Using a Nest Hub Max with Google Workspace 2022 Edition

The instructions I had previously written back in 2020 now no longer work. After a few more weekends of trial and error I finally figured out how to setup a Google Workspace account with a Nest Hub Max that is part of my personal Google Home. Fortunately the process is now quite a bit simpler.

Here’s how I did it…

  1. Setup your Nest Hub Max and configure it in Google Home using your Workspace account.
  2. In Google Home settings while signed in using your Workspace Account, remove the device from your Home.
  3. In the Home app while being signed into your Workspace account, open Assistant Settings.
  4. Select Face Match and add a new device. Choose the Nest Hub Max you just removed from the Workspace Google Home – this will link your Workspace account while it is in an unadopted state. It will also require you to enable Voice Match and Personal Results.
  5. After the account has been added, in the Google Home application switch to your personal Google Account. Then simply add it to a room – voila!

I hope this helps!

Using a Bell Home Hub with Ubiquiti Unifi

As part of setting up our second home in the Ottawa area, I ended up with quite the trial and error process to figure out how to use Ubiquiti Networks Unifi Security Gateway 4 Professional with the Bell Home Hub 3000. So, beyond writing this down so I don’t forget it, I wanted to share this for other Unifi users out there.

My USG setup was complicated by the fact that (1) the controller is back at our other house in Seattle. I started by configuring the USG at the Seattle house based upon the very helpful UniFi – Ports Used – Ubiquiti Support and Help Center article to open up the Ingress Ports required for L3 Management. I also setup Dynamic DNS at the Seattle house as well.

The next step was to configure the Bell Home Hub. The easiest way to do this is to plug the WAN port into a network port as well as a laptp with a hardware Ethernet port. In the Bell Home Hub setup screens start by disabling WiFi and UPNP. Then, go into the connected devices section and select Ethernet. Write down the MAC address of the USG as it will be needed for the next step.

Then, in the Bell Home Hub setup screen, enable the advanced DMZ and enter the MAC address of the USG – this will allow it to get an external IP address. And the battle is half won.

You can then connect your laptop into a LAN port and configure the USG. You will need to set the connection type to PPOE. The user name begins with b1xxx and can be found by logging into MyBell. In the MyBell Web Site, you can set the Internet access password – this is what the PPOE password will be.

And that will allow you to get online with the USG4 – or a USG3 or UDM (as the same process applies). Getting the site-to-site setup with remote adoption will be the source of my second post. Happy Unifi-networking.

WWDC Wishlist: The Next iBook

With all the recent announcement of the M1-based iPad Pro’s, speculation has of course run rampant on the inevitable merger of the iPad and Mac. And, of course, Apple vehemently denies this. But, with hardware platforms converged, there could be an interesting middle ground. Something I’m calling the Next iBook for lack of a better idea.

Imagine an iPad Pro running macOS with a Magic Keyboard. It work’s just like a MacBook Pro, except that you can only provision a single user account (unless Apple fixes this on iPadOS 15). You have the benefit of 5G connectivity, but perhaps slightly reduced battery life. Otherwise it’s the same as a M1 MacBook Pro. All of your files can be easily synchronized to it from the cloud. Other than a TouchBar as with SideCar or using the Pencil for signing things or sketching, the interface is largely non-touch.

Then, imagine disconnecting from power and/or the Magic Keyboard. You are in iPadOS. But you have the same local file storage. All of your stuff is “just there” – no challenges synchronizing files from the cloud as with current generation iPadOS. Then you have a first class tablet and can get to work with iPadOS equivalents of say your Adobe files or Microsoft Office documents.

And you can switch back and forth at will. This would deliver the first class user experiences Apple loves to drive home. But, negate one of the biggest drawbacks of the iPad today – getting all of your files there without 100% connectivity.

I can but dream…

Catching Up with Photography

Not only is it the 40th anniversary of Mt. St. Helens, but it was also Victoria Day in Canada. This meant that our offices were closed today, and I had a much less demanding weekend than normal. I used this weekend to catch up on some long overdue photography projects. My Mac Pro is now nicely configured and I had finally gone through the extremely painful process of biting the bullet and switching to Lightroom CC from Lightroom Classic CC. With a 400+GB library, this was more of a project than I intended… But, with that done, it was time to dig in…

The Rolls-Royce Owners Club 2017 Fall Tour


In September of 2017, I and a group of likeminded Bentley and Rolls-Royce enthusiasts convened in Vancouver, BC and took an epic five day road trip north to Whistler and then east through the Okanogan to Osooyoos, BC. This album shares the many unique sites we visited along the way.

