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Learning business by charts


I am someone who learns visually. I absorb charts, screenshots, videos etc. a lot faster than any other medium. Business knowledge is something that often doesn’t come in this format however (perhaps why the first business discipline I learned was marketing). However I have found a Twitter feed (yes, there is useful content on Twitter) that I have really grown to love. http://twitter.com/chartoftheday

This graph was used to illustrate how poorly Microsoft Office 2010 was performing sales-wise, but wow what a difference between Windows Vista (Jan 2007 launch) and Windows 7 ( Oct 2009 launch). It completely masks the decline in Office sales, even though Office sales are obviously an equally big cash cow for Microsoft. It also makes the Server and Tools slice of the pie look tiny, even though it actually represents $1b a year in operating profit.

I also liked this chart of how Apple cannibalised the entire mobile phone industries’ sales with the iPhone. I am reading the Innovators Dilemma at the moment, and the release of a well executed touch screen phone certainly represents a disruptive technology in my eyes. It still amazes me that such a massive market filled with well established players can just be turned on its head in a few short years. More specifically Nokia’s share price copped a beating ever since the release of the iPhone, the subject of yet another chart. What is interesting to me is that Apple’s rapid rise ironically precipitated a huge boom in the adoption of open source mobile software in Android. I guess that the previous market leaders had their hands full competing with Apple’s hardware and didn’t have the time or resources to produce new software from scratch.

There are plenty more charts out there that will make you stop and think, and each one can be read into (rightly or wrongly) 100 different ways.

Is there money in producing content?

yankee-group-online-ad-market-and-internet-access-growth-2006-2011

From MarketingCharts.com

Online media is growing up. All the big media players (News, Fairfax etc.) are currently fighting it out with the new kids on the block, online pure plays (Google, Microsoft, Realestate.com.au etc.). The prize is the rapidly growing pool of online advertising revenue, predicted to pass the US$50 billion mark next year. Historically the provider with the most content has attracted the most consumers, in turn attracting the most customers. Eventually this network effect lead to breakaway market leaders establishing dominance and gradually raising the market barriers of entry. Holding all the content was a licence to print money.

Slowly general search tools like Google and Bing, as well as vertical specific search sites like Zillow, started gaining momentum. They established themselves as “middle men”, generating advertising while helping people more efficiently find the content they were looking for. They were not interested in hosting or contributing content, but rather focused on the delivery of that content. They realised that the front-end distribution is where the money is at, not at the back-end creating content. Google in particular understands this, and the publishers do not. The publishers hate that Google News provides a beautiful user interface to access their content easily and for free, yet despite their threats they do not block Google’s bots because they need a strong online delivery channel and half their traffic comes from search engines.

This style of reluctant symbiotic relationship also appears outside news content, it is extending further into real estate and videos to name just a few. Microsoft are attempting to flip the relationship by making Bing Video index Google’s YouTube content and Google Maps is indexing real estate content.

The big media content creators have recognised one thing at least, for the partnership to work each participant has to have a stake in it’s success (or failure). Licencing deals, share stakes and other structures are occurring left, right and centre as the various players align themselves. This “sorting out” period has amusing side effects, like media companies being on both sides of the legal fence. Eventually the flurry of deals will subside and the media companies will realise that YouTube is no different to their old printing press and delivery operation, it is a necessary distribution channel that takes a commission. If your printing press operator decided to make your boring black and white rag and turn it into a glossy high end publication that successfully retailed at twice the price (despite having the same content) then good luck to them, in the end you benefit from a more valuable distribution channel.

For now we are faced with more sabre rattling by the media companies, constant partnership renegotiation’s and declining print revenues. As with any market forces, the digital media market will eventually reach an unsteady equilibrium. Some sort of duopoly with Google/Microsoft as the distribution channels, and the old media companies aligned behind them as the content creators. It is unlikely that the print rivers of gold will be seen in one place again, but sharing these rivers over a wider and more competitive landscape will benefit consumers. Sooner or later content producers will realise that revenue is a balance between consumption price and volume, withholding content only encourages piracy and other forces that undermine their progress to a fair and efficient new distribution channel.

