Friday, September 28, 2012

Windows 8 - Fifth Pass: Wireless Network Management

The other night in a hotel room, I stumbled across another “I can’t believe they removed that!” issue with Windows 8. This one has to do with managing your wireless network connections. I wanted to remove an old wireless network connection and in Windows 7 you could easily see a list of all the wireless networks you had previously connected to, their priority, what kind of security they had, and of course their name. This was often helpful if you ended up with duplicates of the same one or wanted to remove all but the most recent connection. It was also useful if you wanted to set the priority for one network over another. This was done from a shortcut in the Network and Sharing Center called Manage Wireless Networks.

No such thing exists in Windows 8. Microsoft believes that Windows 8 can manage this list and prioritize multiple connections automatically much better than you can manually. They also don’t care that you might not want your home connection to be named Network 3 and might want to delete Network 1 and Network 2 and then rename Network 3 to just plain Network. They don’t care about any of that as they removed a valid and very useful feature.

There is of course a rather cumbersome work around if for whatever reason you want to edit your wireless network connection list.

The easiest way is to use the ‘netsh’ command from the command line. Run the command line as the administrator and enter ‘netsh wlan show profiles’. This will show you all of your wireless connection profiles. The simplest thing to do is just to delete the one you don’t want by typing ‘netsh wlan delete profile “SSID-name”’. You can also enter ‘ALL’ instead of the name if you want to flush them all. More details can be found by entering ‘netsh /?’.

You may find that one or more of your profiles can’t be deleted and will always appear in the show list. To remove any stubborn profiles turn your wireless radios off, then reboot, and remove the profiles while the wireless radios are still off and not connected to anything.

Of course, if that’s too difficult Microsoft has provided a harder way.
  1. Turn on View Hidden Files and Folders. 
  2. Browse to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Wlansvc\Profiles\Interfaces\ 
  3. You will find a list of XLM files with GUID names; open each XML file using Notepad to see which connection profile it is. 
  4. To delete one just delete that XML file. To change the name edit the XML file however if you want to rename a newer profile the same name as an older profile you must first find the older profile XML file and delete it before you rename the newer one. 
  5. Now locate the same ‘Network GUID’ in the following regkey HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WLansvc\Interfaces\[Interface GUID]\Profiles 
  6. Delete this as well 
I had to restart to make the show list refresh and any updated names to appear in Network Connections. Simple, right? It’s always nice when technology advances forward and makes things that were easy and accessible more difficult.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sharing with Those with All the Power

Today I had the unique opportunity to learn and share with IT folks from electrical cooperatives around our state at their fall IT Section meeting in Indianapolis. They invited me to share with them some of the challenges with deploying and using Windows 8 and were kind enough to allow me to stick around and listen to several of the other presenters.

Two things came out of today:
  1. It was great to present to those who make IT possible at the most fundamental level. Without electric service providers none of our IT toys and gear would work. Our datacenters would fall silent after the backup power sources ran out, the cloud would dry up, and the sun would come out again.
  2. If you would like me to present the Windows 8 Experience and some of the challenges associated with it to your organization please let me know. However, hurry, dates and cities are filling up fast. 
If you’d like to read more about Windows 8 click here to view those posts.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

TSA Pre is Awesome - Live from the Sky

So this is my first blog post from 37,718 feet flying over the Grand Canyon.  I hope the altitude makes it much more enjoyable for you to read.

This morning I got to use my TSA Pre credentials for the first time at the Indy airport and from my perspective it is totally worth the effort to have. 

The TSA Pre line is at the Concourse A checkpoint. There was no one in the line and all I had to do was let them scan my boarding pass and that verified I was part of the program. No additional ID was needed aside from my drivers license. 

I was the only one one in line and I put my 2 bags on the conveyor and walked through the metal detector with my shoes on. I got through the checkpoint in 20 seconds. 

There were 3 folks who came through after me and they all sailed through just as fast. While some argue that the program is an invasion of privacy I contend that it really isn't. I only provided the TSA information they already had and then proved to them who I was in a personal interview. 

TSA Pre was deployed to more cities just last month making it much more useful and at $100 for 5 years it is well worth it considering the convenience it provides. 

If your on the fence about enrolling in TSA Pre I suggest you do it if you fly at least 6 times or more per year and carry a lot of tech gear.  The only hassle is going to a Custom and Border Protection Office for your interview and finger printing. 

I look forward to using it again on Sunday. 

Someone’s Taking My Spot

My wife has oft compared me to one Sheldon Cooper.  One of our apparent similarities is that I have a spot, a parking spot that is, and don’t feel the world is right if my car isn’t in it.

We don’t have assigned parking spots at work or anything but I’ve been parking in the same spot since 2001 and over the past 11 years, no one has consistently parked where I do.  I think the main reason is because I park away from the doors.  Being of able body, I believe the spots close to the building and doors should be available for others and not for young men like me.  As such, I park a bit out of the way by a landscape island in the parking lot.  If nothing else, the extra walking is good exercise.

Recently though someone has been parking in my spot requiring me to park elsewhere and ending an 11-year run.  My spot is so familiar with my car, yes, I’ve had the same car the entire time, that there are indentations in the asphalt where my front wheels rest as a result of them resting there so often.

