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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

While I’m on the subject of Microsoft

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/11/28
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Here’s two free eBooks:

Spoiler: they’re about computer-y stuff. Don’t read if you’re hoping for a whodunnit.

SQL Server on Linux

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/11/28
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Microsoft have a preview of SQL Server for Linux now. There’s even an install guide. Good times.

A letter to Foursquare

Posted by Simon Collis on 2014/07/23
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I’ve been a dedicated user of Foursquare for years. If you follow my Twitter, you’ll have suffered my tweets on it for long enough to know that and (presumably) not hate it enough to block me (probably).

Anyway, Foursquare recently reinvented themselves as two apps, instead of one. The new one’s called Swarm. Lots of people don’t like it.

If you read the iTunes app store page, there are lots of bad reviews. There’s also an email address, asking for feedback. Here’s what I sent them: Read more

Minion Rush

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/09/21
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I am addicted to Despicable Me: Minion Rush. Not because it’s a movie tie in – DM is not one of my favourite movies of all time; it’s OK, but I lent out my DVD over a year ago, never chased up getting it back and now can’t even remember who borrowed it, and that doesn’t bother me.

No, what is addictive is the additive nature of the game. Read more

First thoughts on iOS 7

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/09/18
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Just updated my iPhone 5 to iOS 7 and here’s my first impressions…

  1. It’s ugly.
    Very, very ugly.
  2. Cellular/mobile data support is still poor
    My wifi is limited, my mobile data isn’t. And yet you still force me to upload/download big files on my limited wifi connection, while ignoring my unlimited 3G (which also has faster uploads). Thanks for that, Apple. It’s a stupid, stupid decision. Allow me to control it or scrap the idea.
  3. It’s ugly
    Did I mention it’s hideously ugly? The folder colours are grim washed out brown, making it hard to see the icons
  4. It looks like Windows 8
    Windows 8 is ugly, too.
  5. Too many silly animations
    And no way to turn them off

I think iOS 7 is going to sell a lot of phones. Mainly Androids.

Now, how do I downgrade back to iOS 6?

Microsoft just bought Nokia phones

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/09/03
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Microsoft just annouced it’s going to buy Nokia’s handset business.

There’s some interesting things to note…

  • It’s cheaper than Skype
    About a billion dollars cheaper. Does that mean Nokia was a bargain – or Skype was a bad buy? Either way, I think there’s scope for lawsuits here – either from Microsoft shareholders against Ballmer for paying too much for Skype, or from Nokia shareholders against Elop for selling Nokia too cheaply. Worst case scenario? Both.
  • Elop will be Microsoft’s new CEO
    He has to be. I can’t imagine anyone else who wouldn’t come in and say “OK, let’s drop all the businesses that are losing money” – or worse, “let’s concentrate on everything that makes over a billion dollars a year”. That would leave the handset business high and dry. Turns out one or two people agree with me
  • No MS breakup… probably
    As Mary Jo Foley points out, Microsoft management aren’t keen on a split up. They want to be a GE style conglomerate. But the issue might not be what management want – antitrust may yet come back to haunt them. Even if the DoJ don’t say anything, you can be guaranteed the EU will be paying close attention.
  • The takeover is good news for Google, bad news for Microsoft and Nokia
    Seriously, this is the big takeaway. Nokia couldn’t make money on it despite their in-depth knowledge of the phone market going back years. But can you see any other phone builders (HTC in particular) sticking with Windows Phone when Microsoft are competing against them? If anything, this will lead to manufacturers looking to build quality Android phones that compete with the low end Lumias, rather than leaving Windows Phone to pick up that market – and let’s face it, Windows Phone is really only competitive with low-end Android handsets right now.
  • Danger
    Remember what happened the last time Microsoft took over a handset company? Yeah, the KIN. Enough said.

On the face of it, this looks like a sensible deal. But the truth is, with Ballmer set to retire, the only way this deal makes sense is it’s bringing back Stephen Elop as the new Microsoft CEO. I think otherwise, there are way too many risks for it to make sense.

