technical solutions and commentary

November 2, 2014

Starting an SEO business

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 6:46 pm

Source Phoenix has a free video series with some great ideas getting an SEO business started. There are some great tips on how to build a customer base by doing a few simple services to get started. The ideas in the video apply to other technology services based businesses too. Check out the video and the download here.

If you check it out, let me know what you think!

July 18, 2014

Free Conference Call Service

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 8:45 pm

If you are looking for a free conference calling service – that is reliable, easy to use, and does not require a credit card to sign up – I recommend you take a look at InstantConference.com.

Last week I began researching free conference calling services. I wanted service that didn’t have advertisements when you dialed in, didn’t require a credit card to sign up, and was easy to use.  I looked at the reviews and the service features for eight different services, and decided to try InstantConference.

The “Basic Plan” is completely free. With the free service you don’t get a toll free number to dial into, but that’s not a show stopper for my needs. Here is what you do get:

  • 5 conferences /month
  • 10 participants /call
  • 1000 minutes /month
  • Recording – individual call recordings up to 10 participants for 6 hours each call
  • 1¢ /minute overage

I signed up and was provided a New Jersey dial-in number, and a 7 digit conference ID code. The 862 number isn’t ideal for someone who does business primarily in Colorado, but not a huge deal with cell service having free long distance and cheap Skype out minutes.

InstantConference.com also has a Outlook plug-in to easily schedule a conference call from the Outlook client. I use Office 365 for Small Business and have no problems with the plug-in on my Outlook 2013 client.

When you sign up, you are provided a PIN code for moderating the calls, as an options. When I dialed into the conference call and entered my conference ID, I was never prompted to enter my PIN, and was never given audio prompts to do anything as a call leader. When I looked in my account profile after the call, it looked like I need to enable the moderator feature if I want it. Otherwise everyone just enters the conference call as normal.

A couple of things I would like to see options for in the future:

  • The ability to choose a conference call number with an area code in other large metro areas, such as Denver.
  • The ability to change my 7 digit conference ID and not have to use one they assign to me. I like the ability to change it to the last 7 digits of my local phone number, because its easier to remember.  (You can already change you leader PIN).

But all in all, it’s a free service and works great!  Since I don’t have a land line in my home office, I used Skype and dialed into the conference call bridge and had a crystal clear conference over my headset.  It would really be great if Microsoft let you integrate Skype voice into the Lync client! But unfortunately, I doubt we’ll see that anytime soon.

This is NOT an ad or a paid endorsement. I’m just a person that had a good experience with the service.

June 6, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update Adds Boot to Classic Desktop

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 9:01 am

Microsoft FINALLY is listening to its customers with Windows 8.  With the slow adoption of the OS in the Enterprise space, they are finally understanding people wont upgrade if it doesn’t help the end users.

In May Microsoft released Windows 8.1 Update that allows end users and enterprise admins boot directly to the classic desktop… if they are not using a touch-based device. If you are using touch enabled display, then you will still logically begin on the Windows 8 start screen. If you spend most of your time working in the classic shell like the vast majority of business users, then you can force Windows to boot directly to the desktop. To enable this you have to have Windows 8.1 Update KB2919335 installed. Which if your business administrator controls the desktops then you may not have right now, as they have until August 12 to approve the update.

To boot directly to the desktop:

  • Right-click the taskbar, choose Properties
  • Click Navigation
  • Check the top check box in the Start Screen section
  • Click OK

That’s it. Now the PC will boot to the desktop at every start up or sign in.

Other changes with the Update

The Start screen now displays icon for Power and Search next to your Account image in the upper right corner of the screen. This eliminate a few steps in using the charms bar. If you are using a Tabley, you wont see these options though.

Windows Store Apps now appear on the taskbar, just like classic desktop applications. These Apps also have a application bar which appears when you hover over the minimized app on the taskbar.

