– FavPal.NET is dead?

This sounds pretty unlikely, but I’m a new (and very enthusiastic) user (and have to think hard about where to put the dots every time I type it).  I guess you can’t jump on ‘every’ bandwagon.  I tend to discover stuff that I ‘need’ these days rather than get too ‘wowed’ by yet another networking site.

I developed a tool called FavPal.NET (don’t worry – I’m sure you haven’t heard of it!), a few years back as I saw there was nothing that allowed you to search through browser bookmarks with any degree of speed or accuracy.  It was a tray app that kept a ‘cache’ pool of IE instances (as load time was pretty bad back then), and allowed you to search through your favourites, then load up URL’s into a cached instance in double-quick time.  This served two purposes

  1. Search Favourites
  2. Load IE quickly obviously more than scores with requirement 1 as it allows you to keep your bookmarks centrally (BTW – I also use the IGoogle bookmarks gadget for ‘home page’ access to my most frequently used stuff).  One thing was still lacking – an ‘integrated’ search within the browser (or rather a search without having to point your browser to, but now there’s an IE extension (for IE6/7) that sits as a sidebar (nice).

I noticed there’s a Delicious.NET framework, and I’m still not terribly satisfied with the initial application load speed of any browser (even Firefox and Safari), so maybe FavPal’s not quite dead.  The search functionality could now simply hook into and still use the cache.  With tabbed browsing on IE7 now though the object model may well have changed.  If anyone wants to have a crack at it you’re more than welcome, and I’ll send you the code, as it got removed from the late lamented gotdotnet workspaces.

Of course the load speed will ineviatably go up with the more plugins like you bloat the browser with – d’oh!

Developer Highway Code – Building secure software with .NET

Had some security training yesterday (don’t normally get training as a contractor so I was very happy to go along). 

The trainer mentioned the Developer Highway Code from Microsoft (seemingly originating from the UK based on the style of the publication).  Not only does it look cool, and have some rather amusing geek stuff (just see the ‘Reduce Coffee Now’ sign on the cover), it also has some really practical advice for people wanting to build secure applications.

Download it from Microsoft

If, For, Switch, but…

I love that Scott Hanselman challenges his own as well as others’ thoughts on how to solve technical problems.

I’m not making any judgements about junior devs vs. senior devs. I’m talking about idioms and “vocab.” I think that using only if, for and switch is the Computer Programmer equivalent of using “like” in every sentence. Like, you know, like, he was all, like, whatever, and I was like, dude, and he was, like, ewh, and I was like meh, you know?

There’s some good examples on forcing yourself to learn new objects, features and constructs through refactoring.  If you don’t refactor then you’ll never know…

Installing Multiple versions of Internet Explorer with Multiple_IE

I don’t have the time, inclination or grunty machines to play around with Virtual machines just so I can test a website in IE6 (after IE7 ‘magically’ appeared).  When I say ‘test’, I actually mean hack an IE-specific CSS together with some box-model workarounds.  I digress…

Enter Multiple_IE.  It’s not perfect (it’s a hack in itself), but it suffices in most cases so kudos for that…  You even get the nostalgia of IE3

Giving Guidance Explorer another go

I downloaded the Patterns and Practices ‘Guidance Explorer’ a year or more ago, and quite liked the idea.  I think the problem with any tool that tried to be a flexible storage and delivery method for ‘organic’ content (I’m interested in using it for development processes/standards etc) is viewed and searched by different people in completely different ways. 

Some like to dip into ‘reference’ material, some always ‘search’, and some people like to print everything and read cover to cover.  I know there’ve been some updates to the tool, and although the download count is still pretty low (3000 ish) I’ll give it another go and see if it works for me.

Other people just throw this stuff into docs and put it on SharePoint.  Others use something like WikidPad – which again I liked but ultimately got out of the habit of using – meaning it obviously didn’t work for me. 


I just noticed that there’s no possible way of printing from Guidance Explorer, and so while I can understand the reasons why it isn’t implemented (to try and encourage people to write screen-consumable, concise content), it simply won’t work for the users I’m looking to target.  Shame 🙁

Visual Studio Documentation – Have your say

Brad A’s just been highlighting the MSDN Survey to get opinions on how Visual Studio and MSDN documentation works (or doesn’t) for people.  I added my 2c and it made me think a little about how I access ‘help’ these days.  Here’s what I wrote in the ‘other comments’ (Q 14 I think).

I generally access MSDN content through google (as it’s quicker than accessing the MSDN site, waiting for it to load the TOC, then searching).  It’s probably testament to the indexing of the site that a search such as “msdn Path.Combine” will take me straight to the specific page I ‘know’ I’m looking for.  I guess this means I’ve got some knowledge of how things are structured and I use that to good effect.  In a simple comparison…

Local Help
Typing Path.Combine into VS.NET code editor – selecting the text and hitting F1 came up with a false start (my current machine doesn’t even have the docs installed apart from Enterprise Library 3.1.  It did find some less than useful reference from EntLib!).  I went to Help options and chose ‘use online first’, and tried again (incidentally I didn’t even realise you could pull in your own list of sites to search (Codezone community) – cool).  It chose a different ‘Path property’ first and took about a minute in total to get to the right ‘Path class’.

