Microsoft’s “Scroogled” Ad Campaign

December 7, 2013

Microsoft has a new ad campaign which specifically attacks Google, called “Scroogled”. You can buy coffee mugs and T-Shirts from the Microsoft store that say, “Don’t Get Scroogled” or “Keep Calm While We Steal Your Data” with the Google Chrome logo on the mug. I find it amusing that Microsoft says this, while they seem to charge high prices for their Windows OS upgrades and Surface tablets.

Microsoft also has some YouTube videos directly attacking Google: video 1 and video 2. In these videos Microsoft assumes most people want or need to run apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Microsoft Office (for Word, Excel, Outlook). Which, of course, the Google Chromebook cannot do. I can personally say that I don’t use Microsoft Office on my iMac at home, and I’m doing just fine. Instead, I’m using the Open Source freeware called ApacheOffice which works just as good as Microsoft’s Word/Office/Powerpoint and is compatible with the Microsoft counterpoints.

I own a Samsung Google Chromebook and I do have to admit I don’t use it much. Actually, I don’t use any laptop for personal use, but instead use my Nexus 7 and Acer A500 tablets at home and while on the go. I suppose I reserve all my serious typing activities for my home iMac and only need to web browse or view emails while being mobile.

What I do like about my Chromebook is that it was very inexpensive, has relatively long battery life, and boots up within 60 seconds. It also automatically downloads and upgrades the OS in the background without me having to deal with it (unlike Microsoft’s constant and annoying OS updates). Yes, the available Google Chrome apps are not as powerful as those designed for the Apple Macs or Windows PCs, but they are sufficient for my needs.

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Constant Windows Updates!

December 26, 2012

One think I hated about using a Microsoft Windows PC is the contant updates you needed to install. It seemed that every week you had to install 1 or more updates for security or for updating some Windows component on your system. More often than not, you needed to do a full reboot of your system after installing such updates. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t see updates for my iMac, but they are much more infrequent and in most cases it doesn’t require a system reboot.

I bring this up because whenever I start up my Windows 7 desktop machine to convert a video file (using Handbrake) or search for a pdf file or document I’m always asked to install some kind of Windows Update. Almost every time– never fails. Man, I’m glad I’m using an iMac as my main desktop computer system!


Outlook.com – The new Gmail?

December 16, 2012

Screenshot 2012-12-16 at 12.39.55 PMMicrosoft has quietly introduced the cloud based system called outlook.com, which is basically designed to compete with Google’s Gmail online system. As it turns out, it seems that outlook.com isn’t really new, but rather a renamed version of Microsoft’s Hotmail online product. In the user community, the Hotmail name has a negative connotation and as such it doesn’t surprise anyone that Microsoft chose to rename it as Outlook.com since almost everyone in the business world uses Outlook as their main productivity application.

Since getting an account with Outlook.com is free, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised. First, the email interface was very user friendly and clean. It sports the new “metro” look that Microsoft is moving towards with their phones, tablets, and PC operating systems. What’s especially nice for Android users, is that you can access your Outlook.com email as a Microsoft Exchange Server and get push email (like you can do with Gmail).

Outlook.com also has a calendar system that’s comparable to Google Calendar (and through Exchange you can sync your calendar events also with your Android device). The ecosystem is also tied to Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which allows you to create and edit Word/Excel/Powerpoint documents. I was particularly impressed with how well the online version of Excel worked in a browser, much better than Google’s Sheets.

So will I switch from Google Gmail and Calendar over to Outlook.com’s– the jury is still out. I haven’t decided to go through the steps of making the conversion, but I will keep an eye on Microsoft’s new system just in case it has some new features I can’t live without!


Calendar mayhem!

April 17, 2011

I have trouble remembering appointments, family events, birthdays, etc. so I rely heavily on a calendar to keep my life in order. This is true for both my personal and business life, so like to keep two separate calendars to keep things compartmentalized. The issue I’ve been struggling with is finding the most efficient way of dealing with these two calendars and keeping them synced with my computers and mobile devices.

