Tip o’ the Week 495 – Your Phone updates

clip_image002As Samsung recently released the new Galaxy Note 10 premium phone (some versions later than the now infamous Note 7 with battery issues), one prominent new feature may have inadvertently caused a headline during the last week. “Microsoft’s Your Phone App is Down” might have made some readers question, what is Your Phone anyway? (It’s back up now, btw).

Your Phone is a PC and companion iOS or Android app that lets the user of both device sync data and other experiences between them. Initially focussed on photo sharing, it grew to encompass other areas like allowing you to view and reply to text messages on your phone, using the PC’s screen & keyboard instead, thus avoiding any embarrassing auto-correct moments.

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The photo sync between phone and PC is more real-time than synching via OneDrive or similar, and it’s a bit more usable for many. But since the May 2019 update to Windows 10, there have been a load of other changes to Your Phone.

It’s possible to share notifications from mobile apps – so you could see Android notifications shown on your PC, too – the goal being that in time, you’d be able to view and respond to them on your computer. If you set it up, do so carefully – you don’t want to be getting notifications on your PC that your phone has sent, for stuff that the PC is already notifying you for… like Outlook, or Teams. Otherwise, you’ll be getting a blizzard of notifications to the point of ignoring them all.

Finally, if you have a Samsung device on the extensive list of currently one, you can share your screen between phone and PC. The plan is, this would allow you to fully operate your phone – including making and taking calls – from your PC, and it’s likely that this will end up growing to other Samsungs and to other manufacturers.

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Tip o’ the Week 486 – Cloud Storage Bonanza

clip_image002Microsoft’s OneDrive end-user cloud storage system was in the news this week, as plans were unveiled to allow people to buy more storage space than was previously available. The tl;dr version of this is that in addition to your free 5GB of storage when you sign up for OneDrive, you can opt in to buy an additional block of 50GB for $1.99 a month. Now, you’ll get 100GB for the same amount, and Office 365 users will soon be able to buy even more.

clip_image003If you visit the OneDrive.com site and sign in, you’ll see the total space being used in the lower left, and have the option of upgrading your service – but it’s pretty clear that Microsoft doesn’t want you to buy OneDrive storage on its own… in a Tarrantesque “We don’t want to give you that!” move, you’d need to click through

several “are you sure you don’t want Office 365 instead?” type dialogs.

The best way to get clip_image005additional OneDrive storage is indeed to get Office 365 Personal, if you only need one account – and for your $70 / £60 per year, you get 1TB of storage plus all the additional awesomeness of Office 365 for your home delight.

An even better solution would be to fork out an extra $30 / £20 per annum to get up to 6 accounts; even if you don’t plan on sharing O365 with your extended family, you could set up separate accounts for different purposes – eg if you want to backup all your movie files from a home NAS, that could be a separate login to your primary one, or if you store RAW format images you could keep them in one OneDrive login while enjoying your processed photos in your regular account.

If you really need more than 1TB per login, Office 365 will soon let you buy addon storage, so for $2 per month more, you can add storage in 200GB blocks, all the way up to an additional 1TB for an extra $9.99 per month.

Online commenters have already pointed out that you could buy 2TB of storage outright from Google for $10/month without first needing to have an Office 365 subscription, but let’s get distracted by that.

Tip o’ the Week 484 – Saving Office 365 profile pics

clip_image002Office 365 users will be familiar with the Profile Picture that appears in multiple places, most visibly in Outlook and Teams. Just like their picture on LinkedIn, many users will help people understand what they look like by posting an actual photo of themselves, whereas some will insist on posting a photo of their dog, or their kids, or themselves wearing a hat and shades while standing very far away.

There’s supposedly a lot that your choice of profile picture says about you. There’s a tabloid version (akin to the “What Your Horoscope Says About Your Pet” style nonsense more often to be found on the Edge browser homepage). There are some more scientific resources with views on what people think when they see your picture, and some hints on how to choose the right one. Some fun examples of what not to do could be illuminating.

Facing left-to-right is supposedly best – maybe it makes you look more powerful, or simply, when your photo is on the left side of a load of content (like the details of your LinkedIn profile), then it’s better to be looking toward it rather than away to the left… Similarly, good advice is to stick to a head-and-shoulders shot, or at least waist-up – if your profile pic is your visible brand on LinkedIn and Office 365, then there’s no point in using a photo that shows your face as too small for anyone to recognise you.

