HowTo: Optimize your website enabling web server GZIP compression

Was recently checking out the fine tools from GTmetrix for optimizing some websites I manage and one of the issues I noticed on a client’s site was that GZIP compression was turned off.

They have a GZIP compression setup article for IIS and Apache web servers that contains a sample for Apache with compression rules for various mime types and exceptions for older Mozilla 4-era and MSIE browsers that may have issues with it.

There is also GZIP compression at NGINX

A simple tool to check a remote URL just for GZIP compression is at https://varvy.com/tools/gzip/ and at their read more page they list alternative ways to set up GZIP compression for Apache web servers (they do list fewer MIME type there, so do checkout the sample from GTmetrix too and combine) and an example for NGINX that also defines some extra rules for IE6 and exclusion for IE<6.

Fix: Cisco Webex Meetings install fail (AddDllDirectory @ KERNEL32.dll)

Looking into the following error message occuring with Cisco WebEx Meetings installer on Windows 7, found this useful discussion:

https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/a0970bfe-2bca-4ae3-a463-a5a04df83770/could-not-locate-dynamic-link-library-kernel32dll?forum=w7itproinstall

image

where the following are suggested:

– install Update for Windows 7 (KB2533623) from Microsoft:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=26767

– video tutorial:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpRRiMGJ_xA


And an extra tip, in case you after the installation, when you try to connect via a meeting URL, you see this dialog:

image

then try enabling TLS 1.1 & 1.2 at your browser (e.g. was told Chrome on Win7 had then both off). See how to do this for various browsers at: https://knowledge.digicert.com/generalinformation/INFO3299.html

Regarding TLS 1.1 though, mind you that it is considered insecure – so you might decide to skip enabling it (and try just enabling TLS 1.2) unless you can’t find some other solution. Quoting recent article on TLS 1.0 and 1.1 protocols:

Microsoft announced today that it will delay disabling support for the insecure Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.0 and 1.1 protocols from Microsoft web browsers because of the current global situation until the second half of 2020, with an estimated time of roll out during July. “For the new Microsoft Edge (based on Chromium), TLS 1.0 and 1.1 are currently planned to be disabled by default no sooner than Microsoft Edge version 84 (currently planned for July 2020),” Kyle Pflug, Microsoft Edge Developer Experience Principal PM Lead, said. “For all supported versions of Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Edge Legacy (EdgeHTML-based), TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 will be disabled by default as of September 8, 2020.” https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/microsoft-delays-disabling-insecure-tls-in-browsers-until-july/

Fix: make ownCloud installer display in English language

OwnCloud is an interesting solution for setting up a file sharing cloud for a group of people.

However,one issue I’ve found with its Windows desktop client’s current version (which looks clean of any viruses since I always check first) is that if your Windows 10 is configured with a preferred language that the desktop client’s installer doesn’t have localization support for, then it doesn’t show up in English as you’d expect, but in Czech or someother language that most of us don’t know how to read.

Screenshot (493)

So I tried running it’s MSI installer (ownCloud-2.6.1.13407.13049.msi) with –? parameter from the command-line and the /g languageCode parameter mentioned there looked promising, but trying /g en for English didn’t work. I guessed it needed some specific language code number (and not double-letter language code like en for English), since the help text was mentioning to see Windows Installer SDK for more help.

After a quick search I found an article that suggested passing the parameter Productlanguage=1033 to an msi installer on the command-line for it to ALWAYS show in English. And indeed it worked.

Screenshot (494)

To open a command window one can click the Search icon on the windows taskbar and type CMD then press ENTER.

Then they can drag-drop the .MSI file of ownCloud installer onto the black command-line window that opens up and type an extra space char and then Productlanguage=1033 before pressing ENTER to launch the ownCloud installer in English. After that they can close the command-line window at anytime.

Since many users may be uncomfortable with such instructions, one could provide an msiEnglish.bat file that just contains

%1 Productlanguage=1033

User could drag-drop the .msi they want onto that msiEnglish.bat file and it would run the msi installer being displayed in English language, irrespective of any preferred language settings at the Windows operating system.

Of course the best thing would be if ownCloud fixed their desktop client installer to fallback to the Engish language (set it as default) if it can’t find localization strings for the currently prefered language of the user. Have filed an issue at https://github.com/owncloud/client/issues/7825

Fix: Buildbox activation issues on load

Buildbox is a wonderful game authoring tool (that spans the whole nocode-code continuum, including the low-code aspect). It now has a free version too with nice templates and tutorials included.

image

I had an issue with the Windows version (it also has an indentical MacOS-X version since it’s a Qt-based app) where it was complaining about activation issue at startup and couldn’t proceed.

