That sucks! There’s no privacy online.

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in words | 0 comments

TLAs* probably have access to all your online communications. Everything in your email, your Google Docs, your Facebook messages, your SkyDrive, your Twitter DMs and everything else. They can likely tell who you’ve been calling and texting, and where you are from the GPS in your phone.

There’s been an awful lot about this in the news lately, with the focus largely on the US intelligence agencies and GCHQ in the UK (the Chinese and Russians must be having a good chuckle to themselves), and it’s generated a significant public outcry. The thing that surprises me the most is that people were aware of these huge spying organizations – what the heck did people think they were all doing??

Gone are the days of spies hanging round shady alleys in Berlin, meeting someone from the other side with a scrap of intel. In today’s world, humint just doesn’t scale. It’s not like elint is always better, but you can collect a heck of a lot more data at the speed of light and analyse it to spot patterns that simply wouldn’t have been visible before. This is an age where not every threat to your nation is another nation. It’s harder to see where the threats are coming from.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that people shouldn’t be able to get a bit of privacy, but I do wonder if people are worrying a bit too much about the wrong thing.

Actually, after the initial shock, especially in the tech media, we’re starting to see more reports of “ordinary Americans” who are happy that the government is taking these steps to protect them from terrorists. People seem to be quite open to the idea of establishing precrime investigation. Stopping terrorists ahead of time is a good idea. Stopping run-of-the-mill murderers is a good idea too, right? It’s like Person of Interest; I like that series – all the bad guys get what’s coming to them with little collateral damage. Or maybe it’s like Minority Report – it depends on your perspective, and who is in power.

Here’s an interesting thing that I was mulling over recently: if governments around the world could nip everything bad in the bud (terrorism, violent crime, theft, everything), would that actually have some side-effects that we wouldn’t want? I know that sounds crazy, but I did start to wonder whether I’d want my child growing up with nothing to fear from other people, and how would it affect economies, etc? My head isn’t capable of getting that all untwisted (like the mess you can get in with time travel), so feel free to tell me how crazy I might be in the comments.

* Three Letter Agencies.

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The Wishlist: Improvements to Windows Phone

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in words | 1 comment

The Wishlist is home to our tech desires. It may be improvements to existing things, or something that doesn’t exist yet, but we really, really want.

This time we’re talking about Windows Phone. We’ve both been using Windows Phones since WP7 first came to market, WP8 since that dropped, and before that Windows Mobile. That’s not to say that we’re devoid of experience of the other mobile platforms – between us we’ve owned dozens of mobile devices with nearly every OS going (except WebOS, although that nearly happened). So, we know what we want and we don’t think we’re being too demanding in this instance.

Jon:

  • I want a Windows Phone 8 phablet, with a >5″ screen. It’s probably got to be a Nokia because they support their devices with new software and services more than any of the other OEMs. It has to be 1080p and it’s going to require Microsoft supporting that resolution with a new tile layout because scaling up is not good enough.
  • I want proper podcast support in the OS. That means Microsoft opening up the podcast directory in the Store worldwide. On top of that though, I want to be able to add a podcast URL on the phone and subscribe to it. At the moment the OS gives the impression that podcasts are supported wherever you are, but it’s just misleading you. Microsoft have updated the desktop sync support for podcasts, so you can subscribe to them on your PC in iTunes/Zune/whatever and have them copied over when you connect. That’s just not good enough; in fact I think it’s a bit of a joke. That’s the sort of support you need for an MP3 player that doesn’t have its own data connection. The Verge’s Tom Warren indicates that better international podcast support could be coming in an upcoming GDR2 release, but Microsoft haven’t confirmed this yet. I’ve tried the best rated podcast apps on Windows Phone and none of them are up to scratch.
  • I want the Calendar live tile to show more than just the next appointment. I don’t care if it does that by making better use of the space, or by flipping the tile to show “next” on one side and “later” on the other.
  • I want edge gestures. I know that Ben and I don’t entirely agree on this, and I know that it would have to be done carefully, but having used Windows 8/RT on a touch screen, I’m getting used to swiping in from the edges of the screen and I think that adding them to Windows Phone would be great to add consistency across the board – heck, we know the Xbox One is going to have a swipe up gesture. I’d like to use the swipe in from the left edge to manage multitasking like in Windows, and I might even be coming round to the idea of swiping in from the right to access some charm-like functionality.
  • I want to be able to have two apps on the screen at the same time, a la Windows 8 snap and newer Samsung Android phones.
  • I want a notification center and quick access to toggle radios on and off.
  • I want a Swype-style virtual keyboard (and so does my wife).
  • I want to be able to set a default “lens” for the camera, so that it jumps straight to that when I launch the camera with the shutter button.
  • I would like to be able to specify which apps can use a data connection when I’m roaming, limiting the others to wifi.
  • I want to see consistent video output across Windows Phone devices. It would be nice to have HDMI output, but failing that I’d like to see DLNA built in to the OS and not relying on OEM apps.

