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Saturday, December 26, 2009

No Internet access can cause slow program loads

I have been doing alot of reading over the holidays about digitally signing programs for Vista and Windows 7.  I discovered that some Microsoft .Net programs might load slowly on computers that are not connected to the Internet.

This occurs with programs that are digitally signed.  (Microsoft recommends that all programs be digitally signed.)  The .Net Framework attempts to verify the digital signature.  One of the operations it performs is to see if the digital certificate has been revolked.  If the computer cannot access the Internet, a 30 second to 1 minute delay may be encountered.

The Weather Message programs prior to version 3.5 have not been digitally signed.  They however use components that are digitally signed.  Starting with version 3.6 some of the individual programs will be digitally signed.

If you have a computer that does not have Internet access, I recommend that you disable the check for revolked certificates.  This can be done by starting Internet Explorer.  Cllick Tools, then Internet Options.  Click on the Advanced Tab and scroll down to Security.  Uncheck the "Check for publisher's certificate revocation" option.  After saving this change reboot the computer.

Note:  No one has reported this problem.  I just ran across the information today and wanted to post it here as a reminder.

Friday, December 25, 2009

TCP Components Upgrade Completed

I have completed the TCP/IP components upgrade in Weather Message and emPagerPro.  During the upgrade I added support for SSL connections and NTLM authentication in the email subsystem. 

I am still testing the changes, but everything appears to be working properly.  There were quite a number of changes, but it was completed in record time.  It took about 12 hours to make the changes.  I had thought it would take longer.  The changes between IPWorks version 6 and version 8 were not as drastic as I had thought.

I need to update the documentation with the changes. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TCP/IP Components Upgrade

I am in the process of upgrading the TCP/IP Components used in Weather Message.  This upgrade will give me the ability to implement secure (SSL,TLS) connections with email servers.  This will make it easy to use secure email servers like Google.

I am hoping that this upgrade will be relatively easy to implement in the software.  I will be working on it during the Christmas holiday.  This represents a $1500.00 investment in new software and technology.

This will make the email sub-system fully compatibile with all email servers.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Visual Studio 2008 - Changing the application manifest template

After discovering that Windows 7 wants a special guid in the application manifest, I wanted to change VS 2008's default manifest so that it included this GUID by default.

Here is the procedure.

Navigate to
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\ItemTemplates\VisualBasic\1033

Copy AppManifestInternal.zip to another directory. 
Extract the two files in AppManifestInternal.zip to a working directory. 
Change app.manifest as desired.

The following is the manifest that I am using.  It does not format properly here in the blog.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<asmv1:assembly manifestVersion="1.0" xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1" xmlns:asmv1="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1" xmlns:asmv2="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v2" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
<assemblyIdentity version="1.0.0.0" name="MyApplication.app"/>
<trustInfo xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v2">
<security>
<requestedPrivileges xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v3">
<!-- UAC Manifest Options
If you want to change the Windows User Account Control level replace the 
requestedExecutionLevel node with one of the following.
<requestedExecutionLevel  level="asInvoker" uiAccess="false" />
<requestedExecutionLevel  level="requireAdministrator" uiAccess="false" />
<requestedExecutionLevel  level="highestAvailable" uiAccess="false" />
If you want to utilize File and Registry Virtualization for backward 
compatibility then delete the requestedExecutionLevel node.
-->
<requestedExecutionLevel level="asInvoker" uiAccess="false" />
</requestedPrivileges>
</security>
</trustInfo>
<compatibility xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:compatibility.v1">
<application>
<!--Windows 7-->
<supportedOS Id="{35138b9a-5d96-4fbd-8e2d-a2440225f93a}"/>
<!--Windows Vista-->
<supportedOS Id="{e2011457-1546-43c5-a5fe-008deee3d3f0}"/>
</application>
</compatibility>
</asmv1:assembly>

After you complete the changes, zip up the changed file (app.manifest) back into AppManifestInternal.zip.  Copy AppManifestInternal.zip back to the original directory.

Now navigate to
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\ItemTemplatesCache\VisualBasic\1033\AppManifestInternal.zip

In this folder you will find the two files again.  This is in the cache directory.  Copy the app.manifest that you changed to this directory.

