Tag: IT


MS -365

As if the whole use-Microsoft-Teams-to-extend-the-working-day-to-include-commuting-time thing wasn’t enough, now Microsoft seem to be keen on extending Microsoft 365’s reach to quantifying worker productivity:

Esoteric metrics based on analyzing extensive data about employee activities has been mostly the domain of fringe software vendors. Now it’s built into MS 365.

A new feature to calculate ‘productivity scores’ turns Microsoft 365 into an full-fledged workplace surveillance tool […]

Sound as if for now this would be illegal-as-hell in the EU. Which should cause UK users of Microsoft 365 some worries, since this is just the sort of notion some chum of the UK government who contributed to Britannia Unchained would pounce on as a way of boosting productivity in the UK. Because you just can’t argue with hard numbers, right?

Anyone up for a switch to LibreOffice? 1

[Edited to add: Update JR 2020-12-17.]

[Via Pluralistic]


  1. Granted LibreOffice is far from perfect, but this productivity-measuring idea is not very likely to be high on their list of Microsoft 365 features they hope to emulate better. 
, 1 December 2020. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

Twenty years on

As usual, Paul Ford’s Web Conversations With the Year 2000, says it better than I can:

2000 me: Wow you still work on the web, that’s amazing. It must be so easy to publish really interesting web pages.

2020 me:Uhhhhh. [Very long pause.] Look, you can pay a low monthly fee and listen to any album anyone ever made.

’00:That must create some amazing opportunities for musicians!

’20:Well.

’00:There also must be some really good music discussion forums.

’20:Huh. […]

A small part of me wishes he’d qualified the "listen to any album anyone ever made" line to reflect the realities of music licensing and stuff not making it onto Spotify or Apple Music or whatever Amazon call their variant and so on, but his wider point still holds regardless.

, 29 November 2020. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

Not at those prices

I think Nick Heer is being much too charitable to Apple when he says that:

So, while I generally agree with Hansmeyer’s suggestions for changes, I have to wonder if these limitations are somehow deliberate, rather than something Apple has yet to change. The touchscreen-oriented interaction model of the iPad necessarily limits its software in some ways, but that does not excuse users’ more egregious workarounds. […] I have to wonder: is this a way of clearly separating the iPad and the Mac, so users do not attempt to treat one as the other? If so, what is Apple’s long-term strategy?

Apple would much rather charge users higher prices for Mac laptops than have everyone switch to iPads, and keeping such a yawning gap between the functionality of iPadOS and macOS is entirely at Apple’s discretion. Yes,there will be platitudes about expanding iPadOS to meet the needs of professional users. Perhaps next year’s iPadOS will see a more radical gap opening up between how iOS and iPadOS work that addresses some of those needs, but IMHO that’s not the way to bet.

Apple’s new M1 SoC looks to have plenty of processing power and battery life compared to the Intel models they’ve started to replace for certain low-end models, but Apple are not even coming close to passing on the cost savings to customers in the form of lower prices. 1 That they might just have several hundred million incentives to stay towards the top end of the market pricing-wise and wait and see what happens next. Sure, Apple could be brave and forge onwards into a future where they use their control of their hardware to show us all new form factors and applications that make use of all that processing power and so on, but they could probably keep to the more conservative path and spend a few years letting their shareholders reap the rewards of greatly improved profit margins on M1-powered systems.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for Apple to formally confirm that’s the long-term strategy they’re going with, not in so many words.


  1. Prices do seem to have this habit of going up when Apple announce new models. Granted they’re offering more bang for the buck, and Apple would argue that they want to sell customers the best computers rather than the cheapest, but that’s a strategy that works better for Apple when they don’t face a serious challenge in the tablet market nowadays. I’d love to see some future low-cost version of the Microsoft Surface Duo prod Apple into radically rethinking what a tablet OS can do and how it can do it, but I’m not optimistic (especially at Surface Duo prices) that’ll come to pass. 
, 28 November 2020. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

Surface Duo (again)

I have to confess that I’m fascinated by the slow reveal of Microsoft’s Surface Duo, as reviewers have had to negotiate two separate embargoes on the reveal of first the hardware1 and then the software. 2

Part of me really hopes Microsoft have the deep pockets 3 and the patience 4 to pull off creating another form factor for portable computing, but it does sound a little bit as if early adopters are going to need to be really, really keen users of Microsoft Office to get enough joy from their shiny, expensive new devices.

