Childhood Cancer: 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave

As many of you know, my wife Tiffany is trying to raise awareness for childhood cancer this September (National Childhood Cancer Awareness month) by getting 46 women together to shave their heads. Currently, there are 33 participants in the group. Here is a map of where the participants are from.


Here is a state by State List of the states represented, with the number of participants:

California      2
Florida         1
Illinois        1
Kansas          2
Kentucky        2
Louisiana       3
Michigan        1
North Carolina  2
New Hampshire   1
Ohio            1
Oklahoma        1

Pennsylvania    5
Rhode Island    1
South Carolina  1
Tennessee       1
Texas           1
Virginia        3
Washington      4

For those not familiar, the reason for the number 46 goes like this:

  • 12,500 children diagnosed with cancer every year
  • 46 diagnosed every week day
  • 7 die every day

The figures are based on the incidence statistics from 1995 with current population estimates. The figures are incorrect, however, as I have detailed here. Tiffany did not know the incidence rate had risen at the time she came up with the idea and 46 is the most commonly cited number. Hopefully this event helps catapult this horrible disease into the forefront.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Coder sites: Can you really build a gaming site for $10,000?

A few years ago, I signed up for a variety of coding sites. I currently have “memberships” (only the free variety) on,, and a few others.

When I first did this, I got some good gigs out of it. I made a few thousand for a simpler design and layout of a site, which was then taken over by internal developers. I also made good money fixing some performance problems in a database. I completed about 4-5 side jobs in this manner and got paid well on each one. Life was good.

Then the sites began to become offshoring portals, with people willing to work for pennies on the dollar. Now, the sites are not worth my time, as there are far too many people looking for something for nothing, with others willing to deliver. Look at these.

  • We are looking for a programmer for our web based strategy game project. We will support design document and graphics. We need a skilled programmer who can make this game from top to bottom. Game is similar to
    Budget: $5,000 – $10,000
    Average Bid: No bids thus far
    Timeline: 4-5 months
  • I would like to create a website similar to In addition it should support Unicode (utf-8) and both ltr and rtl languages. Please bid if you are able to do the whole web programming, flash programming and so on. Transaction will be done when it passed all security and functionality tests as I am IT engineer and I’ve enough knowledge about the subject.
    Budget: $,1000 – $5,000
    Average Bid: $3,946.85
    Timeline: unknown
  • We would like to setup a music community based on the communtiy platform and look for a webdesigner. The community platform demo can be found under One website our team liked very much was
  • Budget: $10,000 – $25,000
    Average Bid: $13,350.96
    Timeline: unknown

I should have a caveat that the above projects are higher budget for the work than most. There are also the “I want a web site like Trip Advisor” with a budget of $100 – $500 jobs out there. In fact, the $500 website is very popular.

My thought is that most of these projects are impossible. They will never be completed in the timeframe allowed. With payouts based on milestones, the companies are most likely hoping to get some free development to get them started and have likely set up the test environment on their own servers. Even when they are possible, the developer is going to have to be able to live off of a very low salary. To complete most of the projects, the developer would be working more than 40 hours a week and the payout is likely to be less than minimum wage.

I have nothing against commerce and if someone is willing to play the game, more power to you. I do have to ask the companies, however, what type of quality they really expect out of the endeavor when they are paying someone slave wages to complete their projects. It should probably come as no surprise that the majority of the bids are from India, with other bids from Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. I also wonder, when I see “build me an online casino for $500” how the person sleeps at night when, perhaps if, the money rolls in.

Just recently, I started getting emails from one of the sites again and promptly signed in and turned them off. From my perspective, it is pure noise. There are still a few decent jobs on, but the rest seem to be way too low for me to ever consider. If the people in the third world can do the work and make a living, more power to them. I would rather bow out.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

It’s a Date (visual Studio, SQL Server dates announced)

It appears Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4.0 will release on April 12, 2010. The delay from March was announced in December in Soma’s blog and was attributed to some performance problems. According to the Dr Dobb’s email, there is a drop planned for February which will include F#, PLINQ, TPL (Task Parallel Library), dynamic types, optional arguments, enhanced Office programmability and variance for C# lambda expressions.

