Friday, November 30, 2007

Hamsterdam

My wife had to travel to Iowa for a short trip and brought back some minor gifts for the boys. My 5 year old has wanted a pet for some time and has been particularly interested in hamsters and guinea pigs and things like that.

So my wife found a stuffed hamster and brought it back. When she gave it to him, he was very excited. After a while, he asked "Where did you go? Hamsterdam?"

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Allowance Chair

We were fortunate enough to be swimming, outside, in Michigan, in early October. We had this wonderful spell of warm weather in the earlier part of the month.

As we were enjoying the warm weather, poolside, there were various chairs available. My wife and I were both reclining in the sun when my 5 year came up to us and said he'd like an "allowance chair" too.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Polish Day

I have a few drafts that I never posted for one reason or another. This is the first:

On Saturday, October 20th, my wife was returning home with the kids and at the top of the exit ramp was a homeless person. My wife rolled the window down and handed the man a small amount of money. He said thank you and "Happy Sweetest Day."

My oldest son, from the back of the van, asked "What did he say?" So my wife explained the concept behind this Hallmark holiday. He thought about it for a moment and asked, "So is there a Polish Day, too?"

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Monday, November 26, 2007

FoxForward Surprise



Back in April, when Kevin Cully graciously invited me to speak at his conference, his email mentioned that he'd split any net profit with the speakers on a per session basis.

At the time, I thought that was a generous notion but certainly didn't expect that there would really be any net profit.

The conference was affordably priced and the snacks and lunches were plentiful. Oh, and it should be mentioned again that the sessions I attended were excellent.

So, it was quite a suprise to come in this morning and find a check from FoxForward! In Kevin's email from April, he said:

It probably won't be much at all, but it's better than nothing!

Well, it certainly exceeded my expectations and yes, it was definitely better than nothing!

Thanks, Kevin. I'm anxiously awaiting the announcement for FoxForward 2008!

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Are blondes becoming extinct?

This morning I was minding my own business reading an in-depth review of the Garmin Nuvi 660 after watching a CNET review of it on the Tivo last night. At the bottom of every page was an ad for one GPS device or another. Then at the bottom of page 5 was this:

I thought that was kind of strange and actually clicked on the "play video" (go ahead, you can too.) I showed my wife the video and we both thought it was pretty freaky.

What I didn't notice initially is that the video linked to the HarperCollins site. The video was an ad for a new Michael Crichton book called Next. For what it is worth, the book has received mediocre reviews on Amazon.com.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

When it smells like security...

... it probably is security.

Ever since my first Classic ASP application, security on other peoples' servers has been a PITA. Deploying the app was one thing, but then getting read/write access to the data was another. Or getting access to a directory to upload images or other files required another round of interaction with the ISP to get the proper directories secured or not in the proper fashion. More modern Hosting interfaces have helped with this, but at the same time we've started doing more with hosted SQL server back ends and have encountered a new round of security related issues.

Most recently, security has been a stumbling block for us with a new client. As I've mentioned before, we've inherited a .NET application that has given us the opportunity for a crash course in many aspects of .NET development. This app uses web services for moving data back and forth and that has been interesting in and of itself.

It also uses ClickOnce deployment which we've never used before. Everything we read talks about how easy it is.

Last week we finished the modifications that the customer required in order to put this application into production. So, we agreed that on Friday we'd deploy to their server - or at least we'd try to.

We have the understanding that the web services require a basic copy-and-paste deployment. No problem there. The rest of the app, though needs to be published for ClickOnce Deployment.

So, according to all the "no instructions required" hits we got through Google and MSDN, we tried to publish to our customer's server. The first attempt failed with the following error:


Failed to connect to 'someURL' with the following
error: Unable to create the Web 'someURL'.
Internal Server Error 1 1 CSBS2.Client
Googling extensively yielded only one hit that was closely related to this and it was very specific to Vista (oh, and Security) After various attempts at changing things at our end, we were convinced it had to be something on the server. First of all, we were connected over a VPN using an assigned DOMAIN\username. The VPN connection was solid and we seemed to have rights to everything we needed. After making sure that our rights matched the previous developers' rights, we tried again with the exact same results.

I'm certainly no security expert but it seemed to me that we were missing a piece. We were logged into the development machine as OURDOMAIN\ourUserName and connected over the VPN using THEIRDOMAIN\TheirUserName. It seemed to me that when we published, we should be prompted for credentials on that domain and we never were.

So after more Googling on various parts of that error message, I finally found something on MSDN that matched the error exactly. It implied that FrontPage server extensions weren't installed. Aha! This looked promising. I looked and FrontPage server extensions were indeed installed, but this still seemed like something, so I kept looking around and discovered that there were FrontPage Server credentials for the previous developers, but not for us. Aha! I added the credentials, set the permissions, hit publish and whamo - I got prompted for credentials while trying to publish. Yahoo! I Typed in the credentials and immediately got the "Failed to connect to... " Darnit - no luck.

At that point, I was out of ideas. It still smelled like security. So I detailed all of this in an email Friday night. Today, I got email from the client that basically said "This rings a bell, I made a change in Active Directory. Try again." Guess what - it works now! Actually, we had to work through some issues with Certificates, but once we got past those, it was just as easy as everyone said it was.

For what it is worth - this security issue is probably one I never would have found on my own. As I mentioned, we are connecting over a VPN. When we need to touch SQL Server or test the application on their network, we use RDP. The customer had set us up to only have logon access to the machine we access via Terminal Server which is the SQL Server and the machine that hosts the click once deployment. This seems like a logical and secure thing to do. In order for us to be able to publish the ClickOnce deployment to that server, they had to give us rights to logon to All Computers in order for us to publish. They suggested that adding our computers to the logon list might have fixed this, but we haven't experimented.

Bottom line - if it smells like security, it probably is security. It's just up to you to figure out where that security is.

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