Here’s last year’s post for comparison:
All my PC’s are running the latest version of Windows 10 (1809) without any issues and none during the upgrade process either. I do have Windows 10 and Office Insider builds happening on an original Surface PC as a testbed. All Windows 10 Pro machines are directly joined to Azure AD and managed via Intune. All machines run no third party AV as Windows Defender is a far better option in my experience.
The WD Sentinel DX4000 Runs Windows Storage Server 2008 and I would really like to upgrade this to a newer version of Windows Server, but given an in place upgrade is risky, it will probably be replaced at some stage. However, for the time being it is till doing its job but I’m starting to get more and more issues connecting to it using the Windows 10 Pro machines that are purely Azure AD joined so I maybe forced to make a change soon. I am kind of hanging out till I get better broadband when the NBN rolls into my location (due any day they tell me). When that does happen I’m going to see whether I can shift my whole on Windows Storage Server infrastructure completely to Azure and access it all remotely. I’m kind of hesitant to shell out for new hardware that I don’t really need. Moving all or part of my environment to Azure is going to give much more experience in accomplishing this which is a good things as more and more businesses are looking to do exactly the same. If I can lift and shift to Azure and with all my workstations now directly Azure AD joined it should be a seamless experience, however I won’t know until I try it. Stay tuned here for progress.
My two main tenants are an Office 365 E5 demo and Microsoft 365 Business production environments. The Windows 10 Pro machines are Azure AD joined to the Microsoft 365 Business production domain.
I use all the major browsers:
- Edge – mainly for logging into my production tenant
- Firefox – used with demo tenants
- Chrome – mainly used for non Office/Microsoft 365 browsing. I log into the Chrome with my Google identity to sync extension, bookmarks, etc as well as login to Google properties like YouTube
- Internet Explorer – mainly for logging into my Office 365 E5 tenant and the Azure environment that is also connected to that
I also generally use in private sessions in all the browsers to move between different online identities as needed.
Services like SharePoint Online and OneDrive I use regularly both in the demo and production tenant. I have the OneDrive sync client installed, running and connected to various locations on my production tenant. I am looking forward to the up coming OneDrive sync client feature that well allow me to sync across different tenants with the one sync client. That will allow me to easily sync both my production and demo environments.
I used to have Skype for Business automatically load at start up but that has been replaced by Microsoft Teams which is now my main messaging application. All the CIAOPS Patron resources like the intranet, team, etc all reside in the Office 365 E5 demo tenant but I connect to it on my desktop normally via an Azure B2B guest account from my production tenant. Thus, I can admin the Patron resources in a browser if need be but I get the same experience on my desktop as any Patron would. Handy to know what works and doesn’t work with Microsoft Teams guest access.
I use Lastpass to keep my passwords and private information secure. It allows me to do things like generate and store unique passwords for each website that I sign up for. It is also available across all browsers on my machine (including Microsoft Edge). I also now also use Lastpass to store secure notes.
The extensions I run in all my browsers are:
The extensions I use in Chrome are:
- Windows 10 accounts (allows Single Sign In to Azure Ad identity)
- Pushbullet which connects alerts from my Android phone to my desktop browser and allow me to share information easily between them.
- GetPocket which allows me to save and categorise websites URLs, which I then typically read at a later time. Has its own dedicated mobile that I can use on any device.
- The Great Suspender which puts unused tabs in Chrome to ‘sleep’ to save memory.
- Nosili which provides productivity enhancement thanks to background sounds. My favourite is rain.
I use the automation sites If This Then That and Zapier to automate many different tasks. A good example of one of these is automatically publishing to various social media sites. I am now using Microsoft Flow more and more for automation and I am still looking to dive deeper using things like Azure Functions in 2018. I also use Socialoomph to post precisely scheduled social media posts, however I am aiming to replace this totally with Microsoft Flow this year.
My preferred public social networks for business, in order are:
Google Plus, which I use for posting my blog announcements to is going away shortly, so that’ll be one less thing to worry about.
The Apowersoft software allows me to display both iOS and Android devices on my Windows desktop which is really handy for demonstrations and presentations.
I also use Yammer extensively but for more specialised roles and thus don’t consider it really a ‘public’ social network, more a private one.
Microsoft Office desktop software is still part of my everyday workday via applications such as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. I use the desktop version of Outlook on my Surface Pro 4 which lives on my desk but I only use Outlook Web App on my travelling Surface Pro 3 device. I could happily not use Outlook on the desktop any more I believe but I still use so I understand the experience for most users. However, I do see the day when Outlook on the desktop begins to lose its appeal.
One of the things I have just added to my desktop version of Outlook is a digital certificate that signs every email that I now send. This helps the receiver confirm that the message they have received is in fact from me and that it hasn’t been altered in any way. I need to spend some more time playing around with email certificates to understand what role they can play in enhancing email security. Add yet another item to the ‘to-do’ list.
The key application from the suite for me is OneNote. OneNote is my go to Swiss Army knife for just about everything digital. I use it to capture all sort of data. I even use it as a diary as I have detailed previous here:
The reason OneNote is key is because:
1. Just about everything I put in there us searchable
2. It is freely available across all platforms.
3. All my information is synced and accessible on all devices.
4. It is available on the web or offline if needed.
There are now two version of OneNote, the Windows store OneNote and OneNote 2016. Microsoft have confirmed that there will be no future upgrades to OneNote 2016 and in fact they are starting to remove it from Office 365 implementations. I fully understand support that move BUT the Windows store version of OneNote does not yet have nearly feature parity with OneNote 2016. I’d love to make the switch to only using one version but can’t until many of the features I use in OneNote 2016 appear in the Windows store version. C’mon Microsoft, let’s get them to feature parity please.
Another key service I use everyday along with Office 365 and OneNote is Azure. Typically, I use it for running up virtual machines that I test various things with but I also use it to backup my local data as well as that of other members of my family using Azure Backup.
There is just so much that can be done with Azure and I pretty much use it everyday.
For a subset of my local data that I wish to remain secure I use Truecrypt to create encrypted volumes. All my Windows 10 machines run with full disk encryption thanks to Bitlocker, but stuff like financial and customer data I keep inside Truecrypt volumes for that extra layer of security. I understand that Truecrypt is no longer maintained and may have some very minor security flaws, but for how and why I use it, it is more than adequate.
To capture my desktop for my online training academy or my YouTube channel I use Camtasia. I use SnagIt to capture screen shots and add highlights and emphasis to these. Snagit allows me to capture complete screens or specific areas quickly and easily.
To compose and publish blog articles I use Open Live Writer.
For improved meeting management productivity I use Microsoft FindTime.
A major addition in 2018 was Visual Studio Code in which I do most of my PowerShell editing and publishing. The end result typically is my GitHub repository where you will find a range of scripts and other resources that I maintain regular. With Visual Studio Code I can edit publish and sync all my machines and my GitHub repository no matter where I am. Very handy.
Here are also a few of the other items I use regularly that are not for business:
Amazon Prime Video – only place to the latest The Grand Tour action. I also liked the Jack Ryan series and well as the Gymkana Files.
XBox Live Gold – access to all the online Xbox goodness.
Duolingo – language learning, Japanese and Italian at the moment
Tinycards – language and facts learning via flashcards. Also handy for certification exams.
So there you have it, the major software and services that I use regularly. I continue to search out additional software that will improve my productivity and I speak more about what I have changed in an upcoming article, so stay tuned. If you use something that you’ve found really handy, please let me know and I always keen to explore what works for others.