Monthly Archives: October 2015

Android Studio 1.4, Gradle, and bloody proxies.

Today, children, we’ll be buggering about with Android studio 1.4. AND we’ll be swearing a lot. Why will we be swearing a lot? because it means we have to play with gradle, from behind our corporate firewall. when you install Android Studio, you have to set it up to play with your proxy. you do this here:



but gradle doesn’t pick them up from here. Gradle needs them in the file in your project:


and save, and restart android studio…

or you can alter this file here:


oh, and don’t be trying to do this:


it will error. you need to escape your slash like so:



for the avoidance of doubt – you need “\\” not “\”.

Herts BCS meeting, October 2015; Ada Lovelace Day

adanewseventsimages Me and Megan (daughter, 17, got A* for maths and further maths at GCSE… just saying… :D) went to the BCS lecture on Tuesday night at the Lindop Building, University of Herts. I particularly wanted Meg to go as it was the Ada Lovelace Commemorative Lecture to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, and I’m always keen that she gets to hear about great role models. She never believes a dam’ thing i tell her, so it’s best she hears this stuff from someone else.

The main lecture was delivered by Professor Dr Kersten Dautenhahn, of the Adaptive Systems Research Group at UH. It was a (too) brief overview of “social” robotics – that is, robots in society, rather than a twitterbot. She discussed two particular areas of interest – robots that we care for, such as Aibo (RIP) and Pleo, and robots that provide care for us. The lecture focussed largely on the work being done at UH in the latter field. In particular, three projects – the Care-o-bot and the robot house, which explore systems for the care of the elderly, and KASPAR, article-1364585-0D852328000005DC-103_468x315a “minimally expressive” robot, were discussed. I found the work being done with KASPAR and autistic children fascinating. Autistic children may find the unpredictability of human behaviour confusing and frightening. The minimal expressions and predictable behaviour of KASPAR, whether acting in a semiautonomous mode or under the remote control of a parent, teacher or even another child are reassuring and allow for enjoyable interaction. I’d urge you to watch the video here.There are now 32 KASPARs, including twenty of the latest model, working with two hundred children, and the University is looking for new partners in their research. 

Like’say, i really enjoyed Professor Dautenhahn’s lecture. I wasn’t so keen on the short eulogy to Ada Lovelace; don’t get me wrong,  i am extremely keen on Ada, ever since reading her (fictional) adventures in “the difference engine” by Gibson and Sterling twenty years ago, then discovering her life was actually far more interesting. However this short talk was not great. i don’t think it would have done much to inspire any young ladies present. luckily, the only young lady* present in need of inspiration was Meg, and i can lend her my copy of the fantastic book by Sydney Padua, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. despite much of the book being fictional steampunk, the first part is a well researched, brilliantly written and fantastically illustrated biography of Ada, Countess of Lovelace. There are copious footnotes, fitting for a subject who is mostly famous for producing a work where the notes were by far the most substantial part. It doesn’t even dwell on the opium addiction, the inveterate gambling, the unhealthy interest in mesmerism or any of the other peccadilloes that make her so fascinating.


*this is a bit of a shame. Most Herts BCS lectures i go to are heavily attended by men nearing retirement, and male UH computing students. An Ada Lovelace Day lecture delivered to year 9 would be something far more useful… or possibly even year 6.


illustrations copyright Sydney Padua. hopefully, seeing as I’m plugging her excellent book, she won’t mind…


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so, how was UCDayUK for you?

Cos it was brilliant for me. _44279618_fastshowbrilliant270[1]Everything about the day was spot on, and Andrew Price deserves hearty thanks and congratulations for organizing such a seamless, enjoyable and *useful* day.

The venue was spot on for this sort of thing – the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham. it was really plush, the staff were friendly and well organised, the food at lunchtime was great and there was gallons of free coffee, which was just as well.

The speakers were asked to be there early – 7:30am. i thought this was going to be quite a struggle, but it turns out i was so nervous i was awake from 5am – sigh. I was surprised by how big the venue was, and how many people were cramming into the room – Andrew said in the end there were about 300 people. i was expecting maybe 30…

The keynote was given by Ian Woolner of Microsoft, who is Senior Product Marketing Manager in charge of Skype for Business. it was a good presentation of upcoming features, some of which are extremely impressive, but the most interesting thing for me was his emphasis on partners and their value to Microsoft – it seemed that our main value was onboarding customers to O365…

After the keynote i watched Steve Goodman deliver a session on Exchange 2016 hybrid, which was great. i made a conscious decision to watch presentations from people that i “know” from their exchange community work, rather than technical stuff that was new to me, because i wanted to learn more about presenting, rather than product. This paid off in my opinion – if you want to learn how to do something, spend time with people who do it well. the only trouble is, i was so nervous i was struggling to concentrate.