Now trust me, I understand how trivial this is but this isn’t the first time my spot has been taken from me.  My original spot, also out of the way and next to an island, was taken away when a building was built, again, bringing a non-issue into my life.

While I could respond by parking where others on our staff routinely park, I’ve just decided to attempt to create wheel indentions in another unused spot.  (I could put my car in neutral in my old spot and it would just roll into place, as if it was more at home there than it is in my garage at home.)  Hopefully I’ll have enough time to create those indentions before someone else starts parking there. 

There is one bright spot here in my pettiness.  My old spot faced south so my dashboard was cooked with the sun.  My new spot faces north meaning my back window is now cooked with the sun.  Maybe the front and back of my car will balance out over the next 11 years.

So there you have it, proof that I am more like one Sheldon Cooper than I care to admit.  I now return you to things that are far more important.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Windows 8 - Fourth Pass: Start Screen

One of the key functions of Windows 8 is the Start Screen. This is key; as it has replaced the Start Menu we are all used to. In early releases the Start Screen was called the Metro Interface and not only referred to the Start Screen but the touch interface that has been baked into Windows 8 to make it more touch screen and tablet friendly.

Just before Windows 8 was released to manufacturing Microsoft stopped referring to it as the Metro Interface and Metro based apps and started calling it the Start Screen. Rumor is that this was to appease a European company that was already calling their software products and interface “Metro” but I think it was an attempt to calm fears over there not being anything in Windows 8 called “Start”, be it Start Menu or Start Screen. Brilliant, release a product and then change the name.

The thinking is that you won’t use the Start Screen much if you are on a desktop while you will use it all the time if you are on a tablet or other touch screen enabled device. So far, I believe Microsoft is very wrong on both accounts.

Somehow, Microsoft got it in their heads that most Windows users don’t use the Start Menu very often but have shortcuts to everything on their desktop or pinned to the taskbar. I’d like to know how they figured that out because this user does most of his work via the Start Menu. I prefer to keep a clean desktop, my physical desktop, and my computer desktop are both kept pretty clean as projects and tasks are completed. As such only common tools and programs are on my desktop. I don’t have a shortcut on my desktop to the Control Panel or to my Network Settings as those are easy to get from the Start Menu. I also don’t have shortcuts to my recent documents as I got those from the Start Menu. The Start Menu is also where I would go for apps I don’t use very often, like say Notepad.

With the removal of the Start Menu in Windows 8, I now have to completely change my workflow, and that is something that most business users are going to baulk at. For example, in order for me to get to the Notepad now I have to press the Windows Key, and then start typing “Notepad” on the Start Screen. I then have to select Apps, Settings, or Files and then I can select the shortcut for Notepad, which will take me back to my desktop and open up Notepad. In what world is that faster? Alternatively, I can start cluttering my desktop with shortcuts so I can avoid the Start Screen completely.

For sake of argument, let’s pretend that I decide to embrace the Start Screen and so I start creating shortcuts to apps on the Start Screen itself so I don’t have to search as often and so I don’t have to clutter up my desktop. This can easily be done however, what you end up with are several pages of tiles you have to click or swipe through and most of the tiles take you back to the desktop where you started from to launch the app in the first place. Am I the only one baffled by this?

The only way this makes any sense is if you are using a tablet or touch device and need to find something. Using the Start Menu with your finger is a bit difficult and from that perspective, the Start Screen works. However, on a desktop using the Start Screen when you are already on your desktop is just as difficult. I get the concept of making Windows 8 a single OS for both touch and non-touch enabled devices but I think the way they’ve done it is wrong. A better implementation would be the Start Screen on touch-enabled devices and the good old Start Menu for those on non-touch devices.

Later this year I look forward to getting my hands on a touch enabled tablet or device with a physical keyboard so I can more fully test out the application of the Start Screen and the lack of a Start Menu.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Windows 8 - Third Pass: Windows Update

Another oddity of Windows 8 is how Windows Update works.  Unfortunately it appears that Windows Update is another app that runs one way in the Start Screen (formerly the Metro Interface, I’m trying to adjust my Windows 8 vocab here) and another way in the desktop environment.  It took me a while to figure out that there was a difference here and unlike Internet Explorer, there is no check box to make the Start Screen version run the desktop version.

Originally, I was running Windows Update by going to the Start Screen, typing Windows Update, which opened the search box, then selected Settings, which revealed a shortcut to Windows Update on the left and allowed me to open it.  This opened the Start Screen personalization settings, which has a Windows Update tab.  While providing a slick interface it does not provide the many features or customization options that the old desktop Windows Update app provided.

After a bit of digging I did find that the original desktop app does exist, you just can’t get to it via the Start Screen unless you create a customized shortcut.  In order to get to it you have to go into the desktop environment, open the Control Panel, and then select Windows Update.  I do that by pressing Windows-X while on the desktop, selecting Control Panel from the menu that opens and then select Windows Update.  This provides you the same features and control you are used to from the Windows Update app in Windows 7.

To say that this is the long way around the barn is an understatement.