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I Was Wrong About Gamification: It Works.

What feels like way back in early 2012 I was still dabbling with a little bit of coding from time-to-time and scoffed when Microsoft announced that they were bringing the XBox to their Professional development environment, Visual Studio.

VSAchievmentUnlocked

Visual Studio Achievements, as the plug in for Visual Studio was called, meant that developers could ‘Unlock Achievements’ and take part in leader boards to exhibit their prowess in particular areas of Visual Studio.  They could even share their achievements on social media, their blog and in a public leader board.

This was part of the emerging trend of Gamification – the act of taking game like characteristics such as point collecting, leader boards and the like, and applying them to other areas.  This was (and still is) spilling over from digital marketing, where it’s proved a very effective marketing tool for big and small brands alike.

My background has always been in Line-Of-Business application development, and predominantly for engineering or process-orientated companies: I worked in what I regarded as ‘the grown up world.‘  I didn’t like this approach and didn’t see how it would encourage quality code – although I could see how it would increase quantity.  It seemed like the ‘dumbing down’ of the business world, and where would it end?

Gamification – I Was Wrong & It’s Addictive.

I was wrong, and I may even be a convert. While I don’t use Visual Studio as a daily tool any more, so VS Achievements doesn’t apply to me, I do use a To Do List tool called ToDoIst to help me manage the tasks I have to do and remember those coming up.

I started using ToDoIst because it had some great reviews in some productivity blogs I happened to be reading at the time, it is easy to add tasks to, you can add them to ‘projects’ and it works easily across various devices.  I soon became addicted and it earned its place as a pinned tab in Firefox next to GoogleApps and Trello.

Then I noticed the ‘Karma‘ tab at the top.  It was gamifying my to-do list.  You get karma points for adding tasks to the list, more karma points for completing them and there are even achievement levels for karma. I found myself checking this often – it’s a really handy, easy measure of how productive I am being!

ToDoIstKarma

The real killer for me though, was the ‘Last 7 Days’ and the ‘Streak’ function.  You can set a target number of items to get done each day, tell ToDoIst what days you work and it’ll tell you whether you’re hitting that goal – and it’ll keep a track of how many days in a row you’ve done that.

Once you get on a roll and get a few days in a row when you’ve hit your target, you really don’t want to drop out, and you want a longer streak.  My record is 9 days – but I’m not doing so well this week! DailyStreak

So, I’ll have to admit: When presented well gamification can be great motivation.

It’s just evolution though…

That got me thinking about what was really going on… is gamification really any more than an evolution of the long established industrial / business tool of ‘visualisation’.   In factories and process businesses across the world, output and problem visualisation is a core component of getting the most out of the process – it dates back decades and is linked to The Toyota Production System’s concept of Jidoka.

andonBoard

Jidoka is the second of the two core principles of TPS and relates to the stopping of work as soon as a problem occurs (thus eliminating root cause as early as possible and increasing quality).  In manufacturing environments, Jidoka normally manifests itself as a production board which shows the problem when it occurs, but in normal running those boards (called Andon boards) display output… much like my ToDoIst Karma graphs.  I can see a problem immediately: my graph drops off and I’m not being productive – the root cause is harder to find though!

Could Gamification just be the application of Jidoka and Visualisation to non production / process work?

Parrot AR Drone In Flight

The Challenge In The Rising Use Of Drones

Over the past few weeks a number of the technology blogs and news sources I read regularly (particularly Harvey Nash Technology on Twitter) have been raising questions about the predicted rise in the use of ‘drones’ in the UK over the next 20 years, and inviting thoughts.

As both a technologist and a helicopter pilot, I’m in a good position to comment on that. However it’s not a topic which can be done justice in 140 characters on Twitter. I tried, failed, and so I thought I’d expand on it:

 

It’s not regulation.

I wasn’t quite accurate in my reply to Harvey Nash. It isn’t the regulatory framework which needs change; it’s the enforcement and awareness of it. The UK Civil Aviation Authority, who issue my pilot’s licence, are very clear on the rules for Unmanned Aircraft under 20kg in weight. Unless CAA permission has been granted, the pilot cannot:

  • Fly over or within 150m (492 ft) of a congested area
  • Fly over or within 150m (492 ft) of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons
  • Fly within 50m (164 ft) of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
  • Fly within 50m (164 ft) of any person.

