April 2005 Archives

Originally Posted 4/30/2005 and imported here from my old blog.

Okay, it’s cool that ADO.NET 2.0 now supports asynchronous operations like BeginExecuteReader. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the DataTable Load does not. Suppose you use BeginExecuteReader to execute a query and (for some really dumb reason) it returns 10,000 rows. If you want to move that DataReader into a DataTable, you can use the new DataTable.Load and point to the DataReader. That's cool, and fast(er) than doing it yourself. However, it turns out that DataTable.Load takes far more time than the initial query. That’s because when SQL Server returns from the query, it’s not really done. It has just built the first buffer of rows and told ADO to come and get them. At this point DataReader.Read (called by Load behind the scenes) starts fetching those rows and SQL Server turns around and starts finding more. Unfortunately, all of this takes place synchronously so your cool progress bar incremented while the asynchronous operation was running does not get bumped. Nope, the Load method also eats the events fired by the Timer control too so plan B won’t work either.

It would have been nice to enable asynchronous Load and Fill as well as Execute. I would settle for progress events on Load and Fill... This would give me a chance to say “Forget it... this is taking too long” or “See folks, it's still working and not really locked up”.

April 29, 2005 • Vol.27 Issue 17
Page(s) 22 in print issue

I lost another hard drive last weekthat makes two this month. It makes me realize that hard disks (nay, any kind of mechanical media) have a limited lifetime. As disks get larger, the amount of information at risk grows, as does the difficulty of finding some way to save what’s important. What I really need is a wife who can double as an IT manager, so I don’t have to worry about keeping my systems working smoothly and the data backed up and safe.

re: Where’s Bill?

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What kind of execption are you getting? Did you install on a virgin XP system or one that had been used for other Beta V releases? Uninstalling or running XP Restore does not seem like enough at this stage--it rarely is. My SQL Server Express instance installed, but threw an exception but it works anyway.
I was told that only IBM techs have the program "Maint172" to make this change. I took it back to the people at TechPower Solutions here in Redmond and they got the program from IBM and ran it. It also turns out that the latest BIOS updates seemed to "adjust" this setting as I was prompted in a similar way when it was applied.


Was just wondering how you got the serial number & model type Bios issue fixed ?

I've had a systemboard swapout recently and they engineer didn't set the details.



re: Where’s Bill?

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I only downloaded the WebDev Express edition at home. The speed was good, but the Yucon Express edition didn't install (tried several times). And you need it to use the providers i guess.

Pity they removed the access providers. Anyone knows why?

Where’s Bill?

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I apologize for not posting as often as I would have liked, but I’ve been up to my kiester in home projects and trying to get the April Beta V 2/Beta 3 builds installed. Last week we installed new windows here at the house and this took almost all of my time. The company installed the windows was less than stellar in how they communicated with us which made a fairly simple task far harder. We’re still waiting for hardware so we can lock the new doors. Remember that I don’t believe in guns for all occasions—I’m a bayonet guy—just in case you’re thinking about breaking in. I’m working up a blog entry to let the world know who these people are and why to avoid using them in the future.

As to the April CTPs, I was able to download them without much difficulty (except for the painfully slow download time). It seems that Peter (in the UK) was able to get over 120Kbs download speed while I (within artillery range of Microsoft) could only get about 25Kbs. This meant that it took two days to get the files. It’s funny how the other products I download from Microsoft seem to arrive at 50-120Kbs but the files from MSDN arrive far more slowly.

Both the Whidbey and Yukon installs went very smoothly on this side of the Atlantic—but not for Peter. He tried to uninstall and run the XP Restore. It didn’t work. I did notice that Microsoft had not fixed one of the more serious issues: the exception handlers in ADO.NET seem to be broken. That is, they return “Timeout” for far too many situations that used to return (somewhat) meaningful exceptions. They tell me this is fixed, but in the RTM fork so we might not see it in the next CTP—perhaps not until RTM. I’ve turned in about a dozen help topics written with C# but no Visual Basic .NET examples. So far it’s about one in five that fall into this category.