Ben:

I don’t think my list of niggles is as “thorough” as Jon’s but I do have some big gripes around how WP8 handles music particularly its handling of the “Xbox Music” service

  • The ability to download & keep in sync certain playlists from xbox music
  • The ability for the Music app to “match” songs I’ve copied to my phone via USB against the songs in playlist from xbox music (currently the device sees things separately)
  • A notification centre would be kind of handy & some options like “Do not disturb” for notifications during specific times of day (or night!)
  • The default lense would be handy on a phone, however Nokia look like they will deliver this as part of their Amber update – no news on if that’s Nokia exclusive or not yet
  • Smarter data connections would be handy for blocking when roaming
  • Proper support for podcasting like we had back in the Zune days with WP7. I just want the things to be downloaded and ready to go when I decide I want them
  • I’m not sure how I feel about edge gestures or larger screen phablet devices, I think I’d be quite happy with something like the Lenovo Miix (8”) running full Windows 8 as my companion device and keeping my phone at about 4.3” or so… we shall see

The thing I’m finding most disturbing about WP at the moment is we’ve had Teched (Europe & America), Build and currently WPC with very little lip service being paid to WP. Hardly any news or discussion about it’s roadmap or planned upgrades etc… the only news out there are leaks and rumour. Come on MS throw us a bone

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#msTechEd Predictions

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 in words | 0 comments

This week Microsoft is hosting its big annual North American TechEd conference in New Orleans (the European version is in Madrid later in the month and Ben will be there). This year we’re expecting some big announcements, so I thought it would be fun to make some bold predictions (deliberately steering clear of the things that I know are definitely going to happen).

Jon:

  • There’s going to be a System Center dashboard as a modern UI (“metro”) app.
  • We’re going to get sick to the back teeth of hearing the word “cloud”. (Actually that’s not an especially bold prediction – it’s practically a given.)
  • Once again, IT professionals are going to fear for their jobs on the basis of cloud advancements.
  • Modern versions of the Office apps are going to be mentioned in passing, but Outlook will be conspicuously absent (and make an appearance in Madrid).
  • Microsoft Surface devices are going to be part of the buzz all week (because of the sweet deals for attendees), then not talked about much afterwards.

Although it’s not long since the release of Windows Server 2012, I’m excited for the R2 release of both Server and System Center. It’s going to be good!

Ben:

  •  Cloud, Cloud, Cloud, IaaS, Cloud Center System Management Cloud Server 2013
  • Hopefully some news on Server 2012 “Blue” update (R2 perhaps?)
  • Some news about what’s next for System Center generally given SP1 dropped recently

I’m pretty interested to see what comes out of TechEd USA given that BUILD and TechEd EU are following on quite closely. From the rumours MS have been driving pretty hard on updates to it’s big products this year & now is when is when we’d expect to learn more about what they have been up-to in advance of a autumn/winter release.. it seems like just a case of second guessing which event MS will use to show their hands at.

