Gmail, Android, Exhange, Hotmail,Calendar and Contacts and how to get it all to work

22 05 2016

This post is about getting Android, Gmail, Exchange, Hotmail (live or outlook), Calendar and Contacts to work just the way I want then to on my Android phone. I posted this after some recent changes to Android and Gmail broke my settings on my Nexus 6p.  Solving these issues gave me a deeper understanding of the way these technologies interact and so for my own reference and others I thought it worth posting.

My goal was and is to use the Gmail App on Android to connect to a Gmail email account, a Live (or Outlook or Hotmail) account, an Office365 (or Exchange account for work purposes).  Also to get these to work with the standard Calendar and Contact Apps which are part of the current build of Android – which on my phone is Android Marshmallow 6.0.1.  This was largely working okay until about a week ago (in May 2016) my contacts all disappeared from the phone.

To solve this issue I deleted my work’s Office365 account on my phone and then re-added it – pretty simple really.  A similar issue on my partners phone was solved by completing some system updates and a phone restart. So I’m not sure exactly what fixed the issue but it was at least partly resolved. As far as I could work out the issue was caused by a change to googles “Exchange Services” app.  The interesting thing about this App (for me at least) is that it’s difficult to find in the App Play store and although it’s listed as an App on my phone under Apps I was unaware of it’s significance. Although I’m sure there are other ways of locating the App in the play store (for me the only way) is to list all installed Apps via a web browser for my device (did this on my Windows computer). I then see the “Exchange Services” App listed.  It’s there you read comments like: “Auto updated while on WiFi overnight… Lost all previously synchronized settings and calendar. No idea why they forced this as it was working fine the way it previously was.” by Fahad Malik – 12 May 2016. Anyway the good thing was that this issue appeared to be relatively simply solved for my Office365 account but not so the Live (Hotmail/Outlook) account – more on that below. In fact the current/new Gmail App (with the Exchange Services App) now auto detected settings and all I needed was my email address and password to reconnect to my Office365 (Exchange) account – previously the server address needed to be entered manually. There had been an upgrade to Gmail itself prior see – https://www.thurrott.com/mobile/android/66740/gmail-android-now-supports-exchange-accounts which may have been in part responsible for the auto detection improvement.

With Office365 (Exhange) working and syncing email, calendar and contacts into the standard Android Apps everything appeared OK, except when I re-installed my live (Outlook, Hotmail) account it defaulted as an IMAP connection not as an Exhange connection.  This subsequently meant that my Calendar and Contacts from my Live account didn’t sync into the Calendar and Contacts App. This was a little annoying and I tried several ways to resolve the problem.  Firstly I successfully installed the Outlook App from Microsoft and for some reason when I did this the Contact information (but not the Calendar) information could be read by the standard Android App. This was OK but not ideal.  This lack of integration was a bit of a pain, however, the big problem was that when I went to work the Outlook App wouldn’t play nicely with the school’s Proxy service and perhaps as a result flattened my battery in less than a day.  The Outlook App had to go. After a little more research and trial and error I realised that I could in fact force an account connection to Live (Outlook, Hotmail) to use Exchange rather than IMAP.  The problem which I’d overlooked a number of times was that whenever I chose to setup a connection to Live email using “Exchange” it automatically adjusted to use IMAP. However, there was an option (neatly hidden by the virtual keyboard) to use manual setup. Choosing manual setup subsequently required me to know the server address of the Live email Exchange server. After a bit of trial and error I finally found that “s.outlook.com” worked. Finally I had all my email, calendar and contacts details syncing to the standard Android Apps on from my Live, Office365 and Gmail accounts.  Kind of back where I started after being problematic for a week or so.

Although not related to the other issues I decided to clean up my Calendars.  An issue which had existed for some time on my phone was that my Exchange account showed multiple calendars on my Android device.  However, at the same time I had long ago deleted the same additional calendars from Outlook.  Although this wasn’t hugely problematic it was annoying that my phone showed two additional calender’s which didn’t exist (to the best of my knowledge). On the verge of giving up I discovered the following post “Deleted Calendar Still Showing Up” https://community.office365.com/en-us/f/158/t/312498 and right at the end there was a solution. The offending Calendars were still sitting there as Deleted Items under Outlook. I subsequently deleted them from the Deleted Items folder and after a reinstall of the Account on my Android phone the difficult to remove Calendars were gone.

