go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

January, 2009

  • go ahead, mac my day

    The MacBU beta trifecta: Entourage Exchange Web Services, Messenger, and Document Collaboration Companion


    Just before the holidays, we announced that we're releasing a public beta of Messenger:Mac that includes AV support on the personal side. Yesterday, we completed our trifecta of MacBU betas: Entourage Exchange Web Services (EWS) and Document Collaboration Companion.

    Last week, I mentioned that I've been dogfooding [redacted] for months. [redacted] referred to Entourage EWS. I've been living in it the second that our daily builds began to work against my Exchange server. The reason that I was chomping at the bit to switch to it is performance. For Entourage 2008 to connect to an Exchange server, it uses WebDAV for most things. (There's some things that use EWS, such as OOF.) When communicating via WebDAV, Entourage needs to send out up to six instructions. When communicating the same thing via EWS, it's one. Working with my Exchange 2007 server is faster. It also gives us access to more Exchange features than we could get via WebDAV, so Entourage now syncs better. It's faster, it's more reliable, and (oh yes!) my tasks, notes, and categories sync to Exchange. It's just fantastic. I've been using it for months, watching more and more Exchange features take shape. We're putting the finishing touches on the beta right now.

    The final third of our beta trifecta will come in the form of the Document Collaboration Companion (DCC). DCC is a standalone app that better enables Mac users to work with documents stored in SharePoint and Office Live Workspaces. This app has been one of my main focus points lately, so I'm looking forward to it getting out into our users' hands. Oh, and DCC is totally Cocoa, which my inner (or maybe not-so-inner) Mac geek adores.

    Those of you who attended my collaboration talk on Monday at our Power Tools session know that collaboration is near and dear to my heart. From my perspective, that's what all three of these betas are about, so I'm quite happy to see them getting close to being in your hands. Entourage EWS will be the first one to make it into your hands. If you're on an Exchange 2007 server, you should switch over to it as soon as humanly possible. (If you're on Exchange 2003 or earlier, you cannot use Entourage EWS. If you're using Entourage only with POP or IMAP, there's no reason for you to use the beta. We've only made changes to our back-end Exchange code.)

    There's more talk about our announcements out there. Here's Macworld's article (including some quotes from our fearless leader), and here's the official press release.

    Edit, 20 January 2008, 11:57am: The public beta for Entourage EWS is live now.

    Edited on 17 August 2009: The final version of Entourage for Web Services is now available, so you should update!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Entourage EWS beta available now


    Ready, set, download! We told you a couple of weeks ago it's coming, and the day is here: the Entourage Exchange Web Services (EWS) beta is available today. Go to Mactopia to apply to be a part of the beta.

    What does Entourage EWS beta bring you? If you're on Exchange 2007 SP1, it brings you a world of awesome, including:

    • support for attachments in Exchange calendar events
    • synchronisation of Exchange notes
    • synchronisation of Exchange tasks
    • synchronisation of Exchange categories
    • improved autodiscovery of your Exchange settings
    • improved performance
    • availability of logging for diagnostic purposes

    After you have backed up your database, downloaded the beta, and installed it, play around with it. If you run into an issue, go back to the Microsoft Connect website and use the form there to tell us about it. Likewise, if you've got a suggestion, use the form to tell us about that too. You can comment here as much as you want to, but that's not going to resolve anything. Putting it into MS Connect is a much better thing to do -- Connect is hooked up to our internal tracking system, so we can easily get stuff out of Connect and into our system for further investigation.

    To use Entourage EWS beta, you must connect to an Exchange 2007 SP1 server. The Entourage EWS beta will not work with Exchange 2003 (unless you are connecting to it through IMAP. If your server is a POP or IMAP server, you can check out the beta if you want to, but you won't see anything different -- our IMAP and POP implementations have not changed.

