Plip's Weblog

Phil Winstanley - British .NET chap based in Lancashire. Enjoys tea and tech. Working for Microsoft.

July 2006 - Posts

Advice to make you a happier developer


There's a nice piece on Chris Morris' blog talking about making you a better and happier developer.

Many developers lack in social skills and have communication issues - little tips like that can help.


SQL Server 2005 doesn't like numbers less than 50

I've been creating a database for a client and it requires the creation of some fields which are of type varchar(10). Nothing weird there I'm sure you'll agree.

In creating these tables I'm using SQL Server Management Studio and I've found a little bug.

If you create a column, enter a name, press tab (so you're in the Data Type), paste "varchar(10)" into the column, move off and it changes to "varchar(50)", lord knows why.

Go in and manually change the value to "10" and it works fine.

Silly thing. :-)

Edit: Welcome from Dr Dobbs - I hope you're not a Thomas. 

Google Controlling your car or plane?

There's an interesting clause in the Google Maps Terms and Conditions.

"In addition, the Service may not be used: (a) for or with real time route guidance (including without limitation, turn-by-turn route guidance and other routing that is enabled through the use of a sensor), or (b) for, or in connection with, any systems or functions for automatic or autonomous control of vehicle behavior."

Are Google working on controlling Vehicles using Google Maps? Some form of Remote Controlled Car or is this going to be used by Drone aircraft? I wonder why the clause exists... 

Virtual Earth SDK - New Download

There's a new SDK out for virtual earth - and by SDK I mean Help File (and it's a good help file).

There are some good samples and snippets in there such as: -

Bird's eye images are low-angle, very high-resolution aerial images. Unlike the other map styles, bird's eye images exist only for specific regions and do not provide continuous map coverage.

The Virtual Earth map control has built-in support for the bird's eye image type. You do not need to add any additional code to your Web page to enable your users to see bird's eye images. If users move the map to a region where bird's eye images are available, the map navigation control changes automatically.

However, there may be times when you want to show a specific bird's eye image or create your own bird's eye navigation control. This topic explains how to programmatically use bird's eye images.

Determining Whether Bird's Eye Images Are Available

You can determine whether bird's eye images are available at any point on the map by calling the VEMap.IsBirdseyeAvailable method.


Suppose you want to let users know when the map is centered on a location that has bird's eye images. You need to determine whether images are available at the center of the map whenever the user moves the map to a new location. To do this, attach a function to the VEMap.onchangeview event. In the function you attach, call the IsBirdseyeAvailable method. If the IsBirdseyeAvailable method returns a value of True, notify the user. Your code may look like the following.

map = new VEMap('myMap');
map.LoadMap(new VELatLong(33.756, -84.37), 14 ,'r' ,false); 
map.AttachEvent('onchangeview', onChangeView);
function onChangeView(e) 
   if (map.IsBirdseyeAvailable())
      alert("Bird's Eye images are available at the center of the map"); 

Switching to Bird's Eye View

To programmatically switch the current map view to use bird's eye images, call the VEMap.SetMapStyle method as follows.


When the map style changes to use bird's eye, the map navigation control also changes to include the bird's eye navigation controls.

Using the VEBirdseyeScene Object

The VEBirdseyeScene object provides additionally functionality when you are working with bird's eye images. By using this object, you can:

  • Determine whether a point on the globe (a VELatLong object) is within the currently displayed bird's eye image by calling the ContainsLatLong method.

  • Get the nearest neighboring image in any direction from the current image by calling the GetNeighbor method.

  • Determine the orientation of the current image by calling the GetOrientation method, or change the orientation by calling the GetRotation method.

  • Display a thumbnail of the current image by calling the GetThumbnailFilename method.




The future of ADO.NET
Mike Taulty found a really interesting piece on The future of ADO.NET buried on MSDN.
Posted: Jul 27 2006, 10:46 PM by Plip | with no comments
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Web 2.0 - Not as free as you might think


I'm doing masses of work at the moment with Google maps and I've recently discovered Google's Enterprise Maps service for use in non-public and internal sites - I wasn't even aware Google had a distinction between the two.

Now, I'm not in the US or Canada where the service is running, so can I use the Maps? If not when can I and how much will it cost?


There's a BBC "behind the scenes" e-mail list where the programmers and other Web end types hang out. One of the ex-BBC chaps posted a message today saying he'd found a way to get hold of the BBC's (and therefor the Met Office's) weather data is a really clean XML feed format. The BBC have a really clean site for weather information.

