What I’m Using – January 2019 Edition

I like to change up my setup and process on a regular basis. Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac, Apps & Services, etc. Here is what I am using, January 2019 Edition

Devices

Phone – iPhone Xs Max 256 Gb AT&T running iOS 12.1.2. Backup: OnePlus 2 running the latest Android OS it allows.

Work Machine – MacBook Pro 15 in 2015 Edition (no dongles required!) running macOS Mojave (Beta). Bonus: Windows 10 Enterprise Oct 2018 edition VM in Parallels.

Home Machine – Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 Insider Edition. Have an OLD 2011 iMac that is on it’s deathbed.

Bonus: iPad Air 2 used for reading books to myself and the kids, and just playing with iPad stuff

Gaming

Nintendo Switch – playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces, Mario Kart, Mario Party, as well as NES games on Nintendo Online. Looking forward to new Mario game and Metroid! I am Supernova on Nintendo Online

Playstation 4 – playing God of War, Last of Us. Just finished Red Dead Redemption 2 recently. Have Spider-man on queue for the winter! I am ScaleOvenStove on PS Network.

Xbox One – haven’t been playing much here. Unravel. Was doing the Telltale Walking Dead series, waiting for the last chapter to come out after the layoff drama. I might get Red Dead Redemption on Xbox as there is backward compatibility. I am ScaleOvenStove on Xbox live.

Other – SNES classic – been playing some SNES Zelda as well. on iOS played a little Fire Emblem Heroes but haven’t gotten much into it.

Entertainment

Apple TV 4 – this is my go to entertainment device. We have cable since we moved into our new house but I don’t watch cable, I just hook up all the apps on the Apple TV to stream. Mostly sports there.

YouTube is my main viewing channel though, I do have YouTube Premium as I hate ads!

MoviesAnywhere is also a great service as I have videos on Google Play, Amazon and iTunes, but can watch them anywhere.

Apps & Services

Home: iMessage, Gmail, Google Photos, Google Maps, Dark Sky, Nest, YouTube, Apollo (Reddit), Twitter, Apple Music. Lots more niche or specific apps, these are just the highlights.

Work: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Outlook, OneDrive and a few others.

Notables: Deactivated Facebook and Instagram. Deleted the apps, and Snapchat app. WeChat as well. Facebook has too many privacy issues. My phone battery life and my attention span thanks me. Maybe someday I will go back.

Wishlist: Apple Music on Google Home devices. I used Google Home devices around the house, and Google Play music is OK, but their implementation on iOS is bad.

Summary

There are a bunch of different devices and services out there, I like to move things around. Going full on Android might be something soon, with a Pixel 3 or something, but iMessage is such a pull back into iOS. A little cross device and platform compatibility would really make things easier for people that aren’t tied to any platform. We can only hope one day things are better for consumers!

The State of Parental Controls going into 2019

Kids are now growing up in a digital age. Screens are part of their lives from day one. As they grow, they want to use devices and play games and do whatever everyone else is doing. I am not going to debate if this is a good or bad thing – but it is a reality. 

Major tech companies have taken notice and they have been (and still are in progress) releasing ways for parents to keep tabs on their kids’ device and screen time usage. 

Of course, the big three – Apple, Google, Microsoft – have their solutions. Also other players like Facebook, Nintendo, Sony have solutions for their products as well.

Apple

Let’s start with Apple. There are few different things Apple has had and now just recently came out with to help parents. Up until iOS 12 they had “Family” groups you could create – not so much for managing screen time, but for creating a group where family members can share purchases, location, etc.

As a parent you can set up an Apple/iCloud account for a minor and then incorporate them into your “Family”. A parent also had to set up “restrictions” in iOS settings for each device for a kid. Kids can ask permission to install apps, and parents devices get an alert to allow or deny. 

What NOT to do: I have seen too many parents just sign in as themselves and give their kids a device. Please DON’T do this! Kids can really mess up your accounts. Another thing would be just giving kid unmanaged device with no account. You lose a lot of shared benefits of having an account for your kid under your family.

With the latest release Apple came out with “Screen Time” – for users to manage their own digital wellbeing on their own devices, but this also lets parents manage screen time on kids devices under the family group. 

