iCloud shared streams not shown after upgrade to Photos

The Mac OS X 10.10.3 includes the new iPhoto replacement called Photos. My upgrade experience was not very positive: I could no longer connect to the various albums I shared on iCloud. The albums were still there, they were showing up on other devices, but in Photos they were not visible. The Shared section of Photos showed the message “Connecting to library… Retrieving latest photo sharing activity” but after that, nothing happened.

After trying various things, this is the procedure that fixed it for me:

  • Close Photos
  • Repair disk permissions via Disk Utility
  • Restart
  • Don’t start Photos, but go to System Preferences, iCloud, Photos and disable iCloud Photo Sharing
  • Enable it again
  • Start Photos. After a while, the activity stream will update and the shared photos will start coming in.

 

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Function keys on a Microsoft Surface Type Cover

surface_type_coverI knew you have to press the Fn key on the Type Cover of a Surface to get to the function keys on the keyboard. But what I did not know:

  • If you want to “lock” the top row of keys to their corresponding function key: press Fn + Caps Lock. To unlock, press the same keyboard combination again.
  • Pressing Fn + Spacebar corresponds to the Print Screen button on a regular keyboard. Now that is much more convenient than pressing the Home – Volume down on the device…

More info and tips on this link.

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Google Apps – the new best friend of an Office 365 fan?

This is probably not the first report of the “Battle of the Giants” and it will certainly not be the last. But imagine you work for an IT company for 6 years, evangelizing the Microsoft productivity tools (Office, Lync, SharePoint and later Office 365), and then suddenly you find yourself in an environment that is “breathing” Google Apps. I can honestly say that I approached it with an open mind, determined to make the best of it.  I want to make Google Apps my new best friend. But I am failing desperately. Let me tell you why.

The e-mail experience

I have nothing negative to say about the technical part of e-mail. You have lots of storage, a good spam filter (Postini), and you can send huge attachments. We had an outage (as far as I noticed) of about 45 minutes in the last two years. But it is the user experience that is driving me crazy.

The “preferred way” to work through your e-mail is the web interface, yes, the same one from Gmail. And although this might be satisfactory for my private e-mails (10 mails a day), it is failing for me to manage my flow of professional e-mail. You can label mails, star mails and create a “folder-like” structure, but if you are really using your inbox as a productivity tool (manage e-mail, manage multiple calendars, work with tasks..), the web interface is not sufficient. And I want my mail offline. Not just the last 30 days, the entire thing. Try working on the Thalys WiFi with your Gmail. “Something when wrong”, yeah right.

Indeed, I need Outlook. I need my “Send to OneNote”, “Reply with meeting”, “Convert to task”, I want my Lync presence indicator for the sender of the e-mail, I want the LinkedIn Social connector to see who is writing me. Oh yes, you can the Google Sync client and use Outlook. If you manage to get it installed and to keep it working, it “kind of” lets you use Outlook with your Google mail. Kind of. Scheduling meetings is a pain, managing multiple calendars is difficult.

I must say that I see a lot of people who like the web interface. I see that most of them are using the search function to find the e-mail that they are looking for, and that is indeed a very powerful function. But I like to organise my mails in an hierarchy, and that is simply not possible.

The file storage experience

Google Drive is definitely the best part of Google Apps. It is very much like DropBox, it has a good offline sync client for multiple platforms. You can easily add files to it via the web (don’t forget to turn of the automatic conversion of files or all your Word files are ending up as Google docs), and I use my local Google Drive folder as “My Documents” so I have an automatic online backup of everything. Microsoft understood that and with the recent Onedrive offering, they are catching up.

As long as you are on yourself, it is great. But then you start sharing stuff.

You can easily share a single document with other users. They’ll get an e-mail with a link. And another one. And another one. If you don’t start organising that yourself, you will end up with a folder “shared with you” with a couple of hundred documents. No context. Just documents.

Context is important. It’s not just the user who shared the individual document. If you are using a file share, the folder and the subfolder you are in, tell you something about the document. If you are on a SharePoint project site, you have the context of the information that is shared with you.

SharePoint. There. I have said it. 

Google Apps has no alternative to SharePoint. Not even close. Working together online is a tricky combination of shared Google Drive documents, lots and lots of e-mails and an occasional Google Hangout. SharePoint is a collaboration ecosystem. And yes, the “working together in the same document” is nicer in Google Apps, but we rarely use it. Google Sites is nice for publishing the results of your football team.

The Productivity Apps

I can be brief about that. The Google Docs, Sheets… are nice for quickly viewing a document online. Sheets is nice for making a simple list. In that sense, they are very similar to the “Office Online” versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For the “serious work”, we still use the Microsoft Office tools. We could not do without them.

Real time communication

Google Hangout is a good start, but again, it is not an enterprise productivity tool. It lacks a rich client like Lync (there is a Chrome plugin that keeps your Chrome running in the background and that is misbehaving quite often). Call quality is rather good, but very often there are delays of several seconds in the voice. Screen sharing is possible, but the quality is not very good. We end up using Skype if we are more than two people, because the quality is better.

There is also some strange mechanism that I did not figure out yet. People outside my company (friends, family) are popping up in my Hangout contact list. Probably has something to do with Google+ connections, but I did not figure out yet what is causing this. Weird.

And what is really bothering, is that using it with the outside world is not very easy. People need to have a Google account, you can not just set up a public meeting room. And certainly not schedule it in your calendar. So again, we end up using WebEx for outside meetings.

I think you get the point

Google Apps is not my new best friend yet. But I have not given up on him. I sincerely hope that you can use it better than I do. That you can share your comments and tips on how I can improve the way I handle it. Because there is still a very long way to go for me.

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OneDrive for Business

Last week, Microsoft announced the availability of OneDrive for Business. It is actually the “professional” version of SkyDrive (now also called OneDrive) that was already available in the different Office 365 subscriptions.

OneDrive

From April 1 on, OneDrive for Business will also available as a stand-alone service. An ideal way for the individual professional to have reliable and accessible storage in the cloud.

There are some small improvements to the UI that make really a big difference if you are using your OneDrive in the browser:

  • Search function now supports “type-ahead”
  • You can access your OneDrive directly via http://<your tenant>.onedrive.com

And as a Mac user, you will be happy to know that an iOS client is already available, and that an OS X sync client will be available later this year, so that we can finally get rid of DropBox 🙂

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Solving Nokia Lumia 920 battery problems

Symptoms: 

  • Your phone occasionally gets very hot, just below the camera
  • The battery drains with about 20% an hour, so your phone is dead in about 4 hours

Solutions:
None for the moment. I sent my phone back for repair, no solution. The only consolation: you are not alone: see Nokia Support Discussions

Workaround:
I “solved” this by limiting the highest connection speed for the Mobile network to 2G. I can easily use my phone with one battery charge for two days now, with wifi, bluetooth and location services enabled. OK, surfing is a bit slower.

lumia_tn

I sincerely hope that the WP8 “Amber” update is going to solve the issue.

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