Five danger signs when doing business online

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/04/30
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These aren’t set in stone, but they are big red flags. If any service you want to sign up with does one of them, take a deep breath before continuing. If they do more than one, run away – fast. Take my advice – these are not lessons you want to learn the hard way

  1. They don’t validate your email
    If they don’t validate the original email, it suggests that you’ll never get a notification if someone tries to take over your account. Depending on how important the service is, that could be a major problem (you’d want to know if someone changed the email on your Internet banking, for example). However, these validations are the one exception to the following rule, where you don’t want them…
  2. Read more

…but were afraid you’d never find…

It’s quite unbelievable. In two years Jason Scott has turned the Interet Archive’s software collection into a monster! It’s amazing. Seriously, go look!

They even have a collection of stuff for my old Philips P2000. Bless.

21 Reasons Why Microsoft Might Be Dying

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/04/08
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As someone who develops with the Microsoft tool chain – particularly with .Net – the signs from Microsoft recently haven’t been overly encouraging recently. And that worries me – I’ve been developing using the Microsoft stack for 18 years and if they disappear, so does my career. But the writing’s looking to be on the wall:

  1. Some people at IBM think Windows 8 might be Microsoft’s OS/2. Ouch.
  2. Windows Phone is only 4.7% of the market, and while it’s growing, the top 2 players take 94.7% of the market – up from 92.4% last year
  3. In China, the world’s largest mobile phone market, the news is worse – Nokia sales are crashing, while Samsung is tops
  4. Another revenue stream dries up as Google stops licensing Exchange ActiveSync for its GMail product
  5. Facebook Home might be a clone of Windows Phone’s ‘people-centric’ UI, but it just brought Windows Phone’s consumer USP to their biggest rival. Ooops.
  6. Despite rumours since September and a petition on change.org, the Facebook (and therefore indirectly-part-Microsoft-owned) Instagram still isn’t available on Windows Phone
  7. As of January, Nokia were still selling twice as many Linux-based phones as Windows Phone ones
  8. Indy game developers prefer Sony to Microsoft these days, removing one of the Xbox’s key selling points.
  9. Microsoft have slashed Windows 8 OEM prices to try and revive the market, knocking 75% off the price of their biggest profit centre.
  10. Gartner predicts a fall of 7.6% in PC sales in 2013, while Apple Mac sales rose 31% overall last year, despite a weak start to 2013.
  11. Google are now a hardware player, and their Chromebook starts at about the full price of a retail Windows 8 licence
  12. You couldn’t make this up: Thieves broke into Microsoft. And just stole the iPads.
  13. Microsoft’s smartphone market share dropped after the launch of Windows Phone 8.
  14. The Surface tablets have sold about a third the number Microsoft ordered
  15. Actually the news for Internet Information Server isn’t all bad – it’s back to 20% market share, its highest since October 2010 – but still lower than every survey since 1996.
  16. Dell told the SEC that slow sales of Windows 8 and Windows 7 are a prime factor in its recent troubles that might lead to a takeover.
  17. The EU fined Microsoft $731 million for breaching their antitrust agreement over the browser choice screen – presumably one of the costliest oversights of all time.
  18. Apple’s App Store takes 74% of app store spend, while Google Play is 51% of all downloads. Even the BlackBerry store is over 100,000 apps now.
  19. SharePoint is being replaced by third party apps at multinationals on an almost daily basis
  20. 40% of PCs are still running Windows XP, despite this being three versions out of date (I wonder how many are still running Windows 2000?)
  21. Microsoft just sold their IPTV business, just as the consumer-savvy Apple might be going into the IPTV business.

This is depressing.

You know I could go on and on with these, and I haven’t really found any good news. As someone who relies on Microsoft for a living, this is really really depressing – and a bit scary.

Please, Microsoft, get your act together – I need some good news!


Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/04/03
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Some time in 1993, I decided to start taking this “work” and “career” thing a little bit more seriously than I had been doing. I’d basically been trying for a few years to become a games programmer on the Commodore 64, and when that didn’t pan out – mainly due to interest in the platform drying up – I was left with a set of obsolete skills and no real CV to speak of.

Enter “temping”. Basic data entry, more money than I’d earned so far (although it’s not as much as I earn these days, thanks to inflation it still felt like a serious chunk of dough back then). Read more