Monday, 24 September 2018

Mouse moving and clicking by itself on Windows 10 - disabling the touchpad and pointing stick on a HP ZBook mobile workstation G5

So I've had some problems recently with a new HP ZBook 17 G5 workstation running Windows 10 where the mouse was moving by itself and randomly clicking. This is immensly annoying and also quite a security risk - for example if you're in online banking it has the habit of clicking things you really don't want clicked.

It turns out that the issue was caused by a faulty pointing stick (the mouse that's stuck in the middle of the keyboard). On this model of laptop it has its own buttons below it (and above the touch pad).

The easiest way to fix this is to disable the touchpad and pointing stick (instead of having to get a replacement keyboard from HP).

Open the ALPS settings from the start menu

Turn off the enable tap

In Device Manager right click any of the ALPS devices and disable them

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Post Office Travel Insurance Review

I have been a Post Office travel insurance customer now for several years however have never had the misfortune of needing to make a claim before.

I have Standard cover and have paid for additional business cover, multi trip, and trip length extension.

Relax... we´ve got you covered...

I went to the Centre Municipal de Vela sailing club in Barcelona to go kayaking on 16th August 2018 at around 19hrs and locked my property in a locker (number 75). You have to sign in and give the key to the staff in reception who keep it for you on a board behind the staff members. You are not allowed to keep the locker keys with you or take them out onto the water.

08005 BARCELONA | 93 225 79 40

I came back from the water within one hour and asked for my key. The staff seemed confused as to where the key was. I ran to the locker and found the key in the locker door and my property taken.

Either the staff knowingly gave the thief the key, or were negligent and gave them the key, or through negligence allowed the key to be taken from them. They didn´t seem to know at the time what had happened.

The staff seemed less than concerned and I demanded that they check the CCTV. At the same time I used a computer at the club to access the Find My iPhone app and tracked the phone to.

Hotel & Spa Villa OlĂ­mpic@ Suites
Carrer de Pallars, 121-125
08018 Barcelona

I told the staff at Centre Municipal de Vela to contact the police and tell them to meet me there. I arrived and four police officers were walking around. I asked them what they had found and they said nothing however the Centre Municipal de Vela had provided a picture of the thief walking out of their club which they showed me. He had my bag and it was partly covered with a white towel. The CCTV quality at the club is of poor quality and will not protect users of the club.

I asked if the police had spoken to the hotel staff for the CCTV they had not.

I walked into the hotel and demanded to see the CCTV which the grudgingly did. The CCTV quality was again poor and the staff had trouble operating the software. The clock was not set correctly so it was difficult to determine the time we were looking at. Finally the same person was found from the CCTV at the Centre Municipal de Vela. This should have ensured a result. The criminal was locked in a specific location and footage of him was available.

The police entered a room on the advice of the security guard who "thought he had seen him". This was wildly inaccurate information from the hotel security guard and the police entered a room at random. They returned from the room laughing and joking with the hotel staff to tell me that they had nothing, and said they were leaving.

I asked them to ask around and check each room. They refused.

I said I would check the rooms. They threatened to arrest me.

I demanded CCTV footage from the lifts or each floor from the hotel. They had nothing except the single camera in reception that we had already reviewed.

I told them to check the door logs, as they knew when the criminal entered they would know the time (assuming they could determine it from the misconfigured CCTV system), however they have no logs of door access.

I asked them to check against the passports they had for the guests. They said how could they find the criminal from the poor quality CCTV picture, I pointed out that their substandard level of security systems was their own fault, especially for a 4 star hotel.

The police left me at the hotel, who threatened to again have the police return and arrest me if I did anything other than stand outside the hotel.

I pointed out that the residents of this hotel would not be safe with their property given that criminals can come and go with stolen property and they have no way of tracking them.

By this point I realised that I was going to be on the streets if I didn´t get help. I had nothing but my swim shorts, trainers and t-shirt that I was wearing while on the water. My bag had everything including

  • 100 EURO in cash
  • My AirBnB appartment keys
  • Money
  • My work laptop
  • Suntan lotion
  • My iPhone 7

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) my wallet had been stolen on the Metro a week before so I had already ordered new credit cards from Barclays and they were being shipped by friends from the UK to Spain.

Faced with sleeping on the streets I contacted my AirBnB host who said that she was in Poland and could not help me. Perhaps her Dad could have let me in however he had left the city and she didn´t know where he was. I told them that I was going to end up sleeping on the street and her and her partner´s reponse was "sorry I cannot help you today, have a good night".

I contacted The Post Office given that I had a policy and business cover. It turns out that they do not provide any non-medical emergency cover. I desparately called the medical emergency line and told them I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing.

They said I had to just "buy what I needed" and then redeem it and then to call back the following day.