I also gave up on VPC. The VPC installations are clearly too slow to be useful. The performance I’m seeing in Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 once I install them on a “real” (non virtual) system are now (IMHO) “acceptable” but still noticeably slower than the Visual Studio 2003 RTM build. To get around the performance and strange stuff issues, I went to the trouble of building a base XP system and made a Ghost image of it. No, this approach won’t work for your IBM laptop as Ghost is clueless when it comes to rebuilding an image that you can boot from—at least it never worked for me. I found the new IBM R&R program does the job faster anyway.



Bill, everything alright? You didn't fell asleep dit ya?
Yet Another Petition to Microsoft: XQuery in the .NET Framework
I agree it could be better, but hey a common problem - is a market - for WebEx.

I feel they will improve this product in the upcoming generations though.

 I just sat through another Microsoft Webcast using their heavily touted Live Meeting software. At this point (after my nth Webcast) I think they should rename the product “Dead Meeting”. The interface is easy enough to use, but the audio is spotty—even when the presenter speaks native English. No, I can't afford to tie up my business line for an hour so that I can hear better. Thankfully, the last couple of sessions had easily understood speakers.

During the session, the feedback you get to provide does not let you do much but ask for help or speak up. What about a “please clarify this point” flag? It would be very nice if we were given the slides ahead of time so we could print them and take notes on the slides. Of course, that’s for the slides where the presenter does not simply read the content. It would be even nicer if the interface let us take notes in context with the slides and save this annotated file locally.

As to the questions we get to ask, that’s the biggest problem. I like to ask questions in context to get clarification of points as we go. The Live Meeting interface permits attendees to ask one (and only one) question at a time. If the presenter (or whomever) does not respond to the question you can’t ask another. What I end up doing is editing my question and appending another question. This makes it tough(er) on the presenter as they don’t have the context for the question and have moved on to other topics. Perhaps if there was an on-site moderator to read and acknowledge the questions, put them in the queue, compile them and ask the presenter to respond at the end of every (few) slides. Sure, this might take a bit longer to do, but the end result would be far more useful.

And another tip for the presenters. You need to turn hardware optimizations OFF during the presentations. If you don't some of the graphics and other slide content are not rendered correctly on our end.

I just spend an entire week coming up with a viable/reliable/easy way to build a base XP image, back it up and restore it so I can eliminate the need for Virtual PC (VPC)-based demos. At this point I am very glad I have a ThinkPad. Once I discovered their recovery CDs, I was able to build a base system very quickly. But it did not have XP SP2 or the dozens of updates since then. These CDs also did not have the dozens of upgrades to the IBM-provided components that make the ThinkPad sing. Fortunately, IBM has also been working on this issue. I discovered a (relatively) new program called the “ThinkPad software Installer”. This replaces the older application that never did work correctly. Unfortunately, this program would not run when installed. It seems that the people at TechPower Solutions (here in Redmond) did not bother to reset my serial number and system type on the motherboard when they fixed it a couple of months ago. That took another day to get fixed. Fortunately, the guy that did this (very sloppy) work has gone into the Marines. Anyway, the software installer works kinda like Windows Update except that it checks for updated versions on every IBM-supplied tool, utility, or driver. It also can update the BIOS. This is (IMHO) very cool.

Now that I had an updated/current/stable XP base image to work with I (naturally) thought that Norton (Synmantec) Ghost would be able to backup the drive/partition and let me restore it. Ah, no. While Ghost 9.0 (the latest) could backup the partition (if the moon is in the right alignment), the restored version would not boot. I called the so-called support people at Symantec and discovered (as many, many people have discovered) that their support staff in India is, well, terrible. They are barely understandable and can’t do anything but read a script or ask someone else for help. Don’t get me started on them again. After hours on hold, I gave up and dug through Google and the IBM site for help. The bottom line: it can’t be done viably, reliably or easily. Yes, I tried Partition Magic and it thought my perfectly functional drives had errors. It had no way to fix the problem or even tell me what was wrong.

I also discovered that my Thinkpad would not recogize a couple of older drives (12GB Toshibas) for some reason. IBM says they aren't supported. Sigh. I went out and bought another 7500 RPM Hitachi 60GB drive.

