CyberTech Rambler

October 30, 2006

Microsoft Office 2007 learning curve

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:04 pm

Mike Wendland opine that Office 2007 (Re)Learning Curve is steep. However, he says that once you get used to it, you will be enjoying a more powerful program.

I had tried to use Office 2007 beta for one or two documents. My “relearning” experience shows that for routine, day-to-day activity such as changing fonts, paragraph information (heading/paragraph/list), the new “ribbon”-based system is indeed easier. Compared to toolbars, it is certainly easier to find the button and hit it. More people will be encouraged to change the look-and-feel of number/bullet list and cosmetic layout as these function are more prominently displayed.

Unfortunately, if one go a step further, such as trying to create a Table of Content, footer and header, I find Office 2007 very frustrating. Take Table of Content for example, everytime I need to find it, I have to browse through a few ribbons before I could locate it. Initially I thought it is part of the re-learning curve. However, after searching fot it 30 times I should had learned it but I didn’t.

Is it a steep learning curve? I am not sure. I think it all depends on what you want to do. Simpler tasks are definitely easier and we have more visual feedback, which is good. More complex task? I don’t know. All I can say is the majority of the time, people, including me, don’t even use the more complex, but mundane task like creating/updating the “Table of Content”.

October 26, 2006

Oracle needs RedHat

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:44 pm

Oracle much anticipated keynote speech deliver something expected: Oracle is in the Linux business.

They made it clear: they are out to grap RedHat’s customer. So, as you will expect, RedHat is not happy and responded to this. Nick Carr’s analysis of the situation so far is the best. PJ’s take is here.

I do not really see it as Oracle undercutting RedHat. Oracle’s offering is essentially RedHat + some extra support. They are, in effect, selling the “extra support”. If RedHat goes down in flame, Oracle will follow, as there is nothing there to provide support. Thus, RedHat’s money pot may be smaller, but Oracle will still have to keep it running.

It is true that Oracle is itself capable of maintaining its own Linux distribution. However, if it does not “leech” on RedHat, its support cost will go up and thus, it cannot maintain its present price war.

I will not be surprise that sometime in the future, Oracle pays RedHat some money to keep RedHat sweet.

As for feeding back Oracle’s changes to Linux, I think it is bound by GPL to do so. RedHat can just raid Oracle’s modification to Linux if it wants to. Of course by explicitly giving it back to RedHat, it saves RedHat a lot of work.

Unfortunately, all these confirm that Oracle is a predator, the Microsoft of database. Not a good move for Oracle in the long run.

Oracle needs RedHat.

October 25, 2006

Not one Vista coupons, but a flurry of them

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:24 pm

It looks like it is not one or two different editions of Vista coupons, but a flurry of them, probably different for each computer vendor. Talk about confusion. If any, it just add to the reasons not to buy a vendor promise this year but to get the real McCoy next year.

And I am not alone in thinking that getting your vista coupon is not a good idea, Rex Farrance of PC World agrees with me as well. Moreover, he raise an even more important point: Do you think you can handle the upgrade process?

Information about EC concerns on Vista

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:11 pm

Microsoft lets us in a bit on what EC’s concern on Vista. Nothing we did not already gleen from other sources. Note that this is MS own version, the EC is unlikely to present their side of the story unless it felt threaten by disinformation. So far, nothing inflamatory in Microsoft’s statements on it.

Microsoft releases Sender ID

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:08 pm

Microsoft may be a 800 pound gorrilla, but this gorrilla had demonstrated more than once that it will adapt, which is more than what I can say for a lot of gorrillas.

Latest turn is about SenderID, the proposal for enhancing the email system that was rejected by IETF a while ago. Before it was rejected, there was a lot of discussion on the net, and the main objection was that it is necessary for all vendors to sign a contract with Microsoft.  That requirement, even at that time, seems to be a daft one. The change of wind at Microsoft after that event affected Microsoft stand on SenderID, as it is now addressing the issue by making that requirement goes away.

The next step for Microsoft is perhaps to examine the question: Does changes have to be so painful? In other words, is it necessary for all these fuss before the change kick in? No easy answer here.  Things that make sense in technology and standard might not make sense in business. The whole SenderID incident may be necessary in business sense, i.e., an attempt to give Microsoft maximum leverage.

October 19, 2006

Its not about kernel patching, but what does “patching” means

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:33 pm

Recently, I got a bit confused about Security companies beef with Microsoft Vista, i.e., they can no longer “patch” the kernel.

I used the word “patch” in inverted commas because it is not a real patch as in Linux sense, but are ways to change the behaviour of the Vista Kernel.

As a good Linux user I immediately debate the arguement whether “patching” the kernel is something good or bad. It went as far as developing the arguement whether McAfee’s and Symantec’s beef is about them losing their investment on “patching” the kernel. Then something hit me, it is about who can patch the kernel, and what does “patching” means, especially from a business/competition view point.

Obviously, Microsoft, being the author, can patch the kernel.  Previously and in non 64 bit editions of Vista, everyone with the correct tool and knowledge can “patch” the kernel. Under the “Linux” definition of “kernel patching”, patching the kernel is a serious undertaking and can have serious security implication. Thus, most sysad will only use patches from trusted source.  Applying patches from different sources is normally a no-no from sysad. It is  extremely easily to transfer this idea of patching to Windows. Unfortunately, this is where things breaks down. Windows kernel had been and is still “patched” by third party. In fact, “patching” the kernel has developed into a way to overcome Windows insecurity. But now, Microsoft wants to disable third party patch, effectively saying only it can patch the kernel.

