Category Archives: Microsoft

VeraCrypt On The Command Line for Windows

Introduction

This is part of my ongoing series on the VeraCrypt encryption utility. If you’ve not kept up, in my first post of the series, “VeraCrypt – A Powerful Encryption Utility“, I covered the basics of VeraCrypt including how to get it, use it through the GUI, and how the series was inspired by the Grumpy Old Bens podcast.

In the second post, “Creating and Using Hidden Containers in VeraCrypt“, I covered how to create a hidden container, adding an extra level of security to your containers.

My previous post, “VeraCrypt on the Command Line for macOS“, showed how to call VeraCrypt from within a script on the macOS platform.

The commands to call VeraCrypt from the command line are very different for each platform, As such, I’ve broken them out into individual blog posts.

In this entry you’ll see how to call VeraCrypt on Windows 10.

Prerequisites

Obviously, you’ll need to have VeraCrypt installed. My first post in the series, “VeraCrypt – A Powerful Encryption Utility“, covers where to get it from.

For this post, we’ll also be using the CMD mode to execute the commands. Do note that on most installations of Windows these days, PowerShell has replaced CMD as the default terminal shell. If you open up a command window and see PowerShell, all you have to do is type in CMD and it enter, and you’ll be switched to CMD mode.

Code Samples

While I will be providing samples here, you should also check out the project I have on GitHub that goes with this post, VeraCrypt-CommandLine-Examples.

I’ll update it over time as needed, and it may be easier for you to download, or cut and paste from it.

One item I want to mention, unlike the macOS version, the Windows version of VeraCrypt lacks the ability to list containers. So for this post we’ll only be able to include creation, mounting and dismounting of containers.

OK, let’s get started!

Creating a Container

Let’s begin by looking at the full command to create a container, then we will break it down to it’s individual components. While your blog reader or webpage may wrap the line, in your script (or command line) it should all be entered as a single line of text.

"C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\VeraCrypt Format.exe" /create "C:\temp\vctest.vc" /size "200M" /password MySuperSecurePassword1! /encryption AES /hash sha-512 /filesystem exfat /pim 0 /silent

First up is the command to call. If you installed VeraCrypt to the default folder, you’ll find it in C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\

The command to create a new volume is actually a separate executable than the rest of VeraCrypt. It is “VeraCrypt Format.exe

Note there is indeed a space in the file name! Thus you have to enclose the entire thing in double quotes.

"C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\VeraCrypt Format.exe"

Next is the command to create a volume, /create. You follow it with the path and file name to create. If you omit the path it will create the volume in the current directory you are running the script from.

As with all file names, if it has a space you must include double quotes. Otherwise they are optional, but it doesn’t hurt to have them.

/create "C:\temp\vctest.vc"

We now need to tell VeraCrypt how big to make the volume. VeraCrypt includes shortcuts for M (Megabytes), G (Gigabytes), T (Terabytes) and
K (Kilobytes). If you omit a letter, it assumes bytes.

For this demo we are making it small, so will use 200M to indicate 200 Megabytes.

/size "200M"

Next up is the password to use to encrypt the volume. In a “real world” situation, you should probably pass it into the script or get it using an alternate method.

To keep this demo simple, I’m just going to embed the password using the “super secure” password I’ve used throughout this series of blog posts.

As with file names, if your password has spaces you’ll need to enclose it in double quotes.

/password MySuperSecurePassword1!

Now we need to provide the encryption algorithm to use. VeraCrypt supports a vast array of algorithms, see their documentation for the supported list.

For this demo, we’ll use the popular AES.

/encryption AES

Many algorithms require you to provide an encryption hashing method. For AES, we’ll use the strong SHA-512.

/hash sha-512

In order to keep this container portable across OS’s we’ll format using exfat. Be aware though that to use exfat on a Mac, you’ll have to install macFUSE (see my previous post on macOS for more info).

/filesystem exfat

The PIM is a special number that allows you to specify the number of times the hashing algorithm executes. It’s a bit more complex than that, if you want full details see the VeraCrypt documentation at:

https://documentation.help/VeraCrypt/Personal%20Iterations%20Multiplier%20(PIM).html

For now, we can pass it the value of 0, which tells it to use the default value.

/pim 0

The final parameter is /silent. By default VeraCrypt will display dialogs notifying you of its progress, as well as when it is complete.

In a scripting situation you would normally not want this, so we add the silent switch to suppress the messages.

Note this does have one side affect, if there are any errors those too are also suppressed, so you won’t be aware of them. The most common of these would be the attempt to create a volume name that already exists.

/silent

You now have everything you need to create a VeraCrypt volume. Note that there is one more parameter that we didn’t use in the example, but you may want to know about.

/force

Normally, if you are trying to create a new volume and that file already exists, VeraCrypt will pop up a dialog (assuming you’ve not used /silent) warning you the volume you are trying to create already exists. It will then give you the choice of canceling or overwriting the existing file.

The /force parameter suppresses the message and always overwrites the file.

So hopefully you’ve now created your own volume using the commands in this section. Let’s now see how to mount it.

Mounting a VeraCrypt Volume

Mounting is very simple, here is the full command, then we’ll take a look at each part. As before, it should be all a single line.

"C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\VeraCrypt.exe" /volume "C:\temp\vctest.vc" /letter x /password MySuperSecurePassword1! /quit /silent

We start with the command to VeraCrypt. This assumes you have installed to the default folder.

"C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\VeraCrypt.exe"

Next we provide the /volume parameter, with the path to and the file name of the file to mount.

/volume "C:\temp\vctest.vc"

Volumes in VeraCrypt appear as a drive letter to Windows. As such we need to provide a letter to use. Note if you use a drive letter
already in use, you’ll get an error.

The letter can be provided in either or upper or lower case.

If you don’t know a drive letter, or don’t care what letter is used, then you can omit this parameter completely. When you do, VeraCrypt will use the first available drive letter it finds.

/letter x

Next up is the password to use to encrypt the volume. In a “real world” situation, you should probably pass it into the script, or get it using an alternate method.

To keep this demo simple, I’m just going to embed the password using the “super secure” password I’ve used throughout this series of blog posts.

As with file names, if your password has spaces you’ll need to enclose it in double quotes.

/password MySuperSecurePassword1!

Next we provide the quit parameter. By default, if you omit it then the VeraCrypt dialog will remain on the screen. Using quit will close the
VeraCrypt dialog, something usually desired if you are running a script.

/quit

Finally we’ll add the /silent parameter. This has the same affect as it did in the create function, suppressing any dialogs. Be aware, that for /silent to work, you must also have used the /quit parameter.

/silent

At this point hopefully all went well, and you have created a volume as well as mounted it. Once you are done with a volume, you’ll need to dismount it, the subject of the next section.

Dismounting VeraCrypt Volumes

The command to dismount a volume is the simplest of all.

"C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\VeraCrypt.exe" /dismount H /quit /silent /force

Let’s look at the individual components of the command.

We start with the command to VeraCrypt. This assumes you have installed to the default folder.

"C:\Program Files\VeraCrypt\VeraCrypt.exe"

Next is the dismount parameter. You pass in the drive letter associated with the volume to dismount. As with mounting, the case of the drive letter does not matter.

If you omit the drive letter, VeraCrypt will dismount ALL currently mounted volumes.

/dismount X

We now provide the quit parameter. By default, if you omit it then the VeraCrypt dialog will remain on the screen. Using quit will close the
VeraCrypt dialog, something usually desired if you are running a script.

/quit

Now we append the /silent parameter, to suppress any dialogs as we did in the previous sections. As with mounting, for /silent to work we must also include /quit.

/silent

Finally we provide the force parameter. If some app is accessing the volume, for example Windows File Explorer, it will prevent VeraCrypt from dismounting.

The force parameter tells VeraCrypt to shut down, no matter what. Your inclusion of force is up to you, depending on your situation.

For the demo, we’ll include it.

/force

And that’s all there is to it. It’s a best practice to dismount all of your volumes when you are done with them, and especially before shutting down your computer.

This will ensure any operations that are copying data to your encrypted volume have completed, ensuring the data does not get corrupted.

Conclusion

This post covered how to create, mount and dismount VeraCrypt volumes in Windows 10. The technique should also be applicable to Windows 7 and 8, if you are still on those platforms.

Microsoft To Do

Introduction

This post continues my series on useful tools and utilities. Here we’ll be covering Microsoft’s To Do application.

There’s a famous quote “If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.” A “To Do” list is a great way to capture tasks or information you need to remember. Some people use paper, or a variety of other devices or applications. For me, Microsoft To Do is the place to capture this information.

Some of you may remember Wunderlist. Microsoft bought Wunderlist a few years back, and have transformed it into Microsoft To Do.

Multi Platform

I use a variety of devices and platforms on a regular basis. One of the things I find useful about Microsoft To Do is the availability of apps on almost all platforms.

There are apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. On Linux (or other platforms), you can access Microsoft To Do in any web browser.

