Author Archives: daniel

Pointless choices

This seems to be common on store finder applications on the web: After entering the postcode, you’re asked to enter the suburb as well.

coles

It makes zero difference what you choose, because the suburbs aren’t huge. The Store Locator shows you stores within at least 5 kilometres, but the suburbs are much smaller than that.

In fact it’s worse in the case of the Coles Catalogue, because it ends up giving you a catalogue which is clearly marked “Vic Metro” – which applies to the entirety of scores of postcodes.

Is there anywhere in the country that has suburbs big enough that it would matter? I haven’t found any.

Making people make this choice is pointless. It’s just another barrier to them getting to your information.

More help is available

From the “Do you understand why people hate you, Microsoft?” department:

D:\>net stop xyz
The service name is invalid.

More help is available by typing NET HELPMSG 2185.

D:\>net helpmsg 2185

The service name is invalid.

D:\>

Yes. Very bloody helpful.

I don’t expect miracles in the command line, but I do expect that if I’m told more help is available, that more help is actually available.

Chrome starts blocking web sites using HTTPS over SSL3

It would seem some organisations still haven’t got the message on SSL vulnerabilities, even one with a publicity-friendly name like Poodle.

For instance, Swinburne University of Technology, which is actually one of Australia’s better universities to learn computer science, has its student portal still trying to use SSL 3.

MySwinburne SSL error

My son was trying to figure out why he couldn’t connect with Chrome. Only by clicking for details do you get the slightly cryptic error: “ERR_SSL_FALLBACK_BEYOND_MINIMUM_VERSION”

It turns out Chrome has disabled fallback to SSL3. For now you can override it (though it’s easier for now just to use another browser), but soon it’ll be disabled completely. Site owners will need to make sure their servers support TLS instead.

They’ve also started giving a warning on SHA-1 certificates — no more green logo; it’s gone yellow, with a warning: “This site is using outdated security settings that may prevent future versions of Chrome from being able to safely access it.” Again, it’s up to site owners to resolve this, by updating their certificates.

Why can’t you resize Remote Desktop windows?

RDP optionsIf you can spontaneously change the resolution of Windows in a Virtual Machine, how come you can’t do it in a Remote Desktop session?

I’m forever opening up RDP sessions in the wrong resolution, because the RDP client seems to have a funny way of selectively remembering (or forgetting) the preference.

Sometimes if focussing entirely on the remote session, I’d like it to be full-sized. At other times I’d like it smaller so I can more easily jump between things.

Is there something complicated that stops RDP windows being resized after connection has been made? If it is possible in a VM, presumably it can’t be too hard in RDP?

It looks like in Windows 8 and later you can easily turn on “smart resizing”, and in earlier versions this can be configured in the .rdp file. But this scales the window at the original resolution, rather than changing resolution.

It’d be nice if proper resizing of the window was possible.

badges.del.icio.us malware

Interesting warning from Google when displaying some pages on this geekrant.org:

Malware warning

In response I’ve disabled the Socialize plug-in which was serving them. Hopefully that makes the warning go away — I’ll look for another way to display social media buttons.

myTax – pleasantly surprisingly pain-free

I’m sometimes wary of online services, especially those provided by government. (Heck, look at the Myki web site… it’s clunky and still looks like it was written last decade — which of course it was, and it’s never had more than a minor update.)

But having tried the Windows-based eTax for the first time last year (when the Australian Taxation Office pretty much forced everyone off the paper Tax Packs by not making them generally available), this year I tried out MyTax, which is the cut-down simplified web-based tax return system. It means I can avoid having to download and install eTax.

It has to be linked to a MyGov account, which is Big Brother’s logon system that includes (at your option) services provided by the ATO, Medicare, Centrelink and others.

MyGov

Signing up and submitting the tax return all seemed to go fairly smoothly, and the simplified design (it can’t handle more complex tax affairs) means the process of entering all the information is much quicker than using a Tax Pack or eTax.

A big criticism of eTax has been that it only works under Windows. Given MyTax is also cross-platform, I wonder how long it’ll be before it is enhanced and replaces eTax completely.

