Andy’s Techie Blog

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  • Linx 8 Tablet

    Posted on July 22nd, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    I was recently fortunate enough to win a Linx 8 tablet in a competition the Microsoft UK partner team were running. image

    Up until this point my tablet of choice was an original Surface RT.

    Unfortunately, in recent months I’ve used that tablet more and more just for Office.

    It’s immensely useful for OneNote and Outlook on the go but I’m not really using many apps from the store and the apps I do use aren’t great. The Facebook app for example is so slow and unwieldy I frequently give up on it and just use Facebook in the browser.

    I’ve also had some performance problems with it recently too that made it unusable for extended periods of time.

    So having heard about various low cost tablets running a regular version of Windows 8.1 I was intrigued to see how it performs.

    First off, what is it?

    8 inch screen

    Quad Core Intel Atom Processor.

    32GB Hard disk (with an SD slot to add up to another 64GB)

    1GB RAM

    1 year of Office 365 Personal

    800 x 1280 resolution

    Front and rear facing 2MP cameras

    Micro USB and HDMI ports

    Bluetooth and 801.11 N WiFi

     

    You can pick them up for around £80 so on the face of it that’s a pretty decent package.

    Especially when you consider Office 365 Personal (with 1TB of storage!) itself is worth £59.99

    After a couple of days usage I was pleasantly surprised. I honestly didn’t think 1GB would be usable but as long as you’re not trying to do too much at once it’s nice and responsive. You do need to be realistic though. Running a few demanding apps all at once will become noticeable pretty quickly.

    Also it’s pretty light and I can’t complain on the battery life.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t any downsides. It’s not really powerful enough for HD video, the screen resolution should make that obvious but as test I installed the BBC iPlayer app and tried to play some HD programs offline. That’s half an hour of life I won’t get back.

    It’s been fine with standard definition stuff though and I’ve had no problems with regular content on YouTube and Netflix.

    I miss the kickstand my Surface has for propping it up. It’s easily rectified with a case but it nice was having it as part of the package.

    You’ll also need an USB OTG cable for connecting USB drives, keyboard, mice, etc.

    None of this is to show stopping though if you’re looking for something relatively cheap for doing some basic tasks.

    All in all as long as you make sure you’re using for what it’s intended for, one or two apps at a time, light web browsing, some Office work, then it’s value for money. Anything more than that and you should be looking at something like a Surface Pro. 

    With a Windows 10 upgrade due in the coming weeks it’ll be interesting to see how this works out too.

  • The Difference Engine–Help Needed!

    Posted on June 8th, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    imageWay back in 2011 I wrote about the Difference Engine.

    It’s a simple but effective way of adding captions to live performances created by Coventry based Talking Birds.

    In short, a laptop runs the software and over a local wireless network it allows any device with a web browser to view subtitles.

    i.e your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

    A really simple idea to an age old problem for anyone who wouldn’t be able to hear what was being said.

    It’s intended for live performance but the simplicity of the system means it could be easily and cheaply re-purposed to anything.

    School assembly? Conference? Training Courses? Museum? Art Gallery?

    I could go on and on…

    If it has a script that needs to be followed it wouldn’t take much to plug it into this.

    So many events are run without any thought for the deaf and hard of hearing purely because adding that sort of thing is normally expensive.

    With this system you need a laptop. That’s it.

    Anyone that needs to use the system can use a device they’ll likely have already. You could hook the laptop up to a screen or projector you’d probably be using at the event anyway too. 

    Talking Birds have been working hard to improve the system but as with most small organisations like this they struggle for funding.

    I honestly think they could really make a difference if they can get to the next level.

    So I need your help.

    They have reached the finals of this years Tech4Good Awards.

    To be in with a chance of winning the “People’s Award” they need votes.

    Go here

    http://www.tech4goodawards.com/vote-now/ 

    Enter your email address

    Click on the Talking Birds image

    image

    Put something in the “where you found us” box (maybe mention me!)

    Click the button to submit the vote.

    That’s it!

    It’ll then give you some options for sharing on social media…If you do that too that would be cool.

    If you could take two minutes from your time to do that I’d be ever so grateful!

