November, 2008

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Morten's Expression Web 2 Learning Resource

    • 2 Comments

    We've introduced Morten Rand-Hendriksen couple of times in this blog and followed his amazing journey from learning Expression Web to a Expression Web expert. Recently, he published his first book titled  "Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 2 in 24 Hours" and his article on "How to create a Pure CSS Drop-Down menu" appeared in November's Expression newsletter. Both the book and the article offers practical tips to web designers and developers on how to effectively create great websites using Expression Web. Check them out and congratulations Morten!

    image

    Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 2 in 24 Hours

    "The book is a quick read and it gives you hour-by-hour instructions on how to create a web site from scratch with Expression Web. And once you’re done, you’ll have a fully working and standards based web site at your disposal. I wrote it as the book I wish someone had written when I started out and from the response I’ve gotten so far people are learning a lot from it. Which is what I set out to do."

    Morten has also created a Reader’s Companion site along with the book where the readers can download lesson files, dive deeper into the world of Expression Web through further reading, find relevant links and interact with other readers. The site is a custom WordPress installation with a highly customized theme designed from scratch using Expression Web 2.


    image How to create a Pure CSS Drop-Down menu

    "In this tutorial you will learn to create a Pure CSS Drop-Down Menu pretty much without writing a single line of code. This is done by harnessing the power of Expression Web’s innovative and intuitive Style dialog as well as the power of CSS as a design and layout tool. What is great about the way Expression Web handles CSS is that it lowers the threshold for learning, understanding, and authoring style code and gives people with little to no experience with this code language the ability to create solid standards-based web sites. The many integrated CSS functions--including the Apply and Manage Styles task panes, the Style dialog and the CSS Properties task pane--give beginners as well as advanced users a multitude of different ways of working with this powerful code language and make it easier than ever to create compelling and functional web sites."

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight FAQ from TechDays

    • 3 Comments

    Thanks for everyone who came out to the Toronto and Montreal TechDays. The three Silverlight sessions in both cities are extremely popular with long line-up of people wanting to ask questions about after the presentations. Robert Burke (Silverlight Samurai Skills presenter in Toronto), Laurent Duveau (Silverlight Samurai Skills presenter in Montreal), and I (presented Silverlight Control Framework) gathered some frequently asked questions below and provide our answers to share with you.

    1. What tools do I need for building Silverlight 2 applications?

    From the design side, you need  Microsoft Expression Blend 2 and then install Microsoft Expression Blend 2 Service Pack 1. Expression Blend 2 along with Service Pack 1 allows designers to graphically create UI's for Silverlight 2 applications. From the development side, you need Visual Studio 2008 SP1 or Visual Web Developer Express with SP1 and download the Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1. For creating Deep Zoom experience, Install Deep Zoom Composer. Also, download Silverlight Toolkit. This Toolkit is a Microsoft project containing Silverlight controls, components and utilities that can be downloaded and used in your Silverlight applications. It includes full source code, samples and tests.

    2. How does Silverlight deal with multiple paged applications?

    Think about SL applications more like desktop applications in the sense that a new page can be created dynamically in runtime. The implementation is quite simple: you create your different pages as page1 (.xaml and .xaml.cs), page2, page3, … , and then create a Page Switcher (i.e. it`s the initial start page) so that it can load different pages as necessary. This way not all pages need to be created at the beginning, and when a new page replaces an old page in the Page, the old page goes to garbage collection.  Watch a tutorial on Using Multiple Pages.

    3. Do I need special servers to host Silverlight applications?

    No. SL applications are complied as .xap file which is essentially a zip file and can be hosted on any server.

    4. Expression Training for Designers?

    Yes. There are quite a few online tutorials for designers. Please see my Expression Resource blog post.

    5. How is Silverlight different than Flash?

    Using Silverlight, you can created similar experience as Flash on the web. However, there are several areas of experience we demonstrated at this year`s MIX conference that would be very hard to build with Flash.  First is the rich interactive Olympic media experience that was delivered using Silverlight by NBC in August. Flash doesn't have the adaptive streaming capabilities to host that type of experience. Second is the Deep Zoom experience that comes with Silverlight 2, which is very hard to achieve using Flash.

