An Open Email to Hampshire Roads

I wrote an email to the Hampshire Roads and Maintenance enquiries address, including my local councillors on the email. This is response to recent resurfacing work which has taken place on our road which I’m less than amused about. I’ve decided to make this an open mail by posting it here on my blog due to the level of dissatisfaction I have.

Hello,

Recently, Shakespeare Road in Popley was resurfaced. I’d like to bring several points to your attention relating to the surfacing work which took place.

The road surface on Shakespeare Road should not have been due for resurfacing, although it is now. With the exception of the entrance from Popley Way into Shakespeare Road (the second entrance if coming from the A33 which the buses use to exit Shakespeare Road) the entire road was of satisfactory condition from my perspective as a car, motorcycle and bicycle user.

The new surface which has been applied is actually worse than the existing surface. The surface which was left consisted of extremely loose gravel which was not packed down before being left. The gravel was extremely unsafe to drive on even at the 10mph suggested by the signage put in place. The skid risk signs were removed two weeks ago but there is a still a large amount of gravel being thrown around by passing vehicles, with some parts of the road starting to form piles of gravel. With the recent bought of rain, much more gravel has been drawn out from the surface highlighting that the 10mph signs were removed far too prematurely.

The surface transition from the piece of road which actually needed surfacing to the new surface is terrible, with several undulations while passing over it and the surface transition from the work which was done on day one to that of day two of work is also terrible (http://sdrv.ms/11hBdt5). The entire stretch of road also has a tramline in it where the work done on day one differs from day two (http://sdrv.ms/11hBgVK). A sunken drain at the edge of the road near the entrance aforementioned has been left sunken and simply been surfaced around. The camber of the road no longer exists meaning that rain puddles are forming in the middle of the road right in the tyre tracks of cars which in a heavy rain will likely cause a loss of braking performance should a child jump off a kerb in front of someone.

The new surface is already breaking up in sections near the One Stop shop (http://sdrv.ms/19bDW96 and http://sdrv.ms/19bDU15). A pothole at the edge of the road at the crossing to Pebbles day care and nursery has been left unresolved (http://sdrv.ms/19bDZll). This, in my view is a health and safety risk as a number of children and parents with pushchairs use this crossing daily to access the nursery site. All it will take is for a child to trip over here one day and they could end up being struck by a car on this relatively blind corner. Another large bump at the edge of the crossing which leads down to the footpath between the new estate and the fields behind the doctors surgery hasn’t been levelled out either (http://sdrv.ms/19bE5JY).

These are just some of the faults with the surface that I’ve observed over the recent days so there are likely to be countless others, on sections of Shakespeare Road which I haven’t travelled.

I fail to understand how the council had decided to allocate road surfacing budget to a road which didn’t need it except for the portion outlined at the top of this mail and after the work was completed, the road surface has been made worse than it was originally? I also fail to understand now the only portion which should have been repaired has been left, completed untouched?

I do not see the point in spending money on applying a new surface if basic defects in the underlying road condition aren’t resolved first? It would be like me setting down a new layer of floor tiles over the top of the old ones because there are a few cracked ones instead of lifting the old ones and repairing them.

Whilst I understand that recent years of winter frost, snow and ice are causing road surfaces to deteriorate more rapidly causing road surfacing budget to be spread thinly, what I don’t understand is why the quality of work on resurfacing has dropped dramatically across the whole of Hampshire? Any resurfacing work I see completed in the region largely leaves a new surface marginally better if not worse that existing (take the A339 and A33 for example), and because the grade of work is so low, the new surface only lasts six months to a year at best before it should be surfaced again. What happened to actually correctly surface defects properly with the intention of providing a long term, lasting solution? Surely correctly something properly once rather than applying continuous band aid style short-term fixes would be more cost effective?

I’m sure that nothing will be done to rectify the situation in Shakespeare Road because frankly enough money has already been wasted on it, but I would none-the-less like my comments to be taken for the record as a complaint against the quality of work done here. In short, a waste of council tax payers money and council budgetary resources. As a resident of Shakespeare Road, I feel pretty let down on this occasion and my current frame of mind it to go to the top of Shakespeare Road and pour some concrete of my own to repair the parts which need it. I’m not in the trade of construction, but I don’t think I could do a worse job than that which has been done thus far?

