windows 7

All change at Microsoft? – Or admitting defeat?

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Poor Microsoft, having to release its software on other platforms because only a few are buying theirs.....
Poor Microsoft, having to release its software on other platforms….

Three pieces of news from Microsoft today, which signal to me a change in the companies view of itself and maybe now realizes that as well as having no foothold on the popular markets of today such as smartphones, net services and search, see’s itself more providing software for others in its future.

First up is that on July the 1st there are to be big changes at Microsoft.  Now we could speculate, but I think the time has long since past where Microsoft will regain its former “glory” and now can only sit back and watch itself being ridiculed and its market share in a plethora of services, software and tech be eaten away by competition.

The changes are reportedly being overseen almost solely by Ballmer, with an end goal of changing Microsoft into a “devices and services company”

Source: Independent

And if Ballmer has a hand in these “changes” then I expect them to be out of touch and beneficial to the competition and choice.  And because its Ballmer, we’ll probably get a chuckle out of them too.  Microsoft will be a considerably smaller software only company in the not too distant future – mark my words.  I suppose Microsoft will always have the portfolio of patents in which to fleece money from others – that is until such time as the issue of software patents is handled correctly.

There’s the news that Xbox games are coming to both iPhone and “smartphones” it must really hurt Microsoft just to have to say the “Google” word – especially now that it will be relying on Google’s customer base to buy Microsoft wares.

Through a licensing deal, Klab will bring Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows-based computer games to the iPhone and smartphones using Google Inc’s Android operating system, according to the Nikkei


Bing is due to release “Bing for schools” which allegedly is an ad free and adult free search engine.  Wow…. and suggests that Microsoft really wants to try and save its future by at least indoctrinating the young with their search engine (after all the latest form factors which the younger generation are using certainly do not have the Microsoft name on them).

“We see the program as something we can build alongside teachers, parents, and visionaries to create the best possible search experience for our children….”

Source: Cnet

So really its just going to be a search engine where only approved sites (and I assume approved by humans not bots) will be listed.  Of course how Microsoft would police those approved sites in order to prevent any “accidents” as a result of a comment or link from them is anyone’s guess and the fact that a young person may find a “safe” site as a result of Bing but then link onto something unsuitable, sort of defeats the whole object of the exercise.  Talking of the whole object of the exercise, I think in Bing for Schools its more a case of trying to indoctrinate young people into at least one Microsoft product before they go into employment using Android and Apple products and saying the word “Google”.

Contact points:

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights on

Beware a softie bearing gifts…Microsoft giveaway?

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I make no secret of my opinion that Microsoft should never be allowed the dominance on any form factor that its enjoyed over the years on the desktop.  After many years of introducing users to Linux and indeed other alternatives, it always amazed me that such simple features of Linux that I take for granted were seen as a huge benefit by those used to a Microsoft operating system.  A solid stable experience, no need to battle malware and faster operations were but a few things that users coming from Windows mentioned when they had Linux introduced to them.

Today times are changing and despite what some might say, the traditional desktop is going.  Thats great news for choice since we have Android and even Apple products offering users the experiences they want, that’s not good news for Microsoft who have, to be fair, struggled in almost every facet of new tech.  Even the Xbox One has a derogatory name and it hasn’t been released yet.

Recently Microsoft announced that it was giving away free ebooks in multiple formats for users to download.  These ebooks – surprise, surprise for Microsoft products. Good news? Well not in my opinion.  Lets look back a few years at what Bill Gates had to say:

“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

That was Bill Gates talking about piracy and taking Microsoft products for “free”.  Now as we see people moving away from Microsoft is so many area’s, one has to wonder if this give-away is all about getting people “addicted” again.

I don’t think Microsoft has a belief in free.  It’s actions if hidden under a banner of “free” are to lock you into an ecosystem of theirs “One Microsoft Way” or as Bill Gates said, “to get sort of addicted”

I think Microsoft knows that the new generation of customers, the ones in school or college are getting competitors products.  Microsoft in my view can see that if left unchecked very shortly Microsoft will be an afterthought – Just look at the tablet and smartphone market now, Microsoft barely registers on the scale and has to get a living from Android “licenses” and if these form-factors are the mainstream of the future as the current market stands, Microsoft has a very small and unremarkable future.

