Archive for the ‘Computers and Internet’ Category

Microsoft Telco Twitter – Microsoft telecom and partner news

October 9, 2017

The Microsoft Telco Twitter account had been dormant for a few years.  If you’re interested in the telco industry and want occasional updates on Microsoft’s impact in the industry, please follow the account.  new_twitter_logo

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Cortana and Alexa, sitting in a tree…

August 30, 2017

Cortana and Alexa are destined to become an item, as we are witnessing the rise of Corlexa. Or is it Alexana? In either case, these two assistants will soon become BFFs and be integrated into both Echo and Windows 10 devices. You’ll be able to easily talk to Cortana from an Echo as well as summon Alexa from the Cortana app across Windows 10, Android, and iOS. Although there’s a lot of overlap between what these two gals can do, they each have core strengths that make each once special. Let’s just hope they get along!

It’s Shark Week 2017!

July 27, 2017

There are some awesome new Ninjacat backgrounds for Windows Insiders! In addition to the Tiger, there’s now a Dragon and Dire Wolf! You can download the zip file here including the assets to make your own.

And given that this week is Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, why not Ninjacat on a great white?  Hold on tight Ninjacat!

Credit for original shark source.

Outlook 2013 Search Not Working

June 28, 2013

A recent upgrade to Windows 8.1 Preview killed my Outlook 2013 search. Typing anything in the Quick Search box returned the dreaded “We couldn’t find what you were looking for” U2 message:

search1

Searching on the server or doing an Advanced Search did continue to function, but these options are slow and don’t use the pre-built index that dramatically speeds things up.  I did manage to find tons of helpful notes on the web which helped me isolate and correct the problem. I’ll summarize them below.

I’m assuming that search previously had been working in your Outlook 2013 and you know how to check indexing options to confirm that the Outlook files are included in the index.

Remove Outlook from Index

  1. Go to Outlook Settings (File | Options)
  2. Go to the Search settings
  3. Click on Indexing Options
  4. Click Modify and deselect Microsoft Outlook
  5. Click Close to dismiss dialog box
  6. Exit Outlook

Ensure Outlook Files Can Be Indexed

Any Outlook OST or PST file that you’re using must be allowed to be indexed by Windows.  This is a default file attribute when Outlook indexing is enabled, but for some reason, it was changed during my recent OS upgrade.

  1. Find all OST and PST files that you’re using on your computer.  In Windows 8, OST files are usually hidden and stored in the C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook folder.
  2. For each file you’re using, right click on the file(s) and select Properties
  3. Click on the Advanced button on the general tab
  4. Ensure that the Allow this file to have contents indexed in addition to file is checkedsearch2
  5. Click OK

Re-Add Outlook to Index

Now follow the same steps in the first section and re-add Microsoft Outlook to the search index.  Start Outlook, go to the Indexing Options, and add Microsoft Outlook back to the list.

Rebuild Index (Optional)

The above actions corrected the issue for me; however, if it’s still not working for you, then you may need to rebuild the search index.  To rebuild the index:

  1. Go to Outlook Settings (File | Options)
  2. Go to the Search settings
  3. Click on Indexing Options
  4. Click Advanced
  5. Click Rebuild
  6. Click OK and then Close to dismiss the dialogs

Indexing will run for a while but quick search should begin working shortly, using whatever index has been built thus far.

Nokia Lumia 900 Echo Problem

April 4, 2013

I’ve had several Nokia Lumia 900’s, most of which I’ve never had a problem with. However, one of the phones exhibits an annoying problem where callers hear themselves when calling me. The problem wasn’t noticeable on my end, but my callers sure let me know how annoying it was on theirs.

After some research, I learned that the issue is related to the noise-canceling microphone on the device and reducing the call volume to 5-6 resolves the issue. But keeping the volume at this level isn’t trivial and defeats the purpose of having a call volume control in the first place. Nokia doesn’t provide much help on their support site, suggesting that level 5 is “optimal.”  It’s interesting that the problem only affects some Lumia 900 devices.

To resolve the echo problem, I covered the noise-canceling microphone located on the top left of the device with a small piece of scotch tape, essentially disabling it.

l900

The noise-canceling microphone is designed to filter out ambient noise, which is especially useful in noisy environments.  I suspect that covering the mic may impact the phone’s performance when used in noisy rooms. However, I haven’t noticed any undesirable side effects and the overall call quality is dramatically improved for my callers — whether I’m in an empty room or Grand Central.

