Windows 10 “Creators Update”

As a true fan of Windows 10 and an avid Windows Insider watching the Windows 10 Event was super exciting for me – as an enthusiast I hugely enjoy watching new technology and hardware being unveiled live. Microsoft announced some great things in the event but my focus was all on the Windows 10 Creators Update and I definitely liked what I saw was coming. You can watch the event on demand right here.

Watch the video below titled “Introducing the Windows 10 Creators Update” and keep a close watch for some of the features coming in the update, due in early 2017:

Here’s a look at some of my favourite among the many features coming in the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Paint 3D

We’ve been wondering all these years what Paint is STILL doing in Windows but now Microsoft decided to rewrite the app from the ground app. I first heard of this form Paul Thurrott on his website, but the video above shows what an awesome job Microsoft has done with Paint 3D.

Microsoft has made this as simple as taking a photograph, take a look at this GIF from the event below:


You can see an actual sand castle is being scanned using a smart phone which is then instantly converted into a full 3D model.  Continue reading


Windows 10, Delivery Optimisation and BranchCache

Delivery Optimisation is a Windows 10 feature which, when enabled, essentially creates a peer-to-peer ‘network’ of sorts where each peer can cache downloaded Windows 10 updates locally on their hard drive. The idea is to conserve bandwidth by allowing Windows 10 devices to send and receive updates from one another on the same network without having to download it from WSUS or Windows Update. This, of course, is especially useful in slow network or metered environments.

The introduction of this feature doesn’t affect you if you’re using SCCM Software Update Point (SUP) for patch management and Windows 10 servicing. Delivery Optimisation only kicks in when the Windows Update agent contacts Windows Update (via Internet) or WSUS. By contrast, with SUP the updates are downloaded to the SUP server and then delivered to the PC which is where the Windows Update agent installs them from.

Delivery Optimisation is enabled by default on 1511 and 1607 though it’s configured differently depending on the Windows 10 edition. Enterprise, Enterprise LTSB and Education editions are configured to only use PCs on the corporate network as peers (LAN mode). Pro and Home editions default to using peers from the Internet (Internet mode).

There’s a Group Policy setting called “Download Mode” (in Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Delivery Optimization) which you use to configure Delivery Optimisation “modes” (referred to in the above paragraph). Here is a table showing you what download modes are available to you and the functionality it provides when set:  Continue reading

The End of an Era

It’s my last day at work today and I’m writing this post just before I leave my desk. I’ve spent five years here and, quite understandably, I’m feeling somewhat emotional. I’ve had some great feedback and advice from management and colleagues – the same people I could always rely on for good advice.

You may wonder why I’m leaving but I don’t want to get into that side now. I’m leaving on a positive note and thinking of some good memories and experiences I’ve had over the years.

I sent an email to the whole department first thing this morning which I am reproducing here for my memory:

“After working here for five years my time here has finally come to an end today.

There are a few people I want to thank before I leave. First and foremost I would like to thank my colleagues Shaun, Nadeem, Simon and also ex-colleagues who have left us (Wendy, Collins and Maz) who have made working here that much more enjoyable. I’ll definitely miss the banter at the Service Desk. A special mention to Tony Britton for all your help over the last couple of years – I personally have a lot to thank you for.

When I first started I learnt quite a bit from a number of colleagues who were very forthcoming with offering their help, advice and guidance. With that in mind I would like to thank Nadeem, Sylvia, Chris, Bill Sawyer, Martin Simons, Cherie and Richard Todd – thank you for your advice and help over the years. Last but not least I would like to thank both Rick and Cherie for a personal matter a few years ago.

On a parting note I would like to wish everyone a very happy life, both in your personal and professional lives. Please help yourselves to some chocolates I’ve got here at the Service Desk if anyone’s interested.

I wish you all the best.”

