7 Minute Software

Jeff Sandquist is talking again about his 7 day software test.  Basically,  he’ll try something for 7 days, and If he finds it to be useful, he’ll buy it.   He’s even incorporated the idea into one of his videoblogging projects, On10.net.

I generally have a much shorter fuse, and I judge software within the first few minutes after installation.  Actually, even the installation experience can significantly color my perceptions.  When it comes to software, I’m guilty of judging the book by its cover.  The install experience and the UI are about all that factors into my “is this good enough” test.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I haven’t given certain applications as much of a chance as I should have.  I’m not sure if I’m patient enough to give new software 7 days, but I’m going to try to get past  my initial gut-reactions and see if maybe there’s some tools out there that can make my life better or more productive.

Still, I wonder how many people really have the time and patience to commit to a 7-day trial with new software.  Software developers should take note.  If your UI can’t grab the user’s attention, if they can’t intuitively figure out  how to get started without reading the help file, or if your install experience is painful, most people are not going to give your program a chance, no matter how wonderful it might be.

Windows Principles – Twelve Tenets to Promote Competition

Press Release: Windows Principles – Twelve Tenets to Promote Competition

Wow, it’s almost like Microsoft finally “gets it” with regard to the anti-trust issues they have been having.  While some of the tenants are going to allow OEM’s to junk-up new PCs even more than they already do, the majority of the points are going to be good for consumers, and I believe good for Microsoft as well.  Microsoft’s products are going to have to compete on a much more level playing field.  No more coasting just because you’re guaranteed adoption with the next release of Windows.  Your products now have to actually beat the competition.

HOW-TO: Use a Bluetooth GPS with the Motorola Q

Well, even though neither Motorola tech support, Verizon tech support, nor Pharos were able to help, I finally figured out how to get my Motorola Q to recognize and utilize my Pharos iGPS-BT.  (Incidentally, both Pharos and Motorola were helpful and apologetic when I communicated with them.)  Here’s the step-by-step: 

  1. Turn on the iGPS-BT.

  2. If it’s not on already, turn on the Q.

  3. Turn on Bluetooth on the Q.  (Start, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Manager, Settings, Set to “Bluetooth ON”)

  4. While in the Settings Menu, hit the Right soft key (Menu), select “Paired Devices”

  5. In the Paired Devices screen, hit the Right soft key (Menu), select “Search for Devices”, then while it’s searching, hit the Right soft key (Menu) again and select “Show All Devices”.  Your Q should find the iGPS-BT (Or other GPS device).  Select the device.

  6. Enter your device’s pin, for the iGPS-BT it’s 12345678.

  7. Now fire up your favorite GPS enabled application.  If you don’t have one, Virtual Earth Mobile (http://blogs.msdn.com/windowsmobile/archive/2006/06/27/649384.aspx) is a cool free mapping application.  It doesn’t do auto-updates for a moving map experience, but it can get your current location from a GPS.

  8. Configure your GPS COM port.  The trick here is to select COM1:.  Evidently COM1 is reserved for Bluetooth COM ports on the Q.  Might be similar to other Smartphones, but I never found this.

  9. When your application attempts to open the COM port, the Q will display a message saying that an application is attempting to open a Bluetooth Serial Port, and asking if you want to select a device.  Hit the Left soft key (Yes), and then select your Bluetooth GPS from the list. 

You’ll have to repeat 8 & 9 every time you want to use a GPS enabled app, but it works great.

That’s it!  9 easy intuitive steps is all it takes!  If you have any difficulties, feel free to leave a comment here and I’ll try my best to help. 

Zune vs. iPod, Are we having Fun yet?


“The way to subvert the dominant paradigm is to have more fun than they do, and make sure they know it.” – David Eisenberg
This quote has been making the rounds on “sustainability” sites like Treehugger.com, but I think it directly relates to more frivolous matters, like the upcoming fight between Microsoft’s Zune media player and the iPod.
Most of the rumors I have heard so far about the Zune center around features.  Microsoft needs to understand that they aren’t going to win any battles against Apple on features.  Features can be replicated in a product cycle or two if they really matter to consumers.  Zune needs to be fun.  Zune marketing needs to be fun.  Not the geeky “look I got my Bluetooth GPS to sync with my smartphone” fun that we typically see out of Redmond, but rather the “Hey, have you heard this song, let me zap it to your Zune” kinda fun…

The end of bad car commercials?

