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PowerPoint Presenter View Says No

PowerPoint Presenter ViewAn attendee had an issue with a PowerPoint file and could not choose ‘Use Presenter View’ as it was greyed out and disabled.  What’s more, when the slideshow was started, it didn’t take up the whole screen but annoyingly, played in a window and left the system tray icons at the bottom of the display.  How is a speaker supposed to present their awesome slideshow on plans for World Domination v1.0 if they can’t even get PowerPoint working?  As you can imagine, we use PowerPoint quite a lot so were happy to point out the issue.

First thing to check of course is whether the dual monitor option in Windows is set up correctly and in this case it was.  The second cause is a feature of PowerPoint that is less well-known because most slideshows are presented live by a speaker.  An alternative is to set-up self-running presentations, either in full screen (for example on kiosk displays) or in a window.  These will typically use recorded timings for each slide and animations so they play and advance in a timely manner and might even loop continuously.  To set your PowerPoint deck up to run automatically, choose Set Up Slide Show in the Slide Show ribbon tab.

Set up slideshow button

 

 

This will open a window where you can set your play options.

Set up PowerPoint slideshow

 

 

 

 

 

In our attendee’s example, the Show Type was set to Browsed by an individual which meant the show would play in a resizable window and not full screen or presenter view.  Kiosk mode plays the show full screen and uses timings to advance the slides; users cannot click or touch to advance.  The default is Presented by a speaker and for some reason this deck had that option changed.  Once we’d selected the correct show type, the Use Presenter View checkbox was active again and the world is happy.

Of course, if you’d like to know more hints and tips on Microsoft PowerPoint or any Office application, we’d love to hear from you.

 


The Value of IT Training

man holding moneyTraining is expensive, we get that.  So how can you justify spending money and time in order to attend training courses?

Facts and Figures from Research Reports

There are many studies on the value of training, not just IT training and I don’t intend to summarise or make a conclusion in this blog.  However I did like a 2009 research report by Beth Vanni (then Director of Market Intelligence for Amazon Consulting) and a few points that sprang out included:

♦  the majority of customers indicated they trusted a certified partner more
♦  customers involve certified partners to a greater degree in future decision making
♦  certified providers gain more repeat business and sell more services beyond product purchases

The research indicated that having certified staff does not mean you can increase your prices; nor will your certifications rank highly in your customers’ criteria for choosing a partner.  Customers want strong relationships, high service levels and complete solutions.  It seems to be expected that the staff know their stuff just as it is expected that the staff will act professionally and not spend all day browsing Facebook.  Certifications are important but they are a mere fact of due diligence.

Recruitment

Of course if you are hiring new staff, you need a benchmark on which to judge their skills.  90% of the respondents to a McKinsey Quarterly survey (“Building organizational capabilities: McKinsey Global Survey results,” March 2010) said that building capabilities was a top-ten priority for their organisations.  Standards for both academic and technical qualifications are important here.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

A cliché, I admit.  I know I don’t know much about Quantum Physics but it’s a cool job title.  I’ve been dealing with Microsoft products for 25 years but I still gain a lot from watching other people use Microsoft Office.  Attending a training course helps widen your knowledge and experience and often demonstrates best practices, tools or methodologies that even experienced IT Pros may not have come across in their day-to-day work.  Training courses help you explore areas of the products and technologies that you may not have used in the past, in a guided and safe way (without risking production environments).  There’s also the networking opportunities.  I like meeting fellow course delegates; IT can be quite a small world and some of my best contacts have been gained from training courses.

See what Microsoft training courses we can offer and work towards gaining certifications today.  If you have a Volume Licence agreement with Microsoft you may be eligible for free technical training.


SQL Server 2014 Licence Key

We had a question via a comment on one of our SQL Server 2014 blog posts.  It’s a little hard to answer because it lacks specific details such as part number and reseller but we like to try to answer questions.

“my company have bought 1 license sql 2014 and cd i download from website. during setup i need to insert product key. how to i get the license?”

Thanks for your query.  There are a few factors to consider which will help establish an answer:

1 – What website did you buy SQL 2014 from?  Was it a reputable reseller such as Insight or Ebuyer?  If you purchased the software through a site such as eBay, it may be that you were sold a pirated copy.
2 – What product did you buy?  Did you buy SQL Server 2014 Standard Edition Server licence or a SQL Server 2014 client access licence (CAL) or the SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition?  The price you paid (assuming it was from a legitimate reseller) will give you a clue; the standard server product with 10 CALs would be around £2,500-£3,000 whereas the developer edition would be around £50.

