Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Things I need to learn more about

Following on from a conversation I had yesterday, I realise there are some areas of .NET that I don't understand as well as I might:

  • Passing by reference and by value
  • The Garbage Collector
  • Re-using ASP.NET user controls

You usually know what you know, but it is helpful to know what you don't know too.

Ziova CS505

I don't think my next-door neighbour Phil would mind me describing him as a videophile. He was one of the first people I know to get a digital settop box (and confirm that it made a huge difference to the quality of the TV reception in our area).

Phil doesn't have Internet access, but he'd heard about the Zensonic z500 high definition network DVD media player, and asked me to print out some specs for him to review. While doing that I discovered that Zensonic had changed their name to Ziova, and also had released a new model, the CS505.

So yesterday Phil dropped around and told me he'd gone ahead and bought a CS505. He still had a couple of questions though:

Can you save videos to a hard disk via the USB port?

It looks like the answer is "No". You can use the USB port to upgrade firmware (more about that shortly), or you can play movies from it, but it looks like the CS505 is only a player, not a recorder.

Can you update the firmware?

"Yes", though it is a little involved.

After reviewing the device settings, Phil's machine had shipped with firmware version 1.1.1. To get access to firmware updates, you need to register your device (I did this on Phil's behalf). First register with the Ziova Support Forums then use the same login for My Ziova, where you need to enter your device details (make sure you get the serial number and both MAC addresses correct!)

Once that is done, you'll see that there's a firmware upgrade to version 2.0.1. Don't be fooled by the text that says "use the recovery CD" though! The only way to upgrade from version 1 to version 2 is to use a USB 2 device (flash drive or hard disk). Trust me, I tried to use the CD, and (like others found), that doesn't work.

I was a bit worried (especially as this wasn't my device!), and I didn't have a USB2-capable flash drive on hand (they are quite specific that it needs to be USB 2). Then I realised that I'd recently received a 75Gb external drive from Microsoft (with lots of training material for the 2008 product launches). 10 minutes later, I'd copied all the content onto my home PC. Follow these steps to get the external drive setup correctly:

  1. Download and extract the Recover Version 2.0.1 zip file.
  2. Remove the external drive.
  3. Run RecoveryUSBMaker.exe
  4. Re-insert the external drive
  5. RecoveryUSBMaker.exe should now detect the external drive and offer to reformat it.
  6. Wait for it to finish, then you're good to go.

You can then plug the drive into the CS505 and restart the player to being the firmware update process. It does take a few minutes, so give it a while.

Did it make a difference?

The first thing we noticed was that the menu "theme" had changed. It seemed a bit smaller, but as I said to Phil, that might be because they've added more options to the screen. It all seemed to be ok, so I said goodnight and we left it at that.

This morning Phil dropped by again. Had something gone wrong? No, he was over the moon! He wanted to thank me for my help, as he assured me he could see a noticeable improvement in the video quality and was now extremely satisfied with his purchase.

It's nice to have a happy ending :-)

Monday, 17 March 2008

Some light reading

I've just placed my first ever order with Amazon for the following books:

The first three came about by reading recommendations from the old alt.net list, the new altdotnet list and the Alt.Net book list.

The fourth will hopefully help me pass the 70-547 exam. I did consider the Microsoft Press book, but the reviews weren't inspiring.

If they arrive as predicted, they might end up being a nice birthday present next month.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Not a culture of blame (or what UniSA could have done better)

Another thing I've learned from Jane is the phrase "not a culture of blame". The idea is that you might achieve more, improve things and make progress better if you don't just focus on finding someone to blame.

So trying to keep that in mind, I'd like to comment on a couple of things I think UniSA as an institution and senior management in particular could have done better with the restructure of the FLC, in the hope that the next time they might not repeat some of these mistakes. You be the judge as to whether I've managed not to blame anyone.

Don't take your staff for granted

There also seems to be a lack of understanding of what staff actually do. I suppose if those staff end up leaving, you'll probably find out pretty quickly though :-)

A new role isn't actually attractive if it is perceived as worse than the old one.

Don't assume that staff will willingly want to leave a fantastic team that provided them interesting, varied work, flexibility in work hours, supportive and understanding managers, ability to work from home, support to attend conferences, seminars and training events, in a reasonably convenient and pleasant location - to move somewhere else that they believe doesn't.

There is a world outside of UniSA

I wonder if senior management have considered the risk of causing staff, that they hoped would stay in the new structure, to discover that the commercial sector desperately wants their skills and is willing to reward them significantly better for them.

Sell us your vision

If you do need to change or restructure an area, then tell us (the staff affected) why! Tell us your vision of what you want to achieve and how this will help the organisation - and do that in person, not just as an impersonal email.

There are times when email is an appropriate medium for communication, but I believe this is not one of them.

Ideally, "in person" would be just that, but this is the unit that set up Centra and streaming video for the University, and either of those would have been an improvement.

 

As far as how the actual managing change process is progressing - the latest is that the NTEU lodged a dispute with the University on March 3rd, so we now have to wait for that to be resolved before anything else happens.

On a more positive note, I've got a few weeks of leave starting next week, so that will be a nice break. I'll have some time to make some more hot cross buns, and get ready for G3's arrival.

Microsoft WebDAV Extension for IIS 7.0

In late 2006, I noted that IIS7 (that shipped with Vista) didn't include WebDAV. Well the good news is for IIS7 and Windows Server 2008 at least, it's now available. The notes don't say it's compatible with Vista, so this might only be a server thing.

