Introducing Windows 8 – An Overview for IT Professionals – Free Ebook From Microsoft


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I came across this today in one of the many tech newsletters that come past.

Whilst there are a lot of articles on WIndows 8 out there, that is a fairly in depth technical overview from the people who built Windows 8 (Microsoft Press), and certainly worth a read from a professional’s point of view.

Downloaded from this link, the free ebook is available for a short while:

Introducing Windows 8 – An overview for IT Professionals


Windows 8 and hidden SSIDs


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It appears there’s lots of issues with people trying to connect to hidden SSIDs with Windows 8.


Some are claiming drivers issues, and other that it’s a ploy by MS to stop us using them (I’m in agreement with that one).

Now putting aside the security issues (hidden SSIDs are actually less safe than broadcast SSIDs), some people still need to connect to them, and the Microsoft page really is unbelievably unhelpful , instead scolding you for using hidden SSIDs, and telling you to turn them on.  In my case, our Cisco small office firewall and phone system, a UC540, can enable 2 wireless networks, but can only broadcast 1, which we use for customers and repair jobs, so unhiding the private “office use” SSID would involve a purchase of another WiFi box, not really worth it for its’ occasional use (all our desktops are wired).

If you try the normal routes from Windows 7, you will end up frustrated trying to find them…..

To add a hidden network:

  • Open  Start Menu  >  Control Panel  >  Network and Internet  >  Network and Sharing Center.
  • Select  Set up a new connection or network.
  • Choose  Manually connect to a wireless network
  • Select  Next
  • Fill all the fields shown in  Manually connect to a wireless network  window, including paying attention to letter case on SSID with some routers
  • After that click on  Next  button and you will have added the wireless network.

You should now be joined to the hidden SSID network.  Now, where has the  Manage Wireless Networks  button gone…

Microsoft Surface pricing revealed…. but is it really worth it?


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Pricing has been revealed, and it’s not cheap.

Surface appeals because of it’s small form factor, and the ability to finally use Win8 in a Touch environment as a small, robust, mobile tablet with keyboard if you go for the option.

Needing to learn Windows 8, I’ve put Win8 on my main work laptop this week, having beta tested it and dropped it like a hot potato previously (unlike my refusing to let go of the Win7 beta). It’s actually going OK despite the learning curve, but due to one thing – the multi touch gesture support on my new Aspire One 756-2623. WIthout this multi touch support for scrolling around, Win8 would be a nightmare. If installing on a desktop, then I recommend getting one of the new multi touch MS mice to work with it.

(Also there’s a Windows Upgrade site offering a very cheap upgrade($15 in US), if you bought a Win7 machine anytime since June:)

And herein lies the Surface’s main problem with its’ pricing.  At $240 from Acer’s ebay outlet, and a $15 upgrade to Win8 this little Acer is the Surface’s undoing – this slimline 11.6″ (“celeron” i3) dual core netbook flies along, has a full keyboard, and with the multi touch keypad makes Win8 perfectly useable.

I don’t see the point in paying an extra $300 plus to simply get my screen dirty with smudges!!  (maybe i’m missing the point of tablet form factor here…)

macro tiny spider mum


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Found this little lady on the shower curtain this morning.

To give an idea of size, the egg sac is under 2mm in diameter, so I thought I’d give my little Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH25 a test, not having used its’ macro for much so far. Given that it’s only a small pocket compact with 8x optical zoom, this could be a lot worse, especially given the blowing curtain and not ideal light (only 2 out of about 10 were focused).

Either way, she’s pretty cute to see up close.


an old pencil life drawing


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Recently I found one of my old pencil life drawings from about 15 years ago, back when I was doing an “Access” course. (I was planning on doing an Art foundation entrance degree at the time).  It’s looking a bit crinkled, but still isn’t a bad effort, so thought it might be nice up here for posterity, seeing as how the paper is appearing to deteriorate.

I’m still trying to work out how I went from a planned fine art degree to working in the University’s IT department and a subsequent IT career…   couldn’t really get further apart.



EDIT – just had a little play in Picassa to try and improve the poor photography – more pop, plus more wrinkles (oh, and her toes).


Office 365: Set Password Never Expires


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My thanks to Stoch Tech Group’s blog for this most useful set of Powershell commands, to set the password no-expiration policy for a domain with Office 365, reprinted here for the sake of my own documentation.

