Nov 04

How to Sync IE 9 Using Skydrive

This is a topic that puzzled me. You see this used to be done automatically using Windows Live Mesh, but becuase of many reasons Microsoft discontinued it. Now with the new Skydrive there is no clear way of doing it. To make matters a little more confusing when I attempted to search, everything I saw suggested this was no longer impossible. After pondering about how I would do this I came up with a solution. You see, as long as you have Skydrive on your computer thats all you need to pull this off. The best part is its very simple. I got the inspiration from playing around with fusing Linux and Windows file systems together.

1. First thing you do is open your windows explorer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Navigate to your user directory. This is typically, C:/User/(your username), but it can vary. Then right click on favorites, and select properties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Then click on the location tab and change it to the folder that holds your Skydrive files. Now I have a default installation of Skydrive, and it placed a folder in the same directory as my favorites. It is a matter of repointing favorites folder into a identically named folder inside of the Skydrive folder. It will ask you if you want to copy your favorites over. For the first time say yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The last step is doing this to all your computers. They should all now have a favorites folder inside the Skydrive folder. So now if you add a link, it’ll create a new link file. Then Skydrive will sync it, and all your computers will recieve the update quietly.

And thats it.  As long as you change the locations on all your computers to point to this same directory they should stay syncronized. So next time someone tells you that you can’t do it they are lying, or more than likely just uninformed in the matter. Good day!

 

 

Image

Very Sneaky Microsoft

Looks like Microsoft is trying to be sneaky, and inserted this in quietly.
 

Oct 31

Microsoft Office Heads Into the Cloud

 A New Beginning

For tech junkies like myself, it was delightful to see a new product out for a preview. With the industry trend to move to the cloud this is an obvious push for Microsoft especially in the consumer market. Where businesses are aggressive in implementing private clouds the average consumers have embraced the public clouds. Now Office 365 has been around for awhile now in the corporate world where it has in some regards struggled to kick off. It has always been a solid niche filler for small the medium sized companies. Now they have expanded into the consumer market which is a marriage made in heaven. Now I am in love with Microsoft’s new slogan, ” Welcome to a Modern Office”. On the surface this may sound like some marketing term. Which it is… It’s importance is the idea that stagnation in technology is holding us back, and to grab our traditional ideas. Then advance them with modern concepts as using the cloud is a great direction to be moving in.

Now ideas are great but if execution is done poorly then you’ve accomplished nothing.Lets begin. I started my journey at Microsoft’s Office 2013 Preview. It was a painless experience with your traditional Microsoft Passport login. It downloaded a thin client installer which was quite optimisitic.

An Optimistic Start

I was then greeted with an interesting prompt. I was asked how I wanted my Office to look. This question reinforces my original thought that Microsoft is pushing into a much more consumer focused direction. Even if it is a superfulous feature I like little touches like these. Ask any design expert and they will tell you that little things like these add greatly to the experience one has when looking something. Especially if you are going to be looking at it as much as the typical computer user does.

So after two more screens pointing out the new cloud integration you are good to go and they release you into your new “Modern Office”. The software included in the Home Preview include Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, Outlook, OneNote, and Publisher (I would provide a link, but Microsoft apperently forgot to create a product page for Publisher).

Word 2013

I decided to start things off I would go to the venerable Microsoft Word. Upon opening this application i was greeted by the new splash screen. Which i was pleased to find had a new updated look which was elegant unlike Office 2010’s splash.

My first impressions were quite good. It had a very snappy and quick start. The design of the application still had its Windows 8 elegant style to it.

I went ahead and opened a word document. Again the performance was reliable, quick, and snappy.

Some of the initial changes that I had noticed are your Microsoft Passport picture at the top with your email address confirming that you are signed in, and a new tab called “Design”. The first thing I did was start typing. This is where at first things felt a little weird. The cursor wasn’t snappy like I am sure everyone is used to. Instead of moving across the screen it glides. Now for the average person this will probably move across the screen quick enough that it is just visually elegant, but to a speed typer I can see this being annoying as it almost feels like its struggling to keep up. I decided that for the speed at which I type it wouldn’t bother me as I had to put a concious effort into speed typing to really feel like the cursor wasn’t keeping up.

The Design Tab

At this point I decided to explore this new “Design” tab. It resembles what most people will associate with picking your slide deck design for PowerPoint.

