This digital life (version 2.0) June 2007

(From Vista Magazine, June 2007)

This digital life (version 2.0)

Nick, a recent addition to Microsoft, is a long time blogger, presenter and geek. Read Nick’s exploits and stories at A part of Nick’s “job” at Microsoft is to collect and record Australia’s Geek Stories. Turn your web browser to To hear what Nick is doing almost on a minute by minute basis, catch Nick on

Being a master of your own digital identity is a new life skill. Similar to riding a bike, driving a car or learning how to read – ensuring that your digital information is protected is paramount.

Recently I attended a corporate event where the senior manager of IT of a large bank was presenting. As he was talking about the bank’s use of technology, I coincidentally received what the industry terms a phishing email. Phishing is where nefarious criminals attempt to use electronic means to steal your login ids, passwords for financial institutions and other valuable online identifiers.

If you have email, you are likely to have received one of these in your Outlook, too. The email would have contained strange statements about “changing your account settings” or similar.

For younger people, social networks that once existed via the phone, are now online using instant messaging (IM) applications like MSN Live Messenger. Parents and teachers express surprise at how kids connect both to their school friends; and like-minded friends all over the world. Long gone are the days of pen-friends in different countries.

Banking, superannuation, communication, health, photos, messaging, telephone, government information – services that we all use to live in our society – are online, or fast moving to primarily online.

Where do you learn to be safe online? And more importantly, how do we ensure the younger ones in society are safe, and learn the “rules of the road”?

As much as software and networking technology adapts and adds barriers to cyber-criminals, sadly the state of human nature results in a continual process of development to block the nasties. Learning to carefully question what you read and see on the internet is as important as watching other drivers on the road.

NetAlert ( ) has a good starting resource for the younger audience. Netty for the 2-7 year olds and CyberQuoll for the 8-12 year olds — online characters and cartoons for the young.

We cannot ignore the internet and global connectivity, and learning how to behave in the online community is a life skill. Be safe out there, and enjoy the views from the cyber-highway.

This digital life (version 2.0) July 2007

(from July 2007 Vista Magazine)

Nick, a recent addition to Microsoft, is a long time blogger, presenter and geek. Read Nick’s exploits and stories at A part of Nick’s “job” at Microsoft is to collect and record Australia’s Geek Stories. Turn your web browser to To hear what Nick is doing almost on a minute by minute basis, catch Nick on

Growing up on a farm in country South Australia, I remember the smell of the work shed. The work shed is not where vehicles or animals were stored; it is where the welding, banging, fixing, wiring and general repairs were made. The smells of oil, grease, petrol, arc welding and seasons wafted out of the nooks and crannies also containing bolts of unknown vintage.

Out the back of the shed, engines from long decommissioned cars and trucks stood idle underneath the gum trees and galahs. In summer, the shed was a cool refuge from the 35 degree heat; and in winter a shelter from the rain and wind.

Farmers fix all their own equipment. From petrol and diesel engines to swapping the shears on ploughs. Blacksmith, engine mechanic, electronic technician, radio engineer: all bases were covered with a myriad of tools and bit logically organized in controlled chaos.

Sheds migrated to the backyards of many suburban houses at the same time as the population moved to the quarter acre block. Albeit smaller than their country cousins, the same smells of two-stroke petrol for the mower and a half-repaired washing machine from Auntie Joyce usually shared the same corner as a family of mice who immigrated from next door. The pool shed containing noxious chemicals just didn’t suit the poor noses of the domestic mouse.

The shed is a place of sanctuary for the blokes of the family. A hidden esky or better yet, a small fridge, contains a collection of beers and after the barbeque is turned off – the men retreat to the shed to talk about whatever men talk about. Their castle, the house, may have a spare room – but the kids have taken this over with their board games, or the wife has started a home business and the racks of stock just don’t mix with a good yarn and stories.

Also in the shed, are what are called “weekend shed projects”. Apart from Auntie Joyce’s washing machine – there is a half-completed rocking horse – promised to the kids for their 5th birthday, but never completed; a random invention for the garden that just didn’t work and a bicycle or two from the various lengths of the kids. Each of the bikes has something wrong: missing seat, flat tyre or a handle bar that’s found its way into the washing machine. These projects are never completed as there will always be time at retirement to potter around the shed.

Sheds, and weekend shed projects, still exist in the online age. The human imagination has taken us blokes from painting animals in a cave to sorting out the 6000 digital images we captured on our last trip to North Queensland.

What is your weekend shed project? I’ll give you a tip: start now. Retirement is just too far away.

Calling AU Developers in Political Sphere


While our keynote and discussion will be invaluable to anyone interested in democracy and communication in the first half of this century I also wanted the forum to be an opportunity for a look at practical examples of new technology tools.

To that end I’d like to invite any developers, web 2.0 or social networking activists with ideas for, or examples of, on-line tools that can be used in political campaigning and who would like to demonstrate their ideas (as a proof of concept or developed application) to the attendees at the forum to contact me.

Microsoft not interested in how the tools were or are developed, what platform or language the tool was or would be developed with as long as the idea is original, is yours, and you are prepared to demonstrate the concept or tool to the audience. It would be preferable if the idea were capable of wide usage but that is a matter for you.

