Scott Hanselman

Don't Check Your Email in the Morning

September 9, '14 Comments [64] Posted in Productivity
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Hanselman's Productivity TipsIn my productivity talk "How to Scale Yourself and Get More Done Than You Thought Possible" I include a challenge to the listener. It's kind of insane, but it's actually proven very useful to me when I really need to get important work done.

Don't check your email in the morning.

Insane right? I believe that checking your email in the morning is the best way to time-travel to after lunch.

Why DO we check email first thing in the morning? Well, because something crucial might have happened overnight.

There's a few things wrong with that sentence, in my opinion. Words like "something" and "might" stick out. We check our email because of fear, a sense of disconnectedness, and (in some cases) a feeling of urgency addiction.

We often go to bed with our current project or work on our minds. It's THAT project that we should probably wake up and start working on. It's that project that we kind of left unfinished when we went to bed in the first place.

We SHOULD get up and start working on our project first thing. Instead we check our email, get sucked into it, answer a few, get stressed, answer a few more, threaten to delete the whole inbox, and then it's lunch time.

When I'm not really focused, sometimes the day just slips past me. I find my feet around 5pm when the day is winding down, not at 9am when it should be winding up.

If something really really important happened it won't be in your inbox. Your phone will be blowing up. Someone will be sitting in your seat when you show up at work. They will find you.

When they DO find you, you should be working. Go to work and resist the urge to check your email. Start working immediately, head down, sprinting. There's HOURS of time before lunch to be discovered.

Here's your homework. Go to work tomorrow and don't open email until afternoon. You might be staring at first, wondering what the heck you're supposed to do. Do that project. Write that code. Work on that book. Update that blog. Do literally ANYTHING except email.

When you open email for the first time after lunch, you'll have hours of amazing work already behind you and you'll feel amazing.

Try it.


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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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Can you hear me now? Unmute your microphone

September 5, '14 Comments [22] Posted in Tools
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I've been working remotely now, from home, for over half a decade. I work in my home office, from cafes, from my tethered mobile, basically anywhere I can be productive and not feel like a phony.

Here's the thing, though. I have to go to meetings, and I spend 15 minutes of those meetings waiting for YOU (yes, you, there) to unmute your mic, setup your cam, mess around with your internet, and generally waste the remote worker's (yes, me, here) time.

So, as a customer service to the internet, I present.

http://howtounmute.com

That domain points directly to this post. Please, tell your friends family and clients.

Why not include http://howtounmute.com as a link in your meetings?

Is your mic muted?

Using Skype?

image

See that circled icon? That's a muted microphone. Click to unmute.

Using Lync?

In Lync, this means your phone and mic are turned off.

image

Click the left one to unmute! Click the right one to turn on your cam! You can also use the "Win+F4" global hotkey to unmute Lync.

Using Google Hangouts?

The unmute button is at the top of the hangout.

image

Click the little Settings Gear to select your microphone and speakers from within Google Hangouts.

image

Using Some Weird old Adobe Flash-based Web Conferencing Thing?

Seriously, stop. What's wrong with you? Then, right click on the box where the app is running and click Settings...

image

You can select your Microphone and see the bar move on the right, indicating it can hear you.

Wait, did you select the right microphone globally?

Most apps let you select microphones within the app. You can also set your preferred mic globally.

Which mic am I using? Right click on the little speaker near the clock and select "Recording Devices."

image

Some machines have more than one microphone. Windows lets you set a "Default Communications Device" for calls like Skype, and this is different from the "Default Device" for regular audio apps like Audacity. Right click to set your default.

image

PRO TIP: Tap your microphone (or where you think it is) to confirm where you THINK it is. Watch the green bars move.

Applications can also select their individual preferred microphone. Here's Tools | Options in Skype. See how I can select where I want my audio output to go? And where I want my input to come from?

image

Got a Mac?

That's cool. Type "Sound" into Spotlight and open your settings. Note you can see your input volume, your preferred input devices and preferred output device.

clip_image001

Got a physical phone?

There is VERY likely a microphone mute button on the phone. Familiarize yourself with the phone's buttons and try this one.

cx600_options2

Maybe you have a headset? Does it have a mute button? Maybe you bumped it.

c26-478USB-2-l

Call to AUDIBLE ACTION

If you take 5 to 10 minutes NOW to make sure you know how to select your microphone and umute yourself, you will save remote workers everywhere 15 minutes for every 1 hour meeting.


