If like me you have read the Daniel Suarez novel Daemon you will have heard of the concept of augmented reality. Basically it allows you to project an image in front of your vision (like a heads up display) and that show you information pulled from the Internet.

Google now has a prototype called ‘project glass’ which is basically a set of glasses to provide this augmented reality. They have created the following video to demonstrate the concept:

Now of course this video is the ‘rose coloured glasses’ through which Google would like us to believe it will be like. If it is from Google then it is probably going to look more like this video:

Good publicity for Windows Phone

I have always been a fan of Windows Phone and think that with the release of the Nokia hardware it makes a very compelling offering. The other good thing is that Microsoft has found a great angle to publicize the phone.


As I mentioned before they have been touting the ‘Smoked by Windows Phone challenge’. Here’s the latest video:


Now there was some recent controversy around one challenge incident (and there have been others). But that sort of thing is always going to happen when you put yourself out there now isn’t it? I applaud Microsoft for sticking with this campaign as it is certainly novel and gets the word out there that Windows Phone are at least equivalent with most other models available today. This is definitely the thing you need to do when you are coming from behind. Kudos I say as I’d rather see Windows Phone being aggressive in the market rather than taking a beating like it did with Vista.


Another way they are promoting is via events like this:


Personally, I’m not into all this ‘cult of the celebrity, (a.k.a. Kardashian’s et al) but I will readily acknowledge that it does appeal to a huge segment of the market. Similar techniques have been used by other brands to great success so I again applaud Microsoft and perhaps more so Nokia in this case for being out there are doing these sorts of things to lift the profile of the Windows Phone.


Time will tell what the results are but I think it is great to finally start seeing a strong challenge from Microsoft against the incumbents. 

Some more Office 365 videos

Not simple

I recently procured a WD Sentinel backup NAS that included Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. You can read about the unit from Wayne Small’s blog, however I’m just going to give you my experiences with getting the things integrated into my network.


First of all I must say that the hardware is very impress. Small, neat, and quiet. So I plugged the unit into the network and went to admin page to do the setup. For some reason it hadn’t picked up an IP address from the DHCP server. So I powered the unit off and on, then gained access. Next I answered all the setup question and left the thing to complete initializations.


A few hours later the device LCD panel said it was still initializing so I logged into the console. I tried to create a new user but could allocate that user any shares. I check the status and the report that came back didn’t show anything.


I then decided to install all the required updates (300MB+) as the box effectively runs Windows Server 2008 R2 server. After a few reboots the box was all up to date. Now when I logged into the console I could see all the shares and create some users.


I installed the Storage Server Essentials client software on a Windows 7 workstation and that all went fine. I then tried to back up this very basic machine from the server using the console. After 3 attempts I gave up. Every time it got to 13% and then just stopped.


Abandoning the Windows 7 PC for a MAC I tried to install the client software but every time I was told the software as already installed and I would need to uninstall first. I couldn’t the see the MAC in the Storage Server Essentials console so I abandoned that for the time being and moved on a Windows XP machine.




Even here the installation of the client software once again bombed out with an ‘unexpected error’. I looked at the troubleshooting link and that wasn’t much help. So I again abandoned that effort.


You know what worked really well? Simply browsing to the network location of the WD Sentinel and copying files up. Works a treat on Windows 7, MAC and Windows XP. Which kinda leads me to why I’m writing this post.


To all you Windows Server fanboi’s out there, let me tell you this is simply too hard for the average consumer (and small business). I’m sure that I’ll be able to work out all the problems but guess what? I really don’t want to. My expectation is, outta the box, turn on, install software, working and the experience so far has been far from this. My technology expectation these days is that being of average intelligence I should be able to set something like this up without assistance in short period of time.


Anything with Windows Server on it is complex and honestly has no place in the hands of a consumer (and I would contend a small business). An IT Professional, an enthusiast? Sure, as they have the time and enjoy the mucking about. Every day I’m becoming more and more aware of how far these technologies are becoming removed from the real world where people simply want things to work. That’s why Apple is doing so well. It is not what they do, it is what they don’t do. Windows Server is a great piece of software and has a huge amount of functionality BUT it is complex and when things go wrong they go wrong big time and the effort required to fix them is simply too much for a the average consumer. As a consumer I want simpler not more complex. Less choice is fine as long as it does its job.


If I had been an average consumer I would have returned this device in total frustration by now and that would have been a pity as it is a great device. I’m sure that I can get it all humming along eventually but really for the market it is aimed at I shouldn’t have to go through this now should I?

Adding a new user to SharePoint Online

One of the most common issues I find people have initially with SharePoint Online via Office 365 is adding new users. Most think that simply creating a new users and assigning them a SharePoint license automatically gives them access to SharePoint Site Collections. It doesn’t. Why? Because what security rights do you provide that user in SharePoint? Are they going to be an administrator or are they going to be a ‘normal’ user? That’s why they need to be added manually to each Site Collection.


