Copying a Visual Studio SSRS Solution

Tuesday, 5 November, 2019

Designing SSRS reports in Visual Studio is liberating in how easy it is to get them up and running, but every so often you come across a gotcha that you think should be straight forward. One of them is copying a “solution” (VS’s name for a set of project files) to a new location. You might want to do this because you want to back it up, duplicate it for another related project, or just to run some tests against a demo version. What’s missing in VS is a “Save As” for the whole solution (you can do it for individual reports). If you copy the folder containing all the files you can create a new version in a new location, however all of the hard coded file locations will be incorrect and it will then fail to load.

So what is the solution?! Well you could create a new solution, then add in copies of all the existing reports, but then you still have to set it all up again which is just a little self-defeating. Surprisingly, the simplest thing is to copy the solution folder, but keep it within the same directory as the original, just changing the name. You can then open the copied solution from within this folder and all the reports load correctly (as new copies). If you are deploying this to SSRS then you will need to change the name of the solution in the solution properties, but then you are good to go.

Microsoft SQL Server Report Designer Error: An item with the same key has already been added

Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

Whilst designing a report for deployment to SSRS from Visual Studio 2015, I received this error message when entering a SQL query I knew worked in to the New Report wizard:

An error occurred while the query design method was being saved. An item with the same key has already been added.

This is a classic Microsoft error message that is both specific and vague at the same time… and also shouldn’t happen. There are scant details online as to where this comes from but is a result of Microsoft SQL Server Report Designer having a requirement for unique column names (even if the underlying SQL query returns unique columns with the same name). This is a stupid limitation and whilst the error message is accurate, it is sufficiently vague to obfuscate what is going on.

The solution - unsurprisingly - is to make sure that there is no repetition in the names of the columns.

Grouping Objects in Visual Studio 2012

Monday, 14 October, 2019

Grouping objects should be one of those things that is - well - easy to do! In Microsoft Word you Ctrl select each object, then right-click and select “Group”. Easy. In Visual Studio 2012, not so. You would have thought that, in Microsoft’s prime programming environment, these simple layout tasks would be easy, but thy’re not and it’s not documented anywhere. In my particular instance I was creating a SQL Server Reporting Services report where images in the template were moving depending on the number of rows in the output. The solution was to group the images together.

The grouping concept is sensible and well implemented, it’s just that working out how to do it is difficult! You actually have to insert a new rectangle object and then drag-and-drop the objects you want to group in to it. Once you’ve done this, the properties of your contained objects should look something similar to this where the “Parent” attribute under “Other” shows “Rectangle”. Now if you move the group, they all move. Job done!

rectangle_properties.jpg

ISO 3166-1

Wednesday, 2 October, 2019

ISO 3166-1 just trips off the tongue, however it’s one of those standards that underpins a fair amount of daily geospatial traffic that is undertaken on a daily basis. Yes, I’m talking about country codes which Wikipedia helpfully defines as:

ISO 3166-1… defines codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest

This is important because it is used in so much analogue and digital data exchange between countries, although don’t for a moment think the ISO is the only organisation that defines country codes… but that’s a whole other blog post!

What gets in included in the list is interesting… the criteria for inclusion include member states of the United Nations, a UN specialized agency or a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Becoming a member state of the UN is clearly helpful, although what makes a country is interesting in itself, as well as highly politicised. Palestine is an obvious example, but just look at the UK. The UK is a country, but should Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland also be included? For example, they are included for FIFA. The UN loosely uses Article 1 from the Montevideo Convention which outlines four qualities a state should have: a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and the capacity to enter relations with other states.

Anyway, once you are on the ISO 3166-1 list you get 2 and 3 letter codes, along with a 3 digit numerical code. These are maintained by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency and, given the above, change regularly. You can view the current list here and subscribe to official updates.

