This morning I was rebooting both of my work computers and decided to run a benchmark test on them, since they were both clean and fresh. I decided to share this with my readers, just for fun. It's very interesting to see how the benchmarks come out on different computers.
I used PassMark's PerformanceTest 8.0 for the testing. It is free to evaluate and you can run your benchmark tests even if it has expired, just don't have access to some advanced options. I use their site cpubenchmark.com for CPU comparison so I figured their benchmark software would give me the best comparison with what I know.
I use two computers, "HP Pavilion" and "Snow" and I built both of them. One of them I built from scratch from a bare bone kit that I bought from TigerDirect. The other one was a "fixer-upper" from my 2008 HP Pavillion computer. It died in January 2012 and I ended up replacing everything in the case except the DVD drive and the front panel;)
HP Pavilion (I call it that even though it's only the case and the DVD drive that are left of it;) I use for day to day stuff. That includes work in MS Office, Adobe software - mostly Photoshop, Dreamveawer, Lightroom and less in the other tools offered via Adobe Creative Cloud. I also run email on it, many of the in-house programs to maintain my business etc. This machine is based on an Intel i5-2500K CPU on an ASUS P8P67-M Pro motherboard. It has 16GB of memory, Radeon HD 5400 Series video card and a 1TB Seagate SATA2 drive. On this machine I have a 26" Samsung T260 monitor and a 25" Hanns-G HH251 monitor.
Snow is a dedicated development machine and my work horse. Since the box is white I named it Snow;) I also use it as a host for virtual machines to do work in Clarion 6 and also for testing purposes. This machine is based on an Intel i7-3770K CPU on a P8Z77-V LX motherboard. It has 32GB of memory, 1TB Seagate SATA3 boot-up drive and 2TB Seagate SATA3 driver where I run my virtual machines. I'm contemplating adding a 240GB SSD drive to run the operating system and some of my programs on to add to the speed. I can easily run 3 virtual machines, each with Windows 7 Pro 32bit installed with 4GB of memory each and there is no slowdown at all. I have run 5 similar virtual machines on it and it performed without a hitch. The CPU has hyper-threading so software like VMWare effectively sees 8 cores. I can easily set each Virtual machine to use 2 cores and the CPU rarely goes above 20% usage! On this machine I just use the on-board graphic controller and don't have a dedicated video card. It's OK, but is not going to win any awards for speed;) I have two Samsung Syncmaster SA350 27" monitors on this system. One is hooked up directly via HDMI and the other one is hooked up to the DVI outlet via HDMI and a HDMI->DVI converter plug. This results in a very slight hue difference, barely noticeable but that's ok, since I use the other computer for photo work.
Click on the images to get a slightly more detailed information about the benchmark results.
I have 3 other computers in my office, a file server that I also rebuilt last year that is not anywhere close to powerful (uses i3) but it has something like 5TB of drives hooked up to it, mostly for backups but I also keep all my documents on this machine. I also keep my website code, apache web server, in-house software and version control files on that machine. A 6 year old laptop and a 10 year old development machine make up for the rest of the machines I have.
Hope this is interesting to some people:) I like messing with hardware and I enjoy building machines. If you are comfortable with it, it only takes between half an hour and an hour to put it together if everything fits. Re-using some components can take longer. For example in the HP box I had to rewire the front panel because the front panel plugs that HP uses don't match industry standards. So I had to carefully pull the wires out of the HP plug and plug each of them directly into the motherboard.
The HP was also a long and painful process. It had started to fail with hard disk errors so I backed up the drive and replaced it. Then the machine just died. Wouldn't turn on and it was just completely dead. So I replaced the motherboard and memory. Didn't help. So I replace the video card - which was a $300 NVIDIA card less than 6 months old, that was another painful and costly endeavor to try to reduce the flicker in the Clarion 8 IDE, which didn't help at all. Lo and behold, things started working again. Turned out that the drive seemed to be fine. It looks like it might have been a problem between the NVIDIA chips on the video card and the NVIDIA hard drive controller on the mother board. But I got a nice machine out of it:) I'm still using the original drive over a year later and it's working fine. I swore that NVIDIA chips would not be used in my computers again. Ever! ;)
In the past couple of months I have posted some tips & tricks articles on our forums at Zendesk Many of those have come about from what I was working on and I felt that others could benefit from my experience:)
This year has been a bit challenging for me so far.
In early January I went through an allergy test that showed that I was dairy intolerant. I spent a good chunk of January on liquid diet, which was challenging to say the least, but ultimately good for me:)
In the second weekend in February we spent a day in Seattle and on the way home we were rear-ended. To make things even worse, the person that hit us left the scene in a big hurry! It wasn't a big impact, but enough to rattle my already bad back and caused a problem in my right shoulder - yep, my mouse arm;)
With the help of a good chiropractor my back is getting better every day, but unfortunately my shoulder is not. I'm scheduled for a MRI of the shoulder tomorrow and hopefully it will show what is going on. This has really affected my productivity and the darn shoulder gets really sore and stiff when working on the computer.
