Friday, September 23, 2011

geeky tip-of-the-day

Some months ago, I built a project for a client that pushes Access data into a SQL Server database. For development, I installed SQL Server Express and it worked great.

Now another client needs something quite similar so I went to start up the SQL Server Express service and Windows said "sorry, I can't start it." A check of the Event Viewer revealed a couple of files that had been compressed, the last time I ran the 'Disk Cleanup' function, and SQL Server could not deal with those (critical) data files being compressed.

So, the problem is how to decompress files that have been compressed by Disk Cleanup. No, you can't use WinZip!

It took 20 minutes of internet searching until I found a thread discussing this, where one guy casually posted the following in a long list of comments:

1). Click Start
2). Click Run and type “cmd” to open a command prompt
3). Type “cd \” at the prompt to goto the root directory
4). Type “compact /u /s /a /q /i *.*” to decompress all files in all directories
You can run that command in ANY directory and it will decompress.

It took a while to use the DOS window to drill down to the appropriate directory (I always have to lookup the parm for showing the 8.3 names (dir /x), but I pasted in the above command, there was a heart-stopping pause of about a minute, then an 'all files decompressed' message.

Voila - the Service started up as normal and I am off and running. It's weird things like this that suck up an hour here and there, when you're trying to get real work done.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

adventures with the cable guys - moving forward

The specialist recommended by the Xfinity guys stopped by this morning, as promised. He was the quintessential grizzled old guy, who has seen everything.

He walked thru the house and listened as I explained the two routes into the basement that I had discussed with the young guys (who threw up their hands and said they didn't know how to make either work, guaranteed).

45 Minutes later, he was done, having taken a 3rd path, entering the basement a couple of feet from the aborted one that they explored the other day. Labor + materials + 30 years experience = $55. Such a deal.

So, now we're back on track for the full install, which is scheduled for next Tuesday. For the record, the guy's name is Ken Taliaferro, at 503-453-5025. Call him for any kind of custom wiring problems - glad I did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

adventures with the cable guys - the saga begins

So, an Xfinity (i.e. Comcast) guy came to the door the other day, and he made me an offer I couldn't refuse, for cable TV and high-speed Internet. We've been pretty happy with Qwest DSL for over 10 years, so this is a big change.

It wasn't too hard to figure out where the cable needs to enter the house, to connect to the TV. The problem is where I ideally want the modem and wireless router to live, down in the basement, so I can connect my main PC directly to the router via ethernet, and have the WiFi centrally located in the house.

I've spent MANY hours thinking about various alternatives, and believe I had a scheme that involves only one risky hole-drilling, up from the playroom ceiling and, hopefully, into an enclosed cabinet a few enclosed feet from where the TV box will live.

Also, we are a far distance from the street, so just getting the line from the street to our house is a challenge, to comply with the many regs they need to follow.

The Xfinity guy arrived, we spoke about the complications, and he immediately called for reinforcements.

After an hour, we all agreed that there were three possible routes to get the line into the basement, and, of the two that did not involve destroying the clean look of a (relatively) freshly-remodeled room, both had difficulties.

Eventually, they gave me the name of the local wiring guru, and he's coming over Thursday to assess the situation. They apologized and left.

End of Phase I. Phase II tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

fun with Microsoft (the never-ending saga)

Many of my clients have upgraded to Office 2010 and several users have reported that SOME forms do not display correctly (as they do in Access 2003 and Access 2007). Clearly, Microsoft changed SOMETHING in Access 2010 in how Tab controls are drawn (in 2010, tabs are sometimes invisible, preventing the user from switching from one tab page to another).

But, before I could begin to delve into this, I had to install my (totally legal) Office 2010.

I spent many hours trying to get Office 2010 installed, while leaving intact my Office 2003 apps as well as Groove 2007. I was never able to do this, without the install obliterating Groove (my workspaces were unaffected, but the GROOVE.EXE program and associated stuff was removed).

At one point, I had both Access 2003 and Access 2010 launchable, but, alas, Groove was gone and my Groove install CD said it couldn't reinstall until I uninstalled it, and there was nothing to uninstall. I ended up uninstalling Office 2010, then reinstalling Groove, and, after many hours, I was back where I started.

That was yesterday. Hours of fun.

This morning, I bit the bullet and told Office 2010 to REPLACE all existing Office apps. The Office 2010 install appears to hang indefinitely once the progress bar is entirely filled in, but I patiently waited (almost an hour?) until it actually finished normally.