    Second, Silverlight is part of our UX platform, which spans from Windows to the Web, and include emerging surfaces such as the media/living room (Xbox360, Media Center PC), as well as mobile devices. Each of these platforms has shared capabilities and development tooling, but greatly different performance and integration characteristics. Similar to developing Windows based desktop application, Silverlight apps can be developed using the same tools - Expression Studio and Visual Studio. Thus, Windows designers and developers can easily transfer their skills to develop Silverlight applications

    Third, designers and developers can work together building Silverlight apps more effectively using the integration between Expression and Visual Studio. The "secret sauce" to the process is XAML which provides the ability for both designers and developers to work on assets with the two tools with little to know re-work as the assets are passed back and forth between the two roles.  The most interesting thing about Designers for SL is that your vector based graphics and layout are immediately "ready" for use by the dev's and will look exactly the way they were designed in the final product.

    Lastly, the intent of Silverlight is not to replace Flash, but rather provide a choice for designers and developers. Silverlight control can interact with Flash controls with JavaScript. Expression tools can work with adobe tools together to create compelling UX as well. For example, in Expression Design, designers can import Adobe Illustrator files and images files from Photoshop into a workspace and then export as XAML.

    6. What about Silverlight and SEO ?

    You can use some Search Engine Optimization techniques to expose Silverlight content to search engines. You can read the following links to find out more.
    http://blogs.msdn.com/synergist/archive/2007/10/03/simple-silverlight-seo-with-asp-net-and-xslt.aspx
    http://www.nikhilk.net/AjaxSEO.aspx


    7. Can I use ADO.NET in Silverlight ?

    ADO.NET is not available in Silverlight and it makes sense as Silverlight runs in the browser. The way you manage data with Silverlight is by creating a model over your db on the server and expose it with web services. You can look at this ADO.NET Data Services example.
    http://wildermuth.com/2008/11/08/New_Silverlight_2_ADO_NET_Data_Service_Example


    8. Would you recommend Silverlight for line of business application ?

    Silverlight has everything you need to do data driven apps: data controls like DataGrid, rich Networking (WCF, SOAP Web Service, REST, ...), LINQ, Data Binding.
    The question is more on who your users are (Win, MAC, Linux ?) and where they are (Internet, Intranet ?).
    You can read more on this blog post for more information:
    http://wildermuth.com/2008/06/26/Silverlight_and_Line_of_Business_Applications


    9. Is ASP.NET dead ???

    No!!! Silverlight is not a replacement for ASP.NET and both technologies have different goals. Silverlight is a cross browser, cross platform plug-in for building rich interactive application inside the browser. ASP.NET runs on the server and needs the .NET Framework as well as Microsoft IIS web server. Aspx pages generate html in the browser, you can add richness with AJAX (JavaScript). ASP.NET offers high level services (Membership, Role, Profile) not yet available in Silverlight. In fact ASP.NET can nicely complement Silverlight!


    10. Can you set/read cookies in Silverlight ?

    Silverlight runs in a sandbox and do not have access to local files on the client. To store app settings, user preferences or small pieces of data you can use Isolated Storage: http://silverlight.net/learn/learnvideo.aspx?video=65677

    11. Compare Silverlight vs WPF XBAP

    XBAP (XAML Browser Application) allows you to run Rich Internet Applications that look and function like WPF desktop applications in browsers (IE and Firefox on Windows). A restriction on XBAP is that it needs .NET framework 3.0 or higher to be installed on the client machine to run.

    XBAP:

    • Only Targets IE and Firefox on Windows
    • All WPF Features/controls are available
    • Supports 3D
    • Deployment is harder as we need to take care of deploying all .Net Dependencies on client Machines
    • Heavy Weight
    • Better for Intranet Applciations

    Silverlight:

    • Cross browser, cross platform
    • Subset of WPF features
    • Easy deployment (xap packages) and light Weight
    • Better for Internet Applications

    12. Can you store .NET objects in Isolated Storage ?

    Yes you can write any .NET object or collection in the local cache and read(cast) them later. However, remember avoid saving sensitive data like passwords or connection strings as user can get access to these files.


    13. Is there any reporting control with Silverlight 2 ?
    There is no Reporting component in Silverlight but you can use the new charts controls in the Silverlight Toolkit.

