Microsoft Next event in Tel Aviv

Work has been super busy lately, have had to deal with numerous server and database crashes, and have got worn out from extra hours, stress and personal troubles as well.

At the beginning of November I went to Tel Aviv to a Microsoft Next event in Tel Aviv.   I missed out going to this last time as I had the choice of this or an event at church.   I wanted to do both, but I ended up going to a worship event.

Anyway getting a bus to Tel Aviv, I actually got dropped off in a different bus station than the usual gigantic one which reminds me of David Bowie’s Labyrinth movie.   This one I think was intended for students at the nearby university.

Actually, don’t think I have ever seen IT products on Jerusalem bus shelters, but these Microsoft ads in Tel Aviv seemed well timed for this particular event it seemed.

Fearing I had left too late and wasted the morning, I was pleasantly surprised to be very early actually.    Too early in fact, so I got breakfast at a coffee shop for 36 Shekels, sat in ear shot of some American IT people chatting about plans for their own corporate network.

The emphasis of this event was on the new Windows 8 operating system as well as Windows RT and Surface which are touch driven tablet computers.

Tablet computers I find hard to excited about, even though they are buzzword at the moment.   I need to have a bit more play with the spare iPad at my work, but generally I find iPads and all tablets unappealing, the screen always tilts the wrong direction, and having it propped up with a special leather case always looks a tad ridiculous, as well as their higher cost than a low end Windows laptop with small amount of physical computing power and local storage.  The iPad has no SD slot or USB ports, so editing camera photos isn’t possible on the move, and is reliant on iTunes to communicate with a grown-up computer, not manageable in a large business environment.

The other thing they seem extremely unergonomic to work with.   The screen is highly reflective, and many people in Israel like to use their computers outside which is hard with bright sunlight without a way to pivot the display to the right angle, and seems like a way to easily get neck, back or wrist pain when using them in any kind of posture for a length of time.

Yes, I’m old fashioned for preferring a more established model of computing (desktop or laptop) and I need to stop being a dinosaur and get with the social media luvvie types who rave about tablet computers, and how a tablet interface should control everything even your toaster.    Tweet this piece of bread to Stephen Fry anyone?

After getting in this tent before you can go in the big boat house which is Tel Aviv’s coast, I realised to my horror you were supposed to be prebooked, the web site didn’t make it clear this event needed prior registration, which I never did and closed a week before the event started.

Drat.   Bummer.   Rats.

Windows 8.   I had a brief play with this, as well as I have Windows Server 2012 on my HP Microserver.   That Metro interface which Microsoft tries to keep the name more discreet thinking it got a bad reputation.

Trying to control your computer without start is highly confusing for both experienced IT professionals and people who only use computers domestically.   Even find shutdown is darn impossible without looking at documentation or a a Google search.    Other things like invoking a ‘Run’ command to do a DOS command, and many basic features, feel completely alien and unnatural.

Nevertheless, many people are claiming, “just embrace it and get used to it and you will like it!” to switching from icons and start button layout that’s been around between Windows 95 and 7.   I would like to see tiles of my browser favourites rather a text list at some point soon.

In my job I have to give users training of how to use the computers as tools to do their jobs, and can’t really see big companies taking this seriously.

Small, medium and large businesses want some degree of familiarity for users without too much retraining, and I just can’t see regular office workers wanting to work in this style.    I would be in favour of replacing the mouse with a larger touch pad, which Apple brought out for desktop Macs but doesn’t seem that popular so far.    Hey Belkin and Logitech, why haven’t you brought a product like this for both Windows and Mac?

Microsoft’s Windows Phone platforms still seems dwarfed by iPhone, Android and Blackberry, and with their lack of recent success it hard to see Windows 8 as a desktop environment and its  current Windows Phone counterpart appears to have never reached Israel, seeing as iPhone arrived much later but now is extremely successful even considering it may be as much as 200-300 shekels a month for 2-3 year commitment.

I need to roll out at least another 12 new PCs to replace flakey and old equipment at my work over the next 12 months, so I will be sticking with Windows 7 which is just fine thanks.

Jon’s IT predictions for 2011

In the old days you turned on the Telly and watched Tomorrow’s World for exciting new developments in technology. New gadgets, exciting products that would bring jobs and boost the economy, and revolutionary medicines and treatments for people in hospital.  Sadly a lot of things on TW never got anywhere, and it was a shame the BBC pulled the plug on this show in the 1990s. Pioneering British inventors like Sir Clive Sinclair, and Trevor Bayliss were often featured.

Heres my predictions for changes in the technology world this year:

Buying things online from a mobile device will start to take off, with extra versions of ecommerce sites available made for phones. I can see that you could go to a night club or live music events and buy songs from your mobile device and the venue could promote and take a percentage from buying songs.   Lots of people would be happy to spend on small impulse type purchased inspired by things they see on a billboard or whatever.

Location based mobile applications start to get much bigger.   Clocking in and out of work would be good by GPS.   How about a real life version of the ‘Tron’ lightcycle game (you may know this game as Snake on mobile phones from the 90s) where you can walk or drive around a location against a friend, hitting that invisible line made by your friend means you are dead. I think location based services have a lot of value for businesses to use a clock in type set up for seeing if employers have got in on time, and compliance with fire services. Because of this there are greater security problems with people being careless with keeping their day to day events online, just like there have been burglaries done after victim said they are away on Facebook.

Microsoft will gradually get businesses taking up Windows 7, but for most IT managers its a case of wait and see how someone else gets on, plus there are too many legacy apps that may not work correctly with XP emulation.