Areas of road such as filter left lane on the roundabout adjoining the Ringway North and the Ringway West which is worsening by the week, the roundabout where the Ringway West and Winchester Road meet or the entire width of the road at the roundabout where the Ringway East meets the Ringway South and the M3 are in much greater need of surfacing work as these are heavily used commuter and main traffic routes throughout Basingstoke yet they remain untouched?

To be totally blunt about it, it strikes me as though all decisions are made on which roads to allocate surfacing budget to my bureaucrats in regional offices and not people who have actually ever driven in Basingstoke and understand the real roads maintenance requirements.

Sent from Windows Mail

Windows Phone 7 Speech

Windows Phone 7 has some really nice voice control and speech recognition features such as the ability to transcribe text messages and even reply to or write new messages to people in your contacts but to name one of the features. I’ve used the text messaging speech control on a couple of occasions in the car, but only really by fluke due to the fact that I had my phone connected to the car for playing music at the time.

You can read the official Microsoft page on speech control at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/howto/wp7/get-started-speech.aspx.

I’ve never really been a big speech or voice control user, let alone a fan. I don’t spend a lot of time travelling in the car and typically, my phone is with me, on my person, so I use my hands as after all, that big touch screen on the HTC HD7 is made for them.

As a Christmas gift, I bought my wife and me a Scala Rider Q2 Multiset Pro (http://www.cardosystems.com/scala-rider/scala-rider-q2-multiset), which is a helmet mounted voice activated rider to pillion (and bike to bike) communication system, but it also triples as an FM Radio and a Bluetooth headset, allowing me to connect my phone and satnav device to it so that I can get handsfree Bluetooth calls or music whilst riding and get satnav directions through the helmet.

I fitted my Scala Rider unit to my helmet yesterday and thought I would have a play with some of the speech controls of my Windows Phone as I would be using some of them now via the helmet.

The call commands are pretty intuitive and what you would expect: Call is the opening command  followed by the name of the person and optionally which number to call them on. For example, call Richard Green Work would dial my work number. If you omit the work, home or mobile command, then the phone will prompt you for which number to dial if you have multiple numbers for a given contact.

The text command is pretty simple too: Text is the opening command followed by the name of the person. You will then be prompted to start speaking your message. Once you’re done, the phone will read back the transcript and if you’re happy with it, you can say Send, or you can say Try Again to start over if it misheard you. On the receiving side, when you receive an incoming text, the phone will announce that you have a new message and the name of the contact whom it is from and you are given the option to have it read out loud and then reply if you wish.

The application commands, again are simple and intuitive, and herein lies the problem. Saying Open followed by the name of an application of feature on the phone and it will do so, for example Open Zune will open the Music and Videos Hub (renamed from the Zune Hub pre-Mango update). You can say Open Music and Videos too, but why would you when you can just say Zune? This works for any application, including third-party ones, so I can say Open Sky News or Open Endomondo and the app will promptly open, however this is where it ends.

Once the Music and Videos Hub is open, there is no way to start playing music, play a particular artist, a playlist or anything.

I love my Windows Phone as anyone remotely close to me will tell you. The style of it, the ease of use and the way it gives me the data I want quickly and easy to read with those big blocks of bold colour, but most of all, my passion for all things Microsoft, but this is one area that flops.

What is the purpose of being able to open an application on the phone via speech if you then can’t control the application beyond that? I know that Microsoft can’t be expected or even be able to implement deep level interoperability for speech control for third party applications because Microsoft have no understanding of the function and purpose of the applications or code used to make those applications function (beyond the actual language used), but a deep rooted part of the operating system such as music, messaging and phone should be there out of the box.

Ignoring the new Siri functionality on the iPhone 4S which is different to what I’m covering here – Just the core platform controls, and an iPhone user can dictate to the phone to shuffle all music, play a particular album, artist or playlist which is what you need. Going back to my original statement, I’ve never been a big speech user, this one-up-manship for the iPhone didn’t phase me, however with my shift in needs, it does.

Now, in my circumstances, the phone is safely inside my backpack while I’m riding, so touching the phone to operate it isn’t even remotely viable. If I wanted to listen to music on the road, I would have to start the music playing before I get all my gloves and other gear on so that it’s already rolling before I’m rolling. If I want to stop the music for any reason, I need to take off, at a minimum, my gloves and backpack so that I can get into the bag to stop it. If I’m on the subject of music on Windows Phone, why is the music volume linked to the system volume? There should be separate control for the music and system volumes, as well as a separate control for the ringtone volume, however that’s a separate rant.

