Deleting large quantities of Facebook notes

A few years ago, I followed the example of a “social media guru” and set Facebook up to consume my blog’s RSS feed and republish each post as a note.

This was A Bad Thing for a number of reasons, not least:

  1. Copyright – I’m sure that when I upload anything to Facebook, I give them some rights over it (which is why my images are still on Flickr).
  2. Traffic – reproducing content on Facebook might get eyeballs, but it takes that traffic away from your own website and only Facebook gains any revenue. This may be OK if you are selling goods/services that can be monetised via Facebook links but my revenue is from ads: ads on my site = revenue for me; ads on a Facebook copy = revenue for Facebook.
  3. Layout – invariably, despite my best efforts to write good XHTML, the blog posts look better on my site than when scraped into Facebook as notes.

I turned off the feed but deleting the notes was far from trivial. There is no bulk delete option that I can find, and that meant opening each note, scrolling down, clicking delete, etc. In a word, tedious.

I forgot about the notes until last week, when I switched over to timeline view. Arghh. Yes. Must delete those…

…and then I found another method – much quicker – using the iOS Facebook app.

By opening the Notes section of the Facebook app on my iPad, a quick swipe and press was all it took to delete each note. Still tedious, but a lot quicker to get through…

Logging in to Lync 2010 with the Windows Phone client

Earlier today, Microsoft released the Lync 2010 client for Windows Phone (clients for Android, iPhone, iPad and Symbian are on their way).  And, as I’m an Office 365 user and I bought a Windows Phone last week, I decided to take a look.

Installing the app is straightforward enough but I was struggling to log in using the normal credentials that I use for other Office applications (like Outlook Mobile). From looking at the ratings on the app, it seems I’m not alone – with plenty of people saying “it doesn’t work”.

Microsoft’s advice for setting up Lync on Windows Phone is incomplete but the required DNS settings are documented in the Office 365 community wiki.  The missing piece of the puzzle came from Ben Lee – it’s necessary to specify a username (in the format user@domain.onmicrosoft.com) and an External Discovery URL of https://meet.lync.com/Autodiscover/autodiscoverservice.svc/Root.

Once those additional settings were configured, Lync jumped into life!

(For full client configuration details, with screenshots, check out Ben’s post.)

[Update 21 December 2011: It seems this also works with the iOS Lync client, except that also seems to need an Internal Discovery URL before it will allow sign-in (I used the same URL for both internal and external)]

iMessage – the makings of a great idea but still needs some work

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences with iCloud and photostreams. Well, now I’d like to touch on another iOS-related topic: iMessage.

Released to much fanfare about how it will save us all money because we won’t have to pay carriers for SMS, over here in the UK most packages include so many text messages that SMS is pretty close to free anyway…

But iMessage has a problem. It actually gets in the way of message transmission.

Last week I wanted to send a message to my Manager. SMS was fine – I just needed to say I was running a few minutes late for our meeting and I would call him shortly. That’s what SMS is good for, right? Except that we’re both iPhone users, so iOS tried to send the message via iMessage. For some reason it couldn’t do that so, after five minutes, it timed out and and sent the message as an SMS instead. Except by then it was too late – SMS is an unreliable transport (i.e. there is no guarantee of delivery) but it’s generally immediate (as long as the device is in range and switched on). Unfortunately, iMessage’s delay meant that my Manager didn’t get my “running late” message until it was, literally, too late.

Send As SMS is an option in iOS, but it’s only a fallback when iMessage is enabled [later iOS updates allow you to elect to send as text message]. Meanwhile iMessage has lots of potential for group collaboration and asynchronous conversations. I actually think Apple is onto something with a unified client for various message transports (now they need to add email, social networks, etc. into the mix) but it needs a manual override option too…

[Updated 5/2/15 to comment re: later iOS releases allowing “send as text message”]

Accessing my iCloud photostream from a Windows PC

I use a lot of Apple products and, not surprisingly, when iOS5 was released, I upgraded my iPhone and my iPad. One of the big advancements with iOS5 is the integration with iCloud, Apple’s cloud service for synchronising data between devices so, when I took a look a few days later I was a bit confused. From a Windows PC I logged in and saw links for Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone and iWork – all with familiar icons but I couldn’t fathom is where my photostream is. Certainly not visible in iCloud…

It turns out that there is a separate application needed to sync an iCloud photostream with a Windows PC. I installed it, it crashed (something to do with being behind our proxy servers at work, I think) but after a PC reboot and connection to my home network, photos from my iOS devices started showing up in the %userprofile%\My Pictures\Photo Stream\My Photo Stream folder.  The iCloud Control Panel for Windows also integrates with Safari 5.1.1 or Internet Explorer 8 bookmarks and with Outlook 2007 Contacts and Calendars).

All I need now is the ability to sync ActiveSync contacts from my iPad (the ones I have in Office 365)… I wish.

“5 reasons to avoid Office 365?” Are you really sure about that?

