MonthSeptember 2009

September VBUG and Too Far North

September’s VBUG event was held on Wednesday 23rd at Newcastle University organised by Andrew Westgarth and Jo Noble, with guest speakers Richard Diver and Dr Dan Oliver from Microsoft giving informative talks about Performance and the Dynmic Desktop Experience.

Alexandria Ball and Sarah Melrose, two of the Microsoft Technet marketing girls also attended the event whilst on thier little road trip from Reading in London.

Part 1: Richard Diver – Performance Monitoring and Analysis

A Premier Field Engineer with 10 years experience implementing and supporting a range of Microsoft technologies, specialising in Active Directory, Server Platform and Virtualisation.

Richard Diver kicked off the event by asking for introductions from each attendee and then he went into his talk about Performance Monitoring and Analysis for proactive and reactive support, server base lining and capacity planning. Richard talked about a free tool that comes in all current versions of Windows called Perfmon. He gave a couple of quick demos and also went into other tools called Resource Monitor (Win 7) Reliability Monitor (Win 7), PSR (Problem Steps Recorder) and SysInternals.

Richard also gave a couple of examples on how to make the experience of XP performance monitoring better, more details can be found in the following Microsoft KB articles:

Part 2: Dr Dan Oliver – The Dynamic Desktop Experience

A Pre Sales Architect within Microsoft UK’s Speciality Technology Unit with some 14 years’ experience of Microsoft-based solutions primarily in the virtualization and systems management fields.

Unfortunatly I don’t have much to blog about regarding Dan’s talk however during his talk he went into:

  • Desktop Optimization pack
  • System Center
  • Bringing down costs, doing more with less
  • Management approval for Group Policies
  • On Demand Apps
  • User State Migration Tool


There were meant to be three speakers for this event however Conrad Sidey (Session: Novell and Lotus Notes – Migrating to Microsoft), couldn’t make it.

Following the VBUG event I visited the Head of Steam opposite Central Station. Soul Technique were playing as part of the Too Far North set of gigs however I managed to arrive just as Ruth and the gang were finishing their last song of the set. Iam pleased I went down when I did though as after Soul Technique had finished another band called Saint and the Cynics played the next slot and I have to say considering this was the first time I’d seen them play, I’d defiantly go elsewhere to see them again. Other bands which played the gig included Peculiar Disco Moves and Black Marcs

TyneTees Twestival – Taking people offline to raise money for charity

On Monday 14th September I attended the TyneTees Twestival 2009, which was held at Hoults Yard, Newcastle.

The event revolved around a number of Twitter users from both Tyneside and Teeside raising money for two North East charities: NECCR and Teeside Hospice, meeting other Twitter users from the region and generally just hanging out and having a good time.


The event was the second event of this type held in the North East (The first one being held at The Other Rooms, earlier in the year, to raise money for Charity:Water).

I was helping out with the photography for this event along with Amanda McHale and Chris Davis and I throughly enjoyed the evening. I met a few new faces such as Amanda, Chris and Mandy Charlton, another fab photographer from Newcastle. but there were also a few “old” faces I knew from other events in the North East such as PJ, Britt, Ross Cooney and Cold Climate.



Tickets for the event were priced at £10, every penny went to the two charities and there was also a whole load of other things that got included in the price:

  • Free entry to the raffle. Prizes included Xbox games, DVD players, professional services, holidays, FlipMinos
  • Free Booze and Food throughout the evening
  • FriiSpray
  • “Guitar Hero” the way to a Thinking Digital ticket worth over £500
  • Cup Cake Club with thanks to Laura Maddison from Altitude Recruitment
  • Chance to meet other Twitter users in the region face to face.

A large number of sponsors chipped in to sponsor this event:

Guitar Hero provided a lot of entertainment for the evening with people trying to Guitar Hero their way to the £500 Thinking Digital ticket. All of the cupcakes were purchased on the night adding to the amount of money raised and all of the Mystery Boxes boxes were won through the raffle (Including a box of Whispa Golds).

The event organisers did a brilliant job yet again, these included: Mark Easby, Declan Metcalfe, Aoife Ross and Li Ainley Walker, and they were right when they said it would be bigger and better than the Twestival event held earlier in the year.


Photos of the event can be found here.

Barcamp Brighton 4 – How I do like to be beside the sea

Brighton Pier

During the weekend of 5th and 6th of September 2009 I attended my 2nd Barcamp, Barcamp Brighton 4 and I have to say I had a brilliant weekend.

Tickets went like hot cakes for this event, most being taken within minutes of the release time, but I managed to get a ticket on the second wave of releases.

With Brighton being a very long distance from home I made a long weekend of it and took the Friday and Monday off work (Mainly for travelling), this is write-up of the weekend.

Friday 4th September

I decided to drive to the event, yes granted I know it is a 680 mile round trip which includes that road called the M25, but by doing this I got a lot of experience driving away from my local area and I also cut my travelling costs by about 1/2, If I were to have got the train.

Alistair was also heading to the event and had sent me a DM on Twitter on the Friday morning asking if I could pick him up from St Albans on the way down, I agreed and set off from home around 11am.

