Posted on April 30th, 2013 No comments
Came across a bit of a weird issue today I thought was worth repeating here.
I took a support call where the end user could print documents in Word, Excel, Outlook without issue but as soon as she tried to print something via Internet Explorer no document appeared and Internet Explorer was non-responsive.
What struck as weird first of was how Internet Explorer was “non-responsive”.
Normally when a program locks up in Windows it’s pretty obvious. The program visibly changes and Task Manager reports the program as not responding and Windows will give you the option to end the task. In this case it was as thought there was a dialog box hidden somewhere so the rest of the application was off limits.
After quite an amount of time trying various things I managed to find the problem
Internet Explorer Protected Mode
Protected Mode for Internet Explorer is a Windows 7 feature there to prevent webpages running applications it’s not supposed to. If it attempts to run a program you get a warning.
In this case the print driver itself was kicking off one of those warnings (this is something I’ve never seen before and I’m still looking into why).
At some point the user must have click “Don’t Allow” and put the tick in the box for “Do not show me the warning for this program again”. This meant the printer driver was waiting for input, permission to run and never getting it.
Unfortunately you can’t re-allow a single application (as far as I’m aware anyway) so you have to reset Internet Explorer to defaults.
To do this click, Tools, Internet Options, Click the Advanced Tab, click Reset and then in the dialog box that pops up click rest. (Instructions from the Microsoft site are here)
Once that was done I was able to click “Allow” and put the tick in the box for “Do not show me the warning for this program again”.
Alternatively if there is a new browser to upgrade to (IE 8 to IE 9 for example) you can do that and it’ll have the same effect as part of the upgrade.
After that everything started to print ok!
Posted on April 22nd, 2013 No comments
On Saturday I did the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever been involved with.
10km off road running adventure through woodland, farm tracks and across grassland held on the grounds of Brooksby Melton College’s Spinney Campus.
The longest distance I’ve ever ran continuously was about 5 miles (around 8km) which I did once during my recovery from my knee injury. At that point I was doing 2-3 mile runs and wanted to see if I could step up to 5. I did it and decided that once was enough!
So I guess the first question is why?
Well, why not?
I’ve said before about how I’m all for new experiences and pushing boundaries and when some friends said they were getting involved I thought it’d be a good thing to do with them. If anything it would certainly be an experience!
Whoever designed the course must be some sort of sadist. It starts out with a gentle 2km run with a paddle through a very shallow stream, under a bridge and over some hay bales. All very straight forward and fun.
Then you’re expected to climb quite a steep hill, come back down again and repeat…at least eight times, on the last couple of climbs they give you a log to carry!! This isn’t even the halfway point of the course.
Some you waded through, some you crawled through, some you’d have to swim through if you weren’t tall enough!
The running and hay bales kept coming and just when you think it might get easier more near vertical hills suddenly appear!
Crawling under a cargo net that is submerged in what I can only describe as a large muddy puddle is something I’ll remember for a long time!
The final stretch gave us another net to clamber under before a sprint for the finish line (I have no idea where I got the energy from to sprint to the line!)
Actually getting across the line was an amazing feeling and any immediate thoughts of tired muscles vanished!
I finished the course in one hour and thirty two minutes and finished in 143 place.
The overall winner finished in just short of an hour so I’m pretty pleased at that as a total amateur and my first ever event. There were 278 total entries so 143rd place put me right in the middle, again something I’m pretty happy about.
As well as it being as equally fun and rewarding as it was difficult I learnt an awful lot. Many of these things are useful in plenty of other areas I think!
Long distance running events like this are only in part about physical strength. Mental strength is key. Around the 7km mark ever part of my body was telling me to stop as this was too hard. I really had to push through and tell myself to carry on going.
Never underestimate having someone to lean on. My friend Stewart and I ran the whole thing together. He’s got much more experience at this sort of thing than I have and if I’d been doing it on my own I can’t say with 100% confidence I’d have been strong enough to push through the hard parts. I’m confident I’d have still finished but would I have slowed or even stopped? Quite possibly. He even ignored my babblings about how hungry I was at the 8km mark! Cheers mate.
