Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Internode Usage meter for Windows Phone 7

Screen grab of Internode Usage appMy first application for Windows Phone 7 has now been published to the marketplace!

It's a free usage meter for Internode's broadband customers. Want to check how your much quota you have left on your ADSL plan? This app will tell you.

The first version is pretty simple. It displays two sections. The first (shown above) displays your total quota, amount used so far, and the time the data was retrieved. The second section displays details for your account (see below).

To install it on your Windows Phone 7 device, go to http://social.zune.net/redirect?type=phoneApp&id=c9ebe665-de0d-e011-9264-00237de2db9e (Opens in Zune)


Overview

ScreenGrab-WelcomeWelcome screen

When you first run the app, a welcome screen is displayed and you are prompted to go to the settings page to enter your username and password. (In version 1.0, there's a bug where the big 'Settings' button doesn't do anything – you'll have to click on the settings icon Settings icon instead. This will be fixed in the next update)


ScreenGrab-Settings

Settings

Enter your Internode username (just the bit before the @ works for me)and password.

Click on the 'Save' icon to store these credentials.


ScreenGrab-DetailsDetails

Your account details, including full username, monthly quota, plan name and plan speed.

Coming next

Features I'm thinking of adding for the next update:

  • Usage history – graphs of last 12 months and detailed graph of last 30 days
  • Improved icons (hopefully the Internode logo if permission can be obtained)

I'm also keen to hear of any other suggestions.

Acknowledgements

This application uses the Internode API, however for the canonical source for your usage, please always refer to My Internode.

In many ways, the app is inspired by Angus Johnson's Internode Monthly Usage Meter (MUM). I've been a happy MUM user for as long as I've had Internode ADSL.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas 2010

It's been a big Christmas season in the Gardiner family this year. Last week we dressed up as New Testament-era characters in Aberfoyle Uniting's re-creation of Bethlehem in "The Road to Christmas". Thursday evening Narelle and I joined some friends for carol singing at a local hospital, then Christmas Eve we attended church as a family. It was a good service, and included this thought-provoking modern-day take on what Mary and Joseph went through:
On Christmas day we were hosting immediate family at our place for lunch, and were then joined by some extra friends for tea. Narelle had a thought a few weeks back that to cater for this many people, a second fridge would be useful. After checking out some second-hand stores, I ended up bidding (and winning) one on eBay.
It has been a great fridge. It fitted all we needed to fit in it, and saved all those minutes of "angst" when trying to fit the leftovers in it after lunch and tea.
I must say that Narelle did an amazing job – the meat and vegies were perfectly cooked...and the pudding was out of this world.
(Narelle added the above two paragraphs while I was playing Kinect) But I agree, the fridge was a great idea.
The day started at not an unreasonable time. We'd been to Church the previous evening, so things weren't so rushed in the morning.
The XBox 360 + Kinect has proved a big success. Our family present this year, and all the family has been having a go - even our youngest (though sometimes to the frustration of other players!) – she can play some of the games, though some of the finer controls are too tricky for her yet.
We've had a lot of fun playing:
  • Kinect Adventures – a great intro to Kinect and physical fun
  • Kinectimals – very imaginative game
  • Dance Central – funky dancing
  • Kinect Joy Ride – fun car driving – 2 players at a time
(Kinectimals and Kinect Joy Ride were presents, the other two titles came with the bundle).
So far I'm totally impressed. The only thing I could wish for would be some family-friendly titles to be published that can have more than two players at one time (I've heard Kinect can track up to 6 people, though I think you'd need lots of space for that).

Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street One of my other favourite presents had me up far later than I should have been Christmas night. I was only thinking the other day when we were watching "A Muppet Christmas Carol" that one of the best things to ever come out of the USA is Jim Henson's Muppets. That thought was reinforced by me getting a copy of Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street. A fascinating read so far.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

VS2008 crashes when opening Data Flow Task

I recently encountered a problem opening an existing SQL Server Integration Services project in Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS aka Visual Studio 2008). When ever I tried to view the Data Flow task for an integration package, Visual Studio would crash. These are the details recorded in the event log:

Faulting application name: devenv.exe, version: 9.0.30729.1, time stamp: 0x488f2b50
Faulting module name: msdds.dll, version: 10.0.30319.1, time stamp: 0x4ba1fee8
Exception code: 0xc0000005
Fault offset: 0x000117f8
Faulting process id: 0x2678
Faulting application start time: 0x01cb9c2181b22022
Faulting application path: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\devenv.exe
Faulting module path: C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\microsoft shared\MSDesigners8\msdds.dll
Report Id: cba37908-0814-11e0-9fdb-70f1a10159b9

One curious thing I noticed was that the version of the msdds.dll file above is 10.* not 9.*. The file properties also indicated that this was part of Visual Studio 2010.

Not being certain whether the issue was something SQL or VS related, I decided in the absence of more specific information, the most effective approach was most likely to uninstall all the installations of Visual Studio and SQL development components (I didn't uninstall the SQL instances).

Uninstalling Visual Studio 2010 and 2008, then re-installing BIDS from the SQL 2008 R2 setup replaced the msdds.dll with the original 2008 version.

I was then able to open the SSIS project without any crashing!

Re-installing VS 2010 and the dll was updated back to 10.*, but this time BIDS continues to work properly.

One thing that may be relevant is that for a short time I did have SQL Server codenamed 'Denali' installed, so it is possible that something left behind from that might have been the culprit.

