Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, words and deeds

Archive for the ‘Windows Live’ Category

LiveFX: Windows Live Services and Live Mesh converge

with one comment

Microsoft’s strategy for their Windows Live suite has drawn much criticism since its inception in November 2005 but of late the muddy waters have started to clear a little bit. Firstly we have had the latest beta releases of Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Photo Gallery (all downloadable from http://download.live.com) which, for various reasons, look like being a much more integrated suite than previous. Secondly the Live Framework (aka LiveFX), an API for connecting to the Live Operating Environment, was announced as part of the Azure Services Platform at PDC2008 and within it there are clues as to the future direction of the various online Windows Live services (which include Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Events, Windows Live Skydrive and Windows Live Calendar) and that is what I’m going to focus on in this blog entry.

 

When we use LiveFX we talk about connecting to the Live Operating Environment (LOE) which is essentially the root of all the Windows Live data that your Windows Live ID gives you access to. In the screenshot below we see all the properties of the LOE and I’m drawing your attention to the Profiles property.

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To take a closer look at that collection of Profiles we can use good old Visual Studio Intellisense:

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The collection contains 5 profiles. The interesting thing to note is that when you drill into them you will see the same information that can be edited at http://spaces.live.com/profile.aspx.

 

Why am I telling you all this? Well in short I find it really interesting that information supplied in existing Windows Live services is now being exposed out of the LOE; Interesting because LiveFX is a ready-made API for allowing each of us to share our pertinent personal information with whomever we wish to share it with and THAT opens up tremendous possibilities.

Given that LiveFX provides information about each LiveID I strongly suspect that much of the other information that is held about us will also be exposed out of the LOE. Contacts are already in there (more about that in a future blog entry hopefully) whilst Calendars and Skydrive folders are all pertinent to an individual so those will be obvious candidates too. We may even one day see data from other properties being exposed out of here; LiveFX could become an API for your XBox Live achievements allowing you to boast about them wherever you like if you are that way inclined.

The other main thing that LiveFX gives you access to is the contents of your Mesh; indeed, the user experience at www.mesh.com is built atop the LOE. We now have a single endpoint for getting at both our Windows Live information and the contents of our Mesh and that should provide some really interesting possibilities for applications; one such example of which is the iPlayer/Mesh integration that was displayed in day 2 PDC keynote (its right at the end).

Bear with me, I may be talking about this stuff a lot.

-Jamie

P.S. For more Azure-related blogging from my colleagues and I head to: http://blogs.conchango.com/tags/Azure/default.aspx (RSS feed)

[cross posted to my work blog]

Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, story, mesh, windows live

Written by Jamiet

November 3, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Another 10 secrets about Windows Live

with 4 comments

My last two 10 Secrets posts have garnered a fair bit of attention so I thought maybe it was time for another. These posts document all those little tips and tricks that newcomers to Windows Live products may not know about – I hope they are proving useful.

 

If you want to blog about something you are browsing on the web (and if you have Live Writer installed) then click the ‘Blog This’ button in Internet Explorer’s tab toolbar.

Live Writer will open up and be pre-populated with information about the web page.

Windows Live Tags: writer
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You don’t need a @hotmail, @msn or @live email address in order to use Hotmail. I have a number of email aliases at my personal domain (jamie-thomson.net) and I access all of them using Hotmail. That gives me a great seamless experience because http://home.live.com doesn’t have any useless gaps.

Not only that but:

If I wanted to I could also let other people create email aliases at my domain as well. I don’t actually want to do that but you can see why this would be valuable for, say, a sports team or a theatre group.

Its all made possible at http://admincenter.live.com

Windows Live Tags: Admin Center

 

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If you want to want to share a file that is on your SkyDrive with the rest of the world then you could provide a boring old URI.
Why not be bolder and add a user friendly icon for it instead. The "embed" link provided with each file is all that you need.

Windows Live Tags: Skydrive

  http://cid-550f681dad532637.skydrive.live.com/embedrowdetail.aspx/Public/Misc/Dogwalking/dogwalkingbrochurev5.tif
     
A little known fact about Live Writer is that it can be used to update blog entries that you have already posted. Simply open the post from your "Recently Posted" list, hit ‘Publish’ and let Live Writer do all the work.

I don’t know if this works for all blog engines but it definitely works for Live Spaces.

Windows Live Tags: writer, spaces
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If you use Office Live Workspaces at http://workspace.office.live.com then your recently updated workspaces will appear at http://home.live.com. Very handy.

Windows Live Tags: home
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If you have a blog, or in fact any RSS feed, you can build a Live Alert that will send an alert to Messenger and/or an email telling you when a new post occurs at that feed.

