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Akismet is all the rage among the kids these days for blocking comment spam.  Started by the founder of Wordpress, Matt Mullenweg, Akismet is a RESTful web service used to filter comment spam.  Simply submit a comment to the service and it will give you a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether it thinks the comment is spam.

In order to use Akismet you need to sign up for a free non-commercial API key with WordPress and hope that your blog engine supports the Akismet API.

There are already two Akismet API implementations for ASP.NET, but they are both licensed under the GPL which I won’t allow near Subtext (for more on open source licenses, see my series on the topic).

So I recently implemented an API for Akismet in C# to share with the DasBlog (despite the bitter public mudslinging between blog engines, there is nothing but hugs behind the scenes.) folks as part of the Subtext project, thus it is BSD licensed.

You can download the assembly and source code and take a look.  It is also in the Subtext Subversion repository.

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FebreezeThere’s nothing worse than waking up on game day and realizing you forgot to wash your soccer jersey from last game.


Thank god for Febreeze!

UPDATE: The Febreeze worked! We won 8 to 1!

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I saw this story on the debugging section of Anecdota and thought it was funny, though I find it hard to believe.

Laptop warmer {.post-title}

In 1998, I made a C++ program to calculate pi to a billion digits. I coded it on my laptop (Pentium 2 I think) and then ran the program. The next day I got a new laptop but decided to keep the program running. It’s been over seven years now since I ran it. and this morning it finished calculating. The output:


Mindblowing eh? I looked in the code of my program, and I found out that I forgot to output the value.

You would think he’d do a test run for smaller digits of PI, but I’ve done things like that.  You make a small test run. It works. You make a tiny tweak that shouldn’t affect anything and then start it running because you’re in a hurry.  Seven years later…

Of course, most (if not all) algorithms for calculating PI aren’t all or nothing.  Usually they start calculating digits immediately, so there ought to be immediate output as you calculate PI to further and further digits, unless this person decided to store all billion digits in a string before displaying it.

tags: C++, Bugs, PI

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Conceptus, a client of my company, recently launched not one, but two blogs using Subtext.

I emphasize two because I only really knew that their CEO wanted to start a blog.  Of course, once you have Subtext set up, it’s quite easy to start another blog.

This is our first (of hopefully many) commercial implementations of Subtext.  The best thing about this particular project was that our client was very kind in contributing some of the customization work we did back to the Subtext project.

For me, I loved that this projected combined my passion for Subtext with my passion for feeding my family.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional so my brief description of the product is not medical advice. This is merely information I gleaned off their product website.  For medical advice, consult your doctor.

To give you more background, the client is named Conceptus and they’ve developed a non-surgical permanent birth control device and procedure that takes around 35 minutes (not including doctor waiting room time and a typical post procedure wait of 45 minutes).  Their procedure beats the pants off the typical alternative, tubal ligation (getting the tubes tied).

We worked with this client before under the direction of Shepard Associates to develop Conceptus’s consumer focused site and their doctor focused site, both built on top of DotNetNuke.

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Game Way back when I announced the first Roadmap for Subtext, I stated that Subtext would remove the multiple blogs feature and only support a single blog.  Fortunately I was persuaded by many commenters to abandon that change and continue to support multiple blogs.  Instead, I set out to simplify the process of configuring multiple blogs.

Now I am really glad that I did so.  I currently have three blogs running off of a single installation of Subtext.

  1. This one
  2. My non-techie blog
  3. My soccer team

The benefit of this approach is that setting up a new blog is very easy. Rather than dealing with the rigamorel of setting up another IIS site and database, I can simply add a new DNS entry and point it to my existing IP address, add a host header in IIS, and then create the blog in my Host Admin.

Three easy steps to a new blog.  I better be careful or I may get too crazy with this.  A blog for every day of the week, anyone?  You know, to color coordinate with my outfit.

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UPDATE: In one comment, szeryf points out something I didn’t know and invalidates the need for the tool I wrote. This is why I post this stuff, so someone can tell me about a better way! Thanks szeryf! I’ve updated the post to point out the better technique.

Based on my recent spate of posts, you can probably guess that I am working on improving a particular build process. 

In this situation, I have a pre-build step to concatenate a bunch of files into a single file.  I tried to do this with a simple command like so:

FOR %%A in (*.sql) do CALL COPY /Y Output.sql + %%A Output.sql

Yeah, that would work, but it is so sloooooow.