SQL Server 2008 R2 dates are not as firm, but May is the current expected month.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Oregon Scientific Smart Globe 3 FAIL (website and update)

Rarely do I get so irate over a product that I want to reach out and blog about it. I am generally more likely to post when I am really happy about something. Of course, I am not really upset at the product as much as the update and the website, so this is not really a knock on the smart globe.

If you don’t know what the smart globe is, it is a globe that comes with a “pen” that can tell you about spots on the globe. It contains many MB, maybe GB, of information, or at least I would guess so from download times.

The reason for update is the pen was saying the President was George W. Bush, so my daughter wanted it upgraded to say Barrack Obama. I am not totally convinced I like that upgrade, due to the current state of things, but we voted for change so I needed to change things. Yes, this paragraph is tongue in cheek. 🙂

I may be a little overly critical right now, but the product has me a bit miffed.

Missing Drivers

The first problem I have with the product is installing on Windows 7. It identifies 3 drivers are needed, but only finds 2. It is possible this is a Windows 7 issue, but it makes me wonder if a missing driver might have something to do with my issue. I search for about 30 minutes and I cannot find a driver. In fact, navigating the Oregon Scientific site is often painful. I wonder if these guys need a web developer, as I am currently looking for my next gig. 🙂

Suggestion #1: Make sure drivers are updated and easily accessible from your site.

Registering the Product

The first clue that there was something not quite user friendly comes when you insert the CD to install the software and it takes you to this site:


I see access code and tell my daughter she needs to find the access code. She finds the SG18 on the pen. This, it turns out, is the item number, not the access code. We try a few other things and I then have her go and get everything she has on the globe. The access code is on page 9 of the user’s manual. Now it is fine to put an access code in the owners manual, but why not state it on the site. I think you can have something like this:


Proper User Experience dictates that you help the user. If nothing else, state “You should read the user’s manual before filling out this form” or something. Don’t make me search for it.

Suggestion #2: Add clues to where information is found.

Update, take 1

We start up the program and choose United States as the country and ages 9-14 as the age range. Immediately after reconnecting the pen, it resets to ages 5-8. Why?

Suggestion #3: Set a flag in your program that states “the user has already screwed with settings. DO NOT RESET” rather than resetting. A bit later in the night, my wife tried and almost clicked download with the wrong settings, as connecting the device after program start resets all of the settings you have set.

Suggestion #4: Don’t rely on Windows update to update the drivers. You have an installer program for the software, install the proper drivers as well. You can have it contact the server with country if there are different versions. Or, you can have a code on the pen to identify the proper driver and ask during set up.

Not a big deal. Try again by resetting everything and clicking download. Here are the steps. Run the program:


The first step (download news) – about 8 seconds:


Then download data – Almost 5 minutes. (NOTE: 28678144 out of 25763845)


Then more data – 3 minutes


Then the program – less than 1 minute


Then update into pen – 10 minutes


Total Time = ~ 20 minutes

Man, that is slow. Admittedly the speeds above are on wireless, and I could have made sure I was on the wireless n node at 5 MHz rather than wireless G on 2.4 GHz. The speed does not really bother me that much, but it sure makes things painful when things go awry.

Everything seems fine. My daughter goes upstairs proud that the pen now states Barrack Obama. A few minutes later she comes down and says “Daddy, you did not use US English”.

Me: “Yes, Rebecca, I did.”

Rebecca: “No because it says the U.S. map only works with US English”.

Suggestion #5: Make sure the user downloads the right content. Assuming I let the reset get the best of me somehow, which is not probable in my memory, but possible, give me a confirmation before a 20-30 minute download. Come on!

Update, take 2

Taking a chance I might have clicked something or had it reset to something, I run the program again. Each time I run it, it takes about 30 minutes to complete. Very time consuming. And, if you download the same data set, it still takes 1/2 hour. Can’t you guys cache the information with a date stamp on my computer so I don’t have to redo EVERYTHING?

This time I get an error that the download failed. No, it did not. Bad error message. This reminds me of the old Access error message.


All that comes out of the pen is a clicking sound. Ouch! Click the reset button on the pen. Still clicking. Now this is absolutely annoying.

