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  • Book Review–Password Incorrect

    passwordincorrectThis was the first book in a while I didn’t actually like, hence the brevity as it wasn’t all that memorable either!

    I rarely give up on a book once I’ve started it properly because I like to give it every chance – some books redeem themselves after an iffy start this wasn’t one of them. I didn’t give up on it but I came very close!

    The book is a selection of very short purchase ativan online stories all based around a technology theme.

    My issue was that too many of the stories made little sense. Many of them were actually too short.

    It actually got reasonable reviews on GoodReads but this one wasn’t for me.

    It’s possible I just didn’t get the humour as the write-up said it was “tech absurd”.

    It’s another creative commons book so if you want to check it yourself it’s available here.

  • Disappearing Desktop Shortcuts on Windows 7

    Had a bit of weird support query I wanted to blog about in case I need it again, it helps anyway else or for further comment!

    Client called as she’d setup some shortcuts on her desktop to some files she uses on a regular basis and they had disappeared.

    I wasn’t sure where they’d gone, maybe she’d deleted them by mistake, so put it down to one of those things and we re-created them and left it at that.

    She called me about a week later with the same problem. We re-created the shortcuts again and I setup auditing on the PC to track file deletes from the desktop.

    She called back about a week later with the same thing.

    After I’d setup auditing I went away and did some more research and found this Microsoft support article,

    Desktop shortcuts disappear in Windows 7 (KB 978980)

    Basically there is a “System Maintenance Troubleshooter” task that runs periodically and one of the areas of maintenance is to tidy up broken desktop shortcuts (a shortcut whose target doesn’t exist). If it finds more than four broken shortcuts on the desktop it deletes them all.

    The thing is as far as I could tell they weren’t broken shortcuts – the missing shortcuts all pointed to files on the network but they were all accessible, she uses them on a daily basis!

    The annoying thing about this is the “workaround” provided by the support article.

    Method 1 – Keep the number of broken shortcuts to four or less

    Method 2 – Disable the System maintenance troubleshooter

    Click Start and then click Control Panel

    Under System and Security click Find and Fix Problems

    On the left navigation pane click Change Settings

    Set Computer Maintenance to Off

    As far as I can tell the shortcuts aren’t broken so how can I keep them to less then four!

    Disabling system maintenance is something I’m not inclined to do either.

    So what to do instead?

    One option is to follow the details in this post.

    The system maintenance tasks are basically powershell scripts stored in c:\windows\Diagnostics\Scheduled\Maintenance

    The scripts are viewable and after tweaking the permissions to allow you to edit them you can make any changes you like.

    The article suggests deleting a section of the code so that it will always return an empty list of broken shortcuts hence there will be nothing to delete.

    My preference is to change the parameter on the threshold for broken shortcuts as it’s a little less drastic than chopping code out.

    if(-not([String]::IsNullOrEmpty($brokenDesktopShortcuts) -and [String]::IsNullOrEmpty($brokenStartupShortcuts)) -and (((Get-ListLength $brokenDesktopShortcuts) + (Get-ListLength $brokenStartupShortcuts)) -gt 100))
    {

    The bit in bold was 4 originally.

    The comments in the article have similar suggestions including a batch file you can use to do the whole thing for you.

    My only concern about this is that the scripts could be changed in a future service pack or software update and you’d end up with the same problem.

    I also don’t understand why the System Maintenance Troubleshooter has no configurable options other than “On/Off”.

    I haven’t actually implemented this for the customer as I provided my own couple of workarounds to try.

    The first is that if you create a folder on the desktop and put the shortcuts in there the problem goes away entirely – it’s an extra click so again this isn’t always desirable.

    The second is that since this Windows 7 why not make use of the “Jump Lists” feature – it’s designed exactly with this scenario in mind!

    I ran through jump lists and she was very pleased with that as it was easier than having to navigate to the desktop to find the shortcuts.

    Anyone else come across this? Any other suggestions for something I’m missing.

  • Mobile Phone Decisions

    I had a moan recently about my current mobile phone, a HTC Touch 2 running Windows Mobile 6.5 and that I was counting the days until contract renewal.

