I stumbled across this by accident, but if like me you’ve noticed that Adobe PDF files don’t show up properly in file previews in 64-bit Windows 7 or Vista, then Leo Davidson has created a handy tool that fixes the problem. It also fixes thumbnail rendering within Explorer in 64-bit Windows too (except for XP64). Although the fix needs re-applying each time Adobe Reader is updated (until they actually fix it themselves!) it’s a digitally signed application, so it should install without any issues. My Windows 7 x64 machine is at work, so I’ll have to try it on Monday and see, but by all accounts the fix is a good ‘un.

According to a couple of people, there’s a new firmware release due shortly for the Billion BiPac 7800N (possibly 1.02e), which should fix the source IP address issue, along with adding a few extra features to the web interface. Comments Off on New firmware on the way

My old Draytek 2800G router is on the way out, – it struggles to make it more than a couple of hours without resetting itself, even after reflashing the firmware. As a result, I’ve ordered one of Billion‘s new 7800N series devices to replace it. I did look at the current Draytek device (the Vigor 2820n) but it didn’t quite meet my needs, which were:

  1. 802.11n wireless
  2. Gigabit switch
  3. Built-in ADSL modem

The Draytek 2820n for some reason has only a single gigabit Ethernet port, which – seeing as I’m fairly often transferring pretty large files around – isn’t entirely helpful. The fact that the 2820n is pretty near twice the price of the Billion 7800n also was a point against it. Yes, I know the Draytek has a number of other features, such as VPNs that the Billion omits, but in my experience unless you’re working with lots of other sites using Draytek kit, it can be a pain to get things talking to each other.

In an ideal world, the new router would also support the 802.11n 5GHz standard, but as with anything technological you’ll end up waiting forever for the perfect product!

The 7800N actually arrived at work today, but since I’ve been recovering from ferry induced sleep-loss, I’ll be collecting it tomorrow. It’s actually only just been launched in the UK, so there seem to be very few reports on using it with UK ADSL connections, so I’ll put some notes up here in a few days.

Friday was the first time in a couple of years that I made it to the BETT show (it stands for the British Educational Training and Technology show) and despite it being a bit of a long day, with far too few seats, and coffee that was stupidly expensive, it was a worthwhile trip.

The biggest stands weren’t actually the most interesting ones (aside from Intel’s – more about that one later). There were a number of smaller companies exhibiting some pretty original ideas, and despite much of it being targeted at visiting teachers, it was still worth a look.

It was good to drop by the Edugeek stand, and finally put faces to some of the names that frequent the forums, – it was also good to get a free smoothie from the guys on the Smoothwall stand next-door, especially taking into account the pricing of refreshments in the place!

Although I’m currently in the process of writing our own helpdesk system at DataSwift, the folks at the Topdesk stand seem to have an impressive product for a pretty reasonable price (they’ve sent me a demo pack, which I’ve yet to try out).

I wasn’t exactly inspired by one stand, where the salesperson didn’t even know the basic system requirements of their (pretty technical) product! – nor by another vendor, who tried in vain to demonstrate how good their product was, only to have it time-out with every other click…

Intel had a number of their new Classmate 3 netbook-cum-tablet-pcs on their stand, and had apparently seeded them liberally throughout the exhibition halls. The new machine (apparently on sale soon as the NEC Otomo) is pretty standard Netbook specification on the inside:

  • Intel Atom CPU (1.6Ghz)
  • 1GB RAM (upgradeable)
  • 1024 x 600 8.9″ TFT display
  • 60GB HDD (or a 16GB Solid State Device)
  • 802.11b/g/n wireless
  • SD card reader
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • VGA connector
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Touch-screen

It’s that last item on the list that gives a clue toward what makes it stand out from the crowd, – it’s effectively a tiny tablet-pc, albeit with a fairly low-end touch screen, so handwriting recognition isn’t likely to be stunning. A lot of educational software is targeted at interactive whiteboards these days, and -assuming it will run in the 1024×600 screen size- it should be equally at home on the Classmate/Otomo. The case of the machine is pretty rugged too, with a carry handle integrated into the chassis. Apparently it’s been drop tested at heights of up to 60cm officially, and up to 1m unofficially, so it should be capable of withstanding most of the rigours of classroom life (especially if you go for the SSD option).

