Linking Microsoft Products to Consumer Accounts

I had initially envisioned Microsoft’s OneNote as a valuable product that had a place in the iOS productivity suite for the enterprise until I put it to the test. Functionally, OneNote did as I would expect. I was able to take notes and save them to our test Office365 site. It was Microsoft’s decision to link it to a Microsoft consumer account such as Hotmail, or Outlook.com that rendered it useless for the enterprise. In the enterprise the fewer accounts that represent a user the better. My initial thinking was that this was a marketing strategy to cripple the use of OneNote on iOS and make Microsoft’s own hardware more appealing.

After reading comments from Frank Shaw, Microsoft VP of Communications, about the Surface, I think I have a better understanding of what Microsoft is trying to do. Here’s the quote:

We saw too many people carrying two devices around (one for work and one for play) and dealing with the excess cost, weight and complexity…That’s what Surface is.

Sadly, Frank missed the point about why people carry two devices. It isn’t that iOS or Android users can’t run productivity software and be productive. They can. The problem is that enterprise policies force the separation.

When the enterprise changes their policies to support BYOD or Corporate Owned Personal Equipment (COPE), the user will need only one tablet, be it an iPad, Android Tablet or a Surface. Just last week I was able to open a Word form sent to me via e-mail to my employer owned iPad, convert it to a PDF, sign it and send it back to my IT support for processing.

I was also able to download a Word document, to a rich client iOS app, from SharePoint prepared earlier on my desktop workstation. I was able to complete the editing (including Track Changes and Comments), and post the revision back to the SharePoint site where the version was updated.

Requiring a Microsoft consumer account to to use OneNote isn’t going to solve the problem of people carrying multiple devices. Only enterprise policy changes will do that. From an enterprise perspective, it will only drive IT support staff to find alternatives to Microsoft products.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Understanding Apple’s Camera Roll, Photo Stream and Albums

Co-authored by Jeanette Delaplane

I updated my iPad and iPhone to iOS7 and need to do some cleanup of my photos so I can get a good backup. After examining my Camera Rolls (iPhone and iPad) and My Photo Stream I noticed there was a mismatch.

Jeanette and I and spent the morning trying to understand how these worked together. Here’s my “Cliffnotes” on what we concluded.

First of all, as my wife so emphatically points out now is that the Albums really aren’t that at all. If you create an album and copy a photo from you Camera Roll to the Album it is really just creating a pointer and the Album is really functioning as a filter. If you attempt to delete the file from either the Camera Roll or the “Album” it will be deleted in both places. Albums can’t be used to keep subsets of photos and delete them from the Camera Roll. This also holds true for Shared Streams…these aren’t the same as the My Photo Stream.

If you create a Shared Stream and copy a file from the Camera Roll to the shared stream and try to delete it from the Camera Roll it will be deleted in both the Camera Roll and the Shared Stream. If you try to delete it from the Shared Stream it will not be deleted from the Camera Roll.

When a picture is taken with the Apple Camera app the photo is saved to both the Camera Roll and the My Photo Stream when the Photo Stream option is turned on and you are using Wi-Fi. It is possible for My Photo Stream to temporarily be out of sync when the photo is taken and no Wi-Fi is available. Once Wi-Fi is available again, My Photo Stream with sync again.

However, if one device has the Photo Stream turned on and another does not it is possible for a number of photos (those older than 30 days) to be saved to the Camera Roll and not the Photo Stream. For example, if several photos are taken on an iPhone over a period greater than 30 days then the Photo Stream is turned on, only the photos taken in the last 30 days will be synchronized to the Photo Stream. There is also a limit of 1000 photos per Stream.

To copy the older photo to another iPhone, iPad or Mac, you need to create another Shared Stream and copy the files from the Camera Roll to the Shared Stream. At the destination iPad the photos in the Photo Stream or Shared Stream can be copied from from the Shared Stream to the Camera Roll. After they have been copied they can be deleted from the Shared Stream.

IMPORTANT: If the files are deleted from the Shared Stream they will remain on the original iPhone or iPad Camera Roll.

