Archive for category Software

two times unfortunate stuff

First my Vista x64 machine at home seems to get slower by any minute it is powered on – most likely because one service is eating up all the installed memory:

5gb
(screenshot from Process Explorer)

I wasn’t able to figure out what’s the problem with it – restarting the associated services did nothing at all – killing it and restarting the services resulted in 5 gb of free memory…

And then there’s the other thing that happened this morning. We ordered a pile of 20 hard disks before christmas – and now 4 of them died.

business

Farewell you little 1 Tbyte hard disk – we never had the chance to get to know each other better.

No Comments

Configuring Build Triggers in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2008

We have several source-trees in one VSTFS project which are separated by paths in the source control. Now there are several build definitions which are triggered on every checkin.

The problem now is: How do I just build the projects that are affected by the checkin?

Easy! Just cloak the paths in the build definition.

buddybuild_cloaking

In the example: Every check-in below $/sones/branches and $/sones/PandoraDB is ignored and the code itself isn’t even checked out.

No Comments

Jabber Logging Windows Service Sourcecode

I promised you the sourcecode of the Jabber Logging Client Service I’ve written. You can read about it here.

It’s now a fully blown Windows Service which monitors the EvenLog Datasource you specify. You can specify filters now so that you won’t get overwhelmed by uninteresting messages from the Windows Event Log of the monitored machine. You don’t need to restart the service if you changed a filter – it’ll pick the new filter up automatically. The same stands for the target users. Just change the XML and the Service will pick that information up. If you change the EventLog Datasource or the Jabber-Settings you’’ll need to restart the service.

So here it is: JabberLoggingService Version 0.2

If you’re going to use it and you like it please drop me a line. Oh and don’t forget to read the readme.txt for full instructions.

Oh I almost forgot: You can grab the Sourcecode of the Linux version here: http://www.ahzf.de/itstuff/XMPPLogger/

Source 1: http://www.schrankmonster.de/2009/01/22/UsingJabberToMonitorWindowsEventLogs.aspx
Source 2: http://www.schrankmonster.de/content/binary/JabberLoggingService0_2.zip
Source 3: http://www.ahzf.de/itstuff/XMPPLogger/

No Comments

the feeling of success

When your brand new build server compiles and tests your code automatically and successfully for the first time… oh what a great way to end the work day:

buildtests

No Comments

Jabber Instant Messaging Eventlog Service with Presence Information

I found out what to do to get the Jabber Eventlog Service to display status information in the Jabber Client…

serverZ

nice, eh? 😉

5 Comments

DPM 2007 problem – why can’t I install the Remote Agent?

I tried to install a Data Protection Manager 2007 Remote Agent remotely and on the machine locally. Trying to install it remotely will always fail with this error message:

dpmfailed

 

Since “tfs” is the only x86 server we have and everything else including the DPM 2007 Server is x64 this is my only bet – but so far even the local installation (which worked) did not change anything. I installed the remote agent and did the console setup setting the dpm server. I then added the production server to the DPM 2007. But the error message remained. I just don’t know what else to do.

Any ideas?

No Comments

Using Jabber to monitor Windows EventLogs

Like every company we also got several machines working just for our infrastructural needs like Sharepoints, Activedirectory, Databases, Backup-Servers and so on.

To monitor many machines we came across the idea to use Jabber Instant Messaging to monitor the machines. For example the VPN should drop a line to specified jabber adresses if someone connects or disconnects. Every single machine is maintaining it’s own log – which means you would have to consolidate them in some ways. And since consolidation is not the masterplan – since you would need an event alarm system which sends out alarm calls if something weird is happening, you would need that alarm system too.

So we wrote (while waiting for the machines to install) several small tools which provide a gateway between syslog-ng, windows event logs and Jabber.

Since we are using this productively my Jabber Client Window looks something like this:

psi 

As you can see there are 3 machines online right now – and since these are Linux machines they also provide some status information like load averages and free memory. The Linux version was written by ahzf in perl – and obviously his library can handle the presence and status information much better than the one I used for the Windows version 🙂 – So there are no presence and status informations for the Windows machines right now.

The Windows version is written in C# and relies on the Jabber.NET library. It comes with a small setup and runs as a windows service.

jabbereventlog_windows

In the setup you have to enter the username+password of a user that can access the local Windows Event Log. After the successful setup you need to edit the config file:

editconfig

It’s XML and quite easy to understand (I think) – so you define the jabber server, the user, the password, the Users that you want to receive the messages and the EventLog you want to monitor.

After starting the service you get the startup message via the jabber server and from now on everything that is written into the Windows Event Log is sent to the accounts you specified. Easy eh?

P.S.: sourcecode release will be after we packaged everything.

Source: http://code.google.com/p/jabber-net/

7 Comments

When x64 hasn’t quite arrived…

…I really thought that if I start using x64 only machines my live would be easier related to those resource hogs like SQL Server and Team Foundation Server. But I had to find out just now that obviously…:

 

tfsx64

No Comments

Power Install Party

Hmm… setting up the new gear for the office infrastructure can be somewhat time consuming…

powerinstallparty2

Having relatively huge VMWare Server Host machines we’re power-installing all the virtual machines that are needed for your inhouse infrastructure…

No Comments

DIY Photo Frame (with a twist)

I got these two quite old Windows Mobile Professional phones (with touchscreen and everything) and beside the fact that they are my phones I am using them just to display my calendar entries on my desk. Now I thought it would be a great thing if those two QVGA devices would display personal pictures in a slideshow.