    Also, to use the Entourage EWS beta, you must already have Office 2008 Special Media Edition or Office 2008 Standard Edition. If you have Office 2008 Home and Student Edition, you will not be able to install the Entourage EWS beta.

    Please remember: this is beta software. It is unsupported. It could call down the wrath of the gods upon your head. If you are not comfortable with the potential of the wrath of the gods raining down upon your head, you should not download the beta. We don't think that there's anything still lurking in the corners that might call the wrath of the gods to come raining down upon your head, but the nature of beta software is such that it could still be there. If you're going to try out the beta, make sure that you have a fresh backup of your Entourage 2008 database before starting. If the wrath of the gods does rain down upon your head, or you have second thoughts about inviting such a thing, having a fresh back up of your Entourage 2008 database means that you'll be able to go back.

    Personally, I've been using pre-alpha versions of Entourage EWS for months. So join the party!

    Edited on 17 August 2009: The final version of Entourage for Web Services is now available, so you should update!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    top Entourage questions at Macworld Expo today


    Today, I worked in the Office 2008 booth at Macworld Expo. My day was spent answering questions about Entourage. For those of you who aren’t here at MWSF, I bring you the top questions that I answered today.

    What’s this about Entourage? Later this month, we’re releasing a public beta of the next version of Entourage. This beta is aimed squarely at our users who are connecting to Exchange 2007 servers. Instead of using WebDAV to communicate to Ex2007, we’re now using Exchange Web Services (EWS). EWS is faster and more reliable. Additionally, it gives us the ability to access Exchange features we weren’t able to get before, most notably additional synchronisation (tasks, notes, categories).

    What if I’m on Exchange 2003 or earlier? If you’re not on Exchange 2007 (actually, to be specific, Ex2007 SP1 or later), you should not use the Entourage EWS beta. Entourage EWS does not support accessing Ex2003 or earlier (except through IMAP).

    If I’m not on Exchange, should I update? We haven’t made changes to our POP, IMAP, or Hotmail support. You can check out the beta if you want to, but there’s no pressing reason to do so.

    Why are you doing a public beta? Making improvements to our Exchange support is very important to us. We’ve been consistently making incremental updates, but moving to EWS is a big investment. We want to make sure that this release works well with lots of different Exchange 2007 environments. That’s where you come in: download the bits and tell us how it works for you.

    Besides EWS support, what else is in Entourage EWS? This beta release is only about EWS. We haven’t made changes elsewhere for this beta. We’re making huge investments in Entourage for the next version of Office; stay tuned for that.

    Edit, 20 January 2008, 11:58am: The public beta for Entourage EWS is live now.

    Edited on 17 August 2009: The final version of Entourage for Web Services is now available, so you should update!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    will Apple give me a netbook?


    While I desperately (desperately!) want an updated Mac Mini, the thing that I've been pining for forever is an ultra-lightweight laptop. It's been on my wishlist for every single stinkin' MWSF and WWDC that I've attended since I joined MacBU.

    So you can imagine how my heart leapt when I read the following tweet from Macworld magazine, reporting on Apple's quarterly financial results:

    Apple on Netbooks: "We're watching that space," but right now the products there are bad. Still, "We've got some ideas." Stay tuned.

    Oh, Apple, why must you torture me so? I'd give up my MBP in a heartbeat if you were to give me a real netbook. Sorry, but the MBA is not the netbook I'm looking for. I want something that weighs a maximum of 2.5 pounds and that can fit in my handbag. It would be a supplement to my real Mac, and would be used for travel purposes. It can have a pretty small hard drive because it'll only have a handful of apps and a few documents that I'm currently working on.

    Please, guys, bring these ideas to fruition Real Soon Now. My AmEx is sitting next to me, crying out to be used.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: Should I participate in the Entourage public beta?


    One question that I've been getting a lot is "should I participate in the Entourage public beta?"

