Free Azure Web Hosting

This is a Windows Azure hosted site. I am mainly exploring this free hosting service from Microsoft to verify the efficacy of its business use. Azure is one of the largest Cloud providers in the world. They have datacenters world-wide with massive DNS caching and data redundancy. I use and support it at work for virtualization and web site hosting.

It can be found at:

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/

 

 

 

WordPress 4.0 is Out!

In another world [Windows Azure], I am using WordPress. I really love WP – it is not only the top blog site software these days, it is the top CMS as well. Put the acronyms aside – WP powers millions of sites worldwide and is basically at the tops of all the charts.

The new + always improved WordPress (4.0) is out!
I always like the ‘under the hood stuff’, as opposed to ‘bells and whistles’ stuff ;>

Straight from WP:

Under The Hood

General

  • Performance and effectiveness improvements to wptexturize()
  • Ensure custom post types nested under top-level menu items get the proper classes
  • Added a src parameter to the embed shortcode
  • Fixes for handling nested shortcodes
  • Make default ‘template’ argument of the_taxonomies() and get_the_taxonomies() translatable
  • Remove a redundant condition for comment feeds from WP_Query::get_posts()
  • The Customizer now properly honors theme support defaults for background images
  • Installed Themes search now shows a proper “no results” message
  • Improved, more consistent styling for HTML5 input elements
  • Post previews now redirect to the permalink if the post has been published
  • Email and URL input types have been implemented where appropriate in the admin
  • Most uses of extract() have been removed from the core code
  • 3gp mime type support was added
  • wp_handle_upload|sideload() logic was consolidated
  • Remove dead and unused code from dashboard.php following changes in 3.8
  • The operator argument now case-insensitive in tax queries
  • Now possible to disable drag and drop functionality in wp_editor() instances
  • Trigger _doing_it_wrong() when a registered post type or taxonomy slug is too long (20 characters max)
  • Widgets management in the Customizer to leverage the new Panels API.

JavaScript

  • Heartbeat API “experimental” labels have now been removed
  • Improved inline documentation for Media Views
  • Forces an autosave on switch from Visual to Text editor

Bug Fixes

  • Fix a notice with media attached to non-existent post type
  • Fix expanding and collapsing the admin menu on small screen sizes
  • Fix a bug where multiple Add Media buttons shared an ID attribute
  • Fix get_the_ID() not checking for a proper post object
  • Fix current track highlighting in audio playlists
  • Fixed bug with audio player not properly floating around images in the editor
  • Fix a bug where bulk actions would be performed upon clicking the Filter button in some circumstances
  • Fix remove_all_filters() always returning true via has_filter() in some scenarios
  • Fix a notice in wp_reschedule_event
  • Fix paragraph tags not being converted in PressThis for the Text editor
  • Fix get_the_excerpt() not always checking $post->post_excerpt
  • Introduce caching for oEmbed responses
  • Fix an issue where attachment display settings didn’t work for galleries
  • Leverage iframe sandboxing for audio and video, allowing arbitrary scripts to be loaded
  • Ensure all plugins have an accurate oEmbed provider list by loading them “just in time”
  • Fixed several problems with formatting of curly quotes, square braces, non-breaking spaces, and related performance issues.

http://codex.wordpress.org/Version_4.0

I love Windows 8.1 Cortana

It’s becoming a love affair. Once I started actually texting, setting up reminders via Cortana and making calls with her as well, I knew all bets were off. Siri who?!

But seriously, Cortana’s voice sounds surprisingly nice & clear, and the search is extremely fast – you do not even have to click a button after a few words are spoken. As soon as there’s a pause, she is off on Bing finding information or working the Apps per the given commands. Of course, you need to access Cortana in the first place. I was clumsily going through Internet Explorer on my Windows Nokia Lumia 1020. From there you can hit the tiny microphone to begin voice search functions. Basic search and some other functions were all doable with the previous version that was built into Bing. But now there’s a full App for Cortana. However, I either missed the prompt to add to my Start screen upon the Windows 8.1 update (very possible) or it was not offered. The easy fix is to add it: swipe left to open the alphabetized Apps list, go to “C”. Hold Cortana down for 2 seconds, then select “pin the start”. For me, Cortana is downright critical as my Lumia is not only fun, it’s a work phone!

