07 Aug 2017 @ 6:24 PM 

A while ago, it came out that Microsoft Paint would be deprecated going forward on Windows 10, replaced, instead, with Paint 3D. There have been loads of articles, forum threads, and general griping about this across the Internet. Nonetheless, Paint is hardly the first “casualty” of Windows as it moved forward; nor is it’s loss, realistically, a big one.

A History

“Paint” existed in some form or another dating back to the original Windows release. Like many parts of Windows, it was based on an existing product, but stripped down. In this case Windows Paintbrush was effectively PC Paintbrush 1.05 for Windows but stripped down so as to not compete with the full product.

Windows 1.04

Paint on Windows 1.04

Aside from a smaller set of tools, it appears that another limitation of the included program is that it can only work with monochrome bitmaps. For the time period, that isn’t a surprising limitation though- The Apple Macintosh’s MacDraw program had a similar color limitation.

Windows /286

PAINT running on Windows /286

Windows/286 didn’t change the included PAINT program very much- I wasn’t able to find any significant differences myself, at least. it seems to have the same limitations. I wasn’t able to get Windows /386 to work however I presume PAINT is the same program between them, being that the major difference is enhancements for the 386.

Windows 3.0

Paintbrush running on Windows 3.0

It was with Windows 3.0 that PBRUSH was effectively created. While still seeming to be based largely on PC Paintbrush, the Windows 3.0 version, aside from changing the program title to “Windows Paintbrush” from “PAINT” as well as the executable, also redesigned part of the User Interface. Interestingly, this interface is more similar to the more complete PC Paintbrush product as provided on Windows /286, but of course it did not provide the full toolset of the commercial product either.

Windows 3.1

Paintbrush on Windows 3.1

PBRUSH didn’t see any significant changes from Windows 3.0. It still had a number of annoying limitations that plagued previous releases; in particular, tools couldn’t work with data outside the visible canvas. This meant you couldn’t even paste a screenshot into the program- It would be cropped. You can see this below- this is after performing a floodfill on the outer area of the above, then scrolling down- the exposed canvas was not affected by the operation.

Win 3.1 Paint floodfill failure

Windows 95

MSPaint on Windows 95

Windows 95 saw PBRUSH deprecated in favour of MSPAINT; Not just deprecated, mind you- but altogether removed; however, you could still invoke PBRUSH, due to a new “App paths” feature of Windows. This capability exists to today- Like Win95 there is no PBRUSH.EXE in Windows 10, but running PBRUSH will start MSPaint, as it has since Windows 95. The new Windows 95 version of Paint is now “Microsoft Paint” rather than “Windows Paintbrush” and sports a new executable as well. It also redesigns the interface to adhere to the new “3D” style that Windows 95 introduced, as well as making use of other Windows features that had been enhanced; for example, while you could edit colors in the older Windows Paintbrush, the program used a set of three sliders for that customization. Windows 95 added a new Custom Color dialog, which Microsoft Paint made use of for customizing the palette entries. Thanks to how that dialog worked it meant you could save several custom colors outside of the normal palette and swap between them, too. It also adds a Status bar, which was coming into it’s own with Windows 95 as a convention; This included “tip” text appearing on the left as well as other information appearing in additional panes on the status bar.

Windows 98

MSPaint on Windows 98SE

Windows 98’s release of Microsoft Paint seems to have removed the ability to load and save Custom Colour Palettes. Additionally, it also dropped the ability to save to the .PCX format, while gaining the ability to use certain installed image filters, allowing it to save to .PNG for example, if certain other software is installed.

Windows ME

MSPaint on Windows ME

The Windows ME version of MSPaint appears to be identical to the Windows 98SE Version, however, the executables are not identical- I’m not sure what difference there might be beyond the header indicating it is for a different Windows Version, though. It’s here for completeness.

Windows 2000

MSPaint on Windows 2000

Another entry for completeness as, like Windows ME, I cannot find any differences between it and the Windows 98SE release of MSPaint.

Windows XP

MSPaint on Windows XP

Windows XP introduced a few major revisions to MSPaint. First, it could acquire information from a Scanner or any TWAIN device (Such as a digital Camera). Moreover, it now had native support for JPEG, GIF, TIFF and PNG File formats, without any additional software installs.

