Bringing together the Android-o-Sphere


I’ve recently moved over to the Android mobile platform and I’m pretty happy with it…it’s full of cool apps, e-book readers and fancy widgets. However, the biggest problem is fragmentation of the Operating System…there are currently 4 different Android OS releases in the market:

1.5

1.6

2.0

2.1

The big thing is that certain apps only work on certain versions, and that, my friends, is disappointing! One of the major apps that attracted me to Android was “Google Goggles” but, 4 months later I still haven’t used it :-( Goggles is an Android 2.0+ app and my phone, the HTC Hero, is an Android 1.5 device. I knew that when I bought it but I had also been led to believe that an upgrade was imminent…like before end of 2009 imminent. It was then “sometime it January” and, after a period of silence, it was “by the end of March”. It’s now being reported by MSN & Engadget that HTC will roll out the update to 2.1 on April 26th in Taiwan, with the rest of the world following shortly after. I hope that happens as I think then, Android will truly realise it’s potential…and I’ll get to have all kinds of fun :-)

It’s not just Goggles…other apps I’m missing out on include:

Flyscreen (1.6+) (adds apps to lock screen)

Gesture Search (2.1…now backported to 1.6)

Google Earth (2.1 only) <—This is a proper WTF decision…why isn’t Google Earth available to ALL owners of Google phones?!?!

and I’m sure countless more.

However, according to Engadget, Google are on the case…by splitting the OS up even more. At first I was like “What the WHAT?!” but having RTFA it does make sense:

Google “will start by decoupling many of Android’s standard applications and components from the platform’s core and making them downloadable and updatable through the Market”

This means that one wouldn’t be at the mercy of the manufacturer (HTC etc) or the carrier (AT&T etc) when new shiny bits were released for Android…you could just go and get it. That would be brilliant :-) This seems to be codenamed “Froyo” and then a later version will “Gingerbread”.

I’m not a great fan of Google but I do think that Android is the best Mobile OS currently available, and this appears to be a good solution to a very annoying problem. So 1) Hurry up HTC and get me onto 2.1 and 2) hurry up Google and implement this to prevent such disparate lag between users & devices.

Read the full scoop over at Engadget here.

Microsoft Online (BPOS) Update March 2010


Microsoft have once again brought out a raft of changes and improvements to their online BPOS offering, these include:

25GB mailboxes for all users: Self explanatory really :-)

Increased Sharepoint Site Collection Max. number: No longer limited to 20 site collections, organizations can now create up to 100 site collections!

Attach Files to Service Requests: You can now attach files to service tickets you open through the admin console. Max. file size is 5MB, max. total file size is 20MB and max. number of attachments per ticket is 20. I’ve never needed to do this but I can imagine it would be very hand in certain cases…sending screenshots etc.

Mac OSX Support: The Sign-In client now supports Mac OSX.

You can see the rest of the enhancements over at the MS Online Blog.

Office Communications Server (OCS) 14


Microsoft have given the first public views of Office Communications Server (OCS) 14 and it seems to be following the social networking/integration path of Office & Sharepoint 2010.

One thing that I like the look of is:

Skill Search

Employees enter their skills/interests into their Sharepoint profile and these are then searchable from OCS 14.

This really ties into how a lot of people use OCS/Communicator most of the time, especially Microsoft employees. Say I ask a question about Sharepoint 2010 and my contact doesn’t know, they jump into Communicator and ping a quick IM to the relevant person. For a major product like Sharepoint, it’s quite likely that they’ll know who they need to speak to…

But let’s say I ask a question about co-authoring in Live Web Apps or configuring shared mailboxes in Exchange Online, there’s a good chance that they won’t know who they need to talk to:

image

Do a quick search for “BPOS”, “Live”, “web apps” etc and bada-boom…person found :-)

The Office Wave 14 products are all aimed at making collaboration a much easier, attractive proposition to users with Sharepoint as the Central hub (save to Sharepoint, Office Web Apps etc). One of the other key tenets is increasing productivity and Skill Search fits into that perfectly :-)

There’s no mention of if/when a public beta of OCS 14/2010 will be released but MS did reveal that the Technical Adoption Program (TAP) kicked off “days ago”.

OCS 2007 R2 did a good job of introducing a lot of the features that users had asked for, and it seems that OCS 2010 is bringing it in line with Web 2.0 and Social Media…which now is definitely what users want.

