Thursday, 16 August 2012

Rooting an HTC Desire (or RTFM)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm enjoying my Nexus 7 tablet so much that I've given my HTC Sensation Xe to my wife and am now using her HTC Desire. Which is fine, apart from the fact that when she got it I upgraded it to the official HTC release of Android 2.3.3 (or Gingerbread) which left the phone with very little internal storage. She's mentioned it before but, to be honest, I hadn't realised just how bad it is. It's awful. The phone constantly reports being low on space with little or no apps installed.

Well, now that it's MY phone, it's time to do something about it.

There's a whole bunch of resources out on the internet about rooting. So many in fact that it's pretty overwhelming when all you want to do is get a single phone rooted with the minimum of fuss. I've spent a fair bit of time getting it sorted and at least part of the time I wasted doing it was because I didn't read the instructions properly. So, as I've done before, I'll attempt to put together a simple set of instructions to summarise what I did (on Windows 7 for clarity and for my very specific set of circumstances) in the hope that it might help someone else.

Okay, firstly, no matter what you do you're going to need to install some drivers. You'll need two sets - one for when the phone is in 'normal' mode and one for when it's in HBOOT mode.

for the normal drivers I'd recommend downloading and installing HTC Sync - or at least starting to. It'll first install all of the drivers for normal operation. Once that's done it'll start a standard-ish installation wizard for HTC Sync which you can and SHOULD cancel. You don't want HTC Sync installed at this stage as it messes things up so, if you've already got it, uninstall HTC Sync now.

Next you need the drivers for HBOOT so pop over to and download the HBOOT drivers there then unzip them somewhere. Then put your Desire into HBOOT by turning it off and then turning it back on using the volume down and power buttons. If you find that it doesn't work, see if you've got Fast Boot enabled in the settings menu. If you can't find it, whip the battery out and put it back in and then turn on using power and volume down.

If you've got an HBOOT USB option in the HBOOT menu then select that using the volume up/down to move and the power button to select then plug your phone into your PC with a USB cable. If the option's not there, just go ahead and plug it in anyway (I did, and it worked fine).

Windows won't recognised the device and so you'll end up with an unknown Android 1.0 device in Device Manager. Right click, update driver and point it to your unzipped HBOOT driver folder. You'll get prompted that the driver isn't signed so you'll have to approve it to proceed.

Once that's installed, unplug the phone and reboot it (battery in and out again if it's easiest).

Now, here's where it depends on what version of Android you've got as to how you proceed. From what I can gather, the best option is unrevoked3 but it doesn't work for me on Android 2.3.3. I believe it works on Android 2.2 and earlier, but I can't guarantee that as I can't test it. The instructions seem pretty simple. Enable USB Debugging from the Settings>Applications>Development menu, plug the phone into the computer, change the USB mode to Charge only (from the pull down menu) and then run Unrevoked. It pretty much does the rest for you.

If, like me, you're stuck then you need to turn to revolutionary. Following the instructions over at you should first download ClockWorkMod and put it in the root of your C drive for simplicity. Make sure you also follow the link it posts to the "Useful Downloads" section to get the latest username and password for downloading it. Next follow the set up instructions for ADB and FastBoot in the [FAQ] ADB and FASTBOOT for Windows post. You'll need this to install the recovery image.

Continue following the instructions - at this point you should be just starting step 4 (downloading revolutionary and the root file). Read the instructions, download the files (save revolutionary on your PC and the root file on the SD card), generate your beta key and then unzip and start running revolutionary. DON'T INSTALL THEIR RECOVERY IMAGE. You're going to install your own in just a minute.

Now boot into fastboot mode (power button plus volume down - see above) then select the fastboot option. connect the phone to the PC once again and you should see FASTBOOT USB on your screen. Open a command prompt on your computer and type:

fastboot flash recovery c:\recovery_CWM_2.5.0.7.img

(if you get some message like "command fastboot not recognized" then go back, read the ADB and FASTBOOT instructions again, and make sure you've modified your PATH variable.)

Finally, you need to apply the root file you downloaded earlier. Reboot into HBOOT (surely you remember how to do it by now?) and this time choose Recovery from the menu. Choose to "install zip from sdcard" then "choose zip from sdcard" and finally pick the zip you downloaded earlier (

Reboot and you're now rooted! Woohoo!

So, now I'd recommend installing ROM Manager from the market which makes it incredibly easy to download and try out different ROMs. I'm using the Desire ISC ROM by Sandvold which is pretty good. The important part though is that after following the instructions at I am now installing all Apps straight to the SD card and not running out of space. Wonderful :)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Update on the Nexus - how's it going a few weeks in?

I recently had a friend contact me asking if I was still enjoying the Nexus 7. I thought my reply would actually make a decent blog post with some minor modifications so here we go.

