BM-Bloggers

The blogs of Black Marble staff

Problems connecting a Netgear WG111 USB Wifi Dongle to a Netgear DG834GT router

Just spent an interesting hour trying to connect a Netgear WG111v2 USB WiFi Dongle to Netgear (Sky Branded) DG834GT router. They are both from the same manufacturer so you would they would work together!

This router was setup with its default Sky settings so WiFi was setup as WPA.

I installed the WG111 onto an XP laptop installed the newly downloaded V 5.1.1308 (26 Dec 2007) drivers and tried to connect. The router was spotted without problems and I was prompted to enter my WPA password, which was printed onto the bottom of the router (I had logged in to router via the web admin console to check this was correct). After what seemed like a long delay I was left not corrected to the router, but with no obvious error.

I fired up my work laptop which has built-in Wifi, this saw the router and connected as soon as the password as entered. Strange I thought, is this an XP or a WG111 problem?

I did a bit of searching and saw this was not an uncommon problem, the WG111 seems a troublesome child. In the end I got it working, this was the process I followed:

  • Via the network connection window in XP I looked at the properties of the WG111
  • On the wireless tab I switched of ‘Use windows to configure my wireless network setting’.

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  • This allowed me to open the Netgear Wireless Assistance tools to get more diagnostics. I saw that the router was running on the same channel as another local router.
  • Via the web based admin console of the router I changed the channel to a free one, in my case 10 – However, I don’t think this actually fixed the problem.
  • Via the web based admin console of the router I changed the WiFi mode from ‘b and g’ to ‘g only’ – This is the important one I think
  • I saved the changes and rebooted the router and it all worked
  • Just to tidy up, via the network connection window in XP I went back into the properties of the WG111 and on the wireless tab I switched on ‘Use windows to configure my wireless network setting’
  • Finally rebooted the laptop just to check it all worked, it did

I suspect the issue here is the WG111 getting confused if it is in 802.11b or 802.11g network, so removing the confusion fixed the problem

Gojko Adzic is presenting at the next Agile Yorkshire meeting on acceptance tests

February’s Agile Yorkshire is on the 8th. The session will be given by Gojko Adzic on ’Long term value of acceptance tests’ I have seen Gojko speak at a number of events, including Agile Yorkshire, he is always an engaging speaker so well worth the effort to attend. I know I am going to give it a go, but have been really struggling to make Agile Yorkshire as Tuesday nights are a bit busy of late. My diary is just too full!

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Not made it to DDD9

I was busy for the few minutes that the DDD9 registration was open, so did not manage to get on the attendee list, but I have been try to keep an eye on that is going on at Twitter.

The good news is that there are more DDD events on the way

Session submissions are open for Scotland, I have submitted on writing custom build activities for TFS 2010. It is great experience presenting and attending at these events, I really recommend you give both a try.

Also it was announced today there will be a DDD North East in Sep/Oct in Newcastle, keep and eye on the DDD site. This event is being initially co-ordinated by the NEBytes user group so keep an eye on their twitter feed, also Black Marble will be helping out so information will be on our site and twitter feed

Follow up to yesterdays events on ‘enabling agile development with cool tools’

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterdays Black Marble event ‘Enabling agile development with cool tools’, both Gary Short’s and my sessions seemed well received. I was asked if my slides would be available anywhere, well the answer is no. The reason for this is that my session was mostly demo driven, so the slides just set the scene. After a bit of thought, a quick blog post seems a better option;  so this post covers the same basic points as the session. If you are interested in any of the products I would urge you to download them and give them a go. Many are free and all have at least a free fully functional evaluation edition.

So the essence of my session was on the project management/administrative side of agile projects. The key here is communication both inside and outside of the immediate project team. How to we capture and distribute information so it assists the project not hampers it?

Traditionally the physical taskboard, with moving moving some form of postcards around has been the answer. This is a great solution as long as the team is co-located and that there is no need for a detailed on going record of the historic state of the tasks (maybe a requirement for legal reasons, but then maybe a daily digital photo would do?). Anyway many teams find they need to capture this information in some electronic form. In my session I looked at some of the options with TFS2010

What is built into TFS2010?

