Surface Pro power dongle lesson learned.

Just a real quick tip…

Be careful how you handle the dongle end of the power cord for the Surface while it is plugged in.

My Surface Pro power supply, which I have used everyday since February 2013, was acting up the other day.  I found the wires had broken inside the shielding near to where the magnetic plug attaches to the Surface.  It is kind of an odd location where the power plug attaches to the Surface Pro and it does put undue stress on the cable, especially when on the Kickstand. Or if you are like me carelessly moving it around with it plugged in while in the easy chair :).

Continue reading “Surface Pro power dongle lesson learned.”

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Xbox One, MS Surface and a HomeServer oh my…

I know I have already threw a post up here today but this you learn something new every day is too good to pass on.  Over on the Xbox Wire, the staff posted a video that covers Casting your Surface to the Xbox One with a Miracast device, Using OTA digital (local off the air) on the Xbox One to watch TV (using Media Center or an OTA digital Convertor/PVR) and then a really quick blip on playing your Videos that reside on your Home Server. Say What?  We have been hounding Microsoft to make it so we can stream from our Home Servers.

The video is here: http://news.xbox.com/2014/01/xbox-one-surface-tips-tricks and it offers some really cool things to do with your Xbox One/Surface (any tablet).

The thing that I got out of it immediately was that I could get to my Home Server (a Windows 8 Pro w/Media Center computer) Recorded TV and Videos without having to buy some sort of extra device or wait for the Xbox One update.  If you have an Xbox Box One, a Windows 8 tablet and a Home Server (Windows 8) and your network is set up properly there is a quick means to watch that recorded TV and Videos on your Xbox One from the Home Server.

My Home Server has a HD Tuner in it and it records OTA local channels.  The recorded shows are saved in a folder on the Home Server.  With the Xbox 360 we have a Media Center Extender that let up stream from a device on our network.  We do not have the Extender on the Xbox One yet.

This is a bit of a work around but works without spending any $$$ or waiting for the update to the Xbox One.

  1. Xbox One, TV, and Home Theatre are all on.
  2. On my Surface I RDC (Remote Desktop Connection) into my Home Server.
    1. Launch Windows Media Player (not Media Center).
    2. Browse to my Recorded TV folder.
    3. Right click on the Video I want to watch, choose Play To and select my Xbox One from the list.
    4. Click the Play button that appears and wala…
  3. The show starts playing on my Xbox One using the Xbox Videos app.
  4. To get out of it I just say “Xbox go home”.
xboxoneandahomeserver
Media Play on Home Server

Voice commands and gestures work.  So I can pause, rewind etc while I am watching the show.  Just thought I’d share.  Watch the linked Video, there is some really cool stuff there.

Oh and Say it isn’t so … Streaming Music from the Home Server works this way using Media Player as well…Woo Hoo.  It does open in Xbox Music but plays just peachy.  So all the pieces are there we just don’t have an app for the Xbox One to grab our home server stuff.  That’s Ok I don’t mind using my Surface as a remote.

Xbox One and Xbox Fitness

Unlike the other consoles where you shake something at your screen or velcro something to your leg; Either of the Xboxes with a Kinect attached, your hands are free to concentrate (with weights or otherwise) on the task at hand.  Kinect 2.0 (Xbox One) has made vast improvements over it’s predecessor in tracking, poor light situations and (less) distance between the user and the device.

We have many third party fitness games on the 360, each of which has it’s pluses and minuses.  On the Xbox One Microsoft has included an App called Xbox Fitness.  The App is currently free to Xbox Live Gold members and includes many sessions ranging from 10 minute sessions to P90x and Insanity type stuff.  We have been told that Xbox Fitness is free for 2014 but there may be a fee to use the service starting early 2015.  There are lots of free sessions but there programs by Jillian Michaels and Tracey Anderson that you can purchase ranging from 10 to 30 bucks.  I have not purchased any of those programs so really can’t say how they function.

To get the App on Xbox One we just go to the Store and install it, again the app and service is currently free.

Library

There is a pretty good size library with all sorts of sessions.  It is laid out so you can see sessions that you have done. Then as you scroll to the right you will see Popular Now, Workout < 20 Minutes, > 20 Minutes, Workouts that require no equipment.  Continue scrolling right and you will find content by vendor like Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson, 10 Minute Solutions, Beach body and Mossa.

