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Chris Garrett

Just Another Web Geek


Just like riding a bike

Wed, 20 Dec 2006 16:14:00 GMT

After over a year of not touching any Microsoft development platform code this week I helped a friend with a GDI+ issue and hacked some .asp together. It's amazing, the classic ASP just flowed. Comfortable as an old shoe. .NET? It was all strangely familiar and unfamiliar at once. I co-authored two books on GDI+ with C# but could I write more than a line of code without swearing? Could I bugger.

On the LAMP side things are going pretty swimmingly, in fact the waters so warm I am over in the deep end with my goggles on. Loving it. Not bad for someone who said he was going to give up programming. Never say never :) I am now truly platform agnostic though, I have my Windows, LAMP and now even a Mac. Pretty sweet and they all play nice together too.

I might have a go at using Mono on my Mac ...



MVP no more

Tue, 03 Oct 2006 17:48:00 GMT

Guess it had to happen some time. I am no longer an MVP - official.

While this news makes me surprisingly sad I had expected it for a long time. In fact I expected it last year.

My ASP/ASP.NET activity this year has been near zero. Just look at this blog, one post this year? I attended DDD and that is just about it, other than installing some beta software and hanging around the MSWebDev and aspinsiders lists. Code-wise I have been 100% LAMP since last Christmas.

So depressing but expected. The thing is MVP is awarded to people who contribute positively to the Microsoft community and while I host and moderate MsWebDev with Plip I do very little actual "turning up" any more. I haven't got any free time and little to say when I have.

I guess this means I can remove visual studio from all my machines now and not just my laptop. 

Congratulations to all those who did achieve it this year :)

DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper Report

Sun, 04 Jun 2006 17:26:07 GMT

Plip has pipped me to blogging and posting his photographs but I thought I would let you know about DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper3 anyway!

(image) It was a great day, and in my opinion a massive success. Apparently the event was fully subscribed only 10 days after first announcement, and there was a waiting list, with only word of mouth advertising.

(image) Of course within minutes of turning up I had been told off. Plip had given me a burgundy t-shirt to wear, not one of the posh polo-type (I wasn't one of the organisers or a speaker) even so I was pleased to be part of the purple-shirt-gang. I thought I would wear it under the shirt I was already wearing. That is when I got told to either wear it properly or not at all - naughty me!

(image) It wasn't just about hanging out with geeks and consuming massive amounts of coffee, cookies, pastries and other assorted goodies, there was hard-core code and info too. Most entertaining was when I witnessed Phil and Dave "improv" a talk on tiered ASP.NET applications that was very well received. I have to thank the two other informative sessions I sat in on, one on NHybernate and another on the cool AJAX toys ("Atlas"), for re-invigorating my interest in all things .NET.

Was well worth the trip and no doubt I will be amongst the first to sign up for the next one! Great stuff guys, you should be proud.  

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Going mobile for DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper

Thu, 01 Jun 2006 16:59:47 GMT

Of all the preparations for my trip to DDD the strangest and most difficult has been sorting out my internet access. Curiously all the hotels with free and fast wifi were taken, funny that, heh, so I have had to fall back on the old 3G. Easy enough, my XDA serves me well for email , MSN IM and limited browsing and surely it can't be difficult to hook it up to the laptop as a modem? Can it?

I think you know the rest of that story.

Luckily I didn't have to make the usual round of call center back and forth, routed transatlantic calls, on-hold nightmares and mis-communications. Because I got the PDA through my business my call was picked up by a tech support dude on the first ring and had my problem fixed in a couple of hours (turns out it was a flash software update I needed, not me being a dumbass surprisingly).

Obviously I still need to get there, find the hotel, find the campus and then be in close proximity to The Plip so my woes aren't entirely over, but at least that is one task ticked off.

I'm pretty excited about this event though, will be good to meet some of the guys and the sessions look pretty interesting. Maybe when I get back I will be able to put it to good use and do some .NET developing again. Have always wanted to see MS campus too, geeky I know.

