eWorld.UI - Matt Hawley

Ramblings of Matt

Those that Pass On...

October 29, 2004 23:22 by matthaw

Well, before you start crying, I'm not referring to a family member, though those who knew my grandmothers computer would say that it was. The old Compaq was 8 years old, and in computer years, thats about 80. It lived a fullfilling life for my grandmother, being that it was an old Pentium I with less RAM than what my smallest memory card for my digital camera holds.

She will be missed, as I'm sure a lot of you can relate. My heart goes out to my grandmother who know (gasp!) can't check her email.



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Interscape Provider Model

October 28, 2004 01:52 by matthaw

Sitting in on the MSDN Event with Jeff Julian and Robert McLaws, and Robert just released a new community site devoted to using the Provider Model in ASP.NET 1.1 and ASP.NET 2.0. The uber cool thing about this new announcement is that Interscape is releasing a Provider Model Framework free to the public in the next week or so.

Congrats Robert and Interscape!



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My File Extension

October 25, 2004 19:26 by matthaw
You are .mp3 The kids love you.  You get along with just about everybody except the music industry.  You really make yourself heard.
Which File Extension are You?


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Dilbert on Random Number Generation

October 25, 2004 17:31 by matthaw

I'm catching up on my Dilbert Desktop calendar and today's is going to be a keeper. Unfortunately, I can't scan it onto my computer (I think it may be copyright violation as well), but the strip is just great:

[Tour of Accounting]
Accounting Troll: "Over here we have our random number generator"

Number Generator Troll: "Nine Nine Nine Nine Nine Nine"

Dilbert: "Are you sure that's random?"

Accounting Troll: "That's the problem with randomness: you can never be sure"

Thinking back about this, its so true. A random number generated at this exact moment can theoretically be re-generated at a later time, how random is that. However, your odds increase as the number of random numbers that can be generated increase, though I'm sure all of you know this by now.



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Interesting Download Statistics

October 23, 2004 00:47 by matthaw

I'm doing some digging in my control download stats just to kinda see how things are going. Some of these results may be suprising, others just borderline insane.

Total downloads: ~37000
Total unique downloads by email: ~21800
Total Calendar Popup downloads: ~17500
Highest Download Day: 9/26/2003 with 271 downloads
Lowest Download Day: 4/4/2003 and 4/5/2003 with 1 download each day
Average downloads per day: ~65
Most commonly used Fake Email address: a rendition of "a@a.com", w/ ~310 downloads

Pretty cool stuff that I've collected over the last year and a half. I love looking at these types of things, they're so cool.



What does Rory Eat?

October 21, 2004 00:46 by matthaw
Aside from Rory's occasional run to Starbucks, I wonder what he pounds down that makes his posts so darn funny. If you've not been reading his blog today, he's let a slew crazy ass blog posts about SellsCon 5 (or if you're really picky, Applied XML Developers Conference (I just like the other title better (assuming that Chris doesn't try and con anyone about XML (but who would do that?)))). I especially love the "Space Hamster" picture...

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Google Desktop - Just Uninstalled

October 19, 2004 23:33 by matthaw

While the Google Desktop application is quite a feat by Google, I just think (like many others) that there are too many security risks and flaws in the current version that just render it useless.

After reading Franci's post I quickly realized all of the security holes that the Google Desktop opens up and uninstalled the software. In reality, I didn't even use it...I still opted for Lookout to search my email...why? Well, because its not browser based and its right there in the application I need to search email for.

I would suggest that everyone take a step back and determine if the security risks are worth the ease of searching. Personally, I don't.



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More on VS.NET Project Files - Unsupported Characters

October 15, 2004 00:09 by matthaw

Got another nasty bug relating to unsupported characters in VS.NET project files again, today. Unfortunately, my changes didn't handle ampersands, or other of those types of characters, and threw a nasty exception...not good.

Anyway, to test out how these files with ampersands actually get into the project files, I started a new project and was throwing things around. The good news, is that you cannot create a new file from within VS.NET and add it to your project if it contains invalid characters. VS.NET handles this situation very nicely telling you cannot create a file with that name because it contains one of the invalid characers.

