Anyone getting this message when using ASP.NET with IIS Mail Relay to send email, try this:

SmtpClient client = new SmtpClient(“localhost”);
client.DeliveryMethod = SmtpDeliveryMethod.PickupDirectoryFromIis;
client.Send(Message);

Thanks to http://supersuf037.blogspot.com/2009/11/work-stuff-systemnetmail-notes.html for the solution on this.

Twenty years ago I spent a year studying abroad at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Nineteen years old and homesick, I would wander down every day, sometimes a few times a day, to the mailboxes at Taft Hall where I was staying, and open my own little mailbox, a thin little opening amongst the hundreds of others.  I was desperate to see the blue & red of an airmail envelope tucked in there.  Sometimes there was more than one.  Sometimes, often, there was nothing.  I would check again, the mailbox could be deceptive, sometimes there was something hidden in there.  But if there was nothing, I would feel a stab of disappointment and wander away.

Nowadays, my experience as a homesick student abroad would be radically different.  The mechanisms of the internet would give me the possibility of constant communication from friends who would previously been obstructed by geographical distance and international postal systems.  I don’t really write letters much any more, or expect to receive them.  But every time I click send & receive on my email now, and nothing happens, I feel a fainter virtual version of that older disappointment.

A letter, at least in theory, offered an experience of completeness and structure. In practice, the letters I received were often composed across days, and rambled across subjects, but they usually managed a saluation, date and signoff, and some coherence of theme and subject.  They arrived (again at least in theory) at set times – though sometimes the last post was much later than expected and held a fantastic surprise.

Emails, by contrast, can arrive at any time, and the anticipation for their arrival gets fragmented throughout the day (and indeed the night).  The content too tends far more towards fragmentation, with the twitter feed fragmenting further.   So the disappointment & anticipation & excitement of receiving or not receiving correspondence has become fragmented, virtualised, dispersed – though also intensified, and with the underyling impulse to communicate in now way diminished.

I’m not trying to be an old codger about this, or to assert the superiority of the letter over its successors.  But its interesting to wonder how great letter writers of the past – and I’m thinking about Herman Melville and William Burroughs, whose letters I love – would have adapted themselves to the newer forms of communication.

What is striking about the letters of Melville and Burroughs (and I was re-reading Burroughs letters 1945-1959 last night with slightly too much wine) is the sheer intensity and desperation of the letter writing, and the level of dependence on their letter writing partner. Take Melville’s letter to Hawthorne dated November 17, 1851:

Your letter was handed to me last night on the road going home to Mr. Morewood’s, and I read it there.  Had I been at home I would have sat down and answered it.  In me divine magnanimities are spontaneous and instantaneous – catch them while you can.   The world goes round and the other side comes up.  So now I can’t write what I felt.  But I felt pantheistic then – your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours and both in God’s.  […]

PS. I can’t stop yet.  If the world was entirely made up of Magians, I’ll tell you what I should do.  I should have a paper-mill established at one end of the house, and so have an endless riband of foolscap rolling in upon my desk, and upon that endless riband I should write a thousand – million -billion thoughts, all under the form of a letter to you.

Or Burroughs’ letters to Allen Ginsberg dated April 7th 1954:

Dear Allen,

I have written and rewritten this for you.  So please answer.

Routines like habit.  Without routines my life is chronic nightmare, gray horror of midwest suburb. […]

I have to have receiver for routine.  If there is no one there to receive it, routine turns back on me like homeless curse and tears me apart, grows more and more insane […] and fragmentary like beserk pin-ball machine and I am screaming: “Stop it! Stop it!”

Burroughs’ dependence on his correspondence bring me back to the horror of the empty mailbox, and makes me wonder: is our vast communications infrastructure fulfilling or fuelling our need for contact?   Burroughs’ letter writing, and some of our own frantic communications, are compulsive, and to quote another great letter writer, Paul Bowles, “compulsiveness is doom.  And any wind in contrast smells of God”. (letter to Alec France, March 2, 1975).

Having initially used Umbraco 4.0, then the 4.1 RC, I’ve moved the bare bones of our migrated website to Umbraco 4.5.  4.1 I found a bit of a handful, but much happier with 4.5.  It does seem faster, and the content tree updating itself is a big help..

In an attempt to retain some work/life balance in my blog, here are some pictures of our allotment at work.

To be able to disappear behind the tall conifer hedge that separates the allotment from our offices at lunch time, and do some lazy weeding and watering, is a luxury that I really appreciate.  Its a short walk, but you feel like you’ve put some real distance between the telephone and computer and yourself.