To solve that you can remove activation info (which won’t be removed if you just do uinstall and reinstall) by deleteing the com.eightcell.buildbox subfolder at:

C:\Users\YOUR_PROFILE_NAME_HERE\AppData\Local\eightcell\Buildbox\

Next time you run Buildbox.exe it will show activation dialog and you can enter your registration key (even the free version has one that you can download from your free account at http://buildbox.com)

With the latest Buildbox 3 there seems to exist an extra com.eightcell.buildbox3 subfolder that you could delete or just rename the main.iblicense files in there to main._iblicense. The launch Buidlbox again to see the activation dialog.

image

There probably exists some bug in Buildbox that causes one to repeat this action often.
So you could add a RESET_BUILDBOX_LICENSE.BAT file to your desktop with the following commands to delete the license file:

del "%AppData%\..\Local\eightcell\Buildbox\com.eightcell.buildbox3\main.iblicense"
@pause

HowTo: disable video autoplay in Chromium-based Microsoft Edge

Getting really annoyed by YouTube’s insistence to autoplay (and not even stop the previously playing video) everytime you navigate to a browser tab that shows YouTube content (say using CTRL+TAB / SHIFT+CTRL+TAB to find a tab you’re looking for when you have too many and they only manage to fit their icons so no title to pick one)?

The way to stop it in the newest Microsoft Edge browser (that’s based on the Chromium engine, same one that Google Chrome uses), is to press the three dots button at the top-right and select Settings.

image

When at Settings, select “Site permissions”, scroll down and click the arrow button on the far right to open “Media autoplay”

image

Finally, select “Limit” from the dropdown menu.

image

And you’re done.

Fix: Acer Aspire One (AS1) ZG5 blank screen at startup

Seems Acer Aspire One (AS1) ZG5 can have a recurring problem, esp. if its battery is near its end of life. If it shuts down abruptly its BIOS settings seem to get corrupted and its BIOS instead of discarding them seems to freeze.

Luckily they have a way to update the BIOS via USB key at machine power up. Flashing the BIOS (even to the same version) will fix the issue. Probably resetting the BIOS NVRAM data would do the same, but since you can’t boot this is the way to do it (without fiddling with the hardware directly that is).

The process suggested by ACER in case you come across this issue is the following:

Create a recovery USB drive to update the Bios on the unit.

The specific steps to perform this recovery with the USB drive are:

1. Download & Extract BIOS_Acer_3310_A_AOA110 & AOA150 (found in  https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/support-product/60?b=1)

2. Rename the Bios name from 3310.fd to zg5ia32.fd

3. Copy zg5ia32.fd and Flashit.exe to USB flash drive.

4. Start the restoration process:

  1. Plug the AC Adapter into the unit.
  2. Insert the USB flash drive into a USB port.
  3. Press and Hold down the Fn and the Esc keys together.
  4. Keep these keys held down and press power.
  5. When the unit’s power light comes on release the Fn and Esc keys.
  6. After the keys have been released the power light will start to blink.
  7. Let the unit run and after approximately 1 to 7 minutes, the unit should reboot.
  8. Video should now be restored.

Can also see the process in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHkGkw9EE8c&feature=emb_logo

See my comment there with the newer links I have above, have fixed the links they had (since they had old broken ACER links they eventually provided the file themselves) so that you download the BIOS from ACER directly, to be safer and to be sure you always get the latest BIOS (aka 3310 at the time of writing).

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MySQL DATETIME vs TIMESTAMP and the year 2038

Judging from MySQL documentation at https://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/8.0/en/datetime.html, it sounds best to use DATETIME rather than TIMESTAMP if you want your database to be future proof. After all 2038 is only 18+ years away.

The DATETIME type is used for values that contain both date and time parts. MySQL retrieves and displays DATETIME values in 'YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS' format. The supported range is '1000-01-01 00:00:00' to '9999-12-31 23:59:59'.

The TIMESTAMP data type is used for values that contain both date and time parts. TIMESTAMP has a range of '1970-01-01 00:00:01' UTC to '2038-01-19 03:14:07' UTC.

Btw, another issue that sounds problematic, at least conceptually, is that one can use the CURRENT_TIMESTAMP to initialize auto-updated columns with the current datetime (aka NOW()), but since the TIMESTAMP type is supposed to be up to 2038, wonder why the CURRENT_TIMESTAMP would be a difference (aka return a value that would overflow TIMESTAMP columns, but still work fine – aka return the accurate datetime – for DATETIME columns after the year 2038).

https://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/8.0/en/timestamp-initialization.html

At the very least, I’d avoid mixing those data types in the same database, for consistency reasons.

