Thursday, 27 August 2015

Why Windows 10 is good for Linux

This might be strange but I believe Windows 10 will end up being good for Linux and here's why.

Updates in Windows 10 are mandatory and, while the OS may be whizzing along when first installed, like an older phone or tablet what happens after a year or a few years of updates and upgrades? Older hardware and devices will begin to struggle. So the choice will be, either upgrade to a new PC (or your hardware if you know how) or install a different OS. Many people who have taken advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade may not be inclined to shell out for a new system or component upgrades on a regular basis, and the other option will be to switch OS. Additionally, with a new Windows system comes the cost of another OS licence (it's not free forever, only for a year and for upgrades).

This, therefore, may lead to a number of new Linux installs as people need an alternative to an ever more larger version of Windows 10 in order to keep their machines running. Linux variants that mimic Windows 10 or have Windows 10 skins will be popular and the Linux user base may actually grow. This is just an opinion, but we'll see what happens after a year or two of updates.

-This post was also written as a test of the Do Note app via

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

I said goodbye to Spotify

I was probably rather late to the Spotify party. I had been managing perfectly well with my rather large music collection and digital radio until we had a Spotify playlist set up for the work barbecue. I thought the service was really good. I was impressed by the size of the catalogue and the apps across various platforms. Added to this, my station of choice, Kerrang!, had gone from Digital Radio. So I signed up.

Now, barely a few months later, I am quitting Spotify.

This is in light of the recent terms and conditions changes Spotify have began rolling out. They are demanding access to potentially a huge amount of personal data. As Paul Mason from The Guardian writes:

As well as my photos, contacts, audio and video, Spotify wants the right to collect data not just on my location “but the speed of your movements, such as whether you are running, walking, or in transit”. It would see what I post and like on Facebook and it will store my credit card information, share it with payment processors and use all of this to fire adverts at me.

That's right, they want access to ALL my contacts and media on my phone or device, amongst other things, and will share these with advertisers and 'business partners'.

I fully understand that, as with a lot of software, "if you are not paying for the product, you are the product". However, this new policy isn't just aimed at the free users of Spotify, this new policy will also apply to the 20 million of us or so that pay for Premium. This is where it really gets to me. Yes, if your service was free then providing a quality product won't be cheap and this is how you could model your business to make money, or encourage people on to a paid subscription. But if you are going to go after the paid users too, in what feels like a gross invasion of privacy, then I for one will no longer be funding the service and I certainly won't be allowing access to my personal data (not to mention numbers and addresses belonging to my various contacts).

In the last few months Amazon Prime Music has launched in the UK and, while not as vast as Spotify's collection, will provide me with ample music choice in its stead.

Friday, 26 June 2015

How I Received My Windows 10 Notificaion

Everyone started reporting in the office that they were receiving the Windows 10 notification/pop-up in their system tray enabling them to reserve a copy of Windows 10. Everyone except me.

Hmmm, Windows 7 Pro? Check. I made sure I ran all the updates, I was checking my hardware compatibility, checked with work that the update wasn't blocked centrally and even went through all the suggestions in these two help articles: and All to no avail.

Then I realised that I hadn't had the notification on my home computers either. So it pointed to it being definitely something I'd done.

Now, what was the same across all my computers...? It couldn't be could it....? Yes, that's it!

I had Internet Explorer disabled. So, turned it on, and a few updates and reboots later, there it is. 'Reserve your free upgrade'.

So there you have it. If you don't have IE enabled, you won't get the upgrade notification. Hope this helps.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

My Essential Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome has worked it's way into my daily routine of work and home. I was a big big fan of Firefox and couldn't see myself ditching the browser but now I work almost exclusively on Chrome. Here are some of the extensions that I have to have installed for my work-flow.

Adblock Plus - I don't click on ads anyway so it helps keep my browser window tidy but the main reason I use it is to block potentially malicious ads that could contain nasty little malware.

Clearly - Another add-on to keep my browser window clean and tidy. This extension from Evernote makes it easy to read text by removing the images and putting it on an easy-on-the-eye background of your choosing. You can also use it to print and clip to Evernote.

Evernote Web Clipper - Speaking of Evernote, the web clipper enables you to save parts of a web page to your notebooks (rather than printing the whole screen with Clearly).