Screen Time - Kid Device Management

You then get a weekly report of Screen Time for your kid and can change settings etc through Screen Time on what apps are allowed, etc. 

So, what’s missing? Well – for one – some devices have TouchId or FaceId – how does a parent set that up and still get into a device physically? Up to you. For now on my family devices, no passcodes or 2 factor auth – it is just too much overhead and messy to manage with kids. 

Google

Google has something similar for managing kids devices – it is called “Family Link” – but you need to install and configure it. Similarly to Apple screen time you can manage what apps and time spent and other settings on devices. It works on Android devices so if you are running a Google Android device but your kid has an old iPad or iPhone you are out of luck. 

Google Family Link App

Recently they announced you can run Family Link on Chromebooks (ChromeOS) as well – but I have yet to get this working. It is supposed to work similarly to Android where you can manage the apps and see usage, set screen time etc.

I have found that Google support around Family Link is more responsive than other Google support I have tried to reach out to, but I still cannot get it working on my daughters Chromebook.

One thing to note as well, and maybe I can follow up on this one after I get it working – but you need to create a google account for your kid (just like Apple). If you manage it, it should be okay. But – your kid might already have a Google Account through their school district. It starts getting tricky here. You as a parent cannot “manage” that account. I think there is a way to link them. So the kid would login to your Chromebook with their kid google account, and then still be able to get to google classroom or login to chrome (google docs, etc) with the school account. Time will tell. It is messy right now.

YouTube (owned by Google) is another story. YouTube is really a cesspool of crap if you get down the rabbit hole. There have been many articles and cries for help to Google/YouTube to let parents better regulate what their kids see. YouTube STILL doesn’t let you block entire channels. This is a big miss.

Also, if you have shared devices (like an Apple TV, etc) with YouTube and you login as the adult – the kids sees your recommendations. What kids watch screw up your recommendations. Switching between accounts is not easy (Netflix does this pretty well).

YouTube Kids is an app that is made for “kids” – and is supposed to filter out junk – but it isn’t foolproof. Parents are usually going to take the easy route, and YouTube website/main app etc are going to be the go to. In my opinion – the filtering on YouTube and parental control is one of the big problems Google needs to tackle, and soon.

Google also has a bunch of features, not so much parental controls, that they are coming out for around Google Home around reading books with your kids, stories, etc. Try them out sometime if you can, they are pretty cool. With four kids in the house, reading to one of them, while one reads themselves, while the other says “Hey google, tell me a story” is a lifesaver, especially when one parent is away for an evening.

Microsoft

Microsoft has very similar setups to Apple and Google – but of course a little different. With Microsoft, you can setup an account for your child and tie it to your “family” – but you can use an existing email (so if you have a gmail or icloud from Apple or Google you can use that).

Microsoft Family Home Page

The only real devices you can manage from Microsoft are Windows devices and Xbox.

You can allow a child to login to a Windows device and restrict time and apps. One big miss here though is that you can only manage web browsing with Edge, and not other browsers. My kid uses Chrome – because they are used to it with Google Chromebooks at school, but I cannot manage their browser usage, etc. Big bummer

Managing Screen Time for Microsoft Devices

With Xbox you can manage screen time and game limits and ratings, etc. Works pretty well

Nintendo

Nintendo has an app you can download and tie it to your Nintendo switch. You can use it as parental control and set time limits and game limits etc. I don’t use it for that as I manage that pretty close directly with my kids but a nice feature of the app is it tracks play time, and that is good even to see for myself!

Nintendo Parental Control App
Nintendo Switch – Play Time

Facebook

Facebook. Not sure on this one as I deactivated my account recently and I am about to jump ship due to their creepiness, scandals, privacy issues, etc.

I did try out Facebook Messenger for Kids this summer. It lets your kid sign up just for Messenger for Kids, not Facebook. They can add their friends, but both kids parents have to allow it. Also, parents can limit usage time and also install the app on their device and see all messages, etc.

This app works well if your kid wants to message their friend from their old iPhone using iMessage – but their friend has their parents old Android device and it won’t work.

