Friday, 17 December 2010

New toy to play with...

Arrived on trial to see how it we get on with it, along with a Nokia N8 (but this was more exciting)...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I miss snow days

One of the best things about working in a school was that when it snowed, quite often you got a day off work. Now, since I moved to HE, I have to come in and get soaked, cold and very tired from the even earlier morning commute.

I nearly could have done with a snow day yesterday, things nearly went tits up.

I was patching up some fibre in our main data centre when, all of a sudden, darkness. Okay, so the power has gone off. That is not a problem as the generator will kick-in... any-time... about now... no?.. bugger.

It became obvious from the lack of lights that the generator had not kicked in and we were running the whole building on a UPS which given the size of our building gave us about 20 minutes. Then phones, servers, the lot would go. Thankfully the doors lock open so we were not stuck in the basement comms room, but not sure how great that is for security (before you get any ideas we do have metal shutters out of hours).

We found out a contractor had been working in the plant room and for some reason had managed to knock everything off and stop the generator starting. So can we get into the plant room to look at fixing it? No as it is closed due to asbestos contamination and we need a mask, cover-alls, a risk-assessment and a key from estates.

We watched the UPS as it went down to 3 minutes left, 2 minutes left and so on. Grabbed some laptops to keep the switchboard up and running, forwarded all calls to our mobiles and grabbed some more laptops to take across the street and set up a helpdesk over there.

Then the UPS said went to 0% and everything was about to go off. Just as we got a message saying it was shutting down, LIGHTS, power, everything came back on. The contractor who was working on the electrics and had done 'something' to the cable had managed to get it back on.

Just in the knick of time, and people outside the building would not have noticed anything.

edit (from my boss): I saw two messages from the UPS, one saying 'I've had it', another saying 'I'm back', actually timed at exactly the same time (to the nearest second) - that's how close it seems to have been.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The fun of a school helpdesk...

This reminded me very much of what it was like to work in a secondary school. Some of these are very funny:

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Useful Websites #4 - 5GB of free online storage (more can be purchased) that can be accessed and uploaded from your PC or mobile.

Dropbox - Another online storage solution, but a lot more popular than despite offering a smaller amount of 2GB storage for free. Again this can be installed on your PC or mobile.

ThinkFree Office Mobile - View/edit/create documents (in all these MS compatible formats: DOC/DOCX/DOT/DOTX/RTF/TXT/XLS/XLSX/CSV/PPT/PPTX/PPS/PPSX/POT/POTX) on the move and get 1GB to store them online. Also with a PDF viewer. - Useful for letting of steam. Destroy your favourite, or least-favourite, websites... asteroid style.

BitDefender Quickscan - Run a virus scan in your browser. Good for checking if your antivirus software might have missed something.

Panda ActivScan - Another free online antivirus checker that works with Windows 7 among others.

Academic templates - Microsoft office templates for teachers.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Worst job in the world...

...for me at any rate. I know some people love heights but this video of some broadcast engineers climbing a tower taller than The Empire State Building scares me. I have to do some jobs that trouble my vertigo, but if I had to do this I would have to quit. It also seems like they are not attached unless they are having a rest.

When you think he can't go any further, he just keeps going.

Overclocking android

I blogged about my new phone in a recent post here. Well some clever/crazy/geeky/brave (delete as appropriate) person has had a go at overclocking a Desire Z (G2 outside of UK) and the result is in the video below:


How to... DNS

Most of my posts concentrate on the work and education side of networking. However, I would just like to post a basic guide about home DNS.

Basically DNS tells your computer where to find the website it is looking for. This is usually done by your ISP. You may not know though that there are better alternatives. I will mention three of the most popular here, Clearcloud, Google Public DNS and, my personal favourite, OpenDNS. All of which are free to use.

