Many of you may have used and experienced the benefits of Windows Live Writer, and it's a fantastic blogging tool, second to none in my opinion, and as soon as the rumours of the Windows Live brand being killed off started circulating, I've been worried that I'm going to be left using something different that… well that I won't enjoy using as much.

I'm not going to go on about if, when or why Windows Live Writer will be binned… others have done that enough… but instead I wanted to write about alternatives. Over the last few weeks there have been a few exciting developments. Office 2013 Preview was made available to the public, and it's an excellent release. Pretty stable, and a nice enhanced UI. The whole interface seems to have a more fluid and responsive feel to it, which is great.

Whilst I was using Microsoft Word as part of Office 2013, I thought I'd see just how useful it is as an alternative to Windows Live Writer, and to my pleasant surprise, it's actually a viable alternative, though some of the best things of Windows Live Writer are still missing.

Word 2013 pretty much has the same editing facilities as any other blogging tool in that you can connect to your MetaWeblog, you can write a blog post, and you can upload, and for doing as much, it feels nice. The interface is very clean, and distraction free, which (in my opinion) is essential for any blogging tool.

What it doesn't do, however, is allow you to edit in-place. This was one of my favourite features of Windows Live Writer… you can (through the application) download a preview of your blog, and it's styles, then view your blog post in its surrounding as you're editing, which gives you a great feel for the content that you're writing. Many would no doubt argue that writing a blog post shouldn't worry about the style, but when you're determining the size of the images that you're using, it's really useful to see the size of the page.

Anyway, we thought we'd give it a full and fair trial, and as a good test, this particular blog post has been written using Microsoft Word 2013 Preview.

If you'd like to give this a try for yourself, you can download the Microsoft Office 2013 Customer Preview from:

Step-by-step instructions to configure Word 2013 are below…

Firstly, create a new blog post, you can do this by clicking File > New… and from the templates, simply search for 'Blog post'. If you've created a blog post before using Word, it should appear as a template you've used recently.

When you create your blog post, before being able to write anything, you'll be asked to setup your blog account. If you don't opt to do this now, you can configure your account by choosing 'Manage Accounts' from the 'Blog Post' ribbon.

If you do choose to create your account, you'll first be asked for the provider of your blog. As this post is about Kentico, we'll be targeting our settings for MetaWebLog API, so we need to choose 'Other' as the type:

After clicking next, you'll be asked to select the API, which you'll find contains an option for MetaWebLog, as well as the URL, Username and Password. If you've ever used Windows Live Writer, then all of this will seem fairly familiar, as these are the same settings that you will have entered when setting it up. If, however, you haven't ever configured Windows Live Writer, you'll need to enter the following settings:

Blog Post URL: http://<application path>/CMSModules/Blogs/CMSPages/MetaWeblog.ashx
User Name: Your CMS Desk Editor's Username
Password: Your CMS Desk Editor's Password

Clicking OK, and Word 2013 will head off to the MetaWebLog API on your Kentico site, and query a list of blogs that you have setup.

You'll first be prompted as to whether you want to allow your details to be passed to your selected provider:

When prompted, choose which one you want to setup:

Once you've selected your blog, choose OK and Word will be configured. If everything works as expected, you'll get a successful message, and your first blog post will be ready to write:

Posted: 04/08/2012 23:24:01 by Kurt Farrar | with 0 comments

Messenger problems

I've had a problem since I first setup my Windows Phone 7.5 that I couldn't get Messenger to connect, which also meant Facebook chat wouldn't work. Although I didn't have this feature, particularly built into the messages hub, on any of the other platforms I'd used, I still wanted to get it to work. 

Frustratingly, all of the help online from other people babbles on about "add your facebook account to your windows live account through" - Yes, my account is already linked, but I can't sign into messenger, nevermind facebook. You shouldn't have to have a facebook account linked to sign into Windows Live Messenger.

Further more, I couldn't sign into Windows Live Web Messenger! Taking Windows Phone 7.5 out of the equation, this had to be an account problem, not a problem with the phone.

I posted onto the Windows Live Messenger support forums, but didn't get an answer. So after a few days now, was determined to fix this myself. Others had warned me that signing in with the same account that I use for Office 365 as my Windows Live account would cause problems, I hadn't done that... so that's that ruled out. 

I investigated my account and noticed that I had my Windows Live ID linked to another, that other ID could sign into Web Messenger fine, so I wondered if that may have been the problem. Some sort of hand-off thing, my account designating my linked account as the messenger account or something? So I removed the link between the accounts. Still no good. 

