Windows OneCare Live

Following on from my earlier posting…Windows OneCare Live offers a similar service:

This PC health service is always on, running quietly in the background. It helps give you round-the-clock protection and maintenance—virus scanning, firewalls, tune ups, file backups, the whole nine yards. Delivered to you in a smooth, hassle-free package.

Another e-mail scam…

If you receive an e-mail with content similar to this, just delete it:


We are planning to include you in the new campus magazine in an article titled “[TOPIC]”. Can you approve the photo and article for us before we go to printing please?

If any details are wrong then we can amend before printing on Wednesday the 1st of February so please get back to us as soon as possible. We have attached the photo and article.

Many Thanks & Best Regards,

It may well have an attachment “” that contains an executable application – do not under any circumstances, try and run this application. It is a trojan horse.

More details can be found here.

ZEB – Zero E-mail Bounce

I am experimenting with zero e-mail bounce.

Initial results reveal something I already know: my inbox is very full (I have nearly 900 unread e-mails in my primary inbox…a fact my PocketPC device takes great delight in reminding me of every time I switch it on! I won’t tell you about the secondary inbox that’s kept on a different machine…it has e-mail going back 10 years…)

ZEB – it must work, Heather’s doing it, Scott’s doing it, Omar’s doing it, Dan’s doing it, Jonathan’s doing it.

Steps to create your ZEB Search Folder

From Outlook 2003, Click File New…Search Folder…
In the New Search Folder Dialog Box scroll down to the bottom and select “Create a Custom Search Folder”
Select Choose…
Give your Search folder a name like “Email ZEB” and select Criteria
Click the Advanced Tab and add the following
Field: Received, Condition: On or before, Criteria: “Two days ago” (or whatever you want your incoming threshold to be)
Field: Flag Color, Condition: Equals, Criteria: Red Flag
Field: Flag Color, Condition: Equals, Criteria: Yellow Flag
Click OK to save you’re Search Folder
Move the Search Folder to your Folder Favorites
Right click on the ZEB folder and select Properties…and select “Show Total Number of Items”]

ZEB History
30/01/2006: 1811 items in the ZEB folder
31/01/2006: 1612 (train ride to Aberdeen with the PocketPC)
01/02/2006: 797 (big push, big clear-out)
02/02/2006: 413 409 169
05/02/2006: 143
06/02/2006: 67
09/02/2006: 19
11/02/2006: 0 (now, let’s see if I can keep on top of things and keep it in single figures or at zero)

Standard Tools/Applications

I’ll probably extend this list as time goes by, but since a few folks have asked me specifically about backup and hard disk cleaning, I thought I would share my finds here.

For backup, I use Cobian Backup. I’ve been using it for a long time now, it has proven to be the ideal background backup application (also a service).

For hard disk cleaning, I use CCleaner. It’s fully-featured and provides a means of cleaning out virtually everything that is unnessary or not required to keep the PC running. It’ll clear down index.dat files, chkdsk fragments, IIS log files amongst many others.

For “Favourites” and URL management, I use URLBase. At the moment I still use version 5.5 which meets most of my needs. Version 6 does look a lot nicer sporting an Outlook look’n’feel. At €29 (Euros) it’s not too expensive either.

If you’re interested in other goodies worthy of note, Scott makes mention of a whole raft of them here and here.

On another note, via here, Omar has a great tip if you are re-building an operating system install and you use Microsoft Outlook: manually migrate your Outlook Autocomplete history (manual version here).

Windows Live Safety Center

With more and more users relying on their PCs for day-to-day activities, what happens when things start to go wrong? Finding reliable experts can be a tricky and expensive process. Luckily, there is some help at hand in the form of the Windows Live Safety Center.

The [Microsoft] Windows Live Safety Center promises to:

  • Check for and remove viruses
  • Learn about threats
  • Improve your PC’s performance
  • Get rid of junk on your hard disk

You’ll need to “allow pop-ups” for this tool to work.

There’s an excellent Community section, where you can expect to find answers to such questions as:

  1. My PC is slow
  2. I’ve lost an important file. How can I find it?
  3. My PC crashes a lot
  4. I need to get rid of a virus
  5. I’m having problems installing or using hardware
  6. My PC takes a long time to start up or reboot
  7. I’m having problems installing or using software
  8. I’m having problems with Microsoft Update
  9. I need to be an Administrator to install or use a program

The site itself looks to be taking the form of a portal, offering the collation of a number of other services including Windows AntiSpyware (beta).

Virtual PC Boot Disks

I’ve been finding myself working inside Virtual PC sessions a lot of late, mainly for product reviews, beta products, Visual Studio 2005 and Internet Explorer 7.0.

It hasn’t been a problem for me, however a few folks who have just started out using Virtual PC have asked me about book disks and how to get a Virtual PC session started. I’m fortunate enough to have bootable Windows XP SP2 media and bootable Windows 2000 media, so it has never been a problem for me. However, since many of the MSDN operating system installs are now supplied as CD (or DVD) images, once you’ve burnt the image to CD (or DVD), making it bootable can sometimes be an irksome process.

Luckily, Microsoft has made a collection of boot disks available for download; RoudyBob.NET has done a nice job bringing them altogether in one place. Get your book disks here: RoudyBob.NET

PowerPoint “clip art”

Jonathan has put together a collection of downloads that contain clipart for use in PowerPoint (or whatever your favourite non-Microsoft presentation tool is).

