Posted by: kurtsh | January 13, 2017

RELEASE: Microsoft StaffHub (for Office 365)

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We released Microsoft StaffHub today, which is web/mobile solution we’ve developed to provide schedule management, information sharing, & workgroup communications, targeting workers that have hourly shifts & task oriented labor.

StaffHub enables:

  • Managers to create, update and manage shift schedules for their team
  • Employees have access to all their shift information via web or StaffHub mobile app
  • Employees can swap shifts with others from the web or the StaffHub mobile app
    (Managers can receive & approve shift swaps before they are executed)
  • StaffHub Mobile App (iOS, Android) provides
        • Summary of upcoming shifts as well as any important notes
        • Review important information for their team, such as policy documents, news bulletins or videos
        • Receive messages from managers directly or as team broadcast messages
  • StaffHub integrates with Kronos Workforce Management with more systems to be announced
        • Pull in shift information for teams or individuals
  • StaffHub can show links to other work-relevant/important cloud apps

Licensing is simple: All Office 365 K1 licensed users (and E3 users) are eligible to use StaffHub immediately.

For more information, please read the announcement here:

imageYou’ve heard about the cloud, you know the benefits it offers, yet you’re still using an on-premises solution for your company’s emails. Maybe the thought of the transition is too daunting, or you’re not convinced it’s necessary at this time—there are many reasons that you might chose to stay with on-premises servers.

According to the 2015 IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey, 72 percent of organizations already have at least one application in the cloud and 56 percent are currently identifying which IT operations to move. Here are some common misconceptions about on-premises email and the reality of what migrating your business email to the cloud can do for your organization.

Read more here…

We’ve released an eBook describing the value of cloud-based email versus on-premises that goes through the bullets in the blog post more thoroughly.  Hint: “Regulatory mandate” is no longer a reason for on-premises servers.

imageWe announced today that we are making available a FREE Audible Audiobook, “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” (usually $24.95) written and narrated by Trevor Noah, comedian and host of “The Daily Show”. (Courtesy of Microsoft & Audible for Windows users.)

Read more here:

imageMany people don’t know that it’s possible to “double dip” & use a single Windows Server license in both:

  1. On-premises datacenter
  2. Cloud-based Virtual Machine

USE ONE LICENSE IN TWO PLACES SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH WINDOWS SERVER DATACENTER EDITION
This is known as the “Azure Hybrid Use Benefit” for Windows Server Datacenter Edition and it gives the licensee the ability to use a single Windows Server Datacenter Edition license simultaneously in both a physical server in-house as well as in Azure.

  • imageEXAMPLE #1:
    An example of this would be an organization that has an existing Windows Server in their datacenter running a line-of-business application (like an ERP application), that they’d like to gradually migrate systems to Microsoft Azure without decommissioning the servers on-prem, and don’t want to purchase additional licenses for use in the cloud.
  • EXAMPLE #2:
    The licenses however are not tied any any specific workload.  Another example is an organization that has a lot of Windows Server instances in their datacenter and would like to stand up Windows Server in the cloud for other workloads, and don’t want to purchase additional license for use in the cloud.

(Note: If you do not have Windows Server Datacenter Edition, there is a step-up price available that allows you to upgrade your existing Windows Server Standard Edition.  For more information, visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/windows-server-pricing and http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/A/1/6A1647EE-3FC7-47F2-9AFE-470AD5E5D856/StepUpLicenses.pdf)

CONVERT ONE WINDOWS SERVER LICENSE INTO 2 VIRTUAL MACHINES WITH WINDOWS SERVER STANDARD
Alternatively, one can move or transition their license from their datacenter to Microsoft Azure when using Windows Server Standard. 

This entitles the user to implement 2 Virtual Machines w/ 8 cores each at no additional Server OS licensing cost.

VALUE: 41% COST SAVINGS ON CLOUD VIRTUAL MACHINE INSTANCES
The value to an organization to using the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit is a dramatic reduction in cost. 

Not having to re-purchase the Windows Server license by leveraging the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit reduces the cost of cloud VM instances by 41%.

REQUIREMENTS

There are some basic requirements to obtain the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit

  • AZURE ONLY: Only applies to running VMs within Microsoft Azure – not applicable to any other cloud hosting service.  This grants 2 VMs using 8 cores each per license.
  • SOFTWARE ASSURANCE REQUIRED: Customers must have Software Assurance (aka ‘maintenance’) on their Windows Server licenses.
  • SIMULTANEOUS USE REQUIRES DATACENTER EDITION: Requires licenses to be Windows Server Datacenter Edition to simultaneously use Windows Server in both on-prem datacenters as well as Azure.

For more information, visit the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit site:

Posted by: kurtsh | January 9, 2017

DOWNLOAD: Windows Essentials 2012

imageIf you’re like me and you still love Windows Essentials 2012, but can’t find it, don’t fret: It’s still there. And it still installs on Windows 10.  There’s a catch however:

  • Windows Messenger is no more so there’s no point in installing it.
  • Windows Mail has been replaced in basically every way by the more functional Mail app built into Windows 10.
  • Windows Live Writer won’t install because of dependency on .NET Framework 3.5 which has an installation reference problem. (This is easily rectified by installing Open Live Writer, which is the same code base but open sourced & “fixed up”)
  • Support ends tomorrow for the suite per https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/13785/windows-essentials-2012-release-notes.

So… uh, why install it again? For the following:

  • Windows Photo Gallery
    I’ve always loved this tool.  Does a great job of organizing & touching up & editing photos.
  • Windows Movie Maker
    A really basic movie editor.  Uses WMV format but whatever.  If you’re looking to crank something easy out, edit out a couple seconds, add some transitions, look no further!  And it’s free

Grab the tool here:

If it’s not available any more, I have it available to download here:

Posted by: kurtsh | January 7, 2017

FIX: Increase audio levels on Surface Pro/Book

Ever notice that the Surface Pro/Book audio can be a bit quiet?  You might be watching a movie with earbuds on and the volume can be turned up to 100% and it might still not be as loud as you need it to be.

