Scott Hanselman

Psychic Weight - Dealing with the things that press on your mind

August 24, '16 Comments [31] Posted in Musings
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I was really stressed out ten years ago. I felt that familiar pressure between my eyes and felt like all the things that remained undone were pressing on me. I called it "psychic weight." I have since then collected my Productivity Tips and written extensively on the topic of productivity and getting things done. I'm going to continue to remind YOU that Self-Care Matters in between my technical and coding topics. The essence of what I learned was to let go.

The Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Everyone has stress and everyone has pressure. There's no magic fix or silver bullet for stress, but I have found that some stressors have a common root cause. Things that stress me are things I think I need to do, handle, watch, take care of, worry about, sweat, deal with, or manage. These things press on me - right between my eyes - and the resulting feeling is what I call psychic weight.

For example: When the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) came out it was a gift from on high. What? A smart VCR that would just tape and hold all the TV Shows that I love? I don't have to watch shows when the time and day the shows come on? Sign me up. What a time saver!

Fast forward a few years and the magical DVR is now an infinite todo list of TV shows. It's a guilt pile. A failure queue. I still haven't watched The Wire. (I know.) It presses on me. I've actually had conversations with my wife like "ok, if we bang out the first season by staying up tonight until 4am, we should be all ready when Season 2 drops next week." Seriously. Yes, I know, Unwatched TV is a silly example. But you've binge-watched Netflix when you should have been working/reading/working out so you can likely relate.

But I'm letting go. I'll watch The Wire another time. I'll delete it from my DVR. I'm never going to watch the second season of Empire. (Sorry, Cookie. I love you Taraji!) I'm not going to read that pile of technical books on my desk. So I'm going to declare that to the universe and I'm going to remove the pile of books that's staring at me. This book stack, this failure pile is no more. And I'm not even mad. I'm OK with it.

Every deletion like this from your life opens up your time - and your mind -for the more important things you need to focus on.

What are your goals? What can you delete from your list (and I mean, DROP, not just postpone) that will free up your internal resources so you can focus on your goal?

Delete those emails. Declare email bankruptcy. They'll likely email you again. Delete a few seasons of shows you won't watch. Delete Pokemon Go. Make that stack of technical books on your desk shorter. Now, what positive thing will you fill those gaps with?

You deserve it. Remove psychic weight and lighten up. Then sound off in the comments!

* Image Copyright Shea Parikh / used under license from getcolorstock.com


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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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Making YouTube videos look sharp and professional on a budget

July 22, '16 Comments [26] Posted in Musings
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My team is doing some videos to show off some features in Visual Studio. Most of my videos or YouTubes are screencasts so the video quality of the people parts aren't a huge deal. I REALLY try to make my audio sound good but I've been somewhat lax on the video side, usually just using a webcam. While the Logitech 930e is amazing as webcams go, it's not really "pro." It looks good but it still looks and feels like a webcam in both field of view and depth of field.

image

I went looking for videos that had the look and feel I wanted and asked those folks that I admired how they did it.

I always love the way my friend Chescaleigh's YouTube videos look. They are clear and in focus, with amazing lighting and the background is "blown." That means there is a shallow depth of field with just Franchesca in focus and the background is a somewhat blurry.

Franchesca's videos are very professional

Franchesca pointed me to the Canon T3i DSLR HD camera. This is not just a nice still camera but also a very competent HD Video Camera that puts out fantastic 1080p video directly to an SD Card along with the ability to use alternate lenses. It also has options you can add on later like a remote control for focusing and starting/stopping recording.

The trick with the T3i is that it's a little older and you can find them for as little as $200-$250 on Craigslist. I've seen them cheap on Amazon as well. That makes them reasonable for a budget but again, the results look AMAZING.

I also love this video by Rachel Weil doing an overview Visual Studio Code. She steps it up with an interesting background and razor sharp focus. Her audio is also fantastic.

Rachel adds this Canon EF 50mm lens to her Canon DSLR to get a really tight focus. I haven't bought this lens yet but it's on my Amazon wishlist for the future.

Rachel's video is top notch

Good audio is so important. I tried cheap lavaliere microphones but I find I get the best results with a condenser mic held just out of frame. I like the Samson C01U but you can get decent USB Mics for <$50. Record your video and audio in separate files, and before you start talking *CLAP* very loud to make a spike in your audio, then you can line up your audio and video/audio files in your editor like iMovie or Movie Maker. Then mute the audio in your main audio/video file so you'll be hearing the high quality audio from your good mic and the high quality video from your camera.

