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Scott's Column
Web goes to Production, Money 2000 and I reformat my hard drive

October 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

Our web site went to production, I was forced to upgrade to Money 2000, and I reformat my hard drive since I decide what to do with my cable modem.

Interesting Hardware/Software

I came across a neat piece of hardware/software. The hardware is the Slink-e. It is a device that lets you connect Sony CD Changers to your computer. The software is CDJ (for CD Jukebox) and uses the CDDB online database to lookup your CDs while they are in your Sony CD Changer. The Jukebox software gets the artist, album titles, and track titles from the Internet through your computer. Then CDJ controls the playing of your Sony CD Changer.

I wrote my own Jukebox program when I got my CD Changer. But I didn’t learn about the CDDB database until I was almost finished entering in all my CDs. My program would print out a set of exact, button-by-button, instructions to play 32 (the most you could program into a Sony CD Changer) random songs from my personal favorites. It was great.

If I knew about the Slink-e when I got my CD Changer (assuming it was even around) almost two years ago, I would have gotten it. CDJ with the Slink-e is much better than my crude setup.

Unfortunately, I am almost finished putting my entire music collection on my hard drive (read below) in MP3 format. So the Slink-e would be redundant. Two little two late. It is also expensive. It costs $180 for a device that controls my $260 CD changer. Maybe some other time if the price drops and I am closer to building my new house. Currently I plan on hooking up my sound card to my Stereo in my new house to play MP3s with my computer. If this device comes down in price, I may just change my mind, and have my computer directly control my CD Changer.

That is about two years away, so we will see.

Reformatted My Hard Drive

I reformat the hard drive in my computer. I was a little low on space, but that was not really an issue. I was wasting about 4 GB on WAV files of songs that were in limbo for consolidating my CD collection. I still had about 3 GB free. That would leave me with 7 GB free if I did a little clean up.

The real reason I reformatted was due to a problem with a couple of programs I wrote in Visual Basic. They were not running properly. I believe the problem was rooted in the version of VB I used to write each application. One was written in VB 4.0, the other in VB5.0. Since I wasn’t using Visual Basic, I just installed the runtime libraries. Unfortunately I installed them out of order. Uninstalling and reinstalling them in the right order didn’t help. The application I wrote in VB 4.0 was crashing.

Since I have an 18 GB drive, I have been wasting space with out any concern. But I have a clearer idea what I want to do with my computer now, so I don’t need all the junk I have collected. The best way to get rid of this much stuff is to start over.

I first backed up my drive. Since I didn’t what to spend hours and hours rebuilding my MP3 and WAV collection, I had to back them up. That took 7 CD-ROMs. I used my CD-Writer to burn 7 discs, 3 with WAV files, and 3 with MP3 files, and one for software I haven’t burned to a permanent CD-ROM yet. These discs are disposable (to me). I have no intentions of keeping them once I am done with them. I backed up all my other data files to my one and only CD-RW disc.

After reformatting I had all my productivity software re-installed the same day. I will install games on an as needed basis. I installed VB 5.0 (the full install, not the runtime libraries) and recompiled my VB 4.0 application under VB 5.0.

Everything is running fine, and I am ready to do a little custom programming in VB 5.0 again.

Forced to upgrade to Microsoft Money 2000

Since I was installing everything from scratch I decided to take this time to get Money 2000. I have been using Money 95 since Win 95 first came out. Microsoft posted it on MSN during the first two months of Windows 95’s release. If you downloaded it then it was free. I downloaded it, and have kept that download ever since. However, I doubt it is Y2K compliant, and figured I would eventually upgrade to a newer version.

Instead of installing Money 95 again, I went straight to install Money 2000. It installed Internet Explorer 5.0. I didn’t like this, but it stated it required it. I was planning on installing IE 5.0 & Outlook Express a little later. The installation finished just fine. Then my troubles began.

I copied my Money data file to the directory that Money 2000 was installed. But when I opened the file, Money said that there were no accounts in it. I tried everything, but Money 2000 would not recognize any data in my file.

I uninstalled Money 2000. This did not uninstall the version of IE 5.0 that was installed with Money 2000. I tried to install the copy of IE 5.0 I had. It would not install claiming a newer version was already installed.

