Category Archives: Microsoft

Google, the app killer

Meebo, Picasa, Wave, Google Plus . . . All of these useful apps were killed by Google. Google has a fickle reputation. More often than not, they quickly kill struggling projects, rather than refine them.

Compare this to Microsoft. Excel, Word, Access, Internet Explorer, Windows Server, Windows itself — all were weak also-ran competitors to much stronger market leaders. Yet in each case Microsoft worked hard for years at improving its initially weak product until finally it kicked the king off its perch.

Google doesn’t seem to have Microsoft’s tenacity. Why? Maybe success came too quickly to Google. Pagerank and AdWords were instant succeses.

Which model will succeed? Don’t assume that Google will always be the search leader. Microsoft continues to refine Bing, and there’s a long trail of onetime market leaders — Novell, WordPerfect, Lotus, Netscape — lying dead in Microsoft’s wake. 

A new appreciation for Ringo Starr

I’ve referred to (recently retired CEO) Steve Ballmer as Microsoft’s Ringo Starr, because Ballmer hopped aboard the Microsoft express as it was pulling out of the station.  Ringo was hired by the Beatles after they’d apprenticed on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn and were about to conquer the world.  I’ve underestimated Ringo’s talent.

Two short videos on YouTube opened my eyes . . . er, ears. The first:

The second:

I’ve never been especially attuned to anyone’s drumming.  For decades my faves have included Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Keith Moon.  I guess that I’d just not listened closely to all those fab four recordings.  My apologies, Richie.

What about Steve? He retired ten years too late.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

The short answer: Maybe.

In general, I don’t recommend installing ANYthing that’s version anything dot zero. Wait until version something dot one fixes the bugs. Call me cautious.

In any case, I don’t recommend upgrading to Windows 10 UNLESS Microsoft has invited you to upgrade by displaying an invitation in a small pop-up in the lower right hand corner of your Windows 7 or 8 desktop. Apparently this indicates that Windows 10 drivers exist for your hardware and devices. In this case Microsoft can push the four gigabyte Windows 10 upgrade on to your PC. The choice is yours. Microsoft claims that you’ll have thirty days to rollback your new Windows 10 installation to your previous version of Windows. Caveat Upgrader: backup your files first.

If you’re using Windows 8 or 8.1, I recommend upgrading to Windows 10 as soon as possible. Or replace Windows with Linux.

If you’ve not received a Windows 10 invitation, be patient. Don’t download the four GB Windows 10 iso installation file from Microsoft. Chances are that Windows 10 drivers don’t yet exist for your hardware and devices. Allow time for Microsoft and third-party vendors to develop Windows 10 drivers. You have a year to take advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade offer.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Windows 10 privacy concerns

Within days of its release, concerns about Microsoft Windows 10’s handling of users’ data have arisen. The 12,000 word 45 page Windows 10 EULA (end user license agreement) states that Microsoft may do what it wishes with your data.

If you wish to control your privacy, DON’T choose “Express Install”.

This loss of privacy is one downside to Microsoft’s new SAAS (software as a service) model. Linux on the desktop looks better and better.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Steve Ballmer on Charlie Rose

A few months ago, Charlie Rose interviewed Steve Ballmer. Ballmer doesn’t look like Ringo (he resembles Danny DeVito’s Oswald Cobblepot), Steve Ballmer and Oswald Cobblepotbut like Ringo, Mr. Ballmer climbed aboard the train to success, powered by someone else, just as it pulled out of the station.

In the arena of CEOs, Mr. Ballmer can be compared to General Motors’ Roger Smith. Neither CEO had any tech chops, a feel for his company’s products, nor objective judgment of his competitors. Both held MBA degrees; both were forced out after costly product mis-steps. Both understood numbers. Smith was an accountant; Ballmer is a salesman.

Mr. Ballmer confesses to Charlie Rose that Microsoft lost momentum in the early 2000s while he and Bill Gates swapped roles. He doesn’t mention the other goofs while he was at the helm.

Steve has brought his gung-ho hands-on cheerleading style to his new role as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. I wish them luck.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

MBAs are lousy CEOs

Fortune magazine, in its December 1st edition, has published an intriguing article titled Google’s Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe.  It quotes a Google manager who’s worked with both Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page:

Fadell, who before founding Nest led the development of the iPod and iPhone at Apple, says Page and Jobs approached innovation in radically different ways. “Steve was a marketer who really loved product and got the user-experience details right,” Fadell says.  “Larry is a serious technologist and someone who is really steeped in science and in theory, and he has a real love of product.”

