So.cl pt2

Ok well I received an email inviting me to log in and experience So.cl and my first impression are… I don’t get it. I mean it looks very nice but I am unsure as to its purpose or target market. The top bar has a web search so I can share my searches with others (presuming they really have nothing better to do) and post a status updates as with Facebook. It also has feeds the ability to follow and have followers (Twitter) and video parties where you can watch clips with others an comment on it. All of these features already exist in other social networks that already have millions of users so why will this succeed where Google+ hasn’t (yet), I don’t think it will.

Anyway enough negativity I could be in a minority so I won’t harp on about it too much, the overall design is nice very clean, sharp and metro influenced. Navigation is simple and once signed in you are prompted to select channels for your feeds. I guess if you feel the need to view large amounts of vaguely targeted information and share your (amazingly interesting?) web searches while aimlessly commenting on web clips in realtime then go for it. I suspect it will come and hang around in the background as something to view when all your Facebook friends and Twitterers are offline but go have a look and make up your own mind.

Microsoft So.cl Homepage
Microsoft So.cl Homepage

 

so.cl

Are you frustrated by the lack of social networks available on the web currently? Then why not sign up for the new social network from Microsoft Research socl or better put http://www.so.cl can you see what they did with the name there, clever eh?

Currently if you sign up you are put on a waiting list (like me come on MS) as soon as I find out more than is on the pretty slides on the home paste I’ll follow up, check back soon.

Dell Precision M6600 Review

Just shy of a year ago my company upgraded our development laptops to Dell Precision M6600’s with the following specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core [email protected]
  • RAM: 16Gb
  • HDD1: 256Gb SSD
  • HDD2: WD 750Gb HDD
  • GPU: NVIDIA Quadro 3000M
  • Screen: 17″ 1920×1080 LED
The machines came with Windows 7 preinstalled which I removed and replaced with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V as this is purely a development machine. My overall impression has been one of high build quality, solid components and outstanding performance. Using Hyper-V as a virtualization platform to run a domain of development machine using dynamic RAM is the best development experience I have had, the machine is comfortable capable of running a Win Server 2008 Domain Controller, SQL Server 2008 DB Server, SharePoint Server 2010 and K2 BlackPearl Workflow server simultaneously.
This may be starting to sound like a bit of a fanboy review but there are a couple of down points to the machine, the first is the weight it is outstandingly heavy if you do need to transport it any distance. Second the battery life you can get a solid 4 hours+ while running VM’s and developing but with a lot of new machines claiming 10+ this can appear low, on the flip side, it does run two drives and has a 17″ screen so you need to be realistic about it. Finally the cost it may be hard to justify what seems ridiculous at first glance, but how long do you spend each day waiting for a build to finish when developing a large solution and what does that add up to over the course of a year in lost time?
In summary if you want one of the best, most productive laptops on the market you may want to consider the Precision 6600 (did I mention you can upgrade the RAM to 32Gb 😉 )
Dell Precision 6600
Dell Precision 6600

 

Google Drive Goes Live

After signing up earlier in the week for notifications, my Google Drive account went live today and the first impressions are good 🙂 Below is the home screen when you first login, initially the free allowance is an acceptable 5Gb by comparison Microsofts SkyDrive has just been reduced from 25Gb to 7Gb so it’s competitive.

Google Drive Web Interface
Google Drive Web Interface

 

Inside the home screen you can upload files and folders or create any Google Docs files, any existing Google Docs you have will appear in here already. You can view the docs in either list or thumbnail format, sort by the usual criteria create folders etc. The other option you have is to Download Google Drive for PC, on clicking you get the usual terms acceptance shown below before the program pdownloads and prompts for your Google ID before installing.

Google Drive Client Download
Google Drive Client Download

 

Once downloaded the very simple installation begins:

Google Drive Windows Installer
Google Drive Windows Installer
Google Drive Windows Installer 2
Google Drive Windows Installer 2

On the second step you can either accept default settings and start the sync or carry out and advanced setup, shown below.

Google Drive Windows Installer Advanced
Google Drive Windows Installer Advanced

Once installed Google Drive appears as another library and the files begin syncing immediately.

Google Drive Folder in Windows Explorer
Google Drive Folder in Windows Explorer

First impressions are very good, the integration is very smooth between web and desktop it has the “It just works” feel about it that Microsoft’s Mesh did when it was first released a few years back. If you have a google account already why wouldn’t you use it, usb sticks are great but can be lost and 5Gb is ample to hold those essential files you can’t do without.