I wouldn’t recommend people accepting anything for free from Microsoft, as in my view there’s always a price to be paid.

Contact points:

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights on

The price of “free speech” – Why you can’t be sure who you are talking with.

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I’ve a series of articles on free speech and why the internet has anything but coming very soon.  My free time has been taken up of late with a documentary I’m participating in so I will start off by apologising for the lack of updates on OpenBytes (and indeed the TechBytes audiocast).  I’ve been quite active over on G+ and the ability to simply message, link and comment from an Android Smartphone has seen me more involved over there for the past few months.

So today I look at free speech, with consideration to those companies who seek to manage it.  Before I go any further I must mention the company I highlight here ( has not been specific in what (if any) tactics it would employ against those who’s comments conflict with their clients “vision”.  I digress.  Here’s the history:

Over the past few months there has been an advert on a local talk radio station advertising a company called “” – Offering services which would appear to monitor & safeguard your online reputation. – A bad thing? Well since its taken a considerable time to get a reply from a few points I put to them, I’d expect any further answers to be equally as slow.  Here’s what the website says and I urge you to follow the link in order for you to draw your own opinions on what exactly it is that they offer.

Protect Your Online Reputation From Negative Search Results…

Obviously there is more to the site/service than merely that statement, but it sets the tone for why I was interested in what they offered.  How do they protect you from negative search results? I put the following to them:

How exactly do you achieve your goals or campaigns…. What lengths do you go to in “online reputation” and more importantly when someone exercises free speech which doesn’t favour the contract you have been given, what do you do?

I would be very interested to hear more about “reputation management”….. to me it sounds very much like hiring a shill….maybe I’m wrong there…..maybe you could elaborate?

And approximately 4 weeks later I received a response.  Presumably monitoring their own online presence is not as much of a priority as that of their clients?

Hello and apologies for our late reply.

Online reputation management encompasses a variety of activities, all conducted within an ethical framework.  An example would be helping a company to monitor and manage its online reviews. Our cloud-based platform enables real-time alerts when new reviews are posted, analysis of trends in the reviews (is sentiment changing?), and the ability to respond directly to reviews. We counsel clients in how to respond professionally and productively to resolve issues and convey responsivenss. We also help them create a culture where they proactively ask all customers to leave accurate feedback on review sites (while never paying for reviews, incentivizing customers to leave them, or writing reviews themselves). Over time, we’ve seen that this causes the reviews to come into a balance where what’s online matches the reality of the business in real life. We also remind our clients that negative reviews can also highlight genuine issues that must be addressed by the company – and people take note of responsiveness. And, of course, we don’t (and can’t) remove negative reviews. Hope this helps you.

So there is the reply.  A very polite answer which really doesn’t answer anything at all.  “Ethical framework”? – Who’s ethics are those based on? Can we see?

A “great” example is given of helping a company monitor its online reviews….what? today’s business can’t use Google? it’s really that difficult to find out the big name sites where your product will be discussed? People pay for that?

Our cloud-based platform enables real-time alerts when new reviews are posted

What sort of company/product needs realtime alerts to consumers opinions/reviews? And what would be done when a real time alert pops up that doesn’t favour the client?  Why is that sort of information needed in realtime unless the intent of their client is to somehow silence or “damage control” it?   That does though explain what I already suspected over the years of writing articles (and seeing some very strange incoming links) that this practice is certainly not unique to Reputation and its been going on for some time.

We also help them create a culture where they pro-actively ask all customers to leave accurate feedback on review sites….

What? Send them an email? Have a one time feature within the software/product for easy review?  And if the reviewer/consumer genuinely doesn’t like the product, how are you to:

Protect Your Online Reputation From Negative Search Results…

and thats the part that concerns me about services such as this.  The answers given to me in my view are vague to say the least and to me, either is offering services which could be done by even the most non-tech savvy person on the planet, or there are other concerning questions about services such as these.  How do you incentivize or encourage a review without an incentive? – If its a good product you don’t need to and wouldn’t need to hire a company like  Which then raises another question, how would they offer this:

 removing and suppressing negative content from your search results,

that’s another part of the service taken from the site.

