Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Great Free Android Games

Bonsai Blast - Clear the coloured balls before the make it through the level. A bit of strategy involved too with being able to move the place where you fire from and fire off walls too. There are also power ups and bonuses to aim for.
From ComputerBites

Torect Lite - Addictive puzzle game. Fit the blocks together to make a rectangle, 500 levels and surprisingly difficult at times.
From ComputerBites

Jewels - Puzzle game and Bejeweled clone. Race against the clock to clear the jewels by moving them around the board and getting 3 in a row. Timed and normal mode. Ads recently added to menus but does not effect games.
From ComputerBites

Labyrinth Lite - Tilt your phone to guide a ball around a maze. 10 levels and you can create your own or you can pay for 1000 levels.
From ComputerBites

ConnectFour - Connect Four for Android. Cannot play human versus human though, only one player.
From ComputerBites

Chess For Android - It's chess. Can be quite difficult for people with big fingers though. Fortunately there is an undo move that you might be using often.
From ComputerBites

MovizHangman - Hangman game with Movie titles and a variety of game modes. Click the link for a bigger review.
From ComputerBites

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Microsoft's strange decisions

I know it may seem like I am trying to find fault with everything but my aim was to help those that might be having trouble. It wouldn't be much help to anyone if I simply said everythings great, some stuff doesn't work but we fixed it. I like Microsoft (not a thing many techies would say), I am very impressed with Windows 7 and some of the funtionality in Server 2008 is great.

That being said some things Microsoft has done seems like it is just making more work for everyone. Removing some the most useful features and releasing new products that are incompatable.

First there was the decision to remove NTbackup from Server 2008. True there is a replacement in Windows Server Backup but this does not let you backup to tape (we invested in 19.2TB of tapes not too long ago), it cannot backup Exchange (critical to any business), you cannot backup individual shares, files or folders but instead it must be the entire volume, if you automate it you have to backup the C: drive (or the drive containing your OS) and it won't backup drives over 2TB (no use for any of our NAS servers).

It also decided to make Exchange 2007 64bit only. Another upgrade needed.

So you have gone to Windows 7, you need Server 2008r2 for all the advantages and the tools like VPN-less networking and the full features of remote desktop? Well you cannot run Exchange 2007 on Server 2008r2. Microsoft wants you to install Exchange 2010. We were one of the first schools to install Windows 7 and to be honest, maybe we should have waited. Being released at the end of the school summer holidays left little time for fixing any problems that arise. We tested the RC without problems but when you go live with around 1,500 users it is obviously going to give you different problems and with not a lot of support out there. We will not be one of the first to implement Exchange 2010.

We have Exchange 2007 running on Server 2008 and Windows 7 clients in our school and currently no way of backing up mailboxes (our paid for solution does not support 2007 and our IT spend frozen until the school goes through BSF). But wait, there is an Exchange 2007 SP2, great. It includes backup functionality, super. It is 32 and 64 bit, wonderful. I don't know why it wasn't on our Volume License Agreement downloads page. Now when will be able to install it, not until next summer? Oh, and it still won't work on 2008r2.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Windows 7 Arrived!

Got a surprise in the post today, the two copies of Windows 7 Home Premium I had ordered through the special offer price (picture left). The surprise is because it is not released until Thursday and PC World had left me thinking I wouldn't get it until a week or two after that:

''PLEASE NOTE: If you have pre-ordered a copy of Windows 7 this will not
leave our warehouse any earlier than Wednesday 21st October (the day before the official launch date). You should expect delivery to be 5-7 days after this date''.

This on top of a postal strike planned by Royal Mail.

Got a couple of days off coming up so just in time to install my new PC. :)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Windows 7 In Schools #3

Here is a few more annoyances and fixes with Windows 7 in our school.

As with a few other schools it seems, we have had problems with group policy folder redirection. It worked on our test accounts but as soon as students started logging on on mass they first of all lost the start menu. We use a shared start menu as we have lots of network software that does not get installed on the clients. Also we can remove the things we do not want them to have such as remote desktop. Group policy modelling said it should work fine, as it did with our test users, but it would not work... then it would... no, wait... not working again. In a panic we copied the start menu they should be getting to the location of the mandatory profile start menu (enable hidden folders, then \\SERVER\SHARE\MANDATORYPROFILE.V2\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs). This worked as a temporary fix.

