An update on my Blackphone

Well I have had a lot of problems with the Blackphone now.

Activate your apps when you install

When you are going through the installation sequence, have the little paper with a QR code handy.

The way the UI is designed its very easy to skip this step. Once you have given the phone a working wifi connection (or possibly cellular data), hold your paws for a while and the QR reader will come up. If you click Next in the hope it will appear you will skip over it, and you will not be able to press “back”.

Furthermore you will never be able to run the QR Activation reader if you are not in initial install mode.

So I skipped it the first time around, and the steps you have to go through to do it manually are quite labor intensive, so I decided to do a factory reset, and carefully scan my QR code at the right time. If you do this right, your life will be easier. The QR reader works well, and all your apps are initialized with your extra services.

If you have a really secure password for Spider Oak it will take time to thumb it in.

This is not a specific critique of the Blackphone but rather a great frustration with the login feature.

I have setup a long, once and secure password for Spider Oak, and usually I have no problem with it. But when it comes to fat fingering it in on a small phone keypad, and the option to “display password” is not available you are essentially typing blind and crossing your fingers that you will get every character right.

This leads to ideas of having a shorter, and easier to type password, in order to make it easier to thumb in, but that has consequences as well.

Enabling “display password” would be a small help in figuring out if you fat fingered it correctly.

As I explain below i have gone though several factory resets, and each time Ive had thumb that password in.

I cannot get Silent Phone to work, period.

After my factory reset to get my QR code scanned, I have been completely unable to get Silent Phone working.

I get the following error:


I have no idea what tivi_cfg.xml is. Apparently its a snibbit of json that for some reason cannot be found.

I have reset my phone, rebooted, and tried a few other things and this message persist.

It happened July 3rd, and its July 9th at the time I write this and its still not working.

I have been in contact with support and so far they have not been able to identify the problem.

They had me go through an even more thorough factory reset, but that did not help either.

By now I am frustrated.

SharePoint designer problems with Office365 (SharePoint Online)

SharePoint designer 2013 a very annoying issue. When you are using SharePoint designer with SharePoint online, you will probably experience that you are unable to open a workflow in the designer. (Edit workflow).

You will get message similar to this:

Generating local caches , downloading meta data

Followed by this uninformative message

Server side activites have been updated. You need to restart SharePoint designer to use the updated version of activies.

Now sometimes this is right, you just need to restart SharePoint designer. So then it works.

For me most of the time restarting does not work. Neither does rebooting.

What is going on, behind the scenes is that Microsoft is constantly updating SharePoint Online. This is for the most part a good thing. However in this instance SharePoint designer needs to be updated to the latest SP or KB for it to be able to correctly synchronize with SharePoint Online.

This is another instance where they need to update the message that you receive. Something like: Sharepoint Designer cannot sync with the current version of SharePoint online, please update SharePoint designer with the following KB or SP)

So in short if you get this error, download updates, install them, maybe reboot, and SharePoint designer should again allow you to update the workflow.

SharePoint Online (Office365) workflow hangs when using the log action.

I have just finished banging my head desk because a workflow I was using would hang and not complete.

After much digging it turns out that if you use more than 255 characters in your log message, Sharepoint Online will hang.

It would be a decent idea to make this a feature in SharePoint designer.


My initial impressions with the Blackphone

This article is about the Blackphone. A mobile phone made secure from the ground up .

A few days ago I received my Blackphone. It came in a nice enough box.

The phone is light, fairly thin, has a camera, runs a version of Android. I was a little surprised about the camera, but its such common feature now. For pictures I think your best bet is to check out the site. I am not sure if ithe phone

The phone itself is black (duh).

The basic UI is snappy and easy to understand.

There is zero bloatware in this phone, which is to be expected, but its still a nice feeling compared to your average bloated Android phone. It comes with the bare necessities with the addition of the Silent Circle suite of communications tools, Spider Oak file sync (think of it as a secure encrypted version of dropbox), and a program that will encrypt your wifi called Disconnect Secure Wireless, and an app from Disconnect to search the internet without being tracked.

I have been a user of Silent Circle and Spider Oak for some time so I felt right at home with the software on the phone. With the exception of having to key in long passwords with the on screen keyboard. Its error prone for people with adult fingers.

All of these programs are available to you in your Android phone and most of them are available for the iPhone too. So you don’t have o buy a Blackphone to use them.

In addition its the camera, browser, calculator, calendar, email, dialing app, texting app, music player and a sound recorder. that is about the software you get. There is no app store included by default, which again makes sense for this phone. There is Android without any Google premium features. No Gmail, No Maps, No app store or any of the other Google features usually available on common feature phones. I believe it would be impossible to build a secure phone whilst still licensing these services from Google.

I had one problem during setup, that was quickly solved by customer support. It turns out that you have to type in your username for Silent Circle in all lower case. I am very impressed with customer support, and that is something I cannot say very often. They were very fast and accurate.

One important thing to note is that you need friends / contacts / coworkers who use Silent Circle to communicate securely with them. If you buy this phone and you are the only person you know of who uses Silent Circle suite then you will have limited use out of the suite since you can’t communicate with anyone. But this is an excellent time to tell people one solution for communicating securely, and encourage adoption. When you buy the BlackPhone you get 3 free 1 year user accounts for your friends and family. (Remember you can’t install the suite on your iPhone or Android phone as well). So then you will have someone to talk to .

Along with the phone itself you get a few nice additional services:

  • As mentioned you get the 3 friends and family 1 year user accounts
  • 2 years of Silent Circle mobile (free use of the suite on your Blackphone for 2 years)
  • 2 years of Disconnect VPN 1 1GB per month. (for me its half that so I will look into it)
  • 2 years of SpireOak 5GB/month.

