Hotmail Microsoft

Application-like spell checking… on the web?!?!?

I don’t think I can understate how cool this feature is:  spell check as you type.

Ever since I first saw this feature in Word I’ve been wanting it in every application I have (including DasBlog, you listening Omar? :)).  Well, now we finally have it in Windows Live Mail beta.  The way it works is pretty slick too, the client-side code on the browser actually starts handing words and groups of words up to the server to be checked for errors.  When errors are detected the misspellings are indicated on the client with familiar red squiggly lines. 

The best way to get a feeling for this is to see it in action.  Since we haven’t released the feature yet you can’t, unfortunately, try it out… but you can have Imran give you a demo. Check out the Video that Imran, Vikram, Brian and Zeek made, it gives a great run down of the design, development and testing of the feature.

For those of you on the beta and wondering when you’ll see this… I’m predicting you’ll see it before the year is up (but I don’t make any guarantees ;)).

Hotmail Microsoft Tech

Yes, we have no bananas,

I appreciate the enthusiasm folks have for becoming part of the mail beta, but I don’t, unfortunately, have any invites to give out at this time.  When I do have some invites to give out I’ll be sure to make an announcement here.



Some positive reaction to our team blog

Michael Bazeley of the San Jose Mercury News (the paper in Si Valley) picked up on our team blog and, from the tone of the short post, was happy with what he saw.  I know our beta testers are enthusiastic about the work we’ve done so far… here’s hoping the rest of the world will be too.

Hotmail Tech

Out of the closet

By Internet time-scale this is very old news: the Hotmail team is working on a new product, some people have already gotten a glimpse via the mail beta. 

“Mail beta,” you say, “what’s that?”

It’s quite simple… it’s a beta of a new mail product.  True to Microsoft form we’ve given our new baby a name that tells exactly what it is (think: “Word”, “Project” or “Streets & Trips”).  We leave it to those renegades on the Mac team to come up with names like “Entourage”.

A while ago (Imran can tell you just how big of a while) we decided we needed to start fresh.  Hotmail was built to scale to hundreds of millions of two megabyte e-mail accounts, and it does that very, very well.  Hotmail is also built to work with web browsers most geeks would consider dinosaurs.  We realized the landscape was changing and we decided to do something about it. 

For the past year my job has been primarily one of a project manager.  I attended meetings, tracked dependencies and watched documents grow and shrink.  While this is a simplification of what I did (and in no way a slam on the role) it wasn’t what I enjoy most: working on the application interface.  Starting in mid-July Omar took over the project management duties (working with dev and others he’s put together a pretty slick combination of SCRUM and traditional processes… he’s putting us into overdrive) and I got the chance to return to the customer-facing side of the world.

That brings me back to the start of this post: the mail beta.  To go along with this mail beta we created a team space to keep interested parties abreast of our goings-on.  Hop on over there and check it out

For those of you who came to my blog from the team space… perhaps you weren’t looking for my blog… you were looking for my space.


Hey, I needed that!

There are times when you need to get a file out of your Hotmail account but the server has flagged the file as dangerous and won’t let you at it.  This can happen if the file is infected with an incurable virus or if a noob friend sent you an uncompressed EXE (we’ll get into ways to pay your friend for the trouble in some other post).

While Hotmail has locked the file away (likely for your protection, see disclaimer later in this post) you can still get the file.  An important note: you can really hose your computer if you bypass security, any security, so be sure you are ready to pay the consequences.  By following the instructions below you are agreeing to take full responsibility for your actions.

Okay, now that part one of the paranoia is out of the way, here’s what you do: 

  1. Enable advanced headers (click Options->Mail->Mail Display Settings->Message Headers=Advanced)
  2. Open the e-mail message with the attachment, in the header there will be a link to “View E-mail Message Source”, click the link and a new window will open.
  3. The message source will be divided into sections or “parts”.  Look for the part with your attachment, it will be a square block of text that just looks like garbage (I’ve pasted an example below).  Select just the block of text and copy it.
  4. Open up notepad or some text editor (in Windows you can go to Start->Run, type in “notepad” and hit enter).  Paste the text block into your text editor.
  5. Save the text file but change the extension to match the transfer encoding (in most cases it will be base64, so the extension should be “b64”).  Make sure you change the drop-down for “Save as type” from “Text Documents” to “All files”.  In the example below you would save it as “potogold.b64”
  6. The saved file can now be decoded by WinZip or your favorite zip handling program.

Some important notes:

  • Dealing with dangerous files is… well… dangerous.  These instructions are provided for advanced users who are certain they are not going to do damage to their computers by circumventing the protections Hotmail has put in place to help protect users.  Please, if you are at all nervous about messing up your computer, let an expert do this (either that or a teenager).
  • There are a variety of encodings other than base64, if a different encoding is used .b64 is not the extension you want to add to your saved file.
  • I didn’t go into a ton of depth on the instructions or screen shots for a specific reason: I don’t want to encourage people to use this method without thinking hard about what they are doing.  I tried to be clear, but not easy.
  • These instructions are written assuming a Windows user.  Please don’t accuse me of hating the Mac or trying to crush LINUX.  I have a special place in my heart for the Mac and am not nearly intelligent enough to use the command line.  That said I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to do this on another platform.
  • There is no substitute for having up to date antivirus (AV) software installed on your desktop.  AV software is like car insurance.  You need insurance to drive and you need AV software to be on the web.  Get used to it.