I’ll make the statement below because it actually happened once. With all other tests it didn’t happen. The photos in the Shared Stream were not delete.

{However, if they are deleted from the original iPhone or iPad’s Camera Roll they will also be deleted from the Shared Stream.}

Any of the streams, My Photo Stream or any Shared Streams can be accessed from another iOS or OSX device. This happens automatically for the devices using the same Apple ID and for other people if you share the Shared Streams. A file can be copied to the Camera Roll of an iPhone or iPad.

All Photo Stream (My Photo Stream and Shared Streams) photos appear in the iCloud “folder” in iPhoto on a Mac. The photos can then be imported to the iPhoto catalog.

If you copy anything from a Photo Stream to an album and delete it from the Photo Stream it will remain in the album. It is important to note that it will also appear in the Camera Roll because an album is really just a filter for the Camera Roll. This is evident by the Camera Roll being grayed out when copying from the Photo Stream or Shared Stream to an album. The album is really a smart folder for the Camera Roll, or just a reference from the Camera Roll. The actual file only exists in the Camera Roll and only the Camera Roll.

This is easily demonstrated by editing a photo that appears in both the Camera Roll and an album. The changes from Camera Roll will automatically appear in what you see in the Album.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

iWork Update


In August I wrote a post “Office Automation for iOS”. In that post I noted that Microsoft’s Office didn’t exist for an iPad and Apple’s Pages didn’t support the most current version of the Office document format (.pptx, .xlsx, and .docx). This left us in search of an office automation tool.

The big news for today’s Apple keynote was the update to iPad. There was another announcement that has bigger implications for the enterprise, the iWork update! Why is that big news for the enterprise? Two reasons:

1. iWork (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) is now FREE. For an enterprise that saves thousands of dollars. If you are deploying a couple hundred iPads and intended to deploy Pages, Numbers and Keynote it would have cost $30 per iPad. That turns out to be a savings of $6000 for a 200 iPad deployment. Yet without the next point it wouldn’t be really big news.

2. Pages now supports the .docx format! I’ve verified this. Presumably Numbers and Keynote will support the latest Office format as well.

As I explained in my post in August, when you combine this with SharePlus (a SharePoint client for iOS) and SharePoint, you now have a seamless experience for office automation

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Portable Recording Studio

For the past couple of years or so I have been playing a Native American flute.  Earlier this year my wife pointed out that she preferred the sound of a clarinet to  the flute. I had no objection to learning to play the clarinet but didn’t own one. During a break at work I mentioned this to a co-worker. She told me that she still had the clarinet she had played in high school. She hadn’t played it in years but didn’t have the heart to just donate it to Goodwill. She wanted to give it to someone who she knew would put it to good use and offered to give it to me. I eagerly accepted her offer, took the clarinet to a local music shop and had it refurbished. I took a few lessons and have been playing it now for about six months. 

During this past six months I’ve worked out a couple of original tunes and thought it would be fun to record them…this is where the portable studio comes in. I play in our basement so the sound doesn’t carry too much and disturb the rest of the family. I didn’t particularly want to drag my MacBook down to the basement every time I wanted to record something. I thought recording on my iPad using GarageBand would be ideal. All I needed was a way to connect a mic suitable for recording the clarinet to the iPad. There are mic solutions such as the iRig mic to connect a mic to an iPad; however, they aren’t really suitable for recording a woodwind instrument. What I needed was an XLR Condenser mic. These are the kind with the larger metal three pronged connectors. The cable for an XLR condenser mic will not fit an iPad without some type of adapter. 

I had a cable that plugged into an XLR mic I had laying around (I have no idea where it came from) and had what appeared to be the correct (1/8in) connector for the line-in on my MacBook and iPad. I tried it. The sound was so quiet it was useless…more research.

A condenser mic, I learned, needs a pre-amp and “phantom power”. Apparently the way these mics work requires a little bit of power to be fed to the mic. My research turned up a handy little device, the Tascam iXZ Mic & Guitar Interface. It appeared to meet the requirements, got good reviews and only cost about $35.00. Bingo. My little portable studio was coming together; one XLR condenser mic, an XLR to XLR cable and the Tascam iXZ. I gave it a try on my iPad. Some of the notes sounded great, others didn’t…more research.

