The blogs of Black Marble staff

Fabulous Response to our Very Special Christmas Greeting!

We’ve been receiving fabulous feedback for our Christmas ‘card’ this year!  To mark our 15th Anniversary, we decided to put together ‘A Fight Before Christmas’ based on  the poem, ‘T’was the night before LaurenChristmas …’.  We are delighted with the response and I thought I would put together some of them here.  If you would like your own copy of the book, please email us at with your address!

Enda Flynn, Comperiogreat work with the Xmas card - my 3 year old has been picking it as bedtime story.

Hazel Woodcock, IBM: The book is fantastic. Story, artwork, production, all first rate.

Eileen Brown, Social Media Guru: Thank you so much for quite frankly the best Christmas card I’ve received for years – what a joy to go through it.  Inspired.

Wilbour Craddock, Microsoft Canada: Awesome! Simply Awesome!

From Martin Casey, Arekibo: Congratulations to @BlackMarble - Your Christmas book/card is exceptional - thank you!

Amanda Lennon: Thank you SO much for my Xmas story book - absolutely fab!

Diarmuid Murphy, Microsoft Ireland: Just got this gorgeous Christmas storybook from @BlackMarble put me in the festive mood.

Ben Nunney, Microsoft UK: Wow. Epic Christmas Comic from@BlackMarble arrived this morning...

Richard Costall, MVP: Big thanks to @BlackMarble for a fantastic Christmas card/story very clever. #HappyChristmas

Craig Murphy, MVP: Awesome @BlackMarble Xmas greeting this year!

Ian Palmer, University of Bradford: Just got the 'card' from@BlackMarble. They surpassed themselves this year. This is a BOOK guys, not a card. Genius. :)

Steven Murgatroyd, KCom: Just got this from @BlackMarble, love it...very creative! Merry Christmas! #xmasfun

Kevin Ball, HP: - it's fabulous!

Plus we are supporting The National Museum of Computing and Bletchley Park with our Christmas campaign!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


We love Christmas at BM HQ and this year , we have a very special Christmas Card … Inspired by the the poem ‘A Visit by St. Nicholas’ (more commonly known by its first line, ‘T’was the Night before Christmas …’), the Black Marble Brigade have another great Christmas adventure, in book form – “The Fight Before Christmas”!

As it is our 15th Anniversary year, we are feeling particularly festive and generous, and if you like us on Facebook, then we will send you a copy!  Make sure you send us your address too – either via FB message or email   Plus, you can still follow the adventure on our Website, where we will be making the artwork available as colouring-in sheets!

And don’t forget – we are making a donation to Bletchley Park and The National Museum of Computing each Christmas, and recommend that everyone in our industry does the same.

NMC Logo BlechleyPark

Why can’t I create an environment using a running VM on my Lab Management system?

With TFS lab management you can build environments from stored VM and VM templates stored in an SCVMM library or from VMs running on a Hyper-V host within your lab infrastructure. This second form is what used to be called composing an environment in TFS 2010. Recently when I tried to compose an environment I had a problem. After selecting the running VM inside the new environment wizard I got the red star that shows an error in the machine properties


Now I would only expect to see this when creating an environment with a VM templates as a red star usually means the OS profile is not set e.g. you have missed a product key, or passwords don’t match. However, this was a running VM so there were no settings I could make, and no obvious way to diagnose the problem. After a few email with Microsoft Lab management team we go to the bottom of the problem, it was all down to the Hyper-V hosts network connections, but that is rushing ahead, first lets see why it was a confusing problem.

First the red herring

We now know the issue was the Hyper-V host network, but at first it looked like I could compose some guest VMs but not others. I wrongly assumed the issue was some bad meta-data or corrupt settings within the VMs. Tthis problem all started after a server crash and so we were fearing corruption, which clouded our thoughts.

The actual reason some VMs could be composed and some could not was dependant on which Hyper-V host they were running on. Not the VMs themselves.

The diagnostic steps

To get to the root of this issue a few commands and tools were used. Don’t think for a second there was not a lot of random jumping about and trial and error. In this post I am just going to point out what was helpful.

Firstly you need to use the TFSConfig command on your TFS server to find out your network location setting. So run

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Team Foundation Server 11.0\Tools>tfsconfig lab /settings /list
SCVMM Server Name:
Network Location: VSLM Network Location
IP Block:
DNS Suffix:

Next you need to see which, if any, of your Hyper-V hosts are connected to this location. You can do this in a few graphically ways in SCVMM (and I am sure via PowerShell too)

If you select a Hyper-V host in SCVVM, right click and select View networking. On a healthy host you see the VSLM network location connected to external network adaptor the VMs are using


On my failing Hyper-V host the VSLM network was connected to an empty network port


You can also see this on the SCVMM > host (right click) > properties. If you look on  the networking tab for the main virtual network  you should see the VSLM network as the location. On the failing Hyper-V host this location was empty.


