go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

November, 2008

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Roz Ho on leadership

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    Longtime MacBU observers will remember Roz Ho. Roz was our General Manager when I first signed on. She left MacBU a couple of years ago to accept a promotion within the company, and is now the Corporate Vice President for Premium Mobile Experiences. The folks over at Channel 9 have an interview with her about leadership and believing in yourself.

    Knowing that it's possible to work your way up through the ranks to GM and on to even bigger and better things is one of the things that I like about Microsoft. I know that there's a lot of support for me to continue to grow my skills and take on the world.

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    Q&A: How did you get into software?

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    I got into computers and assorted geekery early. My dad was always an enthusiast, and so I grew up with his somewhat eccentric collection of computers.

    My dad's, and thus my, first computer was a Timex-Sinclair 1000. I remember my dad buying magazines with programs printed in them, which we would painstakingly type on the little keyboard. Dad had the thermal printer, the 16-KB RAM pack (necessary for playing Frogger), and the cassette deck for data storage (also required for Frogger -- I'm sure that there were other tapes, but I only remember Frogger). The computer overheated easily; my dad took to putting a big glass of ice water on it to keep it cool. I'm sure Dad still has this computer, and all of its accessories, stuck in a closet somewhere.

    The next computer that I remember was a Radio Shack Model 100, which I think we got when I was 7. Instead of simply copying programs out of magazines to type into it, Dad bought a book (which, I have to admit, I still remember fondly), and together, we learned BASIC. The way he tells the story now, I was a better programmer than he was, although that might just be him editing the story after the fact to match up with my current position. :) I'm sure that there's at least one of these stuck in a closet somewhere at my parents' house, too.

    In high school, we had a single computer class, which I took. It was my first introduction to an Apple. I don't remember much about it, other than continually getting in trouble for getting to school early, waiting for the teacher to go to the lounge to get his coffee, and running a program on all of the computers in his lab to play a little jingle whenever someone tried to type on them.

    Somewhere around this time, Dad got his first PC and discovered MS-DOS, and then became an early adopter of Windows. My best memories are of the Sierra games, most particularly (another computer thing which got me into trouble; if you're starting to sense a theme, you'd be right) Leisure Suit Larry. I'm not sure that my high school programming course taught me a lot about programming that I didn't already know, but it made a difference to learn that there were other kids who was interested in computers too.

    In college, I met OS 7 for the first time in my programming class. Being 1993, the language of choice for an introductory programming class was Pascal, and Turbo Pascal was the compiler we used. Turbo Pascal celebrated its 25th anniversary this week; Anders Hejlsberg, the original author and now here at Microsoft, offers up his memories of it here. When I worked as the medical director of a Girl Scout camp the summer after my freshman year of college, my camp nickname was Dr Pascal, because I always had my nose stuck in a programming book.

    That's all part of what got me here today. If my dad hadn't been so excited about computing and got me to learn programming with him when I was a kid, where would I be today? I can't even begin to imagine.

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    half off Office 2008

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    If you haven't yet jumped onto the Office:Mac 2008 bandwagon, the holidays are bringing lower prices. Office:Mac 2008 Special Media Edition, which includes all of the Office apps plus Expression Media, is now up to half off. The fine folks over at Amazon are listing it for $179, which is nothing short of a steal (and cheaper than the Standard Edition, which doesn't include Expression Media!).

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    Mac Mojo: "you're my favourite"

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    Over on Mac Mojo, I just put up a post about the Entourage favourites bar called you're my favourite.

    In the course of writing that post, I learned that I currently have 34 separate folders for incoming mail. All of them are populated by mail rules. The only thing that ends up in my main inbox is stuff from my manager or stuff that's addressed directly to me. I didn't realise I had that many incoming folders, so I didn't even consider counting how many other folders I've got. I really don't want to know.

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    holiday themes available on Art of Office

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    Someone with more artistic skills than I have (although, let's be honest, that's pretty much everyone) has created a bunch of holiday themes for Office 2008. They're available for free over at Art of Office. The themes include ones for newsletters for your holiday letters, gift tags, note cards, recipe cards, and lots of other things.

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    the security of memes

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    While waiting for my plane to leave earlier today, I read a friend's personal blog. In it, she has posted a meme that I've seen go around personal blogs and Facebook lately. The first time that I met this meme, it was coming up with your porn star name: your first pet's name plus the street you grew up on. (In case you care: Smokey M-21, which doesn't seem like a name that would get me far in that particular business.)

    This has expanded to include your Nascar name, witness protection name, detective name, and a few others. Reading over this meme, I realised that all of this information that she has posted has a lot in common with all of those security questions my bank wanted me to answer: favourite colour, father's middle name, etc.

    How secure can those bank questions be if many people are posting this information to their blogs? So many of these questions are easy to find with a few minutes on a search engine (my Facebook profile will tell you what high school I graduated from, and then in two more minutes you can find my high school's website to learn what our mascot is. Where is the security?

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    baking for charity

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    As I mentioned in an earlier post, every October, Microsoft has a giving campaign to encourage its employees to engage in charitable giving.

    MacBU takes part in this, with our very own twist to it. We have a bake auction every year. It's like a competitive bake sale. This year, I entered three items: strawberry cupcakes, a raspberry tart, and strawberry pate de fruit. My efforts landed me fourth place amongst the bakers in terms of money raised.

    I support two charities: KQED public radio and RAINN. Listening to the other bakers and the bidders, there was a great array of charities supported. MacBU had strong participation across the whole group, and I'm really proud of us for helping out our communities.

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    Microsoft mice have Frustration-Free Packaging

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    The fine folks over at Amazon have introduced a new initiative: Frustration-Free Packaging. You know the feeling: you buy something in one of those bloody plastic clamshells and can't open the stupid thing. (Pun unintended, but my fingers have ended up bloody after cutting myself on them!) According to the main Amazon page that describes it, their goal is to "deliver products inside smaller, easy-to-open, recyclable cardboard boxes with less packaging material".

    There are 19 products currently available with this new and improved packaging. Seven of them are Microsoft mice in various colours (my favourite is the pomegranate red one, in case someone on the hardware team is reading this and feels the urge to send a review mouse over to me ;).

    I'm really pleased to see Microsoft on board with this. The out-of-box experience is an important part of the user experience. Spending ten minutes trying to saw open a clamshell, only to cut yourself on the sharp edges of the plastic, is not a great way to start off your experience with a new product.

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    Netflix and Silverlight

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    Good news for Mac users -- the Netflix "watch now" feature is available for beta testing. Using Microsoft Silverlight, you can get instant access to many Netflix films.

    I've been playing around with it, and it's pretty cool. I tried it from my rather-less-than-snappy hotel room wifi connection and was really surprised to discover that there was no stuttering at all, and the video was great.

    Currently, my media server at home is a PPC Mac Mini. This is yet another reminder that I need to get a new home machine so that I can get the instant access on something other than my laptops!

    If you're a Netflix subscriber with an Intel Mac, you can opt in to Netflix's beta program. Looking over my current Netflix queue, it looks like about 30 of the 150 movies in there are available for instant play.

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