Windows Vista

MSPaint running on Windows Vista

The WIndows Vista release of paint changes the default colour palette, has a set of new tool icons, And Reorganizes some of the UI (the Color palette is moved, for example). It changes the undo stack to 10 deep rather than 3, and saves to JPEG by default- which suggests that it was intended or expected largely to be used for acquiring and saving photos.

Windows 7

MSPaint as included in Windows 7.

Windows 7 is another major overhaul of the program, on the same level as the change from the PaintBrush program in Windows 3.1 to MSPaint in Windows 95. This redesigns the interface around the “Ribbon” concept, and adds a number of capabilities, brushes, and a few tools. It also now has anti-aliasing.

Windows 8

This version is pretty much identical to the Windows 7 release; though there are some minor adjustments to the Ribbon.


Microsoft Paint is now deprecated, but this doesn’t prevent you from using it; even when it is removed from the default installation, it will still be made available as a free download from the store. You can also copy/paste a version of paint from a previous Windows 10 install to avoid dealing with an appx container file or any tracking that comes with using the Windows Store, if desired. I think the fuss over this change is a bit of an overreaction. There are plenty of other free programs that can accomplish the same tasks and while it is a bit annoying to have to download them, Windows will still include Paint 3D which should be capable of the same standard tasks people want the older Paint program for, such as screenshots.

The old PBRUSH application running on Windows 10. It’s a Miracle.

What is this witchcraft? Windows NT 3.51 was 32-bit, but was based around Windows 3.1, so it got a 32-bit version of the same old PBRUSH program from Windows 3.1. That can be copied from an NT 3.51 install and run directly on Windows 10. Pretty interesting- Though of arguably limited usefulness, beyond putting it at the end of blog posts to pad out the length for no reason.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 07 Aug 2017 @ 06:24 PM

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 19 Jun 2017 @ 9:07 PM 

A quick ol’ post to recommend this excellent piece of software, For the longest time I just used the built-in WordPress Editor to write, save, edit, etc. Posts. I tried some of the blog writer programs back in 2010 or so, but ended up just going back to directly working via WordPress. I found that more and more I was writing blog posts via EditPad Pro, saving the images for them in the same folder, and then rebuilding them via copy, paste, and media upload tools in WordPress, so I looked at the landscape for Applications that allow a Local software program to be used to edit and “arrange” a post, then post it. Sort of like a Frontpage for Blogs (the negative implications of that comparison notwithstanding, of course…). Open Live Writer is the program I found and have been using as a result of that search, and I’ve been quite happy with it so far. While it doesn’t quite seem to understand the blog theme, it still makes editing and arranging posts quite easy, particularly as I can practically just edit a document like I would a Word Document- insert pictures and all that, and then it will upload them to the WordPress media library automatically. Immensely useful. You can also open drafts and even older posts for editing using the program. It’s quite flexible and now I keep it open in my taskbar, so when a topic pops into my head I can write about it immediately- like this one, for example.

The only downside that I’ve noticed is that since it doesn’t recognize the theme it also doesn’t seem to “get” the crayon syntax highlighter I use, so when editing the code tags are rather boring. Though, they didn’t look any better in the WordPress editor so it’s not like I’ve lost anything, either.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 19 Jun 2017 @ 09:07 PM

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Categories: Software

 16 Jun 2017 @ 3:43 PM 

Windows 10 introduced a new software development platform- the Universal Windows Platform, or UWP. In some respects it builds upon the earlier Windows Runtime that was introduced with Windows 8. One interesting aspect of the platform is that- properly used- it can be utilized to have software that can be built once and distributed to a number of platforms running Microsoft Operating Systems, such as the XBox One.

I’ve fiddled a bit with UWP but honestly I found it tricky to determine what it’s for; As it is, it’s API as well as set of third-party portable libraries simply isn’t anywhere near a typical Application targeting the Desktop via WPF or even Windows Forms. But I think that is intentional; these aren’t built towards the same purpose. Instead, the main advantage of UWP appears to be in being able to deploy to multiple Windows Platforms. Unfortunately that is an advantage that I don’t think I can really utilize. However, I expect it will be well used for future applications- and it has already been well used for games like Forza Horizon 3, which utilized it for “Play anywhere” so it can be played not only on the XBox console but on any capable Windows 10 system. Forza 7 will also be using it to much the same effect.

Even if I won’t utilize it, it probably makes a lot of sense to cover it. My recent coding-related posts always seem to involve Windows Forms.  Perhaps I should work instead to learn UWP and then cover that learning experience within new posts? If I an encountering these hurdles then I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable to think perhaps others are as well.

