I’ve been called a Microsoft Fanboy, a shill, a Microsoft employee. I’m none of those, really. Except for maybe the first one. However, the more I learn about Microsoft, and not just their products, but their employees, their mission, their passion, the more I really love the company itself.
For example, take this post from Dona Sarkar, the head of the Windows Insider team: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/do-you-believe-mission-dona-sarkar/ (Do You Believe in the Mission?). She, along with many other employees are not just drones creating the next editions of the software that many people enjoy, more people use, and a few people despise. They are very caring, passionate, and great people that are putting their hearts and souls into their work. Their work that doesn’t just stop with creating the software.
I took the time to watch the Facebook Live presentation from Microsoft Careers this morning, and again: the passion and the love the employees had was very apparent. They weren’t just recruiting new employees to fill the voids of others. They were looking for people that were as passionate and talented as the others at Microsoft that would fit into the company’s goals and their mission: Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
While I have not been a Microsoft employee, I have interacted with many of their employees in the past and currently. They are always professional, yet very friendly and interactive with users. The Windows Insider team interacts with users via their Mixer webcasts, reddit, Facebook, Microsoft Communities, the Feedback Tool within Windows 10, and other outlets. They aren’t doing this to bolster their image. They are doing this so they can listen to consumers and improve the product they love working on. They will go out of their way to address an issue you may be experiencing, or let you know they are working on it. All while wearing a taco hat with a Ninja Cat mascot.
The Xbox team is always working to make sure you have fun. Major Nelson is very receptive online to any issues people have and pops in on some forums quite often to say hello and answer some questions.
The Microsoft MVP team and MVP’s work together to help bridge the gap between users and the development teams. They share information, MVP’s help users understand Microsoft products better, and many share that same passion that Microsoft employees have.
Microsoft used to have that stigma that I used to think of with IBM. Suits, suits, and more suits. It came off as a tight ship, creating products to sell at the highest profit via an assembly line. As of lately, this is definitely not the case.
Does this make me a Fanboy? Maybe. I think the praise Microsoft gets as a company itself is well deserved. Their individual products? How they handle some products and hardware? Well… I can’t say they have a great track record in doing things right. Great products got the axe, while some less than great products stuck around. I sure wish I had a Zune right about now, and I wouldn’t be writing about it using Yammer!
For those Microsoft MVP’s from the past that are not current, there is a new program called the Reconnect program. The program is a nice way for Microsoft to recognize your contributions from the past, connect with other former MVP’s using their private Yammer groups, and get some new interactions with Microsoft.
Members of the MVP Reconnect program will also receive a nice MVP coin in a display holder.
Being a former MVP myself for the time being, I really appreciate the time and effort Microsoft is putting into this program. I am finding a lot of other great former MVP’s, enjoyed the latest online Skype call, and love the interaction and communication with Microsoft.
The Yammer groups are fairly active, with a lot of good conversations going on. From the introduction posts to the sharing of knowledge of Microsoft products to random chit chat, it’s a nice place to visit other former MVP’s.
As this is a new program, it is still in the ‘beta’ phase. There is talk of other benefits that you may or may not receive in the future. However, as it currently stands – it’s a great program to be a part of. All former MVP’s that were in good standing are applicable to join. So, if you are a former MVP, I recommend signing up and at least introducing yourself in the Yammer groups!
The program is open to all former MVPs, regardless of technical expertise or award category, with a minimum of 1 full MVP Award year. Members must be in good standing, meaning that they must have no Code of Conduct or NDA violations.
We believe that having a diverse population will increase the impact of networking and create unique opportunities that were not possible in the past!
Put simply, if you are a former MVP, we’d love for you to join!
Why should I join?
MVP Reconnect will be the official channel for you to stay connected to other community leaders and Microsoft. You will have the opportunity to participate in an exclusive networking channel, events, and private discussions, as well as local and global offerings.
If your contributions to the technical community slow down temporarily, staying connected means that you maintain a good position for future recognition as an active MVP. If you have a long history with the MVP program, you’ll be able to share your experiences and coach others to take full advantage of all the opportunities that the MVP Award can provide.
This is not a program from Microsoft to the community; this is a program where Microsoft and the community contribute together to have a bigger impact! For this reason, we have decided to have a joint management approach and we are establishing an advisory board. Five to ten members will be part of this board and they will have the responsibility to represent the community and lead the constant evolution of the MVP Reconnect program. They will partner with Microsoft to define new features of the program, consolidate feedback, and evaluate cool new ideas for members. We will have periodic elections to select new board members. As part of a true community, you, through your advisory board representation, will be able to participate in driving new ideas, shaping the community structure, and building this program for the future.
