Archive for Tech

A week with Windows Phone 7 on HTC HD7… (more a rant than review ;-)


This is more a rant than a review, or comparison.  I don’t cover functionality and features, such as lack of copy and paste, nor the expensive apps (compared to other platforms), the tile UI being great but also desirable to have the choice to disable, or various other aspects of the platform and hardware… if you want this then a quick search will reveal other posts that address.
If you want to hear my story and why I’m going to be waiting until the New Year to re-try Windows Phone 7 (WP7) then read on…


Having been on Windows Mobile since early HP units such as the HP5450, and then Windows Mobile phones (various, but last an HTC/Orange M3100 – still have it for Tom Tom Smile) I eventually defected to Apple when the iPhone 3G came out and Apple finally cracked the Exchange ActiveSync integration.

Now whilst I love Apple hardware (bar no Micro SD/additional storage, proprietary interface, non-user serviceable battery, etc. etc.) and the usability of the UI is second to none, I REALLY don’t dig the whole Apple ecosystem.  I also despise iTunes on Windows as much as any good and decent PC user should do, indeed it’s such filth that when I do have the displeasure of using it I do on dedicated and old PC (still says Compaq on the front!) that is sandboxed.
(great post at btw)

So when the chance came up to ditch the rotten Apple and return to the warmth of the Microsoft Mother ship with the just launched Windows Phone 7 I jumped at the chance!  A swift an easy call to O2 excellent customer service across mobile, broadband and fixed line) I took delivery next day (16th November) of a shiny new HTC HD7 from O2 (SIM free, as in no contract) for a cracking £330 inc VAT. I noted the 14-day change your mind no quibble return…


Unfortunately after just a week I’d made up my mind, the HD7 had to go and Windows Phone 7 needs a few more months (maybe the first big update) and I exercised that return offer today Sad smile


So.. in current form does Windows Phone 7…

Beat the iPhone 4 – NO WAY!  will it beat the iPhone? probably not.
Does it beat Android?  maybe / depends what you want..  Will it take market share from Android? Definitely! (even if its just me Winking smile)
Is it good for the market? Yes!
Will it get better?  it needs to, and of course will, it has the Mother ship behind it!

thoughts on HD7..

Wot no AMOLED screen!
Wot no battery life!
Crappy camera to say its 5MP
Too big for the screen resolution, and whilst I’m at it the screen had wishy washy colours with poor viewing angle (considering it has a stand to make it a viewing device – two kids in the car sharing it would end in tears or a crash)
Talking of crashing… I managed to crash my WP7 device 3 or 4 times in just over a week, which is about on par with my iPhone 3G…  this year.


So, after all the above I’ll be waiting until the new year to try again and with a different device! and I’m still desperate to get off the rotten Apple (even though just bought a iPod Touch for my today 8yr old – Happy Birthday Harry! – what have I done!?!  akin to giving him a crack pipe!.. Confused smile).

btw, the Zune software ROCKS!!! it is WAY WAY better than iTunes, on that Microsoft has done great, hopefully WP7 will be rocking soon…


Scream it baby


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How much Value Added Software does one machine need…? aka bloatware, crapware and the like!

Be warned, it’s another rant Winking smile

We recently installed a new HP Pro 3120 SSF Series machine that ships with Windows 7 Pro and Office 2010.  The name Pro is a little over-egged as they are actually low-end machines as a replacement the DX24xx range.  The SSF or Space Saver Form is quite correct as its basically a half depth Micro Tower – think back to the Compaq Evo SSF but not nearly as well made.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of HP for their reliability, build quality, and typically a huge fan of their normally excellent Value Added Software – am thinking ProLiant servers, Insight Manager, SmartStart, etc.  However the shipped build on this machine which is aimed at the business market has got me thinking what the guys at HP have been smoking!  maybe too close to their colleagues at Apple!

The Out Of the Box Experience (OOBE) this machine is great, it covers the HP setup routine, registration, updates configuration, and what appears to be a McAfee opt-out.