I’ve also got to thinking that perhaps I have become  stuck in my ways, as I’m not partial to the approach that appears to bring web technologies to the desktop; Even today I find web applications and UI designed around the web to have a “feel” that is behind a traditional desktop application in usability. That said, I’m also not about to quit my job just because it involves “legacy” frameworks; We’re talking about quite an old codebase- bringing it forward based on library and platform upgrades would mean no time for adding new features that customers actually want. That, and the upgrade path is incredibly murky and unclear; with about 50 different approaches  for every 50 different problems we might encounter, not to mention things like deciding on the Framework versions and editions and such.

I know I was stuck in my ways previously so it’s hardly something that isn’t worth considering- I stuck with VB6 for far too long and figured it fine and these newfangled .NET things were unnecessary and complicated. But as it happens I was wrong about that. So it’s possible I am wrong about UWP; and if so then a lot of the negative discussion about UWP may be started by the same attitude and thinking. Is it that it is something rather large and imposing that I would need to learn that results in me perceiving it so poorly? I think that is very likely.

Which is  not to suggest of course that UWP is perfect and it is I who is wrong for not recognizing it; but perhaps it is the potential of UWP as a platform that I have failed to assess. While there are many shortcomings, future revisions and additions to the Platform are likely to resolve those problems as long as enough developers hop on board. And it does make sense for there to be a reasonable Trust Model where you “Know” what information an application actually uses or requests, rather then it being pretty much either limited user accounts or Administrator accounts and you don’t know exactly what is being used.

It may be time to come up with a project idea and implement it as a UWP application to start that learning experience. I did it for C# and Windows Forms, I did it for WPF, and I don’t see how the same approach couldn’t work for UWP. Unless it’s impossible to learn new stuff after turning 30, which I’m pretty sure is not the case!) If there is a way to execute other programs from UWP, perhaps the Repeater program I’m working on could be adapted. That is a fairly straightforward program.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 19 Jun 2017 @ 08:59 PM

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Categories: Programming

 09 Jun 2017 @ 11:06 PM 

This is part of a occasionally updated series on various programming languages. It should not be interpreted as a benchmark, but rather as a casual look at various programming languages and how they might be used by somebody for a practical purpose.
Currently, there are Articles written regarding Python,C#, Java and VB6 (merged for some reason),Scala,F# & Ruby,Perl, Delphi, PHP,C++,Haskell,D, VB.NET, and even QuickBASIC

QuickBASIC is an out of place choice when compared to most other languages that I’ve written in this series. Why would I jump so far backwards to QuickBASIC?

There are actually an umber of reasons. The first is that QuickBASIC actually imposes a number of limitations. Aside from the more limited programming language compared to, say C#, it also means any solution needs to appropriately contend with issues such as Memory usage and Open File Handles on MS-DOS. At the same time, a lot of the development task is actually more simple; one doesn’t need to fiddle with designers, or property pages or configuration tabs, or anything of that sort. You open a text file and start writing the program.

The first task is to determine an algorithm. Of course, we know the Algorithm- it’s been described previously- However, in this instance, we don’t have hashmaps available; furthermore, even if we want to implement that ourself, we cannot even keep all the information in memory. As a result, one compromise is to instead keep an array of index information in memory; that array can contain the sorted word as well as a record index into another random-access file, so, to start, we have these two TYPE structures:

By writing and reading directly from a scratch file when we need to add a new file to the “hash” we can avoid having any of the SORTRECORD structures in memory except the one we are working with. This drastically reduces our memory usage. As did determining that the longest word in SORTINDEX is 28 characters/bytes. The algorithm thus becomes similar- basically, with a word, we sort the words letters, and then we consult the array of SORTINDEX types. If we find one with the sorted word, we take the OFFSET and we read in the SORTRECORD at that offset, increment wordcount, and add the word to the SORTWORDS array, then PUT it back into the scratch file. And if it isn’t found in the SORTINDEX, we create a new entry- saving a new record with the word to the scratch file and recording the offset and sorted text in the index for that record.

Of course this does have several inefficiencies that I won’t address; The first is that the search for the matching sorted word is effectively a sequential search. Ideally, the in-memory index would be kept sorted and searches could use a Binary Search. I guess if somebody is interested I “left it as an exercise for the reader”.

