Windows 8: What’s up?

Promising to be dramatically different, Windows 8 should hit the market later this year. The most obvious and debated change is the Metro UI. For those who need a bit of background, Metro (pictured right) is a new way of interacting with Windows applications. Rather than having a desktop, start menu, and static icons, Metro groups and presents smart icons. These icons display information that may be relevant to your day and offer you a touch-friendly way launching the app. Don’t worry quite yet, the tiles also work with a mouse so it’s usable even without a touch screen.

At first glance the interface seems boxy and somewhat clumsy, but in reality it’s a rather nice experience. The inclusion of smart tiles gives you a quick glance of information you need to know, and easy drill down access to the information you want to know. Still, even with the best of intentions change is hard and long-term Windows veterans will get frustrated trying to find things for some time. Those who use a Windows Phone, Xbox, or Zune marketplace will find the experience more in line with other Microsoft properties. To sum up the interface in a few words, it’s a touch-based consumer friendly version of Windows.

The Windows interface hasn’t changed much since Windows 95 and Microsoft needs to do something to give it an edge in the mobile market. Supplying a similar if not identical user experience across all platforms gives Microsoft a unique value proposition and reduces enterprise training time. While many would argue how horrible this change is, take a look back to the transition from 3.11 to Windows 95 and change is good. If this works Microsoft has managed to come from behind and achieve what Apple is shooting for, one interface for all devices.

But Microsoft hasn’t stopped with the Interface when so much more can be improved. They’ve added a slew of new features and performance enhancements. Performance enhancements include an optimized Windows Explorer, faster boot times, and an enhanced search. Feature enhancements include Windows To Go, Windows Live syncing, and the Microsoft Store.

While the Microsoft Store is an attempt to play catch up, Windows To Go and Windows Live Sync are real power features for Windows. Windows To Go allows you to copy your OS and settings to a USB thumb drive. You can then plug this drive into any Windows 8 machine, boot it up and work as if it were your own. From a consumer standpoint this is a real winner, for my CPA friends this would make busy season a lot less stressful! Windows Live Sync is similar as it allows you to sync your Windows settings and preferences to the cloud, then access those settings from another Windows 8 computer by simply logging in with your Windows Live ID. Unlike Windows To Go, Windows Live Sync only keeps and adjusts the basic Windows settings, it doesn’t have all of your data available.

Best of all for consumers, Microsoft has simplified the options. Windows 8 only comes in four flavors, but there are only two people care about. The two primary versions are Windows 8, and Windows 8 Pro. The differences are fairly straight forward: Windows 8 Pro includes Bit Locker (drive encryption) and the ability to boot from a virtual hard disk. For those who want to know the other two versions they are Windows Enterprise and Windows RT. Windows Enterprise is Windows Pro with an enterprise licensing scheme, and Windows RT is built for machines with ARM processors, or in “real terms” tablets.

Understanding that change is hard, and competition is high. Microsoft has done the right thing and priced the Windows 8 upgrade at $39.99. That’s significantly less than any other Windows upgrade. To sweeten the deal it can upgrade from Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 and offers you the ability to format the drive and do a clean install with the upgrade. If you’re forced to by a new PC between now and the Windows 8 release this fall, Microsoft will give you a coupon to receive the upgrade for $14.99.

So what do you think, is the price right for an upgrade?

Boycott Apple? Yeah that will work…

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Using some strange mind control technique Jacob has managed to convince me we should do a weekly TechieBytes video. Being Jacob’s nature he instantly hijacked the show notes and added tons on controversy. This week it appears that Jacob is on the #BoycottApple bandwagon and wants needs demands the world agree with him. My perspective is a little different, I don’t see where this is an Apple problem nor how they should be punished.

If you need a little background #BoycottApple is nothing new. We se this hashtag show up anytime any group takes issue with Apple. First it was the Foxconn factory conditions, and proper wages for employees. Now it’s hijacked by whining Google fanboys & fangirls who simply want a newer cooler phone. Don’t believe me check it out yourself, it seems every post includes an iPhone Android comparison and why Android is “so much better”.