I'm still very happy with it. In fact, I'm so happy with it that I've given my Sensation Xe to the wife and taken her Desire as I'm barely using my phone any more and she's benefitting far more from the improved phone.
I've replaced the default keyboard with the Swift Key keyboard which is excellent (possibly even better than the HTC one!) I've also installed Ultimate Rotation Control as the fixed portrait homescreen is, frankly, stupid and particularly annoying when switching between two apps that you want to use in landscape.

I've opted to not use a screen lock code/face recognition as I prefer being able to get in to things quickly (kind of defeats the purpose of Google Now I feel if it's many clicks to access it). Instead I'm using App Lock on my mail app to comply with my own IT security policies :)

Google Now's pretty clever. My only complaint is that it doesn't do train times in Edinburgh, only bus times. I still think it's got potential to grow a huge amount though.

The lack of Flash is a bit pants. Not because I want to look at flash website particularly, but because the iPlayer app doesn't work. I presume that the BBC are working on a non-flash version for Android (presumably the iPad version is non-flash) but it's not here yet. In the meantime I've installed FireFox Beta and the Flash apk and that's working for the most part, but it's a bit clunky and not how I ideally want to be using this device.

What else? Err... Okay, bought a nice cover and stylus combo from Amazon for a tenner. It's this one:

Although would probably have bought this one if it had been half price at the time I was looking (which it is now):

The cover's quite nice as it has two angles - a shallow one for typing and a steeper one for 'consuming content'. If you're wanting to use it for taking notes, an external bluetooth keyboard might be better but I'm finding Evernote/Skitch adequate at the moment.

It needs more apps developing for it that take advantage of the screen size. There's a few apps that I'd normally have that aren't available for it yet. Amazon's a good example of that although the website is easily accessible at this screen size through the Chrome Browser. Nice feature of Chrome actually - if there's two links close together and, when you click, you don't quite hit either/hit both, it shows a close up of the area to let you click again.

As a bit of a laugh while we were away recently, I tried to use it for Sat Nav by downloading some maps for use offline. It doesn't work though - it needs an active internet connection to plot the route. I don't know how well it would work if you started the navigation before you left home and then carried on from there. Presumably okay but, honestly, it was just for a laugh - nowhere to mount a 7" tablet in my car just now.
For internet out and about I'm using the phone as a hotspot and that seems to work great. Finding it preferable to use the tablet bounced off the phone than just use the phone.

So, that's essentially where I am now. To wrap up, I'd like to answer a question I posed a while back -namely, are apps as relevant to tablets? Well, having had my tablet for a while it's an overwhelming YES from me. Whilst many website are wonderfully functional, they're not all designed to be interacted with via a touchscreen. A great example is GMail. I thought it would be a strong contender for abandoning the app, but it's just not as convenient. Using the web interface really underlines how much thought has gone into making the App clean and easy to use with minimal presses; using the web front-end quickly becomes frustrating.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Nexus 7 Review

It's here.

I got so frustrated with waiting for my Google Play order to arrive that I went out this evening and bought one from Currys. I'll just have to refuse delivery of the other when it finally arrives.

But enough of that, here's my review. And it's the first I've ever written so we'll just have to see how it goes.


I have no idea what all of the fuss is about. Took about 10 seconds. Maybe if any of them had a knife to hand to cut the stickers...

First impressions

It's really nice. Looks pretty sleek, the genuine pleatherette back gives it a good surface to grip. Not in love with how close the volume and power buttons are, but that's mainly bugging me right now for producing screenshots (which I'm not going to be doing a lot of after this!). As reported elsewhere, very minimal other than that - there's a micro USB port and audio jack on the bottom and four little brassy dots on the bottom of the left hand side which I believe are something to do with a magnetic cover reported elsewhere.

First switch on

Following a welcome screen, you're prompted to select a Wi-Fi network. After this you're asked if you have an existing Google account and then if you want to join Google+. I'm assuming that if you're already joined this step is skipped. After a couple more setup screens (Google location, services etc) Setup is complete and you're taken to the homescreen.

Having a play (no pun intended)

Everyone who's seen anything about the Nexus 7 will be familiar with this screenshot by now. The default homescreen has the My Library widget front and centre showing you the free content you've got access to. As you'll have read elsewhere, the widgets can be resized and the content in them resizes to match. It's a pretty nice feature that makes you ask "Why haven't they always done that?".

I couldn't resist testing the screen and dove straight in to Transformers: Dark of the moon. The picture quality is astounding. And, to my far from well trained ear, the sound was fine too - I wasn't expecting 5.1 surround but it was certainly loud enough for me to be able to hear exactly what was going on despite my 2 year old watching TV in the same room. The movie is streamed by default but you can download it in the background for offline viewing. I'm a bit disappointed that there's no way to stream the movie via DLNA to my TV. I'd love to see this in the future (assuming that the software isn't that hard to implement).