After you are approved in the program, we will send you a small thank you gift to show our appreciation.
Microsoft has a new way to suggest ideas, features and suggestions for Windows – Windows Feature Suggestion Box. Using User Voice, it allows you to submit feedback for Windows. Users get to vote on the best submissions and Microsoft will look at the highest voted suggestions and see if they can implement them in a future update of Windows.
Users get 20 votes to start and can vote 1-3 times per suggestion. When you are out of votes, you can take away from previous voted suggestion. If a suggestion is added into Windows, you get those votes back. This is used for suggesting features and not for submitting bugs and errors to the Windows team.
Windows Phone has a similar User Voice available, and I have voted on and submitted several ideas over the years, and many have been implemented. Microsoft does listen and take these suggestions seriously.
It is a nice feeling when you suggest a feature and people vote on it. Seeing that feature in Windows, and knowing that you had a part in getting it in the product (one way or another).
Microsoft is moving in the right direction by taking a lot of input from users via the feedback tool in Windows 10 Technical Preview, Windows Feature Suggestion Box, MVP program, and other avenues.
Windows Feature Suggestion Box provides the Windows PC/Tablet user community with a channel for feedback. To help us build the best version of Windows ever, we created this forum to hear your ideas, suggestions and feedback. Please vote for a feature suggestion or submit your own!
How Does This Work?
Standard Disclaimer – our lawyers made us put this here 😉 Please note that the Windows Feature Suggestion Box is moderated and is a voluntary participation-based project. If your submission is not a product feature suggestion it may be removed. Please do not send any novel or patentable ideas, copyrighted materials, samples or demos which you do not want to grant a license to Microsoft. Your submission is subject to these License Terms . Please limit your suggestions to 25 words or less.
In a recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit, and grabbing some nice karma in the process, the Outlook.com team has made the announcement that they now support IMAP and OAuth. While it already supported EAS (Exchange Activesync), it now allows more devices and applications to access the service, giving you more options to use your email.
There are several applications that have taken advantage of the new feature, including TripIT, Slice, motely*bunch, Unroll.me and several others.
There were a lot of questions answered in the AMA, with 947 questions. It is nice to see that the team has a great sense of humor and are pretty humble. Seems like a great bunch of people.
How to set up IMAP
To configure your client to use the new IMAP feature of Outlook.com, use the following settings:
Incoming IMAP Server: imap-mail.outlook.com Server port: 993 Encryption: SSL
Outgoing SMTP Server: smtp-mail.outlook.com Server port: 587 Encryption: TLS
Thanks to the Outlook.com team for the AMA and for the great new IMAP feature, as well as other smaller but very welcome additions.
* I’m an Outlook.com Insider, ask me about Outlook.com or click to learn more about the Outlook.com Insiders program.
I get asked “Can my machine run this game?” almost daily. Well, an online program from System Requirements Lab has made it so that you can answer that question yourself without knowing your system specifications or the minimum & recommended requirements.
You can select your game from the drop down box or just type it in. Hit run, and it will install a small program to find your system specifications and show you a graph of where your system stands with the requirements. It will go through each one and show you how your machine stacks up. If it’s too low for the game, it will show you a recommendation on what you need to do to get up and running.
For this little laptop, I’m way off on the built in video card. Otherwise, I look pretty good!
If you have any doubts on whether your machine is good enough for a game, check out this site. It’s free, extremely fast and works excellent.
I’ve set upon a personal challenge: try 30 days with an Apple iPad. This doesn’t seem too bad, until you find out this will be my first personal Apple purchase. I don’t have anything against Apple, it’s just finding a use for the device. I’ve always had a problem that required a tool. This is the first time I’m buying a tool without having a problem.
I’m a lifelong Microsoft user, having used Apple products very rarely (Apple 2e, Mac Classic and recently a Hackintosh). I’ve played with other peoples Apple products (iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone 4), but never got too deep into the workings of them. So, I am a complete newbie when it comes to Apple products. I’m an IT nerd, but I am completely in the dark with iOS or Mac OSX (other than the BSD based core).
I’m coming from a modded Nook Color (using Cyanogen Mod 7.1), which has served me very well. I love Android OS and it’s openness, modability, and the plethora of options available. This is also why I was hesitant on an iPad, it’s pretty much the opposite. Windows 8 tablets aren’t available right now, not that they weren’t on the list for a future purchase. This was more of a “buy it now, ask questions later” purchase.
I bought a black 16 GB version with Wi-fi (not ready for the commitment of a 4G plan yet). Accessories are incoming via Amazon (I didn’t even consider a Kindle Fire). It’s nice and light, very simple packaging. Just minimal packaging and graphics.
