3 Neat Windows Live Writer plug-ins

I found 3 neat Windows Live Writer plug-ins you might possibly be interested in if you’re a blogger:

1. DiggThis – Add a quick Digg badge to your post, so users can easily Digg your post if they really like it.

2. Twitter Notify – Whenever you post a new blog post, your Twitter friends will immediately see a tweet on this, and a TinyURL link to your post to go to.

3. Flickr Upload – Any inline image in your post, automatically gets upload to your Flickr account, and the inline image will link directly to the corresponding image on your Flickr account if clicked on.

All 3 were recently created by the Windows Live Writer team at Microsoft.

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Windows Mobile – Does it meet consumers’ expectations?

So what are all the hot phones out there at the moment? Well there’s the iPhone 3G, the T-Mobile G1, Blackberry Storm/Bold, some of Nokia’s latest, but you don’t hear much interest going on with Windows Mobile phones. Oh sure, there’s always that neat slew from HTC, like the Touch HD/Diamond/Pro, Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, Samsung Omnia, and countless others. But generally, a good vocal amount of people do complain about the OS on the latter phones. It seems that people just don’t like Windows Mobile.

In fact, CNET UK even said the HTC Touch Diamond HD would be almost perfect, if it had just ran Android by default instead.

Forbes doesn’t even mention Windows Mobile once while mentioning the current smartphone market.

So obviously, WinMo sure isn’t a mainstream favorite for everybody. Well, what are Windows Mobile’s strengths? It’s:

  • Enterprise friendly – The have the whole Exchanger server thing, which has proven to be very reliable in communications.
  • Ability to work on many devices – As long as the handset maker pays a license to get a copy on their phones, they’re free to put Windows on a lot of different devices. The choice is overwhelming.
  • Available in many languages
  • Very customizable – You can mix it up any way you want to. .NET is well known and very easy to work with and the Registry allows a lot to dig into

So if you’re a business person, or a person that’s great at hacking and tweaking, WinMo is great. However, the majority of people are just regular consumers. These are the major flaws of WinMo as pointed out by users:

  • The user interface – I’d say WinMo, even 6.1, looks very outdated. Once you past the home screen, you notice how the icons are too simple and dull, you notice it’s not really slick, sleek and swift, and the two-paned menu system is kinda dumb in 2008. It’s pretty darn boring, if the handset maker or carrier didn’t fix it up a notch (or make it worse).
  • Sluggish performance – People usually find Windows Mobile pretty slow and laggy. I think one part has to do with typical slow processors in WinMo phones, and the other part my also be the lack of a GPU in most phones also.
  • Media playing – A WMP 10 that looks somewhat like WMP 11? It’s pretty rudimentary. It plays ok, but the controls are cumbersome, and how it displays on the screen is less than good.
  • Lackluster web browser – There’s no doubt about it, PIE (Pocket Internet Explorer) is absolutely the worse there has to be. It only displays the text of most webpages, and maybe a few graphics. It’s as basic as you’ll ever need it to be.
  • 3rd party applications are weak – Most Windows Mobile applications are pretty crappy and don’t work as well on say other phones. You also see less polish on applications from popular web companies (Facebook, Pandora, Sling, etc.) than say stuff on the iPhone. (Is the framework for WinMo that bad?)

So what could the next Windows Mobile use to become an OS people actually want, instead of an OS to cover and feel bad about? Well:

