Something Different

Lions Rugby starting to get it right

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 03/17/2011 - 11:14

Super-14-lions-logoLittle off the usual but as a fan of the Lions Rugby team I thought I would share this great news. One of the biggest complaints people have with Lions Rugby is going to Ellis Park for the game, once there it is great but driving through some of the worst parts of Johannesburg is a major put off and then there is the serious lack of parking.

Well it seems they have taken that to heart and have not only four dedicated parking areas they have also arranged a park & ride facility! This should hopefully bring in the fans.

Official Press Release:

15 March 2011: The Lions will be playing Western Force this Saturday, 19 March 2011 at Coca-Cola Park.

Lions Professional Rugby invites Lions supporters to get to Coca-Cola Park early and to make a day out of it.In addition to the match, this weekend will see the launch and introduction of the Lions pre and post game stadium parking and braai activities.

Gates will open at 1pm and Supporters Club Members and Season Ticket Holders will be welcomed into the exclusive MTN Supporters Arena where they can enjoy live entertainment by Jaco Dennis, big screens and the Coca-Cola Gig-Rig. Refreshments aplenty will be available for purchase in the arena which will open from 1pm.

The Bulls vs. Stormers match will be shown on the big screens after the Lions match in the MTN Supporters Arena which will close at 10pm.

Expanded bar facilities for the general public will be situated next to the MTN Supporters Arena.

Plenty of family orientated activities are planned ranging from Park & Braai through to extensive children’s activities.

The NEW Lions Kiddies Entertainment Corner (west of the turnstiles) will be open from 2pm and will have face painters, jumping castles and tattoo artists applying rub off tattoos to the youngsters. In addition balloon makers and stilt walkers will be aplenty. Mufasa will be making an appearance to hand out some goodies.

Children are encouraged to visit the MTN World of Rugby area(the grassed area on the north of the stadium) to test their rugby skills, make some new friends and enjoy a unique rugby experience.

Prior to kick-off, supporters are in for a treat with some dynamic in-stadium entertainment. Chinese Lion dancers will dazzle supporters with their skills and some other exciting well known entertainers are in the pipeline. 

Parking tickets for the following areas are available from Computicket:

  • Beeld (South)
  • Johannesburg Stadium B Field

Parking is also available in the following areas and tickets can be purchased from the Coca-Cola Park Ticket Office:

  • Ellis Park Stadium Arena (formerly Standard Bank Arena)
  • Cricket Oval grounds

These parking tickets cost just R50 each. Parking tickets will also be sold match day by vendors wearing orange bibs for the Beeld, Ellis Park Stadium Arena and the Cricket Oval grounds at R50 each.

The two new parking areas specifically orientated toward allowing spectators to Park & Braai (Gas only) have been made available for this match.

Platinum parking will be available for season ticket holders only and is situated on North Park Lane just 40 meters outside the stadium.

Silver parking tickets for the JHB Stadium Athletics track(150 meters from the stadium entrance) are available to all Lions supporters.Parking tickets in both areas cost R100 each and are only available from the Coca-Cola Park Ticket Office on a first come first serve basis.

The Park & Ride from Mugg & Bean Cresta and will also be running and for just R60.00 per person you will get a return bus trip,safe parking and a complimentary bottomless coffee or lemonade from Mugg &Bean. Busses depart from Cresta from Entrance 3 (Cnr of Judges and Republic Roads) from 2pm and will leave Coca-Cola Park 30 minutes after the final whistle. Remember to take your Park & Ride ticket to Mugg & Bean after the match for your complimentary drink.

"The Lions Den will never again be the same as the Lions will now be catering for families young and old. The entertainment before and after will be top drawer. The Lions sportainment is here for all. Come and support our young team against the Western Force this Saturday", Lions Shareholder Robert Gumede said

Supporters are encouraged to come early to the match and enjoy the MTN Supporters Arena and Kiddies Corner and to support the Golden Lions as they face the Sharks at 2:40pm. TAU rugby – where enthusiastic eight year olds will take to the field – will be played from 1pm to1:40pm.

For the perfect family outing, get to Coca-Cola Park on Saturday where there will be activities and entertainment catering for all ages.

For more information visit

StackExchange Flair

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 10/12/2010 - 15:16

For a while the flair on my site has included my stats from StackOverflow, ServerFault and SuperUser. In my article on it, I mentioned I used the iFrame but I stopped that a few months ago and switched to getting the JSON data for my accounts directly and parsing that. I did this as it was order of magnitudes faster than loading via the iFrame.

For those who attended my DevDays talks, they would recognise that code as it is the same as I used in my demos.

Then recently an email arrived:


Damn, my jQuery magic was about to end so what could I do but change? When I started looking at the new flair I noted that StackOverflow wanted me to hotlink the image, i.e. have my visitors get it from their server, but the performance for pulling the image was still poor compared to my own website (or so the Firebug tool says). So what could I do to improve this? 

