Footnotes in Markdown

Using markdown is great. Creating and using footnotes in markdown is very manual. Painful even.

So I’ve created a Keyboard Maestro shortcut to make them easier.

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Note Writing

I’ve been slowing focusing more on my writing — in a journal, status updates, client communications and documentation. Part of improving my writing is the taking of notes. The way I’ve taken notes has been rather slowly improving, but today I stumbled upon someone who is thinking and writing about writing notes.

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Migrate Multiple Databases to Single New Database

We are doing a multiple database migration into a new single database. The wrinkle here is that one database we are migrating is a copy of one of the other databases we are migrating. At some point in the past, one division took a copy of the database and started using their own copy.

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How to Convert a Number From Negative to Positive

Doing a calculation today to see how many hours a support case is open, using the following sugarlogic formula:


I get a negative value returned. Whilst accurate, the client is wanting to see this as a positive integer, not a negative integer.

So the question I had was “How do I convert a negative number to a positive number?”

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Use SQL to Get Dropdown List Values

We’ve got an application (Act!) that uses MSSQL as it’s backend. There is a dropdown list in there, and we want get a list of all the dropdown values that are in use, and also how many records use each value.

Thus this, SQL snippet does that.

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Act! Address Field Type ID Values

Doing a data extract from an Act! database, and the address fields are kept in a MSSQL database table called TBL_ADDRESS and the address types are differentiated by the TBL_ADDRESS.TYPEID field.

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Count Number of Records Per Value

Working with a SQL database today, wanted to know how different values there were in a column, and how many records each of those values had. The sql snippet here give me that answer.

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Running Jekyll Serve From Command Line

When working with a Jekyll site locally, it’s useful to use the command jekyll serve to be able to view the site locally. However this ties up a terminal window. How to not keep a terminal window busy?

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Person Name Conventions

Just putting together a short spreadsheet of fake names to use for an import in a training session and the subject of conventions around peoples names came up. As it happens, not everyone has a firstname and a lastname (or family name).

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Jekyll Server Error - 'gems' to 'plugins'

On running jekyll serve I was getting this error:

jekyll serve
Configuration file: /Users/ben/git/
       Deprecation: The 'gems' configuration option has been renamed to 'plugins'. Please update your config file accordingly.
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Minimal CSS

I agree with Frank when he says that a good minimal start for css is the following:

p {
    font-family:    Georgia, serif;
    line-height: 1.5;
    max-width: 33em;

I’ve borrowed shamelessly stolen some of his CSS for here.

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Installing Ruby Despite Errors

In order to run Jekyll Now locally, so I can see changes before they are committed and published publicly, I’ve needed to get Ruby installed. However each attempt produced this error

ERROR:  While executing gem ... (Gem::FilePermissionError)
    You don't have write permissions for the /Library/Ruby/Gems/2.3.0 directory.

This answer on StackExchange which advises using this automated script (laptop), in combination with ensuring that the correct instance of ruby is in the PATH variable solved my problems.

The automated script can be run multiple times. In fact you should regularly run it to keep the components up to date. Thank you Moncef.

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Hello Jekyll Now

I’ve setup this site using Jekyll Now and I’m hopeful it might be where I transfer my exising blog to. The blog prior to now has been powered by WordPress, this (currently) test site is powered by Jekyll.

It would mean an export of those posts from WordPress into markdown files, and the use of custom domains on GitHub.

Why the change?

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Flickr/Yahoo! UX Failure

A long time ago I had a Flickr account. Then things changed and I no longer used, a lot of time has passed. But today, I decided, I could use a Flickr account.

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Bunch (open a bunch of apps)

More goodness from Brett Terpstra, with Bunch which, on macOS, lets you start a bunch of apps (and close them) quickly and easily. It’s pretty grape (Dad pun intended).

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I Don't vs. I Can't

Just read this great article by James Clear How to Say No, Resist Temptation, and Stick to Your Health Goals where he discusses the difference between saying “I can’t do x” vs saying “I don’t do x”. The difference in outcomes is greater than I thought.

While he is discussing the use of this phraseology with regard to health and exercise, it strikes me as very applicable to other areas of life also:

  • I don’t miss my morning walk
  • I don’t do social media until after my morning work session
  • I don’t interrupt others

I will spend some time thinking about how best I can benefit from this “don’t vs can’t” thinking.

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Concatenate Fields via ODBC Query

Today I wanted to concatenate some fields with some text. We are pulling some data from MYOB for import against a client record in SugarCRM and want to tidy it up as we go.

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Git Workflow Explained Simply

Git is a Code Versioning System (aka CVS) .

It lets multiple developers, programers and project managers all work on the source code for a project with minimal stepping on each others toes. The workflow we use is as follows.

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SSH and Private Key usage on Mac OS X

It’s very important that your private keys are kept secure and away from prying eyes.

A good place to keep your private keys is in the folder ~/.ssh as this makes it easier to manage (this is a subfolder of your home folder).

You then want to set the permissions of the private key file to 600.

chmod 600 ~/.ssh/privatekeyfile.pem

Then you can ssh to the server from the command line using:

ssh -i ~/.ssh/privatekeyfile.pem.pem root@fqdn -p 22

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Find JIRA Issues with Attachments

When you just know you’ve attached a file to a JIRA issue, but can’t find it, this is the search to do in Issues in JIRA

Replace PKEY with your project key.:

project = PKEY AND type != Epic and attachments is not EMPTY ORDER BY Status ASC

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When SugarCRM Case Closed

Using the cases.date_modified is not the same as the date a case is closed, as the case may have been modified after it was closed.

Thus, the query below will return the date the case was transitioned to Closed provided the cases.status field is being audited.

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Get the Weather From the Command Line

On Mac OS X or Linux (in fact anywhere you get the finger command) you can quickly get the weather. Jared, in our office here, just showed this to me, neato! :)


I particularly like the one line weather report


To get more info on how to use this, run this from your command line:



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Find Process to Kill Process

Need to find a process so you can kill it?

Find the process first, replace NAMEOFPROCESS with the name or part thereof of the process you’re trying to find:

ps -ax | grep NAMEOFPROCESS

The first column lists the process id.

Then kill the process, replacing PROCESSID with the actual number of the process:


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Find an IP address in files

Ever been looking for a config file that contains an incorrect IP address?

If the IP address you’re looking for is

Then this command is for you:

find . -type f -exec grep -l {} \;

It’ll find all occurrences of that appear in files in the current directory and folders below it. With that short list you should be able to find where you need to edit.

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Binge Learning is Failure

Good info from Scott Young:

A great deal of psychological research shows that studying in a burst is less effective than study sessions spaced out over time. Blogs naturally embody the latter method, dripping out ideas over weeks and months instead of in a burst.

Bolding mine.

This aligns with what I was listening to on Tim Ferris’s podcast where he talks with Luis von Ahn where Luis says that users of Duolingo get best results with 20-30 minutes per day rather than bingeing.

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Olixar Universal Bike Phone Mount

I commute to work every day on my motorcycle, it’s a 52 kilometre trip each way. Wearing my headphones, Waze lets me know of any accidents or hazards ahead but because the phone is in my jacket pocket, I only hear such warnings, I don’t see them. It would be nice to see the Waze screen.

I was talking with the folks over at MobileZap, who said I should try out a Olixar Universal Bike Phone Mount on the bike. So for the last month I’ve been quite happily riding around, able to see the screen with an easy glance. An added side benefit is that when I’ve received a phone call, I can see who it is and decide if I’ll pull over and talk or not. Previously I’d just ignore all phone calls whilst riding.

photo of the Olixar bike phone mount

The holder itself I thought looked a bit flimsy, however it has held up really well while I’ve ridden through both really hot days (34°C) and heavy rain.

After placing the phone between the two grippy holders, simply squeeze them together and the phone is securely held. I’m using an iPhone 6 in an Otterbox Defender case and it accommodates the larger case quite well. There is a small fold-out piece at the bottom if you’re worried about it falling out the bottom, but I’ve found I don’t need it, the phone doesn’t slip or move while in the holder at all.

To release the phone, there is a small button on the lower right hand side, pressing it causes the two holders to release their grip. Although I was concerned initially that it wouldn’t hold my phone securely, it turns out that it does hold it really well, I’m now quite confident that the phone won’t come loose and fall out while I’m riding.

If you’re looking for a phone holder to fit to your road bike, I can happily recommend this one.

Thanks to MobileZap for providing this product for me to test out.

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Tracking down long running queries in SQL

I’ve had a client whose Linux Server (CentOS) gradually gets slower and slower, then falls over.

By logging into the MySQL command line, we were able to see that there were some long running queries that never end.

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Location of the SugarCRM log file

By default it’s in the same base folder as the SugarCRM application files. But on occasion we’ll move it. Quickly find it’s location by looking in the config.php file. The two relevant lines are:

‘log_dir’ => ‘/var/log/sugarcrm/’,

‘log_file’ => ‘sugarcrm.log’,

If you’re at the command line, then this makes it easy:

grep 'log_dir' config.php

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Find a file on a linux server

From the command line

find / -name 'index.html' 2>/dev/null

This will find and display all occurances of index.html and all the errors will not display.

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How long running are those queries?

At the MySQL commandline, you can enter

show processlist;

and see what processes are running.

If you’re tracking down some problematic code and you’ve got a query (or set of queries) that don’t end, consume CPU cycles and generally bog everything down to a crawl, it can be helpful to know what time you’ve run the command above.

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Hotkey for New Day One entry from selection

I use Day One to journal. There is a service that creates a new Day One entry from the selection, but it didn’t have a hotkey associated with it. So I’ve set one up.

First (optional) step is to use to make your CAPS LOCK key useful. Big thanks to Brett Terpstra for that, I use that for loads of other shortcuts.

Next step is to add a shortcut for the New Day One Entry With Selection using the instructions to create keyboard shortcuts in the Apple knowledge base.

I used CAPSLOCK D as the hotkey to send whatever I’ve got currently selected to Day One as a new entry, works a treat.

Note: this is ^⇧⌥⌘ D using the optional first step, so it is the same as pressing Control, Shift, Option, Command, D all at the same time.

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Encrypt and decrypt .zip files on Mac OS X

I just needed to compress and encrypt some files on Mac OS X. The following command does that:


This will ask for a password (twice to confirm it), encrypt and compress the sourcefolder and put it into a file named target (and auto add the .zip extension).

To unzip it do this:


This will ask for the password, decrypt and uncompress it into the targetfolder.

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VPS Hosting Deal 20% off

This is a time limited deal, if you go to and sign up, use the coupon code ‘benhamilton’ to get 20% off your order.

I have a VPS hosted with Cloudatcost myself and I know a few others that do as well, so I can vouch for their service.

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Faster Numbering of OmniFocus Tasks

I wrote up how I’m numbering tasks in OmniFocus, but I’ve now modified the Keyboard Maestro recipe so it’s just a touch faster.

Here’s a screenshot:

Updated, faster recipe for numbering tasks in OmniFocus

I’ve also since created a separate recipe in Keyboard Maestro for each key Project I have in OmniFocus, each with it’s own .txt file that it refers to. This lets me do ,,taskadmin and it’ll spit out “(Admin #7)” or if I type ,,taskcrm it’ll spit out “(CRM #15)”.

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Numbering tasks in OmniFocus 2 for Mac OS X

I’m using OmniFocus 2 on my MacBook Pro and wanting to ‘number’ tasks because at the end of each week, I print a PDF of the tasks completed and outstanding for a particular client. Task numbers make it much easier for the client to reconcile the work I’ve done with the lists they use.

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MySQL - Counting how many rows have a particular value

Working on a SugarCRM dashboard today, and I needed to count how many records had one value and how many records had a second value. I then wanted to know what percentage the first value was of the total. So there’s a bit of MySQL code that helps make this easy to do.

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Truth, Justice and Coffee

We all want to achieve. We want the truth, we want justice. But above all, we want our coffee. Coffee is the fuel that powers our quest for truth and justice. Let the world know that you are in pursuit of truth, justice and coffee by ordering your own tshirt by clicking here to order yours.

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Short list of software I'm using

Just a quick post of some software that I use, that I’ve just discussed with Seth (he knows who he is).

All useful, but the starting point is better task management, so start with Nozbe.

PS: also see remapping the CapsLock key.

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The Expert

The Expert is a short youtube clip that illustrates what being billed as the “the expert” can feel like sometimes. Fortunately it’s not a common occurrence.

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Activate IFTTT SMS Channel on Optus in Australia

How to activate the SMS channel on IFTTT on the Optus network in Australia.

Assuming your mobile number was 0410 123 456.

Drop the leading zero = 410 123 456. Add the Australian country code 61 to the front = 61 410 123 456. Add 00 to the front of the number 00 61 410 123 456. Remove all the spaces = 0061410123456.

Use this number (0061410123456) to active the SMS channel on IFTTT.

Hat tip to @Trail_929 for the pointer.

If this works for you on other networks in Australia, please let me know.

Update 2014-05-12 : I’ve had a few people on Optus Post Paid that haven’t been able to get this to work. It’s worth noting that IFTTT also now has both iOS and Android notification channels available, they may do the trick for you.

Update 2015-04-22 : Alex Townsend says he has it working on Vodafone.

Update 2015-11-02 : Marissa Roberts has confirmed it’s still working today.

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Screenshot & screencasts on Mac OSX

Back when I worked exclusively on a Windows machine, I loved using Screenpresso for the ease with which it allowed me to do screenshots and screencasts (if you’re still stuck on Windows, go buy it, it’s worth it).

But now that I’m on a Mac, what to do?

So to start with just press SHIFT - CMD - 4 and you can take a screen shot. It’s a native Mac thing.

If you have Dropbox installed go to Preferences | Import and tick the Share screenshots using Dropbox option.

If you want to do screencasts, then fire up QuickTime Player ( CMD - SPACE | Quicktime ↩ ) then press CTRL - CMD - N to start video recording.

That’s how easy it is on a Mac.

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Sharing a host folder with a guest Virtual Machine

I’m using VMware Fusion on my MacBook. At times I have either files on the local host (the MacBook) that I want to edit or installers that I want to run on the guest (the virtual machine).

With your virtual machine running, click on the Settings icon, select Sharing | Shared Folders ON | tick Downloads .

Your local “Downloads” folder will now be available to your virtual machine.

![VMware Fusion Settings Sharing](/images/VMwareFusionSettingsSharing.png)

SharedFolders On

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How to get Google Chrome to open your pages from your last session

I use Google Chrome as my primary browser on the MacBook.

Although I only restart the machine every few weeks I like it to re-open the same tabs that were open last.

To do this, in Google Chrome type chrome://settings/  into the address bar and press enter.

This loads the Settings page. Then check the  Continue where I left off setting. Close the tab. You’re done. :)

Google Chrome On Startup Continue Where I Left Off

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How to change drive space on VMware Fusion VM

On occasion you’ll want to change the size of a Virtual Machines hard disk drive. I’m using VMware Fusion, and to do this, you enter the Settings of that VM and under the Hard Disk option you’ll be able to change the drive size.

VMware Fusion Settings Hard Disk Note that you can’t make changes if the VM has snapshots of it.

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Backup because only the paranoid survive

I first heard the quote “only the paranoid survive” about 1999 or 2000. But it’s only recently I’ve heard the full quote. Which is:>Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.

For more Quotes from Andy Grove visit this quote page.

This thinking applies to so many things, but one I often apply it to is backups. Yes the humble yet oft forgotten backup.

Just because everything is working, and going along swimmingly, we become complacent, we forget or put off doing a backup of our files, our photographs etc. This is when we most need to do our backup, so that when a problem arises, we have that backup to go to.

Thus (and this is the question that prompted me writing this) is “what do I use to backup?”.

I use both Dropbox and Backblaze. You may think they both serve the same purpose. They don’t.

I use Dropbox to make files available to myself across all the platforms I use, and I use it to share files and folders with others. In a sense it backs up my data, but that’s not what it’s there for.

