Thursday, November 27, 2014

Help! I have a Virus!

I get this question a lot.  I wanted to write something up on how you can self heal your Windows 8 PC (although most of this also works for Windows 7), or at least get you started in the right direction. Let’s dive right into figure out what’s going on.  Let’s quickly talk about what a “virus” is:

  • A virus is actually software that is harmful to you or others running on your computer.  Something that erases or corrupts files or potentially participates in international denial of service attacks at an attackers whim.  These are terrible, and programs like Windows Defender, built right into Windows, if updated, will protect you against any of these.
  • Spyware is software that tends to steal from you, capture credit card information, your password etc, also bad, and again Windows Defender will capture most of these, but not all
  • Bloatware is software that that is trying to help you do something, but something you probably don’t need.  There are two types of Bloatware
    • Non signature PCs come with extra software your computer provider installs in hopes to make extra money from software vendors who want to get their software in front of users, so they pay the computer provider. (as a side note this is why I always format and re-install these computers, if you have the technical know how)
    • Software you install.  Yes, getting emoji’s at the bottom of your email, or the “music downloading app”, the list goes on.  All the little programs YOU install on your computer, some of them are bloatware, and some of them come with bloatware.

So let’s get to fixin’ that “virus”.

Step 1 – Let’s make sure it’s not a known virus

First, let’s get Windows Defender up to date, and scanning. 

  1. Hit the start button on your keyboard, or swipe out the charm menu and hit start.
  2. just start typing “Defender” and you’ll see the “Windows Defender” appear.  Tap or Click on it to drop into the desktop and you’ll see this window:

 Windows Defender

This is what a healthy PC looks like.  If your PC is unhealthy, it’ll tell you on screen what you should do.  Which is most likely download the most recent updates, and then scan your PC.  It’ll quarantine/delete any files it detects that are a virus.  Easy Huh?  You don’t need any other Anti-virus program, as Windows Defender does it all.  If someone says you need something like McAfee, Symantec, or a paid Antivirus solution, you don’t.  Those applications provide additional security, but the base prevention of viruses is included with Windows 8.

IMPORTANT WINDOWS 7 NOTE: if you’re on Windows 7, then Windows Defender doesn’t do anti-virus, you’ll need to get Microsoft Security Essentials, which is a free download. Same comment on the other antivirus solutions, they aren’t necessary and cost money for features you most likely won’t use.

Step 2 – What the heck is running on that PC of yours?

Computers only have so much memory, probably barely any if you bought your computer for under $1000, and you want to keep the programs running down to the ones you need not the ones that have just decided you need them.  While there is probably a number of things running on your computer at this very moment, what you want to prevent is things from starting that you won’t use.  Here is how

  1. Let’s crack open the Task Manager, the fast keys are CTRL+SHIFT+ESC, or you can right-click on the task bar in the desktop and choose Task Manager.
  2. Flip over to the Startup tab.  Here is what you see:

Task Manager

As you can see, I have a pretty short list.  I’ve disabled what I don’t use EVERY time I reboot my computer.  Chrome, my browser does a tone of things for me, so I allow it to load in the background, I obviously want sound, so I leave my Realtek device enabled.  I print, so I leave the HP one enabled, but I use iTunes or my life experience camera, or send to one note, or Spotify only sometimes, or not at all.  I want to load those manually if I need them, so they are disabled.  Disabling things that are of high startup impact will make your computer boot faster.

Next, let’s trim some fat.  Out with the programs you don’t need!

  1. Hit the Start page up again with the start key, or the swipe for the charms, and then the start button
  2. On the start page, type in the word control, and you’ll see the Control Panel come up
  3. Launch that by taping or clicking on it, and you’ll end up in the Control Panel on the desktop
  4. Under Programs, click the Uninstall a program link, it should look like this:

 Control Panel - Programs and Features

This is where the fun begins, you want to go through program by program, and uninstall the ones you don’t use using the highlighted Un-install button.  You’ll find that some have unnecessarily hard un-install programs, these are probably the bloatware programs you’re loathing.  I often do a Google Search for “How to Uninstall %insert program name%” and then see what the internet says.  Ultimately you want to un-install anything that you’re not using. After this step you’ll likely have to reboot your computer, when it comes up, it’ll probably already be running faster.

This next step is not for the layman.  In fact, you can SERIOUSLY mess up your computer in this step, so skip it if you don’t feel comfortable, or better yet, take a screenshot and send it to someone you trust (yes family, you can send it to me).

Let’s get into the registry

  1. On the start menu type in RegEdit or press WIN+R and type Regedit.
  2. Agree to the access prompt allowing the app to open
  3. we’re going to need to navigate to two places here to see what’s else is loading
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

You’ll want to take a screenshot of each of these locations and send them to your trusted advisor.  Here is what the second one looks like for me:

Registry Editor

You will see a similar list (probably more technical) to the Task Manager above.  If you do wish to edit this.  You delete the ones you don’t want BUT BUT BUT!!!! make sure you export the key first as a backup, and know which ones you’re deleting and why.  The above are actually my audio drivers, so I want them to run, but they look uber geeky right?  So be careful here!

