I’m sensitive to smells.

I think I get it from my mom, who is also sensitive to smells, though she really likesstrong perfumes and scents whereas I really can’t stand anything of volume. I can’t really walk down the soap aisle at the store and I’m not a big fan of scented laundry soap or fabric softener. In most cases, I’d rather things just not have a smell.

There are exceptions, of course. I like the smell of chocolate. I like the smell of coffee. I also like the smell of pipe tobacco that you get when you walk past the smoke shop, but I don’t want to be in the middle of a bunch of pipe smokers.

Anyway, this is all coming to mind because the entire first floor at work smells like god damn hot ham sandwich and it’s making me sort of ill.

My cubicle neighbors are probably irritated with me and my smell issue since it basically means if you cook last night’s stank-ass fish dinner and bring it back to your desk, you’ll probably be getting a polite knock on the wall of your cube with my smiling face ready to have a polite discussion about maybe please could you keep the cooked food in the break area thanks.

I think smelly food falls into that same respect-for-your-neighbors arena as nail clipping. If you need to clip your nails, go ahead and take that into the appropriate place (restroom) so you’re not bugging other people with it.

I recently moved my cube not too far from the original location so I could get a nice view of the outside world rather than being stuck in a dark windowless tank all day. It’s a nice location, reasonably quiet, with a view of the parking lot which is really not so bad if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, what I did find is that the air vent over my head is, through some dark magic, connected to the vent over the break area, so whenever someone’s got something luscious a-cookin’, it ends up blowing out the vent in the ceiling right into my face.

I’m not entirely sure what to do about that. I have done some experimentation to see if this really is the case, and, yes, it does appear to be so. If it starts stinkin’, I can jog over to the break area and, sure enough, there’s the microwave going.

While I am figuring out how to somehow alleviate the issue at the source, I have “rigged up” a sort of counter-stink defense involving a small desk fan and “Clean Linen” scented air freshener. Step 1: Turn on fan. Step 2: Spray into the fan. Step 3: Sigh in relief.

The fan-and-spray anti-stink
setup.

Thank goodness for laptops, right? “Ack! They released the mustard gas! Grab your laptop and hide out in a conference room until it dissipates!”

Work’s not the only place with some dicey smells. Babies bring with them a whole new set of unpleasant aromas, most of which involve poop or vomit, and sometimes both. I am partial to neither, and that makes for a challenge. I’m not sure who figured out what baby formula is supposed to smell like, but that guy needs to be fired. Baby formula, even fresh in the bottle, smells like ass. Come on, you couldn’t stick some vanilla scent in there or something? Oh, and the Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand at the mall always smells so sickeningly sweet it catches my breath.

OK, the ham sandwich appears to be dying down. I can probably take this mask off and get back to work.

net, gists, aspnet comments edit

We have a custom VirtualPathProvider that serves some static files (*.js, *.css) from embedded resources in assemblies. It is similar in function to the WebResource.axd that ships with ASP.NET, but instead of having some crazy URL, you just access the file directly and the VPP finds it in embedded resources and serves it just like it was on the disk. It makes for a nice deployment experience and easy upgrade.

The problem I’ve run into a bunch, particularly with routing showing up, is that even with a wildcard map to ASP.NET, my static files end up with a 404 error code because routing is catching them, sending the requests to the MVC handler, and no route is found. Fail.

So, as a note to myself (and anyone else who’s doing something similar), here’s what I’ve found you need to do to get your VPP serving up static files.

First, you need to get the desired static file types mapped to ASP.NET. In an integrated pipeline, that means adding the StaticFileHandler in your web.config (or doing some other machinations, based on your setup, but the web.config method makes it easy and controlled from the web app rather than the IIS console). A snippet of web.config looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<configuration>
  <system.webServer>
    <handlers>
      <add name="AspNetStaticFileHandler-GIF" path="*.gif" verb="GET,HEAD" type="System.Web.StaticFileHandler"/>
      <add name="AspNetStaticFileHandler-JPG" path="*.jpg" verb="GET,HEAD" type="System.Web.StaticFileHandler"/>
      <add name="AspNetStaticFileHandler-CSS" path="*.css" verb="GET,HEAD" type="System.Web.StaticFileHandler"/>
      <add name="AspNetStaticFileHandler-JS" path="*.js" verb="GET,HEAD" type="System.Web.StaticFileHandler"/>
    </handlers>
  </system.webServer>
</configuration>

Obviously you’ll have a whole bunch of other stuff in your web.config, but this is the relevant bit here. Make sure the static file handlers are the last handler entries in your web.config.

UPDATE/IMPORTANT: In the original post for this article I set a wildcard mapping to AspNetStaticFileHandler. That actually messes other things up. For example, it starts serving web form .aspx files as text files directly. Not good. Instead, map the static file handler directly ONLY to the static file types you plan on serving.