Info and picture courtesy of ZDNet

Microsoft VDI Licensing changes


Microsoft have made some changes to their licensing, specifically aimed at making VDI adoption easier and more cost effective.

VDI with Microsoft is done via VECD (Virtual Enterprise Centralised Desktop) and there are 2 types of VECD licence available, one for machines without Software Assurance and one for machines with SA, priced at:

  • VECD (for users without SA) = $110 per device per year
  • VECD for SA (for users with SA) = $23 per device per year
  • So, although greatly reduced, there is still an extra cost on top of a customer’s investment in Software Assurance.

    However, from July 1st 2010, Software Assurance for Windows Client will include the VECD licence at no extra charge; simultaneously reducing the barriers to VDI adoption and increasing the amazing benefits and ROI that Software Assurance offers…good work Redmond!

    Also from that date, machines without SA will be covered by a Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licence, priced at $100.

    July 1st also gives customers licensed with the above the rights to access their virtual desktop from secondary, non-corporate machines such as home PC’s, hotel machines etc.

    Microsoft & Citrix “Rescue for VMWare VDI” Promotion


    Alongside the new RDP/VDI enhancement, there is a new promo being kicked off called:

    Rescue for VMWare VDI

    For customers currently using VMWare view:

    “eligible customers can trade-in their VMware View licenses with same number of Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses, up to a maximum of 500, at no cost

    At no cost!!! There are of course caveats and restrictions:

    “Customers with existing VMware View licenses for desktops covered by Microsoft Core CAL or Enterprise CAL suites with Software Assurance through Select, Enterprise & CASA (Campus & Schools Agreements)   family of agreements can take advantage of this offer. Determination of eligibility will be done by Citrix and Microsoft sales representatives”

    *(bold mine)

    So:

    Customers on:

    • Open
    • Open Value Perpetual
    • Open Value Subscription

    cannot take part in this promotion…which seems a little odd to me. I’d be interested to hear the reasoning behind this…

    Also, even if you are on one of the chosen licensing schemes but have chosen to purchase CALs individually, you are unable to take part.

    For those who are eligible, this promo is available until December 31 2010.

    You can see more on this, and other joint efforts, over at:

    http://www.citrixandmicrosoft.com/

    Windows Server 2008 R2 & Windows 7 Service Pack 1


    Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced many new features over and above Server 2008, and now we hear that Service Pack 1 (SP1) will extend that even further.

    Memory Over Commit:

    This feature, or rather the lack of it, caused quite a few comments from the VMWare side of the virtualization world as they had it and Hyper-V didn’t.

    Basically it allows you to assign more RAM to your Virtual Machines than you physically have available for example:

    A physical host with 4GB RAM

    4 VM’s each allocated 2 GB RAM

    So a total of 8GB assigned with only 4GB available…what the what?! How can this work?!

    Although machines will crash if the physical memory isn’t available, it reality it’s very rare for machines to use anywhere near the amount of RAM they have. It does still carry risks though so it isn’t for everyone!

    Remote FX

    Do you remember when Microsoft bought Calista around the start of 2008? They were a startup who:

    “set out to create technology that allows remote workers to enjoy the same rich user experience over a network as with a locally executing desktop”

    This includes:

    • Full Fidelity Video
    • Silverlight Support
    • 3D Graphics
    • Windows Aero

    Based on this technology, Microsoft are introducing “RemoteFX” with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, although there are keen to point out that this is:

    “not a new standalone product from Microsoft. Rather, it describes a set of RDP technologies – most prominently graphics virtualization and the use of advanced codes – that are being added”

    This will allow remote users/VDI users to have an experience much closer to that of a full desktop PC.

    One thing to note is that:

    If you want to use RemoteFX with a Windows 7 VM, it must be running on Hyper-V…so no VMWare!

    Microsoft have always very closely with Citrix and now it’s been announced that Citrix will be integrating RemoteFX into their XenDesktop and HDX products.

    Windows XP Mode: No more hardware virtualization


    Microsoft introduced XP Mode with Windows 7 and it was great; a way to run XP only applications inside the new Operating System. However, there was one big caveat…it only worked on machines with processors that supported “Hardware Assisted Virtualization” (HAV) AKA Intel-VT/AMD-V…and these CPU’s aren’t all that prevalent (something my post here looked at). Many end users found it tricky to work out if their machine supported this technology and a huge number of people, both home users and small businesses, found they were unable to take advantage of this new innovation.

