The blogs of Black Marble staff

A Peek into the Geek Den …

Ever wondered what it takes to keep geeks happy?  Running HR for a company full of hardcore geeks means more than keeping the milk fresh and the lights switched on.

Black Marble is a deeply technical software house, and that means our staff are mostly developers.  And it's one of my responsibilities to ensure that our developers have a comfortable working environment.  It's not easy keeping a geek house - it has needs unlike any other office ... more kinds of pop (soda) than you can imagine (on any given day, you can find 7 different varieties of Coke ... and that's not counting the guest cokes that accompany our conference-hopping staff back to our fridge).  On top of that ... there's the eerie glow coming from many corners of the office at lunchtime ... when the Halo wars break out!  Plus all those gadgets ... contrary to popular opinion, they don’t just appear overnight!

On top of that, some of the younger generation of geeks are lacking an understanding of their cultural beginnings … I mean how could they not have seen “Blade Runner” ??

So I will take this opportunity (and this blog …) to share with you what makes geeks tick.


Windows 7 on the Dell Mini 9


What better way to try Windows 7 then installing it on the Mini 9? Having read all the commentary about the smaller footprint of the new OS I couldn't resist.

If you want to try this yourself, the procedure is exactly as if you were installing Vista. You will need the drivers folder from the Dell, along with the contents of the Program Files\Wireless Select Switch folder from the XP install and the R192569.exe file from the ZIPFILES folder which is on the support CD I believe.

Installing Windows 7 is a pretty quick and easy process - much faster than Vista. Once installed, follow the same procedure as with Vista to install the hardware drivers from the drivers folder you copied, then run the R192569.exe installer to get the battery driver on. Finally, copy the Wireless Select Switch folder into c:\program files and add an icon to your startup group which fires up the WLSS.exe program - that will allow you to toggle Bluetooth and wireless LAN on and off.

Once that's done, follow the steps that Paul Thurrott  has on WinSuperSite about enabling the 'awesome bar' (does anybody else besides me hate that name?).

I then installed AVG AntiVirus. The corporate version we have failed completely to install, so I turned to AVG Free. That installed fine, but complained at first about being unable to start the resident scanner. A couple of reboots and updates sorted that with no intervention from me and it now works fine.

Office and Live Writer are now installed and I have 4Gb free of my 16Gb SSD. I haven't fiddled with performance tuning yet - the OS ticks over using about 550Mb of RAM. With Live Writer and Internet Explorer 8 running I have about 300Mb of RAM free.

First impressions? Great! Quick, easy to install, UAC is improved, like the new Taskbar UI... I now want to try out some of the other features such as Bitlocker To Go. I hope to get a Server 2008 R2 test environment running as well so I can try things like DirectConnect etc. If I make progress, I'll post more.

Bottom line: Windows 7 - the OS the Mini 9 was built for.

Tech Ed 2008 EMEA IT - Day 5 and home time

I’ve been a bit delayed writing this final blog post from Tech Ed EMEA 2008, so I’m back in the UK. The final day at Tech Ed 2008 EMEA IT was not quite as session filled as previous days, mainly because Rik and I had to be heading off to the airport shortly before 3pm to catch our flight home.

The first presentation of the day was on getting the most out of WSUS 3.0 SP1. One of the items that was mentioned was the arrival of WSUS 3.0 SP2; this is currently in the planning phase and aims to fix the top customer and partner issues seen. It will also install on Windows Server 2008 R2. A number of scenarios for WSUS were discussed, including larger numbers of clients, branch offices and disconnected clients (submarines being the example used!) and some best practices discussed. If the video of this talk is available (at the time of writing, it isn’t unfortunately) and you use WSUS, I’d recommend watching it.

The second (and last) talk of the day I went to discussed Exchange 2007 SP1 and Hyper-V. The good news is that Exchange 2007 SP1 is fully supported on any of the x64 hypervisors validated by Microsoft on Windows Server 2008. If you want to virtualise your Exchange 2003 installation, you’ll need to use Virtual Server 2005; note that Exchange 2003 is explicitly not supported on Hyper-V.

Following these talks Rik and I spent some time talking to more of the experts in the ask the experts pavilion and got some answers to some long-standing questions.

Our flight home was uneventful, but it seemed rather cold when we stepped out of the plane at Manchester after the week in Barcelona!

MicroFormats are here to stay with OOMPH

I was looking into Micro Formats earlier in the year and so I was really interested to see that the Mix team have produced a MicroFormats Toolkits to help create , consume and use MicroFormats.

There is a IE component to help identify MicroFormats.

A Live Writer Plugin to help create hCards

CSS styles for MicroFormats

check it out below.



Physical Security just got a bit harder

Normally when I talk about security I am discussing security about developer , IT or personal ( social engineering ). However this article took my fancy about UCSD Scientists furthering the high tech nature of lock picking by producing a system that makes a working copy of a key based solely on a photograph.