For anyone else going, see you there!

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CommunityServer and Performancing for Firefox

Tue, 30 May 2006 21:08:34 GMT

Yay, looks like I can use Performancing for Firefox with!

(Use custom->metaweblog as the type and as the URL)


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Community Server and blog APIs

Tue, 30 May 2006 13:13:00 GMT

It seems like Community Server can work with blog APIs, at least that is how I read this forum post. Was this installed with upgrade?

I would really like to be able to use our Performancing Firefox extension rather than log into this here control panel, I am far more likely to post often if I can fit my blog into my normal posting schedule.

If you are not aware of Performancing for Firefox, check out the link below


Where have I been?

Fri, 26 May 2006 17:15:00 GMT

Wow, a lot has happened since I last posted to this blog. For quite a while I haven't been able to log in even if I had the motivation or content to post. I guess I should do something now the RobH and the guys have upgraded to CS2.

The most recent posts in my archive talked about us wanting to emigrate to Canada. At that time it looked like Winnipeg. Well, that fell through. The house prices are ridiculously cheap but I couldn't find any employment (excluding a low-level programming position or farm labourer). We also tried Calgary, after Vancouver worked out waaaaay to expensive, but Calgary has also been experiencing a property bubble through Alberta getting rich off the oil industry. So for now we are stuck in England. I still have my eye on Canada, possibly new brunswick, although the job market doesn't seem much better than Manitoba.

Work wise I left the marketing agency where I was working and set up my own company. I was offered a contract to work with a couple of great blokes who were forming a startup called Performancing. I am kind of the technical bod, if they had job titles I would be something like a CTO but without the suit, corner office, etc. Our main services right now are a firefox extension for bloggers and a free blog stats service called Performancing Metrics.

Right now I am getting my hands dirty in the dark side; PHP, Apache, MySQL, Drupal, CVS ... It's been very interesting, never underestimate the power of the dark side. I am also pretty excited about trying to persuade anyone who will listen to allow me to build a .NETv2 project. No joy so far.

While I still keep one ear in the Microsoft universe, especially my UK friends on the list I haven't had much hands-on involvement with ASP.NET because my focus has been getting Performancing off the ground which is open source based but I hope to remedy that, starting with DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper. Look me up if you are going, it should be a blast.

It's not all work, I have also got massively into photography since purchasing my DSLR, check out my digital photography blog.

Support freedom to blog

Thu, 01 Sep 2005 08:39:00 GMT

The popular SEO expert and all-round good bloke, Aaron Wall ( has decided to fight his bizarre traffic power lawsuit. Please take a look at what is going on and either link him from your blog or donate. If you want to know who traffic power are, rather than me risk a lawsuit just let Google do the talking. It's not pretty.

Yes still interested! New media in winnipeg?

Mon, 04 Jul 2005 11:23:00 GMT

I just got asked by two different people if I was still in the UK. Unfortunately, yes :O( I know, I know, tell me about it. I wanted Amy (my daughter) to start school in Canada for the new term in september but looks extremely unrealistic now doesn't it?

So I still want to move to Winnipeg but more and more I am starting to think that there isn't a very healthy web industry there (my blog is still on the first page of google for winnipeg web agency., Yahoo Jobs, MediaJobSearchCanada .. nothing for internet and ecommerce in winnipeg. The only jobs that seem available are sales, clerks or hard-core application developer roles (my experience is in web site development and internet marketing, be a bit of a stretch for me to go into financial services application development or SAP or something).

I met Joel Semeniuk  for a chat when he was over in the UK earlier in the year. Really nice guy and well connected, even he didn't know of anyone who wanted web developers in Manitoba. Seems like new media is still a bit of a cottage industry over there. If I started my own web agency or did freelance would there be any work or would I end up coming back to the UK and have to start over? I am hanging out on techvibes but the majority of the people who do similar to me seem to be in Toronto and Vancouver.

I am in Winnipeg in August if anyone wants to interview me, contact me for my resume ;O)


Emailing Unicode Emails to Hotmail - solved!

