I’m very happy to share the news that I’ve been renewed as a Microsoft MVP for Cloud and Datacenter Management (yes, I have to use the U.S. spelling ;) ) for the 2018-2019!
This is my first renewal, where I received the award at the start of 2017. Microsoft changed it’s methods, so I lasted 1 1/2 years before being re-assesed, along with the rest of the world’s MVPs. If you want to get an idea on how happy people are about being re-awarded, check out the Twitter hashtag #MVPBuzz! Also a great way to find people to follow, as they’ll generally be sharing lots of interesting and helpful information for those who care about Microsoft technologies.
I figure it’s worth rehashing the two main questions people have about Microsoft MVPs:
What I do to be a MVP:
Becoming and staying as a MVP has some extra work involved. We have to log all our community actions (all of which can’t be for paid work) which takes some time.
For me, my biggest areas of work are:
Twitter – Where I share news, help and engage with others around Microsoft technologies
I play with and use Windows 10 Insider builds but don’t often blog about them – there’s plenty of other people that do that already. However, I saw this notification come up which seemed very useful; Clipboard History!
Something I’ve been wanting for many years. I currently use Ditto which I recommended in another writeup of free sysadmin tools for TechTarget. However, if a native solution does enough for me I’d rather use that – I’m on that many different systems and devices, having non-native apps is a pain that I’m not going to bother with.
I might be a bit late to the party – on May 9th 2018, Build 17666 was announced with this feature. I’ve had a quick play and like it… so how does it work?
First, go into Settings > System > Clipboard. You’ll need to toggle the ‘Save multiple items’ to ‘On’. This is probably good being off by default, I can imagine complaints about Microsoft tracking what people do or someone finding something in the history that another person did.
Once that option is on, you can use Windows Key + V to bring up the clipboard history window:
It will be blank at the start, unless you’ve used the clipboard since enabling the feature. Text and images are both supported which is great! Selecting the history item will immediately paste it as well as put it onto your clipboard. It’s basic but does the job
On top of this, there’s also a ‘Sync across devices’ option for the clipboard history. You can enable that in the same settings area, and your clipboard will be available from all devices that support it. Right now that seems to only be Windows 10 on this insider build or newer, but I’d expect it to go further to mobile devices when released properly. This is a great way to send a small bit of information such as a long URL from one device to another.
However, if you use a password manager where you copy and paste usernames and passwords from, they’ll get added to this history also. If someone were able to gain access to this history, it could be a quick gateway to accessing a lot of your other stuff – so use multi-factor authentication wherever you can.
Still, it’s a great feature albeit simple – it’s nice to see Windows 10 getting loaded with different mini-utilities that add to it’s usefulness, while leveraging a centralised Microsoft account to keep and sync information.
I don’t do too much with SQL, but this one got me for a while, so here’s my story on SQL Server Configuration Manager Aliases.
I had a particular server that couldn’t connect to a specific instance on SQL on another box. Other servers appeared to be fine, but each time SQL Server Management Studio was run and attempted to connect to servername\instancename, it would instead connect to the default instance.
It didn’t matter who logged onto the server either. It would never connect to that secondary instance and I couldn’t work out why.
After much digging and testing, I resorted to reading through forum threads on Google searches, hoping for an idea. What I eventually found was the existence of SQL Client Aliases. These are like hosts file records – hard coded results for connecting to a specific server:
In Sql Server Configuration Manager, you can define an alias for what you’re connecting to. Servername\instancename could map to serverb\instancename or servername\instance2 – this is great when doing testing and wanting to point a server at a different SQL database or instance without changing a bunch of settings.
However, the other catch is the port specified. In the above example, the default SQL port 1433 is used. Makes sense, but each instance uses it’s own port, or uses a dynamic port. I soon discovered that if you try to connect to a SQL instance and have a port defined, the SQL instance you actually connect to is whatever is listening on that defined port.
An easy thing to find if you know where to look for it, and now I do. Hopefully this helps others who come across a similar scenario!
There’s currently an issue with configuring Conditional Access via Azure Active Directory. There’s an open ticket with Microsoft Support, with no ETA at the time of writing.
The issue: When trying to configure a new policy for Conditional Access against an Azure Active Directory application, the ‘New’ page gets stuck loading. I’ve tested this on multiple browsers, tenants, internet connections, computers, and had Microsoft support confirm.
