AppConnector Ranking by Google - Year-End Review

Last year, I observed that Karora AppConnector finally got ranked #1 by the Google search engine for the "appconnector" search word, and suggested that we set our next goal to be ranked #1 for the phrase "desktop application integration".

Well as you all know, over the past year, our marketing engine has been cranking hard ;-), and now it's that time again. Let's see how we faired:
View Full Image.

Eleventh place!
Not quite the #1 billing we had hoped for, but not too shabby either, a vast improvement over last year's ranking for the same phrase. Woohoo!!!


That Wally, so wise!!! :-)


Heehee, this is sooo true!!! It's also sooo ... me, minus the "existence of [my] wind" part. :-)

"no one" has "seen [me] work" as well. ;-)
And this usually means that I actually get more work done than when some one does "see" me work.

Now you've got to ask yourself one question: Who's this "no one" character?

AppConnector Cookbook: A Spam Flood Notifier

End-user Problem Statement:
You're an IT Director. Your mail server runs on Windows 2000 and uses a directory to queue incoming messages. You want to be notified as soon as this queue becomes heavily loaded, by excessive spamming for instance, so that you can take the appropriate action in time to avoid mail delays for your users.

I'm that "IT Director"! 8-|
I got up this morning and found that my mail server has been so heavily bombarded by excessive spams for the last 12 hours that our SpamAssassin filter was fuming, and there were in excess of 2000 messages stuck in the queue, and the number was rising. All hell broke loose! It took me three hours to stabilize the spam filter and clear out the message queue.

A couple times a year, we tend to run into little fiascos like these. Alas, with each problem comes opportunity.

Techie Translation of Problem Statement:
Need a utility that lets grumpie here monitor a directory for changes, and it should email him when a directory content has exceeded a certain maximum number of files (say 1000).

I don't know if Windoze server provides any built-in way to do what's required, but as the old adage goes: Stick with what you know. So here goes...

Use AppConnector with the following recipe:

- 1 Default Adapter
- 1 File Monitor event
- 1 Script task, with 1 input parameter
- 1 Mail Task
- some angel dust


  1. Start warming an empty KAP in 23C temperature environment for comfort
  2. Add new application using Default Adapter
  3. Add Script Task, sprinkle in 1 input parameter for flavour.
  4. Add File Monitor event, set monitored directory to be the mail queue directory, notification type to ONLY ADDED FILES, and let it simmer.
  5. Back to Script task, add a couple of lines of script to check number of files in the the directory. Set script so that if this number is below the set limit, it should FAIL. Otherwise, it should SUCCEED, to allow the successor task to run.
  6. Add Mail task as a successor of Script task. Configure it to send email to IT director with an appropriate message body. Sprinkle in some angel dust for taste and stir well.

Test well before serving.

Geek jokes, Java flavoured

Just read these jokes on Chet Hasse's Java.Net blog, found them quite ... cute. Thought I'd share them here. You may need to have some programming background to appreciate ...

Two items walk into a ToolBar.
The bartender says, “Can I get you a menu?”
“No thanks, we're looking for a little action.”


An item walks into a ToolBar.
The bartender says, “Where's your friend?”
“Big event last night; he's disabled.”


Two ints and a Float are in a bar.
They spot an attractive Double on her own.
The first int walks up to her.
“Hey, baby”, he says, “my VM or yours”.
She slaps him and he walks back dejected.
The second int walks over.
“Hey, cute-stuff, can I cook your Beans for breakfast”.
After a quick slapping, he too walks back.
The Float then ambles over casually.
“Were those two primitive types bothering you?”, he remarks.
“Yes. I'm so glad you're here”, she says. “They just had no Class!”

And here are my two cents:

Two items walk into a ToolBar.
Waiter says "Would you like to sit in the menu or non-menu section?"
Item: Non-menu please. Menu section will give us ClassCastException. Can't you see that we're buttons?
Waiter: Oh, I'm sorry. In that case, I can't seat you just yet. Wait here for your ActionListener please. He's busy serving other buttons right now.


I just joined the Flickr bandwagon. Here's my very first post :-), taken on my business trip last June using my Canon PowerShot digicam:

Flickr will come in handy the next time I need to include images and illustrations in my blog entries. It is, albeit, a copy-and-paste solution (urgh!) for the time being-- copy the image link from Flickr, paste into Blogger--but it'll do, at least until Blogger finally clues in and supports image uploading in their blogging service. Or is that a premium option? ;-)

Yeah, Yeah, I know Blogger has a thing called Picasa that lets you upload photos. But it's not quite what I'm looking for, because each image uploaded via Picasa immediately shows up as a separate blog entry.

delicious Firefox

Just found this little jem. It's a Firefox extension for Very kewl!