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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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Introducing Gulp, Grunt, Bower, and npm support for Visual Studio

September 2, '14 Comments [69] Posted in ASP.NET | Tools | VS2013
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Web Development, specifically front end web development, is fast becoming as complex and sophisticated as traditional back end development. Most projects don't just upload some JS and CSS files via FTP. There's now a front end build process that can include expansion of SASS and LESS, minification of CSS/JS, running JSHint or JSLint, and much more. These build tasks and processes are coordinated with tools like Gulp and Grunt. Additionally, client-side libraries are managed as packages using management systems like npm and bower.

Why client-side package managers for ASP.NET? Why not NuGet? Why not MSBuild?

Some of you may ask, why not use NuGet for JavaScript? Why not extend MSBuild for building CSS/JS? Simple. Because there's already a rich ecosystem for this kind of thing. NuGet is great for server side libraries (and some client-side) but there are so many more CSS and JS libs on npm and bower. MSBuild is great for server-side builds but can be overkill when building a client-side app.

So, use both. These are tools in your toolkit. Adding support for Gulp, Grunt, Bower, npm (and other stuff, in the future if needed) means a more familiar environment for front-end devs doing ASP.NET and it opens the doors for ASP.NET devs to bring in the JS and CSS libraries communities use every day.

Introducing Task Runner Explorer

We’ve received a ton of feature requests regarding Grunt/Gulp support from many of you as well as the community at large. We are building first-class support for both Grunt and Gulp in Visual Studio “14” with full extensibility. Now we’re ready to ship a preview of this support as an extension to VS2013 and would appreciate your help testing and exploring this feature. 

Today we're introducing a preview of the "Task Runner Explorer" as a VSIX extension. We're also recommending two other VSIXs to round out the experience for this feature.

NOTE: Much of the functionality included in these multiple VSIX extensions will be built into Visual Studio so you won't need to install so many things. However, for VS2013 and this preview we needed multiple VSIXs in order to get you the bits sooner than later. Also note that today only Task Runner Explorer will work on Visual Studio Express but for VS14 all  the features will work in the free VS Express version.

Consider these features as a "DevLabs" preview for now, much like the VS Productivity Power Tools. They'll graduate into the final product.

What do you need?

First, you'll need Visual Studio 2013.3 - that 3 means "Update 3" which is a free update.

  1. TRX - Task Runner Explorer Visual Studio Extension
  2. NPM/NBower Package Intellisense - Search for online NPM and Bower packages directly with Intellisense
  3. Optional Grunt Launcher (gives right-click options in Solution Explorer - including "npm install")
    • Without this extension, for now you'll need to run npm install yourself to restore/add packages.
    • If you DO have this extension, right click on packages.json and "npm install" before running a grunt/gulp task.

To open the TRX (Task Runner Explorer), simply right-click any gruntfile.js in your project:

image002 

The TRX sits at the bottom of VS by default and looks like this:

 image001

Here we can see that it found a gruntfile.js in the root of one or more projects in the solution. It also shows the task bindings feature that allows any task or target to be triggered by 4 different Visual Studio events.

To associate a task/target with a VS event, just right-click and setup bindings.

image003

To run any task/target, just double-click it and a console appears:

image004

When you've got the Package Intellisense Extension you'll find it easy to add and update packages when directly editing your package.json for both bower and npm.

completion-name

You'll even get metadata tooltips populated asynchronously.

tooltip-animated

As you go testing it, remember you'll need to run "npm install" before you use the Task Runner Explorer to run Grunt tasks.

Big thanks to Mads Kristensen, Dan Chartier, and Van Kichline for their great work on this feature!


Sponsor: Many thanks to Intersoft for sponsoring the feed this week! Enterprise cross-platform native apps development made painless with Intersoft Crosslight. Sounds too good to be true? See it for yourself and get started today! 

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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ASP.NET vNext - August 2014 Status Rollup

August 29, '14 Comments [31] Posted in ASP.NET | Open Source
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Work on the next version of ASP.NET continues. It's a world of Alpha software, Git commits, breaking changes, and daily builds. If you're not one for risk, this blog post is for you. Read about all the fun stuff that's going on, and install nothing. If you do like a little spice in your life, jump in and install some early builds and join this active and opinionated community.

Introducing ASP.NET vNext

We announced vNext in May and did some great talks at TechEd.

ASP.NET vNext has number of notable features, including, but not limited to:

  • Open Source from the start and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • No "build to disk" step, just refresh and go with runtime in-memory compilation from the Open Source Roslyn compiler.
  • Optional cloud optimized local install the CoreCLR that runs great in Azure.
  • Want to use a Mac and Sublime rather than Windows and VS? Sure.
  • No strong naming, no dependency on System.Web
  • Dependency injection everywhere
  • side-by-side runtimes (one app can't hurt another, get your own versions of everything)
  • NuGet Packages easy to bring in the new project.json system. But, you can also swap in the source for your favorite libraries!

