Been doing stuff

30 03 2008

Well it seems that I haven’t posted for a while once again. Work has been pretty full on, but is going to get easier I hope. I am finally transitioning off a project that has sucked my soul dry for the past three years. I shouldn’t say that, the project has been very rewarding in many ways, but you get to a point where you really really need to change or you will explode (or worse still come to work with a weapon and reenact scenes from Halo).

Of course I still get some free time in the evenings and weekends. We have been working feverishly to get some garden stuff done (mostly there), but still have a fair whack to do. Unfortunately the weather seems to have gone bad, so it might have to wait till later in the year. On the nerd front I have been loving my 360 (no not that way!). Elaine was good enough to lend me Guitar Hero 3 and DanCol lent me a guitar controller. Let’s just say I spent a fair amount of time playing it and have finished it on easy. No more now, the games go back tomorrow. The Media Centre extender is still running nicely, I have even trained Rach how to use it. She is certainly getting the hang of recording stuff and using the guide. 

What about gadgets you may ask? Well of course I have been gadgeting. I was pretty surprised to see that the Countdown gadget has been doing so well, over 12,000 downloads to date. I have had requests to make an international version which is taking a bit of time to get right. I am pretty sure it would be easier to put globalisation stuff in from the get go rather than try to retrofit it.  I am pretty confident I am nearly there, but I just need to test it and am furiously changing my system locale from English, through German, French, Norwegian and Portuguese! (Italian still to come).


As you can see I have also been a good boy and made sure all things are being held in source control. I can certainly recommend the excellent who provide online SVN hosting. Add to the mix TortoiseSVN and VisualSVN for Visual Studio and you are away!!

I also have been spending some time tinkering with gadgets using Silverlight. At the moment I have a killer idea for a gadget that I am trying to pull together with the help of the Grumpywookie. It’s still secret at the moment, but we will make an announcement in a couple of months. We will be in need of some killer artwork, so if you are interested drop me a line.  Oh and finally, I wrote my first enterprise sidebar gadget for work which is being used all over the place in a slightly modified and less secure (iframes yuck!) manner. I have an update to the gadget in the pipes (done all the graphics, just need to wire them up) which I may get to in the next few weeks.

A few people have been bashing the Optus gadget for the lack of Fusion support. Well, Optus themselves are being pretty poor on providing data, so that gadget and many other monitors by different authors are having the same problem. Stay tuned for another post on that in the future.

Finally, I am going on some much needed leave. As of the 1st April I have two weeks off as my folks come over from the UK to visit. I can’t wait.  It’s going to be great watching Jack and Abbie interact with the two people that live in the TV every Sunday night and hang out with my parents.

Until next time… byee!

Countdown Gadget Update – V1.1.0

3 03 2008

A couple of days ago a new update to the Countdown gadget was released. The update included the following new features:

  • Ability to define a hyperlink for the event
  • Clicking on the gadget will launch the site detailed in the hyperlink (if configured)
  • The gadget will automatically close itself two days after the event has passed

The other noticeable addition is a PayPal donate button. If you find the gadget useful, please consider donating. It helps me pay for the expenses I incur in developing these gadgets (offsite backups, source control etc).

If you are using an older version of the gadget, you will have an automatic notification displaying on the settings page. If not you can get the updated gadget from here and of course if you like you can donate here.

My new toy, an Xbox 360 and the pain of transcoding

3 03 2008

Last weekend I finally got signoff on a new gadget from my wife, a lovely spanking new Xbox 360. The main reason I wanted it was to extend my media centre PC that we have been growing ever more dependent on.

The media centre extender functionality was really simple to set up and all managed by an easy to use wizard. Within about 5 minutes I was able to record and replay TV live from my main PC running Vista Ultimate.

Now whilst I love the extender to bits, there is one thing it doesn’t do very well and that’s play DivX’s. In fact it doesn’t do it at all. Thanks to a recent update to the dashboard, you can watch DivX’s via the 360’s media blade, but not in the media centre itself. This is good, but to be honest the whole user experience is a bit shite.

Enter Transcoder 360, this bit of software sits on your media centre PC and adds an extension to the GUI allowing you to convert or Transcode divx’s and xvids on the fly into Media Centre.

Setting up the software isn’t that easy. In fact, getting the software to work with Vista x64 was downright painful. So I thought I would write a post detailing it, that an CodeJedi wanted details as well. First up, getting the software, there are heaps of versions of Transcode available, the only one I could get to work was this one.

Read the rest of this entry »

OptusQuota : Update – Build

20 01 2008

I have made a small update to the OptusQuota Vista gadget to support the new Optus Fusion plans that don’t have offpeak.

The change is pretty simplistic and changes the messages and stats provided to the user if they are using one of these plans. I haven’t changed the graphics yet, but will in the next version.

The new version is available from Existing users will get an update notice on the flyout window containing a link to the new version.