Me, I’m mostly hoping, entirely selfishly, that the Surface Duo is enough of a success to nudge Apple into a serious revamp of the iPadOS multitasking model. I certainly don’t have the money to invest in a Surface Duo or a desire to wrangle my content into Microsoft Office. It is just great fun to watch from the sidelines, though…


  1. Generally considered to be slightly underpowered but very nicely put together. 
  2. Which seems to be very good as long as you stick to Microsoft’s apps which support the new form factor, but given that Microsoft are pricing the Surface Duo at a level even Apple would think twice about you have to wonder how big an incentive anyone else has to build their Android apps differently for the sake of the tiny market share the Surface Duo seems likely to command. 
  3. Fair to say they do. Whether that’s what they see – and continue to see as they see the sales figures start to come in – as the best way of spending that money, we shall see. 
  4. In these days of everyone assuring us of their passion for their product, perhaps a decade from now some future Microsoft CEO will find themselves looking back and revealing that they personally were so overwhelmed by the way the Surface Duo unlocked their multitasking abilities that they fought hard to stay the course and not give up when the whole world mostly decided it could get by with a single screen and conventional windowing/task switching on Android. 

Surface Duo

I have a feeling that lots of people are going to be confused by the Surface Duo once it gets out into the market:

I am confused. Microsoft did a press blitz for their Surface Duo device this week and… I don’t understand anything. About the product. The strategy. The goal.

Look, I think the foldable tablets on Westworld look cool too. But if this is that, it sure seems like the prehistoric version of it. Granted, I think it looks and sounds better than Samsung’s gimmicky foldable phones, but only just. At least with a phone you can make the argument that folding a big screen to be pocketable makes some conceptual sense. This is decidedly not a phone. Because Microsoft insists it’s not. Even though it runs Android and can make phone calls. Listening to Microsoft, it’s not a tablet either. It’s something new. […]

Siegler notes that "it feels like you’re paying a ton of money to beta test something", which is as true of the Surface Duo as it was of the Apple Lisa back in the day. This is what happens when you’re trying to establish a new form factor and a new user interface paradigm: someone gets to pay handsomely for the privilege of figuring out what works for them. It’s unclear whether the price in this case is a product of the need to avoid a Samsung-style fiasco when you launch a foldable device and it turns out to be a bit too fragile to survive the real world or just a case of Microsoft hoping to reap the benefits of selling this new form factor at a professional price for a bit1 before moving the design downmarket a bit if the concept has legs.

Judging by the demos of how Microsoft’s apps work in the demo it looks as if Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making their apps reasonably lever about how they display their content across one or two screens at a time. It may well be that if other app makers follow Microsoft’s lead then the adapted version of Android the Surface Duo uses will be looked back on one day as a standard-setter for the foldable twin-screen tablet format or whatever we’re destined to call it. Or it could be that users will decide that software windowing on a single screen, iPad Mini-style is what they want if they have to use something bigger than a phone.

Perhaps a year from now the Surface Duo will be a roaring success, or perhaps iPadOS will have improved the mess that is Split Screen versus Slide Over and the Surface Duo will be history. Me, I have no money for new hardware any time soon and no great desire to jump to the Android ecosystem unless I get a strong push in that direction, but I will admit to being fascinated to see someone trying to give us a Westworld-style device to play with. I hope the Surface Duo is a success and puts some pressure on Apple’s dominance of the tablet space so that Apple have to apply themselves for the next generation of iPad hardware.

Failing that, everyone will decide to give up on folding devices for a few years until someone comes up with radically more capable display hardware. We live in interesting times.


  1. The introductory video from Panos Panay is very big on this, even as he fails to note that the main reason the Surface Duo can’t display content in a two- or three-pane window is that the screen just doesn’t have the room for it. 

