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I’ve recently been looking for a replacement for Google apps. I wanted something that had reliable email and calendar. While Google does provide both of those things, I find myself wanting to be controlled by Google’s services less and less. I also wanted something that was reasonably priced (comparable to the monthly price of Google apps). That’s when I decided to give Office 365 a shot.

Now, I’m no stranger to Office 365. We use it at work and I interact at a daily basis. The web mail and calendar are good (or good enough to replace Google), but the real power is with my devices. Because Office 365 is hosted Exchange, mail, contacts, notes, and calendar events sync instantaneously. With Google I would often have to wait several minutes for the data to show up, especially with events. This always left me feeling a bit uneasy wondering if my data was actually there. This is not the case with Office 365.

The setup of Office 365 with my domain was incredibly simple. They walk you through every step of the way, even verifying that your DNS is set up properly. With Office 365, you also get more mail and OneDrive space than you get with Google (50 GB mailbox and 1 TB file storage for the Business Essentials plan). So far, a week into my trial, everything is running smooth. I never thought I’d say this, but I may actually not only use, but choose to use willingly, a Microsoft product.

The Verge has an interesting article, Facebook is the new AOL, that discusses how the tech industry of the 1990s is back.

The 90s were a decade of excess and mistakes and excessive mistakes. The rollicking good times of the 90s ended with the dot-com collapse of the early 2000s, the memories of which continue to shape the industry today.

So it’s worth noting that the broad outlines of tech in 2015 look surprisingly like the late 90s. The major players are set up the same, the fights are the same, and the mistakes will almost certainly be the same…

2015 will be defined by the Revenge of 90s Internet: media and tech giants flirting with each other, dominant players throwing their weight around, and portals, portals everywhere.

The article does a good job of comparing the major tech giants today with the ones of yesteryear. Facebook as AOL. Apple as Sony, Qualcomm as Intel and Google as Microsoft. The two that really hit the nail on the head for me are Apple as Sony and Google as Microsoft. That being said, some of these comparisons may just be skin deep. I think companies like Apple and Facebook are in much better positions than there predecessors. Perhaps that’s the point of the article. The companies of the ’90s could do no wrong and no one saw the downfall that would be not far off.

With Bing gaining a percentage point in search market share I would like to point out there are very good reasons on why I will not use the Microsoft search engine.

First off, the msnbot practices in referral spam. If you look at your stats and see random one word searches coming from Bing, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This isn’t anything new, it has been happening for a while. If you are a company that uses search terms to help determine your ad campaigns, this could really pollute your field, making it harder to determine the best keywords. Website owners see a lot of false visitor data, thinking they rank for generic keywords when they don’t.

Another reason you shouldn’t use Bing is because of the fact that Microsoft changed (or tried to change) a user’s default search engines to Bing in order to help them gain more market share.Cnet’s Dennis O’Reilly caught ‘Windows Search Helper’ trying to change his default Firefox search from Google to Bing. Not cool Microsoft. You should never change a user’s settings without approval from the user. What you’re doing is essentially what malware does.

Lastly, yet probably most importantly, is that they game their search results. How do you know you are finding the best information if Microsoft chooses what should be shown first according to their own interests? You can’t, and you can see a very real example of Microsoft gaming the results right now. Go to Bing and search Why is Windows so expensive? When you search that phrase the top results are all Why are Macs so Expesnive. Who knows what other results they are gaming to benefit themselves. This is just one example, there could be many more. There have also been other reports of Microsoft censoring Bing results. I do not trust Microsoft and I do not trust Bing search results.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball recently posted a quote from Steve Ballmer of Microsoft.

“Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction. The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.”

What Ballmer doesn’t understand is that is not the only reason people buy Apple products. If you could (legally) buy any PC and run OSX on it flawlessly for the same price as a PC with Windows, I’d be willing to be that Microsoft would see Windows’ OS share drop dramatically. People aren’t buying Apple products for the logo. They aren’t spending more money on hardware. They are spending more money on a great OS, great support from the manufacturer, and an all-around great computing experience. That is what Microsoft doesn’t get.

Dear Internet Users Across the World,

Please stop using the horrible piece of software that came pre-installed on your PC known as Internet Explorer. Not only do you make the job of web designers a lot harder each and every day you use it, but you also leave yourself more open to attacks from malicious websites. I recently spent several hours over a few nights fixing a computer for my sister and brother-in-law because they were infected with a nasty bug that they got while using Internet Explorer. If they were using Firefox they would not have installed the ActiveX and gotten the bug, but they weren’t so they did. IE fails at security and fails at complying with web standards.

My beef used to be with the people who still use Internet Explorer 6, even though 7 has been out for well over a year now. Now my beef is with anyone who continues to use IE at all. I’ll tell you why. Microsoft had the chance to make IE7 standards compliant. What that means is it would properly render pages that were coded to the standards and rules set forth by the web development community to make the best looking and most usable websites possible. They didn’t. While it was better than 6, it was far from the other web browsers, such as Firefox or Safari. The first release candidate of IE8 recently came out. Again, they had the chance to make it standards compliant. They failed again. That makes the job of web developers harder. Now they have to support 3 versions of IE, each one supporting different standards that Microsoft decided it wanted to follow, and not true web standards. Please do yourself a favor and see the web the way it was meant to be seen. Use Firefox (or Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, etc). Thanks.

Your friendly neighborhood Web Developer and Family Computer Help Desk,
Mike Schepker