The blogs of Black Marble staff

Start ++

For a long time ( my time with XP ) , I have used Baden Slick Run to run commands using the keyboard. For those not familiar with Slick Run you set it up point at application assign a quick name and when you press the windows key + Q , type the quick name and the app starts ( with all appropriate command line params as needed ). There is a new version of Slick Run which runs on vista and a newer version written in .NET ( I knew these guys had good taste ) , but recently Brandon Paddock who is a SDE/T on the search team at Microsoft has released Start ++ which allows you add short cuts to the instant search box ( windows key and type ) such as devenv :). While Slick Run has point at running app and lots of well thought out UI parts which make it rock , the integration of Start ++ to windows is top and it has the most important feature a check box to allow you to run the application elevated ( devenv ). Now if Baden and Start ++ could merge :)

have a look and be impressed


.NET Micro Framework

The .NET micro framework is now available .NET Microframework , the MF adds a new project type to Visual Studio. the first thing I noticed is that the name space for the libraries is Microsoft.SPOT , SPOT was the original name of the MF. I would expect this to change before release.

I think any desktop developer and possibly even compact framework developer will have quite a shock at the level of work needed as the amount of support in the Micro Framework ( the name gives it away as to how large the supported libraries are ) , is small but perfectly formed,  but there is no UI design surface in Visual Studio and there is work needed to be done by the programmer which traditionally the .NET framework would have done.

All in all the MicroFramework is a job well done, but anybody looking should read the documentation and more importantly expect to do a lot more house keeping in your application ( it's the 90's all over again , but this time the devices are smaller :) )

I am hoping that we may be running a Micro Framework event after the summer.




I have been spelunking through a pile of documentation on Sharepoint and came across a comment that people who follow the priciples of REST (Representational State Transfer) are referred to as RESTful or for the more extreem RESTafarians. As this seems to be the case I wonder if someone who advoates SOAP is SOAPful or more likely CLEAN :) 


X2100 IPMI Redux - success!

In hindsight I should have thought of it, but even if I had, others got there first.

You may remember my problems with IPMI on our X2100 servers from an earlier posting. Today I had cause to revisit the matter, as we're having terrible issues with the Nvidia RAID on one of our servers.

The lack of a Windows version of IPMItool is still a pain, but I am leagues closer to a usable solution now, thanks to Cygwin. The solution, it turns out, whilst somewhat laborious, is fairly straightforward. Simply build IPMItool under cygwin. Result!

Instruction are available on the 'net and the IPMItool man page is on Sourceforge.

I can now query the SMDC board on my X2100s from Windows.

Windows Home Server - something for my father

On Saturday I got the email telling me that I'd been accepted onto the Home Server Beta 2. I'm excited about this product in a way that I haven't been about new software solutions for a while.

I've taken part in beta programmes before. I've been around a while, and as an IT pro you get desensitised after a while. Vista has some innovative features, but it's evolutionm, not revolution.

Home server is different.

To explain why, let me give you a bit of background: Being a geek, you'd expect my home to have a few PCs and you'd be right. I had a purge shortly after I got married, which reduced the number of active systems from eight (don't ask!) to four - my home desktop, my wife's home desktop, a media PC and a Mac Mini (which I use for web site testing and development). On top of that, we have a Netgear SC101 NAS box for shared storage, a networked printer and a photo printer attached to my wife's PC.

My Grandmother has firmly embraced the information age. She has a desktop and a laptop. She sends emails all over the place and is slowly scanning all the photographs that the family has collected over the years. The desktop stays on all the time with a file share for the laptop.

My parents have a computer each. They also have a Netgear SC101 and a coulpe of printers. In addition, my father has a laptop.

Particularly for my parents and grandmother, the Home Server will be a perfect match to requirements. A black box that can back up systems, is easy to manage and allows file and printer sharing - great!

Being the defacto tech support for my family, the opportunity to put one system in each home that can do automatic backups and store all the important files safely is extremely welcome. I'm looking forward to getting my Home Server beta up and running and if it works like the documentation suggests, there'll be three customers lining up for a copy when it's released.

Vista Upgrade - attempts 4, success 0

I have yet to succeed in upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista. Each time it runs through to the completing upgrade phase, gets about halfway through that bit whereupon I get stuck in a reboot cycle.

I have tried this now on three separate machines and two different installed partitions on one of them.

Two of the machines were Shuttle SN25G2 SFF boxes with Nforce 2 motherboards and the onboard nforce 2 (basically a geforce 2) video.

One of them was an Acer E360, an nforce 3 chipset box with an Nvidia 6600GT display card.

On the OS front, the Shuttles ran XP Pro SP2, fully patched; the Acer has the XP MCE that it came with, and an XP Pro SP2 install.

I'm starting to wonder if the common denominator here is Nvidia. In spite of the fact that I spent a long time with my Acer stripping off drivers and applications and repeatedly trying the upgrade I have not managed a successful upgrade. Has anybody managed to upgrade an Nforcex system?

What I will say, having now lost days of my life to failed upgrades, is that the Upgrade Rollback feature of Vista is fantastic! A no messing, works every time, put it back to how you found it option that takes only a few minutes. Wonderful!

So, now I'm going to look into the recently-release Windows Easy Transfer Companion as a way to get my applications across onto Vista.

Why do I need to do that? Because Acer, like so many other manufacturers these days, provides no installation media for the applications they ship with the computer. Unless I want to shell out again for things like PowerDVD and NTI CD-Maker I need to either upgrade (been there, tried that), hack the cached installed files (also tried, and failed) or use a magic bullet (see above). I'll let you know how I get on with that one.

Microsoft SQL 2005 starts then stops with 3414 error

I recently had one of our Windows 2003 server lose it's disk mirrors and locked up. When it was restarted it has two (virtually idenitical) drives C: and E:. It booted off the primary mirror disk (C:) and all seemed OK except SQL.

I also tried booting off the secondary mirror (E:) but this would not boot (this drive it turns out had some bad blocks).

So I went back to the primary disk. The actual problems was SQL server started but then stopped after a few seconds, the Windows error log showed the unhelpful 3414 error. I google for this, but all that was mentioned was issues with DTC, but this did not relavent as we not use distributed transactions. There was nothing else on the web of note.

I had a look at the MSQL.1\logs directory and this showed problems loading the various databases. So it seems when the disk de-mirrored it was writing SQL transaction logs, and they ended up corrupted. So in my case a generic 3414 error in the error log meant corrupt transactions that could not be rolled forward or back.

More in hope than expectations I tried copying the SQL datafiles and logs back from the faulty secondary drive (E:) and tried to restart SQL and this worked - SQL started without a problem! I was lucky the bad blocks were not near the SQL files. This saved me from having to rebuild the server and restore backups, espcially as some the the DBs were SharePoint, and a SharePoint SQL restore is rarely fun!

When installing Cassini why do I always forget this?

If installing the Cassini Personal Server on a PC you will often get the "Cassini managed web server failed to start listening to port 80. Possible conflict with another web server on the same port." error.

You of course think this is a firewall, other web server or anti virus port blocker problems


Ok it might be those problems as well but usually it is that you need to run

gacutil /i c:\cassini\cassini.dll

or just drag a copy of the cassini.dll into the GAC (C:\Windows\Assembly)

Shame the installer does not do this.