Windows 10 Mobile, Email, Notifications, and Microsoft Band

I recently made the jump to built 10158 of Windows 10 Mobile on my Lumia Icon phone, and one of the things it took the longest to sort out was why I wasn’t getting the same type of notifications for incoming email messages that I was on Windows Phone 8.1. I had also picked up a Microsoft Band 2 to replace my existing band, and e-mail notifications were not being pushed to it either. Digging around in W10M, I was finally able to find all of the various settings that have to be enabled to these notifications to appear (both on the lock screen, and playing notification sounds when email arrives).

The Goal

I have three email accounts loaded on my phone, and with WP8.1, I had three separate tiles on my Start screen that displayed the latest messages and new message count from each email account. I liked this, because I use my email accounts for different purposes, so having them displayed separately was helpful. Additionally, my lock screen would display new message counts for each account separately, including icons that were different enough (per account) to identify which account had new messages without unlocking the phone.

When new messages arrived in one of my email accounts, WP8.1 would play a sound (customized per account) to let me know not only that an e-mail had arrived, but if it was something I should look at sooner (a message from work) or later (a message from my old ISP account that I don’t use all that often any longer). Finally, these incoming messages would be pushed out to my Microsoft Band under WP8.1, causing a buzz and a notification screen displaying a snippet of the email.

After the move to W10M, all of this changed. Fortunately, after a bit of searching through the settings menus and the Outlook app, I was able to restore all of the above functionality and get Windows 10 Mobile handling my email accounts the way I like them.

WP_Lock_Apps

Adding Email Account Notifications

WP_Lock_Screen

What I want the Lock Screen to Look Like

The Start Screen

The first time we need to do is create separate tiles for each email account. This can be a little tricky, because (at least in the build I was using) the Pin to Start button in the logical place for it to be doesn’t work. By default on Windows 10, all email accounts are collapsed into a single application now, and you switch accounts via the “Hamburger menu” in the upper left corner of the screen. However, when viewing an email account, if you click on the ellipsis in the bottom right (…) to bring up the menu, there is a “Pin to Start” option which allows you to create a tile for just the current email account. One problem solved!

The Lock Screen

Email counts on the lock screen is next, and fortunately it is pretty easy to set up. Open the Settings app, and select Personalization. From there, select Lock Screen. Scroll down, and you should see a heading for “Choose apps to show quick status”. You probably have the phone and SMS messaging already listed here along with three boxes with plus signs (+) in them. Click on one of these, and you will be presented with a list of possible apps to display status from. If you haven’t split your email accounts up (see Start Screen above), you can pick “Outlook Mail” here to consolidate all of your counts into a single lock screen icon.

Otherwise, pick the names assigned to your individual accounts when you added them to the Outlook Mail app. In my case, I end up with three different icons (Outlook, Exchange, and a generic envelope for POP mail). Two down!

Setting Custom Sounds

To give each email account its own alert sound, head back to the settings app. Select System this time, and then “Notifications & actions”. At the bottom of this screen, you should see “Show notifications from these apps”, with a list of various apps on your phone that can provide notification messages. Find the email account you want to set a sound for and tap on it to open the notification settings for that item. From here, you can select a notification sound.

The thing is (at least for me) this isn’t enough to actually make it play a sound. Or to push the notification to the Microsoft Band without enabling the Action Center icon on the band itself. To do that, we need to make one more change…

WP_Email_Notifications

Check boxes for notification banners and sounds

Beyond the Action Center

It turns out that the default for the Outlook Mail app is to only send notifications to the Action Center. If you swipe down from the top of the screen, you will see your notifications, but the sounds won’t play. In order to fix that, go back into the email account and click on the ellipsis (…) again. This time, select Settings. Tap Options, and scroll down to the bottom of the new page. You should see a section for “Notifications”, containing a toggle switch and two check boxes. Leave the “Show in action center” toggled on, and check off the (currently unchecked) boxes for “Show a notification banner” and “play a sound”.

