Lots of talk about that Formula 1 result, but here’s a sports story from the weekend I wasn’t expecting to read about — the Microsoft Excel Financial Modeling World Cup. You can try it for yourself, if you like. Or find help on TikTok.
Version numbers and default fonts
Can’t really get excited about a new version of Windows, no matter how much the Google News algorithm thing wants to push it at me.
Microsoft looks ready to launch Windows 11 – The Verge
It’s not long until we find out whether Microsoft is ready to dial the version number of Windows up to 11. The Windows elevent (as I’m now calling it) will start at 11AM ET on June 24th, and The Verge will be covering all the news live as it happens.
Windows 11 is already full of bugs, but you shouldn’t worry about it – TechRadar
Microsoft has released an early version of Windows 11 for members of its Windows Insider Program, and users are already encountering issues and bugs with the new operating system. That’s kind of the point of course, as this developer build is being used as a kind of pre-release beta for the full version that’s expected to launch in “Holiday 2021”, and people who are using it are encouraged to spot and report any bugs and issues.
Why Windows 11 going with Amazon for its Android apps, and not Google, is a masterstroke – TechRadar
It’s an ingenious move when you think about it. It enables more apps on the new Microsoft Store with minimal effort from Microsoft, and helps it become a substantial rival to Apple’s Mac App Store, with iOS apps now available on M1 Macs.
Windows 11 looks a little different. Here’s what’s changing – CNET
Windows 11 features a streamlined new design, with pastel-like colors and rounded corners, and overall a more Mac-like look. The Windows Start menu has moved from the bottom left of the screen to the middle, with app icons arranged in the center next to it.
For years, Apple sold itself as the anti-Microsoft. Now Windows 11 is the anti-Apple – CNET
But the Microsoft of old didn’t entirely go away. Analysts believe Nadella’s broadsides against Apple during his Windows 11 launch speech weren’t just about knocking Microsoft’s biggest frenemy. His tone wasn’t jovial, nor was he dismissive like former CEO Steve Ballmer when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs first showed off the iPhone in 2007. Nadella was serious.
This caught my eye, however.
Beyond Calibri: Finding Microsoft’s next default font – Microsoft Design
Default fonts are perhaps most notable in the absence of the impression they make. … Calibri has been the default font for all things Microsoft 365 since 2007, when it stepped in to replace Times New Roman across Microsoft Office. It has served us all well, but we believe it’s time to evolve. To help us set a new direction, we’ve commissioned five original, custom fonts to eventually replace Calibri as the default.
So, farewell then, Calibri and hello either Tenorite, Bierstadt, Skeena, Seaford or Grandview.
Who comes up with these names, I wonder.
Microsoft is rolling out a new default font to 1.2 billion Office users after 14 years — and the designer of the old one is surprised – CNBC
As de Groot put it in an email, “I had proposed Clas, a Scandinavian first name and associated with ‘class,’ but then the Greek advisor said it meant ‘to fart’ in Greek. Then I proposed Curva or Curvae, which I still like, but then the Cyrillic advisor said it meant ‘prostitute’ in Russian, it is indeed used as a very common curse word.”
I’m not sure how the title of that article squares with the title of this one.
Even the Calibri font’s creator is glad that Microsoft is moving on – WIRED
It’s the end of an era, but Calibri’s designer, Lucas de Groot, has no qualms about letting his typeface rest for a bit. “It’s a relief,” he says. De Groot created Calibri in the early 2000s, as part of a collection of fonts for enhanced screen reading. “I designed it in quite a hurry,” he says. “I had some sketches already, so I adapted those and added these rounded corners to get some design feeling in it.”
Do you have a favourite?
Microsoft’s new default font options, rated – TechCrunch
Bierstadt is my pick and what I think Microsoft will pick. First because it has a differentiated lowercase l, which I think is important. Second, it doesn’t try anything cute with its terminals. The t ends without curling up, and there’s no distracting tail on the a, among other things — sadly the most common letter, lowercase e, is ugly, like a chipped theta. Someone fix it. It’s practical, clear and doesn’t give you a reason to pick a different font.
