At least Cortana listens to me

Posted by kyle on February 13th, 2015 filed in Tips 'n Tricks, Windows 10
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So, you have your shiny new installation of Windows 10 Technical Preview up and running. What next? First things first, let’s get Cortana set up.


Out of the box, Cortana is the search function in Windows 10 now and does the normal sort of thing that you would expect from a search function – it will do local and web searches now. So far pretty much the same as the Windows 8.1 Start Search function. So what is the excitement then?

In Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana has existed for a while however in Windows 10 – it gets taken to the next level. (And Windows Phone 10 will include the new flavor of Cortana)

To truly bring Cortana to life in Windows 10 you need to do a little configuration.

  1. Click in the Cortana text box and click Allow (this means that you are giving Cortana access to your data – important to note that you can withdraw this permission at any time)

  1. Cortana then asks you what you would like to be called, equally important that your assistant knows how to address you! (Cortana then tries out the pronunciation as well – so you can check that she has your name right)

  1. Then you get to choose some interests. This then gives Cortana some help to bring news to you. Again this can be changed at any time.

  1. Clicking on the Hamburger brings up the rest of the configuration for Cortana. At this point go to Settings.

  1. In the settings, you can do some changes to the name you are called by Cortana, the permissions and such. In my case I enabled all the options – the “Let Cortana respond when you say “Hey Cortana.”” is the important one here for the moment.

  1. Click on the Hamburger again and then go to places. This is where you can put in locations that will be relevant to you – On the phone, Cortana starts to learn where you go and what you do and will suggest locations such as home and work (as an aside – I work from home a lot and some days my only journey out will be to take the kids to daycare – which meant that Cortana was convinced that I worked at the local daycare!)


And there you have it – you are now good to go with Cortana – so you can now casually speak to your computer to do things like, reminders, appointments and searches.

Kyle’s handy tip is this – when you say “Hey Cortana”, don’t pause before you say the next bit. Cortana is already listening and gets confused by the pause. So if you want to set a reminder for 2 hours from now, simply say “Hey Cortana, remind me of something in 2 hours” rather than “Hey Cortana” (pause) “remind me of something in 2 hours”





Elsa, Do you want to install a Win 10 build?

Posted by kyle on February 12th, 2015 filed in Windows 10, Windows Insider Preview
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(I hope that popped into your head with the tune of “Do you want to build a Snowman?”)


So – you decided to install Windows 10 – you read all the previous caveats and still decided it was ok for you? Excellent – well – read on dear reader.


Last week I had my Dell XPS 13 replaced (twice as it turned out – but that is a separate issue) and I had need to therefore rebuild it as Windows 10 from the Window 8.1 that was installed. Rather than do a dump and burn of the existing OS I decided to do an inplace upgrade. In place upgrades will be the norm rather than the exception with Windows 10 so it seemed timely.

So here are the steps:

  1. Sign up to the Windows Insider program – this is the easy bit and has also been documented previously in another post. (here is a hint though :
  2. After signing up you will then be able to download and install the Windows 10 Technical Preview. First step is to start the setup wizard:


  3. Read and accept the End User Licence Agreement (we all read EULA’s right?)


  4. The setup will now run a system check to make sure that you are ready to go with your setup.


  5. As long as that goes ok – then you are good to go – and can then decide when you want to the upgrade.


  1. If you decide to schedule the upgrade then you can go ahead and select a time and date and then click Upgrade at a scheduled time.


  2. In my case, I just wanted to get it started so clicked on Start upgrade now. Then after a couple of reboots, 18 Minutes and 18 Seconds later – I had my desktop back and updated to Windows 10.


    So there you have it – the upgrade process – simple, easy and quick!


    In the next post I will look at configuring Cortana to take advantage of the new functionality and also setting up OneDrive.




Is it only February?

Posted by kyle on February 3rd, 2015 filed in Windows 10, Windows Insider Preview
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No seriously? It seems like it is much later than that in the year – given how much has happened in the past month. So let us summarise shall we?

