Happy 2010

Below a short Happy 2010 message for you all. If the video doesn't load you can also find it here.

Closing 2009 and looking forward to 2010

Cool - PowerPoint Online

For quite a while I'm already searching for a good online presentation tool. This started already when I was living without a laptop and more recently again when I found Prezi as a great alternative. However I work in an environment where Microsoft PowerPoint is the standard, complete with a strict corporate template.

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised when I was using the SkyDrive website and I received an invitation to try the Office web applications. It made me feel special, rewarded and happy, because I'm very curious and have high expectations. The invitation might have been there already for a while, unfortunately I hadn't noticed it yet because I usually use Gladinet to access the file storage. This time however I was using a Mac and needed to get a file and used the website. I immediately started to experiment.

The good stuff
1. The application feels solid (I didn't experience any crashes) and is responsive in most situations (all on Safari on the Mac).
2. It really looks nice, fresh and modern.
3. I really liked the 'Where is the Save button'.  Your presentations are automatically saved and you never have to worry about loosing some changes.
4. The view mode is really useful if you store a lot of presentations on your SkyDrive... as I actually do.
5. It's based on HTML and Javascript and not using any plugins

The Not so good stuff (where I still expect a lot improvements before launch)
1. The functionality is extremely limited. Many of the essentials are still missing, for instance copy/paste of slides between presentations, maintaining Master Slides, Changing the slide layout after creation... and a lot more.
2. The above means that I cannot yet use web application to create my presentations.
3. I'm still not convinced that the ribbon is the right solution. I'm not talking about the usability, but it just takes too much screen real estate and this makes the Online application useless on a smaller laptop (those that you use for traveling around).
4. I miss web collaboration features. I can't share, view and edit the presentation with others, but isn't that the power of the web and the reason for a presentation?

Some people told me that the Office web apps should not be seen as a replacement for the desktop version, but as a supplement. It's handy for making some last minute changes, correcting spelling mistakes etc. Well when I have to make last minute changes it usually is more about reshuffling and/or  copying some slides from an other deck etc. The current online version would not help me.
Instead I've some suggestions for some real supplemental features:
1. Collaboration around the presentation. For instance I request someone to review and this person has the ability to add notes to the slides.
2. View the presentation together and discuss content with IM (preferably web based too)
3. Embedding of the viewer in other web applications to allow publication of a presentation on another website or blog.

To summarize I do believe Microsoft has made a good start and a foundation for real web based Office applications is created. The current preview is still very far away from a fully functional web based PowerPoint and I'm curious to follow the progress and anxiously waiting for added functionality and the day I can finally say goodbye to my desktop applications.

Note: I've not reviewed Word and Excel, because I've no need for writing documents and creating extensive calculations sheets. I do however frequently create presentations.

Predictions for 2010

This time of the year it's always interesting to make some predictions for the new year. I've done it with a little presentation I like to share with you. If the presentation doesn't show below, you can find it here

You comments are highly appreciated.

The Mysterious Ways of Software Selection

Christmas we either spent with our relatives in Finland or together at home. This year we opted for the last option and we prepared well. We like to watch movies and have build up a fine collection, however it's always nice to have some 'new' ones to watch so in the days before Christmas we picked up a couple of additional movies. Unfortunately it has happened already a few times that we can't remember very well what we already own and end up with doubles. We spoke about this already a few times and fantasized that it would be create to have easily online accessible list of the movies we own. However we never really did something about it.

This morning I got up late and saw my girlfriend with her laptop next to the cabinet that holds our DVDs. I'm making a list of our DVDs she told me. This all doesn't sounds very strange, but let met explain that my girlfriend is not at all familiar with the availability of software applications and services. At work she uses the normal corporate office stuff and at home just a browser to get onto the web and for her web based email. Since there is no additional software installed on her MacBook I was curious how she was actually creating the list. I was impressed when I saw her working in Google Docs editing a spreadsheet and really curious how she got to this point.

I asked her and the answer was really simple. I just went to Google and clicked 'more' and then 'even more' and there I found a spreadsheet, because I was sure Google would have something. There was no doubt in her mind that Google could deliver the software she needed (while nobody ever told her anything like this) and there was no reason to search further. Without any further research she also assumed that the information would be accessible on a mobile device for easy access in the store. For a little longer she continued to work on the document before she shared it with me, again assuming this would be possible.

I was amazed to learn that she didn't go to Microsoft, while she does work extensively with Excel in the office, and she didn't search for a solution either, but went straight to Google assuming they would have something that would facilitate online sharing and mobile access.

Scrum at Exact Research

The Exact Research team implemented iterative agile software development already a long time ago, however only in the last half year we are formally doing this with Scrum. The team did a great job implementing this in a very agile way, every sprint the process gets refined and improved.

To mark their great achievement I followed them with a small Flip camera and documented the last sprint. I promised not to use their voices and put some nice music by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). I'm no good in making movies, but still I like the result. If the video doesn't show below you can also find it here.

Information Technology made me an Outcast

Information technology is all about bits and bytes, zeros and ones and has challenges dealing with different patterns. I'm living in the Netherlands and have a very common dutch name, however it doesn't fit in the rules of information technology. This makes me an outcast in today's world.

Let me explain my name, it's as a full name Aad 't Hart, with Aad being the first name and 't Hart the last name. You read this correct, my last name starts with an apostrophe, a small letter t, a space and then starting with a capital letter Hart. When sorting and searching in a list I belong in the 'H' section. It's not that difficult but let me share some of the issues that I've been running into in the last many years.

1. In the early days of IT sites often crashed when I entered my last name starting with the apostrophe. The root of this problem mostly laid in the apostrophe also having very technical internal meanings and dealing with them properly is difficult. Today many times a name starting with an apostrophe is just not excepted.

Needless to say that I entered my real name, but it just doesn't get accepted by the system.

2. Last names must start with a capital letter and are often automatically converted. You can also see this in the image above, but MySpace even replied to me that it was a feature of the site and apologized for the inconvenience it caused.

Nice, MySpace is sorry that I end up in an identity crisis.

3. The 't just gets stripped of as if it doesn't belong to my name. The Apple to Google address book synchronization is a clear example of this.


4. Since my name should appear at the 'H' in a list sorted by last name I often use only Hart for the last name and make the 't a middle name. Unfortunately this results in many other side effects, most of the time my full name suddenly becomes Aad Hart.

I challenge everyone working in the Information Technology to solve the gap between technical capabilities and the use and promotion of real identity and names. I'm just an example of the poor technical implementations for dealing with real identities and names.

My Phone Role-play

Yesterday I (temporary) switched my iPhone for a Nokia E72. I want to share the reason why and give you some first impressions on the change.

