Alun Rowe

ramblings about cars, tech, web development and more. BOTB Winner in 2010

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Fixed: Cannot create Skype account with Office 365 email address

Here’s something incredibly annoying! If you have an Office365 account you cannot create a Microsoft account for use with Skype using that email address.

The answer to this conundrum is simple! We just used one of our unused domains, created email forwarders for each member of staff then registered with Skype using this.  eg  [email protected] forwards to my [email protected] account.  This way password resets etc can come to your work email account etc too.

Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips on stage at Brixton Academy stood in front of an 18ft tall inflatable robot

The Flaming Lips – Brixton – 2019

A Short note: epic, life affirming and 18 foot inflatable robots. There really is nothing that compares. Thank you Flaming lips for everything

Authentication failed. You may not have permission to access the repository or the repository may have been archived. Open preferences and verify that you're signed in with an account that has permission to access this repository

GitHub Desktop – Authentication failed with a private repository

The other day a new error appeared that I’ve not come across before.  When attempting to push my changes to our own hosted GitLab instance using GitHub Desktop I received the following message:

“Authentication failed. You may not have permission to access the repository or the repository may have been archived. Open preferences and verify that you’re signed in with an account that has permission to access this repository.”

After muttering and swearing for a bit I went to the command line and tried to push from there and saw the following:

The authenticity of host ‘YOURPRIVATE HOST (YOURPRIVATEIP)’ can’t be established.

ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx.

Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

Simply replying “yes” to this prompt cleared the error.

So why did it happen?

Simply I had deleted my known_hosts file in my ~/.ssh/ folder as I’d had to move a bunch of dev servers around.

So in future I’m going straight to the command line if I get any problems with GitHub Desktop


Validate UK Driving Licence number using REGEX (DVLA)

My weapon of choice is PHP but I’ve included the raw REGEX too to help others.  I found the information about the makeup of the code on the APH website to help me understand the parts of the code and then REGEXR to help test my REGEX codes.

Driving Licence Number : [A-Z9<]{5}[0-9<]{6}[A-Z9]{2}[A-Z0-9]{3}

$regex = ‘^[A-Z9<]{5}[0-9<]{6}[A-Z9]{2}[A-Z0-9]{3}$^’;

$result = preg_match($regex, $value);

returns TRUE or FALSE

I hope this is useful to you!

F1 heads to SKY

For me TV is not an important part of my life. I don’t watch American dramas, I don’t watch Reality TV, I don’t watch Football, Golf, Cricket or Tennis. As such I have ZERO need for Sky in my life.

I should also point out that I live in a sleepy Oxfordshire market town which isn’t LLU unbundled so I won’t get superfast broadband or cable appearing on my doorstep any decade soon.

Today’s announcement means I’ll have to either watch half the races on the BBC (with a no doubt lower salaried commentating team) and catch the rest as highlights with either a Sky sports commentator or an over dubbed, slightly less excited BBC commentator.

This also means my son (who loves F1 at the moment) won’t get to watch the race before some of his buddies at school (who no doubt have access to SKY) as he’ll be in bed before the highlights show and unable to watch it until the Monday afternoon after he’s already heard the result (I can’t imagine much more reason for a child to become disinterested in something). I’m also highly unlikely to take him to a pub to watch the race as I’m not sure it’s quite the right environment for a four year old.

Thinking about this then made me realise the effect this decision will have on the UK Motorsport industry (an industry I’m lucky enough to work within on a regular basis).

A lot of kids won’t see F1, a traditional entry for many into viewing motorsport. They won’t get addicted to the sport and seek out other race series and they won’t want to emulate their racing heroes or become involved.

Currently the UK motorsport and engineering industry is crying out for talent ( “”: ) and this is just another factor that will leave us with less people interested in the sport/industry as a whole.

I won’t be buying SKY. I feel I can spend the money (£31.75 per month for the SD coverage or £42 for HD) on other things like perhaps going to some circuits to watch some other race series instead. In our household F1 will be losing a few fans and I’m not sure in what household the availability of F1 onto SKY will make people suddenly become interested. I’m sure this effect will be mirrored in a large percentage of households across the UK (“SKY has around 10 million subscribers in the UK”: , if anyone can tell me the percentage that accounts for of total UK viewers I’d love to know)

So F1 teams will lose sponsors, F1 will lose UK viewers and Motorsport in the UK will lose out as an industry due to a drop in numbers of kids who want to become drivers, mechanics, designers etc.

Add google +1 to your site easily

Everyone is talking about Google + 1 right now so it’s worth getting the button setup on your website so those using the service can recommend you to others.

Firstly you need to include some Javascript into your website:


This is best placed as the last item before your closing body tag -> @@

Next up you just need to add this line of code wherever you want the +1 button to appear.


