Tip o’ the Week 300 – Xbox Streaming to PC

So,ToW reaches its 300th weekly missive. In the first weeks and months following the inaugural ToW, Avatar was in the cinema, the Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai, the Deepwater Horizon was busily belching oil into the Gulf and that unpronounceable volcano was disrupting air traffic all over Europe. How Time flies.

If you have an Xbox One and at least one Windows 10 PC, here’s a tip that seasoned gamers will doubtless be aware of, but many more casual users may not. Did you know you can stream whatever is happening on the Xbox, to your Windows 10 PC?

With an Xbox controller plugged in to your PC and the Xbox app open, you can play the game that’s running on the console, with only the video and audio streamed across your home network to the Windows 10 machine. If you have the Xbox in the living room but don’t use it for watching TV, this opens up the scenario that the latest Halo/CoD/Forza campaign could be running on the box and being sent to a laptop in one room, while the big screen in the lounge is tuned to brain-park guff like Eastenders/Corrie/Strictly etc.

Start the Xbox app on your Windows 10 PC and look for the Console icon (left), and you’ll be able to see consoles on your network. After you’ve registered the one you wish to control, youcan remotely switch it on in future too, assuming it’s reachable on the network and configured so.

After firing the console up and/or connecting to it, you’ll be able to do a number of things, like use your PC as a media remote or mimic the Xbox controller with your mouse/touch, but given the scenario we’re interested in, let’s try testing the network for size.

If you run the Test streaming option, the bandwidth between the console and your active machine will be measured, and you’ll get a quick assessment of what quality level you can support – “Very high” is probably only suitable if you’re on a wired connection, and at one stage was only available through tweaking – though it’s now visible to all. The Very high setting sends 1080p video at a decent frame rate, so apart from the odd network judder that might crop up, it’s essentially indistinguishable from using the console directly. Just click Streamto get going.

Another use is that if you have the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner, you could stream live TV to a PC anywhere within range – so it’s possible to be watching one channel on the computer while the TV is currently in use, or you could watch TV in another room without needing the lounge screen to be on.

Once the streaming has started, if you move your mouse or finger to the top of the Xbox app window to display the in-app menu, you can change the quality of the experience, by clicking on the icon on the top right. The multi-line icon to the left of that will show you real-time streaming data in the bottom left of the screen, so you can monitor the performance of the network and make sure you’ve got the right level of quality.

If you’ve never streamed your Xbox to your PC, then give it a try this weekend and you may find a neat way of being allowed to use your console more often…

Tip o’ the Week 301 – Juggling Time Zones

clip_image002This weekend sees most of Europe moving from summer time (or Daylight Saving Time), and promises to cause confusion in some systems until everything settles down, and other parts of the world, who also use DST, have switched to winter time (in fact, most of the world doesn’t, though western Europe and most of North America does). Most of the US leaves summer time/DST on 1st November – to see more details of time zones and the dates when DST will come into effect, see here.

Most connected systems these days can figure out when the times are right to switch, but in practice, bugs can creep in and will often only get discovered when the time zone change actually takes place. One year, every Blackberry user was turning up to meetings an hour early, as the DST switch happened a week earlier than the devices expected. Since it took longer than a week to address the software issue, the problem had gone away by the time the bug was fixed.

If you’re dealing with people in other time zones, there are more tools than ever to keep you abreast of the changes – some of this has been covered before on previous ToWs (280, 244, 120, 26…) but here’s a refresher.

clip_image004Outlook – whenever an appointment is created, its date and time are recorded as an offset from UTC, and the time zone it’s due to take place in is also noted. If you’re creating meetings or appointments which are in a different time zone, like travel times, then it may be worth clip_image006telling Outlook by clicking the Time Zone icon in the ribbon, and then selecting the appropriate TZ – especially useful if you’re crossing between time zones and don’t want to run the risk of horological befuddlement.

clip_image008If you’re booking a load of appointments in another time zone – eg. you’re working in another country for a few days and creating appointments with people in that locale – then it’s even worth switching the TZ of your PC whilst you do the diary-work, to save a lot of clicking around in setting the appropriate time zone specific to each meeting.

The best way to do this would be to show your second time zone in the Outlook calendar – in the main Outlook window, go to File | Options | Calendar and select the second one to show; when you’re ready to switch between your local TZ and the remote one, just click the Swap Time Zones button to switch the PC (and Outlook) between the different zones.

