VS 2008 Beta2 Virtual PC Images Expire on 1st November

VS2008If you are one of the handful of people on the planet that uses beta .NET technologies but doesn’t subscribe to Scott Guthrie’s blog, then he announced some important news today: the virtual PC images for VS2008 (Orcas) Beta 2 are due to expire in a couple of days. You must take action now to salvage your data from the image as it will be irretrievable after 1st November. More at Scot’s blog here.

UPDATE
Apparently according to an article on Blink.nu, things might not be as severe as Scott suggests.

Google weirdness: “connect prolog to actionscript in flash” (or “Prolog lives: just”)

clustr.pngJust a few days ago, I wrote about the clustrmap that I’d added to this blog to enable me to see how many people were visiting and where they lived. Then Microsoft forced Windows Desktop Search upon the world, I blogged about it, “Jo” referred to the Register’s take on subject, which caused a ping-back to here to appear on the Register and the next thing I know, I had 4,000 visitors from across the world visit in just one day. This made a total mess of the clustrmap that previously had been tracking nearer 40 or so visitors a day.

stats.pngSo having decided that the clustrmap really wasn’t that useful to me after all, I tried a WordPress plugin – WordPress.com Stats – instead. Whilst the details it provides are less public and less visual, they provide more conventional information, including search engine search terms. Those of you unfamiliar with the stranger workings of the web may be unaware of this, but when you visit Google etc and enter your search string, then click on a link, the site you visit is passed a copy of the search string you entered. As an aside, this is how when you entered say “pointless stuff” into Google, Ebay could have a sponsored link saying “get great deals on pointless stuff”. Ebay simply offered up their own search results page using the same search string when you clicked on that link. Ebay (or maybe it’s Google) have got smarter recently though and Ebay’s sponsored link only tends to appear if you enter an actual item as your search string, but the technique of passing the search terms across is still used.

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How to remove Windows Desktop Search

Update to original article:
Please note, this article refers to Windows Desktop Search version 3. If you wish to remove version 4, or you are unsure which one you have, please read this newer article first.

Many thanks to those that have offered valuable feedback on the subject of Microsoft’s bizarre decision to force their Windows Desktop Search program onto unsuspecting users across the world. Whilst it appears possible to just disable this application, many want to remove it, and that is where the “fun” starts. Different computers seem to require different removal methods. So I’ve tried to bring them all together here as a handy removal summary.

  1. Start by running up Add & Remove Programs from the control panel and look for Windows Desktop Search in the list. If lucky, it’ll be there and you can just remove it.
  2. If that fails, look for MSN Search Toolbar in the Add & Remove Programs list. If there, uninstalling this ought to uninstall Windows Desktop Search too. Be warned though,it obviously uninstalls the MSN Search Toolbar too. If you use this, you’ll have to re-install it afterwards. I assume you can re-install the MSN Search Toolbar without ending up with Windows Desktop Search back on your machine, but I haven’t checked this.
  3. If neither of the above work, the next option is to try a manual delete. Start up a command window and try running

    This should start up the hidden Windows Desktop Search uninstaller and allow you to manually remove it.
  4. If that fails, then we get into the more risky solutions. If you have a second PC, you could try installing Windows Desktop Search on there and hoep you get a $NtUninstallKB917013$ folder on that machine. If you do, you can then zip it up and copy it to your first machine and then run it there to remove the application.
  5. I am a little reluctant to even suggest this last option as it is so risky. If you do not have a second PC, the $NtUninstallKB917013$ folder doesn’t exist on your machine and you really cannot live with just disabling the product, then your last option is to download the required files from the internet. My advice is do not do this. You are risking inviting the less desirable sections of humanity to trick you into downloading crap onto your machine. If you really want to though, check out this MSDN forum on this topic for a possible download file. If you go for this option and your machine ends up trashed, remember you were warned…

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Microsoft Update Strikes Again!

If you use Windows XP and have installed Office 2007 or Windows Live Photo gallery, then you may have already encountered Microsoft products installing a new search tool (Windows Desktop Search, WDS) without your permission. They have come in for a fair bit of stick for it, but it could be argued that since WDS is used by these products, they have to install it. However if you thought that was the end of the matter, then you were very wrong … WDS is now an automatic update to Windows XP.

If you enable automatic updates to Windows, it’ll appear on your machine in the next couple of days (or may already be there; mine installed itself this morning). If you do manual updates, keep an eye out for it. In theory, you can mark it not to be installed, it ought not to and should stop nagging you (though since Microsoft admit they install updates even when the feature is turned off, I’d not trust this.)

But what if it has already installed? Can you get rid of it? Well give it a try first, you might like it. If you don’t there are various ways of disabling it, but I’ve no idea how to uninstall it. It installs itself as a service, so can be disabled that way apparently (I’ve not tried this though). Alternatively, simply follow Scott Hanselman’s advice by running up regedit, select the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Desktop Search\DS key and then set “ShowStartSearchBand” to 0. Finally remove “Windows Desktop Search” from the startup folder in your start menu and it should plague you no more.

Update

I have added a new post describing various ways of removing WDS if you are not content with just disabling it

Don’t just talk about SWX; do it!

DatumAral Balkan, recently created  a new flash-based Remote Procedure Call (RPC) package called SWX. To promote the product, and encourage further development, he  had organised a competition with some really great prizes, including Adobe Web Suite Premium, a Nabaztag/tag bunny and an iPod Touch. The downside was that he announced the competition in early October and had a closing date at the end of October. So I – probably along with a bunch of others – looked at the idea, thought the prizes were great, but  decided I didn’t have time. If like me, you therefore abandoned your plans, then great news: the deadline has been extended to the 2nd December. If you hadn’t heard about it before, go to his competition page and read up on it, then get designing/ developing (though make a rubbish job of it if you are doing API stuff please as I want those prizes!)

