Microsoft Reorg Attempts to Streamline a Newly Focused Organization

Many are touting this as Ballmer’s last hurrah.  I’m gonna run down the changes very quickly.

Latest Electronic Games Debut At E3 ExpoThere have been rumors of a reorg at Microsoft for quite a while now. There have been many questions on who would stay or who would go. Let’s take a very quick look at the way the new organization shapes up.

So far, Ballmer is still in, obviously. However, many think that if this doesn’t go right, this could be his last hurrah. Microsoft will be reshaped into a single organization  with new engineering groups and some centralized groups being creating and changing hands, respectively

Terry Myerson, currently in charge of Windows Phone engineering, will run the new Operating Systems Group. Myerson will be responsible for engineering of Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox operating systems. Myerson also gets handed responsibility for anything that attaches directly to these OSes.  All of that is currently running on a common kernel based on Windows NT, so it makes sense to house it all in one place.

Julie Larson-Green, currently responsible for the Windows and Surface engineering groups, becomes responsible for the new Devices and Studios group which will have engineering for Surface, Xbox, mice, keyboards, games and entertainment.
Qi Lu, current responsible for Microsoft’s Online Services Division, is now in charge of the new Applications and Services group. Lu has engineering for Bing, MSN, Office 365, Office servers and clients, Dynamics CRM and ERP, Skype, Yammer and Lync reporting into him.

Satya Nadella, current head of Microsoft’s Server & Tools business (STB), becomes the head of the new Cloud and Enterprise group. Nadella remains head of engineering of all of Windows Server, System Center, SQL Server, Visual Studio and all other current STB products, plus the Global Foundation Services unit at the company.

Kurt Delbene, the former President of the Microsoft Business Division up until now, is retiring.

Microsoft also centralized its support divisions.  They breakdown this way:

  • Tami Reller will head up a new cross company marketing group.
  • Tony Bates, the current President of Microsoft’s Skype group, will head up a new evangelism and business development team. Bates is responsible for key Microsoft partnerships like the ones with Yahoo and Nokia.
  • Amy Hood, Microsoft’s current CFO will have responsibility for the centralized finance organization
  • The legal affairs group continues to be headed by Brad Smith.
  • The human resources group continues to be run by Lisa Brummel.
  • Kevin Turner remains Chief Operating Officer, loses control of centralized marketing

I’m cooking up an interesting What-If column related to Microsoft, the reorg and their recent product pricing adjustments for Surface.  Come back later this week and check it out.

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WinSetupFromUSB

winsetupfromusbInstall Windows from a USB Stick!

Installing Windows isn’t as easy as it used to be. Back in the day, all you needed to do was stick a CD or DVD in your optical drive, turn the PC on, and let it rip. Windows usually installed and was ready to go in under an hour. Today, it isn’t as easy. Many PC’s no longer have optical drives; and its not as convenient to carry optical discs as it was years ago. Today, USB or thumb drives area LOT easier to carry and often have tons more space than a CD or even DVD. Installing or even reinstalling Windows is a lot easier when you can put the install files on a thumb drive, but its not always easy to get your computer to boot from that drive. Thankfully, with WinSetupFromUSB, it’s a lot easier. It’s a cool utility for your Windows PC.

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If you want or need to have your Windows setup files with you on the go, this is a cool little utility to help you put it together on a USB or thumb drive. Install the utility, mount your ISO file as a drive on your PC and then format the thumb drive with a single partition. The tool will help you format the thumb drive and make it bootable

After your drive is formatted and ready, you specify the location of your Windows source/install files (the ISO you mounted earlier) and specify the destination as your formatted thumb drive. You then let the app copy all of the files to the thumb drive. You can even test the drive in QEMU, a specialized process emulator.

