VS 2005/2008 and Vista – IE cannot display the webpage

Vista and Visual Studio - problems with IPv6 and internal WebDev.WebServerI recently reinstalled my laptop completely (it is very nice Dell XPS M1330) and took that opportunity to make it into decent development machine (w/o all the stupid preinstalled applications).

Installed also Visual Studio 2005 and 2008, SQL 2005 Express and all the little tools necessary (ClipX for example).

Fired up latest web site on which I work on, F5 and … nothing – dreadfull message of “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage”.

Ok, no panic here, let try Visual Studio 2008 with same web site; nothing 🙁 Same site, on two other development machines (Vista & Vista 64) under VS 2005 and VS 2008 works w/o problem.

Started researching and debugging; it turns out that next generation protocol IPv6, or its implementation on Vista clashes with integrated web server WebDev.WebServer.exe; WebDev has a problem finding localhost address in default configuration.

Easy fix for this is to comment ::1 entry in hosts file:

Uncomment ::1 in hosts file to correct webdev / visual studio problems

No restart is needed, either of computer or Visual Studio.

(to edit hosts file you can use notepad started with elevated rigths or “Run as administrator“; in Open dialog you type in %windir%System32driversetchosts)

ZYB.COM – your mobile life on web

Zyb.Com - Web service for synchronization of your mobile address book and calendarOne of my virtues (or flaws, which many would say 😉 ) is that I am (too) organized; one of the favorite principles is “do it once (and right)” – in programming, work and daily activities like entering new contact data (in phone, Outlook or web application / service) – just want to enter it once, in one place and to avoid duplication, merging, copying, version conflicting – all those things when you have one piece of data scattered all around.

Logical place for reference point is mobile phone – mobile phone is now center of daily activities: you are reachable because of it, you have your contacts, notes, calendars and mails in it. However, no matter how big screen and keyboard are (I am proud owner of Nokia E61), it is useful, for many reasons, to have all those data elsewhere:

  • Safety reasons – having a backup of your data is always a good thing
  • It is easier to transfer all those data to a new phone; replacing a phone is not very often action, but when you need to do that, it is better to be as painless as possible.
  • Easier data manipulation; using “real” keyboard and screen is much more comfortable than using phone
  • Access it from anywhere – you can access those data even when your phone is not with you

For years, I am using Plaxo service, which is rather good in free version. “Rather” because I had objections from start of using it:

  • It is slow; no matter how new versions are published, beta or not beta, web interface is slow and cumbersome. Response from service is generally “wait for it” and user friendliness is not on high level.
  • You need computer, with necessary drivers for cable/bluetooth connection with your mobile phone
  • You need to have Microsoft Outlook installed; in the era of GMAIL that is obsolete – you do not want to be tied up for one computer or to worry about licenses.

To be fair enough, most of other mobile phone synchronization solutions are far from perfect; even “native” choice for Nokia phone owners, Nokia PC Suite is generally unusable w/o Outlook installed – way and quality of work with data (over Windows Explorer shell integration) simply can not support any major data changes (even if I disregard fact that this package installs bunch of not wanted software and installs itself in system tray which bugs me additionally 🙂 ).

I found recently ZYB – perfect “little” web service for mobile phone synchronization. Most of objections above are resolved:

  • Service is free with very simple registration procedure; number of supported phone models is very large
  • Base for synchronization is SyncML technology, supported by major phone vendors
  • Setting up phone (at least for Nokia E61) is trivial – accept and save service SMS sent by site
  • Middleman is cut out – no computer / Outlook is needed; communication phone < - > ZYB is direct, using GPRS / 3G / Wireless, whatever is available

First synchronization went fast and almost error free; “almost” because I lost tasks from my phone – tasks are treated as calendar entries; most of phones set up due date when entering tasks and ZYB was setup not to synchronize any calendar items older than 7 days; (I reported this as a bug).

So, please do full backup of your phone using “old way” before experimenting 🙂

Apart synchronization, ZYB offers other services – import of address book from Gmail, elimination of duplicate contacts and (unavoidable) social component – to connect with people which phones you have and they are also on ZYB (it is unobtrusive option).