The Office 2003 apps are indeed gone, and Groove 2007 is replaced by its rebranded successor ('Sharepoint Workspace', which, ironically, is still launched with GROOVE.EXE). Best of all, it had no trouble communicating with the Groove 2007 install on my laptop. This was a major relief.

All programs now appeared to work and I finally got into the guts of Access 2010 to find out why SOME of my forms were not displaying correctly.

Turns out that Microsoft made a small change between Access 2007 and 2010. In a 2010 Tab control, apparently, at least one tab page MUST be defined as Visible = True. I sometimes use the technique, when the tabs to be displayed depend on the context in which the form is opened, of defining all Tab pages as Visible = False, and programatically turning on the page(s) I want the user to see, during Form_Load.

Again, this works great in all versions of Access PRIOR TO 2010. Making the first tab page Visible = True (and then adjusting the code accordingly) permits everything to function exactly as expected.

Thanks again, Microsoft.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

android - final hurdle resolved!

So, to recap, connecting the Captivate to my Windows 7 laptop via USB easily mounted it as a drive, and permitted browsing folders, creating new folders, and copying files.

However, kept getting 'USB device not recognized' on my XP desktop. Uninstalled and reinstalled all relevant drivers, but no change.

One commenter in one thread somewhere out there suggested changing USB cables. I knew the cable worked OK on the laptop, so it definitely was OK. Another guy said to try a different USB port.

'What difference could that make?', I asked myself.

Plugged the computer end of the USB cable into a front panel port, and everything worked great, soon bringing up a normal window onto the phone's file system. If you have a rational explanation for this, I'd love to hear it.

This concludes the Quest for New Phone saga. Here's a recap:

Step 1 - issues with my old WM 6.5 phone

Step 2 - let's try a Windows 7 phone - oops!

Step 3 - maybe Android will come to the rescue

Step 4 - Captivate is promising, but major setbacks cause anxiety

Step 5 - maybe everything will be OK, after all

This post - everything may actually be OK, after all.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

android - break on thru to the Other Side!

Thanks to Dave for suggesting two things:

1) Before I get totally frustrated about the Captivate NOT being unable to be seen by my main (Windows XP) Desktop as a drive (for copying files), why not try it with Windows 7?

I connected the phone via USB to my Win 7 laptop, and it just worked. Not only was I able to copy an Excel file to the phone, but, when I opened the 'QuickOffice' software on the phone, it instantly saw the Excel file and opened it as normal. This is a big thing.

2) Before I get totally frustrated about issues syncing with my USA.NET email account, and having the UCWeb browser not able to do a Send when accessing that account via WAP, why not just attach to my gmail account (that I have automatically picking up USA.NET mail). That worked great for offline reading, and the UCWeb browser displays gmail wonderfully, when connected via WiFi.

One gmail feature worked great on mail sent from the phone, that I was sure would fail. When I send mail from gmail on a computer, I want the sender to show up as '', my primary mail service. I sent mail to myself from gmail on the phone, and, sure enough, the sender was stamped as I want, not as my gmail address. This was, for once, a pleasant surprise.

So, after a lot of teeth-grinding and imprecation-muttering, I popped my sim back into the Captivate, and will work with it for a few days.

Now I need to find out how to get Android to see the MP3 file, that I copied to the phone, as a selection as my ring-tone. How hard can it be?

All absolutely-critical functions are now working, and I can tinker with getting my XP computer to recognize the Captivate at my leisure, of which you must be thinking I apparently have far too much.

android - trouble in paradise

I had gotten so many things working on the new Android phone, that I decided to pop in my sim and start using it as my main phone, since there were only a couple of functions I had not yet tested.

This morning, I set up the connection to my POP3 email account, and it started downloading messages (over WiFi). So far so good. Unfortunately, it proceeded to download ALL messages in the entire mailbox, not just the current Inbox.

I had to keep downloading and deleting messages, going back to 2007. That was cumbersome, but I eventually got to the point where it downloaded two new messages, that had just arrived. This was exciting, especially since it was clear that, unlike the unfortunate Windows Phone 7 POP3 client, this did NOT cause messages to be deleted from the Server (there is a visible switch controlling this in Android). I even replied to one, saw it in the Outbox, and successfully sent it. This was big - the POP email client was fully functional.

So I thought.

But wait - a couple more messages arrived in my server Inbox, but the phone email client was UNABLE to see them and bring them in. This is bad, but I figured I could resolve it later. Onward...

