DVD Retailing: The Next Generation

Do you buy DVDs, Blu-Ray discs or download movies? Whatever your preferred format, you can now buy direct from the studio through a network of hi-tech vending machines to be sited at shopping malls, airports, retail shops and rail stations around the country. If you haven’t seen one of these yet, it’s only a matter of time:

Photo: DVD Vending Machine at Homebase, Falkirk Boasting a 32" touch screen, you can watch trailers, read the covers and purchase on the spot. You’ll receive the full retail product instantly after a secure chip and pin transaction. The machines are currently sited at 20 locations around the UK and stock the top titles by Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment:

  • Argos, Glasgow (Stockwell Street)
  • Argos, Sheffield
  • Argos, Gateshead (Metro Centre)
  • Argos, Wood Green (London)
  • Empire Cinema, Basildon
  • Homebase, Falkirk
  • Odeon, Manchester (Trafford Centre)
  • Odeon, Brighton
  • Odeon, Southampton
  • Odeon, Gateshead (Metro Centre)

You’ll find discount codes here from time to time for machines around the country, so stay tuned!

Earth Hour 2008: Glasgow, 28th March

If you had your lights on between 8 and 9pm on 29th March, you probably didn’t realise / care that it was Earth Hour, a worldwide version of San Francisco’s Lights Out event designed to raise awareness of climate change. Earth Hour is now in its second year, with many cities around the world participating in the event.  Although Glasgow didn’t officialy participate city in the event, many households and businesses in the city switched their power off for one hour during the day. To the confusion of many (including my mum), Google UK turned their lights out for the day by sporting a fetching black background: 

I wonder if they turned off any of their 10,000+ server farm during the event? I doubt it… but I’m sure a black background to their website was just as effective. Although cities like Bangkok reduced usage by over 70 megawatts (40 tonnes of CO2), the purpose of the event isn’t to make a long term difference against climate change, but to raise people’s awareness and demonstrate how everyone can contribute to reducing emissions. I went to an Earth Hour party at Sean’s to celebrate the event. The group photo below represents the end of the hour of darkness and features Stuart, Steven, Andrew, Nick, Sean Batty, Graham, Owen, Radek, Sabrina, Alan and Colin: 

If you didn’t get involved this year, make sure you do it next time! Also, Glasgow City Council, get the city registered!

Tweeting: Even more irritating than blogging

Just when we thought it couldn’t get more irritating than blogging, we can now share our tiniest thoughts throughout the day with Twitter. I just started Twittering.

Not because I want to, but because someone started a campaign to make me think it’s a good idea to share the things I would usually discard without a thought or keep to myself with you… my readers.

Depending on your desire to irritate, you can either enter your ‘twitter’ from the website, or from your mobile via a text message. Twitter is a sure fire way to reduce your mobile phone bills as the more you use it, the more you’ll want to break your phone into tiny pieces and then set it on fire just to be sure you don’t receive any more inate messages.

If you need to use your phone or don’t have insurance, you can also text ‘STOP.  For the love of my sanity, STOP.’ to 07624 801423. I think I hate it… but I’m going to do it anyway, and I think you should too. You can view my Twitter here… or not bother.

Seriously, I don’t mind.

Heroes Happen Here: Birmingham ICC

Yesterday, I travelled down to Birmingham to attend Heroes Happen Here, Microsoft’s launch event for Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008.

After checking out of my panic-room (Birmingham Travelodge), I made my way down Broad Street towards the centre on a cold but sunny morning.   I arrived at the ICC at around 09:00 and somehow managed to make the keynote despite forgetting my badge and having to queue for a replacement. Despite the huge registration base, delegates were well looked after by Fitch Live staff and furnished with an unlimited supply of Innocent Smoothies as well as the usual chocolate/coffee/water supply.

Additionally impressive was the full lunch provided in the exhibit hall. Despite some mixed reviews, I thought Microsoft did a great job at hosting this event.  All the speakers were of usual high standard and the presentations were all heavily demo-oriented and focused on the new features of the products and didn’t spend too much time lingering on current technologies. Although the focus of the day was definitely on LINQ, I found the VB 2008 session the most beneficial, with coding techniques and features I’ll no doubt explore in more detail soon. Presentation of the day award goes to Mike Taulty and his LINQ presentation. He delivered code samples in VB and C# and seemed to big up some of VB.net’s new features. “I think I am in love with LINQ”, “Wow” and “This stuff is amazing” were uttered as he presented… Great presenter. The only thing I wasn’t convinced by was the ‘class based’ attendee system they seemed to have in operation. Despite having queued for an event, I was turned away at the door because of the colour of my badge. Luckily, I was in the wrong place anyway and mosied on down to the correct hall for ‘Visual Studio 2008 IDE, VB Stream’.