Words of warning: service is still in beta and you can expect some unstabillity; also, there is trust issue – do you want to share your private data with some “foreign” site; I decided that I am fine with that, years ago, when I started using Plaxo service. It is up to you to decide for yourself.

Verdict: My recommendation.

How to Get Command Line of Launched Process

One nice improvement in Vista is enhanced Task Manager – apart from very good Resource Monitor tool, there are a lot of new attributes which you can select for running processes (View / Select Columns); especially interesting are:

  • Image Path Name
  • Command Line:

Vista - Task Manager - ‘Image Path Name’ and ‘Command Line’ attributes of an process

However, Microsoft can make some tasks much complicated that they should be; reasonable expectation is that each standard application (and Task Manager is one – it is part of Windows operating system) supports at least basics of Copy / Paste – getting data displayed in a grid in some text format.

For Task Manager that is not case 🙁 – there is no way (to my knowledge) to get displayed data from grid in some text form which you can use later.

Solution for this particular problem (and many other related) is in excellent SysInternals package: ProcessExplorer will display full information about selected process and allow you to copy that info on Clipboard:

SysInternals - Process Explorer - Details about process

Best of all, this nice tool is not tied for any particular Windows version – it will work in Windows 2000, XP or Vista.

IPhone close encounter – don’t like it

IPhone - Good, Bad and UglyI do not like Apple – consider them elitist company, with way too much hype about design and superiority of their products over any other similar products (implied: Microsoft ones) on the market.

However, geek in me have respect for any well crafted gadget / electronic device / software product, no matter who is manufacturer.

In the series of events (primarily caused by my friend Aleck 😉 ) I promised to my wife Maja nice present for her birthday: IPhone.

IPhone arrived couple hours ago; I tried to approach it completely open-minded.

Good – Look and Feel

This symbiotic phone / PDA is beautifully designed – simplicity and combination of materials has stunning effect on anyone who sees it / holds it. Screen is bright and clear; famous multi-touch navigation is intuitive and fast.

Default applications are good, and pleasant to use.

However, IPhone has a long, long way to go in order to be considered (in my opinion) as good business phone for daily usage:

Bad (ITunes)

Primary interface between IPhone and rest of your (mine) Windows based computer is ITunes: multi-mega (57 Mb) bloatware (with nice look of course):

  • It tries to hijack anything remotely close to multimedia on your computer
  • Synchronisation with Outlook (done with bloatware above) is seriously crippled: no Notes synchronisation and no To-Do list synchronisation
  • There is no way to directly access various elements in IPhone (Notes) if needed

Of course, you can find ways around Net to “overcome” obstacles: sending notes as mail to yourself, and reading/copy/paste on IPhone Notes, creating dummy contacts and passing notes in Note field in contacts etc. Would you do that with 50+ notes?

Data entry over screen can be a pain, especially if you have thick fingers; I believe that practice will do, but got annoyed in half hour of trying to enter some Notes.

Ugly – Missing Features

IPhone has NO To-Do lists; To-Do lists are crucial part of my daily GTD process; so, this alone would disqualify IPhone in my eyes; phone is item which is with you most of the time; being unable to enter tasks is big minus.

International support is lousy:

I was unable to enter some Serbian characters (less important) and IPhone itself is unable to recognize phone numbers in international format with country prefix; if you have number in contacts like:

+381 11 1111 1111 ( local format would be 011 1111 1111)

and if that number calls you, you will get just 011 1111 1111 on screen and no name recognised. Suggestions on Net (enter double record for each mobile: one with and one without prefix) are just suggestions 🙂 if you have 500+ contacts; my Nokia E61 does both things perfectly.

I understand that Apple just entered phone business and it is primarily oriented toward biggest, western speaking markets (USA) first; that time passed from launch is short; I also understand that if you want genuine well crafted and designed item and do not care too much for problems mentioned (which most of users don’t), IPhone is your best choice.

I am pretty sure that IPhone on phone market will surpass success of IPod at mp3 player market and that will be (pretty justified) most selling phone in history.

However, if you are like me, and you care about functionality as much (or even more) as for design, just wait; I believe that in year time, IPhone will be unbeatable tool for communication and business, and I am ready to wait that; for now, simply skip it – no good.

