How to save up to 60% off up to 3 years of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (in 2 easy steps)

My Gamertag is almost old enough to vote, but regardless of the age of your account – there’s an awesome deal on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate out there (as of July 2020) and I’ll tell you how to get it below.

Before you start, log into your Microsoft account and see how much time you have remaining on your Xbox Live Gold subscription here: https://account.microsoft.com/services/

Step 1: Even though Microsoft *just* put an end to the 12-month subscription, you can still get 12-month subscription codes online from various retailers (though when I did it with Amazon, they suspected fraud and locked out my account – so be careful).

The easiest way for me ended up being to use the Get Help app that’s built into Windows (just click Start and type Get Help) to chat with MS support staff and place an order to get me up to 36 months of Xbox Live Gold credit at the $59.99/12-month price.

Step 2: Once your account is showing that you’re covered for service for the next 36 months you should see an offer to upgrade to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for only $1.  That’s 93% off the purchase price for one month!

So, in summary:

  1. Pre-pay for the next 36 months of Xbox Live Gold.
  2. Convert your subscription to Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate.
  3. Profit

In fact, Microsoft even has a detailed (now year old) blog post that explains how to do it.  If you couldn’t figure out from my post, maybe check out theirs.

Anyway, by my rough math on a lunch break at work, 36 months (3 years) of Xbox Live Gold at $59.99 amounts to $179.97.

At $14.99/mo, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which offers a lot more in the way of services) would cost $539.64 for the same 36 months.

So by maxing out your account to the 36 month pre-paid limit before upgrading, you can save a maximum of about 60%.

Do it. Do it now!

Since this deal has been around for about a year, I’d imagine it will end soon.  Microsoft has a big Xbox press conference slated for next week… so that’d be an opportune time to communicate new deals, offers, and pricing structures that will probably not be anywhere near as generous.

Edit PDFs in Microsoft Word

Today someone was asking if software was available to edit a PDF and I pointed out that MS Word has had this feature for a while now.

There is the possibility that the conversion might not be perfect, so for some professional-level edits to PDF documents it might not meet your needs, but since most PDFs I see appear to have originated in Word in the first place, it’s a handy tool for editing most documents.

This helps improve collaboration because the converted Word document can be shared and edited via SharePoint, Teams, or a file share.

When you open a PDF with Word, you’ll initially see this message:

People who have been saving items in PDF format in an attempt to prevent others from making changes to the document should instead use the “Restrict permission” features of Word to prevent unauthorized users from editing or altering documents without the document creator’s approval.

How to Set-up Minecraft for Cross-platform Multiplayer

After poking around a bit, I was able to get my kids set-up with Minecraft cross-platform multiplayer.

See the link in the previous paragraph for details.

Once you set it up, and add your kids and their friends, they’ll be able to join each other’s games through the Xbox Live service for free (though accessing it via Nintendo Switch requires their paid online service “Nintendo Switch Online” for access).

Once everything is configured according to the details of that article, you’ll need to be able to easily share links to the relevant Xbox Live accounts.

Here’s an example:

https://account.xbox.com/en-us/profile?gamertag=Sample%20Gamertag

You can just modify it by deleting “Sample%20Gamertag” and adding whatever gamertag you wish.  Be sure to replace any spaces in the gamertag with “%20” to ensure that the link is URL encoded and stays intact when pasted into emails and various messaging apps.

Asking friends to add your Xbox Live account via a link allows them to do it from any device and also coaches them to get logged in with their own account first before they can add yours – which is a great way to help them figure out what their own XBL account is since not everyone knows off the top of their head (especially when it comes to parents setting up accounts for their kids).

Make Text Easier to Read when Presenting

If you’re ever using Windows 10 to present to a group and they are having trouble reading your text.

Experts recommend a minimum text height of 1 inch (25 mm) for every 15 feet (4.5 m) between the screen and the most distant viewing position in the room.

Luckily, this is easy to do on the fly by pressing <Windows> + <+> to zoom in on the part of the screen with the mouse cursor (just for fun, say “Computer, Enhance” when you do this to wow your audience). 

The default zoom amount can be changed in settings, and conveniently pressing <Windows> + <-> will zoom back out.

This is also a handy tool to know about if you ever need to look at something with precision – such as the detailed alignment of pixels on a screen or the alignment of walls in an architectural drawing.

Salvaging OneNote Notes

Recently my employer switched Office 365 tenants and the migration process they used caused some issues.  One of which was that OneNote notebooks that had been synchronized via OneDrive were no longer synchronizing properly.

The only place I had access to these important notes was in the OneNote App on my work machine.  They failed to synchronize.

Luckily, it’s not hard to recover from this kind of problem, though depending on the number of notes you have, it can take some time.  These steps generally work as a last resort for any kind of OneNote notebook corruption.

