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Monday Morning Technologist
Good morning all, it's nearly Halloween and the Monday Morning Technologist can't decide between dressing up as Siri or Watson. So let's talk tech while he ponders it...
HP Primes Their Own Pump?
A recent article pointed out a pair of interesting initiatives from HP who lately seems to be reading from Charlie Sheen's book of management. First off they're going to set you up with a subscription plan for new ink. Yep, for $5,99 (or a bit more) a month your printer can automatically tell HP when your ink is getting low and they will send you more ink. Of course, how many of us actually get new ink cartridges every month? Not too many, I'm guessing, and anybody who has ever used an HP Inkjet printer knows that they tend to report "low ink" weeks before they actually run out of ink.
Folks, the inkjet printer industry uses the same business model that the shaving industry does. They practically GIVE you the handles because they want to sell you the blades. The reason inkjet printers are almost disposably cheap is because the ink for those printers is more expensive than human blood. With this new plan you'd be paying Gillette to tell you when to replace your razor. Hmmm....
The second thing HP is doing is that they've teamed up with magazine publisher Conde' Nast so that if you subscribe to one of Conde' Nast's magazines (like Self, Glamour, Wired...) you can have those magazines send articles to your printer...automatically and any time they want to. Leaving aside the question of why you'd want random articles sent to your printer without warning (Can't I just read the article on the website and print it myself if I choose to?) it seems like a good way for HP to get you to use more blood...err...ink, which means you buy more from them sooner.
You don't think Bic and Gillette wouldn't LOVE to get you to shave 3 times a day? Rinse, repeat.
Removing Excess Space in OneNote
If you've suddenly got a bit too much white space in OneNote you could manually drag and drop all of that content up to remove the white space, but there's an easier way. This quick tip from OneNote-Tips.com explains how...
Are Property Managers Sweating the Cloud?
This article from Forbes suggests that the Cloud is contributing to office space vacancies by enabling a more mobile and distributed workforce. There's probably a lot of truth in that - office workers increasingly have technology at home that rivals what they have at the office and it does save money if a company needs a smaller office (and fewer paperclips, less electricity, fewer parking spaces...) because some portion of their workforce is working from home.
Keep in mind though that not everybody is well-suited for telework. There can be real productivity issues when you send workers who aren't self-motivated to an environment where they have their pets, their treadmill, their TV set, their PlayStation... It CAN be done, of course, but some people just do better in a traditional office environment.
So while I agree that the cloud and remote work *IS* having an effect, I think there will be some level of equilibrium reached where firms will have migrated as many people to remote work as they practically can. There also may be more of a migration away from the downtown spaces as firms start to realize that they can maintain a very small office with a prestigious downtown address but migrate most of their actual offices to sites in the far less expensive suburbs. The Cloud and remote technology means that it's pretty easy for a firm to have a Manhattan address but almost all of their staff actually works in Jersey. Or Nebraska.
Finally one point the article makes that is indisputable...there are a LOT of empty cubicles when I go into offices these days too. Either via remote work or just layoffs I rarely walk into an office that doesn't have a substantial number of empty desks. When the lease comes up for renewal there will be a lot of firms thinking hard about if they really need 20,000 square feet or if they'd be better off "right-sizing" to 15,000.
The good news from that is that smaller firms who previously didn't think they could afford "a real office" will likely find a lot of great deals on smaller spaces that have been chopped out of downsizing larger firms.
The Battle for Your Voice Has Been Joined
Apple has released the iPhone 4S and more than any other feature the one that is on everybody's lips - so to speak - is Siri. Siri is the iPhone's new voice-activated "personal assistant". You can now talk to your iPhone and ask it questions like "What's the temperature in Flagstaff today?" or have it do things like call your mother-in-law or put an appointment on your calendar.
Siri isn't quite everything we'd like it to be yet, but it's a heck of a good start AND...it's shifted the voice recognition and AI game into the next level. Already there has been a response for the Android as a product called "Iris" has been released. Iris is free in the Android Market but be forewarned...that "Alpha" in the title doesn't mean it's the big dog...that means it's a VERY early version. And it is.
Iris just uses the default Android voice, which isn't especially pleasant to converse with, it's still pretty limited in what it can do and it still has a lot of trouble recognizing what you say. But...that's what Alpha software is - an early prototype. What's exciting is that there are now legions of smart people working vigorously on both the Apple and Android sides to develop a richer voice interaction with our devices. Between Google and Apple there are a LOT of resources they can bring to bear to work on this problem. AND...one of the founders of Siri has just left Apple which means that yet another capable competitor is probably lurking out there.