  1. Windows 10 announcement – the much mentioned Windows 10 media day was held and had a few key announcements.
    1. Windows 10 will be available free as an upgrade to those with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 for one year after the launch of the product – interesting to note there is the requirement for any Windows 8 users to ensure that they are in Windows 8.1 before upgrading. This is probably a given that anyone who had implemented Windows 8 would likely be at 8.1 but it is an important note to observe as there will be enterprises who dove into Windows 8 and had not made the move.
    2. Windows 10 will be treated as a service. It will no longer be needed to think of Windows as a platform as such – it will now be part of a service. In the presentation Terry Myerson announced that Windows 10 would be updated constantly across the life of the product. So what does that mean? Well it will be interesting to see how it plays out, how the servicing takes place and putting my enterprise hat on – how I, as an enterprise administrator would control it.
    3. Windows 10 will be treated as a service – yes – I know that was my previous point – but I thought it needed repeating as there was some rumours running around about that topic. Big one that I read from folk (mainly oddly from Mac and Linux pundits) was that this then meant that Microsoft was going to put Windows 10 into a subscription model like Office 365. Funny that was what appeared to blow up about the Windows as a service comment – when it was stated “free”. Now – that is not to say that at some point in the future that won’t change – but at least in the short to medium term Microsoft have committed to Windows as a service, not Windows as a subscription.
    4. Cortana on the desktop – this is a pretty powerful tool that I admit I am still coming to terms with. On the phone I have become more used to using Cortana to set reminders, call people and ask questions – not really sure how soon I will be yelling at my laptop (apart from the normal rants! J) but saying Hey Cortana is going to be part of the future.


  2. Windows Phone 10 (ie Windows 10) announcement – as part of the big day there was much discussion on the future of Windows Phone.
    1. Name change – Windows Phone 10 will not in fact be Windows Phone 10 but ….. Windows 10… As part of the new direction is the goal of having a single interface that is across all devices. Now – I don’t want to be a naysayer on this – but I will point to a common interface across Windows devices that was Windows XP and Windows Mobile – as long as there is no start button on my phone we should be all good! The difference between then and now is that touch is an accepted method now for devices – whereas back then it was not as much. So the idea of needing to have something like a stylus on a phone is less likely than it was back then.
    2. Much like Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, on the phone the upgrade will be free from Windows Phone 8.1. And Microsoft had previously announced that all Windows Phone 8.1 devices will be upgradable to Windows 10 – this is good news, particularly it will help those who might have been burnt by the Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 upgrade story (or lack thereof).


  3. HoloLens – this was completely from left field – I had heard nothing of this before the event – folks that I know, that I now know knew about it (aside – how is that for an English sentence!)– were very good at keeping it completely secret! I have a few friends who have made comment on how ironic that the week that Google cancelled Glass that Microsoft announce HoloLens. However I see the 2 products as very different things. Glass is designed to augment your outside experience (receive email, take pictures, get app info, etc) while HoloLens is to augment your local reality – I don’t see people walking down the road in the real world wearing HoloLens – however folks that I spoken with who have had hands on with the product have said that it is 100% real. One person said that the Mars scenario gave them goose bumps due to the reality of what they were seeing and being immersed into. I can see many applications with this one in such fields as medical, training and communications.


  4. Surface Hub – this is a more sensible product :) – by that I mean – more into the production and business space that we are used to seeing Microsoft in – effectively a whiteboard connected with OneNote and powered by Windows 10 – yes – that is over simplifying however I can see it becoming a great extension in meeting rooms and board rooms.

If you want to catch up with the presentation – it is available on demand here.

One of the biggest things that I have seen come out of the announcement is this – Microsoft is cool again – I have seen many changes over the past few years in dealing with Microsoft but this last year has seen a real excitement return to the MS folk that I speak with that is refreshing.



At least one of your New Year’s Resolutions is solved

Posted by kyle on January 2nd, 2015 filed in Learning
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Being a tech person – you have probably said to yourself “this year I will get a certification” – worthy resolution (better than giving up chocolate!) but now you are probably wondering what the heck to do next. So here is Kyle’s rough guide to making 2015 your year for getting certified.

  1. Know your product – sounds like a blasé thing to say – but if you are doing a certification for the first time then do it in a product that you know. When Windows Server 2012 was appearing on the scene I was often asked by Windows Administrators – “Should I get certified in 2008 or wait and do 2012?” – to which my answer always was (and is) “get certified in what you know” – there is normally a shortcut be able to upgrade to later products once you have experience in that – but in the short term – go with what you know and work with.
  2. Make sure you know what is on the exam – if you head to the Microsoft Learning exam website (here) you can find the link for the exam that you are going to do and then look at the exam summary. You are looking for a couple of important things –
    1. The “Who should take this exam?” section sets out the audience that the exam is targeted at – this will give you some indication as to the level of knowledge required to be successful with the exam.
    2. The “Skills Measured” section shows the topics that are covered in the exam and the topic percentage – or how balanced the exam topics are. Be aware of a very important phrase in that section: Please note that the questions may test on, but will not be limited to, the topics described in the bulleted text. This is really important to remember – as you are being tested on the overall topics –but not just the sub topics that lay under them – so don’t JUST study the sub topics!
    3. The “Preparation options” section shows the official channels for study, be it an exam prep video, books, practice tests or training. On the topic of Practice Tests – refer to the post on the Microsoft Learning site on the use of braindumps.
  3. Attend training – This might seem self serving as I am a Microsoft Certified Trainer – but I recommend training for a reason other than keeping me in work! In a class you get a chance to mix with others in your industry and role. You also have a chance to ask someone who has expert knowledge in the subject you are studying for. One thing to note with training is this – generally it will cover the topics – but you will also need to make sure you do your own study for the exam.
  4. Followup your training – there are some key places that Microsoft have to make sure you can get hands on practice and also further training. What am I referring to? Hands-on? Use the TechNet Virtual Labs – a great way to extend your learning and practice in a sandbox environment. More training? The Microsoft Virtual Academy – with more courses being added all the time – MVA courses are a great way to extend your classroom training or to update your knowledge (such as a Service Pack release).
  5. Book a date – sounds silly – but book the exam – don’t wait “until you are ready” – here is a hint – you will never be ready! But if you book a date – then you will have a date to work to – and trust me – this is the better way to go.

