Andy’s Techie Blog

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  • Facebook Reviews

    Posted on September 13th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    A couple of days ago I had a message pop up when I logged into Facebook

    Hello,

    A review you posted has been removed. Reviews must follow the Facebook Community Standards and focus on the core product or service offered by the Page. Reviews that don’t follow these guidelines may be removed. Please keep in mind that people who repeatedly post content that doesn’t follow our guidelines may lose access to their accounts.

    The Facebook team

    I also received an email with the same content.

    I was very puzzled. The alert gave me no indication of which specific review was a problem or exactly why I’d broken any rules.

    I try to conduct myself on Facebook in a decent way so any review I leave, positive or negative, is with respect to the people providing any particular product or service and is written out of a genuine intention to provide feedback.

    What also annoyed me was that there is no way to contact Facebook to ask about this. The message indicated that repeated offences would result in my account being banned. Does this mean a ‘black mark’ is now against my account that I can do nothing about?

    I don’t leave many negative reviews so it’s not that difficult to figure out which review may have been removed and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anything in there that would be a problem. This leads me to wonder if the owner of the page reported my post because they want to reduce the number of negative reviews on their page?

    Just thoughts…

    It’s not like I’ve now got a criminal record or anything but I was a bit irked at being “told off” for something I didn’t think was wrong

  • Syntactically invalid HELO argument(s)

    Posted on September 12th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    Yesterday I had a client report that certain emails were being bounced

    The SMTP error message was this

    501 Syntactically invalid HELO argument(s)

    Not one I’d seen before!

    As with most support queries one of the first questions to ask is “what has changed?” and this particular client has a Sonicwall Email Security Appliance that had failed and been swapped out that same morning

    Looking through the rest of the NDR it was clear the issue was with the appliance.

    Generating server: spam.invalid_sonicwall_gateway_domain.com

    This was also a huge pointer as to what the issue was.

    The host name needs to be a fully qualified domain name but in this case it had just been set to “spam”

    image

    Once it was corrected (e.g spam.customer.com) and the device was rebooted all was well.

    I’m not entirely sure how the host name ended up like that as I’m sure that form won’t allow you to enter a host name that isn’t a fully qualified domain name.

    The device settings were restored from a backup so it’s possible it was part of that but I’m just making a guess on that part!

    Either way it was a simple enough fix and email went back to normal after that.

  • Activate Remote Desktop Remotely–Revisited

    Posted on September 10th, 2014 Andy Parkes 3 comments

    I wrote about how to achieve this way back in 2007! It’s one of the more popular things I’ve written about and I still refer back to it pretty often.

    The steps were for Windows XP and mostly worked for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

    That said there are more options available now when setting up your PC for remote desktop and the defaults now mean you usually have some extra things to do.

    So the first thing you need to do with your favourite remote registry editing tool (such as regedit!)

    HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\fDenyTSConnections

    Change the fDenyTSConnections to 0

    This enables remote desktop itself.

    image

    If you want to disable Network Level Authentication (NLA)

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp\SecurityLayer

    Set the SecurityLayer value to 0

    Finally you may also need to create a exception rule in Windows Firewall. My preference is to use PSEXEC to run this command.

    netsh firewall set service remotedesktop enable 

    There are variety of ways to manipulate the firewall, group policy for example, but depending on the environment as a quick easy thing psexec is your friend.

    Finally if the person who will be connecting isn’t a local admin they’ll need to be added to remote desktop users group.

    Easiest way to do this is with computer management.

    image

    I’m not breaking new ground here but I’ve been asked about it a couple of times recently so thought it was worth putting this together.

    Do you have any other methods for achieving the above?  

  • Surface Pro 2 Losing Network Connectivity

    Posted on July 31st, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    A client recently purchased a couple of Surface Pro 2 devices and needed some help getting them set up.

    I’d got everything as I wanted and was just about to hand them back when my phone rang. I took the call and by the time I came back the device had gone into standby mode.

    I turned it back on and I couldn’t use the network drives. After looking further I was unable to even see the wireless network I’d been happily connected to the for the last few hours.

    After a restart it all worked fine again.

    I left it to go back into standby mode again and sure enough the same problem occurred.

    Since it was pretty clear this was to do with the wireless network card and standby mode that was the first place to check.

    I disabled Selective Suspend on the advanced tab and this seems to have cured the problem. Surface Suspend

    I’m not sure if this is because of Surface itself or the wireless access point it was connected to or a combination of both but I didn’t have any trouble after this.

    Firmware and Windows were fully up to date.

    If this comes up again I may look at updating the network card drivers separately but since this sorted it I was happy enough.

  • Taking Stock

    Posted on July 21st, 2014 Andy Parkes 3 comments

    This weekend marked two months since I last wrote anything here. It’s not exactly by accident.