 





The trap with Apple Family Sharing in iOS 8 and the limits to Restrictions

1 11 2014

I wanted to do the right thing and have my 9 year old set-up an Apple account on his iPod touch with the appropriate controls. iOS 8 appeared to make it possible for under 13 year olds to have accounts set-up under their own name and be part of a family group. This seemed like what I wanted. However, what I ended up finding out is that Family Sharing is a bit of a trap which ends up with either a very tedious system of approvals or a situation where you take on a risk by giving your children access to make purchases in the Apple ecosystem using your credit card. In the end I found the system totally unworkable and something of a trap for locking in your credit card details. To some extent Apple make no secret of this. However, the information I read online (from various sites) about this feature all made family sharing sound really useful.  I read a number of articles prior to setting up family sharing but found it difficult to find any clear explanations of how you might best setup a valid Apple account for your under 13 year old child to achieve the types of aims I was after.  In simple terms I wanted to allow my 9 year a reasonable level of independence to install a range of apps which were age appropriate and have him blocked or have him have to come and see me about anything else. In the end I couldn’t achieve this unless I was either willing to take a risk with my credit card or venture into a very annoying system of approvals.In the end I was frustrated and amazed that Apple had delivered this service in such a way. I would have thought that there will be so many families where family sharing doesn’t help them that I’m surprised in the way in operates but perhaps more than that – that I simply couldn’t find articles which talked about this feature in manner which were either critical or objective.  However, I recognise that I’m a bit different from others who might test this feature – I don’t live in the Apple ecosystem, but I am interested what my kids do with technology and interested in the technology itself – and the number of users in that category might be quite small.
Here’s the issue explained. To setup a legitimate Apple account for an under 13 year you must do this utilising family sharing and as such the under 13 year old must be part of your family. To enable family sharing you must enter a valid credit card, and so long as you have family sharing running you cannot remove your credit card (i.e. there are some changes you can make but you can’t put in a pre-paid credit nor will an iTunes pre-paid card cut it). Once you set-up family sharing you can add family members. The family members can now all make purchases on your credit card. There are two potential ways to limit this arrangement, but these solutions are either (in my opinion) unworkable and/or  limited. The first is you can set-up “Ask To Buy” for family members. The “Ask To Buy” is very frustrating and tedious and applies to every app (etc.) which your child might want to install – regardless of whether it is free or not. It works like this – 1) your child selects an app and enters their password to install – they then receive a message indicating that they will have to wait for approval, 2) the adult receives a message on their iOS 8 device (and too bad if they don’t have such a device – as they’ll never receive the message) to approve the installation of the app their child has selected, 3) the adult needs to approve the new app and type their own Apple account password in on their own device, 4) the child having had the app approved needs to now type in their own Apple password again to install the app. Hence if the aim was to control apps your children might be accessing (which was my main aim) this system requires multiple steps to install each application.  This is way more complicated than letting your child use their Apple device with your Apple ID and requiring them to bring it to you each time they want an App installed.  There is the advantage with this set-up that the child isn’t using your calendar and other Apple services which you might be using – but for me this wasn’t the case I just wanted to assist in making my child’s use of technology a bit safer in a time efficient manner.
Anyway there was another way potentially to control apps you child might install and that was to set restrictions on the actual device the child uses. Restrictions can be set-up on a device with or without using a Family Sharing account.  This can be setup by enabling restrictions on the device and setting a 4 digit passcode to protect these settings on the device. This also creates a tedious solution in that now your child potentially can’t even attempt to install any apps without you removing the restriction.
In the end I wanted to turn family sharing off, limit any access to my credit card and have my child create a fake account under their own name with an adjusted birthdate. Unfortunately turning off family sharing is not that easy as it’s not possible to delete your children (or even close their account for that matter) and turn off family sharing. You can transfer your children but that requires another adult Apple ID to transfer the child account to – if you don’t have such an account – you are out of luck and you are stuck with family sharing – which as mentioned must have a valid credit card associated with it. It’s a pity Apple couldn’t setup “Ask To Buy” to have granular settings to apply only to apps etc. that actually cost money. It’s a pity Apple couldn’t work out a better approval process for people who people who are not in the Apple ecosystem (with multiple Apple iOS 8 devices) – why couldn’t Apple allow approval from a website or via an email link. It really does appear that Apple have set-up this up with the prime aim to make money and with any aim of setting things up in way which assisted in creating a safe way to use technology as a lesser aim.  Anyway in the end for my family – family sharing is just not workable – being either too tedious or involving too much risk to my credit card.





