Tech Giants join Microsoft’s fight for privacy

by Shijaz Abdulla on 17.12.2014 at 08:40

The below is quoted from an article on MSN News.

Microsoft is getting some reinforcements in its battle with the Justice Department over access to emails stored on servers overseas.

Verizon, Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, eBay, HP, Infor, Salesforce, and Rackspace on Monday all signed on to legal briefs urging a federal appeals court to throw out the Justice Department’s warrant. The companies argued that U.S. prosecutors have no authority to seize the emails, which are stored in Ireland.

Business associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and BSA-the Software Alliance and civil liberties groups including the Center for Democracy & Technology, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation also filed briefs supporting Microsoft. CNN, ABC, Fox News, the Washington Post, and other media outlets also sided with Microsoft in legal briefs.

Since the Snowden leaks last year revealed the vast scope of U.S. surveillance, tech companies have been struggling to convince foreign customers that their information can be kept private.

One brief from Verizon and other companies warned that if the warrant against Microsoft is enforced, it would damage U.S. businesses, violate international agreements, and potentially lead other countries to retaliate by seizing private information of Americans.

"Collectively these briefs make one conclusion unmistakably clear. This case involves not a narrow legal question, but a broad policy issue that is fundamental to the future of global technology," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post applauding the other companies and groups for filing their briefs.

The Justice Department has claimed that any company with operations in the U.S. has to comply with search warrants, even if the actual data is in another country. Microsoft argues that the U.S. has to work through a legal treaty with Ireland to get access to the information. The details of the case are secret.

In July, a federal judge in New York agreed with the government and ordered Microsoft to turn over the emails. Microsoft has now appealed that ruling to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

AT&T and some of the other companies had already weighed in on Microsoft’s side when its case was at the district court level. Smith said that the additional companies and organizations who filed briefs Monday "reflect the continuing growth in concerns" about the Justice Department’s bid for overseas data.

Smith argued that, regardless of the outcome of Microsoft’s legal battle, Congress and the Obama administration should update privacy laws so that people in the U.S. and other countries can trust their information is safe from prying eyes.

Microsoft’s fitness band and Microsoft Health

by Shijaz Abdulla on 31.10.2014 at 15:42

By now, you have already heard about Microsoft Band.

Microsoft Health is a new service that helps you live healthier by providing actionable insights based on data gathered from the fitness devices and apps that you use every day. It’s designed to work for you, no matter what phone you have, device you wear, or services you use. Microsoft Health makes tracking personal fitness easier, more insightful, and more holistic.

Microsoft Band, the first device powered by Microsoft Health, helps you achieve your wellness goals by tracking your heart rate, steps, calorie burn, and sleep quality. It also helps you be more productive with email previews and calendar alerts – right on your wrist.

Microsoft Band, priced at $199 sold out in about a day after it was announced and is now no longer available for ordering online.



App Spotlight: Tetra Lockscreen re-imagines your Windows Phone lock screen!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 23.10.2014 at 13:30

The stuff you can see on a Windows Phone lock-screen just got better!

Introducing Tetra Lockscreen, the most amazing lockscreen app I have seen to date on Windows Phone.

Tetra Lockscreen is a free app that lets you add “widgets” to your lock-screen such as calendar, location, activity tracker and stopwatch, giving you easy access to these useful tools without having to unlock your phone.

Each widget can have multiple ta bs that you can swipe sideways for more views. All without unlocking your phone.

Thanks Ahmed Ibrahim for sharing this tip!

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App Spotlight: Truecaller now available for Windows Phone

by Shijaz Abdulla on 22.10.2014 at 20:58

TrueCaller is now available for Windows Phone and it works perfectly. (Not that I am personally a big fan of it, though).

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This app requires a phone restart when installed and integrates directly with the Windows Phone OS to display caller id information of unknown callers. It can also notify you of spam callers.

Reviving a non-responsive Nokia Treasure Tag

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.10.2014 at 14:34

The Nokia Treasure tag is an amazing companion for your Nokia Lumia phone. It uses NFC (Near Field Communication) to help you keep track of your things like keys, bag/purse etc, by making an audible beep when the phone and the tag are beyond bluetooth reach of one another.

However, over time the Nokia Treasure Tag may stop responding to your phone and it may seem nothing works, including removing and re-installing the battery.

If this happens, here is a fix:

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1. Open the battery compartment of your treasure tag using a tiny screwdriver or pointed object.

2. Remove the battery.

3. Press and hold the multifunction button your treasure tag while you re-install the battery. Press and hold it till you put the battery cover back in place.

Your tag is now reset and you can pair it once again with your Lumia phone.

Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter 3.0 is here!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 15.10.2014 at 20:42

The Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter 3.0 (MVMC 3.0) is now publicly available and is overflowing with new features.

