Monday, May 30, 2011

Scrubbing empty hard disk space

I was preparing my old laptop for resale. So the first thing I did was to reinstall the original factory image onto the laptop. But this still left me worried that I may have data that is still reachable in the empty space. So I was looking for a HDD Eraser that would cleanup the empty space on the hard-drive.

I found “Hard Disk Scrubber” ( and it allows you to secure delete a file(s), a folder(s) or the empty space on your hard drive.


Worked well!

Applying a WIM image using ImageX

Was trying to restore my Inspiron 1520 to its factory default settings and PCRestore.exe was not working. But what I did find on the restore partition was a WIM image. So here is how I got the restore running

What you need: ImageX.exe (should be in the tools folder of the restore partition)

  1. Boot up into Repair mode.
    1. Restart your computer and hit F8 while the computer is starting.
  2. Choose the Repair option or the safe-mode command prompt.
  3. If you chose the repair option, in the “System Recovery Options” dialog, select Command Prompt
  4. Navigate to the restore partition (normally drive D).
  5. CD into the Tools folder.
  6. Run the following ImageX command:
    ImageX /apply d:\dell\image\factory.wim 1 c:\
    The above command applies the image to the drive c.
  7. If everything works correctly, you should see some messaging that the process has started. It took ImageX about 5 minutes before it started the restore process (during this time, it almost looks as though nothing is happening).
  8. After a while you should begin see Progress messages (Progress: x%, Y minutes remaining).
  9. The restore process took about 20 minutes on my laptop.
  10. Reboot and you should be booting up into a factory restored version of your laptop.

Dell XPS 17–First thoughts

I received my new Dell XPS 17 on friday and wanted to share some thoughts:

My first ever laptop was a Dell Inspiron 1520. Although the laptop has been real good to me, (its still working), I once had a motherboard issue which should have been covered by the extended warranty and Dell made me work 3 days to get a replacement and their excuse for not wanting to replace my motherboard was that I had upgraded to Windows 7 from the original Windows Vista that had come with the machine!

Before buying the XPS 17, I had also tried out the HP Dv7t QE. That machine was a big disappointment. It came in a generic cardboard box. Unboxing it felt lame. Right out of the gate, it felt like HP didn’t care for its machine. The Dv7t had an aluminum body, but it was not perfect, with warps and gaps at many points. The worst part of the Dv7t was the fact that within the first 5 minutes, the laptop used to get extremely hot (especially under the left palm), to the point that you could not comfortably use the laptop. Calling HP was of no use, because they simply said that the laptop is working within parameters. The other problem I had was the LCD screen had faint vertical lines that you could see on light backgrounds. It was terrible. I finally decided to send it back and after looking at and comparing a whole bunch of laptops, I decided to try out the Dell XPS 17.

Receiving the Dell XPS 17 immediately made me feel better about the choice because it came in a much better box. One that said that Dell was thinking about the entire experience surrounding the laptop, not just the laptop:


Unboxing the XPS was fun. Everything was neatly packed and all I had to do was hit the power button and it was up and running. (No reading of a start here document, or plugging in a battery, etc.)

One of the things that has me impressed about this buying experience was Dell’s customer service. Their phone service is still not the best, as you end up with long wait times and often times get shunted across the world with no resolution. But their electronic service (email and chat) has improved vastly. The customer service agents called back within a day (though, wish this would be faster) and I always got resolution of the issues I had (order had the incorrect shipping address). It was nice working with Dell this time because customer service didn’t feel like an after thought, or something that they wanted you to buy – it was simply part of buying the laptop.

Here are my first thoughts about this laptop:

  • Its big. Its much bigger than my previous Inspiron 1520.
  • Its also quite heavy, but hey it’s a desktop replacement – so the size and weight are expected. But they arent too bad at all.
  • The body construction is beautiful. It aint no MacBook, but its functional and clean. I like the aluminum construction.
  • The screen is awesome. I am a software developer and can definitely use the extra real-estate provided by the 1900x1080 full HD screen.
  • Although I got the 2nd generation Intel i7 processor with 8GB of memory, the laptop doesn’t run too hot. (at least not yet). Certainly doesn’t run as hot and loud as the HP Dv7t.
  • The JBL speakers are great. Did not expect to get the quality of the sound that I was getting. Very nice bass. (One weird thing though is the fact that the speakers are in the palm rest area. So if you are working, the ports get covered and then the sound gets muffled).
  • Not sure who came up with the idea of putting the HDD activity light behind the screen, because you just cant see it during normal operation of the laptop. Why even put it in the laptop?!
  • Oh and did I say, the laptop is blazing fast.

