Aaron's blog

Dasblog won't play with Windows Server 2008

By aaron.axvig, 23 March, 2008

Yet another productive thing I tried to do tonight: get my old Mexico blog online.  As one might guess given that IIS7 is quite different from IIS6, Dasblog has some serious problems with Server 2008.  Those are resolvable, per Mr. Hanselman's instructions.

Unfortunately there are further problems.  This time with Registry changes.  According to Mr. Starr's analysis, Dasblog seems to think it's cool to pull time zone information from the Registry.  Seeing registry accesses in a web application does not make me happy:

 

NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.]
   newtelligence.DasBlog.Util.WindowsTimeZone.LoadTimeZonesFromRegistry() +283
   newtelligence.DasBlog.Util.WindowsTimeZone..cctor() +76

[TypeInitializationException: The type initializer for 'newtelligence.DasBlog.Util.WindowsTimeZone' threw an exception.]
   newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.SiteConfig.set_DisplayTimeZoneIndex(Int32 value) +23
   Microsoft.Xml.Serialization.GeneratedAssembly.XmlSerializationReaderSiteConfig.Read7_SiteConfig(Boolean isNullable, Boolean checkType) +4743
   Microsoft.Xml.Serialization.GeneratedAssembly.XmlSerializationReaderSiteConfig.Read8_SiteConfig() +76

I just wanted to play with Silverlight

By aaron.axvig, 23 March, 2008

This evening I thought I'd spend an hour and see if I couldn't make a lame Silverlight project just for the sake of doing it.  Plus it would be more productive than playing a game.

So I fired up Visual Studio 2008 and went to create a Silverlight project, but there was none to be found.  I went and downloaded the Silverlight 1.0 SDK, but still nothing.  It seems that version is for working with VS 2005.  I was trying to avoid installing any beta Silverlight stuff, but I ended up grabbing the Silverlight 2 Tools Alpha.  This did allow me to create a Silverlight project.

Seeing some XAML, I went towards the end, after all the declarations and such, and typed"Hello".  Just as a test.  Went to compile...error.  So I erased that, found <TextBox> using Intellisense, and put "Hello" between the tags.  Still no loving.  So I found the Text attribute, and put "Hello" as the value of the Text attribute.  Then I got different compile errors.  Specifically, 17 of them, mostly "The type or namespace name 'Windows' does not exist in the namespace 'System' (are you missing an assembly reference?)" type errors.

 I think I've seen this before, and seem to remember fixing it by adding a reference to something, but I couldn't find anything on Google this time.  So I'm still stuck there, and will be until I either find a solution or convince myself it's not just due to alpha version tools.  Maybe I'll just go play a game instead...

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FTP7, Exchange 2007, Default Web Site problems

By aaron.axvig, 5 March, 2008

I just saw yesterday that FTP7 was out.  So of course I went off to install it.  When I was done, the Default Web Site on the server no longer worked, including Outlook Web Access.  Much panic ensued, as in the past OWA has been very finicky and once broken it stays broken.

It turns out that I had uninstalled the IIS6 components as part of cleaning up before doing FTP7 (I had installed the IIS 6 things for FTP6).  I'm not sure if IIS6 components and FTP7 can live alongside each other as I uninstalled FTP7 when trying to get the site working, but I would guess so.  Anyways, simply re-installing all of the IIS6 components fixed the problem.

Electrolytic steel etching

By aaron.axvig, 19 December, 2007

My friends and I recently purchased personal "choice beverage" containers, made of stainless steel.  They have a nice texture to them, but there is a little square in the front that is mirror smooth.  It was just begging me to have something engraved on it, so after much thought and Internet research, I settled on giving electrolytic etching a try.  I was inspired by Steampunk, an Instructables.com tutorial, and this guy's Galv-etch tutorials.

The main idea is to cover up all the surfaces that you don't want etched, put the metal in very strong salt-water, and run DC current from another piece of metal, through the water, over to the metal that you're etching (which will also be in the water).  The current causes a chemical reaction to happen on any of the exposed surfaces, which eats away at the metal, leaving you with an etched design.

I decided to etch the three letters "XYX" into the container.  It's an inside joke.  So I proceeded to make a black square in Photoshop, and then put the white letters inside of it.  I made a couple of different sizes on the image so I could see which one fit best.  Then I printed the image on the glossy front cover of Forbes magazine with a laser printer (HP Laserjet 1012, but I think any one will work).  The idea here is to transfer the toner off of the magazine paper on to the steel, where it will serve as your mask.

My first attempt I just used an iron to melt the toner to the steel, but I got poor results when I removed the paper.  Maybe I soaked it in water for too long and it actually softened the toner and the paper (I only wanted the paper softened), maybe the toner hadn't been completely melted down, or maybe I just wasn't careful enough.  Either way, the lines were quite worn and not straight at all.

I tried again, this time ironing it on and then putting it in the oven at 375F for 10 minutes.  I left the door open a bit and put the top of the container near the crack because it has a plastic piece attaching the lid and I wanted to keep the temperature of it as low as possible to avoid melting.

