Friday, November 25, 2005


Milano: Linux Day 2005 in Cinisello Balsamo

Open Labs is organizing Linux Day 2005 Saturday 26/11 in Cinisello Balsamo. There are several presentations as well as a Demo Area and an Install Fest.

Be sure to bring empty CDs/DVDs or have a free partition if you want a hand from the experts at installing a linux flavor on your laptop. To be safe and can make sure that nothing goes wrong with your laptop, you can use the free VMPlayer and a base Virtual Machine.

Thanks for the tip Andrea!


Phase 1 of migration over

Mail, blog and web sites are all happily running on my laptop.

My server used a free MSDE DB but decided to try the SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition I got at the Italian Visual Studio 2005 Launch Event when I moved it to my laptop.

I was really impressed with the "Copy Database" feature in SQL Server 2005. It can copy the data using the standard SQL data management objects present in SQL Server 2000, but it can also attache a SQL Server 2000 database directly. I took my old MSDE DB offline, copied it to my laptop, attached the DB in the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio and was up an running in less than a minute. It just worked.


Phase 2 (re-installing my server and moving everything back again) will take place tomorrow night.

Let me know if you find any problems.


A rough weekend ahead for my sites

The hard disks that started giving problems last year are giving up. Logging in on the server takes forever and posting fails sometimes so I have avoided posting the last few days.

I have already migrated mail services to my laptop and the blogs are next. The total downtime should not be more than a few minutes unless I find any unexpected compatability problems moving the blog from Win2k to Win2k3 and the DB from a MSDE to Microsoft SQL Server 2005...

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Nokia 6630 Bluetooth virus; pw9w3ozl.sis?

I was in a shopping center in Milano when I received a file called pw9w3ozl.sis via Bluetooth:

I did not, of course, install the application on my Nokia 6630 but I am dying to know what the heck it is. Google and Google News returned 0 hits so I guess it is either something "customized" for Italy or a virus/trojan uses a random file name while replicating.

I have the file in the inbox on the phone but I have been unable to transfer it to my PC for further analysis. Any suggestions on how I can get the file off the phone without installing it, or what it is???

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Italian Visual Studio 2005 launch event

There was a lot of good contents during the Visual Studio 2005 launch event. The presenters did a great job with the translated slides and demos from the US launch. As usual I loved the presentation by Fabio Santini which participated in the demo during the keynote.

The best part of the Visual Studio 2005 event? Meeting up with a lot of colleagues and ex colleagues; Andrea C, Andrea V, Luca M, Luca Q, Marco P, Marco T, Massimo L, Michele B, Samuele R, Fausto S, Rajesh V. 

Some "random" notes on Visual Studio

  • Microsoft claims there are more .NET developers than Java developers and a lot more SQL than Oracle databases. I work with both "worlds" and I am always amazed at how these numbers can be twisted/adopted depending on who sponsors the presentation
  • SQL Server is a lot more secure than Oracle. I have subscribed to the bugtraq mailing list for years and the number of security issues in Oracle the last few years are scary. Oracle had 20 security patches last year, 14 so far this year. SQL Server on the other hand had one security patch in 2004 and -zero- in 2005.
  • If you didn't know already: Visual Studio Express and SQL Express are FREE and downloadable via internet.
  • I was seriously impressed by the "data views" in Visual Studio 2005. I worked with PowerBuilder last millennium and just loved it's datawindows. Visual Studio 2005 is a step in the right direction but they still have a long way to go to catch up with the PowerBuilder datawindows which now can be integrated in Visual Studio

Some "random" notes on Server 2005

  • The statistics and DBCC functions have been refactored to be more consistent. Internal statistics are now made available via a large set of "Data Management Views" (sys.dm_*) and internal tables like sys.syscacheobjects. A lot of information that allows you to understand and tune your database like you never have before.
  • Lesson to self: query execution plans are cached by case SENSITIVE sql statements
  • The Execution times in seconds as measured on a reference machine in Microsoft labs. It is not the real CPU time on the hardware where you run the query.
  • Try this for fun
     Set statistics io on
     Set statistics profile on
     -- your query here
     Set statistics io off
     Set statistics profile off

  • Less on to self:  DB statistics are out of date if estimatedRows very different from Rows
  • Queries with "like '%abc%'" may work on 2005 due to improved statistics
  • Index on calculated columns
  • Asynch refresh of statistics, does not block execution

Some "random" ASP.NET and .NET 2.0 notes

The "loot"
The loot was impressive for a free conference:

  • Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition
  • MSDN library
  • SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition
  • It's Showtime!. Loads of great presentations by some of the best minds in the industry
  • Visual Studio Team System (Virtual PC)
  • SQL Server 2005 Resource DVD
  • SQL Server 2005 (Virtual PC)
  • SQL Server 005 - Visual Studio 2005 Labs (Virtual PC)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, BizTalk 2006: documentation by Microsoft and partners
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 overview

(P.S. I am too busy with a major release to play around this weekend, but do not be surprised if there is some downtime this weekend as I upgrade my sites to .NET 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 :-)
(P.P.S It was too cold during most of the event to take of my jacket so I only manage to show of my blogger t-shirt during the last presentation

Edit: added two additional DVDs I found hidden in the bag :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005


Installing Visual Studio.NET 2005 over an old beta

My upgrade to Visual Studio.NET 2005 went without problems

Ah, the sweet smell of success :-)

I am very glad to report that the Visual Studio.NET 2005 beta uninstall tool worked like a charm. I was worried before starting as my laptop has had several Visual Studio .NET 2005 betas installed. Other versions of Visual Studio (6.0, 2003, C++ embedded etc) are also installed on the same machine for various projects. The uninstall tool is a provided on a "best effort" basis by the Setup Team
A fresh install is always better, but this setup will have to do until my next major software release is out the door later this month.

See you at the Visual Studio 2005 launch in Milano tomorrow? I should be pretty easy to identify with this t-shirt :-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2005


Sydney grows up and lifts the leg

Time flies and Sydney is growing up to be one big dog. For the first time this week he lifted the leg:

(sorry for the out of focus picture taken on a rainy morning).

I thought male dogs lifted the leg from the start but it turns out they only do it when the get older and wants to mark their territory. He is "calming down" a bit but the "downside" to growing up is that the walks take a lot longer as any smell is worth investigating. As all teenage boys he shows an increased interest for females. Sunday morning was the first time he "ran way". They gate stayed open since the previous night but he stayed inside until the female Labrador next door passed by on her -early- morning walk. What a way to wake up: the neighbor frantically pushing the doorbell.

Trust me; you would ring the bell when you see "the wolf" sneaking up on you as well:

(taken while picking chestnuts with my ladies earlier this autumn).

Friday, November 4, 2005


e-mail subscriptions to my blogs

I have recently added e-mail subscriptions to my blogs. It is a free service offered by FeedBlitz via FeedBurner.

Click the link at the top of each blog or the links below:

I have tested the service the last few days and it works like a charm. FeedBlitz will send you one mail each day with the new articles (images included) in all the feeds you have subscribed to. A "pro" plan is available on FeedBlitz if you want more frequent updates

Thursday, November 3, 2005


Windows Embedded Conference: Notes from Day 2

The second day of the Windows Embedded Conference was better than the first day.

Intel's presentations, in particular, were a lot more interesting. I am a software architect and I must admit that I have not followed the evolutions of the various CPUs as well as I did in the past so I learned a lot about the three families:

  • Xeon: high end/performance. Typically ~100 watts
  • Pentium 4: Mid range
  • Pentium m (+ celeron m): low power consumption: 5->15 watt

The Pentium M was designed from the ground up with low power consumption and performance in mind. Low power consumption and low heat emission is important not only in the embedded markets where having fanless systems is a benefit. They are also becoming more important in server farms where CPU heat is problem for blade servers.

Intel, as the other chip makers, have hit the 4Ghz CPU limit so they are working on several fronts to improve performance. The main news for 2006 is that all three processor families will become multi core (dual core initially). The current hyper threading technology simulates two processors in one execution core. During 2006 all the processors will get a real dual cores with two separate execution cores, separate L1 caches, registers etc. They will share the L2 cache and buss and live on the same piece of silicon. This has a more than 2X performance improvement, but most important of all, it gives more than 3.5X to 6X performance improvement /watt. The multi core scenario will continue to pack more cores on the chips during the next decade until we get real "micro" machines. Not only multiple cores but groups of cores.

They are also continuing to cram the transistors closer together. The best chips today use 90nm technology which will drop to 65nm next year. The road map is impressive as they already have 22nm prototypes and plan to drop to 8nm by 2017.

The Windows XP Embedded overview presentation was  held by Cesare de Siena  (Abacus ECC). A great presenter that cleared up a lot of my doubts about Windows XP Embedded.

Windows XP Embedded is a superset of Windows XP where you can choose which of the ~11.0000 parts/components of the OS you want to use. If your device doesn't have USB, why install the drivers for it as it takes precious resources? Any program written for XP works on XP Embedded as long as the correct parts have been installed. A Dependency Checker helps you with the task in case you try to remove too much.

