Category Archives: 13757

New and Notable – 25th June 2010

Some of the things that I’ve found interesting over the last few days…

Windows Live Essentials “Wave 4” beta is out

Some major improvements that I like here. Windows Live Messenger has tabbed conversations, so you don’t need a different window open for each person you’re chatting with. Windows Live Photo Gallery has a neat facial recognition feature, so you can tag a person in a photo and it’ll try to find other instances of that person across your photo collection, and the marvellous Photo Fuse feature (formerly Group Shot).

I found a bug in it pretty quickly when I launched Messenger and got a message saying ‘%1 wants to be friends.’ I checked on the site and of course it wasn’t somebody called %1, it was someone with a proper name, who had left a message saying ” Hi, I’m [a different name again!] and I have some sexy undies to show you if you visit my site at…” Spammers; meh.

I was quick to turn off the “underline a word if I can add content about it from the web” feature in Messenger. Oh, and one quick tip – if you don’t need the whole suite (like the Family Safety feature or Bing Bar), make sure you hit the “Choose the programs you want” link, rather than “Download now”, which gives you the lot.

Windows Live Essentials may not be totally essential to everyone, but I recommend it and would suggest you download the beta.

You don’t hold it; it holds you!

So the iPhone 4 is out. Demand it high, stock was short, queues were long. I had a chance to see what it felt like in the hand and was suitable impressed with the very, very lovely screen. It’s a really nice device and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

Of course I intentionally held it in my left hand with my palm bridging the two metal strips in the bottom left and I saw what lots of people are up in arms about. It really does drop reception to practically nothing. Apple have acknowledged the issue, with Steve Jobs himself saying “Just avoid holding it that way.” Well that’s one answer, but it’s quite a rubbish one since the whole reason to put the antenna strips on the outside was to improve reception, and that’s a fairly natural way to hold the phone.

Now whether this is a mistake, or the reason for Apple selling iPhone 4 Bumpers (glorified rubber bands), I don’t know. It seems there are also mutterings of similar issues on older iPhones that have been updated to iOS4, when I’d say it’s fairly obvious that the iPhone 4 issue is the design and not the software. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Personally I think it’s a shame to have to cover up such a pretty device, but I’m also big into function over form too, and you probably want to protect your investment as well as your reception, so you’d best start looking for an iPhone 4 case – there are plenty to choose from.

Kinect pricing and Xbox Live Family pack

The price of Kinect for Xbox 360 was one of the things that was really missing from Microsoft’s E3 press conference. Several online retailers were listing it at $150 dollars, but nothing was official. Then Microsoft’s own online store listed Kinect for $149.99, which left everyone assuming that is indeed the price. I don’t think that’s necessarily a given, but there’s a good chance.

That is higher than I would’ve liked to see, but if you think about it – you only need one Kinect for multiplayer games, whereas if you wanted motion controlled multiplayer action on the PS3 or Wii, you’re potentially going to be buying a bunch of wand and navigation type controllers and those mount up. I have to say that if it is going to be $150, and especially if it’s going to be converted to £150 in the UK (which wouldn’t be a surprise), I’d like to see a game pack-in. I would also like a lottery win. I’m not sure which is less likely.

If you were wondering, like I was, what’s going to happen when your Kinect recognises your face and signs you in to your Xbox Live account, and you’re playing an online game, but only one of you has a Gold account and the others are Silver, then wonder no more! Microsoft are releasing the Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack in conjunction with Kinect’s release in November. US pricing is $99 per year – the price of two Gold annual subscriptions – which give you four users.

Sounds like they’ve done some sensible stuff in terms of the primary user being able to do things like dish out Microsoft Points to the other accounts for them to buy content. The only question I have is how that ties in to my existing Gold account, which, for a variety of reasons, is paid up until January 2012!

The other interesting Kinect news is that (unsurprisingly) it’s going to be appearing in use with devices other than the Xbox 360. I want to control my PC by waving my hands at it.

SE help you find and share Android apps

The Android Market for apps is woeful. It may be getting better in newer versions, but there’s still no getting around the fact that it’s sadly lacking. It’s not surprising that 3rd parties are making the effort to help people discover Android apps.