  • New, robust interface – I want this interface to be sleek, swift, and slick. Kill the awkward 2-paned menu system, and make and give a crossbar interface (like that of the Zune or WMC) with a back button to go back up the levels. Get a new easy to read font like Calibri, make the “X” button actually CLOSE programs, give the icons a major refresh, make the transition from screen to screen and button to button more smooth, allow ways to tweak the looks (like image backgrounds, fonts, themes, colors, etc.), and a lot of stuff to bring WinMo up to current interfaces without copying a well-known phone. Microsoft has been great with interface before (ex: Office 2007 Ribbon, WMC, Zune, NXE, etc.)
  • Greater performance – It’s still something people complain about, even on phones whose hardware seems quite fine. Make it more smart to use the system’s resources wisely and less intensive. Might help if GPUs were mandatory.
  • Zune-like media player – Instead of making the so-called Zunephone, how about porting Zune-like interface to Windows Mobile for media playing (if they haven’t taken my crossbar idea already)? It works well and could really work. There won’t be FM radio of course, unless the handset maker is willing to drop it in.
  • Mobile Browser based on Webkit or IE8 – I want a browser where using the internet on a smartphone would be as fully functional as possible. Meaning I could see site rendered as they would on a normal computer, easy smooth zoomability, tabbed browsing, Accelerator-like highlight functionality (makes sense on a phone), and of course favorites and RSS feeds synced from my desktop. Maybe it would do good to integrate the address box and the search box together (type the domain at the end or www. at the beginning for a website, and just any text for a web search). The current PIE is unacceptable, and being based on IE6 is not much better.
  • Touch friendly – This is a big issue with Windows Mobile. WinMo needs to support capacitive touch and multi-touch for finger-friendly use. That’s the thing that’s stopping the handset makers. There’s nothing wrong with resistive touchscreens, where you can use the stylus, but input via your hand is more popular in the US and elsewhere and capacitive is the way to go. I don’t know if haptic-feedback is a software thing, but support haptic-feedback too. That would also mean making everything on the OS more fit for finger like bigger icons, buttons, etc. REQUIRE all touch-screen phones to have VGA+ resolutions, with 3 inches or more, and accelerators for additional use. Like I said, the crossbar interface is great for finger scrolling.
  • Better developer framework – There may be a bazillion applications for Windows Mobile, but how many WinMo applications are as clean, polished, fun and easy to use as the iPhone’s or Android’s? I can’t think of many. Hopefully with a crossbar interface, or any better interface, developers can create more powerful applications that don’t have to deal with the limitations of Windows Mobile’s interface. Also, better hardware requirements could help make consistent applications on all Windows Mobile phones, not just a select few.
  • Strengthen the hardware requirements – Stuff like the latest Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, 5MP+ camera, etc. should be MANDATORY on Windows Mobile phones. Touchscreen phones need to go a bit further by having VGA+ resolutions, being 3 inches or greater, and accelerometers. The more included, the better the quality. Does Microsoft want to sacrifice quality? Again, it would really help developers. You may pay a bit more, but the price can be subsidized by the carrier.
  • Central application store – There’s a store called Handango, but it’s more of a hassle as the prices are ridiculous expensive, and developers don’t get paid a good percentage. Microsoft has a weak, little known thing called Windows Mobile Catalog, but you can’t download direct (you’re referred to other online stores) and there’s aren’t helpful reviews or anything like that. It’s pretty cruddy. Windows Mobile really could use a central application store where it’s simple to find all types of applications that developers can submit and users can check out screenshots, videos, and submit reviews & ratings on applications. Developers should get 75%+ of the profits on each application they make that gets purchased, and no stupid approval process – let the users decide if they want the applications or not. If there’s a problem with an application, users can report it to Microsoft where they’ll deal with the developer and all. You can find ringtones, screensavers, and other stuff here too.
  • Handy tools built-in – Like I really would like a screenshot capture tool, Live Maps GPS, stopwatch, Windows Live Translator, etc.
  • Updates DIRECT from Microsoft – I don’t want the carrier to give me my updates; there’s a good chance they’ll charge me for the update, or make me wait to buy a new phone to get it. It’s ridiculous. Some people say it works this way, because some phones aren’t capable of receiving updates. But if Microsoft would just stick to pushing handset makers to do better hardware, then this problem could be avoided.
  • Easy PC syncing – I just want to easily drag and drop content into my phone, vice versa from phone to computer. I don’t want to go through some specialized software for this. I just want my phone to show up in Windows Explorer, and I can drag and drop content to it, or view my phones content. That’s all I really need, and then the ability to check for updates.
  • Tell the carriers to lay off a bit – Windows Mobile is a smartphone, not a flip phone, so there’s enough stuff in the OS to make a user happy, without the ridiculous carrier stuff. I don’t need the carrier to etch a huge logo on my phone, and turn the interface and contents upside-down to milk more money out of me. The carrier just really needs to be a carrier. They can make some WinMo apps, as long as it’s able to be deleted or won’t interfere with the experience.
  • Image recognition – Imagine if you could take a snapshot of something, and there could be an application smart enough to recognize what’s in the photo and retrieve a web page or bring up information related to it. There’s this awesome application on the T-mobile G1 that will do just that, when you scan a barcode. It brings up web prices or places around you that carry it. Very useful. Would be neat if WinMo had such an application that recognized barcodes or fonts and such and do just that. That would mean a real good camera of course…
  • MSN Direct trial included – At least a 3 month trial, like you include on GPS devices. MSN Direct is useful for finding up-to-the-minute traffic, cheap gas stations, movie theaters with what to watch, time and price, plot your course on Live Search Maps and use the Send to GPS function to send to an MSN Direct device, local events, etc. It’s very useful. A WinMo phone could certainly use such feature for a person that’s always on the go, with a car.
  • Home Automation – Just another wishful thinking, but it’d be awesome if you could control your home via your WinMo phone. Microsoft has already a pretty good ecosystem to control your house (via your Windows computer, Windows Media Center in your living room, and maybe even your WinMo phone…) that Lifeware does a great job with. There’s already this neat thing called Nokia Home Control Center that’s accessible via your phone, and you can very easily change the lights in the room, the indoor temperature, check on the status of your locks, and it’s pretty neat. It’s all controlled by this server connected with supporting devices.
  • Start Screen Dashboard – Just like most phone, I want the default start screen to be my dashboard. There should be a top bar where users can have quick access to the 4 ways of communication – phone, text message, e-mail, and IM with a little number shown next to each one indicating how many they have received since they last checked. There could be a few notifications shown from Outlook or Windows Live Calendar about upcoming things that have been scheduled. Then the rest of the screen is just my favorite applications I pinned to the Dashboard.