While I've been typing this the screen has timed out so I may as well talk about the lockscreen now. Once you press the power button to wake up the tablet, you get a pretty simple screen with the time, date and charge level in the top half and a padlock icon in the bottom half that pulses once to draw your attention. Dragging the lock to the left, right or bottom takes you back to whatever was open when the screen locked. Dragging it up brings up the much touted "Google Now". Right now, it's pretty useless showing only the local weather "card" and the card for the distance and travel time to my work (15 minutes! ha!) but it'll supposedly learn over time what I do and when I do it and automatically bring it up here. We'll see how that pans out.

At this point in the review I've just noticed something - I'm not really missing the hardware buttons and I thought I would. If there's one thing I am missing it's the menu button - I'm finding it a bit hard to locate the new triple dot button on some occasions (at least once because it wasn't there).

One last point in this section for now - I found very quickly that the screen wasn't rotating when I thought it should. It would appear that Google want you to use it in portrait by default (and that's certainly backed up by the design of the hardware). To that end they've disabled screen rotation. You can quickly and easily re-enable it though using an icon in the redesigned taskbar pulldown menu (which also offers access to the settings menu and the ability to dismiss one or all alerts).

General Performance

Damn it's slick! I'm yet to see it stutter or pause. I've downloaded a couple of pretty graphics intensive games like Dead Trigger and Glowball to give it a go and they're as smooth as silk. I refuse to say butter. Damnit!


Already in the app tray are Calculator, Calendar, Chrome, Clock, Currents, Downloads, Earth, Email, Gallery, GMail, Google, Google+, Latitude, Local, Maps, Messenger, Navigation, People, Play Books, Play Movies, Play Music, Play Store, Settings, Talk, Voice Search and YouTube. Here's my thoughts on most of them...

Calculator - Better than the one I'm used to. My current phone is an HTC Sensation XE and the HTC calculator is not good - I didn't think you could mess up a calculator design but HTC managed it. The Nexus is much cleaner

HTC Calculator
Nexus Calculator

Calendar - This is stunning. The last time I saw a stock Android calendar it was awful and I was so grateful for having HTC's take on it. But this beats the pants off my phone's calendar. It's cleaner and crisper with a well thought out design for the day, week and month views. But it's the agenda view where I can see me spending most of my time. It's so simple to navigate and offers the ability to set reminders and send emails to meeting attendees right there - a nice touch.

Chrome - Chrome rocks as a browser on the desktop and the new version included with JellyBean doesn't disappoint. It's fast and responsive, renders pages well and does a good job of resizing when rotating the screen. My only complaint - no Flash. Damn you Adobe!!

Clock - First app that's not as good as the one on my HTC. It's clean but very basic with just the time and the ability to set alarms. No World Clock, Stopwatch or Timer. Shame.

Currents - Well, I've never heard of this before so can't tell you if it's new to JellyBean or just omitted from HTC builds. But boy is it good! It's a news reader app but formatted far better than what I'm used to in a very magaziney and compelling way. Just found myself spending 15 minutes browsing the stories rather than writing this. Oops! Having just checked, it's available in the market on my Sensation so it's just that I've never heard of it before.

Downloads - Yeah, this isn't really an app. It's a way to view stuff you've downloaded (but not through Google Play). 'Nuff said.

Earth - I've never used Google Earth on Android before so have no comparison but it's pretty smooth and usable. I'm honestly not sure how much (if at all) I will use it as I've always found Google Earth to be more of a novelty than a useful tool. Sorry Google!

Email/GMail - Both have had a tablet makeover and look good. Folders are listed down the left-hand side with emails listed to the right. Mail and GMail seem to be very similar these days in both design and functionality which is a good thing in my opinion.

Gallery - I'm not sure there's much to say about this. It's a gallery, it works, its smooth, you can see pictures with it. Err... that's it.

Google - Is, it turns out, the Google Now app. Ahh, I see. Well, as I said before, we'll see how well this works out.

Google+/Messenger - I'm so dedicated to writing this review that I've re-joined Google+ to test it out. The app's pretty good and I think I'm going to stay but I'm still not sure it's for me - Practically nobody I know actively uses it right now and I've never managed to get into the "What's Hot" and "Hangouts" side of it. Still, it's a tablet optimised app so that gets it plus points

Latitude/Local/Maps/Navigation - I tend to class these as different facets of the same app. And there's not much, if any, difference between them on my ICS phone and here on a JellyBean tablet. Not a bad thing per se but there's nothing new to report. Hopefully they're going to get some tablet optimisation in the future. I'd say that the best feature to note is that, since a recent upgrade to Google Maps, you can make maps available offline which is going to be pretty much essential as the tablet has no mobile connectivity and relies entirely on Wi-Fi for data.

