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  • Book Review–Gridiron

    I’ve just finished the second book from the gifts I received at Christmas (though I somehow missed this off the original post!). I’d completely forgotten I’d added it to my Amazon wish list so it was a great surprise, especially when I discovered it’s out of print so I appreciated the effort taken to track it down.

    The title of the book comes from a high tech building nicknamed “The Gridiron”. The book was originally published in 1995 and a lot of the technology described within would be still considered high tech now (testing employee urinals to check on their health!) and it’s the technology aspect which originally drew me to the book. 

    The premise of the book is that after a couple of mysterious deaths it becomes apparent that the building computer system could have something to do with it.

    This bothered me for a while. Most thrillers of this type try to keep a bit of mystery about what’s going on so you can be surprised when it all falls into place but this book points to the building and it’s systems as the culprit pretty much straight away.

    Fortunately my fears were unfounded and there was a nice twist two thirds of the way in and it left itself open for a sequel, though I don’t think there is one. 

    It was a pretty ordinary thriller all things said but the technology side of things made it interesting.

    The computer that ran the building management software could basically control everything inside from the temperature, control the elevators and door locks to how much light the glass lets in to the smell of a particular room as well as using cameras, microphones and various other sensors to know exactly where everything and everyone is and it used these capabilities to bump off various characters.

    Pretty much all of the technology described in the book could be implemented now but from a business perspective a lot of it would be unnecessary expense. A good example of this is toilets! In the book the personal cleaning systems are fully automatic, no manual intervention needed! It even has the capability to change the air in a room to get rid any “unsightly smells”. For a fraction of the cost I imagine most companies would be happy with a Glade Automatic Air Freshner.

    It was a pretty decent read though which wasn’t difficult to get through so it was a good gift to receive.

    On to the next one!

  • SBS 2008, Windows Update and BITS

    Just following on from my last post about SBS 2008 setup hanging while expanding and installing files.

    I mentioned in the last post that since it appeared to be Windows Update causing the problem I was hoping the update got stuck would be downloaded again when I manually ran the updates.

    So I started the update process and got exactly the same thing.

    The progress bar sat doing nothing for ages, simply telling me it was “downloading updates”.

    I mentioned in the last post that I’d forgot to the use the /ALLUSERS switch with BITSADMIN so I may have missed queued jobs. Turns out i was right. This time there was a number of jobs listed and as they were getting downloaded they started to drop off the list until I was left with job three or four jobs.

    The byte count on these jobs didn’t appear to be changing so it looked like the jobs were stuck so my first port of call was to restart the BITS service.

    This seemed to have some effect as the byte counts started to go up again.

    However, even when the downloaded byte count matched the file size byte count the jobs were still displayed.

    Each jobs status was set to “transferred “ but didn’t look like it was going anywhere.

    I found this helpful post on the lifecycle of a BITS job which says

    The job moves between the queued, connecting, and transferring states until BITS transfers all files in the job. At that point, the job moves to the transferred state. BITS uses round-robin scheduling to schedule jobs that are at the same priority level. Each job is given a slice of time to process its files. If the job does not complete during its time slice, the job goes back to the queued state and the next job in the queue is activated. This prevents large jobs from blocking smaller jobs. Jobs are processed largely on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis; however, BITS cannot guarantee FIFO processing because of round-robin scheduling, job errors, and service restarts.

    So for some reason the job wasn’t reaching the “complete” stage.

    I initially didn’t think this would be a problem as BITSADMIN has the /COMPLETE flag but when I ran it I was given an access denied error.

    The penny dropped then and I realised why I hadn’t seen the jobs until I used the /ALLUSERS flag. The job owner was set to the system account so even though I was logged in as the administrator I couldn’t make changes to the job.

    Once again I thought BITSADMIN would come to my rescue as there is a “/TAKEOWNERSHIP” flag. My optimism was short-lived though I got the access denied message again.

    So my dilemma was that I needed to mark the job as complete while being logged in as the system account. How was I going to do that?

    Then I remembered one way of getting something to run under the context of the system account

    Scheduled Tasks!

    I setup a batch file with a single command for each listed job

    BITSADMIN /COMPLETE <job number>

    Then I set it as a scheduled task to run in a few minutes time.

    Once that was complete both of my jobs disappeared from the job queue and my windows update completed as normal.

    I’m still at a bit of a loss as to why the jobs were stuck in the first place but I’m just happy it worked in the end!

    A full list of the BITSADMIN switches are here

  • SBS 2008 Setup Hang while Expanding and Installing Files

    How very annoying this was.

    I’m setting up an SBS 2008 server for a client and the setup process got to the “expanding and installing files” part.

    5030287937_db7155a831_z.jpg (618×499)

    It was running in the background whilst I was doing some other bits and pieces but I noticed it had seemed to get stuck right at the end for some time.

    As is always the way when waiting for software to install I thought it was just me so left it a bit longer. (Progress bars play tricks with your mind!)

    Eventually I realised nothing was going on so pressed ALT+F10 to bring up a command prompt.

    From here I opened the log file

    C:\Program Files\Windows Small Business Server\Logs\SBSSetup.log

    and found this at the bottom


    Looking at the timestamps it had been at this stage for some time so I figured the downloading of the update had stalled.

    I used the BITSADMIN tool to see if there were any queued up jobs but no luck. Though on reflection I forgot to use the /ALLUSERS flag so there could have been jobs queued that I didn’t see.

    I disconnected the network cable and reconnected it with a faint hope it might kick off the download again but no luck.

    I even restarted the DHCP Client service with a similar hope but nothing happened.

    So I bit the bullet and used “net stop wuauserv” and “net start wuauserv” to restart the Windows Update Service.

    The progress shot to the end, SBS setup finished and within in a couple of minutes I was at the desktop.