And then there’s the produce…

Our existing website uses Dreamweaver templates and libraries.  It was converted from ASP to ASP.NET v1 in the days before Master Pages, so it uses some pretty complicated nested Dreamweaver templates which map to ASP.NET pages.  Dreamweaver often struggles with the nested templates.  I really won’t miss Dreamweasel one bit – shame, it was a nice bit of software in its day.

Anyway, the Dreamweasel templates will go, to be replaced by Master Pages which Umbraco lets me used in a nested way.

The library files hold the sub-menus for each section (which I won’t need in Umbraco as the navigation will be automatically rendered via XSLT macros.  They also hold some cross-page content – for example, cross-selling panels (e.g. If you like X, you might want to link to Y).  To retain this functionality, I created a Folder document type in Umbraco, created a library folder (just for old time Dreamweaver sake), then created a Library Item document type, with a bodyText rich text editor field to hold the content.  Then I created some Library Item documents before the Library folder.  Then I created a XLST macro to display the Library Items, using a Content picker as a property to select the relevant Library Item and popped the macro into a template.  Should work fine.

Well, a couple of reasons.

Firstly, technical: we have an existing ASP.NET website, it has a creaky bespoke content management-not-really-a-system, it has a number of ASP.NET user controls, which Umbraco will let me release and set free for end users to play with as macros.  From a technical point of view, its crying out for Umbraco.

Secondly, the open source community.  My experience thus far of the Umbraco community is that its an  extremely friendly and open grouping who take time out to make things easier for other people.  See http://our.umbraco.org/wiki/about/umbraco-core-values/an-open-letter for a flavour of the ethos. That ethos makes your professional life a hundred times more enriching than it is working in isolation.

Made my first big step forward: I’ve worked out how to retain the directory structure of the existing site where required so as retain our links from Google.

To explain the problem: our existing website has a home page at \index.aspx, and the other files in a folder structure – so, the main About Us page is at \about\index.aspx, and the other “About Us” pages are in the same directory, e.g. \about\enviroment.aspx, \about\briefhistory.aspx

If I create a new About Us page under the site root with Umbraco, it will give it the url \about us.aspx.  Pages placed under his About Us page will have the url \about\[Page Name]

Two problems with this – first, I need to retain the existing rather terse file names for the pages (e.g. environment.aspx) whereas I want to name the pages fully to help editors (e.g. Our Commitment to the Environment).  I also need the main about us page at /about/index.aspx, not /about us.aspx

So I’m using some basic techniques:

  • I’m creating a structure on Umbraco that resembles the one on our existing website, with the main About Us page as the “folder” for other about us pages.
  • To make the urls for each page match the old filenames, I’m using umbracoURLName as a property on the DocumentTypes for my pages – you have to remember to exclude the .aspx.  So the main About Us page has the umbracoURLName of “about” (matching the folder in the old site) and the Commitment to the Environment page has the umbracoURLName of “environment”, which means the page has the effective url of “about/enviroment.aspx”)
  • The only problem left is the main About Us page, which still has an effective url of \about.aspx.  So I’m using URLRewriter entries to fix these main section pages.  So for the About Us page, we’ve got an entry as follows:

<add name="about"
virtualUrl="~/about/index.aspx"
rewriteUrlParameter="ExcludeFromClientQueryString"
destinationUrl="~/about.aspx"
ignoreCase="true" />

The good thing about these techniques is that they are quite simple, and page redirection is only required for the main section pages (and URLRewriter does 301 redirects, so Google will be happy -although the clarity of Google’s advice to use 301 redirects seems to be somewhat under question – see the interview with Matt Cutts at http://www.stonetemple.com/articles/interview-matt-cutts-012510.shtml ).

URLRewriter is an open-source, light-weight, highly configurable URL rewriting component for ASP.NET 1.1 and 2.0 that is bundled in with Umbraco.  The URLRewriter config file is at  /config/UrlRewriting.config

I should thank the Umbraco core team for their advice on this through Umbraco Pro support – see http://umbraco.org/products for more info.

Hi,

In this series of posts I’m going to try and record my experiences migration an existing website – which uses ASP.NET and Dreamweaver templates, to Umbraco.  I’m going to use Umbraco 4.1, the Release Candidate of which has just become available.  There is an existing set of .NET user controls to move over.   I’ve spent a little time with Umbraco previously, and I attended Doug Robar’s excellent Level 1 Umbraco course in Birmingham – see http://www.percipientstudios.com/training/trainer.aspx for more details. I’ve been working in web development, amongst other things, for nearly thirteen years.  Blimey.  I was still almost young back then.

The current website is at http://www.field-studies-council.org/  The process of migration will be gradual  – I’m still working primarily on another project (organisational rollout of the Care database from IRIS) , and will happen in phases.  Wish me luck.  I’m really looking forward to it.

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