Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft PubCenter Omen?

PubCenter for Content
The illusive PubCenter for Content!
It is true that there are a few web publishers that have the ability to put Microsoft’s PubCenter ads on their websites. We have seen the interface ourselves, and have come to learn a bit about it.

For the last few years Microsoft has not allowed new users to access this function and rumor has been that it is for a lack of ad inventory. A few folks that got in early have enjoyed some reasonable payouts on par with Google AdSense, and recently sometimes on par with the glory days of YPN (Yahoo Publisher Network). However, the interface was chintzy to say the least. Plagued with odd bugs and dysfunction. If Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo included a review of YPN it would undoubtedly have been chosen as the most ready-to-ship interface.

Accounts have remained available for integrating with Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 applications. However, the web is full of laments about low payouts. Our clients tend to focus on Droid or iPhone, and neither are supported by Microsoft’s PubCenter. Whether short sighted, or strategic, it is what it is.

So now for the omen, at the end of last month we were contacted by a client that had noticed a drastic drop in ad revenue. As we mentioned before, the interface is bug ridden, not just a little bit. Our alpha demos typically have fewer bugs. If you click in the wrong place your browser may well go into a seizure of recursive reloading. Use any browser but IE and you’ll be lucky to get any results at all. QA has clearly been procrastinated. However, working with a group like a possibly rouge and obscure advertising team within a big organization like Microsoft requires some street smarts. If you so much as change your email address in a fragile system like this revenues could collapse to never recover. It’s a degree of paranoia that is necessary. Once you’ve got things balanced, don’t touch ’em! Don’t even comment in a forum about them — more less write a whole article — just leave them alone!

However, our client had carefully heeded our warning. Even resisting the urge to view reports too often for utter fear that the balance would collapse. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work right? Yet earnings were dropping, very quickly. Earnings that had remained stable for several years, offering nice bonuses on occasion, but never such a dive. We were confounded. Their traffic demographic was exactly the same. Other ad programs were actually earning more, not less. Coverage (the percent of pages that showed ads) was identical to prior months at 99%. Yet PubCenter has flat-lined.

On a call, we had to ask again, are you sure you didn’t change anything? They hesitated, and then finally admitted that they had attempted to submit a new W9 to the site. We lamented, first that they hadn’t explained this sooner, but secondly that this may be irreversible. Like an episode of House M.D., after a strained admission on the patient’s part, we had diagnosed the cause and we’re pretty certain that it is terminal.

So in delusional hope we offer other possibilities, this could be somehow related to the end of the year. Though that seems unlikely since their “publisher traffic quality score” steadily dropped from 10 (for over a year straight) to 1.5 within 6 weeks. The only other thought is that M$FT may be giving up on content ads altogether. It would be nice to hear from any of the endangered species of organization that may be running content ads via PubCenter. However unlikely as it may be, since those individuals have quickly learned to keep their heads down and not rock the boat.

We are now more like divers exploring a ship wreck than developers coding to standards. In the secretive world of online advertising, be it Google, or Microsoft, or even obscure 3rd parties, we are left with vague TOS documents that may or may not contain any clue as to why Zeus chose to frown on our client today. Instead we try a half dozen different things in hopes one will work. This client is lucky, they have an AdSense account already. That is until Google’s Zeus is unhappy with his breakfast and decides to take it out on the minions.

iSad? The passing of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs passed away this week. It was surprisingly difficult to come to grips with our feelings on this matter. We do not hide the fact that we are not Apple fans, however there were admirable qualities to Steve Jobs that we cannot deny. We broke our thoughts down to a few main characteristics of the man and his legacy:

1. Trend Setter
2. Business Sense
3. Clever

As we discussed these virtues, we worked through the second layer, what about these virtues made us dislike what Steve Jobs stood for, and the answer was simple, we did not like that the list above was not what those sold out to Apple would list, they would list something like:

1. Innovator
2. Visionary
3. Leader

This is the disparity. In fact in the wake of his passing we have seen claims that he invented everything from tablet computers to mp3 players. We have seen friends lament as though a dear friend has just passed away. We have seen hero worship in the highest form, and most of that goes back to the list of characteristics that he managed to convince those fans were true. That is why we (and others like us) cringe at the praise. It was deception, and many were happy to have the wool pulled over their eyes. Macs are trendy, true, but there is very little in the way of innovation to be found. From mice to touch screens to GUIs, none of these are inventions of Apple, they are assimilations.