Windows RT and 8 –security when using the Mail App and Exchange

27 01 2013

As a technology coordinator within a school I’ve worked through a number of issues in connecting to the school’s exchange email server via Windows RT and Windows 8.  The concerns I’ve had and wanted to explore are somewhat peculiar to a school environment although may exist elsewhere.

The concerns were based around when a user accesses email via Windows RT or Windows 8 using the Mail App some of the security settings are imported from the domain where the exchange server is based and forced upon any computer wanting to access email from the particular site.  In some ways this is not as significant an issue with Windows 8 as it is with Windows RT as Windows 8 allows users to access other email applications such as Windows Live Mail, Outlook and potentially a range of other email programs.  However, with Windows RT if you want to connect to an exchange server the only App available is the Mail App.

My initial concern with security settings connected to the Mail App was on my Windows RT Surface tablet. When I connected to our school’s email server there was no choice but to enforce the policies from the exchange server as per the following.

image

In my mind there are a number of issues with this. One issue is that the user is provided no details as to what policies will be enforced and what impact they will have. Further given my RT Surface is my own device I didn’t really want to have school exchange security settings applied. However, that aside the biggest issue I had after I accepted these policies was that my Windows RT Surface would lock and require a password after a period of inactivity.

It’s highly annoying to have to constantly re-enter passwords on tablet devices and everything I read suggested this setting could not be removed without first disconnecting the Mail App from the exchange mail server. When I tried to remove the settings under User within PC Settings the option of “Never require a password” was not allowed.

image

Perhaps strangely, I found this setting could actually be adjusted without disconnecting the Mail App from the exchange server. This involved first choosing to “Reset Security Policies” from with User Accounts in the Control Panel as indicated in the following image.

image

To be clear the account I use to logon to my RT Surface is a “live” account and the security policies had come from the exchange server from my school.  Resetting the Policies in this instance meant I could go back into the User settings in PC Settings and subsequently set the settings to be “Never require a password”.  This subsequently solved my issue of having to constantly having to re-enter my password when the tablet locked as a result of a period of inactivity.

It wasn’t clear what other security settings were still applying to my tablet as a result of joining the Mail App to the school’s exchange server.  However, what ever settings may have been in place didn’t appear to be having a negative impact on my use of my RT Surface.

What did concern me, was that in my role of coordinating technology within our school, I had a number of conversations with the school’s systems administrator as to how this might impact students who also tried to connect to the exchange email server with similar devices.

As a result of these conversations I came to understand that these security settings were connected to the ability to be able to remotely control and wipe devices such as tablets and phones.  This caused me some concern because while I wanted students to connect to our exchange server to support email communication I didn’t want to be in a position where the school’s staff might be accused of wiping student devices.

I subsequently did some further investigations about this and found a number of links which provided some details about what might occur.  The following are a few of these links.

http://blog.exchangegeek.com/2012/06/windows-8-mail-app-exchange-activesync.html

http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2012/11/26/supporting-windows-8-mail-in-your-organization.aspx

Beyond this I wasn’t overly concerned until I upgraded my home desktop to Windows 8.  The Mail App in Windows 8 then synched automatically with my Windows RT Surface Mail App.  Both devices used the same live account to logon with.  There was no fine grained synching control where I could simply stop the Mail App synching – nor do I recall there being a way I could remove the Mail App from my Windows 8 computer.  While I didn’t have to open the Mail App and access the school email via this App on my Windows 8 computer  it looked a bit ugly to have a partly broken App sitting there in Windows 8. However, I put my school coordinator hat on and thought that any students in a similar situation would may want to access the school email on all the devices they have and was interested to know the result of doing so.

