Derrick Wlodarz

Why Microsoft's Perceptive Pixel is the coolest touch TV you can't buy (yet)

perceptive pixel

It's tough for me to get too excited about TVs these days. I'm past the glitz of the 3D craze. And "large" 60 and 70 plus inch screens are neat, but after enjoying a 114" viewing area thanks to my home projector the last few years, anything smaller pales in comparison.

Yet when I got to try out an 82" Perceptive Pixel touch TV at Microsoft's Chicago offices earlier today, I couldn't resist wanting one for my own condo or even office. It's that unique of a TV screen, and if when it goes mainstream, it will completely change the way we view interactive entertainment displays.

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TV DVR: The big killer feature missing from Xbox One

microsoft_xbox_one_gtf_img1

Aside from a lack of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games (which is being worked on as I write this), what's the other big reason I am holding off on a first gen Xbox One? A TV streaming & DVR experience that was much talked about in the buildup to launch, but has fallen short in reinventing the way we manage and consume TV content today.

When I first heard about Microsoft's Xbox One plans at E3, I was thinking the same thing so many others probably were: my Tivo (or cable box) days are numbered. But my lofty plans for a simplified entertainment center were quickly killed, when I learned that Microsoft had no plans on replacing your DVR, but merely piggybacking onto it.

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Why 3D TV is failing in the home

3D TV

Does anyone remember Nintendo's Virtual Boy? It was an overpriced, underpowered 3D gaming system from the mid 1990s with little content and awkward hardware to justify its high price tag. Other pesky limitations, like the fact that you could really only play on it comfortably while seated at the dinner table, drove Nintendo to shut this commercial flop down before it became laughing stock for competitors like Sega and Sony.

I'm not interested in strolling down gaming's memory lane here. I never owned a Virtual Boy myself, as my Sega Genesis was enough to keep my gaming heart fulfilled at the time. While the premise of 3D was appealing, the means to getting there were impractical in every sense.

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The Apple myth: Why security through obscurity isn't security

Apple worm

My girlfriend was on the prowl for a new vehicle not too long ago, and decided on a Subaru. Not only do the company's vehicles arguably receive some of the highest safety ratings in the States, but their policy of across-the-board all wheel drive is another nicety I love about them. Even so, she wouldn't think of ditching her safety belt, no matter how safe the cars claim to be.

Likewise, sizable portions of American society lives out in rural areas where crime and theft are almost unheard of. Yet they most likely still use locks on all of their doors, and keep them locked shut at night. Their risk of forced entry or other crimes are leagues lower than in congested urban areas (like my neck of the woods, Chicago) but they still follow plain commonsense.

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Dump the file server: Why we moved to the SharePoint Online cloud [review]

Cloud

It's no secret that my company had its own internal usage relationship with Google Apps go sour in the last half year. As our mobility, security, and feature needs continued to grow, at least in my eyes, Google seemed too focused on appeasing education and other niche sectors. As such, they've been leaving healthcare and other business verticals behind.

Is Google Apps necessarily a bad product? Not by a long shot. I just see Office 365 as a slightly better shoe: one that fits snug like a glove for our needs. And it's not just our company that has made the move from Google Apps to Office 365. To be honest, we get about 1-2 inquiries each week with customers who are looking to move in a similar direction.

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Forced to use Windows XP past April? 10 ways to make the best of a bad situation

XP

I've been pressing my day to day clients, as well as informed readers here on BetaNews, on the case for ditching Windows XP altogether. I'm guessing by now that chances are, if you're still running XP at this point, you're probably going to stick it out on the platform for the indefinite short term. I've already written about the best ways to safely migrate off XP without losing functionality in the workplace, but if you absolutely have no choice but to keep riding the sinking ship for now, here's hoping at least you are going to be smart about how you do so.

No, your PC is not going to explode, implode, or just stop working come the April cutoff date Microsoft has set. In fact, your system is probably going to continue humming away as usual. But it's what you can't see that will hurt you the most, and that's what XP holdouts are forgetting: the bad guys are arming themselves to the teeth with exploits, just waiting for April 8 to come and go.

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How PSTN voice in Lync Online will bring unified VoIP to the masses

VoIP

Let's be honest with ourselves: in its current app-driven iterations, VoIP is nothing more than a value added novelty. Sure, we Skype with grandma and Lync with our coworkers, but the extent of VoIP penetration into our daily lives starts and stops in bite sized chunks. As much as every me-too VoIP provider would love for us to conduct our lives according to the functionality of their limited purpose apps, the average person usually doesn't have the same feelings about VoIP as IT pros do.

Don't get me wrong in any way. I absolutely love what VoIP has enabled my business and clients to do. We're leveraging Lync on a daily basis with our staff in the field and main office. My clients are using a variety of VoIP endpoints like RingCentral or 8x8 desk phones, soft phone apps, Skype -- even GoToMeeting can be considered VoIP for the voice and video capabilities it provides.

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6 reasons why Windows RT is the real future of Windows

RT

The standard fare of tech industry pundits just don't get it when it comes to Windows RT. They lambasted it when it came out in 2012 (in some ways, rightfully so). They doubted Microsoft would release a Surface 2 variant, and Redmond did just that. And they continue to beat the anti-RT drum loud and clear, using RT device sales figures as their proof of a pending death notice.

Perusing Google, you can come across a wild variety of articles that purport to explain why Microsoft needs to ditch RT altogether. Chris Neiger penned one such piece, and even John Martellaro of MacObserver.com did his best to argue how foolish Microsoft was for even considering RT a serious contender.

