Monday, 26 July 2010

Why does Wall Street hate Microsoft?

Why does Wall Street hate Microsoft? is the question posed on the Microsoft Blog. The answer the author arrives at, extremely quickly, is Windows is just not exciting enough. Hmm okay then. I'm no expert on the stock market or on how investors behave. But I think it's a safe bet they're more interested in the profit margins. Not just from one or two products. But from the whole product line. And there in lies the problem. With the exception of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows very few Microsoft product lines ever seem to make any profit at all.

Take Bing for example. It was supposed to be the next best thing since sliced bread. It wasn't. Hardly anybody uses it and Microsoft's on-line efforts are haemorrhaging something on the order of $2,000,000,000 per year. Vista was a disaster and despite the supposedly good figures for Windows 7. The business world is sticking with Windows XP. Which is why Microsoft has extended downgrade rights to 2020. And Windows Surface was also essentially still born.

There was Zune. Which only really sold in the USA and even then wasn't so popular. There's the Xbox. Hugely popular, yes. Shame it's a technical disaster with at least half of all units sold at one point being returned as duds. Which one might think was enough disappointment for one product. But no. Microsoft had plenty more disappointment for Xbox fans. First they decided to lock out third party peripheral devices. Then they decided to cut off early adopters by ending support for their version of the console. There was the sidekick debacle. Then there was the still born Microsoft "Kin Phone". Which nobody wanted. And then of course there is a list longer than your arm of product lines Microsoft has recently discontinued.

All of which is very telling about Microsoft's understanding of todays market. They just don't get it. For some unfathomable reason Microsoft thought teenagers would buy a phone like Kin when they could have an iPhone or the HTC Legend, the Google Nexus One or the Motorola Droid. Even Microsoft's own Windows Phone 7 looks like a better proposition. Then there is the way Microsoft treats it's paying customers. People are tired of the 20 character activation codes. It makes people who have bought and paid for their products feel like criminals. So it's understandable then they might consider switching to Apple or Linux.

And speaking of the competition. When Microsoft's competition does something different, exciting or innovative Microsoft's responses are almost non-existent. Microsoft's answer to the buzz surrounding Compiz on the Linux platform was a new task-bar. Windows that minimise or maximise when you shake them or some such. Compiz in comparison has a multitude of features. Some actually useful in boosting productivity like the Negative, Opacify, Enhanced Desktop Zoom or Add Helper. Basically Microsoft are a company that doesn't have anything new to offer and always seem to be late to the party. And not even fashionably late at that.

It's not that Wall Street hates Microsoft. Wall Street just doesn't see any potential. Investors minds have been made up that Microsoft has run it's course. It's time for a change. For something new. Apple are currently storming a head because Apple has proven it's self to be a company that can diversify to survive and fight it's way clear of bad times. Microsoft innovates by buying up an existing company or product and slapping it's own brand on it. Apple innovates by putting a new spin on existing technologies and products.

Then there is the honesty factor. Investors don't like it when people lie to them. Windows 7 is turning bumper profits. Except virtually nobody in the business sector is interested and the whole of Asia is apparently pirating Windows. So who exactly is buying Windows 7? Are these bumper profits coming from consumers alone? Maybe there's some "Hollywood" accounting going on over at Redmond.

Wall Street doesn't hate Microsoft. It just doesn't care any more.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ubuntu Tip: How To Synchronise Gnote Between PCs

In the great Tomboy vs Gnote debate one of the trump cards Tomboy has is it's ability to synchronise it's database of notes with other PCs. Not that it was ever a feature that worked brilliantly. However none the less it was a feature I used and the only reason I continued using Tomboy over Gnote.

How stupid I was?

Ubuntu as many Ubuntu users will know comes with a "cloud" service called Ubuntu One. Which while isn't that great provides us with the basic inspiration for what we're about to do. You see Canonical in their great wisdom decided it would be a great idea to integrate Tomboy with Ubuntu One. Fine. Excellent. If it works. It did for a time for me. Then sort of went a bit crappy. However there are more mature "cloud services" available for synchronising files between two PCs. And that incidentally is all Tomboy's synchronisation feature does so far as I can see. It simply copies files that have been created or changed recently to the PC that doesn't have the new version.

You see all of the notes you create in Tomboy or Gnote are stored in individual XML formatted files. And the Linux file system has a crafty little feature called symbolic links. Combine this with a service like Ubuntu One or Dropbox and all our notes are synchronised automagically so long as we have an active web connection.

