Friday, November 28, 2008

How Far Spiceworks Has Come

Spiceworks logo
I tried out Spiceworks when it first came out and was disappointed with its very very very long scan and response times, its inability to correctly categorize machines and software, and to top it all off, I had to endure the ads.

Well Spiceworks has come a long way since that first beta edition I tried out and now seems to be coming together to form a great products.

First of all, it was able to find everything on my network within 10 minutes and correctly identify every piece of hardware except for a couple of switches with web interfaces and a PBX. I was blown away by that. In fact, in my first use of the program (way back when) I don't remember it categorizing anything for me. There was one hiccup in my most recent use though, and that was having to reboot a couple computers because WMI wasn't able to get stats. After that everything went perfect.

The new help desk is so useful and easy to read. I stopped using OTRS because I found Spiceworks easier to use and read, and the emails it generates are a lot easier for my users to understand as well. The categories were a not the easiest thing to edit, but one quick search through the Spiceworks community forums revealed the answer.

There are still ads which are one thing that can be annoying, but Spiceworks is a free product. And interestingly enough, it seems to do a pretty good job at targeting the ads. I always seem to find useful ads when I am doing other things.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that Spiceworks is a fine product now and something that I would, and do, use in a production environment. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a simple free way to manage their network resources or who needs a simple help desk tool to help them keep track of their to-dos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Review: 10 Advanced Tips to Improve your Programming

While reading through one of the feeds on PHP programming, I came across an article on advanced tips to improve my programming. I though, it might be a good read with some useful information, so I proceeded to read.

The first comment was great and provided a link to a good article with a SQL injection cheat sheet. With the first tip being very good, I though I was in for a good read.

That is where everything changed. There are some very bad style issues concerning this article. Sure its great if you want to cut down on the amount of code you want to use and make it run a little faster. But realistically you should always use brackets and proper spacing and indentation, as well as comments.

What I got out of this article for good tips:
  1. Use an SQL Injection Cheat Sheet
  2. Know the Difference Between Comparison Operators
  3. Use str_replace instead of ereg_replace and preg_replace
  4. Use isset instead of strlen (who uses strlen?)
It might also be good to use a framework and memcached but that all depends on how big of a project you are working on.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jquery and google analytics team up to track downloads

While searching for a way to track downloads from my websites I came across this post on how to do it with jquery. Since I use jquery for a few things already I thought it'd be a good match.

I’ve quickly modified gaTracker to utilise the new API and call it’s _trackPageview() method rather than using urchinTracker(). The code is available below:

jquery.gatracker.js (Tracking API version)

It works in exactly the same way as the gaTracker 1.0.1 release, and can be dropped in it’s place, but utilises the new tracking API. Feel free to grab a copy until support gets built into the official release.

The great thing about this plugin is that it loads the ga tracker before adding the onclick events. Apparently this is a requirement by the google analytics api.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to hack an MSI to install on an older version of Windows

I sometimes use Windows 2000 and some installers will only install on a higher version of windows. This method isn't an exact science but will sometimes allow you to install MSI's on older versions of Windows.

First of all I use a tool from Microsoft called Orca. It allows you to edit the database information contained inside of an MSI. You should probably generate transforms and use those to install instead of altering the original MSI file.

The first thing you should do is try and install the file using the MSI itself. If it does install, then great, you don't have to do anything. If it gives you an error message such as "This program will only install on Windows XP SP2 or higher", then you should try and edit the MSI file. I'll briefly go through the process of editing the installer for Crystal Reports 2008.

I opened up Orca and did a search for the error message I was getting. I found the error under the "Launch Condition" section of the installer. All I had to do was delete that line then it passed that area of the installer perfectly.

I ended up getting a second error message "PIDKEY passed to installer is invalid. Quit Setup.". All I had to do was search for that message and found that under the "Action" column was "KeycodePassedIsInvalidMsg". So that meant that this was the action applied from some condition. Doing another search for "KeycodePassedIsInvalidMsg" revealed the condition. Turning that condition into an expression that is always false such as "1=2" fixed that error right away.

After fixing that, I was able to install the program on Windows 2000 and it seems to work perfectly. No guarantees though.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aretta Communications is pretty darn good

I just wanted to say a short blurb on Aretta Communications. I have been using their service for a month now ever since I switched over from sellvoip. I have to say that their service so far has been great with fast communication from their staff on support issues. Their prices are really good with deals on packages (priced by the minute) or straight per-minute-in-6-second-increments pricing.

The prices do end up being more expensive than sellvoip was, but for a service that looks like it will be around a while, it's a small price to pay.