So long, Microsoft!

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FAQs

Have you quit Microsoft?
May 30, 2011 is my last day at Microsoft. Yes, I have. I joined on July 30, 2007.

Really? You were always a fan!
I still am. I love Microsoft. I’ve met some awesome folks and participated in some delicious discussions that have made me learn so much and given me some great perspectives.

Then why leave?
I leave in no grudge. And their is no love lost. I had to do something new that gives me greater value, and here I am. I need to make more money too to counter the fuel-price hike! I might shed a tear or two as I surrender my Orange badge.

Exit from the MVP group?
Well, technically, yes. I’m not in the Microsoft MVP Award program team anymore nor an MVP. However, I’ve made some great friendships and a fine network of like-minded folks within the group which would stay forever. I’ll continue to work with the same people, and on similar things.

So, what will you do?
I want to start things on my own. Do some consulting jig, some social media or online marketing strategy, web content assignments, and some technology trainings. Either or all. Now is the time to work on the framework of freelance worker.

How can we help?
Think of me when you have the requirement of hiring a vendor/contractor for any of the offerings. Beer would be on me. My profile et al is at www.baxiabhishek.info.

We’ll miss you at the next tech event!
Wait! Communities are my forever indulgence and I’ve loved to participate, moderate, and mentor several of those since my college days. I will continue to participate actively in online and offline communities, with the forever evident bias for Microsoft!

Amazon: Building Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company

kindle

The title of this post is actually the email signature of the Amazon Kindle support representative that I communicated with. I think I agree.

Here’s the story…

On my recent trip, my Kindle’s display went kaput. After some chest pain, and mild heart-attack, I called up Amazon Kindle support. Customer details, and a couple of questions later…

I’m sorry your Kindle isn’t working. I’m sending you a replacement Kindle via Priority International Courier to get it to you as soon as possible.

Wow! In less than five minutes? Blood pressure returned to close to normal.

A replacement order was created with charges and immediately refunded. The charge for the order was $204.93 ($139 Kindle + Custom and import duties), and the refund was the same amount. Essentially, no charges to me.

3 days later, in India, the replacement Kindle was received. A little dance happened.

I now have to ship the conked-off Kindle back to a Kentucky warehouse within 30 days. Okay, will do. But Amazon wants me to do a small extra bit.

Please indicate the cost of shipping you paid with your return. We’ll use this amount to reimburse your return shipping costs.

Holy schmoly! After I’ve shipped out the malfunctioning unit, I have to go to a provided link and claim refund of shipping costs back to Amazon. Blood pressure shoots up in glee!

If you’re floored by the awesome customer service, here’s the icing on the cake and choco-chip on my waffle… I bought the Kindle in US. At the time of purchase, I paid $139 only, and no Custom or import duties. Amazon chose to pay those for the replacement!

Remembering papa…

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Sent as a remembrance message by my good friend, Akhil, on dad’s first death anniversary.

Missing Girl Found: Social Media Put to Good Use

What an awesome social media success story!
A young girl  ran away from home; daughter of a Microsoft employee.
The internal discussion lists spread the message and then social media took over. Several Microsoft folks tweeted and posted updates about the missing girl.
A manager at Fairwood Safeway saw her picture and recognized her, called it in and the family immediately went to pick her up.
Big props to the entire Microsoft community who tweeted, posted, shared or otherwise spread the word about this little girl – what a fantastic bunch of people you are!
A message from her mom:
A manager at Fairwood Safeway called us and thought she recognized her- we drove over and it was her- we ran in and got her. She is so tired, dirty and scared- she slept on a sidewalk outside the library last night. She is home, she is safe- thank you ALL for your thoughts and prayers and well wishes and sharing the information, I know that it was all the immediate help, love and care that brought her home.
I’ve avoided taking names of the people involved in the post. Let’s respect their privacy.

iPad vs. Kindle. Not.

A few days back, around the Kindle 3 (not official version name, but third generation in releases) launch, I tweeted saying the Kindle is now tempting me, and I might just take a dive into the world of eBook readers, and add another gadget to my bag.

Surprisingly, several folks on my social networks advised me to go for iPad (with the Kindle app), which is ’obviously shinier and better.’

