After 4 years of trusty and indestructible service from my Samsung Omnia 7 I’ve finally upgraded my phone. Although I would *love* to get the latest shiny thing as soon as it comes out, I also have an issue with the whole throw-away mentality that consumer technology seems to have created. I tend to use my technology to the point where it is no longer able to do what it’s intended purpose is. Essentially, I will use it to death.

So after going through the pain of deciding if I was going to stick with Windows Phone or make the jump to Android (iOS really doesn’t appeal to me) the Lumia 930 was released. So I folded and decided to give MS one more go.

I’m not reviewing the phone in detail here, just listing my observations and comparisons against the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) environment I’m coming from.

Apps

Yeah, so “Apps” are still the biggest thing the always seems to come up when people say why they don’t like Windows Phone. I sort of see where they are coming from, but actually, not really. WP7 was/is a dying platform and I was incredibly disappointed in the way Microsoft effectively abandoned it after only a couple of years. As a result, the app ecosystem pretty much died as well when the few devs moved to WP8.
To say WP7 users feel great sadness is an understatement beyond all description. We trusted MS when they said they were in it for the long-haul, but they lied.
However, I am finding that pretty much every app I’ve missed on WP7 is on WP8.
My wife is currently trying to figure out how to get rid of all the crap apps she has picked up over time on her iPhone, and discussion I have with many people indicate that while it is true there are a lot more apps in iOS and Android land, most of them get installed and played with for a few weeks before being forgotten.
As far as I can tell, WP8 pretty much covers all the core apps and capabilities you might want. Sure, there are probably some specific apps that aren’t present, so if there is that “killer app” you just absolutely can’t live without, your platform choice is now dictated by the availability of that app. That doesn’t sound like a good plan to me. If you can’t move platforms and data how you want because of one app, you are in for a world of pain at some point in the future.

So sure, it would be nice if every dev out there wrote apps for WP as well, and there are likely going to be a few apps I wish I could get on WP, but I’ve coped this long.

Display / Camera

Wow, just wow. Both are brilliant. The directional microphones are awesome (can be turned on/off) and the controls on the camera allow for fantastic adjustments. Also found a couple of brilliant Nokia apps like “Refocus” that takes multiple photos at different DoF’s and let you pick which one you want, or even merge all the in-focus parts together.

Sound

Finally, different volume controls for ring, apps, notifications, headphone. Quality seems pretty decent. The only negative so far is the volume level goes up to 30, but it seems to be useless being set anything less than 20, so in effect, 20-30 is where you need to set the volume as anything less is too quiet to hear.

Notifications

Wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the notification hub. I was really worried that this was just an attempt to copy iOS/Android in the hope of winning people across, and that the hubs/live icons would suffer. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case. Live icons still work the same, and the hubs also seem to still do what they should. The swipe-down also give quick access to customisable options like wifi which is brilliant.

Tile Transparency

The app icons can now be transparent if the developer of an app makes them so. This allows the background image you have selected to appear through the icon. This is a really cool effect… sort of.
As far as I can tell, the app developer has total control over this. I can’t choose to make an icon opaque or not, and some transparent icons are really hard to see depending on what you have chosen as your background. I also don’t want all my icons to be transparent, tiles of different colours are handy queues to find the apps you want quickly, if they are all transparent it’s back to having to pay close attention to what you want to find.
My suggested fix? When you go into the menu organise control (where you resize and move tiles around) have one of the corners toggle transparency of the icon.

Switching Phones

Microsoft has created a Switch app that help users from iOS and Android move their settings over to a Windows Phone 8. Isn’t that nice. If you are coming from Windows Phone 7 though, tough luck.

Unbelievably, Microsoft couldn’t even be bothered making it easier for WP7 users to upgrade to WP8. Sure, you can go into the windowsphone site and select the apps you had and reinstall them, but everything else like email setup etc you have to do all over again. Seriously, it’s a pain in the arse and really a poor showing from Microsoft.

Other bits

On WP7 I liked the ability to post a social media status to multiple platforms at the same time. I could go into my “Me” tile and it would allow me to post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time. WP8 doesn’t do that, it only allows me to post to one platform at a time. Not a deal breaker, but a frustrating change.

The official Twitter app is a bit rubbish especially on the larger screen. It was fine on the Omnia7, but it looks like I’m in giant land on the 6 inch screen, and setting the font size down to small doesn’t really help that much.

There’s no WordPress app, at least nothing official, and the 3rd party ones don’t seem to be getting any great reviews

I can now use Instagram and Vine, but I never really cared about them before, and don’t see any urge to care about them now. I’ll probably play with them a bit and maybe something will click to make me like want to use them, or maybe not.

Another one of those “this has been bugging me for ages” things. Sometime *ages* ago one of my servers had an unexpected shutdown (crash/bugcheck whatever). After it came back up and all the various repair and recovery stuff completed it was back to normal… more or less.

One thing that started happening was that the task scheduler would throw an error “Task Scheduler is not available. Task Scheduler will attempt to reconnect to it.” every time it was opened, and some scheduled tasks didn’t always seem to trigger.

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Overall I didn’t bother about it too much as I planned to decommission the server anyway. One and a half years later, the server is still going :sigh:

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When working with new packages, in particular very large ones, or when performing an action with a wizard that insists on adding distribution points (e.g. Software Update download) I find it helpful to use a “dummy” Distribution Point Group.

The reason for this is simple. For example, I want to create a new Software Updates deployment package that will contain a lot of updates, and using the wizard it requires me to select a target to distribute this new package to. I plan to add other updates or make further changes so I don’t really want (or need) it to be sent to an actual DP just yet. This is especially true when creating temporary update source content (another issue for another post).

To work around this, I just create a “Blank”, or testing Distribution Point Group with no members. This DP Group is perfectly fine to use in the wizard and allows the package source to be created and downloaded without then needing to wait for it to be sent to the DP.

Being able to document Task Sequences is a handy thing, but doing it manually is incredibly tedious, error prone, and likely to miss details.

There is a process that has been around for a while now, so I figured I’d just post it here for easy reference as I keep forgetting where to find it. This process was developed for ConfigMgr 2007, but there is also a way to do it for 2012 as well.

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A simple task sequence deployed to a collection, a virtual machine (Hyper-V guest) booting with PxE to run that task sequence.

WinPE starts up, loads the networking (which gives a working IP address, can ping/connect to servers) but then the computer just reboots. No errors or warnings.

With WinPE debug mode enabled, you can press F8 to load the command prompt, but smsts.log doesn’t report an obvious error. Lot’s of “access denied” type messages that led me hunting issues with Network access accounts and such

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This post is going to be more of a “brain-dump” post of thoughts and ideas around the process of using ConfigMgr to deploy Microsoft updates in your environment. There are already numerous “guides” on the net already, so why?

This may or may not be a long read. It will just be my thoughts at this stage, with later posts (possibly) going into details of the pros and cons of different approaches and issues encountered. All feedback or experiences you would like to share are most welcome, and I’ll incorporate new ideas and points to consider into the post

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Some quick commands I hacked together to make it easier to check what services are running on a machine after it has restarted, and compare them against a “known good” baseline of the services that *should* be running.

The key purpose was for after a server crash to check the services such as SQL and exchange have all started again.

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