A catch all category for posts that are neither specific to a Microsoft technology which has its own dedicated category or posts that aren’t based on a Microsoft technology, as rare as those are.

Windows Azure Backup Errors for Roaming Profiles

I was checking some of the logs of my Windows Server 2012 Essentials server last night and discovered that recently my Windows Azure Backup logs were reporting errors for the backups.

The errors weren’t serious but it was flagging that several files couldn’t be backed-up to the service. A normal person could accept this, but me having a little bit of offensiveness about things like that I needed to resolve it.

It transpires that the issue is temporary files generated by Facebook games and Flash video files in the roaming user profile. To resolve the warnings, modify the backup schedule on the server to the Exclusion Settings. Under Exclusion Settings in the Backup Wizard, define *.tmp *.swf and *.sol as exclusions for the root directory of your roaming profile share and set the Subfolders option to yes.

Tonight’s Windows Azure Backup completed without warnings.


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.


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 ( The entire stretch of road also has a tramline in it where the work done on day one differs from day two ( 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 ( and A pothole at the edge of the road at the crossing to Pebbles day care and nursery has been left unresolved ( 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 (

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

No Further Questions

I took the decision today to globally disable comments on the site. I’ve been getting in the region of 250 spam comments daily and I’ve had about 5 actual, real person comments in just as many months. To have the Akismet plugin for WordPress running to filter and manage all of these spam messages adds overhead to the blog and overhead for me to moderate those comments and it just isn’t worth it for the number of comments I receive.

To those of you who do want to contact me, please use the contact page on the site which has all of my social interaction addresses and handles listed.

I just want to stress that I’ve taken this decision not because I don’t want to hear from people about my thoughts and topics of conversation, but just because there isn’t enough real people interested in my material to warrant dealing with the spam.

I hope you understand?

Documents and Office XML Formats

This is a very short blog post; more of a rant than an actual informative post.

It’s the year 2013. Office 2013 has been out for sometime now, and the XML based office document formats such as .docx, .pptx and .xslx have been around since Office 2007. Additionally, there has been the Office Compatibility Pack ( available for download for at least since Office 2010 was released to allow Office 2003 versions of Office to read the XML based document formats.

Why, based on these two factors, do people still insist of sending documents through in the Office 2003-esque .doc, .ppt and .xls document formats? They are old and horrible. They take up well over two times the amount of space per file than the XML based file types as well as reducing the features available to the document?

I understand that some banks and larger institutions may still be using Office 2003 because of compatibility issues with other line of business applications, but the majority populous will surely be running a version of Office less than 10 years old?

I Need More Power Captain

So, anyone who frequents my blog may have noticed a performance improvement in the last two days. The reason? I’ve moved house, or at least my blog has.

Previously hosted by a US company called ASPHostCentral, I had been having a lot of issues with MySQL of late where the blog couldn’t even connect to the instance. Several support tickets were raised for the issue and every time they resolved the issue, but never fixed the root cause which they claimed was a customer on the same shared server as me hammering the database engine. When the blog could connect to the MySQL database, I was seeing round-trip ping responses to the server of over 175ms at all times, with it sometimes peaking to 250ms. I setup a free website monitoring tool ( to monitor the blog and a few other sites I own. I was receiving upwards of 10 alerts a day per site to say that they were offline for a few minutes and then back up again.

I haven’t fully completed the move as I have a forum site I run with a large database I need to migrate, but the blog and a few other mini-sites are moved over but so far it’s great. The blog is now hosted by, a British company with datacentres based in the London area so the geography is much better for me and my primary user base. The new server is running Windows Server 2012 which means I get some of the newer features in IIS 8 for running the site not to mention a sub 20ms ping response from my home. If anyone is wondering, the reason I used the US to host the sites previously is that UK based web hosting hasn’t really been able to compete with the US companies until recently and being that this is all paid and run by me personally, I need to keep it cheap.

I’m going to be doing some performance tweaking of the blog soon, playing with caching plugins for WordPress, maybe even tweaking my theme to try and optimize some of the images to try and make the site fly, but I’m really happy with the new service I’m receiving so far, it’s faster and seems more dependable, I can get support in my time zone and the couple of questions I’ve had for their support people have been answers by certified IT Pro’s who actually sound knowledgeable.

Enjoy 🙂

WordPress Upgrade and Hosting Woes

So after typing the Surface Pro article earlier today, I realised that all of my WordPress plugins and my WordPress were out of date. After about an hour of tinkering with plugin versions, authorizing Twitter OAuth plugins and upgrading the main install.

