Rants, rambles, news and notes from another geek

Geek Notes 2005-01-08

The last week or so I’ve been very distracted by personal thing (kids not sleeping, wife not feeling well), work things (started&nbsp_place_holder;on a new project) and side stuff (lots of code changes to my .TEXT blog and finishing up&nbsp_place_holder;non-admin tool), so that’s why you haven’t seen many Geek Notes. When I don’t have much time to read RSS feeds, I’m much more likely to post sporadic things that I’m playing with and forget to post my semi-regular little link-letter.

But I found a few spare minuted today while both kids were napping, so here’s a quickie.

  • NetDig - This is groovy. As a UNIX guy from way back, I used to use dig to figure out DNS problems. Today, as I was trying to help out IDEP Foundation (an Indonesian non-profit that is helping out with&nbsp_place_holder;Tsunami relief) figure out some DNS problems, I was wanting dig and found NetDig instead. Written in .NET by William Stacey, it is exactly what I wanted and more. (Also available at that site: NetPing and CmdPing for all your pinging needs.)
  • Dave’s Quick Search Taskbar - This looks even faster than the Google Toolbar. But I’m not a big fan of stuff in my Taskbar, so I don’t know if it will stay for long. Worth a look thoughΓǪ [via The Daily Grind 535]
  • Layering Principles - Martin Fowler posts the results of an interesting survey where attendees at a workshop were asked to propose principles for good layering. Some interesting results of the voting. I particulary enjoyed seeing that “Separate development teams by layer” got 1 yes vote and 22 no votes.
  • Drunk Prank Photos - An amazing group of photos. Almost everyone did this (or had it done to them) at one point during college, right? [via Boing Boing]
  • SD Card with USB Interface - “SanDisk has today announced a unique SD card which has a hinged portion, flip this over and the card becomes a USB 2.0 Flash Drive.” Very cool!
  • The Open Source Zealot - I found this gem from last summer when I re-discovered the Caustic Tech blog (rss).
  • Improving Your Poker Game - Brad Wilson shares his list of recommended books for those interested in winning at poker. Brad claims to be able to make money regularly in small stakes Vegas hold-‘em games, so I’d at least check out his recommendations if you’re thinking of playing soon.

I Need Your Help, Please

Through Keith Pleas, I’m trying to help the IDEP Foundation figure out some DNS problems that they are having. But the problem with DNS is that as a distrtibuted database of sorts, you can get different information from different places in the world.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is this:

  1. Check today’s date. If it is Jan&nbsp_place_holder;10, 2005 or earlier, then proceed to step 2. Otherwise, thanks for trying to help out.
  2. Assuming you are on a Windows machine, go download NetDig from http://mvptools.com. If you are on another system, and know how to get and use dig, you should be able to follow this thread and get me what I want. If not, then thanks for trying to help out.
  3. Unzip it to a folder on your system and launch NetDig.exe (not NetDig.com). You do not need to “install” anything and you do not need to be an admistrator to do this. You should see something like this:


  1. It should autodetect your local nameserver. If it doesn’t, use “ipconfig /all” to figure out your local DNS server, and use that one in the box marked Server. Please don’t use “” unless that actually is your DNS server.
  2. Enter “idepfoundation.org” into the dropdown box under that one and select “ANY” in the type dropdown box.
  3. Click the Resolve button. After a second or two, you should see something like this:


  1. Notice, that in the Answer Section of that list I am being told that idepfoundation.org is using “dns1.whmserver.com” and “dns2.whmserver.com” for DNS. If you have any address other than that one, then proceed with step 8, otherwise go to step 9.
  2. Enter the NS record addresses (e.g dns1.whmserver.com and dns2.whmserver.com – but not those ones) one at a time into the search box. Again, make sure the type dropdown says “ANY” and click Resolve. The output should append itself to the bottom of the textbox. Do this for each NS record you saw in the Answer Section of Step&nbsp_place_holder;6 that has “idepfoundation.org” to the left of it.
  3. Select all of the text in the big text box. Copy it to the clipboard and paste it&nbsp_place_holder;into the contact form of my weblog. Please make the subject be “idepfoundation dig results” so I can filter the responses in my mail client. If you don’t mind using your real name and email address, I would appreciate it in case I need to contact you for more information about your DNS server or ISP. Also, if you can tell me where you are located (city and country), that could help as well. I promise this information will be kept in the strictest confidence and will only be used to help solve this problem.

Thanks in advance to everyone who can help. It will only take 5 minutes of your time, but may really help this group out.

Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (Beta)

I’ve been looking for the newly acquired Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware on internal sites for a couple of weeks and couldn’t find it. But then this morning I noticed it on the Microsoft.com Security site. So I grabbed it to give it a try.

After installing it I ran it and it did find a couple of things… nothing big.

It is a very sexy little SpyWare app compared to SpyBot Search & Destroy (my old tried-and-true solution).

