Short takes: hosts files; C#; Azure VMs; sleuthing around Exchange; closing Windows 8 apps; and managing tabs in Google Chrome

Another dump of my open browser tabs to the web…

Unable to edit hosts file in Windows

One of the tools (read Excel and lots of macros) that I use for financial forecasting said it couldn’t find a server.  Of course the network’s never broken – it must be the end users’s fault - so, faced with the prospect of telling an angry admin that there is a DNS mis-configuration, I decided to hack my hosts file instead…

Windows doesn’t make that easy (even as a local administrator) – so I ran Notepad as Administrator instead… being an old skool kind of command line guy it was an elevated cmd prompt  from Start, cmd, then shift and click (which dumps me into C:\Windows\System32), followed by the cd drivers/etc and notepad hosts commands.

What versions of C# are out there?

One thing I wanted to know whilst teaching myself to write in C# a few months back (i.e. to select a course that was up-to-date!) was which versions of C# are out there. Of course, Stack Overflow has the answer.

And, one day, I really must have a play with CShell, the open source C# read-eval-print-loop (REPL) IDE

What Microsoft server software is supported in an Azure VM?

Ever wondered what can be run up (and supported) in a Microsoft Azure VM? Quite a lot, but also some big omissions (Exchange, obviously) and some caveats (like no DHCP).  The formal list is in Microsoft knowledge base article 2721672.

Finding the Exchange Server that actually hosts my email

Exchange AutoDiscover means that, most of the time, end users don’t need to know where their email is – just the single address that lets the email client find the server – but several times recently I’ve found myself needing to know which server hosts my email.  One time I was diagnosing intermittent issues with out of office replies and access to colleagues’ calendars.  Another time I wanted to use PowerShell to list members of a distribution group programmatically (and later to rename a distribution group after the IT department said it wasn’t possible). Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to run PowerShell commands against our servers (but that’s probably a good thing)!

Anyway, it seems that the details I needed were available via Outlook Web Access:

  1. Logon to OWA
  2. Click options
  3. Click About
  4. And find the line that reads “Client access server name” – that’s your connection point.  There’s also a line for “Mailbox server name”.

I tested this with Exchange 2007.  It may vary for other releases and I haven’t checked.

By the way, a couple of links that looked hopeful for my distribution group issues (the ones I had to find another way to resolve):

Closing applications in Windows 8

Our family PC runs Windows 8.1 but, as my work PC runs Windows 7, I have to admit sometimes there are things I haven’t got used to.  One of those is closing full-screen apps.  I usually resort to Alt-F4 but if the kids have left the computer in touch format, then it seems that a simple top to bottom drag is what I need (there should also be a close button if I touch the top of the screen).

Managing tabs in Google Chrome

As I go through my work, I often come across things I’d like to go back to later, or leave side projects part-done, blog posts half-researched (and half-written), etc. Over time, they build up to hundreds of tabs and I my bookmarks folder is a plethora of In Progress yyyymmdd folders (another job to sort out one day).  It also means that, every now and again, my PC slows right down and I need to reboot because Google Chrome is using 14 gazillion GBs of RAM and a Flash plugin (probably serving ads on a website) has gone haywire again. Add Symantec EndPoint Prevention and BeCrypt DiskPrevent into the mix and a reboot could be a half-hour inconvenience.

Last night, I spent hours working through the various open tabs, closing some, pasting some to blog posts (this one… and others still work in progress) and I happened to post a little tweetette, to which Garry Martin (@GarryMartin) happened to respond:

Awesome indeed. Less than 5 seconds to install and the remaining handful of tabs are now under control.

6 Comments

  • Friday 27 June 2014 - 12:15 | Permalink


    I think making it difficult to edit the hosts file is probably a good thing!
    Another option is to drag the hosts file to your desktop, edit it there and then drag it back, at which point you should get a UAC prompt to authorise

    In Windows 8, you can also close programs from the App Switcher (swipe in from the left) and dragging them off the bottom edge, or by right-clicking and choosing “Close App”

  • Friday 27 June 2014 - 12:17 | Permalink


    Thanks for the extra tips Thom. BTW, I agree re: hosts file security but remember trying various things that didn’t work (and logically should have) before successfully making the changes. It’s a while now, but I think one of them was editing it in another location and trying to overwrite (with UAC prompt) but something wasn’t quite right… anyway, that’s all lost in the mists of time now!

  • Saturday 28 June 2014 - 22:29 | Permalink


    Hi Mark,

    I found HostAdmin as the perfect solution. (Although i only use it on a mac, so cant comment on day to day windows use but I have tested it and it does seem to work)

    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hostadmin-app/mfoaclfeiefiehgaojbmncmefhdnikeg

  • Sunday 29 June 2014 - 22:49 | Permalink


    Interesting tip Rich. If it does work on Windows I find it slightly worrying that a browser app can bypass the operating system security ;-)

  • Monday 30 June 2014 - 22:25 | Permalink


    I know with the OSX version you need to chmod the hosts file. I guess it is making it quite vulnerable to misuse, However, if your careful I don’t see know harm in it. Obviously I wouldn’t be letting any of my 75+ users use it.

  • Tuesday 1 July 2014 - 13:00 | Permalink


    Ah yes, I can see the challenge there!

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