This completes the changes.  Now when you add an application manifest to a program using the View UAC Settings button, it will contain the changes for Windows 7.

Windows 7 - Program names that include "setup"

I took some time over the weekend to test the Weather Message installer on a Windows 7 computer that had UAC enabled.  I had already tested everything on a Windows 7 computer, but it did not have UAC enabled.

I discovered something interesting.  If a program name contains the word "setup", the Windows 7 program compatibility assistant thinks the program is an installer.  Weather Message contains the program WxMesgSetup.exe.  It thought it was an installer! 

As per Microsoft, I had already included an application manifest.  This manifest made Vista happy.  With that manifest, Vista did not think WxMesgSetup was an installer.  The program compatibility assistant was changed in Windows 7.  It still thought it was an installer, because it did not write an uninstall registry key.

To my dismay, when I clicked Save in Weather Message Setup, I was greeted with a window that said "This program might not have been installed correctly."  I had a prompt to reinstall the program or indicate that it was installed correctly.  Well the program was installed correctly.

After some research time, I discovered that Windows 7 wants a special GUID placed in the manifest of each program to indicate that the program is fully compatible with Windows 7.

I updated all of the programs with this special GUID.  Now Windows 7 no longer thinks WxMesgSetup.exe is an installer.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

VTEC Action Description

After a couple of requests to change a VTEC action's description, I have moved those descriptions to an external file.  Version 3.6 will allow you to change those descriptions by editing the VTAction.dat file in C:\Program Files\WxMesgNet directory.

Google Voice - formerly Grand Central

Sometime ago I signed up for Grand Central.  That service is now known as Google Voice.  It is quite an interesting application.  When you sign up, you get assigned a telephone number for the city of your choice.  You then associate all of your telephones, cell and land based, with your account.  When someone calls your Google Voice number, their service will ring all of your phones trying to locate you.

It has one feature that I really like - voice mail with transcription.  When someone leaves you a voice mail, Google will transcribe that voice mail into text and email you the message.  You can go on-line and hear the message or just read the text.  (They say that I can use their voice mail instead of my cell phone voice mail.  I have not tried this yet, but it would be great.)

It has a number of nice features.  If I want to call my friend in New Mexico, I go to the website, enter his number and tell it my phone number.  It will call me first and then my friend.  No long distance!

They also have a gadget that you can post on a website or blog that will allow others to call you at no charge.  I have played with that feature with a couple of my Weather Message customers.  I give them a link, they enter their telephone number, Google calls them and then rings my home phone, office phone, business cell and personal cell.  If I don't answer Google routes it to voice mail, then sends me a short message on my cell phone.

Now that is what I call number portability.  I have one number that follows me everywhere.  No more hiding.  You just have to get that number.

I am considering using this capability for telephone support for users.

Oh - I forgot to mention that it is free....

Blog Change - Share It Gadget

I added a new gadget to the right side of the page so that users can share this blog on Twitter or Facebook.

Weather Message Version 3.6 Installer backs up user files

I have made changes in the Version 3.6 Update Installer so that it will backup all of the *.dat files to C:\Program Files\WxMesgNet\Backup, before overwriting these files. 

The Update Installer currently tells the user that it wants to install updated product files.  This is a little misleading.  There are a number of updated files.  For the 3.5 release, this included new FIPS County information and revised Zone County information.

Users will now receive a little more detail letting them know that several files will be updated.  It will not include a list of files.  It will tell users that if they install the revised files, their original files will be backed up in the directory listed above. 

This will allow users to go ahead and install the revised files.  After the install is completed, they could go back and restore the files that they have modified.

These files would not normally be modified by users, but in some situations, I have recommended users change these files to accomplish their requirements.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weather Message posting to Twitter

Several users have asked about using Weather Message to post to Twitter. The HTTP Post method in Weather Message Paging should work. I tested this today and discovered that the service provider setup window would not allow me to enter a user name on the screen. (Apparently no one has used this capability.)

I corrected the problem in the setup program. I also made additional changes in WxPost.dll so that it would send the user name and password using basic authentication.

