May 2004 - Posts

"Today is my last day at Microsoft. I'm leaving the the mothership and headed out on a new venture. It's been a dream for nearly 6 years, it's been in planning for 18mo, and it starts next week!"

More info on Rob's blog on http://weblogs.asp.net/rhoward. All the best, Rob!

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The database server in my hosting environment has been down for a while because of a hardware problem. The backup of last Sunday was recovered, so some posts are lost due to this problem. We're sorry for the inconvenience.Del.icio.us | Digg It | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit | DotNetKicks

Microsoft has released the website www.tryiis.com to promote IIS 6.0 as the ideal webserver for businesses. In fact, I share this idea and really like the latest release of IIS included with Windows Server 2003. In fact, there is a special release of Windows Server 2003, the Web Edition, that was especially built for this purpose (web and application server). As the matter in fact, IIS still has too much a bad name in terms of security with the Code Red and Nimda in IT pro's minds. That's one of the problems the IIS team took on with the development of IIS 6.0 in the light of the Trustworthy Computing statement of Microsoft (remember SD3+C = Secure by Design, Secure by Default and Secure by Deployment and Communications). If you want to know more about this mathematical looking formula "SD3+C", you can watch the MSDN TV episode by Michael Howard that was released recently on http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdntv/episode.aspx?xml=episodes/en/20030513SecurityMH/manifest.xml.

So what can you find on the Try IIS website? First of all, the promotional stuff of course with a slogan like "Instead of adding more servers, add a web server that does more.", not bad isn't it? Furthermore you'll find casestudies and links to webcasts on IIS 6 and resources such as the IIS 6 Resource Kit. People who're still doubting about the position of Microsoft in the server market (how dare you?) can find the "facts on Windows and Linux" as well via http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/facts/default.asp and the prove ("black on white") of the strenghts of IIS 6 in comparison with a webserver running Apache on a Linux platform (test done by VeriTest a year ago in April).

There are - as Microsoft states - 6 reasons to adopt IIS 6 (I'm sure I'd find some more but 6 reasons for IIS 6 sounds better for promotional stuff I guess):

  • Enhanced Compressing and Consolidation: "do more with less"
  • Security (the word is now on 99.999% of the Microsoft pages, but it's completely right): IIS 6.0 is locked down by default
  • Reliable Support: something people are missing with some concurrential products
  • Powered by Windows Server 2003: that's really a big benefit (for Windows Server 2003 there are 2003 10 reasons to adopt it: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/evaluation/whyupgrade/top10best.mspx)
  • Faster application development: this has definitely to do with ASP.NET, however, some point of critique: why the hell is TryIis.com running classic ASP? I guess they ran out of "dogfood" at Microsoft Corp :-) (joke for 'insiders')
  • Best real-world platform: see the comparisons with other platforms and learn all of the 'abilities' of the IIS 6.0

Words are only words and don't show the real stuff. So, there's only one way to get to learn IIS 6.0 (if you've not done so yet): try it now and order the Eval Kit of www.tryiis.com!

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Today was the wedding of Gunther Beersaerts (working at Microsoft Belux, EPG). Congratulations to Gunther and his bride Petra :-)

Cheers,
Bart

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The next part of the story ;-). I took the test again this time without a popup blocker. 87% percent again (some questions were the same but most of them were new ones) in a record-time of 9 minutes... Unfortunately the site now mentions 3 tries (a first try was just to try the assessment web app, a second try did not display the popup, the third and last try was the good one).

My tip: make sure popup blocking is disabled if you want to get your name in the ranking lists (assuming you have a high score of course).

(End of story?)

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Posted Friday, May 21, 2004 11:39 PM by bart | with no comments
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Okay, the reason why I was not listed in the high scores table is the pop-up blocker of Internet Explorer in Windows XP SP2 :-(. I guess the guys of MeasureUp will have some work when XP SP2 is released :-))). A fragment of the reply of my support request:

"The High Score feature is only available for Registered Users, those who enter the Skills Assessment via Passport. If the customer is a Registered User and scores high enough to rank in the High Score list, a High Score pop-up window will be displayed AFTER the assessment is scored.
IMPORTANT: If you have an application on your personal computer that blocks pop-up windows, such as Pop-Up Killer, the pop-up window will NOT be displayed. This pop-up window is the only way to register a High Score name."

