What is West Chester Connect?

On the evening of August 28, 2013 we hosted a public forum and training to the community regarding our new service, “West Chester Connect”. What is West Chester Connect?

Check out the slideshow that was used during the presentation.

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FourSquare & Windows 8 Phone

Are though Facebook is much more popular, FourSquare has always rivaled Facebook to me in regard to “checking in” to your favorite places. With FourSquare you can become mayor, as I have at several locations such as Rino’s in Exton Pa, Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown Pa. You can rate your favorite establishments, get reviews, suggestions for similar places and even obtain coupons.

Although Windows 8 phones do not have the sheer number of apps as their Apple and Android competitors their apps, when compared are usually much better in appearance and functionality.

For example Foursquare’s new Windows 8 app may not be the biggest deal for Foursquare, but it’s huge for Microsoft.

With the app, which was officially announced in June, Foursquare takes some of the best parts about Windows 8 — the Metro interface, live tiles, global search — and creates something that’s completely different from anything the company has released before.

That, as Foursquare business development head David Ban told VentureBeat, is exactly the point. “I think one of the most exciting things here was figuring out what we can do for this specific platform. It’s very pretty and plays well to the strengths of this OS,” Ban said.

Many of these strengths are pretty obvious on first glance: Foursquare for Windows 8 looks and feels great, and it’s clear that both Microsoft and Foursquare put a lot of thought into how to use the app to showcase the design strengths of the platform.  (This was the exact strategy Microsoft and Foursquare pushed with Foursquare’s Window Phone 8 app as well.)

Again, that’s a big deal for Microsoft, which is still struggling to convince consumers why they should switch over to Windows 8. Apps like this one really support its case.

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Microsoft’s CEO Stand’s Down

Microsoft is in a state of flux. There are many projects whirling around including Windows 8.1, the Windows Phone and the Microsoft Surface. I believe that all of these projects have value and are indeed pointing the ways towards our combined tech future. However, that said, Microsoft is somewhat struggling to find it’s footing in this crowded world. Can Windows Phone survive in a word of Android and iPhone zombies? Is touch screen really where computing is heading? Are tablets really going to dominate in the PC world. As these questions are addressed Microsoft’s CEO prepares to exit.

Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”
The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.
“The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company,” Thompson said. “As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company’s senior leadership team to chart the company’s course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry.”
“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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Using Sharepoint

To add files to your Sharepoint library first login to your Microsoft 365 account at login.microsoftonline.com.



 


Once logged in select “Sites” on the top menu bar.

Once you are on the “Sharepoint” page you will see an sites you are a member of. For this case, you want top open the “team Site” which is where our organization stores and shares organizational documents and cooperative projects.

Once you are the “team site” you will be able to see and announcements regarding newly posted documents or files. Libraries are basically folders of related documents, such as “HR Documents” and “Internal Policies”.

 

In this case the Library we will use is “Contracts & Insurance”. In this “library” there are folders for each year starting with 2013.

You will be able to open any document that has been stored here as well as uploading a new document. To add a document to the library select “new document”. Select upload existing file. Then brose to find the document you would like to upload to the library.

Browse out to your computer and find the desired file, select it and “OK”. That’s it. Your document is now part of the library!

A future post will cover the steps for connecting any Sharepoint library to your Outlook client.

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Windows 8’s Yoga

Microsoft has released a new iPad versus Windows 8 commercial and it might be the best one yet. The 31-second commercial shows how the Lenovo Yoga offers all of the features of the iPad while in tablet mode, and then when needed, flips to the standard laptop layout while those with iPads waste time trying to attach a keyboard.

The reason why this commercial is so important is because it shows a real-world scenario of how the Lenovo Yoga bests that of the iPad in the classroom and that it is a great companion for those who students are heading back to school. Of course, seeing that the commercial came out in late August and many are already in the classroom, this commercial may have been better suited to air over the summer before the back to school goods were purchased.

While this commercial is a new spin on Microsoft’s iPad vs Windows 8 PCs, Microsoft does conveniently leave out the price, with the Yoga 11s starting at $749. While obviously more expensive, depending on how you equip the iPad, it can reach easily into that price point. In addition although this commercial displays the Yoga 11 I would tend to go with Microsoft’s Surface Pro for college students.

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Word Tip: Clear That Format

Many times when you copy text from another source (document, webpage etc), the formatting of that particular text never comes out the way you want it to. This happens because the copy command basically copies not only the text but also the various formatting done to the text (bold, underline, font size, hyperlinks etc).

However, the formatting can easily be removed with a single click in a Word document. Microsoft Word’s latest 2013 version and all previous versions provide a very simple way to remove formatting on a selected text.

“Clear Formatting” is Only a Button Away

To remove formatting, select the text you want the formatting to be done on and hit the ‘Clear Formatting’ button on the top navigation bar. This will convert the selected text to its original unformatted form.

Shortcuts for “Clear Formatting”

And there’s an even faster way to remove formatting, with the help of shortcut keys. Simply select the part of the text you want formatted, and press CTRL + Spacebar to remove all character formatting (font size, font styles, colors etc) and CTRL + Q to remove all paragraph formatting (text alignment, bullets, numbering etc).

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Outlook.com Outage Explained

Last week Microsoft suffered an almost three day service interruption effecting their Outlook.com email service. Outlook.com formally known at Hotmail is very popular and is an excellent free email platform. However a three day service problem is really unusual and not something any service provider wants to experience.

