Mailbag: May 23, 2010

This week in the mailbag:

More Secure Google Searching
Upgrading from the Office 2010 Beta to RTM
Running Windows 7 on a MacBook Pro?
Windows 7/Mac OS X Snow Leopard Deathmatch
Bill Gates Told Steve Jobs About the iPad in 2007

Have a question? I can't guarantee an answer, but I'll try. Drop me a note! (And let me know if you'd prefer not to have your name published.)

More Secure Google Searching

topagentgirl provides a useful tip for Google Search users (i.e. "everybody"):

Have you tried encrypted searching using Google? Just add an "s" to http in the URL: https://www.google.com/.

According to Google, this brings one significant advantage:

When you search on https://www.google.com, an encrypted connection is created between your browser and Google. This secured channel helps protect your search terms and your search results pages from being intercepted by a third party on your network.

Note that encrypted Google search is in beta, because it covers only "core" web searches, and not things like image search or maps.

Also, using encrypted search doesn't limit the data sent to Google. Google still uses anonymized search data to improve the service.

Upgrading from the Office 2010 Beta to RTM

Given the several million people who are currently running the Office 2010 public beta, Lester G. asks what is likely to be a very common question:

I currently use the Office 2010 Beta and love it. No hiccups whatsoever. I downloaded Office 2010 from TechNet Plus and would like to upgrade the version of 2010. Will it just keep everything as is and upgrade the application files only?

A couple of notes about Office 2010. First, you can't upgrade from the Office 2010 beta (or any pre-release version), in place, to Office 2010. If you try to set up the final ("RTM") version of Office 2010 on a PC where a pre-release version is installed, you'll receive a warning that you need to uninstall that pre-release product first.

Of course, doing so leads to the worry: What gets saved, and what doesn't get saved? Microsoft doesn't offer any obvious way to backup and restore Office settings--a big functional hole in my opinion--let alone one that works between Office versions. (So this would be an issue for anyone hoping to upgrade from an earlier Office version, like Office 2007, to Office 2010.) Note that you can perform an in-place upgrade from Office 2007 to 2010. (That said, Microsoft does not offer any retail Upgrade packaging.)

And you can continue to keep using the Office 2010 public beta through October 31, 2010. That should be enough time to sort through whatever upgrade issues there. Note that in my testing, I didn't see any major functional differences between the beta and final releases. So there's no rush.

As for what gets retained, I don't have a complete list. It will retain all of your data files--your documents, of course, but also your Outlook PST file. But you should still back those things up first, before uninstalling the beta. Other settings--like the custom Word dictionary, or your auto-correct options--are not retained. You can manually backup and restore Office 2010 ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar customizations, which is nice but limited. Basically, I'm looking around for more complete documentation, and would love to find a tool that does back up and restore Office settings and customizations. If anyone is aware of such a thing, please do let me know.


Running Windows 7 on a MacBook Pro?

James C. needs to develop iPhone apps, so he has to use a Mac. (Gotta love Apple.) But he's a Windows guy at heart. (Who isn't?) So he wants to know...

I am worried Windows 7 on a Mac won't give me the best experience. Would you run Win 7 on a MacBook Pro (i7, 8Gb Ram, 17")? Never owned a Mac before, not looking to use OS-X on a regular basis, but can't see spending $2300 on a laptop and then being cut out of the iPad/Pod development game because I don't have it.

I can't see spending $2300 on a laptop, period. :) But yeah, I think it will be just fine. It's pretty standard PC hardware, and Apple supplies drivers for their special stuff.

A couple of notes here.

Despite the common hardware, Macs are not ideal Windows machines. They have non-standard (and unexceptional) keyboards, Apple's drivers are often (purposefully?) out of date and/or non-optimized. And of course they are expensive, often crazy expensive like this particular machine.

Macs do, however, have the unique ability to run both Mac OS X and Windows, something that's not (legally or easily) possible on a regular PC. And you get two choices for this Windows compatibility, virtualized solutons like VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop, which let you run Windows, and Windows apps, side-by-side with Mac OS X and native Mac apps, and Boot Camp, free with Leopard and Snow Leopard, which lets you dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows on the same Mac. Both of these solutions have limitations--virtualization comes with a performance hit, for example, and of course with dual boot, you can only one system (and one set of apps) at a time. But at least they're options.

