Scott Hanselman

Jump-Location - A Change Directory (CD) PowerShell Command that reads your mind

September 18, '14 Comments [13] Posted in Tools
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There's a lovely little utility called autojump for *nix consoles that makes the 'cd' command very smart. More that just auto-completion, it's a kind of "auto guessing." Hence, autojump. There is some beginning Windows support, but instead I turned to Tim Kellogg's open source PowerShell implementation "Jump-Location."

What a joy.

j this and j that

First, I was like "jump-location?" I'm not going to type that. But then, of course, duh. Aliases.

Jump-Location is aliased to just j, which means I can now do awesome stuff like this:

c:\> j sc
c:\users\scott> j g
c:\users\AppData\Local\GitHub> j des
c:\users\scott\Desktop>

But there's more. It's actually watching how long you are in a directory and keeping stats. You can see the weighted stats with "jumpstat" and the "database" is just a text file in ~\jump-location.txt.

If "j d" isn't enough to get me into C:\GitHub\DisProject then I can do "j g d" and I'm there. It's amazing.

Installation is easy, and I hope it gets on PsGet soon for even easier installation. Just unzip, unblock, ensure that your PowerShell execution policy allows scripts, and run ./install.ps1.

NOTE: Don't run install from your desktop, or a temp folder. Put the Jump-Location folder somewhere where it will live, and it's going to add a line like this to your user profile ("C:\Users\YOU\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1")  like this, so you'll want to install from a final path:

Import-Module 'C:\Users\Scott\Dropbox\utils\Jump-Location-0.5.1\Jump.Location.psd1'

I'm exited about this great little utility. Head over to https://github.com/tkellogg/Jump-Location and STAR it in GitHub, and give it a go! Tim, the author, is on Twitter at @kellogh. Other contributors include Sergey Vorobyev.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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iOS8 3rd Party Keyboards Reviews - SwiftKey and Swype

September 18, '14 Comments [23] Posted in Reviews
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I've been running iOS8 for a while now in Beta, and today all my iDevices are running the released iOS 8. One of the most anticipated new features is the ability to create and add 3rd party keyboards. In the future I anticipate we'll see lots of interesting and creative keyboards, perhaps to draw an emoji with your finger, custom Chinese or Japanese IMEs (input method editors), and others.

Until then, the primary thing folks have been waiting for is what Android and now Windows Phone have had for a while, the ability to type without lifting your thumb. You'll either love it or hate it, but you need to try it for a day. When done well, it's amazing and brilliant.

The Hassle of the Setup Process

3rd Party Keyboards install from the AppStore like any other app. When you run each for the first time they walk you through the process of installing their keyboard. This is easy for a techie, but for your non-Technical Relatives it might take a little coaching as you'll end up 3 or 4 deep inside Settings | General | Keyboards.

Multiple Keyboards

Swype - US$0.99

Swype worked great, exactly as advertised. I enjoyed using it very much and it's swiping feature works as advertised. I did feel its autocorrect somehow left something to be desired. Below you can see it getting confused as I swipe the word "autocorrect."

Swyping Adding new words

The deal breaker for me with Swype was two-fold. First, the spacebar is smaller than the default space bar. It's a small thing to be sure (as tiny keyboards are) but it had me adding periods . throughout . my text, as I hit that before I hit the space bar.

Secondly, the lower left corner of the iOS keyboard has always been the little 123 Icon. It lets you switch between ABC and 123, of course. Swype chose to move this over to the second spot. This flummoxed me all day. I'm sure I could train myself as it's just muscle memory, but it was an unusual choice, I thought, and this is just one place where Swype deviated their keyboard design from being "just a swiping solution."  They've moved other things as well.

Opening the proper Swype button in the lower corner with a press and hold brings up the Globe (usually not hidden in other keyboards) as well as the Dial Pad for numbers, and the Settings gear.

Swype has moved some things and this slowed me down quite a lot. This keyboard below moves all my symbols to new locations, with the Asterisk nowhere to be found!

Checking out the Swype menu What's with the random Emoji?

NOTE: One thing that ALL these keyboards thankfully fix is the "shift key problem" with the default iOS keyboard. They show lowercase letters when you're typing lowercase, and change the whole keyboard to uppercase when you press Shift. It's so painfully a problem with the default keyboard, it's really unfortunate that this wasn't changed in iOS8.

Swype also includes funky themes with background images if you're into that level of customization.

SwiftKey - Free, with registration and has optional $ IAPs

SwiftKey is free, but they intend to make money by selling us keyboard things. For now, I'm thrilled with the default, as seen below. It looks almost exactly like the default iOS keyboard, which is what I'm looking for. I don't want to relearn where things are when I just want swiping and a few other features.

