<CharlieDigital/> Programming, Politics, and uhh…pineapples


The Sad State of Secularism

Posted by Charles Chen

This story is kind of upsetting.

Like hundreds of young men joining the Army in recent years, Jeremy Hall professes a desire to serve his country while it fights terrorism.

Known as "the atheist guy," Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and -- just as severe to some soldiers -- gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.

 "I was ashamed to say that I was an atheist," Hall said.

"Religion brings comfort to a lot of people," he said. "Personally, I don't want it or need it. But I'm not going to get down on anybody else for it."

I dunno...it's just kind of unnerving that in this day and age, a person should feel ashamed to be known as an atheist (especially one that is respectful of others' right to believe).  In fact, recent polls have shown that atheists are the most distrusted group in America, even below Muslims:

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

It just doesn't make sense.

Filed under: News, Rants 2 Comments

Automating Remote GAC Installs On Build

Posted by Charles Chen

When working with SharePoint, you'll find yourself working with the GAC quite often during development.

If you've seen the light and you're working with SharePoint on a VM, one tricky problem is how to update the GAC using a post-build event.  The following is a little script that I use:

::----------------------- GAC binaries code ------------------------

:: Check if the share is available on the server

IF EXIST "\\server-name\temp" GOTO COPYFILES


:: Copy file to the server


ECHO Found \\server-name\temp; proceeding to copy files...

SET SN=\\server-name\temp

:: Copy the binary

XCOPY "$(TargetPath)" "%SN%" /Y /I

:: Use PsExec to execute gacutil

PATH=$(SolutionDir)Tools;%windir%\Microsoft.Net\Framework\v2.0.50727;%programfiles%\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0\Bin;%path%

psexec \\server-name -u Administrator -p password -w "c:\temp" gacutil.exe /i "$(TargetFileName)" /f



ECHO Your VM image is not sharing the directory "c:\temp"



ECHO Completed

The batch script makes use of Sysinternal's PsExec.  I've included the binary executable in my solution tree under the directory "Tools".

The script only has one assumption: the VM (or remote machine, really) is sharing the c:\temp directory (okay, and that the path to gacutil.exe has been added to the remote machine's PATH environment variable).  Here's a breakdown of the logic:

  1. The first step is to check if the directory exists and can be reached.  If not, we go to the end and show a notice about sharing the directory.
  2. If the directory is shared, the output dll from the build is copied to the shared directory using plain old XCOPY.
  3. Once it's copied over, we use PsExec to execute gacutil on the VM (or remote machine).  The -w argument specifies the working directory on the remote machine.


Filed under: Dev No Comments

FOR XML Needs More Love

Posted by Charles Chen

I'm constantly amazed by the number of developers who have never worked with FOR XML EXPLICIT and the new FOR XML PATH.  If I were designing data access, it would be my go-to commands for building queries for complex data structures (nested DataReaders?  yuck!).

In the past, to support paging using FOR XML EXPLICIT queries took tons of lines to accomplish (although there is something about the whole explicitness that makes it surprisingly legible).  Now with the fancy pants ROW_NUMBER function in SQL along with CTEs, a hundred line query can be written with maybe 15-20 lines.

Here's a simple example that you can copy+paste and run:

Demonstrates usage of ROW_NUMBER and FOR XML PATH to create
pageable XML results queries.

In this case, the key is to page only on the Route objects.

--// Mock Route table
Id int,
Title varchar(100)

--// Mock Step table
Id int,
RouteId int,
Title varchar(100),
Sequence int

--// Insert mock data
INSERT INTO @Route VALUES (1, 'Route 1')
INSERT INTO @Route VALUES (2, 'Route 2')
INSERT INTO @Route VALUES (3, 'Route 3')
INSERT INTO @Route VALUES (4, 'Route 4')
INSERT INTO @Route VALUES (5, 'Route 5')

--// Route 1 Steps
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (1, 1, 'Step 1.1', 1)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (2, 1, 'Step 1.2', 2)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (3, 1, 'Step 1.3', 3)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (4, 1, 'Step 1.4', 4)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (5, 1, 'Step 1.5', 5)

--// Route 2 Steps
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (6, 2, 'Step 2.1', 1)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (7, 2, 'Step 2.2', 2)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (8, 2, 'Step 2.3', 3)

--// Route 3 Steps
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (9, 3, 'Step 3.1', 1)

--// Route 4 Steps
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (10, 4, 'Step 4.1', 1)

--// Route 5 Steps
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (11, 5, 'Step 5.1', 1)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (12, 5, 'Step 5.2', 2)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (13, 5, 'Step 5.3', 3)
INSERT INTO @Step VALUES (14, 5, 'Step 5.4', 4)

