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Start is back

start

I just did the first test of upgrading a Windows 7 Pro machine to Windows 10. This was a modest, utility machine (Dell Optiplex 580) without a lot of software installed. But the upgrade went smoothly, if slowly, and in limited playing I’ve not found any problems.

And — the Start menu is there. It’s got a few Metro-style tiles but if you click on “All Apps” it’s recognizably the same Start menu we’ve had since Windows 95.

More to follow I’m sure.

Too Many New Ways To Work?

Is anybody else drowning in options for collaboration and organization?

Whether it’s a new way to organize your email, store your documents in the cloud, organize your photos and videos, or collaborate and be social there are multiple competing solutions. Most of them don’t interact, or have only minimal compatibility.

Is this helpful? How can we balance a “let 1,000 flowers bloom” approach* with getting to a point where these systems are generally useful without creating silos based on who uses which product?

Many years ago software publishers found it in their interest to develop and, to a greater or lesser degree, comply with, standards for things like SMTP email and rendering of HTML. This was later extended, not quite as successfully, to calendar standards, so that I can now accept an invitation from pretty much any source and send back some sort of acknowledgement. File encoding reached the point where we can share files between Windows, Mac and Linux/Unix fairly transparently.

But I can’t use my public or enterprise microblogging platform to share posts to all my contacts on their preferred platform. I can send a link to download a file from my cloud platform to anyone. But if I want to grant editing rights, or collaboratively edit, or make content easy to find, then we generally need to have credentials on the same system, and there will usually be some software downloading and installing involved. I don’t have a single place to share photos and videos; some will see them if I post on Facebook, others on Instagram, others on Google. The best most publishers have managed is to let you post content to multiple places at once.

My best theory as to why the earlier focus on standards and interoperability has not been applied to newer needs is that we’re now talking about service providers rather than software publishers. They have a much stronger incentive to lock users into their systems. But they’re fighting against Metcalfe’s Law**. Ever more segmentation of the user universe decreases the value of these systems for everyone. The end result will be lowest common denominator communications. Today that’s SMS and email. And the whole incentive for all the new whizbang social and collaboration platforms is that old-school store-and-forward technologies are not good ways to collaborate.

Any hopeful signs out there? I don’t see them.

David

*Mao actually said “Let a hundred flowers blossom,” and those who did generally got executed if Mao didn’t like the result, but I use the common misquotation and I’m not stressing the execution aspect. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/226950.html

**Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalfe%27s_law

Mobile First becoming Mobile Primary?

inbox

Does anyone else have concerns about services that require a mobile app before letting you use them in a browser?

Examples include Instagram and Inbox by Gmail. I’m sure there are many others.

Mobile devices are great, and I’m fine with folks building web sites with mobile access as a primary design concern. But, at least at one time, web sites and html were intended to provide device neutral access to data and services. That neutrality enabled multiple browsers and devices to be introduced as needs changed and new capabilities expanded. And that flexibility encouraged innovation.

Mobile apps developed for specific devices, browsers or operating systems change that equation dramatically. As things now stand the availability of apps can have significant impact on the success of new or alternative devices or browsers. How much of Blackberry’s struggles in the handset marketplace are related to major players like Instagram and Google not providing apps? Of course that can be a chicken-and-egg problem where the publishers can legitimately claim a market is too small to develop for. But that was never a concern in the age of pure html. [One can argue that world went away with the introduction of Internet Explorer 6, but that’s a different rant.]

As a related aside: The browser on Blackberry 10 behaves as expected when presenting a text-based web page, with word wrapping and text sizing based on the size of the screen. On iOS the browser attempts to render the page as it would appear on a desktop browser, even if that makes it too small to read without zooming and scrolling. And that’s how Google assesses mobile compatibility.

I’m not sure if this is just the rant of an old guy or if this is a legitimate concern for future flexibility and innovation in tech. Your thoughts?

David

Chip cards – US banks don’t get it

Chase recently gave us new credit cards with chips but no PIN. My wife is in the Netherlands this week; we’ll see if the chip-only makes the US cards easier or harder to use than previously when there was no chip in US cards.


Thank you for contacting Chase about about a Chip and PIN
card.

Currently Chase does not offer Chip and PIN cards. At
this time, Chase is issuing Chip and Signature cards,
which only require your signature to complete a
transaction.

Here’s what you need to know about our chip cards:
* Chase chip cards require a signature to verify purchases
made at a merchant card reader.
* Some chip-enabled cards require a PIN code to verify the
purchase.
* The difference in the method of verification depends on
the microchip itself and what verification method the
merchant’s card reader is set up to accept.

In certain situations, your Chip and Signature card may
not be accepted:
* Card readers at unattended kiosks may not require a
signature, but some will require Chip and PIN
functionality.
* It’s a good idea to be prepared with alternative payment
methods, such as local currency.
We hope this information is helpful and we thank you for
your business and your trust. If you have additional
questions, please call us using the number on the back of
your card or visit chase.com/smartchip. We’re always
available to assist you.

