Friday, November 13, 2009

Windows Server 2008 - saving space on the C:\ drive

One of the hardest parts of the move from Windows Server 2003 to 2008 for me is disk space - 2008 needs far more of it and some of my tricks on 2003 jsut don't work anymore. That said, disk space is not the killer it used to be since storage is so cheap now, but where we do have issues is small C: drives. Here is some steps to try when the C: drive is full up (most of these are valid for Windows Vista and 7 as well):
  • Pagefile. Find where the pagefile.sys is - it can be anywhere, there is rarely a reason to have it on C:. By default there will be one at c:\pagefile.sys of a system managed size, usually several gigabytes. You won't see it unless you turn on the Folder Option to see protected operating system files. To move it, right click Computer, Properties, Advanced System Settings, Settings (the top one), Advanced tab, Change. Select C: and "no paging file" and Set. Make sure you set another paging file before you click OK, and finally reboot (if you can) to make it take effect.
  • Remove programs. Maybe its obvious, but if you're out of space remove anything you can. Try organising them by size. Acrobat Reader always seems to be suprisingly near the top of the list...
  • Extend the drive! Not an option in Windows XP and 2003, but from Vista and 2008 the C: drive can be easily resized in Disk Management. Assuming you have unpartitioned space of course. It might even be an option to delete subsequent partitions on the drive to create unpartitioned space if there are any on that volume. Right click the C: drive in Disk Management (in Control Panel, Computer Management or Start > Run > diskmgmt.msc) and Extend.
  • Disk Cleanup. This should be among the first things you run as its a quick way of checking temporary files, error logs, etc that can be removed. Bad news is its not included in Server 2008 unless you install the Desktop Experience feature and reboot. After that, its in All Programs, Accessories, System Tools. Check this, even if you don't think you need to and install it on every server, just in case. The reboot requirement might not be an option in an emergency
  • C:\windows\system32\Logfiles. One of the best places to look on a Windows 2003 or 2008 server - especially if it hosts HTTP or FTP. If unused its about 3mb - on a web server though it can easily be gigabytes. The whole contents can be wiped without losing anything apart from the ability to analyse past web traffic (which you might, to be fair, want to do). If its big and you want the contents, right click the folder, click Properties, advanced, tick the Compress checkbox, press OK and Apply. It will apply NTFS compression from then on and save about 3/4 of the space in the directory for no loss of data. And then go into IIS and redirect your logs elsewhere...
  • NTFS Compression. Look for directories with big log files or text files in and compress them! It will slow down access a little but leave the files available and slash the space used. Its not so effective against binary information and useless against a ZIP file so use it sparingly. Remember if you "compress" a folder any new files in it will be compressed from creation. To turn it on, right click something, click properties and advanced. Remember it could slow backups down if that is an issue for you.
  • SQL Server Setup Bootstrap folder. Don't delete this lightly, but if you need space on a SQL Server machine, this can be a useful half gigabyte. It is used if you add components to SQL Server later on - without it you are more likely to need to CD. You might consider this to be a reasonable risk! Its location varies, but for SQL Server 2005 on x64 Windows 2008, it would be at C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\90\Setup Bootstrap. You can delete the contents, but leave the actual folder.
  • WinDirStat. [click here...] This is a very fine freeware utility which I've used successfully on a Windows 2008 Server. It analyses the disk space usage surprisingly quickly and gives you an easy to use report on where it all is. Very good for finding which directories have the space (much quicker than lots of right clicking and viewing folder properties!!!). Let's have a screenshot:

  • Windows Installer Cleanup Utility. [click here...] This Microsoft utility can be used to clear down the c:\windows\installer folder on x86 and x64 servers. This folder is, for instance, 3.3gb on my (fairly fresh) Windows 7 PC - probably less on a server as they tend to have less installs. This folder contains the Add/Remove Programs information for your applications so be wary using it, but if you are not going to change your configuration (such as deinstalling the programs) and you're desperate for space, its an option. There is a warning in the readme not to delete the main Office install data.

I'm sure there are lots more tips out there so I'll update this as I find them. Any suggestions would of course be welcome!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black screen at Windows 2003 Login

Bit of a wierd problem we've had a few times on Windows 2003 servers, especially when they have run out of disk space on the C: Drive - not a blue screen of death, more a black screen of annoyance. The problem is that all the system colours are set suddenly to black (probably after a reboot). This is seen in Remote Desktop mode or local logon - only graphics work (like the Windows logo). You can actually log in and it should then be okay - if you can logon without being able to see anything!

Anyway, this is a known problem ( and has an easy fix. Open Regedit on another computer, click File > Connect Network registry, enter the name of the computer with the problem. Navigate to this reg key:

HKEY_USERS\.Default\Control Panel\Colors

And enter the values below! You will find they are all set to "0 0 0" (black) on the broken machine. Don't get them wrong, we did and ended up with a pink desktop! Very nice it looked too, so we left it alone.

Value name Value data
ActiveBorder 212 208 200
ActiveTitle 10 36 106
AppWorkSpace 128 128 128
Background 102 111 116
ButtonAlternateFace 181 181 181
ButtonDkShadow 64 64 64
ButtonFace 212 208 200
ButtonHilight 255 255 255
ButtonLight 212 208 200
ButtonShadow 128 128 128
ButtonText 0 0 0
GradientActiveTitle 166 202 240
GradientInactiveTitle 192 192 192
GrayText 128 128 128
Hilight 10 36 106
HilightText 255 255 255
HotTrackingColor 0 0 128
InactiveBorder 212 208 200
InactiveTitle 128 128 128
InactiveTitleText 212 208 200
InfoText 0 0 0
InfoWindow 255 255 225
Menu 212 208 200
Menubar 212 208 200
MenuHilight 210 210 255
MenuText 0 0 0
Scrollbar 212 208 200
TitleText 255 255 255
Window 255 255 255
WindowFrame 0 0 0
WindowText 0 0 0

