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  • Getting my computer back

    After a long time I managed to get my computer working again.Two months ago my mainboard decided to no longer boot Windows, mainly due to expanding capacitors. Originally I didn't know that and I assumed that the hard disk is malfunctioning (being the previous owner of two IBM harddisks have taught me that better safe than sorry, although I didn't lost my data), so I bought a new Western Digital 250GB hard-disk. After waiting almost a week, I found that even if I changed the harddisk, the symptoms are the same, so the this wasn't the cause. I knew that my mainboard capacitors started to expand, but I never thought that the computer will hang and after reboot it will stop working, I assumed that firstly it will start randomly crash and eventually will die, but it turned out that this is not the case.

    So I started to look after new mainboard. I had/have a Socket A Epox board (8KRA2+ if it matters), and I had two options: either find another similar board, or renew my computer to a more recent CPU. After browsing the sites, I could not find a interesting Socket AM2 board (particularly I was looking for a few things: VIA chipset and Firewire on board and no onboard graphics, and don't ask why I want VIA chipset, simply I do not like NVidia on the chipset side, a matter of personal taste), and I searched the Epox Store for another 8KRA2+. Well I found a refurbished 8KRA2+ for a lovely almost 38 bucks. But boy, their S&H is almost 10 dollars. Updating to a AM2 socket would mean a new CPU - ~160$ at that time the cheapest, a new board (not to expensive), a new 1 GB of DDR2 memory, a new graphics board as AGP isn't in style these days and so on. Way out of my budget. So I bought the refurb board and waited to receive it, another few days.

    If you think that this is the happy end you are plain wrong. After receiving the refurb board the nightmare begun. Board started to hang randomly, after a few minutes to few hours. Who knows me might call very well "do not reboot guy", so for me it was pretty annoying to see that the medium time between reboots went down from 12 days to below 7 days in just a week. The hang was so deep, that I had keep the power button pressed for 4 seconds to be able to reset it, as the reset button didn't do it's job while the board locked up. So after another 1 week of diagnosting with Epox support, trying to rule out the possible incompatibility between WD HDD SATA II with the VIA KT600 chipset,  I decided to RMA the board. Few days ago I received a new board that works and I'm pretty happy with it. So for almost 55 dollars (including a Fedex ship for RMA) I have my computer working again. I'm not including in this the new HDD, I wanted to upgrade it anyway.

    So right now I should be back in business and blog more frequent.

  • Linksys WRT54GL

    In case you don't know Linksys WRT54GL is the actual version of one of the most routers that kept the headlines a couple of years ago, since Linksys used some GPL code in their firmware and eventually they were forced to release firmware sources and as a consequence a myriad of open source projects started based on the bits published the firmware. This means that you are no longer forced to use whatever a manufacturer decide to release to public, and if you do not like some part you can customize it. Basically WRT54GL can run a linux distribution of course trimmed down to fit the small amount of memory available.

    When I builded my wireless network I decided that this router is the best option, so I bought it. I paired it with another Linksys product a BECMU10 cable modem, a very nice thing of this setup is that the cases are builded to be stacked and they use very little space. Anyway, for 49,99 $ after mail-in rebate I do not think I can find a better wireless router at least now. The stock firmware is good but not the best so I started looking for alternate open-source projects. Well, as much as open-source fan I would I think that due the nature of the things (they are not making any money) the marketing is quite short, if at all. So, right now I could not find a comparative analysis between all major open-source firmware for WRT54 in order to decide which is best for me.

    At this stage I oscilate between two different projects: DD-WRT and OpenWRT, and I will try to compare them. As far as I've seen in OpenWRT the WPA(2) support is not free so most likely I will go with DD-WRT, apparently this project has a lot of fans, and I should join it. Do you have other opinions?

  • Drinking from the firehose - or the latest update on my status

    If you ever wondered why there isn't a lot of activity on this blog lately, even if I said that I will try to be more active, now I'm ready to share the news. Well, the unexpected hapenned and in the past 4 months I've gone through a relocation process to Redmond, WA, United States, and more specifically to Microsoft. If you ever relocated, even for a few miles, you know that there a lot of things to do, starting from giving notices to landlord and utilities, to packing and shipping things, and most important the order of packing things. Personally I learned the hard-way that if you have two types of freight, one that is faster one that is slower, think not twice, but ten times what you put in the faster freight. Now I'm renting houseware until my slower shippment arrives... A relocation that has left me without a computer and any other stuff for a few months, but otherwise a quite successful relocation.
    Until I got here, and I was reading other bloggers posts that said about "drinking from the firehose" I thought: "Yeah, that can'be so bad, I mean they are humans too!". After my first days I realized that this is true, the quantity of information is huge and there is a lot to learn and to find. So, I am a Microsoft employee right now.