Ghostery - Excellent extension for blocking trackers.

Save To Pocket - Essential bookmarking service that is cross-platform and can download items for reading when offline.

Feedly Mini - Feedly replaced Google Reader as my main go to for news and other RSS feeds. This extensions helps you quickly add and share content.

Pushbullet - Phone notifications on your computer that you can also respond to. For example, reply to a text message when you are busy working on your desktop. Also able to push content to your phone.

HTTPS Everywhere - Force websites to use HTTPS where possible.

Web of Trust - Make sure that link you are clicking or web site you are visiting is genuine and trustworthy.

Then below there are a few applications that I don't sync to home that are for work only:

Chrome Remote Desktop - Used to access my office desktop from android app.

PDF Mergy - I work a lot with building plans and this enables me to merge them together to send as one attachment rather than dozens.

PDF Split - Again for building plans, when I just want a single floor, for example, and the contractors have sent the whole lot as one I can split the pages.

Notable PDF - Annotate PDF's.

Lucidchart - Mainly I used it for accessing and editing Visio documents.

Autocad 360 - For building drawings again. This time working with DWG files.

Google Keep - Simple note taking to sync with phone. Include text, audio and pictures. Take a very quick note when I am out and about using the android widget and then do what I need to with it when I'm back in the office.

Trello - Great application for helping manage projects. Has been very useful on a number of projects we have had. Also I have the extension Cardcounter for Trello added to keep track of how many cards are in each table, or to-do list.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Giving your Cat5e superpowers - NBaseT

With wave 2 of ac wireless access points about to hit the market this year network managers have been wondering how best to solve the potential bottleneck problem of having access points capable of over 1Gbps but existing cabling limited to 1Gbps.

Some have suggested running two cables to each access point, others have suggested ripping out all your Cat5/5e ethernet and replacing it with 6a.

There is now another solution. Cisco presented a discussion about a new technology called NBase-T at Cisco Live (Milan), the video for which is here: Vimeo. This technology, not limited to Cisco, aims to achieve speeds of 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps over existing cabling. This can offer significant advantages over replacing your cabling, not least the cost. NBase-T also supports all current versions of Power-over-Ethernet.

Concentrating on Cisco, as that is the switching technology we use here, hence the one I'm interested in, the Catalyst 4500, Catalyst 3850 and C3560-CX support this technology.

We'll see over the next few years whether this technology is something we can take advantage off in our older buildings (new ones will have Cat6a) where 'Multigigabit' connections may be needed.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Grrr (Apple user gripe)

Dear Apple users, please stop doing this!

You set up your own Wifi networks (at work!) with 80MHz wide channels and force our teaching spaces wireless off the first four available channels. So if any students or staff bring Nexus devices along then they won't be able to connect.

You also add to the interference on 2.4Ghz too, that is already congested and short of channel space.

I don't care how great you think your iTunes library is, this is a place of work and you are interfering with the network.


Friday, 10 October 2014

New Hangouts Chrome app available

Just downloaded the new Hangouts for Chrome (available at this link). I'm impressed, although people say it's like Facebook Messenger (I don't know, I don't have a Facebook account).

We use Hangouts for department communications (and a few off the record comments) mainly when we can't get a phone signal, such as at the student village. We use Google Apps for Education so we all have an account automatically.

The new look is shown in the video below:

What a week - No internet, no phones

It's Friday, thankfully.

What a week it's been. The 'fun' started on Tuesday when, not just us, but all higher education establishments in Yorkshire and Humberside, lost network connectivity to the outside world. So all those services that were moved to be hosted off site for resilience (email, documents, calendar, VLE, library catalogue) were inaccessible.

There was speculation that the problem may have been due to a digger going through some fibre cables in Leeds (see picture).

Source: Twitter

Today we have come in to find our phone connectivity is down as our suppliers have suffered a 'major power outage'. All internal and external calls, as well as faxes, are currently not possible.

Again we are completely in the hands of a suppliers to restore services.

So from a comms point of view, we have had a fairly quiet week, resorting to Facebook and Twitter for updates via 3G. It certainly shows how much we use and rely these links.

In other news: We passed our record of 15k concurrent users on wireless (set during exams last year) this week. We will need to start using NAT as we only have 16-17,000 IP addresses we can allocate to wireless.