Archive for ‘August, 2011’

Office 365 Cloud Services

Recently at Conduce we began looking into Office 365 and cloud hosted services as a real viable alternative to the classic “on-premise” solutions of old.  Before entering the cloud we trialed Microsoft’s solution and what you get for such a low per user per month cost is staggering.

For £4 per user per month we could have Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync within minutes, configured and ready to go.  During our trial of the service we saw some distinct advantages to using Office 365 over and above the cost and the main one was the sheer reliability, resilience and availability of it.

Our Problem

This was a huge problem we had been facing over the last few weeks.  Our on-premise Exchange server was connected to a UPS capable of providing a number of hours of uptime during power outages but the 5-hour-long power outages each weekend due to local building work meant that for quite a number of consecutive weekends we had outages to our mail services for at least 5 hours.  This was not a tenable situation and so we looked at the cost of provisioning an Exchange server in a data centre and then synchronising this with our Active Directory and all of the associated migration costs and labour involvement.  Long story short this was not a cheap option and left many question such as best options for backup and then how to respond to any potential maintenance windows or unexpected outages at the data centre.

Our outlook (no pun intended!)

My personal scepticism was almost immediately dispelled upon seeing the Office 365 portal for the first time.  It was a concise, coherent  and clean-looking hub from which I could access my e-mail, SharePoint site collections,   admin for my organisation or partner specific tools.  Microsoft have succeeded in tying the services together very neatly and most of all making them easy to use for end users with autoconfiguration endpoints for Outlook and executable desktop tools to  configure Windows Explorer and other associated products for single sign-on.

The Migration

I drafted a plan to migrate our user-base which is made up of office based staff, engineers with laptops, semi-office-based staff and those who are purely remote or overseas staff onto Office 365.  There was a simple wizard-guided process to go through to verify that we indeed own and have control over our conduce.net (and other owned) domain(s).  Once this was complete I created all of our users on the platform with a CSV output from our existing Exchange server and this generated temporary passwords for each account.  These were mailed to staff explaining that we were on the cusp of starting the migration along with instructions on how to access their new mailboxes via webmail.

The migration itself went smoothly and all mailbox content was migrated onto the platform user by user without a single e-mail having gone missing.  Our CRM system was reconfigured to make use of Office 365 instead of the on-premise Exchange server along with any other mail-dependant services.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dannykboyd/


The Outcome

We are now fully migrated onto the Office 365 Exchange platform without a single user complaint, this includes all of our office and remote workers (including overseas) and the fact that Office 365 is a cloud based clustered service amongst separate geographic locations gives us the confidence that this service will always be highly available.  From an IT administrator’s point of view we no longer have to consider backing up our Exchange server as all content is held in at least 3 different geographic locations by Microsoft.

Our last move will be to migrate much of our document base into Sharepoint so that it is fully versioned and available anywhere over an SSL encrypted connection.

If you have any questions about Office 365 or how it may be useful for your business then please get in touch or check out our Office 365 Cloud Services page.

Author: Ben Moses

Singapore Presentation Sneak Peek

I’ve made a bit of a rod for my own back by agreeing to present twice at the forthcoming Aircraft Commerce Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference in Singapore on the 18th and 19th of October…. So I’ve already begun preparing my presentations. Here’s an early sneak peek at a couple of the slides I’ll be using.Singapore presentation sneak peek

The keynote presentation “Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?” is a bit of a re-hash of the same presentation I did in Frankfurt last month with a few updated stats and about 10 minutes removed to keep within the 30 minute time frame. I’ve managed to work in a couple more sci-fi referennces. My workshop presentation “Tablet Strategy Bootcamp” focusses on building and executing a successful business case for deploying tablets in aviation. I’ve built a new theme here which uses an app style look and feel with cheesy “bootcamp” images courtesy of The US Army’s Flickr Photostream. I hope you like them – let me know what you think.

Related Posts:
Tablet Takeover Infographic
Video: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
Slides: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?

Author: Paul Saunders

Tablet Takeover Infographic

Here’s yet another Visual.ly infographic (sorry) that shows the state of the current Tablet market. Some interesting stats are included on current market size, expected market growth and demographics. Interesting stuff….
Thanks to Socialcast and Column Five Media for sharing.

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Video: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
Slides: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
iPad vs Android

Author: Paul Saunders

HTML5 Cache Development

Recently we’ve started to have a play with HTML5 offline capability here at Conduce. We have prepared some small projects and found one thing to be particularly annoying. Once you define a list of files to be stored locally in the HTML5 cache manifest, they are downloaded to the client browser only once. This is expected behavior once released in a production environment, however it’s not an ideal situation whilst in development mode.

The problem is that whenever you change something in your html code, the changes are not populated to the client, because the client has already downloaded those files to the local cache. One way to refresh these files is to modify the cache manifest file. Once the manifest file is modified, all the files listed there are downloaded again from the server.

As I don’t like manual work very much, I thought “How can I solve this with code?”. Here’s how – a pre-build event for Visual Studio. It’s written in Power Shell, and it should run on Windows 7 or Vista [spit] no problem.

