Just sharing some of my inconsequential lunch conversations with you... RSS  

Friday, May 29, 2009

bing: yet another search engine or something new?

Only time will tell. The concept is cool, privileging the decision engine over the raw search paradigm, providing customers with a first step in moving beyond search to help make faster, more informed decisions.

Though bing is not live yet, some lucky testers have been trying it out (I’ve only managed to get a 15 minute demo). What they say: at first it seems like another search engine. But the differences start to show up: queries are somehow semantically categorized, providing a reading in context. And context can be shopping, travelling, health, geography. Some rather explain that bing offers improved filtering tools with an interface similar to Google, but with different multimedia search results.

bing will be a though battle for Microsoft: Microsoft search technology has traditionally been years behind google, and it will probably be nothing but a cool concept over a poorly design search engine infra-structure. If the search infra-structure doesn’t get the results we expect, there’s not much bing can help Microsoft here. It may patch it, but won’t fix it.

So where can bing beat google: on the structured and cool looking results? May be, let’s see how it goes. For now bing is only guaranteed to win over on criteria: it’s 2 letters shorter! Can you believe this, there was still a 4 letter domain being saved for later usage :)

Hope it comes live soon. Until then, here’s a preview video.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Windows 7 overrun buster

It seems like Windows 7 is raising the security bar. According to The Register:

Microsoft engineers have fortified the latest version of Windows with a feature designed to make it significantly harder for attackers to exploit bugs that may be lurking deep inside the operating system.

Though this doesn’t avoid all overruns, it blocks the most common exploit technique for pool overruns. “It doesn't mean pool overruns are impossible to exploit, but it significantly increases the work for an attacker."

It seem like Microsoft is on the right track:

"This is smart," said Charlie Miller, who as principal analyst at Independent Security Evaluators has successfully exploited weaknesses in Windows, OS X and Linux. "I think they're trying to stay ahead of the curve."

Attacking this problems at the kernel level and raising the development security recommendations is the right way to keep Microsoft ahead of the security game. And I love the way they ended the post:

I wonder when Larry, Steve and Linus will start banning strcpy() in their products?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Personal Planning as a success factor

Hey, here’s my buddy João Assunção being interviewed on a Portuguese cable channel, talking about Porject Management and APOGEP. Ok, it’s a girl’s program on a girl’s channel, so what: he is now officially famous :) Not bad for a first interview, not bad at all.

Here’s the link.

PS: what’s next, João? Oprah?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Service Pack Cleanup Tool

Here’s a cool SP2 feature: ditching old Vista RTM and SP1 backup. Here’s how:

> Compcln.exe

And there you go: you’ve just recovered 900MB on my system drive. A must. Just beware:

This operation will make all service packs and other packages permanent on this computer. Upon completion you will not be able to remove any cleaned packages from this system.

As expected.

Windows Server 2008 SP2

Oh well, I still need Hyper-V for a week or two, so I have to live with Windows Server 2008… Here’s my story on the upgrade:

Let’s restart this baby and see how it goes. Not that an SP could ever fail…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Portugal keeps ahead on ETC

Portugal has just legislated (in Portuguese) mandatory RFID car licenses. The drive is traffic optimization, and the actual proven technology (ViaVerde) was maintained: 5.8GHz Microwave active RFID tags.

Here’s what Portuguese government chose: EN15509’s EFC compliant DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) using MDR (Medium Data Rate) and LDR (Low Data Rate).

For some strange reason the use is still limited to ETC (Electronic Toe Collecting). So we still can’t use this tags to assert speed limits. Oh well, yet another missed opportunity.

