Outlook 2016 Attach File menu disappears

We’ve seen some strange ‘attach file’ behaviour in Outlook 2016 installed via Office 365 ProPlus.

Specifically, when you click on the Attach File icon, the dropdown menu of Recent Items and other locations disappears, rolling back up. You can’t actually attach a file.

This behaviour appears when Outlook updates the Recent Items list.

Outlook 2016 Attach File Recent Items

It does not happen for all users. Love those random problems.

The workaround is:

  • Click on File, Office Account
  • Click Sign out under your User Information.
  • Restart Outlook.
  • Sign In again

Sadly, the Microsoft Community forums are full of posts and replies form people saying ‘me too’. http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2016-outlook/outlook-2016-disappearing-attach-file-menu/717b604f-3c31-4c4f-990e-50501e0e8b50

I saw one Microsoft response saying they were aware of the problem, but can’t find anything official to say it’s been recorded as a bug or if they are working on a fix.

-SCuffy

 

Calling all SMB Innovators – Where are you?

Warning: This is an opinion piece and quite honestly, a rant. You have been warned.

Our business has been supporting the technology needs of SMBs for 12 years now, after we stepped out of the corporate world. The early years were comparatively easy – a business wanted I.T. support, we’d upgrade a server or two to newer software and bigger hardware and the addition of remote monitoring and management tools consolidated our efforts across our customer base. Nothing really extraordinary there.

Then along came the Cloud. I’ve written before about how the adoption of Cloud has varied amongst SMB IT Pros (excluding their customer base). For those who are now familiar with using, supporting & migrating to Cloud-based applications and/or infrastructure, there was a learning curve for sure as they picked up a new skillset.

To a point, IT Pros can handle a ‘replace your on-premises server’ discussion, if Cloud is a viable option for an SMB. To clarify further, this scenario involves replacing one piece of software functionality with another one that’s comparable. Yes it normally involves some number crunching, but it’s familiar and do-able, for both the customer and the IT Pro.

That’s often where the conversation stops. Sign up for a migration, chuck your data in the Cloud, carry on working as normal (with hopefully some cost savings or at least improved reliability).

Meanwhile, the tech community is buzzing with AI, IoT and VR. Is any of this valid for SMBs?

Maybe, but maybe not yet due to economies of scale.

Somewhere between these two extremes is a massive potential for business benefit that SMBs are missing out on because of one thing and one thing only: Change. Or, more accurately, lack of it.

It’s going to take a very skilled IT Pro (sales skills, not technical skills) to convince an SMB that their whole organisation should change their email client, even if the whole organisation is 20 people. It’s going to take a very skilled IT Pro to convert an SMB to using Cloud storage for documents (not file sync), when they are used to mapped network drives. It’s going to take a very skilled IT Pro to convert an SMB to using Sharepoint Online instead of Word documents for policies and procedures, Wunderlist or Office 365 Planner instead of Tasks, Slack or Yammer instead of group emails.

Are IT Pros up for the challenge? Do they have the knowledge of (and heart for) the business side of the business and corporate change management (cultural, not ITIL)? Can they convince an SMB CEO to fundamentally change the way that things have always been done, in order to (hopefully) improve productivity and give them an edge over their competitors? By the way, you’re more than welcome to apply that paragraph to any aspect of SMB life, not just Cloud computing opportunities.

Should they have to?

Yes, it’s a fundamental part of the sales role to understand the business benefits of a technology solution. But to accept and implement a change of ‘how things are done around here’, a CEO needs to see more than just a list of business benefits.

They have to want to change.

And many don’t.

I’ve also talked about Innovation as a Habit before – pushing past innovation as a big scary thing and adopting regular small changes instead. Yet it’s still hard to convince most SMBs that if they want different results, they need to start doing things differently. Frustratingly, they have a great ability to be agile if they want to be. It’s much easier to turn around a 10 seat tug boat than it is to turn around a 2,000 seat Enterprise cruise ship (or should I say, starship?).

A lot of tech chatter in my world is focussed on Startups. As a 12yr old business, I ignored it. I was wrong. If you want to shift your world, you have to think like a Startup.

So, I’m calling on all the SMB innovators …. The small businesses who are prepared to think and act differently, not because they are starting up but because they are a long way away from being a startup. Where are the strong leaders who are prepared to lead their SMB through some procedural and cultural change? Who’s no longer prepared to accept “the way things have always been done around here”?

It’s not the IT Pro’s responsibility to convince you to change your organisation. It’s their responsibility to advise you on the options & tools you have available to effect that change.

Because it’s not the technology that counts …. It’s whether you’re prepared to use it.