Or if you don't like the idea of typing, just create a text file with the text below (including the Windows Registry Editor line...), save it with a .reg extension and import it into the registry:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Colors]
"ActiveBorder"="212 208 200"
"ActiveTitle"="10 36 106"
"AppWorkSpace"="128 128 128"
"Background"="58 110 165"
"ButtonAlternateFace"="180 180 180"
"ButtonDkShadow"="64 64 64"
"ButtonFace"="212 208 200"
"ButtonHilight"="255 255 255"
"ButtonLight"="212 208 200"
"ButtonShadow"="128 128 128"
"ButtonText"="0 0 0"
"GradientActiveTitle"="166 202 240"
"GradientInactiveTitle"="192 192 192"
"GrayText"="128 128 128"
"Hilight"="10 36 106"
"HilightText"="255 255 255"
"HotTrackingColor"="0 0 255"
"InactiveBorder"="212 208 200"
"InactiveTitle"="128 128 128"
"InactiveTitleText"="212 208 200"
"InfoText"="0 0 0"
"InfoWindow"="255 255 225"
"Menu"="212 208 200"
"MenuText"="0 0 0"
"Scrollbar"="212 208 200"
"TitleText"="255 255 255"
"Window"="255 255 255"
"WindowFrame"="0 0 0"
"WindowText"="0 0 0"
"MenuHilight"="210 210 255"
"MenuBar"="212 208 200"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 - making Grub2 look good

I've been using Ubuntu 9.10 for about a week now and I think it is fair to say all of my problems have been to do with Grub. Grub (the GRand Unified Bootloader - I don't know what is so Grand or Unified about it though) is upgraded in Ubuntu 9.10 from v1 to v2 - which appears to have caused widespread chaos, not least on my own netbook.

The rather basic Grub2 default menu

The first step was upgrading Grub to v2 at all. Since I had done an upgrade from Ubuntu 9.04 I still had the (working perfectly but, you know, old) Grub1 menu. There are lots of guides out there on upgrading so I won't reinvent the wheel. This one worked fine for me:

After upgrading I had the rather ugly menu above. It had extra menu options I didn't want (memtest x86 is a fine application but I know where the CD is thanks - I don't run it everyday) and was .

So, first thing to do was find nice background image! Everyone starts rebuilding their bootloader by sorting graphics, right? I went through the backgrounds in Ubuntu (in /usr/share/backgrounds), picked a simple one and made it 800x600 in The Gimp (I miss Photoshop...). It was 800x600 as that is the highest resolution Grub2 can switch to on an eee PC with its little screen (and no, it won't scale).

Editing Grub2 involves changing the config files then regenerating the menu, rather than the old way of directly editing menu.lst (which no longer exists). The menu options are built from /etc/grub.d/. Since I wanted to remove the memtest options, I remove the execute permission on the memtest file in this directory:
sudo chmod -x /etc/grub.d/20_memtest86+ 
I had saved the resized picture in my pictures folder but wanted to copy it to my backgrounds folder, where my other background images were.

sudo cp /home/edjakeman/Pictures/Climbing800600.jpg /usr/share/backgrounds/

Then I edited the Debian (Ubuntu) option from the /etc/grub.d/ folder to use the new background:

sudo gedit /etc/grub.d/05_debian_theme 

I found the section "Check for usable backgrounds" and edited it to include the directory I wanted to store the backgrounds in, the name of the file and the file type:

# check for usable backgrounds
if [ "$GRUB_TERMINAL_OUTPUT" = "gfxterm" ] ; then for i in
/usr/share/images/grub,/usr/share/backgrounds}/Climbing800600. {jpg,png,tga} ; do

I then edited the grub defaults file...
sudo gedit /etc/default/grub
In this I wanted to disable the recovery options (hey, they just look bad - why would I need them?! Its not like I mess about with system files for no reason) and change the resolution to 800x600. The important lines were:
Finally, this command used the config files to rebuild the grub menu - until its run the old configuration is still in place. This rebuilds the file /boot/grub/grub.cfg
sudo update-grub
My newly tarted up menu (that isn't me climbing)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 on an eee 901 (or Karmic Koala killed my netbook part 2)

Okay, so perhaps I was overreacting a little when I claimed that Ubuntu 9.10 had "killed my netbook". After trying for another day or so my Asus eee 901 now has Ubuntu 9.10 installed on the 16gb drive and Windows XP installed on the 4gb drive. It turned out all my problems were grub related.

The process I went through was:
  • Install Windows XP on the 4gb drive
  • Swap boot order to look at the slave 16gb drive first in the BIOS
  • Install Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on the 16gb drive. Grub1 menu should work with Ubuntu and Windows
  • Upgrade Ubuntu 9.10 by logging in and using the Update Manager. When asked about the menu.lst tell it to keep the current one.
  • Wait 5 hours... :-)
  • Log into the now upgraded Ubuntu and become "concerned" that my mousepad had stopped working and there were multiple console errors.
  • Find a USB mouse and plug it in!
  • Realise it has written the grub1 menu wrong - its using an old version of the kernal, hence the mousepad errors.
  • Run sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst to edit the grub1 menu. Copy and paste the main Ubuntu option near the bottom to make a new selection. Enter the correct kernal version. New option looks something like this (note the long uuid is specific to my pc):

title Ubuntu 9.10, kernel 2.6.31
uuid 008cd7d1-d763-429f-a540-dbxxxbe3f76
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.31-14-generic root=UUID=008cd7d1-d763-429f-a540-dbxxxbe3f76 ro
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.31-14-generic
  • Reboot again using this option - confirm the mousepad can now be enabled and works. Comment out older Ubuntu options in menu.lst
  • Ponder upgrading ugly grub text menu to grub2...
So it was all Grub's fault after all. Happily running the Koala on my eee 901 now, and liking the new desktop backgrounds. It only took 2 days!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Karmic Koala killed my netbook

I don't want to sound bitter or anything. I'm probably doing something really unusual here. What I am doing is trying to dual boot Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.10 on an Asus EEE 901 (the one with a 4gb and 16gb SSD). Windows XP is installed on the 4gb and Ubuntu 9.04 was on the 16gb, which was set as the boot drive. Everything was fine but I obviously want to try the latest Ubuntu now its out - 9.10, "Karmic Koala".

I popped the Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 disk in my external DVD drive, booted and installed, allowing it to wipe the 16gb drive and use it entirely.

Is that wrong? Really?

Anyway, the state this left it in after an apparently sucessful installation was when it boots I get the apparently infamous Error 15 message.

A quick search reveals I am far from the only person with this issue, but most of the solutions involve editing /boot/grub/menu.lst which in my case is missing altogether. So I use my highly useful Supergrub CD to boot (which works - not very convenient long term of course) into Ubuntu, which all looks satisfyingly more polished than 9.04, and I commence hacking about with Grub to get it working, with no real progress. Most of the solutions appear to be for 9.04, where this issue was hardly unknown, especially if you have tried to upgrade Grub. I wipe the whole thing and reinstall - same result. All this time you can imagine a weaker man might have pointed out to passers by that you don't get this kind of nonsense with Windows.

