UK Government Pays Microsoft £5.5m to extend Windows XP support

It has been reported that the UK Government is prepared to pay £5.5m to extend support for Windows XP.

This is a good deal – £5.5m or 10s of millions spent on upgrading to Windows 7/8. I suspect this arrangement will continue for several years hopefully with a slow rollout of upgrades or a natural upgrade as windows XP hardware dies.

Crucially, extending support includes security updates – this intrigues me.

Most Microsoft security patches over the last few years cover all their operating XP,7 and 8 – you very rarely, if at all, get am update solely for XP. It would not have been difficult for Microsoft to continue with these updates for XP but we all know the real reason behind their decision to stop support – get everyone to buy Windows 8. With the UK Government deal and other similar deals around the world they are effectively continuing to release security updates for XP. So not only will Microsoft manage to persuade lots of customers to buy windows 8 they have also managed to monetize ongoing support for XP.

However, there is one flaw – those security updates are being made available to the government to install on their XP desktops. How long is it going to take for those updates to leak out, especially from a large public organisation. I predict they will be disseminated and available widely – specialist software to torrent download XP updates anyone?


Surface Pro BIOS and Resetting from overheating or panic attack

I’ve been using the Surface Pro for sometime now and love it. But it does have a tendency to have panic attacks!

This can be due to overheating or confusion with updates or when running highly intensive graphics e.g. my son playing Minecraft.

You suddenly find that the Surface Pro will not boot up – when pressing the power button you either get nothing at all or you get the low battery icon appearing and then it shuts down even though you are connected to mains power – and the white power light is lit up.

Looking on one side of the Surface Pro when you attempt to power up there is a series of orange lights that flash and blink – no idea what these mean, can anyone enlighten me?

Anyway, I have found that one of the following methods usually gets things going again:

Enter the UEFI BIOS and then restart. To enter the BIOS:

1. Press the volume up button and hold down for 15 seconds.

2. Press the power button on and off.

3. The UEFI screen should appear from which you can restart.

Other methods:

1. Repeatedly press the power button 30 times half a second apart.

2. If it boots then great otherwise on the 30th attempt keep the power button pressed for 30 seconds.

3. Release the power button and it should boot.


1. Disconnect from power supply.

2. Press power button again.

If still not working, power it off and leave it for 1 hour and then try again.

If you still have no luck then get onto Microsoft – I have found their support for the Surface very good:


BT Broadband Web Help DNS takeover – IP:

We recently came across a problem with a users VPN connection – they could connect to VPN but when they tried to resolve any addresses on the corporate network side they resolved to an external IP address.

It turned out that the IP address in question was on the BT Broadband network.

It seems a number of other people have experienced similar problems:

A service called BT Web Help was getting in the way – any addresses that did not resolve were picked up by the BY DNS servers and a different address was returned. This address resolves to an advertising page from Yahoo and others.

This is similar functionality to OpenDNS – if an address does not resolve OpenDNS redirects you to a search page with sponsored links. That’s how OpenDNS get some money to keep their excellent free service up and running.

I don’t feel like helping BT to monetise DNS so I suggest you do the following to circumvent BT’s desire to interfere with your Internet connection:

1. Disable the web help function by visiting this page:

Select Disable and Save.

2. Replace your BT router with a third party router – I always use Netgear (remember to keep your old BT router as, for some reason, they demand to have it connected when troubleshooting). The BT routers may be doing something odd to bounce the DNS connection back – I have not seen BT Web Help work when using a Netgear router set to use ISP supplied DNS servers.

3. Use a third party DNS service like OpenDNS – it’s free and you simply set the DNS entries on your router to OpenDNS servers to get going (they also provide a free filtering service if you so desire).



Exporting a boundary map from Google maps in KML format

You’ve used Google maps excellent editing tools to create a boundary on your map but now you want to export it into another mapping package.

Google maps use KML files for importing but there is no obvious exporting option.

To achieve this open your map in My Maps and then select the Link button – next to the Printer button.

Right click the URL and select copy.

Open up a new browser tab and right click the address bar and select paste but don’t hit enter.

Look for the parameter ‘&output=’ – if it does not exist add it to the end of the URL after all the other parameters. Either change or set it to equal ‘kml’ i.e. &output=kml

Hit enter – you will now be prompted to open or save as. Choose save and you can now download to a KML file locally.


Getting rid of your primary Outlook account

During our recent migration to Exchange Online in Office 365 we had to manually export our old mailbox to a PST file and import to the new mailbox.

This involved creating a new account within the users Outlook profile, doing the export and import, making sure the new mailbox synched to the cloud mailbox, switching our email delivery (MX records) over to Office 365, copying any emails that had arrived in the old mailbox since the PST import and then delete the old mailbox account. Pheww!

As you can imagine that took some time even for the modest 7 users that we had. So it really annoyed me when I discovered that at the last stage Outlook informed me that the old mailbox could not be deleted until all other accounts were deleted because it was the primary account and even more annoyed when I discovered that the Primary account cannot be switched.

But we sorted it out in the end:

Close Outlook

Rename the mailbox OST files which can be found under c:usersusername….AppDataLocalMicrosoftOutlook

Delete the new mailbox account from settings (Control Panel, View by Small Icons, Mail).

Create a temporary outlook data file under the data files tab (Outlook will not delete the primary account until you have an alternative data file present).

Delete the old mailbox primary account.

Add the new mailbox again.

Start Outlook.

Outlook will create a blank OST file – immediately exit Outlook as there is no need to sync up again.

Delete the newly created OST file.

Rename the new mailbox OST file back to the original name.

Start Outlook

Your mail will re-appear and the new mailbox will be the only account present and therefore the Primary account in Outlook.

Remember the delete the temporary outlook data file you created otherwise this will continue to appear in your outlook folder lists.

NOTE: you can of course create separate profiles in Outlook and swap between the 2 and this would be the prefered method of achieving a migration if auto synching of mailboxes was available but we needed to view both mailboxes side by side so that any new email arriving during the cut over period could be easily copied to the new mailbox from the old.

DNS Propagation Checker

Recently changed my email over to Microsoft’s Office 365 which saved me about 2 thirds on what I was paying!

Migration went ok although I had to manually migrate using Outlook – export to PST from old account, import PST to new account etc.

One piece of advice they did give me was a DNS Propagation Checker that would check the propagation around the world when I changed over my DNS MX records to point to Ofifce 365.


To check an MX record change the pull down to MX and enter your domain name e.g., hit search and the map and table will give a green tick or a red x depending on status – invaluable!

Remote Desktop Timelimit

I needed to keep a Windows XP machine which I connected to using RDP connected all the time – until I logged off.

The default was set to log me off after 30 mins or so of inactivity which meant I had to go through the whole process of logging on again!

It appears the only way to achieve this is by editing some registry entries:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindows NTTerminal Services

Delete the MaxIdleTime key.

If MaxDisconnectTime key is also present then delete that as well.

Now my RDP connection stays connected as I wanted.