Tip o’ the Week 419 – What’s the time?

clip_image002The subject of time has featured on a few occasions on ToW – #301, #314, #325, #388 … but there’s always more scope to talk about it.

Windows 10 tweaked the way time is clip_image004presented, from showing the calendar and the agenda (sourced from whatever is synced into the Calendar app), to the Alarms & Clocks app which offers visual wakeup alarms, daylight maps, and timer/stopwatch apps.

In the Windows Insiders builds of the last few weeks – currently 17101 (which is now in the Fast Ring), there have been changes that bring the clock further forward too – the Game Bar has been updated to include the clock on the clip_image006left of the bar, for one thing.

What is time?

Existentially, time is relative. If you ever find that your Windows PC isn’t keeping time accurately, you may want to check that you have it set to get its time automatically (check Settings -> Time & Language – > Date & time), or go into the old-fashioned Control Panel, search for time and look at the settings in there, especially under the “Internet Time” tab to see where it’s syncing the time from: time.windows.com is probably the default.

Windows Time is also a thing – the number of milliseconds since the machine was started up, and also the name of the clip_image008service that controls the time synchronisation. Unix time is also a concept, measuring the number of elapsed seconds since 1st January 1970, and may present another millennium bug style problem in 20 years, if anyone is still using 32-bit *nix by then.

Back to simple relativity, though – what is the actual, real “time”? If you have multiple clocks, watches, phones & PCs, it’s a fair bet that they’ll all be divergent, unless they’re all being synchronised by some external device (your broadband router, maybe). If you’d like to find out exactly what the time is and don’t have access to an atomic clock or similar, there are a few online resources that might help…  and you could even try asking Cortana, as she knows about time zones and stuff.

But the best time site is http://time.is. Try it from any device and you’ll get the time right now;  some allowances need to be made for network latency but the operators have tried clip_image010their best. It tells you the time in your location (or one of your choice), and calculates the offset between your computer’s clock and the time.is service.

For an illustration of what latency (as ultimately governed by the speed of light) means when accessing nearby vs far away websites, check out www.azurespeed.com, which measures the time to connect to storage services at Azure datacenters. Some variance could be explained by performance spikes and so on, but the main impact is network latency due to distance travelled. The results can sometimes be surprising.

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Tip o’ the Week #324 – Delve into something new

 Here’s one of those services that arrived in Office 365, and yet many users will never have noticed, or weren’t sure if it was a preview or some other kind of experiment (having first appeared around 18 months ago). Delve (just as well it’s not called dig or excavate) is a potentially phenomenally useful way of finding out what people you’re connected with are working on.

If you can get access to Delve (either on https://delve.office.com or via https://portal.office.com, depending on your account and level of access), then it’s well worth playing with it for a while, especially if you work in a large company like Microsoft, where all sorts of interesting stuff is being saved onto shared document folders.

One downside of Delve might be that nervous Nellies will stop putting their documents into shared areas in the fear that other people will read them, or that the default-to-open (for their internal staff) culture that typically pervades lots of companies will flip to an access-only-on-a-need-to-know-bassist.

Delve lets you see what documents are popular, what people you are connected with are doing, and lets you search by document content or by author. Want to see what FY17 holds for your org? Wondering what juicy PPTs your VP has been editing lately…?  Have a Delve…


Take back your time with Delve Analytics

Announced recently, the Delve Analytics function (available to O365 users based on their license type), shows you not just what other people are doing, but how you are performing too. The Delve Analytics dashboard and corresponding Outlook Addin lets you see how you’re spending your time, and who you’re spending it with, promising to help you make the most of it.

The Outlook addin surfaces Delve info within Outlook’s reading pane, so as long as you’re looking at colleagues who’re in the same Office 365 environment (which might be an issue in MSIT, where there are several tenants), you’ll see stats about how often and effectively you email with each other.

Here’s one example; judge not any of the numbers…

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Eek. 3h 31m average response time. Must try harder to do less email and do more work.

Tip o’ the Week #251 – Toasting a new email message

You got a new email – hurray! Back in the early days of using email, it was expected practice for your email program to play you a little fanfare, pop up a message box to tell you that you’ve got mail, put an envelope in your system tray etc.

In the last decade, nobody in most companies needed to know they got a new mail. We all get far too much of it, and yet most email programs notify you by default. Stop that, it’s silly.

The inspirational Prof Randy Pausch advised switching this off: he delivered a great talk on Time Management, and watching it is a better way of spending 90 minutes than pretty much any other productivity-enhancing measure. Children of the 1970s and 80s in the UK will remember Why Don’t You?, with its somewhat perverse advice to “switch off your television set”.

Well, stop reading this email now and go and watch Randy’s Time Management video (same link as above you click junkies).

Still here? If you’ve never heard of Randy, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006 and sadly succumbed less than 2 years later. In the interim, he delivered “The Last Lecture”, an awesome (and we’re not talking Microsoftie, “hey, that was super-awesome!” kind of awesome, more the laughing-out-loud, tears-welling-up and rapt-attention kind) lecture on achieving his childhood dreams. Make time to watch The Last Lecture video if there’s only one video you watch this weekend.

 Anyway, this tip reprises the topic of the very first tip of the week – but this time instead of switching off a pop-up in Outlook, it’s about disabling the “toast” that appears in the top right of the Windows 8 screen to tell you that you’ve got new mail.

In Outlook 2013, go into File | Options | Mail and look under the Message arrival section then un-check the Display a Desktop Alert option.

It’s possible to disable all “toast” notifications in Windows 8, but that’s something of a lumphammer to crack a pine nut. If you want to do it, see here… otherwise, it’s best to control things within individual applications. Within the same menu, you can selectively toggle each app’s notifications setting.

If you’ve configured the Windows 8.1 Mail app to connect to your company email, then you might have the weird experience of seeing an incoming toast from both Outlook (represented as the upper one in the screenshot above, with the fizzog of the sender as represented in the GAL) and within the Win8 Mail app, shown by the different toast below (and possibly a different picture, depending on how the sender is represented in your contacts).

 To disable the toast from the Mail app, go into the app itseld and bring up the Charms (press WindowsKey+C or swipe from the right if you have a touchscreen, or put your mouse in the top right of the screen). Now select the Settings charm, then Accounts, then go into the account you have set up to your corporate emai (since you can set notifications differently per-account).

The “Show email notifications” dropdown allows you to select that you want to allow all email to notify you (bad) or perhaps only to show you mail from your Favourites, as defined in the People app.

Or, of course, to switch off altogether.