Know when to go alone. We actually started out as a three running together but Neil was carrying an injury. We initially resisted calls from him telling us to carry on without him but being brutally honest when we finally made the decision to actually do that it was the right thing to do. He made it around in his own time but our enjoyment of the event may not have been the same if we had stayed as three. It worked out fine in the end and we all had a great time.
Preparation is really important. While I didn’t specifically train for the event I was conscious that football aside, I hadn’t done any running since last summer. I made sure I went out six or seven times in the weeks leading up to the event and ran a coupe of miles each time just to get back into the rhythm of running over a distance. I’m glad I did! If I’d thought about it a bit more and done some longer distances that wall I hit around 7km would have been much easier to get through.
Don’t overdo it! Because of how bizarre our winter has been we’ve been playing catch up on football fixtures. This meant I played football Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the event. With another game on Sunday – ouch. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it could be but my calf muscles were starting to cramp up half way around. I was actually thankful for the cold water on some parts of the course.
The London Marathon was the day after and the amount of respect I already had for those who take part shot up a thousand fold! Not that I have any plans to take on that sort of distance!
Posted on April 18th, 2013 No comments
Everyone once in while when using Outlook you’ll get messages that just refuse to send.
Looking down the folder list you see the dreaded number next to the Outbox that lets you know something isn’t quite right
Clicking on the folder shows the message just sitting there.
You try double clicking the message and pressing the send button again, you’ve pressed the “send/receive” button, you’ve restarted Outlook but it just sits there.
The Outlook blog has a decent post with some things to try to help shoo the message along. But I thought I’d share one of the tricks that generally works for me.
What can sometimes be frustrating is that everything otherwise appears fine. Outlook is reporting as connected (you have checked that’s not the problem though?) and inbound messages are still coming in
When it’s really trying to mock you other messages actually send ok!
So my “tip” is actually pretty simple
Drag the message into your Sent Items folder.
Open the message from there and press the send button again.
Posted on April 4th, 2013 2 comments
If you make any changes to settings in Windows you’ll have seen three buttons at the bottom.
OK, CANCEL, APPLY
I’ve been asked a couple of times recently about difference between the ok and apply buttons so thought that I thought it was worth posting about!
It’s not all that complicated.
If you make any changes and press the APPLY button the settings are put into place and the window stays open.
If you make any changes and press the OK button the settings are put into place and the window is then closed.
Both are supposed to be time saving functions depending on what you are doing. If you are making multiple changes but want to see what effect it has as you are working the apply button means you don’t have to constantly reopen the settings window each time.
The OK button is there for one off operations and means you don’t need an extra click to close the window manually.
I very often see people who click the Apply button and then immediately click the OK button which says to me it’s not obvious what the difference is.
I’m hoping it’s obvious what the cancel button is for.
Posted on April 2nd, 2013 2 comments
Sometimes people solve problems with ideas that are so simple you wonder why no-one ever thought of it before. The MU Foldable USB charger is a classic example of that and when the nice people at MobileFun asked if I’d be interested in a taking a look at their phone chargers and I saw the MU was on the list I jumped at it.
So what’s the problem they are trying to solve?
Specifically plugs for chargers (phone, kindle, mp3 player, etc).
Have you ever tried to carry a charger in your pocket? The pins on the plug stick in everything and the whole thing is is so bulky you end up with lumps in places you probably would rather there weren’t. This means chargers are usually stuffed in bags but if you do a lot of travelling you’ll know bag space comes at a premium so having silly shaped chargers isn’t helpful.
First thing though the packaging!
It’s very stylish packaging and the sort of thing you’d expect from a high end gadget such as a mobile phone or a tablet.
It makes just unboxing the thing an “experience” but if you’re reinventing the plug then way not add a bit of jazz?
Packaging aside however, what’s different about this?
It’s a plug…that folds!!
