Meetup notes – December 17, 2015

Our last meetup of 2015 fell on the eve of the release of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. While preparing for our meetup, we were a little nervous attendance might be lower than expected. Quite to the contrary, though, we had one of our largest turnouts so far!

To say Thank You! for taking time out of your busy holiday season along with scheduling around “the movie we’ve been looking for”, please enjoy this five-hour long Darth Vader Yule log. We hope it brings you as much warmth as we’ve received putting together these meetups throughout the year.

Notes

Our host for December was Bryson with JAMF Software, who not only provided their Town Hall space again but brought in pizza from Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza. We had about 35 attendees.

We broadcast our meetup via Google Hangouts and recorded the event. Below is the edited version along with written notes for those who prefer to skim.

Introductions

Brad introduced Steering Committee members: Bryson, Bill and John.

Round-table

We allot time to discuss current issues in the Mac admin community.

Mega-Apple Patch Tuesday: Updates all the OSes!

Patch, patch, patch, patch, patch, patch…

  • Intego, a security firm, points out the iOS 9.2 update has 50 security fixes. That’s huge!
  • One notable vulnerability indicates a network administrator can effectively bypass HSTS (a website’s requirement to use HTTPS) and read traffic that should be encrypted.
  • Apple has already released an iOS 9.2.1 beta to developers and the public (just a week after releasing iOS 9.2).

Swift goes Open Source as promised

  • Swift going open source is a really big deal!
  • The language is deeper than scripting in bash or python.
  • This language is where Apple is going for all projects in the future.
  • It will eventually phase out Objective-C and be the platform for the next 20-30 years.
  • Its big draw is how much easier it is to write Swift code than Objective-C.
  • Swift code is really easy to read.
  • When Apple open sourced Swift, that opened the door for it to go multi-platform.
  • Apple released tools to compile on Linux as part of its Swift open sourcing. That means code that runs on Macs can run on Linux if you have the same libraries for both platforms.
  • IBM also posted a web-based sandbox for testing and experimentation.
  • IBM’s sandbox is running on Linux.
  • They may have been a key player behind the drive to open source Swift.
  • One company is writing a web-framework in Swift, allowing both backend and apps that connect to it to talk with each other seamlessly. See perfect.org as an example.
  • Swift is now a community-driven language. Apple gets to steer the ship but the community gets to feed into it. Developers are already at work making compilers for Windows.
  • We should be able to see applications written in Swift that run on OS X, Linux and Windows (similar to python’s feature to write once and run it anywhere).
  • Big implications for software development in the next five years.
  • Tools still need to be written (for example, no IDEs for Linux yet—still need to write in a text editor).
  • We should see development environments soon with code-completion, syntax-highlighting, etc.
  • Barrier to entry goes down sharply the moment the community gets Windows versions of everything running.
  • Bryson is looking forward to moving many of his python scripts to compiled Swift applications for JAMF Software.
  • So far, Apple is the only publisher updating its content with every change made to Swift.
  • After version 1.1 or 1.2, Apple stopped making really large changes to Swift. Version 2.0 is not very different from earlier versions. It’s much more stable and now in the process of building up the language.
  • Hennepin (Minneapolis) or Ramsey (Saint Paul) county library card holders get free Lynda.com access.
  • Simon Allardice, now with Pluralsight.com, produced three 70-hour Swift courses for Lynda with downloadable source material.
  • In addition to Hennepin and Ramsey, Washington County also has access to Lynda.com.
  • Bryson is writing a proof-of-concept iOS app in Swift. It goes out to a server to pull in bundles that contain HTML web apps such as a small app, service or video player. It keeps the content local to the device instead of requiring an Internet connection.

Signed, sealed, won’t deliver…

  • Aaron Freimark with Enterprise iOS reports Apple waits an average of 13 days after a new release before shutting down the prior release.
  • Apple can stop “signing” the older release at any time, effectively stopping all installs.
  • After a new release, you have just a little time to test the new version before older versions stop working.

Big, bigger, biggest yet!

