Tip o’ the Week #238 – quiet hours on Windows Phone 8.1

clip_image002The time of year has rolled around where many of us are travelling – maybe time for a last, late Summer Holiday. Now, if you take your phone on vacation, you’ll know how important it is not to have colleagues phoning you up in the middle of the night to ask where you are.

Even if you’re not on holiday but you’re in a different time zone, it’s uniquely annoying when trying to deal with jet lag, that people phone you at 9am where they are, when that’s 4am in your locale – especially if you forget to turn your phone off. Even if you switch to silent mode, the blast of light from the phone screen in your darkened hotel room could be enough to wake you up…

ToW #209 covered an addition to Windows 8.1 that lets you set a time window for the machine to stop making noises at you.

Well, here’s another reason to upgrade your handset to Windows Phone 8.1 – as well as giving us sassy Cortana for searching and providing us with information we didn’t know we needed, The Blue One also has the capability to not just silence the phone at set times but to allow certain people to manage to breakthrough. Far out.

The options are all pretty self-explanatory; the inner circle settings will suggest contacts you might want to add, though it’s worth steadying the hand on adding too many.

Whenever quiet hours is active, the phone will not ring, and there will be no notifications (i.e. no switching the screen on, showing notification dialogs, or making any sound). Calls go straight to voice mail – just as if the phone is switched off. Text messages arrive silently and if you set it up, the texter gets told you’re busy and won’t be texting back.

If someone on your inner circle calls, then it will ring – ditto texting – and if you have the Alarm app set to wake you up then it too will do its thing, scientifically designed soundscape and all. The quiet hours setting will only show up on your phone if you have Cortana enabled, and is also off by default.

For those readers outside of the US, enabling Cortana either means switching the phone (after upgrading to WP8.1) to being English US language & locale, or else waiting until Cortana is localised and arrives on the phone naturally – it’s being reported that UK, China and India (with variants for Australia and Canada too) will get their own Cortana versions in the first update to Windows Phone 8.1, which should be out in the wild “soon” . Developer versions are now available.

However you get her in your life, Cortana is going to be a killer app for Windows Phone 8.1 and beyond, and quiet hours/inner circles is just one of the key components.

Tip o’ the Week #236 – Lumia Cyan on the way

Nokia took to packaging updates for Windows Phone and clip_image002referring to them by a code name – Lumia “Black” being the last biggie for Windows Phone 8. The packages are a combination of operating system upgrades (that will be made available to all handset manufacturers) along with Nokia-specific upgrades, which may improve the way their handsets function, either in general or somtimes specific to the new OS version.

The much-awaited upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 is now rolling out for Nokia users, combined with an array of tweaks, and is going under the name of Lumia Cyan.

clip_image003Cyan isn’t a colour that the Man on the Clapham Omnibus is likely to have knowingly encountered, but Speccy geeks of all ages may have come across it either on their computer or as part of a CMYK printing process. Mixing colours to create other shades is as old as cave painting, but in the modern world there are essentially two processes – adding colours together in light (assuming you start in darkness), you could project blue, green and red in varying combinations to make all colours (where R+G+B is white), and in printing or dyeing colours and where the starting point is white, then the process of mixing a different set of primary colours – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – has the effect of absorbing light to leave the desired colour behind.

Anyway, for more information on the mondo-update that’s jazzing up the Lumia WP8 range, see  Nokia’s Lumia Cyan website for more detail. The site also lets you check the global availability of Cyan (see here for Europe, then click on the main body of the page and press the END key to jump to the bottom if you’re a UK user), since it is rolling out by country, by handset model and by mobile carrier.

If your country/handset/carrier combo shows up as “Under Testing”, hold tight – it may take a few weeks to complete the process and make the update available for everyone. Check for updates by going into the phone settings | system | phone update.

UK users: you may need to wait for the first update to WP8.1 in order for Cortana to show up, unless you want to set your phone to be a US region handset. Or install the GDR1 preview by using the Preview for Developers program.

Tip o’ the Week #235 – Present on Lync

clip_image002Tip o’ the Week #111 covered how to present within a Lync meeting. Given that it was 2+ years ago and many things have changed in that time, not least the version of Lync many of us use, here’s a chance to revisit the topic.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that PowerPoint is the most-shared application via Lync – the dreaded words, “Let me Share My Desktop”, followed by a scene (often at massive screen resolution) of the presenter’s own active Lync session, PowerPoint in a window, Outlook, etc. On a slow network connection, you might also have the joy of delayed screen refresh as the presenter moves their windows around, resizes them etc.

Presenting (on Lync, or anywhere, really) is like parking – few people would admit they aren’t very good at it, but anyone who is accomplished at it will witheringly spot a less than polished performance.

clip_image004Here’s a screenshot from a recent Lync call – the presenter (whose anonymity has been maintained by blanking out both the content and some other details) shared out the screen to show a dense slide full of charts and small text annotations.

If you do need to share your desktop in a Lync meeting (you’re doing a demo, for example, and … er… that’s about it) then you should hide the “Currently presenting…” toolbar at the top of the screen so it doesn’t distract or obliterate part of the content  you are trying to show. Just click the push pin on the right side of the bar clip_image005to hide it.

In the screenshot above, the blanked-out grey square is the content which was being presented – at first glance, it doesn’t look like too much of the screen real estate is wasted, does it? In fact, pixel count measurement shows the active slide was taking up only a little more than 60% of the overall screen area – meaning the presenter was showing off 40% of wasted space just because they didn’t share the content properly. Imagine an MYR slide on only 60% of the screen…

If you have to present on Lync by sharing your desktop (e.g. you’ve been dropped in it at late notice), please, at least, start the PowerPoint presentation in full screen – fish about with your mouse, and click on the little presenter icon in the bottom toolbar on the PowerPoint app, like most amateurs and Mac users do. Or quickly press clip_image006F5 like-a-PC-Pro to start a presentation from the beginning, or press SHIFT-F5 to present from the currently selected slide in all its animated, full-screen glory.

