Author: Adam Fowler

Stellar Exchange Tookit Review

Stellar Data Recovery reached out to me to see if I was interested in reviewing their product. I only accept these when I can see a personal interest in what the product does. The 5 key things this product does are:

1. Repair corrupt EDB files
2. Mailbox Extractor for Exchange Server
3. OST – PST conversion
4. Mailbox Extractor for Exchange Backup
5. Password Recovery for MS Exchange

Primarily I was interested in OST to PST conversion, as I’ve tried to do this before and had no luck with free solutions, and wanted to try a paid product that could solve the problem. (It’s also worth noting this isn’t cheap software. Also if you only want a more basic OST to PST converter, they sell that by itself for a lot less.)

I tested the Exchange Toolkit on an Outlook 2016 OST file I’d copied off another computer, that was 2GB in size. It does take a little while to process, but displays the results in a nice Outlookesque GUI:

There’s also a search function, which is handy if you’re just after a particular email from the OST.

If you need to export the results, there’s a bunch of useful options:

I was impressed with the options to export directly to Exchange Server and Office 365! But for me, I was happy with a PST. The resulting PST file was readable via Outlook 2016, so the product does exactly what it says on the virtual box.

Another part of the toolkit I looked at, was the Mailbox Extractor. Again, there’s several options, but I tried connecting to a live Exchange 2010 server to extract emails:

After connecting, again I was presented with an Outlook style of emails. I then realised there’s a few use cases for this tool that are handy to me personally; if I need to go into a mailbox to get something out, this is much easier than adding a second mailbox or profile. It also then lets me take out those emails in a variety of ways – for example, I can select a folder and then export all contents of that folder into several formats, such as PST, MSG, PDF, HTML and RTF. For HTML and PDF, it will create a file per email with the same subject name.

I can see the other functions of this product being useful for someone who’s often dealing with other companies’ data, old data that needs to be restored, or extracting out a mailbox from an online Exchange server. It’s an interesting array of tools, and I’ll try to report back on whether this tool does the job well or not.

Worth checking out these tools if you run into a scenario where you need them – sometimes there’s a freeware or open source solution, but often they don’t work, are old, unreliable or limited in functionality. Stellar Exchange Toolkit seems to do what it claims well, and I look forward to trying more features in the future.

Microsoft Forms Preview

Microsoft Forms has been around for a while. A year ago, it was released only to Office 365 Education customers as a nice, simple way to make surveys and quizzes. There’s a bunch of content out there about it already, for those who want to learn more.

More recently, it’s been released to the wider population with a bunch of improvements, albeit still in ‘Preview’. As I can now access it from one of my Office 365 tenants, I thought it was worth having a play with.

Forms is a lightweight, easy way of creating questionnaires and gathering the responses. Having no experience with it previously, I made up this survey within a minute (half the time was picking a theme!).

Have a look and feel free to enter data, and try to break it:

Test Quiz

Right now, there’s two options on the main Forms page: Create a form, or create a quiz. Creating a quiz looks pretty blank from the beginning, with a title and the option to add a question. It’s worth mentioning that I couldn’t tell what the difference between the form or quiz option was!

Using the ‘Add question’ button gives you the options on what sort of question it is; Choice, Text, Rating or Date. From that, you’ll see a very easy to configure form, where you can configure the question to your liking. Points are possible if it’s checking someone’s knowledge and you want an end score. You can choose if a question is mandatory with the ‘Required’ toggle, or if multiple answers are allowed.

The elypsis hides a few more options depending on the question type – maths, if you need to use an equation (you can see the education influence here). but also if your question needs a subtitle, or if you want the answers shuffled to reduce bias (there’s that type of person that always picks ‘C’ when they don’t know).

There’s also a ‘Branching’ option which lets you configure what path the quiz will take, depending on which answer is given. How long until someone creates a ‘Choose your own adventure’ with this :) ?

I posted this on Twitter not too long ago, and at the time of writing this, there was 26 responses. I haven’t done anything beyond clicking the ‘Responses’ tab to see this data:

To me, this looks incredibly useful. So little effort required to start getting feedback, and the data displayed easily. There’s also the option to open the data in Excel, which shows the raw data and lets you manipulate the views.

The survey by default requires access in your organisation to respond. With that, you can choose if names are recorded, and if only one response is allowed per person.

It’s possible and easy to change this restriction to ‘Anyone with the link can respond’, but it does mean all entries will be marked as ‘anonymous’ and you’ll have no guaranteed tracking of who entered the data.

Another note is that forms is fully supported on mobile browsers. A few people tried this quiz and reported a great experience.

As pointed out on Practical 365, Microsoft Forms is turning up and on by default on Office 365 tenants, if you don’t want this on please read that post.

This is a free component of Office 365, and worth investigating even in it’s preview state for internal surveys – maybe it will replace Survey Monkey (which I’m a fan of)?

PowerPoint 2010 and 2016 Startup Templates

With PowerPoint 2010, there was the ability to autoload templates with the .PPAM extension, by deploying the template to %ProgramFiles%\Office14\ADDINS\ and it would load with the launch of PowerPoint.