People - Hmmm. This is an odd one for me as I don't use People app on my mobile. If I want to call someone I go straight to the phone; text I go straight to messaging; email straight to GMail etc. So, I see even less of a need for an app of this nature on a tablet with no mobile network connectivity (and therefore no voice calls or texts). That said, it's been tablet optimised and does a decent job of letting you see a bunch

Play Books/Movies/Music/Store - All of these (with the exception of Music) look the same to me as they did in ICS on the Sensation. The music app's a new addition for me but functionality has been severely limited as the Google Play Music store isn't available in the UK. Essentially, it's the mp3 player. I haven't had the chance to transfer and mp3s yet but will see how well it bears up.

Settings - Has also not changed much from ICS. Not sure whether it's an HTC affectation but the icons in the settings menu of my phone are colour whereas the ones on the Nexus are just black and white. Also different (for me) is that accounts are listed seperately in the root menu instead of a sub-menu.

Talk - Is still just the chat functionality of your Google account. And looks pretty much the same as it always has.

Voice Search - Is pretty good. It's quick, accurate and gets me the results I'm after. I tried a few searches for places, people and movies and always got the info I wanted in the first set of results. The results page looks very clean and links take you off to Chrome, maps etc. I think the key here is its integration with Google Now which could be very good, I just need more time to test it.

YouTube - Has had a make over recently which I wasn't aware of so initially thought "Oh! New for tablet/JellyBean!" However, it's the same on my phone. There's a new sidebar for navigation which is definitely an improvement and actually works better on the tablet than on a smaller smartphone. Again, it depends on how much you'd use this as to how good or bad you'd find it. I don't use YouTube much so can't really comment on that front.

I've downloaded a couple of other apps so far but not many. Google Drive has had a tablet-y makeover and looks good for it. Facebook has no apparent differences and neither does Twitter although both work fine on the bigger screen.

That, I think, is just about enough info on apps for now!

So, Any Complaints?

A few. But they're minor. The keyboard isn't as good as the HTC one so I'll be looking for a good alternative. As I said earlier on, I occasionally have difficulty finding the menu button and would have preferred it if it was included along with the back and home buttons at the bottom of the screen. And, also mentioned earlier, I'd like DLNA functionality at some point.

Other than that though, I'm a very happy bunny. It's a brilliant piece of kit at a great price. I'm looking forward to seeing how I get on with it on a day-to-day basis and will more than likely report back on that at a later date.

Refusing delivery of Nexus 7

If, like me, you want to go to a shop and buy the Nexus 7 rather than wait for delivery from Google Play, here's the instructions they've just sent me for doing so:

Thank you for contacting Google. It was my pleasure assisting you today.

At this point it's no longer possible to cancel this preorder. Preorder
shipment processing on your order has begun, which means that our shipping
provider is moving forward with delivery preparation.

Our expedited order fulfillment process ensures that packages are
delivered quickly, which also means that there is a very short window of
time to cancel an order prior to our shipping provider moving forward with

I recommend leaving a prominent note on the door to let our shipping
provider know that you're refusing delivery of the package. In some cases
our shipping provider has returned packages if their drivers see a note
for refusal of delivery. The note should include the following:

- Refuse delivery-Return to Sender
- Include signature
- Include tracking #

If your package is returned due to refusal of delivery, your order will be
cancelled and refunded within 2 weeks.

If the package is successfully delivered in spite of the delivery refusal
note on your door, you can still refuse delivery of unopened packages
within 5 days of delivery. To do so, contact our shipper directly to
schedule a pick up of your package. Make sure to let them know that the
pickup is specifically because you're refusing delivery.

IMPORTANT: Don't open the package. Our shipper won't allow refusal of
delivery for opened packages.

If there is anything further we can assist you with, please feel free to
reply directly to this email or visit our help center at:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Actually, NOW I'm annoyed.

This just gets worse.

So, here's the story so far of the great Nexus 7 shipping debacle as far as I can tell. I have to say "as far as I can tell" as this is what I'm piecing together from Twitter posts and various articles on the web. The only communication I've had from Google arrived at 2:50am today and I'll come on to that in a bit.

So firstly, as I previously mentioned, eBuyer shipped some customer's orders in the UK last week (presumably jumping the gun) which was quickly followed by US customers who had ordered via GameStop getting notification that their orders were available for collection.

Following this, Google Play in the US started shipping its pre-orders out so over the last 5 or so days there's been a steady stream of Nexus 7s arriving at people's doors via UPS.

All went quiet over the weekend (unsurprisingly). Then on the morning of Monday 16th, UK pre-order customers started seeing their accounts being debited. Great news as far as we were all concerned as our order confirmation emails stated "You will not be charged until your order has been shipped."

At the same time there's also various reports of other UK suppliers changing their shippping dates on an almost hourly basis.

On the 17th there's further confusion as Google announce that they've shipped all (and then most, and then some) US pre-orders. Later amends to this statement say that all 8GB orders will ship by the 20th (that's this Friday) with 16GB orders placed before the 30th June shipping at the same time, and those after by next week.