Go to http://signup.alerts.live.com/brochure/index.jsp to set it up. You’ll be given HTML code that produces a sign-up link which you can then embed into any web page. The link opposite sets up a Live Alert for my blog at http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com

Windows Live Tags: alerts

  Windows Live Alerts
     
How often are you in need of phone support from your more tech savvy family members? Well if you’re talking to them on Live Messenger then use the ‘Request Remote Assistance’ feature and let them see your desktop or even control it.

Request Remote Assistance can be found on the ‘Activities’ menu of a Messenger conversation window.

Windows Live Tags: messenger
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Would you like to keep your Messenger and Facebook statuses in sync? If you add the Windows Live Messenger application to your Facebook profile then any update to your Messenger status will automatically update Facebook.

Windows Live Tags: facebook, Messenger
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Do you have friends that don’t speak your language? If you’re having a Messenger conversation with them then you can add the Machine Translator bot to your conversation and have it translate everything you say.

Just add mtbot@hotmail.com as a contact.

Windows Live Tags: Messenger, Translator
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Often its useful to track search results to know when new content that you’re interested in appears on the web.

Live Search enables this by simply appending "&format=rss" onto the end of the Live Search URL.

For example, http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=barack+obama&format=rss returns search results for Barack Obama as an RSS feed.

Windows Live Tags: search
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If you want to read the previous two 10 secrets posts then hit the links here:

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Changes afoot for Windows Live contact card

with 3 comments

Upon visiting one of my Live events just now I was presented with the following message:

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That’s a low resolution screenshot so I’ll restate the text

Your Spaces activity is not currently shown in your contact card. After October 2008, your Spaces activity will become available to people viewing your contact card and your Messenger contacts will be able to locate your space. If you want to keep your Spaces activity separate from your Messenger activity, you can create a second, linked Live ID and use one ID for Messenger and one for Spaces.

So, our activity isn’t just going to appear within Live Spaces but it’ll be available on our Live Messenger contact card* as well. What confuses me slightly is that activity is already visible on our contact card so I’d be interested to understand how this is going to be different. Here’s what my Live Messenger contact card looks like today:

image

 

The other interesting bit of news there is that apparently this will be available no later than 1st November 2008. Will Windows Live Wave 3 really be released so soon? I for one certainly hope so.

-Jamie

*Note that the Live Messenger contact card is also visible in your Contacts directory in Windows Live Mail.

Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, messenger, spaces, story

Written by Jamiet

September 16, 2008 at 8:16 am

Posted in Windows Live

My 10 secrets blog entry goes stratospheric!

with 6 comments

Here’s a pleasant little titbit of news; well for me it is anyway. My blog entry 10 hidden secrets of Windows Live has broken 1million views on www.windowslive.com.

 

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What’s even more surprising is that on 4th September it had had 121538 views so we’re talking nearly 900000 views in a very very short space of time. Sure, I know its currently linked to on the homepage but that link has been there since 14th August.

So, what has happened that could have prompted a 900+% increase in 4 days I wonder? Oh yeah, 4th September was the day that that advert got released; I guess there really is no such thing as bad publicity.

-Jamie

 

Written by Jamiet

September 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Windows Live for Windows Mobile won’t connect?

with 7 comments

Since 22nd August I’ve been suffering some problems with Windows Live for Windows Mobile. Ever time I tried to sync my mail and contacts I was getting an error message saying "Failed to synchronise the folder list. Windows Live is temporarily unable to connect. You may be out of coverage for data connections. Please try again later, or contact your mobile service provider for assistance. Sync failed."

I left a comment on the Windows Live for Windows Mobile team blog asking for assistance and Ram from the team replied saying:

"One thing might be that some data plans allow only use of HTTP traffic and Windows Live for Windows Mobile requires TCP connectivity to work."

I decided to investigate and it turns out Ram might be correct. My phone has the ability to connect to the internet using wifi and when I turned that on and synced then it worked fine. As soon as I reverted back to using my regular GPRS connection (i.e. using my service provider) the sync failure occurred again. The only mystery now is that this was working right up until 22nd August so what suddenly changed on that day to men that it no longer worked? Strange!

In case anyone’s bothered my service provider is Vodafone in the UK. I don’t know what plan I’m on because my employer picks up the tab.

I’m only writing this in case someone else has the same problem and comes wandering in here via a search. If that is you, let me know in the comments.

cheers

Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 3, 2008 at 8:13 pm

Posted in Windows Live

10 more secrets of Windows Live

with 11 comments

My last post 10 hidden secrets of Windows Live was quite well received so I thought I would write another one. Here are 10 more time-and-money-saving tips from Windows Live.

 

If you’re like me then you’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years having instant messenger conversations with people and that means a lot of typing. Why not give your fingers a rest and communicate as god intended – by talking. If you’re computer is equipped with a microphone and a speaker then simply hit the ‘Call a contact’ button in your conversation window and talk talk talk away. Its cheaper than a phone call.

