go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

May, 2009

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    Exchange 2010 webcast series

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    My colleagues over on the Exchange team are doing a series of webcasts about Exchange 2010. For you IT folks who are using (or considering switching to) Exchange, there's some great information about what's coming in the next version. Most of the content isn't relevant for end users, although maybe the session about Outlook Web Access might be of interest.

    The webcasts start at 9am (PDT) on 01 June 2009, and run throughout the month. Check them out, and don't forget to leave feedback about the sessions in the Exchange blog!

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    Q&A: other MacBU blogs

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    Another question today ...

    Do any of your colleagues in the Mac BU have additional blogs that I haven't come across?

    Well, I can't speak to what blogs you've come across already, so let's do a list of them.

    • Mac Mojo is the official blog of MacBU. Everyone here in MacBU is pretty heads-down working on getting lots of stuff out the door this year, so that blog has been kinda quiet lately. Look there for big announcements from us, as well as tips and tricks for better working with Office.
    • Gavin Shearer is a Program Manager for Excel:Mac. His blog tends more towards his other passions, such as all things Disney and the Seattle Storm, but he does occasionally post about Microsoft and MacBU. Most of his Excel-centric stuff gets posted to Mac Mojo instead.
    • Schwieb (yes, that's what we all call him) is one of our senior developers. While he doesn't post frequently, his posts are very important. The two blog posts that I link to the most are his: risks and rewards (which discusses, amongst other things, the issue with Office 2008 and Spaces in Leopard) and saying hello (again) to Visual Basic (in which we announced that Visual Basic is returning to the next version of Office:Mac). He's got other greatest hits as well, but those are the ones that I find myself needing to refer people to over and over again.
    • Rick Schaut is another one of our most senior developers, not to mention all-around awesome guy. He's been quiet about posting lately, too, but the archives of his blog have all sorts of deep dark dirty technical details, as well as lots of historical information about what we've done and why.

    There are a few other blogs around as well, but they're mostly all defunct. I didn't list any blogs that hadn't been updated in the past 18 months or that only consisted of automated postings (Twitter, bookmarks, etc).

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    Q&A: why does the Messenger:Mac window lose focus after I send my message?

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    I got this question today, and realised that I hadn't mentioned it here on this blog yet. The question is as follows:

    i have just downloaded the new safari 4 beta. whenever i type something into msn, and press enter, i have to click back in the text box when i want to type my next message. this is very annoying

    Yes, that is annoying! It's an issue with the version of WebKit that Apple shipped with the Safari 4 public beta. This issue was reported pretty much immediately after the Safari 4 public beta hit the streets, and the WebKit team fixed it quite quickly. To quote from their bug tracking system, this is the bug that was in WebKit:

    During a series of firstResponder changes, at some point while the WebHTMLView was losing first responder status, we incorrectly marked the page as active, and then when the WebHTMLView became first responder again, setActive did nothing. This change restores behavior from before r36919 to check if the WebHTMLView is in the middle of losing first responder when calling setActive.

    So what do you do? You have a few options, none of which are optimal.

    1. Uninstall the Safari 4 beta (use the uninstaller that came with the DMG; if you don't still have it, you can redownload the Safari 4 beta to get the uninstaller), and reinstall Safari 3.
    2. Install a later build of WebKit. The Apple Developer Connection article working with the WebKit nightly builds is a great overview of what you need to do here. This obviously isn't for the faint-of-heart, so you need to be very comfortable with living on the bleeding edge of software development.
    3. Live with it until Apple releases an update to Safari 4 that uses a newer build of WebKit.

    The first option is the one that I went with. I use Messenger much too much to be able to live with it, and I didn't feel like dealing with nightly builds of WebKit. I'm already using nightly builds of Entourage for EWS, not to mention [redacted] and [redacted], so I didn't want to add more complexity.


    Edited 2009-05-26 at 16:09 to link to the ADC article.

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    your security questions might not be that secure

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    I've whinged about the security questions that my bank asks me: mother's maiden name, pet's name, city of birth, etc. Some of my colleagues here at Microsoft (along with some folks from CMU) have written a paper about how easy it is to guess the correct answers to these security questions, and are presenting that paper at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy this week. Technology Review has an article about their paper: Are Your "Secret Questions" Too Easily Answered?.

    The findings from this paper are somewhat unsurprising, although the actual numbers did surprise me. Here's one quote from the Technology Review article:

    The least-secure questions are simple ones whose answers can be guessed with no existing knowledge of the subject, the researchers say. For example, the answers to the questions "What is your favorite town?" and "What is your favorite sports team?" were relatively easy for participants to guess. All told, 30 percent and 57 percent of the correct answers, respectively, appeared in the top-five list of guesses.

    57% of the correct answers, all without knowing me! Even worse, there's the likelihood that I'm going to forget my own answers. Here's another quote from the Technology Review article:

    Even for the most memorable questions--Yahoo's, as it turned out--the participants forgot 16 percent of the answers within three to six months. Overall, one out of every five people forgot all of the answers to their secret questions, the researchers found.

    Bruce Schneier, who I'm willing to call a computer security god, says that he simply types in a random answer to these questions and, should he forget his password, calls the company for a reset instead of relying on this service. I wish that this were sufficient. My bank occasionally asks me the answers to my questions if it thinks that I'm logging in from somewhere else or if it thinks I'm engaging in out-of-the-ordinary behaviour. Given that I have three computers at work and four at home, my bank often thinks that I'm logging in from somewhere else and I'm stuck answering the questions.

