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Windows Home Server 2011–Update Rollup 1 Connector Install

Tuesday, 8 November 2011 1:59 pm Comments off

Having just upgraded my WHS server to WHS 2011 (post coming soon) , installing the connector was next on my list of things to do.

The original connector that ships with 2011 worked like a charm on both desktop and laptop.Then Windows Update kicked in and installed UR1 sometime last night and thus caused havoc this morning.

Now, in the spirit of voodoo trouble shooting, there are a number of things people have done to get things working again.

Please note that I’m just some computer guy doing some stuff. If this doesn’t work or screws your PC up, don’t hold me responsible. Proceed at your own risk.

Firstly, try restoring to a pre-Connector state and restart. This should give you a clean slate to install the new UR1 connector.

Secondly – Start or stop the NetTCPTransportService in services.msc (Control Panel-> Administrative Tools –> Services) and try installing again. You can restart before or after trying to install. I can’t remember precisely in what order I did that.

Thirdly, or in combination with the second step above, you need to fire up regedit and navigate to registry subkey HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control. There you need to modify and or create the DWORD entry ServicesPipeTimeout and set the decimal value to 100000.

Remember regedit is not for the faint of heart – you may want to backup your registry FIRST BEFORE messing around with it.

Restart and pray, possibly not in that order.

Some have suggested that the task scheduler service is a culprit on some Windows 7 and XP machines. The solution being to delete all the service cedentials and start again. The folder is located at: C:Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Crypto\RSA-S-1-5-18. Please note that I did NOT try this.

One think that did irk me was that after successfully installing the Connector and restarting at the prompt, Windows logged in as user:_clientsetup_$. This is not a big deal as you can log out, switch user, click the “Other User” tile and enter your credentials that way. I’ll update this post once thats sorted.

The curious think here is that the laptop updated the connector and prompted me to restart with no trouble at all. Very odd.

More posts on the move to 2011 coming soon.

Windows Azure Feedreader Episode 8

Thursday, 27 January 2011 12:37 pm 1 comment

Apologies for the long delay between episodes. I do these in my spare time and my spare time doesn’t always coincide with a quite environment to record the screencast.

But safe to say, I’m super excited to be back and doing these once again.

So, to it!!

This week we follow straight on from what we did in week 7, and modify our backend code to take account of user subscriptions when adding RSS feeds and RSS feeds from OPML files.

Additionally, we lay the ground work for next weeks episode where we will be writing the code that will update the feeds every couple of hours.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, this week we start using the Windows Azure SDK 1.3. So if you haven’t downloaded and installed it, now is  the time.

There are some slight code modifications to take account of some breaking changes in 1.3 that are detailed in Steve Marx’s post on the subject.

Finally, I’ve just realised that the episode contains the wrong changeset information. The correct changeset is: 84039 (I’ll be correcting this slight oversight. Perfectionism demands it)

So, enjoy the show:

Remember, you can head over to vimeo.com to see the show in all its HD glory.

As I said, next week, We’ll be writing the update code that will automatically update all RSS feeds being tracked by the application.

Yet Another Cool Kinect Hack (YACKH)

Thursday, 2 December 2010 1:37 pm Comments off

Playing Mario using Kinect– Awesome!!

Thanks to PopSci – more info here.

It can’t be long till Microsoft release a proper SDK can it?

Categories: Kinect, Programming, Videos, Web, Windows

The Solution of Minimal Effort – Drive Extender and Windows Home Server Vail

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 7:14 pm Comments off

Ever since Microsoft announced it was removing Drive Extender from the next version of Windows Home Server, there has been an echo chamber effect with everyone saying the same thing : we don’t like it, we want it back, WHS is dead without it.

The same goes for what Microsoft should do now: port DE v1 into Vail, re-ad DE v2 to Vail only.

So I wont go and repeat all that .