Tablet computers will quietly disappear again as they are just novelty devices for web browsing and little else, people will go back to using laptops, the means to use finger gestures to do actions is clever, but with no keyboard, and in the case of iPads with no USB or SD card slots for cheap flash storage, you can only ‘consume’ information and not create it.   Can you imagine people doing serious work that involve typing more than a few sentences?  Tablets would need to be set on a stand to angle them at comfotable angle.   Its really only half a laptop with no means to pivot the screen into a usable way that doesnt bring on neck or back ache.  I think interest in iPads from Apple fans but will start to wane as well.

Google and other search providers will promote statistics. I think people will want to more figures of what’s being searched for and current market trends. Go on Amazon and try and buy a book that out of print or a CD thats been deleted and you have options to buy a second hand one from a third party seller.   Information could be used to tell book publishers and record labels there is demand for certain things no longer available, and thus could justify a new print run.  In 2010 Google (I think) bought about 20-30 start up companies, they will continue to grow massively, they are already looking out for a bigger office for their Israel operations.

Google’s Chromium laptops get canned. There are not cheap enough, and there is too much competition, people are content with their current laptops, and not enough people are using cloud applications yet.   Its a good ideas but the public aren’t ready to give up using localised apps at the moment.  Dumb laptops for cloud only apps could make it in a few years though.

Mozilla, please market Firefox to grown ups like IT managers and persuade them to drop legacy browsers (Internet Explorer)  the current way Firefox is promoted is like a bunch of hippies in a VW bus selling organic soup or something.

Internet service providers should cut off people with severe malware or virus attacks, so should public hotspots, a feature to alert botnet activity or other activity I would expect could be built into enterprise grade wireless routers.

Digital watches with colour screens. Don’t know if they exist yet, but why not? Plug it into the PC and change the numbers fonts style, change the background, put a personal picture as a background screen, just like those LCD picture frames.  I think kids would love them.

Button MP3 players. Heard this on the radio the other day but also seen them online. A button type badge with a self contained MP3 player you pin on your jacket which you attach your headphones. You have a badge with the name of the band you can make a statement about and listen to the album of songs which are fixed on this simple music player. If these could be offered cheaply, they could be a nice way to buy and listen to music and lend them to friends without any legal problems, I think they would also become collectable as small run volumes of certain albums are produced.  Easy to lend them to friends also with no legal issues.  I think its a fab idea, something that would of been great in 1960s if mp3s where around then.

App store for free software?

General IT wishful thinking – skip this to next article if you are not an IT person.

Following Apple’s App store for the iPhone got rolled out also for the iPad and imitated for Android and Windows phones, it seems Apple want to adopt the same methods for people buying software for Macs as well.

I personally this is a great idea, some people will still want to buy software that arrives in a box with media and documentation that they can put on a shelf they can get to if support query or a reinstall becomes necessary, but I think it would good to give the customer a choice.   Just like music can be downloaded or its nice to have a tangible item, an actual CD with artists notes, lyrics etc.

Heres an idea, what would happen if the free/open source software movement could have a online software store?

Free software as alternative to popular commercial apps can be got from sites like www.alternativeto.net or www.osalt.com, but instead of downloading an executable file, you have an automated way of doing it using a simple browser plug in.  Why?

There is a quite a bit of usability aspect which is not always factored in on some software.  Some free software, the method of downloading the app can a bit confusing.  Anyone who has downloaded a Linux ISO image knows this, you get taken to an FTP site with a whole load of confusing files, which its not easy to tell which is the download that suits you.

A lot of consumer users don’t free software as they don’t know a lot of exists.  They use Internet Explorer as that was the browser that came with their computer, and they don’t want to change anything as they don’t feel confident to do it.   Joe Consumer may often not know how ZIP or RAR files are handled or what they are for.  As an IT pro I had never heard of Virtualbox, a free virtualisation client as an alternative to VMware and Microsoft’s Virtual PC until a work colleague told me about it.  I have yet to find a really good web site that announces new and exciting developments in free software thats not just geared to coders and developers.   So essentially a typical consumer goes out to a physical shop to buy software as its too confusing working out what software is free and what is a trial version and what comes bundles with spyware and other unwanted rubbish.

I use and recommend Infrarecorder to burn CDs and DVDs on Windows PC rather than the more common commercial Nero burning suite which has got so over complicated and comes with many annoying unwanted extras which have caused crashes and stability problems in previous places I have worked for.   Infrarecorder is great as it does everything you want burning discs easily without any fuss.

You could:

1/ Have a simple way to deploy top quality free software for all type of people, via a portal which makes installing onto your computer in a standard uniform way (Windows/Mac/Linux)

2/ An option to pay some money for software thats normally free but get a support package, ie: printed manuals or training or X number of tickets or hours or professional telephone or email support with a specialist who know a lot about this app.    Or, sell extra tools to deploy apps in a large network environment, like with SMS that rolll out apps silently to each workstation.

A check box would be default only search the free software store for fullly completed release apps, unchecking the box would should beta test versions of software with a usual disclaimer that this software is not production ready yet.

More and more free software is multiple languages as well, a search engine could be customised for all languages or English only.

The software store would only have applications that follow the GNU general public licence for free software,  ie: this means nothing with spyware, bundled toolbars or other tat.   No trial versions commercial applications either.

I think this would give the open source software movement more audience from all kinds of PC users of all platforms, all abilities, consumers and businesses alike.