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Household eco-cleaning product reviewFriday 27th April 2012
In a bid to become environmentally more aware these products have been tried in my house recently:

Ecoleaf Laundry Liquid
Can't get mild stains out of whites, even at 40

Ecover Toilet Cleaner
Thin, floats on the water so unable to clean down into the bowl.

Ecozone Dishwasher tablets
Simply don't do a thing. Tea and coffee stains left glassware feels rough.

There are many more to try, but so far the effort is poor. It's all very well switching to environmentally friendly products but they still have to work.

MonitorsWednesday 18th April 2012
I was devastated to find that my trusty old flat-screen CRT popped it's clogs the other evening. 19" of full colour instant response glory.

I've been toying with getting one of these fancy LCDs that all the kids have these days but they are just so sucky. The only constraint my CRT had was I couldn't put magnets too close to it.

Alas, apart from being light weight there is little reason to go for a LCD. After much research I have discovered my requirements but such a thing has yet to be manufactured - so I'm jotting them down here for future reference.

  • Input Lag: Less than 10ms

    Input lag is the time the digital processing on an LCD takes to tinker with the image before instructing the screen to update, this can be surprisingly high. Why 10ms? It's an arbitrary figure but one that TN panel displays can achieve today. A CRT being analogue doesn't have this delay, it simply shows the image.

  • Response Time: Less than 2ms

    This is the time that it takes those crystals to get themselves pointing in the right direction. This is measured in a number of different ways, grey-to-grey is quoted a lot, I think I need a different measurement, still, some displays (TN panels) are capable of this.

  • Refresh rate:: Over 75Hz

    Most LCDs plod along at 60Hz, for those who remember CRTs this frequency was unbearable as you could see monitors flashing with the refresh. The argument is LCDs don't refresh the screen constantly and only change when an update is required so there is no flashing. Alas the human eye is quite capable of seeing the gaps in the refreshes when things are this slow, 75Hz is really the minimum you want if you want your mouse to appear smooth and more importantly to see everything that is going on in games. Only TN panels are currently capable of this.

  • Viewing angle: Over 175

    TN panels have a pretty poor viewing angle, and it's tricky to get the colours to look correct all over the screen if not sat at the perfect angle, and then if the screen is large things look different anyway - TN just doesn't do this.

  • Colour depth: 8-bit

    Apparently new fangled monitors can't display all the colours on each pixel, so you get banding in gradients and such. An 8-bit pixel can do 16m colours, which is sort of what we're used to - this again appears to be missing in TN-Panels

  • Size: 22-inch

    Seems 24" is becoming the de-facto in screen size but for a desk this is simply too large and you'll spend a lot of time looking around the screen. The pixels also won't be as densely packed in so the quality of the image will be less than that of a 22-inch at the same resolution. 22-inch works out at roughly the same vertical height as a 19" 4:3 monitor, just wider.

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:10

    16:9 is fine for consuming media, but as soon as you want to create media or have things like menu bars you need that extra bit of space, so 16:10 is spot on, or a resolution of 1920x1200 - naturally, you always have at least two monitors.

  • Appearance: Glossy

    A lot of monitors, including the one I've landed up with have an anti-glare coating, which makes the screen look less crisp and noisy. It's terrible. I don't use my desktop outside, I don't need to worry about glare.

  • Back-light: As fancy as possible

    This generally means a back (not side) lit LED display, this allows the screen to go black and not get the leakage of the back-light through. Most displays now are coming out with LED backlights, some though are side lit losing this flexibility and introducing leakage around the edge.

So my main problem is that TN panels are responsive but produce a poor quality picture, and IPS panels produce an excellent picture but take too long to do it. There needs to be some convergence - OLED sounds like the perfect solution, it's fast and super quality, yet nobody yet appears to have made a mass-market monitor. Hurry up! Or in the mean time, get a fast IPS or similar technology to market.

Windows 7: Recovering the registryWednesday 11th April 2012
For some bizarre reason the permissions on my HKLM/Services node got knackered - the result of this was my networking services failed to work.

I attempted to repair by spending time with Process Monitor and starting up the dead services individually and then restoring whatever permissions were required. This had limited success, but things got complicated the further into TCP I dug.

I had already tried a System Restore, to which I was informed that something was corrupt and it wouldn't work. I had a look for a Windows System Image, but it seems I only have one from two years ago (a point I later realised was due to having to image *everything* if you want to use this, and I just don't have the backup space). I thought I'd check for my registry backups, but then I found that Windows Backup doesn't allow you to manually select system directories (helpful).

The Volume Shadow Service saved the day as whilst System Restore didn't work, my registry files had been snapshotted successfully. In order to restore them by hand you need to:

- Turn of UAC (otherwise you don't have permission to access the snapshots)
- Find your "C:/Windows/System32/config" directory and take a ganders at the Previous Versions
- Select a version and copy it somewhere handy
- Reboot into repair mode and start the command prompt
- Make a copy of your relevant registry hives from the above directory (in repair mode your C drive will be another letter, you'll just have to search for it).
- Replace the relevant registry nodes with the ones from your snapshot
- Reboot
- Turn UAC back on

I imagine it's not too hard to manually backup the shadow copies with some clever scripts.

BizTalk Table Looping / Table Extractor errorMonday 2nd April 2012
I have been stumped by an odd error when using the Table Extractor combined with a functoid in BizTalk 2006 R2.

When connected to the destination schema I do not get any errors when testing; but when I attempt to connect the output to a functoid for further work I received this error:

'userCSharp:StringSize(string($var:))' is an invalid XPath expression

Perplexed I've fiddled around for a couple of hours trying to figure out what exactly is going on. The XSLT generated behind the scenes essentially makes a variable for each of the outputs from the Table Looping Functoid, and tags an incremental number on the end of the variable name. e.g. $var1

In this instance the variable name didn't appear.

It then slowly dawned on me that when connected to the destination schema I wasn't actually seeing anything coming out - this pointed me towards the school boy error that I was attempting to address column 9 of the Looping Grid, when I had only defined 8 columns.

As strange errors send me running to Google, I hope this helps somebody else if they experience the issue.

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