Software Demo CD

So apparently our software demo CDs don’t work for all our clients. Of course, we don’t hear back from everyone. God forbid anyone gives us feedback, but I think my two years at a college IT department and my four months here should really have solidified that hope as “lost” by now, but apparently I still have hope. Silly me.

I’m not sure what the original issue was, exactly. All I know is that the problem got dumped on me at some point after my coworker got tired of it, with the directions of “find a way to make it work.”

Now, what we had was a powerpoint presentation that autoran. You navigate through, read stuff, and there are “buttons” that you click to view video demos. The video demos are actually EXE files, probably for compatibility or whatever. I don’t know; the original discs were made sometime between 2006 and 2008. The issue I got was that the videos wouldn’t play and my coworker couldn’t get it updated to work properly at all. Nothing ran right when I got it. It autoran an html page where you click the powerpoint, it downloads, and then it can’t play the videos/exe files that give you a warning about how terribleawful it is if you play these sketchy exe files.

The first solution was to make it a tiny website, but I didn’t. It just didn’t work the way I wanted it to, so I gave up. I asked about DVDs; logically a DVD would be great. Sadly, it would need a lot of menus, and I couldn’t even find something that made menus the way I wanted them. Worse, my boss doesn’t think many of our clients would HAVE dvd drives in their computers. As my friend Matt said, “what, do they run DOS too?” (The answer is “that is a distinct possibility.”)

I went back to powerpoint eventually. PP 2010 does the “powerpoint for CD” thing differently than past versions…. based on what the Internet told me. It seems less versatile now. But! But I did see that instead of writing directly to the disc, you can have it toss everything into a folder. This allows me to fix all sorts of annoying issues.

First: change the format from pptx to ppsx. See, when I autorun this powerpoint, I don’t want it to open up the powerpoint software. That stupid edit mode! No! But that’s what Powerpoint Show files are for. It just opens it up like you pressed F5 to play the powerpoint and everyone is happy.

Second: Change the autorun.inf file. I changed it to point at the new ppsx file instead of that stupid html file that powerpoint thinks I should use.

That almost makes it work the way it should! But, well, exe files. For some reason, they only work if you open them first, and of course, there’s the security warning because it’s an exe file. I came up with the idea of just putting some other file format in the place of those stupid exe files, so I toss in a wmv, burn the CD, and give it to someone else. (The exe files always worked fine on my computer, but nobody else’s machine.) The WMV works! Yay!

So now my job is to figure out which .avi files from when these things were recorded four years ago correspond to the stupid exe files. And really? They don’t. At all. I couldn’t find them. So in what I feel was a half insane move, I searched for “exe to video converter” and the answer was basically what I expected. “o lol” BUT! See, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t realize that an exe file could actually be a zip file. Which is weird, because the icon on those exe videos have a little icon that SAYS ZIP ON THEM. I never even thought “This says it’s a zip. I should unzip it.” I do unzip the files and look! Each one contains an avi file and some tiny video player.

It was the happiest thing that happened to me this week.

I remake the powerpoint so it points to the avi files instead, and bring it to one of my coworkers. Well, it didn’t work. First of all, avi files just don’t seem to work right in Windows 7 with Windows Media Player. It doesn’t play video, just sound. I don’t know why and I don’t care because I can’t expect clients to install anything on their machines. The files also don’t open…. so hey, I’m going to try wmv. I’d rather mp4, but camtasia studio doesn’t have that option. Will this work? Fuck knows, I have about three files converted so far.

What I learned:

  • exe files can be zip files
  • I love you google
  • Who designed this powerpoint. My eyes are sad.
  • I can’t accomplish anything some mornings
  • Everything is broken.
Most importantly: DEMO CDS ARE HARD.
“Demo CDs” usually refer to music, so googling sucks. Very little software is meant for what I want to do. There are companies who will produce a demo CD for you. For money. After a long time. I have no idea why powerpoint doesn’t work the same way it used to, but there are ways around it.

View local website on iPad over ad-hoc network: the solution

Now, I addressed this issue yesterday. Today, it seems I have a solution of some sort. Let’s get this out.

