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Preview: a Little blog - Tech|Microsoft

a Little blog - Tech|Microsoft



Resistance is not futile... it's encouraged



Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2009 21:35:13 GMT

Copyright: Reeves Little
 



Office team shares the love: 2010 beta available

Thu, 19 Nov 2009 21:35:13 GMT

Yesterday we released the public beta of Office 2010, you should go download it right now.

(image)

There’s a bunch of new stuff, so it’s really hard to predict what’s going to be exciting to you, but here’s the top feature for me: ignore. Yep, ignore. Outlook has built in a big, beautiful chunk of anti-social awesome. You know when you get added to that really long e-mail thread that won’t go away? The one people keep replying to, dragging it on until it sucks the air out of your office through your monitor. Now you can just right-click, select ignore and the thread goes away... even future mails to the thread.

Another of my fav Outlook features: the Quick Steps. They are, at their heart, macros. Select a message and click a quick action to create a task, mark the message read and dump into into a folder all in one button press. I’m currently working on giving my quick steps the GTD treatment.

It’s the nature of my job, I live my life in Outlook. There is, however, a ton of goodness in all the apps. Go checkout the beta site for a run down of what’s new in each of the Office applications. There are features to make your life easier (e.g. multi-user editing of docs) and features to make you look good (e.g. spark lines in Excel).

But can you really use it? Absolutely. I’ve uninstalled Office 2007 on all my machines and only run Office 2010. Sure, it’s a beta, it’s not perfect. But it never stops me from getting my job done. So, If I can live using only the beta, you should feel comfortable at least trying it out for a bit.




Microspotting - A peek behind the Microsoft curtain

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 02:58:00 GMT

(image)

Have you ever wondered what kind of people work at MS and what makes them tick? Hop on over to Microspotting to get the dirt. While you're there you can also really get to know Dan, a great dev who started as an intern on the Entourage team when I was a test lead there, Omar, a PM from the Entourage team (and also, coincidentally an intern there too), MC, who was on Mac office (Entourage was part of Mac Office)…. hey, this is just becoming a trip down memory lane. Clearly my friends haven't been pimping their fame (or I simply couldn't be bothered to read their blogs... of course, I blame them).

At any rate, it seems Ariel has a great knack for finding the personalities at Microsoft, and isn't shy about stalking them to get the story. Geeks and stalking? How can you pass that up?




So, you want to live and work in Europe?

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 10:33:31 GMT

(image) Why not join us?

Earlier this week we launched a microsite for our team here in Dublin.  The new site is chock full of informational goodness.

The new site was built under the watchful eye of Dan and the end result is quite slick.  It even makes me want to re-apply for a job.

So, if you like the sound of great benefits like 31 days of paid vacation (yep, 6 weeks) and being within spitting distance of anywhere in Europe... review the job list then click one of the "e-mail your CV" links on the site to submit a resume.

Now, that you've applied, it's time for a little hide-and-seek... can you find the picture of me on the site?




Where does Reeves work?

Mon, 30 Jul 2007 13:08:02 GMT

I gave you a rough idea of what I do... but here's a little information about where I do it.

(image)

A week back I went searching for a picture of my MS building on the web (I was trying to provide a visitor with a picture of the front of the building). What I found proved quite educational.

The first image which came up on my search was one from the web site of the Institution of Structural Engineers for the Republic of Ireland (our as everyone's favorite newsman, John Stewart, would say: "NAMBLA").  The short article goes into some interesting technical details of the project, including that 22,000 cubic meters of granite were excavated to build the structure. 

I know... interesting to whom?  I'm a geek.

Read all about it: http://homepage.eircom.net/~istructeroi/news/news17/ms17.htm




Ten years!

Fri, 25 May 2007 13:58:19 GMT

Well... my ten year anniversary with Microsoft was actually back in November of 2006, but due to my move to Ireland the award was slightly delayed.  After a long journey it's resting comfortably with my other stuff.

(image)

Yep... my camera phone sucks.  I'll have to bring in my real camera on Monday.




The beta tag comes off Windows Live Hotmail

Tue, 08 May 2007 06:06:59 GMT

It was a long road, lots of research, lots of development, a private beta and two years of public beta... and now Windows Live Hotmail is officially out of beta.  I want to give a huge congrats to the team and I must say I kind of wish I could have been there.  I must admit, after having been there for the first two years of the process (and for six years total), I felt kind of sad seeing all the great pictures of the team posted on today's blog entry

(image)

Though I'm sad I missed the end run, I don't regret my move to Ireland one bit. Congratulations guys on a fantastic release!




