Wednesday, 07 April 2010

image Richard and I recently interviewed Nick Simons, a program manager at Microsoft who works on the Office Web Apps. He’s been there quite a while, and can say (with pride) that he killed Clippy, that annoying little character that thought he knew what you were trying to do, but often got it wrong and ultimately got removed from the office suite.

In our interview on RunAs Radio this week, Nick discusses Microsoft’s Office Web Apps and how people can use Office 2010 and the Web Apps to share and collaborate, and how it all integrates with SharePoint 2010 and Windows Live Skydrive.

He also briefly describes how they killed Clippy back in the day, and why.

Nick Simons Puts Office on the Web
RunAs Radio Show #155 -- 4/7/2010 (36 minutes)

  • This week’s show page on (with RSS feeds and various available file formats)
  • Direct link to the MP3
  • RSS feed to subscribe to the MP3 format

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Microsoft Office | SharePoint | Tech
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 14:46:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I have two different Exchange Servers and associated accounts open and active at the same time in my copy of Outlook 2010. That’s a new feature in the new version of Outlook, by the way: multiple Exchange accounts visible in one profile – Quite a great change over previous versions!

I’ve had a problem ever since installing this beta copy of Office 14, though. In the to-do bar (that sidebar thing on the right side of the Outlook window that shows you a bunch of info such as monthly calendars, upcoming appointments, contacts, tasks, etc.) the calendar from which appointments were being displayed was not the calendar I wanted. The info being shown there was not useful, because that calendar wasn’t the one I use.

So, I was trying to figure out how to change the calendar displayed there to the one associated with my other Exchange account. How Outlook chose which calendar to display, as far as I could tell, was a matter of which Exchange Server I set  up first when I installed Outlook.

imageI tried a number of things, including looking at every setting available in Outlook’s Options screens, changing the default mail account in the Outlook account properties dialog, and searching the registry for info, but in the end it was something much simpler. It took a bit of trial and error, but I finally figured it out.

What fixed it was calling up the account info screen (File > Info), then opening the “Account Settings” dialog, switching to the “Data Files” tab, highlighting the OST file associated with the account that contains the calendar I wanted to have displayed, and then clicking the “Set as Default” button. Then I closed the dialog box, shut down Outlook and restarted it, and lo and behold the correct calendar was showing. Freakin’ magic, I tell ya.

You’d think this solution might be a bit easier to find (I searched far and wide in the help and on the web), but at any rate it’s fixed now. And since I will probably forget the next time I need to do this, here it is recorded for posterity’s sake.

The Outlook Blog has a bunch of cool info about the Outlook 2010 version that users should find interesting and useful. Anyone know any other cool little tweaking tricks for Outlook 2010 that people should know about?

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Microsoft Office | Tech
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 14:30:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 03 April 2010

I drove down to Best Buy today to check out the iPads they had on display and for sale. It was about 1:30 p.m. when we arrived and they still had quite a few in stock, but only the 32GB and 64GB models. The 16GB iPads had sold out just before we arrived.

My impressions of the device were this: It was a little heavier than I thought it would be, and a little thicker feeling, but a nice size. It has a great display and is very snappy and responsive. The iPhone apps displayed at 2x resolution were generally pretty blocky looking, but useable at least until a higher-resolution version is released. I wouldn’t want to keep viewing some of them for too long just because it was hard to look at them that way for more than a few minutes. Maybe I’m just spoiled.

Why do I want one of these things? There are a variety of reasons, but one particular reason tops my list. I’m very much looking forward to running ForeFlight Mobile HD on the iPad in the future. The picture on the right shows a couple cool screens of the aviation application revamped for the iPad’s larger display. They’ve iPad-ified acreens for plates, maps, weather, downloads, and airport data. They’ll be adding a bunch of other iPad enhancements in a future update.

Anyhow, back to my check-out-the-iPad experience… The Best Buy sales guy said ( in a “you didn’t hear it from me” sort of way) that they would have another shipment of them in next Sunday. For what it’s worth. I asked for and got a paper from the guy entitling me to go to the front counter and pick up a 32GB model and continued to shop at the store. But, as I thought about it I kept returning to my position over the past few days: The iPad doesn’t have enough value for me without the 3G radio built in. I was considering buying one for use around the house, but just couldn’t justify buying two of these in the first month.

So, I returned the paper to the floor sales guy and said thanks, but I was going to wait for the 3G models. He nodded and said he understood.

It’s a cool device with a nice interface. It’s a lot like a big iPod Touch or iPhone, as the kids pointed out. But it also can do more than the smaller devices in terms of app capabilities and performance.

I’ll pick one up once the 3G models are out. For now, I’ll wait.