Track Day

Track Day

Probably not since the Goodwood Festival of Speed has one taken vintage Rolls-Royce and Bentleys out onto a proper racetrack. But, yet we did at Area 27! I opted out of driving on the track to leverage Area 27’s extremely generous proposition to let me photograph the occasion fron their control tower.

Panoramic Photography (Work-in-Progress)


One of the things that caught my fascination was building large panoramas out of raw shots from a SLR. The only problem was that I did not have a machine powerful enough to render them. Enter the Mac Pro – 16 cores, 256GB of RAM, and a 32GB Radeon Pro Vega II GPU. I have not cropped and edited these, but instead wanted to get them out raw just to prove the concept. Success I think!

Interesting Lake Shots 2017-2019


Lots of interesting ships sail past my house. Here is an updated selection of the most interesting from 2017 through 2019. As part of this I solved the mystery of the blue and white tugboat in Kenmore, WA. It first made an appearance assisting the Island Wind with a barge to the Kenmore aggregate facility in the fall of 2017 – which I actually happened to capture. It was then moored there for several years, but I could never see the name or get close enough without trespassing. Yet, it irritated my curiosity every time I drove past on the 522. Thanks to the photos captured herein and some searching over the Web, I have determined by photo comparison that this ship can only be the Helen S. Mystery solved!


Op-Ed: My Take on Apple WWDC 2019

For years, I have observed Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference from the sidelines purely as an enthusiast. Since moving to Hootsuite, I can now definitively state that I have a proverbial horse in this race – as we publish multiple applications on the iOS App Store. Hence, this year I paid even more attention than usual – and thought I would share some of the findings. 


This year debuted iOS 13, which is very much targeted at end-user enhancements. Most of note is a native dark mode, which has been desired by end users for many years. The built in applications are all getting a plethora of feature-enhancements with the majority of the investment going into Music, Messages (including support for dual-SIM), Maps (including Street View), Reminders, and Photos. And the keyboard now supports swiping – bringing parity in alignment with 3rd party options and Android. ARKit v3 debuted with people occlusion and enhanced movement tracking along with the introduction of RealityKit, which facilitates the creation of photorealistic renderings of digital assets, animating them, and having them obey the laws of physics. CarPlay is upgraded with a new layout that appears to be imminently more useful. 

Verdict: Dark Mode, CarPlay and end-user application improvements will continue to make the iPhone the most seamless mobile experience in the industry; iOS 13 makes recent-generation devices the most capable augmented reality handset on the market and is no doubt setting the stage for something much bigger in the future. 



This year saw a more modest update to tvOS. Many of the new capabilities are centered around the already announced Apple TV enhancements from the spring. Of note are multi-user support to enable personalized recommendations and support for 3rd party game controllers. The personalized recommendation support is by far the most desired feature for both my wife and I and will no doubt continue the AppleTV as our primary means of watching television. 

Verdict: A hugely convenient evolutionary release that will no doubt make AppleTV the most popular gaming platform beyond XBox and PlayStation. 



One of this year’s biggest announcements was the separation of iPadOS from iOS. First up, Safari now reports itself as a Mac to provide a full “desktop-class” browsing experience. The days of getting a mobile optimized site on an iPad are no more. iPads now support external USB storage and the ability to import photos directly from digital cameras. The Files application has been upgraded to mirror the experience in macOS. Sadly, there does not yet appear to be any feature to fully offline sync cloud libraries, but hopefully this will come next year. Multi-tasking and split screen mode has been greatly improved, including the ability to have multiple versions of an application open (e.g. multiple copies of Microsoft Word to edit different documents). There are new editing gestures to expedite things like copy and paste or undo. A one-handed shrunken keyboard is available for one-handed typing. Pencil latency has been markedly reduced on the latest generation hardware. Mouse support is finally provided, but under the guise of accessibility. And lastly is Sidecar, which allows an iPad to be seamlessly used (via cable, WiFi, or Bluetooth) as a second display for macOS Catalina. Stylus-enabled applications can now receive input directly through the pencil. And it also provides a touch bar mirroring what is on the 2016+ generation MacBook Pros. 

