Blacklisted Companies

12. December 2017 10:22 by Chris in ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Having recently had another bad experience with a supplier of goods/ services, I'm going to note these here, and maybe even some historical ones as I recall. I may extend to the good experiences. It has to be said that this will primarily be for my own consumption as a reminder for future reference.

 

Do not use

IWOOT - purchased t-shirt for son which appeared to have defects in the printing process. IWOOT customer services replied to say that these were as per the image on the website. If you looked REALLY CLOSELY you could see some of the defects in the image on the website but a) who looks that closely & b) it should have been made clear in the description, particularly if these shirts are 'seconds', as I suspect. Contrary to Trades Description Act?

Horizons/ Gorwelion

29. March 2015 14:06 by Chris in ForTheRecod, Welsh  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

We're off to see the Horizons/ Gorwelion event at Chapter in Cardiff tonight (Sunday 29/03/15). I thought I'd have a listen to the singers/ bands and might as well make a note of a few links while I do.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1WhvnGjVSWVwMTtLw0GXkJ8/what-is-horizons-gorwelion & http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/emg5v2.

Theatre

Gabrielle Murphy https://soundcloud.com/gabriellemurphy @gabymurphy 19.30-20.00

Climbing Trees https://soundcloud.com/climbingtrees @ClimbingTrees 20.15-20.50

The People The Poet https://soundcloud.com/thepeoplethepoet @People_Poet 21.00-21.35

Houdini Dax https://soundcloud.com/houdini-dax @HoudiniDax 21.50-22.30

Social Space

Chris Jones http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02fhw3m @chrisgwerin  18.25-19.00

Seazoo https://soundcloud.com/seazoo @seazooband 19.20-19.55

Kizzy Crawford https://soundcloud.com/kizzymerielcrawford @kizzkez 20.10-20.35

Gabrielle Murphy https://soundcloud.com/gabriellemurphy @gabymurphy 20.55-21.10

Baby Queens https://soundcloud.com/baby-queens @baby_queens 21.25-22.00

 

 

Configuring SQL Server to listen on a specific port

26. March 2015 10:17 by Chris in ForTheRecod, IT Pro  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Looking at our SQL Server 2008R2 box, which was exposed to the internet on the default sql server port of 1433, I noticed in the event log we were getting sporadic brute force attacks by bots on various SQL Server user accounts. A quick google indicates that this configuration is just not on. You are just asking for such trouble. I didn't set this box up by the way. I don't think ;) There are articles out there with several recommendations but the key one is move to a different port. The MSDN article on this topic isn't perfectly clear and it does depend on your network setup - configured IP addresses and the like. So here is my quick guide on the matter.

In SQL Server config manager go to to TCP/IP in network config for the server instance and change the TCP port settings to another number - the top end is about 49000 and a few are reserved. Google/ Bing is your friend. The slightly confusing bit, for me, was which to reconfigure port forwarding entries to reconfigure - networking isn't my day job. IP6 looked like the correct option. That didn't work when changed, service restarted and connecting from management studio from another machine - the default port was still working. As I had SQL 2012 on the box as well installed on a different port I compared settings and all its ports were set to the same bar 1 so I did similarly for 2008R", in fact configuring them all to the new port.

I then check management studio again, connecting to the default port on the local network to the machine name and it failed. I tried on the configured port - servername,portno - and that timed out as well BUT I figured this was firewall security. I added an inbound entry for that port in the firewall for TCP and whiel I was there I disabled the existing rule for 1433. Tried again and bingo, I was in. All good.

Next step was to check the sub-domain forwarding on the LAN router set up to direct connections from the internet to the box where the sql server instance resides. Not particularly recalling the config detail at the I hoped this would 'just work', but it didn't ;( SQL Server 'actively refused' the connection. Checking the router config I was reminded that it was port forwarding that was configured for the external static IP so of course this was set to 1433 and had to be modified as well. Then, ... it worked. Joy. The one final test I need to get to is to make sure that connections *actually* external to my LAN can access the SQLServer through the new port. But there is no urgent requirement to do so and I have these notes to return to now if needs must.

