Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How to remove an additional mailbox from opening with Outlook

I had a client today who's Outlook always opens a second mailbox of someone that they have delegated access over.

However, they no longer need it and it was being a pain to remove - no matter what option I tried, it just wouldn't go!

Trying to "Close" the mailbox results in the error
"This group of folders is associated with an e-mail account. To remove the account, click the File Tab, and on the info tab, click Account Settings. Select the e-mail account, and then click Remove."

After a while, I found that a solution was to go to the Exchange "account settings", then click "More Settings", go to the "Advanced" tab, and click "Add", choose a different Mailbox where the user has permissions.

This seems to refresh the Additional Mailbox section.

Next, click ok/next etc, and go back to that screen. The list should now be populated with the box you just added and the original box. You can remove both as usual.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to reset a Windows password without third party tools

Whilst there are many tools that can change Windows account passwords, I personally like to do it manually as it doesn't take very long.

This trick will not work if you have Bitlocker full disk encyption - and, if you have EFS (Encrypting File System), your keys will become lost (as with any password resetting method).

Firstly, you need access to your hard drive - this can be from anywhere that has NTFS Write access (The easiest method is a Windows Vista/7 installation disk).

If you chose a Windows installation disk, simply boot from it and then at the first screen (Language/Location/Keyboard) click next, followed by holding Shift+F10. This will launch a command prompt window.

Depending on the amount of partitions and setup you have, Windows may be on a different drive. Try typing the following:

If this doesn't look like your hard drive, try changing c to d, and go through the alphabet until you reach your hard drive.

Once there, type the following:

ren osk.exe osk_old.exe
copy cmd.exe osk.exe
Next, reboot Windows.

From here, click the accessibility\wheelchair icon and then the On Screen Keyboard option.

This will now launch a Command Prompt window as `SYSTEM` (Be careful!).

You have two options : the quickest, to change the password from the command line is:
net user username password
(Change username and password to... well, you can guess!).

There will be no confirmation, it will simply just change.

If you would rather use a UI, type `mmc` and press enter. From here, go to "File" > "Add/Remove Snap-in", Click "add", and choose "Local Users and Groups". click "close", then "ok".

Expand "Local Users and Groups" > "Users", and right click on a user, followed by "Set Password"... Choose whatever you want, and you are done!

To reset the earlier system changes, you have two options.

First, get to the command prompt from the Windows setup disk in the same way and type:

x: (where x is the drive)
del osk.exe
ren osk_old.exe osk.exe

or, if you would rather just do it without the disk, go back to the login screen, launch command prompt and type this:

start cmd
(Close the original command prompt window)
del osk.exe
ren osk_old.exe osk.exe

and done!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

How to enable the Start Menu in Windows 8 developer preview

If you want to enable the classic Start Menu on Windows 8, there is a simple registry switch you can use.

It is located at


Simply change the "RPEnabled" entry from "1" to "0"

Changing this key changes a lot - it seems to put it back to a "Microsoft Internal" state displaying the following warnings on Winver and the desktop:

Please note, as with everything on the preview, this is a sort of "hack" which is not officially supported. It changes a heck of a lot - Pressing the start button in the bottom left corner works as expected... but, the ribbon bar disappears, you get classic Task Manager, and pressing the Windows keyboard key is buggy - the start menu appears, then disappears to reveal the metro interface, then metro interface disappears and the start menu loads!

The start menu really is not officially supported in this release and does seem to have a few bugs (mainly style related). I am not sure if Microsoft have disabled it on purpose from the preview in order to get people to use Metro and it will be there in the final product, or if it will be dropped entirely from final product - (or in the state it is in now for some sort of legacy reason.

A big downside is that apart from seeing a glimpse of the metro interface when you press the Windows key, it does actually break it and the ability to deploy/test applications on it - which is the whole point of the developer preview. So... do this once, have a look around and put it back!

(Error starting a tile application)

As you can guess, the preview is unfinished and I am sure they will change the start menu (either disable completely or simply modify behaviour) before release.

If you are not comfortable editing the registry, here are some ready made .REG files for you:

Change the key to 0 (Enable the start menu)
Change the key to 1 (Disable the start menu)

If you force close and reopen Explorer after changing this key, it stops the Metro app from flashing up when pressing the Windows Key - however - tile based apps and running from Visual Studio still do not work. That being said, you can change the target in Visual Studio to an Emulator which runs the tile applications fast. I haven't looked in to this more, but it is a really cool application that allows you to test touch amongst other things.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Office 365 partner experience. Is Microsoft trying to get rid of us?

I originally wanted one blog post, but, it turns out that I had more to say than I thought, so, I am doing this as a two parter! Click here to read My take on Google Apps Vs Office 365 .

I first heard about Office 365 at a Microsoft partner briefing towards the end of last year, I have been wanting to sign a customer up to it for a while, but, I was simply not willing to do it whilst it was in Beta.

Now it is out, this blog post will give my experiences as a Microsoft Partner. I have already given my experiences as a user comparing it to Google Apps in the first part.