It may have taken three days, but Microsoft has officially resolved its Outlook.com outage — and it has both explanations and long-term solutions for affected email users. Trouble began with the failure of a caching service for Exchange ActiveSync. The resulting deluge of reconnection attempts promptly overwhelmed company servers; a slow recovery was necessary to avoid another meltdown, Microsoft says. To prevent repeat incidents, the tech giant is both upgrading its network capacity and implementing a more elegant error handling system. While the fixes likely come too late for some users, they suggest that Microsoft has learned a hard lesson about the fragility of online services.



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Outlook.com & SkyDrive Outage Over

Yesterday, August 14 at about 10am many users of Outlook.com and Skydrive began to experience and report email outages as well as being unable to connect to files in their Skydrive. While outages of this nature are not completely uncommon, when people do loose connectivity to their email and files they tend to freak out.  Outlook.com, formally known as “Hotmail” for the most part serves the consumer base as opposed to professional businesses.

Our organization has been in Microsoft’s cloud for almost three years now for Email. There have been a few outages during that time frame so I was not really that worried about this one.  I also use Outlook.com for my personal email and I really like it. However I must report that the “outages” we have experienced with Microsoft’s 365 service have been short and only effecting specific areas of their service. For example once or twice Outlook clients would not connect to the email service, however email continued to flow to mobile devices and Web Outlook. Another time Web Outlook was down, however once again mobile devices received email and the clients worked. Each of these occurrences lasted a few hours, much less then yesterday’s Outlook.com outage.

What caused yesterday’s outage? Microsoft has issued the following statement:

“At 13:35 PM PDT on August 13th, 2013 there was a service interruption that affected some people’s access to a small part of the SkyDrive service, but primarily Hotmail.com and Outlook.com. Availability was restored over the course of the afternoon and evening, and fully restored by 5:43 AM PDT on August14th, 2013.

On the afternoon of the 12th, in one physical region of one of our datacenters, we performed our regular process of updating the firmware on a core part of our physical plant. This is an update that had been done successfully previously, but failed in this specific instance in an unexpected way. This failure resulted in a rapid and substantial temperature spike in the datacenter. This spike was significant enough before it was mitigated that it caused our safeguards to come in to place for a large number of servers in this part of the datacenter.

These safeguards prevented access to mailboxes housed on these servers and also prevented any other pieces of our infrastructure to automatically failover and allow continued access. This area of the datacenter houses parts of the Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, and SkyDrive infrastructure, and so some people trying to access those services were impacted.

Once the safeguards kicked in on these systems, the team was instantly alerted and they immediately began to get to work to restore access. Based on the failure scenario, there was a mix of infrastructure software and human intervention that was needed to bring the core infrastructure back online. Requiring this kind of human intervention is not the norm for our services and added significant time to the restoration.

From that point onward, the team brought back access in waves throughout the evening. The majority of the impacted mailboxes were fully restored before midnight and the rest completed by 5:30 AM.”

We should accept and expect that as we rely on the “cloud” for more and more services service interruptions will occur from time to time. What you should however require from your provider are a couple of very important considerations:

1. When outages occur, communicate immediately with clear and concise information regarding the issue.

2. Work to get the service restored as quickly as possibly.

3. And most important of all, protect our data!

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Outlook.com Down

Microsoft has confirmed user reports that Microsoft’s Outlook.com mail service, People contacts sync, and SkyDrive cloud storage service were unavailable for a period of time.

Since the initial outage occurred, SkyDrive and People have apparently returned to normal operation. Outlook.com is continuing to have unspecified issues. The company promised that it would provide an update on the status of its mail service, but the initial timeframe Microsoft gave for an update has come and gone, with nary a whisper from the software giant.

It’s not clear how widespread the issues actually are at this point. Personally, I have been unable to connect to my Outlook.com email account and while trying to setup a PC for my son this evening I thought it was me when I could not get his Live.com (Outlook in all but name) to sync.

UPDATE – August 15, 6:00 AM
It looks like Outlook.com is finally back in service after an almost 24 hour outage. It will be interesting to see what happened here. Stay tuned.
UPDATE – August 15, 6:10 AM
Looks like MS has been able to restore access for most users, though some are still having issues. Here’s a followup statement from the company, “Outlook.com experienced an incident that caused some users not to be able to access their account or share their SkyDrive files. We have restored web access for all users but some people might still see issues with their mobile devices. We are working to restore full mobile access as quickly as possible.”

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Hackers Gone Smishing

Many users are finally getting wise to the typical email hoaxes and probably as a result of this hackers are beginning to try a new angle to make our lives miserable.

Text Message Spam

This SMS phishing – dubbed smishing, because everything needs a clever name – will often claim to be from banks, or cell network carriers.

The typical smartphone can access a lot of sensitive company & personal information. Here are some points to be aware of in order to stay safe:

1. Watch for numbers. These texts will often come from “5000” or other non-cellphone numbers.

2. Never Reply. Banks or cellphone companies have plenty of ways to get in touch with you. They will not text!

3. Report It. Forward suspicious messages to “7726” (SPAM). This lets carriers know to block the number.

Just like email do not respond to unsolicited messages, unless you can verify the validity of the messenger!

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