These rules are, by CAA and Air Navigation Order standards, relatively simple and clear cut – if you don’t believe me, try and easily interpret Rule 5 (Low Flying) on Page 329 of CAP393.

The purpose of the rules is really quite clear – to keep small drones away from the risk of hitting people unless special permission has been granted by the CAA.  The reason is that 20kg falling from several hundred (or even tens) of feet will hurt. A lot.

Most commercially available drones don’t have the required redundancy to deal with a failure, don’t have the same certification as aircraft, and don’t even have guaranteed communications with the controller.. so the risk of something untoward happening is high and must be mitigated.

It should be noted we’re given much more flexibility to operate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) ‘drones’ in the UK (and most of Europe as EASA takes over) than in other parts of the world. In the USA, for example, there is a complete ban on UAS for commercial purposes!

Awareness -vs- Consumerisation.

So, if the rules are pretty clear, why are we seeing headlines like this:

Drones flown in London and Liverpool despite CAA laws

UK’s first drone conviction will bankrupt me, says Cumbrian …

The answer, and the challenge, is awareness. The consumer can go and buy one of these drones relatively cheaply – under £300, and they’re cool. What gadget nerd wouldn’t want one? For a lot of us they are the work of the science fiction of our youths.

But they come with no warnings about about the legality of operating them. This advert for a Parrot AR Drone on Amazon.co.uk contains only these safety warnings:

 

Amazon AR Drone Warnings.
The Only Warnings on Amazon AR Drone Advert

Where’s the big, bold, bright warning about legality of operating it?

We know that ignorance is no defence to breaking the law, but as unmanned aerial systems become more consumerised, and available, the manufacturers and retailers should surely draw to the attention of their customers that they run the risk of hurting people, and thus prosecution if they’re not careful about how they use their new toy!

Enforcement.

I’m certainly no CAA-apologist (even they, under their new leadership, admit they need to improve in many areas). But they simply aren’t resourced to police these rules to any great extent. By virtue of cost and licensing they have managed to police and enforce manned flight rules to date.

They are under-resourced to police and enforce these rules across the whole of the UK, and unless somebody reports incidents they most likely won’t be detected and dangerous situations could become commonplace.

The UK Government requires that the CAA’s costs are met entirely from its charges on those whom it regulates. Unlike many other countries, there is no direct Government funding of the CAA’s work.

So, should the UAS / Drone manufacturers start to contribute to policing and regulating the safety of the devices they make money from selling? That seems fair to me, as someone who pays CAA fees!

Historically The CAA have brought few prosecutions, in line with the internationally established ‘Just Culture‘ which encourages reporting (so we can all learn) and seeks to only punish wilfully negligent acts. How will they manage this when unlicenced consumers are involved?

It’s my view that they need to educate, then prosecute, and then highlight prosecutions to raise awareness.

The Future.

I love aviation. I love technology & gadgets. I embrace consumerism. However, to harness the huge possibilities of drones / UAVs we need to find a way to make them work safely in society – before a single incident occurs which results in an outright ban.  

We could look to making them a licence-able aircraft, but those in aviation will attest that this will be costly, cumbersome and probably kill the industry and its undoubted benefits and enjoyment. We know that licenced commercial UAV operators exist, and use much more expensive, complicated, and safe aircraft – let them undertake the commercial work over populated areas.

But for domestic and hobby drone-flyers: the manufacturers need to step up to the mark with awareness. Very few people set out to deliberately break the law (and where they do the likelihood of being caught, and subsequent penalty should be a huge deterrent)… but they need to be aware of the rules.

Should we mandate the inclusion of warning notices in the boxes and on the packaging?

I think so… what do you think?

EU Map & Logo

Ready for GDPR? 5 Simple Steps!

According to Kroll Ontrack & Blancco, 4 in 5 IT managers are unaware of the upcoming changes to Data Protection regulations, The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  This certainly means they can’t be preparing for it either… and unlike the Data Protection Act 1998 which it will supersede the penalties can be huge – 5% of global turnover or €100,000,000 (whichever is greater!).

What is GDPR?