I found this to be a very welcoming addition. There are many features that most people don’t take the time to learn that are great in the newer ribbon based Office Suites. One of my favorites was the “Styles” section. What this design tab does is allows you to save presets of those styles that you can quickly and easily apply to your document if you properly use styles. This is fantastic! With only one click I made the document you saw above look like the one below.

And with only one more click i changed it again to the one below here.

What big differences with such little effort, and best of all. It applied the styles without even skipping a cycle. Very responsive.

Online Pictures and Video

One really neat feature I found is the ability to insert images from many online sources. What clued me off is the new button that appeared under insert.

I was very intrigued at first. I quickly clicked it to only be surprised, and get even more curious. You see I was greeted by a interesting window.

As you can see, now you can insert pictures straight from Bing, your own Skydrive, or the new clip art that features stock pictures much like iStockPhoto.com. Then on the bottom I saw the Flickr logo. You see, if you have a Flickr account you can also search for images there. To sweeten the deal, any image source can eventually have thier service added here making it even easier to pull in images from online sources. It’s almost like they realized most people start searching for images rather than use clip art.

Now if you are more interested in video adding them is even easier than before.

You can add video in much the same way. Even YouTube! Practically any video with an embed code can be used.

Office Now has Apps

The new office suite now lets you have apps that bring in more information without having to leave word. There are only a few at this moment as you can imagine. There are dictionary to encyclopedia apps. Great for doing research and not leaving Word.

This kind of functionality brings all kinds of new potentials to Word. This is a very good example of how Microsoft is focusing on pulling in all kinds of functionality that we all use other services for into Word.

Commenting

This is one of my new favorite features. Comment has always been around, but its always been a little clunky. Especially when you leave a comment, and your coworker comments on your comment. Then you comment on the comment about your original comment. Then those comments become as hard to read as me explaining commenting in Office 2010. Now its a bubble with a threaded conversation. This is a truely collaborative tool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 PDFs in Word

Im going to make this simple. Here is an image of me opening a PDF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of me reading a PDF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of me editing a PDF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is me saving that edited PDF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough said

In Conclusion

I have only worked with Word so far and I can say that I am impressed. Lots of people can knock Windows, but one thing Microsoft does well is office productivity applications. It is a big step into integrating with the cloud. They really started creating that bridge. I can’t wait to see what the other products hold. This version is definately something that I will be looking into buying soon after it is released for general consumption.

 

Sep 08

Aligning IT to the Business

Lately, I have been thinking alot about the current IT climate and how IT aligns itself with the business. It seems that every day you see new blog posts and advertising from companies such as Cisco, Gartner, SAP, Trend Micro, industry experts, and many more advocating new industry trends that will make huge leaps in the way you tackle challenges. The message they impart is that if your company does not do it then you are silly. It just seems like the industry is turning into one full of lemmings ready to jump into the fire in the pursuit of buzz words. One of the biggest buzz word trends in the industry lately is “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD). Not to say that conceptually it is a bad idea. What bothers me is the way in which it is being pursued by IT departments. It seems these days that vendors come up with new ideas in untapped markets, and push them onto their clients like the greatest thing since sliced bread. It just really isn’t for every company.There is a multitude of support and risk issues that must be addressed that can very easily eat up all the cost avoidance that the project was originally intended to accomplish, and does it truly help the business operations? I am not talking about support services but the actual operational part of the business. Thats why IT needs to ask itself one easy question.

“How does this help my business do X”? Where X is what the company does to create revenue. For E&P companies it would be “How does this help my business drill for oil”? or for a bank it would be, “How does this help my business provide financial services”? I find that question is often forgotten. I am no saint myself. I have caught myself on a  number of occasions trying to push initiaties based on what would enhance IT without thinking about how would it enhance the business. It’s an easy trap to slip into.

You see IT can truely align itself with the business and learn the business process it can integrate itself into the business, and truely be able to create a mesurable impact to its companies ability to compete in the market place. Once it accomplishes that, it can start looking ahead and be truely proactive about providing solutions and services, but before then. IT will just be merely keeping the lights on and executing expensive projects that truely won’t make an impact.

So I challenge my fellow industry collegeues to ask themselves that question this next week. If you find that your well aligned great, but if you find that you aren’t. Well… you just identified an oppurtunity to improve.

 

 

Aug 04

Free Microsoft e-books!!!