In order to use it you need to follow 3 simple steps:

1. Add the following line to your cache manifest file, preferably just after the “CACHE MANIFEST” header:

#version

2. In Visual Studio, go to the Preferences of your start up project. Select Build Events and paste the following script into the Pre-build events command line:

powershell “$strManifestFileName=\”..\\cache.manifest\”; $newContent = \”\”; $content = Get-Content $strManifestFileName; foreach($i in $content){if($i.StartsWith(\”#version\”)){$i = \”#version \” + [DateTime]::Now;}; $newContent = $newContent + $i + [Environment]::NewLine;};Set-Content $strManifestFileName $newContent”

3. Make sure that strManifestFileName variable matches your manifest file name.

What this script does is that it simply reads your manifest file and amends the line containing #version with the current time stamp. Thanks to that, whenever you build your website in Visual Studio, your cache manifest file will be modified. As a result all files from the manifest will be downloaded to your browser with the most recent changes. Additionally it won’t affect your production environment.

I hope this script proves to be useful. Perhaps there is better way of solving this issue? As usual let me know your suggestions and comments.

Author: Marcin Wojciechowski

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Automated Testing of iPad Apps
iPad vs Android

11000 iPads for United Continental

I was interested to read this afternoon that yet another airline is furnishing all of their flight crew with iPads as a replacement of their paper manuals. I’m sure this is another example of a business case approved for a low level roll out with wider app adoption at some future point. Good news….

See here for the Flight Global Report – United Continental eyes paperless Flight Decks with iPads.

Details have not been released yet about which apps they will be using, but my money is on GoodReader, as used by Alaska and Delta. I’ve already done the maths to figure out the revenue GoodReader developer Yeri Selukoff will be making here: $38,423.00

woooo….!
If anyone is at Chicago O’Hare tomorrow for the press conference, please let us know the details.

Author: Paul Saunders

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QR Codes in Presentations
Because Everyone Else is Doing It

Droid vs iOS Infographic

Banter in our office tends to circulate around one of two subjects these days: Its either the quality and performance of individual staff member’s Fantasy League teams, or which mobile operating system is better. I found an excellent infographic on the Visual.ly website which converts that opinion into hard demographic facts.
Thanks to Visual.ly and Hunch for the great work.

via

Author: Paul Saunders

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What MRO software needs is “consumerisation”

Last year I spent a lot of time thinking, writing and talking about the over complexity of aviation MRO software and how to make it simpler. This year my focus has shifted with our work to looking at how tablets can be used in aviation in general. This work was studded with specific focus on tech trends that would benefit and improve aviation software user experience and therefore enhance software adoption and productivity. Trends such as Open Source, Open Data, Gamification, Augmented Reality and so on….

Reflecting on that work now I have realised that these drives for better software in the aviation MRO world can be summed up by one description: “Consumerisation”. I have often talked in blog posts, papers and presentations about the need for business software to be more like software that we use at home. Business software should be more like social media, more like iPhone/iPad apps and more like our favourite web sites. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make transactions in our MRO software at work as easily as it is to buy a new app for your mobile device, or call someone on Skype? The transactions are no less complicated, but the user experience is completely different. Paul Coby the ex-CIO of British Airways talks about the 4 (and sometimes 5) Cs of key technology trends which will shape the roles of IT leaders for the foreseeable future.

The 4 Cs are: Cloud, Consolidation, Convergence and Consumerisation (the fifth being Collaboration)

Let’s not make any bones about this – there is an overwhelming demand for more consumerised business software. All I have heard in the past few weeks when talking to engineers and maintenance managers is that they really are frustrated by the complexity, the unfriendliness and the lack of context in their software… I’m not talking about one specific software vendor here, or one specific business function… this really goes across the board for everyone and everything. MRO software users are desperate for more penetration of consumer software trends in their business software.


Apple have been at the forefront of creating a demand for consumerised technology in the business world through their consumer focussed products.

Over the coming weeks and months I will be re-visiting the thoughts I have about simplifying MRO software, improving user experience and expanding the use of tablets and other mobile devices in the aviation MRO world and promoting the idea that consumerisation of MRO software is what is actually required. Am I off the mark here? Is there a more pressing requirement in the aviation MRO software world? Please let me know what you think…

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Slides: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
Airline Purchasing & Maintenance Expo Presentation
iPad vs Android

Author: Paul Saunders

The Magic of Truth & Lies

A couple of people have sent me clips of Marco Tempest and his inspired iPod/iPhone related “magic”. They’ve always been really slick demonstrations of sleight of hand, but a bit… you know…. “meh”.
Anyway – now he’s done his own TED Talk I feel he’s acquired a certain extra kudos to warrant posting a link. Anyway – enjoy.

Related Posts:
Video: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
Slides: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
iPad vs Android

Author: Paul Saunders

Video: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post PC era?

The guys at Aircraft Commerce who organised the Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference that we attended in Darmstadt near Frankfurt last month sent me through a link to the video that they took of my presentation “Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?”.


Click the image above for the video.

Its pretty clever stuff how the video and slides are stitched together and how you can easily click through to indvidual slide bookmarks. From what I know this is an early version of a new web application. Further content from the conference will be online on the same site fairly soon.

Related Posts:
Slides: Tablets – is aviation ready for the post-PC era?
Airline Purchasing & Maintenance Expo Presentation
iPad vs Android

Author: Paul Saunders