Friday, November 16, 2007

TechEd done for the year

Well, after 2 days good efforts my attempt to track things died! An expression of how tiring TechEd can be to body, sould and brain (if you try to everything). So how to describe it all...
* wednesday UK drinks were at the same venue as 2006, but the tapas were not so good. But there was a rubik's cube competition. Not easy under red lights!
* don't go home at the weekend it's too much
* I found out that I a the last person in Europe to have attended all Tech*Eds. Sadly Leif (the other) was ill this year and missed it
* by wednesday of week 2 the local villains had the conference sussed, and were targeting anyone displaying teched materials. Despite warnings some delegates wer still leaving badges round their necks on the tube
* 2 weeks typing one note mobile on the SPV M3100 is enough! Bye!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Down to earth with a bump

Called home again to find the police in the process of removing a stolen car dumped blocking our drive an hour or so earlier. As we were talking the police left without even speaking to my wife and confirming they'd checked the outbuildings for the villian.

Incensed I called the police sation (from Spain!) and had a (polite) go. They could find the incident even though they had been in pursuit. Wrong county...

I prevailed on them to contact mu wife quickly and confirm whether the search had been done. Called the neighbours who let their dog investigate! The latter was more re-assuring.

Then whilst checking the parlous state of my phone's battery life (and fixing it - thanks APC!) I was suddenly faced with half a dozen drunken footie fans. Rangers playing Barca tomorrow I think. "Donde est La Ramblas?" (i later realised), "er sorry?" "where's the Rambla?". So, reeling from the alcohol output a few inches away I guided him and his mates.

So a great day fizzled out...

Day 2

Unusually for me abroad I slept quite well and did not feek it wa too ealy getting up. Nice easy journey in pleasant weather to the conference centre and onto commnet to get the slide decks for the next few days. Not so good - only 1 speaker out of 60 I looked at has posted any ppt. The abstracts are good, but a 62 slide deck for a 75 minute presentation is a bad sign, 12 good. I've lost that discriminating factor.

Went to Simon's presentation first (On the user in software design). Expectations exceeded with great content, imaginative slides and a good story. Good start to the day then.

Back to the exhibition and showed off my new APC "ups" for my phone (basically a compact battery with usb in and out that gives me at least 2 charges if not 4 whilst away from the mains. Too late for this year but they might for next! Also discussed the wifi hotspot detecting t-shirt. They'd sell that!

Off to do feedback for simon's session and a <g> at the end of the 'other comments' field crashed the sytem proudly reported to the commnet helpdesk and Cheesey came homself to repro (it did!).

Also hooked up MSDN's UI redesign project wtith simon - they need his help!

Bumped into Catherine and chatted about the improvements this year (and some niggles) felt bad about being a bit negative and emailed an apology later.

Then a Mobile SQL app session that inspires me to my CD database on my phone. Quickly followed by a sntched lunch and Mr Blatt's excellent software sucks talk.

A quick chat with Rafal about Bletchley Park, the Collossus project ( And, and the plan to challenge the world to beat Collossus to the decrypt. He agreed to publicise it on friday at the cryptography talk (if I remind him thursday!)
His next gen windows networking talk was, as always, good.

Saw some Hawai'ian shirts in the exhibition - good K Y's ones it turned out. BT manager with a hawai'ian shirt friday experience in charge!

More Sql offline improving my determination (especially for offline updates - now I have a reason for VS2008).
Then some crummy Sharepoint HOL (habds on labs).

Nearly an hour on the phone home with my wife to sort out my failed backups and then off to town. Chose metro to get straight to the centre, grab dinner, and then hotel

A great meal again at Tonorio on Passeig de Gracia.

Day done...

Monday, November 05, 2007

TechEd Day 1

So, back in Barcelona for another teched!

Arrived late last night to a warm city and despite the 30mins delay on departure an on-schedule landing. Quickly out (5th bag!) and caught the last Microsoft ot Placa Catalunya. Quick tube trip and 250yd walk to the hotel and ahhhh. Rest!

An easy morning and got on Commnet as usual (well done Cheesy and co) to find most of my chosen sessions do not have ppt slides yet :-(. For me the slides give a great heads up on true content and the fewer the better. So my ability to discriminate has been taken away. See how it goes.

Lunch upstairs (less busy and better views) with a brit now in Redmond in the architecture world. Simon's speaking tomorrow and being impressed i'll try to catch it. We conversed widely on relocation, UK/US differences, redundancies, Hawai'i, Vancouver, the sub-prime problem, the penalties of choice (who needs a choice of 80 olives?) and much more.

So to the keynote. A return (in part) to the 1994 buzz of Channel 4's Big Breakfast with a VJ and 2 graffiti artists doing their thing and gently fillong the hall with the odour of spray can paint (sweet, acidic (like acid drops) yet almost OK).
The as expected "this is were we are with dev tools" and a couple of punky demos geared to World of Warcraft. A lonf queue out and then a couple of sessions on sql express and office business apps. Good but not inspiring - microsoft is so big a company these dyas that everything seems to have a party line and the presentations suffer methinks.

