The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Administrative shares in Windows 7

Those who have experience with NT-based operating systems on a network will certainly be familiar with the concept of administrative shares. If that doesn’t ring a bell, you access them like \\computername\c$. With this intro and the title of this post, you might be alarmed or enter panick mode fearing they might be gone in Microsoft’s latest OS iteration. Well don’t go into cardiac arrest because they are still there… but of course not without the odd problem.

Windows 7 still creates the administrative shares on install, but you can’t use them out of the box. First of all, you need to have File and Printer Sharing enabled. And the way to do that has once again been changed:

  1. Open the control panel.
  2. Go to Network and Internet.
  3. Go to Network and Sharing Center.
  4. In the left column, click on Change advanced sharing settings.
  5. There are two profiles. You probably don’t want this on when you’re on a public network so open Home or Work.
  6. Under the header File and Printer sharing, select the Turn on… option.

And now your administrative shares still don’t work :-P You’ve just completed step 1 which implies there’s at least a step 2 and here it is: you also need to change the registry.

  1. Click on the orb (= the round button with the Windows logo in the taskbar) and type regedit in the search box.
  2. Open the registry editor.
  3. Navigate all the way to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System.
  4. Right-click in the pane on the right side and add a new DWORD (32-bit).
  5. Give the new setting the name LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy.
  6. Double click on that setting and give it a value of 1.

It’s probably wise to reboot after doing this, although it might not be needed. I’m not sure if it works straight away because I rebooted without trying.

Anyways, if you’re lucky you will be able to access administrative shares after performing these steps. If you’re unlucky, like me, doing all these things appears to have zero effect at all. Once again don’t panick, because there’s another hint/tip/solution coming your way.

Somewhere at some point during the installation or configuration of Windows 7, you will be asked to do something with a thing called Homegroup. It’s some weird new sharing tool that looks OK but isn’t quite what you’re used to. Once you have enabled that feature, you won’t be able to use the administrative shares. So the tip is: disable the homegroup feature.

  1. Open the control panel.
  2. Go to Network and Internet.
  3. Go to HomeGroup.
  4. Click on the blue link Leave the homegroup.

The popup dialog should point out itself, but I believe I picked to first option. Once I had left the homegroup, the administrative shares started working again.

I hope this post can help anyone who experiences the same problem.

Windows Vista: Explorer opens folders in a new window

Recently, Vista started opening folders in a new window even though “Open each folder in the same window” was selected in the folder options. Obviously something had changed but I didn’t know what. There were more indications that something was wrong, including:

  • Explorer opens folders in a new window, ignoring the folder options setting.
  • The Windows flag on C: is gone.
  • DVD-drives are labelled as CD-drive.
  • Trying to access a CD/DVD results in a Format blank disc dialog box.

Searching the internet resulted in heaps of complaints about the new window issue so finding the right fix wasn’t easy. It turned out that Internet Explorer 8 was the culprit. So there you have solution #1: uninstall IE8. Actually, that’s not a solution so I wasn’t satisfied :)

Another solution that I encountered a couple of times suggested to launch IE8 as administrator. Several users reported that this method fixed the problem, but it certainly didn’t fix it for me.

Eventually, I found a comment on the IEBlog with a list of 19(!) steps to fix it. Fortunately, and as noted in the comment too, step #11 seems to be the critical one. I was able to solve all issues mentioned above by doing this:

  1. Open a command prompt as administrator (right click -> Run as Administrator)
  2. Type: regsvr32 actxprxy.dll
  3. Click OK in the popup window.
  4. Reboot

And Vista was back to its normal self. YMMV!

Counterintuitive or counterproductive?

Do you ever get that feeling where a piece of software seems to make your life as a developer harder instead of easier? Well, I do but I’m not sure whether it’s the software or me.

I’ve worked with an open source content management system written in PHP for close to 6 years. In that timeframe, I got to know the little beast inside out. I knew the strong points of the product but more importantly I also knew the weak points and how to avoid/circumvent them. Anything I do with it just works and if it doesn’t I soon enough find out it was caused by a mistake on my part.

The new content management system is some commercial software written in .NET. I haven’t figured out why, but I seem to be in a constant fight with the software. I can’t have it working perfectly for 2 days straight. I do something, it fails… I finally get it working again and less than a day later it breaks again. Perhaps it’s the software, perhaps it’s me but I’m certainly not used to working with such flaky software. All I know is that it’s pretty frustrating at the moment.