  1. The biggest new feature in MVMC 3.0 is online physical to virtual (P2V) conversion.
  2. Converts virtual disks that are attached to a VMware virtual machine to virtual hard disks (VHDs) that can be uploaded to Microsoft Azure.
  3. Provides native Windows PowerShell capability that enables scripting and integration into IT automation workflows.
  4. Supports conversion and provisioning of Linux-based guest operating systems from VMware hosts to Hyper-V hosts.
  5. Supports conversion of offline virtual machines.
  6. Supports the new virtual hard disk format (VHDX) when converting and provisioning in Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012.
  7. Supports conversion of virtual machines from VMware vSphere 5.5, VMware vSphere 5.1, and VMware vSphere 4.1 hosts Hyper-V virtual machines.
  8. Supports Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 as guest operating systems that you can select for conversion.

Supported Configurations for Converting Virtual Machines

VMware sources:   

  • VMware vSphere 5.5 (VMware ESXi 5.5)
  • VMware vSphere 5.1 (VMware ESXi 5.1)
  • VMware vSphere 4.1 (VMware ESXi/ESX 4.1)
  • VMware vCenter Server 5.5
  • VMware vCenter Server 5.1
  • VMware vCenter Server 4.1

Destination host servers:                        
Note   Hyper-V must be enabled.   

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard
  • Windows Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard with Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise with Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Operating systems that are supported for which MVMC can be installed:   

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard
  • Windows Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard with Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise with Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Microsoft Operating systems that are supported for conversion to Hyper-V from physical, or VMware virtual machines  

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard x64
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter x64
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard x64
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter x64
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard x64
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise x64
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter x64
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard (x86/x64)
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (x86/x64)
  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter (x86/x64)
  • Windows 8 Enterprise (x86/x64)
  • Windows 8 Pro (x86/x64)
  • Windows 7 Enterprise (x86/x64)
  • Windows 7 Professional (x86/x64)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate (x86/x64)
  • Windows Vista Enterprise x86/x64

Linux operating systems that are supported for conversion from VMware virtual machines:   

  • Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® 6 (x86/x64)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (x86/x64)
  • Ubuntu 12.04 (x86/x64)
  • Ubuntu 10.04 (x86/x64)
  • SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server 11 (x86/x64)
  • CentOS 6 (x86/x64)
  • CentOS 5 (x86/x64)
  • Debian GNU/Linux 7 (x86/x64)
  • Oracle Linux 6 (x86/x64)
  • Oracle Linux 5 (x86/x64)

Windows 10: Things You Need to Know

by Shijaz Abdulla on 08.10.2014 at 14:45

The next version of Windows was announced last week: Windows 10.


  • Windows 10 Technical Preview is available for download.
  • What is Technical Preview?

    Tech Preview is the first pre-release build of Windows 10 – and the first instance of our new approach to software development and delivery. This first Tech Preview release focuses on businesses and the desktop. A mobile-focused version will release in early 2015.

    Tech Preview is designed for PC experts and IT professionals who are comfortable downloading unfinished software, preferably on a secondary PC. The ultimate goal of Tech Preview is for IT pros to test the bits in their native environment and provide feedback via the Windows Feedback App and Windows Insider Program.


  • The Start Menu is back! But now with Live Tiles integrated.
  • Search is available both on Start Menu and Start screen
  • Store Apps can open in re-sizable (classic) windows with title bars.
  • Task View button on taskbar helps you easily switch between your running apps
  • Snapping windows is now more easier and intuitive
  • You can save “desktops” which is a grouping of your screen layout with the windows you have opened and quickly switch between those “desktops”.

Download the Windows 10 Tech Preview today!

Metrash2 is now available on Windows Phone

by Shijaz Abdulla on 05.10.2014 at 21:05


Metrash2 app from the Ministry of Interior, Qatar is now available on Windows Phone. Download it from the Store.

Metrash2 is a mobile-based platform to access various e-services offered by the Ministry of Interior in Qatar, including Visa services, Traffic services, e-Gate, etc.

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Why the iPhone 6 is still not ready for business

by Shijaz Abdulla on 04.10.2014 at 13:59

I have always used Windows Phone. When the iPhone 6 was announced and news surfaced about all the unexplainable excitement and commotion around it, I decided to take a look and see what is it that makes thousands of people around the world so crazy about these devices. I welcome change, especially when it is positive.

So I took out my credit card and pre-ordered (yes, paid for and bought) an iPhone 6 64GB Silver online and got it delivered via Aramex Shop & Ship.


First, a little bit of background about myself – I am always on the go, I do not have a desk job. Naturally I read and write email – a lot of email – on my phone. I use the phone so that I can be productive and so that I get things done faster. And I use quite a bit of WhatsApp.

Second, I am a Microsoft employee and my primary responsibilities do not involve Windows Phone sales, and Microsoft didn’t pay for the iPhone 6 I bought nor do they pay me for writing this post. This is purely my personal point of view.

I was excited when the new iPhone arrived. Gleefully got myself a nano sim and plugged it in, created an Apple ID and started setting it up.

In just a week I’m sad to say, I was disappointed. The iPhone is a great toy. But unfortunately that’s what it is. At least for what I need from a phone, the iPhone 6 / iOS 8 poorly delivered.

Don’t get me wrong. Apple’s iPhone 6 has a great camera, feels good to hold, great screen, reasonable UI, and a lot of “non-standard” apps in the store – but that’s not all that matters.