So lets get this straight, they will get people to leave reviews without gifts or incentives of any kind.  They will give you realtime results and will remove and suppress negative content from search results? How? What if your product/service is not liked? Will they still suppress a clients negative remarks if the fault lies with the product?  Who knows, they haven’t elaborated on that.

I am sure is not unique in the service it offers, but it came to my attention as a result of local radio advert.  Does this sound like the sort of service the average listener on a local radio would want? – Very strange. has over 1 million clients, in over 100 countries globally, all taking advantage of our market leading online reputation management services and patented technology.

Ensure you stay in control of how you or your business are perceived online today.

Again from the site and again raises the worrying question, how do they achieve these aims?  What are they prepared to do so that negatives are suppressed? I questioned the practice of incentivizing (and highlighted the free laptops to bloggers –

Maybe the ultimate test will be how they will (or will not) deal with this article.

Kindly provided another response which I quote here (paragraphing mine):

No, to clarify: you should never incentivize for reviews (even a coupon) nor should you write reviews of your business.

No, we would never employ negative tactics against posters who were critical of our clients – that’s why we counsel our clients in how to directly interact with posters in a positive, professional manner. The goal is always to resolve the issue productively. And we tell companies that reviews can showcase what you need to change – if there are consistent issues, to your point, then the reviews are accurate and highlighting problems that you need to fix. If companies show responsiveness and action, consumers tend to be more forgiving.

What we find with many of our clients is that they are small or medium businesses who are aware that they need to pay attention online but don’t have the resources, knowledge or time to do it. We can help get them started on the best approach. Frequently, these businesses have a satisfied customer base that never thinks to write reviews – so when the occasional bad review pops up, it’s not truly reflective of what the business is like in real life.

I hope my channel of communication continues with as there are still questions I have regarding some of the claims on their site, however it should be noted that is not the only company offering a service such as this and whilst this article concentrates on the rights and wrongs of monitoring and “suppressing” bad reviews/PR, there is no real indication yet as to how achieves this.  Maybe will be the company which sets an example to all others as to how these services should operate?

I’ll leave you with this quote from a previous article of mine where I reported about a blogger talking about gifts:

But if you write about Microsoft, they might even give you one for free. Is it ethical? Probably not. Is it worth something to hard-working sweat and tears bloggers? Hell yeah.

And I suggest that’s why positive reviews can often be viewed with suspicion and maybe getting any 3rd party involved in your online perception is a bad idea.  Good products and services will always shine and are not shouted down by a minority.  If many people are complaining about your product, then its you with the problem and doing anything but rectifying the product/service is not the direction you should be heading, lest you end up in the situation many Microsoft product posts are where good remarks are always labelled “shill”.

UPDATE: Thursday 4th April 2013

I received this following reply from which I’d like to share now (paragraphing mine):

Hi, Tim. We help clients manage and monitor their reviews and encourage their customers to post new, accurate reviews. We understand it can be surprising to some (like people web-sophisticated enough to know Usenet!) that companies might need help in this area – but did you know 60 percent of UK small businesses didn’t even have a website (according to this Guardian article? It’s an astonishing statistic and highlights the fact that many are still figuring out how best to wade in the water of the web (if you will). Perhaps then it’s not so surprising that even good businesses may be unsure how to address reviews appropriately.

Regarding the other product that you’ve asked about, we do not remove negative content ever (and thank you for highlighting this erroneous language on our website, which we’ve since removed). We help professionals and businesses establish their presence online through crafting factual content, setting them up on social media, etc. This establishes a foundation of accurate information so that when others encounter additional material, including out of date, misleading, or inaccurate information, during their research, they have a better basis to make an informed assessment. Thanks again for writing to us and all the best.

So there’s the response.  I’ve asked if a member of would be interested in a conversation for a piece on the TechBytes show, I hope they are as willing to engage there as they have been over the past few days.  It was also nice to see that on me highlighting potential “perception” issues of (most notably the wording “suppress”) they have removed the wording.  A company that does not engage in dubious tactics would not want to be associated with those that do, those I hasten to add which we will be looking at more closely in the weeks to come.  It’s seems that is what it says on the tin and whilst the whole issue of needing “reputation management” in the first place may seem a little wrong to people (in this age of free speech) at least has been quite upfront about what they will and won’t do – That’s to be applauded in itself.