I also found a blog post that describes an application called AO that runs on most Linux distros. It’s basically a wrapper around the To Do web page. I use it on my Kubuntu laptop for working with Microsoft To Do.

Using Microsoft To Do

I’ll quickly illustrate the various uses of To Do with some screen shots. (Note that you can see a bigger version of any of these images by clicking on them.) The first one shows the basic layout of To Do.

The default view of To Do is “My Day”. To Do allows you to designate tasks for immediate action called “My Day”. More on that in a moment, but here you can see one task for a new Pluralsight course I’m currently working on, the SQL Server Mobile Report Publisher.

The menu of actions appears down the left side of the application. To add a new list, simply click the “+ New List button”. This is very simple, it just brings up a page and you can start typing in your tasks.

You can rearrange the list by clicking and dragging the tasks into any order. Note that by default new tasks are added to the top of the list, but you can go into the settings menu to change this behavior so new tasks are added to the bottom (which is what I do).

Simple Lists

Microsoft To Do can be used for simple lists. Here you can see a grocery list.

To Do makes generating a grocery list like this easy. I can enter my list on my computer, where I have a full keyboard. To Do then syncs my list to all of my devices.

When I pull out my phone in the grocer store, I can simply mark each item off as I put it in my grocery cart. Completed items are moved to the bottom of the list, making it easy to see the items I still need to get.

When I get home, I can either delete each completed task individually, or right click on the “Completed” header and delete them all at once.

Projects

Another use for To Do is project tracking.

Here is the list for my current project, the Mobile Report Publisher course I’m working on. This list is a high level view of the tasks I need to complete for the course.

For each task, I can create a list of sub tasks that need to be completed.

When I click on the task, a pane pops out on the right. I can enter a series of steps for setting up my virtual machine. Installing Win 10, Installing basic tools, and more.

Here is the detailed information for another task in the list, Create Data Source in the Report Portal.

This task only has one step. However, I’ve clicked on the “Add to My Day” which will add the task to the “My Day” screen To Do opens to.

With To Do I can also set a Due Date. To Do makes it easy, I can set it today, tomorrow, next week, or I can pick a specific date. I can also set a reminder, so To Do will remind me when a task is coming up.

I can get an overview of all my tasks with due dates by clicking on the Planned link on the left side of To Do.

Here you can see the one task I planned with a due date. The nice thing about the planned tab is that it shows tasks coming due across all your lists.

For example, I could have assigned a due date for an item in my grocery list so I’d be sure to have an ingredient for a planned meal. Or perhaps I have another list for planned blog posts.

All tasks with due dates that haven’t been marked as complete will show up here on planned, making it easy for me to get an overview of upcoming tasks no matter what list they are on.

To Do and Multiple Accounts

To Do allows you to manage multiple accounts. By clicking on the account name it will show you a list of all To Do accounts you’ve logged into.

Here you can see I have two accounts logged in, one I use for work, the other for personal items such as grocery lists. This makes it nice as I don’t have to mix work and personal lists.

It’s also useful when I work with multiple clients, when the client provides me an account to use in their organization. I can easily keep each client’s task list separate from each other a well as my personal lists.

List Management

The final item I’d like to show is list management, accessible by right clicking on a list.

Some items are pretty obvious, such as deleting or renaming a list. You can also duplicate a list, or print it out.

The biggest feature I like is the “Share list” option. You can share a list with another Microsoft To Do user. A good example is the grocery list. I share mine with my entire family. When another family member needs a grocery item, they can simply add it to the list.

There’s no need to tell me, or send a text, or anything else. When I get to the store, there’s the item on the list. If it’s something odd or unusual, they can click on the item and in the pop out pane on the right add a note to the item to explain why it is needed.

Another use is for small projects with your coworkers. You can assign a task to another person. They will see the task as assigned to them, and as they mark the task, or each step in a task, complete the others that the list has been shared with will be updated automatically.

This makes it nice for a project manager, as they can easily see the teams progress for each task.

Conclusion

As you can see, Microsoft To Do is a great tool for managing lists, or for tracking progress of your smaller projects. The multi-platform capability makes your data easily accessible across any device you are using.

There are many more uses you can put To Do to. I’ve used it for managing home repair projects. I even have some lists for favorite recipes, that list includes the ingredients as well as cooking instructions.

If you can think of more uses for Microsoft To Do, then by all means leave a comment so we can all learn.

Having Multiple Entries for the Same PC in Microsoft Remote Desktop Application on Apple macOS

Introduction

In a previous blog post, Using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Application on Apple macOS, I showed how easy it was to remote control a Windows computer from your Mac.

One question I get asked is “Can I have multiple entries for the same computer?” The answer is yes!

This, of course, leads to another question, “Why would you want to?”

Reasons for Multiple Entries

There are a number of valid reasons for wanting multiple entries in Remote Desktop to the same computer. Let’s cover a couple by using examples.

First, let’s say you have a Windows 10 computer in the family room where your child plays games and does school work. Wisely you have setup their account as a “standard user”.

You have an account as well, as an administrator, to handle administrative tasks such as installing software, making sure updates are being processed and the like.

You could setup entries in Microsoft Remote Desktop, one for each user that logs into the computer. This allows you to have one entry to login as yourself, and a second to login using your offspring’s ID.

Now when your child comes to ask you to install the latest updates to Minecraft on the family computer, you can simply remote to it from your Mac using their ID, and install the updates providing your admin user ID and password. You’ll also have the entry to login as yourself, so you can apply updates and do maintenance.

For the second reason, you may wish to access your remote PC with different sets of option. In the blog post I mentioned earlier, I set it up to use all the monitors on my Mac.

Every so often though, I want to have my remote Windows computer running in a window. This allows me to see something on my remote machine, while still having my macOS desktop available.

One example, in my previous post I showed how to configure Windows to allow for remote access. I did so by having the Windows machine in a window on my Mac on one monitor, while creating the post in Safari on my macBook on a second monitor. This let me have them side by side, making it easy to create the instructions.

Rather than having to change the settings each time, I have two entries for my main Windows computer. The first, which you saw created in the first blog post in this series, opens the Windows machine using all monitors. The second opens it up in just a window.

Those are just two reasons, I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with many more.

Adding a Second Entry for the Windows PC

First, I’m going to assume you’ve already read my first article, Using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Application on Apple macOS. If you haven’t, please take a moment now to do so.

With Microsoft Remote Desktop open on your Mac, click the + button at the top, then pick Add PC in the drop down.

Note that for security reasons, in the screen shots I’ve replaced with the actual name of my computer with <name>.

Start with the name of the computer in the PC name, and pick the user account to login in as, or leave it as “Ask when required“.

Now we want to use the Friendly name to indicate not just the computer name, but also how this is used. For this example I’m going to have my remote machine display in a window, so I’ve entered <name> in a Window.

Next we’ll need to configure it to show up in a window, so click on the Display tab.

Here I will uncheck the default of Start session in a full screen, then check on Fit session to window.

Then, at the bottom I checked on Update the session resolution on resize. This way when I resize the window on my Mac, it will resize the computer I’m remoting into so the desktop will fit the window.

You can change the Devices & Audio and Folders if you wish. Since I’ve already covered those in the first article I’ll just click on the Add button.

Update the Existing Connection

Before we open the new connection, we should update the friendly name of the existing one to make it clear what the difference is. To do so, click on the pencil icon in the upper right of the connection created in the first article.

Go to the Friendly name field, and enter the name of the computer followed by (for this situation) All Monitors, then click Save.

Below you can see it now reads <name> All Monitors, and beside it the new entry we just added for <name> in a Window.

It’s now very easy to tell the difference in the two connections.

Launching the New Connection

Let’s now launch the new connection by double clicking on it.

Here you can see a new window appears on my Mac, showing my Windows desktop. (Note that you can see a bigger version of any of the images in my blog posts by double clicking on it).

You can see the window with the full Windows 10 desktop, including the Windows task bar. You can also see the macOS toolbar across the bottom, as well as the Mac menu bar at the top.

You can also resize the window. If you checked the Update the session resolution on resize option, the resizing the window will also resize the Windows desktop as you see below.

You can see my Windows 10 desktop now fits nicely into my resized window.

Please note you can only have one connection to a computer active at a time. If I am in the windowed version of my connection, then go back to the Microsoft Remote Desktop connection window and double click on the <name> All Monitors, it will disconnect the <name> in a Window session then launch the all monitors version.

Any time you launch a connection, it will disconnect any existing connection, if there is one, in favor of the newly launched one.

Conclusion

In this article we showed how to create multiple connections to the same computer in the Microsoft Remote Desktop application on macOS. This works with Big Sur as well as previous versions of macOS.

We also covered various reasons why you might wish to create multiple connections within Remote Desktop.

Armed with this information you can now create multiple connections to the same computer to fit the ways in which you want to use the remote computer.

Supressing “The certificate Couldn’t Be Verified” message Using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Application on Apple macOS

Introduction

In my previous blog post, Using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Application on Apple MacOS, I showed how easy it is to connect to one of your Windows computers from your Mac.