Otherwise all seems well. But not so fast- the dict.txt file has 45402 words. Our type definition is 32 bytes, which means for all words to be stored in the index, we would need 1,452,864 bytes, which is far beyond the conventional memory limits that we are under. So we need to drastically reduce the memory usage of our algorithm. And we had something so promising! Seems like it’s back to the drawing board.

Or is it? instead of trying to reduce how much our algorithm uses, we could reduce how much data it is working with. At a time. We can split the original dictionary file into chunks, and as it happens since words of different lengths cannot be anagrams of each other, we can merely split the file into separate file organized by length. Then we perform the earlier algorithm on each of those files and output the resulting anagram list of each to one file. That would give us one file listing all anagrams without exceeding memory limitations!

Before we get too excited, let’s make sure that the largest “chunk” would be small enough. using another QuickBASIC program (because, what the hell, right?) I checked over the count of files of particular lengths. In this case, the chunk with the most is words of 7 letters in length, of which there are 7371 in the test dictionary file. This would require 235,872 Bytes of storage, which is well within our 640K conventional memory limit.

Of course, there is a minor caveat; we do need to start QuickBASIC with certain command line arguments, as, by default, the dynamic array maximum is actually 64K. We do this by launching it with the /Ah command line parameter. Otherwise, we might find that it encounters Subscript out of range errors once we get beyond around the 2000 mark for our 32-byte index record type.

Another consideration I encountered was open files. I had it opening all the dictionary output files at once, but it maxed out at 16 files, so I had to refactor it to be much slower by reading a line, determining the file to open, writing the line, and them closing the file. Again, there may be a better technique here to increase performance. For reference, I wasn’t able to find how to increase the limit, either (adjusting config.sys didn’t help).

After that, it worked a treat- the primary algorithm runs on each length subset, and writes the results to an output file.

Without further Adieu- The Full source of this “solution”:

And there you have it. an Anagram search program written in QuickBASIC. Of course, it is arather basic and is a bit picky about preconditions (hard-coded for a specific file, for example) but it was largely written against my test VM.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 09 Jun 2017 @ 11:06 PM

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Categories: Programming

 03 Jun 2017 @ 3:00 AM 

One of the fun parts of personal projects is, well, you can do whatever you want. Come up with a silly or even dumb idea and you can implement it if you want. That is effectively how I’ve approached BASeBlock. Iit’s sort of depressing to play- held back by older technologies like WindowsForms and GDI+, and higher resolution screens make it look quite awful too. Even so, when I fire it up I can’t help but be happy with what I did. Anyway, I had a lot of pretty crazy ideas for things to add into BASeBlock, some fit and were even rather fun to play- like adding a “Snake” boss that was effectively made out of bricks- others were sort of- well, strange, like my Pac man boss which attempts to eat the ball. At some point, I decided that the paddle being able to shoot lightning Palpatine-style wasn’t totally ridiculous.

Which naturally led to the question- how can we implement lightning in a way that sort of kind of looks believable in a mostly low-resolution way such that if you squint at the right angle you go “yeah I can sort of see that possible being lightning?” For that, I basically considered the recursive “tree drawing” concept. One of the common examples of recursionm is drawing a tree; f irst you draw the trunk, then you draw some branches coming out of the trunk, and then branches from those branches, and so on. For lightning, I adopted the same idea. The eesential algorithm I came up with was thus:

  1. From the starting point, Draw a line in the specified direction in that direction at the specified “velocity”
  2. From that end point, choose a random number of forks. For each fork, pick an angle up to 45 degrees of difference from the angle between the starting point and the second point, and take the specified velocity and randomly add or subtract up to a maximum of 25% of it.
  3. If any of the generated forks now have a velocity of 0 or less, ignore them
  4. otherwise, recursively call this same routine and start another “lightning” from this position at the specified velocity from the fork position.
  5. Proceed until there are no forks to draw or a specified maximum number of recursions has been reached

of course as I mentioned this is a very crude approximation; lightning doesn’t just randomly strike and stop short of the ground and this doesn’t really seek out a path to ground or anything along those lines. Again, crude approximation to at least mimic lightning. The result in BASeBlock looked something like this:


Now, there are a number of other details in the actual implementation- first it is written against the game engine so it “draws” using the game’s particle system, and also uses other engine features to for example stop short on blocks and do “damage” to blocks that are impacted, and there are short delays between each fork (which again is totally not how lightning works but I’m taking creative license). The result does look far more like a tree when you look at it but the animation and how quickly it disappears (paired with the sound effect) is enough, I think, to at least make it “passably” lightning.