Tim W

Microsoft begs for Windows Phone developers?

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psgDespite the usual Microsoft PR, Windows Phone (and infact) many of Microsoft’s many “new ideas”, have been met with apathy from the consumer.  Windows Phone has found itself in a catch-22 I believe where the consumer wants the apps and the devs wont come and make the apps they want until they are Windows Phone users.  That in addition to the image of Microsoft in the eyes of the mainstream consumer all leads to apathy at best.

Seemingly now very desperate to attract developer support for its ailing phone ecosystem, Microsoft is running a set of free lectures (or training weekend) where, I am sure you will hear the Microsoft buzzwords of “reaching out” quite a few times as they try to convince devs (and would-be’s) to come over to their platform.

Of course, free lecturers probably are not enough, so as is usual with Microsoft, a gift or two (or the promise of prizes), make this whole weekend seem more like a game-show rather than a training course.  Develop now! Amazing prizes to be won.

Developers go where the consumer are.  The consumers are buying Android and Apple products by the bucket-load.  The emerging form factor of the tablet and the smart-phone will hopefully not be subjected to the Microsoft domination we saw on the desktop for so many years.

Tim (Goblin)


Skype: tim.openbytes


Develop for Windows RT – big money to be made (£52)!!!

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10091709-us-penniesA game developer has reportedly made £52 on a game for the Windows RT, the “Great Big War Game” was a popular title on both Android and Apple devices, yet after being ported to Windows RT, made only £52.  Quite understandably the developer was not impressed:

Paul Johnson, a high level executive of UK games developer Rubicon, has criticised Microsoft for not supporting a Windows RT port of the successful mobile title, the Great Big War Game. Rubicon saw a return of just £52 from an estimated R&D spend of £10,000.

Source: ITPortal

Shortly after Tweeting about their displeasure, the Tweet disapeared to be presented with a message of Microsoft now working with them to “iron out problems”.  I wonder what sort of sweetener Microsoft offered in order to silence/change mind another critic of its platform?

Unfortunately the web already has hold of this tragic situation and the news is already out of the bag.  There’s several lessons to be learnt here, no matter if you are a consumer or a developer considering this platform.

Tim (Goblin)


Skype: tim.openbytes

Windows – Now with added malware!

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In the past, securing your Windows PC was merely a personal chore now it seems that in some cases the malware is present before you even buy the machine.

Windows users the world over will almost certainly be familiar with malware and the numerous hoops one must jump through in order to try to prevent it.  How many PC’s have been replaced because the unsuspecting (and often inexperienced) PC user thought that the problem was with the PC hardware itself and not the “software” (and I use that term loosely)  that was pre-loaded onto it.

The BBC have recently written about a sample of PC’s in a study being pre-loaded with malware intentionally prior to buying them , so with the best will in the world on behalf of the consumer, you’ve lost before you have begun.

One virus called Nitol found by Microsoft steals personal details to help criminals plunder online bank accounts.


Comforting to know when, if it was up to Ballmer and crew you’d be doing everything “The Microsoft Way”.   It gets better:

Microsoft said the criminals behind the malicious program had exploited insecure supply chains to get viruses installed as PCs were being built.


Ah…thats ok.  It’s not a mistake, it’s not an accidental infection, its criminals intentionally infecting these machines before consumers purchase them.  That’s ok then.  I’m sure potential customers feel better already.

Microsoft are claiming to take responsibility for the report and the subsequent discovery of this criminal act, however what about the years of problems and continued infections of other Windows users?  Where’s the aggressive tackling of issues there?

Speaking of aggressive, the only aggression I saw when I did use Windows in the home many years ago, was the keenness some Microsoft Advocates tried to shift the blame onto the users and their poor security habits.  Infact they blame everyone but Microsoft themselves for releasing an Operating System  open to abuse.

Now we are entering into an age of tech diversity and multiple platforms/form factors the Microsoft issues will become less prevalent, as we see numerous customers choose alternative solutions, be that Apple, Linux or anything else, we see the appeal of the pre-installed Windows becoming less desirable for the criminal element.  That can only be a good thing.