Maybe I have to take the skill assessment for ASP.NET again, this time without a popup blocker (so Bart, disable that cool MSN toolbar as well...)?

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Posted Friday, May 21, 2004 11:20 PM by bart | with no comments
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Test your skills on Microsoft technology (development, IT pro, etc) via http://www.msmeasureup.com for free. I took the challenge today and did the "Developing Enterprise Web-based Applications with .NET: ASP.NET - Visual C#.NET" a few minutes ago, with success: 26 out of 30 (87%) in 23 minutes. Not listed in the high scores yet although the previous record was on 77%... However, I'm happy with this result (unfortunately there is not feedback on the mistakes you made).

So, take the test as well and measure your .NET skills right now :-)

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Posted Friday, May 21, 2004 11:12 PM by bart | with no comments
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Sometimes I like to do something special. Today this was not different :-). There was one of the MSDN DVDs that wasn't ever installed completely over here on my machine, the one that contains the DDK (Driver Development Kit). How dare you Bart? I have quite some SDKs on my machine but that one was missing. Okay, problem solved today. Installing a lot of software has a nice side-effect: the Start menu is becoming quite large which is pretty useful to get a wow-effect during presentations. Okay, just kidding. When you install something on your machine, the most obvious reason to do so is to use it of course. So, I decided to take a look at driver development for Windows Server 2003. Pretty interesting stuff although it's very very complex (especially when you're faced with it for the very first time). Nevertheless, I took the challenge (in fact I'm working on some project and a driver to emulate a device would be handy for the particular application) and did work on some samples. A nice on is the RAMDISK sample that can be found on-line as well on http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q257405. Although it was originally developed for Windows 2000 it still works on Windows Server 2003 but some minor modifications are recommended (the same holds for use on Windows XP as discussed in the KB article online). Thanks to this sample I now have a B: drive on my system (you can change the drive letter of the RAMDISK through the registry) with a size of 128 MB...

A possible use of a RAMDISK is described in http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;DE;834886 (unfortunately only available in German AFAIK) to protect privacy on the internet (by storing temporary files and cookies on the RAMDISK). Really handy in some scenario's... Note: there are other implementations of RAMDISKs for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 around the net. A simple Google search will give you quite some results.

Going to bed now. The birds are already singing and it's becoming light in the city of Zottegem :-)

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Been experimenting with SQL Server Notification Services again tonight. One little conclusion: don't stop the SQL Server instance being used without stopping the notification services first. I tried to do it the other way, with the splendid result of a 100% processor usage for the NSService.exe process... :-( However, I hope that I'll find the time to finish my article on SQL Server NS for MSDN Belux this summer (finally) but due to other projects this has even been delayed...

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Mathematic fans will know sparse matrices (that are, matrices that contain a lot of zeros). Files can be sparse as well if they contain a lot of zeros in a row (for example a region of multiple MBs contains only zeros as data). NTFS support sparse files and allows you to compress these files on the disk. In fact, I'm in my fsutil investigation period, so this is just another possibility of the fsutil tool.

Let's create a sparse file (of course we write a program to do this):

using System.IO;

class Sparse
{
 public static void Main(string[] args)
 {
  string file = args[0];
  FileStream fs = new FileStream(file, FileMode.CreateNew);
  BinaryWriter bw = new BinaryWriter(fs);
  byte ZERO = 0;

  bw.Write((byte) 1);
  for (int i = 0; i < 1024*1024 - 2; i++)
   bw.Write(ZERO);
  bw.Write((byte) 1);
 }
}

And create the file using sparse.exe test.sparse.

If you take a look in the Windows Explorer right now, you'll find that there is a file of 1.00 MB with 1.00 MB allocation on the harddisk. Now we can mark the file as being sparse:

fsutil sparse setflag test.sparse

The next thing to do is mark the sparse region:

fsutil sparse setrange test.sparse 1 1048575

Now, Windows Explorer will tell us only 64 KB are allocated on the disk to store the file (the non-zero data + data to know where the sparse region lives). A hex-editor on the disk can be quite useful if you want to see how NTFS stores a sparse file and how it indicates a file is sparse.

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