Anyway, deciding to come back to Grub I try doing other things and it is clear that there is more broken than just a boot menu. When I run Firefox, nothing happens. I try to run it again and I get an odd box called "Close Firefox" which then will not close. I try to run the take screenshot program (to record this chaos) but this does not work either! I borrow a digital camera off someone...

I give up. I install the eeebuntu version of "Jaunty" 9.04 and it works just fine first time.

I could take the blame myself and admit that I am no expert on Linux or Grub, but then I am hardly a complete newbie either, having been playing with Ubuntu for about 6 months and administering Linux servers for three years. I might have got this working if I was willing to spend a few days on it but quite honestly I should not have to. From this story on The Register lots of other people seem to be having random problems with this release. I am sure that under a lot of hardware Karmic works very well but its evidently not been tested on an eee 901, unless my installation really is that unusual.

I know its a cliche to say that Linux won't go properly mainstream until your average man on the street would have a chance of installing it, but its true. If I can't even install an OS on such a common piece of hardware, someone who was not technical would have no chance.

No wonder its free...

UPDATE - 06/11/2009

There are some clues here which I since picked up on. The screenshot of Grub Stage 1.5 means that Grub1 is still hanging about somewhere. The fact that /boot/grub/menu.lst was missing meant that Grub1 was not installed, but it had Grub2 installed, as it should being a fresh install. Apparently, despite the fact that I had erased the whole 16gb drive, it had not re-written the MBR. Hence the error 15 (which means "file not found" - no really?).

Its probably because I have the 16gb drive (sdb, not sda) set as the primary. And because the Ubuntu 9.10 installer was not tested properly! :-D

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where is Disk Cleanup in Windows Server 2008

The Disk Cleanup wizard and I have been on something of a journey. I used to think that it was for newbies who were wondering why the magic bucket of space that was their hard drive had somehow filled up, and they should just learn how to use a computer properly. Still, over time the Disk Cleanup wizard saved my hard drive bacon enough times for me to use it quite a lot - when you just want to clear out a load of temporary files NOW, goddammit, it was genuinly useful. Its no substitute for knowing where to look for some really big useless directories of course (c:\windows\system32\logfiles and c:\windows\servicepackfiles\ on a 2003 Server spring to mind), but hey.

And it can't be big. I mean, really. Its titchy. The executable is 208kb.

So why does Windows Server 2008 not have it installed by default? No idea, and the really odd thing is where its hidden - in the Desktop Experience Feature. You enable that and a few things happen. 40mb of space disappears, you get Windows Media Player (useful, I mean I am just about to go to the server room right now and plug some speakers into a Blade so I can watch a DVD or something). You get the opportunity of hacking the registry to display Aero. You get Sound Recorder, Windows Mail, the PHOTO GALLERY for pity's sake. What has this got to do with disk space issues? Well mainly all these apps are capable of filling your drive up with personal data.

Maybe the logic is if you have all these home apps on a server you probably NEED the disk cleanup wizard.

But the thing that really grates is that you need to reboot. No ifs or buts, the files are just not there until a reboot. Which if you have a server out of space which has to stay up is Not A Useful Engine.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fixing over-sensitive keys on an eee PC 901

As big a fan as I am of "netbook living" and the general fact that laptops are fast replacing big ugly beige desktop computers, keyboards are more of a problem than they used to be when you could just pull a spare PS/2 out of the cupboard. My Asus 901 has recently developed what it appears is a common problem among eee netbooks of an oversensitive key. In my case "o".

Yoou can imaging the humooour oof text that has the ooooletter "o" liberally spirinkoled everywhere. I had to just press a key nearby or lightly brush the actual 'o' key and I had unwanted letters. Actually pressing the key would likely result in ore vowels that were required.

An Ebay search revealed that you can buy replacements, so I took to it with a screwdriver to see if I could improve things.

I released the keyboard by releasing the three very small catches above it - shown below:

Oddly, instead of a small screwdriver I chose a butter knife to release them - just press them in, starting at one side, then the middle, then the other one. No need to pull the cable out of the back unless you are replacing the whole thing.

I then flicked the offending key off by pushing the plastic catches out from below. I held the underside of the key up with the tiny screwdriver I should have had all the time and blew underneath it - I have read this can be caused by dust between the key and the membrane.

Then I took off the plastic bit from the back of the key and attached it (with, I admit, some difficulty - I had to push the metal catch up a bit first). With the plastic bit attached okay, the key just clipped in place.

I am pleased to say that my "o" key is no longer over-enthusiastic!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Freeware IIS web log analysis - Golden Phrases!

I've never been able to find a really good log analyser for Windows that doesn't expire or cost money - the main one I use is WebLog Analyser Lite but I've noticed that after a few months the search engine phrases stop updating. Probably just a bug that will get fixed sometime but annoying since I at least partly have a website because I am interested in who finds it - and how.

I'm fascinated for instance that I overall get more traffic from "Bing" than Google. Wow. People use Bing?

Anyway, I've found another program to analyse just the search engine phrases people use to find my site and its got a great name - "Golden Phrases"! It works fine with IIS logs and under Windows 2008 Server and can be downloaded from My favourite phrases people used to get to me (though not the biggest I should add) include:
  • "The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform" (hmmm, deep)
  • "king john administrative skill" (how should I know? Never met the man)
  • "northampton boring town" (no, it's not!)
  • "Structure of the Nazi government? Chaotic?" (yep)
  • "" (no kidding!)
  • "who is obsessed" (I really don't know the answer to this. Not me though)
  • "clingy baby 8 months constant whinging" (I feel very sorry for you. Been there, done that)
  • "Children boys Babys" (That is really not how you spell babies)
  • "an alliance between middle-class reformers and working-class voters brought about" (brought about what? Don't leave us in suspense!)
  • "night at the museum 2" (I've never seen it and I'm fairly sure have never mentioned it!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Manually creating an ICA file for Xenapp 5

Bit of proper stone-age technology here! I had a need to create an ICA file to launch a Citrix app for use with EdgeSight for Load Testing (just kick off one app, in a seamless window, including authentication, without using a Web Interface server) and found no easy way of doing it.

Searching on Google comes up with two possibilies for making an ICA file. One is to use the management tools (which haven't been able to do this for about 6 years) and the other is to open your web interface, right click on one of the apps, and save the target. It'll save as *.ICA, sure; but is about 4 times longer than it needs to be and goes through the web interface, funnily enough.

