Prepping for MSIgnite – Review the session plans.

In just over a month I will be heading down to Florida for Microsoft Ignite (#MSIgnite) – the conference formerly known as TechEd. This is a conference that I’ve always wanted to go to and this year I am finally able to get to go.
It’s a large Microsoft based conference and I know I am going to learn a ton and be extremely tired at the end of the work.

As this is my first visit, I thought I would add some notes over the next few weeks on my planning for #msignite. Feel free to follow along and add any comments and advice to the posts.

Review the session plans

Last week the Myignite site had the session planner activated – there are currently 1124 sessions planned right now and it is essential that you plan the sessions that need to be attended before you go to the conference.
One of the attendees has also released a PowerBI app that gives a really nice graphical browser view to the sessions in a calendar view – This is a browser option only though and doesn’t allow you to add sessions to your calendar/planner.

Neat graphical viewer for #MSIgnite sessions
1500 sessions is pretty overwhelming so I would recommend that you select the subject matter(s) that you are particularly interested in as that will then filter down the list of relevant sessions.

Don’t get too excited and expect the number to drop drastically, especially if you are involved in a lot of subjects. My list of sessions went from 1500 to 540 to pick from.
Select the Personalized sessions edit icon at Personalized session to select the topics you are interested in.

I then went through this list and selected the option to add to schedule option to select all the sessions I am interested in. Some of these sessions are ones that I would want to download and view later, some of them are ones that I want to attend. Right now I do not see a way of prioritizing these sessions as must attend, 1st choice, stream later – hopefully this is possible in the future.

Once you have selected all of the sessions you are interested in, go to my schedule under My Conference/My Schedule and then select the week view. This is where you see that you have probably double, triple or quadruple booked your sessions. This is where the priority options would come in handy so a colour coded view would allow you to see which sessions you really want to go to.

Weekly schedule in Ignite.

Last year there was a mobile app that would help you keep up to date with session changes (there has already been several changes published to the conference page) but I don’t see it available at the moment – there are plenty of ignite 2017 apps in the Google store but none of them are the Microsoft ones (at time of writing)

WordPress fixed.

Well that was embarrassing – this website  has been down for a while. It looks like some kind of WordPress upgrade blew the site up – the site was last updated 7/30 so I know it was fine then but it looks like some plugins were updated on 8/2 so probably around that point in time, but looking at my visit stats it looks like it actually went down on the 3rd/4th August.

When I went to the site this evening I got an ugly message of “Fatal error: Class ‘WP_Widget_Custom_HTML’ not found in /pathtomywordpresslocation/wp-includes/class-wp-widget-factory.php on line 106″

From what I can tell, this is the one of the core files from WordPress so is not a file that typically gets changed.

The typical advice for this sort of error is to deactive the plugins installed – either through the database or by renaming the plugins directory in the wp-content directory.  I found that this didn’t actually work and I had to run a manual update for WordPress as per the instructions at https://codex.wordpress.org/Updating_WordPress#Manual_Update

Note that when removing the plugins, wp-includes and wp-admin directory you may want to rename them rather than delete – this way you always have a copy to refer back to. I found that my theme actually required some files from the plugin directory so although the admin site was available, the main site was not available until after I copied the plugins back.

Even more interestingly, after installing WordPress manually and logging into the admin interface I still get “An automated WordPress update has failed to complete – please attempt the update again now”  This is easily fixed by deleting the .maintenance file in the main wordpress directory and then refreshing the admin page.

Phew!

I have now updated my monitor script to check for the existence of text in the page as opposed to just checking that the web page is up and running.

 

 

 

Review: Match Up

Match UpMatch Up by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had only read a couple of these authors and I am always on the lookout for new books to read so this was a great way of trialing them out. The unique idea of blending characters from different authors together in multiple short stories was intriguing and worked really well. None of the tales felt awkwardly written. Each story was different and engrossing – the only sad thing is that they are short stories and I often wondered what would happen next! Highly recommended – especially if you’ve read at least one of the authors and want to see one of the characters in a completely different scenario.
Netgalley was kind enough to give me an ARC for this book but it would definitely be a book I would get for myself.

