Thursday, December 4, 2014

Loading the New Laptop

Loading the New Laptop - Top Software

In July of 2011 I had to replace a laptop. I previously posted a short article - 9 Top Apps - describing the minimal software that needed to be loaded to make it functional. The new laptop is a Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1, running Windows 8.1. (Disclaimer, I previously worked for Microsoft, and currently work for Dell).

My wife prefers the web version of Facebook and GMail, so I get to skip most of the social media apps. I copied her bookmarks from the old laptop and emailed them to her account for import to the new.
Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1

Here is a line by line comparison of the applications loaded in July, 2011 and those loaded this week (Dec, 2014): 
  1. Adobe - Reader, Touch Version installed. Flash, Air and Shockwave did not seem necessary. It could be that IE 11 and Chrome 39.x.x.x can handle this content without add-ins
  2. Office 2010 - not yet, but maybe. Office Live yes. In fact, you pretty much have to have a Microsoft account if you want to avoid dozens of reminders, pop-up messages, etc. Account was created, Win 8.1 updates made, and the email address may never get used again.
  3. Google Chrome - was the first thing she asked for. Google toolbox is probably not needed, and Google Picasa will be loaded later. 
  4. Firefox - not yet, probably not needed. Chrome does 99.9% of what is on the web. The other fraction is deprecated junk.  
  5.  LastPass - Was the first thing I wanted on the PC. Whitson Gordon of LifeHacker explains the security issues in his article "Is LastPass Secure?" I support three laptops, four tablets, two PCs and a Windows phone. With 250 passwords, plenty of secure notes and network configuration notes, it's required.
  6. Amazon Kindle - and Amazon Cloud Player for music. There is not much music on the PC (yet), but the Amazon Music application has replaced Windows Media Player for convenient access to device and cloud based music. 
  7. Cute FTP and PDF - not for this laptop, but my Epson MFC printer was immediately recognized and I didn't have to locate the disks (huge win!). 
  8. Wise FTP - Again, not the role for this laptop. 
  9. Apple iTunes and Quicktime. Funny, never even considered loading these. They were required a couple of years ago, but not today. 
The time from opening the box to "ready to use" was about a hour. The next time I can steal it away for a few minutes I'll add some Chrome applications to round out the experience like: Feedly, Blogger, Pandora, WeatherBug, GasBuddy.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 BMW 328 iDrive - The Bob Eucker of Data

2014 BMW 328 iDrive - The Bob Eucker of Data


I recently posted about issues with Contacts and iDrive, and I'm happy to report that all of the area code fixes for my contacts have been updated. My PC, online Contacts file (People app) and semi-Smartphone (Nokia running Windows) are all in sync.

About that BMW Technology Package

The Technology package (~$3000) just didn't offer me enough to add $100 per month to my lease. But, no technology package, no hard drive, and no hard drive, no stored data.

"I Must Be in the Front Row!"

I jumped in the car, navigated to Contacts and found the list was blank. (Cool!) Several minutes later the sync process was complete and my BMW 328i had the same contacts as my phone.

Curious, I then linked my wife's phone via Bluetooth, her contacts loaded into the iDrive, replacing mine.


Bottom Line:

While it seems logical that your car should store your contact files, this "lack of storage feature" on my BMW insures that whatever phone is connected, with whatever data is on that phone, is available. I'm not sure if BMW planned for this "real-time" functionality, but it works for me.

Just remember to link the phone when you start your trip - to allow time for the data to sync, and you're good to go.


Friday, October 3, 2014

2014 BMW 328i iDrive and MS Outlook Contacts

2014 BMW 328i iDrive and MS Outlook Contacts

Feature (Default Behavior) or Bug (Glitch)?

My new car (2014 BMW 328i 100 Mile Review) revealed an interesting “behavior” in Outlook. I linked my phone by Bluetooth to the BMW iDrive application, uploaded my Contacts, and noticed that many of my contacts had the wrong area code. 


When I joined my current company and setup my laptop, I was living in Washington and my area code was (425). I live in Texas now, and most of my co-workers are based in Texas. As a new employee I have been building my Contact list by adding names from email threads and Meeting Invites. Outlook has a really fast way to collect contacts.

In Outlook, using Exchange server:
  • Right click on the name of the contact -- try this on names in the email address field, meeting invitees and even from the Scheduling Assistant view
  • Click Add to Outlook Contacts
  • Exchange will populate many fields based on your company setup
  • Click on the Notes tab to add details (example: Project Name, Role, location, etc.)
  • Click Save
Bingo, you can collect key contacts in a few days. 


MS Outlook adds the default location prefix (425 from Washington) to any phone number that is only 7 digits long. 

Which is... every single contact that I added from my new company's global address book. I’m not sure why the address book doesn't load the area code when a contact is added to Outlook (saving a few bits?).

I worked through the steps to fix the problem (below), In the meantime, I need to find out how to fix the 700+ contacts in iDrive. Yes, I’m a bit anal, I actually update and backup my Contacts every month. If I had not purchased the BMW, I'm sure I would have discovered this “Glitch” when some major application fell over and I needed to reach Expert #137 for support.


When I setup my laptop I was living in Washington – area code (425), so MS Outlook assumes (425) is my default area code. Outlook will always add this area code when seven (7) digits are entered in a telephone number field. In my case, the company Exchange server only populates seven (7) digits when a contact is added.

You can find this problem by going to your Outlook Contacts. Click VIEW, then Change View, then List. Once the List view is displayed, search by area code, in my case (425) and review the results. It should be pretty clear if Outlook has been adding the default area code to the wrong phone numbers. 

How to fix the problem: 

Windows 7 Enterprise, Outlook 2013, Exchange Server

1 - Set your location (this will be your default area code):

  • Click the Windows key
  • Click Phone and Modem
  • Set your location with Area Code
  • Save

Click for larger view.

2 - Edit every single incorrect contact in Outlook (sorry, no quick way to do this):

  • Using the Search results from above, highlight 15-20 contacts (click the first contact, then shift-click the last, just like selecting a range in Excel)
  • Right-click on the selection and then click Open. Outlook will open the all of selected contacts (tiled on the screen) for editing
  • Fix the Area Code
  • From the Ribbon, click Update to get any new data from your Exchange server
  • Add any Notes (to remind you of role, or last conversation, etc.)
  • Save and Close, repeat until done. 

NOTEUsing the UPDATE feature on an individual contact page does not correct errors. It will only make changes to the contact when the Global Address book changes... if the contact has actually changed their profile (phone number, work location, title, etc.).

3 - Update your Smartphone contact list

  • Look for a command to SYNC, (usually Sync is found under Accounts, or EMAIL, instructions vary by phone and OS)
  • Using Windows Phone (OK, you are entitled to a chuckle)
    • Sync the Outlook client with (automatic if you are logged in). 
      • Verify that the Sync is complete by checking a few contacts in the People app.
    • From a Nokia Smartphone (used loosely since it is running Windows)
      • Touch Settings, 
      • Then Email+Account
      • Touch Microsoft Account and it will start to Sync
      • Verify a few contacts to make sure the Sync is complete

4 - Re-sync the car and check a few numbers to make sure everything is working. 

I'm praying that this will be as simple as linking and waiting for a Sync. Otherwise I will have to lean the basics of iDrive file management. 

BMW - Feature or Bug, or just a headache?

Is it a feature (saving you keystrokes when manually entering Contacts) or a bug (executing a behavior that is not widely expected or understood)? 

You decide. 

(Reaching for the aspirin in 3....2.....1..)