April 16, 2008#

Wow, Google! I’m so impressed now!

Just read the news that Google released a new beta version of it’s planetary explorer Google Earth which now includes 3D models of some of the bigger German cities, too. Among the Berlin and much to my liking Munich.

I gave it a try a few minutes ago and decided that this is definitely worth a quick (almost) real-time post. I activated 3D  buildings while having the map centered to Munich and all I could say was “Wow!”. Nothing more to say!

Have a look for your self:

munich 1

munich 2

munich 3

Get it here.

April 8, 2008#

Formula-1-Ticker Sidebar Gadget Update

ranking Just uploaded a new version of the Formula-1-Ticker sidebar gadget. Now supports a setting dialog to control the size of the gadget. Also supports different sizes in docked and undocked mode. Text size is now adjustable, too. Give it a try!

April 8, 2008#

Website Update: Formula 1 Sidebar Gadget, Rendering Smoke & Clouds

Just wanted to point out two recent updates to my website.

presentation-page-01 A few days ago I finally uploaded a short description together with the slides and paper of a talk I gave a few weeks ago on the topic of “Rendering Smoke & Clouds” in the context of a game design university course. Have a look at it here.


ranking The second update is a Windows Vista sidebar gadget, my first one actually. It displays the content of a (German) Formula 1 live text ticker (sport.rtl.de) in the Windows sidebar and includes features like a flyout window for detailed view, automatic refresh, quick access to the original website and a Formula 1 live stream. Feel free to give it a try here and please leave your feedback!

February 12, 2008#

FSXGET 0.1 Beta 2 Released

logo Just released FSXGET Version 0.1 Beta 2 which contains a new feature, allowing you to select display units (meters or feet) and several bugfixes. Checks for the operating system and service pack version now as well as for SimConnect installed and instances of the application already running, to give better user feedback if the application encounters a problem at startup instead of crashing with some cryptic error message.

As always, more info and download here.

February 11, 2008#

Planes’ and Trains’ Locations! Live!

As I myself already got some experience with using Google Maps and Earth to display things such as stars (Web-based Planetarium) or Flight Simulator X aircrafts (FSXGET), I really like those two applications I’ve came over yesterday:

They’re both based on Google Maps, with the first one showing the realtime positions of Swiss trains…


… and the second doing the same for planes over Zurich.


Absolutely awesome! The latter one comes really close to FSXGET just for the real world and looking at the technique behind reminds me of a passive radar I’ve seen in action during a visit to INDRA‘s plant in Madrid.

Besides, since my internship at AENA, I somehow just enjoy looking at realtime maps with planes moving around ;-)

February 11, 2008#

.NET Programming: OS and Service Pack Version

Yet another short article about how to programmatically detect the version of the operating system and installed service pack version in a .NET application (C#).

Basically I found three ways how to determine these version number in a C# application:

  1. Using the System.Environment.OSVersion class
    - Fast and easy, perfect to get Windows version including major, minor, revision and build section of the version number.
    - Problematic to get the service pack version: Gives you a string like e.g. ‘Service Pack 1, v.744′ which you’d have to parse then. Not an ideal and very stable way (regarding future service packs) to get the service pack version number.
  2. Using the WMI Interface
    SelectQuery query = new SelectQuery("Win32_OperatingSystem");
    ManagementObjectSearcher searcher = new ManagementObjectSearcher(query);
    foreach (ManagementObject mo in searcher.Get())
    int iSPVersionMajor = int.Parse(mo["ServicePackMajorVersion"].ToString());

    Allows to retrieve numeric (major and minor) version number of installed service pack

  3. Using native Win32 API: GetVersionEx

    I didn’t try this solution myself but it seems quite promising, too. More details can be found here.

Last but not least, some information about Windows Version and Build numbers:

February 11, 2008#

.NET Programming: Single Instance Application

Few days ago, I did some research on how to make sure that only one instance of my .NET application will run at a time. I found there’s three ways to do so, of which two are quite common and also very stable and professional.

Solution Number 1: Using a Mutex

Just have a look at the code snippet below. This is a simple C# program with just a few lines added.

   1:  static class Program
   2:      {
   3:          static bool bFirstInstance = false;
   4:          static Mutex mtxSingleInstance = new Mutex(true, "My Mutex Name and ID String", out bFirstInstance);
   6:          /// <summary>
   7:          /// The main entry point for the application.
   8:          /// </summary>
   9:          [STAThread]
  10:          static void Main()
  11:          {
  12:              try
  13:              {
  14:                  if (!bFirstInstance)
  15:                      return;
  17:                  Application.EnableVisualStyles();
  18:                  Application.SetCompatibleTextRenderingDefault(false);
  20:                  Application.Run(new Form1());
  21:              }
  22:              finally
  23:              {
  24:                  mtxSingleInstance.Close();
  25:              }
  26:          }
  27:      }

The important lines are lines 3 and 4 and 14 and 15. First we create a mutex with any name (string) we like and try to access it. The result (whether gaining access to the mutex failed or succeeded) will be written to a boolean variable. If this is the first instance of the application, we sucessully will gain access to the mutex and bFirstInstance will be true. If it’s a second, third, … instance, the first instance of the application will already have locked the mutex and we won’t get access to it, thus bFirstInstace will be false.