I then also cleared all those application event log entries for the brute force attacks and will keep a closer eye on the logs from now on.

This is recorded here in case I need it again but, you never know, it may be of use to someone else!

However, I may not need it again as

a) I'm moving which might mean discarding the current static IP (though I may need to keep that for other work reasons actually), and

b) I should really be using Azure by now anyway!

 

 

Are cyclists invisible to drivers?

2. June 2014 10:47 by Chris in Cycling, ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I cycle a lot, though not great distances: I cycle the kids to school, I cycle to the gym, I cycle to Welsh classes. I used to cycle to work before I worked from home. In the summer I prefer to get out on a Sunday morning in the fresh air while it is quiet and go out on a bike for a couple of hours rather than being stuck in a dark gym to get my exercise . 

I have a car. I'm not entirely sure why we are a two car family - historical I think when I did need to travel with work a bit more and once you are used to two cars ... I have a problem with the car, particularly in the summer, as I can end up not needing/ wanting to drive for weeks on end and I've had to call the AA equivalent twice now because the battery was dead when I did actually need to use it. My car is not the most financially efficient proposition. Particularly when compared to my bikes.

But maybe I should be using my car more in Cardiff because I'm getting a bit fed up now with car drivers ploughing into me. Maybe I've been lucky previously but after a 2nd incident this morning that makes 2 in a month or so. In both cases the driver has admitted responsibility 100%. Though maybe I should start cycling more 'defensively'. I should also count my lucky stars as I was hardly injured and it was only this morning I heard the news of another cyclist death in London.

In the first accident a mini hit me square from behind at I was waiting at a junction going onto Column Road from Cardiff University buildings where I have my Welsh course 7-9 , 2 evenings a week. It was dusk, I had lights and reflective clothing on. He didn't see me. The wheel took the full, minor impact - I was still standing wondering what had happened immediately after - the wheel had complete buckled. It was my wife's cheap Raleigh I was using that day as I don't like leaving more expensive bikes locked in public places if I can help it. So we 'negotiated' and he give me £40 as approximately the cost of getting a new wheel fitted. Though, I may just jettison the bike as it only cost about twice this new.

The second happened today, 02/06/14, at 9.30 as I came back from my gym in Leckwith at the junction of Cowbridge Road East and Llandaff Road in Canton. The annoying thing with this one is that I've previously reported this junction to the council as dangerous, having had a near misses before and observed near misses between cars as well. There are a few problems with this junction but the pertinent one is drivers turning right onto Cowbridge Road coming from the Llandaff direction seemingly either thinking they have priority over road users on Cowbridge Road turning right, to the Llandaff direction. Or often, I think, rushing to make the turn in the gap between the traffic as the lights have just changed, focussing on the cars and not seeing the bike in front of the cars also making that same turn. In fact in this instance I think the driver was focussing on the slow lorry behind me rather than me, and thought he had enough time before the lorry arrived. He may have done, but there was another vehicle in front of the lorry he didn't see, which I was riding.

I've had a near miss in exactly this way previously and this time couldn't avoid the car and was hit from the side. Fortunately the chap broke in time, hit my front wheel, I think, to the right hand side, based on the damage, and I tumbled to the left getting away with a bruised knee/ leg. The chap was fine about it, admitting he hadn't seem me at all, providing his details and offering to pay for any damage. I didn't think there was any initially but it seems the front wheel will need to be straightened, though I'll get away without needing a new wheel according to my local bike shop. Hopefully the chap will just pay so the hassle can be kept to a minimum.

What next, more generally?