And then I wondered. Not just me being an Apple anti-fan, I still think this advice was wrong on many counts, probably swayed by Apple’s ‘magical’ hype.

Price: $139/$189 Kindle vs. $499 iPad
While I specified, I was intending to go for the Wi-fi Kindle, at $139, it is clearly a case of apples vs. oranges, or maybe even cashewnuts vs. oranges.

Battery Life: 3 weeks vs. 10 hours
Kindle’s battery life with wireless always on is a claimed 3 weeks. On a long trip, 10 hours is all you would read?

Reading experience:
There is a reason why no eBook reader in the market has a colored screen – LCD, LED, or any other display technology. iPad, or any other handheld device, does not offer the paper-like screen or the optimum contrast and sharp display to read indoors as well as in sunlight.

Thoughts?

iPad is a great consumption device, but I prefer my Dell Mini notebook, which also allows me to do ‘real work’ and run regular Windows apps.

P.S. I did explore other eBook readers like Nook and Sony Reader, but they don’t work in India.

P.P.S. A couple of Indian eBook readers have also been launched – Infibeam’s Pi and Wink. No verdict on them, as yet.

Search, Save, and Export Twitter–The Archivist

MIX Online has released a new Azure-hosted lab called The Archivist. The Archivist allows you to create archives of Twitter topics that you can save, export and analyze.

 

There are now over 50,000,000 tweets being created each day. But, tweets are transitory. Twitter itself doesn’t allow access into their database more than two weeks – and for a trending topic, one may not be able to access tweets older than 24 hours. Enter The Archivist, a new lab from Mix Online. It is a website that allows people to archive, analyze and export tweets.

The Archivist can create archives of tweets equivalent to any search done at http://search.twitter.com.  What is the difference between searching directly on Twitter versus searching from The Archivist?  Well, once you save a search from The Archivist, your search will continue to run, day and night, every day, every night, creating an archive for you based on that search.

Once you have started an archive, The Archivist data mines on your behalf, providing six visualizations that offer insight into a given archive of tweets. Any additional data mining you’d like to do can be done by exporting and saving the entire archive, to be manipulated in a program such as Excel.

 

  • Is this a replacement for Bing or Twitter as a Twitter search tool?
    • No. Bing and Twitter are excellent search engines, but The Archivist’s main features are the ability to save, export, and analyze tweets based on a search. The Archivist will also continue to update your archive.
  • How long will you store my tweets?
    • As long as you log in within 60 days of your last log in, we will continue to store your tweets.
  • Hey, I looked at search.twitter.com and The Archivist and they do not match exactly, what’s up?
  • Why did you use Azure?
    • We wanted to take advantage of our cloud offering and the functionality it gave us. It provided background services, scaling, monitoring, database and more.
  • Hey, this is cool, can I build my own version of The Archivist?
    • Absolutely. With all MIX Online labs, we make the code and design assets available for folks to peruse and use in their own apps. In fact, you can also contribute to the project if you like. For more information, please visit the Developers’ page. It will help you get started building services and applications using The Archivist and it’s codebase.
  • What is MIX Online?
    • MIX Online (at http://visitmix.com) is a community site for Designers, Developers and Web Builders. MIX Online provides insights from our team and other industry pros with articles and opinions; free, open source, ready-to-download prototypes and tools from our labs; and we host, speak at and attend lots of industry events.
  • What is a MIX Online Lab?
    • A Lab is a free, open source, ready-to-download tool or website prototype. Labs are not official products from Microsoft (e.g. Microsoft Office, MSN, etc.). Check out our other Labs we have built on our Labs page.

Where are you watching the World Cup?

Can’t make it down to South Africa to watch the games? No worries, the Bing Home Turf Finder has you covered! You can find out where to watch matches around the Seattle area and across the US with our new Bing map app.

In select cities, we populated a Bing map app with venue information such as name, country affiliation, special hours and website info courtesy of Thrillist  while you can use the Foursquare API to display current check-ins and venue tips. In addition, with the World Cup Bing Badge Program on Foursquare, Bing will award a Bing badge to users and also provide incentives during game time at select local venues.

Find your place to watch the games now on The Bing Home Turf Finder map app.

