End of a decade

31 12 2009

I was going to write a post about what I have achieved this year, and to be honest there has been a heap. But, it occurred to me whilst I was writing the post that it was also the end of a decade, a pretty big one for me as it goes.

Now I was going to use interpretive dance to go over the major milestones of the past 10 years, but the video camera is broken, so here it is in a smart mosaic format (I won’t rule out doing the dance on special occasions though)  🙂

1. Australia

I came to Australia, just over ten years ago on holiday, but only really decided to stay in the year 2000 after being made an offer by my boss at Admiral (-> CMGAdmiral –> LogicaCMG –> Logica) to stay on as a consultant. It was a huge decision to make, to leave my friends and family and to start afresh. Luckily I had already made a stack of friends in Australia and caught up with a mate from the UK who also lived in Melbourne. On reflection it was the best decision I made 🙂

2. Rachel

In 2001 I met Rachel, since then we have never really been apart. We have been through a heap together, building a house, starting a family and bringing up two fantastic children. She is my best friend and I love every moment we are together.

3. Abbie

In March 2006, my daughter Abbie came into the world and changed everything. She is awesome. Perfect in every way. I am loving watching her grow up, explore the world around her and learn. I love her inquisitive mind, her pure logic and banter.

4. Jack

In March 2007, little Jack joined his sister in the world. Whilst Jack had a pretty full on couple of months when he first arrived, he has gone from strength to strength ever since. I sometimes forget he is only 2 and 3/4 years old, he has such a developed vocabulary and self awareness. Every week he totally flaws me with what he says, not the words, but also the context

5. Family

Even though I live in Australia, I am in full contact with my family in the UK thanks to Skype and cheap telephone calls. I have been really lucky that Rachel’s family have taken me under their wing and treat me like a son. Unfortunately since being out in Australia a few people have passed on and I was unable to attend their funerals, Grandad Bob, Nan and my cousin Janet.

6. Work

Work has been an interesting one. In the last ten years I have done a number of things including:

  • Sheep Rousing – Working on a sheep farm outside of Geelong
  • Road Crack Counter – Long long story
  • Developer
  • Business Analyst
  • Project Manager

At the moment I have switched back into a consultancy role, specialising in Microsoft Enterprise Project Management (EPM) solutions. It may sound strange, but it’s the ideal mix between my love of all things techy and Project Management (which I am actually quite good if I do say so myself).

7. Nerdy

There have been a number of nerdy milestones in the past ten years. For what started out with me minus any gadgets whatsoever whilst backpacking, has seen me morph into a gadget collecting superfreak. Of course during this period I have had many different computers and run a stack of different software which I am not going to list as it would be way to sad.

8. Permanent Residency

For some damn fool reason, Australia decided that I could stay in the country. Glad they did really as it would have been awful to be paying off a house I couldn’t live in. Up until getting my PR there was a very real possibility that I could have been sent back to the UK, giving up everything I had made in Australia. This was very much the case until 2006, when it was finally granted 🙂

9. Geelong

When I first got to Australia I worked on a sheep farm outside of Geelong, hence when it came to picking a team, they were my first choice. When I was in the UK, sport never really bothered me, but it’s part of the Australian psyche, and if your in Melbourne, you might as well be a leper if you can’t hold your own in talking footy.  Since 2000, I have watched them lose and then win, finishing up with three grand final appearances in the past three years and two wins, the final being an epic battle against my wife’ family team of St Kilda. Way to go Cats!

So there you go, my reflection on the past decade. At the beginning of the decade, when I was seeing the new year in with some backpacking buddies at Wineglass Bay in Tasmania, I had no idea that I would still be in Australia ten years later and all the things mentioned above would have happened. It will be interesting to see in another ten years what transpires 🙂

And on that note, Happy New Year, 2010 is going to rock 🙂





A lap around Project 2010

26 11 2009

Last night I gave my first ever presentation on Project 2010 and Project Server 2010 to the Microsoft Office System Special Interest Group (MOSSIG) in Melbourne. This occasion marked a number of firsts:

  • The first time Project or Project Server had been presented at MOSSIG
  • The first time Project 2010 and Project Server 2010 had been seen by a number of people
  • and most importantly, the first time I have ever presented to a user group.