    And as of today, a lot of things shipped as Beta2 (released at WINHEC2006):

    WinFX Runtime Components
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=4A96661C-05FD-430C-BB52-2BA86F02F595&displaylang=en

    Visual Studio Extensions
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=5C080096-F3A0-4CE4-8830-1489D0215877&displaylang=en

    Vista:
    http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsvista/downloads/products/getthebeta/default.aspx#downloadWindowsVista
    You must have MSDN subscription or be part of the Beta program

    Office 2007:
    http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/beta/getthebeta.mspx

    Apparently there are other bits that were shipped today and I didn't know (http://blogs.msdn.com/mswanson/archive/2006/05/23/605150.aspx).

    And if you will be relocating, and need some advice about what to ship first use the feedback form.
    Right now I'm back on track so expect more frequent posting here. Keep tuned!

     

  • Upgrading to CS 2.0

    I've just finished upgrading my site to Community Server 2.0. Well, my opinions are mixed at this point at least from an "administrator" point of view. Although the interface is more complex and with a lot of new features I was kind of puzzled that out of the box the configuration file is kind of damaged. The fix is straightforward, but still... for a piece of software that wants to be RTM is quite annoying. (For more details you can drilldown on Community Server forum: ). And, yes, others were puzzled by this quality of this release, too.
    Anyway, I overcomed all the issues and the upgrade was very smooth. Basically, the longest operation was uploading of the new files, and they are quite a lot. Applying the upgrade script worked flawless. In the same step I've switched to ASP.NET 2.0 so I'm pretty much up to date right now.
    As a side note, just after updating the installations I've seen on the Community Server site that they are planning for 2.1 release to be available in July 2006. So I should start planning for the new update.
    One of the reason of upgrading to 2.0 version is that I found a very nice tool named CS Gallery Manager that can be used to upload multiple pictures in one step. Although it supports CS 1.1 with a small hack, I thought it's better to upgrade. The great thing of CS Gallery Manager is that it supports both rotate and resize on the fly, so you can keep it on the desktop or laptop machine, plug in the SD card of your camera and you are good to go (actually your pictures :) ).

  • GPS & Bluetooth

    Being the proud owner of an Orange SPV C500 phone, I decided that it is the time to buy a GPS. After a little bit of digging the Internet, and by the way I haven't seen so far a lot of comparative testing on GPS chipsets, or even implementations, I found an i.Trek M1 GPS receiver, based on Nemerix chipset. I bought it from Semsons, and can be found here.

    When I decided to buy a GPS my main criterias were:

    • Bluetooth - definitely
    • No display - in order to decrease the cost
    • Good battery life
    • No interpolation made automatically in the chipset - this disqualified Sirf III chipset, even if there were claims that the accuracy is improved

    Given this, i.Trek M1 won the contest claiming 20hours of battery life (which I can say that is pretty accurate), the fact that the battery is identical to Nokia BL-5C (not sure about the exact model, but I should be pretty close about the model) and a pretty good accuracy. I must say that in Manhattan I did have some problems fixing the sattelites, but usually it behaves pretty good. I usually use it in combination with Pocket Streets 2005 and I find it very useful. Even if Pocket Streets does not give routing information, at least when you are a pedestrian and try to find a place can give helpful clues.

    Also this gave me some reasons to try Visual Studio 2005 (Whidbey) at the time of testing still Beta2, to do some mobile testing. So I learned how to communicate with a Bluetooth device, quite simple, if you know to use sockets. I still have to learn how to discover Bluetooth devices, at this time the MAC address of my GPS is harcoded in the application. What did I do? I tried to create a tool similar to GPS Tuner (you can search for it using Google), to give me historic information. I wasn't interested in the graphing features of GPS Tuner, my main interests at least for now are the compass (where I am headed), current speed, maximum speed in this trip, and the distance. So far I managed to communicate with my GPS, and log the data in text files. I still have to work on the user interface, which is not my strongest area. Once I polish the UI, I think I will make it available to people.