In essence that’s all you need to do BUT I’ve got a few ideas to make you +1 button work a bit harder for you…

Firstly, you probably don’t want everyone to see how many +1’s you have to begin with. Having a +1 with a very low number harks back to the days of the hit counter showing you’ve had 3 visitors… So to combat this (just until you get to your first million or so +1’s of course…) make the following change:


Another thing you may want to do if you have a multi-homed website or just want your site as a whole to register under +1 as opposed to individual pages then you’ll want to change it to this (substituting my domain with your own):


Finally you might want both of them together which is just a case of:


So, if you like this article give me a +1 and I’ll see you over on Google…

How to choose the default image to show for a Facebook “Like”

If you have a “Facebook”: “like” button on your site and LOTS of image you probably want to try and control which image is being shown on Facebook.

So with 1 line of code I’ll show you how to do it…

In the header add the following line…

<link rel=”image_src” href=”” / >

that’s it!

My first Twitter Phishing attempt

Never had one of these before…

You can easily guess it’s a phishing attempt but please let your friends and clients know.

JQuery: AddClass to positive and negative values in a table


Today I had one of those moments where something that seems very simple throws you a curveball…

Having done a day of training with the brilliant “Remy Sharp “: I thought I’d throw a bit of JQuery into the mix and have coloured positive/negative values in a flash… Unfortunately the course I did with Remy was more about animation etc than inline styling so I turned to Google to kick this out the door.

And what a shambles. I found people string matching on negative values, people adding spans loaded with inline styles and loads more!

So, here’s my quick solution next time you have to display financial information in a table but first a few caveats…

1. I’m using JQuery in the page already for tablesorting etc so don’t think i’m using it JUST for this. Sensibly you won’t load JQuery for such a simple task.

2. I could determine the values using the presentation using PHP but as I want to output csv’s etc using the same source this just felt like heavy lifting for no good reason.

3. In my opinion this is just a tweak not an important part of the page’s content or presentation so I’m happy to have this as part of a JS only enhancement.

And that's it. It seems quite robust and works quickly so I'm happy but feel free to expose my mistakes in the comments :)

I hope this helps another JQuery novice like myself out.

5 useful tips to protect your business

Scarily, when talking to businesses with my IT hat on I’m finding a large number of them STILL don’t have any kind of protection for their IT from the basic level of surge protection to offline backups and having replacement kit available.

With this in mind here’s a quick run down of the top 5 things you HAVE to put into place in your business…

1. Surge Protection

Ok, Surge protection power strips are available from about £10! There really is NO EXCUSE!!! Go here to get started: Google Shopping

2. UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)

In the event of power failure you can be sat staring at an empty screen for hours, or maybe going home, getting the old laptop out etc. That’s going to cost you time. More importantly is the file you have been working on all day is likely to now be corrupt. This equals MORE MONEY. For the price of a small UPS at each desk just to give your team time to power down their machines it’s got to be worth it right? “Have a look here for some entry level units and a buying guide”:

3. Centralised File storage

If your computer decides, at a highly inappropriate time as they always do, to suffer from hard disk failure then unless you have some kind of backup you are going to be in trouble. Day to day I’d recommend using a NAS (Network Storage Device) and the only one’s I’d recommend are the NETGEAR ReadyNas series. I’ve been accused of bias on these products as my company sell them but the reasons we sell them are the reasons I’d recommend them to you…

  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Major Manufacturer Support
  • Regular firmware updates
  • Regularly updated Hard Drive Compatibility lists

With most NAS Systems you’ll also get the ability to perform some kind of sync with an online backup service (See below).

Feel free to go and buy the latest and greatest box from China with a nice case but remember to ask yourself where your support will be in 2,3, 4 years time…

PS I’ve heard some good things about Drobo too from some people but not enough yet to sway my recommendations. (And I’ll definitely admit they look very cool!)

4. Online Backup

Freelancer? You SHOULD be using Dropbox by now. If not why not? Having a cached version of your hard drive with revisions is absolutely invaluable!

Company? Use a decent NAS (like the ReadyNas above) and you’ll have access to an online backup service. NETGEAR have ReadyNAS Vault and other NAS Providers have such services.

All the services work on the same initial basis of syncronising files to an internet host usually backed by Amazon S3 or a similar service.

5. “Cloud” based Email

Wether it’s hosted exchange, Mobile Me or Gmail you really have to get your email off your computers and into the cloud. The benefits are too numerous to list in their enitrety but here’s a few:

  • Emails can be easily shared between devices eg Desktop Computer, Laptop, iPhone, Smartphone etc.
  • Emails are backed up by the service provider so if you lose your laptop or suffer a disk failure you don’t lose the emails.
  • Upgrades are done silently for you in the background so you don’t have to worry about them (Ever applied a service pack to a mail server, it’s nerve racking stuff!)
  • Spam Filtering is usually dealt with too

More to think about?

These are macro level things really in the world of protecting your IT. I’ll cover disaster recovery options, monitoring and much more in the future…

So there’s the my 5 things every business needs to deal with what else would you recommend?

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