I frequently use the Microsoft Remote Desktop application on my Apple MacBook Pro to connect to one of my Windows computers. It presents a nice interface that’s easy to use and setup.

Once you’ve added your computer to the Microsoft Remote Desktop application (you’ll find the instructions in my previous post), all you have to do is double click on it to access your remote computer.

Here is the launching point, note that for security reasons in all of the images in this article I’ve blurred out the name of my computer and replaced it with <name>.

There is one irritating behavior. When connecting to a computer it frequently displays the following message: “You are connecting to the RDP host <name>. The certificate couldn’t be verified back to a root certificate. Your connection may not be secure. Do you want to continue?

Having to stop every time and click Continue is really annoying. Especially if you are on your home network, connecting to a computer you own and trust. There’s an easy fix though!

Suppressing the Warning Message

Simply click the Show Certificate button to display the certificate information.

Once you review, simply put a check mark in the “Always trust...” checkbox (pointed to by the arrow) then click Continue.

Since you are changing the trust certificates for your MacBook (or other Apple Mac computer, like the Mac Mini), macOS will prompt you to enter your admin password. Do so, then continue.

From here on out, all you need to do to connect to your remote computer is double click on it, and (if you’ve not saved it within the remote desktop program) enter your credentials. No more having to click to continue past the “certificate couldn’t be verified” message.

Conclusion

I’ll wrap this up with two quick notes. First, this works on the last several versions of macOS including Big Sur.

Second, while I’ve used Windows as the example, this will work with any OS (such as various Linux distros) that support RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). Sadly, macOS does not support RDP so you cannot connect to another Mac from the Microsoft Remote Desktop application.

Using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Application on Apple macOS

Introduction

I use many computers in my daily life, including Windows, Apple Mac’s, and Linux computers running a variety of distros. It’s very convenient for me to be able to remote into another computer from whichever computer I happen to be on.

On my MacBook (although this would work on any Apple machine running macOS, such as a Mac Mini), the Microsoft Remote Desktop application is a fantastic program for remoting to another computer.

While primarily designed for accessing a Windows machine, it will work with most computers that support the RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) such as many Linux distros.

Note that it will not let you connect to another Apple Mac, as macOS does not support the Remote Desktop Protocol. You can go from a Mac to Windows (or some Linux) computers using the Remote Desktop application, but not to another Mac.

Microsoft Remote Desktop is free, and in the Apple App Store. Just do a search for Microsoft Remote Desktop, get and install it. But don’t open it quite yet, as we have to configure the computer you are going to connect to.

Configure Your Windows Computer

I’m going to assume you are connecting to a Windows 10 Pro computer. Click on the Start button, the pick Settings. In the Windows Settings, pick System.

On the System page, scroll down in the menu on the left and click on Remote Desktop. (You can click on the image below, or any of the ones in this article, to see them in their full resolution).

You’ll first need to toggle on the Enable Remote Desktop setting, as I’ve done here.

Next, look under “How to connect to this PC”. This has the name you need to enter into the Microsoft Remote Desktop app. In this image it shows <name>, but for you it will show the name of the computer. Note that for security reasons, I’ve replaced the actual name of my computers with simply <name> in the screen captures.

Finally, at the bottom look at the User accounts section. By default, if you are an administer on the computer, you are automatically able to remote to the computer.

If you want a standard user, in other words a non-admin user, to be able to remote in you’ll need to add them using the “Select users that can remotely access this PC” link.

At this point you’ve now setup your Windows computer to be remoted into. Note you only have to do this once on this computer, after that it can be remoted to from other computers.

Adding a PC to Microsoft Remote Desktop on your Mac

Now return to your Mac. Assuming you’ve installed the Microsoft Remote Desktop application, open it.

The first time in, you’ll see the big “Add PC” button right in the middle. After you’ve added the first machine, using the instructions here, you can add more computers using the plus button (pointed at by the big red arrow) and pick “Add PC” in the menu.

You’ll then be shown the Add PC window. Start by entering the name of the computer you want to connect to.

After entering the computers name, you’ll see the User account line, which by default is set to Ask when required. In this mode you will be prompted for your login credentials every time.

As an alternative, you can save your credentials by picking Add User Account… in the User account drop down. You’ll then be prompted for your Username and Password. You can also create a “friendly name” for the account.

For example, if you were setting up a connection to your wife’s computer, you’d have to give her full user name, perhaps it’s her e-mail address. In the friendly name could just enter “She who must be obeyed’s computer”.

One nice thing Microsoft Remote Desktop does is save your credentials. Then when you add more computers that use these same credentials you can just pick it from the User account drop down and not have to recreate them every time. This is especially nice for when you use your same Microsoft credential to login to multiple Windows computer.

Once you add the user account, or leave it at the default to ask each time, you’re ready to look at some of the options in Remote Desktop. It’s worth your time to understand these, as it will affect your experience when working with remote computers.

Friendly name can be helpful if the computer has a cryptic name. Often when a PC is purchased the default name is something like WINRPXM457JB. Most home users don’t realize they can rename their computer and leave it at the default. Using the friendly name you can enter “She who must be obeyed’s computer” and know what machine it is.

I find this even more helpful in work environments where they use naming conventions like “HR-PC-001”, “HR-PC-002”, etc. You could instead use meaningful names like “Anna’s computer”, “Jack’s computer”, or “The nice lady who brings us donuts computer”.

If you have a lot of computers you connect to, you may want to group them. By default, there’s one group “Saved PCs”. You may want to create groups such as “My computers”, “Wife’s computers”, “Kid’s computers” and so on. This is totally optional, but the more computers you need to work with the more useful it will become.

The Gateway option is used in corporate environments that have setup Remote Desktop Gateway servers. Since this article is geared toward home users, it shouldn’t affect you. If you are in a corporate environment and need to remote in, your friendly neighborhood system administrator will be able to tell you if you need a gateway, and if so what do you need to enter here.

The other options are pretty straight forward, so let’s click on the Display tab.

Display Options

Here you have some choices on how the remote machine is displayed on your Mac. One notable one is “Use all monitors“. If your Mac has multiple monitors connected to it, you may want to have the remote computer displayed on all of them. To do so, check this box. If you do some of the other options become disabled.

Alternatively, you may want the remote computer only on one monitor so you can still access your Apple computer on the other monitors. Leaving this unchecked allows this.

If you don’t select Use all monitors, you then have the choice to start the remote session in full screen, or show it in a window.

Next up are quality settings, such as the color depth or optimizing for Retina displays. Note that the higher settings you pick, the more bandwidth and processing power it will take.

In my selection, shown above, I chose to use all monitors at a high quality. Make your own selections then click on the Devices & Audio tab.

Devices & Audio Options

This tab controls what gets shared between the host computer, your Mac, and the remote computer (typically a Windows computer).

If, for example, you started a video playing on your remote computer, the “Play sound” option controls where you hear the audio. The default, On this computer simply means the Mac running Microsoft Remote Desktop.

I generally go with the default options, shown here, then go to the Folders tab.

Folder Options

Using the folders tab, you gain the ability to transfer files between your Mac and the computer you are remote controlling.

Start by checking the “Redirect folders” option. Then in the lower left click the + button. In the dialog that pops up, select one of the folders on your Mac. After you’ve connected to your remote computer, this will show up as a folder in your remote computer. Here’s what it looks like on Windows, after you have remoted in.

You’ll see the name of the folder you picked, in this example the Documents folder, the text on my, then the name of your Mac, in this case represented by <my mac>.

From here you can double click to open the Mac’s folder in File Explorer, and begin copying files back and forth. Do note there is a “Read Only” checkbox in the Add PC dialog’s folder options. If you check it, on the Windows computer you connect to will be able to read and copy files from the Mac, but will not be able to copy files to the Mac.

Using redirect folders is optional, and only needed if you wish to move files between the two computers. To be honest, I seldom use this option as I’m a heavy user of Microsoft OneDrive.

If I need something, I simply save it into my OneDrive on the remote computer, then I can open it in my OneDrive folder on my Mac, and vice versa. If you aren’t a user of OneDrive or a similar service then this will be a useful tool for you, should you need to share files.

OK, you’re all done, just click the Add button. This computer will now be added to your Microsoft Remote Desktop window.

Connect To a Remote PC

You can connect by simply double clicking on the block with the computer’s name (in this example represented by <name>).

Note the two icons in the upper right of the computer box. The pencil icon can be used to edit the settings we just saw. The trashcan can be used to remove this computer from your remote desktop application.

When you double click on the computer, you may be shown a message “You are connecting to the RDP host <name>. The certificate couldn’t be verified back to a root certificate. Your connection may not be secure. Do you want to continue?

If you are connecting to your own computer, that you trust, likely on your home network, then you can click the Continue button. In a future post we’ll show you how to resolve this so it will skip this dialog.

Once you have connected, you’ll see the remote computer, probably full screen (unless you changed the property back in the Display options).