Here is a collection of free Microsoft e-books.Eric Ligman of MSDN has been nice enough to post them in one easy to see place. It is quite fantastic when this happens. So here you go and try to learn somthing new!!!! Who knows this might be the perfect time to get those skills to make the next game changer.

Links

Large collection of Free Microsoft eBooks for you, including: SharePoint, Visual Studio, Windows Phone, Windows 8, Office 365, Office 2010, SQL Server 2012, Azure, and more.
Another large collection of Free Microsoft eBooks and Resource Kits for you, including: SharePoint 2013, Office 2013, Office 365, Duet 2.0, Azure, Cloud, Windows Phone, Lync, Dynamics CRM, and more.
 

Jul 28

Dreams of a Humble IT Guy

I was sitting down one day reflecting after a long day of work. I had a conversation with a co-worker that day about visions of past technology leaders, and how many of their predictions were wrong. One quote that stood out was one by a member of Microsoft where he said that technology would become so easy and user friendly that information technology professionals would no longer be needed. Thats a funny statement because if anything it has gone entirely in the opposite direction. Applications kept becoming more complicated, and more people were then needed to support it.

Recently, it has been interesting to see a backlash to that trend. There has been a resurgence of focus in the user interface and simplification of the user experience. This movement gained momentum with the rise of apps. These simple little programs have proven that a feature rich universe of bloated software isn’t needed to draw in customers, but instead one where simple feature slim software that does a few things very well are much more popular. You see the vast majority of people are not nerds. For many, bloated software is quite overwhelming and expensive. These high budget to produce software packages are so feature rich most people that use them don’t even know how to use all of the features in it. Who was the last person you knew that had a working knowledge of ALL the features in Photoshop. Most people just use it to make minor modifications to photos or to use the basic layers, and have to spend hundreds of dollars per update just to get more features that they will probably never use. Since the early days there have been some alternatives popup, but they never truly captures that feel of use Photoshop has.

So with this new look into useability it has made technology much friendlier to the end user making technology cool again. My biggest question is how long until we see the truly nerdy stuff that are used by corporations reach the consumer home. Network monitoring, system diagnostics, ERP systems, email, content management, and many many more. Right now there has been a shift to move things to the cloud, but the cloud is nothing new. Its just the newest buzz word for online content and storage. It used to be known as the ether… hence ethernet cables, but my prediction is one of a personal cloud. One that resides in a home data center. Not one sitting out in the cloud where privacy, security, and ethics are constantly assaulting those providers. Yes, the SaaS model is one that is convenient, but one that requires the user to place much trust in faceless corporations where your data could easily be compromised. It also makes your private data much more target-able. Case in point Dropbox giving user data to the government for trials, or the recent hacking of LinkedIn.

But for such a future to exist there must be much more simplification and appeal to the average person. The technologies have to be simple. They have to start simple. That is why cloud services are so popular. They are dead simple to the user. With steps as simple as make an account, and download the app.

So the big question at this point is what are the advantages of creating a unified personal cloud. Just imagine if all you ever had to do was give your account info to your phone and automatically all of your data was there. In a vendor agnostic environment. Where if a device of yours was ever compromised you could easily cut off its life line to your data. Imagine hooking up a small inexpensive device to your TV, and having all your content organized neatly. Where you can shop prices between different content providers for the same goods. Imagine a world where you can let people have access to certain portions of content while keeping them out of the rest.

Its not a matter of having an app for this or an app for that. Its a matter of bridging it all together into one unified vendor agnostic environment. Its about bringing it all into one system that can make sense of it all. Its about keeping it easy and simple, so the added effort of having a server in the home is a second thought.

So those are my thoughts and ramblings. Many people will disagree with me on this, but who could have dreamed of the way we work and live today back in the early 90’s. The honest truth is we won’t know until we find out.

 

 

 

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Hey Amazon

Hey Amazon, what are these references to Kindle Tequila. Are we getting some kind of party Kindle now? Or a Amazon brand tequila?

 

Important!

Update: The mystery has been solved. The two new Kindles have been code named tequila and whiskey. It was fun while it lasted.

 

May 13

Forcing Javascript to Wait For AJAX

A common problem I ran into as I learned AJAX was that the javascript wouldn’t wait for the AJAX to return the content I asked for. That is because of the “A” in AJAX. AJAX is asynchronous. This means that it will send the request out and will get a response back in an indeterminate amount of time. The frustrating part is that the javascript will not wait for the response from AJAX. This in turn produced very inconsistent results depending on what ran faster. To resolve this one must find out if the AJAX is done executing before continuing to run the rest of the AJAX.

