Microsoft WebsiteSpark Now Negates The Cost For Web Devs and Designers

by Jon Davis 26. September 2009 18:52

A couple weeks ago I posted a blog entry ("Is The Microsoft Stack Really More Expensive?") describing the financial barrier to entry for building software--particularly web apps--on the Microsoft platform. The conclusion was that the cost is likely to be nil if you're a) willing to settle for the Express products and everything else bundled in the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (which includes a slew of open source ASP.NET and PHP web apps to start you off), b) starting a software company, c) a student, or d) an employee of a company willing to foot the bill for an MSDN license (to you personally, not to your team).

Well, Microsoft just created yet another program, for those of you who are e) building or designing web sites. (Sweeeeet!!) For a $100 offing fee (a fee that you pay when your license ends, rather than when it begins) you get Windows Web Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 Web Edition, Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, and Expression Studio 3.

Not bad! Although, your license ends in three (3) years (same as BizSpark).

Link: Microsoft WebsiteSpark

IIS Subweb Applications Are Virtual Directories

by Jon Davis 21. June 2009 14:32

Microsoft never ceases to amaze me how they keep showing the most obscure error messages and support documentation for the simplest of causes.

HTTP Error 500.19 - Internal Server Error

Description: The requested page cannot be accessed because the related configuration data for the page is invalid.
Error Code: 0x80070005
Notification: BeginRequest
Module: IIS Web Core
Requested URL: http://www.mysite.com/myapp/
Physical Path: ~~
Logon User: Not yet determined
Logon Method: Not yet determined
Handler: Not yet determined
Config Error: Cannot read configuration file
Config File: ~~
Config Source:

   -1:

    0:
More Information... This error occurs when there is a problem reading the configuration file for the Web server or Web application. In some cases, the event logs may contain more information about what caused this error.
 

I was getting IIS 7 error 500.19 on Windows Server 2008 over the weekend, and when I discovered it I spent hours on this error. Google didn't help; everyone pointed to invalid XML in the web.config or in applicationHost.config, or said that there must be an invalid DLL reference in applicationHost.config, or said that I need to add the proper users (IIS_IUSRs, Network Service, IUSR) to the directory and/or web.config. None of these solutions applied. There was nothing in my Windows event logs and enabling IIS tracing produced no log files.

It turned out to be a simple cause: the physical directory as configured in Basic Settings for the application was wrong. Why Microsoft did not include this rather obvious scenario in the Help file for this error is beyond me!!

In my case, my root web was working fine, but my subwebs were not working fine and I got this error for the subweb. The subweb was an individually configured ASP.NET application. I figured that this wasn't important because the root web was just a flat HTML file, but it mattered.

What happened in my case was that a few days ago I had relocated the root web, then updated IIS to point to the new directory. All of the subweb applications, however, were treated by IIS as virtual directories, each with its own physical directory mapping. So each had the stale path. More specifically, I moved "C:\dir\www.mysite.com" to "C:\dir\mysite.com", updated IIS for my site to point to \dir\mysite.com, and left it as such. The applications under ...\mysite.com were each pointing to the stale absolute path of C:\dir\www.mysite.com\[application] instead of picking up the relative path of their parent directory.

I had to update each subweb application's Basic Settings to point to the revised path, and the 500.19 error went away.

Hope this helps others like it would've helped me.

Jon

SQL Server Express Edition and Dynamic Ports

by Jon Davis 17. May 2009 14:13

While transferring to my new web host, I ran into a roadblock that had me stalled for a day or two while I tried to figure out what was going wrong. I like to use my own laptop here at home when managing SQL stuff, so I poked a special hole in the Windows Firewall on my new VPS instance to just allow my IP on port 1433, while enabling TCP/IP for SQL Server and restarting the service. But I could not connect!

I spent several hours poking at it, rebooting it, turning off the Windows firewall completely (temporarily), trying to get connected to that darn SQL Server instance I had installed on my new VPS, but it just would not connect. Then I noticed that the client tools (namely SSMS) on the VPS itself could not connect to ITSELF on the TCP/IP stack, it could only connect on Shared Memory or Named Pipes. What is going on?!! Could it be a bad OS image on the VPS?

