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Quaintness in Salt Lake

(This is the script for a piece I did for the BBC World Service. Posted here by request. Podcast here.) Something rather quaint is going on in a Salt Lake City courtroom. A company called Novell, who you’d be forgiven for not having heard of, is suing Microsoft over a product called WordPerfect, which you also may not have heard of, which it says was hobbled from running on something called Windows 95 to protect its own product, called Microsoft Word. To be honest, you don’t need to know the ins and outs of this Microsoft law suit; nor do you really need to knowContinue readingQuaintness in Salt Lake

The Fate of New Acquisitions: Whither or Wither?

By Jeremy Wagstaff I’m writing this on a Windows PC using a great piece of Microsoft software called Windows Live Writer. And that’s only part of the problem. As you no doubt know, Microsoft have announced they bought Skype, the Internet telephony company, for $8.5 billion. You’ll have to look under a lot of stones to find someone who thinks this is a good deal for Microsoft. Skype made $20 million last year on revenue of $860 million, posting a net loss of $69 million because of interest expenses. In short, this is not a company about to fill Microsoft’s coffers with dosh. Whenever aContinue readingThe Fate of New Acquisitions: Whither or Wither?

2011: Year of The Media App

This is my weekly Loose Wire Service column. By Jeremy Wagstaff I predict this year that we’ll settle on a way to make people pay for stuff they so far have proven reluctant to pay for—namely information. This won’t be done by pay walls, exactly, but by what we’re now calling apps. Apps are applications that people seem very willing to pay for when they’re doing it from a device that isn’t a desktop computer. So people are buying these things because what’s a buck when you know you can get to hurl Angry Birds onto flimsy structures sheltering evil pigs on your device inContinue reading2011: Year of The Media App

Google’s Missteps

By Jeremy Wagstaff This one needed some correcting, for which apologies, and also, unsurprisingly, attracted some opprobrium. It’s Google Notebook, not Notes, and Jaiku’s founders are Finnish, not Swedish. I’m a big fan of Google. A big fan. But I’ve finally realized what its problem is. It doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. Take its recent decision to close something called Google Wave. Google Wave was introduced to much fanfare back in May 2009. I can’t really describe what it is, but I can tell you what Google called it. Email killer, a new version of the web, etc etc. “Wave is what emailContinue readingGoogle’s Missteps

The Phantom Threats We Face

This is a copy of my weekly Loose Wire Service column. By Jeremy Wagstaff We fear what we don’t know, even if it’s a guy in Shenzhen trying to make an honest living developing software that changes the background color of your mobile phone display. Here’s what happened. I’ll save the lessons for the end of this piece. A guy who prefers to go by the name Jackeey found a  niche for himself developing programs—usually called apps—for the Android cellphone operating system. They were wallpaper applications—basically changing the background to the display. That was until an online news site, VentureBeat, reported on July 28 thatContinue readingThe Phantom Threats We Face

Phantom Mobile Threats

How secure is your mobile phone? This is an old bugaboo that folks who sell antivirus software have tried to get us scared about. But the truth is that for the past decade there’s really not much to lose sleep over. That hasn’t stopped people getting freaked out about it. A security conference heard that some downloadable applications to phones running the Android operating system would “collect a user’s browsing history, their text messages, the phone’s SIM card number and subscriber identification” and send all this data to a website owned by someone in Shenzhen, China. Some outlets reported that it also transmitted the user’sContinue readingPhantom Mobile Threats

The Browser Wars: Another Milestone

(This is a copy of my Loose Wire Sevice column, produced for newspapers and other print publications. Hence lack of links) By Jeremy Wagstaff As you know, I’m into milestones, and another one has been passed in recent days: Microsoft’s market share of browsers is down below 60%. Now this may not sound very exciting to you, but it is. And you are to be congratulated. Because it’s you who have made it happen. Let me explain. A couple of years ago, when I started training journalists on things digital, I used to ask them what browser they used. They either answered Internet Explorer—Microsoft’s browser,Continue readingThe Browser Wars: Another Milestone

Google’s Sleazy (and Broken) Updater

Sorry to see that Google is going the sleazy route that Microsoft and Apple have ploughed before, namely trying to hoodwink and browbeat users into installing and automatically updating software they don’t want via an installer. Try to download Google Earth now, for example, and you’ll be directed to the Google Updater, which will try to persuade you to install software you didn’t ask for. (A great write-up of all this is at the Google Operating System blog.) On top of the inconvenience and sleaze of all this, I was irritated to find that the Updater doesn’t actually work: Not only that, but the helpContinue readingGoogle’s Sleazy (and Broken) Updater

Heathrow’s Old Windows

Snapped this on my way to Gate 1 at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. I know the London hub has its problems, but I didn’t realise one of them was that its passenger information system — or at least part of it — was running on Windows 95, a 12-year old operating system that has not been supported by Microsoft since 2001. Does it matter that flight information is being run on a system that Microsoft not only no longer sells, but it no longer supports? I guess not, in some ways. Who cares, if it’s still working? (Well, in the case above, where one screen isContinue readingHeathrow’s Old Windows

The Power of Tiddly

This week’s Loose Wire Service column, a service for print publications,  is on the TiddlyWiki, a piece of software I find myself coming back to from time to time: This isn’t for everybody, but I’ve found myself recently going back to a little itsy bitsy piece of software that turns your browser into a notebook cum database. It’s called TiddlyWiki, and it takes the two concepts — tiddlyness, as in smallness, and Wiki, as in simple editing software — about as far as you can take them. The result: a flexible piece of software that contains both the programming needed to run the thing andContinue readingThe Power of Tiddly

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