Archive for March, 2010

Utility – Battery Low

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

*UPDATE* I had the opportunity to test this utility with Remote Desktop in full screen mode recently and it worked like a dream!  

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OK, really quickly.  I love playing my strategy games.  One of my long time favorites has been Hearts of Iron II – Doomsday Armageddon.  This game plays on my Netbookjust fine, so it’s an easy one to spin up on the plane etc.

The crew over at Paradox Interactive sure did a good job on the game’s logic engine.

Anyway, as I said, I love playing this game.  The only thing is that there’s one small problem with it on the Netbook.  See, when you are playing full screen graphic games, things like system warnings of battery low status and the like, simply does not pop up over the game.  As a result, you’d be playing your game happily when all of a sudden, the Netbook would start going into Hibernate.  That’s all good and dandy, but see, the problem under Windows XP is that once you boot up out of Hibernate, the game doesn’t seem to restore itself and you’re forced to kill the task and reload the game.  Not pretty.

So I fired up Visual Studio 2008 quickly and just wrote a simple app that displays a warning message.  I set it’s properties to pop up over everything else and then configured it as follows:

  • Download my BatteryLow utility.  Place it somewhere on your hard drive. 
  • Right click anywhere on your desktop background.
  • On the popup menu, click “Properties”.

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  • On the Display Properties screen, click the “Screen Saver” tab.
  • One the Screen Saver tab, click the “Power” button.

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  • On the Power Options Properties window, click the “Alarms” tab.
  • On the Alarms Tab, click the “Alarm Action” button.

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  • On the Low Battery Alarm Actions window, click the “Configure Program” button.

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  • On the Low Battery Alarm Program window, click the “Browse” button.
  • Browse to the BatteryLow utility location and double click the file.

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  • On the Low Battery Alarm Program window, click the “OK” button.
  • On the Low Battery Alarm Actions window, click the “OK” button.
  • On the Power Options Properties window, click the “OK” button.
  • On the Display Properties window, click the “OK” button.

Tired of clicking “OK” yet? 

OK, now go ahead and go play your game.  When the battery low action triggers, this is what you’ll get:

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The popup message will actually occur even before the Windows system message as seen below.

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Hope you enjoy the utility.



Cheers
C




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Visual Studio 2010 – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

As I reflect on another week gone by, I have to say I like the “spring forward” for DST.  It’s wonderful to be able to leave the office and walk back to my hotel room while the sun is still out.  Of course it makes getting up in the mornings a little harder, but it’s a tradeoff I’m happy with.

image_thumb_1_31B565A2This was an exciting week.  I attended a preview event of the Visual Studio  2010 Launch, presented by Microsoft on site for our benefit.  Jason Zander himself, the General Manager for Visual Studio (i.e. the guy who “owns” the Visual Studio product line), was there to present for us and get us excited!  I’ve been playing with Studio a little bit, especially on my Netbook.  Now that the great Launch event is almost upon us, I’ve had some time to reflect on the product.  There’s good and not so good as you’d expect, but by far, the good outweigh anything else.  Nevertheless, here are my thoughts, what I’m excited about and wish list items I’d like to see for the next version.  This is of course very far from a complete list, but just my quick thoughts.

THE GOOD

  • IntelliTrace – Think DVR for your code testing.  This is the single most awesome new feature in the product in my mind.  Giving testers the ability to record their testing sessions both visually and data wise and then making it possible for developers to come back and spin up a VM on demand, deploy all the proper code and run the same steps as the tester for the developer to see, debug and fix is… well AWESOME!!!
  • Import/Export Debug Breakpoints – It’s a little thing, but if you’ve ever tried to collaborate with another developer on code and where to set a breakpoint, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  This is a nifty little time saver.
  • Linq2SP – Well, the Linq is everywhere and now it’s in SharePoint too!
  • So if you’ve heard the rumors about SharePoint Foundation 2010 on Windows 7/Vista for a better developer story, then this is even better.  Jay Schmelzer confirmed for us that SharePoint Server 2010 will ALSO be installable on Windows 7/Vista!
  • Optional Parameters for C# 4.0.  OK, so this one’s just my pet peeve, but ever since I first switched to C# from C/C++, I’ve been waiting for optional parameters.  Finally!
  • Seems to have decent performance.  The operative word here is *seems*.  The demos were given on IBM Thinkpads which, isn’t the most awesome hardware around for demos, but it appeared to perform pretty well.  I would recommend to Microsoft that they get some decent demo laptops though.  You want things to be snappy in a demo.
  • Tracepoints – The ability to collect predefined data at given trace points within the application’s execution cycle, will be very useful.  The functionality is mostly self created for developers at this point.  Having the IDE take care of that for us, will be a big help.