The bad thing? Well, you can add an existing file with an invalid character to a project and not receive any error messages at all. Hmm, is that good practice? I don't think so. Maybe they can fix this in the realm (I actually haven't tried it in Whidbey, but my guess is that its probably the same) for Visual Studio 2005.



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Awesome Code of the Week

October 14, 2004 23:22 by matthaw

So, "Awesome Code of the Week"? Yeah, I think you'll agree after this blog post. Let's just say if there was an award for this, I'd take the cake - AND the cake pan.

So what is it? Well, its simply generating PDF reports and emailing them. Woooaah, how cool is that? Not really on its own, however its very cool in the whole process that I'm doing to generate those PDF reports.

History
Our company, over the past several years, have been developing and perfecting a ASP based application for one of our clients. In it, we have built a custom reporting engine that takes XML spit out from SQL Server, translates it into managable XML via another XML translation process, then formats it using XSLT. This process, cool indeedy, was a beast to bring into the .NET world.

One report is generated all the time, printed / and or saved directly from the browser. A new request came across to take this report and have selection of multiple different parameters to generate X number of reports, and be delivered to the user. For instance, you select 3 items from Item A, 4 items from Item B. The user wants reports for all the combinations, so in this instance we have 12 reporrts that are generated. The current report, as-is, cannot handle this, and would take a lot to modify.

The Design
Back in June of this year, we decided that the users would come to a new ASP.NET application (under the realm of the ASP application), make their selections, and a PDF will be created while the users waited. As time went on, we realized that some of these combinations (upwards into the 100s) could take a long time to process.

As such, we had to come up with a new way of handling it. I realized at that point, that it may be best to spawn a new thread, let the user see that the request has been submitted, and then process the reports in the background. Ultimately, it would email the user the PDF report once finished. All was well, and a tremendous time was estimated.

The Coding
This week, I sat out to start this project, I didn't want it to become a daunting task, and then it hit me (or a lightbulb actually turned on in my head (which is very odd (and scary) since who wants a lightbulb in your head)). I realized that the easiest solution was to call the ASP report for each combination, creating the PDF on the fly.

So, there I sat, figuring out how to use WebRequest and WebResponse to POST and retrieve the HTML from the page. Success! I was able to post my different parameters in the format the underlying ASP page knew about, cool.

Next step, creating that pesky PDF file. I ran across several different PDF components, and WebSupergoo provided ABCPdf for .NET that would allow me to stick the HTML into a page, and continue on.

Last steps, zipping up the file and emailing. Now, here's where the tricky part came, not due to complexity of zipping the file, but due to how VB.NET handles declarazations of arrays. Boy, it was pain to figure out that in VB.NET, when you declare an array, you're actually setting the upper bounds of the array, not the size. After about 30 min, I finally figured that out (which is why I like C# so much), things started working again. I used #zipLib to do my zip compression, and all was well. The email got the attachment and was sent out...simple as pie.

Performance Testing
Now, this subject is super tricky in our development environment at work, due to the fact that our development server is a Pentium II 333Mhz with 256MB of RAM. Can you say screeching fast? Well, you couldn't on this machine (we really need new hardware). Anyway, as of the writing of this blog post, I started a combination that will generate roughly 6045 reports, which (if I did the math correct for our dev server with 30 reports for 15 min), its going to take about 50 hours to complete. Wow, is right...do I need to say that we need newer hardware?

The Cool Factor
So, what's cool about this? Well, I'm using an ASP.NET application that spawns a thread to POST a webpage to an ASP application, retrieve its HTML, stick it in a PDF, zip that PDF up, and email it to the user. How fricking cool is that.



Categories: .NET
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Jeff Prosise's .NET Presentation

October 11, 2004 16:21 by matthaw

For those of you who attended last weeks Central IL Dot Net user group meeting (ASP.NET Hacking), you can download Jeff Prosise's presentation and demo code from here.

Jeff, I also wanted to give you a public Thank You! for taking a day of your precious time to visit us and give such a great presentation. It was also great meeting you in person and I hope that the next Geek Cruise, .NET Nirvana III, goes without a hitch!

Update: Just found out there is no Powerpoint, however it does contain all the demos. Jeff didn't actually use a powerpoint presentation, he just spoke and showed demos.





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