The biggest limitation for Windows users on the Mac, of course, is that you have to buy a retail Full version of Windows 7 in order to legally run Microsoft's latest OS on that hardware. That can be expensive ($150 for Home Premium at Amazon.com right now), and if you go the virtualization route, you'll also need to purchase VMWare or Parallels (about $100 apiece). But heck, you're a Mac user now. Get used to spending money. :)

Windows 7/Mac OS X Snow Leopard Deathmatch

And speaking of the Mac, Burt B. asks about a neglected series of articles here on the SuperSite:

What happened to the Windows 7 vs. Mac OSX Deathmatch? After 2 installments it went away. I found it an interesting series with lots of potential.

I need to figure out if it's still worth it. It seems like OS X development has crawled and interest in Macs is being pushed aside for the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch devices.

And of course, my own focus is being pushed increasingly to the cloud and mobile devices as Microsoft and other companies make similar moves as well. I will look into completing that series, though. I agree it's an interesting opportunity. It may just be less relevent than it was originally.

Bill Gates Told Steve Jobs About the iPad in 2007

Daniel Smith tipped off Gizmodo about an interesting revelation in a recently re-released video from the Wall Street Journal's 2007 D5 conference: In this video, which was recorded before the iPhone shipped, and before Apple even began development of the iPad, then-Microsoft chairman Bill Gates describes almost the exact situation Apple has created with three computing devices for different scenarios--smart phone (iPhone), tablet (iPad) and PC (Mac.) Meanwhile, Apple CEO Steve Jobs says that the PC has plenty of life left in it and has always adapted to market changes and would do so going forward.

About halfway through the interview Bill Gates predicts a device just like the iPad and even mentions that it may have a hardware keyboard in certain settings much like the add on keyboard of the iPad. So I emailed this to Gizmodo and they made an article about it. I'm curious of your thoughts on this as well.

First, shame on you for tipping off the kids at Gizmodo. :) This is exactly the kind of insight that the gadget blogs are incapable of.

With regards to the actual discussion in the video, when asked what is principle computing device will be in five years, Bill Gates finally gets a word in edgewise when Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher stop pontificating and interrupting the real reasons we're watching. (God, they're just terrible, aren't they?)

I don't think you'll have one device. I think you'll have a full screen that that you'll carry around, and you'll do dramatically more reading on that. I believe in the tablet form factor. I think you'll have voice, I think you'll have ink, you'll have some way of having a hardware keyboard ... and then you'll have something that fits in your pocket ... there's navigation computers, there's media, there's phone. Technology's letting us put more things in there. But I think those are natural form factors. They will be extremely high volume and complementary: If you have one, you'll have the other. At home, you have your living room, with your ten foot experience ... And then in your [home office], you'll have something that looks a lot like your desk at work. Every horizontal and vertical surface will have a projector you can display information.

Open, honest, and, as it turns out, extremely prescient. So how about Steve Jobs? He's also interrupted repeatedly by the terrible hosts, but finally manages to get out the following:

It's interesting. The PC has proven to be very resilient. There was the age of productivity ... and then the Internet came along and it was the Internet age. And then, some number of years ago, this notion of the PC as the digital hub started to take off, and it was reborn again as the hub of your digital life. You can sort of see that there's something starting again, it's not clear exactly what it is, but it will be the PC, maybe used with some back-end Internet services, something like that, things are going mobile in an ever greater degree. So I think the PC is going to continue to be this general purpose device that's going to continue to be with us, and work with us, whether it's a tablet, or a notebook, or a big curved desktop that you have at your house. I think that will be something that most people have.

But then there's this explosion that's starting to happen in what we call post-PC devices. You can call the iPod one of them, a category of devices that aren't as general purpose, that are more focused on specific functions, phones, or iPods, or Zunes, or what have you. That category of devices is going to continue to be very innovative. We're going to see lots of them.

This isn't as one-sided as some have made it sound. Gates is more specific, and arguably more correct about what's happened, but both offer up a reasonable explanation of the years that have since elapsed.

In some ways, both guys were simply championing what their companies were doing at the time. This is to be expected.

Gates did basically describe the iPad *and* iPhone, though I'd point out that his vision for tablet computing is far more functional than the reality, with ink support and so on.

And then of course there is the unfortunate reality that Bill G. can talk but Microsoft never executes, while Steve Jobs says one thing, throws off the competition, and then just executes brilliantly on the real strategy. When this was recorded, the iPhone was a known quantity inside Apple, but I have to think iPad prototypes and ideas were being tossed around as a possibility too.

Interesting stuff however you look at it, thanks.

More next week...