A New Way To Work

Long discussed alternatives to the traditional mail client are finally starting to emerge, at least in beta. These incorporate some intelligence into mail processing and aim to give users a task-focused, integrated place to serve as their electronic home, as opposed to being at the mercy of everything that lands in the inbox in chronological order. And they basically abandon the idea of a rich client (e.g. Notes, Outlook, Thunderbird) in favor of web based and mobile solutions.

It’s going to be interesting to see how they perform in the real world and if users will adopt them.

The crop includes:

IBM Verse – What’s been previewed for some time as Mail Next is now rolling out as Verse.

http://www.ibm.com/social-business/us/en/newway/index.html

Google Inbox – this has been in preview for personal Gmail accounts for a while but is now coming to Google Apps for Work customers, at least in trial form.

http://googleforwork.blogspot.com/2015/02/lets-build-new-work-inbox-together.html

Microsoft Office 365 – It appears that Microsoft is still focusing on moving folks to their cloud-based Office 365 Suite and hasn’t jumped into the fray directly. Or maybe I’ve just not seen it.

https://products.office.com/en-us/business/explore-office-365-for-business

I would love to hear if anyone is planning to move to one of these alternatives or has any experience with the early releases in an actual work environment. Or are there other contenders to add to the mix?

Old computers, probably not worth the effort?

I periodically get an older computer returned from its original user/purpose. My tendency is to reset it to a “ready and safe to use” condition and keep it for testing, guest use, dedicated use (e.g. running a nightly file copy or serving out a non-networked printer), etc. But with new and refurbished computers so cheap I’m not sure it’s really worth the effort any more.

Today I took back a ThinkPad T61. It’s a nice machine with a big screen. But it’s been all morning and into the afternoon and it’s still not ready to use.

What it takes:

Reset to factory as new — actually pretty fast and easy using the Lenovo recovery from the ThinkVantage button.

Now I’ve got a working machine with Windows XP SP2 and 2 GB RAM. So first step is to salvage some memory from another old machine so I’ve got 3GB (the maximum a 32 bit OS can use anyway). Then I need to get it up to Windows XP SP3 so there’s some chance of running it safely.

This involves two installs (learned from long experience) for which I keep CDs: 1. Install IE 8. 2. Install SP3. If you don’t do it in that order you’ll run into trouble.

Then install some sort of antivirus. I used AVG free. Microsoft’s own AV, Microsoft Security Essentials, will continue to update on Windows XP but you can no longer install it on machines that don’t already have it.

Then start the process of letting all the Windows updates since SP3 was released download and install, in their own arcane order.

And finally install the missing pieces that make a computer usable: Adobe Reader, Java, a browser other than IE.

Granted most of this doesn’t require much attention from me, just an occasional glance over to hit OK or uncheck the inclusion of unwanted junk. It still makes the investment in time much more than the computer is worth.

But I’m still old school enough to hate to toss useable gear.

First world problems I guess.

Google Apps Migration: Lessons Learned

We thought long and hard before migrating from our on premises Domino mail system. I really wanted IBM SmartCloud to be the answer – an easy migration, a familiar environment and no issues accessing our existing Domino apps (in hybrid mode). But Google was the clear winner for a few reasons:

  • Price – a dramatic advantage
  • OS X desktop integration with Drive – nothing available for Mac users with Connections. This probably sealed the deal for Google
  • Easy and cheap CRM (Zoho CRM)

The CRM is interesting. We were using iExtensions from iEnterprises, now owned by Sugar, which was a Domino app. But despite years of promises it appears that an iExtensions to Sugar migration was never implemented. Nobody wanted to take ownership for moving us to Sugar CRM except as a major customization project.

In the end we just moved our contact and leads names from iExtensions to Zoho. We were able to retain our contact owner and categorization/mailing list information. For anything else we need, such as activity history, we’re just going to look back to iExtensions. We would have had to keep at least a couple of Domino servers running for hybrid SmartCloud Notes (or whatever it’s called this week) so instead we’re keeping one Domino server for accessing apps and historical data.

The points that tipped us to Google proved true: There haven’t been any hidden costs (financially) and Drive works enough like Dropbox that the users are happy. It was trivial to move our files over from Quickr to Drive. Zoho CRM works; we don’t have enough history to really say how well it will meet our needs.

What did we find that we didn’t expect?

Google Apps is a bit like Apple’s products. They think they know what you need and they’re going to deliver it to you, even if you want something else. In other words there are what seem to be fairly obvious customizations missing. The most glaring is that there’s no option to reply without history unless you manually erase the history or run a “lab” app to quote selectively.

The calendar and scheduling is a bit idiosyncratic and really doesn’t play well with enterprise mail systems like Exchange and Domino.

In fact everything is a bit idiosyncratic. It doesn’t work the way Outlook, Notes and Thunderbird do things but it also doesn’t work the way Yahoo and ISP web mail systems do them. Generally the capability you’re looking for is there, but Google has their own terminology for common features and a fairly random menu hierarchy.

When something goes wrong Google business support is responsive up to a point (unlike their virtually non-existent consumer support). But if the problem is at all obscure there’s not much they can do. I think this is more about a cloud solution than about Google vs IBM, but it’s sure not the same as opening up log files and sending diagnostics from our own servers off to IBM for analysis.

It’s fairly early to say if the migration will be a success in the long run. Ask me after the teething pains have passed.

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