Firstly, you may be asking why you might need to use a DNS service. One reason, without going into too much detail, is speed. The three DNS services I have mentioned have improved DNS lookup times as well as setting their services up to adequately handle the traffic from clients. This is done in many ways that there is not the room to go into here but includes load balancing, prefetching and securing the servers.

The second reason, and the reason I changed my DNS from my ISP, is that security holes tend to be patched quicker with the three services above than the DNS servers of some ISP's do. When somebody finds a security hole in DNS then can re-direct your requests wherever they like.

OpenDNS blocks phishing attacks using Phistank. The three also help prevent denial-of-service attacks, malware and other spoofing attempts. Clearcloud checks the website against a known blacklist before it delivers it to you, and seems to lead to no speed loss.

Another major benefit which some people don't realise is that some DNS services such as OpenDNS add content filters. So if you had children you could prevent them from seeing adult material using the DNS service. Or just specify your own level of filtering.

OpenDNS also has the added benefit of fixing typos, such as when you meant

So how do you do it? Pretty simple really. Open the properties of your network adapter (Network Connections > Local Area Connection Properties > Internet Protocol Version 4).

In the box that says 'use the following DNS server address' enter the service you would like to use:

Clearcloud: and

Google: and

OpenDNS: and

Then restart the PC.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Changing fast

It was only a few weeks ago I mentioned there was talk of moving the staff over to Google Apps. In what seems like hardly any time at all, we are going ahead. IT staff will be moved over tomorrow as a 'trial run' before it goes live for everybody.

Partly motivated by money savings and partly by the size of the storage space and, hopefully, the possibility of less faults, I would be interested to hear other educational institution's experiences, not only with Google, but with the Microsoft Live@edu and any others that are out there.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Android 2.2

My new phone has arrived. I have been waiting for the HTC Desire Z to be available in the UK for a while now and here it is:

It is called the G2 in other parts of the world including the US but we already had a G2 over here which looked more like a Legend or a Hero.

I was looking forward to this phone for a number of reasons. Firstly because it has a slide-out keyboard, which I love. After using smart-phones in the past with them I now can't do without them (for blogging, emails etc). I was hoping I would not have to resort to getting a Motorola Milestone, which just seemed to be only okay to me.

Secondly it has Android 2.2 (froyo). So that means Adobe Flash 10.1 for all those flash websites and games. Having 2.2 also means it is super fast and it supports USB tethering and acts as a portbale hotspot. I also have a lot more room for installing apps and can move the apps to the SD card to free up even more space. The camera and 3G is better than what I had in my previous handset and the battery, memory and processor are a vast improvement.

As it has the new HTC Sense interface it also supports being backed up, locking, ringing and sending messages to from the internet in case you lose it. You can also turn on the GPS and find it on a map.

From a work point of view, we have an app that runs on android 2.0 and above (my previous phone had 1.6) that we are currently testing. This provides campus information, maps, updates, twitter feeds and so on which I am now involved in testing.

I also wanted to upgrade so I can create some apps myself for my job. We have a number of hours 'personal development' time to use to learn something new or go on some training courses. I am planning on creating some apps to control my desk phone (sending calls to my mobile and making internal calls using the desk phone) and logging in and out of the helpdesk remotely.

The plan is so that I can be in America and my boss can be in Australia, for example, and we call each other on android phones, both using our desk phones. So he doesn't see my personal number, I don't see his, and the call is using the work phones for billing, etc. We can then forward calls to the office, conference in someone from the office and access our voicemail.

I am downloading the SDK and java tools. I'll keep posting my progress.

Monday, 8 November 2010

More fibre

As I mentioned in a post here, I was going to show you the miles and miles of fibre cable we sell to our contractors for use with our new projects. Well we had a problem with the Virgin Media guest service where it is stored so while I was there I snapped some pictures on my phone.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Future cabling

One of the things we are currently discussing is whether to start to use cat6a cabling or whether to skip it and move straight onto cat7a when it becomes more affordable and widely used.