  • I'm keen to get the incident reported to do my bit to raise awareness of issues such as this to improve the lot of cyclists in Cardiff. Perversely this comes days after I was admiring the new layouts for cyclists in Cardiff Bay that the council have provided. So I will pursue this.
  • I'm going to avoid that junction on my way home and/ or get the brightest, day-glo cycling jacket I can find so we can mitigate this seeming issue of cyclists being invisible

I may be back with an update.

11/06/2014

My update is that the chap has paid for the wheel to be repaired but the local bike shop are taking an age to fix it so I am cycling slowly around on the wife's purple, sparkly mountain bike I picked up on Gumtree the other day for £15. On the plus side I've sold the remnants of the Raleigh on Gumtree for £30.

Also, more interestingly,  there is limited research that hi-vis vests don't work: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2013/jan/10/cycling-high-visibility-safe-fluorescent. This is counter-intuitive? Really, particularly for my 2nd accident above? Ta to @coshgirl for the link, care of @cyclingcardiff.

 

 

Setting up Skydrive alongside Skydrive Pro

29. August 2013 12:58 by Chris in ForTheRecod, IT Pro  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I imagine many people will be in a similar position to me - they have a main computer which they use for both personal and professional activities. A few less perhaps will have an Office365 account for work they would like to sync their work documents with, whether as another element to their backup strategy or so they can access these same documents from other computers/ devices. Now we all probably know there is the free Microsoft Skydrive service offering for syncing files to the 'cloud' (an overused term but we'll run with it). What some may not know is that their is also Skydrive Pro, which seems to be confusingly named as it is not really the same thing as Skydrive at all but rather ties in with Office 365 SharePoint. Importantly it offers more storage as well (currently 25GB), unsurprisingly as it is a paid for service. Saying that, the free 7GB of Skydrive isn't too shabby and should be ample if you are not storing video up there, which is probably not a good idea for your bandwidth utilisation anyway!

So you could sync all your files to the cloud via Skydrive but if  you in the same situation as me you might prefer the tidy, logical separation of syncing work files to the Microsoft business offering (Skydrive Pro) and personal files with the Microsoft consumer offering (Skydrive).

Here's how I did it:

  • Firstly Skydrive syncs to a folder on your C: drive by default and however much space I allow on my C: drive partition I always seem to start running out of space in the end so before I moved even more docs there I split out my work and personal files (yes, some did overlap - make a call) and created directories on my d: drive for them. Note that my focus was on documents and images (I'm a web developer), not photos or other media - that may come later but I currently have a distinct backup mechanism for these.
  • I had set up Skydrive previously and what was being synced in my Skydrive was legacy from way back when I first set up my "windows live/ Hotmail/ whatever it is called now" account. There is some old spurious stuff in there but I'll leave for now and tidy up in the future. What I needed to do was add my later personal files.
  • I had installed Skydrive before and I needed to repoint at my new folder on D:. Google was my friend and pointed me at reference 1 below - the Skydrive icon in the system tray exposes settings where you can unlink Skydrive. If you then select your existing Skydrive folder it restarts it's setup process and you can repoint it at another location - my new folder.
  • Skydrive is all well and good now, what about Skydrive Pro. Well I found this very confusing in comparison. As Paul points out in his article (2 below) you install and run the client and it comes up with an obtuse dialog asking 'what library do you want to sync?'. What on earth does this mean? Well, as Paul explains (thanks!):

 'If you’re lucky, someone in IT has explained what URL you need there, or maybe you’re just particularly technical. But if not, no worries. There’s a very simple way to get this configured properly. Simply sign into Office 365 on the web and navigate to that SkyDrive link in the toolbar. In the SkyDrive Pro web interface, you’ll see a SYNC button in the upper right corner.' (2)

  • When you press that button it configures your client with the correct URL - yes, your Skydrive Pro storage mechanism is a SharePoint library.
  • You are then given the opportunity to sync to a different directory to the default, which I again chose to keep things tidy on d:. What you don't get is the little clouds icon of the consumer offering replacing the folder icon. The other icons seem to be the same/ similar however.
  • You'll see just the 'Shared with Everyone' folder unless you were using your personal SharePoint library already - which obviously you will want to take care with.
  • I then copied my work documents in to my Skydrive Pro folder and my personal documents into my Skydrive folder.
  • Finally I configured my local Libraries with quick links into both locations.

