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Matching the UI to the User

Mon, 02 May 2016 23:13:00 +0000

I recently found an article called "Why I love ugly, messy interfaces - and you probably do too" by Jonas Downey, a designer at BaseCamp. I opened this up because I vehemently disagree. All user interfaces should be as beautiful as possible. In today's age, it's unacceptable to punt those P3 "fit and finish" bugs and ship something that looks ugly. It takes an extra week to delight your users? Do it!At least that's what I had the mindset of going into this article. What I actually got out of it was exactly in line with my point of thinking, aside from loving ugly messy interfaces.Matching the UI to the User ...Old school usability study, behind the one-way mirrorMatching the UI to the user has never been more important. Recently, I was the product manager working on, a new product to enable American's to get documents Notarized in a digital fashion, without the beige carpeted walls of an antique Notary office (at least that's how the one looked like that I went to when I was desperate one day!).Designing the interface involved designing for an end iPhone user who would likely use this app one or two times in their life, then designing a web interface for the Notary to use, who would likely notarize a document every 3-5 minutes in any given shift, and lastly, for the Administrator to manage notary's and review certain analytics.On the iPhone, it was super critical to get trust, and friendliness across. This lead to working with the design team to create the simplest UI possible. Fancy animations, great illustrations, a flow that made sense. It also had to get the customer to vest by the time in app before it prompted for credit card and drivers license information (likely drop-off locations). Something that you could use once, or twice years later and still feel like an expert user. Being able to sign, or annotate the document just made sense, and the app helped you along the way.On the web, we chose the "ugly, messy interface" approach. Ok, so it wasn't ugly at all, it was beautiful! It wasn't super simple however, it leveraged white space for "same page" content delivery. In every 3-5 minute call, the notary would have to review the drivers license, review and edit the document, maintain a video call, and charge the user. Having multiple pages and a simple design would only have lead to long-term frustration for the Notary user. Instead we focused the design on every click needed to perform an action: "add a signature", "add a date", "mark complete", "charge user", "Don't charge user", etc. In fact, we designed the system to just assume that the Notary wouldn't want to click much at all. The system automatically answers the next call in the queue, unless the Notary intentionally marks him or herself unavailable (everyone needs a lunch break!). The drivers license is visible, and directly below the video feed, so you can validate it without even clicking, tabbing, or hovering (but you can hover or click if you need more detail). I.e., the interface was optimized around speed, knowing that the notary would get some training, we optimized the UI for the expert.The admin console was targeted at frequent tasks, reviewing analytics, and less frequent tasks, adding or removing notary agents who work at the company. As a business starting out, it's likely the owner would have that dashboard open much like a real-time dashboard for a rocket launch. We designed for this persona as well.All this is to say, is that each part of your product, think of who will be using it, and what their needs are, and design for that. Jonas talks about the Craigslist UI, but users can find what they want, they don't have to search, it's look, and click, no searching or figuring out how to use the UI. He also talks about the Photoshop UI, again, can you imagine how much clicking it would be for a digital artist if this was a simple design?On a last "devils advocate" note, working on Small Business Server 2008, we wanted to target the DIY or "Do-It-Yourselfer" as the system administrator, but also enable the paid consultant. More ti[...]

What Just Happened? Let's Talk Post-Mortems

Wed, 20 Apr 2016 21:26:00 +0000

Today one of my favourite "celebrity" Product Managers, Ken Norton, published a quick and dirty article on Bring the Donuts called Blameless Post Mortems. This spurred a thought process for me on the importance of review.There are two important times to look back, and the both have different ways of approaching them. When there was a clear service failure, it's important to figure out what happened, and how to prevent it from happening again.When finishing a long running (3-5 month) process or project,  extracting the learnings from that to apply to future projects.In Ken's Post Mortem document, the former is what is discussed. When something break, it's important to conduct a review, in a blameless fashion, and figure out how to prevent it from happening again. Service Failure Post-mortemsOften when there is a service outage, a security hole or some notable problem in a service it's important to review in hopes of preventing it from happening again. With the right process in place, repeat outages can be prevented from happening again, although in some cases, the outage may not be preventable, or not immediately preventable (i.e it may take weeks or months to re-write part of a service to prevent it from happening again). However in many cases, simple process or diligence can increase service reliability. For example, code reviews with senior developers, or security audits with least privilege assigned to operational folks. Ken points to a template that Google uses for this purpose. This is essentially the same template that is used at Microsoft as well, so it's definitely a good source. The idea of the template is to just work in a group of experts on the specific issue to fill out the template, track the bugs found through closure (code fixes, or process fixes), and share the knowledge with everyone on the team to ensure it doesn't happen again. Then move on and learn from that experience to the next outage, rinse and repeat.Shipping Post-mortemsThe second type of post mortem usually happens at the end of shipping something substantial, or if it's continuously shipping, they can be done every 3-6 months. It makes sense to run to connect a post mortem to something substantial: i.e. a new multi-sprint feature out the door, a retrospective of trying out a new tool, or a 3-5 month anniversary of a team being together are good examples. Preferably the retrospective is not too far away from the start of the project, that the project starting bumps can still be remembered, and not too close that the team hasn't hit cadence or shipped something.This critical post mortem helps discover what's working for a team, or where a product manager and/or leadership should focus energy on change.Sticky Notes are your FriendThis type of post mortem is run differently than a service outage, and likely will take up more time to complete. A good rule of thumb is the moderator, often a product or project manager, should put aside about one and a half to two hours of time, while the rest of the team can join for an hour plus brainstorming. Here is how to run this type of post mortem:PreparationBrainstorming takes time, for some it takes a short time, and for others it takes a longer time. For maximum meeting efficiency, it's best not to do this in the post mortem meeting. When the 1-hour long post mortem time is published, the moderator should ensure each person attending comes up with 1-3 things that went well, and 1-3 things that could be improved, and if possible a suggestion or two on how to improve each. Brainstorming should be completed before the meeting starts to make the meeting as efficient as possible.Execution of the Post MortemThe execution is where sticky notes are excellent. Most of the meeting will be run by moving sticky notes around, grouping them and positioning them in priority order. In a worst case or a remote case, a whiteboard works as well (i.e. remotely accessible meetings can be run by screen sharing using a digital whiteboard or a shared GDoc/Evernote file. It's probably mo[...]