I had trouble getting the application to work. The tool wouldn’t complete the format of my 8GB thumb drive correctly and it wouldn’t work with Windows 7 or Windows 8 media. I’m not sure if that was me, the app, or the fact that I’m running Windows via a VM. You may have to play with this a bit in order to get things to work for you, so be prepared to spend a bit of time. This is not necessarily a turn key solution for creating portable install media for everyone.

download WinSetupFromUSB

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Microsoft to Update Surface Devices

Redmond isn’t giving up on RT; and will also update Surface Pro in FY2014

mwpMicrosoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference concludes today (2013-07-11). There’s been a ton of information that has been disseminated, but one of the most interesting points came during a presentation from Microsoft’s COO, Kevin Turner – Microsoft is planning some updates to both its Surface tablets during FY2014.

When you look at the slide, it’s clear that not only is Microsoft planning to introduce new Surface RT and Surface Pro accessories, in multiple colors, but its planning on updating the tablets as well. Intel recently released its Haswell processors, and I would expect the next version of Surface Pro to use this processor.

Surface RT, which uses ARM based processors, doesn’t have a clear upgrade path at this time.  The Verge is reporting that MS is giving serious consideration to using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor in the next version of the consumer tablet.  According to The Verge, Microsoft has been testing Windows RT 8.1 on RT tablets powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor.  The chip has LTE connectivity on-board, so Microsoft may be planning to include mobile broadband support with the next version of Surface RT.

Nearly everyone who uses a Surface RT or Surface Pro tablet likes the clickable Touch and Type keyboards that are available for them. However, the devices, Surface Pro specifically, lacks a docking station.  Microsoft has officially stated that it won’t be releasing one. However, third party providers may release one.  MS has promised, however, “future peripherals that can click in and do more.”  What that means, specifically remains to be seen, but we should know well in advance of the Holiday Buying Season.

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iOS 7 Beta 3 Improvements or Status Quo?

ios_7_icon-250x249Beta 3 of Apple’s next version of its mobile OS – iOS 7 – was released on 2013-07-08. Let’s take a quick look at how things are progressing

 

 

Introduction

If you recall, I posted a tear down of Apple’s latest mobile operating system – iOS 7 – a few days ago. Beta 1 of the OS was usable, but it was painful. Beta 2 made things a bit better, but the experience was still FAR from what you would expect from a completed system, meaning that Apple still had a great bit of work to do. Apple released the third seed in its iOS 7 development effort on 2013-07-08. Let’s take a quick peek at how things are progressing.

Music App

The Music app has seen a slight redesign from Betas 1 and 2. It has new icons and a rearranged set of controls. Ratings have also been reimplemented. I have almost 10 gigabytes of music on my iPhone. Without a doubt, music takes up the bulk of my onboard storage. Every time I restore my iPhone, it takes quite a bit of time to sync all of my content back to the phone.

I installed iOS 7 Beta 3 Monday 2013-07-08, late in the evening. I went to bed before midnight. When I got up at 4:30am Central the next morning, I expected all of my content to be restored to the device. It wasn’t. I started the sync again and saw content come over to the device. While it didn’t finish the sync before I had to leave for work, about 1/2 of my music had been synchronized to the device. Unfortunately, I found that none of it was actually recognized as being on board. It became clear to me that in order to be able to listen to my music, I’d have to blow the device and set it up as a new iPhone. Thankfully, though that process took a while, it solved the problem.

iOS-7-beta-3-launched-with-problems

Podcasts

Apple’s Podcasts app is now functional. However, I initially had issues with my synched content being recognized by the app. As I stated above, it was for this reason that I had to blow my iPhone again, reinstall iOS 7 Beta 3 and setup my iPhone 5 as a new iPhone.

Calendar

Calendar’s Month View has been updated to include a display artifact to indicate which days have scheduled events. The Calendar app is still a bit touchy. Its force closed on me more than once when trying to go from the default Day View to Month View.

Redesigned Fonts

One of the biggest points made with iOS 7 is its redesigned interface, which includes a thinned out, flat look. Many of the fonts used in Betas 1 and 2 have been replaced in beta 3 with a heavier weighted font. While thinner fonts make for a cleaner interface, heavier fonts provide increased readability. This is a much welcomed change in Beta 3, as the display in the first two betas was difficult to read.

