Testing Windows Live Writer with dasBlog

I've run into a little snag with my blog. I installed (rather copied) the latest release of dasblog to my bin (and other directories) and ended up not being able to edit or post new blog entries because of some installation (probably some config) issue with FreeTextBox. So while I figure out the problem or wait for someone else to solve it, I decided to try Windows Live Writer.

Here's the FreeTextBox and the text it displays now when attempting to edit or add a post:

I've tried the web.config change, including the one suggested by Scott Hanselman regarding the dependent assembly as follows:

    <assemblyIdentity name="FreeTextBox" publicKeyToken="5962a4e684a48b87" culture="neutral"/>
    <bindingRedirect oldVersion="3.0.5000.0-3.0.5000.6" newVersion=""/>

Well, time to publish this to see what it looks like.

(And second post with some edits.)

Atrax Keyword Extraction Algorithm

Two and a half years ago I wrote an implementation in C# of an algorithm published in 2003 in a short academic paper by Yutaka Matsuo and Mitsuru Ishizuka in the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence Tools. Of course, the algorithm is not a perfect implementation of the algorithm published in the "Keyword Extraction from a Single Document using Word Co-occurrence Statistical Information" paper. I made a number of decisions to make the algorithm as effective as possible while keeping it as fast as I could.

The code was written for Provo Labs, my employer at the time. I've recently obtained written permission from Provo Labs to release this code as open source under the Apache 2.0 license. You can get the code in the Atrax.Html project, a part of the entire Atrax project which I've just released, at http://www.codeplex.com/atrax. Here's the core of the code.

string[] terms = new string[termsG.Count];
termsG.Values.CopyTo(terms, 0); //gives terms array where last term is the MAX g in G
foreach (string w in terms)
    decimal sumZ = 0;
    for (int i = 0; i < terms.Length - 1; i++) //do calcs for all but MAX
        string g = terms[i];
        if (w != g) //skip where on the diagonal
            int nw = termNw[w];
            decimal Pg = termPg[g];
            decimal D = nw * Pg;
            if (D != 0.0m)
                decimal Fwg = termFwg[w][terms[i]];
                decimal T = Fwg - D;
                decimal Z = (T * T) / D;
                sumZ += Z;
    termsX2[w] = sumZ;

SortedDictionary<decimal, string> sortedX2 = new SortedDictionary<decimal, string>();
foreach (KeyValuePair<string, decimal> pair in termsX2)
    decimal x2 = pair.Value;
    while (sortedX2.ContainsKey(x2))
        x2 = x2 - 0.00001m;
    sortedX2.Add(x2, pair.Key);

//now get simple array of values as lowest to highest X2 terms
string[] x2Terms = new string[sortedX2.Count];
sortedX2.Values.CopyTo(x2Terms, 0);

I have not spent much time on this algorithm in the past two years and would like to find others with similar interests to help me improve and perfect it. If you have an interest in this kind of research, please join me at the Atrax project page on Codeplex.

Vista Defrag Woefully Inadequate - Enter O&O Defrag

Being rather new to Vista this week, I was sorely disappointed to see the severely dumbed down defrag utility in Vista. A pathetic effort. Really! So after a few highly scientific Google searches, I settled on O&O Defrag and could not be happier.

Here's the lame, incredibly useless UI in Vista's Disk Defragmenter. Note, if you are going to use some other defragmenter on a schedule, which I would recommend, be sure to disable the regularly scheduled Vista defragmenter by unchecking the box. One way of getting there is to go to the Control Panel and then Performance Information and Tools and then Advanced Tools.

And here is only part of the incredibly useful O&O Defrag UI, a shot taken as it defrags my drives:

Of course there are other suitable defrag tools such as DiskKeeper and others. Perhaps Microsoft wanted the Vista tool to cater only to the basic, uninformed user. If so, they certainly left the market wide open to the more sophisticated tools vendors such as O&O.