While there were a number of questions I really couldn’t answer without having access to administer the exchange server I was interested in what a user (i.e. a student) could do. I subsequently performed a test on the ability to remotely wipe my RT Surface device from OWA (Outlook Web Access).

To test what wiping would do on my Windows RT Surface I connected the Mail App to the school’s exchange server and then via OWA, Options, Mobile Devices I selected the device and chose to “Wipe All Data from Device” as per the following image. 

image

The result was largely as expected, following some research on the topic.  Initially nothing happened to my Surface and it appeared I could read existing school email via the Mail App.  After about 5 minutes of waiting with nothing happening I attempted to send an email via the Mail App using the school email system. More or less as soon as I hit send the wipe occurred.

The Mail App connection to the school email server was removed with the school email account disappeared from the Mail App.  In addition I received the following email confirmation.

image

The wipe fortunately didn’t wipe the entire Surface Tablet as some documentation indicates but rather just removed the school email account from the Mail App as indicated above. 

It was then a relatively simple process of reconnecting the Mail App to the school email system by first “Removing Device from List” in OWA and then repeating the process of connecting to the school email via the Mail App on the Surface.

In Summary given the significance of accessing email from Tablet type devices there appears to be a dearth of clear technical and user documentation on how everything works.  I take this to be part of the unfinished software feel of the surface tablet.

As a footnote I read with interest from http://winsupersite.com/windows-rt/microsoft-prepping-outlook-2013-windows-rt that Microsoft may release Outlook for RT.  Given the issues with the Mail App it would be interesting to see how that operates.





Getting Media Player 11 with Vista to share media

13 06 2009

The aim here was to more fully understand how Media Player would allow the sharing of media between multiple computers and perhaps an xBox 360. 

On a computer running Vista Ultimate, which was also being used as a Media Centre computer to record TV, I was attempting to share out this content.

Problem 1

For reasons, I’m not totally clear on VMware network adapters constantly want to be classified as “Public network” adapters, which they are not.  It’s possible to change their state as in the following.  However, they tend to revert.  A couple of links which may offer solutions are:

http://www.nivot.org/2008/09/05/VMWareVMNETAdaptersTriggeringPublicProfileForWindowsFirewall.aspx, and

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/itprovistanetworking/thread/66b42761-1b8e-4302-9134-0bb685139f4e.

At this stage I have tested neither solutions.

image[4]

Sharing Media through Media player to another Vista computer with accessing with media player

In reality once you are familiar with the Media Player interface sharing content with other computer running media player with Vista appears pretty straight forward.  It is well described at the following link.

http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/help/7391bdc3-3767-4f98-9cf6-80d8bd2a05941033.mspx

On testing this it appeared to all work well with Pictures, Music and Video.  However, there appeared to be a problem when it came to sharing recorded TV.  This just did not appear to share.  There may have been a few reasons for this: being file extension type which was not a listed type and the folder “recorded TV itself.  Regardless this appeared a minor issue.

One interesting point I read was “Windows Media Connect technology has been improved and incorporated into Windows Media Player 11”, which is fairly self explanatory but worth noting as part of the process of getting my head around this sharing media process.

Sharing media through Media Player versus accessing via a shared folder

I’m not sure of all the technical differences going on here.  However, it was possible to access recorded TV from another computer via a shared folder if setup.  This bypassed the need for Media Player to stream the content.  However, what I am not clear about is whether doing this is a bad idea compared to streaming.  However, I guess the main point here is that accessing content via a shared folder is not the same as using Media Player to stream.

Is it possible to use Windows Vista as a media centre extender

The simple answer to this question appears to be – it’s not possible. In some way it appears very strange that Vista can’t be setup to be a media centre extender.  xBox 360 is about the only extender available these days.