But All this talk, and no code, huh? Well, since this starts from the somewhat typical “Draw a shrub” concept applied recursively and with some randomization, let’s just build that- the rest, as they say, will come on their own. And by that, I suppose they mean you can adjust and tweak it as needed until it gets the desired effect. Or maybe you want to draw a shrubbery, I’m not judging. With that in mind here’s a quick little method that does this against a GDI+ Graphics object. Why a GDI+ Graphics Object? Well, there isn’t really any other way of doing standard Bitmap drawing on a Canvas type object as far as I know. Also as usual I just sort of threw this together so I didn’t have time to paint it and it might not be to scale or whatever.

What amazing beautiful output do we get from this? Whatever this is supposed to be:


It does sort of look like a shrubbery I suppose. I mean, aside from it being blue, that is. It looks nothing like lightning, mind you. Though in my defense if electricity tunnels through certain things it often leaves tree-like patterns like this. Yeah, so it’s totally electricity related.


This is all rather unfulfilling, so as a bonus- how about making lightning in Photoshop:


Step 1: Start with a Gradient like so

Next, Apply the “Difference Clouds” filter with White and Black selected as Main and Secondary Colours.

Invert the image colours, then Adjust the levels to get a more pronounced “Beam” as shown.

Finally, add a layer on top and use the Overlay filter to add a vibrant hue- Yellow, Red, Orange, Pink, whatever. I’m not your mom. I made it cyan for some reason here.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 03 Jun 2017 @ 03:00 AM

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Categories: .NET, C#, Programming

 31 May 2017 @ 3:30 PM 

With a few decades behind it, Electronics how have an established “history”. This has resulted in a rather curious change in how “aftermarket” revisions to the hardware are regarded by some.

A good example would be the labels on Video game cartridges. If for example a label is torn or ripped, a person might decide to replace it. It is possible to make nearly perfect replicas of the original labels. The problem arises however in that there are people who find this behaviour unethical; in their opinion, these “reproduction” labels should be labelled as such, because it is not part of the original.

To me that argument makes far more sense when discussing things like reproduction ROMs, where the actual game “Card” and contents of the cartridge differ from the original. In particular, in that case the reproduction is effectively created afterwards, and typically those who make them and sell them aim to reproduce wildly popular and expensive titles in order to try to “cash in” on the rising demand for titles that have a limited supply.

But I do not think that extends to cosmetic considerations. If you have a copy of Bubble Bobble with a label that has ripped off, you aren’t “destroying history” by cleaning off the old label and affixing a freshly printed one. You are restoring your copy of the game. That such things could then be sold and mistaken for a good condition original is irrelevant, because the market that values good-condition labels was built entirely around conditions where the labels could not be fixed in this manner, and rather than deny or question those who create and affix reproduction labels to fix their games, collectors and those interested in purchasing these things should be aware of how good condition labels may not be original.

If I own a game with a damaged label, it is not my responsibility to adhere to some invented set of rules about what I’m “allowed” to do with it. I own the physical object, I can do anything I want with it, including replacing the damaged label however I see fit. The same applies to any piece of electronics, collectible or not. There is no unspoken responsibility for an owner of, say an Apple II, to keep it in factory condition; installing or using modern alternatives for things like Hard Drives (SD Card adapters, for example) does not magically make them a traitor against humanity or whatever wild accusations many people seem to often make against those who make aftermarket changes or restoration to their hardware.

The Industry is still relatively young but it appears we have reached a point where collectors – and speculators – take themselves as seriously as, say, collectors of old coins. There is a big difference between an original Spanish piece-of-eight from the 1500’s and a Video game cartridge from 20 years ago, both in terms of value as well as cultural and historical significance, and I think considering them equal heavily inflates the importance of Video games and the associated hardware. The people that made and were responsible for these are largely still alive. We may as well suggest that former presidents who are still alive be encased in plastic to preserve their historical significance.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 31 May 2017 @ 03:30 PM

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 14 May 2017 @ 7:28 PM 

Nonsense titles are all the rage.

Over time a lot of game franchises have appeared and many of them have many installments. Sometimes, you’ll try a much later release in the franchise and find you quite enjoy it, and decide to hop backwards- and see what you missed in previous ones.