  • Up to three ideas will be selected for demonstration.
  • Financial support will be provided to get to Canberra.

For more information, please visit the Australian Government Affairs blog or contact me.

Follow the Code: Microsoft and Open

The Register, certainly not the most pro-Microsoft web publication (note: sarcasm), today states: “Apple more closed than Microsoft”

Transitioning to Apple-bashing is a simple journalistic mechanism to attract eyeballs. I am going to ignore the anti-Apple sentiment.

The interesting statements are: “however, the Microsoft of today, while not totally reformed, is a lot more open and well behaved than it was, say, 10 years ago.”

One highlighted recent ‘negative’ on Microsoft is the OpenXML as an ISO specification.

Personally, I am a proponent of open file formats. Completely open specifications, no patent encumbrances, for all to implement read/write and change. It is very important that our descendants are able to read and write the digital files we are creating today. By publishing the file formats for our binary and XML out of Microsoft Office is an excellent start. ISO puts the format in the hands of the world.

Yesterday Microsoft released more toolkits for OpenXML support (including Java)and an OpenXML/ODF interop kits:

My advice is to not listen to the idle rhetoric of any vendor: watch the code and see what ships. That is the ultimate test.

Ray Ozzie: by Steven Levy


From Wired 16.12 “Ray Ozzie Wants to Push Microsoft Back Into Startup Mode”

“I think we’re going to take a lot of people by surprise” – Ray Ozzie, TechReady8

Steven witnessed Ray’s presentation at Microsoft’s internal TechReady8 conference: a rare treat for an outside journalist. What he saw was Ray Ozzie presenting at his finest.

Before joining Microsoft, I spoke to Mike Seyfang. One of my reasons for joining was to be a part of the Ray Ozzie smartness. In my first year inside the firewall, Ray Ozzie’s teams were very stealthy. Quiet.

At PDC late this year, Ray didn’t present quite as passionately (maybe not so scare the developer-centric audience) – but he started to publically show his vision for the future of computing.

Microsoft has moved from the “PC” centric model. This shift started with the hiring of Dave Cutler, one of the Digital architects of VAX/VMS. From his work at Microsoft came Windows NT. A server-grade operating system that arrived on mass consumer/business desktops 9 years later with Windows XP.

Windows NT, and its successors, did breed a family of robust server operating systems; and applications that moved Microsoft into the heart of the enterprise: the server room. This dramatically shifted Microsoft’s product strategy, and how it engaged with large organisations. No longer just the menacing PC on the desktop to an enterprise IT architecture, from soup to nuts. And the revenue followed.

In the midst of this shift from desktop to server room, Microsoft has seemed to ignore the Internet. standardised protocols, freedom of choice, open source, creative commons licensing, disruptive business models, loosely coupled applications. Microsoft only noticed when its enterprise-customer defensive wall was attacked. Like guerrilla attacks: the skirmishes were many, but the barbs were survivable. Revenue still flows.

Witness Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (for the Greeks, British, USSR and Coalition) and Pictish-lands (for the Romans) : guerrilla warriors ultimately win.

Ray Ozzie is the navigator that is changing Microsoft’s course from within. The fleet of supertankers that is Microsoft cannot turn quickly: unless facing imminent death as Apple did in 1995/6, large organisations have a momentum that is difficult to unwind.

We are witnessing the same shift today with a move into the cloud. Simply put: the platform is a collection of loosely coupled devices connected by the internet. Not PCs on desks, nor servers in racks in every organisation around the world.

The IT company most effected by this change in platform is Microsoft.

Ozzie felt that after losing its antitrust case, Microsoft had tempered its bullying behavior. “This is a different company,” he now says. “It doesn’t feel evil; it doesn’t feel inconsistent with my core beliefs.”

The fleet is turning. Ozzie has navigating the direction. We’re off.

Cloud Follow-ups:


Live Mesh: MacOS, Windows Mobile

Live Mesh Technical Preview has been extended to the Mac:

· To get access to the Mac client, sign in to, click Add Device, and then click the “Limited Mac Tech Preview now available” link underneath the Install button. If we haven’t exceeded the limit for Mac clients, you’ll get a confirmation dialog, and then Mac will show up under the available list of devices when you choose Add Device from the ring. (MacOS X 10.5.1 or higher required)

At the same time, Microsoft has released a client for Windows Mobile 6.x:

To get access to the Windows Mobile 6.x client, click on one of the following links (US residents, UK residents). Sign in with your LiveID, and you’ll be redirected to the device ring where you’ll see a link to “Use Live Mesh for mobile devices.” Alternately, once you’ve signed in this way, the mobile client should be available for download by pointing your phone’s browser to

I’ve been using the Mac client for some weeks now, and I am mightily impressed. Being able to take a photo on your Windows Mobile and have the resulting images “magically” appear in your devices is way cool.

Want to see Steve Ballmer in Sydney, Live?


I have a small collection of invitations for Sydney based developers to see Steve Ballmer live.

For those, like me, who are not in Sydney on the 6th of November, there will be a web stream of the event.

As this event is post-PDC, so you are assured of some interesting new Microsoft-y things: all developer related. And no, Steve has not leaked them all already.

Email Me at to claim your invite. Limited numbers.