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The DreamLand Express - Charles Oppermann's Software Blog

Commentary on software design, development and management
  • MSN Desktop Search

    I've been using the latest MSN Desktop Search with the MSN Toolbar.  The latest version adds tabbed browsing to Internet Explorer, but I turned it off.  Similar to when I spent several weeks with Firefox, I just didn't feel comfortable with the tabs.  I'm just too used to ALT+TAB and ALT+F4 to navigate.  I know CTRL+TAB and CTRL+F4 will do the same, but why bother?

    Anyway, the Desktop Search is excellent and I've loaded up many more IFilters to expand it's capabilities.

    I'm wondering if a IFilter exists for browser history and the registry - although I don't know if search UI would be able to take advantage of them.  More details to come.

    Posted Jun 29 2005, 10:51 PM by ChuckOp with 1 comment(s)
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  • Good mailing list for Active Directory Programming

    Carlos Magalhaes has been quietly running a fine mailing list for developers working with Active Directory and related technologies.  ADSI or the .NET System.DirectoryServices libraries are covered and there is excellent response time and good discussion.

    Join here:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ADSIANDDirectoryServices/

  • Microsoft Windows Internals Review

    I’ve always been a bit twiddler – whether it’s doing machine code on an 8-bit RCA COSMAC microprocessor or writing 16-bit drivers for Windows 3.1 or doing Windows Server 2003 storage related development, I’ve never shied away from getting into the meat of the system.

    In 1992, I got “Inside Windows NT” by Helen Custer to discover how Windows NT was structured.  I purchased at least one of the other editions as well, authored by David Solomon and Mark Russinovich.  The fourth edition has a new name, “Windows Internals, fourth edition”

    Solomon and Russinovich are well known for their knowledge of how Windows works deep under the covers.  Russinovich produces a number of very cool tools, many of them free at his Sysinternals web site.

    http://www.sysinternals.com/

    This book does not cover the Win32 API or the .NET Framework.  It does cover the kernel, memory management, I/O sub-system including ACPI and Plug and Play, and storage.  The fourth edition covers low-level changes in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

    This is not a book with coding examples.  However, its best feature is the great number of sidebars with various “experiments” you can do, often featuring unique ways of using the Sysinternals tools.  While I normally I do not care about memory management, it was fascinating to read how sophisticated the Windows kernel is.

    While obviously system level developers will gain the most benefit from this book, there is a ton of information for IT professionals as well – particularly for system performance tuning.  I was able to use the information regarding Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) in my current project.  Sadly, the final chapter, on Crash Dump analysis, seems incomplete and ends rather abruptly.  Being a Microsoft Press author myself, I wonder if schedule pressures were involved.

    The book published by Microsoft Press (ISBN 0735619174) and is available from Amazon.com at:
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0735619174/

     

  • Twisted Podcasting?

    Arik Korman, director for my buddy Bob's radio show has started a Podcasting blog.  Arik is a fascinating person, and he infuses his podcast with the same production skills that has helped make the Bob Rivers Show top-rated in the Seattle market.

    The first 'cast is nearly 17 minutes long, and I haven't finished listening to it yet, but it's got my interest.  Check it out at:

  • Firefox Prefetching Google Search Results

    Google is taking advantage of a feature of the Mozilla open-source to prefetch the top search result.  So, if you search on something, the pages referenced in the first result will be loaded in the background.

    Details at Google, GoogleBlog and Slashdot with an FAQ on the feature here.

    When I found out about this feature, I had several reactions.  The first was "Cool!" Google has always done a lot to take advantage of client-side, user agent features, such as the keyboard support I helped build into Internet Explorer 3.0 and 4.0/4.01.

    Another reaction was "Uh oh!"  I was worried that Google's implementation would be specific to Firefox and Mozilla browsers.  I'm a veteran of the original browser wars and remember Netscape trying to push the LAYER tag in the W3C HTML working group instead of using CSS positioning.  I worried that Mozilla might have created some PREFETCH tag or attribute.  In actuality, a few years ago, the Mozilla project added the Prefetch relation type to the LINK tag.  Google gives the following example if searching on "Standford" and the first result is Standford University.  In the results page, the following text would be located in the HTML source code:

    <link rel="prefetch" href="http://www.stanford.edu/">

    The purpose of the the REL attribute of the LINK element is to specify a relationship from the current page, to the linked page.  There are several link types defined.  The classic example is to give hints to navigation, such as specifying the next and previous pages in sequence.  I'll leave it to the HTML purists to debate whether or not prefetching is an acceptable use of the LINK element.  Personally, I think it's better to use a link type than to define a new element, or adding an PREFETCH attribute to the A element.

    Finally, what I find amusing is the double-standard with regard to Mozilla vs. Microsoft.  Imagine the reaction of the Slashdot crowd if Microsoft had implemented this feature and got MSN Search to take advantage of it.  Oh, there would cries of colusion, and new calls for an anti-trust investigation.  I wonder if the next version of IE will support this feature.

    Interestingly enough, Google apparently does not serve up the PREFETCH link type when using Internet Explorer.  It's possible that that Google is looking at the user agent string and serving up customized HTML to the browser.  This is unfortunate in this case because it'll require Google to change it's logic when other browsers support the feature.  Once again, imagine if MSN Search only provided this feature to Internet Explorer.

