Also See...

You should also check out my non-technology blog at:

http://www.bobsbasement.net/

Nineteen Years at Microsoft

Microsoft has an interesting unofficial tradition for employees on their anniversary with the company: we are supposed to bring in one pound of M&M's for each year that we have been with Microsoft.

That being said, when I reached my 10-year anniversary with the company, I decided that 10 pounds or more of M&M's were way too many, and a recent trip to the Cayman Islands provided me with a much better alternative: Caribbean Rum Cakes.

Tortuga_Rum_Cakes

For each subsequent anniversary, I would bring in a rum cake for each year since my date of hire, and these proved to be a big hit with my coworkers. So much so that when I changed teams, I had coworkers ask me if they could still drop by and have rum cake on my anniversary.

However, this past year I began working remotely, so I did not order any rum cakes this year. That was kind of sad for me, because I looked forward to my annual tradition. With that in mind, I hadn't really paid attention as my anniversary was approaching this year.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised this morning when I entered my office and discovered that my loving spouse had ordered several rum cakes just for me to celebrate the day…

I have a pretty cool spouse. ;-]

Posted: Dec 18 2014, 11:07 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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FTP Clients - Part 16: NetDrive

For the next installments in my series about FTP clients, I will be taking a look at two FTP redirectors at the same time. In this specific blog post, I will focus on NetDrive (from Bdrive Inc.), whereas my previous post looked at WebDrive (from South River Technologies).

At the time of this blog's writing, NetDrive is a for-retail FTP client and redirector which is available from the following URL:

http://www.netdrive.net/

For this blog post I will be using NetDrive version 2.3.2.

NetDrive 2.3 Overview

NetDrive is different from many of the other FTP clients that I have reviewed because it is an Internet protocol redirector, meaning that it allows you to map drive letters to a variety of Internet repositories. When you install and open NetDrive, you are presented with the list of supported Internet protocols and repositories which you can use for mapping drives:

As you can see from the illustration above, NetDrive's list of support technologies is quite extensive: DropBox, Box.net, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon S3, Openstack Swift, FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV.

When you add a drive or configure the settings for one of the default drives, you are presented with a dialog box where you can enter the settings for the drive connection; note that there are very few settings for FTP connections:

As you add drives, the NetDrive user interface will display the drives and their current connection status:

As an added touch, NetDrive customizes its drive icons in Windows Explorer, so you can easily see the type of mapped drive for each connection:

I would love to take an in-depth look at all of the supported protocols in this review, but this series is about FTP clients, so I'll move on to the FTP-specific features that I normally review.

Using NetDrive 2.3 with FTP over SSL (FTPS)

NetDrive 2.3 has built-in support for FTP over SSL (FTPS), although it only appears to support Explicit FTPS - and it does so in a confusing way. When you are editing the settings for an FTP drive connection, you need to check the box for SSL/TLS in order to enable FTPS. Unfortunately, when you do so, the dialog box will change the port to 990, which is the port number for Implicit FTPS; however, in my testing I could not get Implicit FTPS to work:

With the above information in mind, I needed to manually change the port number back to 21 in order to use Explicit FTPS with NetDrive:

Using NetDrive 2.3 with True FTP Hosts

True FTP hosts are not supported natively by NetDrive 2.3, and there are no settings which allow you to customize the login environment in order to work around this situation.

Using NetDrive 2.3 with Virtual FTP Hosts

NetDrive 2.3's login settings allow you to specify the virtual host name as part of the user credentials by using syntax like "ftp.example.com|username" or "ftp.example.com\username", so you can use virtual FTP hosts with NetDrive 2.3.

Scorecard for NetDrive 2.3

This concludes my quick look at a few of the FTP features that are available with NetDrive 2.3, and here are the scorecard results:

Client
Name
Directory
Browsing
Explicit
FTPS
Implicit
FTPS
Virtual
Hosts
True
HOSTs
Site
Manager
Extensibility
NetDrive 2.3.2 N/A Y N1 Y N2 Y N/A
Notes:
  1. Despite several attempts, I could not get NetDrive to work with Implicit FTPS.
  2. I could find no way to customize an FTP connection in order to enable true FTP hostnames.

That wraps things up for today's review of NetDrive 2.3. Your key take-aways should be: NetDrive has some nice features, and it supports a wide variety of protocols with a similar user experience; that being said, NetDrive has very few settings for drive connections, so its capabilities are somewhat limited.