Step 3 – Browser Extensions

Many of the “Help I have a Virus!” emails I get always have screenshots of browsers, and said browser is saying stuff like “you’re internet is slow, you have a virus, run this program!”.  Please please please don’t run this program.  Anything windows *should* run, is already running for you.  My friends at Microsoft have done this for you. They don’t tell you what you should run, it’s just running!  So don’t run anything, or pay any money to run something.  A browser should open take you to your home page, and let you get on the Internet.  The browser isn’t going to tell you about the health of your computer, or want to collect money from you.  Let’s look at two browsers

Chrome

Let’s find the browser extensions and remove what we don’t need, unless you just installed it, then there aren’t any to worry about.

  1. Open Chrome and click on the three lines in the top right hand corner of the window
  2. click on Settings, then on the left hand side, click on Extensions.

You’re presented with a list of all the extensions.  Go through one by one and hit the trashcan to delete any you don’t use.  If you aren’t sure what one does, uncheck the Enable, and then close Chrome and open it and see if there are any differences. If there aren’t, chances are you want to delete that one anyways, so go back and delete it.

Internet Explorer

Let’s get killin’ extensions

  1. Click on the gear icon in the upper right of the browser window (under the “X” to close IE)
  2. Click on Manage Add-ons and you’ll see this:

IE Manage Add-ons

Now go through all the Toolbars and Extensions, and disable the ones you don’t use.  Also check out the Accelerators and remove the ones you don’t use as well.

When you’re done these, close the browser and re-open it. 

Step 4 – Getting more insight

Last but not least, I wanted to tell you a tool that gives you more insight on the stability/reliability of your computer.  It tells you when you did things, like install apps that cause problems.  It’s the Reliability Monitor.  Let’s open it up

  1. Get to the start page (press the start key, or use the start button on the charm fly-out)
  2. Type in the word Reliability, and select the Reliability Monitor.   You’ll end up back in the desktop seeing this page:

Reliability Monitor

You can click on each yellow warning triangle, or blue informational icon and see what happened on that day. The blue bar (across the very top of the graph at #10 for me) is your reliability monitor.  That bar may not be at the top for you, but you can follow that bar back in time to see when it dropped from a 10/10 score to a lower one, and you can see the event that took place.  My guess it’s the one day that you decided to install something because you were in a rush, and you picked a bad program.  It gives you more insight to what’s going on with your computer, and what the history was and why things are probably broken.

Anyways, if you’re a family member, and ask me to connect into your computer to fix your virus. These are the steps that I’m going to follow, so now you can too!

On a last note, I’m always told “oh, aren’t you going to defrag my hard drive?”.  Defragging is so 2008… with Windows 8 this happens automatically for you, but you can validate it’s enabled simply by

  1. Going to the start page
  2. Typing in defrag, and selecting the Defragment and Optimize your drives

Optimize Drives

Just click the Optimize button, or see when it was last run.  Note that the older “hard drives” need defragmenting, and the newer and faster SSDs need trimming.  Totally different technology, but Windows will handle both for you.

Good luck with your “virus”… and stop installing programs that you don’t need with bloatware!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes …

Old Blog StyleI started this blog back in 2003.  I remember clearly asking permission to start an official “Small Business Server” blog to get information out to our community and my lead when I worked on the Small Business Server team thought it would take too much of my time.  I disagreed and started this blog anyways.  A lot has changed since then.

Many editions of Small Business Server and Home Server have shipped since that day, and the information on doing custom configuration to your server has grown on this site.  It’s not going anywhere, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about the future!

After my SBS/WHS time was over, I decided to go work on Pinpoint (which has finally received some much needed updates thanks to some great friends and past co-workers!), but it was at this point in my career that I also decided to work remotely from Victoria, BC.  Working remotely has it’s pros and cons, one of the cons is that you don’t have much say what you work on.  As a result, I bounced around the Commerce Division, after Pinpoint was merged into it.  I learned a lot, met some awesome people, but got away from what inspired me about building software.  Getting to know my customer, getting to see UI and great experiences come to life and delight an end user.  Time for a change.

As of this summer I work for MetaLab, we build interfaces.  Actually, what we do is build a LOT of things.  We build iOS apps, from the ground up, we build robust services, we build websites, and most of all, we do it directly for customers.  We think about UI, we stress the P3 fit and finish bugs, and we design cool stuff that delights the end user.

Which brings me back to my blog.  The design needed a face lift to make it more interesting.  I wanted to talk weave technology and my creative side a little more.  All these photos you see on this blog are ones that I’ve taken, and ones that I’m proud of. So you’ll continue to see photos on here, you’ll continue to see the same old content on here, and you’ll still see new technical content, but the scope is larger.  I have my first MacBook now, I’m using Google Apps now, I use Slack.