Amazon loses patent battle to a Lord of the Rings Actor

Once there was an actor from New Zealand who got a bit part in the Lord of the Rings films. Finding himself out of work after they were finished, he wondered what he could do next. Then it hit him: challenge Amazon’s “One click” software patent! So the man from New Zealand took on the mighty might of a mighty company … and won!

(OK I admit it; I just made up the bit about him being out of work).

The rest though is true. Peter Calveley did appear in Lord of the Rings and he did decide to challenge the validity of Amazon’s one-click patent. And, as was widely reported this week, he won and the US patent office has ruled against 21 of 26 claims within the patent.

As someone who hates the whole concept of software patents, I think this great news!

UPDATE: 29/10/2007

I came across an interesting new twist to this story on the Register today. Seems that a company owned by Amazon effectively helped Peter Calveley with his case against Amazon. Oh the irony! 😀

From whence the visitors come

The web is a fascinating “place” in both the way that it can make the world seem such a small place and the way that people seem to move around pages and end up in all sorts of odd locations. Take this blog as a case in point. I’ve been posting to it for just three months now and due to it being just one of thousands (millions?) of blogs out there, there is no obvious reason to assume anyone would bother reading it. At times this simple reality can make it feel like I’m talking to myself. So I decided to monitor the visitor traffic to see if anyone did visit. Rather than plough through nasty log files or set up a google account to monitor it, I picked one of those drop-in graphical gizmos that various web companies offer.

So four days ago I signed up for a ClustrMaps map, linked to to the site and waited. After four days, I’ve had a total of 68 visitors (not sure if that is unique visitors, I’ve a suspicion that the majority are me if not). Not a brilliant number, but the amount I’d expect after such a short time. The thing that surprised me though were the locations people were from: various parts of Europe, the USA, Canada and even India. It is all too easy to take the world for granted these days, but I still find it really amazing that someone on the other side of the planet might have found their way here.

So if you are one of those people who live outside of the UK and who have stumbled across this blog, please add a comment to this post to let me know where you are from and how you found me.

RIA: Ridiculously Idiotic Acronym?

I came across this cartoon on the blog of one of the planned speakers at Flash on the Beach, Keith Peters, but the original (with follow-up cartoons that continue the “story”) can be found on Nectarine Juice. The follow-ups can be seen here (part 2) and here (part 3). Part three is all too true, but I’ll let you read it rather than spoiling the punch line for you.

If it’s broke, break it some more

I recently moaned about the fact that my backnetwork account isn’t carried over between conference back-networks. It appears though that this is not the only thing that is broke with the backnetwork system. Not long ago, on the Flash on the Beach blog, they announced that delegate’s blog posts that used the FOTB07 tag would appear on the back network. So I have been marking my posts accordingly, and they appeared just fine. However I have noticed recently that few posts had been appearing on the backnetwork list, and those that did weren’t from blogs. Then earlier in the week, I posted a blog message about a fun flash app called simpsonizeme. The post has yet to appear on the back network.

Now things break occasionally; we all know that and moaning about it would be extremely hypocritical of me when my code has likely broken on people in the past in similar ways. That isn’t what has irritated me here though. What got me is that the ability to add comments to the Flash on the Beach blog post – that announced the feature – are blocked, thus disabling an easy route for me to report the problem. However”ping backs” are supported. For those unfamiliar with the technicalities of blogs, when I submitted this post, the wordpress code behind it tries to send a standard message to each of the links I’ve included to notify them I’ve linked to them. This message is called “ping back” and many blogs add these ping backs as comments to the quoted article. Thus why I’ve written this post: I hope that it’ll appear as a ping back comment beneath the original blog post and that the Flash on the Beach organisers will see it and try and fix the problem. Talk about having to jump through hoops!

UPDATE

OK so I have my rant at night, get up the next morning and find this post has appeared on the Flash on he Beach backnetwork. At first I thought the problem was caused by the latest upgrade of WordPress (version 2.3). It has introduced a new feature (tags). That appears not to be the case now though. Still puzzled on this one.

Turn Yourself into a Simpsons Character

Most of the time, I find the use of flash on web pages really pointless and annoying. Normally it is used to create “style over substance” animated logos and the like. Occasionally though, I come across a real gem of a flash application on a web site that just makes up for all the dross out there. One such app is simpsonizeme. It is a simple genius idea: upload a photo of yourself and turn it into a cartoon that looks like a character from the Simpsons. You can see the results with a photo of myself on the right. My thanks to my colleague, Gary Windsor, for pointing this out to me.


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Test Driven Development is Great!

Last Friday, myself and a colleague, Laurence, undertook what is possibly one of the most nerve-racking things a developer can do, in what is otherwise a very safe line of work: we wrote code in front of people. Now if you have never done this, you’re allowed to wonder what the big deal is; if you have, you’ll know what I mean. There were around 30 people, effectively looking over my shoulder whilst I wrote the front end to a super duper game: noughts and crosses (or tic tac toe if you prefer). It was extremely nerve racking; but it was great fun too.

Why would I want to write a game of noughts and crosses? Well we were giving a presentation on Test Driven Development (TDD) to Eurotherm’s R&D department. To do such a talk, one really needs to write some tests, and if one writes tests, one really needs to write code to pass those tests. Thus why I was sitting there, with people watching me write code. The presentation went very well, despite it being the first time either myself or Laurence had attempted such an ambitious task. Now part of the reason it went so well is because I have learned that essential ingredient to any presentation: rehearsal. I practised writing the code about ten times before the day. But I also think there was another ingredient to the success: TDD itself.

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