Let me first tell you my phone behavior over the last few years. Until the arrival of the first iPhone I never wanted to use a 'smart' phone, because they were all too big, bulky and hard to use. I chose to have a simple phone to make a phone calls. The first generation iPhone changed this, because it was simple, had a great screen and it's not a phone, it's a lifestyle device. It is not about making phone calls, it was about a fun experience. I use the iPhone mainly for instant web access, reading my RSS feeds, interacting with my social networks, occasionally as a camera and gaming device and a little bit for email and phone calls. I use it in it's most simple form and I'm very happy with the 'lack' of features.

Now I'm gonna do without this all for a while. Like actors that take odd jobs to get into their roles this is something similar. We are working on a simple mobile web application that targets the business user. The dominant phone in the target markets have keyboards and limited screen real estate. For the project we defined the Nokia E72 as the reference phone for the application.

Of course the application needs to be tested, but there is more. I value that it's important to really understand the capabilities and thus I'm going thru this experience. My first impressions are wide in variation. When I first unwrapped the phone I was impressed by the technical build of the phone, it's really nicely build. The form factor is nice, a little thinner than the iPhone and the screen looks good. Due to the keyboard, that takes some time to get used to, I do miss screen real estate. In the past when phones where just phones I liked Nokia, because their ease of use. Unfortunately they have lost this, probably as a result of adding a zillion features.

I'm impressed by the features and they go far beyond my needs and imagination. You can adjust the ringing volume based on how you position the phone on your desk, it has a flash light and I wouldn't be surprised if I can run a server farm on Hyper-V on the phone. I now study the manual, because I guess the target group for the phone needs them all, so I need to master them.

When turning on the phone I at first couldn't figure out how to make phone calls, because a green/red phone button is missing, instead their are symbols used that don't represent a phone. A little trial and error got me over this. The configuration of my email accounts was simply done with a setup wizard, however the huge number of confirmations and button presses irritated me for a while. After setup the email interface is great, easy to use and has more than sufficient functionality for me. The next challenge was to get on the web, by immediately getting disappointed by constant questions which connection to use, no proper zooming and a lot of confirmations on anything I do. Next to deal with was Twitter. Mobile web was a bit disappointing so I started to search for a Twitter client in the Ovi store. The choice was limited and the installation process very confusing, even asking in which memory to store the application. I chose all the defaults on all the questions and got it working. It might have been the application, but I was not impressed. I guess I'm spoiled by the excellent choice for the iPhone.

My initial conclusions are that it's a great phone for making calls and dealing with email and your calendar, but don't depend on the phone for keeping up with news and your social networks. I will continue to use the phone and update you in case I really start to enjoy the phone.

Bored with you standard presentation slides?

The human brain is not linear and I struggle quite often to get my ideas in a presentation. I like to use mind mapping techniques to sort ideas and create stories. Most presentation solutions today unfortunately are based on slides placed in a fixed sequence resulting in a lot of duplication with 'summary' slides. Cool animations and transformations try to cover up the non linear patterns of my brain.

While checking out some web based online presentation tools I found Prezi - The zooming presentation editor. This is something really different and extremely cool. Just to give you an idea check out the embedded presentation I quickly created based on some earlier created material. If it doesn't show you can also find it here.

Extending my Blogging activities

You might have noticed that it has been a bit quiet on this blog. The main reason is that I've busy and spend some time writing in other places. It's very likely that trend will continue and for that reason I will regularly provide you will links to other articles I've been writing.

The Exact Product Blog, a place where I will more regularly write about more work related material:
I also got invited to write for the World Congress on Information Technology in 2010:

It's also worth to know that I collect daily ramblings in my Posterous blog and if you are really keen on knowing what I'm up to check out my hobby Google App Engine lifestream project.

Image credit: salendron

Where did your Microsoft heart go?

In a reaction on my Chrome OS article one of my Microsoft buddies emailed me the above question: Where did your Microsoft heart go? This requires some additional disclosure!

In my professional live I work for Exact responsible for technology partnerships and innovations. In this role I extensively work with Microsoft, constantly searching for new and improved ways to strengthen the technology partnership. In the recent period this resulted in an Windows 7 endorsement, An Exact Synergy Office Business ApplicationExact Globe Windows 7 certification and Exact Synergy integration with Office Communication Server. Windows 7, I wrote about a few times earlier, is a big step forward and I'm proud that also our customers can benefit with the latest Exact Globe 395 release. The integration with Office Communication Server is of a different nature, it influences how people work together. It's a topic close to my heart, I love unified communication, because it will be the single biggest change in our professional lives. Unified communications provides more efficient communication, it matches with communication requirements for newer generations and we can finally start calling people instead of numbers. Microsoft provides great technology to create compelling business solutions and in my professional role I continue to work on new and innovative solutions.

However I'm also critical and look beyond what is offered today. I like simple but powerful solutions and do believe the web is going to bring them to us. I very clearly see a future that brings private and business closer together. It will take time and the Social web, Start ups, the Crunchpad and Google Chrome OS are indicators where it's all going. I would be silly not to investigate and explore.

This article is 100% written in the browser, partly on Windows 7 - Chrome and Mac - Safari, using Pixlr to resize the image.

Snail Mail - The new Do NOT Contact me!

The web is extensively used to market, sell and services products and services. Organizations more and more nurture a conversation with their prospects and customers to build a relationship. However in situations where the conversation goes towards less driving the business and possibly ending the relationship, the organizations tend to fall back to their traditional 'please provide by letter' snail mail communication. I'm getting the impression that this is done on purpose to make it harder to have a less positive conversation.

A while back I've lost my faith in Audi and I don't appreciate the overload of marketing material they constantly mail and email me. The emails contain a 'request your test drive now' form, but for the opt out of marketing material I do need to write a letter. Even after 2 letters I still receive all the marketing material, probably because it's easy to claim that the letters got lost.

My bank extensively supports internet banking, I can buy additional services, buy and sell stock, get a loan all by the internet. However if I want to cancel something, I do need to write a traditional letter.

Yesterday I received a parking ticket in a place where I'm allowed to park. I tried to explain this to the traffic warden, but she was not receptable for my arguments. I can request and buy a parking license online, I can pay my parking tickets online, but if I want some justice I need to file a complaint in writing. The city of Delft even writes at their website, a complained by email will be considered an informal complaint and receive a informal answer.

I'm recently having some troubles that my internet connection at home is not very stable. The provider is very helpful on Twitter, email and the phone, however the issue does not get resolved. When I try to escalate I do again need to do this in writing.

These are just some example I've been running into lately. All the companies do their best to serve me with modern communication technologies. However when it gets tough they just don't go all the way and revert back to traditional snail mail. As a customer it feels like they want to discourage me from contacting them.

Fortunately I've also seen organizations that also are easy to connect when it gets harder. In the future I'll pay more attention to the usage of modern communication means when selecting supplier.

Chrome OS - My 2 Cents into the Future

Last week Google gave their preview on Chrome OS and since many different opinions have been written. The opinions go from a complete failure to being already a winner and a look into the future. I'm in the last category, but love to have it already today.