  • First you need a system with Microsoft Powershell installed. You can download this and find installation instructions for Powershell here.
  • Then you need to have the Microsoft Online Services Module installed which you can download here.
  • Now you will need to run the following commands in order.
  • $LiveCred = Get-Credential – You should then be prompted for your Office 365 admin credentials.
  • $Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri -Credential $LiveCred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection – You should see a few messages about redirection and then be returned to the prompt.
  • Import-PSSession $Session – You will again see a few messages on screen and should then be returned to the prompt. At this point we are connected and ready to work.
  • Connect-MSOLService – Connect to the MSOL Service
  • Get-MSOLUser – This will provide a list of the users and their User Principal Name which we will need for the next step.
  • Set-MSOLUser -UserPrincipalName -PasswordNeverExpires $true -StrongPasswordRequired $true – This will change a single user account’s password to never expire. If you want to change all user accounts use the next command.
  • Get-MSOLUser | Set-MSOLUser -PasswordNeverExpires $true – This will set all accounts to have non expiring passwords.
  • Remove-PSSession $Session – Clean up and close our session when done.

Getting MS to allow a no-expiration policy for my small business customers was the holy grail of my first 12 months for customers we moved to on Online Services > Office 365.

Being a fairly small IT shop, but with several business customers and lots of users on Office 365, each time a user would not renew their password in time (why do they ignore warning messages?), we were required to drop everything to go and reset.   We literally moved 5 or more business back off MS’ service purely due to the management overheads it caused.    Allowing a no-expiration policy was the most sensible thing MS did for Office 365 small business customers.


Going back to my own exchange with 365 support, this was their instruction set at the time, which worked for me:

Issue Description: Password policy needs amending to NO EXPIRATION

Use this link to connect to PowerShell Microsoft Online Services Module for Windows PowerShell

Do this

Click Start > All Programs Microsoft Online Services (Folder) and select Microsoft Online Services Module for Windows PowerShell

  • Run the command below:



  • Type the administrator credential.

Run this command to connect to Office 365:

Connect-MsolService -Credential $cred

For this way you won’t need the connection to exchange online using the long link


Set password never expire for all user

Get-MSOLUser | set-msoluser -PasswordNeverExpires $true

You don’t have to change nothing with this command

For everybody in the organization

After that

Check what users have the password never expire

Get-MSOLUser | select user*, password*

This command will show if all user has activated as “true”
Running all of this should then allow you to get the following output:

PS C:\Windows\system32> $cred=Get-Credential

cmdlet Get-Credential at command pipeline position 1
Supply values for the following parameters:
PS C:\Windows\system32> Connect-MsolService -Credential $cred
PS C:\Windows\system32> Get-MSOLUser | set-msoluser -PasswordNeverExpires $true
PS C:\Windows\system32> Get-MSOLUser | select user*, password*

UserPrincipalName                                          PasswordNeverExpires
—————–                                          ——————–                                      True                                    True                                          True                                                   True                                                  True                                                  True                                                     True                                                     True
PS C:\Windows\system32>

SBS 2011 Essentials – SOHO modem or router, DNS and setup wizard choices explained


We’re a small but growing IT shop, that for most of our deployments have used SBS (Small Business Server) over the years.  Microsoft’s recent decision to drop SBS is already causing waves and much consternation across the web, especially for those shops who feel that they may lose a lot of support hours for those companies in the 15 – 75  user ranges, who’ve traditionally used SBS as an in house Exchange server to great cost benefit.

The choices are now to go multi-server, away from Exchange (Kerio, Zafara or Zimbra), or move to a large Hosted Exchange Cloud provider, all of which choices are effectively forcing change and/or expense on SMBs, and possible loss of revenue for their support shops.

Anyway, rant aside, SBS Essentials is going to be the new poster boy for SMBs looking to integrate with cloud (although we’ve got a lot of small customers happily using Server Foundation), but there were a few things catching us out and surprisingly different from its’ wizard driven installation when we first installed it.

One of the main changes from any previous SBS box is how it handles it’s internal DNS and IP addressing, with big changes from before, that weren’t obvious until i found this excellent article from one of the industry’s favourite MVPs…(drum roll please)… Mr. Sean Daniels. Take it away, Sean:

The Basics of Local DNS for Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

Microsoft Windows Live ID, Zune ID and Windows Phone 7 account nightmares… PART 2

OK, so the saga continues.

