Category: Tools


This is really good for creating a website locally, and deploying live.

Also, does a great job of running on SQL CE 4 and IIS Express 7.5.

Works from a Pen drive, or your local C drive, if need be, which means you can do web development, on Umbraco, without needing an internet connection. This is really good, if yours (like mine) has gone down…

With the release of Umbraco 4.6 (Juno), users now have the option of using Microsoft’s new embedded database engine, SQL CE 4. This means that you don’t need to depend on using a database server (such as SQL Server [Express] or MySQL), you can run Umbraco exclusively from the file-system! Also recently released is IIS Express 7.5, (another Microsoft web technology, as part of their WebMatrix framework), which offers a lightweight version of IIS – … Read More

via Lee Kelleher’s Weblog

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Moving to Fibre Broadband

Having recently moved from ADSL, to Fibre broadband, I thought I’d share my experiences about the differences it’s made.

In the middle of December, I started getting calls from BT pushing their BT Infinity service, so I thought I’d check to see if our local exchange (Brookwood) had been upgraded to Fibre. I wasn’t expecting that it had, since it was scheduled to be the end of March 2011. Surprisingly, it had as I saw on SamKnows. So, I ordered an upgrade from my ISP (Zen internet).

They put the order through, and a BT engineer was scheduled to do the upgrade on 6th Jan.

The BT engineer, came, did his job and left me with a Fibre (VDSL) modem (Huawei Echolife HG621) connected to the box. Sadly, I couldn’t use my existing Router as it only supported ADSL (it was a Belkin N1, but too old a version).

So, thanks to Amazon, I ordered a Netgear WNR2000 Wireless router, which is the one that Zen recommend. Having received that, changed the default password, and connected it up, I’m now surfing through a fibre.

ADSL VDSL(Fibre)
Upload 448Kbps 1.45Mbps
Download 4500Kbps 37.46Mbps
Latency Approx 80ms Approx 57ms

Everything seems to be working just fine so far. The router is servicing my WP7 phone, the Kindle and my work laptop through WiFi happily, and also servicing the desktop, and the WII (for iPlayer mainly) through the Powerline sockets in the house.

All in all, I’m pretty happy at this point!

Thanks to Zen for sorting everything out, thanks to BT for upgrading the Exchange 3 months early, and thanks to Amazon for supplying the Netgear router promptly.

Update – 4th February 2011
Ok, so we’re now on our second Fibre modem (the Huawei thing), as apparently, they are prone to overheating. Ours overheated, but not with, like, fire or anything. Just a ‘ceasing to work’ thing. Anyway, BT guy came out, had a look, held the box, said these overheat quite easily, and replaced it. Quick and easy job for him. He also recommended mounting it on the wall, and proceeded to do so. Great job BT guy. So, if you are getting one of these, then get it wall mounted.


I was working with a file, for a previous post, through which I had a large file to upload. I’ve used 7-Zip for a while, but this is the first time I’ve really noticed differences against a Zip file.

Below is a chart of my findings (each using the highest available compression format):

Format Size Compression ratio of Original
Original file 58,412 KB
.7z 3,173 KB 5.4%
.Zip 25,490 KB 43.6%
.bz2 21,875 KB 37.4%
.gzip 25,459 KB 43.5%
Windows Compressed Folder 27,247 KB 46.6%

As you can see, using the .7z format gives a substantial improvement in compression over any of the other formats.

I hereby highly recommend 7-zip! Winking smile

Disclaimer: Results will vary with different content! !

Gadgets for Life…

Following on from my previous post on tools, I thought it’d be worth creating a post on the gadgets I use daily.

iPod Nano

I got this just over a year ago, to replace my iPod 3rd gen, which was suffering from a very short battery life. I use the iPod to listen to podcasts in the car (Hanselminutes, This developers life, DotNetRocks, Runas radio, and a few others). It’s also used to play music to aid concentration (Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Random 80’s music, Gregorian chant, depending on the project).

Blackberry Bold 9700

My personal phone. Prior to this I had a Nokia N95, and wanted to move to something Smarter. I’ve had this nearly a year, and have not been disappointed. It has a great, responsive UI, and a great range of apps for it (ubertwitter, WordPress client, Facebook). I did consider the iPhone when I was looking to change, but it didn’t feel right for me. Another 6-8 months left on this phone before an upgrade is due, but even then, it’ll probably be either a newer Blackberry, or some form of WP7 device.

External Hard disk

A few months ago, I built an external drive. The recommendation came from a Tweet from Liam Westley, which was for an Akasa P2 series 2.5″ drive enclosure and a Western Digital Scorpio Black 320GB 2.5″ drive. The drive case has both USB2 and eSata connections, which means it’s really snappy for VM’s, which I use in abundance.

Crumpler Belly XL

I’m using this as I needed a big bag for my laptop, and plenty of space for all the associated gubbins. It has space for everything, and is comfortable to carry too. This I recommend to anyone who’ll listen.