  • Keepalive

    Well, Nov 7th passed, Visual Studio 2005 (aka Whidbey) was launched, as well as Microsoft SQL Server 2005. Unfortunately, my lack of time is quite severe and I even haven't got time to download the final version. As far as can tell, the change are impressive, even if there are some quite reports that the environment is not so stable. I'm sure that the answer is somewhere in-between. On one side developers want to ship as late as possible to fix as much defects as possible, on the other side customers (that are the developers too) want it as early as possible. At least they announced that Service Pack1 for VS2005 will be shipped quite soon. This means a good thing, that Microsoft is aware that the quality is not as high as they wanted, but they want to fix this.

    Also this post wants to be a keepalive for all of you that are reading my posts. I'm apologizing that I'm not able to keep a regular schedule for posting here, but I'm trying to fix that in the near future. By using comments you can help me finding more time to post here, as I know that some one is just waiting to find new things.

  • Waiting for Whidbey

    In case if you leave on another planet, let's reiterate the old news: Whidbey launch date is November 7th.
    So far I have used Beta2, in a VMWare virtual machine which has 512 MB RAM dedicated, on an Athlon 1800+ CPU, and I am pretty impressed by it's speed. My team-mates say that they want an upgrade to 1GB on their computers when will switch to Whidbey, but I think that the speed won't be very different than Visual Studio 2003.
    Anyway, I wait it because it comes with many good things, all the annoying stuff that was present in VS 2002/2003. It will probably come with another round of annoying things, but hey, that's life.
    One thing I like a lot, is the fact that the mobile development and desktop development is under the same roof without any additional installations. Still, in Beta2 I tried to develop last week a desktop utility that connects to the mobile to display databases info. Unfortunately I did not find rapi.lib and rapi.h, and had to copy them from a Smartphone SDK. Is this a miss of the Beta2, or it will be also in the final version. On the other hand, ARM emulator simply rocks.
    The first thing that I'll do after I install the final release is to have it build for previous frameworks (1.0 & 1.1) and we are all set.

    PS: Today I even found someone from Microsoft asking if there is interest in getting this feature of targetting the previous runtimes.

  • Completed the upgrade from nGallery to Community Server 1.1

    As you could see I've completed too the migration from nGallery to CommunityServer, without major incidents and data loss.
    I've used a migration utility which is sort of official, of course I found a bug, when migration comments they assumed that Anonymous user has the ID 1000, but this is not anymore true since CommunityServer 1.1 at least (in 1.1 the IDs start at 2000 or 2100).
    Also I've noted that this utility when it gots an exception from the CS code, it simply hangs and nothing happens. I had to investigate this since when I was migrating the old gallery, it appeared to stay indefinitely at the second album picture 14th. I thought that it will take a little bit longer, but left it a few hours and nothing happened, and no error message. Well, the code crashed since that was the first picture with a comment (a spam anyway) since it was trying to add as originator of the comment the user with ID 1000, which did not exist (oh yeah, foreign key violation).
    Another thing that I did no like, and I think that I will update it manually, the fact that it doesn't keep the original dates, where the picture was added. I think this is a limitation of the fact that this tool uses the existing CS code, which does not offer a posibility to change the date. I will go directly to database sometime in the future to adjust the old pictures, only a little bit over 100 pictures have to be adjusted.
    One of the most annoying "feature" is that you cannot import album by album, but all albums go into the same gallery, which is not neccesarly a good thing. Since I was tweaking the code, I've introduced a quick if to ask the user (aka me) if a specific album is imported or not in the selected gallery. This way I was able to migrate 1 album to 1 gallery, and luckily, I had only 7 albums or so. If you have large number of albums this hack will probably cause more headache than solve.
    I've used the url rewriting component found via Dennis van der Stelt also, to fix all the old links that pointed directly to albums, so Google & friends would be able to pickup changes more rapidly.

    An important feature that is missing in the CS is the bulk upload. I think I'll use CS_FTP to a temporary folder on my desktop, and afterwards upload it to the hosting server, otherwise I will minimize drastically the number of uploaded pictures.

    This being told, you are welcome to see my new galleries.

  • Flying back and forth

    Note: this is a prerecorded post. It has been started on the La Guardia airport while I was headed to Charlotte, NC (Sep 28).

    Today I've actually flied around 5200 miles from Romania to Charlotte, via New York. I have to go to Charlotte to setup a temporary installation for one of division of our clients. Most likely, I will repeat this experience in about three weeks, when their brand new hardware will show up, to migrate the previous version of my company's tool to the "latest and greatest" version.

