The blogs of Black Marble staff

And another point on TeamPlain

I just realised that TeamPlain also makes external access easier for remote users outside your firewall. The problem with external access to TFS from VS Team Studio is that you have to open up the TFS server and the associated WSS 2.0 server ports in your firewall. Not a major issue but opening ports is something you want to minimise, or at least your firewall manager will want to minimise.

After I installed TeamPlain as a virtual directory under the main TFS server web site (port 8080, 8433 by default) you can access the WSS hosted documents and the Reporting Services reports (by default on 80, 433) via, so no need consider the default web site at the firewall at all.

So that should make the firewall manager happier

Imagine Cup Success for Black Marble-Mentored Seedlings from Hull

More detail will follow, but great news just in from Reading!

The Seedlings, a team of students from Hull University, mentored by Black Marble's Robert Hogg, have just won the UK leg of the Imagine Cup, and are on their way to Korea later in the year!  The entry, a program to teach children to progam, MyFPL (My First Programming Language), wowed the judges.

The Seedlings are: James Alexander, Michelle Goddard, Matthew Steele & Matthew Steeples.

Great news.

Wow... TeamPlain is easy to install

As I am sure you have seen Microsoft have purchased devBiz and made their TeamPlain product free to all TFS customers. I have just installed the new free release of TeamPlain on our TFS system and I must say what a pleasant experience it was; run the MSI answering a few questions, go into the newly created TeamPlain admin web page, enter the URL of the TFS server and that's it. Really easy and it just works. Compared to the the fun I have had with other bits of TFS this is joy.

I think this is a really cool product, it fits the hole that project managers, and really any project member who does not cut .NET code, do not want to have to use Visual Studio Team Edition to do day to day tasks. This is exactly target community that TeamPlain addresses.

If you are a TFS user, and have not done so already, download TeamPlain and have look.

Moving Microsoft CRM 3.0

I had to move our CRM install this week to new hardware, and I had expected it to be a nasty job. However it turned out to be straight forward, though it is really hard to find any useful Microsoft Dynamics CRM documentation beyond the basic manuals. Why do the Dynamics team make it so hard to find things out?

Anyway these are the steps to follow:

To move the database (got this process from a Microsoft Knowledgebase document on setting up SQL clustering for CRM)

  1. Backup the CRM databases in SQL Manager (the yourcompany_METABASE and yourcompany_MSCRM)
  2. Restore them on the new SQL server
  3. On the CRM server load the CRM deployment management tool
  4. Select the Server Manager, your server and right click to get properties.
  5. Use the Configure SQL option to point at the new SQL server
  6. And that should be all!
  7. I recommend then taking the old SQL server CRM DBs off line to make sure there is no confusion.

Now that was not hard was it, using this process I moved our DBs from an old SQL 2000 server to a new SQL 2005 64Bit server.

However I could not move the front end to a new 64Bit platform as it only support Asp.Net 1.1. All the post I found said that it will not work with ASP.NET 2.0 and on 64Bit it is .NET 2.0 only. So I put the front end onto a Virtual 32bit Windows 2003 server I had for just such legacy systems.

  1. On the new server run the CRM 3.0 installer
  2. Let it install any prerequisites, services etc.
  3. Enter your existing product key
  4. Point it at your existing CRM Db
  5. On the page that says if it can install or not you will get a warning that the product key is already in the DB and will be ignored, you might get some more depending on setup
  6. Let the install run to completion
  7. You should now have a new front end server that points to the existing DB with all the data there as you would hope. Also all the license/user management will be as it was before.

Again not to hard, why is it not documented anywhere I could find?

This setup will do us until the vNext edition comes out with proper .NET 2 support.

Of course these notes have to carry the usual disclaimer of make sure you backup first!

Changing TFS user account passwords

If you change the domain\tfsservice and/or the domain\tfsreports as you would expect your TFS server to stop, and it does. To get it back working you have to reset the passwords in:

  • The various TFS AppPools on the frontend server need the new tfsservice password
  • The datasource in ([frontendserver]/reports) on the reporting services need the new tfsreports password.

