Showing more than just free/busy information on your Exchange room mailboxes on Office365

By default, when you create a room mailbox (to represent a meeting room) in Exchange Online, it sets a bunch of permissions and properties by default. A few months ago, we moved our meeting room management from a custom app to Exchange Online. And while it works a little bit better, we had a number of features in our custom app that we started missing on Exchange.

NUMBER ONE of these features was the ability to see who had booked a room and for what purpose. Now by default, Exchange doesn’t set the properties and permissions to enable this. Here is how to make it work. You will need Powershell and you will need to delve into the fun world of command line scripting.

First connect to Exchange Online using Powershell. Here is a tutorial on how that is done. Once you are in, you need to execute a couple of simple commands:

Set-MailboxFolderPermission meeting.room.alias:\calendar -user default 
-accessrights LimitedDetails

Of course,  meeting.room.alias above is the alias for you room mailbox. This will immediately start showing details about the meeting room in the meeting room calendar instead of just the free/busy indicator.

Now, in order to get this to show subject details as well, you need alter another property on the mailbox. By default, when a meeting is created with a meeting room location, the location mailbox adds the name of the person who booked the room to the subject and deletes the subject itself. So by only executing the above statement, you will show only the name of the person who booked the room. If you would like to see also the subject of the meeting then you have to execute the following command:

Set-CalendarProcessing meeting.room.alias 
-DeleteSubject $false

Of course, if you Bing/Google that command, you will see that there are other properties that you can tweak to change what is displayed in the room mailbox calendar. Also, the changes caused by the second command only become available for future meetings, and none of the past meetings will be changed.

Hope that helped.

Setting the location of a room mailbox in Exchange using Powershell

This little thing took quite a bit to find out, so here it is for the sake of helping anyone else who runs into the same problem. I was trying to write Powershell scripts to automate creation of Meeting Room mailboxes in our Office 365 based Exchange Online environment. I ran into a small challenge where I couldn’t figure out how to set the “Location” field for the room mailbox type. And Google or Bing weren’t very helpful either.

Looking through Technet documentation, I finally figured it out. You have to use the Set-User cmdlet with the -Office parameter. So, if you wanted to set the Location of a room named ‘conference.room.1′ to “First Floor”, you would basically do this:

Set-User conference.room.1 -Office “First Floor”

Or some variation of the above (depending on what you use to identify the room).

The flipboard mode of Internet Explorer 11

A large part of content I consume these days is through Flipboard. I like how I am able to read through the articles with minimum noise around the content itself (menus, ads, widgets, etc.). The remaining content comes from various blogs and sites. I have always wished there was a way to consume this content without any distractions. There are apps available for tablets and phones. But sometimes using these apps is restrictive compared to the free flowing nature of a browser (even more so when on a PC).

Internet Explorer 11 has something of a solution (it is good, but not perfect). I call it the flipboard mode – but Microsoft calls it (I think) the ‘reading mode’. It only works in IE11 Metro/Modern mode, though.
That however is no longer a problem due to how Metro/Modern apps are now integrated in the desktop view. And I believe, this feature is also available on IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1 onward. Let’s talk about the feature.

Whenever you are on an article on a blog or a website, and IE11 thinks that it can show this in the reading mode, the address bar of the browser starts showing a little button labeled “Read”. Here you can see it below:

readClicking this button immediately reloads the content on that page, minus the menus, header, ads, etc. The layout adjusts well to the size of the Internet Explorer window (full-screen, snapped, etc.). Making it easier to read the content. Below are before-after screenshots of an article this blog, and of an article on wired.com.

Without reading mode (blog.gadodia.net)

hgb

With reading mode (blog.gadodia.net)

hga

Without reading mode (wired.com)

wb

With reading mode (wired.com)

waAs you can see, the difference is immense. I love this feature. But as things go, nothing in life is perfect. This feature does have its problems – on some sites, or articles, it messes up the pictures embedded in the article (either showing them in the wrong place, or not showing them at all). So, it is not good for reading picture heavy articles.

Thanks to this, I am often switching from Chrome to IE11 to read long articles.

Inbox Zero, revisited – how to handle large amounts of incoming email

Years ago, I wrote about how I had created a plan to achieve Inbox Zero. For some months, that did work for me. However, as time went by, I was receiving evermore emails and soon my system failed, with tons of unread, unprocessed emails piling up in my inbox. So, a few months ago, I setup a new system. This achieves that same core purpose of Inbox Zero, but a little differently.

The goal I set out to achieve was to make sure that I addressed, read, processed all email I needed to in a timely manner… WITHOUT having to sort through all the email that may not be important enough to address in a timely manner. I am going to call this the “Three Folder System”.

It is simple, and it is based on 3 rules (1 of them is a more a set of rules). I created 3 folders in my Inbox; they are called:

  • To me
  • CC me
  • Important

As it is obvious, the first rule moves all email which has my email ID (or any aliases) in the “to” field, to the folder “To me”. The second rule does the same for any email in which I am in the “cc/bcc”.

The third rule is a set of rules where I move to the “important” folder any mail I receive in which I am not in a To or CC (where a mail is sent to distribution groups, etc.) but the email is either:

  • sent by certain people (my bosses, key sales people in the company, my wife, etc.)
  • or sent by anyone to critical distribution groups (important organizational functions or projects that I am monitoring)

Now, everyday I make sure that there are no unread mails left in these 3 folders. And any mail that I can’t work on right away, I flag as a TO-DO item. Every week I make sure that I don’t have any unread email left in the remaining emails (which don’t make it to these folders) – by typically just scanning over the subjects of these emails and the first few lines.

I go through TO-DO items as soon as I can based on the time I have on hand. Automatically, the most urgent matters are given the highest priority in terms of sorting them out – which sometimes means that some of the less urgent ones have to wait for a long time before getting done. But the system works.

I hope it continues to work forever.

Getting Chomecast to work on Netgear R6300

I bought a Chromecast – and I didn’t look at the list of routers that are incompatible with Chromecast. Mine is one of them – the Netgear R6300. I only found out when the simple sounding steps from Google didn’t get me going – I couldn’t configure it as it seems that it just won’t connect to my wifi.

Finally, I managed to. I did several things (not sure which one worked, perhaps it was a combination of them all). Here they are – all of them, maybe one of these works for you as well:

  • First of all, I disabled the 5GHz (a/n/ac) option on my router leaving only the 2.4GHz (b/g/n) option.
  • I set all the flags that various blogs on the Internet suggested (but that didn’t work).
  • Then after an hour of tinkering with various settings, I realized that the computer I was using to setup the Chromecast had some strange networking setup itself – due to the fact that I run Hyper-V to run VMs, I had bridge connections setup. I deleted those (which broke my networking setup  on my computer and I had to re-setup everything). Anyway, after cleaning up the bridge connections, I gave it another try – and bam, it worked.

Now, I have not had the courage to go and try turning on the various things I turned off on my router – too much time wasted on this already – so, I continue to operate this. I think I can safely configure Hyper-V again because now that the Chromecast device knows how to connect to the router, it doesn’t need my computer anymore.

Oh yeah, I am already loving the convenience and simplicity of Chromecast. Maybe, I will write an app for it now that the SDK is open.

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