Homeworking Tips & Tools

The recent COVID-19 crisis has turned the way we work upside down, meaning legions of people have had to get used to home working almost overnight. It has also meant that the IT teams supporting these new homeworkers have had a mammoth task in enabling remote working.

Fortunately, there are a few tips and offers around that should help both end users and the IT teams supporting them. We’ve collected some here and will continue to build out this post as we encounter more useful ones. Please do let us know how you’ve found them

Mobile phone coverage at home

This tip will hopefully make this blog post worthwhile on its own…..for those folks struggling with signal quality and wifi calling being poor (In particular on EE).  

After my first day wfh, getting complaints about call quality, wrestling the 90 minute call queuing, and then receiving the standard “turn settings on and off”advice, I decided to go googling. I discovered that EE have changed how their Wifi calling works, such that it won’t default to wifi unless there is no signal whatsoever – arguably making it useless. I then cam across a workaround, which is to set the phone to Airplane mode (leave wifi – and maybe bluetooth – on) so that it forces wifi calling – I.e. your mobile phone cannot connect to the cellular network

Even better, buried in a post on the EE forum, someone had helpfully offered a suggestion to automate the process of flipping between Airplane mode off/on, whilst in or then going out. Be aware that due to some shortcoming in iOS, it doesn’t work automatically (yey – Apple!), but it does prompt you to run the automation, so not the end of the world.

Anyhow, the answer is iOS Shortcuts applying an Automation rule to use geofencing where Airplane mode is turned on/off when you enter or leave your specified location like Home. Here’s how it goes……

With the Apple’s iOS13 release and assuming your WifiCalling is turned on. You may need Wifi Assist is turned off for your WifiCalling to work properly. 

  1. Tap the new Shortcuts App in iOS
  2. Create Personal Automation
  3. Travel > Arrive > Choose Location > Current Location > Done > Next
  4. Add Action > Type in the search box air> Set Airplane Mode > On > Next > Done
  5. Tap + > Create Personal Automation
  6. Travel > Leave > Choose Location > Current Location > Done > Next 
  7. Add Action > Search for air > Set Airplane Mode > Off > Next > Done

You can even add steps to this, so it does the automation 10 minutes after you arrive in case you arrive at home on the phone and you find your phone cuts out as soon as you walk indoors before it picks up your Wifi.

Microsoft Teams

Because remote working is our new normal for now, many of you may need to get up to speed with Teams. Here’s a useful link to training resources, including YouTube videos

Backgrounds in Teams

Want to spice up that dull background? Get rid of the view of your dirty conservatory or awful curtains in the spare room (now office)?? Well Microsoft have finally launched custom backgrounds, but the average user might find it tricky without these tips

Windows users;

  1. Open file explorer and paste the contents of line 2
  2. %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
  3. Now copy/paste your background pictures here and they’ll appear in the gallery for selection when you join.  

Mac users;

  1. Open Finder
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + . to show hidden files/folders
  3. Go to /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
  4. Upload image

Thanks go to Christian and Carlos at Pinsent Masons for sharing the background tips – cue the Starship Enterprise, Millenium Falcon, and Tiger King backgrounds…..

IT Training

Pluralsight are offering free training throughout April. Demand is unsurprisingly high, but you’ll be signed up and learning within a few hours; python, javascript, and more. Just the thing to keep the tools sharp – especially if you’re furloughed

Managing Microsoft devices for remote workers

Had to make some unexpected laptop purchases and have them shipped directly to your users at their homes? This little blog might just come in handy.

Staying on the theme of rolling out machines, this link could be more appropriate. From reading, it can be used to re-purpose existing devices as well as deploy new ones that have the OEM build. One of the key benefits is the ability to restrict the admin account, which should help to reduce the risk.

Hardening Windows 10 defender

The latest Windows OS is a far cry from the “Swiss cheese” of it’s predecessors and you can do a decent job of hardening Defender without buying additional products. An old colleague has a ton of experience of doing exactly this – and has kindly shared his efforts (and scripts) on GitHub

Over and above the tips and suggestions listen above, our friends in the vendor community have offered some help too.

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