I’m thinking of abandoning Office365

I’ve started thinking of abandoning Office365, and what I would need to do in order to replace what little remaining functionality there is.

  • Outlook design is too flat, and even the Outlook.com web interface is richer, with more contrast, colors and just as easy to work in. (In fact easier since it’s way much faster in responding)
  • Using contacts in Outlook 2016 is horrible, the old dialog box for adding details is gone, replaced with some flat strangeness, and even more important, to add pictures to my Outlook-contacts I still need to edit contact details through a web browser.
  • Beyond Outlook I’m mainly using OneNote. The rare few times I use Word and Excel are easily counted. And OneNote is free.

That leaves OneDrive as the key factor for safekeeping all my photos and documents. And while I could place them on my NAS the whole point of OneDrive was to have them roaming, available anywhere and safe offsite in case anything would happen to my home computers.

I’m thinking whether any other service could replace this, on the other hand that would mean I’d need to pick and choose software all over again, when all I wanted was one working bundle. But when the bundle goes in the direction of working less and less as needed it gets slightly frustrating.

I’m not sure it will happen yet, but it needs thinking about.

And there is still at least one glitch in a complete move to web-only, in that Outlook.com doesn’t support having contacts in iCloud. Which would mean I’d need to migrate entirely to iCloud email as well, which is really too much work in the way of updating my contact information across all places where I’ve used it.

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Office 2016 was released today

Office 2016 was released today and I didn’t have the patience to wait for any automatic upgrades to kick in, so I logged in to my account page and launched the installation from there (with the added benefit that the page finally updated itself to show correct OS-version, previously it kept insisting I was still running Windows 8.1 even though I upgraded to Windows 10 as soon as it was released).

So far there’s not much to say, installation worked smoothly, launching Outlook and OneNote with retained settings and, well… if not the color schemes I had hoped for, then at least more color and more contrast.

Beyond that I’ve yet to experiment with the new online apps which are not downloaded, namely “Sway” and “Docs.com” which are linked from the Office365 homepage.

Sway at first glance looked like an enhanced Powerpoint-meets-Wordpress storyline kind of thing. Quite nice and possibly something I’ll test out more later on.

Docs.com I’ve still to understand what it really is, it requires a separate registration, so is it part of Microsofts Live.com or not? And it offers unlimited free space, how does that compete with OneDrive, and if it’s true what use do I have for a paid Office365 subscription? But I don’t think it’s actually free, few things are and they often come with commercials and ads instead, and then I prefer the small cost of my subscription.

But I still want more color schemes. (Preferrably the dark red one from outlook.com!)

Cloud sync at its worst

Since upgrading to Windows 10 I’ve been playing one of the free car-games from the Store.

It’s free so I can’t really expect too much, but it’s still interesting to note how much wrong things could go. So here’s the story so far.

I started playing on one of my computers, the first one upgraded. There were a few annoying errors in regards to Xbox sync failures but I ignored them. One profile, one computer.
The profile with all its achievements did get overwritten every now and then if I chose the wrong profile at start, dumping be back down to level 1 from wherever I had gotten, and that started to get slightly annoying.

So i tried contacting the game support, but there was never any answer. Which led me to the game’s forum instead. There was a separate thread where people could post unanswered ticket numbers (and maybe support would find that and get back to them, the thread seemed inconclusive, so I ignored that option).

There was also frequently mentioned that the Xbox sync was flawed and you should instead rely on Facebook sync. I decided to give that a try and linked the game to my Facebook account.

Lo and behold, the errors on the first computer vanlished, and the game nicely kept one profile, even telling me every now and then that “synchronization is complete”. Leading you to believe your profile was safe and sound “somewhere in the cloud”.

Meanwhile my two daughters had started playing as well, and I had gotten round to upgrading the second computer so we now could play against each other. So we’re talking 3 persons on 2 computers, 6 accounts. This is where cloud sync would be really nice. If it had worked.

Alas, all did not work as intended. First of all even though both my accounts were logged in successfully to both Xbox and Facebook and both were telling me they were happily syncing to the cloud, the content of the two profiles was completely different. Still at this time stable even though different.

Now, after the girls started playing, and they’re 6 and 9 and don’t speak english so they’re trying to guess which profile to use, mostly the right one, but sometimes things go wrong and there’s lots of tears for having lost all cars and stuff and having to replay from start what took days to achieve.

The worst part is still what seems as though the game keeps some kind of local cache or copy of the progress somewhere in some shared folder where everyone can access it. I’m not sure of the game’s inner working (nor do I want to be) but the effect is one of mayhem.

At present we’re constantly overwriting each other’s profiles, most visible when someone gets the wrong player icon and looses all cars, more smiles though when someone who’s been at level 1 suddenly can choose to jump up to level 10 or 20 at login. But still mayhem. Also, it makes me wonder where all those successful synchronizations go…?

This does not seem to be the way cloud sync should work, and does not inspire much trust in doing actual purchases of new things with real currency if you can’t even keep the things you’ve purchased for in-game levelled up virtual currency.

