Saturday, 01 October 2011
Solving the 3709 error problem

I've spent many weekends looking into this problem and thought I'd best blog it so some one else at least gets the benefit of it.

The issue I am talking about centres around the following error message.

"The connection cannot be used to perform this operation. It is either closed or invalid in this context."

The above error message has been a true bane to me. It was an issue on a classic ASP site that was quite happily ticking away for many years. I spent ages looking through the code ensuring that the SQL Connection was properly closed after each use and that ADODB.Recordsets were being used correctly. The error didn't make sense to me because the problem only happened occasionally and I was convinced it was either an issue with MDAC or the version of IIS (we had moved to a new server a few months ago) .

The solution
To cut a long story short, the solution I discovered  was in SQL Server 2005! Looking through the SQL server logs I discovered that after the last request SQL Server would "Auto Close" the connection and release resources. When the website made another request SQL would be busy spinning up which would then return the error above!

To stop this happening right click on your database in SQL Server Management Studio, select properties, then select Options and set "Auto Close" to false. I believe this option is now removed in newer versions of SQL Server.

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posted on Saturday, 01 October 2011 00:32:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 26 July 2011
SkyDrive, I wish it had a guarantee

I have always been a big fan of Microsoft's SkyDrive and the Windows Live Mesh Service that bolts onto it for syncing all of your folders in "the cloud". One of the things I like about SkyDrive is the ability to map it as a network drive on your machine with relatively little trouble at all. If I am out and about I can access my SkyDrive documents from any web browser I can also edit my office documents online using the Web version of Office. Although I must point out that the web versions of office do have a few limitations when it comes to editing documents with shapes and images I have discovered.

image

If I install the Live Mesh client on my computer I can also access my computer from a web browser anywhere in the world, Live Mesh will also sync my browser favourites and my Office Templates for me and it will do all of the above mentioned for free!

I believe that Microsoft are great at releasing brilliant services although I don't feel they get quite the cult following they deserve as a service that would have been released by Google or Apple. Microsoft's approach always appears to be an "on going thing", when Google, Facebook or Apple launch something new it usually ends up on some major news websites not just the usual technical news services.

One thing Microsoft could make a bit more clear are some tutorials on some of Sky Drives features . By this I am referring to the features I mentioned at the top of this article. I am surprised that few people realise you can map a drive on your machine to SkyDrive and there is no little app that offers to do this or tutorial on the SkyDrive site (that I could find) that brings this into view. While the more tech savvy users don't mind "hacking" about for this information the less technically astute would probably be lost. Mapping a drive makes things so much easier when uploading pictures and files to SkyDrive in bulk it also make working on Office documents a lot easier.

I believe Microsoft should charge for even greater amounts of space on SkyDrive which is something they don't currently do. SkyDrive is currently capped at 25gigs.  I as a user of the service feel that for such a great service, how on earth are Microsoft paying for it? What's the catch? It can't be cheap maintaining the software and infrastructure for such a service and I really can't see how advertising can cover the service. I feel that because its a free service Microsoft could pull it when ever they wanted to if they don't feel its adding value. While I doubt they would, I feel that paying for the service enters me into a contract with them and some type of a guarantee?

Microsoft appear to be very good at "changing" and reinventing everything every few years or changing how services work which can be difficult for users who get used to having things working in a set way. If I wanted to use SkyDrive as my primary storage options for "everything" I'd pretty much want some assurances that it will always be there and that I can access it the same way in the future i.e. a virtual drive on any machine I use in future. If you look at the service agreement on Microsoft's website the following from point number 5 regarding "Your content" has the following paragraph in bold.

"You're responsible for backing up the data that you store on the service. If your service is suspended or canceled, we may permanently delete your data from our servers. We have no obligation to return data to you after the service is suspended or canceled. If data is stored with an expiration date, we may also delete the data as of that date. Data that is deleted may be irretrievable."

The above paragraph is just about the only thing that stops me from using SkyDrive in a serious capacity and makes me feel that the service is seen more as a convenient virtual pen drive that you can access from anywhere or share parts of it with friends than an actual long term storage solution or backup. Its aim appears to just make your data available "everywhere" through syncing maybe with Live Mesh (only 5gigs though) with the machines you use, but at the end of the day you still need to invest in a good old fashioned hard backup solution for "your stuff".

posted on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 11:52:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 29 June 2011
My first experience with Google+/Google Plus

I received an invite to join the Google Plus Field Test from a friend of mine who works at Google. My first impressions of the sign up process for Google+ (or g+ as people now refer to it) was "this is rather simple" simple is good!

Page1

I suppose the beauty of Google+ is that most people have a Google Account, well lets put it this way most people in the IT industry have a Google Account and therefore a lot of the people I associate with have Google Accounts.

All Google+ asked me when I signed up was if I wanted to link my Google+ account to my PicasaWeb Albums, it automatically picked up that I had a Google Buzz account (which I seldom use). 