Now the problem is that ASP.NET routing is going to pick up every incoming request for those file types and you’ll end up with a 404 when the request doesn’t match any route. This is the problem that is so hard to debug - your VirtualPathProvider.FileExists method will be properly called to determine whether the file can be served up… but then you get a 404 without ever getting your VirtualPathProvider.GetFile method to try and serve the thing up. WTF?! The answer is to ignore routes to the static files.

In Global.asax, in your RegisterRoutes method, set it up so static file extensions get ignored. This is based on Phil Haack’s blog entry about ignoring requests for a certain file extension:

routes.IgnoreRoute("{*staticfile}", new { staticfile = @".*\.(css|js|gif|jpg)(/.*)?" });

Now when you make a request for your static file, it will properly be served up by your VirtualPathProvider and won’t have to be in the filesystem.

net, vs, testing, gists comments edit

With the ability to transform your web.config file when deploying your web site came, at least for me, a question: How do I test my web site’s behavior without deploying a whole copy of my web site?

I figured out a reasonable, if slightly kludgy, solution and I figured I’d share. The general idea is to have a project in Visual Studio that…

  • Acts as the point of entry for debugging the packaged version of the web site.
  • Automatically updates IIS Express configuration to point to the packaged web site.

What it allows you to do is hit F5 and IIS Express will start up pointed to the packaged version of the web site rather than the one in your source tree. It’ll have the transformed web.config (and any other build-time changes) so you’ll be debugging what would normally be deployed.

First, create an empty class library project in your solution. You won’t actually put code in here; it’s a marker that you can use as the Debug startup project. I called mine DebugPlaceholder.

Next, add a Project Reference in your debug placeholder project to all of the web sites you want to have set up automatically in IIS Express.

Now it’s time to manually edit the debug placeholder project a bit. Open the debug placeholder .csproj in a text editor.

Scroll down until you find the list of project references. Inside each ProjectReference node

  • Add a node called IISExpressUrl. Inside that node put the URL that IIS Express will host the site on.
  • Add a node called IISExpressBindings. This is another way of writing the URL, but in IIS binding format.

A sample modified ProjectReference node looks like this:

<ProjectReference Include="..\MyWebApplication\MyWebApplication.csproj">
  <Project>{8F2D1C2C-E12D-4880-B731-66F5051A6EF1}</Project>
  <Name>ChannelWebApplication</Name>
  <IISExpressUrl>http://localhost:22446</IISExpressUrl>
  <IISExpressBindings>http/*:22446:localhost</IISExpressBindings>
</ProjectReference>

Again, the URL and Bindings listed up there need to match (note the port in each matches) and they need to be unique for each project. (IIS Express can’t host multiple sites at the same listening destination.) The path to the project, the project GUID, and the project Name will, of course, be your own values that were put there when you added the project reference.

IMPORTANT: The endpoint you list in the project references can’t be the same as the one you have set up in the Web settings of your web application. The problem is that you can’t stop VS from launching IIS Express (or the Visual Studio dev server, or whatever) when you start debugging, so if you have your web application, say, configured to listen to port 22446 and you have your debug placeholder set to configure the deployed project to 22446, then you’ll get a failure. I’m not sure this is really a limitation since you probably shouldn’t have anything in your web app that’s glued to the specific port anyway.

What you just did was add some metadata to each project reference that you can use later. We’ll use it in the AfterBuild target.

Scroll down to almost the bottom of the debug placeholder .csproj and uncomment the AfterBuild target.

Inside the AfterBuild target, put these three lines:

<MSBuild Projects="%(ProjectReference.FullPath)" Targets="Package" Properties="Configuration=$(Configuration);Platform=$(Platform)" />
<Exec Command="&quot;$(MSBuildProgramFiles32)\IIS Express\appcmd.exe&quot; delete site %(ProjectReference.IISExpressUrl)" ContinueOnError="true" />
<Exec Command="&quot;$(MSBuildProgramFiles32)\IIS Express\appcmd.exe&quot; add site /name:&quot;%(ProjectReference.Name)&quot; /bindings:%(ProjectReference.IISExpressBindings) /physicalPath:&quot;%(ProjectReference.RootDir)%(ProjectReference.Directory)obj\$(Configuration)\Package\PackageTmp&quot;" />

What those do:

  • Run the “Package” target on the web application projects that you’ve referenced.
  • Deletes and then re-adds the IIS Express configuration that points to the referenced projects. (That way if you’ve got multiple copies of the source checked out, you’ll be sure to always be pointed to the one you’re working on.)

The key thing you’ll note is in that last line - we’re referring IIS Express to the obj folder for each web project where the packaging target stages files.