There are three ways to fixing this. The correct way of fixing this is to use:

xmlhttp.onreadystatechange = function() {
if(xmlhttp.readyState==4) {
// Do things
}
};

This identifies if the AJAX has completed, and that it is ready to use the content you asked it to pull for you. Two other options you can use if you must are to have the javascript delayed by a timing event or to actually syncronize the page and the server.

AJAX(); //A function that makes the AJAX call
var t=setTimeout("javascript statement",milliseconds); //The rest of the code to be executed with the AJAX content

The above code will execute the code in the first parameter after the time has elapsed in the second parameter. This works well in many cases, but you leave yourself open to runtiime errors if the AJAX call takes longer to compelete than the timeout. This can cause issues of scalability as the database grows.

Finally, the last and least desirable way of doing this is to actually sync the client and the database. The biggest problem with this is that it will freeze up the browser as it waits to get the information it needs. Its very easy to execute. All you have to do is change the third parameter in the open method to false.

xmlhttp.open("GET",url,false);

Warning!

Just beware of errors as the timeout period until the user gets control again can take up to 2 minutes.

 

 

Mar 31

Creating Pinned Websites

Creating a High Resolution Favicon

Favicons have come a long way since the inception of them , but times have changed. Before they were a 16 X16 ugly little icon that appeared next to the URL in the browser to give your website that little bit of extra flair and autheticity. Modern browsers now let you cram an entire 64 X64 icon in that same space. Thats 4096 pixels as opposed to the previous 256 in the exact same space, or 16 times the detail. Also look at all the great places that logo will be used. It is used in the tab, next to the URL, in your task bar once pinned, and in the corner next to the navigation buttons to add a little bit of branding to the experience. A little bit of work goes a long way to creating a more powerful presence for your website.

 

 

 

After playing around with a couple of ways to create the icon i found that the best way of doing it is to create a vector image. The main advantage that vector images have over their rastor counter parts is that instead of the image being generated by being a coordinate plane of colored pixels it is generated by the wonderful power of math! What that translates into is that you can resize the image and zoom in and out as much as you want without makeing the image blurry. The process is even becuase when working with rastor images it is alot like trying to paint a portrait with a paint brush. You have to manipulate the individual pixels of the image. In vector art you can draw a line. Click on it. Then bend the line to perfection like a piece of wire.  Some popular image processors are Xara, Corel, Microsoft Expression Design, and the ever popular Adobe Illustrator. My favorite is the oper source project Inkscape. This tool is quite capable, and has more then enough bells and whistles for this project.

Now just make sure that your icon’s dimensions are 64X64 pixels. Now making the logo is a topic for its own post, and there is plenty of documentation out there to get you on your way to getting your final product. Once you get the logo made its time to create the icon. The first thing you will want to do is save a copy of your logo as a PNG file. The reasons for doing this is that PNG files support transperancy, are high quality, and are lossless. Also becuase the tools we will use next don’t support SVG which is the native file format of vector graphics. Now my tool of choice has always been iConvert. All you do is upload your image, and it will convert it for you. It then will let you download your file. Now its important to download the .ico format which is the prefered favicon format.

The final step is to configure the pinning feature. First, upload the .ico file to your web server. Then open the part of your site that contains the header. In between the tag we are going to add a and a few tags to pass on all the information that IE9 will need to configure the pinning feature.

There are two different sets of metadata. Theres installaion and runtime. We define them together, but they are used at different times. The installation metadata is used when we drag the tab to the taskbar, while the runtime metadata is used when we click on the icon in the taskbar.

Installation

Parameter Description
application-name The name of your web application.
application-tooltip The text that appears when you hover your mouse over the icon in the taskbar.
application-starturl This sets the URL that should be used when the taskbar icon is clicked on.
application-window This defines he size of the window that should be opened up.

Run-time

Parameter Description
msapplication-navbutton-color This metadate sets the color of the navigation buttons.
msapplication-task Used to create tasks for your jump list(I will cover this later).
msapplication-task-separator This creates visual seperations between tasks.

At this point the source code in my header looks something like this.