So, after a day of using it, I don’t know if it’s the new gadget feelings or the actual device, but it’s a very spectacular device. I won’t go into detail on the retina display as I’m sure it’s beaten to death many, many times. It’s good. It’s excellent. I’ll leave it at that. The iPad is a lot faster and more responsive than my Android, which is expected for the specifications and that the Nook Color was designed to be an e-reader and not a tablet. Also, a huge price difference ($200 vs. $500). But, even with basic reading of PDF’s or ePub books – the iPad is much faster at rendering, and the 10” screen allows me to read a page without zooming or scrolling to view the full page. The rendering is excellent, the text is extremely easy to read and the pictures are clear.
The touchscreen is extremely accurate and responsive. It is a huge improvement from the Nook Color. It is a night and day difference.
Battery life is good so far – I charged it once yesterday when I bought it to 100%. I’m at 75% now after using it quite a bit.
iTunes. Well, I found a weakness of the iPad. iTunes on Windows crashes, locks up, becomes unresponsive, and is generally a pain in the ass. Sometimes, it takes 2 or 3 times of connecting the iPad to get iTunes to recognize it. Windows can see it fine, but iTunes just is blind to the fact that it’s there.
Another thing that I am having difficulty adjusting to is the lack of a file explorer. I would like to have folders that hold the various files I have on the iPad. I’d like to move files over and then decide which application opens the file. Instead, I use iTunes to move my books, music and files over. Some other apps require me to use Dropbox to store them and open them from there. This is something I’ll have to get used to.
Using the thing is pretty easy once you figure out how things are laid out and where to find things. I spend a good 5 minutes looking for the browser (tip: it’s not in the scrollable icons by default: it’s in the dock at the bottom). Chalk that up to a newbie problem. Other than that minor problem, I’ve had nothing but fun with this thing. I’ve downloaded a bunch of apps (any suggestions on must-have’s?), including Microsoft’s OneNote, StreamToMe, Angry Birds, Flipboard, Twitter and TeamViewer. I’d like a nice SSH/Telnet application, but I’m not paying $10 to find out that I don’t like it. My Windows Phone allows me to “try” an application before I commit to buy the full thing. I’ve been misled in the past with a crappy paid for app, and I don’t want it happening again.
So, after 1 day, I’d say I’m a fan. The iPad isn’t magical, though. It’s just a good tablet and excellent e-reader. But, I’ll report back after 15 days and again at 30. Let’s see if this satisfaction can last a month. Now, if I can just figure out how to get rid of iTunes, I’d be happy.
Also, somewhat related: can you build iPad apps using Windows, or is Objective C only available on the Mac? Can’t find much information for programming apps on Windows.
Windows 8 includes a new feature called File History, which is an advanced backup program. It can periodically create a backup of files from your libraries (which you can customize to any folder or files) to an external drive or network location. This is an extremely valuable feature, as I have been called many times asking if I can get a file back that they overwrote or lost due to a hard drive failure. There are times when I can get the file back, other times they are out of luck. With this feature, your files can be safe in case of a hard drive or machine failure, or in case you accidently delete a file and empty the recycle bin.
The File History program is located in the Control Panel, and is very easy to use.
You can select when files are backed up and what files or folders to be backed up, as well as where you want them to be backed up. It only takes a minute to set up and is an extremely valuable feature.
This is a great feature for home use, and I am hoping that Windows Server 8 will include a backup feature similar that does everything through Group Policy. Having it on the client side is excellent for a home environment or a small office, but managing it on a larger scale is impractical.
I am currently using a network drive for a backup. I am wondering if you could use multiple drives for redundant backups, or in case of one (network drive) being unavailable.
The Internet is full of great information, and anything is available from music to movies to books and everything in between. However, with all that great knowledge and entertainment there is also the bad and the ugly. For those with children in the house that also use the family computer, this could be a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, Microsoft has seen the dark side of the Internet and being a family oriented company, they have included a set of Parental Controls within Windows 7 (it is also available for Windows Vista).
There are a lot of options available to keep your family safe while online and offline. Parental Controls can limit what sites your child goes to with a whitelist and a blacklist, limit what games they can and cannot play, limit when they can use the computer and what programs they are allowed to run. There are a few initial steps to configure before you can set all the options, however.
First, you need to make sure your main Administrator account is password protected. This makes it so that your child cannot access your account and turn off Parental Controls. Next, you need to make sure you have another account made for the person that you are going to enable Parental Controls. This can all be done from the Parental Controls icon within the Control Panel.