In the clubhouse: Messenger
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At the top of this blog post I linked to my previous blog post 10 hidden secrets of Windows Live. Ordinarily that would involve going out to the internet to find the URL but with Windows Live Writer there’s no need to do that. All you need to do is simply select the text that you want turn into a link, hit the hyperlink button image  on the toolbar, and from the "Link To" box select ‘Previous Post…’ at which point you’ll see a list of all your previous posts. Just pick the one you want. Its ridiculously easy!

In the clubhouse: Writer
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Hotmail has got a very good and very simple search feature. Simply type your search term into the search box in the Windows Live header bar and hit enter [or click the green 'Mail' button]. Any emails containing the search term will be returned for you. Simple as that!

In the clubhouse: Hotmail
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Received an interesting email that you want to talk about on your Windows Live Space? Hit the ‘Blog’ button in Windows Live Mail and have the blog entry pre-prepared for you right inside your Space.

In the clubhouse: Spaces, Mail
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Even with the proliferation of photo sharing services such as Flickr, Smugmug, Photobucket and Windows Live Spaces still the most popular way of showing someone else your photos is to email them. This invariably makes emails rather hefty but Windows Live Mail is here to help. By sending a photo email the photos will be uploaded to your Live Space and the email will contain a thumbnail and a link to the photo on your Space. You can even put frames around your photos or make one of many other assorted amendments. Jazz them up a bit!

In the clubhouse: Mail, Spaces
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You can configure Windows Live Mail to automatically log you on to Windows Live Messenger when you open it up. Just go to Tools–>Options and you’ll find the option on the ‘General’ tab. No point in emailing someone when you can just send them an instant message instead, right?

In the clubhouse: Mail, Messenger
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Wouldn’t it be cool if people could send you instant messages even if they weren’t Live Messenger users? Well now they can using the Messenger IM control. Using the wizard you can generate a small piece of code that can be embedded into any web page that then allows any visitor to that website to IM you. All from a web browser. You can see in the picture on the right that I’ve embedded the IM control into my work blog.
This one is seriously cool. Go check it out.

In the clubhouse: Messenger
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Did you know that your Windows Live ID can log you in to many more web sites and services than just Microsoft ones. All of the sites shown on the right allow you to login using your Windows Live ID. Click on any of the logos to go to the site and login.

In the clubhouse: Windows Live ID
 
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If you don’t like switching windows to do different things then you’ll be glad to know that many Windows Live products can be controlled from within Windows Live Mail. Did you know for instance that you can set your Messenger status from within Windows Live Mail?

In the clubhouse: Mail, Messenger
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Do you ever wish you could have the same list of Favorites on any computer? Well now you can, just install Windows Live Toolbar and use the ‘Sync Favorites’ function to sync your list of favorites between all your devices and to http://favorites.live.com as well.

In the clubhouse: Toolbar, Favorites
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As before let me know in the comments how many of those you knew about. Or if you don’t want to tell me, leave a comment anyway – my blog can never have enough comments. And if you have 10 Windows Live secrets of your own, blog about them and tag it 10 secrets.

-Jamie

Update: I’ve since posted another 10 secrets called Another 10 secrets about Windows Live.

Written by Jamiet

August 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Windows Live

10 hidden secrets of Windows Live

with 29 comments

Some things you might not know about Windows Live

 

1

If you use multiple Windows Live IDs then you can link them together so that you can easily swap between them using the dropdown list in the top right-hand corner of every online Windows Live service. Go to https://account.live.com/managelinks.aspx to set them up.

Windows Live Tags: Windows Live ID
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2

If you receive instant messages when you are offline then you can pick them up in Windows Live Mail and reply to them via email

Windows Live Tags: Mail, Messenger
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3

If you choose to keep a history of your Live Messenger conversations then you can see a record of all your conversations with one of your buddies all in the same place. Go to Tools–>Options–>Messages and check the box next to ‘Automatically keep a history of my conversations’.

Windows Live Tags: Messenger

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4

If the 5GB storage limit on SkyDrive isn’t enough for you simply sign-up for multiple Windows Live IDs and set your primary Windows Live ID up as an Editor to those other SkyDrives.
Voila. Effectively infinite storage, just make sure that all your accounts stay active.

Windows Live Tags: SkyDrive, Windows Live ID
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5

Live Writer makes it easy to advertise your blog to the world by letting you add tags that automatically tell blog search engines what your posts are about.

Windows Live Tags: Writer
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6

Even better, you can tell Windows Live Writer to tell all the blog search engines about your post as soon as you publish it using the "Ping Servers" feature. Go to Tools–>Options–>Ping Servers to configure.

Windows Live Tags: Writer

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7

Using Windows Live Photo Gallery you can stitch multiple photos together to make a great multi-megapixal panoramic image like the one I’ve done here looking northwards from the top of the Empire State Building (click on the image for a larger version).

