Monday, December 27, 2004

Played Half Life 2

Wow. This game is amazing. Wow.

Back in Business with MPx220 and Bluetooth

I finally broke down and re-purchased the MPx220 yesterday. I had returned the one I reported on earlier to Best Buy with no incidence. It pays to pack things perfectly back in their boxes. I am pleased to finally permanently own this great phone. I also wanted to try out the blue tooth adapter. Boy has that been miserable. The Actiontec support person had no clue and lots of research on the Internet shows that bluetooth PC interfaces appear to still be in their infancy and even XP only recently added native BT support to SP2.

The Christmas of Toys

I haven't even scratched the surface of opening and actually being able to spend some quality time getting to know my new collection of toys from all of the generous gift givers this Christmas. Here is the list:

AT&T Came Through

I was not suprised to see a package on my doorstep on Christmas Eve with all of the last minute presents coming through but I when I saw the label I was amazed. FexEx overnight from AT&T. Here it was, the MTA I begged for but was told I couldn't have. I took it out of the box quickly noticing the prepaid UPS return label and plugged it in down stairs. After restoring the config and re-registering it with Callvantage, a quick ring-back confirmed it was up. I picked up the receiver and dialed, it rang, no whine. There is still a slight hiss like a data connection noise in the background but much more acceptable. I am pleased to now officially have successfully transferred from Vonage to AT&T. It only took 2 months, about 35 phone calls and at least 1" of my hairline to complete.

Friday, December 24, 2004

No More Vonage

I had the joy of cancelling my Vonage account yesterday. Not suprisingly, they gave me a very hard time and charged me $41.99 per line for the cancellation. They are kind enough to refund one of the cancellation fees as soon as I return the router but the customer service guy I talked to said that the automated system usually doesn't work so he put a note on my account. All in all, they owe me almost $200 in credits for all the screw ups. I won't find out how much of that I get until the MTA gets back to them. I can't wait to finally be done with all of this. Merry Christmas Eve day to everybody!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ping to working!

Thanks to Jeff, I am finally able to automatically ping when submitting blogs through the w.bloggar xmlrpc interface. Hooray! The code was ugly but after only 2 hours, we were able to isolate the problem and resolve it. The next step will be to correctly call the code that pings multiple blogroll services as is done in the native post interface.

Cleaned up the RSS Feed

Due to reports of issues with RSS I have edited the RSS code with a fix. The fix was in the bblog forums

Callvantage Tech Support - Miserable

Nick was kind enough to come over and bring his Callvantage TA box over for testing to make sure the whining noise went away and sure enough, it did! Now we have isolated the problem as a defective TA. I called Callvantage to tell them the good news and they said that they want him to bring it back and connect it up and call in so they can hear the difference. Are you kidding me? They don't believe me and must think that I just want an extra TA or something. My call was actually answered in 6 minutes this time but took 30 minutes of instant messaging between the tier 1 support person and the escalations departmet to determine that my diagnosis wasn't good enough for them to ship a new adapter. I must now wait until my ticket is worked in the queue before I will get this resolved. 48-hours left until porting is complete. Maybe I should cancel before then. We will see.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Another week without the MPx220

So I returned the MPx220 a few weeks ago deciding that $1000 was too much for 2 phones and I would wait until the good days were back of a $50 MPx220. I thought it would surely be now, the week before Christmas but low and behold the rebates are still stuck at $150 off the phone with a 2-year contract. Lame. The other concern is that the rebate only applies to 1 of the 2 phones if I sign up for the family plan. We will see how the day after Chirstmas goes but at this rate I may have to settle for paying too much for the phone and getting two separate lines. I now have a case for the phone so what next?

Callvantage is in!

I got my MTA on Friday, it's a Linksys RT41P2-AT. I first attached it to one of the ports off of my switch but noticed a loud hum in the background so I connected it in front of my linux box and exposed it to the world. An unfortunate side effect was that I once again changed IP addresses so it was off to to get my DNS changes in. The hum is still there.

Friday, December 17, 2004

29th Birthday Party with New Hermit Crabs!

I had a great birthday party tonight at On The Border and am completely stuffed and gifted. I got lots of great stuff including a Plantronics USB headset for all my Skype needs. The Return of the King extended edition which I can't wait to watch. The new Leisure Suit Larry ;). An Einstein Bros. gift card (my fav breakfast and lunch place). A gift cert to Amazon so I can pick up some much needed stuff. A gift cert to Target so I can get some much needed housewares. My favorite gift of the night was from Melissa though. She got me a pair of hermit crabs to replace the one I lost a few months back. I have a monstrous habitat and can't wait to populate it tommorow with them. They are both fresh water crabs and the big ones name is Bob and the little one with the red shell is Happy. Bob seems to like tortillas and chips. Happy seems a little more quiet and after a tour around our table, he has decided to take it easy and watch Bob mess up the cage. It's darken outside and time for night-night.