How to save photos from Office 365

This tip will probably become obsolete at some future update on O365, such is the march of innovation, but it deals with how you can get to the profile photo that someone else in your organisation has published. The inspiration came from a departmental admin who was trying to build a nice org chart, and had to repeatedly nag members of the team to share a photo of themselves. It can also prove handy when someone has posted a photo of themselves that’s too small to see – if you can open the photo up in a browser, it can show you the original full-resolution image, and you can always use the browser to zoom in, too.

clip_image004Start by going to the Office home page and sign in; you can then search for someone’s name and click on the People tab for the detailed results.

An even quicker way might be to go to https://www.office.com/search/people?auth=2&q=<name> and follow the q= with the name you want to search for.

When you have the results of the search, hover over the thumbnail of the person’s profile pic, and in the pop-up that appears, right-click on the slightly larger image.

If you’re using classic Edge, then you’ll be able to save the image locally, but if you’re on Chrome or the new Edge Dev browser, then you’ll easily be able to copy a link to it – paste that into a new browser tab, and you’ll get the full-size version of the profile pic so you can zoom in, save it, draw moustaches on it with your Surface Pen and so on.

Tip o’ the Week 477 – Grabbing pictures from websites – again

clip_image002Here’s a quick tip for getting the URL of a picture on a website you’re browsing – it’s a topic that’s been covered previously in ToW 458, but with a refinement for a more recent browser platform.

clip_image004Some pages will let you simply get the image URL from right-clicking on it, but lots of sites will prefer to hide direct access to their images.

Never fear, though, as described in #458, you can always use the Inspect feature (in both Chrome and Chromium Edge) or Inspect Element in classic Edge, though it might involve fishing about in the source HTML of the page to find the actual URL of the photo.

clip_image006In Chrom*, just go to the Sources tab in Inspect and you’ll be able to see many elements of the page, including the image files that form part of it, and helpfully, they are previewed if you select them. On busy pages, there could be hundreds of nodes, but you’ll soon figure out where to look and at least it’s likely to be consistent within that page in future. From there, you can open in another tab or just grab the URL.

Handy for pasting into online forums, Yammer, Facebook etc. In most cases, you’re just referencing – embedding, even –  a file that’s out there on some website or CDN, so you’re not even breaking copyright law. Probably.

Tip o’ the Week 463 – Photographs, eh (he asked him knowingly)?

clip_image002Nudge Nudge! We’ve all taken photographs and wanted to manipulate them with better tools or on a better screen than presented by our smartphones, haven’t we? Pros might use Photoshop (and some less than Pro too), but for the mere mortals among us, the Photos app for Windows 10 can do a lot of the basics really well.

There are some simple but reasonable tips on getting more out of Photos here, and if you’re still missing Movie Maker, then you could do worse than check out Photos’ ability to edit videos, as discussed here.

clip_image004There’s a recently-released beta extension for Windows which provides support for RAW images (well, some of them)see more here.

If you already use Photos, have you noticed that when using a Modern App to manipulate files (eg inserting a photo into OneNote or Mail), then you’ll see Photos appear as a node in the file chooser dialog?

You get the ability to use some of the Photo app functionality for organising your pics – like using search, viewing by subject or use the Timeline feature to quickly jump to a picture based on the date it was taken.

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In a rare departure from the mantra that modern apps are somehow inferior to proper ones, here’s an example where using a UWP app is demonstrably better than its Win32 counterpart.

See for yourself –  when you’re used to the Photos app functionality and go back to a non-Modern app (like the zombie OneNote 2016 application that’s still a lot more functional in many ways than its UWP sibling), the file dialog box is shorn of Photos addenda and you’re back to grubbing about in the file system to find your files.

Tip o’ the Week 462 – Instagram photos on your PC

clip_image001If you’re an Instagram fan, you’ll no doubt be quite used to posting, browsing, liking and hashtagging everything in sight, using your phone. If you like editing photos on your PC, however, there’s no simple way to upload pics to post as Instagram photos.

Instagram continually toys with their UI and the capabilities of the app – not always to great acclaim – and also offers a browser experience that lets you find and interact with content, but not upload it yourself. Various third parties offer other tools that integrate with Instagram – like the Top Nine meme that celebs were posting, showing their best pics of 2018.

clip_image003The Instagram Windows 10 app does give the option to upload photos by clicking or tapping the + icon in the toolbar along the bottom, but it can occasionally be a bit slow, and it only lets you clip_image005choose photos from your camera roll folder.

The Instagram app sometimes goes a little berserk, too.