Note: The way it is presented you need to know a little bit about what type sessions you want to do on a day-to-day basis.  There is no guidance telling you that Monday, Wednesday and Friday you need to do Cardio and the other days do Strength training.  The (purchased) Programs might but I haven’t tried any of those. This might leave a beginner confused.

1_XBF_Library
Xbox Fitness Library

History

Xbox Fitness does track and store your workout history.  It shows how you compare to those in your Age/Gender bracket.  Also displayed is how you compare to your friends when they do the same session/routines.

2XBFHistory
Xbox Fitness History

Stats are tracked for Sessions and we are graded on the routines within the sessions.  We are given from 1 to 5 stars depending on how well we did. The stars count towards our stamp card and “level up”.  Individual routines are tracked to be compared with the same routine when we are doing that routine again.  An overall grade, in stars, is given at the end of the session.

3XBFRoutineHistory
Xbox Fitness Routine History

The Sessions

The sessions are not graphical representations.  This is actual footage of sessions.  They are of those DVDs that we have collecting dust somewhere in the house.  I know this true as I actually found some 10 minute solutions and Beach Body DVDs that are similar Smile. Programmers have carefully choreographed the tracking of the Kinect to these sessions.  Kinect 2.0 does a really good job at tracking too.  There is no cheating.  The DVDs might be great (I wouldn’t know) but when I’m tracked, get feedback and rewarded it works better for me.

Below is the screen layout.  In the main window you see the session.  To the right is the informational area.  The Heart is telling me that Kinect is currently taking my pulse (yes it does that). Below that is what the Kinect sees, me.  Then there is how much time left in the routine and stars telling me how well I am doing for the routine.  The bottom left tells me the routine (as you get close to the end of the routine it tells what’s next) and bottom right is how much time left in the session.

Below is the Mossa core workout.  There are three trainers each performing at a different difficulty level.  Kinect tracks and scores you no matter what difficulty level you are following.  This is cool.

4XBFAWorkout
Xbox Fitness Display (Mossa Core Workout)

Each session has challenges.  Note that you can pause sessions if you need as I did below.  If you complete a challenge a new challenge will be added. In Xbox Fitness we have something similar to a stamp card.  As we complete challenges we earn stamps for the card.  When we fill a card our “Level” goes up.  On the first image, near the top of this post, you may have noticed my Gamer Pic and the word Inspired under it.  This is my current level.  I have filled 4 cards…there is about 30 stamps per card.

5XBFChallenges
Xbox Fitness Challenges (Mossa Core Workout)

Feedback

Again these sessions are actual footage so the instructor cannot vocally tell you (they do but it is generic) to go higher with your knees when you try to cheat. The Kinect catches you though and will tell you in the form of a text popup or when you are doing good it will pop that up as well.  Yeah team!

6XBFFeedback
Xbox Fitness Feedback (10-Minute Solutions)

From time to time how you are doing for a particular session compare to your average score for the session will splash at the bottom of the screen.  You will also see how you compare to those in your friends list.

7XBFSessionAverage
Xbox Fitness routine average comparison (10-Minute Solutions)

All in all this is a great way to get or stay fit.  Personally I need competition, badges, and rewards if I am to keep doing this.  Working out with non computer generated trainers is totally awesome.

Here’s a secret:  Want to shed a few.  Do 3 or 4 of the 10-Minute solution sessions and 30 minutes of Just Dance 2014 a day for 4 or 5 days a week and you will be surprised. 🙂

Windows 8.1 and MS Remote Assistance

Let’s just say that we have family living hundreds of miles away (I do) that would like us to help them with issues they are having on their computer.

We could:

  • Do the whole phone support thing (requires patience) to try to walk them through the troubleshooting steps.
  • Remote into their computer and troubleshoot as they watch on the other end.

Some times the phone support thing just makes me crazy; so I just remote in and do my thing.  We could purchase something like Team Viewer (which is a very good product), Bomgar or go grab some open source product but personally I use that which has been built into Windows forever.

In Windows 7/XP it is called Windows Remote Assistance and in Windows 8/8.1 it is called Microsoft Remote Assistance. Either way it is the same program.  I am working on a Windows 8 box so I will refer to it as MSRA, which actually is the executable program.

