I started my (more or less) serious database development training many years ago in Microsoft Access. One of my favorite controls was the Combo Box, a nice little drop-down field that enabled the user to select one of many values but collapsed down onto a single line. The Combo Box control in Access was very configurable and one of the nice features was that you could display one value while actually saving another value to the field the control was bound to. For example, you could display the Customer Name while saving the associated CustomerID that the database would use to reference the customer record.
C# also has a Combo Box control that can do much the same thing but offers a lot more options through code. The .NET version maintains a collection of objects, any kind of objects, and displays whatever text is presented by the object’s ToString() method. The code can then use any other property of the object to carry out operations in the background.
The .NET framework has a few different automated methods for managing connections to SQL Server and other databases. The framework has been around since 2003 and various versions have introduced new, improved data management tools while maintaining the old ones for backward compatibility.
It’s still possible, however to retrieve data from SQL Server and other database systems with just a few lines of code and it’s important to know how to do this to truly understand how the communication between SQL Server and a language like C# actually works.
For the past six months, I’ve been teaching night classes in database programming and my students are just about ready to take Microsoft’s 98-364 exam. Now, we’re transitioning over to C# programming for the next phase of the program but I have to keep their SQL skills fresh for the exam. Tonight, it was time to teach them to understand the binary number system. I dropped some hints on it a couple of months back to brace them but now it was time to get it done with once and for all.
Then, as I like to do with this class, I came up with a lesson plan that would incorporate the best of both subjects …
One of the great things about MySQL is its versatility of installation. It can be setup as a Windows service and trimmed out with some extra utilities or it can be installed on a flash drive as a portable server.
The easiest installation is certainly the Windows Installer with a wizard that will guide you through the installation of the server and all the options you want. Myself, I still like self-contained programs that won’t interfere with anything else on my system and can be easily removed without leaving hidden traces. I also don’t like adding a lot of stuff to my Windows startup.
If you have a basic comfort with using the Windows command line and control panel, doing a minimal installation of MySQL is not difficult once you understand a few steps. The full documentation is available for reference on MySQL.com but here are the essentials to get you started.
It Started With a Game …
By now, you’re probably familiar with Pokemon Go, the game where people search for Pokemon characters around town with their smartphones. In 2015, I played a forerunner of this game called Ingress. The basic idea was the same – run around town accessing game spots, collect digital items, compete with other players for territory, etc..
At first, the game seemed like a great idea. I figured it would get me out for some desperately needed exercise and it did. I found out some of my favorite walking routes had a bunch of game spots I could access while walking and I was out there at 6 a.m. every morning … willingly! It was a miracle!
After installing updates in Windows 7, I found that my primary display flashed on and off rapidly and I was unable to activate any menus on the screen. My extended display, powered by a StarTech USB to VGA Adapter, remained off even though the drivers were properly installed and everything had been working prior to the updates. Unplugging the StarTech adapter restored the primary display to normal but left me without a second monitor.
The recent update had included dozens of individual security updates so I researched the issue online and found the symptoms linked to the following Windows update:
KB2670838 – Platform update for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
This is a graphics performance update that has had a number of reports of compatibility problems and other issues.
My solution was to simply uninstall the update. This required a restart of the system, after which both monitors worked fine. The KB2670838 update is a prerequisite for Internet Explorer 10 / 11 and removing it will cause these versions of IE to malfunction or be removed from the system. Re-installing IE 10/11 will also reinstall KB2670838. Removing it did not affect my installation of Google Chrome, however.
After doing my year-end rebuild of my Windows 7 system, I went ahead and did a check for updates, preparing to wait for awhile as there were currently over 150 important updates for my system even after installing SP1.
So I waited … and waited … and waited some more.
After a couple hours, I knew something was up so I started searching for solutions. Finally I found an update that took care of it; an update was needed to fix the update process.
KB3135445 – Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
To apply this fix:
- Restart your computer. I prefer to do a complete shutdown, wait a few seconds and then start it backup.
- To be safe, disable any anti-virus programs you have running. This update might not work if they’re active.
- From the above link, download the version of the fix that’s appropriate to your computer.
- Double click on the file to run it and follow the prompts. The installation process is short and simple.
- After the update finishes, restart your computer again.
When you run Windows update, it should now find any available updates within a reasonable amount of time.
If that update doesn’t fix the problem, there are a couple of others that I found out about when dealing with this problem on another machine.
KB3020369 – April 2015 servicing stack update for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
KB3172605 – July 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
Again, be sure to disable your anti-virus software when installing these and possibly when checking for updates as well.
Yes, prime numbers are a go-to challenge for me that I’ve been casually playing with since my earliest programming days. I’m not alone; prime numbers are important and popular enough that there’s an entire distributed computing project dedicated to finding the highest Mersenne Prime number (primes such as 31 and 127 that are one less than a power of 2). A decent grounding in math is also important for programmers and prime number algorithms are a much better programming exercise than “Hello, World”.
That’s why, during a holiday trip to a local Barnes & Noble, I was looking through their collection of quick and shallow knowledge books (“100 Factoids That Will Make You Sound Knowledgeable …” ) and found one called Math Squared: 100 Concepts You Should Know. I wasn’t expecting a degree out of this small, 256-page book but it’s been awhile since math class, I thought it might give me some good ideas for programming exercises and I like the feel and smell of new books.
I recently started studying the Python programming language. I’m getting ready for a new programming-related position next year and one of my colleagues suggested using Python as part of it. I’ve heard of Python more and more over the past several years and I figured now would be as good a time as any to finally learn it.
I can definitely recommend Udemy’s Complete Python Bootcamp by Jose Portilla. This course is written for complete programming beginners and does an excellent job of introducing the fundamentals and guiding the student through various programming concepts. It’s probably more basic than I actually need but it never hurts to go back to school.
Setting up the Echo Dot at my remote office and hoping Alexa will absorb some more technical knowledge.
I’ve been playing around the Amazon’s Echo Dot for just under a week now and was curious about its portability. Obviously, the hardware just needs a place to plug in and a Wi-Fi network to access but I was really wondering if I could run its data through my phone’s 4G hotspot. Public networks are fine and I don’t do any secure transactions through the Dot but I just had to know!
I have one of the Samsung Galaxy Prime phones which has served me pretty well for the past year. I don’t use the hotspot much but it comes in pretty handy when I want to login to a private site from a local restaurant and the MetroPCS 4G signal is really good in the area.