To backup my data, workfiles, photos, music and emails I use Backblaze. Backblaze quietly sits in the background and backs up everything. Those files don’t have to be in my Dropbox folder to be backed up. It’s the easiest, cheapest and most effective offsite backup solution you can implement.

If you aren’t paranoid about losing your files, you don’t need to do anything. If you are, and I am, you need to start backing up. You’ve got no excuses. Complain to me and it’ll fall on deaf ears.

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So you bought an Apple computer...

I know two people who have just bought themselves new Apple Mac computers, one a behemoth desktop, the other a 15” MacBook Pro. Both have been immersed in “Windows World” and are essentially new to the Mac OS (one did have a Mac years ago).

So, where to start?

Here are my initial tips:*Be prepared for some frustration. It doesn’t work the way you’re used to. Yes, it’s change. It’s worth it, you’ll be more productive, I am.

*The keyboard and the trackpad are your friend. More than you know. Learn the ‘gestures’. single tap on the trackpad is a left click, two finger tap on the trackpad is a right click.

*Get in the habit of pressing the ‘Option’ key. You’ll suddenly find extra options.

*Use COMMAND-SPACE to start Spotlight. Use Spotlight.

*Use Google Chrome as your browser.

*Working with words? do your drafts in ByWord. Power tip: learn Markdown.

*Working with programming code? use TextWrangler.

That’s a start. I’m sure they’ll have more questions yet.

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How I use Evernote on the Mac

I’m a big fan (BIG) of Evernote. I started out using the free service but couple of years ago upgraded to the paid service. How and why do I use it?

Evernote for me is basically my online and offline, on every device I own, digital filing cabinet.

Anything I want to come back to or refer to in the future goes into Evernote. Because it will OCR photo’s and PDF’s I can search and retrieve anything in a snap.

For example, my mail systems (both Gmail and MS Exchange) have rules set to auto forward all the bills I get into Evernote. When my wife calls and says “Have we paid the phone bill?” or “When did we last pay the phone bill?” I simply open Evernote on whatever device is closest to hand, and do a search. I get a list of all the PDF’s, emails, JPG’s etc that are in there. (When we pay a bill we take a screenshot and send it to Evernote, it get’s OCR’ed and index an is thus findable so so easily). The search in Evernote is great.

This makes me far more productive because it means I know I only need to look in one place to find whatever I want.

Side note: Wouldn’t it be great if I could do the same in a ‘native’ way with things like Act! or SugarCRM (both CRM packages)? (I do but it’s a workaround). Bonus, you can tightly integrate Evernote with Nozbe (Task Management package).

Previously So you bought an Apple Computer…

Disclaimer: Yes the links to Evernote and Nozbe lets them know you got there via me.

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Do you use the Apple FireVault to encrypt your drive?

Do you use the Apple Mac FireVault?

I’m not. At least, not yet. Given the warning it gives prior to turning it on I’ve not yet turned it on. Should I? or should I not?

This is the warning that appears:>WARNING: You will need your login password or a recovery key to access your data. A recovery key is automatically generated as part of this setup. If you forget both your password and recovery key, the data will be lost.

Your thoughts/input/experience appreciated.

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Apple Mac Firewall

I do use the Apple Mac builtin firewall, I’ve started with the default settings and only changed what I need when I need.

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What version of MySQL is running?

On a CentOS 6.x linux box, typing the following will show the MySQL version

mysql -v

or if not the root user, then

mysql -u root -p -v (Which says user the root user, prompt for the password, then get the version).

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Australian Privacy Law Reform Changes

There are changes to the Australian Privacy Laws.

Details here:

This does raise some questions around where you’re hosting data. If you’re using the ‘cloud’ (Google Drive/Apps, hosted CRM, Virtual Servers etc) then you may want to read up and make sure you’re not setting yourself up for a problem.

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How to resolve a Talend Execution failed due to access is denied error

Have Talend Open Studio running on a Windows server, however, when we run a job, it gives an error similar to the below:

Execution failed : Failed to generate code. [No .class file created for file org\talend\designer\codegen\translators\processing\TMapMainJava$1.class in C:/Talend/TOS_DI-Win32-r111943-V5.4.1/workspace/.JETEmitters/runtime because of an IOException: C:\Talend\TOS_DI-Win32-r111943-V5.4.1\workspace.JETEmitters\runtime\org\talend\designer\codegen\translators\processing\TMapMainJava$1.class (Access is denied)

It turns out that the windows file permissions are not set correctly, by giving the Windows Users Full permissions to the file mentioned in the error message, the error resolves. Note that if this is the case there may be a number of files with the wrong permissions.

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How to convert UTC time to current timezone in MySQL

Using SugarCRM (this client is using Enterprise 6.5.15) and we want the last two hundred items in the tracker table. The problem is that the tracker.date_modified field is in UTC time, not the local time zone, which is +10:00.

The solution is to use the CONVERT_TZ MySQL command, as shown in the example below. It will convert between timezones for you.

SELECT users.user_name AS “User”, tracker.module_name AS “Module”, tracker.item_summary AS “Summary”, tracker.action AS “Action”, CONVERT_TZ(tracker.date_modified,’+00:00’,’+10:00’) AS “Modified” FROM users INNER JOIN tracker ON = tracker.user_id WHERE tracker.deleted = 0 ORDER BY tracker.date_modified DESC LIMIT 200

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Remove thousand separator in Integers in SugarCRM

We want to record a Year value on a record in SugarCRM, but we don’t have a day and month to do with it, you can’t use a field that is of a ‘date’ type as that requires a full date (year, month, day).

You can use an Integer field type tho. The downside is that it displays a thousands separator. i.e. it’ll show 2,014 instead of 2014.

To fix this, tick the Disable Format check box in Studio. This will remove the thousand separator.

Screenshot 2014-02-05 13.05.04

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iCloud folder location

On Mac OSX (Mavericks) you can find your ‘iCloud’ documents in the relevant application folder like this:

/Users/ USERNAME /Library/Mobile Documents/ CODE_AND_APP_NAME /Documents/ Each application keeps its own documents in a sandboxed folder.

You can make an alias for a file and then move that to an appropriate folder, for example, I’m using Byword on the Mac, iPad and iPhone, thus I want my ‘’ file kept in iCloud. Putting an alias to it on the desktop makes it easy to edit on the Mac. Using GeekTool I can have it automagically display the contents of ‘’ on the desktop, essentially a ‘live’ file no matter where I edit it, even from iDevices.

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Using a ternary operator in Talend Open Studio

I’m currently preparing some data for import into SugarCRM for a client. The source data has a column that contains the given names (i.e. “Jane Mary”) and a second column containing the surname (i.e. “Doe”).

Using Talend Open Studio we want to separate the given names into first_name and middle_names columns. So, how do we split the first name and middle name?

By using in the tMap component an expression.

For the first name, we do this:

StringHandling.INDEX(row1.GivenNames,” “) > 0 ? StringHandling.LEFT(row1.GivenNames,StringHandling.INDEX(row1.GivenNames,” “)) : row1.GivenNames

And to extract the middle name/s we use this expression:

StringHandling.INDEX(row1.GivenNames,” “) > 0 ? StringHandling.RIGHT(row1.GivenNames,StringHandling.LEN(row1.GivenNames)-StringHandling.INDEX(row1.GivenNames,” “)–1) : “”

This type of expression are known as a ternary operation - see examples.

The basic format of a ternary operation is this:

test condition ?

do this if true :

do this if false

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Multiple ternary expressions

This is how to use Talend to concatenate multiple columns (fields) into one field neatly.

Say we have three fields, row1.field1, row1.field2, row1.field3 that we want to insert into a output.notes column.

In the tMap component, use the following expression:

(StringHandling.LEN(row1.field1) > 0 ? “Field 1: “+row1.field1+” “ : “”)+(StringHandling.LEN(row1.field2) > 0 ? “Field 2 “+row1.field2+” “ : “” )+(StringHandling.LEN(row1.field3) > 0 ? “Field 3 Address: “+row1.Address+”, “+row1.Suburb+”, “+row1.State+”, “+row1.Pcode+” “ : “”)

What this does is check to see if field1 has anything in it (i.e. has a length longer than 0), if it does, it adds the field and a space after it to buffer it against the next field. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t insert anything. It then does the same for fields 2 and 3.

Updated 2014-01-30 12h49m to put the code in a html code block and fix the double quotes which had been ‘smartly’ but wrongly changed.

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Why Bitcoin matters - Micropayments

This was new to me:>A third fascinating use case for Bitcoin is micropayments, or ultrasmall payments. Micropayments have never been feasible … because it is not cost effective to run small payments … All of a sudden, with Bitcoin, that’s trivially easy. Bitcoins have the nifty property of infinite divisibility: currently down to eight decimal places after the dot, but more in the future. So you can specify an arbitrarily small amount of money, like a thousandth of a penny, and send it to anyone in the world for free or near-free.

Source: New York Times.

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Insufficient Disk Space Warning When Attempting to install

Quick easy fix for Insufficient Disk Space Warning When Attempting to Unpack and Install a Sage ACT! Update or Hot Fix. The error arises from the fact that the free space on the drive is a multiple of 4GB. The underlying issue is to do with a bug in InstallShield. To fix this create a file of 1GB, changing your free space available, to do so quickly, from a windows command prompt, on the drive affected run this command:

fsutil file createnew 1gbfile.bin 1024000 This creates a 1GB file. You no longer have free space that is a multiple of 4GB. Do the install, then delete the 1gbfile.bin file. More on fsutil on Technet.

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Convert multiple Microsoft Excel files to .csv files with 3 clicks

I often get given Microsoft Excel files to import them into a database. Normally we’ll work with the files in the Excel to clean up data (phone numbers, Addresses, Titles, etc) but then save them as .csv files to do the actual import.

On my MacBook this is now an easy task because I’ve setup a ‘Service’ with Automator. In Finder I simply select the files I want converted, right click, select Services and select Convert Excel to csv files. Job done. Heaps quicker than doing them one at a time.

Screenshot of Convert Excel files to csv service in Automator

Screenshot showing service in use

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What are EPUB and PDF files, and which one should I use?

EPUB files are one of the most popular ebook formats. They have an advantage over PDF files (discussed below) in that they will reformat their content to the size of your screen. This means that if I view the book or document on a computer screen it will have more words per line, more lines per page, thus it may only have 10 pages. On a smart phone, that same document will have fewer words per line, fewer lines per page and it may have 100 pages. This is an advantage when reading on a smart phone as it means you can increase/decrease the text size to suit your eyes, and only have to turn pages, not scroll horizontally. EPUB files are viewable on almost all devices.

PDF files are one of the most popular format for sharing information. Their primary benefit is that they layout stays the same across all devices. This means that if the author of the book or document want words or pictures to appear in a specific place on a specific page, they will and all those viewing it will see it the way it was intended. This means that on a smart phone you’ll need to scroll horizontally and vertically to see the entire page. PDF files are viewable on almost all devices.

So, to answer the original question, which is best?

If you’re using a smart phone or tablet, I’d tend toward using EPUB files. If your primary use is on a computer/laptop and tablet then I’d tend toward a PDF.

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Get SAMBA running on linux

This article here describes how to get SAMBA running on a Raspberry Pi.>The protocol, which is known as the Common Internet File System (CIFS) – but was originally called Server Message Block (SMB), has been implemented on other operating systems including Linux. The most popular implementation is known as Samba and it allows devices like the Raspberry Pi to act as a CIFS file server. To put it another way, it allows a Windows PC to mount a folder on a Raspberry Pi and then copy, delete, read and write files on the it. Installing and configuring Samba on a Raspberry Pi for basic file sharing is quite simple.

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How to fix ssh "Remote host identification has changed" Error

Trying to connect to a host via ssh and I’m getting an error:@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ @ WARNING: REMOTE HOST IDENTIFICATION HAS CHANGED! @ @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING NASTY! Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)! It is also possible that a host key has just been changed. The fingerprint for the RSA key sent by the remote host is […]. Please contact your system administrator. Add correct host key in /Users/benhamilton/.ssh/known_hosts to get rid of this message. Offending RSA key in /Users/benhamilton/.ssh/known_hosts:2 RSA host key for […] has changed and you have requested strict checking. Host key verification failed.

The simplest way to fix this (that I’m aware of) is to edit the /Users/benhamilton/.ssh/known_hosts file and delete the second entry. Why the second entry, because the line in the error above tells us which line is the offending key at the end of the line.:

Offending RSA key in /Users/benhamilton/.ssh/known_hosts: 2

I’m using Mac OSX, other flavours of *nix will have a slightly different path to the known_hosts file.

More info re this error can be found at Serverfault, MacWorld, and thegeekstuff.

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Formatting of printed addresses

How should you format an address on printed labels and envelopes?

Formatting addresses for printing in Australia:

Typically, the address should be written in three lines:

  • The top line should contain the recipient’s name
  • The second to last line should contain the number and name of the street, PO Box or locked bag number (if applicable)
  • The last line should contain the place name or post office of delivery, state or territory abbreviation and postcode. This line should be printed in capitals without punctuation or underlining, with the postcode put last
  • For international mail, the country name should be in capitals on the bottom line

For the rest of the world, see Wikipedia’s entry on Address (geography).

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Download a file on dropbox using wget on linux

Firstly, get the dropbox share link. It will look like this

Then add a ?dl=1 to the end of that url and a -O filename so that you end up with something like this:

wget -O test.txt

Now you can easily get files onto your linux box that aren’t available elsewhere.

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Sugar logic to calculate days an opportunity has been open

We want to find out how many days an Opportunity in SugarCRM has been open, using a calculated custom integer field in SugarCRM Studio. I’m assuming you’ve already created a new custom integer field, likely called something similar to “Days open”.

The sugar logic to calculate the difference between two dates is this:


and the sugar logic to do an if then else is:


The first test we’ll do is if the sales stage is “Closed Lost” or “Closed Won”, if it’s true, we’ll calculate the days between the create date and the expected close date. If the sales stage is something other than “Closed Lost” or “Closed Won” then we’ll calculate the days between the create date and today.

This makes our pseudo sugar logic formula look like this:

		equal($sales_stage,“Closed Lost”),
		equal($sales_stage,”Closed Won”)

Which, when we update it with the real sugar logic parts becomes this:

		equal($sales_stage,"Closed Lost"),
		equal($sales_stage,"Closed Won")

This post was written in response to a question on LinkedIn.

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Spam in Australia:>Under the Spam Act, it is illegal for unsolicited commercial electronic messages that have an Australian link to be sent, or cause to be sent. A message has an Australian link if it originates or was commissioned in Australia, or originates overseas but has been sent to an address accessed in Australia.

Source: Spam, Australian Communications and Media Authority.

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Great article from Nick Cox “ A Moment to Breathe”. Summary: get enough sleep, slow down, breathe and you’ll be more productive. Gives his experience as the example, links to relevant studies.

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Exercise app

My favourite exercise app at the moment is  7 Minute Workout Challenge. It’s simple to use, it has video’s to show you what to do and it tells you what to do and when. It’s like a ‘7 minute personal trainer’ every morning.

As of today I’ve done this workout for 14 days straight. Feeling better for it. :)

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MySQL snippet for past and next 6 Months

Spent some time today working with DATEDIFF, DATE_ADD and all kinds of horrid looking code before realising that to do a MySQL query to get records where the date is in the past or the next x months all I need is the following.

WHERE t_position_cstm.review_date_c <= DATE_ADD(DATE(now()), INTERVAL 6


You can change the 6 to whatever appropriate value you have, and you can change MONTH to a variety of other values, for me the two I used today was MONTH and DAY .

I’m using this on a SugarCRM MySQL database with a custom module of Position (the actual table name is t_position).

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2013-11-04 Link Roundup


*A great metaphor, using cups of water, that explains  Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and the dance between them.

*There is no private cloud, no public cloud, just hybrid, and  68% of customers will change vendor.

*Good explanation of a  ‘partitioned’ approach and an ‘iterative’ approach  using dice to help explain the concepts. Read this to understand how to reduce risk in your project.