My first post here deals with the issues I’ve had so far, simply trying to get an incorrect Xbox gamer tag ID deleted – an ID, which also ties into so much other stuff that my WindowsPhone7 account marketplace will now not work properly in my new country location.


Well, this weekend i got a follow up email from ZUNE Support, who are at least trying their best to help, asking how I got on with XBox support.

My patience was wearing a little thin at this point, and I even wave the big bad stick of the mighty Data Protection Act at XBox support, to no avail, and actually get a refusal to escalate the issue in return.

This is how it went…  >>


Hello Dom:

I just wanted to follow up with you and see if my previous email was helpful.  Let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns I can assist you with.

For any future questions you may have, consider using our Microsoft Answers site. You can post questions or comments and engage with product professionals from Microsoft and the consumer product community.

Warmest regards,
Zune Customer Support



Unfortunately not really, no.

I spent some time with Xbox support, who effectively told me there was nothing they could do – I would need access to an Xbox myself, which I don’t have.

This is despite the experiences of this man, here, who ended up escalating it to the Xbox Global Escalations team before getting a response, and the assurances given to him that Xbox support would be made aware of the issue.

Please see here:

I’ve also started adding stuff to my own blog, here:

If you’d like to see how my Xbox support chat went, please find the transcript below.

I understand this is an Xbox issue, but please can you have your management team raise this with the Xbox management team, and whoever else in MS that needs to know.  I’m on my second WindowsPhone7, and have run WM6 and 6.5 before this – indeed I am a MS support professional, but cannot believe how har this is to get sorted out.

We live in an age where people travel internationally all the time for business and pleasure – surely MS has taken this into account?

Anyway, If you could have the below case escalated to Xbox Global Escalations team, it would be very much appreciated, before I lose yet another hour of my life to this issue.


XBOX SUPPORT CHAT  [spelling corrected and edits to hide IDs]

Please wait for an agent to respond. You are currently ‘6’ in the queue.

Privacy Statement
You are now chatting with ‘Adelina’.

Adelina: Hello Dominic. Thank you for contacting Xbox Support.

dom: hi, i need to delete my zunetag

Adelina: I understand you would like to delete your Zune tag. For this request we would have to refer you to Zune to find if this is an option. Would you like that support link?

dom: i have been ongoing with support for over a year, and finally have be referred to Xbox support as them being the only people who can do this.

dom: [quoting Zune Support] “We are sorry to hear this is still an issue. The deleting of accounts is something we cannot do here at Zune/Windows phone support. I saw in the blog that the blogger was contacted by Xbox in regards to getting is account canceled. At this time the only solution we have to make changes to the Xbox/Zune account and it’s related Live Id is via a Xbox console. If you would like to explore solutions that Xbox may have for you they can be contacted at 0800 587 1102. I really do wish I was able to accommodate your request but we simply do not have the ability to make the changes you are looking to make. We hope Xbox is able to better assist. For any future questions you may have, consider using our Microsoft Answers site. You can post questions or comments and engage with product professionals from Microsoft and the consumer product community. Warmest regards, Zune Customer Support

Adelina: Thank you. Just a moment as I review the information please.

dom: the issue is actually with my Windows 7 phone – i cannot get things to work because my old gamer tag has UK details attached to it – i just need to delete it!

dom: MS support case: “RE: SRXxxxxxxxxxxxxx – Zune Live, Troubleshooting, The customer has multiple Zune tags associated to one Windows Live ID, Escalated”

dom: basically, all I need is for someone to delete my gamer tag of “blxxxxxxxxx” I cannot do this as have no access to a console where i am.

dom: another option is if you could change my Gamertag country location to the US – this should also work

Adelina: This may be the issue. If you have a gamer account you are trying to use in the US and it is from another region, there is not a way to change the region. A new account would need to be created for the new region.

Adelina: If you have an email address that is linked to your Zune account that you would like to remove, you can create another free email address and replace it with the one that is on your Zune account to remove it from that account.

dom: but this all requires a console to do it… I don’t have access to one anymore!!