Regardless, there’s certainly a bewildering number of typefaces out there. Too many?
All you need is 5 fonts – Better Web Type
I came to the same conclusion as Massimo and many other designers—I don’t need a huge range of fonts of questionable quality to choose from, I only need a few high quality ones. So I created my own list of 5 fonts that I use most often.
But how about a little background on a very different Microsoft font.
The origin story of the Wingdings font – UX Collective
Wingdings was never intended to be typed. Contrary to what happens today, when we can just select one picture from many available online, and copy and paste it on a document; in the ’90s was not easy to find pictures that could be used in an uncomplicated way with the text. In addition, image files were too large for the simple HDs of computers at the time. Therefore, Wingdings offered an alternative for anyone who wanted to use icons in high resolution and that could be resized, but without taking up a lot of space on the machines.
This way, the font can be considered the offline predecessor of the emoji, an alphabet that is now an integral part of modern communication.
Why the Wingdings font exists – Vox
“We were influenced by images from similar historical and modern sources,” Bigelow says. The Lucida Icons spanned many eras. “Pointing fingers and hands go back to medieval manuscripts and, before that, to ancient Roman gestures; airplanes are 20th-century inventions; and keyboards, computers, computer mice, and printers, included in the Lucida Icons fonts, were part of office life in 1990 when we drew the images.”
Happy shopper #2
The shops need customers, but do the customers need to be in the shops?
Black Friday’s just round the corner, or is it?
When is Black Friday 2020? The deals aren’t canceled, but shopping will look different – Good Housekeeping
Black Friday is going to look a little different this year. Even if you’re used to going in person to a certain store every year for its Black Friday sales, this year you’re going to want to call ahead and confirm that they’re going to be open on the big day. If you are going out, you can assume most stores will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place and limits on how many people will be allowed in the building at once, so endless lines and door-buster stampedes are going to be a thing of the past.
Holiday shopping will certainly be different this year — less crowds, more clicks.
Reinventing online shopping on Microsoft Edge – Microsoft Design
As new shopping behaviours emerge and retailers revamp their selling strategies, we investigated how the browser can play a more active role to help navigate online shopping instead of being the traditionally dormant gateway to websites. Our vision is to empower people to make confident purchase decisions by saving time and money. By automatically applying coupons and surfacing price comparisons in the browser, we are taking our first step towards realizing this vision.
So it’s safer online, but safer for who?
Amazon says more than 19,000 workers got Covid-19 – CNBC
The information comes months after labor groups, politicians and regulators repeatedly pressed Amazon to disclose how many of its workers were infected by Covid-19. Early on in the pandemic, warehouse workers raised concerns that Amazon wasn’t doing enough to protect them from getting sick and called for facilities with confirmed cases to be shut down. Lacking data from Amazon, warehouse workers compiled a crowdsourced database of infections based on notifications of new cases at facilities across the U.S.
Almost 20,000 Amazon workers in US test positive for Covid-19 – The Guardian
Athena, a coalition of US activist groups campaigning for greater regulatory oversight over Amazon, called for immediate investigations into the company by public health officials as well as regular reporting on the number of employees with Covid-19. Athena’s director, Dania Rajendra, said in a statement: “Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbours and friends. “Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.”
Inside an Amazon fulfillment center, masked up and spaced apart during COVID-19 – GeekWire
Not far from where hundreds of robots were buzzing about the floor of Amazon’s sprawling BFI4 fulfillment center south of Seattle this week, a human stood in her own wheeled contraption. The innovation-in-progress, intended to allow a supervisor to roll up to various work stations and provide support behind a protective barrier, is one of the more striking ways the tech giant is addressing employee safety in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But we just can’t get enough of it, can we?