So, time for Notepad! ICA files are just text files with a different extension, so start a new file in Notepad (or Notepad++ in my case) and copy what is below (which is an example to open Word 2007). Tested as working on Xenapp 5 and Presentation Server 4.0. In this case I'm saving a plain text password, which might not be ideal for you. Hopefully the fields to change will be obvious!

Word 2007=
[Word 2007]
Address=Word 2007
InitialProgram=#Word 2007
WinStationDriver=ICA 3.0

UPDATE 9 November 2009

You do all this research, find out how something works and then find Cirtix released a free tool to do the same time 2 years ago. Typical.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Using EdgeSight for load testing Xenapp

Something that we have been needing a lot of recently as we design a new Citrix Xenapp 5 farm is some way of load testing the new servers we're building so we can see how to get the best "density" (i.e. how to cram the most users on a server without them complaining).

If we asked Citrix they would tell us 64-bit is good and using XenServer is also good - so having Windows Server 2008 installed about 2-3 times on each physical server instead of just once.

A new-ish option is Edgesight - this has been around for years but is now available for Citrix Enterprise customers without paying extra money. This is rather good at monitoring CPU, Disk, etc on servers and also has a component called Edgesight For Load Testing, which is essentially a way of getting a few desktops to hammer the server with pre-recorded Citrix sessions.

A bit like a denial of service attack.

Anyway, had a lot of fun (not) creating a standalone server using SQL Express 2008 to handle this, so this is basically what I did...

  • Download the software from My Citrix. Note EdgeSight and EdgeSight for Load Testing are not the same download. That made me scratch my head for a good 10 minutes until the penny dropped.
  • Install Windows Server 2003 or 2008 - personally I found 2008 a bit slower and used about 6gb more disk space for no obvious benefit so used 2003.
  • Install SQL Server Express 2008 with Advanced Features. Don't be tempted to try SQL 2005 Express, it doesn't work. The Advanced Features bit is needed as Reporting Services is a vital component. Note that when you get to the Instance name, don't change it to Default Instance, leave it as an Instance called SQLEXPRESS. This caught me out - I usually use Default Instance if I can but later EdgeSight refused to use it, claiming that Reporting Services was not configured correctly.
  • Install the SQL Server 2005 Backward Compatibility Components.
  • (Alternatively you could just point EdgeSight at a "real" SQL Server if it has Reporting Services - 2005 or 2008 is fine in this case).
  • Install EdgeSight - this should be fairly self explainatory. The only bits that tripped me up were in the SQL Setup.
  • Setup your "Company" - install agents on the Citrix/Xenapp servers themselves (this requires a reboot - darn) and they should appear in the interface so you can monitor alerts, CPU, memory, etc.
  • Install Xenapp for Load Testing Controller on the same server and Xenapp for Load Testing Launcher on a few desktop machines.
  • Configure scripts and hammer the server!

Notice it runs out of details completely at the end - its time to figure out how Load Testing really works...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Label list on Blogger "published vis FTP" IIS Blog.

I've been trying for ages to get a decent label (categories, tags, whatever you want to call them) list or cloud working on my site. Since I publish via FTP and don't have my blog on blogspot my options are limited. Most of the remaining solutions seem to involve Apache (nope) or PHP (nope) or widgets (again...), but I have now found one that works just fine! I just needed to edit my template and make a couple of edits to get it working.

So thanks to the author for posting - shame I didn't read this a couple of years ago!

Windows 7 editions demystified

Windows Vista was regularly and rightly teased for having too many versions, and since Windows 7 is "Vista fixed", no matter what Microsoft say, they have apparently greatly simplified things. Except it appears on the face of it to be as bad as before.

So here's my take on things for the confused:

Windows 7 E Editions: Microsoft threatened these editions, which would be same as below but with no Internet Explorer. It was just to try to stop the EU giving them another half-billion euro fine and they changed their mind anyway. So you can't buy them. On the right is an artist's impression of these fictional editions.
Windows 7 Starter: Perfectly usable EXCEPT you can't change the desktop background. Oh, and you can't buy it, only have it preinstalled on a Netbook.
Windows 7 Home Basic: Like Starter but you can change the background. And you can't buy it either, unless you live in the third world.
Windows 7 Home Premium: Essentially complete, though you can't join a domain. Everyone at home should buy this.
Windows 7 Professional: Just like Home Premium but twice the cost and can join a domain. Has things no-one will use like encryption. Everyone at work should use this.
Windows 7 Enterprise: Just like Professional but with a load of features 99% of users will certainly never use and would possibly have trouble spelling. Oh, and you can't buy this either unless you are one of Microsoft's bigger customers.
Windows 7 Ultimate: Literally identical to Enterprise except you can buy it for cash from a shop. And at triple the cost of Home Premium, we're talking a lot of cash. Only useful if you are a home user with more than 16gb of RAM - so almost nobody then.

There, simple!

Wikipedia have elaborated slightly on my insightful analysis...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

SQL Server - Shrinking LDF files

No rocket science in this post, I'm more putting these commands on here in case I ever lose them!

Log (LDF) files are obviously very important on a SQL Server and shouldn't just be wiped out every time you need some disk space - most of the time its not worth forcibly shrinking them since they'll just grow back to their old size. Its better to actually backup the transaction logs so SQL Server reuses the space within them and leave yourself the option of a point-in-time restore.

Saying that, every so often you do just know they only contain junk and won't ever be that big again - say with an archive database that's just been imported and will never change, and sometime in a disk space crisis they're the only option, so these commands will safely discard them and take them back to about 1mb. Be warned though, you've just nailed all your logs, its then best to immediately do a full backup on said database. Replace DATABASE and DATABASE_log with your actual DB name and its logs name (look in its properties through Management Studio).

First execute:


Then execute:


And as if by magic, the logs are gone. Now backup, backup, backup...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Command Prompt during Windows 7 and Vista setups

After my last pointless post about launching a Command Prompt during Windows XP setup I did a bit of digging and found that:

(a) Every version Windows since Windows 2000 has allowed this during setup
(b) I appear to be the last person in the world to realise this feature existed. Apart from my colleagues, who were as impressed as anyone can be by this useless titbit.

I had to try whether the new and shiny Windows 7 had the same feature and it does! Shift-F10 during setup allows you to see the command prompt, and presumably damage Windows at its formative stages if you see fit. I am assuming Windows 2008 R2 does the same but am not sad enough to try this and screenshot it.