So let’s recognize him for his incredible talent, but be honest about what his talent was. He was a fashion designer for gadgets. In a world notoriously lacking aesthetic savvy this turtleneck clad “Coco Chanel” convinced his customers to spend more for a label. It’s brilliant, and it is what fashion has been about for more than a century. My mom can tell you that her Windows computer “just works” … but she does not love Windows the way Apple users love their little Apple stickers. Steve Jobs masterfully created a brand that was loved by many, and that is a talent in itself.

We doubt that the PC vs. Mac war will end soon. The people who get things done on computers will usually admit that both tools will do the job. The most savvy can do more with PCs because their PCs have better specs than any Mac. We do not mind if you want a stylish Mac on your desk, they are prettier than any PC we’re aware of. What we mind is when we hear nonsense about security and reliability come up. When someone makes the generalization “it’s better”… The fact is not only are they not better, but they are worse in many ways. “It just works” another farce. Anyone with significant computer experience can list as many (if not more) ways that a Mac does NOT work, than a PC. My computing amateur friend put it quite nicely when he said: “I know I’ll pay more for less, and that you can do more with a PC than with a Mac, but I like these, they’re really nice.” … That’s what I call an informed decision. Steve Jobs was an artist, as any good fashion designer should be, he was a genius, but not in technology, in style. He deserves respect, but for the right reasons.

As for all of the disinformation and OTT hero worship I’ll leave you with this article: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3318250.html

We voiced months ago our opinion that for many a cult of personality has formed. Cohen (in his article above) does a good job describing our feelings on the matter. Now in his passing quotes are popping up like religious proverbs. Some are wrongly attributed, and others are so uncharacteristic of his actual life that they appear to also be incorrect. There is a real possibility that some spiritual icon is forming around this. I highly suggest a look at Cohen’s article and resisting any urge you have to bring about the, as Cohen says: “beatification of the blessed Jobs of Silicon Valley”.

Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO

This took nearly 2 years longer than we expected, however Steve Jobs has finally just resigned. Preliminary reports from back in January made it clear that his health problems were not a thing of the past, however the big test has arrived. Is Apple a cult of personality, and does the share lock down from today signal what will likely amount to a popping bubble?

Our guess is that P/E can be expected to drop to perhaps below $10 in coming weeks as a sign that Steve Jobs is Apple. If it manages to hold then perhaps there is more substance to this company than we’ve given them credit for. Whatever happens our condolences to Mr. Jobs. We hope him the best.

It was once said that Steve Jobs generated “A reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around…” (Bud Tribble working with Jobs in 1981). Unless he manages to pass on his deceptive powers to a disciple Apple should decline and ultimately vanish. However, while we are certainly no experts on the dark arts, it would seem with so many entranced with his spell that the padawan would not have to accomplish quite the feat that Jobs has. So it could happen. The opportunity is coming quickly for another guru to establish dominance. Be on the lookout.


HP, DELL, Microsoft

Some major changes this week on the PC front. While DELL announced a more conservative income outlook HP has announced that they will sell their PC unit altogether. While the market has weighed in with its opinion already, it is possible that they are wrong. Specifically about Microsoft & Dell. If HP feels that they will do better focusing on server equipment, they should do it. They do produce some of the most popular server equipment in the world. However, poking Dell or Microsoft for it is illogical. Dell is the second most popular PC builder at 25%, and when HP bows out Dell is well positioned to pick up their quarter and perhaps rise to well over 30-40%. Interestingly enough Apple still sits below a third of either of those two and really does not even qualify being beaten out by even Acer.

Finally there’s Microsoft. By far the most popular OS in the world. We recently ridiculed articles claiming that Windows dropping below 90% market share was newsworthy. It’s a fact, for every 10 computers sold in the world, 9 of them are Windows computers.