As TFS has a single work item store you can edit work items with a wide variety of clients. In the box you have tools to edit work items via Visual Studio, SharePoint, Team Web Access as well as the ability to manage work items in Excel and Project.

What if I live in Outlook?

If you want to do all you work item management in Outlook then have a look at Ekobit’s TeamCompanion. This in effect allows you to treat work items in a similar manner to email, and cross between the two. So you can create a work item from an email and vice versa; it also allows the managing work items in batches. This product strikes me was very well suited to an email based support desk or project manager that is meeting or email orientated, maybe dealing with people who do not themselves have access to TFS, just email.

How can I replicate my physical taskboard?

For many teams the capture of the physical taskboard information is the key. I have always found a good way to make sure TFS work items are up to date is to have all the work items associated with the tasks on the taskboard returned via a TFS query and then in Excel, as the daily stand up is done, make sure each task is up to date.

However, some people like to work more visually than that, so in the session I looked at a couple of desktop applications that allow work item management both in a form editing manner and via taskboard like drag and drop operations. These were Telerik’s Work Item Manager and EMC’s TFS Work Bench.

However for many companies adding another desktop application to a controlled IT PC can be a problem so I also had a look at Urban Turtle an add-in to Team Web Access that allows a more visual taskboard approach with in a browser by adding a couple of tabs to those  in the standard Team Web Access product.

But what about outside the team?

All the products I showed in the first half of the session were in essence work item editors, a team could choose to use any or all of them. This does not however really help with getting information out to interested parties beyond the team; for this we need publically accessible Information Radiators. The information on these needs to change over time and be easy to understand.

The output of the team focused tools may be just what you need here, maybe a chart printed out and stuck to a notice board will do, but there are some other options.

The first is that there are a rich set of reports in TFS, available both as Reporting Services reports and Excel charts. Reporting Services is particularity interesting as it can deliver reports to interested parties on a scheduled e.g. the CTO get the project burn down emailed as a PDF every Monday morning. There is also the option to deliver reports to central information sites such as Intranet SharePoint servers for everyone to see.

But what do you do if you want something a bit more striking, something that does not require a person to look on a web site or open their email? Maybe a big screen showing what is going on in the project? I showed two products to do this one was Telerik’s Project Dashboard and the other a version our Black Marble internal BuildWallboard, written using the TFS API.

So in summary, in my opinion the key differentiator for TFS over ALM solutions built for a set of different vendors products is that there is a single store for all work items so a wide range of editing an reporting tools can be bought to bear without having to worry over whether the information you are working with is the going to be passed correctly between the various components of the system.

So again I would urge you that if you use TFS have a look at these product, and the many others that are out there, given them a go and see which ones may assist your process. Remember agile is all about continuous improved isn’t it, so give it a try

Errors with TMG + Exchange Edge Connector + FPE resulting in rejected emails

Frustrating errors with little or no explanation…

Once again I find myself wiring a blog post in order to save people the time we spent figuring out what was going on and getting help with our fault.

We have Microsoft Threat Management Gateway installed at our perimeter. The Exchange 2010 Edge Connector is also installed as our mail gateway, and finally Forefront Protection for Exchange (FPE) deals with mail scanning. There are some gotchas that can trip you up when installing that lot, which I suppose I should put in another post, but the overall result is that you can manage the email filters (spam, malware etc) from within TMG’s console. It’s a nice, unified management interface and a good solution. When it works…

Our problem, when it occurred, was simple in its symptom – emails were being rejected by our email server. Emails were rejected that we didn’t think should be, and we fiddled with IP allow list settings in TMG for a while to no avail.

Looking in the event logs we noticed that there were lots of messages with the event ID 31506 and description:
Forefront TMG detected changes in Microsoft Exchange Server or Microsoft Forefront Protection configuration, and reapplied the e-mail policy configuration on server <server>.

There are quite a few people on the net with this error. One of the things they experienced, and we also saw, was that the Microsoft Forefront TMG Managed Control service was not running. Lots of messages suggested that restarting that service should do the trick. Lots of other messages also said that the service wouldn’t restart. We saw that too.