After the exhibtion meet and greet with booze (not for me - water!), a few nibbles and a wander rounf. Frenzied queues a couple of times as GASP free gifts were handed out. People queue and grab without evaluating - just how many free baseball hats do you need? I quite like waiting, having a look, and then handing back- the looks you get! Looked at a good book for mobile sql on my phonr - I must put my CD db onto the phone so I know what I've got when out of the house- but did not buy now as my bag was too full and heavy already. Will return Wed for it.

Off back to hotel by tram/metro. At the metro I fell foul of the BCN "sometimes left, sometimes right" ticket barrier, and laughed about it with and then fell in with a couple of US nurses on hols; Donna and Ivana (Czech). Donna spotted my Hawai'ian Honu earring and we discussed holidays and so on. I missed my stop and as we parted I gave them my card to email about what to do in the UK on hols.

Wandered back to the hotel with sense of direction absolutely perfect looking out for the gangs of villains Microsoft warned us of. None tonight. Some water from these small supermarkets that are here on street corners late at night in Barcelona and done.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Whilst on pubs...

Isn't the smoking ban great? Since it came in my wife and I have eaten out more than in the previous 6 months it seems. Goodbye to all those "it looks nice but I bet it's smoky, let's go home" decisions.

I thought I found heaven!

I'm away training and stopped in a smart Oxfordshire town between my course and my small village pub B&B. Town's only "organic gastropub". Magnificent!

No. Sadly both chefs are sick. So say goodbye to good food and a pint! Well good food anyway.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Concert etiquette

Odd things concerts.. It's rare (with the bands I see!) to have any amount of seating. Still at the smarter venues that are more like concert halls there is normally something in the upper tier. But often tickets are not sold as seated or standing - you get what you are given.

So, is it fair for me to just sit down on an empty seat or not (after all, ickets are all the same price)? How many seated ticket holders will be downstairs and bopping away whilst I yearn for seating (combination of bad back, age, and 5 gigs in one week). So I'll try tonight and see what happens!

That pre concert thing

I'm currently mid tour with Marillion which means I am in wolverhampton for the late afternoon and evening. Trouble is - what does one do between close of shops and the gig. Normally a meal or a beer is a good thing but the £ and the calories build up :-) so what to do? Bars are still smoky (but next time!!!), no art galeries or museums appear to be open, no library in evidence so......

This time i've ended up on a bench in the centre of town getting strange looks and queries from the teen and pre-teen wannebe gangs whilst I check email, stare into the distance thinking about the current technical problem, or writing this blog. Better go, they might want to nick my phone (but at least with Exchange Mobile Admin I can kill it in 10 seconds!)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hello again...

A quick word from the wise. Backup. Backup. Backup.

These days with 500GB external drives there's simply no excuse.

Ask my parents' neighbour - hard disk crash many year of accounting, email, letters gone. Forever. Never coming back.

Too late now...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


SUPRA-SPINATUS TENDINITIS doesnt half hurt!! Been out of action for a few weeks waiting for this to clear up.

So that kept me to essential duties for awhile. Started my physio today and hopefully things will clear up properly within a few days.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

Marillion convention

(in a strong Geordie accent) Day 1!

An incredible journey down, M11, M25, M2 - starting at 8 and NO holdups at all. Our friend hadn't really planned and was late and needed a taxi to get to the Eurotunnel terminal but...

More later.:

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Are you a Queen or Scissor Sisters fan

Then you really ought to listen to this

PS that power cut

They cancelled it, but neglected to tell anyone, so for the second time the freezer was moved overnight to -24C, the fish tanks covered in blankets; and all for no purpose.

Take three on 8th February

just what you need after a long day!

I was in Coventry today for a series of technical seminars. Part of the Access User Group benefits; it came with a good lunch, good refreshments, interesting talks on SQL upsizing and programming; a demo of Office Live for Access Developers (the consensus seemed to be that without relational integrity its not something wed really want to develop against!) and a rather ponderous session on Microsoft Expression that seemed to get stuck on CSS which is NOT my bag (go here for a more enlightening presentation).

So then, just as were leaving reception asked are you going on the A46?, “I was my considered reply. Turns out the report of a bridge collapse was a tad exaggerated (a tad being slightly smaller than a gnats whisker, but larger than the number somewhere between nought and zero) and it was a lump of concrete falling instead. Made for an exciting journey home I thought, so I just drove off in the opposite direction for a couple of miles, set the SatNav to shortest route and lo and behold got home in normal time, and taking the route we always used to before the A14 was built. Husbands Bosworth my favourite village name on the way its long been our term for the chair in a ladies clothing establishment where the husband can ease his weary legs and read a magazine whilst his better half peruses the latest bargains”…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Shame I found a damaged floor board this afternoon.  Walking across the office, where I’ve walked so often, and CRUNCH.  The floorboard gave way by about ½ an inch.  Only moved in a week ago time for repairs already.

