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2007 June — Visual Basic Feng Shui

Monthly Archives: June 2007

VB8 to have Runtime Agility

1
Filed under Software Architecture, VB Feng Shui

Leave it to MS to come up with the phrase Runtime Agility, but the concept, if I’m understanding it right, is very intriguing.


The post is here, but to summarize, Paul Vick is a lead on the VB team, and is discussing some of the items on the block for VB8.


He off hand mentions this…


Runtime agility. The ability to compile without a VB runtime, or targeting another VB runtime.”


Now, if I’m reading that right, this would seem to be huge. The idea of VB being able to “compile in” the runtime is something I know I’ve been asking for since VB3. Does it waste a little space? Sure. But it means you can truly have a single EXE “copy and deploy” type scenario.


And does this mean the .NET runtime bits that are necessary will get baked in as well? Too early to tell, I suppose. Still. Something very interesting to watch in the coming months.

+You+ Program It…

1
Filed under Hardware

Now here’s a nifty little gizmo.


80 Cores on a chip. What is that, Deca-Octa-Core?


You’ll need one hefty 10 core machine just to generate the code to run on it<g>.

Citrix Connection Error

3
Filed under Telecommuting, Troubleshooting, Utilities

I’m now in full rebuild mode after last weeks unfortunate RAID incident.


After installing Citrix Desktop and setting all my parms back up, I got


“The desktop you are trying to open is currently available only to administrators. Contact your administrator to confirm that the correct settings are in place for your client connection.”


After some digging around, I came across this Citrix posting that was exactly the problem.


I had the Citrix Connection set to “Server”, it needs to be “Published Application”.


Too bad the error message itself didn’t actually mention that. But it’s hard to find too much fault in that.


 

The VS Shell and Extension Methods

5
Filed under Software Architecture, VB Feng Shui

Here’s an interesting read on something coming down the pike with Visual Studio. Basically, it’s a customizable shell of VS that would theoretically allow you to build you’re own Visual Studio, language and all.


Likely, it’ll be on a complexity scale of integrating VBA into your app (anyone remember that 300-armed, greased-up monster squid?), but still, very interesting.


Another interesting read on Extension Methods coming in VB9. I’ve wondered why something like this hasn’t been in VB since the very early days of classes (anyone remember VB4?). Why, oh, why have I never been able to create a method like:

Public Function MyOwnReplace(Self as string, Arg as string) as String Extends String
Return Blah(Arg)
End Function

and then use it by calling the function method off of any ol’ string variable…

Debug.Print MyString.MyOwnReplace(Arg)

Maybe this is a contrived example, but the Dynamic languages concept of extending existing objects is something that just belongs in VB.


 

RAID Fun

2
Filed under Hardware, Troubleshooting

So ages ago, in internet time (or 9 months ago in real time), I set up a brand new machine, specifically for development with VS2005 and ASP.NET (because, well, it takes a dual core 2.66ghz, 4gb ram beast to be able to write a text file without your keystrokes backing up, but that’s another story).


I’d set up a RAID 0 (that’s striped), mainly for the added performance, which was pretty staggering. My intention was to pick up a couple more drives later and round it out to a RAID 0+1 (which I have in my server, protecting all my actual source, etc).


Anyway, a drive died, quite prematurely, and my machine is thus rendered a doorstop.


I sent off the RMA to replace the dead drive (still under warranty), and picked up 2 more to round the RAID out.


Then I discovered that the Gigabyte GA-965-DS3, otherwise a totally bad-ass mobo, doesn’t actually do raid 0+1. It only supports a 2 drive raid, either RAID 0 or RAID 1. Doh! Tip to manual writing guy: Don’t say things like…



Before you begin


Please prepare


1) At least two SATA Harddrives…If you do not want to create a RAID, you can only prepare one harddrive.


…”


That is a quote directly from the manual.


In my book, the implication there is that you could use more than 2 harddrives in the RAID. Unfortunately, such is not the case.


So I went off to the local computer store and picked up a PCIE 4 port SATA II RAID card, thinking I’d slap it in and be done.


Nay, spoketh St. Ignacious PCMCIA of the holy hardware. That card is PCIE x4, and my Gigabyte motherboard only has 3 completely unused PCIE x1 slots.


Back to the computer store.