Exiting a Remote Desktop Session

I will say, it’s not at all intuitive how to switch back to your Apple macOS desktop, or how to exit a remote desktop session once you are in it. Since I’ve shown you how to get into a remote desktop session, I should take a moment and show you how to get out of it.

To switch back to your macOS machine, simply use the CTRL key, plus the left arrow to swap to the previous desktop. Using CTRL plus right arrow will go back to the Remote Desktop session.

If you are using the virtual desktops feature in macOS, you can use CTRL and the left or right arrows to move past the remote desktop session to other macOS virtual desktops, then go back to the remote desktop.

To exit a remote desktop session, while you are looking at your remote computer simply drag your cursor to the very top of the screen and let it sit there a few seconds.

The Apple menu bar will pop up. You can then use the Window menu, and click Close. Alternatively you can click the Red X button in the Remote Desktop window to close the session.

Also note it’s possible to connect to multiple computers at the same time. You can use either the CTRL and left/right arrow to swap between them, or in the Window menu pick a different remote desktop to connect to.

Network Connectivity

Please note that both the Apple Mac and the computer you are remoting to must be on the same network. Typically this will be your home network, or perhaps a work network.

By default, Remote Desktop won’t work if, for example, you go to a coffee shop with your Mac and your Windows computer is still at home.

It is possible to work around this by setting up a VPN connection back to your home network. Setting that up, however, is beyond the scope of this already long blog post.

Summary

In this post, you saw how to install and configure Microsoft Remote Desktop on Apple’s macOS and connect to a Windows Computer. The screen captures were from macOS Big Sur and Windows 10, but I’ve also tested it with Catalina and Mojave.

Fixed! PowerPoint 2016 Presenter View Not Showing

I purchased a new laptop earlier this year, a pretty sweet Lenovo ThinkPad. The only thing that annoyed me was PowerPoint 2016 wouldn’t show the presenter view. Well I finally got around to tracking down the issue. I found a post in an MSDN forum that was close, but not quite right in the instructions. In fairness the answer was several years old so the interface likely changed in that time.

The issue relates back to the NVIDIA driver. I did see some posts suggesting you uninstall the NVIDIA driver and roll back to an older version, but I didn’t find it necessary to do anything that drastic. Solving it was just a few simple steps.

image01First, if you have PowerPoint open, you should close it. Now, right click on your desktop, then select nView Desktop Manager. If you don’t see this option, then the this solution won’t solve your issue as you either don’t have an NVIDIA card, or don’t have the right NVIDIA software installed.

image02

Next, click on Applications, on the left in the tree view (1). Then, click the Enhancements button in the lower right (2).

image03

Finally, uncheck the box beside “Add PowerPoint slide show extensions”.

Click OK to close the Application Enhancements window, then OK again to close the nView Desktop Manager window.

And that should be it, open PowerPoint, start your slide show, and the presenter view should now appear for you (don’t forget to check Presenter View on in the Slide Show options tab before you start the show).

Note that I’ve only tried this with PowerPoint 2016, although I’m guessing it would likely work with older versions of PowerPoint as well (if it does, leave a comment letting everyone know what version of PowerPoint you were using).

Hopefully this solution will work for you too!

Free Microsoft E-Books!

Yes,  you read that right, free! Microsoft has lost their minds and is now giving away a rather large collection of e-books, yours for the taking.

They cover quite a range of subjects too, including ASP.Net, Office, SharePoint, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Windows, Azure, Phone 7, and Server. As you would expect they come in PDF format, but it gets better! They  also have them in MOBI and EPUB formats, so if you have a device that supports them you get a full featured experience. (I know Kindle uses the MOBI format and Apple’s iBook EPUB, not sure what other readers use).

You can get these goodies from:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/11608.e-book-gallery-for-microsoft-technologies.aspx

Looks like I have many more late nights of reading ahead of me. Oh well, I guess three hours of sleep a night ought to be fine for anyone. 

The MVP Program–My Experience

Recently I saw two posts in which former participants writing about issues they perceived in the Microsoft MVP program. I’d like to take moment  to contrast their experience with mine, specifically commenting on posts made in the post by Onuora Amobi titled “My year as a Microsoft MVP and the 7 reasons Microsoft need to fix their MVP program”. I’ll then add a few thoughts about Rob Eisenberg’s post “How I Lost, Regained, and then Turned Down an MVP Award”.

Unfortunately, these gentleman had a bad experience with the MVP program. This is disappointing, as I truly believe the MVP program is great, based on my own experiences. Let me respond to the 7 points made in the first post, and contrast them with my experiences as a SQL Server MVP since 2008.

What’s the Point?

Mr. Amobi stated “The MVP program seemed rather pointless”. To me, the point was quite clear from the outset. The information and tools provided to me allowed me to further enhance my ability to be a conduit for the community. I had contacts to pass information to from the community, and vice versa.

Additionally the MSDN/TechNet subscriptions gave me the ability to further enhance my knowledge of Microsoft products. Just recently I’ve been practicing setting up a scale-out deployment of SSRS. No way I would have been able to have 3 different Windows Servers plus 3 SQL Server licenses without the benefit. I’m now going to be able to pass this information on to the community in the form of new presentations, blog posts, and the like.

Quality Control

Here the author echoed a point form the Rob Eisenberg’s post in which he met an MVP who had limited knowledge of Technology X, the subject of this MVPs award. However, this person had continually posted and retweeted information about Technology X.

A major consideration of the MVP Award is about reaching the community with information about Technology X. Getting information into the hands of people who use that technology. Microsoft judged that this person was doing an effective job of helping the community, and hence the award. Technical competence is certainly important, but it’s not the only criteria for getting an MVP award.

Lack of Communication

Mr. Amobi complains there were no opportunities to participate. Yet he passed up the main chance of the year to  communicate with the teams, the MVP Summit. For me the summit is the place I learn new things, give feed back to the teams, and learn things covered by my NDA. It’s where I learn what new technologies I should be focused on so I’ll be ready to help the community when they are released. Perhaps if he had attended he would have had the chance for the interaction that he desired.

Being an MVP also helped solidify relationships with other areas in Microsoft. The developer evangelist for our region, Glen Gordon, checks in with the MVPs in this area regularly. He often participates with us in events, or provides assistance for our Code Camps and SQL Saturdays.

NDA for what?

The author says that during his year he didn’t have any opportunities for calls or interactions with the teams, and hence no reason for his NDA. In addition to the summit, our SQL lead sends out weekly e-mails in which he lists upcoming conference calls / interactions with product teams, almost all of which are covered under NDA.

For him to get none of these notices is disappointing. Clearly someone dropped the ball. Our lead in the SQL group (who just moved to a new assignment) was very good about us getting this information. I hope Mr. Amobi didn’t wait for the end of his year to point this out. I’ve made it a point to make friends with as many of the Developer Evangelists, other MVPs (including those in other disciplines) and other MVP leads. This not only gives me multiple ways of reaching out, but more importantly has let me make some great friends.

Career Impact

Mr. Amobi didn’t see any benefit, career wise to being an MVP. For me it’s had a huge impact. Through my MVP award I was given the opportunity to participate in not one but two books. My current job at Pragmatic Works is also a direct result of being an MVP.

Arbitrary Renewals

The author first makes the assertion that his award wasn’t renewed because he was asking questions such as the ones in his post. I really can’t speak to that, but if it were the case many long time SQL MVPs wouldn’t be here anymore. As a rule most of us are pretty opinionated, and have no issues speaking out when we see problems with the program, or what Microsoft is doing in general.

That said, I have no inside information on the people who decide who gets an MVP award. Perhaps he’s right, and they did indeed drop him for the reasons he states.

He then makes a statement that I consider rather risky.

“I’ll put my Web or FaceBook or Google or Twitter or Technology stats up against any MVP and I guarantee that I represent the voice of thousands of Microsoft consumers way more than they do.”

I know MVPs who are “household” names in the SQL world.  I’m not doubting the reach of Mr. Amobi, clearly he has made significant contributions for which I applaud him. And in the consumer realm he may even be right. But in my opinion statements like the above degrade the conversation into a “mine is bigger than yours” contest.

Now let me speak to the arbitrariness of the award. In the other article I sited by Rob Eisenberg he complained the process of getting the award is a black box. He’s exactly right, it is. It’s a combination of achievements plus subjective judgment on the part of the Microsoft product teams.

That’s done for a very specific reason. If there were a set formula you would have people who would game the system, do things just to meet some minimum requirement in order to gain the perceived benefits of being an MVP. At that point it would cease to be an award and instead become another credential.

I much prefer the current system. I have a much greater confidence that the people who get the award are deserving people who are interested in helping the community, and not just trying to get the award as another notch on their career belt.

It’s clear that this is not an important program to Microsoft

Based on my experiences this could not be further from the truth. Just in money alone Microsoft has made a huge commitment to the program. But what really speaks to me is the involvement of he very highest level of Microsoft management. Had he attended the summit he would have seen Steve Ballmer himself addressing the crowd. When the CEO along with a slate of vice presidents takes time to address the audience it speaks volumes about Microsoft’s commitment.

