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2016 in review: top 10 CArehart ColdFusion posts of the year

I thought it may be useful to gather up a categorized listing of my most (seemingly) helpful/resourceful blog posts of the past year, to help others be aware of them (and indeed to help me be reminded).

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Feel like an iphone app is "missing" features? Maybe you're not being notified of its updates

I wanted to pass along this little surprise I had today. You may, like me, have some apps on your iphone that ARE NOT BEING updated! In other words, though you may frequently check the itunes app store app for updates and receive many for some apps, you may be getting NONE for others.

This was happening to me until today. Here's how I found out and what I did about it. Hope it may help others. (Maybe this is old news to some, but it was a surprise for me and a classic bad news/good news situation.)

Update: Problem now understood

Since posting this entry, I've learned an explanation for what I was observing (thanks to Dan Switzer and others sharing their comments below to understand it). It was a case of "new" versions of the apps being created which meant that the "old" version i had was no longer being updated, and I had simply missed news of the new app. Hope that may help someone. I leave the rest of the blog entry below in case the details may interest anyone.

How I found out

So I have a couple of iphone apps I use all the time which until today, I was annoyed that seemingly obvious annoyances/limitations were not being resolved by updates. Was no one else annoyed by these? Really? Or was the developer perhaps being lazy? I lived with them. Hey, most of the apps are free or cheap.

But then today I got an email from one vendor highlighting new app features to consider in a recent update, and I noticed that they referred to enhancements to one of the very features I wanted, but they wrote as if it was a "long-standing" feature. How could I have never seen it then?

What I did to check it out

So I wondered if perhaps somehow I was NOT getting word of updates.

I remembered how when you visit the itunes store and click on an app you already have, it says "installed". I wondered if perhaps I may find that I could in fact "install" these apps, which I already had, but which seemed to have become long in the tooth.

Sure enough, I could do so (for at least two of several I checked). And holy smokes: the apps had indeed improved quite a bit.

Wow, what a shame that I've been limping along with older versions that lacked features I'd long-wanted.

Lesson learned

So obviously it's possible for apps to somehow become disconnected from their update stream. The app names had not changed, so that's not it. I don't know what happened. (For those who may wonder, in my case the apps were Harvest--for time/expense tracking--and Tweetdeck.)

And therefore I wanted to share this with others in case it may be an issue for you.

Want to help others with this problem?

Finally, does anyone know if perhaps there's some way to automate this investigation? Maybe there's info on the phone that tracks updates, and perhaps can indicate if the connection to itunes updates has broken. I suppose that's not likely.

But maybe there's a place on the phone (or in itunes on the computer it's synced to) which lists installed apps in order of last update. That would at least help highlight which ones to focus on?

Better still, perhaps there's "an app for that" which helps identify and resolve this very problem.

If you know more about this issue, feel free to share.

Bashers not welcome

One last thing: often when I write on a subject to share a solution to a problem, some folks are compelled to use the opportunity to bash whatever it is that I found the problem with. That's really not the point here, folks.

So if you're a delighted droid user, or perhaps just an apple-hater who loves the chance to give 'em a smack, or whatever, please withhold such comments. I'm serious, and I will delete or edit any comments that ignore this warning and are only about that. Let's just focus on the problem at hand, and any helpful solutions/suggestions.

Saving windows command prompt history to a file

Do you find yourself working at the Windows (DOS) command prompt window (aka Start>Run>cmd), and after having entered many commands, wish you could save them to a file, such as before closing the window or perhaps when needing to restart?

This is a bit of esoterica, but as I've seen some searching for a solution in various help forums, I figured I'd share it here. It can be especially useful if you've been using the Microsoft LogParser command-line tool, which allows you to use SQL statements from the command line to analyze log files of all sorts. You may build up a large set of them during a session, and wish you could save them off before closing the command prompt window.

Quick Answer:

doskey /history > commands.log

(Update) And in PowerShell, use:

get-history >commands.log

Explanation

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New for CF9 (and 9.0.1): a query timeout that may really work, with a caveat

This is a very interesting change in CF9 (and 9.0.1), which has slipped under the radar for the most part it seems.

Did you know there is now a setting in the DSN page of the CF Admin (for most of the Adobe-provided DB drivers) which allows you to set a maximum timeout for queries against that DSN?

It's a new feature enabled for the DataDirect drivers, as updated in CF 9. (You will not see it if you use an "other" datasource type, such as when using a downloaded JDBC driver that you implement on CF.)