In the case below I limited myself to running Diskpart and looking at the crazy disk partitions that exist during Setup. I believe the reason the drive letters are "wrong" is that Windows 7 Setup deploys an image of a half built Windows 7 PC as its first stage, presumably greatly speeding up the deployment.

And I can't think of a use for that information either.

Windows 7 command prompt during setup:

Breaking out of Windows XP and 2003 Setup to command prompt

I have no idea whether this will ever be of any use, but apparently it is possible during the graphical stage of Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server setup to break out into a command prompt. I believe I had to do this once a long time ago on an XP machine to resolve a driver problem by manually renaming a file, but using it once in 7 years probably does not rank it as a crucial thing to know. There is another option that changes the setup screens to a Windows 2000-style setup which gives a bit more information about what is going on, but this may prove even less useful!

Anyway, its Shift-F10 (for command prompt) and Shift-F11 (for the slightly and inexplicably different setup screens) to access these technological wonders.

I'll update this if I ever find a genuine use for these features!

Windows XP Setup Command Prompt

Windows XP "Old Style Setup"

Windows 2003 Server Command Prompt

Windows 2003 Server "Old Style" Setup

Sunday, August 2, 2009

VMware Server 2 - great, fallen, etc

I remember the first time I used VMware Server back in 2006 - it was a happy day. Finally I was free from Microsoft's paltry virtualisation (Virtual Server - really, it wasn't so good, was it?) and while VMware Server had a curiously old fashioned feel it was stable and capable, and VMware Converter was a great way of hoovering up bad old physical servers and cramming them into VMware.

What happened? Why am I all excited about the new Windows 7 version of Virtual PC? Why is my preferred way of virtualising a Desktop PC to use VMware Converter and then immediately use a converter to turn it into a VHD that can be used in Vitual PC, Hyper-V or even Xen?

VMware Server 2.0 What were they thinking? What is that web interface all about? I've just spent about two hours trying to get it working on a PC with another Tomcat application only to find that they were scrapping for the same port. What was wrong with the old thick client? It is very slow when it does work and is very annoying to use, especially on a small screen. I've never spent so long scrolling up and down and left and right. But I have to use it sometimes because, to be fair, its support for 64-bit OS's is very good.

Hmmm, I wonder whether it is time to look at VirtualBox...

Monday, July 27, 2009

SQL Server - Operating System error 19(error not found)

Just spent some fruitless time trying to get a mothballed SQL Server 2005 machine working again to be repeatedly hit with the same less than useful error message in the Event Log - "Operating System error 19(error not found)" (Event ID 17053), followed by the SQL Server service coming crashing down. Google was less than helpful; apparently this error message should be self-explanatory!

Well, eventually the penny dropped when I tried to create a folder and couldn't do that either. Something about a write protect issue. So just to be clear...

"Operating System error 19(error not found)" means "your hard drive is write protected".


Don't ask why my entire E: drive was set as write protected, its a long and painful story.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Browser Wars update

Since I was on the subject of browsers (and have finally "come out" against Firefox) I thought I would have a look at my browser stats again. This is for 2009 so far...

Go Internet Explorer! Okay make that "Go Internet Explorer 7". IE8 appears to have taken the world less than fully by storm with 2.7%, and just what the hell are 42% of my hits coming from IE6 for?! Seriously, IE6 was released in 2001 and even Microsoft wouldn't have the gall to call it "secure" now. Move on. Firefox was in third place with 10% of traffic, which would presumably give Bill Gates a big smile.

And my personal favourite non-work browser, Chrome? 11th place, with less than 1% of traffic and worryingly one place below IE FIVE.


And whoever the two jokers trying to use the site using IE3 and Netscape 5 were should go away and think about your life choices.


I don't like Firefox.

There, I've said it. Sue me. It seems to be just me left not using it, but I've just never got on with it. It used to be that I found the sites and tools I used worked properly (or at all) only in IE, but these days its more that Firefox is just a bit smug. Honestly, I am more of a Chrome man these days, especially since IE8 took away the great webpage compatability that was virtually IE's only strength.

But I will take my hat off to Firebug. Its a debugging add-on for Firefox and almost a reason in itself to move over.

I've heard a couple of people in the office using it to find why elements of sites were not working - image links being broken, content being served from multiple domains, that sort of thing. Not wanting to be a luddite (despite the irrational reluctance to use Firefox) I gave it a try, and not having a problem website checked out my own site. Lo and behold, I had a broken image link on my home page. The embaressment! It also told me which images took the longest to download and pointed out some of the content came from, which all hardly changed my life but I was impressed by how easy it was to use and if I did actually have a problem wouldn have been invaluable. I found the "Net" tab the most useful with this information, but the HTML and CSS ones update nicely as you browse and beat the hell out of repeatedly clicking Page > View Source in IE every time you do anything and scrolling around in Notepad.

I do slightly wish I had found this when I was actually a web developer, but hey, better late than never.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

RAW disk scare

I don't like my servers to scare me, but one decided to today by pretending to lose 150gb of data. It was an NTFS drive which I moved from a Server 2003 machine to a new Windows 20008 Server. Everything seemed to be fine until I look in Disk Management and find it is "RAW" instead of "NTFS" and doesn't have a disk letter.

I do the natural thing for a calm and seasoned IT professional - assume everything is probably lost and hit Google for an answer. Luckily a colleague happened to just say as he passed "Have you actually tried giving it a drive letter?"

Well, no. I mean, is RAW, isn't it? Knackered. Except when I give it a drive letter it becomes NTFS again and starts working as if nothing ever happened.

Honestly, computers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More reasons to use Windows 7 - Resource Monitor

I don't need many reasons to start talking to increasingly bored friends and colleagues about the merits of Windows 7. As far as I am concerned it makes Windows XP and Vista look like stone age applications (which in the case of XP isn't far off, I mean its about 7 years old now...), but I still keep finding little extras in Windows 7 that make me impressed all over again.

The latest is Resource Monitor, which was in Vista and Server 2008 but is all tarted up in 7. This is essentially a beefed up version of Task Manager and gives you the kind of information you could get in previous versions of Windows only by installing lots of Sysinternals applications and really having a good idea how to use them.

It can be launched within Task Manager (presumably to wean people off this phenomenally old but still reassuring bit of Windows - I have to say I like the fact that Task Manager is still there and looks the same as it did 15 years ago. It makes you think that under Windows 7 is NT4 trying to get out) by clicking the Performance tab and then the really obvious button at the bottom of the resulting screen.

Or Click start and start typing "resource monitor" into the search bar. That works too.