Which according to the promo is worth $829 if you bought it separately.

The basic specs of the phone are as follows:

Blackphone is powered by a >2 GHz quad-core SoC and features a full set of premium features, including GPS, a 4.7-inch HD IPS screen, LTE, HSPA+, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 16GB of storage, >8MP primary camera with flash and 1.3MP front camera, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11n WiFi.

Its only sold unlocked, and it costs $629, but right now they are sold out, but more phones are on their way.

Is the phone worth it?

It depends, if you are looking for a full feature phone to compete against Samsung S5 or the HTC M8 this is not the phone for you. If you are more interested in protecting your privacy than glitz, then this is one of the best options I know about.

How secure is it?

In my opinion this remains to be seen.  Phil Zimmermann (of PGP fame) is one of the founders or Silent Circle. I personally think he is pretty much a genius and he has certainly spent a lot of his life fighting the government for the right of individuals to use strong encryption. So far I haven’t heard of any attacks against Silent Circle. There are some very good people behind the Blackphone as well, though I am not aware of how battle tested the phone itself has been.

Angela Merkel (German Chancellor) reportedly now has a customized Blackberry with a security chip in it. If you wish to call her the only snag is that the phone you use to call Mrs Merkel’s must also have the same level of encryption, and it doesn’t come cheap. Secusmart’s chip costs 2,500 euros (£2,000; $3,400).

The Blackphone is $629, and stands alone in the market today as the best bet for individuals to have a secure phone. (Unless you have a lot of money laying around).

I am excited to use this phone in the time to come and I will report back after I have some real experience with it. Now go buy it so I can talk to you.

Chrome will not show any web pages or even built in pages

Sometimes I get this strange error using Google Chrome. The browser will open/start but it will be unable to show any pages, you can give it the page to go to, it will accept it, but the page never loads.

What is even more annoying is that built in pages like “settings” will not load either.

I try restarting it, and the exact thing happens all over again. I try installing a new version, the same thing happens all over again.

I have finally tracked down the reason this happens and it is the interaction between Webroot SecureAnywhere (and probably Webroot AntiVirus) and Chrome.

For some reason, in Chrome, (not in IE, Firefox, Opera) the setting in Webroot that matters is under Identify protection:


Turn off Identity Shield and Phishing shield and everything works again, except that you are a little less protected.

Network problems with Windows 8rc on Vmware

If you are having difficulties attempting to get networking up and running on Windows 8 running under VMWare workstation here is a tip that might fix it for you. It did for me.

Inspect the .vmx file for your virtual machine, and if this line is not present just add it to the vmx file:

ethernet0.virtualDev = “e1000″

Windows Azure Tools: Failed to initialize the Development Storage service.

Recently I setup a new laptop for developing Azure solution.

The first problem is that Visual Studio 2010 must run as Administrator in order to run the local appfabric.

The second problem I ran into was the following error message given when I tried to debug the solution:

Failed to create database  : A network-related or instance-specific error occurred while establishing a connection to SQL Server. The server was not found or was not accessible. Verify that the instance name is correct and that SQL Server is configured to allow remote connections. (provider: SQL Network Interfaces, error: 26 – Error Locating Server/Instance Specified)

One or more initialization actions failed. The development storage cannot be used without resolving these errors.

Default behaviour seems to be to look for a Sql Express database (more correctly it tries to create a database with Sql Express). This laptop had a default Sql Server 2008 server installed and for some reason the app fabric was not able to find it.

Here is what I did to fix it:

We need to run DsInit

The easiest way to invoke DSInit is to navigate to Start/All Programs/Windows Azure SDK 1.2/ and start Wypindows Azure SDK Command Prompt.

In the command line window type in dsinit /sqlinstance:    (yes leave the instance blank).

If you have a specific instance name you need to connect to you can specify it.

This successfully installed the appfabric required database on my default Sql Server 2008 instance.

Programmatically accessing data from an EntityDataSource

At a client I recently found myself wondering how one can access the data an EntityDataSource returns.

For most applications this scenario does not come up, but I was now curious so I couldn’t just let it go.

I should point out right away that the easiest way to get at the data is to hook the “Selected” event of the EntityDataSource, then you can get the data like this:

(supposing you have an entity/table named Category).

Now that is all fine, but how do you trigger the data to be fetched (execute the Select command) without involving a data bound control like a GridView.

The key lies in being able to cast an EntityDataSource as an IDataSource, and then executing “GetView” from that interface to return a DataSourceView, which can then be made to return a strongly typed list of entities.

The use of the EntityDataSourceReader is as follows:

The full code to my EntityDataSourceReader can be found in the source file linked below.


Windows 2003, IIS6 and the .Net framework 4

I was at a client site today and they were installing the .net Framework 4 on a Windows 2003 server (sp1). Initially I was concerned that the framework might require sp2, but that turned out not to be the case.

We did experience a glitch though when we tried to navigate to the web application we were working on. We were greeted with a “The page cannot be found” 404 error.

We checked the framework version, the app pool, the default documents, and all were correct. After some search I found the answer here (courtesy of Johan Driessen).

The secret is to enable the framework for iis which can be done with this magical invocation:

cscript c:\windows\system32\iisext.vbs /EnFile C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30319\aspnet_isapi.dll

Web.config – The entry ‘ ‘ has already been added error

So I came across this error message recently in

Web.config – The entry ‘ ‘ has already been added error

The most likely reason for this error is that a duplicate web.config
file exists in the parent level of the web app that gives you this error.

If however that does not seem to be the problem, one thing that worked for me was to ensure that the current application and its “root” application have different app pools.