Sustainability starts at home (or blog)

A man's head poking through a mass of pine leaves. He has his eyes closed and face and hair painted green.

You may have noticed a change to the look of my blog. This isn’t just your average refresh; it was an attempt to make my blog post have less of a negative impact on the environment. This was something I never really thought of before, but when I heard the stat below, I wondered what I could do within the limits of my free WordPress hosted blog

The internet consumes a lot of electricity, 416.2TWh per year to be precise… that’s more than the entire United Kingdom.

https://www.websitecarbon.com/
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Connect AWS to Azure for free Cloud Security Posture Management

I found a good excuse to get an AWS free trial! Microsoft have introduced a simplified agentless way to connect Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to Microsoft Defender for Cloud (the new name for Azure Security Center). This is good news for a lot of reasons but primarily because it gets closer to a Single Pane of Glass for monitoring your cloud security posture, at the excellent price of free*.

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Fix emoji search in Windows 10

a yellow ball emoji over a blue surface

This is a quick post to explain how you can get search working from the emoji keyboard in Windows 10 or Windows 11. This should work by default but some organisations block the downloading of the optional features that would allow it.

Update 07/01/2022: I found the magic command line to fix it all! Jump to the bottom to see.

The Windows Emoji panel
The emoji panel in Windows 10
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Could you be a vegan for a month?

Protect the planat with your plate. Try Vegan this January.

Are you up for a challenge? How about you give Veganuary a go this January? I thought it would be good to share a bit more about what Veganuary is, what’s in it for you and why I’ve taken part in it over the last few years. If your gut reaction is “I could never give up steak/cheese/bacon” then this post will hopefully give you some food for thought.

What is Veganuary?

The Veganuary challenge asks people to eat a purely plant-based (vegan) diet for the whole of January.  That means not just giving up meat (which would be a vegetarian diet) but all animal products and by-products like milk, cheese, eggs and honey. This diet has proven health benefits, including increased energy levels, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and it also helps to combat weight gain. It’s the most environmentally friendly diet too. It has been calculated that one person eating a vegan diet for a month will save 124,900 litres of water, 84 square metres of forest and 273kg of carbon dioxide emissions (better than giving up a car for a month).

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Cloud PCs from Windows 365

Cloud PC running from Windows 365

How do you provide someone a secure well managed Desktop PC and apps without having to provide an expensive laptop or desktop tower that has a limited lifespan? Virtual Desktops are a common solution to this conundrum. A Virtual Desktop allows a person to use whatever device they want (like a home PC, smartphone, iPad etc) to access a remote desktop server running on centralised hardware in an organisation’s server room or datacentre. That is what is meant by a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution. Although these solutions have been around for decades from companies like Citrix, Microsoft and VMware, they have required a lot of high-end hardware and specialist expertise to make them work well. Due to that requirement, they often have not been able to meet the promise of being a more cost-effective solution than just giving everyone a laptop.

With the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen an acceleration of the shift to remote and hybrid working that was already well on its way beforehand. Other scenarios like organisations expanding through mergers, or starting partnerships with other companies, or having temporary/seasonal staff, can add further challenges to onboarding and provisioning IT services, business continuity, and security and compliance.

VDI is a great solution to those challenges but many organisations don’t have the capacity to deal with that demand. Cloud service providers like Microsoft and Amazon have helped to address that issue with Amazon Workspaces and Azure Virtual Desktop (previously known as Windows Virtual Desktop). By using these Cloud options you no longer have to worry about pre-purchasing a large amount of hardware and calculating complex capacity requirements – you can set up the networking, Virtual Desktops, applications etc all in the Cloud and scale it up and down as demand changes. However, you still need that specialist expertise to get it right in the first place.

Microsoft wanted to make providing Virtual Desktops just as easy as providing someone an email mailbox. Microsoft 365 makes it super simple to configure email services through Exchange Online, meaning organisations no longer need a team of Exchange Server administrators to run its own unique instance, could the same be done for VDI?

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First look at Windows 11 beta and why businesses should take a look

Windows 11 has been available for people to test for a few weeks now through the Windows Insider Program on the Dev channel. With the announcement of the new Beta channel I thought it was high time I got my hands on it and started to poke around.

Become a Windows Insider

If you’re not familiar with Windows Insider, this is how Microsoft allows early access to preview builds of Windows so that hobbyists and businesses can prepare for changes and provide feedback. There are 3 “channels” that decide how frequently you get a new version of the OS, with the Dev and Beta channel both now providing Windows 11. Joining the programme is a straightforward process if you use a consumer Microsoft Account or a work account (via Azure AD) – all the details on how are on Microsoft Docs. I always recommend businesses have at least some devices registered on the Insider channel so that they can assess what’s coming up before you move on to more formal business pilots. New PCs will start to come with Windows 11 at the end of the year (in time for Christmas), with the in place Windows 10 upgrades beginning to roll out late in 2021 and continue into 2022. So with the upgrade imminent, businesses should start to expect some of their employees are likely to start using the new OS before the organisation rolls it out – this is all the more reason to have teams within IT looking at Windows 11 and preparing for it – just as they would for any of the Windows 10 semi-annual release updates that we have all gotten used to.