No trouble with the second session, mind – Brian Reid did his usual fantastic job of delivering difficult technical content in a clear and engaging fashion, with a demo of using Powershell Desired State Configuration with Exchange.  The only problem was it meant i had to miss Gary Steere’s lecture on troubleshooting AutoDiscover. Gary is an MCT (and  MCM, and MVP), so i probably would have learnt a lot from watching him, but a Brian Reid session is too good an opportunity to miss.

time for lunch. it was tiptop. good buffet food, including some hot options, nice cakes that i didn’t have, because i’m not eating cake at the moment and more coffee. i had a chance to whizz round the exhibition, and would like to say a big thank you to IR software (and their Prognosis tool, which looks great) for saving the day with a moby powerbank, after idiot-boy here forgot to bring a usb cable to keep his phone charged. doh.

In the afternoon i went to watch Justin Harris’ talk on getting active directory ready for an office 365 migration. he had plenty of interesting stuff to say about directory hygiene, and the section on SIDHistory was good. After that i attended Dave Stork’s session on Exchange Tools, which was really interesting, but was plagued by tech glitches, which got me all worried again, so i spent the next hour going back over my slides rather than listening to Michael Van Hybrid’s session. i rocked up about 10 minutes before i was due to present, connected my laptop, went to put my glasses on and… disaster. they’ve gone. no glasses, and therefore no notes. I had to do the entire session from memory. I was told i appeared “slightly nervous”. Really? it’s only sheer terror stopped me breaking down and crying. still, i got through it without anyone throwing stuff at me, so i’m going to count it as a win. hopefully i wasn’t so awful i’ll not get the chance to improve next year.

All the slides from the day are available here: under the “past slides” link. i’ll put up my slides along with the audio when i get round to it. i can’t bring myself to listen back just yet, though.

I had a great time meeting up with a bunch of people I’ve not seen in ages, including a whole bunch of people off my MCM rotation – see below. there is absolutely nothing like an evening with that bunch for making me realise I’m actually thick as mince.

I cannot recommend this event highly enough. if you’re at all interested in unified comms, and the Microsoft UC technologies, then there is literally nothing better in the UK.

I’m really grateful for the chance to present, and I’m really grateful to Andrew Price and the rest of the UCDay team for putting on such a fab day. Thank you to to my various bosses who allowed me out for the day, and to Jon Wrennall for saying it was ok for me to represent Fujitsu. It’s a real pity that Mark Wilson couldn’t be there, not only cos he’s a great bloke, but because he is responsible for most of the actual work that went into what we did. A big thank you to Rob Awofadeju (not shown) an all, not only is he an ace Exchange consultant, but he’s got a great car, too

So… content indexing the passive node. Whassat all about, ‘en?

I surprised an architect at one of my customers, today. i told him that in a DAG, the search service on a server indexes the active copy of the database. he didn’t believe me. i asked him how he thought it worked, and he said “replication”. uh-uh.

it’s pretty easy to get that impression. after all, it’s sort of what the official documentation says is going on:

during the seeding process, DAG members with a passive mailbox database copy replicate the content index catalog from the DAG member that has the active mailbox database copy

but that’s during the *seeding* process. what about during normal operations?

After initial seeding, the server with the passive database copy gets message data from the server with the active database and performs content indexing locally.

What does that even mean? I’ll tell you… it means the server with the passive database makes a connection over the network to the *active* database, because the database has to be *mounted* for any MAPI activities to take place. That’s right, it makes a MAPI connection. This also has ramifications for your network, because a MAPI connection is a… anybody? That’s right; it’s a *client* connection, so the traffic is carried over the CLIENT network, not the REPL network.


But it isn’t going to be much traffic is it? I mean, it’s just a bunch of indexing, right?


Hmmm. You’da thunk, but no. Microsoft claim in their documentation for 2016 that indexing the local copy of a database, as opposed to the active copy, will save approximately 40% traffic. The ever-awesome Rhoderick Milne says in this thread it’s about equivalent to the total of REPL traffic.


The official documentation does carry a community contribution at the bottom stating in plain English how things work, and there’s a bunch more detail here. That last article while awesome, is most impressive for its tone of surprise.