Exchange 2007 certificate migration

Exchange 2007 uses SSL certificates extensively across the IMAP, POP, IMAP, UM and IIS services. I assumed that adding an SSL certificate to one of the Domain Controllers would propogate that certificate across all the controllers. I guess it makes sense that I was wrong, SSL certificates aren’t something you want spread or activated widely. If you do need to move or copy the certificate across servers though, it is a simple 3 step process in the Exchange shell:

1) Export the certificate from the original server:

Export-ExchangeCertificate -Thumbprint 5113ae0233a72fccb75b1d0198628675333d010e -BinaryEncoded:$true -Path c:\certificates\export.pfx -Password:(Get-Credential).password

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa996305.aspx

2) Import the certificate into the new server:

Import-ExchangeCertificate -Path c:\certificates\export.pfx -Password:(Get-Credential).password

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb124424.aspx

3) Enable the new certificate:

Enable-ExchangeCertificate -Thumbprint 5113ae0233a72fccb75b1d0198628675333d010e -Services “POP, IMAP”

 http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa997231.aspx

Done! 🙂

FRS Error 13508 without 13509

error_13508Hand a few problems with this error on a new hosted domain controller that uses a VPN to connect back to the head office. Got some tips from Expert Exchange, but to summarise the various steps you should check are simple but effective (and as usual mostly DNS related):

  • Check there are no external DNS servers listed
  • Checked the localhost DNS server is not listed
  • Check that NETBIOS is only enabled over the internal NIC
  • Check that the other domain controllers FQDN’s are pingable
  • Check that the SRV records under the domain and _msdcs forward lookup zones include all your domain controllers (and only their internal IP addresses)
  • Manually trigger the domain controller replication connections through “Active Directory Sites and Services”, expand the server, right click “NTDS Settings” and do “All Tasks” and then “Check Replication Topology”. Make sure you click the Refresh button to see if all the replication links are listed.
  • Use netdiag -v and dcdiag -v to isolate any other problems
  • Keep restarting the Netlogon service 🙂

I really wish the DNS lookup that Active Directory did was a little more resilient (i.e. if the first DNS server lookup fails then use the secondary).

Live Mesh now Windows 7 Compatible

Live Mesh Beta LogoLive Mesh is getting a getting the Service Update that was promised before the holiday release blackout period today. The key bug fix that everyone is hanging out for is that it will now not kick Windows 7 into it’s non-Aero interface. This will soon include me, because I have a freshly burned copy of Windows 7 sitting on my desk ready to be installed tonight. I guess I will be completing the Windows Connect install survey tomorrow, fingers crossed they give out valid licence keys at the end of the beta program like they did for Vista.

One interesting point I noted was that the Live Mesh Blog no longer appears to be labelled “Beta” or “Tech Preview”. The version update appears to only be a minor one (0.9.3424.5 to 0.9.3424.14), however it looks as though some subtle steps towards a debut are occurring. Perhaps one of these will be matching Skydrive‘s 25 GB storage limit? I live in hope.

Islands of Computing Power

Amit Mital kicked off TechEd Australia 2008 today with a keynote presentation on Microsoft’s view of how software and services will develop in the future, particularly in relation to their new Live Mesh offering. There is a good summary of his presentation on the TechEd New Zealand site, it seems they got an identical opening keynote. For someone who loves networks he sure doesn’t seem to like professional networks!

There was one flow of logic which struck me in his speech. Moore’s law is still holding true, and computer hardware is continuing to double in processing power every 18 months. This computer power is also appearing in more and more locations. But when was the last time your network doubled in speed? What about doubling in speed to each additional node? This rapid processing power increase has meant two things that are obvious even today:

  1. Computers are islands of computing power – There is no seamless transfer of data between your devices. You work on a file at work, email it home, download it at home, work on it and send it back.
  2. Deploying local machines is too hard – Each branch office needs a rack, servers, backup, redundency, configuration, support, licencing…

Behind the Mesh SlideMicrosoft’s solution at a high level is the Mesh stack, the structure of which can be seen in the slide shown here. The fundamentals are that local software is fast, hosted services are convenient, so lets tie them together with an API and we get the best of both worlds. The trick is getting the balance right, where does a local application end and the service begin? How do you split the business logic? How do you provide offline access and quick sign-on to new devices? Hmmm…

Microsoft’s current practical solution is to re-write most of its server packages to allow hosted delivery. Hosted Exchange is an obvious flagship for this. Google have taken a different approach. They believe that all you should need on your desktop is Chrome, essentially an all-purpose thin client rather than a thick client on a drip feed.