Clearing the IP block list is supposed to fix that fault. At first it did for us. To do this open the Exchange Management Shell on your TMG server and use the following powershell:

get-ipblocklistentry will return a list, if there are any entries.

remove-ipblocklistentry is the command to delete an item from the list, so get-ipblocklistentry | removeipblocklistentry –confirm:$false will get the block list, pipe the items through the remove command and delete them. The –confirm:$false tells the command just to get on with it and not prompt for confirmation.

The trouble was, whilst this worked, the solution was only temporary. We then tried something else (and promptly forgot about it, which will become important in a while).

We now found ourselves in a situation where the Microsoft Forefront TMG Managed Control service would not start. This time, whenever we tried to start the service we saw errors in the log with event id 31308 and description:
The Forefront TMG Managed Control service failed to initialize. Error information: Value does not fall within the expected range.

Nothing we could do would get this going. Again, people on the web suggested clearing the IP block list but doing so made no difference. We also saw the block list growing rapidly and incoming emails bounced off the spam filter, which we couldn’t disable because the TMG managed control service wouldn’t run.

We knocked up a quick powershell script to keep the wolves from the door and dug further. For those in the same boat, the following script simply clears the contents of the block list every 30 minutes and then sleeps.

for (;;)
{
write-host Clearing block list
get-ipblocklistentry | remove-ipblocklistentry -Confirm:$False
write-host Cleared block list. Now waiting 30 minutes...
start-sleep -seconds 1800
}

At this point I found a very obscure post talking about the original error we saw and that there is an ‘unofficial’ hotfix available via support. I’ve encountered these before and you have to log a support call to get them, because Microsoft want to make very sure that you are having the problem addressed by the fix. Usually these things get rolled into updates at a later date, once they’ve been through the full raft of testing needed to do so.

The hotfix is TMG-ISASE38387-UNOFFICIAL-AMD64-GLB and it was given to us by Microsoft Support in .exe and .msp flavours. Before you all get in touch, no I won’t give you the files. There’s a reason that the product support guys want you to log a call to get hold of this patch and not just install it randomly.

I dutifully installed the hotfix. It made no difference (or so it appeared) – the Microsoft Forefront TMG Managed Control service still refused to start.

It was at this point that we had an epiphany. In our attempts to stop email bouncing we had added items to the IP allow list, but done so through the Forefont Protection for Exchange management console. Interestingly (and importantly), the entries we had added here were not appearing in the Exchange IP Allow list (found by using get-ipallowlistentry in the Management Shell). We removed these entries and tried again.

The service started!

We then configured the IP allow list in TMG and applied the configuration changes. This time, checking the IP allow list via the management shell returned the entries we were expecting. Our email system has been functioning correctly ever since. The hotfix resolved our original error and our realisation of our mistake corrected the second problem.

Important Points

  • The error, event id 31506, description “Forefront TMG detected changes in Microsoft Exchange Server or Microsoft Forefront Protection configuration, and reapplied the e-mail policy configuration on server <server>.” is a known fault.
  • An unofficial hotfix exists, TMG-ISASE38387-UNOFFICIAL-AMD64-GLB, which addresses the issue, but you MUST engage with Product Support to get it.
  • I am told that the fully tested fix will be included in an update rollup for TMG which is due in February.
  • Don’t make configuration changes via the Forefont Protection for Exchange Server Console if your are running in this integrated setup. As we found, entries to things like the IP Allow List (and I’m guessing IP Block List) will cause the Microsoft Forefront TMG Managed Control service to fail to start with an error, event id 31308 and description ”The Forefront TMG Managed Control service failed to initialize. Error information: Value does not fall within the expected range.”
    Note:
    We also found that entries added to the IP allow list in FPE didn’t get listed when using the get-ipallowlistentry PowerShell command in the Exchange Management Shell.
  • If your Microsoft Forefront TMG Managed Control service does fail to start, check that you haven’t made configuration changes through FPE. The Exchange Management Console on TMG is clever enough to not let you make changes like this, but FPE isn’t.

CommunicationObjectFaultedException after checking an Azure project in to TFS

I suddenly started to get a CommunicationObjectFaultedException after I checked my azure code in to TFS

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I could get it working by editing the web.config file manually, but it didn’t seem to matter what I actually changed!! It was the act of editing the web.config file that made it writable and it could therefore be written to by the development fabric. When comparing the files it looks like the machine key section is changed. Further investigation pointed me in the direction of the changes made in the Azure SDK 1.3 to support full IIS. During deployment “automatic configuration [of the machine key] occurs at the site-level, overriding any user-supplied value”. When the file is read-only the error occurs. Making the file writable fixes the problem.

