Short takes: SharePoint/Delve and shortlinks; CESG guidance on Office 365; removing Sway from the App Launcher

So, it’s Christmas Eve and I’ve run out of annual leave this year so I’m still working… looks like everyone else has gone home though so I’m really just clearing down my mailbox, searching for Inbox Zero nirvana. As I do, there are lots of little snippets that I might like to remember, so here’s a little Christmas compilation…

SharePoint, Delve and short links

We have a URL shortener at work and one of the things it’s really great for is taking reallyreallylongandundigestibleurisfromsharepoint and making them risu.al/short. Unfortunately Alex Eggar, who leads our Business Productivity group, highlighted to me that I’m better off using SharePoint’s sharing functionality… otherwise Delve won’t know what’s going on…

There’s loads of information on Delve for Office 365 administrators and Paul Olenick (SharePoint MVP) has an interesting post the describes more about Delve. What I haven’t managed to get clear in my head yet is why a short URL bypasses the Office Graph… I’m still accessing the content… but I’ll leave that one to the experts!

CESG Guidelines for use of Office 365 at OFFICIAL

I had an interesting meeting with a customer recently, discussing how their Office 365 implementation aligned to UK Government (CESG) guidelines. Whilst they are guidelines, and this customer is only loosely affiliated with the Government, the CESG guidance on Office 365 could be considered as a useful benchmark.

The guidelines are available on the gov.uk website. Currently they include:

Turning off the App Launcher tile for Sway

As I wrote a couple of months ago when describing how to selectively remove tiles from the Office 365 App Launcher, disabling Sway in Office 365 didn’t used to remove the tile from the launcher. Since earlier this month, that behaviour has been changed with more details in Microsoft knowledge base article 3075256.

Encouraging adoption in enterprise social networks

In my job, consulting with many organisations who are adopting Microsoft products and services, including Office 365, I have a lot of discussions about Yammer and other modern communication methods (e.g. Sway).

Many have already had pilots with Yammer and found it didn’t work for them. Some are smart enough to realise that it wasn’t Yammer at fault but a lack of executive sponsorship. Adapting a new medium for communication takes time; it needs a cultural shift. If your boss uses it, you might consider giving it a try (although when I had a team, my experience at getting them to use Yammer was best described as mixed). But if your boss’ boss uses it, or the CEO, and the internal communications team are are using it instead of email, then you might stand some chance of success – because, as well as executive sponsorship, it needs critical mass (which means people need a reason to visit).

Of course, the platform itself has to be usable. In my last place the corporate social platform was Newsgator (which was awful), coupled with an old version of SharePoint and, aside from the teams whose job it was to evangelise its use, it was pretty much ignored. In fact, so much so that other social networks popped up in their own bubbles: the sales community were using Salesforce Chatter; although Yammer actually seemed to gain more traction in some areas (via an external network hosted by Microsoft for partner engagement) because there was something of value there for people.

So, we need executive sponsorship, critical mass, and a usable platform, with content that people value. But there’s something else too – people have to stop using the old methods in parallel.

Recently, I witnessed one organisation where someone posted some infomration on Yammer and it got a flurry of activity/commentary on the original post (so far so good). Then someone else sent an email to a distribution group to highlight the same information. That sender might not have seen the original post but email isn’t a good way to share links about new products. Some (myself included) may consider it as just unsolicited bulk email (spam) but spam that’s sent from inside the organisation. To make matters worse, because Office 365 Clutter doesn’t filter out email from people in your management chain, that email will never be filtered.

No, no, no, no! Post once, on the right medium*. Yammer for information sharing/comments on a topic that might run and run; instant messaging for messages that require a response… instantly (the clue’s in the name) and stop abusing email (which, incidentally is an asynchronous communications mechanism to which you should not require, or even expect, a response). As for voice mail, SMS, etc. Well, who knows… anyway, I’m supposed to be writing about getting people using enterprise social networks here – not a lecture on communication methods (and I know one size doesn’t fit all).

