Sunday, May 22, 2011

Running Classic ASP on IIS 7

As if I'm not discussing enough different unrelated technologies in this blog, today's topic is Microsoft's IIS.

In the past couple of months I suddenly found myself having to write Classic ASP.  I had done such a project in the past, using IIS 5.   However this was IIS 7, and my old sample scripts were not working.

Here were the problems, and their solutions.

1) Classic ASP is not on by default.
You have to enable it yourself:
Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> Turn Windows Features on or off -> IIS -> WWW Services -> App Dev Services -> ASP : check

2) Set to send errors to browser
Problem: Was receiving in my browser window the following (the error itself was probably the one described in number 3 below).
An error occurred on the server when processing the URL. Please contact the system administrator
IIS Manager -> ASP -> Debugging Properties -> Send Errors to Browser -> True

3) Must enable parent path expression ".."
Problem: Was receiving in my browser window the following.
Active Server Pages error 'ASP 0131'
Disallowed Parent Path
/NPCS/Transformer/Android/Restaurant/Transform.asp, line 6
The Include file '../../Common/Util.js' cannot contain '..' to indicate the parent directory.
IIS Manager -> ASP -> Debugging Properties -> Enable Parent Paths -> True

Hope this helps anyone suffering through the same.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Excel on Mac: Goodbye VBA, Hello AppleScript

Among my myriad headaches in switching back to the Mac as my primary machine, here is another doozy.

So, I have this cool social media news research job I do in the mornings for a client.  It involves collecting a lot of buzz from various corners of the web, putting them into an Excel file, and having to spit out a report in the form of a text file.  The formatting has to be a certain way so I put together a VBA script (macro) to do this. 

I grab soundbites from from all over the world, so needless to say the text file I output needs to be in UTF-8 format.  Incredibly, this doesn't come naturally to Excel.

In VBA on Windows Excel, there was the ADODB.Stream class from which we can instantiate a file object which allows us to set the encoding using the Charset property, as I do in the example VBA snippet below.

    Set fs = CreateObject("ADODB.Stream")
    fs.Type = 2
    fs.Charset = "utf-8"
    ' Loop thru your cells
    fs.writetext myCell & Chr(10)

    fs.SaveToFile "OutputSheet.txt", 2

Anywhoo, after moving to the Mac I realized to my dismay that ADODB.Stream is not available.  Which makes sense, as it is an Active X.

I spent weeks Googling around for a VBA solution to this problem which, for the hell of it, I'll restate: The ability to output multilingual text from worksheet cells in UTF-8 format to a text file, in Excel on the Mac.  But to no avail.  Am I really the only person in the world struggling with this?  Or do I just suck as a Googler?  Could it be the martinis?

To make a long story short, I took the bold step of ditching VBA and adopted AppleScript as my language of choice on MS Office for the Mac.  When in Rome... and all that.

I have attached an AppleScript file, and a corresponding Excel test file to illustrate.  To test it out you will need to open the Excel file, open the AppleScript file with the AppleScript Editor, and hit Run from the menu (or Cmd-R).

Here is the entire AppleScript.

    tell application "Microsoft Excel"
        set outFile to (path of active workbook)
        set outFile to (outFile & ":OutputUTF8.txt")
        set openFile to open for access file outFile with write permission
        set eof openFile to 0
        set title to (name of active workbook) & return
        write title to openFile as «class utf8»
        set rowNum to 1
            set rowNum to (rowNum + 1)
            set cellVal to (value of cell rowNum of column 1 of active sheet)
            if (cellVal = "") then
                exit repeat
                set langStr to (value of cell rowNum of column 1 of active sheet)
                set textStr to (value of cell rowNum of column 2 of active sheet)
                set outStr to langStr & ":" & textStr & return
                write outStr to openFile as «class utf8»
            end if
        end repeat
        close access openFile
    end tell

Here is the salient line of code that allows me to specify the encoding.  It doesn't seem to be at the file level but at the level of each write statement.
    write outStr to openFile as «class utf8»

Download the AppleScript: 

Download the Excel file:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mac Keyboard Operation

One of the biggest things I miss about Windows, since largely transitioning to the Mac, is the lack of emphasis on keyboard operation.  I tend to be more productive the less I need to touch the mouse.  This post is for others who feel the same way.  (We may be a minority among Mac users).

It was particularly frustrating that I could not access the menu bar with keyboard shortcuts.  Well it turns out you can.  Control-F2 is your friend, it highlights the Apple menu at the top-left of your screen.  From there you can use arrow keys to move around the menus.  Better yet, if you can remember more shortcuts to execute the specific functions more power to you.  But at the very least just remember Control-F2.

This too did not come easily at first.  I Googled around and read about Control-F2 but it simply did not work.  I tried all kinds of things, including simultaneously pressing the fn key.

Anyway, it turned out that this (along with a bunch of other shortcuts) was disabled.  I have no idea when and how this happened, as they are default behaviour.  This was determined by taking a look in System Prefs > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts.   Anywhoo, I restored the defaults by pressing (surprise surprise) the button Restore Defaults on that dialogue.

See the Apple Support site: Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Staying on top of Fukushima

With the Fukushima nuclear issue, there is so much information, often conflicting, that it's easy to waste a lot of time following sources, reading articles, watching videos, and coming away none the wiser for it.

I think it may be helpful to have a mental filtering mechanism, whereby we focus on what it is we want to know, and constantly ask ourselves if those particular questions are being addressed.  In my case, at the moment these are the main things I want to know and constantly stay on top of.
  1. What is the status of the repair at this time?  In other words, where are we?
  2. What exactly are the repair crew doing right now, and to what end?  In other words, where are we heading?
  3. What are the radiation levels around the reactors, in and near the evacuation zone, and in Tokyo?
  4. Where is radioactive material and water being disposed, and what effect that is having?
  5. What are the elements in the disposed material?  (Iodine, cesium, strontium, etc.)
  6. How are food products and drinking water, anywhere in Japan, being affected?
  7. How much radiation are certain at-risk groups being exposed to (e.g. school children in Fukushima Prefecture, the repair crew at the reactors, evacuees, etc.)?
This may seem like a pretty mundane list (like, "duh, those things go without saying").  However, given the short attention spans of modern people (including myself) it may be helpful to have it written down and periodically refocused upon.

Also, I may be missing some key aspects here.  Will update if and when I recall them!