Tue, 07 Jun 2005 16:27:00 GMT

In my last blog I asked how I could send unicode emails to hotmail, well Dave Wanta and (no affiliate code, heh) to the rescue!

The AspNetEmail message takes a CharSet property, so far so good

As well as setting the CharSet to the relevant country setting, I found I also needed to HTML encode my message. I worked up a simple function knowing there was probably a better way ..

'HtmlBody = Server.HtmlEncode(HtmlBody)

'HtmlBody = Replace(HtmlBody, "<", "<", 1, -1, CompareMethod.Text)

'HtmlBody = Replace(HtmlBody, ">", ">", 1, -1, CompareMethod.Text)

'HtmlBody = Replace(HtmlBody, """, """", 1, -1, CompareMethod.Text)

'HtmlBody = Replace(HtmlBody, "'", "'", 1, -1, CompareMethod.Text)

'HtmlBody = Replace(HtmlBody, "&", "&", 1, -1, CompareMethod.Text)


.. and there was, already in AspNetEmail component - schweet!

Dim Util As New aspNetEmail.HtmlUtility

Util.LoadString(HtmlBody, "")

Util.HtmlEncodeOption = HtmlEncodeOption.NumberedCodes


HtmlBody = Util.RenderedHtmlContent

msg.HtmlBodyPart = HtmlBody





Emailing UTF-8 to Hotmail?

Mon, 06 Jun 2005 16:26:00 GMT

It looks suspiciously like Hotmail explicitly rejects viewing UTF-8 encoded email - is this correct?

Unfortunately my content is in UTF-8 and I can't just ignore Hotmail users :O(

I am using AspNetEmail and I tried using ISO-8859-1 as the characterset. Didn't work. So I tried converting my UTF-8 encoded text into ISO-8859-1 using the following function

Function UTFISO(ByVal src As String) As String

Dim iso As Encoding = Encoding.GetEncoding("iso-8859-1")

Dim utf As Encoding = Encoding.UTF8

Dim unicodeBytes As Byte() = utf.GetBytes(src)

Return iso.GetString(unicodeBytes)

End Function

Still no joy.

Any ideas anyone?

How do I get around the "The same table (xxxx) cannot be the child table in two nested relations" error?

Thu, 19 May 2005 14:20:00 GMT

I bet this is a schoolboy problem but even the mighty google is not helping. I am trying to read chunks of DMOZ RDF xml into a dataset.

I am getting a "The same table (xxxx) cannot be the child table in two nested relations." error which I think I can sort out by doing a XSL transform .. which is where I am stuck.

What I am doing is

       Dim DS As DataSet = New DataSet
       DS.ReadXml(MapPath("xml/" + Request("x") + ".xml"))
       DataGrid1.DataSource = DS.Tables("externallinks")
       DS = Nothing

How do I wedge in a transform to take out the offending relation before I do the ReadXml statement?

The XSL examples I see online either output to a file or use methods that VS is telling me is obselete :O(

Because these subordinate tags appear in multiple nested relations it barfs on it.

I could use a regular expression I guess but
A) I will not know ahead of time what might be dropped in (eg. a xhtml tag like

dropped in anywhere will do the same thing if not
enclosed in CDATA)
B) It's an opportunity to learn :O)

This seemed close

But uses obsolete methods and does the transform after loading into ds, I need to do before and do it in memory as I do not want to create

Actually I just want to display it but rest of code is fine so figure just need to get around the problem rather than redevelop it.

Anyone out there got any solutions? :O)

Google caught Search Engine spamming?

Mon, 07 Mar 2005 17:13:00 GMT

Google caught breaking their own webmaster guidelines, specifically keyword stuffing and cloaking


Cool technology - a vision of the future

Fri, 04 Mar 2005 09:52:00 GMT

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a computer with the form factor of a mobile phone but with a full size screen and keyboard? How about using gestures instead of a mouse?

Watch this video!