The caveat? This timeout is ONLY settable there in the DSN definition, not in CFQUERY (or CFSTOREDPROC) itself, which is a shame. The existing TIMEOUT attribute for those (CF10 added it for CFSTOREDPROC) is not the same and generally does not work. Still, the value of this even at the DSN level is too important to ignore for some challenges. More on that (and some other thoughts) in a moment.

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Better file searching (on Windows) with a powerful, fast, easy tool

Ever need to do a search for files with give text (or of a given name) in Windows? Whether you use a favored editor to do it, or (worse) rely on the anemic/slow Windows find, I'd like to point you to an awesome and free alternative.

For years I've used a great freeware tool, FileLocator Lite (formerly known as Agent Ransack ), and I (as well nearly everyone I show it to) love FLL for several reasons. Beyond fast, effective, and easy searching, it also has a cool regular expression building wizard that may be reason enough to use the tool when you need to create a RegEx quickly. It's the freeware version of a commercial product, File Locator Pro, and can be found at www.mythicsoft.com/filelocatorlite/.

(Update in 2010: Originally, the free version was only packaged under the name AgentRansack, which was a little scary-sounding for some tastes. The makers finally offered a rebranding of the tool under the name File Locator Lite, though they still also offer it as AgentRansack, being the same product. The makers just seem to have a fondness for the "old" name so are going with both.)

(Update in 2013: While I still most highly recommend FLL, I do want to add that if you're ONLY searching for files or folders by name, not content, there is a potentially better tool to consider. See the added section at the end of this entry.)

BTW, I do realize that the Windows File Find feature can be enhanced by using its available Indexing Service. I've never been a fan of that for various reasons, and many won't enable such (for good reason) on production servers. Yet you may need to search for files on such a server. This tool can do it with little overhead. And I realize also that later versions of Windows do offer better text file searching, but it's still not as simple as it could be (if the first search doesn't find files, you're offered a chance to do a deeper search). This tool is incredibly simple to use.

Sadly, some people may not ever do searching for files by name or content (or suffer productivity) simply because the available tools are so poor. This one will change your mind!

Definitely favored over other search tools/editors

Since learning of it in about 2004, I no longer use the find feature within editors like Eclipse, DreamWeaver, CF Studio, or various notepad alternatives to search across multiple folders anymore. AgentRansack is so much faster than those in my experience, whether searching tens, hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of files. (I've even used it to search millions of files and it did not take hours to do the search.)

And when compared to the Windows File Search feature, it's not only far faster but also DOES search for content in ALL file types. Have you ever used Windows find to search text in CFM files, and found that it never finds files you know it should? The problem is that it has an internal list of file types it will search, and all others it will simply ignore. It also ignores files marked with the hidden and system attributes, which may not be expected. (By Windows Find I'm referring to the feature available from the Start menu or via WindowsKey-F).

And unlike using your editor to search, it doesn't lock up your editor while it's searching away. And even then, it's really FAST! I find it can search gigs of content in just a few moments--yet it DOES NOT rely on indexing the content in any way.

Another great benefit it has over the other more traditional search approaches is that while the left pane is showing the files it found in its search, a right pane shows (for any file you select on the left) the lines WITHIN the file that matched the search. Yes, in some other search tools the search results pane allows you to click a result to open the given file at the given location where the search result was found, but this approach in AR is just much simpler and more effective, I think.

Perhaps most powerful, it also integrates with the Windows Explorer interface, so it's easily reached by a right-click on any folder to search that folder and its children.

Bonus Regex Feature

As I hinted above, beyond searching, AR is also great for its really nifty regular expression feature, to help build regex's declaratively (with a wizard-like interface). I find myself opening it just to create a RegEx when needed. More than that, there is also a useful "test" menu option where you can enter a RegEx, and some text against which to search, and it will show what the regex would find in that text. Very handy.

Check it out

Everyone I've shown it to has been impressed. Check it out.

You can see screenshots of 3 main parts of the interface in use (including the regex wizard and results viewing aspect) at the site.

Other tools

I should also mention that this is indeed just one of dozens of such file/find tools that exist, for Windows, *nix, etc. (yes, including grep tools for both OS's). I do list dozens more in a category for these tools at my CF411 site, which lists over a thousand tools and resources of interest to CFers.

Enjoy.

One more update

Here's one more update I'd like to make: if you may be searching ONLY for files (or folders) by name and NOT by file content, then there's a still-better free tool for Windows that I'd recommend: Ultrasearch, from jam-software.com, the same people who make the also excellent and powerful TreeSize tool for analyzing your disk space usage, per folder.