So far, the bad news is to the security software vendors who invested in their own “patch” R&D. Not being able to “patch” means the technlogies they developed just went down the drain. Nothing more, nothing less. They will fight it very vigoriously since it is a question of survival. So far, nothing sinister, just a change of practice on Windows policy.

Unfortunately, security vendors latch on a small, but rather important twist to the saga. Microsoft can still patch the kernel AND is in the market for security software. This can be used as a business advantage to promote their own software. To date, Microsoft has yet to do this. Unfortunately, its past record on anti-competitive policy came back to haunt them. Securtiy vendors are simply not going to wait until Microsoft unleash this weapons, and according to Symantec, their their original complains to Microsoft falls on deaf ears, forcing them to complain to the authorities to  force Microsoft to response. It did, with concession on kernel patching, and offers to meet them to understand their woos.

The saddest thing of this episode is the necessity of the involvement of Anti trust authority. It is sad for anti-virus companies because they feel more threaten by Microsoft mussling into their turf. It is sad for Microsoft because it is forced to deal with this problem at such a late stage in Vista’s development. Sad for customers because this rework of Vista, to satisfy anti-trust authority by remedying “flaws” in Vista will probably means Vista is less secure then it could on deployment as Microsoft work to fix it.

October 17, 2006

Does Microsoft Malaysia ever has its own opinion?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:48 pm

Microsoft Malaysia is a parrot, parroting what Microsoft US says. Put it this way, you expect MS Malaysia to carry out what MS US says, but the point of having a “branch” in Malaysia is to be able to adapt to local situation, not parrotting what the head office said.

First of all, disclaimer: I haven’t seen the actual news report yet, because the link from Open Malaysia blog is not working. However, this much I can glean from his “rebuttal”, the new managing director of Microsoft Malaysia just parrotted what the Head Office says when it comes to government’s perceived preferential treatement to open source. She used “Initiative for Software Choice” (a Microsoft-sponsored campaign group) points (FOSS can stifle innovation; It is not good to give FOSS preferential treatement), ask for discussion with authority again (By now we all know that it is standard Microsoft policy to keep asking for discussion when something did not go their way, see Massachusett). I cannot identify the source, but someone did say “FOSS has its place, in academia, not business”

She added nothing new. She is new in the job and since I am not sure whether she is poached or promoted from rank-and-file, lets give her the benefit of doubt that she needs to find her feet first. The news report is probably a report to announce her appointment and  unfortunately thrust her in the limelight in this very torny issue.

Knowing how male dominated Malaysian culture is, I congratulate her on her new posting. I will say that she did extremely well and is a role-model for all Malaysian women.

On the issue of choice: Rob Weir note that making choices means limitting one’s choice. However, he also notes that “When one adopts a technology standard one does it with some desired outcome in mind. One chooses this path in order to receive that benefit.”

When a government decides on a particular policy, it should considers the whole pictures. Hearing from people with different views is a must to get the balanced opinion. After that, it should make up its mind and stick with it. At this stage, it should resists calls for more “dialogs” and “discussions” unless it can be demonstrated that the policy is fundamentally flawed. Let’s face it, there is always a winner and loser in government procurement policy.

Data center in a box, great, but we need to know about support option

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:39 am

TheRegister is carrying a news about SUN building data center as a fully configured data center, ready to be park-and-play (parked it at your car park, give it a network connection, electricity and water (for the cooling system)). Who said innovation in computing hardware is dead?

This certainly saved a lot of setup/configuration time for your sysad.  And I do assume SUN is smart enough to permit easy maintenance of the datacenter. For example, replacing faulty processors quickly. However, I will like to see the support option available to customer. Since SUN took the hardwork off installation and maintenance, why not take the next logical step and throw in service contracts to service the data center?

October 16, 2006

No love lost between EC and Microsoft

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:09 pm

Microsoft finally confirmed what we had known all along, the threat to delay Vista in EU is an empty threat. To do so will cut its profit for Vista, enrage its customers in Europe and encourage piracy of Vista in Europe. Apparently, this is such an important news that BBC News 24 put it on its on-screen news ticker on the channel.

However, what is really surprising is that the EC find fit to release a press release stressing that it has not give the company the “Green Light” it seeks.  Suffice to say that there is no love lost (or left) between the two.

Bill Gate displaying leadership quality

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:39 pm

While reading up more about Microsoft Calendar, I came across this post by Joel Spolsky discussing how the problem originated. That article shows that while both Microsoft and Lotus has to deal with the fact that 1900 is not a leap year, MS took a different design decision from Lotus, its contemporary competitor: Lotus choose to sacrifice 4 years to deal with the “abnormality” of year 1900 and their decision made deciding leap years easy (by simply looking at the bit pattern of the year), but Microsoft choose to sacrifices incorrect results for two months and was clever enough to use Dec 31st 1899 to simplify computation of dates. This article demonstrate the trade-off faced by programmers at the time, and to this day and in retrospect, nobody can say which solution is the better one. The question to answer is whether year 1900 to 1903 are important dates. Although I doubt that they are at that time, on the grounds that are not a lot of computerized data that needs dates within 1900-1903. Nonetheless, there may be sufficient number of them for vendors to have to deal with.

However, I felt that the most important point in Spolsky’s post is the way Bill Gate handle Microsoft affairs. He demonstrated clear leadership by preparing for review meetings, challenging staffs with difficult questions but, and this is the important bit, let them go on if they can demonstrate that they are capable of handling the task. Although I do not like his profanity language, and find it humorous that someone is assigned to count how many times he use the F word and how the frequency of him uttering that word become a statistical yardstick on the presentation, he deserves the credit for displaying leadership. Nough said.

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