Netflix & Hulu

I mentioned it earlier, but Netflix does have a way to create a “profile” that is deemed “kids” and is pre-filtered to kids specific shows. You can set it for “little kids” or “older kids and younger”. This works fairly well in practice.

It is easy enough for kids to just change profiles though. Maybe having non kid profiles pin controlled would be a good addition? Also, we have one for “Family” that has things we might all watch together vs just Paw Patrol episodes 🙂

Profile for Kids in Netflix
Edit Profile – Kids – Netflix

Hulu has a very similar setup. Profile for kids, can see kids shows.

Choose Profile Screen on Hulu – Web
Set Programming to “Kid Friendly” – Hulu

Sony

Sony has a way to set up parental controls on Playstation. You can set up a profile for your kid – but you need an email address. You can restrict games and screen time, etc.

I have a Playstation but haven’t set these up myself as my kids don’t play on it. Yet.

Amazon

Amazon has a way to set parental controls, I really can’t speak to them as I have no real Amazon devices where you set this up – but here is a link to assist if you’ve read this far.

Summary

Okay, so there is a lot going on here. Your mileage may vary. Your family is going to be different than mine. More or less kids, different ages. Also, your tech profile won’t be the same. Different devices, platforms and operating systems.

As you can see, for the big companies, you need to set up an email address for your children and manage their profiles, and connect them to your family. Then they offer you ways to restrict time on devices and also different types of content, etc.

There are also ways some of the smaller or ancillary players let you manage children use time and parental controls. I hope you found this useful, hit me up in the comments with any questions!

Microsoft Business Intelligence Now and Into The Future

10 years ago, it was SSIS/SSAS/SSRS

Then in 2007 SharePoint, PerformancePoint/SSRS

Then in 2010 Power Pivot in Excel/SharePoint, then Power View in SharePoint

Then in 2013 Power BI … Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, Power Map.. In Excel and Office 365.

Now in 2015 Power BI Version 2. Not in Office 365, separate. Power BI Designer, or use the Power BI web site to set up your dashboards, mobile, etc.

All the while, the existing solutions that have been available previously are still there and available, making things… well, confusing to say the least.

Most shops .. It all depends on when they started going heavy BI with the Microsoft tools, on where they land. Also, how well they could move when things change, as well as how much they want to stay up to date with the tools.

If you started 10+ years ago, you probably have a good base of ETLs written in SSIS, as well as many multi-dimensional (MD) OLAP cubes in SSAS, and SSRS reports off your cubes and data warehouse, running in SSRS Native Mode. You started with SQL 2000 if you were lucky, with cubes and dts packages, but then SQL 2005, then 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2 and now are on 2014. You really liked 2005 SP2 and 2008 R2 for the BI features :). This setup is like the VB6 or .NET Winforms of BI. It will probably be around forever in some way shape or form but not a ton of updates and Microsoft has moved on.

If you started a little later you might have SSRS in SharePoint mode, and some Performance Point dashboards. You might have even used Performance Point for planning/budgeting (and loved it?) until Microsoft killed it. Then you had to look for alternatives for that, or use OLAP Cube Writeback. In my opinion, SSRS in SharePoint and Performance Point are dead. Not dead as in they don’t work or won’t be supported, but I see them as the wrong path, life supported direction. If you are still using these heavy I would look for alternatives.

Now it gets interesting. You started with Excel 2010 and PowerPivot (no space!) and had SharePoint 2010 setup and Power View in SharePoint. You created V1 Power Pivot models, they were limited, you could do some things, but still it was limited. You still needed to get data somewhere so SSIS ETL’s or something to get data in tables you can use. If you are using Power View in SharePoint, I would hurry up and look for alternatives, it is dead (my definition of dead like SSRS/PP in SharePoint). Excel 2010 is long past and V1 PowerPivot is dead too. Seems like this era was short lived and just a stepping stone.

Then, in 2013, Power BI. So they added a space to Power Pivot 🙂 .. And made it better, v2. Added missing features, Tabular SSAS cubes even! And Power View could be used in Excel. They both came by default in Excel (depends on version) but turned off. Power Query came out of nowhere and is awesome and Power Map, while buggy, was better than nothing. But what do you do with all these solutions you build? Where to publish? Not SharePoint on prem? But Power BI in SharePoint Online.. So you need Office 365 and Power BI subscription. You set up Data Management Gateway so you can get to your on prem data sources. You can refresh once a day or manually. You can do some pretty cool things, create workbooks with pivots and Power Views.