*New version of  Process Manager for SugarCRM is about to be released. And the  release notes for SugarCRM 6.5.16.

*Hold onto your hat and sit down, here is an  interesting cardboard chair and a  chair for gamers (both youtube links). photo credit: Rak Tia via photopin cc

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SugarCRM how to calculate a persons age

In SugarCRM we oft record a persons birth date (in the field birthdate). Sometimes it’s useful to know how old this person is. So we create a new field age_c (note: this can be of field type Integer or Decimal) and then using this formula we can see how old they are:


small_4956707000If you use a Decimal field type you can remove the  floor() portion of the formula so that it doesn’t round it down. This means you will see just how old they are to a decimal point. Personally I tend to prefer just knowing that they are 21 or 42 rather than 21.45 or 42.01.

photo credit: Fouquier ॐ via photopin cc

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2013-10-30 Open loops

large__8971665708*Why PowerBI use Talend.

*An explaination of the Four types of Enterprise Architecture.

*Fanboi’s step aside, the sheer number of iPads in education is impressive.

*Documentation on how to map an Alfresco space to a drive.

*Alfresco and Client WebDAV.

*Geeky podcast. Brett Terpstra in Systematic. OS X and iOS oriented, productivity geek heaven.

Off-topic, well, on topic, or both maybe: I’m finding it useful to write these ‘open loops’ as it’s just a bunch of links that I want to come back to, without losing them. Quite frankly it’s easier to find them here on my blog than anywhere else. I am the intended reader of these posts, but do let me know if your find them useful at all.

photo credit: MOLLYBLOCK via photopin cc

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SugarCRM field visibility dependant on multiple values

I’ve often got cause to make fields in SugarCRM (Professional and Corporate editions) to only appear based on the value of another field. We can do this easily using SugarLogic in Studio using this ‘dependant’ formula:


However today I need to make this particular field visible if the field it is dependant on is one of a few values. Thusly a different ‘dependant formula is required:


Hat tip to Anton in Sugar Support for pointing to the ‘ isInList()’ instead of trying to build something with nested ifElse()’s.

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What I miss from iOS and how simple it was to fix it

thumbn_9080100066One of the ‘little’ things on iOS that I truly have come to love is this: when you type ‘two spaces’, it auto replaces that with a ‘period and a space’. For example ‘  ‘ becomes ‘. ‘

This is especially useful on iOS devices because to get to the period (aka full stop) you need to change which keyboard you’re viewing, and this little, helpful item means it is so much quicker to type a message or email on iOS. Love it.

But I miss it on my newly acquired Mac. I find that I’m often double tapping the space bar, expecting it to transform into ‘. ‘ - but it doesn’t.

Well, no longer, using TextExpander, I’ve created a new Group, whose snippets only expand in specified applications, at this point only in OmniOutliner as that is where I do most of my writing. My first snippet in this group is triggered by a double space and, yes, you guessed it, transforms into by beloved ‘. ‘

Already my typing feels smoother. :)

Update 2013-10-30: I’ve since expanded this ‘expansion’ to occur in a number of other apps, Outlook, Mail, Word to name the main ones.

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

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Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts

As a recent convert to the Mac OS X platform (I bought a Mac Book Pro), I’m loving OmniOutliner for creating outlines and documents, with one small annoyance. The default keyboard shortcut isn’t easy enough for me to use to move items up and down the outline list.

So when I found this article  Alternative Options and Shorter Shortcuts I saw that using the same method I’d be able to ‘re-map’ ⌘↑ and ⌘↓ to move items up and down the list. And it’s worked. ☺

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Command Line Install Telnet Client

I often use telnet to test if a port is open or not. However, on Windows Vista and up, and Windows Server 2008 and up the telnet client isn’t installed by default.

To install it, do the following from a command line:pkgmgr /iu:”TelnetClient” Source: Microsoft Technet

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Too Many Targets It is without a doubt important to have goals. Every day, without even thinking about it, we have goals. Get up at the right time. Get to work on time. Have lunch.

Then there are the bigger goals. Learn that new skill. Finish that project. Spend more time with those important to us.

Multiple goals, large and small. Important to have them. But what happens when we have more goals than we have time for?

Something has to give. We either spend less time on these goals, or we steal time from some other activity in order to give more time to what-ever we’ve prioritised.

For me, this is a constant juggle. And I don’t always get it right.

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On writing

Steven Pressfield taught us the secret of real writers:

There’s a secret that real writers know that wanna be writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard.  What’s hard is sitting down to write.  What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.

Makes sense.


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Windows Off-screen

Just had another client puzzled by this issue, their IT provider couldn’t figure out what was wrong either. The application (in this instance ACT!) appeared to start, but wasn’t visible. Ultimately, the window was off screen. They had used an external monitor and had been using the app on that second screen. They’d shutdown, removed the external monitor, now the app was not ‘there’ even tho it was in the windows task bar.

The solution?

ALT-Space Down Arrow Enter use the arrow keys to reposition the window onto the current active screen.

Or use this utility: Sheepdog to do it for you.

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The Art of Productivity

Reading and thinking about productivity is not the same as being productive.

Reading and thinking about being productive can be productive to a point, but after that it becomes a form of procrastination. The art lies in realising when you’ve crossed that point.

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Window Key + Arrow Key

If you’re using Windows 7, have you tried pressing the ‘Windows’ key and either the left or right arrow key at the same time?

What this does is ‘half screen’ your current application window. This is particularly useful on larger screens. For example I can have a reference document occupy the left half of the screen and write an email in the right half. This works on dual screens as well.

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iPad Keyboard Shortcuts

Summary: create keyboard shortcuts on your iPad to make it quicker write notes and emails.

Settings General Keyboard Shortcuts


I first got an iPad about 10 months ago and the keyboard is nowhere as quick to type on as ergonomic keyboard for my workstation. What does however make typing on the iPad faster are some common shortcuts. For example, when I type “zfyi” it offers to expand that to “saw this, thought it might be something you find of interest… “. Simply pressing the space bar when that popup suggestion occurs will replace the original text with the suggested text. Pressing the small “x” will let you continue with the text you typed.

You can create a number of shortcuts, for example:

  • addrw for your work address
  • addrh for you home address
  • sigw for your signature block
  • zsc for “Schedule for”
  • zu for “Update”
  • add in your colleagues initials so you can quickly enter their name

Now I type in “zsc bh” and it expands to “Schedule for Ben Hamilton “. This makes taking notes in a meeting much quicker. Build out your shortcuts with phrases that cover the actions you commonly need to type. Update, schedule for, organise a meeting with, send email update, etc. if you have common paragraphs of text, make a shortcut for those.

As a bonus tip, if you start your shortcuts with a “z” this can make it easier. Why? Because very few words start with “z” and the “z” letter is on all the default iDevice keyboards. This means you don’t accidentally start a shortcut and you don’t need to change the keyboard view to start typing it. if you’ve prefixed it with a “]” for example (which is what my workstation shortcuts used to start with) then it can take more time typing the shortcut than the actual text you want.

Have you found any shortcuts that have been particularly helpful?

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Me, Myself & Productivity

Summary: when inputing text on an iPad or iPhone do a double space to finish a sentence. It will transform into a full stop followed by a space.


I’ve had an interest in all things ‘productivity’ related for some time, but over the last few years its become a stronger driving force. When I took on my current full-time position implementing and troubleshooting ACT! In 2008, I became far more aware of why a number of businesses I’d worked with previously had not been as profitable as they could have been. They didn’t have an efficient system to deal with the management of staff calendars, meetings, todo’s and opportunities.

Now that I work with and consult with clients on automating some of their processes (using their CRM product as a platform), I see a need for two types of ‘productivity’ help, one that focuses on personal workflow improvement on an individual level and one that focuses on the businesses workflow at a business level.

There is crossover between the two as often a small personal improvement results in an improvement for the business as well. For example, the small, simple tip of doing a ‘double space’ at the end of a sentence when typing on an iPad/iPhone has greatly sped up the rate at which I can input text I to said device. That ‘double space’ transforms into a full stop followed by a space. That’s a personal improvement. But the business benefits because I’m inputting longer, more meaningful notes when I’m out and about. That’s a business benefit.

As a side note, when I was taught to type, we used to do a full stop followed by two spaces. This idea of just one space after a full stop felt foreign. Then I read this article on Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period and now I’ve seen the light. I was wrong. Damn those monospaced fonts! Now I use a single space after full stops, which makes this ‘double space’ trick particularly useful and as a bonus, it now feels ‘right’ to do so.

I’ve realised that I know lots of these little titbits for improving productivity, and that rather than just sharing that verbally with others when I see that they could benefit from such, I should post it here so that others can benefit. Hence the title of this post, which signals a new resolve to share my knowledge.

Hope you find this and the tips to follow to be helpful.


Image credit: Reuben Ingber.

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Importing Data Into SugarCRM

Working with SugarCRM (Pro, OnDemand) last week and discovered a wonderful thing!

SugarCRM has been designed to import record ID numbers from other systems. So long as the id numbers you’re importing are less than 36 characters, and are globally unique (not just unique to the entity, i.e. contacts, notes, accounts) you’re in business, you can simply import the legacy record ID into the Sugar ID field (see below on how to make it globally unique).

This is a great thing. Before knowing this, and with other systems, you need to create a custom field in each entity to store the legacy ID number, import the data into that entity, then export it with the new system’s ID number. You can then match up this new ID number with other data so that the relationships get maintained. This is discovery is for me a wonderful thing, others already know this as it was designed this way, but this will save me a lot of work.

One of the tips given to me by one of the SugarCRM support people was that if the ID isn’t globally unique, then simply suffix it (or prefix it) with something unique for that entity. For example, if Accounts and Contacts both have an ID of “ABCD-1234” you could suffix all the Accounts record ID’s with “Acct” and the Contact record ID’s with “Cont”. This effectively makes them globally unique. Do the same for any ID’s in other entities, for example, in the Notes table, any Contact ID’s would get suffixed the same way with “Cont”.

Account Records Before:

  • ID, AccountName:
  • ABCD-1234, Doe Exports
  • ABCD-4321, Joes Toes

Contact Records Before:

  • ID, ContactName
  • ABCD-1234, Jane Doe
  • ABCD-4321, Joey Blowy

As you can see above, the ID’s are unique to the entity but not globally unique (and we do want them globally unique). By suffixing the ID’s we can make them globally unique as you see below:

Account Records After:

  • ID, AccountName
  • ABCD-1234_Acct, Doe Exports
  • ABCD-4321_Acct, Joes Toes

Contact Records After:

  • ID, ContactName
  • ABCD-1234_Cont, Jane Doe
  • ABCD-4321_Cont, Joey Blowy

This really does make it much easier import lots of data and keep the relationships between pieces of information. For example, Notes would then look like this:

Notes after:

  • ID, RelatedContact, RelatedAccount, Note
  • 123_Note, ABCD-1234_Cont, ABCD-1234_Acct, “Spoke with Jane re recent purchase.”
  • 456_Note, ABCD-4321_Cont, ABCD-4321_Acct, “Joey rang, wants to double his order.”

If only it were this easy importing into other CRM’s. Let me know if you have any questions about importing data into SugarCRM.

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My Choices Led Me Here

I am here because of my choices, my decisions.
Because of my actions and my inactions.
Like it, or like it not.
That is the why.
You could accurately say "I chose to be here".
The choices ahead, they will determine where I go.

Where are you?

And where are you going?

Are you choices leading you where you want to go?

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Excel formula to convert minutes into Hours and Minutes

On occasion I end up with an Excel spreadsheet that has a list of items, each of which has a duration. It’s easy to sum up the minutes and get a total number of minutes (see B7 in the picture below).

But it would be nice to see that in “x hours y minutes.” don’t you think? Yup, so do I. And that’s what I’ve done in the C9 cell in the picture below.

Screen snippet showing a column of minutes summed up, and then convert that into human readable hours and minutes

Human Readable Hours and Minutes

So without further ado, here is the Excel formula to do this

=ROUNDDOWN(B7/60,0)&" hours "&MOD(B7,60)&" minutes."

Let me know if you find this helpful.

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Editing Microsoft Office Documents on the iPad

I got asked on the weekend about what do I use on the iPad to edit Microsoft documents.

I’ve been using an iPad (the ‘new iPad’ or the ‘iPad 3’ depending on who you talk to) and have been needing to both create and edit Microsoft Office Word and Excel documents.

I’ve tried using Google Apps but have found that it just wasn’t that easy, and I had to be online, which wasn’t a problem most of the time, but occasionally was quite frustrating if the connection was either slow or non-existent.

So I hunted around for a native app, and ended up with Quick Office HD, which is perhaps the most expensive app I’ve bought. However, it has proven to be very well spent money.

I’ve been able to open existing files, create new ones, save them to a Dropbox folder and either have them available on my workstation or laptop, or email a colleague a link to the file. This has proved to be a great combination (Quick Office HD and Dropbox).

As it so happens, Quick Office has been acquired by Google, so I’m hopeful that sometime in the near future a better option will exist for Google Doc’s.

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Quickly Create Bulleted Lists On iPads

I’m a newcomer to the iPad, but I’ve found that creating a bulleted list in an email can be rather time consuming as to get an ‘asterik’ (star, SHIFT-8, one of these *) takes a few taps on the keyboard.

I’ve found a quicker way to make them happen, here it is:

  • Go to Settings
  • General
  • Keyboard
  • Add New Shortcut
  • The ‘Phrase’ is ‘* ‘ (that’s a star followed by a space, without the quote marks)
  • The ‘Shortcut’ is ‘,,’ (that’s two comma’s)

Now when I type two comma’s followed by a space, it’ll replace that with a star followed by a space. Great easy bulleted lists in emails.


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Getting ifttt to add to RTM

If that headline made sense to you, then you’re in the right place :)

ifttt recipe for adding a task to Remember The Milk]

The problem I had is that ifttt doesn’t by default integrate with RTM.

So I’ve come up with a way that creates a new RTM task for me whenever there is a new item in a particular RSS feed.

We create a ifttt recipe that:

  • When there is a new item in the specified RSS feed.
  • Will send me an email with a unique subject line.
  • Our email program (GMail in my case) has a filter set to look for that unique subject line and then forward that email to our special RTM email address (see this page for help with the RTM email stuff).

I’ve used [RTMwithSOMEuniqueLETTERS] as my subject line so that nothing will accidentally happen.

RTM (Remember The Milk) and ifttt have a bunch of features that I wish the Sage ACT! or SugarCRM task lists would emulate (or buy), it’s this sort of automation that can become very handy.

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General Insights

I’ve got back from the the Sage Insights conference on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. There were a couple of things that I’ve found of key interest:

  • We saw a demo of the Sage ACT! Premium for Web HTML5 interface. Really liked the look of this, quite excited about this as I’m sure a number of our clients are going to love this.
  • Got to speak with some Sage NA staff re the 2012 ‘feature that isn’t a feature’ Sage Analytics. I see this as being of benefit to a number of our clients as it allows them to quickly rearrange a view of their data to show their key metrics.
  • Hearing the continuing focus on allowing the clients to choose if they want on-premise deployment or cloud/private cloud deployments. Good to know the plan is not to force clients into a SaaS only model like Salesforce.
  • Hearing Chris Gordon at SwiftPage (providers of Sage ACT! E-Marketing) talk about what they’ve seen work for e-marketing users and give examples of those. Great info.

Of course it was great to catch up in person with those that came from the Sage USA, Sydney and Melbourne and especially the other ACC’s that attended from around Australia and New Zealand. The next 12 months promise some change. I’m looking forward to it.

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AddThis is a browser extension. It’ll allow you to easily share content on multiple networks.

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Two Important Product Rules

Steven Poole has a great post up. In it he states two ‘rules’. He may not be the first to verbalise them, but he’s got a great commentary on them. Go take a read.

For that that are still reading here and not over there, here are the two rules:

  • If you’re not paying for something, you’re not a customer; you’re the product being sold.
  • If you’re not paying for something, you have no reason to expect it to be there tomorrow.