WCAT v6.3 Initial Setup and Run

After struggling getting the most basic of load tests running using the Microsoft Web Capacity Analysis Tool v6.3 I thought I would take the time to post. Note this will be a sample where all components are running on the same server it is not designed as an example of best practise or the way would recommend performing any testing, it is just a sample to get the tool running. The assumption for this sample is that you are an administrator on the machine in question, the machine has IIS 7+ running and has a default website bound to port 80 that can run under anonymous. There may be additional posts following this for a real world environment but the variations possible for load testing are huge including security, proxy servers, load balancing etc so if I can come up with a set of common examples I may follow up.

It comes in two versions x86 and x64 that can be downloaded using the links below:

The first step is to download and install the package, the install location will be in:

%ProgramFiles%wcat

If you look in the folder you will see the following items:

  • doc (folder) – contains a short readme and a more indepth MS Word document detailing the tool
  • samples (folder) – contains a couple of sample scenario and settings files and other files not covered here
  • report (xsl) – used for formatting the generated logs
  • wcat (windows script file) – used to run the tool (but not in this example)
  • wcclient – client test runner, this executes the scenario(s) against the target server(s)
  • wcctl – test controller this communicates with the test clients manages the tests and aggregates the results into a report
  • wcutil – utility functionality not covered here

Prior to any test runs you will need to follow the steps in the readme to set up the environment, the steps are very simple and worked as expected for me so they should be fine although you will be required to reboot and in my case there was no warning so make sure you have everything saved!

To run a test you will need two files added to the WCAT folder a scenario and a settings file, both are text files and can be named as you choose as they are referenced in the call to the controller anyway.

Settings:

settings
{
clients = 1;
virtualclients = 10;
clientfile = “scenario.txt”;
counters
{
interval = 10;
counter = “Processor Information(_Total)\%Processor Time”;
}
}

This specifies one server to be used as a test client running 10 virtual clients, in a real load testing environment it is likely you would have multiple clients each running a higher level of virtual clients. Inside the counters we have a sampling interval, this will be balanced to show enought results without impacting the tests by sampling to frequently. The next element is a counter being sampled in this case the percentage of CPU usage, you can add any number of counters in this section but be aware the more counters you have the greater the performance impact. You can find the counters by running Perfmon (Performance Monitor) this makes it easy to test and then modify your settings.

Scenario:

scenario
{
warmup = 30;
duration = 100;
cooldown = 30;
default
{
setheader
{
name    = “Host”;
value    = server();
}
setheader
{
name    = “Connection”;
value    = “keep-alive”;
}
setheader
{
name    = “Accept”;
value    = “image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, application/vnd.ms-excel, */*”;
}
setheader
{
name    = “Accept-Language”;
value    = “en-us”;
}
setheader
{
name    = “User-Agent”;
value    = “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0”;
}
setheader
{
name    = “Accept-Encoding”;
value    = “gzip, deflate”;
}
version     = HTTP11;
statuscode  = 200;
close       = ka;
}
transaction
{
id = “default_doc”;
weight = 100;
request
{
url = “/”;
statuscode = 200;
}
}
}

This scenario file is very basic and has a short warmup and cool down of 30s each and a test duration of 100s, each time the transaction executes it hits the root site of the server and has an expected response of HTTP 200 Success.

To run the above you need to have two command prompt windows open in the wcat directory one for the client and the other for the controller. If this is on a server where the tests are going to be run frequently you may wish to consider modifying the ‘Path” environmental variable to save having to change directory. Below are the two commands that will start the first test run one to start the client and the second for the controller, run the client first then the controller command.

Client:

wcclient localhost -b

Starts the client and waits for the controller

Controller:

wcctl -f settings.txt -t scenario.txt -s localhost -singleip -extended

And thats it both windows should now be showing the current process running and results, once the run finishes there will be a log.xml file in the directory which can be transformed using the report.xsl into an html report (this should be done for you by IE if you open the xml file). As I mentioned this is not a useful test to use but should give you a starting point, from here with the documentation provided and google I quicly progressed to testing SOAP web services with posted data (hint headers are critical here).

I hope this saves someone some time in getting started with this. As a final note if things are still not working and everything looks as though it should try an additional reboot this fixed one of my deployments.

Compact Headphones – Arctic Sound P311

I recently picked up a pair of new headphones, my requirements were for compact size, bluetooth, not inner ear, comes with case and low cost. After much searching and reading of reviews I settled on a pair of Arctic Sound P311.