I could get a PCI SATA II RAID card, but SATA II drives can pump 3Gbps, whereas a PCI slot can only manage about 266MBps. Does seem right to build up a smokin’ machine, then force it to breath through a pixie stick.


Ok, new mobo time.


Looks like the Gigabyte GA-965-DQ6 has all the bells and whistles, plus the right combination of RAID, PCI slots, ATI Crossfire compatibility, USB and Firewire, plus, it even has a serial port on the backplane, just right for hacking X10.


Note to self: Don’t bother “presetting” up a harddrive that you might want to mirror in a RAID later. Both the Gigabyte built in RAID and Window’s software RAID (via “dynamic disks”) want to obliterate any disk they RAIDify.


The nice dedicated RAID cards (like the Promise Fasttrack), I believe can handle that. Hell, one I was reading specs on seemed to imply it could convert, on the fly, between RAID 1, 0, 5 or 0+1, provided you have enough free space. Now that’s a good time!

Never joke about Hardware problems

2
Filed under Hardware, Troubleshooting

A few days ago, I posted light-hearted jab about some computer problems on the ISS. Well, never one to walk away from an opportunity, karma visited yesterday with no less than a complete failure of one drive in a RAID 0 I have on my main workstation.
For those that have never run RAIDs, it stands for “redundant array of inexpensive disks” and you can run several different configurations.

  • RAID 0 – striped, 2 drives contain various pieces of files, such that you get double performance because both drives can be busy writing and reading different pieces of the same file at the same time. You get almost twice the performance and still have access to the full capacity of both drives.
  • RAID 1 – mirrored, 2 drives contain exactly the data between them. Speeds up read performance, and provided an online backup of data. You have 2 drives but the effective disk space of just 1.
  • RAID 0+1 – striped and mirrored. Best of both of the above.
  • RAID 5, 6 etc – Even better but typically requires higher end dedicated RAID cards.

I had set up a RAID 0 for performance, intending to add 2 additional drives and mirror the setup later, for fault tolerance.
Well, later didn’t come quickly enough, it seems, and one of the less than 9-month-old Western Digital WD3200KS drives (sweet drives, BTW, unbelievably quiet and cool running), went belly up way before its time.
So, I’m filling out RMAs to return the dead drive and ordering two more to complete the full RAID 0+1 setup.
A question for anyone who’s ever done this before. Can I setup a striped RAID 0 now, and add the 2 additional drives later to convert it to a mirrored/striped RAID 0+1 later, when the 2 drives come in, or do I have to have them all in place when I create the RAID initially?
Haven’t had much luck finding an answer online.

PowerShell Curiosities

2
Filed under Software Architecture, Utilities

I’ve recently read several blogs about how great Windows PowerShell is, so I decided to check it out myself last night.

I didn’t get very far before I came across this on the download page:

“The .NET Framework 2.0 is required in order to install Windows PowerShell”

Ok, fair enough.

And then I proceeded to actually check out the download page, where they present no fewer than 20 different download options, including variants for “English” and “localized”, x86 and x64, plus Itanium.

First, I know from experience that it would be almost insane to suggest that small development shops try to maintain 20 different downloads of what is essentially the same product. MS can get away with this because they’ve got lots of money to throw at the problem, but is 20 different downloads of a command shell utility really justified? Ok, some of them are for some MultiLingual UI addon, so the total versions of the utility iself is fewer than that, but not by much.

The bigger issue I have here, though, is that I thought, and MS would surely have everyone believe, that the .NET runtime and the JIT compiler within should automatically be handling the differences between x86, x64 and Itanium. That’s the whole point of the JIT, right? The multilanguage versions? I can accept them, with reservations, but the different processor versions? I’m no expert on the PowerShell internals, but if it requires the .NET framework, that would seem to imply that it’s managed code, which would imply that the JIT should take care of the differences between platforms. And if it’s not managed code, why not? Is it that MS is saying that managed code is good enough for everyone else, but not good enough for them?

Reminds me of the discovery I made ages ago that Outlook communicates with Exchange via RPC, not via DCOM, even though DCOM was being pushed hard by Microsoft at the time. Another case of “good for you, not good enough for us”, perhaps?