So here’s what I have available:

  1. Personal calendar for my personal appointments and events
  2. Business calendar for my work appointments, travel dates, etc.
  3. An iMac at home running Snow Leopard Mac X OS
  4. A Dell laptop running Windows 7 for work
  5. An Apple iPhone 4 as my smartphone
  6. Microsoft Exchange Server for my work email, calendar, and contacts
  7. Apple MobileMe for Calendar, Email, and Contacts
  8. Google Calendar and Contacts
My goal, is to be able to view and edit my calendar appointments (personal and business) on my iMac desktop computer, Dell laptop, and iPhone device. I know there’s all kinds of 3rd-party freeware and commercial software for syncing calendar data between applications and the cloud, but I wanted to minimize that as much as possible to eliminate any chances of “foul ups”.
I ended up using this solution: Create two calendars with my MobileMe account that allows me to create,view, and edit appointments. If you’re unfamiliar with MobileMe, it is Apple’s cloud-based system which allows for centralized email, calendar, contacts, and offline disk storage. Using this method, I can always access my calendars via a web browser with an Internet connection. Because the majority of my devices are Apple-based, it made sense using this method for syncing purposes. So, I now use the Apple iCal application to access both MobileMe calendars on my iMac desktop computer, and the built-in Calendar app on my iPhone for doing the same. For my Dell laptop (running Windows 7), I use the Microsoft Outlook application along with a MobileMe syncing utility (provided by Apple) to sync my two MobileMe calendars with Outlook for local access. This method seems to work well so far, but I need to always make sure I’m viewing the two MobileMe calendars in all my apps and not the default local calendars (which should be empty).
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App developer’s dilemma

February 5, 2011

I’ve been a mobile app developer since the early Microsoft Pocket PC days (circa 2001) and I’m amazed at the selection of smartphones currently available. You have the Apple iPhone, Google Android OS, Palm WebOS, Blackberry RIM, and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 OS devices as the big players. So as a developer, which platform should you choose to develop apps for?

You really can’t developer for all of the platforms, since coding for one usually isn’t easily transportable to another. For example, the Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) use Apple’s Objective-C programming language for app development (which you need an Apple computer also). The Android OS requires the Java language, and the Palm WebOS requires Javascript (or C++ for games). Microsoft WP7 requires Microsoft’s own programming language (C# (or Visual Basic) and Silverlight), so as you can see you would need to be trained and skilled in many, many different languages for creating apps for multiple platforms.

So as a developer, you need to make some tough decisions if you want to create apps to sell for a smartphone device. In most cases your time is valuable, so you want to minimize your efforts and maximize your profits and results. I have been in such a dilemma, and here are my thoughts:

For all of the platforms, the Apple iPhone definitely has the biggest online app store. They have tens of thousands of apps available, free and paid. In my opinion, a new developer creating apps for the iPhone would easily be lost in this sea of apps, and the prospect of making a decent return on investment is quite slim. In addition, you need to own an Apple Mac to do such development and also learn the Objective-C language. Developing iOS apps has a steep learning curve and something I’m not willing to do at this moment for the possible return.

The Android OS is in a similar position as the Apple iOS, in that there’s thousands of apps already available. Most ideas for apps you might come up with have already been created. Java is a very popular language and if you already know it, then you’re more than half way there. Android developers use the Eclipse IDE (which is free) and it runs on many different computer platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux). I’ve found that the Android development tools are not the easiest to work with, but they are all free and readily available from the Internet. I’ve opted to not pursue developing Android apps since I don’t know Java and it would be a huge effort to get up to speed in that language. Now, I have not excluded writing Android apps, but at the moment I’m holding off any serious development effort with that platform.

I’ve spent the last year or so developing apps for the Palm WebOS devices, and I find it very easy to do. If you’re a web site developer and know HTML, CSS, Javascript you can create WebOS apps. Palm uses the Eclipse IDE and it’s fairly easy to code up your apps. As with the Android, you can do your development on a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine and all the development tools are free.

The biggest issue I have with WebOS app development, is with Palm. Palm has been very supportive of their developers, but it’s been over 8 months without them releasing any new smartphone devices. Since the acquisition of Palm by HP, handset releases have been non-existant. Sure, Palm release the Palm Pre 2, but that’s basically the same design as the Palm Pre. In fact, a lot of cell phone carriers have dropped selling WebOS smartphones so a developer must question if it makes sense to begin or continue developing for WebOS devices.