    Well not any more!!!

    Microsoft have re-written the XP Mode engine, allowing the need for HAV to be removed :-) This means that anyone running a genuine copy of Windows 7 Pro, Enterprise or Ultimate can now use XP Mode regardless of their hardware, opening it up to countless (probably 1000’s) more people.

    This is a great move by Microsoft, extending the great work they’ve done with XP Mode to the masses and surely furthering Windows 7 adoption among home users and small businesses too.

    You can download the update to remove the requirements below:

    32-bit

    64-bit

    Windows 7 Cram Live Meeting


    If you saw the Windows 7 Exam Cram session that was running on March 11th but missed the actual event (like me), the recording is now available online here:

    https://www112.livemeeting.com/cc/microsoft/view?id=DC031110&pw=webcast

    So if you’re working towards some Windows 7 exams (at least 70-680 & 70-685) or would like to but not sure where to start, head over there and get started…I will be ASAP!

    Internet Explorer 9


    Internet Explorer 9 is here! Well, a Developer preview build has been released at MIX 10 and it looks pretty freakin’ awesome!

    • Full HTML 5 Support…even video!
    • Rounded Corners
    • Background Compiled Javascript
    • Much improved (although not perfect) ACID 3 score
    • IE9 is the first browser to provide fully hardware-accelerated SVG support

    These, and more, are already part of IE9 :-)

    Head over to:

    http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/

    to find out more and download the current build of IE9, although it’s not a complete browser. There is no address bar and no back button (!), it’s a very early way of letting us all have a look at the goodness that is on it’s way.

    An important point I’ve just seen in the FAQ is that:

    “One of the best features of Platform Preview is that it installs side-by-side with earlier versions of Internet Explorer and any other browser(s) on your computer”

    which means it should be completely safe to install it on your machine. I’ve got it on mine and it works great…

    Look-Rounded Borders!

    image

    Asteroids in the browser?

    image

    Yes!

    Acid Test:

    “Acid3 is a test page from the Web Standards Project that checks how well a web browser follows certain selected elements from web standards, especially relating to the Document Object Model (DOM) and JavaScript.” (from Wikipedia)

    Current browsers that pass Acid 3 are:

    Google Chrome

    Apple Safari

    Opera

    while Internet Explorer 8 gets:

    image

    Internet Explorer 9 currently gets:

    image

    So much better…but still a way to go. I assume that Microsoft will get it to 100 by the time it ships?

    Windows XP

    Can I haz IE9 on XP?

    No.

    What the What?

    “Internet Explorer 9’s GPU-powered graphics take advantage of new technologies available in Windows 7 and back-ported only to Windows Vista. These technologies depend on advancements in the display driver model introduced first in Windows Vista”

    Oh…ok…can I haz Windows 7 pleez?!

    This is another reason for people to move from the creaking, aging and frankly not very good anymore platform of Windows XP. IE9 is going to be faster, flashier, sexier and better and will seriously enhance and improve people’s interactions with the web…both in terms of enjoyment and enhanced productivity…maybe this will be the thing that pushes people to take the leap onto Windows 7? Here’s hoping!

    HTML 5 Video

    Although Microsoft showed HTML 5 video working during the MIX 10 keynote, it’s not currently available in the Platform Preview. However, it is coming and, as MS are updating the build every 8 weeks, it won’t be too long until we see it.

    Javascript Rendering

    On the Webkit SunSpider Javascript Performance test, IE9 posts better results that Firefox 3.6:

    Bar graph of Webkit SunSpider Javascript Benchmark results

     

    and is getting very close to the super speeds of Opera. With many months until shipping we should see IE9 rise even further up the ranks.

    Dean Hachamovitch (General Manager, Internet Explorer) has got a great blog post all about IE 9 here:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2010/03/16/html5-hardware-accelerated-first-ie9-platform-preview-available-for-developers.aspx

    Thoughts:

    From what I’ve heard from MIX and via Twitter, what I’ve seen using the Platform Preview and what I’ve read on the MSDN blogs…this is going to fit in really well with Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 Series…it’s going to be brilliant and put MS back at the top.

    So go and download the preview, check it out and keep tuned :-)