Microsoft’s R&D

PCWorld has a pretty interesting story on Microsoft’s R&D efforts. While Microsoft is viewed as an old technology company they aren’t done innovating. In many ways they remind me of AT&T in the Bell Labs days. It’s very possible some of the best research of the day is being done there, and we quite possibly won’t realize it for years to come, and will do so in some derived way.

The research and innovation methods of companies is always interesting. Big companies who invest big bucks with little guarantee of a payoff are the most interesting. We rarely hear/see much about them though.

Windows 8 Is Here

Windows 8 has launched, and it’s been quite silent. Not many seem to even care. Every media outlet has some coverage, but it’s hardly the buzz that Apple even got for their latest upgrade. Certainly not the buzz iOS 6 got. Sign of the times.

I’ve got 2 computers that currently run Windows 7. I think at least one will be upgrading to Windows 8 in the next week or two, I just haven’t decided which will be the one to go first. It’s not a bad OS in my experimentation, the UI takes some getting used to, but otherwise it’s really not bad. Do I “like” it? Not terribly much, but I didn’t “like” Windows 7 either.

Upgrading before January 31 is discounted to $40, worth taking advantage of if you can.

Kaspersky Lab Developing Its Own Operating System

Kaspersky Lab, of AntiVirus fame is apparently developing its own operating system:

We’re developing a secure operating system for protecting key information systems (industrial control systems (ICS)) used in industry/infrastructure. Quite a few rumors about this project have appeared already on the Internet, so I guess it’s time to lift the curtain (a little) on our secret project and let you know (a bit) about what’s really going on.

Sounds like a competitor for VxWorks and other embedded systems. More competition is good since this will cause other OS’s to strengthen to compete. There’s really nobody on the market other than OpenBSD that markets itself primarily as being secure.

Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Is Surprisingly Cheap

In an interesting move Microsoft announced it will sell Windows 8 Pro upgrades for $39.99 at least initially. Windows 7 Pro upgrade is about $150. It’s a huge price cut. Also noteworthy is that you can upgrade from one of the more basic versions of Windows 7 to pro. Microsoft also reduced the number of editions down to 4.

Given Apple has been doing under $30 for upgrades, it was only a matter of time. However in Apple’s case, the software is an accessory to the hardware. In Microsoft’s case, they don’t sell hardware. My bet is they are hoping the OS will be the platform to which users engage with Microsoft services.

This is somewhat ironic given Windows 7 was a modest upgrade (technology wise) from Vista. Windows 8 is a complete rethinking and a much bigger investment. The pricing is inverted.

This is Microsoft’s big move to not be marginalized by the internet into the “expensive software that you don’t really need to run a web browser”. Microsoft just kept themselves relevant. The question however is can they make a business out of this strategy?

Leap Smear

On how Google deals with leap seconds:

The solution we came up with came to be known as the “leap smear.” We modified our internal NTP servers to gradually add a couple of milliseconds to every update, varying over a time window before the moment when the leap second actually happens. This meant that when it became time to add an extra second at midnight, our clocks had already taken this into account, by skewing the time over the course of the day. All of our servers were then able to continue as normal with the new year, blissfully unaware that a leap second had just occurred.

Good idea. The second itself is meaningless. Spreading it out is much better/easier than accommodating for it in the rest of your stack.

Split An MP4 Into 2 Without Re-encoding

Today I had a large MP4 I wanted to break up into smaller chuncks because the disk was FAT32. Ends up you don’t need to re-encode. You can use ffmpeg and do something like this:

ffmpeg -ss 00:00:00 -t 01:30:00 -i input.mp4 -acodec copy -vcodec copy output1.mp4

That will copy the first 90 minutes to output1.mp4. Adjust the timecodes and output file to write another chunk to a different file. There may be a way to do it by filesize, but I didn’t figure out how. As always use a recent version of ffmpeg if you can.

That handy tip saves a ton of CPU time.

IE 10 To Ship With Flash?

Apparently Windows 8 Internet Explorer 10 will ship with Flash. Rather than put a nail in the coffin they are putting the corpse on the hood and driving around the neighborhood.

Flash is today what ActiveX was about 10 years ago. A proprietary insecure nuisance.

It’s worth noting even Adobe is doing some interesting HTML5 stuff these days. Adobe isn’t totally ignoring the future. Playing with Adobe Edge is somewhat high on my todo list.

OTA Upgrades Speed iOS Upgrade Adoption

Some interesting graphs on iOS 5.1 upgrade stats. iOS 5.0.1 and 5.1 are notable because they are the first upgrades to be delivered OTA. Unless this data is a unique segment and not representative of the larger ecosystem (I don’t think that’s the case), this is pretty impressive.

This is why the upgrade process is so important to client side applications, especially when you manage a platform. After installation keeping a user running the latest and greatest is critical. It impacts your entire ecosystem, which in Apple’s case includes the web, iOS developers, tech support, and yes even wireless partners.

Google’s biggest mistake was leaving hardware vendors and wireless providers in charge of managing upgrades. They are carrying a lot of baggage from old Android devices that Apple doesn’t. This is only going to be more amplified in the next 12-24 months as Apple users stay more current and Android continues to fragment.