At the RGS we are a membership organisation and take online international payments, so having up-to-date country codes is important. Rather than subscribe to the ISO, we use the UK government Country Register, which includes an update service. It has the ISO-2 letter codes, although isn’t necessarily identical (as it’s countries the UK recognises).

Converting from Blosxom to Flatpress

Sunday, 29 September, 2019

This blog has been offline for a little while as the original Blosxom implementation had been hacked. Blosxom was a wonderful CGI script that was elegant in its simplicity yet eminently extensible through the many plugins which existed and made it moderately feature rich. Best of all, it used plain text files to store all its entries which makes backup and conversion much simpler than a database. With my implementation of blosxom decommissioned, I needed to find a replacement. Google flat file blogging engines and there are a lot. However many of the projects have been orphaned, like blosxom, and no longer in active development. What I wanted to find was an engine that was simple, had some good features and an active community. Flatpress seems to fit the bill with a new maintainer - and active Flatpresser - Arvid Zimmerman.

The next step was to convert my archive of over 1000 blosxom blog entries to Flatpress. Big shout out to James O’Connor who wrote the Python script to convert the files. The process is broadly this:

  • download your Blosxom files, including all the sub-directories for categories, but make sure to maintain the date/time filestamp of individual files - this is used to timestamp the entry for Flatpress. WinSCP does this (Filezilla doesnt)
  • make sure the categories only ONE DIRECTORY DEEP. Move any sub-sub-directories up to the top level
  • rename all the directories to numbers. These are used to tag the entries and can then be recreated within FlatPress
  • copy the script.py and template files to the directory the folders are stored in
  • edit the template file to have the header/footer you want. The content, date and categories will be changed for the entries
  • run the script
  • a new fp-content directory will be created with all your entries
  • upload this to your flatpress site and rebuild the index

The script does the following

  • renames the file to entry‹date›-‹time›.txt based upon the date modified date
  • copies the file to a new subfolder in FlatPress /content folder based upon year and month
  • deletes the first line from the file (and deletes the first line break)
  • prefixes the file with:
    VERSION|fp-1.1|SUBJECT||CONTENT|
  • suffixes with:
    |AUTHOR|miksmith|DATE|<1566926569>|CATEGORIES||

Any updates will be posted over at Flatpress.

Video file sort order on my Pico projector

Sunday, 24 December, 2017

A (long) time back I wrote about the Acer C112 Pico Projector I was using. I’ve since upgraded to the Pico Genie P200 which gives a great 200 lumens of light and has microSD, USB and HDMI ports to allow all sorts of connectivity along with a built in battery. It’s not perfect - but its very good (and I still follow the same routine for transcoding with DVDDecryptor and TEncoder).

One minor irritant was that the sort order of the files on the memory stick appeared to be shown by date on the projector - I used Nico’s useful BulkFileChanger and… it made no difference. Obviously the embedded Linux system wasn’t using file dates. In fact on my (FAT32) USB stick it’s using the order of the files in the FAT - what was successful was using DriveSort. Problem solved - I suspect this affects a small number of embedded systems (mp3 players, projectors etc) that have had some lazy coding and don’t sort the files on portable drives.

Wake on LAN

Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Wake on LAN (WoL) is one of those incredibly useful features that I had forgotten about having used in the dim distant past. As the name suggests, it wakes up a PC by sending it a “magic packet” across a network. To get it all to work you need several things in place:

1. a network card that supports WoL - all should now
2. the network card with WoL enabled. Do this in Device Manager, and in your card properties check all the settings under “Power Management” and then also under “Advanced” make sure “Wake on Magic Packet” is enabled.
3. it’s easier if you PC has a fixed IP on your (home) network - do this in “Control Panel” then Network and Sharing Center->View network status and tasks->Change adapter settings then right-click on “Ethernet” (or what your network card is called) and Properties. Under “Internet Protocol Version 4”, use Properties to set the IP address.
4. the PC can only wake for “Sleep” or “Hibernation” so make sure your PC is in one of these two states. By default Hibernation (which is the lowest power mode) is off in Windows 10. To make this accessible goto “Control Panel” then Power Options->Change what the power buttons do. If Hibernate is unticked, click on “Change settings that are currently unavailable”, tick it then “Save Changes”
5. I wanted my machine to resume to the main screen and bypass login - to enable this goto “Settings” then Accounts->Sign-in Options and change “Require sign-in” to Never.
5. YOU’RE THERE!! Now you only need a way to wake your machine - I installed the aptly named “Wake on Lan” Play store app which just works.