Dilbert – please come home, all is forgiven!

Dilbert - Geek next to youOne of the my icons of Programming, Internet and in general of my digital life is of course, Dilbert – brilliant creation of Scott Adams.

That is daily dose of geeky humor, sometimes strange, and sometimes it feels like Scott was peeking over your shoulder when he was drawing latest episode of Dilbert.

Unfortunately, this time, Dilbert is a bad example – or to be more precise – current implementation of Dilbert’s site is bad example of technology usage all along.

I like simple, working web solutions (pure Html + Css if possible) – so, “previous” Dilbert as a simple image and archive coming along was fulfilling all my needs; add to it reading via blog and I was more than happy.

That changed with introduction of all-shiny-flashy-flash new version of the site – that changed to a bad 🙁

Those pages are now heavy, very heavy, with complex flash objects and what is worse – not working flash objects 🙁 You can’t easily search, you can’t easily get your daily dose of geek humor:

Problems with Dilbert Search

This was simple search, and no, parameters are not a problem – if you keep pressing Search button, you will eventually get the list of missing strips; however, getting “big” versions by clicking on found elements is another problem – does not work in most of the cases.

All in all, very bad example of heavy multimedia site – I do not mind for change, but please do basic testing of:

  • Is it working?
  • Is it working as it is supposed to (search)?
  • Can it handle load?

(I won’t get here in a rant why they changed site on this way in a first place; Dilbert’s audience is “special”, so different from average surfer or MySpace visitor; they probably know their market and someone did thorough analysis what new is needed – at least, I hope so).

Spam Free WordPress Installation

Spam Free WordPress InstallationBeing a blogger it is fun, most of the time – creating a posts, interacting with visitors via comments, making new friends and getting new skills.

However, there is a big problem: spam, especially track-back spam.

My site is basically 4 installations of brilliant blogging platform – WordPress – so, finding combinations of settings and plugins which would make maintenance of spam as easy as possible was a must. After a lot of trial/error attempts, here is combination which works perfectly:

Aksimet

Aksimet (included in WordPress installation, no need for separate download / install) for regular comment spam. You have to register once at WordPress.Com in order to get Aksimet API key; once done that, you are all set.

Challenge

Challenge – instead of various CAPTCHA mechanism, this proved to be very efficient and less annoying for visitors.

Plugin simply asks basic mathematical questions, in order to check if is on other side of page human or robot (process).

However, warning: it is not compatible with WP-Cache – if you are using this highly effective caching system, you have to choose other options for comment approval.

Simple Trackback Validation Plugin

Finally, for TrackBack validation there is Simple Trackback Validation Plugin – simple and efficient system for fighting trackback spam, which is even worse than usual comment spam.

Time needed for installing and setting up those plugins is well spent time – instead of having 300+ daily spams, now I have 3 – 4 weekly and can dedicate to writing instead of spam fighting 🙂

Vista 64 – First Experience

I am (happily) using Vista 32 bit for a year, both on my home (desktop) computer and on laptop. Both machines are mostly used for development (Visual Studio 2005 & 2008 and Visual Studio 2003 via Microsoft Virtual PC 2007) and usual Office tasks.

One of my tasks on work is to test new technologies – so, I decided that it is time to try new Vista: Vista 64 bit.

Hardware configuration used is pretty much standard one:

Dell Dimension E520 with Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 @ 1.8 Ghz and 2 GB RAM. Graphic card was NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE.

Installation

Despite all my worries, installation went smoothly (apart for having 150Mb of fixes to download 😉 ) – all drivers were found and installed ok:

Vista 64 - all drivers found and installed ok

Basics

Once when all drivers are in place, you need software which will use your new operating system to the max. Most of 32bit software will work w/o any problems, via WOW64 technology, and it will benefit from better memory organization (you can utilize full 4Gb under Vista 64, which is not possible under XP) and more registers availabile.

You do need some native 64bit applications, for example, when mounting ISO image under Vista 64:

Mounting ISO image under Vista 64

While there is plethora of ISO software in 32 bit world (highly recommending Virtual Clone Drive, freeware), things are gloomy in 64 bit world.