The GDPR will be a common set of data protection rules across the European Union. Technically it will be an EU Directive which will be implemented in law in all member states – the purpose being to harmonise data protection across the EU and (potentially) centralise policing for international companies.

At the moment it is still in draft form, but expectation is that although some changes have been made over its course through the European Parliament, it will be adopted in late 2014 or early 2015 and come into force in 2017 – allowing at least 2 years for companies to transition.

What’s different?

There are 5 main differences to the Data Protection Act in the UK

  1. Three New Rights For Data Subjects:  The Right To Be Forgotten, The Right To Data Portability, and The Right To Data Erasure.
  2. Mandatory Breach Notification. It becomes mandatory to report data breaches to the regulator within 72 hours, and data subjects must be notified if harm will occur.
  3. Explicit Consent. You must obtain explicit consent to hold the data from the data subject – opting in will become the norm.
  4. Penalties. As mentioned, the penalties rise significantly for negligent data breaches – rising to 5% of global turnover €100m for more serious breaches.
  5. The Data Protection Officer.  Public sector bodies and organisations processing over 5000 subjects data in 12 months must appoint a Data Protection Officer whose responsibility it will be to conduct risk assessments, analysis and to safeguard the data.

Don’t Panic – We’ve Got 2 Years!

Don’t Wait Either.

With such huge changes proposed there are the usual elements of the IT industry who either professing impending doom or who are suggesting that it won’t happen.  Neither seem likely to me – GDPR will happen in some form, likely to be close to the current drafts; and there is no impending doom.

There is at least two years until you have to be compliant, so there is plenty of time to start to integrate the new principles now so the change can be almost seamless by the time it becomes mandatory.  Data Security is becoming a large differentiating factor for consumers, so make sure you’re ahead of the game – I’ve got 5 simple steps you can start with now to make sure you’re ready come 2017:

5 Simple Steps to GDPR Compliance.

1.  Understand Where You Are.

Before you can start to think about how you’ll comply with GDPR you need to know what data you have now, where it is and how it is protected.  Undertake an audit of what you hold today, and what you’re likely to take on in the next few years.  Once you have this, assess how relevant it is – do you need to keep it?  Does it have value?   Of course you should be destroying data when it becomes unneeded under the DPA’s Principle 5… but check and delete.  If you don’t have it, you can’t lose it!

2.  Obtain Consent & Engage.

Now you know whose data you’ve got, remember that you’ll need to have their consent to hold it in a post-GDPR world.  You can use the next two years to obtain that consent when customers and data subjects contact you naturally.  Develop the processes for obtaining consent now – a simple ‘Do you mind if we hold your details?’ in a contact centre conversation will suffice.  Don’t try and obtain in surreptitiously, in small print or otherwise, people won’t take kindly and it’s not in the spirit of the regulations:  would you want your data held like this?

If you start asking now, by 2017 a huge proportion of the relevant data you hold (remember to destroy ageing data!) will be opted in and you won’t be one of the organisations embarrassingly seeking retrospective consent.

3.  Update Your Policies.

As the GDPR will enshrine a right for data subjects to see your privacy policy, this is a great opportunity to update it and make it obviously available – put it on your website.  You can use the results of your audit from step 1 to make sure it’s accurate too.  Ensure it is written in plain English and is easy to understand.

Update your Breach Policy & Detection.  With stiff penalties for failing to report breaches in a much shorter time scale than you might be used to working, it’s important that your process internally means that any breach, no matter how small, gets to your Data Protection Officer (or equivalent for smaller companies) promptly and you have a plan on how to react.  Ensure that everyone in the business knows the importance of reporting data loss promptly – include it in your recurrent data protection training from now onwards.

4.  Identify Responsible Person.

If you’re a public body, or process data on more than 5,000 subjects then you’ll need someone to fulfil the mandatory role of ‘Data Protection Officer,’ but even if you’re smaller you’ll want to identify one person in your organisation who can ensure you’re compliant.  Someone with experience of data protection principles and a good view of the company will be ideally place.  Resist the temptation to appoint someone from Finance or Legal teams unless they’ve genuinely got a good understanding of the data identified in point 1.