BBlog Ping Problem

I think I might have found a bug with bblog. It doesn't seem to ping the other blog services like I have set the correct URL's in Options but alas, the update date at doesn't show it's getting my blog updates. Here we go again.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Getting data from PowerPoint

Another programming challenge, how to get the text from a PowerPoint file. Well, I am currently using Office automation to get the data, this isn't a permanent solution but will do for now. I am only having trouble with password protected (Read-only mode) files. This is better outlined in a newsgroup thread at MSDN.

Novell Cool Solutions still rules

Wow, I just got another email from a reader of the Novell Cool Solutions articles. The little bit of fan mail that I get just keeps my ego (or is it eggo, which one do I put syrup on?) inflated just enough that it's difficult to get into my office. About 2 years ago, I was deep in the trenches trying to deploy Windows 2000 and Windows XP to about 1000 users.

Cancelled Vonage

Qwest arrived on time today to setup the phone line. I told them that it had already been done since I am handy with telcom wiring but he wanted to connect his Harris tester up and make sure the link was good. We chatted about Vonage and I told him about the hell I went through with them. He laughed and had heard it before. I guess sometimes newer technology isn't necessarily better. My DirectTiVo is about as happy as could be, it can finally dial up after being out-of-communication with the mothership (DirectTV) for almost 4 months now. I am looking forward to being able to send faxes as well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Virtual PC/Windows CE Emulator Error

I was working with my brother Jeff about a week ago testing out some PocketPC software he is writing for a class and ever since I started the project and installed the Virtual PC Emulator, I have been getting the error:

'Virtual PC/Windows CE Emulator' will cause Windows to become unstable. Windows has prevented these drivers from loading. Click here for more details.

I looked this up and found out it is due to PAE (Physical Address Extension) mode being enabled on a processor. From what I found, my AMD Athlon64 processor has this detected and enabled automatically in WinXP SP2. More here. I ended up running notepad c:boot.ini and adding the /NoExecute=AlwaysOff to disable DEP (Data execution prevention) which turns off PAE as well. Now the emulator works great and I no longer get the error. The system actually seems a bit faster too.

Here is the boot.ini for reference

[code lang='css'][boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /fastdetect /NoExecute=AlwaysOff[/code]

Hope this helps if someone else runs into this issue.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Vonage Saga is Ending

The last straw today. I came back from my birthday lunch and went into my office to find my message light not blinking for the first time in several weeks. I thought this was odd as my Nortel Vista 350 (Qwest Home Receptionist) showed 4 new callers. I dialed into my voicemail and was informed that there were no new messages. I then checked my email and strangely, it said I had 2 new messages. I then logged into the web site and sure enough, I did. Dialed back in, nothing. Hmmm. So I called Vonage and after 35 minutes was told that the issue was known and had been reported but not updated on the web site yet. This is it folks, I can't take it anymore. I have officially decided that after 6 months of my voice mail indicator not turning off, choppy quality, long hold times, phone echo and every service outage imaginable as well as terrible customer service that I am done with Vonage.

I set Melissa's line back up with Qwest for $25/mo with a waived activation fee for returning from a competitor and decided I would give AT&T Callvantage a try for my business line. I do a lot of long distance so this would be a good cost savings. However, this time, at the first sign of crappy quality, I am leaving this VoIP ship and going back to a good ol' "TiVo-can-dial-up-I-can-send-faxes-works-when-internet-is-down" hardwired phone line. Also luckily for me, Vonage was so incompetent that they never transferred my service fully away from Qwest so porting was easy this time with my line. I look forward to receiving my MTA and calling Vonage and telling them to get lost in the next week. Stay tuned and I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Motorola MPx220 Continued

I have been using the phone for about 2 days now and still think it is a great piece of technology. I am in desperate need for a holster but I have found some good ones online. There is the standard type holster as well as a little more protective cyber case. I usually don't care for cases because the clamshell design keeps the phone protected with so much exposed screen and camera on the 220, I think I would rather accept the added bulk of a case to protect it. I will probably order one of these in the next few days.

On with the review, I tested out the voice command/recognition. Out of the box it runs great. In 10 contacts I tried, it didn't miss one. The coolness of this feature finally matches its usefulness. Not only can you dial the contact, you can also rattle off a phone number and it recognizes the numbers and dials. I verified the 2 key features that my wife wants, customized ring tones for specific contacts as well as photo-caller id. You can actually use the external screen for taking pictures. I was pleased to see this feature since the resolutions are a little bit different and being able to see what the picture will look like is a good benefit.

Best Buy is running a new rebate today and the phone is down to $199 with activation. I would still love to see it back to the $49.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Bought the Motorola MPx220!

Well, the free headset did it. I just went out to Best Buy and bought the MPx220. What a nightmare. First the guy looks for the phone for a good 20 minutes to find out they are in lock-up instead of with the rest of the phones. I assume this must mean they are a hot item. Once he gets back he tells me it's no problem to sell me the phone without activation but it will cost me $500 each.

What the heck, if I like the phone, I can come back and do a return/rebuy with service. So he goes to ring them up and can't figure out how to ring them up without service and ends up telling me that Best Buy has a policy that they can't sell phones without service. He even calls the sales manager over to confirm this falsehood. I tell him I can't believe thats true and I start to walk. I get over to the phone display and there, at the bottom of the sign it says *$150 surcharge without activation. I point this out to him and another sales guy goes, "Oh ya, just hit this during the sale". So, $1000 later (ouch), I have two Motorola MPx220.