My new favorite Vista feature

Fri, 02 Feb 2007 10:28:21 GMT

I suppose I should start by telling you what my old favorite feature was... I'm not sure what it's called but it allows you to navigate up and down folders much more quickly.  It's great for going from one folder to another at the same level (e.g. from one folder of pictures to another).

(image)

My NEW favorite feature comes courtesy of Omar's blog: the shadow copy. Here's the MS description of the feature:

Windows Vista now includes shadow copy functionality built in, which enables users to access previous versions of their documents, even when they are stored locally on their computer instead of on the network. Accessing the previous versions of a file you're working with is easy.

What happened is I was bit by a bug which removed all the date taken information from the pictures I took over Christmas time.  Big deal?  Not to people who simply print their pictures... but for me it meant all the pictures were in random order on our web site.  I searched high and low for a tool to copy the date information from another part of the file and then remembered Omar's post.  The process of restoring files was pretty straight-forward... and really made me happy work provides us with Windows Ultimate (unfortunately for home users, it's not available on the consumer version).

For the curious, I made some screenshots of the process:

(image)  (image)  (image)  (image)  (image)

Oh, also cool: if you get a Windows Home Server your backups on the server will show up there too.  Sweet!  Dang I want that cool round one! See the Digital Amnesia site for more info (presented in an entertaining fashion) or for a great demo, watch CJ's video interview on 10.

Thanks Vista for the save (and thanks Omar for the pointer :)).




So... what does Reeves do?

Wed, 10 Jan 2007 13:14:50 GMT

I've moved to Ireland... Hotmail is in Mountain View, California.  The observant reader may put 2 & 2 together and think: "Hotmail has moved to Ireland!" Fortunately most people who read this blog are observant and  intelligent (you do read this blog, after all ;) ). 

While my original plan was to bring some development resources with me to Ireland, I ended up instead joining up with a growing team here which is building components for a new web analytics project code named "Gatineau".

Gatineau will be Microsoft's entry in the the web analytics market.  While the nuts and bolts of the operation are in Redmond, here in Ireland we're building some cool, extra bits to pile into the mix.  I wish I could provide some more detail as I'm really excited about what we're doing (both here and in Redmond) but for now, things are under wraps.

One of our new planners, Ian, has provided a quick run down of what's going on, it's not a tell-all by any stretch, but it does give a bit more information.




How to change jobs... and how not to

Sun, 15 Oct 2006 07:51:29 GMT

While flying home to Dublin from Redmond I was doing a little blog reading (hooray for SAS and airborne broadband) when I came across an interesting post on Dare's blog regarding the Microsoft policy of needing permission from your manager before you can interview or a different position within MS.  It's a policy that leads to a certain amount of discomfort for any employ who wants to change jobs.  Going to your manager for permission is tough, but here's a promise I've made to myself which helps me (and works if I'm at Microsoft or not): I've promised myself I won't ever leave my current role - I will always go to a new role. Here's the big issue for me: when I'm fed up with work, my boss, my hours or whatever, any job will look good to me.  As soon as I'm in flight mode, trying to run away from my current position I am super-likely to be simply abandoning the frying pan.  There are always times at work where I'll be pissed at my boss, annoyed at my coworkers and/or think the product has no chance of succeeding.  When I get to that point I always take a deep breath and try to figure out if a) it's something I can correct and b) if it's something I think will last.  It sounds pretty silly advice,  but don't ever leave a job you hate. So, what should someone do if they hate their job?  In the ideal world one will have picked a cool group at a cool company working on a cool product.  Chances are there's something you like about your job, find it and focus on it.  You also have to decide you're not going to adopt a victim mentality (it's your bosses fault... your coworkers stole the credit... it will ship if test would find the bugs).  Don't ever think that you can't make your situation better because that will sink the ship fast.  Figure out what is broken and what part of it you can fix.  Once everything is sunshine and roses you can move on (sure, I'm an idiot... but I'm an optimist). I am totally comfortable at any point in time going to my boss and saying "Hey, I came across this internal job listing and it totally sounds like something I'd really like to do.  Things are going great here but I'd really like the opportunity to go do this cool thing.  May I please?"  I may actually be happy in my current role or I may not... but if I actually honor my promise to myself I'm actually highly likely to be in a role I enjoy before I leave for one I'm going to enjoy even more. So, what does this have to do with the Internal hiring policies?  Here's the thing: I feel if my manager thinks I am a good employee and honestly excited about going to a new role they will be disappointed to see me go but genuinely interested in helping me succeed.  If I get the job I wanted my manager will be happy because they know I'm going to an exciting opportunity.  If I don't get the job my manager will be happy because they don't loose me. Afterword I've been at Microsoft for almost ten years and been a manager on and off for roughly half that time.  I've applied for internal positions and moved groups.  I've also applied for jobs and not been hired.  I've had employees request permission and I've granted it every time.  Microsoft has policies about when a transfer can be blocked or delayed and are very reasonable.  Always if your manager blocks your move and you think it's unreasonable you should talk to your HR rep as they can help you to work through it. [...]