Segue: Customer Service

So I figure I will check and find a customer service number on the site. After about 5 minutes with no luck, I use Google. Okay, guys, when someone has to use a site specific Google search to find a customer service number on your site, you are FAILING. Only hours during the day. No luck.

So, I go to the customer service form. Here is the form:


The only pain here is having to go and find a Serial Number (none on the product) or UPC code (on the box we threw away). Google again. I get the form filled in and submit. If you have this problem, you can use this UPC, as it is all over the web. 🙂

Submit and get:


Yes, you need to have 09 instead of 9. Once again, a user experience person is sorely needed here.

Suggestion #6: Put a bit of pain on the developer and have the web form allow me to format things my way.

Fix and submit.


I think there must be someone at Oregon Scientific saying “the programming team must be doing much better these days, as we are not getting any customer service email”. I guess I will have to call.

Update, Take 3

Cannot do anything now.


Suggestion #7: Don’t assume I successfully got the latest data. Allow me to say “I know, but I am stupid and want it anyway” or “Last time your program FAILED. Let me ddownload again”.

Update, Take 4

Have to update with Age 5-8 to get things working properly. Another 20 minutes of my life gone. Downloads fine and can now use the pen, but the age range is wrong. Daughter not happy as she is not 8. She is actually taking it pretty well since I have had her pen for quite some time now.

Update, Take 5

An hour after starting the update process, it still says:


Assume another fail and I want to go to sleep now. Daughter now asleep, so no complaining.

Update, Take 6

Since this is showing again


I guess I have to click another age range and then click download and then stop it and flip back to the right age range.



Until I get a chance to talk to someone in customer service, my daughter is in the 5-8 age group. After trying this 6 times, I had my wife install the program on her machine (Windows Vista). It seemed to complete everything. We waited a bit and unplugged the pen and it popped up an error message that no device is attached. By this point in time, my blood pressure was so high and it was 11:25 PM, so frankly I was too pissed to do anything other than reinstall the pen again with the 5-8 age group. At least it works.


I am a developer and I understand that stuff happens. But repeated failures like this are indicative of a larger problem. Product failure. Web failures. The product is pretty neat, but now that I have seen this, I start to wonder if the misses on the product are another programming bug (what I mean here is you can use one of the quizzes and click on the right spot and have it say try again numerous times before it gives you a new target to find).

I would personally be embarrassed to put this type of failure on my resume. In fact, I have quit jobs that put me into situations that required me pushing out something when it was not ready. I would rather quit than sign my name to something inferior.

To be fair, the Smart Globe is a lot of fun and has a plethora of interesting information. But the product update is very inconvenient and I wonder if the inconvenience is on accident or to ensure that a smart person cannot download the files and update the device himself without continuing a subscription. If so, the failures in updating are largely due to trying to ensure they continue to make money. And if this is the case, my final suggestion is allow people to easily update the product by treating the pen more like a USB flash drive and offer a reason to continue subscription (you have news, so that seems like a good hook) rather than hold me hostage through a process that forces me to stress my bandwidth again and again when your update fails. So let me make this a formal suggestion.

Suggestion #8: Set up the pen so it can be updated by simply moving downloadable files to the pen.

We have bought a few Oregon Scientific products for our children (Barbie products primarily) and the kids enjoy them. Fortunately, my daughter does not have to see the extreme frustration updating this one is causing me. 🙂 The bad thing is it leads me to question the quality of their products.

I know this blog entry sounds like I am really against this product, which is not the case. My daughter has played with it every day since she got it and the other children are having a huge amount of fun playing with it. I would recommend the product for others with children who are interested in geography, other countries, etc. That is why I have offered a number of suggestions, as the update process and website are a big FAIL in an otherwise pleasant experience. Perhaps Oregon Scientific has set up a Google alert and will see this tomorrow morning?

UPDATE: My daughter informed me the pen will not work with the book any more, so another FAIL. I guess I have to call customer service today.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Swagbucks: Boon or Bane? (A first glance review)

It is lunchtime and I finally decided to try something different on my laptop. A friend has been posting for where she has gotten some prizes (or maybe not, perhaps she is like the MLM people who tell you they are making tons of money to get you to sign up under them?).

