Archive for the ‘Computers and Internet’ Category

End of Good Times?

April 26, 2013 2 comments

Well, as operating systems go, it was a good one. It had a great life, and everyone loved it. Heck, I still have a hard time convincing people to get off it. The cold hard fact of the matter is that as of April 9th 2013 (i.e. it’s already too late!) Windows 7 is no longer supported.

Hey, wait a minute – did he say Windows 7??

Yes. OK, let me be a little more specific, Windows 7 RTM – i.e. those systems without SP1. As per lifecycle policy, and therefore it should come as no surprise, support has now ended.

Don’t panic!

All is well, you good people, (as I’m sure you are), as you will have been good boys and girls and of course installed SP1 ages ago, so all is well. That’s if you are not already using Windows 8 of course. In fact, Windows 7 has many good years of life left in it yet, until 2015 for mainstream support, and until 2020 for extended support. Phew!

But the passing of this date does draw into focus a slightly more worrying deadline that I fear many are going to fall foul of. That being the 8th April 2014. Yes, that’s not far away, less than a year as of the time of writing. 347 days to be exact. This time I am talking of course about Windows XP. Again, this should not come as a surprise, it has been well documented for quite some time.

The thing that worries me (and I’ll stop short of saying it keeps me awake at night), is that many companies are either a) blissfully unaware – spot the deliberate pun? or b) they know this, but simply haven’t started rolling out a replacement yet. Many are in the pipeline, but if you have not yet started, please be aware, the average company takes between 12-18 months to complete a rollout of a desktop operating system from envisioning the plan to actually supporting it out in the field.

XP This unfortunately doesn’t give much time to get out of the situation of being unsupported. There is good news of course. There is a wealth of information and experience out there for IT Pros to tap into, and a whole bunch of tools that make deploying Windows way simpler than you think. Start by visiting the Springboard site which is a dedicated portal for IT Professionals to make understanding these kinds of key technologies.

Also well worth a visit is the deployment module on the Microsoft Virtual Academy. Great for learning at your own pace the tools and techniques that are used in deploying a modern operating system. Feel free to comment with questions.

One idea for the weekend for you is to pilot a VDI solution. This allows you to deploy virtual machine based Windows clients, thus accelerating your upgrade pathway out and away from XP.

Let’s face it folks, XP had a great run for it’s money, and before the coffin gets laid to rest next year, it will have had 12 years of support from Microsoft, but every dog has it’s day. Do yourself a favour and get onto Windows 7 or Windows 8. You won’t regret it. Smile

For more information on the lifecycle policy click here.

More info and links on the countdown and what you can do about it can be found here.


MVP Open Day UK at Bletchley Park

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment


I was honoured recently to be awarded the MVP award by Microsoft.
The first event as an MVP I have been privileged to attend as a newbie, was the open day for UK and Ireland awardees that was held at Bletchley Park last week.

Apart from a great 2 days of meeting other MVPs and hearing some great sessions, we were afforded a tour of the museum, with it’s unrivalled collection of computers old and new.

Of course, most people will know Bletchley as the home of the code breakers from WWII. It rightly deserves its reputation as a place of great genius, that the allies and the wider world have benefited from as a result of what happened there during the war.

Here are a couple of the snaps I took during the visit that I hope will inspire techies old and young alike to go and visit. Even if you are not a techie, it’s well worth a day out with the kids. It’s an important part of our heritage, as a country of ingenious computing industry founders like Alan Turing who worked there.


A working  rebuild of the now destroyed original Colossus computers commissioned in WWII.
Absolutely amazing to see how the reverse engineering of an unseen crypto machine (the Lorenz, not the Enigma machine – that was the Bombe – also a working copy of which is here) was done, and how this accelerated the interception of German communications during the war. This literally saved lives.


The Harwell Dekatron (aka the WITCH). Just the week before, it had been fully restored and working thanks to the computer conservationists and now on show at Bletchley Park. The oldest original functioning electronic stored program computer in the world. That’s quite amazing in itself. But it actually works! Of course, your average mobile phone has more computing power these days, but let’s not take the shine off what is an extraordinary achievement getting this back to it’s former glory.







Recognise this piece of more
‘modern’ kit?






Oh happy days. I remember many a school classroom kitted out like this in the ‘80’s.

What ever happened to that generation of kids? Smile 
And more importantly, why are the kids of today not coding from the age of 6 like we did?

Go visit. Details here

My Windows 8 ‘Feature of the Week’–Windows To Go

October 24, 2012 3 comments

In what is likely to be an irregular feature on my blog, I just have to talk about a new and cool feature of Windows 8 I’ve been testing the last few days.

Windows 8 Enterprise edition contains many cool features, some known (and improved) from Windows 7 such as BitLocker, Applocker, Branchcache and DirectAccess to name the main ones.


But the one feature worthy of call out in this post is Windows To Go (herein abbreviated to WTG).