THE BAD

  • The Dependency Graph Generator will not identify reflection based calls.  That means once you leave the reservation, your calls aren’t going to make it into the DGML that’s generated.  I have this listed as a “bad”, but in all honesty, this is probably in line with anyone’s reasonable expectations of such a tool.
  • TFS is a must.  If you thought you could live without TFS before, this release ties so closely to TFS 2010 that it would be almost impossible to not have it.  Can you say licensing?

THE UGLY

  • No run time, in-line variable/code correction while in IntelliTrace.  This means you get to debug and work with a COPY IN TIME of the code that was running on the server when the bug was found.  Once you fixed the bug in that COPY of the code, you’d have to find a way to merge it forward into the current code set.  This is definitely one for my wish list for the next version.
  • No Remote SharePoint server development or debugging.  This one will probably bite us a couple of times.  Another one for my wish list.  It would be awesome if you could attach to code on a remote server and debug it.
  • 32 bit.  So Visual Studio is 32 bit, not 64 bit.  It provides complete support for developing and targeting 64 bit apps, but is itself not 64 bit.  That’s not a big deal in my mind and I believe it’ll be the case in the next rev.  It’s not really an “ugly”, at least not if you compare it to demos in VB.NET given to a developer centric audience in order to show off a developer tool!  I’m still chuckling about that one.

Overall I’m super excited about the upcoming release.  I can’t wait to get the RTM bits on my machine.  More than anything, I’m already thinking through how TFS would play into Best Practices for Application Lifecycle Management, Change Management and Quality Control processes for large scale enterprises in the future.  Who knows.  Maybe my book will have something about it…



Cheers
C




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Latest noteworthy SharePoint downloads

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

Just in time for some weekend reading… Here’s the latest MOSSVM.  OK, so it’s a MOSS 2007 VHD, but it’s still a good download if you’re not living on the bleeding edge! While you’re at it, grab the latest 2010 VHD for Information Workers: Some good Visio docs for SharePoint 2010 as well:
Lastly, here’s the SharePoint 2010 Deployment Guide:

Cheers
C




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Finally a NAS for the masses

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

I touted my love for my DROBO NAS device about 40 months ago.  I love the device’s simplicity in upgrading drives and space over time.  Though it’s an awesome little gadget, it certainly isn’t perfect.  I found that the ventilation system built in wasn’t nearly sufficient for the three stacked (closely together) 7,200 RPM Western Digital RE2 HDDs that was occupying it’s bays.  I solved it by literally cutting a hole in the front faceplate and mounting a push fan to it to help force airflow over the drives.

I’ve always been looking for a true NAS device that I can just plug into my network and map on my computers.  I’ve also been wondering why all NAS devices use 3.5” HDDs when the laptop 2.5” HDDs have come down in price so much recently.  Additionally, the smaller drives are also designed for smaller spaces with less ventilation… i.e. they’re designed for minimal residual heat production.  So why not use those kind of drives instead?

OK, OK, I hear the choir already… but, but, but… PERFORMANCE!!!    Yes, it is true that the 3.5” HDDs has better performance than the 2.5” HDDs so if I was going to put the drive into my server or a desktop, then I’d certainly opt for the bigger form factor, but let’s be serious… this is going inside a NAS device.  A device that is being read from via a common ethernet NIC port which, even with Gigabit speeds, is certainly NOT going to be waiting on the drive to read the data.

Well, Thecus just released their N0503 ComboNAS.

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This little beauty, priced at $400 ( that’s Apple prices!) it’s a little expensive, but here’s what makes it stand out for me is the fact that it can hold 5 (that’s right FIVE!) HDDs, 2.5” laptop HDDs!  Given 1 TB sizes for these drives now, that’s up to 5 TB of storage.  Of course, if you insist, you can always go the 3.5” HDD route and plug 3 of those monsters in.  With 2 TB sizes there, that’ll give you up to 6 GB of space!

Add the two gigabit ethernet NICs and you have the ability to connect it to two distinct networks.  At my house, I run an internal and a guest network.  All my computers run on the internal network and all my friends and family that visit, gets to use my guest network.  Both completely separated with unique IP ranges and all.  This baby can plug into both and be used from either network.  Sweet!

Throw in the device’s support for RAID 5 with Auto Rebuild, Hot Swap and Hot Spare and it becomes something special.  With RAID 5 and hot spare (only available on the 2.5” option), it truly becomes self sustaining.  All you’d ever have to do is change a dead drive when it fails every so often.

2.5” HDDs 3.5” HDDs
Drives 5 3
RAID 5 Yes Yes
Hot Swap Yes Yes
Auto Rebuild Yes Yes
Hot Spare Yes No
Space 1 TB/drive 2 TB/drive
Total Space 5 TB 6 TB
Total RAID 5 Space 4 TB 4 TB
Total RAID 5 Hot Spare Space 3 TB NA


Cheers
C




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