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    new members of the family

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    My home network has seen three changes lately.

    The first, which I've been wanting to do for ages but hadn't quite gotten 'round to yet, is a new Mac Mini. My old Mini, the last of the PowerPC minis, was my media server. It was hooked up to a pile of external drives, which housed my ever-growing iTunes library and some video. On my old Mini, iTunes was taking more than five minutes to launch. New Mini? It launches instantly. I can also run the iTunes cover art screensaver, which ground my poor old Mini to a halt. Oh, and Front Row is quite nifty, and there are some unsupported third-party plug-ins for it which make it even more useful. I can't believe I waited this long to upgrade. I had been watching my Netflix queue through my Xbox, but now that I've got a Mini that can actually run Silverlight, I wonder if I'll find myself using it instead of the Xbox.

    The second change is a NAS, specifically the Netgear ReadyNAS Pro Pioneer Edition. The pile of external drives hooked up to the old Mini was okay, but it meant that we didn't have backups of any of it. The idea of having to recreate my iTunes library brought tears to my eyes. Plus I had to manually back up the other machines in the house, and let's be honest that manual backups are undone backups. There are three drives in the NAS right now, giving me a total of 2.75TB of storage. It now houses the iTunes library, which the Mini accesses over the network, and the Xbox can access it via streaming too. Now it's set up to be the target for laptop backups for Time Machine.

    Finally, I've gone to gigabit Ethernet throughout the home (except for my ancient lampshade iMac, which doesn't support gigabit). It's immensely faster.

    What changes to the home network are on the horizon? Well, the day before the NAS arrived, my old MacBook hard drive died a horrid death. Short of replacing the heads, which is officially not cheap, I lost a whole lot of data. So since my MacBook now has a virgin install of Leopard on it, I'm considering selling it and replacing it with a shiny new iMac (just in time for the summer Mac release of Sims 3!). After that, I think that the home network will be unchanged for some time (barring a massive hardware failure, knock on wood ... ).

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    Q&A: How do I get into a MacBU private beta?

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    I've been getting several variations on this question lately:

    I've heard that Microsoft is doing a private beta instead of a public one. How do I get into it?

    There are two ways to get into one of our private betas [1]. First, if you work for a large company, talk to your Microsoft account representative. We here in MacBU rely on account reps to nominate people from the companies that they support. The account rep knows the technology at your company, and they several people there very well. That makes the account rep uniquely situated to know whether a particular customer is going to be a good fit for our private beta.

    If you don't work for a big company that has a Microsoft account rep, all hope is not lost. There's another group of people who often participate in our private betas: our MVPs. I should probably write more about MVPs in another post (they're awesome people who do an amazing job of helping out other users). To be nominated for a MVP Award, you have to be an active contributor to online communities, helping out others use our software. Since our MVPs are Mac users who are highly engaged with our products, and often working with them in a mixed environment, we know that we'll get high-quality feedback from them when it's beta time.

    Emailing me to ask to get into a private beta is very unlikely to produce the result you want. If I nominate someone to participate in a private beta, it means that I know them, their users, and their environment very well. Emailing me out of the blue, even with an essay about how great you'd be in a beta, doesn't give me enough information and experience to know whether you'll be a good fit for our beta.


    [1] Actually, for the sake of completeness, I'll say that there is a third way. For current full-time Microsoft employees, we make dogfood versions available internally. Dogfood starts off when we're in alpha, and usually gets updated throughout the development cycle. If you're an MS employee and want to dogfood our latest and greatest, email me and I'll get you pointed in the right direction.

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    last chance to enter WeddingBee.com's contest for a new MacBook, Office:Mac 2008, and $1000!

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    I mentioned last month that WeddingBee.com is running a contest to win a new MacBook, a $1000 gift card, and a copy of Office:Mac 2008. Today is the last day to enter, so go to their blog post to tell them why you should be the lucky winner! And then you can use your new MacBook and Office to budget your wedding, create the guest list, and print your invitations, RSVPs, announcements, and everything else.

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    data analysis in Excel:Mac 2008

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    Today, Gavin made a great announcement over on Mac Mojo: Now available: data analysis for Excel 2008. AnalysisSoft has created StatPlus:mac LE to provide analysis tools to Excel users. To quote from Gavin's post:

    StatPlus:mac LE is a free, downloadable data analysis application for Mac OS X that works with Excel 2008 (12.1.5 or later). It works on Tiger (10.4.11) and Leopard systems (10.5.6), as well as PowerPC and Intel processors. It's available in English, French, German, Italian, Portugese, Russian and Spanish.

    StatPlus:mac LE is not an Excel add-in. Like Solver for Excel 2008, it is a full-blown Mac application ("StatPlus.app") that uses AppleScript to communicate with and drive Excel. It provides all the same functions as Analysis ToolPak, which makes it a nice, drop-in replacement for ATP users.

    The Excel team has been working with AnalysisSoft, the makers of this app, to ensure that this helps fill the gap left by the loss of the Analysis ToolPack. So try it and post a comment to Gavin's post to let us know what you think!

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