I got stuck in at an accident on the way home and decide to open the box and pop the battery and my SIM card from my T-Mobile phone in. Wow, it works, the phone boots (almost a full minute) and shows T-Mobile and my number on the display. Nice! I guess the rumors of this being a locked phone are greatly exagerated. I didn't find any problems with the sound as suggested elsewhere and actually had to turn it down at a few points. I tried the speaker phone and it worked great, unfortunately, as soon as I closed the phone to set it down on the dash, it hung-up. I will have to look into that later.

I got the unit home and started looking more closely. I had removed the troublesome plastic covers in the car and that made the speakerphone and ring volume work correctly. Next was a little charging and syncing. No problems there, I downloaded activesync (I didn't want to crack the seal on the CD in case that was grounds for not returning it later) and connected the included USB cable to the phone. Nicely enough it started charging. I can think this is good and bad for laptop users, nice to not have to bring one more cable but it would probably be hard on your battery life if you left it connected as the laptop and phone are sharing your laptop battery.

I decided to take a picture of Finn in time out. Yep, camera sucks, at least at full zoom. But, as most people say, I didn't buy the phone for the camera. I wouldn't have wasted the megapixel count but hey, it's a nice feature in a pinch. There is a conveniently placed button on the side that launches the phone app and then pressed again, takes the picture. Very slick. I was a little worried about putting too many minutes on the phone but can't find the minute counter for the life of me.

To Be Continued...

Free bluetooth headset with MPx220

So here I am patiently waiting for the updated firmware to come out to fix the sound problems on this phone and Motorola sends me an email offering the first 1000 registerers of their MPx220's a free bluetooth headset at Man, that just isn't fair. *cry* Maybe I will just go buy the broken version so I can get the headset LOL.

Crystal Reports in VB .NET

Here I go again. It's time to integrate a Crystal Report into VB.NET. My current goal is simple. I need to query my database and create a report. I have Crystal Reports v10 installed and working. The first link I found on doing this is at I am trying to create a Crystal Report control in a Windows forms interface.

1. Created the XSD by adding a new item to the project - Dataset
2. Add a new item to your project - Crystal Report
3. Using the Wizard, design the report - Use the XSD as the data source
4. Create a form with a Crystal Report Viewer on it
5. Create a dataset object with only tables contained in the XSD
6. Use this code to link the dataset, report and ReportViewer
[code lang='vb']
Dim rpt As New resultsReport2
CrystalReportViewer1.ReportSource = rpt

These are the basics. Unfortunately, I have a massive dataset and I keep getting out of memory errors. If I only select 500 rows, the report works but it takes forever to load.

UPDATE: I gave up and bought a book (300+ pages). Apparently this subject is much more complex than just learning a few tips form a web page. I headed down to SoftPro and picked up Professional Crystal Reports for Visual Studio .NET by David McAmis ISBN 0-7645-5730-0, This is another Wrox book which I usually don't like but Amazon readers seemed to rate it highly enough and there isn't an alternative Microsoft Press book so it's reading time. Since I was already there and need a better grasp on resusable code, I picked up OOP: Building Reusable Components with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET ISBN 0-7356-1379-6. I am looking forward to reading this one. It's another Microsoft Press so I know they are standardized on the coding conventions.

Monday, December 6, 2004

New Cell Phones (Motorola MPx220)

We went to Best Buy last night and I am still not sure which way to go. The phone guy we talked to said he wouldn't recommend the Motorola MPx220 because of the speaker and microphone issues with it (way too quiet, you physically can't hear the ring 1 ft away in a loud room). He thinks the Motorola 551 is a much better choice. Definitely not as feature rich and I would really dig a phone that I could write apps for myself. We will see if they get the 1.30 firmware phones out while a good set of rebates is on.

The Vonage Saga

Tried Vonage out about 6 months ago, not working so great these days. I am doing webex demo's and the since there is no bandwidth shaping, my voice quality is dying out when I send alot of data out (screen updates during demos). I ordered AT&T Callvantage since Nick recommended it and the box can sit outside the firewall without hanging (like the Vonage MTA) and does traffic shaping to guarantee bandwidth for the voice portion. I tried a tc script from to see if that would resolve the problem but it continues to be a problem. Unfortunately AT&T only supports single line so the business line will have to stay on Vonage until they iron out that issue. Vonage also forgot to cancel my line with Qwest so they have been charging me $30/mo since I switched for basically nothing but a forwarding line. I may be getting a refund for these costs from Vonage according to an email I got today:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Vonage.

In responses to your question, currently we are working on your request. Once the transfer has been completed you will be issued credit for the time lost after the 20 business days.

Please let us know if we may be of any further assistance.


Keeping my fingers crossed.

Skype with Dave

Working with Dave on Skype today. Seems that the Mac OS X client isn't working quite correctly. It seems that Skype out works fine but we are getting errors Skype to Skype (OS X-> WinXP clients). Nothing on the basic NG search helps. I will keep looking.