IS Department


Infected Machines Suck

Posted in Network,Programming by Brian Russell on January 30, 2008

If you have any error detection/capturing on your site, you will probably come across one of the most annoying things on the Internet….Zombie Computers.

Right now, every few days, one of the computers on this list is hitting my site with a bad URL parameter producing an error in our web application.  This doesn’t hurt anything, but it sure is annoying. 

I will have to go into the code and explicitly check for the bad parameter and redirect the requester.  Maybe I should redirect the specific attack I am getting to the Wikipedia site.  That would be fun.

It is good practice to fix these types of errors, but normal people won’t see it.  I am only fixing this to give me satisfaction that I serve them up any page I want and so I don’t continue getting error emails every few days.

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Learning Linux

Posted in Linux by Brian Russell on January 22, 2008

I admit, I am mostly a Windows user who has very little experience with Linux.  I never really had interest in it because …(insert numerous excuses)…

That all changed this last year when I decided to give OS X a chance and bought my first Mac.  Since OS X is Unix based, it isn’t too much of a stretch over to the Linux world, so I am finding interest in Linux things.

 One resource I found recently is a series (at least it appears to be) called Flipping the Linux Switch hosted on the downloadsquad web site.  Here are the first two that I have found, and they are easily consumable:

New users guide to the terminal

Misplace a file? Find it quick!

You might want to give them a read.

Windows Server 2003 Out, 2008 Is In…

Posted in Network by Brian Russell on January 21, 2008

Google Charts – Ruby Style!

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on December 17, 2007

By now everyone has probably heard about the Google chart API.  If you haven’t, check out the announcement.

I spent some time playing around with the API by just creating URLs and seeing what the browser would show.  After I was familiar with the API, I decided it would be cool to create a gem that wrapped this functionality so I could use it in my Ruby on Rails applications.  Of course, before you start any programming work, you should first go look to make sure someone else hasn’t already done the work for you.  Low and behold, there are a few out there.  Here is one I found I think I will be working with myself – Googlecharts.  The page has some good examples of what is possible, and it appears to include most, if not all, of the whole API.

Did You Hear…

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on November 19, 2007

…that Visual Studio 2008 was released today.  Of course you did, because it is on EVERY single blog I subscribe to where the author is a MS developer.

Let me help everyone out…shut up already!  I must have seen about 30+ posts about VS 2008 on only about 20+ blogs of MS developers.  Way too high of a ratio!

The people that read your blog already know, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be reading your .NET blog.

I needed to rant a bit…

As far as I am concerned, this is a way bigger story.

The Wayback Machine – Helped Me Do My Job

Posted in Programming,Uncategorized by Brian Russell on November 19, 2007

I just had an incident today that I thought I would share with you, and expose you to a new resource if you don’t already know about it.  The Wayback Machine.  I have used it in the past for mindless fun.  You know, to look how Google’s main page barely changes, and Yahoo’s exploded into a unreadable mess.  This time, I actually had a work reason to visit it.

Our website was written by a third party, and when we first deployed it we didn’t have the complete source in our source control repository.  We noticed something that needed tweaked at one point on our job listing page (the wording caused confusion for people), and we went to the web server and directly tweaked the html on our job page since we didn’t have the source to update and deploy from.  This prompted us to get the source code in our repository, better late than never!

Anyway, here is the text before the change:

in-process 1

and here is the text after the change:

in-process 2

I know it wasn’t a huge change, but the wording was previously approved and delivered by HR and I didn’t remember it.

Fast forward past that change and a few revisions, we noticed that this text was no longer on the site.  I needed to put the text back onto the site.  The problem was, I didn’t remember what the exact text was that needed to be there and the HR rep was out of the office.  I went through our source control to look at the different versions of the file to find the text, but the initial upload and future changes didn’t include the wording because we tweaked it directly on the server itself.

I could go hunt through some backups, but I would rather pull my teeth out.  That was when I remembered the Wayback Machine (internet archive).  I ran our site through it, and was presented with a bunch of different versions I could easily look through to find what I needed.  Once I found it, I copied the text, pasted it in the source controlled file, deployed a new version of our site, and everything is now good!