  • Microsoft Setup Bootstrapper Has Stopped Working

    Posted on May 26th, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    I was trying to install Office 2013 Pro Plus recently and was getting this error message

    “Microsoft Setup Bootstrapper has stopped working”

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    If you put that error message into your favourite search engine there are a variety of suggested solutions, the most popular ones seemed to be.

    Use Microsoft Fixit Tools to completely remove Office 2013.

    Backup and then delete the AppCompatFlag registry key

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags

    In my case it wasn’t any of those.

    Looking at the application log in event viewer showed what the problem was straight away.

    We have a software restriction policy in place that’s used as part of some prevention measures for malware such as Cryptolocker.

    OfficeError2

    In this scenario the options are to either create an exception on the policy or to temporarily stop the Group Policy that applies the restrictions from applying.

    It’s also possible some anti-virus could do this too.

    Once I’d taken the policy into account Office installed without issue.

  • IBIT Solutions–10 Years

    Posted on May 20th, 2015 Andy Parkes 6 comments

    This week marks 10 years since IBIT Solutions was first registered as a business.

    I very rarely use the company name here. It’s usually referred to as “work” or “the business”. That’s mainly because this is my personal blog. While the things I do at IBIT are a big influence on some of the content I create (when I create it!) I always intended to keep them separate.

    10 years ago, along with my business partner Kevin we had the bright idea of giving up our jobs and going it alone.

    When I look back it was a rather bonkers decision at the time.

    Bryony and I hadn’t long moved into our first house (with our first mortgage!) and Bryony was pregnant with Alice so of course I was going to leave my stable job and risk starting a business.

    What was I thinking! 

    10 years on I’m glad to say it was the right decision.

    It hasn’t all been plain sailing. We’ve had scary moments, have made plenty of mistakes and have lots of stress to deal with but there is a lot of satisfaction in being the master of your own destiny.

    The good moment have certainly outweighed the bad though and being on this ride for the last ten years has taken me lots of places I couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.

    I’ve also met lots amazing people who I would never have come into contact with if I’d played it safe and stayed in my old job and I’m grateful to everyone who has had an influence on IBIT in that time.

    Like a lot of small businesses we’re not perfect. I’ve got a ton of things I need to change, fix, improve or build but we’re going in the right direction.

    I’m very lucky to be in position where I enjoy going into the office. It makes the hard work hardly seem like that.

    If you’ve had anything to do with IBIT over the last 10 years, in any form, thank you.

    Here’s to the next 10! 

     

     

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  • Sonicwall SRA Java Bookmarks Stop Working In Chrome

    Posted on May 12th, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Another eye catching headline there!

    We have a couple of clients who use Sonicwall SRA appliances for remote access to internal resources.

    The bookmarks that were setup to gain access to file shares stopped working.

    On some PCs we were seeing a blank page.

    On others it was pretty clear where the problem lay.

    The java plugin wasn’t playing nicely.

    image

    Switching to the HTML version worked fine though. The java version is more feature rich at the moment so ideally we wanted to know why.

    We also realised this was specific to Chrome. Internet Explorer and Firefox were fine.

    That was when the penny dropped as to what the cause was here.

    Google have dropped support for browser plugins.

    They announced this back in September 2013 and as of Chrome version 42 NPAPI plugins are disabled by default. Java and Silverlight are two of the biggest plugins this will impact

    You override the behaviour.

    browse to chrome://flags/

    image

    Look for the NPAPI options and click the enable option

    You’ll need to restart Chrome after doing so

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    That will get you around the immediate problem if you want to keep using Chrome.

    it’s the recommendation Sonicwall make at the moment.

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    It’s worth knowing that Chrome 45 will do away with NPAPI plugins altogether.

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    Full details are here

    Going forward Sonicwall will either have to improve the HTML version, or they’ll drop support for Chrome.

    Seeing as Microsoft’s new browser (Spartan) doesn’t support Active-X controls (not directly, it uses an IE11 engine for compatibility) Sonicwall will have to make some changes to their setup.

    Update:

    Probably worth noting that Chrome still supports PPAPI plugins. There doesn’t appear to be any effort on the part of Oracle to create a PPAPI Java plugin any point soon. Will be interesting to see what happens if/when all the major browsers drop NPAPI plugins!

    * Thanks Dekay *

  • Adding Roles and Features To an Offline Virtual Machine

    Posted on March 25th, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    A few days ago I restarted a virtual machine and was presented with the message.