We have been looking at some of the cabling and other cat6a equipment and there are some pictures below. There is a picture of some shielded and unshielded cat 6a cable and some new connectors.

Cat6a is designed for 10Gigabit Ethernet. So for new buildings that are going in and will be used for years to come it is soon going to be a consideration so as to get the right size pathways and future-proofing. 10GbE NICs will be on the way.

From handling it cat6a feels less flexible but we have seen some interesting patch panel and socket designs to make the cabling tidier and to suit your needs. I would be interested to hear if anyone is using cat6a and what things you have come across when using it.

Friday, 5 November 2010

£1million each...

I was recently asked to do an audit of our cabinets for insurance purposes now we have upgraded most, if not all, to Cisco kit and got the Bay Networks stuff recycled as they went out of business in 1998.

Amazingly the total value came to £6,607,200 worth of kit. If we add on to this the access points, cabling, network sockets and phones we also support then the eight of us probably look after about £1,000,000 worth of kit each.

That is definitely getting brought up in my next staff review. Is a pay rise out of the question?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Money saving decisions

I have wrote previously about the difficult financial position educational institutions are now finding themselves in. I have also mentioned the savings in energy costs with our move to virtualizing most of our servers but I would just like to mention what else we are doing to save money.

This year the students email moved over to Google giving them much more storage space and less data for us to have to store. An added bonus is they also get a free calendar which they did not have before. We are considering implementing this for staff too as we currently pay a large annual fee for the Oracle calendar staff use.

A problem we have experienced since moving student email has been spam. Google does a great job of stopping students seeing any spam but we are now unable to prevent them from sending it when their accounts have been compromised. We have seen an increase in phishing attempts originating with the Google email accounts and whereas before we would stop them being sent in the first place we now have to react to them coming in.

Overall though, the benefits outweighed the negatives as we didn't need to look after servers, backups and the infrastructure around them.

We have also purchased LogMeIn Rescue to hopefully reduce the time taken to fix faults as well as traveling costs. This version of LogMeIn supports PCs, Macs and smartphones.

There are people higher up who are looking at using Google Apps for staff as a way to save money. They are also looking into other open source software for document management and the new portal.

In the future there may be more data stored in the cloud than there is currently and outsourcing is on the agenda as an avenue to explore. Obviously the strictest data protection rules must apply.

In my own area we are implementing softphones for making calls using your PC and have purchased speech recognition software for the switchboard meaning members of our team do not have to cover and answer the phones, instead an Automated Attendant deals with the caller. Putting them through to who they require. As a result we are free to fix faults and make network changes/improvements.

Fibre, fibre, fibre

Well this is what I have been doing today. I have all this fibre to test.

As part of a resilience project we are currently undertaking (which should be finished next month) I have been testing the quality of the links between buildings and departments and checking for damages (repairing where possible).

The project in question is designed to provide backups to the routes between buildings in the event of failure (power or otherwise). Reducing the downtime our users experience.

I meant to get a picture of the miles of cable we have been providing contractors to cable around the city (hopefully one will be coming soon). We make sure the contractors buy the fibre cable from us so we know it is of good quality as there has been instances of poor quality fibre installations in the past.

For testing I have been using the Noyes OPM5 (below) and a OLS4 at the other end providing the light source. We have just recently been provided with these which I am pleased about as previously we had different testers for single-mode and multi-mode. The OPM5 will measure both. On most trays we have 12 single-mode and 12 multi-mode connections.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spending review 2010. The good and the bad...

The good news first. George Osborne has announced that the schools budget would rise from £35bn to £39bn and more money would be available for disadvantaged pupils.

We already knew about the building schools for the future program being abolished as well as Becta closed down. It seems the hardest hit will be higher education. Universities face a 40% cut in their teaching budget over the next four years totalling a cut of £2.9bn.

