Swapped “ and @ on keyboard

One day you are merrily typing away as you always have, and all of a sudden you find that what you typed is wrong. You retype it again and find that the key you press is not actually the key that appears! What the??

In my case the @ (SHIFT+2) was being replaced by “ (SHIFT+’).  Luckily, I remembered that this had happened before and involved the English pound (£) symbol.

SNAGHTML6446008

The reason is because I have 2 keyboards types installed on my desktop PC as you can see above. You can view your keyboards by selecting the language icon in the system tray which is next to the clock.

Once I re-selected the English (Australia) keyboard I was back in business with the correct keys.

image

Always wanting to know how this could happen, I received my answer when I moused over that same icon as shown above. The keyboard is swapped when you press the Windows key + space. I use the Windows key + another key on my keyboard all the time so I had obviously fat fingered the secret sequence to change the default keyboard! The things my subconscious does to try and distract me.

Hopefully, this helps someone else out because it can be very frustrating to solve the first time it happens.

My podcasts – 2020

desk-music-headphones-earphones

Seems like I neglected to post my podcast preferences last year. You can find the previous selection here:

My podcasts 2018

I do spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, generally in between things, like travelling. However, there is a limit to how many you can consume in a week and that’s why I need to be very discerning about what I listen to.

Regulars

These podcasts are ones that I generally won’t miss an episode of.

Windows Weekly

The latest Microsoft news with some fun and entertainment along the way. Paul Thurrott’s musing make this podcast alone something worth listening to.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Some really great advice, business insights and strategy. Also lots of life lessons that I have found work really well for me. A weekly must listen for me.

Hardcore History

These tend to be quite long, like reading a book, but a very good and very interesting. Luckily, they are not that frequent, so it can make a nice change from all the tech stuff

The Intrazone

All the latest news and information about SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Teams and more directly from Microsoft.

Currently evaluating

These podcasts I listen to frequently, but maybe not every episode. Some of these may eventually get cut from the roster. Anything here has to provide real business value for it to remain long term.

The Message Center Show

What has appeared in the Microsoft 365 message center. Many just for change notifications.

Microsoft Cloud Show

Tends to be somewhat developer focused but there is handy information here, once you get past some of the other stuff.

Microsoft Cloud IT Pro podcast

More for IT Pros and somewhat random in its content. Another podcast in which you have to get past stuff to get to the information.

O365Eh!

A rather Teams centric podcast, however it is short so a quick listen. Still not sure if it has long term value in my ears.

If I have time

There are simply not enough hours in a day to get through everything. These are great podcasts but I simply don’t have the time to listen to them regularly unfortunately.

Jocko Podcast

Probably too hard core for most. For me it is a great mix of military history and business mindset training. If you have a ‘fanatical’ tendency then give this one a listen.

The Kevin Rose Show

A bit like the Tim Ferriss podcast. Plenty of interesting and different stuff that always makes you think. Somewhat irregular episodes but I am still enjoying what I’m hearing.

Business wars

Interesting to get the story behind major business rivalries. More a ‘stage production’ than a podcast. Very enjoyable if you have the time.

Behind the Tech

Hosted by Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Scott, it has lots of interesting guests and topics.


I churn through these mostly at 2x speed to allow me to get through as much content as possible. I do have a few other podcasts on my current podcasting app but I think they’ll soon be getting the cut. I am always on the lookout for good podcasts business, technology, history, whatever. So if you can recommend something you like, I’m all ears.

Finally, of course, there is my own podcasting effort:

Need to Know podcast

which covers the Microsoft Cloud (typically Office 365 and Azure) as well as business topics. I encourage you to have a listen and me know what you think. 2020 will be the tenth year that it has been available, which is a bit of milestone I must admit. Recently, I’ve started doing shorter, more focused FAQ episodes as well as the standard long form interview.

Hopefully, there is something of interest to you in what I listen to. Feel free to let me know as well as any recommendations you may have, as I said, I’m all ears!