Like many people today I use several devices to access information, sometimes this is a desktop with a lot of screen real estate, while more often it's a laptop for portability. Unless you are very keen on synchronizing a lot of information between the different devices, central storage that is web accessible is the easiest way to get to my information. This is not only about data, but also about preferences, settings and preferably also applications. I'm not very keen on replacing hardware, because it's just too cumbersome to reinstall all required applications, add-on's etc. You can say, I just love the cloud, cos it's so convenient.

Each time a I resume a device I start, if it isn't running yet, my default browser (Chrome on Windows, Safari on Mac) with my important applications.
1. iGoogle as a dashboard for my private emails, calendar, RSS feeds, IM, voice and video chats on google talk. A great starting point for launching other applications to make notes, write documents, write on blog posts, prepare presentations and for instance simple image manipulations
2. Brizzly as my new favorite Twitter client. It has replaced TweetDeck and Nambu as client installs. It's just too cumbersome to keep those up to date with the latest changes.
3. Outlook Web Access for my corporate email, not very user friendly but a lot better than the feature overload in the Outlook client.
4. Several 'social' community sites for interaction with others.

Besides these daily used web applications my employer Exact also has a great infrastructure for collaboration with my coworkers, access to my HR information and tcustomer dossiers based on Exact Synergy. Before you ask, No it can not be used in my favorite browser and depends on Internet Explorer. I usually don't disclose in this personal blog any work in progress, but yes we are working on multi-browser support.

The above mentioned applications are good for 80% of my computer activities. Areas that I would like to see improvement are creating compelling presentations and video editing. Two and a half years ago I did and experiment to live without a laptop. Already at that point creating presentations was the hardest. I'm looking forward to the web clients of Microsoft Office 2010, hopefully they can replace my client install of Office 2007 on some of the devices. Video editing requires large files to upload store and process, it might still take some time before we can handle that properly from web applications.

Overall it's just a matter of time until there are compelling web applications for everything we do. Chrome OS is the proof of this visions. I could live with Chrome OS today for a set of my devices. I look forward to the Google simplicity, speed and efficiency. I can't Wait!

Today I'm a very proud man

Last Friday all Exact employees worldwide celebrated the 25th anniversary. It was big clean-up day to prepare for something new, closed of with a great party.

Today Exact formalized and published their corporate identity and marked this with the launch of a new visual identity. The new logo is shinning bright on the soon to be new headquarters. For more information please follow the official communication channel.

I feel a proud man, to have the privileged to be part of the exciting years ahead.

Photo credit: Myself, with iPhone in the rain with about 100km/h entering the highway at a sleepy Sunday morning

Animoto - Cool and Quick Videos

A while back I was pointed to Animoto, but I didn't really have a good subject to experiment. Animoto is a services that helps you to create professional looking impression videos. All you have to do is upload some pictures and video, select a nice tune for background music and off you go. I really like this kind of easy services that even can make me look like a professional.

Today I did have a good topic for an experiment. Yesterday I was jury at the Delft Design & Engineering Award and during the day made some pictures and even a short video. I uploaded some of the pictures and below you see the 30 second video result.

The free version only allows 30 second videos, but 30$ a year gives you full length videos. For future video I will definitely upgrade.

For those interested, the photos are created with my iPhone in combination with the Posterous Application and can all be found at my posterous blog.

Delft Design & Engineering Award

Over the last few days I've been studying a set of interesting innovative ideas. This all part of the Delft Design & Engineering Award and my participation as a jury member. It's both interesting and challenging to study the broad range of ideas. Personally I like the variety of solutions and the different technical areas. Again I'm happy with my technical background helping me to study some of the concepts.

If your are interested to learn what students in Delft are doing go and have a look at the different videos that are created by the participants. If you are really confident you can even vote and identify your personal winner.

How Difficult is it to Repair a Broken Audi Timing Belt?

This is a story how some bad luck killed my faith and trust in a perceived quality brand. It's about a car that quite unexpectedly broke down. The main character is an Audi A3 from 2005, properly maintained and with only 70.000 km on the clock.

On the night of Saturday August 15th it all started, after a nice night at the theatre I was driving home when suddenly at the highway the engine stopped. In the past this happened a few times before, but it would usually get going again after a few seconds. The electronics had been replaced and for year and a half it had been alright. This time however, the engine stayed dead and I came to a stop. I called road side assistance and they arrived in about 30 minutes, they arranged towing, a replacement car and we arrived home safely, just a few hours later. The road side service was excellent and sort of felt good, because except for the delay there were no real hassles.

The following monday some phone calls gave the impression that everything would be fixed in few days. Due to some insurance issues I would get an other replacement car and the sun was still shining. In the following weeks I sometimes checked on the progress, but apparently the replacement parts needed to get ordered and this took some time. On September the 17th I finally received a phone call from the workshop that the car was drivable again, but they discovered issues with the motor management system and it wasn't sure yet when I would get the car back. After the weekend and five weeks after the failure I got my Audi back.

I don't know what it was, but the car didn't sound right. At very low speeds there was some vibration, it didn't feel good. Two days after the car returned I was giving warnings on the cooling liquid temperature. I checked the cooling liquid levels and they looked fine. The car went to the workshop, but of course the warning light dimmed and the response back was: It was probably just some air in the pipes. They also concluded that the noise was a bit strange and they would check it later, for now I could drive the car The following weekend I drove quite a distance and it was really noisy, to the point you needed earplugs. The cooling liquid temperature warnings returned and warnings on issues with motor management system started too. The car went again back to the workshop and I was given another replacement car, of course older and worse than my own. To make the misery complete, also the replacement car broke down. Checking with the workshop learned that the motor management and temperature lights were fixed, but the noise was something serious, it was something deep in the engine.

I was getting more and more pissed at this stage. It was now about 7 weeks after the failure and no indication when the issue would be solved. The workshop gave me a nice replacement car, for the first time better than my own, probably because they also realized they are messing up. A week later I returned the replacement car, because I was going on 2 week vacation and didn't need the car in between. All I was hoping for was to get my own car back after my vacation.

During the vacation my Audi returned from the workshop and my companies car fleet manager took it for a test drive. Unfortunately again motor management warnings were given. He returned the car to the workshop again and after investigation they concluded that the catalytic convertor had broken down. Ordering a now one would take some time, but I could without problem drive the car. Well at this stage I was more than happy to do so, but I did warn them that in case I would stop along the road, they would for sure get in the press. After this I was given again a replacement car, instead of my own.

Tomorrow it's 11 weeks after the initial failure, there is no indication when and if ever the car gets fixed and returned to me.

I hope Audi reads this post and realized that bad service and repairs can do serious damage to their brand. Like Guy Kawasaki, Audi could give me a R8 to drive for a while, may be that would restore some of my faith in Audi again.

