Friday, November 18, 2016

Microsoft - Clear Leaders in the Race for Digital Identity

One of the less obvious trends of the last five years has been the race to own people's "digital identities". It started in earnest with Facebook and Gmail and it soon spread to Apple and LinkedIn.

More recently, we've seen Microsoft and IBM jumping on the bandwagon and I think that's when I started to realise that there was much more to this than simply "targeted advertising".

Quiet Beginnings 

At this point, I'm not sure that all of the founding companies in this revolution fully understand what is going on - and indeed, there are many companies out there today who are still using digital identities simply as a means of easily logging people onto their systems, storing user preferences and targeting advertising.

Certainly that was the original plan on our own systems.

Taking it to the next level 

Digital identity is the cornerstone in any form of electronic ledger system. It's one of the key foundations of commerce.

People don't make significant investments with untrustworthy partners. If you don't personally trust them, then at least your bank trusts their bank.

Take away the banks and you take away the trust - unless you can find another party with trusted connections to both sides in the commercial arrangement.

Having an agreement that a transaction actually took place is important but provided that both sides of the transaction have an "unalterable ledger" it’s not too big a leap.

The real trick, particularly in the identity theft minefield of today’s electronic world, comes in proving that the parties involved were really who they said they were.

The Race is on

So, how do you prove identity on a global scale? Well, the banks certainly have their checklists of Category A and B documents but these only serve to prove your identity to them. Their identity information is not shared and it's certainly not publicly available.

You can’t lean on the bank’s trust and/or authentication for non-banking systems. 

You’d think that a government agency would step in and take ownership of identity but obviously that’s not going to happen on a global scale. What could happen is that governments could agree on a common API to allow the verification of identity. If that’s going to happen, it’s still a long way off.

True, shared global identity is clearly going to come from the private sector.

The real question is, who will become the predominant player in that space? While the global digitial identities will need to be shared, having the lion's share of the identities means that you have unprecedented control over the nature and structure of the APIs, plus of course, any additional services, such as advertising.

At one point, I would have thought that Google was in the best spot but at the moment, seeing how the Windows, XBox, Office 365 and OneDrive logins are all starting to drift towards a single digital identity with biometrics provided by the Cortana AI. My bet is in Microsoft.

... and given that Microsoft is starting to offer blockchain development services via Azure, how long will it be before we can build our blockchains using Microsoft's digital identity as a "Category A" document?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fixing Word 2016 Crashes when Opening Older Documents with Macros on Windows 7

We have a lot of documents and they go back several decades. Many of them  are still relevant today, even if they're only background to current projects. The problem is that Word doesn't like its own file formats.

It won't open documents created with versions of Word earlier than 1997 and it crashes with anything saved as .DOC which contains macros. 

There's some solutions to these problems though;

Opening Older Documents

It's possible to change Word 2016's settings to allow you to open old documents;

  1. Click File, 
  2. Then Options
  3. Then Trust Center
  4. Click on the button marked Trust Center Settings
  5. Click on File Block settings.
  6. UNTick the document types that you want to be able to open and click Ok
Of course, just because you CAN, doesn't mean that you should. Word is less stable with these settings turned on, and it's able to open documents which could be potentially dangerous. 

If you're looking at your company's archives though, it should be fine but you might want to consider installing LibreOffice or using Google Docs (both of which are free) for older documents instead.

Crashes on Macro Enabled Documents

In our case, we were experiencing regular crashes on documents created with specific templates. The templates contained Macros (but those macros only run on document creation, not when they're opened). 

Nevertheless, we were able to demonstrate that simply opening a file resulted in an immediate crash. These documents were okay on Word 2003, 2010 and 2013 but as soon as we upgraded to 2016, the crashes started happening everywhere. 

We turned to Microsoft for help but didn't get much direction there....

Then yesterday, I did an upgrade of a couple of our PCs from Windows 7 to Windows 10. 
... and the crashes stopped. 

Clearly there's something different about Windows 10 that makes Word 2016 much happier. 

Embracing Microsoft while keeping Domino

When I first started this blog, my aim was to stay with mainly IBM (Lotus) Notes and Domino, hence the URL of DominoGavin. 

Things changed over the years and I've found myself wanting to talk about all manner of technology brands from Symantec to Blackberry, Google, Windows and Linux. (Hence the renaming of the blog to "Real World Computing'. 

Many of my most recent posts were on IBM connections. I've also tried to cover a few business IT concepts.

Things are changing again and we've reached the point where it makes sense to swap out some of our IBM technology solutions for Microsoft ones.

We're not leaving Domino, it's still an important part of our strategy but we are planning to move our mail from Verse to Outlook and our collaboration from Connections to the Microsoft jumble of OneDrive, Yammer, SharePoint and Delve.

All of this while rebranding and moving office in a typical “office-politics” hands-tied scenario. It's going to be a fun ride.

I’ll still be keeping a foot in the IBM camp as we currently have another company still in Verse/Connections and in the Google camp too, as we have a company on the amusingly named G-Suite.

Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I'm off to my first Microsoft event in years (since Steve Ballmer took over - I'm glad I missed that era). Today I'm heading out to a Microsoft developer conference in Sydney to hear Satya Nadella speak.

So long as there are no “monkey dances”, I think I'll be okay.