Yes, these Google fans believe you should boycott Apple for winning a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus. No consideration to the fact that it’s Apples responsibility to do right by its stakeholders. No consideration that Apple didn’t create the system, but is simply playing the game as the rules dictate. Nor do they take into account that several companies have been suing Google for various infringements, and that Google itself funds several hardware venders to sue Apple for various related issues.

I completely understand being upset with the patent process. In my opinion the system is broken, it was designed to promote innovation not protect generic processes. Still it’s the system we have so why be angry or penalize those who utilize it. In basic terms don’t hate the player hate the game.

We’ll have more discussion on the new show this week, and most likely let you join in on the topic. Google did have some other cool stuff come out at IO and we’ll discuss that too. I’m sure Jacob will be kind enough to add to this post with show times and topics.

Don’t like my opinion, use the box below to show your outrage. If you agree you can comment too, but I understand if you don’t.

P.S. Kristen didn’t edit this one so please protect me when she kabooms about my errors.

The depressing truth

Many of you might have noticed a change in tone on the blog lately. My co-worker Jacob had this idea that controversial content gets noticed. Worse yet, rude and abrasive content is the best of breed. Not one to shy away from interesting experiences, I set him loose to create some less than appropriate content. Meanwhile, I went down the path of creating what seemed to be useful and productive content.

After a few posts and several weeks of downtime a few things stand out:

  1. Both types of content pulled in our normal readers
  2. Both types of content drew in new readers
  3. Jacob’s flavor of content had far more shares and reach

In a world where social shares equals curation, the idea that basic rants and absurdities are made more prominent than productive content both frightens and depresses me. It’s not that I find Jacob’s passion for railing against what he finds annoying, wrong. I simply question if his shock jock approach is really the best way to create a conversation. Is this the content we want our friends, family and co-workers to base decisions on?

Anyway, in reality I guess it’s just sour grapes. Jacob’s tone works because it’s entertaining. It’s unexpected and in some ways refreshing in its honesty. Perhaps that’s the difference in news and information. Even more, perhaps it’s the general attitude of content where we rely on the reader to add context?

The lesson in all this for me? Don’t stop taking risks. I most likely won’t have the ability to match Jacob’s tone and annoyance with products, but I won’t be stifling him either. Much like the radio, if you don’t like it then you don’t have to read it. If you do, then enjoy.

Do you want to hear more rants from Jacob? Let us know in the comment section below.

Google Docs (Sharing with teams)

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but in that time I hope you had a chance to try out Google Docs. Perhaps you’ve even taken the time to check out Google Drive. In this session I’ll show you some of the ways you can use Google docs to share, edit, and collaborate.

Perhaps the most common use for Google Docs is to allow others to review and edit documents you’ve created.

For example, in our office we have an edit and review process for our e-newsletter. One or more people write stories that are sent to an editor and consolidated. From there the e-newsletter is attached to an email and routed to several people for review. Each person reviews and supplies edits and returns the document to the editor. The editor then manages and merges these changes. Simple enough but time-consuming none the less.

When I write content, I create a draft (roughness depending on mood) share it with my editor and my content experts. Content experts can modify the live document, and the editor can work within the same document. What makes it even better is they can all be working on it at the same time if they choose.

The biggest difference is that many documents become one document. So how’s it done?

First click the share button in the top right corner:

This will open the sharing box:


Use the “Add people” box to add the person you want to share with. Once a person is added you can use the drop down to the right of their name to select permissions for them. In this case I want to allow others the ability to edit the document. When you’ve added the people you want to share with, click done. This sets the permissions on the document, sends them an email with a link, and adds the document to their Google Docs for editing.

If someone you’ve shared with accesses the document the same time that you do you will see a notification under the share button at the top right of the page. Any number of participants can access the document and make edits simultaneously.

You can also see where other users are editing the document. Below you can see that I’m editing the text highlighted in grey, as another user is editing the text highlighted in pink.

Granted the system isn’t perfect, at some point somebody will overwrite, or delete something you wanted to keep. Google Docs offers a solution for this as well. Revision history is located under the file menu and gives you access to all document revisions.