Custom Development???

Reading Joel's article today on Set Your Priorities, I'm having problem getting past this paragraph:

Custom development is that murky world where a customer tells you what to build, and you say, "are you sure?" and they say yes, and you make an absolutely beautiful spec, and say, "is this what you want?" and they say yes, and you make them sign the spec in indelible ink, nay, blood, and they do, and then you build that thing they signed off on, promptly, precisely and exactly, and they see it and they are horrified and shocked, and you spend the rest of the week reading up on whether your E&O insurance is going to cover the legal fees for the lawsuit you've gotten yourself into or merely the settlement cost. Or, if you're really lucky, the customer will smile wanly and put your code in a drawer and never use it again and never call you back.

I don't get it. Why would doing custom (software) development be any different than any other type of development? Sparky, why the heck did you wait until you finished building the whole darn thing before showing it to your customer? Hint hint: Iterative Development

My First IM spam!

I got this message on Skype today:

Damn spammers!!!
Since when did spamming start spreading onto instant messaging (IM) systems, I wonder.
I also wonder if spamming really work for them. I mean, what rate of response do these spammers get from their unsolicited messages anyway.

Oh well, here comes opportunity for IM spam filter software to bear.

Desktop wars???

Courtesy of Stick Figure Death Theatre:

Google Talk

Has anyone out there tried out the new Google Talk? I need a talk buddy to try this with, to see if the quality is better (or worse) than Skype. You'll need a Google/GMail account in order to use it. I have a google-less-ninety-eight-zero invites left to spare so if you need a GMail account, let me know.

Spammers are an evil breed

So...the net parasites, otherwise known as spammers, have managed to creep into my blog page. Damn them! Damn them all to hell!!!
What's that you said? Cursing them won't help? Oh well, it's a good thing has added CAPTCHAs to their commenting facility. +1

On a side--but somewhat related--note...Gav has recently forwarded to me a link to a CAPTCHA decoder page that claims to being able to defeat many CAPTCHA implementations. We might be able to use similar techniques to improve the screen scraping facility in AppConnector. Too bad, though...No sample code is available yet.

Filming of "The Sentinel" At Sherway Gardens

I walked over to Sherway Gardens for lunch today and was in for a pleasant surprise: they were filming The Sentinel there. One stranger sitting next to me, in the food court, said he saw Michael Douglas (I guess he couldn't contain the excitement and had to tell some body). I missed him by an hour or so. Damn! No more late lunch for me.

Source Code Repository: The Commit Paradox

I shot myself in the foot today, figuratively speaking of course, while struggling with this little subtle dilemma surrounding the rules of code commitment (aka check-in):

  1. To make effective use of a version control system, you should commit your changes often, even if it means committing partially completed features.
  2. As a responsible developer, you should not allow your commit to break the nightly build and regression tests.

I had a piece of enhancement work this morning that I had just finished coding for, but hadn't adequately been tested so I didn't want to commit them to the repository just yet (trying to follow rule #2: don't break the build).

Just then, I realized that there's code duplication in a couple of places. So I decided to do some refactoring. An hour later, a credit of my stunning optimization skills, the code had been nicely refactored. The problem was: the feature enhancement no longer worked! Oops! I must have cut out some vital piece of logic somewhere. The original spaghetti code (that used to work) is now gone--eaten by the refactoring monster.

So in failing to follow rule #1, that set me back by about half a day.

But how can you follow two seemingly paradoxical rules such as ones above? On the one hand, you'd want to commit your changes as often as possible, and not wait until you've fully implemented the feature before committing. On the other hand, you wouldn't want your partial commits to break the automated build and regression tests.

Well, you might say that I should have made a back up of my changes before I start refactoring. Ah hah, but what's the point of a revision control system if you have to keep backups of your changes on the side?

I think the correct solution to this "paradox" would have been to use branching: create a new developmental branch for your enhancement work, even if it was a relatively small enhancement. This would have given me my own sandbox to play with and make partial commits to my heart's content, without breaking the nightly build (because the build would have continued to work on the MAIN branch). And then when I'm satisfied with my implementation, I'd merge the latest changes back into the MAIN branch.

Who needs GoToMyPC ;-)

GoToMyPC lets you access your PC desktop remotely from a web browser, for a fee, of course.

I think here's the next best thing: SSH + Windows XP Remote Desktop Connection. You use your SSH client connection to create a secure tunnel to your Remote Desktop PC. Granted, it's not the same as accessing your desktop through a browser, but...

If you're using Windows XP at home and you have an SSH server running on your home network, chances are you already know how to do this. Go and read more Dilbert--the rest of this article may not apply to you.

If you don't have an SSH server, and want to, install RedHat Fedora.

