Saturday, December 22, 2007

Where did my money go?

The Money Tracker is a great site that lets you track the location of your bank notes after you spend them.

Basically you go to the money tracker web site, and enter the serial number of any bank notes (cash) you have. Then you just spend them like you normally do. Eventually, someone else will get the note, enter it into money tracker which then notifies you of the new location of your bank note.

This fascinating idea was inspired by the US website which lets you track U.S. bank notes.

Now all we need is some sort of machine that can help us get our money back after we spend it :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sir Arthur C. Clarke 90th Birthday Reflections

Scince fiction writer and visionary Arthur C Clarke turned 90 on Sunday.

Best known for his blockbuster "2001: A Space Odyssey", he also wrote numerous other books and short stories.

I've devoured most of his works since I was 11 years old, amd marvelled at Clarke's optimistic vision of the future, and what we could achieve as a species. He made the future exciting. I couldn't wait for it to happen, and still can't :)

I hope you stay around till you're at least 100, Sir Arthur. We need more optimistic vision like yours.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What's cool, what's not?

Technology is cool.

There is so much new cool stuff you can do these days.

Here's just a few:

ShipWatcher - a new website I created that lets you look at the webcams of cruiseships, view their progress on a map, and take photos of ships you like. Every hour ShipWatcher picks webcams that it thinks are "interesting" and take a couple of photos, automatically uploading them to....

Flickr - a fantastic service, from Yahoo that lets you share photos with other people, place them on a map, group them into sets and collections, pool them into groups with other people, and even track the type of camera that took the photo - to help you choose your next camera. I even used Flickr to share some great looking Photo Mosaics that I generated with...

Andrea Mosaic - a clever little utility which lets you generate mosaic pictures like this one I did, from pools of photos that you might have. In fact, if you have large pools of photos, you might be interested in...

Photosynth - amazing new technology from Microsoft that pools photos, organizes them in relation to each other, and lets you view a 3-d model of the real world, by aggregating thousands of photos. This really has to be seen to be beleived. I have a copy of it on my main machine which runs....

VMWare -fantastic software that lets you build "virtual" computers. You can configure a number of different types of computers with different amounts of memory, diskspace, networking abilities, each of which can run a different operating system like Windows XP, Linux, Vista, DOS, and run them all at the same time. You can even get your virtual machine to take a snapshot of itself. Do some risky stuff, and then if you don't like the result, rollback your machine to the state it was in when the snapshot was taken. Great for demos, when you want the demo to revert back to its previous incarnation when you're finished. If you have a laptop, copy your virtual machine from your desktop to your laptop, and it's ready to go. Everything on the laptop is the same as when you last used it on your desktop. So easy to backup too. Just copy the virtual disk (one file). I use VMWare to do all my software development, including a cool web development tool called...

Iron Speed Designer - easy to use software that lets you quickly generate websites based on any existing SQL, Oracle or Access database. I've never developed websites before, and Ironspeed made it easy to look like a pro. Great stuff.

It seems things just keep getting better. Life gets easier for us. We can do more, in less time.

BUT. Some things aren't cool. They make life harder. They suck. Even some things that are cool can suck. For example....

Iron Speed Designer - although a great tool, decided that they didn't like people using their software inside a virtual machine. Aparently some people were using the flexibility of virtual machine software such as VMWare to defeat the copy protection mechanism. So the folks at Ironspeed decided they'd put a limitation in version 5 of their software that makes it refuse to run on a virtual machine.

You may think "so what?". But think about what this means. If you've got your entire development environment inside a virtual machine. And one of your development tools stops working in that machine. What do you do? Uninstall it and move it to a real machine I suppose.

But I use MS Visual Studio in conjunction with Ironspeed. So I suppose that would have to come out too.

Then, to make it consistent, I suppose all my Visual Studio projects would have to come outside the virtual machine.

And then - what happens if I want to go out of town for a week and take my laptop. How do I easily move all this stuff from desktop to laptop?

The Virtual machine becomes useless. All because Ironspeed doesn't like you using their products in a virtual machine.

So one software supplier digs their heals in over technological innovation. Where will this end?

I predict one of two things will happen:

1. Ironspeed will see the error of their ways, repent, and their next version will run inside a virtual machine. Probably with some sort of licensing service that runs on a physical machine to police the licensing policy.

2. As more developers start using virtual machines, another software vendor will release an alternatuve web development utility, that does what Ironspeed does - except the new software will run inside a VM.

People who work in the technology industry can't run away from technological innovation. Or they will end up being people who USED to work in the technology industry. Technology is all about innovation. Anyone who wants to stay in the technology industry needs to embrace innovation, not shun it.

So, here's my message to Alan Fisher and the great guys at Ironspeed: You guys have a fantastic product. I love it. It's brilliant and makes my life easier. It's worth every cent that I paid for it. But if you want me to chose between Ironspeed and my Virtual Environment, then I'll chose the latter. I want my technological life to be easier, not harder.

Please change your mind.

UPDATE December 2007. The folks at Ironspeed have responded to user requests, and removed the restriction on ISD running in a virtual environment. Fantastic decision, guys. A great product just got even better. Thanks for listening to us!

Friday, September 14, 2007

SSL / HTTPS stops working on localhost under IIS 5.1

I have an ASP.NET web application that uses SSL.

The other day it stopped working on my development machine (Win XP Pro SP2). Whenever I tried to navigate to the SSL page my browser said it couldn't find the page.

I spent hours trying to google an answer to this problem.

The thing that finally fixed it was.... (drum roll)... a reboot.

Now here's the proof that I've taken leave of my senses. My colleague had the same problem a few days ago. I helped him resolve it, and even suggested the reboot solution. It worked for him. But today when this problem happened to me, I forgot all about that episode, and wasted time until I came up with the same solution. Again.

