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Archive for the month “January, 2009”

Notebook touchpad stopped working

My current laptop is a (rather heavy) Dell Vostro 1700 which I chose as a compromise between outright performance and of course price. I upgraded from the preinstalled Vista Home 32bit to the 64bit version of Vista Ultimate. I recently (mistakenly and stupidly as it turns out) installed the tablet PC software with Windows updates and since then the touchpad has stopped working. I don’t use the touchpad unless I absolutely have to but even so, I knew that if I didn’t sort it out sooner or later I would get stuck. I did a quick search and found this forum entry where someone had just added a comment to say they thought it had coincided with installing the tablet PC software. There were several suggestions that hadn’t seemed to resolve the issue for various people so I started to dig around for myself.

My first thought was to uninstall the tablet PC software so I went to Control Panel > Programs and Features expecting to see something obvious for Tablet PC. Nothing there so I clicked the link to Turn Windows features on or off and then unchecked the Tablet PC Optional Components box. This had no effect so I opened Control Panel > Device Manager and expanded the Human Interface Devices node. There was an entry for IdeaCom HID Touch Screen (PS/2) so I right clicked it and selected Uninstall (and I selected the option to remove the driver).  The system prompted me to reboot and hey presto, when Vista restarted my touchpad had come back to life.

I posted this resolution as a suggested answer on the forum thread and have doubled up here in case anyone with the issue spots this post in a search result.

Trying something new

Ever ,since my eldest son Liam started martial arts classes over 2 years ago I have secretly wanted to give it a go for myself. My wife and I immediately had a good feeling about the Family Martial Arts & Fitness Centre and in particular Dave Martin the owner and head instructor. Well, both the centre and Liam have far exceeded our expectations and he is just one belt away from his little ninjas black stripe (the highest belt before he moves into the juniors section). His balance, agility, confidence , focus, concentration and discipline have all improved markedly and above all that he absolutely loves it.

I took Liam along for his weekly class yesterday and got chatting to one of the other parents and it turns out that her husband has been going to classes for over a year. I then got chatting to Dave Martin and said I had been seriously considering starting up since the new year; one thing led to another and I went along for a introductory session last night. I signed up there and then for a six month programme and I am now the (proud?!) owner of a white belt – I guess we all have to start somewhere.

I’m actually aching a bit this morning and didn’t go for the run I had planned, indicative of just how out of shape I am and how much I needed to do something about it.

Good or bad experience with a recruitment agent?

Then get along to HireScores.com and rate them. This is another great initiative from the Professional Contractors Group to help the community, both contractors/freelancers (and anyone else looking for a new job) and decent agencies (of which there are still some).

I’ve just finished rating Huxley Associates who caused me a lot of unnecessary stress last year at a time I really could have done without it. I would strongly advise anyone never to have dealings with these guys, they have no morals or ethics and the conduct of their consultants is unprofessional to the extreme.  I noted with interest that they already had a poor rating before I submitted mine and could relate to another rater’s comments;

“A truely awful company, one of the worst out there. Dreadful website, dreadful adverts, dreadful consultants, like winding your clock back to the 1970s”

On balance I can’t complain.  My experience of contracting and now freelancing have been very positive, dealing with agencies is the only part of the whole process I have come to dread.

I shall return to the site to rate the two agencies I have had a particularly good experience with.

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Silverlight replacement for the web part?

Tim Greenfield is author of the Programmer Payback blog that any developer with an interest in Silverlight should subscribe to. He has developed a super little control that places a header section over a body section and takes the basic form of an ASP.NET 2.0 (and SharePoint) web part. Read the post here and download the source code here. This gives me a great basis for exploring the possibility of creating a Silverlight replacement for the standard SharePoint web part, a killer implementation that I know many of my clients would lap up.

Thanks Tim.

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Microsoft learning and presentation technical level definitions

Over the years I have watched and worked through a lot of Microsoft learning and presentation material which is always assigned a technical level; 100, 200, 300 or 400. It has always been fairly obvious that 100 level material is high level and relatively non-technical and the higher the level the more technical the material. However, it occurred to me that I have never actually seen a definition of the levels and I therefore went in search (then wished I hadn’t bothered!) After almost an hour trawling first the Microsoft site and then Google the only page I could come up with was this one. I’m sure the definitions are pretty generic but this page seems to be related to support rather than learning.

It just seems really strange to me that with so much content on their site rated on this scale of technical level, Microsoft don’t have the definitions to hand more obviously and intuitively.

Setting up for Silverlight development on SharePoint

A task that finally worked itself to the top of my to-do list is preparing my SharePoint development environment for Silverlight. I kept a reference to an article written by Karine Bosch back in November; Creating a SharePoint Web Part that hosts a data binding Silverlight application. Since the article was published Silverlight 2 went RTW and I am starting from an environment with no prior Silverlight installation.

Where to begin?