    Robert Burke's Blog: http://robburke.net/

    Laurent Duveau's Blog: http://weblogs.asp.net/lduveau/

    Thanks, Qixing

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - AnnA Docherty

    • 1 Comments

    There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for November 2008 is AnnA Docherty! Congratulations!! Let's hear from AnnA.

     AnnA

    Who is AnnA?

    I am a fourth year Industrial Design student from the University of Alberta. Right now I am taking a year off from school and working as a product design intern for Umbra in Toronto. My focus in industrial design is on product and furniture design. I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in the objects that we use everyday. A fun fact about me is that I have a Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe tattooed on my back.

    What cool things is AnnA working on?

    At Umbra I have several products that are being considered for production. One of the pieces is a solid wood side table that flat packs without using any fasteners for construction. The design is for Umbra’s U+ line and will hopefully be available for June 2009. This is an interesting piece in terms of user experience since it uses real wood joints such as mortise and tenons instead of screws or fasteners. It flat packs and the user simply slides the pieces together to make the table. The table is developed on the principle of thin living. It can be used in a number of applications and incorporates two functional table tops and storage while occupying a relatively small footprint of space.

    What are AnnA’s plans after graduation?

    After I finish my undergraduate degree I will probably continue on to a masters program in industrial design. I have been looking at a few schools internationally, I would like to go abroad to gain a wider and richer perspective on design. I believe that design is as much about the designer as it is the object that is being designed. In order to have successful products and designs, a designer must have a clear division of themselves so that they can embody this in a tangible and visible form in their work. Design will therefore be derived from the culmination of experiences and understanding of the world of the designer.

    Want to learn more about AnnA?

    Visit www.theAnnA.ca for more information on AnnA.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    December Silverlight User Group Meeting

    • 1 Comments

    image

    This is the last Silverlight user group meeting of the year. Hope to see you all there!

    Time: 6:30PM, Tuesday December 2nd, 2008.

    Location: MSN Office Downtown Toronto, 222 Bay St. Toronto, ON

    Agenda:

    6:30 – 7:30: Animations and Databinding in Blend - by Dan Borkowski & David Stubbs

    • Creating dependency properties in code to databind
    • Visual databinding in Blend
    • Animations in Blend

    7:30 – 7:45: Break
    7:45 – 8:45: Silverlight within SharePoint - by Sean Hopen

    • Overview of developing web parts for use in SharePoint - Benefits of using Silverlight in a SharePoint implementation

    8:45 - 9:30: Q&A

    Prizes: Silverlight 2 books, Expression Studio 2, and Visual Studio 2008 copies.

    Register at: http://www.torontosilverlight.com

    Speakers Bio

    Dan Borkowski (Infusion) Dan is a software consultant at Infusion Development. He has worked on enterprise desktop and web applications as well as POCs and demos using the latest and greatest Microsoft Technologies - .NET 3.5, WPF, Silverlight, SQL server. Dan has been working with Blend and Silverlight for about a year, since the early days of 2.0 beta1 and expanded his knowledge by working with WPF. In his latest projects, he has been heavily utilizing Blend to take care of animations using triggers and the VSM as well as exploring the 3D aspect of controls and animations while working with Microsoft Surface.

    David Stubbs (Infusion) David is an User Experience Designer at Infusion Development. He has worked on WPF, Surface, and Silverlight projects. His area of concentration is Design, however he has also been venturing into the world of code more and more, and as such has come to understand a lot of the underpinnings of XAML and C#. David has been working with Blend/WPF for 4 months and has been doing everything from full 3d, to interactive Silverlight demos. He has had a chance to touch on many things such as the VSM, Animation, Layout, and general Blend/Silverlight nuances.

    Sean Hopen (New Toronto Group) Sean has been developing software for the last 25 years. And is now a Senior Consultant for the New Toronto Group. He has lead development teams working on desktop, client server, and multi-tier internet applications for Health, Financial and Education sectors. SharePoint development with a Silverlight focus is his current area of concentration.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Bringing UX to Developers - .NET Users Group Presentation

    • 1 Comments

    I had the opportunity to present at the Metro Toronto .NET User Group last Wednesday. Even it was the first snow of the winter in GTA, but there were still more than 40 people showed up to listen to my talk on "Building for People: 5 Practical Tips for Creating Great User Experience." I was very excited about the presentation because it was my first time to conduct a pure UX talk to a developer audience. I've been presenting about Microsoft UX platform, stories, and tools to designer audience in the past year, so it was an exciting challenge for me to see how I can talk about UX design to developers that resonates to them.

