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Microsoft Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have built in LTE capability (at the time of writing this). What this means is that your Surface Pro 4 can’t connect to the internet on its own. It needs to connect to a wireless network/hotspot, or use a USB adaptor to provide access to the internet (e.g. physical Ethernet connection).
I’ve read a few articles dismissing the Surface Pro 4 because the lack of LTE (or SIM card). I don’t really find it an issue, why? Because of a neat little trick that the Surface can do with my Windows Phone.
Most smartphones these days support tethering (also called internet sharing, or wireless hotspot). This effectively shares the internet connection that your phone has with other devices. Other devices connect to your phone (which acts as a wireless hotspot) and then get access to the internet (which you can secure with a password). Ok, boring blurb over, you already knew that you could get out to the internet by using your phone right?
Here’s what you are probably used to:
- Pull out your phone
- Unlock your phone
- Navigate into the phone settings area
- Find the tethering/internet sharing settings
- Turn tethering/internet sharing on
- Now back on your Surface, if you’ve set up the Wi-Fi connection to your phone to auto connect you should find the connection is made automatically after a few seconds and you’re on the internet
But this process is just so clunky and slow.
So here’s the neat trick that your Windows Phone, teamed up with your Surface is capable of:
- Leave your phone alone – in your pocket, bag, backpack, desk drawer (wherever as long as it within a reasonable range)
- On your Surface, simply click on the Wi-Fi icon in the task tray to show any available Wi-Fi connections. You should see your phone listed (even though the tethering is not enabled on your phone). You can see my NOKIA Lumia phone in the list below and it shows as “Mobile hotspot, off”
- Now I just select the NOKIA Lumia option in the list and click Connect
- Without touching my phone, the Surface is able to turn on the hotspot/tethering feature of the phone and connect to it.
I would also suggest changing the connection to your phone to set it as a metered connection. This will prevent Windows from performing costly data transfers such as downloading updates.
So do I care that my Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have LTE (SIM card)? Not at all, because I’ve always got my phone close by and I can now share its internet connection with just 2 clicks. It’s a pretty cool integration that makes a world of difference.
I’ve only tried this on a Surface Pro 4 (Windows 10) and Nokia Lumia 930 (Windows 10), although the articles below suggest that this feature also works on Windows 8.1.
Being a Windows Phone user I was pretty excited when the Continuum feature started getting demonstrated. But the sceptic inside me kept nagging at me that it’s probably going to be more gimmick than substance. A chance conversation at Microsoft Ignite Australia has changed my opinion and got me excited again.
A reminder about what Continuum is:
Continuum for Windows phones lets you turn your phone into a PC-like experience by connecting an external display, keyboard, and mouse using the new Microsoft Display Dock. The experience on the phone (start screen, calls etc) remains completely independent of the PC-like experience on the external display.
The Continuum magic is only supported by the new Universal Windows Apps (primarily Microsoft Apps to start with, e.g. Office/Mail/Calendar). This is the bit that the sceptic in me initially thought great feature, but who’s going to build the apps to support it.
The phone (via the dock) is capable of driving a single HDMI display and apps scale up to use a high resolution on the external monitor.
The real light bulb moment happened during a conversation when it was mentioned that a remote desktop app that supported Continuum was not only in the pipeline but I was able to get a demonstration. This is epic, as my development machines are all virtual (some on premises at the office and others in Azure). What this would mean for me is that I could plug my phone in to get the Continuum PC like experience, then start a remote desktop session to one of my development machines and start coding with very much the same experience I would have on a beefy laptop. The only drawback from the specs of been reading is that you can’t drive 2 external displays from the dock (but for those occasions that you would use it you’re probably not carrying around dual displays!)
Also worth noting is the demo kit that I saw was using the wireless dock. No cords at all; phone, dock, mouse, keyboard, display all in close proximity but not a cord in sight.