First I had to download and install the Microsoft® Silverlight™ Tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1. When The installation package complained that service pack 1 was required for Visual Studio 2008 so I had to download and install that.

45 minutes* later and my SharePoint development VM was running Visual Studio 2008 SP1 and Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio which includes the SDK.

Coding the solution

Karine’s article is excellent as it walks through the components of the solution and explains what needs to be done and why. However, I still found that I needed to download the ZIP file of the code from Karine’s blog and cut, paste and modify it (namespaces etc.) into my own solution. Karine has updated the code to work with the RTW version of Silverlight 2 and explained the changes in another blog post. I would recommend running through Karine’s article again at this point to cement your understand of the solution (I always find working code the best documentation).

Preparing the server

Three steps are required to enable WSS 3.0 or MOSS 2007 server(s) to run Silverlight.

  • Drop the System.Web.Silveright.dll into the Global Assembly Cache. Having installed the Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 (see above), this assembly will be located at (C:\)Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Silverlight\v2.0\Libraries\Server.
  • Update the web.config file of the SharePoint application on all front end web servers to run on the .NET 3.5 framework. Karine published a really useful blog post that references an excellent post by her colleague Jan Tielens in which he steps through what he calls the “lazy” way to update your web.config files to .NET 3.5. This is exactly the technique I used because far from lazy, I think this is the safest (and therefore most sensible) method. As Karine points out in her blog post, after using Jan’s technique you will need to add a reference to the Silverlight assembly in the <system.web><compilation><assemblies> section as follows; <add assembly=”System.Web.Silverlight, Version=2.0.5.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35″ />
  • Add a new MIME type to allow Silverlight applications to run in your SharePoint web application. In IIS open the properties dialog for the SharePoint web application and select the HTTP Headers tab.

IIS Application Properties

Click on the MIME Types… button and Add a new MIME Type for Silverlight applications.

Silverlight MIME Type

The Extension of the new MIME Type is “.xap” and the MIME type is “application/x-silverlight-app”.

Another blog post I found really useful was What I did to get Silverlight Working in SharePoint in Today’s Webcast by Andrew Connell. If you know SharePoint you will know Andrew Connell and if you don’t then you don’t! (If you only check a few blogs regularly then make one them Andrew Connell‘s, in my opinion he is Mr SharePoint Community).

NB I am not aware that these steps need to be performed in any particular order, however, the application pool of the SharePoint web application will need to be recycled so this should be planned in a production environment.

Conclusion

After getting Karine’s excellent sample running in my own development environment I was very impressed with the look of the web part, it tells me that Silverlight is the way to go to address the rather aesthetically challenged standard SharePoint UI. However, all of that would be next to worthless to me if I couldn’t debug it in situ. Attaching the Visual Studio debugger to a SharePoint application is a proven, reliable and extremely effective technique and as it turns out, debugging a Silverlight application in this configuration is just as straight forward. Set your breakpoints in Visual Studio and from the Debug menu select Attach to Process. In the resulting dialog box click the Select… button to display the Select Code Type dialog and check the box for Silverlight. Now, under Available Processes, look for an iexplorer.exe process with Silverlight listed under Type and a Title that matches the title of the SharePoint page.

The finished product

I anticipate there will be a pretty steep learning curve if I am to make Silverlight my user interface tool of choice, however thanks to Karine’s excellent article and code I now have a solid foundation on which to build up my knowledge.

*actually 45 minutes is what it should have taken, it actually took more like 2 hours as I kept getting the following error from the Visual Studio 2008 SP1 installer: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 2 – Update ‘.NET Framework CLR’ could not be installed. Error code 1603. After trawling the logs and several forums I found this thread that made me suspect a file access issue however I don’t run any AV on my VMs so I elected for a straight forward reboot and hey presto!

Make hay while the er… snow falls?

It doesn’t snow much in our neck of the woods so when it does and the kids are home from school then it’s time to down tools and build a snowman or two!

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A Round With The Social Golfer

On Friday I had the pleasure of a round of golf at the Bearsted Golf Club. I have lived within a few miles of the course for most of my life and so know the area really well. I was therefore rather surprised by the course itself, I wasn’t expecting it to be anything like as long or beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, Bearsted is a very pretty, typically English little village in the heart of the Kent countryside but pretty much every square inch is accounted for so I had no idea there was so much land given over to the golf course.

Although the green keepers seem a little precious about their magnificent greens (far too many unnecessary winter greens in my opinion, and the opinion of my playing partners), If you ever get the chance I would fully recommend a round at Bearsted. The game I played was arranged through the social golfer web site. I know Pete and Paul, the guys who put the site together pretty well as I used to work with them and I think it’s a fantastic idea superbly executed. It’s free to register and use, they use minimal advertising to keep the site running and the members really do make the decisions on how it runs and develops. So if you love the game of golf then get yourself over to theSocialGolfer.com and register now!

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