Category Archives: Technology

Microsoft Ignite 2015

Earlier this month I went to the annual Microsoft Ignite conference (the Auckland, New Zealand version).  I think I confused a few people when I advised them of my attendance.  Depending which sphere they were in they were expecting me to say I was going to an Apple/iOS related conference or a IBM Notes/Domino one.  As it happens I’d have preferred to go to the former but they are either too expensive, oversubscribed, or just too far away.  And as for IBM these are few and far between – either an occasional one in Australia (AUSLUG) or the big one in Florida.  So this one was close, moderately priced, and interesting.  As it happens a lot of my work still remains in the Windows space so learning about Windows 10 was very useful.
The themes for the conference were as follows:-
     – Windows 10
     – Azure Cloud
     – Windows 10 Universal Apps
     – Cortana
     – QA Testing and Development Teams

Microsoft Windows 10

As this had just been released there was a push to promote how easy it was to upgrade to it.  I suspect they are preaching to the converted here.  However it was interesting to not how many larger organisations already had deployments of Windows 10 within their organisation (whether they liked it or not).  The only catch I head of was that some older printer drivers were not available for Windows 10.


This is not my area of speciality though I can appreciate the functionality Microsoft were providing to allow any organisation to utilise cloud resources for their business.

Microsoft Windows 10 Universal Apps

So these are applications that use the same binary across any platform.  So rather than having one source/binary for Windows desktop and another for Windows Mobile the same compiled executable can be run on both platforms.  Related to this was the number of presentations talking about adaptive UI and UX.  The ideas here are similar (but different) to that presented by Apple in their Auto Layout tools.  Its always good to see how others approach this challenge and cross-fertilise any techniques.


The thing I liked about Cortana was that any suggestion it made could be backed up by some ‘evidence’ that you could see.  So a film recommendation will be supported by options or information you had provided previously.  In a way I like the transparency of the decision making but on the other hand a few random left field suggestions will never go amiss.  I was interested in how developers could add in application specific phrases that Cortana would recognise and then pass on to your application.

QA Testing and Development teams

Regardless of the environment there will always be people, communication and project timing issues.  So these talks by team leaders and lead engineers where inspiring and informative as to how they all get the most out of their developers.  It was good to see how much science (as well as folklore) was behind the decisions made and the structures used.
In all, an entertaining and educational few days in Auckland.

Hex dump of a file in Windows

(Without installing any software).

Here is the scenario.  You are remotely connected to a server overseas.  You are looking at a text file and want to understand what is separating the various segments of a received HL7 message (or want to look at the contents of any file for that matter).  You could download a hex dump utility and all will be sweet – but in the case upload times could be a problem and you might not have permission to install software.   There must be a way!

Of course there is … thanks to Google and this post which details how to use Powershell to process and dump a file character by character in hex.  Have a look for the response referring to Powershell and add in the change to alway print a two character hex number – keeps things nice and evenly spaced.  Thanks to user “wmz” and

Celluon Magic Cube

I am always interested in different means of interacting with a computer and with software applications.  These days we take for granted the touch, swipe and tap of using our smart phones.  Touch screens for PCs have been around for quite some time.  I remember configuring them and using them in demonstrations in the mid 1990’s.  Back then you needed to purchase the touch surface and then have it fitted over the top of the CRT screen.  It was an interesting task.
More recently I saw an article about a laser projected keyboard that could be used for data entry and controlling a PC.  I spend a bit of time these days writing software for medical laboratories so having a keyboard that doesn’t need to be kept sterile and be cleaned every day sounded like a good thing.  I purchased one for demonstration purposes.
As noted above the product is the Celluon Magic Cube.  A revisit to the site indicates that there is a newer version to the one I purchased which has some useful improvements – specifically multitouch gesture recognition.
The Magic Cube device and projected keyboard
The Magic Cube device and projected keyboard
The one I tried was easy to setup – simply a Bluetooth device that needed to be paired.  Once you got used to typing on your desk it was fairly easy to get up to speed.  In a bright room it was a bit harder to see the keyboard, and I quickly found out that you need to keep the device at the same level as the typing surface – you can’t lift it up to make the keyboard bigger.  However for standard typing or data entry where a normal keyboard might be too imposing or get too dirty this just might be an option.
The keyboard projected by the Celluon Magic Cube device
The keyboard projected by the Celluon Magic Cube device