My Tech Books – 2020

Tech is as much a lifestyle choice these days as it is a career. The geeks and nerds have risen to rule the world. Don’t believe me? Ask Bill Gates! Sometimes it is good to step back and take a wide look at how technology has changed the world we live in – for better and worse. My selection below I have found to be enjoyable and thought provoking in many different ways and I recommend them to everyone who is interested in tech.

There hasn’t been an change to this since last year. Good tech books are hard to come by it seems!

You can follow all the books, tech, business, non-fiction I read and want to read over at Goodreads where I have an account. You can also view my activity via:

https://www.goodreads.com/director_cia


1. Daemon – Daniel Suarez [Fiction]

A glimpse into the future of where drones and augmented reality may take us. That may not necessarily be a good place either.

2. Freedom TM – Daniel Suarez [Fiction]

A follow up to Daemon. What happens when technology dominates the world? Who benefits?

3. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline [Fiction]

Much like the Matrix. What is life like if you live inside the machine? You can be just about anyone you choose. I also love this book for all the retro technology that was part of my life. TRS-80 anyone? This book has become so popular that there is now a movie. Believe me, the book is better.

4. Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for our Connected World – Marc Goodman [Non-fiction]

Technology will ultimately doom us all I believe because we are building our world on stuff that unfortunately places a low regard for security and privacy. This book will show you why that is a road to ruination.

5. Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon – Kim Zetter [Non-Fiction]

If you don’t believe cyber warfare is real then read this book to understand how software is now a weapon as potentially devastating as any nuclear device.

6. Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World – Bruce Schneier [Non-Fiction]

Security is important but it is important in context. We need to be rational when we consider our security not emotional. A great level headed approach to how we need to be secure.

7. American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt or the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road – Nick Bilton [Non-Fiction]

An amazingly detailed book on the rise and fall of Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the Silk Road web site. In here are asked to think about whether technology plays something more than a neutral role in today’s world.

8. The Cuckoos Egg – Clifford Stoll [Non-Fiction]

Before the Internet was in the public sphere it existed in the world of academia. This is the story of how one man’s search for the source of an accounting error uncovered something are more sinister.

9. Takedown – John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura [Non-Fiction]

The pursuit and eventual capture of notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick makes for great reading.

10. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – Steven Levy [Non-Fiction]

Ah, the good ole days when it was more about proving how smart you were than trying to actually cause harm. If you think hacking is something new, then you’re in for a surprise with this book

My Business Books – 2020

Not a lot has changed on this since last year which you can check out at:

My Business Books – 2019

I spent more time last year reading biographies of people like Douglas MacArthur and Winston Churchill that I did with business books. Worthwhile business books are become harder and harder to find these days in my opinion. All have something to offer but few have more than one concept or some really novel ground breaking idea in my opinion. I still have lots of business books to get through but I can say that I’m busting to read any on that list at this stage.

You can follow all the books I read and want to read over at Goodreads where I have an account. You can also view my activity via:

https://www.goodreads.com/director_cia

or just follow me on Facebook:

www.facebook.com/ciaops

Here’s my current top business books in order:

1. The Art of War – Sun Tzu

The all time classic on strategy. As relevant today as it ever was. A very short read but very deep.

2. The Millionaire Fastlane – M.J. DeMarco

I love the brutal honesty of this book. It doesn’t mince words about what it takes to shift from a pay check to actually living the life you want.

3. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

The world is all about not what you know but who you know. This book explains exactly how this works and how to use it to your advantage.

4. The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss

Many people believe this book is about shirking responsibility. It is in fact a blueprint for how to free up your time to do things you want and enjoy. It will challenge the way you look at your career.

5. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth – T. Harv Eker

The successful are defined by a different mindset. This mindset can be learned. It can be trained. This is a great book to show you how to do just that.

6. Talent is over rated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else – Geoff Colvin

Demonstrates that the best comes from implementing a system. Having a system allows you to focus on the right thing and do that work that is required. If you want to take yourself to an elite level, beyond just good, then read this book.

7. Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even If You Hate Marketing and Selling – Michael Port, Tim Sanders

You can’t survive in business without a steady flow of customers. Selling to people is the wrong approach, you instead need to attract them to your business. This book helps you achieve exactly that.

8. Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine – Mike Michalowicz

Business is about making a profit. This then gives you the freedom to do what you want with that profit. This book helps you focus on profit and setting up systems to make the most of the profit you generate.

9. Barking Up the Wrong Tree – Eric Barker

Conventional wisdom does not always apply and in some case can actually be detrimental. Challenging what is taken for granted should be in the play book of everyone who wants to achieve at the highest level. Important lessons can be learned in the strangest places and form the strangest people. Have an open mind and you might be surprised at what you have believed to be bad in fact turns out to get just what you need.

10. Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level – Mark Divine

Another mindset book. Business is not always going to be easy or take the intended route. This is when you need to have the determination to see your plans through to success. This book shows you how to develop the mental toughness to make this happen.

11. The E-Myth – Michael Gerber

The classic on ‘procedurising’ your business and creating a structure that doesn’t need you to survive. The simple secrets inside this book can transform any business from hardship to joy.

12. Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss

There are few books that take the learnings for so many exceptional people and puts them at your fingertips. This is one such book that packs a lot of business and life learnings between the covers.

13. Predictably irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions – Dan Ariley

Although we like to think logic and rationality rule our world emotion is by far the more powerful influence. Understand this in the context of business and you are well on your way to understanding why people make the decisions they do and how to best profit from them.

14. Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Lief Babin

Moving beyond blame is tough. This book illustrates the ownership of the problem and the environment is a key to success in the military or in business. It is a path few will elect to take voluntarily, however more may do so after reading this.

15. Peak Performance: Elevate your game, avoid burnout and thrive with the science of success – Brad Stulberg

Success is largely about developing a winning system. This book show you how to approach that pragmatically. If you want to see results use this book to help you build the system.

16. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell

The older you get the more experience you get. This experience is aggregated in your ‘gut feel’. Trusting your ‘gut’ may not appear rational but this book will help you understand why it is in fact your best option in many cases.

17. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play – Neil A. Fiore

Plenty of great productivity learnings in here that help you take action. It shows you how to focus on the right stuff in the right priority. Even if you are not a major procrastinator there is plenty in this book that you can take away.

18. The One Thing – Gary Keller

Multi-tasking is a myth. Focus is the key to success to bringing all your resources to bear in unison makes a hell of a lot of difference. Most people can’t do it, so those that can stand a much greater chance of success.

19 Deep Work – Cal Newport

Distractions are wasted energy and time that you’ll never get back. You’d be amazed at how distracting the modern world is. If you can minimise these distractions you can focus more and be far more productive.

I’ve decided to spend more time with Audible books this year to help me get through more content. I can listen at increased speeds to get through more content and I can also listen in more locations with Audible books. I still enjoy reading ‘old style’ on my Kindle but there seem to be so many things that get in the way. Even if I am tired and worn down, listening to Audible is easy to do and generally more relaxing. I am hoping to churn through a lot more books this year in that way.

Let me know what you think. Do these work for you? What’s your top business reads? I’d love to hear.

My Apps – 2020

I am still not a big app user. I am very careful and selective about what I install on my device. Less is definitely more for me.

To see what I was using at the beginning of last year check out the article:

My Apps – 2019

Since this time last year, the biggest change has been moving to an iPhone as my primary phone early in 2019. I am sticking with the Apple ecosystem for at least 12 months to see what it is like. My experience so far is that it is functional but overall not as good as the experience on Android. The interesting thing towards the end of 2020 will be the new Android based Neo and Duo Surface devices that Microsoft have promised. The Duo device will also allow calls, so I’m thinking that I’ll maintain the iPhone as the primary device until the Duo becomes available. That may prove to be 2021 here in Australia, but I thinking that will probably be my next primary device change We’ll see.

