Archive for category Software

Open Source for Space

Everyone is excited about the Mars Science Laboratory cruising on Mars. NASA/JPL pulled an unbelievable stunt to get that almost-a-ton Rover on that planet. Well done!

Alongside with the landing some source reported that NASA/JPL now has started to provider source code access to some of it’s internal projects. And beside being right this is not the first time they’ve provided source code access. They got a whole page with all their projects open sourced. Some of those are quite huge projects – big like those you would fly to Mars with.

Even more interesting from a historical perspective are the older open sourced projects. Like the complete manuals and source code listings of the gemini and apollo projects.

It’s a great read overall and it let’s you wondering with how little you can achieve great goals.

Source 1: http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/opensource/
Source 2: https://github.com/nasa/
Source 3: http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/links.html
Source 4: http://code.google.com/p/virtualagc/

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a file is a file is a file.

Ever wondered how a software finds out that this file named “filename” is a pdf, jpeg, movie? There are several thousands, probably hundreds-of-thousands of fileformats out there. Some of them are used many times a day without us even noticing. We’re just moving an image from A to B not caring about what constitutes an image file and what makes a jpeg different to a png image.

Now for pure academic reasons there is one file that is many (no, not borg). It’s a file that is:

“CorkaMIX.exe is simultaneously a valid: * Windows Portable Executable binary * Adobe Reader PDF document * Oracle Java JAR (a CLASS inside a ZIP)/Python script * HTML page

It serves no purpose, except proving that files format not starting at offset 0 are a bad idea. Many files (known as polyglot) already combines various langages in one file, however it’s most of the time at source level, not binary level.”

Source 1: http://code.google.com/p/corkami/downloads/detail?name=CorkaMIX.zip

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downloading the whole Jamendo catalog

Yesterday @simcup wrote on twitter about that he is currently downloading the whole Jamendo catalog of Creative Commons music. Capture

Although I already knew Jamendo it never occurred to be to download their whole catalog. Since I am a fan of choice I immediately thought about how I could download the catalog too. Since the only clue was a cryptic uri-like text how to achieve that it suddenly sounded like a great idea to write a universal tool and release it as open-source. This tool should allow users to download the whole catalog and keep their local jamendo mirror in sync with the server. So anytime new artists, albums or tracks are added the user does not need to download them all again.

So the only thing I had as a starting point was that cryptic uri pointing me to something I’ve never heard of called Rythmbox. Turns out that this is a GNOME music player application which has Jamendo integration. After some clueless poking around I decided to take a look at the source of Rythmbox, especially the Jamendo module.

This module is written in python and quite clean to read. And just by looking at the first lines I came across the interesting fact that there is a almost daily updated XML dump of the Jamendo catalog available from Jamendo. Hurray! Since Jamendo wants developers to interact with the platform they decided to put a documentation online which allows anyone to write tools and stream and download tracks. After all the clues I found I finally ended up on this page.

So there are the catalog download, track stream and torrent uris necessary to download the catalog. Now the only thing that is needed is a tool which parses the XML and creates a nice folder structure for us.

folderstructure

Parsing XML in C# (my prefered programming language) is easy. Basically you can use a tool called XSD.exe and let it generate first the XSD from the XML and then ready-to-use C# classes from that XSD.

generating_xsd_and_csharp

After doing all that actually reading the whole catalog into a useable form breaks down to just three lines of code:

parsingxml

Isn’t it great how modern frameworks take away the complexity of such tasks. At this point I’ve already parsed the whole catalog into my tool and only wrote three lines of code. The rest was generated automatically for me. The best of all – this also works on non-windows operating systems when you use mono.

When the XML data is parsed and available in a nice data structure it’s easy to iterate through all artists, all albums and all tracks and then download the actual mp3 or ogg. And that’s basically what my tool does. It takes the XML, parses it, and downloads. It will check before downloading if the track already exists and will only download those added since the last run.

Additionally since I am deeply involved into the development of the GraphDB graph database at sones I want to make use of the Jamendo data and the graph structure it poses. Since the directory structure my tool is generating is only one aspect how you could possibly look at the data it’s quite interesting to demonstrate the capabilities of GraphDB based on that data.

The idea behind the graph representation of the data is that you could start from almost any starting point imaginable. No matter if you you start from a single track and drill up into genre and artists, or if you start at a location and drill down to tracks.

So what the Downloader does in matters of GraphDB integration is that it outputs a GraphQL script which can be imported into an instance of GraphDB.

The sourcecode of my tool is available on github and released unter the BSD license – feel free to play with it and to contribute.

Source 1: http://www.jamendo.com
Source 2: https://github.com/bietiekay/JAMENDOwnloader

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configuring the nano editor to my needs…

Configuring your favourite Editor on OSX (or Linux, or anywhere else) is important – since nano is my editor of choice I wanted to use it’s syntax highlighting capabilities. Easy as pie as it turned out:

I started with a .nanorc file from this guy and modified it to recognize some of my frequent file-types (like .cs files).

You can download my nanorc.tar – just extract it and put it into your user home directory.

Source 1: http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=68421
Source 2: http://www.nano-editor.org/dist/v2.2/nano.html#Nanorc-Files
Source 3: nanorc.tar

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Photosynth now mobile…

It’s been some months years since the once Microsoft Research Project got public and Microsoft started offering it’s great Photosynth service to the public.

I’ve been using the Microsoft panoramic and Photosynth tools for years now and I tend to say that they are the best tools one can get to create fast, easy and high-quality panoramic images.

There is photosynth.net to store all those panoramic pictures like this one from 2008:

The photosynth technology itself contains several other interesting technologies like SeaDragon which allows high quality image zooming on current internet connection speeds.