Verdict: iPadOS is some of the most impactful news coming out of WWDC. The improvements greatly close the gap between an iPad and a laptop, all without compromising a touch-first experience – something Apple has been extremely principled about dating back to rare indirect criticism of Windows 8. It is easy to see how these capabilities will be more rapidly evolved in the future, making an iPad the only computer one needs for more and more use cases. For someone like me, it will shift even more time to my iPad from my MacBook Pro, especially when traveling. More interestingly is Sidecar – I believe this is a hat tip to the future of touch in macOS, which has been remarkably touch-free for many years. I envisage a world where the iPad is used to enable touch (or stylus) where it makes sense but without compromising what is a desktop-first operating system. The blend of touch and desktop is an elusive holy grail no one has yet solved, but this seems to be well on its way to achieving that elusive goal in subsequent iterations. Project Catalyst makes this even more likely. 



The sixth iteration of watchOS brings independence from the iPhone. The Watch will now have its own AppStore and apps can now run completely independently, opening up a variety of new completely disconnected use cases. Several popular iPhone apps are finding their way to the Watch such as Calculator and Voice Memos. Health and fitness continues to steal the show, with several key enhancements including long-term activity trends, a decibel meter to alert to potentially dangerous hearing conditions, and a menstrual cycle tracker. 

Verdict: The most popular health wearable will continue to maintain and grow its lead within the market. The ability to run independently from the iPhone and additional productivity apps will open up new use cases and possibly start to see new categories of broad adoption beyond health and fitness. For me, it will make my Watch even more useful than ever. 



Recent macOS releases have all had California names – this year it’s Catalina. And Catalina brings some of the heaviest investment in macOS in some time. One of the most long-requested features has materialized – the breakup of iTunes. Replacing it are new Music, Podcasts, and TV. Devices can now be directly managed in the Finder. Voice control is now offered as a new means of navigation. Apps such as Home and News will also receive significant improvements. 

Verdict: Outside of Project Catalyst (more on that) and Sidecar, this is a largely evolutionary release that delivers upon one of the most long-requested features to address the user experience behemoth known as iTunes, making it a worthwhile upgrade just for that alone. However, Catalyst and Sidecar hint at much broader ambitions to come…



Apple’s often criticized voice assistant gets a number of upgrades this year. First is a more natural sounding voice. Support has been extended on other devices. For example, on AirPods can read incoming messages and facilitate immediate voice-driven response. HomePods can now differentiate voices to allow for individualized responses. More third party apps can now leverage Siri in CarPlay, facilitating a much richer voice-driven in-car experience. 

Verdict: Although not as useful as Google Assistant or Alexa, Siri provides a solid “third place” but without compromising privacy. The number of additional use cases take something that has been growing increasingly useful, and make it even more so. 



HomeKit this year added support for several new categories of devices including routers and security cameras. Security camera footage can be analyzed by a HomePod and then encrypted and stored in iCloud, with 10 days of storage available at no charge. 

Verdict: HomeKit is one of the easiest smart home systems available and one that certainly makes privacy a feature. Although I personally have not gone down the smart home path, if I were to do it, HomeKit would likely be my choice given privacy concerns with other platforms. 


Project Catalyst

One of the largest announcements was no doubt Project Catalyst, the project formerly known as Marzipan. Developers can now take iPad applications and target macOS merely through xCode and get applications working with a minimal amount of re-factoring provided that no obsolete libraries are used and there are not too many hardware-specific features. iPad apps were chosen deliberately as they were inherently designed to handle a larger display size, with the hypothesis that the experience will translate better to macOS. This is also Apple being cognizant that an application built for a phone may not work very well on a desktop; something that is painfully apparent when utilizing Android apps in ChromeOS. Several major developers have already committed to leveraging Project Catalyst including Twitter and Atlassian. 