Since I was stuck with this version of IE 5.0 Money 2000 gave me, I setup my e-mail accounts with Outlook Express. Then I installed Money 95. Copied my data file to its subdirectory, and ran it. Everything was fine, and all my data was intact. Now I installed Money 2000. It pleasantly congratulated me on upgrading. It ran through a number of steps, and it converted my old data for use with Money 2000.

It seems to be working, but it is more different than I would like. In its transactions it only list Withdrawals, where Money 95 had entries for Withdrawals and Checks separately. To enter a straight withdrawal requires blanking out the check number field. This is a serious penalty, because the Withdrawal screen remembers the last check number. Now it remembers you didn’t enter a check, and you have to manually enter a check number after entering a withdrawal without a check number. And they call this progress.

I would have preferred to stay with Money 95, but I would have to upgrade sooner or later. I will look into the on-line banking features in Money 2000, but this has always been my biggest safety net. I never kept any account numbers, or data of that kind, on my computer. With a cable modem and its constant connection to the Internet, I would start worrying that someone could get in. I may wait a bit before trying the online banking.

The Web goes to Production

We made it... barely! As usual, our sponsors waited until the last minute to look at the web site. They took the first look at it 9 days before our Y2K directive to freeze all moves to production. And they had only 3 months to look at it. Oh well! I have had tighter deadlines. We found one major bug in Oracle’s Web Agent. However, I don’t know how much we can do about it. We are using Web Agent 2.0. We just got the disc that has Web Agent 3.0, three days before our move to production. In other words... there is no way we will have 3.0 installed and working anytime soon. I submitted the bug to our on-site Oracle representative. We may have to wait until Web Agent 3.0 is installed and running before we can address a fix.

As far as the site goes, we moved it into production on the last day we were aloud. Now we will be in a maintenance mode for the next three months. Not that we won’t have stuff to do. We have wavers to add a few databases to the system, and I have a number of things I can do to improve the stability and speed of our client/server application.

The stability is my biggest concern. Our application does not react well when people rush. If they click on important data driven elements on the screen while the screen is still updating, it can crash. One thing I plan to do is disable clicking while processing is going on. This can be a real pain though. There will be so many places to put the code to disable and enable clicking. Forgot one place to enable clicking and users will be staring at a screen they can’t click on. This is a tricky thing, but one I will tackle in the next few weeks.

I will let you know what the impact was on moving the web site to production at a later time.

We have three new servers coming. We are hoping to get a substantial improvement in performance with the new hardware. I will be the primary for setting up the servers. We will use one for all production stuff. Web site and client/server. Another server is going to be a testing server. It will have a mirror of everything in production, except changes waiting for validation prior to going to production. The third server will be for all our development and database loading efforts.

It should be fun. I’ll keep you posted.

What to do with a cable modem

I have decided what to do with my cable modem. I wanted to build a web site, but couldn’t think of what I could possibly provide. Then it came to me, I am going to play around with creating an Internet radio station.

I have spent a little time playing with Shoutcast and WinAmp. It is kind of neat to broadcast streaming audio. I could write an entire column (and then some) on streaming audio, but here I will just tell you the basics. (In an upcoming Feature Article I will describe the steps it takes to broadcast with Shoutcast, and the extras I will add.)

Basically you download the Shoutcast server and Shoutcast plug-in for WinAmp from their web site. You set a couple of options in the server’s INI file. Then you setup a couple of option in the Shoutcast plug-in. Run the Server, run WinAmp, and connect the Shoutcast plug-in to the server. Poof! Your broadcasting everything you play in WinAmp. There are much more detailed instructions on the Shoutcast web site.

The first time I did this I went to work and tried to listen. It wouldn’t connect. Damn firewalls. I knew that Real Audio didn’t always work at my office, but it is working now. So I searched the Real Audio site for about 40 minutes until I could find out that it uses port 8080. So I setup my Shoutcast server to use port 8080. That did the trick. I am now able to listen to my music collect at work.

That’s the basics. I will get into it in more detail in a future article. That will give me a little time to build the web site and all the play lists I need to make the radio station viable. You can look at the site here.

Conclusion

That covers this month’s stuff. I am giving up writing movie reviews to get the radio station up and running. Hopefully my bank supports at least some of Money 2000’s features, so I can play with online banking. At the least I would like to reconcile my account with Money’s online capabilities.

Stay tuned. Hopefully you can stay tuned in soon.

See you next month.

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