By default Remote Desktop Sharing is disabled on XP. You'll need to turn it on via the My Computer properties dialog.

In order to set up your tunnel, first, you'll need to download PuTTY, a very well-known SSH client created by Simon Tatham. If you're not familiar with this tool, here's the User Guide.

To create an SSH tunnel through PuTTY is quite simple. From the Tunnels Panel for your connection, add the following mapping:

  • Source Port:
  • Destination: <Your RDP computer's IP address>:3389
  • Type: Remote

Now, after you've established the SSH session with your server, you should be able to start up your Remote Desktop Connection client and connect to your remote desktop by entering the[:3389] in the Destination field (the part in the square brackets are optional). The Remote Desktop Connection client is found on your Start>Program>Accessories>Communications menu, if installed. If you don't have it installed already, you can download it here

For convenience, I usually put a shortcut on my Desktop, pointing to <Path_To_PuTTY_Program_Folder>\plink.exe -load <My SSH Tunnel Session Name> -l <login name>. This allows me to establish the tunnel with one single click. All I need to do after that would be to type in my password, when prompted.
PuTTY configuration screen

PuTTY Tunnel configuration screen

So why instead of localchost []? Well, if you're using Windows XP on your local PC and you try to connect your Remote Desktop Client to localhost, you'd get a message by the application saying "I can't connect to myself" (I'm paraphrasing). The IP address tricks the app into thinking that it's actually connecting to a remote computer instead of localhost.

Some of you nerds out there might wonder: why hassle with the SSH tunnel? Why not just connect to RDP directly? Well, I'm of a suspicious mind, and for some strange reason, I feel a little more secure when connecting through a 1024-bit DSA encrypted channel.

You can probably see that SSH tunnelling approach is not only limited to RDP, but can be used to create a secure tunnel into virtually any TCP service on the remote network: NetMeeting, VNC, Exchange Server.

I now have my mind set on my next toy: a wifi PDA running Windows Mobile. This way I can access my office desktop PC everywhere I go.

Usability blooper?

I've installed this piece of software several times before and haven't actually noticed this, but now it strikes me as being quite hilarious.

After I installed this piece of software, it politely asked me whether I wanted to restart the system. I answered "No". It then told me something to the effect of "I'm just going to ignore your 'No' answer, because I know what's good for you. So I'm going to go ahead and reboot your system anyway."

It then proceeded to shutdown my session and rebooted.

Guess which piece of software I'm talking about. :-)

Hint: it's a development tool.

OK. So it's a pretty old piece of software. But still...that's a pretty good usability screw-up, if there is such a thing.

Transferring your Skype settings to another computer

I installed Skype on my new computer and found that my contact list is empty. So...this means Skype keeps my contact list locally instead of keeping it on the central server like MSN Messenger does.
I wanted to transfer all my Skype contacts from my old computer to the new one. It would be nice if Skype provided a Contact List Export/Import feature, but until then, I found this simple hack on their support forum that did just what was needed:

  1. On your old computer, go to the "%USERPROFILE%\Application Data\Skype folder. There you should see a folder with your Skype ID as the name.
  2. Copy that entire folder to your new computer, under the same location. Make sure you shut down Skype before copying, otherwise you'll get some sharing violations.
  3. Start up Skype on the new computer. You may be asked to enter your login information again.
  4. After logging in, you may see that your contact list is empty. Don't panic! Just restart Skype. This time you should see your full "imported" contact list.

The above procedure not only imported the contact list, but also the chat history, call history, the works.

Visual Studio 6 and AMD64?

So after five years, I finally took the chance to upgrade to a (much) more powerful computer. And to add insult to injuries, it's a 64-bit machine (an AMD64 eMachine to be exact), running Windows XP. An aside note of caution: if you're considering putting on Service Pack 2 (SP2) and have no real need for doing it other than wanting to get the latest and greatest, my advice: don't! I found that a couple of my applications just won't run after it. I had to take out SP2, put SP1 back on, and then things ran fine.

Right now, I'm trying to install Visual Studio 6 on the new machine and having a hell of a time. The installer refuses to run, giving weird error messages about missing kernel32.dll entry points. I checked and the entry point is there in the DLL. I have a hunch it might have something to do with the 64-bit thing. I googled everywhere and so far haven't found a solution yet. Perhaps this is a sign to migrate to .NET? ;-)

Firefox 1.0.1

It has begun: Firefox security vulnerabilities are cropping up.

Phishers haven't seem to have paid too much attention because they're too busy hacking away at IE. Or is it because they know it's a geek's browser of choice? And when you touch geek, there's hell to pay. :-) But all this geekosity can only protect us for so long. Being a target is inevitable as the browser gains more popularity.

Interesting to see what the patch rate (turnaround time from discovery to patch availability) will be like for future vulnerabilities, compare to the likes of IE.