I ran some tests this evening and was able to post several short message to my twitter account. I will be releasing this in the first 3.6 beta. I will try to add the setup in the documentation. The service provider screen has to be setup properly for it to work.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Weather Message 3.5 Released

Weather Message 3.5 was released on November 26, 2009. There are a number of changes and enhancements. See the release notes for all of the details.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Installer File Versions

I did not realize that the Weather Message installers did not contain any version information. While researching code signing, I discovered that right clicking on the installer did not show the version tab.



Starting with version 3.5, right clicking on the installer will display the version number and other helpful information. Notice that the Digital Signatures tab now appears. This indicates that it has been digitally signed.

Security Warning - The publisher could not be verified.

As you may know, installing any of the Weather Message products from the Internet results in the following message:

This message appears because the Weather Message installers are not digitally signed. Microsoft calls this technology Authenticode or code signing. Until recently the cost to get a digital certificate was really expensive. In some cases it could cost $499 per year. That is way too expensive for a digital signature.

I discovered a new company that is trying to lower the cost of digital certificates. StartCom/StartSSL began offering free certificates several years ago. They however were not recognized by Microsoft and therefore their root certificates were not installed in Internet Explorer.

Starting with Windows 7, StartCom/StartSSL is now a recognized certificate authority. Their root certificates are now installed by default in Windows 7. They are also available for other operating systems by getting a root certificate update from Microsoft. (These are generally available through windows update.)

You can still get free digital certificates from them, but the ones needed to sign code cost $40.00 for two years. That is a bargin! Because of the price change, I have obtained certificates from http://www.startssl.com/.

Beginning with version 3.5, all of my installers will be properly signed. You will see the following message when running the installer:

It does show my name as the publisher, instead of Weather Message Software. I would have preferred Weather Message Software, however, for $40.00 that is fine.

This should make Windows Vista, Window 7 and Windows 2008 alot happier about installing my software.

I will note that StartCom offers free certificates for S/MIME (email) applications. You can also get free secure certificates for websites. I have not tried one on my webserver, but I will be doing that soon just to see how it works.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

emPager Pro Client

Here is a picture of the emPager Pro Client screen. This application can be run on multiple computers for quick paging.

This application is now being used by the Tallapoosa County, Alabama, 911 dispatch centers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My slight detour - emPager Pro

One of my customers had a pressing need for some paging software. After looking at the available software on the market, I decided to write a package. emPager Pro was born.

emPager Pro is a simple client/server paging application. It supports TAP, SNPP, SMTP, WCTP, and HTTP (get,post) protocols. You enter service providers, then individual users associated with those providers. Once the individuals are entered, you can easily form groups that contain the individuals.

The interface is very simple. You select one or more groups or individuals, type in a message and click send. There are some quick buttons that allow the users to select "canned" messages. More features will be coming as I develop this application.

Look for this application to be available publicly in the near future.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Labeling Layers

While working on the new WxSiren Controller, I discovered an easy way to enable labels for the optional map layers. In this application, we are loading a roads layer using one of the optional map layers.

The user wanted to see the road names. Right now Weather Message does not have the options on the layers configuration screen to display the labels or configure their colors. I was able to make a small change that now allows the program to load layer settings from an "ini" file associated with the shape file.

I will post the specifics and update the WxMap help file when the next beta is released.

Text to Speech using AT&T Natural Voices

I finally broke down and purchased the AT&T Natural Voices Mike and Crystal. The download was about 550mb each. One voice takes about 640mb of hard drive storage. I will have to say that these voices are almost like listening to a real person.

If you use the Text to Speech option in Weather Message, those voices, priced at $35.00 are a great deal. I wish I had purchased them sooner.

You will find an off-site purchase link at:

http://www.wxmesg.com/thirdparty.htm

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Siren Controller - Live Test Successful

The live test of the Weather Message Siren Controller was completed today in Lee County Alabama. The software sent the DTMF commands to rotate a selected siren and it rotated. This test was unique in that it used the computer's sound card to generate the DTMF and the serial port to key the radio.

Tom Moore, WX4TM, Lee County EMWIN Coordinator called me this morning to deliver the good news. Frank McLemore, N4TKT, with Communication Electronic Services adjusted the sound levels on the computer interface. Once the deviation was set properly the individual siren controllers responded.

The software can generate DTMF, two-tone, and group call tones using the sound card. This added feature gives users a mix of different signaling capability. All of the signaling methods can be used to activate different devices all at the same time.