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/
Posted: Nov 29 2014, 19:42 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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FTP Clients - Part 15: WebDrive

For the next installments in my series about FTP clients, I will be taking a look at two FTP redirectors at the same time. In this specific blog post, I will focus on WebDrive (from South River Technologies), whereas my next post will look at NetDrive (from Bdrive Inc.).

At the time of this blog's writing, WebDrive is a for-retail FTP client and redirector which is available from the following URL:

http://www.webdrive.com/

For this blog post I will be using WebDrive version 12.10.4082.

WebDrive 12 Overview

Before I continue, I would like to begin with some background information: because of my ongoing blog series about FTP clients, one question that I have often been asked is, "Which FTP client do you use?" Usually I have to answer, "That depends." I know that my answer sounds non-committal, but to be honest - I have yet to find an FTP client that does everything that I want, although a few FTP clients have had enough features for me to use them quite often. And with that in mind, I need to point out that I purchased my first license for WebDrive over 12 years ago, and over the years I have periodically renewed my license for later versions. So to partially answer my earlier question - WebDrive is one of the FTP clients that I have used a lot.

That being said, WebDrive is different from many of the other FTP clients that I have reviewed because it is an Internet protocol redirector, meaning that it allows you to map drive letters to a variety of Internet-based repositories. (I'll discuss those various protocols and repositories shortly.)

When you install and open WebDrive, you are presented with a fairly empty user interface:

If you click the App Settings icon, you will be presented with a dialog box that offers dozens of customizable options:

When you click the New icon, you will be presented with a Site Wizard which lists the supported Internet protocols and repositories which you can use for mapping drives:

As you can see from the illustration above, WebDrive's list of support technologies is quite extensive: WebDAV, Secure WebDAV, FTP, Secure FTP, Google Drive, Amazon S3, SFTP, Dropbox, and FrontPage Server Extensions.

When you choose to create an FTP connection, WebDrive launches its Site Wizard, and the initial dialog box is pretty self-explanatory:

However, when you click the Advanced Settings button, you are presented once again with dozens of customizable settings for this specific connection:

As you continue to add sites with WebDrive, their connection types and current statuses are displayed in the user interface:

However, when you view your drives in Windows Explorer, even though network drives which are mapped through WebDrive are displayed with a different icon, you cannot tell the protocol type for mapped drives; this is one of the few times where NetDrive supported a feature that I really missed in WebDrive. (See my next blog entry for more information.)

WebDrive 12 supports command-line scripting, so if you find the features of the built-in Windows FTP client are somewhat limited, you can investigate scripting WebDrive:

WebDrive Command Line Parameters

I would love to take an in-depth look at all of the supported protocols in this review, but this series is about FTP clients, so I'll move on to the FTP-specific features that I normally review.

Using WebDrive 12 with FTP over SSL (FTPS)

WebDrive 12 has built-in support for FTP over SSL (FTPS), and it supports both Explicit and Implicit FTPS. To specify which type of encryption to use for FTPS, you need to choose the appropriate option from the Security Type drop-down menu in the FTP Settings for a site:

Using WebDrive 12 with True FTP Hosts

True FTP hosts are not supported natively by WebDrive 12, and there are no settings that I could find which would allow me to customize the login environment in order to work around this situation.

Using WebDrive 12 with Virtual FTP Hosts

WebDrive 12's login settings allow you to specify the virtual host name as part of the user credentials by using syntax like "ftp.example.com|username" or "ftp.example.com\username", so you can use virtual FTP hosts with WebDrive 12.

Scorecard for WebDrive 12

This concludes my quick look at a few of the FTP features that are available with WebDrive 12, and here are the scorecard results:

Client
Name
Directory
Browsing
Explicit
FTPS
Implicit
FTPS
Virtual
Hosts
True
HOSTs
Site
Manager
Extensibility
WebDrive 12.10.4082 N/A Y Y Y N1 Y N/A
Notes:
  1. True FTP hosts are not supported natively, and I could find no way to customize an FTP connection in order to enable true FTP hostnames.

That wraps things up for today's review of WebDrive 12. Your key take-aways should be: WebDrive is a powerful redirector with support for a wide variety of protocols. What's more, the WebDrive application and each individual connection contain dozens of options which allow you to customize the environment in hundreds of ways. As is the case with many of my reviews, I have barely presented a fraction of the capabilities that are available in WebDrive 12; you might want to try it out and experiment with all of its possibilities.