TFS Power Toys

I am not a fan of blog posts that are just a repeat of an announcement on other blogs, but in this case I think it is worth noting that the TFS October 2008 Release of the Power Toys are out.

The power toys are always interesting but the point of note here is the new shell integration for TFS. This means you can check in/out from Windows Explorer, thus in effect making it far easier to integrate third party products with TFS, like Dreamweaver or Expression Blend (OK not third party but has no TFS integration until version 3).

XPClub meeting on 12th November

Next weeks meeting is at the Victoria Hotel in Leeds as usual at 7pm. It is going to be group discussion sort of session, the subjects being:

Daniel Drozdzewski is going to present the future of the computing (based on the article read in recent New Scientist about processors built on logic gates utilising the chaos phenomenon)


moderated conversation about design in software projects

plus the usual gossip from the industry.

Hope to see you there, remember the event is free and so it at least the first beer.

NB. Remember next months meeting on the 10th of December is Gary Short’s excellent session on Patterns in software development

Tech Ed EMEA 2008 IT – Day 4

I attended a very interesting presentation this morning by Mikael Nystrom on creating a master image for SCVMM. We’ve been using VPCs for quite a while, in particular when building test systems for the developers to run their code on. Using a master image (or a series of master images) in SCVMM will help us speed up the delivery of these test systems.

Mark Russinovich (of sysinternals fame) gave an excellent presentation titled ‘The case of the unexplained’ which used a lot of examples of problems experienced running a number of applications on Windows to show a series of techniques that could be used to troubleshoot and find the root cause of the issue. Mark is an excellent speaker and I would urge you to see him talk (in particular on this subject) if you can. I can’t wait to get home and try some of the techniques he showed on one or two issues I’ve been seeing for a while.

Jeffrey Snover (the partner architect for PowerShell) ran through some demonstrations of PowerShell V2, which looks like a great leap forward from V1. In addition, V2 now comes with a visual editor, with debugging capability! A CTP of PowerShell V2 is available if you want to give it a go.

Steve Smith gave an excellent demonstration of the steps required to set up a load test against SharePoint using Visual Studio. I’m not a developer, but he gave me the confidence to have a go myself sometime soon.

The future of paid conferences and other thoughts

Whist at PDC and the VBug conference I have heard a a good deal of chat over the future of paying for conferences and user groups. This is in the light of all the PDC sessions being available on Channel9 in under 24 hours and that the content at the Vbug conference is also available at free events like DDD.

The question boils down to can a person or company justify paying a good few thousand Pounds, Euro or Dollars to fly half way round the world when they could see the same content at home? In my previous post on the PDC I suggested it was worth it for the networking, and I still think this is so. However, I have heard an interesting slant on this from more than one person; this is go to the city were the conference is but not to the actual conference; just taking in the parties and maybe watching content via the Internet where available.

For some people I think this might be a viable option; as long as you get the right party invites! For example at TechEd Europe there many community orientated events organised outside the conference because this is the one time most relevant people are in the same city. Also if you are in this group then you may struggle to find time to go to the actual conference so maybe this plan is viable or even preferred. However, for the average developer I am not certain it is the case, too much of the networking happens randomly inside the conference corridors and at meal tables. For this ‘outside the conference’ model to work you have to know who you want to meet and get invited to the right places/parties i.e. you need some profile in the community

As to the other point whether Vbug like events will continue I think we need to consider who they are aimed it. I had expected at the Vbug conference to see a lot of faces in the audience who I see at DDD, but this was not the case. There were a few but not a majority. Then again I don’t see the same faces at DDD as We have a number of distinct communities going on here, there is some cross over but not that much. I think the three broad groups are:

  • People who go to events (free or otherwise) during office hours – VBug attendees, and people who come to the events we host with Microsoft.
  • People who will go an event in their own time, but it is a passive learning experience – like DDD on a Saturday or a speaker at a user group
  • People who want to discuss what they do either in a user group over a beer or at an Open Spaces format conference – like

We are never going to get all three groups merged into one. People will move from one to another and maybe attend all three, but that is their choice.

We are lucky in the UK that we have such an active and high quality community so all three groups can be supported, it will be interesting to see if any one type prevails (judged by attendance) as time goes on. However I do not expect to see any type disappear soon.

Page views not updated in community server

Since we added the new themes to our community server we have not been getting any updates on the Blogs control panel as to the number of times a post has been viewed (but the aggregate views via RSS are incremented OK)

After a bit of digging it seems that we missing the IncrementViewCount flag on the in the post.aspx file. It should be as shown below.

<CSBlog:WeblogPostData Property="FormattedBody" runat="server" IncrementViewCount="true" />

If you miss this flag out you page shows OK but the statistics are not updated.