Product Managers Should Know Their Customers - No Excuses

Tue, 29 Mar 2016 22:23:00 +0000

Product Management is usually a role that is customized to the organization in which it exists. As such it's extremely hard to explain a product managers role. I usually share this link to friends and family who ask the famous "so you're 'in computers', what do you do?" it's written by Martin Eriksson. Here is the simple version of you as a product manager:That's right, the pinnacle point of the cluster f--k.Many people read this diagram as the product manager being involved in the decisions as it relates to UX, the tech decisions, and where the business is going. While this is very true, a product manager is also a supportive role. What that means is the designers, developers and business leaders will have questions, a lot of questions, and it's the product manager's job to answer them or find an answer, somewhere. Finding that answer may come from inside the company, but as a company grows, it'll be harder and harder to find the right person, or worse, answers may differ between different business leaders. Having multiple opinions will create a broken user experience in the product. The product manager normalizes the feedback, collects more, and combines it with long term direction creating a cohesive story for end-users using a product.So if not all the answers come from inside the company, where do they come from?Customers, Customers, Customers.A product manager should know exactly what their customers want, at all times, about each key feature in their ownership. There is no excuse, except perhaps for initial for ramp-up periods. A product manager brings the voice of the customer to the table. It doesn't matter if the product is supposed to make millions (a.k.a. "Business"), it looks beautiful (a.k.a. "Design"), or is a masterful architecture of tech-greatness (a.k.a. "Tech"). If it's not targeted towards a market and a set of customers, it'll end up in the bit bucket.So a product manager needs to know their customers, deeply. How is this accomplished? Research, and lots of it. I particularly like this article about the breakdown of Qualitative and Quantitative research, to help you once you get the data. I like to get my data from many different sources, here are the top methods for getting data, in order of most often used:Telemetry - Data-mine the heck out of the product as it provides daily insights! What are customers using,? What are they not using? How long is it taking customers to go down a funnel? Where are the drop off points? What does A/B testing tell you?Support - Current customers are calling to tell you what's broken, what they want, what they need. Pick up a phone and listen. Follow up with some of the more interesting ones that align with business the business direction.Sales - Potential customers are on the phone as well, what do they want? Why didn't they choose your product? Why did they? What would make it a slam dunk for them next time around? What competitors are they considering and why?Round Tables/Advisory boards - Get your key customers in a room together, or on a webinar and let them voice their favourite features (don't mess with this, or improve incrementally for low-hanging fruit), and their feature wishes and hated features. Let them talk to each other as well.Conferences - Not yet potential customers who could be potential customers, who may have never heard about the product or company. Get their reactions, what do they like, what don't they like. Are they extra engaged on key features, do they call out features that should be there? And my favourite, let your customers sell other potential customers on the product and see what they think are the key features.Site visits - Just like a lion safari, watching the users in their natural habitat is irreplaceable. Watch where they get tripped up, ask them why they chose one way over another way. There is a lot to learn. The caution on this one is to make sure you do multiple site visits so there isn't an overly tailored and specific request for one custo[...]

When Should a CEO Hire a Product Manager?

Thu, 03 Mar 2016 21:14:00 +0000

A company usually starts with an idea, or a couple of people getting together over an idea. That idea percolates and becomes the center of attention for the founder(s) or CEO. Obsession over details and getting things just right is the norm. This is all goodness. Hopefully that obsessive effort takes off and the CEO is forced into running a business, instead of nursing an ember of an idea.I have never been a CEO of a company, but I've watched them. The responsibilities seem endless. Build the right team, which means hiring and interviewing. Keep the VCs happy, which means flights and travel and presentation prep. Go find the customers and evangelize, more travel and more presentations. Make sure the company can make payroll, reviewing the finances and financial planning. Prioritizing the companies limited resources to get the biggest bang for a buck. There is a lot more than that, but even those alone seem like full time jobs. Some of this is easier if there are co-founders and division of duties is forged. But often co-founders have the same vested interest in knowing all the details of the business, and thus never fully leave the other to handle their tasks without at least being in the know.All this, then a developer wants to know what should happen if a user taps the help button. The product needs help, but who's going to write all that content and figure out the user flow back into the app?The CEO's job is to focus on the big picture, the big moving parts and the future of the company and product. You've heard the phrase "Hire to your weaknesses", but the CEO often doesn't accept that a lack of time is his or her weakness. Or often feels that since the idea was theirs, no one else will understand it. Building a software product and worrying about the details takes time, and lots of it. It's not accepted today to ship something where the details aren't thought out, a single bump in the user experience can cause 1,000s of users to jump to your nearest competitor. Moreover, that bump is what they remember about your product, it'll take a lot of work to convince them to come back as they think of your product as unpolished.The CEO needs help, but how do you know when? Here are some signs a CEO should look to getting a product manager as soon as possible to help build your product:You find features in your product that you had no idea were even in planningYou haven't used your own product in the last 2 or 3 releasesWhen you do make it into the office, there is a line developers outside your office waiting for you to make a business decision for your productEach email you get from internal employees starts with "Sorry to bother you again, but ... "You feel the momentum of development has slowed down, and developers don't have butts in seats coding up a stormYou find a product request from an important client that's three weeks old and you haven't mentioned it to the team yetYour development team is telling you which features they want in the product and most of them are over half completedIn many of the above examples, the development team is missing the product direction, the answers to what's next, or what business decision happens at this stage of the user experience. The day-to-day of product management!One thing I've learned about developers, is they like to code. If there is nothing to code, they will make something up to code. This doesn't help the company, and it doesn't help the end user. My worst nightmares are when developers don't have customer features to build, so they wish to re-architecture the product. While a refactor is necessary from time to time (future post on this topic), it's a lot of development and engineering with very little end value for the end user.Without product direction the direction of the product turns from a targeted, to shotgun approach. The long term vision of the product that customers can visualize disappears. You end up with a lot of features that are indeed nice to have, but don't add a lot of[...]

Why Product Management Should be a Separate Person or Team

Tue, 23 Feb 2016 19:28:00 +0000

I've seen lots of teams and companies try to overload the product management role onto other disciplines. Often the CEO, CTO or a set of developers, or in best case, designers take it on. The problem with doing this is conflicting interests.The CEO is interested in bringing his or her vision to life, yes, but often doesn't have time to deeply understand the customer, aside from themselves. This often results in a product that serves one person, or a set of people that are almost identical to the CEO in desires. With so many other demands on the CEO such as sales, evangelism, team building, financial analysis, and market analysis, the CEO can't do it all. This leads to developers coding ahead of the CEO and eventually into developer driven design. While it's great to have input from the CEO, product management should quickly be handed off to a dedicated resource.Technical roles such as developers or CTOs often want to take on the product management role, or often surge forward when the CEO is busy with their own ideas. They are focused on the technical debt and technical challenges they see. This will no doubt increase the value of the product, but usually not in ways customers see it. Customers don't see changes in framework, or how quick your continuous integration is, or updated support tools. Developers often direct products again in the ways of cool tech to work on, or hard technical challenges, without actually understanding what impact those parts of the product will have on the customer. In many cases, such as a changed out framework, there is no impact to the customer, and months pass without bringing value to the people who are paying.The closest role that can help shape the product is a pure Designer; more so if that Designer is product minded. Designers bring a lot to the table regarding ease of use and aesthetics of the product. However, they tend to focus on design principles and solving the problems at hand. Designers are fantastic for taking part(s) of a long term vision and executing on the near term, but many designers won't think about the long term goals and product strategy. They focus in the weeds of what's in the next release, does this have to be a text box, or a drop down, and where does it go? While design execution is extremely important, it doesn't satisfy the need for a cohesive long-term strategy for the product.The product manager role, separated from other disciplines, enables a long term plan by defining a story. Product management also brings the customer voice to the table, it leverages customer feedback, and other information to build a product road map, and product goals. Product management focuses designers and accelerates developers on what's important now, what to plan for in the near term, and what to account for in the long term. Product management also has the ear to the ground for changing market conditions, and can help adjust the plan when the long term market is adjusting.Input from the CEO, developers, designers and the rest of the company is still important, but a single person to own the strategy and vision will build a cohesive product and ultimately save time, and delight customers with a plan in the long run.My favourite example of engineering run design is Windows Update from Microsoft. Albeit Windows is a large platform, and there is a strong desire to both keep Windows secure, while at the same time make it easier to maintain, there is a clear missing voice of Product Management.I can tell this is engineer driven because the easy engineering road is taken, and it's irritating to customers. While the concept of "Patch Tuesday" was defined around this made it easier for system admins to plan for patch updates, it's terrible to think that this concept even has to exist. The personal computer should be doing whatever it can to make the person successful. The person shouldn't have to wait on maintenance, or updates when they want to use their computer, those [...]