ENABLE DOLBY AUDIO
By default, Dolby Audio is OFF on Surface devices.  Turn it on by first plugging in your headphones. (The Playback device won’t necessarily appear if they aren’t plugged in)

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  • Right mouse button click the Speaker/Sound icon in the System Tray and select “Playback Devices”.
  • Right mouse click on “Headphones” and select “Properties”.
  • Select the “Dolby Audio” tab.  Click the button “Turn ON” and click OK.

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This should hopefully provide a bit louder audio.

Posted by: kurtsh | January 5, 2017

NEWS: Windows Defender Application Guard

One of the largest attack vectors for malware writers is the browser.  90 percent of phishing emails, for example. use the browser to initiate attacks, which can then be used to help attackers establish a beachhead inside a company

To address this, we are announcing Windows Defender Application Guard: A new feature coming to Microsoft Edge in Windows 10 Enterprise (E3 or E5).

Coming in H1CY17, Windows Defender Application Guard essentially quarantines the browser. It will run unknown web sites within a virtualized container generated by Windows 10 Hyper-V, isolating it from the system & protecting the user.

In this way, any potential malware that the user stumbles upon is sandboxed & never gets access to anything real on the user’s system.  No real OS, applications, code, or hardware APIs are ever available to the malware.

Here’s a video on how this works.

Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge

For more information on this upcoming feature for Windows 10 Enterprise subscribers, visit:

imageHeard of AdBlock Plus, Ghostery, or any number of ad blockers, privacy shields, and other such add-ons for browsers? 

A fellow named Nik Rolls has ported an open source add-in to Microsoft Edge called “uBlock Origin” that is somewhat of a lesser known tool to consumers but is highly respected in the technical community.

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uBlock Origin Adblocking, Privacy-shielding add-on for Microsoft Edge

WHAT IS IT?
uBlock Origin, simply put, is a highly efficient browser filter that is both light on CPU usage & extremely extensible.

  • CPU USAGE
    The creators tout uBlock Origin to be optimized to not impact the user experience.  In my experience so far, they’ve done a stunning job compared to other tools which really bog down your browser experience with unexplained intermittent pauses, “not responding” freezes of the browser, HTML frame rendering that takes forever, etc.  This is a major win for this tool already in my mind compared to other blockers.
  • EXTENSIBILITY
    This part is crazy.  uBlock Origin doesn’t just protect you using a single list of known ‘bad’ sites/domains.  Take a look at the following table that comes from the “uBlock Dashboard”, i.e. the configuration panel:
    image

    This is a small example of the filters it comes with out of the box.  Filters for:

          • Known malware sites
          • Privacy-violating tracking sites
          • Ads & banners
          • Host lists of tracking services
          • Sites known to use technical tricks to circumvent adblocking & anti-tracking tech
          • Spam sites
          • etc. etc.

And yes, the tool is FREE.

The one catch is that it’s still in ‘preview’, although it’s actually been available for several months now and there’s been very little that I’ve had a problem with.

I wholeheartedly encourage folks that are using Microsoft Edge to give uBlock Origin a try.  It’s been a real delight for me & provides a much better experience than many of the other adblocking, privacy shielding tools I’ve used to date.

————-

A WORD ABOUT MICROSOFT EDGE
If you’ve gotten this far, it means you haven’t completely ruled out using Microsoft Edge as a browser – and that’s good. 

I’ve recently become a convert from IE/Firefox as my default browser to Edge.  Why?

  1. Edge is FAST.  Everything renders extremely quickly relative to IE or Firefox.  It is missing a few features here and there but nothing has been a dealbreaker for me.
  2. Edge is POWER EFFICIENT.  I can summarize the value of this in one sentence:  I have increased by laptop’s battery life by nearly ~40% ever since using Edge instead of Internet Explorer or Firefox.
  3. Edge is SECURE. It has numerous protections built into it that make it the most secure browser… but it is also the only browser that will be protected by Windows Defender Application Guard for Windows 10 Enterprise. (E3 or E5)
    This feature, coming in H1CY17 quarantines the browser: It will run unknown web sites within a virtualized container generated by Windows Hyper-V, isolating it from the system & protecting the user. 
    Here’s a video on how this works.  
    Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge
Posted by: kurtsh | January 2, 2017

RELEASE: Skype for Business on Mac CU1

Version 16.1.0.456 of Skype for Business for Mac was announced last month.

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Here’s a few of the items updated in this release:

  • Contact group management features for Office 365 / Skype for Business Server 2015 customers
  • Contact tagging for status changes
  • Improvements to meetings reliability, sign-in, and chat

Read the announcement & download the bits from below if you don’t have Microsoft AutoUpdate turned on.

imageAt Microsoft Ignite 2016 the Office 365 ProPlus deployment team released a brand new guide focused on making your organization’s Office 365 ProPlus deployment a success.

This guide has been created by a team of subject matter experts from the Office 365 Product Group, Office 365 Product Marketing Group, and delivery experts from Microsoft Services which provides a single source for the Office 365 ProPlus deployment guidance that you need to successfully deploy and manage Office 365 ProPlus, including recommended guidance for discovery of applications, preferred deployment scenarios and practices, recommended approaches for channel management, and reporting capabilities for licensing and usage.

Note: The guide is actually an 8.46MB OneNote notebook so you’ll need to have OneNote installed to use it.  Download it for free for Windows 10, Windows desktop, Windows Phone, Mac, iOS, & Android at https://www.onenote.com/Download.

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