Define the page size.
-- Add sorting and ordering later

DECLARE @PageSize int
DECLARE @CurrentPage int

SET @CurrentPage = 0
SET @PageSize = 3

Calculate starting and ending row.
DECLARE @StartIndex int
DECLARE @EndIndex int

SET @StartIndex = @CurrentPage * @PageSize
SET @EndIndex = @StartIndex + @PageSize

; --// Need to terminate with a semicolon for CTE
Perform core XML select

WITH Routes AS (
Routes.Id AS "@Id",
Routes.Title AS "@Title",
Step.Id AS '@Id',
Step.Title AS '@Title'
@Step AS Step
Step.RouteId = Routes.Id
Step.Sequence ASC
) AS 'Steps'
RowNumber > @StartIndex AND RowNumber <= @EndIndex --// BETWEEN Results in improper paging
FOR XML PATH('Route'), ROOT('Routes')

What's great about this is that if your object model is properly designed, it's just a matter of deserializing the XML (using precompiled serialization binaries, of course) to rehydrate your data model.

In this case, the output XML looks like this:

<Route Id="1" Title="Route 1">
<Step Id="1" Title="Step 1.1" />
<Step Id="2" Title="Step 1.2" />
<Step Id="3" Title="Step 1.3" />
<Step Id="4" Title="Step 1.4" />
<Step Id="5" Title="Step 1.5" />
<Route Id="2" Title="Route 2">
<Step Id="6" Title="Step 2.1" />
<Step Id="7" Title="Step 2.2" />
<Step Id="8" Title="Step 2.3" />
<Route Id="3" Title="Route 3">
<Step Id="9" Title="Step 3.1" />

Next, you'll need some simple code to deserialize the XML to make it useful:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Collections.ObjectModel;
using System.IO;
using System.Xml.Serialization;

namespace XmlDeserialization {
internal class Program {
private static void Main(string[] args) {
string xml = ...; // XML string here

RouteList routes = new RouteList(xml);


foreach(Route route in routes) {
Console.Out.WriteLine(" + Route: {0}", route.Id);

foreach(Step step in route.Steps) {
Console.Out.WriteLine(" + Step: {0}", step.Id);

public abstract class XmlDeserializingList<Titem> : List<Titem> {
protected XmlDeserializingList() { }

protected XmlDeserializingList(string xml) {
StringReader reader = new StringReader(xml);

XmlSerializer serializer = new XmlSerializer(GetType());
XmlDeserializingList<Titem> items = (XmlDeserializingList<Titem>)serializer.Deserialize(reader);


public class RouteList : XmlDeserializingList<Route> {
public RouteList() {}

public RouteList(string xml) : base(xml) {


public class Route {
private int id;
private string title;
private Collection<Step> steps;

public int Id {
get { return id; }
set { id = value; }

public string Title {
get { return title; }
set { title = value; }

[XmlArray("Steps"), XmlArrayItem("Step", typeof(Step))]
public Collection<Step> Steps {
get { return steps; }
set { steps = value; }

public class Step {
private int id;
private string title;

public int Id {
get { return id; }
set { id = value; }

public string Title {
get { return title; }
set { title = value; }

It might even be useful to add some abstract methods (and properties to support it) to GetNextPage()

Filed under: SQL Server No Comments

Nuking SharePoint Styles For Layout Page Applications

Posted by Charles Chen

SharePonit layout apps (as I call them) are the missing link in most developer's understanding of SharePoint and why it seems like it can be a pain in the butt as a development platform.  As I've discussed previously, SharePoint development only deviates from regular ASP.NET development ever so slightly.  A bit of creativity and ingenuity easily overcomes most hurdles.

As I'm doing development in the area, I'd like to help shed some light on the mystery of it all and show how developers and SharePoint can work together in harmony 🙂

One of the first steps to making happy with SharePoint when working with layout pages is to nuke the SharePoint CSS which creates weird padding around the main work area.  I'm sure it may have some purpose, but it's irrelevant for us at the moment.

Let's take a look.

In the following screen, I've added a <div/> element with a one pixel, black border with width and height set to 100% (this is in IE7 and it looks about the same in FF2).

Notice the fat white padding on the top and the right.  This is useless and ugly.  Not only that, we didn't acheive the 100% height that we'd like to.  We can nuke it with some CSS:

/*--- override WSS styles ---*/
body { height: 100%; }
.ms-formareaframe { padding: 2px 4px 4px 4px; background: #fff; height:100%; }
.ms-propertysheet { height: 100%; }
#onetidMainBodyPadding { height: 0px; }
#onetidMainBodyPadding img { height: 0px; display: none; }
#onetidYPadding { width: 0px; }
#onetidYPadding img { width: 0px; display: none; }

And here's the result:

Bingo!  It looks kind of the same in FF2 (FF2 overdraws the 100% declaration and cuts off the bottom and right borders; this does require some CSS hackery to fix).

