Setup Android Calendar, Contacts, and Gmail Apps for Office 365

I’m really surprised this is not posted somewhere with clean instructions. The obvious path here is just to get the really nice Outlook Android app and be done with it, but some users tend to want to pull business calendar events into their personal calendars that are native to Android. Outlook does the contact sync back to contacts in Android as a option, but it does not yet sync calendars back to native Android calendars. 

  1. Get the most current version of Android OS you can get for your device. This goes without saying, but don’t try to set this up on versions below Nougat (Android 7.x) or, I’m guessing, you will have issues at some point. 
  2. Get the latest Gmail.app if you don’t have it from Google Play. 
  3. Go into System Preferences or just find the Gmail App and create a new account of type Exchange. Different Android phones will have different paths to create new accounts for things depending on vendor, but most all will have an Accounts System Preference of some sort. 
  4. Creating the new account, the Exchange type should reference your domain autodiscover settings and figure out your email is at Office 365. If it doesn’t, you probably can go with the mailserver address outlook.office365.com (but hopefully it figures it out for you.)
  5. Complete the new account setup here but one possible complication is the account password. If the domain in the Office365 setup uses multi-factor (which you better do nowadays!) then your user password is not the password for the account setup. It’s the application password you need to generate as your user in your account preferences in Office365. 
  6. If needed >> Generate an application password in Office 365: Login to portal.office.com, go to My Account, then into Security & Privacy, then Additional security verification THEN into Create and manage app passwords. Click create and copy that code. 
  7. Back to the Exchange account setup in Android – use the app password you generated in #6 as your user password. 
  8. The default setup is that you start syncing calendar, contacts, and email immediately. If you are using Outlook on Android, then you might want to disable contacts and email since they are coming in via Outlook if you enabled that Contacts Sync option in the Outlook app. If you don’t want to use Outlook on Android at all, leave them all syncing. 

Hope that helps. The app password wrinkle is a fun one. At some point, I am sure Microsoft will add calendar sync support to native Android as they have now with contacts and this sort of double setup would be unnecessary if you did want to use Outlook and native Android apps. But, until then, this sort of setup works. 

Getting old Excel Lists functionality in “Excel Tables”

I used to use Excel Lists all the time for documents that needed we wanted users to do data entry in a structured way. Excel Lists were great because you could quickly and easily edit columns and push the validation schemes, etc. down the rows. That was then. Now, Excel has removed any mentions of “Lists” and instead are referring the the similar functionality as “Excel Tables” and, with a little work, you can get what you need. The other major concern is the ability to render properly on Mac or Windows. Thankfully, Tables do in my tests. Here is what I do now.

(Screenshots are Excel 2007 under WINE)

Get the worksheet ready and highlight the rows and columns you want to put into an “Excel Table” then from the 2007 Insert ribbon use “Table”

etable1

You will get a prompt to confirm the region and after you “OK” it will render what used to look like an Excel List.

etable2

From there on out, the cells in the Table work in a group, but you will have to use Fill Down and other regular functions that you used to just program in at the list column settings. For example, I do validation for entry referencing an external list column of a few values and want the user to click into a cell, get a pop-up list and have it validate. Here is how I do it. Remember, rather than being able to set these at the header of a column, you have to do it at the cell and fill down or up.

Select the cell in the column you want to make a validated pop-up list for and then go to the “Data” ribbon in Excel to “Data Validation”

etable3

In Data Validation, you can point it at your list of values and enable the in-cell dropdown.

etable4

Confirm the cell is working for you properly, then you have to “fill down” the rest of the cells in the column.

etable5

Fill down is now in the Home ribbon

etable6

I also do conditional formatting on a column for this worksheet that is just an =Exact(J2,L2) but I want it to generate red or green if the J column and L column have different values.

Conditional formatting setups work the same way in that you have to highlight the region of cells and then add the conditional formatting rules. Conditional formatting is on the Home ribbon.

etable7

and I want some shading for the value “FALSE”

etable8

and I want shading for the value of “TRUE”

etable9

Anyway, this gets you pretty close to what I used to love about Excel Lists. You don’t have the nice functionality of dealing with validation and formatting at the column headers, but you can get there through the Tables options.

Get it together Microsoft

I am still in shock that a product Microsoft demoed in June still does not have a release or availability date. Check out the Microsoft Surface page. It still has “Coming Soon” and we are in mid-October now.

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/

This is a joke. Microsoft is not a product and services company until they ship products and services or can provide a date when they will be shipping their products and services.

Get it together guys. This is your shot to get relevant again.

 

A Business Model Is Not A Feature

Thinking that security is a feature  is just as flawed as worrying about a business model later. 

Microsoft never used to take security seriously.

It was commonly known Microsoft would always error on user ease of use instead of focusing on making sure their products were properly secured. Many could argue this mindset was one of the major reasons they became so successful and dominated whatever market they moved into during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Security is always a trade-off on ease of use and this is absolutely the case with software. Microsoft knew this and really only dealt with security when they absolutely had to, namely when their users demanded it and typically after something epically bad happened with Outlook, Internet Explorer, Windows or IIS, MSSQL, etc. Microsoft really just viewed security as a feature that could be added later down the road to products and services as needed or until they absolutely were forced to do it.  A feature is typically something that is a add-on or “bolt-on” to the core product. They really did see security options as features instead of building in the hooks they needed to keep their products secured at their core.