We’re looking at getting a demonstration model at DataSwift, so may be able to let local schools have a play if they missed out at BETT.

Now if only I can tear myself away from interesting gadgets, and get our helpdesk finished…!

WordPress has just announced the official release of version 2.7  (codenamed Coltrane) of their blogging / content-management system. I’ve just upgraded both this site and the DataSwift one to the latest and greatest, with -so far- no issues at all!

The administration interface (known as the Dashboard) has been completely redesigned and is now a lot more customisable. It should also reduce the number of steps involved in carrying out everyday tasks.

Technology Review has an article about an Adobe project named Zoetrope which promises to give users access to web content through time. It’s a little hard to explain, but essentially it allow you to scroll back and forth through a time-line and look at pages or parts thereof over time.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=7C-B7qdClak

It has the makings of a very powerful tool, with the only downsides being its requiring a huge amount of historical data (such as that stored by the Internet Archive), and very fast access to same (which the Internet Archive doesn’t really provide)

Well, the new Christ the King College has been open for the past two days, and I’ve just about survived!

Monday was the last chance to get things done with no staff around (save for a few admin personnel who were very understanding when things temporarily fell over). Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in a whirlwind of last minute tweaks and fixes, along with my having to give a 45 minute presentation to the entire staff on the new network. When it reached 10pm on Tuesday I gave up on the idea of planning the talk, and somehow I managed to fit the whole thing into exactly the time-slot provided (even allowing a few minutes for questions!).

It’s been almost like old times, as I’ve spent pretty much the whole of the week at the College – leaving Luke to run around like a lunatic visiting all the other schools with the usual ‘new term problems’. With a bit of luck things will return to normality (whatever that may be) next week.

The official opening of the College is later in September and is likely to involve some interesting ceremonies (or so I’ve heard).

I pity the folk at the Bestival this weekend as the roads themselves were wet enough this evening, – I dread to think what state the fields at Robin Hill are in!

I’ve finally found the time to setup my web-based music player on the new (virtual) Ubuntu server. At the same time, I took the opportunity to make it all unicode compliant. Actually, I had to do that, since the music is actually on the Vista box, and accessed via a CIFS mountpoint setup in /etc/fstab.

I had a few issues that got in the way:

  1. Getting the correct options in /etc/fstab to mount the share and make sense of the accented characters. This was solved by following this article on the Ubuntu forums. It would have been even quicker to sort, had I not forgotten that my SSH session wasn’t set to display unicode – so I still couldn’t actually see the right characters even when the fstab was correctly configured!
  2. The current version of LAME in the Ubuntu repositories (3.97) is not the latest stable one (3.98). This probably isn’t crucial, but my transcoding makes use of some of the new features (such as embedding album-art). This was easily fixed by downloading and compiling the latest release.
  3. The GD graphics library that is installed with the php5-gd package under Ubuntu is missing a lot of the features that the bundled PHP version includes (such as rotation). The proper fix for this is to compile PHP with the library. I took the cheat’s route, and simply extracted the bundled library from the Fedora distribution’s RPM file (note that that link is to the 64-bit version).

After a few tweaks to the PHP code to make sure unicode text was treated as such (and changing the collation type of the database tables to match) it’s all working properly. Or rather, it’s working as well as can be expected considering that it’s not actually finished yet!

The developers of WordPress have just announced the (one month earlier than scheduled!) release of WordPress 2.6. There’s a fair few new features, with the major one being change-tracking – enabling you to view previous versions of pages and posts, and also compare the differences.

There’s been various other improvements too, including a real-time word-count, image captions and more.

As I’ve come to expect these days, the upgrade from 2.5 went very smoothly.

We’re having a fun time at work at present, planning all the summer projects that are due to be done while the schools are on the summer break. I’d like to know why this school holiday is only five weeks in place of the usual six? One of the biggest is the network for the newly created Christ the King College (web-site not yet available – we’re working on sorting that too).

Still, creating a whole routed network from scratch (including reinstalling all servers and workstations, both Windows and Apple) gives us the opportunity to try a few new ideas (including Paul Beesley‘s very handy Acceptable Usage Policy tool), and refine our existing scripts and policies.