Times are changin’… my theme is different, my posting scope is broader…

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quickly Archiving Mail with Outlook 2013 when using Outlook.com

Third post in a series of posts on how to single-click (or swipe/tap) to Archive mail when using Outlook.com.  The first covered how to swipe-tap to archive in iOS 8, and the second covered on how to set up an Instant Action to mouse over and click to Archive a mail on the web client. 

This post covers the most famous email client of them all: Outlook.  And most specifically Outlook 2013.  As mentioned in the first post, the pre-setup for this one is to create a folder called Archive in your mailbox. I covered how to do this this in the iOS8 post.

With Outlook 2013, there is a Quick Steps box.  You’ve probably never noticed it, it’s at the top, on the ribbon.  Well, it’s a set of customizable actions, where the Outlook team has taken the liberty of defining ones for you, mostly destined for business.  If this is the first time you’ve used these, take a look around, they are really powerful. Even on a personal account.  For example, I have one called “To Wife” which just forwards the email to my wife.  I do this a lot when I get an email on something that she should know, but I digress.  Here is what my personal account looks like:

Quick Steps

Here’s how to set up the Archive one Quick Step

  1. Click on the Create New button in the Quick Steps box (you may have to scroll down using the arrows to see it), it’s depicted above.
  2. Fill out the Quick Step, with your Name, and any number of actions you want to happen, it’s like a mail macro!  This is how mine is set up.  You can also assign a short cut key if you’re a keyboard kowboy. Edit Quick Step
  3. Click on Finish.

You’re Quick Step is ready to use.  Simply select the email you want to Archive and hit the new Archive Quick Step button, and the mail gets marked as read, and placed into your Archive folder.

Related Posts

Quickly Archiving Mail from the Outlook.com Web Client

In a previous post, I talked about how to quickly archive email in Outlook.com from the iOS 8 mail client. Similar to what you do with GMail, but of course we all don’t do our mail on our phones, we use computers as well! 
In this post I’ll tell you how to configure an Instant Action to do the same thing.  If you haven’t followed that post, then you are missing the pre-step to this one, which is to create a new folder called “Archive” (the name is key for iOS, not for the web client).  So do that first, then jump into these steps!
  1. First, log into your Outlook.com email account
  2. Click on the Settings gear (Settings Gear) in the top right hand corner of the page and select Options.
  3. On the Options page, under Customizing Outlook.com, you want to click on Instant Actions, in which you should see this Instant Actions
  4. Click on Add actions and then select Move To, and you’ll notice a Move To item show up in the list “Show on mouse over”
  5. In the right hand pane, choose to move a message to the “Archive” folder that you created, give it a coloured icon, and you can also choose to mark it as read if you want.  You can see how i might look in the preview (and how my preview looks above).  If you don’t like it the ordering, you can use Move Up and Move Down to order the list how you want.
That’s all there is to it.  Now when you mouse over the message in the message list, you get the Instant Actions to appear, and the Archiving icon you just created will single click it to the right folder.  Here is what mine looks like on the web:
Move this Message to Archive and mark it as read
Related Posts

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Quickly Archiving Mail in iOS8 when using Outlook.com

One of my frustrations with Outlook.com, which isn’t configurable is how long it keeps deleted items for: 2 weeks.  That’s it.  2 weeks.  I for one want to have more time than 2 weeks to decide if I have to recover something from my deleted items.  And Outlook.com boasts unlimited storage now, or at least a lot of storage, to compete… so why not Archive email instead of delete it?
My workflow has changed.  Mail from computers, like Air Miles, or ZDNet or Marriott Rewards, after I’ve digested them, the deleted items is a perfect place for them.  But email from friends, family, co-workers, or even receipts and orders that I’ve done.  That mail just gets archived.. searchable.  The challenge I’ve been having is it’s hard to archive email, versus delete it.  I mean every app gives you a delete button, but not all apps give you archive, especially if you aren’t using GMail.
So, here is what I discovered on iOS 8 in order to Archive email on Outlook.com.
  1. Create a folder in your Outlook.com email address called “Archive”, this folder name is important, because iOS8 recognizes it.  In fact, now if you look at your folder list, it will look something like this.  Note the icon next to your Archive folder: Archive Folder Icon
  2. Now that iOS has recognized you have a folder to Archive email to, let’s make it super easy to add mail to it.  While you could just move mail to this folder like any other folder, iOS8 has a “swipe right” in the mail list that you can customize!  So to do that go into Settings, then Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and then Swipe Options.  From here you can simply click on Swipe Right, and choose the action of Archive, thus enabling you to swipe right and Archive that particular message or conversation grouping, and you're ready!: Change Swipe Right to Archive
That’s all there is to it.  Now when you are in your email message list, and you swipe right, you can simply Archive the message into the folder you created.  Check it out:
Swipe and Archive
Related Posts

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Efficiently Using Multiple Browsers (with a single key press)

Maybe I’m weird, or maybe my job has more requirements than others, but I use Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer interchangeably.  I know web developers have this problem, perhaps they’ve already worked out a work flow, but I wasn’t able to find one.  Ultimately for things that are work related, I want to open those in Internet Explorer, and personal browsing, I want to use Google Chrome.  While we all have our reasons for using one browser over another (I have mine), if you want to use both, there was no really good way…

So I had a friend teach me how to write my own browser

Ok, ok, I didn’t technically write my own browser, that would take a lot of work, but what I did do is build a Browser Proxy.  The Browser Proxy is the default Browser on my PC, and all it does, is validate if a key is pressed (“Left Shift” to be exact) and either launch IE or Chrome based on that key.  This means for me now, “Click” is to open in IE and “Shift+Click” is to open in Chrome!