So what’s new? Well the media manager in the admin interface is very nice and welcoming over previous iterations. Internet Explorer 10 still doesn’t get recognized as a modern browser still as logging into the admin interface produces an error that looks like it thinks I’m running IE6 – Something I as hoping would be fixed. Looking at the categories in the admin interface makes me a little sad too because my categories are all over the place so I think I need to spent a few hours aligning and rearranging them, and I also noticed a few quirks with my custom theme which I need to resolve.

Every time I upgrade my WordPress instance though, it reminds me how junk my current hosting provider are. I was only able to get between 10-20Kbps transferring files to and from the FTP site. A ping to the site results in a round-trip time of 165ms and the load times are terrible not to mention the HTTP500 errors I’ve been getting on a couple of my other sites recently because of some new user on the shared server pillaging the MySQL instance.

Normally, I forget about the issue by the time I get round to sorting it, but I’m determined to remember this time especially as my hosting is up for renewal soon, so I’m going to be finding a new home in the UK as UK hosting prices have dropped in recent years. I did take a look at Microsoft Azure earlier today, but the free instance doesn’t allow the use of custom domain names and the shared instance works out at about $45 a month for my sites which is too much.

If anyone knows a good UK hosting provider for £15 or less a month then please feel free to drop me a line.

Microsoft Surface Pro First Impressions

Friday just gone was my wife’s (@NickyCGreen) birthday. Being a student, she uses her laptop for typing up notes, writing essays and the like, but using a laptop in lectures was proving a little more challenging. On a few occasions, she has used the Acer Iconia W500 tablet I have and thanks to our Windows Server 2012 Essentials setup with folder redirection and roaming profiles, she can logon and get a seamless cross-device experience. She really enjoyed the form factor, but it went without saying that it was imperfect due to the fact that the W500 is pretty under powered and under resourced in terms of CPU and memory.

With the UK being far from the frontline in technological releases, the choices in tablets here are more limited than the US due to slipping release dates, so I made the decision to call in a favour from a previous employer and import a Surface Pro from the US for her birthday.

I opted for the slightly more expensive 128GB model purely because I didn’t want her to run out of space on the 64GB version. There’s no point having a roaming profile and folder redirection to offer her a huge capacity backend if she could then only make some of the work she has available offline.

I did some setup on the device before wrapping it and giving it to her which is what this review is based on.

The device itself is beautiful, with the VaporMag case giving it an amazing look and finish. The weight and dimensions are more than an iPad or the Surface RT, but that’s because you get a full Windows PC for your money. The Surface RT on the other hand is slightly thinner than the iPad but does weigh a fraction more. Neither of these facts make it unwieldy though; it’s still feels perfectly functional. The kick stand works really nicely and combined with a touch or type cover for the Surface, I can see it actually being useful, but I would personally like it to lean into the stand a little more; it’s quite upright and would worry me with the fear of toppling.

Powering the Pro on for the first time, I thought it must have been hibernated or sleeping in the box because it came straight up to the GUI within two seconds. I shut it down and powered it up from cold with the same effect. It boots so fast, it reduces the need for Sleep or Hibernate to null. I think the UEFI BIOS probably helps a lot here. I’d be interested to know how quickly the Surface RT boots being that it’s running a low-fat version of Windows?

The pre-installed Windows 8 Pro operating system has no bloatware, adware, freeware or anything horrid installed; It is the perfect OEM installation and was a real surprise and treat compared to normal OEM hardware releases. I only actually did three things to customize the installation aside from checking for and installing updates:

  1. Domain joined it using the Windows Server 2012 Essentials connector software.
  2. Used the Create Recovery Drive wizard to backup and delete the recovery partition, releasing 8GB of disk as available storage. You even need to play with Disk Management as the wizard extends the existing partitions if you elect to delete the partition afterwards which is a nice touch.
  3. Removed the pre-installed version of Office 2013 to allow me to install my TechNet licensed version of Office 2013 Professional Plus.

The touch screen is super responsive and you can touch type with as many fingers as you like using the on-screen keyboard and every touch is detected without fault. The screen size doesn’t make it the largest of tablets, but I think the size is ideal for portability. Small enough to carry around and use effectively, but not so small that you have to squint out of one eye and close the other, something which I think the smaller 8 inch tablets would suffer from with prolonged used. The 16:9 aspect ratio makes it less tall than it is wide compared to a number of standard aspect tablets also.