Verdict: Probably one of the most game-changing announcements from WWDC – this sets the stage to invigorate the macOS ecosystem like nothing before. All Mac users can no doubt look forward to many more native applications than have been previously available. Early developer feedback is very positive, suggesting that Apple’s timing is once again right to truly drive a cross-platform developer experience. As well, it sets the stage for further blurring between the iPad and the Mac. It’s easy to imagine where this goes as the iPad gains mouse support and true windowing while the Mac becomes more touch-enabled when using an iPad as a second display/input. 


Sign in with Apple

Single sign on has been around the Web for a while, with Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter all being quite prevalent. Now Apple has entered the fray – but with a unique twist, Privacy. Whereas the others leverage SSO to build up advertising profiles, etc. – Apple is doing the exact opposite. No data is stored. It even goes so far as to provide e-mail address obfuscation to truly maintain a private identity. And, the use of Sign in with Apple is going to be mandatory for the App Store going forward virtually guaranteeing widespread adoption. 

Verdict: This is the 2019 “Apple tax” for developers, but consumers win in the end – at the expense of the other major SSO providers. It will be interesting to see how actual end user adoption goes, but as a privacy minded individual – I can see myself using this. 


The Mac Pro & Pro Display XDR

Several years back it seemed that Apple had abandoned the professional user with the 2013 Mac Pro that didn’t seem to solve very many problems for anyone while exiting the display market and pushing users towards MacBook Pros and USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. The rest of the line somewhat languished beyond the outstanding 5K iMac. Professional users were rightfully outraged. 

In a rare about-face, Apple admitted it had gone down the wrong path and re-committed to the professional audience, but with a 2-year tease for a new Mac Pro. In the interim, the core iMac and notebook lines have been refreshed with much better regularity and seen massive specification increases – hindered only by the awful butterfly keyboards. The Mac Mini received an impressive specification boost that nobody thought would happen. The iMac Pro debuted and delivered the most powerful Mac to-date – something far more powerful than the 2013 Mac Pro. All of this led to the speculation that the new Mac Pro and display would be horribly off the mark when they did arrive; the rumor mill was convinced it would be a stackable system of Mac Mini-like enclosures with proprietary connectors while users lamented the old G4-style “cheese grater” chassis. 

In a somewhat shocking move, Apple reimagined the “cheese grater” and delivered the most powerful and expandable Mac ever seen. Industry standards like PCIe are embraced, but Apple made it better with the MPX modules and is encouraging an open ecosystem. At debut, the new system has an impressive array of GPU options plus a FPGA coprocessor for editing up to 3 streams of 8K or 12 streams of 4K video. This is paired with a 32” display that can operate in either portrait or landscape at Retina 6K resolutions with an astounding 1M:1 contrast ratio. The whole setup is ungodly expensive, but ungodly powerful. 

Verdict: Nobody can say that Apple doesn’t care about professionals any longer. There is truly something for everyone from extremely powerful notebooks and iMacs Mac Minis with 3rd party display and GPU ecosystem to the iMac Pro – and now this beast of a setup. It punches far above the weight class of any previous Mac Pro, whose use cases can now arguably be met with the iMac Pro or other aforementioned options. The level of power (and price tag) one can configure is pretty amazing. Likewise, the new display’s specifications are competing with reference displays costing tens of thousands of dollars. When looking at what is being delivered, it is priced competitively to inexpensively depending on the use case. 

As someone that does a lot of virtualization as well as photography (with a budding interest in SLR panoramic photography, which requires a lot of horsepower), this is the Mac Pro I’ve been waiting for. Although an iMac Pro would definitely meet my needs, the modular expandability wins every time. My last Mac Pro lasted from 2006-2016; I can’t say I’ve managed to get a decade out of any other computer I’ve owned. I expect no less here…


Closing Thoughts

This was an incredibly exciting WWDC. My key take-aways:

