Professional Geek
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  • Virtual Desktops and Productivity

    Sometimes I’ll revisit my favourite collections of applications and utilities to make sure I know what the current features are, see if they can solve any current problems I have, make myself aware of anything new or simply just remind me of something I may have missed before

    One of my favourite collections of utilities is the Sysinternals suite (I could write in length about LOTS of the utilities there!)

    I revisited an application called Desktops last week and the penny dropped for me in how it could be useful for me having previously ignored it

    This functionality isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination and is available natively in “other” operating systems 🙂 but my point is I figured out how it would be useful for me

    The utility creates up to four “virtual desktops” they are completely independent from each other and you run different applications on them.It’s a bit like having four PCs under my desk all running from one keyboard mouse and screen

    Because I run two monitors as well I’m basically getting the ability to run eight different applications full screen. More importantly it helps me reduce clutter

    There are some apps that I always have open regardless of whatever task I’m actually performing.

    On a typical day I could have Outlook open, a couple of browser tabs for our SharePoint site, a couple of tabs for gmail and google reader, tabs for Facebook and Twitter (depening on how productive I’m trying to be)

    That’s before I actually do anything, depending on the task I could have a couple of Remote Desktop sessions open, maybe a spreadsheet or word document, maybe a PDF plus additional IE tabs related to the task at hand. You get the idea!

    My order ativan online usa browser becomes the main area for clutter. I could have 10-15 tabs open and even if run multiple instances the the “inactive” tabs get in the way of the two or three I actually need

    Desktops helps me create logical areas for specific tasks.

    So now on desktop one I have Outlook open on the left and IE open on the right with various parts of our SharePoint site open in a few tabs

    Desktop two will be where I open Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Reader, BBC news, etc open

    Desktop three and four then become dedicated to specifics tasks

    The other advantage is it can help me avoid distractions. I’ve lost count on the amount of times I’ve been doing something, flipping through tabs and then been off on tangent because I’ve seen a new article in Google Reader for example. By separating these things out it can help with focus (well it seems to be doing it for me!)

    You can get the utility from here (which is also where I got the images..)

    There are a only two options to set

    Configuration Dialog

    Your hot keys if you want them and whether you want the utility to run on start-up or not

    As well as using the hot keys to switch between desktops you can click the tray icon and get a nice preview

    Tray Desktop Switch Window

    I prefer the hot keys myself

    It’s not without it’s faults – a couple of times I’ve tried to open something on one of the secondary desktops only for it open on desktop one. I’m not sure if this is the application at fault or the utility but it’s not a big deal

    Now I just need another monitor and I’ve have twelve possible desktops! 🙂

  • Office 2010 Versions

    With everything that’s been going on personally and professionally the last few months the newest version of Office sort of skipped by me

    Sure I installed the “alpha” when it was released on one of my machines but I wasn’t using it full time

    Yesterday I had to do a rebuild of my main office PC so I took the opportunity to install the Beta

    This post isn’t about the shiny new features though, it’s about the different suites you’ll be able to purchase

    This time around we get four retail versions (from the Office 2010 engineering blog)

      Office Home and Student1


      Office Home and Business


      Office Professional          


      Office Professional Academic



      Word 2010


      Word 2010


      Word 2010


      Word 2010


      Excel 2010


      Excel 2010


      Excel 2010


      Excel 2010


      PowerPoint 2010


      PowerPoint 2010


      PowerPoint 2010


      PowerPoint 2010


      OneNote 2010


      OneNote 2010


      OneNote 2010


      OneNote 2010


      Outlook 2010


      Outlook 2010


      Outlook 2010


      Publisher 2010


      Publisher 2010


      Access 2010


      Access 2010


    On first glance I’m really pleased

    OneNote for everybody!!!

    However on second glance I’m a bit gutted as you’ll notice that once again there is no InfoPath unless you buy Office via licensing (Office Professional Plus for most businesses)

    I commented before on how I think a lot of smaller businesses are missing out because InfoPath is inaccessible to them

    It’s frustrating when we can sell Small Business Server 2008 with one of the key features being the inclusion of SharePoint and then not being able to create some really great solutions because a key piece of software isn’t as easily available. A quick search found Infopath 2007 box product to be somewhere in between £100-£140. Licensing is obviously different but if you’re going down that route you may as well just get Professional Plus

    So it’s left to the SBS team to save us! Here’s my idea,

    If you ever release SBS 2008 R2 (and I understand that is IF) can we get some InfoPath licenses added to the Premium CALS?  🙂

    I know that is unlikely to happen but a guy can wish right?