What I thought was going to be daunting, was actually quite exhilarating. I loved it. The presentation was very light on slides and heavy on showing off some of the awesome features of Project and Project Server 2010. Unfortunately the demo gods were against me, and one part of the demo died, but the rest behaved itself.

Anyway, why am I sharing this with you? Well I have been light on the blog posts here and have been spending my time absorbing all things Project 2010, getting my hands dirty on some big PS projects and starting a new blog where I can share my findings and thoughts with the community called EPMSOURCE.COM.

I will be posting on all things Microsoft EPM over at EPMSOURCE regularly, you can subscribe at http://epmpire.wordpress.com/feed/ or alternatively, go to www.epmsource.com and enter your email address to get the posts directly in your inbox.

Updated 12/1 – blog changed to http://www.epmsource.com, please update your bookmarks.





Corrupted VirtualBox VHD’s

27 09 2009

For the past few months I have been using Sun’s VirtualBox as my preferred VM software. With the shift to x64 computing that is in full flow, the latest operating systems and servers such as SharePoint and Project Server are moving over toe x64 only. Unfortunately Microsoft has made the choice to only offer support for x64 virtual machines via Hyper-V on their server platforms and doesn’t currently offer any consumer product that will run x64 guests.

Today I had two virtual machines chugging along when we had a power outage. Yes I know I should have bought a UPS, but to be honest I would rather spend the money on a SSD 🙂 When the power came back, I couldn’t get the VM’s to boot back up, getting a “Could not get the storage format of the hard disk” error:

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After a quick Bing, I stumbled upon someone suggesting mounting the VHD in Windows 7 which may fix the problem. Low and behold it did. So in an effort to give something back, here are the steps to ‘fix’ the vhd  in Windows 7.

1. In Computer Management, Choose Action and Attach VHD.

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2.In the ‘Attach Virtual Hard Disk’ dialogue, choose the location of the disk and click OK

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3.When the VHD has mounted you will see it in the list, with a blue icon indicating it’s a VHD

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The process of Attaching will have fixed the VHD, so now you need to do is detach the drive and it should work in VirtualBox again 🙂

4. Detach the drive by right clicking on it and choosing Detach VHD:

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Click Ok in the Detach Virtual Hard Drive dialog, do NOT choose the ‘Delete the virtual hard disk file after removing the disk’ option.

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The VHD should now be fixed and ready to use in VirtualBox once again.





Tech-Ed 2009 thoughts….

14 09 2009

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend Tech-Ed on the gold coast. This was my first Tech-Ed after wanting to go for a number of years but not having a job that easily allowed it. This year I decided to fund the trip myself so I could go and to 
sum it up in one word – AWESOME!

Here is my round up of the event, including some thoughts on things I would like to see in the future…

Session choice – There was a raft of sessions to choose from across a number of tracks. I picked a number of sessions and in many cases had three or four options to choose from for each timeslot. From my perspective there were a couple of standout sessions including Reed Shaffners Office 2010 overview, Project Gemini and Will, Lee Hickin and Elaine’s BPOS presentation.

Networking – I really underestimated the networking opportunities at Tech-ed. As usual it was great to catch up with the usual ex SDM Crew and other Melbourne based SharePoint people, but it was also good to catch up with other SharePoint and Project Server people from both Microsoft and other partners.  On the way home I was giving a bit more thought to the networking aspect, next year it would be good to formalise some of the networking aspects other than just the expo hall and adhoc sessions in the local bar. I personally would love to see a Microsoft competency or technology based breakfasts / meetings / dinners similar to what happens at the partner conference for the various groups of partners or people with relevant technology skills could meet up and build their network.

Social networking – Twitter was huge with an absolute stack of posts and information being distributed via the #auteched hashtag. It was funny to go to sessions and see everyone sitting there on their netbooks with Tweetdeck running away :)  I read Jeremy Thake’s post about improving the social aspects and having some kind of twitter integration into the session planning tool would be great. Building on this I would love to see users twitter names on their delegate badges as well as many of us are known by our twitter alta egos.

Facilities – The facilities at the Gold Coast Exhibition Centre were excellent. The quality of the catering absolutely blew me away.