I have to admit to having a slightly less polished version of similar clipart that I use myself – it’s good to see that I’m not alone! I’ll try and make some time to tidy mine up for posting here, but in the meantime, if you need some good clipart, I can strongly recommend that you take a look at Jonathan’s collection.

Celebrity Big Brother 2006: backing track…

It was good to see Michael Barrymore essentially winning Celebrity Big Brother last night – he was, after all, the last celebrity to leave the house. Kudos to the non-celebrity winner, I’m sure she’ll do well. And well done to the other housemates for giving Michael a standing ovation (well, all of them except Marsh whose face was tripping her, only managing a false smile when the camera was on her).

I did like the backing track that Channel 4 used for the finale, the bit where they brought together all the best bits from the 2006 show. After the briefest lyric search, it turns out it was the Thirteen Senses – the track was called Into The Fire, from their Invitation album.

Two years with broadband…

Well, that’s two years to the day since ADSL was activated and two years to the day since I started enjoying an always-on connection.

Have a guess how many times I’ve spoken to my ISP, Zen Internet? Not once. Never. And apart from the initial order’n’setup e-mails from two years ago, I’ve never had to e-mail them either.

I have only needed to bounce my NetGear router twice, both times due to abnormal weather conditions causing issues with the BT line.

Zen Internet have proven to be extremely reliable and worthy of recommendation.

If you don’t believe me, go here and compare Zen against other ISPs…the results are, well, rather favourable!

“the source code is the ultimate documentation”

The BBC reports (here too) that Microsoft is to allow access to the source code to selected products. This interesting move will hopefully satisfy the competition commission who are pushing Microsoft to provide more documentation for their products such that vendors can make their own products more compatible. So, rather than provide written textual documentation, Microsoft are saying that their code is their documentation. That’s true enough, gone are the days when developers had to maintain what amounts to two sets of documentation: the code and the written documentation that went with the code. With customers crying out for updates and bug fixes, it’s not difficult to guess which activity is ignored…updating the documentation.

Even comparatively recent, with the divergence of the code and the textual documentation, along came many attempts to integrate the documentation into the code, which is fine, just so long as it’s possible to “hide” the integrated help as it frequently gets in the way during the development process. I have to admit to disliking the bulk of automated documentation that I’ve seen so far: it’s either very much incomplete or there isn’t enough of it – a single line of documentation for a method isn’t really enough. So it’s for this reason that I prefer to treat the code as the best way of gaining an understanding of how something really does work. Remember that documentation goes out of date, folks don’t update it as frequently as they update the source code, the only surefire way of guaranteeing that you’re about to do the right thing, is to look at the source code.

Microsoft’s legal chief, Brad Smith goes as far as saying

the source code is the ultimate documentation…It should have the answer to any questions that remain

However, Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner disagreed:

“Normally speaking, the source code is not the ultimate documentation of anything…”

“[This is] precisely the reason why programmers are required to provide comprehensive documentation to go along with their source code.”

I’m afraid to say that I disagree with Neelie’s last statement. If I was building a product, whether it is software or hardware, and I was integrating it with a Microsoft product (or any software vendor for that matter), I would be happier with the source code rather than a large textual document. Yes, I would like an architectural overview of the system that I’m looking to integrate with, but that need not be more than a few pages and should be graphical in nature. I know that I’m not alone here: how many times have you been working with a product, following the documentation to the letter only to realise (hours later) that the documentation is factually incorrect? We’ve all been there! Frequently, documentation is created by a separate department, with minimal input from the original programmers. Or, the original programmers write the first draft of the documentation, then “the editors” take over an apply their magic…often changing the meaning or interpretation of something critical on the way!

If programmers are required to provide comprehensive documentation, then project managers/customers should allow the programmers sufficient time to create high quality documentation at the outset, and provide them with time to update it. Sadly, in my experience, documentation is one of the things project managers treat as contingency time, or it’s one of the first things that the customer insists is dropped from the project (“you can easily write the documentation later, can we have this extra feature instead?”)

Jack Reeves first raised this idea way back in 1992 when he published works such as What Is Software Design?, What Is Software Design: 13 Years Later and Letter to the Editor. Click here for more information about these essays.

“the source code is the ultimate documentation”, something not missed by this publication that is at least 16 years old:

agile world

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The code is the design

eXtreme Tayside – Second Meeting

Last night saw the second meeting of eXtreme Tayside. Interestingly, and this is not an uncommon pattern with user groups, not one of the folks who attended the first meeting (late November 2005) were at this meeting!

It was held at Dundee University’s new Queen Mother building. More information about the building can be found here. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the building which was rather interesting despite the fact that the original architect used the name “pod” to refer to the building’s various sections/pieces. The design appeared rather original and despite the lack of sun-blinds, offered some excellent features. As an aside, it also provides a home for dmag.

Anyway, we discussed a number of things, possible locations, venues, session topics, etc. Each person introduced themselves and told us a little bit about what they did and provided some insight into how they became interested in ‘agile’.

One thing that did come out during the introductions was the fact that test-driven development and continuous integration are rather popular. Gary mentioned that his firm use the notion of a “broken trophy” that gets given to the person who breaks the build – an interesting phrase that caught the attention of most of us. Naturally this reminded me of Dr. Neil Roodyn’s red screen/green screen that he demonstrated to Scottish Developers during a July 2005 presentation.

Given the reaction it got, I can see broken trophy entering the eXtreme Tayside vocabulary!