The MagSafe-esque power connector works well, connects easily and feels secure. I would personally like the indicator LED to be a little brighter to make it a bit more obvious it is charging, but that’s a minor complaint in the scheme of things.

The only actual complaint I have about the Surface Pro is the wireless adapter. It doesn’t seem to acknowledge 802.11d which is the standard for detecting Access Point deployment country to allow the adapter to use additional channels as available. In the USA, 802.11bgn can use channels 1 through to 11. In the EU, we can use channels 1 to 13. With most hardware being US based, the tendency is for hardware like routers to ship on channels 1,6 or 11, so I historically have used 13 at home to avoid some of the congestion, but the Surface just wouldn’t detect the SSID even with all of the User and System locales change d to UK. This may be a by-product of the fact it is a US import and that UK models shipping later this year will supports channels 12 and 13, but I’ve just changed channels to 11 to workaround this – My neighbour uses 6, so it’s hardly an issue.

All in all, it’s an amazing device and I am super jealous that my wife has one and I don’t. Fingers crossed she won’t break it and double fingers crossed she’ll let me use it from time to time because I don’t exactly have the spare dollars to buy another one any time soon.

Breaking the Duck

It’s been over 18 months since I last sat an IT Pro exam of some description and frankly that was far, far too long. I should really have taken my TOGAF 9 exams last year as a minimum as the Architecting the Enterprise course I attended in London in May included the vouchers for the combined TOGAF exam, but it just never happened.

Today though, I finally broke the duck on my exam sitting and took my VMware Certified Professional 5 Datacenter Virtualization (VCP5-DV) exam and passed it. Maximum score for the exam is 500 and the minimum passing score is 300. I scored 380 which works out to be just shy of 80%. I wasn’t thrilled with the result, but I was happy to pass it first time round.

I got lots of questions on VMware FT which is probably my weakest area of the product after spending a lot of time researching iSCSI and NFS to square up on my existing Fibre Channel knowledge to cover all the storage topics. Although I’ve now passed the exam, I’m going to continue my research to try and brush up more of Fault Tolerance.

Next up? Well, my Cisco CCENT qualification expires in April this year, so I’ve got three months to pass my ICND2 exam to gain my CCNA or I lose the earlier CCENT and have to sit both exams again. Luckily, my networking knowledge has grown a lot since the first time I sat ICND2 and failed it about two and a half years ago, so I’m confident with some new research and studying into serial connections, IPv6 and a few other bits, I will be able to pass that exam.

Onwards and upwards…..

The Things You Don’t Normally Hear

In a somewhat random post from me, I’m going to make a comment on my Sennheiser HD215 headphones.

I bought these recently to replace my failed Creative I-Trigue 2.1 speakers I use at home on my desktop PC. More and more of late I have been turning to headphones over speakers, largely due to wanting to be able to listen movies, YouTube or good old fashioned music at a sensible volume and with my study being fairly close to the kids bedroom, the speakers weren’t the best option for volume in the evenings while the kids are asleep.

I’ve been using a pair of Sennheiser HD201 headphones at work in the office for around the last year, I like them for the £30 price tag and they are more than good enough for the office. Being a shared office with moderate background noise and the fact that I am at work and can’t rationally expect to pump out 100dB of music without disrupting others and possibly my own productivity, I’ve never really had the greatest of chances to explore them fully. That is coupled to the fact that I find them uncomfortable after more than about an hour of listening although I rarely get a chance to listen to them for that length of time in a solid block so it’s a non-issue: The pad and can size means that they sit on the ear not around it and the padding isn’t that thick so the plastic construction of the cans slowly presses into your outer ear giving you that warm ear discomfort sensation.

Giving the new HD215 cans a try at home this evening, I instantly felt the difference as due to the size of the cans, they sit around the ear, resting instead on your head leaving the ear free to move. Listening to a range of tracks from Dance and Dubstep to Vocal and Acoustic, it’s amazing some of the tones and notes you detect with decent headphones at decent volumes that you just otherwise don’t. My case example is the album Radio 1 Established 1967 which is a 2 CD album of tracks taken from the Radio 1 Live Lounge to celebrate one of Radio 1’s anniversaries and the song’s on it sound completely different. I’ve listened to the album at work before on the HD201 headphones and I remember it sounding a decent amount better that how I previously had heard it, but that is because I had only ever previously used my Sennheiser CX-300 II in ear headphones, but these HD215’s seem to take it up another level.