Then teachers and students stopped getting their documents. This is also redirected as they all use different PCs and so their documents are kept on the server. About half the people that logged on had their documents folder looking on the c: drive instead of where group policy tells it to.

We found putting teachers on a roaming profile allowed them to get their documents so we then changed group policy to be synchronous instead of asynchronous. This meant longer logon times but now maybe 95%+ logo on without a problem. We did this because on some clients in the event viewer it said group policy has not been applied as fast logon optimization is enabled, it will be applied at next logon. Also logon optimization is not enabled when users have a roaming profile. This suggested Fast Logon Optimization was to blame.

The group policy is here: Administrative Templates\System\Logon\Always wait for the network at computer startup and logon.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Windows 7 In Schools #2

So, been very busy lately trying to get all the software and machines installed for the start of term next week. While we were waiting for KMS 1.2 to come out Microsoft actually changed our keys. So here is what I have learnt about the changes in KMS.

For those who don't know, KMS is the new way to activate your operating system when you have a network with more than 25 clients. You must first set up a KMS server/host and get your clients to activate using the key you register on here. However, different operating systems now require different hosts.

Instead of just having a KMS key, now when we log on to Microsoft Volume Licensing we have either a KMS, KMS A, KMS B or KMS C key.

For a guide for installing a KMS host click here.

KMS keys can be hosted on a Windows 7 or Windows Server 2003 R2 machine -> only activates Windows 7 and Vista
KMS_A can be hosted on Web Server 2008 -> activates Vista, 7, Web Server 2008 and HPC Server 2008
KMS_B can be hosted on Server 2008 Standard -> activates Server 2008 Standard or Enterprise as well as Web Server 2008
KMS_C can be hosted on Server 2008 Enterprise -> activates all the above and Server 2008 Itanium-based systems

Before we had our licence key on a 2003 server and the Vista clients all activated using it. We don't have any Server 2003R2 servers so now we have had to set up a windows 7 PC as the license server. If you try setting up a KMS key on a non-2003R2 server you get the validation error 0xC004F050 and when you run slui.exe it says the product key is invalid.

This has meant that the 1.2 update we have been waiting for to activate our Windows 7 clients is pretty useless as your KMS key won't work on it. Just use a Windows 7 PC instead and don't turn it off or misplace it.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Useful Websites #2

A collection of websites I find useful to have handy.

Skydrive - For when you need to transfer a file to a different location or back something up and don't have your trusty USB pen drive. This service from Microsoft gives you 25GB of free online storage.

edugeek - For those IT professionals working in education. A source of help for all school techs. With a bit of fun too to get you through the day.

BBC Podcast Directory - Free podcasts for almost any taste. News, sport, comedy, movie reviews, all sorts to keep your mp3 player stocked up. May I also recommend Adam & Joe, hilarious.

Video Tabs - Ever wanted to play the guitar but didn't want to pay for lessons? Also good for people who can't read music. Be shown how to play your favourite songs through videos people have posted.

The Portable Freeware Collection - Free software that can be run from a USB drive.

Bugmenot - Shared logins for websites. Need that driver but you need to be a member to download it? Or just want to read a solution to fix your problem without having to spend time signing up and creating accounts? Bugmenot offers a solution. Type in the site you are trying to get on and a list of logins is displayed in return with users able to rate if they were successful or not.

Mopay - Sell your old mobile phone or send it to be recycled.

Media-Convert - Like Zamzar three weeks ago, An easy to use file conversion tool. Converts many different file types.

Speedtest.net - Test your broadband speed. Tests downloads, uploads and ping speed.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Windows 7 In Schools #1

Windows 7 was released through the schools agreement last Friday and so this week we have been installing it to machines.

The first thing I will point out is for those you who have been using Windows Deployment Services before Windows 7, your boot.wim will not work. You receive an error code and then on the next screen: Windows Could not apply unattended settings during pass (null). This is even when you don't try to do an unattended installation.