To get started - As I hope it came across in the first part, I really think Office 365 is a good solution, but, for the partner experience - I simply hate it! It is my honest belief that Microsoft are trying to cut partners out and that we are a complete after thought for Office 365.

The only controls available to partners are to send a trial code and to send a purchase offer at the end of the trial.... This is really just about it!

So, with one customer, I sent them a 30 day trial for Office 365 Plan E3. It became clear during the trial that they had no intention of using any of the additional Office 365 features and simply wanted Exchange Online. Here comes the first problem!

Almost no one at Microsoft seems to understand the different plans on offer through Office 365! I rang up the support line three times, firstly I got a "No, not possible", next I got a reassuring "Yes, I think it is possible, You may loose all data during the move", and then the third time I was told that they would look in to it and get back to me.

The same sort of experience can be seen on the official forums where I asked the same question - Someone from MS giving the wrong answer, not understanding what I wrote - but then, eventually someone else from Microsoft answers giving an answer I wanted...

However, I was far from convinced and purchased a licence myself in order to test the scenario - this is one of the major faults with Office 365 - Whilst there is quite a bit of help and support listed, there are not enough real world situations and examples. When I ring up the helpline, all they seem to do is a search of the same knowledge base and if they can't find an answer, I get the impression that they just guess.

In the end, I found out that it is perfectly fine and I was able to migrate my customer easily, without losing any data (or having any down time). But, if so many people from Microsoft do not understand the different subscription levels, I do not know how they expect us to! That being said, it isn't really that hard and I knew the levels, which is why I was so annoyed at Microsoft not knowing and giving me silly answers back.

Again, I just feel that the partner experience was an after though. There is no way that I have seen to manage clients at all.

There is a section about delegated administration - but... it doesn't work at all. The option is simply not there.

So, the best I have been able to do is to create an administrator account for myself under my clients account - it is not ideal, but it works.

Towards the end of the trial, when it came to selling them the license, I went to increase the count on the one I had already purchased. I did nothing special other than to order them, however, I got the following two emails straight after each other:

So quite frankly, without a good administration panel, I haven't a clue what is going on here, or even if I will get a single penny for signing up my client. This takes me straight to the next point:

I feel that Microsoft are really screwing partners in two ways. Firstly, the new hosted Exchange solution costs less and offers more than any hosted solution from any partner I have seen - I simply do not know why any partner will want to offer their own hosted Exchange going forward.

And next, the partner fees for Hosted Exchange are 6% for the time you are the partner on record and a further 12% for the first year of signing a company up, meaning that if you are a partner who signed someone up during the first year, you can earn a combined 18%/ However, once again, due to the way the partner system works, and the fact that there is a 30 day grace period, at the end of one year, you are much better off simply ditching/letting a license expire and signing your customer up to a brand new 1 year licence. This results in the customer getting a free month and the partner getting another 18% for the next year instead of just 6%.

I just have very mixed feelings over Office 365, I believe that it is probably the best solution out there, but, I really hate the partner experience, or complete lack of one.

I have seen one of the biggest annoyances people have been saying about is lack of partner billing support, I do not see this as a big problem as it is easy to simply not give your client access to the license section and buy the licence yourself, then charge your client at the end of every month direct. I personally have no intention of charging my clients over the price set my Microsoft... but... it would be nice to have the option to do so....

... When I say this, I am not talking about ripping off my customers in any way, simply put, I have always been used to giving my clients a single bill at the end of every month or quarter which covers everything I do - email hosting included. I find it annoying to change my business processes to have to fit in to the way that Microsoft thinks is best.

I feel it would be so much better if they simply offered licences to partners for sale at 18% off the retail price and let us do what we like with our clients. I for one would love this and by far think it is a superior solution.

However, again, I do not see Microsoft doing this any time soon, I think they have slapped together the bare minimum to call it a cloud partner program and are going to leave it there.

I signed another client up on a trial and they had a small issue on the control panel - they decided to call Microsoft for help as the control panel has a support link - this is not customisable to partners and they did it because they thought it was the right thing to do. Upon speaking to Microsoft, they were asked to go in to PowerShell and type a bunch of commands - they were out of their comfort zone and rang me up to do it for them...

I just don't think Microsoft understands the relationships that support companies have with their clients, I would be willing to get a cheaper licence without end user support thrown in... That line must cost a bit to have and the whole point of being a partner is that we want to be the single point of call for our clients.

I just think within the next few years, we are going to see a lot more of Microsoft targeting end users directly and attempting to cut out partners as much as they can.

Going back to this support line - It is the most stupidest use of VOIP and localisation I have seen - No matter what country you ring from, you get forwarded to the same country/target, but, it is only open during working hours in your country. I had an urgent issue in the middle of the night, so, I rang up the Australian help number and it was the exact same IVR/Option, and I went through to the same help line! Why can't they just keep the number open 24x7?

And... If anyone wants any free trial links to Office 365, here are some for you!