I love Windows 7, but I won't upgrade!

I've written several times (first impressions and after a month use) about Windows 7, I really love the product and even made an endorsement video. It's the best Windows version ever. As a business user I've adopted Windows 7 as my primary operating system since the early beta in January. However as a private person I will NOT upgrade my home equipment, due to practical consumer considerations.

My house is a mixed Apple and Microsoft environment consisting of MacBooks, a desktop and a Media Center. Both the desktop and the media center are running Vista Ultimate, because I was one of the fools that 3 years ago believed the Microsoft promise for Ultimate Extras. I prefer in place upgrades over clean installs, but that is now making an upgrade a too expensive exercise.

The Media Center is a critical component in this house hold and the only 'maintenance' window available is in the night. This is also the reason why no automatic updates can't be installed, because this might interfere with lets say an episode of 'Desperate House Wives' or even worse reboot the machine. Microsoft already made severe enemies in this household by resetting all play counts after a security update and I don't want to go thru that again. If I want to upgrade this machine within one night and maintain all settings my only option is to do an in place upgrade and will cost me 299 Euro. It's just no worth the money, because the added value is minimal and Vista works fine. I could consider alternatives and do a clean install of a downgraded Windows 7 version, but still it's relatively expensive. A more viable option is to buy an Apple TV starting at 269 Euro and start using this side by side to avoid the nightly maintenance Window.

The desktop is an other story. Windows Vista is giving a lot of problems and was actually the primary reason to install the first beta of Windows 7. The hardware is great, because I made it completely silent, it's only time for a 300 Euro investment for a larger screen. While considering my options with the required investments, I can't help also looking at the new 21.5-inch iMac starting at only 1099 Euro that gives me a silent, great looking piece of design in my office.

Apple does an upgrade form Leopard to Snow Leopard for 29 Euro. The Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade of 299 Euro is 10 times as expensive. The buying considerations are very different, the first is hardly worth thinking about, the second really needs to deliver value. Unfortunately I haven't found 10 times as much value in Windows 7 as in Mac OS-X Snow Leopard. As a practical consumer I don't want to spend this amount of money without being able to justify the investment.

I'm not Dead

I haven't written anything recently because I'm on a vacation, you can follow my whereabouts on this OnTheRoad.to traveling blog. The trip is nice and especially interesting because 23 years ago I did visit some of the same places... The world has changed a lot, but the experiences and memories stay the same.

23 years ago I was a young student, I was top fit, running up and down the different canyons. I was with a friend  on a 'do the south-west of the US on a budget in 10 days' trip. We rented a cheap wreck camped in the bush or national parks and probably lived on junk food. The year before I was an international exchange student and used contacts from that time to gather information and if possible even organized meetings. This was 1986 and we actually wrote handwritten letters to establish contact and organize meeting points. We couldn't afford international phone calls. During the trip we also made new friends and often agreed to meet again in a few days several hundred miles away.

Today we travel in a decent car, use motels and hotels to stay overnight and can afford to eat proper meals. We carry around cellphones, navigation equipment and have WiFi in every single place we stayed so far. We extensively use the internet to gather information, book rooms while we are on the road. We constantly stay in touch with everybody who is interested and even keep up with business email. It all became so easy.

Looking back the past looked so primitive and it surprises me that with all the limited communication means we managed to stay in contact while being on the road. However the memories lasted for more than 23 years and the experiences were the same as they are today. Did we really make progress over the years, cos I really wonder how long today's experiences last?

On the road to....

A few weeks ago I ran into a nice new travel blogging service OnTheRoad.to. Before I wrote something about it I had to test it a bit. Last weekend I spend some time at the October Festen in Munich and it was a good opportunity to test.

Often when you go in a trip it's nice for the people staying at home to keep them up to date of your adventures. This is exactly what the specialized blogging services does. You create a trip page that combines a map with your whereabouts including stories, images and other multi media. There are many ways to create content, of course you can use the web site, but it's also possible to email, text message or use on of the mobile applications. I personally love the iPhone application, because you can create 'offline' content and publish when you have a data connection. This is very convinient when you want to control your data roaming expenses when traveling,

Tomorrow I start a bit of traveling again and you are more than welcome to follow my whereabouts.

Information Technology Challenges

Working in the Information Technology brings every day interesting challenges. We value feedback from prospects and customers, what brings very interesting and a very wide range of requests for change.

Many customers like the solutions the way they are, while others request more powerful features and capabilities. Recently the ease of use and easy to learn is recurring feedback too. It's up to us to find the right mix in often conflicting requests so the largest group of people can benefit. It's almost an impossible task to make everybody happy, be we keep on trying.

Doing nothing, although the easiest thing to do is not an option. We need to guide our customers into the next wave of technology to make sure their businesses can stay competitive.

It's like Steve Ballmer says in the video from a recent keynote. Sales and Service, online - realtime, Information technology is more critical then ever. The next technology wave allows us to innovate and do some great things.

My Social Profiles

I signup and experiment with many different emerging services and startups. During these experiments I've collected quite some social profiles. Below you find some of those that solely focus on creating a user profile with a purpose to aggregate it all in one list.
It's interesting to notice the different approaches, some focus on making the profiles very shiny and flashy, while others just try to collect as much information as possible.

However the coolest of them all, and not even mentioned in the list, is the one you need to see in action. It comes from the MIT Media lab and is called personas. Give it a try, enter your name and it attempt to characterize you as a person. It tells me that 'online' dominates my life!

The 'Blogs of Note' effect

I write this blog for fun and it's just a way for me to share some of my thoughts with those interested. I attract between 800 and 1000 monthly visitors, what I already consider a reasonable achievement.

Last Thursday the number of visitors suddenly changed, because Blogger gave this blog a 'Blogs of Note' listing. I noticed this due to a significant increase in comments and it got me pretty excited. A few hours after the listing I already hit the 400 visitors and that was already a big record. The next day I monitored the statistics and couldn't believe the first 1000 and soon the second 1000 and ending the day over 4000 visitors. The next day it already slowed down and it will be interesting to see how long before it's back to normal again.

Next to the blog visitors also the blog followers and RSS subscriptions increased significantly. This is really exciting because it shows that there are people who like what I write.

Since it was the first day that I got a significant number of visitors I also has a look a the browser statistics and is was quite interesting to see that only half of the visitors was with Internet Explorer and about one third with FireFox.

I'm now curious how this will develop over time. Do any of the sudden visitors stick around and become regular visitors. In a few months we will see what happened. I will keep you updated.

The Solution counts, Not the Product

Today I got referred to a Microsoft SharePoint article with a rather bashing title: Danger! Do not implement SharePoint in your Organization! I'm absolutely no SharePoint expert, but I do know it is pretty successful in the market place. It just can't be that bad!

I did  read the article and it is a whole lot better than the title suggests. I absolutely underwrite it's not about the technology but about the business challenge you are solving. No business is interested in 'implementing products' but in solving their challenges.