But the big picture is that now we have a blank slate with which to integrate with SharePoint.  You get all of the benefits of SharePoint authentication, document management, profiling, and so on just by putting your ASP.NET application into SharePoint as a layout page.  Development is easier than it would seem since the package, during development, only has to be deployed once.  Otherwise, all of the files can be deployed to SharePoint using an automated XCOPY or manually.  In some cases, for example working with ASPX page layout, the page can be accessed directly via file share (this is how I do all of my layout).

For more info on creating layout apps, check out the following articles on packaging SharePoint solutions:

Filed under: SharePoint No Comments

Quote of the Day

Posted by Charles Chen

I'm not a metal fan, but I like this one.

"We Need To Let Metal And Odin Catch The Kids Before Jesus Does!" -- HELHEIM


Filed under: QOTD No Comments

New Jersey Gets *Something* Right

Posted by Charles Chen

High property taxes?  Check.  Terrible congestion?  Check.  Exit 13?  Check (for those not in the know, exit 13 on the NJ Turnpike is the location of an all encompassing foul odor from the refineries located in the area).  Overabundance of guidos?  Check.

For all the reasons that NJ sucks, there are a few bright spots like the grease trucks at Rutgers and an interesting little ruling by the NJ Supreme Court:

The justices say that IP addresses are sufficiently anonymous to justify privacy protection because, theoretically, only the Internet service provider can identify who is associated with a specific IP address.

"Internet users today enjoy relatively complete IP address anonymity when surfing the Web. Given the current state of technology, the dynamic, temporarily assigned, numerical IP address cannot be matched to an individual user without the help of an ISP. Therefore, we accept as reasonable the expectation that one's identity will not be discovered through a string of numbers left behind on a website"

Filed under: News No Comments

VSTO Versus Extensibility

Posted by Charles Chen

As we're currently mulling a full transition to VS2008 and .NET 3.5, I've been investigating VSTO3 and ClickOnce once again.  My initial encounters with VSTO and ClickOnce were lacking.  With regards to VSTO, I didn't find anything that I could do with it that I couldn't do without it.  Indeed, it's more of an extension of the extensibility model which provides some under the cover plumbing than anything else.

The decision to attach ourselves to VSTO3 and ClickOnce is no light matter.  Luckily, Cindy Meister (Office MVP) and Mary Lee (Microsoft) were kind enough to weigh in on the matter over at the MSDN forums.

I think all Office developers should head over and take a look as it contains a wealth of information (and clarifies some common misunderstandings) with regards to VSTO and ClickOnce.

Filed under: Office No Comments

Geek Moment

Posted by Charles Chen

It's more rare these days, but I realized I had a total geek moment as I was walking back to my office after eating cheese and crackers for dinner because I was too busy working on reviving a 6 year old PC.

Nothing quite like a power supply sitting outside the case to let you know that you've geeked yourself out for the day.

As a side note: those Laughing Cow cheese wedges are pretty damn satisfying for 30 calories.


On The Suckage Of Lotus Notes (6.5)

Posted by Charles Chen

Lotus Notes continues to suck as much as ever.  Every day, I wake to find more suckage.

For example, today, when a coworker forwarded a meeting invitation to me, instead of allowing me to accept it in my calendar and schedule the event, it came across as a regular e-mail with no option to accept the meeting invitation which was attached.

Furthermore, there's this little gem:

Uhhh...thank you Lotus Notes for informing me that the meeting occurs in a different time zone.  It would be nice if you could tell me which time zone. You know, since I can't automatically schedule the event, it would be nice if you could just tell me what time zone it's in so I can manually schedule it.  Furthermore, see that little outline around the globe and arrow?  This would lead one to believe that clicking on it does something like maybe map the actual time...but nope, nothing happens (the same with the text).  LotusNotes = Productivity--

Meanwhile, Amazon Prime is the polar opposite of suckage.  I ordered two books yesterday and used the default Prime "free" 2nd day shipping option.  To my surprise, they've arrived on my doorstep less than 24 hours later.  If that isn't awesome, then I don't know what is.

Filed under: Lotus Notes, Rants 1 Comment

Office Developers: Take Note!

Posted by Charles Chen

Microsoft has a very powerful set of group policy administrative templates which allow administrators to set configuration options for Office globally for all users in the domain.  This makes many development scenarios much easier since it allows you to easily ensure consistency in terms of Office configuration instead of writing custom code to do it in your add-in.

You can download the templates from MSDN.

You can find more details about installing and using the templates here.

And in case you were curious, here's a screen cap:

This is a must explore set of tools when working with Office applications.

Filed under: Office No Comments