    We couldn’t complete the updates

    Undoing changes

    Don’t turn off your computer 

    chnages

    Very helpful.

    The server just sat there for ages, apparently doing nothing.

    After a brief search I came across a post on the Microsoft forums that indicated an update was giving some problems (KB2920189)

    One of the suggested actions was to disable secure boot, start the virtual machine, allow the update to install and then re-enable secure boot.

    It’s a Windows 2012 R2 Gen2 virtual machine so it had that option.

    I turned it off but this didn’t doing anything.

    A further post on the forum pointed to a known issue with that update. The fix for that is to install the BitLocker features as the update is looking it. You don’t need to encrypt any drives, just have the feature installed. My specific problem wasn’t exactly described in that article but it wouldn’t hurt to add the feature and find out.

    But how to do that if the server won’t even boot?

    Well as the title probably already suggests you can do this with a virtual machine when it’s offline.

    Shut the virtual machine down

    Start server manager and select the “Add roles and features” option

    image

    Click through the first couple of pages on the wizard until you get the server selection page.

    From here you need the “Select a virtual hard” option at the top of the screen

    Then choose the virtual hard disk that has your operating system at the bottom of the screen.

    image

    From here it’s exactly the same as method to add a role or feature as normal.

    image

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    After that i started the machine, the update installed and all was good.

  • Sync Text Messages To Your Mailbox

    Posted on March 20th, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    File this under “I didn’t know it could do that”

    Using your smartphone to connect to your work email is a pretty standard thing nowadays.

    They just about all support ActiveSync so your iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry will all do email, calendars and contacts to an Exchange server without much fuss.

    However, the bit makes all this work, i.e ActiveSync, has some features that aren’t implemented on all devices. Some features will also be reliant on the version of Exchange server the mailbox is on.

    One of those is the ability to have your phone sync your text messages with your mailbox.

    Screenshot_2015-03-18-17-14-15

    I spotted the option for this a little while back and initially didn’t see the point of it but I thought I’d turn it on and see how it worked out.

    I’ve been using it for a few months now and there are two main things I’ve found useful

    Sending text messages directly from Outlook

    When a text message comes into your phone it’s copied to your mailbox.

    image

    This means that if your phone is your pocket/bag or on silent you can read it on your PC without having to get the phone out. More importantly you can reply from Outlook too. Hit reply, type your message and when you press send the message is sync’d back to your phone where it sends the messages on your behalf.

    Yes that’s the “magic”. Your phone is still sending the message.

    You even get little smiley icons to use and it’ll tell you how many text messages will be needed.

    image

    It’s something I found useful as I can type much quicker on my keyboard than on my touch screen!

    I also find it less disruptive when I’m at work to not have to go to my mobile to view and reply to any messages.

    Having a deaf wife does mean I send a lot of text messages so this is one of the things I’ve particularly found useful.

    Backing up your messages

    Depends on how much importance you place on your SMS I guess but because a copy is added to your mailbox if your phone dies, falls in a toilet or is crushed/smashed/whatever then your text messages are easily retrievable.

    You can file them exactly the same way as you would any other email.

    I’ve got an Outlook quick step I use to drop any want to keep into a “text messages” folder once I’ve read them.

    image

    As mentioned above not all clients support all features so most notably this doesn’t work on iPhone.

    Also as already mentioned it’s reliant on Exchange server so if you’re using Google Apps/Gmail, POP or IMAP for email this specific method isn’t applicable.

    There a good list of features and what is and isn’t supported on this Wikipedia article.

    Can you think of any other uses for this?

    it’s also probably worth knowing about for the inevitable support call where someone has setup their own phone and want to know when their text messages have turned into emails. 

  • Problems With Sonicwall and Multiple PPPoE Connections

    Posted on March 17th, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    Now there’s an attention grabbing headline if ever I saw one!

    Just a quick reminder post in case I come across this again or it helps anyone else.

    We did some work for a client recently to replace their firewall with a shiny new Sonicwall NSA 2600.

    In the days following the replacement we were getting reports of connectivity problems.

    Inbound connections to the remote desktop server were dropping out and a web application they use was suffering from time outs.

    Even pings out to various servers on the internet were giving us results that showed something wasn’t quite right.

    image

    The only thing that had changed was the firewall so we put the old one back in and everything returned to normal.

