halloween, costumes comments edit

Jenn as Josephine and Trav as

  • always a good time.  This year Jenn and I went as Napoleon and Josephine.  The photo here is us on Saturday just before heading over to Jason and Tracy’s house for a party.

As usual, we both made our costumes.  Jenn made the dress and cape/robe and I made everything you see but the hat and shoes.  It was quite the effort - more than I anticipated - and there were a couple of all-nighters pulled to get things done.

Then, of course, I had to go and stain my pants in the chocolate fountain at the party, but that’s another story.

The effort paid off - I got the “Honorable Mention” category at the company costume contest.  And had a hell of a time at that party.

When I told people I was going to be Napoleon, the conversation was almost always the same.  In fact, here’s a [near] verbatim transcript of how every single one of them went:

Person: What are you going to be this year? Travis: Napoleon. Person: Dynamite? Travis: No, moron, Bonaparte.  It’s unfortunate for you that a small-scale cultural icon has overtaken an entire period in history. Person: Aren’t you a little tall to be Napoleon? Travis: Because I haven’t heard that one before.  Thanks for bringing that to my attention, though, because I’d never have thought of it! Guess I’ll have to walk around on my knees or something because you can’t get past my height but the first Napoleon you thought of was Dynamite. Person:

The level of dripping acid in the conversation was, of course, adjusted based on present company, but you get the idea.

Not sure what we’ll be next year, but we’ve got some ideas.  It was nice to have costumes that “went together.”  Usually we just do our own thing.  We’ll probably try for similarly-themed costumes again next year.

General Ramblings comments edit

Trav and Jenn on "Speed: The
Ride"Last week, my parents, Jenn, and I all packed up and headed down to Vegas for three days.

I’ve been to Las Vegas a bajillion times now but it’s always different and there’s always something new and fun to check out, so I love heading down there.  (Granted, it’s a little hot for my taste, so while it’s a nice place to visit, it’d take a lot for me to want to actually move there.)

We stayed at the MGM Grand and the night we got there we went to KA.  It’s the second time I’ve seen that show, but it was just as spectacular as the first. Once again, front row center tickets, and well worth the price of admission.

We took full advantage of the Las Vegas Monorail, even having a stop right at our hotel.  If you head down there, you’ll find the $9 day ticket well worth the money.  Of course, that didn’t stop us from walking our asses off and getting all grumpy because of the overall pain of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.  At the end of the second day, we were just about dead and Dad just had to go to one last tchotchke shop to pick up this ridiculous tiny “Las Vegas” sign that, as it turns out, they sold at the gift store at our hotel.

On the other hand, how can you pass up a trip to go shit shopping at the World’s Largest Gift Shop?  You can’t say no.  You just can’t.  Even though it’s sort of like seeing all of the stupid tourist traps at the beach all in one big building.

While we were down at that end of the strip, we stopped in at The Sahara and rode “Speed: The Ride.”  It’s a roller coaster only 40 seconds long, but it’s a hell of a 40 seconds and worth the $10 to ride.  Jenn, Dad, and I rode that and got off the train all weak-legged and wobbly.  Good times.

After all was said and done, we got back home safe and sound, ready for another trip down there.  I think we might go again in February for my friend Adam’s birthday.  We’ll have to see.

To close - a picture of me and my parents outside the Treasure Island:

Dad, Travis, and Mom outside the Treasure

aspnet, dotnet, books comments edit

The ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology by Allen, Atwood, Barnett, Galloway, and
Haack.I just got through reading The ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology and I have to say, I liked it.

Anthology is a “cookbook” approach at showing different tips and tricks for working with ASP.NET 2.0.  If you’ve never set foot in ASP.NET land, this isn’t for you - it’s not a “newbie trying to learn ASP.NET” book.  It’s more of a “moderately experienced ASP.NET developer trying to sharpen the saw” book.

The voice of the book is fairly informal, which makes it nice - like you’re learning tips from a friend, rather than being dictated to.  Even some of the code snippets - which are shown in a nice, easy-to-read format - inject humor (watch for the Office Space references in the “Working With Email” chapter).  It made the book really easy to get through and understand.

The book covers a large range of topics, from error handling to membership and role providers to form validation.  What was a pleasant surprise to see is that it covered a lot of things many other books don’t, like project format, source control, and usage of popular third-party libraries (e.g., log4net and SubSonic).  There’s discussion of non-ASP.NET issues like design patterns and practices, data access layer usage, and basic SQL Server query optimization - things that a reasonably experienced ASP.NET developer bumps into on occasion but may not have had time to delve into.  It even addresses differences for users of the Visual Studio Express Editions, who normally get sort of “left by the wayside.”

There were really only a couple of minor issues that I found with the book.