This morning I've woken up to an email from Google. Behold...

If you can't read that, it's telling me that only 8GB models will ship before the 20th and 16GB models will ship next week. However, I'm already seeing on Twitter that some UK based customers have had shipping notification.

Just to be clear, I pre-ordered mine less than 2 hours after they were announced. Now, I'm not saying that makes me the front of the queue. But I'm damn sure I was in the queue before a lot of the people who've got theirs already. 


Of course, I can already tell you how this will end. My tablet will be shipped some time next week with my laughably "upgraded" next day delivery. TNT will attempt to deliver it in the middle of the day while I'm at work. I'll then have to wait until Saturday 28th to drive out to the middle of nowhere (wherever the TNT depot is) and collect it. That's the day I'm going on holiday by the way Google. And will be over 4 weeks after I placed the order.

Ridiculous. *sigh*

Friday, 13 July 2012

So annoyed!

My Nexus 7 has not even shipped yet.

Now, on the face of it that's no reason to be annoyed. But the thing is, I (like many others) pre-ordered mine through Google Play within hours of the announcement. To the best of my knowledge at present, nobody who did that has even had a dispatch notification. However, people who placed their orders through eBuyer (and therefore got free delivery whereas we've payed an extra £10 for it), are already taking delivery!

Not particularly fair.

And I bet they're getting the 'free' Google Play credit and copy of Transformers too.

Seriously Google, sort it out. This is not on!

The only justification I can see for this at all is if eBuyer have broken the rules and shipped early. If that's the case we need a message to that effect from Google and fast.

And as recompense, I think we should get our delivery charge refunded. And more credit too.

That is all... For now.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Symantec System Recover Server 2011 and USB drives

A while back I switched from Backup Exec to System Recovery Server as my prefered backup option. The main reasons for doing this were that a) Bare metal/catastrophic recovery from Backup Exec is pretty tough and b) I rarely (if ever) have to restore files from backup these days.

I looked at various other options but, given my limited budget, I wanted to be able to carry out incremental daily backups to 1TB USB drives which could then be stored offsite in rotation. At the time, the only tool that allowed me to do this was SSRS (then Backup Exec System Recovery Server).

There were however a few problems that I had trouble getting over so, again, I'm noting them here for my future reference and to help anyone who may need them.

Firstly, the drive letter of the USB drive wasn't consistent. That one was easy to fix thanks to the USB Drive Letter Manager for Windows. A quick install and configuration got that one consistently assigning the same letter to my attached USB drives.

Secondly there's the destination issue for the server with the drive attached. IF you backup to the drive letter it doesn't seem to find the new drive when you carry out the swap. The solution I came up with there was to back up to the network share of the drive, even from the server with it attached.

Thirdly there's the issue around archiving/deleting old backups. As I understand it, if I was using some kind of hefty NAS device to store my backups the software would do this itself with the settings for "Limit the number of recovery point sets saved for this backup" and "Automatically optimize storage". But this doesn't seem to work when you're using multiple USB drives.

The solution I've come up with for this is to run a scheduled vb script just before the first backup each week which looks at the USB drive and deletes any files older than 42 days (6 weeks and, of course, THE answer...)

Here's my script for anyone who wants it...

Dim Fso
Dim Directory
Dim Modified
Dim Files
Set Fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
Set Directory = Fso.GetFolder("M:\")
Set Files = Directory.Files
For Each Modified in Files
If DateDiff("D", Modified.DateLastModified, Now) > 42 Then Modified.Delete

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Keep taking the tablets

In a fit of unashamed geekishness, I ordered my first tablet last night.

It isn't, as I had been planning*, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 but in fact the newly announced Google Nexus 7.

And can you blame me? For the price of an 8GB Tab 2, I can get a 16GB Nexus 7 which is far higher spec'd and comes with Google Play credit and (the less exciting) Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

I'm really excited and, when it arrives in 2 or 3 weeks time, plan to publish my own review of the device right here on my blog. Exciting huh??

So that's it for now. If you want to know more about the exact spec I'd recommend Googling Nexus 7 and seeing what those who were at Google I/O (and got one early) have to say. Also take a look at some of the more measured reviews. If you want my opinoin, a good starting point for gauging the review's quality would be how long they can wait before comparing it to an iPad.

"Not long" is generally the answer to that one...

(*I must point out that this is actually my birthday present from various people to which my darling wife has been getting them to contribute. Thank you all and especially her for (i) organising it and (ii) allowing me to order the Nexus 7 in childish excitement).

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Are Apps as relevant to tablets?

I'm hoping that the birthday fairy is going to be kind to me next month and bring me my first tablet. I'm very excited at the prospect but it's got me thinking about the role that apps have to play on such devices. (and as I come to write now I don't know whether apps should be capitalised, put in inverted commas or what. I'll stick with lowercase I think).