If you did purchase from a legitimate reseller, and was shipped a DVD in a box, then this is classed as full packaged product (FPP) and the product key to use on installation will typically be on a sticker on the DVD case.  It will be 25 alphanumeric characters in the form xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx.

In any case, your first port of call for help could either be the reseller you purchased this from or Microsoft support who can both advise you if the product is legal and legitimate and help you with the installation.  They can be reached on (+44) 344 800 2400.  You can also log a web support incident via Microsoft’s support page.

You can download a white paper on licensing Microsoft SQL Server or of course look into attending one of our licensing courses.


Save the Photographs!

My wife takes digital photos and downloads them onto her laptop.  Then she deletes them from the camera.  If you have ever taken a hard-drive apart, on those rainy days to avoid doing dull IT tasks, you’ll know how fragile they are.  Lots of memories on those small platters of film.  No matter how many external hard drives I buy, or funny-shaped USB sticks to persuade her to back up her files, she never does.  So it’s with great anticipation that Microsoft Azure Backup Vaults now support Windows client OS (Windows 7 and Windows 8) as well as Windows Server.

Windows Client backup to Azure

 

If you’re a techie, you might be thinking why didn’t I set up a home active directory domain on an HP Microserver, back-up the client devices that log-on, including my wife’s laptop, and then back the server and thus the client files up to Azure?  Well, I did but the big blue light on the front on the Microserver started to annoy me at night because it was really bright so I keep turning it off and that’s not really a good infrastructure decision.

Let’s walk through how to set your home pc to back-up to the Azure cloudy goodness.  A couple of basics first; you will need an Azure subscription and this back-up solution will cost you money.  However, backups are compressed, encrypted, triple-replicated inside Microsoft’s datacenters and once you’ve set up your back-up schedule, it’s automatic.  And think of your photographic memories safe and sound (although of course you should periodically test your recovery processes as well).

Log onto www.azure.com and go to the Azure portal.  Select Recovery Services and create a new Backup Vault.  Once you have your vault, the dashboard will show you the next steps to take.

Azure backup vault dashboard

 

The client machine needs to register with the Azure Backup Vault.  A few months ago this required creating a certificate but now Azure simply provides a credentials file to download and save onto your local machine.  Next, download the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent onto the local pc and run it.  The Azure portal provides two options for the backup agent; pick the first option (Windows Server or System Center Data Protection Manager or Windows Client).  The setup wizard is going to ask about proxy settings and will also download the pre-requisites but typically on a home network, you’ll be able to breeze through accepting the defaults.

Azure backup agent installation

 

Azure backup agent installation

 

Azure backup agent installation

 

The final step allows you to Proceed to Registration (or you can Close the setup but if you’re ready to schedule the backup, you may as well proceed to register your pc with the backup vault).  The backup agent will ask for the vault credentials file that you downloaded and then you’ll need to specify a passphrase.  This will be used for encrypting the data before transfer to Azure.  Note the data is encrypted on the client device and stored in Azure encrypted.  Microsoft do not hold the passphrase so it’s vital this is kept safe and secure otherwise you’ll only be able to restore encrypted data.  In fact, the agent will not let you proceed to the next step until the passphrase is saved to another location.

Azure backup agent

Once you’ve registered the server (the agent still refers to your client pc as a server; can’t change everything overnight), the Azure Backup app will be started and you can set your backup schedule.

Azure backup app

The wizard is pretty straight-forward to navigate; you select the items from you local pc to backup (note that Azure will only backup the data that changes after the initial backup).

Azure backup app

The next step is to set up the frequency of the backup, i.e. when it will run, and how long Azure will retain the backups for.  A recent change was the increase of the maximum retention period to 3,360 days; essentially about 9 years so this is an archiving solution as well as a disaster recovery.  However, remember your costs.  Even though Azure backup will compress the data before storage, the more backups you keep, the more storage you’ll use and the higher the monthly cost.  There’s also a limit of 120 recovery points so you may need to balance the frequency with the retention range or you’ll get an error message when you hit the Next button.  For example, the screenshot below is trying to backup once a week and keep these recovery points for 9 years which would easily exceed 120 points.  However, if I set the frequency to monthly (4 weekly to be exact), I’d be fine.

Azure backup app

There’s also a size limit of 1700GB per volume to each backup operation (so if you’re backing up files from multiple drives, you have around 1.7TB from each).  You can stop the backup or change the items to backup and then schedule by clicking Schedule Backup in the main Azure Backup application window.