The only criticism I have with it is that once you’ve submitted, it says there’s only one chance to Save and/or Print what you’re submitting. That’s a bit weird. And it doesn’t actually allow you to Save, only to Print. I cheated and Saved by copy/pasting the HTML into Word, and saving that.

iTunes free U2 album: How to make it appear

So you don’t want to splash out on a new iWatch or iPhone, but you do want that new U2 album that’s free on iTunes until 14th October?

The instructions (for Mac or PC itunes) say:

On your Mac or PC, open iTunes, then select the Albums tab. Select Songs of Innocence. Select a track to listen or click the iCloud icon to download.

What they don’t tell you is what to do if it’s not showing there. In my case, it wasn’t. It also wasn’t in Purchased, and although I could see it in the iTunes Store (and play previews), the iCloud icon wasn’t appearing.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.58.33 am

The answer is you need to switch on the option to see iCloud purchases:

Preferences / Store / Show iTunes in the Cloud purchases

Then it should appear in the Albums tab.

With thanks to Sam Wilkinson on Twitter

Update 2014-09-16: For those who aren’t as keen on U2, Apple has now published an article on how to remove the album from your iTunes:

Remove iTunes gift album “Songs of Innocence” from your iTunes music library and purchases

Upgrade of web site from .Net 2 to 4.5 breaks asmx web services

Despite my best Googling, nobody seems to have had quite this problem (and written about it).

I’m migrating a .Net 2 web site to .Net 4.5 (well, 4.5.1 to be precise). Everything seemed to work except browsing to the .asmx (web service) pages, which threw a System.BadImageFormatException: Invalid token error:

Error Stack:System.InvalidOperationException: Failed to handle request. —> System.InvalidOperationException: Unable to handle request. —> System.Configuration.ConfigurationErrorsException: Invalid token. —> System.BadImageFormatException: Invalid token.
at System.Reflection.RuntimeAssembly._nLoad(AssemblyName fileName, String codeBase, Evidence assemblySecurity, RuntimeAssembly locationHint, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, IntPtr pPrivHostBinder, Boolean throwOnFileNotFound, Boolean forIntrospection, Boolean suppressSecurityChecks)
at System.Reflection.RuntimeAssembly.nLoad(AssemblyName fileName, String codeBase, Evidence assemblySecurity, RuntimeAssembly locationHint, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, IntPtr pPrivHostBinder, Boolean throwOnFileNotFound, Boolean forIntrospection, Boolean suppressSecurityChecks)
at System.Reflection.RuntimeAssembly.InternalLoadAssemblyName(AssemblyName assemblyRef, Evidence assemblySecurity, RuntimeAssembly reqAssembly, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, IntPtr pPrivHostBinder, Boolean throwOnFileNotFound, Boolean forIntrospection, Boolean suppressSecurityChecks)
at System.Reflection.RuntimeAssembly.InternalLoad(String assemblyString, Evidence assemblySecurity, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, IntPtr pPrivHostBinder, Boolean forIntrospection)
at System.Reflection.RuntimeAssembly.InternalLoad(String assemblyString, Evidence assemblySecurity, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, Boolean forIntrospection)
at System.Reflection.Assembly.Load(String assemblyString)
at System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAssemblyHelper(String assemblyName, Boolean starDirective)
— End of inner exception stack trace —
at System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAssemblyHelper(String assemblyName, Boolean starDirective)
at System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAllAssembliesFromAppDomainBinDirectory()
at System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAssembly(AssemblyInfo ai)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetReferencedAssemblies(CompilationSection compConfig)
at System.Web.Compilation.WebDirectoryBatchCompiler..ctor(VirtualDirectory vdir)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.BatchCompileWebDirectoryInternal(VirtualDirectory vdir, Boolean ignoreErrors)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.BatchCompileWebDirectory(VirtualDirectory vdir, VirtualPath virtualDir, Boolean ignoreErrors)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.CompileWebFile(VirtualPath virtualPath)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetVPathBuildResultInternal(VirtualPath virtualPath, Boolean noBuild, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean allowBuildInPrecompile, Boolean throwIfNotFound, Boolean ensureIsUpToDate)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetVPathBuildResultWithNoAssert(HttpContext context, VirtualPath virtualPath, Boolean noBuild, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean allowBuildInPrecompile, Boolean throwIfNotFound, Boolean ensureIsUpToDate)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetVPathBuildResult(HttpContext context, VirtualPath virtualPath, Boolean noBuild, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean allowBuildInPrecompile, Boolean ensureIsUpToDate)
at System.Web.UI.PageParser.GetCompiledPageInstance(VirtualPath virtualPath, String inputFile, HttpContext context)
at System.Web.UI.PageParser.GetCompiledPageInstance(String virtualPath, String inputFile, HttpContext context)
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.DocumentationServerProtocol.GetCompiledPageInstance(String virtualPath, String inputFile, HttpContext context)
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.DocumentationServerProtocol.Initialize()
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.ServerProtocolFactory.Create(Type type, HttpContext context, HttpRequest request, HttpResponse response, Boolean& abortProcessing)
— End of inner exception stack trace —
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.ServerProtocolFactory.Create(Type type, HttpContext context, HttpRequest request, HttpResponse response, Boolean& abortProcessing)
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.WebServiceHandlerFactory.CoreGetHandler(Type type, HttpContext context, HttpRequest request, HttpResponse response)
— End of inner exception stack trace —
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.WebServiceHandlerFactory.CoreGetHandler(Type type, HttpContext context, HttpRequest request, HttpResponse response)
at System.Web.Services.Protocols.WebServiceHandlerFactory.GetHandler(HttpContext context, String verb, String url, String filePath)
at System.Web.Script.Services.ScriptHandlerFactory.GetHandler(HttpContext context, String requestType, String url, String pathTranslated)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.MaterializeHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute()
at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)| Global.asax:Application_Error()

