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Focus Oil Service Reminder

If, like me, you don’t particularly trust manufacturers main dealers (back street garages with big badges) then you’ll probably choose to get your car serviced elsewhere by someone you trust, or do it yourself.

My car is still under Warranty, so I choose to let my step dad service it at his garage Holbrook Motor Services – but use genuine Ford parts to keep the balance of my warranty.  With my car approaching 25,000 miles I arrange for Ken to service it for me a fortnight ago.

This week it clicked over 25,000 miles and the annoying “Service Oil” reminder came up on the dash.  This then comes up every time you start the car.  Because it wasn’t displaying when I took the car in, it didn’t need resetting (yes they have the dealer tools to do this!)..  but obviously now it did.

You can do this yourself – and I have; and thought it’d be handy to post it here in case any other Ford owners

To Reset Oil Service on a Mark 2 Ford Focus:

1.  Close all doors.

2.  Turn the ignition key to position II.

3.  Press both accelerator & brake pedals  and hold for a minimum of 15 seconds (dash will say “Oil Service Reset in Progress”)

4.  The dash will beep and read “Oil Service Reset Complete.”    Job Done.

Banks: Their Own Worst Enemies.

The Big 4
The Big 4

This is a real tale of just how stupid banks can be.  It involves one of the “Big 4” high street retails banks in the UK and me.

Winding Up.

I had a limited company which I had wound up, it had a loan with ‘BigBank’ – which was paid by means of a standing order in to the company current account with BigBank. The only reason that the current account existed was for the payment of this loan, because BigBank refused to take the money by Direct Debit from anywhere else and wouldn’t allow a standing order direct into the loan.  Stupid.

So, every month £175 went into this account and £175 went out automatically; to the point I had almost forgotten about it except for the money going out of my account every month.  As the company had been dormant for so long I asked my accountants to wind it up – which they did.

Bouncy.

Obviously BigBank has an electronic link to Companies House, and as such froze the account.  So the £175 standing order in to the current account was returned to me.  Yet they still paid the loan, leaving the account £175 overdrawn with no agreement.  Which they charged £30 for.

I immediately rang my bank manager and explained what I thought had happened, and he concurred.  As there was a few months left on the loan I offered to repay it immediately, and the £175 balance on the current account; but no fee’s.   He said he’d get that sorted, and thanked me for calling.

He rang back later that day and said that he couldn’t do it because the system wouldn’t allow him – the account was frozen.  I asked how I could repay the banks £1,100 – “you can’t” was his reply.  What??  I was told I would have to wait for their recoveries team to get in touch, but he would ask them to do that promptly.

Waiting.

Another month went by and they took the £175 again, and added another £30 charge on; before I finally got a flurry of letters from BigBank.  One of the letters was a formal demand for repayment of £11,000 – the full amount of the loan which now only had a little over £1000 left to repay.  Two of the letters referred to my personal guarantee on the loans of a company I had never even heard of.  Total and complete system failure.  Remember I just want to repay what’s owed.

I replied to their letters with a complaint stating that I was very unhappy at having to wait for letters rather than just repay what I didn’t contend was owed, then I received letters demanding repayment of £11,000 in 21 days, and then letters demanding repayment of someone else’s loan.  They just weren’t organised at all.

Settling.

I got a letter back apologising and asking me to call to arrange repayment of £1010 (they’d taken the fees and extra interest off) within 21 days else they would instruct solicitors.  They were now threatening me!! I rang them and explained what had happened, they seemed to think this was normal.  I told them under the circumstances I was prepared to offer them £750 to settle the account.

To my surprise they accepted.  So, instead of having £1100 three months ago they have accepted £750 – they have done themselves out of £350.

No wonder they are state owned – if I let people who wanted to pay, pay only 68% of what they owed me, 90 days after it was due I would be out of business sharpish too.

MRU in SSMS 2008

SSMS 2008 MRU
SSMS 2008 MRU

The “Most Recently Used” list in SQL Server Management Studio is really useful feature if you regularly connect to a defined number of servers.  However if you want to remove an old server from it, or it is full of servers you no longer connect to it rapidly becomes a pain!

It turns out that you can’t edit the entries which are in the MRU at all – not even using the registry like you can for Word etc.  Information is a bit thin on the ground for SSMS 2008 on Win7, but the best you can do is totally wipe the list by deleting the file which contains it contents.

1.  Close SSMS.

2.  Find & Delete (or rename) the file:

C:\Users\<User Name>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Tools\Shell\SqlStudio.bin

3.  Restart SSMS and you will have a blank list.

If you were really clever you could have multiple SqlServer.bin files depending on the MRU list you wanted, and use a batch file to rename them and then launch SSMS itself.  Cunning.