This awesome technology is as of now available on the iPhone (3GS and upwards) and it’s better than all the other panoramic tools I’ve used on a phone.

the process of taking the images

after the pictures are taken additional stitching is needed

after the stitching completed a fairly impressive panoramic images is the result

Source 1: Photosynth articles from the past
Source 2: Photosynth in Wikipedia
Source 3: Photosynth on iPhone App Store

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das außer-Haus Backup

Irgendwie werden es auch privat immer immer mehr Daten – mit immer zunehmender Geschwindigkeit… Alle paar Jahre tausche ich bei uns im Haushalt die Festplatten/Speicherlösung komplett aus – was zwar immer wieder mal eine Investitions bedeutet, gleichzeitig aber auch dafür sorgt dass Daten nicht irgendwelchen ungünstigen mechanischen, chemischen oder magnetischen Effekten zum Opfer fallen… Ja so etwa alle zwei Jahre wird alles einmal umkopiert… Das dauerte beim letzten Mal zwar gut eine Woche, aber naja so ist das eben…

Aus vielerlei Grund haben wir auch für einen Haushalt recht viel Bedarf an Speicherplatz – teilweise wohl auch weil meine Frau Photographin ist – aber ich als “werf-nix-weg”-Typ werd da auch einen guten Anteil dran haben…

Herr über alle unsere Festplatten (kein Witz, die Rechner bei uns haben ihre Festplatten eigentlich nur um booten zu können) ist seit jeher ein einzelner Rechner welcher ebenso alle paar Jahre komplett ausgetauscht wird. Dieser Rechner verwaltet im Moment zwischen 12-15 Festplatten verschiedener Größe – Hauptarbeit wird zur Zeit durch drei separate (gewachsene) RAID-5 Volumes erledigt…

Nebenbei: Nein ich kann/will da kein RAID-6 fahren ohne entweder Linux zu verwenden (was aus verschiedenen Gründen nicht geht) oder einen Hardware-Controller zu verwenden, was nach einschlägigen Erfahrungen querbeet durch alle möglichen Hardware RAID Controller ausfällt.

Dem ganzen Festplattenstapel liegt dann ein Standard-PC mit Windows Server 2008 zugrunde – zum einen weil ich so eine Lizenz noch herumliegen hatte und zum anderen weil ich in über 10 Jahren File-Server Erfahrungen sammeln noch nie auch nur ein Byte unter Windows verloren habe. Zusätzlich habe ich einen riesigen Haufen Software welche Windows-only ist ud sozusagen ständig laufen muss um Sinn zu machen (Mail-Server Puffer, Newsserver Mirror, Musik und Video Streaming Server, Medienbibliothek, Videorekorder,…

Diese drei großen RAID Volumes schnappt sich dann Truecrypt und ver- und entschlüsselt zuverlässig vor sich hin – im Endeffekt gibt es kein Byte Daten im Haushalt welches nicht verschlüsselt wäre. Gut für uns.

So ein RAID verhindert nun ja aber nicht dass dennoch oben genannte ungünstige Effekte eintreten und man mal eine oder mehrere Defekte zu beklagen hat. Im Normalfall tauscht man die defekte Festplatte, resynct das RAID und alles funktioniert weiter ohne dass man Daten verloren hätte. Allerdings ist das ja kein Backup. Das ist nur eine erste Absicherung gegen mögliche Defekte.

Getreu folgendem kurzen Musikstück:

RAID ist kein Backup

… ist ein RAID eben kein Backup. Backups erledigt bei mir eine Sammlung von Scripten welche jeweils in festen Abständen Vollbackups und Differenz-Backups erstellt. Da kommt dann ein Haufen 1 Gbyte großer Dateien raus welche dann anschliessend per RSync in mühevoller (und dank funktionierendem QoS unbemerkt) Arbeit außer Haus geschafft werden. Die Komplett-Backups dauern aufgrund der großen Menge einfach ewig lang und lassen sich recht einfach dadurch beschleunigen dass man sozusagen das Backup physisch auf einer externen Festplatte zum Server trägt…die Differenz-Backups sind dann meist immer recht flott durchgelaufen. Speicherplatz im Internet wird ja auch immer billiger und so haben wir auch immer ein gutes Off-Site Backup unserer Daten…

Für Windows gibt es neben den üblichen Cygwin Ports von rsync auch eine gute GUI Version namens DeltaCopy. Das Ding kopiert zuverlässig und auch wenn mal der DSL Router rebootet oder hängt nimmt er selbständig die Kopierarbeit wieder auf sobald Netz wieder verfügbar ist.

Damit DeltaCopy seine Daten irgendwo abladen kann wird auf der Gegenstelle natürlich ein rsync Server vorrausgesetzt. Die Konfiguration eines solchen ist nicht sonderlich kompliziert – im Grunde muss man nur rsync installieren und die rsyncd.conf Datei anpassen. Zusätzlich dazu muss man eine Konfigurationsdatei anlegen in welchem nach dem Schema “Benutzername:Passwort” entsprechend die Nutzeraccounts angegeben werden – das wars eigentlich schon. Rsync ist sehr robust und vor allem auch gut für geringere Bandbreiten geeignet. Wenn sich an einer Datei nur wenige Bytes geändert haben müssen auch nur die geänderten Bytes übertragen werden.

Source 1: http://www.speichergurke.de
Source 2: http://www.aboutmyip.com/AboutMyXApp/DeltaCopy.jsp
Source 3: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rsync

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Shairport – someone reversed an AirPort Express

Low Latency Network Audio was a dream for the past years (see an article of 2005 and 2008) and with AirPlay it’s finally there.