Use the time between now and implementation to make sure that they have conducted relevant Data Risk Assessments and mitigated risk wherever possible.

Then, importantly, empower this person – get senior management or the board involved to ensure that everyone knows about the changes and the importance of them (there’s €100m at stake here!).

5. ‘Change-In’ The GDPR now.

Come 2017, most companies won’t be operating exactly the same systems, in the same state, as they are today. This means the natural business changes which keep driving them forward can be used to ensure you’re designing in GDPR principles from today onwards.  Simple ideas and some best practice:

  • Select a data protection framework now (COBIT, NIST or ISO) and judge all new changes against it.
  • Build in monitoring and reporting tools which report loss.
  • Obfuscate and encrypt data wherever possible, especially on test systems.
  • Adopt ‘Opt In,’ ‘Data Portability’ and ‘Data Erasure’ functions in new software, now.
  • Audit your systems – consider getting external auditors to both probe your defences and your processes.

A series of small changes over the next two-to-three years will mean you’re ready for GDPR when it becomes law.

If you’re in doubt at any point, ask yourself:

Would I want my data held and processed like this?  Does this seem fair?

Internet Of Things Word Cloud

Manufacturing, The Internet Of Things, and Security.

During the SAP Radio ‘Future Of Business’ podcast this week a healthy debate emerged on how manufacturing is, will and should adopt Internet Of Things technologies.  The conclusion seems to have been drawn that European & North American Manufacturers aren’t ready for this leap, but that consumer adoption will drive it.  Computer Weekly best summarises the podcast in its article ‘Manufacturing Industry ‘Not ready for IoT’ says SAP’.

I agree – manufacturing isn’t ready for The Internet Of Things.

But not for the reasons highlighted in the podcast or the article – and I agree that the benefits of IoT adoption for manufacturers (especially larger scale) are potentially enormous, perhaps nothing short of a second industrial revolution if implemented properly.

Age of Plant.

The article and podcast highlight that the average age of industrial machinery has increased lately to the highest since 1938 (in itself a scary statistic), and with investment only running at 3% per annum it will take considerable time to replace this ageing kit.  The problem with this is predicated on older equipment not being compatible with the IoT – something which isn’t always true.

Older plant and machinery can generally be retrofitted with interfaces to allow it to be part of the IoT, and a good industrial integrator will do this relatively cheaply; so while old plant makes it more complicated it’s not the biggest barrier to manufacturing adoption of IoT, proving both benefit and security are.

Benefit.

Manufacturers, by virtue of what they do, tend to work in a very pragmatic, demonstrable way: they measure everything they can to look for improvements. Quick, easy, big wins are rare in manufacturing these days – it’s minor, incremental (often CI or Lean driven) changes which, when repeated, make gains for manufacturers.  Plant Managers want to see real benefit for deploying a technology, and plant maintenance teams are often skeptical of ‘high brow’ IT concepts; it’s simply not a world they operate comfortably in.

Talking about “the  interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing internet infrastructure is likely to garner an awful lot of blank faces with manufacturing managers… but if you talk about the ability to monitor, control and report on plant from anywhere on the planet, then they are interested.  If you can talk of predicting plant failure by combining data from two devices across a plant, or of automatically or remotely controlling equipment based on trends and analysis then you’re demonstrating benefit. It comes down to money.

As an IT industry we need to stop talking our own language, and talk that of the target audience if we want to ‘sell’ our vision and allow business to benefit from the huge possibilities the IoT offers.

Security.

The biggest problem though will be similar to that faced by the now almost ubiquitous ‘cloud computing’ in its infancy: Security.  The cloud had to overcome both security and privacy concerns to gain trust before people would start allowing their data to be held and processed on servers they didn’t own and couldn’t physically touch. In many regards there is a similarity here to how SAP see IoT being driven into manufacturing: consumers did cloud first!

Manufacturers guard their plant as valuably as they do personal data.  It’s their bread and butter… without it nothing leaves the door and cash doesn’t come through the front door.  Worse still, if the production lines stop then you have mounting costs of a stagnant workforce and supply chain problems further down the line.  This is why manufacturers protect their plant (and probably a reason a lot of it is old – it works and the risks are known!).