So, that’s my view – which you might agree with, or you may not. But it’s been cathartic to have a little online rant and at least it means I’ll get at least one blog post up this month! For another view, take a look at what the Yammer team at Microsoft shared with me – a 2012 Office blog post on Deploying a Successful Enterprise Social Network: Best Practices From the Field.

 

Mark Wilson is an increasingly busy, grumpy and ranty man, who wants to reduce the volume of email arriving in his Inbox…

* I do have to admit that, on occasion, I have been known to email a group of people and say “please reply to my thread on Yammer”, because I knew a lot of them didn’t use it but I wanted everyone to see the replies withough creating a Reply All email storm. This is not good.

Recovering data after OneDrive for Business “ate” my OneNote notebooks…

Yesterday, I wrote about troubleshooting OneDrive for Business. What I didn’t write about though was the problems that a simple repair to OneDrive for Business (acting on advice to resolve some sync issues on my client) caused for me…

The OneDrive for Business repair operation works as follows:

  • Disconnects all libraries that were experiencing sync problems.
  • Reconnects these libraries. This means Repair downloads and syncs the current server version of each library, as if you were syncing for the first time.
  • Creates an archive copy of any file that had unsynced changes and places these files in a library folder under C:\users\username\OneDrive for Business archives\.

So, if you are using that full 1TB of storage… you’d better have a good network connection to pull the entire contents of the library from the cloud (which is why the next version of the OneDrive client has selective sync).

In my case, I’m only using a few GB but, because I moved my entire Documents folder to OneDrive a few months ago, my OneNote notebooks were part of the data that was pulled down from the cloud.

I rely heavily on OneNote – I stopped using paper notebooks when I left my last job, as my everyday device is a Surface Pro 3 (which I find ideally suited to note-taking) – and here’s the lesson I learned:

OneNote and OneDrive for Business do not (always) play together nicely.

It should work – there’s even Microsoft advice for moving a OneNote notebook to OneDrive (and the same process works for OneDrive for Business) but it seems the mistake I made was to move all of my files in Windows Explorer. Whilst researching this blog post I’ve found Microsoft’s OneNote syncing best practices (KB2819334) and what I should have done is move the OneNote notebooks from within OneNote…

After the OneDrive for Business repair, I was left with a .ms-one-stub file which Explorer reported as being 1KB in size. 6 months of notes had disappeared – and opening OneNote didn’t follow the stub and magically pick up my notes. I felt physically sick. I thought I had two copies – one on the PC and one in OneDrive for Business. But no, OneDrive for Business was my backup – and it had “eaten” my work.

Luckily, there was another backup copy. It wasn’t current, but it was only a couple of days out of date, rather than starting from scratch. I found that OneNote stores a copy of notes in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\OneNote\15.0\Backup.

That location has a folder for each notebook. Each folder contains a OneDrive recycle bin (OneNote_RecycleBin) and copies of  my .one files for each section, with a date when the backup was taken – for example project.one (On 22-11-2015).one. I’m not sure when the backup is taken (I’ve made changes to sections today that are still not reflected in the OneNote backup, but losing a couple of days is vastly superior to losing 6 months.

Even with the new information about the correct way to sync OneNote to OneDrive for Business, I’m not sure I completely trust it. From now on I’ll be making a third copy to another location…

 

Troubleshooting OneDrive for Business

I’ve written previously about the OneDrive for Business sync client – and I was pretty critical of it too. Since then, I’ve been working with OneDrive for Business every day on my work PC and it generally works well for me.  It’s not all a bed of roses though. I’ve had significant challenges with OneDrive in one customer implementation but part of the issue would appear to be their PC build, compounded by the approach taken to applying Microsoft updates.

It doesn’t help though that some Microsoft updates actually break OneDrive – the 13 October 2015 update for Office 2013 (KB3085566) prevents OneDrive for Business from syncing and needs an additional update from 21 October 2013 (KB2986219). And those are Office updates – separate to the OneDrive for Business client updates (e.g. KB3085509 and KB3101505).

I’m hoping that the new unified OneDrive sync client will improve things further. After all, Microsoft are claiming that:

“First and foremost, we’re delivering a rock-solid new sync experience.”

