The blogs of Black Marble staff

Running Hyper-V on an Acer 6593G

We’ve recently seen an issue running Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Hyper-V role installed on an Acer 6593G laptop. We’d updated the BIOS to the latest version available from the Acer site (1.16 at the time of writing) and Server 2008 R2 would no longer boot once the Hyper-V role was installed.

Rolling back the BIOS to the 1.11 version solved the problem.

We’ve also tested the 1.09 version, which seems to work okay, but have yet to try the 1.13 version which is also available. I’ll update this post when we’ve tried the 1.13 version.

Powershell script to rename files for use as SharePoint 2010 User Profile thumbnails

User profile photos have changed in SharePoint 2010 in that they are now stored in a single image library in the MySite Host root site collection. They have also changed in that when you change the profile photo, SharePoint takes the file and creates three new images at specific sizes, then discards the file you gave it. These files have specific names to link them to the user account and come in small, medium and large flavours.

We’ve just delivered a solution to a customer that involved heavy customisation of the Profile page for users. This also involved replacing the large thumbnail version of the profile picture with one which met our size requirements.

The customer had a large group of image files all named in the pattern <firstname surname>.<extension> which had been loaded in to SharePoint as profile pictures. We wanted a quick way to replace the large thumbnail with our own version.

Enter Powershell, stage left. The script below is a little rough and ready but works great. It gets a directory listing, splits the filename and then looks up in AD to see if there’s a user that matches the filename (sans extension). If it finds a match it renames the file to match the pattern <domain>_<SamAccountName>_LThumb.<extension> to match the profile picture naming convention.

As I said, it’s a little rough and ready but I place here for the greater good. You need the ActiveDirectory powershell module to use this. It’s available on Server 2008 and above, and Windows 7 if you install the remote management tools.

The Active Directory Powershell Blog is a great resource for this stuff!

#import-module ActiveDirectory
if (-not (get-module -name activedirectory)) {
    write-host "This script requires the ActiveDirectory powershell modules to run"
$filesuffix = "LThumb"
$files = get-childitem
foreach ($file in $files) {
    $filesplit = $file.Name.split(".")
    $fullname = $filesplit[0]
    $fileext = $filesplit[1]
    write-host "Searching for:" $fullname
    $user = get-aduser -Filter { Name -eq $fullname }
    if ($user.SamAccountName -eq $Null) {
        write-host "Not Found!"
    } else {
        $newfilename = $domain+"_"+$user.SamAccountName+"_"+$filesuffix+"."+$fileext
        write-host "Renaming:" $ "New name:" $newfilename
        rename-item $file.Name $newfilename

Updating my ML115 G5

I have an HP ML115 G5 acting as a Home Server which started showing disk related issues as the disks approached being full. Following a tip from Rik, I updated the BIOS to the latest version available from the HP site. While this seems to have fixed the disk related issues, updating the BIOS seemed to cause some BMC related issues; the fans in the system would spin up to full speed when the system was started, but then instead of returning to their normal whisper quiet speed for normal operation, they stayed running at full speed even after the OS had booted.

Following a bit of research, it appears that even if the lights-out 100 remote management card is not installed in the ML100 series servers, the firmware for the card actually runs on the system board and hence needs an update as well. Installing the latest version of the management firmware available on the HP site fixed the fan speed issue and my Home Server has returned to its normal unobtrusive self.

It seems a little odd that HP doesn’t mention that the firmware update is needed at the same time as the BIOS update, I’m sure that it would save a lot of support calls if they mentioned it!

Scale out TFS2010 issues and fixes

One of our clients has been working on a nice scale out implementation of TFS2010 (migrating from an existing TFS2005). They are using AT load balancing, failover SQL cluster and Search Server Express to unify search. As you might expect this has been a interesting learning experience for all.

You can find out about some of the problems they have had and their solutions are

Can you guess what our great freebie is?

During our current season of events we’ve just started to give away some great Black Marble – Microsoft freebies … you might be able to guess from the pictures what they are!

Thanks to all who contributed to producing a great product, our team at Black Marble and the great people at Mountain Goat Software who produce the original Planning Poker cards for providing us with license to create our own.