  • The most refined mobile operating system gets even more refined, with a lot of core functional enhancements and a much desired dark mode combined with the best in-car experience available
  • Although by no means winning the AI assistant race in terms of features, Siri has evolved to the point of genuine utility while not sacrificing privacy
  • HomeKit has expanded to pretty much every mainstream use case for a smart home platform, while again prioritizing privacy
  • The Watch and watchOS have emerged into a first-class platform, with a plethora of new use cases opened up with iPhone independence. Only time will tell if the Watch will continue to be a health and fitness first device (and the undisputed leader there) or evolve into something broader. 
  • Apple is truly becoming the “privacy as a feature” company, with this being a core value proposition of virtually every product line and the new Sign in with Apple, which provides a unique means of obfuscating one’s identity over the Internet in what will no doubt become a very widely adopted SSO mechanism given the mandate to leverage it in the App Store. 
  • Apple is more committed to the Mac ecosystem than ever, with the introduction of Catalina, the new Mac Pro, Pro Display XDR, and Project Catalyst, which looks to be on the verge of bringing a multitude of iOS applications to the Mac in an extremely seamless and expeditious fashion. Big name adoption and early positive feedback are indicators that taking the time to mature Project Catalyst was probably the right thing for all. 
  • The iPad is now becoming a true laptop replacement for many more use cases. It’s touch-first user experience is not being compromised in any way and it is clear Apple has even further ambitions in the future. Even more interesting is its fusion as a touch-display accessory to macOS allowing a best-of-both worlds without any compromise. Project Catalyst and harmonizing the developer platform between iOS and macOS hints at likely even greater things to come as iPadOS and macOS converge. 

The fact that iOS was not the star of the show acknowledges what sales and Wall Street have already recognized we are likely at peak iPhone. The renewed focus in broadening and growing the overall Apple ecosystem quashed any lingering doubts I had about Apple’s overall strategy.    


Some Other Thoughts

First, a hat tip to my good friend and former colleague Dylan Lloyd, with whom I always enjoy discussing Apple’s latest including this WWDC. 

This is also my first blog post in almost three years. Shame on me. Now that I work for Hootsuite as a social-tech company, I must endeavour to “be more social” and blog more often. Thanks for reading! 



My Sojourn with Android

I am a global traveler, spending a significant amount of my time in our Ottawa, ON; Copenhagen, DK; and Brussels, BE offices combined with a fair bit of time in the United Kingdom. Being connected is part of my job, which means having a local mobile plan is a must. I have 3 SIM cards (US, Canada, and Denmark with EU-wide coverage). But 3 phones is at least one too many to carry.

I broke down and bought a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Dual-SIM unlocked from Amazon. This is the closest Android equivalent (sans the single SIM Nexus 6P, which is what I really would have liked if there were a dual SIM variant) to my workhorse iPhone 6S Plus.

And, after two weeks, I thought it’d be interesting to journal my impressions of Android. On the hardware front, I’d give the Samsung a more favorable impression than Apple on a couple of fronts:

  • Curved display
  • Waterproofing
  • OLED screen

But it is a step backward in terms of camera and storage (as you lose the MicroSD support when using dual SIM’s and I’m not brave enough to try the hack). Battery life is about the same.

On the software side, the two couldn’t be more opposite:

  • Android has a setting for everything; figuring out what is what can be quite confusing and Search is your best friend. But, you can personalize the device until you’d hardly recognize it from the default.
  • All of the app-store applications are there – but some are clearly not as polished or stable as their iOS brethren.
  • Android from Samsung ships with both the Google Apps as well as Samsung Apps + Samsung-based lock-screen and launcher. In theory, you can replace all of these with apps of your choices…
    • In practice, I have not been able to replace the Lock Screen without running into challenges.
    • I have replaced the Launcher and all default applications with Arrow and the applications from Microsoft.
  • Chrome vs. Safari is a matter of personal preference; I prefer Chrome but still end up using Safari given Apple’s reluctance to truly let the browser get replaced on iOS.
  • iTunes is definitely a missing link (though with limited storage I could not sync that much anyways).
  • Dual SIM support is pretty elegant, but you can only have 1 primary SIM working at LTE speeds and you have to manually set which one is primary (which was slightly confusing to figure out).
    • The inability to have separate data roaming settings for each SIM is definitely a missing hole I hope gets fixed in Android Nougat.
  • Software updates to Android seem more frequent than iOS; however OS upgrade-ability is a huge problem. Who knows when this S7 Edge will see Android Nougat?

