Microsoft

Everyone is a font design expert now

One of the consequences of the wonderful democratization that the web has brought us is that now everyone is an expert at… well, everything.

Need a new website? Just use Wix or Squarespace! Sigh.

Trying to fix your dishwasher? Don’t call a plumber… there’s a dozen YouTube vids for your exact model!

Need to draft a will? There’s an app for that.

I’m not dismissing these examples. I’ve definitely done my share of DIY home repair, legal drafting, and dubious electrical work after a couple of alcoholic beverages and a few YouTube tutorials.

But some things should be sacred, right? We all joke about how easy it is to get ordained by the World Life Church so that you can perform the rites at your friends’ wedding. But fonts… come on. Fonts!

Fonts should be sacred. We don’t need polls or comments or public input. Choose a damned font and stick by your design decision. Not everything benefits from the will of the populace and those who have no previous experience or expertise in an area (see Ancient Aliens).

Sometimes, we just need to leave things up to passionate professionals.

Microsoft is now releasing these five new fonts in Microsoft 365 so everyone can try them out before a new default is chosen. Polls and feedback will be considered as part of how Microsoft picks a winner, and the company is going to spend the next few months evaluating these new fonts and seeing which ones are proving popular. Once a decision has been made, the new default font will appear in Microsoft Office apps in 2022.

via The Verge: Microsoft is changing the default Office font and wants your help to pick a new one

Time to update your Exchange Server

If your company or organization uses Microsoft Exchange for email, you’re going to want to run the latest update…

At least 30,000 organizations across the United States — including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments — have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations, multiple sources tell KrebsOnSecurity. The espionage group is exploiting four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server email software, and has seeded hundreds of thousands of victim organizations worldwide with tools that give the attackers total, remote control over affected systems.

Source: At Least 30,000 U.S. Organizations Newly Hacked Via Holes in Microsoft’s Email Software — Krebs on Security

Tech companies freezing political spending and why tech still matters

This is the death knell of PACs for tech companies with activist employees,” one source told Axios. “This is the final straw.”

via Axios

This is a really fascinating development. First Microsoft and now Facebook are suspending PAC (Political Action Committee) spending in Washington. They’re joining financiers Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup, along with Marriott, Blue Cross Blue Shield (caveat — our insurance co), Boston Scientific, and Commerce Bank. Bank of America (caveat — one of the banks we do business with), Ford, and AT&T, CVS, Exxon Mobil, and Wells Fargo are considering pulling their political monies.

This hits politicians where it really hurts.

For years, many of us in the “tech world” have decried these PACs and looked at them as a unnecessary evil that needed to be banned or done away with for a number of reasons.

Here are my personal convictions:

  1. The PAC system reinforces the existing system of graft and corruption that so many Americans claim to abhor.
  2. PACs favor the privileged both socio-economically and relationally. It’s a blight on a Democratic Republic and shouldn’t be seen as a “necessary evil” to doing business in the United States. Whatever your sector.
  3. Tech boomed in the late 90’s and then again in the early ’00s because it was seen as a disruptor. From Google to Tesla to Uber (well, maybe they aren’t a great example but they did usher in a transportation paradigm shift) to even Twitter, the tech sector excited us with the promise of something different and more democratic to challenge the status quo. However, as the going got weird, the weird turned pro and put on suits. I want a return to the weird disruption tech that spurred creativity and a hope for a better representation to the powers that be. We’re not so far gone that it can’t happen in light of #metoo, BLM, LBGTQ+, trans rights, accessibility emphasis, and recognition of differently abled persons. Real revolutionary tech that can change the world… I still believe. PACS stand in the way of that.

So as we continue to process and deal with the terrorist insurrection on our Capitol last week, let’s take a second to recognize what these companies are doing by restricting or redirecting their PAC monies and how we can all do our part to not just “unify and move forward” but to cause real change.

About the Microsoft and Walmart Acquiring TikTok Deal

The idea would be to help turn TikTok U.S. into more of an e-commerce app for creators and users, much like what TikTok parent company ByteDance does with a similar app in China.

Source: Microsoft working with Walmart on TikTok deal – Axios

One of the main reasons TikTok has taken off with influencers, soccer moms, niche businesses, and aspiring dance stars here in the US is that it “feels” like an indie app that isn’t owned by Facebook or Google.

