Friday, October 12, 2012

Why I’m Super Happy with Windows 8

So ya, I’m a Microsoft employee, so I’m assimilated right?  Yes and no.  I believe in Microsoft, I understand where we’re going and I have insight into the future (of Microsoft) that the average person would not.
imageBut with Windows 8, I held off installing it as my production machine until 2 months after RTM.  That’s unheard of.  With Windows 7 I was running it in production far before it even reached Alpha stage (which makes Windows 7 the operating system I’ve run the longest, ever).  I loved Windows 7 so much.  Finally it was fast, and I was super efficient, I knew where everything was.  It was the XP Bliss days all over again, but on a faster, more secure, more compatible, more more more system.  My home network was running flawlessly, and I didn’t have the time to deal with “problems” given I was ramping up on my job change.  I had seen videos of people struggling with where to find things and fellow employees even told me that they were having trouble with this or that. 
So, I got into my head that I didn’t want the change, and while I agreed with the focus Windows 8 had on touch, and tablets, I strongly disagreed with the use of the same operating system for stand-up desktops or laptops, that don’t have touch.  Why would you force users to go to the corners of the screen? What’s wrong with the mouse? It seems like Microsoft is trying to kill it (don’t we all try to kill mice?)
I have now been running Windows 8 for over a month, and I have to say, I absolutely love it, and cringe when I see people running on Windows 7, it seems so old to me.  And I have a Lenovo T410 without touch, and two 24” monitors attached to a docking station (also without touch). 
First the gripes I’ve heard, and why it’s not a problem:
The Start Screen
The way I think about Windows 8 is it’s an operating system, that opens up a set of tiles (which are larger icons, because the icons provide value without touching them.  They call these live tiles).  One of these tiles is called the Desktop.  This is a legal application that serves up the old Windows 7 desktop, so you can continue to run the bazillion of old apps you used to run, apps that need a mouse, apps that are designed for the “chained to your desk” way of life.  If you were paying attention in the Windows 7 days, you’ll notice you can “pin” all your frequently used applications to the task bar, and you can continue to do this in Windows 8, with almost no change (aside from the very initial launch or pin).  Yes the start button is gone, but it’s superfluous if you think about it.  I’m a pretty big power user, and I have 19 applications pinned to my task bar, and I probably only ever use another 2-3 that aren’t pinned, and there is plenty of room in the taskbar for them.  When I do need the task bar, I can either drag my mouse to where it use to be, and in a 1/2 second the start menu box comes up, or simply press the windows key that’s on pretty much every keyboard you can get these days in a designed for windows PC.  So Ultimately once I’m in my legacy desktop application (which yes there are new applications for, like Office 2013!), I *rarely* get out to the start menu
The Corners of the Screen
I’ve heard a lot of talk about “why use the corners of the screen?”.  I honestly was curious as to what people were talking about for 2 weeks, as I didn’t even need the corners of the screen.  With a keyboard you can do almost everything you could do with a mouse only and the corner of the screen.  I can see how they would be useful for your fingers, because they are quick task switching and allow you to search or get access into settings etc.  Useful with your finger, but not needed when using a mouse and keyboard
Focus on Touch
I think this is a great move by Microsoft.  Apple has really been the forerunner here with the iPad, moving the world to touch based computing.  I’ve heard that the mouse is just efficient.  This is because you’ve trained yourself to use a mouse.  My toddler can pick up the iPad and just use it.  She can’t do this with a mouse.  The focus on touch brings Windows 8 into today’s world where people are interacting with smaller devices in more intimate ways, and touch is essential.  Whens the last time you’ve sat on the couch and tried to use an external mouse and laptop?  With the desktop legacy app, you get the best of both worlds.  Additionally, for those of you who worry about this, a mouse with a scroll wheel, it’s super easy to navigate the start menu, and modern apps for that matter as well.
Now into what I like without the gripes
It’s Ridiculously Fast
It boots fast, it shuts down fast, it loads stuff fast, it’s always waiting on me, for once!  I thought Windows 7 was fast.  Windows 8 is as fast as they say it is.  In the words of Darth Helmet from Space Balls, it’s ludicrous speed!  I had some spare time to install Adobe Lightroom, Photomatix and ColorFX Pro, my photo editing suite (yes into the legacy desktop app), and noticed a huge difference in photo processing speed.  The same photo editing software and the same hardware with a new OS and I was amazed at how fast it was.
Roaming Profile Settings
Maybe I’m biased here because I have a few PCs, and in the past I’ve had a LOT of computers running (at one time I had up to 6 computers I was actively using), I sort of got used to not customizing Windows, because it just took too long to customize 6 PCs knowing they were going to be re-installed at a moments notice.  With Windows 8 all that comes down from the “Cloud”
Windows 8 is the most secure version of windows ever, yadda yadda yadda.  Every new version of Windows is the most secure version of Windows ever.  What I actually like here is the added security features, like Direct Access now leverages virtual smart cards, you can clearly log into your machine with different types of credentials, and integrated Microsoft Accounts! (formerly LiveID), I think this is the best part.  now I have one identity across all my stuff, which makes access so much easier, without the hassle.
The Windows Store
Sure, every tablet needs it’s marketplace, and Windows is no different.  It already has some awesome apps in it, and this means that I don’t need to store all the installers for all the apps that have purchased on a server somewhere in my house, they are all in the store, and when I go to install them, it’s always the latest version. 
It Just Works
I’ve installed it on 2 machines, one Lenovo and one HP, and all the drivers were there, and they just work, no hassle.  Plus the install on a non SSD computer was about 25 minutes
Touch & Keyboard Focus
I covered above why touch focus is great, but I didn’t mention that as a computer power user (if I may call myself that for a second).  I find that reaching for the mouse and using the mouse time consuming.  I’d rather just do stuff on the keyboard, as it’s faster (see the mouse is inefficient!).  Windows 8 facilitates this with the ability to type on any screen to start a search.  Plus they created a HUGE list of fast keys for you to learn and become more efficient with.  I suggest you start with WIN+I and WIN+X.
So there you have it.  I’m on Windows 8, and I’m loving it more than Windows 7, and I didn’t think I would.  If you’re looking for a new computer to go with Windows 8, (i.e. if you’re not going to do your own install from Microsoft media), I strongly suggest you look for the Microsoft Signature collection of PCs. They come with hardware optimized and approved by Microsoft, they come without bloatware that slows your PC down, and they come with pre-installed security, and support… but if you found this blog post, we all know you don’t need that.
I hope you enjoy Windows 8 as much as I do.  I can’t even wait to try it with touch!
[This is not intended as a marketing post.  This post is intended for all those people who ask me what I think about Windows 8, and what about X or Y or Z.  I can now send you a single link instead of having a super long conversation on what I like about Windows 8]