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/

Posted: Nov 29 2014, 19:39 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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Interesting Verbiage Choices in Technology Journalism

I often find technology journalism interesting not because of what is actually said, but because of how it is said. Everyone throughout the technology world has their own opinions and biases, but some people are incapable of separating their personal feelings from the facts when writing about competing technologies.

Here is a perfect example of what I mean - a coworker recently shared the following article with me, and pay special attention to the title:

The iPad Air 2 is the second fastest tablet currently available
http://www.mobileburn.com/23674/news/the-ipad-air-2-is-the-second-fastest-tablet-currently-available

Hmm. "The iPad Air 2 is the second fastest tablet currently available?" If so, then what's the fastest? You certainly wouldn't know by glancing at the article's title.

The article continues in typical Apple-fanboy style by continuously lauding the iPad's accolades as the 2nd-best device throughout the piece, with only a single reference to the clear winner: "... Apple's iPad is the second fastest tablet on the market, only trailing behind Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, a slate that has full PC innards." That statement doesn't actually hold water with the chart that the author includes, which shows that the Surface 3 is far and away the best tablet in terms of overall performance.

surface-versus-ipad-versus-the-world

That being said, I seriously question what the article's author meant when he referred to the Surface 3 as "a slate that has full PC innards." Does having PC innards disqualify the Surface 3 for some reason? If the iPad had come out on top of this performance comparison, I am sure that the article's author would have pointed out that the Surface 3's "PC innards" were somehow responsible.

I mentioned to someone yesterday that the article in question reminds me of days long ago when the USSR would announce that "Comrade So-and-so won a Silver Medal in the Olympics," while never mentioning who took home the Gold. This article's author chooses his verbiage in a similar manner, so it's not hard to see where his allegiances are.

Personally, I would title this article "Why the Surface 3 kicks your Apple iPoop to the curb."

;-)

Posted: Oct 23 2014, 16:21 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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Using the WebDAV Redirector with OneDrive Part 2 - Two-Step Verification

This blog is Part 2 of a series about mapping a drive letter to your OneDrive account. In Part 1 of this series, I showed you how to map a drive letter to your OneDrive account when you are using standard security, and in this blog I will show you how to map a drive letter to your OneDrive account after you have enabled two-step verification for your account security. The process is largely similar, with the notable exception that you need to generate an application password which you will use when you are mapping the drive letter with the WebDAV Redirector.

A quick note about two-step verification: enabling this security feature adds an additional requirement so that you will need to use a secondary method to verify your identity when you are logging in. (For example, you can use a phone app, text message, or second email account.) However, you cannot use a secondary login method when you are using the WebDAV Redirector, so you will need to create an application password. (Note: More information about two-step verification for your Microsoft is available in the Two-step verification: FAQ.)

Step 1 - Log Into Your OneDrive Account

The first thing that you need to do is to browse to https://onedrive.live.com/ and sign in with your Windows account.

Step 2 - Determine Your OneDrive Customer ID

Once you have logged in to your OneDrive account, hover your mouse over the Files link on the left part of your browser window – this will show your customer number in the status bar on the bottom of your browser window. If you have the status bar disabled, you can right-click the Files link and click Copy Shortcut in the pop-up menu. (Note: Those instructions are for Internet Explorer, but the method should be similar in Chrome or Firefox.)

Your Customer ID is the value that is specified after the "cid=" in the URL; for example: "https://onedrive.live.com/?cid=426f62526f636b73". You will need this value when you map a drive letter.

Step 3 - Generate an Application Password

To map a WebDAV drive to your OneDrive account after you have enabled two-step account verification, you will need to generate an application password which you will use when you enter your credentials. (Note: More information about two-step verification can be found in the App passwords and two-step verification article.)

To generate an application password, you first need to log into your Microsoft account settings at https://account.live.com/:

Once you have logged in, click on Security & password and then Create a new app password:

When the app password page is displayed, copy the password for later:

Step 4 - Map the Drive Letter

Your next step is to map the drive letter, and there are a few ways to do this. I have documented several methods in my Using the WebDAV Redirector article on the IIS.net website, but I will show a few ways in this blog.