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Watching any Sochi 2014 coverage this month? You'll be doing so on Azure

Sochi

Over 1000+ hours of live footage covering 98 Winter Olympics events, all being broadcasted over numerous digital and TV avenues -- simultaneously. As an infrastructure geek at heart, and someone who consults clients on their networks, I can't even fathom what kind of backbone is needed to stream a worldwide event like the Olympics. But NBC has fallen back on a familiar face in the cloud arena to make this magic happen: Microsoft.

NBC partnered with YouTube for the 2012 London Olympics and the experience for end users was less than ideal. Robert Cringely had some truthful words about his efforts to catch some footage, and even the NY Times published a scatching piece on the miserable pain that YouTube was putting users through with buffering times. YouTube may be one the most watched video services on the web today, but their secret sauce has traditionally been in handling statically uploaded footage. Live broadcasting is a whole different arena from the little I know about the media arena.

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The Internet of Things: Hasn't SkyNet taught us anything?

war machine

Watching my RSS streams in Feedly on a daily basis has had my head spinning lately. It's not the usual flood of tech news getting to me. It's all the stories hitting recently about the so-called Internet of Things. For a topic that has so little to show for it in the real world thus far, it sure garners a disproportionate amount of attention in the tech media. So what gives?

Perhaps someone can fill me in on what this Internet of Things is supposed to look like. Is it a different internet? Is it a network solely designated for these newfound "things" that need to talk to every other "thing" out there? Or is it just more of what we already see in the market: giving every device possible an IP address to sit on. I'm just as perplexed at this bogus concept as Mike Elgan from Computerworld. He's calling it a wild idea that is rightly "doomed from the start" for numerous reasons.

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Office 365 as an educational LMS? Microsoft video demos how it works

office

With as much time as I've spent in the education sector, as a student on one end and a high school IT specialist on the other, I know the landscape of educational learning management systems (LMS) decently well. And to be completely honest, it's a landscape rife with half-baked products delivering a fragmented me-too experience.

There's a lot to be desired from LMS environments, at least the one's I've played with in the last half decade. As a grad student at DePaul University (Chicago, IL USA) right now, I'm juggling between no less than three distinct platforms the school relies on.

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Windows Storage Spaces and ReFS: Is it time to ditch RAID for good?

Servers

If you're like most other IT pros I know, you're probably already cringing just at the title of this article. And I don't blame you one bit. How many times has Microsoft tried to usher in the post-RAID era? Every previous try has either been met with gotchas, whether it be performance roadblocks, technical drawbacks, or outright feature deprecation.

Native Windows drive mirroring (read: software RAID) has been in every Windows release since Win 2000. And for just as long, it has been plagued by sub-standard read/write performance which is why everyone who tried it always ran back to their hardware RAID.

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From Google Apps to Office 365: Why my company ditched Google

Office 365 logo

You're probably expecting me to write a scathing exposé on how I've come to dislike Google Apps. That's quite far from the truth behind why we left Google. There is a lot more to the story than meets the eye. It goes way farther than just a decision based on boxes checked off on a spec sheet. After more than one month since making the move to Office 365 full time, I can comfortably say we made the right decision as a company.

And of anyone who can make an honest dissection of Google Apps against Office 365, I'd say I'm as well suited as anyone in the IT blogosphere to be passing such critical judgement. Notwithstanding my own personal usage of Gmail since 2005 and Google Apps for my IT company since early 2010, I've likewise been both a Google Apps Certified Trainer and Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialist for years now. And I've personally been involved in Google Apps transitions for numerous small and large organizations in both the public and private sectors. So to say that I've been deeply invested in Google-ism for some time now is an understatement.

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The cloud in 2014: My 7 big predictions for next year

Cloud 2014

Just a short three years ago, skeptics called outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as utterly foolish when he uttered his three iconic words: "We're all in." Ballmer, of course, was referring squarely to Microsoft's position towards that 'cloud thing' which was rearing its head swiftly three years ago. Most of us were taken aback, since Microsoft seemed like the last company interested in shedding market share to non-traditional licensing.

Turn the page to 2013, and Microsoft is one of the cloud's most vocal champions -- with growth numbers to prove the cloud is a hot market and growing even hotter. In February 2013, Redmond re-launched Office 365 for Business, which was a big enough improvement over the suite's questionable former self that I gave it my two thumbs up finally. I'm not the only one seeing Office 365's about face; a full 37 percent of organizations surveyed recently are admittedly adopting Office 365 within 24 months.

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Moving to VoIP? 10 things you need to know before ditching the PBX

VoIP

If you haven't heard of VoIP (voice over IP) by now, you've been living under a bridge. This broad term blankets a ton of technologies, from things as simple as Skype and Google Hangouts, to more business-esque offerings like Lync and IP desk phones. "The cloud" is already passe and so 2012 -- the next hot item in tech is without a doubt unified communications, or simply UC, as the industry geeks call it. And chances are, based on the latest stats, your organization either has UC on the timetable or is already putting some form of it into place.

The numbers behind VoIP adoption and growth back up its reputation as the up and coming attraction in the way we do business. Mobile VoIP is poised to hit roughly 1 billion users within the next five years. Residential VoIP subscribers hit a massive tipping point of 203 million users as of the first half of this year. And Microsoft recently let loose that over 60 percent of 500+ seat enterprises surveyed are either deploying or in the planning stages for rolling out its Lync UC environment in the workplace.

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