    Thanks for everyone's positive encouragement and feedback! I learnt using practical and interactive approach to present UX topics to developers worked. I'll continue improve the presentation and bringing UX to more developers. Below are my presentation slides and a summary of the talk.

    Presentation Summary:

    • What is UX? "User Experience Design is all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is perceived, learned, and used." - wikipedia It's more than skin deep, so UX doesn't equal to User Interface. UX matters to many aspects of the product that software developers and architects care such as performance, security, reliability, and much more. The key UX elements are: Usability, Usefulness, Efficiency, Adaptability, and Desirability.
    • Why Bother? It’s hard enough to just get the things done and functional, much less make it have good UX. Because
      • Experience Defines the Product not functionality. The ROI of UX design is great.
      • A focus on UX will help you better address functional requirements: build the right thing, prioritize functions, improve users’ efficiency and accuracy when using your software
      • The final user experience is determined by:
        • What the developers can build in the time available
        • What the developers can be bothered building
        • How well User-Centred Design practice is integrated in the development cycle
        • What the developers understands of the User Interface specification
    • How? So how do I, as a developer/architect, create good experiences for my users?
      • Understand and embrace user-centred design process. Integrate the process into your existing software development cycle.
      • You don't need a degree in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), but there are lightweight UX practice you can do now such as
        • keep an eye on popular applications and websites to see what makes them popular
        • Research and study couple of fundamental books in UX
        • Use UX principles and patterns
        • Remember the following 5 tips
          • Know your users. You are not the user, and most of the times your clients are not the users either. Your users are the people who will ultimately use the software your are building. Spend time to find out what they know and need. Don't let your ego get in the way.
          • Reduce concepts to increase confidence. Minimize the number of choices presented at any given time.
          • Communicate effectively through a visual language. Think about whether if a concept communicate better visually than text. Use as few different typefaces and sizes as possible. Follow simple visual design principles: Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity.
          • Increase efficiency when possible. Reduce the number of steps to accomplish a task.
          • Be Consistent. Conventions are good, use consistent language, follow the users expectation, and let users existing skills transfer. Remember innovate only when you know you really have a better idea, but take advantages of conventions when you don’t.
    • Resources
  • Canadian UX Blog

    WIT at TechDays Toronto

    • 2 Comments

    image Women in Technology at TechDays Toronto by Barnaby Jeans. DSCN0050

    Thanks to all the ladies who joined us at the Women in Technology (WIT) Connection Area at Techdays in Toronto! It was our pleasure to meet everyone.  This was the first time we had a networking area and it gave us an opportunity to hear from you. We really appreciate everyone's participation and would like to share the notes we captured during our conversations.

    The main challenges for women in technology

    • Mentoring and guidance are important to help women going through different stages in their careers but also in their life. However, it is so difficult to find women in the technical field to connect and get support.
    • There is a need for networking platform. This connection area idea is excellent. It would be great to have this at other technical events.
    • There is a need to balance difference aspects of life. Flexible hours is important for this.
    • Women typically don’t ask (promotion, salary increase, etc). It would be great to get them feel comfortable about selling what they do.
    • There is a tendency on not to speak up about the challenges as it might be difficult for others to relate to these challenges.

    Why did we choose IT?

    • Technology itself is an international language and it enables people to have a job wherever they want. If you would like to live in different parts of the world, technology is the best industry to be in.
    • Analytical skills and being good at math
    • Very positive perception about IT in India
    • It helps to feel confident and it is great to be called as “cool Mom!” or “Ms Gates”
    • “While keeping up with the technology, I feel like I am being a good role model who values learning all the time”

    What do people think about the WIT connection area at TechDays?

    • It is an excellent idea and it is important to get together. It helps women to talk about the challenges, exchange ideas and share insights.
    • This has been extremely helpful and it would be great to have a discussion forum to continue this discussion.
    • “This discussion helped me to see clearly that I am not alone or I am not the only one who has these challenges”
    • “This is a great initiative; it is great to become part of it”
    • “I have a very shy personality but the connection area gives me the opportunity to learn from others. I feel like I can make a difference”

    Other Women in Technology Activities in Toronto:

    Both of these groups are fantastic and helps you network with other women in IT.