You’ll need to go here to read it - it’ll make you sit up and think about the ‘free’ services you’re using on the internet.

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Video Interview - Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey is one of the guys behind twitter and square. AsiaD have a video interview with him. In it he talks of one of his major inspirations (Steve Jobs) and the challenges Twitter faces in China.

Go watch.

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RDP setup

I often need to connect to servers via RDP. I’ve found these posts below helpful for configuring RDP connection settings, specifically getting the new RDP window to open on the screen I want in the position I want.

Firstly, GrandPixel’s comment on this blog post at at 9:00pm on August 17, 2010.

Secondly, this post at

The final RDP file contents for me are:

screen mode id:i:2
use multimon:i:0
session bpp:i:32
connection type:i:2
disable wallpaper:i:1
allow font smoothing:i:0
allow desktop composition:i:0
disable full window drag:i:1
disable menu anims:i:1
disable themes:i:0
disable cursor setting:i:0
full address:s:{removed}
autoreconnection enabled:i:1
authentication level:i:0
prompt for credentials:i:0
negotiate security layer:i:1
alternate shell:s:
shell working directory:s:
use redirection server name:i:0

Hopefully, others looking to open the RDP windows to a specified location will find the two posts above of use.

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Cartoon - Known Issues

Known Issues[Known Issues Cartoon Savage Chickens - Cartoons on Sticky Notes by Doug Savage](
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Ritualise Blogging

[…9. Create a ritual: One way to make sure that you sit down to write your blog post at the scheduled time is to create a ritual that signals to your brain that it’s blogging time… via 10 Surefire Ways to Overcome Blogging Procrastination ProBlogger](
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Undermine Your Business Model

[…The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, “How does this advance help our business?”

The correct question is, “how does this advance undermine our business model and require us/enable us to build a new one?”… via Seth Godin](

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What & Why Content Marketing

[…what exactly is content marketing? It’s the creation and publication of original content – including blog posts, case studies, white papers, videos and photos – for the purpose of generating leads, enhancing a brand’s visibility, and putting the company’s subject matter expertise on display… via Why Content Marketing Is King](
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Success Lesson from ACT!

In his article over at the Software Advice blog titled “The Birth of a Category Known as Contact Management”, Mike Muhney (co-founder of ACT! Software) brings out some history surrounding where ACT! came from.

What struck me was the fact that it was born of a need, a need both he and Pat Sullivan had. It was not born of a thought “what can we make that will make money”, but rather, “we need to do x, let’s make something that will do x. Hey, other’s need it too…”.

The first reason why ACT! was successful is because it did the core things that sales people needed.

Mike and Pat sold the sales people of host of laptop makers on the benefit of using ACT!. They then sold it to others. Remember, that once you sell a salesperson on an idea, it’s incredibly hard to un-sell them on it.

The second reason that ACT! was successful is because the targeted the right niche.

There’s a lesson in there for all of us, we need to deliver the core thing that our clients are paying for, and make sure that we are marketing to the right people.

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Mobile Data

Pay attention, if you’re not thinking mobile, you’ll get left behind:

Mobile data traffic is now outpacing fixed broadband traffic. Last year, it grew 4.2 times as fast. via Mobile Only.

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Jason Calacanis said...

Four days ago I wrote: How to Beat the iPad?

If Microsoft, Sony, Google, HP and Samsung want to make an impact in the tablet space, there is a very, very simple solution: lose money.

If I was running any of these companies, I would simply create a $99, $199 and $299 tablet and lose $10B getting 100M of them out there. Seriously, Apple will lower the cost of this overpriced device only when some maniac enters the market with a stunning price.

Well, that maniac has arrived, and his name is Jeff Bezos.


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Future of Web

Dave Winer writes:>The premise: The web is where the PC industry was before the Mac. No standard UIs. Big opportunity.

Listened to Dave this morning on the ride to work. He’s mentioned Bootstrap from Twitter before, but in his podcast here he explains the why it is such a good thing. The great thing here is that his podcast is one that will help for non-developers understand why it’s important.

I wonder if people on the #SageACT dev team, or any of the add-on developers have looked at this for use in the Sage ACT! Premium for Web product? I’d be interested if they are leveraging others work in this area or if they’ve re-invented the wheel, you’ll need to listen to the podcast to get what I’m asking.

If you develop web apps, I recommend you go listen to it, because it’s only 17 minutes long it ain’t gonna bust up your day to hear a little history and see how it might improve the future.

Link to Dave Winer’s short post and podcast, go listen: Scripting News: DaveCast #16: Mac of the web.

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Goal vs. Goals

Min Zhao, an assistant professor of marketing, has this to say:>If you have only one goal it puts you in a more action-oriented mindset and helps you save more … Too much thinking about which goal is more important keeps people from acting. via Rotman School of Management.

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Collapse Is Coming

Quote from an interview on the BBC:>”This economic crisis is like a cancer, if you just wait and wait hoping it is going to go away, just like a cancer it is going to grow and it will be too late!” via BBC, via @mpesce

[Update 30 Sept 2011] Not quite what it seemed. See for more.

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Fact Checking

Craig Wright is on the Board of Directors for GICSR (Global Institute for Cybersecurity + Research) and has ‘fact checked’ the ‘Fact Check’ article written by Scot Terban. See article here: FACT CHECK: SCADA Systems Are Online Now.

Of more interest to me than the fact checking, is the very common story I’ve seen of systems that were put in place by group of people, who’ve handed over the reins to someone else, who in turn have passed it on to another someone, and the knowledge of how the system actually works is gone.

I see this daily on a small scale and every now and again, it’s a not so small system that’s completely just flying on it’s own. No-one knows quite how it works, or even quite what it does.

The only way to reduce the risks inherent in these systems is to have good, clear documentation. Documentation that includes peoples names such as employees, contractors, suppliers, even competitors, that someone might be able to at least contact 10 years later and say “Hey, do you remember working on the xyz project? Would you be able to help us out here?”

Just a thought.

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Seth's Blog - Forward or back?

Fresh post from Seth Godin, where he suggests we start some converstations with this:>”We’d like to roll the … technology … back to the way it used to be, even though it almost never works out that way. Here’s why it’s going to be different this time.” via Seth’s Blog: Forward or back?.

Me-thinks I’ll use this in a conversation or two. :)

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Sage ACT! 2011 SP1 Hot Fix 5 now available

What a joy to see hot fix 5 for Sage ACT! 2011 out!

And yes, it does fix the company name/contact name issue.>When you enter a company name or contact name that exceeds the length of the field, the name is truncated.

You can go get it here KB 27440 - How to Download and Apply Sage ACT! 2011 SP1 Hot Fix 5.

Details of what’s NEW in Hot Fix 5



What the Hot Fix Does


After entering\editing data in the company list view, users are unable to save due to a recurring error “Unable to continue in ACT! without saving the company name.”

Prevents the Company Name file data from being deleted.

Database Import

When importing information into another database using the default mapping and merge options, data loss occurs because first, middle, and last names are not mapping correctly.

Enable the name data to be imported into the correct fields.


After attaching a document in the Documents tab and then changing the layout, the Documents tab does not refresh (continues to show the attachment for the previous record).

Alters tabs (in the primary entity view) that contain list views to reflect changes.

Remote Synchronization

When a file on the Documents tab is synched to a remote database, edited, and then synchronized again, the original document is not updated.

Changes the name of the synched document.

Company List View

After entering or editing data in the Company List view, users are unable to save due to a recurring error “Unable to continue in ACT! without saving the company name.”

Prevents the Company Name file data from being deleted.


When you enter a company name that exceeds the length of the company name field, the company name is truncated.

Positions the cursor at the beginning of text; text appears properly.


When you enter a contact name that exceeds the length of the contact name field, the contact name is truncated.

Positions the cursor at the beginning of text; text appears properly.


After setting up an email system to use Sage ACT! 2011 email, the option to attach existing email to contacts, companies, or groups is unavailable.

Enables the Attach option.

Outlook Integration

In the French, Polish, and German product, the Change ACT! Database dialog box includes unlocalized text.

Properly translates the Change ACT! Database dialog box.

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TinyLetter Email Marketing

A new take on email newsletters:>…besides being created by the legendary Philip Kaplan (if you’re over 35 and were laid off by a dot-com you know who @pud is, and you know how great his email newsletter was), we think TinyLetter is a unique take on email marketing newsletters because:

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Desktop Laser Cutter

Oh yeah!, I’d LOVE one of these babies:>..a brand new entry level desktop laser engraver and cutter designed for hobbyists. The manufacturer, Full Spectrum Laser, has designed this machine as inexpensively as possible to make laser cutting a possibility to a larger audience that can’t afford an industry standard machine… via

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What Version of Microsoft Installer?

Sage ACT! 2011 and 2012 require Microsoft Installer 4.5 or better to be installed. I like to know prior to running the Sage ACT! installer just which version is installed as the Sage ACT! installer will install it if it’s required and then do a reboot. And we all know that reboots are often not welcome.

Thus for one an all’s installation enjoyment, here is the code for determining just which version of the Microsoft Installer is present.

@Echo off
:: Created by Ben Hamilton ACT! CRM Certified Consultant
:: to display which version of the Microsoft Installer is installed.
Echo set args = WScript.Arguments >fvi.vbs
Echo Set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject") >>fvi.vbs
Echo WScript.Echo fso.GetFileVersion(args(0)) >>fvi.vbs
Echo Wscript.Quit >>fvi.vbs
for /f "skip=2 " %%G IN ('cscript fvi.vbs %systemroot%\system32\msi.dll') DO (Set MSIVersion=%%G)
Echo Microsoft Installer %MSIVersion:~0,3% is installed.
del fvi.vbs /q

Hope you find it as useful as I do.

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We Are All Weird

Seth Godin has a new book out called “We Are All Weird”, to quote:>The bell curve is spreading, normal isn’t what it used to be and the age of mass is over.

We’ve lived with mass all our lives, and now it’s gone. What are you going to do about it?

How much longer will we isolate and denigrate people because they don’t fit our mass-market definition of the way people should choose to act?

via We Are All Weird.

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No IMAP to Exchange 2003

So I ran into an issue I’ve not seen before yesterday. Couldn’t get Microsoft Outlook 2010 configured to talk via IMAP to Microsoft Exchange 2003, although the username and password was correct, it just would not connect. Turns out the answer is in this Microsoft KB article: Users Cannot Log On Using POP3 and the Error 0x80040920 Is Logged. Although about POP3 and not IMAP, the fix is the same, make both the account name and the alias in Microsoft Exchange the same.

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Rugby, Uncertainty and Business

@StevieHamilton pointed me to this:

…Uncertainty, though, cannot be overcome and it can be more debilitating if players don’t know where they sit. You can manage this process when there is an end goal, but as you near this goal the need to eliminate uncertainty also arises… via England’s all-black strip fails most important test.

Although writing about the current 2011 Rugby World Cup this principle also applies to the business workplace. Uncertainty is crippling. Having a defined method of dealing with situations of uncertainty can help.

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Is Freemium For You?

Horses for courses:

Freemium can be a great tool for businesses, but before you commit to using freemium, you need to understand your business model and how your customers are going to respond to it—so do your homework. You are in business to make money… via [6 Ways Freemium Can Kill Your Startup Chargify Recurring Billing Blog](
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Not Long At All

Jakob Neilsen has an interesting article titled How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?. One of the interesting comments made is “…the average is not the most fruitful way of analyzing user behaviors.” He then shows how user behaviour fits a negative Weibull distribution (based on research by Chao Liu and others at Microsoft Research).

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Make it Easy

Article over at 37signals on titled The three secrets of business analytics (no rocket science here) lists three things that Noah deems required in order to be successful. Go read it. It’s good.

When I read it I was struck by his second item, Make it easy.

In my view this is actually the hardest of the three steps. Simplifying something can be excruciatingly hard work. Knowing something about what you do is easy, it just takes time and keeping your eyes and ears open. Then remember it. Looking at lots of data is easy, it just (once again) takes time and keeping your eyes and ears open. Then remembering the patterns in what you saw. When you see something that doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t.

But making something easy. This is where you’ll do the bulk of the heavy thinking. This is where you not only spend time, but also where you think about what you’ve just extracted from the data and say “what does this really mean? Is it really a useful piece of information? Knowing it, what will I now change?” And if in reality, the answer is that nothing will change, then you go back to the drawing board and rethink it, test another idea.

This is also where some huge value comes. Because once you do find a easy way of deriving some information out of the data, that will change things, will have an impact, that’s the gold nugget you’ve been searching for.

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Why Check-in?

Interesting article about why people “check-in” on foursquare or facebook:>..these reasons, or the ‘need behind the need’, vary from user to user. However, there are two core sets of behaviours that are easily recognizable to everyone.

via [Why do we check-in? Marketing Magazine]( via @StevieHamilton.
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More Cheese, Less Whiskers

On the ride to work this morning I listened to the podcast over at Duct Tape Marketing, where John Jantsch interviews Dean Jackson who “outlines several case studies in which he applies the customer’s best interest approach and produces incredible results where the sales only approach had failed miserably.”

Really enjoyed listening to this, and will a few more times yet.

via More Cheese, Less Whiskers :: Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing.

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A Shred of Knowledge

A story to illustrate a point:

A young engineer was leaving the office at 5.30pm when he found the Boss standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand. “Listen,” said the Boss “this is a very sensitive and important document and my secretary is not here. Can you make this thing work?” “Certainly,” said the young engineer. He turned on the machine, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button. “Excellent. excellent,” said the Boss as his paper disappeared inside the machine, “I just need one copy.”

Lesson: Never, never, ever assume that the person asking knows what they are doing.

The point here is that often when a client asks me to do X, it pays to really and truely understand what it is they are really asking for.

Thanks to Michael at for passing the story onto me. Love it.

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Style Guide

What is a style guide?

A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. The implementation of a style guide provides uniformity in style and formatting of a document. See Wikipedia for more.

A List Apart have a style guide that I think is quite usable, such that I now loosely base our own style guide on it for an internal wiki that contains our procedures.

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Writing Answers

Older post from Joe Chernov on how to write a great online answer (i.e. Quora).

I’ve printed out his post and stuck it to the wall here. The key points he makes are:

  • Be the first to answer.
  • Include links and/or graphics in your answer.
  • Stick to a word count of 100 to 200 words.

I like this because all to often we we need to answer a client or co-workers question, using his guidelines makes for a more succinet answer, which means it is more likely to be read, and in turn, acted upon.

But don’t take my word for it, go read his post and get it direct.

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How to find your external ip address from the command line

I often need to know what the external IP address for a client is. Thus I’ve cobbled together the following script. Simply copy the code below into externalip.cmd and when run from the command prompt it will do two things for you:

  • the script will display the external IP address
  • the script will set the environment variable ExternalIP to be whatever that IP is

@echo off
:: Find out what the External IP address is
:: Create the .vbs file first
Echo Option Explicit >externalipaddress.vbs
Echo Dim http : Set http = CreateObject( "MSXML2.ServerXmlHttp" ) >>externalipaddress.vbs
Echo http.Open "GET", "", False >>externalipaddress.vbs
Echo http.Send >>externalipaddress.vbs
Echo Wscript.Echo http.responseText >>externalipaddress.vbs
Echo Set http = Nothing >>externalipaddress.vbs
:: run the resulting .vbs script and set the enviroment variable
for /f "skip=2 " %%G IN ('cscript externalipaddress.vbs') DO (Set ExternalIP=%%G)
:: Display the enviroment variable
Echo External IP is %ExternalIP%
:: tidy up and remove the temp file
del externalipaddress.vbs /q

Let me know if you find this useful, or if you can improve on it I’d love to hear from you.

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Update on XPUnlimited

So some time ago I wrote a post about using XPUnlimited questioning it’s legality.

Today I’ve had another systems engineer tell me that it is legal. So I’ve spoken with the local distributor ( here in Australia and asked them to clarify this.