I am using the Apple AirPlay technology for several years now… after it got implemented into iOS it’s just fantastic to have the option to have whatever sound source I want to playing loud and clear in any room I want to…

Okay it’s not quite as sophisticated as the sonos solution regarding the control of multiple music sources in multiple rooms but it get’s the job done in an apartment.

So back to the topic: Apple integrated the AirPlay technology into their wireless base station “AirPort Express”. Basically AirPlay is a piece of software which receives an encrypted audio stream over the network and outputs the stream to the SPDIF or audio jack.

Back in 2005 there already was an emulator of this protocol called “Fairport” but Apple decided to encrypt the AirPlay traffic. This led to the problem that the encryption key was unkown because it’s baked into the AirPort Express firmware. And this is where the good news start:

“My girlfriend moved house, and her Airport Express no longer made it with her wireless access point. I figured it’d be easy to find an ApEx emulator – there are several open source apps out there to play to them. However, I was disappointed to find that Apple used a public-key crypto scheme, and there’s a private key hiding inside the ApEx. So I took it apart (I still have scars from opening the glued case!), dumped the ROM, and reverse engineered the keys out of it.”

So to keep things short: Someone got an AirPort Express, dumped the firmware, extracted the AirPlay encryption keys and wrote an emulator of the AirPlay protocol which uses the key. Voilá!

ShairPort is available in source code on the site of the guy and obviously it’s unsure if Apple will react by changing the encryption key in the future. But for the time being it works as advertised:

I took one of my computers and followed the instructions to update perl, install Macports and then run ShairPort. So when ShairPort is run it looks not as appealing as expected:

Notably  it uses IPv6 to communicate between iTunes and ShairPort… Oh I almost forgot to show how it looks in iTunes:

On another side note: It works on Linux, Windows and Mac OS X 🙂

Source 1: Apple AirPlay
Source 2: Sonos
Source 3: Apple AirPort Express
Source 4: ShairPort

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modifying OS X terminal to make it more useable…

Using OS X for the daily work is getting easier every day. And most of the time I am doing work using the Terminal.app.

So there are some configuration changes necessary to make it even more useable…

  1. Edit /etc/bashrc and add some alias and color definitions
    1. alias ll=”ls -hfG”
    2. alias la=”ls -ahfG”
    3. export LSCOLORS=fxfxcxdxbxegedabagacad
  2. custom color schemes can be defined using the lscolors tool
  3. install screen (using MacPorts for example) and setup a ~/.screenrc
    1. Download a sample .screenrc

Source 1: http://geoff.greer.fm/lscolors/
Source 2: http://www.macports.org/
Source 3: ScreenRC.tar

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my little home automation project has a home

Hurray! One of those EzControl XS1 plus some sensors and actors is on the way to me. So I can finally start the little holiday project which will be called “HACS” (Home Automation Control Server).

The source code and documentation repository is up on GitHub as of now – you can access it here: https://github.com/bietiekay/hacs

If you are interested in working on that project – drop a comment.

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great SIP Softphone for Linux and Windows

Thank goodness I can uninstall X-Lite! At sones we are using a SIP based telephony solution. And therefore some times a SIP softphone application is needed along with the obligatory hardware SIP telephones. Till today the only half-working software I knew for that task was X-Lite. But a colleague told me today that there is a better software which not even looks better but also works better than X-Lite.

It’s called “Ekiga” and it’s a GTK based open source application which can run on Windows and Linux. It looks clean and therefore nice and works great.

A special tip from me: Abort the Welcome Wizard because the only thing it does is registering you with ekigas’ own services.

Capture

Source: http://ekiga.org/

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FFN-Switcher auf GitHub umgezogen

Es ist ja nun schonwieder einige Zeit her dass ich etwas über meine CB-Funk Software namens “FFN-Switcher” geschrieben habe. Nun ist es immerhin mal wieder soweit dass ich zeit gefunden habe mich mit einigen Bugfixes zu beschäftigen.

Gleichzeitig habe ich den Sourcecode von meinem privaten Subversion Repository auf den öffentlich zugänglichen GitHub Dienst hochgeladen. Dort kann der Sourcecode und was noch viel wichtiger ist: die Bug- und Wunschliste abgerufen und editiert werden.

 

github-ffnswitcher

http://github.com/bietiekay/ffn-switcher/ 

Natürlich gab es in der Zwischenzeit auch einige Bugfixes. Sodass mittlerweile Version 111 online steht und über die automatische Updatefunktion abgerufen werden kann.

Source: http://github.com/bietiekay/ffn-switcher/

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Mono 2.8 released!

Hurray! Finally the 2.8 version of Mono – the platform independent open source .NET framework is available as of today. I finally don’t have to recompile the trunk every now and then to get my bits running Smiley

The Major Highlights according to the release notes are:

  • C# 4.0
  • Defaults to the 4.0 profile.
  • New Garbage Collection engine
  • New Frameworks:
    • Parallel Framework
    • System.XAML
  • Threadpool exception behavior has changed to match .NET 2.0
    • potentially a breaking change for a lot of Mono-only software
    • See information below in the "Runtime" section.
  • New Microsoft open sourced frameworks bundled:
    • System.Dynamic
    • Managed Extensibility Framework
    • ASP.NET MVC 2
    • System.Data.Services.Client (OData client framework)
  • Performance
    • Large performance improvements
    • LLVM support has graduated to stable
      • Use mono-llvm command to run your server loads with the LLVM backend
  • Preview of the Generational Garbage Collector
  • Version 2.0 of the embedding API
  • WCF Routing
  • .NET 4.0’s CodeContracts
  • Removed the 1.1 profile and various deprecated libraries.
  • OpenBSD support integrated
  • ASP.NET 4.0
  • Mono no longer depends on GLIB

Oh – they even linked my benchmark article.

