Monday, December 31, 2012

The End of 2012 and the Start of 2013

It seems appropriate that this New Year's greeting is coming to you from a plane at 32,00 feet over the Tennessee/Kentucky line, as a good bit of my time in 2012 was spent in the air and a good bit of my time in 2013 will be spent here as well.

I have much to be thankful for as I look back at 2012. I'm blessed with a great job, friends I can tolerate, and an awesome family. My wife and kids make the many cool things I get to do possible and I appreciate that. They could easily be selfish with my time but they choose not to be.

We are returning home to frozen Indiana having spent the holidays in sunny, warm southwest Florida. We are returning tan, rested and refreshed, ready for another exciting year. 2013 promises to be a great year in ministry as well as for our family and me professionally. It also looks to be an exciting year of technological advancements.

"To whom much is given, much is also required." Take a moment and make some plans for next year. Don't make foolish resolutions but rather make some obtainable goals that you can measure your progress towards. Then when 2013 ends you can look back and see how far you've come. Be specific, loose weight isn't specific enough.

As for me, my goals are set and I'm looking forward to what's next.

See you in 2013!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Windows 8 - Tenth Pass: Driving the Touchscreen

It is obvious that Microsoft plans to drive the touchscreen as being the primary way we interact with a PC in the future, much in the same way we interact with smartphones and tablets now. I agree that it is the future but it isn’t now. Window 8 however is relying on that being the future and those unhappy with not being able to touch the screen of their desktop in their cubicle at work will eventually get over it.

Several times during the launch event, they referred to the start screen as “beautiful” and that it work great with both a touchscreen or with a keyboard and mouse. I found it interesting that during the rest of the demo they didn’t use the keyboard or mouse once, confirming to me that it really isn’t designed for a keyboard and mouse but that if you care to figure it out it will work with a keyboard and mouse. In other words, the intuitive part of it is only for touchscreen-based devices.

Fortunately, for them the second demo did use a keyboard and mouse the entire time. I actually learned a few new keyboard and mouse shortcuts for interacting with the start screen on a non-touch device. While that helps me use Windows 8 on my existing non-touch laptop it does mean I have to remember how to interact with the operating system based on the type of hardware I’m using. Microsoft must think I’m smarter than I really am.

The best part of the start screen demo was when the elephant in the room was finally brought up. The presenter asked if the Start Button worked for people as opposed to the Start Screen. I along with half the room raised my hand. This is what I had been waiting for; tell us why the Start Button was gone forever?

According to Microsoft, the Start Button took too long to use. Think about that for a while and then do some trials comparing how long it takes you to do the same functionality between the Start Button and the Start Screen on a non-touch enabled device. Oh, wait. There it is. A non-touch enabled device. The Start Button is very difficult to use with your fingers and since Windows 8 is all about the touchscreen, you now have your answer, at least according to Microsoft.

As the demo concluded they emphasized that Windows 8 brings work and home together. I look forward to seeing how that pans out. How many work computers will get touchscreens? How many corporate IT shops will allow users to login using personal MSN accounts to access corporate resources and then take those some accounts home? How many supervisors will want users bringing in games from home?

Microsoft admits that the change to start screen is a big change and that there is no legacy mode. They don't admit why.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today is December 12, 2012, or 12-12-12. This date fascinates me a bit, as the mathematics that makeup our calendar limits the number of times you can have such a date. In my lifetime I’ve been fortunate enough to live through 01-01-01, 02-02-02, 03-03-03, 04-04-04, 05-05-05, 06-06-06, 07-07-07, 08-08-08, 09-09-09, 10-10-10, 11-11-11, and now, and finally, 12-12-12.

Even if the Mayans are wrong there still won’t be a 13-13-13 so as this day fades in my time zone I can’t help but wonder what the world will be like when this pattern starts all over again and we reach the next 12-12-12. In 89 years we will hit 01-01-01, that’s January 1, 2101. Odds are I won’t be around then but when you look back at where we’ve come, it is intriguing to think about where we will be.

Think about the last round of dates, starting back in 01-01-1901. Back then, we didn’t even know how to fly. Now we’re landing small cars on Mars via sky cranes.

In 01-01-2001, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Foursquare, or iPhones and iPads. Laptops were just starting to become more readily available and email was still something you had to be on a computer with a modem to access. Music was only available on round silver disks or cartridges of magnetic tape wound around sprockets.