  • Apple started shipping the iPad Pro in early November.
  • Mike with JAMF Software gave up his Mac for an iPad Pro and does all his work at JAMF on the device.
  • He has the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil.
  • He does have a virtual machine running on a Mac that he can access if he needs it.
  • He’s very happy so far with it being his Mac replacement.
  • Another attendee says three instructors at his school have already switched to iPad Pro and given up their MacBook Airs. For those instructors, it’s great!
  • Adobe has released its mobile apps that it demonstrated during Apple’s September announcement.
  • Rochester Community and Technical College has a handful of iPad Pros in its art department. So far, the Apple Pencil is the best tool they’ve looked at so far. Its ability to charge via the Lightning port is a big advantage.
  • A lot of realtors are using iPad Pros with iOS 9’s Slide Over and Split View features.
  • Also, professionals in the medical field who don’t want laptops because they’re too big are adopting iPad Pros.

Office 2016 for Mac – Relicensed

  • This is an issue that has come out of Paul Bowden (our featured presenter) working with the Mac admin community.
  • If you’ve been trying to install Office 2016 for Mac via any tool that uses Apple’s command line installer (Casper, munki, Apple Remote Desktop, etc.), the volume license file fails to install.
  • Paul has been working with Mac admins to address this issue.
  • Come January, version 15.17 of the volume license installer will fix this issue.
  • In the meantime, Microsoft discovered another bug. Mac admins have been working around the license file issue by copying the necessary plist file from a working Mac to the rest of their Macs. That’s not suppose to work.
  • Microsoft is going to fix this bug in version 15.20 (roughly March or April).
  • Office 2016 will stop working on your Macs where you’ve copied the license file starting with version 15.20.
  • To help Mac admins, Paul has created a Volume License Serializer tool.
  • The Serializer is a little app. Just push it to those machines where you’ve copied the license file and it will fix it.
  • The Serializer is coming in January along with version 15.17.
  • For a three month period, Mac admins have the opportunity to fix their Office 2016 licenses where they’ve copied the plist file.
  • Most attendees have already installed Office 2016 volume license edition but only a handful have been copying the license file between machines.
  • If you haven’t deployed Office 2016 yet, don’t worry about this problem. Just deploy using the 15.17 installer and you’ll be fine.
  • The Serializer and fixed 15.17 installer will be released through the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC).
  • Anyone in Slack who can show they have access to the VLSC can contact Paul for access to a private FTP server for early access to the Serializer. It’s ready.
  • This bug allowing us to copy the licensing file has been around since Office for Mac 2011. Paul Bowden reports Microsoft will not be fixing this issue in Office 2011.

BONUS Topic: Digital stocking stuffers for the Mac admin

  • Wi-Fi Explorer – Scan, monitor, and troubleshoot wireless networks. $14.99.
  • Atom – A hackable text editor. Free and open source.
  • Cathode – Vintage Terminal. Includes degauss, curved screen, jitter, etc. $4.99.
  • iOS Console – Read your iOS device’s console logs in real time. Great for troubleshooting. Freeware while in beta.
  • Slack – Access the MacAdmins team by signing up at http://macadmins.org. Free.
  • Prompt 2 – SSH client for iOS. $7.99.
  • Koder – Code editor for iOS. $4.99.
  • Creative Kit 2016 – Photo editing software for Mac (accessible as extensions in Photos). $99.99 holiday offer, normally $488.
  • iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case – $99.
  • Copied – Synchronized clipboard manager for iOS and OS X. Free for iOS. $7.99 for OS X.

Main presentation – Ask Paul Bowden

Bill led a discussion with Paul Bowden with Microsoft

Introduction

Bill:

  • Back in November, I got to visit with the folks who make Office for Mac during our annual MVP Summit.
  • One of my missions for that visit was to find the person who could help Mac admins with Office 2016 installer issues where the license file wasn’t getting deployed when installed via command line tools.
  • Everyone I asked said to meet with Paul Bowden. We scheduled a meeting toward the end of my last day there.
  • It was one of the coolest parts of my trip. Not only did I meet the person who could take care of the issue with the Office installer, but Paul was also the guy who could fix a lot of other things too.
  • Right before I left his office, I asked Paul if he was familiar with Slack. Paul said yes. I pointed him to the MacAdmins team and asked him to log in and lurk and read the problems Mac admins were having.
  • The next day, not only did Paul sign up for the MacAdmins team in Slack, he introduced himself!
  • Since then, Paul has been working with us not only to fix installer issues but a lot of other things too.