Planning Poker PacksBlack Marble Planning Poker

Blue BackBlue Face

If you want a closer look, why not join us at one of our remaining sessions?

Planning Poker ® is a reg. trademark of Mountain Goat Software, LLC.  Sequence of values is © Mountain Goat Software, LLC.

Once more with feeling…watching yourself on video

I have been meaning to watch back the video taken of my recent presentation for a while. This weekend I have had the chance to sample the highlights! In the past I have always found it hard to watch myself on recordings, though after the initial cringe this time it was not too bad. I must be getting used to the critical process.

So what have I learnt

  • I say ‘err’ to ‘err’ much ‘err’
  • I move my hands about much like Magnus Pike, a childhood 1970/80s TV popular science reference as seen in this Thomas Dolby video and this Mitchell and Web sketch, for those not old enough to remember. I don’t think it is too irritating do you? But to carry it off fully I do need madder hair.
  • I tend to wander about the stage, I know it is consider good presenting practice not to talk and walk at the same time. But does this actually get on the audiences nerves? It certainly does me when watching when I jump up and down during a demo. I think I know why I am doing it, I heard about an idea from NLP for presenting/teaching to always deliver specific types of information from the same physical location e.g. funny anecdote by the windows, summary points by the lectern etc. The idea is it subconsciously primes the audience what to expect and how to treat it e.g. oh here he is by the lectern I must remember this as it is important. I guess I need to just be a bit more sparing in the application of this technique.
  • I still use too many slides, I especially need to focus on less bullet pointed ones. When presenting at the BCS recently the projector broke 5 minutes into my session and I did the rest of the session without slides (that the audience could see). All I missed was a couple of images of Scrum and Kanban (and wild hand waving an pointing at a white wall got me round the problems). I the feedback I got was good. However a key factor was I could see my bullet pointed slides on my laptop. I realised the slides are my speaker notes. So next time I intend to try very few audience slides but have a stack much like my normal one running on PowerPoint on my phone. Lets see how that works.
  • …..Oh and I have a Birmingham accent, someone could have mentioned it!

I would heartily recommend anyone presenting to have a look at videos of your sessions, even if they are just ones taken with a camcorder or phone from the back of the room. You may be surprised how you appear, sessions often look very different to the audience as opposed to how you felt it went from the stage.

If you want to checkout my performances just search for ‘Fennell’ on conference media sites:


Managing SQL Azure Databases with Houston

SQL Azure Labs have released Project Houston a lightweight web based Database management tool for SQL Azure. Houston allows you to develop, deploy, and manage SQL Azure and includes support for basic database management tasks like authoring and executing queries, designing and editing a database schema, and editing table data.


Software Craftsmanship 2010

The Software Craftsmanship 2010 conference has been announced and is open for registration. The last Software Craftsmanship conference was one of the most useful events I have ever attended, so this years should be well worth attending, even though it has gone from being a free event to having a small charge.

As a bonus it is at Bletchley Park, in itself worth a trip.

Get in quick spaces are very limited.

All Leds flashing on a Netgear GS108 Switch

I came back form holiday to find a Netgear GS108 switch with all it leds flashing and it passing no data. This is exactly the same symptoms as this post. My fix did not involve the use of a soldering iron as detailed in the post, I just swapped the PSU and it started working fine. I have seen this before, the PSU shows it’s age before the device itself. Good job I have a big box of misc PSU from devices down the years

Update 22 July 2010: I spoke too soon, came in today to the same problem. Time to swap the capacitors

Bill Clinton@WWPC

WWPC2010 049

It must be said that Microsoft has provided me with some of the most memorable and sometimes surreal opportunities in my life. Today was most certainly one of those occasions. I was privileged to see former President Bill Clinton deliver a powerful and passionate speech about the world in which we live and the work that he is doing to help. His message was one of realism and hope, kindness and practicality, stark warning and insight. A portion of Bill’s speech focused on partnering by encouraging businesses to help people and other business, even though helping other businesses grow might not always make immediate sense to a hard nosed business leader.

The speech hit me quite hard and it made me very feel proud of the social aspect the Black Marble has been treading for many years and our continued support the business, professional and development communities in the UK and Ireland

Rest assured that Black Marble will continue and expand its social commitment to groups such as BizSpark and WebSpark over the following year