Method #1 - Using the Windows User Interface and Wizards

On most of my systems I have the Network and This PC or My Computer icons on my desktop, which makes it easy to simply right-click one of those icons and select Map network drive:

An alternate method on Windows 8 is to open This PC and Map network drive will be listed as an icon on the Windows Explorer ribbon:

Once the Map Network Drive Wizard appears, enter "https://d.docs.live.net/" followed by your Customer ID from Step 2. For example: "https://d.docs.live.net/426f62526f636b73/"

When the Windows Security dialog box appears, enter your email address that you used to log into your OneDrive account in Step 1 and the application password that you created in Step 3.

Once the mapping has been completed, you will be able to view your OneDrive files in Windows Explorer via the mapped drive:

Method #2 - Using the Windows Command Line

You can also map a WebDAV drive letter to your OneDrive account from a command line. The general syntax is listed below:

 
C:\>net use * https://d.docs.live.net/xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx/ /user:"user@example.com" "password"

 

For example:

C:\>net use * https://d.docs.live.net/426f62526f636b73/ /user:"bob@contoso.com" "426f62526f636b73"

C:\>dir
 Volume in drive Z has no label.
 Volume Serial Number is 0000-0000

 Directory of Z:\

09/02/2014 10:38 PM <DIR> Applications
09/27/2014 08:43 AM <DIR> Blog Photos
09/29/2014 10:50 PM <DIR> Documents
08/17/2014 03:44 AM <DIR> Pictures
09/22/2014 05:58 PM <DIR> Public
09/29/2014 10:43 AM <DIR> SkyDrive camera roll

C:\>

That wraps it up for Part 2 of this blog series - I hope this helps!

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/
Posted: Sep 29 2014, 18:21 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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Using the WebDAV Redirector with OneDrive Part 1 - Standard Security

If you have read some of my previous blog posts and IIS.NET articles about WebDAV, you will see that I often use the WebDAV Redirector that is built-in to Windows in order to connect to various WebDAV websites. This allows me to access my files via a mapped drive letter, which also enables me to use WebDAV with applications that do not have native WebDAV support. (Like Visual Studio.) I'm also a big fan of OneDrive, but sometimes I'm on a legacy system where I don't have OneDrive installed. With that in mind, I thought that I would put together a quick blog series to show you how to map a drive letter to your OneDrive files.

In Part 1 of this series, I will show you how to map a drive letter to your OneDrive account by using standard security. In Part 2 of this series, I will show you how to map a drive letter to your OneDrive account after you have enabled two-step verification for your account security.

Step 1 - Log Into Your OneDrive Account

The first thing that you need to do is to browse to https://onedrive.live.com/ and sign in with your Windows account.

Step 2 - Determine Your OneDrive Customer ID

Once you have logged in to your OneDrive account, hover your mouse over the Files link on the left part of your browser window – this will show your customer number in the status bar on the bottom of your browser window. If you have the status bar disabled, you can right-click the Files link and click Copy Shortcut in the pop-up menu. (Note: Those instructions are for Internet Explorer, but the method should be similar in Chrome or Firefox.)

Your Customer ID is the value that is specified after the "cid=" in the URL; for example: "https://onedrive.live.com/?cid=426f62526f636b73". You will need this value when you map a drive letter.

Step 3 - Map the Drive Letter

Your next step is to map the drive letter, and there are a few ways to do this. I have documented several methods in my Using the WebDAV Redirector article on the IIS.net website, but I will show a few ways in this blog.

Method #1 - Using the Windows User Interface and Wizards

On most of my systems I have the Network and This PC or My Computer icons on my desktop, which makes it easy to simply right-click one of those icons and select Map network drive:

An alternate method on Windows 8 is to open This PC and Map network drive will be listed as an icon on the Windows Explorer ribbon:

Once the Map Network Drive Wizard appears, enter "https://d.docs.live.net/" followed by your Customer ID from Step 2. For example: "https://d.docs.live.net/426f62526f636b73/"

When the Windows Security dialog box appears, enter the email address and password that you used to log into your OneDrive account in Step 1.

