Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rock, Meet Hard Place

One of my favorite Microsoft pundits Paul Thurrott had a post recently on the future of Windows. I borrowed his summary for the title of this post. Microsoft has found itself between a rock and a hard place.

Since Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows has been "good enough" for desktop users. Microsoft is going to finally kill off XP by abandoning security updates for it. Certainly they will do the same for Windows 7. That's already set for January 14, 2020. If only Microsoft had a "hook" for obsolescence like Intuit does with Quicken.

But Microsoft has a bigger plan if it succeeds. They are trying to converge the various consumer devices onto a single software platform.

Stepping back a for a moment, I see three mainstream consumer computing platforms today: Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

Apple clearly has their walled garden, i.e. iCloud, but seem to be some way away from converging Mac OS and iOS. And they are determined to be a sole source.

Google has their "Let one thousand flowers bloom" platform, i.e. Android, but this may be moving somewhat to their own walled garden. It wouldn't surprise me if the platform turned out to be Chrome rather than Android but that's another discussion.

Microsoft has the legacy platform, Windows, and their challenge is to transition to an ongoing platform. This is what the Metro Modern user interface (UI) is all about.

But the Modern UI is just the user interface. They key to the success of the platform is the platform. Can Microsoft converge the underpinnings of the three screens?

Obviously desktop Windows has a foothold but consumers aren't lining up for the current Windows 8 product. Windows Phone is making slow but steady inroads. Windows RT is all but dead.

The enterprise market is a completely different question. Windows Server and Linux have the server market locked. Same with desktop Windows.

The enterprise questions are "Is Microsoft going to push Modern UI so hard that enterprises rebel? Can they rebel?" There doesn't seem to be a serious alternative today.

I wonder if Chrome is the alternative. It's certainly a ways out in the future but it's cloud-based and hardware agnostic.

The real money for the IT vendors is in the backends. What will Chrome talk to? Windows Server? Linux? Unix? OpenStack?

Stay tuned for further updates...

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Remember in this post I said that there was another twist coming in my VoIP saga? Just after I had gotten my OBi100 up and working Obihai posted this on their blog.
Unfortunately, (after May 15, 2014) you will no longer be able to use the Google Voice communication service to make calls using the phone connected to your OBi device. Also, the ability to receive calls to your Google Voice number, directly from Google’s service, will not be possible.
Well, that burst my balloon. I decided to just ignore it for a while.

Then I found a thread on the OBiTALK forums that mentioned OBiVoice. They are part of Intelafone. Their BYOD (using OBi100) lite plan is $24.99 per year. This includes E911, free voicemail, free Caller ID, and 500 incoming/outcoming minutes/month. Their basic plan is $39.99 and has 2000 incoming/outcoming minutes/month.

I signed up for their free trial for 60 minutes over 30 days. While they are not an "approved service provider" with OBiTALK, OBiVoice has a simple copy and paste guide to setup the OBi100.

I went into the OBiTALK portal to put OBiVoice into the Service Provider 2 (SP2) slot. The instructions are here. Basically all you have to do is copy/paste the information from OBiVoice into OBiTALK.
(06:58:26) *** Ben Moore joined the chat ***
(06:58:26) Ben Moore: I'm setting up my OBi100. I'm looking at It has User Name as XXXX. Is that what I put in OBiTALK?
(06:58:29) *** Andrew joined the chat ***
(06:58:36) Andrew: Thank you for contacting Obivoice Customer Support. I am currently reviewing your question and will provide you with an answer momentarily.
(06:59:06) Andrew: Yes you can either put in the SIP credentials or use the automatic setup tool from that page.
(06:59:38) Ben Moore: The automatic setup page resets my device. I'm trying to add OBiVoice as SP2 on my OBi100.
(06:59:45) Ben Moore: Where do I get the SIP credentials to use?
(07:00:05) Andrew: On the Softphone/BYOD page of your web portal, under the Devices category.
(07:00:16) Ben Moore: Gotcha. Will do. Thanks.
(07:00:22) Andrew: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
(07:00:36) Ben Moore: Not so far. Seems easy.
(07:00:45) Andrew: Let me know if you have any trouble with it!
(07:00:46) Andrew: Thank you for contacting Obivoice Customer Support and have a wonderful rest of your day! [We appreciate your feedback. If you would like to rate this Support Chat today, please select one of the options below by clicking on the bullet point. Thank you!]
(07:00:50) Ben Moore: I found this assistance helpful.
(07:00:53) Andrew: [Thank you for your feedback. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact us back as we would be happy to assist you!]
(07:00:56) *** Andrew left the chat ***
(07:32:40) *** Ben Moore left the chat ***
Look closely at the time stamps. The representative joined the chat in THREE SECONDS. The whole transaction took 2 1/2 minutes. Customer service doesn't get much better than that.