It also does some things that SBS&D doesn’t do like automated scans, browser settings backup and check and a really good “tracks eraser” (for more that just your browser). Another great feature is&nbsp_place_holder;a very cool set of system explorers that lets you see what’s going on inside your system. For example, this one gives a nice explanation of all running processes…


And this one shows you all the installed ShellExecute hooks…


There are some obvious beta issues however. One is illustrated quite clearly in the image above… it is’t very smart about recognizing Microsoft software, which could cause some novice users to kill things that they shouldn’t. (My dad loves to do this… “What the hell is that process? I’ll kill it.”)

All in all, I would say it looks to be a nice product. Congrats to the development team.

DISCLAIMER: This technology was acquired by Microsoft from GIANT Company Software last month.

Provost Family Blogs

A few weeks ago I set up a .TEXT server for my family. My wife had been asking me for a new blog site for a while and my step-mom wanted one too.

So I went ahead and created blogs.provost.org. My parents have a blog called The Traveling Grammie and Bompie Road Show and my wife Emily has one too although she hasn’t settled on a title or theme yet.

Probably not very technical, so those of you who read me for geek content probably don’t care all that much, but these are all funny people with interesting hobbies and stuff going on, so at least pop over and look around once.


How Nerdy Are You?

Nerd_scoreApparently I’m a mid-rank nerd as you can see here.

Find out what kind of nerd you are here

[via Jason Bock]

New Blog Skin for 2005!!

I just posted the new blog skin that I’ve been working on for the past few days. I completely revamped the layout and tried to consolidate what was links on the side into pages that can be reached from the toolbar.

For those those of you reading this in your RSS aggregator, I’d love it if you could take 30 seconds and visit the HTML version. Comments and (constructive) criticisms will be appreciated.

Here’s to a great 2004.


New Skin

2004 in Review - the Busiest Year of My Life

I was looking back over my posts for 2004 and realized how ridiculously busy we were this last year…

In January, I spent most of my professional time writing an Outlook Add-in with COM in C++ and hating it. The family got sick a lot, but that’s what having kids is all about. Also, in January my&nbsp_place_holder;six month tenure as a Microsoft MVP began (it ended when I became a MS employee in August.

In February, I experienced morons in movie theatres, visited the MTC in Silicon Valley, got Interlink into blogging, watched too much American Idol, and wrote my HOWTO: Adopt .NET For Free post.

In March, Emily and I had the worst flying experience of our lives, presented Threats and Threat Modeling at DevDays, wrote about Blogroll Cosmology, and proposed a BoF Session for TechEd.

In April, I went to the MVP Summit (see Day 0, Timing Is Interesting and the Wrap-up post). While there I met up with Scott Densmore and Jim Newkirk, who I now work with. In fact, that was when I was encouraged to apply for the job I now have. Many thanks to Jim and Scott for that. Also in April, I wrote the dasBlog2DotText converter program&nbsp_place_holder;and gave a lecture at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with David Yack.

May was a busy blogging month with 57 posts. Whew. I opened the month by making the switch to .TEXT. I was asked to work Harry Pierson’s cabana at TechEd, replaced a wiper motor on my car, saw the Avs get eliminated from the playoffs, introduced blog ratings, and&nbsp_place_holder;had my backyard landscaped&nbsp_place_holder;(with lots of pictures).

Also in May I started work on my basement by smashing out a dummy brick fireplace, wrote my Software Development Karate Belts post, and made a number of posts about and from TechEd (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14). I also wrote a post about VSTS and religion that hinted at a more controversial post I would be making in June.

In June Kris Syverstad and I blogged a bit about the analogies between developers and professional athletes. I discovered the PAG bloggers, found a free uptme service, and switched to BlogJet for posting. In the middle of the month, I gave a fun series of talks called Building Quality .NET Solutions that focused on the things you don’t often hear about: Unit testing, build systems, continuous integration, etc.

Also June was the month where I wrote the now infamous Unit Testing in Visual Studio 2005 post (which has 169 comments&nbsp_place_holder;on it at this point) and a couple of follow-ups. The interesting thing about this post is that it was made during the time between my interviews for the job with PAG and receiving notification about getting the job. Some might say that I shouldn’t have made a post like that while trying to get a job at Microsoft, but honestly, if they weren’t going to hire me for saying something like that, then I probably didn’t want to work there. I’m a loud-mouth and I say what’s on my mind, so deal with it.

As it so often does, it all worked itself out, eh?

In July we took Hadley to her first movie (Shrek 2), Craig Andera and I posted dasBlog2DotText to Sourceforge, and Enterprise Library was announced. Not much else happened in July…


No… wait…

Oh yeah! My son Finn Mansfield was born on July 8th. &nbsp_place_holder;I was posting pics over dial up from the hospital to the the Finn Image Gallery. He is a wonderful, beautiful child and we love him more than life itself.

In August I announced my move to Microsoft to the world with the post Peter Takes the Red Pill. I continued to work on finishing the basement of our Victorian-era bungalow. I also moved my sites off of the server in my basement and onto a server at WebHost4Life. Somewhere in there, I actually got some client work done and as part of that created a Generic BizTalk Build System with NAnt. The month ended with us moving to Seattle and me starting work.