Larry Page and Jeff Bezos
Larry Page and Jeff Bezos
Non-MBAs

I relate to Page’s approach, but Jobs’ obsession with user interface certainly also led to revolutionary products. Note that neither leader was an MBA or lawyer.  Jeff Bezos, an ace programmer (not an MBA), is taking Amazon where no retailer has gone before.

Steve Ballmer and Randall Stephenson
Steve Ballmer and Randall Stephenson
MBAs

In contrast, Microsoft was led into near irrelevance by Steve Ballmer, a sales manager with an MBA.  The entity that calls itself AT&T is busy making enemies of its customers everyone under the leadership of MBA Randall Stephenson.  (This genius caused his employer to lose six billion dollars, yet took home 21 million dollars that year.) General Motors’ CEO Roger Smith (MBA) drove GM to produce millions of lemons which nobody wanted, leading to their chapter 11 bankruptcy.

For the moment, Google is in good hands. The jury’s still out (see Apple’s Software Quality Problems) on Apple’s Tim Cook (MBA). Even Microsoft may be headed in the right direction, now that Satya Nadella is CEO. True, he has an MBA degree, but he’s reputed to be a product guy — not a numbers guy.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A First Look at Windows 10

Today Microsoft presented a glimpse of their next version of Windows to about 50 trade press writers. (Watch 39 minute video) Microsoft is distancing itself from Windows 8; apparently “9” wasn’t distant enough, so the new version will be named Windows 10. It will ship next Spring.

Just as Windows 7 was actually a service pack for Windows Vista (which should have been offered gratis), it appears that Windows 10 fixes many objections to Windows 8’s user interface(s).

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Updating Windows 8 to 8.1

Microsoft’s update from Windows 8 to 8.1 was released in April, but I still encounter PCs that are stuck on Windows 8. And I do mean stuck. Windows 8 is a dead-end: Microsoft will not provide security patches for Windows 8. Users must update to Windows 8.1 to receive security patches. If you haven’t updated from Windows 8 to 8.1, I recommend that you do so now.

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Unfortunately, at least 50% of the time, the update from Windows 8 to 8.1 is a royal pain. Problems range from existing anti-virus programs blocking the update to stalled downloads. It’s a huge download of about three gigabytes, so aborted updates can consume hours each time you must restart the update. I like the detailed step-by-step instructions in About Technology‘s How to Update to Windows 8.1. If the update’s download stalls for hours, I recommend the steps in this article: Fix: Your Windows 8.1 install couldn’t be completed error. (If the net stop bits command refuses to execute, you can run services.msc in the Run box, and stop the Background Intelligent Transfer Service from within the Services window.)

If your update fails, you may need to remove the ‘USB Bluetooth’ device from within Windows’ Device Manager and re-try the update.

This painful update procedure (roughly equivalent in magnitude to going from the original Windows XP to Service Pack 1, but far more trouble-prone) is just more proof that Windows 8 is a disaster.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Windows 8 has flopped.

Windows 8 logoHere’s the evidence::

  • Current Windows 8 usage on web is about half that of Windows XP.
  • Current Windows 8 usage on web just crept past that of the unpopular Windows Vista.
  • Windows 8 usage on web decreased slightly last month over the previous month.
  • Microsoft fired Windows 8’s project manager, Steven Sinofsky, in November, 2012.
  • Microsoft’s board fired CEO Steve Ballmer in 2013.

Hang in there. Microsoft promises that Windows 9 will ship in Spring of 2015.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Which service providers encrypt your data?

The EFF has moved its “Who has your back?” report. It’s now at https://www.eff.org/encrypt-the-web-report. The report explains,

We’ve asked the companies in our Who Has Your Back Program what they are doing to bolster encryption in light of the NSA’s unlawful surveillance of your communications. As of now, eight companies—Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sonic.net, SpiderOak, Twitter,and Yahoo—are implementing five out of five of our best practices for encryption.