  1. Tomboy or Gnote. I recommend Gnote. It's lighter and faster than Tomboy.
  2. Ubuntu One, Dropbox or similar service. I would recommend Dropbox.
  1. Creat a new folder for yout notes in your Ubuntu One or Dropbox folder.
  2. Copy your existing notes to the folder you just created in your Ubuntu One or Dropbox folder. Tomboy notes can be found in /home/your-user-name/.local/share/tomboy. Gnote notes can be found in /home/your-user-name/.gnote.
  3. Replace the Tomboy or Gnote folder with a symbolic link. Open a terminal window and enter the following command adjust for your own PC;
    ln -vsf Dropbox/gnote /home/your-user-name/.gnote
  4. Repeat steps 1 and 3 on the second, third, fourth, etc PC.
  1. It's best to have Tomboy or Gnote already setup and working before you attempt this.
  2. It's also better to avoid using hidden directories with Dropbox. They don't work very well in my experience.
  3. If you're using Tomboy but would like to switch to Gnote that's not a problem. Gnote is a native Linux implementation of Tomboy that is free of all Mono dependencies. Both applications use exactly the same data file formats and both offer almost exactly the same feature set. So all you need to do is copy the Tomboy files to your Gnote folder.

Digg Is Dead

For quite sometime now I've had a Digg button imbedded in my posts. News aggrigators like Digg are great for driving web users to your blog. However for some strange reason the digg button isn't working any longer. At least not on my blog. All the posts show the same number of diggs. Clicking the button does nothing.

So what is it about the new blogspot templates that are causing this conflict with Digg? Clearly having a button on your blog or website that does nothing looks bad. So For the time being I've removed the Digg button.

Ubuntu Tip: Split Screen In Nautilus

Way back in the days when I got my first IBM compatible PC running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows 3.1 there was a feature in the Windows file manager I have really missed over the years since 3.1 became redundant. It's the split screen mode.

Well I shall miss it not a minute more. For Nautilus has just such a feature. Simply open Nautilus and press F3. Each pain can point to it's own directory. Which is handy considering I connect to FTP servers using Nautilus.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Password Protecting A Website

I'm writing this more as a reminder to myself than for anybody elses benefit. Recently I had a request to add a password protected area to a web site I administer, For some reason I had always thought this was quite difficult and needed experience in building on-line databases. It doesn't.

Adding password protection to an area of a website is actually pretty easy. Basically all you need to do is create a subdirectory and to it add two files, .htaccess and .htpasswd.

Setting Up .htaccess
The .htaccess file defines access privileges and the location of the password file, .htpasswd. It should look something like the following example;
AuthType Basic
AuthName "restricted area"
AuthUserFile /the-full-path-name-of-your-webspace/membersonly/.htpasswd
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName secure
AuthType Basic
require valid-user
order allow,deny
allow from all
An important point to note. The variable AuthUserFile must be the full path name of your web space. This will likely not be your domain name. So you may need to contact your ISP to get that information. Alternatively search the ISPs FAQ.

Setting Up .passwd
The .passwd file contains users names and passwords. Nothing else. The passwords must be encrypted. Fortunately there is an abundance of free tools around the web for this task.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Ditching Ubuntu 64-bit

Since upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04 64-bit my PC became unstable. Most of the time it was just innconveinent minor things. The clock on the top panel wouldn't display properly. However occasionally the whole PC would freeze. Especially when under a heavy work load. Couple this with the fact that Adobe Flash and Adobe Air have never worked to satisfactory degree. I decided it was time to go back to a 32-bit world.

What I had to consider was what I was losing and what I was gaining. My PC has 8GB of RAM. Normally on a 32-bit system 3.75GB is as much as you get. So I'd potentially be losing half of my RAM. But that was it. None of the software I use is exclusively 64-bit. Some of it is however exclusively 32-bit and there are ways around the 4GB memory cap in 32-bit operating systems.

What I stood to gain was a simpler installation procedure for my 32-bit only software and a more stable operating system. I use the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 10.04 on my laptop with no problems. So I already knew it was more stable.

To get past the 4GB memory cap, I intended to install the server kernel which has PAE technology enabled by default. However I found this was totally unnecessary. The desktop kernel in Ubuntu 10.04 comes with PAE support.

In the end up I now have a more stable PC. A simpler installation procedure for my 32-bit software. I still get to use 7.9GB of the total 8GB of RAM in my PC. Which is actually an improvement over the 64-bit version of Ubuntu. The PC does however feel a little sluggish at times. Particularly when launching applications. But that's a small price to pay for simplicity and stability.