Here’s how I did it
First, you need AutoHotKey, which I’ve written about before.  You can use it have an always-on scripting engine running to help you control Windows, or to create scripts and turn them in executable, which is what we’re going to do here.  So get that installed on your PC.
Second, Choose your actual “Default Browser” in Windows.  I made Internet Explorer default because people send me work related links in Lync, Email, and they are scattered all through documents and such, so it makes sense to make IE default for me.  This means that without the SHIFT key down, IE will be used.
Third, we need to create what I call “Browser Proxy” executable, This is going to be a bit more complicated, to get you started, My friend and I have created the browser .ahk file (AutoHotKey script) and installer .reg file (think of this as associations for your application so Windows can find it).  Download the package here, (virus scan it, because you should virus scan any weird .zip file you download from the Internet), and then unzip it.  You’ll find 3 files, one of which is a readme and you can figure that out.
Crack open the BrowserProxy.ahk in Notepad or your favorite editor, it looks like this:
GetKeyState,State,LShift
IfEqual,State,U
{
    ; Shift Key up -- launch IE
    Run,"C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -nohome "%1%"
}
Else
{
    ; Shift Key down -- launch Chrome
    Run,"C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" "%1%"
}
Validate the paths for both Internet Explorer and Chrome. Change the paths as appropriate.  You can also chose to use a different key, like if you wanted the Left CONTROL button to be the key you use, change the “LShift” in bold above to “LControl”.  In fact you can choose whatever key you want (here is the list).
Once you’ve got the script validated, save it and then since you now have AutoHotKey installed, you right click on the script and choose Compile Script.
Compile Script
This produces a BrowserProxy.exe in the same directory. I copied this to "C:\Program Files (x86)\BrowserProxy\BrowserProxy.exe" (and agreed to the UAC prompt). You can put this anywhere, but more updates will be required in the .reg file which we’re going to use next.
Now we need to import the BrowserProxy.reg file into your system registry.  Please do feel free to open it in Notepad before importing it (you should always be aware of what you’re putting into your registry), but it does 3 important things
  1. Define the BrowserProxy.exe application under the SOFTWARE section of the registry
  2. Registers that application
  3. Sets up the root classes that the application can handle
If you changed the path of where you put BrowserProxy.exe, you’ll need to update that as well, and mind that you keep double \\ when you put the path in.
Now that your own “Browser” is ready, you need to make it default.  This is how I did it on Windows 8.1
  1. Open the Desktop Control panel (Win+R, type “control”, and click OK)
  2. Click on Programs
  3. select under Default Programs click on Make a file type always open a specific program.
  4. In this dialog, we need to change the default to “Browser Proxy” for “.htm”, “.html”, “.shtml”, “.xht”, “.xhtml”, “FTP”, “HTTP” and “HTTPS”.  Select the item in the list and click on Change program… then select BrowserProxy.exeChange Associations
Once you have configured all 8 defaults, you should be able to immediately start using a CLICK to open in IE and SHIFT+CLICK to open in Chrome!!
Note: Some applications may cache the default browser, in which case they would need to be restarted (My offender: Outlook).  Now you can use two browsers easily without having to do the usual tricks of copying URLs between browser windows, or manually setting default browsers constantly.
Final note: If you are looking for a way to launch Firefox, try changing the launch EXE in the .ahk script to:
{
    ; Shift Key down -- launch FireFox
    Run,"C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -requestPending -osint -url "%1%"
}
For Reference here is the contents of the .reg file:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE]
@="BrowserProxy"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\Capabilities]
"ApplicationDescription"="Browser Proxy Application, enables you to switch between IE or Chrome simply by pressing SHIFT when you click"
"ApplicationName"="BrowserProxy"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\Capabilities\FileAssociations]
".htm"="BrowserProxyHTML"
".html"="BrowserProxyHTML"
".shtml"="BrowserProxyHTML"
".xht"="BrowserProxyHTML"
".xhtml"="BrowserProxyHTML"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\Capabilities\StartMenu]
"StartMenuInternet"="BrowserProxy.EXE"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\Capabilities\URLAssociations]
"ftp"="BrowserProxyHTML"
"http"="BrowserProxyHTML"
"https"="BrowserProxyHTML"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\DefaultIcon]
@="C:\\Program Files (x86)\\BrowserProxy\\BrowserProxy.exe,0"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\shell]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\shell\open]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\BrowserProxy.EXE\shell\open\command]
@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\BrowserProxy\\BrowserProxy.exe\""

