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Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

These aren’t the chairs you’re looking for @StaplesUK

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I know it’s sad times for staples UK – I spent many a happy time in staples, refreshing my manilla folders for my family research – but I can’t help it’s a little early for it all to start to fall apart.

My office chair – actually bought from Staples only a few years ago is starting to look its age, and I thought about replacing it – so I clicked on the “See all Deals” button under “Big Chair Event” and presented with a list of manager and executive chairs.


Now I’m not really a manager type – I like to get my hands dirty  (in as much as I don’t like to get my hands dirty – that’s why I work with code) so I was thinking about a mesh chair.  So I clicked on Mesh Seating :

No mesh seating here...

No mesh seating here…

Also missing are Draughtman Chairs. Interestingly I can find a mesh seating section  – http://www.staples.co.uk/mesh-seating/cbk/670.html

So what’s happening?

Well – comparing the draughtsman, mesh seating and ergonomic chairs links – against the working links, it seems that the culprit seems to be : cm_sp.

For example – here is the failing Mesh Seating link :

And a slightly modified (and now working)  mesh seating link :


The highlighted Na-_-Na looks suspiciously like Not Applicable, or potentially “NaN” truncated to fit.


Searching on fighting knives throws error :

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fighting knives - search error when searching

fighting knives – search error when searching

Thanks to Stuart Baldwin for pointing this one out : searching for anything on fightingknives.info for anything breaks the site, returning the message :

A potentially dangerous Request.Path value was detected from the client (&).

Looking at the favicon it appears to be a DotNet Nuke site – wow… that’s old – so old that I think this was originally running on the .NET 2 framework,

Anyway – the reason for this is the search url that the site navigates to when searching :


From the stack trace it seems that this site is running under .NET framework v4, and there were changes made to the v4 framework that extended request validation from only .aspx requests, to all requests.

To ‘fix’ this the site owner can add :

<httpRuntime requestValidationMode="2.0" />

To their web.config file, to prevent this from happening – or alter their application pool to use the older .NET frameworks (should be fine in version 2, may be fine in version 3 and 3.5)  I say’fix’ because really they should be perhaps looking to update to a newer version, or re-writing their search facility to not pass potentially dangerous characters into their own requests.

Thanks Stuart

On holibobs…

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My self and the good lady wife are currently holidaying on there island of Madeira, and we’re having a great time. While out for an evening stroll we spotted these wonderful balancing stones – which I photographed this morning.

Mysterious stone columns

And it got me thinking about application architecture.Take this pile of stones.

Three layers of stone architecture

At first glance it looks pretty cool right, and it certainly is a great of engineering. But it’s pretty hard to replace the top layer. Put on a layer that had a different weight distribution and the whole stack becomes unstable. And the lower down the stack you attempt to replace a layer, the greater the difficulty involved, as that layer and every layer above it is affected by a change.

From a software point of view what does it mean then?

Well each layer is built depending on the layer(s) below it. In software terms it would be like the business layer opening and holding a SQL connection and transaction and then calling multiple data layer calls using that connection and transaction. The business layer has knowledge and a dependency on the data layer. A better approach would be to handle idbconnection and idbtransaction objects, but what about a web service layer?

I’m not an architecture expert, so this is something I’ll have to think about, but I think it might make an interesting article for the internal newsletter at work.

Three Network’s knowledge server is down…

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Knowledge server down...

Knowledge server down…

Other companies might call them web servers… not Three.

It’s about time…

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I’ve subscribed to a new podcast recently.  I go through periods of engagement and disengagement with genealogy, and at the moment i’m pretty engaged – probably because my Ancestry subscription is about to renew.

Anyway I received an email from Ancestry last week telling me that they had developed a podcast show with Tony Robinson, and that the first few episodes are available to download.  So I fired up my trusty podcatcher software – BeyondPod – and hunted around looking to subscribe –

The page for the podcast is here.

I thought I’d look at the instructions to subscribe to the podcast through this handy YouTube video that ancestry has thoughtfully put on the page.

But as an android user it seems that I had to download a podcast tool called Stitcher.  Really all I wanted was the RSS address – so I tweeted ancestry, as I couldn’t find the address anywhere.

I then browsed the site using a laptop, and lo and behold : RSS icon.  As Ancestry UK says – it looks like the RSS icon is missing from the mobile interface.