How Amazon became a pandemic giant – and why that could be a threat to us all – The Guardian
A few weeks ago, Amazon announced results from the following quarter, and yet another boost to sales and profits. Now Christmas looms, while lockdowns have returned across the world, sending even more customers its way. Every time “nonessential” bricks-and-mortar shops are told to close, you can sense the company once again seizing its chances, and a great social and economic transformation gaining pace. […]
“You’ll never get a major retailer boasting about opportunity in the middle of a pandemic,” [says Natalie Berg]. “But it’s clear that the timing and very nature of Covid has been fortunate for Amazon. I think they’ll be the only retailer in the UK, possibly the world, to come out stronger on the other side. If there are winners and losers of the pandemic, Amazon is hands-down the winner.”
The Truth About Amazon – All 4
As the high street goes into lockdown, Amazon is booming. This Supershoppers special reveals how to buy smart off the online retail giant, from the best bargains to avoiding scams.
To Google or not to Google
I thought coming across these articles recently (just two of many) was a little ironic, given current moves at work to migrate us away from the Microsoft ecosystem towards Google’s.
How can I remove Google from my life?
Google started by taking over the search engine market. It now dominates smartphone operating systems (Android), browsers (Chrome), web-based email (Gmail), online video (YouTube) and maps. It is also challenging in other areas with its own cloud platform, an online office suite, Chromebooks, Waze, Nest and so on. Google is far advanced in driverless cars (Waymo) and artificial intelligence (DeepMind). Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
Can I buy a phone that doesn’t use anything from Google or Apple?
Very easy. You can pick up a Nokia 105 (2017 edition) for about £15 or a dual-sim Nokia 106 (2018 edition) for about £16. These are only 2G phones but they have built-in FM radios, they can send texts, they are great for making phone calls and they are not based on Google or Apple technologies. A 3G or 4G phone would cost a bit more …
Of course, you may also want to do smartphone-type things such as email and web browsing. In that case, buy a GPD Pocket 2, GPD MicroPC, One Mix Yoga, One Mix 1S, One Mix 2S or similar just-about-pocketable computer running Microsoft Windows 10 on a 7in screen. (GeekBuying stocks several models and is taking reservations on the One Mix 1S.) Mini-laptops may look expensive but they are cheaper than high-end smartphones.
This answers your question but it is obviously not the solution you are looking for …
I remember someone once saying, ‘friends don’t let friends use SharePoint’, but I’ve got used to it now, I think, and like how it links with Flow and Forms and Outlook and all the rest of it. Somehow, that will all have to be on Google Sites and Google Drive now. And I’m really not looking forward to attempting to recreate all my Excel work in Sheets.
A 10 minute comparison: Office 365 vs Google’s Suite – WorkTools #32 by Christoph Magnussen
Well, OK, the new Sites builder (23:37 in the video above) looks good/idiot-proof, I guess. In theory. *sigh*
You bought it, but is it yours?
Microsoft has changed its mind about selling e-books. Not only is it not selling any more, but it’s unselling those it sold previously.
Microsoft removes the Books category from the Microsoft Store
Previously purchased books and rentals will be accessible until early July, but after this, books will no longer be accessible, officials said in a customer-support article today. The company is promising full refunds for all content purchased from the Books category; anyone who bought books via the Store will receive further details on how to get refunds via email from Microsoft.
People aren’t happy though, as you can imagine.
Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers’ libraries
This puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast. I have bought a lot of MP3s over the years, thousands of them, and many of the retailers I purchased from are long gone, but I still have the MP3s. Likewise, I have bought many books from long-defunct booksellers and even defunct publishers, but I still own those books.
When I was a bookseller, nothing I could do would result in your losing the book that I sold you. If I regretted selling you a book, I didn’t get to break into your house and steal it, even if I left you a cash refund for the price you paid.
Via the Wired newsletter, which added that “this remains a stark illustration of the fact that you never really buy digital media that’s locked down with DRM: merely a licence to access it for as long as its provider sees fit.”
Breaking up is hard to do
The techlash continues.
Elizabeth Warren proposes breaking up tech giants like Amazon and Facebook
At a rally in Long Island City, the neighborhood that was to be home to a major new Amazon campus, Ms. Warren laid out her proposal calling for regulators who would undo some tech mergers, as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.
