Upgrade of our Blog server to Community Server 2007

As any of you who are regular readers of BM-Bloggers may have noticed, our blog server structure had become a little confused over the years. We started BM-Bloggers as a single blog hosted using .Text, we then moved it to a multi blog server hosted on Community Server 2.0, then started adding other blogs and mirrors as the volume of posts from our development team grew. This ended up finally being hosted on CS2.1.

We have today upgraded our blog server from CS2.1 to CS2007 and taken the chance to restructure it slightly, making far better use of the aggregation features of CS.

This may mean that some of you will need to change RSS feeds URLs, but we hope we have minimized the number of people this effects. So the revised links are:

A list of all the blogs we host (the CS2007 home page) – http://blogs.blackmarble.co.uk/
The aggregate of all the post made by Black Marble staff in any blog we host (equiv. to the old BM Bloggers mirror) – http://blogs.blackmarble.co.uk/blogs/default.aspx?GroupID=2
This aggregate can also be accessed by our original blog link – http://blogs.blackmarble.co.uk/bm-bloggers
There is also an RSS feed for BM-Bloggers aggregate – http://blogs.blackmarble.co.uk/blogs/MainFeed.aspx?GroupID=2&Type=AllBlogs

I hope you all continue to find our blog postings interesting and useful, and we look forward to reading any comments.

Richard

Resources for Rob Miles XNA Games Development Presentation.

Yesterday Rob Miles of Hull University gave his very interesting presentation on XNA and the Future of Game Development – Rob Miles as the community part of our day of events in Leeds.

All the samples and demo’s Rob used can be found on his Blog, the XNA specific area is http://www.robmiles.com/xna. This is also a greate resouce for XNA in general.

It was great to see a wide range of attendees at this evening event. I for one are keen to hear what sort of subjects people would like to hear about at these community events? It seem XNA was right on the nail.

Coming out of sleep mode in Vista

I have been fiddling a bit more on my Vista media center PC and I thought I had a solution to the sleep issues I previously posted about

USB Power

Asus (and I think many other brands of motherboard) default the USB ports to have no power during S3 sleep mode – to save power. This means that you cannot use a USB device to trigger wake up by default. For my Media Center PC (with no PS2 input devices) this meant I had no effective way to trigger a restart, bar the buttons on the case. Even when I used the main power button it seemed that on restart/wake-up there was still no power sent to the USB devices until they were unplugged and plugged back in.

This was all addressed by moving some jumpers on the motherboard so that when in sleep mode the USB device have power, so can trigger a input signal to wake up, ad as they have never been without power they still work after a wake up.

Video Post Tests

After doing the jumper changes for the USB power I was still not get a working restart; basically it seemed I got no video output from the PC.

In the power settings in the BIOS I enabled a video post test on wake up, this seemed to kick my ATI video and/or the TV into life.

So it seems I have a Vista system that can sleep and wake up.

Or so I thought…………………

Once all this was changed I set the PC to record a programme in the middle of the night as test and put it too sleep. Even though it had worked before it now refused to go into sleep mode, the disk spun for a while and then after about 5 minutes it just rebooted. In the event log I found an unhelpful ‘failed to sleep eventID 41’.

I wondered if it was due to having a PS2 keyboard plugged in whilst test, or a USB mouse. So I put these back in and it had not effect, also I tried going to sleep with MCE desktop open closed and via a whole variety of different means (buttons on keyboard, start menu etc) . I also updated to the latest BIOS (I was only one rev off and the the new one only seemed to add extra CPU model support). All to no effect

So it seemed I have fixed my wakeup, but now have a going to sleep issue. I will continue digging – unless anyone has any ideas, a look round the Internet seems I am not alone with these problems

ps. Still have problem with the ATI graphic driver and palying DVDs, but ATI have yet to fully release a Vista driver hoepfully we will see one when retail Vista is shipped.

Vista media center update

In my last post I covered my woes with my upgrade from XP MCE to Vista Ultimate. Well here is an update……

TV

After contacting Hauppauge I could not get a date for a HVR 1100 Vista driver. I managed to wait a week with my reduced set of digital channels (less than on analogue!) but could not put up with it any longer; so I decide to buy a new tuner card.

I had been reasonably happy with Hauppauge so I decided to get Nova T 500 (dual digital) model (also called the NOVA DT), I thought I might as well upgrade from a single tuner if I am buying a new card. I checked the Hauppauge UK Support Vista page and it was on the supported list. I also checked with a collegue that he had no problems with his NOVA single channel card. So I bought one.

