Things you do with Microsoft Excel

Many of us are happy when they can accomplish the most simple tasks with Excel without pulling their own hair out.

And then there are these people who do something entirely different with Excel:

Finding engineering work quite unchallenging lately I decided to start this blog in which to share cool ways of solving engineering problems or just interesting modeling of natural phenomena in MS Excel 2003. I use mainly cell formulas with minimum of VBA in order to take advantage of the ease of “programming” and the native speed of the Excel spreadsheet.

Panoramic Images free (-hand)

I really like taking panoramic images whenever I can. They convey a much better impression of the situation I’ve experienced then a single image. At least for me. And because of the way they are made – stitched together from multiple images – they are most of the time very big. A lot of pixels to zoom into.

The process to take such a panoramic image is very straight forward:

  1. Take overlapping pictures of the scenery in multiple layers if possible. If necessary freehand.
  2. Make sure the pictures overlap enough but there’s not a lof of questionable movement in them (like a the same person appearing in multiple pictures…)
  3. Copy them to a PC.
  4. Run the free Microsoft Image Composite Editor.
  5. Pre-/Post process for color.

The tools used are all free. So my recommendation is the Microsoft Image Composite Editor. Which in itself was a Microsoft Research project.

Image Composite Editor (ICE) is an advanced panoramic image stitcher created by the Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the app creates high-resolution panoramas that seamlessly combine original images. ICE can also create panoramas from a panning video, including stop-motion action overlaid on the background. Finished panoramas can be saved in a wide variety of image formats,

Image Composite Editor

Here’s how the stitching process of the Musashi-kosugi Park City towers night image looked like:

select images
choose projection method
crop the projection – maybe use “autocomplete”
export the final panoramic image
zoom in :-)

a terminal for Windows

As Windows lately tends to make an effort to stay out of the way as an operating system and user-experience it seems that it regains more attention by developers.

For me this all is quite strange as I’ve personally would prefer switching from macOS to Linux rather than Windows.

But for those occasions you need to go with Windows. There’s a Terminal application now that gives you, well, a good terminal. Try FluentTerminal.

EFI boot app in C#

Zero-Sharp is using the CoreRT runtime to very impressively demonstrate how to get down to bare-metal application operation using C#. It compiles programs into native code…

Everything you wanted to know about making C# apps that run on bare metal, but were afraid to ask:

A complete EFI boot application in a single .cs file.

Michal Stehovsky on Twitter

This is seriously impressive and the screenshot says it all:

a very cool “Hello World“.

if you need a bit of Windows 95

The times of Windows 95 are long gone. But some projects try to keep it alive. This project uses some system virtualization to bring you Windows 95 almost on any platform with almost no dependencies.

This is Windows 95, running in an Electron app. Yes, it’s the full thing. I’m sorry.

Felix Rieseberg

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 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

TechEd Europe 2010–if you’re there we could meet!

After 5 years of TechEd abstinence it’s time to visit the conference again. This years TechEd will be held in Berlin which is quite nice since traveling will be reduced to a minimum. Since the session schedule is already available I’ve already filled my calendar for TechEd week.


Okay it’s impressive to see that so many interesting sessions can be held in one week’ – the bad thing is that I need do decide which to go and which to watch on video later.

On later notice: Since I will be there it would be a great opportunity to meet. Let me know if you are there and want to meet.

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).


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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:


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:

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.


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:


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sones at CeBIT 2010

Die CeBIT ist um und sones schliesst seinen Auftritt im Rahmen der Partnerschaft mit Microsoft mit einem durch und durch positiven Ergebnis ab.Ich selbst hatte ja aufgrund einer ungünstigen Terminsituation nur am Montag und am Freitag die Möglichkeit persönlich vor Ort zu sein.

Die CeBIT war dieses Jahr eine schöne Möglichkeit einmal im breiteren Rahmen als auf den sonst üblichen Konferenzen und Veranstaltungen zu netzwerken.

sones hatte die Gelegenheit zusammen mit anderen Partnerunternehmen am Microsoft Stand in Halle 4 auszustellen. Geniale Sache war das insofern dass wir sowohl am Stand als auch im Rahmen des MSDN Developer Kinos die Möglichkeit hatten unsere Technologie mit Demonstrationen und Worten vorzustellen.


Ich hatte ja schon darüber geschrieben dass wir eine Demo für die CeBIT auf Basis des Microsoft Surface Multi-Touch Tisches entwickelt haben. Das Feedback zu dieser Demo war durchweg extrem positiv. Es ist eben ein Unterschied für viele nicht-Techniker wenn man Ihnen einen Graph grafisch vor Augen führt und in diesem Graphen navigieren kann.

Für die Techniker auf der anderen Hand hat sich Henning nocheinmal hingesetzt und ein wenig weiter ausgeführt was hinter der Surface Demo steckt. Das kann man hier nachlesen.

Hier ein paar Impressionen:





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.

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!).

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:

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

…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! :-)

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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”:



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So what exactly is Microsoft Research doing?

I am proud to anounce that there’s a video publicly available which shows parts and projects Microsoft Research is working on currently. It’s great to see theses projects, concepts and ideas become publicly available one by one:

“Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer of Microsoft, presents “Rethinking Computing,” a look a how software and information technology can help solve the most pressing global challenges we face today. Part of UW’s Computer Science and Engineering’s Distinguished Lecture Series, Mundie demonstrates a number of current and future-looking technologies that show how computer science is changing scientific exploration and discovery in exciting ways. He discusses the role of new science in solving the global energy crisis, and answer questions from the audience.”



Microsoft Press offers a free eBook “Deploying Windows 7”

Just in time for the launch of Windows 7 Microsoft Press offers a free eBook download. These 332 pages are there to give you the essential guidance regarding topics like Planning the Deployment, actually Deploying the Platform and additional Applications, Migration, Windows PE and a ton of stuff I did not mention here.


Source: Download

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

Killer .NET 4 feature: Memory Mapped files

“So what is it? A memory mapped file allows you to reserve a region of address space and commit physical storage to a region (hmmm, sounds like virtual memory, isn’t it?) but the main difference is that the physical storage comes from a file that is already on the disk instead of the memory manager. I will say that it has two main purposes:

  • It is ideal to access a data file on disk without performing file I/O operations and from buffering the file’s content. This works great when you deal with large data files.
  • You can use memory mapped files to allow multiple processes running on the same machine to share data with each other.“

OMG! You can even specifiy views on a memory mapped file… from different processes… .NET 4 FTW!


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:


This 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:

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 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:


Have fun!

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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:



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?

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.”



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:


“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.”