Paul:

  • I’ve been at Microsoft for 19, nearly 20 years. You may think of that as an “old timer”, but I’m actually a young’n within my team. Others in my team have been have been working on Office for Mac for 28-29 years.
  • Only been working on the APEX team (Apple Platform team) for the past three years.
  • Most of my career was with the Exchange Server team working on everything from OWA through ActiveSync through MAPI. I was also the Release Manager for Exchange 2010, managing the release from end-to-end.
  • I’m not really an old-time Mac person. My first Mac I got in 2008. I loved the aesthetics and design patterns.
  • Right now, I concentrate on the deployment pipeline. I own everything from versioning of the product, installers, deployment, MAU and updates. I’m one of the primary developers working in this space but also deal with a lot of operational people who publish XMLs, packages to the CDNs, etc. I’m just one of the cogs inside the wheels.
  • What was enlightening for me was engaging with Mac admins on Slack and trying to truly understand what I could make better.
  • I think of this: I go to work and turn up about 10:00 a.m., sit down at my desk and think to myself, “What can I do today? What can I change within the product that would be most impactful and most valuable to everybody out there?”
  • Being in Redmond, you get siloed to the real world. You need some type of outlook or sounding board. And that’s how I viewed Slack. Although there’s been a lot of questions about how do things work and wouldn’t be great if we could do this, I’ve been using it as a mechanism for floating ideas. That really helps me prioritize what I do day to day that makes your lives easier.

Bill:

  • One thing I thought was really cool: You saw a lot of the blog posts and fashionably negative comments about Microsoft. Having you show up in the #microsoft-office Slack channel was a surprise. Someone has posted a comment calling you “Mr. sudo $USER” [based on some code Mac admins had found in the installer] and you said I almost introduced myself that way. What’s been your experience working with Mac admins and have you felt welcomed?

Paul:

  • Absolutely! I mentioned before it was kind of humbling coming in the very first time I switched over to the #microsoft-office channel in MacAdmins. I thought I’d take your advice and just lurk for about the first 48 hours and see what’s going on out there. As I started reading, it became really obvious to me that people were very skeptical about what we were doing and about our abilities.
  • Someone who I call a good friend on Slack now is @hunty or Calum Hunter from Australia. I think he said to you, “Oh, you met the intern?” It was really his comment that made me think I have to jump in here and try to save some face. Sure, I want to eat some humble pie and say I don’t know everything. You guys can really help me out and help me understand how to make the product better.
  • It started off as a very skeptical group. I felt it was not “aggressive” but more the case of you guys were just out there and being completely unloved, on your own and really just frustrated. I could just sense the frustration coming through. I made it my personal mission to see how many problems I could solve.
  • I went through all the posts and made a prioritized list on my whiteboard of “the things I need to tackle”. I could only come up with nine things. What was enlightening was everybody was having the same kinds of problems. It didn’t matter if it was a university in Australia or a company in Detroit. You all had pretty much the same issues and most of them I could fix easily.
  • Of course, I’m not a Marketing person. I’m in core engineering. I didn’t want to just wave my hands and say some words such as “We’re listening. It’ll get better.” It’s really important to me that I put my money where my mouth is and really make a big effort to make the product better.
  • In doing that, the 15.17 release that came out just a few days ago, was huge for me. A lot of my efforts and fixes in 15.17 and the code that I wrote really was based on the feedback I got from the Mac admins.
  • Along with that, I was super-sensitive about saying “just wait for 15.17 and all will be great.” I really wanted that validation that when you saw the build you were pleased with it. So, I set up a private FTP forum and about 50 Mac admins now have access to that server. I regularly post builds there. And it’s a place where I can share out a build and say, “Hey, this has new functionality and I really want you to kick the tires and tell me if it breaks.” If you tell me it’s good enough that gives me confidence that I’ve fixed the problems and I can ship it.
  • That’s played out many times. In fact, just yesterday, I posted a new build of Outlook to the server and sent a message around to Mac admins for some of the resizing issues we’ve been seeing. A lot of folks jumped on that build straightaway, tested it and gave me the confidence that we’d fixed the problem. And about 90 minutes ago, we released that build publicly. It was through the efforts and collaboration with the group that we were able to turn around fixes and get on top of these issues.
  • I feel I have a fantastic relationship with everybody on the MacAdmins forum. They’re very courteous. They realize I’m just one cog in the wheels and that I don’t know everything but I try my best to seek answers.
  • A lot of folks out there have questions about OneDrive and Skype for Business. I kind of have my fingers in those pies as well, so I’l try to help out wherever possible, especially as we get to some private beta releases or TAP programs. I’m very much going to make sure the Mac admins get every opportunity to get hold of that software, so they can both try it out and also give us that feedback we need.