-SCuffy

The Internet of Things: Smart toasters, smart cities or dumb marketing?

The catalyst for this post was a conversation with a bunch of great, smart people in IT about IoT. The general consensus was that the term meant different things to different people and had fallen victim to its own hype. Sound like any other computing term you know … (Cloud)?

It was then followed by a ton if hilarious examples about the weird things being connected to the internet (see Twitter:Internet of Shit) and the inherent security concerns with all of this (see Hello Barbie privacy fears and also Skynet)

What was very clear was that the conversation had jumped straight into the consumer space. That’s not surprising, given the keenness of companies to throw a ‘Smart’ label on anything these days. It’s amplified at the Consumer Electronics Show, where 2016 showed us more ways to “IoT enable” our newborns . Well, the things they use and wear, that is.

This tech savvy generation is weary of ‘the next big thing’ in technology. We’re not watching The Jetsons, hoping for our flying cars, food replicators and Rosie robots. We’ve got the Internet in our pockets and it’s almost impossible to buy a TV that isn’t Smart.

And we’ve put up with terms like ‘Cloud computing’, knowing it’s just a collection of other people’s computers … unless you have a different definition, which is quite possible.

I understand why it can be seen as just another overhyped marketing term, peppered with the odd successful Kickstarter project.

But that’s not my Internet of Things. My mental picture doesn’t have me ordering groceries from the front of the refrigerator. And I don’t count my TV as an IoT device. Sure it can get updates from and even browse the Internet, but it’s not transmitting back how long it’s been on for or how hot it’s getting.

I’m thinking of escalators. Specifically, the London Underground.

And it’s Microsoft’s fault.

The London Underground is a spectacular example of the business benefit of IoT. Previously dumb devices are now able to send information about their performance and status real-time. This allows for better failure prevention, repair response and future planning. This 1min 44 sec video explains it in a nutshell – pay attention to what’s onscreen ,specifically the dashboards.

The real benefit of IoT is the DATA.

Yes, remote control is handy too. I can turn on one of my home air conditioning units from my phone when I’m out. And to some extent, although it isn’t shown, perhaps the London Underground has some control of the devices via this network too.

But it’s the information from these things we’re connecting that allows us to make decisions, act & react. That’s the benefit of data, period. The dashboards and numbers are nothing if we don’t do something with them. The goal is that more data, the right kinds of data, will lead to better decisions and better actions. That’s how you change a city.

Our current society expects advancement in consumer tech (and for it to be in our hands) long before businesses have developed and implemented it. Yes, much like the Cloud, for traditional Enterprises. And we’re just not sure that we need our homes connected, as ‘fun & geeky’ as it is.

But you’re not going to change a city with a smart toaster.

Wrap your head around making IoT affordable and practical at my public transport stations, my local shopping mall, my supermarket checkout .. now the world is going to run smoother. The day I can guarantee my shopping trolley won’t veer to the right, because you’ve already pulled it out of service, will be a very happy day. I know, I know, cost benefit analysis for making me a happy shopper might not quite stack up just yet.

Maybe it would for an Elevator servicing company, resulting in less down time in a multi-storey building?

My mental image of the Internet of Things is business related, because I think that’s where it will make the most impact if it’s adopted properly. And maybe I’ve got you thinking differently now, too. Play ‘Spot the IoT Opportunity’ as you go about your day tomorrow.

Because it’s not the technology that counts … it’s what you do with it.

-SCuffy.

Fix AVG Anti-Virus Update failed – The update control file is missing

We had a customer’s Windows 7 computer running AVG 2015 Anti-virus, managed by AVG Cloudcare, that was refusing to update its virus definitions database.

Update failed.

The update control file is missing.

Note: This error has been reported on non-Cloudcare versions and earlier versions too.

Even getting tough and uninstalling the software with the AVG Removal Tool, rebooting and reinstalling .. left me with exactly the same problem. Other computers at the site were unaffected.

Kudos to Bryson from AVG Support who suggested this process. It worked perfectly, first time!

  1. Disable AVG Self Protection (options > advanced settings > AVG Self Protection)
  2. Delete the file C:\ProgramData\AVG2015\cfg\update.cfg
  3. Restart the PC and enable AVG Self Protection. The cfg file is automatically recreated with default settings.
  4. Update

 

Leaving here for posterity, in the hope it helps someone else who’s turned to searching Google!

 

-SCuffy

 

 

Microsoft Band 2 Review – How it’s changed my day

I used a Fitbug Orb for a while. It did a good job of reporting steps & sleep back to an iPhone app but I got annoyed that it had a CR battery to replace (non-rechargeable) and the rubber wrist strap was annoying (it would come off in the night while sleeping). I was tempted to get a Fitbit purely to have a silent alarm, but I never went and bought one.

