Replacing my fixed home page with a private CMS and blog using IIS and WordPress on Vista

With the new job at Enigma Data Solutions, that I started a few months back, came a laptop. In the past – when I worked at Sussex Downs College – I had a laptop as I did a fair bit of working at home. Despite moving it between networks, I had the college’s intranet page as my home page on the various browsers that I used then (IE and Opera). It worked fine as Sussex Downs intranet can be accessed from off campus (it is password protected as a result). However, Enigma’s intranet isn’t accessible unless one is physically connected to the internal network. This is a minor irritation with IE, as it just gives a page not found error when starting up away from the company network. Firefox (which has replaced Opera as my main browser of choice) has an altogether more annoying habit though. It decides that since it can’t resolve the name “intranet”, I must have suffered temporary amnesia and really I meant “www.intranet.com”. This is a redirect domain for www.aciworldwide.com. I know of no reason to be anti ACI, but I don’t want their page as my home page.

As Enigma’s intranet has a number of handy links that I need access to when away from the office, my first thought was to simply create a static page local to the laptop and have that as my home page. I could then copy those links to this page. Then it occurred to me that, in this day and age, there are much better options: Wikis and content management systems (CMS). As I’m familiar with WordPress, and as it has good CMS features, it seemed the obvious choice.

As I’m running Vista, and as I have a number of years experience with using IIS and little experience of Apache, I figured I’d try to get WordPress running on Vista/ IIS 7. And so began a long and frustrating journey. By the end of it, I’d figured out that it is a relatively simple process – if you know what you are doing in advance. So I’ve written up details of how to install WordPress on IIS 7 and Vista here so that others can avoid the pain I went through. Continue reading “Replacing my fixed home page with a private CMS and blog using IIS and WordPress on Vista”

Is Microsoft to blame; or is the Flash community looking for a scapegoat?

An article today in Flash Magazine has got my somewhat annoyed. Apparently there is a gaping security hole in all but the latest version of Flash Player and MSN Norway has served up a flash-based advert that exploits this security hole. The article seems to imply that – because the flaw was revealed two months ago – web sites that serve flash adverts should be legally required to vet them for this flaw. Because Microsoft in Norway appear not to have done this, then Flash Magazine takes them to task.

Hang on a minute though. Since when has relying on customers of your product to check for exploits been an acceptable solution to preventing exploits of security holes? What ever happened to the idea of fixing the flaw? The flaw is fixed in the latest version of Flash Player 9, but how many people have this?  It’s not something I’d given any thought to before, but presumably Adobe have no way of pushing out patches to Flash Player when such flaws occur and so are reduced to the feeble “alternative” of expecting users of the product to simply be vigilant instead.

I don’t care if I’m the only flex developer in the world to use the flashblock plugin on FireFox. This handy plugin blocks flash content by default, requiring the user to explicitly give permission for it to be downloaded and run. If Adobe really do have such weak solutions to security flaws, then quite frankly I think everyone bloody daft if they don’t have flash blocker installed, whether they are a flash/ flex develpoper or not!

Not all parts of the Internet are on the iPhone, and so says the ASA

Here in the UK, Apple have been running a bunch of adverts for the new iPhone recently. One of the ads claims that “all parts of the Internet are on the iPhone”. If, like me, your immediate reaction is “what about the Flash and Java bits?”1, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the Advertising Standards Autority agree with you. They have deemed the advert misleading and banned it from further broadcast in its current form.

Apple have apparently declined to comment. My guess is they’ll quietly dump the advert, rather than release a new version with the compliant claim that “most parts of the Internet are on the iPhone”.

1 If your immediate thoughts included “what about Silverlight”, then have a pat on the back. The thought didn’t occur to me until 5 minutes later. Oops 🙂

What question would you ask Scott Guthrie and Travis Leithead

At Remix UK this year, we will see the return of the Speaker Panel, which was one of my favourite events from last year. And even better, this year, the “veteran” Scott Guthrie will be joined by a Program Manager on the IE team, Travis Leithead.

Last year I got the opportunity to ask Scott whether Microsoft had any plans to revive JScript.NET, or to implement a .NET version of ActionScript to enable the easy porting of Flash to Silverlight. The answer was sadly disappointing: he hoped the community would develop an ActionScript compiler for .NET. That disappointment aside, it was great fun to ask the question, so I plan on trying to ask another this year.

Two questions immediately spring to mind, and I’m unsure which one to ask:

  1. Given the recent announcement that JavaScript 4 will likely never see the light of day, has JavaScript finally outlived its usefulness as the ubiquitous browser language? Is it now time to retire JavaScript, or at least to open up the DOM to multiple languages? The .NET runtime code can be created from C#, Visual Basic, Ruby, J# etc, yet all compile to the same byte code ready to run on the CLR. Likewise these days JRuby, Java etc can all be compiled to the same byte code ready to run on the JVM. Are there any plans to create a JVM or CLR type environment for a future version of IE? Or are we stuck with the inadequacies of JavaScript for years to come?
  2. Last year Scott described Linux as the “arch friend” of Microsoft. Whilst IE 8 has embraced HTML 4 standards, there seems little noise from Microsoft regarding future technologies such as HTML 5. Mozilla seem to be growing ever more impatient with this, even resorting to developing a plugin for IE to enable it to support the HTML 5 canvas element, as Microsoft seem reluctant to do so themselves. Does the IE team have plans to become more future-orientated and to see Mozilla as an arch friend too; or is it likely to remain an arch enemy?

If you have any thoughts on which one I should pick, please do let me know via a comment. Also I’ve added these two questions to the Remix UK backnetwork. If you are going to Remix, don’t forget you can sign up to the backnetwork too and add your questions to the list. One or more of them might get read out at the session after all.

