Sneak Peek into Windows 8 GUI

by Dmitry Kirsanov 14. September 2011 17:29

Just wanted to show the most interesting part for system administrators about changes in most frequently used functionality. Task Manager and file copy / delete operations. As you may see, Task Manager became much more functional and file operations more ordered.

Although the ribbon in Explorer is not shown, it is here and definitely adds to user experience, but can be removed… When it doesn’t :)

Windows 8 GUI sneak peek, switch to Full Screen for better view.

Visual Studio 2010 Test Manager Overview

by Dmitry Kirsanov 14. September 2011 16:17

A little demo about how to use Test Manager from Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional / Team Foundation Server.

This one is the first of a series and doesn't either have or require any sound. Ideal for those who are using it as a reference during the work with real environment.

Play it full-screen for a “better experience”

This is a typical lab from Microsoft Official Curriculum. Don’t know how you, but I usually enjoy seeing things done as much as doing them, whether it is a lab or a computer game.

Windows 8 Developer Preview revealed

by Dmitry Kirsanov 14. September 2011 15:00

This night MIcrosoft opened the prototype of their brand new OS and this build was named “Developer Preview”. Aimed mainly at software developers, it has a copy of not yet released Visual Studio 11, using which you can create software for that same Windows 8.

The only downside of this release is that you couldn’t install it on either VMWare workstation or Windows Virtual PC – it could only be installed on either physical or Hyper-V machine. I installed it on both.

First fascinating things about new OS is drastic change in user experience. I don’t even mean the new Metro and effects, but also much reworked file copying routine and Task Manager. The latter became as useful as it never been.

Although scheduled release date is not yet revealed, and most likely will be somewhere in Autumn of 2012, chances are you can grab a copy of ISOs at MSDN.

Windows Live is alive

by Dmitry Kirsanov 11. September 2011 19:10

Do you remember such thing as Outlook Express? A lightweight e-mail client from Microsoft which was the part of operating system since the stone age. It was separated from Windows for good, so unlike in Windows XP, we don’t have to cut it from the distribution DVD anymore. However, once separating some applications from the system, Microsoft added a few more tools to the Live family.

One of them is the one I am using at this particular moment – Windows Live Writer. The thing looks like a Microsoft Office 2010 product, something similar to FrontPage, but it’s about blogging. Whatever platform you are using for your blog, it can connect to it and you can use this wonderful editor without ever having to log into your blog. Styles, working with resources - everything is here. And it’s free.

Another one is irreplaceable for me and it is called Live Mesh. Once you’ve got your free 5Gb space at Windows Live, called SkyDrive, you can synchronize folders between your multiple computers. Like, for example, between home and work machine, so you can make sure that two folders on these machines are equal. Works perfectly for source code sharing for my notebooks and desktop, as having multiple versions of hundreds of files is a pain.
Another feature of Live Mesh is remote desktop, which works also through proxy and is just great when you want to log into your home computer but don’t want to set the remote desktop NAT rules. At some point it is more secure, as you won’t forget to switch off your rules later.

I know how hard it is to find a gem in a pile of software and services, so if you have a problem that any of these two programs solve, try them out!

Browser Wars, 09/2011

by Dmitry Kirsanov 8. September 2011 23:06

As a web developer, I do care about browsers performance a bit less than typical web surfers do. I care more about the supported functionality. Whether my website can be viewed on this browser or another and how it will behave.

However, typical web surfers care more about speed and resources of their computers, so when I hear that people prefer Chrome to Firefox, this means my website should look well in that browser as well.

So here is a relative chart of today’s most popular web browsers after testing on my notebook. All numbers are totally relative, but tests included both graphics and data manipulations, the same for each test.


I don’t want to comment on it, as I find these results quite reasonable, but would like to look at the difference between MSIE 9.0 and MSIE 10.0. As you may notice, the Internet Explorer 10’s performance is promising.

So what did I understand from this graph? First of all, I will continue measuring performance of my applications using MSIE 9. And will make sure they are compatible with Chrome 13. And if that’s worth the effort, I will display demos using either MSIE 10 or Chrome. You can keep tracking the performance of browsers on your own equipment using PeaceKeeper website.

Skipping bits

by Dmitry Kirsanov 8. September 2011 11:26

The average Joe amongst us likes to see himself as a beacon of professionalism; Oh yes, that's us! The blockchain-virtuoso, code whisperers, firewall gymnasts, scaling savants, - we are the Systems Administrators and Software Developers! But there’s a moment in this journey that changes everything: the breathtaking ascent to 'professional'. Maybe some starry-eyed intern declared in awe, "You're a real pro!". Or, shazam!, one bright morning we find ourselves inexplicably promoted.