Network – There was a heap of posts about getting the GCECC network up to scratch for the Tech-Ed. The Microsoft team did a fantastic job in getting the network up and running and maintaining the speed. There were a few idiots who thought it would be good to start up bittorrent, with one wally sitting next to me in a session surfing The Pirate BayTechEd 224

Netbooks – The netbooks were fantastic. Microsoft pulled off a blinder with the netbooks that will be the envy of other conferences the world over.  Seeing delegates that haven’t used Windows 7 get blown away by it’s speed and functionality on the netbook was really cool to see and no doubt served to build on the already fantastic reputation of  the software.  My only gripe around this was the TechEd websites, it would have been great to have optimised the sites to work on the smaller screens of the netbooks as this was the main mechanism for access.

Session level – On reflection of the content, I felt that the level of the sessions was more aimed at customers and didn’t really hit the target for the more cutting edge partners. I brought this up with a couple of my colleagues who agreed that a more partner focussed technical track would be good.

Certifications – I had the opportunity to take two exams whilst I was at Tech-Ed at a vastly reduced rate. The process for signing up was incredibly simple and the prometric exam centre well set up and staffed. As for the exams, more on that in a later post.

Hands on Labs – I stumbled across the HOL area late in the piece and had a pretty limited experience. However what I saw and tried out was easy to use and well implemented. I loved the fact that at the end of the lab you could email the lab notes to yourself to try again later. Whilst valuable, it is limited as you don’t have access to the the underlying VM. On the friday afternoon I was hoping to kill some spare time doing some labs, but they had shut, it would have been great to extend the opening times until the end of the Friday. Finally I would love for MS to allow the other HOLs that I hadn’t specifically tried to be available for use / download after tech-ed.

image Free BPOS account – The free BPOS account was a stroke of genius.  I loved trying out the functionality and trying out the full functionality of Office 2010 including Communicator and using it to connect to my peers and people I met during the conference. The only downside to the whole BPOS experience was the need to register and have it configured at the BPOS stand in the expo hall which meant some attendees had to wait a while before it was set up. Next time it would be good if the default password was included on your attendee credentials and the user prompted to change them again.

All in all, I loved the whole experience and can’t wait to go again next year and learn about the next wave of technologies coming through and catch up with my peers! If you get the chance to go, do!





Another new gadget – BeagleQuota

28 02 2009

About a month ago, I churned ISP’s due to a number of things. I decided to go with Beagle Internet, who provide ADSL2+ over the Telstra Wholesale network which is about all I can get where I live.  Beagle is a pretty good company, very responsive to support questions, active on Whirlpool and provide a great service. Some people don’t rate them because they prioritise P2P traffic, but to be honest I haven’t really noticed any issues with it.

Anyway, enough Beagle marketing. Of course if I am going to have a new ISP, I need a new way of viewing my usage, so I developed a new gadget… introducing Beagle Gadget v.1.0

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I have to admit it looks pretty similar to the Optus gadget, but it has a couple of noticeable exceptions… TWO GRAPHS!!  Thanks to the excellent jQuery + jQuery progress bar I have been able to make the bars into dynamic graphs. The top bar shows your downloaded MB’s, if it’s green you are below your daily quota limit, if it’s red, your over.  The bottom bar shows the number of days remaining for the period. 

The gadget will also tell you if your shaped and will give you a countdown until you get your quota back.

There are a couple of other scenarios that certain beagle users can run into, depending on the accounts they use, but I haven’t coded them up as I don’t have specific test data to cover those accounts.

I am still not convinced as to whether I like the colour scheme of the graphs, but it’s fairly trivial to change them.

If your a beagle user and you would like to try the gadget out, it’s available for download from my Skydrive:

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BeagleQuota.v1.0.0.gadget




Updated FreewayTimes – Version 1.4

15 02 2009

Some people may have noticed that my FreewayTimes gadget has been freaking out for the Monash Freeway for the last week or so. The reason is that the times are not available at the moment due to the never ending Monash roadworks.

Anyway, I have fixed the gadget so when there is no time available it will show ‘—‘ in the time.  I also took the opportunity to add a new News link which links through to Twitter for up to date news and communication and update the gadget to support Windows 7 a bit better.

