A Very Useful Tool for Cognos Admins

MotioPI is a great (free) tool for Cognos Administrators.   If you are responsible for one or more Cognos environments, I highly recommend it.     In short, its designed to provide Cognos administrators an easy way to gain insight into the content and configuration in their content store.   

For example – you can quickly Find all Schedules associated with a given area of your content store,  Batch Validate a series of Cognos Reports, or quickly snapshot your various Cognos administrative settings (dispatchers, report services, etc.).

Note – by and large, the free version of MotioPI is read-only, the one exception being the Orphaned Objects panel – which lets you re-assign Cognos  content (e.g. My Folders data) to another user.   

Motio also has a professional version which lets you do mass updates to Cognos content / configuration (e.g. search and replace across many reports, bulk management of user preferences / group memberships, replicate properties across many Cognos objects, etc.).

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FlipShare MinoHD “Camcorder Full” and “Camcorder Empty” Problem

We purchased one of those FlipShare MinoHD camcorders about a year ago, and I must say its a really nice little device. Very affordable, very small, easy to use, and makes great videos.

My wife was cleaning off some old videos the other day and somehow managed to get the device into an odd state in which its totally unusable. Here are the symptoms:

  • If you press the record button, you get a message saying “Camcorder full”.
  • If you press the trash button, you get a message saying “Camcorder empty”

So basically – you can’t record anything (because the MinoHD thinks its full), and you can’t empty the trash (because the MinoHD thinks its already empty). Awesome!

After a few minutes of debugging, I came to the following conclusion. When you plugin the MinoHD to your computer, it basically acts like a little hard drive (formatted as FAT32). It appears, that when in this unusable state, all of the videos that you thought you deleted are actually still on the drive, in its recycle bin.

On an XP Professional laptop with hidden files / folders turned on, you’ll see something like this (note all the large MP4 files still hanging out under the .Trash folder) :

FlipVideo Camcorder Full / Camcorder Empty problem

I simply deleted all the MP4 files that were still in this trash folder, then ejected the flipshare, and things went back to working fine for me.

Note – I was expecting to find an “empty recycle bin” type context option when right clicking on the drive or the .Trash folder, but didn’t see one.

To turn on hidden files / folders in windows explorer, you’d go to Tools | Folder Options, then press the View Tab. Make sure the “Show hidden files and folders” radio button is selected (this is one of the first thing I do anytime I’m dealing with a new Windows install).

Windows Explorer - Show Hidden Files and Folders

I think Google is going to take a serious bite out of Apple…

Part of me wonders if we’ve seen a “local maximum” on Apple.

I think their escalating rivalry with Google is going to really hurt them in the long run. Here are some of the key fronts in my opinion.

The Android Platform : Google’s Android mobile operating system is the open source platform behind many smart phone competitors to the iPhone. It’s also starting to show up in other non-phone devices like netbooks and the Barnes and Nobles Nook (E-Reader).

Android is an open platform, being used on a wide variety of devices, with backing from a diverse ecosystem of contributors. Apple’s iPhone is a closed and tightly controlled platform being developed by one company (some might throw out a Linux vs. Windows analogy).

One perspective which I find a bit ironic : By giving smart phone providers a rich, stable core to build upon, Android should free them up to focus more on consumer oriented features (rather than expending huge amounts of effort on OS level plumbing). From the smart phone provider perspective, isn’t this kind of similar to how Apple leveraged a solid BSD Unix based core to build the very consumer friendly OS X…?

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of these two platforms in the coming years. One might speculate that the diverse ecosystem leveraging Android may drive more innovation.

Google’s Online Music Service : There’s widespread speculation that Google is launching an Online Music Service which will compete with iTunes.

Maybe its just me, but it seems like consumers have a lot of pent up animosity at Apple over iTunes. iTunes has pissed off users for years (try googling for I hate iTunes and marvel at the number of results).

Personally – iTunes drives me nuts, but I’m stuck with it (I have an iPhone). Over the years, it has lost my music, made it difficult for me to share music I purchased across multiple devices, refused to read metadata on music I imported via non-iTunes software, etc.

iTunes is at version 9. Its been around for years and has a huge user base. There’s no reason why Apple shouldn’t have fixed many (if not all) of these issues. Certainly there’s been lots of feedback – maybe its fallen on deaf ears.

Apple will no doubt continue to be the dominant player in online music sales, but it can’t be good that a company with Google’s clout and reputation is getting ready to compete with them in this space. I think their window for easy money in digital media distribution is shrinking.

Public Opinion : Maybe its just me, but it seems tide of public opinion regarding Apple is starting to turn a bit. For years they have been the cool, innovative underdog. At times they now seem more like a condescending incumbent.

For example – consider their draconian rejection policies for third party applications submitted to the iTunes App Store. As a developer, I can tell you I would be absolutely done with Apple if I worked my tail off on an iPhone App for months only to have them reject it with basically a “because we said so” response. This will most certainly drive innovative app developers away from Apple (and to a more open model).

