The latest minor crisis we’re facing at home is that of storage, or the lack thereof.  We have 2300 square feet and zero closet space.  It’s stressing me out.

It turns out Jenn an I are both sentimental, organized pack rats.  We keep things because [we might need it again someday | it could be worth something | it’s been around forever and has sentimental value] (choose one).

The thing is, those arguments don’t hold water for the majority of stuff we have stored.

We have boxes of books that we keep “in case we want to read them again” but they’re such a pain to get to that we’ll never get them out - more likely we’ll just go find a different book to read.

And, honestly, I’ve got two pickaxes in my garage.  Two.  I don’t think I’ve used one since I’ve moved in, and if I somehow need a pickaxe… well, I think maybe I’ll just go to Home Depot.

Things we figure might be worth something really aren’t.  The set of plastic “Disney’s Hercules” plates from McDonald’s that I’ve been carting around for years goes for $10 - $30 on eBay.  It’s $10 worth of time and effort just to list the thing for sale and pack it up for shipping if it sells.  They’re not worth anything.

The sentimental items are harder to deal with, but there’s low-hanging fruit even in that area.  For example, I don’t think we need every random photo we’ve ever taken if we have the negatives anyway and we’re not in them.  We got rid of a two-inch stack of pictures this weekend.

Anyway, “the items you own will end up owning you” has started to become a more prevalent theme for me.  Overwhelming, too.  Whenever I think I should just deal with a box of stuff, I feel like I did in school when it was time to write an essay.  Where to begin? Is it even worth it? There are so many other jobs I could do…

Jenn, wonderful as she is, is not much help because a) she’s afflicted by the same pack rat sickness I am and b) if it involves putting up racks or shelves or moving heavy boxes of our crap around, it’s all me, baby.  To her credit, she was the one this weekend  that went through the box of photos and crap that’s been in our dining room for two years now.

Slowly but surely, we’re going to have to deal with this.  For anything that comes into the house, we need to figure out something that’s going to leave.

At a recent conference I went to, I entered a drawing to win a prize from one of the sponsors.  Other prizes being given out by other vendors (and the conference host) were things like UMPCs, Xbox 360 consoles, Xbox 360 games, and so forth.  Pretty cool stuff.

A month later I got this email from the sponsor that told me I had won something and said, quote (emphasis theirs), “If you’d like to claim your fabulous prize, please respond to this email with your mailing address.”

I was stoked.  Stoked!  I don’t really ever win anything, so to win something on this level - especially if they have to confirm my mailing address after the form of entry was to drop my business card, complete with my mailing address, into a basket for the drawing - was pretty exciting.

I psyched myself up, wondering what it could be.  A UMPC would be cool, but - no, don’t get your hopes up that high.  Maybe an Xbox 360 game.  I sure hope I don’t have it already.  I suppose I could trade it in if I do.  Maybe a gift card somewhere neat.  Even if it’s something like Amazon, hey, bonus.  What could it be?

The prize arrived today.  I saw it in my mailbox at work and walked over to it, wondering.  It was in a manila envelope, so it wasn’t anything as big or bulky as a UMPC… but it could still be an Xbox game or a gift card.  I walked over and picked it up, slightly unnerved by the… soft… feel to the envelope.  But it could be packaging!  It could just be the packaging!

I took the envelope back to my desk and tore into it, no longer able to contain the anticipation, firmly ready to blog about how freaking awesome I am with this bitchin’ prize.  I pulled it out and…

What the hell kind of happy horseshit is all this?

What is that? Golf club? Thumbs up? Speech
bubble?My “fabulous prize” is a t-shirt of dubious manufacture.  No brand I’ve ever heard of.  Far too thin to wear without - you guessed it - another t-shirt underneath.  (Hey, not even my wife wants to see my man-boobs showing through, and I certainly don’t blame her.  I wouldn’t want to see that, either.)  Oh, and it’s got this ad on the front for careers at the company that, frankly, I don’t get.  There’s this weird shape that is a cross between an upside-down speech bubble and the head of a golf club that I think is supposed to be a hand giving a “thumb’s up” sign, but I can’t be sure.  This weird image thing is intermingled with the phrase “[Vendor Name] Makes Work FUN.”  Ummmm, okay.

I feel a little like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he decoded Little Orphan Annie’s secret message: “Drink Your Ovaltine.”  Ovaltine?!