							

Windows 7 – Latitude E6410

Latitude E6410
Latitude E6410

As discussed in my last blog post I recently got a Lattitude E6410, and upgraded the memory in it to 8GB; but of course this is useless with the 32bit Windows XP Professional operating system it came with.  (Here is a technical explanation of why you can’t access >3Gb of RAM on a 32bit System).

So, I set about installing Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on the laptop.  I was amazed how quickly it installed.  From rebooting with the Win 7 DVD in the drive to being able to use Windows was a mere 28 minutes.  However, I was of course left with the machine without all the drivers installed.

Drivers.

As normal when you install a newish operating system on a modern computer there will be some devices which the operating system doesn’t have drivers for and you need to install.  This shouldn’t be a problem because the drivers should be available from the manufacturer.

Sure enough Dell had a whole pile of drivers available; and I duly ploughed through them: LAN, Video, Sound, WiFi, Touchpad, and the usual suspects.  However even after all of this I had two devices showing in Device Manager as unknown or not installed.  It took a pile of searching to find out what they were – to save a bit of time here is what I found.

Broadcom USH.

It turns out this device is in fact the Dell Control Vault Security Devices.  In my particular case there are none fitted to my laptop, althouh the interface is present.  Ordinarily this would be the fingerprint reader and the like.  However it is not obvious from “Broadcom USH” what this is… but Dell do have the drivers if you look for Control Vault; just be careful to select the Driver and not the application stuff if you are looking for a minimal footprint install.

Unknown Device.

This was quiet confusing; and all I could glean from the properties tab was that it had something to do with ACPI, which is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.  Anyway, it turns out this is infact the ST Microelectronics Free Fall Sensor.  The driver for which is hidden in the “Applications” section of the Dell support website.

Speedy.

With 8Gb of RAM Windows 7 appears to running very very fast – I’ll keep you all posted. Hope this helps you install Win 7.

Memory Upgrade – Dell Latitude E6410

I recently got a new Latitutide E6410, however it only came with 2Gb of RAM.  It also came with Windows XP Professional 32 bit, which means that only just over 3Gb of RAM would be useable in any case… well, I intend to run some fairly hefty Virtual Machines in VM Ware so wanted to max out the RAM.

I always use Crucial for memory upgrades as they are reasonably priced, give some cashback via QuidCo, and I have never ever had a fault piece of memory from them in over 10 years.  Their System Configurator is also really handy for selecting exactly the right type of memory (I loose track of the exact differences betwene types).

It told me I could max out the machine at 8Gb of RAM, for only £120.  I remember when I couldn’t buy a hard drive that big, let alone for that sort of money.  Anyway, it arrived and I initially struggled to find where it went on the E6410 – gone was the nice little “flap” on the base of the unit covering the RAM bay.  I found some instructions for an E6500 which turned out to be similar; but I thought I’d take some photo’s to show to get the to the memory bay on a E6410.

Upgrading.

Battery Removed
Battery Removed

Turn off the laptop.  Turn over the PC and remove the battery using the two latches.

Screw Removed
Screw Removed

Remove the large screw in the center of the base of the laptop.  Note this screw is spring loaded, so go easy in case you loose it. This is the only screw you need to remove – you can leave the others in place (they hold in the Hard Disk  & Optical Drives).

Slide Forward - Small Amount
Slide Forward - Small Amount

Using the rubber feet push the bottom cover away from you (towards what would be the front of the laptop).  This should slide about 5mm forward and you can then lift it off.

Open
Open

Replace the memory modules, and then reverse steps to re-assemble.

Q6PWP-37GW9-7D7K9-X783D-4BBVB jad

Good News For Pilots?

But not in Europe!

For several years now there has been a massive slow down in pilot recruitment, I am talking mainly fixed wing because they make up the most of the market.  This has been brought about by the aftermath of 9/11, and then the global economic downturn.

Getting a job as an airline pilot is a very hard game for what is known as an ‘ab-initio’ pilot (someone with no experience) at the moment, because there is a glut of pilots with experience who are out of work.

The normal “route” to a commercial flying job in the UK / EU (and this holds true for rotary too generally) is to get your private licence, hour build, do your exams for commercial, get your commercial licence, hour build, get your instructors rating, hour build, get a job with airline!

This costs an awful lot of money, and some airlines (generally the Low Cost operators) have been making it harder with some questionable employment practices involving agency employment and loans etc; and by making new pilots pay for their own type rating onto large jets (Boeing 737 / Airbus A320) – and they have been able to get away with this because there are more potential pilots than jobs.