HowTo: Reset browser cache of CSS files upon ASP.net MVC app publish

On an ASP.net MVC webapp I’m maintaining, I had the issue that due to caching of older CSS (stylesheet) files in the browser, if the user didn’t press F5/refresh, it wasn’t showing you some message (since I had added the class .center-horiz-vert in the CSS that didn’t exist in the older cached css the browser had).

Instead of changing web.config to stop cachine of CSS files (in which case it would bring the CSS on every page load which is an overkill), I expanded on an idea mentioned by Maxim Kornilov on SO (https://stackoverflow.com/a/12992813/903783), on making the CSS URLs webapp version specific.

I added a fake version parameter to the URLs with the build number as value so that till I publish a new build the browser caches the CSS, but when I upload a new build it brings the new one since it cache with the url as a key (that now includes the build number as a dummy url parameter that the webserver will ignore and just fetch the CSS file when requested)

Maxim’s example was in ASP/ASP.net WebForms syntax instead of MVC’s and Razor Pages’ newer Razor syntax), so I contributed my solution for the case of an ASP.net MVC webapp that wants to serve a fresh copy of CSS files on every new build that you publish (will do this whether the CSS file has changed or not) so that browsers don’t use older cached copies of the file. Obviously this expands to any kind of files you link/load into your webpages via a URL.

1) Added to the webapp’s main class (was called MvcApplication) in Global.asax.cs

#region Versioning

public static string Version => 
typeof(MvcApplication).Assembly.GetName().Version.ToString();
//note: syntax requires C# version >=6 public static DateTime LastUpdated =>
File.GetLastWriteTime(typeof(MvcApplication).Assembly.Location); #endregion

the someProperty => someReadOnlyExpression syntax is just shorthand for someProperty { get { return … ;} } possible since C# 6

2) in its Content/_Layout.cshtml file I used to have the following to show build number and build datetime (based on the webapp’s main assembly) on the page footer:

Version @ViewContext.Controller.GetType().Assembly.GetName().Version 
(@string.Format("{0:yyyy/MM/dd-HH:mm:ss}",
@File.GetLastWriteTime(ViewContext.Controller.GetType().Assembly.Location)))

which I changed to the simpler:

Version @somewebappname.MvcApplication.Version
(@string.Format("{0:yyyy/MM/dd-HH:mm:ss}",
somewebappname.MvcApplication.LastUpdated))

3) it was loading the CSS via hardcoded link in _Layout.cshtml (still refactoring it) which I changed to:

<link href='@Url.Content("~/Content/Site.css?version=" + 
somewebappname.MvcApplication.Version)' rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />

so if one right-clicks in the webpage and they do view source they see:

<link href='/Content/Site.css?version=2.1.5435.22633' 
rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />

that is the CSS url is version specific thanks to the dummy parameter version

If a random number was used instead it would fetch the CSS at every page load which is usually undesired, especially if you are already pushing a new webapp build instead of individual page changes to the web server (so that you do have access to a build number that you can inject into URLs).

Note that to achieve auto-incrementing of build number, at Properties/AssemblyInfo.cs I have (see How to have an auto incrementing version number (Visual Studio)?):

// Version information for an assembly consists of the following four values:
//
//      Major Version
//      Minor Version 
//      Build Number
//      Revision
//
// You can specify all the values or you can default the Revision 
// and Build Numbers by using the '*' as shown below: [assembly: AssemblyVersion("1.0.*")] //[assembly: AssemblyFileVersion("1.0.*")]
// don't use boh AssemblyVersion and AssemblyFileVersion with auto-increment

Fix: “A numeric comparison was attempted” at VS build (Costura.Fody)

After upgrading from Visual Studio 2017 to Visual Studio 2019 I was able to update NuGet packages Fody and Costura.Fody of a solution that needed them (to package assembly DLLs inside console EXEcutables) and the solution was rebuilding fine.

However after I synced the solution via a Git repository on another machine and installed the newer Visual Studio there too, I rebuilt the solution in order to fetch/rebuild NuGet packages too and although everything seemed to rebuild fine, when I was using a plain build instead of a rebuild all I was getting at Errors dialog for each project that was using Costura.Fody:

Error

A numeric comparison was attempted on "$(MsBuildMajorVersion)" that evaluates to "" instead of a number, in condition "($(MsBuildMajorVersion) < 16)".  

To fix this I had to uninstall and reinstall Costura.Fody NuGet package (it wasn’t needed to uninstall/reinstall the Fody NuGet package itself) on the solution’s projects that were using it and then all was rebuilding/building fine again on that other machine.

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