Eventually it got resolved. The VPS hosting company was very helpful in assisting me on the matter, and at the same time I got some replies on a SQLServerCentral.com forum post that narrowed down to the same problem: Dynamic Ports.

This SQLServerCentral.com forum reply was the critical new knowledge for this weekend.

Hello Jon,

SQL Server Express (2005 & 2008) defaults to Dynamic Ports, whereas the Default Instance of other Editions listen on Static Port 1433 (by default). 

Having a Zero in the Dynamic Port configuration will have been overriding the Static Port that you entered, and therefore causing your connection problems.

Regards,

John Marsh 
 

I'd never heard of dynamic ports before. And the reason why I've never run into this issue before was because I've always used the full version of SQL Server that comes with MSDN licenses, and that version, by default, does not use dynamic ports by default, it uses Port 1433, which I expected SQL Server to default to in my case. But for both SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008, the Express edition defaults to use Dynamic Ports when TCP/IP connections are enabled. So all my setting of Port 1433 in the Configuration Manager was completely ignored because it switched right back over to Dynamic Ports. To make things even more confusing, to enable Dynamic Ports, the setting is set to '0'. That's '0', as in the programmatic standard for FALSE, just not in this case, as is thoroughly documented in SQL Server documentation. Heh heh.

So with the Dynamic Ports' setting of '0' removed, I'm up and running. And now this blog (not to mention other, more legitimate sites I run [sic?]) is finally (as of Sunday afternoon) moved off my home PC and onto my new VPS.

So Long, Farewell

by Jon Davis 15. May 2009 02:10

No I'm not killing off my blog. I am, however, going to stop being so cheap, and start hosting my IIS web apps, including this blog, on an external server for a change.

For years now I've been hosting my blog here behind a home cable modem. As I post this--indeed this'll be the last night that this will be the case--I have a cheap virtual dedicated Linux server with Apache proxying out to my home IP on an alternate port. COX only blocks port 80 (the web port, and some other ones like SMTP's), so I have my router at home rigged to redirect traffic on the alternate port back to port 80 and to my internal web server's IP address (this is the same server that "serves" me prerecorded shows on my HDTV via Vista Media Center). The proxy/router setup works, but then COX keeps killing off my Internet connection. I keep having to stand up, go to the back room where the cable modem is, disconnect the cable modem power and coax, wait for 5 seconds, and reconnect everything. (Yes, the coax, too. It doesn't resync unless I do that.)

My web site tends to go offline all day while I'm at work. I've noticed that the disconnects happen routinely at about 3:15 PM and at about 1:45 AM, but they also happen erratically and sporatically throughout the day, and it often stays offline until human intervention (manual shutoff and powerup). And, I am beginning to suspect that they are actually monitoring network traffic and they disconnect me when they see any normal flood of inbound HTTP requests that come from two or more visitors at a time. It might also be heat-related; the disconnects are suddenly much more frequent lately, and coincidentally it's suddenly a lot hotter around here in this Arizona climate.

So I'm finally caving in; short of tunnelling the proxied HTTP packets, I can't beat COX at this game. I'm going to try a VPS from http://www.automatedvps.com/about.php .. They look like an under-established outfit but so far they are not just affordable for Win2008 virtual dedicated hosting, the VPS I've already snagged feels quite performant. I'll have all the Windows play dough I could ask for, and I won't have to worry about my blog or any major web site I might be hosting going offline because COX wants to keep us from hosting stuff.

Incidentally, before signing up with AutomatedVPS.com, I tried Mosso.com's Site Cloud. I'd been slobbering over their Kool Aid for so long, I had to give them a shot. It was ugly, though. Their control panel behaves erratically, frequently showing multiples of new objects being added until you refresh or until a Live Chat support staff deletes the extras. I had to throw the whole thing out when I saw that I had NO control over IIS 7 and the subweb applications and application pools.