Part of their reply pointed me to the FAQ on the site:

It is legal to use XPUnlimited on top of Windows. If you want to know the details, read the license terms of Windows.

Certainly looking through the links and reading the paragraphs they cite makes me somewhat more comfortable about hearing of people who use it.

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Stalwart & Star employees

Just read two interesting articles by Thomas Delong over at the Harvard Business School:

To be honest, I’ve pretty much always seen two types of workers, performers and under-performers, so reading these has opened my mind to a few new thoughts.

The first article on Stalwart workers debunks 5 myths:

  • Stars are smarter than Stalwarts.
  • Everybody is the same.
  • Everybody wants the same thing out of work.
  • Everybody wants to be promoted.
  • Everybody wants to be a manager.

It reminds of a saying that has had a lot of significance for me personally:

I am unique. Just like everyone else. We all have our strengths. We all have our weaknesses. That is what makes us unique.

Everybody does want the same thing. That is happiness. They way we each get there is somewhat different.

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Reading the Registry from the Command Line

Often I need to check windows registry values, for example, to see if an addon is working.

From the Microsoft Windows command line (Start run cmd) it is easy to see what value a registry key has:

REG QUERY "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\MS Project\Addins\Mindjet.Mm8MsProject.AddIn.4" /v "LoadBehavior"

In this example above, we see if the Mindjet Mindmanager add-on is loaded or not in Microsoft Project.

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Knowledge Gap

Overheard a comment by @dflood yesterday that I’ll blatantly steal and post about here:

“…either 1. there is a technical resolution to the problem or 2. there is a knowledge gap…”

I’d have to say that this is a rather succinct description of something that happens all the time to us IT folk, where the client wants to do activity A but they can’t, what-ever it is it just doesn’t work and activity A can’t be completed.

The causes vary, but they do fall into one of these two categories:

  • There is a technical resolution to the problem, where there is something broken, not working that needs to be fixed.
  • There is a knowledge gap, where the client doesn’t know how to do the task at hand.

Dealing with the first is what most engineers/technicians jump to and find a way to make it work, only to discover that the client still isn’t happy, they still can’t do what they want to do. Because the engineer automatically assumed that they know what the client is saying, automatically assumed that the fix is to correct some technical issue. Yet often, if we really listen to the client, what we find is that there is a gap in their knowledge and simply by educating the client, helping the client become a power user the problem evaporates and becomes a non-issue.

I’ve trapped myself before by making the wrong assumption, have you?

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Export ACT! reports to Excel

Had a client today need some information out of ACT!, and ideally it would be in an Microsoft Excel spread sheet.

Given that one of the default ACT! reports gave the bare minimum required (Group Membership) we spent some considerable time editing a copy of that report to display the actual fields we wanted, both contact fields and group fields. What we wanted was a spread sheet that showed each contact in a particular groups sub-groups, detailing which sub-group each contact was a member of, and also showing some groups specific information for each.

This was all fine except that it still wasn’t in a spread sheet once we produced the report, printing it, out to PDF, were no problem, but no .xls file.

This is where KB 14690 came in handy. It details how to modify the Windows Registry such that the output options for ACT! reports will then include such welcome and handy options like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, TIFF file and Paged html.

Now when we produce the report, we get a beautiful Excel spread sheet with just the information the client requested.

Hope you find that useful, and if you do, let me know how you’ve applied it.

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Why Share Your Knowledge?

We see many big names in all industries that seem to just give away information, real knowledge like it’s going out of fashion.

I see the example of people like:

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a list of a few A-Listers, a few well known in the local geographic area and a few that are well known in their field.

How can they give so much away and still make money? Should you do the same?

Let me state right upfront that I believe we should share our knowledge freely.

I’ll tell you why I believe that by relating a story told to me about four years. A mentor related this story to me. Listen to it and see what you think.

If I told you that by riding a skateboard to work you could solve the entire worlds pollution problems, would you do it? No, you wouldn’t. Why not? Because you don’t own a skateboard. Ok, so let me give you a skateboard. Will you ride a skateboard to work now? No, you won’t. Why not? Because you don’t know how to ride a skateboard. Ok, so let me give you a skateboard, let me give you lessons on how to ride the skateboard. Now, will you ride the skateboard to work now? No, you still won’t. Why not? Because it’s too far, it might rain, part of the journey is uphill and it just takes too much effort.

The lesson here is that you can give someone the solution to a problem, the tools required and the education on how to use the tools and they still won’t go out and solve the problem for themselves.

This is a normal thing that happens everyday. I pay others to grow my food, process it and transport it to a place convienient for me to pick it up. I pay others to fix my car, wire up new lights in the house or make a fancy meal. We all do it. It’s too much effort for me to do all those things, it’s easier for me to pay someone to do them for me.

What people want is to deal with someone that does know their stuff, someone that does have that intimate knowledge of the subject, someone who is an expert. More often than not, others, like me, are prepared to pay for others to do those things I’m not expert at. Often the only way they or I find out if you know your stuff or not, is by trial and error, at our cost.

But if we were to give away knowledge, it makes it easy for people to know what it is we know, what our expertise is. They may not understand all the subtleties of what they read, or maybe they do, but either way, by telling them what we know builds their trust in us. With that trust comes their patronage.

I can hear some that say “but what if they take that knowledge and apply it themselves?”. Well, there are two answers to that:

  1. Firstly, if they are not an expert in your field, they will take the knowledge you gave them and try it for themselves, make mistakes, spend more time doing the job that you would, they’ll either wear those extra costs or come back and engage your sevices.
  2. Secondly, if you can’t find a market amongst seven billion people, in a market in which other experts operate, then your marketing needs an overhaul. Perhaps you should give away some of your knowledge and give them a reason to invest their cash with you.

So how does one give away knowledge? Here are few ways:

  1. Start a blog and publish articles
  2. Get a twitter account and start tweeting
  3. Podcast or vidcast about your niche
  4. Comment on forums/blogs on issues in your industry
  5. Post updates on your Facebook wall
  6. Post updates on your LinkedIn Profile

For a contrary view, read this article on Six Pixels of Separation titled Free Content is Killing Media - I’d say that perhaps he has a point with regard to the media, but free content can definitely build your business.

So, what do you think? Are you going to give away some knowledge?

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Games at Work

I watched a video by Seth Priebatsh (at SCVNGR) about the Game Layer On Top Of The World and it sparked my interest. A google search later and I found myself watching this 20min video by Jesse Schell on The Future Of Games which, although it answered a lot, left me with more questions than answers. With my mind whirring, I remembered that in the video by Seth, he said that there were seven dynamics, four of which he shared, three of which he was keeping to himself.

Was this simply Seth using some kind of ‘game dynamic’ on us? alluding to some other hidden achievement, leaving it up to us to go find? I think so, the guy runs a businesses that implements game dynamics for profit, they want more clients, what better way to gate prospects through to the next level than using game dynamics? Those that search it out are self qualifying themselves for that next level1. And that thought is one we should emulate. We can implement game dynamics into our own processes, internally and externally.

Those that are interested will seek out more knowledge. This makes us (the prospects) self qualify ourselves. Those that then apply this knowledge themselves are members of a group so small that it doesn’t matter to Seth and Jesse.

Take this application further and ask yourself some questions:

  • How could we use game dynamics to attract and motivate prospects?
  • Are we doing in such a way that gets our prospects to self qualify themselves? Without further action from us until they’ve self qualified to the point of contacting us?
  • Are our marketing efforts actually leading the prospect to our door if they qualify or away from us? What dynamics are at play? Can we tweak it?
  • Can we use game dynamics to make interacting with our company more interesting for our prospects? More educational? More reputation building?

What about our existing clients?

  • Could we use game dynamics to make life easier for our clients?
  • How could we apply game dynamics to the billing/invoicing procedures for clients?
  • Can we use game dynamics to encourage further use of our services? The recommendation of our services to others?

What about internally?

  • Could we have staff engage on a deeper level with the goals and purpose of the company thru the use of game dynamics?

Don’t forget, games normally have more than one level and so should our own application of game dynamics. We may start with one level, implement that, that’s healthy. Good. Then go add another level that improves the system. Then another, and another.

So what were the other 3 game dynamics Seth spoke about? I could make you look for yourself, or I could give you the link to the full list of game dynamics, all sevenforty seven as determined by SCVNGR.

Watch Cat Matson talk about her introduction to Game Dynamics at the SxSW 2011 festival where she mentions a few possibilities.

Just as games differ, so to will our individual approaches, that game we play will be dependant on the game result we wish to achieve.

Can you use game dynamics? How are you applying this knowledge? What are your thoughts about this?

1 See entry 7. Cascading Information Theory in the full list of game dynamics.

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Who should pay for Microsoft SQL installations that go wrong?

ah, SQL humorThe day is almost over, so I’ll fill you in on some of what occurred today, as it relates directly to this post by Mike at GLComputing. This was originally written as a comment to his post and kinda grew, so I’m posting it here in full.

SQL 2008 Express R2 has finally let me install a default SQLEXPRESS instance but I still can’t get a custom instance of ACT7 working. Who should be paying for the time it’s taking me to work out this issue?

I don’t yet have a complete answer to that question.

Imagine for a moment that I buy a brand new car, from a dealership. The car has trouble starting. So I go back to the dealership and ask them to fix it. They do so. I as a client go home happy.

But what’s really occurred? Well, the dealership gets a mechanic to look at it; he determines that a component if faulty, he replaces it with one off the spare part shelf in the dealership.

The dealership doesn’t want to wear the cost of the mechanics time or the cost of the part, so they put in a warranty claim to the manufacturer for the time taken by the mechanic and the cost of the part.

The manufacturer pays up, occasionally they audit the dealership to make sure fraud isn’t occurring. The manufacturer actually obtained the faulty component from a supplier. They then make a claim to the supplier for the costs.

The supplier pays up.

I know this because many years ago (early ‘90’s) I was a Warranty Manager for a car dealership.

Should the same process apply in the software industry?

Is it the fault of the reseller/dealership that software/component failed?

Is it the fault of the software house/manufacturer that the software/component failed?

Is it the fault of the supplier that the software/component failed?

Of course the initial supplier will argue that they make their product to stringent standards, and they can’t account for all the possible variables of other hardware and environmental conditions.

And of course the software house/manufacturer will say they took all appropriate steps.

And also, of course, the reseller/dealership will say they aren’t to blame either.

And the customer, well, the customer is never wrong, right?

Getting a little more specific, in my case today, the client has all good name brand equipment, setup by a reputable IT firm with a solid reputation. I couldn’t fault either their spec’s or configuration. I know the amount of effort I’ve put into this today. I know how much effort I’ve put into making SQL installs go smoothly, to the point where they mostly do go smooth for me, but sometimes, like today, they go very very wrong.

And so yes, I lay the fault with the remaining two players. Me, the guy on the pointy end of the issue, who gets to look like an idiot in front of a customer because he can’t make shrink wrapped software work on name brand computers. [Do you think I’m a little cranky? hint, I am.]

You see, the vendor here (Sage) have a product they sell (Sage ACT!) that uses a database in the back end (Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express R2). The vendor (Sage) has chosen to use that product, use that version of the product. That choice means an implicit responsibility to issues using their product with the 3rd party product. Let me say it clearly, “Sage, you chose to use Microsoft SQL 2008 Express R2, which makes you half responsible.”

The 3rd party, the supplier of that component, Microsoft, have chosen to update their product, and sometimes that transition hasn’t gone smoothly for them, but nonetheless they have updated on a semi-regular basis (although not yearly, and the topic of frequency will be the subject of another discussion). They provide help via their KB articles and revert to the line “too many other environmental factors, not our problem”.

Reminds me of a joke I heard years ago:

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “WHERE AM I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their technical support, online help and product documentation, the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless.” - Thanks to Alun for the source link.

In my view, if a car had, say a throttle problem, the manufacture would be sorting out the problem quick smart. Sage, you need to compensate the people in the front line, in the trenches. Go hit Microsoft up if you’re not happy about it. That’s what the car manufacturers do. It works for them so don’t tell me it can’t work.

But, Sage, I’m not hearing much from you. And that’s concerning to me because in today’s world, the world of 2011, the internet, social media and a with your own social media presence, to not hear much at all is to hear all the other dissenting voices, to hear the competition.

Now honestly, the competition to Sage ACT! is woeful. Seriously, it is. ACT! is a great product, it’s flexible, customisable, and at least 11 other herbs and spices, all of which are pure goodness (honestly, it’s a lot more than 11). So here’s a hint to the competition, if you want a good CRM product, imitate ACT!.

Want to know one of its weaknesses? It’s reliance on product that doesn’t install properly.

Achilles only had one heel that gave him trouble. Most, but not all, of the competition have figured this out, and allow either multiple backend databases to be used (MSSQL/MySQL/Oracle/PostgreSQL and others).

Now if you agree with me, let me know, if you don’t let me know as well, because as those that know me can attest, if you can prove your point, I’ll change. Of course, if you don’t give two hoots, then I guess I won’t be hearing from you. Either way, I’m gonna go hold my teddy bear and sing myself to sleep, hoping that the SQL install nightmare doesn’t plague me tonight. I’m gonna need some sleep to go fight this dragon again.

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Nuturing your consultant

I’ve just finished reading an article by Wayne Schulz on his blog and I’ve got to say it resonates with me. The article in questions? “ Care And Feeding of MAS 90 Consultants (Tips & Tricks)

Although I deal with a different product to Wayne (he works with MAS 90, I work with ACT!) the questions he’s heard from end users are similar to what I’ve heard. His response to these four questions are worth reading. The questions he hears are:

  • Can you write down all the instructions that my IT guy needs to upgrade…
  • Hey, quick question - you’re not going to charge me are you?
  • That network or hardware issue is definately a result of your product….
  • Can’t you call Sage and have them fix it?

Go read his thoughts on why these questions should set off an alarm bell.

I think however that these situations arise when the clients expectations haven’t be correctly set. The best time to set the expectations of what we as consultants do is at the beginning of the relationship. Sometimes however, we find that the situation needs to be reset. In that case I’ve found it best to be upfront with the client as to what we find difficult and why, discussing with them what we are prepared to do and what we are not.

We as the consultant need to nurture the client, equally, the client needs to nurture the consultant. That is what a relationship is, individuals working through challenging issues, for the benefit of both.

Reminds me of this youtube video: “The Vendor Client relationship - in real world situations”.

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How to clear the MS Exchange mail queue quickly

Spent the day dealing with an exchange server that had been compromised. As a result, heaps of spam emails were in the exchange mail queue. Manually removing them is a major pain in the rear. Fortunately, others have shared how to clear the Microsoft Exchange mail queue of thousands for spam mails.

  • Stop the SMTP service
  • Create a new spam folder for example in C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\Mailroot\vsi 1\Spam
  • With the SMTP service still stopped, move all the messages from the C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\Mailroot\vsi 1\Queue to the spam folder (in case you need to retrieve a message)
  • Restart the SMTP service. Of course prior to doing that, the instructions at this Microsoft KB How to block open SMTP relaying and clean up Exchange Server SMTP queues in Windows Small Business Server is quite helpful in showing how to make sure your exchange server is not an open relay. It also shows how to test if it is an authenticated relay attack that is the problem.
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Macros for Windows

Find macro’s useful? I do, but I wish I could use macro’s anywhere, not just in one program. Enter AutoHotkey. This is a free and open source utility that allows you to create macro’s that will run anywhere in Windows.

For example, I’ve got a macro that activates when I type “gc" - that's my shortcut for GMail Compose. I can be editing a document, at a command line, anywhere just about, type that in and it takes out those four characters, and fires up my GMail Compose email windows for me. I find this useful as I'll be working on something and find that I need to ask someone a question or update them on the progress, so rather than change programs or windows, I just type in "gc  " and a new email windows pops straight up, I'm able to type up the email, click send and I'm done, back to the program I was in to start with.

There are plenty of other short cuts you can create for yourself, the AutoHotkey site contains a number of examples.

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Sheepdog rounds up windows

One of the tools I’ve found very useful is SheepDog. Like the real world sheep dogs, it rounds things up, in this case stray windows.