I know of major manufacturers who separate all plant floor manufacturing equipment entirely, some physically and some logically, from their main office LAN to ensure that production continues, having been bitten by IT problems stopping production before. Convincing them to allow devices to talk directly to the internet is going to be a tough ask, especially with the recent vulnerability exploits in SCADA fresh in their minds.

What happens if an IoT connected PLC or device loses connectivity?
How do we ensure only authorised access to the data and control of an IoT-enabled plant?
Can we ‘pull the plug’ and continue operating if something bad happens?
Where is the redundancy?

These are all questions manufacturers will ask before they allow IoT devices into their day to day world, and as an industry we need to have convincing answers to all of them.

We’ll have to demonstrate that those devices are safe, secure and will deliver real benefit… we should concentrate on finding a way of doing this (perhaps something like the Cloud Security Alliance?) rather than berate the age of the kit manufacturers are using to make their living, because the benefits to manufacturing are huge.

 

Return After Hiatus.

It’s been over two years since I posted a blog entry on here and for the bulk of that time the blog itself was taken down from the internet (yes I’m aware nothing really disappears).

I took it down back in 2011 as I engaged in a lengthy legal battle with my former partner over custody of and access to my son.  Everything possible was being dragged up and thrown at me, in a spate of underhand and unnecessary tactics.  It wasn’t a happy period of time – no two reasonable people should resort to what we both did.  I won’t be dwelling too much on my little man, or my personal life, now the blog is back; but I thought I should explain why it went away.

Now I’m Back….

I should probably explain the inspiration for being back, seeing as I’ve explained the rationale for being away.  It is, as described:  Inspiration.  I do some work with the Duracell bunny that is Warwick Tweetup, and his partner in crime Jo’s Correctional Facility – and the energy from both of them is contagious.

If you take that and combine it with the fact I feel I have something useful to add these days, and take inspiration in content form from some of the blogs I enjoy reading (particularly Maria Langer’s ‘An Eclectic Mind’ – a great mix of Aviation and real life from the USA!) – I wanted to get back on with blogging.

As you’d expect, an awful lot has changed in the intervening two years; including my life and my little bit of the world.  I’m older, and hopefully a little wiser – I’m certainly a little more reflective before reacting to anything.  One little snippet I learnt along the way:

“Will it matter in a year?  If not, then it probably doesn’t matter now.”

With that mantra in mind, I intend to start blogging again probably on a more professional and business based basis than before; although still with a heavy hint of aviation!

For now I’ve just restored the old site, as was and upgraded WordPress – but over the next month or so I am going to tidy it up (looks and content), and ensure everything is linked properly to my social media bits and pieces, and then try and think of something interesting which you can all read!

It’s good to be back.

When CRM Is Used Properly

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a fairly generic term which is generally applied to the technology, normally software, used to manage a relationship a company has with a specific customer.  Big vendors include salesforce.com, SAP & Oracle.

Traditionally it is largely used by companies in the lead up to a sale; but I argue that this is wrong and isn’t using it properly.  A relationship with a customer doesn’t stop once they have purchased an item, it get’s more complicated and more important.  Although a business may use a CRM system to get the customer to purchase more items this is usually the start of the relationship, particularly where the products being sold are physical rather than service based.

Once a customer has one of your products if you then “manage the relationship” through after-sales, technical support and warranty it’s far more likely that they will remain a customer.  Using your CRM wisely will help you with this.

Apple’s CRM.

The prompt for this post was the experience I recently had in The Apple Store in Solihull.  My iPhone was playing up, and I booked an appointment with a “genius” (I hate this term) to see what we could do.  It turned out my phone was water damaged (yes, ok, I may have dropped it); and this was causing it to behave erratically.  In honesty I expected this was the case.

The genius said that obviously this wasn’t covered by warranty.  I asked if I could pay to have it repaired and was told they could exchange it for a refurbished, as good as new, unit for circa £150.  As I was weighing up the pros and cons of this offer the chap said, “just hold on one minute, let me check the warranty.”

He looked up the serial number on Apple’s CRM system and said:  “You’ve not had one replaced before have you; ohh, and I can see you bought a new Mac Book Pro 3 months ago, an iPad about 5 months before that, and a new Apple TV this year too….  it would seem a bit unfair of us to charge a loyal customer for a refurb unit.”

