Moving to Office 365 from Google Apps: Follow Up

Earlier I blogged about Moving to Office 365 from Google Apps, and some of my woes.

In the time since, things have been straightened out. First off, what happened to me sucked, but was resolved. I think Microsoft knows they have some initial bugs and they will work it out. What does stand out is that the customer service is top notch. Their forum moderators replied. Their twitter account @Office365 replied. They actually CALLED me and walked through fixing the issue. This was great. They made sure it was working before leaving me hanging.

After I got the issues resolved, I switched my GoDaddy DNS to MSFT DNS name servers and away we go. I reset up my iPhone, iPad syncing with my new Office365 stuff, worked great, found the server url, etc. Android I had to type it in (to find it, log into web mail and go to about off the help icon). I set it up with Outlook 2010 and it works great. Also Mail.app on Mac, works great there too.

I haven’t done much more than just use it. Some things I miss or want? First, in Gmail, you can archive mail right from iOS. Exchange doesn’t have this, but in Outlook you can set up quick steps to do it, so I did that. The OWA interface doesn’t have quick steps, which would be nice. I haven’t used Lync yet as I don’t have anyone to talk to on it, I will dork around with that later. Haven’t used the SharePoint or Office Web Apps yet, it has been more Mail, Contacts, Calendar to start.

I would like to point my mail.domain.com to the Office365 portal for easy access, haven’t looked into it yet.

One other thing I noticed, is that some mail still comes to my old Google Apps account. Facebook mail alerts for sure. They might have a slow DNS change time as most all other mail comes to Office365. More to come as I get into things though.

Amazon Kindle Support is Best Ever

For my birthday, Emily and Ella got me a Kindle. And yeah, Kindle rocks. Not just the device, but I have been using it for iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC since it came out. To top it off the device rocks as well, I like that it works outside in the sun the most, and the battery life is stellar. Even as the iPad is “one app” at a time device, really, the Kindle device is “one app” in a device, and it lets you focus. I have read like 8+ books so far this year.

I recently got home from a trip, and finished a book. After shutting down the Kindle, I noticed a blotch on the screen. WTF? I keep it in a case and haven’t dropped it or anything. So I call Amazon Kindle customer service. They ask me about it, really just what happened and in 1 minute they are sending me a new Kindle and instructions and prepaid postage to send the other one back. I get the new one, it is already registered to me, and I am on my way. I was flabbergasted at how good the support was, you don’t get it or see it everyday. Kudos Amazon.

Thoughts on Windows 8 Details

Yesterday at All Things D, Microsoft announced Windows 8 (codename of course) details, and a first glimpse on video
 

Windows 8 Video #1

My initial reactions to this, as a consumer and as a development manager of an app that at this time is completely windows desktop .NET based:

HTML5/JS Apps

First reaction? Why not just use a browser? and How are they going to interact with the OS? What level’s of rights will they have to read/write file system, etc, etc. Also, what happens to Silverlight? C++/Winforms apps? Yeah they show old apps running “behind” the new UI, but what is MIcrosoft’s stance on development of these other technologies? WPF? They have told devs to build using these tech’s for desktop for years, now, lets go HTML5/JS? WTF? Will apps run in browser too? On a mac? iOS?

Tiles

First reaction? Looks like an exploded Windows Phone UI, WP7. Which at first blush looks cool but I have found usability to be painful. Seems to be more of a shell UI on top of Windows 7 (or whatever). They should call it Windows Blinds Smile

In General

I think that this will be a good refresh for the OS, but it might take a few iterations for this new UI to be used heavily. My take? Users will get the OS installed and (hopefully there will be an option to) turn off the new UI and go back to what they have used for years. Slowly but surely the new UI will take hold with some cool apps and more and more people will use that and get used to it, abstracted away from the core OS explorer, etc.

Looking forward to trying it out in beta, and when it goes live. I will give MSFT this, they keep things changing so devs have to keep learning! Oh yeah, and PDC is no longer, it is now BUILD – http://www.buildwindows.com/

Winforms DevExpress Grid

In the current agile sprint for the dev team I manage, we decided to start replacing ListViews (custom ones at that) and grids with the XtraGrid from DevExpress.