It’s not often these days that I feel the need to defend Microsoft. After all, they’re big boys and girls who can fight their own battles. And yes, I’m an MVP but if you ask Microsoft’s UK evangelists (past and present), I’m sure they’ll tell you I’m pretty critical of Microsoft at times too…

So I was amazed yesterday to read some of the negative press about Office 365. Sure, some Microsoft-bashing is to be expected. So is some comparison with Google Apps. But when I read Richi Jennings5 reasons to avoid Microsoft Office 365 , I was less than complementary in my reaction.  I did leave a lengthy comment on the blog post, but ComputerWorld thinks I’m a spammer… and it was more than 140 characters so Richi’s Twitter invitation for constructive comments for his next post (5 reasons to embrace Office 365) was not really going to work either.

Picking up Richi’s arguments against Office 365:

  • On mobility. I’ll admit, there are some issues. Microsoft doesn’t seem to understand touch user interfaces for tablets (at least not until they have their own, next year perhaps?) so the web apps are not ideal on many devices. Even so, I’m using Exchange Online with my iOS devices and the ActiveSync support means it’s a breeze. We don’t have blanket WiFi/3G coverage yet (at least not here in the UK) so it is important to think about offline working and I’m not sure Microsoft has that sorted, but neither does anyone else that I’ve found. Ideally, Microsoft would create some iOS Office apps (OneNote for iPhone is not enough – it’s not a universal app and so is next to useless on an iPad) together with an Android solution too…
  • I don’t see what the issue is with MacOS support (except that the option to purchase a subscription to Office Professional Plus is Windows-only). I’m using Office 365 with Office for Mac and SharePoint integration is not as good as on Windows but there seems nothing wrong with document format fidelity or Outlook connecting to Exchange Online. I’ve used some of the web apps on my Mac too, including Lync.
  • Is £4 a month expensive for a reliable mail and collaboration service? I’m not sure that the P1 option for professionals and small businesses (which that price relates to) is “horribly crippled” either. If the “crippling” is about a lack of support, I left Google Apps because of… a lack of support (after they “upgraded” my Google Apps account but wanted me to change the email address on my then-orphaned “personal” account – and you think Microsoft makes it complex?)
  • Forest Federation is a solution that provides clear separation between cloud and on-premise resources. It may be complicated, but so are enterprise requirements for cloud services.  If that’s too complex, then you don’t probably don’t need Active Directory integration: try a lower-level Office 365 subscription…
  • As for  reliability, yes, there have been BPOS Outages. Ditto for Azure. But didn’t Google have some high-profile GMail outages recently? And Amazon? Office 365 (which was a beta until yesterday) has been pretty solid.  Let’s hope that the new infrastructure is an improvement on BPOS, but don’t write it off yet – it’s only just launched! Microsoft is advertising a financially-backed 99.9% uptime agreement

The point of Office 365 is not to move 100% to the cloud but to “bring office to the cloud” and use it in conjunction with existing IT investments (i.e. local PCs/Macs and Office).  If I’m a small business with few IT resources, it lets me concentrate on my business, rather than running mail servers, etc. Actually, that’s the sweet spot. Some enterprises may also move to Office 365 (at least in part) but, for many, they will continue to run their mail and collaboration infrastructure in house.

Richi says that, if he were a Microsoft Shareholder, he’d be “bitterly disappointed with [yesterday’s] news”. The market seems to think otherwise… whilst Microsoft stock is generally not performing well, it’s at least rising in the last couple of days…

Microsoft stock price compared with leading IS indices over the last 12 months

To be fair, Richi wasn’t alone, but he was the one with the headline grabbing post… (would it be rude to call it linkbait?)

Over on Cloud Pro, Dennis Howlett wasn’t too impressed either. He quoted Mary Jo Foley’s Office 365 summary post:

Office 365 is not Office in the cloud, even though it does include Office Web Apps, the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Office 365 is a Microsoft-hosted suite of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online €” plus an optional subscription-based version of Office 2010 Professional Plus that runs locally on PCs. The Microsoft-hosted versions of these cloud apps offer subsets of their on-premises server counterparts (Exchange, SharePoint and Lync servers), in terms of features and functionality.”

Yep, that’s pretty much it. Office 365 is not about competing with Office, it’s about extending Office so that:

  • It’s attractive to small and medium-sized businesses, so that they don’t need to run their own server infrastructure.
  • There are better opportunities for collaboration, using “the cloud” as a transport (and, it has to be said, giving people less reason to move to Google Apps).

Dennis says:

“Microsoft has fallen into the trap that I see increasingly among enterprise vendors attempting to migrate their business models into the cloud: they end up with a half baked solution that does little for the user but gives some bragging rights. All the time, they seek to hang on grimly to the old business model, tinkering with it but not taking the radical steps necessary to understand working in the cloud.”

Hmm… many enterprises are not ready to put the data that is most intimately linked to their internal workings into the cloud. They look at some targeted SaaS opportunities; they might use IaaS and PaaS technologies to provide some flexibility and elasticity; they may implement cloud technologies as a “private cloud”. But Office 365 allows organisations to pick and choose the level of cloud integration that they are comfortable with – it might be all (for example, my wife’s small business) or none (for example me, working for a large enterprise), or somewhere in between.

Office 365 has some issues – I’m hoping we’ll see some more development around mobility and web app functionality – but it’s a huge step forward. After years of being told that Windows and Office are dead and that Microsoft has no future, they’ve launched something that positions the company for both software subscriptions (which they’ve been trying to do for years) and has the ability to host data on premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid solution. “The cloud” is not for everyone, but there aren’t many organisations that can’t get something out of Office 365.