Moving on from an #HourOfCode to 20 hours of code…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Hour of Code events that are running as part of Computer Science Education Week and, last Thursday, I took my 10 year-old son to our local Apple Store to take part in an event. Unfortunately his younger brother wasn’t interested (“I don’t really like programming” was the response) but I’m not going to push it – not everyone likes the same things and I do at least know he’ll be exposed to some coding at school (Scratch was part of the ICT curriculum at their school, even before the recent shake-up in computer science education here in the UK).

Using a Scratch-like user interface, the Hour of Code used a sequence of puzzles to guide Angry Birds through a route to find some pigs, the Zombies and Plants, and Squirrels and Acorns… with the opportunity to view the resulting JavaScript code at each stage.  Working up from simple steps forward/turns to repeat [for] loops, repeat until [while] loops, if statements and if/else statements it was great to see my son asking “what are all the funny brackets” when he viewed the code (and equally great to be able to use some of the C he’s tweaked with the Arduino as an example of passing parameters).

At the end of the session we were pointed at another twenty hours of code available at the code.org studio, allowing kids (and adults) to build up confidence and knowledge of basic computer science principles but the real buzz for me was seeing my son’s browsing history the next morning, spotting the Google search for “20 hours of code” and the fact he’d got stuck in to some of the puzzles to create his own game without any nudging from his geek father. That put a big smile on my face.

Reconfiguring a PlusNet ADSL router (Technicolor TG582n)

This post is probably not much interest to many people but it might help some if, like me, you’re trying to re-configure a Technicolor TG582n ADSL router from Plusnet. Just make sure you read all the way to the end and save yourself some time!

For the last 11 years, my ADSL connection has been running with an elderly Solwise SAR110 ADSL modem/router, provided by Plusnet when we first connected to 512Mbps ADSL. Those were the days – half a meg download speeds seemed so fast back then! Whilst fibre has (just about) reached my neck of the woods, my ADSL 2 connection is working well, most of the time, and I get about 6Mbps down and 0.7Mbps up these days. Indeed, the connection actually seems to have become more responsive lately (my theory is that the contention rate has dropped in line with people switching to fibre)!  I did have cause to call Plusnet for support last week though, and they agreed to ship me a new router if I signed up to one of their current packages (which, incidentally saved me money too as we were still on a very old tariff).

The new router is a Technicolor TG582n and I finally got around to setting it up tonight. I was told that I might get slightly faster speeds but there’s no evidence of that based on the tests I’ve run so far (that may change in a couple of days when we roll into a new billing month and onto the new service) [Update: after a few reboots my speed has doubled to around 12Mbps]. For now though I just want to swap the old router out for the new one.

The first thing I found was that the default configuration sets the router’s IP address to 192.168.1.254. That’s the IP address of my wireless access point, and all of my devices are expecting a gateway address of 192.168.1.1.  So, I downloaded the router configuration (Technicolor Gateway -> Configuration -> Save or Restore Configuration).  This gave me a file called user.ini, which I then searched for all instances of 254 and looked like they were part of an IP address (ignoring one which was part of a long string of numbers) and replaced 254 with 1.  I then uploaded the new configuration and, hey presto, the browser refreshed giving me back the config for my wireless access point on 192.168.1.254 and the router was responding on 192.168.1.1.  That seems a bit of a kludge and there should be another way to do this, but I couldn’t find it in the GUI (at least not with software release 10.2.2.B).

Then, reading around I found that the router also has a DHCP server enabled by default. I don’t want that right now (my Raspberry Pi is doing that job for me) so I started to investigate switching that feature off. Again, I couldn’t find it in the GUI, so I tracked down a copy of the CLI guide for the router (from another ISP – Demon – albeit for an older release) and, sure enough, after telnetting onto the box the dhcp server config command told me it was enabled so I corrected that with the following commands:

dhcp server config state=disabled
saveall

After all that, I found the config that I needed – it seems that the location to make the changes is Home Network -> Interfaces -> Local Network -> Configure.

There I found some handy checkboxes to turn on/off DHCP servers (IPv4 and IPv6) as well as the static address for IPv4 addresses!

After all this, I may well switch over to one of the popular open source firmware packages on the router… but I’ll leave it alone for now…

Microsoft News Q4 2014

This post is an edited version of one that originally appeared on my internal blog at Fujitsu.

Fujitsu UK’s resident Exchange Master (and Distinguished Engineer), Nick Parlow (@Hagbard) does a great job of running an [internal] email list with links of things going on around Exchange. Indeed, there’s so much there I don’t manage to keep up with it but I do know where to look to see what’s happening… and I’d like to be able to do something similar about broader developments in the Microsoft Community.

I’ll use my blog for the time being… this post is my first attempt at a Microsoft News round-up.

