Outlook 2013 URL Protocol Handler

One of the nice features about older versions of Microsoft Outlook was that it had a set of URL Protocol Handlers (like outlook:inbox) defined that could be used system wide to trigger actions in Outlook such as opening a folder, creating or editing an item.

Unfortunately, along the way, these got gradually toned down so that they only worked from within Outlook itself.

This can still be useful. I’m not sure how many people realise that you can create “folders” in your Outlook mailbox. Choose Properties .../Home Page and set a URL – maybe your blog or Intranet. Now when you click on the folder, you will see the web page instead of a set of mail items or whatever.

When using this feature to do some more clever stuff such as creating To Do lists from incoming mail, you might choose to use a dynamic web system to handle the list. CouchDB or Node.JS are lightweight web systems that come to mind.

Then you might find yourself wishing that you could create links in your To Do system back to the original email in Outlook. Well you can! Sort of.

It turns out that, although the external use of the Outlook: protocol hasn’t been available since Outlook 2003, it can still be turned on, even in Outlook 2013. There is a useful article on the TeamScope web site that shows you how to turn on the outlook: protocol system-wide.

One minor wrinkle though if you use Office from an Office 365 subscription – the location for Microsoft Office applications is different! You will find them at: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office 15\root\office15.

Here then is the registry code that you need to enable the protocol:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\outlook]
"URL Protocol"=""
@="URL:Outlook Folders"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\outlook\DefaultIcon]
@="\"C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Office 15\\root\\office15\\OUTLOOK.EXE\""

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\outlook\shell]
@="open"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\outlook\shell\open]
@=""

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\outlook\shell\open\command]
@="\"C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Office 15\\root\\office15\\OUTLOOK.EXE\" /select \"%1\""

Simply save this into a .reg file and open it to install the changes.

Now you can use the outlook: protocol anywhere on the system, great for dynamic web systems.

One minor word of warning though – there are dangers! Don’t open links unless you know what they are, where they go and what they do!

To find out how to use the Outlook protocol handler, try one of the following articles:

One final note. I’m now looking to create some tools that link between Outlook and CouchDB. CouchDB provides a very lightweight NOSQL database that uses JSON and JavaScript to great effect. I’m already using it to track statistics on incoming/outgoing emails, linking the web interface back to Outlook via the home page method mentioned at the start. I’m going to have a go at creating a task monitor too if I get the time. I am currently reading only around a quarter of the emails in my work inbox and I really need some tools to improve the situation. Food for some more blog posts hopefully.

New Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga

I have the pleasure of trying a new laptop right now as we consider them for work.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga.

We have this configured with an Intel i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD with 16GB SDD speed boost, the touch & pen screen.

It is a nice laptop with a screen that folds right over so you can use it as a slightly chunky tablet, the keyboard locks in this mode so you don’t accidentally press keys.

It is great to finally be able to afford a laptop with a proper, pressure sensitive pen interface, it is a joy to use with tools such as Microsoft OneNote.

The touch pad is also the best I’ve ever used. The pad itself is a proper mechanical button and once used, you will never want to go back to a trackpad that doesn’t provide such positive feedback and natural feel.

We have Windows 8.1 Pro on it and the usual ups and downs of that operating system apply. Personally, I find W8.1 less reliable than Windows 7 but I suspect that it comes down to the software you use. I can say categorically that the “Modern UI” apps are a disaster. In particular they do not fully close when you think you’ve closed them (check in the Task Manager) and I’ve often noticed a significant slow-down after having started and “closed” several Modern UI apps.

The laptop is certainly nice to use overall, it isn’t too heavy and can be used on one arm for 5-15 minutes without discomfort, longer than that becomes noticeable though. So not a complete tablet replacement. Great when sat however with it perched on a knee or supported with a table. No more scrappy paper notes for me! It is OneNote all the way.

The Good

  • Pen and touch with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office, a great combination.
  • Fairly thin considering the features available.
  • The fold-over screen is easy and natural to use.

The Indifferent

  • The Windows architecture doesn’t handle very high resolution screens well. I blame this on the development tools and Windows graphical UI libraries mainly. Too many applications do not correctly scale.
  • Only 2 USB ports. About average for a thin laptop but very limiting when there as so many devices needing USB.
  • After many years, Lenovo have finally changed their power connectors. Annoying though necessary, all those spare power supplies scattered around aren’t so useful now. Fortunately, you can buy a converter cable if you want to.
  • Some windows behave oddly, changing font sizes drastically for no apparent reason. Not sure if this is Windows or something to do with the laptop.

The Bad

  • The power button is in the wrong place, it gets clicked by mistake too often. It is on the right hand side of the base at the front. Right next to the volume buttons.
  • No drive LED indicator – really?! When using a PC this is essential if you want to know whether a pause in response is due to disk activity or something more serious.
  • Mini-HDMI interface. This is not good for a business laptop, we already have full and mini Display Link adaptors and now we need to have HDMI as well.
  • No native LAN interface. You have to give up one of the 2 USB ports and to get a USB-to-LAN cable if you want a wired connection. Again poor for a business laptop.
  • The usual pointless spamware is pre-installed. However, Lenovo are better than most, not installing too much and their own wares do seem to actually serve a purpose mainly (I probably kept 1/2 of their own tools and removed everything else). Driver and software updates seem regular.
  • Windows 8.1 Modern UI apps continue to be a very uncertain proposition with poor quality being rife and even the better quality apps seeming to regularly result in ongoing reduced performance on the PC. (Not Lenovo’s fault of course).