Presence buttons are cool... why can't messenger have these?

Mon, 04 Sep 2006 21:20:06 GMT

Way back in the day ICQ allowed people to put a little snippet of HTML anywhere they liked and it would show their presence.  That was very cool.  Yahoo can do it too. AOL offers itNow Skype is doing it too.  Why, for the sake of all that is geeky, can't we (Microsoft) do this for messenger? 

Wait, I know, I'll use a buzz-word: it's viral! (it'll happen for sure now).

(image)




PC Hardware makers, you've been put on notice

Wed, 05 Apr 2006 16:58:00 GMT

It has been a long time since the PC world migrated away from churning out beige boxes, but major manufacturers have been slow to adopt industrial design standards which can keep up with clean, well-thought-out hardware produced by Apple.  There have been periodic flashes of inspiration from Sony and Shuttle, the results, however, have been inconsistent.

With the advent of the Intel-based Mac, speculation of Windows running on an Apple Macintosh has, of course, abounded.  With Apple's latest announcement of "Boot Camp", an app which allow an Intel-based Mac to dual boot to Windows and Mac OS, we're sure to see increased adoption of the Mac platform.  Users who are willing to pay the premium price of a Mac will no longer have to worry about the issues of incompatibility with the business world.

(image)  (image)
Seriously, which computer do you thing a grownup is going to buy? (Sorry Michael Dell)




See, this proves it, we're not evil

Tue, 14 Mar 2006 06:46:59 GMT

"Microsoft is not even a bad guy... you know... they want to be even more like Apple."
   - Steve Wozniak (from This Week in Tech, 3/5/2006)




Microsoft (and Hotmail specifically) had no hand in indictment of Chinese Journalist

Wed, 08 Mar 2006 03:19:16 GMT

According to Reuters, a Chinese Journalist, Li Yuanlong was charged with Subversion for sending e-mails via a Hotmail account. The indictment did not come, however, with help from Microsoft. The wife of the journalist was told by Chinese officials that her husband was arrested for e-mails sent  via a Hotmail account, but it is unclear how the Chinese officials came by the information they used to charge Yuanlong. Unlike the case where Yahoo was accused of handing over a dissident's information to Chinese officials, Microsoft and Hotmail were not the source of the information leading to the arrest.

On a related note, this freedom of speech issue keeps coming back in the news and each time the articles point out that MS closed a Space (blog) last year at the request of the Chinese government.  The reports always  fail to mention, however, that the MSN Spaces team hated that action and built a solution... Spaces now has adjusted their filtering so it is dependent on the country of the user (see MC's post for more detail), allowing them to adjust the filtering to align more closely to local standards.


More info:
The story Reuters published yesterday did not have details from Microsoft at the time of publishing.  A follow up story today clarifies the MS position with comments from a Microsoft spokesperson. 




Hello? Steve? Cancel the Joe Isuzu ad campaign.

Fri, 03 Mar 2006 07:03:11 GMT

CNN: the most trusted name in news?  Must be on the web, because television is loosing ground to the Internet as a trusted source for information.  From that I segue gracefully into... the Edelman trust barometer found Microsoft is the most trusted name in business.

The Edelman Trust Barometer found Microsoft Corporation the most trusted global company, followed by iconic companies in their home markets, including Toyota in Japan, Haier in China, Samsung in South Korea, and Petrobras in Brazil.

I think MS is a great place to work, and having the company get this type of recognition feels good (especially for someone who used to be a closet MS employee).  I realize that Edelman is a PR firm which counts MS as one of its biggest clients, but this was, after all, a survey.

While I led off with the fun part of the survey... for me this is the really interesting part:

In the U.S., trust in "a person like me" increased from 20% in 2003 to 68% today.