Windows Live Tags: Photo Gallery
Empire State 360 Panorama by day

 

 

 

8

You can see all of the comments on someone’s Live Spaces blog in one place by going to the blog summary and clicking on the comments link for each blog. For example see all comments on my blog by going here.

Windows Live Tags: Spaces
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9

You can search the web using Live Search, preview the results, and share the search results with your friends all from within Windows Live Messenger. Just select ‘Search’ from the activities menu.

Windows Live Tags: Messenger
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10

Writing a blog entry? Why not see what the blog entry will look like BEFORE you publish it. All from within Windows Live Writer. Just hit the F12 button for a web preview.

Windows Live Tags: Writer
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How many of those did you know about? Let me know in the comments (but be honest now).

Do you have any tips to share of your own? Again, put ‘em in the comments. Better still, do you have 10 of them? If so blog about them on your Space and tag it 10 secrets. And don’t forget to check my follow-up posts:

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

August 6, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Windows Live

“Loving Outlook Connector”

with 5 comments

Those aren’t my words, they’re the words of my fiancee Helen who yesterday installed the Outlook Connector that can:

  • Read and send your Office Live Mail/Windows Live Hotmail e-mail messages.
  • Manage your Live Mail Contacts.
  • Use advanced options for blocking junk e-mail messages.
  • Manage multiple e-mail accounts in one place.
  • Manage, share, and synchronize your calendar in Hotmail from Outlook.
  • Access your Tasks and Notes.

I’m often sending things Helen’s way to get her to try them and usually she drops them either through exasperation or boredom. With Outlook Connector though its different, she actually likes this one. I asked her for a soundbite and she came back with "a neat and easy way to share and manage my personal email with the same effectiveness as I manage my professional email using Outlook functionality, superb!"

Yep, she definitely likes this one :)

One minor downside was that she has Outlook 2003 which only allows you to view view multiple calendars side-by-side. Outlook 2007 allows you to overlay them which is a much better experience.

-Jamie

Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, windows live, story, Live Calendar, Hotmail, Live Contacts, Outlook Connector

Written by Jamiet

August 1, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Windows Live

The first vertical service in Windows Live wave 3 rears its head

with 8 comments

Back in November 2007 I wrote a blog entry called "Windows Live’s vertical offerings" where I said:
I am interested to see what will constitute Windows Live wave 3. Microsoft’s success is built upon providing platforms and that is exactly what Windows Live now is – its a platform. A platform for what though? Well clearly Microsoft want third parties to build upon that platform but I wouldn’t mind betting that Microsoft themselves will be providing their own applications on top of this myriad of services and that’s what I think wave 3 will be all about. This is what I like to refer to as vertical offerings on the horizontal platform.
Another way to think of Windows Live as it is today is that it forms an infrastructure on which other applications can be built. I use the term "vertical offerings" to refer to applications that are built using this infrastructure that have a specific purpose in mind and today we saw the first incarnation of one such application with the preview release of Windows Live FrameIt (as usual Liveside have all the details).
 
FrameIt allows us to specify stuff to be displayed on a digital photo frame. What I find really compelling about this idea isn’t that we can display a carousel of digital photos in our living room (we’ve been able to do that for years) but that we can display other content as well. For example, I can have the morning’s news headlines presented to me which I can read while I’m eating my cornflakes whilst in the evening the photo frame can show the evening’s TV listings. There are a lot of form factors other than digital photo frames that could leverage FrameIt, Epigraph is one obvious example. Photo frames are just the start.
 
Like Liveside I suspect that Microsoft will be partnering with hardware manufacturers to produce digital photo frames that specifically leverage FrameIt and those I expect those to be with us before too long.
 
-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

July 31, 2008 at 11:15 am

Posted in Windows Live

Big month for Windows Live

with 2 comments

August is shaping up to be a big month for Windows Live judging by stuff I’ve picked up from around the web. I happen to know that there is a new product release coming on 4th August; Mary-Jo Foley hinted yesterday that a new private beta for Windows Live wave 3 is due very soon, Windows-Live-senior-tech-product-manager-marketeer-cum-evangelist-type-guy Angus Logan said in an overnight Twitter "we have some stuff FINALLY being made available next week"; and to top it all the $300m marketing blitz that was promised for Windows Live should soon be seeing the light of day.
 
Something else that has hit the webwaves overnight is a new podcast from Windows Live community manager Marcus Schmidt. Read what Marcus has to say about it on his blog entry Podcast: What is Windows Live. I’ve told Marcus that he needs to make this available as a podcast feed so that we can subscribe to it through our iPods and Zunes so hopefully we’ll see that soon.
 
-Jamie
 
Update: Marcus has made a podcast feed available: http://marcussc.web.officelive.com/Documents/winlivemp3feed.xml

 

Written by Jamiet

July 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

Posted in Windows Live

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