Here's a list of vulnerabilities patched in 1.0.1.

Ugrade now!

Why the heck did Sympatico disable SMTP authentication?

OK. I'm really p.o'd about this. I've been a (relatively) happy Sympatico customer in the last four years, but recent development this past week makes me think again (hate it when I do that). I found out that I can no longer send my Sympatico emails from my office using my Thunderbird mail client. A little digging underneath the cover and it turned out they (Sympatico) disabled SMTP authentication on their mail server.

If you don't know what SMTP Authentication is, it just means that the mail server requires you to enter a user name and password when you're sending mails through it. In the case of Sympatico, they've turned it off, which isn't so bad except they've also disabled relaying.

OK. What's "relaying"? It means the server's ability to deliver (relay) your mail message to a server other than itself. So if you're using's SMTP mail server to send a message to, the server at has to "relay" the message to for delivery. It's not called "relaying" if I'm using's server to send a message to

Back to Sympatico. What they've done is made it so that if I'm outside of my home office, I can't send mails! A few emails back and forward with their support staff today and I still couldn't get a straight answer on why they did it. Instead, I was suggested to use their web based GetEmail service. Unacceptable workaround! Reason 1: the user interface is fuuugly! Reason 2: I no longer have control over my Sent Items because they're in two places--the web client and my Thunderbird archive. As a side remark, I never delete any of my legitimate emails. Instead, I archive them, which is why the concept of GMail has some appeals to me.

Now, they must have done it out of some sort of security concerns--I, of all people, should understand that. For a small organization, may be, but for an ISP to use this kind of heavy handed tactics? OK, Someone's been spamming our server, we don't know how to stop the individual spammers, so let's treat them all as spammers! They're all guilty! Let's nuke 'em all.

So thanks, Sympatico. I think I'll switch off that email address from now on and seriously start using my YahooMail or Gmail account, which, by the way, supports POP3 and SMTP.

Hmm...Now that I think about it. Sympatico recently joined forces with MSN, and MSN never did like SMTP. I wonder if this isn't all part of some evil master plan to take over the world.

Look at what they did to me: they've made me senile!

Microsoft's AntiSpyware Tool Removes Internet Explorer?

Just came across this rather amusing article on

Many Microsoft Windows users who downloaded the recently released AntiSpyware program from Microsoft, or had it installed through an automatic Windows update, woke up to a surprise. Unintentionally, the heuristics of the software detected Internet Explorer as spyware, and removed the program from their systems.

If only it were true....


I started a Vietnamese version of my blog this week, for those readers curious about that other side of me. Now I'm virtually bilingual.

Ease of Use

Lately, I've been making it a personal goal to study/research more on the latest GUI usability trends, in my continuing quest to build more and more intuitive UIs into the softwares that I work with.

I was down at business partner's office this week conducting training, getting their folks up-to-speed on AppConnector. At the end of the session, one of my "students" made a comment which I thought was a really nice compliment. She said "I really like [the fact] that [AppConnector Studio] is so easy to use".

Yes, AppConnector is simple to use, but this was not by accident. We really focused on the non-programmers as our typical user audience. Sure, there's been some mistakes made in the beginning, but when we started version 3.0, our mind set was that someone without any programming knowledge should be able able to pick up and use the product in a day or so, and they should be able to do it in a few simple steps. Creating an integration project should be a matter of configuring a bunch of component properties.

Although there's certainly room for the product to grow in terms of usability and functionality, the person's comment above showed us that we must be doing something right.

Oh the joy of business travel

Well, I'm stuck here at the airport again because of flight delays. If it weren't for the airport's wifi hotspot, I'd be bored to death. Apparently, America West is notorious for delays. I got hit with a three-hour delay on the way in, and this time, looks like it's going to be another red-eye. There is a high probability that it's just me, but I keep bumping into craps like these whenever I travel.

However, to be fair, I've got to say that their service reps are pretty good. What they lack in technical expertise (always some sort of problem with the airplanes--scary), they make up in customer service. On the way in, I got off my initial flight, missed my connection by 1 hour, half expecting to go through hell to try to arrange another connection flight, but there they were, standing at the exit door with my rebooked boarding pass waiting. Now, eventhough it looks like I'll be sleeping on a plane tonight, at least I'll be sleeping in first-class.

You may say that's nothing to write home about--it's to be expected. After all, the delay is their fault. That should be the least they can do. Some people expect alot. On the one hand, I've come to expect nothing from anyone. That way if I get nothing, then there's nothing to be disappointed about. On the other hand, you can argue that since you yourself uphold the best of standards, and, therefore, you should rightly expect--no, demand--the best in return. I'm not entirely sure which is a better character trait to have.