What I did was to use wget, which is a Linux tool (I’m hosted on a Linux box) for downloading files, and put that in a schedule to once a day download my StackExchange flair and store it on my website, which means it gets served faster. As my numbers won’t change heavily day to day, (I’m not Skeet) once a day is enough balance between keeping it fresh and making it cachable.

The only downside is that my flair uage stats on StackExchange will likely drop, but I don’t really care about that.

The wget command is:

wget –O <path>/files/stackexchange.png

Tech·Ed Africa - How to find the gems in the sessions?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 09/29/2010 - 08:49

image_54Tech·Ed is around the corner and if you have seen the session catalogue, you will see there is 267 295 sessions available for you to attend! How are you supposed to know what sessions are quality that you should attend?

Disclaimer: Rights Management Server is a great product for certain situations and I am picking on it in this post as an example more than anything else.

Know Yourself

The first thing to get right is to know yourself – if you have just started writing C# code, attending an advanced session on the internal workings of LINQ may be a waste of time as you may not be able to keep up to speed.

Knowing yourself is not just about knowing your skill level, but also knowing what is important to you – if you have no plans on using Rights Management Server (RMS) don’t attend the sessions on it, because you will miss out on other great sessions that may bring you a value, however this does not mean you should only attend sessions for technology you know and work on.

Identify Trends

channel-9-logoPart of the benefit of the conference is exposure to items which you may not get the time to see during your normal day, so you may be tempted to go to that RMS session because you do not know about it but my suggestion to this is that  when you are looking for sessions on topics you do not know about, you should look at where the hot trends are (they aren’t in RMS). A great way to see what the hot trends are is to to look at what community and knowledge sharing sites, like Channel 9, is talking about.

The reason I suggest new trends over other items is this that the new trends is where the cutting edge technology and learning is and so there is often not a lot of content available on that topic, compared to say RMS where it is well documented and training is easy to get hold of.

Decoding Sessions

Every session at Tech·Ed has a code, and this code has some key information that will mean you get to the right sessions easily. If I look at one of the sessions I am presenting, the code associated is APS309, but what does that mean?

  • APS – This is the track, or the high level concept that the session is part of. APS in this case refers to Application Server. Microsoft has a great guide to all these TLA (three letter acronyms) on the technical track page. The only item missing from there is WTB, which stands for Whiteboard which I will cover next.
  • 3 – This digit is key, it identifies the level of the session and is between 1 and 4.
    • 1 indicates a introduction session - where you can come in with zero knowledge on the topic. Expect it not to be deep, expect the pace to be slow and expect it to cover the concepts.
    • 2 indicates a beginner session - you should’ve seen something on it before arriving. Expect it to cover usage scenarios and the pace and depth to be increased.
    • 3 indicates a technical session – you should be working with the technology. These often go fast and deep or explore a new area in that space.
    • 4 indicates a deep dive – you should expect a session that is for the most advanced of people.
  • 09 – This is a unique identifier.

The next thing about understanding is to read the abstract for the topic, this is the overall plan for the session. So if we take my session again, the title is: Intro to Workflow Services and Windows Server AppFabric however if you read the abstract you will note that it mentions Workflow Foundation (WF) first and talks about developers using it. Then it mentions WF and usage with Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and how they integrate in .NET 4. Finally it mentions AppFabric and hosting.

This tells you a lot of my plan for the session, I am going to talk to developers first about WF and then WCF. Finally I will bring in more technical topic of hosting these in AppFabric. This does not come across in the title, which is why the abstract is important to read and read carefully.

Session Types

There are two types of sessions breakouts and whiteboards. A breakout is a formal presentation where normally one person presents a topic with demo’s. A whiteboard is far less formal and often includes panel discussions – here you will find the topics often change based on the questions and discussions with the audience.

I have personally found when I need to learn a technology I head to a break out, but if I know the topic then the whiteboards give senior developers much better value.


Tech·Ed is first about getting a few thousand passionate people together which means you have the option to network with experts and make great contacts. Most presenters will take time for questions, but if not, most will welcome you coming up to them afterwards.

In addition to this there is also two special options for networking:

  • Community Lounge – Community leaders are some of the smarted and most passionate people I know and the community lounge provides a great place to relax and talk to them.
  • Ask the Experts – This is a special event where experts make themselves specially available to take questions and have one on one (and sometimes one on many) discussions. This is a great chance to get contacts so that when you run into a problem you have a lifeline.

Get Started Now

Don’t wait until you arrive at Tech·Ed to start thinking about sessions, start thinking now about the sessions you want to go to and digging into what trends and speakers you should be finding.

A great tip for corporates is something we at BBD do each year for the 30 or so people we send – a pre event get together. Here the people who have been before share some guidance and what to expect about the event with those who have never been and we all talk about the sessions and speakers we are excited about to help those who do not have the time to do deep research find some gems.

Lastly, for those who tweet, start following the Twitter conversation for the event! There is an official account @teched_africa and an officially long hashtag #TechEdAfrica. To really impress people you can combine them both into a single Twitter Search @TechEdAfrica OR #TechEdAfrica!