We just check for the value of bFirstInstance and if it’s false, the current instance will exit immediately.

Important Note: Make sure the mutex gets closed when the first instance of your application exits (even in case it crashes and doesn’t exit normally). You can use a try / finally statement as shown above for this.

Another important thing: You should declare the mutex as a static class variable to make sure it won’t get cleaned up by garbage collection somewhere down the road. Instead of using a global static variable, you could also make use of GC.KeepAlive(mtxSingleInstance);.

For further information see the two articles here and here.

Solution Number 2: .NET Remoting

This is basically about setting up some kind of inter-process communication so one process can just shout out ‘Hey, is there someone of my kind already running?’ on some channel and other instances of this process will respond with ‘Yep, that would be me’ or whatever.

The great advantage over the method before is, that with this solution, you cannot just check for other instances already running but you can also exchange information between the two instances (like passing the command line parameters of the second instance to the first instance and let the second instance exit after this while the first instance will do the job).

Now despite this solution sounding a little bit complicated, it actually isn’t. In Visual Basic this is just activating a checkbox and in C# it’s about ten lines of code. For the Visual Basic solution, go here. For C# do the following:

  1. Add a reference to Microsoft.VisualBasic.dll to your project
  2. Add the using Microsoft.VisualBasic.ApplicationServices; statement to your main application class.
  3. Add a new class to your project, lookig like this:
    using Microsoft.VisualBasic.ApplicationServices;
    public class SingleInstanceApplication : WindowsFormsApplicationBase
        private SingleInstanceApplication()
            base.IsSingleInstance = true; 
        public static void Run(Form f, 
            StartupNextInstanceEventHandler startupHandler)
            SingleInstanceApplication app = new SingleInstanceApplication();
            app.MainForm = f;
            app.StartupNextInstance += startupHandler;
  4. Now change your main application class from this

       1:  static class Program
       2:  {
       3:      [STAThread]
       4:      static void Main()
       5:      {
       6:          Application.EnableVisualStyles();
       7:          Application.Run(new Form1());
       8:      }
       9:  }

    to this

       1:  static class Program
       2:  {
       3:      [STAThread]
       4:      static void Main()
       5:      { 
       6:          Application.EnableVisualStyles();
       7:          SingleInstanceApplication.Run(new Form1(), 
       8:              StartupNextInstanceHandler);
       9:      }
      11:      static void StartupNextInstanceHandler(
      12:          object sender, StartupNextInstanceEventArgs e)
      13:      {
      14:          // Here you can just make the current (new) instance exit or do whatever you like with the command line arguments
      15:      }
      16:  }

That’s it!

I found this idea and the code above here.

Solution Number 3: Checking the Process List

I’m not gonna go into detail here, as this shouldn’t be the preferred solution as I think. It’s just for the record. To check whether there’s already an instance of your application running, you can of course just read the systems list of processes currently running and see if your application’s in it or not!

Happy coding!

February 2, 2008#

FSXGET 0.1 Beta 1 Released

logo Today I’ve released version 0.1 Beta 1 of FSXGET. It’s the direct successor to version RC4. The change in naming is to make the version numbers more readable and manageable.

Remote Connection – Run FSX and FSXGET on different computers

The new version includes a new configuration dialog that facilitates setting up FSXGET to connect to Flight Simulator X running on a remote computer, i.e. a configuration where Google Earth AND FSXGET run on one computer but Flight Simulator X runs on another. I’ve also released a new tool called SimConnect Config Tool which helps changing Flight Simulator X configuration to allow remote access (e.g. from FSXGET). A howto article about setting up FSX and FSXGET for remote connections can be found here.

January 30, 2008#


logo Just released a new update for FSXGET correcting bugs regarding x64 and non-English systems. Download and more information here.

January 29, 2008#


Anyone remember the wikiscanner, a tool cross-referencing IP ranges known to belong to a certain company with IP addresses of Wikipedia article edits, thus exposing which companies have edited their own Wikipedia entries (and what they’ve edited)?

I did really like this project unlike most politicians, governments and companies exposed by the tool I guess. Anyway, it’s time for Vol. 2! Books that make you dumb!

It’s from the same author again, this time cross-referencing colleges’ students’ average SAT scores with colleges’ most read books lists on Facebook and there you go. You’ll be able to tell what clever guys read and what dumb people read ;)


Of course, one can argue about any causality in this and apparently not too few people were quite willing to do so as the author states on his website but there’s actually not a single word on his website blaming any of those books for dumbness or cleverness of its readers. Just consider it a fun thing and enjoy reading through the list!