In September I surprised Emily by flying her best friend in for a surprise visit. Other than that, I was mostly focused on us getting settled in Seattle, selling our Denver house, and getting settled into my new job. And something I didn’t blog about: shortly after getting to Washington, my wife Emily found out that she has some kind of auto-immune disorder, possibly lupus or antiphospholipid antibody&nbsp_place_holder;syndrome. It seems to be under control at this point, but the timing certainly could have been better.

October was fun. I had a poetry contest to see who would get my GMail invites&nbsp_place_holder;and posted the winners, wrote a cool little reg-hack for running NUnitConsole on any DLL or EXE, used a metal detector to find a missing engagement ring, and went to Win-Dev Boston to give two talks. Somewhere in there I also figured out how to make IE display the application/xhtml+xml mime type properly.

In November I made a couple of posts about developing as a non-administrator. Brian Button and I figured out a cool way to unit test the interaction between two threads. Atticus came from Denver, Emily and I celebrated out 4th anniversary, started learning to touch-type, Jamie Cansdale shipped TestDriven.NET 1.0, and we learned that it really is rainy and cold in Seattle in the winter. Somewhere in there, Brian Button and I went to a great talk at MSR by Ward Cunningham.

At the start of December, Emily and Finn went to Denver leaving me and Hadley to fend for ourselves. I babbled a bit about RAII and IDisposable in .NET, settles on a new RSS aggregator, we all got sick again, I finally had to deal with comments spam, posted another non-admin trick, and we had our first Christmas in Washington.

Wow, what a year. I think I’ll try to make 2005&nbsp_place_holder;a little less hectic. No new children, no moves, no job changes. Nice and mellow.

Best wishes to all my readers in 2005. Thanks for taking time out of your valuable schedule to read my occasional ramblings.

Geek Notes 2004-12-31

The last Geek Notes of 2004…

Scott Watermasysk pointed out via email that a couple of days ago I made my 1000th blog post. Wow. I guess this experiment is holding together (assuming there is someone out there reading these words.)

  • Microsoft Anti-Spyware - Somehow I missed the acquisition of Giant Software AntiSpyware by MS. Although I’m a longtime fan of Spybot Search And Destroy, Paul gives it a good review, so I probably need to take a look at this one.
  • Outlook Command Line Arguments - As a keyboard junkie, I like to use hotkeys to launch my apps, I knew their was a switch for Outlook to tell it not to create a new window every time, but I couldn’t remember what it was. (For the record, it is /recycle.) This site has most/all of them.
  • Don Box on Presenting - If you’ve been to any Microsoft-developer conferences in the past 10 years, you’ve probable seen Don speak. In this Channel 9 video he talks about the goals of presenting and provides a number of dos and don’ts. Don is an experienced educator so whether you like him or not, if you do presentations you need to watch this. [via simplegeek]
  • Re-introduction to FIT - “Have you heard about FIT yet? Even if you have, do you know what makes it signficantly different from other testing frameworks? Here is a re-introduction to FIT that highlights one of its most important features.”
  • Adding Support to VS for Your Language - Cyrus is thinking about posting a series of articles explaining how to master this mystical art. [via Eric Gunnerson]
  • US Will Shut Down GPS to Fight Terrorits - This is terrifying (sic). “The president also instructed the Defense Department to develop plans to disable, in certain areas, an enemy’s access to the U.S. navigational satellites and to similar systems operated by others.” [via BoingBoing]
  • Programming Fonts - In this post Jeff Atwood shows screenshots of a number of monospaced fonts. After reading this I switched to Proggy. Thanks Jeff.

See you all next year!

Subversion Support in the Resharper IDE

As my last two posts illustrate, I am a fan of JetBrainsOmea Reader and Resharper. Consequently, I’ve been closely following the announcements and newsgroups regarding their forthcoming IDE. If it is anything like IntelliJ, then it could make some serious waves in the .NET development community.

The other day I saw a post on their Resharper EAP list that had this Q&A:

Q: Will the C# IDE have any native support for a Version Control System, such as SourceSafe or something else? This would be an EXTREMELY useful feature. IDE Integration of Source Control is very helpful …

A: Yes, of course. In the first version we will support CVS, SourceSafe and perhaps Subversion.

To which I replied:

Please elevate Subversion in the list from “perhaps” to “abolutely”. Subversion is slowly replacing CVS…and it is getting quite popular in the .NET community.

Which was followed by this from a JetBrains staffer:

I’m pretty sure that Subversion will be in the Resharper IDE (final name of the IDE has not yet be determined) … I suggest you and everybody you know who wants it, post here and let them know it’s important for you – unless there is some technical considerating for not adding it, I don’t see why we won’t add it as it seems to be pretty high on the demand list.

So, if you are a developer who uses SVN with .NET and think you may remotely be interested in trying out the Resharper IDE, then please fireup your favorite USENET client and post to jetbrains.resharper.eap. Look for the thread titled “C# IDE and CVS”. (NOTE: To post to that list you must use authentication, see the Resharper Confuence Homepage, in the–“Where to go and what to do” section–for the proper username/password.) If you don’t like USENET, there is a web-based forum, but I haven’t used it.