The Problem:

  • Laptop/webserver containing our software is to be used for demonstration
  • No wireless connection at the demo locations
  • iPads need to connect to the same software that is on the laptop. This shows both how the software functions and adds a new selling point… if the iPads work.

You may or may not have read the last entry, but I had a number of problems getting this working. The big one for me was that it worked two weeks ago but doesn’t now and I have no idea why. I’m still guessing DHCP issues somewhere along the line, but that doesn’t matter much. I did find a solution.

The Solution:

Intranet software on an iPad

I’m not really an Apple person. I admit, they have some great designs and ideas, but I’ve always used Windows. I’m comfortable with it, I’ve rarely had any issues (and those I have had are either my fault or a dll problem) and it just is easier for me than learning a new OS. I’ve had enough trouble trying to learn linux (it’s not bad but it keeps breaking on me and, since I don’t know it, it harder for me to fix) without diving into OSX.

My boss’s son is a Mac Guy, so my boss has a couple iPads. He gave me the task of figuring out how to make our web-based software work on them, since despite being a software development company, I’m the one with the most understanding of technology. I understand it, but it still strikes me as funny.

Anyway, the software stays on the local network, and my boss has a (Windows) laptop that he bought for demoing the software (and for navigating his 25-year-old yacht, but it’s his company so he can do whatever he wants) which will be running the ColdFusion server and have the software on it. Since ColdFusion wasn’t on the laptop, I used mine.

Now, the details here are hazy, but since the laptop was on wired and the iPad was on wireless, I couldn’t see the software on the web browser. I think I tried putting them both on the same wireless network, but even if that worked, I didn’t feel like I should assume open wireless networks wherever we need to demonstrate the software. Our customers are the kinds of people stuck in the 70s, and for the most part, that’s fine. Their business doesn’t require staying completely up to date on everything, but our software can help them save a lot of money (and give a bunch of it to us!).

My original solution was simple and seemed to work until we ran into a “ColdFusion Developer Edition only allows 2 outside IPs to access it and you accidentally ended up using 3!” error. This is what I wrote down for my future-self and colleagues to work with:

  • Create/connect ad-hoc network on the laptop
  • Connect to ad-hoc network on iPad
  • Open Safari
  • Connect to the application using the computer name and then the name of the location of the software
  • it should work. Log in and go

Of course, since we got my boss’s laptop running our software with an actual ColdFusion licence, I’m back on the project. The first thing I did was test to be sure the software worked on his machine, and then I set out connected the same way I did weeks ago.

It didn’t work.

I honestly shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. It worked perfectly before and now I can’t get it to connect. I can connect via ad-hoc network from my machine to my boss’s machine and see the software in my browser, but not the iPad. Personally, I feel that the fact that I could do that means that answers like these are bullshit. Unfortunately, I still have no answer. Well, okay this answer is pretty nice, but I’m running Windows 7 with IIS, so I have no idea where to even begin with that.

Anyway, I did end up getting something that worked. I overlooked this originally, even though I feel it’s a poor solution considering the circumstances I discussed above.

If the laptop is connected to the same wireless network as the iPad, you can access the laptop’s website by using the IP address. Not the computer name, sadly. I would prefer that, but safari on’t stop tacking on “http://www.” and “.com” around it, even when I put the software location on the URL. I can’t help but think there’s a solution for that, but I’m happy something works for the time being, for testing, but this is not what my boss wants.

I did find this guy who wants to do what I’m trying to do, but no answer there, either. It was also suggested that windows firewall was the problem, but that site seems to be talking about something slightly different than I’m looking for.

So far, no answer.

Password Management

I have a few post drafts that need finishing, but I want to talk about passwords.

I’ve been unhappy with my passwords for a while. I had a very small set of commonly used passwords depending on what kind of site it is. The best password is for my bank account, obviously. That one doesn’t get used anywhere else. Then other important stuff: sites where you buy things, email, heavily personal information and similar had the same password. All my bloggy-type sites had the same password, and pretty much anything else had my most common password.

Four passwords? Heck, it’s practically only two when it comes to the vast majority of sites that want me to log in. This upsets me.