That should do it! You should now get pop-up notifications, including per-account sounds, when you receive an email. What’s more, if you have a Microsoft Band, these notifications should now be pushed along to the band

 

Modding Fallout: New Vegas

With the release of Fallout 4 just a couple of months away, lots of people (myself included) are playing through the previous games in the franchise in anticipation. Fallout:New Vegas is a great game all on its own, but the beauty of gaming on the PC is that we don’t have to settle for games the way they were released. Mods can enhance, and sometimes completely transform, the gaming experience.

To that end, I have put together a short guide to modding Fallout: New Vegas using Mod Organizer with a number of visual improvements, extended content, and other goodies.

In the guide below, I cover most (if not all) of the installation systems you are likely to run into while using Mod Organizer. The program does a pretty good job of covering all of the types of mod packaging out there, and I use it for all of the Bethesda games I play.

Continue reading

Cool Kickstarter Projects : Askrias Cube

While browsing through the current gaming-related Kickstarter projects, I came across the Askrias Cube. This is a customizable 6-sided die, that can be used either for rolling random effects or for keeping track of status effects, counters, etc in a game like Magic: The Gathering.

Askrias_Cube_Kickstarter_Image

The cube itself is made of two pieces of plastic that snap together, and each face holds an insertable plastic tile. Each tile can be customized with a sticker to represent whatever you wish. The basic pledge comes with two cubes, twenty plastic face inserts, and forty face stickers, available in several different themes.

The project is based in New Zealand, and the $12 NZ pledge works out to about $8 US. Add-ons are available for extra sets, cubes, frames, and sticker sets.

Email Clutter in Office 365

I have a personal Office 365 account, and have managed O365 in an enterprise environment for about a year now. Several months ago, Microsoft quietly introduced a feature called “Clutter” – it showed up on day as a folder in my mailbox with a single message which explained what Clutter in Office 365 is and a link to turn it on. Last week, Microsoft announced that they will be enabling the Clutter feature by default on all Office 365 mailboxes if users haven’t already specifically turned it off.

What does it do?

Clutter pays attention to how you interact with messages in your mailbox and determines what messages you are likely to ignore. As similar messages arrive in the future, it redirects them from your Inbox to the Clutter folder where you can browse through them at your leisure. If you move particular messages out of clutter and back to your inbox, it will learn that you don’t want those items to be classified as clutter and avoid doing so in the future.

How is this different from Junk E-Mail or Spam Filtering?

In a couple of ways, actually. Spam filtering usually uses pattern matching against known spam e-mail or message analysis that determines the likelihood that the message is spam. Messages that get filtered out at this point never hit your mailbox at all.

Those that make it past, but are still of questionable value may get directed to the Junk E-Mail folder. Items in this folder are restricted – they won’t download images, and you can’t click on links in an e-mail in your Junk folder. You have to move it out of Junk before you can interact with it.

Clutter works a bit differently. Items in the Clutter folder are still interactive. You can work with them just like you can with items in your Inbox.

On by Default?

Clutter is actually a pretty nice feature – I have been using it since it was released, and it tends to catch all of the automated status messages from system monitors, along with near-spam messages that make it past the various filters in place. In about two weeks, it will be enabled by default on existing O365 accounts as well as new ones. I can see this initially being a source of confusion to users, since they may not see messages they are expecting to see.

According to the announcement above, when the on-by-default goes live it will include periodic messages indicating what kinds of things are being directed to Clutter, which will be good – right now there is no indication other than the unread count number next to the Clutter field increasing.

There is a PowerShell command included in the announcement above to disable Clutter for your existing user accounts, but as you create new accounts you will have to return to PowerShell if you want to disable Clutter for them – it will be on for newly created accounts with no way to make “off” the default setting for your tenant.

The other good option, of course, is to just let your users know it is coming. This can be especially important considering they will begin receiving e-mail messages with links in them that they are not expecting to receive otherwise – and how many times have we urged users to never click on links in e-mails they weren’t expecting to get 🙂

Fixing “Display Driver has Stopped Responding”

File this one under just sharing, because it was frustratingly annoying until I got it working.