What you get is a bit like Task Manager but with disk and network traffic too. Its a very good place to troubleshoot bottlenecks on a system that is running Windows 7 slowly as it can be fired up so fast to see graphs for CPU, Disk, Network and RAM. These four sections can be expanded to show the processes using the most of that resource, which in the case of Disk especially was information that was previously not so easy to come by.

The Vista one is all well and good but lacks a lot of the detail and is less customisable. And its less cool, because its in Vista, and everyone knows Vista is rubbish.
Sorry, I didn't mean to let that out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Netbook emailing - Outlook is your enemy

My quest for a stable, fast Windows installation on my Asus eee 901 netbook continues - after establishing Windows 7 was much better than XP and monumentally better than Vista I still had it slow down quite a lot as I installed a lot of apps.

Then I found the problem - Outlook 2007. Its just slow. It SHOULD work, its fine on my desktop which in theory isn't really that much more powerful. Its even okay on a 4 year old laptop I have, but in my experience Outlook is just too heavy for a netbook.

Anyway, I've swallowed my pride and enabled IMAP on my test Exchange server, and Thunderbird is, well, Thundering along.

Actually, the same all goes for IE8 - it sortof works but Chrome is faster, so Chrome it is. I'm sure Firefox is okay too but I have an unusual allergy to Firefox. I'm starting to think the way forward is a Microsoft OS and only third party apps...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eee PC 901 Netbook - Ubuntu vs Windows 7 (dual boot)

I've had my netbook for nearly two months now and have yet to settle on an operating system! So far I've tried:

- Linux Xandos (default OS - didn't like the interface, reformatted immediately)
- Windows XP (too slow, too old, too boring)
- Windows Vista (disasterously slow)
- Windows 7 (nice interface, faster than XP but still not very speedy)
- Ubuntu 9.04 (nice interface, very speedy - but hey, I want all my Widnows apps back)

So I am now trying to decide between Ubunutu and Windows 7, now a Release Candidate. I'm wiping the local drives so often I've bought a 2gb SD Card to store my documents, so I can departition the thing without losing anything. Anyway, since it took a couple of attempts to figure this out, this is how to dual boot an Asus EEE 901 (Linux version) between Windows 7 and Ubunutu

1. Make a bootable DVD of Windows 7 from the ISO, make a bootable USB stick for Ubunutu from the IMG file off the site.
2. Boot netbook and press F2 to edit bios.
3. Change the Hard Disk Priority so the secondary drive ("SS") is the first picked
4. Boot off the Windows 7 DVD using an external drive. Remove any partitions and install to the 15gb drive, leaving the 4gb one unpartitioned.
5. After installation (several cups of tea later), boot into the bios again and change the 4gb drive ("SM") to be the first in Hard Disk Priority again.
6. Boot off the Ubunutu 9.04 USB stick and select the option to install
7. Go through the installation screens until the partition selection screen. Select the option to use the entire disk, and choose the 4gb drive in the drop down. Continue and have some more cups of tea during installation.
8. You should now get a slightly questionable GRUB loader screen on bootup where you can choose between the default Ubuntu, some other stuff and "Windows Vista (loader)", which is actually Windows 7.
9. This menu is a text file that can be edited from within Ubuntu to look slightly less rubbish and remove the other options. The command (from Terminal) is "sudo vi /boot/grub/menu.lst" and the resulting text file is pretty standard stuff, provided you know how to use vi! I found uncommenting the "Pretty Colours" line especially satisfying...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

FSRM - "The command specified is under an insecure folder path"

Windows 2003 R2 and 2008 have a very cool feature - Quotas. Quotas have been around since NT4 on Windows Server but were always a bit rubbish - you had to set them by the volume and they didn't do much other than restrict file usage. 2003 R2 changed this with the File Server Resource Manager, included in 2008. FSRM is great - you can have "soft" quotas, essentially useful for reporting without restricting people, you can set different quotas on different folders, generate reports, launch programs, its great. I've been lobbying for it on the file servers at my current place since I arrived and it's making a big difference now they're in.

Saying that, I've just spent an outrageous amount of time getting quotas in FSRM to do something very basic - launch a program when a set percentage of a quota is hit. Whatever I selected I get the error "The command specified is under an insecure folder path". Google gave me nothing, something that really worried me! The program was just to send a message to HP OpenView to say there was a quota issue.

Turns out it was a couple of things. Firstly I was running the command as Local Service, which is nice and secure as it can't cause much damage but also didn't have file permission to the program it was launching. Sorted that and it still didn't work, so I directed it at a batch file intended to call the actual program and got the same error. Cue about an hour of changing permissions, running from different folders, hitting the screen, etc.

Finally on an obscure forum post I found the answer - I was calling the batch file wrong. You call CMD.exe and pass the name of the batch file as an argument, followed by any other arguments you want. It still won't look at the .exe under c:\program files but the batch file it looks at does it for it, including the arguments:

call opcmsg.exe %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6

Anyway, thought I should write this up in case someone else has the same issue, this took far too long! I get the impression not many people use the Command feature of FSRM, or if they do they found it a lot less fiddly than me...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Command line Server Manager on Windows 2008

Incredible! You can use a command line tool to install and remove system components. It even handles their dependancies and can handle system reboots as needed. Apparently if I ever used 2008 Core I would have had to use this years ago.

Another reason why Windows Server 2003 is - well, 6 years old and getting rubbish?

Run this to feel the love:

servermanagercmd -query

Monday, March 30, 2009

New IIS Website Log Cleaner Script

An update to my attempts to create a script to clean up my IIS log files, removing search engine bots and intrusion attacks and just leaving the people visiting websites - I originally used a couple of quite dirty batch files, knowing that, while effective, it was not exactly a well engineeered solution. I've now rewritten it as a Powershell script that will list all the .log files in the directory and remove lines based on keywords - its just a question of getting the keywords right. Controversially I am removing any line with "bot" in, which concievably might remove legitimate traffic.

Incidentally, I used set-content to create the tmp1.txt file and the put data in it because that was the easiest way I found of making sure Powershell didn't create Unicode encoded text files, which my web log statistics program couldn't read.

