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Finds of the Week – December 15, 2007

Here are this week’s finds:

.NET, C#, Programming

Software and Tools

And Now, Something Different

Here’s a Christmas tree made out of Heineken beer bottles. I took this picture last December at the Imperial Hotel in Hue, Vietnam, while vacationing there. Click on the picture for a larger version.

hue-imperial-heineken-christmas-tree

Finds of the Week – December 8, 2007

It’s been a busy week. Here are my finds for this week:

.NET, Programming

  • PackageThis is a new CodePlex tool from the MSDN team that allows you to package your own MSDN Library content. Useful to get the latest MSDN content to use locally (fast).
  • Joe Shirey, a board member of the Microsoft Certified Architects program, has written a nice series about the Microsoft Certified Architects program.
  • Alik Levin advised that we should avoid populating passwords in memory, because it’s relatively easy to reveal. A walkthrough of how to use WinDbg to obtain passwords in memory is provided.
  • The Programmer Dress Code by Justin Etheredge is a fun read on what about programming that makes programmers generally dress like a slob. Pictures of famous programmers included.
  • GavinBenda (gavinbenda.com.au) posted a comprehensive guide to web charts and graphs.
  • Unit testing; how far do you push the envelope? (odecee blogs) is a interesting read on the issue of how much unit test code is enough.
  • SQL Server 2008 will have IntelliSense, by Ciz. I have not worked with SQL Server in a while but when I get back to it, this should help make it more fun.
  • Dan Wahlin wrote about the new C# 3.0 feature Automatic Properties. Dan also wrote a nice article on Visual Studio magazine on how to create rich web apps with AJAX.
  • Jeff Putz gave his impressions on Visual Studio 2008 after a couple of weeks of use.
  • One of the most annoying application behavior is stealing current focus. Jeff Atwood (Coding Horror) wrote on why stealing focus is never acceptable.
  • What’s Ailing ASP.NET Web Forms, by Rick Strahl, is a good article about some of the major problems/issues with ASP.NET web forms. Good read.

Software and Tools

  • XPathMania, by Don Demsak is a nice Visual Studio add-in to check XPath statements against the current XML document. Matches are listed in the XPathMania tool window as well as highlighted in the actual XML document. Double click on a match to move to it.

    xpathmania1

  • Picasa (from Google) is my current photo album/manager tool. It’s fast and fun to use. With Picasa Web Albums, it’s a very nice combination.

    google-picasa-1

And Now, Something Different

  • For Richmonders, if you feel like driving around one night in December to look at all the nice Christmas lighting sites in town, check out InRich.com’s Richmond’s Tacky Christmas Lights map. I have done a company sponsored Richmond Christmas lights bus tour in the past and I found it to be entertaining. With the InRich.com map, you can do your own personal tour.

    richmond-tacky-christmas-lights

  • Here’s my apprentice programmer Dat Do at 14 months old. I try to teach him C# but his code doesn’t quite compile yet. Maybe I should start him on QBASIC instead?

    dat-do-14-months

Finds of the Week – Nov 16, 2007

.NET

Software and Tools

Tech and Gadgets

  • Dish Network enables ethernet ports on ViP622 HD DVRs. The main feature that the broadband connection brings is video on demand. The ethernet connection also allows the box to call home via the Internet instead of using the phone line.

Miscellaneous

  • View popular “sightings” on Google Maps, Windows Live Maps, and Yahoo Maps at Virtual Globetrotting

And Now, Something Different

I cut a kiwi fruit in halves the other day and this was what I saw:

Kiki Fruit Heart

EPoX EP-9NPA+Ultra 939 Motherboard and 4GB of RAM

If you have an EPoX EP-9NPA+Ultra 939 NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra ATX AMD Motherboard, and you installed 4GB of RAM, the BIOS may only see 3407872K Total Memory:

Epox EP-9NPA+Ultra 4GB Vista

To enable the BIOS to see the full 4GB of RAM, do the following:

  • Enter the BIOS Setup Utility (reboot and press Del key).
  • Choose Advanced Chipset Feature, then DRAM Configuration
  • Change “S/W memory hole Remapping” to Enabled
  • Change “H/W memory hole Remapping” to Enabled

Epox EP-9NPA+Ultra 4GB Vista

If you have Windows XP or Windows Vista 32-bit, the operation system will not see the full 4 GB anyway. The “fix” is to upgrade to Vista 64-bit or just live with whatever amount of RAM the OS can use. My Vista 32-bit installation reports 3327 MB of total memory.

Epox EP-9NPA+Ultra 4GB Vista

Finds of the Week – Nov 2, 2007

Here are the finds for this week.

