Recent posts in my Microsoft Category

November 21, 2012

“Platform wars” - Charles Arthur at Online Information

At Online Information this year Charles Arthur was talking about the platform wars that he has recently written a book about, inspired by a call from a publisher’s agent who observed that Apple, Microsoft and Google “always seem to be fighting each other.” Here are my notes from the session.

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November 7, 2012

“Windows 8: Opportunities for publishers” - Frank Wolfram & Johan Mortelmans at #TAS12

The final session of the Tablet and App summit was about Windows 8 and the opportunities it might provide for publishers and media companies. The half-hour was split into two parts — Frank Wolfram of the SYZYGY Group agency gave an overview of some features that might appeal to media companies, and then there was a case study of Belgian newspaper De Standaard building an app. Here are my notes.

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February 16, 2012

“Watch this (social) space...” - MSN’s Darren Waters at news:rewired

At news:rewired, MSN’s Darren Waters discussed how, with limited resources, MSN were adopting a human social media voice, and reaping rewards in increased user engagement.

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January 13, 2012

Design error pages for users, not IT consultants

I came across this tweet yesterday, by an IT support company called IGC Technical Solutions: “Windows 8 has a redesigned Blue Screen of Death, It's worrying that Microsoft has taken the time to update something that shouldn't be seen.”

Worrying? What nonsense. Here’s why you should design error pages for users, not for IT consultants.

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July 26, 2011

“Tweet a vulgar picture” - differing reactions to Microsoft, Apple and the Huffington Post ‘cashing in’ on Amy Winehouse’s death

The Huffington Post, Microsoft and Apple have faced differing levels of criticsim for attempts to cash in on the sad death of Amy Winehouse.

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February 3, 2011

Google and Bing - 3 quick points about their spat

Three quick things about the highly enjoyable spat between Google & Microsoft over whether Bing has been stealing search results.

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October 29, 2009

Windows 7 overtakes Linux usage on in just 4 days

Windows 7 overtakes Linux usage on in just 4 days
On the first Sunday after release, Windows 7 usage eclipses Linux for the first time.

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January 26, 2009

Is 'Search online for "Act on CO2"' costing the taxpayer unnecessary pay-per-click money?

Tamlyn posted late last week after spotting that the Government's 'Act on CO2' campaign was asking people to search for the term rather than publishing a URL. It is a trend that Cabel Sasser noted is well established in Japan, where the fact that URLs have to be formatted in the Western alphabet is a significant marketing challenge. The trouble with the Government initiative is that once you announce that you are asking people to search for specific non-trademarked terms,...
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November 29, 2008

Running Windows? Why you should always have a Linux live CD to hand

Earlier this year, through a bizarre chain of events and some admittedly gross stupidity, I allowed my Dell laptop running Windows XP to get absolutely riddled with nasty malware. After many hours wasted trying to fix it, it eventually prompted me to make the switch to using a Mac. After that, the Dell sat unwanted and unloved in the corner of our spare room. Until it was time to move, and I had to finally try to wrestle the precious...
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November 26, 2008

Mumbai terrorist attacks show that search engines still can't get breaking news right

We are used to hearing that search engines are one of the primary routes that people find news on the net, but I've just been having a scout around the three major search engines as news of the terrorist attack in Mumbai unfolds, and I have to say that they are not performing very well. Google does have some news results inserted into the one word search for 'mumbai', but they are not in the top slot. Searching for 'india'...
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September 21, 2008

Will ever ask for the last time?

I love You love Everybody loves It is a cool poster child for the Web 2.0 generation, and the fact that they built their business model on avoiding paying streaming royalties in the UK as much as possible is neither here nor there to most people. But... ...installing the application on your Windows XP PC can be really sucky. The problem is that the application seems to pay no attention to the account settings on the...
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August 31, 2008

Trying out Silverlight - FAIL

I try and be platform neutral and agnostic as much as possible. This blog runs on a Debian Linux server from Bytemark, I work on a MacBook, my main PC is a Dell running Windows XP, and I get to play with the Linux-based Eee PC that my wife takes everywhere. My star sign is Libra and I like a balance in my OS experience. So I was fairly open-minded about trying out Microsoft's Silverlight. There has been some (inevitable...
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June 21, 2008

The future of Excel - according to Doctor Who

Spoilers don't respect borders, and so even in Greece I know that tonight's Doctor Who sees the long awaited <SPOILER ALERT!>. It was nice to see something familiar in last week's episode too - although not the landscape of Midnight, which, thanks to the deadly Xtonic rays, had never been seen by human (or Time Lord) eyes before. No, what was reassuringly 21st century was the fact that however far into the future we are in the Whoniverse, it doesn't...
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April 13, 2008

Newspaper "Site Search Smackdown": Round 6 - Google vs The Search Engine All-Stars

