Cultural Learnings of Germany for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Cymru

30. July 2013 07:02 by Chris in Holidays  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Not really.

So, the rest of the family and I are in Germany, visiting the rellies, just the four hours from Calais in Duisburg, a university city and the eleventh largest city in Germany with some 513,550 residents (don't you know) and therefore getting on for twice the size of our hometown of Cardiff. Doesn't feel like it though - less busy, but that'll no doubt be largely due to lower population density that the the size of Germany affords. Quick google:

  • Germany population 82 million, 357 square km
  • UK population 63 million, 244 square km

Handy site if you want more comparisons.

I'm not sure how much one should trust wiki answers but:

Germany is about 137,000 sq miles. France is about 212,000 sq miles. The UK is about 94,000 sq miles.

Hmmm, a) France is a big old place and b) Germany is not so much bigger than the UK than was my perception. Ignorant? Moi?

Enough of the stats; some observations to conclude for now: 

  • German's drive on dual carriageways/ motorways and there don't seem to be many cameras to stop them. Compare this a) with the towns where the speed limits often seem down to the 20mph mark and b) the UK which, based on the Cardiff-Dover run, is overly obsessed with speed cameras.
  • It is excellent to see bikes in more general use in this area of Germany, albeit we are at the height of summer, and particularly the demographic of cyclists with many more 'elderly' cyclists on the roads, or rather cycle lanes which are much more common. Puts Cardiff/ the UK to shame. Far fewer of the portly middle aged men spending oodles on their carbon road bike frames and lycra getup for 30 min weekend rides as well. Or bmxs, or mountain bikes or hybrids, for that matter. Lots of sensible tourer type bikes being driven relatively sedately around purely for the purpose of getting from a to b. Hoorah.
  • When you park your car it is the convention to do so in the direction of the prevailing traffic!

 May be back later. 



Booting a window 8 VHD from windows 7

12. June 2013 12:14 by Chris in   //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

This is the third time I've done this now and I keep having to look up the detail here so I am going to write it down this time. In my case I need to refresh the install of Windows 8 Enterprise trial every 3 months when it expires as I don't yet have a full win8 copy. You'll find the trial ISO on Microsoft's site and the next think to do is to prep a bootable USB stick with the OS. Note that the link to the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool in Hanselman's article is broken as I write this and I don't need it so if starting from scratch you'll need to locate this or an alternative. I'm not so I don't!

The important bit for me is to F10 from the disk selection step of the install to pick up my existing VHD and fire up DISKPART from the cmd prompt. Once in:

DISKPART> select vdisk file=d:\VMs\Win8.vhd

DiskPart successfully selected the virtual disk file.

DISKPART> attach vdisk

If you do not already have the disk created you'll need to do so first:

DISKPART> create vdisk file=d:\VMs\Win8.vhd type=expandable maximum=60000

or similar. See the earlier section of the referenced article.


In my case I also need to reformat the drive before proceeding and skip over the errant 'can't install to this disk' warning.


Then let the Windows install do it's stuff and you should then get the dual boot option on startup.








To RT or to not RT?

16. May 2013 13:11 by Chris in   //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I got into a bit of a Twitter conversation with a chap from Dell today (@stephenjatdell) who asked the question "Great UK deal on XPS10 tablet" Except I'm not sure he actually meant it to be a question as I received the impression subsequently that he was pretty sure it was a good deal! I was less convinced. In fact I retweeted with my follow up question: '(still too expensive for RT to compete?)' The conversation continued but, that aside, let's look at this in a little more detail.

I will precursor with the fact that I don't understand why anyone buys an iPad - it's an overpriced toy as far as I'm concerned. Currently tablets attract a premium as the 'new thing' but when you compare the hardware with a fairly standard laptop the pricing does not stand this sort of analysis? I did buy a Nexus 7 in the end - a slightly less overpriced toy which I only use because the Welsh dictionary app isn't available for my phone (Windows Phone). I share the Nexus with my wife (OK, it's her's really!) and the big issue is the lack of 3G connectivity which I'll return to shortly. I am fully aware that Nexus 7 versions with 3G are now on the market.

