Bechtle @ Bett 2010


BETT “is the world’s largest educational technology event” and Bechtle will be there for our 2nd year 13th-16th Jan 2010. It really is a very important event in the world of Education…

 95% of exhibitors at BETT 2009 felt they met a good quality of visitor at the show

 88% of exhibitors have said that attending BETT is important to their business

 89% of visitors agreed that BETT is excellent for finding new products and suppliers

Last year our stand was hardware focussed, all about Thin Clients, Servers and other such things. This year however is different, as I’ve commandeered quite a big portion of the stand for Software ;-) I’ve been planning recently and, while it’s not 100% confirmed yet the set list looks something like this:

Demos:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 7 Touch
  • Office 2010
  • Sharepoint 2010
  • Semblio

Discussions:

  • Academic Licensing
  • Cloud Computing/BPOS
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 w/ Windows 7
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 & Virtualization
  • Licensing in a Virtual Environment

I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead of me building and perfecting the demos, but it should be good fun. I’m also on the verge of ordering some of our swag for stand visitors and I think everyone will agree, it’s pretty awesome ;-)

So if you’re at #BETT2010 @ London Olympia Jan 13-16…come and see me on Stand G118 :-)

2009 Blog Awards


Unfortunately, I didn’t win in the Corporate Enterprise Category at this year’s ComputerWeekly Blog awards.

Capgemini won and TechCrunch came in as the runner up, so some pretty stiff competition!

Thank you to everyone who voted for me and we’ll try again next year ;-)

Outlook 2010 Social Connector


Outlook Social Connectors have been announced for Outlook 2010; these will allow you to connect with social media sites directly from your email client.

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The initial announcement is that a connector to business networking site LinkedIn will be announced early next year:

“Simply click on a message from a co-worker to discover what new connections they’ve made on LinkedIn, or click the LinkedIn badge underneath a photo to jump right to a person’s profile page on the Web.”

I have to say I’m surprised that Twitter isn’t in there from the start but perhaps that would seem a little gimmicky? However, don’t worry as:

anyone can build a provider to connect the OSC to a social network, their company’s line-of-business applications, or literally any system that can produce streams of activity about its users”

That’s right! Just as numerous 3rd parties have built some excellent apps for Twitter, people will soon be able to create connectors to give us Twitter in Outlook…which will be awesome! Plus I imagine that FaceBook will be added in pretty sharpish too, for all you FB’ers out there :-) You will be able to download the SDK from MSDN tomorrow (19-11-09).

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This screenshot from Microsoft (which might be a mockup?) shows what it will look like further down the line…you can see emails, Live updates, Twitter updates, documents…pretty fantastic!

I’m very excited about this and will be very interested to see what connectors people start making. If you’re a dev and you’re looking for testers – let me know ;-)

Go check out the Office blog here for more details.

Microsoft Office Web Apps


Microsoft’s Office Web Apps have garnered a lot of interest recently as a new way of interacting with Office, and as a competitive move against Google Docs. Despite me having had the Tech Preview of Office for a while (and indeed, I installed the beta tonight), I’ve just got Web Apps in my Windows Live SkyDrive…so let’s take a look :-)

I now have a button entitled “New”:

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Excel Workbook:

After giving the workbook a name, you’re presented with what is easily recognisable as an Excel Workbook:

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You can see that most of the ribbons tabs are missing, here we have just “Home” and “Insert”, but I can do pretty much everything I generally need to do in Excel. Admittedly I’m nowhere near a Power User but I think I’m probably a typical user..

FAQs:

Can I do Sums? Yes:

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Can I drag a formula down into other cells? No

Can I create Charts? No

Can I change font size, colour and type? Yes

Can I insert tables? Yes

Can I do filters? Yes, if you insert the data into a table:

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Can I paste into Excel Web Apps from other programs? Yes

The “File” menu has some extra options too:

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Word:

Word Web App isn’t available yet:

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Powerpoint:

Powerpoint Online is similar to Excel, in that it is cut down but contains all the basic features you’re likely to need:

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You get a choice of different types of slide when you add a new one:

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Something I wasn’t expecting is a great choice of Smart Art:

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That’s pretty impressive :-)

The Slideshow works perfectly well but it opens up in a new browser window, so it gets stopped by pop-up blockers.

The big thing that’s missing is Transitions though…maybe they’ll be coming soon…

OneNote:

Same as Word, OneNote isn’t available yet:

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Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2009 Day 1


Today was the first day of Microsoft’s PDC with a keynote from Ray Ozzie & Bob Muglia and, as you’d expect from “The Ozmeister” (as I’m now calling him!), the “Cloud” featured pretty heavily in the form of Windows Azure.