How these cuts will effect staff and pupils is yet to be determined but it seems likely that fees will rise. Also the universities are going to have to decide what services they want to continue to provide. Who knows, maybe a managed service will eventually come to this university.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Instructions for iPhones and iPods

Step 1: Open the packaging.
Step 2: Remove headphones.
Step 3: Dispose of headphones.
Step 4: Buy decent set, not necessarily for very much (for example).

As someone who uses public transport to get to and from work I really hate having to listen to someone else's crappy taste in music. Every time I hear some awful dance, rap, techno, house, garage, hip-hop whatever it is blasting out I turn and see those familiar white apple headphones in the persons ears.

I don't know where my iPhone headphones are, and I don't want to know. If I turn my iPhone up to the loudest possible setting and don't have my (non-apple) headphones in my ears I cannot hear a thing. As it should be.

They are headphones, for personal listening, don't subject everyone around to your rubbish. I have not even mentioned how uncomfortable the white buds are.

*I am sure my taste in music will be seen as just as bad to other people. But the difference is I don't make you listen to it.

Big day tomorrow...

We find out tomorrow what cuts the government will be making to university funding. It is a bit of a squeaky bum time here as we already was told to find £400,000 out of the budget. According to a leaked email to the BBC cuts are likely to be as high as £4.2bn (that's right BILLION).

Obviously that will have a massive effect on higher education. The students may have to cover most of the shortfall with raised tuition fees but we are already getting emails about working hours arriving in our inbox's, even before the announcement.

I am sure there will be a meeting in the next few weeks so we will just have to see what happens.

After moving from secondary education where my job was in danger due to BSF and managed services, higher education does not seem so safe now either.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ipconfig not recognized...

I had a case this morning where a user could not give us there IP information because when they typed ipconfig into a command prompt it said 'ipconfig not recognized as an internal or external command'.

If you come across this problem type the word path in the command prompt and you should see something like this that says C:\windows\system32:

If it does not then that is your problem and here is how to fix it.

1. Right click computer and go to properties (or press windows key and pause/break).

2. Go to advanced system settings.

3. Go to environmental variables.

4. In the system variables browse to Path.

5. Edit it to say C:\windows\system32

6. Go to OK.

It should work now but you may need to restart your computer.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Wireless upgrades

We had some funding for new wireless access points, which I have spoken about before here. We spoke to the departments about where they wanted them and carried out surveys to find the best places. We tried to cover teaching spaces primarily (especially as the departments themselves were not paying) so as many people as possible would get use out each access point. It was rather annoying however the amount of staff said they wanted it just above THEIR desk or in THEIR office where, after a survey, it would only really be them getting any benefit out of this costly AP.

After a few early starts so as not to effect users we have maybe nearly 400 access points up now. As these are 802.11n access points they provide 5ghz access to the network for compatible devices such as Macbooks and also better security.

A problem we have encountered is with the few older 1200 series access points. As these only support WPA and not WPA2 we have Macbooks that think they are connected but are not. The Macbook associates, gets an address and then enables encryption so it has a valid IP address but does not work.

As a workaround it seems Macs specify WPA2 automatically so we need to remove all profiles of our network from the airport config, the reconnect specifically as WPA Enterprise and it should work.

A last point about wireless. It seems greater demands are being placed on it this academic year due to the greater use of smart-phones. This is something any network team will now need to consider when setting out their wireless needs. I have already seen local schools using iPod's, PSP's and Nintendo DS's in the classroom along with mini video cameras capable of uploading video and pictures over the internet. This, along with the phenomenal success of the iPhone among staff is a big wireless move in the academic sphere.

Silly students

If you are using your laptop to download copyright material and we block it then it is probably not a good idea to phone us up and say all of a sudden your downloads have slowed down. Silly boy.

It looked suspicious as we entered the room and saw a drive caddy with full size drive connected to the laptop. Then seeing a familiar BitTorrent client running in the taskbar it did not take long to diagnose the problem.