Message to vendors at all future conferences I go to:  Rather than give out crappy prizes, just… don’t.  Don’t give this junk away.  You’re ruining the environment by consuming resources, and I don’t need any more rags to wax my car with.  Instead, give away one good prize that you won’t award to me because I’m a loser and save me the effort of another blog entry.

downloads, aspnet, net comments edit

I posted before about an ASP.NET 1.1 way to deploy in a close-to-binary-only format, embedding ASPX files as resources in your assemblies.  That way doesn’t work in .NET 2.0… but it turns out they added something better in .NET 2.0 that lets you create a more complete solution - System.Web.Hosting.VirtualPathProvider.

The basic idea is that rather than talk directly to the filesystem, ASP.NET provides a “hosting environment” and asks for files from there.  VirtualPathProviders can register and respond to these requests.  By default, ASP.NET has a file system based provider registered, so everything works out like it always did.  While you can’t virtualize everything (web.config, App_Code, and so forth all actually have to exist in the filesystem), other ASP.NET files (*.aspx, *.ascx) can exist in a virtual file store.

There’s a great article on MSDN about how to serve your site from a ZIP file, but I wanted to take it one step further and serve from embedded resources.  Enter Paraesthesia.Web.Hosting.EmbeddedResourcePathProvider.

This VirtualPathProvider implementation allows you to register assemblies that are allowed to serve embedded files and specify on those assemblies which embedded resources are allowed to be served.  After you register the provider (programmatically at app startup), when ASP.NET asks for a specific page it will ask the provider.  If the provider finds that file in embedded resources, it’s served from there; if not, it falls back to the filesystem as usual.

Detailed usage is included in the API documentation and an implementation can be seen in the included demo site.  On a high level, you need to:

  1. Set each page, control, or file in your web project that you wish to serve embedded as embedded resource.  (Normally these are “Content” files - switch to “Embedded Resource” in your project to embed them.)
  2. Add a Paraesthesia.Web.Hosting.EmbeddedResourceFileAttribute to your web project assembly for each embedded page.  This lets the VirtualPathProvider know which resources are allowed to be served (and allows you to differentiate files that get served from resources that are used for other purposes).
  3. In your Global.asax, at application startup, add a registration for the EmbeddedResourcePathProvider: HostingEnvironment.RegisterVirtualPathProvider(new EmbeddedResourcePathProvider());
  4. In your web.config, add a configSection called embeddedFileAssemblies that gets parsed by Paraesthesia.Configuration.StringCollectionSectionHandler. This section will contain the list of assemblies that the VirtualPathProvider should query for EmbeddedResourceFileAttributes.
  5. Optionally specify the ability to override embedded files with files in the filesystem by adding an appSettings key called Paraesthesia.Web.Hosting.EmbeddedResourcePathProvider.AllowOverrides and setting it to “true”.

A demo web site with an installer is included to show the provider in action.  It will also help you see what the code/config/attribute declarations are so you can follow that pattern in your own usage.

This sort of thing, in combination with things like the WebResourceAttribute and WebResource.axd can get you ever closer to serving an entirely binary web site.

Caveats:

  • This won’t work for sites that rely on file system security. I primarily work with forms authentication, so this isn’t a problem for me. It may be for you.
  • Cache dependencies on embedded resource files are actually set on the assemblies that contain the files.
  • It doesn’t support “directories” so if you use the HostingEnvironment to go directory browsing, you won’t see the embedded files.
  • There’s some weirdness with IIS where you can’t set the “default page” for a directory to be an embedded file.  IIS detects it’s not there and pre-emptively returns a 404.
  • Your site has to run in High trust mode for this to work. This is a requirement of the VirtualPathProvider framework.
  • This is going to be a one-shot deal. I’m not going to be posting updates or actively supporting it or anything. Take it at your own risk, your mileage may vary, etc.
  • The source bundle includes the source for the VirtualPathProvider, related attributes, support classes, a readme, and a demo web site illustrating the project in action. The compiled bundle is the compiled assembly, the XML API doc, the installer for the demo site, and a readme.
  • It’s totally free and open-source. Do whatcha like.

Download EmbeddedResourcePathProvider Compiled Package

Download EmbeddedResourcePathProvider Source

Found this nifty little thing via Penny Arcade.  It’s a site where you draw a 2D character and they make it dance around in 3D using Flash.  I threw together this stick figure one to see how it works.  Sorta neat, and free.  But, damn, the music is annoying.

Note that I don’t think they thought about scalability on the thing and it’s become reasonably popular, so it seems to be hit or miss on whether the thing actually plays.

media, tv comments edit

Saw a preview for a new CBS show called Kid Nation last night.  The idea is that they set 40 kids up in an old west town with no adults around and see how they fare.

Anyone else think this sounds like Lord of the Flies, western style?  I’m waiting for the part where Piggy gets killed on national television.

Yeah, they’ll probably edit that out.