First thoughts about CrEdge (ium)

After listening to the very popular Windows Weekly podcast curtesey of Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley and Paull Thurrott, I thought I would take the new Chromium based Edge browser for a spin.    As Leo suggested in the podcast it didnt take to find a safe download ( as the browser has not been realeased yet), but I have now installed it on my Surface Go and have been really please with the results so far.

Up until CrEdge I have always used the current Edge version plus Google Chrome on my device,  as certain website would prove laggy or not open completely.  Now I am no web developer  but the new Edge seems very responsive and quick on all the website I have used so far.  However using Chrome has always been a bot of a processor hog to say the least.

So whats changed.

Well quite simply Edge has become a Chromium browser, instead of using the Trident rendering engine. This really means for the end user that …. it simply works and works well now.   Of course the frontend at present looks very much like Google Chrome, but I suspect this will evolve as it gets to release.

A clean clear cut view of the Chromium Edge browser

Whats works now is that you can use your Microsoft Account to sync information accross devices, you can also utilise the extensions from both the Microsoft Store and other 3 rd party stores.  So if you have your favourite Chrome extension, you can use that in the New Edge.   Other features that have made it accross are the Read Aloud feature, which offers the ability for students to get an accessible reading view of any webpage they are looking at.

The new Edge browser allows extensions to be installed from the Google Store

The other great thing is that it isnt just for Windows 10,  New Edge will be available for Windows 7 devices as well, giving compatability in browser technologies for companies moving to Windows 10 in the future. This is really important as we draw near the end of support for Windows 7 in Jan 2020.

So at present this becomes my default browser on my Surface, and I am super excited that the browser is this good this early on.    In this identity centric world we have I am also keen that I only need to manage my Microsoft Account, not having to manage a Google account on my device to.

A final word of warning

When the new Edge becomes available and you get to make it your default browser expect to see the warning message

You are replacing Edge with Edge? Do you want to make Edge your new default browser ?

 

Man I love humour in IT !

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So what is the Windows Mixed Reality platform?

Do you remember the hype over the Windows Mixed Reality platform?  I certainly do !  That’s what made me go an order one on the day of launch, and I have got to say that after it arrived I was left fairly deflated with what I had just spent my money on. However with the arrival of my Surface Book2 I finally got it  and since then I have become a bit of an addict.

Tip one – get the right device to run WMR

Biggest tip for sure is get the right device to run Windows Mixed Reality!  When I first got the headset, I had heard the WMR would work on a Surface Pro 4, but plugging the device failed the WMR hardware test.  So I tried on a Surface Laptop, that too failed.   So I then brought a Lenovo laptop which met the criteria, I spent about £600 on the device, and though it ran it was very buggy.   For example the speed of setting the environment took upto 10 minutues easily.  Moving around was very a painful experience, yet the device met the requirement of WMR.  So the frustrations of a middle aged man came through and I packed it up and stored it underneath my bed.

Lets fast foward into October 2018 when I start my new job working with the amazing team in Surface in the UK supporting education customers on there journey. This meant I could get my hands on a Surface Book 2 !, with an 8th gen Intel processor and chipset I thought it would be an ideal candidate for WMR – and it was !

The Surface Book2 amazingly useful all round device but the powerhouse behind getting the best from WMR

 

Before I could use Surface with WMR of course I needed a new USB C to HDMI connector, so a swift purchase from the Microsoft store fixed that.   Plugged in the headset and boon we were away, in the same room which had taken 10 minutes to setup, we were ready to go within 10 seconds, I could use the WMR controllers to navigate around swiftly and easily from the comfort of my chair.

Tip two – think outside the box !

My job role is mainly based from home, which is good in some respects and bad in others.   The distraction of the being located near the coffee pot and in short range of the TV remote control can be a bit distracting.  However with WMR and my Surface Book 2 I created my virtual office, which would give me access to all the information I require.  I can :

  • Access my files
  • Using desktop applications
  • Use the Windows Store to add apps
  • Use Teams to make calls as require
  • Listen to music

So here is a quick look around my office

 

As you can see my various screens are set up!  Didn’t have to purchase four super large screen and put them in my office at home, I simply look and use the screen I want to.  As you can see my Mail app is open on the left hand side and on the right is my calendar.