Microsoft’s first attempt at a wearable almost tempted me too, but it was clear that version 1.0 needed some refinement first. When a trip to the USA coincided with the release of the Microsoft Band 2, I had run out of excuses. Keen to make my very first visit to a physical Microsoft store, I walked out with a Small and their last Medium.

The Small was just a bit too snug on the biggest setting, so I changed to the Medium instead, which gave me much more room. I like the flexibility of clicking the secure metal clasp nice and tight when I want to ensure a more accurate heart rate reading, or loosening it off to be a bit more comfortable when the temperature and humidity rise. The screen is beautiful and responsive and curves comfortably across my wrist. The rubber strap is comfortable but wide. Information displays well in such a small space. My only hesitation in the design is the fact I’d never take it to the beach or on a rainy emergency services callout. I can see a grain of sand would be a nightmare for the metal clasp.

The first question I’m asked is usually “What phone do you use with it?” and my answer is “It’s irrelevant.” I use a Windows Phone. Hubby uses an iPhone. We both use the same Microsoft Health app for managing our Band settings & reading our health info (or via the online dashboard https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-health/en-us) It also integrates with partners like MapMyRun, Strava, Gold with TaylorMade and My Fitness Pal https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-band/en-us/partners-and-apps

My Band 2 gives me the following features on my wrist:
• New email alerts, including scroll read the first few lines.
• New SMS messages, including pre-canned replies or a teeny tiny keyboard
• Incoming call alerts
• Calendar reminders
• UV readings & alerts
• Steps, floors, calories burned
• Heart rate
• VO2 Max, for runners and cyclists (ie not me). I don’t know of any other fitness tracker that does this.
• The time! Rotating my wrist briefly shows the time on the display, saving the battery.

I’ve specifically excluded social media notifications. As much as I love to tweet, I don’t need my life interrupting because someone replied to me. I’ll check that on my phone when I want to.

The latest software update has also included controlling your phone volume from your wrist and an activity reminder prompt (the snail icon is cute).

So, it’s all pretty cool for a device that isn’t an Apple Watch. I’m glad now that I didn’t buy a Fitbit, because I’m really enjoying having the other notifications too.

The best part about the Band though is how it has changed my life.

I don’t walk around with my phone in my hand anymore.  – Throwing it in my handbag, I used to miss calls & messages because I couldn’t hear it ring. Now the Band buzzes to alert me. You realise how useful this is when you text your husband and his phone is on silent .. but his Band still buzzes him. I can put my phone in my pocket and know that I don’t have to check it to see if I’ve missed anything important. I can choose to ignore the write buzz or glance at the email flash on screen to see if it’s something that immediately needs my attention. I can also tell the Band to not disturb me, because I really don’t want to see work emails on the weekend.

I’m more aware of my sleep quality. – I was shocked by how little deep sleep I actually get. It’s not unusual for me to get less than 30mins of deep sleep in a 9 hour period. No wonder I still feel tired! With that data being tracked, I can make lifestyle changes to improve that and see if they work. The average heart rate at night shows an increase of 10 beats per minute if I’ve been drinking. This formed part of my decision to not drink any alcohol this year (mostly).

Sleep

I don’t leave the garden hose on too long anymore. – The Band has a reminder, timer & stopwatch which are all things that my phone can do, but the convenience of these on my wrist has made me more likely to use them on the weekends.  I don’t have to go and get my phone to set a reminder and then ensure my phone is always in earshot.

My alarm doesn’t wake up my husband anymore. – Despite what my sleep tracking says, I’m hard to wake up in the morning. That requires my phone alarm to be at a volume level that also wakes up my husband. Hooray, Band 2 silent alarm!

I’m still getting used to the habit of charging it, seeing as I want to wear it at night too. It doesn’t quite last 48hrs and will die part way through night two, depending on how busy it’s been chirping away (please send me less emails, thanks). My best tip is charge it when you’re at your desk, working.

Does this all mean that you should go and buy one?
I have no idea. I’m not you.

Those features might be extremely useful. Or you might want a ton of third party apps on your wrist too (though Uber is coming to the Band 2). Or you might not even care about email notifications or steps.

But I can tell you that it is a purchase I have not regretted. It has actually improved the quality of my life.

After all, it’s not the technology that counts .. It’s what you do with it.

-SCuffy.

P.S. I’m prone to a little contact dermatitis from silver & stainless steel, including the back of my regular watch. No issues so far with the Band 2.