Those are some things I’m looking towards in future Windows Mobile releases.

I just think that Microsoft shouldn’t create their own phone, or Zunephone, at all. It would be competing with handset makers they’ve pretty much partnered with before, and the handset makers could easily drop Android, Symbian or some other open source OS, and given their experience with making phones, it’ll take off much faster than a first iteration Microsoft phone. It’s just too risky. Also, by letting everyone use Windows Mobile, it’s sharing the wealth and providing jobs for everybody. This system works well, if Microsoft just guides the hardware makers to make it work right.

In conclusion, I don’t think Windows Mobile itself is worthy of consumer appeal, and it will take a lot of stuff in Windows Mobile 7, to bring it up to consumer standards. I can only hope Microsoft has learned what happens when they leave projects stalling for a long time…

Disagree or want to add something? Just comment.

Windows Live Survey #1

I’m going to give a survey. I’d like to hear what you think about the development of Windows Live, MSN, and Live Search. So if you have the time, fill it out in the comments! (This is NOT an official Microsoft survey or anything like that)

1. How do you feel about Wave 3?

2. Do you like how Wave 3 removed almost all the icons on the commands (such as Hotmail, Messenger conversations, etc.)?

3. Do you find that Hotmail blocks spam and junk mail very efficiently?

4. Do you think Windows Live needs a rebrand? If so, would Kumo be a good replacement?

5. Do you mind the MSN Headlines showing up on your Windows Live Home?

6. Name 3 Windows Live services you almost never use.

7. Name 5 things you hope to see in Wave 4.

8. Do you use Live Search? What makes it unique and better than the other search engines? What are its quirks?

9. Do you ever use MSN? If so, what for?

10. Should MSN continue existing? If so, how should it improve? If not, what do you suggest?

I’m just curious as to what people’s perceptions are at the moment. I’ll give my own answers later. So please fill it out. I would love to hear what the readers are thinking.

I met this person, Calvin, who took the time to make an actual web poll survey. Check it out. Thanks Calvin.

10 Live Spaces tips

I’ve been digging around Live Spaces for a long time and I’ve discovered some nifty things that you just might be interested:

1. How to center the title and Space description – Sign in to Spaces, go to your Spaces site > click ‘Edit’ on your title module > Under both Title Setting AND Tagline Setting, look for Alignment and select Center. You can also change the colors, fonts, size and stuff right here.

2. Delete comments right from the Recent Comment section – Now you can easily delete comments from your Space (especially those nasty spam ones). Just go to Spaces.live.com > Sign-in if you haven’t > Click Recent comments > select Delete under a comment you wish to remove > Click OK to confirm.