Constant 50% CPU usage on iPhone running iOS8

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 16:55:00 +0000

I don't usually publish break/fix stuff here, but I couldn't find ANYTHING on the Internet that helped me solve this one, and I think I've nailed it.  So here goes.I have an iPhone 6 running iOS 8.x, I am on the Rogers network in Canada.  I was travelling in the US on the AT&T network, and got a carrier update which I mistakenly applied (although all my support calls indicated that this shouldn't affect anything).  Upon returning to Canada, I discovered my CPU usage was bouncing between 50-51% as a flat bar (Discovered using SysStatLite).  Anyone who knows anything about CPU graphs and computers know that when a computer is idle, the CPU bounces between 2-8%, but when it's doing stuff, the CPU graph bounces randomly all over the place, unless the CPU is pegged at 100% doing some processing (photo editing, video editing, video gaming, etc)Idle CPU ExampleAs you can imagine, the two biggest battery eaters on a mobile device is the CPU and Screen, followed closely by network).  So with my CPU hovering at 50%, my battery life was cut in half.  an hour drive home would eat 1/4 of my battery, so that's like 4-5 hours of battery life in my phone, not acceptable!So let's get into the list of things I tried without getting intrusive:RebootingClosing all open applications (double-tap home screen and close apps)Turning off all background appsTurning off all location servicesGoing into Airplane modeRestoring from iCloudWhoa! Going into Airplane mode killed the CPU instantly, that's a good sign.  In fact, turning airplane mode back off, then left my CPU normal... but only for 30-60 minutes, then back to 50%!50% CPU, airplane mode to 8%, off airplane mode spike and back to 8%As you can probably guess, I don't just feel my phone in my pocket getting warm and immediately open it, turn on airplane mode, and then turn it off and stick it back in my pocket, so I would often pull it out of my pocket and think "damn, my phone is hot", and I have 30% battery left.Time to call supportI called Apple.  Apple support is A-Mazing if you have never called it.  We did a number of thingsBack-up the phone and Restore it from iCloud (and also from iTunes), againFactory reset the phone (no issues, but no data)Set up the phone from scratch again (without using a backup, by the way this is extremely intrusive and painful!)All these problems still persisted.  Apple replaced my phone.THE PROBLEM STILL EXISTED!!I went to Rogers support, they replaced my SIM, so now I have a new phone, new data, and new SIM and the problem still existed.  Clearly since this isn't wide-spread on the Internet it was something I was doing.  I started researching everything that I could find (apps would crash as seen in SysStatLite) and I would research themCommCenter crashed -- disabled MMSSearchd crashed -- found a baller iPhone5 wall paper.iCloud backup could cause the CPU usageStill nothing seemed to drop the CPU instantly, until I came across this community article.Answer #3 on this page indicated that if you sync'd your phone against an Exchange server, contacts would have issues now and then.This made something click for me.  As a former Microsoft employee, I'm pretty knowledgable on Exchange (after my years working on Small Business Server).  I knew that supported Exchange Active Sync which is a fantastic protocol for syncing email, usually reserved for full Exchange (Office365).  Instead of setting up my iPhone using the default settings, I chose to set up as an exchange server.  I deleted my personal email account and re-set it up using the prescribed method for syncing addresses on iPhone.  One of the benefits of EAS is you never have to reconfigure it, even if an admin moves something around.  So I figure maybe an admin would move my mailbox somewhere, and change the config, but my ha[...]

Help! I have a Virus!

Thu, 27 Nov 2014 08:02:00 +0000

I get this question a lot.  I wanted to write something up on how you can self heal your Windows 8 PC (although most of this also works for Windows 7), or at least get you started in the right direction. Let’s dive right into figure out what’s going on.  Let’s quickly talk about what a “virus” is: A virus is actually software that is harmful to you or others running on your computer.  Something that erases or corrupts files or potentially participates in international denial of service attacks at an attackers whim.  These are terrible, and programs like Windows Defender, built right into Windows, if updated, will protect you against any of these. Spyware is software that tends to steal from you, capture credit card information, your password etc, also bad, and again Windows Defender will capture most of these, but not all Bloatware is software that that is trying to help you do something, but something you probably don’t need.  There are two types of Bloatware Non signature PCs come with extra software your computer provider installs in hopes to make extra money from software vendors who want to get their software in front of users, so they pay the computer provider. (as a side note this is why I always format and re-install these computers, if you have the technical know how) Software you install.  Yes, getting emoji’s at the bottom of your email, or the “music downloading app”, the list goes on.  All the little programs YOU install on your computer, some of them are bloatware, and some of them come with bloatware. So let’s get to fixin’ that “virus”. Step 1 – Let’s make sure it’s not a known virus First, let’s get Windows Defender up to date, and scanning.  Hit the start button on your keyboard, or swipe out the charm menu and hit start. just start typing “Defender” and you’ll see the “Windows Defender” appear.  Tap or Click on it to drop into the desktop and you’ll see this window:   This is what a healthy PC looks like.  If your PC is unhealthy, it’ll tell you on screen what you should do.  Which is most likely download the most recent updates, and then scan your PC.  It’ll quarantine/delete any files it detects that are a virus.  Easy Huh?  You don’t need any other Anti-virus program, as Windows Defender does it all.  If someone says you need something like McAfee, Symantec, or a paid Antivirus solution, you don’t.  Those applications provide additional security, but the base prevention of viruses is included with Windows 8. IMPORTANT WINDOWS 7 NOTE: if you’re on Windows 7, then Windows Defender doesn’t do anti-virus, you’ll need to get Microsoft Security Essentials, which is a free download. Same comment on the other antivirus solutions, they aren’t necessary and cost money for features you most likely won’t use. Step 2 – What the heck is running on that PC of yours? Computers only have so much memory, probably barely any if you bought your computer for under $1000, and you want to keep the programs running down to the ones you need not the ones that have just decided you need them.  While there is probably a number of things running on your computer at this very moment, what you want to prevent is things from starting that you won’t use.  Here is how Let’s crack open the Task Manager, the fast keys are CTRL+SHIFT+ESC, or you can right-click on the task bar in the desktop and choose Task Manager. Flip over to the Startup tab.  Here is what you see: As you can see, I have a pretty short list.  I’ve disabled what I don’t use EVERY time I reboot my computer.  Chrome, my browser does a tone of things for me, so I allow it to load in the background, I obviously want sound, so I leave my Realtek device enabled.  I print, so I leave the HP one enabled, but I use iTu[...]

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes …

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 06:41:00 +0000

(image) I started this blog back in 2003.  I remember clearly asking permission to start an official “Small Business Server” blog to get information out to our community and my lead when I worked on the Small Business Server team thought it would take too much of my time.  I disagreed and started this blog anyways.  A lot has changed since then.

