Ghacks Visitor Stats

We have heard a lot about browser stats in the past, how Firefox is plateauing, how Chrome is gaining market share and how Internet Explorer is dropping to new lows every month. I thought it would be nice to share some of the site stats with all of you. The stats have been taken directly from Google Analytics, and should hopefully paint a very clear picture of the people that visit the Ghacks technology news website. For comparison reasons, I made the decision to add data from 2009 to the mix. (It is June 2009, and June 2011)

Lets start with browsers, as this is something that is constantly in the news all over the world. Firefox was the number one browser here on Ghacks in 2009, with a share of 49.11%, followed by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer with 34,90%, Google Chrome with 6.73%, Safari with 4.02% and Opera with 3.88%.

Things have changed noticeably two years later. Internet Explorer is now the most used browser with a market share of 34.59%, that is only .31% less than two years ago. Firefox dropped significantly from the all time high to 32.14%, a drop of nearly 17% in two year’s time. Chrome managed to get market share and is now sitting at 21.01%, an increase of exactly that 17% that Firefox lost. Safari moved up .30 percent, Opera usage dropped to 2.27%, unless Opera Mini is included in the calculation which would add another 2.29% to Opera’s market share.

When you look at the different browser versions you see the following distribution:

Internet Explorer:

Internet Explorer 8 is the most used browser with 56.59%, followed by Internet Explorer 9 with 17.75%, Internet Explorer 6 with 13.83% and Internet Explorer 7 with 11.79%. Microsoft at least here on Ghacks has a lot of convincing to do to get IE users to switch to more recent versions of the browser. It is likely that the majority of requests that use IE6 or IE7 come from company networks.

Firefox:

The most used Mozilla browser on Ghacks in June 2011 was Firefox 4.0.1 with a share of 44.63%, followed by Firefox 5 with 16.07%, Firefox 3.6.17 with 11.25 and Firefox 4.0 with 4.18%. Many users are still using outdated versions of the browser, Firefox 3.6.3 for instance which is still having a share of 1.38% of all Firefox visits. This highlights one of the core problems of Mozilla: Getting users to update the browser to more recent versions. It needs to be noted that Firefox 5 has been released at the end of June. It is expected that the browser’s market share will rise considerably in July.

Chrome:

Google Chrome is the clear winner when you look at market share gain in the past two years. Most Ghacks visitors run various versions of Chrome 12 and 11. Older versions are still being used, Chrome 10 for instance has a market share of nearly 2%.

Opera Mini:

Opera Mini had more connections in June 2011 than the desktop version of Opera. That’s an increase of nearly 2% over the past two years.

Google Chrome, at least here on Ghacks, managed to snag away market share from the Firefox web browser, and not Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Operating Systems

Windows was the most used operating system back in 2009, with a share of 88.62% of all visits, followed my Apple Macintosh systems with 5.60% and Linux with 4.89%.

The situation has not changed by a lot in two year’s time. Windows is still the most used OS with a share of 84.93%, followed by Macintosh with 4.17% and Linux with 3.66%. Android is having nearly double the visit rate of the iPhone, with 1.41% to 0.77%. This is followed by SymbianOS with 0.76% and iPad with 0.72%.

Mobile use is increasing a lot, and it may be time to get a special theme for mobile users to improve their experience on site.

Windows:

Windows XP was the most used Windows operating system in June with a share of 46.51%, closely followed by Windows 7 with 42.88%. Vista came in third with a share of 9.90%. That’s a drop of 17% for XP in the last two years, and of almost 20% for Vista.

And there is apparently at least one user who is connecting to Ghacks with Windows ME.

Screen Resolution

The majority of Ghacks visitors operate a screen resolution of 1024×768 or more. When you look at individual resolutions you see 1024×768 at the top with a share of 20.59%, followed by 1366×768 with 13.85%, 1280×800 with 11.12% and 1280×1024 with 8.51%.

Screen resolutions have – surprisingly – changed only little when compared to two years ago. In 2009, 1024×768 was the most used resolution with 22%, followed by 1280×800 with 19.26% and 1280×1024 with 16.16%. Only the 1366×768 resolution was nowhere to be seen back then. It has become popular in recent years only, especially on notebook systems but also on the desktop.

Other tidbits

Almost 80% of all Ghacks visitors have Java enabled in their browser. That’s an impressive value, considering that it is likely that the majority does not need Java at all on the web.

