Life with a Thinkpad and Win 10

With my new gig, I was issued a sparkly new Lenovo Thinkpad T450 (must have gotten the tail end of the run, as it was revved to T460 shortly after I started) with a reasonable sized SSD, 8G ram, a decent screen, and the expected accouterments.

About the same time, my employer began rolling out Windows 10 on the desktop, so I am part of that world now. Prior to this, I had been using Windows 7 since 2010, and had become comfortable, passing up the whole Win 8 and 8.1 in the interim.

First thoughts were that I hated it. No, it wasn’t forced the “metro” interface that came with the initial launch of Win 8, and which turned off all the enterprise IT people I knew, but it still had some of that flavor that, well sucked. Continue reading →

Props to Microsoft

It almost pains me to admit it, but Microsoft has gone a long way to restoring my trust in them as a brand and a company to do business with. From the bullshit around Internet Explorer 6 (that I still have to deal with on my websites), to the piss poor security model of pre SP2 Windows XP, they had a pretty big deficit to overcome. How did they do it (in my case at least?)

Yesterday, I got a message that someone suspicious had control of my account. I happen to have a couple, so it took me a while to realize that it was the one that is my Xbox Live account (and uses my gmail address). I haven’t actually logged into the account in a couple of years, and it was really just used to coordinate my activities on my xbox. No email, no other “goodies“, so low risk. Or so I thought.

Sigh, so I go “reclaim” my account. Not too hard as the asshat who scammed the credentials hadn’t done anything to change the main security features. Phew. Fortunately, I have a pretty long history with Microsoft commercially, and I will admit that their business/billing systems are pretty good to work with. No real complaints, clearly they have a good grasp on dealing with the masses (unlike Google, cough. cough) when there are issues.

As has become the custom, I turned on 2 factor authentication. Really annoying to do this for a lightweight use, but c’est la vie. There is an “app” that you can setup to provide the code (or you can just go with the SMS message to your phone”.

Yep, Microsoft uses the Google Authenticator application. Kick ass.

Who would have thought that MSFT would use the Google tool?

Oh, and they acknowledge that a few people do want to use iPhones for their services, so there are really good setup instructions for Apple gear.

Trust not completely restored, but well on the path. Credit where credit is due.

Wild Sighting: Microsoft Surface

I spied it gingerly. It was a couple seat away from me in the waiting area at the Southwest gate in the SanJose Airport. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but I finally figured it out.

It was the first Microsoft “Surface” tablet that I had ever seen that wasn’t part of a store display. Someone was actually using it.  Not sure if it was the RT version, or the PRO version, but that seems of little import. He was using it for what almost all ipad or android tabled owners use it for, watching videos, and browsing the web.

Rumors had it that Microsoft had almost $1B in unsold inventory. Not surprising since they were late to the market, and they priced it closer to the iPad price point than the Android price point. Now they have announced the Surface 2. I wonder how long after launch of that it will be before I see on in the wild…

It is somewhat of a shame, as I played with one at a store, and I liked the metro interface. But it is most assuredly doomed.

A lot of Microsoft Hate this afternoon

I have seen lots of friends and respected news sources bashing Microsoft today with the announcement that the CEO, Steve Ballmer, will be retiring in the next 12 months.

First and foremost: I am not a microsoft fanatic. I am a Mac user, and am far more productive on the Apple platform, so take this with a grain of salt.

Many of the messages I have seen are lamenting that Ballmer should have retired/been fired a decade ago. Lots of hate around Vista and Win8.

But I think those are unfair criticisms.

As a Mac person, I moved my work laptop to Vista when it launched, and I actually liked it. Of course, it had well supported hardware, and I waited long enough for quality signed drivers for our printers and other items I connected to. I found it to be very stable, and actually quite decent to use. I feel like a heretic, because the mantra in the wild is to bash Vista as a huge mistake. But it was the first Microsoft OS that put security in the forefront. Yes, that meant that you were not allowed to just run as administrator. If the software you wrote expected administrator privileges, you’re gonna have a bad time. And the desktop search was well done, and after it completed its initial indexing really improved the user experience.

Windows 7 is much more polished. Microsoft used the three years in between the two systems wisely, and put out a great, usable, and very accommodating OS. I have been using it at home and at work since it’s day of launch in 2009 and it is a strong performer. Of course, all the cruft demanded by my employer causes me to curse the ground that Microsoft occupies, but that is hardly their fault.

A few weeks ago, I had some time to kill, so I sat infront of a new-ish laptop with windows 8 and a touchscreen. I was pleasantly surprised. It was no where near as awful as the pundits make it out to be. I am confident that I could use it day to day. I have yet to try Office 2013, but I liked the transition to the Ribbon in Office 2007, and the significant improvements in 2010, so I am sure that when I am forced to move to Office 2013, it will be no big deal.

What kills the Windows experience is the proliferation of crappy, under powered, poorly supported and unreliable hardware. The drive to sub $400 laptops comes at the cost of quality, and capability of components. While you can get decent hardware, you have to hunt, and read a lot of spec sheets to ensure that you get what you need. Hardly a task for the novice.

Microsoft has also greatly improved their reputation in the back office. SQL Server is a solid, capable platform. Server OS’s are quite good today (even if licensing is a bit wonky), and Hyper-V is a decent bare metal hypervisor for virtualization.

The real problem for Microsoft is their connection to the average consumer. What they sell comes bundled with hardware, and the experience of the user is dominated by fit/finish and appropriateness for the application. Apple does this so much better, they have fewer choices, but just do not offer a poor performing system. Everybody is on an even keel, and that leads to a greater degree of user satisfaction.

Of course, the XBox also is a huge success for Microsoft in the consumer space. But beyond that, their products are me-too, and lack the attention grabbing that Apple or Android devices get.

But Microsoft still own the enterprise, and is growing in the data centers. Their cloud computing platform is promising, and their hybrid cloud based document creation/sharing/collaboration solution is in many ways superior to GoogleApps.

Yes, Microsoft’s stock has been a mediocre performer for the last 13 years, but that is not a terrible thing for a company with a market cap of 1/4 trillion dollars.