Week One as an Apple OSX user

Been a week since I powered up a Macbook Air for the first time. Having never touched an Apple laptop or PC I was more than a little apprehensive – sure the iPods and iPads are intuitive to use but would the desktop products be the same?

Well so far so good. The boot up and shutdown is impressive, even compared to my Acer laptop, running Windows 7 Pro x64, 4GB RAM and a SSD drive. Installation of software via the App Store is quick and easy, and occurs much like installing an app on an iPad or smartphone. I run a Windows network at work, so one of the key challenges was getting it to play nicely in that environment. Joining to the domain was initially tricky, but once I found the right place to enter the network information (Users & Groups is a strange place to hide Network Account Server!) I was away. One trick for new players – have to enter the FQDN so domainname.local not just domainname to connect. My next ‘learning moment’ was logging on. I rememebered to change the login from ‘List of Users’ to ‘Name and password’ but do you think I could get authenticated! Seems there is a known bug in Lion but for me at least waiting a minute let me authenticate. Oh that and NOT entering the domain name in the login name! I was trying domainname\username but it refused to connect. Tried username alone and BAM! logged in fine.

At this point I was feeling pretty damn happy! I have installed Parallels for Mac as well, and created a Win7 virtual machine. This is to run Windows-only apps for network admin tasks and the performance is really nice. I do have one small gripe though. Apple users are always bagging Microsoft for all the OS updates. First time booting up the Macbook Air, 1.67GB of OS updates! After installing, another 1.1GB of updates! And for the next week I have had updates of some sort each day.. yes some of them are for iMovie and iPhoto but still….

Today is printer and network drive time. Managed to download the Ricoh driver ok, double-click the dmg and installed happily. Went into ‘Print & Scan’, hit the + to add a printer and browsed through the Windows network to install from the Windows print server. Having a less-happy time with the Konica Minolta though, will persevere…

So all in all, happy little Apple convert here. Missing the right-click I have to say, although I am sure I will adjust…


Nokia Lumia 800 review

Thanks to Gen-i and The Leading Edge I have taken receipt of a brand new Nokia Lumia 800 handset. As a Microsoft house, I am keen to see the senior team use Windows mobiles instead of the Android ones but up until now there hasnt really been anything of quality to use. The Lumia 800 promises to work well with Sharepoint so I am giving it a test drive.

Unpacking was nice, instead of the usual lift off boxtop we pull the innards out, revealing the handset. Drilling through the packaging we get the users manual, a rubberised protective case and then to the lower level with headset, USB cable and wall charger. I like the idea of a round charger, fits MUCH better into a power board, unlike pretty much every other charger that seems intent on taking up at least 2 sockets. Searched for a battery, before realising it is already in the handset and has a partial charge. In the had, the handset feels nice, curved edges and a weight that says ‘I am here’ but not too much that suggests its a brick.
















The setup of the handset was quick and painless. Sign in with a Windows Live account and a Nokia account and you are done (or sign up for them as you go). For me the portrait keyboard is a little small, but even with my big fat male fingers it was responsive and no errors were keyed.

So onto setting up corporate email. On other handsets this has been painful, having to enter email addresses, domain logins and OWA settings. With the Lumia I entered my email address and password, it came almost straight back for my Active Directory username and password and then it started syncing, and fast! 174 Contacts were copied from the SIM in seconds and I was ready to go. I was ready to test the Sharepoint integration so connected the phone to the corporate wireless network, clicked into Office and into Sharepoint. As expected, it couldn’t load my live site as it is running SP2007, but it prompted me to open it in a browser. I did that was was really surprised at how fast it loaded and how usable it was. Flicked into a document library and opened a spreadsheet faster than I could on my laptop!

I am in the process of upgrading to Sharepoint 2010 so pointed the Lumia at the UAT site. Instantly connected and had all the sites and libraries available. One thing I did note was the look & feel goes out the window, you have a list view instead of the traditional website view as can be seen in the photo to the left. Undecided how I feel about that right now, from a navigation view it does make it easier and faster, but if I am investing in branding I want to see it.

The Marketplace seems good. I know a lot of people have said there is nothing there (well okay only 60k apps versus 500k for Android or whatever the numbers are) but quantity isn’t always a good measure. There are plenty of good free and paid-for apps available right now, and I would be almost prepared to argue that the ones there are more useful than a lot on the other two OS’s. Going to spend a bit of time today and over the weekend seeing what else this bad boy can do I think, but initial thoughts are bye-bye Android, hello Microsoft!

Virtually there

So I was pondering the realm of the 3D Web, virtual worlds and the like the other day and wondering how far they had come over the last 10 years or so. I remember when Second Life (SL) was first launched in 1999, and how it magically transformed the humble text chat sessions into something akin to being in your own movie. I was working in the Market Research industry and was curious to see what options were up and coming for consumer engagement and if there were smarter ways to conduct research – to put it in context I am talking about a time before web surveys were mainstream and 99% of research was done on the telephone or face-to-face. For me, having a virtual world where consumers and brands could connect from anywhere on the planet was amazing and opened up new opportunities to find out what consumers thought of products before they were created in real life.

There were two European market research agencies at the time experimenting with surveys in this medium. I vividly recall in one instance being interviewed by a rock that came to life to talk about my in-world experiences! Novelty factor aside, the ability to show 3D models and mock-ups of new products or see an ad concept on the screen allowed a researcher new avenues to explore. From a learning perspective having the ability to join in a seminar where there was a ‘real’ person on screen showing a new software package or piece of hardware was (almost) priceless, again you have to remember this was before video conferencing and webinars were widely used.

Having this experience over 10 years ago I was fascinated to see how far things had progressed and what new opportunities were available. Surely the worlds would be almost photo-realistic, more engaging and it would be easy to pull in external files to share & collaborate on.

What a disappointment.

Yes it was still impressive and you could talk to people but it seemed to be stuck in a time loop. The quality of the environment doesn’t appear to have changed much, maybe Linden Labs were so far ahead of the game when they made it that this is as good as it gets with current technology. Movement is still keyboard & mouse driven with predefined avatar motions used that are, to be honest, clunky at best.  I am hoping that with the release of Kinect for Windows that we will see more realistic movements and the interface will become well,  ourselves.

When this happens I think the purpose and functionality will change and we may see it adopted more. There is fortunately some research already being conducted into interfacing the Kinect sensor with SL (examples here and here) which can only lead to more immersive and collaborative platforms right? One business-focussed virtual world that I have recently discovered is the Avaya webalive platform. For me this seems a nice mix of Second Life & other virtual worlds and business necessities such as file sharing. It can be easily customised to fit the corporate brand and uses VoIP and text chat. I do wonder though the value of using something like that as opposed to say, Microsoft Lync, Cisco Telepresence or Citrix Goto Meeting.

I am not a gamer, never have been and not likely to be in the foreseeable future which is why I think I struggle to see how this medium adds more value than the aforementioned web collaboration tools, or even the humble wiki or document sharing sites. Saying that, the Gen Y generation who grew up with this type of gaming environment would probably adopt it more readily and find value where I can’t. There is no doubt that virtual worlds can support collaboration. My question though is it more gimmick than genuine business tool? Would you use it in your daily business life to collaborate and communicate with a customer or supplier?

Let me know your thoughts.

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