The following links explain:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windowsazure/archive/2010/12/08/specifying-machine-keys-with-windows-azure-sdk-1-3.aspx

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg494981.aspx

10 March 2011 : Update – Issue now fixed in Azure SDK 1.4. See Azure SDK 1.4 Released

Black Marble’s Annual Technical Update for Microsoft Technologies

We are delighted by the response to our Annual Technical Update for Microsoft Technologies this year.  The event is perfect as an introduction to Black Marble events, as well as providing a Roadmap for all-things Microsoft.  Ideal for planning your business’ IT needs for the next twelve months.

Having raised your interest, the bad news is that the event is actually full-up and we are running a waiting list, but the good news is we are running an overflow event in early February.  The demand for that session is also picking up so please get in touch soon if you want to secure a place! Email events@blackmarble.co.uk for more information.

Our afternoon event brings our ALM MVP and Ranger, Richard Fennell to the fore with DevExpress’ Gary Short – they will be exploring Agile Development with Cool Tools.  There are still some places available for this session.

Those of you already registered to attend – look forward to seeing you on Thursday.

At last my creature it lives – adventures with Lab Management and VLAN tags

After much delay I have at last got our internal Lab Management running on ‘real’ hardware as opposed to it’s initial home on a demo rig PC. We have just been too busy to find the time to reconfigure and redeploy our own kit! You know how it is ‘a plumber’s house is full of drippy taps’. That said I of course still want more hardware, as soon as you start to build up test environments you eat Hyper-V server resources very quickly; memory seems to be my most pressing current limitation on how much I can run at the same time.

You also have to be patient with Lab Management, though it provides many features to ease the life of the test team it cannot work magic. It still takes a while to copy tens of Gigabytes around the network. Though when you rollback an environment to reset a test, though it can take a few minutes you realise how that is much better that is than the older disk imaging techniques you would have to have used. You realise all the time you spend getting the base environment snapshots right is a great investment in time.

The one thing that caused me a few problems was that we use VLAN tagging on our switches. This means that Hyper-V hosted VMs need to have a suitable VLAN tag assigned, else they cannot see the resources on our LAN. This becomes a problem when using network isolation in Lab Management as when the new environment is created the extra adaptor that is automatically added has no VLAN tag, so does not work. However, luckily the fix is simple, you do have to manually set the tag on the VMs network settings via Hyper-V Manager or SCVMM (as far as I can see you cannot do it MTM)

So now I am off to run some test in my nice new environments, what fun.

Updated 29th Jan 2011: I can now confirm that VLAN tags are not support (see http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en/vslab/thread/2fad399b-01fa-4001-b369-ecb7d1b071e6). My workaround will work, but it does require whoever deploys a lab has SCVMM access or Hyper-V manager access to the Hyper-V hosts to make the manual edits to the network adaptor settings. So not a solution that scales well.

Windows Phone Toolkit(update)

A new toolkit for Windows Phone 7 has been released on Coding4Fun. The toolkit includes Controls,Converters and Helpers.

(update) Get it here

With Controls such as

  • About Prompt
  • Input Prompt
  • Progress Overlay
  • Round Button
  • Round Toggle Button
  • Memory Counter
  • TimeSpan Picker

I suspect that most WP7 developers should look at this kit

b.

Preparing for my session next week on ‘enabling agile development with cool tools’

I have spent today preparing my presentation and demos for the Black Marble event next week Enabling Agile Development with Cool Tools. I will be presenting with Gary Short of DevExpress. He is going to be talking about refactoring under the intriguing title ‘How to Eat an Elephant’.

My session will be on the tools to aid the project management side of the ALM process. Specifically the tools available for TFS 2010 both those ‘out the box’ and from third party vendors. I only have a hour slot, so I have had to be selective as there are may ‘cool tools’ to choose from. So after some thought I have chosen

Urban Turtle 
Telerik Work Item Manager and Project Dashboard
Ekobit TeamCompanion
EMC TFS Work Bench

Should be a good session, there are certainly some great tools in this list.