And as a gesture of good will they replaced my damaged and out of warranty phone with a new one; there and then.  Clearly I was very very happy with this.

The Cost Of A Customer.

What this shows is that Apple have adopted a good CRM technology solution which shows the relationship they have with an individual customer instantly in a concise form.  More importantly, they have given their customer facing staff the authority to use that data wisely.  It’s technology + process which equals good CRM.

The employee could see that within the last 12 months I’d spent a considerable amount of money with Apple and that I was a loyal customer; so used this to make a judgement call.  Was it worth £150 to Apple to keep me happy?  Yes, because the likelihood is that I’ll buy more in the future.  I will.

Of course some people will argue that Apple can afford to do this because of the high margin it makes on its hardware; while others will argue that it didn’t cost them £150 as that was the retail price of the refurbed unit, not the cost of it.  But it isn’t about the money, it’s about the acknowledgement of a relationship with Apple.

Like all relationships it’s about give and take.  I’ll pay their higher hardware prices, live in their walled garden of apps etc, but in return I get cheap OS upgrades and a little bit of love when it comes to my mistakes.

If you’ve got a CRM then make sure you are using it fully, and your staff are allowed to use it properly.  If you don’t have one, then get one (don’t be put off by high prices from big boys – small business rarely need all their complexity).

WPF, Binding, Internationalisation, Fail.

I’ve been working on a WPF browser application for a client for the past couple of months now; and am just getting round to sorting out some of the niggles with internationalisation (this app will be used in 39 countries).

I have a line of XAML which should display a date in the correct short format for the user.  (IE: 31/12/2011 for UK, 12/31/2011 for US etc):

<TextBlock Text="{Binding ElementName=SheetHeader, Path=DataDateTime, StringFormat='{}{0:d}'}" />

The important bit being the StringFormat='{}{0:d}’; this should format the date correctly.  But it doesn’t.  If I load this on my PC in the UK I will get the date in en-us format.

It turns out that WPF does not respect the current culture when it comes to bindings,it defaults to EN-US; so dates formatted when bound will always come up formatted as if you were in the US.  What a massive oversight on the part of MS, and hopefully they will fix this at some point.

There is a way around this though – you have to override Language Property of the application on application load.  Adding the following code to the Application Startup event will ensure you get correctly formatted bindings.

            FrameworkElement.LanguageProperty.OverrideMetadata(
                            typeof(FrameworkElement),
                            new FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
                                XmlLanguage.GetLanguage(
                                      CultureInfo.CurrentCulture.IetfLanguageTag)));

Test

Dropbox On Windows Server 2008

Last year I wrote this artice “Drop Box On A Server” about installing Dropbox on a Windows Server and running it as a service so that you did not have to be logged on in order to use it to back up your files.

Since then I have moved to a Windows 2008 server, and I’ve been meaning to getting around to configuring Dropbox to run as a service (instead just leaving a remote desktop session logged on but disconnected).  Today, during a bit of browsing I find instructions on how to do this on Windows 2008 on Peter Von Lochow’s blog; but it contained some errors for my setup (which I believe to be a standard Win 2K8 R2 install).

The article I linked to in my previous blog post has been replaced with something else, so I hope Peter Von Lochow doesn’t mind me reproducing (and adapting) his steps here, for posterity.   The original article is here.

Simple Steps

  1. Install & Configure dropbox normally.
  2. Right Click on Dropbox icon, and select Preferences.
  3. Disable “Show Desktop Notifications” & “Start Dropbox on System Startup”
  4. Download & Install Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools.  Ignore the incompatibility warning, the bit we need (srvany.exe) works.
  5. Open a command console, as administrator.
  6. Type in:  sc create DropboxService binPath= “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools\srvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”  
  7. Open Regedit, and navigate to
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\DropboxService\
  8. Create a new Key called Parameters
  9. Create a new string value called Application and enter the path to the Dropbox.exe; this is usually somewhere like c:\users\{Your User Name}\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox\bin\Dropbox.exe
  10. Open the services control panel (Start, Run, Services.msc)
  11. Locate the Dropbox Service – Change it to AutoStart
  12. Under the Log On tab, check Allow Service to Interact with Desktop
  13. Click apply, and then start the service.
  14. You may need to accept a permissions pop up.