TikTok very much has that Instagram feel from about 2013 (I remember when an 8th grader first showed Instagram to me and explained why it was so much better than Facebook or Twitter and wasn’t owned by a big company).

With the ongoing speculation that Oracle is somehow involved in the attempts to acquire TikTok from the Chinese company ByteDance at our current administration’s behest, the CEO resigning last night, and now the two COOLEST brands in the United States… Microsoft AND Walmart!… I just don’t see how TikTok retains that feeling. Especially if this odd consortium of mega-companies turns it into an “e-commerce app for creators and users.”

I think we’ll look back on this period a few years from now and use it as a cautionary tale for huge companies looking to make a play in a hot space.

Yes, there are some previous examples of successful transitions for creative-focused apps and services that kept the mojo after being gobbled up, such as when Google acquired YouTube for $1billion in the mid-2000’s. But then, Google wasn’t quite the behemoth it is now, and YouTube sorely needed the backing of a Google to stay on the web given the legal and logistical load it was rapidly taking on. But then consider services like Flickr or Tumblr that had a diehard communities before being subsumed into the Yahoo! debacle and mismanaged into oblivion.

All that to say, I don’t see how Oracle / Microsoft / Walmart pulls this off and pivots TikTok into a successful “Made in America!” platform while keeping the hotness of the app.

Why augmented reality’s future is more practical and rational than you realize

Bryan Richardson, Android software engineer at stable|kernel, wants you to consider this: what if firefighters could wear a helmet that could essentially see through the walls, indicating the location of a person in distress? What if that device could detect the temperature of a wall? In the near future, the amount of information that will be available through a virtual scan of our immediate environment and projected through a practical, wearable device could be immense.

Source: The Technology Behind Pokémon Go: Why Augmented Reality is the Future

Call Pokemon Go silly / stupid / trendish / absurd etc. To a certain point the game is incredibly inane. However, it does illustrate the ability of memes and mass fads to still occur in large numbers despite the “fracturing” of broadcast media and the loss of hegemonic culture.

The more immediate question to me, though, is what to do with this newfound cultural zeitgeist around AR? Surely, there will be more copycat games that try to mirror what Pokemon Go, Nintendo, and Niantic have created. Some will be “better” than Pokemon Go. Some will be direct rip offs.

Tech behemoths such as Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, and now Google understand the long term implications of AR and are all each working towards internal and public projects to make use of this old but new intense hope and buzz around the idea of using technology to augment our human realities. I say realities because we shouldn’t forget that we experience the world based on photons bouncing off of things and going into our eyeballs through a series of organic lenses that flip them upside down onto the theater screen that is our retina before the retina pushes them through the optic nerve to our frontal cortex where our electrochemical neurons attempt to derive or make meaning from the data and process that back down our spinal cord to the rest of our bodies… there’s lots of room for variations and subjectivity given that we’re all a little different biologically and chemically.

We’re going to see a fast-moving evolution of tools for professions such as physicians, firefighters, and engineers as well as applications in the military and in classrooms etc that will cause some people pause. That always happens whether the new technology is movable type or writing or books or computers or the web.

Games (and porn unfortunately) tend to push us ahead when it comes to these sorts of tech revolutions. That will certainly be the case in terms of augmented reality. Yes, Pokemon Go is silly and people playing it “should get a life.” But remember, the interactions with that game and each other that they are making now will improve the systems of the future and save / improve lives. Also… don’t get me started on what it means to “have a life” given our electrochemical clump of neurons that we all are operating from regardless of our views on objectivity, Jesus, or etiquette.

Developed by Microsoft’s research division Tay is a…

Developed by Microsoft’s research division, Tay is a virtual friend with behaviors informed by the web chatter of some 18–24-year-olds and the repartee of a handful of improvisational comedians (Microsoft declined to name them). Her purpose, unlike AI-powered virtual assistants like Facebook’s M, is almost entirely to amuse. And Tay does do that: She is simultaneously entertaining, infuriating, manic, and irreverent.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/alexkantrowitz/microsoft-introduces-tay-an-ai-powered-chatbot-it-hopes-will#.ytYzABj6o

This is why we can’t have nice things.

“Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 TB per user or 14,000 times the average,” read the blog post, attributed to the OneDrive Team. “Instead of focusing on extreme backup scenarios, we want to remain focused on delivering high-value productivity and collaboration experiences that benefit the majority of OneDrive users.”

Source: Microsoft Kills Unlimited OneDrive Storage, Downgrades Paid and Free Options – Digits – WSJ

I’m not a OneDrive user, but I have made statements just like this as a middle school science teacher…and seriously, did Microsoft not see this coming?

Oddly, Microsoft and Dropbox Just Made It Easier to Use My Chromebook

My team primarily uses Dropbox for our file storage and sharing. It was a back-and-forth battle for a while between Google Drive (since we use Google Apps for email, calendars etc) and Dropbox, and we still do use Drive for some project management. Even a few of our clients prefer it as they are already using Drive and Google Apps themselves.

However, our official party line is on the Dropbox side now because of its integration with other apps that we also rely on to get things done like Podio, Slack, and Freshbooks.

The biggest downside of going with Dropbox over Drive for me (#firstworldproblem) has been when I’m traveling or doing some quick catch up work at home outside of the office. That’s because I typically take my Chromebook (currently a Toshiba Chromebook 2 but that new Pixel is wearing on my will power) during those times. Editing a Word document or Excel sheet from a client or team member is definitely not as smooth on a Chromebook as working on a shared Google Doc or Sheet. So, I would resort to downloading the document from Dropbox and opening it as a Google Doc then redownloading when I was finished and reuploading it to the appropriate Dropbox folder. I also kept a zombie copy of many working docs in my Google Drive just so I could access them on the road, but they weren’t always up-to-date and current. It was a subtle pain that always annoyed me.

Until this announcement this week. I’ve tried it a few times now and it’s seamless and works great.

Thanks, Dropbox and Microsoft, you solved my workflow issue! Looks like I’ll be using Office Online a great deal more in the coming months…

What does that mean for you? For starters, you don’t need the desktop versions of Microsoft Office — or even your own computer — to update any Office files stored in your Dropbox. Just click the ‘Open’ button when you’re previewing a Dropbox file on the web, and you can edit the file right from your browser via Office Online. Any changes will automatically be saved back to your Dropbox.

You’ll also be able to access your Dropbox directly from Office Online, so you can open any of your Dropbox files — and save new files to Dropbox — without leaving Office Online.

via Dropbox launches integration with Microsoft Office Online | Dropbox Blog.

WSJ: You Can Ditch Your PC Now

Completely agree with the main idea of this article… Chromebooks (and tablets to some extent) are mature platforms and great devices for both creating and consuming content for personal and business use:

In short, I’m done with PCs—at least as they are conventionally defined. And I think the majority of long-suffering PC users would be too if they weren’t so accustomed to thinking of computers in the same way they have for decades. Building new technology is easy compared with changing the habits of those who use it.

via You Can Ditch Your PC Now – WSJ – WSJ.

GeekToMe 6: Freemiums and Netbooks

Affiliate Marketing Legend and all-around geek Todd Crawford and I are back with episode six of our weekly podcast, GeekTo.Me.

We had a ton of fun doing the show and it’s (in my opinion) our best show yet. We definitely keep getting better and better (and geekier and geekier) every week.

So, if you’ve got the stomach for some heavy geek lifting, give it a shot.

The show runs about an hour.

http://www.hipcast.com/playweb?audioid=Pfe44ba46557327b5b5fb78d62425141cbF98QFREYmN9&buffer=5&shape=6&fc=FFFFFF&pc=CCFF33&kc=FFCC33&bc=FFFFFF&brand=1&player=ap24

MP3 File

Show Notes:
Freemium vs Premium
Google with OpenID
Google Notebook, Evernote or BackPack?
Netbooks vs iPhones
Mac Adoption with the Kids
iPhone App Restrictions
Android
Windows 7: Will It Save Microsoft?
Linux Desktops and New Ubuntu
Google Maps on iPhone
Hulu
Mint.com and Stupid web2.0 names
eCommerce is Big in Japan
Todd’s Picks: Fring, Panolab, Classic eBook Reader
Sam’s Picks: Everest, VoteReport

GeekTo.Me 6: Freemiums

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