The Desktop is Dead. Long Live the Desktop!

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Mark Twain


30 years ago business computing required a server and a collection of dumb terminals. As the personal computer became prevalent on the coat tails of the Apple II we began to see personal computers become a cornerstone of the office and by the late 90s nearly every office was running personal computers in a loosely connected workgroup. For those running Windows NT or 2000 you may have been big enough to setup a domain tying it together but it wasn't until Small Business Servers started appearing in the 2000s that this became common place. This led to a proliferation of small business networks setup to provide the services an office needed. Then there was internet...

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How I got started in IT

How did you get started in IT? This is my favourite and most hated question to ask or be asked in this industry. This is because it is never a simple question but always a fascinating one. This primarily stems from the fact that the IT industry itself is only young. While the first personal computer, the Programma 101, was launched in 1965 it was the Apple II and the Commodore in 1977 that really kicked off the computer industry. If we consider Windows 1.0 was launched in 1985 and the internet reached Australia in the late 80s before becoming mainstream in the mid 90s then it really is apparent how young this industry is.

This all came back to me after reading Okepi's blog recently on how he became a programmer by googling well and highlights my 8th golden troubleshooting rule, you don't need to know the answer to everything, you need to know how to find the answer to anything and reminded me how I got started in this industry.

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My 8 Golden Rules to Troubleshooting

Golden Rules

These are my 8 Golden Rules to Troubleshooting....

1. The 'best' solution is always a compromise.

No solution is perfect. Every solution requires some compromise. This could be a compromise on a business process solution as opposed to a technical solution, or could be a compromise on what is achievable by tomorrow and what is achievable next week. Understanding the critical measures when developing a solution will assist in ensuring the best solution is implemented. 

2. There is never just 1 solution.

If my car breaks down tomorrow, I can call a mechanic or a taxi, or walk or cycle to work. There might be a reason why some of these aren't suitable but they are all solutions to the problem. If you only see one solution look again. 


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Danger, Will Robinson!

Admittedly I am too young to have been around for the original Lost in Space series which aired in the 1960s and the cult classic Space Odyssey 2001 which launched in 1968 when Hal uttered that most infamous line, "I'm sorry I can't do that Dave".  Little did they know it would be more than 40 years before our IT began actually talking to us, yes I am referring to you Siri and your step-brother Google Now. 

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See IT through a child's eyes

I believe Newtonian mechanics is better understood by children than adults. Classical mechanics, based on the work of Isaac Newton is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces. Watching my 15 month old son play with a new toy he first starts by trying to understand how it responds. If he pushes it does it move? If he hits is does it make a noise? If he drops it, does it bounce? As he is now getting to the walking stage he has discovered things that he can walk with whether it be a walker, a push trolley or a tricycle. Once he can stand up and hold on to it, he pushes it in the hope it moves. If it doesn't (usually due to a wall) he pushes it a few more times often getting frustrated at it's failure to respond. Knowing that his parents can turn him around again, he often pauses to gain our attention for assistance, knowing that he can't resolve the situation himself. After repeated attempts, or unless he is turned around, he will give up and move on to the next object of his affection.

It is usually our lack of naivety that makes us think problems are harder than they are or impossible to fix. I know that if I hear the words "exchange is down" I will always pause for a breath before diving in as email problems can be complicated and time consuming to resolve. This assumption is based on experience but may not always be correct. It is amazing how many times re-mounting an exchange store or rebooting a server can resolve the problem. That 1 time out of 100 that you experience a damaged mail store that takes days to resolve is more permanently etched into my memory. The iconic British Channel 4 TV series, The IT Crowd, said it best with "Have you tried turning it off and on". While a traditional IT stereotype, like most stereotypes it is true in many cases.

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If you can make a coffee you can fix a server

In any IT department the only piece of equipment more valuable than the server infrastructure is the office coffee machine. When the servers fail engineers rush around in a panic, trying to find the guy who "knows what to do" and providing a general "we are looking into it" response to staff desperate to send that important email or complete that presentation for today's big meeting. This continues until someone can finally resolve the problem. Yet when the coffee machine fails, the department does not descend into the caffeine deprived anarchy we would expect instead it either gets promptly fixed or the staff resort to that archaic alternative, the kettle.

Considering that in this post Beyond-2000 society the coffee machine probably has more choice than the barista across the street, more computing power than a server in the early 1990s and more technology than your mobile phone in the year 2000 why is there such a difference in the approach and reaction to an problem?

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Replace your fax with fax to email

As landlines slowly disappear in this increasingly mobile society it can be expensive or complicated to work out how to keep your fax machine. I can hear all the techies saying "Why would you use fax?" but for many industries and in many countries (i.e. Japan) fax is still a requirement for daily business operations.

So what is the alternative? Growing in popularity and in providers is email to fax. The rather simple alternative which provides a virtual fax number and the ability to send and receive faxes via email.

 Recently I had the need to identify a suitable vendor for a friend and took the opportunity to look at what was on offer in the market so here is a guide to Australian fax to email vendors.

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Create a free website with

You have finally decided you need a website. This could be for your business, your sports team or yourself. You don't have the time, money or expertise to need to worry about your own web server or hosting and you are not even sure whether you should buy a domain name. 

There is one easy solution,

In this article I am going to show you how easy it is to get started by setting up your own wordpress site and provide you with the fundamentals on how Wordpress works.


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Speed up your new website

So you have finally built your new dynamic website running off a CMS such as Joomla or Wordpress but it is slow to load... You are not alone. Dynamic websites based on database driven content systems are often slow especially if you have included lots of modules and components.  Customers will not wait for a slow site to load so the faster your site loads the more likely visitors are to stick around and look around. I have more than doubled the speed of my site in recent weeks and I wanted to share the tips and tricks I have discovered to help you speed up your site. Read on to find out how...

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Monitoring Windows Event Logs

As a system engineer there are always problems, issues or activities on a server that you need to monitor, fix or be notified about. This could be a failing application pool in IIS affecting your web application, backup failures, auditing user account changes. It could also be an unexplained error you want to monitor.

Not many system administrators realise there is a built in feature in windows servers designed just for this purpose.

Let's look at some great examples:

  • When a print spooler error is reported restart the print spooler
  • When a backup failure is reported restart the backup or send an email
  • When IIS stops send an IISRESET command

All of these can be easily done in a few simple steps.

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