In other words, most people in the US find the average employee is a more trust-worthy spokesman than the CEO.  Any connection to the surge in blogging?  It's pretty hard to preen cause from effect here but I, for one, am hugely thankful for the change in culture at Microsoft which made it possible for employees like me to feel comfortable blogging in relative freedom about our work.

I suppose that brings me back to the beginning... perhaps the trust in Microsoft will not be limited to a single survey or a fleeting one-year occurrence.  With any luck, as more people are able to get a glimpse of the people working at Microsoft and the pride they have in their work, the world will realize that for us it's really about building cool software, not crushing your enemies and seeing them driven before you.  While our moniker of "the evil empire" is something I look on with amusement, it's not a nickname I view with pride.


For a deeper dive on the topic of what can happen for company trust when the employees step out from behind the protective shadow of a company's CEO and PR machine I recommend you check out Richard Edelman's essay The Me2 Revolution on his blog.




Patience

Tue, 17 Jan 2006 07:30:12 GMT

I just posted to the team blog about upcoming improvements to the Windows Live Mail beta.  The languages we were hoping to roll out back in December should be coming out very soon.  If they're not out by the end of this month, I'll eat...

... um ...

... this tasty, fresh Twinkie snack cake (aw heck, I'm just being realistic, this is software, after all, and the wind can shift direction without warning).

At any rate, the English speakers in Canada should be happy to know that they'll soon be able to join the crowd from the UK, US and AU.  As soon as we roll out French for Canada we'll also be able to roll out English (we want to be fair, after all).

So if you're on the list, be patient, we're upgrading servers as fast as we can.  If you're not on the list, what the heck are you waiting for?  Get over to http://ideas.live.com and sign up!

And now, a picture of my dog cross-bred with a Brewer's Blackbird:

(image)




Windows Live Mail supports more browsers

Thu, 08 Dec 2005 07:45:17 GMT

Ellie has written a great post on the Windows Live Mail team blog about the yeoman's work that has gone into the product to support older browsersEllie worked with a team in China to develop a version we internally referred to as the "down-level" version of Kahuna (she basically worked U.S. hours in the office, then went home and worked some China hours on top of that... boy does she deserve a few week's rest!).  The goal of this basic implementation is to support older and non-standard browsers for accessing Windows Live Mail accounts.  The "up-level" features of Windows Live Mail such as drag and drop, spell check as you type and shift/control click require an advanced browser which supports the core technologies needed for Atlas (JavaScript, DHTML, and XMLHTTP).  This is great news... after all, what good is having roaming web-mail if you can’t get to it from everywhere?

You may be wondering, what is "up-level" for the Windows Live Mail beta?  For now "up-level" means IE 6 and 7.

I am now sitting here picturing the sparkle that has just come to the eye of all the Microsoft haters and conspiracy aficionados reading this.  I'm picturing them clapping gleefully as they hop from foot to foot, pointing accusingly: "I knew it!  You're just trying to force us to use IE!  This is just another glaring example of Microsoft forcing its software down our throats!  You're all evil footservants of the great lord of darkness, Bill Gates!  [exceedingly long string of expletives removed for the sake of brevity, let’s just say that Lenny Bruce would have blushed]"

Yes, Sherlock, you caught us... red handed.  That's right Kojak, you nabbed us focusing our early development efforts on a single browser to speed initial development.  Congratulations Barney Fife, you found us cutting a corner to get our latest product into the hands of customers as early as possible so our beta testers could help us mold the future of the application.  We're guilty of that age old sin of limiting the number of variables when approaching a difficult problem.  You may now read us our rights.

Yes, Windows Live Mail beta has all the fancy features only available for IE 6 and 7, for now.  Read what you like into that. ;-)

Oh, by the way... if you are using IE 6 on the beta and want to see what the other version looks like, check out Ellie's space... she has the method for changing the URL so you’ll get the basic UI in IE 6 or 7.

Mike, I don’t want to hear that it's impossible to clap and point at the same time.  It's called imagery, look into it you hack. :-p




A Windows Live Mail update

Thu, 01 Dec 2005 07:09:29 GMT

The latest update to Windows Live Mail beta was released to the world today.  There are lots of great improvements including performance, in-line spell checking and the introduction of the "down-level" experience (the non-AJAX version for older browsers).  The best place for a quick summary is Steve's post and the best place for lots of details is Imran's post to the mailcall blog (be sure to also check out the video on spell checking).

