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Learning business by charts

I am someone who learns visually. I absorb charts, screenshots, videos etc. a lot faster than any other medium. Business knowledge is something that often doesn’t come in this format however (perhaps why the first business discipline I learned was marketing). However I have found a Twitter feed (yes, there is useful content on Twitter) that I have really grown to love.

This graph was used to illustrate how poorly Microsoft Office 2010 was performing sales-wise, but wow what a difference between Windows Vista (Jan 2007 launch) and Windows 7 ( Oct 2009 launch). It completely masks the decline in Office sales, even though Office sales are obviously an equally big cash cow for Microsoft. It also makes the Server and Tools slice of the pie look tiny, even though it actually represents $1b a year in operating profit.

I also liked this chart of how Apple cannibalised the entire mobile phone industries’ sales with the iPhone. I am reading the Innovators Dilemma at the moment, and the release of a well executed touch screen phone certainly represents a disruptive technology in my eyes. It still amazes me that such a massive market filled with well established players can just be turned on its head in a few short years. More specifically Nokia’s share price copped a beating ever since the release of the iPhone, the subject of yet another chart. What is interesting to me is that Apple’s rapid rise ironically precipitated a huge boom in the adoption of open source mobile software in Android. I guess that the previous market leaders had their hands full competing with Apple’s hardware and didn’t have the time or resources to produce new software from scratch.

There are plenty more charts out there that will make you stop and think, and each one can be read into (rightly or wrongly) 100 different ways.

Windows Mobile 6.5 fails to ActiveSync with Google Apps

Setting up your Windows Mobile 6.5 phone for Google Apps should be simple, there are some clear instructions located here. However I have found that on some HTC Windows based phones the account creation process does not go so smoothly. After a bit of hunting around I found someone who had a fix for me. Here is the more detailed version of how to get it working:

  1. Connect your phone to your PC via the USB cable
  2. Disable all syncing with your PC by clicking Tools -> Options
  3. Click the Settings button and add your Exchange (Apps) account (do not check “Detect Settings”) and check Email syncing only
  4. Sync
  5. Edit the Exchange settings and check “Detect Settings”
  6. Sync
  7. Edit the Exchange settings again and check Calendar and Contacts (no tasks in Apps remember!)
  8. Sync again

And there you go! Not sure if this is a bug in Activesync, the phone or Apps, but it sure is annoying. At least it only occurs on setup, after that everything seems to keep up to date with no problems.

Macbook Pro – NVIDIA projects at 640×480

Mini DisplayPort Cable AdaptorIt appears that I have suffered the curse of Nvidia again, this time on my brand new work unibody Macbook Pro 13in. Under Windows Vista and 7 the Nvidia Geforce 9400M graphics card can only send a 640×480 resolution signal to projectors through the official Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adaptor.

It appears that I am not the only one, there is a large thread that is continuing on the Apple Discussions forum. There are a bunch of other people reporting the same issue, but Nvidia doesn’t have a solution yet. In fact, they have flat out said there are a huge list of unsupported (and will NEVER be supported) features. The following are from page 16 of the 190.62 Nvidia drivers release notes:

The following are features and functionality that were available in driver releases
supporting Windows XP, but are not–and will not be–available in driver releases for
Windows 7:
• High resolution scaling desktop (HRSD)
• MultiView Display Mode (for NVIDIA Quadro NVS graphics cards)
• NVKeystone
• Unified back buffer (UBB) controls
• OpenGL Video Overlays – This is an operating system limitation.
• Overclocking – GPU overclocking is no longer supported in the default GPU driver control panel. This feature is available in the NVIDIA System Tools software, which you can download from
• GPU Temperature Monitoring – Temperature monitoring is no longer supported in the default GPU driver control panel. This feature is available in the NVIDIA System Tools software, which you can download from
• AGP Settings Adjustment
• Video Zoom
• Pan & Scan ‐ the process of panning across the desktop in order to display a desktop on a monitor with lower resolution
• Per‐display Desktop Color Setting Adjustments – For Clone mode, the desktop color setting adjustments through the NVIDIA Control Panel can only be made across all displays in a system, and not on a per display basis.
• Per‐display Video Color Setting Adjustments – For Dualview mode, the video color setting adjustments through the NVIDIA Control Panel can only be made across all displays in a system, and not on a per display basis.
• Edge Blending
• Run display optimization wizard
• Run multiple display wizard
• Run television setup wizard
• nView Horizontal and Vertical Span Modes – Due to architectural changes in the new Windows Vista Window Display Driver Model (WDDM), span mode cannot be supported in NVIDIA graphics drivers. NVIDIA recommends using the built‐in Windows Vista multi‐display modes.
• Display/Connection Wizard (such as was provided with Windows Media Center Edition)
• DVD/MPEG Extensions (such as was provided with Windows Media Center Edition)
• Audio Extensions (such as was provided with Windows Media Center Edition)
• NVIDIA nView Desktop Manager – The nView Desktop Manager will not be included in drivers for GeForce products.