Anyway, there are obviously stock apps without which the device would be useless. A web browser, a media player and a camera spring immediately to mind. Then there are places where a specifically designed app will probably prove useful. Games are an obvious one. Also any app which leverages specific elements of the hardware such as GPS tracking.

But beyond that, I wonder whether I'll use apps over the browser? Looking at my smartphone the likes of Facebook, IMDB, Train Times, GMail, Twitter, eBay, Amazon etc etc etc all have perfectly functional websites which are often far better than their apps - I tend to think that the apps just exist because a screen size of 4 inches isn't conducive to using most websites. But when you get that up to the 7" or more mark with a minimum resolution of 1024 x 600, I think a lot of websites will become useable.

I suppose I'll just have to wait, see and report back. And if I don't get a tablet, I'll fit a magnifying glass to my phone and pretend.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

IT departments are not police

Sorry folks, it's another Kelv-Rant(TM)!

This post's rant is brought to you courtesy of my less than co-operative IT colleagues around the world. You guys know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves!

So, here it is in a nutshell. I'm sick to the back teeth of hearing from people (in a work context) "We can't engage properly with social media because we can't get on Facebook."

At a slightly expanded level, I've spent the last 5 years listening to variations on a theme of "Organisation X can't get a Facbook page set up for their museum because their IT department blocks access to Facebook". Today, I sat listening to a person who works for a council run museum who told us that it took her 3 months to get access to Facebook, despite it being explicitly mentioned in her job description.

This kind of thing really pisses me off. Having worked in I.T. for the last 11 years with various organisations, I feel that I'm in a fairly good position to give an opinion on the practices of IT departments and here's what I think on this matter:

There is absolutely no legitimate reason whatsoever to block access to social networking sites at an organisation wide level. 

And here are some of the many reasons why...

Organisational policies do not require pre-enforcement

Okay, so let's start by assuming that your organisation has decided that people should not access social networking sites from within the corporate network. If that's the case, then there should be a policy to this effect with clearly stated boundaries and disciplinary procedures should these boundaries be breached. Once these policies are in place, there is no call for a block on the sites in the same way that an organisational policy on no alcohol in the workplace does not require everyone's bags to be searched when they arrive at work.

If it's not organisational policy, then you have no right to block it

This should be obvious really but I'm going to cover it anyway. Just because you CAN block something, doesn't mean you should. Even - and this is important folks - even if your firewall comes pre-configured to block these sites.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you should turn off every default rule on your firewall. I happen to believe, for instance, that blocking certain sites is a good idea, but not with the primary objective of restricting access. For instance, a rule blocking porn should not be there to STOP people looking at porn (regardless of whether you have a policy stating that they shouldn't) but to help protect people from seeing things that might inadvertently offend them.

It shouldn't be organisational policy because YOU say so

I have seen far too many organisation wide policies come into effect because the IT department says that it must be so. Now, there's nothing wrong with introducing policies that support the objectives of the IT department. But the objectives of the IT department should be to support the organisation, not to make the IT department's job easier or give it licence to do whatever it wants.

I operate on a very simple principle for any and all IT projects - that they should be doing better things, or doing things better. If your project (or reasoning for doing something) doesn't fit either of these then you should abandon it (if you need an example, see almost any project involving AR right now.)

You should be able to trust your staff

And this is the most important one. If you (and here I'm talking to the organisation as a whole) can't trust your staff to follow policy then you should either fire them or be prepared to go through your own disciplinary procedure when they breach that policy. Do not ask your IT department to act as a crime prevention unit of a corporate police force; they've got enough on their plates keeping all of your system up and running.

Which, by the way, you are NEVER grateful for.

Monday, 4 June 2012

"My SharePoint Sites" missing from Office Save As dialog box

So, another dry and technical work related post today. Again, it's as much for my benefit as anyone else's and I may well have more to say about it later as I come across further problems.

I've been wrestling for some time with SharePoint integration in Office. In my particular set up I'm talking about Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS2007) and Office Pro Plus 2007. The issue was that for some people the "My SharePoint Sites" option wasn't showing up in their Save or Save As dialog box from within Word, Excel etc.

As it turns out, there's all kinds of problems that can affect this and pinpointing it can take ages so here's some things you can try.

Make sure the user has a My Site.

If they don't have a My Site, it just doesn't work.

Make sure the user has explicit permissions for every site

This caught me out because I'd added an existing Active Directory group to the Members group for the site and couldn't work out why it wasn't appearing under My SharePoint Sites. They have to explicitly be in the Members Group. Annoying, but that's it.

It doesn't work if they're just an Owner either - they have to be Members.

Try re-populating the My SharePoint Sites folder

This can be a tricky one. To the best of my understanding, the folder checks for membership once a day. If you want to force this you need to delete the registry key:


And then relaunch an Office App to repopulate it. However, I found that the registry key can be in different places. If it's not there try looking in..


