Microsoft Browser Choice screen rant

I know this is old news, but it still annoys me. Just for those who have not heard, this useful summary of the legal background to Browser Choice (rather than the technical details) describes the decision:

In December, the European Commission and Microsoft arrived at a resolution of a number of long-standing competition law issues. Microsoft made a legally binding commitment that PC manufacturers and users will continue to be able to install any browser on Windows, to make any browser the default browser, and to turn access to Internet Explorer on or off. In addition, Microsoft agreed to use Windows Update to provide a browser choice screen to Windows users in Europe who are running Internet Explorer as their default browser.

So, when I install shiny new Windows 7 machines for my clients with a perfectly serviceable browser (IE8) with some great security features such as protected mode, I make sure the Windows Update has brought everything up to date and BAM! An icon appears on their desktop and prompts them to choose what browser they want.

So I choose IE, delete the icon and everyone is happy.

This is a complete waste of everyone’s time and money. The users who want an alternative still go and download the browser of their choice. Most don’t bother. Making a bad choice from the popup screen and deciding a while later you want to switch, or revert to IE is just a waste of people’s time, and in business this time will cost money. Across Europe this hidden cost will be huge.

Read more of my rant about the Browser Choice screen»

Our UK SBSC losses are Australian gains

Robbie Upcroft went back to Oz a while ago to carry on working with SBS partners down under after a stint at Microsoft UK. While over here he was a key part of expanding the Small Business Server community, working to set up local user groups, and it sounds like he is carrying on where he left off.

Another of the movers and shakers who made a huge impact to SBSC was the UK SMB girl herself, Susanne Dansey. After becoming an MVP just over a year ago for her contributions she upped and left us for foreign shores. Her passion and enthusiasm for technology and business are sorely missed, but now she too is bringing them to bear in Australia, joining the fun there in the run up to the launch of Cougar (SBS 2008 ) and EBS.

Susanne is blogging again as well, so with her and Robbie and other renowned SBS MVPs such as Wayne Small on the case, it looks like they have a great opportunity to make the most of the buzz. Good luck to all of them, and we hope to see you in the UK sometime soon, even if only for a flying visit!

Microsoft lost appeal to the European Courts over anti-competitive practices

The verdict is finally here. The appeal has been lost, all that Microsoft got out of it is the requirement to have an independent monitor to check it was keeping in line with the court’s rulings. The original verdict of the European Commission in 2004 was appealed to the European Court of First Instance. In the court’s statement about the appeal case, they said:

The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the Commission’s decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position…The Court criticises, in particular, the obligation imposed on Microsoft to allow the monitoring trustee, independently of the Commission, access to its information, documents, premises and employees and also to the source code of its relevant products.

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Endemol’s Cheetah found to be a cheater

Personally I can’t understand anyone phoning into those daytime or late-night quiz shows with banal questions in the vain belief that they have a reasonable chance of winning. Clearly the questions themselves are simply a tick in a box to avoid the complex legal implications of the lottery and gaming laws. The fact they have questions make it a test of skill rather than simply one of luck, supposedly, but given the ridiculously easy puzzles asked (“how many letters are there in the word “stupid”?) I find this quite strange. Surely the only thing easier to see than the answers is that anyone who is even half awake will know the correct response, and the winner is simply selected at random. How is that not a lottery?

Anyway, despite the fact that these are a licence to print money, it seems this was not enough for the aptly named Cheetah, a subsidiary of TV production company Endemol.

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Get touchy feely with your digital media

Microsoft’s new Surface platform looks set to be the Next Big Thing for interactive experiences. The same level of “wow” factor as when touch screens finally got reliable ten years ago or so and started appearing in all sorts of kiosk type environments. It remains to be seen whether this will be as intuitive to use as we would like, or will require a steep learning curve as with any other new GUI.

This seems very similar to this multi-touch screen with gesture-based control from Perceptive Pixel (a bit like the ones seen in the film Minority Report, albeit with a physical screen and 2d images, no gloves, and no Cruise).

And this intelligent white board for motion modelling based on engineering sketches just blows away any of the current crop of over-priced boards being installed in schools up and down the country.

Update: a much longer presentation with more background explanation from Mark Bolger, MS Director of Marketing for Surface computing can be found here:

…and another MS Surface marketing exercise published through Popular Mechanics

Update2: A further demo and talk by Jeff Han (founder of Perceptive Pixel) from Feb 2006 (just sit through a short advert first):

Jim Allchin’s retirement plans

Jim Allchin is leaving Microsoft after more than 16 years. His recent work as head of the Windows team has finally delivered Vista, a good time to leave if ever there was one.

His last act as a Microsoft employee was to hit ‘submit’ on this post on the Vista Team blog, in which he outlines how he might see a typical day in the coming months. A great read, both thought provoking and laugh-out-loud funny.

Jim Allchin’s thoughts on retirement from MS

Slashdot clarifies(?) its position

In an article in PCPro magazine issue 148 titled “Democratic News” Rob Malda, the site editor of Slashdot gave his opinion about the differences between totally open, user-driven news sites (such as and those where submitted material is still subject to quality control and editorial decisions. He is quoted as saying:

I think Slashdot’s uniqueness is largely determined by the people who make the final selection of content for the index. That’s not to say there aren’t ways we couldn’t get help from readers

(emphasis mine) It’s great to think that having editors helps to ensure that content is much clearer and less ambiguous for the reader! I couldn’t fail to disagree with him less.

Don’t misunderstand me; I have no issue with the content on Slashdot, I just think this kind of linguistic abuse is why peer review is useful to weed out this sort of gobbledegook.