And finally some FAQs:

  • what data will be stored on the chip? only car license id data (and payment means related data?), no driver owner data
  • how far can it be read? I’m guessing something between 20 to 50m – never worked with Microwave RFID, so this is nothing but a hunch. In theory and with other beacons it could reach 1000 m.
  • do we need a battery? oh yeah, and change it we will every 3 years or so, master Yoda
  • and what about security? well, after a fast google I’ve landed on this EN ISO 14906:2004 document stating “the specification of the security policy (including specific security algorithms and key management) remains at the discretion and under the control of the EFC (Electronic Fee Collection) operator, and hence is outside the scope of this document”. Oops, let’s hope some great algorithms with long keys are chosen… or else, and now that you’re mentioning: how much does a MicroWave reader cost? :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TestDisk: saving a lost disk

A friend of mine lost access to his laptop disk. Here’s the tool that saved his day, restoring the partitions table: TestDisk. It’s an open source simple command line utility available on a bunch of OS, and included on LiveCDs distros like GParted LiveCD, Knoppix and Ubuntu-Rescue-Remix.


TestDisk assured access to the partitions, but on this case Windows didn’t bootstrap. Here’s what really saved the day: this was a Windows Server 2008 installation, so no repair is directly available. He had to execute the repair shell from the Windows 2008 DVD:

bootrec.exe /FixMbr
bootrec.exe /FixBoot
bootrec.exe /RebuildBcd

The solution came from http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392 and http://forums11.itrc.hp.com/service/forums/questionanswer.do?admit=109447626+1242927835089+28353475&threadId=1255163


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Changing a BizTalk RFID password

Arghhh, today I’ve made a rookie mistake! I’ve recovered some old virtual machines just to find out they both stopped working. It took me longer than it should…

I had noticed that the BizTalk RFID user’s password had changed, and remembered to change it on the BizTalk service identity. But I’ve forgot the obvious: the IIS app pools!

Yes, BizTalk RFID basically depends heavily on WCF and IIS, so we need a WebSite and corresponding app pool for each provider and process. Each of this boxes had some providers (LLRP + one per each interrogator we support) and a huge bunch of processes, so I had a busy afternoon…

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Identity Model Developer Training Kit

Last year I’ve worked on a Microsoft’s Identity Model project – code name Zermatt, this last release is names Geneva. First because of the non disclosure agreement, and later because I lacked time to write the post the the Identity Model deserved, I’ve been postponing writing about it.

Here a training kit containing a set of hands-on labs, documents and references. Hope to write about it soon.

Wolfram|Alpha: making the world's knowledge computable

Today's Wolfram|Alpha is the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. You enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and growing collection of data to compute the answer. Based on a new kind of knowledge-based computing.

Take a look at the samples. But beware if you don’t have much time on your hands (I’ve been wasting all of my Sunday afternoon here!)

What I wouldn’t give to have access to this back on school days…

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Passive RFID RSSI positioning

Can we depend on RSSI on passive RFID to get tag distance to a dual-port antenna? Well, with the equipment we are using, and though our first experiments were very promising, we presently can’t guarantee enough precision and reliability to use on some of the more challenging scenarios.

On some conveyer scenarios we can differentiate on from another as long as they are not too close from one another and that multipath in-phase extending phenomena can be avoided.

Oh well, back to the drawing board…

Windows server ecosystem is awesome!

Ok, in respect to Windows I must admit I’m a little biased, but don’t take my word for it, take yet another cool case-study on stackoverflow.com:

Picture if you will, a collaborative site that runs on two servers, is managed by four people, and has attracted a third of its target demographic within six months of launch. A site that has had 800,000 posts submitted by its users in its short lifetime and has 16 million pageviews/month - and growing.

And take a look at the 8th building block:

Performance: Ensuring answers are provided super fast was imperative. As a result, Stack Overflow is built on a Microsoft stack. "This entire site is serving 16 million pages a month and we're doing it off of two servers which are almost completely unloaded," said Spolsky. One server is a Web server, the other is running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and both are 8 core Xeon's. While many may assume using an open source stack would be more efficient, Spolsky explained that while SQL Server licenses cost $5000 per box, the Microsoft stack is paying for itself in terms of reduced hardware.

Thanks to Spolsky and Atwood for given us this incredible network. Thanks for Cab_ux for bringing this link to my attention.

To desktop or to laptop, that is the question…

The desktop is dying and it’s a pity. We can get more juice for what we pay for desktops, we can upgrade them not having to pay it all over again, and for most of the people the mobility is not an issue.