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\RegisteredApplications]
"BrowserProxy"="Software\\Clients\\StartMenuInternet\\BrowserProxy.EXE\\Capabilities"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\BrowserProxyHTML]
@="Browser Proxy"
"FriendlyTypeName"="Browser Proxy"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\BrowserProxyHTML\DefaultIcon]
@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\BrowserProxy\\BrowserProxy.exe\",0"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\BrowserProxyHTML\shell]
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\BrowserProxyHTML\shell\open]
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\BrowserProxyHTML\shell\open\command]
@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\BrowserProxy\\BrowserProxy.exe\" \"%1\""

Monday, February 24, 2014

How to map your FourSquare data

I use FourSquare, not for the mayor-ships, or the points (although they are fun) but as a bit of history in my travels.  It’s easier to check in somewhere, then write it down the location and map it later.  My goal has always been to get some form of map with push pins in it.  Sure FourSquare provides a bit of history, but the map is SUPER tiny, and very hard to use

FourSquare activity - actual size

I’ve tried a bunch of solutions, usually provided by LifeHacker (one of my favourite websites), and they’ve all been just ok.  I think I’ve finally found a solution, that based on my check-in frequency, works for me.  LifeHacker posted a link to Billy Burle’s blog (follow BillyBurle here).  Billy had a blog post on How to Create a Heat Map of your FourSquare check-ins using Google Fusion Tables.  It’s quite frankly, awesome, but needed some adjustments.  I can get push-pins, or heat maps with this approach!  For example, here is my push-pin history for 2013:

Pushpin history

Or a Heat map of my travels to Seattle

Heat Map

Are you a map geek and want to do this?  So here is how…

Step 1: Obtain your check-in history from FourSquare

First you need to get your FourSquare check in history.  For this I browsed to my FourSquare Feeds, and got the URL for my KML feed.  It has a unique character set in it, because that’s your private feed.

Clicking the link will give you the last 50 or so check-ins.  what I did was right click on the link and say “Copy” url, pasted it into the address bar, then at the end of the URL I added the text “?count=1000” to get the last 1000 items (1000 is a key number in a lower step).  This will download a .kml file with the file name patching that crazy string character set in the URL.  I renamed mine to “Foursquare Data 2013”, just to make it easier to find.  Since I stored the .kml files for use if a better solution comes up down the road.

Step 2: Prepare the KML file to have only the years data

It’s pretty unlikely that you checked in exactly 1000 times in a given year, but in Step 1 we downloaded exactly 1000 historical check-ins.  So let’s make that exactly the year.  What I did (and I’m trying to figure out how to automated some of this) is to open the .kml file I downloaded in Notepad (I also turned on “word wrap”, since the file is one line, that’s 1000s of characters long).  I searched for “31 Dec” (or “30 Dec” or the last day you checked in on the previous year).  Then I scanned backwards in the file from that last check-in from the previous year until I found the “</Placemark><Placemark>”.  This is the end of the first check in of the current year, and the start of the last check in of the previous year.  I put my cursor between “><” characters and scrolled to the bottom of the document.  I then held shift and clicked between the “><” of the “</Placemark></Folder>”.  I then hit delete.  The end of the file should still look like “</Placemark></Folder></kml>”, but now everthing from the beginning of the document to the end of the document is exactly the current year you wish to display. 

The reason you need to do this, is because the Fusion Tables (at least as far as I can tell) have a hard coded limit of 1000 objects in them. So by limiting it to the year, I noticed in 2013, I had 783 check-ins, which is well under the 1000 limit.  But if I included 2010-2014 (my entire life of FourSquare check ins (obtained by adding to the URL: ?Count=10000”), I had 1723 check ins, and I was missing a bunch of data, hence my decision to break it up by year.  You may have to break it up further if you’re a FourSquare fanatic.

Step 3: Prepare Google Drive if you haven’t already

This was my first time using Google Drive, and as such, this is a one-time step I did for each year I imported.  I have OneDrive, where most of my online data is stored and I have a Home Server where my local data is stored, so I haven’t needed it. So I logged into my Google Drive account, and needed to add Fusion tables.  I clicked the down arrow on the settings gear ( Gear) and chose Manage Apps, then clicked on Connect more apps in the pop-up window.  In the search box I typed “fusion table”, and it was the only one I could install.  I installed it.  At the time of writing it is an experimental app…. which I figure is just typical of Google.  Is anything ever really out of Beta with them? ;o)

Step 4: Importing the data into a Fusion Table

This is where Billy Burle’s blog post really shines (I had to figure out all the above), and even helped in the comment section of Billy’s post with the data.  So here is the fun part

  1. Click on the Create Button
  2. Choose to create a new Fusion Table (experimental) Create / Fusion Table
  3. Choose to upload a file from your computer by clicking Choose File and select the file that you created and edited in step 1 and 2, then click Next Choose File
  4. On the import new table row, I just click Next again and leave the columns as is Column Headers
  5. On the final page, I give it a good friendly Table Name, and click Finish Import Finish

That’s it, now you have a new Fusion table.  Ready to see your check-in history?  Check out the Map of Geometry page, and now you can play around with the map, and choose the Feature Map (default) which is the push-pin view, or the Heatmap view:

Map of Geometry

Last but not least, if you ever want to revisit your data, just hit up your Google Drive and select the fusion table and it’s all saved there for you for that year.  So you can quickly pull it up at a map-tastic party.  What’s also awesome, is if you have a Windows 8.1 tablet (Like a Surface 2) then you can also just get the Windows Google Drive Client, and show it there instantly.  Works like it does on the web!