There is a technique to use your PC to upload anything to Instagram, though, and it involves fooling the web site into thinking you’re on a mobile device rather than a PC. Start by signing into www.instagram.com using your existing Instagram or FB credentials. You’ll see a particular  UI with no + button in sight.

clip_image007Assuming you’re on Edge browser, press F12 to go into Developer Tools mode (or if you’re using a keyboard that’s a pain to get to function keys, click on the clip_image009ellipsis on the top right to bring up the menu, choose More Tools, Developer Tools).

When you see the Dev Tools pane appear, go to Emulation.

Now choose a device or set a browser profile that will tell the Instagram site that you’re using a phone… even a defunct one (at least while Instagram supports that profile – someday, you may need to tweak the other settings).

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And bingo; click on the ickle + icon on the bottom and you’ll get a regular Windows Explorer file dialog box that can be used to select and upload a photo from anywhere you like.

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clip_image015Chrome domes can do a similar thing, using Developer Tools (menu – More tools – Developer tools, or press CTRL+SHIFT+I) and then toggle a device toolbar that lets you test the page as if it was running on a different device.

Strangely, Windows Phone doesn’t appear as one of the default options, but you can, if you want, add a Nokia 520 back in.

Tip o’ the Week 460 – AI, AI, Oh…

clip_image002Artificial Intelligence has been dreamt of for decades, where machines will be as smart – or maybe smarter – than humans. AI in popular consciousness is not just a rubbish film, but if you’re a brainless tabloid journalist, then it means Siri and Alexa (assuming you have connectivity, obvs … and hope there’s no Human Stupidity that forgot to renew a certificate or anything), and AI is also about the robots that are coming to kill us all.

Of course, many of us know AI as a term used to refer to a host of related technologies, such as speech and natural language recognition, visual identification and machine learning. For a great example on practical and potentially revolutionary uses of AI, see Dr Chris Bishop’s talk at Future Decoded 2018 – watch day 1 highlights starting from 1:39, or jump to 1:50 for the example of the company using machine learning to make some world-changing medical advances.

clip_image004Back in the mundane world for most of us, AI technologies are getting more visible and everyday useful – like in OneDrive, where many improvements including various AI investments are starting to show up.

One simple example is image searching – if you upload photos to consumer OneDrive (directly from your phone perhaps), the OneDrive service will now scan images for text that can be recognized… so if you took a photo of a receipt for expenses, OneDrive might be able to find it if you can remember what kind of food it was.

clip_image006There’s also a neat capability where OneDrive will try to tag your photos automatically – just go into www.onedrive.com and look under Photos, where you’ll see grid of thumbnails of your pictures arranged by date, but also the ability to summarise by album, by place (from the geo-location of your camera phone) clip_image008or by Tag. You can edit and add your own, but it’s an interesting start to see what the visual search technology has decided your photos are about… not always 100% accurately, admittedly…

More AI goodness is to come to Office 365 and OneDrive users in the near future – automatically transcribing content from videos stored online (using the same technology from the Azure Video Indexer and Microsoft Stream), to real-time PowerPoint captions. Watch this space… and mind the robots.

Tip o’ the Week 458 – Grabbing pictures from websites

clip_image001There are plenty of reasons why you might want to get the URL of a picture that is embedded on a web page, and some of them don’t even risk breaching the copyright of the image’s owner or page author!

Legitimate examples might include things like downloading a company logo from its website so you can include it in a PowerPoint slide; try going to just about any major company site and you’ll probably find it’s not straightforward to save the image file. Ditto all sorts of clever pages that might stop you simply saving the picture to your PC.

clip_image003clip_image005Normal behaviour is, mostly, to just right-click on an image and in Edge, you’ll be able to save the picture (or use Cortana to try to give you more details on the image, even trying to guess what’s in the image depending on how straightforward it is – it’s surprisingly good). Ditto, if you’re using Chrome, except you can search Google instead. Try the same on a company logo, and you may find you won’t get the option to save or search.

If you want to grab the actual URL for an image on a web page, the clip_image006foolproof way of getting it is to look at the source – if you don’t mind fishing through maybe a few thousand lines of HTML. It’s not too bad if the image is at the top of the page, but it could prove tedious if elsewhere. In Edge, an easier solution would be to right-click on the image and choose, Inspect element. You may need to press F12 to get these options in your right-click menu. Chrome has a similar thing, simply called Inspect, and can be invoked by CTRL-SHIFT-I.