Many editions of Small Business Server and Home Server have shipped since that day, and the information on doing custom configuration to your server has grown on this site.  It’s not going anywhere, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about the future!

After my SBS/WHS time was over, I decided to go work on Pinpoint (which has finally received some much needed updates thanks to some great friends and past co-workers!), but it was at this point in my career that I also decided to work remotely from Victoria, BC.  Working remotely has it’s pros and cons, one of the cons is that you don’t have much say what you work on.  As a result, I bounced around the Commerce Division, after Pinpoint was merged into it.  I learned a lot, met some awesome people, but got away from what inspired me about building software.  Getting to know my customer, getting to see UI and great experiences come to life and delight an end user.  Time for a change.

As of this summer I work for MetaLab, we build interfaces.  Actually, what we do is build a LOT of things.  We build iOS apps, from the ground up, we build robust services, we build websites, and most of all, we do it directly for customers.  We think about UI, we stress the P3 fit and finish bugs, and we design cool stuff that delights the end user.

Which brings me back to my blog.  The design needed a face lift to make it more interesting.  I wanted to talk weave technology and my creative side a little more.  All these photos you see on this blog are ones that I’ve taken, and ones that I’m proud of. So you’ll continue to see photos on here, you’ll continue to see the same old content on here, and you’ll still see new technical content, but the scope is larger.  I have my first MacBook now, I’m using Google Apps now, I use Slack.

Times are changin’… my theme is different, my posting scope is broader…


Quickly Archiving Mail with Outlook 2013 when using

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 05:51:00 +0000

Third post in a series of posts on how to single-click (or swipe/tap) to Archive mail when using  The first covered how to swipe-tap to archive in iOS 8, and the second covered on how to set up an Instant Action to mouse over and click to Archive a mail on the web client. 

This post covers the most famous email client of them all: Outlook.  And most specifically Outlook 2013.  As mentioned in the first post, the pre-setup for this one is to create a folder called Archive in your mailbox. I covered how to do this this in the iOS8 post.

With Outlook 2013, there is a Quick Steps box.  You’ve probably never noticed it, it’s at the top, on the ribbon.  Well, it’s a set of customizable actions, where the Outlook team has taken the liberty of defining ones for you, mostly destined for business.  If this is the first time you’ve used these, take a look around, they are really powerful. Even on a personal account.  For example, I have one called “To Wife” which just forwards the email to my wife.  I do this a lot when I get an email on something that she should know, but I digress.  Here is what my personal account looks like:


Here’s how to set up the Archive one Quick Step

  1. Click on the Create New button in the Quick Steps box (you may have to scroll down using the arrows to see it), it’s depicted above.
  2. Fill out the Quick Step, with your Name, and any number of actions you want to happen, it’s like a mail macro!  This is how mine is set up.  You can also assign a short cut key if you’re a keyboard kowboy. (image)
  3. Click on Finish.

You’re Quick Step is ready to use.  Simply select the email you want to Archive and hit the new Archive Quick Step button, and the mail gets marked as read, and placed into your Archive folder.

Related Posts


Quickly Archiving Mail from the Web Client

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 05:36:00 +0000

In a previous post, I talked about how to quickly archive email in from the iOS 8 mail client. Similar to what you do with GMail, but of course we all don’t do our mail on our phones, we use computers as well! 
In this post I’ll tell you how to configure an Instant Action to do the same thing.  If you haven’t followed that post, then you are missing the pre-step to this one, which is to create a new folder called “Archive” (the name is key for iOS, not for the web client).  So do that first, then jump into these steps!
  1. First, log into your email account
  2. Click on the Settings gear ((image) ) in the top right hand corner of the page and select Options.
  3. On the Options page, under Customizing, you want to click on Instant Actions, in which you should see this (image)
  4. Click on Add actions and then select Move To, and you’ll notice a Move To item show up in the list “Show on mouse over”
  5. In the right hand pane, choose to move a message to the “Archive” folder that you created, give it a coloured icon, and you can also choose to mark it as read if you want.  You can see how i might look in the preview (and how my preview looks above).  If you don’t like it the ordering, you can use Move Up and Move Down to order the list how you want.
That’s all there is to it.  Now when you mouse over the message in the message list, you get the Instant Actions to appear, and the Archiving icon you just created will single click it to the right folder.  Here is what mine looks like on the web:
Related Posts

Quickly Archiving Mail in iOS8 when using

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 06:21:00 +0000

One of my frustrations with, which isn’t configurable is how long it keeps deleted items for: 2 weeks.  That’s it.  2 weeks.  I for one want to have more time than 2 weeks to decide if I have to recover something from my deleted items.  And boasts unlimited storage now, or at least a lot of storage, to compete… so why not Archive email instead of delete it? My workflow has changed.  Mail from computers, like Air Miles, or ZDNet or Marriott Rewards, after I’ve digested them, the deleted items is a perfect place for them.  But email from friends, family, co-workers, or even receipts and orders that I’ve done.  That mail just gets archived.. searchable.  The challenge I’ve been having is it’s hard to archive email, versus delete it.  I mean every app gives you a delete button, but not all apps give you archive, especially if you aren’t using GMail.So, here is what I discovered on iOS 8 in order to Archive email on a folder in your email address called “Archive”, this folder name is important, because iOS8 recognizes it.  In fact, now if you look at your folder list, it will look something like this.  Note the icon next to your Archive folder: Now that iOS has recognized you have a folder to Archive email to, let’s make it super easy to add mail to it.  While you could just move mail to this folder like any other folder, iOS8 has a “swipe right” in the mail list that you can customize!  So to do that go into Settings, then Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and then Swipe Options.  From here you can simply click on Swipe Right, and choose the action of Archive, thus enabling you to swipe right and Archive that particular message or conversation grouping, and you're ready!: That’s all there is to it.  Now when you are in your email message list, and you swipe right, you can simply Archive the message into the folder you created.  Check it out:Related PostsQuickly Archiving Mail from the Web ClientQuickly Archiving Mail from Outlook 2013 when using Outlook.comCopyright Sean Daniel. The data on the website is available "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.[...]