Office 365 E3 25 user trial
Office 365 K2 25 user trial
Office 365 P1 10 user trial
Office Professional Plus 25 user trial
Exchange Online Archiving 25 user trial

If you want to purchase Office 365 and do not have a partner, feel free to get in contact with me and I will be happy to set you up - I would still say I am a Microsoft fan and I really hope they improve the partner program, I for one would love to be proved wrong on many of the points I have made here - I just unfortunately do not see it happening. I still feel Office 365 is a brilliant solution... Just not for partners!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

My take on Google Apps Vs Office 365

I am writing this entry as an IT pro who has a few clients on Google Apps now for several months, and has recently switched one client to Office 365. Rather than make this even longer than it is going to be, I will be writing about the partner experience in a separate post.

I believe Google Docs is a nice tool - if you are creating a basic document in it and want to share it with other Google Docs users, or even download and run inside Office, it works well... but... I have had (many) issues with existing complex documents that I have uploaded to it.

On the other side, I have used Microsoft Office Online and believe it is perfect. Documents are preserved entirely.

The above being said, Google Docs offers a few nice features such as surveys/questionnaires that are a really nice touch and I have used several times. I have clocked a lot less time on Office Online, but, from my limited time, I would say that Google also has better sharing/multi user capabilities. I think that Microsoft make up for this with SharePoint, but cannot personally comment.

However, taking in to account the above, the majority of my clients are happy with the way they work - they only want hosted email and the only time they need to write documents is in their Office where they use Dropbox, VPN or network shares to sync things. Whilst Dropbox can get expensive for very large projects/teams, all of these solutions work very well for my clients.

Now, I have never really had a problem with Gmail... until one of my clients did, which cause me to spend many many hours researching it and trying to find a solution.

If you or your company are not big emailers, or are happy with the Gmail web interface, it is a perfectly adequate solution. That being said, IMAP support is just error filled, rubbish, flawed, and annoying.

One of my clients is a recruitment company who pretty much live in Emails - their business depends on it. In addition, they use software for their business that includes an Outlook Add-in and despite following guide upon guide online (and writing one myself), there are just frequent problems.

I do believe a few of these issues I have seen are due to Outlook's IMAP handling, but, some of the issues were also seen during my testing in Thunderbird.

After finally managing to get help from someone in Google, the only solution was to try to go back to pop3, which for sync issues to phone is just a no-go area.

So... I wanted to find an alternate solution and since Office 365 has just launched, I decided to switch to it - and email now works perfectly.

Personally as an administrator and someone who is responsible for support, I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft Exchange. Exchange is a behemoth of a solution! It is quite expensive, requires a lot of planning, seems to touch everything... but... works very well indeed (once up!). I truly believe that there is nothing better for a business than Exchange with Outlook as a client.. One of my favourite words, but the only word that can really describe Exchange and Outlook is "Flawless".

The downside though is whilst the base functionality is there, it really lacks a lot of features that makes Exchange truly great. If you want some of the advanced features, you really need to learn PowerShell. An example is mailbox delegation which requires manually going in to a persons Outlook and setting (or using a PowerShell script). Annoyingly, this is a very easy task to perform in Google Apps.

When Gmail launched, it was sort of revolutionary - Very good anti spam, enormous storage space and labels instead of folders, but a few years on and I would say anti spam in Office 365 is just as good, Storage in Gmail is the same as Office 365 and... Labels are a fad... this was one of the big problems with IMAP Gmail access - deleting emails only removed the label. There are options, but without a central way to set it - it was annoyingly difficult.

Whilst I can not give a full account of Office 365 Vs Google Apps, I can give a fair review of Gmail Vs Hosted Exchange (which I believe is the main component people will be using).

With Microsoft offering the Kiosk worker plan and Hosted Exchange on its own, I think this is the way forward and I will no longer be offering any Google Apps services to my clients for the foreseeable future.

I feel that Microsoft have a truly superior product that simply lacks a good enough control interface and real world scenario/support - I can only hope they improve this soon. Whilst I am writing this in brief here, this is actually a major point, but will cover it in my next part which is about Microsoft abandoning partners on Office 365.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

How to speed up Gmail IMAP in Outlook... No more hangs, not responding or timeouts!

I have now switched 4 clients over to Google Apps for Domains and they have all noticed various speed issues from time to time.

The most common is Google Mail hanging or not responding when doing various operations such as deleting or sending email.

I have tried to contact Google several times and have been getting no where, and searching the internet has come up pretty blank.

Anyway, straight to it... Examples/Pictures are based on Outlook 2010, but, you should be able to adapt to other versions.

The problem is because of both Gmail IMAP being bad, and Oulook's IMAP handling not being as good as it could be.

Firstly, Go to the "Send / Receive" Tab, and "Define Send/Receive Groups"

Next, tick all the boxes and change the send/receive timer down to one minute (or whatever you want).

Then, double click on the account, and whilst you can use any settings you like, I recommend ticking Inbox and choosing "Download complete item including attachments", then unticking all the other boxes.