Once the mapping has been completed, you will be able to view your OneDrive files in Windows Explorer via the mapped drive:

Method #2 - Using the Windows Command Line

You can also map a WebDAV drive letter to your OneDrive account from a command line. The general syntax is listed below:

 
C:\>net use * https://d.docs.live.net/xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx/ /user:"user@example.com" "password"

 

For example:

C:\>net use * https://d.docs.live.net/426f62526f636b73/ /user:"bob@contoso.com" "P@ssw0rd"

C:\>dir
 Volume in drive Z has no label.
 Volume Serial Number is 0000-0000

 Directory of Z:\

09/02/2014 10:38 PM <DIR> Applications
09/27/2014 08:43 AM <DIR> Blog Photos
09/29/2014 10:50 PM <DIR> Documents
08/17/2014 03:44 AM <DIR> Pictures
09/22/2014 05:58 PM <DIR> Public
09/29/2014 10:43 AM <DIR> SkyDrive camera roll

C:\>

That wraps it up for Part 1 of this blog series. In Part 2, I will show how to map a WebDAV drive to your OneDrive account after you have enabled two-step verification for your account security.

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/
Posted: Sep 29 2014, 18:18 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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Why I Don't Like Macs

I freely admit that I am fiercely loyal where my employer is concerned, but my loyalty pre-dates my employment. I was a big fan of Microsoft long before I went to work for them, which was one of the reasons why I was so thrilled when they offered me a job.

My affection for Microsoft goes back to then they were the "Little Guy" standing up to "Big Bad IBM," and at the time everyone loved Microsoft for that reason. (At that time, Macs were still pretty much toys.) But I became a huge fan of Microsoft when I started working in IT departments in the early to mid-1990s. At the time, the licensing fees for WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Ashton Tate's dBASE, etc., were astronomical, and our little IT budgets spent more on those licensing fees than we did on hardware, so our PCs were sub-par due to price-gouging. Then Microsoft came along and offered all of Microsoft Office with per-seat licensing that was 50% less than any other single software application, so we suddenly had software for every PC and budget to buy more hardware. This cannot be understated - Microsoft made it possible for us to actually focus on having great computers. To us, Microsoft was the greatest company on the planet.

MetroLogo

By way of contrast, let's take a look at what Macs were like. In each place where I worked, we had some Macs, and the experiences were nowhere near similar. First of all, the Macs were hideously over-priced. (And they still are.) When a PC died, the data was nearly-always recoverable, and usually the majority of a PC could be salvaged as well. (It was usually only a single part that failed.) Not so with a Mac - when a Mac died (which was just as often as a PC), the user's data was gone, and we couldn't fix the computer because we couldn't walk into a store and buy over-the-counter parts for a Mac. When a brand-name PC failed, its manufacturer was generally helpful with troubleshooting and repairs, whereas Apple had one answer - send us the Mac and we'll get to it when we can. Seriously. Apple was so unwilling to help their users that we grew tired of even bothering to try. We just boxed up dead Macs and sent them (at our expense) back to Apple and forgot about them until Apple got around to shipping something back to us.

To be perfectly honest, I really tried to like Macs - and I used one for quite a while. I had heard that "Macs are better for [this reason]" or "Macs are better for [that reason]," but in my actual experience most of those claims had little basis in reality (with a few exceptions). Macs simply had a loyal fanbase of apologists who ignored the bad parts of their user experience and evangelized the good parts of their user experience. (Which is pretty much what I do for PCs, right? ;-] ) But after months of using a Mac and wrangling with what I still think is a terrible user interface, coupled with the realization that I could be doing my work considerably faster on a PC, it was my actual use of a Mac that turned me off to Macs in general.

no_apple

I realize that a lot of time has gone by, and both Apple and their products have gotten better, but years of abuse are not easily forgotten by me. There was a time when Apple could have won me over, but their sub-par products and crappy customer service lost me. (Probably forever.) And make no mistake, for all of the blogosphere regurgitation that Microsoft is a "monopoly," Apple is one of the most-closed and highly-controlled architectures on the planet. What's more, prior to the release of OSX, Macs were a tiny niche, but for the most part they were a social experiment masquerading as a computer company that failed to reach more than 5% of the desktop computer market. In short, Apple was a sinking ship until Jobs returned and Apple saved itself through iPod and iTunes sales. This gave Apple enough capital to abandon their failing computer design and rebuild the Mac as a pretty user interface on top of a UNIX operating system. This was a stroke of genius on someone's part, but you have to admit - when your 15-year-old computer business drives your company to the point of bankruptcy and you have to save your company by selling music, that's pretty pathetic.

