With all of the hype around Windows 7 lately, it is easy to forget that Microsoft has a history of releasing other products at around the same time as a new operating system. According to an Associated Press article, Microsoft is set to announce that Office 2010 is slated to be released in the first half of next year.
According to the article, there are going to be some interesting changes for Microsoft Office. For starters, Microsoft is going to offer a light version of some of the Office applications that can run within a Web browser. They also plan to offer a free version of Office that is supported by advertising revenue. Of course Microsoft will still offer the option to purchase a more traditional version of Office 2010.
A couple of days ago, Microsoft announced that they are going to offer similar downgrade rights for Windows 7 as what they currently offer for Windows Vista. As it stands right now, if you buy a new computer that has Vista preinstalled, you have the right to downgrade to Windows XP. Anyone buying a computer that comes preloaded with Windows 7 will have the rights to downgrade to either Windows XP or to Vista.
Incidentally, Windows XP’s mainstream support ends on April 14th, and only extended support will be available. From that point on, Microsoft plans to only release security related updates for Windows XP.
One question that I have been asked a lot lately is what does it take to become a Microsoft MVP. Being that I have received the MVP award five times for a variety of different areas of expertise, you would think that I would know. The truth is though, that I have no idea.
I write hundreds of articles every year, and I contribute to the IT community in various other ways. Even so, in October of 2007 I was not renewed as an Exchange MVP. I ended up becoming an MVP in a different area in June of 2007, but I have no idea what I did to get it.
The only thing that I can tell those of you who are wanting to become MVPs is that Microsoft likes to see contributions to the IT community that help people, and activites that reach large numbers of people. Of course those aren’t the “official” requirements. Last year I asked one of the MVP leads what the official criteria is, and she told me that she was not allowed to say. Apparently, Microsoft wants to see people performing MVP worthy activities on their own free will, and not just because a check list says that they have to.
I was thinking about my recent blog posts about the Windows 7 touch interface, and about other ways of interacting with a computer. I seem to recall attending a Bill Gates key note a few years ago, in which he said that he was surprised that natural language had not evolved more as a computer interface.
Vista has a speech recognition engine built into it, but I have never actually used it. I do however regularly use Dragon Naturally Speaking. I have experimented with speech recognition off and on since about 1995. As far as hard core dictating goes, it only really became practical a few years ago. Naturally Speaking version 8 was the first version that I considered to be half way decent. The current version is 10.0, and as long as you have the necessary hardware and you spend enough time training the application, it works really well. In fact, I dictate most of the stuff that I write.
So am I dictating right now? No, but I wish that I were.
I live in the south, and everything is in bloom right now. There is so much pollen that my drive way and my patio literally look as if someone spilled yellow paint on them. As you have probably already guessed, my allergies are going haywire. When I try to dictate, I end up sounding something like Alvin and the Chipmunks, and that doesn’t work very well for speech recognition. I guess that is just one problem that technology has yet to solve.
In yesterday’s column, I mentioned that I was going to use today’s column to tell you about the gestures that are supported by Windows 7’s touch interface. Some of the gestures that are supported are pretty obvious. For example, you would probably expect to be able to tap, double tap, drag, and scroll. There are some other less obvious ones though.
One example of this is that you can invoke the zoom function by moving two fingers together (in a pinching motion) or by moving them apart.
There is also a gesture called a two finger tap. The two finger tap causes the area where you tapped to be zoomed in (or restored to its previous size). To be able to use this gesture though, you must be using an application that was specifically coded to support it.
Another gesture that requires special coding is the rotate gesture. To use this one, just touch two different spots on a digital photo, and then slide your fingers. The photo will be rotated in the direction of your fingers.
Windows 7 also supports a flick gesture, that is similar to the one used on the iPhone. Any application that uses a back button supports this gesture.
You might have noticed one very important gesture missing from the list… the right mouse click. You can use a touch interface to perform a right mouse click, but it isn’t exactly intuitive. You can either press the screen and hold it, or you can press the screen, and then tap the screen with a second finger. Either of these gestures does the same thing as a right mouse click.
When a Windows 7 pre beta build was first demonstrated at the Professional Developer’s Conference last year, there was a lot of hype and speculation surrounding the touch screen interface. Now that some of the hype has died down, I want to take a more serious look at the touch interface.
Unfortunately, I still have not had the opportunity to actually experiment with the touch interface myself, but there has been a lot more information released about how this interface works. One wise decision that Microsoft has made was to enable touch at the OS level. This means that all applications should support touch in a consistent manner, even if they were not specifically designed for touch.
So why is this important? It’s important because if the touch interface is ever to become anything more than a novelty, then it needs to be universally supported by all applications, and the only way to make that happen is at the operating system level. The other reason why it is important is because it provides consistency.