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Graphic by Electronic Frontier Foundation

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microsoft’s Office 365 failed

This week I felt the downside of relying upon cloud-based services. Sometime between Monday and Tuesday night, Microsoft Office 365’s hosted Exchange email service stopped accepting IMAP and SMTP client logins for at least several hours.

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The service seems to have failed multiple times during 24 or more hours. I subscribe to Microsoft’s Office 365’s SharePoint and Exchange services. I didn’t notice that my email clients couldn’t connect to their Exchange servers at outlook.com until Tuesday afternoon. At first I suspected that the security parameters within my Android email client had been damaged. (I’ve seen this before. Why does this happen? I don’t know.)

If you emailed me recently and haven’t received a reply, please re-send your message.

Microsoft admitted that their servers had gone offline for several hours. They intend to pay any penalties as defined in SLAs (service level agreements) with subscribers.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

History of Microsoft

Bill Gates his own self walks us down memory lane in the first of a series of 26 short YouTube videos that document the history of Microsoft.

It’s fun to watch the older clips, but I soon tired of the undiluted public relations effort. It presents a one-sided view of Microsoft.

What about Bob?
MS Bob logoNo, I’m not referring to the Bill Murray movie. I’m referring to Microsoft Bob, the “friendly interface” that Microsoft introduced c 1995. It flopped. Its product manager? Melinda French, who subsequently married Chairman Bill.

There’s no mention of Microsoft’s dark side, which began from day one. Microsoft BASIC, copyrighted by Microsoft, was a port of Dartmouth BASIC, whose source code was in the public domain. MS-DOS 1.0 was not written by Microsoft. MS-DOS 4.0 was a disaster. Windows Millennium was worse.

The strongarm sales tactics of Gates and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s Ringo Starr) aren’t mentioned, nor is the conspiracy by Gates and Ballmer to dilute the shares of co-founder Paul Allen when he fell seriously ill.

Watch the documentary, but remember that it’s essentially a long-play Microsoft advertisement.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

If you plan to use XP after April 8 . . .

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP after April 8. If you insist upon continuing to use Windows XP after that date (a strategy that I don’t recommend), you should remove administrator privileges from most users. Read this December 10 report on the beneficial results of removing administrator rights.

The report highlights the following key findings:

  • Of the 147 vulnerabilities published by Microsoft in 2013 with a Critical rating, 92% were concluded to be mitigated by removing administrator rights.
  • 96% of Critical vulnerabilities affecting Windows operating systems could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
  • 100% of all vulnerabilities affecting Internet Explorer could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
  • 91% of vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft Office could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
  • 100% of Critical Remote Code Execution vulnerabilities and 80% of Critical Information Disclosure vulnerabilities could be mitigated by removing admin rights.
  • 60% of all Microsoft vulnerabilities published in 2013 could be mitigated by removing admin rights.

An easy way to strenghten Windows XP’s security is to first create a new user account with Administrator rights. Make sure that you can log into this account. Then edit the remaining users’ accounts so that they have Limited rights (not Administrator rights). Use the new Administrator account only when you must.


wpid-enable_java.jpgApril 17:
Disable Java in web browsers.

Go to Start / Control Panel / Java. Click the Security tab. On the Security properties sheet, uncheck the box labelled “Enable Java content in the browser”.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Bill Gates loses (a chess game)

You don’t often see the word loses after Bill Gates’ name. If you read Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire or know anything about Bill Gates, you’re aware that he hates to lose. He grew up playing family board games in full combat mode. Whether the game was Scrabble or Monopoly, everyone in the Gates family played to win and took no prisoners.

gates - carlsen chess gameThat’s why it’s fun to watch a brief YouTube video of last month’s speed chess game between Bill and 23-year old world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. Within 90 seconds, Carlsen checkmated Gates in nine moves. I give credit to Bill for exhibiting good humor in the face of crushing defeat. Chess Magazine published a detailed report of the game. Here’s a video analysis.

The times they are a-changin’ at Microsoft

Today Microsoft announced that Microsoft manager Satya Nadella will become its new CEO.

Satya Nadella

Mr. Nadella has run its enterprise cash cows, Windows and MS-Office. Bill Gates will step down as Chairman of the board and fill a new position as technology adviser.

My take: headhunters were unable to find qualified candidates outside Microsoft who were willing to become CEO while both Gates and Ballmer remained on the board.

The Guardian’s reportage

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695