Lenovo Tech World – Days 5 & 6

See my other posts on:
Lenovo Tech World Day 1
Lenovo Tech World Day 2
Lenovo Tech World Day 3
Lenovo Tech World Day 4

This is the final chapter of my trip to Beijing, China thanks to Lenovo. The main Tech World component was done, but we still had exciting tourist things to do ahead of us.

Day 5 started with another buffet breakfast and a bus trip headed towards the one thing every tourist to China does – visit the Great Wall.

A rather uneventful ride took us to our destination. When we arrived, they’d of course built the wall on top of mountains which is less convenient for us to get to. Instead of trekking up the mountain thankfully, we had the modern luxury of catching a chairlift up. Carrying my backpack up like an infant attached to my front, the ascent took us right up to the wall. There’s roughly 8 kilometres left of the once 10 kilometre wall, and different parts have been repaired at different times so it’s hard to know if you’re looking at something new or old – but either way, it still felt ancient.

I’m not a selfies person, but since I’d wandered off by myself I gave it a shot. I couldn’t find the ‘beautify’ setting, apologies for that.

The Great Wall itself (for me at least) felt more overwhelming than the other ancient sites I’d visited – probably because I knew the most about it -and in my own head, I’m imagining Chinese soldiers patrolling the wall, watching out for the Mongols… probably incredibly inaccurately compared to the reality of what happened, but it was still a great experience and place to put myself into.

I took a moment to have chocolate bars and an iced coffee at the side of the wall, and bartered to buy a Great Wall shirt.

The way down from the Great Wall sounded a lot more fun – via toboggan! Except it was a little less fun than I’d hoped – not really built for an inflexible 6 foot person, with other tourists going incredibly slow or just stopping for a while. Still, it was an experience I won’t forget. Also at the bottom was the “Great Wall Supermarket” – a name that matches my own creativity when naming something (like this blog). Subway and Baskin Robbins ice-cream was also available – I can see why the Mongols wanted to get over that wall.

We headed back on the bus, and took the long trip all the way back to where we started, and to the Forbidden City. It was about to close it’s entry gates, so we had to run farther and faster than I’ve run for a very long time to make it in. The almost-heart-attack was worth it though, to get an idea how important and historical this aptly named City was, start diving into the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia.

It was then time for our final dinner together, at another fancy restraunt and lazy susan driven experience at ‘DaDong’. This was the first time on the trip we actually got to have Peking Duck, and was the most impressively presented meal of the trip. The photos will do a lot more than my words:

One strange dish we had was of Geoduck clam – which sounds fairly innocent, until you perform a Google Images search of what one actually looks like. I personally wasn’t a fan of it before seeing these images, and after seeing what I’d eaten, my opinion had definitely not altered.

AFter dinner and heading back to the hotel for a final round of drinks, we our goodbyes – not knowing if we’d ever have the pleasure of seeing each other again, but hopeful that another Lenovo event would bring us together. Thankfully that thing called the ‘internet’ lets us continue to be in contact with ease.

Day 6 – My final day in China was the first time I didn’t have someone telling me where to go and what to do – a bit daunting in a country full of people that much more often than not, can’t speak English. Inconvenient for someone who only speaks English, I still headed off with Arthur and Onica to the Beijing Zoo.

Yes we saw Pandas, Monkeys and Cheetas, along with many other animals – the zoo was fairly spacious and there seemed to be a lot of room for the inhabitants which was good to see.

We found the Beijing Aquarium inside the zoo, at a much higher price – but after going in, I could see why. The single highlight by far were the Beluga whales. They spent their time playing with some floating objects they’d been given, dragging them down to the bottom of the exhibit and playfully letting them go back up to the surface of the water again. Plenty of other aquatic animals were on display too – so many jellyfish – definitely worth a visit.

Arthur and Onica had to catch their flights home, so I was left by myself. I’d decided I was going to try shopping and had several choices of where to go. I didn’t go to the bartering markets (which I sort of regret – but it leaves something if I go back again and I was limited on time) but instead went to an upper end shopping street in the Xicheng District. A bunch of department stores with snickered pricing; no bartering. I found most of it was brand name clothing, with pricing more expensive than what I could get in Australia! I did find a small tech area in one of the many department buildings (which are much harder to navigate when you can’t read any signs, and have multi-level buildings that aren’t open and laid out in ways I’m used to) – and had a peek at the Lenovo offerings.