Update (16 Dec 2015)
A Microsoft forum moderator has posted this information
“We’ve heard a lot of buzz around being able to connect to a remote desktop from Continuum for phone. We are excited to share that the Remote Desktop Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app will be released very soon in Technical Preview. We are very interested in hearing more from remote desktop users to help prioritize investments in this much-requested app. How do you intend to use it on Continuum for phone? What apps will you run and what tasks will you do? In what environments or scenarios will you use it?”
Update (13 Jan 2016) – The Preview of Remote Desktop Universal App is Here
Here’s a quick tip that one of my colleagues showed my this week that makes working with multiple monitors a lot easier. Thanks to @FreeRangeEggs for this tip.
You’ve got 2 windows (A and B) and you want to dock them side by side on monitor 1.
Its easy to dock window A to the left on monitor 1. Just drag the window to the left of the monitor and it will “snap” or dock to the left side and fill up half the screen.
But now if we try to do the same with windows B, instead of docking the the right of monitor 1, the window just glides across onto monitor 2.
So how do we get window B to dock to the right side of monitor 1? First select window B then use the keyboard shortcut WINDOWS KEY + RIGHT ARROW.
Simple as that.
Note: You can also use WINDOWS KEY + LEFT ARROW to dock to the left side of the current monitor. This can help you do the reverse (that is, if you are on monitor 2 and want to dock a window to the left side)
Office 365 and SharePoint work quite nicely when you are working with Microsoft Office file types. Things like Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Once you really start using SharePoint however, you want to store many more types of files in SharePoint. This is natural and you can actually get the files into SharePoint without too much hassle.
Editing and working on Office file types is pretty good. Just click on the file in SharePoint and you can now choose to do the edits directly in the browser (with online versions of the Office products) or edit the files in the full desktop version of the Office products.
But what’s the story with file types that don’t open in, or are not associated with the Office products?
Well that’s when things get a little clunky, and in this post I’m going to show you how OnePlaceDocs Explorer turns virtually any software application into a “SharePoint” aware application that you can use to open/edit and save files that live in SharePoint. No longer are you just restricted to using the Office application that were designed to work with SharePoint, now you can edit files in any application you want.
So what is OnePlaceDocs Explorer? It is a bit like Windows File Explorer except it is purpose built for looking at SharePoint and Office 365 environments rather than files on your local computer or network.
To give you some orientation, the screenshot below shows OnePlaceDocs Explorer and points out the 3 pane layout which is similar to Windows File Explorer.
Let’s look at a common scenario…
Editing Images Files in SharePoint/Office 365
It’s actually very difficult to edit image files that are stored in SharePoint. If you try to open the file, the web browser simply displays the image in the browser (because it natively knows how to). This doesn’t help you when you want to edit the image though. Your options are to either:
- Download the image from SharePoint to your local computer, edit it in your image editing program of choice, then manually upload the file back to SharePoint replacing the existing file
- Sync the whole library offline via OneDrive and then you can work with the file as though it is a normal file on your desktop. Saving changes to the local file will sync back to SharePoint.
Here’s the OnePlaceDocs Explorer way.
Select the image file and select Open With (from the ribbon or context menu action)
Select any application from the list of applications installed on your computer that recognise this file type. I’ll choose good old Microsoft Paint just to prove that a very basic application that has no interoperability with SharePoint will work fine.
Paint now starts up and the image stored in SharePoint is sitting there ready for me to edit.
I’ll make a few changes and just save using the standard save action in Paint or pressing CTRL+S.
Believe it or not, that is it.
If we return to OnePlaceDocs Explorer we can see in the changes showing in the preview pane.
We can then find the same file in SharePoint
And there’s my modified image.
Editing the file using OnePlaceDocs Explorer really wasn’t any different to opening a file from my local computer. So now you have no excuse for not putting those files in SharePoint where they belong!
This same technique can be used to open any type of file with any installed application. Another common scenario is opening PDF files with Adobe Acrobat or another PDF authoring tool.