This is also a good way to confirm that the LED for your hard disk works properly (and to dream about getting an SSD!)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Extra copper

Wallplate with two network jacks and F-type connectorI had one regret when we did our house extension a few years ago. I'd neglected to install network points next to the TV antenna outlet that I'd put in our family room (what was I thinking!). This meant that the Media Centre has been operating on wireless for the last few months since we relocated it from another room. Not ideal, even though it's very close to the access point, and I also suspect the wireless drivers are responsible for the Media Centre machine constantly waking up from sleep-mode even though nothing was scheduled to record.

Replacing a skirting board provided an opportunity to hide some cables and remedy the situation. I was initially just going to put one cable in, but then figured that if I'm going to put in one, I might as well put in two. Plus, there's that special family Christmas present that might appreciate a network connection pretty soon (It rhymes with "Textbox Elect", and we're exercising great restraint in not opening the box until December 25th! We ended up getting the 250GB bundle from Harvey Norman – though don't let them try and sell you a more expensive bundle with a ripoff $50 HDMI cable)

I'd pulled the cables up into the ceiling in the family room a few weeks ago (along with replacing the skirting board), but only yesterday got time to finish the job and run them into our storeroom (where the modem and switches are).

I managed to pull one of the existing cables back up into the ceiling, tie the new cables onto it, then pull them all back down through the wall cavity into the storeroom (if that hadn't worked, I'd have had to resort to drilling a hole in the ceiling cornice and running some conduit down the wall).

I'd bought a new wallplate and fittings from Jaycar, so I connected those up and hooked in the existing F-type connector. I did discover that the wallplate was probably intended to be mounted vertically (as the network points would only mount sideways), but I can live with that. It's all hidden behind a sidetable/cabinet anyway.

I then plugged the cables into my 1GBit switch and tested them out in the Media Center. Even though the cable and fittings are only CAT 5e, so far I've managed to the existing cables to run at 1Gbit. Not this time, both were only connecting at 100Mb Sad smile. I didn't have a lot of spare cable to play with at the wallplate end, but I wondered if I had untwisted the copper pairs too much when I'd hooked them up to the wallplate jacks. I re-did one, taking extra care to keep the pairs twisted until right up to where the wires got punched in. Bingo, 1Gbit! I tried the same with the second, but unfortunately it was still at 100Mbit. Oh well – one out of two isn't too bad.

Now just to wait patiently for two more weeks until we can play with our XBox 360 and the Kinect controller. Should be a great way to work off Christmas lunch!

Friday, 10 December 2010

My first Windows Phone 7

Photo of Samsung Omnia 7 handsetOn Sunday, I dropped by the TeleChoice shop at Marion, and purchased a shiny new Samsung Omnia 7 phone.

I've been reading up on Windows Phone 7 handsets since before their release, so felt reasonably well informed as far as what features were present and what was still coming. I ended up choosing the Omnia 7 because a lot of positive comments about the clarity of the Super-AMOLED display, and also that it was compatible Vodafone's network (my current provider and whose $20/month cap appeals to my budget).

On returning home, I inserted my SIM card and battery, plugged in the charger and turned it on. Starting up was simple and problem-free. I entered in my Windows Live ID, Google GMail, and Facebook details and a short while later, my contacts (aka People Hub) was populated with lots of familiar names. It also connected to my home wireless network without issue.

I've sadly been missing out on listening to podcasts since my trip to TechEd (and losing my old phone's bizarre non-standard earphones), so I was pleased to be able to finally resume my regular habit. I've previously made use of the Spokenword feed aggregator, but one downside to using this is that all the podcast files get lumped into what Zune thinks is one single podcast. So I just entered each podcast RSS feed individually. A pity Spokenword doesn't seem to allow me to export my feed collection, but it wasn't too tricky to re-enter them.

Screenshot of Zune software showing podcasts collection

So far so good. I'll post an update in a few weeks including how I'm coping on just 100MB/month!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Right in the solar plexus

Not the usual start to the day today..

First one of the kids woke up at 1.30am complaining that they couldn't sleep (they had actually been asleep but logical arguments don't seem very successful at that hour of the morning!).

Then later on, around 5am I think, another child woke up complaining it was too dark. I turned on a bedside light and they seemed happy enough with that to be able to go back to sleep again.

Not so much for me.. I tossed and turned for a while, then decided to get up myself. After breakfast I went to have a shower, only to discover that the hot water wasn't. My initial theory was that the batteries had gone flat in the instantaneous gas hot water heater, but we didn't have any spare 'D' cells to replace them. I rushed down to the shops just in time for opening (7am), bought some batteries. Back home, new batteries in, but no joy.

Next step, ring some plumbers. Got on to one, who suggested isolating the heater to double-check whether it was actually trying to start or not. I checked that and it wasn't, so the batteries were probably not to blame. He then said I was best off ringing Bosch to arrange a service call.

Bosch water heaters are serviced by in Adelaide by SA Hot Water, but they don't open until 8.30am, so while I waited I proceeded to boil the kettle multiple times so that I could have a bath in reasonably warm water. This reminded me that I am relatively tall and our bath is relatively short. I won't provide any pictures (you can breathe a sigh of relief!) but basically with a bit of wriggling about I can either get my legs wet, or my top half, but not both at the same time.

I rang back SA Hot Water at 8.30am, got through to their service people and turns out they've got a guy in the area who could come over right away – hooray!

He arrived not long after, and after giving some advice along the lines that our heater is probably on the way out (just over 8 years old) and is also a bit undersized for our house, managed to fix the problem.

So now my wallet is a bit lighter, but I'm also thinking that we should start investigating a replacement unit, with the idea that it would be compatible with a solar hot water system (something the current unit wasn't).