With a few hours to go before my flight, there was one shopping area I wanted to go to that I’d seen mentioned online, and was even on the map the hotel provided named “Zhong Guan Chun Electronics”. I hailed a taxi and showed the driver on the map where I wanted to go. He seemed to study it for a while confused, but eventually settled on putting something into his GPS and getting there.

He seemed friendly and tried to talk to me, but the language barrier was too much. I thought this was a good opportunity to try a translation app – Google Translate I had ready to go, and after a few attempts we were talking back and forth using it’s ‘live’ option. It seemed sketchy, as it claimed he said that he knew the family that owned the shop we were going to and they were good people, which wasn’t really a fitting response to whatever I’d asked.

The driver ended up dropping me off and pointing me at a large building. I went in, but it was another department store. Having a slight headache, I took the opportunity to have Starbuck’s seasonally flavoured Toffee Nut Molten Latte with some ibruprofen and work out where I was actually headed. After some searching, I worked out I need to be 1 kilometre down the road – so off I set, with very little idea on what I was looking for.

Google Maps lead me to an enterance of the corner of a building that looked shut down – but I saw some other people enter, so confidently followed them. Once in, they walked up some inoperational escalators, where someone asked me something in Chinese. Out came the translator app again, and they pointed me up the stairs. At the top was a long corridor of people fixing laptops in a reasonably run down looking area – I had little idea where to go. The man pointed me around a corner, and before me all I could see was booth after booth of computer parts:

I wandered around for a while – found a phone cover store where I bought my wife a cover for about $7AU. It looked like a lot of families lived here. Each shop had it’s speciality – some had strangely plastic sealed but open laptops – but most were PC parts. I went up and down about 4 floors that all looked the same. I think the place I ended up was called ‘Hailong Electronics City’ and I found this YouTube walkthrough video which I’m pretty sure is where I was:

I didn’t buy much else, but found a couple of shops on the bottom floor and bought a few more items to take home, along with a supermarket where I stocked up on Chinese food – like Lychee flavoured Hershey’s chocolate bars.

It was time to head to the airport for the long tip home. I wandered around a bit, and came across karaoke booths in the airport – I guess a good way to pass the time while waiting for your plane.

And that was it, the trip was over. It was truly an experience I won’t forget both technologically, culturally and socially. I’m very grateful for the people I had the fortune of experiencing this with, Lenovo for sending us and letting us share the experience with others, and of course my family for letting me go for a week!

Again, here’s my Twitter feed for the last of the trip which should contain things I forgot about!:

Lenovo Tech World Day 4

See my other posts on:
Lenovo Tech World Day 1
Lenovo Tech World Day 2
Lenovo Tech World Day 3
Lenovo Tech World Day 5 & 6

Day 4 arrived rather quickly – it was the second day of Lenovo Tech World and a day that focused on the consumer side of things, rather than business. All the gadgets!

Again we boarded the bus early, and sat for our 90 minute drive to the convention center.

Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing (aka YY) again introduced the day, tieing in what was presented yesterday in the world of business and SiOT, and how it came back to the devices Lenovo currently had, and were planning. It also tied into the technologies we’d seen at the Lenovo Future Center two days before, which helped explain their vision in a bit more detail.

The ‘deeep’ acronym was used a lot to explain this vision, which was:

smart device
Cross-device engine
Home Edge server
App/Service ecosystem
People-oriented smart experience

Lenovo recognised that people now want smart, stylish and personalised devices. They’re applying this to their Core Smart Devices, and extending out to Other Smart Devices

Then, with a slight hint of smugness, YY announced the was ‘One More Thing’… which ended up being two things; the world’s first foldable PC (The X1 ThinkPad Foldable) and the Motorola Razr. For the two days we’d been expecting this, as we’d spied a little Motorola circle hiding right up above the stage. We were right, it slowly descended for YY to take out the new device, and show off it’s folding ability as he proceeded to pop it into his top pocket.