From XP Pro to Vista Ultimate x64

I finally took the plunge. Now I get to use 4GB out of 4GB except that the bare minimum I seem to be able to get Vista x64 down to is a 1.2GB footprint. And that's after hours and hours of experimentation and disabling some visual enhancements, though I feel no loss there and am experiencing a significantly reduced sense of loss.

Now I'm happy to be able to test on x64 virtual images using VMWare's Workstation, I'm afraid I may need to buy four 2GB sticks of RAM now. Despite the fact that the additional memory is available now, the larger footprint nearly wipes out the gain.

And that's without running any significant applications, except IE, which is quite a memory hog. I guess the old 640K upper limit days are over.

Yes, RAM is cheap. A quick check on Newegg.com and I found 8GB (4 x 2GB DDR2 800) for $174. I can't even buy three tanks of gas for my SUV for that.

Virtual PC 2007 vs VMWare Workstation 6.5

I'm getting ready to do some serious MOSS 2007 architecture and development work. In the past, I've used Virtual PC 2007 to host a virtual development environment running a Windows server operating system, SQL Server, MOSS and Visual Studio all running in the same virtual machine. And I've never been very happy with the performance of that virtual machine.

So today I decided to give VMWare a try and downloaded VMWare Workstation 6.5. I installed Windows Server 2008 Standard x86 (full install) on a new virtual machine with the same disk space and memory as I had allocated for the same operating system install using Virtual PC 2007. I gave both virtual machines 30GB of disk space and 1GB of RAM. I'm running on a Core 2 Duo 6600 on an ASUS P5B at factory default speed with 4GB of RAM with virtualization support enabled. Both virtual machines virtual drives live on the same drive.

The major advantage of VMWare is its ability to utilize both cores where Virtual PC is stuck with using just one. I'm sure there are additional reasons for the differences in performance. I used PerformanceTest 6.1 from PassMark. I'm sure there are other ways to test virtual machine performance, but this seemed to be a reasonable though unscientific approach. I made sure my machine was running the same processes and completely idle except for the virtual machine host application.

I only ran the tests that mattered to me: CPU, 2D, memory, and disk. I don't care about 3D and CD performance for the virtual machine. Here's the results:


test 1

test 2



cpu: 326.6 344.4 335.5 2.2x
2D: 28.7 32.2 30.45 3.3x
Memory: 96.7 96.2 96.45 1.2x
Disk: 469.1 454.5 461.8 6.4x
Total: 921.1 927.3 924.2 2.9x
vpc 2007
cpu: 150.7 154.1 152.4
2D: 9.2 9.3 9.25
Memory: 83.3 83.2 83.25
Disk: 69.6 73.8 71.7
Total: 312.8 320.4 316.6

I was amazed to see that overall, the VMWare virtual machine ran 2.9 times faster than the Virtual PC machine. Even more amazing was the performance improvement of the 2D and disk tests, 3.3 and 6.4 times faster respectively.

I am now completely sold on the value of the VMWare Workstation license. The best price I found after a quick search was $161. For all the saved frustration in working with a slow virtual machine development image for MOSS, the product is well worth the price. But don't take my word for it, run your own tests if you don't believe me. Of course, if you aren't running a multicore machine, and what self respecting developer isn't, you probably won't see any improvement. On the other hand, if you have at least two cores, choosing save a few bucks seems to penny wise but pound foolish!


MSDN Subscription - Zupancic Heroic MVP

Props, kudos, and thanks a million to my good friend Aaron Zupancic, one of Microsoft's most valuable MVPs. Last week I pinged him to ask his opinion about a site I'd found adversting an VS 2008 Pro MSDN Pro 2 year sub for $999. It was a decent price but the site seemed a bit sketchy. He seemed to agree with my assessment and then asked if I'd like one of the complimentary VSTS 2008 MSDN Premium subscriptions that Microsoft had sent him with his MVP package. Wow!