As one might already guess, That’s effectively what I did and what I aim to discuss here. Specifically, a few years ago, for some reason, I wanted a new “thing” and decided to get an XBox One. Being that I was interested in a more complete racing game experience than Project CARS or Assetto Corsa seemed to provide- both of which still felt like Alpha-quality software particularly in terms of their menu interface, I decided to get the Forza Motorsport 6 Bundle/Edition. I actually hemmed and hawwed on the decision for a while because it was an awful lot to throw down on something I had difficulty actually justifying, particularly as I had never even heard of the series before; But I tossed my chips in anyway.

It comes as no surprise given what I’ve written here that I ended up quite liking the game. Which actually was a surprise to me since I’m not generally very car savvy or interested in cars. It’s worked out so far to about a dollar an hour of total playtime just with that one game.


Eventually the “6” got me thinking about the predecessor titles. So, following my typical style,  I went overboard and got them all:

So far I don’t have any regrets; I’ve been playing through the first installment and I think it offers enough of it’s own uniqueness that it’s worth playing. In particular, having never owned the original XBox system before I was intrigued with the system as a whole and in particular the ability to have custom soundtracks. 2, 3, and 4 are for the XBox 360- which I’ve never owned either, so I once again went all in and have a new one on the way, for when I get through the first installment.

It is rather interesting how much variation there is between games that really were designed with the same intent. Ignoring for example graphical enhancements, you have to consider vehicle and even track licensing; As an example the Opel Speedster is available in the Original Forza Motorsport title but isn’t in Forza Motorsport 6; meanwhile settings like the New York Track and Tokyo tracks (among many others) simply are not available in the latest game, which themselves have tracks not available in earlier titles. My hope is that as I slowly make my way through each title each game provides a diverse enough experience that it isn’t too much of the same thing over and over.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 14 May 2017 @ 07:28 PM

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Categories: Games

 13 May 2017 @ 4:19 PM 

Storing, calculating, and working with Currency data types seems like one of the few things that still provides a mixed bag of emotion. in C#, on the one hand you have the decimal data type, but on the other, you have pretty much no functions which actually accept a decimal data type or return one.

As it is the most suitable, the decimal data type is largely recommended for financial calculations.This makes the most sense. And while, as mentioned, there are many functions and calls you might need to make which will result in casts back and forth from  other data types like double or even float, if you design your software and data from the ground up to deal with it you can usually accommodate these issues.

The problems arise, as usual, when we start looking at existing systems. For example, your old product might be working reasonably well with only a few problems for a customer, and they have loads of data. They aren’t going to be as likely to hop aboard your new system if it means that they will have to re-enter a load of data, and they aren’t going to like seeing errors from their current data appear in the new system. It was working before, after all. These old systems might be using ISAM databases and may have used floating point internally for calculations; even if it doesn’t use it’s own math routines you’ve got to consider that whatever programming environment was used for the old software might not follow the same mathematical rules as the new system, and so you have to decide how to proceed. Something as simple as a rounding function dealing with a corner case differently could result in massive amounts of manual data entry for either the customer or even yourself. On the other hand, using floating point types and writing wrappers to mimic the fiobles of the old functions is effectively building technical debt into the product. The compromise solution- have some sort of configuration which will either set it to use floating point compatibility mode or for the product to use decimal native mode would involve a lot of ground-up architecture to  implement. Database schemas will differ, and you can’t just willy-nilly swap the option either

It’s the sort of problem that doesn’t seem to get covered in Academia on the subject, but it comes up often and each decision must be made carefully, in order to avoid alienating customer bases while attempting to avoid unnecessary technical debt. particularly since technical debt is why new systems might be implemented to begin with- bringing forward technical debt from the replaced system sort of defeats the purpose.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 14 May 2017 @ 07:08 PM

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Categories: .NET, C#

 07 May 2017 @ 10:03 AM 

Upgrading library components across an entire suite of applications is not without it risks, as one may shortly learn when upgrading from Npgsql 2 to Npgsql 3. Though it applies between any version- who knows what bugs might be added or maybe even bugs were fixed that you relied upon previously, either intentionally or without even being aware that the behaviour on which you relied was in fact unintended.