Recovering items is also straightforward; you can specify the recovery point (date) to restore from and which items you want to restore.  You can also restore these items to the original location or a new location.

Back in the Azure portal, you can see the registered server (or in this case client pc) and also view the protected items and the recovery points.  You can register up to 50 machines against each backup vault and as of December 2014, you can have up to 25 backup vaults per Azure subscription.

Azure backup protected items

And just as a final part to this blog, we have to thanks one of our trainers, Thomas Lee who scored this coup by asking nicely for it!


Windows Per-User Licensing

We recently wrote a blog for Microsoft explaining the new Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS).  ECS includes a licence called Windows SA per-user.  You can read the post on the Microsoft UK Volume Licensing site.  In this post, I want to delve a little deeper into how Windows licensing can work on a per-user basis.

Windows and Office have historically been licenced per-device; the machine you use these on had to have a licence.  Software Assurance provided a little bit of flexibility by allowing roaming rights in which the primary user of a licenced device could access the software from outside of the work domain (e.g. at home).  However, mobility is the new norm.  People work on lots of devices and in lots of locations and licensing software per-device is very limiting in these instances.  Office 365 has seen enormous success with per-user licensing (overtaking the number of seats of traditional Office 2013) and Windows 8.1 can now also offer a similar flexibility.

Let’s cover some facts first:

  1. Per-device licensing is not going away and there are myriad cases where it’s preferable; for example libraries, hospitals, warehouses, etc. where many people use the same device.
  2. Office 365 allows 5 local installations of the full Office applications for the licensed user.  Windows per-user allows the user to install Windows 8.1 on an unlimited number of devices for their own use, subject to some pre-requisites which I’ll detail in this blog post.
  3. Windows per-user is not a cloud based service like Office 365.  It can therefore enjoy downgrade rights so the user could install Windows 7 in place of Windows 8.1 for example.
  4. Windows per-user is a subscription licence.  If the subscription is not continued, the licence expires and Windows must be uninstalled.  Whether there’s a mechanism to check for the subscription and remove functionality as there is with Office 365, I don’t know at the moment.
  5. Windows per-user is only available through Enterprise Agreements at the moment so it’s not a case of popping to PC World and buying Windows 8.1 per-user I’m afraid.

I’ll start by looking at some current scenarios.  That will highlight some limitations which ECS can address.

Windows 8.1 is licenced per-device.

Anyone at all can use Windows on the device, anywhere at all (e.g. at work or at home).  It helps to have the device-owner’s permission but that’s just politeness and not a licensing requirement.

Windows 8.1 licenced per device

Running Windows 8.1 virtually.

Many organisations utilise virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) whereby the client OS is not locally installed on the licenced device but stored on a network server and then remotely accessed by the user.  If the Windows 8.1 licence for the device includes Software Assurance (SA), these virtual rights, known as Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) come as a benefit of the SA.  In this way, a user can access a virtual Windows desktop through VDI from a licenced Windows device.  This is fairly simple if the device is corporate-owned, for example, a laptop provided by the company for the user.  If the user wants to use their own (or a 3rd party) device to access their virtual Windows desktop, SA provides roaming rights to the primary user so they can access their desktop from outside work but 3rd party devices cannot be used to access virtual Windows desktops from within the corporate network, i.e. at work.  The primary user is defined as being the person who uses a pc for more than half the time in any 90-day period.  Let’s mention a few scenarios: the user can use their main work desktop pc whilst in the office; they can also access a virtual Windows desktop from their personal pc at home using VDI; they could also use a corporate laptop to access a virtual Windows desktop both at work and outside work (as long as the laptop is also licenced for Windows); they could not however bring their personal devices into work and access a virtual Windows desktop.  I can sense you’re frowning so time for an illustration.

Windows 8.1 VDI licensing scenarios

In summary:

  1. Anyone can use Windows 8.1 locally on a licenced device, anywhere, no matter who owns the device.
  2. To use Windows virtually, the user must be a primary user of a device licenced with Windows 8.1 + SA and furthermore if the device on which the virtual desktop is being accessed is not owned by the company with the Windows 8.1 SA licence, it must be used outside the workplace.

Windows 8.1 licenced per-user still requires a licenced device.