The top five countries according to Google Analytics are:

  • United States
  • India
  • United Kingdom
  • Brazil
  • Canada

Most popular languages of the operating systems are:

  • en-us
  • en-gb
  • en
  • pt-br
  • fr

The top search engine is Google which refers 60.68% of all search engine visitors followed by Bing with 4.95% and Yahoo with 2.39%.

Anything else that’s missing that you would like to know, or something that you want to add? Let me know in the comments.

My Bank, Mastercard And My Annual Hosting Invoice

Have you ever tried to make a payment with your credit card that is a bit on the high side of things but still well within your limit? I do that once a year when I get my hosting invoice from Wiredtree. Well, to be precise, Wiredtree tries to charge the card directly. Still, it never works. This is the second year in a row where I get the information that payment could not be processed and that my hosting bill is overdue.

First thing I did last year was to check in on the site to verify that my credit card information are correct. Which they were, not a huge surprise considering that I have not used or changed the data in one year’s time. Next thing I try is to make a manual payment on the Wiredtree Grove website, with the same result.

I get the dreaded authorization failed error on the page. That’s bad, considering that delays in payment of the invoice could mean that the server Ghacks is running on could be taken offline by the company until a payment clears.

So what can I do? I call the Mastercard hotline in my country where I have to wait a good ten minutes or so before I have to go through a ridiculous authorization process (card number, name, birthday, address, three digits of the linked bank account number). I then get the following explanation (every year, actually more often as I sometimes buy expensive stuff on the Internet, have to call them all the time).

Mastercard has an automatic fraud detection system in place that blocks payments that break a pattern or look suspicious. My payment to the web hosting company Wiredtree is apparently looking like a fraudulent payment. The only possible explanation that I have for this is that it is a four-digit payment to a foreign country. The service agent offers to disable the fraud protection for the next 24 hours or 3 days so that I can make the payment.

I’m curious and want to know if there is a way to whitelist select companies, but that is apparently not possible. The system is also not capable of learning from past year’s payments. I mean, I pay the hoster once a year at the same time. Should not an automatic system be able to come to the conclusion that the payment is legit if it happened in past years as well?

I ask the agent about options. The only option for me to make sure that the automatic payment gets through is to call them a day earlier to remove the automatic fraud checking for three days from the account. That’s ridiculous, don’t you think? To make things worse, you have to pay for that call.

Have you ever had problems with your credit card and online payments? Let me know in the comments. Oh, and hosting for Ghacks is paid in full for a whole year, so no worries in this regard. Until next year, that is.

Ask The Readers: Mobile Access, Smartphone Coverage

With mobile access to Ghacks reaching new heights every month, I’d like to use this Ask The Readers post to get your opinion on a few things that I have been pondering about for a couple of months.

First issue that I would like to throw into the room is mobile access to Ghacks. There is currently no mobile version of Ghacks available. Mobile users access the same Ghacks site that desktop users access, which may be not the most appropriate version for them to view considering the differences in screen size and connection speed.

The first question that I have therefor is if you would like to see a version of Ghacks optimized for mobile devices such as iPhone or Android smartphones. Users who connect with those devices would benefit from faster page loading times and optimized layouts.

Are you accessing Ghacks sometimes from a mobile device? Let me know your thoughts about it please.

The second question that I have is about mobile coverage here on Ghacks. Roman recently send me an email which got me thinking that it would be nice to review great smartphone applications, tips, tricks and how-to guides as well as important phone updates.

I’m thinking of one article per day maximum to take into account the growing mobile niche. I was thinking of concentrating on iOS and Android coverage, but would like to get to know your opinion about it first. Do you think other phones or devices should be included in the coverage? Or would you want less coverage or no coverage at all here on Ghacks?

I’d also like to take the opportunity to ask writers who are passionate and knowledgeable in this field to come forward and apply for the job. Just leave a comment below and I will contact you. Please note that I need to take a look at a few sample articles.

Now it is your turn. Would you like to see a mobile version of Ghacks? And would you also like to see mobile coverage here on Ghacks?

Ghacks Turns Six Today, Lets Celebrate

When I first started the Ghacks Technology News blog back in October of 2005, I did not really have any expectations whatsoever. If it would be there after a year, that would be fine. If not, nothing was lost. I also did not really think about making money with the site, or even -gasp- quit my regular job to become a full time blogger. Well, everything changed when the site became popular.

In the beginning I worked two jobs, Ghacks and my regular one. This was a pretty hard time as I had to work before I went to work and after I went home on the site. I was lucky back then that I never experienced any serious down times when I was at work. I’d probably would have taken a sick day or day off then to be able to fix the site.