Changed for the desktop, non-touch laptop experience is the default media and photo viewers. Instead of choosing a picture or video and being ported to a Windows 8 App, you will now stay in the classic desktop using classic viewers/players.

For those still using Internet Explorer (IE) as their web browsers, the Update  improves compatibility with older IE versions.  While this is great for consumers, it’s even better for Enterprise customers so they can maintain a tighter level of security and use older IE-based Web Apps. This is why Microsoft introduced IE Enterprise-mode, which has to be enabled through GPOs, and is not on by default.

Another improvement to IE, is device awareness. Now IE will render web sites based upon the size of the PC or tablet screen that you are viewing it from. A welcome change for sure!

December 6, 2013

Free Quality Technical Training Resources

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 11:41 am

Microsoft Virtual Academy is the best free technical training resource that I have found to date from a large IT vendor. It goes beyond the basics with some of the free courses spanning multiple days which is taking classroom content and presenting it in a nutshell.  For anyone that is needing to update or their Microsoft technical skills, or is just getting started with Microsoft technologies, MVA is the best place to begin.

I am also a fan of the MOOC sites Udacity and Coursera. Google has recently made an investment in Udacity and has co-created content for development courses. This approach is a bit different than MVA as its setup like an online university program. I have taken business courses from both Udacity and Coursers, but have not taken technical courses yet.

I have explored the free online training from some of the other large IT vendors. While the majority have some free content, I am finding it is more limited to beginner knowledge, or 101 knowledge. There also seems to be a lot of up selling for their paid online or classroom courses in as part of their free content. I understand the value of classroom learning and that content development isn’t low cost for vendors. But with a lot of learning content being given away these days, vendors could benefit by adopting the same methods as Microsoft and Google. Training people that will know how to use their products which will result in these people promoting the vendor products to employers and customers. This only makes sense as people will promote or sell what they understand.

Have you run across any good free training resources? Please share by leaving a comment.

August 27, 2013

SkyDrive Pro update brings massive storage increase

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 12:34 pm

On August 27, 2013 Microsoft made an announcement affecting Office 365 business, Enterprise, and Government cloud users.

SkyDrive Pro storage allowance is increasing from 7GB per user to 25GB per user. The Online Admin Portal will also provide administrators a way to increase the SkyDrive Pro quota up to 100GB per user. Subscribers can add storage at a cost of $0.20/GB/month and this goes into the pooled storage, which can then be allocated to SkyDrive Pro users as the administrator deems appropriate.

Improvements have been made to the user experience in SkyDrive Pro. a new “Shared with Me” view provides users the ability to easily locate documents and folders that others have shared with you without having to subscribe to them in some form. While the documents that you see in the “Shared with Me” view are actually storage in the other persons SkyDrive Pro, you have rights to view, edit, download… as if its in your own SkyDrive PRo.

other improvement are increasing the file size upload to 2GB per file, the recycle bin has been increased to 90 days retention, and versioning is enable by default for new libraries.

The official blog post on the changes is here: http://blogs.office.com/b/office365tech/archive/2013/08/27/skydrive-pro-increases-storage-and-ease-of-sharing.aspx

August 22, 2013

Mobile device Malware increasing

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 11:48 am

According to eWeek, McAfee found that android-based malware threats rose to 35 percent in the second quarter of 2013. Contributing to the threat are:

  • SMS-stealing banking malware has risen
  • fraudulent dating and entertainment apps
  • ‘weaponized’ legitimate apps – installers with spyware
  • malicious apps posing as useful tools

The second quarter also saw the following increases:

  • suspicious URL’s (16%)
  • digitally signed malware samples (50%) – increased to 1.2 million new samples
  • notable events in the cyber attack and espionage areas – including multiple attacks on the global infrastructure for bitcoins
  • revelations around the Operation Troy network targeting military assets
  • McAfee Labs registered double the number of ransom-ware samples (320,000) in the second quarter versus quarter one.
  • 5.5 trillion SPAM messages, equal to 70% of the global Email volume

a security vulnerability within the Android operating system had exposed bitcoin users to theft through several digital wallet applications. the latest highlight of the weaknesses inherent in the Android platform.