I was still looking forward to receiving some free stuff at the event, namely copies of the big 3. Unfortunately, the software they were giving away were 365-day trial versions.  I left mine on the train back to Glasgow anyway, so I guess some lucky S.O.B. will be getting some value from it… I hope they install it on a production server and it expires during their busiest day. Is that evil? Probably, but they shouldn’t have stolen my swag. One particular event in the main hall seemed like fun. It involved wannabe speakers presenting for a maximum of 5 minutes in front of a panel of judges. Not quite X-Factor but the closest you’ll get when it comes to devs.

Anyway, enough rambling. The event was worth every penny… which was zero as the event was totally free to attend (except my train and hotel which my company had to pay for) Looking forward to a 100% developer oriented day.

Calls for a Scottish top level domain

Do you think Scotland needs it’s own top-level domain extension? Scottish visitors should check out this page for an outline of the proposal on Wikipedia Scotland.

Everyone else should visit dotSCO, the campaign site for the .sco gTLD. Their plan is to submit a proposal to ICANN later in the year. You can support the cause by signing the e-petition to be presented to the Scottish Parliament. As John said, “dot scot” (.scot) rolls off the tongue slightly easier… but I guess it’s the concept that counts!

Wishing them all the best! Sign today…

A ‘Feeling’ something wasn’t right

A meticulously planned sequence of events designed to allow me to get to The Feeling gig on time last night (despite being booked on the 6:30pm flight from Gatwick to Glasgow) had one major flaw. Before setting off on my travels earlier in the week, I decided to do something completely alien to me, planning: I intentionally stuffed everything I needed for my short trip into my laptop bag so I wouldn’t have to check any baggage. Granted, I did have to compromise on some essentials due to the 100ml rule… like deoderant… but who wants to smell good all the time anyway? I checked in online at BA.com to get a seat right at the front of the aircraft, resulting in having to push past the lowest possible number of pregnant women in rows 1-4 to disembark the aircraft first. Surpsiringly, my return flight was on time and touched down at 8:05pm. Ok, maybe I’m just surprised because I’m used to flying Ryan “we’ll fly you ‘roughly where you want to go” Air or Sleazyjet. I was in my flat by 8:35pm and calling Glasgow’s finest taxi company (0141) 3390339 in advance resulted in a friendly taxi driver waiting outside my flat by 8:45pm to take me to the gig. “To the Glasgow Academy please, driver.” I said… Ok I didn’t say it *exactly* like that but you get the idea. I arrived at the Academy at 8:59pm…. WOW I thought. How did I manage that? Stuart kindly left my ticket at the door, so I approached the door staff who let me in to speak to the box office. The girl started searching for my ticket. Five minutes passed, I’d tried variations of my name, phonetic spelings, Stuart’s name, Jane’s name, Andrew’s name… still nothing. I called Stuart who assured me it was at the box office. Some more time passed and he called me back and said “I’m in the foyer, I can’t see you.” … by this time the gig was just starting… but I couldn’t hear any music coming from the main hall.

Me: “Where are you Stuart?” Stuart: “Barrowlands of course, you?”

So I got taxi #2 to the Barrowlands and arrived at about 9:30pm. Despite missing half of the gig had an absolutely excellent night. In hindsight, some clues I was at the wrong venue included:

The words FRANKIE BOYLE, TONIGHT on the board outside the academy The girl asking me where I was ‘sitting’? I thought this was strange but thought there may be some kind of seating option. The rather mellow crowd standing in the smoking area outside the academy as the gig was about to start

I guess that was a kind of long way of saying… “I went to the wrong place.”