Now, the necessary disclaimers: files downloaded using this method will not have been scanned by any anti-virus software, I cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss of time that occurs as a result of downloading an infected file.  Additionally this help is provided by me, Reeves, and not Microsoft or Hotmail… there is no warranty expressed or implied.  I feel bad for anyone with a busted machine… but you’re on your own.

Example Encoded Attachment

Content-Type: application/x-zip-compressed;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment;



Did I mention that if you do this and things go bad that neither I nor Microsoft can be held responsible? Yes? Good.

Hotmail Microsoft Tech

A history of Hotmail on Wikipedia

Omar pointed out today that Wikipedia has a good article on Hotmail.  Lots of interesting facts including the origin of the service’s name, “Hotmail”.

From Bengt, the original Hotmail logo:


Hotmail Overseen

Hotmail PMs work too hard

Aditya and Omar only made it 10ft from the conference room before they felt the need to start working again… they worked a bit then walked the next 10ft to their offices.


No, I don’t know how Aditya keeps the laptop there… I suspect the legs of his jeans are covered with rosin.

Hotmail Weird

I pity the fool!

Headline from the Onion:

Gmail User Pities Hotmail User

A quote:

“I feel so bad for you, needing to squeeze into 250 MB of storage space,”

I love it! laughing.gif  Read the full story.

Hotmail Microsoft

Who knew?

Here’s some Hotmail trivia to impress your friends:

  • Hotmail is used in more than 220 countries and territories – more than the number recognized by the United Nations.
  • If MSN Hotmail’s 190M active accounts were citizens of a single country, it would be the world’s 5th largest country.
    • No. 5, MSN Hotmail, 190mm
    • No. 6, Brazil 184mm
    • No. 7, Pakistan, 159mm
    • No. 8, Russia, 144mm
    • No. 9, Bangladesh, 141mm
  • If connected hand-to-hand, the 190 million MSN Hotmail members would circle the Earth at the equator over five and a half times.
  • MSN Hotmail e-mail service members number more than the combined population of the world’s 20 largest cities.
  • If all MSN Hotmail members were standing in single file, they would line the length of the Great Wall of China or the Nile River (the longest river in the world) over 17 times.
  • The MSN Hotmail user base has grown more than 18 times since January 1998, which is more than the world population has grown in the last fifty years.
  • Since 1997, MSN® Hotmail® has grown nearly 20 times from 10 million to 190 million subscribers.
  • In 2001 and 2003 MSN Hotmail was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest free Web-based e-mail service provider.
Hotmail Microsoft Reference Software

Want less Spam in your Hotmail account?

There’s a quick and easy step you can take: turn your junk e-mail filter from “Low” to “Enhanced”.  At the lowest level Hotmail will delete the known junk e-mail before it even lands in your account.  There are, however, clever filters that deal with junk e-mail we haven’t heard of yet… when you switch from “Low” to “Enhanced” you get the added benefit of Hotmail moving the mail we’re not quite sure about into the junk e-mail folder for you to examine later.

To help protect yourself from junk e-mail:

Turn your junk e-mail filter to “Enhanced”
Cranking it up from low is the difference between “we know this is junk” and “we think this is junk.” Hotmail gets rid of the things we know are junk… the things we think are junk we move to the junk e-mail folder… but only if your filter is set to “Enhanced.”
Add your friends’ e-mail addresses to your address book
You can import, use the contacts builder feature on the contacts page or simply check the box on the sent mail confirmation page.
Add other addresses to your safe list

Adding addresses to your safe list but not your address book keeps your address book tidy but makes sure you receive your e-mails from Amazon.
When you receive junk e-mail in your inbox, select the junk e-mail and click the “junk” button

When you report the junk we missed the junk e-mail automatically goes into a system which trains our filters to be better in the future (be patient, though, it does take some time for the filters to learn, you won’t see an immediate effect, but like exercise, it works over time).
Check your e-mail every day
This sound funny but it is really more of a psychological trick than anything else. If you check your Hotmail account every day you’ll find that the amount of junk in your inbox is quite small and easy to deal with. When you take the task in small bites it’s easier to stomach (and frankly, quite painless).

To turn your junk e-mail filter from 1 to 11:

  1. Sign into Hotmail
  2. Click the “Mail” tab
  3. Click the “Options” link (it’s at the top right, near “Help”)
  4. Click the “Junk E-Mail Protection” link
  5. Click the “Junk E-Mail Filter” link
  6. Select the “Enhanced” level
  7. Click the “OK” button
  8. Get less spam in your inbox

Too many steps? Try my direct link to your Junk E-Mail Filter Options.