2008 Theme Pack
The BlogEngine.Net 2008 theme pack was released at the end of last year with 13 new themes.
IE 6 Support Discontinued
As of February 2009, I am discontinuing mainline support for new or updated sites for IE 6 and older IE versions. There are enough known and documented issues in how IE 6 treats CSS that make it cost prohibitive to keep IE 6 as part of the mainstream browsers for customers while also supporting newer browsers and their features.
For the most part, I find that 90% or more of design elements display acceptably in IE 6 (albeit differently than other browsers) and that spending the extra effort for known / documented IE 6 browser issues and trying to create hacks for an older and dying browser to get an exact replica of the page is not a good investment. Customers that desire specific IE 6 support and testing of designs on I E6 will be based on an open ended time and material basis. At the end of the day, if a customer wants to pay the significant costs to support IE 6, I will do so, but the cost of resolving IE 6 specific issues will need to be covered entirely by the customer.
Yahoo, Google, 37 Signals, and other companies have announced similar decisions regarding either limited or discontinued IE6 support. Scott Hanselman of Microsoft even talks about coaxing users to get off IE 6 onto a newer browser.
Who Does This Affect?
As of February 2009, IE6 users range from 11% to 25% of sites I maintain. For the most part, indicators are that the bulk of IE6 users are corporate users that don't have the ability to upgrade because of internal incompatibilities for web sites that don't look well on IE 7.
What Does It Affect?
IE6 has several documented CSS Compatibility differences from other browsers. The areas I see that most commonly affect designs are listed below.
- box model - IE6 calculates a size of a box differently than other browsers. This is the largest portion of the issue for sites as layouts in IE6 will look different than other browsers. There are of course workarounds, but these come at a price of additional effort and incompatibility with other browsers.
- display - Multi-column layouts using float where widths in IE6 are more narrow than other browsers. This causes columns to appear at the bottom of pages instead of on the right side.
- :hover, :active is not available on certain elements in IE6
- :before, :after are not supported in IE6
- min-width, max-width: height
This may change as browser market share change, but for now the following browsers and versions will be supported for 2009.
Other Browsers Not Supported
Chrome (3%) and Opera (1%) do not have enough browser traffic to warrant support at this time.
There are several hawks that hunt near the house. In the spring we often see the young hawks getting a few lessons from the parents. This weekend this one landed on a tree right off the living room. He looked intently to and fro for some time, turning his head at every subtle noise in search of a later afternoon meal. When a flock of crows flew over, they quickly spotted him and called out to one another warning of the predator.
How To Restart ASP.Net Applications
Many times, from an administration perspective, it's desirable to restart an ASP.NET web site without restarting IIS on the whole server.
One quick way to do this is to leverage the fact that the application has a cache dependency on the Web.Config file. Writing to the Web.Config file will cause IIS to restart the ASP.NET application. We can also leverage the fact that changing the last update time on the Web.Config will also force a restart of the application.
This will clear all cache and tracing information and has an obvious impact on performance and should only be done from an administration security controlled page.
String szXMLFile; szXMLFile = System.Web.HttpRuntime.AppDomainAppPath; szXMLFile += "Web.Config"; File.SetLastWriteTime(szXMLFile, System.DateTime.Now);
Vista For Retail
Having recently used Vista for about a month now, I’d like to provide some feedback on Vista’s use in Retail for POS.
In the same way that lower end versions of XP were not suitable for a multi-POS environment because of networking, security, and remote access features that are needed, Vista has similar considerations. Below is a comparable list of XP Versions and Vista Versions suitable for a retail multi-POS environment.
Windows XP Versions
Not recommended for Retail multi-POS:
- XP Home Edition
- XP Media Center Edition
Has the necessary features for Retail multi-POS:
- XP Professional
- XP Embedded (Must include Pro versions of networking, Windows Installer and WMI)
Windows Vista Versions
Not recommended for Retail multi-POS:
- Vista Starter
- Vista Home Basic
- Vista Home Premium
Has the necessary features for Retail multi-POS:
- Vista Business (Comparable to XP Professional)
- Vista Business for Embedded Systems
- Vista Enterprise (Comparable to Vista Business + Bitlocker & Encryption)
- Vista Enterprise for Embedded Systems
- Vista Ultimate
Vista 32 bit is limited to 3.5 GB of memory. Vista 64 bit allows up to 128 GB of memory, but I’ve heard reports of Vista 64 bit driver availability or conflicts that may be an issue (particularly with OPOS peripherals). Benchmarks reportedly run faster on the 64 bit version of Vista.
Vista Considerations For Retail
Vista introduces some differences in networking, administration, and security.
- UAC – User Access Control is required for administration privileges (but can be turned off)
- Vista provides encrypted files for some versions, good for PCI and other security related laws and guidelines
- Backup of data and files are more complex
- Many OPOS drivers are not listed as supporting Vista
Vista Can't Find DNS Servers With Check Point
I've had problems from day one with VPN Connections on Vista Ultimate Service Pack 1 returning a default gateway 0.0.0.0 and it couldn't resolve any DNS lookups.
I purchased a new Dell XPS M1530 in December of 2008. It seems like a fine machine, but the Vista networking issues have troubled me like a cancer. It's been one of those nagging problems that I never had enough time to fully investigate and resolve. I finally found the annoying issue was with Check Point Secure Client / Secure Remote software.
For the security work I'm doing for a big name Fortune 100 company, I had to install Check Point Secure Client software. It seems Secure Client wants to block finding DNS servers. I had issues at home, Issues at the office, Issues with VPN connections. I had no end to issues finding systems on any network.