    Well that day has finally come which has meant I’ve had a decision to make about what handset I’m going to be using over the next 18-24 months.

    In a lot of ways though it’s not really about the handset, more the platform.

    So I’ll get it out of the way.

    I’m going with Windows Phone 7. Specifically a Samsung Omnia 7 (because this is the only Windows Phone 7 I could get with network we’re using!)

    I wanted to cover the other platforms and why I didn’t go for them first though.

    Blackberry

    blackberry_torch_9800_8Never really a contender to be honest – I don’t really “get” the attraction. Seven or eight years ago maybe when the concept of push email was still pretty new and they were the only ones doing decent business handsets but nowadays if I use Exchange for my email then just about every handset you’d consider for business supports ActiveSync. I know you have the option of more control over the devices from a management perspective but in my business we’ve only got a couple of handsets so it’s not a huge need. Having to install BES Express isn’t my idea of fun either, though I’m going to have to anyway as my business partner went for a Blackberry Torch 9800!

    Android

    android_logoYou’re spoilt for choice ampills.com in terms of handsets when it comes to an Android based device. Google have to be applauded for getting a platform out there that can be considered a serious contender as an iPhone alternative when people like Microsoft and Nokia were dragging their heels. Having seen some really nice Android devices, under other circumstances I’d have gone for one. There is also a growing library of applications though it’s un-moderated nature means there have been a couple of security scares recently. 

    iPhone

    iphonedevelopmenttutorial3We all know what the iPhone is right?

    Apple deserve a lot of respect for turning the mobile phone market on it’s head. When people use the term SmartPhone most people instantly think you’re talking about the Apple variety. Laying down the law to the mobile networks can’t have been easy either. No phone I’ve ever owned has had a software update despite them being available as in the past you were at the mercy of the networks who very obviously weren’t that bothered.

    The large number of useful cheap generic ativan apps as well as ActiveSync support mean this has been a very capable business phone and I know plenty who swear by it.

    This will come as a surprise to people that know me but the iPhone actually came in a close second. One day I might actually write a blog post about my aversion for everything Apple but for the sake of brevity what put me off this time around was the price. I actually managed to keep the same contract term, reduced the amount we pay each month and get “free” devices. This wouldn’t have happened if we’d gone for iPhones. The monthly price would have gone up and we’d have paid for the devices (and I’m sure we’d have gone to a 24 month contract)

    So what actually brought me so close to going with the iPhone– in short apps.

    Lots of mobile software developers target iPhone first, then they may go for Android/Blackberry/Whatever.

    In some ways it felt if wanted to take advantage of the growing list of apps – and there are some really good ones – then I’d need an iPhone. Which isn’t really enough to be honest. I’m doing quite ok without tons of apps at the moment so I’ll be quite fine with whatever is available. The rest of the package isn’t appealing enough for me to change my mind about my Apple aversion.

    Windows Phone 7 

    samsung-omnia-7-pre-order

    So I went with Windows Phone 7. I’ve seen quite a few of them recently and I’m interested in the change of direction Microsoft have taken since Windows Mobile 6.5.

    The live tiles look good and the office integration is very appealing  as well as the ability to make use of Xbox Live.

    I’ll be honest Microsoft are in the last chance saloon for me when it comes to mobile. I moved from Windows Mobile 6.1 to 6.5 when I could have tried something new and was bitterly disappointed.

    I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but I find it really hard to get excited about mobile phones because of being tied into a contract. As result I only really think about it once a year and in more recent times once every 18 months.

    The decision has been made now though and I’ll have my shiny new Samsung on Monday.

    A review of that will follow in the coming days!

    What phone are you using? Are you happy with it? Will you be switching next time around?

  • Book Review – Eastern Standard Tribe

    Another Cory Doctorow book!

    This book was another that I’d actually got on my Amazon wish list before I realised it has also been released under a creative commons license.