Ultimately, Apple users are a cult, Steve Jobs is their prophet (even though Woz is the real hero), and Apple products have always had half the features at twice the price. And that is why I don't like Apple. ;-]

Posted: Jul 25 2014, 14:13 by bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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More Examples of Bad Technical Support

A few years ago I wrote my Why I Won't Buy Another HP Computer blog, wherein I detailed several terrible support experiences that I had to endure with Hewlett Packard's technical support people. In order to show that not everyone has terrible technical support people, I recently wrote my Why I Will Buy Another Dell Computer blog, where I described a great experience that I had with Dell's technical support people. That being said, not everyone can be a good as Dell, so in this blog I will illustrate another bad support example - this time it's from Microsoft's Technical Support.

Here's the situation: I recently purchased a Dell 8700 computer, which came with Windows 8.1 installed. Since I run a full Windows domain on my home network, I would rather run the professional version of Windows 8.1 on my computers, so I purchased a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack from Microsoft in order to upgrade my system. The upgrade process is supposed to be painless; Microsoft sends you a little box with a product key that you use to perform the upgrade.

Well, at least that's the way that it should have worked, but I kept getting an error message when I tried to use the key. So after a few attempts I decided that it was time to contact Microsoft's Technical support to resolve the issue. I figured that it was probably some minor problem with the key, and it would be an easy issue to resolve. With that in mind, I browsed to http://support.microsoft.com and started a support chat session, which I have included in its entirety below:

Answer Desk online chat
Vince P: 5:12:37 PM Hi, thanks for visiting Answer Desk. I'm Vince P.
Welcome to Answer Desk, how may I help you?
You: 5:13:09 PM I just purchased a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack Product key from Microsoft for my Dell 8700 computer, but I get an error message that the key does not work.
Here is the key: nnnnn-nnnnn-nnnnn-nnnnn-nnnn
Vince P: 5:13:43 PM I'll be happy to sort this out for you.
For documentation purposes, may I please have your phone number?
You: 5:14:02 PM nnn-nnn-nnnn
Vince P: 5:14:38 PM Thank you, give me a moment please.
As I understand, you cannot install Windows Media Center using the key that you have, is that correct?
You: 5:17:53 PM Yes, I am trying to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
Vince P: 5:18:12 PM First, allow me to set expectations that Answer Desk is a paid support service. We have a couple of paid premium support options should your issue prove complex and require advanced resources. Before we discuss those further, I need to ask some questions to determine if your problem can be handled by our paid support or if it's something really easy that we can fix at no charge today.
I will remotely access your computer to check the root cause of this issue.
[Note: Vince sends me a URL and code to initialize a remote session to my computer using a 3rd-party application.]
You: 5:19:40 PM Why is a remote session necessary?
Vince P: 5:21:19 PM Yes, I need to check the root cause of this issue.
Or I can send you some helpful links if you want.
You: 5:21:52 PM Or you can ask me to check anything for you
What do you need to check?
Vince P: 5:22:38 PM http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/feature-packs
If this link doesn't work, there might be some third party application that are blocking the upgrade.
It is much faster if I remotely access your computer, if it's okay with you.
You: 5:24:34 PM I have gone through the steps in that article, they did not work, which is why I contacted support
Vince P: 5:25:06 PM I need to remotely access your computer.
You: 5:25:11 PM The exact error message is "This key won't work. Check it and try again, or try a different key."
Vince P: 5:25:16 PM Please click on the link and enter the code.
You: 5:25:46 PM Or - you can tell me what I need to check for you and I will give you the answers you need.
Vince P: 5:26:51 PM http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8-pictures/upgrade-to-windows-8-media-center/6060f338-900f-437f-a981-c2ae36ec0fd8?page=~pagenum~
I'm sorry, but I have not received a response from you in the last few minutes. If you're busy or pre-occupied, we can continue this chat session when you have more time. If I do not hear from you in the next minute, I will disconnect this session.
It was a real pleasure working with you today. For now, thank you for contacting Microsoft Answer Desk. Again, my name is Vince and you do have a wonderful day.
Your Answer Tech has ended your chat session. Thanks for visiting Answer Desk.

Unbeknownst to "Vince", I worked in Microsoft Technical Support for ten years, so I know the way that the system is supposed to work and how Microsoft's support engineers are supposed to behave. Vince was condescending and extremely uncooperative - he simply wanted to log into my machine, but no one gets to log into my computers except me. I know my way around my computer well enough to answer any questions that Vince might have had, but Vince didn't even try. What's more, when Vince sent me a long support thread to read, he took that as his opportunity to simply end the chat session a few moments later. Very bad behavior, dude.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's chat application crashed after the session had ended, so I wasn't able to provide negative feedback about my support experience, so this blog will have to suffice. If I had a way to contact Vince's boss, I would have no problem pointing out that Vince desperately needs remedial training in basic technical support behavior, and he shouldn't be allowed to work with customers until he's shown that he can talk a customer through a support scenario without a remote session. If he can't do that, then he shouldn't be in technical support.