That should be it.

Possible Error.

It is possible that on starting the service you have created you will get an error message which reads “The system cannot find the file specified.”  This is most likely because you srvany.exe is not in the location specified in Step 6.  On some systems it may reside in C:\Windows\System32\.  

In which case simply edit the

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\DropboxService\ImagePath

registry key to reflect the location of srvany.exe

 

Orange Mobile Broadband & Mac OSX

Setting aside Orange’s truly awful mobile broadband tariffs, if you did need an Orange Mobile Broadband Dongle for any reason (I had a specific need recently), then you’d be forgiven for thinking that their dongles worked with an Apple MacBook Pro based on their help site:

Pretty Categorical

The actual answer is:

Orange Dongles do not work with a Mac which has Thunderbolt.  This is basically all of the latest MacBook Pro’s and rumours are that the other mobile Macs will have it in next refresh.

There is an underlying compatibility problem with the Huawei dongles and the Thunderbolt chipset drivers in the latest Mac’s which results in the dongles sitting in a constant reboot loop.  To be fair to Orange when I called their tech support number (I really do loathe ringing those numbers) they admitted it straight away, and have cancelled my contract and refunded any money paid – the least they could do given I’d asked explicitly.    They really should update their website though, this happened a fortnight ago and the screen grab above was taken this morning!

Orange (and I suspect the other networks) are waiting for a firmware upgrade from Huawei which they hope will resolve the problem.

Workarounds

32 Bit Mac.

The dongle will work perfectly if you boot your Mac with its 32 bit Kernel.  Apple detail this in a support document, but essentially hold down the 3 and 2 buttons during boot.

Fusion

I run Windows 7 in a Virtual Machine on my Mac, and if you connect the dongle to this when you plug it in then it will work perfectly in Windows.  This won’t expose the internet to your Mac OS though, but will at least get you online if you are in a fix.

Mobile WiFi

A much better solution (although more expensive to initially purchase) would be to use Mobile WiFi, or MiFi.  This is what I normally use (albeit on 3) – and is a small device which presents the 3G network as a normal wireless connection to your laptop, and also your phone and tablet!

NTFS on a Mac

Seagate 500Gb USB Hard Drive
Seagate 500Gb USB Hard Drive

I recently bought a 500Gb external hard disc drive for the purpose of backing up my iTunes collection, which isn’t covered by TimeMachine.  I also hoped to use it with my Windows 7 laptop so I could take it away with me and have all my films to watch (albeit not in iTunes).

That being the case I opted for a mobile disc which doesn’t require power.  It’s been a long time since I bought one of these, and the last time I did the biggest you could get was 160Gb – now you can get 1Tb +.  I paid a little over the odds by shopping locally rather than ordering on line, because I wanted it quickly before I went away for a week skiing – I was hoping to take my films with me.

Without thinking I just plugged the disc into the Mac and started copying across everything from the disc which my iTunes is on, and downloaded an app to keep these two volumes in sync whenever I plugged the portable external disc in.  Super!

File System

What I had totally forgotten to consider was the file system which the disc would use.  MacOSX formatted the drive as HFS+ which is a system which isn’t readable in Windows 7.  So all the files I had copied (about 300Gb) were useless on my PC.

As most of the machines I encounter are generally PCs I decided I’d rather have the disk as NTFS.  However this is only readable on a Mac, you can’t write to it as standard.  A bit of research revealed various blogs (here & here) which suggested installing something called MacFUSE and then NTFS-3g.  However it seemed these were a bit of an “effort” by a Google employee and weren’t supported anymore and a little hard to get hold of.  Not really ideal to trust your data to.

The websites where NTFS-3G should have been in turn pointed me to Tuxera – a commercial offering. It is priced at a very reasonable €25 per person (IE if you have 3 macs you can install it on 3), but had a trial offering which was fully featured but time limited.  This is surely the best approach to trialware, as I like to check something really does work before paying for.  It does!

All I can see is that after a reboot (which the installer suggested might not actually be needed) this software works a treat and is very quick.  Can’t recommend it enough…  Tuxera NTFS For Mac.