  • The Customer Is Sometimes Right

    I’m not sure I’m being unreasonable or unfair here but I was a bit miffed after a telephone conversation I had this week

    My youngest daughter is one at the end of the month so we decided to have a family gathering and naming ceremony all on the same day

    The plan was that once the ceremony had finished our friends and family would retire to a local pub/restaurant where we could all get something to eat, chat and generally have a good time. The place we had in mind is some where we go to quite often and we’ve seen people reserve tables for these sort of circumstances

    I made the call and explained we may have 30 to 40 people coming so we wanted to give as much notice as possible

    The person I spoke to said they needed to speak to their manager and disappeared for a few minutes. When she came back I was told that they can’t make table reservations at a weekend, only during the week

    I explained again that we have a lot of people coming and we wouldn’t want to turn up only for the place to be full or have all our guests at various different tables across the restaurant

    She told me they have a roped off area that they only open when large parties arrived but she wouldn’t be able to reserve it for us.

    I asked what would we do if we turned up and area had already been taken?

    Her reply was

    “You could call about an hour beforehand to see if we’re busy or not”

    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

    We’re arranging a large group of people to arrive which takes a lot logistically anyway as most people aren’t local to us and they expect us to turn up and hope that they can fit us all in.

    What if i called an hour beforehand and they were full? Do i just send everyone home?

    I like to be a little bit more organised than that so we won’t be visiting their establishment.

    I can’t get my head around why we couldn’t make a reservation and they were willing to throw away custom over it.

    Maybe if they were worried about us making reservations and not turning up which would have caused problems for seating other guests I can understand but surely the answer there is to ask for a deposit?

    Any other thoughts?

  • Check Your SBSC Status

    It’s come to light recently that some partners are having their SBSC status change without realising

    The reason being that the Sales and Marketing Assessment you have to complete when signing up only lasts for two years. On top of this you don’t receive any E-mails or alerts to let you know.

    Microsoft are aware of this and looking into it but in the meantime just do the following to check


    Logon to the Microsoft partner portal (this link is for the UK)

    Click “View Your Membership Account” and then click “Membership Center”


    Select “Competency Summary” from the “Requirements & Assets” menu


    Scroll down until you find the Small Business Specialist Community section


    You’ll notice at the bottom it’s letting me know that I need to complete the assessment so click on the “Training and Assessment” link

    This takes you to the assessment page – click start to begin (make sure you allow pop-ups from the site)


    The assessment is shouldn’t be too difficult to complete if you’ve already done it once before. Once you pass you should see this


    You can then return to the competency summary to check to see if you are compliant once again – this doesn’t appear to update straight away though (it hadn’t when I’d posted this) so check back later

  • Oh yeah, it’s 2010

    Ok it’s not quite that bad….but Christmas and New Year were a bit of a blur and even though it’s the Wednesday morning I feel like I’ve been back at the office for weeks!

    The year ended with Mrs P getting the operation I mentioned previously so the run up to Christmas was filled with visits to the hospital (which was 25 miles away)

    Thankfully the operation went to plan and we’re eagerly awaiting January 18th for the "switch on” (full details on Bryony’s blog here) 

    New Year came and went and as usual the break gave me plenty of time to reflect on the previous twelve months

    As usual the annual Tubblog yearly review kicked me in the ass and reminded me I’ve still got plenty to learn when it comes to goal setting (go read it….seriously)

    So looking back on 2009 there were a couple of things that stood out for me to reflect on

    FamilyMy second daughter Evie was born, Even though it happened in January last year it was still far and away the biggest thing that happened to me last year. I’m immensely proud of both of my girls and can’t wait to see them growing during 2010

    BloggingI finally stopped cross posting here and to my blog this time last year. I’m glad I made the jump and went self hosted but I do sometimes worry if the blog is relevant, interesting, etc. My output wasn’t as high as I’d have liked (I’m partially blaming Twitter!) but I still enjoy writing here and the blog has created a lot of opportunities for me which I’m very grateful for so I’ll be looking to post more frequently this year

    AMITPROMyself and Guy Gregory took over the running of Midlands SBS User group. This was something I was very proud to be able to do. Getting involved with the group is one of the best things that has happened during my professional career. I’ve met some great people and have learnt so more from both a technical perspective and a business perspective and look I’m looking forward to seeing where 2010 takes us. Our next meeting is on 12th January if your interested 🙂

    Economy – You may have heard there were one or two problems as far as the economy was concerned! The timing of the problems were a real kick in the teeth for us. Towards the end of 2008 we made plans to grow the business and made some investments. We took on extra staff, got some more office space, brought a van,etc, etc with the idea to spend 2009 growing the business. With the change in the business landscape we spent most of 2009 learning that we suck at sales and marketing which suddenly become a lot harder as people held onto their cash that bit tighter!

    That is oversimplifying some but some of the things we wanted to do in 2009 just didn’t happen because someone moved the goal posts!

    The downtime at the end of the year gave me time to think about where I want us to be this time next year and how best to achieve that…that probably means I’ll be tapping you up for opinions and ideas so in the vein of this great post on the Ostrich IT blog, I’m sorry 🙂

    I’ve hit the ground running this year have got an awful lots of things sorted in these first few days of January which is why this post is late!

    Whatever you did I hope Christmas and New Year were great and good luck for 2010!