Back to the Dell 'deal'. It is/ was for a Dell XPS 10 tablet running Windows RT. The 32GB version costs £249 with a whopping £120 more for the keyboard/ dock, though I am aware of the silly prices for laptop docking stations so this was no great surprise. Presumably you can add a USB keyboard and mouse for productivity in the supplied Office applications (should be a big plus for RT over competing OSs though I've not played with), though I guess you'd need to prop up the tablet in another way! No 3G on the tablet by the way with the base product - options were mentioned on the page but I received the impression the info had erroneously found it's way to the UK site from the US.

Talking of matters erroneous: at is stated 'The new XPS 10 tablet comes with Windows RT, built-in security and flexible docking options that give you full PC functionality when you need it.' This is entirely misleading. This is Windows RT not full Windows so you do not get 'full PC functionality'. This is poor from Dell, even in the context of the confusing marketing from Microsoft in this area.

So for £249 you get a well engineered (though see review link below) 10" tablet, with probably the best touch OS on the market, 32GB of RAM and the RT version of Office. Wireless, no 3G unfortunately. Compared to the 16GB iPad (albeit with retina display - 2048x1536 compared to 1366x768) and it's £400 price tab this is pretty good. Of course apps are going to be lacking so if this is important to you are likely to have issues.

Back to my comment 'still too expensive for RT to compete'? What do you think? I'm coming from the angle here while I'm sure the hardware is great (like the Surface itself which, for comparison, is £400 with keyboard currently), RT has a lot of catching up to do and it may require some minimal profit margins to be in place for a while.

Hmmm, maybe I should buy one of these Dells 'for the wife';) Or maybe no:

Though, anyway, what I really need is the Surface Pro (also overpriced!).

What is ... WebP?

9. May 2013 13:52 by Chris in What is ...  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

What is .... WebP?

Scott Hanselman mentioned WebP in a tweet which immediately prompted my question 'what is that?' The normal answer might be 'yet another web related technology or product that Microsoft has just released'. In this instance, as you'll see from the link, it is a new image format for websites care of Google. They are smaller for the same quality so great; but support for them isn't 'there' yet so my advice, which I'm following, would be to make a mental note and keep an eye on to see if they break into the mainstream.

Another link

See also, though I have no plan to pronounce erroneously as 'weppy'!



Mobile First Responsive Design of Web Sites

25. April 2013 18:56 by Chris in dev  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

If you caught my article on responsive web design you'll be aware I'm an advocate of such techniques already. There is today a strong argument of viewing the topic from a slightly different angle, that web app/ web site development should be mobile first. I'm going to use as the basis of this article the talk by Sean Wildermuth who gave a talk at dotnetconf 2013 on this very topic: Mobile-First Responsive Design.

It's a changing technological landscape: today more smartphones than PCs are shipped (though are smartphones PCs?) - let's re-state that as more smartphones are shipped than desktop of laptop personal computers. Some people only have a smartphone. Or a tablet.

Responsive Web Design (see my earlier post) advocates:

  • Adapting a site to mobile devices rather than creating an entirely differently version of the site as used to be the preference when there was a greater gap between the capabilities of phones and laptop/ desktop PCs
  • The approach taken has previously usually been to gracefully degrade to the mobile device
  • There is a problem here - the solution is sub-optimal as the code goes to all devices, though it is not used in both places
  • Such a subtractive solution therefore means non-optimal consumption of resources, particularly an issue for the mobile side
  • For example, all the javascript code will be running on the mobile side, and hence on a platform that is less suited to handling it
  • Further images are often still loaded (consuming bandwidth) but hidden

The solution is mobile first web development though is currently difficult to address al the above issues via the current technology toolset. The philosophy was created by Luke Wroblewski and focusses on progressive enhancement, scaling up rather than down and the aim, simply put, is to not include anything that isn't needed. Thus, ideally, you would add to stylesheets, images and script as scaling up.

Given the increasing prevalence of mobile devices considering mobile is likely to important if not critical to success. In fact it may now be the most important user base for you to consider but this will depend on your site/ application/ client base so it is important to be practical. Mobile first is important in most cases, but not all and it is also important to scale the effort to the size of the project. 

