Tip o’ the Week 343 – QUIET!!!!

clip_image002One of the rare regressions from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 was the effective loss of “Quiet Hours”, a feature which persists in Windows 10 Mobile 10 and lets you silence your phone at times when you don’t need to know there’s a conf call in a different time zone to which you’ve been invited, or that it’s some dude on LinkedIn’s birthday.

You may wish for the same functionality (as described 2½ years ago in ToW 209) on your home PC or WFH laptop; although there’s a feature in Windows 10 called “Quiet hours”, it’s sadly nothing like the same.

clip_image004Even if you have Quiet hours set in the notification area in Windows 10, it only means that between the hours of midnight and 6am, your PC won’t give you notifications. You can’t say “make it quiet RIGHT NOW” and you can’t change the times. Rather limited functionality, wouldn’t you say?

Well, there is a workaround that needs a little more effort (~2 minutes) but is actually a good bit more effective, and lets you be somewhat more creative too.

You say Schedule, I Say Schedule

What we’re going to do here is use a core capability that’s been in Windows ever since NT 3.1; the task scheduling feature, also used in ToW 310. Also, with a neat 3rd party utility called nircmd, we can issue simple commands to the system to do things like mute or unmute the system volume.

  • Using Windows Explorer (WindowsKey+E), navigate to your Program Files directory and create a new folder called nircmd. Agree to any nannying prompts informing you that superpowers will be required.
  • Get the nircmd download from the very bottom of this page; you’ll probably want the 64-bit version here, or the 32-bit one here. If in any doubt, press WindowsKey+X then choose System from the menu, and you’ll see which version of Windows you’re on, therefore that will dictate what you need.
  • Open the ZIP file from your download above, select all the files within and Copy them, then navigate to your newly created folder and paste them in there, once again succumbing to enforced nagging/prompting.
  • Now go to the Task Scheduler in Windows (press Start and start typing “sched”…) then Create Basic Task from the menu on the right.
    • Give it a name, like Mute –>Nex
    • Choose a Daily schedule –>Next
    • Select a date and time to start (eg 23:00) and choose 1 day recurrence ->Next you get the idea
    • Start a program
    • click on the Browse button to the right of Program/script and navigate to your \Program Files\NirCMD folder and choose the NirCMD.exe command, then add mutesysvolume 1 as an optional argument:
  • clip_image007Now complete the task creation, and test it out (if you like) – just right-click your new task, and hit Run, and you should see the icon in your system tray go from clip_image009 to clip_image008
  • Repeat the process above to create the UnMute task, firing at (say) 07:00, and with the mutesysvolume 0 argument.

If one’s not enough for you, it’s possible toclip_image011 create multiple schedules depending on your preferences, by opening the task and adjusting the Triggers tab to set additional schedules (so you could have it mute earlier in the evening from Sun-Thurs but might want to allow later music playing on a Fri/Sat, for example).

Now, sleep soundly.

Tip o’ the Week 341 – Project PCs to other PCs

clip_image001Have you ever been in a meeting where you need/want to show something on your PC but… (any of the following apply):

· There’s no wireless projection, it’s all cable-only and someone else is already plugged in

· You can’t reach the cable

· You didn’t bring the right adapter to fit the micro-HDMI/mini-DisplayPort/VGA etc port on your laptop, to the appropriate one on the cable to the projector or screen

· The person presenting is too precious to pass the baton to you to present

· It’s taken too much A/V faffing about already to get to the point where you’re at, and you don’t want to rock the boat by asking to quickly plug in your machine

· You’re not using Skype or anything that might let you present virtually..?

Assuming that at least most of these elicit a nod of the head, there’s a new feature in Windows 10 (Anniversary Update) that could be of interest – one that lets you project the output from another device onto your PC screen, notably phones or other PCs, by turning your machine into a wireless display.

The simplest way to use this function would be to enable one laptop to receive the entire contents of another laptop’s screen, into a window or the destination’s machine’s full screen – maybe for collaboration (where the destination machine could be allowed to interact with the host via keyboard & mouse, even pen or touch), or simply to provide a conduit for projection.


There are 2 stages – on the destination machine, type project at the Start menu and choose Projecting to this PC to open the settings dialog. It’ll only work if your destination machine has WiFi capabilities, as the technology being used is Miracast, meaning your PC can receive screen mirroring from any device that supports it (though Google clip_image003have removed mirroring from some Android phones, and Apple have never supported the standard in their kit). This effectively turns your PC into a Miracast Receiver.

You can choose when you’d like the setting to be available and (assuming you’d like to leave it on all the time) whether you’d prefer random coffee shop Herberts to be prompted to present a one-time PIN before connecting.

After configuring the destination PC appropriately, on the source machine, just go to the Notifications (WindowsKey+A or swipe from the right) then choose Project, then Connect to a wireless display.

Now, instead of just seeing other Miracast receivers and the odd random audio device, you clip_image004should also see the name of the destination machine, and you’ll be able to choose if you’d like the destination machine’s keyboard/mouse etc to be able to control the source machine, or simply mirror the display.

clip_image005The destination machine will run the “Connect” application and will be able to display the source in a window or in full-screen mode.

The screenshot below shows the Connect app running on one laptop, displaying the output that is itself full-screen on a Surface 3 (running Plumbago).


If you’re using a Windows 10 Mobile device, you could use the new Connect functionality to run Continuum on your phone via your PC (frankly a bit pointless unless you want to just see what it’s like or demo it). Continuum won’t actually display what’s on your phone screen onto the PC in the same way that screen mirroring on other phones might, so if you’d like to show people what your phone looks like (so they know that there’s more than just iOS and Android), you could use the Project My Screen app on the PC to mirror the phone output in an emulator-like environment, using a USB cable.

Tip o’ the Week 340 – Windows 10 Ink Workspace

clip_image002clip_image004One of the new features of Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update* is the Ink Workspace, which shows up on your taskbar if you have a pen-equipped device, like a Surface. If you don’t have a pen-capable device but you’re a bit insane, you can still make it appear (right click on your taskbar to see the option), though good luck in trying to emulate Ink with just a mouse. Surfaceers, unclip your pen and go.

clip_image006The Ink Workspace is designed to be a starting point for many ink-related capabilities: see more about it here.

There are some quite cute sticky notes that you can scribble on-screen, a one-screen-sized sketchpad that’s at least handy & interesting but of somewhat limited use (seriously, use Plumbago, which has recently been updated to support OneDrive sync, and will show up in the “Recently used” list if you have it).


The Screen Sketch function lets you doodle on-screen and save grabs for future reference, and also surfaces he new Ruler function that is showing up in other ink-enabled apps – tap the ruler icon, and you get a rotate-able, moveable, virtual piece of plastic to help you draw straight lines on-screen.

clip_image010Other apps are being updated to support Ink, as with only a few lines of code, they can integrate the Ink Toolbar and fit into the Ink Workspace, too. A variety of other apps are also being suggested through the Workspace, leading to the Collections section of the Store. See here for a quick preview.

One example of a newly ink-capable app is Maps. It’s getting an inking menu that will let you drawn on the map and measure distances between drawn points, which is quite cute. Insiders on the Fast Ring have the new Maps app already; in time, it’ll surely percolate out to everyone else.

Whatever happens to other apps in future, inking within Windows is getting a good bit more mainstream, and that’s great news for anyone with a pen or even a touch-oriented device.

*if you don’t have the Anniversary Update yet, you can wait for it to appear on Windows Update, or force it by downloading the installer, here.