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!

ColdOutside

How Cold Is It?

With the latest “Polar Vortex” or whatever that is happening, EVERYONE is talking about the weather. Everyone always talks about how it has been this cold many times, etc, etc. “It was colder in my day” – ok. Well prove it!

So I took a look at the NOAA data you can get here http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/ and got an extract to CSV for my hometown of Chisholm, MN (actually the Hibbing/Chisholm airport since it has data from 1962 to today)

I downloaded the CSV, opened in Excel 2013 and imported into Power Query. I think did some formatting to get the date parts and a date field, and converted the “tenths of a degree of Celsius” to Fahrenheit. Then started analyzing.

I will have to refresh this after this cold spell, because it only has data to 1/1/2014 and these last few days have been cold, but, not the coldest.

Back when I was 16, in 1996, there was a stretch of days in January that were COLD. The data supports this. First I took all the days with a Low temp of UNDER -35 degrees F.

Chisholm Low Temps

 

You can see, there are a bunch of days in Jan/Feb 1996 that were UNDER -35 Degrees F. So then I copied that pivot and expanded on that date range to see all the days.

JanFebChisholmLowTemps

 

Pretty dang cold from 1/19/1996 to 2/4/1996. Lowest day was -50 Degrees F. Average of -31 Degrees F. Of course these are “real” temps, it was even colder with wind chill. These last 3-4 days of -20 to -40 are cold, but not sure they are colder than in Jan 1996. We will see when it is all said and done.

If you can’t remember how cold it was, NOAA, Excel and Power Query can remind you. :)

I have the spreadsheet up on Skydrive. http://sdrv.ms/1gBwMPL

Why The Surface (and Windows 8.1) Makes The Most Sense for Parents and Kids

I use many different devices. iOS, Android, Windows. iPad, Chromebook, Macbook, Surface, etc. I like to compare and contrast differences between systems and devices.. This post is about how the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8.1 works for parents and kids.

Why? Well, it isn’t so much the Surface and Windows 8.1, but Microsoft Family Safety. This has been around in Windows for a while, through the “Live Essentials” and what have you, but now it is built into the OS. Since previously I didn’t have kids, I had no use for it. Now with younger kids that want to play on my devices, I tried it.

On my Surface, I just created a kids account, and linked it to Family Safety. Now, when the kid plays, it tracks what they do. I can control what apps, what sites, levels of app ratings, time, etc. I get a report every week

If she tries to play a game or install something it won’t let her. It asks for password, it even asks “is your parent here now” so I can just put in the password. Pretty awesome.

Other systems and devices have nothing like this that I have seen, nothing built in anyways. With an iPad (or iOS) you really don’t have this control. Maybe if they have their own device, but if they share your’s you are out of luck since there are no accounts in iOS.

I have no problems now just giving her the Surface to play with – and I can track usage and set limits, pretty awesome. If you are a parent and have a Windows 8 or 8.1 device, check out the children accounts and family safety. You don’t even have to set up an email address for your kids, it just works as a local account if you want. Score one for Microsoft!

imac

Why I Still Need A Traditional Laptop or Desktop

Simple: other devices. Not everything syncs via Bluetooth, WIFI or ANT+, etc.

I have devices I need to connect to my computer to sync data from. My Garmin Edge, my Nike+ Watch.

Luckily my Nike Fuelband and Fitbit sync via Bluetooth now. But until I can get away with running an iPad, Chromebook or Surface RT .. I will need a traditional laptop or desktop. Macbook Pro or Air, iMac, Windows Desktop or Laptop, or Surface Pro…

Another reason, but not a complete dealbreaker, is software and services that I can’t use on non-traditional devices.

Excel 2013 with Power BI? Can’t really run that anywhere but on a traditional laptop or desktop. Yea, I know I can remote into a machine or server, but that is cheating. What else? Visual Studio, Management Studio, etc. Same thing, I could set up some IaaS VM and do things, but I would be taking way longer trying to create from an iPad or Surface RT, etc. The Surface at least as a sanctioned keyboard. iPad with a bluetooth keyboard works well. Chromebook works, but when it comes down to hard core work, these devices fall down.

I don’t even feel like typing up a blog post on these devices. I can pound out tons of content on a laptop or desktop. On a tablet/limited device, well, you are limited. Limited by entry speed, limited by having to be always connected, etc.

I am looking forward to a convergence of laptop/tablet along the lines of Surface. Surface Pro 2 is close. Probably the closest device. Unless you want to develop iPhone apps, then you need a Mac too :)

Hoping in the not to near future I can limit the number of devices I need to create or do the things I need to. Content creation, app development, syncing external devices, etc. If 2014 isn’t the year, guessing 2015 will be.

xbox-one-vs-ps4-578-80

Next Generation Gaming Consoles, Sony vs Microsoft

I am going to try to outline in some way here the next gen consoles and why I would choose one over the other. If for no other reason than I can get more than 140 characters here and it is easier to point to a response once when I need to… this might get long..