So – there you go – one of your resolutions sorted – now – about that one for exercising every day……

Cheers and Happy New Year


Kiwi bros – the west island is here for you

Posted by kyle on December 17th, 2014 filed in Learning
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Kiwi cousins – mark March 2015 in the diary – by the end of March, Kiwi’s using Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online will be delivered locally (well localish) from Australian data centres in New South Wales and Victoria. Microsoft made the announcement earlier this month which is great news for New Zealand customers – should mean faster services and possibly even greater uptake.

Microsoft have made assurances that the data will reside only in the Australian data centres – so that means potentially more trust for data sovereignty.

You can read more of the announcement here.

Now that Australia is providing data centres for New Zealand – are we safe to claim the pavlova? Seems like a fair swap to me J



Tis the season to be silly, fa la la, etc – but not too silly

Posted by kyle on December 12th, 2014 filed in Misc
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A bit of a random post – on something that is close to my heart because I see a few of my family and friends, technical and otherwise being caught by scams around the internet.

I have written in some length before on the topic of the computer support scam so make sure you have a look at that – however today’s post is about some more scams that you might come across (whether that you realise have or not).

So here is a list of things to look for:

  1. Facebook giveaways – I constantly see this one – “Company XYZ is giving away a new something awesome if you just click like” – so what do you do? Click like and then you get asked to give permissions to your friends, posts, etc… only Company XYZ isn’t actually giving anything away – instead someone has set up a facebook account that has their name or a derivative of it.
  2. Emails from banks – yeah – you know your bank is not going to email you to ask you to validate your account don’t you? You do right?
  3. Likewise a text from your bank asking you to call a number and validate something (like your account or your PIN) is not likely to be the real deal – if you are not sure – call your bank using one of the publicly available numbers for the bank (ie not the one in the text message)
  4. Software installs – this one is a little harder to spot for the average non-tech person. Say you want to install Skype – so you search for it in your preferred search engine (I am not going to debate Bing vs Google here as they are both guilty of this) and you find a link to install Skype – but the first link will not be from but from on the search you do and the day will depend on the result you get back) – so you click on the link and then install some dodgy malware instead.

So what should you do this silly season – make sure that you are cautious on line and in the world – not everyone is out to get you but some people might be more willing to be a little more sketchy than others. Do the simple things – like watching what you click on, install an anti-virus, make sure your computers and devices are all up to date.

Have a suggestion on another scam that needs to be added to the list? Leave it in the comments and I will add it!



Want a hot date?

Posted by kyle on December 12th, 2014 filed in Learning, Windows 10
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Of course you do! So here it is – January 21st 2015 – there I said it. The reason this is a good date to remember? Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc announced on the Windows blog today that 21st Jan is the day for the next big Windows 10 announcement – “The Next Chapter”. So what is the next chapter? Well – the general supposition is that it will be the Windows 10 Consumer Preview – remembering until now that we have seen the Windows 10 Enterprise preview (and Windows Server 10 and System Center vNext for those following along).

There will be a webcast as well – with Satya Nadella, Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore and Phil Spencer all presenting. When the details are posted I will be sure to update with the links. In the meantime – the blog post is here.



OneDrive to rule them all – selectively

Posted by kyle on December 7th, 2014 filed in Windows 10
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As you know I have recently been testing Windows 10, and as some of you know I use OneDrive a lot – which has been fine until the last major build of Windows 10 – at that point Microsoft made a change to the way that OneDrive syncs. After updating to build 9879 I had an issue with OneDrive that was over and above the underlying feelings about the changes to how sync is happening. I just could not use OneDrive – basically when I launched it I was being prompted to set it up again and then that crashed.