Efficiently Using Multiple Browsers (with a single key press)

Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:38:00 +0000

Maybe I’m weird, or maybe my job has more requirements than others, but I use Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer interchangeably.  I know web developers have this problem, perhaps they’ve already worked out a work flow, but I wasn’t able to find one.  Ultimately for things that are work related, I want to open those in Internet Explorer, and personal browsing, I want to use Google Chrome.  While we all have our reasons for using one browser over another (I have mine), if you want to use both, there was no really good way…So I had a friend teach me how to write my own browser…Ok, ok, I didn’t technically write my own browser, that would take a lot of work, but what I did do is build a Browser Proxy.  The Browser Proxy is the default Browser on my PC, and all it does, is validate if a key is pressed (“Left Shift” to be exact) and either launch IE or Chrome based on that key.  This means for me now, “Click” is to open in IE and “Shift+Click” is to open in Chrome!Here’s how I did itFirst, you need AutoHotKey, which I’ve written about before.  You can use it have an always-on scripting engine running to help you control Windows, or to create scripts and turn them in executable, which is what we’re going to do here.  So get that installed on your PC.Second, Choose your actual “Default Browser” in Windows.  I made Internet Explorer default because people send me work related links in Lync, Email, and they are scattered all through documents and such, so it makes sense to make IE default for me.  This means that without the SHIFT key down, IE will be used.Third, we need to create what I call “Browser Proxy” executable, This is going to be a bit more complicated, to get you started, My friend and I have created the browser .ahk file (AutoHotKey script) and installer .reg file (think of this as associations for your application so Windows can find it).  Download the package here, (virus scan it, because you should virus scan any weird .zip file you download from the Internet), and then unzip it.  You’ll find 3 files, one of which is a readme and you can figure that out.Crack open the BrowserProxy.ahk in Notepad or your favorite editor, it looks like this: GetKeyState,State,LShiftIfEqual,State,U{    ; Shift Key up -- launch IE    Run,"C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -nohome "%1%"}Else{    ; Shift Key down -- launch Chrome    Run,"C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" "%1%"}Validate the paths for both Internet Explorer and Chrome. Change the paths as appropriate.  You can also chose to use a different key, like if you wanted the Left CONTROL button to be the key you use, change the “LShift” in bold above to “LControl”.  In fact you can choose whatever key you want (here is the list).Once you’ve got the script validated, save it and then since you now have AutoHotKey installed, you right click on the script and choose Compile Script. This produces a BrowserProxy.exe in the same directory. I copied this to "C:\Program Files (x86)\BrowserProxy\BrowserProxy.exe" (and agreed to the UAC prompt). You can put this anywhere, but more updates will be required in the .reg file which we’re going to use next.Now we need to import the BrowserProxy.reg file into your system registry.  Please do feel free to open it in Notepad before importing it (you should always be aware of what you’re putting into your registry), but it does 3 important thingsDefine the BrowserProxy.exe application under the SOFTWARE section of the registryRegisters that applicationSets up the root classes that the application can handleIf you [...]

How to map your FourSquare data

Mon, 24 Feb 2014 19:06:00 +0000

I use FourSquare, not for the mayor-ships, or the points (although they are fun) but as a bit of history in my travels.  It’s easier to check in somewhere, then write it down the location and map it later.  My goal has always been to get some form of map with push pins in it.  Sure FourSquare provides a bit of history, but the map is SUPER tiny, and very hard to use I’ve tried a bunch of solutions, usually provided by LifeHacker (one of my favourite websites), and they’ve all been just ok.  I think I’ve finally found a solution, that based on my check-in frequency, works for me.  LifeHacker posted a link to Billy Burle’s blog (follow BillyBurle here).  Billy had a blog post on How to Create a Heat Map of your FourSquare check-ins using Google Fusion Tables.  It’s quite frankly, awesome, but needed some adjustments.  I can get push-pins, or heat maps with this approach!  For example, here is my push-pin history for 2013: Or a Heat map of my travels to Seattle Are you a map geek and want to do this?  So here is how… Step 1: Obtain your check-in history from FourSquare First you need to get your FourSquare check in history.  For this I browsed to my FourSquare Feeds, and got the URL for my feed.  It has a unique character set in it, because that’s your private feed. Clicking the link will give you the last 50 or so check-ins.  what I did was right click on the link and say “Copy” url, pasted it into the address bar, then at the end of the URL I added the text “?count=1000” to get the last 1000 items (1000 is a key number in a lower step).  This will download a .kml file with the file name patching that crazy string character set in the URL.  I renamed mine to “Foursquare Data 2013”, just to make it easier to find.  Since I stored the .kml files for use if a better solution comes up down the road. Step 2: Prepare the KML file to have only the years data It’s pretty unlikely that you checked in exactly 1000 times in a given year, but in Step 1 we downloaded exactly 1000 historical check-ins.  So let’s make that exactly the year.  What I did (and I’m trying to figure out how to automated some of this) is to open the .kml file I downloaded in Notepad (I also turned on “word wrap”, since the file is one line, that’s 1000s of characters long).  I searched for “31 Dec” (or “30 Dec” or the last day you checked in on the previous year).  Then I scanned backwards in the file from that last check-in from the previous year until I found the “”.  This is the end of the first check in of the current year, and the start of the last check in of the previous year.  I put my cursor between “><” characters and scrolled to the bottom of the document.  I then held shift and clicked between the “><” of the “”.  I then hit delete.  The end of the file should still look like “”, but now everthing from the beginning of the document to the end of the document is exactly the current year you wish to display.  The reason you need to do this, is because the Fusion Tables (at least as far as I can tell) have a hard coded limit of 1000 objects in them. So by limiting it to the year, I noticed in 2013, I had 783 check-ins, which is well under the 1000 limit.  But if I included 2010-2014 (my entire life of FourSquare check ins (obtained by adding to the URL: ?Count=10000”), I had 1723 check ins, and I was missing a bunch of data, hence my decision to break it up by year.  You may have to break it up[...]

Backing up your Contacts from the Cloud

Wed, 19 Feb 2014 23:33:00 +0000

I can’t stress how important backing up is, I even have a special tag just for tips and tricks with backup, across various technology.  So you might think, well, my contacts are *in* the cloud, so they are safe right?  Wrong!  If you don’t take backups into your own hands, you can have issues down the road, even with all the resiliency built into these Cloud services, you can loose data, here are just a few ways: The Delete key could get stuck on your wireless keyboard and end up deleting a majority of your contacts in an instant, which then syncs to your service and then instantly to all your devices (this happens in my inbox all the time when my keyboard battery is low). (don’t have this? learn how to set it up here) You could get hacked, be that @Matt or @N style, or simply by a script kiddy (you’ve enabled 2-factor authentication for your account already right? (, You could get a virus that deletes, corrupts or worse (encrypts) your data so you can’t access it You could cause yourself to get locked out of your account, maybe because you broke the Terms of Use? The cloud service can make a mistake and delete your files (although it’s likely they can get it back, this is hours of support calls) So, it’s in your best interest to do your own backup, and manage your data on your own, even in a cloud service.  I keep my Contacts in the cloud and I backup periodically (manually, but all the same, it’s periodically).  What would be great if these services did this monthly and emailed it to you…. a request in progress! This is how I do it with Browse on over to and log in On the title bar at the top, choose Manage and click on Export for use with and other services. This will prompt you to download (or automatically download) a file called OutlookContacts.csv. which is a coma separated values file that contains pretty much every important field that is in your contacts.  This is what you have to save in a safe place. If you loose your contacts for whatever reason, you can use this file to work on importing them into another app or the same service but different account, etc. This is how I do it with Browse on over to and log in On the More drop down, select Export… to start the process Choose the best format that you want to export in.  I think that Outlook CSV is the most widely used format, but you may wish to export in all formats, or specific formats to meet your needs. This will prompt you to download a contacts.csv (or automatically download it), and this is the file you want to keep safe.  There are multiple ways to import these files if your data is lost… more on that to come, but at least you doing this if only once a year, will save you a lot of hassle if you run into trouble. Copyright Sean Daniel. The data on the website is available "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.[...]

Checking your sign-in history in

Tue, 21 Jan 2014 22:08:00 +0000

Well, I thought I knew everything about Hotmail..err.. there was to know, but instead I was talking to a friend today who said that a month or so ago, someone tried to access his account from Chili. Wait, what?! how does he know this?