So great, now any changes are being synced in case of a disaster as well as being available on other devices I own. "What about performance Chris?" Yes, I have my concerns - two extra services pumping data up to the cloud. Seems OK so far but will report back here if I have any issues.

A few hours later I'm back. I'm having problems. I've been through the following cycle a couple of times now:

 

 

 

So I then restart and the Cache then offers to recover the files that were queued by SkyDrive Pro, to which I made the mistake of saying yes a couple of times and my C: drive was filled with GBs of recovered files which are only going to be pushed up to the cloud again by SkyDrive from the local repository. Let's see how many more times I need to go through this loop to get the 7GB of documents up to the server.

30/08

OK, this isn't going well - every time I reboot to clear the Office Upload Centre error it is eating up GBs of my C drive, so much that I am having to reclaim the space. Perhaps there was a better way to push the files up to start with rather than rely on upload centre which seems to be introducing significant overhead.

Ah, others have encountered this issue with the Office Upload Center - see the comments at: http://winsupersite.com/office-365/what-i-use-office-365-and-skydrive-pro. I think maybe I'll give up and dump Skydrive Pro until it is a more mature product. Last straw for me was that one of the listed fixes was only available in Office 2013 and I have 2010 on this machine.

 

 

 References

1 http://www.solveyourtech.com/how-to-unlink-a-local-skydrive-folder/

2 http://winsupersite.com/office-365/office-365-tip-set-skydrive-pro-your-pc

 

 

 

 

Multiple identities found matching workspace name [Team Foundation Service/ Visual Studio 2012]

16. August 2013 13:11 by Chris in dev, ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I received the following error trying to check in code to a newly created TFS project: 

 

The solution ... close VS and try again. Sometimes things are that simple. In fact, quite often with VS ,,, ;)

Diesel costs - UK vs Europe

7. August 2013 15:31 by Chris in ForTheRecod, Holidays  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

We went for a diesel car recently, in part because of the better fuel economy but what's the deal with diesel in Europe being cheaper than petrol while here it is more expensive?

We were running late for the Ferry in France so didn't have the opportunity to save some hard earned 'pennies' in France but let's do the sums: 

  • On arrival in the UK we filled up in Tesco Dover - £40 @ £1.46 (just checking price online at http://www.whatgas.com/fuel/tesco.html) meaning we stuck 27.4 litres into the car.
  • In France/ Germany/ Belgium/ Holland the prices seemed similar (I wasn't avidly checking every 5 mins!) around the 1.35-1.45 euro/L mark.
  • Taking the lower figure the same fuel would have cost 37 euros
  • Which equates to almost £32 - 20% cheaper if I've got my sums right, and it would be embarrassing if I hadn't!
  • So, the message is to fill up in Europe for the short term at least!

 

Twitter as a B2C communication tool

1. August 2013 06:48 by Chris in ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

The call centre experience is commonly a poor one for customers. Companies are seemingly reluctant to additionally or alternatively utilise email effectively to increase customer satisfaction in resolving queries. Rather they are quick to 'jump on the bandwagon' and offer an alternative response path via twitter. Whatever the communication mechanism there is no point doing something unless you are prepared to invest in it and try and do it well. This means the company needs, the degree dependent on it's nature, to cater for both one way and two way communication between itself and it's customers. Further it is the latter which is key in delivering customer satisfaction.

Some do this badly, e.g. @CardiffCouncil either ignore incoming tweets or say they are passing them on to 'the correct department' and then nothing ever happens. They have taken the easy option and just pump out the same old tweets in rotation, whether this be about rubbish collection, council meetings or bike security. Admittedly this is a council/ public sector so I have very low expectations from the start.