    Feedback around the event

    • This event has been fantastic to get the knowledge around what is possible with new technologies
    • Great speakers and demos. It is great to see how we can do things
    • Looking at new technology and learning where the resources are extremely helpful.
    • It would be great to see follow-ups and have sessions in more technical details
    • Time management at the event is very good. Thanks to Rick!
    • Getting introduced to new technologies is very valuable as it helps to make the business case
    • The sessions are very informative
    • Microsoft needs to focus on vitalization more as companies are moving onto consolidation of their servers
    • It is sometimes intimidating to ask question in front of all these people, it would be great to have an online Q&A section and we can submit the questions.

    This is just the beginning of our WIT conversation. For the challenges we face as women in IT, it's very important to learn from each other and work together to overcome these challenges. If you want to share your advise on how to deal with these challenges, feel free to comment on the blog or send your thoughts to me and Cigdem directly. Again, it was so nice to meet everyone and we had a lot of fun chatting with you all.

    Cigdem (Pronounced “Chee-dam”): cigdemc (at) microsoft.com

    Qixing (pronouced as "Chi-shing"): qixing.zheng (at) microsoft.com

  • Canadian UX Blog

    TechDays à Montréal

    • 1 Comments

    3007412891_a161a92824_bBonjour Montréal ! C'est Philippe Riel, Directeur des communications stratégiques, marchés francophones.

     

    L’équipe de Microsoft est en ville cette semaine pour la conférence TechDays, tenue au Palais des Congrès.

    C’est l’événement de l’année pour la communauté des développeurs québécois et tous les professionnels des TI de la province. Au programme, d’excellents ateliers animés par nos cracks de la technologie comme Christian Beauclair, Pierre Romain, Georges Maheu, Éric Renaud, François Tanguay, Joël Quimper et Laurent Duveau, entre autres, qui partagent leurs connaissances techniques sur 5 sujets principaux : Développement Windows, Développement Web, Virtualisation, Plateforme Microsoft/Veille stratégique et Infrastructure. DSC_5686

    Les participants ont reçu une trousse de logiciels d’une valeur de plus de 1 000 $, comprenant entre autre les versions complètes de Expressions Web, Visual Studio 2008 et l’inscription pour 6 mois à TechNet Plus, le tout bien empaqueté dans une boîte de Techie Crunch !

    Pour ma part, je suis fier de constater les progrès réalisés par la compagnie au cours des dernières années au point de vue des communications françaises : une large partie des ateliers et des présentations sont effectuées en français et toutes sont produites avec traduction simultanée pour les auditeurs. C’est un grand pas pour nous :-)

    De plus, les présentations seront éventuellement postées sur techdays.ca, pour ceux qui n’auront pas eu l’occasion d’assister aux TechDays en personne.

    Voici la première vague qui se conclut à l’instant et mon ami Joël s’apprête à aller charmer la foule avec sa propre présentation – je vous quitte donc là-dessus.

    TechDays Learning KitDSC_5675

    À bientôt !

    Philippe

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Election Ballots Design

    • 1 Comments

    image 
    The above figure is taken from Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Election

    As the whole world is waiting for who's going to be the next US president, I came across this interesting interview on ballet design and usability this morning. I learnt a lot about the history and design thinking went behind designing election ballots, and hopefully there's no "Florida recount" again.

    Below are some highlights I found particularly interesting from the interview:

    • The design specifications for printed ballots are published by the US Election Assistance Commission called Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections
    • "How difficult has it been to get legislators and politicians to understand the value of design and usability? Some of the problems are the same in the public and private sectors. How do I fit this into my already-tight election cycle? How do I get design and usability for free (or for cheap)? What if there are hideous things that I don’t have time to fix? In the end, it comes down to two things: a) the possibility of getting bad press; and b) how much will it cost if something goes wrong and we have to do recounts (which usually also involve multiple law suits)."
    • "What can designers and usability experts do to help support improving ballots in the future? Sign up to be poll workers. It is estimated that 2 million poll workers will be needed for the election on November 4. There’s nothing like observing real people use a design in real time. Take note of the types of questions voters ask."
    • And lastly the tragic failure example at a voting booth is hilarious: Voting a completely empty ballot on an electronic machine because the touches on the screen did not register. When we asked the participant how confident she was that she voted as she intended, she said she was very confident. When we asked her if she had noticed that the things she touched on the screen did not change color (as the instructions said they would, as she had read aloud to us), she said, “That’s the way computers work.”