The fact of the matter that WHS does not make nearly enough money to merit the full attention its DE woes deserve (The disKeeper blog makes this point as well). I’m sure all manner of problems could have been solved  were the full might of the Developer Division to decent on  the WHS team like a deus ex machina … Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic here.  Nonetheless, my point stands – all problems can be solved with adequate resources  – read money-in fact its practically the American way (I’m looking at you Bernanke).

The reason why Xbox (a big leap but bear with me) has flourished so much is because the team understands consumers. They understand what we, the consumer, want from them, the team. Xbox went from being a niche to a multi billion dollar arm of Microsoft. Helped in no small part by the Halo franchise (again – understanding of the consumer wants and needs at work).

Windows Home Server is in a similar place at the moment. WHS v1 was perfect. perfect in a way that’s difficult to describe. It was perfect enough for me to go out on a limb and buy a Dell server to run beta 1 on. The kind of perfect where you feel it in your bones – “this is it”.  (PS Microsoft: try get a commission off Dell for that  if you can)

The fact is that WHS solved a number of difficulties at a stroke: back up  and redundant protection against hard drive failure. As a result I no longer have nightmares (well i do, but about fire burning down the house rather than hard drives and computers biting the dust, but thats another story). 

The peace of mind that comes along with this is simply priceless. The fact of the matter is that there is no other way of getting that peace of mind with as minimal effort as setting up a WHS server. I’m not Microsoft – I don’t have the hardware and legions of RAID experts to call on. So WHS is the only way (yes there are alternatives, but I’m talking about the solution of minimal effort here).

So, Microsoft. Please. Give us our Drive Extender back. Whether you decide to use v1 or v2. Whether Aurora and Beckenridge have it or not. Add it back to Vail. You will have the appreciation and loyalty of a grateful bunch of people. This is an opportunity to pour fire over burning bridges (and maybe rebuild them with stone).

In the meanwhile, WHS users have started a petition. Vote here (half tempted to call this Organising For Drive Extender – a pun on Obama’s organising for America).

Windows Azure Feedreader Episode 7: User Subscriptions

Monday, 25 October 2010 5:50 am 1 comment

Episode 7 is up. I somehow found time to do it over several days.

There are some audio issues, but they are minor. There is some humming noises for most of the show. I’ve yet to figure out where they came from. Apologies for that.

 

This week we

  • clear up our HTML Views
  • implement user subscriptions

We aren’t finished with user subscriptions by any means. We need to modify our OPML handling code to take account of the logged in user.

 

Enjoy:

Remember, you can head over to vimeo.com to see the show in all its HD glory.

Next week we’ll finished up that user subscriptions  code in the OPML handling code. 

And we’ll start our update code as well.

The (proposed) HTPC Build

Sunday, 28 March 2010 9:28 pm Comments off

This afternoon I out out a few tweets with regard to a HTPC.

Heres the system build I came up with:

Motherboard

Gigabyte H55M-S2H, Intel H55, 1156, PCI-E 2.0 (x16), DDR3 1600/1800/2133, SATA 3Gb/s, ATX, VGA

Gigabyte H55M-S2H, Intel H55, 1156, PCI-E 2.0 (x16), DDR3 1600/1800/2133, SATA 3Gb/s, ATX, VGA

£66.98 Inc VAT from scan.co.uk

Processor

Intel Core i3 530 2.93GHz (Clarkdale) (Socket LGA1156) – OEM [CM80616003180AG]

Intel Core i3 530 2.93GHz (Clarkdale) (Socket LGA1156) - OEM [CM80616003180AG]

£91.98 inc VAT from overclockers.co.uk

 

Case

Antec 300 Three Hundred Ultimate Gaming Case – Black [0761345-08300-3]

Antec 300 Three Hundred Ultimate Gaming Case - Black [0761345-08300-3]

£44.99 inc VAT from overclockers.co.uk

Power Supply

EMD525AWT II – 525W Enermax Modu82+ II DXXI READY! Efficiency 88% 8xSATA 5xMOLEX 3xPCI-E 6+2 FREE TWISTER FAN

525W Enermax Modu82+ II DXXI READY! Efficiency 88% 8xSATA 5xMOLEX 3xPCI-E 6+2 FREE TWISTER FAN

£83.57 Inc VAT from scan.co.uk

 

RAM is just about ubiquitous. For this particular system I plan on getting 2x 2Gb DDR3 from overclockers.co.uk since they have some good deals. But please do state your preference for RAM in the comments.