As with most geeks, I love schwag (please note the spelling guys). Give me free branded MP3 players, disk drives, toys. Anything at all. I love it. I am not sure why they call it swag on swagbucks, but the idea is the same. Get something for nothing. Woohoo!!!

The idea is this. You join swagbucks and use their engine, powered by Google and ASK, to search the Internet. You can do it from their page, the toolbar or set it as your default search engine. It starts with a link like this:

If you follow the referral, both you and your buddy get bucks every time you search. Just get schwag (swag?) for what you already do. Does it live up to the hype?

Searching for Bucks

I installed the toolbar and completed my first search and got my first buck (had 3 in my account for signing up, so I am at 4). At this point in time, I only have 5411 more to earn. After a few more minutes, no more bucks, so I estimate about 10 years to get my XBox. What a deal?

Quality of Searches

Similar to Google and ASK, but there are often tons of sponsored links in the mix. In general, the sponsored links at least hit the correct words.


Sometimes the sponsored links are way off:


I assume the fact I live in Tennessee makes “Tennessee DMV Info” relevant in a search for ASP.NET MVC?

Speed of search and link clicking

The speed of getting back results is good. There is probably a slight lag over Google or Ask, but not noticeable. Clicking on non-sponsored links is also quite fast. Clicking on sponsored links, however, is often mind-numbingly slow.

My Feelings

I may keep the swagbar on my desktop and make a firm decision whether it is worth it. Personally, I am not sure I could use it for serious searches as the number of sponsored hits is way too high for my tastes. The inundation of sponsors makes the search less useful. This does not mean I won’t try, but if I have a bad hit, I am going to go directly to Google or Bing and avoid this toolbar. And, if I continue to get really bad hits, I am uninstalling this puppy.

If you want to help me earn the XBox in 9 years instead of 10, you can click here. If you feel I, and my adorable gift starved children (yeah, right) are unworthy, try this cancer mom. And if you are not interested after reading this review rating swagbucks less than stellar (and bad spellers to boot), that is okay too. 🙂

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Solving the “Visual Studio needs to close” error

I have not seen this issue in quite some time, but lately I have seen quite a few posts on this issue, as more people are moving to Windows 7. So, it is time to post an entry and get the knowledge base out on the web.

Finding the Problem

As usual, there are numerous things that can cause Visual Studio to crash. Here is a list (most likely incomplete):

  1. Visual Studio Bug
  2. Program interfering with Visual Studio (usually a TSR)
  3. Driver causing issues with Visual Studio
  4. Corrupt Project file
  5. Corrupt User Profile
  6. Add-in problem in Visual Studio

The first step, with any troubleshooting is to find the source of the problem. Fortunately, the Visual Studio team thought of this eventuality. Start Visual Studio like so (from a VS command prompt or a normal command prompt if you have the denvenv.exe path in your system path):

devenv.exe /log

This will log to the following folder:

Visual Studio 2005:
%USERPROFILE%Application DataMicrosoftVisualStudio8.0ActivityLog.xml

Visual Studio 2008:
%USERPROFILE%Application DataMicrosoftVisualStudio9.0ActivityLog.xml

I don’t have a crash on this machine, but the file is a list of activities, including the loading of add ins. It looks like this:

<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="ActivityLog.xsl"?>
    <time>2010/01/05 18:13:17.656</time>
    <source>Microsoft Visual Studio</source>
    <description>End package load [Visual Studio Common IDE Package]</description>
    <time>2010/01/05 18:14:54.687</time>
    <source>Microsoft Visual Studio</source>
    <description>Destroying Main Window</description>

When you crash, check the log out and see if there is anything that occurs right before the error message. This is most likely your offending party. If this does not help, at least note the add ins loaded, as they can be a source.

Now let’s look at solutions for the various reasons you can have a problem.

Visual Studio Bug

The best option here is make sure you have the latest patches to Visual Studio on your machine. Depending on what you are developing with, there may be additional patches. If, for example, you have Windows 7 and are using some of the newer bits (Silverlight 3 comes to mind, but I will have to check if it has a VS pre-requisite), you should go to the download site and check the add ins you have to make sure there are no pre-requisites. The same advice is true for other Windows OSs, but I remember some pre-reqs for Win7.