Lining up video and audio

Finally, you need GOOD LIGHTING. ZOMG it matters so much. Even if you ignore all these tips and just use a webcam, get a nice light. Maria from my team recommended this CowboyStudio Dual Mount Brackets to let me mount a mic and lights to my camera, then I picked up this FANTASTIC 160 LED Power Panel. It's perfect because it's dimmable and includes color filters for getting different color temperatures or a diffuse effect.

image

I feel like the result is very close to the look I wanted and looks much more professional given a reasonable budget. Again, if you keep your equipment module (mic, camera, lenses, stands, lights, etc) you can improve your setup, as I have, as you have the cash.

image

How do YOU make videos that look sharp? Let me know 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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Self-care matters: Pay yourself first

July 14, '16 Comments [43] Posted in Musings
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My sonI was meeting with a mentee today and she was commenting how stressed out she was. Overwhelmed with work, email, home, life, dinners, the news, finances...you know. LIFE. I am too. You likely are as well.

We spent about on the phone talking about how to make it better and it all came down to self-care. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we matter. It's OK to take a moment and be selfish. You are the center of your universe and it's important to take time for yourself - to appreciate your value.

Depending on your personality type, you may give so much of yourself to your family, your work, your family and friends that you forget what's at the core! You! If you don't take care of yourself then how will you take care of everyone else?

This may seem obvious to you. If it does, that's cool. Click away. But sometimes obvious things need to be said and for my mentee and I, today, we needed to hear this and we needed a plan.

Here's some of our ideas.

  • Cancel a meeting.
    • Maybe cancel two. If you look at your day with absolute dread, is there a ball that you can drop safely? Perhaps ask a coworker if they can handle it for you?
  • Pay yourself first
    • Finances are a stressor for everyone. My wife and I used to argue about little $5 debit card things because they not only added up but they filled up the register, were hard to track, and generally distracted us from important stuff like the rent. Now we get an allowance. I don't use a credit card, I have a certain amount of cash each week (we get the same amount). I can buy Amazon Gift Cards or iTunes cards, I can eat at Chipotle whenever, or buy an Xbox game. Now when an Xbox game shows up she is interested in hearing about the game, not sweating how it was purchased. Pay yourself first.
  • Setup Formal Me-Time
    • Once a week my wife and I have a day off. From each other, from the family, just...off. I leave at 5pm and come back late. She does the same. Sometimes I see a movie, sometimes I walk around the mall, sometimes I code or play Xbox. The point is that it's MY TIME and it's formal. It's boxed and it's mine. And her time is hers. You shouldn't have to steal an hour when you're super stressed. PAY yourself an hour, up front.
    • We also do a weekly date night. Always. Gotta prioritize. I hate hearing "we haven't seen a movie or had a dinner in years...you know, kids." Nonsense. Get a sitter from the local uni and pay yourself first with TIME.
  • Self-care
    • Schedule a massage. Have your nails done (everyone should do their nails at least once). Get a haircut. Dance. Clean your office. Sleep. Do whatever it is that feeds your spirit.
  • Say no
    • Sometimes "No. I just can't right now." is enough to stop an email thread or a something when you feel you just can't. Drop the ball. Life is somewhat fault tolerant. Use your judgment of course, but truly, unless your software is saving babies, maybe take a break. Even an hour or a "mental health day" helps me no burn out.

Do you pay yourself first? Do you need to be reminded that you deserve health and happiness? Let me know 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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Is your stuff backed up? Recovering from a hardware failure

July 7, '16 Comments [30] Posted in Musings
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My computer died and I am sadI had a massive hardware failure over the holiday weekend. I can only tell you what I think happened. I'm not an electrical engineer so if you know more (and I'm sure you do), do feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

For my main machine in my home office I'm running the Ultimate PC that Jeff Atwood was so kind to build for me a few years back. It's not the Ultimate anymore, but I will say it's still VERY competent. I've upgraded the memory, video card, and SSD (more on the SSD in a moment) and it's a great machine and very very fast.

The tower was connected to an APC 850VA UPS that had worked nicely for a while. I replace just the batteries in my UPS's every 18-24 months. This last week the UPS started a low "scream" so I went over to check it out. It had turned off suddenly, so the PC and all the accessories were also off. I turned it back on and there was a series of snaps and pops, another screen, followed by a non-trivial amount of smoke and a burning electrical smell.

When it was all over, the main fuse of the house had popped, the UPS was dead and smoking, and the power supply in my computer was dead and smoking. Ugh.

I headed down to the local electronics shop and bought a new 1000W power supply, a new APC BR1000G, and went to town, rebuilding my machine. After redoing all the cables and stuff...it didn't boot. I didn't even see the hard drive (SSD). The drive is a Crucial c300. I loved this drive and it worked great for like 6 years...and now it's dead. Turns out that these Crucial drives are known to die when they lose power quickly. I tried to bring it back to live using all the various forums and whitepapers about this known issue, but nope. It's dead.