...there are still a lot of times when you DON'T want to talk to your device. For example: Are you really going to tell Siri to schedule an appointment with your proctologist while you're having lunch in a crowded restaurant? Are you going to dictate a confidential e-mail to your business partner while you're sitting on an airplane? Do you really WANT to live in a world where everybody around you is constantly chattering to their devices? If that happens I'm buying stock in Bose because sales of noise-cancelling headphones is going to skyrocket!
Voice control of your device is handy in many cases - especially a device that doesn't have much of a keyboard. But let's pause a moment before we rush to a talkie-talkie world. Look around you and decide if you really want everybody within 20 feet to know exactly what you're doing on your device...and even if it's not confidential, let's have a little common courtesy and decide if everybody within 20 feet wants to hear you talking to your device.
Siri Plays Around
Before you get too emotionally involved with Siri you should know something about her...you're not her one and only. Siri will respond to anybody who talks to her and, by default, she'll respond even when your iPhone is locked. What that means is that if you lock your iPhone 4S and leave it laying around somebody else can grab it and, even if they can't unlock the phone, they can tell Siri to do all sorts of things...like access your Contacts, read your e-mail...even send an e-mail as you.
You can fix that problem by going into settings and setting Siri not to respond when the phone is locked but most people won't do that. It's just too convenient for YOU to be able to use Siri without unlocking the phone.
Of course, that assumes you've set your phone to lock at all. You have turned on the lock haven't you? Haven't you?
The Next Steps
As long as we're talking about voice commands in devices there are two big steps that need to happen before it truly starts to recognize its potential:
1. It needs to be able to seperate out your voice from all of the other noise in the room. Right now if you're dictating or using voice recognition you need a fairly quiet environment. If you drive a garbage truck for a living don't count on Siri being that useful to you when you're at work. If you have a lot of other people around, or the radio on, voice recognition software can get confused about what it's hearing. Humans have the ability (most of them) to distinguish between the person speaking to them and other people in the room or just random noise. So far most of the devices do not.
One of the folks on This Week in Tech commented that he tried to use Siri on the streets of New York but quickly gave up - it was just too noisy and Siri couldn't understand much of what he said.
2. It needs to have a way to always be listening. At least with Iris you have to press the button to tell it to listen each time you speak. A more handsfree mode where you can just address it and have it recognize that you're talking to it would be a great step forward.
Office365 Limits Your E-mail?
One item that came out last week cast a little bit of a shadow over Microsoft's new Office365 service. It seems that if you have the professional-level (P1) plan of Office365 that Microsoft's servers are going to limit you to sending e-mail to 500 recipients per day. There was an immediate twitcry (that's an outcry on Twitter) from people who think that's going to hamstring businesses from using it. Let me clear up a few things and put some (but not all) of you at ease:
- The limit is on recipients, not on messages. You can send 1000 messages to the same recipient - that only counts as one. There are some questions about how distribution lists get handled but if you think of a distribution list as a separate address (even though it includes a bunch of addresess) that's probably smart.
- The limit is PER MAILBOX. Not per company. If your company has 10 mailboxes on Office365 that doesn't mean that each mailbox only gets 50 recipients per day. It also doesn't mean that one user could send to 480 recipients and the other 9 of you would only have 20 left between you. It's 500 recipients per mailbox, per day.
- This only applies to the P-level plans. The E-level plans get 1500 recipients per mailbox per day.
I'm a pretty heavy e-mail user and I haven't stumbled over this limit yet. I seriously doubt it will affect many people - though I recognize it may affect a few. For those of you who e-mail THAT heavily and to that many different recipients per day you should probably consider one of the E-level plans.
They implemented this as an anti-spam and traffic restrictor technique. It would be nice, however, if Microsoft would provide:
- Clarification on when the count resets. Is it at midnight? Some other time?
- A way for the firm administrator to temporarily override the limit in certain cases. If it's a simple anti-spam tool then the firm administrator should be able to confirm that the 501st message is a legit message and let it go. If Microsoft is worried about total traffic volume perhaps the administrator could allocate some of another mailboxes' daily quota to help make up for the user who has the occasional 503 recipients in a day.
Roland Schorr & Tower are Office365 resellers. If you have questions about it or would like a free trial of Office365 just let us know and we're happy to see how we can help.