Update Aug 2008: Virtual Clone Drive now does support Vista 64! so please use it instead of Daemon Tools.

There are some programs that state 64bit compatibility (MagicISO for example) but only one which proved as working under Vista 64 is Daemon Tools.

However, BIG WARNING – Daemon Tools comes with spyware / searchware! Good part is that you can select NOT TO INSTALL IT – so please do not follow click-click-click install logic but make sure to DESELECT following two options on this screen:

Daemon Tools on Vista 64 - install w/o sponsor

as well as SELECT DECLINE on next screen:

Daemon Tools on Vista 64 - decline change of home page

After that, you are fine.

Adding Vista 64 to network domain

There is no magic around this step; I just had little trouble to find right screen for adding computer to domain:

Control Panel -> System or even easier using keyboard shortcut: Win + Break (Pause):

Adding Vista 64 to Network Domain
(click for larger image)

Network printing (over HP LaserJet 4100)

There was a bit of a problem setting up network printer (ours is HP LaserJet 4100). There are 64 bit drivers on HP site, but Vista refused to get those installed from network location.

I even tried to fool it by installing ghost LPT1: printer and than to add network one – failed.

Finally, I installed network printer as “local” one, using TCP/IP connection and install program from HP. After that, printing is fine.

Applications

Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Installation

This was, by far, most frustrating experience 😯 – with number of errors, stating that it can’t install .Net Framework 3.0, than it can’t install Web Authoring Component … all red, and apparently no solution 😕

Problems installing Visual Studio 2008 on Vista 64

In despair, I switched to local administrator account and all went fine! So, use your local administrator account when installing Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 on Vista 64 – it is not enough to be member of Administrators group (my initial attempts were with domain user which is member of Administrators group)

Paint.Net Installation

Paint.Net is brilliant example of quality program (and it is free) – elegant, efficient and does exactly what is intended for: various tasks around image editing; it is not Photoshop, but I found that I do not need anything “stronger” than Paint.Net – I highly recommend it.

I did not expected any problems with installation; however, I was getting error:

“Another installation is already in progress (Error 1618)” and failed installation; of course I used “Run as Administrator” option over Paint.NET.3.22.exe – that did not help.

Solution: start CMD prompt as Administrator, and run EXE file from there – installation will go smoothly.

Paint.Net - Brilliant Image Editor

QUEST Toad and Oracle

If your target database for applications is Oracle and main development tool Quest’s TOAD make sure to install 32bit Oracle client prior TOAD installation – TOAD does not support connection over native 64bit Oracle client.

Moreover, if you get cryptic error on a first connect:

Can’t initialize OCI. Error -1

make sure that you have correct version of Oracle Client; current good one is 10.2.0.3 Patch2 for Vista

Conclusion

Vista 64 is stable operating system, although it demands bit more of CPU and RAM than Windows XP/Vista 32. It has decent driver base, and if you have more than 2Gb RAM, or your primary application has native 64bit version and/or you are engaged in processing objects which require a lot of memory, it is good OS for you.

For more standard usage, I still recommend staying on Vista 32 or Windows XP – there is a wast support for drivers, software and games all around.

Transliteration easy way – Microsoft Transliteration Utility

If you are lucky enough 🙂 to have not one, but two alphabets in daily use, your regular task in programming will be transliteration – transformation of text from one script (alphabet) to another.

In Serbia, we are using Latin as well as Cyrillic alphabet (and that is not same Cyrillic as Russian one) and common task is conversion from one to another and vice-versa.

This is not too complicated request; you can easily create necessary procedures; however, there is a better way:

Microsoft Transliteration Utility (MTU) is not widely known, but very useful tool for just that purpose: transliteration. It can easily transliterate text either typed in a text box or from one file to another.

There is set of predefined translations:

  • Serbian Cyrillic to Latin / Serbian Latin to Cyrillic
  • Bosnian Cyrillic to Latin / Bosnian Latin to Cyrillic
  • Hangul to Romanization
  • Inuktitut to Romanization / Romanization to Inuktitut
  • Malayalam to Romanization / Romanization to Malayalam

You are not limited to above set; you can easily create your own translations, using Module Development Console:

Microsoft Transliteration Utility - Module Development Console
(click on image for larger version)

Creating simple textual file, you can use full power of MTU’s parsing engine: definitions of input and output characters, rules for transliteration including definitions of new states for translation state machine.