And it would be even better if they would get their pictures from the internet. And even better if there would be an application that would allow me or my wife to upload/delete pictures from the slideshow playing on all devices.

Thought said, and done. I did a little afterwork project today, taking me approx. 3 hours with everything from scratch.

So I made these parts:

  1. a webservice to upload, delete and retrieve the pictures

    This really is just a webservice very similar to the one I used in my DropBox application. It’s hosted on one of my machines and makes the pictures also available to the mobile clients.

  2. an upload tool to upload, delete the pictures comfortably

    I took the DropBox Application and customized it – it now resizes the pictures automatically before uploading and it can display a preview in the file browser.

    photoframe_upload_1

    photoframe_upload_2

  3. a small application running on my phones that displays this pictures using the webservice

    This one was made from scratch and consumes the webservice from above. It asks for the next picture URL, downloads this picture and displays it… and so on.

    photoframe_app_1 photoframe_app_2

Since it’s already up and running and looking great on my desk I wanted to share it with you. Don’t expect everything to work out-of-the-box but it’s a start for everyone who wants to have something like this. Oh – of course your windows mobile device needs to have internet access…

So as usual here’s the sourcecode of the whole package for your pleasure. Use it where ever and in what ever whay you want as long as you’re crediting.

PhotoFrame.zip (639,87 KB)

P.S: There’s a fun fact I did not know: I accidently double-clicked the windows mobile application on my Vista machine and guess what: It just runs! Yes, manage Windows Mobile Application running natively on Windows Vista:

funfact

Source 1: PhotoFrame.zip (639,87 KB)
Source 2: DropBox

No Comments

Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4.0 CTP available

Unexpected news: Obiously the first CTP of the upcoming Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4.0 is available for download.

“Welcome to the Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4.0 Community Technology Preview Feedback page! You can now get an early look at the new features we are working on for the next release by downloading the CTP from the Download Center. The CTP release is available in English only as a Virtual PC image.”

2010

Source: http://connect.microsoft.com/VisualStudio/content/content.aspx?ContentID=9790

No Comments

Microsoft Small Basic – a learning by doing programming environment

Microsoft just released a small tool with the name “Small Basic”. It’s a all-in-one programming environment for beginners:

smallbasic

“Small Basic is a project that’s aimed at bringing “fun” back to programming. By providing a small and easy to learn programming language in a friendly and inviting development environment, Small Basic makes programming a breeze. Ideal for kids and adults alike, Small Basic helps beginners take the first step into the wonderful world of programming.”

Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/devlabs/cc950524.aspx

2 Comments

DIY PMR Gateway

In my case it’s just partly do-it-yourself: Michael and Peter did the cable soldering and I wrote the software that controls the serial interface to the PMR sender/receiver.

My gateway is on PMR channel 5 with no CTCSS configured in the Campus area of the TU-Ilmenau. A gateway is only just a PMR radio connected to a PC which is logged into a Teamspeak server which is connected to several other gateways (citizen radio / PMR / …)

So if you talk within the range of my gateway you’ll be heard in more than 24 areas across germany over PMR and citizen radio.

Capture

One toolset which was particularly useful is the VU-Meter tools. You can use them to monitor your input/output ports and tune them for perfect modulation. You can get them here and they look like this:

vumeter

Since the cable soldering was one piece of craftsmanship a picture of the radio and the cable:

IMG_3316
the computer side of the interface

IMG_3318
the radio side of the interface

If you want to connect from outside the range of the PMR you should go to the homepage of Freies Funknetz and get all the necessary information there.

Source 1: http://www.darkwood.demon.co.uk/PC/meter.html
Source 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PMR446
Source 3: http://www.freiesfunknetz.de/index.html

1 Comment

the new VMWare Server 2.0…

…is such a great product.

It was easier to install than the 1.0 version and since the VMWare Server Console is gone and the WebAccess is revamped it got a great new user interface.

vmware2

Source: http://vmware.com/products/server/

5 Comments

How to create an m4b iTunes compatible audiobook from a cd

Let’s say you’re like me: You got several audiobooks on CD over the years and you even ripped several of these to listen to them in your MP3 player/car.

So what I have is a number of audiobooks ripped as mp3s on my harddisk looking something like this:

crnan1

If you only have the CD what you would like to do is rip the whole CD as ONE large m4a AAC encoded audiofile. We need it to be an m4a because we later want to inject chapter marks. If you have this big AAC file just skip the next few steps. But if you got those several small mp3 files – one for each chapter you want to merge them together and reencode them as m4a AAC.

