Camping Season is here!

Easter Weekend marked the beginning of the Camping Season for many, and for me, was the first real opportunity of the year to get out and play in the woods. I’ve had a couple of little camping trips this year, but it has also been a busy few months, so it’s been difficult to get out and play.

First trip out
The first trip out was not too extravagant, infact, it was more of a kit check after the winter, camping in the woods just a few hundred yards from the house.

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After a night of making fire, eating burgers and generally playing around, I think I could call the first trip out a success. Next time, ill be getting the Dutch oven out, and being a bit more adventurous with the food.

New Skillet
Unfortunately, my new Skillet didn’t arrive in time for this trip. Its currently on its second run through the oven being seasoned ready for the next trip. It’s only a small 8.5″ skillet, which might sound tiny, but its just the right size to fit on my wood stove at home too, so its a bit of a compromise.
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Lego Mindstorms

Since I moved house, I’ve been meaning to get my Lego Mindstorms set out for a bit of a play, but have only just got round to it.

The set I have is the NXT 2.0 Education Base Set and it’s really quite good. Its old hat now with the EV3 systems, but I can’t bring myself to lay down the cash for that.

The NXT 2.0 Base set though still have enough stuff to get started with a decent robot. You get an 3 motors, an ultrasonic sensor, 2 touch sensors, 1 light sensor and a sound sensor (which my kit is sadly missing), so the opportunities for playing are actually quite good.

Building my first bot
I’ve decided to keep it simple for now and have just built the basic kit as per the destructions. Quite quickly I found my self with a working bot, which was good. Now I just needed to get a couple of sensors hooked up and get it programmed to do some stuff.

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Software
Once I’d got my bot built, I needed to get it programmed and set-up. I put the software on my desktop and had a bit of a play. Within a few minutes, I had it whirring round the office, and responding to light input.

So far, so good…

What’s Next?
Now I just need to find the time to have a play with it properly, and see how much I can get it to do. I’m yet to find a design that will allow it to wake me up with a fresh cup of tea in the morning, but i’ll figure something out.

Salamander Active Directory – Feature focus – Working with Office 365

As we are seeing more and more schools moving towards Office 365, I thought I’d share what Salamander Active Directory can do for you.

Getting users into Office 365
Salamander AD has always been able to provision your users and groups into your local Active Directory and this doesn’t change with a school using Office 365.

We recommend that you use DirSync to push your users in to Office 365, but we can manage them once they are there.

Licensing
By Leveraging the Office 365 PowerShell command-lets Salamander Active Directory can license your users based around their status in your MIS.

Obviously, it can assign different licenses to students and staff, but it could also assign different licenses or service plans to 6th Form, or to Teaching Staff etc.

Location and other settings
The capabilities of Salamander isnt restricted to Licensing. We regularly set the location for users, and set mailbox settings on mass. If you need something doing to a lot of users in Office 365, Salamander Active Directory can probably do it for you.

Calendars
For customers using Sims, Faciltiy CMIS or iSAMS we can also push your Pupils and Staff timetables into Office 365 mailboxes as we can in a local Exchange environment.

Have a look at my post on Exchange Calendar with Salamander

Already a customer?
As with all the Features for Salamander Active Directory, these are available to any Salamander Active Directory, new or existing.

SalamanderSoft and Office 365
As Authorised Education Resellers for Office 365, we can offer you advice and support whether your looking to move to Office 365 or are already there.

Drop me an email for more information, or just to have a chat: jon@salamandersoft.co.uk

Windows 8.1 Update – Thoughts

I’ve been using windows 8 since it was in beta and have always liked it, but it has its issues. 8.1 did a lot to remedy this and now its time for 8.1 Update 1 to have a go at addressing the issues.

Due to a number of leaks its been no secret that this has been coming, or that it what it was going to address.


Although I’m tempted, I’m not going to write about this in-depth, partly because I can’t be bothered, but mostly because there’s already plenty of writing about this and I’d just be copying that. My favourite is Paul Thurrott’s Review:

http://winsupersite.com/windows-8/windows-81-update-1-review

My Favourite Features
There are loads of new features to play with the 8.1 update, but my favourites are.

Power button and Search on the Start screen

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My primary device is a desktop, and Virtual Machines under that, and one of my biggest issues has been easily getting to the power options without fuss.

I regularly run 3 or 4 VM’s on my desktop across multiple monitors, which has made getting to the charm’s for the power options a bit of a pain.