Putting pre-loaded malware infested Windows to one side, I think that the only way to be 100% sure that as a Windows user you don’t become a victim is never to connect your Windows PC online.


Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on

Canonical – To Skype or not to Skype?

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My good friend (and co-host) Roy has recently been writing about Canonical and its promotion of the now Microsoft owned Skype.  As usual with TechRights it’s a very interesting read and whilst I have other commitments taking me away from this digital world of wonder, I do have time to put a slightly different angle to the whole “to skype or not to skype” question.

The article I refer to is here:

So now that Microsoft owns Skype (and as we will see has a plethora of snooping allegations against it) should we turn our heads away in disgust? or should, as I believe stop and consider that maybe its not so much an issue.

I use Skype. Whilst the TechBytes show in the future may not be facilitating it on my return, the fact is I have relatives who do, so why not just get them onto an alternative? – well for me (and I expect many others) its not that simple.  My relatives have people on their contact list who aso use Skype and those contacts have contacts (ad infinitum) so in order to migrate my contacts from a communication tool such as Skype is far more convoluted than merely offering them a different method, especially when we are dealing with the type of user who is not prepared to have a plethora of apps installed all doing the same thing.

If we also look towards the allegation of snooping – which has hit the mainstream press, we have to consider that if it is true, then its hardly a secret and people are going into Skype with full knowledge of the allegations towards it.  If they choose to accept that caveat in return for speaking with their contacts, then fine, there is no issue – as long as they are aware of the implications of using.

Whilst it seems a bizarre world where Microsoft, hardly friendly towards competition has its app in the forefront of the Ubuntu app store and a given that many people would feel put out by a Microsoft product getting exposure on a Linux OS (and a damn popular one),  on the other-hand if we look say at one of my relatives, Skype (rightly or wrongly) is an important part of their online life and to boycott/remove it from the Ubuntu ecosystem would be a barrier to them if they are considering a move to Canonical’s offering from Windows.

Knowing that Skype is spyware, will Canonical remove it from the software center and its main homepage? Those who really want it installed will find a way; it’s opportunistic for Canonical to use proprietary software to lure in users.


To which I’d remark that possibly the includsion of Skype would prove to encourage more to enter the Linux world.  Those who really want it probably won’t have the level of knowledge required to install it, so to remove Skype, in my view would effectively “kill” it for the majority of mainstream Linux users (as well as giving a potential issue to some who use Skype and wants to migrate from Windows)

I’d be interested to hear others views on Canonical’s Skype decision.  For me, if it acts as a “selling point” to replace Windows, then thats a good thing and whilst we know of previous dirty tricks allegations against Microsoft, so long as users are aware of the implications of using Skype, I cannot see the harm.  To remove, would (as in the case I’ve highlighted above) potentially harm a decision to move over to Linux by your average consumer who needs/wants Skype.

Whilst considering the issue of “snooping” it may be worthy of note that casting an eye over your mobile phone contract will reveal quite a robust set of agreements.  For me, the fear of any particular individual being intruded upon, is no more or less serious than the situation we have in the mobile phone world already.

On the Ubuntu marketplace, the Android marketplace and from my circle of friends/relatives, Skype is up their with the most popular apps.  Surely for Canonical to refuse such an app would be far more disastrous than to keep it in situe?

We must also consider that whilst Microsoft hardly has a good image in the minds of many, Skype was merely bought by Microsoft.  The popularity of the app is has little to do with what Microsoft has achieved since it was bedded into the market by others.  I certainly, in the case of Skype don’t feel tainted by using this particular “Microsoft” product.  Do they want to listen to my calls? Do they listen to my calls? I’ll keep that in mind next time I have a conversation.

As for proprietary, I think that’s a personal decision for each Linux user and I would say that using any software with the knowledge of its implications is fine (providing you agree with those caveats)  I would also like people to consider that whilst they may find Canonical’s inclusion of Skype distasteful, they also include Dropbox, which unless I am mistaken is competition to their own Ubuntu One.  Presumably they do this as they want as much choice available to users as possible in order to bring them to Ubuntu.

Application choice on the back of informed choice – there’s no problem with that at all.


Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on