The software continues to support external encoders to meet the requirements of different users. They tested the Motron TC1/MX with success. The Motron TC1/MX is an external DTMF encoder.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Map Blinking

I constantly get requests to add the ability to blink counties on the map. I ran some experiments today and had success in blinking a color. The only problem was that it blinked that color no matter where it appeared.

It took 17 milliseconds on my 3.4 ghz pentium 4. While it is computing the image, nothing else can happen. That does not seem to bad, but for users with slower machines it could be a problem.


video

Monday, August 31, 2009

Siren Controller

The first off-line test of the Weather Message Siren Controller was completed today in Lee County Alabama. The Weather Message Siren Controller has the ability to activate sirens based on polygon warnings. It can activate individual sirens or groups of sirens based on their geographical relationship to the polygon.

The first test was a success. The software selected the correct sirens to activate based on the received polygon. It also selected and sent the correct activation codes that control the sound that the sirens produce.

The sirens in Lee County can be activated using DTMF codes. An interface was developed to communicate with the Motron Electronics TC1/MX, http://www.motron.com/ , DTMF controller. The DTMF controller interfaces to a VHF or UHF radio for communication with the sirens. The software can also interface with the Zetron Model 15P, http://www.zetron.com/, multi-format encoder.

I will be going to Lee County later this week to participate in the first on-line (on-the-air) test. Tom Moore, Lee County EMA's EMWIN Coordinator, encouraged me to develop this application.

This first version will be enhanced with additional capability. I will be adding a number of additional features that will make the siren controller a first class application.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Satellite Dish Pointing

I have been asked a number of times about satellite dish pointing. This website has all of the satellites listed and uses google maps to produce accurate pointing information for your location.

http://www.dishpointer.com/

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Status

I am past due in making a post to the blog. The month of June went right by without a post. That was almost the case for July.

This summer has been really busy. Due to lightning damage at my amateur radio (ham radio) repeater site, I have spent alot of time repairing equipment. I am still waiting for equipment (5 weeks now) that has been sent back to the manufacturer for repair.

On a personal note, my grandmother's health has not been good this summer. She is 90 years young. I have had to spend some time at the hospital. She is home now, but she continues to be very fragile.

For the past 4 weeks, I have been in a funeral home every week to visit with my employees that have lost parents or grandparents. I have another one next week. This alone has made the summer a tough one.

On a lighter note, I spent some time today adding some new subject variables. You can now insert the product identifier, issued time in UTC and expiration time in UTC into the email or fax subject line.

I have a bunch of emails printed to review. I will be working those down over the next week. You users have good ideas and I will be working on those as time permits.

Weather Message version 3.5 will be released in the next 2 to 6 weeks. I want to run it a little longer before the public release.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

WxScheduler - Variables not replacing

If you encounter a problem with WxScheduler Version 3.0 through 3.4 not replacing the variables, make sure that you use the same text casing that appears in the F1 help. The previous and current versions will not replace the variable if the text casing is not an exact match.

I have made changes in the next beta to address this problem. You should be able to use any text casing.

SSMPT - stunnel - Peer suddenly disconnected

I have a user that tried to use stunnel version 4.27 with the email provider smtp.mtco.com. stunnel would report "Peer suddenly disconnected". When I installed version 4.20 on their computer, stunnel would work properly with their email provider.

Apparently something changed that caused stunnel to not work properly with this email provider. Version 4.27 works ok with gmail, but fails with the users provider. A quick scan of the stunnel change log did not reveal the problem.

If you have a problem, you might want to download an older version of stunnel.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Email TLS (ssl) Support

Over the past couple of years, I have had a few users ask about using SSL (TLS) for emails. Since the cost of providing that capability is around $750.00, I have not included it in Weather Message.

I did write a document that described how to setup Weather Message to use Stunnel to provide the SSL capability. Stunnel is a freeware application that creates a secure tunnel for sending emails to a SSL server. This approach does work with Gmail, however, users have to follow the directions carefully.

I got 4 emails last week from users that need the SSL capability. I am investigating this capability again. Microsoft does have a built-in capability to send emails to a server that uses TLS. The only draw back is that the Microsoft method does not provide any debugging information. It either works or fails.