There is a great free tool to merge these mp3 files together. It’s called (who would have thought) Merge MP3 and is available completely for free. It’ll create one big mp3 file out of your several small ones.

mergemp3nan

After you got that huge mp3 file you want to convert it into a m4a file with AAC encoding. I recommend using iTunes.

itunesconvertnan

When you got that one huge m4a file you want to load it into a tool called Chapter Master. It’s not free and will set you back $15 but it’s worth as I did not find anything else that was a) that cheap b) that comfortable c) working.

chaptermasternan

Load the m4a file into Chapter Master, add the chapters in the right order and at the right time. Eventually you want to add an album art picture. Click save and you’re done.

The resulting file is a m4b file recognized by iTunes as an audiobook with chapters.

Source 1: http://www.shchuka.com/software/mergemp3
Source 2: http://www.rightword.com.au/products/chaptermaster/download.asp

1 Comment

How to make it hard to read the EULA

Microsoft did a fairly good job hiding the end user license agreement in the .NET Framework 3.5 installer dialog:

netframeworklicense

No Comments

How to fix a “Maximum length exceeded” error message in ASP.NET

Since I had to fix it for more than hundred times before – here is once and for all the solution:

Add to the httpRuntime section of the web.config file of your ASP.NET application or webservice:

and you’re done.

No Comments

the Hyper-V Server 2008 is available… for free…

I virtualization heaven! I am currently using VMWare Server on most of the machines I am doing virtualization on – but the fact that the Microsoft Hypervisor “Hyper-V” is available for free now is really cool:

“Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008, a bare metal hypervisor-based server virtualization product, is now available as a no-cost Web download at http://www.microsoft.com/Hyper-VServer. Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 provides a simplified, reliable and optimized virtualization solution for customers to consolidate Windows or Linux workloads onto a single physical server or to run client operating systems and applications in server-based virtual machines in the data center. Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 allows customers to leverage their existing provisioning, updating, management and support tools, processes and skills.”

hypervsetup1

Source: http://hypervoria.com/

No Comments

HandBrake is now a full blown video converter…

Turns out that a new snapshot (unofficial) version of my favourite DVD to iPod Converter is available. With the new version came new features like the one that allows me now to convert almost anything to wonderful iPod compatible movie files.

handbrake093

“HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.”

I tried anything in my library, including some matroska movie files. Just everything worked – amazing!

Source: http://handbrake.fr/?article=snapshot

No Comments

Gimp got a new UI

And another great software release of last week was the new GIMP version. GIMP is a free open-source image manipulation program that offers 99% of the functionality you’ll ever need.

augegimp

P.S.: This is my wife’s eye… 🙂

Source: http://www.gimp.org

No Comments

create panoramic images with a free tool

There was the Digital Image Suite and several other tools like Hugin and Cool360 which I used over the last years to create panoramic images. Now there’s a new tool available in 32 and 64 bit (for really really huge images!) from Microsoft Research. It’s free at this point and if you’re on Windows it’s definitely worth the try.

msice

“Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. You shoot a set of overlapping photographs of a scene from a single location, and Image Composite Editor creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all your images at full resolution. Then save your stitched panorama in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.”

Source: http://research.microsoft.com/ivm/ice.html

No Comments

When did RAID became independent?

Once upon a time I was told about that cool technology that lets you take several hard drives and glue them “together” to a single big volume. This technology was called RAID – Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks – and that it was. It brought us greater levels of reliability and performance – and it was inexpensive compared with other technologies and since hard drive prices are falling for years and storage space is growing along with that it’s getting even cheaper than anything else you could use to store data securely. Some of us even backup to a independent RAID system.

In the beginning of this all there were several hard drive interface technologies used – mainly it was Parallel ATA and SCSI. It was widely accepted that the SCSI drives are specified for 24/7 server usage and were almost everytime faster than their consumer PATA relatives. It was accepted that if you want to build a reliable industry grade RAID you would want to use SCSI drives – the SCSI bus system even had advantages like up to 7 drives per bus compared to just 2 drives with PATA or hot-swap capabilities.

Over the last years it turned out that SATA is the new interface technology that replaces the old SCSI and PATA. There are several server grade SATA drives available now – these drives are getting cheaper, faster and bigger by the minute. So there’s not a real purpose for anything “more server than server-SATA” you might think. Again if you want to build inexpensive and redundant storage arrays there is nothing cheaper than standard or even server SATA drives. They are fast, reliable and huge.

So some years ago the industry presents: the SAS interface. It’s called “Serial Attached SCSI” and is the “new cool thing in hard disk storage”. There are some niche features that may or may not justify the existence of SAS. A fact is that SAS hard drives of the same size and speed are more expensive.

“SATA is marketed as a general-purpose successor to Parallel ATA and is now common in the consumer market, while the more expensive SAS is marketed for critical server applications.(Wikipedia)

It’s getting worse: The industry started to offer fast hard drives (15000 rpm) only for the more expensive SAS interface. The few 15k rpm SATA drives are not slower in any way than their SAS versions – but they are not widely available and all of a sudden the same price like the SAS version.