I installed it using the CD provides (which had the right version numbers from the support page) and all was OK it seemed until I did a rescan for channels – it took forever and found no channel. So back to the forums, and I was not alone. Everyone seemed to have this issue, the site ‘lied’ there was no support for this card under Vista. The forums are actually full of people saying ‘I bought this in good faith because the site said it was support…….’.

However I notice that there were beta drivers for the NOVA DT at ftp://ftp.hauppauge.co.uk/Vista%2032…24318_BETA.zip (and some other card driver there too at ftp://ftp.hauppauge.co.uk/). I downloaded these, delete the card from the device manager and reinstalled with these drivers. After a rescan I had all 71 channels and can actually watch them without a problem – thus far

Other bits

Thus far I have not managed to address any of my other issues:

  • AVG fails on startup but is OK after that
  • I have disable sleep on the PC – seems to have addressed USB and screen restart issues
  • I had to reinstall the beta ATI driver to play a new DVD – I suspect that WIndows upgrade downgraded a driver.

 

I am sure there will be more to follow

Feel my Vista pain…….

I have posted in the past on getting my XP Media Center PC running – not really a product for the novice. So it was with high hopes I decided to upgraded to Vista – Media Center functionality is now standard, it must be easier!

The initial update was fine, I ran the upgrade advisor and it told me to remove Nero and Mcafee which I did, it then took about an hour, but asked no real questions after the license key. It seemed to pick up my old XP settings OK, it then got a few newer drivers from Microsoft update site and I thought great it has all worked.

Then I started to find the issues:

Digital TV

My  Hauppauge HVR 1100 TV Digital TV card is meant to be supported (the newest driver is pulled down from Microsoft Update), it detects all the channels I should see (about 70) but there are problems with the driver. It only allows me to view a few channels, thus far only BBC1, 2 or 3, I get no signal on anything else. On checking the newsgroups it seems that there is a problem with any channel that is on Mux C (which seems to be most of them in my region) – there is a new Vista driver promised by Hauppauge but no date as yet.

It is a good job my TV has a digital tuner built in as well. Lets see how long I last before I buy a replacement card.

DVD Playback

If a put a DVD in to play there is about 50% chance it will work. If it fails I just get a blank screen and my TV says unsupported format (the PC is not generating the message). If a try to play the DVD in Media Player in a non full screen window, I get a message box that the DVD digital rights management is not support but either the codec, DVD hardware or display driver. It seems it is an issue to do with Blu-ray digital rights management. The message box recommended I updated the display driver.

I checked at the ATI site and found I have 7.x Radeon drivers but there is an 8.x beta. Once I updated to the beta the DVDs that were failing work – at last a success!

Aspect Ratio

On XP I ran everything at 1280 by 768 and widescreen TV fitted OK. On Vista I was getting a thin black band at the top and bottom of the screen. This was fixed by leaving the PC set to 1280 by 768 but in Media center TV setup setting it to 1152 by 648. Maybe XP did this behind the scenes.

USB Keyboard

My USB based Microsoft media center keyboard and remote seem to just go to sleep and the base unit has to be unplugged and plugged back in again to get any activity lights on the base station – this might be my hardware but never happened on XP.

Sleeping

By default Vista sleeps the PC after an hour, but will restart to do recordings – nice idea and the recording wake up bit works. The problem I had was that if the PC is in sleep mode it does not restart when you press the on button. PC PC seems to start but the screen remains blank. However, but this might be due to my USB keyboard issue or ATI drivers – I will monitor this.

Anti Virus

I installed AVG as my anti virus (one of the few with Vista support), but when I boot the PC I get an AVG kernel cannot initialize message. However I can start it manually OK. So guess there is a timing issue, it has been mentioned to me that it might be trying to poll the Internet for possible updates and times out waiting as the network layer is not up. I tried setting the AVG services to delayed started but it did not help – Other people have reported it on the AVG forums, so lets wait for an update I suppose.

DVD Noise

I might be imagining it but when I play a DVD it seems to sound louder spinning than it did on XP.

 

 

So what do I think of Vista, well it would be nice is all the drivers did what they said on the tin. I think is could the the big issue across the board – getting the right driver and/or hardware support. Then again XP media center was very driver specific. Vista is certainly easier than that and does look nicer.

So now I am certified!

I am now a certified Scrum Master having completed a course with Mike Cohn in London. I have read about Scrum a good deal in the past, and it turns out I had not been that wrong in the way I had tried to implement it.