After that all should be OK

Shame it is at TVP

When I heard the NxtGenUG were putting on a day conference Fest 07 on the 23rd May, I had assumed it might be in the midlands, as that is where their user groups are based. However it is at Microsoft TVP in Reading - yet another trek south, does nothing other than an occasional MSDN/TechNet road shows come further north than the M4 corridor?  other than our Black Marble events of course!

This said the line up of speakers looks great and well worth the trip.

Swapping from Nvidia RAID to Software mirroring on a SunFire x2100

Our SunFire x2100 application servers, running Windows 2003 R2, are configured with Nvidia RAID system (built into the motherboard) to mirror the pair of SATA drives in each servers. Two of these servers keeps losing the mirrors, but a third, and a SunFire x2200, do not. When this happens Windows hanging - not good in a server.

We have had a support call open with Sun and swapped bits of hardware, but it keeps happening. During the support calls we discovered that the Nvidia RAID is not true hardware, but a 'software trick'. So not a great step up from letting Windows do the mirroring itself.

To try to isolate if we have a hardware problems (motherboard, disk etc.) or a driver problem we decided to move from the Nvidia RAID to Windows software mirroring. This was not as hard as I had expected, even though you have to load a special driver for Nvidia RAID, it does not the standard SATA  built into Windows.

So the process is:

  1. Boot to BIOS setup (F2)
  2. In the integrated peripherals, disable the Nvidia RAID
  3. Boot to Windows (may take a couple of reboots to get to a login prompt, not sure why this is)
  4. When logged in you should now see two drives, copies of each other
  5. In the Admin Tools | Computer Manager, select the Disk manager and convert the two drives from basic to dynamic drives (this needs a reboot or two)
  6. When this is completed go back into the disk manager and delete the partition on the second drive
  7. Select the partition on the primary drive right click and add the second disk as a mirror

And now you should be done, at least when the resysnc completes, which took about four hours for our 500Gb disks which are only about 10-20% full.

It goes without saying to make sure you have a backup before you start.

Lets see if this fixes our problems

My Presentation at the Extreme Programming Club

I did my presentation on Scrum last night for the Extreme programming club in Leeds, seemed to go down well. A lively discussion was had on Scrum and a whole bunch of agile issues. If anyone has questions post them on the club forum.

The next meeting on 12th of April an Extreme Hour, an audience participation event on doing an XP project in a an hour - sounds interesting.

Tech Fest 07

I have just been watching the Tech Fest 07 Keynote with my eldest daughter and Microsoft Research has been doing some really cool things. The world wide telescope was noted with some interest and I suspect we will be looking at it further.  I could be wrong but it looks like our old friend Robert Scoble 33:16 into the video.

Some of you know about my passion to help people learn how to program , Boku a robot to help teaching children was a very nice step and I will be looking at it to see how it can help the work we are involved with.

and a lot on search


At last a working Vista replacement for XP Media Center PC

I decided to completely rebuild my media center PC as I was making no progress on the problems I had discussed in my previous post.

I dropped in a new hard disk as drive C: (leaving in my old one to allow me to copy data off) and installed Vista Ultimate, no problems there. It did not find drivers for my ASUS motherboard SoundMax card or for my Hauppauge Nova T 500.

I download and installed the XP driver sound card pack for ASUS, I then looked on Hauppauge site and found that they have at last released a Vista 3.3c disk for most of their current range.

I then installed the current free version of AVG anti virus. I then copied all my recorded TV programs, MP3 etc. from the old drive.

With these  installed everything seemed to work I scanned for digital TV channels, could watch recorded TV, or a DVD and the PC went into and out of sleep mode without an issue. So I left the PC overnight................

When I tried a DVD the next day I got the same error about 'copy protection' I had had before, saying I should update the driver. I then look at the ATI site and found they also have just released a new Vista driver set. I installed this and the DVD work - but I had seen this before,  everything was OK until I rebooted the PC when I had to repeat the ATI install process (over and over again). After this complete rebuilt this did not seem to be the case. So maybe I have a working PC now? Only time will tell.