If you determine a VS bug, or at least highly suspect as you have ruled out other things, log the bug on Microsoft connect under the Visual Studio program (The connect site is

Program interfering with Visual Studio (usually a TSR)

The best way to determine if this is true is starting Windows in Safe mode and playing with Visual Studio. If it does not crash here it is either a TSR or a driver that is the problem child. Once you determine the program, update to the latest version/patch. If that does not work, inform the manufacturer of a bug.

Driver causing issues with Visual Studio

Once again, boot in safe mode to find this. Printer drivers have been known to cause VS problems, so that would be my first direction to head. To fix a driver, you have to update it. If it is an update that caused the issue, rollback and inform the manufacturer of the hardware in question.

Corrupt Project file

The best way to test the project file is to create a new project and start playing with it. If this does not cause any issues, then import the project files for the project in question and play. If no problem, overwrite the old project file. If you have this in source control (you do, right? – nod head up and down), then check out the current project file and overwrite. You may have to do the same for the solution file in some instances.

Corrupt User Profile

This is rare, I would assume, but Microsoft has acknowledged this happens. To test you need a new profile and then play with the file. If no problems, you have to get an admin to delete this profile and recreate it. If you are using the administrator profile (*pain from me smacking your hands*), then create a new profile and start developing there.

Add-in problem in Visual Studio

I have had problems with nearly every developer add in I have tried at some point in time. To test this, start Visual studio with devenv.exe /safemode and see if it occurs. If you have a problem, turn off the add ins and turn them on one by one until you find the problem child.

The solution is to patch the bit from the manufacturer to the latest patch. If this does not solve things, log an error with the manufacturer.

Can’t find the particular add in, or it is a corrupt Microsoft “add in”? Run devenv.exe /resetpkgs and reset the IDE. After this, you may have to reinstall some add ins, but if this cures the problem, you can add them in one at a time (most important first) and make sure there are no additional problems.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Adventures in Creating a 64-bit VHD to Boot Win Server 2008 R2 in Windows 7

Having played briefly with VHDs created by others, I figured this was a cakewalk. Survey say XXX. Actually, it is not all that difficult, there are just some pitfalls. This is a continuation of a previous post, or perhaps an update is a better word.

First, before starting, here is my system:

Dell M4400
T9600 dual core processor
Windows 7 Ultimate X64

My first thought, as mentioned in the last post, was to try to dual boot with the VHD created by Microsoft with Visual Studio 2010 and Team System already loaded. Unfortunately, as mentioned, they used Windows Server 2008 instead of Windows Server 2008 R2.

The rest of this article goes through the steps necessary to dual boot, with options. You will have to make sure virtualization is on in the BIOS prior to going forward. On my Dell computer, I simply go into setup (F12) at start and then choose BIOS setup. I then choose virtualize and check to set it on.

1. Create the Virtual Disk

You have a couple of options here: create with Virtual PC or Create using DISKPART.

A. Create With Virtual PC

To do this, you have to download Virtual PC from here. If you want to also use XP Mode on your computer, download both and install XP mode first. To create the disk, open Virtual PC, which now looks like this:


You can see I have the VHD from Microsoft already loaded and I can run it in Virtual PC. Click Create Virtual Machine. This brings up the following wizard:


I chose the name VS2010VPC and chose to store it at C:VHD. Click next. In the next screen, you assign memory. Make sure you give the VPC enough to run the programs you wish to run. I feel less than 1 GB (1024 MB) is too light. Since I have 4, I am giving it 2.


The final step is to create a disk. With the wizard, I can go to advanced options, but I don’t need to.


After you click create, you have both a .vmc and a .vhd file created. You will need to click Create a virtual hard drive using advanced options if you wish to make a fixed disk, as the default is expandable.