Source: http://www.mono-project.com/Release_Notes_Mono_2.8

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winter 2011 hacking project: Home Automation

In the last 10+ years I was fiddling with different home automation concepts. Mostly without broad use cases because at that time no one seemed to be interested in having sensors and actors like crazy at home. In fact not that many people seem to care these days.

Having more and more hardware and software around us creates the use cases for a broader audience people like me have for 10+ years. Mainstream is a bitch for nerds Smiley

That said I found a nice plastic box I want to use in a winter project. This plastic box is called “EzControl XS1”. It comes with several visible and “invisible” interfaces.

The visible and obvious ones are: power, 100 mbit ethernet, sd card slot. So it takes some power and does something on the network. The not so obvious and therefore “invisible” interfaces are the most interesting ones: the EzControl XS1 comes with the ability to send and receive on 433 Mhz and 868 Mhz.

ezcontrol_xs1-200

Yes that are the ranges used by switchable and dimable power sockets, temperature sensor and AMR. The EzControl XS1 is not that cheap (coming at 189 Euros for the base version and additional 65 Euros per upgrade option). I do not own one yet so it’s the plan to acquire at least one and start of with dimable power sockets and add more sensors and actors on the way

One great feature of the EzControl XS1 is the embedded WebServer with which the users application (the one I want to write) can interact using a HTTP/JSON Protocol. Oh dear: Sensor data and Actor control using JSON. How great is that!

There is some example code available (even a proprietary iPad/iPhone client) but since I want to have some custom features I do not currently see to be available in software I am going to write a set of tools which will get and protocol sensor data and run scripts to controls actors. Oh it’ll be all available as open source (license not yet chosen).

P.S.: If some one from Rose+Herleth is reading this and wants to help – send me a test unit Smiley

Source 1: http://www.ezcontrol.de (in german though)
Source 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_meter_reading
Source 3: http://www.ezcontrol.de/content/view/12/31/

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Windows Live Writer 2011 is available…

I am a huge fan of the Windows Live Writer. It’s been some years now since Microsoft made this free tool available to bloggers who want to blog on Windows. And in a bold move Microsoft announced the other week that they will be moving all Windows Live Spaces weblogs (a free weblog hosting service) to WordPress.

In an accompanying step they just released the 2011 version of the Windows Live Writer. Actually I think it’s a shame that there is no comparable tool on Mac OS X … which is quite unusual since those types of tools in that quality are more common on the apple platform.

The new Window Live Writer 2011 comes with the Ribbon UI already known from Office 2007 and 2010 (and 2011 now).

wlw2011

Source 1: http://wordpress.visitmix.com/
Source 2: http://explore.live.com/windows-live-essentials

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visualize your source control

There’s a great tool available to create impressive visualizations of source code repositories:

“Software projects are displayed by Gource as an animated tree with the root directory of the project at its centre. Directories appear as branches with files as leaves. Developers can be seen working on the tree at the times they contributed to the project.

Currently there is first party support for Git, Mercurial and Bazaar, and third party (using additional steps) for CVS and SVN. “

 

Source: http://code.google.com/p/gource/

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draw concept maps the easy way

I often have to draw concept diagrams and until now I had to use MindMap tools and tools like Visio. And up until now it wasn’t that much fun… but first things first, what’s a Concept Map?

“A concept map is a diagram showing the relationships among concepts. They are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge.

Concepts, usually represented as boxes or circles, are connected with labeled arrows in a downward-branching hierarchical structure. The relationship between concepts can be articulated in linking phrases such as "gives rise to", "results in", "is required by," or "contributes to".

For example a concept map might looks like this:

conceptmapsample

So I found a tool called “IHMC CmapTools” – a great package of software available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. And this tool makes it so much easier to create impressive and expressive concept maps. It’s freeware and can be used even for commercial purposes.

cmaptools

Source: http://cmap.ihmc.us/

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style your Visual Studio

It’s been some time since I’ve written about a Visual Studio Color Theme Generator. And obviously since then a lot happened in the world of customization tools.

The website studiostyles.info is there to help the day with a lot of previewable Visual Studio styles. Even better: all styles can be exported for Visual Studio 2005, 2008 and 2010.

studiostyles

For Visual Studio 2010 you get a .vssettings file which can be imported into Visual Studio using the Tools->Import  and Export Settings… menu item.

importstyle

codeeditorstyle

For Visual Studio 2010 there are additional color styling options available. Microsoft offers a plugin for Visual Studio 2010 called Visual Studio Color Theme Editor. Using this tool everything else can be color customized. So you can have something like that:

vs2010colortheme

Source 1: http://www.schrankmonster.de/2008/08/10/visual-studio-color-theme-generator/
Source 2: http://studiostyles.info/
Source 3: Visual Studio Color Theme Editor

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If you need a hard disk image done fast

If you want to create a (mountable, bootable) image of your local hard disk just use that small and cool tool Disk4vhd

ee656415.Disk2vhd_1-5(en-us,MSDN.10)

 

Source: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/ee656415.aspx

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How To strip those TFS Source Control references from Visual Studio Solutions

Every once in a while you download some code and fire up your Visual Studio and find out that this particular solution was once associated to a team foundation server you don’t know or have a login to. Like when you download source code from CodePlex and you get this “Please type in your username+password for this CodePlex Team Foundation Server”.

Or maybe you’re working on your companies team foundation server and you want to put some code out in the public. You surely want to get rid of these Team Foundation Server bindings.

There’s a fairly complicated way in Visual Studio to do this but since I was able to produce unforseen side effects I do not recommend it.