Windows 10 – As featured in ToW 280 (though it was then in preview), there’s a nice new Alarms & Clock universal Windows 10 app, that shows a map of the world with your choice of locations, and the moving daylight line so you can see what’s happening around the globe. A nice alternative to that exec boardroom display nonsense, that you might expect to see gracing the wall of a Sugar (rabbit…) or a Trump (China…?).


Now all you need to do is deal with effects of travelling through the time zones yourself



app o’ the week


VLC for Windows Store – freeclip_image011

If you’re wondering how to play back DVD discs on Windows 10 (since the native playback inherent with Windows Media Center has gone the way of the dodo, much like that niche but much-loved feature), or you have some videos in unsupported formats, such as the one used by Media Center to record off the telly, then you might want to try VLC.


There are a few “experimental” features, meaning the app can be a touch flaky, and it much prefers playback of local media to networked stuff (depending on the format). But, it’s the most widely-used open source cross-platform playback app, it’s been refreshed with a Windows 10 UI and is free. So what’s the catch?

Tip o’ the Week #298 – Searching and finding

clip_image002Who keeps an up-to-date browser favourites list these days? Most people seem to find web sites by Binging/Googling (other search engines are available(!), though some of the pioneers are no longer around) for the site they know about, rather than in trying to keep a link that might change. This relates to the filing vs. piling analogy of document and email retention, which has been covered before (here).

[The precis is that some people find or recall things by where they are, like in a folder specific to that customer or project, whereas others might have a massive pile of unsorted stuff, but they can recover items within it by remembering key words or attributes, and searching the contents]

You’d think that by now, we’d all be experts at plugging queries into search engines, maybe even doing so before posting stupid stuff on Facebook. Hint – if anything looks dodgy or unbelievable, try searching snopes.com. Please.

Anyway, here are some tips for getting more accurate searches, in a few different places…


Did you know you can direct specific clip_image004search criteria through Outlook’s Search pane? Click on the search box at the top of a folder and you will see the Search menu appear (or the ribbon will automatically show you the Search pane, depending on how you’ve got views set up). If you click on a criterion (like From), then Outlook will build the query for you in the search box, so you can see what it’s doing.

It’s possible to jump a little though – instead of clicking From then editing, you could just type from: Paul to search for all mail sent by anyone with Paul in their name, or try using a combo of other attributes (there are many – see more here), (eg. to: Paul sent: last week). Lots more example tips here.


For many users, Yammer is a great conversational and collaboration tool, clip_image006but even if you don’t use it frequently to post content, it can be a brilliant way of searching for answers to frequently asked questions, that you might not get via email if you aren’t on the right DL.

Thing is, Yammer’s search tends to be a bit overly inclusive – if you enter several terms then you might have one or two more results than you’d expect.

clip_image008Adding quotes around phrases (“surface 4” “release date”) helps a bit, but it will still search for any occurrence of either phrase, but by adding a + sign to each word or phrase changes the search from clip_image010an OR to an AND (ie show results with all rather than any of the phrases).


If you’re looking to trim the results you get from a web search – either carried out from the Bing homepage, or from the address bar in your browser (assuming Bing is the default search engine) – there are a few operators that it’s worth remembering. Adding site:<url> to your query means you’ll only get stuff from there, so it may be quicker to use Bing to search a given site than to go to that site itself and search from within.

Eg. Try this querysite:engadget.com Lumia –iphone, will show results from the Engadget site regarding Lumia phones, that don’t mention iPhones: not too many results there. Try that same query as a web search rather than news (here), and you’ll notice a few pages in other languages. You could try filtering more by language (here). You can also stack site: clauses with an OR (must be capitals) operator, so you could say “Jenson Button” (site:bbc.co.uk OR site:pistonheads.com).

If you’re after particular types of content, you might want to throw the filetype: operator in, eg Azure filetype:pptx site:microsot.com. For more details on the kinds of operators Bing supports, see here.

Google users can find some search tips here, too.

Tip o’ the Week #297 – Personalisation in Windows 10


There are some pretty obvious updates and improvements when you move from Windows 8.x to 10 – the most celebrated being the Start menu changes, and the ability to run metro modern Store apps in a window. Running apps in overlapping windows, which can be moved, resized, minimized etc – who’d have imagined that?