To get around some of these issues, I called IBM support and talked to someone in the deep south--Atlanta. Wow, what a difference. The people were professional, smart and made some great suggestions—and I speak Atlantian (and Texican, Mainian and several other US dialects) so they were easy to talk with. I also did not have to wait on hold (at all) during peak hours. I described the problem(s) and they suggested their own backup program. I said I did not want to use it as it requires me to dedicate a big hunk (up to half) of my hard drive to the backup image. And what happens if I want to use another drive or the original drive fails? They assured me that the new program (released in January) would be a far better solution.

I installed the new IBM Rescue and Recovery beast (about 900MB). It could not have been much easier. There is a major problem with it though. I pointed the application at my 120GB USB drive and when I started the backup it unceremoniously formatted it. I lost a ton of stuff—fortunately all backed up elsewhere (I think). I think the program should warn you that it’s going to format the drive twice and require a note from your mom before proceeding—especially when it finds data on the target drive. I’m going to send some mail to IBM about this. The program backs up the hard drive very fast and restores even faster. It also made the USB drive bootable. This means the next time you boot the system with the USB attached, the Rescue and Recovery program (which is also integrated into the boot loader) boots into a recovery mode. By integrating the R&R program into the boot loader, you can restore with a virgin hard drive and a DVD or backup USB.

It seems that the R&R program is also usable on other systems. While I have not tried it (yet), I think it will be a great way to perform systems backups that can actually be restored—unlike some other products. Where are those Ghost Busters when you need them?



Ah, no. You must not have had much experience with many digital cameras or other phones. My daughter (Fred's) phone is a lot cheaper and the camera's resolution, speed, sensitivity etc. are all far better. I have a number of deadly serious digital cameras and this is the poorest camera I have seen in a decade. I was told by Motorola that the bluetooth issue is a hardware problem--not just a firmware upgrade. Of course since I could not get the same story out of two different support people, I don't know that that is true either. Of course, they might turn around and fix it. I still have not received any response from repeated attempts to get their email support team to correspond with me.
Well I think the MPx220 ROCKS!! And Im sure that Motorola will have a fix shortly for the voice over bluetooth. it's just a matter of time, The camera is awesome! (maybe you just need to tweek the settings). And the Sound could not have been better, and the ability to listion to all my MP3's is Unbeleavable! MiniSD card, & not to mention the windows CE- And Quad Band. plus the option to just say the number your calling and it will dial it for you, (without bluetooth) but it still works like a charm. Also, Just as a little note rather than turn the device off change the profile to silent while your in church to avoid obnoxious tunes, Its faster and of-corse sielent. plus you will know if you missed a call once you look at your phone later. ;)

Anyway Thumbs up to you Motorola ! keep up the great work! Whoo!
-Sonny Morrison
Yeah, but Bill I'm still going to take your word on a technical matter over a lot of other peoples whether or not you have "MVP" after your name.

April 1, 2005 • Vol.27 Issue 13
Page(s) 23 in print issue
Peter Blackburn and I spent the week of March 14 at a Microsoft-sponsored author/publisher conference in Redmond learning more about how Microsoft plans to implement Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005. We heard Jon Roskill and several other Microsoft product managers hint about when they expect Whidbey and Yukon to ship. I was with Microsoft long enough to know that until we get a bit closer to the date, any estimate on release to manufacturers has to be taken with a grain of salt.

To make this perfectly clear, there were very few MS people on my case about the petition. Since then the MS people that count have assured me that this is not how they want MS people to behave. For the most part, some MS folks and I have agreed to disagree--others agree with me quietly. We are all working toward the same goals. MS is really hamstrung by what they can do.
BTW, I saw your comment about the Sql Server CE book. Have you had a chance to play with Sql Mobile? I've been living and breathing it lately and the fact it also runs on the desktop rocks - we actually have a Web app that's using Sql Mobile as the back end (or course it's proof of concept). Would love to have another good book (Rob Tiffany is the only one I know of and it's darned good) on CE out there.
BlueTooth enabled cars rock, you should be a champ and one so everyone else can tell their spouses "Mrs. Vaughn let Bill get one, why can't I get one too"
"When I visited the speaker’s lounge I felt like a caged bear with kids poking me with sharp sticks. It seems that the Microsoft folks in attendance took exception to the Visual Basic 6.0 petition that I signed along with a number of other MVPs. A couple implied that I would be lucky to keep my MVP status because I chose to speak up."
What!? That's insanely rude of them... As if MS is helped by a bunch of Yes men as MVPs...


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