Bill:

  • One of the things you talked with me about while we were visiting in your office was Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU). Paul, can you explain what we’re getting ready to see with the divergent builds—the ability to test things a little bit early?

Paul:

  • A couple of years ago, the Windows team started the Insider Program where people could opt in to get early access to the Windows beta builds. We’ve never really had any type of formal program for the Office team.
  • Over the past few months, we’ve been working on an Office Insider Program, touching all platforms and endpoints—Office 2016 for Windows, Android, Outlook on iOS… I’m responsible for the Insider Program on Mac.
  • With the release of 15.17, we updated MAU to 3.3 and this new version has support for multiple channels. Prior to 3.3, MAU only knew about a single channel—the production channel.
  • The way the MAU works: It has a daemon and wakes up every 24 hours. It checks an XML file on microsoft.com and does a version check (a comparison between what you have locally on the machine and what’s in that XML file). So far, it’s just been a single set of XML files that MAU has used.
  • With 3.3, we made it possible for MAU to subscribe to different channels, which are different URLs with different XML files.
  • You’ll notice the rhythm for our monthly releases tends to be around the 10th or 11th of each month. The underlying mechanics for coordinating these releases starts with us forking the code on the last Sunday of the month and then stabilizing it for a period of two weeks. At the end of those two weeks is the monthly update.
  • We’ve created two new channels for MAU to subscribe to.
  • The first channel lets you get access to new builds the moment that they fork on the last Sunday of each month. You’ll be able to subscribe to the “internal” channel and get access to those build straightaway. Those are full production builds.
  • The other channel is the “insider” channel. That’s essentially the fork plus a week. It has some additional fixes on top of the internal build.
  • This will be a good mechanism for IT departments to see what’s coming out and what we’ve been working on for the month. It’s also a good mechanism for us to assess quality of builds as well.
  • One thing that’s kind of hidden and opaque is how we use Telemetry inside the product. “Are you still the big evil company that’s collecting our data and doing bad things with it?” No, we don’t do that. ????
  • We have these big 80-inch monitors on the wall and I stare at them for five minutes when I get in to work in the morning. The monitors give me a real-time analysis of the health of the deployments out there: Are people having problems and seeing error dialogs? Are they having problems downloading an update? Is Word crashing every time you launch it? These monitors do some analysis and give us a kind of scorecard and index into hot spots. That allows us to go in and dig in and figure out what’s going wrong and why Word is crashing for every other user in China or Japan. (Is it something to do with fonts?)
  • The Telemetry or “phone home” capability within the product is incredibly important for us as a team to be able to measure health. It allows us to analyze if something bad is going on out there and if we need to rush out a hot fix.
  • I mentioned we released a 15.17.1 build of Outlook 90 minutes ago, but we also released a 15.17.1 build of Word and that build came out specifically to address two crashing issues. It was only through Telemetry that we could actually see those issues.
  • So, the benefit for us inside engineering with the Insider Program is that as people sign up for the program, they will get early access to builds that are of good quality but will allow us to get a handle on any particular crashing issues or serious issues. We can address those before the production channel gets updates.
  • How does that look? There’ll be another new version of MAU coming out January 4. That will be MAU 3.4. It will have an additional checkbox in the UI. That checkbox will control your subscription and which channel you want to subscribe to. From that point onwards, you’ll start getting the updates.

Bill:

  • The reason I asked Paul about Telemetry is that there is a plist file for the MAU and it contains a key to disable Telemetry.
  • Telemetry is crash reports for one. If you disable Telemetry, you disable sending crash reports to Microsoft. Those are hugely helpful to Microsoft for fixing problems.
  • Telemetry is also a couple of other things, but Paul did assure me that it does not send anything without your permission. If you choose Outlook (or any other Office app) > Preferences > Security & Privacy, you’ll see a checkbox that lets you control whether you send feedback. The option is up to the end user.
  • One last question from me: Paul, anything new that you can tell us about?