Develop Better Habits and Stay Motivated

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on November 17, 2007

I was doing my normal Digg run through today and I came across this article which I thought was something worth sharing with the rest of you called 7 Habits of Highly Innovative People.

I like the idea behind the points of the article. Persistence is what makes success come about, not just a great idea. Of course, you can persistently go in the wrong direction while trying to achieve success, so you need to make sure you look up every now and then and make sure you still are on the right path. If not, make a course correction and get persistent again!

From point number 3 ‘Take Risks, Make Mistakes’:

I believe that part of the reason why we create self-imposed inhibition is due to our fear of failure. Expect that some ideas will fail in the process of learning. Build prototypes often, test them out on people, gather feedback, and make incremental changes. Rather than treating the mistakes as failures, think of them as experiment.

Of course, these habits are great, but you also have to stay motivated.  The article about Staying Motivated talks some more about this.  Here is the intro paragraph:

Whether your chosen medium is pictures or language, food or formulas, everyone has the capacity to be creative in their work. But we can often lose our motivation to create, making it difficult to stay focused and excited on a project. So how does one keep their creative well from drying up?

Take the time to read both articles, you should find at least something in them that applies to you and what you can do to make yourself better.

SharePoint Styles and Modifications

Posted in Network,Programming by Brian Russell on November 1, 2007

We are about to roll out SharePoint in our organization and we wanted to apply some small tweaks to the design.  I went out looking for how to modify the CSS files ‘the correct’ way and I found this little gem in the Internet trash pile.  It takes a bunch of the styles and shows you where they are applied by using screen clippings.  THANK YOU!  You can also figure this out by using a developer toolbar in your favorite browser, but this is much easier to me.

I also found a SharePoint Cheat Sheet that looks promising.

We also needed to add a company logo to all sites within a site collection.

Here is a post explaining how to properly use alternative styles without messing around with the CORE.CSS file.

And just because I thought this was neat, maybe I will do this when I get time

Looking through the Rails 2.0 stuff

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on October 27, 2007

I was reading through the Rails 2.o Preview and found a couple of neat things mentioned. The first thing I thought to be interesting is the small tweaks to migration definitions:

There’s a new alternative format for declaring migrations in a slightly more efficient format. Before you’d write:

create_table :people do |t|
  t.column, "account_id",  :integer
  t.column, "first_name",  :string, :null => false
  t.column, "last_name",   :string, :null => false
  t.column, "description", :text
  t.column, "created_at",  :datetime
  t.column, "updated_at",  :datetime
end

Now you can write:

create_table :people do |t|
  t.integer :account_id
  t.string  :first_name, :last_name, :null => false
  t.text    :description
  t.timestamps
end

The other thing I thought was good was the change of how database adapters were handled. I like this myself, it seems very appropriate:

A little more drastic, we’ve also pushed all the commercial database adapters into their own gems. So Rails now only ships with adapters for MySQL, SQLite, and PostgreSQL. These are the databases that we have easy and willing access to test on. But that doesn’t mean the commercial databases are left out in the cold. Rather, they’ve now been set free to have an independent release schedule from the main Rails distribution. And that’s probably a good thing as the commercial databases tend to require a lot more exceptions and hoop jumping on a regular basis to work well.

The commercial database adapters now live in gems that all follow the same naming convention: activerecord-XYZ-adapter. So if you gem install activerecord-oracle-adapter, you’ll instantly have Oracle available as an adapter choice in all the Rails applications on that machine. You won’t have to change a single line in your applications to take use of it.

The rest of the stuff just seemed to center around normal changes you would expect for any framework. Just seems to be maturing and handling the stuff people have come across since its 1.2 release.

Good Rake Tutorial

Posted in Uncategorized by Kevin Colyar on October 12, 2007

“As a Rails developer you’re probably familiar with running “rake” to run your tests or maybe you’ve used “rake db:migrate” to run your migrations. But do you really understand what’s going on under the hood of these Rake tasks? Did you realize that you can write your own tasks or create your own library of useful Rake files?”

http://www.railsenvy.com/2007/6/11/ruby-on-rails-rake-tutorial

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