OBiVoice has worked fine on the OBi100.

OBiTALK announced their approved service provider on 02/11/14. Their partner is Anveo. The basic offering is $39.99 per year. This includes free incoming calls, E911, free voicemail, free Caller ID, and 250 outgoing minutes/month.

I looked at my Google Voice log of minutes and I had used just under 800 incoming/outcoming minutes in the last month so I didn't think that 250 outgoing minutes would be enough.

I went with OBiVoice's basic plan. $40/year is still way less than the $50/month I was paying AT&T. I'm not porting my Google Voice number but just forwarding it to OBiVoice and spoofing the Caller ID to my Google Voice number.

Every Man and His Dog

I took my wife to the doctor recently. He's a distant cousin and we've been using him as our family doctor for decades. A couple of years ago his practice was bought by one of the local hospital systems. I realize all the reasons that that is happening but it has clearly had a negative impact on the service.

When we checked in they gave her a clipboard with several sheets to fill out and sign. They had to have had all the information for years beforehand.

But this time there was a place to sign that you had been given a copy, read and agreed with their Privacy Policy. In the stack of documents was a 15 page "JOINT NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES."

Now they've pretty well got you in a corner. You came to them because you're sick and they won't treat you until/unless you sign. It's not likely that you're going to read those 15 pages carefully as you sit there sick. And even if you do and don't like something, you'll probably just go along to see the doctor.

Here's the first page.

Not too bad you say?

In bold, underlined and all caps it says: PERSONS/ENTITIES COVERED BY THIS NOTICE

There there are 2 bullet items.
  • All employees, staff, and other Health System personnel;
  • The following entities, sites and locations:

Followed by the name and location of the clinic.

Not too bad. Those are the people you are about to see anyway. And notice that the first line ends with a semicolon and the second line ends with a colon. There's no suggestion that there's more to that list.

But wait, there's more.

Here's the second page.

As the Brits would say that includes "Every man and his dog."

But none of this really matters. On page 15 it says "We reserve the right to change the Notice" without notice to you by posting it in their facilities and on their website.

Thank you, she's doing much better now.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Dropbox Inbox

I'm a big user of Dropbox. It's not that it's especially better than the alternatives but it was one of the first cloud storage solutions that really got traction and subsequently it's widely incorporated in other applications.

Enough of the Dropbox soapbox.

If you're a Dropbox user I'm sure you wished everyone else was so you could readily just share folders with them.

Here's the next best thing.

dbinbox says it best themselves.
dbinbox makes it easy to send files

Pick a username, link dbinbox with your Dropbox account, and share your personal dbinbox link ( with people that want to send you files.
That's it. Just give your dbinbox link to somebody and they can simply drag and drop files to a web page.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

FilesBeforeVersion - Part 2

Years ago as I was moving to the new UI for Office 2007 I ran across a situation where Office quit supporting some of the older versions of Office files that used the binary file formats, e.g. Word 1.

Some Googling turned up a messy registry hack but you only had to do it once.

I recently moved my wife from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Windows 7 and Office 2010. As luck would have it the very first night she had a problem with old versions of Word files.

She had gotten some old Word files from where she volunteers. She just wanted to print one of them and got a message that she wasn't allowed to print due to "policy."
Protected View.  Printing has been disabled for this file due to your policy settings.
You and I would think that the "policy" referred to was some administrative, e.g. group policy, but NO. That's just Microsoft's arbitrary "policy."

Here's how to relieve that.

In the "Print" dialog, click on "Options."

Then click on "Trust Center" and then "File Block Settings." Uncheck the versions you want to use and click on "OK."