Paul:

  • A couple of big things happened today. Remember, I wrote down nine things on my board and said these were the common things everybody was asking for. I knocked off seven of those nine items in the 15.17 release. I resolved the last two today.
  • The upcoming 15.18 release will officially release January 12. If you subscribe to the Insider Program you’ll get this build on January 4. Anyone on the MacAdmins forum and has FTP access will get this build tomorrow from me.
  • This build has two key fixes.
  • First, it gets rid of those keychain prompts. If you’ve imaged a machine, run Word and gone through first run (especially for Office 365 customers), it creates a keychain entry. As you start up other apps, you get this slightly obscure dialog coming from the OS saying “Microsoft Excel wants to access confidential information in keychain GUID.” That scares a lot of people.
  • The ninth issue was controlling access to the Open and Save panel. A lot customers, especially Volume License customers who don’t sign in and activate online storage, reported their users were unhappy that the default behavior when hitting the Save button was to show all the cloud storage providers. The big request everyone was telling me was “I want to pre-configure the build to always default to On My Mac.” I turned in that fix about two hours ago.
  • I’ve fixed all the issues on my board, so I guess I’m looking for more issues to fix.
  • There is one more that wasn’t on my board and that was a command line version of MAU. That really is the last one.

Q&A with Paul

Audience:
First, thanks for reaching out to us. It’s great! I can’t thank you enough for that. Second, you mentioned Skype for Business. Is there a build for Mac for Skype for Business? Right now, we’re running Lync and it’s not quite El Capitan happy.

Paul:
If I had a penny for each time somebody asked me that question! Let me kind of give you the inside scoop as to what’s going on there.

Lync 2011 is the latest version of the real-time client that’s out there. We went through some organization changes between Lync and the Skype team. Unfortunately, the Mac was getting a little behind in the client and we were getting frustrated internally that the Skype team wasn’t turning out new builds and new functionality and something that looked a lot prettier, especially on Yosemite and El Capitan.

It turned out my General Manager Eric Wilfrid, who ran the APEX team for 25 years, was inside the group. He was so passionate about this that he actually left the APEX group and he is now the General Manager for Skype. With him being the biggest Apple fan within Microsoft, he now has a vendetta to go and create the best Skype client for the Mac platform.

Eric and I chat probably once a week and he actually teases me a lot. I had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and he showed me a build of Skype running on his Mac. I was incredibly jealous and envious!

So, his team is working on it. I think the public dates are we’ll have an extensive preview or beta program starting in Q1 and then the full production quality release in Q2. I know those dates are a little fluffy, especially when you talk about quarters (I like to be a bit more precise about those things). One thing I did impress on him is that we have a huge community of people that really want to get their hands on Skype for Mac and Skype for Business for Mac and that we should start up an early build program as soon as we possibly can. I’m hoping that will happen sometime in January.

Definitely, if you belong to the MacAdmins Slack team, you guys will be the first people that will get to hear about that.

Audience:
I have a question about SharePoint integration with Office. It seems like 2016 lost the SharePoint plug-ins to the point that when we have documents on SharePoint and we try to open them in Office 2016, we can’t actually check out documents. We actually have to go in through the website, check out, download and then open in Office vs. having the integration work.

Paul:
Interesting! I’m not that familiar with how the SharePoint access works inside the product. I know what you mean. I think what I’ll do is I’ll go ask that team tomorrow what they’re planning and if there are any kind of enhancements coming up. I get the scenario. I just don’t know what the plan is there.

The one thing I’ve also been working on is to try to get more engineers from the Mac team to join the MacAdmins group. Again, another big thing happened today. Sunder Raman (@sunder.raman on Slack) and Jeffrey Kalvass (@jeffkalv on Slack) from the Mac for Outlook team in Silicon Valley joined the channel today. So, I’m not the only Microsoft person out there now. We have some application experts.

