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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kids on the Net (KidZui review)

The internet age now starts much earlier. My got my first computer when I was 10 and it was Radio-86RK built by my father.

My kid’s computer experience is much different: desktop and two laptop computers are basically always available for them to us.

We got a few computer games as presents, but none of them were as good as the kids websites that we found. Here’s some of  the more favorite ones

Check out my full list of kids related sites at http://delicious.com/guessman/kids

One of my latest finds was . KidZui is a browser specifically designed for kids. Instead of working as a filer and preventing kids from going to restricted sites, it is designed to be the one and only application that the kids will interact through. The User Interface is great, very kids friends. Every page is hand picked by KidZui and verified to be Child Safe. This is really a Closed System browser.

Downloading the application from http://www.kidzui.com/downloading is straight forward. I had to install the application, and register myself as a parent. My KidZui account allows full monitoring of what my son views through the program. It will also send me a daily activity report with screenshots of the sites that he visited.

My son was able to pick and character, not only give him the name, but also select what the character would look like. The browser looks excellent. Very interactive, colorful, easy to navigate. KidZui folks did a truly remarkable job. I’ve put some screenshots of the UI below.

My son loves the browser. He can get around to all his favorite sites by himself. The search bar on top allows to quickly look through all available content.

We still try to limit the amount of time my kids spend at the TV and the computer. But while he’s on it, he is totally loving it.

Kidzui

Kidzui2

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Batch converting Unicode files to ASCII in Subversion (utilizing Powershell)

Recently we’ve worked on importing our database structure into subversion. After scripting out the database schema into thousands .SQL files, and checking them in, we’ve realized that the files were creating in Unicode. Subversion used binary encoding when sending the files into the repository. Even though client side tools were able to work on files without any problems, all server-side tools (like FishEye, Bamboo, etc…) considered them binary, and were not able to properly process them. Batch converting them to ASCII took a little research, but overall was relatively straightforward.

After checking the structure out to the local drive, I’ve used a 1 line Powershell script convert the files to binary (note: this is one lone line)

dir --recurs -include *.sql | foreach {$FileName = $_; $fileData = get-content -path $_; out-file -filePath $FileName.FullName -inputObject $fileData -encoding ascii}

After having all files changed to ASCII, we had to remove the svn:mime-type property. To do that, run the following:

snv propdel svn:mime-type –R *.sql

Finally, we checked in the changes back into the repository.

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AddToAny.com

Just made a small addition to my blog. I am using buttons from www.addtoany.com to provide a better interface to subscribe to the blog, as well as share links to the individual entries.

Hopefully readers will find them usefull

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Remotely shutdown Outlook (Another IPhone hack)

I wrote about creating an Outlook rule to help out with IPhone / Exchange push issue. One thing I realized, is that sometimes, I leave the Outlook running after I leave the office. That breaks the Exchange push to the IPhone. I wanted to be able to shutdown the Outlook remotely.

  • Download PSExec from the Microsoft SysInternals suite (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897553.aspx)
  • Create a batchfile “ShutdownOutlook.bat with one line “c:\SysInternals\pskill Outlook.exe” (Replace c:\SysInternals\ with the path to pskill)
  • Create a rule
    • Process messages when they arrive
    • from “Your User Name” and Subject “Shutdown Outlook”
    • Start a Program “ShutdownOutlook.bat”

Now, all you have to do is send yourself and email with a subject “Shutdown Outlook” to shut down your outlook. I guess this can be used for other situations as well.

Update: Just corrected the command in the batch file. Originally had PSExec not PSKill (think one type the other)

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IPhone Exchange push peeves and some workarounds

I am really impressed with my IPhone. I’ve switched to it from the old Blackberry Curve and now every time I use a smart phone without touch screen, it is VERY, VERY annoying.