Logging into Google+ for the first time, you are presented with the following screen

 

GooglePlusHomePage

The first thing I noted about the interface in Google+ is its pretty clean, they've done a bit of work making sure its not cluttered. Facebook has that cluttered feel to it which has probably come about by Facebook bolting on new features throughout the years as its grown organically while Google has had the chance to think about this from the ground up.

The Circles
One of Google+'s selling points is its "Circles" concept, basically a human being has many circles, they can be a circle of friends, circle of associates a family circle.you get the picture.

GoogleCircle

Google+ suggests people I have corresponded with in the past be they from Google Talk, Buzz or my GMAIL contact list.

I can also import contacts from Yahoo and Hotmail.

I can then choose to add these people to my network by dragging them into the circle I think they fit into best.

Later when I want to share content I can choose which of these circles I'd like to share my content with or just make the content public. Google appears to have carefully noted peoples annoyances with Facebook and appear to be making sure Google+ does not fall into the same security trap Facebook did in the past. (hopefully I didn't speak too soon!)

 

The Streams
When posting updates, Google has a concept called "Streams", the circles you placed your friends into earlier each have their own corresponding stream where anything posted by these users appear in the corresponding stream.

writingupdates

As on a Facebook wall you can post different kinds of content into a stream such as photos, video's, your location and links.

Trying it out for a while I quite like the Stream concept I think its very cleverly done. I also like how easy it is to see who I am sharing my content/updates with by selecting a Circle from the drop down list (see the picture).


Hangouts
Another feature I didn't get to test out (not many of my friends are online early in the morning!) is a video conferencing feature called Hangouts. You can basically open a Hangout to which you can choose which friends or Circles of friends can join at their leisure. In a Hangout you can watch YouTube videos together and video chat or text chat to each other. The video conferencing with more than one person at a time seems to be a direct competitor with Skype's premium conferencing service. I can see the potential for Google to Launch a commercial version of this tool with their business offerings.

Security
So far Google have made the security simple to understand. You can access these settings from the top right hand side of the screen.

image

Google carefully explains to you what can and cannot be seen, how the various features work and how to change these settings if you wish.

You are also able to see how other people might see your profile by typing in their username.


Conclusion
I have only used Google+ briefly but from what I have seen I am pretty impressed and I would love it to succeed. I know there have been a lot of anti-Facebook groups lately who are unhappy with the security in Facebook, I believe they now have a suitable alternative to choose from (albeit no one finds a gaping security hole). Will people leave Facebook in droves to join Google+ ? I am not so sure they would I believe people may sign up for both because its pretty easy to do so. Which one they may end up using the most may depend on several factors such as ease of use and where their friends hang out the most. As Google is just about everyone's search engine of choice these days the integration with their flagship search engine will probably appear seamless and easy for users to switch between.

I can foresee further integrations between Google+ and search which will help Google monetise plus. For example a friend finds a jacket they like on Google Shopping and hits a button on Google Shopping which says share with my Circle. The friends in that circle then get to see a nicely displayed update in their stream so they can click on the product and see more details. Every click in theory would earn Google AdSense revenue.

What I have found in the past is that Google often focuses on launching a product or service that at the time doesn't really make much sense until later when you see the bigger picture. If Google gets this right they could crack a large revenue stream if they get it wrong it could be yet another Wave.

Note: Please don't ask me for a Google+ invite. People in the field trial have not been given the ability to issue invites as yet.

posted on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:17:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 24 June 2011

I have just upgraded to BT Infinity and am getting a good 37meg download and about 5.28megs upload (not that happy with the upload but its better than what I used to get).

After the BT engineer installed the new modem I asked him if the BT Infinity Modem (the kit that connects you to the new socket) supports PPoE. The engineer told me it did and I asked if I could plug in my trusty FritzBox instead of using the BT Home Hub (which I was less keen on) he was quite keen to see it work as he hadn't seen one before. I plugged the FritzBox I had setup previously for PPoE WAN over LAN port 1 into the modem and within seconds everything worked! The speed at first was dreadful as I was only picking up 5meg downloads and less than a 1 meg upload. The engineer tested the line and told me he was getting 40meg down and 10meg up. I knew then it had to be the FritzBox, I took a look at the settings and discovered my upstream was set to 5megs and my downstream was around 1meg. Ah ha! I set the Upstream to 5760 kBit and the Downstream to 6400 kBits. I know these values are a bit higher than what is supported on Infinity but it seems to have done the trick in giving me 37meg down and 5.28 meg up.

There is a little guide below for those of you who have a FritzBox. Mine is a 7170 but the FritzBox's are very similar. For those that do not have a FritzBox, you just need to check if your old ADSL router supports PPoE over one of its LAN ports or sometimes referred to as a WAN port. Note this is not replacing the BT Infinity modem which supports VDSL it is just connecting another device to it, other than the BT Home Hub using a standard network cable.