I currently have an MSI GT 660Ti Power Edition card, and in certain games (and I haven’t determined the commonality between them yet) I was sometimes crashing, with the message “Display driver has stopped responding and has recovered” displayed in a balloon popup on the Windows desktop.

Some games don’t do this at all, and others do it very predictably (like within 5 minutes of launching the game 100% of the time).

Driver updates (the obvious first step) don’t seem to help, so after poking around on the web, I found a combination of tweaks that have eliminated this problem for me – though it doesn’t seem like any one of the did the job individually.

First, there is the Microsoft recommended registry fix : (http://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2665946). Essentially, this involves adding a DWORD (32-bit) or QWORD (64-bit) registry value called “TdrDelay” with a value of 8 to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers. This is supposed to let windows wait longer before deciding that the graphics driver has crashed and taking action  to get you back to a functional state.

Second, I found several references to using MSI Afterburner to underclock you graphics card by 50-70 MHz (on the Core Clock slider). I dropped mine right around 50.

Finally, in the nVidia control panel (accessible from the Windows Control Panel) expand “3D Settings” and select “Manage 3D Settings”. On the Global tab, I selected “Prefer maximum performance” for “Power Management Mode”.

When I set these three items in combination (though I’m not sure the first one (the registry hack) has a real impact) I can play games like The Talos Principal for hours without a problem – it is one of the 5-minutes max games without these changes.

Not sure exactly what is going on here (my PSU is more than  up to the job of running my video card, which is the most commonly stated culprit) but can only speculate that something weird happens if the card tries to enter some sort of energy-friendly mode based on something the game is doing.

 

Cool Kickstarter Projects – Underworld Ascendant

There was a time, back in the day, when I couldn’t get enough Ultima. Sadly, Ultima IX fairly well put a dent in the magic of the series. I did, though, play all of the original Ultima games when they were released, including a pair of very early forays into the realm of 3D games called Ultima Underwold : The Stygian Abyss, and Ultima Underworld II : Labyrinth of Worlds.

For the time, the technology in the Underworld games was pretty amazing, considering we didn’t have 3D accelerators yet, and everything was done in software. The first two games are available from GoG as a bundle, though modern players may find aspects of the game’s interface and engine frustrating. As cool as they were back then, the list of game engine features in Ultima Underworld are the kind of things that developers don’t even have to think about these days because they are built into all of the graphics cards already.

The original Ultima Underworld

The original Ultima Underworld

Fast forward 22 years, and many members of the original team that produced Ultima Underworld (first as Blue Sky Studios, and later Looking Glass – Yes, the same Looking Glass that did the first two Thief games and the System Shock series) have launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the franchise as Underworld Ascendant.

As you can imagine, the technology has improved pretty drastically since 1992, and OtherSide Entertainment is putting together what looks to be a fitting return to the Stygian Abyss.

A screen grab from the Kickstarter video of an early prototype of Underworld Ascendant

A screen grab from the Kickstarter video of an early prototype of Underworld Ascendant

The Kickstarter campaign lists several interesting technologies that could make for a great game if the team manages to pull them off. For one thing, they are implementing what they call an Improvisation Engine, which moves away from developer-scripted storytelling and builds a custom story around the player and the choices and actions they take in the game.

Stretch goals include an “Underworld Builder Toolkit”, and the addition of Co-Op multiplayer.

The revival of old RPG franchises on Kickstarter is becoming something of a trend, with Shadowrun, Wasteland, Torment, and now Ultima Underworld (and soon the Bard’s Tale!) all getting the Kickstarter treatment. In my opinion, this is a great thing. These were the games I grew up with, and returning to these worlds has been, and I hope will continue to be, great fun.

Head on over to the Kickstarter page and back the project! As of this writing there are still a couple hundred $20 slots left that get you the game when it is released (estimated to be November of 2016).

Taskbar Thumbnail Size Trick

If you only have one monitor and are playing a game with a tendency to lock up, it can be a pain to get it closed properly. For me, games like this end up covering up everything on the screen except the task bar, so while I can run Task Manager, I can’t see it, so closing the crashed game becomes a problem.