But back to the definition of RAID:

So over the years the technology made a giant leap forward and all of a sudden you find yourself using very expensive hard drives while glueing them together to giant volumes (it’s now terabytes…petabytes…). While consumer hard drives are available for about a third (at least) the price of the server version of the same drive. It seems that the widely accepted definition of inexpensive is replaced by independence. I do know that there are use cases when you want to use the fastest spinning drive available regardless of the price – but I also think that there could be affordable fast spinning drives if we shouldn’t be bothered to pay the marketing-fee that SAS brings. It’s plain marketing to make new 15k rpm drives only available for SAS and not for SATA. Marketing and nothing more.

As it turns out many industry (marketing) brains (hey, even wikipedia) are switching to a new definition of RAID. It’s now a Redundant Array of Independent Disks – which I think is a definition that could not be worse. It’s not independence we gain with the new definition.

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID#cite_note-1
Source 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Attached_SCSI

No Comments

If you need to edit XML files…

…take the XML Notepad.

“Handy features include:

  • Tree View synchronized with Node Text View for quick editing of node names and values.
  • Incremental search (Ctrl+I) in both tree and text views, so as you type it navigates to matching nodes.
  • Cut/copy/paste with full namespace support.
  • Drag/drop support for easy manipulation of the tree, even across different instances of XML Notepad and from the file system.
  • Infinite undo/redo for all edit operations.
  • In place popup multi-line editing of large text node values.
  • Configurable fonts and colors via the options dialog.
  • Full find/replace dialog with support for regex and XPath.
  • Good performance on large XML documents, loading a 3mb document in about one second.
  • Instant XML schema validation while you edit with errors and warnings shown in the task list window.
  • Intellisense based on expected elements and attributes and enumerated simple type values.
  • Support for custom editors for date, dateTime and time datatypes and other types like color.
  • Handy nudge tool bar buttons for quick movement of nodes up and down the tree.
  • Inplace HTML viewer for processing xml-stylesheet processing instructions.
  • Built-in XML Diff tool.
  • Support for XInclude
  • Dynamic help from XSD annotations.
  • Goto definition to navigate includes and XSD schema information. “

xmlnotepad

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=72d6aa49-787d-4118-ba5f-4f30fe913628&displaylang=en

No Comments

I finally got my low latency network audio solution

In May 2005 I wrote about a wish I had for years:

“As usual I’ve got a very strange wish what nobody else seems to have on this planet. I have several computers of different platforms. And on one of this machines there are speakers attached…I want to have the possibility to output from any of the machines to the speakers. And please loss-less and low latency!”

It took more than 3 years to fulfill this particular wish. But now it’s done. In 2005 I mentioned the Airfoil software that could run on MacOS X and forward sound from almost every application to an AirTunes compatible device. As it turns out Rogue Amoeba did their homework and created a free “Airfoil Speakers” application which can be used on Windows and MacOS X.

So the things are simple: Start the speaker application on a machine that is in the same network/subnet as the Airfoil master. The virtual speaker is then displayed on the master machine and you can assign a sound source from that machine to the speaker. Hmm… Simple Setup sample: One machine is in my kitchen (Windows XP machine) and one machine is on my desk – an iMac. In the kitchen only the speaker application is started and the iMac instantly “sees” the speaker. One click and the sound output of my desk machine is forwarded through the network to the kitchen… Easy and cool. One can think of any other combination of Speaker/Master application – even multiple speakers can be powered by one master…oh joy!

So here is what the master looks like:

airfoil

and this is what it looks like on a client (speaker):

airfoil2

Source 1: nerd wish of 2005
Source 2: http://rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/

No Comments

Spacetime Math tools

If you searching a tool for Windows, Linux, OSX and your windows mobile device…you may want to take a look at this:

“SpaceTime 3.0 by SpaceTime Mathematics is a revolution in mathematics software with 2D, 3D, and time graphing with MobileCAS® for algebra and calculus. With features only available in Mathematica and MATLAB, SpaceTime is the most powerful cross-platform mathematics software ever developed for computers and mobile devices.

spacetime

Source: http://www.spacetime.us/

1 Comment

.NET Reflector update

“Red Gate has recently acquired .NET Reflector. We will continue to maintain a free version for the benefit of the community.”

redgatereflector

Source: http://reflector.red-gate.com/Download.aspx

No Comments

Fixing the bad bad mouse acceleration in Mac OS X

I finally found a fix for the unspeakable mouse acceleration problem I have with MacOS X. It’s just a fact that Apple seems to have no idea how to do the mouse handling. Some people say it’s the mouse acceleration curve that apple got wrong:

“As wonderful as Mac OS X is, it has a grave defect that can have an immediate adverse impact on the computer’s usability: the way it translates mouse motion into pointer movement. For many users, moving the mouse feels unnatural because of the peculiar way that Mac OS X performs that translation. In industry parlance, the translation is called the “mouse acceleration curve.” What is a mouse acceleration curve, and how is its implementation problematic under Mac OS X?”

It’s a problem I can live with but I am not happy. With Panther and Tiger I had a solution called MacMiceCommand. But with Leopard this solution stopped working and until I found this:

“This is a GUI version of Richard Bentley’s MouseFix. (i)MouseFix is a very simple program that will allow you to regain control of the mouse acceleration in Mac OS X. Both this web page and the program copies large parts from MouseFix because he says: “feel free to take the code and wrap a nice interface round it. Be nice and make it free for everyone to use though :-)””

Source 1: mouse acceleration explained
Source 2: http://www.lavacat.com/iMouseFix/

No Comments

unboxing surface tables…

These guys got lucky and got themselves two Surface tables:

“Yesterday, we (Amnesia) took delivery of Australia’s first two Microsoft Surface tables. We believe they were the first units to ship outside the US. Not often you get your hands on something no one else has seen, so we thought we’d share the grand opening of the boxes…”

IMG_0059_thumb

Source: AmnesiaBlog

No Comments

Photosynth is open for the public

Believe it or not – it’s been 2 years since I first wrote about Photosynth technology. Today Microsoft made it available to the public. It’s not a tool (yet) – like I wanted – right now but it’s built into this website – so you have to upload your pictures, they are processed and then you can browse on this website… well it’s a start for a really great technology.

“We’re pleased to announce the first full release of Photosynth, available now at photosynth.com. Photosynth takes a collection of regular photographs and reconstructs the scene or object in a 3-D environment. For those of you who have seen the videos or tried our tech preview, you could experience synths that we made in the lab and get a feel for what Photosynth is and how it works. But now, for the first time ever you can create synths from your own pictures and share them with your friends. Explore great synths from others or create a few of your own.”

halo3photosynth

It’s not going to work on anything different than Windows. So stick to the movies if you’re on anything else. But as far as I know it’ll run o

Source 1: http://photosynth.net/Default.aspx
Source 2: http://www.schrankmonster.de/PermaLink,guid,fdc3d1fb-4966-418b-83ea-1e0c12aae833.aspx

No Comments

giving better looking presentations: pptPlex

There’s a new free tool available from officelabs:

“pptPlex is a plug-in that explores an alternate method for presenting a PowerPoint slide deck. Using pptPlex, you can present your slides as a tour through a zoomable canvas instead of a series of linear slides.”

pptplex

Source: http://www.officelabs.com/projects/pptPlex/Pages/default.aspx

No Comments

“Virtualization for Dummies” free eBook is available for download

Thanks to Sun and AMD there’s now a free eBook available for download:

“Virtualization for Dummies – Sun and AMD Special Edition is now available! Published by the same folks who create all the “Dummies” books – this special edition version showcases Sun and AMD virtualization offerings, how they work together, and how they can benefit businesses. Learn about the latest virtualization technologies with this brief and easy-to-read booklet.”

virtualfordum

Source: Virtualization for Dummies Download

No Comments

Widelands – an opensource Settlers II clone

Logo

Widelands-Screen

From the wiki about section:

“In Widelands, you are the regent of a small tribe. You start out with nothing but your headquarters, a kind of castle in which all your resources are stored. In the course of the game, you will build an ever growing settlement. Every member of your tribe will do his or her part to produce more resources – wood, food, iron, gold and more – to further this growth. But you are not alone in the world, and you will meet other tribes sooner or later. Some of them may be friendly and trade with you. However, if you want to rule the world, you will have to train soldiers and fight.

Widelands offers a unique style of play. For example, a system of roads plays the central role of your economy: all the goods that are harvested and processed by the tribe must be transported from one building to the next. This is done by carriers, and those carriers always walk along the roads. It is your job to lay out the roads as efficiently as possible.

Another refreshing aspect of the game is the way you command your tribe. There is no need to tell every single one of your subjects what to do – that would be impossible, because there can be thousands of them! Instead, all you’ve got to do is order them to build a building somewhere, and the builders will come. Similarly, whenever you want to attack an enemy, just place an order to attack one of their barracks, and your soldiers will march to fight. You’re really a ruler: You delegate in times of war and in times of peace!

Widelands offers single-player mode with different campaigns; the campaigns all tell storys of tribes or Empires and their struggle in the Widelands universe! However, settling really starts when you unite with friends over the Internet or LAN to build up new empires together – or to crush each other in the dusts of war. Widelands also offers an Artifical Intelligence to challenge you.

In the end, Widelands will be extensible, so that you can create your own type of tribe with their own sets of buildings. You can create new worlds to play in, and you could even create new types of worlds (who says you can’t build a settlement on the moon?). ”

Source: http://xoops.widelands.org/

No Comments

littleBits – modular electronics that sticks together

It’s like lego for electronic circuits:

“littleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers and designers.”

Source: http://www.ayahbdeir.com/littleBits/

No Comments

read the MSDN Forums with a cool client interface

I often read in the MSDN Forums but I will read more often because now there’s a client application available:

“After many months of hard work we are proud to announce the availability of our first CTP of the Microsoft Forums Client. Much of the work for this CTP is in foundational code that will let us build the rest of the application, but we hope that this first preview will let you see what direction we’re heading in, and also give you a chance to give us feedback!
Things that work in this CTP:

  • Getting the list of available forums
  • Subscribing to forums you’re interested in
  • Manually (by right click menu) synchronizing the Question and General Discussion threads in a forum
  • Reading posts that have been synchronized
  • Hierarchical (threaded) view of conversations”

CTP Main Screen

Source: http://www.codeplex.com/msdnforumsclient

1 Comment

Vista Battery Saver tool

Sometimes you’ll need the battery of your notebook last as long as possible – sometimes it’s speed that matters. With Windows Vista you can setup detailed power plans for each situation. But this options are a bit hidden under the surface.

powerplan

For that matter the “Vista Battery Saver” is a tool that helps you to setup the important settings in just one window, with just one click. It even is aware of the power state of your machine – if it’s plugged in or now and so on.

bbb1

It’s a free tool and you can even download it’s sourcecode. Give it a try if you’re on a mobile machine with Vista.

Source: http://www.codeplex.com/vistabattery

No Comments

the Visual OpenType Layout Tool

If sometimes you need to just create your own font… well maybe that’s a bit too much theoretical – but it’s interesting to play with a tool like VOLT. It’s out now in a new Version and I suggest taking a look:

“The Microsoft Visual OpenType Layout Tool provides an easy-to-use graphical user interface to add OpenType layout tables to fonts with TrueType outlines. It is licensed free and can be downloaded from the online community set up for it. The community hosts an active discussion forum, version history information, a wish-list and related downloads. Links to VOLT’s release notes, as well as tips and tutorials are also posted.”

glypheditor

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/VOLT.mspx

No Comments

getting the iTunes library to move or programmatically access the library without iTunes

I am using iTunes as my main music player software for about 5 years now. In that time I had to move and restore my growing iTunes library more than 10 times. It can become quite a job to get it done properly so I came across this great howto article to help you and me out in the future:

“I see some discussion about fixing busted iTunes libraries, either when moving one on the same computer or migrating to a new one. Here’s what I have found works for me. Bonus: no slow AppleScripts or payments (donations cheerfully accepted and squandered).

First, what I have discovered about how iTunes manages music collections. There are two files it uses, one that is binary (ie, machine readable for faster performance on searching, sorting, add/edit/delete operations) and one that has the same information but in a human readable format (for a certain subset of humans who can read XML natively). The XML file is written from the binary file as a backup (check the dates to confirm).”

But that isn’t were it needs to stop. I had to do some more things with my iTunes library lately – like extracting all that ratings and exporting them into a new music player software I liked to test. I therefore wrote myself a little tool in C# that does the job of reading in the whole iTunes library and giving you programmatically access to that library. It only needs to have read access to the Mediathek.xml file iTunes stores in it’s music folder and you from there on can work your way through the bazillions of music tracks you may or may not have in your library. It even does the find-and-replace job a bit easier than the solution mentioned in the article above.

I release the code under the CC-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license and here is your download:

ReadiTunesMediathek.zip (11,82 KB)

This code is a simple example of how to use the XmlTextReader in C# and how to traverse through them. It should be easy to understand and easy to change. I would love to hear from you when and if it helped you.

xmltextreader

Source 1: iTunes library, fixing a broken one or moving one
Source 2: ReadiTunesMediathek.zip (11,82 KB)

No Comments

get access to linux filesystems like ext3 and reiserfs by using FUSE on Windows

If you’re using Windows and if you want to access those filesystems that are used by Linux you can use FUSE on Windows now.

Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE) is a loadable kernel module for Unix-like computer operating systems, that allows non-privileged users to create their own file systems without editing the kernel code. This is achieved by running the file system code in user space, while the FUSE module only provides a “bridge” to the actual kernel interfaces. FUSE was officially merged into the mainstream Linux kernel tree in kernel version 2.6.14.

FUSE is particularly useful for writing virtual file systems. Unlike traditional filesystems, which essentially save data to and retrieve data from disk, virtual filesystems do not actually store data themselves. They act as a view or translation of an existing filesystem or storage device. In principle, any resource available to FUSE implementation can be exported as a file system. See Examples for some of the possible applications.” (Wikipedia)

There is a version of FUSE for Mac and of course for linux and now with coLinux there’s a chance to get the FUSE world onto the Windows machines.

For our task we will use coLinux. coLinux is a modified linux kernel that can be executed as an application or a service in the Windows environment. The web page of the project is http://www.colinux.org/.”

colinux01

You’ll find a very detailed how-to there.

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filesystem_in_Userspace
Source 2: http://polishlinux.org/linux/ext3-reiserfs-xfs-in-windows-thanks-to-colinux/
Source 3: http://www.colinux.org/

No Comments

So writing a filesystem in .NET isn’t a bad idea after all :-)

Ever since we started writing a complete and cutting edge filesystem in C# and only managed code we are confronted with questions like

“Why C#? Why .NET? Why not in a more low-level language? Why a filesystem after all?”

I don’t want to talk just yet about our reasons but we can’t be that wrong if even Microsoft Research is trying to get their .NET Operating System research project Singularity ready for customers:

“Midori is an offshoot of Microsoft Research’s Singularity operating system, the tools and libraries of which are completely managed code. Midori is designed to run directly on native hardware (x86, x64 and ARM), be hosted on the Windows Hyper-V hypervisor, or even be hosted by a Windows process.”

This would be an Operating System 100% in managed code – hey Microsoft – maybe you want to talk with us about our 100% managed code filesystem?! 🙂

To prevent rumors: no – we are not working on anything Microsoft related, yet.