Although the instructions say to use the boot.wim from the server disc you will need to use the boot.wim from the Windows 7 iso you have downloaded. We have added the boot file to the one we had already that installed Vista, Server 2008 and XP. So our menu when you boot to network looks like this:

The next point is you will need to update Key Management Services from 1.1 to 1.2. This should be available via WSUS from 25th August. When we tried to download it it was not available yet from microsoft download centre. This is to activate your machines. If you have less than 25 computers you can request a MAK key from microsoft instead of using your KMS key that you should see on your schools agreement licence keys page.

So we have a few machines installed but not activated yet. Any more problems we come across will be posted here to help others.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Installing Adobe CS3

As promised here is a guide for how we install Adobe CS3 without a Software Management Server.

Step 1: Copy the contents of CD to a share on the server e.g.\\server\cs3 and change Adobe CS3 folder to Adobe_CS3 so that it contains no spaces.

Step 2: Run \\server\cs3\adobe_cs3\setup.exe --record=1
This will run through the setup but not install any software. Select what programs you want to install and where you want to install them. This will create 2 XML files in
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Installers\

Step 3: Put the 2 XML files you just created in \\server\cs3\adobe_cs3 and rename them install.xml and uninstall.xml

Step 4: In \\server\cs3\adobe_cs3\ identify which of the folders in the Payloads folder is the driver payload folder. To do this open the Setup.xml file and locate the following line:

Make a note of the driver pa
yload folder name (for us this is AdobeWebSuitePremiumen_US_Volume)

Step 5: Create an application.xml.override file. Open Notepad and type the following XML script putting in your serial number:

Save this in the driver payloads folder (e.g. AdobeWebSuitePremiumen_US_Volume) as application.xml.override

Step 6: Create a batch file to install CS3 (pointing the deployment to your xml file created and the executable). Either:

  1. Check if already installed (depending on what you want to install you can change the reg key to Photoshop, Flash, etc.) and if not install silently:

reg query HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Adobe\Dreamweaver\9.0\Installation

if %errorlevel%==1 (goto DeployCS3) else (goto End)


start /wait \\server\CS3\Adobe_CS3\Setup.exe --mode=Silent --deploymentFile="\\server\CS3\Adobe_CS3\Install.xml"


  1. Just install silently:

start /wait \\server\CS3\Adobe_CS3\Setup.exe --mode=Silent --deploymentFile="\\server\CS3\Adobe_CS3\Install.xml"


Step 7: Create a group policy to install CS3 using the batch file as a logon script. You can now install the software two ways. Either create an ‘install cs3’ user, apply the group policy you just created to it and when you logon it will install the software (we use NetSupport School so we can log all the machines on as a user remotely). Alternatively, you can apply to users who need the software and use the check if installed script (script A above).

Just running the batch file will install the software silently (no need to put in product key, choose programs or register).

Hope this wasn't to difficult to follow.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Useful Websites #1

A collection of websites I find useful to have handy.

Filehippo - A collection of free or trial software to download in one place. Most things you need a piece of software for you can find here. Also has an update checker that checks your software for security and other updates.

Zamzar - Covert a file type to another file for free and without having to install any software. Select the file, choose what to convert it to and Zamzar will email you when it is done.

Trend Housecall - Excellent online virus scanner. Works with IE and Firefox.

Mailinator - Avoid spam by using a temporary email address. Sites that require your email but you don't want to give it to them, give them a mailinator email address instead. Each mailbox can hold up to 10 messages.

AlternativeTo - Alternative suggestions when looking for a piece of software. Can't afford Photoshop? See what else can do the job and what people think of it.

Last.fm - Sign up to the site and tell it what bands you like and get your own personal radio station. Or alternatively, just listen to music for free.

What Should I Read Next? - Enjoyed a book? Put the title and author in to this search engine and it will give you a list of other titles you might enjoy.

Musicmagpie - Sell your unwanted CD's, DVD's and computer games. No bank details needed. Post them freepost and receive a cheque in return.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Deploying Office 2007

It is that time of year when all our school computers need reinstalling and updating. We are finally installing Office 2007 school-wide but, unlike with previous versions of office, we are having to do things a little differently.

Before Office 2007 we would deploy using Group Policy and the msi provided but it seems now that Microsoft is wanting businesses to go down the SMS (Microsoft Systems Management Server) route. Well with BSF on the horizon for us there is no money for IT so here is what we came up with. I hope this will help others in a similar situation.