Get A Mac Ad poking fun at Vista and the UAC

After numerous security breaches with their products, Microsoft took on a massive effort a few years ago to really try and change this “security as feature” culture. I remember attending a security seminar at the Microsoft offices in downtown San Francisco and the Microsoft rep mentioned to me the change in thought on security was akin to “turning around the Titanic.” Shortly after that seminar, Vista and UAC arrived along with the constant patches via Microsoft and Windows Updates. Microsoft has made tremendous progress in this area now but still suffers effects from the security flaws today as it remains baked into their brand reputation. They should have seen that security should be thought about and engineered along the way with development and not as an afterthought. It’s fundamental to the quality and success of the products they make. It must be a simultaneous process. It is not sequential (product first, then security.)

Biz Stone at JCCSF on Oct 3, 2012

At a talk with Biz Stone over at the the JCCSF, it hit me. Recent web and social media entrepreneurs and the companies they startup are running into a problem not all that unlike Microsoft. In the rush to get a fun or cool product out there and get public mindshare, they focus on the user experience, traction and buzz. But, they forget about something critical >> the business model. To me, these companies are minimizing or delaying a problem they don’t want to deal with until they absolutely have to (just like Microsoft did with security.)

This is unfortunate. We have all seen the patterns with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other startups that are totally great and innovvative as they start to grow. The founders are energized, the investors are excited because people are using the service, but the hammer eventually falls when they are forced internally or externally to get to monetization.

During that JCCSF interview, Stone took the approach that you should make something of value first then look to see what you can do with it. This is not uncommon. It is actually pretty much the way most startups happen. You kick something around and see if it sticks. If it does, then you take it to the next level. This totally makes sense because there can be a lot of ideas and products that just aren’t worth pursuing, so having things live or die through some sort of natural attrition is pretty familiar. Yet, it was very clear to me that Stone didn’t feel a business model was all that critical first part of  the whole evaluation and “sticking” process. This really struck me because the flip-side of this wonderful startup process, is that you can get something “sticky”with a userbase but not sustainable. Or, in order to make the company/product/idea sustainable, they will have to basically come in after and damage it with something that will mar/dilute the value of what they built probably in the form of injecting ads. Thinking about how to sustain that which you are building is fundamental to the quality and success of the products, it should not be an afterthought. Jamming ads in Facebook feeds or mandating promoted tweets forced into streams for users detracts from the overall user experience that was the reason they came to you to begin with. Users are not coming to your site to view ads.

Visitors are hopefully coming to use your product because it is great. But, the greatness is diminished because of the ads you have to have now due to not taking the time when you could have to protect your product from being mutated to get to monetization and sustainability. We have all seen websites and services always decline when they had to reach for the ad revenue because they had to go somewhere outside the product for cash. Business models must always be part of the product development. It’s not a feature. It’s not necessarily the fun part at the beginning and that is probably why people don’t want to deal with it at first. But, we are all seeing what happens when services and companies don’t think about how things are going to work for the longer-term right from the beginning and throughout their development. It will most likely come back to haunt them just as security continues to do with Microsoft.

Using ownCloud For Personal Cloud Services

Recently, the term “cloud” has become quite a trendy term for what is a less-catchy term “application service provider” or “ASP” that has been around forever. But, the evolution of bandwidth connections across the US and world has helped fuel this idea that you don’t need local application servers or hire expertise in all things tech. Google, Apple, Facebook, Dropbox and others are jumping on this bandwagon with free or freemium models to provide filesharing and PIM tools for the masses. The rise of tablet computing has also driven the need for those less technical but with multiple devices to look to the cloud to help them somehow try and sync their files across all their toys. Of course, in going with a large company like Apple or Google, you get what they are able to provide and have to deal with putting your information and data in their hands as well as your passwords.

For those that run their own hosted or personal servers, self-hosted ownCloud is not a bad solution. I put it in for my wife and I recently to displace what we had been doing for a calendar share system and got some additional functionality in the process. I ripped-out Davical because some code broke when I upgraded our home server to Ubuntu 12.04. It is a LAMP-based extensible system that can power filesyncing across devices, calendar and contacts sharing as well as music streaming and picture viewing. These modules are installed when you do the initial installation, but there is even an ecosystem of other applications you can roll into the structure.

ownCloud Calendar via web interface
ownCloud Pictures via web interface
ownCloud Files server via web interface

Installation is a breeze with basic mysql and Apache knowledge. The datastore is a mysql database and plop the code into a new directory in an Apache virtualhost. It serves up Caldav that is compatible with iOS and other clients. Calendar sharing was the major feature I needed and that works well with iPhone calendars and Reminders between my wife and I. This is also the case with contact sharing via the carddav ability with the Contacts module of ownCloud. Nice to get that right out of the box.

I didn’t really care too much about music or files because I am not trying to make my iPad or iPhone be a laptop replacement, but for being a backup system for your documents at work or whatever, the sync clients ownCloud provides work okay in my tests. Because this is a browser-based tool, using SSL on Apache to serve it would be recommended so you don’t send passwords in the clear when you are on that public wifi. If you don’t have a legit SSL certificate from an authorized provider setup with Apache, this would be the time to do so. I moved off self-signed certs that I used for many, many years and got legit when I recently went with the self-hosted model of ownCloud.

Another application of note that seem nice are the browser email application Roundcube can be incorporated into the ownCloud framework vs. running this separately via just an Linux compile or apt-get. There is no reason ownCloud can’t be installed at a hosting provider site that allows mysql database access too. I just happen to have a local linux server for this sort of stuff and development.

I have been a happy camper so far with our “cloud” information under my control but still being able to leverage all the services I need and without downtime or security concerns you have to settle for with large companies like Apple, Google and other vendors.

The New Microsoft Bing-ified Skype Next Generation User Interface

Now that Microsoft is spending $8.5 Billion on Skype. I am guessing it will go under their internet division and perhaps be closly linked with Bing. Here is my rendering of what the new Skype Microsoft user interface will look like. Should be exciting (once you are able to locate where the controls are!)

The New Bing-Inspired Skype Interface