Increase Number of Rows in Windows 8 Start Screen

March 22, 2013

Countless number of blog posts and articles have been written about how to change the number of live tile rows displayed in the Windows 8 Start screen.  For the most part, they provide the right guidance.  However, after trying many of these tips, I could not increase the number of rows on my Windows 8 Start screen!  So I continued to run Windows 8 on a relatively large 24″ monitor at 1920×1080 resolution and my Start screen was limited to three rows — with absolutely gigantic live tiles.

I couldn’t figure out why my rows didn’t increase after trying every trick until I came across Paul Thurrott’s article on a similar subject.  Turns out that screen DPI and accessibility settings play a part in the logic to increase the number of rows.  Indeed, I had enabled the “Make everything on your screen bigger” option under Ease of Access PC Settings.  Although I haven’t seen this documented elsewhere, enabling this setting will always artificially cap the maximum number of rows you can display in the Start screen to a measly three.

Turning the setting off, using the tweaks in the previously mentioned pages, and logging out corrected the issue. Now I have a glorious Windows 8 Start screen showing six rows of reasonably-sized live tiles.

Dis-Integrate GoToMeeting from Microsoft Lync

March 22, 2013

For enterprise users, it’s not unusual to have a flurry of online meeting tools installed on their desktop: Microsoft Lync, Citrix GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Microsoft Live Meeting just to name a few.  I use Lync 2013 for my online meetings but recently had to install Citrix GoToMeeting to attend a webinar.  While GoToMeeting is a fine product, I don’t need it for anything outside the occasional meeting that someone else has organized.  To my surprise, once installed, GoToMeeting decided to rear its ugly head all over my pristine Lync 2013 client app.

In context menus…

gt1

Also in the conversation window…

gt2

This integration is described in more detail in the Integrate GoToMeeting with Microsoft Lync article on the Citrix support site.  As stated in the Citrix page, when the GoToMeeting option is selected the GoToMeeting application is launched.  If you’re a GoToMeeting subscriber and your credentials are configured, then an instant message with the meeting information will be sent to the invitee.  However, since I’m not, I simply get the Login window:

gt3

So why do I need this integration since I don’t use GoToMeeting for my own meetings?  It’s like a permanent ad for the product inside of Lync.  Well, I don’t like it.  Removing it though, isn’t as simple as it should be.  Ideally, GoToMeeting should provide a check-box option to enable this integration during setup – it does not.  To remove it, you could simply uninstall GoToMeeting using the standard Uninstall or change a program tool in Control Panel.  But this removes the entire app, and there’s a good chance that I’ll need it again at some point to join an online meeting someone else has organized.

A better plan is to remove the Lync integration without removing the entire GoToMeeting app, thus leaving it installed for the occasional meeting while getting its paws off my Lync.  As you would guess, there are registry keys to register custom commands for Lync menus.  The details for how this works are published in the Adding Custom Commands to Lync 2010 Menus section of the Lync SDK documentation.

I’ll save you some reading… To add a command to a link menu, you add a subkey to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Wow6432Node\ Microsoft\ Communicator\ SessionManager\ Apps (this is for 64-bit Windows; there’s a different key for 32-bit Windows).  To remove the menu, well, you remove the subkey.

gt4

You can use regedit to browse to the specified location and delete the offending GoToMeeting subkey.  The usual warnings apply… You are making permanent changes to your computer yadda yadda.  Needless to say, I’m sure this is completely unsupported.

After removing the {E8AD82…} subkey and restarting Lync, the GoToMeeting menus will be history:

gt5

And life is good again.

What happened to my IE accelerators?

February 2, 2013

I love the Internet Explorer accelerators.  In fact, they’re probably one of the coolest, most useful features in IE.  Don’t know what they are?  Accelerators give you a quick shortcut to other sites using the context of whatever you highlight.  To activate the accelerators, you simply highlight some text and click the blue accelerator button accelerator button

acc1The accelerator context menu allows you to select one of the installed accelerators to act on the selected text, e.g. Search with Bing.

I’ve installed Windows 8 on a few machines and discovered that the accelerators are no longer present in Internet Explorer 10 in desktop mode.  My initial attempt to get them back was to simply install them from the Internet Explorer Gallery, but unfortunately, it had no effect.  I noticed that the IE Manage add-ons dialog no longer listed Accelerators as an Add-on type.  Could it be that accelerators are no longer supported in IE 10!?  Blasphemy!