Your Microsoft Account stores all the successful and unsuccessful log in attempts in your profile for you to view at any time.  Simply browse over to and log in, then click on Recent Activity.  You can scroll through each one if you want, or just scroll until you find an Incorrect Password Entered or a weird Location.  Like this one in my account:


Wow, someone attempted to log in to my account from Poland, good thing I have 2-factor auth enabled.  So if they did have my password for whatever reason, they’d still need my cell phone to actually get the second auth factor… which I have right here with me… aka, not in Poland.

Kind of nice there is an audit trail.  If one of the successful log ins wasn’t you, you can contest it right there and will help you take evasive action!

Have fun snooping on your snoopers!


How to fix Outlook's Jump Lists

Tue, 07 Jan 2014 19:18:00 +0000

I'm a big fan of the Jump Lists in Windows 7/Windows 8.  I use them a lot to get to key documents and most importantly start a new mail message or new calendar request with Outlook 2013It's super easy to just right-click, and then select New E-mail Message, and you're off to the races, no need to make Outlook the foreground or anything. However, twice now I've found this list corrupted, I right click and there is just the bottom three, and the "task" available is a "mailto:a_lot_of_garbage", and it does nothing.  Productivity drops instantly.  I did however managed to find this support article on tasks missing once Outlook is pinned to the task bar.  It provides two work arounds, both times the first one worked.  Instead of the backup, I just renamed the "LastUILanguage" key and re-opened Outlook. Method 1: Delete the LastUILanguage registry valueTo export and delete the LastUILanguage registry value, follow these steps:Unpin the Outlook 2013 icon.Exit Outlook 2013.Use Regedit to export the following registry key:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\OutlookAfter you export the Outlook registry key, delete the LastUILanguage registry value.Start Outlook 2013, and then re-pin the icon.Method 2: Export and delete the Setup registry keyIf method 1 does not resolve the issue, export and delete the Setup registry key. To do this, follow these steps:Unpin the Outlook 2013 icon.Exit Outlook 2013.Use Regedit to export and then delete the following registry key:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook\SetupStart Outlook 2013, and then re-pin the icon.Hopefully this helps you....Copyright Sean Daniel. The data on the website is available "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.[...]

Adding Server Shares to Modern Photo App – Windows 8.1

Thu, 05 Dec 2013 21:08:00 +0000

Windows 8.1 updated the photo app to remove Facebook, and Flickr, and make it only look like you can view pictures on your local device, and on your SkyDrive.  However, this isn’t entirely true.  If you’re like me and have a NAS or in my case, a Home Server on your network, you could quite possibly have GBs of pictures stored on your server that you want to show to friends and family on your tablet.  That can be cumbersome to get to if you don’t set it up first.  And nothing makes family or friends more bored of looking at your pictures, than watching you struggle to get to them. Here is how to add those GBs of photos to your surface “view” without actually copying them to your surface. First you need to make sure your surface has access to the server share.  I recently wrote a post on how to do that – Using the Windows Credential Manager to Store Server Credentials in Windows 8.1. Next follow these steps: Open up the Desktop app if you haven’t already Open up Windows Explorer and navigate to the picture folder on your remote machine Right click on the folder containing the pictures, and go to Include in library, and select Pictures to include it into the pictures library. Now you’ll see in your libraries that you have two locations for Pictures Next go back into the Photos Modern app and choose the local computer, you’ll notice all the folders inside the pictures folder you chose in step #3, if you’re on the local network Now when you’re on your local network, you just look like you have a HUGE photo collection.  The downside is if you take pictures at 21megapixel like I do and use very little compression, that you’ll end up having to wait for Wireless to download each picture as you go to view it.  I find a good 2-3 second story about each picture is enough for the next picture to download in the background. Copyright Sean Daniel. The data on the website is available "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.[...]

Using the Windows Credential Manager to Store Server Credentials in Windows 8.1 (and on Surface!)

Wed, 04 Dec 2013 19:04:00 +0000

My wife got a new laptop, first one in 10 years.  I’m very proud of her.  She’s the opposite of me, and pretty much doesn’t like change on her computer.  This is most likely due to the fact she touches a computer for less than 1/2 an hour a day, and doesn’t want to spend 10 minutes of the 30 figuring out where the “File” menu went (yes, the IE7 upgrade just about killed my wife).  She went with the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. It’s an amazing laptop, but doesn’t have a TPM chip, so I can’t use it for work (otherwise I’d have one too!)  The screen is breathtaking, but I digress.We have a Home Server 2011 in our house (obviously), but it doesn’t back up UEFI machines (not that I know of anyways) via the Client Backup.  So installing the Launch Pad seemed a bit of overkill so she could just go to \\server.  Her Windows Explorer has a link to the root of the Server share so she can get to the pictures, the videos, the TV shows, and so on.  I’m a big fan of security, and she has her own account on the server, but I couldn’t get her username and password to save for the server through a reboot.  And as you can probably guess, it has to be easy for her (a click to get access).  I ended up simply saving this into her Windows Credential Storage (details below).  Worked like a charm.  It got me thinking, does this work on my Surface 2?  Sure enough it did!!  This means that I can simply access the server without providing credentials every time.  Now when I’m in my home, my Surface can just access an additional 4TB of data, right from inside the Metro Apps (more on this in my post "Adding Server Shares to Modern Photo App").  Let me tell you how to use the credential manager first.  Hit the Start key or swipe out the charm bar and press the Start buttonType in Cred to search the start menu for the Credential Manager. Launch the Credential Manager, and select the Windows Credentials button.  Under that button, simply click the Add a Windows credential. Fill out the wizard with the name of your server, in my case “SERVER”, my credentials Notice it’s in the list and then close the Credential ManagerNow you may try this instantly and it might not work.  This is most likely because you’ve already tried to connect to this server and stored the fact that you don’t need a username or password.  A reboot or sign-out/in will fix that as long as the item stays in the Credential Manager.  You can also open the command prompt and type in “net use * /d” to delete all active connections which will force Windows to re-open new ones, using the Credential Manager.For reference, here is the official Windows Help topic on this.Copyright Sean Daniel. The data on the website is available "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.[...]

Removing the Required PIN code on Windows Surface

Tue, 08 Oct 2013 16:17:00 +0000

My corporate E-Mail requires that any device I sync it to, enable a 4-digit PIN to unlock the device, at a minimum.  I can make this as complex as I like, but I must at least have a 4-digit PIN.  I'm fine with this, I think it's a good practice to have a PIN on your phone or tablet, so if it's lost, the thief or casual finder can't access all the data on it.  Even more so all those corporate secrets that I have! (har har! Like I'm trusted with corporate secrets!)

What I'm not fine with, is once you decide that you no longer want your work account on a device, you can't get rid of the requirement for the PIN, like how I'm re-purposing an old SurfaceRT (yes, I pre-ordered a Surface2!) to be a digital music player / weather station / morning news station / upstairs Skype phone, in the bedroom, I don't have *anything* on it that would need a PIN, and the likely hood of the tablet leaving the bedroom aside from when I move houses, is extremely small.