Several techniques are required to follow mobile first:CSS design media queries to be additive

  • use a minimum size instead of ranges in your CSS3 media queries
  • load JS based on the device
  • support different image sizes - there are lots of different techniques with no one being perfect (expect more from the W3C on this)

There are a number of device categories/ screen sizes/ resolutions you can target. Three are common nowadays - mobile, desktop and retina. 

The Image Problem

As stated above there are a number of resolutions to the problem of needing multiple versions of images to support differing devices:

  • you can use background images so they are loaded as required for the CSS rules - a workaround to the img src problem
  • to solve the image quality issues we can use the data- HTML5 attributes and JS and swap the data source for the source
  • you could also not include a src at all and swap in the correct version. Then only the one version will be loaded. Problem: need code to run even on the small device plus dependent on JS
  • another option: only load JS and CSS on the non-mobile device

Solutions for CSS

What tools/ frameworks are out there to help with responsive design in general and including mobile first responsive design


  • injects CSS based on media queries
  • list of screen sizes and match css to screen size 


Solutions for Javascript/CSS


  • Injects CSS/JS based on media queries
  • Issue - not maintained since 2010; also relies on cookies


Of course using the backend is still also a solution. 

Solution for Images


  • defines width sets and uses markup to define images


I'll be following up on the above and as well as the conference video link above Sean has the slidedeck etc. up at his website.

.Net 4 500 server error (one explanation)

18. April 2013 09:32 by Chris in dev, IT Pro  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Just a quick note in case others can save the time I wasted on this;( I don't do a huge amount of server config but occasionally I am called to as a web dev, deploying apps to servers.

In this instance I was receiving a 500 server error for an ASP.NET 4.0 website on IIS 7.5 on Windows Server 2008R2. 


Nice and helpful. Even better, nothing in the event logs to indicate the problem! It turned out, surprisingly, that this was the first .NET 4 website that had been configured on the box. I had configured all as I normally would, adding a .NET 4 app pool under IIS and assigning this for use by the web site. I thought maybe the .NET 4 installation was corrupt so I did a repair. No joy. Next thought was to manually install .NET 4 but there was no aspnet_regiis in the installation directory. Some googling later suggested the answer was that it was only the client profile of the framework that had been automatically installed to the server and that, in fact, and despite appearances, the full framework required installation; unsurprisingly in retrospect.

So if you hit this issue yourself just google for .NET Framework 4 download or go here. I'm going to install 4.5 now as well while this is all fresh in the mind!



All change again on the microsoft developer certification front (and Microsoft admits C# and MVC have won)

12. April 2013 15:45 by Chris in Certification, dev  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

This as Microsoft likes to revamp it's certification every few years, which admittedly makes sense as 'time waits for no man' and technologies move on apace and this has rarely been truer than now.

So, we did have Microsoft developer certifications tied to  Visual Studio at the last revision - Visual Studio 2010 with the MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer) 4 (ASP.NET 4) qualification.

Now we have the (new) Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) … which has three strands:

1 Windows Store

Two tracts depending on your chosen technology stack

  • HTML5
     Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 (exam 480)
     Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using HTML5 and JavaScript (exam 481)
     Advanced Windows Store App Development Using HTML5 and JavaScript (exam 482)
  • C#
     Programming in C# (exam 483)
     Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C# (exam 484)
     Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C# (exam 485) 

2 Web Applications

  • Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 (exam 480)
  • Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications (exam 486)
  • Developing Windows Azure and Web Services (exam 487)

3 Application Lifecycle Management

  • Administering Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012 (exam 496)
  • Software Testing with Visual Studio 2012 (exam 497)
  • Delivering Continuous Value with Visual Studio 2012 Application Lifecycle Management (exam 498) 


Among the above are so-called Microsoft Specialist exams (HTML5 and C#). There is also currently one available for Office 365. See

And the Winners Are ...

This has been coming for a while but now Microsoft effectively admit that C# has beaten VB and MVC has beaten web forms. From the above we can deduce that Microsoft is admitting that these 2 technologies have won out in the MS web dev space: 

  • ASP.NET web forms vs ASP.NET MVC - only MVC is mentioned above so Microsoft clearly believes MVC is or should be the dominant technology for ASP.NET.
  • VB vs C#. Similarly whereas previously Microsoft always offered the option of taking exams in VB or C#, VB is no longer an option and the deduction is therefore that C# has become sufficiently dominant so as to negate Microsoft's continued support in this arena. 