So what I did was looking into those files a Visual Studio Solution and Project consists of. And I found that there are really just a few files that hold those association information. As you can see in the picture below there are several files side by side to the .sln and .csproj files – like that .vssscc and .vspscc file. Even inside the .csproj and .sln file there are hints that lead to the team foundation server – so obviously besides removing some files a tool would have to edit some files to remove the tfs association.

strip-files

So I wrote such a tool and I am going release it’s source code just beneath this article. Have fun with it. It compiles with Visual Studio and even Mono Xbuild – actually I wrote it with Monodevelop on Linux 😉 Multi-platform galore! Who would have thought of that in the founding days of the .NET platform?

Bildschirmfoto-StripTeamFoundationServerInformation - Main.cs - MonoDevelop

So this is easy – this small tool runs on command line and takes one parameter. This parameter is the path to a folder you want to traverse and remove all team foundation server associations in. So normally I take a check-out folder and run the tool on that folder and all its subfolders to remove all associations.

So if you want to have this cool tool you just have to click here: Sourcecode Download

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Using Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to install Linux over Network (PXE)

Developing software is hard work – especially when you target several operating systems. One task that you have to perform quite often would be to deploy a new installation of an operating system as fast as possible on a test machine.

Doing this with Windows is easy – you can use the Windows Deployment Services to bootstrap Windows onto almost every machine which can boot over ethernet using PXE. Everything needed to make WDS work on a Windows Boot-Image is located on that image. Since it’s that easy I won’t dive into more detail here.

What I want to show in greater detail is how you can use WDS to deploy even Linux over your network.

Step 1: Get PXELINUX

What’s needed to boot Linux over a network is a dedicated PXE Boot Loader. This one is called PXELINUX and can be downloaded here.

“PXELINUX is a SYSLINUX derivative, for booting Linux off a network server, using a network ROM conforming to the Intel PXE (Pre-Execution Environment) specification.”

On the homepage of PXELINUX is also a short tutorial which files you need and where to copy them.

Step 2: Setup WDS with PXELINUX

I suppose you got your WDS Installation up and running and you are able to deploy Windows. If that’s the case you can go to your WDS Server Management Tool and right-click on the server name – in my case “fileserver.sones”. If you select “Properties” in the context menu you would see the properties windows like in the screenshot below:

wds_pxelinux

You have to change the Boot-Loader from the standard Windows BootMgr to the newly downloaded PXELINUX bootloader. Since this bootloader comes with it’s own set of config files you can edit this config file to allow booting into Windows.

Step 3: Edit PXELINUX configuration filewds-pxelinux-2 

The first entry I made into the boot menu of the PXELINUX boot loader is the “Install Windows…” entry. Since the first thing the users will see after booting is the PXELINUX loader menu they need to be able to continue to their Windows Installation. Since this Windows Installation cannot be handled by the PXELINUX loader you have to define a boot menu entry which looks a lot like this:

LABEL wds
MENU LABEL Install Windows…
KERNEL pxeboot.0

To add OpenSuSE to the menu you would add an entry looking like this:

LABEL opensuse
MENU LABEL Install OpenSuSE 11.x
kernel /Linux/opensuse/linux
append initrd=/Linux/opensuse/initrd splash=silent showopts

The paths given in the above entry should be altered according to the paths you’re using in your installation. I took the /Linux/opensuse/ files from the network install dvd images of OpenSuSE.

wds-pxelinux-3

That’s basically everything there is about the installation of Linux (Debian works accordingly) over PXE and WDS.

And finally this is what it should look like if everything worked great:

 

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preboot_Execution_Environment
Source 2: http://syslinux.zytor.com/wiki/index.php/PXELINUX

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Developing on a Microsoft Surface Table

At sones I am involved in a project that works with a piece of hardware I wanted to work with for about 3 years now: the Microsoft Surface Table.

I was able to play with some tables every now and then but I never had a “business case” which contained a Surface. Now that case just came to us: sones is at the CeBIT fair this year – we were invited by Microsoft Germany to join them and present our cool technology along with theirs.

Since we already had a graph visualisation tool the idea was to bring that tool to Surface and use the platform specific touch controls and gestures.

surface_visualgraph
the VisualGraph application that gave the initial idea

The good news was that it’s easier than thought to develop an application for Surface and all parties are highly committed to the project. The bad news is that we were short on time right from the start: less than 10 days from concept to live presentation isn’t the definition of “comfortable time schedule”. And since we’re currently in the process of development it’s a continueing race.

Thankfully Microsoft is committed to a degree they even made it possible to have two great Surface and WPF ninjas who enable is to get up to speed with the project (thanks to Frank Fischer, Andrea Kohlbauer-Hug, Rainer Nasch and Denis Bauer, you guys rock!).

surface_simulator
a Surface simulator

I was able to convice UID to jump in and contribute their designing and user interface knowledge to our little project (thanks to Franz Koller and Cristian Acevedo).

During the process of development I made some pictures which will be used here and there promoting the demonstration. To give you an idea of the progress we made here’s a before and after picture:

Surface_Finger2
We started with a simple port of VisualGraph to the surface table…

Surface_Finger
…and had something better working and looking at the end of that day.

I think everyone did a great job so far and will continue to do so – a lot work to be done till CeBIT! 🙂

Source 1: http://www.sones.com
Source 2: http://www.microsoft.de
Source 3: http://www.uid.com/

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Turning Linux ISO Images into bootable USB sticks

Today was Linux-Distribution-ISO-Install-Day. And it turned out that the only existing external DVD drive was fubar.

So what to do? We had a spare USB stick and it turns out that you can quite easily convert that USB stick into a bootable Linux-Distribution-Install-USB-Stick. Awesome!

