Bud Aaron
GGBlogger (Geriatric Geek)

Network Solutions Gold VIP Program

Today I received an email advising me “Congratulations! You have been selected for the Network Solutions Gold VIP Program” Now I get a bunch of messages from Network Solutions because a long time ago I chose them as my registrar. I usually just save these to my Outlook Network Solutions folder and move on.

This time my wife was in the room and I chuckled and said something about “Network Solutions has made me a Gold VIP member.” She said “So what does that mean?” Prompted by that I scrolled down the page to look at my “perks". Let’s see – Special pricing, 1 year free Web Forwarding, 1 hour of free support… etc etc until I hit “Enrollment in SafeRenew*

SafeRenew* simplifies your renewal process. It protects your domain name registrations and corresponding services in the event you forget or are unable to renew on time.

I’m thinking “Now ain’t that neat” I don’t use auto renew anyway and never have. Then I continued reading:

Beginning June 24th, 2012 your domains* (that’s 10 days away) will automatically renew. To ensure continuation of service, please be certain you have a valid credit card on file. If you do not wish for your services to be automatically renewed, please click here to log into account manager and opt out of the SafeRenew service.

Whoa Network Solutions is going to start spending my money without so much as a by your leave sir!!! I don’t bloody think so and how truly magnanimous of them I can “click here” to opt out of what I didn’t opt in for. Talk about furious! I still am.

Now the kicker is: if my wife hadn’t been curious and if I’d had a working credit card on file I wouldn’t have know this until one of my unwanted domain names auto renewed. Of course I was told “Oh – we’d have refunded your money” to which I say bull. In my view Networks Solutions is guilty of a crime of some sort. They DO NOT have a right to spend my money without asking!!!!! So watch out folks.



The World of SQL Database Deployment

In my early development days, I used Microsoft Access for building databases. It made things easy since I only needed to package the database with the installation package so my clients would have access to it. When we began the development of a new package in Visual Studio .NET I decided to use SQL Server Express. It was free and provided good tools - also free. I thought it was a tremendous idea until it came time to distribute our new software! What a surprise.

The nightmare

Ah, the choices! Detach the database and have the client reattach it to a newly installed – oh wait. FIRST my new client needs to download and install SQL Server Express with SQL Server Management Studio. That’s not a great thing, but it is one more nightmare step for users who may have other versions of SQL installed. Then the question became – do we detach and reattach or do we do a backup. It was too late (bad planning) to revert to Microsoft Access but we badly needed a simple way to package and distribute both the database AND sample contents.

Red Gate to the rescue

It took me a while to find an answer but I did find it in a package called SQL Packager sold by a relatively unpublicized company in England called Red Gate. They call their products “ingeniously simple” and I must agree with that description. With SQL Packager you point to the database (more in a minute) you want to distribute. A few mouse clicks and dialogs and you have an executable file that you can ship virtually anywhere and virtually any way which, when run, installs the database on your destination SQL Server instance! It really is that simple.

Easier to show than tell

Let’s explore a hypothetical case. Let’s say you have a local SQL database of customers and you have decided you want to share it with your subsidiaries or partners. Here is the underlying screen you will see on starting SQL Packager. There are a bunch of possibilities here but I’m going to keep this relatively simple. At this point I simply want to illustrate the simplicity of generating an executable to deliver your database. You will notice that you can set up a new package, edit an existing package or change a bunch of options.

Start SQL packager

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And the following is the default dialog you get on startup.

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In the next dialog, I’ve selected the Server and Database. I’ve also selected Windows Authentication.

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Pressing Next causes SQL Packager to run a number of checks and produce a report.

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Now you’re given a comprehensive list of what is going to be packaged and you’re allowed to change it if you desire.

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I’ve never made any changes here so I can’t really make any suggestions. The just illustrates the comprehensive nature of so many Red Gate products including this one.

Clicking Next gives you still further options.

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SQL Packager then works its magic and shows you a dialog with the results.

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Packager then gives you a dialog of the scripts it has generated.

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The capture above only shows 1 of 4 tabs. Finally pressing Next gives you the option to generate a .NET executable of a C# project. I’ve only generated an executable so I’m not in a position to tell you what the C# project looks like. That may be the subject of further discussions.

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You can rename the package and tell SQL Packager where to save it.

I’ve skipped a lot but this will serve to illustrate the comprehensive (and ingenious) things Red Gate does. All in all, it’s a superb way to distribute populated SQL databases. Oh – we’ll save running the resulting executable for later also but believe me it’s insanely simple.