    In my 2013 round up post I mentioned there had been some very bad news in the wider Parkes family. It took a little while for this to fully sink in but it made me think about exactly what’s important to me and how I prioritise certain things.

    There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week and I want to spend as much of that time with the people who are important to me, enjoying life and doing things I enjoy.

    Of course there is still that balancing act between putting in the hours at work because enjoying life costs money!

    What that has meant though is tweaking how I make use of time and shifting priorities around certain things. Writing here is an example. If I’ve got an hour free and the choice might be between writing something or kicking a football in the garden with the kids then these days the blog post loses every time.

    It’s a pretty simple example but it stretches across into work too. We’ve had a particularly busy period recently so I’ve done my best not to increase my own workload by getting involved in certain things and drop other areas altogether. (I have a bad habit of not being able to say no that I’ve been trying to work on for some time)

    I’m also effectively off Twitter at the moment – I check there a couple of times a week at the moment as I’d find myself “having a quick look” and before I knew it an hour was gone.

    It’s working out ok at the moment.

    So this post is really going anywhere else but it’s something I wanted to get out of my head. Doing that here has worked pretty well for me before. Smile

    If you do want to take anything away then please do believe when I say you have no idea what could happen tomorrow. Terrible and tragic things can and do happen to good people. Make the most of the time you have with the people you love.

  • Error When Installing Windows Server 2012 R2

    Posted on May 20th, 2014 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    I was setting up a new virtual machine in Hyper-V and got this error after selecting the operating system (in this case Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard)

    Win2012Error

    "Windows cannot find the Microsoft Software License Terms. Make sure the installation sources are valid and restart the installation."

    From my very brief search it looks like there are a couple of things that can cause this but in my specific case I’d forgotten to set the startup RAM to something actually useful. It was set to 512mb as that’s the default in my virtual machine creation script.

    Once I’d increased it to a couple of gigabytes it installed without error.

    Since the issue here was between the keyboard and the chair (me!) hopefully this will help someone else who is being equally absent minded.

  • Farmageddon 2014

    Posted on April 7th, 2014 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Around this time last year I did my first obstacle race. I’ve done a couple of different events since then and two weeks after the Warwick Half Marathon I was back in Melton Mowbray for my second crack at Farmageddon.

    Not wanting to make things easy for myself this year they were offering a 20k course so we duly signed up.

    Pre-Race

    Just to make it a bit a clearer as I’ve glossed over that.

    That’s the same distance as the Warwick Half Marathon but off-road terrain and with a variety of obstacles to overcome.

    I can safely say this was an incredibly difficult thing to do!

    Having said that the difference a year makes is noticeable. This is my fourth obstacle course and my fifth event overall including Warwick and while I’m not saying it was a walk in the park I was barely able to get round last year which was half the distance.

    The extra distance is made up of an extra lap. Once you got within touching distance of the finishing line you carried straight on!

    As with last year there was a good atmosphere and lots of friendly banter before, during and after the race and with a newly added 5km option the turn out was much larger. Over 500 people I believe in comparison to around 280 last time around.

    140405173300_H

    The course was largely the same as last time but with some minor tweaks which really helped with getting a correct pace as well as providing various talking points on the way round such as;

    “Remember when you dropped that log on your head?” 

    “It was around this point I would have eaten my right arm”

    “That cold water that’s coming up soon will do wonders for my cramp again”

    140405174850_H

    So overall I enjoyed this just as much as last year and the extra lap pushed me really hard. The previous year the 10k took us 1 hour and 32 minutes so having set a realistic goal of three hours to actually finish in 2 hours 46 minutes was brilliant – especially when we got delayed quite near to the start (I’ll come back to that). Overall standing was 18th out of the 27 20k runners so pretty happy with that too. It also meant that even with the two laps we were faster than last year.

    20140405_135157

    Since this was my second year it did give me the opportunity to compare both events.

    In terms of improvements…

    Bottle Neck

    One issue with obstacle courses is getting the placement correct so that as the field starts to spread out people hit the obstacles at different times. When this doesn’t work out it can mean waiting in a queue while people in front navigate the obstacle. If you have a few people that struggle to get past it then makes the problem even worse. On an event called X-Runner we did last year this actually meant out second lap was considerably faster than our first lap as we got held up considerably on a single obstacle near the start.

    One of the first obstacles was a cargo net to climb up and over. Because it was so near to the start everyone basically hit it at the same time causing a large queue. Not great.

    Either more of them were needed or it needed placing at a different section of the course.

    Lack of consideration

    At the bottle neck a few people decided they didn’t want to wait in the queue and came charging over regardless. This was while people were still on the obstacle. The marshals were only letting people on two at a time (for perfectly good safety reasons) yet these guys thought it would be ok to throw a few more bodies on. One poor girl who was just going over the top somehow managed to stay calm and avoid getting pushed off. Their excuse as they clambered past was "We’ve already had a 15 minute delay". No-one in the queue wanted to wait so their inability to understand we had waves and chip times made the blood boil. 