True, as an MVP I had to pay part of the cost. Budgets are tight for everyone. I felt the program was so important though I paid for two of the last three summits out of my own pocket. But it was an investment in me and my career. I made contacts and solidified relationships that are mutually beneficial for me and my fellow MVPs.

Another word or two…

I’d like to take just a moment to address a few points from Rob Eisenberg’s post. He was upset that his MVP lead apparently didn’t know enough about his accomplishments, and seemed insulted that he should have to fill out a spreadsheet detailing his activities.

I know our SQL MVP lead has to deal with at least 300 just in our discipline. I’m not sure the exact number, but there’s just no humanly way possible that even with a fantastic relationship they could be expected to know every single contribution a person makes to the community over the course of  year. I made it as positive an experience as I could. It was a great time to update my resume, to add my community involvement, book authoring, etc.

I would like to say Rob makes a point about open source, although I do see some shifting of Microsoft’s involvement with open source. They established the CodePlex site, and use it as a conduit for distributing the SQL Server sample databases. They are now giving support for jQuery, and most recently announced support for Hadoop. 

While I wish they could move a bit faster, they do have a very tricky legal tight rope to walk. Many licenses in the open source world require that should code be used from that project derivatives must also be open source. For a company who makes money selling software and guarding trade secrets, this is not the ideal situation.

There is one point I totally agree with Rob on though. The format of the spreadsheet was pretty lame. 

The mystical MVP program

It saddens me that the two gentleman had such negative experiences. I wish a better job could have been done to keep talented people like these in the program. I am glad though they continue to be supportive of the community.

As for me, becoming an MVP was one of the highlights of my life, both personally and professionally. It opened doors for me, giving me a chance to fulfill a dream of becoming an author. It opened the door to become an employee of one of the most prestigious BI consulting firms in the world.

Most importantly, it has allowed me to make friends with some of the top professionals in not just the SQL community, but other disciplines such as .Net and SharePoint. The level of excellence these people have make me strive even harder to stay on top of my game.

For me, my MVP experience has been nothing but positive, and I will continue to serve as long as I can. 

Revisting the Outlook Save All Attachments Macro

Back in 2007 I created a post on an Outlook Macro to save all attachments for an e-mail. Some people were having a problem downloading the file (not sure why as it worked for me) but to help out thought I’d repost the code in full.

Note I have not tried this with Outlook 2010, so use at your own risk.


Option Explicit


Public Sub SaveAttachments()

  'Note, this assumes you are in the a folder with e-mail messages when you run it.
  'It does not have to be the inbox, simply any folder with e-mail messages
  
  Dim App As New Outlook.Application
  Dim Exp As Outlook.Explorer
  Dim Sel As Outlook.Selection
  
  Dim AttachmentCnt As Integer
  Dim AttTotal As Integer
  Dim MsgTotal As Integer
  
  Dim outputDir As String
  Dim outputFile As String
  Dim fileExists As Boolean
  Dim cnt As Integer
  
  'Requires reference to Microsoft Scripting Runtime (SCRRUN.DLL)
  Dim fso As FileSystemObject
    
  Set Exp = App.ActiveExplorer
  Set Sel = Exp.Selection
  Set fso = New FileSystemObject

  outputDir = GetOutputDirectory()
  If outputDir = "" Then
    MsgBox "You must pick an directory to save your files to. Exiting SaveAttachments.", vbCritical, "SaveAttachments"
    Exit Sub
  End If
    
  'Loop thru each selected item in the inbox
  For cnt = 1 To Sel.Count
    'If the e-mail has attachments...
    If Sel.Item(cnt).Attachments.Count > 0 Then
      MsgTotal = MsgTotal + 1
      'For each attachment on the message...
      For AttachmentCnt = 1 To Sel.Item(cnt).Attachments.Count
        'Get the attachment
        Dim att As Attachment
        Set att = Sel.Item(cnt).Attachments.Item(AttachmentCnt)
        outputFile = att.fileName
        fileExists = fso.fileExists(outputDir + outputFile)
        Do While fileExists = True
          outputFile = InputBox("The file " + outputFile _
            + " already exists in the destination directory of " _
            + outputDir + ". Please enter a new name, or hit cancel to skip this one file.", "File Exists", outputFile)
          'If user hit cancel
          If outputFile = "" Then
            'Exit leaving fileexists true. That will be a flag not to write the file
            Exit Do
          End If
          fileExists = fso.fileExists(outputDir + outputFile)
        Loop
        
        'Save it to disk if the file does not exist
        If fileExists = False Then
          att.SaveAsFile (outputDir + outputFile)
          AttTotal = AttTotal + 1
        End If
      Next
    End If
  Next
  
  'Clean up
  Set Sel = Nothing
  Set Exp = Nothing
  Set App = Nothing
  Set fso = Nothing
  
  'Let user know we are done
  Dim doneMsg As String
  doneMsg = "Completed saving " + Format$(AttTotal, "#,0") + " attachments in " + Format$(MsgTotal, "#,0") + " Messages."
  MsgBox doneMsg, vbOKOnly, "Save Attachments"
  
  Exit Sub
  
ErrorHandler:

  Dim errMsg As String
  errMsg = "An error has occurred. Error " + Err.Number + " " + Err.Description
  Dim errResult As VbMsgBoxResult
  errResult = MsgBox(errMsg, vbAbortRetryIgnore, "Error in Save Attachments")
  Select Case errResult
    Case vbAbort
      Exit Sub
      
    Case vbRetry
      Resume
      
    Case vbIgnore
      Resume Next
      
  End Select
    
End Sub

'Found this code in a google groups thread here:
'http://groups.google.com/group/microsoft.public.scripting.vbscript/browse_thread/thread/7187886c3c83a570/c278a2753e9e7ceb%23c278a2753e9e7ceb
'or http://shrinkster.com/l0v
Public Function GetOutputDirectory() As String
 
  Dim retval As String 'Return Value
  
  Dim sMsg As String
  Dim cBits As Integer
  Dim xRoot As Integer
  
  Dim oShell As Object
  Set oShell = CreateObject("shell.application")

  sMsg = "Select a Folder To Output The Attachments To"
  cBits = 1
  xRoot = 17
  
  On Error Resume Next
      Dim oBFF
      Set oBFF = oShell.BrowseForFolder(0, sMsg, cBits, xRoot)
      If Err Then
        Err.Clear
        GetOutputDirectory = ""
        Exit Function
      End If
  On Error GoTo 0
  
  If Not IsObject(oBFF) Then
    GetOutputDirectory = ""
    Exit Function
  End If
  
  If Not (LCase(Left(Trim(TypeName(oBFF)), 6)) = "folder") Then
    retval = ""
  Else
    retval = oBFF.self.Path
    
    'Make sure there's a \ on the end
    If Right(retval, 1) <> "\" Then
      retval = retval + "\"
    End If
  End If
  
  GetOutputDirectory = retval
  
End Function


	

Unmixing the MIX 10 Content

Every year Microsoft puts on a big conference called MIX, this year was MIX 10. It’s a big developers conference focused mostly on Web development, although this year also had a fair amount of information on the new Windows Phone 7 platform. Microsoft is also kind enough to make the sessions available for free download to anyone interested after the conference is over. As of this blog post the average quality WMV recordings are up, and the high quality ones should be up soon. You can download them at http://live.visitmix.com/Videos .

To make downloading easy I suggest using FireFox with an add-in called Down-Them-All. Yes, I know, you’re probably a die hard Microsoft guy and use IE all the time, but you probably have FireFox installed for testing purposes. Go grab the Down-Them-All add-in. Then go to the Mix website (link above), right click anywhere in the webpage, and pick “DownThemALL!”. In the dialog that pops up it will show all the downloadable content on the page. Set the directory to “Save files in:” in the lower part of the dialog (for the average quality WMV files you’ll need about 12.4 gig), then under filters you can pick Videos to get all the WMVs. You could also go to the fast filtering area and set something like *.pptx to download all the slides. Click “Start!” and the downloads will begin. Then go get coffee. And lunch. And probably dinner as well, as this will take a while.