After baking, I soaked it water for 20 minutes, and then peeled of the first layer.  You could definitely make out the outline of the letters, like this:

 

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For reference, the whole mask is slightly less than 1 inch wide.  Another few soak and peel cycles and I had this:

 

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You can see that I may not have been careful enough, as a large portion of metal is bare instead of black.  I also left some of the extra paper fibers on, as I figured they wouldn't hurt anything.  So here it is dry:

 

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Now, how to touch it up?  I remember reading that it is possible to simply make the mask using a permanent marker, but that did not seem highly reliable to me, so I grabbed a bottle of clear fingernail polish and went to work.  This was very tedious (20 minutes?), but I think this layer helped a lot.  I ended up covering all of the toner with it, although it probably doesn't look much different in this picture:

 

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Then I covered the rest of the container in wax to complete the mask.  I used paraffin wax from Wal-Mart; it's right next to the Jell-O.  Make sure you boil a pot of water and then melt the wax in a container floating in that water, because if you heat the wax directly it could burn just like a candle--a big candle.  I dipped some of the container directly in the wax, but did most of it by pouring on spoonfuls of melted wax.  Again, be careful, because it looks just like water but is quite hot.  Remarkably, I didn't burn myself.

 

After I covered everything but the small area with toner and nail polish, I decided I might as well cover that in wax too, and then cut out the letters.  In this way I would have three layers insuring me against erroneous etching.  Cutting the letters out of the wax was also very tedious, taking probably a good 30-45 minutes, but I think worth it.  (Even though it doesn't look that sharp in some of these pictures it turned out fine.)

 

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So I then assembled the electrical portions.  I used a power cube, affectionately known as a wall-wart, to power the operation.  It is rated for 12V at 800mA.  You can see below that I used a piece of angle steel which I hammered flat for one electrode and the container for the other.  They are about 3/4" apart.

 

Of course this is the sloppiest part of my project.  The only wire I could quickly find was some coaxial cable.  It has a very stiff core which snaps when bent too much and is probably the worst possible choice.  I then soldered this wire onto a flat steel plate with a small soldering iron which had a loose tip, meaning it didn't put out that much heat for the first half of its use, until I figured things out and tightened it.  Regardless of that, soldering a stiff wire onto a relatively smooth flat plate is not for the faint of heart with any soldering iron, and certainly not recommended for anything requiring durability.  But it held well enough for my uses.

 

On the other end of the plate is a paperclip which I bent around the plate and the edge of the bowl.

 

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I connected one end of the wall-wart to the coax cable and the other to one lead of a 12V fan (this one from a Pentium II heatsink assembly).  The second lead of the fan went to an alligator clip, the other end of which I clamped on the top of the container.  The idea, according to those other sites, is to limit the current that can run through the circuit so that the power supply doesn't burn out.  Here is what I saw after about a minute of running things:

 

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Nothing much exciting is really happening, except the letters instantly changed color and that same color started slowly running down the side of the container into the bottom of the bowl.  However, at this point I did realize that I was on the right track and would likely get some results (my biggest fear had been of no reaction at all because I would need fancier chemicals or something).

 

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The water is just salt water.  I actually used salt that is meant for tanning hides, but it only has 0.5% of two other chemicals in it, so it is nearly pure salt.  I mixed in about 1/2 cup, which seemed to be about the point it started dissolving slowly.

 

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After 8 minutes, it did not look like much etching had been going on, although it may have been enough to stop there.  I'll never know, because I wondered what would happen if I removed the fan.  I knew the power supply would not burn out, because I have shorted the wires of it on many occasions and it's still ticking along.  So I shorted the fan's wires, effectively removing it from the circuit, and immediately bubbles started flying out of the letters and I could tell something was really going on.  I pulled it out after a few seconds and saw that it had bubbled the wax quite a bit, but it seemed my fingernail polish layer was holding, so I put it back in for about 30 seconds total.  You can see the damage it did to the wax:

 

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Then I excitedly scraped off the wax around the area, and I knew it had worked:

 

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Taking off all the layers required the use of fingernail polish remover.  Since this was the hardest layer to get off, I'm guessing it's the one that preserved things during the final stage when the wax was being abused.  If I did it again, I probably wouldn't bother adding the wax as a third layer on top of the other layers.  (But I would still use it for the rest of the container, as it worked fine there).  Here is the result, cleaned up a bit more:

 

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I found the best way to remove the rest of the wax was to scrape it clean with the plastic spoon.  Then to get the small bits that were left I ran it under very hot water from the faucet and used a scrub brush.  The water wasn't hot enough to outright melt the remnants off, but it made them loose enough to brush off.

 

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I think I could use some sort of coloring compound, maybe shoe polish, to make the letters all one color.  However, they look fine to me, and I'm guessing that over time they will get dirty and become one color anyway.  If you didn't want that to happen (or wanted to preserve any color you rubbed in there) you could put some sort of clear coat over the top; maybe the same clear fingernail polish.