Source:http://www.eweek.com/print/security/mobile-malware-threat-growth-hits-record-in-q2-mcafee/

July 24, 2013

Office 2010 Service PAck 2 (SP2) released

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 9:38 am

Microsoft released SP2 for Office 2010 this week. the sp can be downloaded from the download center and will be made available through automatic updates in the next few months. Those using Office Click-to-Run will have SP2 streamed to them beginning in August.

improvements include:

  • Office & SharePoint  2010 compatibility with Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, Office 2013, and SharePoint 2013.
  • security, stability, and performance

fixes are specifically listed in the SP2 changes list.

details: http://blogs.technet.com/b/office_sustained_engineering/archive/2013/07/16/office-2010-and-sharepoint-2010-service-pack-2-availability.aspx

June 4, 2013

SkyDrive Pro standalone client

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 7:23 pm

For those using SharePoint Server 2013 – either on-premise or through SharePoint online – you are no-doubt familiar with SkyDrive PRo (not to be confused with SkyDrive). SkyDrive Pro provides a "dropbox like” experience to business users and allows internal IT policies to be applied.

The SkyDrive Pro client is part of the Office 2013 Professional suite. In the circumstance that a business has not deployed Office 2013, but us running a prior version or even another productivity suite all together, Microsoft has released a standalone SkyDrive Pro client. With this client users can add files to there SkyDrive Pro storage from the client and can sync files across PC’s and the the cloud. This standalone client brings more value to organizations that upgrade to SharePoint 2013 but are not using the Office 2013 client.

Get the SkyDrive Pro client here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-US/download/details.aspx?id=39050

June 3, 2013

Windows 8.1 start menu layout group policy

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 11:12 am

During the day 1 keynote of Tech Ed North America, Ian McDonald introduced a new feature being introduced call “Start Screen Layout Policy”. This policy enables an IT administrator to customize the Start Screen with Application groups that contain Live Tiles – including Tile sizes, and live tile settings. When this setting is applied the users will changes to the start screen will not be saved. this will enable a consistent layout which will assist the service desk in walking an end user through the start screen and troubleshooting. This will also eliminate users from accidently moving or removing tiles from the start screen and not being able to locate an app they need.

An administrator can create multiple layouts for different end user types and apply the policies through GPO via traditional methods.to create a layout perform the following:

  • customize the start menu on a Windows 8.1 client device
  • Open a PowerShell (PS) command window on the client device
  • at the (PS) cmd type (replacing the path info with your environment variables): export-startlayout –path \\servername\folder\layoutname.xml –as XML
  • Open the Group Policy Editor, and Open the gpo to apply the settings through
  • navigate to: User configuration/Policies/Administrative Templates/start menu and taskbar
  • Enable the “start screen layout” policy setting
  • point to the Start Layout file (the xml file you exported earlier)
  • refresh the policy on a client devices to confirm the the desired change

May 10, 2013

SCOM 2012 Management Pack for Amazon Web Services (AWS) released

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 1:50 pm

Microsoft jointly released a SCOM Management Pack (MP) which enables Microsoft-based workloads at AWS to monitor their AWS resources directly in the Operations Manager console. Those who have existing Microsoft and/or Linux workloads can view and monitor on-premises and AWS resources in the SCOM management console. The MP can monitor EC2 instances (Windows and Linux), Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, Elastic Load Balancing, CloudFormation stacks, Auto Scaling groups, Elastic Beanstalk applications. Through  the MP can reach into AWS and capture AWS “CloudWatch” metrics to gain insight into the health of the managed AWS resource.

See the official Microsoft blog post and AWS resource page to download the Management pack.

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