When the site started, it was all about a tool that a friend of mine had created to make advanced Google searches from the program. It was very handy at that time, but it somehow got dropped along the way. That’s actually where the name Ghacks comes from, Google Hacks.

The day that changed it all was when the guide Using Google To find Movies made it on the homepage of the then popular service Digg. The site, only active for about a week, received tens of thousand of visitors from that exposure. I was lucky enough that I added Adsense some time before to the site. When I found out that the site made more than $100 on that day it made click and the idea was born to make this more than a hobby. Without that, Ghacks may have never become what it is today.

It has been six years now and Ghacks is still more or less a one-man show. Sure, I hired some authors to add different perspectives to the site, but it is me who administrates the site, watches over its financials and contributes to the site on a daily basis. It is a full-time job. Surprisingly though I’m still motivated and do not have that nagging feeling that I do not want to “go” to work because work sucks. I love it.

Now that the site has turned six, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for being a visitor, reader, guest, contributor or whatever it is you are to the site. Without your help, Ghacks would not be where it was today, and more importantly, I would still work my 9 to 5 job.

To celebrate the event, I’d like to provide you with the opportunity to win one of ten Ghacks t-shirts. You can take a look at both available shirt designs here:

The shirts are of high quality. I still have the first shirts I ordered a few years ago when I started offering merchandise.

All you need to do to win a shirt is to comment here on this thread, or mention the birthday on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or any other site on the Internet (that you are allowed to post on and where it is appropriate).

I pick the winners and contact them asking for their shipping address, t-shirt they want and size. Please note that some black shirt sizes are currently out of stock. It may take some time before they become available again. Good luck everyone.

Update: The winners of the shirts have been notified by email, they are: Paul(us), Ivan K., JFP, JimT, Tinwheeler, Kalmly, Mouser, Midnight, Johan Gustavsson and Matias.

Thanks to everyone for all the great wishes and praise, that was really nice for a change 😉

Win a Windows 7 Tablet, Microsoft Press Books + a secret gHacks bonus Prize!

I’m running a competition on my Facebook page at the moment to win a selection of Microsoft Press books and a fantastic Acer Iconia Tab W500 Windows 7 Tablet, which I can assure you is seriously quick!  The competition runs for six weeks and has some fantastic prizes.  Plus, if any winner says they’re from gHacks there’s a secret bonus prize!

Each week will see different prizes with a grand prize in the final week. The prize breakdown and dates for the competition are as follows.

Week 1

Monday 17th October to Sunday 23rd October 2011 – Prizes 1 copy of “Windows 7 Plain Simple” and 1 signed copy of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” as a bundle for one winner.

Week 2

Monday 24th October to Sunday 30th October 2011 – Prizes 1 copy of “Windows 7 Step by Step” and 1 signed copy of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” as a bundle for one winner.

Week 3

Monday 31st October to Sunday 6th November 2011 – Prizes 1 copy of “HTML5 Step by Step” and 1 signed copy of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” as a bundle for one winner.

Week 4

Monday 7th November to Sunday 13th November 2011 – Prizes 1 signed copy of “The Windows 7 Power Users Guide” and 1 signed copy of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” as a bundle for one winner.

Week 5

Monday 14th November to Sunday 20th November 2011 – Prizes 1 copy of “The Windows 7 Resource Kit“, 1 copy of “Windows 7 Inside Out Deluxe Edition” and 1 signed copy of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” as a bundle for one winner.

Week 6

Monday 21st November to Sunday 27th November 2011 – Prizes 1 Acer Iconia Tab W500 Windows 7 Tablet with a 10.1 inch multi-touch screen, 2GB memory, 32Gb SSD, 2 in 1 card reader, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3, 1.3MP built-in webcam, Windows 7 Home Premiun 32-bit and Office 2010 Starter Edition preloaded. 1 copy of “Windows 7 Inside Out Deluxe Edition” and 1 signed copy of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” as a bundle for one winner.