From a PR perspective, this sort of thing is a certainly a black eye for Apple.

Contrast this with the current public love affair with Google and their “Do No Evil” branding, and I think Google is poised score points vs. Apple in the court of public opinion.

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Since the above is largely opinion – I thought I’d add a bit about myself : I am not an Apple fanboy or an Apple hater. I own machines with OSX (macbook), XP (netbook) and Ubuntu (primarly laptop) on them. I’m now on my second iPhone (I’ve had a first gen and a 3GS), and I’ve not yet owned an Android based phone. I have yet to develop any iPhone or Android based apps. I don’t own any Google or Apple stock. In short – I have no bones to pick with Apple, these are just observations.

A way to get true Symbolic Links on Windows…

Its always really annoyed me that Windows “shortcuts” to folders don’t truly behave like Unix / Linux symbolic links. I’ve been especially annoyed by this recently, since I’ve been forced to use Outlook Web Access for one of my clients, and when you try to attach a file to an email message in OWA, if you try to navigate through a shortcut to a folder, rather than actually navigate to the target folder it will “attach” the shortcut to the message. Sigh…

I just realized that the sysinternals suite has a utility called Junction which will let you create a true symbolic link to a directory on Windows. Sweet!

I have always been very fond of the sysinternals tools… Process Explorer and Tcpview are probably the ones I’ve gotten the most mileage out of. Many thanks to Mark Russinovich for this excellent suite of utilities.

IPhone Software Update Hangs after installing AT&T Wireless Card…? This reghack may fix it…

I tried to sync my iPhone this morning (heading out of town later today). ITunes asked me if it could apply a software update, and I mistakenly said yes… About half way through it just hung, and ended up totally hosing my iPhone.

When it hangs like this during a software update, the iPhone will go back into “factory restore mode” (basically it looks like it did when you first purchased it, it will do nothing save for tell you to plug it into ITunes). When you plug it back into ITunes, it will ask you if you want to restore it to its initial state (which you must do before you can then restore a backup).

Regardless of how many times I tried (I wasted hours), during the restore, the process would hang on the “verifying iPhone software” task (eventually the iPhone would restart and the cycle would start again).

After much googling (and cursing), it turns out this was due to a registry setting that was added by the software for my new AT&T wireless card (I did the free upgrade to AT&T’s latest wireless card a few weeks back, and this came with new software).

Apparently AT&T’s software sets a TCP registry setting (on XP) which causes this problem.

Many thanks to jgkurz for his post on the following thread in the apple support forums.

Here’s a copy-paste of the post :

I had the “Verifying iPhone Software” issue on both the 2.2 and 2.2.1 upgrade. I just got off the phone with Apple support and they had me delete the WinXP registry key “TcpWindowSize” located here:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters

Apparently this setting was added by my AT&T Aircard and is known to cause the “Verifying iPhone Software” issue. I had to do a restore on my same PC and not a second iTunes but all seems to work properly now.

I hope this helps.

I removed the offending registry entry, rebooted, and the problem went away. Here’s a screenshot of the offending registry key :


screenshot of registry entry

XP Tip: “right-click on file and send-to cygwin tail”

During a typical “development” day, there are many times when I want to “start a tail” on some arbitrary log file. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just right-click on a file in Windows Explorer and start a tail on it…? Here’s how.

First, we create a simple 1 line batch file called “startTailOn.cmd”. The batch file will expect a single parameter (the path to the file).

      start "tail on %1" c:\dev\cygwin\bin\tail.exe -n 1000 -f %1

This batch file simply starts a new command prompt with a title of “tail on “, and then executes the cygwin tail command on the specified file.

Now we just need to add a shortcut to our batch file to our Windows “send to” menu (shown when you right click on a item in Windows Explorer). To add a new action to your “send to”, you just need to add a shortcut to the action in the SendTo folder in your home directory (e.g. mine is at C:\Documents and Settings\lhankins\SendTo).

So in keeping with our earlier example, we’ll add a shortcut here to our “startTailOn.cmd” file (as depicted below).

add shortcut on sendto

Note – you can rename the default shortcut name of “Shortcut to startTailOn.cmd” to just “tail”.

That’s it. Now suppose we right click on d:\temp\boot.log and select our new “send to tail” action :

tail on log

The only shortcoming here is that the batch file we created will barf if the path to the in question has spaces in it (the part that fails is the ‘window title’ argument to the ‘start’ command). I generally keep a second batch file on my SendTo menu to handle these cases, e.g. “startTailOnPathWithSpaces.cmd”.

   start "tail" c:\dev\cygwin\bin\tail.exe -f %1

Great RegEx Test Utility…

Nithy recently pointed me at a great interactive tool for testing and debugging Regular Expressions. Its called “RegEx Coach” (screenshot shown below). I find it very helpful because it lets you put sample text in the bottom pane, and then as you type the regex in the top pane, it highlights what portion of the sample text is matched so far. Thus far its proven very useful 🙂

regex coach screenshot