Seven Years…

Yesterday marked my seventh anniversary working with Microsoft’s SQL Server Customer Support.

I was hired with a group of nine others as vendors in the Mississauga, Ontario office. That site is now shutdown and I am the only one who is still doing support – the others have become DBAs around Southern Ontario. We had an awesome manager who inspired and encouraged us all regardless of how tough it got.

I still miss that team. We rocked and SQL CSS has never been the same without them.

Texas has been my new home for nearly four years now. The writing was on the wall that the Canadian team would be phased out, so I set the gears in motion to become a full-time Microsoft employee.

Wow! What a rollercoaster ride this has been.

A Dearth Of Posting

There is no hiding that I have not posted here in quite some time. I regret that and thus pushed myself to compose this new post. My mind has been in a weird space these past few months.

There has been both good things to post about but some unsettling stuff too. The dizzying heights and gut-wrenching drops on the Rollercoaster Of Life put me in sort of zero sum emotional state. I feel ambivalence about nearly everything. A good friend of mine even described me as "depressed." I had never thought that before and it became just one more layer on everything else.

The good things were really good.

My workouts with Patrick continue to be excellent. I managed a leg press of 1010 pounds (no pictures unfortunately) that completely crushed previous personal records. Patrick kept adding plates after each set but my legs didn’t give out. It was an amazing feeling and I’m looking forward to besting it.

I visited two very dear friends in North Dakota (and keep wishing I can rescue them from that wretched place). Another friend became a dad again and yet another is due to become a mom for the first time.

Annual review passed by at Microsoft with me keeping my job. I have a few interesting internal projects on the go that I hope will help my colleagues.

I won’t post about the negative stuff since I don’t want to dwell on it. I’ll find ways to deal with them.

It Happened Faster Than I Imagined…

810 pound leg press 01

Back at the end of April, I wrote about leg pressing 590 pounds. At the time, it seemed like I had achieved something impossible. At the beginning of this month, I completely crushed my previous personal best of 650 pounds.

900 pounds! I managed two sets of 12 reps at that weight.

An astute observer will notice that this picture is only 810 pounds. That is true, this photo is from an earlier set. We added one more plate on either side after this was taken.

My sights are now firmly set on getting at least 1000 pounds pressed before the end of October.

Adobe Support: Closing The Loop

I have been contacted directly by Adobe’s senior support team. Apparently, this blog played a factor in that. I do wish that a public rant here was not necessary.

The good news is that a local reproduction has been confirmed. A tight repro of the problem is crucial to assisting developers with a fix. Now that a bug has been filed, I’ll be continuing to provide Adobe with information if necessary.

We may use the XPerf tools to profile the Dreamweaver process. I am thrilled that progress is being made now and it is great knowing that a great product will be made even better.

A Workaround For Dreamweaver CS5 Performance

I have been quite vocal at work about my problem with Dreamweaver CS5.

I haven’t used Microsoft’s own Expression Studio product – it would be interesting to do a comparison though. As I told my colleagues, I have been using Dreamweaver since it was owned by Macromedia. Back then, Microsoft’s web site editor was Frontpage and that was a piece of garbage that should never have seen the light of day.

My friend Bill has some experience with Adobe products too since his wife is a desktop publisher. It was his suggestion that I try using a 10×10 pixel PNG rather than a 1×1. Interesting idea…

perfmon_DWCS5_workaround Lo and behold, it worked quite nicely! Although the kernel mode time still spiked, it returned back to user mode much more quickly and let me type directly into the Design Mode window – which is the expected behaviour. I started experimenting with different dimensions for the PNG file (always using Fireworks CS5 to resize as desired).

As you can see in the Performance Monitor trace, the kernel mode time for the Dreamweaver process still spikes while I am typing in the Design Mode window. However, it quickly drops back and the typing remains responsive. This was captured while using a PNG image 890 pixels wide (the full width of my page content <div> tag) and 10 pixels high.

The trade-off is that the PNG file is a larger file size; but with today’s internet access rates, this should be hardly noticeable.

Filename Image Format File Size
bgt_1x1 PNG 1 kb
bgt_5x5 PNG 46 kb
bgt_10x10 PNG 46 kb
bgt_890x1 PNG 48 kb
bgt_890x10 PNG 48 kb
new2 JPG 13 kb
If any reader uses Dreamweaver and experiences this issue, I hope this post helps you out. I am also curious to hear from people who have used Adobe’s free technical support; how were you treated?

Dealing With Adobe Technical Support

I suspect that most users would prefer to avoid calling technical support. Regardless of the company in question; this is simply not a fun way to spend your time. Adobe support is certainly no different.

The case was free; the aged adage "you get what you pay for"  couldn’t be more glaringly obvious here.