This list does not include the plethora of fans cables, etc that turn components into a PC.

I know have to sell this idea. WMC is hard enough to explain to people in words. Actually showing them the thing and letting hem use it is a very different proposition. This is what I found withthe AppleTV. Having had it for a year, everyone loves it now. So i’m going to put the TV tuner card into the desktop, hook the desktop up to the tv and let people have a go with WMC. Thats next weekends project.

In saying all of this, it all depends on the iPad. There is only enough money in the budget for one or the other. Once I actually have the thing in my hands, then i will be able to decide.

Bill Buxton: Respect The Skills Acquired By Your Users

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 12:23 pm 1 comment

Take 30 minutes and watch his keynote appearance: http://live.visitmix.com/MIX10/Sessions/KEY02 (he’s introduced at the 2:13 mark). Its worthwhile.

If you notice the title, you’ll see that it’s slightly different to what Bill Buxton actually said. Bill is a UI designer. UI design is the natural application of his design paradigm.

But it goes deeper than simple UI design.

You see, Bill’s paradigm is that User Interfaces must respect the skill that has been acquired by the user. Since the acquiring of skill is on thing that we all have in common.

Bill gives this wonderful example of a violin. The violin itself may be worth millions of dollars (if I remember correctly, Joshua Bell paid $4.5 million for his Stradivarius). The bow of the violin for any first violinist in any symphony orchestra is never less than $10,000. Remember these are musicians. They make a pittance. So as a proportion of income, it’s a fortune. But it’s worth it. Why? Because it’s worthy of the skills that those musicians been acquired over decades.

Bill was taking purely in terms of User Interfaces. But the application of this paradigm is rather broad.

For instance, lets take developers.

Developers typically end up working with libraries and API’s. We rarely rewrite what Joel Spolsky affectionately calls duct tape code. Like date comparisons and string builders. It’s a brutally Darwinian process in which the libraries and API’s that are most easily used rise to prominence.

Personally, when I write any code, whether it’s an API used by some other code to do processing, or some plumbing for my UI, or even a class definition with functions and parameters, I always think of the way in which this code is going to be consumed. Since the consumer typically dictates what it needs to get out of that API/function/class. At this point, simple abstraction takes over: how can I abstract away processing code such that my consumer code is much easier and cleaner. In this case the User Interface is not pixels on a screen. No, it’s functions and parameters. The consumer code is and should be treated as a fully fledged user of that code.

The premise this blog post started off with was that user interfaces should respect the skill that has been acquired by the user. Of course, code has no appreciation of skill, whether the code is elegant or not has no meaning to the compiler. But you, as the programmer are consuming the service, the function or the API. You have skill. A skilled programmer writes elegant code. He or she draws on a vast reserve of skill and talent even in the most simplest of tasks.

My point is that when you write your API, when you write your function, when you define you class. You want to ask: "How can I help the programmer that programs against this service write elegant code, how can I write an interface that respects the skills acquired"?

let make some practical application of this:

Typically, I find Web services frustrating. I find it frustrating because I can’t just point Visual Studio at a URL and say "this API lives here and I want to use it". WSDL files, where available, make this so much easier because Visual studio will generate either a web or a service reference.

Why do I say this? For me as a programmer, it does not respect my skills to spend hours each day parsing SOAP or XML or JSON results when what I should actually be doing is writing program code. And yes, some of you will say that it takes all the fun out of life. But I want to be able to go off and write code. Program code. Not low level plumbing, specially plumbing that should be automatically generated for me here in 2010.

That’s one of the things that blew me away about Microsoft’s OData protocol. Here’s a URL and BOOM you have data and are ready to program. You don’t even need a WSDL (whether we need yet another data protocol to have this functionality is another question altogether). It respects the skills of the user, namely me, the programmer. It allows me to immediately get on with the business of practising my chosen craft.