Windows Azure Launch Date: Windows Azure will officially launch 01/01/10 (January 1st 2010) and, as a little sweetener, the 1st month will be free :-)

WordPress runs on Windows Azure: This is pretty cool – who knew?!

Oddly Specific runs on Windows Azure: From the creator of “I Can Haz Cheezburger?” comes a new site “Oddly Specific”. Funny AND runs on Windows Azure.

Back off, grabby mcgee.

Microsoft Project Dallas: This is an “information and brokerage service” designed to allow access to commercial and reference data from people such as:

  • Associated Press
  • NASA
  • National Geographic
  • UN

and more.

The aim is to create Data As A Service (DAAS) and let data become a commodity…this could be huge!

Microsoft Project Sydney: This will enable you to connect existing in-house/on-premise services with those running in the cloud on Azure. This is a huge leap forward for Azure becoming an integral part of corporate environments.

Microsoft AppFabric: Windows Server AppFabric is:

“set of integrated technologies that make it easier to build, scale and manage web and composite applications that run on IIS”

It has 3 main parts to it which are:

  • Caching
  • Workflow Management
  • Service Management

What was once known as “Dublin” is now makes it easier to build/manage services using Windows Workflow Foundation & Windows Communication Foundation.

Another codename that’s been wrapped into AppFabric is “Velocity”. I haven’t heard of this before but it provide caching capabilities to

“provide high-speed access, scale, and high availability to application data”

You can see more info and some AppFabric samples here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/windowsserver/ee695849.aspx

These are the main points I’ve picked up today from Twitter using the hashtag #PDC09 as I’m not in L.A myself :-( As more details become available, I’ll update this/do some new posts.

Also, tomorrow’s keynote is going to include talk of Internet Explorer 9 (that’s right NINE!) so I’ll be covering that ASAP… :-)

Microsoft Office 2010 beta: A Look


The beta of Office 2010 is available now from MSDN and Technet and this is a look at what’s new, what’s fixed and what caused me problems…hopefully it will be interesting and useful for you :-)

Installation and some issues:

The first thing to note is that you can’t upgrade from the 2010 Technical Preview; this means you’ll need to uninstall and do a reboot. I had a bit of a hairy moment where I logged in after the reboot and was presented with a guest account…I had a little “oh dear” moment thinking I’d managed to screw up my machine! Thankfully it was just a little glitch, I logged out and back in and all was well.

I double clicked the .exe and…I got the “cannot upgrade from previous versions” message again! I had a little stress and then started looking for the culprit…turns out it was the Office Outlook Connector that was getting in the way. If you’ve got that installed so you can access Hotmail from Outlook, make sure you uninstall it :-)

After the install was complete, which took about 20 minutes, I started up OneNote…and got a warning box that I had possibly counterfeit software! It told me it was for “corporate or institutional use” only and that I had to connect it my corporate domain…WHAT?! I was told on Twitter that it had worked fine for other people so I tried again…added the key & clicked “Install Now” again. The next time I opened up OneNote it asked me to activate it online, which thankfully worked!

So now I’ve got it all installed and activated but it was a bit of a rollercoaster ride! To be fair, this machine has had a few issues with various iterations of Office over the years so I guess there is something not quite right in the registry!

What’s New?

The first thing I notice is that the Office components have all got new icons:

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Outlook:

The Outlook Connector doesn’t recognise the beta and installation fails; however as you’re setting up Outlook, it offers to go off and install the Connector for you. I gave it a try and it pulls down a different beta file…clearly made for Office 2010 as it installed without a problem.

Having said that, the Outlook setup wizard doesn’t recognise that it’s installed, which is pretty annoying, and so goes off to find the settings online. After checking and double checking my account details to no avail, I tried another reboot…lo and behold, this time, it recognised that the connector was installed and went through with the account setup :-)

Web test:

The folder structure on the left looks different than the Technical Preview and I noticed this:

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See Web test at the bottom…what could it be? Let me show you:

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That’s right, Twitter inside Outlook as default…that’s pretty cool :-) Once you’ve logged in, you can leave the Web Test folder and still be logged in when you come back.

Social Media Integration:

At the bottom of a new email, you now get this:

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If you expand it using the arrow on the right, you get:

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Click to add networks and you get:

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Which hints at the social networking features present in Sharepoint 2010 :-) It says there are more providers available online, but the link just takes you to a general Office site at the moment :-( Once this is up & running, it will be pretty awesome…having, and I’m guessing at which will be included, Twitter, FaceBook & LinkedIn info and profiles available inside Outlook will be great. I’m not on Facebook (I know!) but I use the other two, especially Twitter, quite heavily for networking with suppliers, customers and colleagues.

