Monday, 31 December 2007

Internet Access on my Mobile

When i started my present job, i sort of expected to be given a mobile phone. I bought a cheap pay as you go phone, thinking it only had to last the 4 weeks between jobs. It turned out the new place use radios rather than mobiles, that was nearly 4 years ago. This Christmas, I decided it was time to splash out and get myself a new phone. Obviously as an IT professional it had to have all the extras, blue tooth, wifi, 3 mega pixel camera with flash, push email, and fast internet access, video messaging, voice control, sat nav...basically it needed all the bells and whistles. Only thing was it also had to have good coverage, (i fell run most weekends in some pretty unaccessible areas and need the phone to work), oh and it had to be cheap.

So i set out to buy something with all the features of a top of the line Blackberry for under £100 on a pay as you go contract, with options for all day internet and call tariff's as bargain basement rates.

I spent a day battling the x-mas shoppers, and got came home armed with a sack full of product guides, tariff plans and catalogs. Many of the offers looked too good to be true, 'anysite, anytime packages' internet for £7.50 a month - only you also have to have a minimum contract of 12-18 months at £22 a month and there is a limit to the amount of content you get classified as 'fair usage'.

In the end it came down to a choice between orange and 3, with no contract daily rates at £1 and 50p. But i couldn't find any g3 phones on 3. So i in the end i could only actually find 1 phone that met the requirements. Thephone i ended up with was the Sony Ericsson k800i, at £80 (plus an initial purchase of £10's worth of calls).

So far i am loving it...The navigation is very intuitive, with tabbed browsing and joystick control. It's even pretty easy to get your head around the multiple inboxes for straight forward text, multiple pop 3 email accounts, and orange email, I love the Adress Book, its simple yet effective. Storing a contacts home, mobile office, msn and email addresses in one place so i simply find the person then decide how i want to communicate. The internet is a fair bit faster than the dial up account on my laptop.

It wasn't all plain sailing though, it doesn't integrate that well with outlook (although i think you can buy a third arty product that will sync them) it also doesn't work with my online banking system (although they do have telephone banking as well so i don't really need internet access) and the browser doesn't like frames much, so it look a while to work out the right url to be able to access my office email and contacts via microsoft web access.

Some of the things that did make life that little bit easier were some of the web 2.0 sites that i used already, like social bookmarking sites, i now have all of my favorites from the office and home on my phone. While the phone didn't have a sat nav feature built in, google maps mobile worked fantastically getting my location from the phone and showing me where i was and where i wanted to go.

There are a few features that i don't think i'll ever use, the mp3 player is never going to replace my ipod and the games are never going to rival a psp.

But on the whole i think i managed to get everything i wanted pretty much on budget with a car charger at £18 and a blue tooth headset at £8 i came in at a total of £106, £6 over budget, but i got all of the features that i wanted and a few i didn't. With a 15 per minute any network call tariff and a £1 per day £5 per week internet charge for only the days that i use it...not bad for a days shopping.

I'd recommend it as an alternative to an iphone or a blackberry (for those that want performance on a budget).

Thursday, 20 December 2007

What is Tafiti?

Tafiti is being described as search visualization, it combines the search capabilities of Live Search with the graphic power of Silverlight. The result is a search engine that not only fast, but intuitive to use and also quite nice to look at.

As with google searches you can sellect whether you want to see images, news feeds, websites but you also get the choice of seeing directory listings and rss feeds. You can also stack searches, so you can instantly swap between search results without having to re-search, there is also an area called the glass shelf where you can store sites , images and feeds that look interesting to look at later.
Tafiti also remembers you latest search results, and allows you to see them anywhere you log in with the same Windows Live account. Useful if you use the internet at home and at work or on the road.

Microsoft released the open source code for "Tafiti" today so developers can download the developer kit and utilize the i for one am looking forward to seeing where the technology goes.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Microsoft Learning Programme

Having recently completed by CompTIA Security +, i decided i might be fun to study Sharepoint services 3 for my next professional certifications.

