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Tools on top of Tools…. June 30, 2008

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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It’s funny how we all invent various tools to simplify life, only to find that learning to manage and use a new tool only complicates things. I’ve recently spent a bit of time creating a new tool. The purpose of this tool is to simplify the task of tracking time and entering it into yet another tool. Throughout the design and coding of this tool, I found that its almost impossible to create a tool that will make everyone happy. I guess the lesson learned is that sometimes its just better to deal with tool(evil) that you know then to deal with the tool(evil) that you dont.

Totally free asp.net web site in just 3 weeks March 31, 2008

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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For the past 12 years I’ve been working as a software engineer, mostly building software for web applications. I’ve had many people over the years ask me “What is the URL for my personal site?”. Unfortunately, my response was always the same. “I don’t have a personal site”. It did make me think, how can I claim to be a decent software engineer and not have a web site of my own. So, my project over the last month was to build myself a personal web site. I started by thinking about what type of content, layout, and features I’d like to have. After I make that list, I started looking into designing a site map and flows for my features. Not too long after this did I realize that this was going to take me a bit of time. Then I discovered the Microsoft web site starter kits. I spent some time looking through the various templates until I finally found on that kind of fit what I wanted. So, I took the “Personal Site Starter Kit” as my base for my new site. I spent a few weeks modifying it to fit my needs and then added all the content. That’s it. There you have it. A fully functional completed web site in 3 weeks.

The next step was that I needed to host this site somewhere. So, the answer was to take an old desktop that I was no longer using and to install IIS and Visual Studio Express. This would be the system that would host my site. Since I only have Windows XP Professional and SQL Server Express running there, that means that the site will be limited to only 10 concurrent connections, but that’s fine its just a personal site and not a e-commerce system.

Now comes the issue of how to get it available on the Internet. The first this that I needed to do was to expose my web server outside of my firewall. There are a few ways to do this. You can move the entire server out site by placing it in the DMZ or open a port to the application that needs access through the firewall or you can do some port forwarding and filters on the firewall. I decided to just open port 80 through the firewall so that IIS can communicate with the world. This exposes the bare minimum needed, but it does have some limitations, but for my needs its fine. Another issue that we need to fix is with the DHCP server. We should only be opening port 80 to the web server. To do this, our web server is going to need to have a static IP address within the LAN. Changing this on my internal LAN is simple, the real problem here is with the external ISP. We could call them and ask to have a static IP on the WAN, but that would cost a lot extra. Fortunately, we can install a piece of freeware called No-IP that will solve this problem for us. This freeware runs as a service on the web server and keeps an eye on the servers IP address. When the ISP DNS server changes it, this software will update the domain name for our site with the new IP that our ISP assigned. Now were ready for Internet traffic.

Now comes the last piece. What name do I give this site? If I want to choose my own domain name, that will cost a bit to register it. However, there is a free solution to that also. There is a free site that allows you to create an account that will redirect all Internet traffic to your site. You get to choose the host name and you can choose from a list of domain names that they own. This site also integrates with the freeware that update the domain name for us when the ISP changes our IP.  So, for this last step, just create an account with no-ip.com and pick a host and domain name. That it!

So, you too can build a site free fully featured asp.net site in just 3 weeks.  Enjoy.

Links for this entry:

http://corbin.bounceme.net    (My personal site)

http://www.no-ip.com  (Freeware and domain account site)

WPF – The downfall of the tyrannical form layout August 3, 2007

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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Microsoft has done it again. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised any more. Dot Net 3.0 has been released and with it another new, cool, set of technologies. You guessed it; I’m referring to Windows Presentation Foundations or WPF for short. I always get so excited when something new and cool comes along. I enjoy digging my teeth into a new technology, especially if its one that have practical uses in the office environment. WPF gives us lots of practical uses in the real world. The fact that we can now define our form layouts the same way, regardless if it’s a web form or win form is an enormous benefit. The new language for defining this is XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language). It has freed from the constraints of how a form must be laid out. No longer do we need to conform to the standard table, grid, or battleship gray rectangle button. WPF exposes the full flexibility of the DirectX graph engine for manipulating how controls and forms are displayed. The APIs for using this power is very simple. In many cases, twisting the layout of a control to bend to our will is simply a matter of using the right XAML attributes. With this power we now can wield a wonderfully new and exciting type of application. We also have to be cautious of this, for now we also have the power to create frightful abominations that would terrify the most open-minded developers. Lets now take a look at some code that shows how to uses this. The sample below shows a simple form that has a few standard buttons and textboxes. Remember for this sample to work, you will need to have .Net 3.0 framework installed.

 

blog6a1.jpg 

 

[CODE]

 

<Window x:Class=”XamlWindowsAppProject.Window1″
xmlns=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation
xmlns:x=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml
Title=”XamlWindowsAppProject” Height=”213″ Width=”262″>
<Grid>
       <TextBox Name=”test1″ Margin=”16,15.5,93,0″ Height=”23″ 

VerticalAlignment=”Top” Text=”Sample Textbox”></TextBox>
       <Button Content=”Click Here” Margin=”44,49,0,80″  

HorizontalAlignment=”Left” Width=”78″>
       </Button>
      <ListBox Margin=”127,59,5,57″ Name=”listBox1″>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem1″>ListBoxItem 1</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem2″>ListBoxItem 2</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem3″>ListBoxItem 3</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem4″>ListBoxItem 4</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem5″>ListBoxItem 5</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem6″>ListBoxItem 6</ListBoxItem>
      </ListBox>
  </Grid>
</Window> 

 

 

Now lets take that ordinary looking form and lets get freaky with it. In the sample below, you can now see that we’ve twisted the textboxes, change the buttons shape and opaqueness, and gave the form itself an unusual shape.