As I mentioned, I’m really in charge of the deployment pipeline and I don’t know too much about formulas or VB accessibility within Excel, for example. I concentrate more on getting the bits to the box. A lot of the Mac admins folks on Slack have questions about Outlook and roadmaps and “when am I going to see this feature”. It’s great that my colleagues from down in the Valley are in there now. They are the horse’s mouth for Mac Outlook. They’ll be able to give you direct answers to your questions.

If you’re wondering how we’re organized, I belong to the Apple Platform Experience team (APEX). We work on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for Mac and iOS. Those are our core products. We’re 200 engineers and we’re split half and half. Half of us are in Redmond, where I am, and we do deployment and shared stuff and Word and Excel. And then we have a hundred of our engineers in APEX in our Mountain View office in Apple’s backyard. All of Outlook and PowerPoint is engineered out of that office.

Audience:
In Outlook 2016, we’re unable to empty Deleted Items on quit. Is that something that’s not going to be there any more or is it something that may come back?

Bill:
You’re asking for what happened with Schedules in Outlook? Did you hear that, Paul?

Paul:
Kind of roughly. It sounds like a question that I would get Jeffrey Kalvass [Outlook for Mac Product Manager] to answer.

Bill:
I do know for IMAP the Schedules feature you had for emptying Deleted Items on Quit has actually moved into the account now. I think for POP and IMAP. As for Exchange, I don’t know if it ever had that feature or not.

[After some research, Outlook 2011 offered the ability to empty Deleted Items on Quit for POP and Exchange accounts. IMAP accounts already had that feature within the account. POP accounts empty automatically from within the account settings for Outlook 2016. The only option for Exchange accounts in Outlook 2016 is to use Retention Policies. They can’t empty when the client quits, but the server handles emptying Deleted Items on a schedule.]

Audience:
We do have Exchange.

Bill:
I can probably help you out with that. I do a lot of Outlook stuff. Paul is referencing Jeffrey Kalvass, who is the Outlook PM, Paul?

Paul:
He is the Outlook PM who is in charge of the schedule and features and prioritization for the Outlook for Mac product.

Bill:
Hopefully, we’ll see him in the Slack channel. That would be awesome.

Paul:
Yeah, he joined today.

Bill:
What did he think about it?

Paul:
I sent him a long email encouraging him to join and I finally managed to convince him to get signed in today. He mentioned the word “firehose”, so I guess he’s got a lot of reading and catching up to do.

Audience:
What about Mac App Store deployment? All the pieces are there. I don’t deploy Office. I have caching servers. I hate downloading those multi-gig packages and redeploying them with a bunch of distribution points. So, how about the Mac App Store for deployment?

Paul:
Oh, wow, what a loaded question! Today, OneNote is in the Mac App Store and that’s how OneNote started off its life. Would you like to see Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook in the Mac App Store? Is that part of the question?

Audience:
The apps are perfectly written for the App Store and OneNote has been there for a year now. You wrote Office from the ground up. What’s the plan?

Paul:
You’re very perceptive. We did architect the 2016 product to be deployed by both the App Store and a PKG format downloaded form arbitrary URLs. There are actually a couple of issues that we’ve come across, which have caused us to limp along a little bit.

The first is a purely technical issue. As you know, one big decision that we made about the architecture of 2016 is that we support side-by-side installation with 2011. And that took some big changes in the two versions. It so happens the App Store can’t support both 2011 and 2016 as the same application on the same machine. One of our big technical challenges we’re been working on with Apple is if you have, let’s say, Word 2011 installed and hypothetically download 2016, it would overwrite 2011. We actually use the same bundle identifiers between 2011 and 2016 and so the App Store would just see there’s this new version of an application that already exists and would overwrite it.

I’m happy to say that working together with Apple, we’ve resolved that issue now. That’s no longer a blocker for us.

There are also some, as you can imagine, some big business decisions that we need to make before going into the App Store and we’re still working through a lot of those business and marketing issues. From a purely engineering and technical point of view, you’re absolutely right. We did intend to write all of these applications so they could be deployed in the App Store.

Audience:
I love that answer!

Audience:
Thanks for coming and joining us! I have a question about updates. There seem to be a few different ways to do updates for Office 2016 and I’ve found a way that seems to work really well for me, but I want to know if it’s the right way to be doing it. I download the full installer and run that installer over the existing apps to update them. That way I only have to download one package. I don’t know if that’s the right way to do it or if I’m breaking anything. Maybe you can provide a right way of doing it.

