Mrs Robinson – the finest rhythym guitar you’ll ever hear…

A bit off-topic this, but we had some friends staying over the other night and Julian just took up learning to play the guitar a couple of years ago, and is doing what new guitarists do (I’ve been noodling on all sorts of guitars for about 18 years but can still remember this next bit): voraciously listening to as much as he can, and really listening to the guitar parts. We started talking about some songs that really stand alone, sometimes surprisingly, and I reckon you’ll have to go a long way to beat the multi-layered acoustic rhythym guitar that goes all through Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs Robinson”.

Maybe sometime next year I’ll do a “High Fidelity” style list writing exercise… best drum intro (got to be Adam & the Ants’ Kings of a Wild Frontier, surely?), bass line (Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall?) etc…

Happy New Year!

Some Handy Windows shortcut keys…

I like the Windows GUI, and particularly since I’m use to it, the Vista UI. I don’t think I follow a particularly usual pattern, though, because I tend to make use of lots of keyboard shortcuts which many people may not know, or may know about somewhere in the back of their mind but never bother to use them.

Some examples:

ALT-TAB – cycles through open windows – everyone probably knows that. Yet, I still often see people manually minimising windows to get to the document behind … and wonder “what’s the point of a multi-window, multi-tasking OS if you only ever think about the one at the front?” On a similar vein, SHIFT-ALT-TAB goes back through the list of windows that ALT-TAB does, so if you over-shoot the window/document you’re looking for, it’s quick to go back one.

CTRL-SHIFT-ESC – not that obvious a combination maybe, but they’re at least all down one side of the keyboard so can be quickly activated. Brings the Windows Task Manager up, and a good bit quicker than right-clicking on the task bar, or pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and getting it from there.

And then there’s the “Windows” key on most keyboards…

  • WND-D “restores” the desktop; ie minimises everything and gives you direct access to the desktop. Annoyingly on Vista, this also minimises the Sidebar …
  • … although WIND-SPACE brings just the sidebar to the fore again, withough making it Always on Top.
  • WND-R is equivalent to the Start->Run command, so it’s only one less keystroke but saves fractions of a second in screen painting time, which always seems like a better way to do it.

There are many other WND-combinations which I don’t really use (like WND-E for Explorer/My Computer).

And finally (for now), one I found out purely by accident by hitting more keys than I wanted on my laptop… WND-Break. Opens the “System Properties” dialog which would normally be on (My) Computer -> Properties from the start menu.

I’ll follow up another time with some other handy commands which can save a bit of time (especially when run from WND-R :))…

Using HTC devices as a modem over USB in Vista RTM

One of the neat things with HTC Windows Mobile 5 devices on Windows Vista is when you activate the Wireless Modem over Bluetooth, Vista will just see the device and automatically detect it as a modem.

When you plug the device in to a Vista PC using USB (having first enabled Wireless Modem over USB on the phone), you may find that it won’t be recognised.

A solution can be derived from

If you grab your standard HTC USB Modem INF file (you can grab a copy here if you don’t have one to hand) and add the emboldened lines below into the relevant places…


AddService=usbser, 0x00000000, LowerFilter_Service_Inst


Save the file out under a new name, and when Vista starts looking for the driver, tell it you want to point to a specific location. If it finds this file, you should find that Robert’s your father’s brother!

Have a happy Christmas – see you in the new year!

Keeping my SPV M3100 from getting scratched

 I said yesterday that I had a mixed experience from moving to the Orange SPV M3100 (aka HTC “Hermes”/TyTn design), particularly concerning the size of the device (compared to a regular phone) and the belt clip thing that it comes with.