P.P.S You can now control your Volvo with your voice from your Band 2 http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/5/10710362/volvo-microsoft-band-on-call-app-ces-2016

Flipped your Windows 10 screen?

I’m laughing because I just managed to flip my screen while writing the title of this post.

The keyboard shortcut for rotating your Windows 10 display is Ctrl +Alt + one of the arrow keys.

Sometimes I manage to trigger this by accident. I’m not holding down Ctrl + Alt, but if I press an arrow key to go back and edit a typo, I’m suddenly looking at things on my screen sideways or upside down:

Windows 10 screen display upside down

The trick to get it back?

Hold Ctrl + Alt and press your Up arrow.

Then all is right in the world, even down under in Australia.

 

-SCuffy

The world is changing and so is Spirent

Sometimes it’s great to sit down for a presentation with no preconceived ideas. It makes it interesting to listen to a guy up the front in a company t-shirt, who you’re not viewing as the ‘Vice President of Marketing & Product Strategy’. The title doesn’t actually do justice to Neil Holmquist from Spirent Communications.

The internet would tell me that Neil has a 15 year career with Spirent, beginning as an engineer. It would also give me a ton of information about the telecommunications testing company itself, founded in 1936 and listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The presentation itself told me, loud and clear, that Spirent knows that the market is changing and Neil is passionate about supporting that change. That shouldn’t be news to anyone in tech, right? But when companies like Kodak & Blockbuster couldn’t see the writing on the wall, it’s nice to meet a company with an established history that’s not resting on its past successes.

I had an overview of and a sneak peek at Temeva (TEstMEasureVAlidate, get it?), Spirent’s new software as a service portal for Cloud and network testing. The concept has a few strong things going for it:

  1. It recognises that your environment is a whole lot more complicated than it used to be, especially when you’ve introduced Cloud services.
  2. It recognises that infrastructure engineers have given over a degree of control to Cloud providers, assuming that they’re getting the S3 level of compute power from Amazon that they’re paying for … and they’re not entirely happy about this blind faith.
  3. It recognises that the way you consume services and buy tools has changed. Generally, the market isn’t satisfied anymore with paying thousands of dollars for a product with a million features, especially when they only use a subset of that.

To quote Neil “We want to make it accessible, from cost to usability, to get the testing and get the answers that you need, faster.”

Temeva can provide you with information on application performance and SLA validation in Cloud environments where you are managing a server instance or application instance (not consuming an application as a service).

It’s initiated through your own company Temeva portal, which is LDAP compliant to hook into your own authentication directories. You can select the test components that you want and pay per active test. This is speedtest.net on steroids, giving granular analytics on latency, jitter, packet loss, corruption etc. It uses ‘synthetic trafffic’, not just packet floods. The performance testing uses simulated workloads to actually hit storage, CPU & RAM.

The Traffic Center lets you customise your own health indicators (latency, packet loss etc) and tolerances, to alert if the performance is within your acceptable range or not. And it’s smart enough to watch previous test runs and alert you if results are ‘out of the ordinary’ for you.

The simulated workloads are a big deal for anyone wanting to make changes, as you can now test the impact of shutting down an office location and doubling the staff load at another location. With Spirent’s test agents in the Cloud, you can enter your parameters and see if an S3 is going to be sized correctly to give you suitable application performance, based on your estimated workload.

That got my attention. Well, that and the subscription model.

The most common thing that small businesses lack is a test environment. If they’re lucky, they have some test VMs. But to be able to test from your own office the impact of moving to Amazon? That’s very useful, especially if the testing is cost effective.

The other thing that got me (and you’ll see me speak up in one of the Vimeo vids), is the system’s ability to load a pcap and replay your actual network traffic. That’s on the roadmap for the product, but to me it’s an important feature. I want to be able to make a change after hours and run a test that functions like it was the middle of the work day … once again, because smaller businesses don’t have test networks. Sorry networking guys, I know you’ve just all gasped in horror.

Overall, the Temeva product showed promise and the presentation left me wanting to keep a track on its developments. Whether it will be a fit in the SMB market is still to be seen (especially without talking about pricing), but the geek girl part of me thinks its capabilities are pretty cool.

If Neil’s passion gets out into the market, hopefully that cool factor will turn into another success story for Spirent.

-SCuffy

Spirent Temeva Overview:  https://vimeo.com/album/3663689/video/146408625

Traffic Center demo: https://vimeo.com/album/3663689/video/146409527

 

Disclaimer: I attended the Spirent presentation as a guest of Tech Field Day at Virtualization Field Day 6. My travel expenses were covered, but I’m not being paid to write this post. I may however have been wearing a free Spirent t-shirt when I wrote this post. It was really comfortable.