Entry Rules

  • People following Mike Halsey MVP on Facebook may enter this competiton a maximum amount of once per week, duplicate entries will not be counted.
  • Competiton questions will be posted once on the wall of Mike Halsey MVP each Monday throughout weeks 1 to 5.
  • Entries can be accepted from people worldwide.
  • All entries MUST contain the full name, postal address and contact telephone number (required by some couriers) of the participant. Entries submitted without this information will not be counted. This information will be deleted at the end of the competition and will not be shared with third-parties.
  • All participants must be 16 years or older to comply with competition rules in some countries.
  • All participants must be able to receive packages via standard postal mail or by courier.
  • People may only win one of the weekly prizes (weeks 1 to 5) and the grand prize maximum. People cannot win two weekly prizes.
  • People who have won a weekly prize may still enter following weeks to increase their chances of winning the grand prize, though their entry will not be counted in the week they enter.
  • Each week’s competition will be slightly different to reflect the prizes on offer and may include open and multiple-choice questions and tip suggestions
  • Each person must submit a tie-break tip each week on the subject provided, this subject will change each week.
  • Entries must be emailed to mike@MVPs.org with the subject Competition during the weeky period of the competition, as stated above. NOTE: If this email address repeatedly fails (which it does sometimes) try mike_dot_halsey_at_live_dot_co_dot_uk
  • Lost, late or undelivered entries cannot be counted.
  • The winner of the grand prize will be selected from the best tie-break tip over the full course of the competition. There will be no separate way to enter during week 6.
  • Winners will be notified by email within 6 days of the end of each week’s competition and will be required to accept their win within a calendar week. Any person who is non-contactable by email, or who does not accept their prize within the time permitted will forfeit their prize, which will be reallocated to a new winner.
  • Prizes will be sent by a variety of methods including regular mail. No replacement prizes can be sent for any items lost or damaged in transit and no cash alternative will be available.
  • Delivery of prizes can take 6 to 8 weeks depending on the location of the winner and the delivery method used.
  • The winner will be chosen by Mike Halsey and judged on the quality of the answers given and their tie-break suggestion. Mike Halsey’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Entry to this competition constitutes acceptance of these terms and conditions.

Comments, Please

Recently I asked myself a question: How come that some blogs, like Lifehacker, ZDnet and other technology blogs get dozens of comments per post, while comments on other sites that I hold even dearer are close to zero.

Some articles here on Ghacks for instance receive dozens of comments. A lot of the giveaway (which is totally understandable) but also articles that are of interest to many readers (Windows Firewall Notifier is a recent example). Other articles here receive one, two or maybe even no comment at all. The same is true for sites like Addictive Tips and even Freeware Genius.

I’d like to discuss why it is like it is. Why are so many users commenting on company backed websites and less users on others? Is that a numbers game? Do those sites receive more visitors which then results in more comments? Or has it something to do with “trusting” those companies?

While the majority of blogs that get lots of user comments and interaction are company based, there are others run by individuals like the German tech site Caschy’s Blog with ten, twenty and even more comments per article.

I’d like to get there, get more users involved here on Ghacks. I can think of a few reasons why Ghacks receives less user comments than other sites. It could be that the process is to complicated (which I personally doubt since it does not require registration to comment), that my articles are to boring, or that they “say it all” and leave little to discuss. Could also be the public perception or “image” of the site or that Ghacks visitors are more the passive type.

I’d like to start this discussion to get a better understanding of the reasons. Is there anything that I can change on site that would entice you to comment more often? Or is it something that is completely out of my control?

I’m a Desktop, What are you?

I’m becoming increasingly confused by the whole computing market with all manner of new and, relatively, affordable form factors coming to market.  There was a day not that long ago when you had a choice, Desktop PC or Laptop, indeed even laptops were commonly out of the reach of most people and it’s only relatively recently that they’ve become affordable.

Now however we have more types of computing devices than it’s possible to shake a stick at, and one thing is becoming clear, the good old desktop PC is becoming sidelined.  I wanted to ask you all, which is quite ironic given Martin’s post of earlier today, what your opinion is of these devices and what you think of them generally.

The main computing devices we now have include desktops, all-in-ones, desktop replacement laptops, everyday laptops, ultraportables, convertible tablets and traditional tablets.  In fact it’s possible within all these types not just to get what is probably the perfect form-factor for you, but also something that fits perfectly with the aesthetics of where it will go.

To kick off the discussion I’ll start with my own thoughts on my home and home office.  I have a desk in my living room with a desktop PC on it, as many of you will have too.  It is my aim to replace this with an all-in-one PC before too long.  The barrier here for me is that my desktop has a graphics card with the grunt to properly run modern games like Battlefield 3 and all-in-ones often compromise on gaming ability.  I also have a laptop, a desktop replacement Dell which I use for work in my home office upstairs.  This is a big, heavy machine and hardly portable.  It does offer me the storage and power to be a true desktop replacement however in every sense of the word, rather than some of the weedier desktop replacement machines that really don’t offer a viable alternative for you.