Microsoft LightSwitch and SQL 2012

A couple of days ago I decided to reinstall the latest Microsoft Developer Training Kits. One of those kits was the Windows Azure Training Kit. It turned out to be a web matrix install that seemed to take forever. More importantly it installed SQL Server 2012 for me. It may have prompted me but I don’t remember but once installed I entered a couple of days of nightmare mode. My RSSBus ADO connection to QuickBooks had stopped working and worst of all LightSwitch was totally broken. The problem is it gave me several different exceptions but none of them led to a searchable solution.

I uninstalled LightSwitch. I uninstalled Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and then reinstalled them. After tearing my hair out (figuratively of course) I restarted Visual Studio and attempted to build a LightSwitch application and for the first time received a new message “Sql Server version not supported. 11.00.1750”. A search led me to a fix that needed to be installed on Visual Studio and finally things started working. My problem is that it took me forever and jumping through hoops to reach that error message and I hope this saves others. The URL for the fix is:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=FCDF4616-34D5-4923-8EFF-459648D598CE&displaylang=zh-c&displaylang=en

One last small note – BE SURE that your SQLEXPRESS or whatever instances are running. Check them with Services. Good luck.

I just thought I would add one new item to this blog entry thus keeping things all in one place. If you’ve ever been hit with the dread Red X you will know what I mean. The problem is that searching on the web for a solution will take you from Rome to China with few applicable answers. I finally found an answer that seems to fix the problem every time. Simply delete the contents in this location. C:\Users\[yourusername]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server Data\SQLEXPRESS

You may need to stop SQLEXPRESS using server manager to be allowed to delete these files and you should also start the windows explorer instance you use as an administrator. Don’t forget to restart SQLEXPRESS when you’re done. LightSwitch should now work fine.

Bud Aaron the Geriatric Geek bud@dotnetchecks.com



Accessing QuickBooks Data for Use in LightSwitch

Intuit Partner Platform and Data Access

I’m going to make some assumptions that will cover a lot of folks developing applications to work with QuickBooks.

1. You are running a copy of QuickBooks on your development machine.

2. You are running Visual Studio 2010 as your development environment of choice.

3. You have some flavor of Microsoft LightSwitch installed.

4. You want to access QuickBooks data on your machine to USE LightSwitch.

Well now you have an option. Head on over to http://www.rssbus.com and pick up a copy of their QuickBooks Data Provider for ADO.NET. A one developer license with royalty-free distribution will cost you $599 at the present time and in the next few minutes I’m going to help you get started using this package.

Although this software comes with a number of samples getting started was not all that intuitive for me. After a number of false starts I did a GoToMeeting with a gentleman named Casey and he showed me how to get started. The problem is that this package can serve in a number of capacities accessing QuickBooks data whether the data is local or remote so to get you started I am going to show you how to set things up locally to allow you to run QuickBooks Data Provider to use the samples supplied and to use LightSwitch to access the data. If you have a need for other setups you will need to consult their help files.

Let’s start with the QuickBooks Remote Connector provided as part of the package. You won’t find it in your menu choices in the start menu but if you cruise on down to c:\program files (x86)\RSSBus\RSSBus QuickBooks Data Provider\RemoteConnector you will find RemoteConnector.exe. I chose to pin it to my taskbar but you could also make it a desktop icon. This connector is a mini http listener and it’s easy to get multiple instances running and we don’t want that. I’ll have more on that in a bit.

When you start it you will get this:

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The most important thing to note is that we’re using port 2080. Now click the Users tab:clip_image002

Fill in a user name and password. This is strictly for the use of the data connector and has no other purpose. To find the company file you want to use click the browse button and you will get:

(Word of warning – clicking the Red X button at the upper right of the screen DOES NOT close the connector. To CLOSE the connector use the Exit button on the menu strip!!!!!)

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Choose the file you want to access and click the start button. This starts the connector in listening mode. EVERY time you run this it will generate a new connection. You can see these in the hidden files section.

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You only want ONE of these running at any given time. With one connector started and running you’re ready to move on to using the connection to access QB data.

So let’s access some data

My suggestion is to start the sample account application provided by RSSBus. The demos are installed as links when you install the Data Connector but you can also find them in Program Files (x86) under RSSBus. The form for the account application looks like this.

