A short but sweet Tip this week, aimed at those of you who are running Windows 8: if not, why not check out the Release Preview page.
Out of the box, the logon security model that Windows 8 supports offers a variety of ways to log into or unlock your PC, though ultimately it could still requires a complex password just like before and network admins could disable certain features. It might be decided, for example, to not Both the Picture Password and PIN approaches are really aimed at making it easier to sign in when you don’t have a keyboard – unlocking a slate device using a strong password can be pretty laborious with an on-screen keyboard, so both provide a more touch-friendly way of logging in.
Picture Password allows the user to take any photo, to choose 3 features of it, and to make a gesture on each of them. An obvious (and therefore – seriously – not recommended… do not do this) choice would be a picture of your child/spouse/dog/self, where you touch on both eyes and then the nose, or swipe along the smile. This don’t-pick-the easy-to-guess-feature approach is somewhat reminiscent of the great Monty Python “How Not to be Seen” sketch*. Fans of the original Halo game may like to hark back with this spoof video.
Anyway, best practice says to choose a picture with lots of potential points of interest, so that you and only you will know which people to tap on, or which trees in the forest to swipe the trunk of, etc. Although Picture Password can be operated with a mouse, its sweet spot is really if you have a touch-capable device.
This is something of a secret gem, since it’s as useful on a desktop or laptop as it is on a touch device. In a nutshell, setting a PIN on Win8 will allow you to unlock your work PC with only 4 keystrokes (you don’t even need to hit ENTER). As with Picture Password, you need to set your strong password first, and when your password changes, you’ll need to go back in and edit the settings for the PIN. Essentially, PIN and Picture Password are just used as way of unlocking the strong Alph4numer1c Pa55!w0rd that’s been stored already.
To enable either of these options, go into the Settings charm from the main Start Screen, and choose More PC settings, then go into the Users option on the left, and look under Sign-in options.
Do bear in mind that it’s possible that your company’s information security folk (if you have them) may decide that they don’t want people to use the new Picture Password feature, or the ability to unlock your machine with a simple PIN, if either won’t meet their security policies. For the moment, you might find that both are allowed, and if you get your funky Windows RT slate device later in the year (like this one?), you’ll still be able to use these techniques to unlock it.
*Mr Nesbitt learned the first lesson of not being seen: not to stand up. However, he did choose a very obvious piece of cover…
Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that an update a few months ago to the desktop Zune software has removed the Marketplace for buying or downloading Windows Phone apps.
This was something of a surprise move to some, since the Zune software has been the primary way of finding and getting hold of phone apps, other than using the Marketplace app on the phone itself.
Read more about the development here. Hear it from the Windows Phone team here.
Over the months since the Windows Phone 7.5 (“Mango”) release, the web site at windowsphone.com has been getting more and more functionality, including a much improved “Web Marketplace” – as of now, the web site is the only way to browse apps on your PC and get them sent to the phone. Very soon, it will only be possible to get apps for the phone if you’re running the “Mango” release.
If you browse the web marketplace (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/marketplace for Brits) and see an app you like, you can quickly have it sent to your phone – over the data network, without needing to plug the phone into the PC first. It’s a good idea to be on WiFi if you’re going to be installing apps since it’s quicker, and it won’t cost anything compared to downloading data over 3G. Especially if you’re abroad at the time…
The Zune software is still going to be used to feed updates to the phone, such as OS version upgrades – it allows the PC to manage the large amounts of data required to do the update, and the Zune software can also make sure a backup is taken of your phone, in case things don’t quite go to plan. So, if you get a notification on the phone that an update is available (either the phone telling you, or if you plug it into your PC and the Zune software tells you), then it’s worth applying the update. For more info on how to get Mango if you haven’t done so already, see here.
Also, if you’re downloading very large apps (games, perhaps), you may find that they can’t be installed using the over-the-air method, e.g. if they’re larger than 20Mb in size. For apps this big, you’ll either need to connect the phone to WiFi or plug it into your PC. The delivery of apps is still done using the Web Marketplace in the latter case, it’s just that with the phone connected to the computer, it will use the PC’s own internet connection and be fed the apps that way.
It may be a little known aspect of Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 that you can issue voice commands to the device. There are essentially two functions – one, searching using Bing by voice, by pressing the magnifying glass button on the front of the phone, then the microphone icon on the Bing page … (see here for a demo).
The second voice feature of note is to control the phone by voice: press and hold the Windows button on the front, and annunciate your instruction (eg Open Calendar, or Start Maps). See here for a review of the voice command functionality or here for a few more instructions.
Issuing spoken commands to your handheld device runs the risk of making you look like a prize eejit, especially if you do it Apprentice-style whilst holding the phone at arm’s length and bellowing into the thing. But if you’re walking along a corridor or street, you could talk discreetly into the phone whilst held to your ear and it won’t raise much of an eyebrow from passers-by.
Business Intelligence guru Will Thompson found a cracking tip, though, when using the phone to call someone. If you press and hold on the Windows Key button, and say “CALL someone ON SPEAKER” (or “CALL someone HOME|MOBILE|WORK|etc ON SPEAKER”) , you’ll start a phone call with them already (as you may expect) set to speaker phone. Even LorShoogar would be impressed. Or Kirsty & Phil off the property show.
If you’d rather select your dialing contacts using a keypad, you might mourn the passing of the old 3x4 phone keypad where you could type their name in using numbers. Well, if so, cry no more… there’s an app called People Search (free trial or £0.79 to buy) that you can use to type in fragments of someone’s name and it will show a filtered list of contacts. A bit like Windows Mobile 5.0 did, in fact.
Give the voice dial feature a go, and maybe try out the People Search application if you want to search contacts on your phone with a few jabs and no self-conscious narration into your palm
This week sees a short but sweet Windows Phone tip, courtesy of Kevin Lief. He paints the picture of being in a meeting when someone says “did you get my email about … etc?”
Of course you got the email… but getting it and reading it are odds apart sometimes. How many times have you seen an email, maybe skimmed it (flagged it even) but haven’t quite got round to reading it in detail?
If your inquisitor expects you to show that you’ve at least put their email on your to-do list, Kevin’s tip might work for you.
Of course, it helps if you have your colleagues’ details saved in your contacts list. If you don’t, try opening their details in the Outlook address book and hit Add to Contacts – or if you’re on the hoof, try searching the person’s name in the People Hub, and if you can’t find it, tap “search Outlook directory”, then open the contact, then hit the save icon at the bottom to add to your contacts.
Random thought: the “save” icon, like that in many applications, is a 3.5in diskette icon. When was the last time you used a computer that had a floppy disk drive (even if the disk was anything but floppy), where do you keep the last diskettes and what did you save on them? Answers on a postcard please