Searching around turned up nothing, asking around (especially @Microsoft) usually turns up something.  And this time it turned up this super handy How do I Turn Off the AutoLock in Windows 8 article.  And here I was searching around in gpedit.msc or regedit, and it's right there in the Control Panel UI!

Here's how to do it:
  • Open up the Control Panel (either Win+X or Win+R then type "Control", enter)
  • Click on the title User Accounts and Family Safety
  • Click on the title User Accounts
  • Click on the Reset Security Policy 
  • Click on the Reset Policies Button 
That's all there is to it. Now you can go into PC Settings and set the password policy to never required!  This also allows you to change the default screensaver time out as well.

There you have it.  It took me a lot of effort to find that, so I'm sharing it here (so I don't forget as well).  And now I don't have to factory reset my SurfaceRT! w00t!(image)

How to Change Your Email Address and Service Gracefully

Thu, 02 May 2013 21:49:00 +0000

So you got the Internet, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) sold you on 5 free email addresses, and you thought: "Free is good!". Then you read my post from a few days ago about how to use email, calendar and contacts across multiple devices, and realized that Free is good, but you need to choose the right free.So now you want to migrate your email address to an or G-Mail account. Allowing you keep not only your email, but your calendar and contacts as well in "the cloud".This is not only an invasive change for you, but it's also for your friends, and this post is designed to logically tell you how to gracefully switch to a new e-mail.Create your account on your new provider.  I would recommend, because, well I'm biased and I really like it.  You'll want to spend some time to get a username you're happy with.  On you can create aliases later on if you don't like your log in, for specific purposes.  So you can create your account as, but then create an alias of for your resume, and have both delivered to your inbox.Once you're happy with your new email address, you can log into it and you'll have no email.  What I did was export all of my contacts as a "CSV" file (Comma Seperated Values) from whatever email program I was using on my computer, then just went to the People tab, and chose Manage, then Add People  You can then choose to Import from file, and import that same CSV file.  (you can also import from Google, Linked In, Sina Weibo, Facebook).  Basically I get my contacts all squared away first (while still checking my old email).Ideally you want to set up e-mail forwarding from your old account to this new one you set up so when email arrives, it gets forwarded directly.  I can't explain how to do that on this post as each ISV is different.  You can call their helpdesk and ask how to do this.  The other option is to have your new account "check" your old email for new messages and download. can do this by going to Settings (the gear in the title bar), then More mail settings, then under Manage your Account, click Your email accounts, which allows you to add a POP account for Add a send-and-receive account, and provide your old email address server, username and password.  Then validate that it works by sending email to your old account, and making sure that you eventually see it in your new account (eventually if you chose to check your email, it could take some time for it to hit your new account)Once you're happy that your old mail is flowing to your new email.  It's time to make the switch to your new account.  You'll want to send an email to ALL of your contacts to tell them of your updated email address.  You'll also want to check any subscriptions you signed up for and unsubscribe from those and resubscribe with your new email addressIf you still have friends emailing you at your old address, simply reply from your new address and remind them of your email address update.  After a period of time (on the order of Months) when you feel comfortable that people are using your new email address, you can turn off the old POP account you set up in step 3.And you're done!Lots of people ask me why not stay with their ISP.  Here are my reasons:ISP mail servers typically don't offer calendar and contact service, and are old archaic mail-servers that don't have any features that work with newer devicesThe u[...]

Cloud Sharing your Email, Contacts, Calendar Between Different Devices

Mon, 29 Apr 2013 16:36:00 +0000

I’ve come across a lot of people who still struggle with different devices and having to physically plug them into their computer when they want to sync their calendar or contacts.  Sure, Email is a solved problem for them, but not that pesky Calendar or the list of Contacts.  This post is intended to help those people.  But those people have to embrace “the cloud”… The cloud sounds scary, but it’s not, you’ve been using it for years, it’s just a server on the Internet that’s always accessible. Sure this can be a single mail server that’s been holding your email until you connect it, or it can be a scale-out solution that offers compute, storage, and database needs, but let’s start small.  Your email server, is in the cloud.  Yes, that same one offered to your by your Internet Service Provider (ISV).  That’s “cloud”.  See, you have email, you’re already using “the cloud”.  Your problem is you either (a), have an e-mail only server that uses POP3, or (b), you’re not taking advantage of the features of your server to leverage contacts and calendar. If you have an e-mail server that only does email (i.e. only offers you IMAP or POP3 access), then you are living in the stone ages.  IMAP and POP3 are to email what rotary dialing is to the telephone.  The first is to switch to something that offers the email, calendar, contact suite of products.  I find it best to switch to the product that your spouse or significant other is using, primarily because it makes it easier to share things like the calendar.  My preference is, but you can also use GMail or Yahoo! Or if you wanted something more powerful, you could choose Office365.  The bottom line is you need to ditch that ISV email server.  Some ISVs leverage the above services for their email solution.  That’s better than POP3, but I still don’t like being tied to an ISV, because if you move or that ISV gets bought by another, things change, but this is your call.  This may or may not require you to get a different email address.  This is by far the most painful part of the process, so you’ll want to do this part once.  If you want to use your own domain name, so your email address never needs to change.  I have instructions on how to do this with Hotmail / Let’s overview the set up that you’re aiming for:   This means that each phone, tablet or computer connects directly to the Internet (or cloud) to get your Email (which it does today) and your calendar and your contacts.  This means that the primary location for your E-mail, Calendar and Contacts is in the cloud.  Your devices and computers are just a “view” into that.  While you probably won’t need this with today’s devices. All of my computers are configured to use Exchange Active Sync (EAS).  Apparently Google is the only service that doesn’t use this anymore. This works for me, and allows me to share my calendar with my wife, so we can always be in sync (provided she enters her events into her calendar!).  I have the following devices, that are always up to date and never need to be plugged into a computer for “syncing”. Windows Phone 8 Surface RT Windows 8 PC (both built in e-mail client, and Outlook 2013) iPhone iPad Blackberry Playbook This is the set up you “don’t” want, as you are now dependent on your computer, and if you’re computer crashes, or dies, you loose you[...]

Installing Pebble Watch Faces when you’re not a Developer

Wed, 17 Apr 2013 16:37:00 +0000

  I have a developer background.  I went to the University of Waterloo and have a degree in Computer Science.  The problem is I don’t have time to do any development.  Between my “day” job and my kids, when I get an hour to myself, I have to do some house maintenance so this place doesn’t fall down around me! However, I got myself a Pebble watch, as part of the Kickstarter wave.  Yes I was a backer, and followed it from almost the beginning.  I got in pretty early as I took off my watch mid-university not believing I could wear something that only did one task, and one that was on my phone, and almost anywhere I looked.  If I was going to wear a watch, it was to do more than tell time!  I told a ton of my friends this and almost as soon as Pebble came out on Kick Starter, a bunch of my friends were sending me links.  I jumped in immediately and then had to patiently wait… and wait… and wait, but the wait was totally worth it.  I’m loving Pebble. The Pebble team has done a ton of work on their SDK, it’s one of their most prized parts of the Pebble.  This is fantastic if you want to make your own watch face, but, while I’m a tech enthusiast, and the @Pebble guys even added me to their über Pebblers list, I just don’t have time to develop watch faces.  BUT, I did want to take advantage of the hard work that other backers were doing and get some fancy watch faces.  To get new watchfaces, you simply point your phone’s browser over to, click on the one you want to download, then follow the steps on the phone to install it: Click Open in “Pebble” Ensure you are installing from a trusted source, and choose Continue The watchface installs on your Pebble and you’re good to go. Since these are only 24KB max, you can download them on the fly.  For example, when I hit the party, I just download the Beer O’Clock watch face, and I’m good to go! Copyright Sean Daniel. The data on the website is available "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.[...]