The first step is to create a new notebook in a place that can be synchronized.

I recommend a OneDrive (Personal notes) or SharePoint (Team notes) location depending on whether the notes are primarily for personal use or shared with a colleagues.

Open the new notebook in the same OneNote app that contains the notes you wish to move.  To make it even easier, drag the new notebook to the top – and make sure it’s a different color than the existing notebook – I like to make the old one red and the new one green to represent notebooks I’m going to stop and start using.

Now open two OneNote copies side-by-side.  You can use <Windows> + <Left Arrow> to snap one window to the left, then select the other window and snap it to the right.  You can also select it manually and use <Windows> + <Right Arrow> to snap it to the right.

Now open the new notebook on the left and the old notebook on the right.

Sometimes, you can just right click a section and select Move/Copy.

This will open a dialog to select the new notebook, then click the Move button.

Since my notebooks had gotten out of sync, I got the following message.

Microsoft OneNote
The sections you’re moving have not all been synced. Make sure you are online adn fully synced before you move sections between notebooks.
[ OK ]

Microsoft OneNote
Something went wrong and we can’t move that section.
[ OK ]

Since that didn’t work, create a matching section in the new Notebook, then select the section in the old notebook and click the top page in the list.

Then scroll to the bottom of the page list and hold <Shift> while clicking the bottom-most page.

Right-click Move/Copy and browse to the matching section in the new notebook and click the [Move] button.

The old section will now be empty so you can right-click on it and select Delete Section so you are de-cluttering as you move along.

While it is repetitive and can take a bit of time, when you’re done, you’ll have all of your notes rescued in a new notebook.

Fixing Google Home Broadcast

When setting up Google Home Broadcast recently, it worked fine from my Android device, but when I tried sending a broadcast from one of the speakers, I got an error reporting that there were no other speakers on the network.

After chatting with Google Support they were a little confused, but after calling back a second time and trying a few things, we arrived at the fix of factory resetting the Google Home Hub and Google Home Mini.

For the Home Hub, press and hold volume up and volume down for 10 seconds to perform a factory reset.

For the Home Mini, press and hold the orange button on the device base for 12 seconds.

After reconfiguring each device, I was able to say “Ok Google, broadcast ‘test message’” and it was broadcast to all other speakers on my network.

It’s a handy feature we’ll be using often – especially when notifying everyone in the house that it’s time to wake up, a meal is ready, it’s time to leave, or even remotely that you’re on you’re way home.

You can even reply to broadcasts making it a handy home intercom feature.  To learn more, check out the Google Home Broadcast documentation.

Microsoft Teams vs Cisco WebEx for Meetings

Creating a new teams meeting is as easy as clicking New Teams Meeting in the Office ribbon. It’s built-in to Office.

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Just one click, add a Title, add attendees, and click Send.

With WebEx, you must first create a New Meeting, then add WebEx to the meeting or click Schedule Meeting in the ribbon via with a 3rd party plug-in.  Since it doesn’t fill in the meeting location field, a pop-up needs to be dismissed to send – another extra click.

Converting an existing meeting to a Microsoft Teams meeting is easy as well. Just open the meeting delete the WebEx content in the body (below the line – Do not delete or change any of the following text. –), click Teams Meeting in the ribbon, and click Send Update.

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Doing so not only results in the Teams meeting experience, but joining the meeting is now easier too.

To join a WebEx meeting, one must first open the meeting, then click the link.  Sometimes one needs to enter their personal info before clicking Join Meeting, and if the meeting is hosted in a personal room, the meeting can’t start without the host (which is a pain if the person is on vacation).  Notifying the host requires a captcha to be entered. It’s just one hassle after another. After all of this, you’re finally able to select the means of connecting to the call. Even if the meeting starts while you’re waiting, you won’t join the meeting until this step is completed.

Contrast this to Teams. If the meeting is selected in your Outlook calendar, a Join Teams Meeting button appears in the ribbon.

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Clicking this takes you straight to the audio/video preview to allow you to adjust your settings before joining the meeting and simply pressing <Enter> or clicking Join now adds you to the meeting.

Meeting attendees also have the option of right-clicking the meeting and clicking the Join Teams Meeting option.

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So there you have it. Teams meetings are easier to set-up, and easier to join than meetings in WebEx, and all of that saved time adds up – so start converting your old WebEx meetings today! Smile

Mirror: mPING WEATHER TYPES EXPLAINED

In December of 2018, the US Government initiated a shutdown of non-essential services.  As part of this, I noticed that apps like mPING which are used for reporting weather conditions began to have broken links. 