I started shouting that I had just said that I had nothing and was going to end up on the streets but they didn´t care and said that if I continued that they´d hang up on me. Which isn´t really a threat after they had already confirmed that they are not going to help.

On Facebook my friends offered to book me a place to stay remotely using their credit cards however I had a problem that I had no ID to get into the hotel afterwards, so I went to the Police station and thought I would get a statement and then return to the hotel where my stolen property was and continue to wait to see if I could identify the thief whilst using their computer to ask for a friend to book me a hotel.

I then went and spent 5 hours in the police station on 3032 Carrer Bolivia. They refused to give me drinking water only suggesting I use the tap in the toilet which was not clean for drinking. I tried to sleep in the waiting room and was pushed and shouted at by an officer who (someone translated) said that this is not a hotel. I had to wait for a translator and he and the officer laughed when I explained it was ridiculous that they knew were the criminal was but would not resolve the issue. I told them I would return to the hotel and wait for the criminal to leave his room. They laughed at this also.

I asked the officer to email me the documents incase they were lost as I had to sleep on the streets and had not even pockets to keep them in. I was told to use my hand, and take responsibility of them and that the station was "not an Internet cafe".

They cotacted the consulate who was verbally critical of the Spanish police. The Spanish police were equally critical of the consulate and asked what they would do to help me and the consulate said they don´t help British people in these situations the Spanish police then ended the call.

I was asked to leave the station and went to the hotel where the stolen property was, the security guard at first wouldn´t even let me into the hotel. They said they had no rooms to let me sleep in.

It was now around 2am in the UK so my friends were no longer awake and without a phone I had no way to get a number to call anyone.

I spent the night on the streets and then slept on the beach. I later returned to the hotel where my stolen property had been taken and managed to arrange to get a copy of the keys to the appartment if I could make it across town to the appartment.

As the Post Office provide no emergency money I had not even the 1 EURO 50 for the Metro, nor did I have any way of knowing where I was in relation to my apartment.

I called for help at La Pau Metro station and told them I had a no money but had the crime report with me. They told me there was "nothing they could do" when I asked them to let me on the Metro because I didn´t have any money.

I finally managed to get the (I found out later was 5KM) across town to the appartment where spare keys were made available in a secure location.

I had a little money left while waiting for my replacement cards which was difficult as it was costing me 5 EUROs each time to use the internet in an internet cafe. I called EE to arrange a new phone as a priority, this call alone cost me 15 EUROs so I was critically low on cash and not eating.

I messaged The Post Office on Facebook and asked someone to email me as I didn´t have the money to make another call. I tried to use phones in Workcenter Barcelona (a place that provides office stationery, internet access, photocopying etc) but they provide no access to phones. I begged them to use their own phone but the call to The Post Office failed as they had international calls blocked.

Several people offered me their phone but none could make international calls to the 0333 number the Post Office provides.

I kept messaging The Post Office who said on Facebook it had been escalated.

This really wasn´t escalated at all. It was only on Monday at 12.30pm after I had asked friends to complain about the Post Office on Facebook, and my local MP got involved I was contacted by a Mr Rae who was a claims advisor. I asked for the contact details of a claims manager and was finally given the contact details of Mr Hawker.

I had received replacement cards and a new phone from EE faster than the Post Office had managed to even send me a contact email address.

I called The Post Office and listed the property that was stolen and was promptly told that the business laptop was not covered even though I had paid for business cover. 

They also told me that losing your keys and not being able to access your hotel or appartment is an extremely unusual event and not one they had seen in the manager´s 8 years in the business. I think this is ridiculous that a travel insurance company isn´t aware and able to deal with this situation or even feel that it´s not their bread and butter to support this kind of incident.

I have no idea whether this is a standard operating policy to deny a claim to dissausde people from claiming or whether the managers do not understand their own policies, but having had time to review the policy documents it certainly is covered, however the values are so low, excess so high that it´s hardly worth having.

  • The Post Office insurance is run by a different company, you won´t speak to Post Office staff once you´ve paid your money.
  • The insurance is provided by Collinson Insurance
  • When you try and claim you can´t just submit your documents you are redirected again to another company where you have to complete forms manually (nothing online) and then post them the physical copies. This is extremely time consuming and near impossible while you are abroad.
  • Because of the multiple companies you have no single point of contact it´s a horrible experience.
  • You have no emergency support for non-medical issues, and you may well want this. If you check Avivas policies they provided 24 - 7 emergency numbers with travel support, translators, cash transfers as standard. As a consumer I would expect some form of support. (The cost of Aviva cover for the same policy is around 130GBP, the Post Office was charging more than this)
  • It can be very hard to make international calls when you´re abroad. Harder than accessing the internet. Make sure you insurance provider gives you a way to contact them and make claims over the internet. The Post Office does not provide this you have to call a UK number on a 9-5 basis. Aviva does provide this. 
  • The Post Office is impervious to complains on their social media, they simply ignore it.
  • The business protection is very limited in value and you cannot adjust the value. You tick "business support" and that´s the only option you have.
  • You may need to pay a lawyer to get The Post Office to actually help, they don´t seem willing to help you and as stated will tell you that you don´t have protection when you do.
  • If you don´t book your return flight before you leave YOU ARE UNINSURED!
  • If you don´t have your home insurance details with you YOU CAN´T CLAIM

In summary The Post Office insurance is not fit for purpose.