Here’s how it looks when it comes out of the box.
You then open it up and rotate the bottom set of pins.
And there you have it!
Just a really simple idea that’s executed very well.
The only real downside with it is that it’s not intended for “high ampere devices such as tablets” so it wouldn’t be the complete solution while on the road.
MobileFun have them available for £19.99 which is a lot of money on the face of it but if you consider you can get a Belkin USB AC Charger / UK Plug for about £9 (and it doesn’t fold!) so you may think it’s worth the extra money for the convenience.
The manufacturers website is here and has much better pictures than the ones I’ve taken!
Posted on March 25th, 2013 No comments
This a note for me as I always have to lookup which group policy setting I need.
When using the Remote Assistance tool to help someone running Windows 7 (or Vista!) if you need to elevate via UAC you’re not able to do this as the “helper” out of the box. The end user is supposed to respond to the UAC prompt. It’s intended as security feature to prevent remote helpers making admin changes but what if you’re the network admin and the end user doesn’t have local admin rights?
As the helper you just end up with a black screen displayed and the user is prompted for credentials they don’t have and you probably don’t want to give them.
The solution is to allow remote assistance users to interact with the UAC prompt.
It’s a simple change in group policy. (or via local security policy if you really wanted to do it by hand!)
Local Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Security Option
This setting needs to be ENABLED
User Account Control: Allow UIAccess applications to prompt for elevation without using the secure desktop
If you are a little worried about security there are still some restrictions in place that prevent just any old application from getting around UAC.
UIA programs (User Interface Accessibility) are designed to interact with Windows and application programs on behalf of a user. This policy setting allows UIA programs to bypass the secure desktop to increase usability in certain cases; however, allowing elevation requests to appear on the interactive desktop instead of the secure desktop can increase your security risk.
UIA programs must be digitally signed because they must be able to respond to prompts regarding security issues, such as the UAC elevation prompt. By default, UIA programs are run only from the following protected paths:
- …\Program Files, including subfolders
- …\Program Files (x86), including subfolders for 64-bit versions of Windows
If you really wanted to lower your security you can disable this requirement too but it’s probably not worth thinking about!
Posted on March 19th, 2013 No comments
The Internet of Things (IoT from herein!) is one of things in the technology world that has been on the verge of exploding over the last few years.
Finding a definition for the IoT isn’t all that easy to pin down, in the same way that “The Cloud” has a ton of different ways of being described but in short it’s used to describe the process of connecting everyday “things” to the Internet.
Why would you want to do that?
What if you’re fridge could tell you were low on milk and automatically order you some more?
What if your alarm clock could check local traffic reports and wake you up a little early if it thought you were going to be late for an important meeting?
What if you’re house could tell you were on the way back from work and could turn the oven and start cooking your evening meal?
These are just one or two examples (more here) and the technology for these sort of applications already exists, today!
So to that end the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI) are looking to kick-start some growth in the Midlands region around this topic and are hosting the first coming together of companies in the area who can collaborate and explore opportunities.
This event will be an informal ‘Show and Tell’ event, featuring short talks from those innovating within the ‘Internet of Things’.
Speakers in place already confirmed:
- Maurizio Pilu, Lead Technologist (Digital) & Programme lead for the Internet of Things at the Technology Strategy Board. “What is the Internet of Things?”
- Alyson Fielding, MD of Pyuda Ltd. Gesture controlled, connected Books.
- Ben Wood, Technology Transfer Specialist at WMG. 3D printing and low volume manufacturing.
- John Shermer, MD of JSJS Designs Ltd. Using occupancy data for the greater good.
- Miles Hodkinson, CTO of Cicesco plc. Wireless comms options for your IoT products.
So if this sounds like it’ll be your cup of tea then register on the Meetup page.
The event is at the University of Warwick on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 7:00 PM
See you there!
Posted on March 19th, 2013 No comments
Last week I I got an email from Raj Khera who asked if I’d like to take a look at his new book which was due to launch and is aimed specifically at small technology companies and help them win new business by improving their marketing.