Update 8 Oct 2010: I presented a short session based on this post to the staff at BB&D which you can find below:

South African ID Number Checker in Excel version 2

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 08/26/2010 - 10:37
18 February 2016: Fixed a bug in the multiple checks with the date display. Thanks to John Sole for pointing it out.
8 August 2014 - Just a quick note that the spreadsheet has been updated with better checking if the date is valid (including leap years), plus has been cleaned up a lot and finally will show you both years if we can not be certain which century the person was born in. Tested with Excel 2013 - your mileage may vary on other versions.
Want this as an app for your smartphone? Click here

A long time ago I built a simple Excel spread sheet which worked out if an ID number was valid or not. Since I released it, I have received a lot of feedback about the spreadsheet. Most of the feedback was around how it worked, but a week ago Riaan contacted me and pointed out a bug in it so I took this as an opportunity to rebuild it.

Not only does the new version check the validity of the ID number, it also tells you where the person was born, gender and birth date.


Something else that I wanted to do was clean up the calculations. So now they have been moved to their own (hidden) tab and are documented.


For those who need to do a bulk checking, the second sheet of the Excel spreadsheet contains the ability to check multiple ID numbers.


I want to extend a massive thanks to Riaan Pretorius, not only for pointing out the bug but also running the new version through it’s paces and finding some issues in it. The fact this one is much better is owed to him, I just typed the code Open-mouthed smile

You can download the Excel file below!

Visual Studio Mobile Site

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 09:26

imageDid you know that there is a mobile version of the Visual Studio website? I stumbled across it recently and it is fantastic resource to have on your phone.

One of the really great parts is the Crack the Code game, which gives you four snippets of code (2x C#, 1x F#, 1x VB.NET) and asks you to figure out how many errors there are. If you work out correctly you get access to wallpapers for your mobile device and if you get all four correct you get a limited edition Visual Studio 2010 Window 7 theme!

To access the site go to (note the mobile in the URL) on your mobile device!

I <3 Nokia

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 01/22/2010 - 05:30

The management at Nokia have scored a big point today with the big announcement in the UK yesterday where they have made Nokia Turn-by-turn FREE. This has solved the headache of paying Nokia for convenience and also showed Nokia is aware and dealing of the moves of the big players like Google.

Holy download fever Batman

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 01/14/2010 - 16:32

Seems that in the last week, and just in time for me to be in Canada where they have bandwidth, that a bunch of things have become available for download which deserve your attention:

VS 2010 Quick Reference Guidance is now out!

Plus hotfix 1 for it

Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 Upgrade Guidance is now out!

The new Nokia 5800 firmware ( is out – which brings it up to the level of the X6 in features now!

Lastly, and sneakily at the end of this post, my latest open source tool is out. Now I am not going to tell you what it is, but it is for presenters (mostly) and requires .NET 4.0 Beta 2 and Windows 7. Hopefully the name will entice you to check out Rule 18!

Google Maps City More Info

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Wed, 12/02/2009 - 13:23

I was answering a question on World Cup 2010 Dizcus and found an amazing feature on Google Maps. I was looking for maps of cities in SA, and I stumbled across this cool more info link.


More info takes you to a portal for the city with information on the time & timezone, a high view map of the area, photos and videos of the town, popular places and related maps. This is a great resource when you are looking for information on a city that you have never been too! Below is a screen shot from my home town of Johannesburg.


Has Nokia stopped piracy?

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 11/27/2009 - 11:26

Nokia5800 The Nokia 5800 I have runs on the Symbian S60 5th Edition operating system and it seems to be a decent OS, but built into it is the most interesting anti-piracy system I have seen. So how does it work? Note: I am not an expert in this, this is my view after a few weeks looking into it, so I may be wrong.

First every application needs to specify what features it uses and based on that it can either be flagged into one of three categories:

  • Unprotected
  • Protected
  • Testing

Testing has no security, and is just good for testing. However for the other two, they must be signed with a SSL certificate. For unprotected applications you can self sign, in other words using the certificate on the phone to sign the application. For protected you’ll need a certificate from a certificate signing website - which there are just a few of and these sites also require you to signup as a publisher which costs $200. So once you pay $200 and you go through the process you can sign an application however it is locked to the IMEI of the phone. This means that the application can only ever be run on a specific phone.

Now the security model falls over, if you go out and get the publisher details since you could take other peoples applications and strip out the existing certificate and sign it with your own, but that costs $200 (and you are logging with a central company what software you are signing, so that they may be able to track it). Why I think this works is because almost every single application out there is much cheaper than $200. In fact for $200 you can get so many apps legally that I question who would pay $200 if they were not a legitimate publisher.

I think this process is much better than the iPhone’s app store - since you do not need to get a companies permission to sell the software. You can build it, host it anywhere and viola it is available.

A similar process is available in Windows Vista+ x64 for drivers, which must be also signed in a similar process. I am wondering if this should not occur for all applications in Windows as well - however there are a lot of changes that would need to be implemented.