    The SBS Console reported this installation issue.


    Since the problem seemed to be just on the download of an update and not an install I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to run Windows Updates again to pick up whatever didn’t get installed.

    The main frustration was that I didn’t know there was an issue as there was no feedback to think there was anything wrong.. It was only the fact I thought it was taking too long that made me investigate. I could have very easily have left it running overnight to have come back the following morning just to find it in the same state!

    This is where practise makes perfect. I’ve seen the SBS setup process run so many times I know roughly how long it should take to complete.

    Anyway – the SBS logs directory is a really great source of information. I may have linked to this in the past but there is a great post on the official SBS blog about them.

    * UPDATE *I wrote a follow up post about this as my problem wasn’t entirely sorted!

  • Book Review–Freedom TM

    Freedom tm

    As mentioned previously I got this book for Christmas and I’ve really been looking forward to reading it as it’s the follow up to Daemon which I read last year.

    Well, it lasted less than a week as I couldn’t put it down and I enjoyed it as much as the first one.

    The premise of the first book was of this seeming evil distributed computer network, this book turns it completely on it’s head and the authorities and the corporations who come under attack suddenly become the enemy.

    The underlying message of the first book was to make you think about what would happen to the world if someone wanted to use the Internet and modern technology to wage war on governments and businesses.

    This book makes you look at why the governments and businesses are being attacked and raises some really good questions about society as a whole.

    As with the first book some of technology used in the book is already here (such as Augmented Reality) which is a part of of the book that really fascinated.

    I don’t want to spoil the plot so want say any. I’d highly recommend both of the books. They were right up my street!

    You can pick up Freedom TM from Amazon

    I really hope Daniel Suarez has other books planned as I’ll be picking them up straight away!

  • My Geekmas 2010

    In an attempt to get back into the blogging habit I’m writing posts as soon as I have a few minutes to fill so this is a little “off topic”. I’m also experimenting with the Amazon associates program so if you like any of the things detailed below please click the links if you fancy buying any of them. The 2p commission I’ll probably get will come in handy!

    I’m very lucky to have generous family and friends when the festive season comes along. They are also switched on enough to know that like any self respecting geek I’ve got an Amazon wish list so I always receive gifts that I’m going to like! That said they also know me well enough to get some cool things that I haven’t listed as well. 

    So what did I get this year that fed my inner geek?


    I was really pleased to get this. It’s the sequel to Daemon that I wrote about last year.

    Having enjoyed the last book so much I’m eager to get started on this one.

    I’ll report back on this one as soon as I’ve read it!

    Star Trek Scene it?

    This wasn’t on my wish list so it was a great surprise.

    A twist on the classic “Scene it?” DVD game with a Star Trek theme.

    Having given it a quick test run while at my parents though I’m going to struggle to find anyone that will play it with me!

    Biggest downside is a lack of subtitles.

    The Tardis Handbook

    This is brilliant! A book focussed around the Tardis that dips into episodes from the original series as well as the more recent ones.

    There isn’t any wasted space on the pages as it’s packed with character and episode details as well as lots of trivia tidbits and tons of photos.

    A must for any Who fan.

    Star Trek The Original Series

    The picture makes this look like a small book but it’s not. It’s very hefty and with good reason. The book details every single episode from the original series! I don’t plan on reading this cover to cover but it’ll be great to dip into.

    Windows Command-Line Administrator’s​ Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition (PRO-Administra​tor’s Pocket Consultant)

    I saw the first edition of this years ago and realised what a great resource it is. That said I added it to my wishlist and promptly forgot about it!

    The book does exactly what it says on the tin.

    A pocket guide with just about every Windows command line you could possibly need.

    Chapters are grouped so it’ll be easy to find what you need.

    This will go in my laptop bag so it’s always at hand.


    50 Big Ideas You Really Need to Know

    Another item not on my wish list and while it’s not in the same vein as the other items I’ve talked about it’s right up my street.

    The book is essentially 50 mini essays around six broad topics

    Philosophy, Religion, Politics, Economics, Art and Science.

    It’ll be great to dip into and think about one idea.


    Circuit Board Coaster

    Again this wasn’t on my wish list. I’ve got a recycled circuit board business card holder which is very cool so this is a welcome addition. I’ll be taking it to the office where it’ll get plenty of use!



    Eden Trigger Torch

    Eden Trigger Torch

    Picked up by my in-laws on a recent trip to the Eden Project, this is an LED torch powered by hand using a trigger which disappears into the body of the torch. It’s very bright and is really compact and the trigger is much easier to use than the wind up varieties I’ve seen

    I’m dreadful with torches. I use them so little that whenever I need one the batteries are usually dead. I’ve got a mag-light in my laptop bag that I can never use for this reason so this will be replacing it!


    I’m very grateful for all the gifts I received, what did you get for Geekmas?

  • A date with charity

    How about 365 of them?

    Last year my sister-in-law Hannah spent the summer in Newquay. She fell in love with the place and had such a great time she went back for new years eve.

    As is usual for just about everything there is a Facebook fan page for Newquay.

    They ran a photo competition in October where people from all across the country (and in some cases the world!) entered photos that they had taken of the beautiful sights and scenery that the Cornwall has to offer.

    Hannah decided she wanted to do something a bit more than enter the competition so took the top 12 photos from the competition and turned them into a calendar to sell.

    All the profits from selling the calendars will be going to the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust

    Hannah has done a great job in organising the everything and finding some local businesses who contributed to help get the whole thing off the ground.

    I helped with some web hosting and getting a website together so I also wanted to try and help promote it.

    If you visit the website you can get a look at the pictures that have been used for the calendar as well as order one.

    Since it’s the start of a new year a new calendar for the office wouldn’t go amiss surely? Winking smile