I wrote up a scheme, originally, to help me manage my passwords. If I can remember 4 passwords and my own phone number without a problem, then theoretically I should be able to remember 8 or 10 passwords. Then I can break down sites: bank, e-mail, social network, e-commerce, picture hosting, music sites, bloggy stuff, roleplay and writing…. Then again, shouldn’t e-mail all have different passwords? I don’t want someone to easily access all my e-mails. That’s pretty much taking everything from me.

It’s obviously a big job. Besides, my current password system involves a small sheet of paper that’s about 8 years old tucked away in a wallet.

I could really only make things worse for myself if my passwords were all “abc123” or “password.”

At first, I looked into some password management software. I liked the idea of having everything on a USB drive. Then i remembered: I have an android phone. Welp, that idea was out. I scrapped it and started on my quest of changing passwords. I made a list of websites I used to fit with my type list, and a “minimum security” style for each. For e-mails, I really wanted to use long passphrases with at least one number and symbol, if not more. Less important sites don’t even support passphrases so they would have to have at least x numbers and symbols, and of at least y length, each depending on how much I care if someone breaks in or not. I wrote this all down and developed passwords for each.

Still unsatisfied, I look into things I CAN use with my droid. Apparently dropbox can be used with many password software packages and quite a few of them have apps for Android phones. That’s perfect!

So I downloaded keypass and installed it on dropbox, downloaded the keepass app onto my droid, downlaoded ChromeIPass for my browser, and tried it out with a few unimportant sites.

The good:

  • They work well with little extra effort past the initial setup
  • There is an option to generate passwords, including what kinds of characters to use, what length, and even a pattern you might want.
  • You can also just type in whatever password you’ve made yourself

The bad:

  • I have yet to figure out what to do in the case of using someone else’s computer
  • You can’t generate a password using a real word, so there’s a low chance that you won’t remember any generated passwords
  • You have to trust the software with your passwords
  • Where do you put the key files? Normally the idea is for them to be on a USB drive so nobody can log in, even if they know your password to keepass. However, with an Android….

Some of the issues are obviously solved with extra work (or, really, work I’ve already done) on my part. I’ll probably be moving everything to keepass slowly, in the same way I rolled out my passwords earlier: one “group” at a time.

I clearly still have a lot of work ahead of me, and I’m pretty sure that I don’t have a truly good answer yet, but I wanted to put this out there. Passwords are a hassle, but the security is worth it.

First Lesson: My New USB Headset

I bought a USB headset over the weekend, and it came in the mail yesterday. I tested it out over Steam with a friend of mine, and hey! It worked! I can hear him and he can hear me. Sadly, nobody with non-satellite Internet was around for my to play video games with, so I set it aside.

Of course, later, I wanted to listen to a song, but the computer is in the living room and I didn’t want to interrupt the TV-watching, so I put on the headset. No sound came through. I pressed the volume buttons on the headset, and the volume went up and down. Huh.

I clicked the little sound icon, and it showed my speakers and the headset. I clicked on the mixer for the headset and… what? It just showed “all” and “steam.” No browser volume, no Windows Media Center volume. Nothing! So I searched the Internet for answers. “How do I used a USB headset as headphones?” The first result was this Yahoo! answers question. One person saying I needed a USB to 3.5mm converter to use the headset to listen to music and two more saying “Lololol just play music stupid!”

After more searching and no answers, I made a frustrated comment to the friend I tested the headset with. He told me his USB headset works as headphones. Surprised, I asked how. This is the answer (for windows 7 and Vista, anyway):

  • Right-click on the sound icon.
  • Choose “playback devices.”
  • Click the headset in the list that appears.
  • Click the button that says “Set Default.”
  • It works!

It’s irritatingly simple, and I hate that I didn’t figure it out myself, but what can you do? The kicker is that I bought the same headset that my coworker uses to listen to his music (but his was bought by the company. Lucky bastard.) and he had no trouble listening to music on it. I had to help the man use his laptop screen as a second monitor. (Control-P. Choose extend. There! Dual monitors!)

All in all, though, it’s still better than the Login Incident.