Enjoy and have fun with your data!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Backing up your Contacts from the Cloud

I can’t stress how important backing up is, I even have a special tag just for tips and tricks with backup, across various technology. 

So you might think, well, my contacts are *in* the cloud, so they are safe right?  Wrong!  If you don’t take backups into your own hands, you can have issues down the road, even with all the resiliency built into these Cloud services, you can loose data, here are just a few ways:

  • The Delete key could get stuck on your wireless keyboard and end up deleting a majority of your contacts in an instant, which then syncs to your service and then instantly to all your devices (this happens in my inbox all the time when my keyboard battery is low). (don’t have this? learn how to set it up here)
  • You could get hacked, be that @Matt or @N style, or simply by a script kiddy (you’ve enabled 2-factor authentication for your account already right? (Outlook.com, GMail.com)
  • You could get a virus that deletes, corrupts or worse (encrypts) your data so you can’t access it
  • You could cause yourself to get locked out of your account, maybe because you broke the Terms of Use?
  • The cloud service can make a mistake and delete your files (although it’s likely they can get it back, this is hours of support calls)

So, it’s in your best interest to do your own backup, and manage your data on your own, even in a cloud service.  I keep my Contacts in the cloud and I backup periodically (manually, but all the same, it’s periodically).  What would be great if these services did this monthly and emailed it to you…. a request in progress!

This is how I do it with Outlook.com

  • Browse on over to https://people.live.com and log in
  • On the title bar at the top, choose Manage and click on Export for use with Outlook.com and other services. People Export
  • This will prompt you to download (or automatically download) a file called OutlookContacts.csv. which is a coma separated values file that contains pretty much every important field that is in your contacts.  This is what you have to save in a safe place.

If you loose your contacts for whatever reason, you can use this file to work on importing them into another app or the same service but different account, etc.

This is how I do it with GMail.com

  • Browse on over to https://www.google.com/contacts/ and log in
  • On the More drop down, select Export… to start the process Contacts Export
  • Choose the best format that you want to export in.  I think that Outlook CSV is the most widely used format, but you may wish to export in all formats, or specific formats to meet your needs. Export Contacts
  • This will prompt you to download a contacts.csv (or automatically download it), and this is the file you want to keep safe. 

There are multiple ways to import these files if your data is lost… more on that to come, but at least you doing this if only once a year, will save you a lot of hassle if you run into trouble.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Checking your sign-in history in Outlook.com

Well, I thought I knew everything about Hotmail..err.. Outlook.com there was to know, but instead I was talking to a friend today who said that a month or so ago, someone tried to access his account from Chili. Wait, what?! how does he know this?

Your Microsoft Account stores all the successful and unsuccessful log in attempts in your profile for you to view at any time.  Simply browse over to https://account.live.com and log in, then click on Recent Activity.  You can scroll through each one if you want, or just scroll until you find an Incorrect Password Entered or a weird Location.  Like this one in my account:

Recent Activity

Wow, someone attempted to log in to my Outlook.com account from Poland, good thing I have 2-factor auth enabled.  So if they did have my password for whatever reason, they’d still need my cell phone to actually get the second auth factor… which I have right here with me… aka, not in Poland.

Kind of nice there is an audit trail.  If one of the successful log ins wasn’t you, you can contest it right there and Outlook.com will help you take evasive action!

Have fun snooping on your snoopers!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

How to fix Outlook's Jump Lists

I'm a big fan of the Jump Lists in Windows 7/Windows 8.  I use them a lot to get to key documents and most importantly start a new mail message or new calendar request with Outlook 2013

It's super easy to just right-click, and then select New E-mail Message, and you're off to the races, no need to make Outlook the foreground or anything. 

However, twice now I've found this list corrupted, I right click and there is just the bottom three, and the "task" available is a "mailto:a_lot_of_garbage", and it does nothing.  Productivity drops instantly.  

I did however managed to find this support article on tasks missing once Outlook is pinned to the task bar.  It provides two work arounds, both times the first one worked.  Instead of the backup, I just renamed the "LastUILanguage" key and re-opened Outlook. 

