29 March 2010

Utility – Battery Low

*UPDATE* I had the opportunity to test this utility with Remote Desktop in full screen mode recently and it worked like a dream!  
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”.
  • On the Display Properties screen, click the “Screen Saver” tab.
  • One the Screen Saver tab, click the “Power” button.
  • On the Power Options Properties window, click the “Alarms” tab.
  • On the Alarms Tab, click the “Alarm Action” button.
  • On the Low Battery Alarm Actions window, click the “Configure Program” button.
  • On the Low Battery Alarm Program window, click the “Browse” button.
  • Browse to the BatteryLow utility location and double click the file.
  • 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:
The popup message will actually occur even before the Windows system message as seen below.

Hope you enjoy the utility.


19 March 2010

Latest noteworthy SharePoint downloads

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:


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

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.
  • 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 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?
  • 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…


18 March 2010

Finally a NAS for the masses

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.
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” HDDs3.5” HDDs
RAID 5YesYes
Hot SwapYesYes
Auto RebuildYesYes
Hot SpareYesNo
Space1 TB/drive2 TB/drive
Total Space5 TB6 TB
Total RAID 5 Space4 TB4 TB
Total RAID 5 Hot Spare Space3 TBNA


17 March 2010

Making the move to SSD

So I mentioned that I’ve taken the plunge into the world of netbooks.  I have to say, I really and truly love my Asus Eee PC, if for nothing else, the pure raw battery life it gives me (8 hrs+) is amazing!  Of course being an ubergeek when it comes to hardware, I’ve always been quick to jump in and tinker with my iron.  I’ve build my own PCs and servers for decades, so it would come as no surprise to anyone when I say I’ve already been looking at how I can soup up my netbook.
Of course the first way you soup up hardware is to upgrade the CPU.  Since my netbook runs on the Intel Atom 1.6 GHz processor, there probably isn’t much room for improvement there.  The next place we look is at memory.  My netbook runs Windows XP Home SP3.  I thought about dropping Win7 on there, but I had to weigh the advantages against my time for doing that and since I was still on a “trial run” with netbooks, I opted not to spend the time.  Maybe in the future some time, but for now, it does what I need it to do, on the go!  Anyway, having a 32 bit CPU means memory addressing is limited to just over 3 GB.  My netbook came with 1 GB so upping that would certainly help soup it up.  I checked and Crucial has a 2 GB module I can upgrade to for $50.  Sweet!
The next in line for upgrade is of course the hard drive.  Now, I’m not dissatisfied with the 160 GB HDD in my netbook at all.  Truth is that I wanted to get it with SSD, but the only models available has a mere 16 GB of space and that won’t cut it.  I use the netbook for a small amount of very specific, non space intensive tasks and don’t need much storage, but 16 GB just won’t cut it.  Enter Kingston with their SSDNow V-Series 40 GB Drive.  At $85 and with speeds (170 MB/s read, 40 MB/s write) that improve on the platter HDD, it’s an upgrade I’m ready to make.  I’d really want better write performance, but it’ll do since SSD provides awesome stability for on the go usage.  Who knows, if it performs well, I might even consider moving to SSD on some of my other computers.
Stay tuned… I’ll keep you posted as to how my souped up netbook is performing.