SwiftKey keeps all the symbols and numbers exactly where they usually are, and adds a few nice touches like a gentle reminder than I can touch-and-hold on punctuation for additional choices.

SwiftKey Fantastic  swiping is amazing

One odd bug I saw with SwiftKey - If I turn off "Allow all Access," in Settings | General | Keyboards, SwiftKey ignored my white theme choice, showing me only a black keyboard with a reminder to turn on All Access. I presume this is a bug, as it's definitely wrong. Other than this one issue, I'm digging SwiftKey.

TouchPal

There is also a free Chinese keyboard called TouchPal that includes swiping input, keyboards, themes and a focus on Emoji. The Emoji are included in the keyboard, meaning your don't need to switch to the Emoji keyboard. That said, I installed it and my phone locked up. I rebooted and had no keyboard until I removed TouchPal. I think this experience speaks (IMHO) to the larger issue of stability with 3rd party keyboards on iOS, but this is only from my perspective as a user. I was unable to get TouchPal working.

Privacy Concerns

Here's the kicker for a lot of people. In order to make predictive text suggestions, sometimes these keyboards need to send what you're typing to their cloud engine. Be sure to read their privacy policies to make sure you're comfortable with how they use your data.

Here's part of SwiftKey's privacy policy. Note that you can opt out of their cloud service. They try not to collect passwords and payments, basing this on hints like "type=password" in HTML, I presume. They also allow you to delete all your cloud data at a later date if you like.

For users that opt in to SwiftKey Cloud, we will collect your email address, basic demographic information and information concerning the words and phrases that you use (“Language Modeling Data”) to enable services such as personalization, prediction synchronization and backup. We may use data provided by you to develop and improve our Products.

Where a field has been flagged by a website or app as denoting a password field or payment information, SwiftKey does not log, store or learn from this information.

Be educated, but I'm OK with using these keyboards for basic email. Of course, you can (and will) switch keyboards many times a day if you're like me.

Switching Keyboards

Bugs

If you type technical (or Medical, or Legal, or whatever) things a lot, you'll likely find some very odd predications with these keyboards. Here SwiftKey has clearly looked at my history and is suggesting something totally wrong...and offering to Capitalize it also! Autocorrect has always been a problem, but don't expect a 3rd party keyboard to fix it...although these ones aim to try! Theoretically they'll learn even more from what I type.

Random suggestion More autocomplete

A number of times I've found myself looking at a text box with a flashing insert point waiting for a keyboard to pop up. These keyboards need to LOAD and sometimes that causes a pause, or when things go wrong, they just never show up. In a word, there's bugs all around, in both the Keyboards, I suspect, and in iOS8's handling of them.

Here I am, keyboardless. I had to reboot at this point. Your mileage may vary.

Just Blank, no KeyboardStill no keyboard

Mark my words, I predict bug fixes for a the supporting APIs for 3rd Party Keyboards will be coming in the next minor update to iOS8.

NOTE: Neither of these keyboards includes a Microphone Button to start Siri's built-in dictation. As such, these keyboards won't work with my app, myEcho. This appears to be a limitation imposed by Apple, that won't allow us (developers) to invoke a dictation without using their button. If you want to dictate (which is almost a keyboard on its own...I'd like to see a giant "Dictate now" button, myself) then you'll need to switch to the built in iOS keyboard.
Press Microphone to Dictate to Siri

Final Recommendation

My recommendation? YOU should try them all and see which one makes you happy. If you are very much a touch typist and you want a swiping keyboard that doesn't deviate far from the default, I recommend SwiftKey.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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How do you deal with anxiety when Live Coding in Technical Interviews?

September 16, '14 Comments [48] Posted in Musings
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Photo by Kevin Dooley used under Creative Commons

I received this question last week from a reader:

I've been a developer since 2005. I'm a solid developer with good experience. I've got a great opportunity for a new position coming up but I'm concerned about the tech interview. I seem to freeze like a deer in the headlights when asked to write code in front of people.

My resume is accurate and reflects my skills and experience but how do I prove I'm competent when I have this tendency to choke on tech questions when I'm put on the spot?

This is a great question. To level set, note that they aren't concerned that they don't have the skill. Their skills ARE up to the task. It's a case of anxiety around the live aspect of the tech interview

I would start with honesty. Talk to the hiring manager or the HR person. Offer to show them lots of code, your repos, examples. Offer to share more code than you'd ordinarily need to, as a way of making it clear you have nothing to hide. Everyone has something, be it anxiety, issues with public speaking, etc. Trying to hide an issue can make it worse.