OK, so have I lost data? What now? Fortunately I backup my systems. And I hope you, Dear Reader, also backup as well.

Stop reading this now and please, think about your backups. Do you have one? Have you tested to see if you can restore from your backups?

Backups always succeed. It's restores that fail. Test your backups by restoring from them.

I've got a number of backups because I practice the Backup Rule of Three.

  • 3 copies of anything you care about - Two isn't enough if it's important.
  • 2 different formats - Example: Dropbox+DVDs or Hard Drive+Memory Stick or CD+Crash Plan, or more
  • 1 off-site backup - If the house burns down, how will you get your memories back?

Here's what my backup situation is/was and how I restored.

While you can use Imaging Software and restore an entire image of Windows or Mac, I find that reinstalling Windows takes less than an hour. I keep a bootable USB key of Windows 10 around. You can also download an ISO and make a USB key quickly. You don't usually need an activation key if you're reinstalling Windows. In my case, I installed the new drive, booted off the USB, signed into Windows with my Live ID (Microsoft Account) and it picked up my Windows license already.

Windows File History

I have a 4TB external drive on my desk that uses Windows 10 File History. This is like the Mac Time Machine feature. It's one of the best little "hidden" features of Windows 10 and everyone should use it. It's actually been around for years. My Documents, Desktop, and any other folders I want are automatically backed up as often as I want. I have a backup going every 30 min and I never think about it. It just works, and I don't notice any performance issues.

In this case, I *did* have crap on my desktop that wasn't in Dropbox and wasn't yet backed up to the cloud. I just hooked up the drive and restored from File History. I literally lost nothing. All my desktop crap was restored in place. If you have an external drive that you always have hooked up but it's not really getting use, setup File History in just minutes.

Multiple Cloud-based Backups

I have a number of clouds in my backup rotation:

  • GitHub - I have github repos, both private and public for code.
  • DropBox - My primary cloud files backup
  • OneDrive for Business - My work cloud files backup
  • Synology - I love my Synology. It's a complete home NAS Server with massive storage, RAID, VPN, Docker, and so much more. A daily joy and a local cloud.
  • CrashPlan - I keep TBs up there and pay them happily for the service.

Related Links

Here's some additional reading on ways to back up your system. Please do also help non-technical relative back up their stuff as well. Every week I hear about someone working on their PhD thesis losing their whole life's work an instant. Backup is a system and it CAN be automatic.

What do you do for backup?


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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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Forgotten (but Awesome) Windows Command Prompt Features

June 20, '16 Comments [61] Posted in Musings
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It's always the little throwaway tweets that go picked up. Not the ones that we agonize over. I was doing some work at the command line and typed "dotnet --version | clip" to copy the .NET Core version number into the clipboard. Then I tweeted a little "hey, remember this great utility?" and then the plane took off. I landed two hours later and it had over 500 RTs. Madness.

It's funny that 10 year old command prompt utility (this was added in Vista) that everyone's forgotten elicits such an enthusiastic response.

Since you all love that stuff, here's a few other "forgotten command prompt features."

Some of these have been in Windows since, well, DOS. Others were added in Windows 10. What did I miss? Sound off in the comments.

Pipe command output to the clipboard

In Vista they added clip.exe. It captures any standard input and puts in the clipboard.

That means you can

  • dir /s | clip
  • ver | clip
  • ipconfig /all | clip

You get the idea.

Piping to Clip.exe puts the standard output in your clipboard

F7 gives you a graphical (text) history

If you have already typed a few commands, you can press F7 to get an ANSI popup with a list of commands you've typed. 4DOS anyone?

More people should press F7

Transparent Command Prompt

After Windows 10, you can make the Command Prompt transparent!

It's see through

Full Screen Command Prompt

Pressing "ALT-ENTER" in the command prompt (any prompt, cmd, powershell, or bash) will make it full screen. I like to put my command prompt on another virtual desktop and then use CTRL-WIN-ARROWS to move between them.

The Windows 10 Command Prompt supports ANSI natively.

The cmd.exe (conhost in Windows 10 1511+, actually) now supports ANSI directly. Which means BBS Ansi Art, of course.

Word wrapping

Oh, and the Windows 10 command prompt supports active word wrapping and resizing. It's about time.

Little Fit and Finish Commands

  • You can change the current command prompt's title with "TITLE"
  • You can change its size with MODE CON COLS=x LINES=y
  • You can change the colors from a batch file with COLOR (hex)

What did I miss?


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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.