However, upon booting into Windows for the 1st time its soon apparent that there is a truly massive  clean-up / bloatware removal task needed if being used in a standardised business build, starting with:

– HP Games (18 of them)
– McAfee Browser Protection Service
– McAfee Firewall Protection Service
– McAfee Virus and Spyware Protection Service

the McAfee stuff was a real sneaky one, especially as I quite clearly chose NOT to use McAfee.

Additionally we are removing:

HP Advisor – a 93MB toolbar with links to eBay, McAfee, Huddle, Biz Solutions (actually Solutions and Offers for your business AKA marketing guff!)
Device Access Manager for HP ProtectTools
Drive Encryption for HP ProtectTools
File Sanitizer for HP ProtectTools





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A tale of 4 beta’s – Vale refresh, Hyper-V Server R2 SP1 v178 beta, Fabulatech USB over network beta, MS ISCSI Target 3.3 beta

A tale of 4 beta’s – am I mad!?!?  well maybe, but here goes..

But first to cut to the chase..  As I mentioned to a colleague only today – the Vail refresh ROCKS!!, it needs Silverlight 4 for the integrated media controls to make video, music, photos, etc. super sexy and prompts to install if you haven’t got it – Silverlight’s awesome also! 🙂


Microsoft Windows Home Sever codenamed Vail – TP refresh install


So it is R2 after all (I always thought it would be but quite a lot of folks who should know better referred to it as Windows Server 2008 – fundamentally different than Windows Server 2008 R2!)


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A lovely Vail splash screen, configure a few tasks:

Shutdown with 28 updates later..


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A new (media center) PC test – the Tranquil ixL i5 Power PC…

Something we rarely talk about on the blog but enthuse and evangilise to many is Windows Media Center. I’ve been building and using Media Center for our primary entertainment system since the days of Window XP Media Center Edition beta’s c.2002-03.

I’ve built several systems for various friends and family over the years, but when our main home media center based on a Shuttle SG36M died due to a PSU failure (also took out the motherboard – a bummer!), it was time to be looking for a new machine (the brightside to the failure I guess! ;-))

As a long time listener of Ian Dixon’s podcast at I’d heard of Tranquil ( who are based in Manchester. Tranquil produce fanless pieces of highend exotica covering Media Centers, Home Servers, and powerful new Intel i5 based PC’s…

Now Tranquil don’t produce ‘cheap’ kit and fortunately I’m a believer in ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ so £459 + VAT later I’d ordered the ixL i5 Power PC with an Intel i5-650 (and a CD/DVD optical drive).

I got my order in late on Tuesday, and this morning a very nice looking box arrived..

..with a complimentary Boost bar! – how they knew my hangover needed a sugar fix I don’t know, but the experience certainly started great! 🙂

Over the weekend I’m looking forward to getting a couple of gigs of 1066Mhz RAM, a Corsair 128GB SSD, and my Hauppauge dual DVB-T in there and seeing how she flys with some test builds.. likely Win7 32-bit and Windows Server 2008 R2 (for testing as a Hyper-V platform plus 64-bit driver support), but first work and clients to see… 😦

Returning at the weekend for my first test built I grabbed a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit) which installed painlessly enough, but did list the following as needy of drivers:

Display adapter driver –
Ethernet (network) driver –
PCI Serial Port –
PCI Simple Communications Controller (read IR RX) –

With no documentation or driver media in the box, if you’ve ordered anything but a pre-built system you will need to go and find driver support from the web, however as the sytem is based on a current Intel desktop motherboard, the Intel® Desktop Board DH57JG, this is a fairly trivial task.

A visit to will get you covered with 32 & 64-bit drivers for Windows 7, Vista, XP Pro, plus 32-bit for XP Home, and even Windows XP Media Center Edition (one day I might restore an image of XPMCE as I still have the Compaq D510 SSF PC I used in the first builds back in 2002-3!).