    Ghost Town

    The 20k field was considerably smaller than the 10k and 5k (understandably so) but we went out at the same time as the 10k entrants and the two waves after that weren’t too far behind us. This meant when we finally finished there was hardly anyone about. The big crowds to cheer you on to the finishing line and the loud music that was played throughout were nowhere to be seen. It meant that once we’d collected our finishing packs there wasn’t much point in hanging around. We stayed quite a while last year cheering on other competitors and soaking up the atmosphere. Even the burger van was packing up!

    I’d probably have started the 20k wave about half an hour earlier than the 10k wave so we finished around the middle or end of the 10k field.

    20k

    Maybe it’s just me but in my eyes doing the 20k was a big deal and I thought this was reflected in the smaller numbers who wanted to give it a go. But since there was practically no-one about when we finished and we got exactly the same finishing pack as the people that did 5k and 10k it felt like a bit of anti-climax as we crossed the finish line, collected our stuff and left. Maybe it’s just my ego that needed massaging after all that hard work but in comparison to my memories on how it felt at the end last year this year felt very low key.

    I’m not complaining about all of it though! Some things I did like included

    New T-Shirts

    I do like collecting the t-shirts we get after completing events and the blue one provided this year looked even better than the one we got last year – which I was more than happy with too!

    Beer

    This was new.

    At the end of the race as well as the standard post-race swag we were given a can of lager (or cider). While it wasn’t straight from a fridge or a fancy continental brew at the end of the 20k it was one of the greatest tasting beers I’ve ever had.

    Marshalls

    They were great, especially some of the younger kids who were helping out. It was especially nice to still see them patiently waiting for us on our second lap when everyone else had finished and gone home!  

    Bananas

    Sometimes it’s the small things that count. As you reached the end of the first lap it was a left turn to the end for the 10k runners and straight on for the 20k runners. Just before turning into the first bend was a small, unmanned table with some bottles of water, some plastic cups and bunches of bananas. Taking a minute to refuel and rehydrate as well as contemplate going round a second time was just what was needed.

    The Course

    Having now completed a few events I can easily say this is one of the most physically demanding I’ve personally done (over 10k and then 20k). There were several comments on the Farmageddon Facebook page that said there should be more obstacles and less running. I couldn’t disagree more with them. Each event I’ve done so far has it’s own unique challenge. Part of this particular event are some of the long runs. While at the time having completed the hill climbs and then having to face a 3km run felt horrible it’s part of the signature of that particular course. Please don’t tweak that too much.

     

    The good largely outweighed the bad I’m pretty confident of shaving some minutes off that time so I’m already looking forward to 2015!

    Thanks to the organisers for putting on such as great event again.

  • Network Scanners and Windows 7 Shares

    Posted on March 28th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    I was visiting a clients remote office earlier this week doing some PC replacements. They have a multi-function printer that has “scan to folder” functionality and it previously worked quite happily on the Windows XP machines they were replacing.

    The end user presses a button and the scanned document ends up in a folder on the computer.

    After having setup the share, the NTFS permissions and the corresponding details for the path, username and password on the printer it refused to work. I needed to make a change on the PC to get it working.

    Open the Network and Sharing Centre by clicking the Start button and typing “Network and Sharing” (or just enough to get the result you want!)

    image

    From here in the top left corner click “Change advanced sharing settings”

    image

    Scroll down the page and in the “File sharing connections” section select “Enable file sharing for devices that use 40- or 56-bit encryption”

    image

    Be aware that this is lowering the security of your system. You’ll need to decide if you’re happy about that!

    The specific device I was working with was a Ricoh Aficio MP 171. It’s possible a newer device would have been happy with the default Windows 7 settings.

  • Achievement Unlocked: Warwick Half Marathon 2014

    Posted on March 24th, 2014 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Oh my poor legs….

    Last year I wrote about how I’d taken part in a 10km obstacle race called Farmageddon.

    I did a couple more of similar runs during 2013 and had some great fun along the way.

    One of my friends who also ran with me decided he was going to do the London Marathon this year. He was planning on doing the Warwick Half Marathon as a warm up event as it’s a couple of weeks before and asked if I fancied doing it too.

    Since I was in the pub at the time with a drink in my hand I said “Of course!” without actually considering what was involved. The furthest I’d ever run before was around seven and a half miles on one of the mud runs. The obstacles on these courses break the run up so you don’t actually run continuously for that whole distance. This was going to be new territory!

    So before I knew it race day was upon me and I was lining up alongside a couple of thousand other people on a chilly March morning with 13 miles ahead of me.

