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My manifesto for Microsoft

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Windows 8.1

Since the board hasn’t yet seen fit to call me, I thought I’d just put out my manifesto for what I’d do with Microsoft if the company was sensible enough to offer me the job.

Microsoft keeps burning money on things that don’t make money, and can only get away with doing so because a few cash cows make all the profit. The core truth is that Microsoft is an enterprise software and services company, and it has never succeeded in really engaging with the home market. Of course, it had huge success with early versions of Windows in the home, if only by making the assumption that a home computer is a workstation without a domain controller.

It has built up a huge management structure at enormous cost. Name the wackiest thing you can imagine, and Microsoft probably has a department for it. So the first thing I’d do is reduce the headcount by 30%. I know that will make people gasp, but it has to be done.


What exactly is the point of Surface RT?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Surface RT

The ongoing story of Windows 8, and in particular the Microsoft Surface hardware, keeps rumbling onwards. Hot on the heels of news that Microsoft was holding a Surface RT firesale for developers, and setting a “get one in a packet of breakfast cereal” price for academic institutions, comes the news that Microsoft has a warehouses full of unsold stock that has an unpleasant tendency to depreciate. And your auditors have an unhelpful requirement that things are valued correctly.

So the news that there is a near billion dollar writedown on the value of the Surface RT stockpile held by Microsoft comes as no great surprise, although the scale and size of the loss is substantial. Some are claiming it points to Microsoft having ordered some six million units of the thing, which, although somewhat higher than I would have expected, might turn out to be about right.

One has to ask what would motivate an organisation such as Microsoft to display such strong belief in a product that has real hard costs associated with it? After all, getting the production rate for something like Windows is not an issue — its licenses, bits of paper, and a few DVDs. Building laptops is a different kettle of fish.


GoPro camera strapped to a remote-control helicopter: the ultimate boy’s toy

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

So how did I come to strap a GoPro camera to a remote control helicopter? (Play video in full screen and select 1080p option for best quality.)

At the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, I was walking down an aisle between two large stands, and felt my hair being gently rustled by a powerful draft from above. Looking up, I saw a quad helicopter sitting a few feet above my head. It was perfectly stable, and under the control of someone off in the distance. It gently, and oh so accurately moved down the hallway, turned right and came to a landing.

Now remote control helicopters are not new. And ones that talk to your iPhone or iPad aren’t new either. Indeed, I bought the AR.Drone when it first shipped. It gave me two live camera feeds back to my iPad, and the facility to record the video. The only problem was that it was rubbish.


Has Microsoft blown Windows 8 on ARM?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012


The shock announcement this afternoon, in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Product Guide for Business document, is as follows:

“ARM-based tablets running Windows 8 are ideal for workers who are constantly on the go and need a long-lasting battery. ARM-based tablets use less power than 32-bit and 64-bit devices and workers can rely on the extended uptime of these devices. Although the ARM- based version of Windows does not include the same manageability features that are in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, businesses can use these power-saving devices in unmanaged environments.”

Unmanaged environments? That means no Active Directory policy integration. No System Center integration. All the things that sysadmins have been waiting for, longing for, from Microsoft with the ARM version of Windows 8 are just not going to be there. Period. End of.


How tech loosens our grip on reality

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Laptop floor

We cannot really understand yet how much technology has changed our lives. Those of us in our forties or older have the advantage of having seen a shift from an essentially analogue world to a digital one. We have seen interpersonal communication move from a pipe dream to a daily, second-by-second reality.

Today’s yoof have grown up in a world of Facebook, instant email, IM, smartphones in their pocket. They cannot function without an IP connection. It is more important to them than food. It is the new era drug that each of us consume. They know no different.

Thus it is particularly sad to see what happens when it goes wrong. And two very lovely people’s lives get turned upside down. Go over to the Vexentricity blog and read how a dependency on technology has ripped a family apart. And ask yourself this: honestly, how close are you to that reality too? And is that somewhere you want to be, or feel you ought to be? Or even should be?

What’s next for Apple after Steve Jobs?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Apple logo

The news that Steve Jobs has resigned the position of CEO and that Tim Cook, the long term COO, is taking over the position, should come as no surprise to anyone following both Apple and Jobs. Steve Jobs has been battling cancer for many years. That he remained in the position of CEO for so long shows his love of the work, and the company he both built and then rebuilt upon his return in the 90s.

Although he doesn’t mention his health in his resignation letter, it’s the only possible reading of the first paragraph: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”


Tags: ,

Posted in: Newsdesk


How a cheap graphics card could crack your password in under a second

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Graphics Cards

I was pointed in the direction of a blog posting talking about the use of GPU processors to launch brute-force attacks on passwords. GPUs are extremely good at this sort of workload, and the price/performance ratio has changed dramatically over the past few years. What might have seemed impossible even 36 months ago is now perfectly do-able on your desktop computer.

In this report, the author takes a fairly standard Radeon 5770 graphics card (you’ll find it on our A-List under Value Graphics Card), and uses a free tool called ighashgpu to run the brute-force password cracking tools on the GPU. To provide a comparison point with the capabilities of a standard desktop CPU, he uses a tool called “Cain & Abel”.

The results are startling. Working against NTLM login passwords, a password of “fjR8n” can be broken on the CPU in 24 seconds, at a rate of 9.8 million password guesses per second. On the GPU, it takes less than a second at a rate of 3.3 billion passwords per second.


Will Apple grab Samsung’s game-changing display?

Friday, May 13th, 2011


The news that Samsung is readying production of a 10.1in display for tablets, running at a resolution of 2560×1600 pixels, is a game changer. This is 300dpi on a near A4-sized display device.

Without question, this changes the rules for display of information.


Why on Earth is Microsoft buying Skype?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011


So Microsoft is buying skype for $8bn. Whether that figure includes the $686m of debt that Skype has isn’t clear. What is clear is that this is a huge amount of money for a company that has a turnover of $859m and an operating loss of $7m.

What is staggering is that Microsoft has bought it. Skype would have been a great fit for Apple. A great fit for Facebook. But Microsoft? Hello?


Tags: ,

Posted in: Software


£400 of freebies? Pull the other one, Microsoft

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Coins and notes

StartUp Britain is an initiative to help startup businesses in the UK. Clearly this is a good thing in principle though some have suggested – not least my Real World Computing comrade Kevin Partner -  that some of the sponsors and backers of this Government-applauded but privately backed venture are rather in it for themselves, judging by the help and offers that have been made public.

However, things hit a new low with Microsoft’s offer: it is offering “free technology resources worth up to £400 per company”, which sounds pretty good to me at first glance.







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