My most used apps on mobile devices over the last year were:

Apple podcasts – Was my main podcast app until a reader recommended Castro on iOS. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s gotta be better than Apple podcast! I really miss Podcast Addict, which unfortunately is only available on Android

Lastpass password manager and authenticator. Google authenticator has gotten the flick as part of my limiting what Google apps I use.

Microsoft Authenticator – I use this for a number of select web sites as well as Microsoft 365.

Car Play – Connects to my daily drive to provide the ability to listen to podcasts as well as use Waze for navigation. Gotta say that it isn’t nearly as good as Android auto in my experience. However, since I’m spending an extended time in the Appel ecosystem I’ll be stick with this.

OneNote – is a must on every device I own. Syncs all my notes to every device. Allows me to not only truly have my information everywhere I am but also capture information quickly and easily.

OneDrive – This mobile app now not only allows me to manage my Microsoft 365 files but it also incorporates the more advanced Office Lens technology that scans and uploads, documents, whiteboards, etc.

Tripview – One of the few apps that I have happily paid for. I use this to let me know the Sydney train schedule to help me get around when I need to negotiate the ‘real world’.

Audible – If I can’t read my Kindle then I can normally always listen. This app allows me to listen to my audio books where ever I am.

Amazon Kindle – If I don’t have access to my Kindle then I can still read my books. In my case that will most likely be on my iPad. I also use the Kindle app on the iPad when the ebook has a lot of images that sometime don’t display well or are too small for the Kindle device.

The following as currently only iOS:

Oak – For mindfulness, breathing and meditation

Rode Reporter – which I use for recording many of my presentations when I am out on the road.

Of course I have all the social media apps, such as Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook on my devices.

I also have all the Microsoft/Office 365 apps. The ones I use the most are probably To-Do, Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams and Yammer, although Word and Excel also get used regularly. Just about every Microsoft Office 365 service has an app that you should have on your mobile device. On my Android I am also using Edge as the primary browser along with the new Edge Insider.

I’ve also added the Intune app to all my devices so they can be better managed.

I use the Microsoft Next Lock Screen on my Android device.

Some occasional ones I use include:

Get Pocket

Duolingo

I use the normal personal apps for things like Internet banking and so on. I also use Blockfolio for monitoring cryptocurrency. For casual entertainment and general interest I also have Minecraft Earth installed.

One my iPad, which also serves as a personal entertainment device, I have the streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The above are my used apps across my various mobile devices. My aim to try and keep the app standard across all the devices and as few as possible. I try and standardise as much as possible to use the Microsoft apps on all platforms. I certainly use a wide variety of apps on my devices by prefer the desktop versions if available simply because my finger are too fat and my patience too short to be productive for long stints on mobile devices. My kingdom, my kingdom for a full keyboard and screen I cry.

My software and services 2020

startup-photos

Here’s last year’s post for comparison:

My software and services – 2019

All my PC’s are running the latest version of Windows 10 (1909) 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. Thanks to Microsoft E5 on my production tenant, I am also using Microsoft Defender ATP at the back end for monitoring and investigation of endpoint threats.

The WD Sentinel DX4000 runs Windows Storage Server 2008 and replacement has been delayed due to the “pending” arrival of the NBN which hopefully will provide better bandwidth. In the mean time I have established a site to site VPN to Azure and have begun moving data into Azure storage. In the end this device will merely function as a backup device but for the time being I need to wait for better bandwidth. Hopefully this year I’m being told.

My two main tenants are an Office 365 E5 demo and Microsoft 365 production environments. The Windows 10 Pro machines are Azure AD joined to the Microsoft 365 production domain. The production Microsoft 365 tenant has Microsoft 365 Business for all users except myself. I have a Microsoft 365 E5 license on which I have configured all the services including integrated PSTN calling via Switch Connect.

I use most major browsers:

– Edge – mainly for logging into my production tenant

– Edge Insider – will soon become my major production browser and is used for production and business websites, like reading Microsoft docs.

– Chrome – I am minimising/eliminating my use of this on existing machines and not installing on any new machines. I want to move away from Chrome totally as soon as possible and get it off all my machines.