    It took me quite a while to get into this. I read the first half of the book with a frown on my face as I just didn’t get the underlying premise. The main theme of the book is based around groups of people living and working around a specific time zone, regardless of their geographic location. What’s the point in that you may ask but if you think about the modern world we conduct lots of relationships online.

    People always come together because of shared interests and the World Wide Web has allowed us to interact with groups with similar tastes all across the world. The only downside with this is that we all live in different time zones. If one of your best friends lives on the other side of the world how can you maintain that friendship if one of you is always asleep?

    So by living by the same time zone, regardless of where you are in the world this obstacle is easily overcome. There are obviously practical problems that go with this which the book looks into as well.

    Once I’d got my head around this concept the first half of the book that I’d read made a lot more sense. I’m not sure if the story was specifically intended to work like this or if it was just me being a little slow on the uptake.

    Anyway, the rest of the story – the main character Art is living in London but is part of the Eastern Standard Tribe. All is well in Arts life until he accidently hits a woman from Los Angeles called Linda, with his car. This throws the two together and they quickly become inseparable. They both have their own baggage however and through some double crossing Art ends up in a psychiatric ward!

    As I said earlier it took me a while to get into and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other two Cory Doctorow’s I’ve read recently it was smart enough to hold my attention.

  • How NOT to do customer communication

    One of the simplest ways to improve your customer service is to think about how you expect to be treated by someone offering you a service.

    Mrs P and I recently decided we needed a new front door so turned to the Internet

    We posted a job on Rated People with an outline of the work we wanted doing and shortly after I got a phone call from a local business and organised for him to come around, measure up and give us a quote.

    We accepted the quote and filled out all the paperwork to place the order. The installation time was organised for some six weeks later because of the lead time on the door we wanted and choosing a date that worked for both of us.

    We were told they would be there at 8AM on the day and should be all done by noon at the very latest. This enabled Mrs P to plan her day accordingly (school runs, etc)

    On the day itself 8am came and passed with no sign of the fitters.

    Finally around 9.30 I got call to explain that he was in Birmingham and his supplier was closed. He wasn’t sure why but it appeared they had decided to stay closed after the bank holiday. He said that he’d make some more enquires and get back to me.

    A couple of hours passed and I heard nothing more. Mrs P was still waiting in the house as he hadn’t actually cancelled yet and didn’t know if he was going to turn up in the next five minutes or not at all.

    I called him back and was told he hadn’t been able to hold of anyone at the company, he didn’t have any news for me which was why hadn’t called. We ended the call with him cancelling the appointment and that he’d rearrange once he knew what was going on with the door supplier.

    The rest of the week came and went with another bank holiday in between. I went back to work on the Tuesday and still hadn’t heard anything by Wednesday afternoon so gave him a call.

    I was told the supplier had indeed been closed over the bank holiday and he’d only returned from a holiday the previous day which is why he hadn’t called me.

    A date was arranged for the following week.

    The installation date came and he did turn up with the door (albeit twenty minutes late) though in the days running up to it we had no idea how we were supposed to pay him. (cheque/bank transfer/cash!)

    Have I made it obvious what irked me?

    While we were very happy with the completed work it’ll be highly unlikely that I’ll reuse or recommend that person.  

    The entire lack of communication was highly frustrating.

    First, the door supplier – did they do a good enough job of communicating a change to their opening hours? I can’t actually answer this to be honest as it could have been the fitter who hadn’t done his “homework”. That said if he’d ordered/reserved the door surely a collection date would have been organised. If this was the case at this point the fact they were going to be closed should have been outlined.

    Second was the lack of ownership of the problem. The fitter had an appointment with us at eight AM but I didn’t hear from him until an hour and half after that. The conversation on the phone was all about blaming the supplier and I never actually got an apology at this stage.

    Third was the lack of updates on what was happening. I had to chase him some hours later to find out what was going on and his response was “I didn’t call as I don’t have any news”. This wasn’t very helpful when we’d arranged for someone to be at home and they were still waiting on him.

    Fourth, why did I have to chase up for a new appointment? I’m not saying he had to break into his holiday just to keep me informed but he’d returned to work as normal (he was on a roof when I called him) – if I hadn’t called when would he have called me?

