Scott Hanselman

Another Way to Replace Start Run - Enso Launcher

January 26, '07 Comments [12] Posted in Reviews | Tools
Sponsored By

Stephen Nelson turned me on to Humanized Software's "Enso Launcher" (blog) earlier today, and I've been playing with it all evening. I've been on a quest to replace Start|Run for years (podcast). I've also done a lot of work in UI and UX and these guys are definitely fans of Jef Raskin's Humane Interface for good reason. Not just because Jef was brilliant - but also because they worked directly with him. The Enso Launcher is dedicated to Jef.

As I write this I notice that Enso was written up in the WSJ by Walt Mosberg today. Good PR team.

These guys have two products so far, one, a universal spell-checker called Enso Words with a very clever overlay interface. Right now I use an autocorrecter called Universal Autocorrect. Personally I think that US$40 is twice as expensive as it warrants.

However, the really interesting application in their Enso Launcher, which is oddly more useful, but reasonably priced at US$24.95. It's not quite as fast and intuitive as the Holy Grail - QuickSilver for Windows, but it's absolutely clever enough for you to download and try out.

There's a number of folks who are fervently against the Caps Lock key. Rather than suggesting that we rip the key off our keyboards, Enso Launcher uses it as its one-and-only hotkey.

Good Stuff

  • You hold down Caps Lock, an overlay appears, you start typing, then release Caps Lock. Sounds god when you type it, but in practice, it's kind of a tricky maneuver. For example, hold Caps Lock with your pinky, Type "gog", then without letting go of Caps Lock, press Tab with whatever free finger you have, mine is the left ring finger, then type the search term you want, then let go of Caps Locks. It's a bit of a dance. I'd prefer NOT to have to hold Caps Lock, or be able to configure the "start" and "end" events, like "Ctrl-Space" to start and "Enter" to end the command.
    • There is an alternative "lock-on"command, but it's (to me) very hard to to fast. "You can press down Caps Lock, then press down Alt, then release Caps Lock, then release Alt."
  • The calculate() command. If you have some text like 2+2 in a text box, just select it and do Caps Lock, "calc", release, and the text in the textbox will be replaced with the answer. If there's an = at the end, the answer appears at the end.
  • The "go" command switches between running applications, but also within Tabs in FireFox and/or IE. So, I can type "go", Tab, "Han" and if I have my blog open in a tab, Enso will switch me there.

Bad Stuff

  • So far, I'm just not as fast with this as I am with SlickRun. Mostly because of the machinations of the left hand.
    • It really needs a "start" type "stop" command...holding down Caps Lock thing is, in itself, an implied Mode, and having to hold it down makes this tool that much harder to "sell" to my Wife and/or Parents.
  • No plugin model that I can see.
  • Runs pokey on my 3Ghz P4. Might be my crap video card.

I'd say that it's pretty darn impressive for a first product, and a 1.0 at that. One caveat, it doesn't officially support Vista (yet), but it works pretty well on my Vista machine with UAC turned of. Go get it, I suspect it's going places. It's this kind of out of the box UX thinking that I expected from Windows Vista.

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Daemon Tools and my new Lenovo T60p

January 25, '07 Comments [21] Posted in Musings | Tools
Sponsored By

Wow, that was horrible. I recently had trouble with my work IBM Thinkpad T42. After having used it happily for a few years, suddenly WGATRAY.EXE decided to hang at 100% CPU forever, rendering the machine unusable. I even made a batch file to loop forever and repeatedly kill it.

I figured it was a sign to start over, so I got a Thinkpad T60p from our IT department. I started installing crap (they could drop an image on the machine, but I like things "just so"). I did VS2003, VS2005, etc...all from CD, but then I needed to mount an ISO.

I downloaded Daemon Tools, a great ISO mounter that I've used happily for years without so much as a peep of drama from it. In the middle of the install - bam - blue screen of death.

When your BRAND NEW MACHINE blue screens, it's like discovering your spouse is a spy with another life. How can you ever trust the machine again?

I looked all over the Daemon Tools forum and found dozens of folks having the same problem, but the support folks monitoring the forums were very unsympathetic and less than helpful.

At this point, I was stuck in a BSOD loop, blue-screening after the desktop appeared.

I started up in Safe Mode with Command Prompt, after pressing F8 before the Windows Splash screen. With the Lenovos, you have to be careful wit hF8. If you press it too early - like when the BIOS screen appears - you'll end up in their custom Windows Pre-Execution Enivronment. It's lovely, to be sure, but it doesn't let you open a command prompt. Amazing thing, it includes a version of Opera and will let you surf, but it won't allow you to delete a file.

Anyway, I went into c:\windows\system32\drivers and di a "dir /o-d" to see the most recently installed files.  I deleted st3Wolf.sys and stpd.sys. After rebotting and not blue screening, I removed all the SCSI devices from the Device Manager (right click on My Computer and click Manage, then Device manager) as well as the "PnP BIOS Extension" under System Devices.

It sure seems that mounting an ISO should just be built into the OS and not a whole series of selling one's soul to the device driver devil with fake devices and faux BIOs extensions.

I haven't blue screened yet as I type this post...but I don't know how I'll ever trust her again.

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Hanselminutes Podcast 48 - Introduction Board Gaming for Geeks and Programmers

January 25, '07 Comments [3] Posted in Gaming | Podcast
Sponsored By

My forty-eighth Podcast is up. I've finally buckled to intense peer pressure ;) and become a board gamer. More and more I've noticed that what I thought board games were like is wrong. There's a thriving alternative (to Monopoly, at least) board gaming world out there, and it's a great place for programmers to hang out. In this episode we talk about board games as an alternative to the HD-Xbox-PS3-Wii overload that many geeks and their families face in this increasingly techo-saturated time.