After reading about how to mic a clarinet I learned that you don’t put the mic at the bell. Most of the sound comes out of the holes along the upper and lower joints…the side of the clarinet where you place your fingers. It also needed to be about two feet away in order to get the whole tone range. Twenty-five dollars later I had an inexpensive tripod mic boom I could position exactly where I needed it. I tried again. Success! I got a great recording onto my iPad.

GarageBand on the iPad is great for recording and doing a little bit of editing but to really do it justice I needed to move the project file to GarageBand on my MacBook….iCloud to the rescue. GarageBand for the iPad supports iCloud. I turned that option on and voila, the project inherited the little cloud icon. However, back at my MacBook I couldn’t find the file. All the help at the Apple site indicated I should use iTunes. I try not to connect my iPad via a cable and iTunes so I wanted to find an alternative…more research.

I learned that iCloud uses a Mobile Documents folder in the ~/Library folder on a Mac to sync documents (LINK). Sure enough, after exporting (iTunes -> GarageBand) from the iPad with the project enable for iCloud (LINK), I found the file. When I opened the file in GarageBand on my MacBook it made a copy instead of working with the file I had exported. I edited project and wanted to add more tracks. I thought I would be smart and simply copy the version of the file I had been working with on my MacBook to the Mobile Documents folder. After copying the file, I looked to see if it would appear on my iPad…it did! Yea. When I attempted to open it I got a message indicating it was either corrupt or wasn’t a GarageBand file…Boo! More research.

It turns out that the project files for GarageBand on OSX and iOS are different because they have different capabilities. My researched show that there is a way to move the GarageBand file from the Mac to the iPad. It involves editing the project file and the .plist file (LINK). This worked, Yea!

Now I can record tracks on my iPad, move the project to my MacBook, edit the project, move it back to the iPad to record more tracks, etc. With all that done I realized that it would probably be much easier to add voice tracks directly from my Mac. I plugged the iXZ cable into the line-in port and tried to record in GarageBand…no luck…more research.

It turns out that the headphone jack on a Mac is setup the same way they are on an iPad or iPod. They can take a headset with a mic (LINK). I plugged the iXZ interface into the headphone jack, adjusted the setting in the System Preferences and it recognized the external mic.

Here’s a summary of my portable recording studio:

1. iPad with GarageBand for iOS

2. Tascam iXZ Mic & Guitar Interface

3. XLR condenser mic (Large Diaphragm for voice or instrument style for recording instruments)

4. XLR to XLR cable to plug the mic into the iXZ interface

5. An “On Stage Stands” tripod boom mike stand.

6. MacBook Pro with GarageBand.

7. Headphones with (1/8″ connector). It plugs into the headphones jack on the iXZ interface.

This setup will work ideally for doing podcast as well. I hope some of you will find having all this information in one place useful.

 

 

 

Windows Tablets and iPads together in the Enterprise?

The iPad Mini has been out in the wild for some time now. Earlier this year the agency I work for subjected the iPad an the iPad Mini to a rigorous usability study under the direction of a very capable and well qualified doctorate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). The study concluded that the most appropriate tablet was the iPad Mini. Further hands-on testing by inspectors in the field validated these findings.

The agency’s efforts in mobility started before any Windows 8 tablets were on the market. Although we tested a variety of Window 7 Phones and Androids, the iPad was really the only viable option for the enterprise, based on a variety of criterion.

See my presentation at the 2012 IPMA Executive Seminar

During the intervening year, Microsoft released the Surface and Surface Pro. Other vendors have released both Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets as well but none that I’ve read about, are 8″ tablets or smaller. They are on their way but haven’t been released yet.

It’s important to note that there are important differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Microsoft’s Surface Pro runs Windows 8. As do a number of other tablets from other vendors.

Microsoft’s strategy is to establish a single operating system (Windows) across all computing devices; desktop, laptop, and tablet. The Surface and other devices from other vendors weren’t quite able to get there. They run a variant of Windows called Windows RT. This variant of Windows requires less power allowing it to run on the lower-powered ARM processor.