At least the decision to put the (really heavy) desk feet on a wider piece of wood to spread the weight looks like a more sensible decision!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's below zero

It's blowing cold and hard.

There are still people in East Anglia without power since last Thursday's storm.

So guess what - we've a SCHEDULED power cut of 8 hours...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Windy eh?

Been working in my new offices which are located in the top half of a barn immediately under the roof timbers.  As its been a bit breezy (up to 80mph winds if the weather people are to be believed) and I’ve close to needing ear defenders its so noisy!! Yet at least theres been no wind leaks or rain leaks in the roof phew!

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's good to talk

Someone once said in an advert!

Tonight I got a call from a school friend (school now being over 25 years ago!).  Hes been in the States continuously for nearly 7 years and its probably a little longer since we last met.  However for some reason we dont get to speak at some length, eyety when we do we end up talking (as we did tonight) for ages.  Its really weird in way how is it that with some friends you can just pick up where you left off months ago, and talk for hours (literally) but yet not speak again for a few montsh again.

The time zone difference does not justify it, nor the remove (in time) from your days at school.  I dont get it, but I do enjoy it; and I do find it strange (if not vaguely amusing) that at times we do earnestly promise to email or call for a few sentences; but however hard we try we end up not managing it.  I wish we could.

But it was great to talk to him again, and I look forward to the next time!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Web sign on forms

Damn web designers.  If I had a £1 for every web site that does NOT have the login button the next active item on the web page after the password I'd be a very rich man.

It's infuriating that you go to a web page, enter userid (or maybe have it remembered), tab, enter your password, tab, enter.  It seems these days 9 times out of 10 I am now sitting on a "forgotten password" link.

Makes me mad….

Just how much...

Does it cost UK PLC (or UK trading as…) to do it's government paperwork????

I'm a sole trader.  I am registered for VAT.  Yet the paperwork I have to go through to do tax returns, VAT returns and Intrastat returns is daft.  I don't trade in Europe - yet every quarter HMC&R send me a form to fill in on how much I have traded in Europe; the form says if you don't you do not need to send the form back, yet every quarter they send it, every quarter I have to open it, check the rules have not changed and then bin/file it.

When it comes to the tax return there are about 10 different boxes into which I have to put expenditure I have incurred as part of the business.  In the end they all get added up and are deductible. Why can I not have just 1 box?  Having to trawl through a year's accounts and identify telephony against car against something else takes far too long and is not productive.  It does not change the tax I pay so WHY????

And while I'm on the subject.  Why can I not set all my expenditure against tax?  As a sole trader if I spend £1000 on something to further my business why should I only be able to set aside £250 against this year's income for tax, and next year £187.  I've still not got that £1000.  The fact is has an asset value is of no intrinsic value to me as I cannot sell my business as it is me.


Well,  I guess for me it's the quieter time, just mulling over that causes things to snap into focus at 1am,

The problem I'd been working on was a new area for me - WebDAV to inject appointments into calendars in Exchange 2003 server.  The problem was that the virtual server in the IIS (internet information server on the Windows/Exchange server) has to be configured in a particular way to allow Outlook Web Access to work (over HTTPS and not HTTP).

But OWA (and therefore the WebDAV programming to the exchange folder structure) will not work if you do not address the server with the URL that the certificate has been used for. This means you need to program to the URL of OWA.DOMAIN.CO.UK or whatever.  However internal network resolution will point that to your ISA box so that users can access OWA inside and outside the network with the same URL.

Inspiration - create a duplicate virtual directory with a different name and use different authentication methods (HTTP only) and therefore you can use the IP direct and not the URL, and bypass all this crud.  A quick note to myself at 1am (that's why I keep a pen with a torch in it by the bed), and within 30 minutes the next morning job done.  Hurrah.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why does

Inspiration always strike at 1 am? !

Monday, January 08, 2007


A good weekend for technology!

In preparation for some office relocation work I needed a wireless bridge, ISA Server 2006 working, a new wireless Access Point (different hardware) to work on the existing wireless setup; and OWA/OMA/ActiveSync working from the outside world to the office.

For once a set of projects (whist they had their ups and downs) all completed within the timescale I set myself.  And what's more a client problem cropped up during the work and I've been able to cal them today to fix that too.

Good result, even if it did finish at 2am this morning!!!

Friday, January 05, 2007

and whilst i'm recommending things...

Garmin SatNav. Bought a Street Pilot i3 last year. The maps have got old now (I constantly drive through a few fields it seems!).