I've been running a series of Newspaper Site Search Engine Smackdowns to see which papers were able to index their own content faster than Google could. It turned out that the answer was not many, with only The Daily Express, Daily Mail and The Independent getting close to indexing news stories faster than Google's web search did. Although it is the dominant player in the market, Google is not the only search engine, so I also carried out the...
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March 21, 2008

'Spyware!' or 'How I ditched Windows and learned to love the Mac'

I'm one of those people who have been happily running Windows on PCs since the early nineties, and have never had any problems with virus infections, adware, spyware, or other malicious programs. In fact, I'd quite got myself into the self-righteous position of thinking that anybody who did have problems clearly didn't know what they were doing with computers. So, it was somewhat dispiriting last month to discover that my laptop was riddled with a horrible infection. I know exactly...
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February 6, 2008

Flickr users protest about Yahoo! takeover. Again.

The interweb's tubes have been buzzing that Flickr users are already in open revolt over Microsoft's offer to take-over Yahoo!, Flickr's parent company. Image by sebestyenistvan "A splinter faction of Flickr photo-sharing community members is threatening a symbolic 'mass suicide'" - Wired "I'm not cross and I'm not bitter - I'm just a little sad because I have a belief that things can be good/great without taking the obvious route". - grange85 "My fear is that over time they won't...
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January 29, 2008

Greece cosies up to Microsoft

Bill Gates was in Athens yesterday, meeting Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. They were no doubt discussing the fact that a few days earlier the Greek Parliament ratified an agreement between the Greek State and Microsoft. Well, when I say the Greek Parliament ratified it, what I meant was that the Νέα Δημοκρατία party ratified it. All the opposition MPs universally opposed the deal - one even went as far as to call it 'colonial', whilst others claimed it was...
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August 10, 2007

T-Mobile MMS addicted to Internet Explorer on the web

A friend sent me a picture message from the UK the other day. It originated from the T-Mobile network, and made its way across Europe to arrive on my non-MMS enabled Vodafone network phone in Greece. It appeared as a text message with a link and a password. I was very impressed with the whole cross-platform, cross-network, cross-national boundary operation. Until I got to the web bit of it course. The first thing that greeted me when I tried to...
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August 7, 2007

Why doesn't the BBC iPlayer system tray icon use native Windows UI elements?

Well, it's been mostly iPlayer this and iPlayer that around here recently, and today is no different - and this time I have a bit of a user experience gripe. The iPlayer library software does something that really annoys me on Windows machines - not taking advantage fully of the common native UI elements. One of the reasons that any OS like Windows or a Mac OS has a standard set of UI elements is so that they can...
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July 20, 2007

BBCi Toolbar for Internet Explorer - 2002 style

One of the things that has interested me in recently putting together OpenSearch plugins and Google Toolbar custom buttons for BBC and newspaper related searches, is the change in the nature of web development they represent over the last few years. I've been able to make all of these, with no official permission, in just a few hours, by stringing some XML together into a bunch of text files. They all seem to work fine so far. By contrast, one...
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July 13, 2007

'Cancel' just doesn't seem to mean 'Cancel' for iTunes 7.2 on Windows

I've mentioned before that I haven't exactly been seeing eye-to-eye with iTunes 7.2 on my PC. It keeps getting upset and sparking Windows error dialogue messages if I run it without my iPod attached first, and won't quit without warning me every single time that iSproggler is using the iTunes scripting interface, am I sure I want to quit? More seriously though, I don't like the way that Apple do not follow the standard Windows OS conventions with some of...
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June 14, 2007

The curse of annoying Windows XP speech bubble system alert pop-ups

Whenever I write complaining about some aspect of Microsoft's Windows OS, I usually get a couple of people pointing out that I should use something a bit more Linux-y. I have tried out a couple of flavours of Linux desktop, but so far I haven't found anything that does the trick for me. More importantly, the ubiquity of Windows in the business world means I'm pretty much stuck with it in order to do my work. Which doesn't stop me...
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June 13, 2007

Free the BBC from the same old tired DRM debate

I was pointed via Wonderland yesterday at the Free The BBC site, where a petition is gathering against the BBC's proposed use of DRM in the upcoming iPlayer application. And of course, a quick look shows that this has sparked the same tired circular arguments on the mailing list. One person has been arguing that DRM is a bad thing because their sister accidentally wiped clean their iPod, whilst someone else is claiming the only basis for the BBC's...
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March 27, 2007

Too many statistics? The National Statistics site runs out of memory

Whilst I was doing the research over the last few weeks for my articles about the Biased BBC blog, I came across quite a few usability and technical gremlins on the web. (Not least of which was the Haloscan comments system used by Biased BBC itself. Mirroring the "technical difficulties" it is claimed often mysteriously affect BBC Have Your Say debates if the tide of comments isn't going in the direction the BBC's 'bias' would prefer, I found that...
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March 6, 2007