The most interesting features of Windows XP Embedded is what is -not- in XP:

  • EWF: Enhanced Write Filter. You can configure your disk to be read-only so you can run it from a CD or write protected flash memory. It supports multiple volumes so the read-only OS image can be on a write protected volume while user data is saved on another volume.
  • Device Driver Rollback: If a new driver fails you can roll back to the previous version. The impressive thing is that it actually works (according to the presenter :-)
  • Remote Boot allows disk less installations as you can have the OS image on a remote server
  • Message Redirection: a -must have- feature for headless installation. I don't know many times I have seen error messages on public terminals with message like "you are running low on disk space". The message redirection allows you to provide configurable answers to messages like that or redirect them to an external system.
  • HORM. Hibernate Once, Resume Many must be the coolest feature of them all. Resume is no new feature as it also works on XP, but couple with EWF you can have a read-only hibernated state. The device can resume from a known stable hibernated state from a flash disk in an instant. No matter what "damages" the user does to the system, it will reload from the same read-only image after a hibernation or a reset,

At the end of the presentation I "saw the light" and saw other uses for it than the typical kiosk application. XP Embedded would be perfect for locked down PCs for kids and students: the operating system can be write protected and the computer turns on in an instant with HORM. No way you can mess up the machine with the control panel if it is not installed...

It has no online activation and costs ~30% less than the normal Windows XP so it's the perfect solution if you want to tinker a bit

Overall judgment of the conference? Good.
I learned a lot of new things today and the sessions were definitely worth my time. It is a shame that you either follow the presentations or attend the labs. Less "marketing" issues the first day and a chance to get hands-on experience in the labs would have given a “great“ vote.

One final word: ecosystem
I don't know how many times I have heard the word ecosystem these days, but it is as bad as "empowerment" was last year...

Wednesday, November 2, 2005


Windows Embedded Conference: Notes from Day 1

The first thing that struck me when the Windows Embedded conference started; embedded developers are different from .NET developers. No long haired, enthusiastic,C# developers here. The average age is easily 20 years higher and these engineers are a quiet and reserved bunch...

The were two hands on sessions in the afternoon but I followed the presentations. I will post the link to the slides when they are put on-line later this week. Below are some of my notes/impressions from the meetings.

The Windows Embedded family is larger than I expected. I knew of Windows CE.NET and Windows XP Embedded but I didn't know there were many flavors of Windows 2003 Server Embedded as well as a new "point of service" system (WEPos) targeted at point of sales systems like kiosks.

Some Windows CE.NET notes:

  • It is a Hard Real Time OS since version 4.2.

  • Supports many different processor architectures and is, of course, not binary compatible with Windows

  • A subset of the Win32 APIs have been written to the same specifications. This means that there are variations but things are a lot better than the first Windows CE versions.

  • The Platform Builder comes with source code for a several potions of Windows CE.NET which helps when writing drivers for your own hardware. More of the source code is available for free after signing the appropriate Microsoft documents.

  • Windows CE.NET is cheaper than I expected. The run time license for the core is ~$4.50 per client (~$3 for high volume). The cost goes up to ~$16 for the professional edition that includes Internet Explorer and the Media Player

  • You can lock down the Windows CE file system and to control which application can be launched.

The best presentation of the day was Windows CE 5.0 Technical Overview by Egidio Gioia (Arrow Silverstar). A lot of useful information by someone who knows the subject extremely well. He covered technical issues and hard learned lessons while skipping the marketing fluff. His monthly boot camps should be very interesting.

The Intel presentations were less useful for me as I work on software but it is always good to know what goes on below the hood. The PXA270 processor used in the latest Pocket PC has impressive power savings when it is in deep sleep mode.

The presentations tomorrow will focus on Windows XP Embedded.

Overall judgement? OKish.
Too much high level “marketing“ issues for my taste with the exception of Egidio's presentation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005


Web Service to send any message to any phone number in US/Canada

The PhoneNotify web service by cdyne is as useful as it is scary, since you can specify any caller id you want:

This Method will call any phone number in the US/Canada and read the TextToSay to that phone number.
Set VoiceID equal to 0 for TTS Diane to speak the Text. For a list of Voices with their ID look at getVoices. PhoneNumberToDial and CallerID must be filled in (They can be in any format as long as there is 10 digits).
A reminder about abuse: Threats and illegal activity can be shared with the authorities.
Use a LicenseKey of 0 for testing.

I do not have a phone in the US or Canada so I have not been able to test if actually works. Any volunteer testers?

Via API Blog


Blog properly formatted code from Visual Studio 2005

Jeff Atwood has created a great macro for Visual Studio 2005 that allows you to cut and paste code like it should be done. It even removes unnecessary white space! The Visual Studio plugin to copy source code as html  has more features but it requires you to install the plugin.

Get the latest versions of both alternatives and give them a try, especially if you post a lot of code:

Via Coding Horror