Working with a laptop, I often plugin a second monitor, however, when I next fire up the laptop, windows may open up but not be visible on my laptop screen, they ‘remember’ that they were placed on the second screen, which is no longer connected.

SheepDog rounds them up and moves them back to my primary monitor.

If you’re using a laptop or netbook, I recommend you take a look at it.

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Glanced at...

Two quick things:

I’ve oft thought about Dave Winers hash marks, which contain a permalink to each paragraph in his blog posts. Now, Daniel Bachhuber has made a WordPress plugin that does it automagically for you.

And of course, Evernote, now in version 4, my third favorite application, after the command prompt and ACT!.

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Enable Network Level Authentication on XP Pro

I just tried to remotely control a server via RDP and got the error

The remote computer requires Network Level Authentication, which your computer does not support.

A quick search uncovered Microsoft KB 951608 which shows which two registry keys need editing to enable it. After you reboot of course.

  • Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then press ENTER.
  • In the navigation pane, locate and then click the following registry subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa
  • In the details pane, right-click Security Packages, and then click Modify.
  • In the Value data box, type tspkg. Leave any data that is specific to other SSPs, and then click OK.
  • In the navigation pane, locate and then click the following registry subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders
  • In the details pane, right-click SecurityProviders, and then click Modify.- In the Value data box, type credssp.dll. Leave any data that is specific to other SSPs, and then click OK.
  • Exit Registry Editor.
  • Restart the computer.

Now I’ve been able to connect to the remote site and get the job done.

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Is using XP Unlimted legal?

This is a question I’ve been asked, and I’ve seen a multitude of opinions out there on the wild wild web.

Thus I thought I’d share my findings.

First of all, what is XP Unlimited?

XP Unlimited turns your Windows System into a full blown Terminal Server, without any limit. XP Unlimited gives you eXtra Productivity when using Microsoft Windows.


It is meant to turn your XP machine into the equivilant of a terminal server machine without the expense of spending money on Terminal Server CALs (Client Access Licenses)

Thus the question, is this legal? is it legit?

The document on the Microsoft Site (MS Word format) found here: (Full URL included for the sceptics).

Now this document is about Windows Server 2008, but it makes three points that I feel are important:

  • Is this a change from Windows Server 2003 licensing? No.
  • Do I need a TS CAL if I am using a third-party technology like Citrix XenApp, Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect, Quest Virtual Access Suite, GraphOn Go-Global, etc. to directly or indirectly access the server software to interact with the graphical user interface? Yes.
  • Note: Windows® client operating system (OS) license terms do not permit multiple users to access or otherwise use more than one licensed copy of the software simultaneously.

I would put XP Unlimited into this same category as these products.

So if you were to use XP Unlimited on an XP Pro machine, I would feel that invokes the third point above, if you where to use XP Unlimited on a Server 2003 machine then you would still require TS CALs, so I wouldn’t need XP Unlimited.

What do you think?

(updated: added info on what XP Unlimted is)

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Using registry values in scripts

I’m often writing scripts to do stuff. It makes my job easier. I’ve often wanted to be able to script the discovery of registry values in the Windows Registry.

Thus here is a short example on using the vanilla windows command line to find the value of a Windows registry key. From my testing these commands are all present by default in Windows XP, Vista, 7, Server 2003 and Server 2008.

Assume we want to find the Microsoft Windows Common Files directory. Using Regedit we can find that here: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\CommonFilesDir

So the first thing we want to do is query the registry, we do that with the command line tool reg as follows (more about reg):

reg query HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion /v CommonFilesDir >1.tmp

This will spit out the following into the text file 1.tmp:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion    CommonFilesDir    REG_SZ    C:\Program Files\Common Files

However, this isn’t of much use in a script. Really, we just want the value of the folder itself, not all the extra info.

So what we do is use the command line tool findstr which essentially is a windows regex tool. We use it to do this:

findstr /r REG_SZ 1.tmp >2.tmp

This spits out just the line that contains REG_SZ and puts it into the text file 2.tmp. Now that we’ve just just the one line, we want to strip the first 32 characters off it. We do this by first setting it as an enviroment variale and then trimming it down using the following two commands (more on set):

set /p CommFiles=<2.tmp

And then we shorten that (more on trimming):

set CommFiles=%CommFiles:~32%

Then we can echo the result to the screen using:

Echo The Common Files directory is: %CommFiles%

And here it is all in one easy to copy set:

Set CommFiles=C:\Temp
reg query HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion /v CommonFilesDir >1.tmp
findstr /r REG_SZ 1.tmp >2.tmp
set /p CommFiles=<2.tmp
set CommFiles=%CommFiles:~32%
Echo The Common Files directory is: %CommFiles%

With a little editing I’m sure that you can turn this to your own uses, pulling out the value of registry keys and using them in script files. You’re not limited to this registry key, you can use it to access all sorts of registry keys.

Please do tell me what uses you put this to.


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Finding user SID

Occasionally you may want to know the SID of a windows user. If that made no sense to you, read no futher, this snippet is not for you.

Open up REGEDIT and browse to this key:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList

Here you will find a list of SID’s, under each is a subkey containing the name of the user it is associated with. Run through them until you find the username you’re looking for and bingo, it’s parent key is that users SID.

Found via

Bonus link

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Setting up WriteMonkey on WordPress

This post has been written using WriteMonkey as the text editor. Not only that but I’ve utilised Markdown as the method of text mark-up. All of this has been achieved using WordPress as my CMS, Firefox as my browser and a Firefox plug-in called It’s All Text.

My first impressions are actually good. Although its taken a little setup, I’m actually happy with the result. You see, using WriteMonkey as a text editor is, well, gorgeous. The screen is emptied of all distractions. With typewriter mode enabled, it is a pure joy to use.

Now to get this to work I did the following:

Not so hard is it? Actually the writing bit is the hardest. But you knew that…

What it now means is that when I begin writing a new post in WordPress, I simple click the little edit button that appears, and WriteMonkey fires up, comes to the foreground and I start writing. To finish up, I press CTRL-Q and I click YES I do want to save it.

So I can whole-heartedly say that it’s worth the effort to setup WriteMonkey. Go do it! It feels good.

Of course, now the hard bit is about to start, that is, do more writing.

PS: Only found out about WriteMonkey via DownloadSquad

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How to - Clear Outlook Location list

Had an issue yesterday where we wanted to remove some entires from Outlooks location list.

Huh? When you book an appointment in Microsoft Outlooks calendar you can specify a location. If ACT! by Sage has a Resource that is designated as a location, when ACT! sync’s with Outlook that location list gets filled in.

So, we wanted to edit that list in Outlook. Well, you can’t.

But you can clear the list completely, which for our purpose suited us fine, it’ll get repopulated with the correct values.

Thus, without further ado, here is how you do this:

Open up Regedit and remove the value from this key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\Preferences\LocationMRU

Note that you will need to replace the version number for your version of Microsoft Office (14.0 = MSO2010, 12.0 = MSO2007).

Hat tip to

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How to discover open files on Microsoft Server

So you’re working on a Microsoft Server machine, merrily getting stuff done, when you get a message saying that it can’t continue because files are open. Sound familiar? It happens to me often.

Here is how I find out which files are open and who has them open:

If you’re working on a Microsoft Server 2008,

Start | Administrative Tools | Share and Storage Management | Manage Open Files…

If you’re working on a Microsoft Server 2003,

Start | right click My Computer | Manage | Computer management (local) | System Tools | Shared Folders | Open Files

Makes it a great deal easier, now you know which file needs closing, and who you need ask to do it.

Hope that helps you. Anything you’ve found helpful? Let me know in the comments.

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Benford's law

Whilst talking to @StevieHamilton he mentioned listening to this great podcast called Radiolab Numbers. He also mentioned Benford’s Law and it’s applications, it sounded interesting and so I went and listened and indeed, it is.

Benford’s Law, also known as the First Digit law basically states that numbers will have a tendency to start with a lower digit number than a higher digit number, i.e. they start with a 1 or a 2 more often than a 8 or a 9. It was actually a guy called Simon Newcomb who first found this tendency because he noticed that in logarithm books (a book of Log tables), the pages at the front of the book, were much more worn than the other page, this lead him to ask the all important question of “why?”.

And that is actually the point of this post, asking “why?” is important. Very. Unless we ask that question, so many things will be undiscovered. It doesn’t matter if someone else has already discovered it, if it’s new for us, it can be something that expands our mind, leads us in new directions. As proof of that, you’ll note that Benford’s Law isn’t called Newcomb’s Law. You don’t have to be the first to ask “why?”, but you do have to ask.

What have you asked “Why?” about lately? and why is that?

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What is an avatar?

If like me you work in the online world, you could be forgiven for thinking that an avatar is a picture or photograph used to represent yourself in online communities.

Yet, every definition I’ve found lists another, older definition in first place, and I found this interesting…

The wikipedia disambiguation page, the Google define:avatar & pages and more all say this of the word Avatar:>the manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human or superhuman or animal form.

Who knew huh?

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The Complete Guide to Google Wave - How to Use Google Wave

Google Wave is occuping a great deal of mind space at the moment, the best site I’ve found that explains what it is, and how to use it is this, which starts out with this:>The Complete Guide to Google Wave is a comprehensive user manual by Gina Trapani with Adam Pash.

Google Wave is a new web-based collaboration tool that’s notoriously difficult to understand. This guide will help.

read more here: The Complete Guide to Google Wave: How to Use Google Wave.

The jury is still out for me, but at this point Gina and Adams explanation has made more sense of it, how this helps CRM and how it can be integrated with ACT! is what I’m mostly interested in.

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Why ACT! won't print a report

Often I’ve been told “my ACT! won’t print reports, it doesn’t matter which report I select, it won’t print”.

In the majority of these cases, the fix is actually very quick and simple.

You simply require at least one printer installed and have it set to be the default printer .

See, that was simple. Unfortunately, people sometimes remove all their printers, or for some reason none of their printers are marked as being the default printer and the first sign of trouble is that when they go to print out a report in ACT! it doesn’t work.

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Dunbar's 150, or is it?

I read Seth Godin’s post Dunbar’s Number isn’t just a number, it’s the law and found that the idea there resonated with me, there is a limit to how many people you can truly keep up with.

It was in fact the first time I’ve heard of Dunbar and his ‘magic’ number of 150, further reading showed that it was in fact not 150, but is 148, or 147.8 and is commonly rounded up to 150.>This number of 150 has become “Dunbar’s Number” and has been popularized by various very popular business books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference ( summary), Duncan J. Watts’ Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age ( review) and Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness ( review), and Mark Buchanan’s Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks ( review), the ideas from which are the foundation of the various Social Network Services that I’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog. - source: Life With Alacrity

All of which shows that a lot of people believe there is an upper limit to how many people you can meaningfully interact with in before you start losing productivity/efficiency/usefulness. This is certainly true of the popular social media sites.

What it does for me is make me think how I can use this information to make myself more useful to the social networks I’m involved with. Does it mean I should follow fewer people on twitter? Or does it mean follow them by the bucket load and simply ignore those outside of my ‘Dunbar’ group?

What do you think? Perhaps you have some ideas that I’ve not thought of, if so, please let me know.

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Novice to Expert

After spotting a link to both the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition and Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware, I’ve read the original 1980 paper by the Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus ( A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition)which made for interesting reading.

It describes (suprise!) 5 stages one goes through when learning a skill:*Novice

*Advanced beginner



*Expert I’ve yet to read the book Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware, but the two chapters that are online (“Introduction” and “Journey From Novice to Expert”) and the mind map shown all lead me to believe that the book uses the Dreyfus Model as a basis to then provide practical measures to implement in order to make your way from novice to expert.

This is of interest to me because since October 2008 I began working with a product called ACT! which is a Contact and Customer Relationship Management product. When I began I was a Novice at using and implementing ACT!. My employer provided great training which got me to the Advanced beginner stage. Constant use and troubleshooting got me to the Competent stage, which was validated by my passing the ACT! Certified Consultants Exam. Now I’m chipping away at the Proficient stage, made just a little more interesting by the fact the the software has just been updated to version 12 (ACT! by Sage 2010).

But enough about me, what have you been working on becoming an expert on?

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Command line terminal server

I’ve just come across a terminal server that wouldn’t let me log on. Turns out the maximum number of users the terminal server is licensed for has been exceeded.

Thusly, from another machine on the network, we open a command prompt and type

qwinsta /server:<servername>

This will give a list of the terminal server sessions on that server, note the ID number (aka sessionid) as we use them in the following commands.

We can reset a session by using

rwinsta <sessionid> /server:<servername>

or we can disconnect the session with

tsdiscon <sessionid> /server:<servername>

or we can logoff a session with

logoff <sessionid> /server:<servername>

Dan Rigsby has more info as does Scott Forsyth.

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Highlighting rows in MS Excel

I have a schedule that I print for a community group. I use Excel to produce it and one of the things I’ve done to make it easier for people to see when they are rostered on is to highlight the row that relates to their assignment.

Now I simply change the name in the “Copy for:” box and the highlighting changes as appropriate.

The way this is done in Microsoft Excel 2007 is as follows:

  1. Select the rows and columns you want to highlight
  2. On the Home ribbon, select Conditional Formatting New Rule
  3. Select Use a formula to determine which cells to format and enter the following formula: $D5=$D$2 Where $D5 (Absolute column, relative row) is the first cell a name on the schedule appears, and $D$2 (Absolute column and row) is the cell containing the “Copy for:” name Click the Format… button and select a solid yellow background fill.
  4. Now when you change the value in $D$2 the rows change highlight to match the name

Hope this helps others as it took me little to get this figured out.

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Social media workshops

Today I had the privilege of running 3 workshops at Brisbane Boys’ College for their Careers and Counselling department on the topic of “Social Media - the use of electronic social networks to advance your career”.

I found a few things of interest:

  • Almost all the students were on Facebook (a guess, 80%)
  • A lot of the students were on MySpace (a guess, 60%)
  • Only 3 of the students had heard of LinkedIn
  • maybe 1/3 of the students knew of twitter, 1 read, but none posted much

This does line up with what I’ve read elsewhere, that is, that the largest demographic using twitter are older than the students at BBC.

Although it seems that this doesn’t account for other twitter clients such as tweetdeck, twhirl, seesmic desktop. (Bonus link: Australian stats for twitter)

I have to say that I did push the view that they should be creating themselves a LinkedIn profile now!

Before they enter the workforce, they should in my view, fill it in with:

  • their educational history,
  • encourage their lecturers, any part-time employers and members of any sporting clubs they are a part of to also join up to LinkedIn,
  • they should then connect with each other via LinkedIn
  • then they need to ask for recommendations.

This gives them the opportunity to write their own history online, to actively create the content that google will find when a potential employer checks up on them.

Thanks to both David Ogilvie and Renate Falkenhagen at BBC for inviting me to be a part of the program today and a special mention to Lee Hopkins, because I’ve learnt a lot about social media and communication from him.

My own LinkedIn profile is here:

I encourage you to connect with me there, also, you can follow me on twitter at

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VStrom aluminium topbox

I’ve been looking for some time for a good topbox to mount on the VStrom (my daily commute) and couldn’t find anything I’ve been happy with. Either to small, to much plastic, “how much for that!” shock, unhappy with the shape, you name it, haven’t seen anything I liked.

The closest I’ve come is side boxes (panniers) and top box combo by yellowbirdrs. So a hat tip & thanks here to yellowbirdrs for leading my thoughts in a different direction to a pre-built, off-the-shelf unit.

But at this point, I don’t want panniers, I just want a box big enough to put two helmets in the top box or do a camping trip with (1 x tent, 2 x self inflating matteresses, 2 x sleeping bags, 1 x camp oven, food and clothing for two).

Thusly, I hereby introduce my custom built aluminium topbox.

External dimensions 580mm wide (across the bike), 380mm long (front to back), 340mm high (big enough for all the kit :).