Raj is the CEO of MailerMailer, who are an email marketing company so he certainly knows a thing or two about getting people’s attention.
The title very much describes the book in a nutshell. It’s a starting point for owners and managers of IT companies who need a starting point when it comes to spreading the word about their own business and the services they provide.
This is an area that I know lots of people I speak to at AMITPRO and similar groups have a problem with and this book is a broad overview of the things you should be doing to let people know about what it is you do.
Each chapters covers a specific item and provides a check list of actions to complete so you can actually get something done straight away.
Covering areas such as social media, blogging, in-person networking and newsletters the book helps to position yourself as an expert and stay in touch with potential clients.
There are also several examples of how other companies have made changes to their marketing efforts and the results they have seen.
At the end of the book is a master checklist you can use as your final take away to get started on putting renewed efforts into marketing.
So what did I think after reading it?
If you’re not already doing some marketing for your business this book it’s worth a read. It’s an area I know I’m not doing enough with at the moment and I enjoyed reading it. It’s aimed at a very specific audience so if you’re already doing some marketing it’s probably not for you but if you don’t really know where to start it’s very much a crash course. It’s jargon free and each chapter is short enough to read when you’ve got a few minutes spare. I particularly liked the checklist at the end of each chapter as it meant you could go and do something straight away.
It’s available now Amazon either as an eBook (for free – at the moment) or as a paperback (£9.95)
If you take a look let me know what you think!
Posted on March 15th, 2013 No comments
Following my post about my recent Kindle purchase I was asked if I’d review a case for that’s available at the The Snugg website.
The case is made of black leather which makes it sturdy enough to keep your Kindle safe. The inside is made from a soft fabric which should keep the screen safe. After the first day I had to give the screen a wipe as it was covered in “fluff” but after that is was fine so I’d put that down to it being new.
All of this doesn’t add too much bulk to the overall size of the Kindle either which can only be a good thing.
There is a strap that clips onto the front to keep the case closed when it’s not in use.
In terms of features?
The bottom straps are fixed so it holds the device in place pretty firmly so there is no danger of it dropping out. The elasticated straps at the top make it easy to put in and out.
There is also a large elastic strap to slide your hand into when the case is open and folded around the back to give that extra bit of grip when you’re holding the Kindle.
You can also clip the front cover into a slot on the back which turns the case into a stand for hands free reading! A quick change in device settings to rotate the screen obviously helps here. You do have to be careful not to make it topple over but it’s a nice touch and could be useful on long train journeys.
Overall it’s a decent case. I haven’t used the hand strap at the back all that much but in all honesty that’s because the case doesn’t add that to size so it’s still comfortable to hold.
You can get the case from The Snugg website. It’s currently £24.99.
Posted on March 14th, 2013 2 comments
I woke up to the news this morning that Google Reader will close down on July 1st. My twitter feed was full this morning people who use it on daily basis now having to consider alternatives.
It’s part of a broader “spring clean” Google have been on for some time but the specific reasoning was described in a couple of lines,
While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.
I’d be interested to know what numbers Google take to mean a “loyal following”.
I’ve been using Google Reader pretty much since it was launched in 2005. I’ve tried various other feed readers, both desktop and online but Google Reader worked best for me as it’s simple to use but mostly importantly for me it works everywhere. Specifically the mobile web version of Google Reader is what I’m talking about here. I’ve never needed any apps for it so the platform or device I’m using becomes unimportant (I’ve even used it on my Kindle!)
I’d really like something I can use entirely in the browser but I’ve not found anything yet that fits that bill.
Maybe as that July 1st date approaches some of the alternatives will step up their game to try and grab some new users and start adding new features.
Some alternatives I’ve seen mentioned so far include:
I’ll be checking these out I think!
What I’d really like is for Google to make the source code available and I’ll put it on my own server! I can only wish.
If you’re not a Google Reader user what are you using to keep track of your favourite sites/blogs?
If you are a Google Reader what are planning on doing now?