fight

Setting up Mail/Calendar/Contacts on Windows 8.1

If you use Google/Gmail ..

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/use-google-windows-8-rt

“To sync your calendar”

Though you can’t sync your Google calendar with the Calendar app, you can see your Google calendar events by moving them to Outlook.com. For more info on how to do that, see How to see your Google events in the Calendar app.

This is a horrible solution. It is a shame that Microsoft can’t make things work, and at least Google/Microsoft get along enough to interop.  Annoying.

summer clouds

Why I No Longer Self Host WordPress

Well I finally did it. Cancelled my hosting account. This post you are reading was written on WordPress.com and not in my Self Hosting WordPress instance. MediaTemple had a good run, but I just didn’t need it anymore.

Looking at things a little deeper.. When I started blogging back in 2004 (it’s been over 10 years already?!?) I started on blogger, there weren’t a ton of choices. Then, a couple of years later I moved to my self-hosted WordPress. I wanted more control. Many things that you might have wanted to do, you could only do if you hosted it yourself. I moved that between hosting companies, hosted it myself on VM’s, windows, Linux, back to managed hosting, etc.. and now my blog (all 1000+ posts and 2000+ comments) are in WordPress.com

How times have changed… many of the features and functionality that at one time you had to meticulously edit PHP files to get working or find a supported plugin (and then watch it go unsupported), are now baked into the platform. Software as  a Service FTW.

I also had a good run with Google Adsense. While I particularly didn’t like running ads, it basically paid for the hosting. The “long tail” on my blog still gets enough hits that I could make $15-20 a month and cover MediaTemples cost. With MediaTemple, I got more than one site I could host (100 actually), but I was only using a handful, and I realized that most if not all of them could go.

With twin boys looming, coming any day now and at most within a couple of weeks, it is one less thing I have to worry about – hosting a site (oh, and one less bill monthly – I guess that can go towards diapers.. or beer)

So what did I have to do to get this going? Not a whole lot.

First, I looked at my self hosted instance, and the plugins. Which could I turn off, live without, do I care anymore, etc. Which are handled by WordPress.com now? etc. Pretty much if not all I was ok with (obviously, I moved my site).

Feedburner? It’s dead. Mobile theme? Built in. JetPack features – built-in. Backup, etc – built-in.

But, I had ads, you can’t do that in WordPress.com – no need, wasn’t making $1000’s of dollars a month.

So I ran a Tools->Export. And then in WordPress.com, Tools->Import. The beautiful thing here as well is that all the media (post images, etc) got pulled in.

I signed up for a custom domain redirect in WordPress.com ($13 a year) and changed my DNS.

Chose a new theme and done.

We will see how things go as time goes on, but I am happy so far. Little weight lifted from the shoulders is always a good thing.

Here’s to another 10 years.

Photo Credit: Me on July 30th 2014 riding my bike on the back roads of Wisconsin. 

Cloud

If Data Is Your Currency…

Then why do enterprises insist on trying to create their own banks (data centers)?

I have been thinking a while about on-premises data centers vs cloud data centers, and this analogy came to mind…

We trust our money with banks, financial institutions.. Instead of keeping our money at home in a safe or mattress. Yes some people have safes with valuables but I’m guessing they don’t direct deposit their paycheck to their safe. People also use the bank safety deposit boxes for valuables – usually the most important things like passports, birth certs, etc!

Why do we try to make our own data centers? Host our servers and apps? Shouldn’t we trust the banks (cloud providers)? Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc? I think we should.

I think if we step back and think about it we wouldn’t be trying to recreate banks when there are banks out there. My guess is back when banks were starting out, maybe the safe makers and maintenance guys didn’t want it to happen? Or maybe they figured out how to make better safes in banks instead of houses.

Photo Credit: Myself on a bike ride last week.

meetings_are_toxic

Using Power Query to Analyze Your Schedule

I am in a lot of meetings. A LOT of meetings. Double, triple, quad booked. I guess when you get to manager or director level somewhere, that is the definition of “busy”, or maybe everyone just wants you in their meeting, or your opinion, or whatever. In the end “Meetings are Toxic” (from 37signals), but really the are sometimes a necessary evil.

Anyways, do you really know where you spend all your time? Well you can glean the information pretty easily using Excel and Microsoft Power BI (Power Query specifically).

First, the key for me is to “categorize” my meetings. You can create categories in Outlook and then assign them to meetings, you can even color code the categories.

Where does Power Query fit in? Well, you can connect to Exchange as a data source.

power query exchange

Then you can query your calendar “table”, and pull it into Excel.

power query navigator

power query

Then, as with any table, you can Pivot it, and pull over category as the row, and look at the count. With some column work in the Power Query query, you can split out the date/time and get Month/Day/Year and create a semi-hierarchy, to see things over time.

MeetingMonth

For example, I took over 2 teams in January, and my meetings with them and related projects skyrocketed in January. Now I know what was taking my time up for Q1 2014 :)

meetings over timeAt least the number is going down :)

There is so much more you can do with Power BI and Exchange data, your email, calendars, contacts, etc, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it should only take you 10 minutes or so to get to this result! Now, if I can just figure out how to get out of the meetings!

business-intro

OneNote for Mac and OneNote API released, but something is missing…

I try to use multiple services. Google Drive, DropBox, Skydrive (now OneDrive) – the personal version – OneDrive for Business, Evernote, Wunderlist, Exchange Tasks, OneNote, etc etc. Why? Well to compare and contrast. What is good, what is bad, what is missing, what is – ubiquitous.