What I am not going to do? Run down the specs on each side down to the details. Other tech sites have done or are doing that already.

Let’s start with some history…

I have played games on computers/consoles for I dunno, almost 30 years. NES, Apple II, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis, Early DOS, PC, Gamecube, PS One, 2, 3, Xbox, Xbox 360. Wii. Some others in there. Basically have owned or played on all major systems (yeah, Dreamcast, Atari, etc).

Currently I have a PS3 and an Xbox 360. I would say I have completed/played/done more on the Xbox 360 than PS3. I own many more games, accessories, etc.

I think the main reason I have a PS3 is that I had some Gamestop credit and it was the best blu ray player around at the time. I do have some PS3 games that I have played/beat. I used to have like 40 games for PS2. I think we played PS2 through college more than anything (well, N64 was up there in the first two years)..

Looking at the current gen Sony vs Microsoft… gripes on both consoles.. every time I turn them on, most of my time is spent “updating” the main system or apps that are downloaded, or before I can play a game, etc.

Xbox 360 UI “interface” has changed 3+ times since I first had one (this is my second console, my first one from 2006 – I wore out). The PS3 hasn’t changed much to me.

Seems that PS3 has removed features that made it unique (running Linux? – I wrote about this 5 years ago).

Both consoles again, things like Hulu Plus, Netflix – are there – but to me, backup. Apple TV or Roku seem better suited for that. Recently I have been using Chromecast more and more – which works well too.

Friends: I have more friends with Xbox 360 than PS3, or at least on the “networks”. This makes things more enjoyable.

Games: For the most part they have the same games. The titles that are specific are ok but nothing that makes me say I would go with one over the other.

Like I mentioned, PS3 has the blu ray. I think if MSFT would have added blu ray to the 360, I wouldn’t have a PS3.

Now, onto the new consoles. PS4 and Xbox One.

8-10 years ago, I played games. I would get a PS2 game and play it/beat it. I would get a Xbo 360 game and get all the achievements. Time was in abundance. Fast forward to present. Working tons of hours. 2 kids. Family. House. Other engagements. There is no time to play a 150-200 hour game, at least for me. I find myself playing more of the arcade type games quick and out. Fruit Ninja Kinect. Trials HD, etc. Skyrim? I tried, I really did. Time gets in the way. Then coming back to it later is like “a child wandering into a movie

Back in the mid-2000’s, Apple TV wasn’t really around. Roku/Chromecast, etc – nothing. Xbox 360 or PS3 were the only way (easy way – besides hooking up a computer) to get things on your big screen. Back then they were the only thing hooked up to my composite or HDMI, now, they are fighting for slots.

I think looking at the two options for the next generation leave me at this.. If I do get a console, it will be the Xbox One.

Why?

First off, price comes up. To me they are the same. Xbox 360 comes with new Kinect, Sony doesn’t come with camera, that costs $100 extra, so price is pretty much the same.

Second, if history repeats itself, more of my friends will be on Xbox Live. One thing is that people that are already on Xbox Live would be on Live once they got a Xbox One.

Sidebar: Backwards compatibility. Sad story for both consoles. If either of them had backward compatibility it would totally change the game when it comes to people picking up the new consoles. This one issue and how they handle it is putting me off from getting either of them for a while. My current games and system works, why get a new one? Until there is a game or reason outside of a game to get new console, I probably won’t.

To me, the Xbox One is more of a “media center” system that plays games, whereas the PS4 is a gaming system that lets you do some media functions.

Now, being where I am at in life, mid-30’s, little or no time for gaming, etc etc – the Xbox One appeals. Give me direct integration into my TV. Let me play with Kinect. Let me Skype with family. Oh, and you want to play a game? Sure. And you can watch blu-ray or rent/download movies, it will integrate better with your Microsoft desktop and Windows Phone, etc etc.

What does Sony have? (to me): it is a third party device trying to integrate into ecosystems that are pretty much getting cemented already (Apple, Microsoft, upcomer Google). Nintendo and Sony are on the outside looking in. It doesn’t matter to me that it might play games better, or the nitty gritty details on whatever else someone who is choosing a PS4 will use as their “argument” that it is better. In all honesty, my thought is if you consider yourself a hardcore gamer, you should be getting both consoles anyways.

What don’t I like about the Xbox One from what I see? Size. The thing is huge. While everything else is getting smaller in tech, the Xbox One gets bigger.