.NET

  • Mike Duncan wrote a nice article on 3 hot uses for HttpContext.Current.Items “They” won’t tell you about. Wish I had thought about this 6 months ago when I was trying to implement a "static" variable that only lasts for the duration of the page request.
  • Too busy with real work to read up on the soon to be released Visual Studio 2008 (by end of November)? Daniel Moth has put together a summary the top 10 things to know about VS 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 here.
  • For Oracle developers, check out Gojko Adzic’s article on the new function result caching feature in Oracle 11.
  • Java and .NET to drive double-digit wage growth. Yes double-digit wage growth! That should happen more often. By  Gavin Clarke via regdeveloper.co.uk.
  • Doug Stewart wrote another comprehensive article on new features of Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5.
  • There’s something slow, in your program flow. Who you’re gonna call? Profilers of course :-). M has put together a detailed article of how to use the ANTS profiler. Also check out Improving .NET Application Performance and Scalability by J.D. Meier, Srinath Vasireddy, Ashish Babbar, and Alex Mackman.
  • Marquee de Sells has several interesting points on the consequences of working for Microsoft remotely.

Software and Tools

Vector Magic is the probably best bitmap tracing tool currently available. Check out the amazing samples. Free!

Resharper is a great productivity and code analysis add-in for Visual Studio. It’s the only add-in I currently use. My top 5 favorite Resharper features are:

  • On the fly error/warning checking (squiggly lines). See problems with your code as you type them.

    Resharper On-the-fly Error Checking

  • Refactor (Rename, Extract Method, Introduce Field, etc. )
  • Goto Type/File/File Member. Fastest way to navigate. Every class, file, or method is only a few keystrokes away.

    Resharper Navigation

  • Find Usages. Find what is using a class/method/property. Great for finding code dependencies. Indispensable for learning a new application you are not familiar with.

    Resharper Find Usages

  • Reformat Code.
  • Enhanced Intellisense.

Windows Live Writer is a windows editor for blog posts. Your drafts are saved locally. Works with WordPress. I like it. This post was written using Windows Live Writer.

Gadgets

Miscellaneous

  • At my work it was announced that we will be switching to "Outlook" from Lotus Notes. We are currently on Notes 6 and it’s the most atrocious of a program I have had the pleasure of using on a daily basis. Some of the most basic features like Search does not even work. Argg! I had to create my own Notes index by periodically exporting all messages to text files so that Windows Search will index them. I can’t wait to get back to Outlook/Exchange.
  • Have you wondered why Windows Explorer doesn’t show the size of a folder? Here are the reasons (Raymond Chen via blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing).

And Now, Something Different

I’ve always been skeptical whenever I hear people say or write that we only use 10% of our brain. Well, it looks like there is no scientific evidence to suggest that. Read more here.

Software Review – Mozy Online Backup (Version 1.8.4.7)

I have been telling myself that I need to set up some sort of automated backup solution for my data for years now. In the past, I have actually used various tape backup solutions but I eventually gave up due to the cost of buying new tape drives that could keep up with the increasing large amount of data.

I decided to give Mozy a try. If you have not heard, Mozy is an online backup solution. Their main selling point is that they will back up your home computer for $4.95 per month. Your data is transfered over your Internet connection and is backed up to Mozy’s servers. I figure $60 a year for a fully automated backup solution and peace of mind is worth it.

Installation and Configuration

The installation and initial setup process is pretty straight forward. By default, the software will automatically select files to be backed up, but I am sure most people will need to make changes to the backup selection. Each Mozy account will only support one computer. Yes, I tried to include a network location in my backup sets, but it wouldn’t allow it. External drives connected via USB2 are fine.

Mozy backup sets

There are several configuration options to tweak. In the Schedule tab, you can tell Mozy to backup when your PC is idle, or at specific times:

Mozy backup schedule options

And under the Options tab, you can control many additional settings:

Mozy backup options

For my backup, I leave most settings at the default values, except I checked “Don’t show restore menu in Windows Explorer”. I generally do not let any application install context menu handlers for Windows Explorer. Don’t know if it’s true or not, but I suspect that misbehaving explorer context menu handlers are the source of most mysterious hangs and slow-downs in Windows.

Backing Up Data

The backup process works fairly well. The initial backup will take some time to complete. How much time depends on the size of your backup sets and the upload speed of your Internet connection. My initial backup took about 3 weeks to backup 75 GB of data over a Verizon Online FIOS connection with 2000 kbits of upload bandwidth. Since then I have added another 10GB of data and it has been keeping up just fine.

