On Wednesday, at 10am PST, Messenger 6 went live. We've added some highly-requested features, including:
Astute readers will notice that this list does not include a feature for which we receive a lot of requests: webcams. Mary Starman, our Group Product Manager, posted an article at Mac Mojo about it: Messenger: haves and hA/Ve nots.
I'm in the usability lab this week, so I hope that's enough excuse for being late to this particular party. 24 hours late isn't too bad, right?
I love my job in so many ways. It's cool to work on Mac products, especially ones that millions of people use every day. But it's also pretty nifty to work for Microsoft. There are a lot of perks to working here. I'll wax poetic about most of that some other time.
One of the really cool things about working here is that we see a stream of really cool speakers. The MS Research speaker series alone gets at least ten speakers every month, judging by the email announcements I receive. And down here at this outpost we call SVC, we have our own speaker series.
Today, the speaker at SVC is one that sets my little Mac-lovin' heart a-flutter. Woz is coming here in support of his new book, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon. I was originally scheduled to be on a flight right now, but you know that I just had to change my flights when I got this announcement.
It looks like he's doing a pretty reasonable tour for this new book. Check out his appearance schedule to see if he's coming to your area. (Sorry, but there only appear to be US appearances right now.) And his appearance schedule looks a lot cooler than the average book tour. He's doing The Colbert Report, NPR's Science Friday on Talk of the Nation, something with The History Channel, an appearance at the Commonwealth Club, something at Macworld Expo (yay!!!), and City Arts and Lectures from KQED public radio. So if he's not coming to you, you'll still be able to hear some interesting stuff from him. Science Friday has a podcast, so you can download that and listen.
Because I like you guys, I'll write up a post about seeing Woz in the flesh and post it over at Mac Mojo.
Mac girl seeking Mac people for long-lasting Office relationship.
Mary Starman just posted a great article over in Mac Mojo that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when we meet the press.
I really have no idea how many Canadians work in MacBU. But I did find out that I somehow got upgraded to a usability expert, which is fine by me!
Here's my favourite comment that was posted over at Mac Mojo this week:
It really helps to know that while Microsoft is *as a whole* may be the evil spawn of Satan, there are parts of Microsoft that are at worst merely the adoptive step-spawn of Satan.
Heh. I think that's a comment that our PR folks are never going to run with.
Advance registration for OOPSLA 2006 closes on Friday, 15 September. Take a look over the conference schedule (although you might like the unofficial schedule at a glance better) and the unofficial guide of how to get around OOPSLA. It's in the unofficial guide that I learned how to tell the weather in Portland: if you can see Mount Hood, it's about to rain; if you can't see Mount Hood, it's raining.
Where will you find me at OOPSLA? Oh, I'm glad you asked.
Okay, Saturday's actually a set-up day. But if you come early to get your registration materials, you'll find me there.
Sunday's a busy day for me, but if I can get away from my duties, I like the looks of the Programmers are from Mars, customers are from Venus tutorial. I also like the looks of George Platt's tutorial titled Coherence and Community: Exploring coherence via group problem solving and an overview of team building exercises, but that's a morning tutorial and I doubt that I'll be able to pull myself away in the morning.
Monday's just as busy as Sunday is for me. The Rapidly designing and testing great user interfaces looks good. I'll also poke my head into the dynamic languages symposium and the educator's symposium. The paper in the educator's symposium about writing better use cases looks especially interesting.
Tuesday is when the conference really begins, and concidentally is when I have a lot more free time to actually see the conference. The conference kicks off with Brenda Laurel's keynote address. I cannot wait to hear her talk. Then it's over to the Onward! track to check out a couple of papers: Conscientious Software (the main author of this is the conference chair for OOPSLA 2007) and The Geography of Programming. The latter looks especially interesting: OOP from an Eastern perspective.
In the afternoon, Linda Northrop is giving an invited talk. She was OOPSLA conference chair in 2001, which turned out to be a tougher job than normal, due to the attacks the previous month.
And in the evening, we're having a special reception to honour the memory of John Vlissides. John was OOPSLA conference chair in 2004, and (of course) one of the authors of the seminal Design Patterns. After the reception, there's a special panel with the remaining members of the Gang of Four to talk about the beginnings and future of design patterns.
Wednesday kicks off with a keynote that I suspect might be my favourite: Guy Steele. Then there's Jim Waldo's essay On System Design.
In the afternoon, I'm headed to Friedrich Steimann's essay about the paradoxical success of aspect-oriented programming, although I might swing by the lightning talks first. Then it's off to either the Onward! Films or the practitioner reports about applications crossing the hardware/software boundary. Or I might try to go to the Ruby on Rails: A Kickstart tutorial instead, since I keep on meaning to try out RoR.
The evening is the big reception, which this year will be held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). When I was in Portland for our last committee meeting, we got to go around and tour the facility. We spent just as much time playing with the stuff in OMSI as we did paying attention to the woman giving us the tour. This is such a great place to take a thousand or so geeks.
Usually, the conference winds down on Thursday. I can usually count on being able to go back to my hotel room and crashing by 5pm. Not so this year!
Philip Wadler starts the day off with his keynote about faith, evolution, and programming languages. I haven't heard him speak before, but I keep on hearing great things. Then the Onward! track has me again, this time with the Collaborative Diffusion: Programming Anti-Objects paper. Although the panel about the convergence of XP and scrum also looks interesting. In the afternoon, it's the young guns panel that I really want to see, followed by the most influential paper awards.