Once you’ve got it all downloaded you’re left with a lot of files with the session names as the file names. CL01.wmv, CL02.wmv, etc. I find it much easier if the file names also contain the text of the session description. That way when I’m looking over the media inside my Zune library or even just browsing in Windows explorer it’s easy to pick something to watch. So using the column mode capabilities plus a simple macro in a text editor called UltraEdit (easily the best software purchase I’ve ever made in my life) I quickly put together a batch file to rename all the files for me. Here is the contents of it:

rename CL01.wmv "CL01 – Changing our Game – an Introduction to Windows Phone 7 Series.wmv"
rename CL02.wmv "CL02 – Authoring for Windows Phone Silverlight 4 and WPF 4 with Expression Blend.wmv"
rename CL03.wmv "CL03 – Prototyping Rich Microsoft Silverlight Applications with Expression SketchFlow.wmv"
rename CL06.wmv "CL06 – Designing Bing – Heart and Science.wmv"
rename CL07.wmv "CL07 – Microsoft Silverlight 4 Overview – What’s in Store for Silverlight 4?.wmv"
rename CL08.wmv "CL08 – Microsoft Silverlight 4 Business Applications.wmv"
rename CL09.wmv "CL09 – Developing with WCF RIA Services Quickly and Effectively.wmv"
rename CL10.wmv "CL10 – Stepping Outside the Browser with Microsoft Silverlight 4.wmv"
rename CL13.wmv "CL13 – Overview of the Windows Phone 7 Series Application Platform.wmv"
rename CL14.wmv "CL14 – Windows Phone UI and Design Language.wmv"
rename CL15.wmv "CL15 – An Introduction to Developing Applications for Microsoft Silverlight.wmv"
rename CL16.wmv "CL16 – Building Windows Phone Applications with Silverlight Part 1.wmv"
rename CL17.wmv "CL17 – Building Windows Phone Applications with Silverlight Part 2.wmv"
rename CL18.wmv "CL18 – Windows Phone Application Platform Architecture.wmv"
rename CL19.wmv "CL19 – Development and Debugging Tools for Building XNA Games for Windows Phone.wmv"
rename CL20.wmv "CL20 – Distributing and Monetizing Windows Phone Applications and Games.wmv"
rename CL21.wmv "CL21 – Building Windows Phone Games.wmv"
rename CL22.wmv "CL22 – Building a High Performance 3D Game for Windows Phone.wmv"
rename CL23.wmv "CL23 – Designing and Developing for the Rich Mobile Web.wmv"
rename CL24.wmv "CL24 – The Microsoft Silverlight Analytics Framework.wmv"
rename CL25.wmv "CL25 – Microsoft Silverlight Media  – Moving at 60fps.wmv"
rename CL26.wmv "CL26 – Introducing the Silverlight Rough Cut Editor.wmv"
rename CL27.wmv "CL27 – HTML5 – Cross-Browser Best Practices.wmv"
rename CL28.wmv "CL28 – In-Depth Look at Internet Explorer 9.wmv"
rename CL29.wmv "CL29 – HTML5 – High-Performance Best Practices for Web Sites.wmv"
rename CL30.wmv "CL30 – Building Innovative Windows Client Software.wmv"
rename CL50.wmv "CL50 – Search Engine Optimization for Microsoft Silverlight.wmv"
rename CL51.wmv "CL51 – Building an Accessible Microsoft Silverlight Experience.wmv"
rename CL52.wmv "CL52 – Microsoft Silverlight Optimization and Extensibility with MEF.wmv"
rename CL53.wmv "CL53 – Flash Skills Applied to Microsoft Silverlight Design and Development.wmv"
rename CL54.wmv "CL54 – Software and Web Entrepreneurs – Go Big with BizSpark and WebsiteSpark.wmv"
rename CL55.wmv "CL55 – Dynamic Layout and Transitions for Microsoft Silverlight 4 with Microsoft Expression Blend.wmv"
rename CL56.wmv "CL56 – A Case Study – Rapid WordPress Design and Prototyping with Expression Web 3.wmv"
rename CL58.wmv "CL58 – Accessing Web Services in Microsoft Silverlight.wmv"
rename CL59.wmv "CL59 – Unit Testing Silverlight and Windows Phone Applications.wmv"
rename CL60.wmv "CL60 – Silverlight Performance on Windows Phone.wmv"
rename DS01.wmv "DS01 – The Laws of User Experience.wmv"
rename DS02.wmv "DS02 – Treat Your Content Right.wmv"
rename DS03.wmv "DS03 – Running with Wireframes – Taking Information Architecture (IA) into Design.wmv"
rename DS04.wmv "DS04 – Lifecycle of a Wireframe.wmv"
rename DS05.wmv "DS05 – Total Experience Design.wmv"
rename DS06.wmv "DS06 – Touch in Public – Multi-touch Interaction Design for Kiosks and Architectural Experiences.wmv"
rename DS07.wmv "DS07 – The Art Technology and Science of Reading.wmv"
rename DS08.wmv "DS08 – Creating Great Experiences through Collaboration.wmv"
rename DS09.wmv "DS09 – Peanut Butter and Jelly – Putting ‘Content Management’ Back into Context.wmv"
rename DS10.wmv "DS10 – Service Design Goes Social.wmv"
rename DS11.wmv "DS11 – Great User Experiences – Seamlessly Blending Technology and Design.wmv"
rename DS12.wmv "DS12 – Total Experience – A Design Methodology for Agencies.wmv"
rename DS13.wmv "DS13 – The Elephant in the Room.wmv"
rename DS14.wmv "DS14 – The Democratization of the Design Industry.wmv"
rename DS15.wmv "DS15 – The Type We Want.wmv"
rename DS16.wmv "DS16 – An Hour With Bill Buxton.wmv"
rename EX01.wmv "EX01 – Cloud Computing Economies of Scale.wmv"
rename EX02.wmv "EX02 – The Mono Project.wmv"
rename EX03.wmv "EX03 – Modern Web Form Design.wmv"
rename EX04.wmv "EX04 – Robots at MySpace – Massive Scaling a .NET Website with the Microsoft Robotic Studio.wmv"
rename EX06.wmv "EX06 – 10 Ways to Attack a Design Problem and Come Out Winning.wmv"
rename EX07.wmv "EX07 – Principles of Microsoft Silverlight Graphics and Animation.wmv"
rename EX10.wmv "EX10 – Building a Next-Generation Web Application with Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 2 and jQuery.wmv"
rename EX11.wmv "EX11 – Using Storage in the Windows Azure Platform.wmv"
rename EX12.wmv "EX12 – Creating Effective Info Viz in Microsoft Silverlight.wmv"
rename EX13.wmv "EX13 – Microsoft Surface Goes Social – Research Project at the University of Linz.wmv"
rename EX14.wmv "EX14 – Understanding the Model-View-ViewModel Pattern.wmv"
rename EX15.wmv "EX15 – Build Your Own MVVM Framework.wmv"
rename EX16.wmv "EX16 – Securing Microsoft Silverlight Applications.wmv"
rename EX17.wmv "EX17 – IronRuby for the .NET Developer.wmv"
rename EX18.wmv "EX18 – Developing Natural User Interfaces with Microsoft Silverlight and WPF 4 Touch.wmv"
rename EX19.wmv "EX19 – The OpenRasta Framework for Building RESTful Applications.wmv"
rename EX20.wmv "EX20 – Building Great Standards-Based Websites for the Big Wide World with Microsoft ASP.NET 4.wmv"
rename EX21.wmv "EX21 – Syncing Audio Video and Animations in Microsoft Silverlight Applications.wmv"
rename EX22.wmv "EX22 – Six Things Every jQuery Developer Must Know.wmv"
rename EX23.wmv "EX23 – Building Facebook Apps with Microsoft .NET and Deploying to Windows Azure.wmv"
rename EX25.wmv "EX25 – Design the Ordinary Like the Fixie.wmv"
rename EX26.wmv "EX26 – From Comp to Code – A Design Communion.wmv"
rename EX27.wmv "EX27 – Do You Speak My Language? Microsoft Translator and the Power of Collaboration.wmv"
rename EX28.wmv "EX28 – Building Rich and Interactive User Experiences in SharePoint.wmv"
rename EX29.wmv "EX29 – Building Platforms and Applications for the Real-Time Web.wmv"
rename EX30.wmv "EX30 – SVG – The Past Present and Future of Vector Graphics for the Web.wmv"
rename EX31.wmv "EX31 – Developing Multiplayer Games with Microsoft Silverlight 4.wmv"
rename EX32.wmv "EX32 – Smooth Streaming Live in HD – From Camera to Screen.wmv"
rename EX33.wmv "EX33 – Smooth Streaming Live in HD – 2010 Olympic Winter Games.wmv"
rename EX34.wmv "EX34 – Participating in the Web of Data with Open Standards.wmv"
rename EX35.wmv "EX35 – Opening Up Opportunity with Twitter.wmv"
rename EX36.wmv "EX36 – How jQuery Makes Hard Things Simple.wmv"
rename EX37.wmv "EX37 – Adding the Where to the When of Social Applications.wmv"
rename EX38.wmv "EX38 – Building Large-Scale Data-Centric Applications with Silverlight.wmv"
rename EX39.wmv "EX39 – The Tale of JavaScript. I Mean ECMAScript..wmv"
rename EX50.wmv "EX50 – Debugging Microsoft Silverlight Applications.wmv"
rename EX51.wmv "EX51 – Building Finance Applications with Microsoft Silverlight 4.wmv"
rename EX52.wmv "EX52 – Copyright – A Cloudy Subject.wmv"
rename EX53.wmv "EX53 – Storm Clouds – What to Consider About Privacy Before Writing a Line of Code.wmv"
rename EX55.wmv "EX55 – Building the eBay Simple Lister with Silverlight.wmv"
rename EX56.wmv "EX56 – Designing Rich Experiences for Data-Centric Applications.wmv"
rename FT03.wmv "FT03 – Tips and Tricks for Making Web Forms Shine with Microsoft ASP.NET 4.wmv"
rename FT04.wmv "FT04 – What’s New in Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 2.wmv"
rename FT05.wmv "FT05 – The HaaHa Show – Microsoft ASP.NET MVC Security with Haack and Hanselman.wmv"
rename FT06.wmv "FT06 – Deep Dive into Orchard Extensibility for CMS Developers.wmv"
rename FT07.wmv "FT07 – Beyond File – New Company – From Cheesy Sample to Social Platform.wmv"
rename FT08.wmv "FT08 – Improving Software Quality for the Modern Web.wmv"
rename FT09.wmv "FT09 – Pumping Iron on the Web – IronRuby and IronPython.wmv"
rename FT10.wmv "FT10 – Driving Experiences via Services Using the Microsoft .NET Framework.wmv"
rename FT11.wmv "FT11 – Designing and Delivering Scalable and Resilient Web Services.wmv"
rename FT12.wmv "FT12 – OData – There’s a Feed for That.wmv"
rename FT13.wmv "FT13 – Implementing OData – How to Create a Feed for That.wmv"
rename FT14.wmv "FT14 – Web Deployment Made Awesome – If You’re Using XCopy You’re Doing It Wrong.wmv"
rename FT15.wmv "FT15 – Accessing Data in a Microsoft .NET-Connected Web Application.wmv"
rename FT50.wmv "FT50 – Advanced Web Debugging with Fiddler.wmv"
rename FT51.wmv "FT51 – Internet Explorer Developer Tools.wmv"
rename FTL01.wmv "FTL01 – Reactive Extensions for JavaScript.wmv"
rename FTL02.wmv "FTL02 – Building Pivot Collections.wmv"
rename FTL03.wmv "FTL03 – Unlocking Audio-Video Content with Speech Recognition.wmv"
rename FTL50.wmv "FTL50 – Incarnate – Behind the Scenes.wmv"
rename FTL51.wmv "FTL51 – Quickly Implementing New Cross-Browser Features with Ruby and Python.wmv"
rename KEY01.wmv "KEY01 – Keynote Day 1.wmv"
rename KEY02.wmv "KEY02 – Keynote Day 2.wmv"
rename PR01.wmv "PR01 – Designing Corporate Web Sites using SharePoint 2010.wmv"
rename PR02.wmv "PR02 – Designing an Internet-Facing Web Site Using SharePoint 2010.wmv"
rename SVC01.wmv "SVC01 – Using Windows Identity Foundation for Creating Identity-Driven Experiences in Microsoft Silverlight.wmv"
rename SVC02.wmv "SVC02 – Microsoft Project Code Name Dallas – Data For Your Apps.wmv"
rename SVC03.wmv "SVC03 – Using Ruby on Rails to Build Windows Azure Applications.wmv"
rename SVC04.wmv "SVC04 – Lap around the Windows Azure Platform.wmv"
rename SVC05.wmv "SVC05 – Building Web Applications with Windows Azure Storage.wmv"
rename SVC06.wmv "SVC06 – Microsoft Silverlight and Windows Azure – A Match Made for the Web.wmv"
rename SVC07.wmv "SVC07 – Building Web Applications with Microsoft SQL Azure.wmv"
rename SVC08.wmv "SVC08 – Connecting Your Applications in the Cloud with Windows Azure AppFabric.wmv"
rename SVC09.wmv "SVC09 – Building and Deploying Windows Azure-Based Applications with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.wmv"
rename SVC10.wmv "SVC10 – Building Offline Web Apps Using Microsoft Sync Framework.wmv"
rename SVC12.wmv "SVC12 – Building PHP Applications using the Windows Azure Platform.wmv"
rename SVC50.wmv "SVC50 – Improving the Usability and Security of OpenID.wmv"