I still prefer my Windows Phone to any iPhone offering, because it does what I want, how I want it (except for this one occasion), however on this occasion, I do envy those owners. I’ve read multiple rumours about speech operation in Windows Phone 7 Tango update rumoured to be coming in 2012 which will bring the speech more inline with that seen in Siri, however for me, now, this can’t come soon enough.

Package Fails to Distribute in SCCM When an autorun.inf File is Present

At work this week, I was working with an Intel HD Graphics driver package which in terms of SCCM, you would call a bad driver. We call it a bad driver because it is a driver which doesn’t not install correctly using the Apply Device Drivers OSD step but instead requires a full application to be executed.

After creating the package in SCCM, I proceeded to distribute the package to our distribution points on the network so that the operating system deployment process would be able to access the files required to deploy the application.

After waiting a short while for the package to distribute, I checked the Package Status view in the ConfigMgr Console, and I saw that the status was Install Retrying. After looking at the status log for the distribution point, I saw that it had already gone into a retrying state several times. If received the following error:

SMS Distribution Manager failed to copy package "SITE0011C" from "\SERVERPATHIntelHD Graphics Display Driverx64" to "MSWNET:["SMS_SITE=SITE"]\SERVERSMSPKGD$SITE0011C".

Possible cause: SMS Distribution Manager does not have sufficient rights to read from the package source directory or to write to the destination directory on the distribution point.

Solution: In the SMS Administrator console, verify that the site system connection accounts have sufficient privileges to the source and destination directories.

Possible cause: The distribution point might not be accessible to SMS Distribution Manager running on the site server.

Solution: If users are currently accessing the package files on the distribution point, disconnect the users first. If the package distribution point is located on a Windows NT computer, you can force users to disconnect by clicking on the "Disconnect users from distribution points" box in the Data Access tab of the Package Properties dialog box.

Possible cause: The distribution point does not have enough free disk space to store the package.

Solution: Verify that there is enough free disk space.

Possible cause: The package source directory contains files with long file names and the total length of the path exceeds the maximum length supported by the operating system.

Solution: Reduce the number of folders defined for the package, shorten the filename, or consider bundling the files using a compression utility.

I logged into the effected distribution point and verified that the file shares used by SCCM where still active and that there was sufficient disk space on the server which there was.

I have encountered issues with package distribution before with a Windows 7 64-bit image was refusing to distribute, but I couldn’t find any cause, and in that instance re-creating the package resolved the issue, so my first port of call was this. On the sources directory, I made a new folder and copied the source files from my workstation fresh to the server in case there had been a problem with the previous file transfer.

On this occasion, whilst copying the files, I got an error whilst trying to copy the files, and it specifically generated the error no the autorun.inf file which was included in the download from the Intel site. I thought this was wierd, but knowing how invasive our McAfee enterprise policies can be at times, I wondered if the autorun.inf file was causing an issue. I deleted the autorun.inf file from the original package sources directory on the server and watched while SCCM happily distributed the package to the distribution points.

After a quick bit of investigation, I soon discovered a setting in McAfee VirusScan called Prevent Remote Creation of autorun.inf Files which was enabled. Because SCCM uses SMB to transfer the packages from the source directory to the distribution points, this triggered the McAfee rule and blocked the entire package from being created.

As a rule on thumb, there is no reason to have autorun.inf files inside your SCCM packages and their source directories, so in this instance I simply omitted the file, however if you needed to keep the file, then you could simply disable this protection rule for your SCCM Site and Distribution Point servers and the server which holds your package source files (perhaps a File Server). Although I have mentioed McAfee as the culprit in this scenario, I’m pretty sure that other anti-virus applications will feature a similar rule which could cause you other headaches.

The Case of The Failed SharePoint Server 2007 Indexing

As my LinkedIn profile will kindly tell you, I’m working on a SharePoint deployment for Vocera to replace our current aged and disorganised ECM (Enterprise Content Management) system.

I was very confused one day to discover during my proof of concept and design stages that the indexing and crawling in SharePoint stopped working. I originally blamed this on myself for moving from an internal model to a external model by making some changed to the Shared Services Provider (SSP), however I discovered today this is untrue.

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointsearch/thread/84f93fbe-f4a6-4683-b25b-b595b9006ad7

This most helpful Microsoft TechNet Social forum page explains how the cause is a .NET Framework 3.5 Family update that makes changes to the authentication model and providers in SharePoint.

Follow the instructions in the post from Sandeep Lad to resolve your issues.