In terms of application, for me it allows me to remotely start my desktop and then remote desktop in. I can’t help but think that this should be one of those things that “just works” rather than having to jump through so many hoops!

Excel: deleting blank rows

Thursday, 30 March, 2017

One of those great tips that just makes life easier… you have 100,000 records in an Excel spreadsheet that you’ve just pulled from a live database and it’s ended up with some blank rows in it, scattered throughout. How do you delete them easily?? With this tip using (believe it or not) the “Go To” dialog in Excel! And, copied verbatim:

1) Select the cells in one column from the top of your list to the bottom;

2) Make sure that all the blank cells in this selected range are the rows you want to delete;

3) Press the F5 key on your keyboard;

4) On the Go To dialog, click the Special… button;

5) Choose the Blanks option and click OK. This will select all blank cells in the range you had previously selected;

6) Right click on one of the selected cells, select Delete, Entire Row and click OK.

Voila!

Converting NoteStudio files to TiddlyWiki

Tuesday, 21 March, 2017

For many years I was a user of NoteStudio on Palm as a tool for implementing David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GtD) productivity methodology. It was great, worked well, had a few foibles and then the developers dumped it.

After that I then ran NoteStudio on the StyleTap emulator on my Android device (see blog) but the touch interface doesn’t sit well with Palm (everything’s a bit small). So I moved on to using ToodleDo and Keep - I still use Keep, but whilst ToodleDo is good, the Android client is frustrating to use. So…

I came across TiddlyWiki which is a great Wiki system that can operate in server or single-file mode. The single file is great for using on Android and AdTidWiki provides a simple interface to using it. I like it.

Exporting data from ToodleDo is easy, simple and painless (good for them) allowing me to move data out as a CSV and then import it directly into TiddlyWiki. That made me think, why don’t I revisit the NoteStudio data and see if I can recover it?? These were the steps I took:

1. Reinstall StyleTap onto my Android phone and then restore the last backup of the ROM (I had always used RightBackUp on Palm, so had a complete copy I could restore).
2. NoteStudio supports export to MemoPad format (although this was VERY slow)
3. MemoPad isn’t included as a standard app in the StyleTap ROM which led me on a search for a freeware replacement. This led me to Redwood’s MemoLeaf. Install this into the ROM, import the Memopad file and then export as DOC format (which generates a single PRC file with all the selected entries in).
4. Copy the PRC file to your PC and then use Zamzar to convert it to a TXT file (Zamzar is actually using the libraries in Calibre in the background to do the conversion).
5. That finally left me with a text file for some text wrangling to convert the data entries into JSON which TiddlyWiki would happily read. My programming skills are a little rusty so I asked James to throw together some code to do this. The code does this, taking the input TXT and doing some extra wrangling:

-put the title in the title tag
-insert \n for a line break
-replace double quotation (”) with single (’)
-replace anything in square brackets (e.g. [linkname]) with [[linkname

Controlling email…

Friday, 17 March, 2017

Straight from one of the best books I’ve read on communication (Trees, maps and theorems by Jean-Luc Doumont), is this paragraph on helping stem the flood of emails. Sage advice indeed:

If you are buried under too much incoming email, you may feel helpless about it. Yet, without hoping for a revolution, you can still take concrete steps toward easing the overload. To receive less email, simply send less email - and send better email, too.

So, starting today, think before you send and if it’s not required, don’t send it.