I also own two tablets, a Windows 7 ExoPC and an HP TouchPad.  The ExoPC is now used only for work and presentations and the TouchPad is for lounging about on the sofa occasionally when I’m tired.

I have had a couple of Samsung ultraportables on test though, and I’m very happy with the form factor.  These new breed of ultraportables, pioneered by the Macbook Air, are sexy enough to suit the modern living room while small and light enough not to get in the way.  This is important for a laptop as I doubt many people really want a big grey block in front of them when they’re watching the evening news.

If I had to pick one though it still comes back to the traditional desktop for me as this is the only form factor that really offers me the flexibility I need in terms of hardware and storage.  Much as I want to banish the desktop from my living room forever, I just don’t feel that all-in-ones are there yet in terms of true power and flexibility.

So what’s your preference?  Are you a desktop person or a laptop guy?  Do you prefer all-in-ones and why?  Do you have an ultraportable, or do you want one to replace what you have?  Have you indeed banished your computer upstairs forever and it’s tablet all the way in your main living space?

In short, what is your perfect computing device and why is that?

Are the Patent Wars now a barrier to Technological Innovation?

If you look around the world at the moment you will see anti-capitalist demonstrations everywhere.  Here in the UK, the historic St Paul’s Cathedral in London, which was built in 1677 and was the wedding venue for Diana, Princess of Wales is currently closed for the first time since the second world war because of protesters.  Now primarily these people are protesting against the big banks and finance companies and the fact that 40% of the world’s wealth is owned by the top 1% of earners.

I wanted to get a debate going here though on capitalism in technology, with particular reference to the ongoing patent wars.  First some background.  Technology companies are different from other big business in that they were generally started by visionary people, like Steve Jobs and Clive Sinclair, who wanted to change the world for the better.  These people wanted to open up access to technology for everybody and largely they’ve done that.  This means that the entire basis for the big modern technology companies hasn’t been money and greed, it’s been helping people gain access to new opportunities.  This is something that sets technology companies apart from almost all of the rest of big business.

However the patent wars are getting in the way.  No better is this highlighted than with the ongoing battles between Apple and Samsung, with the cupertino giant trying to ban, worldwide, sales of any Samsung product that looks remotely like an iPhone or iPad.  These lawsuits, which cost money and therefore push up prices, also have the effect of limiting consumer choice.  The best thing about the modern computing market that we have now is that there is more choice than ever before.  There are more computing devices than ever before, more form-factors and more styles and colours than ever before.

Now it has emerged that some Windows 8 Metro app developers are concerned they may be targeted by a company called Lodsys for patent infringement of in-app billing.  The patent wars have now got to such an extreme state where small, independent software houses now have to worry about it.

These patents are a big problem now because there are so many of them out there, all being owned or traded by multinationals, and there’s no way to be sure that what you do hasn’t already been patented by someone else.   However, when you are creating a smartphone, a tablet or even an app, there are only so many ways to make it look, what size it will be or how certain features operate.  When you take into account operating systems like iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8 though that are trying to encourage app developers to make apps that look and operate in the same way the situation can only get worse.

Personally, I believe the the patent wars have now gone too far and the big players involved need to back off, stop focusing on the money and allow the innovation not only that people want, but that we all genuinely need.  This can only create more competition, drive down prices and open technology up to more people, the way people like Steve Jobs originally intended for things to be.  If we really want to create access to technology, access to the Internet and access to new opportunities, especially for the developing countries, we need to take this focus away from money now and go back to basics.

I’m very curious what your comments are about this as I feel you’re all either going to agree strongly or you’ll be completely polarised on the issue.  Please leave your comments below, it’s free, it’s open and anybody can take part  😉

The technology that still has to improve in 2012

If you look around at what technology has brought us in 2011 it’s been a truly momentous year.  The iPad 2, new exciting Android tablets with the proper tablet version of the OS, Windows 8, the HP TouchPad with WebOS, Windows Phone ‘Mango’, Ultrabooks, cameras with GPS, multi-touch in laptops, new super-efficient Intel and AMD processors and more.  These have all either been announced or released this year.  In short technology is moving ahead at a pace faster than ever before and amazingly the prices do seem to be tumbling.

This is all great news but there are still some technologies that have got to change in 2012 and they need to do this very quickly or else the technology we use will move so far ahead of them that innovation itself will begin to suffer.  Those technologies are all concerned with the Internet itself or with Internet communications.