The depressing DRM debates on the BBC's mailing list

Since the announcement that the BBC's iPlayer would contain elements of Microsoft's DRM, and that any forthcoming versions for the Apple or Linux OS would also need to incoporate some type of DRM, a debate has been raging on the mailing list. Opinion is broadly split into two camps. There are those who understand that in order to facilitate any kind of on demand service, the BBC needs to protect the interests of the rights-owners involved in making...
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October 22, 2005

The software used to access the BBC homepage: Beta software, edge products and conclusions - part 6

This is page 6 of a 6 page article - 1 2 3 4 5 6   Download a print version of this article Beta Software and Edge Products I was surprised to see quite a small penetration of the current beta software. With both Vista and IE7 out in the wild I expected to see a reasonable amount of use. Perhaps they just don't just have the buzz around them that open source does? IE7 has 0.04% browser share...
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The software used to access the BBC homepage: Browser share - part 5

This is page 5 of a 6 page article - 1 2 3 4 5 6   Download a print version of this article Internet Explorer Requests To The BBC Homepage As with the Windows Operating System, Microsoft have done an excellent job of migrating all their users onto the latest version of the software. Over 90% of requests for the BBC homepage from an Internet Explorer browser came from the most recent stable release - Internet Explorer 6. Versions...
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The software used to access the BBC homepage: Browser share - part 4

This is page 4 of a 6 page article - 1 2 3 4 5 6   Download a print version of this article Browsers Visiting The BBC Homepage The browser market amongst those requesting the BBC homepage still shows a vice-like grip from Microsoft products, but both Firefox and Safari represent small but significant deviations from the Internet Explorer norm. All the versions of IE together make up just under 86% of requests to the BBC homepage, with Firefox...
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The software used to access the BBC homepage: Windows, Mac, Linux and legacy OS share - part 3

This is page 3 of a 6 page article - 1 2 3 4 5 6   Download a print version of this article Windows Operating System Share Concentrating on just Windows alone we can see that Microsoft have done a very thorough job of converting their user base to the most recent iteration of the software. Windows XP accounts for just under 70.5% of the Windows requests, and Windows 2000 a further 17.4%. That means in total around 88%...
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The software used to access the BBC homepage: Operating systems - part 2

This is page 2 of a 6 page article - 1 2 3 4 5 6   Download a print version of this article Operating systems visiting the BBC homepage The complete dominance of Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 is no surprise. Just over 70% of requests to the BBC homepage come from machines running Windows XP, and IE6 took 78% of the browser market. In the operating system sphere the stranglehold of Windows is nearly complete - a...
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The software used to access the BBC homepage

This is page 1 of a 6 page article - 1 2 3 4 5 6   Download a print version of this article Studying the software that visits the BBC homepage It started with a casual enquiry from a colleague - "I wonder how many Firefox users visit the BBC homepage?" - and before I knew it I was involved in a lengthy statistical analysis of the browsers and operating systems that request the BBC homepage at Our...
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June 23, 2005

10 Out Of 100 Sample UK Websites Fail To Work Properly With Firefox

I'm sure the printed press will follow suit, but The Register and BBC News, who both should know better, faithfully reproduced a press release line from SciVisum that: One in 10 UK websites fail to work properly on the open source Firefox web browser BBC - one in ten UK websites still fails to provide proper access to anyone not using Microsoft's default offering The Register - The thing is that the sample size was 100. Now I...
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April 30, 2005

Dell and McAfee Require Internet Explorer 5.x or higher

So, it wasn't enough to bundle and automatically get going McAfee's Anti Virus software on my new PC, or email reminders about the expiry of my free subscription to me, Dell and McAfee also want to dictate to me that I must use the most insecure of the major browsers....
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April 17, 2005

English Heritage forced redirect for Firefox users

Welcome to the English Heritage accessible site. You have been redirected to the accessible version of the site as you are using a browser that is not currently supported on the graphics site. Very kind of them. After all, I'm sure my copy of Firefox would have been rubbish at displaying the full version of the site. What I particularly enjoyed was that following a link from a search engine, for example,, once Firefox fails to be detected as...
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October 3, 2004

Microsoft Research Paper on software re-design

Microsoft Research published a very interesting paper this week - Contextual Method for the Re-design of Existing Software Products. It laid out a framework for user-testing and user centred design methodologies being applied to incremental enhancements to applications. The work they use to illustrate their point was a study of the use of Internet Explorer at Cambridgeshire County Council, with a view to introducing new features that would improve the efficiency of the workflow in the department. Two things stood...
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September 26, 2004

