Saturday, July 28, 2007

Betas, Betas everywhere

Loads of Stuff seams to be in the pre-realise (beta) testing phase at the minute. I have just downloaded the beta of the bbc's tv-on-demand service, iPlayer.

Using this you can download programs broadcast over the last 7 days, and then have a limited time to watch them on your pc. I think the technology is peer to peer based, so presumably downloads of more popular programs will happen quicker.
The only thing that it seams to have against it at the minute is it will only work on Windows XP machines, running Internet explorer. It even moaned at me when I accessed the site using Firefox. Reading stuff online it does seem they will be releasing a version in the future that will work on Linux/OSX and with other browsers, so most people wont have to wait to long. You can sign up to the beta (if you live in the UK) at

Also in early testing at the mo is Firefox3. You can download the current Alpha version and find out about all the new features at
There's quite a few cool new things planned, there are updating the rendering engine to improve speed and support for new standards, improving the way updates work, developing a new way of storing bookmarks (now called 'places') and various other things. I think ill wait until a Beta version comes out before downloading it though, I've not really got a machine I can easily blow away if it stuffs it up!

Its not just software that's in the testing phase, we are getting a prototype laptop at work that has a solid state hard drive in it instead of a traditional spindle based one. This seams where the future of disks seams to be going, its understandable really especially as the amount of data you can get on them is ever increasing. They will be especially suited to laptops as well as they will draw much less power than existing disks due to there being no moving parts. Pity its not coming into my office so I wont be getting my hands on it!

I've also has another article published on, its the second part of the one I did about controlling Windows fax services, you can read it here

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Windows 2008 Beta 3

We have installed a copy of Windows 2003 beta 3 to do some testing with, mainly to see if the terminal server side of thing has improved any.

We have a problem using DTP packages over a terminal server connection, when moving pictures around pages it takes about half a second or so to respond, some of the documentation from Microsoft says there have been quite a few improvements, so we decided to check them out.

The first hurdle was installing it! The installer is for DVD, and most of the boxes we could install it on to test didn't have a DVD drive. We tried installing it as a virtual machine on a VMWare server, but it would not go onto here at all.

In the end we had to pull a DVD reader out of another machine, and load it using this. Does this mean in future servers are going to have to ship with DVD readers as standard if Microsoft is going to be shipping its server OS's on DVD?

Anyway, we finally managed to load up the server, and after a bit of head scratching managed to join it to our domain. Hunting round the config screens we managed to find how to install it as a terminal server, so we could start doing our testing.

The documentation Mr Gates and Co. said that there was now a feature where a user could run an application on the terminal sever as if it was on there desktop. We weren't sure how this was going to work, but it sounded like a good idea, we found where it was configured and added wordpad as an application to run in this way. There was a wizard to run that created the connection to the application so I ran that, and it generated me a .rdp file, witch i wasn't really expecting it to do.

Still full of hope and optimism, I copied the .rdp file to my desktop and ran it, expecting something cool to happen. I logged into the terminal server, and all that happened was wordpad ran up as soon as I logged in. That was it. When I closed wordpad the terminal server connection closed its' self. Now, maybe I was expecting something a bit special, but I cant see that solving anyone's problems!

I had a look at how this amazing leap forward in thin client architecture was accomplished, and found in the .rdp file the wizard had created, all it was doing was launching the app on start up, as illustrated here

Windows Server 2008 introduces new functionality in Terminal Services to connect to remote computers and applications. Terminal Services RemoteApp completely integrates applications running on a terminal server with users' desktops such that they behave as if they were running on an individual user's local computer; users can run programs from a remote location side-by-side with their local programs

We continued doing some more testing by installing QuarkXpress on the server, and seeing if there were any noticeable improvements to the picture handling, but there appeared to be very little difference between this version and what 2003 does. Maybe its time to start looking at Citrix.

Anything else interesting I find on 2008 server ill blog about here

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Open to everyone

If you look at the right hand side off my blog now, you'll will see that you can now translate my blog into different languages. The idea came about when I was looking on FeedBurner at the different places visitors were coming from, and all the different languages they were using.