Method 1: Delete the LastUILanguage registry value

To export and delete the LastUILanguage registry value, follow these steps:
  1. Unpin the Outlook 2013 icon.
  2. Exit Outlook 2013.
  3. Use Regedit to export the following registry key:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook
  4. After you export the Outlook registry key, delete the LastUILanguage registry value.
  5. Start Outlook 2013, and then re-pin the icon.

Method 2: Export and delete the Setup registry key

If method 1 does not resolve the issue, export and delete the Setup registry key. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Unpin the Outlook 2013 icon.
  2. Exit Outlook 2013.
  3. Use Regedit to export and then delete the following registry key:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook\Setup
  4. Start Outlook 2013, and then re-pin the icon.
Hopefully this helps you....

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Adding Server Shares to Modern Photo App – Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 updated the photo app to remove Facebook, and Flickr, and make it only look like you can view pictures on your local device, and on your SkyDrive.  However, this isn’t entirely true.  If you’re like me and have a NAS or in my case, a Home Server on your network, you could quite possibly have GBs of pictures stored on your server that you want to show to friends and family on your tablet.  That can be cumbersome to get to if you don’t set it up first.  And nothing makes family or friends more bored of looking at your pictures, than watching you struggle to get to them.

Here is how to add those GBs of photos to your surface “view” without actually copying them to your surface.

First you need to make sure your surface has access to the server share.  I recently wrote a post on how to do that – Using the Windows Credential Manager to Store Server Credentials in Windows 8.1.

Next follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Desktop app if you haven’t already
  2. Open up Windows Explorer and navigate to the picture folder on your remote machine
  3. Right click on the folder containing the pictures, and go to Include in library, and select Pictures to include it into the pictures library. Include in Pictures library
  4. Now you’ll see in your libraries that you have two locations for PicturesPictures library
  5. Next go back into the Photos Modern app and choose the local computer, you’ll notice all the folders inside the pictures folder you chose in step #3, if you’re on the local network Pictures Library Modern App

Now when you’re on your local network, you just look like you have a HUGE photo collection.  The downside is if you take pictures at 21megapixel like I do and use very little compression, that you’ll end up having to wait for Wireless to download each picture as you go to view it.  I find a good 2-3 second story about each picture is enough for the next picture to download in the background. Smile

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Using the Windows Credential Manager to Store Server Credentials in Windows 8.1 (and on Surface!)

My wife got a new laptop, first one in 10 years.  I’m very proud of her.  She’s the opposite of me, and pretty much doesn’t like change on her computer.  This is most likely due to the fact she touches a computer for less than 1/2 an hour a day, and doesn’t want to spend 10 minutes of the 30 figuring out where the “File” menu went (yes, the IE7 upgrade just about killed my wife).  She went with the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. It’s an amazing laptop, but doesn’t have a TPM chip, so I can’t use it for work (otherwise I’d have one too!)  The screen is breathtaking, but I digress.

We have a Home Server 2011 in our house (obviously), but it doesn’t back up UEFI machines (not that I know of anyways) via the Client Backup.  So installing the Launch Pad seemed a bit of overkill so she could just go to \\server.  Her Windows Explorer has a link to the root of the Server share so she can get to the pictures, the videos, the TV shows, and so on.  I’m a big fan of security, and she has her own account on the server, but I couldn’t get her username and password to save for the server through a reboot.  And as you can probably guess, it has to be easy for her (a click to get access). 

I ended up simply saving this into her Windows Credential Storage (details below).  Worked like a charm.  It got me thinking, does this work on my Surface 2?  Sure enough it did!!  This means that I can simply access the server without providing credentials every time.  Now when I’m in my home, my Surface can just access an additional 4TB of data, right from inside the Metro Apps (more on this in my post "Adding Server Shares to Modern Photo App"). 
Let me tell you how to use the credential manager first. 
  1. Hit the Start key or swipe out the charm bar and press the Start button
  2. Type in Cred to search the start menu for the Credential Manager. Search for 'Cred'
  3. Launch the Credential Manager, and select the Windows Credentials button. 
  4. Under that button, simply click the Add a Windows credential.
  5. Fill out the wizard with the name of your server, in my case “SERVER”, my credentials Fill out the Add a Windows Credential Wizard
  6. Notice it’s in the list and then close the Credential Manager
Now you may try this instantly and it might not work.  This is most likely because you’ve already tried to connect to this server and stored the fact that you don’t need a username or password.  A reboot or sign-out/in will fix that as long as the item stays in the Credential Manager.  You can also open the command prompt and type in “net use * /d” to delete all active connections which will force Windows to re-open new ones, using the Credential Manager.

For reference, here is the official Windows Help topic on this.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Removing the Required PIN code on Windows Surface

My corporate E-Mail requires that any device I sync it to, enable a 4-digit PIN to unlock the device, at a minimum.  I can make this as complex as I like, but I must at least have a 4-digit PIN.  I'm fine with this, I think it's a good practice to have a PIN on your phone or tablet, so if it's lost, the thief or casual finder can't access all the data on it.  Even more so all those corporate secrets that I have! (har har! Like I'm trusted with corporate secrets!)