Anyway, there are some neat personalisation tweaks that might not be so immediately visible, but can add a bit of a pleasing touch to your Windows experience…

clip_image004The best way to get to the Settings menu is probably to just press the Start button and choose Settings from there, though you can also get it from the clip_image006Action Center, shown by swiping from the right of the screen (in Windows 8 charms-stylee), by clicking the Action Center/Notifications icon on your task bar, or pressing WindowsKey+A.

Or you can press WindowsKey+i to open Settings directly.

clip_image008Once you’re in Settings, you’ll see a nice big Personalisation menu (well it’ll say that if you’re using English (UK) as your default language – nice bit of localisation there, Windows team …), which is typical of the additional thought & polish given to the Settings menu when compared to Windows 8.x, whose PC Settings screen often felt like a thin shim over the old Control Panel (though that is still there – just look under Themes and you’ll quickly be taken back in time to Windows XP).

clip_image010The Personalisation section includes the predictable background, lockscreen, colour etc options. As well as pretty but samey and potentially slightly boring corporate-provided background images, you could select a series of your own photo albums to show background or lock screen from your OneDrive camera roll, or other locations. Install the Bing Desktop app and you’ll be able to see the beautiful daily images from Bing as your wallpaper.

clip_image012You can get the machine to set colours based on what kind of background is being shown, which is a surprisingly neat touch.

clip_image014And under lock screen settings, you can change the apps which display content on the screen, much like the options clip_image016on Windows Phone where you can pin information from apps to the lock screen.

As above, you’ll see the Settings option on the left side of the start menu, assuming you haven’t turned it off. You can show other shortcuts in the same location by going to Settings | Start | Choose which folders… (though having File Explorer in the list gives you a sub-menu showing pinned items anyway).clip_image018

clip_image020If you want to turn back time, you could even allow the Start menu to go back to being full screen… look under Settings | Start

Tip o’ the Week #296 – Win10 Xbox App: snap snap, grin grin

There are a variety of apps out there for grabbing your PC screen in video format, using for making tutorials, saving gaming footage or other activities. There are many free screen capture apps clip_image002(like Microsoft’s Expression encoder, which is still available though no longer being developed) that seem to be either pretty complex (if feature rich), or else they add all kinds of undesirable gunk to your PC at time of installation (does anyone really want the Ask Toolbar?), they force a length limit or watermark on your resulting video, etc. There are other, commercial, products (eg Camtasia) which are really good, though again can be feature-rich and complex.

What if you want to do a simple screen recording to help make a point, and you don’t want to spend ages learning how to use a Swiss Army Knife of a tool, or installing garbage/spyware on your PC, and can’t justify spending a bunch of cash for a software package you’ll use once or twice?

Well, if you’ve got Windows 10, you may be pleased to know there’s an app that comes with the OS that can be used to do exactly this – the Xbox App. You can use it to take screen snaps (though with desktop OneNote installed, you can quickly grab an area of the screen to the clipboard by pressing SHIFT+WindowsKey +S), or you can save video footage of a target application window.

Since the functionality comes with the Xbox app, it’s safe to assume that it’s really intended to save game footage to your machine, but since it works with any windowed app too, then consider it a bonus regardless of whether you’re into gaming or not. Note that it only records one window, so if you’re looking to grab the whole desktop then you’re better off looking at the top of this tip, for Expression, Camtasia or others.


Capturing a window


Launch the Xbox app by clicking on the icon on your Start menu, or press Start and just type Xbox…

clip_image006Next, start the app you wish to record,   then press WindowsKey+G, which will open the Game Bar.

The Xbox app will ask to confirm that the target app you’re trying to record is a game – it doesn’t matter whether the app is or isn’t a game, so clip_image008just pretend that your target app is a game and launch the Game Bar.

clip_image010With the Game Bar open, you can either take a screenshot with the Camera icon, or begin recording video with the red circle Record icon. During recording, a small red indicator appears at the top of the currently selected window to confirm that recording is taking place, and showing the duration of the current recording. Clicking it will stop the recording, and pressing WindowsKey+G again will show the Game Bar again.

clip_image012Even easier, If you have the Xbox app running and the game bar is open, you can flick around to your target app just start recording the current application by pressing ALT+WindowsKey+R or grab a screenshot by pressing ALT+WindowsKey+PrtScrn.

Once your recording is complete, you can find it along with any screenshots with File Explorer under ThisPC\Videos\Captures. You can also find any of your recording in the Xbox app under Game DVR. That’s all there is to it.