It isn’t finished yet, but fitted to the bike this weekend and road tested it over approx 300km (a ride over Mt Glorious, out to Esk, Somerset, Kilcoy, Woodford, Mt Mee, Dayboro).

I’ve got a little rattle in it which I think is the latch on the top of the box, so this week while doing the commute (550km/week) I’ll be testing things to eliminate the rattle.

Apart from that it’s come through really well. Likely line the inside with foam or rubber this week.

I’m just a “Wee-bit-excited” to tell the truth! My BOX is finally a reality! hehe.

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Thoughts on new communication methods

Lately I’ve been using some social media tools more.

Today while discussing an upcoming presentation with one of the other participants, it occurred to me that some of these tools have in fact become indispensable to me.

I’m using IM in the form of Google chat to keep other employees up-to-date with my movements and availablity, a second Google chat account that my kids communicate with on, tweeting what I’m working on, direct message tweets to key people, mostly ACT!/Work related, SMS’s to those without twitter or google chat on their mobile phone.

These have become more important to me. Why, because they allow me to quickly communicate with the individuals and the greater peer group. I’m finding that while I’m talking with a client, I can check if another employee is able to discuss and issue with said client right now or do I need to book a time.

I’m beginning to wonder how these communication methods will evolve.

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Should you use a twitter auto DM?

At the moment, there seems to be a backlash against using twitter auto DM’s (Direct Messages) to automatically send a new twitter follower a message.

I have a somewhat different point of view on this.

If you’re going to have a message auto sent to a new twitter follower and do one or more of the following, it’s SPAM:

  • a link,
  • say how happy you are,
  • ask them to visit your site,
  • say your looking forward to working with them.

For the above cases, I don’t like them.

However, and this is the “but…”, I do use a DM myself. Why?

Because the “followers” I’m after are those interested in my interest - ACT! CRM Software.

Thus, my DM is as follows:

Hi - if I can help you with any questions re ACT! by Sage or CRM let me know, Ben.

That’s it. No link. No request to visit my web site. If they think it’s SPAMMY then that’s fine, they can un-follow, it merely shows that they are not the type I’m looking to connect with.

Those that remain, they do ask questions, either via twitter or email or phone.

To me, my auto DM to those that choose to follow me on twitter, is a follower filter.

What do you think? let me know via the comments here or via twitter.

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Looking ahead

Exercise this morning was riding the mountain bike, while riding I kept hitting rocks.

I found that I was focused on the section of path just ahead of me, the next 1-4 metres.

Once I started looking forward further, 30-80 metres ahead, I began to avoid the rocks, my perhipheral vision was working for me, avoiding the bigger rocks, picking which smaller ones to ride over, the ride became much much easier.

It was at this point that I realised that life is the same. The more I focus on the immediate problems, all I can see are the immediate problems. Once I start focusing on my goals, the problems become smaller, more manageable.

I’m quite sure this thought is not new, but it really got me inspired this morning, gave me some renewed energy.

One of my goals is to become a better blogger, more active, with better quality of content. It does mean my spelling will have to improve, my grammer also. But more importantly, the frequency with which I post and the focus of the topics on which I post.

So rather than continue to be inspired by myself, I thought this would be ideal to share with everyone. 

I’m looking forward to doing more, and would love to hear from others what they are looking forward to doing more of.

Take care, Ben.

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Network Connection control panel applet

Quick tip on getting the Network Connections control panel applet, do one of the following:*WIN+R, ncpa.cpl

*CTRL-SHIFT-ESC, Applications, File, New Task, ncpa.cpl This will give you quick access to changing network settings, useful if you have no mouse... as per a workstation I'm working on right now.

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Security on crackberries

Just reading this article at CSO on the dangers of using mobile devices and it specifically mentions the John McCain incident:

…officials with John McCain’s campaign mistakenly sold a Blackberry to a Fox television reporter for US$20 in a fire sale…

News like this makes me glad that the most of our clients that use either Blackberries or Windows Mobile devices are using Handheld Contact (aka HHC) to sync their data to their handheld.

I AM GLAD because Handheld Contact has an option on the server side to “Erase data from handheld” which will erase all data sent to the handheld by HHC which is all the contact info for all the contacts.

If a client loses their Blackberry, all it takes is a phone call to their system admin (or me), a couple of mouse clicks and a large chunk of sensitive information is removed from the Blackberry.

cross-posted here

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Wildcard searching Lookups

I often find I want to find someone or a company in ACT!, however I can only remember part of their name - wildcard searching to the rescue.

If I do a company lookup for “outback”, I only get returned a list of companies that begin with “outback”.

However, if I do a company lookup for “%outback” - note the percent sign prefixing the search term, I get a list of all companies that contain the word “outback”.

This is quite useful and can be used on any of the fields, not just the company field.

[Cross posted to Select CRM]

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Suggestions on using LinkedIn

Enjoyed reading this article suggesting ways to use LinkedIn, especially numbers 1, 7 & 8.

Re: #1 - I think it is important to fill in plenty of detail on LinkedIn - if I visit your LinkedIn profile and find that I can’t get to know you better then it has failed for you. By telling me (or telling a potential client/employer) more about yourself can only be a good thing.

Re: #7 & #8 - I’m going to work on these two over the next couple of weeks…

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Become a blogger

Yes - I signed up to - after reading the free road map PDF and watching the 10 free Howto videos.

Even tho I’ve been blogging since 2002, in the last 24 hours I’ve already learnt stuff. Plus I’ve got access to a private forum (ie no trolls) where like minded ‘students’ and experts like Yaro and Gideon answer questions.

What it means for my readers is improved quality from here on in.

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Caramel goodness

I recall watching my mother make caramel by boiling a can of condensed milk, but do you think I can find ANYWHERE on the ‘net that tells me how to do so? nope. Seems everyone is afraid of exploding cans. Managed to find some stories of cans having exploded and the resultant mess.

Thusly, here are two links to making caramel with condensed milk that doesn’t involve boiling the can.

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Changing the world one ACT at a time!

Do you love your job? I do. Let me tell you why. I get to change ‘someones’ world on a daily basis. And I love it. 

I do technical support for a small marketing firm, all of our clients use ACT!, which is a contact management application. When you show someone how they can improve their productivity, improve their bottom line they get excited, and by extenstion, so do I. 

Just this week we demo’ed a customisation that will totally change the clients ability to track the jobs they do, the items associated with those jobs, the people and all the rest of it. The client was literally getting out of his chair, walking around “of course”, “WOW!”, “does that mean…” - “yes it does”. It was a the HIGHLIGHT of my week. To have spent the time delving into their business to work out what they do, how they do it so as to figure out what they needed was fun, it was truely enjoyable, but to see the reaction, the excitement, the realisations for what would now be possible - that was GOLD.

I love my job.

[note: the title “ Changing the world one ACT at a time!” is a hat tip to an insightful guy with a Blue Monster]

[note: edited to fix a typo and add URL for]

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Why use LinkedIn?

I use LinkedIn and find it useful to keep in touch with the business people I deal with. Also it has enabled me to find key people in companies so that I can get the information I need quicker, for example I needed some technical help with an IBM product, I was able to find a contact on LinkedIn that had close contacts with IBM technical people - shortcut to the answer I was looking for.

Thus, if you use LinkedIn, link to me. What goes round comes round. I’ve found others useful, other have found me useful - my LinkedIn profile is here:

Here are some lists that others have compiled of ways you can use LinkedIn to benefit yourself:*Guy Kawasaki on ways to use LinkedIn

*A short slideshow on why LinkedIn is useful

*HUGE list of 100+ ways to use LinkedIN Also worth reading is Mitch Joels take on Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn and the difference between them.

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When SharePoint barfs

A client has a SharePoint installation that has died, with all their project files and data in it.

In the course of searching for how to resurrect it, I’ve found the following that seem to be things that others may well benefit from:*An article on the Official SBS Blog, pointing to an unofficial tool:

During disaster recovery, if no backups other than the database files exist, we may manually extract the files from the database as a “belt and suspenders” approach to disaster recovery.

*A script from Mark Jen at Plaxo that restores files from SharePoint SQL DB with their directory structure

*An article from Ed Walters on how to backup SharePoint

Possibly the biggest lesson here is to ensure that if your using SharePoint, make sure you back it up PROPERLY, ALL OF IT.

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Why LinkedIn and not Facebook

Ok, I’m not accepting any Facebook invites. All Facebook does for me is consume my time and I’ve got work to do.

LinkedIn on the other hand is my online resume, it does keep me in touch with other working professionals. I often get asked “Why LinkedIn?” - well I’ve found this slideshow that details what and how you can use LinkedIn, go check it out.

If you want to connect to me via LinkedIn there are two questions I need to be able to answer first before I’ll accept:*Are you (or your company) someone I know or deal with or about to deal with?

*Is there any value in us being connected?

If your invite answers those, all is good. You can find my LinkedIn Profile here.

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SQL 2005 Versions

I have to thank Kevin Chieff (ACT! guru) for pointing me to this link on how to tell the difference between versions of Microsoft SQL 2005 - and the MS page it points to re the SERVERPROPERTY (Transact-SQL) command.

The number of times I’ve had to work out just which version of SQL is running is amazing. The difficulty in doing so is amazing. There ought to be a simple utility that does it all.

So the two links above will get used a lot in conjuction with my previous post re determining SQL versions.

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Why HandHeldContact

Talking with Mike Lazarus, self described and evident ACT! Evangelist, about HHC (aka HandHeldContact) and he passed on a list he has of some of the HHC advantages (in no particular order):*No need to set up on each user’s PC – faster installation and implementation

*Central administration – including profiles for multiple users and the ability to delete the database from a device remotely

*Supports – Terminal services, Citrix, Web

*Syncs wirelessly up to every 15 minutes

*Uses its own database, so no sudden duplication of the database as happens in most of the link products.

*Automatically send important contacts based on activities scheduled or dynamic groups

*Records Calls, Emails and SMS made from HHC on the device

*Up to 76 ACT! fields (26 standard and 50 user-definable)

*Pop-ups (pull-downs) optionally sent to better support data entry

i.e. if you have an ID STATUS field, HHC will sync the possible values for this field so that when you add a contact via the PDA you have those fields available

*Adding activities on the device sync correctly to the right contact

*Ability to create activities WITH multiple contacts

*View and Schedule activities for other ACT! users

*New build to support ACT!’s Custom Activity Types due very soon

At Evolution Marketing, I’ve been playing with HHC for a few clients. Setting up and deploying the HHC is easy. I’ve simply had people visit a URL, follow the prompts and with little work on the server end, which I’ve been doing remotely to the server, and within 30 min they have their Contacts, task and Calender on the Blackberry. Not only that but I’ve been setting it up so they can see selected calenders of other users. For me this is a major difference between using MS Exchange and ActiveSync.

So far, I haven’t setup HHC on a Windows Mobile device, but the documentation says it can be done. I hope it is as easy as the BB version.

Mike has just said it is the same on WM6, also said setup time for 1 or two users is almost same as setting up 30 users, it only adds 2 min per user, which I can readily believe given the experience I’ve had so far. And if someone schedules an appointment or activity for you with a contact that you are not currently sync’ing to your PDA, then HHC will automagically include that contact on the next sync, how cool is that?]
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Evolving the ACT

It is now two weeks in to my new digs at Evolution Marketing - and it sure is fun.

Primarily I’ve been learning how to drive ACT!, software to take care of your contact management. Yesterday and today I’ve been playing with custom tables in the ACT! MS-SQL database. While ACT! looks after contacts and tasks, meetings & calls to do with your contacts really well, some clients would like to be able to do even more, like handle job sheets etc. Which is the reason for the custom tables. These allow us to track all sorts of other information and connect them to contacts & companies.

I’ve also setup a Blackberry Bold simulator and a Windows Mobile 6 Emulator, this allows me to experience the same things as our clients, notably HandHeldContact, which allows you to sync multiple calenders, notes, histories etc to your phone - loads more than MS Exchange alone allows.

To paraphrase the paragraphs above, I’m having fun learning new stuff!

The other staff at Evolution are great to work with, the coffee is good and all the tech toys I’ve asked for have been delivered, with the exception of the telephone headset, but it is on the way so they’re forgiven ;-). Woot!

Update 20th Oct: Got the telephone headset on Friday afternoon. Cool.

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Port Listening

If like me you need to test if network traffic is getting through a firewall then this tool will be of use to you as well.

You run it on the target/client system, specify which port you want it to listen on, a response message and click on listen. Able to listen on multiple ports even.

Get listen from here.

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Which version of .NET

Sometimes while supporting products, it is very useful to know just what version/s of .NET are installed.

Found this tool just now shows you just that:  Free DotNet VersionCheck Utility>If you’ve ever wanted a quick way to find out which versions and service packs of the .NET runtime are installed on a machine, or if you’re trying to resolve a ‘missing mscoree.dll’ error, then DotNET Version Checker is for you.

VersionCheck itself does not depend on the .NET runtime.

VersionCheck will also tell you whether you have the required Windows components to run .NET applications, and will prompt you with download locations if not.

Update: this page at Microsoft lists the downloads for .NET in the left menu bar.

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All aboard!

All passengers aboard now! This train is leaving the station.

Yup, some who read this will immediately have a chuckle (there is an ‘in’ joke above).

The news is this, I’ve left my good friends at Dolphin Technology Group and moved to a smaller firm on the south-side of Brisbane.

Why the move? Well after spending nearly two and a half years supporting MYOB AE, HandiSoft and a bunch of other Accounting Industry products up and down the eastern coast, I got tired of the traveling and being away from home. The new job has no travel. So I guess the ‘train’ I’ve just caught isn’t leaving the station after all. Perhaps I’m really standing on the platform, waving goodbye to those still on the train?

Who is the new firm? Evolution Marketing - who specialise in ACT! and Sage CRM.

Yesterday was my first day - after the induction it was straight into ‘sponge’ mode. Training began. More today. And tomorrow. Yippie. This is fun ;-).

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Stupid security

This sort of thing REALLY annoys me. Security through obscurity is a FEATURE of this product, the Wyse V10L thin client.

To quote:>And, with an unpublished API, Wyse Thin OS is one of the most secure operating systems on the market.

What rot. What that means translated is “not many people know how our stuff works, so therefore not many people can exploit it”.

And, yes, this may truly mean that it isn’t often exploited. But at some point it will be. Far better to be secure by design than by lack of being a target.

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Links of interest

Here is a list of just a few tabs currently open in my browser:*Re-Router™ Technology, Network Protection without Network Hardware

*I Am Knowledge Worker 2.0

*lightweight and jaunty - ready for a goggle clad steampunk engineer to take to the road

*Linux-based operating system for thin clients

*Windows Vista Firewall

*How to build your own electricity producing Solar Panel

*Find out of print books

;-) I don’t want to lose track of these…

PS: I’d forgotten how fun it can be to just spend an hour or so just ‘surfin the web…

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Improve MYSQL Performance

I’ve just been reliably informed that one quick way to improve MYSQL Database performance is to issue the following command:

mysql -u uname -e “show databases” grep -v Database grep -v “+” \ gawk ‘{print “drop database “ $1 “;”}’ mysql -u uname

After this, the MYSQL Server will be screaming along. Of course there may be some ‘ other’ screaming going on… ;-) - So kids, don’t try this at home without some adult supervision.

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Resurrecting Terminal Server

A Terminal Server I was attempting to work on today gave quite a lot of grief. The first hint was that users were unable to login to it. When I then tried to login, it gave an error message of:

Login Failed

You are connected to the remote computer. Howerver, an error occured while an initial user program was starting, so you are being logged off. Contact the system administrator for assistance.

So I rebooted it remotely using the command shutdown /r /f /m \TSERVER1 while having a continuous ping running, from the ping results I could see it go down, come back up. However on trying to login now, after entering a username/password I could see the logon script run, but no taskbar, start button appeared. Right clicking the desktop didn’t give any menu.

I could however navigate to the hard drive on that machine by pointing My Computer to \tserver1\c$.