Windows per-user isn’t exactly a case of licensing a user.  The user must already be the primary user of a device already licenced with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro.  Then that user is eligible to be licenced for Windows 8.1 per-user.  What if the user doesn’t have a primary device that is already licenced with Windows Pro?  There is an alternative called Windows VDA per-user which negates the requirement for a licenced device but as you can imagine is priced higher because Microsoft can’t count on the underlying Windows licence.  So we end up with two choices: Windows SA per-user or Windows VDA per-user.

Ways to obtain Windows per-user

Whichever way you choose, the licensing benefits are the same.  Firstly, it gets around the ‘cannot bring a 3rd party device into work and access Windows’ restriction.  Secondly it allows the licenced user to install Windows 8.1 onto any number of devices.  Yes, that’s pretty generous isn’t it?  I mentioned in the facts at the start of this post there are some pre-requisites and the condition for installing Windows is that on devices with a screen size of 10.1″ and above, there must already be a Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro licence.  Even if the device already has a Windows 8.1 Pro licence, Windows per-user allows you to install Windows 8.1 Enterprise and you can access virtual Windows desktops from inside and outside work.  Time for a final illustration.

Running Windows when licenced per-user

That’s a lot of green and green is good unless we’re drinking milk.  The only red is that you cannot install Windows 8.1 on an iPhone, iPad or Android device but you can run it virtually.

In summary, there are still a few things to bear in mind, for example underlying Windows device licences don’t quite go away in most cases, but licensing Windows for a user gives enormous flexibility in allowing people to work wherever they are, whatever the device is and whoever it’s owned by.


Licensing Gotcha #1 – OWA

Microsoft Licensing ClarityIf you’ve dealt with Microsoft Licensing, you’ll know there are lots of exceptions, gotchas, myths and riddles.  We want to clear some of those up in our blog posts so number one is a good place to start.  These all assume basic Microsoft licensing knowledge but if you need to top this up with some free training, look at our licensing courses or contact us.

Microsoft Exchange Server is licensed in a server and CAL (client access licence) model.  The CALs can be per-user or per-device.  These CALs provide the user or device rights to access the Exchange server but you need a client to read and send email, deal with calendar entries and so on.  The obvious client is Outlook; part of the Office family of applications.  In the past the Exchange CAL included an Outlook licence but this was no longer included after Exchange Server 2003 and since then, Outlook needs to be purchased separately.

Perhaps you don’t have Outlook?  That’s ok because the Exchange CAL provides the rights to access e-mail, calendar, contacts and tasks through either Outlook Web App (OWA) or through a mobile device via Exchange ActiveSync.

Typically a user will access their mailbox from a number of devices.  This is fine if you have deployed Exchange per-user CALs; the user can log into OWA from pretty much any internet connected device (hotel kiosks, airport lounge machines, home, work, internet cafés, etc.) and the user can synchronise to any supported mobile device.

If you have deployed per-device CALs then the user can only use OWA from licensed devices and can only synchronise from licensed mobile devices.

Hopefully you see the gotcha here.  Exchange is brilliant at providing access anywhere, anytime and on any device but only if you licence per-user.  For organisations that have per-device Exchange licensing, anywhere access becomes extremely restricted.


Easiest way to MCSA?

Perhaps you’re looking for a new job and you want to refresh your certification.  Perhaps you’re hiring new staff and want to skill them up quickly or meet targets to earn a Microsoft Partner Competency.  What’s the easiest way to earn a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) accreditation?

Easy is the wrong word here.  None of these exams are easy; they exist to test and prove your experience and knowledge in a topic.  MCSA is also the prerequisite to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert accreditations which really are the pinnacle of Microsoft certifications.

However the fastest route to earn an MCSA, assuming you’re not upgrading an earlier qualification,  is to work towards either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 MCSA or towards the Office 365 MCSA.  Each of these routes only require you to take two exams from scratch.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate Map

 

Your choice should clearly depend on your IT career path and the skills you’re going to need.  If you are open to all areas though, of those three MCSA options, we’d advise the Office 365 MCSA.  Firstly there is only one 5-day course whereas Windows MCSA involves two 5-day courses and thus more time out of the office and more cost.  Attending a course is not required to take an exam but it’s a great way to maximise your chances.  Secondly, the Office 365 MCSA can be used as the foundation to gain the MCSE qualification in Desktop Infrastructure, Server Infrastructure, Private Cloud, Messaging, Communications or SharePoint.  The Windows MCSA does not have an MCSE route.

Of course, we’d love to help you gain nay Microsoft qualification so please get in touch and see how we can help.