Non-essential Government employees such as the NOAA.gov webmasters threw a tantrum associated with being told that they were “non-essential”.  As a result, even though the servers were humming along just fine, these workers blocked access to their content for the duration of the “shutdown” with a message politely explaining that they would be holding their non-essential information hostage until they were allowed to continue suckling at the teet of the State.

I was hoping to find a mirror for the info but couldn’t immediately.  Now that the Government has resumed it’s non-essential operations (at great economic expense to innocent Software Engineers like myself), I was able to obtain a copy of the information which I will mirror below.

Enjoy!

PS: Another archive of this information exists here: https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://mping.nssl.noaa.gov/types.php


What are all of those weather types that are listed in the mPING app? How do you tell the difference between freezing rain and freezing drizzle?

Test
Sends a test report to confirm that NSSL received your report; you will see a small yellow X appear to show your report was received
Rain and/or Snow
None

No precipitation occurring; most useful shortly before precipitation begins and after it ends

Drizzle

Very small, numerous and uniformly distributed water drops that may appear to float while following air currents

Freezing Drizzle

Drizzle that falls in liquid form but freezes upon impact to form a coating of glaze ice

Rain

Liquid water drops falling that do not freeze upon impact

Freezing Rain

Rain that falls in liquid form but freezes upon impact to form a coating of glaze on exposed objects (this will occur well before any ice forms on the ground)

Ice Pellets/Sleet

Small translucent balls of ice cosisting of frozen raindrops (not to be confused with hail)

Snow

Frozen precipitation in the form of flakes of ice crystals

Mixed Rain & Snow

Usually has the consistency of slush; almost never results in any accumulation

Mixed Rain & Ice Pellets

Often occurs as wet ice pellets mixed with small raindrops; sometimes occurs as falling raindrops containing one or perhaps few small pieces or chunks of ice (not snow)

Mixed ice Pellets & Snow

Snow along with ice pellets; the snowflakes don’t have ice pellets at their core as with ice pellets mixed with rain
Hail (include size)
A chunk of ice falling from the sky ranging from the size of a pea to a grapefruit; hail occurs exclusively in thunderstorms. Sleet is not tiny hail but is instead produced by a different process.
Wind Damage
Severity 1 (Damage Trivial)

Lawn furniture & trash cans displaced; small twigs broken off

Severity 2 (Damage Mild)

1 inch tree limbs broken; shingles blown off

Severity 3 (Damage Moderate)

3 inch tree limbs broken; power poles down

Severity 4 (Damage Severe)

Large trees uprooted or snapped; roofs blown off

Severity 5 (Damage Extreme)

Homes and buildings destroyed
Water Spout
Not displayed but sent to the NWS
Tornado (on ground)
Not displayed but sent to the NWS
Flood
Severity 1 (Flood Minor)

River/creek overflowing; cropland/yard/basement flooding

Severity 2 (Flood Moderate)

Street/road flooding; stranded vehicles

Severity 3 (Flood Serious)

Homes and buildings filled with water

Severity 4 (Flood Severe)

Homes, buildings and cars swept away
Mudslide/Landslide
Most often areas of soil mud that becomes loose due to lots of rainfall and then slides down a hilside; sometimes an entire hillside will come loose in a layer and slide
Reduced Visibility
Dense Fog

Visibility reduction caused by very tiny condensed water droplets so small that they cannot be individually distinguished; essentially a cloud on the ground

Blowing Dust/Sand

Visibility reduction caused by strong winds lofting sand and dust, most often from dry and barren soil

Upgrading SSRS Tooling

Over the years I’ve been told that in order to support SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) files (RDL) that I had to install the decade-old Visual Studio 2008 product.

More recently, I came across some info that indicates that this may not be the case, so I’m sharing it here in case it is able to help someone upgrade to current tools.

VS 2008

To work on SSRS reports (RDL files) one needs Visual Studio 2008 with the BIDS extension installed.

BIDS download – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30438

Note

Historically, the Visual Studio shell used to create SQL Server content types has been released under various names, including SQL Server Data Tools, SQL Server Data Tools – Business Intelligence, and Business Intelligence Development Studio. Previous versions came with distinct sets of project templates. To get all of the project templates together in one SSDT, you need the newest version. Otherwise, you will probably need to install multiple previous versions to get all of the templates used in SQL Server. Only one shell is installed per version of Visual Studio; installing a second SSDT just adds the missing templates.

SOURCE: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/ssdt/previous-releases-of-sql-server-data-tools-ssdt-and-ssdt-bi

VS 2017

It may be possible to work on SSRS reports with Visual Studio 2017 via the Microsoft Reporting Services Projects add-on.

https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=ProBITools.MicrosoftReportProjectsforVisualStudio

This requires the SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) workflow to be installed via the VS 2017 installer.

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