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Fill in the details using http://localhost:2080 and your user name and password that you used in the connector dialog:

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Before you go further open QuickBooks with the data you selected to use with the connector. With QuickBooks running click the Refresh button. QuickBooks should present you with the following screen:

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You have a number of options here but I chose Yes, always and allowed it o access personal data for my testing purposes. Click Continue… to get:

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First warning – select Yes unless you want to change it then a final warning:

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Click done and you can close QuickBooks if you like. Now click the refresh button on the account application and you should get this:

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You’re now accessing QuickBooks data from an application external to QuickBooks. I know it seems like a lot of work but if you follow the instructions above things should go smoothly. I ended up with about a dozen Remote Connectors running on some of my first attempts. It took Casey and a GoToMeeting session to get me sorted out. Now I love it LOL. I’ll do more with LightSwitch in another blog.

Bud Aaron – the Geriatric Geek

http://www.dotnetchecks.com



Craig Mundie's video

Timothy recently posted “Microsoft Shows Off Radical New UI, Could Be Used In Windows 8” on Slashdot. I took such grave exception to his post that I found it necessary to my senses to write this blog.
We need to go back many years to the days of hand cranked calculators and early main frame computers. These devices had singular purposes – they were “number crunchers” used to make accounting easier. The front facing display in early mainframes was “blinken lights.” The calculators did provide printing – in the form of paper tape and the mainframes used line printers to generate reports as needed.
We had other metaphors to work with. The typewriter was/is a mechanical device that substitutes for a type setting machine. The originals go back to 1867 and the keyboard layout has remained much the same to this day. In the earlier years the Morse code telegraphs gave way to Teletype machines. The old ASR33, seen on the left in this photo of one of the first computers I help manufacture, used a keyboard very similar to the keyboards in use today. It also generated punched paper tape that we generated to program this computer in machine language.
Everything considered this computer which dates back to the late 1960s has a keyboard for input and a roll of paper as output. So in a very rudimentary fashion little has changed. Oh – we didn’t have a mouse!
The entire point of this exercise is to point out that we still use very similar methods to get data into and out of a computer regardless of the operating system involved. The Altair, IMSAI, Apple, Commodore and onward to our modern machines changed the hardware that we interfaced to but changed little in the way we input, view and output the results of our computing effort.
The mouse made some changes and the advent of windowed interfaces such as Windows and Apple made things somewhat easier for the user. My 4 year old granddaughter plays here Dora games on our computer. She knows how to start programs, use the mouse, play the game and is quite adept so we have come some distance in making computers useable.
One of my chief bitches is the constant harangues leveled at Microsoft. Yup – they are a money making organization. You like Apple? No problem for me. I don’t use Apple mostly because I’m comfortable in the Windows environment but probably more because I don’t like Apple’s “Holier than thou” attitude. Some think they do superior things and that’s also fine with me. Obviously the iPhone has not done badly and other Apple products have fared well. But they are expensive. I just build a new machine with 4 Terabytes of storage, an Intel i7 Core 950 processor and 12 GB of RAMIII. It cost me – with dual monitors – less than 2000 dollars.
Now to the chief reason for this blog. I’m going to continue developing software for as long as I’m able. For that reason I don’t see my keyboard, mouse and displays changing much for many years. I also don’t think Microsoft is going to spoil that for me by making radical changes to my developer experience. What Craig Mundie does in his video here:
is explore the potential future of computer interfaces for the masses of potential users. Using a computer today requires a person to have rudimentary capabilities with keyboards and the mouse. Wouldn’t it be great if all they needed was hand gestures? Although not mentioned it would also be nice if computers responded intelligently to a user’s voice. There is absolutely no argument with the fact that user interaction with these machines is going to change over time. My personal prediction is that it will take years for much of what Craig discusses to come to a cost effective reality but it is certainly coming. I just don’t believe that what Craig discusses will be the future look of a Window 8.


Oh that XML - did you ever try to read a raw file?

If you've ever looked at a raw XML file - even a very simple one - you'll understand. XML files are nearly impossible to read in raw format. That's where various tools come in and there are a bunch of them including some very simple tools. If, however, you need some horsepower one of the best tools on the planet is LiquidXML!

LiquidXML is a developer's tool. It's also an analyst's tool, a tester's tool and a designer's tool. Did I mention that it is compatible with Visual Studio? Once again I will be following up on this as time permits. But if this sounds like something you can use just visit http://www.liquid-technologies.com/. You will find a very complete description plus high quality training videos that will help you decide if this is a tool you can use.