“We have these giants corporations — do I have to tell that to people in Long Island City? — that think they can roll over everyone,” Ms. Warren told the crowd, drawing applause. She compared Amazon to the dystopian novel “The Hunger Games,” in which those with power force their wishes on the less fortunate.
“I’m sick of freeloading billionaires,” she said.
She’s far from the lone voice on this issue.
Elizabeth Warren is right – we must break up Facebook, Google and Amazon
The current effort is bipartisan. At a Senate hearing I attended last week, the arch-conservative Missouri Republican Josh Hawley asked me, rhetorically: “Is there really any wonder that there is increased pressure for antitrust enforcement activity, for privacy activity when these companies behave in the way that they do?”
Hawley added: “Every day brings some creepy new revelation about these companies’ behaviors. Of course the public is going to want there to be action to defend their rights. It’s only natural.”
House of Lords report calls for digital super-regulator
The chair of the committee, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, called on the government to be less reactive in how it responds to digital risks: “The government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles,” he said.
“Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing and the current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives.”
You can always take matters into your own hands.
Goodbye Big Five
Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting my money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened.
Needless to say, it didn’t go well.
Email’s down, but that’s good, right?
Hot on the heels of Microsoft’s trouble with the law (courts) earlier this week, comes more bad news.
Office 365 down: Microsoft not working leaving people without email and other crucial internet services
The exact cause of the problem remains unclear, as Microsoft continues to seek a solution. The trouble has been particularly frustrating for businesses unable to carry out day-to-day communication, with issues emerging as many people started work this morning.
A coincidence that it comes within a day or two of this government speech calling for less email?
Damian Hinds: School leaders should ditch email culture to cut workload
Teachers should not have to email outside of office hours and should instead embrace innovative technology such as AI to help to reduce their workload, the Education Secretary said in a speech today.
He makes it sound so easy.
Another day, another data protection issue
We’re generating data all the time, without realising, and without really knowing where it all goes.
Users told to ditch OneDrive and Office 365 to avoid ‘covert’ data harvesting
Microsoft Office and Windows 10 Enterprise uses a telemetry data collection mechanism that breaches the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to a 91-page report commissioned by the Dutch government, and conducted by firm Privacy Company.
It’s not just Microsoft in the firing line, of course.
With GDPR now several months into play, data watchdogs across Europe are beginning to take their first steps in the new regulatory landscape. Microsoft is the latest in a line of major companies accused of breaching GDPR, with Oracle and Equifax among seven firms reported for violations by a data rights group last week.
And that story about Google’s AI company having access to NHS data is still rumbling on.
Google: Our DeepMind health slurp is completely kosher
DeepMind told The Reg: “It is false to say that Google is “absorbing” data. This data is not DeepMind’s or Google’s – it belongs to our partners, whether the NHS or internationally. We process it according to their instructions.”
That claim, echoed by DeepMind Health chief Dominic King, brought a swift correction from legal experts. “It doesn’t belong to DeepMind’s partners, it belongs to the individuals,” Serena Tierney partner at lawyers VWV. “Those ‘partners’ may have limited rights, but it doesn’t belong to them.”
I wonder if we’ll be seeing more of these issues, what with one thing and another.
What the potentially useless draft Brexit agreement means for tech
One of the big questions for Brexit is data protection, and the agreement seeks to hold onto the status quo. Scroll through to Article 71 for the text, which says that EU data protection law will continue to cover the UK before and after the transition period, which runs until the end of 2020. That means personal data can continue to flow between the UK and the EU.
“This issue is critical to the tech sector and to every other industry in a modern digitising economy,” says Tech UK CEO Julian David in a blog post. Data’s the oil that greases tech, and all that.
That doesn’t mean that GDPR will continue to apply in the UK post Brexit. Christopher Knight, privacy lawyer at 11KBW, notes that the UK will become a “third state”. That means the UK won’t be required to apply GPDR and other data laws to “wholly internal situations of processing”.