    While I think of prefetching as a generally good idea, it's not without it's problems.  The prefetch page will be obtained regardless if you actually view it or not.  It may leave cookies and temporary files on your machine.  Your internet service provider (or IT department at work) will record that your computer accessed this page.  Imagine if you are doing research on sensitive subjects and the search result is objectionable to you, or your employer, then you'll might have to explain that you didn't actually visit the site in question.

    Mozilla will add X-moz:prefetch as a header to the HTTP request, so the web server knows that it's a prefetch, but the ISP and web server logs don't currently record this.

    This feature isn't enough to move me to Firefox (which I have tried before), and if the feature proves useful, I'm sure that the next major version of Internet Explorer will support it.  Anyone got an opinion about this?

    Posted Apr 01 2005, 08:53 AM by ChuckOp with 5 comment(s)
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  • Bill Gates' Think Week - An inside view

    Robert Guth of the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on Bill Gates’ twice-yearly solo retreats, known inside the company as “Think Week”.

    During Think Week, Bill goes off by himself to small cottage armed with a collection of ideas from Microsoft employees in the form of research papers.  I remember my boss at Microsoft asking me to submit my own papers a few times, but I don’t recall that I ever did.  However, I remember reviewing material that my team was sending.

    I’ve always loved the idea of a Think Week, so much so that I called a brief trip last August to a friend’s cabin my “Think Week-end”.

    Does anyone do a solo vacation, without family or friends – to catch up on reading or just to think?

  • Grammar check article on Slashdot

    I submitted an article to Slashdot today and it was accepted!  Within a few hours, it collected over 200 comments.

    My submission was based on an above-the-fold, front-page article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer on a marketing professor's attempt to get Microsoft to improve the grammar checker found in Microsoft Word.

    Personally, I'm a huge fan of the grammar checker.  I use Microsoft Word to edit my e-mail messages and have the grammar checker flagging grammar and style.  The only options I have turned off are "Use of first person", "Passive Sentences", and "Contractions".  I wish I could use the editor for these blogging posts (I know I can via various tools, but it's slows down the process and I blog less often).

    Todd Bishop of the Seattle PI also blogged about it as well as including a humorous graphic.

    Posted Mar 28 2005, 02:39 PM by ChuckOp with 3 comment(s)
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  • Create New Folder in Explorer – why not easier?

    Since I started working with the Windows Explorer shell in Windows 95, I’ve often wondered why there isn’t a “New Folder” toolbar button.

    Today, I was organizing some files and dragging-and-dropping them to other folders and occasionally, in the middle of a drag operation, realized that I needed to create the destination folder first.

    The way sub-folders are created is currently a click, right-click, hover, and click process.  Click once to put focus into the file area of the folder you want to be the container for the new folder.  Right-click for the Properties menu, hover over New and then click Folder.  Then type the name of the new folder.

    The shell-provided file Save As common dialog has a new folder button on its limited toolbar.  So why isn’t there one for Windows Explorer?  Actually, I know the reason for that, at least what the usability people would say – that’s it would contribute to UI bloat.  Nevertheless even things like the Full Screen option have a button and its functionality is even easier to get to; press F11.

    Ideally, the context menu would have a new folder item as well.  That way can scroll the folder tree to the destination folder, right click on it, choose New Folder and type in the new name.  You wouldn’t have to navigate back to the source folder and the original method would stay valid.

    I’m sure someone has written a shell extension to do this already.  Does anyone have a pointer to an existing package?

  • Windows Media Player not adding albums to media library

    Have been moving my music collection around and noticed that nearly half of the files didn't get added to the media library when monitoring the folder, or manually scanning it.

    After investigating for awhile, I discovered that folders marked with the System attribute were being ignored by the media library.  I guess this is understandable, but left me with two questions:  First, how did only certain folders get this attribute set.  Secondly, how do I go about changing it?

    About 130 of 410 total folders had the System attribute set.  I don't know exactly how it got set, but it may have something to do with the folders being stored temporary on a Samba-based file share.

    My first though was to type attrib -s *. /s /d

    However, while *. should match only files without extensions (which includes directories), attrib matches all files when given the *. wildcard pattern.  I was worried that the various WMP related files such as AlbumArt* and Folder.jpg and Thumbs.db would also lose their System attribute.

    Executing the attrib command above did attempt to reset those files as well, but since they are also marked with the Hidden attribute, and error was presented and attrib moved on.

    What I learned was that with Windows Media Player version 10, the media library will not automatically add folders that are marked with the System attribute.  If you are having problems getting artists or albums to import correctly into the media library, check the System attributes.

  • Backup Favorites Quickly

    A friend and former co-worker at Microsoft recently sent out an e-mail to several people describing a way to backup the Favorites folder to a writable CD/DVD-ROM drive.  I started thinking that it could even be easier:

    1. Start Menu -> Run (or press WIN+R)
    2. Type %userprofile% and press ENTER
    3. Right-click Favorites folder
    4. Choose Send To -> and the drive to copy all the favorites to

    Works with floppies, USB drives and writable CD/DVD-ROM drives.

    Posted Mar 02 2005, 03:18 PM by ChuckOp with no comments
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