Let’s be straight. I’m no music expert, nor am I am audiophile with an exceptional ear for quality in headphones or music or the ability to detect the difference between a 20,000Hz tone and a 22,000Hz tone, I just like music. I’m sure that someone with deeper pockets than me could easily comment to this and say that their £500 super-duper headphones with their all singing and dancing digital music optimized listening environment and equipment will sound factors greater than these will and perhaps you are correct, but for £55, they sound incredible.

My only criticism of them is that they are supplied with a coiled lead and not a straight lead. I’m not a fan of the coiled lead as you just end up pulling against it trying to reach the length you want and not the length the cable inherently wants and I think that just adds a level of unnecessary discomfort. Luckily, QED have the answer in the form of a Jack-to-Jack 3.5mm lead, available in 1,2 or 3 metre lengths that I can replace the lead with as at least Sennheiser are nice enough to make this model of headphones with a totally detachable lead using 3.5mm standard jacks at either end.

TP-Link TL-WA801ND Wireless Access Point Review

In my continuing quest to upgrade our home network to 802.11n wireless and gigabit throughout, I purchased the TP-Link TL-WA801ND wireless access point.

My reason for selecting this device was three fold:

  1. Easily affordable and I could write off the price of it if it turned out to be a turkey.
  2. Single manufacturer of networking infrastructure in my home once all the upgrades are complete, making interoperability more likely.

The third reason requires a little more explanation. TP-Link sell two models of AP that I was interested in. The TL-WA801ND and that TL-WA901ND. Upon first inspection the difference is clear in that the 901 has three antenna for greater wireless client antenna diversity, however upon receiving the specifications, you can see that the extra £9 on the 901 isn’t worth it. Both devices feature a 100Mbps LAN connection RJ-45 port. This means that even if your wireless device is connected using a 40MHz channel width at 300Mbps, the most the AP can push out onto the wired network is 100Mbps, so why am I concerned therefore about antenna diversity? I’m quite happy if the wireless speed drops to 130Mbps because I enforce a 20MHz channel width as that is still faster that the wired interface. Had the 901 features a gigabit Ethernet port then the choice would be obviously the 901. An oversight on TP-Links device design teams in my opinion but that’s just me of course.

The first thing I will say about this device is that I was sceptical. The access point, brand new and boxed from Dabs Online via eBay was only £33. I personally couldn’t understand how someone could make a 300Mbps N rated access point for this price so quite frankly, I was expecting a Meccano set to arrive but not to include any of the tools required and that it would be a DIY access point. Oh how wrong I was.

First impressions are that the device looks a bit cheap and plasticy and doesn’t look as solid and robust as some other products available, but I figure that for £33 it’s almost disposable. It’s supplied with a passive PoE (Power over Ethernet) adapter allowing you to use the AP somewhere in your house without a nearby power socket, up to 30 metres away from the source of the power injection. This is a nice touch as Cisco for example, will charge you extra for a separate line item to include a power injector for PoE. The AP is wall mountable by means of two slot on, slot off screw positions on the underside and the wireless antenna are screw on type allowing you to select different antenna types such as uni-directional our outdoor if you require. The supplied antenna can be rotated and angled at any direction you like for optimal positioning if you wall or ceiling mount it.

Configuration is simple using the web interface and once I have resolved my issues, performance is also good. Transferring a file from a 300Mbps wireless client to my Home Server was done at 10MB/s (Megabytes), effectively maxing out the 100Mbps LAN connection. Some of the features include support for multiple AP modes (AP, Client, Multi-SSID and WDS Bridge). I am using it in Multi-SSID mode, connected to a trunk port on the wired side and it works great. There is also support to use the AP as a DHCP server, configure firewall rules up to Layer 4 and also a builtin traffic analyser to allow you to monitor throughput and performance of the access point.

I did have one issue which TP-Link support helped me to resolve, but other than that, the experience has been perfect. My issue was that when transferring files or streaming media content, it would drop the transfer speed to about 10 bytes/sec and would struggle to exceed 2MB/s. This turned out to be because the access point has a problem with LAN switch ports hard set to a specific speed and duplex configuration. My Cisco 2950 which it was connected to at the time was set to 100/Full. Setting the switch port back to Auto/Auto caused the port to stop generating FCS input errors and allowed the AP to negotiate it’s own speed (100/Full as it happens but never mind) and the performance instantly went ‘through the roof’.


Great product for a great price. I may be looking to buy another in the future to extend my range/signal at the top level of my multi-story town house home.