"Black Box" in Windows

IMG_1513In his keynote address to WinHEC Bill gates talked about adding a “Black Box” capability to Windows. ZDNet commented on it here.

I have written recently about the need for the IT industry to have much better ways to understand and analyse issue. I’m not sure whether a “black box” on the device does it for me though, what we really need is a “black box” on the infrastructure. Many problems are caused by issues away from the device.

  • Data sent to server and not returned.
  • Name resolution issues.
  • Remote application server issues.

A black box in the device isn’t going to tell you anything about these issues.

Every time this issue is discussed people are always concerned about the privacy issues and they are right to be so, but at the same time we need the information to resolve the problem. See all the comments in slashdot. But most of the people who go over-board on it have obviously never been involved in a difficult problem resolution situation. I have and I know how difficult it is. I also know how unreasonable we can be as humans. I must have heard something like this many-many times “why do you need me to tell you what I was doing, just fix it”, at the same time they say “don’t you dare go near my data”. They expect the IT organisation to be Sherlock Holmes, but sit him in a black room with no evidence to go on.

PS I removed ZDNet from my blog list and I still got to know about the information. See I didn’t need it after all.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager

It’s always interesting when organisation try to move into a space which has been on the edge of their core competency.

For a long time now corporate have trusted Microsoft file servers, but not trusted (because it’ been too noddy) Microsoft to protect that data. So rather than Microsoft going after the traditional backup market, which would be a really tricky sell they have started to go after a side market, and arguable an emerging market.

And so is born Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager.

Will they succeed – probably.

Smaller Tablets

Mary Jo Foley is talking about the emergence of a new Tablet form factor:

First it was the slate. Then it was the PC-Tablet convertible. Now it’s a mini-Tablet that can do everything that a traditional Tablet PC can do, plus store electronic books, that could end up as the new gadget on which Microsoft is betting to further Tablet PC momentum.

Highlighting an ABC News Article which states

I am meeting with our tablet people about the idea of carrying text books around. They’ll have just a tablet device that they can call up the material on. That’s been a dream for a long time, we’re making progress there.

Personally I love the feel of an A5 notebook. There is something that it ‘just right’ about the size. The key thing though, would be weight and depth. If it’s too heavy it’s a problem and if it’s too think it’s a problem. I regularly carry such a thing around and I think I would be as happy with that as I was with the 12.1” screen on the HP I had for a while. But if I had that it wouldn’t fulfill my requirements in many of the areas where I found the tablet really useful, but then again the 12.1” screen wasn’t big enough either for those situation.

For personal note taking though, the A5 form factor would definitely be better than the A4 factor and it is big enough for viewing presentation and other such activities.

Would I use it as a primary device, I doubt it. It  would have to be truly powerful and come with an incredible docking option for that to happen. And by docking I’m not talking about cool hardware. I’m talking about software. Where the device immediately recognises that now I am connected to a larger monitor I can automatically rearrange the windows and the behaviour would change to utilise that kind of working. And as I am unlikely to use it as a primary device then the synchronisation technologies would have to go a lot further than they do today.

The always-on social impacts

My friend Steve has just posted a really interesting article on the business case for PDA’s, but most importantly the impacts of the Always on Society.

It’s very interesting observing the social impacts of the working environment that people are forced to work in. I wrote the other day about the general working environment and it’s impact personally on my productivity. (Today I am working from home and it’s Friday s feel great). But it’s a really interesting thing to observe how other people interact with technology and the various connection infrastructures that they have.

Sue, my wife, is an interesting example. She works as a Pastoral Worker for our church (a voluntary position, but no less demanding) and the way that she interacts with the various connection infrastructures is fascinating.

When we come home from holiday, or even a short break, Sue has established a routine that drives me nuts, but is actually no different to the way so many people interact with their connection infrastructures. On films people returning from holiday, walk through the door with bags in hands, turn to each other, have a big hug and say something like ‘it’s great to be home’. Not in my house, are you kidding. As soon as Sue gets through the door she picks up the post and goes straight to the phone which will inevitably be flashing with a number of messages. These messages will be the few messages that have been left in the last 24 hours, because she has already phoned it every day while we have been away. And while she is walking around with the hands-free phone listening to the messages she walks into the study turns the PC on and sits down. She then goes through the post while the PC is booting up (still listening to messages) and down-loading the emails. She then goes through the emails. As a man this is infuriating because I am, of course, completely superfluous to this activity (there is nothing worse for a man than to feel redundant). So what do I do, I go and get the bags in from the car of course.

The thing is, these messages and emails can be anything. It’s not primarily personal correspondence that she is dealing with here, it’s primarily work related. And because she is a pastoral worker these messages can be anything and generally include births, deaths, sickness, upset, separation; anyone of the full spectrum of life’s highs and lows.

Yet, just because it is there, she needs to reconnect herself. She knows it drives me mad, and she knows that for me it marks a stark and sudden end to a holiday that I would rather keep going for a few hours.

I don’t take a laptop on holiday, not because I will fell the need to stay connected, because I know Sue will need to.

The other thing she has is the need to read text messages as soon as they arrive, wherever whenever, even if it’s late at night. For me, it’s more likely that the message itself will spoil my nights sleep, for Sue, the knowledge that there is some information that she doesn’t have will definitely spoil her nights sleep.

Now, there is some logic to all of this. And I’m not saying I’m right and she is wrong. I’m just saying we are different. For Sue, she would rather get all of the information in small doses. Just because she has the information doesn’t mean she worries about it. For me, I’d rather not have the information at all, because I do worry about it. Not sure whether that’s a man-woman thing, or whether it’s our different personalities. What it does mean is that she sneaks away while we are on holiday to phone home and listen to the messages and that definitely troubles me, because it feels a bit like she is behaving like an addict would. She only does it because she knows it winds me up, I’m sure.

Anyway, at today’s level of technology there is a certain level of disconnection. If we are camping in Northern Scotland there is no mobile signal and I’m not driving to a phone box so she can listen to the messages. But those days are rapidly coming to a close. So what will it take for us to fully understand what we are doing to ourselves in being this connected and when will we understand how to train people how to deal with his level of connectivity. How do you train someone to turn off a mobile phone? How do you train someone to know that stuff happens and to relax in it? How do we change the technology so that we get the really important stuff and not the dross? I have a colleague who sends everything to me as ‘urgent’ and it’s not. One of these days he’ll send me something really important and I’ll miss it.