Simply take the above content, copy into notepad and save it in the same folder as all the WMV files. (I saved it as WmvRename.bat). Then just run it and your Mix10 filenames will no longer be all MIXed up!

Introducing Microsoft PowerPivot

What is PowerPivot? Well according to Microsoft:

“PowerPivot is Microsoft Self-Service Business Intelligence”

I can see from the glazed looks you are giving your monitor that was clear as mud. So let’s step back a bit and first define what exactly is Business Intelligence.

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence, often referred to as simply “BI”, is all about taking data you already have and making sense of it. Being able to take that information and turn it from a raw jumble of individual facts and transform it into knowledge that you can take informed actions on.

In every organization there is already someone who is doing BI, although they may not realize it. Microsoft (and many IT departments) refer to this person as “that guy”. A power user, who grabs data from anyplace he (or she) can get it, then uses tools like Excel or Access to slice it, dice it, and analyze it. This person might be an actual Business Analyst, but more often it’s someone for who BI is not their main job. Some common examples of people doing their own BI today are production managers, accountants, engineers, or sales managers, all who need information to better do their job. Let’s look at an illustration that will make it a bit clearer.

In this example, put yourself in the role of a sales manager. You have gotten IT to extract all of your sales orders for the last several years into an Excel spreadsheet. In order to determine how well your sales people are doing, you need to measure their performance. You’ve decided that the amount sold will be a good measure, and use Excel to give you totals.

IntroEx01

In BI terms, the column “Total Sales” is known as a measure, or sometimes a fact, as it measures something, in this case the sales amount. The grand total sales amount is often called an aggregation, as it totals up the individual rows of data that IT gave us. But now you might be wondering why Andy’s sales are so low? Well, now you want to dig deeper and look at sales by year.

IntroEx02

In BI terms, the names of the sales people are a dimension. Dimensions are often either a “who” (who sold stuff) or a “what” (what stuff did we sell). Places (where was it sold) and dates (when was it sold) are also common dimensions. In this case the sales dates across the top (2007, 2008, 2009) are a date dimension. When we use two or more dimensions to look at our measures, we have a pivot table.

Now we can see a picture emerging. It’s obvious that Andy must have been hired as a new salesperson in late 2008, since he shows no sales for 2007 and very small amount in 2008. But for Paul and Kimberly we can look at something called trends in the BI world. Kimberly shows a nice even trend, rising slowly over the last three years and earns a gold star as our top performer.

By being able to drill down into our data, we spot another trend that was not readily obvious when just looking at the grand totals. Paul has been trending downward so fast the speed of light looks slow. Clearly then we now have information to take action on, commonly known as actionable intelligence.

So remind me, why do we need PowerPivot?

As you can see in the above example, “that guy” in your company clearly has a need to look at this data in order to do his job. Not only does he need to review it, he also has the issue of how to share this information with his co-workers. Unfortunately in the past the tools available to “that guy” have had some drawbacks. The two main tools used by our analyst have been either Excel, or a complete BI solution involving a data warehouse and SQL Server Analysis Services.

Excel’s main limitations center around the volume of data needed to do good analysis. Excel has limits to the number of rows it can store, and for large datasets a spreadsheet can consume equally large amounts of disk space. This makes the spreadsheet difficult to share with coworkers. In addition mathematical functions like aggregations could be slow. On the good side, Excel is readily available to most workers, and a solution can be put together fairly quickly.

A full blown BI solution has some major benefits over the Excel solution. A data warehouse is created, and then SQL Server Analysis Services (often abbreviated as SSAS) is used to precalculate aggregations for every possible way an analyst might wish to look at them. The data is then very easy to share via tools like Excel and SQL Server Reporting Services. While very robust and powerful solution, it does have some drawbacks. It can take quite a bit of time to design, code, and implement both the data warehouse and the analysis services pieces of the solution. In addition it can also be expensive for IT to implement such a system.

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, it’s PowerPivot!

PowerPivot combines the best of both worlds. In fact, it’s not one tool but two: PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel 2010, and PowerPivot for SharePoint 2010. What’s the difference you ask? Good question.

PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel 2010

PowerPivot acts as an Add-on for Excel 2010, and in many ways is quite revolutionary. First, it brings the full power of SQL Server Analysis Services right into Excel. All of the speed and power of SSAS is available right on your desktop. Second, it uses a compression technology that allows vast amounts of data to be saved in a minimal amount of space. Millions of rows of data can now be stored, sorted, and aggregated in a reasonable amount of disk space with great speed.

PowerPivot can draw its data from a wide variety of sources. As you might expect, it can pull from almost any database. Additionally it can draw data from news feeds, SQL Server Reporting Services, other Excel sheets, it can even be typed in manually if need be.

Another issue that often faces the business analyst is the freshness of the data. The information is only as good as the date it was last imported into Excel. Traditionally “that guy” only got extracts of the database as IT had time, since it was often a time consuming process. PowerPivot addresses this through its linked tables feature. PowerPivot will remember where your data came from, and with one simple button click can refresh the spreadsheet with the latest information.