Exchange 2007 certificate migration

Exchange 2007 uses SSL certificates extensively across the IMAP, POP, IMAP, UM and IIS services. I assumed that adding an SSL certificate to one of the Domain Controllers would propogate that certificate across all the controllers. I guess it makes sense that I was wrong, SSL certificates aren’t something you want spread or activated widely. If you do need to move or copy the certificate across servers though, it is a simple 3 step process in the Exchange shell:

1) Export the certificate from the original server:

Export-ExchangeCertificate -Thumbprint 5113ae0233a72fccb75b1d0198628675333d010e -BinaryEncoded:$true -Path c:\certificates\export.pfx -Password:(Get-Credential).password

2) Import the certificate into the new server:

Import-ExchangeCertificate -Path c:\certificates\export.pfx -Password:(Get-Credential).password

3) Enable the new certificate:

Enable-ExchangeCertificate -Thumbprint 5113ae0233a72fccb75b1d0198628675333d010e -Services “POP, IMAP”

Done! 🙂

PHP Frameworks not displaying error 500 remotely

I found when using Kohana in FastCGI mode that I was getting error 500 messages without the usual stack trace or error message. This was only happening when I accessed the development server remotely, not when I ran it locally (i.e. http://localhost/). Turns out this is actually the default behaviour for IIS7 with FastCGI. To change this you simply run the following command:

%windir%\system32\inetsrv\appcmd.exe set config -section:system.webServer/httpErrors -errorMode:Detailed

All fixed! If you want to change it back when you put the server into production then change the errorMode to “DetailedLocalOnly”.

Microsoft Interview

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer

Sometimes people ask me, why do I like Microsoft so much? Most people think it is because of Steve Ballmer, but that is only part of the reason. Really I have loved Microsoft since early in my university days. I even have some content dedicated to myself on the domain! Wow what a fanboi.

In fact I don’t love Microsoft, I just respect them. Look at the number of markets they are in. Look at how fiercely they fight in those markets. You fear Google will outsmart you if they enter your market, but you fear Microsoft will destroy you by any means necessary. Are they overly ruthless? Even unethical?

Personally I don’t think so, I think they are not afraid of competing and competing hard. Their haters might say their staff are “injected with blue blood”, but wouldn’t you like your company culture to be that strong? Wouldn’t you like to get market dominance, even if it means trench fighting your competitors? What’s so wrong with wanting to be the best? Surely this isn’t just my ego talking. 🙂

"COM 17 is used , please verify" in Cellular Emulator

When starting the Cellular Emulator included in the Windows Mobile 6 SDK I received an error “Com17 is used please verify”. This is a particularly annoying error because it completely prevents the program from even starting. Where is the setting to manually select a COM port?

Anyway I managed to stumble upon a solution on the MSDN forums and I am reposting it here so other people find it a bit more easily:

Disabling modem devices in Device Manager

Disabling modem devices in Device Manager

  1. Open Device Manager and disable any Bluetooth, Modem or other devices that use a COM port (see picture to the right)
  2. Open a new command prompt and execute the following commands:
    “C:\Program Files\Windows Mobile 6 SDK\Tools\Cellular Emulator\InstallXPVCom.exe” UnInstall
    “C:\Program Files\Windows Mobile 6 SDK\Tools\Cellular Emulator\InstallXPVCom.exe” Install
  3. Start the Cellular Emulator
  4. Re-enable any devices you disabled

The best part about this fix is that it is permanent. No need to disable the devices every time you start the Cellular Emulator, it remembers how to make everything work properly. Why couldn’t it do that in the first place?