It should be noted that I’m not arguing that we never get our hands dirty in the plumbing. Someone has got to do it. And it is essential training for anyone interested in programming, let alone web services.

In some ways writing an interface that respects the skills I have acquired is a meta-function. The better the interface/class/API is, the better my code is going to be: it’s writing code to write code.

Let’s take another aspect. PowerPoint presentations.

This mornings lecture borrowed a slide deck from TechEd 2009. It was about the BizTalk 2009 ESB Toolkit. Now the slides had no relevance to us as programmers. At all. No respect to the skills we have acquired over years or training and practise. Just a lot of SmartArt. (Id argue that BizTalk as a whole shows little or no respect for our skills as programmers). As a result I discovered what talented doodlers there are in my class, and that nobody snores.

But when was the last time you watched a Scott Hanselman presentation? He uses little or no slides. The majority of his talks involve coding in visual studio. Seriously, how much more respect can you have for the skills your audience has acquired? As a result people sit up and pay attention (and that has absolutely nothing to do with Scott’s various attempts at humour).

Want to see what I mean? See this video: Creating NerdDinner.com with Microsoft ASP.NET Model View Controller (MVC) or this one from Mix10:

BEYOND FILE | NEW COMPANY: FROM CHEESY SAMPLE TO SOCIAL PLATFORM

Talking of Scott Hanselman, have you seen his BabySmash WPF app? It’s written for babies. Babies smash your keyboard very much at random. The app takes this input and turns it into colourful animated shapes that move about the screen. Once again, the User Interface shows respect to the skills the user has (or in this case hasn’t) acquired.

Do not misconstrue this as me banging my drum about ease of use. The easiest point and click UI is the one Smith and Wesson developed many years ago. Yet that UI shows absolutely no respect to the skills developed by its users. And BabySmash may be easy to use, but it shows no respect for my skills as a developer.

As it has been said many times, software is hard. It will always be hard. There will always be challenges. But if we respect the skills of the code ninjas that come forth to complete those challenges, we all benefit.

Fences from Stardock (and some Windows 7 screenshots)

Thursday, 19 November 2009 5:46 pm 2 comments

I heard of this great little utility called Fences. Scott Hanselman* mentioned it in a blog post a while back.

image

As you can see, it groups controls into little fenced off corrals. If there are too many icons in the corral, it will scroll like so:

image

That scrollbar fades in nicely when you hover your mouse anywhere on the corral and fades out when you leave.

There is a nice settings panel:

image

 

Helpfully, it will also  take snapshots of how you’ve arranged your desktop:

image

 

Its immensely useful and you should go check it out. Right now.

While we’re showing off Windows 7 desktop screenshots, this gorgeous theme is available for download.

You can get it from the Windows 7 Theme Gallery here.

If you’re in the US, this theme shipped with Windows 7, if not its the “United States” theme in the gallery. All of the localized themes for all countries are available in addition to one or two jazzier ones.

*PS I’m convinced we have to start calling Scott Manselman “the Ha”. We already call Scott Guthrie “the Gu” – naming conventions, people.

Categories: Personal, Tech, Windows, Windows 7

Windows 7, Part 2 – Norton Internet Security

Friday, 21 August 2009 11:46 am Comments off

Just  quick note to say that Norton Internet Security 2009 now works perfectly on Windows 7.

Symantec just pushed out some updates:

 Capture

And if you are using iTunes, remember to exclude the iTunes Music folder or else you won’t be able to save your iTunes library.

Categories: Software, Tech, Windows, Windows 7

Windows 7 (Part 1)

Sunday, 8 February 2009 6:30 pm Comments off

One question: is it the bees knees??? Yes it is.

At this point every other review is going wax philosophic about how great Windows 7 is, how its what Vista was supposed to be. And then go on to debate whether it should be a Service Pack instead.