Times, they be a changing.

Pilot Training
Get One While You Can!

Last week Boeing released some research, which is covered by the BBC, suggesting that over the next 20 years the airline industry would need to recruit 500,000 new pilots (and another 450,000 engineers too) to support the developing demand for pilots from Asia, especially China.

The even better news (for pilots and wannabe pilots) from Europe & USA is that Boeing thinks its unlikely that Asia will have the infrastructure in place to train these pilots themselves and so will have to recruit from abroad.

Recruiting pilots from “western” countries has been a hallmark of growing aviation markets; they like to bring in the experience and then use that to develop their own people.  I have flown with airlines like Emirates, for example, who often have an ex-pat Captain and a local First Officer as crew.  This works out well, because knowledge is passed on and over time I am sure the local pilots will rise to be Captains.

So… it could be a good time to get into flying?

Bad Tweeting, Bad Manners or Bad Magazine?

Rotor & Wing Logoor all of the above? Until yesterday I followed @rotorandwing on Twitter, this being the account which represents one of the rotary aviation industries oldest magazines – Rotor & Wing.

The reason I unfollowed them was because they kept flooding my twitter timeline.  By that I mean that they would post lots of tweets all close together – yesterday it was 19 tweets in minutes.  Obviously all contain links to their articles (which is what I want), but to post 19 tweets consecutively is, to my mind, just bad form.  They will now go quiet for a long time – the previous “batch” of tweets was 4 days ago.   Why not spread them out over a few days?

So, to my mind that is the Bad Tweeting covered.

I tweeted them a couple of times and pointed out how annoying it was, and that consequently I doubted that many people would read all the tweets and/or any of the related articles.  Totally ignored, not even acknowledged.  R&W use TwitterFeed to post their articles onto the twitter account, and I suspect this is probably linked to the content management system they use for their website… maybe the flooding just needs a setting tweaking, they could’ve explained.  Not interested – it’s a 1 way Twitter account, the worst kind.

Twitter is social network, it’s for being social on – you know, actually interacting with people.  In this case those people are your readers, subscribers and members of the (surprisingly small) industry you’re representing.  R&W could actually use it as a source of information, instead of ignoring people.  Still, ignorance is bliss.

Thats the Bad Manners covered.

And seeing as I am rounding on Rotor & Wing today I’d also say that I personally find their design a little “80’s”, and although the standard of the journalism is high, and the information accurate it’s almost painful to read.  The website design is just as bad, and is full of adverts.  Beauty of design is in the eye of the beholder though, so you may like it; this is my subjective opinion.

Worse though is that the tweets and news aren’t even timely.  This tweet from yesterday links to a story dated 1st September about the retirement of Robinson Helicopter founder Frank Robinson.  This is old news – Vertical Magazine had the same news 17 days ago , and the actual press release was 19 days ago.

So that covers the bad magazine bit too.

I thought that it was just me, I get niggled easily by little things; I like attention to detail and timely information.  Turns out I am not the only one who has stopped following them – several people have agreed with me since.   Please Rotor & Wing, bring yourselves into the modern era and play nicely? Else I can’t see you surviving!

Drop Box On A Server

For a while now I have been using the Microsoft Live Mesh cloud file store, in fact pretty much right through its Beta program, across my Windows XP PC, a Windows 7 Virtual Machine,  and my iMac (running Leopard).

It was always really buggy on the iMac, and more often that not wasn’t syncing; I’d have to “force quit” it, and then restart it to make it work.  Well, Microsoft have announced that the Beta is ending, and Live Mesh will be replaced with Windows Live Sync, and the store size will drop from 5Gb to 2Gb.

The fact that it was so buggy on the Mac made it almost unusable, because my files wouldn’t be in Sync, and then I’d end up with duplicates etc, so I decided to move to Dropbox earlier in the week, as it seems to have much better reviews for cross platform stuff, and the file size is the same now too.  Plus it has an iPhone & iPad client!!

Server Backup.

It occurred to me that I could use a different LiveMesh account to sync a backup of a server I look after for a local business.  It’s only about 800Mb of mainly SQL Server backups.  So, I installed Dropbox – and set the backup to be copied to the dropbox folder.  Gave it a test run and all seemed well – I could see the files in Dropbox!

However, it didn’t seem to have updated when I checked this morning.  Well, it turns out that Dropbox relies on its application being running, and since I had logged off the server it hadn’t been running.

Running Dropbox as a Service.

