Saturday, August 30, 2008

MaxiVista as a Keyboard/Mouse switch

In order to connect to my workplace VPN, I am required to use my work laptop which has a custom VPN client. Unfortunately, they don't give us the VPN client so I'm unable to install it on another machine such as my home computer. I don't have the extra hardware or space at home to set up a full workstation for the laptop with my preferred keyboard and mouse. However, I have those set up on my home workstation and a copy of MaxiVista.

MaxiVista is a utility that allows you to use another physical PC connected to your LAN as an additional monitor. It's not capable of high speed graphics but quite suitable for development. When you move the mouse pointer across screen boundaries, you switch between your locally attached display and the network attached display. One of the features of MaxiVista is the ability to switch the remote screen between "additional monitor" mode and "remote control" mode. This basically allows you to use MaxiVista as an automatic K/M switch, using your primary PC (running the MaxiVista server) as the hardware host for the keyboard and mouse but work on the remote PC desktop.

So I fire up my laptop, connect to the work VPN, then use the remote control method of MaxiVista on my home workstation to use the better keyboard and mouse on my laptop. While working, I can instantly move over to my home workstation screens. This can be particularly helpful when I want to test web applications or .NET remoting scenarios I'm developing on the laptop. I can jump right to my home environment to test network behavior.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Serving Neuros OSD Media Files With IIS

I recently got a Neuros OSD working on my home network. It's hooked up to my DVR box. I DVR programs (mostly for my kid), then use the DVR's "Copy to VCR" feature to dump them to the Neuros and out to my NAS server. The primary purpose is to archive shows somewhere other than the DVR. Of course, the handy benefit of being able to watch them on a laptop or make DVDs from them helps too.

The first problem I encountered was that using the Neuros' default settings for the "TV format" recording left it in a mostly unusable state on my PC. The video is encoded in MP4 while the audio is AAC. It is likely that I just don't have all the right CODECs on my windows machines to run it. Despite that, I soon discovered that I could change the audio format of the recording. Switching it to MP3 did the trick.

I recently came across some segments of a science show that I wanted to share with some friends. So I recorded them to the NAS. The NAS share that contains all my media hangs off my server at home so I figured it was fairly trivial to just point my friends at the MP4 file. This didn't work. IIS reported a 404 error.

At first I figured it was a problem with some URL encoding, because the directory and file names had some punctuation and such that I thought might mess it up. But after cleaning the names to letters only, it still failed. I then remembered something a co-worker told me about IIS. Apparently IIS is set up with a list of MIME types and this list determines what it will serve. MP4 isn't one of them. I had always assumed that IIS would just serve any file. Of course, in some cases the file types are mapped to ASAPI filters or application extensions for more advanced handling, such as for PHP or ASP.NET. But it was a surprise to find that certain types simply wouldn't be served.

So... I added the MIME type "video/mp4" with the .mp4 extension and I can now at least download the file from the site. However, it seems that I can't watch it until it's fully downloaded. Not a major problem, but it would be nice to be able to start watching right away. Downloading a 10 minute video took about 3.5 minutes, so I should be able to watch it in a streaming fashion. I imagine this is just an issue with the MP4 format.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Firefox 3: Down in flames

I successfully installed Firefox 3 on WinXPPro-SP2 this evening. I already had FF2. Despite a clean install, I was unable to actually launch it. I got an immediate crash and the subsequent crash detector happily sent my crash report to Mozilla. After the 3rd time I gave up.

I uninstalled it and tried again. No change. So I downloaded and installed and I'm back up. I suspect now that the problem might lie with FireBug and its compatibility with FF3.

All I was really trying to do was reinstall with the DOM inspector so I could look at style sheet behavior. Fortunately, that is now working. I was also happy to see that all my settings, customizations and add-ons were seamlessly restored. Kudos to Mozilla (at least for pre version 3).