Just download the tool called “UNetbootin”, start it and you can turn virtually any ISO Distribution Image into an USB Stick that boots and installs that ISO:

 screenshot

Source: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

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Windows 7 GOD Mode

godmode Create a new folder, rename it to:

GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

After hitting <return> the folder will be a shortcut to the Windows 7 Administration GOD Mode. Enjoy. (Thanks Damir)

Source: http://tomicic.de/2010/01/03/Windows7GodMode.aspx

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How to shut off Outlook 2007 Security Questions

I had the task to make my Outlook Task List appear on my iPhone. As everyone knows Apple did not do anything about todo lists or tasks on their phone… well there’s an app for that: Most of the task applications on the iPhone use Toodledos services to sync task lists with the desktop.

To sync the Toodledo service with the desktop you need another tool. This tool uses your Toodledo account and your locally running Outlook to sync between both. So this little desktop sync tool needs access to the Outlook data: This means you will maybe be bugged by Outlook that some program wants to have access to the data. You can allow it for a number of minutes but not forever.

Okay one solution would be to install appropriate antivirus tools to suit the operating systems security needs. Because this wasn’t a solution in my case I needed something more sophisticated to solve the problem.

Now that’s the point where “Advanced Security for Outlook” from MapiLab comes into play. This Outlook Plugin extends Outlooks Security Dialog and adds things like “always allow”:

security_outlook2

 

Source 1: http://www.toodledo.com/
Source 2: http://www.mapilab.com/download/

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One step closer to digital nirvana…

Thanks to a podcast I found a great software for my iPhone and iPod touch. It’s a small tool which does cost less than 3 Euro and it’s served by a server tool which runs on Windows and Mac OS X.

It’s called Air Video and it’s frikin’ awesome! ™

What you do is you install the server software and point it to all your directories / drives that might contain video material. You then take your iPhone and install the client app. If you configured the server to be available over the internet you can now connect from anywhere you want using a pass-pin (which is generated) and a password (which is set by you). And by “from anywhere” they mean “anywhere”. WLAN or 3g didn’t make any difference in my test. You start the client, point to a video file and most of the time you are asked if you a) want to directly play is (if the file is ipod-compatible) or b) if you want to live-convert it and play it (when the file isn’t compatible and needs to be re-encoded live for you) or c) if you want to add the file to a conversion queue which will off-line convert the video for you.

In terms of “finding your video” it does look like this:

Air Video

Simple, eh? Taping a video will bring up this screen:

IMG_0388

As I said – Play directoy, Play with Live Conversion and Offline-Conversion-Queue…

It did work with EVERY Video I tried. When I tried Full-HD Movies my serving PC wasn’t able to handle the load but everyhing in SD worked great which is perfect for me.

onwindows

Therefore I can highly recommend this tool – it really does work better than anything I’ve seen before.

Source: http://www.inmethod.com/air-video/index.html

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Finally Aero Glas!

Hurray for VMWare! – I am using their products for years now – both private and on my job. It’s a blast to work with the Workstation and Fusion. Now they brought a major update to version 7 for VMWare Workstation and version 3 for VMWare Fusion. I upgraded my VMWare Fusion installation and finally the one feature that I missed the most on my Windows Vista and 7 virtual machines is available now: Aero Glas!

aeroglasOh… and it’s faster too 🙂

Source: http://www.vmware.com/de/products/fusion/index.html

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a Visual Studio documentary

There’s a great Visual Studio documentary on CH9. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to see what happened from the start till now.

“Welcome to the first installment of the Visual Studio Documentary.This is an hour long documentary that is split into two parts, roughly a half hour each. Welcome to part one, where we take you back to the days of MS-DOS and Alan Cooper who originally sold Visual Basic to Bill Gates back in 1988.  Next week we will feature Part Two but for those that would like to watch it sooner, here is Part Two. In addition, each week we will post a longer and more in-depth stand alone interview from the interviewees that were featured in the documentary.”

Source 1: Part I
Source 2: Part II

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want some more expresso?

Almost three years ago I wrote about this nice little Regular Expression Tool which provides not only a RegEx-Builder but also a clean and nice interface to test and play.

It was a CodeProject sample project in that time and as it turns out it became a full blown version 3!

Obviously the user interface was revamped completely:

expresso3 So you now not only get the Testing and playing but also a Regular Expression Library, a cool How-To, a more useable design mode and you can even output your final regular expressions to C#, VB.NET or managed C++!

Great stuff! Even better is the fact that it does not come at any costs. Despite the fact that there’s a registration you can just get your free license on their website.

Source 1: http://www.ultrapico.com/Expresso.htm
Source 2: want some espresso?

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a new version of Notepad++ is available.

Great stuff this week: Notepad++ was released in  a new version 5.5. Nice new features all around:

notepadplusplus

Source 1: http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm

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this new Windows Resource Monitor…

…is just great! A cool tool to find bottlenecks and the cause why your machine is just slow right now.

love_monitor

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APC PowerChute Business Edition and VMware Server…

I’ve run into several problems while trying to install the current 8.1 version of the APC PowerChute Business Edition.

Basically I get this error message when I am trying to install it:

powerchute-novmware

So you can simply not install this version of PowerChute on this machine – OR you could go here and follow the link to the Download of the 8.0 version of the software. This will start the setup with this screen:

powerchute-novmware2

Great! Just get the “old” version and use it.

Source 1: APC PowerChute and VMWare

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Welcome to the world of tomorrow!

So here we are on a new blog engine. It took me the better part of two days to do the Migration of 2,869 posts and 2,732 comments, a lot of pictures and movie files.

I will write an article on this but for now only two captures images from the migration:

php-xpath
yeah PHP rocks!

regex-magic 
had to do some regex action to do the url rewrites

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maybe I should…

…switch this website to another weblog software in the future. The dasBlog development isn’t exactly what I would call fast-paced. It even seems that there was no movement at all for the last year at all regarding new features.