Do Not Check Check Point Secure Remote
It turns out one of the main issues was resolved by disabling Check Point Secure Remote on the LAN, Wireless, and VPN connections. I had the same problem on an XP system on Friday and someone found the answer was to turn off the wireless. For that system, we had no issues in the office, but countless when trying to connect looking up DNS names at home.
That still didn't fix the BSOD issues on Vista though. Maybe Microsoft can fix some of the remaining networking issues on Windows 7.
Dell Laptop XPS M1530
I purchased a new Dell XPS M1530 laptop at the end of 2008. I've grown to prefer desktops for the preferred improvements in reliability, cost, and performance, not to mention I use a 22" LCD monitor. I really didn't want a laptop. Nevertheless, I was working on a contract that was going to require quite a bit of traveling and using the desktop on the road wasn't an option and the old Toshiba laptop I had was on it's last CPU cycles.
After putting together several desktops and laptops over the years I knew I wanted several key things in the new system:
- A fast disk
- A graphics processor separate from the main processor
- A fast dual core processor
I did some research some time ago in compiling ASP.NET projects (Visual Studio .net 2003). After some careful measurements on servers, and multiple workstations, I found two factors were important for developers compiling hefty ASP.NET solutions and projects that utilized database access. First, multiple CPU's, hyper-threading, or dual core or quad core systems were critical for improved compiler performance. Second, the fastest possible hard disk was a very important if not primary factor in compile times. Celeron processors just won't cut it (never give a developer that you hope to achieve any actual compiling a celeron processor).
SCSI disks seem expensive, but if you compare the cost over the course of the 3-5 year period a system will be used for compiling code, it's actually a great savings. You'll get more compiles from the same developer, find more bug fixes, and run more tests over the course of time. At software developer rates, fast SCIS disks are a bargain. SCSI 15K, or 10K RPM disks with the fasted R/W IO speeds are preferred. Over the last year or two, I've seen some 10K RPM SATA disks that can provide acceptable results as well. They don't quite match the SCSI speeds, but they are a good improvement over the 7200 RPM disks. The next desktop system I build will likely include one of these 10K RPM SATA disks.
Scott Guthrie mentions some of the same finding that disk IO speed is critical for ASP.NET compilation in his tip Hard Dive Speed And Visual Studio Performance. If your an ASP.NET software developer you may also want to see Optimizing Web Project Build Performance.
Dell XPS M1530 Specifications
I opted for a Dell XPS M1530. It had the following specifications:
- Intel T9300 2.5 Ghz Core 2 Duo processor (800 Mhz FSB, 6M L2 Cache)
- 4 GB 667 Mhz DDR2 memory
- 250 GB 7200 RPM SATA 9.5mm Fujitsu Hard Disk with Free Fall Sensor
- NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT 256 MB Graphics adapater
- Wireless N
- 15.4" 1440x900 LCD glossy monitor
- Vista Home Premium (I upgraded to Ultimate)
System 1- Dell 370 Workstation
- Intel Pentium HT 3.0 Ghz CPU
- Seagate 3146707 SCSI 167 MB 10K RPM Hard Disk
- Seagate 373453 SCSI 67 MB 15K RPM Hard Disk
- NVIDIA Quatro 64 MB Dual Display Adapter
- 2 GB Memory
- Windows XP Professional
- 22" LG 1680 x 1050 W226WTQ LCD Monitor
System 2 - Intel Motherboard
- Intel Pentium HT 3.2 Ghz CPU
- NVIDIA GE Force 7300 GS s128 MB Dual Display Adapter
- Seagate 3146707L SCSI 167 MB 10K RPM Hard Disk
- Seagate 340810 32MB 10K RPM Hard Disk
- 2 GB Memory
- Windows XP Professional
- 22" LG 1680 x 1050 LCD W2252TQ Monitor
The Laptop Experience
The desktops I had were somewhat old, but no slouch. With the dual monitors and the fast disks, I was never lacking for anything. The net of the laptop experience has been very positive. I've event switched to using it as my primary desktop for most circumstances. The notes below aren't an exact side by side scientific comparison, but there are notable differences between the two systems.
- On CPU intensive task comparisons of the laptop with the older systems, the laptop wins.
- On DISK intensive task comparisons (side by side compiles), the desktop with SCSI disks are about 20% faster.
I don't fancy carrying the laptop back and forth to work much, but it's light and it is handy to have wireless. I like wireless much more than I thought and if I plug in an external keyboard, mouse, and my 22" monitor, I have everything I had before and then some.
The Vista Experience
Everything with Vista has not been rosy. I've had numerous network issues, a Blue Screen Of Death on multiple occasions and some problems getting connected to network printers. My overall recommendation for Vista; pass on it if you can - go with Windows XP Professional and wait for Windows 7. If you have to get Vista in a corporate environment, you'll want Business, Enterprise or Ultimate. Vista needlessly cripples some of the networking capabilities (like blocking DNS name lookups) even on Home Premium.
- Disk Backup is worse (I even upgraded to Ultimate), see File Level Backups for Vista
- UAC is annoying (I turned UAC off, see Disable Annoying Need Your Permission To Continue Prompts
- I've had to upgrade several applications like Symantec Endpoint, Snagit, and Checkpoint
- Networking access to shares, printers, and drivers is worse (much worse, okay, unacceptable)
- Switching between wireless connections (home, office, hotel, coffee shop, etc.) is better on Vista than XP
- Vista SCSI support for my disk controllers doesn't exist, so I couldn't upgrade the desktops to Vista even if I wanted to
I know a lot of new features went into Vista. It could have been a much better experience. The driver issues, BSOD and network connectivity issues put things back to the WFW 1995 era (or before) and are plainly just unacceptable.
Following the post from Mads Kristensen on his configuration and Vista score, I thought I'd post my information on the Vista Windows Experience Index.