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The big themes from Microsoft Ignite, March 2021: Part 3, Security for all

This is part 3 of a series of articles on the key themes from Microsoft Ignite, March 2021:

This keynote kicked off with Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Security, Compliance and Identity, Vasu Jakkal.

Session Link

Microsoft want to make our digital world safe for everyone by providing security that reflects, empowers and includes everyone. When Microsoft says security for all it really means all:

  • All organisations, big and small
  • All your data
  • All clouds (Azure, AWS, GCP etc)
  • All your people (wherever they are)
  • All your devices and platforms
  • All the risks you face
  • All the opportunities ahead

As always, there is an evolving threat landscape. Microsoft gather over 8 trillion security signals a day and have seen an increase in cybercrime, ransomware and nation state attacks. These have been led by attacks emanating from Russia, but also Iran, North Korea and China. Microsoft produced a Digital Defence Report in September 2020 that describes the current threat intelligence landscape and provides guidance and insights from experts, practitioners, and defenders at Microsoft.

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The big themes from Microsoft Ignite, March 2021: Part 2, The Hybrid Workplace

Jared working in his wardrobe

In part 1 of this recap we looked into the keynote from Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Alex Kipman. Part 2 of my Microsoft Ignite blog series will have a look at another keynote session all about how workplaces have been impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic and how Microsoft are supporting organisations to work in the new normal.

The Hybrid workplace

Session Link

This fun 15 minute keynote from Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Jared Spataro, was packed with news around flexible approaches to work. Microsoft believe that there will be no going back to a pre-pandemic reality of an office permanently full of employees. Physical meetings are important but they won’t be the same as before.

over 
O 
of managers expect more 
flexible work from home 
policies post-pandemic 
more than 
70% 
Of employees expect 
to adopt these flexible 
work from home policies 
microsoft.com/worklab
Jared presents statistics from the WorkLab research

The Microsoft WorkLab is a site dedicated to understanding the trends of working during the pandemic & the need to change the employee experience. There’s lot to explore on that site, and info on how Microsoft will bring that to life in organisations with its Employee Experience Platform (EXP) Microsoft Viva. Microsoft have seen a large rise in video meetings, longer workdays, a break-up of the traditional 9-5 work pattern and an increase in chat. With over 115 million daily active users, Microsoft Teams has been the centre of a lot of that activity. Here are the new features and improvements Teams will be getting soon:

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The big themes from Microsoft Ignite, March 2021: Part 1, Microsoft Mesh

It seems like only yesterday I was blogging and live tweeting about the annual Microsoft Ignite conference, when it was actually September last year! The global pandemic has meant for some changes to how Microsoft showcase all their big announcements and instead of the usual Ignite: The Tour sessions we get in the following Spring (in the northern hemisphere) we were treated to another global 3-day virtual event. In this post, I will take you through the big announcements and updates as well as take a bit of a deeper look at the overall themes from Microsoft and what they tell us.

Solution areas 
Business 
applications 
Data & Al 
Security
Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business describes Microsoft’s core solution areas

If you want to take a look for yourself, the good news is that all of the content is available on-demand from myignite.microsoft.com. There are well over 200 sessions, from the keynotes or general “what’s new” sessions, to deep-dives and proper technical training available. A little tip for finding the sessions you want: Once you’ve signed in to MyIgnite go to the session scheduler, use the filters to find the area you are interested in, then sort A-Z (by default they are sorted chronologically which makes it confusing to pick out the duplicate sessions!).

You may also want to check out the Book of News. This is a fairly concise online report that shows calls out all the newsworthy announcements. Each announcement has a small description, then links off to a more in-depth Tech Community blog or Microsoft Docs page. It took me about 90 mins to read through it all, including a bit of jumping out to find out more on the topics I was really interested in.

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Quick Tip: Make the most of the Microsoft Teams app bar

Microsoft Teams is fast becoming the hub for people’s productivity at work. I wanted to highlight a small feature that can make a big difference to the usability of Teams and help people find what they need, fast.

Microsoft Teams uses an “App Bar” on the left hand side of the UI to let you switch between the different apps available. You are probably familiar with the Activity, Chat, Teams, Calls and Calendar apps as they are pinned by default to the app bar but did you know you can move these around, unpin them or pin new ones?

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