I took a short look at a current WordPress installation we did for our Developer Website at sones – and I have to admit that feature-wise this WordPress is way beyond anything I could achieve in dasBlog anytime soon.

sonesdev 

Additionally the fact that the skin of this site seems to be broken (especially for older browsers) I would have to do a skin-redesign – turns out that this is way easier in WordPress than it is in dasBlog.

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In case of low performance: check your systems latency

I ran into some strange problems with a notebook that leaded to sound drop-outs or things like sluggish UI and HDD performance. So I tried almost everything troubleshootig the problem. That worked for some problems but there are occasions when I want to have a more systematic approach to those kinds of hardware / driver related problems.

One tool that can help to find hardware / driver problems is the DPC Latency Checker. This tool measures and displays the latency of your system. All you have to do is watch as the measurements scroll by and remove / disable one device after another from your machine. As soon as the latency turns green again there’s a high probability that the device you removed last has a problem of some kind.

dpclatency

On my machine everything is in the greens now – after some BIOS and driver updates. If your system has some issues you would see something like that:

cdrom 
(courtesy of Gnawgnu’s Realm)

Source 1: http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml
Source 2: http://gnawgnu.blogspot.com/2009/01/dell-latitude-e6400-sound-problem-fixed.html

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Useful tools: OnTopReplica

Normally I am using a notebook and a 24” Widescreen TFT as a Dual-Monitor solution. In fact I am mostly using the 24” TFT for work and the notebook 14” TFT for all the things that don’t need to be in focus right now like Instant Messengers.

Now in those few cases when a video needs to be played I want it on the main monitor but I want it to take as little of space as possible. And I want it On Top of everything else… maybe sometimes I even want to control it’s opacity a bit…

Now there’s this cool tool called “OnTopReplica” – It’s available for free on Codeplex and works out of the box without installation.

After you start it you’ll end with a small glas window where you can right-click to get a menu. You choose a Window which needs to be replaces – for example the YouTube Browser Window. After that you can even control which region of this Window should be displayed. You can resize, move and of course control the opacity of this window.

ontopreplica 

It’s also great for presentations because it allows you to simply resize any window you like. It will resize it and while it does that the window always is “live” – so everything you’re doing in the original window will be displayed in the replica.

ontopreplica2 

Source: http://ontopreplica.codeplex.com/

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making things up…

While trying out the new Mozilla Weave I came across the nice interface the guys built into their sync service. Funny messages included.

tehcloud 

Source: http://labs.mozilla.com/weave/

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How to remove a team project from Team Foundation Server 2008

Well, if you don’t want to have them removed just form your Team Explorer in Visual Studio you want to go to your Team Foundation Server Remote Desktop and open a commandline.

Change to the folder %program files%\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE and do this:

tfsdeleteproject /force /server: ""

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cool new feature: reduce volume

When you start a Skype call WIndows 7 will immediately reduce the volume of all other sounds by a defined value. 80% is default. Great and useful feature!

volumedownoncommunicate

1 Comment

the .NET Framework sourcecode release and how to unpack it…

It’s great to finally have the .NET sourcecode for debugging purposes – inconveniently it’s in a format you might have your difficulties just browsing along. A little tool is here to help!

After you installed, let’s say the WCF sourcecode and debug symbols you get a directory structure similar to this:

wcfsource

This source.zip.tmp file holds the whole sourcecode as one big package. It can’t be unpacked – even one would suggest that by just looking at that .zip ending in the name of the file.

Instead this is a plain-text file of a certain yet simple format. I wrote me a little tool to unpack this file into it’s original files and directories.

You can get the little tool, including sourcecode, here: UnpackMSSources.zip

To start the magic, you would like to go to the command line and start the tool with two parameters. Parameter 1 is the path and filename of the source.zip.tmp file. Parameter 2 is the part of the Path that needs to be cut-off. For the WCF Sources it’s “/DEVDIV/depot/DevDiv/releases/Orcas/SP/ndp/cdf/src/” for example.

The tool will then start to whirl through the file and extract all the files it founds into directories it’s creating along the way. After some seconds you would end with a directory tree like this:

unpacked

Have fun!

Source 1: http://referencesource.microsoft.com/netframework.aspx
Source 2: http://www.schrankmonster.de/content/binary/UnpackMSSources.zip

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farewell Songbird

sonb

After not less than 3 and a half hour Songbird finished with importing the iTunes library I am using for about 6 years.

The first impression is: Cool, it’s got plugins!

The second impression is: Booh, it wants to restart (while stopping the music) to install!

It’s not faster than iTunes. And this is a sad thing, because the only thing I hoped it would be was faster. It’s not – the UI it’s as fast and responsive as iTunes’ UI – at best. With just a few clicks the whole songbird window went into sleep mode and the well known beachball came into the play.

Even worse: for some strange reason Songbird consumes considerably more CPU time while just sitting there and playing an MP3 than iTunes does:

songbirdcpu

18,7% CPU load used by songbird just by playing an mp3 (no filtering, no visualisation, no nothing)

itunescpu

2,3% CPU load for iTunes while doing exactly the same. Even the same mp3 was played.

iTunes even takes less memory… oh dear: A long way to go for the Songbird team.

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taking Songbird for a spin (again)

Since my last Songbird experiences were not that great I thought it would be a great idea to take the newly released 1.2 version of Songbird for a spin.

It’s said that the new version is faster and more stable. I installed 3 hours ago and I still cannot use it since it’s syncing with iTunes ever since.

songbird

More on that topic when songbird is ready….