By telling people that that "They´re covered" The Post Office is preventing people taking out another policy that would cover them with companies that provided real protection in an emergency like Avivia.

Subsequently I have taken on a law firm to take legal action against the sailing club for negligence.

I have complained to AirBnB that their hosts should be responsible to escalate issues for their guests in dangerous situations (imagine if I was a vulnerable young woman on the streets). AirBnB do not agree that their hosts have any responsbility for this and will not tell their hosts to escalate any issues. To be fair they did say that I could have contacted AirBnB directly (not the host) and they would have helped. I´m not sure if this is true, I have not had any useful assistance with them in the past, it has always been sending me back to the host.

I have submitted a claim to the Post Office and will be warning as many people I know of the serious limitations of their cover. I have informed them I will not accept any more false denials of my legal rights to cover and will simply hand over everything to a law firm should they misadvise me any further on my cover.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Using SQL Server with BitLocker - The operating system returned error 21 (The device is not ready.) to SQL Server during a read at offset….

When using Microsoft SQL Server on a computer protected by BitLocker you may see the error

The operating system returned error 21 (The device is not ready.) to SQL Server during a read at offset….

This error can be caused because BitLocker auto-unlocks the drive after SQL Server has already started.

You can either set the service to manual and start it after login (manually or with a login script) or try using the Automatic (Delayed Start) startup type on the SQL service.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Install VMware Tools on Windows Server 1803 (core operating system)

Windows Server 1803 the semi-annual version of Windows Server comes by default with no user interface.

This may be a bit of a confusion when you first install the server and want to install VMware tools.

Although there is no GUI you can still click to install the VMware tools, and swap to the CD-ROM drive by using D: or the appropriate drive letter.

You can then type setup and the installation GUI will proceed as normal.

If you are in a PowerShell window (rather than a standard command prompt) typing setup will display the following error

The Setup command may only be used inside a Describe block.
At C:\Program Files\WindowsPowerShell\Modules\Pester\3.4.0\Functions\Describe.ps1:125 char:9
+         throw "The $CommandName command may only be used inside a Des ...
+         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : OperationStopped: (The Setup comma...Describe block.:String) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : The Setup command may only be used inside a Describe block.

Instead start the command with .\setup.exe

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Microsoft Exchange Documentation Script

As part of the version 10.1 update of our server documentation tool, XIA Configuration Server you can now document the configuration of your Exchange on-premises and Exchange Online configuration simply and quickly.

Click to view sample PDF output of a demonstration Exchange organization.

The system automatically gathers information on

  • Compliance Management
  • Mail Flow
  • Mobile
  • Organization
  • Permissions
  • Protection
  • Public Folders
  • Recipients
  • Servers Configuration
  • Unified Messaging

For more information see the Microsoft Exchange page of our web site.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Install and use Microsoft Edge Browser on Windows Server 2016

When trying to download Google Chrome on Windows Server 2016 today I got the following message

Microsoft Edge is the faster, safer browser on Windows 10 and it is already installed on your PC.

Which I'm not sure how Microsoft is allowed to guzzump my search by demanding I use their product especially as they've mis-recognised their own operating system.

To be clear you cannot use Microsoft Edge on Windows Server 2016.

If you need to know the reason see the requirements for Edge.

The Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) versions of Windows, including Windows Server 2016, don't include Microsoft Edge or many other Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. These apps and their services are frequently updated with new functionality, and can't be supported on systems running the LTSB operating systems. For customers who require the LTSB for specialized devices, we recommend using Internet Explorer 11.

This is quite annoying, more so if you run an RDP Session Host or Citrix Farm.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

VMware vCenter Appliance reports 503 Service Unavailable (Failed to connect to endpoint)

When using the VMware vCenter Appliance if you find that it reports the following error

503 Service Unavailable (Failed to connect to endpoint: [N7Vmacore4Http20NamedPipeServiceSpecE:0x00005583dec71890] _serverNamespace = / action = Allow _pipeName =/var/run/vmware/vpxd-webserver-pipe)

This can be due to trying to access the web interface before the services have started, even though the application virtual machine has started and the login screen displayed.

It's a real shame that VMware doesn't show a proper startup window on the console of the vCenter server so you can see the services starting rather than having to guess what is going on.