Some features aren’t included in Windows RT:

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Center

HomeGroup creation (you can join an existing HomeGroup but you can’t create a new one)

The ability to connect to your Windows RT PC from another PC using Remote Desktop

Domain join

With Windows RT, you can install apps directly from the Windows Store, but you can’t install desktop programs that you used with previous versions of Windows.

You can only install printers, mice, keyboards, and other devices that have the Designed for Windows RT logo. For more info, see the Compare Windows page and the Windows RT disclaimer.

Source: Windows RT FAQ

These last three items are significant for the enterprise. Without these, a Windows RT device will need to be treated the same as an Android or iPad.

Today there are over 800,000 apps in the Apple App Store, many of which are targeting the enterprise. This isn’t true for the Microsoft App Store.

For now, a lack of 8″ Windows 8 devices positions the iPad as the best device for field staff who would benefit from the smaller tablets. That doesn’t necessarily hold true for knowledge workers.

Knowledge workers typically work in an office environment but may spend a significant amount of time away from their desk. They will be able to make use of the larger 10″ tablets. Microsoft’s Surface Pro and other tablets do run Windows 8 making essentially a smaller form factor laptop.

With each filling a specific need, both the iPad and Windows 8 tablets may be better together in the enterprise. Even with that, introducing the new touch-screen Windows tablets into an enterprise will still entail all the planning and execution that goes along with a major Windows version upgrade.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Update – Office Automation for iOS

In my last post, “Office Automation for iOS”, I wrote about using Office(2) HD as an Office document editor for iOS. Since then, I’ve conducted additional tests. The first was to load a large, complex Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was 2.5MB with several tabs and complex formatting. It took a couple of minutes to load through a VPN connection. After it rendered the spreadsheet retained the formatting exactly as expected.

The second test was not structured but was the result of day to day use. I was attending a design review meeting for another type of technology; virtual private connections over cellular…but that’s a topic for another post. As has become my practice now, I don’t carry paper. I use an agency branded version of SharePlus to access the agency’s SharePoint sites from my iPad. As expected, a couple of taps later I had the document being reviewed displayed on my iPad. However, the embedded images did not display. This is the first scenario where Office(2) HD didn’t come through for me.

I am researching the potential reason for this. My hypothesis is that the author of the document embedded a Visio diagram without converting it to a PNG or JPG image. More to come on this but it raises a point about document management best practices. When sharing documents with others make sure to prepare them in a format that can be consumed by the broadest possible audience. Generally, the recommendation is to save them in the PDF format.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Office Automation for iOS

Office Automation

Both Microsoft and Apple have been sparring with each other for marketshare. Microsoft has apparently adopted a strategy of using Office to hold iPhone and iPad users hostage. Their hope is that by denying iPad users Office for the iPad they will force the adoption of tablets running Windows 8.

 
Meanwhile Apple has a good suite of powerful, low cost office automation products for the iPad; Pages (MS Word equivalent), Numbers (Excel equivalent) and Keynote (PowerPoint equivalent). Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason they have not updated these products to provide compatibility with the latest version of the Office document formats (.docx, .xlsx, and .pptx). They have maintained compatibility with the previous document format types (.doc, .xls, and .ppt). This alone wouldn’t necessarily be an issue but when we bring SharePoint into the mix it does become a problem.
 
SharePoint
Let’s talk about SharePoint for a moment. SharePoint is a powerful platform that provides a great repository for documents. They are accessible from a Windows desktop using Internet Explorer, a Mac using Safari and from either an iPad or iPhone using Safari or even a Microsoft Surface or other Windows-based tablet with Internet Explorer. The first challenge is to resolve the user experience on a tablet. The only clients for SharePoint offered by Microsoft are Internet Explorer and apps such as SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint Newsfeed. These apps are targeting Office 365 and require a Microsoft Consumer Account such as hotmail. I’m not talking about Office 365. I’m talking about on-site enterprise hosted SharePoint environments. To date, I have also been unsuccessful in finding a 3rd party SharePoint client for Windows. 
 