Great! That’s exactly what’s needed.

The new client (based on the consumer OneDrive client, which I think has its roots in Windows Live Mesh, rather than in Groove) introduces selective sync, removes some previous item count and file size limits and gets away from having two clients for OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. It’s also coming alongside improvements to the browser and mobile experiences, and changing to external sharing options (there’s more information on the OneDrive blog) but, for now, it’s an early preview and unfortunately not available for Windows 8.x.

Trying to fix my customer’s issues has led me to some useful resources for troubleshooting OneDrive for Business though – including an Office Support article on Fixing OneDrive for Business Sync Problems and a OneDrive for Business Sync Issues Troubleshooter. I’m not sure how well-known this second resource is, but it walks through a number of scenarios to help resolve problems, including:

Some of this is good practice, some is standard troubleshooting (clearing caches, reinstalling applications) but hopefully most people won’t need to go much further than the first few items. It’s definitely worth knowing about though…

Reconfiguring a Plusnet ADSL router (Sagemcom 2704n)

I’ve been trying to improve my Skype call quality at home and the guys I work with who know about this sort of stuff have suggested that my cheap ISP-supplied router may be part of the problem. Put simply, the Technicolor TG582n that Plusnet shipped me last year is fine for a bit of web surfing, it even streams video from iPlayer, etc. OK, but it’s not up to the task for P2P or real time media.

I was playing around with some of the settings and found that the router wasn’t behaving reliably (when I applied changes, and they weren’t applying) so I called PlusNet, who gave me two options: factory reset and a new router. I went for both.

The factory reset got me back up and running until the new router arrived. Plusnet’s current “Hub Zero” router is a Sagemcom 2704n and, whilst I’ve yet to see if my Skype for Business call quality improves, everything else about it seems to be a retrograde step:

The hardware design is flawed – when fixed to the wall, the router’s Ethernet ports are inaccessible (there isn’t enough room for them to turn through 90 degrees!) and, despite having a Gigabit Ethernet switch the ports are only 10/100 (yes, the ADSL connection is much slower than that but the cheap Ethernet ports reduce the speed of the local network).

Then, there’s the firmware that Plusnet have applied to the router which takes dumbing down to a new level. At least with the TG582n I could make a telnet connection for advanced configuration; Plusnet have blocked telnet, SSH and SNMP so there’s no way to manage the device. They’ve also removed the ability for ICMP to be enabled so my broadband ping trace flat-lined when I plugged in the new router:

PlusNet router blocks ICMP
No ICMP, no ping test

Worst of all, the Plusnet firmware hides the ability to change the IP address of the router, or to turn off DHCP. Given that I have a business account and that the paperwork with the router says “Welcome to Plusnet Business”, I’d have thought that almost any business with more than a handful of users would have its own DHCP server and may want to control the IP range in use (as I do – my Raspberry Pi does runs the infrastructure here). Luckily, after some hunting around I found a forum post with the details I needed:

Log into it using http://192.168.1.254/expert_user.html with the admin name and password.
Select >Advanced Setup >LAN
First select the ‘Disable DHCP Server’ radio button, then at the top, change the IP address

[…]

now click Apply/Save at the bottom. The 2704n will now update and the page will start to refresh but won’t complete as you now have to change the address in your browser URL bar to http://[yourchosenIP]/expert_user.html

In all likelihood, I’ll be buying a new router. Something decent for ADSL2+ that will also work if I do upgrade to FTTC later. In the meantime, at least I’ve managed to get over the biggest hump with reconfiguring the Sagemcom 2704n.

Recording a video of a PowerPoint presentation

One of the challenges I have with an Office 365 implementation that I’m working on is that the customer is unwilling or unable (for various technical and commercial reasons) to configure all of the network ports that are required to make use of Skype for Business. That means that they are unable to attend meetings that I host – they can dial in and hear the audio but they can’t access presentation content.