Getting HDMI to work on the Xbox 360 in 1080P

30 12 2008

I have tried to get a 1080P image from an xbox 360 onto a 1080P television.  However the resultant image doesn’t appear to be of an appropriate quality.  After some playing around I got the image to display reasonably on an LG 42LB9DF LCD in 1080P mode.  However, when using a HDMI cable and when I select the optimal settings it defaults to 1360×768 and this does indeed appear to display the best image (or at least better than the image produced when using 1080P).  What I don’t get is why this is so.  The monitor is 1080P and when the xbox is set to output 1080P it doesn’t produce the best image (that is 1360×768 appears superior).  I’ve done some subsequent tests (including with other equipment) to try and determine what might be happening in this situation.  I’ve completed numerous tests with different content but in general I’ve compared quality in Halo 3 and that produced by the xbox 360 console OS GUI.

I’ve also tested the image on alternate monitor and it appeared to produce similar output to the LG in 1080P (when uisng a HDMI cable) and raised some another seperate group of questions.  So I’m not certain whether I am getting the best image I can or whether I’m missing out on some quality. Perhaps the xbox 360 just doesn’t render well when outputting to 1080P.  My tests would suggest that 1360×768 is the best resolution an xbox can produce.

One slightly annoying aspect of this testing is that the xbox 360 GUI is fairly dumbed down.  Which is generally quite a good idea but when trying to diagnose these types of issue the provision of further details in the GUI OS might be helpful.  The particular aspect of this which I am referring to is what appears in the display settings.  The choices change dependant on the connection and device it’s connected to.  For example when I have used HDMI to connect to two 1080P capable monitors the options vary.  When connected to the two monitors ( an LG 42LB9DF LCD and a Samsung SynchMaster 2493HM) only when connected to the LG monitor is the "optimal settings" options a possilbe choice.  When connected to the Samsung monitor this option simply doesn’t appear so it’s not possible to set the output to 1360×768 when connected to the Samsung to compare with the equivelent settings on the LG.  Clearly the xbox 360 is communicating with the monitor to provide the list of choices.  However, I’ve got no idea how and why the xbox determines that the 1360×768 settings are the best when it is connected to the LG monitor.  Further the frequency settings (ie 50Hz and 60 Hz) can only be manually set when the composite cable is used instead of the HDMI cable and when the switch on the cable is set to TV.  It’s not clear whether the frequency settings made with the switch are maintained when the HDMI cable is subsequently pluged in or whether the settings are simply dynamically set when the HDMI cable is used.  It would be very helpful if this information could be provided, because I’m not sure whether an issue exists with my monitor(s), xbox or even the HDMI cable and further information might assist with this. 

I have placed a call with Microsoft and the case has ref no. 1088962143 and I discovered a few things but the issue has not really been resolved.

I have used a HDMI cable to connect an Xbox 360 to a Samsung SynchMaster 2493HM monitor and while it appears to work the quality of the image does not appear quite right (ie not of the quality I was expecting and not as good as a lower resolution on an alternate monitor).

The xbox 360 settings indicate that it is sending a 1080P signal and the 2493HM monitor provides the following when the information settings are displayed onscreen "HDMI 67.5kHz 60Hz PP 1920x1080P".  Hence both the sending device and the monitor all appear to be operating at 1080P.

The query I have is that when the monitor is operating in this 1080P mode there is no black band at the top and bottom of the image. As the monitor is a 1200×1920 monitor I would have thought that there should be a band of 80 pixels (40 top and 40 bottom) for a 1080P video to be displayed on a 1 to 1 pixel basis.  What I’m thinking is occurring is that the 1080P is stretched vertically to the 1200 pixels.  Doing so would incur some interpolation and potential loss of quality, but I can find nothing in the monitor settings to adjust this default behaviour (ie 1080P stretched to 1200).  Can someone confirm whether the 1080P is being stretched to 1200 to fill the entire screen and if so whether there is any way to adjust this behaviour?





Copying VCD with Nero

27 04 2008

Using Nero Express Essentials I tried to copy a few VCDs.  The CDs appeared to copy OK but then failed during the write.  By changing the Advanced Setting to "Read all subchannel data" the copy appeared to work OK.  I also played with a few other settings in relation to "Disk-at-once" and speeds.  However, I think it was the absence of the subchannel data which was problematic. 

I could not easily find a clear description of why this was the case.  However, it appears to be related to the CD+G specification.  A description of this can be found at http://www.jbum.com/cdg_revealed.html.