Skype Grows Up

Skype isn't just for pimply-faced teens to talk while playing video games. It is an actual telephony/video service worthy of business. Don't yet believe it? Microsoft's Skype in the Workspace could prove you wrong. This service is just moving out of beta and now has some 500 customers.

Skype is becoming a useful tool for business on its own and through integration with Lync, is a pretty interesting enterprise option.

What do you think of Skype? Write, don't Skype me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/16/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Metro Renamed Something Stupid

Microsoft is an amazing company with one huge but (fortunately) not fatal flaw -- it stinks at naming things.

The older names were fine: Word, Office, Windows. It's really lately that the names have been utter nonsense. Now forget the fact that it keeps renaming perfectly good products to keep us all confused. It even changed Hyper-v to Hyper-V (was this just to keep copy editors in business?).

Now Windows 8 has a new interface. This means the old interface can no longer just be called the Windows interface but is now called "Desktop." OK.

The new interface was called "metro," a meaningless name for a touch screen filled with a bunch of interactive blocks. But we got used to it. Not so fast. This was just a code name. The real name is Windows Store App. And yes, Windows Store App refers to the apps (where it makes perfect sense) as well as the interface. Let's see how this rolls off the tongue. Windows Store App interface. Windows Store App interface. Windows Store App user interface. The Windows Store App GUI. Smooth, eh?

Another little glitch -- not all of the Windows Store Apps come from the Windows Store. Enterprise apps are "side-loaded," meaning they don't go through the store. After all, why would you go to a store to buy your own app?

Even though metro didn't mean anything, it was fine. The lesson is code names are now officially a dumb idea. Aren't the computers themselves confusing enough, now we need to get certified in tracking all the names?

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/16/2012 at 1:19 PM4 comments


Verizon Offers Lync a Hand

Lync as a unified communications tool is right up Verizon's alley. The carrier just released a new set of services for Lync that include deployment, planning and architectural help.

Once your Lync is set up, Verizon can also do performance analysis, monitoring and maintenance.

Finally Verizon can help integrate your UC install with partners who aren't on Lync.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/16/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Windows Chief Takes a Hike

Steven Sinofsky was a strong, disciplined executive who ran the Windows group. He helped usher in Windows 7, a great upgrade to Vista. And he managed Windows 8. Along the way he enforced a powerful discipline that wouldn't allow Microsoft folks to talk about Windows 8 features that were already disclosed. I found it odd and frustrating but reckoned it was his call to make.

Now Sinofsky has been unseated shortly after Windows 8 hit the market. The timing is about as odd as the resignation of a certain four-star general you may have heard about.

In high-profile cases like this the company doesn't exactly detail why they move was made. And Sinofosky made no Petraeus-like mea culpa statements. So we all get to speculate. My guess? Microsoft is taking a ton of heat over the disconnect between its touch/tablet interface and the more familiar "desktop" interface. It is an odd way to compute.

The other area of speculation is about what this means for Microsoft's prospects. The move hase some seeing storm clouds. This puts too much credit on one man. I don't think this move will make a lick of difference. If anything, it is good news. Microsoft clearly thinks it can do better and given its decades of success, I'd have to be mighty full of myself to bet against them!

What do you think of Sinofsky's departure? Put on your guru hat and forward your insight to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/14/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Windows 8 Gets Four Flaws Fixed

Windows 8 and Windows RT may be brand new but that doesn't mean they are perfect. Just yesterday Microsoft fixed four flaws in the new OS tag team.

The flaws really revolve around the Windows kernel and as usual can invite remote code execution attacks.

IE also gets a critical fix. And since browsers are such a common attack target, experts suggest you patch this one tout de suite.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/14/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


A Programmer's Take on Tablets

Andrew Brust is a guru's guru, at least when it comes to Microsoft development. So while I've written plenty about Windows 8 and you've had your say through your e-mails and postings, platforms ultimately live or die based on their apps. In the early day it was that one killer app -- VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3 or, on the case of Windows, Excel.

These days it's quantity and quality -- and Microsoft wants both to work with Windows Store Apps.

First, Brust recognize that Apple has a massive 2.5 year lead on Microsoft, something Microsoft is more than used to.

This time Microsoft has a different approach to fighting uphill. It is actually embracing the competition. In the past, Redmond had a proprietary approach to development by promoting its own tools and its own targets. But here Microsoft is open to Apple's iOS, giving developers tools, apps and storage services that let them live in Apple and Microsoft worlds simultaneously. And Microsoft third parties, perhaps with Redmond's blessing, are creating tools that developers create iOS apps using techniques they learned with Windows. The message, perhaps a bit subtle, is Microsoft doesn't mind a world where apps are common to the iPad and Windows 8 devices, and wouldn't really care if Windows developers became iPad developers as well. 

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/09/2012 at 1:19 PM6 comments


Messenger Gone, Skype Takes Over

I've never used Windows Messenger. My only experience is it kept trying to get me to set it up, which I never did. It finally stopped bothering me.

Now Messenger is getting its ticket punched, and having its core function added to Skype. Skype already has an IM–type tool but presumably Messenger is more robust.

This move has more to say about Skype, which has a bright enterprise future. Just yesterday I attended a Lync 2013 Developer's Workshop and one of the presenters connected through Skype. Worked like a charm.

I see much more for Skype than just a tool for teens to gossip or CNN correspondents to report from the field. For the enterprise you have a full phone/video conference from wherever you are. And by tying into Lync, you have full access to a range of rich communications tools. Sweet! 