Next up were more devices, and a demonstration of the Lenovo One software. This software allowed an Android phone’s screen to be duplicated and controlled on a laptop screen which was cool in itself, but also extend the Android’s screen to result in a second screen, running separately to the first. The Lenovo One solution also had file sharing capabilities, and tied back into the Home Edge Server aspect.

Home Edge Server was another interesting angle Lenovo was approaching things on – the idea of a home server isn’t something new, but it was tying all the devices and technologies for ease of use, to have the smarts and storage of a device in your home rather than in the cloud. They didn’t touch too much on the ‘why’ of this that I picked up, but I think it’s a bit more about giving the control and trust of this back to people, rather than relying on a central resource to do it. It seems Lenovo is playing it both ways (which is good to give people options) – bringing centralised cloud based smart systems to businesses, and bringing centralised home based smart systems to consumers.

Moving onto more devices and continuing the theme of ‘having it both ways’, Lenovo delved into two product lines; ThinkPad and ThinkBook. The former being the more conservative style, and the much newer brand ThinkBook being a more modern feel with customisations.

Some of the cool things coming to these devices:

ThinkPad was coming with ‘E-privacy guard’ where it would automatically detect someone looking over your shoulder, and blur out the screen.

ThinkVision M14 was brought up again as a useful standalone monitor, able to be plugged into a mobile or laptop ( I still really like this one!)

The ThinkPlus brand was brought up again, this time as a Smart Conference Solution. It was the reasonably standard video conferencing solution, but again trying to encompass the entire solution rather than bits and pieces – video camers, screens, devices, and real-time translation from one language to another. This seemed to resonate with several people I talked to later, around providing a much more inclusive solution when dealing with people in different languages – everyone could talk in their native language and be more confident.

The show wrapped up with the announcement Lenovo would be sponsoring the Chinese Women’s National Volleyball team, and had a chat to the captain – which was a nice moment to end on.

With the show over, we were rushed away to have a quick opportunity to get a hands-on with the Motorola Razr that everyone wanted to check out.

I was really interested to see how the screen folded for starters – and although this was a prototype and not the end product, it seemed quite robust. The screen actually moved up or down when opening/closing the device to prevent stress on the end-point, which makes sense when you’re told it, but it’s a strange thing to see the entire screen move a little!

The Razr was also thinner than I expected. I liked the take on making a phone smaller to carry around and use (and that front display screen is also touch, and able to do basic phone functions + photos without actually opening the phone), rather than trying to make the device size we’re used to have a bigger display again.

We then wandered around the convention centre a bit more, where I bought my thinkplus USB-C 13000mAh, 48W laptop battery pack that I later lost at the airport. I still have the empty box that haunts me, reminding me of my ignorance in battery-in-checked-luggage rules.

It was time to be a tourist again, so we hopped on the bus and headed to the Temple of Heaven. I learnt a little about all the sacrificial customs they obeyed at the time, and yet again was amazed at the effort, detail and age of all the constructions and artifacts on display.

Following that was another impressive dinner served on a lazy-susan and a good night’s sleep.

Again I tweeted as much as I could on the day, so have a read through my Twitter thread for a few more bits of information and photos I took along the way:

Lenovo Tech World Day 3

See my other posts on:
Lenovo Tech World Day 1
Lenovo Tech World Day 2
Lenovo Tech World Day 4
Lenovo Tech World Day 5 & 6

Day 3 in China came pretty quickly. I’d already started to get used to what it looked, sounded and felt like being in Beijing – I’d acclimatised. I was still absorbing all the pieces of information I’d learnt from the Lenovo HQ trip, and figured another big day of learning was ahead.

View from my hotel room

We all loaded onto a bus for a 90 minute ride to the China National Convention Centre as Yanqi Lake, where we departed and immediately walked into some sort of security shouting about a drone being flown overhead, as apparently it wasn’t legal to fly anything on government land – I haven’t verified that claim, but civilian security seemed to be much more of a focus than what I’m used to in Australia – in fact, I felt a lot safer in Beijing due to the frequent presence of officers of some sort, but with a population of the city almost as much as the entire continent of Australia, I can imagine it’s needed.