Oh, and PowerShell looks like a very handy tool for Administrators. I’m sure I’ll find some uses for it eventually. But, get-childitems -path env: just to retrieve the current environment vars? There’s something to be said for mapping all sorts of various available info like that into a consistent interface, but my stack’s too deep as it is right now to pile this syntax on top just yet.

You think your computer problems are bad?

1
Filed under Misc, Troubleshooting

How’s this for a rough IT problem. Apparently, the ISS is having some difficulties getting several fairly important systems back online after some problems.

Of course, if they need computer help, I’d love to offer to take a trip up to help debug things<g>.

Wouldn’t that be an awesome GeekSquad tech call!

No one’s competent

2
Filed under Software Architecture, VB Feng Shui

There’s an interesting opinion piece by Kathleen Dollard in last month’s Visual Studio magazine. The latest issue has another piece by Kathleen that is very similar. There’s no link to the latest one, because that issue has just come out (I got mine not 30 minutes ago).

In them, she’s essentially saying that the .NET framework, and all the various supporting enterprise frameworks, have become so large that no one can hope to be competent enough in them to be able to intelligently determine what to use, when to use it and when to stay away.

I couldn’t agree more. But despite comments in the article that she is “more optimistic today” and that “the revolution has begun”, I still come away from the articles sensing a muted dread. Fear that suddenly, skills you possess today and have honed over the years will become worthless. The value of the knowledge you currently have is drying up like last weeks doughnut holes.

And I’m just not down with that.

The fact is, my experiences seem to suggest that the less you know about these high level frameworks, the better off you are. I’m not saying don’t get familiar with them. I’m saying that if you spend time to learn the basics of computer functionality, hardware, interfaces, binary, and object oriented principles like encapsulation, polymorphism and inheritance, details of specific frameworks just tend to come out in the wash.

On the other hand, if you spend all your time focusing on a specific framework, when it’s no longer de rigeur, you’re screwed.

Microsoft has created some great stuff, to be sure, and some of the newest bits out of the pipe certainly seem compelling, WPF probably more so than anything else. But it’s also thrown out plenty of red herrings, costing companies untold money before people realized that “the silver bullet of the day” probably wasn’t a good idea after all.

Back to the knowledge issue though. When VB1 came out, and only a bit later VB3, everyone exclamed at how great it was because “you didn’t have to know the nuts and bolts of the Windows API to get something built for Windows”. Which was true, unless you wanted to build an program you could actually do something with.

The fact is, VB was like that first step down into the pool. It lets you get your feet wet and get used to cold water before you dive in headfirst. Plus you get to feel for sure whether there’s any water in the pool.

But eventually, you either dive in, or you decide you don’t like programming.

VB.Net has always been more like the diving board. You either walk away, or you dive in, and you won’t know if there’s water in the pool till you feel it or you bash your skull on the gunite.

I think there’s a bigger issue here, though. Emphasizing all these layers of Linq, Sharepoint, WPF, WF, WCF, Ajax, and blah blah blah, won’t help encourage anyone to dive in, and that’s what VB.net needs to be doing. Instead we get, what, the MY classes. Puh..leaze! At least edit and continue finally came back with VS 2005. Where’s the genius that decided it’d be a good idea to leave it out in the first VS releases, anyway?

Don’t get me wrong. You can create some hardcore stuff with VB.Net, a lot easier than was ever possible in VB. But you get some hardcore baggage coming along for the ride too. And that’s unfortunate, because falling CS enrollments may mean a pretty sweet employment future for me, but it bodes some not so sweet prospects for our long term technological advancement as a nation.

And dammit, I want my flying car before I GOTO END !

Superman’s home found

0
Filed under Misc

Completely unrelated to programming, but very cool anyway.

Mexican geologists discovered a cave filled with giant (and by giant, I mean some as much as 36 feet long) gypsum crystals. There is a great picture of it in the latest National Geographic.

At this point, I’d love to include a picture of one of the crystal caves, I’m just not sure about copyright issues surrounding doing so. I suspect it would be ok, but better to err on the safe side.

Anyway, check the full article here. Be sure the next through the pictures.

Reminds me of that really cheesy movie from several years ago, The Core. If I’m remembering correctly, they used a big drilling machine to drill to the earth’s core, but on the way, they fell into a huge cavern full of giant crystals. In the movie, I think they were diamonds (of course). Life imitating art? Should I really call The Core art? I’m just not sure…