    Check out the full interview conducted by Scott Berkun.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 2

    • 1 Comments

    Note:  This is the second post in a three post series on succeeding as a professional in IT during a recession.

    Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

    IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

    Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog posts.  This post, the second in the series, will focus on Retaining Momentum for Established Business in a Recession.

    Retaining Momentum for an Established Business in a Recession

    Staying ahead of the curve as a business in this economy is really tough.  Cost cutting is a common theme and finding ways of doing more with less is becoming more and more a way of life.

    Development Tools

    Microsoft's tools and platform are built to streamline the process of building great solutions.  Visual Studio 2008, for example, allows development teams (including application developers, architects, testers and DBAs) to collaborate on projects as well as deliver the solution more quickly. 

    Collaboration and Line of Business

    Our server software allows you to potentially save costs that are traditionally associated with day-to-day business.  A great example of this would be our Unified Communications platform.  Business travel is something that will never go away, but our Unified Communications solution with technologies such as LiveMeeting and Office Communicator, can reduce the need for employees to travel.  You can also manage your telephony infrastructure with Unified Communications as it is VoIP-enabled.

    Another platform that may surprise you with respect to increasing the productivity of employees is the Office 2007 platform.  There are two aspects of this - desktop and server. 

    The server components include Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (with the unfortunate acronym of MOSS) and Microsoft Exchange.  Sharepoint provides an enterprise-ready content management and collaboration platform that allows your employees to access the most up-to-date information and share ideas with others.  Microsoft Exchange gives employees access to email literally anywhere and anytime.  Regardless of location, employees have access to email on their desktop (using a mail client such as Outlook 2007), securely over the internet (through Outlook Web Access or OWA) and through mobile devices such as smartphones.  The agility that these two server products offer allows employees to be agile and respond to business opportunities quickly.

    The desktop component includes Microsoft Office 2007.  Microsoft offers a number of versions of the Office 2007 suite to fit your business needs.  That way you are not required to pay for functionality you don't necessarily require.  It also is extremely customizable.  With the introduction of Office Business Applications (OBA for short), you can now seamlessly integrate backoffice data into Microsoft Office.  This is extremely valuable as it allows employees to access and manipulate data using familiar tools (such as Excel), reducing training requirements and potentially reducing complexity in data transfer processes by eliminating some third party applications for things like reporting.

    Manageability

    Virtualization is a concept that is continuing to pick up steam.  Microsoft's virtualization strategy focuses on five areas:  server/hardware virtualization, application virtualization, storage virtualization, desktop virtualization and presentation virtualization. Microsoft's solutions in each of these areas is focused on allowing businesses to reduce bottom-line costs through a number of ways, including:

    • rationalizing the amount of hardware required to run line of business applications
    • lowering the number of installed software products on desktops
    • increasing the manageability of servers and desktops from a central location

    Microsoft System Center is another administrative tool that can help manage adminstrative costs associated to IT.  While associated to our virtualization strategy, it offers a number of benefits to IT departments including:

    • Configuration Management:  Allows IT departments to centrally manage the configuration and provisioning of software to the company in a controlled manner
    • Compliance:  Central management of all servers with respect to ensuring compliance to policies driven by the business (such as security policies) as well as other compliance pressures such as regulatory compliance (e.g.:  SOX, HIPAA, FISMA, etc.)
    • Monitoring:  Ability to monitor the health of servers from a centralized location and alert administrators when an issue arises
    • Data Protection:  manage the backup and recovery processes for multiple servers in a systematic fashion, both for physical and virtualized environments

    Windows Vista

    I'll admit it - Windows Vista has been getting hit hard with FUD around its value as a desktop operating system.  The interesting thing is that there is much evidence to the contrary that states that businesses that use Windows Vista actually have a lower TCO than those that use other desktop operating systems (including Windows XP).  For example, a whitepaper published by Wipro and GCR Custom Research titled Reducing the TCO with Windows Vista states that the average cost savings vs. Windows XP for mobile notebooks deployed within an organization is $251 per notebook.