View all my reviews

Review: Very Serious Haiku from a Very Serious Dog

Downward Dog: Very Serious Haiku from a Very Serious DogDownward Dog: Very Serious Haiku from a Very Serious Dog by Samm Hodges
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some funny haiku
make an entertaining read
No photos used though.

A very quick, cute read. As a fan of the tv series, I hope this book isn’t a spoiler of what is to come in the episodes as there is an unexpected and (initially) sad event in the book but keep reading!
I was initially expecting photos to be used in the book but instead there are cute pictures (which is probably just as well considering some of the subject matter!). But this combined with just a few words on the simple pages along with a read that takes less than 5 minutes, does make me wonder what the value for money is in the book.

Thanks to NetGalley for the Advanced Review Copy for this book.

View all my reviews

The Silent Corner – Book Review

The Silent CornerThe Silent Corner by Dean Koontz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual, a great book from Dean Koontz. However this was pretty different to his usual stuff.
Similar in style to a Jason Bourne movie, this action packed thriller is the first book in a new series about the wife of an ex military person who kills himself in mysterious circumstances and her endeavours to find out why.
This book ended pretty suddenly to my surprise – a kindle version doesn’t have that clue that you are getting to the end like a paper book would – but I was pleased to see the next few chapters continue the story….but why.do.I.have.to.wait………
Needless to say I enjoyed this book and recommend it.

This book took a while to read due a hectic lifestyle but normally this would be read nonstop in a couple of days.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this book and the opportunity to review and recommend.

View all my reviews

Microsoft Edge guide in Creators update is a nice tutorial

Thank you for upgrading dialog box after upgrading to latest Windows 10 version

Thank you for upgrading dialog box after upgrading to latest Windows 10 versionI downloaded the Creators Update last night and did an in place upgrade on my Surface last night and the upgrade went nice and smoothly.

I especially liked the tutorial that pops up with the different features that come with this edition of the Edge browser. As the upgrade isn’t available via Windows Update just yet, you can get a sneak peak at the extra features by looking at the tutorial here.I like the ability to pin and save pages for later and the drop down preview for finding a tab is pretty handy – but it will be interesting to see how well this works when you have tons of tabs open.  The combination of Tabman Tabs Manager and OneTab work well for this in Chrome with the former allowing you to get a drop down list of all the tabs open (but no preview) and the latter instantly closing all open tabs and saving them into a html page for later reference – both highly recommended for keeping all those tabs you might read later and reducing the memory footprint for Chrome.

Note you can do a manual install now by going to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10 and selecting the option to update now. A small stub file will download, you run this, confirm you really do want to upgrade to the latest version and it downloads in the background. Once downloaded it will automatically install 30 minutes later with several reboots but you can pause or run it now as required.

Ransomware decrypters

Filing for future reference for reference in case of a ransomware infection. This list gathers together a list of tools and references that may allow you to get access back to encrypted files.

Remember the best way to not get infected is to install a cryptolocker prevention tool (I use the Cryptoprevent), watch the sites you go to, educate yourself on what a phishing attack looks like, don’t run as administrator, use opendns (or google safe browsing) and ensure you have a good backup that is not accessible from your normal machine with your normal credentials.

If you know of any others then please let me know.

Edit – https://www.nomoreransom.org/ is also a good resource and probably should be your starting point. It even allows you to upload an encrypted file (or the ransom note) and will then check what version of crypto you have and let you know if there is a decrypter available for you.

Book Review – The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnik

The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data by Kevin Mitnick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cautionary tale of just how visible you are on the internet and in todays connected society.

First off I am fully aware of the irony of posting a review of this book online on Goodreads, my blog and Facebook after reading a book on how to be invisible on the internet…..

This was a an entertaining read and although I work in the IT field, there were still some security facts in the book that I was not aware so I learnt a fair amount. There are also some useful references for security tools that I had not been previously aware of (although I’m not a security professional).