If any surface becomes your computers work area, who needs 17" screens? Who needs mice, keyboards, just use your hand/finger/pen .. so cool!

From SeattlePi See the full post here

Calling UK developers - MsWebDev ads blogs

Tue, 22 Feb 2005 13:12:00 GMT, the UK ASP/ASP.NET community has now added free blogs for members so sign up if you are a UK developer and want your own blog :O) This is thanks to the new release of CommunityServer - great work guys! I just hope our little MSDE database can cope ;O) At the moment email list signup is seperate to registering for the site, until we get a large injection of cash it will need to stay that way unfortunately.

Blogging policy is still being thrashed out but pretty much any content that is legal and not too offensive ought to be ok.

I'm not sure right now if I will move my blog over there, perhaps I will start a new one. Although I already have three blogs .. ;O)

Signup and let me or plip know so we can set your blog up


Sick and tired of MS bashing

Thu, 17 Feb 2005 10:15:00 GMT

NickW posts an interesting snippet about IE7 and as usual with Microsoft related subjects the anti-ms/pro linux comments come back (rather than discussion of the topic)

It makes me sick.

As usual this thread will go into
- Ms is evil
- Linux is good
- IE is insecure
- MS is insecure
- Linux is secure
- Firefox is secure
- Blah

Booooooring. And wrong. But who cares, it's the "done thing" to knock MS and score nerd points with the /. community isn't it?

90% of problems with IE and windows are between the keyboard and chair. The same problems are there with other platforms but are not exploited as much or as publicly. Yes there are faults with IE, who HASN'T had a problem with IE? But that does NOT make IE bad. Nor do Windows problems make Windows bad, or any worse than Linux. Heck, maybe that is why MS will release a new version of windows and a service pack or two. What? Software with faults?? Who has ever heard of that! Gimme a break.

For the average user the experience of one browser over another is barely noticeable. Try it, get some numpty users to use IE then some other browser. Once you have held their hand through the differences in interface (even the most subtle can frighten a numpty) they will not really care much. If they get IE by default then that is what they will use and they will not thank you for putting anything else on instead.

Why these discussions always turn towards A) MS is evil and B) Linux is the dogs ^H I don't know. Have you ever tried taking a Joe Public users windows machine away and replacing everything they know and are comfortable with to some other OS? You don't just get minor difficulties like replacing browsers, you get tears (no kidding), anger, frustration, depression.

I really should stop posting to communities that degenerate into these sorts of discussions. I would, but ALL of them seem to. Even the ASP.NET ones. It seems nerds feel the need to boost their ego by bashing MS. It's sad.

Wherever I post people usually know that I have certain biases towards Microsoft. I make no secret of the fact that the last maybe 15 years of my career have been pretty much influenced by Microsoft software. In the same timeframe though I have used all sorts of platforms as my daily working tool. I was a SCO unix sysadmin, a perl developer, Borland C, delphi, Java, Smalltalk etc. My personal preference has always been for Microsoft software but I always respect others choices.

Why is it that when Microsoft is mentioned we have to have this debate?? 

To be fair to Threadwatch, I may have jumped the gun - the community there is a little better than ..uh.. some other webmaster communities but I have developed quite a twitchy trigger finger on this subject you may have guessed ;O)

Cryo mouse mod

Thu, 03 Feb 2005 11:42:00 GMT

Take one mouse, a lego person and some skill ... transform your mouse

I have seen PC mods but this is the first mouse mod I have seen. Pretty cool in a really really geeky way ;O)

