Monthly Archives: August 2007

BioShock: oh no, it’s something with a wrench!

I picked up my copy of BioShock at EBGames in Conestoga Mall this evening, and even after having played the demo, the experience was no less dulled. I’m taking my time through the first round of the game, because the artwork and plotline is really something to be appreciated.

And the sound. What an experience. The creepy, ambient noise is fully enjoyed with the volume maxed out.

Definite recommendation for an Xbox 360 purchase, right here. I’ve heard the PC version’s good… but the 360 version, on a widescreen HDTV with a 5.1 system, is absolutely incredible.

SharePoint/Project Server: almost the bane of my existence

It’s been about 20 days since I was last able to crank out a post for the site – I’ve started a few entries but haven’t been able to finish anything of substance.

Work has primarily been what’s on my mind. I’ve finished – or at least stabilized – a large custom application for my job, which has new heights of reliability and performance compared to something like SharePoint Server and Project Server 2007.

For reference, and for any of you tasked with implementing a Windows 2003 Server / IIS / SharePoint / Project Server installation should read the available documents and get some good books first. Then, plan to install it at least five times before you get the hang of it. Here are just a few things that could, or did, go wrong during my test implementation:

  • If a computer is not associated with a domain – just a workgroup – you’ll have to have some way of synchronizing usernames and passwords. This is acceptable if there are less than fifteen users, but if there’s a required password change every X number of days, then you’re looking at a serious problem.
  • Implementing anonymous surveys, regardless of all the articles indicating that this is indeed possible, means that you will suffer ongoing pain. Drawbacks include absolutely lousy support for anonymous users in SharePoint in general; Firefox will call up a domain login prompt regardless of your IIS anonymous access settings, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Want to replicate the worst problem on your own setup? Create a survey with a page break in between the questions. Not only is it a UI nightmare (“Next” versus “Save”), but I can guarantee you a few sparring rounds with the Permissions Page of Death – even in Internet Explorer.
  • Don’t migrate from a workgroup to a domain. Just start with a domain installation, even if it takes you through a maze of red tape to get a box connected. I was able to save a complete SharePoint content database, but Project Web Access is unforgiving if you decide to do such a migration. I couldn’t even log in once the process was complete.
  • You will need a beefy box to get started with this sort of thing. Plan for at least a two server deployment, with a dedicated SQL Server database box and a dedicated web frontend. In my experience, performance on a standalone system was unacceptable with even two simultaneous users. MediaWiki does a much better job running on lower-specced hardware.

Don’t get me wrong – SharePoint, when installed and running properly, is a really neat collaboration tool that supports wikis, discussion boards, and all other manner of accountable content. When adding the Project Web Access component, though, strap yourself in and prepare for a wild adventure of babysitting installation processes.

In personal news, I’m still running the RC1 build of Windows Home Server, which is actually a remarkably long time for me to run any particular OS. I’ve heard rumblings of possible releases, and I would like to move to the RTM version, but so far none of my sources have been forthcoming. One thing I’d like the ability to do is dedicate a larger partition size to my System drive, which was locked at 20GB when I installed the operating system. After a few installations, my Program Files directory looks like it needs to be relocated.

For the record, don’t attempt to install Steam to your D:\shares storage pool. You’ll get miscellaneous errors and it’s just not worth the hassle.

Hardware news? I recently bumped up to a Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 with 4GB RAM for my main box, and added a Tuniq Tower 120 for cooling. The heatsink, besides being comparable with the “fins of death” passively cooling a Compaq Celeron 333 I once owned, is quite the nice addition and is currently allowing a 3GHz overclock with no issues. I still might need to tweak things a bit, but this guide at Anandtech was quite helpful getting the initial settings configured. As it stands, WinRAR absolutely flies when cranking out archives.

I think the biggest problem in my setup right now is the speed of disk access; Windows Home Server runs a drive rebalancing service in the background and often it seems like it’s kicking in at the least convenient moment. There’s an appreciable difference going from a 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda drive to a 10K RPM Western Digital Raptor. I’d like to see what running two Raptors in a RAID-0 configuration adds, but the drives are expensive enough that it’s not an idle experiment worth performing.

Edit: fixed some poor grammar.

Remote Desktop 2.0 for Mac – Universal Binary released

ArsTechnica writes that Remote Desktop for Mac 2.0 beta has finally been released. It’s now a Universal Binary, which means that it runs natively on Intel OS X systems, while consuming less RAM and picking up speed. Apparently this version will expire in March 2008, which means we’ll have to see another update before then.

I’ll be trying this first thing tonight, as my client of choice for a while now has been CoRD which supports “tabbed” sessions for multiple connections.