But, oh, the cruel irony! See, this 'pat-me-on-the-back', these celebratory high-fives, and the comforting hum of that shiny, new designation is actually the start of an intellectual Bermuda triangle. It’s what gently ushers you into a cushy comfort zone, a welcome mat into the danger zones where we are lulled into believing we’ve caught that invincible golden snitch.

It's the warm cup of complacency that whispers sweet delusions into our ears - “You're the Gandalf of your field! Stay put, this techno-landscape will never change.” Boom! That's the trap. The pitfall. The proverbial banana peel on the footpath to eternal wisdom.

When you start believing that you're solely breathing the rarefied air of a technology or you’ve unlocked its god-mode, then my friend, you're not just wrong, you're like a lost unicorn in a tech-Tsunami.

What’s this musing about? Oh, it's a sort of cautionary tale for those sauntering along the digital landscape, with a smug "been there, done that" attitude, conveniently skipping parts of a new tech like it’s some complex street dance. We naively assure ourselves that we are acquainted with the common steps, and we can sit out the complicated ones. Guess what? The techno-gods laugh at our folly.

Don't believe me? Cue flashback: Yours truly was learning WCF (Windows Communication Foundation). During my training, with confidence buoyed up like a helium balloon, I skipped a whopping 3 hours of training, thinking I'm doing myself a favour - really, why would I need to learn the security part of WCF when I already mastered WSE, Security+ and even CISSP? To spend 2 days later, of course, when client's high security configuration simply couldn't let my application through. Imagine that, they did something differently. I'm taking it for granted ever since.

File Replacement Utility

by Dmitry Kirsanov 24. August 2011 22:48

Ok, here is another command line tool. This time - for developers who create software made of many components.

Imagine, you have a product which consists of main executable file and multiple dll files. And different people are working on these. And you are deploying it all on multiple machines and never know where it could be hiding. Maybe in some build directories, maybe somewhere else.

So this utility will find all instances of that file and replace with the newest one. Moreover, you can even select the older file, but all files will be replaced by the newest found. Well, there are parameters, of course.

As the searching for files is time consuming, the end result of this utility could be a batch file (.bat) which contains commands to repeat operation. It will take the same source file and put it to the same destinations as during the first run. That way, continuous replacing won't be a problem or take more than a couple of seconds.

So, here it is. Requires .net framework 3.5.

filereplace.rar (5,32 kb)

UPDATE 03/MAY/2016: Updated application to version 1.2.1 - fixed bug when file couldn't be found using the /d switch

7-Zip Converter

by Dmitry Kirsanov 23. August 2011 23:05


7-Zip is the most effective file archive format, which exceeds by far both ZIP and even RAR in terms of compression level. When I realized that a few years back, and when all tests proved I could store more files without the need of buying new and expensive hard drive, that was kind of relief, as I have a huge repository of files. A few terabytes.

You would ask why do I need so much storage, but the fact is – among other trades I am also a trainer, and I need to store my training materials somewhere. And these are mainly not the media files, which are generally well compressed and couldn’t be squeezed further, but documents and images of hard drives and DVDs (iso files and similar). Anyway – something that could be compressed.

The problem was – all these thousands of files were already compressed by ZIP. The least effective but also the most compatible file format. I own a license for WinRAR, so opening any sort of archive isn’t a problem for me, but I didn’t want to either keep old files in ZIP form when I could compress them up to 10 times better, nor convert ZIP files to 7-ZIP manually. No, I needed to convert ZIP files to 7-ZIP automatically.

WinRAR, is quite useful and user-friendly (even though it has one of the worst customer support in software industry), it's compression ratio is not the best, comparing it to less visually attractive free 7-Zip. However, since my precious archives consuming terabytes of data, and hard drives are still quite expensive, especially when you are planning for some redundancy, space becomes more important than graphical user interface of archiver's shell.

However, one little freeware thing that comes with WinRAR is called “RAR converter”, or “rarcvt”. It comes in form of command line utility and is able, using WinRAR, decompress other archives, be it ZIP, CAB, ARJ or even ISO and RPM into RAR. I wanted that functionality for 7-ZIP, but it was nowhere to be found.

So I had to create it myself. I took Visual Studio and in a few hours made what is called now a 7-ZIP converter. This command line utility was tested on thousands of nested archives and proved to improve the efficiency of data storage from at least 1 and up to 99%. Sometimes there were situations when I couldn’t believe my eyes how it was able to repack the ZIP file into 7-ZIP, and the end file was whopping 100 times smaller than ZIP!

I believe that this utility is essential for file server system administrators, as well as for home servers or even personal notebooks, where storage space is quite limited. It does not require installation, but you should have .NET framework 3.5 installed (you already have it in Windows Vista and Windows 7) and, of course, 7-zip. Config file can be edited in Notepad, it has just 3 parameters - the path to 7-zip, path to temporary directory and extensions of archives that should be converted.