There are some great 3rd party forms products that have been around for a long time now (namely Nintex and K2). Microsoft has been keeping very tight lipped on any official replacement to InfoPath and Forms in general and the community has been left feeling like they had been abandoned by Microsoft by not providing any replacement for their investment in InfoPath.
In a Office 365 Developer Podcast this week Jeremy Thake makes some very interesting comments (in the last 5 minutes of the podcast) indicating that Microsoft have been working on an InfoPath forms replacement it’s just been running way behind schedule. Interestingly he points to the technology behind Project Sienna possibly being an eventual replacement for InfoPath.
This podcast also mentions that we may hear (and see) something more official announced in October. Could this be the news that everyone has been waiting for? That Microsoft will have an official replacement for InfoPath. Let’s hope so. SharePoint (and Office 365) as a platform really need a rich forms technology at it’s core. Businesses look to SharePoint to replace those paper based workflows within the organisation so it’s kind of important to have a Forms technology natively within SharePoint to facilitate that wouldn’t you think?
I was pleasantly surprised this week when I dived into TFS Online to tweak some queries and stumbled upon the new @CurrentIteration token that can be used.
This token can potentially solve the administration overhead associated with getting consistent reports out of TFS from sprint to sprint.
In the past I have had a series of TFS Queries to track the progress of things happening within the sprint such as:
- Outstanding Product Backlog Items (with associated outstanding child work items shown in tree view)
- Outstanding Product Backlog Items (flat list)
- Done Product Backlog Items
The problem with these queries was that each of the queries has to conditional match a specific sprint (iteration)
The new @CurrentIteration token can be used to dynamically work out what the current iteration (sprint) is so that you don’t have to manually update all the queries when the sprint changes.
Here’s a post from Microsoft regarding the new @CurrentIteration token when it shipped.
This is a great step forward and probably should have been there a long time ago.
One not so nice thing I’ve discovered with using the @CurrentIteration token in queries is that Excel 2013 fails to open any query that uses the @CurrentIteration token and gives the error message:
“TF80076: The data in the work item is not valid or you do not have permissions to modify the data. Correct the problem and retry.”
With the recent launch of the OnePlaceLive product, I’ve commenced writing a series of articles on the OnePlace Solutions website. This series of articles is designed to introduce the OnePlaceLive product and show to power that Solution Profiles can deliver in real world business scenarios such as using SharePoint/Office 365 for Projects Management, Legal Matter Management, Property/Asset Systems.
What are OnePlaceLive Solution Profiles?
Solution Profiles provide an intelligent way to look at SharePoint from the perspective of the different business systems (or solutions as we like to call them) that have been built in SharePoint (e.g. Project Management, Legal Matter Management, HR Business Processes, Helpdesk) and to dynamically identify the different SharePoint artefacts that make up those systems (e.g. site collections, sites, lists, libraries, document sets, folders, content). Solution Profiles then provide the power to organize those artefacts in many different ways that make sense to the end users of the business solutions, and then deliver those SharePoint artefacts to the users in personalized ways (and in context of the business solution) directly within core user applications where the user needs them (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat, and the Windows Desktop via OnePlaceDocs Explorer).
The OnePlaceLive Client application provides a graphical UI for creating, maintaining and publishing Solution Profiles which are then consumed by end users of OnePlaceMail and OnePlaceDocs.
As the dust settles on the first Microsoft Ignite conference and the tech crowd disperses from Chicago I look over these photos and think I’ll remember this conference as much for the character of the city of Chicago as I will the Ignite conference itself. From the fantastic aromas wafting from restaurants, the bars that greet you with a unique craft beer menus and soulful blues performers to the monolithic buildings representing the pinnacle of engineering feats and the fresh parks and playgrounds and rejuvenated river front; Chicago is a city that is hard to walk away from and even harder to forget.
Thanks for the memories Chicago.