------

UPDATE: Ouch. Yeah, that took a lil more time than I expected to transfer everything (see next post re SQL Express and Dynamic Ports), but it's switched now. 

How to Setup a Dedicated Web Server for Free (Windows version)

by Jon Davis 4. January 2009 16:03

So I clicked on StumbleUpon and came across this:

 http://nettuts.com/articles/news/how-to-setup-a-dedicated-web-server-for-free/

And I kept rolling my eyes because you CANNOT have a dedicated web server for free without a not-free Internet connection with a static IP and port 80 unblocked.

If you've overcome that hurdle, though, such as using unblocked DSL instead of cable modem, for example, then the article is worthwhile. However, by the time I scrolled down to the bottom and got to the end to read "That's it!", I was rolling my eyes again, because the article is about 25 pages long!!

If you have Windows Vista (comes "free" with most commercially built PCs these days, or hey surely you have a Windows XP CD lying around... but be warned, XP and earlier OS's only allow for a single site to be enabled at a time), let me tell you how hard it is to have a complete dedicated web server for free in Windows-land.

Click on this: http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=958807

(You can read more about it here: http://www.microsoft.com/web/channel/products/WebPlatformInstaller.aspx)

Check off what you want.

That's it!

To be fair, nearly all Linux distros have a "check off what you want" interface, too, but it's still more difficult to set up each component after installation such as mySQL than it is to set up SQL Server Express, IMO.

On a final note, in a word, XAMPP

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Servers and Services

VPSLink: Finally, VPS Priced For 2009

by Jon Davis 30. December 2008 15:00

A little over a year ago I spent weeks trying to find the most affordable way to host cachefile.net (now defunct) among a few other things in a reliable manner. I didn't want my site shared with a bunch of other sites, and I certainly did not want plain-vanilla Apache/mySQL/PHP. I wanted my very own instance of Linux on which I could feel free to do anything--rig Apache to my liking, host my e-mail, install an XMPP server, you name it, anything. I also ended up hosting this blog--jondavis.net--on my home PC with the Linux instance acting as a reverse proxy so as to bypass my cable modem provider's blockage of port 80.

The best deal I could find was ServerPronto. These guys seemed to have adequate bandwidth and gave me solid specs for the dollar, for what they said was a dedicated physical server. 

But even that was priced out of my range, because up to this point I have not been trying to make a profit / living off of my Linux instance, although at this point I think I might as well. I was paying out about $180 per 3 months, and that gets expensive especially in this economy.

I also found that while BlueHost has proven adequate for my own e-mail, and I'm REALLY not happy with the ASP.NET web host offerings out there since none of them support IIS 7 module installations, I could probably be just fine hosting everything on my BlueHost account and on my home PC through my cable modem, if only I could retain that reverse proxy out there, somewhere, without spending $180 every three months.

Last night I went shopping around again to see if there were any other solutions for me, when, lo and behold, I came across a VPS (Virtual Private Server -- Xen virtual machine hosting, basically) host that came at the same price as a typical shared web host: VPSLink. For less than the price I was paying every three months before, now I can get two years of my own Linux instance. Indeed, if you're reading this right now (and of course you are, as am I posting it), that's my new VPSLink account working for me.

Now, granted, I lose out on what I originally sought after: very high availability and scalability. I am back on a shared host, after all, and I have little doubt it's gonna get crowded over here. But, as I said, cachefile.net is now defunct, and really this only serves for reverse proxying to my cable modem and for lightweight LAMP hosting; if I ever really need high availability I'll also need a good reason, and if it's for profit then I'll be able to afford something more. But I get everything else here: my own CentOS instance on the 'net really, really cheap.

---

UPDATE: Of course, upgrades to Apache when migrating from FC6 to CentOS 5.2 would force me to add these directives to my httpd.conf:

SetEnv force-proxy-request-1.0 1
SetEnv proxy-nokeepalive 1 

.. or else I get proxy errors:

The proxy server received an invalid response from an upstream server.
The proxy server could not handle the request GET.

Still not sure if I have rid myself of them entirely yet...

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
 
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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