The drive to St Albans was mostly uneventful, with travelling during the day there was a lot of traffic on the M1. I made a couple of stops on the journey, firstly stopping at Ferrybridge, then Watford Gap (£1.11 litre for petrol) to get Alistair’s post code then onto St Albans.

Note to self: Putting the wrong postcode into a Sat Nav really doesn’t help and may have an impact on journey time or even being on the wrong side of town as to what you are supposed to be on.

Alistair and I set off, stopping for petrol on the way (cheaper than what I was paying back at home) then made our way onto the M25 with help from Mr Duck. (

I arrived in Brighton around 9pm and parked up at @vickyjo’s, met her and @neilcrosby who were also going to the event that weekend. I now know how difficult parking in Brighton is and a massive thank you has to go to Vicky for giving me a couple of guest parking permits and the paper map which she printed out for me (Better than GPS I say!).

Around 11pm after a cup of tea and a bite to eat (again provided by Vicky) I headed down to the hotel that I had booked a couple of weeks before hand. The Hotel was the New Maderia Hotel: (I had booked in for the Friday (£50) and Sunday (£30)), as I was stopping at the venue on Saturday night. I was very impressed with the hotel room and the staff and would definatly recomend it for anyone stopping in Brighton overnight.

Saturday 5th September

The morning of Barcamp Brighton 4 and I had to be out of the hotel by 11am, so I set off for the venue at around 10:15. The venue was just around the corner from the hotel, opposite Brighton Dome. The venue was the Old Music Library, currently a run down place providing hosting to numerous artworks and models.

Registration and introductions then followed. Instead of the normal 3 tag intros, 1 secret had to be given from each participant, goodie bags were also handed out following a recyled bag theme thought up by Ellen De Vries. The bags had come from different locations around the world (later on Sunday night back at the hotel I noticed that mine had come from NYC).

After the introductions time was given for participants to place sessions on the grid, I decided to put mine on the Sunday grid, as it would give me a little extra time to work on it if needed.


The room names were as follows:

  • Grouch’s Trashcan
  • Hong Kong Fooy’s filing cabinet
  • Fraggle Rock
  • Womble Common
  • Ninja Turtle Sewer
  • The Doozer’s Mine
  • Danger Mouse’s post box
  • Top Cat Alley (Outside)

The sessions I attended during the day were:

After the sessions had finished, copius amounts of pizza and beer were provided (Cold pizza still being eaten on Sunday morning) and electrorock band 100 robots played in the lower floor, these guys were brilliant and everyone enjoyed them.


I spent most of Saturday night basically just catching up with everything, processing and uploading the days photos to my flickrstream and hanging out with Melinda Seckington, Cristino Betta and Kevin Prince. Various trips were made downstairs to see how Warewolf was getting on. By about 2-3am I was ready for sleep.

Sunday 6th September

After a bad couple of hours sleep (mainly cat napping) on a wooden floor, I woke up and got myself pulled together for the second day of the event. Breakfast was provided (even though most people were still trying to get through the mountain of cold pizza left over from the night before). I headed out to the local Coffee shop which we had been given vouchers for with a number of the attendees. We headed back and the sessions had just started.

I presented my session in the morning, the session was titled “CrimeMapper – Bringing Local (and National) crime data to you”. The session gave an introduction to CrimeMapper and how we could possibly use the data (provided in XML or CSV formats) to build other information giving resources. Good feedback was given and ideas were exchanged, defiantly a thing to look at in the future.


The sessions I attended during the day were:

  • Alistair waffles on about security (Alistair MacDonald)
  • Should I give my stuff away for free or the Creative Commons dilemma? (Dom Pates)
  • Making “FAIL” more fun (Dawa Riley)
  • Importance of Backup at Magnolia (VickyJo)

The event then drew to a close with a last minute speech from the organisers. (Jon Markwell, Jo and Ellen De Vries) A big thank you should go out to the organisers, following sponsers: Yahoo! Developer Network, Paypal, Metranet, The Guardian Open Platform, Madgex, Vodaphone Group UK and all of the Microsponsers for making the weekend possible.

After checking into the hotel for the evening I headed back into town, met Alistair and Vicky and we decided to have an Italians to wrap up the weekend.

Monday 7th September

Again I had to be out of the hotel by 11, so with bags packed I headed up to Vicky’s to get the car and to head home. At this point I was slightly disappointed of not doing the whole Brighton thing, like the Pier and other tourist attractions, it just seemed wrong coming this far and not actually having a full day walkabout, however onwards I continued.

I arrived at Vicky’s had a cup of tea and was ready to set off, but Alistair and I decided to go for a small photowalking session to fill in a couple of hours and maybes grab a bite to eat, hopefully hitting the road North about 2pm… this didn’t happen.

On the photowalk (yes I did get pooped on by a passing seagull) we managed a circular(ish) route taking in things such as the Promenade, Pier and Electric railway. I was really impressed by the amount of awesome graffiti in Brighton and was pleased that we got out and captured it. On the way back to Vicky’s we called in the Skiff and got a short tour of the building. The Skiff is a great idea, whereby you can pay a certain amount of money for desk space for an amount of time and it seemed a pretty cool place to work, very relaxed and friendly place to be.


Thats because he's the godfather

We then continued on up to Vicky’s, packed up the car, said our goodbyes and headed Northbound about 5pm.

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