Jason, however, kindly gave me a present to keep my phone from getting scratched (and keeping it nice & toasty in these cold nights) … an iPod Sock (there’s even DIY knitting instructions if you’re a dab hand with the needles and don’t fancy paying £19 for the official one)…

I suppose I should stick in the wash sometime soon as it’s starting to look a little grubby…

It’s almost the perfect size for the M3100 though – it pulls down to almost cover the base of the unit yet still alows a charging cable etc to be used. And it’s often amusing that a guy from Microsoft rocks up and whips out what looks like an iPod… then pulls his phone from the sock 🙂

My Pocket PC kept waking me up with middle-of-the-night reminders… :(

I switched fairly recently from using a Qtek 8500 Smartphone (which I still use occasionally and love for its form factor) to an Orange SPV M3100 Pocket PC Phone, and have had a somewhat mixed experience as a result.

Pros: The M3100 has a nice screen, a slide-out keyboard (making on-the-hoof email and texts that bit easier than Smartphone… though I do like T9 on the Qtek’s keypad). It’s also 3G, which is useful… never really use the WiFi so that’s not a great value add.

Cons: Even with it’s relatively diminutive size, the M3100 is still over-big for a phone. But the biggest annoyance is really with the phone UI – it’s nowhere near as quick to use as a phone, compared to the 8500 … anything that means you need to tap the screen pretty much means you need to be looking at the device and using 2 hands.

Now, a couple of weeks after I got the device I was wakened up in the middle of the night several days in a row, because I’d forgotten to switch it to “silent” before going to bed (not as easy as it might be, since there’s no “Profile” like there is in Smartphone, that could switch between silent/normal/outdoors etc).

I figured “someone must have cracked this!”, and was delighted to find a neat bit of software called PocketZenPhone which not only implements the ability to have profiles (with a lot more than just sound volume etc), but to be able to schedule when the phone switches between them!


Now, I have the device automatically go into silent mode at 11pm and go back to normal at 7am… so even if someone sends me a meeting request for a different timezone or something that would fire reminders in the middle of the night, the phone will let me slumber on…

This has to be the best £5 I could have spent on Windows Mobile software!

SPAM SWAG up for grabs

SWAG == Stuff We All Get (named after the procedure of getting lots of branded merchandise you didn’t realise you wanted – or maybe don’t really…)

Anyway, for my session at IT Forum (UCM313 – Anti-spam Enhancements in Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2), I ordered a load of SWAG to dish out to the audience (the things you’ll do to get a better feedback rating ;-), but since it was all ordered from the US, it got stuck in customs & I didn’t get the stuff in time for going to Barcelona. I had wanted to give away SPAM-branded hats, Frisbees, lanyards, fly-swats (yes …) etc, all ordered from – but they never arrived in time!

The coup-de-grace was going to be the SPAM can hat, ably modeled by my buddy Sandeep here…

I’ll send some spare SWAG to the best anecdotes I receive by email or comments through this blog, on how you’re using Exchange to beat the SPAM mail menace… so get thinking!


PS. Top marks to Hormel Foods for embracing the fact that “SPAM” is now as commonly used to describe junk mail as their fine tinned meat product. So many trademark holders crack down on people using their name, yet Hormel seem to have a refreshingly cool attitude to the whole thing… 

Low-cost hands-free kit, anyone?

I had to keep this post for a Friday. Was in a taxi going back to Barcelona airport after IT Forum last month, and had to laugh at the driver’s low cost solution to what to do with his mobile phone…

Actually, talking about mobility and Barcelona… Jason Langridge’s session on how to deliver mobile access ot large numbers of users with WIndows Mobile & Exchange 2003, was videoed and is now online…


Sending SMTP Mail from the command line

I got an email the other day from someone who’d been at my session at IT Forum (UCM313 – Antispam Enhancements in Exchange 2003 SP2), where I’d done a few demos of sending SPAM, in order to show how Exchange could deal with it. I’d used a command line SMTP utility to send SPAM messages directly to port 25 on the server…

The questioner asked how I’d done that – the answer, using a free tool from Craig Peacock called BMail, where I had a few CMD files set up to send mail from a text file dragged onto the CMD file.

C:\>bmail /?