Lastly and most importantly, put Outlook in to Offline mode.

And we are done!

The reason for this, as far as I can see, is that Outlook attempts to do all operations live on the server, however, Google's IMAP server constantly disconnects, and generally does not play nice with Outlook. This means that every time you try to do an operation, it has to reconnect - but it does this on the UI thread and causes everything to hang.

By forcing Outlook in to Offline Mode, it does every operation locally and instantly on your machine then because we set the account to send/receive whilst in offline mode, everything will still work as expected and because the send/receive happens in the background, nothing freezes!

The only downside is that this countdown to the minute is always running in the background, if you send an email, it will not actually go until the next cycle, so if on the phone or doing something urgent, you may want to click send/receive instead of waiting.

I have been racking my brain out on this, I really hope it helps you and please leave a comment/pass it on if it has!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

How to clear a whiteboard that has dried ink / without scrubbing!

I really have no idea why I am blogging this!

As a geek, I have so many whiteboards around me - they come in so handy!

As many people know, if you leave the ink on for a while, it is possible for it to dry out and require a lot of elbow grease in order remove.

Instead, a little hint - just get out your dry wipe pen and go over the top of the text!

This techniques add another layer of the chemical carrier and allow you to remove the original ink as if you had only just written it!

I went to a client that hadn't used their meeting room in a while and they had this problem - They did not know this technique and I could see the bloke trying to scrub really hard! I hope I didn't come across big headed but this is something that a lot of people just don't realise you can do!

Hope it helps others!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Manually downloading Adobe Master Collection CS5.5 / Bypass Adobe Download Assistant

I don't know why Adobe are forcing everyone to now download using the new "Adobe Download Assistant", however, I hate it.

I have tried it on multiple computers and I have not yet managed to get a full complete download - my results have varied from downloads not even starting to getting stuck on ~20%.

The only reason I think they have used this is to try and "show off" or demonstrate their Air platform - but it really does not give me a lot of faith in it.

After firing up Fiddler and Network Monitor, I discovered that it does nothing more than log you in/set a cookie and establish an HTTP connection and pull the download, therefore, if you want to bypass it, simply:

1. Visit and log in (free registration).
2. Manually download This File

If this fails, instead of step 1, try visiting an alternate download link such as for Photoshop Elements - You do not actually need to download from here, you just need the authentication cookie.

I hope this helps.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Restaurant review : The Cattle Grid in Balham

Today (5th June 2011), I went for a family meal at The Cattle Grid in Balham...

My brother had Wagyu beef which was really a shock to see on the menu and cheaper than the steak he usually gets at Chez Gerard! - I wasn't feeling all that hungry (and have been cutting down again!) so just went for their weekend set menu - which included a steak (unknown cut... Guessing rump), two eggs and chips...

My brother loved his Wagyu, but said he didn't think it was worth the extra price over their other steaks which are brilliant quality - On the other hand, my steak despite the tiny £7.95 price was absolutely delicious - It was cooked just right and was packed with flavour.

Now... My grandma is the real test! She only eats fish out and only likes good/fresh fish. She asked for the tuna salad (My grandad made sure they had a fish item before taking us!)... and... apart from some weird potato(?) straw things, she loved it!

The only let down for me was the desert - (Don't know how we all had room!) - My uncle and grandad each ordered waffles with chocolate ice cream and loved it - with no complaints... However it wasn't so good for me and my brother. We both ordered cheesecake with strawberry ice cream.

The cheesecake had a horrible "tang"/after taste to it... We both thought the same and are not to sure what it was at all - We called over a staff member who apologised and straight away said that he would take it off the bill, he could not of been any nicer and asked if we would like anything else... We both declined... despite the cheesecake not being good, I thought it was one of the best Ice Creams I have had in a long while.

... The inner sceptic in me wonders if he knew it was past the date or if something was wrong as he was too quick to take it off the bill, however based on how excellent everything else was, I really hope he was just offering great service.

I have to say, despite the cheesecake, I think I may have a new favourite restaurant! Now, when I visit my grandparents, it will be a very hard choice between this and Clapham Bodeans.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Things that annoyed me, week ending 15th May 2011

Super Injunctions

Well I would tell you if I could!

Ok, I can! Super Injunctions are a subject that I just can not understand and whilst I do not have a law qualification, I believe from everything I do know that they are incompatible with UK law.

The fact is, under UK law, you need to knowingly commit a crime, a good write up is here - this was the big basis of the trial I sat whilst on Jury Service, the man who was accused admitted to doing the crime but not knowing what he was actually doing - an actual very interesting subject.

Now, I just want to say, how stupid is it, and how can anyone be in contempt of court for saying something that they have no way of checking is actually under an injunction?

People can ask genuine questions to friends such as "Have you heard xxx is with yyy?" and suddenly, they are a criminal in contempt of a court order!

I just think the whole thing is ludicrous - and whilst I do believe everyone deserves privacy, I also think that if they cheat behind the backs of their family, they deserve what they get - we are meant to have free speech and I will truly loose what little faith I have left in this country if people start getting "nicked" for speaking freely.