So far I really love the XPS 17.

The only issue I have found until now is the fact that webcam isnt as good as my Inspiron’s webcam. It seems to need more light than what I used to need with the Inspiron webcam. Trying to still determine if this is hardware issue or if a certain setting will fix it for me.

Here is the Windows Experience score for my laptop:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

WP7 App Store Submission–Image sizes

During submission of a WP7 application, you need to provide various images that are used in displaying the app in the marketplace. Here are the current requirements for the different images.

Large Mobile App Tile (173 x 173 pixels @ 96 DPI)

Small mobile app tile (99 x 99 pixels @ 96 DPI)

Large PC app tile (200 x 200 pixels  @ 96 DPI)

Background art (1000 x 800 pixels @ 96 DPI)

Screenshots (upto 8 images: 480 x 800 pixels @ 96 DPI)

VS 2010 and Sql Server 2008 R2–Installation Order

Although there is no prescribed proper installation order, based on my experience I have found that installing Sql-Server 2008 before Visual Studio provides for the most trouble free installation experience.

WP7 Mango–Ad and in depth look at features

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DotPeek from Jetbrains–replacement for .Net Reflector

DotPeek is the latest free replacement for .Net Reflector from JetBrains (the makers of ReSharper). (link)


What I like about DotPeek:

  • I use ReSharper, so the navigation features come naturally to me.
  • Many of the navigation features are not available in any of the other tools (eg: Find Usages)
  • Displays resources embedded within the dll/exe
  • Allows you to load up v2.0 and v4.0 dlls

What I don’t like:

  • Doesn’t seem to allow you to view the contents of the resources embedded within the module. (Probably will show up in a future release).

Overall – it works great. I like it.

Read about JustDecompile another replacement from Telerik (

Friday, May 06, 2011

Collaboration while estimating stories

Normally, I have used sticky notes and a wall to estimate user stories. (Put the stories on the wall in the different story point columns).

The problem that I have always had with this approach is that sticky notes are SMALL and if you have a big team, you either end up with a crowd around the board, or people continuously walking up to the board. Its always been disruptive to the estimation meeting having people swarm up to the board.


There are a number of open-source and free tools out there that might allow you to do it on a computer.

But today I saw one of our business-analysts use a simple but ingenious ideas. She used a Windows 7 widget called “Sticky Notes”.

First she created Sticky Notes for the story point columns: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13….. Next she created a pile of sticky notes with the user-story title on them. Then she pulled one from the sticky note pile and we estimated it. Upon estimating the user-story, she stuck the sticky note under the correct user-story column.

Simple, indigenous and provides visibility to the entire agile team in the room.

Here is what it looked like at the end of the estimation session:


Important: The above is not the task-board. It does not represent the tasks that are planned, in progress, done, etc. It’s a board that allows for estimation of stories and being able to have a sense of what your stories assigned to a certain story-point look like. In my mind this makes it easier to have uniformity in the stories and the story points that they are assigned.

Monday, May 02, 2011

PowerShell–Querying Ad

Here is a simple script that you can run at the power-shell cmd line to get the properties associated with an AD user: (where JDoe is the AD userid)

(([directoryservices.directorysearcher] "(samaccountname=JDoe)").findall())[0].Properties

You can get at a particular property such as the objectId using the following statement:

[guid]((([directoryservices.directorysearcher] "(samaccountname=JDoe)").findall())[0].properties.getenumerator() | ? { $ -eq "objectguid"}).value[0]

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Denver Maps

I had friends visiting us and wanted to provide them maps of downtown Denver and other places to visit in Denver. Here are maps that I found:

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver with Attractions

Metro Denver with Attractions