Heroes Happen {2008} - Adelaide

Yesterday, along with the rest of my team from UniSA, I attended the Adelaide "Heroes Happen {2008}" event - the local launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

It was a good day, and we got some nice goodies (including a T-Shirt, Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition, and Vista Ultimate with SP1). One curious thing is that the extra EULA with the Vista DVD says you're only entitled to use it for 365 days! What's up with that?

The location at the Hilton was good, if a little crowded. Excellent catering though, which is always something I watch out for.

Some good presentations, and I did learn something new - I didn't realise that the .NET Framework 3.5 includes support for RSS and Atom feeds.

It was great to bump into lots of familiar faces too.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Batch-converting JPEG files for OCR

I was sent a whole bunch of .jpg files of scanned documents with text that I wanted to extract.

I have Microsoft Office Document Imaging (MODI) installed, so I was keen to use that to perform the OCR (instead of re-typing all the text!). The only problem is that MODI only understands TIFF and MDI formats.

I used ImageMagick to do the conversion. Convert might sound like the best candidate, but mogrify did the job for me.

You can convert a whole lot of files using the following command:

mogrify -format tiff *.jpg

This creates new tiff files for each JPEG file. The only problem is that MODI doesn't like the particular flavour of TIFF generated. Fortunately ImageMagick has 1001 options to configure exactly what you want to happen.

A bit of experimentation and I've found that the following extra options generate TIFF files that can be read without problems:

mogrify -format tiff -colorspace RGB -compress RLE *.jpg

All good, except that I then discovered that the scanning was at such a low DPI that the OCR wasn't able to find any text :-(

Something else that sounds interesting is that MODI can be programmed against. Maybe I could automate this even more!

Friday, 7 March 2008

10 Years!

David kissing Narelle on their wedding dayIt's hard to believe, but it really is 10 years ago today that this gorgeous woman said "I do"! Yes, Narelle and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.

In a lot of ways, it seems to have gone very quickly. It's like only yesterday we were going out and then engaged, flying interstate once a month to see each other (I maintain I kept Ansett afloat that year). Long distance relationships are very difficult, but the wait was worth it.

We were married in Sydney (which is where Narelle and her family were living at the time), so that meant there was a fair bunch of Adelaide family and friends who made the trek across. Not to mention Cathy from USA. Then as a complete surprise, Mr & Mrs Rush and Mr & Mrs Badger decided they'd drive to Sydney just to see the wedding, then drive all the way home again on the same weekend (1,400km each way).

After the honeymoon, it was back to Adelaide. As if getting married isn't enough, Narelle also moved interstate!

Now Narelle's Mum & Dad have moved here to retire and help share the babysitting with my parents. Very handy, especially with G3 due in May.

It's not all beer and skittles mind you. Well I don't drink beer for one thing (strawberry milkshakes are more my cup of tea) though I think the kids do have some skittles in the toy cupboard. Seriously, there have been some tough times, but we've got through them, and they've been more than made up for by the good ones.

Well all I can say is if the first 10 years are any indication, I'm looking forward to the next 10, and the 10 after that, and the 10 after that...

Thursday, 6 March 2008

TyTN II frozen

I'm not sure what happened. It was time to leave work, so I un-cradled my HTC TyTN II phone. I noticed it was part-way through synching but that shouldn't matter.

I walked out to the bus-stop and waited, and waited, and waited. I had a meeting in the City and when the bus arrived eventually I realised I'd be late, so I went to try and ring ahead.

The phone was stuck.

I did a soft-reset, and after it restarted it got as far as saying it couldn't do a network connection (not sure why it was trying to do that), and then it would refuse to do anything else.

Further soft-resets didn't help either. Narelle tried to ring me, but I couldn't even answer her call, as none of the buttons had any effect, and the only way I could stop it ringing was to soft-reset it again.

I finally got home, and was able to look up the manual online. For future reference, to do a hard-reset:

  1. Press and hold the left SOFT KEY and the right SOFT KEY, and at the
    same time, use the stylus to press the RESET button at the bottom of
    your device.
  2. Release the stylus, but continue pressing the two SOFT KEYs until you
    see a special message on the screen.
  3. Release the two SOFT KEYs, and then press the button on your
    device.

That seems to have done the trick, though it does mean I'll have to re-install everything else again.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross BunsHere's something a bit different!

We're having a few people over for Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. If you know me, then you are welcome to join us. Just drop me an email and I'll forward you the details.

Meeting with Paul Sherlock

I'd been thinking over the weekend that it would be polite to contact Paul Sherlock - the Director of UniSA's ISTS to let him know that I'm not planning to move over to their new Learning and Teaching Systems team. However, he beat me to it! He rang to ask if he could drop by and have a chat. Paul has always been friendly and cordial when I've had anything to do with him previously, and today was no different.

I told him that I was planning to leave UniSA, and not move out to the new position at Mawson Lakes. I've already mentioned here previously that the way I see ISTS function is not a place that I see myself fitting into.

He asked about my plans for the future, and also enquired about handover plans.

Handover won't be easy, as the new team doesn't exist yet, and I'd guess it would be at least another month by the time they advertise and fill the other positions. The best I can do is try and get RJ up to speed on as many things as I can think of (as he's indicated interest in the new team), and maybe make use of that nice Wiki software we now have.

It isn't easy picking up other people's work. I experienced this first hand when Roger left our team last year. Picking up after me will be harder, as I've got 13 years of "legacy" applications behind me :-)

The meeting ended positively, with Paul wishing me well for the future. I appreciate that. You never know when your paths will cross again, so I think it's preferable to leave on good terms.