The solution

You would naively think selecting the edit option on the screen shot above would allow you to enter the VSLM Network as the location, but no. Not on that tab. You need to select the hardware tab.


You can then select the correct network adaptor and override the discovered network location to point to the VSLM Network Location. Once this was done I could compose environments as I would expect.

I have said it before, but Lab Management has a lot of moving parts, and they all must be setup right else nothing works. A small configuration error can seriously ruin your day.

Agile Yorkshire - December Lightening Talks

December's Agile Yorkshire, on the Tuesday, 11 December 2012, will be Lightening Talks covering a range of agile topics and be held at a new venue The Round Foundry Media Centre.

Submissions for Lightening Talks are still arriving so the precise agenda may change but proposed topics included:

  • Visual agile assessment for improvement
  • Continuous Integration
  • Agile Interviewing
  • Difficult conversations
  • Time management
  • Refactoring using the Mikado Method
  • PowerShell
  • Agile testing
  • Burn up charts
  • Multi-team, multiple kanban board problems.

For more details and registration see the event site


This event is at a new venue, The Round Foundry. It has plenty of free (evening) parking right in front and is 5 minutes walk from Leeds train station. The Midnight Bell pub is also next door

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 from 18:30 to 21:00 (GMT)

The Round Foundry Media Centre
Foundry St
LS11 5QP Leeds
United Kingdom
View Map


Upgrading my Windows 7 Media Center to Windows 8

Updated 4th December 2012 – Roku setup

I have been a happy user of Windows Media Center since (even) XP. I have found it reasonably stable and more importantly it has a nice user interface compared to most pvr/set-top boxes I have owned. So as my Windows 7 based system has been stable for just over a year (since a move to HD tuners prompted by a motherboard failure) I thought it high time to destabilise it with an upgrade to Windows 8. What actually prompted this was Robert had upgraded his Media Center which is also based on similar Acer Revo (Intel Atom) hardware to mine and he had found the general performance much improved. The Atom CPU is only just up to the job, but I do like the Revo as it is a nice low wattage package for Media Center

The  main issue with this upgrade is Microsoft have chosen to put Media Center in an add-in pack for Windows 8 not part of the base package; however, this pack is currently free. Armed with this information this was my upgrade process:

  1. Applied for my Windows 8 Media Center product code. It says this can take up to 72 hours, mine took nearer 150. Looking at the comments this seems not uncommon. Note that you don’t need to apply for the code on the same PC you wish to use it on. But as the comments mention it is one code per email address used, and the code has to be activated before February.
  2. Downloaded the Windows 8 Professional ISO from MSDN, I got the EN-GB specific version. Just make sure it is the retail version not the volume license as people have commented that the the Media Center product code does not work for VL editions.
  3. So now ready to start the upgrade…..
    1. I first removed my external RAID disk array that stores pictures, music, recordings etc.
    2. I backed up my Windows 7 boot disk (using imagex off a Windows 8 PE boot USB) to an external USB disk (just in case I wanted to go back)
    3. Booted my PC in Windows 7, inserted the Windows 8 Professional USB media and did an in-place upgrade (frankly it moved over so little I might as well have wiped the disk, see what I had to reinstall below). After entering my MDSN sourced product key the upgrade found all the hardware without issue except my PCTV 290e tuners, but a check for new drivers got these from Windows update without any other intervention.
    4. I now used the add feature option on the control panel to enter my Media Center product key. It accepted this, and said it was downloading the new feature and it might take a while. In my case this was best part of two hours, so be prepared to wait…..
  4. Once complete (and a good few automatic reboots later) I could run the Media Center wizard,but before I did this I re-attached my RAID disk

So eventually I had a Windows 8 install with Media Center, but what had a lost in the process?

  • All my Media Center configuration
    • Monitor preferences
    • My series recording settings
    • Interestingly I did not need to re-enter my settings to point to my RAID disk for libraries
  • Had to re-join the PC to my home group (of which it was the creator, I would have it expected to remember more than just it’s name)
  • Had to re-install the Windows desktop Skydrive  application, which I use to provide a backup from my RAID drive for photos. I do need to see if I can think of an easier solution under Windows 8. I also had to re-create the scheduled batch file that copies the files I wish to backup to this folder. Due to the coping all the time stamps meant the files had to re-sync to SkyDrive.
  • Had to re-authorise my Roku Soundbridge media as an audio client.

So it is any faster? Only time will tell. However, I do think that pining browser windows to the Windows 8 home page for IPlayer and other web streaming services will make life a bit bit easier until they provide Windows 8 Apps to do the job.

4th Dec Update

When tried to stream MP3 to my old Roku M1000 this morning I could connect to my Windows 8 PC (file source) but got the error “invalid result received” when it tried to play a file. Last night I had only checked it connected.  I am not alone with this problem, seems the Roku is too old and changes in the Media Player streaming server in Windows 8 (from Windows 7) means it will not work.

The fix was to swap my media streaming server, I downloaded and installed SqueezeBox, once this easy install was done it all leap into life.