Going for the lazy option I grabbed the network driver first so I could let Windows Update do its worst on the rest – 35 updates later, inc. Intel HD Graphics (Intel listed as , Microsoft Update provided – the last digits being significant, the same) and a restart resulted in still needing the PCI Serial Port & Communications Controller (likely the same driver)

At the same time, I’d recommend: – which includes a link to Automatically detect and update drivers and software (the really lazy option – but it works really well, after I’d been struggling getting the audio outputs to work, bar SPDIF)

Chipset: Intel® Chipset Device Software for Intel® Desktop Boards –
(this one may also address the PCI Simple Communications Controller / IR reciever, but I’m having no luck just yet…)

Intel® Desktop Utilities for 4 & 5 Series Desktop Boards –

Intel® HD Graphics Driver for Windows* Vista and Windows* 7 –

Audio: Realtek* ALC Audio Driver –

I mentioned performance updates coming soon, on Windows 7 32-bit with the above drivers the Performance Information and Tools (Windows Experience Index) gave a rating of 4.8, comprised of:

Processor: 6.9
Memory: 5.5
Graphics: 4.8
Gaming graphics: 5.3
Primary hard disk: 5.9

Thermal performance and other hardware monitors curtousy of the Intel Hardware Monitor application:

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Hyper-V R2 SP1 Beta testing & Dynamic Memory

So this week Microsoft released the beta code of SP1, this was one of the many anticipated announcements at the Worldwide Partner Conference this week.

As our business (The Full Circle – is a Microsoft Gold Partner that has been involved in Microsoft virtualization since the beginning I thought it was time we were testing Hyper-V with Dynamic Memory!  Microsoft’s answer to VMware’s memory over commit allows Hyper-V to dynamically allocated memory to a guest machine from a pool of available memory.  This doesn’t allow you to over specify what physically isn’t available (a safer option than over-commit), but it does allow a group of VM’s to more efficiently use memory resource where it is needed – just what is needed for Microsoft to get serious in the VDI space.

From Microsoft’s own words:

Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V introduces a new feature, called Dynamic Memory, in the Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta releases.  It allows customers to achieve increased density when they’re consolidating physical servers into a virtual realm, providing them with predictable performance and linear scalability.  With Dynamic Memory, IT administrators are able to pool available memory on a physical host and then dynamically dole that memory out to virtual machines running on the host, based on current workload needs.
For a technical overview of the new Dynamic Memory feature, download the Dynamic Memory Technical Overview whitepaper.

So a quick 1.2GB download later (to support Win7 x86 & WS2008R2 IA64 & x64) and you’ve got an ISO to unpack or burn.

1st hurdle on my test install of Hyper-V Server R2 is.. a language blocking issue with the installer reporting ‘Hyper-V Service Pack 1 install has detected unsupported language files’ reporting that Chinese (Traditional) is not supported..

Did I install Chinese?  I don’t think so.. well, not intentionally anyway! but checking both our test and live Hyper-V cluster systems revealed that the ‘Chinese (Traditional)’ display language was installed (by default) per:

Fortunately this is a simple fix, as shown in the picture – at a command line (or Task Manager Run) you can access the Region and Language settings control panel by executing  ‘intl.cpl’, goto Keyboards and Languages, hit the Install/uninstall languages button, and finally select Chinese (Traditional), Next.  After a few moments the progress should report ‘Uninstall complete’ and you can close and OK out of the Control Panel app.

Once the language support (or lack of if you wanted Chinese!), re-running setup should run through as below:

And eventually, after the mandatory reboot checking out the Windows version (Task Manager, About, no more winver from the command line in Hyper-V Server or Server Core) should report – Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Build 7601: Service Pack 1, v.178 – yikes that’s a lowish version, and the Build number is significant up from 7600 (more accurately version 6.1.7600), anyway we are only on test system at the minute! (and without EAP support I think that’s about as far as it should go! ;-))
(more on EAP’s and The Full Circle’s involvment in the development of Hyper-V 2008 R2 at

next on to the changes within Hyper-V and hopefully dynamic memory!

Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 beta adds Dynamic Memory host memory management and RemoteFX to enhance VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) implementations. The beta release of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 introduces new ways to manage virtual machine memory, graphics and peripheral devices that add new dimensions to the usefulness of Hyper-V.

These features, including Dynamic Memory, RemoteFX and improvements to USB redirection, will require IT manager attention as plans are made for server and remote desktop implementations over the next several years. IT managers who are considering data center virtualization projects should put the Windows Server 2008 R2 service pack beta on their immediate evaluation shortlist. The beta is stable enough for use in a test environment.The SP1 beta became available in July and is offered as a no-charge download from Microsoft. I tested the SP1 beta on our test rig HP ProLiant ML110 G5 with a single dual core Intel 2.33Ghz cpu, 8GB of memory, and 2 mirrored arrarys (2x250GB system, 2x1TB data), it does not have a sufficiently powerful graphics card to test RemoteFX but I’ll be sourcing one!

This system, and all the virtual server instances that I created in my test environment, were running Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 beta version 178.

It’s clear that with SP1, Microsoft is signaling that the server hardware of tomorrow will need to be equipped much differently than it is today if certain workloads, including those that vary significantly in memory usage or desktop graphics support, are destined for the data center.
Buyers that are accustomed to buying server hardware with only minimal graphics capabilities will need to become much more savvy in the ins and outs of specifying high-end graphics cards for data center servers that are destined to host sophisticated virtual desktop implementations. This is on top of the growing RAM requirements of dense virtual environments.

Dynamic Memory

The SP1 beta includes Microsoft’s answer to VMware’s memory management system. In Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 this feature is called Dynamic Memory. I used the Dynamic Memory feature to balance the memory automatically between my VMs based on preset limits. As with most management systems, Dynamic Memory uses policy set in a period of calm to determine how scarce resources (in this case RAM) will be divvied up when in times of tumult and contention.

When I created my VMs, I specified several RAM memory parameters including Startup, Maximum, Buffer and Priority. These parameters make sense in that they specify the minimum amount of RAM needed to start a system, the maximum I would ever want it to consume, a buffer measured as a percentage and the priority of this workload in the overall scheme of business operations.

In my tests, the VMs performed as expected. When I beefed up operations on a high priority VM, the other VMs were starved in order to keep my priority system running at top performance. When RAM requirements on my priority system fell, this resource was reallocated among the other VMs on the test system.

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Training: 44CO175 – SharePoint 2010 Administrator Bootcamp

44CO175 – SharePoint 2010 Administrator Bootcamp (BPIO)

Step-by-step understanding is key to successfully implementing and deploying SharePoint 2010. This 15-module course will guide you through each critical stage, giving you exactly the skills you need to leverage full value from the latest SharePoint technology.

Module 0 – Getting Ready for a SharePoint 2010 Implementation: Why Governance and Business Requirements are Essential for a Successful Implementation.
Module 1 – Understanding the Architecture of SharePoint Server 2010
Module 2 – Installing SharePoint Server 2010.
Module 3 – Administrating and Configuring Farm Settings in SharePoint Server 2010
Module 4 – Understanding and Administrating Web applications
Module 5 – Managing Web Applications
Module 6 – Introduction to Site Collections
Module 7 – Creating Site Collections
Module 8 – Managing Site Collections
Module 9 – Working with SharePoint Server 2010 Portals
Module 10 – Governance and Information Assurance
Module 11 – Enterprise Content Types & Managed Metadata
Module 12 – Managing Documents and Records
Module 13 – Workflow
Module 14 – Implementing and Managing Search
Module 15 – People & Social Networking
Module 16 – Disaster Recovery

A handful of notes from the week..

Installation Preparation for Service & Install Accounts 

The SharePoint Installation Account

While I’ve become used to installing applications on servers with either the local or domain admin account, SharePoint 2010 really really really needs to have its own account created for the installation process. If you don’t you’ll have to correct the various service and app pool accounts later and that’s a pain.

Key points about the account used to install with –

  • It will become the application pool account used in IIS for the Central Admin
  • If you do plan to let SharePoint create your databases (content DBs’ etc…) this account needs rights to the SQL database to create DB’s (DBCreator and DBAdmin)
  • If DB’s are already created then it only needs DBAdmin
  • It only needs Local Admin permissions on the installation machine
  • Not to be used in day-to-day admin
  • Imagine this account to be “enterprise admin” of SharePoint.
  • It should never be used again after the initial install, obviously that doesn’t mean disable or delete it.

Example User Account – spinstall

The Farm Admin Account

 The farm admin account is an account that should be used by as few people as possible.

  • It either needs to be a local admin on the SharePoint front end or create a new supper user or login as spinstall(logging in as spinstall is not recommended)
  • The farm admin account change services running on the machine hence the need for local admin rights, farm admin right in SharePoint central admin isn’t enough

Example User Account – spfarmadmin

During the SharePoint 2010 install

 Make sure you move index location during install off from the C:\…\14\data location

 This index file is a flat file used in search and can grow very large in next to no time.

After the install – the Configuration Wizard

Do not use it, it doesn’t follow best practice.

 Performance Tip for SharePoint databases 

Turn off Auto Growth

While it’s been mentioned a thousand times and shouldn’t need to be mentioned…

To prevent it happening in existing installations for any new databases:

SQL Management  Studio > Database > Model. Under the file groups section  change the properties for .mdf to grow by 50MB at a time

Fixing it for existing databases:

Open the properties of each database and under the file groups section, change the properties for .mdf to grow by 50MB at a time

Note: Why 50MB? Because it’s just right for SharePoint since it aligns with the default maximum upload file size.

Registering Managed Service Accounts for SharePoint 2010

  • Best practice is to add them here first then start to use them to run services
  • All are generally fine  as just domain user accounts without elevated privileges

Application Pool Accounts in IIS for SharePoint 2010

 Never change the app pool account from inside IIS as the config DB will not know about the change, web apps will not know about the change and new servers added to the farm will not know which account to use.

One of the few things you can and do need to configure in IIS is SSL certificates and also needs to be done on each and every web front end.

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SharePoint 2007 / WSS3.0 broken by AllItems.aspx overwrite

Yesterday I managed to seriously break our production SharePoint 2007 site (WSS3.0 on SBS2008) site by inadvertently saving a word document over the AllItems.aspx file.
This is an incredibly easy thing to do by pasting the URL of a SharePoint folder location from the browser, there is the is the mistake (if taken from a Windows Explorer would be okay) into the Save As control e.g.

Copying out of the IE address bar to paste into the Save As File name entry in hope that it would then enumerate the target folder..

Anyway, clearly its the wrong thing to do and in this case replaced the Allitems.aspx with a word document, this broke the browser view of all SharePoint pages on the site collection although using Windows Explorer to access SharePoint folders continued to work okay.

Our resident SharePoint expert and Development Director (Chris Hermon) used SPD 2007 to try and replace/restore the Allitems.apsx but whilst this initially appeared to resolve the issue, the basic SharePoint object controls were still broken such as not having the drop down available e.g.

We took a view on this and decided to perform an stsadm restore from the last content dB backup. This was a relatively straightforward decision for us as we knew and had made copies of documents changed since the last backup (daily), however in a busier enviornment this would not be so easy.

Restoring the stsadm backup resolved the issue it’s a rather drastic resolution for a incredibly easy issue to create (and no, I was not using an Admin account or the collection administrator, just a normal author).

I’ll try the same on SP2010 and see if Microsoft have fixed this rather obvious gap in system integrity protection!

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