Eventually decided to see if I can sign in with the desktop client (I hadn't tried that so far as I normally don't use Windows Live Messenger). When I signed in, it said my account had been updated and needed further action, with a link to a webpage of further information. 

Basically, since we setup Office 365, the Lync Onine portion claimed my domain name. So any Windows Live Passports ending could no longer use Windows Live Messenger. The only option if I wanted a Windows Live account, retaining my links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on, as well as the calendar and contacts that I've built up over the years... was to change my Windows Live ID... sounds easy enough right? Well, yes... it was easy to change the ID on my account... but it was when I came back to my Windows Phone 7.5 that the difficulty started. 

Windows Phone detected that my account had changed and that I needed to do something, but id didn't give me the option to modify the account. Not a problem I thought, I'll remove the account, and re-add it. Not so simple! Turns out, the only way to remove the primary Windows Live account is a complete factory reset. 

Yes, my e-mails, contacts and calendar are all in the cloud so lets do this. A couple of taps and a few seconds later and I'm back to a clean phone. A few seconds more and my accounts are back on, but throughout there's no option to restore apps that I had previously installed. I had to remember which apps I had installed. Fortunately, installing apps is quick and fairly painless. 

So a reboot and re-setup later (roughly 1/2 hour) I'm back up and running, AND I have Windows Live Messenger working AND Facebook Chat. I've made use of the Windows Live Messenger to have a chat with my dad who lives in the next town. Making me more accessible, and making it easier for me to engage with friends and family. 

I think that the mssenger feature is fantastic, but I think that Microsoft have to make it easier to change the Windows Live ID on the phone without requiring a factory reset. I would imagine the thinking behind this was that if someone buys apps against ID 'a' then removes that account and adds ID 'b' then user 'b' isn't necessarily licensed to use the apps that they've bought. What I don't get though is that each Windows Live ID has a unique ID behind the scenes which is independent of your e-mail address/username. Why can't the phone keep a handle on that instead, and allow, or even automatically update, the e-mail address/username on the phone?

I think Apple win points here from the end-user's perspective. Apple allow multiple Apple IDs to be used with each device, and it checks the licensing when there are updates available. You can only get the updates if you sign in with the account that you purchased the app with. Furthermore, Apple allow you to change your Apple ID's e-mail address, password and everything without any real problem. If you bought using but later changed it to (not a new account, but a change to the e-mail/username on the same account) then it'll allow you to sign out with the old e-mail address, sign in with the new, and continue to receive the updates for the apps that you've previously bought. 

Don't get me wrong, I've had problems with Apple's IDs in the past, but not related to this, and I think that what theirs allows you to do in this instance is better. A little frustrating that I can't have both a Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft Lync user from the same domain at the same time (my scenario was - Windows Live Messenger and - Microsoft Lync). 

OK, I've posted this a little late, so there'll be another blog post later today to make up for it! :)
Posted: 17/12/2011 09:58:33 by Kurt Farrar | with 0 comments

OK, so I've been off work today (of a fashion) full of a cold. OK, so I ended up working pretty much my normal, but from the comfort and warmth of my bed. As my head is all bunged up, you'll have to forgive me if today's post isn't as long as the past few days.

E-mail conversations

Today I had the opportunity read/write some e-mails in a conversation in my inbox. By a conversation (if you don't already know) I mean a number of e-mails going back and forth grouped together. Anyone that uses GMail will be familiar with this format, and Microsoft have tried to replicated it in Outlook and Hotmail in the past, but it's never quite worked the same, or as well in those products. These examples however are where conversations are in use on the desktop/web browser. I've not seen any successful use of conversations on a mobile device, until now. 

The conversation view on Windows Phone 7.5 is just great. It shows the conversation as a header telling you, as a summary, how many e-mails are in the conversation and how many of them are unread. Tapping the header expands the conversation to show all messages in the conversation, from where you can tap a message to view it's contents. This is certainly missing from iOS and BBOS, and it was missing from Android early days (afterall they were missng a proper mobile e-mail client initially) but I don't now if this functionality exists on the Android platform now.


I've had an opportunity to play on some trial games on Windows Phone 7.5 today. I was intrigued by the level of integration with XBox Live, and XBox. Even to the degree of being able to control your XBox from your phone (with the use of an app). I spent a bit of time configuring an avatar which I intended to look like me, though I found myself spending far too much time on the eyes, and still not being happy with them. The games themself perform very well given the graphics level that they're running.