The gadget will be up on the Live Gallery as soon as MS approve it. In the mean time you can get it from my SkyDrive.

Update : Gadget has been approved to the gallery and can be got from here.





Windows 7 – two weeks on

30 01 2009

I have been running Windows 7 for a couple of weeks now and thought it was time to share my thoughts on it (besides at the time of writing, Telstra have stuffed up my ADSL Churn so I have no internet. Update : all back up and running now).

As you would no doubt of already seen on the internet, the stability and quality of the build is rock solid. I haven’t really run into many show stopping bugs with day to day use of the operating system, but what I am finding as I explore more and more are the little things that make Win 7 stand out.  So in the style of Tim Sneaths post, here are some things I love!

1. Progress is displayed in the taskbar

When you do a file operation that results in a progress bar dialog being displayed, the item in the taskbar will also show the progress (see the copy below)

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2. The Common Dialogs now have Search

Not sure if this was there in Vista, but the Common Save As dialog now has search in it. Damn it’s useful!

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3. Improved Search Experience

By default each Explorer windows has a Search box in the top right hand corner, just the same as Vista, but the the text in the search lets you know the scope of the search straight off the bat.

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Vista

Windows 7

Also, when you start to enter a search term, it will autosuggest, and give you the option to filter the search straight away.

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Finally, the results displayed via the new Content view are pretty impressive. It shows more information, notice the thumbnail and image size and creation date.

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4. Libraries

Instead of having to consolidate tens of folders into one folder in one location, through the concept of libraries you can have a virtual catchall that encompasses a number of directories spread out throughout the computer, both internal and externally attached drives. The GUI also looks to let network drives to be included in a library but I haven’t managed to get that to work yet. 

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In the library you can set one of the included folders as the default directory, so if you are downloading files to the Documents library, they will always be stored in your nominated directory within the library. Pretty neat. 

5. Problem Steps Recorder

This isn’t something you would use everyday and certainly most home users would never encounter it. However, I work in the software industry and have been involved in many projects where users have been testing software and gone through nightmares documenting issues they found in the software. Enter the Problem Steps Recorder, the answer to my (and most IT companies) dreams.

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What the PSR lets you do is record all the actions you take on the screen, each time you do something it takes a screenshot and highlights what you did. You can also choose to annotate each step manually. The output is a HTML archive that contains all the screenshots and steps you took which can be passed on to the IT dept, or development team with the most detailed steps to reproduce ever seen!  Awsome!

6. Gadgets

Well it wouldn’t be a post from me without something on gadgets. Vista introduced the concept of gadgets, they could exist in two places, either docked in the sidebar, or undocked on the desktop. Windows 7 removes the need to dock them in the sidebar, you can have them wherever you want. Each gadget now has an option next to it allowing you to choose between the docked (smaller) and undocked (larger) version of the gadget.

Weather Gadget Forecasted image

Microsoft have updated a couple of the gadgets and introduced another new one around the Media Centre. I have to admit, the Media Centre one is good, but it’s too big and obtrusive for me.  The weather gadget changes have impressed me, it now uses Windows 7’s location functionality when you configure it to make an educated guess on where you are. If you lose your net connection (as I am experiencing now), it will still show the weather as per when it last downloaded, including a xx hours ago notification in red. Finally, if there is still no connection, it will show the forecasted weather instead of the real up to date info. Nice!

6. Reliability Monitor

Another concept that Vista introduced was the Reliability Monitor. This gave you an indication of how reliable your system was behaving. When you first installed your machine, it would start at 10, and then as an error occurred, either in the OS itself, or an application or driver didn’t behave itself, it would decrease. 

With Win 7, the reliability monitor has been given a face lift and now has a much more polished way of showing the issues affecting the machine and provides a mechanism for looking up those issues within the GUI. 

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On the whole my machine has been behaving pretty well and I reckon the reliability monitor is being a little harsh (as per the above screenshot). As you can see, there are no real Windows failures, but heaps and heaps of Application failures which are mainly cases of the Windows Installer bug and Internet Explorer crapping out. I really hope IE 8 gets better with RC1, because the version in the Beta is letting the side down at the moment.