That’s a bit of a challenge for me, as I need to deliver some training to technical support staff across the globe and in various timezones. So, with Skype for Business out of the question… I started to think about alternatives – like recording a video of a PowerPoint presentation.

I realised it’s possible to record a narrative within PowerPoint and then save the presentation as a video or as a self-running presentation. That’s not as interactive as a Skype session could be but it’s also available for playback later (although this would also be the case with a recording of the Skype for Business session).

The process was not without its issues though. On the positive side, I could break my recording and re-record each slide (for example if I fluffed my words). That also helped when the kids came home and the inevitable family interruptions occurred. Unfortunately, PowerPoint kept on cutting out the first few seconds on some slides, so I started waiting a few seconds before speaking (I can trim it later) and it even recorded silence sometimes, necessitating a PC reboot to make it work again.  The whole process was not exactly fast – around 4 hours to record a one-hour presentation… and that doesn’t include the media encoding.

As I write this, I’m saving the file to MP4, hopefully ready for distribution… now, if only they hadn’t asked me to turn off Office 365 Video I’d have a means to share the content…

Clutter and Junk Email in Exchange Online

One of my Office 365 customers has been asking about Clutter and Junk Email – with concerns that Clutter doesn’t move all the mail they think it should and also that more email is being trapped as junk than they expect (or experienced with on-premises Exchange.  I thought it might be useful to cover a few bits and pieces on the topic…

Clutter

Looking first at Clutter, it’s a new capability introduced in Exchange Online a year ago which uses the Office Graph to move lower priority messages out of your way and into a new Clutter folder, with the intention that users can focus on the most important messages in their Inbox.  In essence, not everything received from third parties trying to sell things is junk – you may have newsletters and other updates that are not essential but that you don’t need to read right away. And, as your reading habits change, Clutter learns and adapts.

It’s a nice idea, but sometimes Clutter needs a little helping hand. You can switch Clutter on/off, or help it to learn your preferences by following Microsoft’s advice to use Clutter to sort low priority messages in Outlook on the web. Office 2016 users can also train Clutter in Outlook (the capability is not there in Outlook 2013).

In addition, messages sent from yourself, or from your management chain or direct reports (if you’re an Office 365 Business user) will never be identified as Clutter. It’s also possible for administrators to use a transport rule to ensure that certain messages are not treated as Clutter.

If you want to know more, Tony Redmond (@12knocksinna) has an FAQ with answers to common Clutter questions that I recommend reading.

Junk Email

Junk Email filtering has been around for a lot longer than Clutter and Office 365 uses intelligence built up over time to ?determine which messages are “spam” or junk email. Many messages are trapped before they even get to your Inbox. Sometimes, it’s not clear whether a message is Junk or not and something you intended to receive may be moved to your Junk Email folder in error. In my customer’s case, after a mailbox had been transferred from the on-premises Exchange to Exchange Online, we effectively have a new mailbox in a new Exchange organisation and it needed to re-learn some of the personal preferences around Junk email.

It’s unlikely that internal email will be classified as Junk; however you can edit this following the advice in Microsoft knowledge base article 2545137. It’s also possible to use a transport rule to set the spam confidence level (SCL) to -1 (i.e. definitely not spam) based on given criteria.  In addition, allow and block lists can be created within the spam filter in the Exchange Admin Center.

There’s more information on safe and blocked senders and the various mechanisms that are used in the Microsoft TechNet safe sender and blocked senders FAQ as well as consumer advice on using Junk Email Filters to control which messages you see.

The whole process

The whole filtering/organising process works like this:

  1. Messages identified as possible junk email are automatically moved to the Junk Email folder, and any potentially dangerous content, for example links or attached programs, are disabled.
  2. Next, any Inbox rules are processed.
  3. If you use Sweep in Outlook on the web, it will then organize your Inbox.
  4. Finally, Clutter will analyse the remaining messages and filters those that match a pattern for being ignored or not responded to, based on past behaviour.

Finding the PDF for my Office 365 invoice

Yesterday, I completed the accounts for the now-defunct company I used to run for my writing and consultancy, outside my main job. I closed that down several months ago (I haven’t written a paid article for a few years now and running my own consultancy clashes with the day job) but the tax return deadline looms…

…which means I need to gather receipts, including the PDFs for my Office 365 subscriptions.