I had a quick look around the web to see if there were any 'widgets' I could steel to accomplish this. The only one I could find was using Babel fish by Alta Vista, you can get it at the only thing that put me of using this was the Google translate tool supported more languages.

So I headed over to, and basicly looked at the source code of that page and created a form of my own. Now if you click on one of the flags it will translate the blog page your are looking at to your language. Simple but effective!

If you are in the UK try and get hold of a copy of this weeks IT Week, on page 27 there's a really interesting article about a company doing some interesting research into the future of power consumption. Unfortunately I can find it on there website so you'll have to get hold of the magazine.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Navigating XML and Unknown Injurys

I learnt something about readingXML file's today, using and XPath.
I had an xml file, and some of the data in it were tags similar to this:

<CustomField name ="title" type="str">This is a Title</CustomField>
<CustomField name ="titleDate" type="dte">01/01/2007</CustomField>

So, couldn't just navigate to the CustomField tag, as there was more than one of them. I've never really gone to much into how to navigate round an XML file, i've always just gone straight to the node I was interested in and pulled out the data.

This time, I had to delve more into the XPath navigator. I found out I could use the following in my XPathNodeIterator, to return me only nodes that contained the attribute title:


I could then iterate round all the retuned nodes and process the data. Some of the XML processing tools and classes in .Net do take a bit of time to get your head round, but they do seam to work well and are very fast.

On another note, I went over on my ankle playing football (soccer if your in the US) on Sunday, it swelled up pretty bad so I went to the hospital.
They sent me for an x-ray, and it turned out it was just badly sprained this time, but i've broken or chipped it before and didn't notice. How the hell did that happen!
I'm now stuck at home for a couple of boring days to let it heel a bit, they said i shouldn't even drive for a week. Not bloody likely!

Got another article on its about controlling Windows 2003 fax services through an application, you can read it here

Monday, July 09, 2007

Simpsons Movie Site

You have to go and check out the Simpsons movie site ( when you get a spare 5 mins, its brilliant!
Quite a lot of the sections of Springfield aren't up and running yet, but there's some really cool stuff on there, like the ability to create you own character, this ones me!

All the trailers are on there, loads of desktop wallpaper and screen grabs from the movie.
There's also some games to play, like a wrecking ball one (like in the first trailer) and a card where you have to follow the Joker.
A good site to play with at work when you feel like having a bit of a skive.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Smoothwall 3 Beta

I mentioned a while ago about there being a new version of the Linux firewall OS, Smoothwall. It is currently in beta, but I downloaded it this morning as I needed to put a quick none production use firewall in place.

The current stable release of version 2 wouldn't install on my test machine (a dell optiplex GX270), but the Beta of version 3 went on no problems. After swapping a network card in the pc that was faulty I could connect to the box.

The new interface is very slick, I like the new navigation system, very easy to find your way round and gives lots of information. All the network usage stats were very cool. You can now also update the snort rules from the browser without an add on. I pointed my browser at its proxy (i've never used it as a proxy server before, it runs on port 800) and I could surf no problem.
I couldn't find out if I could authenticate users on the proxy or not (we have been told we now have to log all internet traffic with a user name against it), but ill pose that question in the forums.

All in all I think the full release should be well worth the wait

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Passing Optional Parameters To Stored Procedure

Found quite a cool thing recently, that means you can have optional parameters in a SQL stored procedure.
This means you can pass the options into the procedure if you have some, or if none are passed get the SP to use some defaults instead. It took a while to get the syntax correct, but its fairly straight forward, in this example we will use the year and month as optional parameters:

@year int = NULL, @month char(20) = NULL

if ISNULL (@year, 0) = 0
SELECT @month = DATENAME(month, GETDATE())

First of all we declare the 2 variables, then we check if the first one is NULL (nothing passed). If it is then we set both the month and year to be the current month and year. Simple but effective!

I have another article published at, this one is about creating a simple RSS feed using, written in c#. Read it HERE