Anyway, this is the Powershell script:

Get-ChildItem *.log -name > logs.txt
$Logs = Get-Content "logs.txt"
Write-host 'Started Processing...'
ForEach($string in $Logs )
Write-host 'Processing...' $string
copy-item $string backup
$null Set-Content tmp1.txt
cat $string where { $_ -notlike "*basicstate*" -and $_ -notlike "*slurp*" -and $_ -
notlike "*Ask+Jeeves*" -and $_ -notlike "*bot*" -and $_ -notlike "*DECLARE*" -and $_ -
notlike "*blog-preview*" -and $_ -notlike "*HostTracker*" } set-content tmp1.txt
remove-item $string
ren tmp1.txt $string }

Friday, March 27, 2009

Speeding up Aero on Windows 7 and Vista

Running Windows 7 Beta on a Netbook has made me look a bit at how to make Aero a bit faster and whether it was worth having it on at all. Second question first - your PC should be faster with Aero ON. Vista especially on my Netbook was painfully slow without Aero - the reason being the main CPU and memory are doing a lot more graphics work with Aero off - turning it on shifts a whole heap of work to the Graphics processor and memory.

That doesn't mean we need every bell and whistle though, and I've found its best to remove some of Aero's effects.

To get to this page, right click Computer, click Properties, Advanced System Settings and the top Settings button, under performance. Select "adjust for best performance", then put a couple of things back on. I would suggest ticking the boxes in this picture (taken from Windows 7 Beta) - "Enable Desktop Composition" and "Use visual styles on windows and buttons" are essential as disabling these would turn off Aero. The rest are personal preference, the ones I have on here make little difference to the speed of Windows but make things more readable and useful.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Outlook 2007 chronically slow on Server 2008

Just spend a very frustrating hour and a half installing updates and hitting Google repeatedly trying to fix an apparently simple problem - Outlook 2007 SP1 installed on Windows Server 2008 x64 being slow. And I don't mean "a bit sluggish", I mean, click on the icon and literally make a cup of tea before it opens. Anyway, tried every update released (nothing), Safe Mode (still nothing), streaming it with Xenapp 5 or installing it locally (same problem) and swearing (made me feel better).

Eventually I tried a command I read on a forum post about a similar problem and it worked straight away!

Run CMD as Administrator (right click command prompt, Run As Administrator and typed
"netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=disable"

And rebooted. All sorted, flies along now. Well, I say flies along, it moves at a usable speed - so normal then. Going to do this on all our Xenapp 5 Windows 2008 servers now since they all seem to have the same issue.

Here's a post about what this changes:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Asus EEE 901 - fixing the black screen problem

Since I got it a couple of says ago me and my new Netbook have been on something of a journey - it is on its forth operating system already, if you count Linux, which barely made it out of the packaging before it annoyed me. This journey would have been much happier and smoother if it was not for one very common problem - generally known on the forums as the "Blank Screen" or "Black Screen" bug.

With XP and Vista, install was as expected until I installed the correct driver from the Intel site for the 945 Express graphics chip. After the first reboot the usual windows loading screens happen then all goes black. From the sounds and drive activity it seems to be still running but is not usable. Windows 7 had the same issue but this had the driver already, so it just went black as soon as installation finished.

A quick fix is to plug in a monitor and press fn-F5 to switch to it, then switch back, when the screen carries on working fine. Crazy!

Some digging on the forums later and it is a bug with every BIOS update for the EEE 901 after 1101, which was quite an early release. So until it is fixed properly, this is the procedure to fix the problem:

1. Get a USB stick that you don't mind formatting
2. Download and install the HP USB format tool (you don't need any HP gear to use this!)
3. Get some DOS system files - if you don't have any use these:
4. Run the tool - choose your USB drive, select Quick Format and Create a DOS Startup Disk, and navigate to the files you just got ready.
5. Download the v1101 bios from the ASUS site
6. Rename your 1101.rom file to 901.rom and copy it to your now bootable USB stick
7. With the USB stick in your EEE 901 boot it up and press ALT-F2 when its doing its BIOS checks - it should now do lots of updating. Let this process finish and it should reboot.
8. It will tell you to look at the BIOS settings, this is a good idea so press F1 when promtped. Load default settings, adjust as wanted and save and exit.

You should now be able to actually use a graphics driver!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dual booting into Windows 7 an Asus EEE 901

I recently managed to convince myself that the thing my life was lacking was a new toy - since I have a baby and a toddler toys are in no short supply in my house, but the generally crinkle or squeak rather than run beta operating systems so I decided to jump on the netbook bandwagon. After lots of reading reviews I decided Asus were still where it was at, and went for an Asus eee 901 Linux.

Linux lasted about half an hour, and that wasn't just because I was unable to persuade it to use my wireless network. I bought the netbook at least partly because I wanted to play about with installing Windows 7 beta on it - at least partly just for the challenge.

Thing is, I can't see what the fuss is about. After reading tutorials like this I thought this was going to be rocket science, in fact it seemed so complicated, with bootable SD cards (don't have one) and messing about with vlite and the Windows AIK and using Startup Repair from the DVD that I decided to just just sick a DVD in the (external) drive and see what happened. Actually, I installed XP first (while Windows 7 build 7057 downloaded) on the 4gb partition, then formatted the 15gb partition and installed Windows 7 to there. Job done - I now am dual booting Windows 7 and XP, so I can decide which one is faster (obviously XP) and better (obviously Windows 7).

Anyway, since everyone else is publishing guides to getting Windows 7 on a Netbook, this is mine for dual booting XP and Windows 7. If somoeone can tell me why mine seem to have half the steps of everyone else's that'd be great! Oh, and this works just fine with Vista, I found 7 to be much faster than Vista on the 901 though.

1. Make sure you are running bios version 1001 or 1101 - these are the only current versions that will work in XP and Windows 7 without an external monitor!
2. Plug in your external DVD drive and change the bios to boot off it.
3. Pop in your Windows XP Professional CD and boot
4. Delete all partitions on the 4gb and 16gb drives. Create partitions on both and install to the 4gb one.
5. Get the latest drivers from the Asus site, install everything and connect to the (wireless?) lan.
6. Format the 16gb D: drive and copy the contents of the Windows 7 DVD to it. Run Setup
7. Install Windows 7 to the big partition.
8. After install, remove the Windows 7 installation files, they're just taking up space.

Yep, that's it. Anyway, I will soon make a decision about which OS to go for (probably 7) and rebuild to save space, but for now its all working lovely.

Just got to get used to tiny keyboard now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

De-googling my website logs

One of the reasons I have a website is fascination with the logs that are generated by IIS, seeing what browser and operating system visitors use, how many each day, what they type into Google and Live Search (and other search engines of course, but to be fair two thirds of my traffic is from Google and Live is almost everything else). Yes, you are being watched!