Marc Smith from Microsoft Research at the BBC

This week the BBC's New Media & Technology department had a visitor in the shape of Marc Smith from Microsoft Research. We often have these types of presentations in Bush House on a Friday, we call it a "Learning Lunch". The BBC supplies the sandwiches, a speaker provides the learning and hopefully a group of people from the department pick up something new and get stimulated by it. Mostly these are internal staff presentations - in fact my own "A...
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July 4, 2004

Yahoo! and MSN both tweaking their search

New designs left, right and centre in the search world over the last couple weeks. Or rather Yahoo! and MSN have done their hardest to ape the cleanliness look that Google pioneered. My first look at Yahoo! was impressed not so much by the design, but by the fact that they expose sites with RSS feeds in their search results, with an option (if you are logged in) to add them straight to your My Yahoo! RSS Reader. As...
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January 20, 2004

When lack of standards compliance makes the news

Yesterday I noticed a feature in The Independent which had escaped my attention before - "Sport On The Internet" by Andy Oldfield. Shamelessly it was the word "blogging" that attracted my eye. He was examining the presence of the World Rally Championship and Rugby League World Sevens on the web. Along the way he took in Motorsport Mayhem from the Blogging Network, praising the concept, but questioning the potential popularity of the pricing model. And observing that: "...many blogs...
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November 21, 2003

"I hate Macs" says salesperson

I went to the Mac Expo at Islington Business Design Centre yesterday (open today and tomorrow, £10 to get in) I have to say I was slightly disappointed with the lack of branded freebies. The top gadget on offer was the slimp3 which looked awesome. I also realised that I am now certain my next large investment in technical kit is going to have an Apple logo on it. My favourite moment though was when I was receiving a...
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September 26, 2003

Amazing MSN Messenger marketing co-incidence

An astonishing thing happened today, I'm sure it is just a co-incidence, but down one-side of the Holborn tube station escalators, every single billboard is an advert for MSN Messenger. And in a week when their chat products have been in the headlines so much ;-)...
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September 24, 2003

MSN will protect your children

...following on from MSN ditches chat - Gillian Kent urges everybody to adopt Instant Messenger Exercise one 1. Open MSN Messenger client 2. Select contacts >> Search for a contact >> Search by interest 3. Select Teens from the MSN Member Directory. [Note that despite the .com urls the address is the logo in the top right-hand corner] 4. View a list of children in the uk who have given out their username, age, gender and interests out...
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MSN ditches chat - Gillian Kent urges everybody to adopt Instant Messenger

MSN is ditching unmoderated chat - various interest groups are either overjoyed, or like the Freeserve spokesperson quoted in this Register article, think MSN is just ducking out of the market to save money. Closing down unmoderated chat is certainly an interesting move - Director of MSN UK, Gillian Kent, appeared on BBC News 24 around 9:40 this morning, and did an excellent job of talking up the risks of chat whilst pushing customers towards Instant Messenger. "Most of...
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July 3, 2003

Why Boycott MSN?

Danny Sullivan has noted the Microsoft move into the search crawling business in his article Microsoft's MSN Search To Build Crawler-Based Search Engine And he picks up on one thing that has astonished me, the fact that there is already a campaign to Boycott MSN search using robots.txt to disallow the crawler. Google currently has a massive share of the search market, and nobody has suggested that Googlebot should be banned on the grounds that google is uncompetitive, or...
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June 18, 2003

Microsoft using MSNBOT to build its own search engine

Looks like the competition will shortly be hotting up in the search engine world - Microsoft have started sending their own MSNbot out scouring the web to build a new index for MSN search "This crawl is a prototype work. MSNbot is not currently indexing for the MSN Search Engine, so your site may or may not show up in MSN Search results today. Although we have not set a date, it is our intention to eventually integrate the...
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May 5, 2003

Bizarre search terms on MSN - and BBCi

MSN have issued a report on bizarre search terms that are only used once or twice, according to this BBC News story. The MSN hotlist rates their most popular searches - I note that they add the caveat "excludes prurient content" to their top 20 list, which implies that there would be some in the top 20 if they didn't exclude it. No surprise there. However none of them top the search on BBCi which grabbed my attention in...
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January 6, 2003

A third of FTSE 100 websites tied to Microsoft browsers

There was an article in the finance section of The Guardian by Richard Adams about a survey of the websites of FTSE 100 companies. It showed that a third don't display their own share price, and only one in ten provide advice to investors. Big deal. If I am visiting the Sainsbury's website, the chances are I want to shop for groceries, not shares. However what did catch my eye was the fact that: "More than a third of...
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December 27, 2002

UK conservative in its search taste

There is a BBC News report on MSN's overview of the years web searches, and apparently UK users tended to focus on established stars and brands rather than overnight sensations. According to Robin Kellet at MSN Our 2002 trends barometer proves what we've always suspected - the Brits are a pretty conservative bunch. Quoted at: - although if you ask me it is more likely to reflect the fact that a huge proportion of people who use MSN search...
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