While the backup is in progress, you can check Mozy’s progress with this informative progress window:

Mozy - backup in progress

Restoring Data

There are currently four different ways to restore files with Mozy:

  • Right-click Restore – Navigate in Windows Explorer to the folder you want and right click, then choose “Restore files in folder”.
  • DVD Restore – Mozy will burn your data to a DVD and send it to you via snail mail. Good for large restores.
  • Web Restore – Use Mozy’s web site to select folders/files to restore and download the files via the web site.
  • Virtual Drive Restore – Navigate to Mozy’s virtual drive and select files to restore from there.

I had some problems initially with Virtual Drive Restore. Every time I tried, I would get an error saying that it could not connect to the server. The error went away after I reset my account password. This is probably the simplest and quickest way to restore a small number of files.

Mozy Backup Virtual Drive Restore

Web Restore is also pretty straight forward. You log into the Mozy web site, choose Restore Files and follow on-screen instructions. One minor issue is that the files are not available immediately. Instead, you will get an email once the restore is complete. Then you can go to the web site to download the files. An additional benefit of Web Restore is that you can restore files from any Internet connected PC. In this way, you can think of Mozy as an Internet mirror of your files.

If you want to restore everything, then DVD Restore is probably the way to go. I have not tried this option.

The last Restore method is Right Click Restore in Explorer. I did not test this method either because I chose not to enable explorer shell integration.

Support

I had to use Mozy’s tech support to resolve an error that I could not resolve myself. Email did not work well as I didn’t receive a reply at all after several days. However, when I tried the “Chat Live” option on the web site, and was immediately connected to a live tech support person. She was able to help me resolve the problem fairly quickly.

Summary

I feel a lot better now that my important files are finally backed up at an off-site location. I am probably better protected now than many small businesses. I can get to the files easily and wherever I need. Mozy works very well once you understand and work with its main limitation: the upload speed of your Internet connection. I have not heard of anyone running into a problem for backing up too much data. Finally, for $4.95 a month… you can’t beat that.

Highly recommended.

Finds of the Week – Oct 31, 2007

Here are my finds for this week:

.NET

Tools

  • I hope my hard drive doesn't crash in the next few days… because my initial Mozy backup is still running… about 3 weeks after I started it. At this rate it should be done in a few more days.

    Mozy Backup

  • Oracle SQL Developer is a very nice and full-featured Oracle query and browsing tool. Best of all: it's free.

    Oracle SQL Developer

Windows Mobile / Pocket PC

  • I wrote before about how Verizon Wireless may cut you off if you use up too much bandwidth per month. Good news: Verizon Wireless has just settled a N.Y. probe (news.com) into that practice.
  • I've been checking my Gmail account everyday every since the IMAP announcement on Oct 24. Today, it finally showed up!

    Gmail IMAP

  • Capture Screen Utility from Fann Software is a free screen capture program for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile devices. It's free, and it works.

    Fann Software Screen Capture Utility for Windows Mobile/Pocket PC

Miscellaneous

  • If you are anoyed about that pesky Windows Language Bar that keeps coming back after you tell it to go away, you are not alone. Here's how to get rid of it for good (How-To Geek Blogs).

Finds of the Week – 10/24/2007

.NET

  • Improve ODP.NET Performance (Mark A Williams, via Oracle Magazine) shows how Connection Pooling, Controlling Fetch Size, and Statement Caching can be used to maximize performance with the Oracle Data Provider for .NET.
  • Did you know that you can profile a selected Unit Test in Visual Studio Team System? Read more at Profiling a Unit Test (Noah Coad, via blogs.msdn.com).

Tools

  • Sysinternals (now part of Microsoft) has released a new version (v11.02) of their extremely useful Process Explorer utility. This is one of my must-have utility on any new system.
  • Process Explorer

  • FileZilla is an open source FTP utility for Windows. It's free and has all the features I use. What more can one ask for?
  • Filezilla

  • I signed up for Mozy two weeks ago. The price is right: $4.95 per month for peace of mind. However, it’s been 2 weeks and the initial backup is still only 50% complete!! I have a Verizon FIOS connection with 2000 Kbps upload speed and about 37GB of data to backup. I’ll post an update on how restores work whenever this thing finishes.
  • Mozy

Windows Mobile / Pocket PC

  • Google has just announced free IMAP for Gmail! Unfortunately, it's not available on my Gmail account yet. I am hoping that the IMAP with Windows Mobile Outlook is better than Gmail mobile (via Pocket IE or Opera Mobile).

Blogs

  • Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen is one of my favorite .NET related blogs. I don't know how he does it, but Scott often writes several detailed posts a day. Don't forget to check out his Tools List post.