Despite this I have made progress on product releases, just not as much as I had planned so I'm a bit behind schedule. I have spent some time on cleaning up several products and worked on demos and documentation. I have also added some articles to the Tips and Tricks section on our Zendesk forum
I'm not going to promise anything about releases, but if nothing else happens (knock on wood:) releases will start to pop out in the next couple of weeks.
One of the forums on our Zendesk portal is "Tips and Tricks"
I have posted two short posts there about hiding DOS/console program windows when using ITRun, ITRunFile and ITRunWait from the Shell Class and one about getting table information from MSSQL database.
I will be posting more short tips and tricks there so check it out from time to time:)
Support to my customers is one of the things that I have always wanted to make sure that I did to my best ability.
As our customer base has grown over the years this task has become more difficult. Since the support team is just I, myself and me it sometimes becomes a daunting task to keep track of emails and requests. Interestingly, customer support comes in waves. I may not get a single email for a week and then I get 10 in one day for as many products.
Having a good system in place has become one of my highest priorities in the past few months. Many developers feel that they have to design and write such systems themselves to make sure they work. I definitely used to be one of them, but I have started to learn that sometimes it's easier - and a whole lot cheaper - to use one of the many services out there rather than do it yourself.
Couple of months ago I mentioned this to Sue and she happened to have been reading some posts on her forums about options in customer support. One of them was Zendesk and after taking a good look at it I decided to try to use their service. But I got sidetracked by school and didn't get back to it until this week. I expect to have it completely set up sometime next week and once I'm done with that, emails will go out to all my customers about this new service and how to use it. Following that, subscribers will be added to the Zendesk account so they will have direct access. If people who are not my customers want to post question all you need to do is sign up and post. It's completely free and only takes a few seconds.
To access the Icetips portal at Zendesk, please go to http://icetips.zendesk.com I have not completely set up the end user portal yet as I have been working on the administration setup. Over the next week or so this page will change, but the support is fully functional by now. Over the next week I will send out emails to my customers with instructions and information about how to submit support requests.
I hope that with this new system in place I can keep a much better track of support requests and my customers can keep better track of what is going on.
It's been a long time since I have posted here and also a long time since any new product releases have come from me!
What have I been up to?
This summer I signed up for a class in the local college, first college level class that I've taken since 1980! It was an introduction to multimedia web and I had really no idea what I was getting into. It was primarily about using Adobe tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash to create websites. Since I had signed up for the Adobe Creative Cloud in May I figured I might as well take a class that would get me introduced to Dreamweaver and Flash, which I had never used before. I have used Photoshop a little bit here and there, but not only barely scratch the surface.
The class started in September and was two days a week, about 2 hours each day, Tuesday and Thursday. After couple of weeks I realized that this just completely cut out those two days since the class was in the middle of the day and I tended to spend the mornings getting prepared and the afternoons working on the homework projects. So I changed to online class and that worked much better for me. However, this took just about all the time that I had in addition to client projects I was working on so I pretty much had to park all work on my products until I was out of school. I finished school last week and got a pretty good grade, 482 points out of 500. I'm very happy with it and it showed me that I'm not too old to learn new things:)
I will not be taking any classes during the winter quarter and plan on dedicating it to my products. I may go back in the spring quarter, but I'm not sure about it yet. It depends on how things go this winter.
There are several new releases in the pipelines that I will stat pushing out. I'm not sure if I manage to get any out before the Holidays. If not, the first ones will start coming out after the New Year. One new product will come out in January. Updates to Utilities, Outlookbar, Taskpanel, Xplore and SQL Browse are all scheduled to be released in first quarter of 2013. There may be additional releases, but I'm not promising anything right now.
I will also be releasing more tutorial videos for my products. The number of views for the videos I posted in May has confirmed my hunch that people like tutorial videos! I had mostly gotten negative feedback, so I was not sure at all if they would be popular or not. I'm pleased with the numbers and will start pushing out videos after the Holidays. I will aim at short, 4-8 mintute videos that tackle specific areas, rather than try to do longer, more detailed videos. I have been watching several vidoes on <a href="http://www.lynda.com" target="_blank">Lynda</a> and they have proved to me that 4-8 minutes is appropriate for this kind of videos and perhaps the most ideal length is 3-5 minutes. It is possible that some vidoes will be made private where only subscribers will have access to them.
The subscriber part of the website will also be getting an overhaul. The main goal is easier access to information and easier navigation to product downloads.
Finally we want to wish you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and our best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year. We thank you all for your business in 2012 and hope we will have a good year in 2013:)
Icetips Alta LLC.