    Now it's around 7pm ET, and I am awake for almost 24 hours. I need to sleep, but in the airport it's not a wise ideea, if you have a plane to catch up.

  • Upgraded to CommunityServer

    Since I bought a new camera (more on this later), I decided that nGallery is good but not enough to display pictures. It has some problems with displaying EXIF data, so I said that upgrade worths the time. I downloaded Community Server 1.1 and installed locally to see how smooth is the upgrade.

    For blogs I've used DotText-CS-Converter 2.2 from http://kevinharder.com/blogs/kevin/archive/2005/06/09/dottext_cs_converter_22.aspx and it took me around 15 minutes to get my blogs working on CommunityServer. Upgrade was very smooth with no problem. Afterward I tweaked SiteUrls.config file to keep my naming scheme using subdomains and not subfolders (the way CS wants by default). Apparently it didn't broke anything and I'm very happy with this. Still I'll have to check for possible problems. One thing I'm missing is my old Windows XP skin, and I do not know if it will work with minor adjustments for CS. Still searching...

    Tommorow I will update my galleries also, but here is a little bit of working, and I found a bug in the nGallery converter while testing on my local machine.

  • Trip to US - Impresii

    warning Post in Romanian:

    Stiu ca nu am mai postat de mult timp si imi cer scuze pentru acest lucru, dar munca la serviciu nu mi-a mai lasat timp si pentru asa ceva.
    In aceasta luna (august) am fost plecat in US, pentru o calatorie in interes de serviciu, ocazie cu care am mai strans vreo 12000 de mile.
    Am vazut New YOrk, Washington DC si Jacksonville, FL. Pana acum am tras cateva concluzii interesante: In primul si in primul rand nu e ca in Europa. In SUA este extrem de diferit fata de Europa. Totul. Clima, mancare, stil. In al doilea rand cel putin pe coasta de est vara daca nu stai la aer conditionat esti mort. Este o umezeala ingrozitoare, cu care in Romania nu m-am mai intalnit niciodata, si sper nici sa nu ma intalnesc. Il al treilea rand in majoritatea oraselor este obligatoriu sa ai masina. Punct. Altfel mori de foame. Vezi la 200m alimentara/store-ul, ce o fi, si mori de foame, ca intre tine si el este o autostrada, pe care bineinteles nu o poti strabate cu piciorul. Afirmatia nu este valabila pentru Manhattan, unde in general daca ai masina degeaba o ai, ca mai mult te incurca. In zona centrala parkingul este ceva de genul 7.49+TAX / jumatate de ora. Bineinteles ca daca inchiriezi pe perioade mai mari e mai ieftin, dar totusi...
    M-a intrebat cineva daca mi-a placut Jacksonville. Ei bine, habar n-am stiut ce sa raspund. Pentru ca nu stiu daca am vazut orasul sau nu. Am vazut niste case si niste fast-fooduri, o chestie gen ca la tara la noi, bineinteles un pic mai aranjat. Eu am crezut ca alea sunt doar suburbiile, dar am inteles ca Jacksonville (where Florida begins, dupa cum zic ei) nu prea are parte de oras propriu-zis. Aceeasi senzatie mi-a lasat si Charlotte, oras destul de mare, dar in care daca vrei sa strabati cu piciorul centrul nu ai nevoie de mai mult de o ora, admirand si peisajul intre timp. Dupa ce ai iesit din centru, trebuie deja sa ai masina, ca altfel nu rezolvi nimic.
    Apoi partile rele... si ei au homeless (cel putin in New York) care cersesc pe strada, poate nu la fel de agresiv ca la noi, dar ei exista. Apoi, este la fel de murdar, daca nu chiar mai murdar pe strada. Si la ei sunt strazile ca vai de capul lor, cu bump-uri naturale, sau mai putin naturale. Asadar care e diferenta? Ca se traieste mai bine? Oare? Am intalnit un coleg plecat la doctorat. Si imi spunea ca nu e chiar asa pe cum se crede, ca sunt cainii cu covrigi in coada. Castigi cateva mii de dolari pe luna, si ii vezi cum se duc: taxe (la ei taxele din salariu sunt oprite de angajator ca la noi, dar la ei se negociaza salariu brut), apoi chirie (in Manhattan intr-o zona mai ieftina ~1200 dolari pe luna o chestie gen garsoniera), mai trebuie sa dai pe transport (ca o fi el taxi, tren, metrou sau benzina), si vezi ca la urma nu-ti mai ramane mare lucru.
    O alta concluzie la care am ajuns este faptul ca toata lumea are iPod. Unde te uiti pe strada toti asculta la iPod-ul. Cred ca e un fel de isterie nationala. TOate magazinele vand accesorii de iPod. Carcase, holdere, cabluri, orice, daca esti magazin de electronice sau audio-video daca nu ai accesorii de iPod nu existi. E trendy sa ai iPod. Nu conteaza ca esti la costum, sau iti faci alergarea de dimineata, iPod rocks.