Miscellaneous

  • Did you know that the best Wikipedia content is often from anonymous "good samaritans"? "Anonymous contributors with a single edit had the highest quality of any group." Read more here.

And Now, Something Different

Alexa.com's current list of 100 Top Sites in the United States (sorted by traffic) has a couple of interesting entries. In addition to the familiar Yahoo!, Google, and Myspace, there are two Vietnamese related sites: VnExpress at number 70, and Vietfun, at number 80. Besides these two sites, there are no other non-English or minority-centered web sites on the list that I could tell.

Possible explanations:

  • Alexa rankings are way off base.
  • Vietnamese Americans are using the net much more than any other minority groups (unlikely). If this is true, there is an untapped market here.

Anyone else has an explanation?

alexa-rankings-usa-1

alexa-rankings-usa-1

Samsung SCH-i760 Windows Mobile Phone Now On Verizon Wireless Web Site

The i760 is now available for order through Verizon Wireless web site. The retail price is $519 but if you can take advantage of various discounts (New Every 2, 2-year contract, data plan), the price will go down to $99.

Samsung Windows Mobile 6 Phone SCH-i760 on Verizon Wireless

The SCH-i760 is a Windows Mobile Pro (Pocket PC) 6 phone, featuring a backlit QWERTY keyboard, 1.3 Megapixel camera/camcorder, microSD, WIFI, and bluetooth.

I still have a few more months to go before my New Every 2 discount will kick in :-(.

Samsung SCH-i760

Related Posts

Finds of the Week – 10/17/2007

As an attempt to make this blog appears more busy:-), I will begin my "Finds of the Week" series. Each week, I will share miscellaneous finds and thoughts I ran into that are related to mostly .NET development.

Here are the finds for this week:

.NET

  • Parallel Performance: Optimize Managed Code For Multi-Core Machines; by Daan Leijen and Judd Hall; via MSDN Magazine. In a few years' time, I predict that most new PCs will be multi-core. This article talks about the new Task Parallel Library (TPL) and provides code samples.
  • document.f.q.focus(); The Billion Dollar Line of JavaScript (by gst, via blogstorm.co.ok) talks about how many people use the Search Box on their browser to navigate to various web sites, instead of typing in a URL, and how this practice translates into revenue for Google. Interesting read.
  • alessandro pointed out that and IMG element with an empty src attribute will call the browser to make a request to the default document (usually default.aspx).
  • Understanding Windows Workflow Foundation (by razi bin rais, via Codeproject.com) is a nice overview of Windows Workflow Foundation.
  • Where are the basic controls in Silverlight 1.1? When I started experimenting with Silverlight recently (see my Silverlight Hello World application), the first question that came to my mind was: where are all the basic controls such as button, checkbox, textbox, etc?

    XAML Intellisense drop-down

    Don't worry! Apparently, they are not there because it's still an Alpha release. According to this post from Tim Sneath, the following controls are planned to be included in the released version of 1.1: Button, TextBox, Scrollbar, Slider, ListBox, CheckBox, RadioButton, ComboBox, and UserControl (no TreeView, RichTextBox, or DataGrid).

 

Tools

  • Probably old news to most CSS pros, but just in case you have not heard, FireBug is a very useful extension for FireFox/CSS development. Highly recommended if you ever work with CSS. I could have saved countless hours debugging HTML/CSS issues with this tool.
  • Notepad++ is a new addition to my toolset. Supports syntax highlighting, regular expression search/replace, Unicode, Macros, and is light-weight.

Windows Mobile / Pocket PC

Blogs

Miscellaneous

  • I am pretty bad with keeping in touch with people, and I have found that LinkedIn makes it fairly easy to keep in touch with past colleages. Last week I had some free time so I decided to look up old colleagues on LinkedIn. It was great to hear from many people I worked with years ago. I found many people by simply searching on the name of the company we worked for.

And Now, Something Different

Check out the Windows Live Maps Bird's Eye view below. See the black car entering the cul-de-sac? That's me and my car.

Microsoft Windows Live Maps - Chinh's Car

How do I know that’s my car? Well, for one thing, my car is black. But the real reason I know it’s me is that a moment later, my garage door opened half-way… as I was about to drive into the garage:

Microsoft Windows Live Maps - Chinh's Car

At first glance, it seems to be an amazing coincidence (like one-in-a-million amazing). What is the chance that Microsoft’s Bird’s Eye low flying plane would fly across my house and snap pictures just as I am about drive into my garage? However, after further calculations, it turns out that the real probability is around 1/8640 (5-second window over 43200 average seconds of day-light). Still a very small chance, but certainly not lottery-winning “amazing”.

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