Szeryf points out that I can simply pass *.sql to the COPY command and get the same result.

copy *.sql output.sql

This ends up running plenty fast as it doesn’t dumbly iterate over every file calling COPY once per file. Instead it lets COPY handle that internally and more efficiently. How did I not know about this?

So I wrote a one minute app by simply scavenging the code from BatchEncode and concatenating text files instead.

     sourcedir: source directory path
     extension: examples... .sql, .txt
     output:             the resulting file.
     encoding:  optional: utf7, utf8, unicode, 
                        bigendianunicode, ascii

     All paths must be fully qualified.

This ended up being mighty fast!

I figure someone out there might need to do this exact same thing in their build process and won’t mind using such crappy code.

Technorati Tags: Tips, TDD, Utilities

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Hand I am going to pull a Nostradamus here and predict that the Mix series of conferences (did I ever tell you how much I loved Mix06?) will end with Mix09 if they even reach that point.  Why do I make this prediction?  Because Microsoft has,, and registered, but not (although is available at the moment).  ;)

I know, I’m being rather silly.  This evening I was on a Skype chat with Atwood and Galloway asking when is the next big conference that we should all attend.  Atwood’s reply was Mix07 which is a bit long of a wait, but Ok.  That got me wondering if they plan on some more Mix conferences afterwards.

If they do, looks like Microsoft has it covered for the next three years.

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From Wikipedia:

You’re a struggling young 15th century composer (because who lived to be old back then?) in Europe struggling to make ends meet while trying to advance the state-of-the-art when it comes to counterpoint.

Perhaps you’re also dabbling in tonality as the next big thing in music, going so far as to call it Music 2.0 because you know that people are tired of that cookie-cutter modal music everyone else is producing.

What do you do to scrape by?

Well if you were lucky, you’d catch the attention of the Medici family.  Fuggedabout the Sopranos, if you want a lesson in powerful Italian families, the Medicis make episodes of Cribs look like a documentary on poverty.  With immense wealth, power, and influence, they had a big hand in jump starting the Italian Renaissance.

Many of the great artists of the time honed their crafts under the patronage of the Medicis such as Michelangelo and Donatello (thus paving the way for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).  They were also patrons of the sciences, funding Galileo in much of his work.

I started thinking about all this when I read John Lam’s post, Open Source, The Microsoft Community and Funding.  Like the struggling 15th century composer, John is working on something that has a very small niche audience at the time.  However, it also has the potential to be the next big thing in .NET development, who knows?

A project like this is not necessarily something VCs line up to throw money at, because its commercial viability may lie far in the future or because it is ahead of its time and not well understood.  This is perhaps why John mentions in his comments that he is looking for a patron.

Yes, I am looking for a patron, and hopefully something will come out of my meetings here this week.

Another commenter then asks the question…

Doesn’t expecting to be paid for OSS work also belong in the “sense of entitlement” box? That someone chooses to develop and publish software in their spare time is that same as me choosing to go climbing in my spare time, and I doubt anyone will pay me to do that.

I wonder.  Did Galileo feel a sense of entitlement every time he had a bowl of pasta paid for by his patron while working on his equations?  What about Michelangelo?  Perhaps they would have if they were the only ones to enjoy their own work.  In their cases, their work was shared for many to benefit, unlike the rock climber.

In some respects, I see parallels with open source software in the recent direction of the music industry.  Many music critics feel the music industry is stuck in a rut with cookie-cutter music artists who all sound the same dominating the air waves.  The cost to produce a hit is so large, that the studios are unwilling to take gambles on something innovative (with notable exceptions of course!)

Not only that, the music industry is waging a losing battle against technology that makes it essentially free to copy and distribute its product.

Hmmm. What else is free to copy and distribute?  Oh, I know.  Open Source Software!The key difference obviously is that OSS makes this distribution intentional, causing many to wonder whether these people are simply nuts (we are).  Free distribution is the whole point in OSS.

So what is in store for the music industry? Some have suggested that the music industry will die if it does not adapt.  One proposed means to fund musicians is to take a fresh look at the patronage system, though refitted for the Internet Age.  MySpace comes to mind in that regards.  Perhaps some budding Medicis are online looking to start a new renaissance in music.

I’m not enough of a historian to understand the Medici’s true motivations in funding art and science.  Did they do it out of pride in their city to demonstrate to the world how Florence is the source of great art and science?  Was it pure showmanship?  Did someone lose a bet?  Or was there simply a desire to support the creation of beauty, whether it take the form of science or art?

Like I said, I have no idea, but I think the answer might shed light on whether the model of patronage would work today.