Microsoft released their Windows Phone 7 OS devices last year, refreshing their old Windows Mobile OS to something that is comparable to the iPhone, Android, and WebOS touch-screen devices. Amazingly, a lot of pundits like the new look of the WP7 OS (including me). Even though there’s not many WP7 smartphones on the market (GSM version only available), I believe Microsoft will throw lots of money at the WP7 project and won’t give up until they grab a big part of the smartphone market segment. As such, the total number of WP7 apps currently available is the smallest of the smartphone group, which in my opinion is a good thing for developers. This means more opportunity to create useful apps and games that will be noticed in the online catalog. Once you’ve established yourself and have good ratings, you will be in a good position to make considerable profit as more WP7 handsets are sold.

So do you develop apps for the iPhone, Android, WebOS, or Microsoft WP7 smartphones? Which platform will give you the biggest profits? If you have a “killer app” (like Angry Birds) I’d say go with the iPhone and/or Android since they have the biggest user base. If you’re a Java programmer, then go for the Android OS. If what you really know is HTML/CSS/Javascript, then dive into WebOS app development. Finally, if you know C#, Silverlight, or Visual Basic then check out the WP7 platform.

What am I planning to do? That’s a tough question to answer at the moment. I’ve pretty much decided to focus on two platforms: WebOS and WP7 since I already have apps selling on both platforms. I’m concentrating my efforts for the moment on WP7 since it seems to be an easy platform for creating nice looking apps, and their app store is low in quantity of good apps. But, I’m keeping my eye on what HP/Palm will be announcing next week on February 9th. If they announce some incredible hardware and the release of new app SDKs then I may drift back to that platform.

The smartphone industry is quite dynamic at the moment, so a developer needs to stay alert and keep all their avenues open.


Command + Delete is my friend

November 14, 2010

When I switched from a Microsoft PC over to an Apple iMac, it took a bit of “relearning” to become totally productive with the new environment. Here are a few glaring differences I found:

With an Apple keyboard you don’t have a HOME, DEL, or END key. It is amazing how much I relied on those keys without knowing it. So if I’m coding and I want to move to the beginning or end of a line, I don’t have a HOME or END key to help me out. The Mac has a DELETE key (which is equivalent to the BACKSPACE key on a PC keyboard), but it doesn’t have an equivalent DEL key (which removes characters behind the cursor). That’s another thing I sorely miss.

On my PC I was able to delete a selected file or folder by just pressing the BACKSPACE key. If you try to do the same thing on a Mac, nothing happens. What I discovered is that you need to press the Command key + Delete key to delete a selected folder or file. At first I thought this was a pain, but in hindsight it seems to be a good thing as it minimizing unintentional deletions by just pressing the Delete key alone.

Also, pressing the RETURN key after highlighting a file will not open that file in the Mac OS (nothing happens).

And finally one big one: When you click the small red “X” ball in the upper left corner of a Mac application window the program appears to exit but it is actually still running in the background. The only way to fully exit the application is to do a “Force Quit” which can be done a few ways:

  1. Select “Quit” or “Force Quit” from the application’s menu bar.
  2. Press COMMAND + Q keys to quit the application (when the app’s title bar is active at the top of the screen)
  3. Right-click on the app in the Dock (at the bottom of the screen) and select “Quit” from the popup context menu.

I usually do option (2) as it seems the fastest for me. So there are a few differences between Microsoft Windows and the iMac OS, but I’ve adapted very quickly and am actually more productive with the addition of Applescript for the Mac!


Microsoft Store opening in Bellevue, WA

November 14, 2010

I just read a multi-page ad in the Seattle Times announcing the opening of a Microsoft Store in the Bellevue Square Mall in Bellevue, WA. I think this is a brilliant idea that Microsoft should have pursued a long time ago. Incidentally, Apple has “The Apple Store” in that very same mall and it has been successful for the last several years.

I’ve been to the Apple Store many times and it’s just a great place to visit and check out the Apple products. No pushy sales people, just tons of machines and devices and young, helpful people their to answer your questions. The store is very inviting, and it’s hard to resist stepping in and checking out the iPads, iPods, iPhones, and iMacs. As such, I think Microsoft will find their store can be equally successful if they have the same inviting atmosphere.

With all of Microsoft’s new products (e.g., Windows Phone 7, XBox Kinetix, Windows 7 OS, Slate PC) and the holidays just around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better. It’s good to see Microsoft’s Marketing machine is working at full steam, and we might just see a big turn around with the companies financials. Good luck to MS.