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/09/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


EA Price Hikes Part 2

Recently we brought you news of a hidden price hike in Windows volume license renewals, a possible increase of 43 percent.

License consultancy Pica Communications, which did the Windows analysis, is now digging deeper into Enterprise Agreements (EA). Specifically, it's looking at Platform EA bundle in particular, a grouping that includes Office Professional Plus, Windows itself and Client Access Licenses (CAL).

Upgrading your EA bundle could cost up to 58 percent more than last time around, Pica argues.

When you first buy the Platform EA bundle, you get 15 percent off list price. When it's time to re up, that discount drops to 5 percent.

Applying this formula to the purchase of 5,000 Windows licenses shows an increase cost of over $400,000.  

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/09/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Q&A with Grant Fritchey: How to Back up Your Database

A key responsibility of database administrators, or DBAs, is to ensure they're adequately backing up their databases. This can be overwhelming to some DBAs, who often stepped into those roles by chance. That's what happened to Grant Fritchey, a product evangelist at Red Gate Software Ltd and upcoming sessions speaker at this year's Live! 360 event. Grant takes some time to answer some of my questions on his backup experiences.

Q: What is an accidental DBA?
A:
I'm an accidental DBA. Lots of people are accidental DBAs. The accidental DBA is the poor schmo who was standing in front of the boss when it was decided that someone needed to manage this SQL Server thing that someone had just purchased. It's the IT guy or developer who has no choice but take on the duties of a DBA despite a lack of training. It's probably the most common path to becoming a DBA. Because it's the path I took, I have a strong sympathy for accidental DBAs, so I always try to help them out when I can.

Q: Are you saying there are quick and dirty ways to back up databases?
A:
I wish. No, there are really no shortcuts. There are very particular ways that a database has to be backed up, and they really are different from other backups.

Q: Why is database backup different from, well, just backup? Or is it?
A:
No. While SQL Server does create files on disks on the computer -- and you'd think you could just copy those files -- there are several problems with that approach. First, SQL Server keeps the files open the entire time, so you just fail to read the file. But that's easily gotten around, which leads you to the bigger problem. Presumably, someone is accessing your data all the time. There's probably also someone creating or modifying your data pretty constantly, too. These transactions are stored in a very particular way to the files by SQL Server in order for SQL Server to protect the data and make it correct. Copying a file, well, that doesn't take this process of transactions into account. So you need a method for SQL Server backups to get a copy of the database that both protects the data and is consistent with the transactions.

If heading out to Orlando for this year's Live! 360 event in December, make sure to catch Grant's workshop, "Database Backups for the Accidental DBA."

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/07/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Surface Interest

Redmond magazine just published a survey of you, the Redmond print and/or online reader on Microsoft's Surface tablet. Results show a fairly keen interest in Surface with some 63 percent saying they are "very interested" in the recently released Microsoft hardware.

Because you are IT pros most of you were far more interested in the more enterprise-ready Intel-based versions, which can connect to AD, run existing apps (but blow their batteries a bit more quickly than on ARM).

Some 49 percent plan to use Surface primarily for work, 28 percent for media and 22.6 percent to create content.

Two readers weighed in with opposite views. Here are some positive thoughts from Mary S. who commented in the survey:

"When Microsoft comes out with a tablet, the company will have businesses in mind, and it will build in the ability to secure the tablets. People will be able to use the Microsoft Office suite the way its intended, and it will be more stable and more powerful than the iPad was ever intended to be. The iPad is great for the consumer market, but has no real business value that we've been able to ascertain. I expect the Microsoft tablet will be able to provide business-level capability when it arrives, and I'll be able to secure it through Active Directory."

Here's a Web comment related to the pricing ($500 with no keyboard, $600 for one with 32GB of storage and a keyboard):

"All of that interest now squandered due to the ridiculous pricing of the Windows RT Surface. Not that it was the one even remotely worth considering, given it only runs Windows RT application no one's going to build, but because it means the Intel version, the version with any chance of actual relevance, will be obscenely overpriced -- both now destined to fade to black, joining Zune and Vista in the rogue's gallery of abysmal Microsoft failures."

What do you think of Surface? Have your say at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/07/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


SharePoint Cost Creep

SharePoint is no longer a niche product, but nearly as mainstream as Exchange and SQL Server. There are two very different groups bringing SharePoint to your shop, your own IT staff and departments that have been installing apps guerilla style.

This is all well and good, 'til someone adds up the bill. It seems that SharePoint often costs more than we expect.

Osterman Research recently queried 110 SharePoint shops, and found a great like for the tool. But SharePoint takes work and money to become effective. Only 14 percent found the tool meeting expectations when first installed.

One issue is it's tough to find experienced SharePoint pros. And the cost of ownership is high --and rising higher at almost $46 per month per person.

I'm just teasing what Osterman found. If you are interested in SharePoint, I'd modestly suggest you check out Kurt Mackie's fine report here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/07/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Windows Phone 8 Gets New Office

I love smartphones for basic e-mail and yes, I still make actual phone calls on the darn thing as well. But two things are too small for my aging fingers and eyes: the keyboard and screen. I even find the iPad too small for effective Web work (and that thing is four times the size of my phone).

That's why I'm not jumping up and down over news that Windows Phone 8 will come equipped with Office. Word on a phone? Best break out a Columbo-sized magnifying glass to use this thing.

That said, it can't be a bad thing that this software is installed. With the right pair of reading glass, it could be useful to view documents and small worksheets.

Windows Phone 7 users have more direct experience than I, as those phones come with Office Mobile. If you have Win Phone 7, is Office Mobile useful? Set me straight at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/07/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


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