Probably my hero of the whole situation [this article is written after the week!] is John Hemming who is the official Super Injunction Buster, who uses parlimentary privilege to effectively be above the law! Video 1, Video 2.

Things that annoyed me, week ending 8th May 2011

I originally started this blog as a place to write interesting things and also... an outlet of anger - somewhere to write my rants and reflect on them in years time and laugh!

It didn't exactly turn out the way I planned, but, I decided to start a weekly post that I was going to originally call "Things that pi$$ed me off this week", but instead, I am calling it "Things that annoyed me".

Starting a few weeks back in a week when I took my brother down to Weston-Super-Mare for a performance in a show - overall it was really good... but...

Petrol Stations

I wanted to fill up before the long journey (My longest drive!), there was a long queue for paying, so I thought I would save some time and use the "Pay at pump" option. I stick in the card (It was either my Amex or Mastercard) and it flashes "Card not accepted for pay at pump, please pay at Kiosk", and then all throughout filling up, it kept flashing on the screen "You can save a lot of time when you next need to fill up, just select Pay at Pump"

Charity Shops & Minimum credit card fees

A little thing I do which I just can't help myself... If I go to a place I haven't been before, I always pop in to the local charity shop - I don't know what it is, but almost every other one seems to have Westie statues!

I am completely addicted to Westies and buy them when ever I see them! So... I see that the Heart Foundation in Weston-Super-Mare had about 6 or 7 statues and... I bought the lot!

Now, I hardly ever carry cash with me - I pay for nearly everything on card and I did that here - no problems, but then, just after I finished paying, the woman says that there is another statue around the back if I wanted it... It looked alright and I said "sure!"

After a nice talk, she put the statue through the till and it cost £3.50, I wanted to pay on the card and she said that they only take credit cards for over £5.

I did not have the money and there was nothing else I wanted so I asked her why they have that policy and she just said that it is because they charge too much.

I don't know if anyone is aware but, the real fees are anything from a maximum of around 4% down to around 1%, some charge a transaction fee on top of between 5p-30p, others don't.... Now, a chain as big as The British Heart Foundation, especially being a charity probably pay the minimum, Baring this in mind, and the fact I wanted the statue, I offered to pay 50p which should of more than covered their costs (if they only pay a percentage, it makes no difference how many transactions anyway!).

The lady said she did not want to do this as she couldn't accept it. I really did not fancy having an argument over something so small, but, it is annoying!

To add to this, whilst I was going out, I said in a jokey way "Can I have a refund for what I bought, and then buy them all together"... and... the lady said "YES"! Now, to anyone who doesn't know - credit card refunds can cost just as much as the initial fees - I said it was ok and I left!

By far, they are not the only ones who do it - If you look around there are so many high street chains that have a minimum transaction limit, and, if you did not know, this is not actually allowed in the merchant terms and conditions that they have to agree with (many cards also forbid small order extras). I am in no way going to complain about a charity shop, but, minimum transaction amounts/fees are one thing that has been annoying me for years!

My brother

Practically all the way back from Weston-Super-Mare, he kept asking "If I had heard?" and singing "Bird is the word"

And, that's it! This series isn't going to be a huge rant, it is just a bit of fun for me to get things off my chest... I am no good at keeping a diary as things happen, so I hope this will be a record that will be around for a long while!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Getting Tamper Data to work in Firefox 4

If you are having problems with Tamper Data working in Firefox 4, it is a simple problem that you will kick yourself over!

Simply press "Alt" once to bring up the menu bar, then go to the "Tools" menu and you should see "Tamper Data" listed.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

"Failed to generate a user instance of SQL Server due to a failure in starting the process for the user instance. The connection will be closed."

After my fun with trying to get VS, SQL and Phone Tools all working together, I had the following error trying to mount databases:

"Failed to generate a user instance of SQL Server due to a failure in starting the process for the user instance. The connection will be closed."

If you get that error message, the solution that worked for me was to clear the SQL Express user instance data store, located at:

%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server Data\SQLEXPRESS
(or full path)

C:\Users\\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server Data\SQLEXPRESS

Hope this helps someone!

Visual Studio 2010, SQL 2008 R2, Windows Phone Tools and MVC 3 Install order

One of the blog posts I made which received a lot of hits was the Visual Studio 2008 install order. So, after having a few problems myself with Visual Studio 2010 and management studio, I have made a new guide to help people.

I have been having so many problems with SQL 2008 R2 Management Studio and have spent a while reinstalling from scratch. I am not 100% sure that this is the most efficient, but I can confirm it makes everything work well, which is the important thing!