Year after year when choosing our workstations I try to buy a couple of beefed-up desktops, only to stop against one argument I have to accept: “we are a consulting firm”. And that’s a hard fact, though most of the development team on my division works in-house, if someone has to move into the client premises, even for a couple of months, a laptop is our only solution. Though most of the time a desktop would boost up productivity, I have to admit laptops come in handy on mobility. And energy consumption.

If budget was not a problem I’d have both. A beefed-up desktop to get things done and a laptop to hang around in meetings, to work at home and to carry on weekends and holidays. And definitely a  “kitchen sink” one, with a 15.5’ display, a 7200RPM drive (no SSD yet, I’m afraid…) and heavy enough to build to last, though carrying it to everywhere on a backpack, weight is not an issue. By the way, cool article Michael Campbell, the “kitchen sink” is pretty much the only point we don’t agree upon :)

Mac OS X 10.5: Digital camera RAW formats supported

My Canon 50D is now supported! It’s about time!

France ignores EU and passes antipiracy law (three-strikes bill)

Sarkozy at his best. And the worst is that other countries can follow the same dangerous path.

PS: yesterday I bought 4 great DVDs at €1.59 each. My friends, this is the way to fight piracy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

EU recommends RFID privacy

Privacy is finally getting EU attention! The recommendation issued today will promote RFID tags while protecting consumers' privacy and security:

  • The Commission gave European standardisation bodies the mandate to define a standard sign to identify RFID, to be be displayed wherever tags or readers are located in order to make consumers aware of their presence
  • Retailers which use RFID tags to store and track products should deactivate them at the point of sale
  • Buyers should be offered an opt-in, meaning that they could agree to keep the tags active if they wish

Being privacy one of the greatest problems we have to solve on our industry, EU is doing the right thing to build trust on this technology. Good move.

Beware of SkyDrive…

SkyDrive seems to be religiously repeating some of Windows early mistakes by privileging easy of use over privacy and security.

Is respect to privacy, SkyDrive default option to announce on messenger all the new public uploads is just as hard to explain as when Windows used to start unnecessary services just because they could ever be used! When people upload public files, they sometimes expect this publishing to get unnoticed. SkyDrive just defaults to announce it for you. A couple of friends had some problems with this unexpected announcement and they finally unchecked this option. So did I.

In regard to security, things aren’t much better. One of my friends closed this public folder and asked me if I could still get to his file. And I still had access. Why? Because I had the folder page opened, where the document link stood. It seems like all you need is the link itself, after that you won’t be needing authorization – not even authentication!…

Oh well.. at least it is free :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Strange RFID reading holes

Besides the well documented orientation reading holes, testing reading range on several scenarios usually observes the following: testing reading distance while moving away from the antenna, tags can be read on continuous basis until a certain distance, then they stop reading, and then they start reading again, and so on and so forth until they finally stop reading. And this reading hole phenomena seems stronger as we power up the antennas.

image The reason for this strange reading holes is reflection. When multipath signals re-unite in phase the combined effect creates an extended reading range. When they re-unite out of phase the combined effect effectively reduces de reading range.

So should we use this extra-mileage reading range? Well, I hate to say this but… it really depends on your scenario. As a rule of thumb you should always privilege lower power and stay away from edge reading scenarios, but there are times when we really have to depend on this inter-reading-hole area to get some edge cases.

wakoopa usage

Here’s my wakoopa.com usage:


Considering my main focus is to consolidate our offering and producing quotes, and that I shouldn’t even have Visual Studio installed, the first place is hard to explain... :S

TFS: undo checkout on a non-existent machine…


We had this problem: someone checked out exclusively a file on a development workstation that doesn’t exists anymore: how to undo checkout it?

The solution was as simple as it should be: on “Team explorer” all we had to do was:

1. Workspaces

2. Workspace

3. Working folder

4. Remove

Look what we’ve found in the drawer…


IBM OS/2 disk 6/16 !!! Isn’t it cool? I still remember installing Chicago (Windows 95 codename) on a 24 disk distribution! Or running good old MS-DOS 3.3 on a couple of 5¼-inch floppy disk. And though I’m not that old, I still participated on a project where 8-inch floppies were involved – even if I didn’t get to work with them :S

The next time someone complains about their flash’s pen performance, just surf to this page and you’ll probably feel better.