Blurring the divide between “Social Media” and “Corporate Resources” is a great move, one aimed at this “New World of Work” that will resonate with the graduates coming into the workplace as well as us cool, hip (!) people that get it too. I can imagine some managers/directors being a bit unsure about this but I’m confident they’ll quickly see the benefits…just like corporate IM.

I’ve linked one of my Live Accounts into Outlook and just sent my first test email. It asked me to complete a “captcha” to verify my account before it would send it…something I don’t remember 2007 doing? You only need to do it once :-)

New network pane:

Once you open up a new mail to someone who has emailed you, you get a message that Outlook wants to run an add-on. Click to run it and then Outlook starts showing you related mails and items.

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I have to say that it takes quite a while for new mails to show up in the networking pane…hopefully this will be improved in the final version.

Also, I’m finding that I’m needing to close and re-open Outlook for all the changes to take place and, while it’s showing emails, attachments aren’t showing up in the pane. Again, I think this is down to it’s beta status.

This is very much a work in progress…I posted early so people could see the screenshots :-)

The Backstage Icon look a bit different too, a bit more boring:

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Was there the option to swap colour schemes in 2007 and/or the 2010 tech preview? I’m quite liking the black:

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This leads me onto something I realised the other week. I’ve been paying much more attention to the ins & outs of Office 2010 than I ever did 2007 and so finding all kinds of great new features. However, I can’t be 100% sure if they’re new to Office or just new to me :-) There are a few in Outlook where I think this may be the case…if so, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Options –> Proofing –> AutoCorrect Options

That takes you to the section that shows you what things are replaced with what. There are things such as “yuor = your” but it also shows you how to make the sign for Pi and much more…pretty interesting:

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Another feature I like the look of is “Keep track of formatting”:

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As for the other components:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Powerpoint
  • OneNote

I have to say that they all look pretty much the same to me, at least at this early stage!

Office 2010 Beta available


Just a quick post to say that, if you’ve got a Technet or MSDN account, you can go and download the Office 2010 beta RIGHT NOW! :-)

I’ve been running the Tech Preview for a while and it’s great, but there are a few niggles and glitches that are quite annoying. I’m excited to (hopefully) have these fixed in the beta and also to see what new features appear.

Once I’ve had a play around, I’ll come back and let you know how it went!

Microsoft PDC 2009


Microsoft’s annual Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2009 starts next week on Tuesday 17th (to the 19th) and I’m hoping we’ll see some great announcements and revelations, just like last year.

Windows 7 is out now so all eyes are turned towards “Wave 14”, specifically Office 2010 and Sharepoint 2010…at least these are what I’m looking for more info on! It’s expected that the official release of the Office 2010 beta will be announced, as well as a beta of Office Web Apps.

The other big announcements will be around Windows Azure, which will be coming out of “Community Technical Preview” at the conference; so we’ll get more info on pricing and licensing.

I’m hoping there will be some BPOS news as that’s something of a pet area of mine, so it’s always good to learn more :-) I can see there’s a session titled “SharePoint Is Not Just On-Premise: Developing and Deploying Solutions to Microsoft SharePoint Online”…this is based on Sharepoint 2010 so should give some good hints and insight into what will be coming next year.

I’m not going to be there but I’ll be following it online and via Twitter so I’ll be posting all the big news for sure ;-)

The keynotes will be streamed like from http://microsoftpdc.com/ starting at 08:30 PST (16:30 GMT) and feature:

Day 1: Ray Ozzie (Chief Software Architect) & Bob Muglia (President Server & Tools)

Day 2: Scott Guthrie (VP Developer Division), Kurt Delbene (Senior VP Office Business Productivity) and “Special Guest”

Not sure why but my guess is that the Special Guest will be Alec Baldwin…let’s see how wrong I am on that!

Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery (BESR) 2010


Symantec’s Backup Exec System Recovery has always been a pretty great product. Allowing admins to snapshot systems to give them a quick restore of OS, Apps and settings as well as dissimilar hardware restores, restore to virtual machines and more has made it a very popular tool :-) This month of Novemeber sees the release of BESR 2010 with new versions and new features, so let’s take a look.

