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Great Purchase

So now that I’ve taken on photography as a hobby I’ve found myself spending money on all sorts of things. I love my camera (a Nikon D40), lens (a Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens), Photoshop CS3 (particularly the RAW editor), and my flickr account but I have to say that one of my favorite purchases so far was the Wacom Graphire4 6″x8″ tablet!

I have been eyeing the Wacom tablets for quite some time but until getting into photography and having software that would actually benefit from the pen I could never justify the purchase. Now that I have Photoshop justifying the purchase was easy. All I can say now is that I’m glad I bought the tablet and honestly wish I had done so sooner.

Using the pen interface instead of the mouse just feels right. Sure, it took a little getting used to but the adjustment time was minimal. I’ve only had the tablet for a day and I already find myself using it more effectively than a mouse. Everything just seems easier and more natural with the pen.

I’ve noticed that I don’t just get the benefit from using applications like Photoshop but all applications. Choosing cells in Excel is easier, scrolling web pages or Word documents is easier. Dragging files and folders seems more natural. In general, work just seems easier with the pen.

After having used the pen and tablet interface I’d recommend it to anyone.

I’m Back!

After a long time away I’ve decided to use Blogger again. I’m in the process of revamping my main site to be focused on my photography and am going to move much of the blog content I had there over to blogger.

Moving forward, I’ll use this space to post new technical resources and journal some of my explorations of photography. Hopefully I can get myself to be a little more consistent with posting since I don’t have to do anything to maintain this site!

I think it will take a little time to get re-adjusted to using Blogger again. It has been over two years since my last post here. I can’t believe I remembered my password!

InformationWeek Article

For those that read InformationWeek, you know that articles regarding the auto industry appear regularly. In this week’s issue, five auto industry executives are profiled including International Truck & Engine’s VP of IT. I was suprised when he used my group (Supply Chain) for one of his examples.

The article can be found at http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=160401450&pgno=3.

Kudos

This post is a bit off topic from the usual technical nature of this site but all too often those that deserve praise for a job well done go unnoticed.

This past weekend my wife, in-laws, and I were travelling on a Sunday afternoon road-trip between Crawfordsville, Indiana and Greencastle, Indiana. As we returned to Crawfordsville around 4:00 PM, we were caught off-guard as a Crawfordsville Police officer drove south on US 231 and pointed and indicated to the motorists heading northbound to pull over and stay off the road. Within a minute after the officer passed, a green SUV passed at an extremely high speed and was being pursued by several Indiana State Police squad cars.

After the chase passed, we continued travelling toward Crawfordsville and witnessed another Crawfordsville trooper pulling in some spike strips. Not too far ahead, the police had the SUV stopped and surrounded.

The coordinated effort between the Crawfordsville and Indiana State Police was able to stop the vehicle and prevent anyone from being injured during the chase.

According to the linked article the driver was travelling at speeds of up to 110 mph. At that speed, these agencies had approximately six minutes to coordinate and execute a plan for stopping the driver before she reached Crawfordsville!

As a traveller in the vicinity of this pursuit I must commend all of the departments that were involved. It was their training and quick thinking that prevented anyone from being injured this Easter Sunday.

On behalf of my family, I sincerely thank all of the officers involved for their service.

Oracle, DB2, and ASP.NET

In my ASP.NET applications, I typically use SQL Server 2000 but lately I have had the need to connect to Oracle and DB2. The Oracle and DB2 providers do not work with ASP.NET out of the box so I thought I’d share some of my experiences along with best practices for resolving the issues. Documentation for resolving these issues seems to be lacking, particularly in the area of DB2.

As you may know, ASP.NET applications execute in the user context of the ASPNET account on the server computer. By default, this account does not have access to the installation folders of the two providers. This lack of permissions will cause an ASP.NET application attempting to utilize either provider to incorrectly report that the corresponding provider has not been installed.