Paper PCs

For readers of a certain age, these paper PCs are tremendously nostalgic, reminders of great computing times past.

Let the nitpicking1 commence.2

[Via MetaFilter]


  1. It feels to me that the keyboards on most of these come off as far too bulky. The Atari 520ST looks very good – the slant in the floppy disks and the function keys really works for it – while the ZX Spectrum’s keyboard/system unit looks way too bulky compared to the TV set alongside it. It’s hard to remember now, but back in those days we didn’t have 95% of systems using a generic plug-in keyboard so the keyboard was a huge part of the machine’s image and look and feel. 
  2. For their next trick, let’s see ’em give us a Sinclair ZX81, plus add-on RAM pack – 16 whole Kilobytes of RAM! – plus a carton of milk, acting as external cooling. Oh Uncle Clive, between the ZX80, the ZX81 and the ZX Spectrum it’s amazing to think what a folk hero you were to a whole generation of youngsters who were never going to be able to afford a BBC Model B, let alone an Apple II or a TRS80. Do not get me started on the Sinclair QL: so near to being really impressive in theory, such a disappointment in practice. 
, 10 June 2020. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

Secure

Good advice, doomed to be wasted on folks who just want a quick, easy solution that lets them move on to the next item on their To Do list…

I cringe when I hear self-proclaimed experts implore everyone to “use a password manager for all your passwords” and “turn on two-factor authentication for every site that offers it.” As most of us who perform user research in security quickly learn, advice that may protect one individual may harm another. Each person uses technology differently, has a unique set of skills, and faces different risks.

…because who wants to spend time thinking about all this stuff:

In this article, I’ll start by examining the benefits and risks of using a password manager. It’s hard to overstate the importance of protecting the data in your password manager, and having a recovery strategy for that data, so I’ll cover that next. I’ll then present a low-risk approach to experimenting with using a password manager, which will help you understand the tough choices you’ll need to make before using it for your most-important passwords. I’ll close with a handy list of the most important decisions you’ll need to make when using a password manager.

Visiting the comment thread on the Bruce Schneier post to see just how many different ways a bunch of (presumably) bright people can devise to avoid using a password manager in favour of their own home-brewed solutions.

[Via Schneier on Security]

, 23 June 2019. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

ASCII art in code

I’m more than a little in awe of some of the pieces of work laid out in Explaining Code using ASCII Art.

Fine work by all involved.

[Via Accidental Tech Podcast]

, 2 June 2019. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

Safe?

Geoff Manaugh opens his story about spending six months following round a professional safecracker with an image that might have been hand-crafted to get my attention:

The house was gone, consumed by the November 2018 Woolsey Fire that left swaths of Los Angeles covered in ash and reduced whole neighborhoods to charcoaled ruins. Amidst the tangle of blackened debris that was once a house in the suburbs northwest of Los Angeles, only one identifiable feature stood intact. It was a high-security jewel safe, its metal case discolored by the recent flames, looming in the wreckage like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.1

No mysterious alien structures show up in Manaugh’s story, but it’s interesting just how much demand there apparently is for a legal safecracker. Me, I’ve never owned a safe in my life and don’t have anything I’d want to keep in one if I did have access to one.2

, 24 February 2019. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

Before the smartphone

Coming soon (with any luck) to a screen near you: General Magic, A Documentary Feature:

Judging by the trailer, John Sculley is not going to come out of this smelling of roses.

General Magic, the upcoming documentary, is a tale of how great vision and epic failure can change the world. The film features members of the original Mac team along with the creators of the iPhone, Android and eBay.

These designers, engineers and entrepreneurs saw the future decades before it happened. General Magic captures the spirit of those of us who dare to dream big and the life-changing consequences when we fail, fail again, fail better, and ultimately succeed.

I realise it’s not going to be showing up in my local multiplex: I’ll settle for it eventually turning up somewhere I can (legally) pay for it, download it and watch it.

[Via Cake, via Extenuating Circumstances]

, 2 February 2019. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .
Next page →
← Previous page