Why I’m Super Happy with Windows 8

Sat, 13 Oct 2012 00:10:00 +0000

So ya, I’m a Microsoft employee, so I’m assimilated right?  Yes and no.  I believe in Microsoft, I understand where we’re going and I have insight into the future (of Microsoft) that the average person would not.But with Windows 8, I held off installing it as my production machine until 2 months after RTM.  That’s unheard of.  With Windows 7 I was running it in production far before it even reached Alpha stage (which makes Windows 7 the operating system I’ve run the longest, ever).  I loved Windows 7 so much.  Finally it was fast, and I was super efficient, I knew where everything was.  It was the XP Bliss days all over again, but on a faster, more secure, more compatible, more more more system.  My home network was running flawlessly, and I didn’t have the time to deal with “problems” given I was ramping up on my job change.  I had seen videos of people struggling with where to find things and fellow employees even told me that they were having trouble with this or that.  So, I got into my head that I didn’t want the change, and while I agreed with the focus Windows 8 had on touch, and tablets, I strongly disagreed with the use of the same operating system for stand-up desktops or laptops, that don’t have touch.  Why would you force users to go to the corners of the screen? What’s wrong with the mouse? It seems like Microsoft is trying to kill it (don’t we all try to kill mice?)I have now been running Windows 8 for over a month, and I have to say, I absolutely love it, and cringe when I see people running on Windows 7, it seems so old to me.  And I have a Lenovo T410 without touch, and two 24” monitors attached to a docking station (also without touch).  First the gripes I’ve heard, and why it’s not a problem:The Start ScreenThe way I think about Windows 8 is it’s an operating system, that opens up a set of tiles (which are larger icons, because the icons provide value without touching them.  They call these live tiles).  One of these tiles is called the Desktop.  This is a legal application that serves up the old Windows 7 desktop, so you can continue to run the bazillion of old apps you used to run, apps that need a mouse, apps that are designed for the “chained to your desk” way of life.  If you were paying attention in the Windows 7 days, you’ll notice you can “pin” all your frequently used applications to the task bar, and you can continue to do this in Windows 8, with almost no change (aside from the very initial launch or pin).  Yes the start button is gone, but it’s superfluous if you think about it.  I’m a pretty big power user, and I have 19 applications pinned to my task bar, and I probably only ever use another 2-3 that aren’t pinned, and there is plenty of room in the taskbar for them.  When I do need the task bar, I can either drag my mouse to where it use to be, and in a 1/2 second the start menu box comes up, or simply press the windows key that’s on pretty much every keyboard you can get these days in a designed for windows PC.  So Ultimately once I’m in my legacy desktop application (which yes there are new applications for, like Office 2013!), I *rarely* get out to the start menuThe Corners of the ScreenI’ve heard a lot of talk about “why use the corners of the screen?”.  I honestly was curious as to what people were talking about for 2 weeks, as [...]

Windows Server 2012 Essentials RTM!! (and Eval today!)

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 16:44:00 +0000

Well, The product formerly known as Windows Small Business Server 2012, is finally at RTM!  This was the last version of SBS I had the pleasure of working on, owning the storage system from the ground up as well as the initial design of the Online Backup functionality.  Of course a lot of things change when you leave a team before the first major milestone, so I can’t wait to fire this one up and see where the teammates I left behind took this product.

According to the Office Blog Post on the RTM announcement, the product highlights include:

  • Enable a dynamic, modern work style with access from your devices by using Remote Web Access (RWA), and take advantage of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 devices for a superior experience with rich modern “My Server” apps.
  • Enjoy peace of mind knowing that your data is well-protected by complementing your on-site backups with Windows Azure Online Backup, as well as utilizing integrated support for the new Windows 8 File History feature.
  • Choose the email and collaboration option that’s right for you, whether that’s in the cloud with Office 365 or a hosted service provider, or running on a local server.
  • Quickly and easily respond to increasing data capacity needs with support for Storage Spaces, which allows you to create elastic, resilient storage for your files and folders.
  • Run the line-of-business applications that you depend on by leveraging our greatly improved application compatibility, now with a single logo certification for all Windows Server 2012 editions.
  • Purchase with confidence knowing that your technology investment can easily grow to Windows Server 2012 Standard if the needs of your business grow.
  • Deploy today with full support for 19 languages, all releasing simultaneously.

If you’re itching to try it like I am, you can pop on over to the evaluation center and download the trial version today, which is also on MSDN or TechNet if you prefer those.

Please join me in congratulating the team on another launch of a fantastic product for small businesses.  And we all know you’re going to hook it up to Office365 right?? (image)


Beware Social scammers that call pretending to be the Microsoft HelpDesk

Thu, 04 Oct 2012 18:53:00 +0000

On 9/21/2012, I received my first social engineering hacking attack. An attempt to obtain access to my computer and my credit card, leveraging my stupidity and lack of computer skills :o)
I'm outlining what happened here so you can save yourself if you get a similar phone call.

Apparently the FTC is aware of this and is cracking down on these support calls, but I figured I’d post this here as well, because well, the end is hilarious.  Additionally, these folks seem to be blind calling (aside from knowing your surname) as they didn’t realize that I actually worked for Microsoft.  In some cases, they call right into honeypots just waiting for their call.

Please note that the first few minutes of this call, I was confused as I had 3 tickets open with the *internal* Microsoft helpdesk about random stuff related to my job.  I found the conversation hilarious.

This phone call from 206-397-1127, the caller idea was a bunch of numbers. This is how the call went:

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hello Mr. Daniel? (I have no idea how they got my name)
Me: Hi
Caller: This is the Microsoft Help Desk calling, we have seen issues that your browser is infected with a virus and we're calling you to help you fix your computer.
Me: Oh? (At this point I'm thinking it might be the internal Microsoft helpdesk, but the number is wrong, which I'm aware of)
Caller: Yes, I'm calling because I can help you fix this problem. Is your computer on?
Me: Yes it's on, I'm sitting at it
Caller: Well, click the start button in the bottom right hand corner of your screen
Me: There is no start button (I'm running Windows 8, if you recall, there is actually no start button anymore)
Caller: Yes, it is there, in the bottom left of your screen, all the way at the bottom, all the way to the left
Me: I'm looking there, I do not see a Start button
Caller: ok, we will do this another way, do you have a keyboard?
Me: Yes (I wish I was using a Surface at this point, as I wouldn't have a keyboard either!)
Caller: Ok, beside the CTRL button, there is a button with a flag on it, 4 squares in a flag. push that
Me: (trying to hold in my laughter at this point). Nice try, you obviously don't know that i'm running Windows 8, and there is no start button, SCAMMER!

As a Microsoft employee, I'll tell those of you who aren't, that Microsoft will never call you about a virus on your computer in this fashion. They do provide you with FREE antivirus solution called Security Essentials for Windows.