I must be getting old.

Incidentally, if you need an SSL certificate for testing purposes, try Microsofts SelfSSL utility. It creates the certificate and installs it for you.

It's available at or search for "Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 Resource Kit Tools".

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Microsoft's SelfSSL utility will cause MSDE to stop working. It tries to install certificates in the SQL Server which makes it impossible to connect to.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

BuzzNet to Blogger woes

There was a cool feature at It let you email a photo to a secret email address and would then create a blog entry at BuzzNet from the email. Really handy when you were on the road, had some nice photos, and wanted to upload them quickly without stuffing around with URL's and HTML image references and crap like that.

What was also nice was the BlogThis! facility that let you convert the new BuzzNet entry into a Blog Entry here at Blogger.

After I upgraded to Blogger's new gmail accounts, I was unable to use the BlogThis! facility at BuzzNet.

I've been stuffing around with this for ages, and every time I tried to get BuzzNet to talk to Blogger I got errors, and it wouldn't retrieve a list of Blogs.

Eventually I gave up in disgust and tried Flickr.Com.

It works! Perfectly! Easily!

I created a new Flickr account, told it that I had a Blogger account, and it directed me to a page at Google which let me authorize Flickr to update my blog.

Now I can email a photo to a Flickr address, and it automatically creates a new Blog entry for me.

Next time I go on a cruise, I'm all set to upload my new photos every day without spending hours trying to figure out all the HTML references.

I am a very happy camper. If anyone else has this problem with Buzznet - forget them - just upgrade to Flickr and make your life easier.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Laptop Runs like a Dog

My laptop has been running slowly for months. I thought I had problems with the CPU temperature, the CPU itself, spywarre, viruses, global warming, little green men - you name it.

The penny finally dropped. (D'OH!)

My power management settings were set to "Default Power Scheme". So Windows was throttling the CPU to reduce power usage and extend the life of my battery. That's useless to me because my computer is rarely un-plugged.

I changed it to "Minimal Power Management" and WHOOOOSH!!!!! It's running as fast as it used to.

Nice to have decent laptop power again. I've been putting up with crawling speeds for months. If only I'd found this solution earlier!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Outlook 2003 Runs like a Dog

I've been growing increasingly frustrated with the amount of CPU time consumed by MS-Outlook 2003 on my laptop.

When Autoarchive runs every morning at 9am, the system grinds to a halt. There's no way in Outlook you can change the TIME at which this process runs. So my solution to the problem is to disable Autoarchive, wait till midnight, enable it, and tell it to run every day. That way I won't be around while it's archiving. How stupid that I have to stay up till midnight because MS products don't work properly. Does anyone know any better solutions to this?

The other contributing factor is my archive folders. I have them visible in the folder window that appears on the left hand side of outlook - so I can see "Mailbox - Me", "Personal Folders", "Archives" etc down the left hand side. I thought this might be slowing things down a bit, so I right-clicked on the Archove and Personal Folders, selected "Close", and the folder disappeared from view. After I did this, Outlook seemed to consume less CPU time, so I think I've solved this problem.

One final thing that might be adding to the overall slowness is the fact that my main outlook mail folder connects through a VPN to my exchange server (i.e. its not local to me). I think the combination of VPN and Exchange might be using up a lot of CPU.

Surely there must be something better?

Friday, January 12, 2007

It Works!!!!

Ben Tatasciore and his team at Fone Zone Strathpine are legends.

I complained to Ben yesterday about my poor experience with Telstra and he solved my problem. Basically the upgrade to a 3G sim card broke my messagebank service, and Ben helped me navigate the labyrinth of Telstra to find an intelligent lifeform that was able to "Re-provision" my phone and get my messagebank working again.

Thanks for the excellent service, Ben.

Special thanks also to Anthony at Telstra who flipped the right switches and made the right incantations to get it all working for me.

As an addendum to my report about MyPhoneExplorer that I mentioned yesterday, another nifty feature is that when it's connected to my computer, and I receive an incoming SMS, it pops the SMS up on my compuer screen. Plus when someone calls on the mobile while its connected to the computer, a popup flashes on the screen to tell me someone is calling, and it tells me who the caller is.

I am a very happy customer now!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's a Sony :)

I love my new Sony K800i mobile phone.

I can email, take photos, videos, browse the net, watch Fox-Tel, listen to the radio and use it as an MP3 player. Mine came with a 500mb memory stick, and a nifty little adapter so you can plug the stick into your laptop.

I have two gripes:

GRIPE 1. The softwae that comes with it is useless. This bloatware is almost 50mb to download. It fails to install, with heaps of DLL errors. Gives errors when you uninstall it, blurts out wierd pop-up messages in chinese when I reboot my machine, and renders the phone unusable when connected to the laptop via USB.

SOLUTION 1. A FANTASTIC program called MyPhoneExplorer - it's free, only 2mb in size, installs with no problems, does everything the Sony software pretends to do and more, and is easy to use. It even has a great utility where you can use your computer keyboard to navigate around the phone rather than pressing the small keys on the phone. If you download it and like it, don't forget to send a donation to the author. He accepts paypal.

GRIPE 2. Telstra. It took 18 hours to get my new 3G Sim Card activated. While they were doing that, by messagebank service died. I tried phoning them 4 times, each time on the phone for 30 to 40 minutes. On 3 of those occastions they cut me off after 30 minutes.

SOLUTION 2. Any suggestions? I won't touch Optus with a barge-pole because they're majority owned by the Singapore government who has the nasty habit of executing people by hanging. I don't know anything about Voda, 3 or AAPT. Telstra is sort of like an alcoholic uncle. You don't like him very much, he does nasty things, but you're worried if you swap him for someone else's uncle you might end up with someone even worse.