Interesting browser stats

I just checked the browser stats for this blog and there are some interesting facts to gather from the data. Just so you know, the data is based on the past month (Aug 23 – Sep 22).

The first one is not really a surprise to me because this blog has a higher chance of attracting a more technical crowd that the average site. The number one spot is clinched by Firefox with 52.18%. Second place then of course goes to Internet Explorer with 33.88%. If I take the same browsers combined with the operating system, I end up with the following list:

  1. Firefox / Windows: 39.74%
  2. IE / Windows: 33.88%
  3. Firefox / Linux: 9.71%

Conclusion: Firefox is the leading browser on this blog on all major operating systems (Mac is further down the list with 2.74%) and thus also overall.

But what really surprised me was the browser that clinched the number 3 spot overall. My guess would’ve been Opera and while it did come close, it was just beaten by Google Chrome. I guess this shows what a strong brand name can do. I’m curious to see how Chrome’s percentage will evolve.

For the record: Safari came in fifth.

Farewell eZ Publish

It is with great sadness, and a bit of anger, that I’m writing this post but today is the day that we have officially lost the fight for a future with eZ Publish.

It all started in 2002 with the 2.2 version of the package. We shifted to the 3.x series as soon as the very first alphas became available and continued to walk the enlightened path across all of the 3.x releases. The shift to PHP 5 and thus eZ Publish 4.0 also unleashed the power of the eZ Components and it only happened in early spring of this year.

We knew the day of doom would be coming despite our attempts to enlighten others. The only thing we managed to accomplish was to delay the decision by nearly two years. I would happely accept it if we were going to something superior, but the only reason why we have to switch is because “it is not .NET”. That’s just sad…

So I’ll take this opportunity to thank eZ Systems for their great product and let’s not forget the wonderful community. I’ll continue to monitor the project to see where it’s heading, but that will be about it.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the replacement for eZ Publish, our CMS future is now called Sitecore.

So long and thanks for the fish!

The quest for a PHP editor

I’ve had a hate-and-love relationship with a few editors over the past few years, but I’ve never found one that I truly love. Some look promising in the beginning but after some time I really get tired of their limitations.

I thought I had settled with Eclipse (with PDT) because it’s the best I’ve used, but the software update messes up so often it’s not funny anymore. That and those pesky “builders” that keep flagging stuff as errors in places where they’re absolutely useless. So with Eclipse rapidly losing credit I started a new search… without any results so far.

Perhaps my requirements are too steep, but Visual Studio [1] manages to combine them so I don’t think they’re too far-fetched. What I want in a PHP editor (or rather IDE):

  • Projects instead of loose files (think of: Visual Studio solutions or Eclipse projects).
  • Smart intellisense (not just autocomplete, it should be able to parse the project and recognize custom classes – Visual Studio is the reference here).
  • Handle whitespace properly (tabs to spaces, clear trailing whitespace per line, clear empty lines).
  • Formatting (with bonus points if I can configure my own set of rules).
  • A non-cluttered modern interface.

Extra bonus points are awarded to IDEs that can perform small “design-time” checks (e.g. unreachable code, non-returning branch, unused variables, …) and have a couple of refactoring functions/shortcuts (to name two: rename variable/method and implement interface).

So if there’s anyone who knows about a little gem for PHP development, please let me know. Oh, and don’t make me beg ;-)

[1]: No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. Visual Studio is actually a Microsoft product that I like. It’s simply the best IDE in my very humble opinion.

MOSS 2007: laugh or cry?

When Microsoft released Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007, it was touted as The Next Big Thing™ for enterprises. And that’s where the good news ends…

This piece of software has so many issues I don’t even know where to start. My first encounter with it was when I had to evaluate the web content management features of the product. That evaluation period lasted about a week, but was stretched to a month just for the sake of it. When coming from something like eZ Publish, it felt like I had done some time travelling all the way back to the Stone Age [1].

A remarkable feat that Microsoft managed to pull was to release an anti-developer product. My career is still pretty short, but it was the first time that I encountered a piece of software that was set on making a developer’s life as hard as possible.