The Problem with Pinterest

Like the inimitable fuzzy creatures of a similar alliteration, users of the social networking site Pinterest are reproducing like, err, rabbits. Just how fast is the little pinboard that could growing? According to never-wrong Wikipedia, in March of 2012 it surpassed LinkedIn and something called Tagged to become the third largest in the world.

I never really got it, though, at least, until recently. But I’m still not sure I get it. I mean, I get it in theory — Pinterest allows visual organization of items into categories, useful for storing, say, recipes, paint colors, carpet swatches, wristwatches, renovation ideas, or photographic inspiration — I don’t get it in practice and implementation.

Upon perusing the website for the first time, I was struck by a veritable avalanche of eye shadows, half-naked men, lipsticks, wedding rings, platitudes, eye shadows, wedding rings, half-naked men, platitudes, eye shadows, eye shadows, platitudes, lipsticks, half-naked men, platitudes, and eye shadows. I know the site’s demographic is mainly women (85% feels like the right number, although I’m too lazy even while typing this to source that for you or verify it in any way, shape, or form — think with your gut, not with your brain!), but it felt like I had stumbled onto a digital 14 year-old girl’s bulletin board. Surely the female form must have more varied interests than this. (But really, seriously.)

After further visits with and persuasion from female associations, I saw the merit of visually organizing food ideas, clothing ideas, and decorating ideas, and signed up an account.

And then I saw Pinterest’s dark, seedy underbelly.

  1. The vast majority of Pinterest users seem to be functionally illiterate. No, cupcakes are not Men’s Apparel. Neither are women’s engagement rings. Neither are pictures of naked men — technically, they don’t belong under any kind of apparel. Similarly, mascara does not belong under Cars, baby pictures are not a form of Travel, and god damn it, stop posting pictures of naked men and cupcakes everywhere.
  2. Pinterest forces a kindergarten-like atmosphere. You see, being mean or seeming intolerant are bannable offenses on the website.
  3. The site offers no way to moderate or punish users who pay no attention to the site’s organizational structure.

These three factors combine to create a sort of “wild west of kindercare.” You see, there’s kind of an unspoken rule of the Internet: Either your website is an unmoderated wasteland, or a self-moderating civilization, or a heavily-moderated fascist state. Pinterest tries to combine aspects of all three, and, I think, is suffering from a terrible disease from it.

So please, new found place for mascara pictures and also occasionally my well-organized recipes, pick a path and stick with it. Because I’m tired of the little girls running around in my room.

10 Things I Hate About You…r Email

I hate email.

  1. Re: RE: Fwd: FW: FW: LOL. If you couldn’t even bother to remove some of the myriad prefixes, I probably don’t need to see your hilarious sexist joke that was dug up from the bowels of 1996.
  2. While we’re on it, your subject lines. I don’t know what “meeting notes” refers to, nor “we talked about this yesterday.” On the other hand, “document I was speaking to a person about which refers to the important decision we need to make (perhaps this should be sent to Bob instead?)” is just about as worthless, and has the added benefit of making me have a small seizure. Learn to think.
  3. Reply all.
  4. You don’t need to be writing me at 8 p.m. if it wasn’t important enough for you to pick up the phone and call me. It can wait.
  5. It’s 2012, and you’re writing me an email? It’s not that you’re not special, but you’re not special. I’m sorry that I forgot your message — It’s just that you chose the one communication method out of twenty available to you that has the highest number of competing messages about discount car washes, music purchases, bill reminders, outrageous political threats, and young females taking prescription drugs and performing equine acts that are illegal in the lower 48 (their status in Wasilla is up for debate). You just performed the Internet equivalent of sticking a takeout menu on my front door.
  6. Your infuriating ten-line sparkling rainbow-colored Comic Sans MS legalese-infused signature. Do I need to know your job title, phone number, and favorite Muppet every time you write me? Why the hell are you telling me that I should delete this email and forget it if you shouldn’t have sent it to me? For that matter, why are you telling me your email address again?
  7. A link. As the entire message.
  8. “You’re welcome.” When all I said was “Thanks.”
  9. Attachments. It’s 2012, and you’re not using Google Docs, YouTube, Dropbox, or an image host? Please stay off the Internet until you’ve learned to pedal without training wheels.
  10. Your words in general. They’re so uncommunicative, illogical, unintelligible, painful. I think computer keys should be as physically painful to you as your pathetic creeping attempts at human discourse are to me. Sorry, I know it’s not true for everyone, but it’s the case many people. (If you find yourself disagreeing, give yourself a nice pat on the back, because you’re one of those many people. Now turn off the computer before you hurt yourself. Blues Clues will be on soon. Hey look, a shiny penny! For you!) Look, it’s not that you’re illiterate, it’s just that it looks like you banged your face against your keyboard to the beat of “Yankee Doodle” to create your prose. Or maybe you fell asleep and your cat opened Outlook and walked across your keyboard. I don’t know. But honestly, I’ve seen better writing come from a cell phone in someone’s back pocket. I no you can’t bare to here it, butt you’re righting sucks.