Kindle

I recently got an Amazon Kindle (3g+Wi-Fi). I’m impressed by this device, it’s lighter than my PowerShell 2 Admin guide, has plenty of space for other books, and is really easy to read. I’ll be posting a review of the Kindle in the coming weeks, but suffice to say, I like it.

Finally, FiloFax Urban Personal

Strictly speaking, it’s not a gadget, as it’s not really technological, however, I use it alot, happily. There is something about being able to read and write things down, with a pen, also, it has space for me to make notes at various events (such as the upcoming DDD8a. While all of these tasks could be done using the Blackberry, there is something about having a tangible piece of paper, and it certainly feels tangible.

MESS and other Tools

Inspired by the Hanselman Tools List.


MESS – Multiple Environment Synchronisation System

One of the best combinations of tools that I’ve found has been the use of Dropbox and PortableApps.

Dropbox allows you to have a single (automatically synced) storage location, which can contain anything, and gives you 2Gb of free space (2.25gb if you use the link above).

PortableApps is a set of applications that are configured to run from a specific location and have no dependencies outside that directory. It was created to allow applications to run from a PenDrive. It includes products such as FireFox, NotePad++, WinMerge, Opera, Thunderbird, and dozens more.

Combining these products gives you the opportunity to have all these apps automatically synced, so you don’t need to install anything on the machine, aside from DropBox. You get all your app settings migrated automatically around the place, which for FireFox includes the pages you last had open in that browser.

I’d like to say that this was a flash of inspiration that I had, but it wasn’t. I saw it here: Steve Rumsby’s blog . Well done Steve!


The Tools List

For the machine:

Currently, it’s a Sony Vaio VPCEB1Z0E. We got some of these as they’ve got decent Full HD (1920×1080)  screens, adequate processor and will support 8Gb RAM which is good for the future. It’s also got an eSATA port, which is outstanding for connecting an external drive to. It gives faster performance for Virtual Machines.

For Developing:

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate

We’ve got a licence to use the best, so why use anything less… Winking smile

DevExpress CodeRush and Refactor Pro

I spent a fair while switching between ReSharper and CodeRush, and couldn’t really decide between the two. Eventually, it came down to CodeRush  ‘feeling’ better. Whether it is or not is open to huge and emotive debates, but I wanted to choose one, so I did. This far, I’ve absolutely no regrets. Thanks Guys!

For Database work / Data manipulation:

SQL Server 2008 R2 Developer edition

There are a load of tools that help with data manipulation, but really, do they have any benefits or greater flexibility over dumping it into SQL Server, and using t-SQL on it ?

SQLPrompt Pro

The great people at RedGate gave some licences to my local Community group (DevEvening), which I won one from. Thanks Guys!

Virtualisation:

VMWare Workstation

I’ve used this for a few years now, and it’s never let me down, never let it  be said I have no loyalties.

Odds and Ends on the Machine

DexPot

An amazing utility for Virtual Desktops, because multiple screens are never enough. It’s integration into Windows 7, with SevenDex, makes for a great set of functionality.

Desktop Restore

A great shell extension to allow saving of your desktop icons, and prevents the ‘aaargh, all my icons have moved’ problem.

There’s a version of Windows Live Writer, that runs on Windows Server 2008!

Go here: http://www.live-writer.de/windows-live-writer-download/

Well, I know this is a controversial subject, but I thought I’d share my views on it, following some work I’ve done over the past few months.

We’ve been experiencing fragmentation on some of our servers, and laptops, and we’ve been looking at potential solutions.

There appear to be three real options.

Option 1 – Windows Defrag tool.

This is a very early version of Diskeeper, and while it does a good job of sorting files out, it takes an age to run, and doesn’t do open files. Obviously, this is an issue for servers where the files are going to be open. However, it’s free, so there’s no license fee issue.

Option 2 – Diskeeper

Over the past few years, I’ve been a keen user of Diskeeper, which has served me well. However, from a server perspective, the license price is somewhat high. The intelligent background defrag process has kept my laptop drive at a low level of fragmentation, and this has minimal impact on the usage of the machine, from my perspective.

Option 3 – PerfectDisk

This was raised as a potential option by a colleague. It’s something that I’d not heard of before, but having tried it out, it seemed slower, and took many runs to get it to recognise that the disk was defragmented (to PerfectDisk’s satisfaction). It also has a significant impact on performance of the machine while I was using it. Finally, every time I booted the machine I got a message popping up, which was caused by the PerfectDisk boot time engine (whether it was set to run or not). This strikes me as being untidy, as Diskeeper has a boot time engine also, but doesn’t display messages unless it needs to run.

Conclusion

Desktops – I use Diskeeper, and it’s served me well, and will continue to do so.

Servers – I’d be inclined to use PerfectDisk (it does the job and has lower licence fees).

PS. this is my first blog posting using MS Live Writer