Missing the command menus (file, edit, view, etc.) in IE 7? Here's the fix

It's Christmas, and that means...a few hours of tech support working on the computers of relatives you visit for the holidays. :-) One problem I've encountered a few times (even before now) is someone using IE 7 who says, "Why did they remove the menus, like File, Edit, View? How can I change options or call up help?"

Well, the fix is a pretty simple one, but one may miss it. In case any of my readers (or those googling for a solution) need the help, it's that you can right-click on the area where the menu should be (not on a tab, nor in the address bar above it) and you should see a pop-up set of context menu options to include "menu bar", "links", and "status" among other things.

You want to enable the "menu bar"

You'll notice that the "menu bar" option has no check mark next to it. Click on it, to set it, which will enable the menus. The "menu bar" is indeed what shows the File, Edit, View, and other menu commands. Hope that solves the problem for you, and if so, consider it my little Christmas gift to you.

If that option is already checked, then it may instead be that somehow hidden or moved. One tip is that there is also a "lock toolbars" option on the context menu mentioned above. If you de-select that, some of the various menu items will now show a small gray dotted vertical bar, which you can click on to move the particular toolbar. You may find somehow that the menu bar, if enabled but not visible, has somehow been moved or hidden.

Finally, once you have enabled the menu bar, you can use that "lock toolbars" to make it less likely that you or anyone else will cause it to disappear. Hope that helps.

Add searching for CF blogs, docs, etc. to your FireFox Search bar list of search engines

Someone who had learned of my CFSearch search engine (which searches over 1300 CF blogs, docs/article sites, and more) wondered if they could arrange to have it appear in the Firefox Search Bar in the top right of the browser. The answer is yes, via a simple Firefox add-on (which you can use to add any search site to the search bar).

This is a cool thing, because while you can choose from several pre-defined search sites (google, yahoo, amazon, ebay, and more), and you can click a "manage search engines" option to go to a Firefox site to find still more, you can only pick those that are listed on the Firefox site.

As with this gent, some search engines will just never be popular enough to be listed there. So how to add them?

Get the "Add to Search Bar" Add-on

The good news is that there is a FF add-on that does just what he wants, Add to Search Bar. It's simple and very effective (see the comments at the Mozilla page link, where many ask--rightfully so--why it's not built into FF.)

You can also learn more about it in someone else's blog entry highlighting it.

How about accessing a site's search feature using a single keyword in the address bar

FWIW, I'll also note that rather than use the FF toolbar, one can also set things up so that a given page's search feature can be accessed from a single address bar keyword (if they don't have or don't want to alter that search bar in the top right). I blogged about that in my TipicalCharlie site, where I sometimes blog things that aren't of a CF nature but might appeal to just anyone. (Update: tipicalcharlie domain is no more, but page recovered using Archive.org.)

One more time about CSEs

Finally, just as a reminder, the CFSearch site I created is what's called a Google "custom search engine". I wrote previously about them and how other people had also come up with their own variants. You may want to check them out, too.

Goog411 - free 411 service from your phone, with connection, mapping, and more

Tired of paying 411 fees? Next time you're on the road (home or away) and need to find something, use 800 goog-411. That's the number for free (and hands-free) local information.

All you need to do is say where you are, what business or category you want, and hear the closest options (with address). If that's all you need, you can hangup, or you can choose one to be connected to the business, and you can even have a map or text message sent to your phone, again all for free.

Here's a nifty (and fun) couple-minute video about it:

http://www.google.com/goog411/

Ok, maybe you can get info like this from your in-car GPS system, or via google maps on your phone, but at least this is mostly hands free. Add it to your phonebook, and it's just a pushbutton (or voice command) away.

BTW, if you've not noticed, the same feature is offered in google maps itself. While on a map, you can enter a business name or category and it will show where on that map (or an expanded one) you can find what you're looking for.

Don't dismiss the Google toolbar, especially if you're not aware of hidden features

Do you use the Google toolbar, and if you have it, do you use it regularly? If you'd dismiss it, are you aware of all its features, including several hidden ones? I use them every day, and, no, the built-in search box in FF and IE 7 doesn't come close. Let me share a few tips with you if you'd missed these.

This entry was prompted by a survey up on a popular site (makeuseof, which I've blogged about before.) The survey asks people what toolbars, if any, they use in their browsers.