    It's also the most secure operating system Microsoft has produced.  Loss of data through theft, subversion or even accidental data loss is expensive and also poses potential costs associated with it including fines (in the case of privacy breaches) as well as loss of reputation.  The Windows Vista One-Year Vulnerability Report shows "that researchers found and disclosed significantly fewer vulnerabilities in Windows Vista than either it predecessor product, Windows XP, or other operating systems such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and Apple Mac OS X 10.4" (page 19 of the report). 

    Finally, with increasing costs associated to energy (and even if energy prices may be relaxing somewhat from all-time highs), technologies that reduce their energy footprint are certainly useful in reducing costs associated with IT.  To that end, many people don't realize that Windows Vista's enhanced sleep mode features and smart use of power can save a surprising amount of money in the form of energy savings.  A white paper from Microsoft outlines some of the potential savings and on page 6 of the report states that a typical Pentium IV running Windows Vista with a 17" LCD monitor can save $55.63 per year compared to the same PC running Windows XP.

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Your satisfaction matters...and it’s clear that we need to do better!

    • 1 Comments

    Hi Everyone,

    In the sprit of being transparent and building connections, I thought I would share my teams mandate and goals with you.  My team is responsible for one key goal in Canada and that is to build your trust and support you in a manner in which to earn your satisfaction with Microsoft.   We don’t  focus on revenue and we don’t have any utilization targets...twice a year there are two surveys that go out to measure our impact.  They are sent out in an online manner usually in the fall and early spring.  One survey focuses on developers and the other on IT pros.   Success to us is earning your trust and for you to feel comfortable to express that you are very satisfied with your relationship with Microsoft. 

    Now, this isn’t an easy goal and there’s a lot that inputs into the results, some of which we can control in Canada and some that we in which we need be your ambassador within Microsoft.  We just got the latest results back and it seems we have some work to do.   To make sure we are doing the right things we need your help in understanding how we can better serve you and support your success.  The IT pro satisfaction numbers are flat and the developer numbers have shown a decline.  These are trailing indicators and while we’ve adjusted our current plan based upon your previous feedback, we want to make sure what we are doing is reaching you in a positive manner.  It’s very important to me and my team to earn your trust and understand how to help.  The recent broad postive feedback on TechDays, AlignIT and other programs give me comfort that we are on the right track…yet when it comes to your satisfaction we don’t want to take anything for granted.  clip_image002

    So, to better gauge and understand where and how you as a Technical Professional (IT Professional, Developer, Architect or IT Manager for example) find what you need to support you in your role we’d like to invite you to share with us where you find I.T. ? 

    Microsoft Canada is conducting a brief 10-15 minute online survey to gain these learnings.  We want to ensure that we are driving and delivering information that is of the highest value to you to the right location.  With your participation, we’ll also be able to better understand how Technical Professionals like yourself consume various types of technical information so we can make certain resources you need are readily available.  Please if you have some time give us some feedback and then sign up up for the MSDN/Technet newsletter as I want to make sure that we also share this information out broadly back to you.

      clip_image001

      Please feel free to contact me directly as my email door is always open ..... john.oxley@microsoft.com

      See you across Canada!

      John

    • Canadian UX Blog

      Happy World Usability Day!

      • 1 Comments

        image

      Happy World Usability Day everyone! This year's theme is "Transportation." There are tons of webcasts on the World Usability Day website and a message from Bill Gates. We have the following WUD events in Canada. Listen to a webcast or attending an event near you. Let's celebrate!!

      • Canadian UX Blog

        Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 3

        • 1 Comments

        Note:  This is the third post in a three post series on succeeding as a professional in IT during a recession.

        Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

        IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

        Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog posts.  In this third and final post in the series, I will focus on Launching a Start-Up Business in a Recession.

        Launching a Start-Up Business in a Recession

        Yesterday a conference for Start-Ups called Startup Empire was held in Toronto.  Microsoft was one of the sponsors of the event and my colleague David Crow, a bit of a rockstar in the Canadian startup community, was one of the organizers.

        The tone of this conference was a bit different than your typical startup event, mainly because of the shape our global economy is in.  That being said, it's interesting to note that the speakers at this conference see great opportunities for startups to thrive in a situation like this, but you need to be ready to fail, too..