  • NA in offpeak if you are Fusion user
  • Changes to the flyout data if you are Fusion user
  • Change to the determine background logic as reported by Grumpywookie when you are over quota

I am now starting to work on the next version, which at the moment has the following features slated:

  • Support for Skins
  • Dynamic graphs for usage (peak / offpeak and days)
  • Dynamic appearance for different plans (Fusion)
  • Improved network / connectivity detection
  • Undocked view
  • Slicker look / feel

If you have any feature requests not listed above, drop me a line via and let me know!

A new year, a new gadget

1 01 2008

During 2007 I worked on a massive project that almost killed both me and the team in terms of the sheer amount of work we managed to squeeze into a very tight timeframe. As the project went on for almost 7 months, we needed a way to let the team members know where we were and how long was left. So I came up with a countdown that was displayed over my desk showing how many days of coding, testing and UAT were left which served to focus the dev team a bit more. It worked a treat but was very manual.

Anyway, during the latter half of last year all our developers laptops were upgraded to run Vista and of course get the excellent Sidebar. So I figured it would be cool to develop a sidebar gadget that provided the same information but could focus the developers every time they looked at their desktop instead of having to look above my desk.

So here is the fruit of my labours, the Countdown gadget.

Countdown Montage 2 Countdown Montage 1   Countdown Montage 3

The gadget at the moment lets you set a date, an event title and a colour for the background.  I have a few other bits I want to introduce like consuming an iCal feed and the ability to check a network drive for a date but they will come in a later iteration.

Of course the use of the gadget is not constrained to just software milestones, you could also use the gadget for things like:

  • Days until birthdays
  • Days until going on holiday
  • Days until public holiday
  • In face, days until ANYTHING YOU WANT!!

At the moment I am after people to test the gadget, once it’s been tested for a week or so and anything nasty has been worked out of it, I will submit it to the Live Gallery and give it to the world.

If you are interested in testing this gadget, drop me a line via or leave a comment on this post.

Update : The testing is over and build 1.0.0 has been released at the Live Gallery for download.

Eye-Fi – Now this looks cool

8 11 2007

I can’t believe nobody has thought of this before… Eye-Fi, a 2 Gig SD memory card with built in Wifi that transmits photos you take directly to your online photo storage like Flickr, Picasa, SnapFish etc.

Eye-Fi Modes

From what I understand you configure the card using a piece of software so that the card has the settings for your wifi and online account, pop the card in your camera and voila, all photo’s you take will be sent up to your account as you take em!! Wow. Simple and clever.

New Gadget: Freeway Times

28 08 2007

Every day I commute about 2.5 – 3 hours from Berwick into South Melbourne and back, sometimes I use the Monash Freeway, others I use the Princes highway, mainly based on whether the Monash is busy or not.  Nine times out of ten, I have to make a decision to turn onto the Monash at Warrigal Road, or continue down Princes, this decision has been hit or miss in the past and has caused me to queue all the way home several times.

VicRoads have an excellent website that will tell you the travel times on all the major roads in Melbourne but I often forget to check it before leaving the office. This is where the Freeway Times gadget enters, sitting prominently on your sidebar letting you know the travel times instantly before leaving the office to go home. In fact, it will also sit on your home Vista machine and tell you the traffic times before you leave home too!! I figured that I would find such a gadget useful, and decided to upload it and share it with others who may commute and use Vista 🙂


The gadget lets you configure the freeway you will be travelling on, as well as which direction you will be travelling on it. There are two directions you can configure, AM Direction and PM Direction. If the computer time is before 12:00am and 11:59am then the AM Direction will be used, between 12:00pm and 11:59pm, the PM Direction is used.

At the moment, the gadget only supports the freeways in Melboune, later versions will hopefully include the main roads and the ability to customise the direction switch over time.

At the moment I am waiting for the gadget to be approved by Live Gallery. In the meantime you can download the gadget from my Skydrive account.. 

More information about the gadget can be read here

Debugging Vista Sidebar Gadgets

26 08 2007

I learnt something today that I didn’t know was possible. For months I have been struggling debugging gadgets I have written using a number of techniques including:

Well it seems I have been doing it hard. Thanks to the guys over on the Sidebar MSDN forums, they have pointed me over to the new updated Sidebar documentation where there is a fantastic overview of how to use Visual Studio to debug by attaching it to the sidebar executable. Once up and running you can inspect variables, step through and set breakpoints etc. Fantastic!!

The 5k Milestone

1 06 2007

This afternoon my OptusNet Usage Gadget finally hit the 5000 download mark! 🙂


Now I just need work to quiet down so I can implement some of the requested features to it. Hopefully there will be an update in one form or another in mid July.

Another SDM gadgeteer..

22 02 2007

Congratulations to William, one of the founders of Melbournes Microsoft Office Server Special Interest Group (MOSSIG) on releasing his first Windows Vista Sidebar gadget. The MOSSIG gadget gives a handy count down to the next MOSSIG meeting in both Melbourne and Sydney. Clicking on the gadget reveals a nifty looking flyout containing the meeting agenda and a link to register.

Good work William. Read more over at Frank Arrigo’s blog, or download the gadget itself from the Live Gallery.