How to remove Windows (Desktop) Search … revisited

In October last year, I posted an article on how to remove Windows Desktop Search from an XP machine after it had been unhelpfully installed as a mandatory upgrade. The world has moved on since then and version 3 of Windows Desktop Search has been replaced by version 4, which is now called Windows Search. This means the name of the uninstall folder has changed and the information in that post is becoming ever more out of date. As it still accounts for 80% of the traffic to my site, I figured it was time for an update.

If you have version 3 of Windows Desktop Search and want to remove it, please refer to the old post. If you have version 4, read on. If you are unsure which one you have, press the windows key and F together to start up the application and look at the image that appears toward the top right of the window. If it says “Windows Desktop Search”, then you have version 3. If it says “Windows Search”, then you have version 4.

Windows Desktop Search (version 3)
Windows Desktop Search (version 3)
Windows Search (version 4)
Windows Search (version 4)

To remove Windows Search version 4 from XP, try the following steps:

  1. Start by running up Add & Remove Programs from the control panel and look for Windows Desktop Search in the list. Unlike with version 3, Windows Search v4 should be there.
  2. If not, open a cmd window (click on Start, then “Run..” and type cmd in the Run dialogue that then appears). Then copy and paste the following line into the cmd window:
  3. If that also fails and you get a “The system cannot find the path specified.” error, then I have zipped up a copy that you can download from here. To work out where to extract it to, type:

    into your cmd window and note the location it points to (it is likely to be C:\Windows, but may not be if you upgraded to XP for Windows 2000 for example). Open the zip file, and extract the $NtUninstallKB940157$ to this location. Now repeat step 2.

Update: Thanks to “Derek” for pointing out to me that I’d missed the “bleedin’ obvious”, ie that v4 can be removed via “Add Remove Programs”. I’ve added this as step 1 as a consequence. Steps 2 and 3 are likely redundant, but I’ve left them in for completeness.

There have been lots of programming tool updates recently

Flex logoFlash/ Flex

Adobe recently released a RC (release candidate) for Flash Player 10. This adds many nice new features to Flash, such as built-in 3D support, better drawing features, custom filters and effects and – probably most importantly – flash finally gets decent multinational text support.

Adobe also recently released version 3.1 of the Flex API. This update to the Flex 3 API offers support for AIR 1.1, FLash Player 10 and also contains numerous bug fixes.

Finally Adobe have released Flex Builder 3.0.1. This update includes the new Flex 3.1 API and support for Eclipse 3.4.

Visual Studio logoVisual Studio & .NET

Last week Microsoft released .NET 3.5 SP1.This update to the .NET framework offers performance increases to WPF applications, improvements to WCF and support for SQL Server 2008’s new features.

Further, they released Visual Studio 2008 SP1, which includes .NET 3.5 SP1 as well as improved designers for WPF and ADO.NET, new C++ tools and components (including an MFC office ribbon component) and improved JavaScript/ AJAX support.

Microsoft released Silverlight 2 as I predicted. Well actually they didn’t, which meant my prediction was utterly wrong. As they had made a big thing about MBC using Silverlight 2 to provide their Olympic coverage, I expected Microsoft to release Silverlight 2 just before. The reality was very different. Most of the MBC Olympic site runs off Flash and only the video feeds are supplied via the beta of Silverlight 2. Very disapointing.

JavaScript rejects advancement in favour of appeasement

ECMAScript 4 is dead. For reasons best  understood as the collective mediocrity that is any committee decision, JavaScript will not take the obvious next step forward and finally – years too late, but better late than never – embrace its own draft version 4 standard. Instead it will reject all that is good about ECMAScript 4 and instead settle for enhancements to the less than adequate ECMAScript 3.1 standard.

With the upcoming HTML 5 offering the chance for HTML/ JavaScript based RIAs to finally shine, and growing competition from Flash/ Flex, Silverlight and (maybe) JavaFX, there is a real need for JavaScript to change from the simplistic scripting toy language it currently is into a modern programming language. Sadly the powers that be in the JavaScript world don’t agree. The next version of JavaScript still won’t have real classes for example, instead classes will be a “syntactic sugar” fudge on top of the current messy template-based objects.

Of course this has major implications for Flash too. Its ActionScript 3 is a full implementation of the ECMAScript 4 standard. As this standard has effectively been killed, ActionScript 3 is no longer based on a standard. With the constraints of standard removed, ActionScript 4 may now hopefully implement many of the annoying “missing features” in ECMAScript, such as method and constructor overloading, private constructors and static classes. You never know, we might even get ActionScript generics now…

Read the release notes, stupid!

Recently I upgraded to WordPress 2.6 as WordPress nags you to upgrade, rather than because of any new feature that it offered. After upgrading, I noticed an odd new feature: it was now telling me (or so I thought) how many plugins I had via a little orange bubble as shown below:

Plugins update notification

After a few days, I decided that it was actually an annoying feature, so I clicked on Plugins to see if it could be turned off. I then noticed that I had a lot of out of date plugins. So I updated a few of them. At that point I noticed the number in the orange box had gone down. Finally the penny dropped: the orange bubble was showing me the number of out of date plugins I had. Now that really is a useful feature.

It brought home to me though the importance of reading release notes. If I’d done so, I’d have known what it was for. However I do not accept all the blame hereand feel the WordPress site designers share it with me. The reason is that if you visit the release page, you’ll see a big orange download release button, but there are no release notes. The latter is actually buried inside a post relating to the latest release inside the release RSS feed. They are actually really good release notes that include a short video detailing the new features. It’s a shame they are so buried, but now I’ve found them, I’ll be reading any future ones before installing the update.