 

David Fowler and Scott Hanselman

Since then we've seen the release of betas of the next version of Visual Studio, like Visual Studio "14" CTP 3. This version of VS includes the ASP.NET vNext alpha 3 packages plus initial tooling. The project system is changing and this VS14 build includes Intellisense for the new Project.json files.

  • ASP.NET and Web Development vNext Updates. This CTP includes all the Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 web tooling improvement and ASP.NET vNext alpha 3 runtime packages. It has improved tooling support for ASP.NET vNext, such as support for build configuration and support for unit tests, and it no longer includes content and compile items inside “.kproj” file. ASP.NET vNext includes an updated version of the RyuJIT JIT compiler. For details, please read the full post on the .NET Web Development Tools blog.

Separate from ASP.NET vNext, this build of VS14 also includes .NET Native, C++ updates, Shared Projects, as well as little things like retina icons for HiDPI displays.

Project.json files

Scaffolding for ASP.NET vNext

ASP.NET vNext is very modular and will include customizable command-line scaffolding . As with all of ASP.NET vNext, it's easy and alpha, but we've got blog posts up showing you how to get started with scaffolding. We've also got details on how to customize (of course) scaffolding for your personal needs.

ASP.NET vNext on a Mac

Sure, why not? We're working on a Sublime Text 3 plugin at https://github.com/ligershark/Kulture that means you'll be able to develop ASP.NET vNext apps in your favorite IDE. There's a quick YouTube video here.

ASP.NET on a Mac

There's also some clever community members with C# Intellisense working! The LEGO pieces are snapping together nicely.

Intellisense on a Mac

This is just a taste, there's more coming that WILL surprise you

What else is possible?

ASP.NET vNext going forward...Alpha 3

David Fowler has some great Alpha 3 details on his blog that cover some architecture changes and explains some choices. ASP.NET vNext apps get their own copy of the CLR/BCL when deployed, but this is a hassle when developing. So, ASP.NET vNext apps can use a Global NuGet repository (this is NOT the GAC, relax.)

Apps can also opt in to new C# 6 features easily with a quick change to project.json.

{
"compilationOptions": {
"languageVersion": "experimental"
}
}

Again, this is all happening in the open on GitHub at https://github.com/aspnet, so check out the last milestone's issues here: https://github.com/aspnet/KRuntime/milestones/1.0.0-alpha4

I'm sure I missed something. Sound off in 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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How to run Background Tasks in ASP.NET

August 26, '14 Comments [39] Posted in ASP.NET | NuGet | NuGetPOW | Open Source
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A few years back Phil Haack wrote a great article on the dangers of recurring background tasks in ASP.NET. In it he points out a few gotchas that are SO common when folks try to do work in the background. Read it, but here's a summary from his post.

  • An unhandled exception in a thread not associated with a request will take down the process.
  • If you run your site in a Web Farm, you could end up with multiple instances of your app that all attempt to run the same task at the same time.
  • The AppDomain your site runs in can go down for a number of reasons and take down your background task with it.

If you think you can just write a background task yourself, it's likely you'll get it wrong. I'm not impugning your skills, I'm just saying it's subtle. Plus, why should you have to?

There's LOT of great ways for you to do things in the background and a lot of libraries and choices available.

Some ASP.NET apps will be hosted in IIS in your data center and others will be hosted in the Azure cloud. The spectrum of usage is roughly this, in my opinion:

  • General: Hangfire (or similar similar open source libraries)
    • used for writing background tasks in your ASP.NET website
  • Cloud: Azure WebJobs 
    • A formal Azure feature used for offloading running of background tasks outside of your Website and scale the workload
  • Advanced: Azure Worker Role in a Cloud Service
    • scale the background processing workload independently of your Website and you need control over the machine

There's lots of great articles and videos on how to use Azure WebJobs, and lots of documentation on how Worker Roles in scalable Azure Cloud Services work, but not a lot about how your hosted ASP.NET application and easily have a background service. Here's a few.

WebBackgrounder

As it says "WebBackgrounder is a proof-of-concept of a web-farm friendly background task manager meant to just work with a vanilla ASP.NET web application." Its code hasn't been touched in years, BUT the WebBackgrounder NuGet package has been downloaded almost a half-million times.

The goal of this project is to handle one task only, manage a recurring task on an interval in the background for a web app.