Paul:
That’s a good question. Fundamentally, you’re in a completely supported state by doing that. It’s a scenario we anticipate and test. If you just want to download either the standalone app or the full suite installer and just essentially write over the top of your existing installation, that’s a fine way to upgrade. You can also, as you’re probably aware, download the individual update packages as well. Right now, those updater packages are the full application bundle (that’s what MAU downloads right now) and you can also see those as download links within the knowledge base articles.

One other big change you’ll see coming in January is that we’ll start producing and shipping delta updaters. Those of you that know 2011 know that the updates are pretty small. Each monthly update is about 120 MB in size. Unfortunately, our delta updates for 2016 won’t be anywhere near that size, mainly because of the way the applications are sandboxed and code-signed. But the delta updates will be 60 percent smaller than what they are at the moment. If you’re worried about download sizes or the size of packages that you have to push out to your clients, delta updaters will be much smaller than just downloading the full package.

Audience:
Are the new delta updates going to be for each product?

Paul:
In January, we’ll release all the updates for the individual products and then in March we’ll give you the suite delta update. The reason why it’s taking a little bit for the suite delta update is I have to code in some additional logic to take account of where apps came from and if they don’t exist. For example, today, you can either download OneNote from the App Store or you can get OneNote from the suite install. We have to make sure that MAU only updates non-App Store sourced applications. We have to be careful with our logic to make sure we don’t blindly go and update an app you’ve brought down from the App Store. That’s part of Apple’s requirement.

Audience:
My faculty and staff from my college are complaining about the process of signing into Office—specifically Outlook, where they have to go to Preferences and type in their DOMAIN\username and email. On Windows, they would open up Outlook, they would just confirm their settings and Autodiscover would just take care of it. Their username would be there. Their email would be there. They would just sign in and things would start populating. Is that an Outlook limitation or an Exchange limitation for Mac? We started using @talkingmoose’s [on Slack] Exchange setup script.

Paul:
This is a conversation that was pretty active on the MacAdmins forum this afternoon. Jeffrey and Sunder was responding to that. In terms of being able to auto-populate the email address, a lot of that comes from Active Directory integration and binding. On Outlook for Windows we get a lot of that functionality for free. That doesn’t come for free on a Mac. There’s definitely a lot more work we can do there. One of the big problems I’ve heard being reported is problems with Kerberos auth with Outlook. I was talking with one of the Outlook engineers today and he had a breakthrough in understanding why we saw authentication pop-ups completely recurring in Outlook. We’re hoping that will be fixed in 15.18 as well. You should get up on the MacAdmins forum and see the discussion that’s kind of raging at the moment.

Audience:
My wife works in Finance and she has a question about spreadsheets. Working with Excel, she often gets spreadsheets in from their Finance organizations they work with that are in the 40-50 MB ballpark. They’re 20,000+ lines. Not only do they open quite slowly, but while working in the application and changing fields, the updates to formulas are very sluggish. Any thoughts or possibilities of changes in the future?

Paul:
Very much so. I live on the fourth floor in Building 35 on Main Campus and we’re happy campers up there. Whenever I take the elevator down to the second floor, which is where the Excel for Mac team sits, they run around with their hair on fire complaining about performance and all the issues they have and how that’s a top priority for their team. We have a lot of feedback and a lot of examples of not just issues with large files but scrolling and rendering cells correctly. I can absolutely say that is top priority for the Excel for Mac team right now.

One additional thing I would mention is that we have about 200 engineers within our team. We’re actually pretty small compared to other teams around Microsoft. The Office for Windows team—the engineers that work on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for Windows PC—they’re about 7,000 folks. They are a massive team compared to what we have.

So, one thing we’re good at in the APEX team is, well… we’re plagiarists. We take a lot of their code, we kind of skin it, put some Objecive-C headers on it and recompile it, put a pretty UI on it and then ship it for the Mac platform. The calc engine you have in Excel for Windows is in fact the same calc engine you see on Excel for Mac.