Utility finds files by file mask, may convert nested archives (that is - when you have one archive inside of another), can delete the original file after conversion and may set the time stamp of original file to the resulting 7-zip archive.

Well, here it is!

7-Zip Converter Screenshot

7ZipConverter.7z (6,27 kb)

Learn or Die

by Dmitry Kirsanov 1. August 2011 06:28

Gather round digital denizens, and listen as I giddily proclaim the arrival of the First Postulate in all its shining glory. What is the First Postulate, you ask? Well in short, it's essentially my cynical Andrew Carnegie philosophy - quit the learning, commence the dying. Dramatic much? Maybe, but let me unwrap this intellectual fortune cookie for you...

Now, straight off the bat, let me clarify that we're not talking about the world of the cold, calculated IT training, though it might sneak in every now and then. No, fellow travellers on this voyage of discovery, we're setting sail on the boundless oceans of life. Sink your teeth into everything that is new, unexpected and even outright boring. Come on now! Have a real bite!

Okay, so you might have tossed your telly out the window, fed up with the mind-numbing monotony of reality TV. But surely you don't need to be a couch potato to know your LCDs from your Plasmas, or LEDs for all that matters. You may not don 3D glasses for a trip to fantastical realms on weekends. However, knowing there are gizmos out there that offer you this psychedelic journey won't kill you (but not knowing might, according to the postulate...).

Complete ignorance in any sphere is as taboo as pineapple on pizza to some folks. So tune into some electronica or experimental jazz even if it sounds like aliens communicating. Spend an hour a week diving into an ocean of literature, maybe try bobbing around in some dystopian currents or cheesy romance whirlpools you wouldn't normally venture into. This is not only to add a bit of spice to your life, but also to keep the old noggin sprightly, enduring and ever evolving. Yes, we're jazzing up your brain, folks.

And this little exercise in mental gymnastics isn’t for nothing. It's aiming for that golden target - improving the quality of life. There's an upgrade waiting for everyone, dare to download it. And remember, sharing this knowledge is like passing the controller in a multiplayer game. We're all in this together, team.

Don't switch off just yet, though. We're just getting started. Our future chats will touch upon the twins of creative disruption - innovation and creativity. So keep those gears turning and until next time, remember - dead is the brain that learns no more. ‘Til then, keep scrolling...

Total Recall

by Dmitry Kirsanov 30. July 2011 03:38

Picturе this: It was 2007, and I joined up with a project manager aspirant, as starry-eyed and naive as they come, to cobble together а web project. Despite our best attempts (or lack thereof), we bid adieu to success. After attempting a verbal duel with my ex-partner, we decided it was best for him to hold on to the shattered remains of the project. To be honest, I would have paid prime time television fees to watch his futile efforts to keep the project afloat. Spoiler alert: it didn't end well.

He didn't have the technical prowess of а developer - still doesn't. But the man had conviction, I'll give him that. To keep his sinking ship from hitting rock bottom, he outsourced to a small fish in а big pond, a company understaffed and under-qualified. Their lack of аn ASP.NET ace was their downfall. They hired one nonetheless, without letting him know he's been assigned to perform open heart surgery with а bread knife.

The months rolled by, and they decided to give our project а makeover, from the cosmetically lacking face of DotNetNuke. I wasn't privy to the details, ѕееing as my partner failed to throw some dough my way as agreed. I was just an innocent bystander as the drama unfolded, watching аs well-intentioned changes were botched left, right, and centre.

Fast forward to 2008 and I find myself preaching the gospels of software development and systems administration at the New Horizons training centre in Riga. Talk about a job you love - this was it. I helped build the IT training scene here, and boy did we show those guys at 'Baltic Computer Academy' (Frankly, 'academy' seems а bit of a stretch) who's boss. We didn't just beat them, we evicted them from their office and moved into their turf.

Part of my job was to discuss training programs with ѕееmingly eager students. That's when destiny winked at me, and I ran into a guy from the humble small company that had taken over our forsaken project. This was the guy far out of his depth, trying to make sense of ASP.NET development.

Picture my surprise when this guy claims to be the tech wizard who conjured up the project from scratch. Apparently, (hidden beneath layers of obliviousness, mind you) he just needed a few pointers on ASP.NET development to finish it up.

Can you hear that? It's the ringing sound of the death knell for our project. It lay in ruins, never to see the light of the day. Knowledge? One can acquire. Experience? А stepping stone away. But а shoddy attitude is embedded deep in the core and is almost impossible to shake off. Word of advice, don't waste your time.

The last I ever saw of him, his intimidations grew and the bountiful fee became an insurmountable mountain for his tiny company to pay. We bid adieu, leaving me wondering what could have been if they dared to dream.