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Windows Server 2012 Essentials RTM!! (and Eval today!)

Well, The product formerly known as Windows Small Business Server 2012, is finally at RTM!  This was the last version of SBS I had the pleasure of working on, owning the storage system from the ground up as well as the initial design of the Online Backup functionality.  Of course a lot of things change when you leave a team before the first major milestone, so I can’t wait to fire this one up and see where the teammates I left behind took this product.

According to the Office Blog Post on the RTM announcement, the product highlights include:

  • Enable a dynamic, modern work style with access from your devices by using Remote Web Access (RWA), and take advantage of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 devices for a superior experience with rich modern “My Server” apps.
  • Enjoy peace of mind knowing that your data is well-protected by complementing your on-site backups with Windows Azure Online Backup, as well as utilizing integrated support for the new Windows 8 File History feature.
  • Choose the email and collaboration option that’s right for you, whether that’s in the cloud with Office 365 or a hosted service provider, or running on a local server.
  • Quickly and easily respond to increasing data capacity needs with support for Storage Spaces, which allows you to create elastic, resilient storage for your files and folders.
  • Run the line-of-business applications that you depend on by leveraging our greatly improved application compatibility, now with a single logo certification for all Windows Server 2012 editions.
  • Purchase with confidence knowing that your technology investment can easily grow to Windows Server 2012 Standard if the needs of your business grow.
  • Deploy today with full support for 19 languages, all releasing simultaneously.

If you’re itching to try it like I am, you can pop on over to the evaluation center and download the trial version today, which is also on MSDN or TechNet if you prefer those.

Please join me in congratulating the team on another launch of a fantastic product for small businesses.  And we all know you’re going to hook it up to Office365 right?? Smile

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Beware Social scammers that call pretending to be the Microsoft HelpDesk

On 9/21/2012, I received my first social engineering hacking attack. An attempt to obtain access to my computer and my credit card, leveraging my stupidity and lack of computer skills :o)
I'm outlining what happened here so you can save yourself if you get a similar phone call.

Apparently the FTC is aware of this and is cracking down on these support calls, but I figured I’d post this here as well, because well, the end is hilarious.  Additionally, these folks seem to be blind calling (aside from knowing your surname) as they didn’t realize that I actually worked for Microsoft.  In some cases, they call right into honeypots just waiting for their call.

Please note that the first few minutes of this call, I was confused as I had 3 tickets open with the *internal* Microsoft helpdesk about random stuff related to my job.  I found the conversation hilarious.

This phone call from 206-397-1127, the caller idea was a bunch of numbers. This is how the call went:

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hello Mr. Daniel? (I have no idea how they got my name)
Me: Hi
Caller: This is the Microsoft Help Desk calling, we have seen issues that your browser is infected with a virus and we're calling you to help you fix your computer.
Me: Oh? (At this point I'm thinking it might be the internal Microsoft helpdesk, but the number is wrong, which I'm aware of)
Caller: Yes, I'm calling because I can help you fix this problem. Is your computer on?
Me: Yes it's on, I'm sitting at it
Caller: Well, click the start button in the bottom right hand corner of your screen
Me: There is no start button (I'm running Windows 8, if you recall, there is actually no start button anymore)
Caller: Yes, it is there, in the bottom left of your screen, all the way at the bottom, all the way to the left
Me: I'm looking there, I do not see a Start button
Caller: ok, we will do this another way, do you have a keyboard?
Me: Yes (I wish I was using a Surface at this point, as I wouldn't have a keyboard either!)
Caller: Ok, beside the CTRL button, there is a button with a flag on it, 4 squares in a flag. push that
Me: (trying to hold in my laughter at this point). Nice try, you obviously don't know that i'm running Windows 8, and there is no start button, SCAMMER! <click>

As a Microsoft employee, I'll tell those of you who aren't, that Microsoft will never call you about a virus on your computer in this fashion. They do provide you with FREE antivirus solution called Security Essentials for Windows.