By 07-07-2007, Twitter and Facebook were emerging on the scene and we had our first iPhone.

Now on 12-12-2012, the date is trending on Twitter and we are connected to email all the time by small pieces of glass we won’t leave home without.

So, lift a glass to the Mayan’s being wrong and the next 12-12-12!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Windows 8 - Ninth Pass: The Sales Pitch

Last week I attended one of the many official Microsoft launch events for Windows 8. Naturally I arrived with a bunch of questions I wanted to get answered but I was also very interested in how they were going to pitch the various changes I've already discussed here to a room full of several hundred IT Professionals.

If you've wasted any time reading my blog as of late you know I not a big Windows 8 fan, but despite my bias I went in with an open mind to allow them to sway my views. Unfortunately that didn't happen. While I understand the 'why' a bit better I'm still not sold on the 'how'.

It was obvious from the keynote that Microsoft believes that Windows 8 is as much of a game changer as email, the iPhone (they even gave Mr. Jobs a shout out), and even the printing press. They believe they are changing the game in terms of tablets and smartphones now being integrated together for the first time on a single platform - Windows 8. Microsoft is leading with the software of the future as opposed to the software we need today.

I agree with the premise but the implementation is where it fall apart for me. This is a good example of software driving hardware. Windows 8 is designed for the end of the desktop - a future whose ending hasn't been written yet. Microsoft believes the rate of change is going to be fast enough to justify their changes now. I agree the pace is fast but the implementation could have been done in a way that made the changes easier to adopt. From their perspective it is easier to just make the changes and deal with the fall out of user adoption. Speaking of adoption, according to Microsoft it has been low however Windows 8 has only been public for just over a month now.

It was obvious that Microsoft believes they are on the right track with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Time will tell.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fun with Symantec

At a recent Microsoft event I was at I had the chance to speak with the folks from Symantec at their booth. They were giving away little footballs as swag and naturally I needed one of those. Of course in exchange for said football I had to talk with them and let them scan my name tag.

As I was talking to the rep I told them that I was already a customer. He asked me what version we were using and I told him the latest. Then, as if he didn't hear that I was already a customer and already sold on their products, he started to explain to me how great the latest version was and that it was "killing it" out there. He also explained how their technology was superior because they were moving away from definitions and using signatures to detect infected files which was not only more secure but faster.

What the rep didn't know was that I was looking for just such a segue. You see, the week before the event our latest version of Symantec, the one "killing it", let a bug through from a web link in an email. This gave me the perfect opportunity to point out that while their product may be "killing it" they missed a bug that wiped an entire workstation.

The rep then tried to sell me on the idea that I should have submitted the infected files and they would research it and update their signatures because they had the best team in the world for doing that. Again, I'm already sold on them but I had to explain to the rep the role his company plays in our environment. In the ideal world I'd have plenty of time to send samples to them but most times I'm depending on them to "kill it" and be one step ahead. Otherwise my time is spent fixing the bug that got through as opposed to post infection analysis.

I'm still sold on Symantec and I understand that even with our multiple layers of protection things still get through, especially this time of year, I was just enjoying, perhaps too much, pressing the front line guy Symantec happened to send to the same event I was at. I'm sure he'll go on his break if he sees me coming at a future show.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Windows 8 – Eighth Pass: Official Launch

Even though I’ve been quiet over the past month that doesn’t mean I’ve grown to love Windows 8 any more.

Tomorrow I’m attending the Windows 8 Launch event in Indianapolis. As you know I’ve not been very kind to Microsoft’s latest flagship operating system. I am not anticipating that tomorrow will do much to change my mind however; I’m hoping it at least allows Microsoft to better explain why they think Windows 8 is the best way to go for the future of the desktop, laptop, and tablet. And no, I don’t buy the argument that the desktop and laptop as we know them today are going away anytime soon.

At the Server 2012 Launch, a lot of time was spent talking about the cloud and very little time spent talking about the improvements to the operating system. Part of me wonders if that isn’t also going to be the focus tomorrow. I predict a bit of dancing around the issues and very little addressing of those issues.

I’ll be posting what I learn and maybe even posting that I’ve had a change of heart, feel free to contact your bookies now to place your bets.