Let’s take a deeper look:

1. The email experience

  • iOS 8 displays a single mail app icon on the home screen, regardless of how many accounts you have, and the icon displays the total number of *unread* email. This is great, except that I don’t care about unread email. I care about *new* email.
  • Windows Phone on the other hand lets you create a separate live tile for each mail account on the home screen, with instant notification of new email since the last time you opened the app. Much better, thanks. Below you see two tiles (one large and one medium) showing two different mail accounts with 1 and 4 new emails each. On the large live tile, I also get to see an animated preview of my new messages.

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The basics of typing

  • OK, let’s go to actually typing an email. Guess what? The period (.) and comma (,) are the two most commonly used punctuation marks in the English language – and both of them are not available on the iOS 8 keyboard, unless you tap on the button for numbers. That’s two taps for a dot. (Yeah, you can type a double space to put a dot, but that’s two taps too)
  • On the Windows Phone, the comma and period are on the standard keyboard face. Easy.

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Predictive Text

  • Let’s talk about predictive text. This varies based on the example, but I have seen far better suggestions from Windows Phone than iOS 8.
  • iOS limits to 3 suggestions on the screen, meaning you will end up typing more.
  • Windows Phone shows more and better suggestions. It also predicts text using your contacts (Jane, Justin and Joseph are in my contacts list), while maintaining your privacy. It also does predictive emojis! 🙂

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Now lets try that with Windows Phone:

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Arabic Predictive Text

  • Doesn’t exist in iOS8, at least at the time of writing this. See link on Apple’s website for QuickType. Yes, I checked Settings too.
  • Exists in Windows Phone, and definitely much better. I think some of the intelligence comes from Bing search indexes. I was even able to type some full verses from the Qur’an merely by tapping with the help of Predictive Text Input.


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Attaching files

  • OK let’s see how to attach a file. If you’re new to iOS, you need to fumble around a bit to figure this out. You need to press and hold an empty space in your email to open a menu, and then choose “Insert Photo or Video”. It’s more difficult than it sounds.
  • On the iPhone 6, You cannot attach more than one photo at a time! You need to repeat above process for each file.
  • On the Windows Phone, there is a simple “Attach” button on the toolbar (highlighted in red). It doesn’t get simpler than that. And, you can attach multiple photos in one go!

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2. Sharing Stuff

I was surprised when I saw how limited a sharing capability the iPhone had.

Sharing from built-in Camera app

  • On the iPhone 6, you can’t share a picture directly from the Camera/Photos app to WhatsApp. You need to open WhatsApp, tap the Attach icon, and choose the picture.
  • On the iPhone 6, you can’t share via Bluetooth with non-Apple devices. You need AirDrop.
  • On the iPhone 6, you can’t share more than 5 photos via email from the camera/photos app.
  • On the Windows Phone, you can simply share from the Camera app over Bluetooth, NFC (simply tap the phones to share), WhatsApp, email, and pretty much anywhere.

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When you select more than 5 pictures, the Mail option vanishes on iOS 8.


3. The Health hype

OK, so health is not very business-themed, but most people care about health including people who send emails from their phones.

  • I found the user interface and capabilities of the new Health app on iOS 8 quite mediocre, compared to what is available on Windows Phone. While the Medical ID feature on iOS is nice, it looked complicated to get the app to work like what it looks like on You needed to define sources for health data (which looks like other apps or maybe the Apple Watch) and only then you see a dashboard.
  • Update 10/11/2014: Fitbit just announced they currently have no plans to integrate with Apple’s HealthKit.
  • On Windows Phone, the phone starts tracking your steps, distance etc as soon as you set it up. You can also add GPS workouts and track your calories by logging what you eat.

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Windows Phone also has an animated live tile that helps you track your steps, distance, etc.


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Overall, the Windows Phone provided a simple, easy to use, and more importantly, a connected experience which the iOS lacks.

For the conclusion: What do you expect? I just went up to the nearest Vodafone store in Qatar and bought myself a Nokia Lumia 930 and got 5 free accessories (Wireless charging plate, Portable battery, Nokia Purity by Monster headset, portable speakerphone, and a treasure tag). And it cost me less than the iPhone 6 64GB.

As for the iPhone 6, it will find peace with an immediate family member.


Preventing an image in your Outlook signature from pixelating

by Shijaz Abdulla on 29.08.2014 at 23:59

You’ve probably noticed that Outlook compresses an image you place in your signature when it sends the email, causing loss of quality. However the rate of pixelation varies by image type.

image image
Before (left) and after (right)

Here’s a quick tip that will help you get better results. Outlook compresses all images to 96 dpi before it sends the email. If you change your image to 96 dpi before you embed it in your signature you will have better results.

1. Open your high-resolution image in an image editor such as IrfanView or GIMP.

2. Re-scale the image to 96dpi.

In GIMP, you would go to Image > Scale Image.


In IrfanView, you would go to Image > Resize/Resample.


3. Save the image. If necessary adjust the height and width on the same tool.

4. Go back to Outlook, and embed the new image in your signature. You should get better results now.

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