Copying some of the tools at I was able to view the event logs, no issues apparent, check status of various services, all ok.

So I connected via RDP once more ( mstsc /v:tserver1 /console) and viewed the background (still no start button or taskbar) and pressed CTRL-ALT-END which allowed me to start the Task Manager. This allowed me to run a new task ( File | New tas (run…)) so now I was able to copy the sysinternals autoruns program to the root of the C: partition, and run it from the affected terminal server. Running c:\windows\explorer.exe didn’t work tho.

Delving into it’s depths I found an entry for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\Explorer - renaming this entry then allowed Explorer to run. So I’ve exported the key (in case I do want it sometime) and then deleted it.

Rebooted the server once more and bingo, it lets everyone log in. Very satisfying after a couple of hours of mad hair tearing.

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How to remove unwanted software

Like Symantec Anti-virus. At a friends house right now, and trying to uninstall the product, it won’t - it keeps saying that something else wants to keep it there. Very unhelpful error message by the y way (if Symantec is listening).

Found a great page that explains how to remove unwanted software (surprise, they also trying to remove Symantec… hmmm….).

Here it is at


*Then do a search for Symantec (or the name of the software you want to be rid of)

*Copy the value of UninstallString

*Open a command prompt (Start | Run | CMD) and paste the UninstallString here and add REMOVE=ALL to the end of that string, press enter. It will look similar to this: MsiExec.exe /X{DBA4DB9D-EE51-4944-A419-98AB1F1249C8} REMOVE=ALL


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How big is your pipe?

A common grumble I hear about the place is that the internet is too slow. While many things on the local LAN can affect this, the first port of call is to actually know what size pipe we have to the internet.

To determine this, is great. It shows with good use of eye candy how quick your upload and download speed is (or isn’t).

Not only that but it identifies which ISP your using. A quick handy tool to use.

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Comprehension is king

When I was doing web development work, we oft liked to say “Content is king” it is vital for search engine optimization.

My point of view on this has changed today: Content is not and never has been king .

My new point of view is this: Comprehension is king .

This is because you can have all the content you want, if the reader of your content, your client, does not comprehend it, then what was the point?

Content must be comprehended by your intended readers.

Is content any less important. No, simply that comprehension is MORE important and the structure of that content aids or hinders comprehension.

It also made me realise that most of what I post here has been primarily for one of two reasons:*My comprehension - so I don’t forget what it is or where it is

*For one of my clients comprehension - so they can have a reference point to an issue

At lunch talking with an associate it was one of those little ‘light bulb’ moments for me - that Comprehension is king and that this is why I post on my blog.

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Email error codes

Ever got an email message saying something like this?

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification. THIS IS A WARNING MESSAGE ONLY. YOU DO NOT NEED TO RESEND YOUR MESSAGE. Delivery to the following recipients has been delayed. < > The reason for the problem: 4.1.0 - Unknown address error 451-‘DNS temporary failure (#4.3.0)’

If you have, then like me, deciphering this is made heaps easier with these two pages: this page at Microsoft, which list the Enhanced Status Codes for Delivery as per RFC 1893 - Enhanced Mail System Status Codes.

Using this, I now know that 4.1.0 & 4.3.0 means:

4.X.X Persistent Transient Failure

   A persistent transient failure is one in which the message as
   sent is valid, but some temporary event prevents the successful
   sending of the message.  Sending in the future may be successful.

X.1.0 Other address status

      Something about the address specified in the message caused
      this DSN.

X.3.X Mail System Status

      Mail system status indicates that something having to do
      with the destination system has caused this DSN.  System
      issues are assumed to be under the general control of the
      destination system administrator.

X.0.0 Other undefined Status

      Other undefined status is the only undefined error code. It
      should be used for all errors for which only the class of the
      error is known.

All of which let me know where to start looking in order to fix this. Hope you find it useful too.

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PuTTY fills the gaps

Yup, PuTTYhas saved the day again!

No it hasn’t actually filled any gap, but tonight I needed to restart the named service on a server, not being at my own computer (yes, I actually have a life occasionally), a quick google for PuTTY pointed to it, downloaded and mere seconds later logged in and service named restart had web URLs resolving once again.

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OT Mount Barney hike photo

For the extended family and friends, here is one of the photos from last months hike up the South East Ridge at Mount Barney.

This link shows a photo that one of the kids took while we while we were breaking camp Sunday morning. Essentially it was a small ledge approx 1.5m one end and 2m the other end. We fit 5 kids (ages 10-15) and three adults on this ledge.

All in all a fantastic weekend ;-)

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Registry utility I would love to have

I don’t have this, but I certainly would use it. A simple utility to do search and replace in the Microsoft Windows registry.

Ideally it would do the following:*Specify a list of values to delete - it would then remove ALL those values

*Specify a value and what to replace it with

*Specify a key and what key to replace it with

*Specify a key and what value to make it

My immediate use is removing entries that a virus (WORM actually) has entered in. Using regedit is a pain pain pain!

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How to shortcut to Network Connection for Vista

One of the things that has irked me about Vista has been how hard (read how many clicks it takes) to get to the Network Connections in Vista. Thus here is how to create a shortcut to take you straight there.

Right click on your desktop | New | Shortcut |

explorer.exe ::{7007ACC7-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E}

| Next | enter an appropriate name like Network Connections | Finish and bingo, you now have a shortcut to take you straight there.

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Terminal Server FTP without admin rights

I’ve just found myself needing to FTP some files to a clients site. The file are in the data directory on our company’s terminal server (which I don’t have admin rights on) and I need them on a SQL Server for a client.

I do have access to a FTP Server but the first step is to get the files up to the FTP Server then download them to the client site. Yes, I could use the command line tool ftp but that is just too painful at this time of day (read: night).

Thus a quick google turned up this: AnyClient - The Free No-Install FTP Client.

It is a java applet. What a lifesaver, nice gui (similar to Filezilla, which is my choice of FTP clients). Anyway, AnyClient is quick and easy to use. Just thought I’d share the find.

Oh, and of course, no admin rights needed, as there is no program installing. Yay!

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Catch this train

A good friend of mine, John Cantarella, has been using the training courses provided by Train Signal. I’ve had a look over his sholder at some of this stuff and it’s fantastic.

The Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 R2 training is ‘informal’ in the sense that it actually feels like your in the same room with the guy, him telling me how it all fits together.

I wish I’d had something like this two years ago…. ;-)

Thanks to John for letting me take a look at it - he was able to show me some stuff I didn’t yet know.

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Resetting password on Palm T3 PDA

My old beloved Palm T3 PDA, which in my humble opinion is possible the best PDA I’ve ever used, is now used by my daugher. She set the system password… and forgot it… oops.

Thusly, to reset it to factory defaults, and in the process, lose ALL saved data on it, you need to press and hold the POWER button, while pressing the reset button (hidden on the back). Once the “Palm Powered” logo appears, release the POWER button, say YES to erasing all the data, and Bob’s your uncle, all reset to factory defaults.

Unfortunately the Palm doesn’t have a phone in it, like the company provided PDA, hence why I don’t use the palm any longer.

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A card by any other name is still a card

I just saw Dan York (via twitter) point to a Fast Company article about “ The Ultimate Calling Card” - which I found interesting - nothing really new but worth pointing to anyhow.

I’ve often thought of writting a book, but finding the time, or more precisely, taking time away from other activities, is the most difficult part of the equation. Perhaps I should take the advice I heard some time ago: “15 minutes per day, every day”. Hmmm….

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Will Microsoft support it?

Ever wondered when support for a Microsoft product will end? For example, ever wonder when support for Windows 2000 Professional will end?

Wonder no more, because from this link, you can drill down to your product, and see if it still has mainstream support, extended support or none at all.

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Moving computers around OUs

I’ve had this snippet hanging around as a draft for some time, here it is.

Moving comptuers around OUs (Organisational Units) can be a pain if you can’t find the computer you want.

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Painless upgrade to WordPress 2.5

Just did yet another painless upgrade to WordPress, which is the software that powers this web site.

It is now running version 2.5 quite happily. What made this upgrade different was the fact that I did it from my laptop running Ubuntu 7.10.

Every other upgrade I’ve done from a Windows platform, using the FTP tool I’ve been familiar with, FileZilla.

The default install of Ubuntu hasn’t installed FileZilla, so it was a quick click to System Administration Synaptic Package Manager Search “Filezilla” Mark for install approve the dependancies Apply.

In under a minute, FileZilla was installed and my favorite FTP tool was running just like it does on my Windows laptop. Yay! I just love how easy it is to install most things with Ubuntu.

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Brisbane launch of HEROES happen {here}

I went along to the launch earlier this evening of the Microsoft Server 2008 HEROES happen {here} launch.

Yes it is one month after the offical launch, but tonight I hear more about Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008, both of which have some good features and product inclusions and exclusions.

I take my hat off to one of the presenters, Robbie Upcroft, for his honesty and candor. It was refreshing to see coming from Microsoft. We had some questions for him regarding x64 Exchange 2007 vs x32 Exchange 2003 - as some third party vendors are dragging the chain (read: some LOB application providers are still using 16 bit code in applications), hence could we use SBS 2008/EBS 2008 and use Exchange 2003 instead of Exchange 2007. Answer, yes.

All in all a great evening which helped confirm the direction in which MS is headed with this product set.

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The key to "True Fans"

Reading the post over The Technium about True Fans and it made me think (and I’m taking a personal approach here):

EVERY business needs fans.

The key to my business is how well we treat our fans.

Then they either become non-fans, or they become true-fans.

In this context, the words fans and clients are inter-changeable.

Kevin talks about artists, and the concept (reality) that each artist can survive with a limited number of fans, different for each artist, but nominally pegged at 1000 true fans per artist. Obviously you need fewer true fans if your making more dollars from each one, more if you make less from each.

Now artists may be creative types, but business people like to eat something other than chicken soup too. It makes me think about the equations used to determine pricing, levels of service and how many clients are needed. As Kevin puts it “

The processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans.”

I don’t think there is one right answer, one size fits all approach. But I do believe that this thinking can be applied to more than just artists.

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More GRUB editing

Two pages I’ve found useful when playing with GRUB (a Boot loader that allows you to choose between multiple operating systems on boot up) are these:

It is nice to be able to re-order the menu items, change the length of time the menu stays on screen and change the wording of each entry.

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Ubuntu & Wireshark sitting in a tree

Did a google for “Ubuntu wireshark install” hoping to get some instructions on how to get Wireshark installed under Ubuntu.

Found the following line: sudo apt-get install ethereal

and knowing that ethereal was the former name for wireshark, I promptly entered sudo apt-get install wireshark

at the command prompt. Lo and Behold, it starts installing Wireshark. I love it when stuff is sensible…

Ohh, oh, oh, it works too. Just like that.

Anyhow, getting back to what I was saying, it is really nice  when playing with a new program (or operating system) and things start falling into place with where to find things, how to do stuff.

One of the things I’m finding with Ubuntu is that while it is harder to install things (not by much tho) I’m finding that i’m actually more producting minute for minute than with Windows (XP or Vista)  - that is when typing a document or actually going to get something done, I’m taking less time with to do the doing. It isn’t that the programs are magically better (I don’t think) but rather that there are fewer distractions. Perhaps that will change with time and knowledge. I don’t know.

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Ubuntu VPN goodness

I’m now running Ubuntu 7.10 on my personal laptop (it dual boots with MS Vista Ultimate, but defaults to Ubuntu). Of course I want to do it all, including connecting to MS Windows VPN’s.

The short set of instructions over at tipotheday were spot-on.

My only addition would be to have the Ubuntu 7.10 install CD (or ISO) handy. Personally I used the command line (CLI) version, worked a treat.

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Editing the GRUB records

Posted more for my own benefit

sudo vi /boot/grub/menu.lst

This runs vi as the superuser, editing the grub menu, which is what controls which OS to boot into. Important for me ‘cause the new laptop is now dual booting Ubuntu and MS Vista Ultimate. Just changing the default OS, now it’s Ubuntu 7.10, loving it!

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What is VDI?

Found this VERY interesting read on the state of VDI:>Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is not a product. You can’t call up a company and ask for 5 licenses of VDI. It is concept comprised of multiple solutions or products to achieve a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (though recent announcements have Citrix XenDesktop as a single product that comes very close). The concept of VDI virtualizes desktops operating systems (Vista, XP, Linux, etc) and deliver the remote view of the desktop via a display protocol. In addition, there will be management and control systems to manage the provisioning/deprovisioning of virtual machines and applications.

All in all a comprehensive look at some of the players, the concepts and a comparison. If your looking to understand a little more about remote desktops this is a read for you.

update: Forgot the link! Here it is now:  The Current State of VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (Thanks Stephen)

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Beat Adobe Reader black and red

On a Terminal Server today some users were experiencing red and black patches appearing when they opened PDF files.

A Knowledge Base article at Adobe indicates a similar, but evidently not the same, issue having been rectified in Adobe Reader 8.1 - that of the color not being rendered correctly for the first rectangle object in a section of a PDF document. Evidently not the same because it didn’t work for me. What did work however was disabling Text Smoothing.

Here is how to do it:Open Adobe Reader | Document | Accessibility Setup Assistant | Set all accessibility options | Next


Next | Next | Next | Done

And bingo, no more red and black patches appearing.

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Dynamic Web Hosting changes

Dynamic Web Hosting has been acquired by Dolphin Technology Group, with whom I am also involved.

It means a change of name, it will now be Dolphin Web Hosting. One of those little things that tickles me is that the TLA (Three Letter Acronym) remains the same - DWH.

Importantly it also means a much larger pool of resources for us, engineers, expertise, hardware and infrastructure.

Lee Hopkins has already noted the change, and over the coming months the change will become more evident (for example, we will redo the web site - we might even makeover the Dolphin Technology web site ;-).

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Downgrade Vista to XP?

Yup, you can.

Microsoft Vista Business & Vista Ultimate come with ‘Downgrade’ rights.

IBM have a page explaining the process, as do a number of other suppliers.

Why would you want to? Well one client I have is about to purchase some new workstations, rather than upgrade all the other workstations to Vista, or have some running Vista and some running XP, it makes sense for all workstations to be on the same OS, with the same apps. By downgrading to XP now, and having the right to revert back to Vista later makes for an easier transition now.

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What are MX Records?

I was asked to explain MX records today, here it is for others as well:

MX Records, or Mail eXchange Records, is simply a line of text in a file on a DNS Server on the internet.

What it does however is VERY important. It tells other peoples mail servers where to deliver email they are sending to you.

DNS MX RecordThe first MX record (indicated by a lower number, in this example, 10 is known as the primary MX record. This is where email servers will try to send email first. If it fails, then it will try subsequent MX records (in this example, 20

If your email server is hosted onsite on MS Small Business Server 2003 and you change ISP, you will have a new STATIC IP address assigned. Given that your MX record will be pointing to the old IP address, you won’t be getting any email arrive.

To fix this means editing the MX record to reflect the new IP address. That will involve either lodging a job with your hosting provider, or domain name registrar.

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Security isn't virtual

When speaking with some people, it has been evident that they figured virtual servers were more secure than traditional physical servers.

This quote: “I don’t want to be reverse engineering our products to find exploits or figure out signatures, fundamentally, that means we have to partner. Fortunately, there is a bunch that are happy to partner and I encourage that.” by VMware founder and chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum certainly indicates that there are security concerns (found via: VMTN Blog).

My take on it is this: not only do virtual servers have the same set of security issues as a physical server, but because there are now ‘more components in the system’ there are also more ‘points of failure’, that is, there are now more things to consider in order to make things safe.

Update 21st Sept 2007 3:32pm: see this on latest VMware bugs.

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Email size limts in Exchange

Have an Microsoft Exchange server and want to change the maximum size of emails that can be sent or recieved?

Here is how: Open up Exchange System Manager, Global Settings, right click Message Delivery, select Properties, Defaults and bingo, you can set both Sending message size and Receiving message size.

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Crises conceal opportunities

Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity. - Joe Sugarman

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