We currently have 2 x 1Gig links (one for power computing/computer science and one for regular users) but there has been talk of needing at least a 10Gig connection to cope with the amount of research data that will be transported. Lets just hope the peer-to-peer traffic shaping software does its job or we'll probably see all our electricity savings go out the window as students realise what they can do.

On the subject of copyright material, I was surprised to read on Plusnet's support pages that they say they were not to blame for leaking customers information in the recent ACS:Law hacking case. Below is a screenshot of their website:

This is despite the fact that the information had been sent to ACS:Law unencrypted and unsecured. So how was Plusnet not, at least partly, responsible?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Going green

There has been a big push in our institution for greener IT. Not least because know we have targets set by government that are extremely challenging (48% reduction in carbon emissions on 2005 baseline).

We are are encouraging paperless meetings, instead using tablet devices such as the iPad. We also promote online collaboration and lately have moved into producing maps and other information included in apps for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices. I may be involved soon in testing the new Android app when I upgrade to android 2.2 (more in a later post). Hopefully this will reduce the need for this information to be printed as I saw some amazing figures recently:

In 2009/2010 year, our institution used 41,000,000 sheets of A4 paper.

That would mean an average of 2166 pages per member of staff.


Also incredible is the saving we have made through server virtualisation. We have gone from 130 servers to 4 large servers with virtualisation. This has had an effect of a 5 year energy saving of £436,569.

If you are currently running a number of servers I would seriously recommend taking a look at virtualisation. There are many great products out there such as VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server. In my last school I started rolling out some virtual servers and hopefully can provide some guides soon.

Turn off conversation view

I don't mind Gmail's conversation view, in fact, when I first saw it I quite liked it. It is even something Apple have copied with the new version of the iPhone IOS in what they call 'threads'.

However I know people who don't like it one bit. Well (in the words of Professor Farnsworth), good news everyone! There is now an option in the Gmail settings to turn it off, should you wish to.

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Angry Technician Edition

Does that rhyme?

The title of this post is from a blog I (and anyone who works in education would probably) enjoy: The Angry Technician. So here is my first version.

YOUR mobile bill is sent to YOUR department for payment and a copy is sent to YOU for YOUR records (and to look for any personal calls YOU are willing to admit to). So why ask me to go through all YOUR bills and work out YOUR average data usage? I don’t have YOUR bills, I have to get them from Vodafone. Why am I YOUR calculator? YOU should have them, do it yourself.

This isn't a technical support request. It is you being lazy.

Internet Explorer

Will IE9 be any better? Get the beta version here. Personally I will be sticking with Chrome for work. Firefox for home.

While on the subject of Apple...

I know anyone who reads my blog will probably accuse me of Apple bashing but I would just like to share a few problems and experiences we are having with the iPad so far.

I would be interested in hearing how other educational institutions deal with the fact that each iPad needs linking to an individuals iTunes account and credit card. In some departments they only have one iPad for the whole department so who's credit card details should we give Apple? As they are synced to an individuals iTunes account sharing these devices is proving difficult.

When we asked Apple if there was a way to buy apps on an institutional basis they suggested we go to PC World or similar and buy £100s or £1000s of iTunes gift cards.

As well as purchasing apps, connecting to iTunes and the wireless problems we previously experienced another problem we experience is the inability to open the keyboard for certain web forms including our own institutions collaborative sites for blogging and noticeboards.

Edit: Using on 3G when you are without a Wi-Fi signal is also troublesome. A lot of apps will not download over a 3G connection and a number of streaming services are also not supported over 3G. So if you are going to use one make sure you have good wireless coverage.

I have to add it is still a fabulous bit of hardware. The battery life, the noise it makes and the ease of use is excellent. I can certainly see why people will want to use them and using them in meetings is fantastic, so why won't Apple make it easier for educational and other institutions to manage them?

The difference between iPhone and Android

via soup.fnordicwalking

Sooooo busy

As you can tell I have not posted for sometime. A combination of the students returning last week and the birth of my son are some of the reasons.