Cloud Computing Enables Tribune Company to move into the Digital Age

It’s wonderful to learn that media giant Tribune Company is betting on Windows Azure to help bring the company into the digital age by providing targeted content to its online readers and increased opportunities for advertisers.

Since 1847, the American Public has relied on Tribune for its news. Today, the newspaper industry faces declining readership and a tough economy. In order to stay relevant in today’s digital age, Tribune found it crucial to adopt Windows Azure to enable the company to transform from a traditional media company to an interactive and digital media company that embraces innovative technologies such as cloud computing.

Tribune is truly a media giant; it operates 8 newspapers (including LA Times and Chicago Tribune), 23 television stations and 50 websites that receive 6.1 billion page views per month. Managing these properties required that Tribune operate 32 data centers, 4,000 servers, 75,000 feet of raised floor — Windows Azure presents Tribune with an opportunity to cut the 1.5 million in annual costs spent on managing their existing infrastructure and allow for additional growth opportunities.

 

What’s new in Expression Studio v4?

Expression Studio 4 has a wealth of new features to make it easier than ever to create engaging user experiences for the Web, the desktop, mobile devices, & Silverlight. All of the products now support Silverlight 4 and .NET 4 as well as the following specific new features in each of the products.

Expression Blend 4 New Features include:

  • VS2010 compatibility
  • Windows Phone support
  • Deeper Adobe Photoshop import (layer effects)
  • New behaviors & conditional behaviors
  • Enhanced sample data support
  • Listbox path layout for designing with data
  • Pixel Shader effects (including animations)
  • Easier styling and customization
  • Model View View-Model support

Expression Web 4 New Features include

  • SEO Reporting from inside of the application
  • New extensibility model enables creating add-ins with HTML, JS, and CSS
  • New SuperPreview online service beta for browser compatibility testing now supports Macintosh Safari

Expression Encoder 4 Pro New features include

  • Live Smooth Streaming (VC-1 & H.264)
  • New H.264 encoder from MainConcept
  • Enhanced Screen Capture
  • DRM (PlayReady) for Live Content

FREE UPGRADE

Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to users of version of Expression Studio 3 and Expression Web 3. Once version 4 trial versions are available, you can download and install the trial and Expression will find the version 3 license on your hard. Once the version 3 license is found, the version 4 trial will be automatically converted to full product with no expiration. Note that this is true only for customers who have obtained their version 3 products via FPP or ESD.

For customers who have received their version 3 products through Microsoft programs (MSDN, MAPS, Bizspark, Websitespark, etc.), please download the version 4 products from the respective program download sites.

Silverlight Winter Olympics Statistics and Case Studies

Did you Know? A Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics fact sheet.

– Over 25% of the entire population of Norway viewed the Olympics using Silverlight for an average of 111 minutes each viewing!

– Host nation Canada’s CTV saw 4 million visitors consume over 6 PetaBytes, or 7 million hours of video, peaking at over 130,000 concurrent viewers. Viewers watched videos on the site for an average of 111 minutes per visit – unprecedented and great news for broadcasters and advertisers alike. [Read More]

In the United States, NBC built on its experiences using Silverlight for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and NFL Sunday Night Football. For the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, they provided live and on-demand video to an online audience of 16 million viewers, while also delivering a very sophisticated and efficient ad platform to its sponsors, making the best use of planned and spontaneous opportunities for ad insertion. [Read More]

More than 1 in 4 of Norway’s 4.8 million citizens showed their enthusiasm for winter sports by tuning into the 720p, HD, IIS Smooth Streaming experience delivered by Norway’s NRK. Viewers liked what they saw; consuming over a million hours of video in total and an average of 78 minutes each visit. [Read More]

Since broadcast HD TV is relatively new in France, France Télévisions used the opportunity to bring the HD experience to a younger generation who, in many cases, prefer to consume video on a computer. With previous successes using Silverlight and IIS Smooth Streaming to broadcast the Roland Garros Tennis Championships and the Tour de France cycling race, France Télévisions knew it could deliver a multi-platform, high quality live and on-demand video experience for the Olympics. With only two weeks to the event and not a single line of code written, the Silverlight Media Framework allowed FranceTV to deliver the player on schedule, resulting in an amazing average viewing time of 64 minutes. [Read More]

 

The official Silverlight Team Blog

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