The AppDataLow variant is for Windows 7 and the 14.0 is if you've got anything from the Office 2010 suite installed. Which leads me on to...

Have you got anything other than Office 2007 installed?

Which is the one that's just caught me out and prompted me to write this post! On some of my machines I've got Project 2010 along with Office 2007. It's not a happy situation with SharePoint at all, but one I'm having to deal with just now. In fact I've had problems in the past with InfoPath 2007 and Project 2010 conflicting, the conclusion to which was pretty much just living with it.

Anyway, in this particular scenario, the LinkPublishingTimestamp and the PersonalSiteURL values were being created under the 14.0 keys rather than 12.0 meaning that office just wasn't seeing anything. To fix it I exported the Portal registry key to my desktop, edited it in Notepad to change the values from 14.0 to 12.0 and then reimported to create the new 12.0 keys. After this, the functionality started working immediately.

A large portion of the credit for eventually fixing this has to go to Paul Liebrand's Weblog for its various posts on My SharePoint Sites which have aided me considerably.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Upgrading Dell Streak 5 to Android 2.3.3

UPDATE 12/6/12 - Having played with the Streak with this ROM for a while I've decided to revert to the O2 stock ROM - various problems including the Korean stock apps and the voicemail not working have put me off it. To revert, simply download the last official O2 ROM and recovery image from the XDA Developers site and follow the same procedure.

There's no new information in this post that doesn't exist elsewhere - I'm just putting it here as a reference for myself so that I've got everything in one easy to find place.

  1. Install the driver from Dell for the Streak. Package R291096.exe found at
  2. Create a folder on the root of C: called Flash 350
  3. Go to and download the files from the here link in Step 6. Extract these to the Flash350 folder
  4. Go to and download the 350 package (click on 350 on the left of the table) and the Recovery package.
  5. Save both of these to the Flash350 folder and rename the pkg file to update.pkg
  6. Plug in the Streak via USB and copy only the update.pkg file to the root of the SD card
  7. Unplug the streak and power it off. Take the battery out for good measure and then put it back in.
  8. Boot into fastboot mode - hold down the camera button and then press power. You should get a white screen with Fastboot in the top right corner. click on Fastboot.
  9. There'll be a message of "Wait for USB Fastboot detect" in the bottom left corner. Plug the streak back in via USB. The screen should change to Fastboot_Mode.
  10. back in your Flash350 folder double-click ApplyRecovery.bat. when it gets to the pause stage the Streak should display a completed message. Be ready to hold down the volume buttons...
  11. Once you're sure it's completed, press enter on the PC keyboard to reboot the Streak. as soon as the Streak goes black, hold down the volume up and down buttons until recovery mode starts.
  12. select option 2 "Software upgrade via Update.pkg on SD card" with the camera button. Press camera again to install which takes about 10 minutes.
  13. When it boots it'll be in Korean - press the button in the bottom right (which is Change language) to choose English.
  14. Go via Software Update to download the 2.3.3 update which is the last official Dell update.

Credit to the following websites for where I got this info:

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Studying with the OU

Don't think I've mentioned this previously on this blog but just now I'm studying with the Open University. In fact, I'm fast approaching the end of my first ever course - which is called My Digital Life (TU100) - and the first step on the road to what I hope will end up being a BSc in Computing and IT.

"So what?" I hear you cry. Well, it's been an interesting ride for me and I wanted to get some of my thoughts down now before they all disappear.

I suppose I should start with why I'm studying. It may seem a little strange to some that at this stage in my life, career etc I'm choosing to do a degree in a subject relating to an industry that I've been working in for the last 11 years or so. And those people are probably right. I dropped out of Uni back in 1998, went off, did some very random stuff with my life, and then worked my way back into IT from the bottom up. Throughout that time I've (very smugly at times) told people that "I don't need a degree to do my job", that "I've already got far more valuable experience" and also that practically nobody I know who has a degree does anything relevant with it (back in the NHS some of my colleagues had degrees in Modern Languages, Fine Art and Pharmacology. Very relevant.)

But then in 2010 I was doing a Leadership and Management course through work. I'll be honest and say that it wasn't my cup of tea - I thought that those things that were of any use were either obvious or things I had been doing for years. However, towards the end we did an exercise that was essentially (i) where we were, (ii) where we wanted to be (given an ideal world) and (iii) whether there was anything we could do to reconcile the two. Now don't get me wrong, I do not have a bad job, but like most people it's not my dream job. In an ideal world I'd be a software developer of some kind. Any chance I've had over the years to roll up my sleeves and do some coding I've jumped at and loved - there's a real deep sense of fulfillment for me in creating something new to solve a problem; the nearest I get to that in my normal day to day life is working out why a particular system keeps falling over and applying the recommended fix. In fact, the best and most enjoyable example of that is the reason this blog was started (the Windows 7 SP1 problem).