Sony Ericsson are the latest to do this with their site. People create collections of apps (mash-ups, mash-apps – you see what they’ve done there?), which can be shared and searched.

Personally, I use AppAware on my phone, which is good for showing what’s hot and what’s not, but Mash-App may be useful too – it’ll depend on the user base. One to watch anyway.

And there’s more…

You can hear me chatting about some of these stories and more with Andy and Ben in NEBytes Bytecast episode 3, which will appear at in the next day or so.

New and Notable – 13th June 2010

I’m not planning to do this on a schedule (the last time was on the 18th May), but what I do plan to do is batch up interesting bits of news and things that I’ve found and do a roundup post. There’s been a lot of news in the last week with Microsoft and Apple both hosting big conferences, so these are a few things and links that you might find interesting from TechEd North America and WWDC and the week before, and my views on them…

Office Web Apps go live on Skydrive

You can now sign in to with your Live ID and upload/create/edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files. This has instantly made me a former user of Google Docs and Evernote. The biggest win in my mind here is OneNote, where you can create a notebook in the cloud, add/edit note in your browser and open the notebook from the full OneNote client on any number of PCs where it will sync up for you. I’d been using Evernote to do that, but OneNote is just a better app, and you can share your online notebook with others and collaborate. The same is true of Excel spreadsheets in the web app (although you can’t collaborate on those via the desktop application yet).

Editing capabilities are limited in the Office Web Apps, but they’re still, in my opinion, better than the Google equivalents. Whether you wo with the Office Web Apps, or stick with Google Docs, the battle for this space has been joined, and that can only be a good thing.

Apple announces iPhone 4

There’s no way you didn’t already know that, right? I was following the WWDC keynote live on and thinking “this is a device I would like to own”, although that often happens with Apple keynotes and it isn’t until the days and weeks afterwards that you hear the flip-side of the story. It’s fair to say though that this launch didn’t go as planned, with attendees flooding the room with wifi and creating enough interference to cause an embarrassing failure of Steve Jobs’ demos:

Anyone who has ever done a live demo of anything has probably suffered a demo failure similar to this, so Steve has my sympathy.

As well as the new phone, which Gizmodo had famously reported on (but failed to actually work out the highlights of the new hardware, like the lovely high definition screen), the operating system gained a new name, iOS, which was a name previously owned by Citrix (along with iPhone as it happens).

There were some other good announcements, like PDF support in iBooks, the availability of Safari 5, Bing as an optional search provider in iOS and Safari 5, and of course reference to the fact that 2 million iPads were sold in the first 60 days. MacOS was conspicuous by its absence.

Apple had other cause to celebrate this as their market cap surpassed Microsoft’s at the end of May. I wonder if that now makes them the evil empire?

Microsoft TechEd North America in New Orleans

Microsoft’s keynote at TechEd, mostly presented by Bob Muglia, wasn’t without its own share of the demo gremlins. During a demo of the impressive Communications Server “14” (which has been variously called Office Communications Server and Live Communications Server in previous incarnations). When the remote demo-er was annotating a plan of the TechEd venue, the annotations appeared to the audience long before the underlying floor plan. Not a big deal, but I bet it worked perfectly in rehearsals.

Main themes appeared to be: Windows Azure and SQL Azure, Communications Server “14”, Windows Phone 7, Bing updates for devlopers, Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 (beta available before the end of July), Windows Server AppFabric, Exchange 2010 SP1.

The Exchange 2010 SP1 stuff was probably the most interesting to me, especially the fact that the native archiving feature has been enhanced, so you can store an archive on any mailbox database (rather than just on the same database as the actual mailbox in the RTM version – I don’t need to point out how useless that was, but it was so useless that it’s worth re-iterating!).

365 sessions recorded in New Orleans are now available on-demand.

Communications Server PowerShell blog launches

Tied in to the coverage of the product at TechEd, the Communication Server folks at Microsoft launched a blog specifically to cover the use of PowerShell with the forthcoming version. The support is really extensive, and for those who have used PowerShell with Exchange, it will appear pretty familiar (and that’s a good thing, especially in this case). They’ve sensibly realised that a lot of people may get their first exposure to PowerShell with Communications Server “14” and so they’ve provided not only a reference for CS PowerShell, but also a reference for getting started with PowerShell 2.0. Nice work.