The hall itself was a very well designed and clean setup, giant screens on the back, lots of lighting effects and a seat with my name on it, along with a transmitter. The event itself was to be communicated in Chinese, and interpreters would convert it to English on the fly for us to listen to. This experience of focusing on the noise coming from the headset vs watching the person on stage and listening to them took a few minutes to adjust to, but was fine after that. The interpreters did a good job of keeping up, and occasionally seamlessly swapped around.

The next two and a half hours, we heard from several executives of Lenovo including the CEO, Yang Yuanqing. What information this contained was all new to me – for all I knew, Lenovo made computer type hardware, and some accompanying software. Little did I know what their business integrations and aspirations were, and here’s my rundown on what I learnt:

Lenovo was heavily investing in SIoT (Smart Internet of Things), machine learning, and AI. Usually buzzwords, but they conveyed how this would be used in the real world. For example, they had a focus on smart transportation. Not just smart cars, but looking at the entire environment a car was in, and having all devices find out about what else was going on. Cars would be aware of other cars around them and their speeds, the status of traffic lights ahead and so on, with a goal of having safer and better driverless cars that used information they were fed from the other devices, rather than being a car in isolation relying on what the car could detect with cameras and sensors.

Similar logic was being applied to the Finance, Healthcare, and Manufcaturing industries – have all these parts talk back and and then drive what they do. The difference between IoT and SIoT seemed to be that the ‘smart’ was a two way thing, rather than IoT devices being purely reporting points to feed back data. Their way of putting this was: Data + Computing Power + Algoriths = Data Intelligence:

These changes Lenovo saw as leading to a few high level outcomes:
Intelligence creates disruption to industries around the world, and Quality of life would be improved.

Next we had a video from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft who’d recorded a short message talking about how important the partnership between Microsoft and Lenovo was, and that both companies planned to continue to work together for the future.

Then, a big announcement. A partnership between Lenovo and Schneider Electric. This was around customer solutions that would use Schneider electric hardware and systems, but use Lenovo’s SIoT technology and infrastructure to help drive efficiencies on power usage – their combined goal was to use their synergised systems to reduce power consumption for their customers, knowing that global warming is a looming threat to all of us.

We then dove deeper into some of the areas the keynote speech had covered. Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations was one area, where they compared engineering staff going over log files to find a problem. It would take 2 Senior Engineer 2 days to identify a problem in their example (which I don’t have more details of sorry), vs 1 Engineer 2 hours using Lenovo’s AI driven solution.

I also found out that Lenovo already had a partnership with McDonalds China by having an Energy Management System installed that monitored electricity and water usage amonst other things. Again, these were areas I had no idea Lenovo even played in until this event!

I’m glossing over many details – but the event ended with all the speakers coming out and celebrating the day; puffs of snoke exploded with lots of clapping, and with that the first day’s main event was done!

Afterwards I headed around the 4 floor building exploring. Most of it was aimed at the business side of things that other businesses in particular industries would be interested in, but wasn’t for me personally.

There was something I did find interesting though – Lenovo had a big popup store selling items. There’s a whole product line I didn’t know about called ‘ThinkPlus’ and they sell a bunch of different techy/business items that seemed to be pretty good quality including laptops, air purifiers, suitcases, portable hard drives, chargers, robot vaccuums, scooters, and many, many more things:

The people running the store were very nice, and because I kept hassling them asking about things I was given two gifts! A Lenovo Kids Education Robot which wasn’t actually for sale, and only spoke Chinese, plus a makeup mirror with LED light and powerbank to charge a mobile phone! Quite rightly they said I should probably buy something since I was getting these gifts, so bought another powerbank , but this one had a games system built into it. That cost me about 160CNY so it was a good deal. (Later I would learn a harsh lesson – you’re not supposed to put batteries in your checked-in luggage. I lost the makeup mirror along with another battery I bought that actually charges laptops, but had the games powerbank in my carry-on so that made it through).

I’ve played with the robot a bit, and tried to use a Chinese language converter. I can’t get it onto wifi yet, but I know it talks using WeChat – one day I’ll have some time and work this out! Instead all it can do is sing Christmas songs in Chinese to me.