Upgrading from MCPD

To upgrade from MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCSD: Web Applications certification there is, unfortunately, no longer a single exam upgrade option as has previously been the case in similar situations. Two steps now:

1 Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 (exam 480)
2 Upgrade your MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCSD: Web Applications (exam 492 – note that this is not yet available and google didn't help me locate a release date easily)



Saving changes is not permitted in Enterprise Manager

14. March 2013 09:16 by Chris in dev  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

This is one of those issues I encounter occasionally and I always have to google. So I'm thinking if I put it here it'll save me a couple of key strokes!

I am often developing databases in SQL Server, currently primarily 2008, including modifying tables through Enterprise Manager. I didn't get this issue in 2005 but the default in 2008 seems to have changed as I get this error:

Saving changes is not permitted. The changes that you have made require the following tables to be dropped and re-created. You have either made changes to a table that can’t be re-created or enabled the option Prevent saving changes that require the table to be re-created.

So obviously the issue becomes a) finding the option (not easy!) and then b) remembering where it is for next time.

FYI/ FMI in the future, it's here: Tools->Options->Designers->Table and Database Designers->Prevent Saving changes that require table re-creation.

Hope this also helps others! Also you can help me as well - is the default the same in 2012?

28/06/2013 - as I've just installed and hit the same  issue, yes it is!


Queries time out from web app but run fine from management studio

25. February 2013 15:57 by Chris in dev  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I had a support issue from a client today which turned out to be an interesting one I hadn't come across before so I thought I would share. Thankfully, others had so once I had identified exactly what the issue was google and stack overflow were able to quickly assist.

The scenario that initially bemused me was that fact that running a complex search sproc from SQL Server Management Studio was returning in a couple of seconds but exactly the same parameters fired into the sproc from ASP.NET caused the web app to timeout. Earlier I had even tried extending the default commandTimeout from 30secs to 4mins without success so SQL Server had really got it's knickers in a twist. Further the issue just appeared one day and I also couldn't replicate in the staging environment, which had similar data volumes.

It turns out others had hit the issue before, e.g.

It turns out the ADO.NET and Management studio connection/ user contexts differed and in my case, as per the link above, the explicit setting of the arithabort property brought the performance back to expected levels. Further, adding this in one sproc also fixed the issue with other reporting sprocs of the solution. Go figure.


Consumption 2013

7. February 2013 13:38 by Chris in ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)


Welsh is the priority:


Bywyd Blodwen Jones gan Bethan Gwanas (1999)

Blodwen Jones a'r Aderyn Prin gan Bethan Gwanas (2001)

Tri Chynnig i Blodwen Jones gan Bethan Gwanas (2003)

The Hunger Games Trilogy - no.3 was comparably weak.



Comments with a score rather than reviews:

 Watched in 2013

  • Django Unchained 7.5/10; bit silly in places ... but this is Tarantino
  • The Dark Knight Rises Lengthy but held the attention. Anne Hathaway a plus.  8/10
  • Silver Lining Playbook Grabbed plenty of plaudits but a few flaws 8/10
  • Hunger Games Better than expected 7/10
  • Dredd - violent but well implemented. Set up for a sequel. 7/10
  • Skyfall All v.silly 6.5/10
  • Looper - reasonably complex SciFi without too many holes 8/10 



  • Opposites - Biffy Clyro


  • Gwaith Cartref
  • Game of Thrones - racist ... really? Just enjoy.
  • Mad Men
  • Frankie



  •  PIPES



  • Go Cymru/ Lions!
  • Congrats Andy Murray


About the author

I am Dr Christopher Sully (MCPD, MCSD) and I am a Cardiff, UK based IT Consultant/ Developer and have been involved in the industry since 1996 though I started programming considerably earlier than that. During the intervening period I've worked mainly on web application projects utilising Microsoft products and technologies: principally ASP.NET and SQL Server and working on all phases of the project lifecycle. If you might like to utilise some of the aforementioned experience I would strongly recommend that you contact me. I am also trying to improve my Welsh so am likely to blog about this as well as IT matters.

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