Yes, i could use the quick access menu (WINKEY + X), but this doesn’t always give me the menu for the machine I want and I have, on more than 1 occasion, rebooted my main desktop rather than the 1 VM I wanted to 🙁

As such, I really love having the Power button up on the start menu, and the Search button is great when I’m working on my surface without the keyboard.

Title bar and window Controls

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As I use windows mostly from a desktop with a keyboard and mouse I have found the full-screen metro app a little frustrating at times. With 8.1 Update, the mouse users among us now get a title bar with proper window controls when working in a full screen app.

Boot to desktop
Not a feature I’ve been using, but i know there is much love for being able to boot directly to the desktop, bypassing the start screen.

This, and a couple of other options are now available in the Taskbar properties.

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Surface Pro – One week in

After much deliberation, 7 days ago bit the bullet and bought a Microsoft Surface Pro. I’d been toying with the idea for months as I was getting fed up of swapping between my IPad mini and a laptop all the time.

I spend a lot of my time working in Outlook and OneNote, but also use other Office applications quite extensively. I also tend to run things like Visual Studio (not that i’m any good with it) and some other windows ‘desktop’ apps.

Initial disappointment
To be brutal, my first day or so weren’t the happiest of experiences, and I found myself underwhelmed with the touch experience in outlook and OneNote especially. I also really really hated the browsing experience. I use chrome as my primary browser on my laptop and desktops, so immediately installed in on the new surface. Not a smart move. Its rubbish!!

Overall I felt a little cheated by the whole experience.

What happened next
Up to this point, I’d been trying to use it as a small touch screen PC. As I would my desktop of laptop. It took a while before it clicked… This is a tablet, treat it like one.

I installed the Mail app, the OneNote app and got them all setup and switched to using internet explorer in ‘app’ mode. What a difference that made. Immediately found myself using the surface like it was meant to be, and for the past few days have tried to use it exclusively.

I had an all day meeting on Saturday, writing documents and reviewing excel spreadsheets and other data. A task, which would normally have me reaching for my laptop, I could do on my Surface, and without much difficulty, and while moving around the various meeting rooms.

On too many occasions have I needed to reference something quickly and spent longer getting the laptop out, booting it up, logging in. Not a task that takes long, but compared to the surface feels like a lifetime. My laptop isn’t slow, and on paper should walk all over the surface, but for simple tasks like finding a document, the surface has really shown its worth.

I’m still getting used to it and there is definitely some more work to be done on the office touch experience, but I’m pretty confident that this will become my primary ‘secondary’ device. It will never replace my desktop, but I’m liking its chances for replacing the laptop.

I’m only a week in, so I’m not going to jump in a shout about the things that are wrong with it, or praise it for changing my left, but reserve the right to at some stage further down the line once I’ve got to know it a little better.

Office 365 – Changing a Username

Recently, i’ve been doing quite a bit of work with clients who have needed to change their usernames in Office 365 for one reason or another and have having difficulty.

In some cases they have managed to update it through the portal, but more often than not, its not quite worked properly and they have needed to change the User Principal Name manually using Powershell.

The good news is that its really straightforward to do. Infact, it’ll probably take you longer to get connected to Office 365 than it will to change the User Principal Name for a user.

Changing a single users User Principal Name
Once your connected (see my blog post on connecting to Office 365) you can simply run the powershell:

#Changing the UserPrincipalName for a single user
Set-MsolUserPrincipalName -UserPrincipalName "myOldUpn@mydomain.co.uk" -NewUserPrincipalName "myNewUpn@mydomain.co.uk"

This will do simply that, load the object for the user and change their Upn.

If you wanted to do that with variables to make things a little tidier you can:

#Chaning the UserPrincipalName for a single user - using variables
$oldUPN = "myOldUpn@mydomain.co.uk"
$newUPN = "myNewUpn@mydomain.co.uk"
Set-MsolUserPrincipalName -UserPrincipalName $oldUPN -NewUserPrincipalName $newUPN

Changing more than one
This works really nicely, but last week I had a customer who wanted to change around 30 for various reasons, so I had them make a CSV file to hold the details in 2 columns:

upnchanges.csv
oldUpn,newUpn
oldUpn@domain.com,newUpn@domain.com
oldUpn2@domain.com,newUpn@domain.com

Once they’d generated this file, I simply used the below to change the User Principal Name for everyone in the CSV.

#Using a CSV File to change the UPN's
$path = "c:\pathtomycsv\upnChanges.csv"
Import-csv -path $path | 
foreach-object `
{ 
  Set-MsolUserPrincipalName -UserPrincipalName $_.oldUPN -NewUserPrincipalName $_.newUPN
}