The first gentleman that I spoke with clairvoyantly diagnosed my problem as corrupt files and insisted that there was no bug in Dreamweaver.  As if intentionally trying to piss me off further, the support case was closed and marked "resolved." Bullshit.

But I decided to tighten up my own troubleshooting. I created a brand-new web site in Dreamweaver CS5 and used Fireworks CS5 to create a new single-pixel PNG with transparency enabled. Of course, as with the files from this blog site, Dreamweaver’s Design Mode rendering chewed up kernel mode time. The moment that the PNG background was removed, kernel mode time barely showed up in my Performance Monitor traces.

Adobe_ticket I called back and created a new free support ticket. This time, the support engineer spent a couple of hours on the phone with me. I let him record my desktop so that everything we did would be documented. We reproduced the kernel mode time spikes at least a dozen times. We created a new background graphic in JPG format – this does not support transparency and thus does not give me the visual effect I wanted – it also did not spike kernel mode time. The engineer then asked for research time; which I gladly granted.

Progress! An illusion that I was quickly disabused of when he called me back. "I cannot reproduce the problem here. Please upload your files so I can escalate this issue."

After the upload, the case went dead for nearly two weeks. Then I was called back by a new engineer. Clearly, the case had not yet been escalated because this time I was told that JPG and GIF are the standard image types that all web developers use.

This really angered me. Adobe Fireworks uses the PNG format natively! After arguing this point, she agreed to keep working on this issue. We recorded another movie of my desktop reproducing the problem repeatedly. We even downloaded the trial software for Dreamweaver CS5 just to test a different set of program files. What a waste of my time!

I generated a user mode dump of the Dreamweaver process from the Task Manager (a nice feature in Windows 7) and uploaded that to Adobe.

It has been 7 days since I last asked for an update (the Adobe support page promises follow-up in 24 hours).

Adobe technical support sucks!

What Is Wrong With Dreamweaver CS5?

In my previous post, I mentioned the disappointing performance of Dreamweaver CS5 while editing a site very similar in appearance to this blog page.

I like the aurora borealis look to the background and that you can still see that borealis behind the grey framing that holds the content of my blog. This effect is achieved by a single-pixel PNG graphic. As most web developers can tell you, it is possible to "stretch" a graphic to any given size. So this single-pixel grey image takes advantage of the transparency features of PNG and is stretched to make up the grey framing.

The framing itself is three <div> tags and the same PNG image is used as a background for each of them. When it is "layered" over itself twice, as in the postings content and right-side menus, it becomes a darker grey. But it still lets that borealis image appear through without obscuring the text.

I could not type text into the web site due to the performance issues with Dreamweaver. It took several dozen seconds for my words to render in the Design View. Interestingly, the Code View did not have any issues at all. That was an important clue.

perfmon_DWCS5_spikeI collected a Performance Monitor trace and capturing the Process and Processor objects while Dreamweaver was running. I noticed that as soon as I switched to the Design View of Dreamweaver after editing my Cascading Style Sheet to use the PNG image that the "% Privileged Time" for the Dreamweaver process spiked up to about 90% and held steady there for quite some time. You can see that spike in the picture to the left.

The "% Privileged Time" is also known as kernel mode time. Without getting too sidetracked, a Windows process has "user mode time" and "kernel mode time." User mode is the code written by the developers and kernel mode is calls made into Windows. So, to render my web site in Design Mode, Dreamweaver was making extensive calls into the Windows API.

This was not a problem with Dreamweaver CS3. So somewhere in the two versions since then, Adobe changed what they were doing within the Design Mode code. It was time to open a support case with Adobe…

My New Toy, My New Frustration…

CS5 One reason for my drop in posting this month is that I bought a new toy. I upgraded from my Adobe Web Standard CS3 to Web Premium CS5. I love the toolset around Dreamweaver for web work. Web Premium also gives me Photoshop and I was excited to have something new to learn.

I installed everything on my laptop at work and had a colleague walk me through some Photoshop settings and experiments. Amazing! I was blown away.

Then I installed CS5 at home and launched Dreamweaver on a local site I had begun in CS3. All my thrill and excitement evaporated. The performance sucked.

It sucked intolerably. An absolutely unusable product! What was wrong?

Of course, my career at Microsoft orbits the world of troubleshooting, so I began to dig in. You are – at this moment – looking at what caused the performance problem. My website was based off the same Cascading Style Sheet and graphics as this blog theme.

Little did I know, that I would end up facing the stress of calling Adobe Technical Support…

Always Missing Code

Code_The_Cat_09

Today is the fourth anniversary of losing Code. I’ll never forget that day and I miss her still. I wish that I could have had Code and Debug together. That would have been a blast.

