, if you’re a foot-dragging theory-X IT department which just tells people to be grateful for IE 6, then are you preparing your excuses for when a company bigwig demands to know why his children have better tools to get information from the web at home than he has at work ? (I always assumed those kind of people don’t read blogs. )

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 3, 2008

Blockers. What would we want from IE 8… or 9

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Privacy — jamesone111 @ 1:31 pm

I have used this blog to grumble about "Flash turds" – those super-annoying adverts whose determination to grab the eye brings them to the point of being a test for epilepsy. I’m not seeing many of them being built in Silverlight, yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

Fortunately I use IE7-Pro which has both an AD blocker and a Flash-blocker, which is more effective than simply disabling the Flash add on in IE – a box appears which says "Flash blocked" and I just have to click it if it is some part of a site which I want to see. It’s not 100% effective – Our own Live Spaces manages to bury its flash too deeply for IE7Pro to un-pick it, but IE7Pro will run scripts against pages it loads and I found a script in their forums to plug that gap. Hooray !

As O’Brien passed the telescreen a thought seemed to strike him. He stopped, turned aside and pressed a switch on the wall. There was a sharp snap. The voice had stopped.
Julia uttered a tiny sound, a sort of squeak of surprise. Even in the midst of his panic, Winston was too much taken aback to be able to hold his tongue.
‘You can turn it off!’ he said.
‘Yes,’ said O’Brien, ‘we can turn it off. We have that privilege.’

George Orwell: 1984

Once, we had to tolerate things like Pop-ups, then blockers became something that you had to add to a browser and now anyone with a reasonably up to date browser can take it for granted that Pop-ups will be blocked by default. IE7pro fills some of the gaps which were apparent in IE7 back when it was in beta (search on the context menu being an obvious one – and something IE8 addresses in a really smart way with "Activities"). IE7Pro also does a good job of blocking anti-social behaviours on otherwise useful web sites.  The issue I find I come back to again and again is the responsibility of being Microsoft – not so much because we might squeeze third parties out of the market, but is it improper to have blocking abilities, out-of-the-box ?  Making it too easy to block (lets say) Google Ads would have two problems – firstly if Microsoft is to develop its own advertising business, blocking a competitor would bring regulators down on us in minutes. Secondly there are plenty of sites out there which depend on Ad revenue, choking off their funding wouldn’t be good for anyone: I singled out Google’s ads because they are about as inoffensive as it is possible to make an ad (so unlike the Flash turds the reader gets no benefit by dumping them).

It’s all very well for me as one individual to rail against Bad Flash used in advertising, but there’s a question of what is legitimate to block. Pop-ups were universally hated, but what about blocking specific active-X controls (Flash, Silverlight, you choose) with a "click to re-enable" option ?  What about providing methods to allow customers to block insidious advertisers, like Phorm ?
In case you haven’t picked up stories appearing everywhere from the BBC to The Register a number of UK ISPs propose to intercept the web traffic of their customers and pass it on to a third party to target advertising. The range of opinion runs from Sir TIm Berners-Lee saying he he would change his internet provider if it introduced such a system to a home office legal adviser suggesting that it was an interception of a communication within the meaning of sections 2(2) and 2(8) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), to Trend Micro telling the Register that "The nature of Phorm’s monitoring of all user web activity is certainly of some concern, and there is a very high chance that Trend Micro would add detection for the tracking cookies as adware in order to protect customers.". This sets my privacy antennae twitching , not least because my ISP is one of those said to be planning to use Phorm.  What’s the best way to deal with it ?

  • Legal – using things like RIPA and the office of Information Commissioner (as the FIPR has done)
  • Market – ensuring any company which attempts to use Phorm loses business as a result. Like Sir Tim Berners-Lee I’ll be changing ISP if Virgin decide to spy on me; and I’ll try to Boycott any company which hosts Phorm ads on its site or places adverts with them. No doubt someone will publish a list of these companies.
  • Or Technological – blocking it in the browser

Comments welcome (as ever).

(update – somehow lost a crucial NOT in there)

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 15, 2007

What else did I miss ?

Filed under: Events,Internet Explorer,Powershell,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 4:47 pm

So I said that we’d done a lot while I was away , other gems now sifted from my inbox include.



  • As well as all the other Server “SKUs” I mentioned before, we’ve announced HPC Server 2008;  (formerly called Compute Cluster Server – CCS) the beta is downloadable now.