 

blog6b1.jpg 

 

[CODE]

 

<Window x:Class=”XamlWindowsAppProject.Window1″ xmlns=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation
    xmlns:x=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml
    Title=”XamlWindowsAppProject” Height=”213″ Width=”262″>
    <Grid>
    <TextBox Name=”test1″ Margin=”16,15.5,93,0″ Height=”23″
             VerticalAlignment=”Top” Text=”Sample Textbox”></TextBox>
      <Button Content=”Click Here” Margin=”44,49,0,80″
              HorizontalAlignment=”Left” Width=”78″>
        <Button.RenderTransform>
          <RotateTransform Angle=”45″ />
        </Button.RenderTransform>
      </Button>
      <ListBox Margin=”127,59,5,57″ Name=”listBox1″>
        <ListBox.RenderTransform>
          <RotateTransform Angle=”15″ />
        </ListBox.RenderTransform>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem1″>ListBoxItem 1</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem2″>ListBoxItem 2</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem3″>ListBoxItem 3</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem4″>ListBoxItem 4</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem5″>ListBoxItem 5</ListBoxItem>
        <ListBoxItem Name=”listBoxItem6″>ListBoxItem 6</ListBoxItem>
      </ListBox>
  </Grid>
</Window> 

   

Pretty Cool huh! The sample above is just a small taste of the multitude of ways that the graphical representation of the form can be changed. In this discussion, I only touched on one aspect of the WPF framework. For more details on what WPF can do for you, check out the Microsoft docs on it here.

The end of life’s journey, the beginning of true salvation July 20, 2007

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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            So often in life, it takes a sad and tragic event to unite people. Nothing does this more than the loss of a friend. Recently, a co-worker of mine named Bob Hug has past way. He had a heart attack while riding his bicycle home from work. His manner of death was sad and tragic. However, let make no mistake about it, there is nothing sad and tragic about our friend Bob. I decided to write this tribute to Bob, not to focus on the unhappy moments in his life, but rather the joy and passion that he expressed to us all everyday. I only knew Bob for about 9 months, but working closely with him everyday gained me enough knowledge to feel I truly knew him. Inside the office, Bob was our resident MS SQL Reporting guru. He really had mastered this technology. There were no questions or issues with reporting that Bob could not solve.

He was a quite individual, but had no problems expressing how he felt too the people that knew him on any given day. I think that he enjoyed expressing himself most by the choice of whichever colorful T-shirt that he would wear to work that day. Most days it would be a typical all black shirts with some expression written across it that I just didn’t get. The expressions would often change based on his mood. One particular shirt I remember him wearing had the Intel logo on it with the wording “Geek Inside” instead of “Intel Inside”. I think he was trying to say that he was a geek and proud of it. As of lately, his t-shirts were all different variations on types of adverting for the Tour d’France. He loved cycling. Over the last few weeks he was so excite about the current running of the Tour d’France. He couldn’t wait to update us all on the current status of the race; even thou I had no idea what he was taking about I would try to listen.

            As far as I knew of his home life, he was really into working around the house. He loved to work on his cactus garden. I remember him telling me how excited he was when he found some special cactus that grew even in the cold winter. I wish I could remember some more about various conversations that we had, but unfortunately these details have since faded away.

            During the announcement of Bob’s death at our company, our department head Gene, had brought to light an old American Indian believe. “To speak the name of the dead, is to bring them back to life.” Perhaps with this tribute to Bob flowing throughout the Internet, he’ll be able to live on better in our memories. Although his journey though life has ended, he has most definately moved on to a better place and found true salvation.

 

God bless you Bob. You will be missed

Where is this going? January 4, 2007

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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I thought before I start blogging about what I think is great about asp.net and the Microsoft .net technologies, I should give a little background about myself so everyone can have a better understanding of where I’m coming from, but then I figured that if you really wanted to know about me, you could just visit that section of my blog. So anyway, here we go.

 

There are two concepts that make asp.net the best web platform. The first is that since it support C# and VB.net as languages for development and both of these are fully object orientated languages, this means that we can maximize all the great features that a oo language gives us, such as encapsulation, inheritance, and strong value types.

 

I know there are other web platforms that support oo languages, such as jsp. This brings us to the second concept that makes asp.net the best. That’s the .Net framework itself. The framework has a vast number of classes that we can use, inherit, or override. This is a great time saver since we don’t need to write code to perform every minor task that we need to do. Over the next few weeks I’m going to spend some time blogging in depth about concrete examples of how asp.net leverage the oo languages and the .Net framework to perform some complicated task with ease of use to the developer.

 

Stay tuned.

My First Posting… December 30, 2006

Posted by gcorbin in Uncategorized.
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First off, Happy New Year. I’m new to the world of blogging. I’ve recently taking an interest in writing articles on development technologies and topics. I think that the best way for me to explore my new found interest is to share my thoughts on development technologies, such as, asp.net and other topics with all of you. So, the purpose of this blog will be for me to express my ideas on the world of developer and asp.net. Hope you all enjoy.

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