MSDN Library Site
Opening up the MSDN site (which still feels too heavy in my book – and now curiously like BBC news) and searching for ‘Path.Combine’ took about the same time (1 min).  This includes opening the browser, loading up the MSDN home page, searching, clicking the first item in the search results, and loading that page.

Google search on MSDN
Opening up Google (admittedly my home page – but I’m looking for speed here) and searching for ‘msdn Path.Combine’ took 20 seconds.  The first item in the list was what I wanted so got straight to it.  It’s also worth noting that Google’s become a little fat puppy too with all my iGoogle stuff on it, but it’s still way quicker than any of the alternatives.


When is XHTML not XHTML?

Well you may think it’s just a matter of rendering some well-formed markup and setting your doctype…

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN” “”>

right?  Wrong!

Different browsers render in different ways.  What’s common however is that unless your response’s content type is “application/xhtml+xml” then you may not pass go and pick up $200.  You can force the browser to recognise the content type in two ways (in addition to the DOCTYPE declaration above):

  1. Name your file with an .xhtml extension (not really a solution as IE says ‘what?’)
  2. Set Response.ContentType = “application/xhtml+xml” (See here for more info)

The DOCTYPE is really an additional information item and not something modern browsers do much with on its own.  So how different are the browsers’  XHTML implementations?

Internet Explorer for instance takes the ‘all comers’ approach and will do the best it can given the markup, whilst degrading gracefully if it encounters errors.  great! I hear you say – saves me from actually testing this thing!

Firefox on the other hand will use a completely different parser once it knows you want to serve well-formed markup.  The good thing about this is that you immediately see any errors and the page won’t render if there’s invalid markup.  IE meanwhile continues to let you believe you’re an XHTML master (note: it doesn’t recognise the xhtml extension).

Firefox has some good resources about supported features.  A common one that catches people out is Javascript’s document.write.  This isn’t allowed in XHTML as the string input can’t be guaranteed to be valid XML. 

Safari’s not quite as advanced yet as Firefox’s support, but it too will properly validate your markup and report errors.

If you really want to stick your neck out then place a link on your site to validate against the W3C’s standards.  You’re likely to get plenty of errors – like this page!

Other things to watch out for are Content Management systems that allow you to enter non-compliant html in text editors, and simply not having JavaScript blocks in CDATA sections).


Using RSS.NET to re-write an existing feed XML file

Don’t know what happened to RSS.NET.  Looks like it’s trying to go commercial, but still very quiet.  Code examples are few and far between (with some simple ones on the site).  Also on InformIT.

I’m writing a quick RSS console app (as I lost the last one I wrote!) that I can use to write an RSS feed from a SubVersion hook.  Most people use a pre-existing tool for Python (can’t remember the name), but I thought I’d give RSS.NET another go just for kicks.

The example above works fine assuming you’re maintaining state somewhere other than the feed xml file itself.  The example also assumes you’re serving this up to the web.  You can override the RssFeed.Write() method to take a filename.

If run the same code again (assuming you’ve written to a file) it will simply overwrite it with one item (not add to it).  This isn’t what I wanted so…

You need to

  1. Read the file back in if it’s there – otherwise create
  2. Add your item to the existing channel if it’s there – otherwise create
  3. Fix the date behaviour as RSS.NET always assumes UTC dates and appends ‘GMT’.  The problem here is that if you’re in Australia (like me) reading and rewriting the same items will effectively add several hours on to existing items every time, because you write the date you read back in for existing items (read and parse into region-specific date, then write back as is).  There’s two ways to fix this:

    1. Before you add your new item – loop through all items and change the item.PubDate to item.PubDate.ToUniversalTime().  This effectively sets it back to the ‘correct’ date.
    2. Change the RSSWriter class in RSS.NET to convert ToUniversalTime for the Item.PubDate, Channel.PubDate etc.  This seems like a better option, but it has potentially more knock on effects in RSS.NET.  I’m here to achieve a result, not change the behaviour (possibly adversely) of RSS.NET so I chose option 1

So here’s the code.  Not finished yet and rough around the edges, but works as I need.  The intention is to avoid the need for config files and configuring up of feeds specifically.  I just want a library function that’s called by a console app.  The web serving will simply be based on the location of the file and pointing to some folder in IIS.

        private static void WriteFeed(string feedFileName, string feedName, string feedDescription, 
        string feedURL, string itemTitle, string itemDescription, 
        DateTime itemPublishDate, 
string itemURL)
bool newFeed = false;
//Try and first open the feed (to see if it’s existing)
RssFeed feed = null;
catch (FileNotFoundException ex)
= new RssFeed();
newFeed = true;
catch (Exception ex)

            RssChannel channel 
= null;

//Loop through all channels and if we’ve got the same title reuse
for (int 0i < feed.Channels.Counti++)
if (feed.Channels[i].Title == feedName)

if (channel == null)
= new RssChannel();
feed.Channels.Add(channel)//might blow up if already there?

            RssItem item 
= new RssItem();

item.Title itemTitle;
item.Description itemDescription;
item.PubDate itemPublishDate.ToUniversalTime();
item.Link = new Uri(itemURL);

//To ensure we don’t screw up existing dates – convert to UTC
foreach (RssItem existingItem in channel.Items)

//Now add our new item

channel.Title feedName;
channel.Description feedDescription;
//channel.LastBuildDate = channel.Items.LatestPubDate();
channel.PubDate DateTime.UtcNow;
channel.Link = new Uri(feedURL);


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