Source 1: Microsoft Research – Singularity
Source 2: Codename Midori

No Comments

trueSpace 3D 7.6 is available for free

I used trueSpace years ago when a demo version appeared on one of those CDs that often came with computer magazines… it must be more than 10 years now. I was pleased to read about the availability of the current version of trueSpace as a completely free tool:

“trueSpace7.6 is a fully-featured 3D authoring package that will let you model, texture, light, animate and render 3D content. As well as traditional images and movies, you can also make 3D content for online shared spaces, and for Virtual Earth.”

truespace76

Source: http://www.caligari.com/Products/trueSpace/tS75/brochure/intro.asp?Cate=BIntro

No Comments

Augmented Reality Game soon available (full source!)

You may have heard about Levelhead – an augmented reality game made by Julian Oliver – if you did not hear about it? No problem:

Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data. At present, most AR research is concerned with the use of live video imagery which is digitally processed and “augmented” by the addition of computer-generated graphics. Advanced research includes the use of motion-tracking data, fiducial marker recognition using machine vision, and the construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.”

So – Augmented reality mixes the reality and the computer graphics and creates a new reality for you. That’s a lot of theoretical…so let’s talk about Levelhead:

It’s a game where you have to move plastic cubes with printed-on patterns in front of a camera – the computer now renders a new world inside of the plastic cubes – when you move the cube, the world inside the cube moves too… it looks like this:

lh_4_med

“levelHead uses a hand-held solid-plastic cube as its only interface. On-screen it appears each face of the cube contains a little room, each of which are logically connected by doors.
In one of these rooms is a character. By tilting the cube the player directs this character from room to room in an effort to find the exit.

Some doors lead nowhere and will send the character back to the room they started in, a trick designed to challenge the player’s spatial memory. Which doors belong to which rooms?

There are three cubes (levels) in total, each of which are connected by a single door. Players have the goal of moving the character from room to room, cube to cube in an attempt to find the final exit door of all three cubes. If this door is found the character will appear to leave the cube, walk across the table surface and vanish.. The game then begins again.
Someone once said levelHead may have something to do with a story from Borges.. For a description of the conceptual basis of this project, see below. “

If you are not amazed now? You should watch this:

The thing is – this cool game and technology will be available at the end of this month as full open-source. I suggest to check Julians site back at the end of the month at last.

Source 1: Augmented Reality @ Wikipedia
Source 2: Levelhead homepage

No Comments

How to use the intertubes to display music videos along your ordinary music

If you got a Mac (and that’s the platform it’s only running on) and if you’re using iTunes to listen to your music you probably want to give this Dashboard Widget a try – it automatically searches the music video which supposedly belongs to the music you’re currently listening to and plays it in a small window on the dashboard:

“YouTube has stacks and stacks of music videos on their website. I have written a little dashboard widget called iTube. iTube gets the artist and title of the song you are playing in iTunes. It then performs a search on youtube and plays the first hit in the widget window. Once installed iTube works by itself in the background, so start a song up iTunes then look at your dashboard and with a little luck you’ll be watching what you are listening to.”

itube

Source: http://philipandrews.org/blog/itube/

No Comments

a tool to convert a Windows Server 2008 machine into a useable workstation without loosing anything

a similar tool is available for Windows Server 2003 and now for 2008:

“Probably you are thinking at the moment: “Why the heck should I use Windows Server 2008 as my Workstations Operating System?? Vista works fine for me…”.

The answer is clear: Windows Server 2008 has almost exactly the same features as Windows Vista (SP1), but is remarkably faster and more stable!

converter_general

I cannot talk about the “more stable”-part since my Vista machines do not crash but if you’re one of those who just cannot live without the newest cutting-edge kernel version go ahead install Server 2008 and convert it into a useable workstation with Sound and stuff 🙂

Source: http://www.win2008workstation.com/wordpress/2008/07/17/windows-server-2008-workstation-converter/

No Comments

Hyper-V vs. Virtual Sever 2005 R2 – a “benchmark” using Sharepoint

Michael O’Donovan has a great benchmark-comparison of the brand new Hyper-V and the older Virtual Server 2005 R2:

“I have done a fair amount of SharePoint demos and developement over the past few years, and have always done this on my laptop using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 or Microsoft Virtual PC, to host and run a SharePoint environment. Last year at Tech-Ed, while I was doing a demo, I had a comment from someone in the audience “Why is SharePoint so slow?” To some degree it makes sense, the specific SharePoint virtual environment which I was using at the time had almost every product known to man installed (the virtual hard drive size was 40GB), as well as being a domain controller and running on a laptop which only had 1GB ram assigned to the virtual machine. However, with the RTM release of Hyper-V (on Windows Server 2008), I wanted to see if performance was better now.”

One graph from his article:

image_2

Guess now – which color is which product?