What I'm not fine with, is once you decide that you no longer want your work account on a device, you can't get rid of the requirement for the PIN, like how I'm re-purposing an old SurfaceRT (yes, I pre-ordered a Surface2!) to be a digital music player / weather station / morning news station / upstairs Skype phone, in the bedroom, I don't have *anything* on it that would need a PIN, and the likely hood of the tablet leaving the bedroom aside from when I move houses, is extremely small.

Searching around turned up nothing, asking around (especially @Microsoft) usually turns up something.  And this time it turned up this super handy How do I Turn Off the AutoLock in Windows 8 article.  And here I was searching around in gpedit.msc or regedit, and it's right there in the Control Panel UI!

Here's how to do it:
  • Open up the Control Panel (either Win+X or Win+R then type "Control", enter)
  • Click on the title User Accounts and Family Safety
  • Click on the title User Accounts
  • Click on the Reset Security Policy 
  • Click on the Reset Policies Button 
That's all there is to it. Now you can go into PC Settings and set the password policy to never required!  This also allows you to change the default screensaver time out as well.

There you have it.  It took me a lot of effort to find that, so I'm sharing it here (so I don't forget as well).  And now I don't have to factory reset my SurfaceRT! w00t!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

How to Change Your Email Address and Service Gracefully

So you got the Internet, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) sold you on 5 free email addresses, and you thought: "Free is good!". Then you read my post from a few days ago about how to use email, calendar and contacts across multiple devices, and realized that Free is good, but you need to choose the right free.
So now you want to migrate your email address to an Outlook.com or G-Mail account. Allowing you keep not only your email, but your calendar and contacts as well in "the cloud".
This is not only an invasive change for you, but it's also for your friends, and this post is designed to logically tell you how to gracefully switch to a new e-mail.
  1. Create your account on your new provider.  I would recommend Outlook.com, because, well I'm biased and I really like it.  You'll want to spend some time to get a username you're happy with.  On Outlook.com you can create aliases later on if you don't like your log in, for specific purposes.  So you can create your account as mulletman@outlook.com, but then create an alias of firstname.lastname@outlook.com for your resume, and have both delivered to your inbox.
  2. Once you're happy with your new email address, you can log into it and you'll have no email.  What I did was export all of my contacts as a "CSV" file (Comma Seperated Values) from whatever email program I was using on my computer, then just went to the People tab, and chose Manage, then Add People  You can then choose to Import from file, and import that same CSV file.  (you can also import from Google, Linked In, Sina Weibo, Facebook).  Basically I get my contacts all squared away first (while still checking my old email).
  3. Ideally you want to set up e-mail forwarding from your old account to this new one you set up so when email arrives, it gets forwarded directly.  I can't explain how to do that on this post as each ISV is different.  You can call their helpdesk and ask how to do this.  The other option is to have your new account "check" your old email for new messages and download.  Outlook.com can do this by going to Settings (the gear in the title bar), then More mail settings, then under Manage your Account, click Your email accounts, which allows you to add a POP account for Add a send-and-receive account, and provide your old email address server, username and password.  Then validate that it works by sending email to your old account, and making sure that you eventually see it in your new account (eventually if you chose Outlook.com to check your email, it could take some time for it to hit your new account)
  4. Once you're happy that your old mail is flowing to your new email.  It's time to make the switch to your new account.  You'll want to send an email to ALL of your contacts to tell them of your updated email address.  You'll also want to check any subscriptions you signed up for and unsubscribe from those and resubscribe with your new email address
  5. If you still have friends emailing you at your old address, simply reply from your new address and remind them of your email address update.  After a period of time (on the order of Months) when you feel comfortable that people are using your new email address, you can turn off the old POP account you set up in step 3.
  6. And you're done!
Lots of people ask me why not stay with their ISP.  Here are my reasons:
  1. ISP mail servers typically don't offer calendar and contact service, and are old archaic mail-servers that don't have any features that work with newer devices
  2. The use of POP or IMAP uses your data plan on a schedule to check your email.  That's a bunch of data eaten out of your data plan (on a phone for example) that will probably result in no new messages for you.  Newer protocols only use data when you have email
  3. The use of POP and IMAP run on a schedule and use data, and as a result, they drain your battery faster than newer protocols
  4. ISPs are typically networking experts, they run mail servers because it's common practice for them to offer an email account with your networking.  But it's not their expertise, why not switch to someone who focuses on making these services great?
  5. If you move homes to a house outside of a service area for your ISP, Or if you simply want to switch to get a better "deal", you'll loose your email address as a result, which causes your friends to go through the pain as it is.
  6. If you travel around the world, access to your email account is slow outside of your ISP network and native country.  World-wide enabled companies like Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo, optimize their service to be access world wide and your service will be far better outside of the country.
And if you aren't sure if you want to use Outlook or GMail, why not make it super easy and use your own domain.  I've moved my email account 5 times since I've had my own domain, and none of my friends are the wiser as the email address never changes, just the back-end service.  If you want to do that, I have instructions here.