Been doing six day weeks and working overtime in the evenings to get everything working (not to get out of changing nappies, honest).

Still there was a report in the local newspaper that students were having to queue due to network problems (some of the pictures from the paper are below). It does not say who gave the quote, but it was not due to problems with the network, the problems with registration were contributed to by idiots messing around with live systems, tinkering with the software programs until they caused them to fall over.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Happy SysAdmin Day

It is that time of year again. The time to give a little appreciation to the guys that never normally get appreciated. The guys that could bring your network to a halt in seconds, that work all hours so your service is seamless, the guys that you rely on to make your systems work for you 24/7.

For a better understanding of System Administrator Appreciation Day and what a SysAdmin does visit the SysAdminDay website here.

Show your appreciation, and if you are a System Administrator, make sure you get appreciated.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

BSF update

I wrote after the general election here asking what would happen to Building Schools for the Future as Labour lost the election. As of yesterday, we now have an answer.

It seems that funding for the Sheffield schools I talked about has been saved but others in Yorkshire were not so lucky. 82 Yorkshire schools who were to get school improvements in the form of a refurbish or rebuild have now lost their funding. Nationally this sees BSF schemes for 719 secondary and special schools stopped. Not surprisingly Notre Dame in Ranmoor (Nicke Clegg's constituency) still has the go ahead.

The full list of Yorkshire schools who lost out can be found at the Yorkshire Post here.

Update: There is now a list of all schools by local authority and how they are affected. Provided by the BBC here.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Windows 8 Details Leak

Microsoft seem to be moving much faster. By the time XP comes to the end of its cycle (2014) it will have been out for 13 years. While many have not upgraded to Windows 7 or even Vista, Microsoft Kitchen has a leaked Powerpoint presentation made by Microsoft for HP containing details of Windows 8.

Checkout Microsoft Kitchen for a more detailed look but just briefly Microsoft seem to be concentrating on power usage, improving boot up times and being able to reset your PC without losing your settings and files. Internet Explorer 9 is also mentioned, as is the Windows Store (an app store for Windows).

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

One Year Old!

My blog has been going for a year. To celebrate both that and the return of Futurama enjoy this picture of Planet Express in Lego (not mine unfortunately):

Monday, 28 June 2010

Upgrade those SP2 computers

If you have any Windows XP computers in your school still running Service Pack 2 then it has come to the time to upgrade.

From July 13 SP2 will stop receiving updates and support from Microsoft. If you are still not ready to install Windows 7 then make sure to upgrade to Service Pack 3, which will be supported until 2014.

It has also been announced that XP will not get Internet Explorer 9. It seems to be getting to that stage now where new Microsoft services and applications will be available for Vista and 7 only. So maybe schools should be looking to move over this summer.

Obviously a lot of schools have old hardware which could be a problem so they will have to take this into account when working out their budgets. Each individual institution will have to weigh up the pros and cons and decide what they want to be able to do in their school. At some point there will come a time when, for security reasons as much as anything, that old hardware will have to be replaced.

I came across a laptop the other day that was reported to have network issues and be taking too long to boot up. Also every time you opened a program it froze (or took too long to notice if it had or had not froze). It had 192MB of memory that we didn't have any spare to replace.

For schools getting rid of these older PCs may have a knock on effect with old printers, scanners, whiteboards, laser cutters and so on that do not have Windows 7/Vista drivers. It could be an expensive time, so get planning.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Breaking News! World Cup is popular!

For probably the first time an important England world cup game coincided with most of the country being at work and the technology existing for the live streaming of matches.

As a result of the England V Slovenia game being at 3PM our internet took a complete hammering (despite the students being off already).

It took some 'jiggery pokery' for normal web use to resume. We have 1Gbps connection put aside for supercomputing and scientific research type stuff and a 1Gbps connection for users. Normally this more than enough but looking at our net stats for the afternoon (update: can be seen here) saw it hit 970Mbps around 3PM and maxed out during the first half causing the internet to slow down for basic web browsing.