 

<link rel="shortcut icon" type="image/ico" href="/favicon.ico" />
<meta name="application-name" content="Tech Daemon" />
<meta name="msapplication-starturl" content="http://techdaemon.me" />
<meta name="msapplication-navbutton-color" content="#000000" />
<meta name="msapplication-window" content="width=1024;height=768" />
<meta name="msapplication-tooltip" content="Discover on Tech Daemon" />

The link tag is where I define where the favicon is located. Now we are ready to move on to creating our jump lists, and make your icon more then just a shortcut.

Creating the Jumplist

Now one of the reasons pinned sites are nice to have is that you can add a custom jumplist that is customized for your application. This allows users to “jump” right into a part of your site. The most effective way of using the jumplist is to create tasks.

It is made in much the same way that we defined the icon. More meta data! Here is one entry in the jumplist.

<meta name=”msapplication-task” content=”name=Shopping; action-uri=./?page_id=89; icon-uri=shared-resources/icons/cart.ico” />

THe kind of meta data we want to define is a msapplication-task. This lets the browser know that we want to create an entry in the task list. The key part is the content parameter. There are several different items we can add to it that will define the task.

Parameter Description
name The title of the entry. This is what your users see
action-uri This is the link that will open up.
icon-uri This is the URL for the icon you want to use for the entry
window-type This can be tab, self, or window. Tab opens a new tab in the current window with the action-uri. Self just changes the current tab. Finally, window opens up an entirely new window to open the URL.

The entry i described above therefore is called Shopping takes you to the “page_id” 89 and has a little icon located at “shared-resources/icons/cart.ico”. You have to define a tag per entry that you want in your task list.

So thats it. Making a pinnable site is quite easy and lets you give more functionality for your most loyal users. In the future I will make another post explaining more advanced concepts with site pinning such as how to make dynamic lists and notification icons. Happy coding!

References

MSDN
Build My Pinned Site

 

Jan 04

Security Theory – CIA Triangle

With the rise of hackers security has become a hot button issue. A simple search of the word “hacker” reveals numerous stories about hackers finding ways to compromise sensitive information or breach supposed secure systems. Hackers have proliferated and formed organizations where they pool their resources and talents to achieve a number of objectives. Organizations such as “LulzSec” have pulled off some of the most unthinkable hacking jobs that have made news headlines.

Before delving into implementing security it is important to identify a clear security policy as the guide to making decisions. Security professionals use many different tools to evaluate which kinds of policies should be used. The most important thing that any IT professional needs to learn is that there is no such thing as perfect security, and there are tradeoffs to any security policy that must be understood. Instead of asking, “How do I make this perfectly secure?”, what they should be asking instead is, “What am I protecting and how important is it to protect?”

The CIA Triangle

To understand why this second question is important security policy writers usually turn to the CIA triangle. CIA stands for confidentiality, integrity, and availability. One can never accomplish one of these objectives fully without sacrificing the other two to some extent.

CIA Triangle

Confidentiality – This axis in the triangle refers to how limited access to the information is. This covers both access granting and access restrictions. To put it simple only people that need the information should have access to only that information which they need and are authorized to view.

Integrity – This axis refers to how trustworthy the data is. Integrity can be compromised in multiple different ways. Some common ways include a person changing records in a table either accidentally or on purpose, corruption of data being stored or in transmission, or databases and views being out of sync with each other. The goal of high integrity is to make sure the data is perfect when viewed by showing the correct amount of records and values of the data.

Availability – This axis refers to how easily accessible the data is. It is important that those who need the stored information can access it easily enough. If you can’t get to it, you might as well not have it. On the other hand if the data is exposed, it is vulnerable to denial of service attacks or data can be corrupted by malicious or uncareful users.

So for example, if you want the data to be extremely available then you will have to reduce the confidentiality because you will have to implement fewer and easier to bypass security measures. On the other hand you might have to sacrifice some of the integrity of the data by allowing more users to edit the data. The key is to figure out just how secure, available, and reliable the data must be and, implement the procedures and policies that are appropriate for the parameters. Now this tool is not a definitive end all to security considerations. One of its main draw backs is it is focused on information, and it does not consider physical security as well as hardware resources. That is why this model is a good starting point that sets the tone for how complete security policies should be made, and should be fleshed out to include all kinds of regular security considerations.

Sources

http://it.med.miami.edu/x904.xml

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/security/the-cia-triad/488

 

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