By the way - just in case someone else runs into this issue - all that I had to do in order to resolve the issue was reboot my computer. Seriously. Despite the error message, apparently Windows had actually accepted the upgrade key, so when I rebooted the computer it upgraded my system to Windows 8.1 Professional. (Go figure.)

Posted: Jul 18 2014, 00:54 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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Proper Use of Acronyms In Business Communications

I caught some people at work overusing some obscure acronyms in business emails that have considerably more popular uses, so I had to tell them to get used to spelling out phrases at least the first time in order to provide context for everyone else in the conversation. This should be obvious to everyone, but too many people fail to realize that their recipients may have no idea what the sender is talking about based on their individual knowledge.

For example:

  • HTML - This should always mean "HyperText Markup Language," and it should never mean "Happy To Make Lemonade" With that in mind, you should always write "Happy To Make Lemonade (HTML)" when you first use it, and you should probably use it throughout your email. But still, you should consider writing "HyperText Markup Language (HTML)" when you first use it, just to make everything perfectly clear to your readers, and then you can use just the acronym for subsequent references.
  • VS - This could be short for "versus," or it could mean "Visual Studio." Many English-speaking readers will probably be able to determine the correct meaning based on the surrounding text, but in a diverse work environment there is no guarantee that the intended meaning will be perfectly clear to everyone. This means that some recipients will have to re-read what the sender has written in order to verify their understanding, which could have been alleviated by simply using "A versus B" or "Visual Studio (VS)."
  • OMG - This is often used colloquially to mean "Oh My Gosh," but I've seen it used to mean "On Middle Ground." Needless to say, the sentence can have dramatically different meanings depending on how that acronym is understood by the reader. For example: "Right now both parties are having a difficult time finding issues OMG where everyone can agree."

Social media acronyms should not be used in a business context; this includes the following examples:

  • BTW - "By The Way"
  • FWIW - "For What It's Worth"
  • PDQ - "Pretty Darn Quick"
  • SOL - "Sh** Outta Luck"
  • etc.

There are a few possible exceptions which may be commonly-understood business acronyms, but you should still consider your recipients when deciding which of these acronyms you should use and which you should spell out. Here are a few examples:

  • ASAP - "As Soon As Possible"
  • FYI - "For Your Information"
  • FAQ - "Frequently-Asked Questions"
  • Q&A - "Questions and Answers"
  • PS - "Postscript"

There is one simple rule that you should always remember when writing for others:

In business communications, brevity is not always better, and ambiguity will be the death of us all. Winking smile

Posted: Jul 16 2014, 11:50 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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FTP Clients - Part 14: CuteFTP

For this next installment in my series about FTP clients, I want to take a look at Globalscape's CuteFTP, which is available from the following URL:

http://www.cuteftp.net/

CuteFTP is a for-retail product that used to be available in several editions - Lite, Home, and Pro - but at the time of this blog CuteFTP was only available in a single edition which combined all of the features. With that in mind, for this blog post I used CuteFTP 9.0.5.

CuteFTP 9.0 Overview

I should start off with a quick side note: it's kind of embarrassing that it has taken me so long to review CuteFTP, because CuteFTP has been my primary FTP client at one time or other over the past 15 years or so. That being said, it has been a few years since I had last used CuteFTP, so I was curious to see what had changed.

Fig. 1 - The Help/About dialog in CuteFTP 9.0.

To start things off, when you first install CuteFTP 9.0, it opens a traditional explorer-style view with the Site Manager displayed.

Fig. 2 - CuteFTP 9.0's Site Manager.

When you click File -> New, you are presented with a variety of connection options: FTP, FTPS, SFTP, HTTP, etc.

Fig. 3 - Creating a new connection.

When the Site Properties dialog is displayed during the creation of a new site connection, you have many of the options that you would expect, including the ability to change the FTP connection type after-the-fact; e.g. FTP, FTPS, SFTP, etc.

Fig. 4 - Site connection properties.

Once an FTP connection has been established, the CuteFTP connection display is pretty much what you would expect in any graphical FTP client.

Fig. 5 - FTP connection established.

