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 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 461 – share LinkedIn profile quickly

clip_image002Lots of professional types rely on LinkedIn – sales professionals, recruitment professionals, people looking for business – it’s a great platform. There’s a load of advice out there on how to compose your profile properly (as it’s really a modern version of your CV or resumé), even down to how to pose for the best photo (one school of thought says since LinkedIn shows your mugshot on the left of the page, then you should face to the right, so it doesn’t look like you’re turning away from your own page…)

Philosophically, you have a decision to make on whether or not you accept unsolicited requests. On one hand, why not accept a request from someone who has looked you up and may one day be a useful contact; on the other, why clutter your network with people you don’t know and maybe have never even met?

Also, should you clean and prune your contact list? Got some free time over Christmas and can’t face another mince pie…? Why not go through your LinkedIn network and if you can’t remember the last time you met that person, delete them… Season of goodwill and all that.

Here’s a tip that may make your life a little easier when you do meet someone and want to exchange professional details – at a cocktail party, for example. Instead of the 20th century method of giving out little bits of dead tree with rapidly out-of-date contact info/job titles etc, swap contacts using LinkedIn but in real time rather than after the meeting.

clip_image004First, make sure you have the latest version of the LinkedIn mobile app and that you have it set up with your login. Now, if you look at the top of the LinkedIn home screen, you’ll see a strange little clip_image006 symbol on the right-hand edge of the search box – this is supposed to look like a QR code.

clip_image008Tap the icon, and you’ll be presented with the phone camera looking for a code to scan. The QR code is just a way of encoding the URL to someone else’s LinkedIn profile.

If you flick to the “My Code” tab, LinkedIn will show you the QR code that it has generated just for you, along with options to export and save the code for use elsewhere (like put it on your business card… oh, wait…)

So, the ideal workflow is that if you want to exchange a connection with someone quickly, then one of you goes into My Code, the other into Scan, and the rest is a matter of waving your phone over theirs and hitting the connect button. Not exactly rocket science, is it?
(that last link is a belter – if you have kids, watch it with them. Props to Dr Chris).

Tip o’ the Week 418 – Preview Apps on Windows 10

clip_image002The Insider Program for Windows 10 is one of the largest public beta program in software development history with over 10m active users. There are various options for how much on the bleeding edge you’d like to be (eg how much pain are you prepared to tolerate, in order to get to play with stuff long before everyone else?) – and the “hit me baby” version, called Skip Ahead, is already now testing the next update to Windows (RS5) that will come after the one that’s due for release in the spring (RS4), which is still in the rest of the test branches. Capiche?

Way down in the text of the latest announcement, there’s mention of a new “App Preview” program which lets the quick & the brave get access to cool but maybe unfinished updates to Apps they like, but maybe aren’t as dependent on, as the stability of the whole operating system.

The first wave of apps that are Preview-enabled, will let more cautious Insiders experience the latest versions of …

  • Feedback Hub
  • Microsoft Photos
  • Microsoft Sticky Notes
  • Viewer
  • Microsoft Tips
  • Paint 3D
  • Windows Alarms & Clock
  • Windows Voice Recorder
  • Windows Calculator
  • Windows Camera
  • Windows Mixed Reality

clip_image004… by opting in, through going into the Settings within the appropriate app and choosing to join the fun. The app will update in the background, and may change the app title & version number…

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There are regular updates to the core apps for every Windows user, not running an Insider build. If you’d like to check, just go into the Store, activate the “…” ellipsis on the top right, and choose Downloads and updates, and review the list to see what apps have been updated and when, or hit “Get updates” to check for published updates to other apps.

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The Photos app has a new opt-in feature, in conjunction with a test app that is designed to make it easy to share Photos from a phone to a PC; even if you’re not running an Insider build, you can turn on the mobile import…

The “Photos Companion” test app makes a point-to-point connection between phone & PC (ie they need to both be on the same network), and by going to the Import menu within the PC Photo app, a QR code will be displayed on-screen.

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clip_image010Start the app on your phone, point at the QR code and you’ll quickly be able to send the selected photos from phone to PC.

Of course, you could use OneDrive on your mobile device to automatically sync photos to a Camera Roll folder in your cloud storage location; it has a bit of latency, usually, so you might find it takes a few minutes before the photo you’ve just taken has uploaded and is ready to be accessed or shared.

The Import over WiFi feature is handy to share right away, or to share with PCs that aren’t set up with your OneDrive, such as a friend’s PC, or if you’re working on a project where you want to collect photos from a group of people in a short space of time – maybe doing a collaborative video or something similar?