When migrating to PowerPoint 2016 however, this doesn’t work. Of course you’ll need to change the folder from Office14 to Office16, but it will still ignore the .PPAM template file.

The fix, I eventually found after trying several things, was to just rename the file from .PPAM to .POTM – no need to open and resave the file, just rename the file itself.

I can’t find anything specific about this online, but it works.

Side note – Excel and Word 2016 templates works the same way as 2010, with the XLSTART and STARTUP folders respecively for XLAM and DOTM templates.

(Updated to .POTM rather than .POTX for the file extension, as .POTM is macro enabled while .POTX is a template without macros – thanks Rhys!)

Recover a SharePoint Online Site

In SharePoint Online, it’s easy to delete an entire site or documents in a site.

Recovering documents is also quite easy, go to the site’s recycle bin which is normally located at https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/sitename/_layouts/15/RecycleBin.aspx – replacing ‘contoso’ with your tenant name, and ‘sitename’ with the actual site name. Deleted items can be selected and restored to their original location.

How long are deleted items kept in the Recycle Bin?

In SharePoint Online, the default retention time is 93 days for both site recycle bin (first stage) and site collection recycle bin (second stage). The site recycle bin storage counts against your site collection storage quota and the List View Threshold. The site collection recycle bin retention starts at the same time for both recycle bins when the item is first deleted, so the total maximum retention time is 93 days for both recycle bins. The default amount of space for the site collection is 200% of the site collection quota.”

However, I had some issues when trying to recover an entire site. My top level recycle bin https://contoso.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/RecycleBin.aspx showed nothing. I’m unsure if there’s another way of viewing deleted sites via the web interface, and gave up after a lot of clicking around and Googling, but it’s easy to do with PowerShell.

After installing the SharePoint Online Management Shell, and connecting to SharePoint Online with the ‘Connect-SPOService‘ cmdlet (and don’t forget to use HTTPS rather than HTTP when connecting to your SharePoint Online instance or you’ll get a rather generic error: connect-sposervice : Could not authenticate to SharePoint Online http://contoso-admin.sharepoint.com/ using OAuth 2.0), you can see what your deleted sites are with this command:

Get-SPODeletedSite

Simple, you’ll then be presented with a list of all sites that are deleted and waiting in the recycle bin along with when they were deleted, and how many days are remaining before they disappear from the recycle bin. Sites deleted seem to sit in that recycle bin for 30 days, rather than site collection items but I couldn’t find any documentation supporting this.

To restore a deleted site, just use the following command with the URL of the site to restore, which you can see from the ‘get’ command above

Restore-SPODeletedSite -identity https://conotos.sharepoint.com/sites/oops

That’s it. Your site is back.

From what I’ve read, there is no way to change the retention values of SharePoint Online recycle bins.

Updating the Country Field in Active Directory

Wanting to have all users to have the country ‘Australia’ in Active Directory, I thought it would be a simple PowerShell command. Get all the users you want and set a field to ‘Australia’. However, it’s more complicated than that.

As you can see from the above, the Country/region field is a dropdown, where you can select the country. If you look in PowerShell using ‘get-aduser username -properties *’, there’s 4 fields that get populated with this setting:

c : AU
co : Australia
Country : AU
countrycode: 36

Trying to just change one of these fields will result in an error such as:

Set-ADUser : A positional parameter cannot be found that accepts argument ‘Au’.
Set-ADUser : A positional parameter cannot be found that accepts argument ‘Australia’.
Set-ADUser : A value for the attribute was not in the acceptable range of values

The answer is that all fields need to be set at the same time. The C and Country fields are based on ISO 3166 codes, with Australia being AU and 36.

The resulting command would end up being:

set-aduser adam.fowler -Replace @{c="AU";co="Australia";countrycode=36}

Of course this can be done on a boarder scale by using ‘get-user’ with a larger scope, and piping that into the set-aduser command:

get-aduser -filter "company -eq 'Contoso'" | foreach {set-aduser $_ -Replace @{c="AU";co="Australia";countrycode=36}}

That’s all that’s required to change the field.

Hide Edge Button from IE11 Tab

A feature that’s popped up in IE11, is the little Edge icon next to the new tab icon. Not something I’d want in the enterprise space:

Thankfully, it’s easy to disable. There’s a group policy policy called “Hide the button (next to the New Tab button) that opens Microsoft Edge” which can be found in User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components/Internet Explorer\Internet Settings\Advanced Settings\Browsing\ . 

If you can’t see this policy, make sure you have the latest ADMX files from Microsoft – Windows 10 1703. If you haven’t had much to do with adding ADMX files to your environment before – they should be centralised, and Microsoft have a great guide you can follow.

Bonus tip – If you have internal sites that use a single word (e.g. intranet) you can enable the policy “Go to an intranet site for a one-word entry in the Address bar” which will check for an internal site starting with that name before using the word in your default search engine. This one’s actually an old policy that I hadn’t noticed before!

 

Lenovo Yoga 910 Review

Just over a year ago, I received the Lenovo Yoga 900 laptop to review. Since then, an unfortunate accident occurred when I closed the laptop onto the end of a USB cable, creating a horrible crunching sound and cracking the screen.