This is not the end – you can even use MTU programmatically (although please check EULA for commercial usage):

  • Add reference to MSTranslitTools.DLL (it can be found in %programfiles%Microsoft Transliteration Utility)
  • Add using System.NaturalLanguage.Tools;
  • Current translation files (.tms) can be found in %CommonProgramFiles%TransliterationModulesMicrosoft
  • Here is simple code fragment to demonstrate:
TransliteratorSpecification specification =
   TransliteratorSpecification.FromSpecificationFile("Serbian Latin to Cyrillic.tms");

Transliterator transliterator = Transliterator.FromSpecification(specification);
string rezultat = transliterator.Transliterate("Vesic.Org");

Console.WriteLine(rezultat);

Freecom Network Drive Pro 500 Gb – a sad story

Freecom Network Drive Pro 500 Gb - good idea, terrible software and supportFor purposes of my home network, I needed small, decent file server which would be on all the time and serve as a central point for rest of the machines.

After researching (and checking availability here in Serbia), Freecom Network Drive Pro 500 Gb looked as a more than correct solution: it is not just a file server, it is also web server, ftp server, and basically mini Linux machine – it has even torrent client.

I could not wait to get unit – as all geeks, I adore good piece of hardware 🙂

It looked as promised – nice, compact aluminum unit, with web administration interface; it stated that current firmware is 4.2.7

Unit was connected to network via LinkSys WAG325N and I start experimenting. At first, all seemed ok (apart from unit freezing once). Than I started with more serious tasks – created couple of network shares and started copying files from/to ND Pro 500 from Windows based (XP, Vista) stations, via Explorer, Total Commander and couple of file/backup oriented applications.

Than it happened: file on ND Pro 500 was different (!!!) than source file on local PC in a “special” case:

  • Copy file from PC to ND Pro 500; note size
  • Make file on PC shorter (for example, if text is in question, remove couple of characters or lines)
  • Copy new version of file from PC to ND Pro 500

File on ND Pro 500 will retain old size and content of file will be: new version content + rest of the bytes from old file version; or, in other words, unusable, which you usualy do not expect from (not-so-cheap) consumer unit to do; at least, file server should protect my data instead of corrupting them.

I started usual route; wrote to Freecom support (30th November) as well as posted message in OpenFSG forum – forum which appears on administrative pages of Network Drive Pro 500. I was not happy seeing that load of users have similar problems.

What is often case these days, it seems that need for quality drivers/firmwares in neglected in favor of “sell, sell, sell and majority of byers won’t even notice that this does not do what is promised”.

I got no response from support. Call them on phone; they stated that they never heard for this (well, for what is OpenFGS forum than?) and that I should write them again. Did that. Forwarded mail and just get “forwarded to R&D, awaiting their response”.

Nothing.

Then they asked for my phone (06th December), I gave my mobile.

Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

After a couple of days (10th December) I decided that this is enough – just returned whole unit and took full refund back. To be honest: I do not expect that someone make firmware correction in two days; I know software production very well – make change, build, test, correct problems, build, test … But I did expect that someone:

  • Contact me
  • Confirm findings
  • Give decent estimate when new firmware will be out

My advice: do not buy units from Freecom; maybe their idea is great, but realization is not and support is close to none; and those products should take care of most important stuff in electronic world – your data.

Or, if you are brave enough 🙂 check forums first and firmware version second – you can save a lot of frustrations.

(Note: all above goes for Windows clients; apparently, there are no such problems if your client is Mac or Linux)

How to read .ai (Adobe Illustrator) file w/o Illustrator

Read .ai files with Ghostscript and XnViewIf you ran to .ai file which is Adobe Illustrator file, and you do not have Illustrator installed anywhere near, try this:

  1. Download and install latest Ghostscript package
  2. Download and install latest XnView
  3. Use XnView to open .ai file and to save it as other (more common) image format

That should do the trick (it did for me).