Everyone is an expert, especially when it comes to Web Design

Wed, 26 Jan 2005 10:34:00 GMT

Jason Mauss has blogged about everyone having an opinion on web design. It gave me a chuckle cos it is so true. Got to disagree on one point though. He reckons people don't get so opinionated about interior design, etc. Sorry Jason, in my experience people will have an opinion about anything they are not qualified to discuss :O) Like anything in life, there are people who are just plain opinionated. There are also people who "don't know much about _ _ _ _ but I know what I like". Ever redecorated and had friends round or tried to sell a house and listened to what the potential buyers (tyre kickers) say about it? My wife is a qualified interior designer, does not stop people figuring they could do a better interior design job. After all, they have "Home & Leisure" on sattelite! ;O) When it comes to web design people feel even more comfortable giving their opinions. It seems after people have used the web for about 10 minutes they suddenly think they "get it" and can start spouting about typography, usability, information architecture, online marketing, etc. Even worse if they have used frontpage, dreamweaver or some other noddy "can't do HTML but I can design web sites" do everything for you package. Programmers are often the worst culprits of this, I know because I do it all the time ;O). A) Because they do know HTML B) Because they confuse writing HTML with design. Despite it being rare to find a programmer with design sensibilities they do exist. Problem is a lot of programmers think they fit into that mold ;O) I feel I am a little more qualified to have an opinion on this stuff but then I would wouldn't I? Most people you can either politely listen to then ignore or throw your head back and laugh in their face. Clients, unfortunately, you do need to listen to. A talented designer I know has one client who says "Yeah, looks ok. Could have done it myself in Corel Draw though". Very upsetting and not much you can say back. This problem was addressed by cunning designers in the past by adding stuff to their designs that the knew the client wouldn't like but wouldn't be too offended by. They new the client would have it removed and then would feel had improved the product and had made their contribution without actually ever compromising the designers original idea. Problem was some clients had absolutely no taste whatsoever and the bad elements sometimes ended up in the final design. When presenting designs to clients we often present both the design and a rationale. When you explain the thinking, and some times the development stages before that brought you to the result, clients often understand better. You still get the odd one who say "I understand what you are saying but I still want a flash intro" but what are you going to do? Noone has a monopoly on talent or good ideas. Getting Joe Publics opinion, no matter how odd or ignorant, can be very enlightening. Focus groups can often just give red herring results unless managed very well (especially need to quiet the big mouth bully, there is always one, and get peoples defenses down) but it is suprising how valuable focus groups and end user testing can be. The real point is this though; listen to any and all feedback, everyone can contribute something and some times the best ideas can be sparked by a throwaway comment. Not everyone criticises to be distructive, more often people think they are being genuinely helpful. Some times it is more healthy and productive to send our egos off for a long walk for a while. It's often the best [...]

Oh Canada

Thu, 20 Jan 2005 12:03:00 GMT

Still trying to work out the legal and logistical nightmare that is getting my family and myself immigrated to Canada. There are many issues, my mum and dads status and whether they can return (after 30 years!), if I can sponsor my parents and wife from here in the UK without proof of Canadian income, school for Amy, Job for me, which would enable us to look for a house .. where to go, what to do ..

It's a slow process, hampered by the fact not all the official departments answer email, some only accept fax and letters. A really helpful lady on the Canadian side has helped us out a great deal. At least we have Amy sorted and are filing the papers for her Citizenship and applying for my passport once we return from Vancouver in a few weeks (we need to send the passports off).

Job situation looks bleak. The job sites are not showing much joy, especially Winnipeg which looks our most likely destination. Anyone know any internet marketing, web agency, marketing agency or even asp/ programming shops in winnipeg? A search for winnipeg web agency showed my blog entry as the top result in google for a while, still on first page. I have been told not to expect Canadian companies to show any interest in applicants from overseas and especially "Limeys". I am not English but I do live here and sound like one which I am told will work against me.

Originally we looked at Vancouver as we love the place and has best climate but we only know one person there, Kevin O'Toole (a vancouver realtor) . He is a great guy but I am sure he wouldn't want to put up with us all landing on his doorstep!

We did consider Calgary as that is where my parents lived while in Canada and where I was born. We have some family there. I see there is a great tech community too, nice one on the MVPs guys.

Just lately we have been favouring Winnipeg, especially when I saw on this blog that there is a thriving Winnipeg tech community. I have two cousins there nearer my own age and who seem warm to the idea of us moving near them (they may change their mind once they have to put up with us!).

Anyone able to give me any hope? :O)