Recent discussions around who should contribute to Open Source projects tend to argue (myself included) that those who benefit from Open Source should consider contributing back to it.

Unfortunately only looking at it this way frames OSS as a quid-pro-quo situation.  You get what you give.  But many OSS project founders don’t see it that way.  I can’t speak for John, but I bet he gives a lot to his project without expecting an equivalent contribution from others.  What about the other side of the coin then?

Will we see the rise of the Medicis of Open Source Software, patrons with deep pockets who view interesting open source projects as a form art or science worth supporting because they push their fields forward, whether or not it equivalently lines their own pockets with cash? Or should the only software that be produced be software that is commercially viable, much like music on the radio?

Some are calling upon Microsoft to take that role. If so, would that even be a good thing?  Quite possibly, if done well.

These are all questions I ask myself when I’m trying to procrastinate and start to get a bit too philosophical for my own good.  These are not intended to be leading questions trying to promote one view or another, but rather questions whose answers I am working through for myself.

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Jon Galloway is my batch file hero.  He’s the one who introduced me to the FOR %%A in ... syntax.

Today I needed to rename a bunch of files.  On one project, we haven’t kept our file extensions consistent when creating a stored procedure file in a Database project. Some of them had .prc extensions and others have .sql extensions.

I wanted to rename every file to use the .sql extension.  I couldn’t simply use a batch rename program because I wanted these files renamed within Subversion, which requires running the svn rename command.

So using a batch file Jon sent me, I wrote the following.

FOR %%A in (*.prc) do CALL :Subroutine %%A


svn rename %~n1.prc %~n1.sql

Pretty nifty.  For each file in the current directory that ends in the .prc extension, I call a subroutine.  That subroutine makes use of the %~n1 argument which provides the filename without the extension.

For help in writing your batch files, type help call in the command prompt.

I can see using this technique all over the place. I will leave it to my buddy Tyler to provide the Powershell version.

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I hesitate to blog this because this tool is really really really really rough, quick, and dirty.  As in it needs a big ol’ box of Tide.  

I needed to convert a bunch of UTF-16 text files into UTF-8 so I spent five minutes writing a little console app to do it.

This thing literally has no exception handling etc, but it gets the job done for my needs and I thought others might find it useful if they have exactly the same need. 

Hey, feel free to clean up the code and send it back to me, or point me in the direction of some free tool I should’ve used all along.

USAGE: batchencode extension encoding [backup]
    extension: file extension with the dot. ex .sql, .txt
    encoding:  values... utf7, utf8, unicode, bigendianunicode, ascii
    backup:    optional fully qualified (sorry) backup directory.

Download the code here.

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Dumb and
Dumber In general I like to regale my readers with stories of my brave accomplishments, ideally embellished to make me look like a hero. 

But last night I was dealing with a problem that when I realized the solution, I knew I deserved a big red WTF on my forehead.

I was playing around with an Atlas UpdatePanel in a form on some existing code.  No matter what I tried, the site would perform what appeared to be a full post back.  I started cursing Atlas and it’s gee-whiz-bang-newfangled-broken UpdatePanel.

This morning, before work I thought I would take a quick look at the underlying code behind (not sure why I didn’t do this last night).  Right there in the submit button event handler was the following line of code (actually slightly modified for brevity).


I had totally forgotten that there was a redirect in response to that button event!  So the UpdatePanel was working just fine.  The apparent post back was actually a redirect.

See, that’s the problem with software. It does exactly what you tell it to do. Even when you mean otherwise.

tags: Atlas, WTF

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UPDATE: Looks like this will get fixed in the next release according to a comment on Steve’s blog.

Steve Harman, a Subtext developer, was prototyping using Atlas in Subtext and encountered a rather problematic bug.

Not only did he encounter the bug, he went through the hard work to dig into the source of the bug right down to the line of code and proposes a fix.  How is that for constructive criticism?

Unfortunately, he hasn’t received any response from the Atlas team (at the time of this posting) regarding whether or not they recognize this as a bug and if they will fix it.  He subsequently filed an official bug report at Microsoft Connect.

This is not some arcane bug, so you may get bit by it as well if you use any browser extension such as CoComment with Atlas. 

Please validate and vote on this bug here.

tags: ASP.NET, Atlas

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Remember my recent post in which I suggested that we need more heuristic approaches to the comment spam problem?

Check out this new **NoBot control in the Atlas Control Toolkit.  I wonder if this came out before or after I wrote my piece, because I don’t want y’all to think I cribbed my ideas from this control.  It has a couple features that I mentioned.

