Category Archives: Tech Stuff


It has been a while (quite a while!) since I last updated here. I apologise for coming back with something as tedious as backups but unfortunately there isn’t much going on at the moment so I can’t really give you anything interesting to read. Now, I haven’t really been a personal backup type person, I’ve got a RAID 1 NAS unit that I keep important info on, and I’ve got backup software, but I don’t really backup properly. However, I have decided that it is probably a good idea…

I recently screwed up my PC’s internet connection good and proper, which led me to re-image my machine. I use a program called Acronis True Image Home for making a clean install image that I can then restore as and when I like. The problem with this is that over time, you get programs installed and things set up just right and when you put that initial image back onto the machine it all disappears. Bummer.

So, what to do? Well, like I said, I took my “base” image using Acronis True Image Home, so I decided that it would be an idea to have a look and see if I can configure it to do what I needed. Firstly I had to set up a backup location, which I decided would be best if it was the NAS. True Image Home works flawlessly over a network so I have no issues with that and storing the data on the NAS will provide redundancy. The next step was to decide what to back up and how often. I use my email a lot, so I figured it was best to back that up daily. Along with my email, I back up other little personalisations of my profile, like Start menu folders and Quick Launch icons. Small things, but you really notice when they aren’t how you’ve got them set to your liking. Running a couple of test backups shows the daily backup to be around 40MB, depending on the amount of email I have, which completes in just a couple of minutes. This I scheduled as a full backup for early afternoon, at 3.00PM as my machine is frequently on during the day and if not, the backup will run as soon as the machine is turned on.

I then moved onto the machine itself. Obviously, this is going to be a much bigger backup. As I don’t install software too often, or change the configuration too much, I figured a once a month full backup is probably worthwile. This will run in the morning, doing a complete backup of the C: drive and for 20GB of data will take about an hour; using maximum compression gives an image of around 10GB.

Obviously, the strategy I’ve taken here is an attempt to minimise potential system downtime. If I screw my machine up again, I can restore the previous month’s computer image and then restore the last working profile image and any data loss should be minimal. Of course the real test is when something does happen and I have to restore. While it’s always good to test your backups, you won’t ever know until the fan has turned brown if they do what you need. I hope that I don’t have to let you know if it works or not, though I expect to.

Of course there are alternatives to Acronis – the best known is Symantec Ghost, but having used a few different packages, for my needs Acronis is the best.


We’ve been having a few issues at work with external contacts sending large email attachments to internal users. The problem is that any over 10MB seem to be rejected, although the particular users that are having the trouble have had their limits upped to 20. Looking into the problem, there appears to be a bug in Exchange 2000/2003 that means that in the Global settings if you set different Send and Recieve limits, the most restrictive takes precedence. Bit of a bugger that if you ask me.

Anyway, I don’t think this is the problem, as you can also set the limit on the Exchange connector, which is set to 10MB, which I believe would limit any mail that goes through the connector. But I have yet to test it out. Stay tuned!


It has been a while since I last updated this page (almost a month!) but there really hasn’t been much happening. I got a new job (which has an interesting story associated with it) and went to Paris over the May day bank holiday. Anyway, at this new job (IT support still) I was trying to track some DNS type stuff that was going on. However,, which has long been the best place to go for free DNS tools has gone all “pay” use. I’ve got no problem with that per se, its just that as an individual I can’t really afford to pay for a tool I use intermitently at best. However, there is that, whilst not as comprehensive as DNSStuff, is pretty good. Check it out.


As of about 10pm last night, I am now running the 1.03.87 Firmware on my router. So far everything has been stable and there have been no drop offs in the speed. Its not definitive yet, but its looking hopeful. My speed appears to have slightly increased from 1.6MB/s to 1.8MB/s, but I don’t want to count my chickens, so to speak. I will keep you updated.


Related to the issues I and many other people have been having with the Sky/Netgear router having an inconsistent connection to the net, Sky are rolling out a firmware update to address this and other issues. Currently not all exchanges have the update yet; the current firmware is 1.02.28 and the new one is 1.03.87. You can check to see what firmware you have on the main landing page of your own box. are going to be getting their hands on the file direct from Sky, hopefully some time this week, so those that haven’t had it roll out automatically yet can update if they want to. As soon as its available I shall upgrade my router and let you know how it goes. The instructions for manually updating are here if you want to give it a go yourself.


When I wrote my last post about Vista and the 4GB error, I forgot all about one of the best programs out there: vLite. This little program can slipstream and configure your Vista installs, so for those of you getting the ol’ 0×0000007E error when installing Vista, use vLite to make a slipstreamed DVD. And now for something completely not quite so different…

I rebooted my computer last night and as it came back up it ran a CheckDisk on my C: drive. I wasn’t too concerned at first as this does sometimes happen, but is nothing to worry about. Imagine my surprise when it started to throw up a shit load of errors relating to corrupt files and indexes. I sat there chewing on my fingers for a good 10 minutes before it finished and rebooted my machine. It has restarted ok and hasn’t done it again since, but it was enough to worry me. I’m pretty sure I can hear the disk starting to struggle and boot seems to be a fair amount slower than it used to be. Also, the drive is at least a couple of years old (bought back when it was £100 for 300GB), so whilst the computer is still working I ordered another hard drive.