I'm sure I'll cover these in a little more detail as I buy some full games over the next few days/weeks.
Posted: 15/12/2011 22:34:02 by Kurt Farrar | with 2 comments


Following the BIS issues this summer in the UK and the rest of the world we looked at how we could make ourselves a little bit more resilient. Afterall, losing access to mobile e-mail for a number of days had a significant impact on our business and the way we respond to our customers.

For those who don't know, the problems largely affected BlackBerry's BIS service (BlackBerry Internet Service) which provides internet access, BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and push mail. Though it did have some impact on BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) service, this was largely limited to BBM messages that needed to be handed from BES users to BIS users. 

Anwyay, the technicalities over, we looked initially at moving our BlackBerry smartphones to BES to make them more resilient. At this point we found that Vodafone have been selling us some sort of substandard service. We've found (for a while) that pushed e-mails don't come through as quickly as they used to when BlackBerry smartphones first became mainstream. We didn't expect that switching to BES would restore our service level to the same as it used to be. E-mails come through immediately rather than up to 15 minutes later.

Anyway, you're by this point probably thinking that this blog post was supposed to be about Windows Phone 7.5. Bear with me, I'm getting there... I thought it worth explaining why we're looking at Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" at all.

We've previously used Apple iPhones, and although they're very responsive devices and have a number of apps available for them, the lack of a hardware keyboard means I waste far too much time correcting what I'm typing rather than just typing it. Switching from an iPhone 4 to a BlackBerry Torch 9800 would a good thing in this regards.

Having found that we've been provided with a bit of a duff service since we switched to a BlackBerry, I felt this was the icing on the cake following the summer outages and we started to look at alternative platforms.

The options

Following our move to BlackBerry, we found that things were FAR better with a hardware keyboard and a touch-screen combined, so this was a requirement of whatever we moved to.

What platforms were available in the market? We'll there iOS, Android and Windows Phone. I personally don't like Android... it feels too cheap, device makers aren't consistent enough, devices generally have poor battery life from what I've seen, and because the platform is so open, it's far too easy a target for malware creators, whether they already have, or are going to create viruses, spyware, trojans etc.

So that left us with Windows Phone 7 (7.5 the current version). Now to find one with a hardware keyboard.

We liked vertical slide of the BlackBerry Torch 9800, so that helped to limit the choice... to 1 handset.

Dell Venue Pro

I was surprised that there's only 1 device running Windows Phone 7.5 with a vertical slide keyboard, and it's like gold dust in the UK. Sure you can buy a brand-new sim free device direct from Dell, but if you want a pre-owned one, then they're really hard to get hold of. Whether this is a good sign, or not, we'll surely find out during the 30 days that I plan to run this series of blog posts for - seeing as that's how long I'm told I seem to keep a mobile phone for. 

First experience

This was actually a little more painful than I expected. The user interface is very intuitive, but I got stuck at the first hurdle adding my e-mail account, and downloading apps from the Marketplace. It just wouldn't happen. 

We run Office 365 for our enterprise e-mail, contacts, calendar and tasks etc. so it's nice to see that the phone has support for Office 365 out of the box, including task synchronisation (normally requires a third party app on other mobile platforms). So why wouldn't my account work?

A few minutes later, I tried adding my Windows Live account to the device, at this point I got a message saying that the date/time on the device is wrong and that it should be corrected before attempting to add the Windows Live account. Sure enough, the time was way out, obviously the result of a factory reset.

This seemingly was preventing the device from doing any sort of communication with server-side components, such as Marketplace and Office 365. 

Anyway, date/time sorted, I'm pleased to report that everything else has gone smoothly. 

I've run through the installation of pretty much every app that I'd actually made use of on my iPhone, and BlackBerry was only every running a small sub-set of those (given the limited nature of BlackBerry's AppWorld). Installation was a doddle. I've even installed a few apps that I didn't have before. 

At this point, I want to play with the device a little to understand it. There's a few features that I want to look at more. I've had a glimpse with what I've done with the device so far, but I want to see more such as:
  • Pinning people and groups to the start page
  • The people hubs and the way that they bring social networks into one place
  • Lync 2010 client (although it's not part of Windows Phone 7.5, it's in the marketplace so I want to play)
  • Microsoft Office
  • SharePoint integration
I'll hopefully cover these in a little more detail in tomorrow's post. So far my first impressions of this device and platform are very positive, perhaps a little more positive than I expected. 

Check back for another post tomorrow to see if I'm still as pleased.
Posted: 13/12/2011 19:33:07 by Kurt Farrar | with 0 comments

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