3. Poll gadget – Wish to make a poll to see what visitors to your Space think? There’s a pretty bare bones Poll gadget available on Windows Live Gallery. You can have up to 7 poll options, you can change the color scheme of the module, and you can choose if it’s IP-based results (per computer) or cookie based (per browser). There’s pretty much all there is. It’s pretty basic. I’d like a ton of more things, but it’s not coming anytime soon. It can get hard to see the # of results per selection though.

4. Make lists – Making lists can help keep you organized. You can create a list of your favorites sites, music, people you like, books, etc. and you can share them with your friends (or keep them private if your Space is viewable only to you). Just sign in to http://spaces.live.com/ and click Create a List:

Now just start creating your list:

5. Set up a special web URL – You can give your Space a bit of a special web URL, like ilovepies.spaces.live.com where “ilovepies” can be replaced by something you want in the domain. Here’s how you do it: Sign-in to spaces.live.com > View your Space > Options (right-hand corner) > More options > Web Address. Type what you want the beginning portion of the URL to be, and check to see if it’s available.

As you see, the web address is available. (Personally, I wish it were a green bar so it’d be noticeable)

Example of a web address already used. Suggestion come up based on your name and what you typed.

6. Change the amount of blog entries shown on your main Space page – Want more posts to be shown? Here’s how: Sign-in to spaces.live.com > View your Space > Options > Blog > Number of blog entries > choose between 5-25.

7. Check your web traffic – Spaces includes a rudimentary “Statistics” on site visitors. From your Spaces page, go to Options > Statistics, and you can see how many hits you got, and where they came from.

8. Templates – Templates are useful if you want Spaces to serve a particular purpose, whether it’s photo-sharing, blogging, socializing, etc. and there are some nice built-in templates that might help you. Go to Customize > Templates and see what templates you might be interested in.

9. Windows Live Writer – This is a neat desktop software where you can type your blog posts, while having more flexibility and even some plug-ins to use. Writer works very well with Spaces. Download it here.

10. Pick who can view your Space – You might want everybody, only your friends, or only yourself to view your Space. You can select this setting by going to your Space > Options > Permissions > Select who you will allow to view.

Hope these tips were helpful. If there’s anything wrong, please add a comment.

HP does laptop packaging smart – Laptops to be packaged in messenger bags

HP has done a little innovation with the typical packaging for a laptop. Instead of yet another cardboard box that might end up getting tossed, it’s packaged in a convenient neat messenger bag. Isn’t that kinda neat?

 

The laptop, documentation and all that is stored in a messaenger bag, stacked in a box, and transported to Walmarts all over the country. The bag itself was made from recyclable materials, and they look pretty snazzy too. I wish HP, and any other company, would offer messenger bag packaging, as compared to the typical cardboard box.

So what do you think? Is packaging laptops in messenger bags better than typical boxes?

Likes/Dislikes for the new Windows Live Home, Windows Live Spaces, and Windows Live Profile Wave 3

The new Windows Live update came around for me on Wednesday, December 3, 2008. I’ve had a chance to explore it, and here are my perceptions on what I find is great and not so great about the update:

Home – Worth taking a look at!

The good:

1. Much improved look and to the point – Finally, a Windows Live Home that I don’t mind looking at. The look is much better than the previous, and displays more relevant information than a bunch of mumbo jumbo I have little interest in. However, there’s a graphic ad and headlines from MSN that I’m not interested in, nor have the option to opt out of. The customizability is much better though.

2. New Themes – I’m excited about the new themes, especially the dynamic themes (which automatically changes depending on the weather and time of the day). I think they’re a big improvement over the pastel colors of the old Live.

3. Better network managing – Now it’s much easier to manage and connect with friends in the form of People Suggestions. Here, you can view all your messages from within your Profile, Invites, and even Suggestions about friends that you might be interested in.

4. Ability to add 4 personal photos – It’s a nice personal touch, and adds a bit to your profile.

5. Quick access to hiding certain updates – I like having quick access to hiding certain types of updates or users.

Dislikes:

1. No ability to put HTML in the Guestbook – A lot of people have been complaining about this. Personally, I don’t care, but if you’re going to remove a feature, the team better state it out clearly as to why.

2. MSN Headlines can’t be taken off – I don’t understand why you can’t disable them. I’m not too interested in MSN Headlines, and I don’t like being forced to look at them.