I'm hoping we'll also hear from Ellie soon too... she led the effort to develop the downlevel client.  Working with a development team in China (both from here in Mountain View, California and by flying out to Shanghai) as well as developers here Ellie got the first downlevel version ready to ship.  As with the first Kahuna betas, this isn't complete yet... but it will evolve as well.


Some spell check video trivia for you:

(image)




Want to be part of Windows Live Mail?

Fri, 25 Nov 2005 18:18:27 GMT

I get this question a lot: "how do I get on the beta?"  I get it almost as much as "could you please send me an invite?"

Well, we've taken the human element out getting on the beta (and that's good news for you).  Now, instead of prostrating yourself on every Windows Live Mail blog you can find, you can simply go to http://ideas.live.com.  On Windows Live Ideas you'll find out how to get on the waiting list of the Windows Live Mail beta as well as several other cool betas we have in the works. 




Application-like spell checking... on the web?!?!?

Tue, 22 Nov 2005 18:42:45 GMT

I don't think I can understate how cool this feature is:  spell check as you type.

Ever since I first saw this feature in Word I've been wanting it in every application I have (including DasBlog, you listening Omar? :)).  Well, now we finally have it in Windows Live Mail beta.  The way it works is pretty slick too, the client-side code on the browser actually starts handing words and groups of words up to the server to be checked for errors.  When errors are detected the misspellings are indicated on the client with familiar red squiggly lines. 

(image)

The best way to get a feeling for this is to see it in action.  Since we haven't released the feature yet you can't, unfortunately, try it out... but you can have Imran give you a demo. Check out the Video that Imran, Vikram, Brian and Zeek made, it gives a great run down of the design, development and testing of the feature.

For those of you on the beta and wondering when you'll see this... I'm predicting you'll see it before the year is up (but I don't make any guarantees ;)).




Thoughts on being a closet MS employee

Fri, 11 Nov 2005 10:15:02 GMT

I was always at odds with myself when I was working in the Mac group at Microsoft.  The team is a great, smart bunch of people who really love the Mac platform and really want to do right by the Mac and turn out cool software.  I knew we were doing good work but there is so much zealotry in the Mac community that it took me a long time to refer to Microsoft as “we”.  If you check out comments on Omar’s blog you can see first-hand some of the quasi-religious fervor that can follow any post which is construed as anti-Apple.

Well, it’s taken me a long time but I can finally say I’m proud to be a Microsoft employee.  Having worked at Microsoft for almost nine years now I’ve come to realize the public’s view of Microsoft as a big, evil company who’s sole purpose is to crush all opposition is both not the view of the majority of the public and also just not true.  The people with whom I’ve worked are, with few exceptions, driven to excel and truly passionate about producing great software for their customers.  We are a competitive lot, but while having another company (e.g. Google or Yahoo!) producing cool e-mail software may drive me to want to out-do them I no more want to destroy Yahoo! than I would want to injure an opponent when playing soccer (besides, if Yahoo was destroyed, I’d feel really bad for Hans, Rob and Randy… they’re great people).

Seeing as it’s past 2AM and I’m on the road, having trouble sleeping without my lovely wife around... I was thinking... Being a white, American male growing up in the ‘burbs (raised Christian to boot), working on Macintosh software at MS provided me with what is probably the closest experience I’ll ever have to true racism.  And I’m know it’s nothing compared to what blacks, gays, Muslims, handicapped etc. people may face. 

So, I suppose it’s no great triumph of human will against insurmountable odds... baby steps.




Yes, we have no bananas,

Wed, 21 Sep 2005 16:50:45 GMT

I appreciate the enthusiasm folks have for becoming part of the mail beta, but I don't, unfortunately, have any invites to give out at this time.  When I do have some invites to give out I'll be sure to make an announcement here.

Thanks,
Reeves




Raw diet

Thu, 02 Jun 2005 21:05:52 GMT

The various competing digital RAW formats have been a boon to professional and pro-sumer photographers but to date the support for them has been limited to the manufacturer's software and expensive photo editing software.  Yesterday's news that MS is going to support RAW in the OS is great news, I hope it will drive some serious improvements for the format (compatibility, closed standards and more abound).  Just having the big camera manufacturers talking about the same topic is fabulous.