Tip o’ the Week 315 – Getting to know Windows 10 Mobile

clip_image001There was a time when the software “ship cycle” resulted in delivery of the final version, the “Gold” code (so called as it would have been written to a gold-coloured recordable CD), which was RTM’ed then sent off to get pressed onto CD or even copied onto magnetic disks.

Nowadays, there generally isn’t ever a “finished” version – there’s the initial release, then a whole stream of updates, patches, service releases, feature packs etc.

Windows 10 Mobile (the new moniker for Windows Phone) has been slated for release for a little while now, even though there are phones out there shipping with it ready installed, and there are more to come soon – maybe some news will follow at Mobile World Congress later in February. There’s now a page that will show details of updates to Windows 10 Mobile – there’s not a lot on it right now, but check out the Windows 10 version if you want to see what to expect. Commentators are suggesting that the fact the update page exists means the wide-scale rollout of Windows 10 Mobile to existing Windows Phone 8.x devices must be imminent.

Get it early

If you want to install Windows 10 Mobile on your existing phone, it’s very easy to do – just install the Windows Insider app on your device, sign in with your Microsoft Account, and when you run the app it will ask you what degree of pain excitement you’re prepared to tolerate enjoy. The Insiders Fast “ring” will give you the biggest thrill, but especially in early stages of the development cycle, might break things that worked previously. The Slow ring clip_image004will give you stuff that’s been run by the Fast people for a while, and is known to be in good shape. You can switch between the rings, so if you choose to go Slow but never get any updates, you can always step up the pace a bit. There’s a new “Release Preview” ring now too,

Read more about the Insider program here; get the app from here.

Latest release

Fast and Slow rings have been given the 10586.107 build (in fact, that’s also gone to any existing W10 Mobile user too), which is being reported as “Production Ready” and rumoured to be the build that will be rolled out to other devices, said to be coming any day now. If you’re running Windows Phone 8.x and fancy previewing Windows 10 Mobile, or if you’ve already got a 950 or 950XL and are looking to get the latest & greatest build, then make sure you grab this one. User reports say that devices are running noticeably faster and battery life is greatly improved.

Check out your current version by going to Settings -> About -> More Info on Windows Phone 8.x,
or Settings -> System -> About on Windows 10 Mobile.

What’s new in Windows 10 Mobile

clip_image006There’s a new UI, some changes that are obvious when compared to WP8.x, but some are more subtle. The Notifications area at the top of the phone, for example, can show all the common settings and includes shortcut features like a Flashlight, or quick jump to OneNote.

Find out more about what’s new, here.

If you have a new handset, there are some other obvious changes – like the 3 buttons at the bottom of the screen now being on-screen rather than below it (so the screen can be bigger). Those buttons will disappear in some apps that go full-screen (like games, or videos), so you may need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to show them.

Also, if you’ve a new device, you’ll notice that it’s using USB-C – a further evolution of the USB standard with a reversible connector (hooray!) – hopefully no more damaging the connector by jamming it in the wrong way. You might not be able to bend the connector, but powering the device can still be something of a minefield.

USB-C cables are not all the same

If you got a Lumia 950 or 950XL, you may notice that the USB cable that comes with it looks like the kind of thing you’d find connecting an electric car to the charging stations in the car park. It turns out that good USB-C cables are quite differentiated from the generic junk you could buy for $1 on eBay or $15 from Best Buy.

Since you’ve probably got a house-full of Micro-USB cables & chargers cluttering the place up, you might wonder how to work USB-C into your life without too much friction. Well, Googley engineer Benson Leung has done a great job of putting lots of USB-C cables & adapters through their paces, and declaring which ones will set fire to your power supply, make your phone go into meltdown or which ones to get. Basically, if Benson gives it 2 stars, then don’t bother.

If you’re after the tl;dr version and you’re in the UK, just go and buy this £7 cable and these £5 Micro-USB->USB-C adapters (so you can plug your phone into your existing car charger without too much faffing and changing cable). Yes, £7 seems a lot for a USB doofer when you could find them on fleabay for a quid, but guff cables could do more harm than good. Benson Leung for President!

Some additional early-stage tips for getting to grips with your new Lumia 950/XL:

  • Make sure you run the Phone Update from Settings / Update & security / Phone update
  • When you plug the phone in and the battery icon shows the charging symbol, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s charging. You may find that it’s just plugged in, but not getting power (especially if it makes the bada-la-doop noise every 15 secs). Props to Nick Page for pointing this out.
  • There’s no way to turn on “Hey Cortana” from the All settings menu, and usingfind a setting” for “Cortana”, doesn’t (apparently). Instead, start Cortana (press/hold the magnifying glass), press the hamburger menu in the top left, and still, there’s no settings etc. Start Notebook from that Cortana menu, and you’ll see Settings from within, and you can switch on, Hey, Cortana. Bonzer.