The last thing you need to do is choose one of the project references as the site you want to start up when debugging. That’s a limitation of this solution - you only get to choose one site to start. You’ll have to start and/or attach to the others manually. (On the other hand, if your solution only has one web site then it’s no big deal.)

Scroll up to the top of the debug placeholder .csproj file and add the following three properties to the very top PropertyGroup (the one without a Condition on it):

<StartAction>Program</StartAction>
<StartProgram>$(MSBuildProgramFiles32)\IIS Express\iisexpress.exe</StartProgram>
<StartArguments>/site:MyWebApplication</StartArguments>

This makes it so you’re checking in the information about what to start up when you debug rather than storing it in an external .csproj.user file. You want to do this so it’s easy for everyone using the source to debug. Note that last property, StartArguments, contains the name of one of your project references. See how the Name property on the project reference matches the name of the site starting up?

Now just set the debug placeholder as your startup project and fire it up. The solution will build, your web application will run through a package process, and IIS Express will start up pointed to the deployed version of the app. Visual Studio will attach to it, and then it’s up to you to start up your browser and do your testing.

Below is an example DebugPlaceholder.csproj with the edits highlighted so you can see what a finished project looks like. Standard disclaimer applies: No warranty, no support, you’re on your own. Works on My Machine! Have fun!

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project ToolsVersion="4.0" DefaultTargets="Build" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <Configuration Condition=" '$(Configuration)' == '' ">Debug</Configuration>
    <Platform Condition=" '$(Platform)' == '' ">AnyCPU</Platform>
    <ProductVersion>8.0.30703</ProductVersion>
    <SchemaVersion>2.0</SchemaVersion>
    <ProjectGuid>{594FFDF6-6911-47DA-AE93-29CBCE757C19}</ProjectGuid>
    <OutputType>Library</OutputType>
    <AppDesignerFolder>Properties</AppDesignerFolder>
    <RootNamespace>DebugPlaceholder</RootNamespace>
    <AssemblyName>DebugPlaceholder</AssemblyName>
    <TargetFrameworkVersion>v4.0</TargetFrameworkVersion>
    <FileAlignment>512</FileAlignment>
    <StartAction>Program</StartAction>
    <StartProgram>$(MSBuildProgramFiles32)\IIS Express\iisexpress.exe</StartProgram>
    <StartArguments>/site:MyWebApplication</StartArguments>
  </PropertyGroup>
  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)|$(Platform)' == 'Debug|AnyCPU' ">
    <DebugSymbols>true</DebugSymbols>
    <DebugType>full</DebugType>
    <Optimize>false</Optimize>
    <OutputPath>bin\Debug\</OutputPath>
    <DefineConstants>DEBUG;TRACE</DefineConstants>
    <ErrorReport>prompt</ErrorReport>
    <WarningLevel>4</WarningLevel>
  </PropertyGroup>
  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)|$(Platform)' == 'Release|AnyCPU' ">
    <DebugType>pdbonly</DebugType>
    <Optimize>true</Optimize>
    <OutputPath>bin\Release\</OutputPath>
    <DefineConstants>TRACE</DefineConstants>
    <ErrorReport>prompt</ErrorReport>
    <WarningLevel>4</WarningLevel>
  </PropertyGroup>
  <ItemGroup>
    <Reference Include="System" />
    <Reference Include="System.Core" />
    <Reference Include="System.Xml.Linq" />
    <Reference Include="System.Data.DataSetExtensions" />
    <Reference Include="Microsoft.CSharp" />
    <Reference Include="System.Data" />
    <Reference Include="System.Xml" />
  </ItemGroup>
  <ItemGroup>
    <Compile Include="Properties\AssemblyInfo.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>
  <ItemGroup>
    <ProjectReference Include="..\MyWebApplication\MyWebApplication.csproj">
      <Project>{8F2D1C2C-E12D-4880-B731-66F5051A6EF1}</Project>
      <Name>MyWebApplication</Name>
      <IISExpressUrl>http://localhost:22446</IISExpressUrl>
      <IISExpressBindings>http/*:22446:localhost</IISExpressBindings>
    </ProjectReference>
  </ItemGroup>
  <Import Project="$(MSBuildToolsPath)\Microsoft.CSharp.targets" />
  <!-- To modify your build process, add your task inside one of the targets below and uncomment it.
       Other similar extension points exist, see Microsoft.Common.targets.
  <Target Name="BeforeBuild">
  </Target>  -->
  <Target Name="AfterBuild">
    <MSBuild Projects="%(ProjectReference.FullPath)" Targets="Package" Properties="Configuration=$(Configuration);Platform=$(Platform)" />
    <Exec Command="&quot;$(MSBuildProgramFiles32)\IIS Express\appcmd.exe&quot; delete site %(ProjectReference.IISExpressUrl)" ContinueOnError="true" />
    <Exec Command="&quot;$(MSBuildProgramFiles32)\IIS Express\appcmd.exe&quot; add site /name:&quot;%(ProjectReference.Name)&quot; /bindings:%(ProjectReference.IISExpressBindings) /physicalPath:&quot;%(ProjectReference.RootDir)%(ProjectReference.Directory)obj\$(Configuration)\Package\PackageTmp&quot;" />
  </Target>
</Project>

I hate organizing events. I think if I was in a job interview where they ask you that question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” my new answer would be “Organizing a successful event.”