But you are missing things. Missing things like the ability to schedule a report to run and email someone, like SSRS. You are missing awesome formatting abilities for every pixel like SSRS. You wonder when SSRS is going to come to Power BI or what your options are… you hope you see iterations and features released to Power BI as that is the path, but then..

New Power BI Preview comes out in 2015. It has a standalone Power BI Designer (reminiscent of the Performance Point designer) that lets you create reports, dashboards and save a file to publish to the NEW Power BI portal. So you have two Power BI portals.. New and old. They don’t overlap or talk to each other, the licensing is different, etc. The old Power BI lets you connect to SQL on prem with refresh with the DMG and other data sources, etc. The new one does not. The new one lets you connect to GitHub and SalesForce and Marketo, but not other data sources that the old Power BI did. The new Power BI lets you connect to on-prem TABULAR SSAS cubes with refresh, but not MD ones (yet). The new Power BI lets you connect to excel data in OneDrive/OneDrive for Business. So could one publish a data file out to ODFB to faux refresh? I have yet to try. The new Power BI lets you publish dashboards to the iOS Mobile apps and also  embed (up to 10 MB – which needs change to be bigger) on websites. New Power BI has an API that lets you create your own connectors / REST API for things. And the list goes on and on.

So where does that leave us? Well, of you invested time and money in BI the last 10 years, you might feel like Microsoft is abandoning you. It kind of seems that way. You need to change or get left behind. But what do you change to? Change your MD cubes to Tabular? Rethink your architecture? Sync data to Azure?  Power Pivot/Power Query? Abandon SharePoint as a BI tool? Move your reports from SSRS to something else or Power BI (if you can?) I am unsure. Still trying to figure it all out.

One thing for sure is, it will always keep evolving. Me, I would say, tabular first if you are on prem. Try to use Power BI where you can. Minimize SSRS reports. Use SSRS native instead of SharePoint. Stop using PerformancePoint if you are still using it or thinking about it. I bet at some point SSRS comes to the new Power BI – there is an item on the UserVoice forum already asking for it. Try the Power BI Designer and Website and see what you can do. Always be trying to get something going in the newest and latest technology/tools available.

Have Fun with Microsoft BI now and what is yet to come!

 

Setting up Mail/Calendar/Contacts on Windows 8.1

If you use Google/Gmail ..

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/use-google-windows-8-rt

“To sync your calendar”

Though you can’t sync your Google calendar with the Calendar app, you can see your Google calendar events by moving them to Outlook.com. For more info on how to do that, see How to see your Google events in the Calendar app.

This is a horrible solution. It is a shame that Microsoft can’t make things work, and at least Google/Microsoft get along enough to interop.  Annoying.

OneNote for Mac and OneNote API released, but something is missing…

I try to use multiple services. Google Drive, DropBox, Skydrive (now OneDrive) – the personal version – OneDrive for Business, Evernote, Wunderlist, Exchange Tasks, OneNote, etc etc. Why? Well to compare and contrast. What is good, what is bad, what is missing, what is – ubiquitous.

A few months ago I was use Evernote heavy (again). It is pretty ubiquitous. Every device, platform, web, etc. But, I really do like Microsoft OneNote. There are pros and cons to both apps, and I really do like how Evernote does tags, but that is a different blog post. OneNote was almost everywhere. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Web.. but missing a native Mac OS X app. That changed today. FINALLY a native Mac app for OneNote. There are third party apps that kind of work, but nothing like the real deal. Integrates with OneDrive (personal) via a Microsoft account.

I think even bigger news is the OneNote API – allowing for apps and services to integrate with OneNote, very big news indeed.

But what is missing? One glaring omission to complete the story, in my opinion, is the lack of any kind of client or integration on Mac OS for OneDrive for Business. There are OneDrive for Business apps for Windows and iOS, and Office Mobile apps which let you access your OneDrive for Business content for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. But glaringly omitted is any kind of Mac OS X app. Now, I was secretly hoping with the release of OneNote for Mac, that it would have integration with Office 365 or On-premises SharePoint out of the box, which would solve part of the problem, but I don’t see that integration, or I can’t find it.