FRS Error 13508 without 13509

error_13508Hand a few problems with this error on a new hosted domain controller that uses a VPN to connect back to the head office. Got some tips from Expert Exchange, but to summarise the various steps you should check are simple but effective (and as usual mostly DNS related):

  • Check there are no external DNS servers listed
  • Checked the localhost DNS server is not listed
  • Check that NETBIOS is only enabled over the internal NIC
  • Check that the other domain controllers FQDN’s are pingable
  • Check that the SRV records under the domain and _msdcs forward lookup zones include all your domain controllers (and only their internal IP addresses)
  • Manually trigger the domain controller replication connections through “Active Directory Sites and Services”, expand the server, right click “NTDS Settings” and do “All Tasks” and then “Check Replication Topology”. Make sure you click the Refresh button to see if all the replication links are listed.
  • Use netdiag -v and dcdiag -v to isolate any other problems
  • Keep restarting the Netlogon service 🙂

I really wish the DNS lookup that Active Directory did was a little more resilient (i.e. if the first DNS server lookup fails then use the secondary).

Live Mesh now Windows 7 Compatible

Live Mesh Beta LogoLive Mesh is getting a getting the Service Update that was promised before the holiday release blackout period today. The key bug fix that everyone is hanging out for is that it will now not kick Windows 7 into it’s non-Aero interface. This will soon include me, because I have a freshly burned copy of Windows 7 sitting on my desk ready to be installed tonight. I guess I will be completing the Windows Connect install survey tomorrow, fingers crossed they give out valid licence keys at the end of the beta program like they did for Vista.

One interesting point I noted was that the Live Mesh Blog no longer appears to be labelled “Beta” or “Tech Preview”. The version update appears to only be a minor one (0.9.3424.5 to 0.9.3424.14), however it looks as though some subtle steps towards a debut are occurring. Perhaps one of these will be matching Skydrive‘s 25 GB storage limit? I live in hope.

Islands of Computing Power

Amit Mital kicked off TechEd Australia 2008 today with a keynote presentation on Microsoft’s view of how software and services will develop in the future, particularly in relation to their new Live Mesh offering. There is a good summary of his presentation on the TechEd New Zealand site, it seems they got an identical opening keynote. For someone who loves networks he sure doesn’t seem to like professional networks!

There was one flow of logic which struck me in his speech. Moore’s law is still holding true, and computer hardware is continuing to double in processing power every 18 months. This computer power is also appearing in more and more locations. But when was the last time your network doubled in speed? What about doubling in speed to each additional node? This rapid processing power increase has meant two things that are obvious even today:

  1. Computers are islands of computing power – There is no seamless transfer of data between your devices. You work on a file at work, email it home, download it at home, work on it and send it back.
  2. Deploying local machines is too hard – Each branch office needs a rack, servers, backup, redundency, configuration, support, licencing…

Behind the Mesh SlideMicrosoft’s solution at a high level is the Mesh stack, the structure of which can be seen in the slide shown here. The fundamentals are that local software is fast, hosted services are convenient, so lets tie them together with an API and we get the best of both worlds. The trick is getting the balance right, where does a local application end and the service begin? How do you split the business logic? How do you provide offline access and quick sign-on to new devices? Hmmm…

Microsoft’s current practical solution is to re-write most of its server packages to allow hosted delivery. Hosted Exchange is an obvious flagship for this. Google have taken a different approach. They believe that all you should need on your desktop is Chrome, essentially an all-purpose thin client rather than a thick client on a drip feed.

So who is right? Well I am betting things will converge on a middle of the road approach. Implmenting with current technology I would say that javascript, a web browser and some sort of XML interface would be the best way to go. A few things need to develop from here:

  1. API’s need to be standardised and built into the browser (or OS as these merge). Something like Javascript libraries, but compiled, lightening fast and highly reusable. Chrome is getting there.
  2. Data transfer needs to be better than XML. Think highly compressed, encrypted on the fly, but quickly decoded into a human readable format if necessary. Microsoft’s MeshFX is getting there because it has authentication and other services built in, but it needs to be open like SOAP.

So I guess the race is on! Google will take Javascript to it’s limits, Microsoft will try to blow us away with it’s feature set. When will they sit down and standardise on the next generation of javascript and data format?

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