To fix that issue I uninstalled OneDrive and then reinstalled it (I am referring to the desktop application here just in case you were wondering). During setup I then had to provide a new location for the OneDrive storage (as the existing one could not be used – this was a little annoying as I had to then resync files)

I then selected a few folders to sync. I generally only try and keep a few folders on my local machine (my current daily runner is a Dell XPS 13 with a 128Gb drive – so I try to keep it clean as possible – I should point out that this has been the case for the last couple of machine and I find using OneDrive to store the majority of files and just bring down what I need when I need it has been awesome).

So – what about unsyncing? If I wanted a file or folder to be only online? In Windows 8/8.1 I just right click the folder and select online-only and the space frees off my local machine. How do I do that in Windows 10 OneDrive? Well – turns out it is easyish – not as intuitive as Win8/8.1 but once you know it is pretty simple.

So – here are the steps:

  1. Right click on the OneDrive icon in the System Tray


  2. Select Settings

  3. Click on the Choose folders Tab and then click Choose folders


  4. Expand the Folders you want to make available only online and then uncheck them

  5. Click OK and then the files will be removed from your local computer.

Now – to me that is not the easiest method in the world if I am honest – and also it takes away the selection at the file level that I used to have – but time will tell how this shakes out – in the meantime that method works for most of what I want to achieve.

In other OneDrive news I saw a really useful sounding utility today (I have not tested it at all but will try to have a play with it sometime this week) which enables copying of content from Google Docs/Drive, Box, and OneDrive content into SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business – so if you are making the move from another storage to OneDrive for Business (Office 365) – then get a hold of Drive2Office365 from here.



Updates Schmupdates – the fast ring just got faster

Posted by kyle on November 26th, 2014 filed in Windows 10
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Well – kind of. You recall that I mentioned a little bit ago about the fast and the slow ring for the Windows 10 Technical Preview and that the fast ring got the flights first, then once everyone was happy – then the slow ring would get the update. That is how it has worked for the last couple of updates. This month was a little different. Apparently some folk had issues with the fast update for this month – that took us all to build 9879 and so due to that the slow ring was delayed. (Still following?)

Anyway – fast forward to now – and the slow ring is now getting the update to 9879 and the fast ring also are getting a patch. Now – it is KB3019268 – which you would normally find out about here. Yet – that seems not to give you too much data – or any really. So, there are fixes – but no real details as to what they are. If you are on the fast ring – open Windows Update and you will see the update listed there for installation.

If you are on the slow ring – then you will only need to install the overall update to take you to the new build and the patch will already be installed and configured for you.

Speaking of which – if you do want to do a completely clean install of the build – you now can – the ISO files are available to download now from Microsoft. You can grab them from here.




To RT or not to RT, that should be a question

Posted by kyle on November 24th, 2014 filed in Learning
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I was reading through Neowin last week and came across a story by Brad Sams about how you could pick up a Surface 2 for the bargain price of $US199 (In the US only mind you). One of the first comments on the article read “RT? No thx” which I thought was a really shortsighted dismissal of the Surface 2. I have seen other comments on Twitter such as “Friends don’t let friends buy RT”. To that I say – if you were a friend you would check what they actually needed first.

Now – without going into the ongoing Microsoft support of RT – still waiting to head Windows 10 mentioned with RT – but just looking at what you get in a Surface 2 – and then why it might be ok for you – here are a few factors to consider:

  1. Don’t believe what your “trusted advisor” might say without researching for yourself. A lot of IT Pro’s that I know have dismissed Surface 2 without actually seeing what you get for your buck.
  2. There are limitations – not avoiding them – there is – the big one is that you can only run applications from the Microsoft Store (or those that are preinstalled – more on that shortly). You also cannot put any extra addins for Internet Explorer – plugins, etc will not work.
  3. You get Office – not a time bombed version, not an eval version, a full version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. (One thing to note with Excel is that you cannot run macros – so if that is important then this is not for you)
  4. You get a lightweight device with great screen resolution – 10.6″ at 1920 x 1080 and a battery life of 10 hours.
  5. Miracast support – this is an oft overlooked thing – so wireless display available.

For me the last 2 are the big ones – I have presented a class able to wander about the room with my Surface 2 wirelessly connected to a projector running virtual machines. Now – were the virtual machines running locally on the Surface 2? Obviously not – but they were running in a HTML5 page and I also could have used Remote Desktop to access a full server if needed (obviously this means you need to have access to a server which most normal people won’t – but then most normal people won’t run a virtual machine J)

So – when I have people ask me for a recommendation on a device – I always start the conversation with – “what do you need to do?” Rather than – “forget about solution xyz as I don’t like It”, if your “trust advisor” doesn’t ask that simple question – then you might need to find another one..




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