 
When you use IE on a tablet, the experience degrades proportionally with the smaller screen size. You can interact with a SharePoint site on a Windows Phone using Internet Explorer or on an iPhone, or iPad Mini with Safari but it involves a great deal of zooming and panning. Infragistics’ SharePlus to the rescue. Infragistics makes an outstanding SharePoint client, SharePlus for iOS. It provides the experience expected of a native iOS app and makes interacting with SharePoint a good experience. This solution allows documents to be checked out or even synchronized for offline use on an iPhone or iPad Mini. On a Windows-based tablet, the experience is not very good because the only option is to use a browser.
 
Pages for Document Editing
Once you have a document local, more often than not, the next step would be to edit the document. This brings us back to office automation. In order to have a seamless experience editing and interacting with SharePoint there are a couple of requirements:
 
1. The editor must be able open and allow editing .docx document format.
2. The editor must be able to retain the original formatting.
3. The editor must be able to retain track changes.
 
The Windows platform shines here because the editor is Office. Pages now does a pretty good job of retaining the formatting and tracking changes; however, when a document is opened in Pages or editing it imports the original document. When you finish editing and want to post it back to SharePoint, Pages exports the document as part of the process. The problem is that it will only export to a .doc format. If the original document was a .docx, the an update to SharePoint will result in a new document, not a new version of the original document.
 
Testing More Editors
During our research we put a number of Office document editors for iOS to the test the three requirements listed above. The included the most popular products such as QuickOffice (which was acquired by Google….and is likely to see significant updates for Office compatibility); SmartOffice; CloudOn, a cloud-based Office emulator; Polaris Office; Textilus, AI Writer, OnLive Desktop, and DocsToGo. None of these completely satisfied the requirements. DocsToGo came the closest. It was able to support the .docx format, and track changes. It did a reasonable job at retaining formatting but had problems with complex documents that included extensive tables and it didn’t handle track changes or comments.
 
A Few Words about Office Web Apps
Microsoft released Office for the iPhone in July 2013 but did not release a version for the iPad. When asked what the solution was for editing Office documents on an iPad, the Microsoft response was to use Office Web Apps. This assumes the user is using Office 365. Our testing found that neither Office Web Apps 2010 or 2013 were able to open complex files or files with comments or version tracking turned on.
 
The Solution
Finally, after more research, an episode of Mac Power Users Podcast noted that a good editor was Office(2) [squared] HD. I downloaded and tested it. I am happy to report that it met all three requirement and also provided a good editing experience on the iPad. Not only that but their iPhone version worked very well and would be usable in a pinch….any editing on a smartphone suffers from scrolling and zooming.
 
My conclusion is that the combination of SharePlus and Office(2) on an iPad provides the best overall experience on a tablet, either Windows or iOS. The reason for this conclusion is that the SharePlus client provides a superior SharePoint user experience and Office(2) HD does a pretty good job with Microsoft Offices features most commonly used on tablets. A windows-based tablet is limited to using Internet Explorer for interacting with SharePoint. Office(2) HD does a good job of retaining formatting with tables and styles. The one place where it falls down is when the document contains text embedded into a text box with fixed location anchoring.
 
NOTE: This entire blog post was created using SharePlus Pro and Office(2) on an fourth generation iPad from the comfort of my family room.
 
Links to Referenced products:
 
 
 

iPads and Exchange Active Sync

The state agency I work for is in the process of exploring a BYOD approach to mobile devices using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). This post documents and explores how it has changed the user experience on a test iPad.

Central Technical Services (CTS), the state agency responsible for central, shared services has made Exchange 2010 ActiveSync available for agencies. A couple of weeks ago our agency converted our mailboxes. We are now conducting tests and defining policies for the agency.

To start with, just to see if things were configured correctly, the Exchange administrator enabled EAS for my account. I promptly configured my iPad’s mail to use EAS. After a minute or so I was prompted to provide a strong password for the iPad (one of the required state and agency security requirements). I gave it a strong password. I was then required to log into my iPad with the alphanumeric soft keyboard that replaced the numeric keypad. Yes, that alphanumeric keyboard lies latent on an iPad waiting for a mobile device management (MDM) system requiring strong passwords to activate it.