Now that the hard part is over, it is time to setup the actual Parental Controls, which is pretty self-explanatory. You can access the Parental Controls through the Control Panel.
You set time limits for computer usage for any time day or night. This isn’t the best way to control access to the PC for the kids, but if you want to make sure they go to bed on time, get their homework done, or only like to allow them a certain amount of time online, this is a great place to set a limit on when they can use the PC. The one thing that you cannot do is limit the duration of time online. You can only limit the hours and days which they can or cannot use the PC.
Most kids enjoy gaming on the PC, from the basic Solitare to the newest Crysis. But, some games are not appropriate for all ages. You can set limits on what games can be played based on the ESRB rating. This can keep the kids from downloading and playing a Mature rated game without your knowledge.
You can also limit or block which games have certain content, rather than the rating. If you want to have any game other than those with drugs and alcohol, that option is available. There is a long list of items you can block. This will block the entire game from running under the Kids account, not block the actual content of the game itself. You can also block individual games from running that are already installed on your computer.
The last feature of the Windows 7 Parental Controls is the ability to block individual applications. The best way to do this is to enable all and only disable the few that you do not want them to be able to access. Some are dependent on others, and some are easily overlooked that could interfere with legitimate usage.
After all is said and done with Parental Controls, your kids will be limited as to what they can do. But, there are weaknesses in the built in controls. Microsoft has recognized this and added an Additional Controls which allows you to select other providers to compliment the built in settings. The one that is available from the start is the Windows Live Family Safety, part of Windows Live Essentials. This allows you to monitor more of their online activities including who they can chat with, what websites they can and cannot visit, and get reports on what sites they do visit.
While no parental control program is completely secure and able to protect your family from everything, Parental Controls definitely takes a step in the right direction. Coupled with Windows Live Family Safety, you will have peace of mind of your childs safety while on the PC.
Microsoft is active in many social networks, from Facebook to Twitter. However, finding their correct, official accounts can be a chore at times. This is a compilation on Twitter and Facebook accounts for the REAL Microsoft Corporation. If anyone has any more that should be added to this list, please feel free to let me know!
@MSWindows – Microsoft Windows.
@WindowsLive – Microsoft Windows Live.
@MajorNelson – Major Nelson, aka Larry Hryb of the Xbox 360 group.
@liveframework – Live Framework.
@livemesh – Sync, share, and access the information you want.
@SharePoint – SharePoint product group – managed by @LLiu.
@bizspark – Microsoft BizSpark for startup companies.
@zunemarketplace – Zune Marketplace for the Zune media player.
@wmdev – Windows Mobile development
@microsofttag – Microsoft Tag
@ch9 – listen to the cockpit, help us fly the plane
@ch10 – Channel 10 is Microsoft’s online community for the technology enthusiast.
@ch8 – Microsoft’s community for students.
@mixonline – Come check us out at www.visitmix.com
@MicrsftTech4All – News from the Microsoft accessability crew.
@MSDN – Updates from the MSDN site team.
@adCenterBlog – News, Tips, Tricks & Best Practices From Microsoft adCenter
@MVPBuzz – News and information from the MVP team (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional)
@Bing – Bing Search Engine
@MSFTnews – Official news for MSFT Corporation
@Microsoft_EDU – Microsoft Education
@msdynamicscrm – Microsoft Dynamics
@msftdynamicserp – Microsoft Dynamics ERP marketing team
@msdyncomm – Microsoft Dynamics Community
@MSproductivity – Productivity tips from the Enterprise team
@office365 – Microsoft’s online Office 365
@teched – TechEd, Microsofts annual conference
@mspartner – For Microsoft Partners
@msdn – Updates from the MSDN Site
@windowsphone – Windows Phone updates and tips
@sharepoint – Sharepoint Team
@ie – Internet Explorer
@windowsazure – Windows Azure
@visualstudio – Visual Studio
@WP7Expert – Windows Phone 7 information for retailers
Microsoft has released a program called Insomnia, including source code. Many times when watching a movie, a PC will try and go to sleep, interrupting the movie. Insomnia fixes this issue by making the computer appear “busy” so that it does not go to sleep.
But what about those times when the computer is busy doing something and the relevant program doesn’t suppress the default sleep behavior? For example, it might be downloading a large file, re-encoding a music collection, backing up the hard drive, or hashing the entire contents of the disk. You don’t want the machine to go to sleep for now, but are otherwise happy with the default sleep behavior. Unfortunately, the easiest way I know of to temporarily suppress sleeping is to go to Control Panel, open the Power Options page, change the power plan settings, commit them – and then remember to undo everything once the task is finished. It’s not hard; but it’s kind of annoying…