From Headphones
From Headphones
From Headphones

The initial impression is that the headphones are flimsy but after several weeks use and a toddler attempting to destroy them by streching them out as far as possible I think a better term would be flexible. They are very light and wearing them all day has no ill effects and more importantly requires no stopping to recharge, I have used them for three days semi continuously before having to recharge which is very impressive. The ear pads are soft and comfortable and most importantly the sound quality is good, not as good as the pair of Bose with noise cancelling I use at home but more considerably more impressive than I had expected at this price point.

Set up and use was very quick and easy I had the bluetooth connected to my Windows Phone 7 (HTC Mozart) within seconds, no repairing is required after the initial pair and subsequent pairings take a couple of seconds from power on. Charging is via a usb cable which met my need perfectly as I can use a port on my laptop and don’t need an additional power brick to carry around. The on headphone controls (volume, skip forward/back, multifunction) work well once you have figured out where they are in relation to your head while wearing. The multifunction button works well with only a couple of seconds delay from pushing to device operation, the microphone is ok in a quiet environment but I wouldn’t trust it somewhere with a lot of backgrond noise (not a problem for me and it wasn’t a feature I was looking for anyway so it’s just a bonus).

Overall for under AUD$50 delivered I don’t think there is another product that comes close to the quality and functionality of these headphones, I would recommend them to anyone with similar requirements I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Personal Laptop – Asus U31F

About a year ago I purchased an Asus U31F laptop for non-work use and have been using it on a daily basis, I just thought it was worth posting my thoughts with a mini review. I have replaced the HDD with a 60Gb SSD as I can’t live without them anymore! Other than that the machine is stock with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 4Gb ram, I can’t recommend this machine enough, performance is more than adequate for daily tasks and even runs Visual Studio 2010 at reasonable speed.

Startup time is less than a minute to logged in usable state (mainly due to the SSD I suspect) and the battery life is outstanding as I write this I have been running on battery for over 3 hours and the tray app reports another 3 remaining. On extreme power saving settings it will just manage 8 hours (only just :)).

The downside the keyboard has a little flex to it that some might be discouraged by but is eay to type on and the chiclet keys make touch typing easy. The only other thing that others may not find appealing is the screen resolution 1366×768 the vertical scrolling can be tedious but for daily browsing and Office use is acceptable.

The final key point for me is the size 13″ and weight (or lack of) is fantastic, it makes it a true portable machine perfect for carrying in a slip case to meetings and running demos. I am sure if the above sounds like something that meets your needs you will not be disappointed.

MyToasterRules

Myself and a colleague are embarking on a fun sideline project. Having both spent much time working in offices and being limited by office kitchens we have decided to create a site and supporting blog that pushes the boundries of what can be achieved with a simple sandwich toaster and a microwave.

Part of this project is also an investigation of how to build an eco system around a brand for as little money as possible using online services. We have selected a technology stack as a starting point and will expand as we see value in other services. So far the cost to date has been USD $10 for the domain http://www.mytoasterrules.com the stack shapes up as follows:

Google Apps – Main base provides email, website, document repository, web analytics etc details of this will be covered in a later post

Blogger – Blog site hosted by google but integrated with our brand and hosted as a subsite http://blog.mytoasterrules.com

Facebook – Brand page which will have links to the site and blog along with recipe announcements http://facebook.com/mytoasterrules

Twitter – Instant feed for updating with new recipes @mytoasterrules

YouTube – Video recipes MyToasterTules channel

Currently the sites are empty with stock themes but this should quickly change to a coherent branding and (hopefully) rapidly fill with content. 

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I thought this was something worth mentioning as I have been caught out with it in the past, money allowing it is worth registering and domain names similar to your own to allow for people misspelling when typing your web address. We have additionally registered mytoasterules.com, very similar but with the second ‘r’ is the middle missing and redirected it to our main domain. I wasn’t completely sold on the domain provider from google (and can’t stand godaddy.com) so I went with Hover.com, after hearing their advert on the Nerdist podcast, for a paltry $10. As I don’t need the domain to do anything that is the final cost and I don’t lose any visitors, nice.

I mentioned that I had been caught by this previously, a company I worked for set up and registered a domain with a hyphen in the name ‘-‘ the website was subsequently set up and the same notion occured to us to buy the domain without the hyphen which was available when the site was first set up. However by the time the second domain was being purchased another company had already snapped it up and the domain now went to a site containing illicit material that you would not want associated with an IT business so BE WARNED!