 

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End result: I'm glad it turned out as well as it did.  The edges could be a little sharper, but I'd rather not have any obvious leaks in the mask, and I really didn't.  It did take about 5 hours total, so it's not anything quick, but it is a really cool result that I'm happy with.

 

Notes:

  • It might have been easier to remove the paper layer if I had just used a magazine page rather than the cover.  This might also have let me heat the toner better.
  • I'm no chemist so I can't predict what materials it would work on, but the other sites I mentioned at the top have done something similar to copper plates and also to Altoid tins, whatever kind of metal that is.
  • One interesting thing happened while it was in the stove.  I was carefully watching it, half expecting the plastic piece to droop and fall off from the heat, when all of a sudden there was a loud bang and the container jumped about 3 inches off of the oven rack.  Apparently the air inside expanded enough to pop out the curved back side.  This could have been prevented by being smart and loosening the cap a bit.  Oops.
  • Mistakes in doing the fingernail polish layer are very hard to fix.  In fact, nearly impossible.  Be ready with something to quickly dab any errors off--I used a toothpick and a napkin.
  • I did have a small hole in my wax, on one of the bottom corners.  So that spot got etched a tiny bit too.
  • I might work to only use wax and carve your design in it, provided you leave the fan in the circuit.  The higher current otherwise might damage the was as I observed.

Easy way to undelete from a Sony DSC-T5

By aaron.axvig, 30 October, 2007

(and probably many other cameras too)

I realized recently that I had deleted a picture that I kind of wanted to keep.  I deleted it using the interface on the camera, not by hooking it up to a computer.  Happily I hadn't taken any pictures since, so I figured on a reasonable chance of reclaiming the picture.

I was successful, and it was easy.  I used PC Inspector File Recovery.  The interface kind of sucks, and the hardest part I think is selecting which drive to search.  It did pick up the the FAT partition on the camera over USB though, which was good as I had half expected Sony to have some middle layer in which the camera represented the pictures it could see on the card to the computer (in which case I would have had to put the Memorystick in a separate card reader).

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Word 2007 runs slow (due to Acrobat Professional)

By aaron.axvig, 22 October, 2007

We had an issue at work where on any computer with Acrobat Professional installed Word 2007 would run really slow.  Opening, closing, saving, and creating new documents all took 3-4 seconds during which the entire computer would lock-up and the processor would be at 100% utilization.  Even switching between programs would seem to do this.

 A quick Google for Word 2007 lockups didn't turn up much other than a few references to the Add-ins menu, so I checked that out and found one for Acrobat PDFMaker Office COM Addin which didn't really seem necessary.  Turning it off instantly gave Word the excellent performance that I expected.  Here's how:

  • Click the Office button in the top left, and go to "Word Options" (bottom edge of the menu).
  • Select "Add-ins" on the left, and notice the "Acrobat PDFMaker Office COM Addin" under "Active Application Add-ins."
  • Towards the bottom of the dialogue you will see "Manage:" followed by a drop down menu. "COM Add-ins" should already be selected.
  • Click "Go" and on the next screen uncheck the box next to the "Acrobat PDFMaker Office COM Addin."
  • OK your way out of the all the menus, and you should have improved performance without even restarting Word.

"Internal Error 2705. Directory" possible solution

By aaron.axvig, 28 September, 2007

I got this error when trying to install the Field Scoring component of the BEST scoring software.  After much angst and reading things on Google about how it's related to an incorrect directory inside the (InstallShield created) setup file, I finally stumbled upon a solution:

Earlier in the day I had renamed the Administrator account of the computer, and also changed its password (while logged in as Administrator).  I had not logged off between then and installing the software.  Logging off and then logging back on fixed the problem.

Drag tab to taskbar

By aaron.axvig, 26 September, 2007

Here's two ideas for IE7 tabs:

  • Let me drag a tab to the taskbar to move the tab into its own window.  I would use this if I wanted to move a website on my second monitor and look at another on the first one.  Way easier than copying the URL, opening another window, and pasting the URL.
  • Add "Move to new window" items to each tab's right-click menu.

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Automatically unzip downloads

By aaron.axvig, 25 September, 2007

It would be great if I could have another button on IE's download box (or this could be a Firefox extension I guess).  Right now there are Open, Run, and Cancel.  My pick for a 4th one is Unzip.  It would download the .zip file, do a standard unzip like when you right-click on a file and Extract All, and then delete the original .zip file.

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Utility: Duplicate Finder

By aaron.axvig, 17 September, 2007

Every once in a while you find a tool that is just great at doing what it does.  It takes very little system resources, might not even require an install, and works as fast as you can reasonable expect the task to be done.  I found one such tool for removing duplicate photos.

Duplicate File Finder is the latest find of mine to go in this category.  It doesn't require and install, is free, and quickly scanned several thousand photos, and then showed me the path names of each set of duplicate photos, allowing me to choose which ones to delete.  It was a bit tedious to do the selecting, but I think manually doing that is the only acceptable way given the dire consequences of accidentally deleting the wrong photo.