Directions on Microsoft Enterprise Software Roadmap

Directions on Microsoft is an independent analysis service focused on Microsoft technologies, roadmaps and licensing policies and their latest quarterly roadmap calls attention to recent roadmap shifts for Microsoft enterprise technologies, including:

  • “Windows 10. The next version of the Windows client operating system is scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2015 and will improve security and management as well as address the user interface problems that limited adoption of Windows 8 and 8.1 by enterprise customers. The new operating system will likely ship for phones as well as tablets and PCs, which will simplify development of applications that run on all three devices types. Organizations should evaluate Windows 10 previews scheduled for early 2015 to see if the new OS will be a viable replacement for Windows 7, which leaves Mainstream support on Jan. 13, 2015.
  • Office 365. Customers of the Office 365 cloud services and software will continue to get new capabilities in areas such as e-mail filtering, collaboration, and search that are not available to customers running the corresponding on-premises software. Organizations planning future investments in Exchange, SharePoint, and Office should review the capabilities of Office 365 and its roadmap, even if they are not ready for an immediate move to the cloud.
  • Office 16. The next version of the Microsoft desktop productivity suite has an estimated release date in the third quarter of 2015. A touch-oriented Modern Office suite for mobile Windows devices such as tablets is likely to appear at the same time. Organizations can expect previews of these Office suites in early 2015.
  • Skype for Business. New versions of Lync products and services will launch in the first half of 2015 instead of late 2014 as originally planned. The versions will ship under a new name, Skype for Business, but current Lync technology and licenses should transition without major disruption.”

[the bullets above are a direct quote from the email I received from Directions on Microsoft]

Access to the report requires a subscription (which I don’t have) but even the snippets above provide a useful overview.

Future Decoded

Microsoft’s flagship marketing event for the UK took place last month over three days at the ExCel Conference Centre in London’s Docklands. Each of the days focused on a different audience with business leaders on Monday, partners on Tuesday and a technical audience on the Wednesday, with different Microsoft teams leading the day. I attended the business and technical events.

Clearly, lots of money was spent on keynotes speakers – of varying quality – but the real gems on the business day were the afternoon sessions with real world customer stories of how they were implementing Microsoft technologies (not just product pitches). I heard from Marstons on how they’re using Dynamics CRM (just enough for me to get a feel of what the product can do), JustGiving on their GiveGraph big data solution that aims to make giving social by picking up on how emotion and sentiment flows between people, Schroders on the lessons learned from their Lync deployment, ThyssenKrupp on how they’re using data to change the way they maintain lifts [and hijacking the Internet of Things trend to discuss what’s really just “things on the Internet”], from Transport for London explaining the evolution of payment systems (contactless micropayments), and finally from Landmarc on the “private cloud” they built for the MoD (I mis-read the session title because I was interested to hear how MoD might embrace cloud services).

The technical day was a bit harder to jump tracks in the afternoon – I’ve fed back to Microsoft that many of us (particularly in the enterprise space) will have multiple streams to follow and not just one topic of interest – but I did manage to attend sessions on outsmarting the digital deluge, hyperscale solutions for the Internet of things, hybrid identity management, and Microsoft Azure Machine Learning (MAML).

All three days also featured an Expo with about 3000 attendees on each of the days I visited and delegates on the third day could also visit AppsWorld in the next hall (passes were valid for both conferences)…

In other news, one of the Platinum sponsors was Risual (the others were Dell and HP).  I didn’t tweet about this too much because I didn’t want to be seen to support one of our competitors but it seems they got plenty of PR when their promotional video went viral.

Re-imagining the Enterprise

Tony Muraki-Hart, CTO for the Microsoft-Fujitsu Alliance spoke at a recent Distinguished Engineers’ event about Microsoft’s forward-looking vision – how Microsoft is re-imagining the enterprise. Key themes included digital transformation, becoming a customer-obsessed enterprise, and the re-imagination of Microsoft as a productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.

Unfortunately the slide deck is not one I can share publicly but, in essence, the Microsoft that Steve Ballmer led with a focus on Windows and Office is a different organisation to the one Satya Nadella is leading – more open, and cross-platform.

Wrap up

That’s it for now. I’ll aim to come back with another Microsoft News update in the new year. Until then, I’ll sign off with a link to a Redmond Magazine article from Mary Jo Foley on the five changes at Microsoft in 2014 that mattered the most.

Learn the basics of computer programming in an #HourOfCode

Next week (8-14 December 2014) is Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code is coming to the UK. More than 3 million people have tried an Hour of Code already, in an initiative that aims to dispel any myths that computer programming is difficult and to provide parents, teachers and students across the nation with an enjoyable introduction to coding. Code.org hope that this will help build awareness of and confidence in the changes that have come in the September 2014 English school curriculum.

It’s not just in schools either – my employer has 24 “hour of code” workshops scheduled all over the country for our technical staff to give non-techies a one-hour introduction to the basics of computer programming and there’s been a fantastic sign-up rate.

Other IT companies are getting involved too (actually, there’s an extensive list of partners) including Apple, who are hosting Hour of Code workshops in Apple Stores across the world on 11 December (I’m hoping to get at least one of my sons to come along with me). It’s billed as “no experience needed” and for “ages 6-106”.

If computer programming is a mystery to you but it might be something of interest, find out more about the hour of code on the Code.org UK website or follow @codeorg on Twitter.

And if the Hour of Code whets your appetite, you might like to check out some of these resources:

[Update 10 December 2014: added Microsoft Imagine to the list]

[Update 14 December 2014: added 20 hours of code to the list]