Different Editions

BESR 2010 comes in the following flavours:

  • Server Edition: RRP = $795
  • Windows Small Business Server Edition: RRP = $495
  • Desktop Edition: RRP = $69
  • Linux Edition (available December 2009): RRP = $495
  • Virtual Edition: RRP = $2495
  • Starter Kit: RRP = $3495

An optional add-on is “BESR Management Solution” which allows you to centrally manage BESR jobs across your network. Perhaps surprisingly, this is available to all BESR customers free of charge!

FAQs:

What is the Starter Kit? The Starter Kit includes 5 Server Licences (with Granular Restore) and 10 Desktop Licences)

What is the Virtual Edition? A single Symantec BESR Virtual Edition licence allows you to protect all Windows VM’s on a single physical server. Companies should realise some definite savings here.

What is the Linux Edition? This gives image level backup of Red Hat & SUSE linux systems through a CMD-line interface.

What does it support?:

Symantec BESR 2010 fully supports:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows 7
  • Exchange 2010
  • Hyper-V 2.0
  • vSphere 4.0
  • XenServer 5.5

Full Windows Support:

• Microsoft Windows Server 2008, including SP1 and
Server 2008 R2
• Microsoft Windows Essential Business Server 2008
• Windows Small Business Server 2003 and 2008
• Microsoft Windows Server 2003 family including SP1 and R2
• Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 (SP1)
• Windows Vista Ultimate, Business and Enterprise
• Windows XP Professional/Home (SP2 or later)
• Windows XP Media Center
• Windows 7 Ultimate, Enterprise and Professional

Full Virtual environment support:

• VMware vSphere 4.0
• VMware ESXi 3.5 and 4.0
• VMware ESX 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0
• VMware Server 1.0 and 2.0
• VMware Workstation 4, 5, and 6
• Microsoft Hyper-V 1.0 and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
• Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 and later
• Citrix XenServer 4.x and 5.x

Full Linux Environment Support:

• SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, SP1 and SP2 (x86) 32-bit
• SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, SP1 and SP2 (x86_64 not ia64) 64-bit
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 (x86) 32-bit
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 (x86_64 not ia64) 64-bit

Note: SUSE Desktop & RedHat Desktop are NOT supported and BESR f Linux is a 32bit app..so it you’ve disables 32bit runtime, it won’t work.

All in all, BESR 2010 is a pretty good bit of kit and will definitely make things easier should there be a disaster with the servers :-)

Microsoft Project Madison


Project Madison is a new Data Warehousing solution from Microsoft, born out of their purchase of DATAllegro in August 2008. It is a:

“highly scalable data warehouse appliance that delivers performance at low cost through a massively parallel processing (MPP) architecture.”

It’s official name is “Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse” (I’d have kept Madison myself) and it’s aim is to make Datacenters easily scalable from “Terabytes to Petabytes”.

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)

Most traditional architectures are Symmetric Multi-Processing. This means that all the queries are processed in one physical instance of the database; so CPU, Memory & storage limitations of the box all limit the speed & scale of the implementation.

Madison and it’s MPP approach get around that nicely as large tables are partitioned over multiple physical nodes. Each node has it’s own CPU, Storage and Memory and it’s own running instance of SQL Server…this is a patented approach known as “Ultra Shared Nothing” :-) Everything is mirrored as well for HA and redundancy.

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It’s use of Industry Standard hardware helps keep the costs down and gives a much lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) that current DW (Data Warehousing) offerings. If you need to scale you can simply buy some more server (HP DL380’s, IBM Xwhatever’s etc) and add them into the environment…no more needing to purchase a whole new appliance and write off the previous one. Definitely a good point for CFO’s and their kind :-)

Architecture

Madison’s approach to data storage makes it quicker, more reliable & more responsive to the needs of a business; or even to the needs of individual dept’s within a business. If you have multiple separate but related companies under a single umbrella (or you’re a big enterprise that has internal departments the same size as a small company!) Madison is definitely something you should take a look at.

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Here, each Business Unit has it’s own Data Mart making it easier, quicker and cheaper for them to store and access their data, but a single “Golden” copy of data in the central reservoir resolves many issues. There is also great high availability here as Spokes or hubs can back each other up.

 

This next image does a great job of showing the difference between Madison and current DW solutions:

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Much more flexible :-) It’s also going to be fast, one example I saw was:

“625K rows returned in 11 seconds from 1 trillion row table”

That’s amazing!

 

You can see in the diagram below that it plugs into Office and also “BI Tools”, which surely is Sharepoint. This backs up what I’ve heard that Sharepoint Online will support Madison too!

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Learn more over at:

 http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/2008/en/us/parallel-data-warehouse.aspx