Brave – I have become increasingly concerned about the surreptitious tracking that many sites perform, especially when it comes to social media sites. I therefore now do all my ‘random browsing’, searching and viewing of social media sites. I became aware of the extent of tracking when I was adjusting the security settings in Edge Insider and found the following:

image

Made me realise that I probably need to take this ‘do not track’ stuff more seriously!

– Firefox – I occasionally use this for testing or isolation but less so now thanks to profiles in Edge Insider.

I have now cranked Edge Insider up to the maximum security level but wanted to isolate the most likely tracking culprits into another browser that was security focused. After some evaluation, I have chosen Brave to be this browser. This is now where I do all the stuff that is more likely to be tracked and now hopefully blocked or at least minimised. I have also set this browser up to use Duck Duck Go as the default search engine, otherwise I use Bing for my production browsers.

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 and demo tenants. I can now sync across all my different tenants as well as my consumer OneDrive storage. We have come a long way with the sync client!

I used to have  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. Thanks to Microsoft E5 and Switchconnect, I also have Teams connected as a phone.

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:

LastPass

GetPocket

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 Power Automate more and more for automation and I am still looking to dive deeper using things like Azure Functions in 2020. I have now replaced Socialoomph to post precisely scheduled social media posts with my own solution in  Power Automate.

For my Office 365 and Azure email newsletters I use Mailchimp.

My preferred public social networks for business, in order are:

1. Twitter

2. Linkedin

3. Facebook

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.

I consume a lot of content from YouTube both for business and personal interest. I also also use YouTube extensively for my publicly available training video training.

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 6 which lives on my desk but I only use Outlook Web App on my travelling Surface Pro 4 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 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. There are some issues when people attempt to reply to these emails from a mobile device but I believe a fix from Microsoft is not far away.

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:

One of the ways I use OneNote

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 changed their stance on future upgrades to OneNote 2016 desktop which is great to hear and kudos to Microsoft for taking feedback on that score. I am a big user of OneNote on my iPad with the Apple pencil. This combination has allowed me to totally eliminate my paper notebooks for things such as journaling.

I use Pure Text to easily paste information, especially to and from OneNote as only text.

I am now a big Microsoft To-Do user. I use it to keep many tasks and items that I need to follow up. I love how it is available on all my devices and syncs across them all as well. I was becoming a bit worried when it had sat there with no updates for a long while, but that has changed now with heaps of updates being released. I’m keen to see where To-Do goes in 2020.

I use Windows terminal now for things like PowerShell execution and Microsoft Whiteboard for demonstrations and training.

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.

Azure desktop backup

I have also now implemented an Azure site to site VPN as well as Azure SMB File storage to start moving my data into. I use Azure Sentinel to monitor all my services and machines in one single console and tell me about any incidents. My plans for 2020 is to keep building out my Azure infrastructure to include Azure AD Domain Services, Windows Virtual Desktop and more. Stay tuned for updates on this throughout 2020.

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.

Production data is also protected using Windows Information Protection which provides yet a further level of protection and extends that to all devices including mobile devices like phones and tablets,

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.

I use Microsoft Teams to record my podcasts, which I then produce with Camtasia. These are uploaded to Podbean where they syndicated across various network.

To compose and publish blog articles I use Open Live Writer.

The majority of images I get, like the one at the top of this article, I get from Pexels. Pickit is also another great option.

For improved meeting management productivity I use Microsoft FindTime.

I use 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.

NetFlix – Just added this recently and have found many great documentaries.

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. If you use something that you’ve found really handy, please let me know and I always keen to explore what works for others.

My Gear 2020

You can take a look back at last year’s gear here:

My Gear 2019

there were/are some major changes happening with my assortment.

Pixel XL phone – In the last few months of the year, this phone died. Basically it would no longer charge no matter what I attempted to do to it. I managed to do a factory reset before it totally died and now won’t even power on. Purchased May 2017, died November 2019

Pixel 4 XL phone – My new ‘Google’ phone. This as a ‘secondary’ or backup phone. It has all the Microsoft apps installed on it and is connected to my Microsoft 365 production account. Most importantly, it has the Microsoft Authenticator app for MFA access. I was pretty much able to restore everything from the dead Pixel XL to here, without too much trouble.