1. Install Windows 7
2. Install Windows 7 SP1
3. Install Visual Studio 2010 - Custom install and remove SQL 2008 Express
*4. Install SQL 2008 R2 Express - Do not choose the advanced services edition unless you need the extra components. I believe it was the BI Suite which caused some of my issues.
5 a. (Extra if you wish) - Download and install the Windows Phone Developer Tools.
5 b. (Extra) Download Windows Phone Tools Update.
5 c. (Extra) Download Windows Phone Tools fix.
*6. Download Visual Studio 2010 SP1
*7. Download MVC 3 Tools

Please note, for steps with a *, you can use the Microsoft Web Platform Installer rather than hunting around for additional downloads!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Recommend against Intel Core i7-2600k internal graphics

After about a month of searching the internet and chats direct with Intel, I have come to the conclusion that the 2600k internal graphics (Intel HD 3000) are flawed and I personally through my company will not be using this configuration and I recommend others do the same.

Recently, I have purchased a few systems with a combination of H67 boards and I3-2120/i7-2600k processors.

All the 2120's have been completely flawless, however I wish I could say the same with the 2600k systems.

On the boards I have tested it on (Mainly Asrock H67DE3, but also a few others), I have seen random hangs and crashes (Started thread on Intel Forums), the default drivers from manufacturer and Intel direct fail, with some making the machine pretty unusable.

For all my clients with I7-2600k systems, I have purchased discrete graphics cards and this has beaten the problem.

I am still not 100% sure if it is a(nother) chipset/board issue or simply a driver issue, but my experience tells me that this is most likely down to drivers.

Looking on the Intel Support forums and just searching around trying to beat this problem has shown me that many other people are having similar issues. As for why it is not more mainstream/reported elsewhere, my guess is simply that as the I7-2600k is a high end chip, the vast majority of people with it are using p67/other boards along with discrete graphics cards.

The Intel HD Graphics 3000 are powerful (when working) and an equivalent discrete card costs in the region of £40-£50, along with the additional power draw (around 15w idle - 60w+ peak), meaning that the processor is very good value for people wanting raw horsepower but are not big gamers.

As for buying advice, for my clients I am switching to the I7-2600 (non K) and am still using the H67 boards with discrete graphics since the reason for getting the K variant was the 3000 instead of 2000 graphics as overclocking is not high on the priority list.... If you have people wanting to overclock, the 2600k + p67 + discrete graphics is safe.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

How to install any version of Windows from a Microsoft ISO (Technet/MSDN subscribers).

Microsoft regularly release software, especially Operating Systems to Partners and MSDN/Technet subscribers in ISO format.

If you have downloaded an ISO of Windows and want the OS selection screen instead of a different ISO for each edition (This is most useful for Windows Server ISOs) simply open up the ISO file in a tool that can edit them* and delete the \sources\ei.cfg file.

This new disk will now be able to install Any version of Windows!

Hope this helps you.

*Surprisingly there are not too many that can - I use Power ISO, feel free to recommend others

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Facebook automatic like/repost spam.

ARGH... This is the third time it has happened now to me, and to anyone else - WATCH OUT!

Basically, one of my friends posted this article...

Despite the slightly gruesome nature, I was really interested in what it was so I clicked on it and it took me to the following page:

Now, the first thing I did was click play. The screen flashed which was a little weird and the video started. Everything was good... However, I could swear that the video is fake/a set up and not genuine though (thankfully!).

Anyway, I went back to Facebook to write that and then I noticed I was writing it on my own entry! It had posted a link (the same as my friend's one) on my wall.

I immediately deleted it and after I took a look at the site again, I noticed it wasn't You Tube, it was "Fou Tube" and a fake domain of "".

It looks like the way it is achieved is simply by a bunch of Facebook Like buttons on an insivible/underlayed DIV...

I really hope Facebook do something as this is really annoying and I see this as a real growing trend at the moment.

(FYI to anyone who may be able to do anything - the link from the like post is and the actual domain/where it forwards to is )

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dropbox Chat! - Chat through Dropbox (Or any shared folder).

I wanted a new learning project and after leaving a few notes for friends in shared Dropbox folders, I came up with an idea for a new project!

Drop Box Chat!

This is a very small program - It simply loads up an XML file called "chat.xml" in its current directory (or creates one if it doesn't already exist), and then reloads the file every time it changes.

Put your name in the first box, message in the second and click send!

It does work fine at the moment, although I am sure there are a few bugs, and there is much more for me to do (delete, make the whole thing look nice etc.)

That being said, I am happy with what I came up with considering the time spent.

Please note - this is NOT a real time chat program and it works by saving the chat.xml file and syncing it via drop box. It is simply an alternative to writing notes everywhere. If you use it a lot or at the same time as someone else, there will most likely be sync issues/a conflict. Simply reload the application.

This program should work over any sort of shared folder and the only requirements are .Net Framework 4 (although, I can probably recompile for a lesser version).

Download link (V
Download link (V - Better formatting, Auto Expand/scrolls to bottom.
Download link (V - Message Box now auto clears.
Download link (V - Enter for send and a few other tweaks.

Please leave feedback if you like!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Error 0x80070643 installing ASP.NET MVC 3 / MVC 3 setup fails

Do you get this message?

