Thinking of blocking YouTube? Please don’t

I must be getting old! I didn’t get the whole YouTube thing. Until recently my experience was limited to watching a couple of high profile videos, such as the baby panda making mummy panda jump with a sneeze, circulated in the usual way, via viral email.

Stairway to heaven, a classic viral YouTube video

Then I saw the light. It started with a website that linked to reviews of iPad cases, and more recently a video from a spares company.

A video by www.espares.co.uk

I found these reviews very helpful. It helped to see the dynamics of the iPad case, how it handled, how it folded and how sturdy it was. Visual content can help a user appraise a subject far more efficiently than reviewing pages of text and all sorts of companies and individuals are embedding video to enhance their content.

I then progressed to more professional tutorials and guides. It’s not just YouTube either, there are a number of alternatives including Vimeo and Viddler.  Microsoft have a large library of videos.  Pluralsight thrives on producing high quality videos for software developers.

The challenge for organisations is managing access to appropriate content on these sites and it is increasingly common for companies to set their firewall to block YouTube.  After all, we don’t want people surfing YouTube looking for the latest cool viral video.

How to curate a list of videos appropriate for your company

Ideally what you need is a personal YouTube for your company, a curated list of the best videos appropriate to your needs, one you have control over and can put in front of your staff. This will help people quickly locate the videos they need. The Enterprise Study Video Learning module allows you to do just this by compiling videos into chapters and ‘books’. These videos can be:

  • uploaded to your dedicated secure area on our site
  • self hosted on your own servers
  • or uploaded to YouTube

You can configure the content to record plays in the user’s training records, or just allow them to be played anonymously.

I’ve put together a small selection of videos to demonstrate what I mean and I hope it will convince you that there is a good business case to keep YouTube on your network.

The Library – by Enterprise Study [opens in a new window]. Go take a look – I’ll be here when you’re done.

Tips for creating your own videos

Once you are sold on the idea of video, I’m sure you will want to produce your own.

Here are some tips:

  • Watch several videos related to the topic or style that you want to produce and see how they do it. Make notes about what works and what doesn’t. Is the camera moving or fixed? How did they light it? Were they zoomed in close enough. That reminds me of the great Keith Floyd – “don’t film me, film the food“.
  • If you are filming objects then get a tripod for your camera. Shaky camera work should be avoided.
  • A good microphone can make a big difference too.
  • If at first you don’t succeed – try again. The videos you are watching are almost certainly not their first attempt – so be prepared for a second take or two.
  • Get other people in your company involved, it could be a good team building exercise.
  • Write a story board. It doesn’t need to be complicated, you just need to understand what you want to say. This will help you understand what content you will need and who you might need to involve.
  • Have fun! Being passionate about what you do makes for really engaging content.

The iPad could cut IT costs in the NHS and IT departments as well as improve the adoption of applications

The iPad ecosystem is tightly controlled by Apple.

This is a good thing – it means it is very difficult to break, it also means that it’s difficult to infect with malware.

Apple doesn’t allow 3rd party companies to install software that has access to the lower level parts of the system (for example Adobe Flash isn’t supported). This limits the possibility of the device being compromised or crashing due to bugs in 3rd party software.

If you believe the media reports then we are unlikely to see Flash on the iPad because Steve Job’s doesn’t trust Adobe to get it right. This is a problem for a lot of eLearning content that contains video or Flash animations, but this will rapidly be replaced with HTML 5 technologies as developers try to reach this new audience. Content could also be hosted with 3rd party specialists (YouTube, uStream) who do support the iPhone and iPad.

Yet the device is very powerful. Many powerful applications relevant to modern business are available as web applications, such as our own application. These are ideal for use on an iPad.

The app store contains many powerful native applications and the app store process, loathed by developers, acts as a right of passage for applications that should limit the possibility of badly behaved applications.

All of these things mean the platform should be very easy to manage by IT departments.

What will be interesting is whether or not we will ever see an iPad ‘desktop’. There’s nothing in the system that would preclude it. In fact the iPad can even be plugged into a keyboard.

Users should find it easy to use as well – which should translate into greater adoption of many applications.

Even email can seem complicated to many users, on the iPad it’s easy.

Why the iPad will succeed

>Robert Scoble recently tweeted:

“Normal people still don’t see as having a great web experience on their mobile phones as important. I see it everyday in mobile stores.”

and

“For instance, I search Google for sushi, find a restaurant, then click on its phone number. We aren’t doing a good job of explaining this.”

It is this inexperience with technology that will make the iPad succeed.

The geek crowd at TechCrunch, Engadget et al. myself included, see the iPad in the context of all the other great devices out there. To us it is evolutionary, a great step forward, but not a massive one.

The other 95% of the poplulation isn’t exposed to the most recent technology in the same way – they will see the iPad on the TV, both in the news and in Apple’s adverts, and they will see a magical device.

I can imagine the reactions now:

“I saw one of those in Star Trek/Avatar I want one”

“I didn’t know you could do that”

For the first time they will see that technology is getting very close to meeting the promises it has been making for the last 20 years – and I think they will want it.

It will also be interesting to see how the other players respond to it.

I think Microsoft will have to get into the hardware business – there is no way they can compete with that level of integration without owning the end to end experience. They need to drastically shorten their release cycles to catch up and they can only do that with a new approach.