A cool feature for me is that CuteFTP 9.0 supports a COM interface, (which is called the Transfer Engine), so you can automate CuteFTP commands through .NET or a scripting language. What was specifically cool about CuteFTP's scripting interface was the inclusion of several practical samples in the help file that is installed with the application.

Fig. 6 - Scripting CuteFTP.
Fig. 7 - Scripting samples in the CuteFTP help file.

Anyone who has read my blogs in the past knows that I am also a big fan of WebDAV, and an interesting feature of CuteFTP is built-in WebDAV integration. Of course, this functionality is a little redundant if you are using any version of Windows starting from Windows XP and later since WebDAV integration is built-in to the operating system via the WebDAV redirector, (which lets you map drive letters to WebDAV-enabled websites). But still - it's cool that CuteFTP is trying to be an all-encompassing transfer client.

Fig. 8 - Creating a WebDAV connection.

One last cool feature that I should call out in the overview is the integrated HTML editor, which is pretty handy. I could see where this might be useful on a system where you use FTP and you don't want to bother installing a separate editor.

Fig. 9 - CuteFTP's Integrated HTML editor.

Using CuteFTP 9.0 with FTP over SSL (FTPS)

CuteFTP 9.0 has built-in support for FTP over SSL (FTPS), and it supports both Explicit and Implicit FTPS. To specify which type of encryption to use for FTPS, you need to choose the appropriate option from the Protocol type drop-down menu in the Site Properties dialog box for an FTP site.

Fig. 10 - Specifying the FTPS encryption.

I was really happy to discover that I could use CuteFTP 9.0 to configure an FTP connection to drop out of FTPS on either the data channel or command channel once a connection is established. This is a very flexible design, because it allows you to configure FTPS for just your user credentials with no data and no post-login commands, or all commands and no data, or all data and all commands, etc.

Fig. 11 - Specifying additional FTPS options.

Using Using CuteFTP 9.0 with True FTP Hosts

CuteFTP 9.0 does not have built-in support for the HOST command that is specified in RFC 7151, nor does CuteFTP have a first-class way to specify pre-login commands for a connection.

But that being said, I was able find a way to configure CuteFTP 9.0 to send a HOST command for a connection by specifying custom advanced proxy commands. Here are the steps to pull this off:

  1. Bring up the properties dialog for an FTP site in the CuteFTP Site Manager
  2. Click the Options
  3. Choose Use site specific option in the drop-down
  4. Enter your FTP domain name in the Host name field
  5. Click the Advanced button
  6. Specify Custom for the Authentication Type
  7. Enter the following information:

    HOST ftp.example.com
    USER %user%
    PASS %pass%

    Where ftp.example.com is your FTP domain name
  8. Click OK for all of the open dialog boxes
Fig. 12 - Specifying a true FTP hostname via custom proxy settings.

Note: I could not get this workaround to successfully connect with FTPS sessions; I could only get it to work with regular (non-encrypted) FTP sessions.

Using Using CuteFTP 9.0 with Virtual FTP Hosts

CuteFTP 9.0's login settings allow you to specify the virtual host name as part of the user credentials by using syntax like "ftp.example.com|username" or "ftp.example.com\username". So if you don't want to use the workaround that I listed earlier, or you need to use FTPS, you can use virtual FTP hosts with CuteFTP 9.0.

Fig. 13 - Specifying an FTP virtual host.

Scorecard for CuteFTP 9.0

This concludes my quick look at a few of the FTP features that are available with CuteFTP 9.0, and here are the scorecard results:

Client
Name
Directory
Browsing
Explicit
FTPS
Implicit
FTPS
Virtual
Hosts
True
HOSTs
Site
Manager
Extensibility
CuteFTP 9.0.5 Rich Y Y Y Y/N1 Y N/A2
Notes:
  1. As I mentioned earlier, support for true HOSTs is not built-in, but I provided a workaround that seems to work great for FTP sessions, although I could not get it work work with FTPS sessions.
  2. I could not find a way to extend the functionality of CuteFTP 9.0; but as I said earlier, it provides a COM for scripting/automating FTP functionality.

That wraps things up for today's review of CuteFTP 9.0. Your key take-aways should be: CuteFTP is good FTP client; it has added some great features over the years, and as with most of the FTP clients that I have reviewed, I am sure that I have barely scratched the surface of its potential.

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/
Posted: Jul 16 2014, 07:21 by Bob | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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