More info:
Press release: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/jun05/06-01RAWWindowsPR.asp
Omar's comments: http://www.shahine.com/omar/MicrosoftRAW.aspx
Sean Alexander's comments: http://blog.seanalexander.com/LonghornGetsRAW.aspx
MS How-to article on dealing with RAW in XP: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/expert/rawfiles.mspx




A history of Hotmail on Wikipedia

Tue, 15 Mar 2005 17:08:24 GMT

Omar pointed out today that Wikipedia has a good article on Hotmail.  Lots of interesting facts including the origin of the service's name, "Hotmail".

From Bengt, the original Hotmail logo:

(image)




I couldn't resist

Fri, 11 Feb 2005 16:36:12 GMT

New Tech News World article: Microsoft and Pfizer Team Up Against Viagra Spammers

C'mon, what happened to the good old days of clever headlines?  How about:

"Unwanted advances from Viagra spammers turn off Microsoft and Pfizer"
                  Or
"Microsoft and Pfizer work to hold down Viagra Spammers"

I'm sure you can do better than that, give me your best headline, click the comment link.

Related story: EarthLink, Microsoft, Pfizer File Barrage of Spam Suits




Who knew?

Wed, 09 Feb 2005 21:02:37 GMT

Here's some Hotmail trivia to impress your friends:

  • Hotmail is used in more than 220 countries and territories – more than the number recognized by the United Nations.
  • If MSN Hotmail’s 190M active accounts were citizens of a single country, it would be the world’s 5th largest country. 

No. 5, MSN Hotmail, 190mm
No. 6, Brazil 184mm
No. 7, Pakistan, 159mm
No. 8, Russia, 144mm
No. 9, Bangladesh, 141mm

  • If connected hand-to-hand, the 190 million MSN Hotmail members would circle the Earth at the equator over five and a half times. 
  • MSN Hotmail e-mail service members number more than the combined population of the world’s 20 largest cities.
  • If all MSN Hotmail members were standing in single file, they would line the length of the Great Wall of China or the Nile River (the longest river in the world) over 17 times.
  • The MSN Hotmail user base has grown more than 18 times since January 1998, which is more than the world population has grown in the last fifty years.
  • Since 1997, MSN® Hotmail® has grown nearly 20 times from 10 million to 190 million subscribers.
  • In 2001 and 2003 MSN Hotmail was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest free Web-based e-mail service provider. 



More free music*

Tue, 08 Feb 2005 00:32:13 GMT

I love free music... well, I love free legal music.  I may have to wait a while for another Mercedes Benz mixed tape but starting tomorrow (2/8) MSN Music is starting its Grammy blitz by giving away one free song from each category.  A panel of music professionals is going to attempt to predict the winner in each category... then MSN Music will give away the song predicted to win.  So, not only is it free music, it's good, free music.  You know it's good, the professionals told you so.

Now, before you point out that I'm just being a corporate pawn to Microsoft let me say this... first: I am a total pawn, second: even if I weren't a pawn I still like free music.  So there, I'm a sell-out... but I'm a cheap, stingy sell-out... that must be worth something.

There will be one free song per day, starting on February 8th.  Using my top-secret, internal Microsoft sources I've determined the order the songs will be released in is:

  1. Tuesday, Feb. 8: Best Male Pop Vocal Performance/Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
  2. Wednesday, Feb. 9: Best Rock Song
  3. Thursday, Feb. 10: Best Rap Song
  4. Friday, Feb. 11: Best R&B Song
  5. Saturday, Feb. 12: Best Country Song

So, there you are, in the greatest of corporate traditions a big company has told you what you're going to like.




Want less Spam in your Hotmail account?

Wed, 26 Jan 2005 17:13:56 GMT

There's a quick and easy step you can take: turn your junk e-mail filter from "Low" to "Enhanced".  At the lowest level Hotmail will delete the known junk e-mail before it even lands in your account.  There are, however, clever filters that deal with junk e-mail we haven't heard of yet... when you switch from "Low" to "Enhanced" you get the added benefit of Hotmail moving the mail we're not quite sure about into the junk e-mail folder for you to examine later.