After logging in I looked at my calendar and mail apps. The agency e-mail and calendar information was populated in a separate calendar. I was very detailed and consistent with the experience expected for an iPad…it was after all using the iOS mail and calendar apps.

With my Outlook Web Apps (OWA) screen up on a PC I watched my exchange information update dynamically both in the iPad and OWA when I made changes in either place.

…so far, so good…and now for the interesting part….

I needed to attend a meeting and told the exchange administrator she could test wiping my iPad from the exchange console. She needed a little bit of time to figure out the correct approach. I continued to use the iPad for the remainder of the day. I packed it away when I went home at the end of the day.

The next morning when I returned to work I was preparing to look at my calendar and thought I would use the iPad for my calendar and mail since it really was a pretty good experience. I had forgotten about the wiping.

Powered the iPad on, it got a network connection. I was then confronted with the white Apple symbol and a progress bar as I watched everything on the iPad get set back to factory default….so the wipe worked pretty well. I also received an e-mail message in Outlook at my desktop telling me the iPad was successfully wiped.

I went about my business during the day. Toward the end of the day I thought I would set the iPad up and try to use it again. I took about ten minutes to finish the basic setup including wireless and VPN connectivity. I then configured the iPad to use EAS. As soon as the EAS was configured, the screen cleared, I saw the Apple logo and progress bar again as the device was wiped again.

I hadn’t removed the iPad’s record in Exchange. Once a mobile device is successfully wiped, the record or the device needs to be removed or it will be continually wiped. I removed the record using OWA. I setup the iPad again. It connected correctly.

What I learned:

1. Any EAS user will also need to be an OWA user. The iPad is administered through OWA either by the administrator or the user.

2. The administrator needs to use each individual user’s mailbox to administer EAS enabled mobile devices…that will be a huge administrative burden. Other experienced EAS administrators have confirmed this to be the case but I will still verify with Microsoft.

3. There will need to be some administrative procedure to address clearing a wiped device’s record from Exchange. If the device is lost or stolen and the user receives the e-mail indicating the device has been successfully wiped, presumably it would be OK to remove the record. The device may never be recovered but the data will have been removed.

4. Everything, work related and personal appeared to have been destroyed.

If a personal device will have all its data removed when EAS wipes the device, I would want to back up the iPad so that after it is wiped I would be able to recover my personal data.

Backup / Restore test:

I setup my iPad again with some non-work related apps and photos to see what would happen the next time I wiped the device. I then backed it up using iTunes. What I wanted to know was whether the security profile pushed to the device from EAS requiring the strong password and other setting would be restored from the backup after wiping the device.

I wiped the device again, removed the device record from Exchange using OWA, then restored it from the iTunes backup. The EAS security profile was restored! So, if I hadn’t removed the record from Exchange the iPad would have been wiped again.

This seems to have implications for personal devices for four different use cases:

1. The device is stolen – the user is the benefactor of the EAS security and all personal confidential information in addition to corporate data is destroyed. You wouldn’t want the thief to get personal confidential information.

2. The device is lost and not found – the scenario is the same as if the device were stolen.

3. The device is lost but recovered after it was successfully wiped – It would be restored to factory default. If if the user had the forethought to back it up, it could be restored to that point either with or without the EAS configuration depending on whether the backup was done before or after it was configured for EAS.

These three use cases seem to be just fine from both a corporate data and personal data perspective; however, the next one seems to be problematic.

4. The user leaves the organization under amicable terms; new employment, retirement, etc. – If the user didn’t back up the device after it was configured for EAS, no harm done from a corporate perspective. The user however would lose everything personal on the device. If the user did back up the device after it was configured for EAS then restored it after leaving the organization, the EAS configuration will be restored. If the organization didn’t take appropriate measures to disable the user’s mailbox the user would continue to have access to corporate data.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Finished Chinese Recycler

I added a border, blended the image with the border and added some texture. Although Jeanette is right the umbrella is distracting but I don’t want to take the time to mess with it now. Maybe I’ll come back to this later and fix the umbrella… tone it down or remove it.