The issue I had when ordering a new drive, was space Vs. speed. My current disk is a 300GB Seagate drive (I have a second identical one in the computer for all the junk I download), but I fancied giving the WD Raptor drives a go. The biggest Raptor drive available is 150GB, so exactly 1/2 my current space, and I tend to use a fair proportion of the space with games (I like me driving sims!). Also, the cost of the Raptor is currently about £120, whereas I could get a 1TB drive for £150. In the end I decided to go with the Raptor, just for the giggles of having a 10,000 rpm drive.

Now I have a new drive on the way, I had to upgrade my version of Acronis True Image to the latest version (11). For those that don’t know, Acronis is disk imaging software, in the same vein as Norton Ghost, but a whole deal easier to use and much more robust. I use it in my current workplace for making images of standard builds which I can then sysprep and distribute as needed. Which brings me nicely onto one more thing: the Sysprep tool.

For those people who have never heard of it, Sysprep is a tool included with Windows to make distributing images of disks “real simple like”. What it does is strip the hardware id’s out of the install of Windows you’re running, allowing you to create a hardware neutral image with your 3rd party imaging software. Its a really great and powerful tool, which allows you to build a system once, with all the software you need on it, without having to worry about making a separate image for each hardware variant you might possibly have. For example, here I have a CADS machine build, a Project Management build and then a couple of test builds. There are a few restrictions (at least on the Windows 2000/XP version. I’ve not done my reading on the Vista version yet) which means you have to have the same number of processors in each machine, and the drive interface has to be the same, i.e. IDE or SCSI. Although having said that, I have successfully installed an IDE image on a SATA interface and it seems happy.


Now that my better half has her own PC, I decided that it is probably a good idea to get a NAS unit so our music and other files can be shared between the two PC’s easily. The guy I work with bought a Netgear NV+ 1TB unit for something like £550. Whilst its fun to play with stuff like RAID 5, its a bit of an extreme solution for me (and him if I’m honest). However, it did mean he was getting rid of his Dlink NAS, so I bought it off of him. Its got space for 2 disks (both SATA) and can be set up as RAID 0 (striping), RAID 1 (mirroring) or JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks). It had a pair of 500GB Samsung drives included so I set it up as a RAID 1 volume of 500GB so I have data redundancy. I’ve also enabled the email option so that it will email me if a disk fails. Wicked cool huh? No? Just me then…

Anyway, as the NAS has a gigabit link, I bought a gigabit switch to connect the print server and PC’s to so they have full speed. So far I have to say I am very happy. I have yet set up Media Center again pointing a the NAS for the music but should imagine its going to take a while, as I have somewhere in the region of 6750 songs. But hey, thats what nighttime is for!


I’ve noticed a few people finding this blog through the 0×0000007E error that I posted about a while back. Just thought I’d update you all on that little situation. Turns out that Vista x64 does not like to be installed on some systems when running 4GB (or more) of RAM. If you are running 4GB and get this error while installing, just pop a stick of RAM out whilst it installs and either apply service pack 1 or update KB929777.

Unfortunately, the offline update feature of Vista isnt working yet so you can’t sliptream SP1 into your Vista build nice and easily (although you can use the “old” XP command line method), so the only way around this problem is to take a stick of RAM out of the machine and then install Vista. Bit of a pain I know, but its the only way at the moment.

Still, after you’ve installed SP1 and you’re sure you’re going to be sticking with it, delete the temp files left behind from the SP1 install. To do this open a command prompt and type vsp1cln.exe. This will remove all those files that were changed in SP1 so you don’t have them hanging around on the system anymore.


So far I have to say I’m very happy with the fix I’ve put in place for the Sky broadband speed problems. Its not quite as fast as it used to be, as I seem to top out at about 1.5MB/s, with an average of about 0.9MB/s, but really that’s fine. If you want to sort your Sky broadband out, then I strongly suggest using the below technique. A simple and quick fix.


I use Sky for my broadband services (as well as TV and phone) which is good value; £10 a month for (up to) 16Mb broadband, unlimited use (although “fair usage” does apply) and free router. Thanks to some decent house wiring I can get the full 16Mb, but there is a problem. After the router has been on for several hours, the speed of the connection drops down to a point where it starts to get unbearable. Only rebooting the router will let it reconnect at the full 16Mb. Investigating why this is, I came across this post on the forum indicating it is a problem with the Sky router firmware. The solution is to change the Noise Margin to a number higher than the default 7db. This will make the router sync at a slower speed initially, but it shouldn’t then drop in speed over time.

Looking at the statistics on my router, I was syncing at about 15360kbps with a Noise Margin of 11db. Obviously I needed to change my target noise margin to a much higher number than the 7db the router was wanting. So, using the Mognuts tool linked to on the Skyuser forum, I changed the target Noise Margin to 13db. After this was saved to the routers configuration, it resync’d at 14112kbps and a Noise Margin of 13.8db. Hopefully this will stop the router slowing down, although I may need to tweak the target Noise Margin again just to get it settled. I will let you know how this works out.

Edit: Well, its now 3.30PM and its been running from around 9 this morning. I’ve just downloaded a file and the speed hasn’t dropped off; it was downloading from Fileshack at 850kbps this morning and its still just as quick. I’m also downloading Windows XP SP3 RC2 from Microsoft, but that seems capped at 256kbps. But fingers crossed this is going to work.