Quick Tips on Virtual PC development, LDAP, Training, Security, and eBay

virtual

Just an assortment of hopefully useful miscellaneous items from things I’ve been working on lately along with resources for further review.

  • Virtual PCs (VPC): If you’re in consulting you will find it necessary to develop programs on various platforms- Windows 2003, 2008, XP, Vista.  The client doesn’t always have these available for testing purposes…that’s where the invaluable virtual PC comes into play.  By purchasing a Microsoft Technet subscription for $200/year you’ll get access to download all versions of Windows OS’s and tools.  This in conjunction with Microsoft Virtual PC software will allow you to run any OS inside the virtual environment along with necessary tools.  These virtual PC’s can take up quite a bit of disk space, so it’s a good idea to also buy a small USB external drive to store these images.  This has the advantage of providing multiple virtual images on a small portable drive you can use on almost any PC.  I literally couldn’t do my job without these tools and rely on them every day.
  • Getting VPC 2007 running on Windows 7: I found there are a few quirks when installing and running Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.  Firstly, if you’ve already installed the newer Windows Virtual PC on Windows 7, you’ll have to UNINSTALL it via the control panel applet (clicking on the Windows components will show this option, it’s not in the normal list of programs).  If you do not do this, you will get errors when running VPC 2007.  Next, when running make sure you always run VPC as an administrator (right click on the program icon and choose “Run as Administrator”), otherwise you’ll get an error that the virtual hard drive is read only and other cryptic errors.  Once I did those two things, the program runs flawlessly!
  • Server 2008 and Active Directory/LDAP lookups: I’m currently working on a prototype webapp which takes the current logged in Windows user, looks up that user in active directory, and pre-fills fields with user info such as full name, email, and phone number.  To do this, first create a VPC (see above) for Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio.  You’ll also have to set up active directory and a domain controller on that test image.  Then, refer to the following article I found which covers this topic in great and useful detail: http://www.codeproject.com/KB/system/everythingInAD.aspx .  The code is remarkably simple in .NET 3.5…a definite improvement over 2.0.
  • Online video training:  I’m constantly studying various Visual Studio features for certifications.  I find that reading books or on-line articles extremely boring and recently purchased a 1 year subscription to AppDev online training. You can occasionally find deals to get full access to all classes for $1000, otherwise you can purchase just what you’re interested in. I find the video training really engaging and a nice complement to traditional book studying.  This in conjunction with transcender practice tests gives excellent coverage for the Microsoft certification exams.  Note- I’m not affiliated with these companies, just a happy customer.
  • Windows Phone 7 Development:  Microsoft’s new mobile platform is shipping soon and it looks to be very competitive.  Here’s some more info from Paul Thurrott’s site: Hands On With Windows Phone 7.  There’s free tools available now to develop applications, I haven’t tried them out yet but will do so eventually: http://developer.windowsphone.com/
  • eBay, PayPal, and the USPS: I recently sold something on eBay…it’s been a while and was really happy with the transaction. The whole process is now seamless and user-friendly from listing through payment and even to shipping via USPS.  I was pleased to learn that after you’re paid in PayPal, you can print (and pay for) a shipping label right from PayPal including insurance.  Both you and the buyer gets an email receipt with confirmation number. The USPS flat rate priority mail boxes (provided for free from the post office) are the way to go…you can stuff them with any amount of stuff for about $10, apply your shipping label, and even have your mail carrier pick it up for you.  Nice!
  • Security Updates:  The hacker conference Black Hat is going on now, and so the annual parade of security flaws uncovered is flowing fast. This is just a friendly reminder to keep everything up to date as there’s been serious flaws found in FireFox, Windows (a really bad one involving .lnk shortcuts), Flash, and Itunes/Quicktime.  Don’t waste a moment downloading and installing the latest updates for these programs.  And why you’re at it, have you updated your backups lately?  I thought so….