Microsoft … why do you think I am Chinese

Whenever my Office 365 subscription is due for renewal, I get the following:

Ian 您好:
感謝您訂閱 Office 365 Home。 歡迎您加入。我們即將針對您的訂閱收取下一期的定期款項。 在 2019年11月12日,我們會向您的 MasterCard **XXXX 收取 ₱4,699.00 的費用。

除非您在 2019年11月12日 的至少兩天前取消訂閱,否則您的訂閱將持續 1 年。

若要取消或進行其他變更,請登入您的 Microsoft 帳戶以管理您的訂閱。

And yes, Microsoft “Contact Us” was as useless as various cow appendages to bulls. Seriously Microsoft – your AI is hopeless and you promised me a human volunteer to help – which I was never connected on.

I guess I will just have to take Chinese lessons … was that Cantonese or Mandarin?

Microsoft to provide free anti-virus software

Microsoft to provide free anti-virus software. I saw this article in the Technology section of the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 June 2009. I read it and my initial thought was “great”. The gist of the article was that a beta version of “Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) will be publicly available for download beginning June 23 in Brazil, Israel and the United States.” It will then be rolled out in other countries later in the year.

Microsoft noted that

Cost and performance barriers prevent many consumers from using up-to-date security software to protect their PCs

The idea with MSE was therefore to provide a regularly updated solution to Malware that was available to all users, not just those with the money to pay for anti-virus upgrades.

I wondered about that sentiment as there are some good free anti-virus services available (AVG comes to mind in particular) but with Microsoft now providing the service for free, will this see an end to the current anti-virus firms.

After thinking about it for a while longer my thought was “crap – MSE will be such a target for the Black Hats when it is released – can any of those folks resist a target like that?”

Bing vs Google – Maps

As Microsoft has taken a leaf from the Google book and released a product in Beta and as it was lunch time I thought I’d have a play with the two search engines. Rather than just leap out and search some obscure term (I’ll do that later) I thought I’d first compare the mapping side of the applications.

The first thing I noticed was that there are a number of common map scales between the two applications. For example, starting with a 2 kilometre scale and looking up, the scales up to 200 kilometres were:

Bing Google
3 km 2 km
7 km 5 km
10 km 10 km
25 km 20 km
50 km 50 km
100 km 100 km
200 km 200 km

It is therefore fairly easy to do a straightforward comparison between the two mapping applications – sort of a side by side comparison.

image I wanted to give both mapping servics a bit of a test so I selected a location I had been to before but that was a little out of the way. I selected Sukhbaater in Mongolia. I did that for a number of reasons, not least of which was that there are a number of locations with the same name in Mongolia. The one I was after was the town nearby to Altanbulag, the scene of Thomo’s detention at the hands of an overzealous customs officer who thought I looked like a terrorist. So, in Mongolia there are many Sukhbaatars – there is one Aimag (province) called Sukhbaatar whose capital is Baruun-urt and there is an Aimag called Selenge whose capital is Sukhbaatar. It was the latter one I was looking for. The image to the left is from Microsoft’s Bing and shows the pin located in the north of Mongolia, near the Russian border with the pin covering the town of Sukhbaatar.

image The image to the right is the Google Maps image of the same search. Clearly we are nowhere near the Russian border but rather south-east of Ulaanbaatar and near to the town of Baruun-urt which I also visited and had a wonderful shower in. Google has changed the original search term from just “Sukhbaatar, Mongolia” to “Sükhbaatar, Sukhbaatar, Mongolia” whilst Bing refers to the town it located as “Sühbaatar, Mongolia”. Both these spellings (with the umlauts) come from Anglicisation of Mongolian Cyrillic characters used for this name. Mongolians, when they Anglicise  the spelling, simply spell it as “Sukhbaatar” which is the way it is displayed on all the English language signs in the country.

I searched again. This time I used the term “sukhbaatar, selenge, mongolia” and selected the 200 km view. Now Bing, which remember had returned a good result in the first search, returned an error (shown below and to the left).image

Google maps, however, managed to find the correct location as shown in the map below and to the right.