Conclusion

A worthy, flexible tool if you need or want both touch and pen interfaces. If not, save some money and go for a Lenovo X240. Possibly the most affordable convertible with pen and touch, at last such devices are in reach of mortals!

 

Stay Secure! The Latest Recommendations for IT Security

IT Security changes over time and it is important to stay abreast. New threats are appearing all the time and so threat management also needs to change.

Here are some tips and pointers to the current thinking in IT Security.

Back in February of this year (2013), the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the USA published a short but to the point paper on how to successfully combat the majority of current cyber security threats. The paper gives an excellent background to the latest threats without getting too technical. But the great thing is the 4 steps that they give to combating the majority of current threats.

These are summarised as:

  1. Use application “whitelisting” to help prevent malicious software and other unapproved programs from running.
    Whiles this is not quite as convenient for users, some of whom want to run anything they like, it is vastly superior to spending money on Anti-Virus tools that can slow down PC’s and often fail to catch the key malware. Of course, Anti-Virus tools do provide additional protection and should continue to be used.
    Example products for whitelisting are: SecureAPlus (review on gHacks), McAfee Application Control, and several others
    See also the SANS whitepaper “Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda” which describes the issues and opportunities in detail and gives useful conclusions. There is also a write-up on application whitelisting on Tech Republic, and another on InfoWorld.
  2. Patch applications such as PDF readers, Microsoft Office, Java, Flash Player, and web browsers.
    Patching schedules need to be vastly accelerated for most organisations. Having 2 or 3 “updates” a year leaves vast open security holes in enterprise infrastructure that is just asking to be compromised. Patching of key applications such as those listed here needs to happen weekly at least, as soon as possible is best. The bad guys aren’t waiting, they change their toolkits within hours to exploit newly found vulnerabilities.
  3. Patch operating system vulnerabilities, for the same reasons discussed above.
  4. Minimize the number of users with administrative privileges, the highest level of authority to make changes or undertake actions on a network.
    Users with administrative privileges are the goldmine for the bad guys. They are the easy back door into the heart of your enterprise systems.

According to these papers, following these simple rules is likely to protect 80-100% of common enterprise attacks right now.

For the latest on the underbelly of the Internet and the current threats, take a look at the blog of Brian Krebbs – Krebbs on Security. In particular, I strongly recommend reading and paying attention to his article: Tools for a Safer PC. Also pay attention to his article The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC that describes just why the bad guys want your PC even though you think there is nothing of value on it.

Not a good day to travel!

But a good day to work from home!

Freezing fog reduces the M1 to a car park. Outside our house in Sheffield the pavements and roads are coated in layers of ice making it lethal to go anywhere until you get to the main roads.

Thank goodness for the remote working facilities provided by the NHS Commissioning Board! Saves me a dangerous journey from Sheffield to Leeds.

24mph M1 northbound Sheffield to Leeds

Freezing fog reduces M1 to a crawl

M1 north traffic cam image - just fog
Great visibility on the M1! Not.

Microsoft 64-bit Application Support (lack-of)

The joys of working with Microsoft products!

So I have a brand-new, shiny 17″ HP laptop. 64-bit throughout. 6GB of RAM and comes pre-installed with 64-bit Windows.

You would think, then, that you would want to use 64-bit applications right? Wrong!!

I automatically use the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer to access some Microsoft specific sites (Outlook Web Access and SharePoint 2007). I install and use the 64-bit version of Microsoft Office. Does this work well with SharePoint (from Microsoft)? No!

For starters, you cannot upload an Excel spreadsheet to a SharePoint list like you should be able to. You get an error:

This feature requires Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later, and Windows 95 or later.

Next you try to switch a list into a “Datasheet” view – which looks a bit like a spreadsheet. Inevitably, you get another error:

The list is displayed in Standard view. It cannot be displayed in Datasheet view for one or more of the following reasons: A datasheet component compatible with Windows SharePoint Services is not installed, your browser does not support ActiveX controls, or support for ActiveX controls is disabled.

To fix these errors, you then have to download and install “2007 Office System Driver: Data Connectivity Components“.

And you have to use the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9).

Site updated – Faster and better!

The upgrade of this blog from WordPress 3.3 to 3.4 on Dreamhost didn’t go as smoothly as planned. In fact it failed fairly spectacularly – unable to complete the required database upgrade.

However, many clouds have silver linings. In this case it meant that I brought forward my plans to ditch the horribly slow hosting provided by Dreamhost in the USA and switch over to the new VPS provided by BHost in the UK.

If you have had the chance to compare the two sites, you’ll know that it now runs a lot faster. It will improve again when I do some tweaking. I can now use a proper opcode cache for PHP, something that Dreamhost wasn’t able to provide.

I’ll be doing further optimisations now that I have full control, I should be able to do away with a whole load of WordPress plugins.

SSH Error: “ssh_exchange_identification: Connection closed by remote host”

At home, we’ve just switched from a slow (2mbps) ADSL connection to a wonderfully fast 40mbps connection provided by the excellent Origin Broadband using the South Yorkshire fibre network provided by Digital Region.

I did have a small problem though that has taken some searching to resolve so I’ll detail it here in case others find it useful. Continue reading

Diigo Bookmarks 01/14/2012

  • “XDI.ORG is an international non-profit public trust organization governing open public XRI and XDI infrastructure. XRI (Extensible Resource Identifier) and XDI (XRI Data Interchange) are open standards for digital identity addressing and trusted data sharing developed at OASIS, the leading XML e-business standards body. XRI and XDI infrastructure enables individuals and organizations to establish persistent, privacy-protected Internet identities and form long-term, trusted peer-to-peer data sharing relationships.”

    tags: idm Identity Internet Trust

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.