Lenovo Australia have come to the rescue and provided me a newer Yoga 910 to review instead! How does it compare to the Yoga 900?

 

The new boxed Lenovo Yoga 910

For starters, here’s the specs with the red options matching what my laptop has:

Processor
• 7th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-7200U Processor (3 MB Cache, 2.5 GHz, 3.1 GHz max)
• 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U Processor (4 MB Cache, 2.7 GHz, 3.5 GHz max)

Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit Display
13.9″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS
• 13.9″ UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS

Graphics
Intel HD Graphics 620 in processor

Memory
8 / 16 GB DDR4 2133MHz

Webcam
Integrated 720p HD Camera

Storage Solid State Drive (SSD), via PCIe NVME:
256GB / 512 GB / 1TB

Dimensions (W x D x H)
323 x 224.5 x 14.3 mm

Weight
Starting at 1.38 kg

Case colour
• Champagne Gold
• Gunmetal Grey
• Platinum Silver

Case material
Aluminium

Battery life
• FHD model: 15.5 hours

Keyboard
Full-size keyboard, backlight, 6-row, multimedia Fn keys

Touchpad
One-piece multi-touch touchpad

Fingerprint reader
Yes, Hello support

Audio
HD audio, 2 x JBL® stereo speaker with Dolby® Audio Premium certification dual array microphone combo audio/microphone jack

Wireless LAN
11ac, 2×2, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth® 4.1

Ports
• 2 x USB 3.0 (1 x Type-C with video-out, 1 x Type-A)
• 1 x USB 2.0 (support DC-in function)
• Combo audio/microphone jack

Specs on the box

The Yoga 910 is another high end consumer laptop, following in the steps of laptops such as the Yoga 900S, 900, 3 Pro and 2 Pro. It feels very solid, and is slightly heavier than the Yoga 900, probably due to the aluminium chassis. Eric Xu did a great writeup comparing the two which is worth reading if you’re deciding which one to get.

Lenovo Yoga 910 Ready to go

While looking incredibly sleek and professional (especially in this gunmetal grey version, which to me is just black), it is a fingerprint magnet. That’s the price you pay to look this nice it seems. Another point that stands out is the bezel around the screen – very thin on all edges apart fro the bottom. At first this looks a little strange, but I quickly got used to it.

I’m happy with the 1920 x 1080 screen resolution this particular laptop has, and the screen quality itself was high with great viewing angles – so don’t feel that you have to go for the 4K res option unless you really want it.

The watch hinges are back again, and they seem even sturdier than previous models. They allow the laptop to bend all the way around (as all Yogas do), and I didn’t experience any screen wobble at all when typing.

Lenovo Yoga 910 Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard buttons are nicely laid out, with full size arrow keys. Home and End require the Fn button, but they’re easy to reach. The trackpad itself is quite large, with the single clicky style rather than being a solid no-click style that’s found on most of the X1 series, such as the X1 Yoga. The backlit keys also work well to see in the dark, and the addition of the fingerprint reader combined with Windows Hello allows for a very quick and effortless login.

Test

Lenovo Yoga 910 Right Side

Lenovo Yoga 910 Left Side

As you can see in the above side shots, there’s very few ports. Power is provided by the new standard USB-C which was also on the X1 Tablet, and will probably be standard on all laptops eventually. Beyond that, there’s one USB-C out and one USB 3.0 port. Of course a USB hub will give you more ports if you need it, or you can look into a USB-C dock that will provide a bunch of connection types. Yes, we still call them ‘docks’ even though we don’t dock them anymore.

The battery life is impressive – 15.5 hours. It’s hard to test and keep track of that time to see how accurate it is. Windows 10 thinks there’s still over 10 hours left on 50% remaining, and I’ve been using it sporadically in the last few days next to me.

Performance wise, there is nothing lacking in what you’d expect from this laptop. High end gaming or running several virtual machines isn’t what this laptop (nor most laptops) can do, but it’ll serve most purposes for years.

The Yoga 910 contains some small benefits and improvements over the Yoga 900 – price being equal, the 910 is the laptop to pick. There’s no reason to upgrade from a 900 to a 910 though, and anything older is a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. If you have a laptop that works for you and isn’t slow, then stick with what you have.

JB Hifi’s display on the flagship Dell, HP and Lenovo consumer laptops

If you’re looking to compare similar laptops, Dell and HP have their own offerings. Dell has the XPS 13 while HP has the Spectre x360. As I haven’t used either, I can’t comment on which I think is better, so check them out for yourself.

For myself, the Yoga 910 will be my new main laptop for personal use. It’s powerful, sleek and really nice to use. I can’t really fault anything about it – maybe more USB ports would be nice but I’m generally only going to use one for a USB memory stick occasionally, so that doesn’t bother me.  While on a recent cruise, the laptop was used in tent mode to watch some movies – the long battery life meant I didn’t need to worry about having it plugged in while watching. Warning: If you do go on a cruise, watch out for those towel animals. They get up to a lot of mischief!