How about typing?

Well typing is as easy for me as texting with the controllers. However with more applications like Microsoft Office, having inbuilt dictation I made not need to use them in the future.  Also the Immersive Reader application is now available in WMR also which allows for accessibility in using these headsets as it does across the rest of the Microsoft platform.

There aren’t many views like this – the view from my window !

It may sound bizarre in a world of open plan offices  and commuting to work, but having a view like this is quite therapeutic !  It means I can take some away from the screen as I would do in the physical world, listen to some music for example.

Here is another shot from the back of my office !   Seriously early days but being connected to the Microsoft Cloud services, Windows Mixed Reality allows me to be fully exploit the functionality in the comfort of my own home without the distractions.  Don’t get me wrong the WMR headset is not on my head all day but it does focus me my taking out the distraction of the space around me.

Where might this go?    Much as it did back in the 1960’s where someone invented the “open plan” office for striking collaboration and communication in teams of employees (which didn’t quite have the desired affect), students we are teaching could find this as a common way of working in the future. Certainly in school students with educational needs can find there own space and still take part in lessons.

It may well have been off to a slow start and overshadowed by the HoloLens device, but don’t under estimate the power of Windows Mixed Reality from Microsoft.

The buzz phrase is AutoPilot

Well, its all finished for another year – BETT 2019 that is, and what a great show it was.  This was my fifth year of speaking at the show and my first as a member of the Surface Education team.   It was very much four full on days with lots of questions about the Surface product range and especially the new Surface Studio 2.

The Surface stand in full swing at BETT 2019 with the new Surface Studio 2 nearest. The Surface Studio 2 has recently been released in the UK  (available 7th Feb) and contains an Intel 7th Gen I7 processor, 1TB full SSD storage as well as improved graphics processing and screen brightness, all bundled with the ever-popular 28-inch screen which can be lowered into ‘canvas’ mode.

The new Surface Go was also very popular amongst visitors – and it’s ever more popular in the 1-2-1 device rollouts, which really led to the most popular question – “can you tell me more about the Windows AutoPilot deployment”

Well, the short answer is Yes we can! – AutoPilot deployment is a new modern deployment solution available for Surface in the UK.

How does it work?

When you the customer orders a number of devices from a reseller, they are supplied with a Hardware Index File.  This file contains information about the machines you have ordered. When the devices have been delivered all you need to do is open the box and finish the Windows setup, type in your Office 365 account details and the machine will be ready to go (normally within 6-7 mins).   I am sure you will agree this is better than imaging machines and of course quicker for the IT Team!

What do you need to use AutoPilot?

Well you need the following checklist

  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD Premium)
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Office 365 tenant
  •  or everything above included in the Microsoft 365 A3 license (And more)

You will also need

  • A reseller that us using the AutoPilot service.

First steps

The first steps are to make sure you are working with a partner that supports AutoPilot.   When done so the partner (through the Microsoft Partner Centre) can request permission to have the role of adding devices to your Azure Directory. Simply put this means that when you order machines they can add them to your Azure Active Directory.

Next using the Intune blade in Azure you can create a deployment profile for new AutoPilot devices, here you can specify the Out of Box Experience for your users, for example skipping the EULA, deciding if the user should be a local admin etc.   Remember to brand your Azure Active Directory at this stage to personalise the experience even more for the end users.

Then the last step is to deploy setting and apps from Intune into the deployment group so that when a user unboxes the device and turns it on all they have to do is :

  • Set the default language
  • Sign in with Office 365

The machine will then configure itself according to the deployment policy.

We have created a simple process document as your starter with AutoPilot for your deployment of devices in schools.

The modern IT Pro toolkit

Windows AutoPilot is a key tool for the modern IT Pro, along with Microsoft Intune, and the Education Store. AutoPilot transforms teacher time as it rapidly allows for the deployment of Surface devices in the classroom.   Windows AutoPilot uses the functionality of Windows 10 to allow IT Pro’s to leverage the power of the cloud in the modern environment,   Legacy technologies such as disk imaging, have become a thing of the past.

Windows AutoPilot and Azure Active Directory allow you to take full control of your cloud connected device, delivering a Modern Desktop Experience to your users.