Gadget update

22 11 2011

With the recent and sudden demise of, the Microsoft site that hosted the various sidebar gadgets I had written, it has not been possible to download these excellent additions for your Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines.

As such, I am pleased to announce these gadgets are now available for download once again from my Skydrive account by clicking on the following links:

Countdown Gadget v1.2.0 –

Melbourne Freeway Times –

Of course, if you wish to know more, please click on the Gadget link of the blog for more details.


Updated FreewayTimes – Version 1.4

15 02 2009

Some people may have noticed that my FreewayTimes gadget has been freaking out for the Monash Freeway for the last week or so. The reason is that the times are not available at the moment due to the never ending Monash roadworks.

Anyway, I have fixed the gadget so when there is no time available it will show ‘—‘ in the time.  I also took the opportunity to add a new News link which links through to Twitter for up to date news and communication and update the gadget to support Windows 7 a bit better.

The gadget will be up on the Live Gallery as soon as MS approve it. In the mean time you can get it from my SkyDrive.

Update : Gadget has been approved to the gallery and can be got from here.

OptusQuota – an update

22 01 2009

Since Optus pulled their feed of Usage info and the OptusQuota gadget stopped working. I have spent a fair amount of time to get the gadget up and running again, but have gotten to the point where I am unable to invest any more time. On the whole the gadget works fine, but there a  number of niggly situations where it will error, mainly due to the way the data has to be collected.

After pulling the feed, there is no common interface to call so it is necessary to code up a number of special cases to get the data, which has become to painful to implement using my knowledge of Javascript and the sidebar gadget platform. 

Now it’s not all doom and gloom, I have managed to get the gadget going for some people:

  • At the risk of sounding like a developer, the gadget works fine for me and my Optus account. I can also confirm it works ok for other users;
  • Thanks to some of the guys on Whirlpool, I have also tested and confirmed the gadget returns and parses data from a static Fusion account usage page;

What you should be aware of is that there is some complexity around certain users where a number of http redirects occur to authenticate. It appears some users have account details stored in different machines within Optus, so when you try to logon, your credentials are handed around with hidden forms and session strings to other machines before coming back. The gadget hates this and returns the redirects. During debugging with the Grumpywookie I found four different redirects happening and decided that this was too damn hard to implement. If you account falls into this I am sorry. 

Anyway, the gadget is up on my Skydrive account for downloading. I won’t be releasing it to as I don’t feel it is of sufficient quality to be up there. Once Optus release a stable feed to query I hope that the gadget will once again return to it’s previous stable and working for everyone state. 

Download the gadget


The most important point I need to highlight is that the gadget effectively implements screen scraping to get the data it needs for calculations and is at the mercy of Optus. If they change the source of the usage pages it may stop working again.

The best approach IMO would be for Optus to publish a secure API that we could query against.  Given usage info is of no use to anyone really except the user, maybe allow the user to activate an API key, that provided anonymous usage info at It should be relatively simple to query against and would remove any of Optus’s security concerns. Given the comments recieved on this blog and on WhirlPool, I think the users would like it too.  How about going on the front foot for once Optus? 😉

As for the future, well, I guess the removal of the feed without any warning (how many usage meter authors are out there you would have to alert Optus?), the price of the connection and need to bundle, two absolutely woeful technical support calls to call centres and lack of speed in my area has finally caused me to churn to a different provider. As of Friday I will be with another provider giving me ADSL2+ , a sanctioned stable usage feed and customer support from within Australia.  I will still continue to develop sidebar gadgets,  and provide limited support for this one, but if you are interested in taking it to the next level, drop me a line. 


For those of you that are interested the release notes (as they stand) are after the break… 

Read the rest of this entry »

OptusQuota Gadget – Error

15 01 2009

For all of those users out there that are getting this error:


Optus have pulled the usage data text feed that the gadget, and many other third party tools used today with no real warning (certainly no email fyi). 

I will endeavour to find a workaround over the weekend and release an update.

More info can be seen over on this Whirlpool thread.