Turns out that they are indeed supported in IE 10, but for some strange reason, they may not appear in the list of add-on types.  And if accelerators are not listed, you will not be able to install and activate any accelerator.  I was able to get the accelerators once again listed in the add-on types by resetting IE 10 settings to their default condition.  You can reach this dialog from the IE Tools | Internet Options | Advanced dialog:

acc2

Clicking the reset button will bring up another dialog which will allow you to reset the IE settings to their defaults.  As the dialog implies, this action will disable all add-ons, advanced options, privacy settings, and more.  You’ll also need to select the Delete personal settings option to ensure that the accelerators option gets re-added to the add-on types list.

acc3

You may find it a bit painful to have to do this reset since it will wipe out cached files, passwords, browser history, etc.  However, if you’re sync’ing app settings with Windows 8. you’ll get most of these back.  After restarting IE (I didn’t have to reboot to see the change) I could once again see accelerators proudly listed in add-on types:

acc4

Once you can see accelerators listed as a valid add-on type, you can manage and install new ones.  You can use the Find more accelerators link to visit the IE gallery and browse through hundreds of options.  For me, most of them are not that useful, but some are just pure Internet gold.

It’s great to have my accelerators back!

Uninstalling Norton Woes

December 12, 2012

I’m writing this from a new, beautiful, HP Envy ultrabook with Windows 8.  It’s a great machine and a great value… Almost perfect if it wasn’t for the bundled trialware.  Unfortunately in the Windows world, the subsidies that OEMs receive from ISVs to install their trial apps are too good to be ignored.  So on we go to remove much of the junk that gets pre-installed.  For what it’s worth, the situation has improved a bit with Windows 8.

The PC shipped with a 60 day trial of Norton something-or-other uber version.  I’m sure that Norton is a fine product, but I don’t want it on my system.  Plenty of reasonably good and free AV options exist, so there’s no reason I need to spend hard earned money on this.  Removing Norton was simple enough with the classic Control Panel | Uninstall a Program.  After a flash of confirmation messages from the uninstaller, Norton was (mostly) gone.  I also had to remove the Metro app that remained pinned to my Start screen.

Now that Norton is gone, I expected that after the forced reboot, Windows Defender — the native AV built into Windows 8 — would be automatically enabled.  Not so in this case.  Turns out that Norton (and HP apparently) don’t really care if you have AV protection after you remove their product.  Not only was Defender not enabled, but attempting to start it by running the Windows Defender control panel applet or starting the Windows service both failed.  Another reboot (for good measure) also didn’t get things working again.  A few Bing searches later and the common suggestion was to run the Norton uninstaller app from their site, but at this point, I didn’t even know what version of Norton I had uninstalled.  Turns out I didn’t need to do this anyway.

Re-enabling Windows Defender was easily done from the Action Center.  After the reboot, Action Center detects that there’s no AV product installed and gives you the option to re-enable Windows Defender.  This option worked and now I’m safely back and running with Windows Defender enabled.

UPDATE: I recently tried the same process on another new HP Envy and didn’t experience this behavior.  Perhaps I ran into an unusual situation on the first or HP has actually fixed something!

Bluetooth Mouse Disconnects Randomly

May 7, 2012

For as long as I’ve used a Bluetooth mouse, I’ve had random disconnects that occur, well, randomly.  Sometimes I can go a day without issues, but more often than not, every few hours my mouse would simply go away.  I’d be happily moving the cursor when suddenly it would come to an abrupt halt.  I’m using a Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 on an HP EliteBook, but the same behavior occurred on other laptops I’ve owned.

I was certain that this was some problem with the Windows 7 Bluetooth stack or drivers, but numerous driver reinstalls never resolved anything.  And alas, Windows 8 Consumer Preview didn’t resolve the issue for me either.

It turns out that this isn’t a driver stability issue, but rather a configuration issue related to the Bluetooth stack installed on the machine.  By default, the Bluetooth driver is configured so that it can be disabled by Windows to conserve power.  I suspect that Windows can potentially turn off Bluetooth if there is no activity for a period of time; however, it seems that Bluetooth is getting disabled when there is plenty of activity.  Bug or “feature?”

The fix that worked for me was to configure the Bluetooth adapter on the PC so that it’s no longer disabled to conserve power.  You can make this change in Device Manager:

  • Open Device Manager and right click on your Bluetooth adapter.

  • Select Properties in the context menu to configure the device.
  • In the Power Management tab, uncheck the “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power” check box and click OK to save the changes.

Making this small configuration change has resolved the random Bluetooth connection disconnects on my PC – hopefully it will work for you as well.