Next, I wanted to connect the phone to my computer (Win XP) via USB, and see if I can drag and drop files. No go. A quick Google search brought up this unfortunate news. I assume it's true, and I will have to, once again, wipe the phone clean, resync my Contacts, configure POP3, add the couple of apps I've installed, etc.

This is a hassle, and I am not amused.

Finally, I had previously tested using the UCWeb browser to access my web email, using its great implementation of the WAP interface. I had previously read mail, but had not done a 'Reply'. Everything else had worked great, but imagine my surprise when I hit the Send button, but the cursor highlights the address line (which is correct) and the Send does not happen.

Why would it fail at that point? Grrrrrr.

So, where I am now, two days into the Android phone, is a phone that almost but not quite does everything my old Windows Mobile 6.5 phone does. I have not been able to connect to my PC, the POP email client isn't picking up new messages, and the browser interface to my email won't do a 'send'.

The camera is great, though, BUT my sim is now going back into my Tilt 2, and it's back to Square One with the Captivate. If this continues, I will have to dump it and, finally, try a (wait for it...) iPhone.

Of course, I could probably get a great deal on a different WM6.5 phone, but is horizontal progress really progress? Nothing comes painlessly in these modern times.

Friday, September 02, 2011

the phone fun continues

So, having concluded that the Windows Phone 7 Samsung Focus just wasn't going to work for me, I went back to searching craigslist.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw an ad for the other phone I've had my eye on (Samsung Captivate). One popped up at 3:30 pm for a reasonable price (I've been watching), I called the seller at 4, was at her house an hour later, and bought it.

It's running Android 2.2. Maybe it was my time spent with the Focus, but I found the interface pretty intuitive, once I figured out how to invoke the Settings menu.

I wiped it and proceeded to play around with it a little, this morning. In record time, I had brought over all my Contacts, had synced with my Google Calendar, and had downloaded from the Android Marketplace both a free widget for turning off Cellular Data AND my favorite WAP-compliant browser, that I had been using under Windows Mobile 6.5.

The first thing I checked on the Captivate is that it's easy to configure the email sync function to NEVER delete server mail when you delete it on the phone. This option is present in Windows Mobile 6.5, but NOT in Windows Phone 7. Why? Did the WP7 development team decide that the 6.5 guys had given users too much power, or did it simply never occur to them that this option is critical for some of us (there have been many online complaints about it).

Unfortunately, my email service is currently down for maintenance (quite unusual), so I didn't complete the mail account creation. That's the last unknown essential function that, if successful, means I am good to go with this phone.

This morning, I posted a new craigslist ad for the Focus and, 10 minutes ago, sold it for $10 more than I had paid.

At any rate, I believe all my show-stopper difficulties with the Focus will disappear with the Captivate. If this is misplaced optimism, you'll read all about it here, and see another craigslist ad shortly thereafter. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Windows Phone 7 - the Verdict

So, I've had a Windows 7 Phone (Samsung Focus) for four days, with the goal of getting it set up to do everything my old Windows 6.5 phone did, and more.

Let me say that there are certainly many features that I liked. The interface is cool and very responsive, and options offered for most functions were logical and easy to configure. Installing applications from the Marketplace is totally simple.

But, to spoil what little suspense remains here, I'm not going to keep this phone.

There were three deal-breakers for me:

* The POP/IMAP setup certainly connected to my web email without any difficulty, but (unlike the Winddows 6.5 mail client), there is no option to leave email on the server when you delete it on the phone. This is a killer for me - good thing I tested it with one deleted message before I accidentally purged my entire inbox! Strike one.

* My email service provides a VERY lean, cool WAP interface, and the free UCWeb browser does a masterful job of presenting that interface, under WM 6.5. Alas, the developer does not yet have a WP7 version, and Internet Explorer for WP7 is confused by the WAP instructions. Furthermore, viewing my email's normal web interface with IE on WP7 was unusable. Strike two.

* No Google Maps for WP7. The 'Maps' application that is included is OK, but really lacks a lot (no links to restaurant reviews, satellite view, etc.). I love Google Maps. Strike three.

I have a couple of other quibbles, and some things were certainly extremely nice (SkyDrive/Windows Live integration is excellent, not surprisingly). Phone call quality was excellent, and the Focus attaches to my home WiFi two seconds after turning it on.

Final verdict on Windows Phone 7: for me, sadly, it's a thumbs down.

Next up: an Android 2.2 phone.