        My boss, Mark Relph, also notes some wise learnings for startups that are especially relevant in tough times like this.  Things like:

        I'd also add that finding the right industry vertical is important.  For example, while anything is possible, I'd argue as of today that a startup focusing on the retail industry is gambling in dangerous territory.  Launching a start-up in a more recession-resistant industry like healthcare or education (regardless of the economy, people will always need medical services and schools will always be open) may make more sense.  Something to keep in mind.

        From a Microsoft perspective, there's some exciting things that we provide to start-ups to help them build their dream solution.  The first is BizSpark.

        BizSpark is Microsoft's premier initiatives to help get start-ups off the ground.  The details about BizSpark can be found in this document, but in a nutshell, it provides Microsoft software to build the solution, gives start-ups access to partners and other global support resources and visibility on Microsoft sites like StartupZone and the BizSparkDB which potential customers can use to view solutions that might fit their needs (i.e.:  it will help you drum up customers).

        Another resource, one that is not strictly for start-ups is the Microsoft Partner Programme (MSPP).  The partner programme offers a great deal of support to companies building solutions on the Microsoft platform, including deeply discounted software in order to build your solution, free training only for partners, co-marketing opportunities and the ability to profile your solutions in the Partner Solution Profiler which customers can search to find solutions that fit their needs, among other things.

        -Paul

        Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

      • Canadian UX Blog

        Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 1

        • 2 Comments

        Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

        IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

        Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog post.  This post, the first in the series, will focus on Personal Success in a Recession.

        Personal Success in a Recession

        Everyone in IT knows that it's tough to keep up to speed with all the new technologies that are being released.  Once you've learned one technology, another always seems to hit the market and gain buzz.

        The trick is to really embrace the idea that learning is a lifelong activity.  The reason why this is so important (especially in times such as these) is because with these new skills you are more marketable.  When there is momentum behind a new technology, you may be better positioned to hit the ground running with the new technology.  A great example of this from the Microsoft perspective is Silverlight.  We are seeing a lot of excitement in the marketplace for it and businesses are really seeing value in it for building interactive visualizations.  This presents great opportunities to you if you are a developer or a designer to expand your skillset and have knowledge of a new, in-demand technology in your toolbox.

        Microsoft provides a number of resources to help you get up to speed more quickly on our platform.  Some are local to Canada and some are worldwide.  Below are some of these resources:

        • TechDays:  TechDays is a Microsoft training conference that is held in cities across Canada.  It focuses on providing in-depth sessions on Microsoft technologies that you can use today.  While the Toronto and Montreal stops of the conference have already past, you can still register for the other cities (Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver).
        • Developer Training:  Through MSDN (Microsoft's primary portal for all things developer on the Microsoft Platform), Microsoft offers a number of Hands-On Labs, webcasts and tutorials for various technologies.
        • Technology Portals:  There are a number of specific portals for various Web and Software + Services technologies that are part of the Microsoft development platform.  Good examples of this include the ASP.NET Portal, the Silverlight Portal and the Windows Client and WPF Portal.
        • Open Source:  Microsoft is often perceived as anti-open source, which is actually completely wrong.  We have a fundamental interoperability strategy that is core to our work.  This also includes CodePlex, which is our open source repository where developers can grab applications and code that exist under open source license.
        • Designers:  Historically, designers were not part of our ecosystem because Microsoft did not have tools that could legitimately support their work.  With the advent of Silverlight and WPF, we introduced Expression Studio 2 years ago to give designers the ability to create truly interactive applications on the web and on Windows.  Accompanying this is our Expression portal which provides great information on the Expression suite of tools as well as tutorials, forums and online training.
        • Free Tools:  In addition to training materials and information, we also offer some great free tools that are good to help you learn our platform as well as the ability to create software solutions that are royalty-free from a Microsoft perspective.  These tools, known as the Express set of tools include Visual Web Developer 2008 Express (for building ASP.NET websites and Silverlight applications), Visual C# 2008 Express (for building desktop applications with C# as well as C# class libraries), Visual Basic 2008 Express (for building desktop applications in VB as well as VB class libraries), Visual C++ 2008 Express (for building managed and non-managed desktop applications as well as C++ class libraries) and SQL Server 2008 Express (our free version of the SQL Server 2008 database system)

        -Paul

        Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

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