February, 2008

  • Steve Clayton

    Quickly locking your Windows PC



    Okay, I know you can press Windows Key + L but I really like to have an icon in my taskbar for this little task so every time I install a Windows OS I tend to add this as one of my first tweaks. Why? Well I learnt early on at Microsoft that leaving your PC unlocked when you walk off to get coffee can result in email being sent from your account that can be quite embarrassing :)

    Here's how to create a quick lock app on your taskbar

    1. Right click on your deksotp and select New, Shortcut
    2. Paste this text in - rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation
    3. Click next and type a name for the shortcut (e.g. Lock)
    4. Click finish
    5. You can right click on your new shortcut and change the icon (there is a lock icon as part of the collection in %SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll)
    6. Now drag the icon to your taskbar

    Done :)

  • Steve Clayton

    Information Architects - All Change



    I think we can safely say the Information Architects team are no fans of Microsoft but it may be that their recent Trend Map may have some delays on the line if the Yahoo deal goes through. They claim that Microsoft will not be happy as "Passport" has no significance. Well Passport has gone guys and it's now Windows Live ID. You'd think they would have found that from Wikipedia right? Nah, easier to just make it up and ignore the 380 million users logging in over 1.2 billion times a day. Small fry.

    Whilst we're on Live, go check out Live Labs guys. Seadragon, Photosynth, Deepfish anyone? On and Windows Live Writer and Popfly and Silverlight.

    I got a little tired with the rest of the cheap shots but that's okay as they "included plenty of insider jokes, ironic hints, and sarcasm". Marking Microsoft down as exhausted must be an insider joke about the $52bn :)

    I love their maps, I'm just not sure how rooted in reality they are.

  • Steve Clayton

    A shameless request of my blog readers. Pls share me



    I had the pleasure of attending the Microsoft Scotland Burns Supper last Thursday. Another magnificent evening of food, drink, good humour and great speakers. None more so than Len Murray who gave the 300 or so audience a true education on Robert Burns in his delivery of The Immortal Memory. He also told one of the wittiest jokes I've heard in quite some time. Saving it to re-use on my next speaking gig :)

    During the evening I met several old faces from the Scotland scene and quite a few new ones. What struck me though was a common theme among both new and old friends. At least 6 of them spontaneously said something along the lines of


    "I've been keeping up with you on your blog Mr Clayton....jolly good stuff an' all...."

    It was very kind of them and got me thinking just how effective my blog has become at helping build my personal brand. It's also become a real conversation starter. A few other times that night I handed out my business card which has Geek in Disguise and the blog address emblazoned on the back and people remarked how great it was (not sure if they meant the card or the blog to be honest).

    My noodling on this led to a request of you my dear blog readers:


    If you enjoy the blog, I'd like to ask you to pass it on to one person - just one. Tell them why you like it and ask them to check it out and see if they do too. No hard feelings if they don't. Just drop them an email with the address - http://blogs.msdn.com/stevecla01

    I'm keen to have you do this for two reasons.

    1. I've found likeminded people like the same stuff so think your friends may enjoy it too
    2. I'm genuinely intrigued to see if this small viral effort has a material impact on the 625,779 page views I had in January. Will it push it over 1m?
  • Steve Clayton

    Amazon - Where Do You Want To Go Tomorrow?


    If I asked my mother or most friends what business Amazon are in, they'd universally say books. We know that isn't true as they now sell all manner of good from Amazon.com but their stock in trade and their brand is built around fast, efficient and cost effective sale of books.

    If you asked most people who are Amazon's biggest competitors they would likely say Borders* or Waterstones here in the UK. Wrong. Those guys are not even close to being in the same game as Amazon. Their competitors are more likely Microsoft and Google.

    ReadWriteWeb does a great job of explaining why and shows how much Amazon have changed in recent years, albeit quite quietly, from a public standpoint. The majority of the book buying public have no idea what EC2 or S3 are and nor should they care. Ask anyone in the the world of Web 2.0, on Twitter or in the feted blogosphere though and they will know. Amazon is in a dramatic new game of large scale computing.

    Nokia was originally in the paper mill business and then went on to make rubber boots. Now they're the world leader in mobile phones. That change in business is no less dramatic than Amazon's though the genesis of the Amazon's change is much easier to see.

    When you're selling books on the scale that Amazon is, you need a big computing factory behind it - one that is robust, reliable and can scale to meet demand during Christmas peaks. The problem is that those peaks are preceded and followed by exactly what you'd expect - troughs. So what do you do with troughs of computing power if you're a bookseller? First of all, diversify and sell more than books. Precisely what Amazon did. What if the diversification doesn't make much of a dent in the troughs? How about resell the raw computing power? Like any other utility company - manage supply and demand and resell extra capacity when you have it.

    Thus was born Amazon Web Services with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). In laymans terms that is renting computer power and renting storage over the Internet. It's also known as utility or cloud computing. Oh and they just added a database called SimpleDB and have other services such as Mechanical Turk (worth of a post of it's own) and a flexible payment system. Why is this interesting?

    Amazon sells a lot of books - we all know that - but their utility computing group is selling a LOT of computing. As Josh Catone wrote


    there are now over 330,000 developers registered to use Amazon Web Services (AWS), an increase of 30,000 developers in the last quarter. Adoption of Amazon's platform is very likely helped by the over 200,000 developers who have signed up to use Facebook's platform

    That's a healthy number of developers. Now get this part


    ...web services bandwidth now accounts for more bandwidth than all of Amazon's global web sites combined. To put this in perspective, comScore ranked Amazon the 7th most visited site in the US in December. The retail giant was 6th in the UK, 9th in Canada, 11th in Germany, 11th in Japan, and 20th in France

    Amazon is still in the books business but watch over the next year as the mainstream press starts to pick up on this shift. Watch even closer to the balance sheet at Amazon. As Josh says, they're not making a huge pile of cash (yet) from their web services (TechCrunch guesses that AWS revenue was part of the $131 million "Other" category for the 4th quarter, they're building up a vast army of developers, startups and  gaining lots of experience in what is set to be the next era of computing.

    And you thought Nokia made a good leap form rubber boots to mobile phones?

    [update] some irony that the day I publish this, Amazon S3 has a very public outage


    *(NB - Borders deliver their online store with Amazon)

  • Steve Clayton

    Palm smartphones + Exchange Server = No Middleware


    Smart work form Palm this week in light of Blackberry's outages. Not a great week for cloud services.

    Hat tip to Jason

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