Fast Data Transfer to Azure

If you need to move data to Azure from on-prem, or between Azure data centers, I just stumbled across a great little tool from Microsoft Garage (which incidentally is a place as well as a program – its where that photo was taken when I was last there!).

The Fast Data Transfer tool squeezes as much throughput from the connection as possible, and has both a local and Azure based components – the Azure side uses VM’s running in the subscription so will carry a cost.

More details and the downloads can be found here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/garage/profiles/fast-data-transfer/

Getting your XBox to show 4k HDR Content

For years now I’ve watched an old Panasonic plasma TV in my living room, I’ve had it so long its almost like part of the family now! The problem is, as good as it was back in the day, it’s only a 720p set and I’ve been keen to check out the newer 4k UHD content that’s available now via Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon.

Over the new year this geeky part of me overrode the sensible part and I ended up buying a shiny new Sony AF9 TV that supports 4k UHD pictures and HDR – it’s a fantastic bit of kit and the picture quality is amazing. I had wondered how the old plasma would compare to a modern OLED screen and I’m slightly sad to say the plasma is just blown away by it.

Anyways… having got the basic TV set up I started to try out various sources, the main one for me being my Xbox One S. The new S and X flavours of Xbox both support 4k and HDR, with the X offering even higher levels of performance, so I wanted to see how both blue ray playback and games looked on the new TV.

Within the xbox settings there’s a heap of display options, and it was easy enough to set the default resolution to 4k, but in the handy ‘4k TV Details’ screen that shows which capabilities are available, many of them were showing as issues much like the screenshot below:

Xbox 4k details screen

Being pretty new to this stuff I hit Google. 4k video uses a huge amount of bandwidth to transfer the image from source to display, and with the additional HDR metadata on top of that you need to ensure that the overall system, config and cables included supports HDMI 2’s 18Gb/s bandwidth specs. This left me with two problems… the TV wasn’t setup to do this and my old (and at the time expensive!) HDMI cable probably wasn’t up to the job.

Cable

Older and perhaps a bit wiser than I was back when I bought the plasma screen, I now realise that HDMI is a purely digital signal. Where as with an analogue signal the cable where the cables can make a real difference, providing a HDMI cable meets the specs paying a fortune for one is daft – the one’s and zeros aren’t going to get there any fuzzier! With that in mind I headed off to the local electrical shop and picked up a certified cable for less than £20. If I hadn’t lost it I would have used the one that came with the XBox!

TV Settings

While the Sony AF9 has four HDMI ports able to handle full bandwidth 4k video, out of the box they are not configured for that purpose. Like it seems all the other big vendors – LG, Samsung, Panasonic – you have to go in and manually configure the ports to support the increased bandwidth.

To my mind this is a bit crazy, surely people buying a 4k HDR TV are going to expect it to work in that way out of the box? But anyway they don’t so I’ve added below what you need to do to make it happen.

Sony:

  • Using the remote, go to the Home page
  • Open Settings from the gear icon in the top right
  • Click down to ‘External Inputs’
  • Go into the HDMI Signal Format page
  • This will list the HDMI ports for your TV, select the one that you have your xbox plugged into and select Enhanced Format

Having done this, if you go back into the Xbox settings ‘4k TV Details’ page you should see all green ticks.

While I was searching around this I realised that its not just Sony that requires you to change your settings, so for the other main brands this is what you need to do:

LG:

  • Open the menu and go to General
  • Scroll down to ‘HDMI Ultra HD Deep Colour
  • Enable the toggle for the ports you need to work with HDR

Panasonic:
It sounds like Panasonic usual works out-the-box provided you plug the xbox into the right port – not all of them support it. There are still options though under:

  • Main Menu
  • Setup
  • HDMI HDR Setting – this should be turned on

Samsung:

  • In the main menu go to General,
  • External Device Manager
  • Click the ‘HDMI UHD Color’ menu then enable the setting for the relevant HDMI ports.

Hopefully that’s helped!

Recover a lost product key from a Microsoft Surface

So, if like me you find yourself rebuilding your MS Surface but also forget to take note of the Windows product key, the good news MS bakes it into the BIOS. After a bit of digging in WMI it seems its easily accessible, the easiest way is to run the following from the command prompt:

wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey

Then just paste the result into the activation window.

Surface Pro 3 wifi not connecting over 5GHz?

Seems like this is a fairly common problem. Despite my AP supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, the Surface Pro 3 I’m testing for work point blank refuses to connect over 5. Which is a problem seeing as my neighbours wireless security camera pretty much floods 2.4 making it next to useless.

Anyways, from what I can gather it looks like there’s a problem with the Surface’s Marvell wireless NIC driver that means if your AP is using the same SSID for both networks the driver ignores the 5GHz one. I’ve just changed the settings on mine to use a different SSID for each and the Surface connects fine. It’s worth a try if you’re having the same problem.