A few months ago I was use Evernote heavy (again). It is pretty ubiquitous. Every device, platform, web, etc. But, I really do like Microsoft OneNote. There are pros and cons to both apps, and I really do like how Evernote does tags, but that is a different blog post. OneNote was almost everywhere. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Web.. but missing a native Mac OS X app. That changed today. FINALLY a native Mac app for OneNote. There are third party apps that kind of work, but nothing like the real deal. Integrates with OneDrive (personal) via a Microsoft account.

I think even bigger news is the OneNote API - allowing for apps and services to integrate with OneNote, very big news indeed.

But what is missing? One glaring omission to complete the story, in my opinion, is the lack of any kind of client or integration on Mac OS for OneDrive for Business. There are OneDrive for Business apps for Windows and iOS, and Office Mobile apps which let you access your OneDrive for Business content for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. But glaringly omitted is any kind of Mac OS X app. Now, I was secretly hoping with the release of OneNote for Mac, that it would have integration with Office 365 or On-premises SharePoint out of the box, which would solve part of the problem, but I don’t see that integration, or I can’t find it.

Why do we need OneDrive for Business for Mac? Because, most organizations have a mix of client operating systems. These orgs want to use things like SharePoint, or Office 365 – OneDrive for Business – to let users save and share documents – internally and externally – replacing consumer (and faux business) apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, even OneDrive personal edition. But without a Mac client, it is VERY hard to get complete buy in to use the OneDrive tools. Yes, Mac users can use the web, but – they don’t like being treated like 2nd class citizens, and I don’t blame them. I use both Windows and Mac, and it would be awesome to be able to go between and use the same tools and services. Hopefully, someday.

So now, you can hit your OneNote notebooks in your personal Microsoft Account, OneDrive, but you can’t open your corporate notebooks, where I would guess many people would want to use OneNote for Mac. Microsoft – give us OneDrive for Business for Mac! We are waiting!! (take a quick glance at the image on this post, it almost looks like a Mac unless you look hard…  they are teasing us!)

outlook-2013-icon

Transparency in the Workplace: Sharing Your Calendar Details

This is just one more step to being more transparent in the workplace. A few months ago I tweeted this, figured it was time to detail it out

How many times have you went to schedule a meeting with your coworkers, and when you add them to the meeting you see everyone is booked. Sorta like this:

Busy Calendar

 

Now, forget for a minute the top two rows. The first one is mine, and the second is one of my employees.

The others… those are “everyone else”.

One way you can make scheduling meetings a little easier, as well as just be more transparent, is to share more information about your calendar free/busy with your colleagues. Now, I will detail how to do this in Outlook 2013 on Windows and Outlook 2011 on Mac but for previous versions it is pretty similar steps. There is also a way to do this with Google Apps calendar but I am not going to delve into that here (although I have noticed more and more orgs using Google Apps, the majority use Exchange).

There are few things I do, which you may find useful.

  1. My calendar item Subject and Location are open to everyone in my organization to view.
  2. The full details of all meetings are completely open to all my direct reports and everyone below them. I also do the same for some of my key peers as well as my boss, they can see everything.

Now I am sure you are saying “But Steve, what about those few appointments or meetings I want to keep private?” – Well, Microsoft has thought of everything.

3. My private appointments, I mark as private.

So, how do you do all this? Well it is pretty easy.

For Outlook 2013 in Windows, head to your calendar, and you will see it listed on the left hand side, right click->properties, then you see a “Permissions” tab. Click on that and change the default permissions. As for the Mac, it is pretty similar, but in the calendar, right click and the options is “Sharing Permissions”

As you can see, I have “Free/Busy time, subject, location” turned on for the “Default” permissions. For all the people listed, the only difference is they have “Full Details”, which means they can open up a meeting on my calendar and see whatever someone wrote or attached, agenda, etc.

Calendar Sharing

 

Now, to mark a specific calendar item private, just open it, and click the “Private” button.

Mark it private

 

Done. Now when someone adds you to an appointment when they are trying to schedule a meeting, they will see the subject and location. They could ask you “could you move this, or that” or sometimes they will even know what is important by the location/subject and know you could move it or skip it or whatever. Very useful.

Another handy item might be that someone is scheduling you and they see a meeting about a given topic. They might think they should be included and ask you about it, or they might have a colleague or employee they think should be there and they will want to make sure that they are represented, etc.  Now this will make 99% of your co-workers uneasy because they have always been private or hidden – they don’t want anyone knowing what they are doing, etc. I say phooey and work in the open. My opinion is that in an organization, the setting of sharing the location and subject should be set as the default in the Exchange server, not by each employee.

We are all the same team, we should have nothing to hide. And for those doctor or dentist appointments, or seldom top secret meetings, mark it private. It should be the exception though, not the rule.

You can also share your calendar specifically with a coworker and request them to share it back, this is what I started with years ago, but then after a while just opened mine up per the settings above.

So tell me, if you haven’t already shared your calendar with your teammates and coworkers, why not? Trust me, the world will not end, nor will you lose some magical edge you think you have by keeping your calendar private. In the end, opening it up will help your colleagues and show a sense of openness and transparency. Try it!

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