  • Staying with servers, Home Server has released holy deleted expletives Batman ! How did I miss that one ?

  • Also in the home, X-box live is marking it’s 5th brithday and there are free downloads available for Today and Tomorrow (pacific timings, so if you’re in the UK you have until early Saturday morning). Some original x-box games will be up for (chargeable) download from December 4th.

  • While I talk of live, Windows Live released a major update, including Writer (it failed to install on my PC over the beta … will have to try again later) and Photo Gallery, and there is a new Calendar beta

  • We also released the Windows Live™ Messenger IM Control which lets people on the Web reach you in Messenger by showing your Messenger status on your web site, blog, or social networking profile (or any other page they can see in their browser.

  • IE 7 Pro released a new update. Sadly  a bug has come back which means IE is prone to crash when I close a tab.

  • We launched Technet Edge, A new video site for IT pros. I’m pleased to see it uses Silverlight and lets you download in a range of formats. One of the first videos is my old friend Giovanni explaining HPC server 2008

  • A new IT cartoon blog got started that it looks like I might have to subscribe to.

  • The CTP for Powershell 2 has been made available. Jeffrey Snover has made several posts about it – be sure to read the one on beta vs CTP software and being a CTP user.  I will quote the last four lines of that in future (no not his signature !)

Here at Tech-ed IT-Forum I went to dinner with some people from the PowerShell community. I heard someone say afterwards something to the effect “If anyone in Microsoft has a right to a huge ego, it’s Jeffrey, but he’s really nice and wanted to hear what I had to say”. I interviewed Jeffrey the following morning, and his philosophy about listening to customers came out in the interview (which will be posted early next week – it probably on Edge). When I go to these events I’m usually “man on a mission”; this time I’ve not got quite the same sense of purpose – I’m just networking with people at random: I’m not exactly Mr Smalltalk at the best of times, and I’m only just over my jet lag which has made me feel even less inclined to chat. But I think my interview with Jeffrey is a good one, and one of my highlights of the show. The weird moment of Tech-ed was meeting Hugh Macleod: not so much for meeting him, but I happened to be wearing a Blue-Monster Shirt at the time. So our evening of drinks was one long round of Eileen saying to people “This is Hugh” [pause] “He drew the that” – [pointing to my shirt] and Hugh getting the reaction “Ohmygod ohmygod – you’re him !”


 


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 23, 2007

One small step for search…

Filed under: Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 2:59 pm

I was talking to a customer (I know he reads this blog, so no names). He was having some trouble because two parts of Microsoft weren’t communicating the way you’d expect them to. And I said in passing that one thing which we are unjustly accused of from time to time is underhand collusion: for example product “A” supposedly has some secret API that only the people working on product “B” know about. What we actually do is a bit like that scene at the very end of “Raiders of the lost Ark” where the Ark is hidden by placing it in crate and stored with thousands upon thousands of similar crates. Whilst I can’t say for sure that never happened, people who believe “secret collaboration” is widespread really don’t understand what Microsoft is like inside. You’d hope that all Microsoft web properties would:This is not a search box. SHAME ON US

  1. Run on Windows, IIS ASP.net etc. Every now and then someone finds a partner developed something Microsoft Branded uses Apache, and PHP. Although these can run on Windows…
  2. Still on the “using our technology” line Use Silverlight instead of Adobe flash. Actually a great deal of the Flash we use is Bad Flash anyway.
  3. Make all phone number Tel: urls. We tell customers that we can put presence and click to call here there and everywhere, but do we do it with our own numbers ? No. Hey we don’t even write them all in E.164 format. 
  4. Light up the Search box in IE 7.  Actually I’m appalled by what I find on the Microsoft home page today At the top left “Add Live search to your Browser”. Top Centre is what looks like a search box labeled but is actually a disguised link to a the Live web site. Shame on us for that. And at the Top right a “Powered by Live Search” box which leaves something to be desired in UI terms. Do we add search Microsoft.com to the dropdown box. No. 

But lighting up the search box needs a <link  rel=”search” … > tag on each page; and some parts of the empire are starting to get the message. I was pleased when I saw IE’s search drop-down go orange when I was on the support site, clicking it show the “This site only search”

. support

But I’ll bet something from my “Swag” cupboard that we don’t have this on the Microsoft home page before Christmas. (If we do – first person to send a mail to me pointing it out gets the prize) .

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.