B. Create Using DISKPART

This is the shorter route. Open up a command prompt and type in the following:

create vdisk file={path} maximum={maxSize} type=[fixed|expandable]

Here is a screenshot showing the feedback:


NOTE: If you want to create a drive and install on boot up, you run the same commands as above. The only difference is finding the drive to install on. A fixed disk uses more space up front, but installs much quicker. Example: expandable 10 minutes 42 second, fixed 4 minutes 48 seconds. This is due to not having to expand the VHD.

2. Format and Assign the Virtual Hard Drive

I stick to DISKPART here as it is the easiest option. Here are the steps

sel vdisk file={path}
attach vdisk
list disk – I skipped this step, as I knew the disk was disk 1; if you are unsure, check, as formatting your primary drive is nasty
sel disk 1
create part primary
sel part 1
format fs=ntfs quick
assign letter=x


3. Installing Windows Server 2008 R2

There are a couple of options here as well.

A. Install with ImageX

If you are willing to download the AIK, you can use ImageX to install the image. Here is how:

  1. Download the Windows Server 2008 R2 media or get a Windows Server 2008 R2 DVD
  2. Copy <DVD drive Letter>:sourcesinstall.wim to your local drive

Now, if you are unsure of the WIM file, you should use ImageX to get Info. The command is ImageX /info {path to .wim file}. You need the index to install properly.


On a standard MSDN DVD for Windows Server the indexes are as follows:

  1. Standard
  2. Standard Core Only
  3. Enterprise
  4. Enterprise Core Only
  5. Data Center
  6. Data Center Core Only
  7. Web
  8. Web Core Only

To install Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard from a .wim file with ImageX, you first have to mount the drive. We did this in the last section when we assigned the letter X to the drive. After that, type the following:

imagex /apply {path to wim} {drive letter for drive}

Here is the screenshot:


When I finished, I had an install of x64 version of Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard.

B. Install from DVD in Virrtual PC

This does not work, as This version of Virtual PC won’t accept 64 bit installs for some reason. If you know a way around this, please comment.

VPC Fail

NOTE: You can start the 

C. Install from DVD at Boot

I will try to fill this one in later. This is mentioned on many sites, but there are some steps missing. You have to work with volumes to get this working, as you have to attach the VHD during boot. This is not mentioned on any site I have seen thus far, so it may only be an issue with a machine like mine.

4. Creating the Boot Menu

If you installed from DVD, you do not have to do this step, as your OS is already installed in the boot menu. If you used ImageX, you do have to do this.

Our first step is to copy the {current} profile with the following command:

bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Windows Server 2008 R2 VHD"

NOTE: I normally use {} to indicate something you need to change. In this case, {current} is an identifier.

We now need the GUID created with the new profile. To do this, we merely type in bcdedit. The GUID for my copy is {09e67600-f653-11de-85a1-91aca7ed0ebc}, but yours will vary. These 2 steps are contained here:


If you have the drive assigned a letter still, you need to detach it before going forward. This is as simple as selecting and then detaching. Here are the commands:

sel vdisk={path}
detach vdisk

And here is a screen shot


Then you fix the entry for Windows Server so it boots from the VHD. Here are the commands

bcdedit /set {guid} device vhd=[{drive}:]{path}
bcdedit /set {guid} osdevice vhd=[{drive}:]{path}
bcdedit /set {guid} detecthal on

And here is a screenshot with specifics:


If you run the bcdedit command now, you will see something like this for the second boot loader

Windows Boot Loader
identifier              {09e67600-f653-11de-85a1-91aca7ed0ebc}
device                  vhd=[C:]vhdvs2010vpc.vhd
path                    Windowssystem32winload.exe
description             Windows Server 2008 R2 VHD
locale                  en-US
inherit                 {bootloadersettings}
recoverysequence        {09e675fc-f653-11de-85a1-91aca7ed0ebc}
recoveryenabled         Yes
osdevice                vhd=[C:]vhdvs2010vpc.vhd
systemroot              Windows
resumeobject            {09e675fa-f653-11de-85a1-91aca7ed0ebc}
nx                      OptIn
detecthal               Yes

This is a success.

When you first boot Windows Server 2008 R2, you will have additional steps to complete. Once you complete the steps, you should make a backup copy of the VHD so you can use it for other beta installs in the future.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld