Easy way to create bootable disk/usb from iso image

Not strictly a development problem but I’ve always found it a pain to create bootable media from iso images. Today I discovered Microsoft have a very nice tool for the job, download it and follow the very simple wizard; iso-tool

Beware of SyncToy

I have a very simple backup strategy for my home machine; 1 home machine, 2 external WD hard-disks. I keep 1 disk at home and 1 at work. The theory is that pending global disaster I should have a copy of my files somewhere. To keep my most important files backed up (music & pictures) I use SyncToy. It’s nice because I can configure it to just copy the files over without examining each file, after-all individual music and photo files are not going to change. But today I noticed a rather nasty glitch. When I sync Disk to drive A it works fine. I switch the drives and it only sort of works <gulp>. Some files are sync’d but others are not. I noticed this since none of my 2010 pics were copied over. I would appear that for ever external disk you have you must create a new sync pairing. So be warned, although it says everything in sync’d make sure you have a dedicated pairing per external disk.

How to get rid of IE6

I read a tongue-in-cheek comment today about how companies should charge Microsoft to port their IE6 only sites to standards (well IE8). The important problem is more about companies that have some critical (or at least important) bit of web based software that only works with and IE6 client. This is a major problem for web development as you’re typically tied into weak link. So what do you do? Well Microsoft won’t let you run the different versions of the browser side-by-side so you have to install a different browser. Well understandably companies don’t want to do that, be it they don’t wish lots of browsers on the client machine or they just don’t want to confuse their users. No matter how silly an excuse I think that is, the fact remains they want only one browser installed. My belief is that it is impractical to believe that companies will move away from IE6 unless either blackmailed by withdrawing support or they’re offered a single browser alternative. For me the concepts behind Chromes IE6 support is good. If IE9 was to include the browser rendering portion of IE6 then IE9 would be able to go into a special mode that would behave 100% like IE6 for pages that require it. Every other page would be sprinkled with IE9 lovel hearts, well something like that. So what’s it to be Microsoft, the hammer, complete ignorance or maybe a viable alternative?

TechEd 09 Berlin

It has been a few weeks now since I returned from TechEd and I’ve been considering writing a review of the event rather than the specific sessions.

“What is the point of attending TechEd?”

As a developer TechEd is the pinnacle of Microsoft Events in Europe, so I would expect;

  1. To see up and coming developer tools & technologies
  2. To have deep dive insights into existing tools & technologies
  3. To be told about good (and bad) practices in developing software
  4. Talk to experts in the MS technologies about specific issues I may have
  5. Discuss the above with other attendees
  6. Inspirational Keynotes
  7. Have a bit of fun and gain some useful goodies

These goals haven’t really changed in all the years I’ve attended TechEd however content delivery technology, and to some degree Microsoft’s attitude to evangelising technology, *has* changed. So if I didn’t attend TechEd, just as I didn’t attend PDC, could I achieve something similar?

  1. If I’m honest, unless you’re in some hallowed circle these sorts of events are the best place to hear/see new tools & technology. However, since TechEd was one week before PDC we got to see nothing, nada, zilch. So if TechEd and PDC are going to continue to clash, I can’t justify TechEd over PDC
  2. Deep dive insights – Online content is now pretty good. Officially ‘sponsored’ MS bloggers and other community experts now regularly create material aimed at various levels. Also let’s not forget that great swathes of the content from such events end up online anyway. So do the pro’s of getting the atmosphere and not having any distractions (see later) outweigh the convenience of watching a session at double speed, skipping the dull bits, pausing for a break, rewinding some key point, etc? When I said distractions I was thinking about the times when you’re studiously watching an online session and someone asks you a question and you don’t get back to the session for ages and you lose the thread. However, some of the sessions, were held in temp rooms with literally paper thin walls. The noise from the corridors was so distracting I just avoiding attending any session in those rooms 
  3. The ‘best practice’ sessions that don’t fall into (2) are usually held as a smaller more discussion based format. This year I didn’t feel they worked very well. I’m not sure if it was just reserved audiences or inexperienced speakers but they were disappointing. So the alternative is to sign up to specific forums and/or meet with user groups interested in your particular tools/technologies
  4. Visiting the [insert your technology here] expert booth is really one of the major advantages of something like TechEd…or was. Many of the experts have blogs and are normally willing to at least direct you to some material to help you out. If not the forums can often answer tricky questions. The other problem I found was I didn’t feel the people on the booths were very helpful, is this a product of standing there having loads of annoying questions asked? Perhaps, did I just choose a few bad eggs, perhaps. Am I just annoying to talk to, probably. E.g. I asked the following questions to the Silverlight experts. Q1 – “One of the trickiest aspects of developing LOB applications for Silverlight is that corporate companies refuse to allow the plug-in to be installed, do you have any suggestions or recommendations that could help?” I was expecting a discussion about pointing out the advantages, stats about security, whitepapers on rolling out the plug-in. What I got was, “it’s not a technical problem”. Really, thanks for that, I’m so glad you explained that to me. Q2 – “My customer wants to install the site on a server where external users come to the site via HTTPS and internal users go via HTTP. This causes me a problem because I’m currently having to get Silverlight to sniff the protocol and adjust its WCF settings accordingly, is there a way to avoid this sniffing as I want the admin to deal with these settings in the config file?”
    Expert (paraphrasing) – “Yes, in IIS7 you can easily configure the server to have two separate config files pointing to the same implementation site”.
    Me – “Really, oh I didn’t realise that, how do you do that”.
    Expert – “It’s easy in IIS”
    Me – “Oh I see”. Hmm, that told me. So off to the IIS Expert.
    IIS Expert – “No, there is no way to do that”…..
    What I expected was at least one of them to say, “here is my email address (or let me take your email) I’ll point you in the right direction/I’ll take a look”
  5. I would like to meet other attendees with similar interests (sounds like a geek dating agency) so I’d suggest TechEd have a technology chill out area were you’d know if someone was sitting there they’d be interested in that subject. The alternative, again, is forums and user groups
  6. From a developers perspective the key note said it all, THIS ISN’T FOR YOU
  7. Berlin was a very interesting place to visit. The Berlin Wall celebrations were great, my night out to see Beth Hart less so – there’s a reason I hadn’t heard of her. But I did enjoy my visit, but mostly off my own back. The credit crunch has hit TechEd, as there was no UK party, and the celebrations were very low key compared to some previous Events. Now the really important stuff (<cheek>), the goodies – not great. Ok Windows 7 is very nice, but I want some dev goodies. Where’s my copy of SQL 2008, Visual Studio, Expression, come on something for the developer. No a DVD from some System Management Event, whoopee. Still at least I wasn’t saddled with a new touch screen laptop like those poor people at PDC – the suckers, no wait…