Well, here’s a thing. I’m still getting used to this new Android phone, with its Google news feed thing, and some time after first drafting this post I was browsing through it and came across the article below. How did it know to surface stories about DeepMind? I’m sure I hadn’t searched for it, but came across it in a newsletter. Is Google reading what I type into WordPress?
Inside DeepMind as the lines with Google blur
Last week, the line between the companies blurred significantly when DeepMind announced that it would transfer control of its health unit to a new Google Health division in California. […]
In March 2017, DeepMind also announced it would build a “data audit” system, as part of its public commitment to transparency. The technology would allow NHS partners to track its use of patient data in real time, with no possibility of falsification, DeepMind said. Google did not comment on whether it will finish the project.
Which app when?
Brad Grissom from REgarding 365 sets out to untangle the various workflow and collaboration apps available within Office 365.
Where work gets done
By adding a couple of layers to the inner/outer loop analogy, I think we get a fuller picture of all the interactions that an individual may have within and outside of an organization. This model doesn’t capture all the apps in the Office 365 toolkit, but it should provide a fair representation. It also doesn’t perfectly provide a clear-cut answer to the question of what to use when. That’s okay in my book (or blog, as the case may be).
Years ago and years away
I’m getting impatient for the future, it’s not coming quick enough.
Microsoft has been dreaming of a pocketable dual-screen Surface device for years
The Verge revealed last week that Microsoft wants to create a “new and disruptive” dual-screen device category to influence the overall Surface roadmap and blur the lines between what’s considered PC and mobile. Codenamed Andromeda, Microsoft’s project has been in development for at least two years and is designed to be a pocketable Surface device. Last week, Microsoft’s Surface chief, Panos Panay, appeared to tease just such a machine, built in collaboration with LG Display. We’re on the cusp of seeing the release of a folding, tablet-like device that Microsoft has actually been dreaming of for almost a decade.
That was earlier this month, but here’s something from 2015 — concepts from years ago and still years away.
Microsoft obsesses over giant displays and super thin tablets in future vision video
While everyone is busy flicking and swiping content from one device to another to get work done in the future, it’s nice to see there’s still a few keyboards laying around. Microsoft also shows off a concept tablet that’s shaped like a book, complete with a stylus. The tablet features a bendable display that folds out into a bigger device. If such a tablet will exist within the next 10 years then I want to pre-order one right now.
But consider this:
Imagining Windows 95 running on a smartphone
Microsoft released their Windows 95 operating system to the world in 1995. 4096 created an amusing video that imagines a mobile edition of Windows 95 running on a Microsoft-branded smartphone. Move over Cortana, Clippy is making a come back.
It’s all very amusing to think of such old technology in this new setting, but we’ll be laughing at how old-fashioned the iPhone X is soon enough, I’m sure.
Well I still like my Windows Phone. Mostly.
I’m fully aware that, by being a Windows Phone user, I’ve been backing the losing horse in what’s turned out to be a two—not three—horse race, but for the most part I still enjoy having it. Yes, the lack of key apps is a nuisance sometimes, and yes, it would be nice if the OS was a little more reliable, but there were many positives to the platform. Tom Warren from The Verge outlines a few of them, as well as some of the possible consequences of this reduction in mobile phone competition.
I miss Windows Phone
Windows Phone debuted in 2010 with Microsoft’s Metro design philosophy, and a focus on glancing at your phone for information instead of digging in and out of apps. Two obvious features I miss from Windows Phone’s Metro design are the dark mode and Live Tiles. … Live Tiles were one of Windows Phone’s most unique features. They enabled apps to show information on the home screen, similar to the widgets found on Android and iOS. You could almost pin anything useful to the home screen, and Live Tiles animated beautifully to flip over and provide tiny nuggets of information that made your phone feel far more personal and alive. I’m hopeful that Apple will eventually take the Live Tiles concept, or even one that was designed for iOS 8, and bring it to the iPhone. Widgets just aren’t enough. Rumors suggest Apple is planning to refresh the iOS home screen soon, so there’s hope that iOS might move away from its static and dull home screen.