    First, let's offer up a disclaimer. The public beta is just that: a beta. It's not final. This means that there could be some bugs still lurking in there. If you're not comfortable with this, don't do it. You can sit this one out and let other people who like this sort of thing do the beta testing. The final version will be along soon enough.

    If you're on Exchange 2003, unless you're connecting to your Exchange server via IMAP, you should not try the beta. If you're on a POP or IMAP account, you can check out the beta if you want to, but you shouldn't see any changes from existing Entourage 2008 behaviour. We haven't touched our POP or IMAP code for this release. And I'll be honest: if you find an issue or want to make a suggestion about our POP or IMAP support, you're probably not going to get a lot of response from us in this beta. This beta is all about Exchange, so anything else is going to go on our list of stuff to consider in the future and not for the EWS release.

    If you're on Exchange 2007 (SP1 or later) and want to try this out, then yes, the beta is for you. If you do participate in the beta, ensure that you backup your database first. (Of course, you should backup your database at any time you do an upgrade, just in case!) That way, you can fall back to Entourage 2008 at any time if you want to do so.

    Once you're in the beta, you'll have the opportunity to provide feedback to us. If you run into problems, you'll be able to submit bug reports. If you have suggestions, we'll take those too.

    The beta goes live this month. Right now, the team is putting the finishing touches on it. The second that it's available, I'll link to it and give you some instructions for how to join me in the fun. I've been using Entourage EWS for months now, so it'll be good to have some more people join me. :)

    Edit, 20 January 2008, 11:57am: The public beta for Entourage EWS is live now.

    Edited on 17 August 2009: The final version of Entourage for Web Services is now available, so you should update!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Mac developers who made the news


    The folks over at Macworld have an article about Mac developers who made the news in 2008. We get a shout-out in there, given that we kicked the Mac year off with our release.

    Working on software is weird. To the rest of the world, Office 2008 is the latest-and-greatest. To me, it's not. I've been working on our next releases since well before Office 2008 hit store shelves. There's plenty of people who haven't upgraded to Office 2008 yet (we had a stellar year for sales, but that doesn't mean that the whole world upgraded in January 2008), whereas I started using Office 2008 more than a year before it launched, and I switched over to using [redacted] a couple of months after the release of Office 2008.

    It's the whole dogfood culture: I don't want anyone outside of MacBU to use it until it's been thoroughly tested, so I "eat my own dogfood" and use it first. This trips me up sometimes -- before answering a question about Office 2008, I have to check to make sure that it's accurate for that version instead of for what I'm currently using. If someone asks me a question about Office 2004, I have to point them to another resource (or look through the Office 2004 help) 'cause that feels like ancient history to me.

    Okay, back to working on my Macworld presentation. If you're coming to San Francisco, track me down in the hallway or in our booth to say hi!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Macworld Expo tips


    Just a handful of tips to make your Macworld Expo experience all that much nicer ...

    San Francisco should never be called "San Fran" or, worse, "Frisco" (our own Emperor Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, even fined those who were "heard to utter the abominable word"). Doing so immediately identifies you as a tourist, and you will be forced to spend your entire visit at Fisherman's Wharf, otherwise known as the Tourist Ghetto. If you must refer to San Francisco by anything other than the full name, it's "the city". New Yorkers must avoid protesting that only New York City can be referred to as such, lest they be simply sent to Alcatraz.

    Macworld Expo does not have an upper-case W in the middle. Giving it an incorrect W immediately identifies you as a clueless noob. Saying that you're going to MacWorld in Frisco means that you're immediately taken back to SFO and put on the first plane out of here. Your pass will be donated to a deserving local Mac user.

    Don't go over to the Metreon for lunch. The rest of the Expo will go there, and the options there really aren't that great anyway. At least go a little bit further afield to the food court in the Westfield shopping mall. It's on Mission, just a couple of blocks away. The food court isn't bad, and there's a couple of sit-down restaurants in there (I rather like Out the Door). There are dozens of great lunch spots within a few blocks of Moscone; I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to find their favourites (or to comment here with them).