Windows Mobile 7 will be a defining moment for Microsoft, not just for the mobile platform, but for the company as a whole. It will demonstrate to the world that it can innovate in a way that can match Apple and Google. They will have to start from scratch and they will have to be willing to drop the Windows Mobile 6.x legacy.

There are signs that this will happen, but if they don’t then I would take that as a sign that they will not be able to keep up, let alone take the lead.

Timing attacks

I’ve just read an interesting article (linked) that describes how a Google encryption library was hacked by detecting how long it took for the code to fail the request. The longer it took, the more of the key was correct.

The solution was to make sure that the comparision always compared every character regardless of how many were correct.

However that’s only one solution to a particular, limited scenario.

A commentor described how a library may take several different paths to analyse a request. Making sure that all of those different paths took the same amount of time would be very difficult, if not impossible.

There may be a simpler solution.

Way (way) back when I were a lad, I put a microswitch and an alarm on my bedroom door, but my brother would always find and defeat the switch as the alarm always went off as soon as the switch was tripped.

I solved the problem by adding a delay to the alarm, it was then impossible to tell how the alarm was triggered.

It occurs to me that a similar solution would work here. Just add a random delay into the code and you will add enough noise to mask what the code is really doing to the outside world.

How the investment banks got into the mess they are in today

>If you want a technical reason why the investment banks got us all into so much trouble then this is an excellent read:

Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-03/wp_quant

Basically the people using the mathematical models for investment risk didn’t understand them and how they would behave under all circumstances.

The weak link was that the level of mortgage risk was based on only 10 years of what amounts to a property boom, when that started to go south, the risks suddenly became obvious. From there it was a downward spiral in confidence.

I suspect the problem is now that they don’t have any trust worthy models to help them understand what they’ve got on their asset sheets. That leads to a massive risk adverse culture – for the moment at least.

The rest will be history…

Moving a Virtual Server VM to Hyper-v

If you have a virtual machine in Virtual Server 2005 and you want to move it to Hyper-v on Windows 2008 you need to perform these steps *before* you move the vhd.

* This was on the RC0 to Hyper-v update and may change.

  1. Uninstall the VM additions
  2.  

  3. Install the Windows Update for KB949219 – for Windows 2008
  4.  

  5. Run MSCONFIG and on the boot tab under advanced options tick ‘Detect HAL’.

 

You can then shutdown the VM, copy across the VHD disk to the Hyper-v and create a new virtual machine there.

The server should then start normally – with a network!

Will the iPhone be too complex?

Inspired by Robert Scoble’s experience with the Nokia N95 I ordered mine yesterday.

The better iPhone: Nokia N95? « Scobleizer.

The conversation that I had with O2 was quite interesting, he had an obvious script. He said:

“We’ve had a lot of returns for this phone, people find it too complex…” etc.

I found his odd as the Nokia is supposed to be pretty good, but then it does have a lot of features. I wonder if the iPhone will fall into this trap?

Your standard Nokia is a very simple device, dial the number, press green, press red to stop…

O2’s web site is not great, maybe if they added some more detail they would save pain later!

He also went on to explain (without prompting) that the GPS software had to be bought from Nokia, a great business idea by Nokia, but obviously another point of pain for O2.

Again no mention of this on the O2 site, but I had seen this described elsewhere so it wasn’t an issue.

What will Microsoft do after Zune?

Zune marks a significant change of direction for Microsoft. Traditionally Microsoft has supplied the operating system and the application to customers and has left it to partners and ISV’s to innovate.

The existing media partners are a good example of this. For example Napster. Microsoft produce the software platform, the Plays For Sure DRM, and Napster produced a store. Other partners produce the hardware, for example Creative.

The problem with this is that you get design by committee – worse the committee never meets! Each company puts their own spin on their part in the chain. The links between them can be a bit flaky to say the least.

Apple has made this problem acutely clear. They have produced a better overall experience because they own the entire product chain – the software platform, the store and the hardware – they make make the necessary changes to make the whole thing run smoothly.

This is what Microsoft has done with Zune – they are producing a new platform that they own from end to end.

Time will tell if this works for Microsoft. If it does then there are other markets where this model could work…

Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile has the same problem as Plays For Sure. The operating system software is Microsoft’s and it is tailored by the hardware manufacturers to suit their hardware. Then the networks make their own changes and deliver the service.

The are lots of fantastic features in these phones – but try and talk to the networks about them! They typically only care about minutes and texts. A few have recently started taking data tariffs seriously…

So what if Microsoft became an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator)? Then they could have the same power over the supply chain as Apple and Zune now have over the music space.

A mobile phone that work seamlessly with it’s network – ie it actually delivers on it’s promises could make a big difference.

Could this be the start of a new tactic for Microsoft? An end-to-end supplier.

Is the reputation of DRM under threat?

Digital Rights Management. aka the battle between copyright holders of music and video and the fair use of consumers.

DRM seeks to limit what we all can do with music and video. The problem is the technology isn’t reliable yet and it only affects legitimate consumers. Professional bootleggers have the resources (and motivation) to avoid the protections.

It’s hotting up for Sony and it’s anti copying software that can be found on some of it’s audio CDs. The software uses cloaking techniques to hide itself and prevent removal.

Now virus writers are utilising the software to hide their own code!

The BBC has all the links you need:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4427606.stm