I have shifted my major day to day on a device to being an iPhone XS Max now for no other real reason than wanting to experience the iPhone ecosystem for a period. I don’t use the Pixel 4 XL much but I think that has more options that I have found on the iPhone.

Summary – Old Pixel died, new 4XL model replacement

Lumia 950 XL –  To quote last year’s blog post

“So sometime this year it will be bye, bye Windows phone and hello iPhone (as well as bye, bye many dollars unfortunately at the same time).”

Summary – Retired. Replaced by iPhone X Pro.

iPhone XS Max – I decided to replace the Lumia 950XL with a iPhone 10 XS Max to get the iPhone ecosystem experience. I have this phone on a plan that includes unlimited data in Australia as well as some every generous overseas data limits as well. In all honest, I bought the unlimited data plan more than the phone.

The iPhone X has done the job for me so far. The main trick I learned is that to directly tether to a PC using a USB cable, you need the right (read Apple) cable. On the plus side, I will say that the batter life is really good in my experience. I don’t like the Apple podcasts app at all. Not nearly as good as Podcast Addict on Android, which you can’t get on the iPhone. If someone has a good podcasting app for iOS, I’m ALL ears! Apps like Waze aren’t as full featured on iOS as on Android in my experience and I gotta say that iOS has had lots of and lots of updates since I got this device. See, it isn’t just Windows PC’s people!

The iPhone again, runs all the Microsoft apps for business as well as a few key personal apps.

Summary – Using but not loving the experience. It is all becoming a bit ‘meh?’ now. It is a device that does a job. No more, no less in my opinion. If I really had to choose, I think I prefer the Pixel 4 XL overall but for now I’m sticking with the iPhone X as my primary phone

Surface Pro 3 – This device was ‘retired’ from the job of travelling PC in favour of the Surface 4, which in turn was replaced by a Surface Pro 6. Basically, the hand me down process if you follow. The Surface Pro 3 continues to work fine and functions as a Microsoft Teams ‘phone’ tablet on my desktop. Basically, it is now a device I use for making and receiving calls.

Surface Pro 4 – After deciding on a new Surface Pro 6 as my main machine, I ‘downgrade’ the existing main desktop, which was the Surface Pro 4, to the role the Surface Pro 3 played. That being a travelling machine for demos and remote work. Basically, the hand me down process as I said.

Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 4 has now started to fall apart as you can see below:

image

Yes that is the front of the screen pulling away from the back case. The case has also started to bulge at the rear, which I believe is an issue with the battery. The screen also has some ‘burn’ style markings on it that also indicates something is wrong there. In short, it is still working, but no longer fit for travel. Thus, it will need to be thrown out and replaced with something else.As I don’t want to go back to the Surface Pro 3 as a travelling PC. I think a Surface Pro 7 may be in my immediate future??

Summary – Had a hard and productive life but is now dying. Considering a Surface Pro 7 as a replacement. Purchased December 2016. Died December 2019.

iPad – Bottom of the range iPad (WiFi only) and an Apple pencil. The Apple pencil is a tad cumbersome and I would prefer something about half the size. I like that it is re-chargable, which the Surface pens aren’t, but that isn’t a huge issue. The Apple pencil does write well but I see no real difference to a Surface pen in that respect but the Surface pen wins on form factor if I was to make an ergonomic choice.

I’m now using this new iPad for anything to do with writing, business and personal. It travels with me, and I use it for both business and personal Tasks (such as watching movies).

I am considering maybe an iPad mini to see if the smaller form factor is a benefit. It is also handy that the iPad mini supports the Apple Pencil which I do use regularly. Starting at AU$599, it is still somewhat expensive to justify in light of the fact that I am more than happy with the current iPad I have. Maybe a bargain will come my way in 2020?

Summary – Basic iPad is now a central part of my daily routine. Considering an iPad mini if a bargain arises.