Adelina: You can log in on to change the email address on the current account.

dom: I have logged in absolutely everywhere:





dom: there is nowhere I can remove the “blixxxxxxxx” gamer tag, or associate it with another account.

dom: please see following blog:


Adelina: When going to and clicking on the change option in the Account Overview screen, what error message is received when you try and change the email address please?

dom: I think you’re not following – everything I have is correct apart from the Xbox gamer tag. My main Windows Live ID “” is correct and works with all my other MS services – Skydrive, hotmail. messenger, windowsphone, technet. etc. etc.

dom: The only thing nocorrect in all of my MS stuff (I’m a MS support professional) is this Xbox Gamer tag, which seems to be impossible to delete!! Pleas can you simply delete the gamer tag “blxxxxxxxxxx”

Adelina: Our system does not allow deletions. This is the reason we are trying to assist with a work around for the issue you are experiencing.

dom: OK, please read this from MS support:

dom: “All of your app purchases are tied to your Gamer tag, which is a different entity than your Live ID. If you are able to Transfer your Gamer tag to a new Live ID it will put all of your app purchases on a Live ID with a single billing account and this will avoid any of the problems your current Live ID has. To get back to your original issue, if you restore your phone, your app purchases are tied to the Gamer tag, so as long as you are able to recover the account with the same Gamer tag as you have now you will retain all of your marketplace activity. Transferring a gamer tag from one Live ID to another is a process that Xbox developed, it isn’t something that the Windows Phone team or Zune team made that is why it is located solely on their platform, since its all the same account it will work fine for fixing your Live ID. You can transfer your Live ID to any email address that you have access to. But whichever you transfer it to you will need to set it up as the primary Live ID on your phone to have access to those apps. You will need to reinstall any apps purchased that you intend to use. ”

dom: I cannot transfer my gamer tag to a new ID as I don’t have access to a console to do it…

dom: I have created a new LiveID purely for the purpose f transferring my gamer tag to, but can’t do it – are you able to that for me?

dom: please see point three here – you are currently holding INCORRECT DAT about me, incorrectly listing my country location as the UK with gamertag. I am requesting, as per the Data Protection act, that you either: 1. change my gamertag ID to reflect my true new country location of US, or 2. delete the Gamertag, so I can create a new one with correct info:

dom: [link to UK Data Protection act law]

Adelina: We are not able to switch the id for you as this is a security measure. Do you happen to have a friend or family member that can allow you to use their console for this change?

dom: I have stated several times… I do not have access to an Xbox console. I am currently working on a small remote island!

dom: With all due respect, the Data protection law of the UK should be taking precedent over any internal security measure. Please, if you are unable to action this yourself, can you escalate this to a manager?

dom: please can also give me a case number for this (to add to the ones I’ve received from Zune support and MS support previously…)

Adelina: Just a moment please as I review the issue with my support team.

dom: hello?

Adelina: I am here. Just a couple more minutes please. I am sorry for the wait.

dom: thanks – I need to leave for a meeting – are you able to give me a case number so I can come back to this later?

Adelina: Sure. Just a moment please as I generate the information.

Adelina: Your reference number is 11xxxxxxxxx.   This can be provided to an agent as a record of our conversation if you need additional assistance.

dom: If you could email transcript of the support chat to me as well, would be much appreciated:

dom: did we get a result on deleting my tag?

Adelina: The gamer tag cannot be deleted. I was working with my support team on any other possible alternatives. For a transcript of this chat session, you can choose the email option on the chat box or copy and paste the information in a word document.

Your chat transcript will be sent to at the end of your chat.

dom: Will this be escalated whilst I away?

Adelina: It will not be escalated at this time. My support team has informed me, in this case the only option is to allow the system to perform the deletion maintenance on this account which occurs about every 7 years if the account has not been accessed. If you can get to a console before that time, the change can be made. Another option would be to create a new email address and tie it to your other services so that you may then access your phone with no issues.

Adelina: The best option in this case would be to register a new account with a new email as the one listed will always show as UK since it was tied to a UK gamer account.

dom: so, just to be clear, this is in direct contravention of the Data Protection Act, as Xbox (not you personally!) are refusing to remove or correct incorrect information you have stored about me (i.e. my correct location and home address). Well thanks for yet another dead end, i will be looking to follow this with publishing full details to my own blog, and obviously having to escalate the issue as per the other chap whose blog I mentioned. I would appreciate it if you could raise this issue as a complaint with your customer care department, and I am requesting a contact back from them. Thanks