As it happens, Npgsql 3 has such particulars when it comes to upgrading from Npgsql 2. On some sites, and with some workstations, we were receiving reports of Exceptions and errors after the upgrade was deployed. These were in the form of IOExceptions from within the Npgsql library when we ran a query, which failed because “a connection was forcibly closed by the remote host” form. Even adding some retry loops/attempts didn’t resolve the issue, as it would hit it’s retry limit, as if at some point it just refuses to work across the NpgsqlConnection.

After some investigation, it turned out to be a change in Npgsql 3 and how pooling is managed. In this case, a connection in the pool was being “closed” by the postgres server. This was apparently masked with previous versions because with Npgsql 2, the Pooled connections would be re-opened if they were found to be closed. Npgsql 3 changed this both for performance reasons as well as to be consistent with other Data Providers; This change meant that our code was Creating a connection and opening it- but that connection was actually a remotely closed connection from the pool, as a result attempts to query against that connection would throw exceptions.

Furthermore, because of the nature of the problem there was no clear workaround that could be used. We could trap the exception but at that point, how do we actually handle it? If we try to re-open the connection we’d just get the same closed connection back. It would be possible to disable pooling to get the connection open in that case but there isn’t much reason to have that only take place when that specific exception occurs, and it means having added handling such that we handle the error everywhere we perform an SQL query- and that exception might not specifically be caused by the pooling consideration either.The fix we used was to add new global configuration options to our software which would add parameters to the connection string to disable pooling and/or enable Npgsql’s keepalive feature. The former of which would sidestep the issue by not using pooled connections and the latter which would prevent the connections from being closed remotely (except when there was a serious problem of course, in which case we want to exception to take place). So far it has been successful in resolving the problem on affected systems.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 07 May 2017 @ 10:03 AM

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Categories: .NET, C#, Database, Programming

 22 Apr 2017 @ 1:29 PM 

I wrote about a program that allows setting Application Volume on the Command line in my Slapping the Windows Master Volume as well as my Retrieving and Setting Individual Program Volume posts. It is a utility to manipulate Windows Session Audio via the command line.

As it happens, I’ve taken a slight interest in older hi-fi equipment. As a result I picked up a Denon DR-M07 Tape Deck- as well as three of the higher-end Metal audio cassettes for recording. I’ve found it to be very interesting. One aspect of the setup is that I have it routed to my PC. The Tape Deck playback output is connected via RCA cables to my Sound Card’s Daughterboard AUX RCA inputs. The Recording input is connected to the smaller Headphone connector that is on the “breakout” module, so I can record audio that is playing.

Now, this is obviously Audio related, but where does the Volume Slapper program fit in here? Well to Record, I must turn down the volume of all programs I do not want to record (for example, System sounds, Skype notifications, sound in Web browsers) and switch the sound card to Headphone mode. I also need to disable the Aux Input, as it causes feedback (the tape deck outputs a low level signal of it’s own as well when recording). Now, for the most part these are pretty simple to do but adjusting audio levels is slightly annoying to do- especially if their current levels were carefully crafted over a period of time to suit what I was doing. My thinking towards Volume Slapper was to make it easy to restore the Audio levels I was using before I had a “recording session”. Disabling sound devices and flipping hardware relays (the headphone setting of the card) are outside the scope of the program IMO.

it also seems more widely applicable. It could be useful to save the volume settings of active programs so you can restore them later for a number of reasons. Maybe you achieved a perfect balance between your browser being used for video playback on one monitor and the audio of your game being played on your other screen, for example.

Now that that is out of the way, the actual implementation is actually quite simple. We just need to handle the new save and load features, obviously. In order to simplify my own usage I had it default to a “quick.xml” file saved to appdata if a file isn’t specified. The file itself- as indicated by the filename, is an XML file. it is built using the standard XElement capabilities of the .NET Framework. Since the usage is so simple here I didn’t reference Elementizer. it just saves the session names and the volume to the XML file, or loads them from an XML file. Of course since the sessions can be different between saving and loading, it currently ignores new sessions or sessions that didn’t exist when the data was saved. Saving the volume, starting word, and loading the volume file that was created won’t affect Word’s audio volume, for example.

VolumeSlapper, including these recent modifications, can be found on github.

As an interesting aside I’ve started working on a sort of silly “task” project which basically acts as a strict task scheduler that runs precisely and shows the time before each task is going to be run next.

Posted By: BC_Programming
Last Edit: 22 Apr 2017 @ 01:29 PM

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