My overall verdict is that there is plenty of room for both Android and iOS, but that other operating systems are probably a lost cause at this point. How to size them up:

  • If price matters, Android is the way to go, as you can get a very affordable device with a complete app store repertoire.
  • If you want to customize everything, Android is the way to go. You just can’t customize to this degree with iOS.
  • If you want an absolutely seamless, intuitive experience where everything “just works” – then the choice is simple – get an iPhone.
  • Those that are heavily invested in Apple ecosystem’s choice is also very simple: iPhone.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mention of Windows Mobile 10. I very much wanted to be able to buy a Lumia 950 XL. This was the phone I really wanted to buy. Microsoft does dual SIM better than anyone and it has the same polished end-to-end experience as iOS. However, the uninspired industrial design of the 950XL (which is outshone by the lesser 650) coupled with longstanding reports of bugs or carrier feature incompatibility (no WiFi calling) and an absolute lack of applications made it a no-go.

Would Android make me switch from iOS? No…but it is interesting and fun to have it and I will definitely enjoy it while maintaining connectivity in Canada and the European Union (and I guess now Great Britain).

This is also a perfect product management case study of customer segmentation and the room-for-both phenomenon (and conversely the lack of opportunities for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, or others).

Windows 10 and the Surface: Winning Me Back

To celebrate the 30th birthday of Windows, I figured it was time to share my own thoughts on the operating system.

With the Threshold 2 build of Windows 10 (build 10586) and the third generation of Surface devices (Surface Pro 3, Surface 3 LTE), Microsoft is winning me back. For those that know me well – that may be a surprising statement. But it’s true and I have to give credit where due.

By mid-2006, I had switched all of my personal computing to Intel-based Macs instead of upgrading to Windows Vista. From 2008 onward, I used a Mac almost exclusively as my daily machine and used Windows in a VM or BootCamp only where necessary. Although Windows 7 was good, the hardware available simply wasn’t that great. At the same time I traded my trusty Treo running the original Windows Mobile for an iPhone 3G and never looked back.

Windows 8 and its attempt at redemption – 8.1 – was a disaster. Windows RT was a disaster. The first generation of Surfaces were great to look at and touch – but not that great to use in real-life.

Then, Microsoft woke-up and re-focused itself on its customers. Relentlessly. And its working.

The Surface Mini was killed. Given Windows RT, it rightfully probably never saw the light of day. Windows RT was rightfully killed – though it represented an interesting missed opportunity I may blog about as a different topic.

But, the Surface Pro 3 emerged and it is a genuinely great device. All the rough edges of the first- and second-generation devices were filed off. Now, finally, there was a decent Windows laptop (some software/driver quirks notwithstanding). The Surface 3 LTE gave those that are hardcore mobile users something that was very decent (also with some software/driver quirks). The Surface Pro 4 is nicely providing refinements where needed – and I can’t wait to get one when the model I want is available. And the Surface Book – although controversial – is a very interesting contender against the MacBooks.

Windows 10 is another story. It is actually very pleasant to use. All of the goodness of Windows XP and 7 is brought forward. The good ideas of Windows 8 and 8.1 remain. But its nicely wrapped into a single package. And it delivers an experience and applications that are quite pleasant when faced up against stiff competition from Apple. And, with Threshold 2, it mostly works as expected from a stability perspective.

How do I know its working? I had several devices to pull out on this long Washington DC->Seattle flight tonight; the Surface Pro 3 with Windows 10 on Threshold 2 won. As the Surface 3 or Pro 3 did in many meetings this week while traveling.

And, it’s not just me. I have traveled extensively for the last four years. Airports and airliners are a great litmus test of public opinion globally. Apple was clearly winning. But now I’m seeing Surface Pro 3s/Surface 3s pop up more and more. And most of the ones I see lately are Windows 10. This is a much needed regaining of ground with the high mobility professionals that has been absent for Microsoft for many years. And in an even bigger testament – the Surfaces have captured the interest of my mother, who has used nothing but Apple since 2006.

The recipe for this success is very simple. They are focusing relentlessly on their customers and on delivering a quality user experience. There’s no rocket science to this; its just just very hard work.

On the hardware front, I applaud Microsoft for the Surface. They have brought the much needed cachet back to Windows machines – something the OEM partners were definitely not doing. Although its taken far too long and several iterations, credit where its due for finally building a great desktop operating system and hardware combination.

(This post was written over Idaho on my Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 Build 10586.)

