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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cloud Sharing your Email, Contacts, Calendar Between Different Devices

I’ve come across a lot of people who still struggle with different devices and having to physically plug them into their computer when they want to sync their calendar or contacts.  Sure, Email is a solved problem for them, but not that pesky Calendar or the list of Contacts.  This post is intended to help those people.  But those people have to embrace “the cloud”…

The cloud sounds scary, but it’s not, you’ve been using it for years, it’s just a server on the Internet that’s always accessible. Sure this can be a single mail server that’s been holding your email until you connect it, or it can be a scale-out solution that offers compute, storage, and database needs, but let’s start small.  Your email server, is in the cloud.  Yes, that same one offered to your by your Internet Service Provider (ISV).  That’s “cloud”.  See, you have email, you’re already using “the cloud”.  Your problem is you either (a), have an e-mail only server that uses POP3, or (b), you’re not taking advantage of the features of your server to leverage contacts and calendar.

If you have an e-mail server that only does email (i.e. only offers you IMAP or POP3 access), then you are living in the stone ages.  IMAP and POP3 are to email what rotary dialing is to the telephone.  The first is to switch to something that offers the email, calendar, contact suite of products.  I find it best to switch to the product that your spouse or significant other is using, primarily because it makes it easier to share things like the calendar.  My preference is Outlook.com, but you can also use GMail or Yahoo! Or if you wanted something more powerful, you could choose Office365.  The bottom line is you need to ditch that ISV email server.  Some ISVs leverage the above services for their email solution.  That’s better than POP3, but I still don’t like being tied to an ISV, because if you move or that ISV gets bought by another, things change, but this is your call.  This may or may not require you to get a different email address.  This is by far the most painful part of the process, so you’ll want to do this part once.  If you want to use your own domain name, so your email address never needs to change.  I have instructions on how to do this with Hotmail / Outlook.com.

Let’s overview the set up that you’re aiming for:

Cloud to Device

 

This means that each phone, tablet or computer connects directly to the Internet (or cloud) to get your Email (which it does today) and your calendar and your contacts.  This means that the primary location for your E-mail, Calendar and Contacts is in the cloud.  Your devices and computers are just a “view” into that.  While you probably won’t need this with today’s devices. All of my computers are configured to use Exchange Active Sync (EAS).  Apparently Google is the only service that doesn’t use this anymore.

This works for me, and allows me to share my calendar with my wife, so we can always be in sync (provided she enters her events into her calendar!). 

I have the following devices, that are always up to date and never need to be plugged into a computer for “syncing”.

  • Windows Phone 8
  • Surface RT
  • Windows 8 PC (both built in e-mail client, and Outlook 2013)
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Blackberry Playbook

This is the set up you “don’t” want, as you are now dependent on your computer, and if you’re computer crashes, or dies, you loose your calendar and contacts.

Bad Setup

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Installing Pebble Watch Faces when you’re not a Developer

 

I have a developer background.  I went to the University of Waterloo and have a degree in Pebble Time: Beer O'Clock Computer Science.  The problem is I don’t have time to do any development.  Between my “day” job and my kids, when I get an hour to myself, I have to do some house maintenance so this place doesn’t fall down around me!

However, I got myself a Pebble watch, as part of the Kickstarter wave.  Yes I was a backer, and followed it from almost the beginning.  I got in pretty early as I took off my watch mid-university not believing I could wear something that only did one task, and one that was on my phone, and almost anywhere I looked.  If I was going to wear a watch, it was to do more than tell time!  I told a ton of my friends this and almost as soon as Pebble came out on Kick Starter, a bunch of my friends were sending me links.  I jumped in immediately and then had to patiently wait… and wait… and wait, but the wait was totally worth it.  I’m loving Pebble.

The Pebble team has done a ton of work on their SDK, it’s one of their most prized parts of the Pebble.  This is fantastic if you want to make your own watch face, but, while I’m a tech enthusiast, and the @Pebble guys even added me to their ├╝ber Pebblers list, I just don’t have time to develop watch faces.  BUT, I did want to take advantage of the hard work that other backers were doing and get some fancy watch faces. 

To get new watchfaces, you simply point your phone’s browser over to www.mypebblefaces.com, click on the one you want to download, then follow the steps on the phone to install it:

Open in "Pebble"

Click Open in “Pebble”

Choose "Continue"

Ensure you are installing from a trusted source, and choose Continue

The watchface installs on your Pebble and you’re good to go. Since these are only 24KB max, you can download them on the fly.  For example, when I hit the party, I just download the Beer O’Clock watch face, and I’m good to go!