The path to doing this is from the Azure portal – Azure Active Directory > Enterprise Applications > choose your application > Conditional Access > New policy:
The Workaround: Thankfully it’s not a showstopper, as there’s another way to get to Conditional Access and it works fine. Instead of going via a specific app first, you can just go via Azure Active Directory > Conditional Access > New policy. Also Azure Active Directory > Enterprise Applications > Conditional Access > New policy works, it’s just an extra click to the same screen.
Points to take note of – if something’s broken, try accessing the same function from a different route of click-through links and it might work another way. Also, log these issues with Microsoft Support as overall the support is pretty good and often the issue won’t be anything to do with you. Test different scenarios wherever possible too, and also asking the question on Twitter can get some extra attention!
Lenovo’s X1 Yoga for 2018 is now available, and I have my hands on one to review – which I’m using to write this article (Lenovo sometimes provide me with a laptop for review purposes, but that’s not the case for this particular one.)
Initially it looks and feels rather similar to the Gen 2 which I reviewed not that long ago. There are differences, but the jump from Gen 2 > 3 isn’t as big as Gen 1 > 2 was. I’d like to think that’s because they got things pretty right with the Gen2, and there wasn’t as much to change.
First, let’s check out the ‘Tech Specs’ – I’ll bold the options this particular laptop has in the table below.
CPU – Although often there’s little difference between each generation of CPU, there’s actually a big difference this time. If you look at the Intel spec sheet, the core count has doubled from 2 to 4, along with the thread count of 4 to 8. The single core clock speed is lower, down from 2.60Ghz to 1.90Ghz, but the Max Turbo Frequency is the slightly higher at 3.60Ghz rather than the older 3.50Ghz.
What does this all mean? It depends, but overall it’s probably a lot better. Single threaded programs might be a bit slower, but these days if it’s single threaded it’s probably old and anything modern is more than fast enough for it. Multi-threaded programs will go substantially faster. Here’s a benchmark comparison with some figures to demonstrate that. Of course, multitasking with many different programs should be a faster experience too.
Display – I would have loved to have seen that high end display, but the base level one is more than enough still. HDR, Dolby Vision and other high end settings – I need to see this!
RAM – If you want this laptop to last you years, go the 16GB. 8GB is still plenty, but we’re getting closer to 16GB being the standard. For general use, you still probably won’t hit the 8GB limit (unless you have a lot of Chrome tabs open!).
Webcam – I like the new little shutter that’s built in. You see a red dot when it’s closed, and the switch to open it is very small and unobtrusive.
Storage – As always, pick what you think you’ll need. It’s nice and fast!
Weight – Nothing’s changed here, same weight within a few grams as the last few models. It’s not a feather, but it’s light enough.
Case Colour – Yes this one is black, but it’s a bit different. The entire shell is a slightly glossier black than the matte black the last few models have had. The hinges are now black too, which fits in a bit nicer with the black body. There’s also the new X1 logo on the lid and the Lenovo branding on the bottom left of the display – all of which I think looks good. It’s branding without being in your face.
Battery – Same as the last generation, a big 15 hour claim and 12 hours just from an hour charge. I haven’t sat down and tested this, and another review I found claimed a bit under 8 hours which is slightly under the average, but of course it depends on what you do.
The fingerprint reader is a little smaller now, but works the same. Still USB-C charging which is great, but we seem to have lost one of the USB 3 ports on the left hand side. The device supports Microsoft AutoPilot which is good for anyone who wants to set this up on their Azure/Office 365 tenant and send devices out without needing to actually do anything to them.
There’s the new ‘Cortana Premium’ which makes the device pick up voice commands better and from a distance or different angles. The stylus is the same too, which is still a mid-size rapid charging pen that does the job well.
Let’s have a look at all the angles of the X1 Yoga Gen3:
It was really hard to get a decent picture of the lid due to the new material they’ve used! We’ve now got the new X1 logo in the bottom right, the black hinges at the bottom and the standard ThinkPad logo in the top left, with the dot on the ‘i’ to indicate power on or off.
Again nothing exciting on the base, fingerprints already after I’d wiped it and moved it about which is the price you pay for having a nice black surface. You can see the dual speakers along with the stylus on the bottom left.
Summary – A small upgrade from the last Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Gen2, the Gen3’s better 4 core CPU is a reasonable selling point. The slight cosmetic changes are all nice, but there’s nothing too drastic that a Gen2 owner should consider upgrading to. However, it’s a big jump from the Gen1 which you can read my original review on too. I’ll do a seperate writeup comparing the three models soon, and it’s still my pick of the ThinkPad lineup that I can’t fault. I’m actually running a VM on it (Windows 10 VM on Windows 10!) to work from and it performs very well for those wondering if they can do the same. Feel free to ask any questions below!