Basically from what I can tell, this update is basically a package of numerous KB updates and silently installs it.

Unfortunately, it does not display any errors that the individual installs may return.

After a bit of digging, I found the log file and this line:

Returning IDOK. INSTALLMESSAGE_ERROR [Error 1706.An installation package for the product Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate - ENU cannot be found. Try the installation again using a valid copy of the installation package 'vs_setup.msi'.]

Why it doesn't report this, I do not know - however, all you need to do is plop in the disk, or mount the ISO and it should clear this error.


I thought it was fixed, however, this was just one error and whilst that got over one hurdle, the bigger install still failed.

After running the update once, it extracts all the individual components to a folder on your hard drive - for me, this was c:\temp\ext47334 - I was able to run every KB on its own, apart from `aspnetwebpages.msi`

This keeps failing with:

"Error 1721. There is a problem with this Windows Installer package. A program required for this install to complete could not be run. Contact your support personnel or package vendor. Action: WebConfigCA_Remove, location: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft ASP.NET\ASP.NET Web Pages\v1.0\WebConfig\WebConfigCA.exe, command: -u "

I have tried numerous solutions - manually launching that command, removing it from add/remove programs (which fails with another error), deleting the folder along with many others - but they all fail.

I have no idea what is wrong here at the moment but will update once it is sorted.

Update: As I thought this is 100% related to the "Microsoft ASP.NET Web Pages" Component.

It is now Solved! Thanks to Matt Garvenn on the ASP.Net Forums, it is down to the Visual Studio SP1 update placing trailing backslashes in two registry keys.

Steps to workaround are:

1. Remove the trailing backslash from the following registry keys:



2. Uninstalled the old version of "Microsoft ASP.NET Web Pages".

3. Add the trailing backslash back to those keys.

4. Install MVC 3.

... I see from analytics that I get a good few visitors now but people rarely seem to leave comments - if this helps and you have a few seconds, please leave a message! (no sign up needed)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Response to Experts Exchange blog post.

This is in response to this blog post made at Experts Exchange.

Whilst I agree on a few of the points you have made, as a user and a promoter of various Stack Exchange websites, I feel like I have to speak out on a few of the incorrect statements you have made, especially reading the negative tone they were made in.

I am an internet user since the early days, and, I honestly liked you! As an IT Pro, when there were certain problems, you usually came up first - with a good answer (I agree, search is good), and you saved my a$$ a few times.

But, in this modern world of questions and answers, YOU SUCK worse than Yahoo answers! I am sorry, I just had to say it.

For years, if I had a problem and you were the first result on Google, I always without hesitation skipped over you as you hid the useful answer. Like many people now, I know the stupid trick of just scrolling to the bottom to view the answers, but why should I have to! In the years that you forcefully hid your answers, I learnt to live without you.

For the past year or so, Stack Overflow and the original trilogy of sites (Super User and Server Fault) are coming higher in Google, regularly hitting the number one spot, and unlike you, I can quickly read the answer, search and navigate the site without having to log in... more of that a bit later.

Now, for my response to your Q & A that almost wasn't.

Q: What makes Experts Exchange different from other Q&A sites on the Internet?

A. Most of our nearly 3 million solutions revolve around specific technology questions, and the majority of those have a sense of urgency to them, People don't like to ask questions; we're searchers by nature. So when a user arrives at the point where they have to ask, they want to know they can trust the solution.

One of the big things that makes Experts Exchange unique is a patented system that requires askers to select their best answer. Most Q&A sites (StackExchange included) let the community vote for the best answer, when really the person whose opinion matters most is the one who asked the question.

I had a question that I asked earlier tonight, I got a response in TWO minutes, and it has been up voted by the community 5 times. I see this as a sign of trust in what was written and will shortly be accepting the answer.

Stack Exchange question askers are the only people who can accept an answer, the community can vote on both questions and answers to show the quality of the content. Your website automatically accepts answers of a certain age whether correct or wrong.

I would hate to be someone who goes through the annoying process of signing up in order to view an answer, only to discover it is incorrect.

You proudly state that you have nearly 3,000,000 questions in the 15 years you have been going. Stack Overflow has 1,315,643 in under 3 years.

There is more that I can say, but this whole post started because I just wanted to make two little comments on your blog, following what you wrote:

So what about you, EE lovers (and haters)? What else do you want to know about EE?

I thought, ok, I will register... However, I couldn't because I need to give a bloody credit card number just to leave a comment on your blog! ... and once I started writing, I couldn't stop myself.

I do not care in the slightest about "gamification" which I can't tell if you are for or against. you seem to bitch about the Stack Exchange community voting, whilst stating how good this system is and the fact you do it. Stack Exchange has just taken it a step further and made it a core part of the site.

I am a happy Stack Exchange user. To date, I have answered a few thousand questions and I hope to answer many thousand more. I do not have a lot of spare time and have been contributing less in recent months, however the reason I freely give away my knowledge is the enjoyment I get knowing that I am helping someone with a genuine problem, who without me, may not get a solution. I would hate thinking that I am only helping someone simply because they have money.