How its done on the FritzBox 7170

  1. Log into the admin interface on your FritzBox and click on Settings
  2. Go to Advanced Settings > Internet > Account Information from the left hand menu (your router may need to be in advanced mode to see these)
  3. Ensure you have the settings as illustrated in the diagram below. The important part is "Internet connection via LAN 1" and the other options should appear for you to select.Note the username is broadbanduser@btinternet.com you do not need a password.

    image

  4. IMPORTANT: Scrolling down the page, I set my Upstream and Downstream to the following values (below). You may need to experiment to see what gives you the better speed. Some FritzBox's may not have this setting as they may automatically configure these settings for you.
    image
  5. The next step is to plug LAN port 1 on the FritzBox into the BT Infinity Modem sometimes referred to as the BT OpenReach Modem. There should be some cables that came with your install to do this, otherwise a normal network cable should suffice.

That's really all there is to it, you are basically no longer using the DSL part of your FritzBox/ADSL Router you are just making use of its WAN feature, almost as if you were connecting to a cable provider.

posted on Friday, 24 June 2011 19:37:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [3]

 Thursday, 16 June 2011
Setting up DasBlog on Windows Server 2008

I've been meaning to do a quick blog article about this for some time so I don't forget. I found setting up DasBlog on Windows Server 2008 pretty difficult. I currently run DasBlog on a Windows Server 2008 server with the following app pool ".Net Framework v2.0 Application pool in Integrated Mode"

One of the issues I discovered was setting up the permissions so that DasBlog could read and write the to the content folders. To do this follow the steps you find here http://learn.iis.net/page.aspx/624/application-pool-identities/ 

Basically you need to give the Application Pool that DasBlog is running under, permission to these folders. So for example setting permission on the content folder to allow the following user IIS AppPool\[your app pool name] read and write access.

posted on Thursday, 16 June 2011 20:12:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 03 June 2011
My morning roundup

Hackers attack Sony network.again
According to the BBC website a group called Lulz Security hacked into a database containing unencrypted passwords, names, addresses and dates of births of Sony customers.  It appears they only targeted Sony Music Japan.

Hyper-V to run Linux?
Missed this one yesterday, it looks like Microsoft may soon be supporting Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, RedHat and SuSE on its virtualisation stack. This could also include Azure.

Microsoft may buy Nokia
According to this article on CNET's website "..an industry insider has claimed a Microsoft offer for Nokia is already on the table"

Apple signs Universal Music to iCloud
It appears Apple has had more success with its new cloud service by getting some of the major players to sign up to it in comparison to Amazon and Google ".it will be the first among the big three to offer licensed music."

Read more on CNET and Neowin

posted on Friday, 03 June 2011 08:51:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 02 June 2011
My morning roundup

Windows 8 First Look
A first look at Windows 8 and it seems to be a lot about "touch" my first impressions when seeing a video demo was "this looks a lot like Windows Phone". They appear to have reinvented the Start menu and it looks like a lot of thought has gone to usability it also appears as though some ideas have been influenced by the experience with the iPad.

See for yourself on  Neowin and Engadget  for some interesting commentary checkout this article on The Register

Hackers in China compromise Google e-mail accounts
According to the BBC website hackers from China have attempted to access the Google e-mail accounts of US Officials, military personal and journalists.

How clean is your keyboard?
Checkout this article on How-To Geek on how to clean your keyboard (without breaking it). Warning there are some gory infested keyboard images in the article!

UltraViolet (buy it once play it everywhere?)
Its the first time I have heard about it. UltraViolet is supposed to be a media service supported by all the big players in the industry (except Disney). Basically manufactures will create TV's, mobiles, etc that support UV. You as the user can purchase UV compatible content such as a BluRay or DVD disk containing a UV logo and will be able to watch the content on any UV compatible device (even if it doesn't have a DVD player).  It sounds as though the industry has realised the issue with having many different DRM formats where content I download on my PS3 won't necessarily work on my PC or mobile phone if I want to watch it on the train. See what you think?

posted on Thursday, 02 June 2011 09:55:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 31 May 2011
My morning roundup

BT upgrading its network to Multicast
According to this article on the Register's website. BT's network is suddenly going to become pretty IPTV friendly as BT upgrades its routers. I would imagine BT is getting ready for the launch of YouView?

ASUS's new Padfone at Computex in Taipei
Asus's new Padfone will be making an appearance at Computex computing show in Taipai, Taiwan. 

Not sure how I feel about this device. It appears to be phone that can become a tablet PC by plugging into the back of a tablet attachment. What happens when you upgrade your phone?

 

 

Google Chrome OS doesn't need anti-virus software
Interesting article questioning Google's claim that its new OS will not need anti-virus software. Saying that, it is an anti-virus company that is questioning that claim Smile

NASA finally pulls the plug on Spirit Sad smile
NASA has finally given up hope on its Spirit Rover which landed on Mars in 2004 and lasted much longer than its initially planned 3 month life.

A new Bionic Eye gets given the go ahead in Britain
Thousands of blind people have been given the hope of seeing again using an artificial retina implant according to this article on The Express.

Germany to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022
Its a brave step and maybe Germany will lead the way in clean renewable energy. However I am not sure how Germany will deal with the shortfall not covered by renewable energy. Maybe they will become more reliant on imported gas?

posted on Tuesday, 31 May 2011 09:07:54 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]