The idea behind Windows To Go is that you have a copy of your operating system on a stick. You prepare that memory stick on a Windows 8 Enterprise computer, then simply plug it into another PC.  Almost like a cuckoo with the PC hardware for your own use.

Forget roaming profiles – I now have a full roaming PC with me, in USB format. First time I plug it in to a different PC (assuming I have set the boot order to USB first), it will detect hardware and load drivers as needed. From there, after a minute or two, I can use the desktop with all my apps loaded. Simply shutdown, unplug and take it to the next PC to use it there.

For those whose shoulders and back suffer from carrying round laptops all the time, it’s well worth a look. I just need to carry a USB drive, and use a ‘donor’ machine to plug into to use it.

Sounds too good to be true? Give it a go.

Remember though, that you must shutdown the PC before ejecting the memory stick. If you unplug it while the operating system is running, then it will freeze the PC until it is plugged back in. You have 60 seconds to do this, and it will resume from where it left off.

USB 3.0 external drives have to be from the supported hardware list (see links at the bottom for supported models). Currently as I type there are only 3 available.  32GB is the minimum size required for this. Do not try to shoehorn a standard USB memory stick for this – it just won’t work.  I have the Kingston, and it works like a dream, if a little warm when in use. It uses an SSD drive, not regular flash memory – which is part of the specification.


Here’s my summary:


  • Fully portable operating system
  • use any PC hardware that has USB 2.0/3.0 to boot from (that will ordinarily run Windows 7 or 8)
  • apps and settings are included, as it is a full O/S on the drive
  • Bitlocker is available to use for added peace of mind


  • WinRE is not available for recovery. How could it be? We are booting straight into an alternate O/S, not touching the C: drive at all on the local machine we plug into.
  • Store (for Windows 8 apps) is disabled (but you can enable it if you wish). This means app downloads from the store won’t work out of the box. ‘Regular’ apps can still be installed though in the old fashioned way though.

Also know:

  • Hibernation is disabled. It will only work in a startup and shutdown fashion.
  • Push button reset won’t work. See above.
  • Internal Disks are inaccessible when booted from WTG. They do not appear whatsoever. You only see the USB device’s drive (and mapped drives, Skydrive etc).
  • Mix & match CPU architecture will only work in a backward compatible way. i.e. if I have a 32-bit WTG installation, I can use that on a 32-bit or a 64-bit PC (as long as it’s using a legacy BIOS- not so with UEFI), but if I have a 64-bit WTG installation, then it can only be used on 64-bit PCs. No drama really, it’s what you’d expect.
  • You can prepare your own corporate images with the usual tools of ImageX, DISM

Hardware manufacturers links:

Step-by-Step Instructions for enabling Windows To Go:

Find out more about Windows To Go here on TechNet:

And download the 90 day trial of Windows 8 Enterprise here:


EDIT: new devices now added to the list include IronKey and Spryrus devices. Good to see the list growing. check the list here.

Also I’ve been asked this question a lot recently, Microsoft DO NOT support Macs at this time for WTG, (even though they would meet the min spec for host computer)  -yes – it’s an Apple thing 🙂

NetBook finally free’s me up

So I finally decided to get a Netbook.
After spending a good deal of money not too long back on an all-singing and dancing 17" laptop with Blu-Ray and 4GB RAM etc, I now find I can’t use it.
Is it because it’s too slow? No.
Is it becuase it’s too big to carry in the bag to work? No, (well it is *quite* big)
Is it because the kids always monopolise *my* laptop to the point now where I never actually get to use it myself?….
What do you think?!!
I’m all for the kids being into IT and getting into the web, but this has put a dent in dad’s surftime, and working at home.
Solution: Samsung NC10 netbook for £200.
Cheap and cheerfull, but, hey, these are great little Netbooks.
First job was of course to ditch WinXP in favour of Windows 7 Ultimate (well someone like me can’t be seen with such old tech, and my street cred would not be good in my Windows 7 classes like this week!)
This is not as straight-forward as it sounds as there’s no DVD drive of course, but MagicISO mounting a virtual DVD drive lets you open an ISO and install direct from it from the HDD. Simples 🙂
Office 2010 RTM on there, and hey, we’re up and running.
So, there should be more blogging from me from now on!

OK, now I’m worried…..

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment
So, there’s a lot going on right now in the world of the cloud.
I like the idea, but it has me slightly scared.
Microsoft opened their $500 Million Dublin datacentre in September to service users from EMEA for online services such as Hosted Exchange.
I in fact have a mailbox hosted there myself.
So what?
Well, if the trend is going to be to have data/services hosted outside the organisation in the cloud, there may be better availability, backups, enterprise-class storage etc than the company is going to be able to afford on their own. Where does that leave me?
Do we now only need a handfull of datacentre operatives to monitor servers and change dead hard drives, instead of on-site IT professionals?
As someone who trains those people, do I now do myself out of a job if I train these datacentre guys?
Right that’s it! that’s the self-preservation option. I hereby place a ban on training datacentre techs. These guys are going to kill my career!! 🙂