An often irreverent look at this week's other news...
Finally, Some New Surface Mini News
I don't have anything to offer this time, as I've not heard about Surface mini from my sources since last fall. But this week, some credible Surface mini rumors began appearing, and they're worth exploring. Neowin reports that Surface mini will ship soon and be marketed as a note-taking device thanks to its bundled stylus, much like the bigger and bulkier Surface Pro. I had heard that Surface mini would be based on a Qualcomm chipset and thus be Windows RT- and ARM-based, but Neowin doesn't mention anything about that. It does, however, report that last year's last minute decision to not ship Surface mini publicly—which I had heard about—was because of supply chain issues that also hampered availability of Surface 2. Anyway, all signs point to a Surface mini release in first half of 2014. If they get the stylus stuff right, this could be a winner, ARM or not.
The Story of Windows XP's "Bliss" Wallpaper Isn't New or Suddenly Interesting Again
With Windows XP sailing off into the sunset this past week, everyone is getting nostalgic over an OS that, quite frankly, has well overstayed its welcome. I'm particularly amused by all the stories I see about the iconic "Bliss" wallpaper in Windows XP. But this isn't new: Almost three years ago, I wrote a post called The Story Behind the Windows XP "Bliss" Background that described the genesis of this image. And all I got for my efforts back then was the threat of a lawsuit because I had republished one of the photographer's pictures. Sigh. But as with all tales, this one has grown in the telling. At the time I wrote that post, the "Bliss" photo was thought to be the second-most expensive photograph ever sold. Now it's credited as being the most expensive, though no one really knows how much he was paid.
Microsoft Scroogles Outlook.com Custom Domain Users
Having recently reconfigured a custom domain with Microsoft's free Custom Domains service—which lets you set up your own domain name for use with Outlook.com—I was struck by the fact that it still uses a Windows Live look and feel from about six years ago. That should have triggered a concern about the future of the service, given this week's news. "Outlook.com no longer offers support for new custom domain sign ups," the site now notes. "New customers looking to manage custom domains are encouraged to use Office 365, Microsoft's premium online service." I'll be writing this up today, but it appears that you can still add and edit users in existing domains, but that those capabilities will be going away in the next few months. Frankly, this stinks: Office 365/Exchange Online are not acceptable alternatives to Outlook.com for individuals, families and very small businesses. And I'd have rather seen Microsoft offer a paid Outlook.com-based service instead. Microsoft says it will soon provide the option to migrate existing custom domain accounts to Office 365, which, by the way, starts at $5 per month per user. Ugh.
"So does Heartbleed nicely prove the lie of open source software? ('more eyeballs,' etc.)"
Silicon Valley Controversy of the Week: Drop Dropbox
Last week we had Mozilla to kick around after it was forced to drop new CEO Brendan Eich because of his support of a controversial ban on gay marriage. But time heals all wounds and now we can turn our attention to Dropbox, which this week elected an equally controversial figure to its board of directors: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. A new organization called Drop Dropbox is calling on Dropbox to, um, drop Rice from its board and is asking for Dropbox's users to drop the service if it does not. Oddly enough, the rationale for this stance has nothing to do with her political affiliations or whatever baloney partisan reason. Instead, it's because Rice "helped start the Iraq War as president Bush's National Security Advisor during the lead-up to that war," "was involved in the creation of the Bush administration's torture program," "authorized warrantless wiretaps of UN Security Council members," and "was on the Board of Directors at Chevron." Actually, that does sound kind of partisan. And I prefer OneDrive, so whatever.
Speaking of Partisan
Given the furor over the Eich stuff last week, I was curious to see the reaction to this little brouhaha. If you love a little controversy in the morning, you won't be disappointed. The incredibly unbiased Wall Street Journal wrote that the anger over Rice's appointment "is the latest example of blowback when the technology community's libertarian, progressive image of itself comes into conflict with individual views or corporate efforts to build bridges to those with other views." This is pretty hilarious, when you think about the source. But even the comparatively bland publication PC World noted that this represented "a shockingly tone-deaf move" on the part of Dropbox. And that's really the central issue here. It's not about your beliefs one way or the other, it's that these types of appointments don't happen in a vacuum. And even if you're a fan of Ms. Rice and her various, um, accomplishments, you have to at least respect the fact that she's polarizing and not a good choice as a result. Of course, thinking that clearly requires making that cognitive leap that some seem incapable of, regardless of ideology.
"Tech Gurus Still Don't 'Get' Linux"
No, it's just that you don't get that normal people don't give a rat's petoot about Linux. And never will.
Google Play Music Now Works with Sonos
This sounds like a topic that would be of little interest to most Windows IT Pro readers, I know. But the implications here should be troubling to anyone that has a vested interest in Microsoft's ecosystems. And that's because the firm has been unable to gain a foothold in digital media despite over a decade of investments in Windows Media, PlaysForSure, Zune, and now Xbox Music and Video. Meanwhile, even a newcomer like Google Play Music—it only launched in 2011, people—is already broadly available everywhere people actually listen to music. And if this doesn't bother you, then you don't understand that Microsoft has effectively already lost. If this firm doesn't move decisively to get these services available more broadly—in living rooms through non-Xbox devices, on (or, in the case of Xbox Music, in more full-featured forms) on competitive mobile devices and elsewhere—it's game over. You may recall Microsoft bragging about how over half of Xbox usage is entertainment related. Well, here's the thing they won't tell you: It's not Microsoft entertainment services those people are using. And that's a problem.
But Wait, There's More
I'm trying to change the book publishing model, and would appreciate your support: Windows 8.1 Field Guide is now complete and available for only $2 in PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats, and it will be in the Kindle and Nook e-book stores soon. But I have other free e-books available too, including Windows Phone 8 Field Guide and the in-progress Xbox Music Field Guide. And more are on the way, including Outlook.com Field Guide and Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide.