Capturing Screen as GIF File

Last second day of the beautiful 2016 and while we are waiting to welcome 2017, we should not let loose in terms of learning. Therefore, while doing my SAPIEN PowerShell Studio learning, I found out that I will need a tool to capture some screen movement but I wouldn’t want to record it as a Video formatted file.

I remember that I have seen my idol Scott Hanselman using one of them on one of his many blog articles. I went on to Google a little and I found ScreenToGif. This is a pretty decent tool and I quickly download it. It is a single executable file that require zero installation which comes in handy as I can then put it on my DropBox / OneDrive and made it readily available on all my personal / workstation.

Once you launch the application, you will be presented with a simple layout with icons as shown below.

ScreenToGif_01

Click on “Recorder” and you are all set to select the screen area that you want to do the recording.

ScreenToGif_02

Remember to click on the record button which is at the bottom right hand corner represented with a red circle. Once you are done with your screen recording which generally in my opinion should not be more than 15 seconds for blog entry so that it will not create a huge file.

Once done, click on stop and you can choose to edit or save the GIF file. Below is an example that I have made as part of my learning of SAPIEN PowerShell Studio.

02_Adding_Button_To_Form

Thanks for reading and hope you will find this tool useful!

Cheers,
Milton

Using iPad as a 2nd Monitor–Duet Display

Within this year, I see myself spending more time outside of my office than in the office which is rather something that I am looking for. There are times when I just needed one more monitor than just the laptop itself so that I can cross-reference some documents on Excel Spreadsheet along with what is being displayed on the main monitor especially when I am meddling with the system configurations of the customer systems.

Ideas have been storming into my mind all these while but every time a new idea emerged, I will start to think of the Pros and Cons. I did remember my good friend Matt Hitchcock has recommended to me the ASUS MB169+ which is an awesome piece of gadget! However, there are many constraints that prevented me from getting one of those external monitors that are powered by USB.

  1. I am using a HP Elitebook 840 G3 which comes with Two USB ports. I am generally happy with this machine as I have upgraded it to 16GB and it has built-in SSD which makes running a full lab that able to simulate the whole Condeco Enterprise suite of products.
  2. Although I am using a TUMI Alpha 2, it does have space limitation too although it is really huge! Moreover, I didn’t want to intentionally carry a truck full of loots with me each time I travel from place to place.
  3. Do I really need to lug around a 15” monitor with me all day long?

Therefore, I did a search online and chanced upon this software known as Duet Display. This generally fits into my use-case as I recently just upgrade my iPad Mini Generation 1 to a refurbished set of iPad Air 2 which I am really happy with till now.

Duet Display is free to download on your Mac OS X or Windows computer as the licensing is count towards the device you used as the additional screen. In terms of pricing, it is on the high side of an iOS application as it is priced at SGD 28.98.

Nevertheless, being productive at whatever one is doing is getting more and more important to me. I aimed to be able to improve and increase productivity for not just myself but for all the people around me who are keen to do so. On the flip side, the money spent on the App isn’t that significant anymore because I always believe that if one can splurge on good meals, they should be responsible for their own productivity. Therefore, one should invest in their well-beings. In the past, I have used other application which taps on the Wireless Network in order to connect as a secondary screen but the disadvantage of that would be it is always dependent on the wireless strength.

The setup of the application and have it connect to my Windows 10 laptop isn’t that difficult and can be done swiftly within 10 minutes including the time taken to download the application. Connect the iPad with the lightning cable and everything works like a charm. Here is a photo of the end result.

Duet_Display_11

Below is the step of step setting up of the application on my iPad after downloading from the Apple App Store.

1. The Application is easily found in the Apple App Store.

Duet_Display_01

2. Welcome screen

Duet_Display_02

3. Guide you to install the necessary software on your Mac OS or Windows computer.

Duet_Display_03

4. Typical application behaviour where they will ask you for permission to allow notifications to be shown. One thing that caught my eye is that it will keep track on how many hours that the software provides in terms of Productive Hours. This just co-relate with, how much frustrations has been saved and how much time was saved just by able to be more productive.

Duet_Display_04

5. Next is the signing up of marketing emailers.

Duet_Display_05

6. Now the most essential part where it is awaiting for the iPad to be connected.

Duet_Display_06

Once the iOS powered device is connected, it will automatically launch iTunes (if you have it installed) and automatically it will connect and display as a secondary screen as shown earlier in this post.

Some of the highlights of this Application is the help screen which generally gives me a very neat feeling.

Duet_Display_08

If you have an Apple iPad and wish to increase your productivity by having an additional screen, please go ahead and try out Duet Display.

Cheers,
Milton

Hey #NTUC! You are doing it so wrong!

Couple of days ago, I called into NTUC Union hotline to inform them formally that I wish to have my membership with them cancelled. I have to clarify first:

I am cancelling the membership because:

  1. I do not frequent the supermarket as much as my sibling does, so it makes more sense for them to be the member than myself.
  2. Most of the courses that is made available at a discount is either covered by my company or is irrelevant to me.
  3. I am proud to be the member of the union but it doesn’t make sense for me to be paying for the membership fee if I am not fully utilizing it. (or rather worse, I don’t use it at all for months)

Now here goes the whole process of cancellation:

I called into the hotline on Tuesday morning to request for the cancellation, at this point of time, my details has been verified by the Customer Service Officer (CSO) already. At the end of the call, I was told that I will be receiving a SMS from the system with a link to click on to confirm on the cancellation. Take note, this will take three (3) working days according to the CSO. I personally think it is definitely alright to take that long to process for the current generation of technology but I think there are really way more improvements to be done to improve the workflow and internal process.

So, time moves faster than you can imagine and it is Friday right now where this post is being written in the evening. During the day, I received the following message from NTUC system.

2015-06-05 08.49.15

First thought after reading this message is, “Hmmm. I thought it will be something like if you click on the link and it would have been pre-populated with the details where you just hit the confirm button and the cancellation will proceed.”

However, I was so wrong!

First, take a look at the site which I am suppose to visit.

Capture

What is the problem with this screen?

  • Technically, if this screen is there, why should I even call the hotline?
  • If I have called the hotline, I would have my details verified, why am I entering it again right now?
  • All in all, I have waited three (3) working days to have a link to tell me I should be submitting a form.

It is like, you went to queue for a concert ticket for your favourite idol and you have queued overnight to speak to the counter operator and the first thing they tell you is: “please make all purchases over the internet at whatevertheurlfortheprovider.website.url”

How would you feel?

Next in line:

Capture1

What is your thoughts on the selection?

  • Obviously, no company would appreciate people doing cancellation. Therefore it make total sense to not have this option made available as one of the item in the drop-down list.
  • However, how broad is “Others”? Since I am being told to use “Others”, does it mean that I am like the extinct kind of people who actually subscribed to the membership and are performing the cancellation?

Last but not least, I would like to highlight that in such a fast-speed nation where we are so much driven by technology, it is vital that each organization to look at ways to improve the user-experience provided to the end-users.

Spending X amount of dollars in the past may get you this kind of standard, but it doesn’t mean that if you were to not bear with parting with that the same X amount of dollars, you need to accept poor User-Interface.

There are many tools out there to automate certain processes and create the workflow so that respective personnel in the organization can be part of the huge workflow and reduce the turn-around time for all requests to the minimum.

Just my two cents worth of advice.

Cheers,
Milton

Synology integrate with OneDrive

When I surfing through the web and I happened to chanced upon Synology website having some keyword of Cloud Storage Provider such as OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. So I went to dived down deeper went I am home.

Upon logging into my Synology NAS (DS412+), I found Cloud Sync in the Package Center. Went ahead to install it and found the following.

Synology_OneDrive_01

Wow, look at what Synology have done for the consumer out there! We are able to synchronize so many different types of cloud provider via the NAS.

Synology_OneDrive_02

Please do note that this application is developed by Synology Inc itself and the file type for this package is (.spk). Yes, I do have the interests to see how this package is actually calling OneDrive. Is it the same as the way how OneDrive Client is doing? (Well, I am not sure how can I reversed engineer this just yet.)

Synology_OneDrive_03

After installation, this appear in the overlay of the Synology Dashboard. Nice looking icon there!

Synology_OneDrive_04

Synology_OneDrive_05

Now, the real action starts! Selected OneDrive and another pop-up appear to perform the authentication between OneDrive and Synology NAS.

Synology_OneDrive_06

The usual terms and condition that you will need to agree before proceeding, the kind that is similar to using 3rd-Party Developer Twitter Client to connect to your Twitter account via the API. Well, you have no choice but to agree since you are eager to use the APIs!

Synology_OneDrive_08

Select the place you would like to place the data (files and folders) that is synchronized between OneDrive and Synology.

Synology_OneDrive_09

You can even selective synchronization where you only synchronized certain folders from OneDrive.

Synology_OneDrive_10

Synology_OneDrive_11

After configuration, we can see the console actually starts searching the files and folders to be synchronized and process the synchronization. There is even an icon that is located at the task bar which shows the status of the OneDrive.

I am really happy that Synology is making effort to make sure that the consumer experience is being upgraded at their each major or minor release of the firmware.

Thumbs up to Synology Team!

Cheers.

Regards,
Milton Goh

Woot! Now you get #UNLIMITED space on #OneDrive ?!?!

To start of my day when I was commuting to work, I read on FaceBook through my friend (Chee Yong Poh, Microsoft Technical Evangelist) re-shared a post on The Verge that Microsoft has decided to provide UNLIMITED space on OneDrive – read the article here.

How would this change affect you? Well, when I was dwelling whether to archive my media that I will no longer require access to it on a regular basis to put it into the cloud so that it will not hurt the almost-filled NAS further. I was deciding between Amazon Glacier, DropBox and OneDrive but I tried Glacier at first because it is something pretty cool while OneDrive and DropBox has been in my daily life already. From my previous article titled “Is there something missing in #OneDrive ?” where I talks about something related as it shows that I am uploading all the media files to OneDrive.

So where is the value proposition of Amazon Glacier? Where would you see the value in OneDrive over Amazon Glacier? Well, in terms of space consumed and amount paid or you will be paying. Let’s see.

Microsoft OneDrive Cost (USD) Amazon Glacier Cost (USD)
100GB $6.99 100GB $1.00
500GB $6.99 500GB $5.00
1024GB (1TB) $6.99 1024GB (1TB) $10.24
2048GB (2TB) $6.99 2048GB (2TB) $20.48
10240GB (10TB) $6.99 10240GB (10TB) $102.40

 

Do not forget that Amazon Glacier charges you to bring the data out from the cloud back to any devices you are trying to retrieve from while Microsoft OneDrive, it is the same as DropBox or Box storage where it does not implicitly charge you for data transfer. (Of course, you can’t complain much if the retrieval takes forever! *evil grins*)

Do you have more than 1TB of data to store to the Cloud right now? – Yes, go to Microsoft OneDrive now!

Do you require your data to be used by other cloud services in Amazon? – Yes, stick to Amazon Glacier, there are nice API that can do retrieval from the vault.

Do you need Office suite of products? – Yes, go to Microsoft OneDrive now!

Has this come across to you that storage is getting cheaper and cheaper and Microsoft is well aligning its strategy to Cloud-First, Mobile-First?

 

Do you know that you can sign up to enjoy the unlimited storage first? Hit on to https://preview.onedrive.com/ now!

Cheers.
Milton Goh

PowerShell Saturday #009 (Singapore) – Azure + PowerShell

In today PowerShell Saturday #009 in Singapore, I shared the following article about Microsoft Azure and PowerShell. In this presentation, I shared about how one should actually adopt PowerShell to help ease the amount of work that is needed to be spent on managing Microsoft Azure.

 

Thank you.

Regards,
Milton Goh

It’s all about AUTOMATION!–New Continuous Series

Starting from today, I will be continuously exploring ways that I can automate certain manual process that is revolving around our day-to-day life which we didn’t notice that by spending perhaps an equivalent amount of time; we could then increase in Productivity, Efficiency and most importantly saving lots of time!

There was once I saw an article on LinkedIn where there is an image that really storm through my mind right now. The image depicts two guy trying to move a crane of stuffs without any wheels and another guy who came to offer them a pair of wheels to help lighten their load. The replies from the guys that are working is, “I am busy, I have no time for this.”

This directly portrait the kind of life we are heading, there are people who are working aimlessly everyday trying to get things done which has been assigned to them but we never ever had any time or opportunity to look at how we can improve ourselves.

While there is no one way that we could automate certain process, the following will just be some of the primary tools/methods that I will work with.

  • PowerShell
  • C#
  • SSH
  • Telnet
  • Putty

Cheers! Stay tuned…

Milton Goh

PowerShell Saturday #008–Singapore

It’s really a pleasure to be able to present my first session for PowerShell Saturday and working along with the team at Singapore PowerShell User Group (Matthew and Benjamin). However, due to last minute work commitment, I couldn’t present my session physically over at Microsoft Singapore office. In the end, I presented my session over at my client site via Lync.

I am really happy with the session presented, I would say that this time round, I am trying to target at some of the business users and also at a handful of technical folks to get them to accept and adopt the idea of using PowerShell to extensively improve their productivity and efficiency for their day-to-day operations. For more information, please see my slidedeck below.

Five Reasons to using CloudShare and why it is worth it.

This posts is not going to serve as a marketing story that sells you how much compelling features is being built in and provided by CloudShare but rather I am going to share on my perspective why I chose CloudShare for my day-to-day and I urge you all will see the same value as me. As a Consultant and Developer by profession, I would have to depend highly on my lab so that I could solve my own problems that I have encountered and also problems that my clients met into for their infrastructure that is being deployed and maintained by my organization. On top of that, my recent application to be a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) has been approved and therefore I have joined the league of professional trainers and hope to learn as much as I could. In my opinion, being a MCT delivery a class is not just based on the Microsoft Official Curriculum provided but it should also add in some real-world experience that I have earned when I am doing consultancy to the students. Therefore, being quick and decisive is an important element in the IT world because technology changes so fast that we could pick up the skills.

Therefore, these are five reasons why I would recommend all of you to try out CloudShare.

1. No hardware investment

Microsoft Technologies and the latest line of products have adversely increased the requirements of the hardware needed in order to run the environment smoothly. For example, when I am doing my SharePoint 2010 demo box, I used to only allocate around 4GB-6GB of RAM to the single virtual machine box. As of the launch of SharePoint 2013, I see the need to work with around 8GB to 16GB for the virtual machine. That jump would definitely require me to upgrade my workstation or my lab environment in order to accommodate to the new requirements. I used to lug around my Lenovo ThinkPad T420 with 16GB RAM but since I needed to run SharePoint 2013, I will be looking at either a slower and sluggish performance virtual machine on the same piece of hardware or I am forced to look at higher end model of the ThinkPad W Series which enable me to maximize up to 32GB of RAM. Remember, this is just part one of my hardware investment because for my lab environment at home/work, I will run SharePoint instances along with other Microsoft products for testing purposes. Although the lab servers in the office would usually contain higher class hardware that span across around 96GB RAM, but from time-to-time when the requirement of newer software increased, it means that the number of virtual machines we can run on the same lab server will decrease and therefore needing some upgrade.

For my home, I do not have the luxury to run huge servers because electricity is expensive here. Moreover, switching on the home lab server 24 x 7 would not only consume lots of electricity but it just meant that I would need to bear with the noise of the server fans. Another problem with running lab server within the organization/home lab is Connectivity. A secure environment like mine will force me to only connect to the lab environment via secure VPN connection. For my latest lab environment, it is powered with 2 x Intel NUC (~ USD500 each with 64GB mSATA + 16GB RAM) with a Synology NAS (~ USD1400 with 4 x 4TB hard disk). This would make up to a total of approximately USD3000 for a start include other miscellaneous items.

However, if you use CloudShare, the monthly commitment is USD59 (lowest available plan), it will provide you with 50 months (more than 4 years!) of utilization in order to rack up to the upfront investment for the basic hardware needed. I doubt the Intel NUC could last me 4 years especially when new software requirements are increasing!

2. Usability

All the while I have been trying to compare the various solutions that provide me with an easy way to connect to my lab environment in order to get some work done without the need to lug around with a heavy workstation. I now owe a Surface Pro 2 due to the software that I required to run to meet my basic needs. I wouldn’t be able to survive with a Surface 2 / RT because I could not install the proprietary VPN software that is required in order to connect back to my company VPN server.

One of the feature that allow me to leave my heavy laptop at home is the availability to connect to my CloudShare instances via any browser. With this feature, I could easily live with a lightweight laptop or table such as Surface RT/2 or even an Apple iPad.

3. Huge amount of time saved

Prior to using CloudShare, I used to build countless numbers of virtual machine in order to perform some of the testing needed at work or for my own learning. My latest project or mini project is to explore Team Foundation Server 2013. So I went ahead to time how much time and effort is needed in order to setup my own copy of Team Foundation Server so that I could meddle with the functionalities. So here is the estimated breakdown of the time spent:

· Building the base OS on a single virtual machine + Windows Patching: 1.5 hours

· Cloning the base OS to multiple virtual machine (Active Directory, SQL, Team Foundation Server, Build Agent Server) and perform sysprep: 1 hour

· Setup the domain controller and populating the various service accounts needed: 20 minutes

· Setup SQL Server for Team Foundation Server: 30 minutes

· Setup Team Foundation Server and configuration: 45 minutes

· Setup Build Server: 20 minutes

In total, I spent around 4.5 hours to complete the whole exercise! This does not include… What if I configured certain component wrongly and required re-configuration? With CloudShare, I could spin up an instance with Team Foundation Server 2013 along with Visual Studio 2013 installed in less than 5 minutes! Below are some examples of what is included in the 5 minutes setting up process…

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Team Foundation Server 2013 Image

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SharePoint 2013 Image

4. No longer required for trial software / subscription (Goodbye to TechNet)

One move by Microsoft to kill the TechNet subscription is to enable more users to move to the Cloud, however, for work purposes, I will definitely need to setup my own lab environment so that I could easily demo to my prospective clients the awesome features that is packed in the product. Without the TechNet subscription, I wouldn’t be getting the MSDN subscription for my home development use because the amount spent doesn’t justify the cost spent. Getting trial software would means that I would need to rebuild my lab environment every 180 days.

With CloudShare, you wouldn’t even need to bother about the licensing, you just spin up the instance as and when you like and delete it from your account when you are done with it. Forget about finding the product key to the software and having trouble activating virtual machine for your testing purposes.

5. No complex solutions needed

Sometimes I wonder whether I could mimic the solutions by CloudShare and create a Self-Service Portal as user-friendly as CloudShare so that my developers could easily launch an instance for their testing purposes as and when needed. However, after a serious consideration of the amount of hardware investment needed in order to ensure that every developers will get a fair share for them to deliver their project on-time, it really made me hard to present the idea to the management. On top of that, there will be on-going maintenance needed to ensure that the condition of the hardware are good for use. Below is some of the pointers that are part of my solution conceptualization.

· To deploy System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage all the Hyper-V hosts and to deploy Virtual Machine.

· Time is needed to create the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Time is needed to update the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Need to engage the various specialist within the organization to borrow their time so that be part of the architecting team.

Hope you are able to see the value that I see in CloudShare. Interested? Head over now to get your trial account. Sign up for Trial

P/S: I am not affiliated with CloudShare in any ways.

Cheers!
Milton Goh