A tech demo I found was Lenovo’s current unnamed AR glasses. These were planned to be released in 2020 sometime, and gave the wearer 3 virtual desktops to use in a high resolution. They had them demoed on airplane seats, to show that you could use a keyboard/mouse and have these glasses as your screens, needing less space than trying to squish on the table tray with your laptop. You could also block the AR part and use them as pure VR, say if you wanted to watch a movie. I quite liked this one and look forward to seeing how it progresses.

Another thing I learnt was that it was Lenovo’s 35th anniversary!

We headed back from the first day, had yet another amazing dinner and got some rest for day 2 of Lenovo Tech World.

On the day itself I of course tweeted a bunch of things, and here’s a thread of it for anyone interested:

There’ll be a few more posts about my trip soon!

Service health dashboard email notifications GA

Email alerts for Microsoft 365 Service Health incidents is now Generally Available! (as fellow MVP Greig Sheridan pointed out, although it’s GA, it’s gradually rolling out from December 2019 to March 2020 – but I already have this in my live tenant) In case you missed this one, there’s now an easy way to configure email alerts to go out when there’s an outage of some sort in the Microsoft 365 space.

Personally I’m used to checking out the portal once I hear about a complaint and seeing what might be broken. Instead, I’ll now see emails to keep across what’s going on in the Microsoft world, as well as have a ticket raised via email to helpdesk, so any potential user affecting outages are identified earlier in the troubleshooting process.

The advisory is MC196504 for those who want to read about it in the ‘Microsoft 365 admin center Message center’, but all you need to do to enable it is:

From the new Microsoft 365 admin center, go to Health > Service Health. Under the All services tab, click the Preferences button:

This will pop out a side window:

From this page, you can enter up to 2 email addresses – so if you want it to go to more than 2 recipients, use a distribution group. You can choose the services you want to receive alerts about (all are ticked by default), and as it will advise when saving, it may take up to 8 hours to apply.

This one’s a pretty simple feature, but one I’m very glad to see. Set it up for yourself today!

Conditional Access Baseline Policies Out, Security Defaults In for Azure Active Directory

Something I stumbled across today – it appears that Microsoft has decided to abandon Baseline Protection Policies, and replace them with a single ‘on/off’ switch called ‘Security Defaults’

Baseline Protection policies (also called Baseline Policies, it seems both terms have been used) were in preview, and were a pre-canned set of policies based on Microsoft recommendations on standard security settings that should be in place – such as forcing any administrator account to use MFA at each sign in, and blocking legacy authentication.

Here’s what the Conditional Access page currently shows. There might be something wrong with the detection though, as I clearly have a Baseline Policy enabled:

It’s not difficult to recreate the Baseline policies, so I’d suggest migrating off of them now while they’re still functional – you don’t want to be left in a state where you didn’t realise MFA for admins was now not being forced.

The replacement Security Defaults option can be found by going to Azure Active Directory > Manage – Properties > Manage Security Defaults (it’s not in the Conditional Access area):

Before flipping this switch to ‘On’, you’ll need to have a really good read of the documentation. There’s a lot this option does, and may break many environments who aren’t ready for this – such as making sure you have no Legacy Authentication requirements, and that all users will register for MFA within 14 days or be blocked from sign-in until they register.

Although I can see this option being turned on by an uninformed administrator and causing some chaos, I like the idea of this. It means a new tenant can now have a single option to start with to implement several critical aspects to protect the tenant against attacks – right now there’s a lot you need to go through to lock it down, and especially for a small business who doesn’t have the time or resources to do this as well as a larger one, a single on/off switch solves a lot of security problems.

Security Defaults is also available to all customers on all tiers – Azure AD Free tier, which means those who have basic needs can now be protected in several ways they weren’t able to do via Conditional Access before.

Security Defaults isn’t listed as being in Preview as far as I can tell, so it may be an option that’s just rolled out and a ready to go. I am guessing there’ll be a bit of kickback around this being a single option that has no other configurable options in it, so we’ll have to wait and see if the product changes, or Microsoft’s vision of a security toggle stays as their goal.