Sharepoint has been around a while now, and while I haven't used it much, I always thought it was quite a popular product and expected there to be plenty of training materials around.

This however was not the case, there are books like inside sharepoint and step by step sharepoint, but these books don't discuss deployment or maintenance which are covered in the exam. Similarly i couldn't find many blogs on the subject and there appear to be no practice exams available.

I managed to find a couple of video files after a quick google search, but these turned out to be for resellers only, so i couldn't view them.

In the end i went back to the microsoft learning site, having decided that the only option was going to purchase there e-learning course. To my surprise (and delight)i found they are currently offering a number of free subscriptions for their new server 2008 range and also to a selection of other technologies like sharepoint services, sql 2008, exchange 2007.

The e-learning packages come with an online viewer or downloadable off line viewer, audio, video and text based learning materials and sample test questions etc.
Well worth a look.

You will need a free windows account to log on and they seem to prefer the explorer browser, running on windows.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Flock 10.0.3 Released

Integrating my digital world got a step closer today, as the latest version of Flock the browser from the people at flickr released.

If you haven’t already seen flock, its a browser, that does a little more than browsing. It goes some way to bridging the gap between your desktop and the internet, managing access to media sharing sites and blogs so you can drag and drop right from the desktop to your website.

In the latest release they have added added a number of new little features like the people section and they’ve given the ‘my world‘ page a bit of a make over.

The people section mean that when you log into your favourite social network (like the ever popular facebook or twitter), your friends suddenly appear with quick links to actions and to allow you to send media (photos and movies) by dragging and dropping from the browser or your desktop. The top of the pane also lets you know how many new notifications and mails you have.

They have also enhanced the toolbar to show you when you have new messages or notifications from friends, as well as when you have new media or feeds to view.

Annoyingly though there are still a couple of things that don’t seem to gel, while i can log into with an open id, flock doesn’t seem to accept this and keeps telling me it failed, even when i’m not running magnolia (i guess that’s because its looking for new mail or content for me), it also mixed me up with another david and shows me his new bookmarks and profile when it logs in automatically. Consequently i’ve taken to logging in manually.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Technet Roadshow

I got the opportunity to take a look at some of the new Windows 2008 Server technologies as the Technet Roadshow hit Newcastle on Tuesday (4th December) and I have to say I was quite impressed. While most of the changes weren't exactly heart stoppers they were quite nice little features and looked quite well thought out.

The Afternoon session of the Roadshow presented by Microsoft "Evangelists" Steve Lamb and James O'neil centered around backups and remote desktop. As you may expect from a couple of seasoned veterans of this kind of presentation, they kept it quite light and entertaining, with a few digs at certain security failing coming from the North East in recent months. Refreshing though it wasn't quite the 'medicine wagon' sales pitch i had expected, at least a couple of times they drew attention to things that didn't work with the new software, and they were very keen to say that the new terminal services was not a replacement for Citrix which they repeatedly maintained added value.

Probably the most interesting thinking discussed was that VPN's weren't all that secure. Having just passed my comptia security plus exam that statement came as a bit of a surprise. But they did have a point in that it is very hard to control access to specific protocols and services or to monitor usage, once you've allow users access to the vpn. Apparently much of this is addressed within the new 6 terminal services. The other area of Terminal Services that was very impressive was deployment of Terminal Services Applications. The ability to create Application Farms, so that you could simply switch were an application was being delivered from to allow you to take down a server for maintenance was very good.

With regard to Backup there was some interesting information on the difference between Xp and Vista back up products and the idea of Byte level Back ups was also very interesting, as only the bytes that had changed in say an SQL database between the last back up the current one and the back up was made first to disk and then later from disk to tape the down time to the Applications and services is minimal.

One last thought, as microsoft evangelists these 2 guys have some of the biggest brains on the planet, but they were completely unable to start a new section of their presentation without using the word "so".