    Oricum concluzia pe care am tras-o este ca nu ma prea vad traind in America. O fi el pamantul fagaduintei, dar nu ma impresioneaza prea tare.

  • Visual Studio 2005 Rocks

    In case you live on another planet and didn't heard yet (but you read my blog) here is the news: on 7th of November 2005 the brand new version of Visual Studio will be released.

    I received my media kit from BetaExperience, and I installed Beta 2 release some time ago. Well, IT ROCKS. It is the first time that within a single IDE you can develop for all plaforms. Before this, for Windows CE, you had to install Embedded Visual Tools for native code, or VS 2003 for managed, different tools, different debuggers and so on.

    When I started the first time, I was impressed about the new look. I am using the screen in 24 bit true color, and looks very nice, similar to Office. I installed it in a virtual machine (ok, ok, not a VPC one, but from VMWare), and I was a little bit disappointed about the speed, mainly because I've seen Beta1 and it worked pretty smoothly. Well, my virtual harddisk file (4.5 GB) had over 50000 segments. Defragmenting the disk get reducing the number of fragments to 2 or 3 greatly improved the speed. Now you can develop quite fast, and I haven't noticed performance degradation between VS2003 and Beta 2. The machine is a Athlon XP 1800+, and VMWare machine has 512MB.

    Another interesting stuff is the ARM emulator. Now you can test the real software in emulator also, and not by disturbing the actual device, which a nice thing. Before a very limited number of software had binaries for Windows CE / X86. Actually I found only one software, which is the SmartMonitor plugin, if I remember correctly.

    To my own disgrace, I haven't installed yet the Team Foundation Server, primarly due to lack of time, but I will test it, I promise.

    A negative point is related to the new way of storing web projects. I had a serious problem when I converted the old solution, because I had some projects, which were excluded from build for historic reasons, but were included in the converted project. With the new way of storing projects, you will lose this capability of excluding files from build, or at least I haven't found how to do it.

    Also, the resx files for aspx are getting dropped, I didn't understand yet, which was the reason to be added in the first place for this kind of files (ASPX/ASCX), so will unclutter your source control system.

    A nice hack is that located here, and this gives you the ability to target the binary for an older framework. Still, when the web project is converted it will add partial attribute to all codebehind files, so you should go and remove the attribute in order to target 1.1 or 1.0 version. And when you have over 300 pages, is quite some work to do.

    Update: June CTP for VS2005 is released: you can find here if it worths the update.

  • Long time no see

    I agree with you. I didn't post here for quite a long time. Actually my schedule was very busy, because I'm trying to graduate my master, and do something useful at work.

    In the last period many things happened: we had a major release (although labeled as minor, for marketing purposes), we are running an optimization iteration, I've been evaluating Visual Studio Beta 2 (BTW, very nice look). I'll try to improve my post rate, but don't hold your breath...

    My next post should be about trying to convert the product I'm working for to .NET Framework Beta 2 and Visual Studio 2005.

  • miniSD & Smartphone C500

    I've bought a 512 MB miniSD card manufactured by ATP and I've placed inside my Orange SPV C500, so now I have much more storage space. Finding a 512 MB miniSD card in stock was quite challenging since many stores listed the item (but temporarly sold out) but I found only in one e-store the item in stock at a resonable price. By the way it was 65 USD with free shipping, and I think it is a good price since the transfer rate they list is quite good (10MB/sec, if I remember correctly).

    Also I've noticed that using this card also gave me more available memory, as now when I restart the phone I have 41% available memory, and with the 16MB card that came with the phone it was around 30%. Did anyone have an explanation or is it magic? So I moved my pictures and now I have space for music also. A Bluetooth headset is on my buying list so I could listen mp3s. A case is also on my list but a 25$ Krusell is quite out of my league.

  • Say no to "Nofollow"

    no nofollow

    In case you don't know yet Google wants to add a way to limit page ranking based on a tag presented in link, which can be used in order to discriminate the weblogs. If you don't agree you can place a logo on your site.

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