One thing that I absolutely love about Microsoft's culture is the concept of dogfood. Dogfood is both a noun and a verb . The basic idea is that, if we produce it, we should use it ourselves so that we know what our users are doing. So I'll refer to PowerPoint dogfood build [whatever] (to specify that I'm currently running the absolute latest build of PowerPoint in all its glory), or I'll say that I'm dogfooding Entourage (so that you know that I'm running the latest and greatest).
Dogfood has its ups and downs. After all, quite a lot of our dogfood is pre-pre-pre-pre-alpha code. In many cases, I'm running things off of our daily builds, which may or may not even launch, let alone be something that I can actually work in. The vast majority of the time they are, sometimes they're not. I'm okay with that because I know what I'm getting into, and I always keep around one build that I know absolutely will work.
Sometimes dogfood happens to you. A couple of weeks ago, I was informed that I would be dogfooding Exchange 2007. Okay, sez I. Exchange is mostly transparent to me, and so long as I receive my email, I'm not sure if there's any way that I could care about what server I'm on. Bring it on.
Of course, this meant that Murphy and his bloody Law set in. I got the particular dogfood build of Exchange that didn't work well with Entourage. You see, I live my life 100% in Entourage. Take a look at my Entourage some day and you'll see what I mean. I've got local folders, and this is where most of my email lives. I keep very little on the Exchange server, since I'm never far from my Mac. I've got projects set up in the Project Centre that help remind me what I'm doing and where I should be. I use categories extensively, and the greatest benefit is that my incoming email is now colour-coded by category of the sender, which means that I can see at a glance what I've got going on. All of these are absolutely essential to my daily life.
When I got the wrong build of Exchange, it's as if the Productivity Fairy came to my office and stopped my life from moving forward. I had to use Outlook on my Windows box. I'm dogfooding Outlook 12, too, and I don't have any particular complaints about it. But it's not Entourage, it's not my home environment, it's not what I know and love. The little things tripped me up, the OS things like the difference between command-C and control-C. I thought I was going to go mad.
Have you ever spent any time in the Outback? I felt like that: they're all speaking the same language, and you're pretty sure that you can understand each individual word that they're saying, but you can't follow what they're saying when they string together all of those individual words.
Today, thanks to the efforts of someone on the Entourage team and someone on the Exchange team, I'm back in Entourage and everything is just working. Thank you for bringing me home. Really. I never realised how much I would miss Entourage, and then one day it just wasn't there. I nearly kissed the screen of my PowerBook when it opened up and Entourage just started downloading my emails.
As I watched my email download, I realised how much I missed Entourage in the week that I lived without it. I wasn't nearly as productive. I forgot to send a status email to my manager, and he gave me some relatively gentle ribbing about forgetting him. I was late to a meeting earlier today because I looked at my not-updated Entourage calendar instead of my Outlook calendar. I felt like I spent the past week just a half-step off from where I should be.
Dear Entourage: I can't live my life without you. Please don't ever leave me again. Love, me.
 We're versatile with our parts of speech, you see. I think this means that there's not a linguist anywhere on our team, or at least I haven't seen anyone crying into their beer over what we do to the language.
Apple's got a profile up on their website about a PowerPoint user. It's called Powers of Persuasion. Attorney Mark Lanier uses PowerPoint:Mac, and has lots of great things to say about it. :D .
Here's my favourite quote from that article:
Lanier soon found that his trusty Mac was valuable not just for saving time in prep, but for showing his best face in trial. "PowerPoint on the Mac has a built-in presentation mode that works so much better for me than the Windows version," he says. "It lets you preview your next slide on your computer screen only, while the current slide is being shown to the jury. And that made a huge difference in enabling me to move seamlessly from slide to slide with complete confidence. Because I always had a visual prompt of the next slide right in front of me, to smooth the transitions."
(Title from the R.E.M. song, which might have been a mistake on my part, because now I've got that song stuck in my head.)
September is always a sad time of year. It's when the summer interns go back to school to finish their degrees (although it's happy because they can finish their degrees and then come back to work for us). In MacBU SVC, we had an all-hands meeting where our four interns showed us what they were working on this summer.
I don't know who did the recruiting for our interns this summer, but they did a great job. All of our interns this time around were dev interns. Two interns worked on PowerPoint, one on Entourage, and one on our shared functionality across the whole suite.
Before the interns came, the app teams discuss what features we'll give to them. We try to give them features that are cool, that they can complete in a summer, and that have a real impact on our users. I think that we were pretty successful in this regard, and our interns responded by working hard and doing some awesome work.
I worked with all of the interns at one point or another over the summer. I worked the closest with the two PowerPoint interns to discuss how their features would be used by users, since their features are the most outward-facing. They understood that they're not standard users, so they had to step outside their own experience to think of how someone else might use it. It was cool to watch them get it, and work with the rest of the team to design their features appropriately.
Bon voyage, interns. I hope we'll see you back here later!
As for the rest of you, if you're interested in interning with Microsoft in the future, you can read more about the Microsoft intern program.
How cool is this? visearch is a search engine based on The One True Editor. The only thing that I don't like about it is that it doesn't seem to play well with Safari. It's fine on Firefox (the Mac version, I don't have a Windows box handy to try it on) and Opera. I don't seem to have Camino installed to test on that.
There's an article about it over at LinuxPlanet.
I know, I know, I should be using MSN Search, but the call of the geek is strong.