So make what you will of current news, however the fact remains, no matter how many “experts” bloviate their predictions about the future the present is the only thing sure. For now Microsoft and Windows 8 are still the biggest player in the business. Anyone who proceeds on the fictional laurels of delusions of visionary brilliance and attempts to operate a business without Windows will sentence their disciples to drastically degraded possibilities. That’s the current reality, and has been so for 20 years, when the only major player to compete with Windows was Novell. There are many who get by with Linux or OSX, but they do so at their own loss. NTFS remains the most flexible and powerful file system for networks to this day.

Windows users, don’t apologize for using the most advanced operating system in the world. That’s the present reality.

Windows 8 Impressions

I began this article with plans to have at Microsoft for the same reasons I had at Apple on OSX Lion. Dragging desktop interfaces down to the level of mobile devices is an absurd strategy. However, Microsoft has been accused for years of lacking ingenuity. However upon reviewing the tidbits available on Windows 8 I’m quite certain that whatever may come while Steve Jobs is still implementing ideas he had 27 years ago (or so he claims with iCloud), Microsoft really seems to have some new ones. It might be time to get some stock in M$FT.

As I saw these colored tiles pop up on the screen I thought: “here we go again”… However, it really is not like anything we’ve had before. HTML5, javascript, running the desktop! This is very exciting. A: “Mosaic of Tiles… Tiles are better than icons for several reasons…” … I actually buy that. Snap an app, alt-tab. “Thumbs” keyboard… I’m sure the fan boys and “geniuses” we like to ridicule so much here will find a way to claim that these are all stolen from what would have been Steve Jobs’ intellectual property given enough time for him to come up with it (and perhaps will file a lawsuit to boot). I frankly don’t care. While OSX is releasing what amounts to service packs as “new products” Microsoft has been busy. By the time Apple has OSX service pack 4: Sea Horse, or Tiger Lily, or whatever they call it next, I just hope Windows can get some good Q/A done despite their bureaucratic tar pit. If a mobile OS has a chance at beating Android this is how it would be done. I’m just happy to have a win/win. In fact I may need to get to work on figuring out how to dual boot my phone!

Momentarily remove your robe of resistance to change and take a watch yourself, do you see what I see?

OSX Lion Preview Review

Here’s a quick summary of about 30 minutes with OSX Lion (© Apple):

1. Little “lights” under icons in dock were by default turned off in Lion (© Apple).
2. Smaller control buttons on the windows.
3. There is a new link in the dock called “launchpad” that makes your desktop look just like an iPhone/iPad (© Apple).
4. Address book looks like a book.
5. Strange sliding effect on finder view selector.
6. The finder’s (apple copyright lion Apple) left pane is now nearly identical to windows 7 explorer’s left pane.
7. The mail application looks quite different and again not in a good way.
8. Safari (© Apple) finally supports full screen.

In short, I may suggest some reservation when your desktop OS is modeling its “innovations” after a 4 year old mobile device. There are rumors of pending “multi-touch” capability but our touch-pad did not indicate any sign of it. If this is for touch screens they must be planning to tabletize their iMacs (© Apple) or something since it is obvious that touchscreens in a desktop formfactor are impractical. You think your carple tunnel is acting up now? Try holding your hand up in the air for long periods of “touch time”.

The beta is buggy and does not appear to behave correctly. It really looks like they may be attempting to create a 1 size fits all OS for all devices. Safari (© Apple) finally supports full screen. Something most other browsers have done for longer than we can remember. I used to use Netscape’s full screen mode, which means it’s definitely been around a while.

Those little lights in the doc that tells you the app is running are by default turned off. This could be a further hint at their plans to clamp down on mult-tasking the same way they have on their small devices. Windows 7’s “glass” box around the icon is synonymous with this. Exposé (© Apple) has a strange habit of overlapping the windows which seems to be a bug & dashboard (© Apple? If not, I’m sure they’ve tried to) looks different. The window comes from the side and is no longer transparent. Perhaps something not finalized.

Scrolling by default is backwards! Thankfully this can be fixed in mouse settings.
Apple (© Apple) is really in love with their own mobile OS, so much so that they are willing to deprecate their desktop OS features in favor of the mobile OS. Very counter-intuitive strategy. IMO.