General Issues
Table 1: Default Folders
Client Folder
Oracle C:\Orant\
DB2 C:\Program Files\IBM\SQLLIB

One solution to this is to make the ASPNET account a member of the server Administrators group. This approach should be avoided. Instead, grant the ASPNET account Read & Execute permission on the folder where the provider is installed. These permissions should be inherited to lower levels of the directory structure. Refer to Table 1 for the standard installation paths for the two providers. Note that your installation may vary depending on the version installed on your server.

The DB2 Installer does simplify this process a bit. A group named DB2USERS is created during installation and the appropriate permissions have been granted to the group. To give the ASPNET account the appropriate access to the folder, add it to the DB2USERS group. This will require restarting IIS which can be easily accomplished by running IISRESET from the run dialog box.

Oracle Specific Issues

This issue seems to be specific to the Oracle 8i client and the MDAC (Microsoft ODBC driver and the Microsoft Oracle Provider) and is addressed in http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;264012. Essentially, a useless error message is displayed:

SQL State: “NA000
Native error code: 0
Driver Message: [Microsoft][ODBC Driver for Oracle][Oracle]
Do you need any suggestions to avoid the error?”

What is causing this is that some registry entries are incorrect or missing. Follow the instructions in the KB article linked above to solve the problem. Of course, the obligatory warning about incorrect modification of the registry can cause the computer to cease functioning applies.

DB2 Specific Issues

In trying to resolve the connectivity issue with DB2, a DB2 DBA suggested examining the registry to verify that the entries in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ODBC\ODBC.INI and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ODBC\ODBCINST.INT for DB2Connect refer to the appropriate folder. The DBA said that the issue seems to be limited to systems where the client software was upgraded from version 7 to version 8.

My server did not fall into this category and the registry entries were referencing the correct path but I thought I should include it for completeness.

Summary

Whenever a new database connectivity provider is installed and needs to be used by ASP.NET, permissions on the installation folder should be checked to ensure that the ASPNET account can access the files. For security reasons, never set the ASPNET account as a member of the Administrators group although doing so would typically solve the problem.

If the new provider still doesn’t work through ASP.NET, determine if connections to the database server can be made using the provided software (SQL+ for example) and query Google for your symptoms. As a personal preference, I typically check Google Groups before trying standard Google.

SQL Server 2005 Book Reviews

Now that my SQL Server 2005 presentation is over, I have time to write reviews of the books I used to gather my material! My two primary resources were:

As you have probably noticed, both books have a developer focus. The reason for this is twofold. First, the presentation was for the Fort Wayne .NET user group, a group consisting primarily of developers. The other reason is that they were all I could find on the subject!

Both of these books were fabulous, particularly considering the unpredictable nature of beta software. The books provide excellent preliminary documentation for the new features of SQL Server 2005 including the .NET Runtime Host extensions and Broker Services.

In addition to being well written and full of examples, these books are a great compliment of each other. The Addison-Wesley book shines in the area of defining the syntax of the new T-SQL extensions and providing examples. The MS Press book does not lay out the syntax but provides better examples and often includes a diagram to accompany a discussion.

As is expected with any literature based on a beta product, there are a few issues with the books. Foremost, the books make reference of the System.Data.SqlServer namespace. As of December of 2004, this namespace has been removed and its functionality has been moved back into System.Data.SqlClient. Additionally, The MS Press book makes use of a “:” syntax for creating an object based off of a member of an assembly. For consistency, the “:” syntax has been replaced with a “.” syntax.

If I had to suggest one of these books, my vote would immediately go to the MS Press book. The Addison-Wesley book tends to be wordy and drawn out. The MS press book is half the length of the Addison-Wesley book and covers the same information almost in the same level of detail. The MS Press book is also an easy read and its use of diagrams makes scanning for information simple. For anyone serious about getting involved with SQL Server 2005 development though, I would recommend reading these books together to get a better view of the overall picture.