Despite the above, the book isn’t too technical to make the non IT person bored but it may well make them paranoid! There is a huge emphasis on becoming invisible in the book through extreme measures such as paying a complete strange to buy some gift cards at a store that doesn’t have cameras in the store OR on the way to the store, then using that to buy bitcoins – twice to ensure they are completely laundered and then using those new coins to purchase various items. Not something that the average person in the street is likely to ever do ……and I must admit I do wonder if someone needs to go to all that trouble, would they be reading this book?

There are useful hints and tips about using secure messaging, email etc that can be used by everyone just to keep their internet usage secure which are not too extreme for the day to day consumer.

But for the ultra paranoid/nefarious, this book will either help you solve some of your issues or make you even more paranoid as it brings up points you hadn’t thought of before….

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

View all my reviews

Cloudflare checker for Lastpass in PowerShell and .net

With the recent report of cloudflare credentials being cached/available in search engines, it is always wise to see just how many sites you’ve logged into recently. If you don’t use a password manager, then you will have a fun time going through your browser history, working out what sites you logged into and then changing your passwords.

Hopefully you are using a Password Manager by now and there are several routines available (with source) to check an exported list of urls from your manager of choice against a public list of cloudflare protected sites.
I used CloudFlareChecker as I could use powershell to filter out my password list to url’s first and then run the site list through the tool (which required the .net runtimes installed).
Out of 1200+ url’s in my password export, there were 25 sites using cloudflare. It didn’t take too long to change credentials and update the passwords in LastPass. Yes it’s worth doing for all sites – but I really don’t have time to log into that many websites!

If you don’t use LastPass then there are several other resources at your search engine of choice that will help you check firefox saved passwords (hopefully you don’t), Keepass or even check an individual website for potential issues.

As an aside, I’ve been trying out Dashlane as an alternative to LastPass but I’ve not been very impressed with it so far. It fails to recognise any saved credentials for Office365 and the extension doesn’t even activate in Chrome so I’m staying with LastPass. If you haven’t signed up for a Password Manager yet, then signing up with this Lastpass premium link gives us both a free month of premium access and if you have any questions then let me know.

Book Review: The Secret Language of Dogs

Image of front cover of The Secret Language of Dogs
Front cover of book

I grew up in a non dog (or even pet) owning household but loved dogs that came into my life through various means and our 110lb Doberman/Lab mix was so awesome. He was very easy to understand – feed me, pet me, “Hey – I was sleeping there” and “Welcome home Dad – here’s your giraffe” were all phrases that were very obvious to us.   Our new dog, Lola, or “Princess Fluffy Pants”, is not so clear as to what she wants so I hoped that this book would give me some insight into her brain.

At (allegedly) 2 years old, she is still very much a puppy and as a rescue dog has some very strange reactions to us.  Most of this is due to her separation anxiety – when we come home, she runs around the house like a lunatic for several minutes, she barks at people who come into the house and is very protective but when we are out and about she has no problems with strangers.

Getting the opportunity to read and review the Secret Language of Dogs was great timing.
The book is full of really cute pictures of dogs so it feels like you are reading a Pinterest or Instragram feed with a small bit of dog behavioural knowledge thrown in. There was a fair amount of information as to why the dogs do the strangest things, but not a lot of guidance on how to counteract that kind of behaviour. I would imagine that most people (including me) who read this book are looking for advice on how to change the dogs reactions to certain things – coming home, the postman or why does she still continue to pee in that corner after I’ve just taken her outside?
Unfortunately the book seems to be pretty light on actionable tips and I am still wondering why she is doing that and how to overcome those strange reactions. Our biggest challenge with Lola is her separation anxiety and the book didn’t really give many practical tips on dealing with this. We know we should try to slowly increase the time we spend apart from her, but as we have full time jobs it’s not like we can go from 1 hour apart to 2, to 3 to 4 etc. Strangely enough she is ok a lot of the time, but occasionally lapses into bouts of severe anxiety which results in “accidents” in the house

All in all, a quick, beautiful read and good for leaving out on the coffee table or in a veterinary waiting room, but more detailed information needs to be provided to make the book really useful.

*I received a complimentary copy of The Secret Language of Dogs from Blogging For Books for my honest review.

Lola our chabrador lying on a very orange couch
How can you resist this cute face?