Source: http://blogs.msdn.com/modonovan/archive/2008/07/09/sharepoint-under-hyper-v-versus-virtual-server-2005-r2.aspx

No Comments

RAW digital photo codecs for Windows Vista

If you got a digital SLR camera you probably do RAW shoots from time to time…so this could probably be interesting:

Many photographers—especially those with digital SLRs—shoot in ‘RAW’ mode, which outputs a file format that is proprietary to their camera make and model (for example, .CR2, .NEF). These RAW formats preserve more of the original information from the camera than the JPG file that most other cameras output. This extra information provides greater quality, but it comes at a price of convenience. JPG is a universally supported image file format, but as anyone who has used RAW files can tell you, they are anything but universally supported.

In the past, RAW shooters had to either rely on RAW conversion software provided by their camera manufacturer, or put their fate in the hands of the myriad of software makers who have attempted to reverse-engineer these formats for support in their software applications. This led to a number of problems: compatibility issues, varying quality or inconsistent results from one application to another, and holes in the user workflow where RAW support is lacking.

Windows Vista attempts to solve these problems by providing an extensible platform that allows support for these (and other) new file formats to be added to Windows by the owner of the file format. This support comes in the form of a codec, which users will get from their camera manufacturer, either by downloading it, or provided with a new camera body. The Photo Gallery will even detect the presence of these files and help you download a codec when it exists.

Microsoft has been working with the major camera manufacturers so that they can provide codecs for their various RAW formats to their customers. Once these codecs are installed, users will find that they can view their RAW files and thumbnails throughout Windows Vista.

There are Codecs available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax and ArdFry

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/codecs.aspx

No Comments

Say goodbye: Windows 3.11 reached end-of-life

Amazingly enough OEMs could license WfW 3.11 for this long period of time…

“we recently announced that effective November 1st, 2008, OEM’s will no longer be able to license Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in the embedded channel.”

wfw311logo

but it’s time to say goodbye.

Source: http://blogs.msdn.com/jcoyne/archive/2008/07/09/it-s-the-end-for-3-11.aspx

No Comments

Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) Improvements for .NET 3.5 SP1

Servicepack 1 for the .NET Framework 3.5 is coming out so there are many new features and improvements… like this list of WCF Improvements:

  • New Hosting Wizard for WCF Service projects.
  • Enhancements in Test Client such as support for RM Sessions, Message Contract and Nullable types enables testing of broader set of WCF-based services.
  • Expanding reach of DataContract Serializer by relaxing the need of having [DataContract]/ [DataMember] on types and by supporting an interoperable mechanism for dealing with object references.
  • Improved Partial Trust Debugging Experience with support for Event Log.
  • Support for ADO.NET Entity Framework entities in WCF contracts.
  • Improvements in writing REST based services ranging from easily supporting ServiceDocuments publication and consumption to providing greater control and usability of UriTemplate.
  • Significant performance improvements on large workflow-based projects in Visual Studio.
  • Considerable scalability increases for hosted WCF services in IIS7-integrated mode.

Source: http://hyperthink.net/blog/we-are-pleased-to-bring-you-new-features-in-net-3-5-sp1/

No Comments

Hyper-V RTM is now available for Windows Server 2008

As of today Microsoft offers the KB950050 update for Windows Server 2008 – which means: Hyper-V – the hypervisor of Windows 2008 is now available in the final release version.

image_2

“The update to the Hyper-V role provides improvements to security, stability, performance, user experience, forward compatibility of configurations, and the programming model. All users of the Hyper-V role should apply this update. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer. After you have installed this update, it cannot be removed. This update is provided to you and licensed under the Windows Server 2008 License Terms. With this update, you can now use Hyper-V in a production environment for supported configurations. Please see Windows Server 2008 Licensing and Support terms for more information.”

Source: KB950050

No Comments

Xbox Media Center for OSX renames itself to PLEX

It’s not as many of those fance company-blogs like gizmodo have written: not the Xbox Media Center project (which makes XBMC for Windows, Linux, Xbox 1 and OSX) renamed itself – infact only the fork of OSXBMC renamed itself to PLEX.

“The one name that stuck was Plex. I like it because it evokes “cineplex” and the suffix means “comprising a number of parts” which the application certain does. In mathematics, you use the suffix to mean “ten to the power of the number” (e.g. oneplex = 10).

Because there are no four-letter domain names left (seriously, try to find one!) we decided to square the plex, so to speak. Think of either plex^2 or plex squared (the beta logo below tries to connote the word “plex” inside a square that might represent a TV screen). The domain names are plex2.com, plexsquared.com, and plexsquare.com for good measure. They are not active yet.

In the coming days, we’ll be working on the rebranding process, including the application packaging, logo, web domains, etc. In the longer term, we have some exciting things in the skin department as well. Stay tuned, and thanks for all your support; we really are lucky to have such an great community.”

Along with the new name comes a new logo:

plex2

Source: http://www.osxbmc.com/
Source 2: http://www.plex2.com

No Comments

Notepad++ version 5 is out! hurray!

There is a new version of Notepad++ – my number 1 choice of text editor on Windows – available for download. It’s version 5 of the great tool bringing us more performance, many new features and even more fixes:

“Notepad++ is a free (free as in “free speech”, but also as in “free beer”) source code editor and Notepad replacement, which supports several programming languages, running under the MS Windows environment.”

npp

Source 1: Download

No Comments