The simple answer to this in my mind was to run Dropbox as a service, so it ran when the server was rebooted irrespective of whether anyone as logged on.  Thankfully I found a web page with 15 handy tips for Drop Box users…  which detailed this process to make Dropbox run as a service.

The only snag I had with these instructions is that DropBox wasn’t installed in c:\program files\dropbox for me, it was in the Application Data directory – so you have to just alter the commands given in the example a little bit, and I found it easier to use Regedit that the REG /ADD command, as the syntax was a bit screwy.

Works a treat now – simple online backup for a small server.  Another triumph for cloud based computing?

To WWW or not to do WWW?

Preferring the robot over the human…

Having to type www before most websites you visit isn’t very friendly is it?  While I am well aware of the signficance of the WWW in DNS / network topology terms, it dates back to the days when the internet was largely used by nerds & geeks (takes one to know one!) – the demographic of the average internet user today really couldn’t be much different.

That, coupled with the fact that most websites start with www, just means it’s needless complication to my mind.  Most big companies realise this, and also find it snappier to advertise just their domain.  They will sort it out for you, try it – type microsoft.com, or dell.com, or bbc.co.uk into your browser…. you get the www. version, don’t you?

The www. has been dropped, just like the http:// has been too.

Government Fail

Unless, that is, you’re trying to get at some of the biggest UK government websites.  Take for example Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs – possibly the one agency every citizen has no choice to use.  hmrc.gov.uk fails to resolve.  www.hmrc.gov.uk works fine though.  Same with the Air Accident Investigation Branch, Parliament, Prison Service and counltess others.

I should say, that some do work – and importantly the gateway to government websites, direct.gov does work.

Why would they do this?

Well, it could just be they forget to configure it – either in the DNS for the domain, or the webserver itself.  I’d say that’s lazy or sloppy – every domain I register and host is configured to allow both URLS to be used.

The more likely reason, I think, is duplicate content.  Search engines, especially Google, penalise duplicate content at different addresses – and this will hurt where your site is positioned in the search results.

Canonical Domains.

How can it be duplicate if it is the same content on the same site?  Well, simple – it’s at two different addresses; and so is indexed twice.  It’s duplicate.    For example, these two URLs are different, but the content the same:

www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/forms.aspx
dft.gov.uk/dvla/forms.aspx

The way this should be handled is with URL re-writing or a 301 redirect.  That is the webserver should make sure only 1 version ever appears on the web by changing it and redirecting the user (and thus also Google).  If you go to the second address above, you will find you actually end up at the first one! The DVLA is using a redirect to ensure only one version is available.

This is really simple to set up on both Apache and IIS webservers; and it means your users have a much nicer experience, and who is more important, the bots or the user?….maybe it should be a standard for government departments!

Changing URLs on WordPress

Hiding yourself from Search Engines…

It’s not often you hear someone saying that they want to hide a website which they are working on from Google completely, but that was the scenario which faced me earlier this week. I have a client who runs a couple of websites, each for a specific service his company offers.

While he works on the website content we generally don’t want it indexed, because that could potentially lead search engines to index incomplete, or incorrect information and we have no guarantee how quickly it would be updated once the site was complete. In the past to avoid this I have set up a new website on a different domain name, for instance development.domain.com which allows him to use the site normally, but made it unlikely (but not impossible) for a search engine spider to find it.

The Move To WordPress

However, I want to move him over to using WordPress installations, because they are easier to maintain and with the new custom taxonomies and post types in v3 WordPress  really comes of age as a CMS (content management system).

Wordpress Logo

I have set him up a WordPress install for him to work on his next site – but WordPress isn’t good at changing the URL at which it is hosted… because when you upload images into either posts or pages it inserts them with a full reference to the URL which the site is currently at.

So a picture in a page uploaded during development to development.domain.com will stop working when you change the site over to www.domain.com – because it no longer exists.

WordPress touch on this in the final paragraph of their advice on changing URL’s,but not really any more than to say it needs some thought.

There are several plug ins which claim to go through the database and fix this for you – but I can’t afford to have the first Word Press install go anything less than swimmingly for this chap, I don’t want him to lose confidence in it… he’s not technical (thats what he pays me for!).

Robots.txt

My solution is therefore temporary in it’s nature. I have installed his development WordPress site in the full URL which it will run at when it goes live – but to prevent it being indexed I have created a robots.txt file which instructs search engines not to index the site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

I am hoping this is temporary as it’s not the neatest fix in the world – but it will work! Anyone else have any other suggestions?

User-agent: *
Disallow: /