Dell launch into the smartphone market with the Streak

I’ve been looking forward to the Streak device since it was first announced (and referred to as the Dell Mini 5). It’s running Android, which I like a lot, and it’s got a gorgeous big screen, being not just a smartphone, but a 5 inch tablet – lovely for web browsing. I even had one in my posession briefly earlier this week until I learned that the only models available at the moment are locked to O2’s network. It now looks like I’ll have to wait until they’re available direct from later in the month. Until then, I’ll continue hoping for the Android 2.1 update for the HTC Hero!

Google copies Bing

Google surprised and angered a lot of people by putting a full page image on the background of their search page. Personally I didn’t think they did it as nicely as Bing does (the text on top of the image wasn’t as readable; Bing uses slightly opaque text boxes to improve contrast), but they were quick to point out in an update to this blog post that they just made this temporary change for a day to show people that they now have the option to add their own background to the page. Normal service is now resumed.

New and Notable – 18th May 2010

These are a few things that I’ve picked up from Twitter and blogs this week. I may already have retweeted some of them if you’re following me on Twitter, but there are a few other things too. Some of it is new news, some of it is just new to me. I’ve never done a round-up post like this before – I might start to make it a regular thing, or I may never do it again – we’ll see (I appreciate feedback!)…

New Hotmail

When I heard the details of the forthcoming update to Hotmail a little while ago, I was surprised that they’d done enough that I actually felt genuinely excited about it. I intended to write a full post on it, but Microsoft have beaten me to that with this post on the Inside Windows Live blog, and the Hotmail preview site. I really like what they’re doing with integrating SkyDrive and Office Web Apps, as well as the social network integration. I currently use Gmail as the interface to my Hotmail account, but I think I’ll start to do the opposite when this Wave 4 update is released.

The 2010 Scripting Games are over, expert solutions being posted

I’ve recommended the Scripting Games before as a great thing to get involved in if you’re interested in building up your PowerShell skills. Unfortunately other things have stopped me taking part in this year’s games, although I do intend to still have a go at the challenges when time allows because I’m sure I’ll learn something from giving them a go. The reason that I’m posting about it now is that the expert solutions to the events are being posted. If you’ve taken part, go and see how the experts’ scripts matched up to your own. If you didn’t take part, have a go before you check out what the experts say.

Office Live Workspaces to use SkyDrive and Office Web Apps

Everyone who ever heard about Office Live Workspaces would’ve seen this coming a mile off, but it is now official.

Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio 2010 released

There’s been a preview release of these tools available, but the final release is now released to the web and Scott Guthrie has blogged the deets. You don’t need the full version of Visual Studio 2010 to make use of these free tools – you can install them alongside the (also free) Visual Web Developer 2010 Express Edition.

Spotify offers new account options, opens floodgates

Spotify is about the best thing on the internet that wasn’t available in the States first! It’s a massive catalogue of streaming music, with recently added Facebook integration. Until now you’ve had the option of a free, invitation-only, ad-supported service, or Premium (for a tenner a month), which offered higher quality streaming and the ability to take your playlists offline, either on the desktop client or the iPhone/Android apps. Now you can pay half the Premium cost to get rid of the ads when streaming on the desktop, and Open accounts, which are like a limited trial, but open to anyone without an invite. The details are on the Spotify blog.

Really Good Space Shuttle Photos 

I’ve seen these posted in a couple of places (Steve Clayton was first) and they’re too good to not share. There’s over 40 shots on’s Big Picture site, showing the preparation and launch of the Atlantis on it’s last mission.

Square card readers have started shipping

If you’re in the USA and have a desire to be able to accept card payments, you can now do it with Square. The free card reader connects to the headphone socket on your iPhone/iPad or Android device and the Square app lets you take payments, with Square taking their cut of the transaction. That’s the only charge and you don’t need a merchant account, so it’s all good. Wouldn’t be good for the UK since you have to use chip’n’pin these days. Don’t know whether that’s likely to be in Square’s future.