First, there’s a chapter in there called “.NET 2.0 Core Libraries” that looks as though it’s intended to give an overview of, well, the .NET 2.0 core libraries… but in the 30 pages allocated to the topic you can barely scratch the surface, so it generally comes off as slightly schizophrenic, hopping from topic to topic.

The other issue I found is that there are some surprisingly good “nuggets” of information that seem misplaced and, in some cases, outright hidden, in the book and deserved a little more time in the sun.  For example, cross-page postbacks were sort of hidden in the “Component-based Development” chapter and asynchronous pages were hidden in the “Working With Email” chapter.  Interesting and valuable information that just sort of felt ”out of place.”

Overall, the content of the book far outweighs any of the minor organizational problems you run into.  If you’re looking for something to learn from and spark ideas of ways to make better ASP.NET applications, this is a great book.

[In the interest of full disclosure: I was sent a review copy for free from one of the authors, Jon Galloway.  Thanks, Jon!]

I’m in the process of re-ripping a lot of my CD collection in a higher quality format and I noticed that iTunes doesn’t necessarily detect that I already have the song in my library and offer to copy the metadata from the old version to the new one for me.  But I need that - I need to be able to copy all the metadata (including artwork and playlist membership) from the old version of the track to the new one so I can delete the old version and keep on truckin’.

It’s doubly difficult when you realize that the iTunes UI doesn’t actually allow you to modify all of the metadata - things like play count don’t have an interface.  So - time for a program.

The CopyTrackMetadata program I wrote allows you to copy any or all of the metadata from a source track to a destination track.  Just open iTunes, open the app, choose which metadata you want to copy, select the source and destination tracks, and click “Copy.”  Done.

Here’s the main window:

CopyTrackMetadata main

And the myriad options you have on which metadata to copy:

CopyTrackMetadata options

It’s totally free, and it works great for me, but if it somehow destroys your music collection, you’re on your own - this is totally unsupported.

Download CopyTrackMetadata 1.2.0

Download CopyTrackMetadata 1.2.0 Source

Version History:

  • 1.0.0: First release.
  • 1.2.0: Updated for .NET 3.5 and fixed a breaking change in the way tracks get selected in iTunes 9.

gaming, xbox comments edit

I got my fourth Xbox (the results of the third repair) and steeled myself for the hoop-jumping madness that is the digital rights management system on Xbox Live.

In my two previous bouts with this, the process has been basically:

  1. Create a brand new Xbox Live Silver account.
  2. Delete all your stuff.  Try to re-download it because that’s supposed to re-authorize the console.  It doesn’t work for me.
  3. Call in for “points after repair.”  (Get codes from Microsoft that you can redeem for points.)
  4. Apply those points to the Xbox Live Silver account.
  5. Re-purchase and re-download all of your stuff.

They must have been getting people abusing the system (like getting the points and buying different things) because the process has changed.  My understanding of the new process is:

  1. Call in to get points after repair, as before.
  2. Explain to the new technician what you mean by “points after repair” and why you want it.  (For me, it’s because my account can play the content still but it won’t work for any other profiles on the machine unless I’m logged in, so my wife is screwed if I take my profile and go play at a friend’s house.)
  3. The technician will ask you if you’ve tried deleting and re-downloading the content.  Try it and find that it doesn’t work.
  4. The technician will escalate the call to a supervisor who will ask you if you’ve tried deleting and re-downloading the content. Somehow the result of the earlier trial hasn’t changed in the last three minutes.
  5. The supervisor will give you a new reference number and schedule a call for a few days hence to get a resolution.
  6. Before the scheduled call, another technician will call you and ask you if you’ve tried deleting and re-downloading the content. Because they didn’t, like, write that down or anything.  Explain the results of the previous attempt and that you’re waiting for the call.  The technician will tell you to keep waiting for that scheduled call.
  7. The scheduled call occurs and the technician on the other end will ask you if you’ve tried deleting and re-downloading the content. Sigh.
  8. The issue will be escalated again, this time to someone who supposedly can do something about it.  In two to four weeks, you’ll get a call with a resolution.
  9. When you get the call, you’ll delete all of your content and re-download it through the Xbox Live Marketplace tab, under the area called something like “Previously Downloaded Content.”  The resolution is, basically, that someone flipped a bit in a database somewhere so that this time when you re-download, it will not just re-download but also re-authorize your console for the content.

I am not all the way through this process.  I am currently on step eight, waiting my two-to-four weeks to get the call that says someone flipped the bit and I can re-authorize my console.

I’m not sure the new process is better.  I can see that it would stop the folks abusing the system, which I think is good, but I think it’s pretty crappy that I’ve gotta sit for weeks waiting for this to happen. There has got to be a better way.