You can see clear evidence of the heavier fonts in Messages, Weather and Notification Center. You should also have an easier time reading the Settings menu as well.

Apple also increased the size of the font used in the status bar, making your carrier name, signal strength, remaining battery life , etc. easier to read.

Next Page

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Take complete control of your multiple monitor configured PC with DisplayFusion

displayfusion_iconToday, Windows compatible displays are actually very affordable. You can get yourself a decent HD setup for as little as $199 USD if you watch the sales and play your cards right. For that kind of money, it’s very easy to set yourself up with more than one monitor. Multiple monitors give you the ability to run a number of apps windowed while running a few key apps full screen. This is especially important when one key app or document requires full use of your screen real estate to be effective.  This is why DisplayFusion is an important utility to have. It helps you manage your multiple monitor setup on your Windows box.

DisplayFusion has powerful features to make your multi-monitor, Windows configuration easier to manage and use.  With tools like its Multi-Monitor Taskbars, TitleBar Buttons and its other customizable functions, it’s a no brainer.  The utility will make managing your multiple monitors easy for everyone.

DF-002

With DisplayFusion’s Multi-Monitor Taskbars, you can keep your windows easily organized by adding a taskbar to each of your monitors. The taskbar on each monitor can be configured to show all of your computer’s open windows, or only the windows that are running on that monitor. You can use button grouping, auto-hide, window previews, shortcuts, as well as a Start Button to help make working with your apps on each monitor, easier.

If wallpaper is your thing, then you’re in for a treat.  DisplayFusion has powerful wallpaper management features that let you use images from your own computer, or load images from online sources. You can tile, stretch, scale, crop, position and even tint your images If you’re looking for a way to completely customize the look of your desktop, this is one of the best ways to do it.

Speaking of customizing your PC, when it comes to screen savers, DisplayFusion can help you there as well.  You can span your screen saver across all of your monitors, or even display a different screen saver on each monitor. You can use default Windows screen savers, or you can install your own screen savers.

If you have more than one monitor, this is a must have utility. DisplayFusion makes working with what has traditionally been a complex, custom setup easy and painless. Its licensing terms are really very reasonable.  If you have more than one PC at home with more than one monitor, for $35 USD (a standard Pro license is $25 as of this writing), you can license any and all of your at home PC’s. Its very reasonable and one of the best reasons to register the software.

download DisplayFusion

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Amazon Cloud Drive

amazon_cloud_drive_1223946_g1Access your data from anywhere with one of the most trusted names on the internet today with this must have cross platform tool.

Storing your data in the cloud is really in right now. Accessing your documents from anywhere, on any computing device, is the future of modern computing. Its for this reason alone that I really like Amazon Cloud Drive.  With it, you can do just that – get your data where you need it, when you need it from any supported, connected device, with just about any operating system.  This multiplatform, universal tool should be on your list of must have apps.

Amazon Web Services is one of the most trusted names in cloud storage. It powers Amazon Prime’s video on demand service and Amazon’s Cloud Player, and now can power your universal storage needs, too.  Cloud Drive securely stores your photos, videos, documents and other digital files. Though its Cloud Player and Cloud Drive are now thankfully separate services, you can still upload music to Cloud Drive for storage and backup.  However, if you want to play it from anywhere, you will also need to import it into Cloud Player.

ACD-02

To get started, all you have to do is install Cloud Drive on your computer.  Then move files to your Cloud Drive folder. The app will copy the data to your Amazon Web Service powered Cloud Drive.  From there, you can access your files via a web browser, or on any other computer you install Cloud Drive on.  The app will sync files to and from every instance of a compatible device where you have the software installed and your account connected to it. If you make changes to your files, Cloud Drive copies the files up to your account and then down to every device the software is installed on.