We were running at 1.2Gbps including the High Power Computing and had to change the priorities on the bandwidth. As a result some people experienced the odd buffering moment during the game.

As one guy in our office put it, "time for a 10Gbps connection?"

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

IOS 4 = Good. Now hurry up and release it for the iPad

The overall reaction to the Apple IOS 4 update has been very positive, even on the older 3G of which there is a review at my friends' blog here. Unfortunately the update doesn't appear to be set to be released for iPad's until later in the year. This is bad for us because the iPad appears to be causing us some wireless problems that won't be fixed until it is update to the latest firmware.

The problem we are having is that the iPad's are keeping their IP addresses after the DHCP lease expires. Then the DHCP server is allocating the (what it thinks are) free IP addresses to other devices that then do not get a network connection.

The problem appears to be with the iPad sleep mode. The iPad will go to sleep with an IP address and will not try to renew its lease. It will wake-up and decide to keep the address it had before, even if it has been assigned to another computer. It does this even if it stays connected to a network when it is in 'sleep'.

At present we need to de-authenticate or disassociate iPad's with access points to get other users to access the network with their devices. There is also a workaround for iPad users here but Apple has promised a fix with IOS 4.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Flash ahhh...

It seems that all the interesting releases at present are on mobiles.

The day after Apple release IOS 4 for iPhone Adobe confirm you can download Flash 10.1 on Android 2.2 (froyo) updated devices.

So when the OTA (over the air) froyo update arrives (if you haven't got it all ready) get it on and enjoy all your flashy goodness.

First day with IOS4

This is a screen from my iPhone running IOS 4 (taken by pressing home and power on/off). I have a 3GS which supports firmware version 4, as does the new iPhone 4.

First I had to update to Itunes 9.2 and restart my PC. Then downloaded and installed the new firmware. Then I started playing.

You may have noticed the background on the home-screen is different, this is the new default wallpaper which can be changed by simply going into 'settings', then 'wallpaper'.

I went into email to have a look and the iPhone now has threaded email just like Gmail. I also had a look at the spell-checker which is a nice new addition as it has recommended spellings when you highlight a word that is red.

I then decided to try to create folders. I held down the Youtube icon on the home screen until it 'jiggled' then dragged it on top of Google Maps to create a Google folder.

I was then going to try out the new iPod controls but when I went into iPod it had deleted all my podcasts (94 of them) which is a bit odd because it kept all my applications I had downloaded.

There are a few reports of applications that have problems with crashes and the makers will have to update these but so far the ones I have tried have all worked. Another problem though is applications running in the background. When you open an application it continues to run after you have exited and you need to know how to close these so they do not take up all the memory or cause crashes, freezes or excessive data usage. Double-tap the home button and a menu of things running should open up (see screenshot below)

Then hold the application you want to close until it 'jiggles' and a red '-' sign appears. Press it to close it. After a few minutes use I had 8 programs running in the background. Why you have to close applications this way is a bit of a mystery and seems a bit of a hassle. Maybe an app that does it for you will be on the way.

First impressions are quite good. Apple have added a lot of features I had on my android (multitasking, threaded email, wallpapers, folders) and it is still looking smooth. No sign of slowing down or crashes. I also tried the zoom on the camera. It is a nice touch but display goes blurry and I will probably edit the pictures I take in software.

There is a list of applications updated for IOs 4 here.

Friday, 18 June 2010

iPad's and projectors

One of the head's of ICT was having a meeting and decided to use his fancy new iPad to do his presentation. Connected it to a projector and... not working.

It turns out you need an App to get it to display to external devices. So, as not to leave everyone sat watching you try to move your presentation to another machine for half your meeting, check it works first before your presentation. Or use a laptop.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Protecting against vulnerabilities causes vulnerabilities... Or why Orange should change their passwords

After the French introduced a policy of kicking peer-to-peer users off the internet, Orange (for just 2 Euro's a month) offered to block anyone from using peer-to-peer on your network.