  • Forcing the client’s browser to perform a configurable JavaScript calculation and verifying the result as part of the postback. (Ex: the calculation may be a simple numeric one, or may also involve the DOM for added assurance that a browser is involved)
  • Enforcing a configurable delay between when a form is requested and when it can be posted back. (Ex: a human is unlikely to complete a form in less than two seconds)
  • Enforcing a configurable limit to the number of acceptable requests per IP address per unit of time. (Ex: a human is unlikely to submit the same form more than five times in one minute)

I think that will be a nice minor addition to a comment spam fighter’s toolkit. It’s Invisible CAPTCHA.  Very cool!

tags: ASP.NET, Atlas, Comment Spam

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UPDATE: Via Dare I learned that the video was leaked to YouTube prior to its world premier and has been taken down. You can find the song on Weird Al’s MySpace page. I’ve updated my link.

White and

This video from Weird Al Yankovich cracks me up with such lyrical gems like this:

The only question\ I ever thought was hard.\ Is do I like Kirk?\ Or do I like Picard?\

Mad props to Al whose flow could give Eminem a run for his money.  Click on the image to watch the video on YouTube. Beware, the tune is catchy and you might catch yourself singing it later.

Via Jason Calacanis.

tags: Humor, Funny, Video, Geek, Nerdy

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CC Share Alike License: For whatever reasons, I happen to be somewhat well endowed in the forehead region.  My wife (bless her heart) likes to refer my forehead as my Sandwich Compartment.

She jokes that I can keep a sandwich in there, maybe even a soda.  When she says this, she mimics the motion of opening up my forehead like a cooler and reaching in to grab a nice delicious sandwich.

A while ago we were talking about .NET bloggers in general because we just had dinner with Jeff Atwood.  I showed her Scott Hanselman’s blog as an example of a really really popular .NET blog.  She remarked,

Well he must be smart!  His forehead is even bigger than yours!

See for yourself with these comparison photos.

MeScott\ Ready for a picnic

I told this story to Scott today via Skype and he confided in me that someone once referred to his forehead as his fivehead.

If I had been drinking a Coke at that point, it would have been snorted all over my keyboard.  Many thanks to Scott for allowing me to share this story, albeit grudgingly. ;)

tags: Sandwich, Scott Hanselman, Forehead

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UPDATE: I remember that Scott Hanselman proposed that Microsoft put together an organization like INETA for Open Source Software in an editorial aside a while back while discussing NDoc.

Hanselman Editorial Aside: It’s a shame that Microsoft can’t put together an organization like INETA (who already gives small stipends to folks to speak at User Groups) and gave away grants/stipends to the 20 or so .NET Open Source Projects that TRULY make a difference in measurable ways. The whole thing could be managed out of the existing INETA organization and wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred grand - the price of maybe 3-4 Microsoft Engineers.

This sounds like a great idea and it is a shame I didn’t think to link to it in my discussion here.

Money money money
Mooooney!Dave writes that Microsoft should financially support open source projects in response to this blog post on Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise.  There are two key points he makes in defense of his thesis.

  1. It’s in Microsoft’s own financial best interest.
  2. It is good PR for Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Financial Benefit

For the first point, Dave supplies anecdotal evidence in which open source software (DotNetNuke which has been supported by Microsoft) helped his company keep costs low and stay in business when they were just about to fold.  Because of the turnaround, Microsoft received the financial benefit that his company was still around to purchase Microsoft licenses as they received funding.

Although I tend to believe this type of evidence as my own company has also implemented DotNetNuke successfully for a client in a project that would have otherwise been unprofitable, I am not easily convinced by anecdotal evidence.  I doubt Microsoft would be.

It would be interesting to see Microsoft fund some studies to bolster or contradict these claims.  If open source software built on Microsoft tools really does benefits Microsoft financially, they would probably like to know by how much.

Microsoft’s PR Benefit

Now this argument is a more compelling to me. As Dave points out, performing a Google search on the term Evil Empire and Microsoft shows up on the first page of results.

It’s amazing when you think about it.  Despite the legion of Microsoft bloggers who put a real, articulate, and passionate human face to Microsoft, Microsoft still suffers from an image problem.  I think the world of Microsoft because of bloggers like Dare, Steve, Clemens, Chris, and Don to name too few.

Why should Apple or Google enjoy the so hot right now status when Microsoft is the one really opening up.  Microsoft’s PR problem seems to extend to its ability to retain top talent lately, though I don’t know if the perceived talent drain is truly real (they could be hiring just as many top quality replacements but we don’t hear about it).

