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Area of Expertise

Recently I had the dubious honour of tidying up a laptop that a colleague had handed down to them by their son who “works for Cisco”.

It quickly became clear he had put absolutely zero effort in getting the laptop ready for use by a normal person. Highlights of this disaster area were:

  • Windows XP SP2, with IE7, and no updates.
  • Firfox 3.6.
  • Graphics driver not installed.
  • Remnants of various online gambling apps and IE toolbars.
  • 10GB system partition (NTFS compressed, naturally) with the rest of the 60GB drive in a second partition that had nothing on it.

I’m sure this guy is a fine network engineer, but remind me never to hire former Cisco employees to do any kind of workstation management.

Eat a balanced diet

A few years back, we took delivery of a batch of new mice for the computer labs. These Microsoft mice have 18 pages of English language instructions. 18 PAGES. For a mouse. I saved one at the time as a memento of this farce, and recently, I came across that forgotten relic at the bottom of a desk drawer.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Read More…

The Perfect Wireless Solution for your School

Here’s a quick tip for sending me sales emails: if your email is to tell me how Netgear wireless is “The Perfect Wireless Solution for your School”, then you clearly have no idea about a) wireless, or b) schools.

Stop wasting my time.

Stock Control

Welcome back! Oh, you didn’t get a break for the summer holidays? Well, neither did I.

What I did instead was spend most of the first half of the summer trying to catch up on delayed install work because the construction company was late handing over our new building, and the second half of the summer wondering why nobody has decent stock control any more.


The link boasts of “standard 3 working day delivery”. In stock! Order now! So I did. Admittedly not the same day as that tweet, but not long after. And my EcoCart 20 still hasn’t sodding well arrived, because the delivery date has been changed three times due to what Bretford finally admitted today to be “issues with the manufacturing”. Apparently they have the 16 and 30 models in stock, but that’s not really much use to me right now.

Then there’s Dabs. I ordered an Acer machine from them to drive some digital signage, which is not something I’d normally do as I’m not fond of Acer kit, but it was cheap, the perfect size, and even comes with a mounting bracket. Unfortunately, when I ordered it, it had a 1-week lead time.

I was not even remotely shocked when the in-stock date came and went, only to be replaced with “Awaiting stock from supplier, delivery delayed”.

Ordering anything on Dabs that is not immediately in stock is practically the kiss of death, in my experience. Every single item I’ve ever ordered from Dabs that has not been in stock has ended up with the order being cancelled because the item gets discontinued. Stay tuned for what will be an unsurprising climax to this tale in about a week’s time.

Count the Screws

This week I’m doing network cabling in our new building, which is due to open in September. While my deep-seated mistrust of contractors meant that I wouldn’t let the project manager use our electrical contractors for the job, we did ask them to to the conduits and containment for the cabling, since some of it is shared with the electrics via compartmented trunking.

Here’s a quick test for you: how many screws have the contractors used to secure this backbox to the wall?

If you answered ZERO, you are correct! There are no screws holding this backbox on (the brass screw at the top-right is only to secure an earthing wire). The only reason it isn’t on the floor is the loosely coupled metal tubing that feeds into it. Metal tubing that had no draw wire, I might add.

I expect this to be only the first of many demonstrations of why we didn’t let them do the whole job.


See this? This is yet another in the long list of reasons why I don’t let contractors do any network cabling for me:

For some reason, the moron fitting this cable has stripped the outer sheath a good 15cm away from the termination. That’s 7 layers of white electrical tape underneath the cable tie, by the way. Oh well, at least it’s inside some tubing to keep it safe… NO, WAIT, the tubing hasn’t been cut properly and has a sharp jagged edge. Genius.

Also, bonus points for only installing a single socket module in a double faceplate. Only morons fit single sockets.

Friends Reunited are lying about ‘deleting’ your account

Back before Facebook, Friends Reunited was a nascent social networking/school reunion site that was quite popular in the UK. It recently relaunched, and emailed all its old users to let them know.

I was one of them, and this reminded me that I should go back and delete my account, since I have no intention of using the service.

Once I had logged myself in (astonishingly, I still remembered my password), I found that the option to remove my account was actually pretty easy to find, and was quite clear that it would be a permanent deletion:

“This will permanently delete your account,” it states (the red emphasis is mine). That’s pretty unequivocal, and not exactly open to interpretation.

It is also completely untrue.

Read More…

Dear SMART Technologies

If you are going to put required fields on your online registration forms, it really does help if you actually mark it as required, so I don’t have to see stupid red error messages when I click submit.

And you know what? Actually labelling the field at all would be a good start. Read More…

Oh, the irony: Google Maps gives wrong address for Google offices

If you search on Google Maps for the address of Google’s offices in London Victoria, you’ll be taken to the correct address. However, if you then click on the location marked ‘Google London’, the address it gives you is for a different office building in Soho about 2 miles away:

(The address given is the location of their separate sales offices that opened last year, but that hardly excuses the place marker being 2 miles out of place).

Why you don’t want to link your work email to Facebook

One of the more interesting new features that was introduced in Outlook 2010 was the Outlook Social Connector. For those of you who haven’t used Outlook 2010, it’s basically it’s a small window below the reading pane that collates information about all the people involved in the selected email conversation. As well as mining your Outlook folders for related messages, calendar items, etc., it can also pull in updates from social networks.

If you install the addin that lets it link to Facebook, you’ll see Facebook updates for those people you are friends with on Facebook. Thing is, it will also look up information even for people you aren’t friends with.

Normally you can’t search just by email address on Facebook, but the Outlook Social Connector does just that. It won’t show you anything that you couldn’t see anyway if you found that person on Facebook manually, but it does find them for you, seamlessly, just based on the email address. So if you have your work email registered on your personal Facebook account, your sexually suggestive profile picture will show up at the bottom of the reading pane when you send me an email:

I went and checked this profile on Facebook (purely in the name of research for this article) and can confirm that the profile did not have the person’s email address publicly visible. However, many of this person’s photos were set to public, and the photo album that had a blow-up doll as the album cover did not encourage me to investigate any further. Nor did it encourage me to do business with the person who had emailed me.

Needless to say, our staff AUP has a strong recommendation to refrain from adding a school email address to Facebook.