Someone from the BBC saw this post and responded thusly: -

"As you all know, the data in the weather feeds isn't actually owned by the BBC - the BBC has an agreement with the Met Office to use the data. The good people in BBC Weather have been negotiating with the Met to get this data publically available, but that's been a lengthy process. Obviously, we have to find an arrangement that keeps both the Met and the BBC, and you lot on the list happy."

There's much more to it than that and I'll let you read the whole message if you are so inclined: -

Sadly, I'd already spent an hour or so putting together a slick downloader to parse all the BBC id's out and then use Google's GeoCoding to look up the longitude and latitude information.


So what can we use, and what can't we use, in this era of feeds and API's people still scrape data from other people's sites, law suits ensue and people get upset. You need to carefully read liscence agreements and ask permission where you're not sure if you can use someone else's data - but not only that, you may have to ask them if you can use it in a commercial way too.

What do you think?

I'm interested, what do you think about these closed and open API's, about the licenses which are applied and the way in which they're applied.

ASP.NET and ADO.NET best practices
Spotted this post on ASP.NET and ADO.NET best practices, it's not an exhaustive list, but there is some good advice there.
Whatever happend to Under Construction Man?

Those very early days of the Web, those where Yahoo used to count the number of websites it indexed in the hundreds, not the billions, those days when only real Web Developers knew how to write HTML - those were the days.

You'd visit a web site and you'd see the man working away - helping you understand the site was not quite finished yet - but you really should come back shortly. The Mighty "Under Construction" man diligently built the web for many years - when does he ever get a thank you - well Mr Under Construction, I salute you! You paved the way for the Internet as we know it. We thank Broadband internet access and Flash for changing the way we used to web, but in reality Under Construction Man, it was you that changed our view of the world.

Under Construction

The pages you'd go to would greet you with a melody of infinite quality, we didn't need MP3's and 5.1 surround sound in those days - oh no, we were happy with a tinny representation of the A-TEAM in Midi format (look at the kids - they don't even know what Midi is!). Now-a-days when do you ever go to a web site and share in the creators musical tastes? Never. How can we get to know the authors personality now? Oh yes that’s right – with emoticons. A Smiley is in characters :-) not an image – lord, think of the bandwidth of all those smiley’s being images back in those days… tsk.

We didn't need site maps in those days - lord no - we were happy to trawl through page after page of animated background and pink text looking for that special nugget of content - and I'll tell you now, we were happy - I mean - who wouldn't be - we had the world at our fingertips.

What about marquees, they were great, and blink, blink was a fantastic feature.

Popups? In our day they didn’t even exist, we didn’t have adverts let alone ones that took over your PC – tabbed browsing? The OS can have multiple windows open at the same time – that was our tabbed browsing.

Mankind has taken a step backwards. Web 1.0 was like the Concorde, ahead of it's time. Alas - it has been replaced by Web 2.0 which might well be more efficient and quieter - but where's the excitement, the real sense of adventure and the adrenaline? I implore you - Use the Under Construction Man, Embed that Midi File of the M.A.S.H. theme tune, add the Scrolling Marquees to the site, Enable the Animated Backgrounds, use impossibly complicated color schemes and make damn sure you use Fuchsia!

Bring back the Web!

Vive La Revolution!


Posted: Jul 25 2006, 09:53 PM by Plip | with 7 comment(s)
Filed under: ,
Web 2.0 - Tennents, rules & development philosophy from the BBC

The BBC technology division has an open discussion environment where they talk about new ideas and general research it's called BBC Backstage.

Today there's been a very interesting thread on Web 2.0 Philosophy and how people should go about implimenting it within their sites (from a BBC perspective).

What do you think to the comments posted on there?



Posted: Jul 17 2006, 06:55 PM by Plip | with no comments
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The changing face of Television

My best friend has been given a fantastic opportunity to appear on Television.

He's not a singer, he's not a dancer (trust me), he's certainly not of any interest for chat shows, he's a gamer.David Hughes comments on Eve Online


Dave (Stavros) plays an online game called Eve Online, and he's currently in iceland talking about a tournament which is being played and airs live across the globe and on Icelandic Television.

 You can watch sporting Events and you get expert commentry, so why not with a computer game.

 I think this is pretty cool and I believe the idea will proliferate to other games.

Well Done Dave - You big geek you. :-)

 David Hughes

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