If your ASP.NET application just needs one background task to runs an a basic scheduled interval, than perhaps you just need the basics of WebBackgrounder.

using System;
using System.Threading;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace WebBackgrounder.DemoWeb
{
public class SampleJob : Job
{
public SampleJob(TimeSpan interval, TimeSpan timeout)
: base("Sample Job", interval, timeout)
{
}

public override Task Execute()
{
return new Task(() => Thread.Sleep(3000));
}
}
}

Built in: QueueBackgroundWorkItem - Added in .NET 4.5.2

Somewhat in response to the need for WebBackgrounder, .NET 4.5.2 added QueueBackgroundWorkItem as a new API. It's not just a "Task.Run," it tries to be more:

QBWI schedules a task which can run in the background, independent of any request. This differs from a normal ThreadPool work item in that ASP.NET automatically keeps track of how many work items registered through this API are currently running, and the ASP.NET runtime will try to delay AppDomain shutdown until these work items have finished executing.

It can try to delay an AppDomain for as long as 90 seconds in order to allow your task to complete. If you can't finish in 90 seconds, then you'll need a different (and more robust, meaning, out of process) technique.

The API is pretty straightforward, taking  Func<CancellationToken, Task>. Here's an example that kicks of a background work item from an MVC action:

public ActionResult SendEmail([Bind(Include = "Name,Email")] User user)
{
if (ModelState.IsValid)
{
HostingEnvironment.QueueBackgroundWorkItem(ct => SendMailAsync(user.Email));
return RedirectToAction("Index", "Home");
}

return View(user);
}

FluentScheduler

FluentScheduler is a more sophisticated and complex scheduler that features a (you guessed it) fluent interface. You have really explicit control over when your tasks run.

using FluentScheduler;

public class MyRegistry : Registry
{
public MyRegistry()
{
// Schedule an ITask to run at an interval
Schedule<MyTask>().ToRunNow().AndEvery(2).Seconds();

// Schedule a simple task to run at a specific time
Schedule(() => Console.WriteLine("Timed Task - Will run every day at 9:15pm: " + DateTime.Now)).ToRunEvery(1).Days().At(21, 15);

// Schedule a more complex action to run immediately and on an monthly interval
Schedule(() =>
{
Console.WriteLine("Complex Action Task Starts: " + DateTime.Now);
Thread.Sleep(1000);
Console.WriteLine("Complex Action Task Ends: " + DateTime.Now);
}).ToRunNow().AndEvery(1).Months().OnTheFirst(DayOfWeek.Monday).At(3, 0);
}
}

FluentScheduler also embraces IoC and can easily plug into your favorite Dependency Injection tool of choice by just implementing their ITaskFactory interface.

Quartz.NET

Quartz.NET is a .NET port of the popular Java job scheduling framework of the (almost) same name. It's very actively developed. Quartz has an IJob interface with just one method, Execute, to implement.

using Quartz;
using Quartz.Impl;
using System;

namespace ScheduledTaskExample.ScheduledTasks
{
public class JobScheduler
{
public static void Start()
{
IScheduler scheduler = StdSchedulerFactory.GetDefaultScheduler();
scheduler.Start();

IJobDetail job = JobBuilder.Create<MyJob>().Build();

ITrigger trigger = TriggerBuilder.Create()
.WithDailyTimeIntervalSchedule
(s =>
s.WithIntervalInHours(24)
.OnEveryDay()
.StartingDailyAt(TimeOfDay.HourAndMinuteOfDay(0, 0))
)
.Build();

scheduler.ScheduleJob(job, trigger);
}
}
}

Then, inside your Application_Start, you call JobScheduler.Start(). There's a great getting started article on Quartz at Mikesdotnetting you should check out.

Hangfire

And last but definitely not least, the most polished (IMHO) of the group, Hangfire by @odinserj. It's a fantastic framework for background jobs in ASP.NET. It's even optionally backed by Redis, SQL Server, SQL Azure, MSMQ, or RabbitMQ for reliability.

The Hangfire documentation is amazing, really. Every open source project's document should be this polished. Heck, ASP.NET's documentation should be this good.

The best feature from Hangfire is its built in /hangfire dashboard that shows you all your scheduled, processing, succeeded and failed jobs. It's really a nice polished addition.

image

You can enqueue "fire and forget" jobs easily and they are backed by persistent queues:

BackgroundJob.Enqueue(() => Console.WriteLine("Fire-and-forget"));

You can delay them...

BackgroundJob.Schedule(() => Console.WriteLine("Delayed"), TimeSpan.FromDays(1));

Or great very sophisticated CRON style recurrent tasks:

RecurringJob.AddOrUpdate(() => Console.Write("Recurring"), Cron.Daily);

Hangfire is just a joy.

Check out the Hangfire Highlighter Tutorial for a sophisticated but easy to follow real-world example.

There's a rich ecosystem out there ready to help you with your background tasks. All these libraries are excellent, are open source, and are available as NuGet Packages.

Did I miss your favorite? Sound off in 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.