Every time I do this, I have to search to find where the link is… so I thought I’d blog it and maybe next time the results will be on my own site (although by then the new Office 365 admin center  will be in place).

The billing overview doesn’t have the link to view the PDF – for that you have to view the order details – and it doesn’t currently work in Chrome – I had to fall back to Internet Exploder this time (although at least the website recognises this and it warned me).

Office 365 Billing - Order Details

No more FeedBlitz for markwilson.it updates

I’ve offered email subscriptions on this blog for years now, initially using FeedBlitz, then FeedBurner and also via WordPress.com.  Ironicially, given that FeedBurner is now owned by Google, it’s FeedBlitz that I’m least happy with – primarily because of the poor quality adverts that it wraps around my content.

For this reason, I’m going to be switching off the FeedBlitz feed over the next few days.  I’ll contact every existing subscriber on the FeedBlitz feed, before switching them over to the WordPress-powered subscription, but thought it appropriate to  post an update on the site as well.

It’s great to know that people still read the content I create – you can always subscribe to the RSS feed or for email updates via WordPress.com or using the Subscriptions section on the right hand side of the blog homepage.

Thanks for your continued support.

Banish passwords and unlock your PC with Windows Hello

Passwords are so old-fashioned. And insecure. Often, after a high profile website hack we’re asked to change our passwords because most people use the same password for multiple services. So, what’s the answer? Well, not using the same password for multiple sites might be one solution but that leads to problems with remembering passwords (which is why I use a password manager). Others think the solution lies in biometrics (and I’d certainly consider that as a second factor).

Windows 10 has an interesting new feature called Windows Hello. Rather than relying on a password, or a PIN (which is ultimately the same thing, once it’s been hashed…), Hello uses facial recognition to determine whether you can have access to a PC or not – and I’ve been testing it for a few weeks now.

Actually, we have two PCs in our house that can use Windows Hello: my wife’s Lenovo E550 (using the fingerprint reader or optional 3D camera); and the Lenovo B50 All-in-one PC I have on loan also includes the 3D camera that is required for facial recognition (iris readers will soon be available too). And in case you’re reading this and getting worried about a copy of your face being shared around the Internet, Hello’s facial recognition uses infra-red technology with the camera to capture data points (a kind of graph of your face) rather than a picture itself and the data never leaves the PC (where it is stored in encrypted form – you can read more in Microsoft’s Windows Hello privacy FAQ).  In essence, you have possession of a device; you unlock it with your face (or other biometrics); and then Windows Hello authenticates on your behalf but your biometric information is never transferred.

I was a bit confused at first to find that Hello was not available on the B50, until I discovered that the OOTB drivers were not up to the task – once I’d installed the Intel RealSense Depth Camera Manager (DCM) drivers, Windows was happy to learn how my face looks and Windows Hello jumped into life.

“So, what’s it actually like to use?”, you might ask.

Setup is just a case of following a wizard to let Windows recognise your face and after that it’s really, really straightforward.

Windows Hello setup - welcome! Windows Hello setup - make sure it's you Windows Hello setup - say cheese! Windows Hello setup - all set! Windows 10 sign-in options, including Windows Hello

Just make sure you look directly at the PC (no slurping a cuppa whilst waiting for it to recognise you).

Sometimes the camera takes a while to wake up when the PC resumes from standby (a driver issue, I expect – they seem to be under constant iteration) but in general it seems pretty reliable. It seems to cope well with varying lighting conditions too – whether I have a full ceiling light on, daylight from the window, or a little desk lamp; and I’ve moved offices since I originally set it up – that doesn’t seem to make a difference either. And there’s no problem with variations in the amount of facial hair I’m wearing on any given day. Apparently, even identical twins don’t fool it

Logging on to my PC with little more than a wiggle of a mouse (to wake it up) and a stare is great… it’s a shame I’ll have to give the PC back soon.

Further reading