Basically, all you need to do is login to the SharePoint Site Collection as a SharePoint Administrator and give the new user permissions. How about rather than telling you I show you via this video I’ve just uploaded to my YouTube channel.

Cloud security

One of the most common reasons people cite for being concerned (or downright afraid) of putting their information into ‘cloud’ services is security. Interestingly, most of their reasoning is based on hearsay and hysteria. Many in fact simply parrot back what they have read or heard somewhere. What I’d like to do here is provide a little bit of balance to the argument and some alternative points of view that I think many naysayers haven’t considered.

1. Security is a journey not a destination. When human beings are involved, nothing will ever be perfect. There will be oversights, errors and mistakes. That is simply a fact. This means that it can happen whether the information is stored locally or whether it is hosted. I will however point out that the chances of error are reduced (you can never eliminate them) when you have multiple people and processes looking at the systems. This is probably more likely going to be the case for hosted environments in large data centres than on a single server at a customers premises.

2. If you are using email you are already sending information insecurely. Emails are generally sent in plain text with no encryption and with no guarantee of delivery. In most cases you have no idea that the person who is reading your email is the one that you sent it to. Some surveys note that up to 20% of legitimate email never gets delivered to the intended inbox. But does this stop people using email? Certainly doesn’t seem to. So, on the one hand people are worried about saving their information on hosted servers yet they freely send that same information in emails, without security to someone they hope is the right person at the other end. If you were so worried about your information being secure you wouldn’t use email now would you? The reality is that the functionality of email far outweighs, for most people, any risk of insecurity.

3. If you are using a device that has access to the Internet, that can browse web pages and receive emails that device is already connected to the ‘cloud’. Further more, if you can get to the ‘cloud’, the ‘cloud’ can get to you. So how worried are you about that server you have on your premises that is connected to the Internet? How secure is the information stored there? How do you know that someone isn’t stealing that information while you are reading this? Generally, you won’t. Sure you have firewalls and other security protection on your equipment but how do you KNOW it is working? Do you employ someone to monitor it constantly? Probably not but large hosting firms do. They can afford to invest a significant amount of money in security and pay the best people to monitor it. Their challenge is no different from yours but chances are they have significantly more resources on tap that someone running a server as part of their business does.

4. The Patriot Act applies everywhere a US company operates. So many people I hear say they want their data stored locally so that it won’t be subject to the US Patriot Act. The reality is that any US based company is subject to the Patriot Act no matter where they operate. That means that if Microsoft or Google had data centres here in Australia (which they don’t currently) they would still be subject to the US Patriot Act. Aside from that, there are far reaching agreements between international law enforcement agencies to provide access to data outside their jurisdiction upon request. And even further to that, local intelligence agencies, like ASIO in Australia, typically already have the right to access your data without your knowledge. Don’t believe me? See:

ASIO Powers
“The legislation allows ASIO operatives to hack into PCs and corporate networks to retrieve data, and add, delete, or alter data in the “target” computer, while being immune from prosecution under the Crimes Act hacking provisions.”

and they have had this power since 1999! (Pre 911!).

5. Why worry about hacking our information when they can tap our phones? Many people are paranoid about their information security but give no thought to the fact that their phone conversations could be tapped. Many readily carry on a conversation on their mobile with the person at the other end and the fifteen people in the immediate vicinity. If they were truly paranoid about all their information they would be more judicious about using the phone wouldn’t they? Again, the convenience far outweighs the risk of a breech but that still doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it still doesn’t mean it won’t. How can you maintain information security if you are going to blab it out next time you receive a call in a public place eh?

6. We use the hole in wall (ATMs) to get money when we need it. We use Internet banking as a convenient way of managing our money. If you were truly concerned about security wouldn’t you squirrel you money under your pillow and not trust the banks? You could but most don’t. Why? Because there are far more benefits with trusting your money to bank. They can centralize it and implement better security, they can make it available to you a more convenient places and locations (read ATMs) and so on. Is there a risk that your money will be stolen? Certainly, but again the convenience outweighs the risk. I understand that money is different from information but in a lot of ways the model we understand and use that is modern banking is very similar to ‘cloud’ computing. That seems to work pretty well for most people despite its flaws.

So there you have it. A few of my thoughts on the whole ‘cloud’ security argument. There will of course be people who reject all these and continue to argue that on premises is the only way to be secure. I hope that you can at least see in some little way that such an argument has less and less validity when you do a like versus like comparison without the emotion that seems to litter so many discussions around today on ‘cloud’ security.

I’m sure back in the day, many people questioned how the automobile could replace the trusty horse. Guess what? We don’t see many horses on our roads these days do we?

Office 365 video testimonials