 


IE Auto-Scaling Annoys Me

Like many people, I work on multiple monitors.  Take now for example; I’m writing this blog post on my main monitor and Jeremy Kyle is playing in Internet Explorer on the second monitor (is he the father and the brother?  Who really cares?).

My monitors are set to different resolutions and when I drag an Internet Explorer window from my main monitor to the second monitor, it automatically scales to 150% which makes it unusable.  This ‘helpful’ behaviour is actually extremely annoying to me but there is an easy way to prevent this from happening.

Right click your desktop and select Screen Resolution.  Click Make text and other items larger or smaller and then check the box for Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays.

Stop Internet Explorer auto scaling

 

You may need to sign out of Windows and back in again for some bizarre reason but that should solve the issue.

Now, back to Jeremy Kyle, “My teenage son picks his nose too much”.


Dude, where’s my data?

Office 365 Logo

A play on the film title from “Dude, where’s my car?” in which, well actually, we can’t remember the plot but we do remember the title and something about a scene with tattoos.

Putting movies to one side, customers often want to know where their mailboxes reside in Office 365 and Exchange Online.  If my billing address is in Europe I can assume my data centres are located in Dublin and Amsterdam but can I verify that?  Also, the mailboxes for individual users and resources might be in either of those locations.  Here’s where a little PowerShell comes in handy.

There’s a useful getting started with Powershell resource on the Microsoft website.  You can also search the web for myriad explanations but be aware many of these will be out of date especially if you’re using Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1 includes PowerShell by default so on the Start screen, type PowerShell, right-click Windows PowerShell in the search results and select Run as Administrator.  I’ll explain why you need to run it as admin in a moment.

How to run Windows powerShell

 

So many memories of the old DOS window.  PowerShell doesn’t speak Office 365 by default so we have to teach it by installing the Windows PowerShell cmdlets for Office 365 management and deployment.  Your keyboard should now be bristling with all the power you have at your fingertips.

1 – Set the PowerShell execution policy.  The default setting for execution policy is restricted which would not allow PowerShell to run scripts at all; secure but not very useful.  RemoteSigned tells PowerShell it can run scripts on the local machine but any scripts downloaded from the Internet must be signed by a trusted publisher.  This is also why you need to run PowerShell as administrator; in order to change this setting.

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

2 – Set your Office 365 admin credentials.  A popup window will appear where you type in your Office 365 admin user and password.  This will also tell the PowerShell cmdlets which Office 365 tenant you want to connect to.

$cred = Get-Credential

3 – In order to perform administrative tasks on Office 365 you can connect to the online service using the credentials you supplied.

Connect-MsolService -cred $cred

4 – You can list all the Office 365 admin commands.  Note that Exchange, SharePoint and the other cloud services have their own set of commands.

Get-Command –Module msonline

5 – To connect to Exchange Online, type the following commands.  You don’t need to change anything here; again, the tenant to connect to is specified by the login ID in the credentials.

$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://ps.outlook.com/powershell -Credential $cred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection

Import-PSSession $Session

6 – Return your mailbox information to see where they’re located.  If the server name begins with db you’re in Dublin and if it’s am you’re in Amsterdam.  Happy travels!

Get-Mailbox


Lync 2013 vs Lync Basic

Logo for Microsoft Lync

The new Office 365 Business and Business Premium plans released in October do not include the full Lync client so what are users expected to use for instant messaging, presence and online meetings?

There are a number of possible Lync clients including the Lync Windows Store App (Modern UI), Lync Web App and mobile Lync clients for Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The most likely alternative for users will be Lync Basic which is a no-cost application to connect to Lync Online or Lync Server.  For users already on Office 365 Small Business Premium or Midsize Business plans who are upgrading to the new Business plans, the update process will uninstall the Access & Lync applications and users will be able to download Lync Basic from their software portal in Office 365.

Although the functionality of Lync Basic was recently updated to more closely match that of the full Office Lync client, there are some quite significant differences including the lack of spellchecker for instant messages (after a long time of asking Microsoft to add a spell checker to Lync, losing it now is disappointing), using OneNote for Lync meeting notes and the ability to record meetings.  Some features are not so relevant for SMB customers and there are also features which require on-premises Lync Server or SharePoint Server such as Skill Search and Persistent Chat; those features would not be available to Office 365 users even with the full Lync client.

If you’d like to understand the differences between Lync, Lync Basic and the other clients, you can view this TechNet page.  There’s also a dedicated page comparing functionality for the Lync mobile clients.