Microsoft’s next move
A fascinating glimpse from Ben Thompson into how a change in management at Microsoft led to a change in priorities, organisation and culture.
The end of Windows
That wasn’t the only news that week: Microsoft also renamed its cloud service from Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure. The name change was an obvious one — by then customers could already run a whole host of non-Windows related software, including Linux — but the symbolism tied in perfectly with the Office on iPad announcement: Windows wouldn’t be forced onto Microsoft’s future. […]
That summer Nadella undertook his first reorganization, separating the company into three divisions: Cloud and Enterprise, Applications and Services, and Windows and Devices. … I believe this reorganization was the turning point: not only were the two teams Nadella announced last week basically formed at this time, but more importantly, Windows was left to fend for itself.
Whilst it seems an obvious move — and the article notes the company’s rising stock price since the new CEO took over — it ends on a cautionary note.
This, then, is Nadella’s next challenge: to understand that Windows is not and will not drive future growth is one thing; identifying future drivers of said growth is another. Even in its division Windows remains the best thing Microsoft has going — it had such a powerful hold on Microsoft’s culture precisely because it was so successful.
Caught out by their own documents
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager currently tied up with the ongoing Russia investigation, must have skipped a few MS Office training seminars at work, as he seems to be unaware of Word’s Save As function.
How Manafort’s inability to convert a PDF file to Word helped prosecutors
“Manafort emailed Gates a .pdf version of the real 2016 DMI P&L, which showed a loss of more than $600,000,” the indictment claims. “Gates converted that .pdf into a Word document so that it could be edited, which Gates sent back to Manafort. Manafort altered the Word document by adding more than $3.5 million in income.”
Then, according to the indictment, Manafort “sent this falsified P&L to Gates and asked that the Word document be converted back to a .pdf, which Gates did and returned to Manafort.”
By sending these documents back and forth by email, Manafort and Gates made it easy for prosecutors to pinpoint exactly who changed the documents and when.
It reminded me of this story, linking corruption to a popular Microsoft font.
A Microsoft font may have exposed corruption in Pakistan
The Microsoft font Calibri is now a key piece of evidence in a corruption investigation surrounding Pakistan’s prime minister. Investigators noticed that documents handed over by the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, were typed up in the font Calibri. But the documents were dated from 2006 — and Calibri wasn’t widely available at that point, making a good case that they were forged.
How Wikipedia found itself at the centre of a major corruption scandal in Pakistan
As I am part of Wikipedia’s counter-vandalism team, I have been engaged in the reverting of unverified information being added to the Calibri page by anonymous users. But as the edit war grew and the sensitivity of the issue became obvious, I had to ask an administrator to lock the page to restrict any further edits in order to avoid misleading information being spread outside of Wikipedia.
Not going Microsoft's way
Government plan to adopt ODF file format sparks standards debate
“The recommendation of HTML for browser-based editable text and PDF as the default for non-editable documents is uncontroversial, as they can both be read on most computer platforms. However, when it comes to exchanging drafts of documents between government departments, or between government and citizens or suppliers, the choice of an editable file format is proving more controversial.”
As always with these things, it’s best to see what The Register has to say, especially about Microsoft’s hissy fit in response.
Being shaped by our tools?
An article from the Observer ponders the impact of Microsoft Word on the way we write.
Has Microsoft Word affected the way we work?
But we were – and remain – remarkably incurious about how our beloved new tool would shape the way we write. Consider first the name that the computer industry assigned to it: word processor. The obvious analogy is with the food processor, a motorised culinary device that reduces everything to undifferentiated mush. That may indeed have been the impact of Word et al on business communications, which have increasingly become assemblies of boilerplate cliches. But that’s not been the main impact of word processing on creative writing, which seems to me to be just as vibrant as it was in the age of the typewriter or the fountain pen.
Writing as sculpture? Why not…
My hunch is that using a word processor makes writing more like sculpting in clay. Because it’s so easy to revise, one begins by hacking out a rough draft which is then iteratively reshaped – cutting bits out here, adding bits there, gradually licking the thing into some kind of shape.
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