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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 03 April 2010 20:06:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 02 April 2010

I’m a power user of both Google Voice and Microsoft Outlook (currently using the 2010 beta version at home). One of the interesting little speed bumps that accompanies the Google Voice service is the fact that, in order to have a phone call to one of your contacts appear as if it’s being initiated from your Google Voice number, you have to dial out to a custom phone number that the Google Voice service provides/assigns to every number you dial.

In other words, let’s say I want to call (999) 888-7777 from my cell phone. And that I want the Caller ID info to display my Google Voice phone number, not my cell phone’s information. In order to do this, I have a few options:

  • Dial via the Google Voice browser interface – GV allows me to enter a number from the web interface (or click to call a GV contact), which results first in my phone ringing, and then when I answer it I wait on the line while the service dials the person I am trying to call. GV acts as a sort of automated operator, connecting me and the other party.
  • Dial a special unique phone number – Specifically a number assigned by Google Voice, which is a sort of “proxy” number. Typically beginning with area code 406, I have to know the number to dial. If I dial that number, the GV service forwards the call to the proper recipient’s phone number, and their phone rings. Google Voice sends my GV caller ID info to their phone. The problem is, I have to have a way to actually find out this number, and the only practical way to do so is to ask the person to send a text message to my GV phone number. Magically, when they do that GV shows the special (406) number that I need as the number that sent the txt message. It works, but it’s kludgy.
  • Use the Google Voice iPhone web app to dial any phone number – This option allows me to dial someone similar to the “proxy number” option above, except that I don’t actually have to know the proxy number ahead of time. Interestingly, the iPhone app sends the recipient’s actual phone number to the GV service, then gets a (406) proxy number back and presents me with a brief dialing to call that number. So, it handles the “What number should I call” problem and doesn’t require me to convince my friend to send me a txt message to find out his or her 406 number.

So – That last option raises some interesting questions. The iPhone/mobile web app is apparently capable of taking, via some API, a phone number and then returning a GV number to dial. Now, I haven’t snooped the network traffic or looked to see how this is actually done under the hood, but it makes me think. Assuming that there’s for sort of API available, how else might I want to use it?

It’s not too much of a stretch: Since I use a GV number for my work number in my home office, it would be *very* useful to me to be able to click on a phone number in Outlook (in an email, in a contact, etc.) and have it dial the (406) number that the GV service can possibly provide. A nice, clean way to dial wherever the number appears on the screen would be great to have. Unfortunately, Office 2010 appears to have removed support for it’s old Phone Number Smart Tag (all smart tags seem to be deprecated, in fact). So how to recognize and hook into phone numbers would be one of many open questions.

I can imagine some other probable complicated moving parts that have to be accounted for (for example, authentication and user context: Does GV appears to assign the same (406) numbers to multiple GV users, but for different numbers. In other words, where a given number in the context of my account might dial 999-888-7777, the same (406) number on another GV account might be assigned to ring 555-444-3333).

But -- if it can be done, this seems like something that people would be willing to buy for say, $9.95 or so a pop. I know I would. Or maybe Google should build it an ship it for free, just to push adoption and gain some traction among the Outlook-anchored crowd.

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Geek Out | Tech
Friday, 02 April 2010 10:25:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I decided the other day that I won’t be in the lines on Saturday morning when the iPad becomes available at Apple stores and Best Buys around the country. Cory Doctorow also says he won’t buy one, but for different reasons. He goes so far as to say you shouldn't get one either. Interesting arguments. I’ve discussed before – here on this site - some of the reasons I think I want one, as well as some of the concerns I have about it, and in the end I do want to acquire one.

But, this Saturday’s event won’t be for me.

Why? I’m going to wait for the 3G-equipped model.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I need portability in the iPad if I am going to use it, meaning portability and network access across the boundaries and gaps of WiFi networks. I plan to use an iPad from the road, in the hangar, at any random place where I might land and want to check a weather report and email, that sort of thing. So, without an available-most-everywhere data service (a phrase that some, I know, will debate at length), it just won’t meet my needs.

So, I wait.

Anyone else waiting for the 3G models before buying? Too bad they’re not available on day-one. I’d grab my lawn line chair and head right down there if they were.

Update: A good New York Times article talks about perceptions, limitations and redundancy in the iPad. Interesting perspective.

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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Friday, 02 April 2010 09:32:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 11 February 2010

A guy named Chad contacted me today and asked if I knew how to get the newest version of Blackberry Messenger (which, as of the time of this writing is v5.0.0.57) on his Blackberry device. He was having problems finding it because his BB Desktop Manager software would not find the update, he said. After some questions and answers, I found the page linked below on the Blackberry support web site, which allows you to send a link to your BB so you can download and install the software app (assuming you have rights to install apps on your phone, of course).

Once installed, you may have to reboot your Blackberry device.

Hopefully that helps someone else!

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Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 11 February 2010 07:56:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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