Its about time - Laptop

Viewing the page on deektop – RSS icon

RSS icon missing when viewing the page in mobile

RSS icon missing when viewing the page in mobile

I’ve downloaded the episodes – and I’ve listened to episode 3 so far on my way into work so far.

I did spot that there were issues with Tony’s script though – at roughly 25 seconds in :

“…It would be unusual to read anything about the drive for voting rights for women in Britain without seeing mention of the Pankhurst name.  That’s not just down to sisters Christabel,  Sylvia and Adela though. Their mother Emmeline was the founder of the women’s social and political union and she lead the British suffragette movement in the early 1900’s.  Their Mother Emmeline was the founder of the women’s social and political union and she lead the British suffragette movement in the early 1900’s.”

Looks like there was an editing issue with episode 3.  The audio quality for episode 3 certainly seems lower than the other episodes.


Nice touch though : Mark Hamil is in Episode 4 !!!

WCF… Windows Calamity Framework? something like that

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I’m currently doing research and revision for my 70-487 exam – Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services.  I was doing some reading and I encountered some information about hosting WCF Data Services and OData.  It wasn’t something I had encountered in so far – so it has been an interesting and exciting prospect to look into.

I found a wonderful step by step tutorial into creating and hosting a WCF Data Service on MSDN, so I went through it.

First problem : I need some data.  I’m quite getting into LocalDB at the moment – I’m thinking about the possibility of creating a developer database through migration scripts – so that a developer could clone a Github repo and run the project.  The Database would be automatically created for them, and populated with sample data (if appropriate) – meaning that developers could run this project without a dependency on a database or fancy storage like that.

I managed to get the SQL Scripts for Northwind from codeplex – but with almost everything that Microsoft does these days being on github – going back to codeplex seemed old and outdated.

I followed through the instructions and ran the project.

OData seems to be very similar to REST – except that the url used are representative of the entity structure(rather than hiding behind controllers), and query like operations can be passed through to the server – giving maximum flexibility in terms of usage.   So – anyway… I ran my project from Visual Studio 2015.

Metadata from my WCF Data Service

Metadata from my WCF Data Service

Yay – I have metadata about my service.Next step was to view the contents of the customers service by subtly altering the URL to add Customers to the end.

And then this happened :

WCF Data Service 2

Customers can’t be downloaded?

 A pop up from Edge saying that Customers couldn’t be downloaded?  That can’t be right. Let’s have a look at the same thing on Chrome.
WCF Data Service 3

Loading the Same OData service on Chrome reveals lots of lovely data.

So what’s going on here – my service works fineunder Chrome – but fails under Edge?  Only Edge?  How about IE
WCF Data Service 4

Acessing the OData Service on IE does present data – which IE interprets as an RSS feed.

It does seem to show the data under Internet Explorer – so it just appears to be the Edge Browser which is causing the problem. Next up – let’s run the network tab, and we’ll see what’s shaking.
WCF Data Service 5

Requesting the OData Service is stuck at Pending

 So – notice that the result is still pending?  In comparison navigating to http://localhost:50739/NorthwindCustomers.svc/ returns the following:
WCF Data Service 6

Accessing the OData Metadata on MS Edge does seem to return (response code 200)

Currently I’m working under the  theory that Edge just doesn’t understand an element of the communication received.   Given that the same service is being used for all browsers, then the issue is down to how Edge interprets some header received from the server.
Next up : I’ll record the headers that are returned from the service and see if I can determine a difference between the browsers – until I learn more though, I’ll have to work under the assumption that Edge just won’t work with this stuff

Whoops – broken link there @premiumcredit

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I needed to sign the agreement for my home insurance – so I popped onto mypremiumcredit.com

Signing a credit agreement on PremiumCredit

Signing a credit agreement on PremiumCredit

I wanted to read the terms and conditions, so I clicked on the terms and conditions link…

Whoops - Now - that looks like JSON.

Whoops – Now – that looks like JSON.

Will be letting the technical contact for the site know.

Error message in the wild

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Error message at Geneva International Airport

A display stand containing only things that cause long term health problems…. Cigarettes and Windows…. Cant help thinking that Oasis might have had more success with that instead of Cigarettes and Alcohol.

Thanks to roving error reporter Adam Cutler for this!.

Error Messages in the Wild

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Spotted Anglia Ruskin University 9/7/2016



The… needs an update

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The… needs an update…bit of an issue with layout here