PDC 2008 : I won’t be there

22 08 2008

Unfortunately my powers of persuasion have let me down. After trying to persuade my boss that PDC was in fact a Project management Development Conference and not an awesome nerdfest of coolness it seems, I am left to watching all the announcements and news from my trusty friends Bink, Neowin and Google Reader.

But, this won’t stop me having a quick prediction at what will be announced and released, so without further ado, I peer into my crystal ball, whilst sitting in the departure lounge at Canberra Airport.


  • Mesh will be opened up to allow development and access to the MOE ala Ori Amiga’s Channel 9 video
  • The Mesh SDK will be released
  • Programming in the Mesh will be released / showcased, maybe including Silverlight
  • Obviously a new Mesh build will be dropped
  • Mac and Windows Mobile client will be released
  • Other Wave 3 announcements, maybe the new Messenger?


  • More information about what is coming in Windows 7, but only the concrete changes, those features that are still up for discussion will not be discussed / shown
  • Lots of Windows 7 demo’s, possible early beta client build in the goody bag (might be PDC, might be WinHec)
  • Hints as to the Windows + Live services that will coming, how will Windows 7 interact with the cloud?


  • Office 14 early beta, or at least a sign up
  • Lots of SharePoint news:
    • Two way BDC
    • Better Excel Services
    • Forms Services Improvements
    • Obviously WSS 4.0
  • Consistent Ribbon across other Office applications like Project, OneNote & Visio


  • Lots and lots of cloud stuff
  • More general Silverlight goodness – maybe Silverlight 2.0 RTM?
  • Talk of OSLO and how it will integrate with the various v.Next Developer offerings.

Of course I could be wrong, as I am only a project manager, but we will have to wait until October to find out.

OptusQuota – V1.2.0

6 07 2008

Since Optus changed their broadband plans a couple of months ago to include uploads in the quota, the OptusQuota gadget has given dodgy information. Unfortunately Optus decided in their ultimate wisdom not to include data about the uploads in the data feed this and many other quota showing software uses.

Anyway, in the last few weeks Optus changed the feed to include the so called ‘Fusion’ data.  I have now finally had a chance to update the gadget to include functionality for the Fusion plans.

This release contains the following changes:

Full support for Fusion plans including:

  • Uploads are added to the total usage
  • Display of both MB and % on the gadget
  • Change the flyout for Fusion users to only display relevant Fusion information

In addition, the following changes have been made:

  • Checks every 15 minutes now, instead of 30
  • Timeout handling has been improved
  • Better offline network handling / detection
  • Improved update functionality

As always, the gadget is available from the Live Gallery, or existing users keep an eye out for a update message in the flyout.

Finally, the gadget now includes a Donation button on the settings page. I don’t get paid to write gadgets, I already have a very demanding job and loving family to sink my time into. If you use the gadget and like it, please consider donating.

Freeway Times : Updated Version

1 06 2008

Back in August, I wrote about a new gadget I had written called Freeway Times. It seems in my haste to get it out I didn’t test it too well and blamed it’s flaky-ness on the data source.  Well it’s nearly a year later, and I am nearly a year wise and have tracked down the flaky-ness to my code.

So, without any further ado, I give you, Freeway Times Version 1.2.

default view

So what’s new you may be asking, well:

  • Better network error handling
  • Smaller GUI
  • Ability to refresh by clicking on the time
  • Ability to change the direction by clicking on the direction
  • Improved CSS ( I understand it now I think)
  • General stability improvements
  • Improved Settings configuration

Initially, the gadget it available via my SkyDrive account, whilst my trusted testers let me know of any issues (Grumpywookie, CodeJedi *cough* *cough*). Once they give me the all clear, I will stick it up on for all to love.

The gadget is now up on for download. Enjoy.

Countdown Gadget Update – v1.2.0

15 04 2008

A new version of the Countdown gadget has been released and is available from Live Gallery. What’s new you may be asking? Well, the gadget now supports several foreign (non English) languages and has had the CSS tidied up a fair bit. The languages supported in this release are:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Norwegian
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Portuguese

Countdown - French - Settings

Developing the internationalised version of the gadget was an experience to say the least, stay tuned for another blog post on the process later. In the mean time grab the updated gadget or ping me an email at if there is a language you would like supported.

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.