Let’s start with the ADSL or DSL broadband lines coming into our homes and offices.  Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a country such as Sweden which already enjoys 50Mb/sec lines or faster you’ll be lucky to get a stable connection on a tenth of that.  Indeed the old 2 miles from the telephone exchange line is wearing thin with many but telecoms companies and governments simply aren’t doing enough to rectify the problem.  Here in the UK we think that people who live in countryside villages and who still have to use dial up or get a 512k/sec broadband line have a bad deal.  In some countries where the distances are far further such as the USA, Canada and Australia the problems are 100 times worse.

It’s a similar story with mobile networks.  The USA was late to the 3G game but has forged ahead with 4G connections.  Many other countries however are still several years away from moving to 4G, but which time it’ll be time to move onto something else in all probability.  The mobile networks also need to sort out the mess that is unlimited data plans and manage their networks in such a way as to allow people to use mobile broadband properly.  The pricing for mobile broadband also has to drop by at least 50% next year.  There’s already more than enough money to be made and many people, especially those in isolated areas would love to move away from an ADSL line and onto a SIM contract.  At the moment though it’s still far too expensive to do this.

Many people think that a universal wireless solution like a full roll-out of 4G or WiMax will solve the problem and make traditional broadband lines obsolete.  Telecommunications companies need to protect their bottom lines however and, as such, a lot of innovation is being stifled for reasons of profit and share prices.

When we actually are able to get online though using our sexy new devices we find that the web is still looking as old and outdated as it was in 2003.  Back then we didn’t have the preponderance of smartphones, tablets and touch-screen PCs that we do now.  Even next year’s iMacs are rumoured to be multi-touch but almost none of the world’s largest websites have moved to a touch-friendly design yet.  I did this with my own website last month and firmly believe it’s absolutely essential.  Some companies are making a move in this direction with the BBC launching a part-touch-friendly website recently but the new YouTube redesign is traditional menus and mouse control only.

It’s one thing having new interfaces and new form factors that enable us to use the web in new and exciting ways, and new operating systems that are designed primarily around touch.  If we can’t get good, quick and stable connections to the web though, or properly and effectively use the websites we visit when we get there all this technology is going to waste.  Here’s hoping that 2012 brings us much more than just a move to IPv6 and some 4G radio spectrum auctions.  What technologies do you think really need to change in 2012 and do you agree with me here?  Why not tell us in the comments.

What’s in the 2012 MVP Award Pack

I was pretty delighted when my Microsoft MVP was reawarded on the 1st of January for a second year.  Microsoft award their “Most Valuable Professional” award each year to around 4,000 individuals covering almost all of their product lines.  In a statement on their website they say…

We seek to recognize the best and brightest from technology communities around the world with the Microsoft® Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award.  These exceptional community leaders come from a wide range of backgrounds. They are teachers, artists, doctors, engineers, as well as technologists, who actively share their high-quality, real-world technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft.  With the MVP Award, we thank these inspiring individuals for representing the voice of thousands in the community through the powerful and independent feedback they give us, and for helping our customers maximize the potential of their software.

Getting an MVP is pretty cool and my renewal came as a big though very welcome surprise and does come with some tangible benefits (software mostly) and access to product groups within Microsoft to feed back comments and ideas, and find out what’s up and coming with their products in the coming months.

I received my award pack yesterday and I thought you might be interested to see the physical goodies that Microsoft give awardees.  They include a lovely glass trophy which you get in your first year with a small lug with the year written on it.  In successive years they just send you more lugs.  These include blue 5 year lugs for long-time awardees (some have been MVPs for as long as 17 years!).  Also in the pack you get a Microsoft ID card for when you visit company sites, a metal lapel badge, a framed certificate and this year, which seems a little out of place, a set of MVP stickers.

In fact I’ve been challenging people to come up with the most imaginative use for the MVP stickers and I’m offering a small prize for the best suggestions (why not give your suggestion in the comments below) and ones so far have included being stuck to a car dashboard so the traffic police in the Microsoft car parks don’t give you a ticket, marking your coat hook at work or covering the glowing Apple logo on a Macbook (alas they’re not quite large enough for this).  For now I’ve settled with one on my laptop lid.

I was renewed in part because of my writing here at gHacks and our sister site Windows7News and I’d like to thank all of you for your support this last year.  2012 is going to be great as I have at least two Windows 8 books coming out  🙂

Despite the MVP renewal I will continue to call out Microsoft whenever they get something wrong and, in all honesty, I’m considering buying my first Mac this year too!  Photos of the 2012 MVP award pack are below along with the use I put at least one sticker to.