Boy, am I nostalgic…


Now that we are talking about punch cards, here’s a cool trivia:

The 80-column width of most character terminals is a legacy of the IBM punched card; so is the size of the quick-reference cards distributed with many varieties of computers even today.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The future of virtualization

Ars technica asked IT pros in their forums about the future of virtualization. Here are the consolidated answers:

  • The VM will move down the stack, down into the hardware
  • On the other hand it will move up the stack into application and session virtualization
  • The embedded hypervisor will be guest-OS agnostic
  • The pendulum swings back from client to server
  • VM as an evolution of the multitenancy paradigm, not as a revolution

Hyper-V annoying bug

I’ve been using Hyper-V since the betas. It have been working flawlessly except for a tiny detail: the wired bridge I had to setup is always up and running, even when I unplug the patch cable :S

This didn’t annoyed me as much as it should. It probably annoyed the poor bastard whom DHCP server delivered my IP and got a duplicate address popping on his screen. And every now and then I had to restart the network adapter to get networking up. But other than that it just worked just fine. Until this weekend.

I use my laptop daily on office and at home. I was getting tired of switching the proxy settings back and forth, so I finally decided to implement a simple utility that changed the proxy depending on the DHCP server it detected (more exactly based on the DNS suffix).

All I had to do was to trigger NetworkChange.NetworkAvailabilityChanged, right? Wrong, while this bridge is on, network doesn’t go down… I had to disable the wire bridge to get my utility running.

So this may well have been the last push I had to get my hands on Windows 7 (again). Let’s see how it goes now that I have a version that works for more than a month :)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Amendment 138/46-135 voted again

What the heck is amendment 138/46-135? It states that restrictions to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Internet users can only be put in place after a decision by judicial authorities (save when public security is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent).

The European Parliament stood against the telco’s pressure and presented us with another brave decision. My dear French, you're pretty much on your own now.

Though applauding this amendment, I have to agree that we shouldn’t support piracy. How? By educating people, not pursuing and harassing them. And above all with lower prices reaching copyright owners, not content owners.

PS: ok, I’m a little late, but so was the amendment since September 2008 :)

Resetting an SQL Server table’s seed

Here’s how:


Windows 7 SSD optimizations

Microsoft claims Windows 7 is tuned for SSDs - read it to get the facts, FAQs and generic info about SSDs vs HDDs :)

Cloud services are here to stay

And now anti-virus are moving into to cloud! Though a little skeptical about network usage and privacy issues, it will be probably better for security sake: the security surface and updates that impacts on your desktop are isolated from the virus scanning itself. More, the always-connected model can speed up virus detection, and will definitely guarantee updated virus database. And guess what: it’s free :)

PS: pity it doesn't support x64…

RFID in China 2008-2018

Here’s a cool ($2695!…) document about RFID in China, the world's largest market for RFID by value. Probably not as updated as it could (2008…), but still a great reference on this market. Here are some incredible figures:

MVVM Toolkit for WPF

MVVM toolkit has been released at CodePlex – haven’t tried it yet  :(  Here are some references brought by the toolkit’s documentation:

· Presentation Model by Martin Fowler, July 2004.

· Introduction to Model/View/ViewModel pattern for building WPF apps by John Gossman, October 2005.

· Separated Presentation by Martin Fowler, June 2006.

· WPF Patterns by Bryan Likes, September 2006.

· WPF patterns: MVC, MVP or MVVM or…? by the Orbifold, December 2006.

· Model-see, Model-do, and the Poo is Optional by Mike Hillberg, May 2008.

· PRISM: Patterns for Building Composite Applications with WPF by Glenn Block, September 2008.

· The ViewModel Pattern by David Hill, January 2009.

· WPF Apps with the Model-View-ViewModel Design Pattern by Josh Smith, February 2009.

Development Catharsis :: Copyright 2006 Mário Romano