A perfect example of this is the mouse. Pretty much every Windows application uses the mouse in the same way. I myself hardly ever even think about the mouse. Recently though, I ran into an oddball application that used the mouse in a non standard way, and it was really disruptive.
I am not much of a gamer, but I absolutely love Microsoft Flight Simulator X (RIP Aces Studio). Normally, you can flit a cockpit switch by clicking on it. I recently downloaded a new aircraft that required you to click on a switch, hold down the mouse button, and rotate the scroll wheel until the switch went to the desired position. Since no other aircraft uses this method, it took me forever to learn how to fly the #$%^ thing.
If nothing else though, this illustrates the importance of an interface’s consistency. Integrating the behavior for an interface into the operating system is the first (and most critical) step to making sure that applications behave in a consistent manner.
Tomorrow, I will follow up this post with a discussion of the gestures that are supported by Windows 7’s touch interface.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was in Las Vegas at a conference all week. One thing about being gone like that is that E-mail tends to pile up while I’m away. It’s a long story (perhaps one for another blog post), but I usually don’t end up checking my E-mail while I am traveling.
At any rate, it’s Saturday night, and I just finished going through all of my messages from the past week. One of the messages that I missed while I was away was one from Microsoft annoiuncing that SP2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 had just been released. Microsoft decided to design the service pack so that it could be applied to either operating system, so you don’t have to download one version of the service pack for servers and another version for workstations. You can get the service pack through Windows Update, but there is also a standalone version that you can download at: https://connect.microsoft.com/Downloads/DownloadDetails.aspx?SiteID=691&DownloadID=17206&wa=wsignin1.0
Ever since Exchange Server was first introduced, Microsoft has designed it so that upon installing Exchange, NTBackup is extended so that it has the ability to properly back up Exchange. The big exception to the rule is Exchange 2007 though. If you install Exchange 2007 SP1 on a Windows 2008 server, Windows Server Backup is not extended to allow Exchange Server to be backed up. Microsoft has been promising us a solution to this problem for quite some time, but so far the only solution has been to use Data Protection Manager to back up Exchange, or to rely on third party backup software.
I spent this week at The Experts Conference in Las Vegas. During that conference, I attended a really interesting session that was presented by Michael B. Smith. During his session, Michael explained that Windows Server 2008 actually has everything that it needs to perform a VSS backup of Exchange 2007. You just have to know how the backup process works, and you need to know a good bit of PowerShell scripting.
The session was not for the faint of heart (this was the Experts conference after all). To be perfectly honest, I understand the principle behind Michael’s technique, but the actual script is way over my head. Fortunately, Michael describes the technique in his blog, and even provides a copy of the script (and a GUI based on the script). You can access the blog entry at: http://theessentialexchange.com/blogs/michael/archive/2009/01/14/volume-shadow-copy-services-vss-and-exchange-the-basics.aspx This is the first of several posts on the subject. You can access the others by going to the main blog page at: http://theessentialexchange.com/blogs/michael/
This week I am going to be in Las Vegas at the Experts conference. I was originally supposed to be presenting a couple of Exchange Server sessions at the conference, but those sessions were canceled because not enough people have registered for the conference.
I tend to travel to a lot of conferences throughout the year; some as a speaker, and some as an attendee. For each conference so far this year, the story has been the same. There have been very low numbers of attendees. This begs the question, are IT conferences dead?
I seriously doubt it. Sure, you can learn a lot of the same things online that you can learn at a conference, but the networking opportunities are extremely valuable. IT conferences sometimes get a bad reputation for being all fun and games, but I can honestly say that some of my best contracts, and the answers to some of my toughest technical questions have all come from conferences.
Right now with all of the economic uncertainty, it is only natural that attendance is down. Everybody is in survival mode. Companies are trying to cut costs, and one way of doing that is to eliminate non essential travel. Those of us (like me) who have to pay their own way are scaling back too, because we just don’t know what the future holds.
I don’t want to be all gloom and doom though. I am a firm believer in the power of capitalism. As long as the government doesn’t get in the way too much, then I think that it will only be a matter of time before the economy rebounds. When it does, I think that IT conference attendance will pick back up as well.
The people who run the Information Technology Knowledge Exchange have asked me to use today’s blog post to let you know about a new contest that is going on.
Between now and the end of April, the three Information Technology Knowledge Exchange community members who have earned the most knowledge points, and who have posted at least five IT related questions during the contest can win one of three Xbox 360s. You can reas more details about this contest at: http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/itke-community-blog/new-contest-a-trio-of-xboxes-for-our-top-three-users/