    This meant I spent a few hours going through each setting. We’d set the new firewall up exactly the same as the old one but there was clearly something different between the two.

    We initially narrowed it down to a problem with the PPPoE connections.

    This particular setup had three WAN connections, two of which were PPPoE. The other connection didn’t have any problem at all. 

    After liaising with Sonicwall support we got to the bottom of it.

    There is a setting in the WAN connection that needs to be enabled that wasn’t available with the previous firewall.

    “Allow duplicate MAC addresses”

    image

    There is ONE article on the Sonicwall knowledgebase that mentions this setting.

    The scenario discussed in the article doesn’t fit our setup though.

    We weren’t using load balancing, both connections had a different default gateway and traffic was flowing across both connections, just not very well.

    However, changing the setting worked. Turning it back off caused the issue to reoccur.

    It’s been fine now for almost a month, 

  • Where Did January Go!?

    Posted on February 2nd, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Every year I usually write a post that looks back on everything that happened in the previous year. The end of 2014 and the start of 2015 has been so packed with so many various things January seems to have just vanished before my eyes.

    This time last year I was writing about how tragically the year had ended.

    With that in mind we, as a family (me, Bryony and the girls), made the decision to make sure we got the absolute most out of 2014.

    This meant spending lots of time with friends and family, doing things we enjoy as well as doing new things.

    We certainly achieved it!

    Some of the highlights, in no particular order were,

    I ran my first half marathon

    Shortly followed by my first obstacle half marathon!

     

    Bryony jumped out of a plane!

    10448682_10154251449000323_680786527769100596_o

    We went to Australia for a wedding

    1233347_10152099608446200_4346909501724538078_n

    Spent a week in the Isle of Wight

    10575365_10154495772340323_6216570282991632981_o

    And a weekend in Rome

    rome_10623704_1493257147578876_67917883_n.

    Took the girls to Comic Con in Birmingham

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    Engagement Celebrations in Newcastle

    10556460_10154776727860323_2114768013678608720_n

    Climbed the O2 in London

    o210707003_839798636052979_1259902273_n

    Saw Monty Python Live!

    10443384_10152640448080039_1038390715522571752_n

    and won a cup!

    10169314_783638998335655_2185540226410017484_n

    (Photo credit Bobby Bridge Photography)

    and much much more!!

    Going through some of the photos for putting this together what jumped out at me was the number of smiles. So many pictures of happy faces is a good thing to look back on.

    To say I’m pretty happy with my lot at the moment would be an understatement. In Bryony and the girls, I’ve got an amazing family so why would I not want to spend as much time as possible with them! 

    1557138_10154636203520323_3088040046245501538_o

    So it mean I’m glad I was able to squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of 2014 as I could and I’m very grateful to all the friends and family that were a part of it. 

    Thank you!

    Let’s go make 2015 even better.

  • Close Programs To Prevent Information Loss

    Posted on December 5th, 2014 Andy Parkes 4 comments

    I felt like such a noob when I realised what this was I thought I’d publicly shame myself so it doesn’t happen again.

    For a few weeks I’d been getting pop-ups on my computer warning about low memory and impending data loss!

    image

    Internet Explorer or Chrome were usually the programs it reported needed to be closed but checking in Task Manager and Resource Monitor seemed to indicate I wasn’t particularly low on memory.

    As well as this I was getting a lot of crashes in Google Chrome. It became stupidly unstable to the point where I couldn’t use it. I disabled all extensions, re-installed and created a new Chrome profile.

    I didn’t really put the two problems together (noob)

    So what was it in the end?

    Low disk space.

    This is my laptop and it has an SSD which is great for performance but not so great for capacity. I keep it pretty full but try to save about 1gb free. The drive space dropped down to a couple hundred megabytes and the page file It was set to “system managed” so was unable to grow when there was no free space. The page file is still used even if you’ve got free physical RAM.

    I cleared up some space and manually set the size of the page file. This meant that that space was fixed and whatever else i did around that wouldn’t matter.

    The excellent Mark Russinovich has a really good post on this.

    Once I’d done that the memory warnings disappeared, that was when I noticed Google Chrome became more stable. A program crashes under a low (virtual) memory condition. Not a massive surprise!