I am looking into adding support for this built-in smtp client. The challenge now is switching between the existing code (no ssl) and the new code. I prefer the existing solution for non-ssl emails because it provides good debugging information.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Web Server Access / Blocking Foreign Countries

For the past week I have been monitoring a number of attempts to break into the server that hosts the Weather Message website. The hackers tripped the account lock out mechanism in windows several times.

I have been adding a range of ip addresses to the router's firewall in order to completely block their access to the server. So far all of the ip addresses have originated in China.

If any one has trouble accessing the webserver, please let me know. I am trying not to block any US ip addresses.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

emwin.net

I have been watching the emwin domain names for a long time. emwin.net finally expired and I was able to purchase it yesterday at normal web registration rates. Right now http://www.emwin.net will point to the Weather Message website.

I may construct an EMWIN information site that features Weather Message software. That will take some time. Right now there are changes to be made in Weather Message. I'll be coming back to this in the near future.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Weather Message Beta Status

I am still holding the next beta for a few final changes. I have the new Emwin ingest program ready. I am working on changes for the web legend for WxMap. I hope to drop something on the web this week.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

MSN Messenger/Yahoo ???

Some time ago I downloaded a component that would allow Weather Message Server to send text products to your MSN contacts. I never did anything with the component. I just thought it was interesting.

I understand that the NWS office in Birmingham is now using "chat" to inform their media representatives about pending weather conditions. That has renewed my interest in sending information by MSN messenger.

If you have an interest, drop me an email.

WxEmwin - Status

I believe WxEmwin (the new Emwin ingest program) is ready for prime time. I and two other users have been running it now for several weeks. The other two users have been using the new software demodulator provided by the NWS. So far things have been stable.

The install program has been updated so I should be ready to release it along with a bunch of other changes/fixes this weekend.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Our Snow for 2009

This weekend was interesting to say the least. On Saturday we had thunderstorms and tornados. On Sunday we had snow. Here is a picture of the snow from my kitchen window.

I did get some work done on the software over the weekend. I think I am about ready to release a beta this week.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

EMWIN 2 - NWS Software Demodulator

I have been distracted for the past week. I borrowed one of the new Werner EMWIN 2 satellite receive systems. This system uses a software based receiver to decode the 19.2 EMWIN data stream.

After working with the demodulator, I discovered that it did not give the end user any status information. After hours of research I discovered that the demodulator dll did have the ability, but it would be up to the software developer to enable such capability.

I spent this week writing a c++ windows service wrapper around the dll. This new program replaces the default software demodulator service. It now outputs status information on UDP port 18000. This status information can now be displayed an logged in WxEmwin.

I have two users testing the new WxEmwin program, along with the software demodulator. After getting their results, I will post a beta on the website.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

WxMap - Upload Dynamic Map Legend

I am making changes to WxMap to support creating a dynamic map legend. This map legend would be uploaded to a website at the same time as the map image.


I have asked some users that have inquired about this feature to send me comments.

Monday, January 26, 2009

x64 - Registry Permissions

Just when I thought that I had all of the necessary changes for x64 operating system support addressed, a new one was discovered. It appears that the 3.4 Weather Message installer does not give the 'Weather Message Net' registry entry proper permissions. This registry key should be set to Everyone with full access.

The failure to assign the correct permissions was not my fault, but a fault in the installer. I have made changes for the next release that will use the Microsoft regini utility to change the permission on x64 systems. I reported the issue to the installer developer.

If someone is installing Weather Message on a x64 system, let me know and I'll get you a revised installer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

WxEmwin - New EMWIN ingest program

I have been working for the past week or so on a new EMWIN ingest program. WxEmwin is the name of this new program. It incorporates the functions of WxSerial and WxByte into one program. It also gets a third ingest option using the EMWIN Software based demodulator.

All three ingest engines can be operating at the same time. This was some major work, but should be worth the effort. It helps to clean up the system try as two programs have been combined into one. It also helps the EMWIN Software Demodulator users. They had been using WxByte and had no backup capability. The new program restores that functionality for Demod users.

The new program has some new things and some missing things. Right off the bat users will notice that the internet rotating icon is no longer present. If that is a must have option, I will look at adding it back. I will try to get this in a beta over the weekend. I still have to change all of the programs to use this new program. The installer must be configured to detail with it also.