Some do respond to customer tweets but badly. Two recent examples: @Nook_customercare chose to answer a completely different question from the one I asked(!) and I'm still waiting for a resolution to a query raised with @TMobileUK after 5 days and one chasing tweet. In the latter case this is particularly bad as my query is about a roaming issue and I am currently not in my native UK making the call centre communication path considerably more problematic! I live in hope - it's about four hours before I go off wifi for the remainder of my holiday. Chances? I should note that they did deal with a previous query effectively in the past so 1 from 2. I would also note that if the informational resources around their service and the service itself were better in the first place there would be less need for customer support!

Fortunately some get it right and restore your faith in twitter/ humanity. AJ from @AskNationwide corrected the damage done to the organisation's reputation by a particularly poor call centre experience by proactively dealing with my urgent query. It's a shame the service received via Twitter isn't always as good.

So today's winner is @AskNationwide. Round of applause please. The rest ... please do better. 

UPDATE: TMobile told me they had made the necessary config changes on 10/8. Unfortunately I was back in the UK by then and could not test! Hopefully all will work next time I'm abroad.

Who owns your mobile network?

31. July 2013 15:31 by Chris in ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Perhaps it doesn't matter overly but often while abroad I see a brand I recognise from back in the UK and the thought occurs 'who owns them', particularly which is the company's country of registration. This may well be complicated by the fact that different parent organisations own a given brand in different countries. For example, C&A has long gone in the UK but seemingly going strong still in Germany.

Anyway, mobile is big business and this isn't going to change any time soon. I was surprised to discover a year or two back that I'd completely missed the fact that O2 brand had been sold abroad. Here's the list, as of the time of writing, of the main providers in the UK:

  • EE (Orange and T-Mobile) - EE is a 50:50 joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom, formed in 2010 through the merger of their respective T-Mobile and Orange businesses in the UK
  • Vodaphone is British, being the Worlds 2nd largest mobile telecoms company
  • O2 is owned by Telefonica (Spanish)

Those are the main networks. My understanding is that any others are reselling the network services of the above. Correct me if I'm wrong!

Consumption 2013

7. February 2013 13:38 by Chris in ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Books

Welsh is the priority:

 

Bywyd Blodwen Jones gan Bethan Gwanas (1999)

Blodwen Jones a'r Aderyn Prin gan Bethan Gwanas (2001)

Tri Chynnig i Blodwen Jones gan Bethan Gwanas (2003)

The Hunger Games Trilogy - no.3 was comparably weak.

 

Films

Comments with a score rather than reviews:

 Watched in 2013

  • Django Unchained 7.5/10; bit silly in places ... but this is Tarantino
  • The Dark Knight Rises Lengthy but held the attention. Anne Hathaway a plus.  8/10
  • Silver Lining Playbook Grabbed plenty of plaudits but a few flaws 8/10
  • Hunger Games Better than expected 7/10
  • Dredd - violent but well implemented. Set up for a sequel. 7/10
  • Skyfall All v.silly 6.5/10
  • Looper - reasonably complex SciFi without too many holes 8/10 

 

Music

  • Opposites - Biffy Clyro

TV

  • Gwaith Cartref
  • Game of Thrones - racist ... really? Just enjoy.
  • Mad Men
  • Frankie

 

Beer

  •  PIPES

 

Sport

  • Go Cymru/ Lions!
  • Congrats Andy Murray

 

About the author

I am Dr Christopher Sully (MCPD, MCSD) and I am a Cardiff, UK based IT Consultant/ Developer and have been involved in the industry since 1996 though I started programming considerably earlier than that. During the intervening period I've worked mainly on web application projects utilising Microsoft products and technologies: principally ASP.NET and SQL Server and working on all phases of the project lifecycle. If you might like to utilise some of the aforementioned experience I would strongly recommend that you contact me. I am also trying to improve my Welsh so am likely to blog about this as well as IT matters.

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