Perhaps you could do a coding test where you *walk them through existing code* and explain. Explain to them that you have anxiety about whiteboard coding, BUT you want to make sure they get an accurate picture about your skill.

Also, practice! Talk to a friend and have them interview you and and have you code live. Folks don't ordinarily code live with an audience, so it's understandable why you might freeze or not perform at your best. If you don't do something often (like code live in front of an audience) then, darn it, do it often! Practice. 

Understand also that the interview may also want to see how you react under pressure. Do you get visibly angry? Wilt? Fall back on first principles? Denigrate yourself? Apologize? These reactions can be as important as your actual code. Usually interviewers are looking for thoughtfulness, analysis, patience, calm, and humility.

What do YOU think, Dear Reader? The comments on posts like this are usually better than my opinions!

* Photo by Kevin Dooley used under Creative Commons

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Fear Driven Development - FDD

September 13, '14 Comments [64] Posted in Musings
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Photo by Stacy Brunner

I had an interesting chat recently at a conference in the "hallway track." The hallway track is all the great conversations that happen in the hallway between sessions.

What drives your development processes? Are you a TDD house, where your tests drive development? Or, perhaps there's a chief architect who isn't a very nice person. We call this ADD - Asshole Driven Development. However, this chat was about FDD - Fear Driven Development.

Organizational Fear

Organization fear can have developers worried about making mistakes, breaking the build, or causing bugs that the organization increases focus on making paper, creating excessive process, and effectively standing in the way of writing code.

This "analysis paralysis" slows the entire project down. Every one is so afraid of the process that forward motion stops. There's a great post called "10 ways to lose a team" that covers many negative behaviors that can affect a team. Things like

  • Forbidding one-on-one meetings
  • Don't share information
  • Implying that everyone can be replaced
  • Micromanaging

All of these behaviors increase ambient fear and can cause a cloud of anxiety to loom over the organization.

Losing Your Job Fear

Other kind of Fear Driven Development is when an organization tries to get developers to stay far too late, work unreasonably hard, by implying that they'll lose their job at the sign of any problems with the project. Threatening jobs will never create a more productive team. It only perpetuates negative feelings and will always lead to people quitting. This also can cause management to believe that heroic effort is a common and acceptable part of the software development. An occasional "work push" is one thing, but if EVERY RELEASE cycle means a heroic effort at the cost of your personal relationships, you've got problems.

Fear of Changing Code

Another kind of Fear Driven Development is when your development organization (or your entire organization) is afraid of the code. Perhaps the code is older (legacy code) but more likely it's just not fully understood. It mostly works, but folks are afraid that a small change to the code could cost unpredictable side-effects. Fear of bug regressions - a closed/fixed bug coming back to life also stresses developers out.

Can you think of other flavors of Fear Driven Development?

* Photo by Stacy Brunner, used under Creative Commons


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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"Simply terrible advice" - If the shoe pinches, don't wear it.

September 10, '14 Comments [41] Posted in Productivity
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Photo by Ben Grey used under CC

There's few things that get me too riled up when it comes to advice. I love hearing about other people's lives and their life systems. From the mundane and familiar, like how they pack their kids lunches, how they manage their finances, or how they manage their email.

The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. - Oscar Wilde

We are an amalgamation of all the advice we've ever been given. The first 18 years of my life I was trapped in my parents' house and subjected to their "advice." Most of which turned out to be spot on. I am currently forcing my children to take my advice until their brains full form (which I suspect will happen in about 25 years).

A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice. - Bill Cosby

I did a post yesterday called "Don't Check Your Email in the Morning." It's not that controversial, I think. However, it's been characterized as "The singular most life-changing productivity tip I've received" as well as "Simply terrible advice."

Come on. This is simply an issue of self-reflection. Look at your personal habits, your routine, and how you go about your day. Do you go about your workday on auto-pilot, or with a sense of intentionality?

Don't check email in the morning is a rule of thumb. The essential point is "Don't get caught up in the minutiae of unimportant morning email checking if you're unknowingly using email checking as an way to procrastinate."

Maybe checking email every 5 min works for you. Perhaps that morning quick email sweet is essential to your business. Hey, more power to you. You check email 365 days a year. I wonder what would happen if you didn't check it in the morning for a day? Might be useful advice. Totally might not. You'll never know unless you try.

I like trying on shoes. But if the shoe pinches, I don't wear it.

Consider not checking your email in the morning, if you think it might help you. Enjoy the comments.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.