That's over $10,000 worth of tools!

Thanks ten thousand times over, Aaron! You're awesome!

In exchange, I promise to faithfully attend the Utah user group meetings!

And before you inundate Aaron with begging, let me dispell the rumor that he has an unlimited supply. Aaron gave the other complinetary sub to another friend and user group supporter. And please don't nag him for picking me over you. Blame me, blind luck, and accidentally perfect timing!

ASP.NET MVC Making Web Development Fun Again

I want to thank Scott Guthrie and Scott Hanselman and the whole ASP.NET MVC team for making web development fun again.

The simplicity of Rails, the power of .NET, and so much more. I've been reading the posts and watching some of the screencasts but had not yet tried it for real. That all changed over the weekend while working my latest pet project which I hope to reveal sometime soon. I decided to put MVC Preview 4 to the test. I was not disappointed.

I mean, who could not fall in love with the elegant simplicity of this view?

  <td>Current password:</td>
  <td><%= Html.Password("currentPassword") %></td>
  <td>New password:</td>
  <td><%= Html.Password("newPassword") %></td>
  <td>Confirm new password:</td>
  <td><%= Html.Password("confirmPassword") %></td>
  <td><input type="submit" value="Change Password" /></td>

Handled by this controller:

public ActionResult ChangePassword(string currentPassword, string newPassword, string confirmPassword)

    ViewData["Title"] = "Change Password";
    ViewData["PasswordLength"] = Provider.MinRequiredPasswordLength;

    // Non-POST requests should just display the ChangePassword form
    if (Request.HttpMethod != "POST")
        return View();

    // Basic parameter validation
    List<string> errors = new List<string>();

    if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(currentPassword))
        errors.Add("You must specify a current password.");
    if (newPassword == null || newPassword.Length < Provider.MinRequiredPasswordLength)
                    "You must specify a new password of {0} or more characters.",
    if (!String.Equals(newPassword, confirmPassword, StringComparison.Ordinal))
        errors.Add("The new password and confirmation password do not match.");

    if (errors.Count == 0)

        // Attempt to change password
        MembershipUser currentUser = Provider.GetUser(User.Identity.Name, true /* userIsOnline */);
        bool changeSuccessful = false;
            changeSuccessful = currentUser.ChangePassword(currentPassword, newPassword);
            // An exception is thrown if the new password does not meet the provider's requirements

        if (changeSuccessful)
            return RedirectToAction("ChangePasswordSuccess");
            errors.Add("The current password is incorrect or the new password is invalid.");

    // If we got this far, something failed, redisplay form
    ViewData["errors"] = errors;
    return View();

Yes, you say, but what about all my high powered controls from XYZ Controls Company? Do they really make your life that much easier? Is HTML so hard? Have you looked at your ViewState lately? Yikes! Certainly there are tradeoffs, but you can bet that controls are on their way. Where Microsoft stack developers go, the control vendors soon follow.

Give me clean HTML with CSS style and controllers that support TDD in the most straightforward manner I've ever seen, sprinkle in some convention over configuration jazz from Ruby on Rails, and I'm a happy web developer again after having spent the last four and a half years avoiding ASP.NET while writing back end data and content analysis systems.

ASP.NET never looked better!


Some Things are True Whether They are True or Not

I get a lot of forward email from friends and relatives. I've never felt compelled to do anything with any of them until, bored this evening, I read this one from my father-in-law. I don't know if any of these stories are true or not, but whether they are or aren't, they are. In a time when America seems to be taking much criticism from within and without, it's good to have reminders like these.

When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush. He answered by saying, 'Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.'

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying 'Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?' A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly. 'Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships, how many does FRANCE HAVE?'

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?' Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied "maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German.'

An elderly American gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on. 'You have been to France before, monsieur?' the customs officer asked sarcastically. The man admitted that he had been to France previously. 'Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.' The American said, 'The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it. 'Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France !' The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, 'Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.'