Switching to Entourage 2008

Last week I started an experiment to work almost primarly in Mac OS X and put my VMware Fusion Windows XP machine on suspend. Most of the programs that I would have used in Windows like Word, Excel and Powerpoint work fine in the OS X version. The biggest (and worst) stumbling block I’ve hit is Entourage. It doesn’t work like Outlook, and it doesn’t work like a OS X application. It’s not a hybrid either. It’s just awkward to use. Here’s my hit list of issues.

  • While drafting an email, hitting Alt-Delete does not delete a whole word. It just acts as backspace.
  • Pushing Apple-Delete kills the message without warning and doesn’t place it in the drafts or Trash.
  • The shortcut keys between Outlook and OS X are totally different. Apple-1,2,3 to switch between Mail, Calendar, Contacts, etc.
  • Apple-F loads the find menu, it doesn’t forward a message.
  • Calendar allows you to snap items to the 15 minute boundary. It’s really annoying when moving appointments between days. Nobody in their right mind schedules things on a corporate calendar at fifteen minute intervals.
  • On My Computer is hokey. When you send a message it ends up in the On My Computer outbox. That just feels wrong since it’s going to go through my corporate outbox.
  • Reply and Forward flags are not sync’ed to Exchange. Annoying.
  • If you have a contact in your address book, but they’re a corporate contact (e.g. came from your directory service) it always looks up the local contact first even if it’s an Exchange to Exchange message.
  • Using Calendar to schedule meetings is broken. It’s nearly impossible to schedule resources like meeting rooms using it.
  • Hitting reply to an email that came from Outlook, Entourage breaks the horizontal lines that Outlook uses as separators sometimes. Also, the horizontal lines that it uses are 75% width versus Outlook’s 100% width ones. Just odd.

This is a view of coming from a life time Outlook user. Native users of Entourage may not notice any of these things. But native Mac users will given a bunch of the OS X behaviors that it also breaks.

Goodbye Microsoft, a Look Back, and Hello Adobe

Last Friday was my last day at Microsoft. It’s taken me a while to write this post, because I’m not really sure what to say, or what I can say to really sum up what were five amazing years with the company. I started working for Microsoft as a Student Consultant at UCSD in 2001, interned the summer of 2002 (in devdiv, the team that makes Visual Studio and .NET) and again in the summer of 2003 (in Hotmail), and the joined full time in 2003. In so many ways, the path my life has taken has been intertwined and driven in no small manner by Microsoft. I have so many good friends, good stories, and great experiences there, that it was sad to say good bye.

I remember the late nights trying to ship various versions of MSN Hotmail, fire drills dealing with live site issues. I particularly remember one were we upgraded a large number of our servers to new version of our codebase and the huge number of hours we spent debugging and testing and fighting to make things work. We ended up having a few guys from Redmond term serv to our data center, hooking up kernel debuggers and finding issues they’d never anticipated in Windows or IIS. It’s amazingly cool being part of an organization where using our own products internally make them better for our customers. It was great to be a part of the team that shipped Windows Live Hotmail (or “mail Beta” as it was called for a while), all on top of a new .NET based architecture with AJAX-y goodness. That was back in 2005, while people may not think of Microsoft as a forward thinking organization we were building the kinds of web apps people didn’t end up seeing en mass until later in 2006.

Then it was off to Shanghai for a while. What a time that was. There was so much we all learned there about building organizations, about what it means to have great people and to have a great team. I was there for nearly a year and a half, and I learned a lot more about “organizational” skills that I’d anywhere before. And I learned some Chinese! Living overseas was an experience I think everybody should have. It helps you learn so much more about who you are, and about the world we live in. We started this cool Calendar while we were there, and a year later, in November 2007 we shipped a public beta. It was a blast to see something start in Shanghai, then be part of the team in California to go live with it.

I’m waxing sentimental here, but it’s been such a fun ride, full of super smart people who love software and know what they’re doing impacts millions of people every day. I’m proud to be a part of all the teams that I’ve been in, and I know they’ll continue doing great things in the future

What’s next for me? I’ve taken a job at Adobe, in their mobile group in San Francisco. I’m really excited about what’s coming up in the mobile space and there were some really cool opportunities in Adobe to do cool things in the market. Looking around at the market, the mobile space to me feels like the Internet did in, say, 1997. Slowly opening up, with greater bandwidth to end users allowing a great wave of development and content to become a driving factor for consumers. Adobe’s in a great place in the market, already with their software (Flash Lite, etc) installed on 450m devices world wide. They’re making some moves that I found compelling and that I wanted to be a part of. This next year is going to be a crazy ride of learning a whole new segment of the tech industry and I’m looking forward to it.

Between jobs, I’ve taken two weeks off between Microsoft and Adobe. I’m halfway done with my vacation already! I’ve been spending a lot of time in coffee shops, reading, brushing up on coding (finally finding some time to work on a pet project), and cleaning up the apartment. It’s amazing how much better it looks when my frames and art are hung on the moulding and not leaning against the floor.

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Calendar is live! This has been many, many, many months in the making, starting with an idea a long time ago (it first surfaced when we started talking about rebuilding Hotmail three years ago!), to coding in two continents, to finally hitting the Go button today and RTWing (Release to Web) our product. This is the second v1 product I’ve been able to participate in from start to ship and it’s as unique and as exciting watching the service go online as the first time.

To give you an idea of what happens when we go live, we have a lot of folks in a conference room with a Polycom conference system where people are dialed in to. There are projectors with logs of the production machines displayed, people marking things on the white boards to make sure that changes and fixes don’t get forgotten and the actual folks pushing the software to the servers. We try to have the day itself scheduled down to the half hour or fifteen minute mark, but we do make changes to on the fly.

We had our whole data center ready and prepped to go today, so our “go live” moment was a final decision that was made with all the key stakeholders which then resulted in us marking the service as In Service, and within seconds new users were pounding on it, creating accounts! Thus, Windows Live Calendar was born. It’s amazingly cool to watch a log file fly by with reports of new users being created.

It’s not easy to make that final “yes” call. From late last week we’d been working long hours in the home stretch (including a 3+ hour conference call on Sunday night!). Lots of time checking, double checking and triple checking that everything when we finally said yes would work — and by and large it did. Of course, when you’re bringing a new service online, stuff doesn’t work (and it didn’t all work), so having everybody in that conference room I mentioned earlier was key to making decisions on the fly.

Ship or go home – it’s everybody’s accomplishment getting us to where we are today, and I’m proud to have been a part of this team. Lots more to write about, but I’m exhausted from the last few days; expect to hear more soon.

Four Years at Microsoft

I just noticed that my four year anniversary at Microsoft happened over the weekend. I’m amazed how fast the time has gone by. It seems like just yesterday I was moving up from Southern California to my place in Sunnyvale, then moving up later to SF, then to China, and then back to SF. It’s been a good four years here and Microsoft has given me quite a bit in that time (crazy cool opportunities to work on cutting edge technology, travel to Helsinki, London, Tokyo, Macau, a chance to live in Shanghai). Now, it’s on to seeing what this next year will bring (I’m not dropping any hints, but we’ve got some cool new stuff coming out soon).