The Inspect Element funciton in browsers is designed to help web page debugging; it’ll let a user or designer jump straight to the section of a web page’s source, and inspect or even modify the code behind the page.

clip_image008As an example, right-click on the logo on www.microsoft.com and Inspect Element. You’ll see the highlighted section is the bit where the logo sits on the page, and immediately next in the hierarchical representation of the page code, you’ll see the <img> tag, denoting that this pertains to the image itself.

Look for the src= part, double-click on it and you’ll see the URL of the image in an editable text box, meaning you can easily copy that to the clipboard and get ready to paste it wherever you need it clip_image010to go. Try pasting it into a new browser tab just to check that all you’re getting is the logo.

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Using a search engine

Of course, there may be easier ways to get an image – using Bing or Google search, for example.

Bing is actually quite a bit better in this regard. When you click on an image in the results from Bing’s Image search, you’ll see a larger preview of the picture along with a few actions you can take – like jump to the originating page; search for other sizes of the same image; use Visual Search to run a query on just some selectable portion of the image; or simply just view it in the browser, thereby opening just that image and showing you the direct URL to it.

In the case of both Google and Bing, if you click on “Share”, then you’ll get a link to the search result of that image rather than the picture itself – so if your plan is to embed the image in another web page or upload it to some other place, then you’ll be frustrated.

clip_image012Another legitimate use of the original URL for a logo might be to change the icon in Teams – assuming you have permissions to Manage a team site (click the ellipsis to the right of the clip_image013name and if you’re suitably perm-ed up, when you click on the Manage Team option, you’ll see a little pencil icon on the logo if you hover over it. Click that to change the picture).

Simply choose Upload picture, paste in the URL of the logo you want to use and you’re off to the races.

Figuratively speaking, anyway. You might have to jigger about with the proportions of the image by downloading it first and editing it elsewhere, as the image will need to be more-or-less square. Built-in icons in Teams appear to be 240×240 pixels in size so you could try to target that if you’re resizing.

Tip o’ the Week 442 – Whose phone? Your phone…

clip_image002Back at the May 2018 Build conference, an app for Windows was previewed, which would allow you to manage content from your phone, on your PC – “Your Phone”.

If you’re an Android user, and a Windows Insider, then you can get a preview version of the Your Phone app for the PC; after starting the app on the clip_image004PC, it will ask for your mobile number and text you a link to download an updated version of the Microsoft Apps app (ya falla?). Download the update, sign in as appropriate, and suddenly your photos on the phone will start appearing in near real-time on your PC.

The Your Phone app actually uses a Wi-Fi connection on the phone to sync content with the PC – they don’t need to be on the same network but they do need to be able to talk to the back end service that coordinates things. For now, it just does photos (and only on Android), but in time, more services will be added. See more details here. And here.

clip_image006The photo sharing capability is pretty cool – if you ever find yourself taking a photo on your phone and then immediately wanting to use it on your PC, then your alternatives are either to wait for OneDrive to sync your new pic from phone to cloud (and then back down to your PC)… or plug the phone in on a USB cable and root about in its file system to find the photo. Or the worst, but probably most used: you email the photo from your phone, to yourself…

Some features of Your Phone will be tied to particular preview versions of Windows 10 – such as the recent latest build, 17228.

Tip o’ the Week 438 – Bing’s Visual search

clip_image002In an effort to attract users to the perennially under-rated search engine Bing, the service launched a “visual search” function some time ago (ToW 397). There have been some recent updates to mobile apps, enabling search capabilities from an image. Similar images will be identified or major subjects could be spotted, using AI technology to try to figure out what’s in the image, as well as find related info.

The Bing Search app and the Edge browser for both iOS and Android have been updated, as has the Microsoft Launcher for Android – each has added a little camera icon to the Search box, which makes it easy to take a pic and upload it to Bing for analysis. The Bing app can also scan QR codes and the Launcher can scan barcodes too. More features are promised for all 3 methods of app-based visual search, and for the Bing web site itself.

To use visual search in the Launcher, swipe from the left at the home screen and you’ll get the “Feed” page (a customisable summary of news, activities, apps, contacts etc), the top of which has a search bar with a camera and a mic (though if you’ve used the barcode scan in the Launcher, the camera will be replaced with a scanner symbol – just tap that as if to scan a new barcode, then tap the barcode with an X in the top right to revert back to camera).

If the results you get aren’t quite spot on at first, you could direct visual search to focus on a particular part of your snap – tap the magnifying glass in the top right, move the edges of the area to filter out any peripheral nonsense, and you may find results improve.

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