It's important to always identify the business needs with as much detail as possible. Scope these down into a feasible project, because it's a lot easier to build more on early successes instead of repairing last minute failures. Select the product/technology that has the potential to solve the challenges and, very important, select the right partner for helping you with the implementation. Does the partner have the domain expertise and a credible track record in solving similar challenges.

It's like a puzzle, focus on the solution, not the problem!

Image credit: lumaxart

My 2 Cents on User Experiences

Regularly I attend product meetings dealing with planning, priorities and projects to be included in the next releases. It's always an interesting and challenging balancing act between deliverables and available capacity. Customer value, market opportunity, return on investment and costs are usually recurring topics. Today I was also involved in one of these meetings and we quite extensively spoke about User Experience as customer value. After the meeting I had an interesting meeting with one of the team member on the topic. He challenged me to briefly write down my vision on user experience.

First let me tell you that I'm NOT an expert on the topic. I'm an engineer by trade and according to Alan Cooper this immediately disqualifies me from having a vision on user experience. Further my views are related to business software, because that is my field of expertise.

In conversations the terms User Experience and Usability are often used interchanged, however for me they have 2 completely different meanings
1. Usability is for me the technical capabilities that the product can be used in an easy way. Does the product behave the way I expect, is there a logical flow of events etc. It's for me very related to the functionality of the product. Usability improvement are there for often related to reduction of mouse clicks, handy wizards, etc.. that just make it for me easier to do my job.
2. User Experience is for me more of an emotional state. It's about the feeling I get when I use the product, does is make me excited, relaxed, frustrated. What is the overall impression, and that includes unwrapping, first time use, etc. It actually does not have so much to do with the functionality, because I just assume it's there.

Some examples
1. Why do I prefer the user experience of my Mac over a PC? The sensual touch of the aluminum casing and the soft strokes on the large touch pad when using 2 fingers to gently scroll this document just makes me feel good. The Mac triggers my senses...
2. In rare cases technical usability improvements create real better user experiences. One example is the Google chrome omnibar. Up until a year ago most browsers had 2 input boxes in their header. One was for typing an internet address and the other one for searching. This was not only confusing, but the search box was quite often too small. Merging the two reduced confusion, created a larger search box and just make complete sense. I feel good when I'm using it.

Now back to business software, because there are many user experience related challenges. May be the most important one: who cares, I have to use it from my boss! The key challenge is to create business software that people want and love to use! This can not be done by just improving the usability. This will make the people more efficient, but it won't make them happier. The saved time will be used to surf their favorite websites, that will make them happy!

If I had the solution I would implement it tomorrow, but unfortunately I don't. However I do believe we need to show some more creativity and refocus on the emotional values for our users. I aim to continuously push forward to search for creative solutions that get to the heart of our users.

Image credit: Nicki Dugan

PaaS Rocks!

Recently I've been playing around a bit with the Google App Engine. Slowly I start to learn how all this Platform as a Service is going to influence the future of software development.

Today I was just checking some of the log files of the little application I'm working on and saw a lot of warning messages.

The logging, the messages and heaps of information all comes with the platform. I still remember the days that all this kind of plumbing had to be build by ourselves in order to get information on the performance of your applications. This is going to really gonna benefit our customers, we just get more capacity to create value for them.

Now another interesting part of the message is the fact that I soon will exceed some of my quotas. This literally means that it's gonna cost me money. This is a real good motivator for me to optimize the solution, because I just can't throw some extra cheap hardware against it. It will be recurring costs for the rest of the life cycle of the solutions... So I better get back to some coding and deal with the CPU usage problem.

Platform as a Service Rocks!

Google App Engine versus Microsoft Azure

This is going to be a bit of a dangerous post, because I'm no expert in both. It's going to be like comparing:

  • Google versus Microsoft
  • Consumer versus Corporate
  • Personal versus Professional
  • Mac OS-X versus Windows
  • Simple versus Advanced
  • Convenience versus Sophistication
The reason for this post is feedback I received on the Keeping up with Technology post where I discussed a little hobby project on the Google App Engine. Some of my professional relations asked why I didn't build it on Microsoft Azure.
Disclosure: I work as Technology Director for Exact Software and I manage the technology part of our partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft delivers great technology that enables us to create value for our customers. This is also shown in the Windows 7 endorsement I recorded a few months ago.

A couple of months ago I actually started to develop something on Azure. It started like this, visit the Azure website looking for a getting started. There is a lot of information, but not really a step by step guide to get started. I figured out that I needed to register and thus I filled a couple of forms. After completion I received a message that I would get an answer within 24 hours. End of the project so far.

Since I wasn't satisfied I tried decided to try the Google App Engine instead. Go to the Google App Engine site and immediately found the Getting Started Guide. Just 2 small downloads for the SDK and Python and a text editor and I was in business. An hour later my 'hello world' application was up and running. This without any previous experience on Python and many stupid mistakes on case sensitive code. I felt good and was proud on the result.

The next day I hoped to receive my developer key for Azure so I could start comparing. Unfortunately no key arrived and I twittered about it. Someone from the Azure team noticed this and helped me out, good service, but I had to wait again for a day for a key.

Finally I got the key and started to explore Azure. On the Azure site I couldn't find a simple tutorial for a 'hello world' application. There are many advanced examples, but all too complex for me. Again Twitter came to rescue and quickly I received a link to a simple 'hello world' tutorial. Finally I could start to set up a developer environment. I already had Visual Studio installed, lucky me, but the developer environment also requires a local SQL server. A large download, a service pack and quite some time later I could finally start writing a few lines of code. Package the solution and deploy.

I haven't explored any of the differences in capabilities between Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine, but it's a clear case between convenience and sophistication.

When I decided to explore some of the cloud computing, the above memory was still in my mind. This combined with my preference of Mac OS-X over Windows 7 made the choice for the Google App Engine a simple one. A hobby is to relax and have fun!

You Can't Eat Whuffie...

I mentioned earlier that I'm not much of a reader. Twitter made it even worse and I can't handle a lot more then 140 characters. However I also mentioned that I like 'The Whuffie Factor' a lot.

Yes we all need money, but is it really what we value the most. Tara Hunt nicely shows that in the  presentation embedded below or here on SlideShare is also excellent.

Tara actually was one of the people that inspired me to explore more and more in the Social Media space. It's fun and I really enjoy matching and mixing social and business functionality.

Keeping up with Technology

Technology companies are usually busy with three stages of technology. The current, the emerging and the future. In my role at Exact, where we create business software, I also have to deal with these different stages. For business software companies the stages are 'on premise' licensed software, 'Software as a service' (SaaS) and the future related to 'Platform as a Service' (PaaS).