I’m going to try avoid all those issues. But I will say this. Microsoft think that it should stand alone as it own OS, and that’s how I’m going to review it.

Its running on a Dell Inspiron 6400, 1.72Ghz dual Core with 1gb RAM.

First off. the problems I’ve had with it have been few and far between.

Now, every time a close the lid and then re-open it, the screen refuses to display the screen again. Its really annoying and requires a restart. The fix is simple – change the power options to do nothing when I close the lid. And it works like a charm now.

Second, IE8 RC wont install here. Don’t ask. But and earlier version of IE8 is installed. No solution as far as I know and I use Firefox anyway.

Third, iTunes runs quite well. Its faster. but not much else. however, it hangs on exit when its saving the iTunes library. And there’s not much choice here but to kill it with task manager.

You can get around this problem, perversely, by running iTunes as an Administrator. I suspect that the UAC tweaks are  the culprit here.

Fourth, every now and again 7 will hang at the shutdown screen (when it says “Shutting down”). This is annoying because you’re not quite sure what’s going on.

Finally, and i don’t know why this happens, the Adobe Bridge Photo Downloader no longer has the “Convert to DNG” option.

Adobe

Before everyone leaves comment, I have installed all the updates delivered to me. And Adobe Bridge tells me its version 2.1.1.9. Since I convert everything to DNG on import, this is really a disaster.

Most programs, actually run in Windows 7 quite well. I did have a problem with Windows Live and Visual Studio 2008 SP1 but hey, all installed eventually.

The Taskbar

7 is done right in a number of ways. The taskbar is particularly important as its the primary focus of any interaction with the OS.

On first use, telling the difference between pinned and active icons can be difficult. Its a very subtle UI cue there.

Taskbar

 

The Icons and notifications are better and never become too cluttered. Handling overflow is done particularly well.

At the bottom right of the taskbar, a little area sits on its own, separated from the rest of the taskbar. Clicking on this shows the desktop. However its not immediately obvious what this is for.

The taskbar itself stays transparent even when viewing a maximised window. I’m not sure about this. There is an argument to keeping the Vista behaviour of a solid taskbar when working with a maximised window.

The Start Menu

The Start Menu isn’t visually different from Vista’s. There are subtle UI cues however, that give away further functionality.

Programs that have been used have arrows next to them. Clicking on this arrow give the documents recently used by this program. the time saving nature of this cannot be over stated.

Taskbar2

The search box now says “Search programs and files” instead of start search. Its more obvious about the function of the search box, and encourages users to use it more. This is one of my favourite features of the Vista-esque UI ( i.e since Vista)

Taskbar search

The Shutdown button is quite blunt as to what it does, differing from Vista’s Off icon. It is possible to change the functionality of these buttons in the power settings and this always confused me. text makes it so much easier to distinguish  what’s going on.

Paint and Wordpad

Both Paint and Wordpad have the new Ribbon toolbar. this makes them much better as applications.

Paint

I tend to use paint quite a lot for situations when its not worth firing up Photoshop or Illustrator. Even in the few times I’ve used it, the Ribbon toolbar makes it so much better to use. and its not crappy old paint anymore either.

A few nice additions include the ability to Zoom right out ( right click to zoom out). This jumped out at me as being new.

Edit: Jordan Hofker pointed out on Freindfeed that its Wordpad not note pad. Many Thanks.

Personalization

The changing backgrounds have been around for ages in third party programs or as part of the Power Toys stuff. however this time its baked right into the OS.

The themes feature is very powerful. Of course I can still remember how Microsoft offered Plus for windows 95. I was too much of a cheapskate to get it, but the idea of a theme has been around for a while.

This marks the first time (that i can remember, anyway) that themes are actually files you can share rather than an amorphous collection of settings.

Whereas before (pre-vista, anyway) settings and dialogs had to be navigated with a map ( literally), important dialogs such as for the mouse pointers, screen resolutions, screen saver and sounds are literally a click away. This will encourage people to get more out of their computers (even the not so computer literate ones).

More later this week as i continue exploring Windows 7.

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