    Finally, and it’s only a small thing but the issue around how to make a payment. The night before we made the decision we were going to give him a cheque – we didn’t actually know if this was ok but he hadn’t told us anything different. It wasn’t on any paper work we’d had nor had it been mentioned. A little think but could have been little awkward when he’d finished.

    I ended up as frustrated customer, I understand that mistakes happen – nothing runs to plan all the time but this could have all been avoided by making a couple of calls.

    So as I said right at the start what I’ll be taking away from this how it can have an impact on my customer service.

    Is it possible to OVER communicate? Either way too much communication is surely better than no communication right?

    As always thoughts and comments welcome!

  • My Knee–the end is in sight!

    My one and only blog post specifically about my knee was on 17th February 2010. I’d intentionally not talked about it all that much here as I try to stay around a techie theme (not always successfully) and didn’t want this to turn into a knee rehab blog. It’s been hard enough for me to think about it without projecting it onto anyone else!

    In case you missed the first post on September 20th 2009 I caught my studs in the ground while running and twisted my knee really badly. Five months later I was told I’d need an operation to rebuild my torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament and to tidy up a tear in the medial meniscus which happened in June 2010.

    It’s been a long slow process with some ups and downs but on Friday night I played 30 minutes as a substitute and a full 90 minutes on Sunday.

    We won both games and like some weird scripted drama we won a penalty in the last minute and the captain graciously decided it would be a good idea if I did the honours. This was very brave of him as he knows my penalty taking record is patchy at best but thankfully it hit the back of the net!

    So 1 year, 7 months, 2 weeks, 4 days after hurting myself there I was completing a full game. It was hard work and I’m suffering for it today!

    This isn’t quite the end though. I’ve still got work to do as my quad and hamstring ativan mail order muscles on the left side could be stronger if I’m going to avoid a repeat occurrence, my lack of fitness showed in the last 15 minutes of the game and while I haven’t been specifically tracking it I know I’ve got at least a stone to lose that I’ve put on during all the inactivity.

    I’ve learnt an awful lot about motivation in the last 18 months.

    For someone that plays so much football it’ll probably be a surprise to hear I’m not a fan of general exercise. By that I mean things like running and the gym. Staying fit has always been a happy by-product of playing football. I’ve never had to think too much about my weight or my general fitness as it’s sort of looked after itself.

    The road to recovery has meant I’ve had to do things I don’t really want to do.

    Reminding myself of the end goal has kept me going and the last couple of months I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so driven in pursuit of something I wanted to achieve.

    So when I’ve been cycling at 6am or out running after a days work when all I wanted to do was collapse on the sofa a quick reminder of why I was doing it helped keep me going.

    It’s something I’ll try and use in future – “keep your eye on the prize” Winking smile

  • How’s the book reading going?

    Back in February I explained about the book reviews I’d started posted on the site. I was trying to be more consistent with my reading so thought keeping track of what I’d actually read would help. Also writing book reviews would help me keep in the blogging habit. Finally, I hoped that anyone who might be interested in my blog would have similar reading tastes so they would be valid blogging fodder anyway.

    The problem is the reading has actually gone too well. My more consistent reading habits coupled with my recent Kindle purchase means I’m finishing books quicker than I’m writing blog posts!

    I’ve read 18 books so far since the start of the year, which you can see on this page.(Books that don’t have any cover art on GoodReads aren’t displayed – you need to click through to GoodReads to see the full list)

    I’m conscious that I don’t want this to turn into a book review site so I’ve actually got a bit of a back log of reviews to write.

    I asked for some opinions on Twitter and the consensus was that reviews were ok, though obviously my main content area is still important so I’m imposing some rules on myself.

    For every book review, I’ll write at least one other post. If this is more than all the better but it’ll stop me posting book reviews one after the other.

    The side effect of this to me should be that it’ll help keep in the blogging habit even more as I’ll have to write other content.

    If you didn’t catch the Twitter conversation and you’ve got any opinions to share on my book reviews please do!