Since System Restore was introduced in Windows XP it has saved my behind on a number of occasions. But it has also messed things up for me because .app files are part of the restore cycle and apparently - at least in Windows 7 - so are .CLW files!
It doesn't happen often that I have to use System Restore to restore to an earlier restore point, but it has happened. Last time it happened on a virtual machine that had a Blue Screen of Death all of a sudden in the middle of a development project. It wouldn't come back up and I was in a hurry and used the "System check - recover" option or whatever it is called on the windows startup screen. It didn't indicate system restore so I let it run. Once it was done and Win7 was back up and running there was a message stating something to the effect that the computer had been rolled back to the last restore point - which was from the night before.
I checked my apps and lo and behold, they were all from the night before. So were a couple of external .clw files. Fortunately I had just placed the project into version control and even later, uploaded it to my client's FTP server so I had a copy from about an hour before the BSoD happened.
I decided to take a good look at how to prevent this from ever happening again. I have all my projects backed up and also in version control (which is also backed up) so I'm not at much risk of losing work (I HATE losing work, so I do my best never to have that happen to me!) After snooping around on the web I found several references and they all pointed in the same direction.
In the registry there are two keys that control the System Restore:
The first one affects backup and the second one affects the Volume Shadow Services (VSS), which is the technology that System Restore uses to create the snapshots, i.e. the restore points. To be on the safe side, I have modified both of them to exclude my development folders and also specifically the .app and .clw files.
Here is what I use right now:
I create a multi-string value in those two keys, call the value "Clarion" and put those lines into the value data text box. If you want to include a folder you use the path and then \* If you want it to be recursive and contain sub-folders you add the /s switch to it. You can exclude files and folders and groom this as you like. Basically this works like the good old DIR command in DOS, for those of you old enough to remember DOS;) For those of you who don't, run cmd.exe and try dir /? in the root of your C drive and then play with it. I think the only switch available to the exclusions is the /s switch.
All my current development is in the C:\dev folder. But I also have a lot of older apps and stuff in my C:\Clarion folder so I want to exclude both of those. I also set the *.app and *.clw to be excluded anywhere on the C: drive.
If you have a second drive for your development you can simply turn System Restore off for the drive, but if you have it on the C: drive, then you need to prevent System Restore from messing with your files! I'm always running out of drives - I have 5 drives currently hooked up to my development machine, with a total of 6 Terabytes of storage! If you are like me and you use virtual machines a lot for development, remember that they also have system restore active and you need to take care of those machines as well, just like any other physical machine.
There is nothing like having to use System Restore to recover from a botched Windows update (has happened to me 2 or 3 times in the past) and then realize weeks later that bugs you had fixed have crept back in! Backups and rigorous version control are the only things that can save you from things like that! And make sure that your version control folders and files are not included in system restore backup on the version control server or you may be in for a nasty surprise if System Restore decides to restore it to what it was 6 months ago!!!
Hopefully this will help some of you to avoid disasters. If you have additional information, please comment or let me know directly:)
We have made Icetips Utilities build 1.2.2408 available for download This Utilties build includes quite a bit of documentation (about 50 pages total). The Page of Pages class has been documented and we added a control template to the Utilities so it is easy to add to your applications. Both the class and the template are fully documented. We also added a global template that allows the Utilities to be used in Legacy applications. I made some modifications to the String Class that affects the SplitString method. Note that our online (HTML) documentation for our products contains comment options using Facebook. This allows you to comment on any page in the documentation if you want to add examples or comments about specific methods or templates. We will be adding this to our HTML pages as we release new builds. Both the Utilities help and the PowerToolbar help now have Facebook comments at the bottom of every single page. For more detailed information about the updates and fixes please see the online documentation at http://www.icetips.com/manuals/utilities/version_history_2012.htm Documentation was completed for:
To download the latest build please go to http://www.icetips.com/downloadfile.php?FileID=192 You need to be logged on to download. Note that the installation keycode is displayed on the page and is also sent to you via email once you start the download. You can review the updates in the documentation at http://www.icetips.com/manuals/utilities/version_history_2012.htm
Today is the last chance to use the icetips discount for the ISV Conference 2012 in Reno on July 13-15.
Today is also the last day to register for the conference for lower prices.
Today is also the last chance to reserve rooms at the hotel at about 50% discount from current rates!!!
The Icetips Utilities build that was supposed to go out last Tuesday will not go out until tomorrow. I got on a really good roll with the documentation and decided to keep going while it lasts:)
While you wait, you may want to check out this link to Free Books at Microsoft press. They are all available as PDFs and some are also available as XPS, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub.
If you have a Kindle or Kindle Fire and you would like to convert the PDFs to .mobi for your Kindle, then download the MobiPocket Creator Publisher Edition from MobiPocket.com It will convert your PDF files to .mobi and in my experience they work much better than the free Kindle conversion at amazon.com. The MobiPocket Creator Publisher Edition is free and simply installs on your PC.
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