MSRA is not the same as a remote desktop Connection like Remote Desktop or something like Gotomypc where you can log into one of your home computers from another network.  It is a means to log into friend or family’s (distant) computer, with permission from the far end, to offer help.  MSRA requires a human to be present at the far end to grant permission by initiating the process and providing a password to the individual providing assistance.

Enable/Verify Remote Assistance on ailing computer.

It is really quite simple to do.  The only requirement is that Remote Assistance is enabled on the computer that will be requesting assistance. Checking that Remote Assistance is pretty easy to do over the phone.

Have the person with the ailing computer (for all versions of Windows):

  1. Press Windows Key + Pause/Break to open System Properties.
  2. In the left pane click on Remote settings.
  3. Check Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer; Click on the OK button.

EnableRA

The distant computer is now able to accept remote assistance.

Requesting Assistance

The person with the ailing (distant) computer initiates the remote session.

Windows 7/XP

Note: If you will be helping this family member a lot have them create a shortcut on their desktop.

If you just want them to run Windows Remote Assistance have them:

  1. Click the Windows Start Bubble
  2. Start typing Windows Remote Assistance in the find files and program field.
  3. When Windows Remote Assistance appears at the top of the start list have them click on it.
  4. The program will launch.

To have them create a shortcut on the desktop:

  1. When Windows Remote Assistance appears have them Right Click on it
  2. Select Send To > Desktop (create shortcut)
  3. They now have a Shortcut on the desktop they can click every time you need to assist them.

Win7RAshortcut

Windows 8/8.1 

On the Start Screen start typing Invite someone to connect choose Invite someone to connect to your pc and help your; or offer to help someone else from the results.  The Remote Assistance program will launch.

Note: You cannot “Pin” the above search result to the Start Screen or Taskbar.  What I did to create a shortcut was to:  On the Start screen type MSRA the result will be msra.exe, this executable can be pinned to the Start screen and/or Taskbar.

In writing like above it looks like a lot but really it is not.

So the person requesting help launches the Windows Remote Assistance program:

On the first dialog that appears have them choose Invite someone you trust to help you.

WRAAskforhelp

The next dialog is How do you want to invite your trusted helper.

In the image below you may note that Use Easy Connect is grayed out.  The screen cap is on a Win 8 box so I am guessing that doesn’t work with Windows 8.  I have never got Easy Connect to work anyways (Windows 7 to Windows 7) so let’s skip that.

WRAHow

They will pick between the Save a file… or Use Email… choices depending on how email is set up on their PC.  Or in the case of my next session with Mom, the mail client (Windows Live Mail on Win 7) is broken.

About Use Email to send an invitation. The pc that the person is requesting help on must have a default mail client like Outlook, Live Mail or many of the other Mail Clients available.  With Windows 8 the Mail App is not considered a resident Mail Client and Windows Remote Assistance does not recognize it as being one.

With a mail client (and it works) on the requesting computer the person requesting help will choose the Use Email… option, their mail client will open a new message with all the specifics about the session; they will enter the email address of person that will be helping them and send the email.

On the requesting pc a session window will pop open.  It will have the password for the remote connection.  Make sure to tell the person you are helping to not close that window.  The requestor will read that password to you over the phone or otherwise.  The session window will go away once the two pcs are connected.

WRASession

On the helper end the email you receive will have a link in the body to click on to initiate the connection, the helper will be prompted to enter the password.  The two pcs will connect with each other and the helper will see the remote pc’s desktop.  Initially you will only see the remote pc but won’t be able to interact with it.  This is useful if you just want to walk the person on the far end through the troubleshooting steps.

If you want to interact with the remote pc you the helper must request control and the person on the far end must grant it.  Below is the remote desktop as viewed on the helpers pc.  In the upper left of the helper’s client is Request Control, Clicking the link will pop open a allow control dialog on the remote pc.  The person you are helping must click Yes before you will be able to control the remote pc.

WRARequestControl

Save this invitation as a file is just like Use Email… except no mail client is launched.  The information that would be in the email is in a file that is saved to the requesting computer.  This is useful if there is no email client or the email client is broken.

The requestor would choose that option to:

  1. Save the file to their computer
  2. Browse to their Web Mail
  3. Create a new email to the person helping them
  4. Attaching the saved file to that email and sending it

The helper receives the email, opens the attachment and will be prompted to provide the password to connect to the remote pc.

That was the easy part, now you have to figure out what the problem is on the other end 🙂