The Case for Code Generation Tools

I've spent time the last few month checking out much of the latest in code generation tools. Again one of the most complete and comprehensive is Iron Speed Designer - now in version 7.1. I had the good fortune to talk for about a half hour with Alan Fisher of Iron Speed and I will be adding content here in the next weeks. Hopefully I can also present some examples.

 Here's the lastest from their press release.

For Immediate Release
Iron Speed,Inc.
408.228.3429
 
 
 
Iron Speed Releases SharePoint Tool for IT Professionals
Develop complete, database-driven SharePoint applications without programming
 
San Jose, CA – September 28, 2010. Software development tools-maker Iron Speed, Inc. released Iron Speed Designer Version 7.1, the newest version of its popular Web 2.0 application development tool. Iron Speed Designer generates database applications for the .NET, Cloud and Microsoft SharePoint environments. The ability to implement SharePoint applications without any special software development knowledge helps IT departments create robust, productivity enhancing applications in less time and with fewer resources.
 
“There is one very critical aspect about the tool that sets it apart from others…Iron Speed Designer delivers "database-driven” SharePoint apps.  That's not something you can do with other SharePoint facilities.” – Alan Fisher, Co-Founder, Iron Speed, Inc.
 
 
In Iron Speed Designer V7.1, users can generate Microsoft SharePoint 2010 applications straight from an existing database. Generated applications run inside and are fully integrated with SharePoint. No knowledge of ASPX, .NET or SharePoint APIs is required.
 
“Iron Speed Designer applications utilize SharePoint master pages so they look and feel like just like other native apps. You really can’t tell the difference between an application created with Iron Speed Designer and a hand-built application.” – Herman Chan, Software Developer, Presence Consulting
 
 
Integrated SharePoint Application Security
Generated applications include integrated SharePoint application security. SharePoint sites and their groups are used to retrieve security roles. Iron Speed Designer validates the user against a Microsoft SharePoint server on your network by retrieving the logged in user’s credentials from the SharePoint context. 
 
“With V7.1, you don’t have to be a developer to build and deploy database-driven SharePoint applications. Iron Speed Designer does everything I need right out of the box.” - Akesh Gupta, Principal, Light Speed Solutions
 
 
Enhanced IDE Support
V7.1 provides support for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Application code generated by Iron Speed Designer is designed to work directly with Microsoft Visual Studio .NET.  You are not required to use Microsoft Visual Studio; Each product has its benefits and they complement each other.
 
“Iron Speed Designer is not an IDE – it’s one heck of an application generator! I use Visual Studio alongside of Designer for debugging, intellisense and a couple of third-party controls…It’s really simple to toggle between the two.” – Jim Murphy, Owner, River City Software Development LLC
 
 
Iron Speed Designer Version 7.1 System Requirements
Iron Speed Designer Version 7.1 runs on Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 and 2008. It generates .NET Web applications for Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Microsoft Access and MySQL. These applications may be deployed on any machine running the .NET Framework. Iron Speed Designer supports Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and 2010 and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS3). Find complete information about Iron Speed Designer Version 7.1 at www.ironspeed.com.
 
 
About Iron Speed, Inc.
Iron Speed is the leader in enterprise-class application generation. Our software development tools generate database and reporting applications in significantly less time and cost than hand-coding. Our flagship product, Iron Speed Designer, is the fastest way to deliver applications for the Microsoft .NET, Cloud computing and Microsoft SharePoint environments.  With products built on decades of experience in enterprise application development and large-scale e-commerce systems, Iron Speed products eliminate the need for developers to choose between "full featured" and "on schedule."
 
Founded in 1999, Iron Speed is well funded with a capital base of over $20M and strategic investors that include Arrow Electronics and Avnet, as well as executives from AMD, Excelan, Onsale, and Oracle. The company is based in San Jose, Calif., and is located online at


SQL Server 2008 Remote Access

I've spent what seems like weeks attempting to set up remote access for SQL Server 2008. Up to recently my database access was alway against a local instance but I now have two servers and I want to work from my local machine using databases on my remote server. I finally got it working. If you need to know how I've done a big page at:

http://videotutors.net/SQLServer2008RemoteAccess.aspx

Check it out and let me know if you have any suggestions or questions.



Iron Speed Designer 7.0 - the great gets greater!

For Immediate Release
Iron Speed, Inc.
Kelly Fisher
+1 (408) 228-3436
kfisher@ironspeed.com
http://www.ironspeed.com
 
 
 
Iron Speed Version 7.0 Generates SharePoint Applications
New! Support for Microsoft SharePoint speeds application generation and deployment
 
San Jose, CA – June 8, 2010. Software development tools-maker Iron Speed, Inc. released Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0, the latest version of its popular Web 2.0 application generator. Iron Speed Designer generates rich, interactive database and reporting applications for .NET, Microsoft SharePoint and the Cloud. 
 