To help protect yourself from junk e-mail:

Turn your junk e-mail filter to "Enhanced"
Cranking it up from low is the difference between "we know this is junk" and "we think this is junk." Hotmail gets rid of the things we know are junk... the things we think are junk we move to the junk e-mail folder... but only if your filter is set to "Enhanced."
Add your friends' e-mail addresses to your address book
You can import, use the contacts builder feature on the contacts page or simply check the box on the sent mail confirmation page.
Add other addresses to your safe list
Adding amazon.com addresses to your safe list but not your address book keeps your address book tidy but makes sure you receive your e-mails from Amazon.
When you receive junk e-mail in your inbox, select the junk e-mail and click the "junk" button
When you report the junk we missed the junk e-mail automatically goes into a system which trains our filters to be better in the future (be patient, though, it does take some time for the filters to learn, you won't see an immediate effect, but like exercise, it works over time).
Check your e-mail every day
This sound funny but it is really more of a psychological trick than anything else. If you check your Hotmail account every day you'll find that the amount of junk in your inbox is quite small and easy to deal with. When you take the task in small bites it's easier to stomach (and frankly, quite painless).

To turn your junk e-mail filter from 1 to 11:

  1. Sign into Hotmail
  2. Click the "Mail" tab
  3. Click the "Options" link (it's at the top right, near "Help")
  4. Click the "Junk E-Mail Protection" link
  5. Click the "Junk E-Mail Filter" link
  6. Select the "Enhanced" level
  7. Click the "OK" button
  8. Get less spam in your inbox

Too many steps? Try my direct link to your Junk E-Mail Filter Options.

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I can quit any time I like

Mon, 15 Nov 2004 05:34:52 GMT

Normally I don't like it when my honey goes out of town… I get lonely and sulky, I don't shave and I eat way more cereal than any human should. 

Tuesday was the release of Halo 2.  Thursday Paula went to New York to attend the bar mitzvah of a good friend's son.  Since she left I haven't shaved, I've bathed infrequently and I've eaten cereal for dinner... but I haven’t been lonely.  Halo 2 is by far the best online game I've ever played, esp. when playing with friends.

Since Paula's been gone I've had my Xbox connected to Xbox Live for most of my waking hours, but when she gets back I'm going to spend much less time online.  But what’s an addict to do?  I can't miss a game.

Now I don't have to.  I've signed up for Xbox to send me either an IM if I'm signed into MSN Messenger or to send a message to my cell phone if I'm away or offline.  I never have to worry about missing a game again!

The easy way to find the sign up is to sign into MSN Messenger (Windows Messenger won't work) and click the Xbox tab.  Once the Xbox tab loads click the Live tab and look to the bottom of the frame for the "Add Xbox Live Alerts" link.  Follow the instructions and you're golden.  Note: you will need to associate your messenger account (Microsoft .Net Passport) with your live gamer tag in order to get this working, but after you've gone through the effort you'll be able to see who's online and what they're playing right from MSN Messenger (pretty cool, huh?).  Oh, if you've turned off the tabs in options, go turn them back on again (I won't tell you how, you figured out how to turn them off, after all).

Now... if I can just find a clever way to distract my wife for hours on end...




Bizarre tech support techniques

Wed, 29 Sep 2004 16:48:49 GMT

Hotmail is a really big service - servers measured in the thousands, active users measured in the hundreds of millions, incoming mail measured in the billions.  It's not cheap to run (yeah, we're Microsoft, cry you a river).  To keep our costs down we don't make it easy to e-mail a human directly to get technical support and as a result users get (understandably) frustrated.

Enter Reeves, fearless, rogue cowboy PM, roaming the uncharted wastelands of the net searching for Hotmail users in need.  I spend tireless hours combing the dark corners of the net looking for...

OK, I don't even believe myself.  What I do is set up Google alerts to drop me an e-mail once daily when news reports mention Hotmail.  My primary interest is to find out what reporters are saying about Hotmail but I occasionally find gripes mixed in with the news.  Last week, for example, I came across a pro-wrestling reporter who had to re-write his weekly article because he was unable to get into his Hotmail account.

Since I'm not in support the only ways for me to be able to help people with Hotmail is to post info on my blog, free-lance by tracking down gripes on the web or (crazy thought here) to proactively design new features for Hotmail which make it easier to use .

So, as always, if you have a gripe about Hotmail, e-mail me.  I love to hear compliments about our product but hearing complaints is the next best thing.  Coming up with brand new stuff is hard... fixing stuff we broke is easy, if we know it's broke(n).

P.S. it appears Hotmail is becoming a regular topic in the industry news... I wonder if I'll get a chance to meet The Rock.




Windows tip

Fri, 06 Aug 2004 22:25:08 GMT

Here's a helpful tip that is quite simple but, surprisingly, quite under-used.