'Platform as a Service' is a topic the technology world talks about a lot, but is not really on the mind of our customers. However it's important that technology companies research the future possibilities in order to be ready when the business opportunities rise. The decision makers have moved on in their careers and for the research they rely on very smart engineers, architects and technology partners.

I also left my real engineering days behind me. However I still like some hands-on work and in the last weeks I also started a little hobby project on the Google App Engine. The solution that I will reveal a little later is not really important, but I enjoy to get a better understanding of the changing concepts and how organizations need to adapt. The learning curve is pretty steep for a rusty guy like me, but the experience is good. I already learn that there will be quite some impact on the design of very data driven applications, because during the development the data is a lot harder to access and all relational database concepts needs to be revised for proper scaling.

... and now the moment you have been waiting for. I work, inspired by FriendFeed on a little life streaming application. You can check it out at http://hello.aadjemonkeyrock.com and remember it's just a little skunk work for fun.

Friday Snow Leopard, the First of many Gadget to come this Winter

Apple announced today, earlier as expected, that Snow Leopard will be available as of Friday. This gives me something to do over the weekend. And Yes, I do think it's worth the 49 Euro for the Family pack. The support for Microsoft Exchange and an additional 6Gb of free disk space alone are already worth the money.

In October Microsoft also comes with an updated operating system, Windows 7. I also look forward to this, because it's a lot better than Windows Vista. However I'm, depending on pricing, probably be a bit more hesitant to upgrade. In this house holds already 1 Vista Ultimate is upgraded to Windows 7 RC out of desperation, but it's a hardly every used PC. Further there is a Vista Ultimate Media Center that unfortunately can not be upgraded to a down graded version without a clean install. Microsoft, please understand that many people don't want clean installs, especially on a media center when you loose all play counts and other statistics. The rumored Ultimate upgrade price of more than 200 Euro is almost the same as an Apple TV. This is gonna be a tough choice.

Today Nokia announced a cool new Netbook with a 12 hour battery life. Nokia phones always have excellent battery life, so I do sort of take this announcement seriously. I would love to have a Netbook that is decent looking and has great battery life and a proper screen resolution. I can't wait for more details. 

And finally I'm waiting for all the rumored tablets. I haven't heard much about the CrunchPad recently. I just hope it isn't dead and it will be available soon. It's gonna be a great device to surf the web while laying on the couch, sitting on a terrace etc. This of course doesn't eliminate the necessity of an Apple tablet too. The CrunchPad for traveling, hanging around in the city and an Apple tablet to carry around to meetings in the office. 

What gadgets are you looking forward to this winter?

Great Example - Engage with your Customer

A warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, a great time for a few drinks on the beach. I'm not the only one resulting in many visitors to a small coastal place.

People are in a good mood, a bit lazy and might not pay attention watching their valuables and locking their vehicles. Some some people this environment is a great place for car burglary. Criminals just don't care you are having a good time.

It's also a great place to have a few drinks and since you are so relaxed and due to the sun you might for the moment forget you still have to drive. Unfortunately this also results in to much driving under influence of alcohol.

Normal warning signs just don't work anymore. Nobody pays attention. What other ways are there to get the peoples attention. When I arrived in town the temporary welcome sign immediately caught my eye and I kept watching. It displayed a set of rotating messages, starting with a welcome and continuing with a few warning. I felt that the police was engaging with me and really wanted to help.

It's all about Speed

This is a story to remind all technology geeks, including myself, that the best features are not always what they seem to be.

The story starts in december 2008 when I was having heaps of connectivity troubles with our Windows Vista 'Home' PC. It let to a lot of complaints from my girlfriend and me having to give her a lot of time consuming support. The practical solution, and one of my best gadget investments ever, was to buy her a MacBook. The Apple completely changed her computer usage, just because sleep mode works and the startup wait was about 2 seconds to get a Wifi connection. All she wants is to email, surf the web and sometimes IM. In the past she would email every other day, now multiple times a day, whenever there are 2 minutes of spare time.

I maintain the software updates of her Mac and usually I hold off for a while and use my own Mac to test first. In recent months I also delayed the update to Safari 4, due to some known compatibility issues with our internet banking. Last week I updated her Mac to the latest 10.5.8 Max OS-X release that includes also Safari 4. The whole week, every day again, she keeps telling me how happy she is that the internet is on immediately. She hasn't noticed the change to Safari 4, but the disappearance of the 2 seconds delay for a  Wifi connection are very noticeable for her. In her own words: It's all about speed.

Now what can we learn from this? We spend hours, days, weeks analyzing all the upcoming new features of our new gadgets that we forget what is really important for the average user. I'm pretty sure that a lot more is written about Safari 4 as is about the improved Wifi connection. It's like the Google What is a browser? videos. Who cares..

Note: A month after the MacBook purchase, the early beta of Windows 7 solved most of the connectivity problem. However Microsoft still doesn't come close to the Apple instant on feature.

Image Credit: John Talbot

Lazyfeed, Just Right for Me!

I've written about RSS feeds before and hoped to believe that everybody would be able to use them. Looking around taught me that this is not the case. RSS is great and we should continue to publish as much content as possible, because this allows others to build alternative user interfaces around the content enabling a broader reach for the content.

One of these alternative user interfaces is Lazyfeed, as the name indicates it's for lazy people that don't want to maintain hundreds of feeds in a reader, check them a couple of times a day, scan headlines for something interesting, etc...

Last week I picked up an invite code true Louis Gray. I played around with it over the weekend and I like it. It won't replace my regular feed reader for reading my oh so many RSS feeds, but it's an addition for exploring something new. It's very easy to use, the sign-up barrier is very low and you can start exploring right away.

Just search for your favorite topics and in real-time articles start to stream in. You can save your topics for later and when you return new article are available. This brings you very easily to new interesting content.

Alternatively you can link your favorite sites to you account and automatically the topics of those sites are extracted and a stream of interesting content is created for you. Now your really don't need to do anything and as lazy as you are you can start exploring.

Louis Gray also posted a nice introduction video, much nicer as I can explain it to you. You find it here if the video doesn't show up.

I don't know the current official status of Lazyfeed, but I'm sure if you reach out to Louis Gray he will be able to help you out.

For me, I go back exploring after saying: Louis, thank you for the invite.

Summer and Summer jobs

The summer is a great period, nice weather, outdoor dinners and regular beers on a nice terrace. People are a lot more relaxed and seem to have more time. People take vacation and business is slow, again providing time for other things.

A week ago I already wrote about the hands-on activities in the quiet summer period and how much I enjoyed it. Another joy of the summer is students joining the team for a summer job. This year 2 students joined the Exact Research team for a few weeks to do some design and engineering assignments. I like this a lot, for various reasons.

1. For every team it's good to bring in some outsiders to provide new and different views on work we have been doing so far. It helps the team against tunnel vision.

2. Generation Y are our future customers, it doesn't hurt to have the Generation X team, including me, learn a bit about them.