I use WebLog Expert to analyse the logs every few days which makes lovely HTML reports with graphs and stuff. For instance, here are the operating systems you're all using!

I've always thought though that the impressive list of visitors each day were being inflated by search engine bots, sites I use to check the site is up by "visiting" it and frankly attempts to hack the site. There was a spike in traffic in August 2008 for instance that turned out to be a 3 day long SQL injection attack! Of course I never knew how many were real people.

Anyway, I decided to make them "pure", just real people, no automated traffic. I discarded logs from before 2008 but had over a year of log files - about 450 text files, most of them hundreds of lines, so I clearly needed something to process them. IIS 7 logfiles are quite simple - each line is a visitor doing something - downloading an image for instance - with lots of information on the same line, like the previous site visited, IP address, OS, etc. You coming to this page will have generated quite a few lines of text. The good thing though is that if you can find the lines to remove all the information is very cleanly removed.

So, I started looking at what to remove from the logs. Most of the rubbish lines were from search engine bots which I started to identify one at a time - Googlebot, MSNbot, etc - until the penny dropped they all had bot in their name. I found the SQL injection attacks all start DECLARE. I excluded basicstate, hosttracker and blogger, since any line with those in are basically me. In the end, the list of strings to look for to identify unwanted lines are (so far):
- bot
- ysearch/slurp
- basicstate
- HostTracker

I will find a better way to do this soon, but the first attempt is:
1. Make a text file of all the log file names (Open CMD, "dir *.log /b > list.txt")
2. Rename list.txt to a batch file, add "call processlog " before each log file name
3. Create a batch file called processlog.bat to do the procecssing.

The batch file is below - basically it reads the whole contents of the file minus any lines with a string in to a temporary file, then to another temporary file against another string, until its done, then replaces the original file. Simple! Okay, this is a very inefficient method but it worked just fine. It incidentally reduced my stats by about 75%!!! But I know they are real now....
copy %1 backup /Y

type %1 find /v "bot" > tmp1.txt

type tmp1.txt find /v "basicstate" > tmp2.txt

type tmp2.txt find /v "ysearch/slurp" > tmp1.txt

type tmp1.txt find /v "DECLARE" > tmp2.txt

type tmp2.txt find /v "" > tmp1.txt

type tmp1.txt find /v "HostTracker" > tmp2.txt

del %1 /Q

del tmp1.txt

ren tmp2.txt %1

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monitoring Uptime

After a couple of incidents recently where my (rubbish) Linksys router decided to silently remove my web forwarding rule I decided to try to put some kind of monitoring in place that my websites were actually working. A bit of Googling later and there seemed to be loads of these - I ended up with two of them! allows a half hour check for a couple of websites and sends emails when there is a problem and daily with uptime statistics. is a similar proposition, though I have found it more fiddly to set up and not as reliable checking. Very nicely though it does let you have an image on your site with your verified site uptime:

It was 100% for ages but then I had a virtual machine go nuts for an afternoon.

Anyway, personally I found that a combination of the both of them works very nicely, and haven't found it necessary to upgrade to their paid service which checks more often and can send SMS messages. I have found it necessary to create copies of my website though with slightly different addresses, such as, which dont log usage at all. I direct the checks at these, or I find that my web stats are skewed by a couple of obsessive fans checking the site 24 times a day each!

Friday, January 16, 2009

No To All

In another example of me learning things about Windows 2003 after 6 years of using it and just as we start to move away, I've just learned that there is a No To All button in Windows after all. Not something that kept me up at night, but from time to time I've had to click a No button a few hundred times as I copy stuff into a folder and don't want to overwrite, and I always thought it was an oversight. In fact I seem to remember cursing Windows as I developed cramps pummelling the mouse button few times.

I learn today that you just hold down Shift and click the No button and there you have it, it does a "no to all". Intuitive! Now, who thought it was worth programming that whole feature in but couldn't be bothered to make a button for it I don't know, I'm sure it can't have been that hard to go that extra mile! Thanks to Michael Bird for the tip, years too late as it is!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Create PDFs with Office 2007 for free

Why do some of the best features of Microsoft products have to be download separately (if you know they exist) rather than just coming with the product?! Its as if they keep releasing unfinished software or something.


Anyway, just noticed this fine add-on for Office 2007 - "Microsoft Save As PDF or XPS". Now I might live 100 years before being asked to save something as XPS (I assume its Microsoft's PDF killer...) but the PDF one is damn useful, especially for someone like me who has some serious issues with Adobe Acrobat, a program not much smaller than Office itself now.

Jacqui Smith to end privacy for our own sake

In story which appears to have sneaked out with far less fanfare than what amounts to the Death Of Liberty (too much?) would deserve, the government is intending to create a monster database of every phone call, text, email and website visit in the UK. Apparently, these details will be kept for 12 months and the system is estimated to cost a whopping £12 billion (so presumably it will cost about double that). I have a couple of concerns about this:
  • We do live in a free society, don't we? Not content with filming us every time we leave our homes the Government want to track everything we type while in them. I am "not happy" with this.
  • It won't work. The bigger the Government IT project, the more likely it is to never be delivered.
  • Its a waste of billions of pounds? £12 billion between the population of the UK is £200 each. Can I just have the £200 and you agree not to track my every move? Actually, include my whole household and make it £800.
  • I have to come back to the whole freedom and privacy thing. Its worth saying twice. This is wrong.
  • IF it worked, the possibility of a laptop with all my emails and texts and web surfing history being left on a train or sold on eBay or something is just a bit too real.
The usual arguments about stopping criminals and terrorists will be trotted out of course, but fitting 1984 style surveillance into every home in the country could be justified on these grounds. You have to draw a line somewhere, and this is way over any reasonable placing of that line.

This was all announced in November, the new bit to this story is that our wonderful home secretary Jacqui Smith has now proposed that this nightmare Orwellian project be outsourced to a private contractor to reduce costs. So now on top of everything else it will all be handled by the lowest bidder, probably not even a UK company. Not that I'm saying I trust the Govenment with this information either you understand, but this does sound worse.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

UK Police allowed to hack into your PC

Apparently the police are now allowed to hack into our PCs without a warrant.

This is usually achieved by injecting key-logging software or sending Trojans in emails to acquire internet browsing and email habits and is generally referred to by the fluffy sounding "remote searching.

And when I say "The Police", apparently this includes Police from elsewhere in the EU being able to get permission from the UK Police to hack PCs here. While I have as little to hide from the Spanish police as I do from Her Majesty's Constabulary, this is murky stuff.