Well register it, check for updates, and I'm getting a version 7 to 9 upgrade DVD in the post, free of charge. Now that's what I call good!

Hats off to Magilite Torches

I keep a small Maglite torch on my key ring and a couple of weeks ago it came mostly unscrewed, and finally fell apart as I was getting out of the car one evening, in the dark. So I lost the spring that holds the battery in, along with the spare bulb. %$^$£ I thought.

On the off chance I emailed via Maglite's web site, who forwarded my email to the UK distributor, who sent me a spring, gratis, in the post within a few days.

Now that's the kind of service I like!

Freeview HD recorders

Some time ago I blogged about a daft store's web policy, and then the rubbish Sony Centre sales and Sony support.

Well a few days later I bought a (brand currently unknown to me) Humax twin timer HD Freeview box. I love it. It records 2 channels concurrently, and if it can will let me watch a third. It's quiet, and does not intrude; it's even quieter in standby. And fast forwarding is a dream.

It has a few minor issues - a EPG of more than 7 days would be nice; delete at end of playback option would be good; and coming soon they say - a record series option.

However all in it's a great little unit, and I can say no better than we got one for my parents (at least that makes remote technical support easier if I am looking at the same screens!)

Lucky or unlucky?

This week's had a few, ahem, interesting moments.  As I've said I'm currently working on an Exchange 5.5. to 2003 migration, and that these are always interesting.
Well, to date, my experience of Microsoft's Active Directory Connector wizard (ADC) has been really good - it sets up the right connections, ensures continuity for users, and a peaceful time for IT.  Well not on this project.  Firstly it decided to synchronise to it's own server instead of the other server in the 5.5 world (the server names the client had chosen were very similar and a visual inspection failed to spot the wrong name!); and then it decided that we only need to do a 1-way update between a few of the sites. 
The latter problem did not show up until users from those sites were migrated (some 2 weeks after the ADC was set up - so 'apparently' after running OK over the Christmas period).  When these did show up, they were insidious faults, without obvious errors in the server logs, and complicated by a great bunch of errors on one of the old servers that appeared to be mis-deliveries but were in fact 'mailbox full' symptoms.
So to the question - was I lucky in the past in that the ADC did the right things and just worked (so that I had not had to learn a load of investigative skills), or unlucky in that I never had to learn those skills before?
Thanks Microsoft!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Oh, did you see Torchwood finish?

Right at the end, the hand in the jar that activated just before the Tardis sound when Caption Jack disappeared.

What say its Doctor Whos right hand that was cut off in the sword fight at the end of the Christmas 2005 special (when David Tennant who was still regenerating, and was thus able to regenerate the missing hand)?

Gets my vote, off to the net to see if anyone else thinks so  Ah, I see from Wiki that it was in last Octobers Radio Times (or rad-ee-ot-im-eees as its known in my family its the Latin pronunciation!)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

And now...

Having sent in some test emails to the clients new server I think I understand whats going on!

So to todays paper and then bed!

And so back to work!

Although Id been researching over the last couple of days, today was the first day back at the coalface after new year; and a long educational day it was!

Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 is always entertaining the environments are so old, those responsible long gone, and the documentation modest or non-existent and this is no exception.

So whilst the early work went well (despite a third partys installation of Exchange 2003 onto the network 2 years ago without telling the client!), but later on mailbox moves did not play so well.  The test mailboxes moved fine, but the first real world one could no longer receive public email.    Doing the usual check through the logs thing brought up a host of errors on the old server.  But an hour or sos work determined that these were actually nothing to do with it, but other errors latent on the old server anyway!

Well, at least the VB code I wrote to inject appointments into peoples calendars works a treat and the client can start to consider moving their application over!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I must do better :-)

In order to keep some control over things I keep a voice recorder in the car to record mileage and fuel purchases and so on.  Well I’ve left it a long time, this afternoon I spent an inordinate amount of time transcribing and getting data in that was meaningful 2 months ago before I went on a training course  Hey ho.

And then theres the pile of paperwork from the training course that I must sort out too invoices, receipts and so on in £ and € so theres even more hassle doing the exchange rate conversion as well.

Happy New Humbug!

Monday, January 01, 2007

And in Barcelona

My friend took this photo of the Casa Battlo - a great example of Gaudi's work!

Well, happy new year

It's new year's day and I have done some client work.  An interesting need to insert appointments across many calendars from a SQL server system.  Interestingly the first few searches I did came up with pretty much nothing.  Then I got on the track of WebDAV.

Now we have a neat toy that actually can track appointments made, and then modify them when needed!  Customer will be happy tomorrow, and I get to go and fix my spectacles, instead of work at home!

Why do such things (specs frame fracturing) happen at new year?  Well it was Maguire who said Murphy was an optimist - and I believe him.  I've not had sellotaped spectacle frames since the 70's!!  But it was the best job I could do.