Stephen Broadwell thinks that Neilson’s decision to start rating television ads might mean the end of bad commercials.  I think the advertisers are going to have to wade through the five stages of grief, but Neilson is definitely poised to be the undertaker with this latest move.
A while back I blogged about new media models, and linked to an idea from Mark Cuban about bringing the eyeballs back to commercials.  I think Cuban’s idea will seem even more obvious after Neilson starts releasing this kind of data.
From my previous post: “The only way that the effectiveness of commercials is going to go up is if the networks make them interesting. If it’s compelling, timely, in-context with the show I’m watching, or funny, then I might pay attention.  Otherwise, you might as well let me skip it because I’m not paying attention anyway.”
And for the curious, the five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial and isolation: “The numbers must be wrong.  We’ll hire consultants to prove the numbers wrong.”
  2. Anger: “How dare you do this to me?!  It’s the Tivo’s fault!” 
  3. Bargaining: “Ok, we’ll just adjust our rates and it’ll be ok.”
  4. Depression: “How are we going to maintain our business?”
  5. Acceptance: “How can we leverage what we now now?”

(from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_stages_of_grief)
Just watch how advertisers react and see if it follows the pattern…


Microsoft Acquires Winternals

Press release: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/jul06/07-18WinternalsPR.mspx
Geeks everywhere are scratching their heads, trying to decide whether to rejoice or cry.

Winternals has made their name filling in the gaps in low level systems tools for Windows.  With this move Microsoft has acquired not only some great IP, but awesome talent as well.  I’m guessing that they’re going to incorporate a lot of this functionality into the OS’s, Resource Kits and SDK’s, and make the world a better place for Sysadmins and Developers alike. 
Hopefully they’ll let the smart guys from Winternals have some input in how to deliver this capability without crippling it by making it too “user friendly”.

Remembering Katrina

That I know of, none of my relatives or friends were directly affected by hurricane Katrina.  I just read Sara Ford’s latest post on the subject, and it’s a stark reminder of the long-lasting affects of Katrina.  Since the disaster, Sara has catalogued her efforts to try to help rebuild her hometown of Waveland, MS.  The rest of her blog is focused mostly around Visual Studio Powertoys.  It’s a good read if you develop under Visual Studio, or if you just need a reminder about the destructive nature of hurricanes.  Take a minute to read through, and then think about how you can keep yourself and your family safe in the event of a natural disaster.

How about an Office Starter Edition?

I previously wrote that Microsoft should offer up Windows Starter Edition as a free product.  Stephen Broadwell writes that he thinks Microsoft could morph Starter Edition into an Ad-supported version of Windows (towards the end of the post).  If this could lower the cost of computing so that more folks can realize the benefits, then this would be a good thing.
Microsoft could extend this even further.  In their press release today, Microsoft writes that they are going to start allowing OEM’s to install 60-day trials of Office on PCs, and then the OEM still gets to be part of the transaction if the user decides to purchase a full license.  They could extend the ad-supported model to include a free/ad-supported version of office as well: 2007 Office Starter Edition.  Then they can let the OEM’s get a cut of either the ad revenues, or the price the consumers pay to upgrade to a full version.
In the earlier referenced blog post, Stephen wrote:
“Imagine booting up Windows Starter Edition and seeing a list of 10 commercials.  You have to click on at least one to continue.  Every so often the system downloads an updated set of commercials from the Internet.” 
I’m not a big fan of the interruption ad model, and would rather see relevant contextual ads using up some screen real-estate.  Microsoft could even build a platform for displaying ads, and provide an API for application programmers to provide context, and then serve up ads from Adcenter (https://adcenter.msn.com/).  Adoption can be driven through revenue sharing.  Perhaps Microsoft could even share the revenue with the consumer if they are willing to provide a detailed profile to allow more directly targeted advertising.