In addition to .NET applications, Iron Speed Designer V7.0 generates database-driven SharePoint applications. The ability to quickly create database-driven applications for SharePoint eliminates a lot of work, helping IT departments generate productivity-enhancing applications in just a few hours.  Generated applications include integrated SharePoint application security and use SharePoint master pages. 
 
“It’s virtually impossible to build database-driven application in SharePoint by hand. Iron Speed Designer V7.0 not only makes this possible, the tool makes it easy.” – Razi Mohiuddin, President, Iron Speed, Inc.
 
 
Integrated SharePoint application security
Generated applications include integrated SharePoint application security. SharePoint sites and their groups are used to retrieve security roles. Iron Speed Designer validates the user against a Microsoft SharePoint server on your network by retrieving the logged in user’s credentials from the SharePoint Context. 
 
“The Iron Speed Designer generated application integrates seamlessly with SharePoint security, removing the hassle of designing, testing and approving your own security layer.” -Michael Landi, Solutions Architect, Light Speed Solutions
 
 
SharePoint Solution Packages
Iron Speed Designer V7.0 creates SharePoint Solution Packages (WSPs) for easy application deployment. Using the Deployment Wizard, a single application WSP is created and can be deployed to your SharePoint server.
 
“Iron Speed Designer is the first product on the market that allows easy and painless deployment of database-driven .NET web applications inside the SharePoint environment.” -Bryan Patrick, Developer, Pseudo Consulting
 
 
SharePoint master pages and themes
In V7.0, generated applications use SharePoint master pages and contain the same content as other SharePoint pages. Generated applications use the current SharePoint color scheme and display standard SharePoint navigation controls on each page.
 
“Iron Speed Designer preserves the look and feel of the SharePoint environment in deployed database applications without additional hand-coding.” -Kirill Dmitriev, Software Developer, Iron Speed, Inc.
 
 
Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0 System Requirements
Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0 runs on Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 and 2008. It generates .NET Web applications for Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Microsoft Access and MySQL. These applications may be deployed on any machine running the .NET Framework. Iron Speed Designer supports Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS3). Find complete information about Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0 at www.ironspeed.com.
 
 
About Iron Speed, Inc.
Iron Speed is the leader in enterprise-class application generation. Our software development tools generate database and reporting applications in significantly less time and cost than hand-coding. Our flagship product, Iron Speed Designer, is the fastest way to deliver applications for the Microsoft .NET and software-as-a-service cloud computing environments.
 
With products built on decades of experience in enterprise application development and large-scale e-commerce systems, Iron Speed products eliminate the need for developers to choose between "full featured" and "on schedule."
 
Founded in 1999, Iron Speed is well funded with a capital base of over $20M and strategic investors that include Arrow Electronics and Avnet, as well as executives from AMD, Excelan, Onsale, and Oracle. The company is based in San Jose, Calif., and is located online at www.ironspeed.com.


The Case of the Invisible Training Resource

I’ve been at this programming business longer than I would like to admit. For that reason I am always looking for new training resources as anyone in this business knows all too well. I’ve looked at AppDev (way too expensive for my meager budget), LearnVisualStudio (I have a lifetime subscription), and several others. What appears to be a new version of AppDev called LearnDevNow has some good material and so it goes. So what does all this have to do with the title?
I’ve been using Adobe’s Flex Builder 3 and now their latest Flash Builder 4 (a renaming of the Adobe Flex development environment). One of the offered perks on registering was a month’s subscription to Lynda.com. My first reaction was “What the heck is Lynda.com?” but I chose it and signed up. What a surprise I was in for. I’d never heard of them before but discovered one of the most comprehensive training resources I’ve ever seen – and all for $ 34.95 a month in the version that offers Exercise files.
They do have a heavy focus on Adobe products but also cover a lot of Microsoft material. What bothered me is that in the time I’ve been in this business I’d never heard of them! ; Thus the allusion to “The Invisible Training Resource.”
Not only do they offer beginner and in depth training but the syllabus and the instructors are some of the best I’ve seen in the industry. So I just feel that more folks need to know about this organization. If you need training in the venues they offer I can attest to the fact that they offer some of the best training available in this industry in my humble opinion. You really owe it to yourself to check out Lynda.com.