Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Meanwhile, out here in Geekdom

A few technological bumps in the road are helping to salt my already salt-and-pepper beard. Here they are...

1. Vista hoops

Microsoft actually named their new version of Windows after every other suburban housing development in America. That isn't it though. They make you agree not to use their software in an emulated environment in their cheaper versions. That isn't it though. If you do use it in a virtual environment, you are not to play any digitally encoded music or video at all. That isn't it though.

The real deal is that I have purchased a tiny, tiny laptop and a home server PC that both qualify for "free Vista upgrades." In doing so, I have to give out a bunch of personal information, look for multiple serial numbers, and submit all of this in a format proprietary to each company that sold me a PC. I thought I was done, BUT NO. I have to print out their confirmation e-mail and mail/fax/e-mail it back with a copy of my receipt. I am hoping that is the end of it, but you never know. I only hope I got my hardware and software serials right. That is it. Relax.

2. Snabulus moved In-House

Being a part-time granola-eating hippie-type, I was proud to have Snabulus.com hosted by EcoSky.com. With their own solar panels, they were still tied to the grid but some of their servers were independent of the power grid. In addition, our local electrical utility [Portland General Electric (owned by Enron)] allows customers to buy "renewable" power by voluntarily paying extra on their electric bills (which Ecosky does). That is all nice, but I don't trust Enron farther than I can throw the planet, so the volutnary price-gouging holds only limited impact with me.

Anyway, the e-mail provided by EcoSky was always pretty dicey, so I finally sent an e-mail asking if they could check into it. (sounds of chirping crickets here) I decided to move my web and mail servers home on to a new PC purchased for the purpose. Since I am a Comcast customer who has a roaming IP address, I enlisted No-IP.com to handle sending all my traffic to my home PC. For the web page, this worked out marvelously.

My mail server worked pretty well too, until today. Some of our outgoing mail (SMTP) came back with "Access Denied" messages. It turns out that, while 90+% of spam tracking servers show my server as being clean, the rest blacklist my IP address for the simple reason that it is a "dynamic IP" address.

The strange part about this is our SMTP requires a valid username and password to send mail while my Non-Blacklisted ISP (Comcast) allows me to send mail without a username or password.

It doesn't make much sense, does it? Nope. It doesn't.

3. Microsoft's known, but tolerated, .NET Bug

It started out with a customer reporting a bizarre and nearly non-credible bug in their web browser using software I wrote in Microsoft's .NET 2.0 framework. If an item was posted on one web page, the results would show up on the other workstation? WHAT?!?!? I couldn't make that happen if I wanted to! After our crack team reproduced the error, I reworked the code several times trying to work around it...to no avail. At no time did my own code appear to be the problem (although I always proceed from the assumption).

Finally, after doing several Google and Microsoft searches trying to find the problem, I found a document outlining the top 10 traps in writing Microsoft Visual Studio applications. It turns out that there is a setting on web pages which allows a person to set the expiration for caching (remembering) a web page. In all versions of .NET and Microsoft's web server this works fine...except our configuration.

The strange thing is that the environment we are working in has been out almost 2 years with no patches or service packs. It is almost as if Microsoft knew about it (which they certainly do given their knowledgebase entries) but they didn't care how serious it was or how many people could be affected. Well, their board of directors can eat my poop.


Dean Wormer said...

I bought a PC last weekend with Vista (basic) and the experience hasn't been altogether pleasant.

The PC came with 512k DDR2 which I knew was pushing the low end for Vista but I planned on throwing some more sticks in there at some point anyway. Performance is godawful just the same. A game of solitaire is pushing the resource limit.

I bought a video card since I plan on gaming anyway. The thing's a newer GeForce w/ 256k and installed it on the PCIe. Vista doesn't recognize the damn thing and I can't for the life of me find a way to get it to work. I've spent wayyyyyy too much time downloading drivers, searching forums, etc. You know the drill.

Normally I'd think the card was bad but we are dealing with Microsoft here. As you point out- the presumption of stupidity always rests on them.

Swinebread said...

Time for Linux Dean.. I know a guy who can hook you up.

Anonymous said...

Given that the GeForce Card is one of the most popular, it should be long before a driver appears. They say one gig minimum, but it should really be 2. Glad I read all this before I told my dad to get windows vista.

Seymour said...

I knew Vista was gonna be a dog when a friend of mine who works for Microsoft came out against it.

Requiring 2 gigs of memory for just the OS is insane! I have the feeling that Microsoft is just trying to shove 'Moore's Law' down our throats, acting as some weird giant carrot wielded as a stick to goad Intel and AMD into new heights of processor melting.

Don Snabulus said...


Let me know if you need a functional OS. We can probably hook you up.


Linux is Dandy, but MS is still the gaming platform.

Hey Pa've!

I forgot to mention, Congrats on the new job. Hopefully you will rebuild your power equipment empire in short order.


That memory requirement is nuts. It reminds a bit of the old OS/2 days when 8 Megs was too spendy for most.

Pandabonium said...

"I am hoping that is the end of it, but you never know."

Dear Mr. Snabulus,

We are in receipt of your request for application for consideration of your registration. Please find enclosed a jar and vial. Return these with your urine and blood samples in the enclosed mailer. Do not forget to provide sufficient postage as MS will not pay for postage due and your registration will be delayed and possibly rejected.

Should you encounter any problems, please do not contact us as we already know all about them.

Thank you for your offer of poop, but this is not required by our registration department at this time.

- The friendly folks at MS

The Moody Minstrel said...

I have computer geek students at my school advising me not to upgrade to Vista. What does that tell you?

Maybe LINUX doesn't sound like such a bad idea after all.

Say, isn't Mac OS X just LINUX in disguise?

Don Snabulus said...

PB: Good note

MM: Mac OS X is based on the FreeBSD flavor of Unix. Linux licensing requires all code changes to shared freely, so Apple couldn't charge for it. FreeBSD licensing allows people to profit from the codebase. With that said, FreeBSD and Linux are probably more alike than different.

ladybug said...

Insert manly techno-geek comment here.

Microsoft sucks.

That is all.

Seymour said...

Get in the kitchen, Ladybug, and bake us a pie!

ladybug said...

I don't do pie...

But I do great cake!

Take your cake & eat it! ;)

rob said...

I have a problem sending email to Comcast customers - Comcast sees that I'm using my hosted domains' webservers and not my ISP's, and so jumps to the conclusion that I must be a spammer. My workaround? I have to use gmail to send to comcast emails!

If your internet connection is supplied by Comcast, they (atleast in my experience in troubleshooting this) require you to use their own smtp server when you're connected to their service to reliably send emails. Again, this is presumably to stop spammers - oddly enough, it seems that once in a while you can send through other mail servers while connected to Comcast. Maybe there's a time setting as to how often you can send without using smtp.comcast.net ? It makes sense that Comcast doesn't need you to secure send though - they already know who you are if you're connected and can turn you off whenever they want.

The whole Vista DRM and licensing thing is absolutely amazing to me - I'd be pissed as a user of XP and having it as the only upgrade prospect. It'll be interesting to see if it creates a real drive for folks to polish a linux distribution. With all the grief Europe's giving Apple over DRM, I can't imagine a massive jump to Vista there... EULinux?