    Wear comfortable shoes. It's all concrete and tile, with some carpeting in the booths. You'll be on your feet a lot. If you're trying to decide between the cute shoes and the comfortable shoes, suck it up and wear the comfortable shoes. Cute shoes won't overcome your crankiness when you have massive blisters by Wednesday afternoon.

    There are inexpensive chair massages to be had over at Macy's on Union Square. When you're tired of carrying all your stuff around, head over there for a quick pick-me-up. (And then go downstairs to their teensy food court and get a cookie from Tom's. I particularly like the chocolate almond truffle cookies.)

    There's a Starbucks across from the W at Third and Howard. The line there is always shorter than the one on Fourth between Mission and Howard.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    a personal Mac history


    The Mac is now 25. I am 32. I don't remember the introduction of the Mac, and I don't recall ever seeing the 1984 ad. In fact, I was only vaguely aware of the Mac until I hit college. My schools never had Apples or Macs, and none of my friends had one either. For my first college programming class, we learned Turbo Pascal on Mac Classics running System 6. I learned a lot about System 6 as a result of that class, and I have to admit that I wasn't a fan.

    Fast forward to OS X. I started paying attention with the release of Cheetah in 2001. The news that it was BSD-based was the primary driver for my interest. I'd been poking at Linux for years in one form or another, and one of my major complaints about it was its usability — or, to be more accuratehonest, its complete lack of usability.

    My first personal Mac was a PowerBook, the 1-GHz TiBook. It was a world away from Turbo Pascal, System 6, and a Mac Classic. I loved having the power of Linux with a useful and usable UI on top of it. If I want to drop down to the Terminal for sed and awk, it's all there. If I want to run a full-fledged word processor in all its glory, it's there too. I still kept around a Solaris box running Gentoo as my media server, although I ultimately replaced that with a Mac Mini with a pile of external hard drives.

    Today, I've got two Macs at work (a MacBook Pro and a Mini) and three at home (a lampshade iMac, a MacBook, and a Mini).

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Mac Mojo: "Entourage EWS beta feedback so far"


    For those of you who aren't reading Mac Mojo (and why aren't you?), I just posted about the Entourage EWS beta feedback so far.

    The quote that the team seems to like the best is the Obama quote. Of course, we do all live on the left coast, so that's probably not too surprising.

    Entourage EWS has been a long time coming. It's such a relief for the team to be hearing great things about it. It's not perfect -- there's issues, and it doesn't give us all the Exchange functionality that we want. But it's a big step in the right direction, and people seem to recognise that.

    If you haven't yet checked out the beta, and if you're on Exchange 2007 SP1 RU4 or later, consider giving it a go. For more details about the beta, here's a couple of posts from me about it:

    Edited on 17 August 2009: The final version of Entourage for Web Services is now available, so you should update!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: What mouse were you using on the demo machines in the Office:Mac booth?


    In the weeks before Macworld Expo, it's pretty easy to guess what the majority of the questions are going to be in the booth. Last year, since it was our launch year, 90% of the questions asked "when is it available?" and "where can I get it?" Prep was easy. This year, we knew that we'd get a lot of questions about the Entourage beta, so we were all prepared for those.

    But there's always a question that you're not prepared for. This year, the question was: What's that mouse? Microsoft Arc mouse The mouse is the new Microsoft Arc mouse. It's surprisingly eye-catching. When people started playing with it, they said that it was comfortable to use and they really liked it.

    The fine folks at Amazon are (as of this writing) selling it for $40. There's also a red version.

    I used it all week and think that it might be time to upgrade. My current mouse, a Hello Kitty wireless mouse, is on its last legs -- missing clicks, jumping around. The good thing about my Hello Kitty mouse is that there's no question as to who owns it, and none of my male co-workers would be caught dead using it.  Maybe it's time to try something a little less ... pink.

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