In the current voting most say they use none, and some commenters are dismissing them as "wastes of space". I thought that odd, as I use the google toolbar every day. I offered up the following as a comment, and then thought I'd share it here for my readers (have done only a slight bit of editing from my original comment there):

It's a shame to see some call toolbars a waste of space. OK, so many you've lamented them getting auto-installed on an unsuspecting user's computer, or hated when one tries to do that on yours. But not everyone who has one is an idiot.

For instance, I love the google toolbar and have for years. Sure, I realize that FF (and now IE7) offers a search box, but that's not all that the google toolbar does for you. Unfortunately, some of its best jewels are hidden gems, in that you may need to enable them with the "settings".

I use the "site" button every day (type in a search word and click the button to search what Google knows only about the current site). Sure, you can do it yourself with the "site:" keyword in any google search box you may have, but this is much less typing over the course of a day.

Same with doing a google image or froogle/products search, both buttons you can easily add.

There's also the "up" button that's worth adding, which lets you traverse up a site, whereby it removes whatever's at the end of the currently used URL. Often quite handy. Again, all things you could do yourself manually, but one click is nicer, and makes the toolbar very much worth the space to me.

These and a few other things are tips I first shared back in 2003.

Some features don't use any "space" at all, as the toolbar also enables a context menu on each page you visit. You can right-click the whitespace of any page you visit to see (under "page info" in FF2 and IE7):

  • backward links
  • cached snapshot of page
  • similar pages
  • translate page

Again, all these are things you can do without the toolbar as long as you have a quick google search bar of some sort and know the corresponding google keywords (link:, cache:, etc.). But again I use some of these every day, so I love not having to type those--plus some users would learn this way of these valuable Google features: they might not ever think to learn the keywords (or use the "advanced search" at google.com).

If I have one complaint, it's that I don't understand why these last 4 features aren't enabled as toolbar buttons (that can be added, optionally). I'd give up the space occupied by "send to" and "autolink" (though some may love those), and certainly "check" (the spell check) since that's built into FF. Anyone from Google (or others who might know more about this) care to comment?

Anyway, don't dismiss toolbars (and the google toolbar especially) so readily. You may be missing out on more than you know.

Hope that helps someone. (Actually, for some reason I still don't see my comment posted on the makeuseof blog entry. I suppose they may have some verification process. If I don't see it in a couple of hours, I'll post the above there again.)

Got Digital Voice (or some other cable/phone service) and having problems inside your house?

Jared Rypka-Hauer today wrote of a hassle he's experiencing with Comcast Digital Voice (their phone over cable service), and he asked if others had thoughts. I may well have an answer for him, or perhaps for others even with other similar phone-over-cable service providers. My wife and I were also suffering with it recently, until a rep found and fixed our problem--a hardware problem. Almost classic, from a geek perspective. :-) Perhaps you too may have it.

Did you previously have another phone over cable service before, like Comcast's "Digital Phone"?

The key question is whether you by any chance had the predecessor to Digital Voice, called Digital Phone (or perhaps any other phone-over-cable service that was like it rather than like Digital Voice, as I'll explain). If so, there may be a problem of something that was left behind in a switch to DV from DP, which could be conflicting with the new DV service. Removing that seems to have solved the problem for us.

Apologies to those who don't like wordy posts, but I want to explain things clearly for the benefit of others in the same boat.

DV service was bad for us--until this was fixed

My wife and I have been Digital Voice customers for about a year, and especially recently we grew VERY frustrated with it for some of the same reasons Jared describes, such as dropped calls, but also failed faxes, problems with the internet service, and even worse, we would occasionally lose all the phone service.

When we lost all phone service, if we connected a single phone to the digital modem (MTA) (inside the house, which feeds the phone line into a jack to serve the whole house), there was indeed signal. So they asserted it "must be something in our house", and they'd tell us to unplug all the phones in the house and wait a half hour, then reconnect. It would always work, but what a hassle! Kind of like a software provider pulling the old "reboot your computer" answer to a tech support question.

Naturally, my wife was fuming and investigating alternatives, when a couple weeks ago we had a rep come out to have a look (what to us was one last look) at things. What he found may well be the clue for Jared or others who had Digital Phone (or anything like it) before Digital Voice. And note that if we simply switched cable service providers, the problem may well have propagated into the new service (since the root cause wasn't the service to the house after all, but it also wasn't a problem inside the house).

What was Digital Phone? And what may be left behind from it?