Command Line SMTP Emailer V1.07 Copyright(C) 2002-2004

Usage: bmail [options]

-s SMTP Server Name
-p SMTP Port Number (optional, defaults to 25)
-t To: Address
-f From: Address
-b Text Body of Message (optional)
-h Generate Headers
-a Subject (optional)
-m Filename (optional) Use file as Body of Message
-c Prefix above file with CR/LF to separate body from header -d Debug (Show all mail server communications)

Ueful little tool for my demo, but also potentially good for automating the sending of log files, sending status messages etc.


Zooming in for demos

I remember seeing Mark Russinovich present at TechEd a while back, and was impressed when he used a zooming utility to show one quarter of the screen zoomed in enough that it was easy to read the screen, even from the back of the room.

Presenting to even a small room of people and when doing a demo, using one of the various zoom utilities helps draw attention to stuff that matters – whether that’s a line of code or a particular dialog box. I started using zooming software, and it’s amazing how many people ask “how did you do that?” – I think that everyone who presents and demos software should consider using some kind of zooming software as an essential tool.

Oh… and DROP YOUR SCREEN RESOLUTION! I hate seeing 1400×1200-odd resolution being projected to a 8×6′ screen at the front of a 200′ room – nobody beyond the front row can read anything!

Now a while ago, I got a Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 4000… bit of a mouthful of a name, but it’s a little bag-friendly mouse with great battery life, and one of the main reasons I bought the thing – the Magnify button. This allows you to zoom in on a resizeable and moving magnified window, which floats over the thing you’re trying to show.

It’s possible to use the zooming software either by having a supported mouse (like the WNOM 4000) which has a dedicated magnify button, or by installing the free IntelliPoint software, and by assigning another button (eg the “Click the mouse wheel” action), you can zoom even from a traditional mouse. The newly published Intellipoint 6.1 also supports Vista, and even works in the Aero Glass video mode (though you may see some weirdness in the video driver when activating the magnify). I’ve been using the IntelliPoint beta for a while, and the Magnify works better in non-Aero mode (ie switch the colour scheme to “Windows Basic”.

Another option is to try Robert Burke’s excellent NLarge utility, which zooms a quarter of the screen at a time in a nice “whoosh” fashion… It’s great for showing static content, but (unlike IntelliPoint) it doesn’t allow you to operate the machine whilst zoomed, though it does allow you to draw on the zoomed-in image, so if you’re just trying to highlight something that isn’t changing, that could be a better fit.

Give each of them a go and figure out which works best for you!


Outlook 2007 caches other people’s calendars

In the default modus operandi, Outlook 2007 likes to be in cached mode when running against Exchange, which is generally a *good thing*. Cached mode means there are (by and large) fewer occasions to go back & forth to the server, as it operates by synchronizing a local copy of the mailbox down to the OST file on the client. This means that operations such as content indexing (which Outlook now does by default), sorting, filtering etc, all happen on the client rather than hammering the server.

Outlook 2003 did this too, but 2007 offers a new capability in caching the calendars of other users on your behalf. Now that’s generally a good thing too – it means that when you open someone’s calendar in Outlook, it adds that user’s calendar to your cache so that you can see it when offline, and if it’s someone you regularly snoop on (let’s face it, a lot of calendar lookups are just checking what people are up to, aren’t they?), then it will be quicker in opening the calendar in future, since Outlook doesn’t have to go back to the server for everything.

A possible downside to this is if you’re in a large organization and you routinely (but occasionally) open lots of people’s calendars – what then happens is that Outlook spends time and increases the size of your OST by dragging everything down to your PC.

There are a couple of options to mitigate this potentially unwanted behaviour:

  • Remove unwanted calendars from your list. If you go into the Calendar in Outlook, you might see a large list of “People’s Calendars”, meaning you’ve viewed them before. You could right-click on each individual calendar on the list and choose “Remove …” and it will ditch that item from your list and also stop synchronizing it (assuming you want to continue synching some other calendars), or…
  • Go to Tools | Account Settings | double-click on <Exchange Server account> | More Settings | Advanced  and clear the check-box which says “Download shared folders…”

If you’re experiencing problems with excessive calendar synch traffic, one of these options might sort you out…