Step 1: Copy the contents of the Office DVD to a share on the server (remember to add permissions).

Step 2: In the run box type your Office share location followed by '\setup.exe /admin' (without the '). This opens the Office Customization Tool.

Step 3: Create a new customization if one has not been done already and enter your school name, licence key and which components you want to install (for a silent install you must set the display level to 'none'). Save as Office12.MSP (or change the batch file that follows).

Step 4: Create a batch file to install Office if it is not already on the system. Open notepad and type/copy the following (if you don't use excel you could change that to winword, outlook etc.).


REM --- Check for an existing installation of office07

if exist "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\excel.exe" goto _End

"\\{server name}\{share location}\setup.exe" /adminfile "\\{server name}\{share location}\\Office12.msp"

REM --- End of the script


Step 5: Save the batch file (saving as .bat file extension) to your netlogon share.

Step 6: Create a GPO to run the batch file as a logon script. You can then apply it to all the users you want to have Office 2007 on their machines or you could create an 'install office' user account. Note: If the clients are Vista UAC must be disabled or it will ask for the administrator password to run the batch file.

When the client machines are logged on, either by your users you have applied your script to or using your install account, Office should install all the components you configured. Done.

Hope this helps. A user guide for installing Adobe CS3 will follow soon.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Android App Review #1: Moviz Hangman

I have been downloading a few decent free games for my G1, and one I find myself playing more than most is Moviz Hangman.

It has a variety of game modes including 'challenge', where you need to get as many movies titles as possible in a row, starting with 30 tries. There is also included a single and a two player game. There are nearly 500 movies to guess and more being added through updates. In two player mode you can add your own, and it doesn't have to be movies, type in anything. In single player (or training as it says on the menu) you get 15 tries to guess the movie. Your score can be submitted to an online league table which you can check out anytime by selecting 'online features'.

The ads at the bottom of the game screen are hardly noticeable but the 'exit' button is hidden under the 'd' during games. However, this isn't really a problem as you can just press back on your phone to return to the main menu.

Give it a try, it's free.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Windows 7 offer - Save £100

Microsoft are offering customers a chance to purchase Windows 7 Home Premium for £49.99 and Windows 7 Pro for £99.99 when you pre-order between 15th July and 9th August. With announcements leaked online indicating that the price when it is released on 22nd October will be £150 and £200 for these versions this represents a considerable saving.

You are allowed to order up to 3 copies at this price from participating retailers (Amazon, Comet, Currys, PC World, Littlewoods, Staples, ebuyer and Anvika) or the Microsoft Store.

I was directed to this offer by a colleague but had not seen it advertised anywhere else. The new Windows OS premium version for £49.99? I am definitely putting my name down.

It is also worth pointing out that Microsoft will stop letting users download Windows 7 RC from 15th August. The operating system is free to download and will continue to work until March next year. So for all of you who, like me, look after a large network, now is the time to get downloading and testing for compatibility.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Google Android Wallpapers

Spent half a day using GIMP to add some application docks to some wallpapers I have found around the web for use on my G1. There is a very good guide about how to make docks here.

When you are making your own you need wallpaper with a resolution of 640x480 (or multiples thereof). The result should then look like this, with you able to put your shortcuts on the bar:

You can see the rest of my efforts on talkandroid and on Flickr.

Monday, 29 June 2009


Welcome all to my blog and to my first post.

When I decided to start a blog there was so many things I wanted to write about. Bands that I listen to, movies I like, sports, books and so on. Like many people I often need to find a solution to a particular problem. While I can't tell you what shoes are in fashion or the answers to The Times crossword, I do know a little about IT. I often have to seek help from my fellow professionals and hoped that I could, intern, be of some help to others.

I have taken the plunge and installed Windows 7 RC on my work PC as my main operating system (brave?). You can find many sites elsewhere explaining the various new features but I shall be discussing my own personal problems I have come across and joys I have discovered using it in a school environment.

I am also starting to use an Android mobile and will be posting some reviews of apps I have used, wallpapers I have created and tricks I have discovered.

Now I have to install Server 2008. Back soon!