However, one thing that is apparent from the displayed maps at the moment is the greater amount of detail available in the Bing map. There are just so many more towns shown on that map than the Google one. I found this when I tried other places I have been to in Mongolia as well.
image
For once I think Microsoft has it over Google. Whilst I still like using Google maps (integrates seamlessly with my Picasa photo albums as well as helps me to not get lost by running as an application on my mobile phone), I do think that the Microsoft map is a superior product. See particularly the last two maps on this post, they are both the same area set with a 50km scale – notice the difference in the number of towns displayed.

image imageI do wish, however, that both companies would start to use the Mongolian Anglicisation methods for writing Mongolian words in English – “sukhbaatar” is clearer these days than “sühbaatar” or “sükhbaatar”.

Windows Live Writer

I’ve played with Windows Live Writer (WLW) before, especially as I like to be able to write blog posts offline, especially when researching stuff about ships and what have you. It’s just more convenient. Unfortunately, WLW used to leave some odd characters in the post when I used it before so I was left with editing in Word 2007, then cutting and pasting to WordPress. This was not an optimum solution however it was all that was available.

So, I tried WLW again today and the issues that were there before have since gone. In fact, I am using it now. WLW lets me handle the layout of blog posts and pages much easier as well as the embedding of pictures and such. Seems to be good.

Well, Thomo has a new toy to play with again so will undoubtedly be in a good mood for a few days as a result.

Well done Microsoft.

Simple Errors

I started Windows Live Messenger today and was greeted with the usual screen with the advertisement at the bottom. I have no problem with these paid advertisements giving me free applications, they are much less intrusive than SPAM emails or indeed, those folks that insist on telephoning in the middle of dinner every night wanting to sell me something. So, what did I see? Well, the advertisement asked me to identify the city that was not in Australia.

The four choices were:

  • Sidney
  • Tokyo
  • Melbourne
  • Canberra

Naturally I selected Sidney as there is no Sidney in Australia. I was told this was wrong. So, to AUmobi at http://www.au-mobi.com/, guys, there are two cities in that list that are not in Australia. Perhaps a little proof reading and checking first might be a good idea before releasing an advertisement?

Microsoft Encourages Mongolian Piracy

No Genuine Advantage for MongoliaIt seems that the Microsoft Genuine advantage applies to everywhere in the world … except Mongolia. If you are a resident of Andorra, or Turks and Caicos Islands, or Svalbard and Jan Mayan (that would have to be 2,000 slightly frozen Norwegians and a similar number of Polar Bears) you can take advantage of Microsoft’s Genuine Advantage.

However, if you are resident in Mongolia, too bad. No such option exists on the Microsoft website. I guess Microsoft have never heard of Chinggis Khaan, even though there are more licensed Microsoft Products in use in Mongolia than the other mentioned locations combined.

Microsoft executives obviously never read the Biggles stories when they were young – even Biggles flew across Ulaanbaatar 🙂

Microsoft Outlook – Lousy Handling of Dates

It’s really very frustrating, especially when you travel a lot. You want your PC to reflect the timezone that you are currently in but at the same time you want some appoiontments to be absolute in time. Microsoft notes themselves:

You want an appointment to show on the Calendar at a fixed time no matter what the time zone is. For example, you want to be reminded to take your medication at the same absolute time regardless of the time zone you are in. However, when you change time zones, the appointment changes to reflect the new time zone.

Well, yes, that is it. You want some appointments absolute (so no matter where you are you want to be reminded at 8 in the morning to take your blood pressure tablets, but other appointments, such as scheduling conference calls and such, to be time zone dependant. Sigh, you can’t have your cake and eat it too with Microsoft. Pity really, but with all the bazillions of dollars they spend on R&D for Office 2007 (and from the beta, that looks really like quite a nice change too I might add), they can’t put a couple of hundred bucks aside for one of the developers to look at adding a flag to the apointment that says “Absolute Time”. Ah well. And lest you think I am being hard on Microsoft, they themselves note:

Outlook can’t force an appointment to remain fixed when the time zone changes. If you need the appointment to stay at a fixed time, you should not change your current time zone. You can add the additional time zone to track the other time zone times. To change the time zone setting in Outlook without changing the times for each of your appointments, you must export the data from your Calendar folder, change the time zone setting, and then import the data into Outlook.

Well, like that is really a solution … I am not even sure a geek would go that far.

That’s today’s gripe over. More gripes and travel tales later – I am starting to relax after a hard couple of months so all I can say at the moment is … surf’s up!