I guess tonight, I’ll give Debug some extra cuddling and be grateful that I no longer live in an apartment building on the 18 floor…

Bicycling Around The World – Part 4

I am now at about four months of regular cycling – well three months technically since I spent nearly a month in Australia recently. Late last week, the distance radii that I was tracking in Streets & Trips 2010 intersected. Later this week, I expect to ride past the 1000 kilometres mark.

bikeDistance_All_Week_20From my old apartment in Etobicoke, I have ridden past Thunder Bay and up north past James Bay. To the south, I have passed Charlotte, North Carolina.

From my house in Irving, I am nearly all the way through the state of New Mexico and I have passed Omaha, Nebraska to the north.

I guess the next visual goals for this map is when each circle reaches the other’s center point.

Still Remembering Jerry…

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing. I’ll remember him and his legacy by listening to my Dick’s Picks collection today.

And now he’s gone
Now he’s gone, Lord he’s gone
He’s gone
Like a steam locomotive rolling down the track
He’s gone, gone, and nothing’s gonna bring him back
He’s gone

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Hot as a pistol but cool inside

Cat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile
Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile

Why I Am Still Glad That I Quit Facebook

Last week Gizmodo revealed that a hacker had gathered 100 million Facebook profiles and produced a BitTorrent download (nearly 3 GB worth) of user’s personal data.

Let’s be clear here; there was no hacking involved here. Ron Bowes simply used Facebook’s wide-enough-to-fly-a-747-through API and the fact that its users are strongly encouraged to reveal everything about themselves. Remember, these Facebook users have willingly revealed this data to the world already.

What my Facebook friends didn’t seem to get is why this bothers me so much. I would still be on Facebook if I could undo what I had shared and simply return to being a name (and maybe a picture). I simply do not trust Facebook to let me return to that state of online being. They know that I am single (and I get hammered with never-ending ads for online dating sites despite telling them that I am not interested). Until I made it clear that I was an atheist, I even got ads for finding Christian single ladies.

The next day, Gizmodo updated the story by revealing just who was downloading all this personal data. Here is where it gets creepier.

  • Apple
  • AT&T
  • Church Of Scientology
  • Halliburton
  • IBM
  • Oracle

This could be users on their networks doing this rather than the corporations themselves. But doesn’t this send a shiver down your spine? Just a little one?

Can you not imagine what could be done by cross-referencing this information with previously collected data (you do read the fine print on every license agreement and contract you sign right…)? What if your insurance company hikes your premiums in spite of your good health because you have Facebook-ing about your new-found love of thrill seeking?

It is disconcerting to see gathered into one place all the information that is publicly available. We have all given up this data in one way or another. Quitting Facebook was my tiny attempt to strike back.

I Will Never Fly On Southwest Airlines Because Of This

Airline travel has not been a pleasant experience for many people for a very long time now. I am astounded that the boards of directors for these companies have trouble grasping why customers dislike them so.

Then there are announcements like this one from Southwest Airlines.

Are they freaking kidding? Sadly, no. I immediately swore an oath to never use their airline.

Mechanical problems are completely within the realm of human control. Calling this hideous change "more consistent with the industry standard" was particularly offensive to me. Which other carriers consider mechanical problems to be Acts Of God? I’ll boycott them too.

Back To Blogging

While using the WordPress Admin page last week, it requested that I upgrade automatically to the newest version. That seemed like a reasonable ask; so I clicked the button that would perform the upgrade for me.

The operation timed-out. Afterward, both the blog and the Admin page began reporting script errors in the same PHP file on the server.

Two different online chat sessions with my hosting provider support did not help. Eventually, a support ticket was created and the necessary repair work completed.

I’m back!

Australia Vacation: A Winter Cold In Summer & Coming Home

I spent two days in Belmont (not far from Newcastle, New South Wales) visiting with my aunt and uncle. Vince drove me around part of the wine district. I would have bought a bottle or four but I wasn’t sure that they would survive the trip home.

I still have to post the last set of pictures to Flickr. My apologies for delaying but I have a good excuse. I managed to acquire my aunt’s winter cold. Although it didn’t manifest until I was back home in Dallas; it did take the wind out of my sails. The worst of it is over now – but I am still fighting off part of it.

I’ll update Flickr this weekend – I promise!

Props must go out to my uncle Mark in Vancouver. I’m sure the trip home would have killed me otherwise. My layover in YVR was about 15 hours long. Brutal! Fortunately, Mark and Maddona-Megera were able to take me back to their place (with a little sight-seeing through Stanley Park on the way). Being able to sleep in a bed for a few hours and have a shower before continuing to Toronto doubtlessly saved me. Thanks!

All in all, a great trip. I’m very glad that I got to meet up with friends and family again. I can hardly wait for my next jaunt Down Under.