So was it a good course, I certainly think so, Mike leads the class well. As with most project management (and IT I suppose) the course shows you that communication is the key, you can get so much information from the discussions the class has as opposed to a more traditional ‘taught class’ approach. But this is at the core of Scrum where the team should be a team of equal not a manager and staff.

So if you have not already read up on Scrum please have a look, I am sure you will find it interesting.

Slide stack for DDD4

This is the first time I have got Internet access since DDD4 on Saturday.

You can now get my DDD4 slides about continuous integration. I have edited them a bit from the version I used at the weekend, as the session was very demo lead I have dropped in main configuration samples I used as slide notes. I hope they are useful and not too cryptic.

So what did I think of the event – for me it went well I was happy with my session, lets see if the feedback says others were. As usual after my session I did not feel up to attending much more. Is this common does any conference divide into attendees and presenters?

Anyway must go now, lunch is almost over, others want this Internet connection, I must get back to my Scrum Masters Certification course – more on that later

Fun with Installing a Dual Server Team Foundation Server

I am convinced that the TFS install has an hidden registry entry that counts the number of time you try to install it, only allowing success after some random number has been reached. The number of blog post you see around the ‘ I tried and tried and on my X attempt it work”.

The problem  is you seem to have to have all your ‘ ducks in a row’ else there is no hope of success. This seems a common pattern on many current Microsoft installation process, they are large and monolithic with little progress information and if you go get a failure you really need to dig into long log files and then flatten the boxes before trying again.

The key points I have learnt over the past two days:

  • Follow the walkthrough documents on the product DVD religiously
  • Make sure there are no domain/group policies you have forgotten on default user accounts
  • If the reporting service configuration stage fails make sure you drop the DB files and that the underlying DB and log files are deleted (the error message you get of the files are present is less than helpful being about incorrect passwords)
  • I suggest building on a VPC so it is easy to roll back each stage of you have a problem then move the image via SYSPREP to real hardware

ClickOnce publish to a non available URLs

If you are publishing an application with ClickOnce you may not have the final URL for the deployment site e.g. you are planning to use www.myapp.com but you have no access now, this happens to us quite oftan as a software house when we are developing something that will be deployed with ClickOnce within a client’s network.

You can of course publish to you local machine but the problem is the temporary URL you use to deploy is stored in the ClickOnce manifest, which has a checksum so you cannot edit it by hand.

To get round this we have done the following:

  1. In the c:\windows\system32\etc\drv\hosts add www.myapp.com with the IP address 127.0.0.1
  2. You can now try to deploy to http://www.myapp.com/myApp, but it fails with a 401 security error (maybe giving you a login box that does not work)
  3. To address this use workround 1 in http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;…, this allow URLs other than localhost to work as loopback, basically you add a registry key to disable the loopback check
  4. After a reboot you can now deploy to http://www.myapp.com/myApp, you may get a login box, but yoy can now use any valid login for the box.
  5. Once this is done the publish works locally, and if you look in the manifest you see the right URL. You can then ship off the whole directory to the live site as required

So it is all over

So what are my final thoughts on TechEd developer 2006? Well I think the split of Developers from IT Pros works. In my opinion this is the best TechEd I have been to from a content quality and relevance point of view, in the past there have been too many sessions on IT Support issues.

Also it is good to be back in Barcelona, a nice bit of late season sun. I surprise myself saying that as I hated the old venue used for past Barcelona TechEds; out towards the airport, but I have to say the CCIB is great. All session rooms are close to each other, everything ran smoothly, there are shops nearby and easy metro link to hotels and other civilization – what more can you ask for a conference?

The only downside for me, and is not a real issue, is the social side seems quieter. At past TechEds and PDCs there has been a big Thursday night do, but nothing this week (or next week it seems for the IT pros). Now you (or at least I) don’t come conferences to party and to be honest I did not actually miss the big party (a quiet meal and beer was more what I needed after 3 days of sessions) but the lack of the big party, when there has been one in the past, make it seem like the event has scaled back. However, in pure numbers it is the biggest TechEd Europe ever. It is a perception thing, if there had never been big parties they would not be missed.

I noticed Robert blogged on the lack of a theme for the conference. Maybe this is due to the lack of Vista RTM announcement? I would agree the event for me has been buzz free, no single topic every has said ‘you must see this’. However this could just be a product of so many products that we have seen so long in Beta being released at the the moment. No so much a buzz but a sigh of relief.

So would I recommend TechEd to others? on the past week yes the content has been great and what else is a conference really for?

 

Richard