I realise I am being hypocritical here as I own a IT consulting company, and to be honest, I don't have an answer to this (Maybe I should start a question!), but compared to Experts Exchange (and a few other question and answer sites I have visited), Stack Exchange just feels right.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Lower age discrimination

I thought age discrimination was treating anyone different based purely, and only on their age. I am sympathetic and understand the arguments for upper age discrimination, however, when you look across the internet, there is practically nothing about lower age discrimination.

If you search through Google for "Ageism" or "Age Discrimination", every site has pictures of older people. After speed reading through many of the sites, all I could find is this one line " though it can also related to young professionals, teens and even children" on about equal opportunities.

As far as I am concerned, my understanding of discrimination is that it is just wrong for anything or anyone to treat someone different based on a fact that they can not change about themselves. This includes (but not limited to) age, sex, race.

I would rather not get in to race/crime, but instead just something even higher, sex - according to the 2008 crime statistics, men are almost twenty times more likely to commit crimes than women. I know this isn't the best example as some places (gyms etc.) do have rules at certain times - however I would argue that whilst generally accepted by the masses, this is just as wrong.

The reason for writing this is because of the local pub near where I live (and loads of others) have a rule of "no under 21s" and I just don't see why that is allowed, or why it is just accepted by everyone.

If a few 18-21 year olds act stupid, have bad behaviour or generally just get drunk - ban/kick them out by all means! However, the fact that they just and only refuse to serve someone based on their age, as far as I am concerned is pure age discrimination and I have no idea why it is allowed or just accepted by everyone.

Not all under 21s act bad and on top of this, whilst many supermarkets are eating in to the pub industries profits, I would have thought that the pubs would want anyone willing to be a patron!

Anyway, I have been meaning to write this for a while, my rant (for this week) is over!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Computer chip fire...

In all the computers I have built/repaired, I have never seen this...

A client came to me with a P4 machine that had failed after many years, they wanted it fixed up as cheap as possible. I could not find a direct replacement as it takes DDR, but the closest was a DDR2 motherboard, so I purchased this and new memory, then replaced parts over.

I turned the machine on and the fans started, along with a motherboard LED and there was also an "electric smoke" type smell, I thought nothing of this as the machine has not been used in a while and you sometimes get this sort of smell...

After about 15 seconds, there was nothing on the screen, then I noticed.... It wasn't an LED on the motherboard, it was a chip....

I have never seen this before and am rather worried that no fuse tripped and this just went on...

No idea what on earth caused it. I diagnosed that the old motherboard was faulty, but I am wondering if this motherboard was a DOA (Dead on Arrival) faulty unit or if something else is to blame.

... Not really sure what to do next, left an awkward message on the clients answer phone... and hoping to speak to him later tonight or tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Bankers Bonuses, good or bad?

For the past few years, every once in a while, the subject of bankers pay comes up and it always gets negative views by everyone (which is fully understandable). There are those (idiotic) people who just go "NO NO NO" without looking at the facts. I am really mixed about it - but I am much more for it than against.

(simplistic view) I think it is so stupid that we live in a world where a company/bank can fail simply because a few people can say they think it will, they quickly sell, so everyone else does. But, at the end we do, and it is a fact we have to live with.

Computers have changed banking forever, traders are able to trade millions at a time by pressing a few buttons. Banks will never be like the old days.... So we have to stop thinking like that.

As far as I am concerned, the argument against is simply that it is far too much and in the majority of cases where a bail-out is concerned, it is public money.

My only real gripe is not that it is public money (If the banks don't spend it, I am sure the government will find another way to waste it!), but that it is just so much, other than that, I really think it is fair, and now I will say why!

Commission (in most industries) is a good way to make things happen, it rewards success and only success. If you were to organise a deal from scratch which would of never happened without you and made your company a million, would you be happy getting absolutely nothing?

The answer to the above question may be yes if you were a good worker, but there would be very little motivation to go out of your way and make another (or better) deal.

Without a banker, a deal will never happen, so, every bank wants bankers and how do you get them - offer money/commission, and as they only get the big money on successful deals, they don't mind hiring them!

So, the argument of they are having public money does not really wash with me as if it wasn't for them, the bank wouldn't have this additional money in the first place.

I think that by offering the bonuses, it is actually much better for the public as it means we will get paid back the government investment quicker and most importantly, we also get a lot more tax from the bonuses than we would in corporation tax alone which is what would happen if the banks did not pay the bonuses.

If the publicly owned banks were not allowed to give bonuses, the bankers would simply move to one of the many other banks where they were not under this restriction.

I hope I have said fairly the argument. At the end of the day, I see the only way that we can ever limit it, is by an all out restriction/limit on bonuses, however, this could mean that many leave the country and work where these restrictions do not exist... This in turn could open up more jobs, but quite frankly, I am not sure it would/could work and we may just be best off letting it go.

Until I am persuaded of a better solution, I am for the bonuses.