Why do we need OneDrive for Business for Mac? Because, most organizations have a mix of client operating systems. These orgs want to use things like SharePoint, or Office 365 – OneDrive for Business – to let users save and share documents – internally and externally – replacing consumer (and faux business) apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, even OneDrive personal edition. But without a Mac client, it is VERY hard to get complete buy in to use the OneDrive tools. Yes, Mac users can use the web, but – they don’t like being treated like 2nd class citizens, and I don’t blame them. I use both Windows and Mac, and it would be awesome to be able to go between and use the same tools and services. Hopefully, someday.

So now, you can hit your OneNote notebooks in your personal Microsoft Account, OneDrive, but you can’t open your corporate notebooks, where I would guess many people would want to use OneNote for Mac. Microsoft – give us OneDrive for Business for Mac! We are waiting!! (take a quick glance at the image on this post, it almost looks like a Mac unless you look hard…  they are teasing us!)

Why The Surface (and Windows 8.1) Makes The Most Sense for Parents and Kids

I use many different devices. iOS, Android, Windows. iPad, Chromebook, Macbook, Surface, etc. I like to compare and contrast differences between systems and devices.. This post is about how the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8.1 works for parents and kids.

Why? Well, it isn’t so much the Surface and Windows 8.1, but Microsoft Family Safety. This has been around in Windows for a while, through the “Live Essentials” and what have you, but now it is built into the OS. Since previously I didn’t have kids, I had no use for it. Now with younger kids that want to play on my devices, I tried it.

On my Surface, I just created a kids account, and linked it to Family Safety. Now, when the kid plays, it tracks what they do. I can control what apps, what sites, levels of app ratings, time, etc. I get a report every week

If she tries to play a game or install something it won’t let her. It asks for password, it even asks “is your parent here now” so I can just put in the password. Pretty awesome.

Other systems and devices have nothing like this that I have seen, nothing built in anyways. With an iPad (or iOS) you really don’t have this control. Maybe if they have their own device, but if they share your’s you are out of luck since there are no accounts in iOS.

I have no problems now just giving her the Surface to play with – and I can track usage and set limits, pretty awesome. If you are a parent and have a Windows 8 or 8.1 device, check out the children accounts and family safety. You don’t even have to set up an email address for your kids, it just works as a local account if you want. Score one for Microsoft!

Why I Still Need A Traditional Laptop or Desktop

Simple: other devices. Not everything syncs via Bluetooth, WIFI or ANT+, etc.

I have devices I need to connect to my computer to sync data from. My Garmin Edge, my Nike+ Watch.

Luckily my Nike Fuelband and Fitbit sync via Bluetooth now. But until I can get away with running an iPad, Chromebook or Surface RT .. I will need a traditional laptop or desktop. Macbook Pro or Air, iMac, Windows Desktop or Laptop, or Surface Pro…

Another reason, but not a complete dealbreaker, is software and services that I can’t use on non-traditional devices.

Excel 2013 with Power BI? Can’t really run that anywhere but on a traditional laptop or desktop. Yea, I know I can remote into a machine or server, but that is cheating. What else? Visual Studio, Management Studio, etc. Same thing, I could set up some IaaS VM and do things, but I would be taking way longer trying to create from an iPad or Surface RT, etc. The Surface at least as a sanctioned keyboard. iPad with a bluetooth keyboard works well. Chromebook works, but when it comes down to hard core work, these devices fall down.

I don’t even feel like typing up a blog post on these devices. I can pound out tons of content on a laptop or desktop. On a tablet/limited device, well, you are limited. Limited by entry speed, limited by having to be always connected, etc.

I am looking forward to a convergence of laptop/tablet along the lines of Surface. Surface Pro 2 is close. Probably the closest device. Unless you want to develop iPhone apps, then you need a Mac too 🙂

Hoping in the not to near future I can limit the number of devices I need to create or do the things I need to. Content creation, app development, syncing external devices, etc. If 2014 isn’t the year, guessing 2015 will be.