Best Practices in Social Media – the basics

Similar to Chris’ Google series, I thought I’d introduce a series on Best Practices in Social Media. Feel free to shout out your own best practices, tips and tricks, or suggest a topic for another post for the series.

Some of these best practices might be very basic to the self-proclaimed social media expert, but novices might appreciate a thing or two in these introductory posts.

We can get into detailed social media channels in subsequent posts, but let’s just start with some basic housekeeping items, shall we?

Let’s be real

Social media isn’t a place to hide. Sure nobody’s stopping you from lurking, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of social media? If you’re going to be on social, make yourself visible. Participate and engage with the community and most importantly – be real!

Or in layman’s terms: use your real name! This is especially important if you’re trying to brand yourself or promote your company’s brand. You will command a lot more respect and credibility from those you interact with, and even gain some new friends in the process.

Strike a pose

So while you’re busy being real and interacting with others virtually, there’s one crucial part of your online profiles that must exist – your profile picture. Now, there’s a little flexibility here depending on the network. You can choose the same professional picture for each social network, or you can have a different one for each depending on what it is.

I know a lot of people who change their Facebook profile photos on the regular from anything to their kids, dogs, and even recent beach vacation. That’s all fine and dandy if it’s your personal page with your friends and family as connections, but if you run a business page on Facebook, that profile picture should represent your brand – not your kid’s latest art project.

For Twitter, most people have a fun headshot of themselves as their avatar. It’s not as buttoned up as LinkedIn, but not nearly as informal as Facebook. Please, whatever you do, don’t leave any of the default avatars you can choose when setting up your Twitter profile. Nothing screams infrequent newbie user like a default avatar.

LinkedIn is considered the most professional of the social networks and therefore should have the most professional looking head shot of them all. You don’t have to have anything professionally done nor do you have to be in a suit and tie, but don’t go posting photos of your last bar outing as your main photo.

Not only should your personality come across in your posts, but also in the profile picture that you choose. This will help your audience connect to you easier and relate to you better. Just please – keep it PG in all instances.

Open up a little

I say “a little,” because I don’t connect with people I don’t know on Facebook. To me, my personal Facebook page is my private space for my friends and family only. Period.

With that said – I am a completely open book on Twitter and LinkedIn. I really don’t see the point of having a Twitter account if you’re going to protect your posts. Not only don’t your retweets show up to others unless you have granted them access to follow you, but any hashtags that you use won’t get picked up because they’re all hiding behind your brick wall. (I had one coworker learn this the hard way.)

While you have the option to block people from following you on Twitter, it’s never really an issue unless it’s a spammer or someone who just looks plain creepy. Most people are genuine and if they follow you, are interested in what you have to say.

If you’re on LinkedIn, connect with people – even if (gasp!) you don’t know them. If you’re not on LinkedIn, then what are you waiting for? LinkedIn is not the place to be fake – it’s where professionals go to connect with others in their industry, job search or just to gain knowledge to help further them in their careers.

There are a lot of hidden gems on this professional networking site. Take some time and look around and take advantage of them, but the depth of LinkedIn’s potential is another post entirely.

So there you have it – we’ll dive deeper in future posts, exploring each social network in-depth. If you have a specific question on any of them, or want to see a particular post, just let me know!

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