Ubiquiti – I left my old consumer router in place but disabled the WiFi access point and simply use it as a pass through now. I then connected it to the Security Gateway, connected everything else up behind the gateway and then configured it all from a web interface. Very, very impressed with the results. Super simple install. Easy to update the devices and great metrics on usage, devices and so on. Highly recommended.

One of the items that I am considering for 2020 (still) will be a Ubiquiti camera like this:

G3 micro

Again, not really a must have but I can see benefits of having one of these device to monitor things when I’m not there.

In theory, the Australian high speed National Broadband Network (NBN) was supposed to be rolled out to my location in December 2018 and (unsurprisingly, it wasn’t). Thus, I’m stull stuck on ADSL at the moment. The NBN roll out is planned for my address in June 2020 (yeah right). So, I currently have no other option but to wait. I get so frustrated with upload speeds (thanks to ADSL 2) that I now use my iPhone unlimited data plan to do my large upload, which are infinitely faster. The biggest limitation I face in my business today is the lack of a decent, fast Internet connection. It makes Australia the laughing stock of the developed world in my opinion. Let’s see what 2020 brings on the broadband front but I ain’t holding my breath!

I also now have a Site to Site VPN between my Ubiquiti Security Gateway and Azure, which took a little setting up due to my double NAT configuration, but all working well now!

Summary – Very happy with  Ubiquiti gear, with potentially a camera to be added. Awaiting roll out of NBN to complete project.

Docking station – 2019 also saw me upgrade my desktop docking station to:

Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station

It is a really neat device, that suits most modern Surface Pro devices. It is slim, compact and now all me to have 3 external monitors off the one Surface devices (as you can never have enough screen now can you eh?). I can plug in all my devices, microphones, phones, etc to it and all the cables are hidden at the back. I also like that you can adjust the screen up and down, a bit like a Surface Studio.

The original Kensington SD3500v has now moved to work with the travelling PC when it is running in my office and that is also working well, making it a truly ‘plug and play’ experience when I get back from road trips.

Summary – Loving the new Kensington DV7000 and the old Kensington SD3500v is still in service and performing well.

WD Sentinel DX4000 – The plan was, with the NBN roll out I could all the data on this device to Azure and retain the same functionality. Unfortunately, high speed broadband is yet to some my way so this upgrade has been put on hold for now. I have set up a Site to Site VPN from my on premises environment to Azure and started shifting some of the data there, and I will do more in 2020. I’ll also be shifting some of the data into Microsoft 365 as well.

I really want to maintain some form of hybrid configuration just for experiences sake. That is , so I know how it needs to be configured and managed. However, over 202 I’m going to ensure that I have nothing of production value on this box so that it cane be retired at any point. Just frustrating that without enough bandwidth, it can’t happen sooner.

Summary – on the back burner to upgrade or replace. Awaiting broadband upgrade to move to Azure.

Personal fitness device – After the FitBit died last year, I was considering the the Oura ring, which I really like all the metrics around it. The challenge is I need to get my finger measured to find the right size. Oura does ship a sizing kit that allows you to check the size using plastic mock ups before you confirm but you still need to purchase the whole unit first.

Being a few hundred US$ doesn’t make this item cheap. Being that I also REALLY don’t need this item I’ve still in the due diligence phase, making sure that it is the best investment for my money as I know there are other devices out there. So again, probably something I’ll get in 2019 but no real rush as yet and as yet I’m not 100% sold given the cost.

Summary – Still deciding on suitable replacement and whether it is worth the investment.

Amazon Kindle – In use every day, no change. One of the best devices I have ever invested in.

Xbox One S – Still use it to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon video but now playing more games thanks to the release of the latest Call of Duty game.

Summary – Now mainly used for Call of Duty.

My major hardware investments in 2019 where a new iPhone, Surface Pro 6 and Pixel 4XL. I’ll definitely be needing a new travelling PC (looking like a Surface Pro 7) and maybe a few other ‘nice to have’s’ in 2020 depending on how things go. Let’s see.