However, last but not least, the most exciting change in OSX Lion (© Apple) so far! Drum roll please… Resizing windows from any side and as a special bonus, window animations! Welcome to the last decade Steve Jobs (© Apple).

So Apple (© Apple) manages to simultaneously salute the other OSes with some of their copycat enhancements while oddly moving toward what appears to be constraining a full computer to the input and formfactor limitations of a PDA. We can certainly cheer the prior.

As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than Ubuntu’s “jiggly” windows. Or as I like to refer to them, the Jiggy Windows… or as the song goes “na na na na na na, getting jiggy windows.” But, Apple (© Apple) has done well to take a clue from them. Once again we will certainly be astounded to see how Steve (© Apple) spins these imitations as innovations.

Credits: thanks to Apple (© Apple) for sending the Lion (© Apple) Preview DVD and thanks for making it the easiest yet to install on my 5 year old Dell.
And thank you Dell for making the M1710. An amazing machine.

Disclaimer: We are not sure that Apple (© Apple) has ©ed the word Lion (© Apple) however since we are aware (© Apple) of their (© Apple) propensity for lawsuits (© Apple) we figure it can’t hurt (© Apple) to © the heck out of this.

Firefox 4 vs. Internet Explorer 9 vs. Chrome 11

ie vs ff vs chromeI hope you will welcome my contributions to the V-Tek blog, this is my first post.

As a project manager here at VeraciTek I am always trying to polish my fluency with the latest technologies. The browser war being one of the most relevant to my job.

Microsoft recognized very early that building the browser meant owning the traffic. At least to some degree. The internet landscape is changing very quickly and has advanced light-years beyond the early days when Netscape and Internet Explorer fought for dominance. The same early days that Microsoft lost the court battle to force IE on Windows users.

Today IE is still the top, at 55% market share. A gouge out of it is Firefox’s and Chrome is still the “little guy”. However, recently Chrome has been taking market share from them both.  The summary review of Chrome is: it’s super fast, and buggy. Many sites don’t work correctly with it and it has the habit of announcing: “He’s dead Jim” on sites that work fine in the other browsers. However, it is VERY quick compared to the others.

Firefox 4 claims to be faster, by a factor of 5, it claims. However, in our office the consensus is that is just not true. One developer said: “It might be the same speed as FF3, but that’s just might be.” Another complains that he stares at a full screen white out for about 10-20 seconds before it does anything at all. He once opened and closed Chrome and visited Google twice in the time it took for FF4 to leave the white screen. Another says: “It’s ugly.”

IE 9 is the one we open just to test. At 55% market share we have to be compatible, but that doesn’t mean we have to use it. I have been in IT for years and I remember when it was IE vs. Netscape. There were some others, but those were the big players. Beginning at around IE4 there was a long period where developers would complain about trying to support all of the versions of Netscape. That flipped at the end of IE5’s reign.

Today, Chrome has done something a bit counter-intuitive. Instead of asking if you’d like to update Chrome, it just does it. Perhaps taking a lesson from Apple, Google seems to have realized that most users just get stressed out by questions like: “Would you like to upgrade?” Whatever the reason, Firefox and even IE fails to keep their users at the current point release. Both of those ask users, and Microsoft does so so inconspicuously that it seems like unless someone is an expert typist (in other words, have reasonable computer skills) there will be an explanation mark in their task area. So easy to just ignore, which the stats say is being ignored.

So the verdict is, Chrome is crashing the party. Not today, or tomorrow, but IE had better come up with something more exciting than another integer number to hold on to its market share. Firefox remains the developer’s choice. Even at FF4 the Firebug plugin is ultra functional in FF with limited support in Chrome (firebug lite). What our senior developer let me know though is that Chrome has something called Dev Tools and many Firebug holdouts don’t even know it exists. He uses both depending on which browser he is in.

I’m sure that means something. However, if you’re like me you leave the deep end for those guys. I installed Chrome just a few months ago, I highly suggest it. Even if you’re like me, and relegated to the kiddie end. Then maybe you’ll notice when your web developers leave your site non-functional in Chrome. You can let them know that you know what’s up.