3. I like to give young people an opportunity to learn something and help them starting their careers, while they help me and the team to do jobs we don't have time for.

4. They inspire me!

Jeffry and Edwin, Thank you for your contribution...

Image credit: Lin Pernille

First post written with Chromium on OS-X

FriendFeed we had a good time together, bye bye, enjoy Facebook

I love FriendFeed from very early on. I clearly remember my buddy Ronald Voets telling me about a cool service some ex Googlers had setup. It was easy to get started, including already then a Facebook application.

It didn't take long before FriendFeed became the center of my life-streaming and until I find a new alternative it continues to power the life-stream on this blog. I even went so far to say that I won't use a service if I can include it in my FriendFeed stream.

I continuously try many new services but there are not many that stick with me. FriendFeed was one of them, although my usage significantly changed over time. In the early days I had limited followers and saw it as an alternative to twitter, but after a while when my followers increased I couldn't keep up. The groups and discussions made it easier, but still too much information to constantly follow. However saved searches and even instant search are great research tools. When you want to dig up some information it's a great way to use the different search capabilities. Further I would almost daily have a peek at the 'best of day' what was just a nice feature too make sure you kept up to date to the most current events.

Now after yesterdays announcement that FriendFeed got acquired by Facebook at first I was confused. Of  course it's great for the FriendFeed guys to make some money and I also understand their arguments of synergies and working in a team with the same spirit. I do recognize this very well, cos engineers want to work with similar talented people. However FriendFeed and Facebook are so different, It's business versus friends, it's open versus closed, it's honest versus deceiving, it's black versus white.

I can now only hope that the 12 people David can turn around the 800 people Goliath and make sure that the great FriendFeed lives on....

Summer break, Time for some Hands-On work!

In the last two weeks I did quite some hands-on work with the research team. Since it's summer, there aren't many management meetings giving me some time to work with the research team. I closely worked with some team members on solutions, wrote some actual code and of course had many questions. I liked it a lot:

1. It gives me something tangible that shows my contribution to the solution. I know it's silly, but at a certain point it's nice if you can touch something.

2. It allowed me to move some stuff forward into the planning, because of my hand-on contribution added some additional capacity. It probably delayed some other projects due to my questions, but I just ignore that for the moment.

3. It made me appreciate the team even more. I used to write a bit of code in the past, but these highly interactive AJAX websites are quite a bit more complex pieces of engineering than I was used to. These guys and gals are real rock stars!

4. It also confirmed that we have been doing the right things. A deep dive into the solution and working with the components really gives you a lot more insight that the stories told.

By now those that work close with me  know what I'm talking about, but the others probably have no clue. We're progressing on one of the Exact Research projects and will share it with you when we feel it's fit enough to do so. I hope this can just be sooner than later

Image credit: Justin

A New Laptop, My Worst Nightmare

My good old Sony Vaio is dying on me. A little bit too often it's giving 'no operating system found' messages. Usually shaking it a bit solves the problem, but it's getting worse and it doesn't give me a lot of confidence. I need to invest into a new one, it's about time, the Sony Vaio served me well.

About 3 years ago I selected it based on a performance weight ratio. It has a 13.3" screen that is big enough for daily work and it's carbon casing makes it not too heavy. It was good to travel around with, although a bit on the larger site. Times have changed and today I defined new criteria. I want more mobility, and I settle for less performance, because for most of my daily work I use the browser and less local computing. So the criteria are very simple: 12" screen, a small SSD, a build in camera and less than 1.5kg.

Now you would think it would be very simple to find something matching these criteria. I'm sure it exists, but the web sites of the major vendors are all a night mare. They all proudly present their cool and colorful designs, the lifestyle value, etc... I like this... but also give me a model selector. Just a few examples how crazy it has become.
1. Dell doesn't show laptops on the home page. I first have to select if I want to use it at home, in a small and medium business, in the public sector or in a large enterprise. I want to use it everywhere! However after selecting any of the above options there is a reasonable product selector. Unfortunately nothing that matches my criteria.
2. Sony offers at the home page some navigation to laptops, but no product selector. They have series based on all the letters of the alphabet that they expect you to explore one by one. After exploring I learned that I need to choose between 11" or 13" screen.
3. Hewlett Packard, starts good. A direct link to Laptops on the homepage that brings you directly into a reasonable product selector. However I again need to choose between home and business use and there is nothing that matches my criteria.
4. Lenovo also provides a direct link to Laptops on the homepage leading to a product selector. However they first confuse me with the question if I need a value line, Idea Pad or Think Pad... I've no idea. The product selector on 12" gives me 5 ThinkPad X200 models with very extensive descriptions. Do they really think I understand this. There is no way I can easily see which one matches my other criteria. I'm guessing there is a model with a build in camera and I really have no idea what is the recommended Mobile Media Base. Anyway... so far the closest to my requirements. Unfortunately they are so ugly

Do I feel good and all excited about getting a new laptop. No, absolutely not, while I was really excited when I got my Macbook Air. May be I should just try to repair my good old Sony Vaio friend.

Kill or Keep?

Last week Plaxo lost all it's value, good moment to think about cleaning up al the registrations for the various services that I've used once in a while. There are always many services worth a try, but only a few stay valuable over a longer period of time.

For most most unused services the decision process to kill or keep is simple. Have I used the services recently, does it provide me value and if not delete the account. However for some services it's less simple and Plaxo is an example one of those.

Although Plaxo has lost it's initial value there is still some value in it.
1. It offers me a public profile that gets reasonably high in a Google search when searching for my name
2. It services as an outpost for this blog and it does generate a few comments
3. There is referral traffic from Plaxo to my blog
4. It provides me a vanity url to my profile: http://aadjemonkeyrock.myplaxo.com

For now I've decided to keep, maintain my profile, keep it as an outpost but not actively participate in the discussion.

What would you do?  Kill of Keep?

Image credit: Jelene

NUYK - A unique and smart address book

In a reaction of my disappointment by Plaxo, Flavio commented about NUYK being similar to Plaxo in the old days when it was still about the address book. This was a good reason for me to try and play around.

NUYK, what is by the way not the easiest name,  offers and online address book that can easily be synchronized with Outlook, Mobile phones and promises synchronization with Gmail and Hotmail. Clearly the Mac OS-X address book is still missing here. Besides the address book it offers you to maintain a profile with extended information about yourself. The profile has various privacy settings and you can control how much your contacts can see about you. You are all the time in control, what is very important for this kind of service. You can learn more here.

Besides the internal profile for your contacts you have the ability to define a public profile, you can see mine here, and control what will be publicly visible about you. Unfortunately there is no vanity url available for the profile and the options to control the content are limited. However I do believe the UNYK will improve in these areas with proper community feedback.