We're listed in the iTunes Podcast Directory, so I encourage you to subscribe with a single click (two in Firefox) with the button below. For those of you on slower connections there are lo-fi and torrent-based versions as well.

Subscribe: Feed-icon-16x16 Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Links from the show are also always on the show site. This particular show had some great links, do check them out. Do also remember the archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Our sponsors are CodeSmith Tools, /n software and the .NET Dev Journal.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

  • The basic MP3 feed is here, and the iPod friendly one is here. There's a number of other ways you can get it (streaming, straight download, etc) that are all up on the site just below the fold. I use iTunes, myself, to listen to most podcasts, but I also use FeedDemon and it's built in support.
  • Note that for now, because of bandwidth constraints, the feeds always have just the current show. If you want to get an old show (and because many Podcasting Clients aren't smart enough to not download the file more than once) you can always find them at http://www.hanselminutes.com.
  • I have, and will, also include the enclosures to this feed you're reading, so if you're already subscribed to ComputerZen and you're not interested in cluttering your life with another feed, you have the choice to get the 'cast as well.
  • If there's a topic you'd like to hear, perhaps one that is better spoken than presented on a blog, or a great tool you can't live without, contact me and I'll get it in the queue!

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

2007 African Music List

January 23, '07 Comments [8] Posted in Africa
Sponsored By

A reader wrote in to say that he liked the Afro-pop style of the Hanselminutes theme music, and wanted some African music pointers. I've been an Afrophile for as long as I can remember, studying Amharic while in college and now Zulu (and Bantu languages in general) and Mo and I have amassed a decent collection of contemporary African music. I can't say that my tastes are as broad and diverse as the continent, so be warned that this is a list of music I like, but not a list covering all cultures or current styles. I can virtually guarantee you'll enjoy this music though.

Note also that you'll very likely have to hunt for some of this music in your local town, unless you're living outside the states. I can typically find it at local African-specific record shops in larger towns. You can also buy most of it at the Afropop Shop.

Of course, "African Music" isn't a genre in itself, remember we're talking about 53 countries here, with literally hundreds (if not thousands) of different kinds of music. So I've narrowed the list to 20th and 21st century African music that I like.

  • Pitch Black Afro - Although he's South Africa's "ODB" in behavior, the music is pure Kwaito. Kwaito is a combination of reggae and house music.
    • If you want to experience PBA and a good general into to Kwaito and other South African hip-hop, get the soundtrack album to Tsotsi (a great movie). It's a little heavy with work from another Kwaito artist, Zola, who was in the movie, but it also has Vusi Mahlasela and Mafikizolo's fantastic track Munt'Omnyama (loosely translated to "black folks")
  • Brenda Fassie - known just as "Brenda." Her album "Memeza" is considered her best work.
  • Mafikizolo - Their 2005 album Kwela took Southern Africa by storm and is a very danceable collection.
  • Netsanet Mellesse - It's been a while since Netsanet's Spirit of Sheba album, so it sounds a little old-school with it's traditionally horn-heavy beats, but it's worth the listen as it's representative of a lot of contemporary Ethiopian pop.
    • Many prefer Aster Aweke, a slightly more flexible singer.
    • More recent is Gigi, a rising star to be sure, her album debut is a mix of traditional Amharic beats and Jazz.
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo - This is an excellent compilation that includes not just Ladysmith and their unique singing and dancing style - ingquzu - but other vocal greats.
  • Tuku (Oliver Mtukudzi) - A Zimbabwean Great who is usually mentioned second, after Thomas Mapfumo. The review of his Tuku Music albumn on Amazon is spot-on:
    • His music is more romantic and bluesy than Mapfumo's...He's Ray Charles and Otis Redding to Mapfumo's Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. The music that he creates to carry a song is often light as air, creating a beautiful tension between content and container.
  • Madarocka - Nigeria's Hip Hop queen, she's a little more intense that I usually like, but still a good listen if you like American-tinged hip-hop with an African flavor.
  • Angélique Kidjo - Born in Benin, but currently in Paris, her music might be dismissed by the purist because not obscure and not purely "African," her take on Summertime is worth the album price alone.
  • Pulling from a music list I posted in 2005:
    • Khaled, Sahra - The King of Rai's "Aicha" is an internationally known anthem. Singing in Arabic and French, Rai is pop, reggae and funk.
    • Youssou N'Dour, Egypt - An unlikely title from a man hailing from Senegal, Youssou is the African continent's Paul Simon, pulling in beats from the whole hemisphere.
  • freshlyground - I nearly forgot this amazing group from RSA. Much of the album is in Xhosa but there's much in English. The group is racially mixed, very representative of the New South Africa.

And of course, subscribe to AfroPop, their weekly podcast is pure African gold. 

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Channel 9 Video - Talking to Jeffrey Snover, PowerShell Architect

January 22, '07 Comments [3] Posted in PowerShell | Programming | Speaking
Sponsored By

Last November (!) I did a Channel 9 informal chat with Jeffrey Snover, the architect of PowerShell. It was a fantastic talk, a blast for me, as Jeffrey and I can talk about whatever, forever. However there was a Perfect Storm of technical problems and two things happened:

  • The ~5min of the video were lost and only audio exists...the video starts up somewhere around 4:45. The Channel9 team did a nice thing and added a splash with a notification. Still a bummer, but nicely recovered from.
  • It was published, but was unfindable and there were problems with the stream.

However, due to some very diligent work by CharlesT and ScottO at Microsoft, the interview is now up, available and watchable (IMHO). Go check it out. You can also download it directly if you like. I don't think i'll waste your time, and you can always watch it in double speed with Windows Media Player!

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

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