The downside is you won’t be able to read the comments coming in on the Lync conversation unless you’re using multi-monitor and can share the primary desktop whilst having the Lync window itself parked on your second screen.

clip_image008What’s generally best, of course, but needs a little preparation (and why would anyone want to prepare in advance of a presentation? Answers on a postcard, please), is to upload your slides to the Lync meeting and allow yourself to see your content in a window alongside all the comments coming from the attendees.

All it takes is to drift a couple of icons to the right of the “Duh, Present My Desktop” icon, and instead select PowerPoint. The next step will ask you for the location of the presentation file you want to show – if in any doubt, just clip_image010jump back to PowerPoint, open the file you’d otherwise be presenting, then go to the File menu and look for the “Open File Location” link at the bottom right. Right-click on it to Copy path – which will put the location (but not the filename itself) into your clipboard, ready for pasting into the Lync dialog, so you can then upload your slides straight into the meeting.

Do it this way – and nag every colleague who lazily just shares their desktop – and you’ll have a better Lync experience as a presenter, and you’ll present a better experience to the attendees. Unless you’re basically a rubbish presenter, that is.

Tip o’ the Week #233 – When I’m moving windows

clip_image002As the nights are already drawing in, UK domestic interest in international football has long waned to background tolerance (apart from tabloid cannibal fever), massive new TV sales and beer supply forecasts drop to any normal summer level, we must amuse ourselves in other pursuits. Maybe, perusing old Tips o’ the Week could be one of them?

ATS Andrew Warriner commented in email, that he sees lots of people struggling to move windows around when projecting during meetings (dragging between the two screens being offered in an extended display). Well, it’s a topic ToW has covered in part before, but it’s always good for a refresher.

If you only have one screen in front of you, try pressing WindowsKey + LEFT or RIGHT arrow to snap your current window to the left or right side of the screen (or unsnap it back to normal). WindowsKey + UP or DOWN will maximise, restore or minimise the current clip_image002window.

When you’re working on multiple screens (the default when you plug in a 2nd monitor or projector), just press WindowsKey + SHIFT + LEFT or RIGHT to switch the current window between your PC screen and the projected one.

Displaying an Excel spreadsheet in a window that you’d like to show off? Try Wnd+SHIFT+LEFT immediately followed by Wnd+UP, and you’ll not only have flicked the window to the big screen, you’ll have maximised it too, all in a matter of half a second. A Productivity Superhero you shall become, hmmm.

Andrew also suggested that you might want to switch off the taskbar showing in the 2nd screen, by right-clicking on the Taskbar, choosing Properties and switching off the “Show taskbar on all displays” check box.

More shortcut fun can be found here, and here.

Tip o’ the Week #232 – Xbox, Watch TV. XBOX! WATCH TEE VEE!


When the Xbox One released last year, the Kinect sensor promised a great new experience in watching live TV through the console. Sadly for users outside of North America, the dream was largely unfulfilled at launch, as the console supported only a limited set of TV services and devices in the home.

Just before some competitive rolling-around-in-agony from the world’s best tattoo models that took place in South America, UK users were able to switch on and bark orders to their telly. Practice before you demo to amazed friends and neighbours, learn what you can say and it might be worth running the Kinect audio tuner again just to be sure.

The setup will depend on how your existing TV connection works – if  you currently watch through an aerial straight into the TV, then you’re unable to watch live TV as the Xbox can’t (yet?) tune the Freeview signal. You can still use other apps to watch catchup TV and the like.

If you consume your TV through an external box like a Freeview+, cable or satellite tuner, then you may be more in luck. The gist is to route the HDMI out from your tuner into the Xbox, and then HDMI out from the Xbox goes into the TV set. Downsides are that you need the Xbox to be on all the time to watch TV, but on the plus side, the Xbox can switch on your other devices when you say “Xbox On” – so it can power up your tuner and your TV, even an A/V clip_image003receiver if you have one.

You can even set it up to switch everything else off when you say “Xbox Off” – though be careful with either of these, in case it happens unexpectedly.

If you’re a little more surround-sound oriented, the layout is a little more complex – probably something like tuner->Xbox->Receiver->TV.

This mode works well now (even supporting 50Hz playback, so you shouldn’t see the flicker that plagued earlier attempts to do the pass-through), though if you’re watching a surround-sound source (like an HD channel with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound), then the surround sound isn’t passed through the Xbox to the receiver. Drat.


There is a nice step-by-step guide on how to set up the system, here.

In order to use the TV through Xbox, there are a couple of gadgets you might want to look for.

There’s a lovely Xbox One Media Remote, which is a tad more user-friendly than using an Xbox One controller to navigate the menus etc. The remote lights up automatically when you pick it up, and it provides access to the main navigation and media control functions that you might want to use, whether watching live TV or using any other media-playback app.

It uses Infrared to send commands to the Xbox, though, so if you use an IR blaster to feed devices inside a cabinet or a cupboard, you’ll need to place the IR sender just to the right of the eject button on the console (maybe even slightly overlapping the button).

If losing surround-sound from your A/V receiver bothers you, then a solution might be to split the HDMI output from your tuner box, and have one output going into the Amp directly (the way you probably have it configured already) and one route going via Xbox -> Amp so you can at least amaze your friends with the clip_image005ability to talk to the TV to get it to change channel and do other tricks.

You can say “Xbox Snap” and “Unsnap”, to show other apps to the side of the TV signal, or while watching the World Cup recently, you could have used the cool Brazil Now app to show player stats and the like in the snapped area to the side of the main screen. Statto lives!