For US Travelers, EMV Can’t Arrive Soon Enough

Most of the rest of the world has had EMV for years. For example, I had it from the time I moved to Canada in Winter 2008. Just what on earth is EMV? It is the chip/PIN support on your MasterCard and Visa credit cards that allow you to make purchases via PIN versus swipe and signature.

Why is this important? Besides the obvious anti-fraud benefits, it is almost mandatory to make even basic purchases when traveling abroad. Consider my case. I’m working out of our Copenhagen office this week. I went to the local supermarket and went to buy things the TSA frowns upon like razor blades and shaving cream – and Kleenex, which apparently my hotel doesn’t believe in.

And I find myself unable to make a purchase using my Visa or my MasterCard. My MasterCard, which supposedly has a PIN, didn’t work either. Try my debit MasterCard with a PIN? Another fail. Try a different store. Same result. My story had a happy ending. Others might not be so lucky.

I try resetting my MasterCard’s PIN over the phone (which was successful) and go back – it still didn’t work. (And this is after two lengthy calls to my bank.) I call Visa – they were able to setup a PIN, but warned me all transactions may be treated as cash advance. Low and behold, I was finally able to make a purchase. Kudos to the United Club Visa Card and excellent customer service from Chase, who provides the card. They truly understand what world travel means.

But, this required a great deal of patience, persistence, and resourcefulness that the average traveler might not possess. If you’re traveling abroad, beware and vet this in advance. Otherwise, when you get a chip and PIN in the next year or so, rejoice.


Lots of Good Stuff from Build and Beyond

So far, Microsoft has done a very good job of impressing me the last week. In fact, I have seen some of the best decision-making out of the company in years. Although a lot of this may be due to One Microsoft and other forces already in play, some credit also certainly goes to Satya Nadella in his new role as CEO.

In short, what I saw that I liked:

  • Office for iPad – The overnight success of this shows that Microsoft has been leaving money on the table, even with a 30% cut going to Apple. Given its a v1.0 and is this polished, I look forward to what the updates will bring. Hopefully they will update it frequently in the style of a true iOS application and not on a Microsoft ship cadence. It has earned overnight status in my daily-use list and is hopefully a harbinger of a lot more to come of delivering great experiences on other platforms.
  • Scott Guthrie – I worked for Scott directly for two years. I would count those as amongst the absolute top highlights of my career. He is a rare mix of technical excellence, but more importantly – customer focus. Including looking beyond the boundaries of the Redmond campus. He is absolutely the right choice to deliver technically innovative products that will do what people want. Congrats to him and kudos to Satya.
  • Universal Applications – This has long been one of Microsoft’s biggest opportunities. They finally delivered. And offered some decent migration strategies to boot. Microsoft built much of its success on developers, but that has gone by the wayside for a while. This felt like the start of them getting their groove back. The Xbox One support is a fantastic touch and key differentiator – and may end up seeing me get one even though I am a staunch anti-gamer in the wake of the discontinuation of Flight Simulator…
  • Cortana – This one exceeded expectations. Microsoft played to its strengths and brought in context from all of the other things they have the ability to touch, such as your inbox and calendar. And gave you the extensibility to teach it (also playing to one of their historical strengths not seen lately). They acted uncharacteristically cool by maintaining the codename from the Halo franchise, using the actor from the Halo games, and hiring screenwriters to make the dialogue entertaining. Now, can we get a desktop and tablet version please? Maybe, unlike Google Now, it won’t think I work at the local QFC (another story)…
  • Mea Culpa on Windows 8 Desktop – The renewed focus on the desktop was great to see. It’s what people fundamentally want. Tim Cook was right on this one; you have to have a device appropriate experience. Which Windows 8 failed to deliver. And coupled with the lack of applications on the tablet side, it turned into a disaster. Giving people the experience they want and a true universal platform gives it hope…we shall see.
  • Free Windows on < 9″ Devices – This was the unexpected one (along with offering O365 via the Apple App Store). Microsoft has long held onto its licensing policies with religious fervor. Seeing them be pragmatic with respect to where they are at in the market was a refreshing change, and one guaranteed to not have happened under the previous regime.