There are however a few peeves that I have about its functionality. One of the main ones is Exchange Push connectivity. It works great when you only have an inbox, however, with multiple mail folders and server side filtering, IPhone does not receive notifications of the email in the other folders. This is definitely an IPhone issue, since Exchange push protocol fully supports monitoring of multiple folders. A minor Outlook rule made the Synchronization work the way I want it it.

  • Setup a client side rule that is applied to every email before it is processed. Mine is to display a notification box (Another Outlook issue is that if messages are moved to a folder in a server, popup notification will not be display!)

When I am in the office, my Outlook is opened, and messages get sorted into their appropriate folders. When I am out, the Outlook is generally closed. Since the client rule can not be applied, Emails will stay in the Inbox, and will be properly pushed to the IPhone. Once outlook is opened, emails will get sorted into appropriate folders.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

CAPICOM.dll Removed from Windows SDK for Windows 7

Its not that often that I hear that of a system component of Windows SDK being removed from a future version of windows. As the matter of fact, this is the only time that I know off (I am sure it happened before)

Karin Meier from Windows SDK Team announced on his blog that CAPICOM is now considered to be depreciated and is providing alternatives at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc778518(VS.85).aspx

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

OpenID – Using it and Liking it

You might have noticed a little icon on some of the sites you are visiting. The icon is a log of the OpenID network. From the openid.net, “OpenID is a free and easy way to use a single digital identity across the internet.”

OpenID was developed in 2005 and is now accepted by many mainstream websites. Some of the big players are Google, Yahoo!, IBM, Microsoft, AOL, MySpace. More history on Wikipedia. OpenID is a very open API and a number of Open Source free libraries are available for a variety of languages. A list more then 30 is available at the http://wiki.openid.net/Libraries

For me the benefit of OpenID is tremendous. I have a large number of sites that I register on, and having to remember my User ID and Password is a hassle. There is the option of using the same one for all the websites, but then having them in sync is even worse. OpenID provides a perfect solution. One secure website to manage remember and use.

I was following a discussion on StackOverflow on why NOT to use OpenID. Main points are

  • If the UserID / Password is compromised then attacker will get access to all sites that are registered with OpenID
  • Overall complexity, an less then technical user would have a hard time registering and using OpenID

My suggestions to OpenID use,

  • Do not use it on the sites where account security it critical (For example anywhere money is involved)
  • Use a trusted OpenID provider (Google, Yahoo!)
  • Create a strong password on the OpenID provider

Here some more Pro/Con links with very good points to read.

http://www.shoemoney.com/2007/02/20/11-reasons-why-openid-rockssucks/
http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/02/pros-and-cons-o.html
http://lifehacker.com/software/technophilia/one-openid-to-rule-them-allor-not-302156.php
http://idcorner.org/2007/08/22/the-problems-with-openid/


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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Benefits and Hindrances of Regular Server Reboots

First of all, stackoverflow.com is very, very cool. I’ve talked about it before, and would like to reiterate the point. The site gets tremendous amount of traffic and is great for asking any development questions or starting technology related discussions.

Now to the main point.

Over the years that I’ve doing software development and architecture, I had a chance to work directly on server and data center architecture. One of the most important points of the software and hardware design was stability, which is generally measured in amount of uptime. We’ve spent a lot of time looking for memory and other resource leaks. Servers needed to be designed with the same resiliency in mind.

However, I’ve also worked with IT managers with extensive experience, who followed a different paradigm: Weekly, controlled reboots of all servers. I looked around and the policy is not at all uncommon:

I brought this question to Stack overflow for more comments, please check them out there.

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/410413/benefits-and-hindrances-of-regular-server-reboots

Some consider this a Foolish Policy, For Others, this is a weekly test that is good if you can afford it. Even though I definitely see benefits of testing startup scripts and resource cleanups, I would have to stand behind my original view: Reboots for the sake of rebooting are an overkill, adds downtime and waists resources personnel resources. Scheduled maintenance windows for server maintenance (hardware and software) and are a completely different story.


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