Like Dropbox, Google Drive or other service Amazon Cloud drive makes your files accessible from just about anywhere on just about any device with either the software installed or through a web browser. With 5GB of free storage to start you off, and reasonable prices for additional storage, it’s easy to get started with one of the most trusted vendors on the internet today.

download Amazon Cloud Drive

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Play, stop, start, pause and control your multimedia playback with Flutter

flutter_iconMicrosoft’s Kinect is hot right now.  Controlling your game console, and multimedia equipment – which the Xbox also doubles as – with hand gestures is pretty cool. Many PC owners would love to be able to do the same thing – control their PC with their body.  Well, now with Flutter, a web cam and your PC, you can do just that – but only with your multimedia apps. Flutter allows you to control playback of your favorite media with some of your favorite aps. Let’s check it out to see if it’s going to become part of your PC toolbox.

Flutter uses gestures detected by your web cam to play, pause and skip media. Flutter supports YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, Netflix, among others.  If you’re an Apple Keynote user, you can also control your slide show presentation with hand gestures.  The cool thing is that Flutter works even when the app you want to control isn’t in focus, and is playing media in the background.

FL-01

Flutter is an interesting app; but not one that I think will last long. Maybe I’m too old to get it; but with an effective range of 1-6 feet, I can’t see how taking my hands up away from the PC and waving them at the screen is easier or better than controlling media playback with a keyboard or mouse.

I can see where this would be really awesome at say a party or perhaps in a business setting where you were playing a slideshow with Keynote and wanted to control the app that way.  However, I can see things heading way south after a DJ says, “Put your hands in the air..!” I’m just sayin’…

Flutter is coming out with additional gestures and with support for additional apps. We’ll have to see how well this gets adopted, but until then, while really cool, I am going to stay firmly planted on the fence.

download Fluter

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Listen N Write Free

Quickly transcribe lectures and audio conferences with this handy Windows app.

Being a college student isn’t easy. Life expands exponentially after high school graduation, and many students are caught unaware of the changes in  academic expectations.  When it comes to taking notes in large lecture halls during your college career, it’s easy to miss important points while trying to copy down something your professor just said. This is one of the reasons why applications like Listen N Write Free are important to have. It’s a transcription app for your Windows machine, and it’s a must have.

LNW-01One of the biggest things that college freshman have to adjust to is the college lecture. You don’t necessarily have any guarantee that what is lectured on is actually relevant course material, but in many cases, it is; and you’re going to need to memorize it and perhaps recall it for an exam.  It’s for this reason that students, and even conference attendees, or lawyers – basically anyone who has to transcribe recorded audio – should try Listen N Write, It’s a free tool designed for transcription.

Interestingly enough, LnW doesn’t use speech recognition or automatic transcription. The app is a media player bundled with a text editor. However, don’t stop reading yet. The media player has subtle but clever differences that make it a great tool for playing back recorded lectures and speeches and writing down what you hear. Its skip arrows move the recording forward or back by just a few seconds, ending the ever-so-frustrating back-and-forth as you try to zero in on a single word or short phrase. When you hit the Pause button, Listen N Write’s media player reverses the recording by one second, which helps keep words from being truncated or garbled during playback-pause-playback activities.

LNW-04Listen N Write’s interface consists of three pieces: the media player and the optional text editor and a bookmarks box.  Only the media player and text editor open by default. You can hide or show the bookmarks and text editor via the media player’s View menu.  The rest of the menu bar’s entries should be familiar to most users.

The media player itself is extremely simple, just a file title field, an Open File icon, playback controls, a volume slider, and a progress bar. The Text Editor has the usual toolbar full of controls. The Bookmarks box is simple.

The app is easy enough to use. The pause button pulls the recording back a full second so you really won’t miss anything.  The biggest problem I have with a tool like this is that it doesn’t use speech recognition to automate the transcription. You have to do it all by hand, which was totally NOT cool.

download Listen N Write Free

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