I meant every word in that email and I got some very nice comments in reply. There was a small ‘leaving do’ and a speech (which I’ve just come from) and I got a leaving card including a £30 Amazon voucher – I must say I’m very touched by all this. (I wish there was an emoticon that could rightly express my emotions here)

There’s a lot more I could write but I don’t want to drag on – I guess this really is goodbye.

card from work

Getting The Message Across

I’ve often asked myself why notices, signs and posters have to be so professional. I can understand email is well-suited as a formal method of communication but posters with tips on printing your coursework well in advance before the hand-in deadline, for example, can be less formal with light-hearted illustrations, right?

Also it’s important to adopt the KISS principle when communicating with our students. I sometimes find notices are written in such formal, professional language with fancy words that it ends up falling short of communicating the message clearly to the audience. Recently, for example, someone put up a notice that I knew at first glance was copied from an email (a very professional email). Personally I make it a point to come across as clearly as possible and the only reason I didn’t replace it with my own was because I didn’t want to offend the person who put it up in the first place. (That ‘incident’ has been playing in my mind for a few days now and I thought its best to put down my thoughts in this post).

Consider the ‘Good to Know’ adverts by Google. The adverts are designed with illustrations that look like it’s been drawn by a 5 year old but that’s what makes people take notice and read the ads (which are very easy to understand) which in turn gets the right message across.

good to know2

Continue reading

“Help desk is more than a bit of technology that helps your internal process; it is your face to your customers”

You could have an enviable track record of happy customers but it only takes one bad experience for a negative impression to stick. I want any team that I’m part of to have a positive image in the eyes of our customers and the above statement, taken from an article on TechRepublic, reinforces my belief precisely. In fact, I have a similar statement in a job application I made recently. I’m part of a team of mixed characters in my current job (1st and 2nd line support) and while I can’t take responsibility for the whole team I do happen to believe in the saying “if you want to change the world start with yourself “.

I don’t want to go on about how good I am with customers (which I am) but I do make it a point to make sure I have a happy customer at the end of every support query or incident that I’m involved with. As I write this piece I’m reminded of a memory from my early teens when my father taught me “for every job you do, make sure you do it well, even if you can’t finish it in one sitting” – that was when working on a DIY project. That piece of advice has stuck over the years and I want to end this post by briefly extending on that – you can always come back to a job that you started off right and took your time doing it well and finish it well. A rushed job will always look like a rushed job.

To Do List – Part 2 (Technical/IT Support)

Following on from my previous Web development-related to do list here’s the second list of stuff I want to get done.

1. Experiment with WinPE and ImageX

This is purely for learning purposes. I use Macrium Reflect (free edition) to image hard drives and am very happy with it.

I would just like to learn how to use WinPE and ImageX to create and deploy custom Windows images. Ultimately it would be great if I could build a GUI for it.

2. Install Mac OS X on a PC

When I first started my current job almost 4 years ago I was completely new to Macs. Within a year I saw a surge in the number of Macbook wielding students and decided to get myself acquainted with OS X. After trying and failing to get any training at work I bought myself an iMac G4 with Tiger installed to play around with. Recently I gave it away to my brother and am looking at possibly installing Leopard or Snow Leopard on a PC for use at home.

3. Run a Apache web server on Linux with PHP & MySQL

Although this one’s related to Web development I omitted it from the previous list as this is more technical (for want of a better word).

I recall how useful having a local web server was when I installed Apache, PHY & MySQL on Windows XP back in uni. Since I’m getting into Web Development once again I’d like to get my own development server up and running but this time in Linux. Why Linux? Simply because I haven’t done this before and want to learn a few things about running and maintaining my own Web server in Linux, learning a few tips and tricks along the way too.

4. Build my own PC again

I need a spare PC (for the above and more) to play around, experiment and learn new technologies. I already have 2GB RAM and a couple of Sata hard drives sitting at home and am looking at possibly building my own PC again –it’s been quite a while since I’ve built one and should be fun.