After the dust had settled and a couple of holidays had joined other historical facts, it was time for the second encounter. The idea was to give the collaboration features of MOSS 2007 a test run. So my colleagues and I clicked around when we suddenly noticed the “My site” link. A harmless link [2] to a personal site… until we (= 3 persons at that time) managed to click at the same time: one arrived at the personal site, one got an error but managed to proceed and the other one got an error and another one when trying to proceed. Guess which one was me… I was told it was caused by the speed of the network connection. Makes sense? Not to me.

The security settings regularly start leading their own life causing all sites to go down, file uploads went wrong and blocked all edit actions on document lists, etc. These are just a couple of things, but I could go on for quite a while. It’s at a point where I don’t know whether to laugh when it goes wrong or to cry with the fact Microsoft managed to produce such a nightmare.

[1]: I know there were no computers back then, but let’s forget that little detail so I can make my point ;-)

[2]: Or so it seemed…

Ubuntu? No thanks

It’s probably the most popular Linux distribution for home use now, but Ubuntu just isn’t my cup of tea.

I’m sure it’s pretty nice if you only need desktop features, but it just doesn’t feel right when you want to use it as a server. I usually need a couple of server programs on each operating system I install: at least a web and database server with some PHP glue. Ubuntu aims to make your desktop life in Linux simpler and it does that pretty well. But all those “features” have an adverse effect on the server role.

One of my major annoyances is that you can’t be root. That’s a security feature to prevent people from messing up, but it also prevents easy server administration. You can run things as root by using the sudo command, but it’s not quite the same. You always have to add it in front of the actual command and you also need to provide a password every 5 minutes or so.

A second annoyance is that you’re pretty much in the dark when you’re trying to do more advanced stuff in Ubuntu (read: when there isn’t a GUI for what you want to do). The location of configuration files is a bit weird if you’re coming from a non-Debian distribution so at least some hinting would be nice.

A third annoyance is the crappy “service” configuration GUI, or in other words: which program starts when at startup? The GUI only allows (un)ticking a box and that’s it.

And last but not least, the software versions that are available can’t follow my requirements. Debian stable has e.g. PHP 5.2.0 with some fixes backported from newer PHP 5.2.x releases. New small features of a point release are not backported and version numbers aren’t bumped either. This will cause version checks to fail.

When you go past the GUI, you’re left alone and sudo adds a couple of jumps to make your life a bit harder. Debian, Ubuntu’s big brother, scores better in the server department: you can be root and there’s documented runlevel changes, but it still isn’t ideal.

For some odd reason, I’m far more comfortable running Gentoo. The only disadvantage is that you need to compile practically everything, but that in turn also results in the fastest Linux I’ve ever used because everything is compiled for your machine. But I guess it’s each to his own.

Exciting times ahead for PC gaming

So it’s been a little over 4 months since the last post, but this place isn’t dead yet… and the same can be said about PC gaming.

We’ve heard all kinds of doom stories concerning gaming on the PC, but I’m sure that good content will sell and the second half of this year is literally filled with exciting titles. I’m currently tracking 28 games and only 4 of those are currently scheduled for a 2009 release. That leaves 24 games that are scheduled for release between the end of August and the end of the year.

For those that don’t know what’s coming, here’s an excerpt from the list of games I’m tracking:

  • Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway
  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberium
  • Crysis Warhead
  • Empire: Total War
  • Far Cry 2
  • Mafia II
  • Pure
  • Quantum of Solace
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla
  • Tom Clancy’s HAWX
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld

Exciting times are ahead, but my wallet doesn’t agree…

IE8 defaults to IE8 now

One of my previous posts mentioned that IE8 would default to IE7 standards mode unless web developers would specifically request the new IE8 mode. Well, there’s some good news coming from Redmond.

The IE team announced that they changed the behaviour. IE8 will now use its most standard compliant rendering mode for pages that meet the criteria for standards mode. If you, as web developer, want pages to be rendered using IE7′s standards mode you will have to use the META tag or the corresponding HTTP header. So they did the right thing and made this feature an opt-in feature: you only have to act if you want to use this feature.

I’m glad Microsoft listened to the web developer community and did the right thing. This puts the burden on the developers who don’t want to fix their pages and it might persuade them to update their code if it’s broken in a new IE version.

In other IE8 news, Beta 1 of Microsoft’s newest browser is now available. This is only intended for web developers and designers. If you are a regular user, you should skip this release.