So it would seem that given the explosion of material on the web and the clash with the PDC, TechEd has somewhat lost its way for the little old developer. I think it needs to address this issues or just come clean and say, TechEd = System Pro, PDC = Developers, you’ll have to grow your carbon footprint if you don’t live in America. Or maybe they could offer me some developer software and all will be forgiven, I’m easily bought.

Digitally code signing Office VBA macro

Had some fun today with code signing some macro’s in Excel. Applying a code signing certificate is very easy, simply go to the visual basic editor, tools->Signing and you’re away. The problem is creating the correct type of certificate in the first place.

My sys admins provided with a p7b certificate. So I installed that, but it didn’t show in VBs available certificates. So I thought I’d better try and understand what was going on. It turns out that although I need a pfx certificate and a p7b, that it is just part of formula for creating such a beast. You need the private key used to create the original certificate together with the p7b;

pvk2pfx -pvk privateKey.pvk -spc codeSignCert.p7b -pfx actualCodeSign.pfx -po myPassword -f

That will challenge you for the password used to create the original certificate but will produce required pfx file. Now just install that and it should be available for signing

How to install BT Netprotect on Windows 7

After installing Windows 7 I realised I needed to install my antivirus software so off to BT to download Netprotect. However, the download page incorrectly assumes that if the OS isn’t XP or Vista then it must be a really old version of Windows – Bzzzt. I first tried to persuade IE to launch in compatibility mode but to no avail. So I donwloaded Firefox, went to the properties, switched compatbiblity mode to run as Vista and downloaded NetProtect – fooled it.

How to make Vista shutdown when you press the big “off” button

I finally cracked today and had to find out how to change Vista’s default go-to-sleep when you press what looks like the off icon. I’d dismissed the Power Options because when it talks about the, “power button” it literally means the physical power button. However, if you customize the power options and select advanced you can change it…


The button then goes a very dark red.

WebDD 09 – a quick blog

Last Sat’ I attended WebDD 09, here is my brief summary;

What’s New In Silverlight 3? – Mike Taulty
Mike is a good speaker and knows his Silverlight onions so I thought this one would be worth attending even if I have read about the majority of the changes. Overall it was a good session and it’s good to see live demos of the changes. One of the demo’s failed but Mike was determined to provide an answer why and was forthcoming a couple of couple of hours later (and on his blog).

What’s good in .NET 4 and Visual Studio 2010 – Alex Mackey
The idea behind this session was to preview the, "new stuff". However, I came away from this session a little disappointed. I was hoping for some insights but what I got was really a summary from publicly available blogs and CTPs. Still it was ok and it’s quite a nice idea for someone to collate these remours into one place but to paraphrase Alex, ‘I’ve not looked deeply at X because it’s likely to change’ so perhaps this session is too early to watch too?

I want it on that one, that one and that one! And it all needs to be synched! – Andrew Westgarth
Andrew presented the deployments options in II7. I was interested to see the Deploy utility, that seems to be an implementation of a Powershell host, and I especially like the idea of easily keeping production and test sites in sync. However, that was really the interesting part of the session and the rest felt like it was just repeating itself. I think this was probably due to the fact that almost all the demos failed and probably took all the momentum out of the session.

An Introduction to jQuery – Andy Gibson
I took a chance on this one since I have been dabbling with jQuery so I should be beyond an introduction now but I thought I might learn something I’d missed. Overall the session was a decent introduction to jQuery, although since I understand it you’d really have to ask someone who was new to jQuery, and it was reassuring to hear some things I’d guessed at rather than knew for certain.  For a WebDD I would have liked to have seen an intermediate/advance session rather than a introduction.

ASP.NET MVC best practices – Sebastien Lambla
Sebastien provided a witty and interesting session on what was wrong with the out-of-the-box MVC framework and how his teams worked around them. I really liked this session even if the demo gods caused a blue-screen and other demo failures. I just felt he could have quickly introduced the Windsor framework as I could see a number of people were confused by its sudden use but that’s only a tiny point. Suffice to say that I’ve added his blog to my reader

ASP.NET 4.0 – Mike Ormond
Mike is a another MS session stalwart and presented a good session on ASP.NET 4. Although all the nice things about ASP.NET Ajax WPF style binding was good to see I felt like shouting hallelujah at the control provided over Client IDs, something I’ve been campaigning for on forums. For me ASP.NET is a terrible framework but I concede that v4 looks to finally have started to consider professional developers so maybe I’ll be enticed back…maybe.