More FUD from internet “reporters”.

Example #1: Is Honeycomb Android’s Vista?

Wow, ZDnet, how much did you get paid to run that article? Especially since the supported devices can be counted on 1 hand and the major player is the Xoom that really has had it’s own problems taking on the iPad. Any commentary on the matter is premature at best, so extrapolating from those comments is just bad reporting.

Do we need more examples? They come daily. One thing I can suggest is a good read between the lines in that article. If you do better than skim you’ll catch that ZDnet is actually making the same point. You won’t get it from the headline, nor just reading a few sentences, but the overall message is everyone hated Vista and loves Windows 7. Though they are nearly the same! Unfortunately it’s the headlines that a big portion of society base their opinions on. Shame on you ZD, you know that. Based on a sample of the comments it’s pretty obvious most of them didn’t really read it either.

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) … PROPAGANDA. Don’t be lemmings, if you see a provocative headline dig deep or ignore it altogether but don’t rush to Tweet or update Facebook. That only adds to the problem.

“Some men relate what they think, as what they know; some men of confused memories, and habitual inaccuracy, ascribe to one man what belongs to another; and some talk on without thought or care. A few men are sufficient to broach falsehoods, which are afterwards innocently diffused by successive relaters.

It is more from carelessness about the truth, than from intention of lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.” – Samuel Johnson

PLI the interface of Web 3.0.

While it may be tempting to clam that Toys “R” Us is precisely where iPads belong, here we will beg to differ. While these machines are certainly capable of being entertainment items the world still has yet to fully realize what Bill Gates’ form factor idea will finally contribute to the work place. Bill Gates because he was the one who touted tablets 10 years ago. We’re not really sure who invented them.

The tablet form factor, which is as far from an Apple innovation as bell bottoms, has serious potential. Gates knew it, Jobs knows it, and we here at V-Tek know it. We have already demonstrated some very innovative business application interfaces that are targeted for tablets. Page flipping, dragging, pop up keying, and a plethora of other layout methods stand to finally combine and create an interactive report style application interface that would leave Tom Cruise in Minority Report drooling. The outputs, the inputs all showing up in the same place. That’s where we see this going.

Some charlatan will doubtlessly appear on some corner of the web in the next few years and start touting this “new technology” as their own, and perhaps even give it a neato acronym. If they are rich enough they may even try to patent it, but the form-factor, the handling, the devices themselves are naturally evolving this. No individual can lay claim to this next generation of business applications, while many will try.

So before the illusionists get too noisy we’d like to propose an acronym for this. PLI or maybe ILP it will stand for “Paper Like Interface” and represent applications designed specifically to be navigated like a stack of papers, read like an e-book (complete with index), and combine the application’s interactive components with its output (reporting) components. Soon gone will be the days of antiquated web form fields in columnar layouts with next and submit buttons. Web 2.0 brought us AJAX and obnoxiously huge graphics, Web 3.0 will combine dynamic PDF forms, with tablet form factors, and sever the gap between inputs and outputs offering more than eye candy to productivity hounds. Beautiful outputs would equate to beautiful interface.

That’s straight from V-Tek’s crystal ball.

Microsoft’s Azure

PaaS (Platform as a Service). That’s the niche that Microsoft is targeting. Developers, popular languages, especially one of our old favorites here, the ultra-powerful PHP. Last year we got the opportunity to work with a Microsoft team on their PHP/IIS optimization engine. Unfortunately, we were much too busy and it was much too buggy.

For us to recommend Microsoft’s PaaS product, which really sounds pretty neat, would require them to drop their complicated and sketchy pricing antics. “$0.12 per compute hour” is not something we can explain to our clients and we’re not even clear what Microsoft would call a “compute hour” and how we could audit this ourselves. We owe it to our clientele to investigate this further.  So far they’ve already raised an eyebrow here with their “free until November” slogan. Ideally, once they stop imitating AOL’s model from the 1990s, they’ll sell this thing like a hosting package and drop their “compute hour” nonsense. For now, we call this experimental, at best.

Please do help us to keep the record straight, agree or disagree.