Now, based on my current (well I guess now “previous”) generation PS3 and Xbox 360 experiences, I don’t really need another device sitting around that the majority of the time spent on it is just running updates. I would hope either of these new consoles handle this better. Also it makes my choice favor a system I would use more than for just gaming. Based on the current (or soon to be realized) functionality, my head leans to Xbox One.

I am sure I am missing this or that in comparisons and there are going to be fanboys on either side saything this or that, but I just haven’t gotten any “feeling” that is telling me I should get or consider a PS4. Microsoft has been good with the Xbox, 360 and Xbox Live, the are just going to get better. I like where they are heading. Sony just seems like an outside system to me. So no matter what your choice, have fun. I am not trying to convince anyone either way. When it all boils down, I will probably just end up playing more games on my phone anyways :)

So in the end: Xbox One. But guessing if I do get it, it will be after the price drops for both consoles, as they always do.

Eventvwr_icon

Analyzing Event Logs with LogParser and Power Query

More LogParser and Power Query fun. (A few weeks ago I did a similar thing with IIS Logs and Active Directory)

Event logs. Windows PC’s kick out a ton of events, and the Event Logs store them. While the event log viewer has gotten better with time, it is more of a quick glance than analyzing tool in my eyes. Let’s get to Excel.

I tried seven ways to Sunday to try to get Event Logs directly with Power Query, but exporting to text, csv, xml, etc from Event Logs just ends up in a mess once you get down to the details and try to get the event data from a record.

What I ended up doing was first kicking out all the data I wanted with LogParser

logparser -i:EVT -o:CSV “SELECT EventID,SourceName, TimeGenerated, Strings into c:results.csv FROM C:EventLog_Application.evtx”

Then pulling that data into Power Query. With Power Query, on the “Strings” column I just delimited by pipe (|) for the entire strings column (which in my case split it out to 6 varying columns) and then went about analyzing my data and pivoting/slicing/dicing.

let
Source = Csv.Document(File.Contents(“C:results.csv”),null,null,null,1252),
FirstRowAsHeader = Table.PromoteHeaders(Source),
ChangedType = Table.TransformColumnTypes(FirstRowAsHeader,{{“EventID”, type number}, {“SourceName”, type text}, {“TimeGenerated”, type datetime}, {“Strings”, type text}}),
SplitColumnDelimiter = Table.SplitColumn(ChangedType,”Strings”,Splitter.SplitTextByDelimiter(“|”),{“Strings.1″, “Strings.2″, “Strings.3″, “Strings.4″, “Strings.5″, “Strings.6″}),
ChangedType1 = Table.TransformColumnTypes(SplitColumnDelimiter,{{“Strings.1″, type text}, {“Strings.2″, type text}, {“Strings.3″, type text}, {“Strings.4″, type text}, {“Strings.5″, type text}, {“Strings.6″, type text}})
in
ChangedType1

I do wish Power Query could hit Event Logs and .evt/evtx files directly, Maybe it does and I am missing it.

Never Type Your Email Address On Your Phone Again

We all use our phones way more than we used to. Always have them with us, in our pockets. We do many tasks we used to do on computers on our phones. We view, share, read, type. One thing I found myself typing way to often was my email address. Well, both my addresses. My home and work address. Every new login, every site, etc. Has to be a better way.

Well, there is! It is called Text Expansion. Text Expansion isn’t anything new. It has been around in modern OS’s for years, and other programs, text editors and IM programs, etc.

Well, with Apple iOS and Google Android (Sorry Windows Phone users!), you can use Text Expansion to stop typing out your loooong email addresses every time you have to enter them.

On iOS, go to Settings->General->Keyboard. At the bottom of the page, there is “Shortcuts”. Now there might be some defaults. “omw” = on my way, etc. But who really uses that? :)

set up a new shortcut, for the phrase, put your email address, and then Shortcut put “eml”. I also set up a shortcut for my work email, with the shortcut as “weml”. Now, when I want to type my email just have to type eml or weml and it expands into my actual email address.

home email expansion

work email expansion

and here it is in action:

expansion use

Now on Android, it works a little different (and in my opinion, iOS handles this better). First off, add your shortcuts.

Go to Settings->Language & Input->Personal Dictionary

Add two entries, for your home and work, like on iOS.

shortcut android

and here it is in action:

usage android

As you can see, the way that Android does it, at least to me, seems wonky. iOS brings up the expanded text inline. Also, I have noticed on Android that some apps and text entry areas don’t find the dictionary (say, for example the to: line in corporate mail). Where in iOS 99% of places handles the expansion. The places in iOS that I have seen not handle it are some apps custom text entry boxes.

Another thing to realize is that with iOS, if you use iCloud sync, these text expansions get syncd for you, to your iPad and other iDevices, even your Mac. Pretty cool.

I see people typing in their email address when logging in and just shake my head. Save yourself some keystrokes. They add up!

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