Comcast's first step into cable-based phone service was Digital Phone. What's the difference? Well, those with the newer Digital Voice (DV) may have noticed that with it, the cable comes into the digital modem (or "MTA") which is inside your house, and out of that comes the phone signal via a normal phone wire that that's fed from the MTA into a normal wall phone jack somewhere nearby inside the house, and that then feeds the rest of the house its signal. There's no more need for any phone line to come into the house, so any outside wire like at the plain old telephone system (POTS) network interface device (or "NID") is disconnected. (picture)

But you may (as we) for a while have used Comcast Digital Phone (which came out before Comcast Digital Voice). And it's important to understand the difference, for this problem. DP worked in a way that was closer to the plain old telephone system (also referred to as POTS). The comcast coax cable from the street went first into a box that was on the OUTSIDE of the house (very much like the one used by the POTS, but a different one: picture). And out of that DP box came both the cable (which went on into the house like it had before installing DP) and also out of it came a phone line, which then was connected to the old phone system box/NID a few feet away, specifically to the phone jacks inside it that then fed phone signal into the house just as it always had in the POTS. (here's a picture)

When they switched us to Digital Voice last year, naturally that phone line into the house (through the POTS NID) was no longer needed, so whoever did the DV install of course removed the phone line going from the DP box into the NID to feed the house, and they set up the MTA inside the house, and so on as needed for the newer DV.

But here's the kicker and what the guy found 2 weeks ago: the DV installer had not only left the old DP box (outside, which he should have removed), but he also left the cable (coax) running through that outside DP box (updated info) and inside of it, it was going through a unit intended to take the DP phone signal out to feed it to the POTS phone box. Then the cable line went out of that box and on into the house. Most important, the rep pointed out that that unit inside the DP box was powered (they had tapped into the power line when they installed that DP box a couple years ago).

Power to the old DP box was interfering with the cable signal

Well, the problem was that the power to that box (and the unit inside through which the cable signal was passing) was directly interfering with the cable signal going out (which of course feeds the TV, phone/DV, and internet service). That would explain a lot of the problems we were having!

So he removed the old DP box (and its power line) updated: opened the old DP box and removed the powered unit inside of it, leaving the box but also disconnecting the power to it. More important he connected the cable inside the unit at that point (what went from the street, and what went into the house) so it was now uninterrupted. The signal is effectively "pure" going into the house, where it then goes to the MTA (the digital modem), and that (as for the last year) feeds the phone line, and the internet service and cable TV that are from there fed into the rest of the house.

So far all has been much better.

Your next steps

If you're not sure if this may be an issue for you (maybe someone had it setup even before you moved into a house in recent years), go out and check if there's a box outside your house on a wall near your phone box that looks like the old phone box. Or find where you cable comes into the house and see if it goes through some other box first, since they may have installed the DP box (or its equivalent) elsewhere outside your house and run a long line to the old phone box. Since that old phone line will likely have been removed, you may not see that.

If you have one of these boxes, and the cable goes into it and then out of it and on into your house, you may well have this problem. Another clue will be if you do (or don't) see a thick power cable feeding into the box. Since it's powered, you won't be able to open the DP box (well, you may find it has a "consumer" side that you can open, just like the old phone system NID, for you to test the phone line outside the house, but that won't show you the cable line to see if it's going through a powered unit as I described.)

But if you have something like this, call Comcast (or your provider, if in a situation like this) to have someone come out and confirm and if so remove it (which should be free, I'd think, especially if they offered the old service to you).

You may then enjoy DV, internet, and tv a whole lot more.

Could be a broader problem

Again, the problem may be generic to other cable systems (RoadRunner, Adephia, Time Warner, Cox, Charter) if they also have offered two generations of phone-over-cable service (or your house may have had it, even if from another provider, before you moved in).

Since setting up things like DV is mostly an "all inside" thing now, some installers may never even think to look at this potential problem. All they may do is unplug the old phone line going into the house and come in and setup the MTA and say, "enjoy". I wonder how many people could be suffering this problem and not know it.

Hope that helps someone.

Update

After writing the entry, I went out to take pictures of the units (which I've added as links above, keeping them rather hi-res to make them more legible). I realized I was mistaken when I said he had removed the old DP box. He had not. But what he did was remove the powered unit inside it and disconnected the power to it (he said) and left the box. I've corrected that above. The problem with this, though, for your diagnosis is that you have no way of knowing--if you do see that second box, the DP one--whether the cable line inside it is still going through the powered unit that should have been removed. You really have no choice, it seems, but to ask Comcast (or your provider) to come out and ocnfirm this, if you are having problems that seem otherwise unresolvable. Sorry for the confusion, but still, I hope it all helps someone.

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