Great for customers who don't want their users getting up to things they shouldn't... unless Orange uses a server than can be accessed from the internet and keeps the default user-name and password 'admin'.

One user signed up to this deal ran Wireshark on his PC and noticed software communicating with IP Wireshark is a decent network fault finding tool that can be downloaded here. Putting the IP into a browser followed by /status brought up every Orange customer who used the software's IP address. But there's more... using the logon and password of 'admin' users have discovered it is possible to send malware to the computers that Orange's software is supposed to be protecting.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Can anyone be an IT technician?

When I started a job as a Systems Administrator I was told I would be on £4K less than the guy I replaced as I would need support from the City Learning Centre (CLC) while I was learning.

Well they didn't give us much help but when we did have a problem I decided, as I was paying for the support out of my salary, to ask for some. So I asked their technicians and do you know what their answer was?

"Google it"

Well obviously I had managed that and couldn't find the solution. So I took it a step further and my manger informed the CLC manager of the problems we were having. His answer:

"Don't you use Google?"

So, this is the answer from people on £30K, £40K, £50K a year when you ask for support that the school is supposedly paying for.

So my question is, in the age of Google, can anyone be an IT technician? If so, does this mean all the skill has gone out of the job? If all that happens when you come across a problem is 'Google it' surely anyone who can use a search engine can do this.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

iPhone caught up with android? Almost

Apple have posted the keynote speech where Steve Jobs talks about all the 'amazing' new features in iPhone 4 (that have been in android for years).

The iPhone now has multitasking, like my G1 from 2008.

The iPhone now has threaded email, like my G1 from 2008.

Folders, check.

Video sharing, check.

Tap to focus, check.

Tethering, check.

Video calling, check. But where Apple will only do iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 for video calls and only on Wifi , on android you can call any phone to any phone, any platform to any platform on Wifi, 3G or even 4G if you have an Evo.

Also the iPhone 4 will use a MicroSIM so you have to buy a new SIM card.

So it is fair to say I am not impressed with the 'new' features everyone was waiting for.

Additionally - After numerous requests from users we have an iPad for arrived for testing. Hopefully this won't be something else we have to support.

Oops... Please turn off your Wifi

Did anyone see Steve Jobs keynote speech from the Worldwide Developer Conference? At one point the demo would not work because there were 1,100 devices connected to the Wifi in the hall. Steve Jobs had to ask them to turn it off. It is not just us that has a problem with too many devices trying to use Wifi then:

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Today's delivery

Lots and lots of Cisco 3750 switches. Got all these to unpack and set up.

Blogger mobile version?

Isn't it about time there was a cut-down version of blogger for viewing on mobiles? Even the free version of Wordpress now displays a mobile-friendly version when visiting from a phone (although you may need to change a setting in your phones browser).

I am quite surprised, with a company like Google behind it, you still have to use a company like MoFuse to make a blogger blog mobile friendly. Especially as Google have done so much work on android and mobile applications lately.

Despite this there seems to be a few people viewing my blog from mobiles this month. This data came from Google Analytics and displays the browser and OS of visitors so far this month:

As well as the recent increase in mobile phone visitors I notice Google Chrome is really moving up in usage, at least by visitors to my blog. I have started using it at work and do find it at least appears quicker and I get things done faster.

Why are iPhone accessories so expensive?

We have had our latest price list from our mobile supplier. What struck me was how expensive the accessories are for the iPhone compared to other high-end and executive phones. From my experience the iPhone headphones are pretty poor. I find my G1 headphones are better at reducing noise, more comfortable (although that might be my ears) and do a better job of not annoying other people by 'leaking' (is that the right word?) what you are listening to so everyone sitting near you also gets to hear it.