I don’t know if supporting open source software would suddenly give people warm and fuzzies when they think of Microsoft, but it might attract developers to the platform who would otherwise be lured to Ruby on Rails or other such alternative platforms.

My Take On This

Ultimately I think Microsoft is not a charity and should do what’s best for Microsoft. Ultimately, I think it is in its best interest to look at this seriously and consider helping projects (like NDoc) out.

As for me, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m going around looking for a handout.  It’s not why I started this project nor why I devote my time to it. It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to spend my time and hone my skills, not to mention that the doormen at all the hot clubs in Los Angeles are Subtext users and let me cut to the front of the line (ok, maybe not).

I have implemented one instance of Subtext for a client at a steeply discounted rate, but I don’t see generating a huge amount of business from it.  The point being, I don’t know if Subtext specifically is a benefit that would even register a blip on Microsoft’s radar.  Could be I’m thinking too small.  At least I know some of my posts have helped developers find solutions to problems saving them money.

However if someone were to wave money in front of me to help develop it with a good business case, I probably wouldn’t turn it down.  I’m proud, but not stupid.

The situation I daydream about is one day having a position in which my job is to help a company implement some product that provides a service to the open source community (such as something like CodePlex, or a source search engine for open source software, or a blog host, etc…) and as part of my job description be given a decent amount of work time to lead development on Subtext.  The Subtext time would have to not be charity, but seen as contributing to the company by keeping it relevant to its consumers.

But again, I digress.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments, either here or over on Dave’s post.

UPDATE: Joe Brinkman has a great post on this topic that pretty much aligns with my views. However, I would only add that I do think it is in Microsoft’s best interest to be more active in leveraging successful open source projects to benefit Microsoft.

Especially in cases where software is licensed in a favorable manner (BSD baby!) for inclusion in its own products. Why write your own unit testing tool when you could have used MbUnit or NUnit and would not have any obligations to release your customizations if you so choosed (although my mom taught be that sharing was a good thing to do)?

tags: Open Source, Microsoft, Subtext

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Logo If you are using Subtext, or are using .TEXT and plan to use Subtext I need to ask you a few questions.  Please answer as your answers may determine whether or not some features are removed for the sake of simplification.

These questions revolve around the Advanced Options when creating or editing a post in the admin tool.

1. Do you use the Title URL field?

Now before you answer, let me explain what this field is used for. You might have values in that column, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is in use. 

The Title Url field is used to specify an ALTERNATE URL for the title of a blog post.  Ordinarily, the title of the blog post links to the blog post itself.  Older versions of .TEXT and Subtext would update that field with the URL to the blog post, which was unnecessary since we could generate that URL on the fly.

In my humble opinion, it is a bad idea to have the title of a blog post link elsewhere as it is confusing to users. Unless there are large numbers of users who have specific needs for this feature, I would like to remove it.

2. Do you ever enter values for Source Name and Source Url for a blog post?

Scott Watermasysk, the original creator of .TEXT (Subtext, I am your father) graciously pointed out the use of the Source and SourceUrl fields in the comments of this post. These are used for the optional RSS <source> element. It’s for properly attributing credit for a link when republishing a post from somewhere else (see the RSS spec). I’ve never seen any aggregators make use of this unfortunately and most people simply attribute others in the body of the post, so it is still a candidate for removal if nobody makes use of it. As far as I can tell, these fields are intended for comments, not for blog posts.  However the admin section does have text fields for entering these values.  But These values are NEVER displayed for blog posts.

I’m 99.9% sure I’ll be removing these fields for blog posts so in part, this question is a warning.  However if someone has an extremely compelling reason to keep them for blog posts, speak up now or forever hold your peace.

3. Would you find the ability to run Subtext off of another database such as MySql or Firebird very important?

I know some users might like to save a few bucks and go with .NET and MySql hosting.  I’ve thought about implementing multiple database support, but don’t want to undertake such a big task if there is no demand. 

Even if there is demand, it’d have to be overwhelming for me to consider doing it sooner rather than later.

Thanks! That’s all for now. I appreciate your responses.

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From the 37 Signals blog I find out that reflections are the new dropshadows.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the memo, but at least there is a nice simple javascript library to add reflections to images.

How long will it take someone to write a Windows Live Writer plugin to do the same?

So if it is working correctly, the image here should have a reflection.


UPDATE: Doesn’t seem to align quite right for me in Firefox, but looks great in IE.

Don’t you love jumping in on the latest fad? What will be next? BlackVelvet.js?