06 March 2010

I have taken the plunge to Netbook

I have to admit when I first saw the concept of netbooks, I just couldn’t figure why anyone would want one.  Of course, at the time, SSD wasn’t really around yet and most importantly, I wasn’t traveling as frequently as I do now.  With the coming of SharePoint 2010, I’ve had to consider my options on my old laptop.  I had an IBM Thinkpad T-60 which had served me very well.  The only problem is that it’s 32 bit CPU won’t run SharePoint 2010 which is coming in all 64 bit format next year.  (Yes, yes, I know VMWare can fake it…) So in order to be able to deal with my VMs, I decided to upgrade.
I looked at all my options and wanted to get a new laptop that had enough iron to run all my VMs and more.  Since the latest Paradox Interactive release, Hearts of Iron III, was coming (I love that game!) and it had a hefty hardware, especially graphics, requirement, I decided to get a total monster laptop that would could handle everything I threw at it.  A desktop replacement or luggable to be sure.  I didn’t care.  I wanted the power.
I investigated all the options and even considered buying an Apple Macbook Pro for the job.  In the end there were three options I had to decide between.  A Dell XPS, an Apple Macbook Pro and an Alienware machine.  OK, I admit, the Alienware laptop wasn’t really realistic, but while you’re looking, you may as well dream, right?
Of course price always plays into the equation so the Alienware laptop was eliminated right off the bat.  I wasn’t really ready to make a switch to Apple hardware because of the premium they put on their name.  The same hardware as the Dell, would end up being almost $1,000.00 more expensive!    I never quite understood that.  Still don’t.  Nevertheless, as I was getting ready to order the Dell, it occurred to me to check one more thing.  Back in 2002, I ordered a powerful off brand laptop (Sager) from a little company called Powernotebooks.com.  Even today it was a decent machine and back then it was top of the line.  It had a 2.4 GHz CPU with 1 GB of RAM and 128 MB of dedicated video.  It served me very well, only recently dying on me in the form of the power supply finally giving out.  I wasn’t sure if Donald Stratton (CEO) and his crew was still in business, but I decided to give it a try.  Imagine my delight when I found they were still booming along.  I customized a Sager with Intel i7 quad core processor and 6 GB of RAM (capable of holding 12, but again, cost of the top memory was just not justifiable) as well as 1 GB of dedicated video.  This monster would do it all!  The cost came in almost $1,000.00 cheaper than the XPS from Dell so I took the plunge and bought the monster Sager laptop.
Alas, on my travels where I was flying American Airlines (with who I have Platinum status) and was able to get the First Class upgrade, there was plenty of space for my new laptop.  Any other time though, the thing was almost bigger than my seat!    Of course, if you’ve had the “pleasure” of being seated in any of today’s airline economy seats, then you’d know that really doesn’t take much, but my laptop truly is huge and I’m not able to work on it comfortably in flight.  In addition, the monster power comes at a price and that price is battery life.  Total battery life is usually around 1.5 hours or so if I’m lucky which makes it even less useful in flight.
Right around then was when I decided to look at netbooks.  I started at Best Buy and wanted a model with SSD, but the 3 cell battery only offered 3 hours of life which really didn’t seem too good to me either.  I wanted a 6 cell battery and eventually ended up ordering a Dell.  What a catastrophe that was!
After four weeks of delayed shipping notices, I finally gave up waiting on Dell.  I checked back with Best Buy who was running a special on the Asus Eee 1005HAB netbook PC.  The wine red one was going for $299 right BEFORE Black Friday. (You won’t ever catch me dead at Black Friday ever again!)  Of course it came in other colors too, but they were $330.  So for the $30 difference, I didn’t care about color and I scooped one up.
Right from the get go I was super impressed with the thing.  I’ve installed Office 2007 Professional as well as even Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 and now RC on it and it runs just fine.  The only place where it slows down a little bit is if you have multiple browser tabs open and you’re trying to scroll a browser window with lots of rich content on it.  Other than that though, I’ve had absolutely no complaints and am ever so happy with it!  Of course the battery life is simply awesome!  As I’m typing this, we’re headed into Boston after a 1.5 hour flight and my battery is only at 83%!
Of course it doesn’t run my Hearts of Iron III game, but it does in fact run my Hearts of Iron II Doomsday – Armageddon expansion game just fine!  So needless to say, I’ve taken the plunge and have not been sorry… except maybe that I didn’t take the plunge earlier!


04 March 2010

Apricorn DriveWire – The little life saver

If you’re like me, you have some old computer(s) laying around gathering dust in your basement somewhere.  With my move to move mobile platforms, only my servers really remain non-portable.  Of course, I often find myself needing to pull some information from a server drive or even the other day, from an old desktop drive.  About a year ago, I was moving a desktop to a laptop with Acronis True Image.  Of course, the desktop 3.5” drive doesn’t fit in a laptop and I could have gone the traditional way of connecting the laptop 2.5” drive to the desktop and cloning the drive that way, but that means the cloning process would use the old hardware and take longer.  Time is precious, so I found another solution.
My Apricorn DriveWire has saved the day more than just a few times!  It allows me the ability to connect just about any type of drive to my USB 2.0 port on just about any computer.  Anything from a 40-pin PATA to a 44-pin PATA toSATA.  They’re all supported and at under $40, this one makes a great stocking stuffer for the geek in your life! LOL  😀


03 March 2010

How do I – Filter SharePoint STSADM commands with Powershell?

One of the first things I do on any new SharePoint server is update the Powershell profile so that I can easily filterSTSADM commands.  As we all know, there are tons of commands in STSADM and the built in filtering to search for any given command is… well, wanting.
Powershell to the rescue.  Using Powershell, we can filter the -help output from STSADM to make things more searchable.  This is done as follows:
  1. Open Windows Explorer.
  2. Navigate to C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowershell\v1.0\
  3. Open for edit (preferably in a plain text editor like Notepad, NOT Wordpad or Word),  the file named “Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1”.
  4. Add the code block below.
  5. Save and exit.
  6. Open Powershell.
  7. Start using STSADMQ.
function global:stsadmq($filter)
  write-host -foreground "Green" "STSADM Commands matching $filter"
  stsadm -help where {$_ -like $filter}
You can now use the wild card filter to find the needed STSADM command that you’re searching for like this:

I hope STSADMQ saves you as much time as it has for me.


SharePoint Remote Event Receivers are DEAD!!!

 Well, the time has finally come.  It was evident when Microsoft started pushing everyone to WebHooks, but this FAQ and related announcement...