Recently in Windows Category

While browsing round Easons in Blanchardstown yesterday, I came across "The Best Software Writing I", strangely enough in the Fantasy section. There are some brilliant gems in there, and it does achieve Joel's goal of being interesting to read. The funniest I have come across so far has been Excel As A Database by Rory Blyth. It's a fairly old post, but it goes a long way towards explaining why I regularly see Word documents with just one picture in them.

After reading a response to a post I put up on the Irish Webmaster Forum, I headed to the Garda website. From what I can see of it, it is absolutely useless for any informative purposes under Linux.

To give an example, say I want to get the phone number for the Garda Station in Listowel, Kerry. First of all I will go to www.garda.ie. This will present me with a page with the option to click on "New Visitors" or "Previous Visitors". The only different between the two is that "New Visitor" forces me to read a message from Noel Conroy before having to click the "Enter" link in order to get to the same page as "Previous Visitors" would have originally sent me to.

Once I get to the home.html page I can try to get to the "Contact Us" link. This will do absolutely NOTHING in Firefox. When you click on the link it goes to "javascript:hili('cux','cu');" My Javascript isn't the best at the moment, so I can't figure out exactly what this is supposed to do, but I can tell you for fact that it doesn't work on Firefox 2.0.0.2 on Ubuntu.

I eventually clicked on the "FAQs" button in order to see if there is some reason for the lack of any standards support. I clicked on the "I want to email a Garda Station" link. This kindly informed me that the Gardai "do not have external e-mail facilities for the general public to contact Garda Stations", but gave me a "local stations" link to click. From here I was able to click on Kerry, and was able to find the number for the Listowel Garda Station in a couple of seconds.

What I would love to know, is why the link for "Contact Us" can't be changed from "javascript:hili('cux','cu');" to "stations.html". It takes less characters ( :) ), is compatible with every browser that I know, and is a LOT simplier to implement. It is the same with every other link in the blue box at the top left of the page, every one of them uses the hili javascript function. I don't really care what the hili function is supposed to be able to do, but it is unusable under Firefox.

The Garda website should be a public website which should be available to everyone. The unnecessary complication that has been added to the links on the website means that I cannot use the site. I don't even want to think about how bad it must appear to people who with disabilities who use.

To quote from the NDA website:

Irish public policy includes requirements for government departments and agencies to procure accessible ICT solutions where possible. In particular, all government departments are now expected to have their websites accessible to Priority 1 & 2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The National Disability Authority have adopted WCAG for these guidelines.

There is no way that the Garda website can pass any WCAG test. The lack of bog standed links means that even a simple search engine bot, such as GoogleBot, won't be able to index the site. What even more amazing is that a lot of Gardai email addresses are under the iol.ie domain. I have no problem with IOL, they provided me with Internet when I was on DialUp, but I would have hoped that the Garda would have their own infrastructure for email.

I have every respect for the job that the Gardai do, however I would have hoped that the Garda Website would be usable be every Irish Citizen. With a little work the Garda Website could be a great resource, but as it stands it is unusable for a sizable minority of Irish Citizens, and not following EU Guidelines for IT. Surely the Gardai should be able to provide a usable website, there is plenty of people in Ireland who can do a lot better job than the current website.

I have recently had reason to convert an Access MDB file to CSV for use in a mysql database. I don't like the idea of an Access database on a production server and Microsoft has been agreeing since 1999.

As it turns out it is actually very easy, there is GPL software available for the job at http://mdbtools.sourceforge.net/. If you are using Ubuntu or Debian you can use apt-get install the mdbtools package.

To get the list of tables, you run the following command:

mdb-tables database.mdb

You can then get a CSV version for each table using:
mdb-export database.mdb table_name

You can also convert the mdb into a format required by MySQL. First you must get the put the table schema into the database using the following command:
mdb-schema database.mdb | mysql -u username -p database_name

You then import each table by running:
mdb-export -I database.mdb table_name | sed -e 's/)$/)\;/' | mysql -u username -p database_name

Sed is required as mdb-export doesn't put a semi-colon at the end of each insert statement,  which MySQL definately doesn't like.

After running this, you can now be rid of the horror that are Access MDB files :)

DMIDecode alternatives for Windows

Since writing the Dell Service Tag post I have been looking for other methods to get a dmidecode type information from Windows without sacrificing goats to the altar of Microsoft :)

One alternative I've come up with is SIW. It's nice and simple, doesn't require installation and also shows more than what you would get using dmidecode in Linux. It also does a listing of PCI devices and lots of other nice stuff such setting the Mac address on network cards.

It will also show the Dell Service Tag under Hardware/System Info. It shows up a Serial Number.

Update:

The author of the software has pointed out to me that it doesn't actually decode DMI. It does do what I have used dmidecode for, so it's still good for the job as far as I'm concerned.

Dell Service Tags

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In order to put something useful on here, and in order to save me having to Google this again, the following is how to get the Dell service tags on Linux and Windows: Linux:
dmidecode | grep Serial\ Number | head -n1
Windows: Open Notepad or your text editor of choice and put the following in:
strComputer = "."
Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:" _
& "{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\" & strComputer & "\root\cimv2")
Set colSMBIOS = objWMIService.ExecQuery _
("Select * from Win32_SystemEnclosure")
For Each objSMBIOS in colSMBIOS
Wscript.Echo "Serial Number: " & objSMBIOS.SerialNumber
Next
Save as get-tag.vbs and double-click to run. This will only work on Windows Server as it requires WMI.

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