Questionable business practices by VeriSign

Let me start from the beginning…  Prior to the formation of ICANN in 1998, Network Solutions (owned by VeriSign) was the place to purchase top level domains. These days, the industry is open to competition, with players like GoDaddy and eNom blasting them out of the market in terms of quanity of domains on their platform. This seems to have resulted in Network Solutions resorting to questionable business practices to acquire new registrations in this fiercely competative market. So I’d never heard of ‘Domain name front running’ until today. Let me explain with an example…

18:03: I search for ‘Domain Name Registration’ in Google and find a link to Network Solutions’ site

18:05: I search for ‘questionable-business-practices.com’ on the Network Solutions site

18:06: I see the domain name is available… 

Great, I think to myself. Now let me just check I can’t get it cheaper anywhere else… so I head over to another domain name registration company and search for the exact same domain name. Here’s what I get: 

Strange, very strange, I think to myself.  I just looked this up two minutes ago and it was available

18:09: I head back to Network Solutions and search for the domain again… surely somebody couldn’t have registered it that quickly.

18:10: Surely enough, the domain is still available… but for $34.99 per year! Wow that’s expensive… I’m sure I can get it for like $8.95 a year on GoDaddy. Let me just go to checkout so you know I’m not making this up… 

Normally I wouldn’t bother about something like this, but having had first hand experience in the domain name and hosting industry, I couldn’t let this one go… Yes, it’s a competative industry and margins on domain name registrations for resellers are low, which is why I thought Network Solutions would have known better than to employ a technique like this. Having been a customer of them in the past, I am thourghly disappointed.  Illegal? Maybe, but despite this article at The Register published Feb 26th, they are still doing it…

Importing CSV to Excel

This guide covers importing a CSV file into a blank worksheet using Microsoft Excel 2007.  Don’t open the CSV in Excel, instead create a new workbook, click on the data tab on the ribbon and select ‘Get External Data’, ‘From Text’. Test
Select ‘delimited’ if your data is seperated with a specific character. You’ll have to specify the delimiting character on the next step. If you have a header row, enter a value for ‘Start Import at row…’ Step 2
Click ‘Next’ and select your delimiting character. In this case, it’s a semi-colon ’;’ Delimiting character
If you wish to shape your data, you can enter field types here. For example, I want the ‘Barcode’ field to be rendered as Text as it may contain leading zeros or be summarised by Excel if it’s treated as a number. Next, select your existing worksheet and press OK to import your data.
Finish the process

Microsoft announces Scottish launch event for 2008 products

Microsoft has just announced a Scottish launch event for Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. The event will take place in Edinburgh on 23rd April 2008 and will be held at the Royal College of Physicians. This is great news for Scottish partners and those who, due to overwhealming demand, couldn’t get registered on the Heroes Happen Here at the Birmingham ICC. Find out more and register for the event at the Tartan Tech blog.

Hosting a WCF Service using IIS7 and Windows Vista

Publishing and testing a Windows Communication Foundation Service in IIS7 on Windows Vista is pretty straightforward, but there are a few pitfalls to look out for along the way. This post is designed to compliment the screencast ‘Creating and consuming your first WCF Service’ which I will publish here soon. I hope sharing this with you saves you some time when deploying your first service. Firstly, install IIS7 from within ‘Programs and Features / Turn Windows features on or off’ if it isn’t already in the Administrative Tools menu. Launch Internet Information Services from the Adminsitrative Tools menu and expand the nodes of the web site hosted on your local PC. Right click the name of the website and select ‘Add Application’

Server Error in Application “Default Web Site/CallService” HTTP Error 404.3 – Not Found Description: The page you are requesting cannot be served because of the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) map policy that is configured on the Web server. The page you requested has a file name extension that is not recognized, and is not allowed.

To resolve this issue, you need to take the following steps:

Run a command prompt window as administrator. Start, cmd as normal then press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER

Navigate to c:windowsMicrosoft.NetFrameworkv3.0Windows Communication Foundation

Run the command ‘ServiceModelReg -i’ – You should receive the results below.



Ok, try navigating to your service again, http://localhost/CallService/CallService.svc If you can see the service confirmation page above, this has worked, but you may receive the following error:

HTTP 500   —  Handler svc-Integrated has a bad module “ManagedPipelineHandler” in its module list

After thourghly exploring the new IIS7 UI for a solution to this problem to no avail, it turns out that despite WCF being installed on Windows Vista machines as standard, HTTP activations aren’t by default. To activate these, on your machine, follow these steps:

1. Control Panel / Programs and Features, 

2. Turn Windows Features on or off  / Install

3. Windows Communication Foundation HTTP Activation


This should solve the “HTTP 500   —  Handler svc-Integrated has a bad module "ManagedPipelineHandler” in its module list" error. You’re now ready to built or integrate a client application to test the WCF service.


Enter the name of the