    I’m in this photo…honest

     Lining Up

    Image credit: Michelle Fallows

    Running into the Warwickshire countryside was fantastic. Having such great scenery on show was a great distraction from the hillier than expected route!

    The one thing that was certainly different from the mud runs I’d previously been involved in was the atmosphere. Those events are all fun and games and people are laughing and joking and shouting along the way. This was a much more focussed affair and on the harder parts of the course it was weird seeing so many people running in total silence as everyone was concentrating on pushing through to the next downhill section.

    Also what contributed to this were the crowds dropping away. There were plenty of people on the sidelines cheering and shouting encouragement as we came out of Warwick but the numbers died down the further we got into the countryside. As we came back into the town the numbers swelled again and it helped us get over those last few miles and the big push to the finish line.

    Finishing

    My final time was 1 hour 56 minutes. I’d set a goal of finishing under two hours and I’m really pleased I managed to do that.

    The other reason for being so pleased was I was so un-prepared it was ridiculous.

    I’d picked up a muscle injury in the run up to Christmas which combined with a general lack of motivation during the cold, dark nights meant that other than playing football I’d done no specific training until about two weeks before the event.

    In those two weeks I managed a few three mile runs followed by a five mile run a couple of days before the race.

    This meant on race day the furthest I’d ever run in one go was five miles. It’s quite a jump to thirteen miles!

    I felt pretty good during the race though and it’s an experience I’m glad I’ve had. I learnt an awful lot!

    My thighs however disagree. Especially when trying to do simple things like standing!

    Having a group of people to run with definitely helped and we were all smiles afterwardsPost RaceImage credit: Michelle Fallows 

    As well as the general smug feeling of achievement a big reason for doing this is to raise some money for charity.

    If you’re feeling generous there are a couple of charities to choose from.

    The event was run by the British Heart Foundation and I was raising money for them.

    My sponsorship page is here

    Second from the left in the photo above is Jonathan Rhodes.

    He’s running the London Marathon for Bliss – a premature babies charity.

    His sponsorship page is here

    On the right hand side in green is Steven Fallows

    He’s doing 12 challenges in 12 months for Macmillan Cancer Support

    His sponsorship page is here

    Steven is also blogging about his challenges! 

    So after all the pain and suffering am I done?

    Nope..

    In two weeks time I’ll be doing the same distance again – with mud and obstacles at Farmageddon 2014 for “fun”.

    Why keep life simple?

    Smile

  • The Case Of The Missing Windows 7 Boot Logo

    Posted on January 24th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    Had a bit of weird problem this week I wanted to write down somewhere in case it happens again!

    A call came in from a client to say the laptop wouldn’t boot. On starting the laptop the usual Windows 7 boot animation was missing.

    image

    The screen was black apart from a series of coloured lines in the top left hand corner.

    Turns out there is an option that controls that!

    On the boot tab from MSCONFIG is a “No GUI Boot” option.

    image

    There is plenty of debate on the Internet as to what this actually does and doesn’t do – I’m not going to get into that here – the end result was that clearing this made the boot animation return.

    At this point I couldn’t actually toggle that option since the system wasn’t booting. I had to use a Windows 7 install disk and boot into the recovery tools and run the command

    bcdedit /set quietboot on

    The next time the system rebooted the logo reappeared. It then became apparent the disk checker needed to run – the laptop had been actually booting after all, but the disk checker wasn’t visible. If it had been left for long enough it would have eventually arrived at the logon screen. After letting the disk check complete (it took about 20 mins) the system eventually booted and I was able to logon ok.

    So that was it that right?

    Not quite…

    Upon next reboot the logo had disappeared again.

    After logging in again I checked the “No GUI Boot” option and it was indeed cleared. Odd? What happened to the logo?

    After a bit of experimentation we found out that making any change to the boot entry, via BCDEDIT and other similar tools caused the logo to reappear. After logging in and restarting it disappeared again!

    Since the problem resurfaced after logging back on we had to assume something was making a change. Using the very useful Autoruns tool we disabled just about every non-Microsoft/Windows program and service that runs when the system boots.

    After doing this (and resetting the boot entry) the logo appeared and stayed there after a series of reboots. Progress!

    Then it was just a matter of isolating which program or service was causing the issue. This took a while!

    Eventually we found the culprit

    HP Day Starter

    The HP Day Starter service is supposed to read the contents of your Outlook calendar and display your upcoming appointments during the boot process. Since the Windows 7 boot animation would normally be there it would need to get rid of that for it to do it’s thing.

    The end user had never used Day Starter and wasn’t interested in using it so we disabled the program and disabled it as on option in the BIOS for good measure so as to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    HP do have full details for configuring the program.

    It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure how useful it would be in practise? Is anyone else using Day Starter?