Because PowerPivot sits inside Microsoft Excel, it not only can create basic pivot tables but has all the full featured functionality of Excel at its disposal. It can format pivot tables in a wide array of styles, create pivot charts and graphs, and combine these together into useful dashboards. Additionally PowerPivot has a rich set of mathematical functionally, combining the existing functions already in Excel with an additional set of functions called Data Analysis eXpressions or DAX.

PowerPivot for SharePoint 2010

PowerPivot for Excel 2010 clearly solves several issues around the issue of analysis. It allows users to quickly create spreadsheets, pivot tables, charts, and more in a compact amount of space. If you recall though, creation was only half of “that guys” problem. The other half was sharing his analysis with the rest of his organization. That’s where PowerPivot for SharePoint 2010 comes into play.

Placing a PowerPivot Excel workbook in SharePoint 2010 not only enables traditional file sharing, but also activates several additional features. First, the spreadsheet is hosted right in the web browser. Thus users who might not have made the transition to Excel 2010 can still use the PowerPivot created workbook, slicing and filtering the data to get the information they require.

Data can also be refreshed on an automated, scheduled basis. This ensures the data is always up to date when doing analysis. Dashboards can also be created from the contents of a worksheet and displayed in SharePoint. Finally these PowerPivot created worksheets can be used as data sources for such tools as SQL Server Reporting Services.

Limitations

First, let me preface this by saying as of this writing all of the components are either in CTP (Community Technology Preview, a pre-beta) or Beta state. Thus there could be some changes between now and their final release next year.

To use the PowerPivot for Excel 2010 components, all you have to have is Excel 2010 and the PowerPivot add-in. If you want to share the workbook and get all the rich functionality SharePoint has to offer, you’ll have to have SharePoint 2010, running Excel Services and PowerPivot 2010 Services. You’ll also have to have SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services running on the SharePoint 2010 box. Since you’ll have to have a SQL Server instance installed to support SharePoint this is not a huge limitation, especially since SSAS comes with SQL Server at no extra cost.

One thing I wish to make clear, SharePoint 2010 itself can run using any version of SQL Server from SQL Server 2005 on. It is the PowerPivot service that requires 2008 R2 Analysis Services.

One other important item to note: at some point the load upon the SharePoint 2010 server may grow too large if especially complex analysis is being done. Fortunately SharePoint 2010 ships with several tools that allow administrators to monitor the load and plan accordingly. At the point where the load is too big, it is a clear indication it’s time to transition from a PowerPivot solution to a full BI solution using a data warehouse and SQL Server Analysis Services.

What does PowerPivot mean for business users?

For business users, and especially “that guy”, it means complex analysis tools can be created in a short amount of time. Rich functionality makes it easier to spot trends and produce meaningful charts and graphs. It also means this information can be shared with others in the organization easily, without imposing large burdens on the corporate e-mail system or local file sharing mechanisms.

No longer will users be dependent on IT for their analysis, they will have the power to create everything they need on their own, truly bringing “self service BI” to fruition.

What does PowerPivot mean for Business Intelligence IT Pros?

The first reaction many BI developers have when hearing about PowerPivot is “oh no, this is going to put me out of a job!” Far from it, I firmly believe PowerPivot will create even more work for BI Professionals like myself.

As upper management grows to rely on the information provided by PowerPivot, they will also begin to understand the true value BI can bring to an organization. Selling a new BI solution into an organization where none currently exists can be difficult, as it can be hard to visualize how such a solution would work and the value it brings. PowerPivot allows BI functionality to be brought into an organization at a low development cost, proving the value of BI with minimal investment. Thus when there is a need to implement a larger, traditional BI project those same managers will be more forthcoming with the dollars.

Second, as users pull more and more data, they are going to want that data better organized than they will find in their current transactional business systems. This will in turn spur the need to create many new data warehouses. Likewise the IT department will also want data warehouses created, to reduce the load placed on those same transactional business systems.

I also foresee PowerPivot being used by BI Pros themselves to create solutions. The database structure of many transactional database systems can be difficult to understand even for experienced IT people, much less users. BI Pros can use PowerPivot to add a layer of abstraction between the database and the users, allowing business analysts to do their job without having to learn the complexity of a database system.

BI Pros can also use PowerPivot to implement quick turnaround solutions for customers, bringing more value for the customer’s dollar. When a BI Pro can prove him (or her) self by providing rich functionality in a short time frame it’s almost always the case they are brought back in for multiple engagements.

PowerPivot also provides great value to BI Pros who are employed full time in an enterprise organization. They can create solutions much quicker than before, freeing them up to do other valuable tasks. In addition PowerPivot solutions can provide a “stop gap” solution, pushing the date at which the organization needs to spend the dollars for a full blown BI solution and allowing IT to plan better.

Finally I see great value in PowerPivot as a prototyping tool for larger BI projects. Now users can see their data, interact with it, analyze it, and ensure the required measures and dimensions are present before proceeding with the larger project.

I’ll reiterate, if anything I believe PowerPivot will create an explosion of work for the Business Intelligence Professional.

Where can I learn more?

Well right here for one. I have become quite interested in PowerPivot since seeing it at the SQL PASS 2009 Summit. I think it will be a valuable tool for both myself and my customers. This will be the first of many blog posts to come on PowerPivot. I am also beginning a series of presentations on PowerPivot for local user groups and code camp events. The first will be Saturday, November 21st 2009 at the SharePoint Saturday in Birmingham Alabama, but there will be many more to come. (If you’d like me to come speak at your group just shoot me an e-mail and we’ll see what we can arrange.)

There’s also the PowerPivot site itself:

I’ve also found a small handful of blogs on PowerPivot, listed in no particular order:

Summary

Thanks for sticking with me, I know this was a rather long blog post but PowerPivot has a lot of rich functionality to offer. While PowerPivot is still in the CTP/Beta stage as of this writing, I see more and more interest in the community, which will continue to grow as PowerPivot moves closer to release. I hope this post has set you off on the right step and you’ll continue to come back for more information.

Welcome to COMFRAME

I admit to being remiss lately, my poor blog has been neglected for these past few weeks. I can only plead mea culpa and explain.

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity placed before me that I simply could not refuse. I’d been happy at my old job and wasn’t looking, but a good friend of mine works for a great company called COMFRAME. They are a consulting firm that does a variety of things, including Enterprise Project Management, .Net and Java development projects, SOA, and most important to me, Business Intelligence.

To make a long story short my friend took a lesson from the Godfather movies and “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse”. I am now a COMFRAME employee! The work is very exciting, I’ll be an architect on a BI project that is using Silverlight 3 for it’s front end. We are working with data from Microsoft Project, not only that but it’s the world’s biggest implementation of Project Server, so I’ll get to work with the fine folks at Microsoft even more closely. We’re also a Microsoft Partner, which will give me new avenues for relationships that will compliment my MVP.

I got to meet the customer this week, although brief they seemed very easy to work with, and nice as well. I also got to meet the development team I’ll be working with, I’m impressed with the work they’ve done so far and can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and dive in.

I’ve had a crazy time wrapping up my old job and starting my new one, hopefully I can get back to regular blogging soon. I’ve been doing a lot with SSIS and SSAS which will give me lots of good material to talk about, not to mention any Silverlight 3 work I get to explore.

Thank You

I found out today Microsoft renewed my MVP award for the 2009-2010 year. I am grateful that my efforts to serve the community were recognized. I’m grateful to Microsoft for caring enough about the community to have setup a program to recognize and more importantly enable those who server.

I am also grateful to you, the readers and my friends in the technical community for allowing me in, for reading my blog, and letting me speak at various community events. Your support, encouragement and friendship have been invaluable.

Finally and most importantly I need to thank my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. They have endured a lot of evenings of me getting home late after an event, or seeing me face down over a hot laptop working on some new presentation or blog post. Without their love and support none of my efforts would have been possible.

We interrupt this blog to get Ramped Up!

I promise to wrap up the FILESTREAM series shortly, I just want to ensure all of the code samples are complete and properly documented. Meanwhile I have a cool website I want to pass along.

Last week my friend Doug Turnure of Microsoft was on Dot Net Rocks! He and his co-worker Johanna White were talking about a new training site, Ramp Up! Available at http://myrampup.com this is a very full featured training site. There are a series of topics to train on, and each topic is actually a complete training course. Each course is a series of lessons in a variety of formats.

Doug and Johannna have taken a unique approach to this site. For example, there are three different courses available to learn ASP.NET. One is for people coming from an ASP background, another for experienced JAVA developers, and a third for people with no web experience. What a great idea!

In addition they have retained or recycled material for developers who may not be working on the cutting edge. There is a course for people coming from VS2002/2003 to VS2005, for example. This is great, I meet a lot of developers who are just now shifting to the .Net 2.0 platform and are looking for good training material.

Congrats to Doug, Johanna and everyone involved in creating this site. It’s  a great idea, totally free, and make sure to visit it frequently as they will be adding more material as time goes by.