So who is right? Well I am betting things will converge on a middle of the road approach. Implmenting with current technology I would say that javascript, a web browser and some sort of XML interface would be the best way to go. A few things need to develop from here:

  1. API’s need to be standardised and built into the browser (or OS as these merge). Something like Javascript libraries, but compiled, lightening fast and highly reusable. Chrome is getting there.
  2. Data transfer needs to be better than XML. Think highly compressed, encrypted on the fly, but quickly decoded into a human readable format if necessary. Microsoft’s MeshFX is getting there because it has authentication and other services built in, but it needs to be open like SOAP.

So I guess the race is on! Google will take Javascript to it’s limits, Microsoft will try to blow us away with it’s feature set. When will they sit down and standardise on the next generation of javascript and data format?

My TechEd Testimonial

I was recently invited (for the third year in a row) to be filmed in a promotional testimonial for Microsoft TechEd Australia 2008. It was recently put online on the TechEd testimonials page, but I have uploaded a YouTube version to save everyone downloading Silverlight. Let me know what you think!

Microsoft Promotions

Ok I don’t want to sound like an MS Fanboi, but there are actually a few cool things Microsoft related happening with me at the moment.

Skydrive

Skydrive is a very cool new file storage service from Microsoft. Really simple, you get 5GB of storage space and can upload any file smaller than 50MB. Sounds perfect for a “My Docs” backup system? The only catch is that there is no shell extension or decent folder upload tool yet. They do however have a nice drag+drop multi-file upload tool, which I guess will do for now. I would love to see a more integrated tool that actually backed your “My Docs” up for you, but my guess that is hidden somewhere in the greater Windows Live skunkworks for now.

Windows Server 2008 + Exchange 2007

Yes, I am migrating my servers at home to the latest and greatest MS enterprise offerings. This also means going to Windows 2008 x64, which is fine since I have been an AMD fanboi for some time, but it would have been nice of them to make the migration a little easier! I know hardware is cheaper than software these days, but it would be nice to be able to easily upgrade Exchange from 2003 to 2007 without having to have a spare x64 machine lying around. Anyway it is all underway, so keep an eye on my Netcraft page.

Office 2007 Compatibility Pack

Now that Office 2007 is upon us with a new file format, how is everyone else going to cope? Well Microsoft has freely released a file format converter which can be downloaded here. Esteemed authorities such as Gartner have warned companies to deploy Office 2007 file converters NOW, but how can you do that on a corporate network? Microsoft only distribute the converters in an executable, how can I deploy that using Group Policy?

Well Mr M Keadle provided the solution for me. When you run the exe it extracts an MSI (as well as a bunch of other files) into the C:\Program Files\MSECache\O2007Cnv\1033 directory. If you copy these files to a network deployment location you can then use Group
Policy! What I don’t understand is why Microsoft themselves wouldn’t publish such a solution (or even a single MSI)?

Outlook 2007 without a gateway

For some reason Outlook 2007, unlike Outlook 2003, requires that a network gateway is set before it will connect to your Exchange server. I really wonder whether this is a bug or not, it seems a bizarre requirement when most Exchange servers will be on the local network. I would have thought that most companies would prefer to implement a proxy server and not define a gateway. In fact, a workaround for this problem is to set the http proxy settings within the Account Settings -> Change -> More Settings -> Connection Tab:

If you enter your Outlook Web Access URL in this section then you can connect without a gateway being set. This is obviously not a great solution, it would be nice if it ‘just worked’ like Outlook 2003 always did. This is especially true for corporate network deployments. I am still left wondering whether this is a bug or not, I really can’t understand how it would be a ‘security feature’.

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