I tried adjusting the .Net version — turns out it would work fine in 3.5 or lower, but broke in 4 or higher.

My machine itself was okay — creating a new 4.5 web site with just a web service in it worked fine.

In the end the solution was to create a new web site and add the individual pages back into it, leaving out the Bin directory. I rebuilt that by adding references to the various DLLs back one by one. Something in the old Bin directory apparently was throwing it out.

BASIC turns 50

The BASIC programming language turned 50 on Thursday.

This Time article is a great read — and notes the importance of the language on getting school students programming.

What’s the equivalent today? The Raspberry Pi is helping make hardware affordable. Some might dabble in Visual Basic or C# via Visual Studio Express, or the many of the other freely available languages such as Python, PHP, Javascript… or here’s another way of looking at it, from Jeff Atwood:

New graphics card in the Mac Pro

To recap: I’ve got two old 2008 Mac Pros. Lovely machines. The video card in one went bung (possibly power problems).

As a workaround I’ve been using a friend’s spare ATI Radeon 3870, which only works in Windows, not OS X.

I’ve just bought an upgrade: an nVidia GeForce GTX 480. Very nice. A beast of a card, too, very impressive looking. Got it on eBay from a bloke in NSW selling under the name “Mac PC Parts” for about A$270, which is a bit cheaper than the official Apple upgrade — which is no longer available anyway — and a LOT cheaper than any of the new cards at OWC or other etailers and retailers that I could find.

Mac Pro, video card installed

A note of caution to fellow Mac Pro 2008 users: it appears to be near-impossible to get the card out once plugged-in, due to the placement of the PCIe catch on that model of Mac Pro. It might explain why later models went to a bar thingy which is easier to get to. This also means it’s worth plugging in the two power cables before the card goes in.

Anyway, the card has taken the graphics rating in Windows 7’s Performance index thingy from 5.1 to 7.9. It even seems more responsive for regular web browsing.

There’s a certain amount of geek pride in getting each item, one by one, to the top of the scale.

But given the weak point is now the hard drive, it would seem that the next upgrade needs to be a new hard drive/SSD.

Windows performance index

But the main reason I wanted to get it was to get this computer running OS X again — son the elder is getting familiar with it at uni, and may need to run OS X-specific software again soon.

Alas, plugging in the OS X drive and trying to boot off it got me a “Operating system not found on disk” error. It would seem the Microsoft gremlins got onto it.

The disk doesn’t have anything important on it anyway, so stand by for updates as I figure out how to wipe it and rebuild OS X.

Update: It was easy. Download Mavericks onto a USB, boot it up and use the built-in disk manager to re-partition the OS X drive (I unplugged the Windows drive just to be sure I wouldn’t accidentally wipe it) then install onto it.

Plugged the Windows drive back in, and installed ReFit again to provide a more visible boot menu. Done.