Previous Projects - Past Ideas - General Ramblings

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2003 in Al's Shed 2003 in Al's Shed ...

* 12th December 2002
Spam Filtering has become a neccessity these days, and I've been looking for a simple and cost-effective solution for my own small home/office network. I seem to be on every spam list out there, and regularly get fifty or so of these tempting offers per day. The product I've settled down with is iHateSpamTM from Sunbelt Software. It runs inside Outlook©, and does what it says on the tin.
* 29th November 2002
Viva Las Vegas! Just back from a trip to one of the strangest cities in the world. Dave and I were at the 2002 Web Developer Conference again, droning on about ASP.NET and other similar stuff. As expected, I took the "digi", so I can offer the usual rambling diatribe and grainy indecipherable pictures of things.
* 1st November 2002
Well, Redmond was fun and the steaks were great... though a three hour delay in Amsterdam on the way back, and landing at Birmingham in a 40 mph crosswind, were slightly less enchanting. And I also got to thinking about some stuff that seems odd after this last visit to the States.
* 18th October 2002
Into the lion's den again... Just packing for a trip to "the campus" at Redmond, and thankfully managed to get the imaging and backup stuff I was fighting with last month sorted out. I ended up installing some new hardware, and fiddling about with it all for a while, but I reckon I can now survive pressing the wrong key in some crucial dialog and screwing up the whole server configuration - here's how...
* 26th September 2002
Service packs, product updates, patches, configuration changes... we all keep stuffing these onto our machines to keep them up to date, safe from attack, and running smoothly. But what do we do when one of the updates fails, or the hard disk decides that it's done it's MTBF number of rotations and stops going round? Easy - just keep an image of the disk ready to rebuild the machine. So, if you are trying to make this work on a Windows 2000 Server, or you already have done, read on...
* 6th September 2002
Another FEGURM winner! Maybe it's our quirky English sense of humour (notice the spelling), but we just couldn't resist awarding this month's prize of a copy of the book Distributed Data Applications to Craig McConkey for his submission: "First Entertain Good Ukranian Rabbit Magicians". We'll keep our eye open for any that happen to be wandering around in this remote part of England. Meantime, congratulations to Craig - who even sent us a picture of the rabbit!
* 24th June 2002
Interested in reading some reminiscences of an old man? Bizarrely it seems to include remembering how excited we all were when Internet Explorer 4 first appeared, combined with some difficulties figuring out what week it is now. Still, I did manage to finally fulfill a promise that I made a long time ago. Go on... you know you want to find out more...
* 14th April 2002
Last week I mentioned that there were a couple of issues I had to solve with the network, here at my little cottage lost in the idyllic rural surroundings of the Derbyshire Dales. The second one involved "doing a friend a favor" (how often do you end up wondering if you should just have kept quiet?). A simple trick, just redirect email sent to their root domain to their email account at their own ISP. You guessed, another half a day wasted trying to get it to work.
* 7th April 2002
I get lots of phone calls from agencies trying to hire me programmers, but I reckon I should get them to hire me a good network administrator instead. You'd think that being a software geek should make me really good at setting up and configuring the OS and the services and programs it runs, but it's amazing how often you find out just how little you actually know about all this stuff. For example, in a couple of short weeks, I came up with two completely unexpected issues that needed solving. This is just the first - using my network printer with Windows XP.
* 22nd March 2002
Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for mobile devices (and it's not Romney Marshes). I like to try and provide support for them in applications where possible, and I've done so in several of the examples I've been building lately. However, along the way, I have discovered another reason why ASP.NET Application Domains can be really annoying sometimes. You can read my wild rantings to see if you agree.
* 24th January 2002
Just finished upgrading our server to the release version of .NET. My apologies if you encountered problems accessing this site over the last couple of days, but it all seems to be working again now. I also took the opportunity to upgrade SQL Server to version 8.0 (SQL Server 2000), and this turned out to be more of a problem than the .NET runtime upgrade! The first attempt failed, and after that it wouldn't let me start again. Setup just kept telling me that the previous upgrade had failed, even though it had actually upgraded the server but not ancilliary stuff like SQL Server Agent. The only options it offered were "Try again" (where it failed at the same point), or "Give up" which is what I ended up doing. Un-install what I had got, and start again from scratch. Then reinstall all the databases, set the up the user logins and permissions, and recreate the scheduled backups and other tasks. Still, it keeps me off the streets (and in a very cold and draughty server room).
* 1st January 2002
Start the new year by winning a copy of a forthcoming book! If you've worked with ASP.NET DataSet objects, you'll probably have come across the technique for updating a data store and collecting the results of the update in the DataSet. The process involves six steps: Fill, Edit, GetChanges, Update, Refresh and Merge. Hence the mnemonic "FEGURM". The best we've come up with so far is "Feeling Extremely Good Using Reliable Methods". If you can come up with something better (preferably one we can use in print, but all input is welcome), we'll award as a prize a copy of the book when it's released. Email your suggestions to
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