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Reporting Services Launch

Tuesday, January 27, 2004 by scott
Reporting Services has an online launch web cast tommorow (the 27th).

I’ve never, ever, ever, been excited about report writing software, nor about integrating report writing software into a product. It is one of those mundane tasks you have to get tough and do now and then, like going to your bi-annual dental checkup. However, there is something about a web service API and an XML based report definition language that makes me want to give it a go soon and replace the “other” reporting software in a current application I work on.

I’m not alone in thinking the “other” reporting software drives programmers to shout vulgarities. An informal poll shows if the “other” reporting software was a person, a majority of developers would want to “give it a sharp kick in the knee”.

I think some of backlash comes from the “it is so easy anyone can do it” hype. I once had to monitor a 2 day training class (subject for another story) where unsuspecting victims were trained to use the “other” reporting software. None of these four had ever seen a SQL statement before in their lives. The expectation was for the trainees to be able to start cranking out ad-hoc reports on a 100+ GB data warehouse immediately afterwards. Can you say stress test?

The beta looked pretty solid. I’m sure reporting services is going to make some big inroads by the end of the year.

.NET not Rocking on my Sony

Saturday, January 24, 2004 by scott
I’ve just about had it with my Sony MiniDisc Walkman. It’s not the hardware – it’s the bundled OpenMG Software.

My latest disappointment comes when I try to listen to .NET Rocks! The Sony doesn’t actually play MP3 and WMA files - you need to use OpenMG to record the audio content to a MiniDisc which uses ATRAC encoding.

This is how it all works in theory.

.NET Rocks was the first chance I’ve had to record a WMA to the player. It turns out the OpenMG algorithm for WMA decoding looks something like this:


It is both impressive and terrifying to watch the diagonal line in task manager’s graph of page file usage.

Even MP3s are a pain. I’ve installed a plethora of re-sampling software because OpenMG decodes MPEG1 44100 Hz Stereo only. I like to listen to audio books during my commute and most spoken word recordings are done at less than CD quality sampling, or in mono, or both. OpenMG designers were thinking music only. I just finished a Robert Heinlein novel (Starman Jones), and if I ever get this working the .NET Rocks! Rory Blyth interview is up next. Somehow mentioning these two in the same sentence doesn’t seem that odd.

Some other good (but getting old) technical audio content is available at Dr. Dobb’s Technetcast. DDJ seems to not be updating the content anymore, but some of my favorites are Scott Guthrie’s Why We Built ASP.NET, a pre-Microsoft Don Box talk about shifting to .NET, and the Shared Source vs Open Source Panel Debate where David Stuz and Craig Mundie of Microsoft face a pro-GPL, anti-patent, anti-Microsoft crowd and manage to escape without physical harm. Mundie did a remarkable job handling some tough questions in front of a tough crowd. Very eloquent answer to a question about “what is the Microsoft Community?”

Of course there are also talks like “Getting to Grips With Secure DNS”. Fortunately, fellow commuters in the Baltimore/DC metro area are quick on the horn when they sense a driver asleep at the wheel.

In Synch With Sells

Thursday, January 22, 2004 by scott

In my last post I was wondering how to set the MappingName property of a DataGridTableStyle object with some generic code. This morning I fire up my aggregator only to find Chris Sells was thinking along the same lines, and being Chris Sells – he also provides the answer I needed.

 I love blogs - especially the ones from inside Microsoft.

Once again I updated the Auto Resizing Columns In A Windows Form DataGrid article with the new found information.

Auto resize DataGrid columns

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 by scott
I just updated an article on OdeToCode which resizes the columns in a Winforms DataGrid to match the longest content. Although I'm fairly happy with the reflection method - I'm still wondering how to determine the MappingName property without an ugly switch statement. This feature was in the early beta of VS.NET - I wonder why it dropped?


Sunday, January 18, 2004 by scott
I know people who will laugh at me but I am positive Windows gets a really bad rap on uptime. I was in crunch mode recently and hammering on my 2000 Server desktop at the office. I’d actually terminal service into the machine on my desk (while at my desk) so when I had to leave I could just disconnect the session. Later I’d terminal service from home over a VPN and pick up right where I left off.

At one point I began thinking it had been a long time since I logged out of this terminal service session, much less rebooted the computer. I grabbed an UPTIME utility and saw it was 89 days since the last reboot.

Around day 98 my co-workers began to become annoyed with me talking about hitting “the big 1 – zero – zero”. One person threatened to come into the office some night and power the machine down.

The real problem started around 110 days of uptime. I received an internal CD writer drive for the machine. I wanted to see how long I could keep the machine up, so I hid the drive under my desk.

Around day 120 I was getting very nervous. A co-worker started asking if I was ever going to use the drive. When working at a startup you can’t just leave unused resources laying around. People will scavenge any piece of extra equipment that isn’t tied down, bolted, duct taped, and labeled clearly with your name in permanent ink. You can’t even leave a spare CAT5 cable laying around much less a CD burner. After some ceremony, I powered down, opened the case, and installed the drive.

I’ll never know how long the machine could have gone – but I do know current uptime is 32 days, 10 hours, 55 minutes, and 16 seconds. Still a long way to go to catch up to the servers with the longest uptime on the net.

Nifty New Downloads

Thursday, January 15, 2004 by scott

I found a few interesting downloads over the last couple days.

The Open Watcom C/C++ compiler 1.2 Get the binaries and source code here. I have not used a Watcom compiler for 10 years but I am curious to peek around the source code. (via Slashdot).

Microsoft has a 45 day trial download for Virtual PC. If you are a dev and not running a VPC of some sort, you probably should be.

For those of you into OLAP:

Creating Large-Scale, Highly Available OLAP Sites is a must read if you are rolling out a mission critical solution with Analysis Services. Many good pratical answers on how to cluster, stage and setup a solid enviornment.

The OLAP Scribe is a Word macro that uses DSO to dump OLAP database metadata into a nicely formatted Word document.

Best Whidbey Feature Found So Far

Tuesday, January 13, 2004 by scott
I was experimenting with Whidbey and found some really nice new features. My favorite feature, however, is the new File-system web site. You can keep all the files for an ASP.NET app in a simple folder – no dependency on IIS!

This is great news. On several occasions I’ve been driven to screaming fits of hysteria with Visual Studio and where I want a web application to be. I’m tired of editing virtual directory properties and hacking .webinfo files. Simply copying code to a different location or computer should not be this hard (or this hard). The first time I put an ASP.NET app into source control for team development it was quite the ordeal – but that long before they started publishing 17 page and 30 page white papers on the subject.