Now, normally I shy away from 3rd party controls, or want to vet them, but I knew there was no way we could do the same functionality in the default grid in .NET. One of the guys on the team did a story the sprint before to do a proof of concept comparing various grids and showing the pros and cons. DevExpress came out ahead, functionality and performance.

What we are seeing now is huge gains. We can use the new grid and functionality we couldn’t even begin to think of, is there by default. Grouping, searching, filtering, FAST performance, print preview and formatting, etc, etc, etc. Tons of options.

In fact, there are TOO many options. It makes it hard for us to digest all the possibilities in what we want to turn off, or how to integrate with existing forms, etc. A good problem to have.

All I know, is if you are doing any serious .NET work (Winforms, WPF, even Web/Silverlight) – it might make some sense to take a look at DevExpress. Focus on your business rules and integrating other parts of your systems, not reinventing the wheel with a crazy custom grid.

In the coming months I will try to talk about other areas that you can “outsource” to 3rd parties, where it makes sense. (And no, I don’t get anything from DevExpress for this post. Just calling it how I see it).

Windows Phone – Samsung Focus

Picked up a Samsung Focus yesterday, device only, no contract. Testing it out. Going to do some development and what not. More to come on this front, but after using it for the first few hours..

1. Can’t connect to hidden wifi networks.

If you have your wireless network hidden, you are out of luck, you need to have the SSID broadcast

2. Facebook Sync doesn’t work (or work well) when you have Facebook account settings set to HTTPS

I can see this happening right now as Facebook just turned that on recently and the phone doesn’t know how to handle, but it should.

3. It’s light.

Can hardly feel it in my pocket

4. I like the UI but seems very “jumpy”

seems like you bounce around a lot.

Other than that, still getting to know it. I haven’t moved my SIM card over yet (btw, the iPhone 4 is a mini SIM, so you need an adapter), but I might, we will see.


UserVoice: Using A Customer Service Tool To Democratize Technical Debt

Not sure if you anyone has heard of or used “UserVoice” – It is a site that allows you to create “forums” for your products and then submit ideas, give users votes and they can vote them up, and an admin can say things are started, merge ideas, or mark when the idea has been completed (and the votes go back to the users).

UserVoice is (sorta) along the same lines as GetSatisfaction (another cool customer service 2.0 app). Pretty cool tools. If I was in a customer service role, especially with any type of user based or public product, I would be running these tools to gather ideas and feedback from my users.

I am in a technical role, so what I decided to do was “democratize” the development area of our product one of my teams is working on. We have a ton of technical debt (as do most teams, it is just a matter of what level of debt you have) – but what should we work on next from a technical perspective?

In comes UserVoice. Let’s throw out ideas on UserVoice, give everyone 50 votes, and the ideas that bubble to the top will become our next set of things to work on. One “idea” may become several “user stories” (we are agile). Our goal is to have 20-25% of our stories focused in on paying down our technical debt. If we didn’t, the debt would never get down to a low enough point to where we are very comfortable.

What is cool is that it really shows what the team wants to focus on next. People can have others vote up their ideas, etc. Also, getting the votes back at the completion of an idea is key. As you can imagine, our forum is private. The one cool thing about UserVoice is you can create multiple forums, with different ranges of settings, so you could also have a public forum, or a different private forum for a select group of users, etc.

One thing I wish I could do is maybe give different # of votes to different users. Integration out of the box with TFS or other systems would be nice too, I haven’t looked to much into that though.

If you have a team that ranges from medium to large, I would suggest checking out UserVoice to get the ideas and opinions of the members out on the table regarding your technical debt. You may be surprised as to what gets voted to the top!

Visual Studio 2010 Productivity Power Tools

One nice thing released for VS2010 recently is the “Productivity Power Tools”. If you are using VS2010 I would recommend installing it.

Once installed, you can see the options under Tools->Options->Productivity Power Tools

 

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One feature I really like is the “Fix Mixed Tabs” feature.

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When you open a code file it will analyze and tell you if need to “Tabify” – convert spaces to tabs, the old developers argument of tabs vs spaces solved. BTW, they should be tabs!

Check out the tools and learn the other features, there are some good things in there to help your code and get around in VS2010.