The game in itself is quite fun though, nice cars, nice tracks, easy to play both as adult and with my kids. If only you didn’t have to start over all the time. Again and again, and again…

“There is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer”

Restorations and cloud sync

I had to spend last wednesday evening doing a kind of system restore.

OneDrive had finally gone completely bananas, and insisted on stating there was no internet connection, meanwhile sync still worked properly, except the indexing engine consumed all disk capacity on the boot drive, and huge loads of CPU as well.

First I tried a system restore, since I also had a problem with DirectX or the NVidia graphics drivers, where especially CoD:AW continually crashed a few times every day.
That didn’t help at all and actually made things worse since Dropbox stopped working after the restore. Which led to an rollback of the system restore and brought me back to where I was, with the same OneDrive problems unfortunately.

Next attempt was simply to delete my user profile, which felt somewhat risky since it had grown to 175 GB, but all data was supposed to be safe in the cloud so… to boldly go…!

Profile deleted, account needed to be deleted as well, and then re-created, then I could login without errors, and lo! OneDrive started working properly!

And surprisingly much else just started working right out of the box. Steam did not even glitch, some icons for Password Safe and Dropbox went missing but all data was there, even favorites in Firefox since I’m using XMarks. So far the only thing I really have found not working was the start page, plugins and settings in Firefox, and since these could be quite a pain to restore I took a shortcut and exported the whole Firefoxprofile from another computer and loaded, which worked nicely.

It took a few hours for OneDrive to fully resync itself, but apart from the waiting time all now seems fine so I guess it was worth it. If only I could now find the cause or solution for the DirectX error as well.

Tech-Ed 2013, Madrid

Tech-Ed 2013, Madrid

I attended this years Tech-Ed. This first post is only a handful of the pictures taken on the town and at the sessions, after vacation I will try to summarize the best of what was said and done. For now the main impression and message is that the future is in the cloud, with Office 365 and Azure, and with new mobile devices, running on Windows 8.

(Speaking of which I got a much more favorable impression of the new Surface Pro tablets, and Windows 8 laptops, than the feeling I got from my Surface RT, still “first impressions last” so I remain slightly skeptic for a while still before fully embracing all the news)

Another major news was of course the announcement of the Microsoft-Oracle partnership, allowing and supporting Oracle servers and solutions onto the MS Azure cloud. This will be really interesting to use.

Tech-Ed, Madrid, juni 2013I also particularly liked the second keynote (titled “Windows is the future”), really impressive display of features and functionality as well as some nice new devices.

Windows is the future, Tech-Ed, Madrid, juni 2013On the way home from the sessions I took a small detour to watch the “Porta de Europa” monument. The diners didn’t open until 9 in the evening anyway so there were a few hours between conference end and the possibility to get something to eat.

Porta de Europa, Madrid, juni 2013Also seen every day from the bus between the hotel and the conference hall was Palacio de Comunicaciones at Plaza de Cibeles, I believe this was some town ministry house. Really nice design.

Palacio de Comunicaciones, Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid, juni 2013Thursday after work I was so tired I just went out and walked a bit in the peace and quiet in Parque del Retiro, the old royal park now open for the public, with its nice lakes and statues.

Parque del Retiro, Madrid, juni 2013And, though some colleagues complained about all the photos of restaurants and other non-work related places, I actually did have to eat every day and sleep in the evenings, and I chose not to go to Burger King every day, so naturally I did catch a few nice photos of the surrounding locations.

Casa de Campo, Madrid, juni 2013

A house with a wall of plants, from nearby the Museo Nacional de Prado

Madrid, Juni 2013

A church, also nearby the Museo Nacional de Prado

Madrid, juni 2013

And restaurant La Pesquera, where the country gatherings were held (for Denmark, this year being the first I wasn’t there as Norwegian… :))

Restaurant La Pesquera, Madrid, juni 2013

And last, quite surprisingly, I was able to take all of my notes using my Surface RT, using OneNote and Twitter. So it can actually be used quite ok on travel and to take small notes. As it was now it only lacked corporate email.

Visiting EMC at Cork, Ireland

I was invited on a two-day briefing and tour of the EMC factory in Ireland. Very interesting technology-wise and also quite fun to see the large factory. There must be some impressive logistics behind this setup. Alas, of course no photos allowed beyond the reception.

EMC, Cork, Ireland, juni 2013

On the way to the restaurant we also had the bus driver stop off for a few minutes to do some lightning-fast sightseeing at Charles Fort in Kinsale with its beautiful view of the sea and town below.

Charles Fort, Kinsale, Ireland, juni 2013

Tech-Ed Europe 2013

I am booked for Tech-Ed Europe 2013.

It’s being held in Madrid this year which will be interesting as I’ve never been there before, all my earlier Tech-Ed visits have been to Barcelona, though the latter is a really nice place and I will miss not going there.

It’s also nice considering I had going there in my development plans for the last two years but it was postponed due to too much project activities and lack of time.

Architecturally it’s also very well timed as we’ve just finished our biggest project in many years and I’m free to look for both technologies to fill gaps, ease user pains and increase user friendliness and also look at both Office365 and cloud technologies such as Azure which are “hot topics” right now in the organisation.