3. Wish for a better layout – I wish there were some boxes, or outlines separating each area of the page. Maybe a dashed border perhaps? Or even the icons? I also don’t like the mix of orange title, and blue links. Kind of blechy. Wish I could customize it more.

4. Needs MORE themes – I wish they would bring back the option to just simply change the color of the header to any solid color you would like. The default is blue, and that’s it. I would also like some more dynamic themes, a bigger plethora of themes, or an easy way to create your own and share it on Windows Live Gallery.

Profile – Like Facebook without the annoying Application requests

Likes:

1. Easy to share your favorites – It’s very easy to share some of your favorite things, like movies, books, and music. http://profile.live.com/FavoriteThings

2. My list of recent updates – I love to share what I’ve done recently, and read what other people have been up to. Here, I can see a feed of recent status messages, comments I posted on other Profiles/Spaces, latest pictures, newest friend, etc. It’s very convenient, and if you don’t like to share what you’ve been doing, you can easily turn it off. People can easily get an RSS of it.

3. Profile information in Details – You can find as much information the person will describe him or herself in the person’s details area – http://profile.live.com/details

4. Notes – Friends can leave Notes on your profile, similar to the Comment section on MySpace and The Wall on Facebook.

5. Web Activities – Neat web activities that you can share with your friends, so the can find you on other services, and updates on those web services appear in your What’s New Feed.

Dislikes:

1. Adding networks – I wish you could add high school networks (doesn’t Microsoft want younger users?) and more large workplaces need to be within possible networks to join.

2. Color scheme – Same as I mentioned with Home; Orange & Blue are a rather strange combo, and I wish they would do a better job of separating different areas.

3. Still not the same as Facebook – For some reason, I still don’t see Profile becoming a Facebook killer, or anything close to it. Facebook just feels more mature and slicker than Profile. I still think Profile has limitations where Facebook doesn’t. Profile does have the leg up where you can view updates outside of the Microsoft ecosystem, like FriendFeed does.

4. No instant search – I wish the search box in the header was like Instant Search, where as you type, likely results appear right before you.

5. Needs more web activities – Is it that hard? Where’s YouTube, MySpace, and a bunch of other important sites? Even if the site is not available yet, how about a simple logo of a web service, where I can post my profile URL for people to find me on those other services? Yahoo’s MyBlogLog is much more comprehensive:

Spaces – Minor improvement

Likes:

1. New default font – I actually really like the Segoe UI font. The text looks more crisp and easier to read in my opinion.

2. Ability to delete comments right off the Recent Comments section – It works, but every time I click delete, a dumb prompt keep asking if I’m sure, and I’m quite certain!

3. Taking off the banner ad on Spaces – I’m glad they finally removed the dumb banner ad that took up the top of peoples’ Spaces. I wouldn’t have minded if they pushed it to the right or bottom or something, but no annoying graphic ads is nice. There is still graphic ads on other parts of Spaces though, so it’s not all the way.

Dislikes:

1. Needs a nice simple Dashboard, like Spaces Home was once – Remember Spaces Home? I’d like to bring up something similar to a dashboard interface for Spaces. So I can see friends’ updates, recent comments, quick Space statistics, maybe Similar Spaces, and a bunch of other things.

2. Didn’t meet most of my wishes on my Spaces Improvement Wishlist – I was hoping the team would make more fixes, that could be crossed off my list, but this update was more about new features instead of fixing. I hope over time, I can cross stuff of my list though.

3. Comment section loses the formatting toolbar – Remember the toolbar over the comment section? Where you could bold, italicize, hyperlink, etc.? Now it’s gone! I actually used it frequently to make my comments stand out and clear. I’m disappointed with it’s removal.

4. No ability to put HTML in the Guestbook – A lot of people have been complaining about this. Personally, I don’t care, but if you’re going to remove a feature, the team better state it out clearly as to why.

5. Removal of the search box – I’m kinda sad about this one. The search was already pitiful. But instead of improving it, they killed it? I don’t think that was the way to go. They should have made it easy to search within a person’s Space, and find posts throughout Spaces marked as Public, and find other Spaces.

6. How do you change the header color? – I tried messing around with the Advanced options, and I just can’t figure it out. So could the Spaces team explain?

Overall, I’m pleased with a lot of the new stuff, but I wish the team will refine a lot more stuff before releasing it as final.