It’s not any one event that led me to this; it’s more the ongoing experience of attempting to organize events that’s brought it on. A long history of non-success. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Housewarming parties.
  • General gatherings of friends.
  • Birthday parties.
  • Fireworks crews.
  • Online gaming.
  • Vacations.

From this point on, you’re free to abandon ship because I know most of this will probably end up coming across as “poor me” and fairly rant-ish. It just is what it is, though, and if folks are wondering why I’m pretty much giving up on organizing or coordinating… well, anything… then feel free to continue.

I think my primary issue is that people generally have an inability to commit. Regardless of how early you give notice, and regardless of how important it is that you get some level of firm commitment on attendance (or not, as the case may be), people have a reluctance to commit and somehow “lock their schedule down” until the very last moment. Jenn and I found this with our wedding and it’s pretty much the exact reason I didn’t do a fireworks show this year. Some events actually do need a level of commitment and are not on par with “let’s get whoever feels like it together for some beers next Saturday” where it really doesn’t matter if you commit (or show up).

I’m not sure how this came about. I’ve always been the kind of person who will actually be where they say they will be. I find that to be less and less a common quality with folks, which is unfortunate. (I find punctuality is a generally waning quality in people, too, which is equally unfortunate.)

I also find there are some folks who always have perfectly legitimate reasons for not making it time after time. For example, there are some folks who always say they’ll be part of the fireworks crew on the 4th, but then come back with something entirely legitimate which removes their ability to make it. A relative is sick; there was a production problem at work; we forgot and planned our vacation then; there are some relatives in town and we can’t reschedule; and so forth. It’s cool that people have other stuff to do, and every single one of those reasons is 110% legitimate… but, truly, what are the odds, right? Literally every single time there’s something that comes up? (What, you didn’t know the fourth of July was going to be on the fourth of July again this year?) At the very least, it makes me wonder.

There are the folks who can’t do anything without a specific precise itinerary spelled out - when are we meeting, where exactly (including inside/outside the building), how long are we going to be there, what happens after that, how much will it cost, etc. That’s pretty painful when you’re just trying to get a couple of folks together for drinks. It’s not really something you plan out at that level.

Finally, there are the folks who don’t really want a plan (“We’ll figure it out on the fly!”) but then when you agree to just the simplest plan (“Meet at the restaurant tonight at 7:00p”) turn into the people who need the precise itinerary (“Are we meeting in the bar or the seated part of the restaurant? Are we just having drinks or a full meal? Did you want to see a movie after that? Which movie and what time?”). And here I thought there wasn’t going to be a detailed plan.

And, as any parent will tell you, that all becomes doubly complex when you have kids because now you have to also coordinate what the kid is doing (and possibly a babysitter) around the event, which means if someone says “Meet at 7:00p at the restaurant” and you get everything arranged around that time, it’s pretty painful to have them call up and say, “Oh, yeah, I can’t make it at 7:00p, let’s switch it to 8:00p.” Sorry, buddy, I don’t mean to chisel your schedule into a stone tablet, but it’s not really something I can just “switch up” because it’s not just us anymore.

Anyway, like I said, it all sounds like a big “poor me” rant, but that’s why I’m not coordinating stuff anymore, or, at least, I’ll avoid it wherever possible.

media, home comments edit

We recently switched from Frontier back to Comcast because we were having issues with Frontier’s customer service and pricing. Plus, Frontier is really trying to get out of the TV game and we like our TV features, so Comcast got us back. (I was also pretty tired of Frontier remotely reprogramming my router and then denying it.)

Anyway, Comcast gives you a cable modem but no router, so I ended up getting a Netgear WNDR3700v2 for a replacement. That freed up my D-Link DAP-1522 to move upstairs and become a wireless bridge.

After moving everything around, my network looks like this:

Home network diagram after adding the new router and
bridge.

So far it’s working very well, with the exception of a couple of recent dropouts in the 2.4GHz wireless on the router. I’ve updated the firmware on it to the latest, which is supposed to take care of that, and… so far, so good.