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We’re excited about… Xbox One

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 in words | 0 comments

Jon:

I was on the Xbox bandwagon since the first console was announced and while all of my friends were Playstation fans. Slowly they all understood what I was talking about and when the 360 was launched, practically everyone I knew bought one and the PS3 didn’t get a look in. I’m confident that there’s no reason to think that the Xbox One won’t be a better option that the PS4 for me. I’m not especially interested in indie or pre-owned games, and I certainly don’t care about backwards compatibility since I won’t be trading in the 360 to get a One. That said, we haven’t heard all the details yet, so it may be that some of the issues will be less bad than some people currently think, although I expect there’s going to be some disappointment around regional/set-top-box differences in the TV integration. The idea of offloading some processing from the Xbox One to Microsoft’s massive cloud server infrastructure is really interesting and potentially means that the console will be able to perform far beyond what it’s hardware can do – in IT we’re already getting used to the idea of hybrid deployments, and Microsoft is the leader in that space, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they leverage that in the gaming/entertainment sphere.

Ben:

TLDR: I use media center, pretty psyced about how Xbox One can take over – assuming MS figure out TV integration in Europe.

I was late to the modern console party having, all through Uni, been a fervent believer that they were a waste of time and that PC’s offered a far greater feature set and experience… That said there was something fine about Super Money Ball that meant I had to get myself a Gamecube. From there I bought an original Xbox but very quickly chipped it so that I could use it to run XBMC (I still remember very carefully soldering that “pin 0” wire…).

I’d say that I first used my Xbox 60% of the time for games and 40% of the time for playing media & files over my home network. When the 360 rolled round I didn’t bother chipping it or using it for many media tasks – why? Because buy that time I’d graduated from XBMC to a fully-fledged Windows XP Media Centre edition PC that I’d built (In an Asus Pundit P1!). With Media Centre I was able to record TV & play media files from the network and I’ve used the platform ever since. I was slightly disappointed to hear that MS wouldn’t really add any new features and would arguably make the media center experience much poorer in Windows 8 but I didn’t get too upset, it was pretty clear by that point that MS was staking their claim on your living room with the 360…

When the 360 first launched it would have been quite a stretch of the imagination to picture where that console has taken us today – Kinect, SmartGlass and a huge catalogue of online content providers like we have today (iPlayer, Netflix, Lovefilm, Xbox Video etc…). I believe with the announcement of the Xbox One that this is exactly the type of “unknown changes” that MS have built the One to cope with. The split architecture is actually pretty smart meaning that the games “console side” can cope with how we currently play games – installed of a disk & rendered locally, but the “windows side” sets this thing up for the future & that’s where it gets interesting.

The windows side isn’t just about adding in Netflix apps or about watching TV, I see this as the platforms core strength rather than a weakness that detracts from the gaming. Imaging adding an app like OnLive that would stream down games to the console (perhaps powered & rendered in Azure?). Need something to cope with a new video streaming format – sure just release an app. Need to develop a new hardware accessory to control the lights or a custom controller for a game – sure this thing is just a PC at the end of the day.

So am I looking forward to the Xbox One – sure & not just for the games, there was a lot of criticism levelled at MS for not focusing on the games enough. I think that stuff will come out with E3, the most interesting thing for me is that this device isn’t just “cloud ready” it’s also “living room” ready. Fingers crossed I’ve found my MCE replacement device.

 

 

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Welcome to TheTekTonic.com

Posted by on May 25, 2013 in words | 0 comments

A beginning is a very delicate time. This is the start of TheTekTonic.com; a new site from a pair of IT guys who like to talk about tech. We’ve both been blogging about our areas of enterprise IT for years, but we wanted to try something new…

We’re planning to post here on a fairly frequent basis. A lot of it is going to be fairly short form, but some of it is undoubtedly going to be longer because we’re passionate about this stuff. We aren’t going to restrict ourselves to a particular area of technology, so if we find something especially exciting or controversial, or whatever, it’s in scope. Our backgrounds are largely in working with Microsoft products and we’re both Xbox and Windows Phone users, so that probably labels us as fanboys. We’d say that we’re as likely to be critical of Microsoft as the most ardent Apple/Google fan, so you might be surprised. We also aren’t afraid to give opinions on things that we know nothing about. Just kidding; we’re going to try to offer insightful commentary based on our combined experience in the IT industry and as prototypical early-adopters.

In addition to this blog, we’ll be making TheTekTonic Show. A video chat between us and any interesting guests that we can persuade to join us on camera. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so hopefully you’ll find those interesting to watch or listen to. If you want an idea of what that might look like, you can check out the beta version that we put together for TheTekTonic Show 0.

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