With Satya taking over as CEO, that’s actually been an incredible change for us in APEX engineering. First, I can walk around campus with my MacBook and I’m not in fear of my life anymore. ???? The second thing is there is a huge, huge effort underway to consolidate all source code between the Windows version and the Mac version. That’s actually a really good thing because for the longest time we’ve had feature disparity between what’s available on Windows and what there is on Mac. We’re kind of heading to that one day nirvana of having the exact same feature set across the platforms, which is definitely a long time in coming. It also means we can leverage all of the features that that 7,000 person team is working on. So, as new features and better facilities come in on the Windows side, we can very quickly compile them under C-lang and get them shipped on Mac.

I would say about 80 percent of our team right now is actually working on that code convergence and rationalization. I’m actually very much looking forward to the day where we have that parity.

Bill:
Paul, you couldn’t hear it because I muted everybody, but you got some pretty interesting feedback from that. You got some chuckles out of that.

Audience:
With this 35:1 ratio of the Windows team to the Mac team, would you say with all the progress you made going from what was 2011 to 2016 with such as small number attributed to the joy of the simplicity of working with Mac instead of Windows?

Paul:
One of the biggest issues that we had and the reason why there was such a big gap between 2011 and 2016 is we were working on Miramar. Miramar was the code name for Office for iPad. Our team was completely heads down on creating the iPad version for a couple of years. We had the Mac desktop kind of in maintenance mode for that time while we got iPad into shape. Once we shipped Miramar, it was full steam back on the Mac client again.

I’m not sure I answered your question.

Audience:
I just wanted to know if you think that your team can get away with more because developing for Mac is so much better than Windows.

Paul:
Let’s just say we have less committees on our team. 😉

Audience:
I do have one more question, Paul, phoned in from the accountant. Right now in Excel, you have to use custom formatting to get parentheses for negative numbers. It doesn’t support natively the accounting formatting for numbers in Excel for Mac. Is that on the board?

Paul:
I have no idea.

Bill:
Hey, Paul, who’s the Excel guy we need to get into Slack?

Paul:
Jeff Zhang. Jeff owes me a favor, so perhaps I need to call in that favor and get him to join the group. Jeff is my counterpart in Excel. He’s kind of the Excel wiz.

Bill:
I’m going to ask you the last question because we’re kind of getting right here on time or a little bit over. Hope we don’t keep you too long. Tell us about your farm?

Paul:
The farm? I’m looking over at my wife in the corner. She’s chuckling to me.

One of my big passions outside of tinkering with Apple gadgetry is that we just bought five acres up here very north of Seattle. We’re about 60 miles north of Seattle where I live. We’ve started our own farm and we have pigs, goats and chickens. We’re building our own house and so we’re kind of starting our own homestead up here. I mentioned I don’t get into work until 10:00 a.m. That’s because I’m mucking out the pigs most of the time. I grew up on a farm in England and I kind of miss the farm life. I’m not really a city boy. It’s a great stress reliever for me around here.

Bill:
Thank you, Paul. I appreciate it.

From the audience:

Question: Looking for recommendations. One of our Special Ed teachers is looking for a wireless microphone for an iPad. Can anyone recommend either a Bluetooth or USB device?

Answer: USB camera adapter with a USB microphone works. Also, have used a Scosche Bluetooth FreedomMIC. It works with a proprietary app that allows for video and audio recording (using the Bluetooth mic). The app was not great, but it was the only cost effective method for the program.

Job openings

Hopkins Public School District
Building Technology Support Specialist

Saint Paul Public Schools
System Support Specialist 3

Shakopee School District
Apple System Administrator

Target
Associate Mac Engineer

University of Wisconsin – Green Bay
Macintosh Administrator / HouseIT Manager

Congratulations, Lee Weisbecker on your new position at Leysin American School in Switzerland! You’ll be missed. We won’t expect you at the next meetup, but if you show up that would be great.

Next meetup

Brian is hosting our next meetup on Wednesday, February 17, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Target headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. We’ll post details soon for our meetup in the Target Commons Plaza on Nicollet Mall. We’ll also have a separate sign-up for anyone who’d like to show up a little early and get a tour of the Target Lights at the top of the building.

This will be a 21 or over event.

Call for presenters

We’re looking for presenters! If you’ve had to solve a problem and think someone else could learn from it then contact us and we’ll help you put a short or long presentation together for the group.

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