Some of the improvements I would like to see are:
1. Synchronization with my Mac address book
2. Vanity URL on my public profile
3. The ability to sort my address list by first name, last name
4. More privacy options to make groups of information available to groups of people
5. More information to be added to my profile, e.g. urls of other profiles I have.
6. More options to control the information on my public profile
7. Widget for my public profile, to be embedded in other web resources I manage
8. A less spammy approach for invitations. UNYK will not send anything without your consent, but you have to be very careful. Currently it wants to send to each and every email address in your list. My the looks of it, it will also send duplicate invitations to the same person. Note: I have not send out a single invitation, and will absolutely not do bulk invitations.

However this is all nice and sweet, but a service like this is useless if your buddies aren't using it. Currently only a few of my contacts are known and clearly in my network UNYK hasn't reached the adoption of Plaxo yet. I will continue to play around, provide some good feedback to UNYK and may be the guys are able to create a really nice and compelling service out of this.

Have you tried the service and what is your opinion?

Finally Yahoo bings along with Microsoft

A lot has already been written about the Yahoo - Microsoft deal and you don't have to bing a lot to get boat  loads of information on the deal. I don't need to discuss it here. All what interested me was the fact that the deal is for 10 years.... and that is a really, really, really long time. It's actually almost as long as Googles existence and definitely longer than Microsoft's experience in search. In such a long period I of course expect boat loads of innovations.

I like to imagine how search will look like in about 10 years, but that is almost impossible. The objectives that I has a user have and that the search providing companies have are pretty different. The innovations can go into all kind of directions.

1. My goal is not to search for stuff, my goal is to find stuff. Unfortunately I currently need search for that, but it could very easily be that in 10 years time I've other ways to find stuff. Already to day it's often easier to ask the community on Twitter a question and often you get an instant reply. May be search will be crowd sourced instead of just indexing the web.

2. Search providing companies want to sell advertisements and make heaps of money on them. Today providing very targeted advertisements next to search results is a very effective way of doing this. However people are getting smarter, change their behavior and the advertisements will become less valuable in the future. The search providing companies will provide innovative ways to bring targeted  advertisements to me.

It's very likely that with a little more targeted competition for Google there will also be more innovation in search. It will be interesting to see where it's going and weather the innovation will be used to make me find stuff or overload me with add.

Let me know if you have an idea where search will be going.

Plaxo, You Disappoint me!

Last week I suddenly received a notification from Plaxo that their Microsoft Outlook synchronization becomes a Premium feature for EUR 42.95 per year. I was surprised, because it's not very common to suddenly charge for features and the price is significant. This requires me to evaluate other options.

Years ago, long before Plaxo tried to become an aggregator, I became a member of Plaxo. I liked the online address book and calender that could easily be synchronized between different services. It quickly became the hub between my business Exchange infrastructure and private Mac/Google infrastructure. It  all worked flawlessly and I'm sad about the changes.

Soon I need to start paying, a good moment to evaluate the value of the service. I've realized that over time the value of a synchronized address book and calender has become less and less. My iPhone now natively supports my business Exchange and the only thing left is the availability of my calender on my Mac. However since a while now Mac OS-X synchronizes the address book with Google and soon with the release of Snow Leopard also Exchange will be natively supported. This significantly reduces the need to synchronize calenders and address book.

I haven't yet evaluated any alternatives in detail, but I do know that the Plaxo value is NOT worth EUR 42.95 per year. I most likely will cancel my Plaxo membership, because the original reason for joining will be removed. All new features added since I joined haven't excited me at all. FriendFeed is a much better aggregator and LinkedIn is a better way to manage my business network.

Plaxo, I'm sorry... You have disappointed me!

What I expect from Office 2010

Now the initial dust on Microsoft Office 2010 has settled it's a good moment to share what are my expectations. I'm very excited, because it will be a major step forwards for Microsoft Office and enable so many new ways of working. Since Microsoft hardly shares any real information I might be completely off with my expectations, but we will see in, I guess, about a year.

1. I'm only really interested in the Office Web Client. The desktop version has had it's time, it's too big, takes too much time to install and I need a license for every single machine I use. The Web Client fits with my mobile style of working.

2. The web client needs to be fast and work in any browser. This seems to be obvious, but in practice Microsoft still needs to do a lot of work to make all their web properties work correctly on browsers other than Internet Explorer. If the performance of Live Spaces and SkyDrive are an indication to go by, then Microsoft still has some work to do. At least there is good hope, because Bing is good and hopefully a permanent step forwards in the right direction.

3. The web is about embedding, widgets, and mash ups. I expect the Office Web client to come with the capabilities to embed Office documents for viewing, or even better editing, in any website I manage. This would for instance allow 'SlideShare' kind of embed able presentations in enterprise systems.

4. The web is about sharing and collaboration. I expect the Office Web components to really excel in the abilities to share and jointly work on documents and presentations with others. The key reason for using Google Apps today, the collaborative features. This without any doubt of course also includes a full web enabled communicator and/or messenger client.

5. The web is about open API's. I expect the Office Web to come with an API that allows me to manipulate my documents in the cloud.

I can't wait to get more detailed information and get hands on experience.

A Road Trip Experience

Last weekend I spend a few days with my relatives in Finland. Since it's a large and fairly remote country a car is a necessity and I requires a rental car. I used to be a loyal Avis customer for many years, but a few years ago they started to under deliver on the cars advertised. When I rent a Volkswagen or similar I don't want to get a Skoda, Kia or anything alike.

The last few years I use a car rental broker that gives me better deals and allows me to experience more rental companies and different cars. Sofar I've had the best experiences with Hertz and Europcar when it comes to over deliver on the car promise. However both have also nasty habits with additional fees for extra drivers and deposits.

This trip I got a Volkswagen Golf SW that had plenty of room for my carry-on trolley. To my surprise it was a Diesel and by far the most fuel efficient car I've ever driven on similar trips. The Engine was powerful enough to deal with the hills and the occasional passing of slower vehicles. The 6 hour drive went very smooth and probably one of the most relaxed I ever did. However, boring as hell...

Due to the complex travel schedules my girlfriend came from another destination and also had a rental car. She arrived about half an hour later than me and in typical women style mentioned: My car is the same color as yours. I asked which car is it and she replied a Ford Fiesta. How is it? Good, if feels quick and steady on the road. I know what this means coming from her, because she has pretty high standards.

The frivolous Fiesta was a luxury model standing on a nice set of alloy wheels and was just fun to look at. When entering it was like a computer game, welcome to the future. The technical specifications of the car weren't even that spectacular, but it was definitely fun and invited to this (video). I would trade the Golf immediately for the Fiesta, deal with high fuel bills, have a less smooth drive, but have heaps of fun.

May be this is why I don't have a family, I don't want to get banned into the boring people movers.

Ready.Set.7. - Exact and Windows 7

About a month ago I was in Redmond and had a great experience in the Microsoft Studios. Today the video launched and you can find it embedded below. If the video doesn't show up you can also find it here.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it.