Here is a nifty trick to work around that issue: Change the size of the thumbnails you get in Windows 7 and Windows 8 when you put your mouse over an application in the taskbar. Normally these thumbnails are really small, but they are live representations of what is happening in the app/window, so they are usable if they are a bit larger.

Fire up Regedit and go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Taskband

Create a new 32-bit DWord here called “MinThumbSizePX” and set the value to whatever you like… I used 400. Log out and log back in, and you will now get resized thumbnails when mousing over taskbar items.

If you run Task Manager while a crashed game is taking up the screen (CTRL-ALT-DEL, select task manager) you can put your mouse over the taskbar and see the Task Manager window in the thumbnail. Arrow down to the crashed task and hit “Alt-E” to end the task.

Oblivion Modding and Steam – Fixing with Powershell

This is just a quick note, as I spent WAY too long trying to figure out why pretty much any of the Oblivion mods I was trying to install that were supposed to override textures weren’t working. I had the ArchiveInvalidationInvalidated mod installed, and nothing I tried worked.

As it turns out, the Steam install of Oblivion does weird things with the dates of the BSA files that are part of the retail package and DLCs. This causes the mod files to appear older than the BSA files, so they don’t load.

So, time for a quick PowerShell fix. Open PowerShell and go to your Oblivion data folder:

cd \Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\Common\Oblivion\Data

and run the following command:

dir *.bsa | % { $_.CreationTime = '1/1/2006 10:05'; $_.LastWriteTime = '1/1/2006 10:05' }

This will set the creation and last update time for all of your BSA to 2006, which should be well old enough for the mod files to take precedence.

 

Powershell Match 3 Game

I was playing around in Powershell over the Christmas weekend, and put together a simple “Match 3” style game utilizing the same RawUI style techniques I used in my Powershell Snake Game.

A version of a "match-3" style game written using RawUI in Powershell.

A version of a “match-3” style game written using RawUI in Powershell.

Why a PowerShell Match 3 game? Why not! 🙂 Actually, I was watching a youtube video series on creating a match 3 game with Unity, and the essentials of the way matches are checked for are similar to what is shown in this series.

Being Unity, however, the game in that series relies on the Unity physics engine and collision detection to move pieces around and determine what pieces are next to each other. Obviously, we don’t have a physics engine in Powershell!

The game features a hilight you can move around with the W, A, S, and D keys, using the arrow keys to indicate you want to swap pieces in that direction. Pieces fade when matched, and the falling of pieces above them is animated. New pieces will appear in the empty spots at the top of a column.

The one thing it doesn’t do right now is verify that there are matches on the board that are available to make. I’m considering adding this, but I’m already pushing the performance limits as it is, and checking the board for possible matches can be pretty intensive 🙂

Download the Powershell Match 3 Script

The script is available via the button above. Try it out, and let me know what you think, or any improvements you come up with!

Two columns of matched pieces (white and magenta) are fading out

Two columns of matched pieces (white and magenta) are fading out

 

 

D6xD6 RPG

d6xd6rpgBack in July, I posted about an active Kickstarter project by game designer Lester Smith called d6xd6 CORE RPG. The “expected delivery” date on the Kickstarter was December 2014, and on Monday night, Lester delivered on the base version of the game.

Kickstarter backers were sent a link containing a 66-page PDF file of the game rules and the four included sample settings. One of the cool things about d6xd6 RPG (which has since dropped “CORE” from the name) is that it was designed to be easily adaptable to any type of genre and settings.

The full rules for the game are available on the d6xd6.com website, minus the formatting of the PDF book, so go check it out.

I’ve backed several Kickstarter projects, and I’ve got to say that Lester’s was one of the most communicative I’ve been involved in. Every few days there was a new update on progress, and the game is pretty much on schedule (there is an “extended” version of the game still in the works that includes a pile of additional settings based on, and written by, a wide range of authors including Douglas Niles, Andrea K. Höst, and many others.)

I’m looking forward to running this game for a few folks in the near future, as the rules are simple enough to be a good introduction to table-top RPGs.

  • Advertisement