But I digress. I decided that in an ideal world I'd retrain, get a degree and get into software development. And I realised that I COULD do that - there was nothing stopping me from studying part time, getting my degree and then either finding a new job or (hopefully) re-sculpting my current job more in the direction of software development.

So I applied to Edinburgh Napier to study with them part-time for a degree. Shockingly I got accepted very quickly. Even more shockingly they offered me direct entry into 3rd year! Starting that week!! Amazing and ego boosting though that was, it was unrealistic for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, when I applied to study I had incorrectly assumed that I'd be able to do it evenings and weekends which I couldn't - I'd need to be in there for a minimum of a day and a half a week during term time. There was no realistic way that work were going to let me do that (well, not AND pay me for the privilege!) Also, it was just too scary an option to go right into 3rd year study after such an absence from studying for me. So, I thanked them very much but turned down the offer and instead looked at the OU.

Which pretty much brings me to where I am now. I'm one of the first batch of students to take on TU100 and it's been an interesting experience. The Sense programming language they use (based on MIT's Scratch language) is great for anyone who hasn't done any programming before as it allows you to learn about the fundamental concepts of programming without having to learn a language - it uses a drag and drop GUI interface. The Senseboard they supply you with has some interesting possibilities and makes things a bit more fun. I'll admit that there have been some elements of the course that I didn't enjoy - things like researching information and looking at the Data Protection Act - but you can't expect to love everything can you? It's been hard at times to find the time to study - 16 hours a week turns out to be quite a lot when you're out of the house for 12 hours every weekday and have a 2 year old to contend with - but I've managed it. And I'm pleased (and a little big headed) to say that I've had pretty good marks for my assignments - at present I'm averaging just over 90% :-D.

As the course draws to a close I'm considering my next move and I've decided that I could do with something slightly less intensive so I've picked a 30 point module in Microsoft Server Technologies (TM128). At half the points of TU100 it should be a bit less work and, to be fair, I work with Windows Server 2008 on a daily basis. I'm hoping a lot of it will therefore be stuff I do every day or just a bit of revision. After that I get to move on to some more meaty stuff - there's a new course starting in Java that I quite like the sound of so I'll probably pick that up early next year.

To sum up, although I'm drawing to the end of one set of studying, it's far from being the end of study all together. I reckon I've got about another 5 or 6 years to go before the degree is finished. So, by the time I'm 40... I'll have a degree! No problem then eh? *ehem*

However, I know it's going to be worth it.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Eat the whole frikin cake!

To quote Peter Griffin, "you know what really grinds my gears?"

I'll tell you - people who can't eat a whole cake. Behold exhibit A:

I came into the office today to find the above on the kitchen table. It's not the first time it's happened either; last week I threw out half a muffin that had been sat there so long it left a dent in the bin as I dropped it in.

And it really winds me up!

There's an inability in my office to either finish off food or eat an entire <fill in name of delicious goody here>, which results in people cutting things into smaller and smaller pieces so that they don't take the last piece. In fact, it's almost biblical - one can only wonder at what might happen if I bought in some loaves and fishes.

Come on people - eat the whole frikin cake. It's not going to kill you, make you the size of the Goodyear blimp or offend every other member of the office. We will not talk about you in hushed tones around the water cooler or start refering to you only as "fatty cake eater".


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Am I sexist?

Okay, first an explanation.

I've had several blogs over the years and they've mostly been about me venting my spleen for a very select audience. Each one has been deleted after months or years of neglect and then replaced by another idea of what I think the world (at large or otherwise) wants to hear from me.

This one was an attempt to de-personalise my blog, make it work related and, hopefully, useful to someone at some point (which you'll see if you can be bothered to work your way through any of my previous, very dry, posts).

But this post's different! I've had a glass or two of vino and have a bee in my bonnet about Valentine's day. It's too big a rant for a Facebook update so it's going to be a blog post instead.

My apologies in advance to anyone unfortunate enough to read my drunken ramblings...

So... am I being sexist, or am I right in thinking that Valentine's day is geared up specifically to extort money from blokes? It's a serious question, and not one from a man who feels hard done by. I've honestly never thought about it before but today made me realise that I've been brainwashed, by person or persons unknown, into thinking that being romantic on Valentine's day is the duty of men.

Having agreed with my wife that we'd do nothing for St V's day this year, I still found myself compelled to go out and, at the very least, get DVDs, wine and pizza for an evening of entertainment.

Whilst walking down the road I noticed that a local pizza shop had a queue out of the door. My initial thought was that this was of course due to the particular date. However, as soon as I noticed that there were a lot of women in the queue, I immediately assumed that I was wrong and that it must be because it's a two-for-one deal day.

But that's surely sexist, isn't it? Why shouldn't a woman be out getting takeaway as a treat for her other half? But it just seems wrong to me! And so my only conclusion has to be that I'm either brainwashed or a sexist.

Not sure I'm happy with either option really...