What was unimpressive (beyond Cortana) was Windows Phone 8.1, sans the very elegant dual-SIM support (very key for international travelers like me or those in emerging markets where multiple carriers are a reality). This was a me-too play that should have been there all the way along.

Overall, my expectations have been exceeded. Kudos to everyone in Redmond – and especially all of my friends and former colleagues. Congratulations on delivering some of the best in a very long time and finding some of the right grooves again.

Converting from Parallels to Hyper-V

You would think converting a virtual machine from one format to another would be simple. Especially when there are multiple blogs out there on how to do it. But, of course not – so time for another misadventure in computing post. I was asked by a colleague to get a copy of a demo virtual machine for some upcoming analyst activities. The problem: my colleague’s system is a Surface 2 Pro running Hyper-V on Windows 8.1. And the source system was a personal Retina MacBook Pro running Parallels 9. And the VM is running Windows Server 2012 R2.

The core issue was that the source image in Parallels was a virtual UEFI system with a GPT partition table. The destination image was a Gen 1 Hyper-V VM with a virtual BIOS, which necessitates a MBR partition table. (I was unable to get the Gen 2 Hyper-V VM that supports UEFI to work given the differences in hardware drivers.) 

The first problem is actually converting the disk file itself, as they are in very different formats. And the steps of using VMWare and VirtualBox utilities to do the conversion did not work – I ended up with a corrupt virtual hard disk (probably because of this GPT issue). 

So to do this, I found the awesome Disk2VHD utility from SysInternals ( With this utility, I ran it and chose not to grab anything except the C:\ partition and voila – I created a new VHD that I was able to load up on my Hyper-V server and at least not have corruption.

Then, the fun of trying to get it to boot began. The normal way to fix a modern Windows system that will not boot is:

  • Boot from Windows installation image
  • Go to Command Prompt
  • Enter the following commands:
    • “bootrec /fixmbr”
    • “bootrec /fixboot”
    • “bootrec /scanos”
    • “bootrec /rebuildbcd” – except this critical last step fails because the partition table is not MBR.

So, you have to convert the partition table to MBR. And that’s where life gets interesting. After trial and error, I found the following to be the best way to do this without losing data:

  • Download the latest Live x86_x64 Fedora image from Yes, you really need a live Linux image because of a really handy utility called gdisk.
  • Boot the VM with the Fedora Live image and login to the desktop.
  • Run the Terminal utility.
  • Then, run the following commands:
    • “su -” – get into administrator mode
    • “yum -y install gdisk” – actually install the gdisk utility
    • “gdisk /dev/sda” – start running gdisk against the virtual hard drive
    • “r” – to enter gdisk recovery/transformation mode
    • “g” – to convert from GPT to MBR
    • “p” to preview the converted MBR partition table
    • “w” – to write changes to disk.
  • At this point, the VM can be rebooted with Windows installation media to get to a Command Prompt to fix the rest of the problems. Once there:
    • “diskpart” – enters the Windows disk partition utility
    • “select disk 0” – selects the boot drive
    • “list partition” – should show the disk partitions present. The largest one is the actual one that you want to boot. It is probably going to be the third or forth partition on the disk. In my case it was the fourth.
    • “select partition 4” – select the partition we want to boot.
    • “active” – to mark the partition as active in MBR.
    • “exit” – to exit diskpart
  • The next step is to find the actual disk itself – it is probably going to be D:\ (at least it was on my system) because of the reserved GPT partitions in advance of the actual usable partition. Once you determine the drive letter, you can proceed as follows:
    • “bootsect d: /nt52 /force /mbr” – makes D: bootable.
    • “bootrec /fixboot” – fixes core startup environment
    • “bootrec /fixmbr” – fixes core startup environment
    • “bootrec /scanos” – find the OS; note it will probably be D:\Windows in my example (and this is OK)
    • “bootrec /rebuildbcd” – update the BCD environment; note it will be D:\Windows in my example (and this is OK)
  • At this point the system can be rebooted without any installation media – and it should just boot up with everything in C:\Windows\ as it should be. Once booted:
    • Uninstall Parallels Tools
    • Install Hyper-V Integration Services (if required – not applicable on this system since Windows Server 2012 R2 has them built-in)
    • Reactivate Windows

And voila! I hope this helps.