When you go to your Start -> All Programs menu to you find it's difficult to location a particular application?  Chances are it's because your programs menu isn't sorted alphabetically. To fix this:

  1. Click Start -> All Programs
  2. Right-click on any item
  3. Choose “Sort by name” from the pop up menu

Voilà, your applications and their containing folders are now sorted by name making it much easier to find that calculator program buried 3 levels deep.

 

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New security threat

Wed, 30 Jun 2004 23:04:45 GMT

Update: Patch for part of the problem: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=4D056748-C538-46F6-B7C8-2FBFD0D237E3&displaylang=en On line news sources have picked up ISC's warning of a new threat to IE users which could allow hackers to steal on line banking passwords.  The code exploits a combination of a hole in unpatched IIS web servers to install malicious pop ups and a hole in IE to install a program via that pop up. The installed program watches for connections to a specific set of banking sites and logs the username and password (yet another reason everyone should get a pop up blocker, I'm so glad XP SP2 comes with pop up blocking as part of its greatly enhanced security). Unfortunately the articles don't do anything to help users understand what they should do to protect themselves from this attack or even if there is anything they can do. The reason for this lack of info is there is little users can do to defend against this exploit, even for advanced users. This is very scary to users of any level. So… what should users do?  Here are my suggestions (yeah, these are my suggestions, my employer hasn't approved them etc.) Users of Windows XP can protect themselves by upgrading to Windows XP service pack 2, RC2 (RC2 means “release candidate 2”, i.e. it’s not the final version). Early adopters may rejoice and the braver among you may jump on board. I’ve been running SP2 for a while now and my personal opinion is: RC2 is great, but just in case you should back up your stuff and choose the install option which allows you to remove it if you have second thoughts later on. Unfortunately SP2 RC2 is a “preview” and isn’t supported by us yet. :( Users should also review the ISC list of targeted bank URLs (scroll down through the report to find the list). If users have visited any of those sites recently they should seriously consider changing their banking password. By the law of averages users who get frequent pop up advertisements are the most at risk (regardless of the type of site you visit). For users of earlier versions of Windows or people who aren’t willing to install the unsupported RC2 release there isn’t a fix yet, but there will be a fix in a couple weeks (no date has been announced yet). To help protect users until the patch has been fully tested Microsoft is working with law enforcement to shut down all the sites known to be hosting the exploit. On a related note, if you don't update your system regularly, you really should.  I've set Windows to automatically update my machines every night at 3am if needed.  Some worry automatic updates will cause problems but here’s my anecdotal data: I’ve been running automated updates on my very non-standard PC (a dual processor, 500 MHz Celeron with additional hardware that hasn’t been approved for Windows 2000 much less XP) for as long as it’s been available – I have never had a problem caused by the automatic updates.  Besides, the problems created by not updating far outweigh the possible problems you might encounter with the automatic updates.  Also, the automatic updates don't include ha[...]



Movement from the Mac guys

Wed, 30 Jun 2004 21:09:38 GMT

A couple big changes this week involving the guys from the Mac team (I used to test PWS, IMN, OE and Entourage for the Mac team):

Tantek Çelik has decided to leave the MS fold and strike out into the world.  Tantek was a key player in the IE browser for Mac and is well known for his CSS contributions.  He also worked to get his teams' excellent rendering engine into one of our set top boxes, unfortunately without success.  He has a great summary of his MS work in his open farewell letter.  He has yet to announce his next project.

Also related to Microsoft Set top boxes, Dick Craddock has come on board with Hotmail as the Front Door Development manager (we call the servers which host all the chrome and features for Hotmail the “Front Door” machines because users enter through the front door).  Back in 1998 when Microsoft bought Hotmail the Mac Internet client team (IE and OE) in San Jose was kind of cut in two as many people went “downstairs” to work on the newly acquired service.  Dick took the reigns and I had the pleasure of reporting to him for a time.  Dick moved buildings along with the Mac IE team and went to work on Ultimate TV and then onto other MS TV products.  Now, almost six years later, I get a chance to work with him again.  Dick's migration is 100% upside for Hotmail.

I moved from the Mac group to Hotmail in '98.  Kristin, who used to report to me as a tester, joined later.  Omar, who first came to MS as an intern in my team, is now a lead here.  Dick, to whom I used to report, is now a dev manager here.  Hey, the world does revolve around me!




Play with some cool toys courtesy of Microsoft Research

Tue, 29 Jul 2003 23:58:07 GMT

Cool downloads from smart people thinking of future stuff: MS Research Downloads.