You CAN just hit the search icon itself on the phone (the icon to the right of the Windows Start button), but I do like to have the App on the scree – it has news headlines flashing through periodically, which is useful.

So, after above is done, I held the start screen Cortana for 2 seconds, then dragged the App upward. For me, it belongs on top. Others may want it down further, but consider: Cortana can send texts, make calls, set reminders, set alarms, search for movie theaters or restaurants, and … tell you a joke. And more.

Open Cortana. Press the microphone to start. Before having fun, you may need to answer a few questions (your name, your interests, depending whether it’s been used or not), then that is all – speak clearly and concisely. Happy searching & functioning! Of course, you still type, the old fashioned way. This may be needed, if you’re at a loud concert for example.

Siri may be able to do some or all of this (not sure), especially with the new Apple releases coming out soon, but the bar has been set VERY high.

Windows App Favorite – Police Scanner 5-0

Well, we all have our app favorites. I admit that I am not an App fanatic per se, neither for my Windows Lumia 1020 nor for my new ASUS Windows 8 home laptop. I use the major Social Media Apps, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a few others. I use a few camera Apps for the awesome 41 Megapixel Camera on on my Lumia 1020. I like some news Apps, Musixmatch (better than Shazam, sorry!) and a few others, but my new favorite is a police scanner called ‘Police Scanner 5-0’. It has ‘police’ in the name, but also it covers fire + EMT. They cover a lot of areas in the USA and throughout the world. Sometimes you hear sirens in the distance and you just have to find out EMS, police or fire fighting information! Or you just tune in to a local service or elsewhere for curiosity sake! Great fun.

The Windows App is here:

http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/police-scanner-5-0-radio/1d10b430-98f7-4299-8a0d-f6551d58c060

Remote Desktop Printer Redirection

I had a Remote Desktop stumper recently. My company has people all over the United States accessing some of our servers and services over the Internet. They log in with their Windows accounts and get busy on a few work applications. People really like the printer redirection functionality in MS Remote Desktop Services (RDS). This allows for printing from an RDS session straight to their local office printer. So local PC printers and their drivers are virtually ‘installed’ or redirected from the RDS session back to the PC – this allows for printing a report or spreadsheet to your office printer in Texas from a server being accessed via RDS in California. Pretty cool!

But one day this functionality stopped. It was a busy day and the issue was not considered a top priority, but given medium level status. I checked a few PCs via remote support (using TeamViewer) and did not see anything wrong with the local printers. Employees could print from their PC to their printers. So I restarted the print spooler service on the RDS server. This did not resolve it. I scoured the logs, checked the application settings and it printing requirements. I noticed the administrator printers were not being redirected, i.e. were not showing whatsoever. Normally on an RDS session you can check the profile’s printer folder and see you PC’s redirected printers readily available.

It turns out there was a service that had suddenly stopped causing the trouble. I had never heard of this service, as seen in this image (screen shot after I started it):

I resolved this issue after having gone into the Services panel: this is a viable, quick way to be sure services are running – sort the columns by startup type, get to the Automatic services and be sure the critical ones are running. Once I started it the issue was resolved. I am not sure why it stopped and also I need to verify whether or not I got an automated alert on this from my monitoring application (and overlooked it?) or if it was not logged for some reason. I will fix that to be sure I get notified as I do with other issues.

But the service is running and employees are printing again and that is a good thing!