Source: http://getsongbird.com/

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a new version of the TFS Build Status Screen

There’s an update of the beloved TFS Build Status Screen tool. And the most frequently asked feature is now built-in: Scaleability.

You can scale the status screen now to fut even on the smallest screens…hurray!

tfsst

Source: http://raquila.com/software/team-foundation-server-build-notification-screen/

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getting System.ServiceModel.AddressAccessDeniedException in automated WCF Tests

We’re currently running several build processes. So each time someone checks new code in one of the build machines gets the whole package and builds it, runs tests on it and stores the result of this whole process on the Team Foundation Server. Great stuff so far.

Until you start to do things like automated WCF Testing. We’re using the selfhosting capabilities of the WCF to start a ServiceHost and then run tests against it. This works great locally. It does not on the build machines. Even if you promote the Build-Service User to Administrator you won’t get the love.

The error you might get would look something like this:

Capture

The exception contains an URL which tells you to add the Service URL to the machines URL Access Control List. On Windows XP and 2003 you have to install the Windows Support Tools and use the httpcfg command. On Windows Vista and 2008 you should use the already installed netsh commandline tool.

Since we need to get this to work on all current and future build servers I decided to add the netsh call to the build script, which looks like this:

” border=”0″ alt=”” src=”http://www.schrankmonster.de/content/binary/WindowsLiveWriter/get.AddressAccessDeniedExceptioninautoma_9859/Capture2_thumb.png” width=”400″ height=”109″ />

Add this Target before any tests in the .proj file and you’re set.

Source 1: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=70353

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small and reliable SFTP server for Windows

I had to transfer some data the last days and I wanted to do it fast, encrypted and using only one tcp port. SFTP is one of those protocols that come in handy in these cases.

Since the machine that would host the SFTP service is a Windows machine I reached out to find a free, reliable and easy to install and use SFTP Server.

Bild 1

I found Core FTP mini-sftp-server. It’s a small download of just one .exe file. When you start it up it’ll show the dialog above. You can configure username, password, port and path. Click “Start” and off you go. Works as advertised.

Source: http://www.coreftp.com/server/

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The Samsung UE46B6000 + Apple Mac Mini + Plex

So it’s been some days with the new Mediacenter Setup. And all I can say is: Oh boy that is some serious cool setup. I wouldn’t want to chance anything beside adding a new Sound System (>5.1 FTW!).

The Display itself is thinner than thought:

IMG_5394

I strongly recommend the Mac + Plex + Full HD display setup. Even if you don’t get any HD content from your cable provider you can live-stream or download HD content through the different provider plugins inside Plex. The plugin infrastructure with the built-in “App Store” is just great.

Since Plex is a XBMC based Mediacenter software you have tons of information scrapers regarding series and movies. So you’re eventually huge collection gets indexed and presented in a way you would not get from any other Mediacenter. You get pictures, movie posters, descriptions and many more just by automatic indexing your collection.

IMG_5404_2

MST3k FTW!

Needless to say that HD content is something different. I only had some HD content on normal computer displays in the last years – having it now huge and sharp is different – better.

BTW: It’s on the floor right now because my wife couldn’t decide until now which tv-stand would suffice…

Source 1: http://av.samsung.de/produkte/detail2_main.aspx?guid=b6c1306c-f57d-4ce7-a944-56cc7346ed2e
Source 2: http://www.apple.com/macmini/
Source 3: http://plexapp.com/

8 Comments

new GPS track analyzer found

My beloved GPS analyzer “GPS-Track” has been discontinued 🙁 I wasn’t able to locate an old version of it so I had to find a new tool which does the trick. On the other hand I upgraded my Windows Mobile phone to a newer version – resulting in the not-running of my previous gps logging tool. So I had to find another new tool.

First the GPS Logging tool:

It’s freeware, written in .NET and worked out of the box with my bluetooth gps. It’s called “GPS Cycle Computer” and has a lot of cool features like Google-Earth KML export, the obligatory GPX support and a great several display modes.

GPS-Cycle-Computer

The GPS Logger exports an .GPX file which then is imported into the Analyzer called “GPS-Track-Analyse.NET”. This tool – obviously designed to analyze hiking – allows you to view the data in different ways, edit waypoints and export it to several other formats.

Bild 1

Source 1: http://www.gps-freeware.de/Vorschau.aspx
Source 2: the previous GPS Tracker Tool I used
Source 3: the new Windows Mobile GPS Logger tool

1 Comment

If you want to backup and restore your stored windows passwords…

You might want to do this:

run

 

This will spawn a nice little dialog looking like this:

stored 

There you go – you can add, remove, edit, backup and restore your stored passwords. I didn’t know that was possible until now – amazing B-)

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sones portiert sein Speichersystem auf das Speichermedium der Zukunft!

Aufgrund neuester Entwicklungen im Speichermedien-Segment wird ab dem nächsten Release des sones Speichersystems auch das angesagteste Speichermedium der Stunde unterstützt: die Speichergurke.

Durch die sensationelle Speicherdichte und unerreichte Zuverlässigkeit ist die Speichergurke das perfekte Speichermedium für den Datenhunger von gestern, heute und morgen.

Source 1: http://www.sones.de
Source 2: http://www.speichergurke.de

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Bugs Bunny

Welcome our newest office Member!

From the sales department with love:

006

Bugs Bunny

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Go little Mailserver, go!!!

Since we moved into a new apartment in the last 3 weeks I had no stable internet connection – neither had my private Mailserver.

As of today everything is in place – the mail- and fileserver is up and running and connected to the internet again. So I had a server which buffered all the mail that came in during that time. That sums up to:

Bild 3

63.671 Mails in about 18 days. Hussah!

Bild 1

Go little Mailserver, go!!!

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