Asus 15.6 inch is a Rocking Laptop

This ASUS 15.6″ laptop comes loaded with touchscreen option. I bought one for the wife, who is not a heavy PC user. She needs it for basics, like e-mail, moderate to heavy web surfing, some file storage on OneDrive. That’s mainly it, maybe a little YouTube video streaming to boot as well.
This is the best PC (laptop) deal I have EVER been a part of, and I have worked in I.T. for 15 years.
Again, this is for home use. Yes, the 4 GB of RAM could be better, but trust me, due to the efficiency of Windows 8 and the ASUS hardware capabilities, 4 is more than enough. And 500 Gigbytes hard drive? Wow. I believe in using Microsoft’s OneDrive for storage, but this is pretty nice if you have lots of video files!
Did I mention the price? It comes in at $379! No joke. Yes, BestBuy does everything to upsell you on service and warranty additions, but I kindly declined. It’s been 30 days, and this hybrid laptop / touchscreen is sweet as ever! My wife initially hated the idea of ‘touch’ (sounds weird, I know), but now I see her squinting at the screen, while constantly touching, zooming, swiping away! And you can also attach a keyboard and mouse as needed, AND it does have the traditional laptop scroll. That would 3 different mouse options if you’re keeping track.
For $379, you cannot go wrong.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-15-6-touch-screen-laptop-intel-pentium-4gb-memory-500gb-hard-drive-gray/3500039.p?id=1219091871536&skuId=3500039&st=categoryid$abcat0502000&cp=1&lp=4

FREE Microsoft Office Software?

Yeah, I know it’s incredible and a bit unbelievable, but it’s true – MS Office applications, the very latest, are available ONLINE for free. You open up what used to be called a Hotmail account, and you get Office Apps software for free. Instead of installing the Office software on your PC or laptop or tablet, the software is automatically embedded in your browser. Make sense? If not, who cares, it’s there for your free use regardless. Read on.

This includes the famous Microsoft WORD, EXCEL, POWERPOINT and more! It’s the best kept secret on the web. If you have a Hotmail account, but do not use it much, then check your account. Get the password reset if you have to or sign up for a new account. Or what about OUTLOOK? Yes, you can use that too! The ubiquitous email client that millions upon millions use for corporate e-mail is now Hotmail. Which is now Outlook. Really, it’s OUTLOOK.COM. Get it? Good. Log in.  Then look in the upper left hand corner and click the down pointing arrow. You will see the applications (software). But what about Outlook? Oh yeah, it’s there too. Obviously. It’s fully integrated!

No matter which application you are working or playing in, you can simply click the arrow button to get to another application. It’s always there, so long as you are logged in.

But, but, but what if you want to save a file in the “Cloud”? Yeah, it’s there too – it’s called OneDrive [formerly SkyDrive]. You just drag and drop files into it. I no longer save files on my Desktop – I just keep them on OneDrive. It’s like 5 Gigabytes (7?) of space for free.

How confusing?! Well, I admit to one fact: in my opinion Microsoft has done a TERRIBLE job advertising these kick ass applications widely and easily available on the web. I am in the I.T. field so I happen to take notice of these services, but when I mention to the wife, the in-laws, and some friends, they have no idea what I am talking about. These are semi tech savvy people – like most adults these days. How can Microsoft reach them with the above information? Time will tell, but I recommend some straightforward advertising with images like the one below and frequent mention of he word ‘INTEGRATED’! Maybe show real people navigating these apps? I like some of the Surface tablet ads, so maybe they can use those themes. Anyway …

This is what it looks like, per image below – all you do is sign up for your Hotmail or Outlook.Com email and then just start looking around, maybe create and save a test file.You have nothing to lose. Businesses will incur costs with steep usage, but that is a different story (Bing for Office 365). Oh, and what about Bing? Yeah, Bing is a solid search engine, and it turns out at the top of Bing is a link to Outlook.Com, which is fully integrated with the free software and storage, as seen below, an discussed above! I just have Bing.Com as my default home page. So, this mere 4 letter web site (B-I-N-G) is in fact a secret, super simple door to the world of the below.

Search this Blog or Bing for Windows Phone, which is also fully integrated with these services.