Scott Hanselman

Getting Email updates of ComputerZen.com

October 22, '05 Comments [0] Posted in Musings
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You may not being into the whole RSS Aggregator thing.

Some of you have asked me how you can have new posts to ComputerZen.com emailed to you.

If you WOULD like new posts emailed to you, you can using FeedBlitz. It's free, there's no spam, and you'll only get new posts posted by me.

Click Feedblitzbadge to subscribe to ComputerZen.com posts via email.

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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October 2005 - My Reading List - Home

October 22, '05 Comments [8] Posted in TechEd | Speaking | Movies | Africa
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CIMG3818

When Mo is asleep, I read. She's on the couch right now, and I'm going through a Philip K. Dick anthology. I have a similar pile at Work, so I figured I'd post each.

First, here's my Home reading stack that's next to my bed.

  • The Carpet Makers - An amazing English translation of a German Sci-Fi now-classic, brought to the states by Orson Scott Card. Told in a series of short vignettes, it's the story of men who weave carpets entirely out of the hair of their wives and daughters. They weave only one their whole lives, and their sons live off the proceeds as they start work on their own hair-carpets.
  • Lion's Blood and Zulu Heart - A novel told in an alternate reality where Africans colonized the Americas and enslaved the poor Irish and other white Europeans. The author has done excellent research on the Ethiopians and Zulus, two of my favorite cultures. He sprinkles in Arabic, Ethiopian and Zulu phrases which makes my reading fun. I need to get back into Arabic, I've lost it all since my few terms in college. Sean McCormack speaks good Arabic if I remember correctly. I remember the lettering, but all my verbalization has atrophied.
  • Second Variety, Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick - Two great collections of short stories from one of the greatest sci-fi writers of our time. The book(s) are always better than the movies. You'd be surprised how many movies have been made from Philip K. Dick stories. (Screamers (made from Second Variety) was a better movie than most folks gave it credit.)
  • Learn Zulu and Teach Yourself Zulu - We're going to teach the baby English (both), Spanish (me and possibly an immersion school), Zulu[Ndebele] (Mo, possibly me, and her family) and Baby Sign Language, so I need to learn more than just the present tense.
  • Ilium by Dan Simmons - I'm having a hell of a time getting through this tome. Simmons is brilliant, and the whole Hyperion series was a great read. However, this thing is like reading molasses. I want to make it through though, because the idea of a large-scope sci-fi space opera based on Homer's Iliad is such a great premise. I may need to re-read the Iliad first since 11th grade English class is a distant memory.
  • The Ringworld Throne by Larry Niven - Ringworld, check. Ringworld Engineers, sure, it was good. Ringworld's Children, it's waiting in my Audible.com queue. But this one also doesn't flow. I have high hopes for Ringworld's Children, but I need to read this one, number three first. Plus, the whole Known Space ethos is so wonderful.
  • Altered Carbon - Actually, I'm halfway through this on my iPod. Truly, Audible.com's Light Listener program is a fantastic deal. If you want a referral, email me. We'll each get a free month. This is a brilliant book where humans travel between planets by "resleeving" themselves in other bodies, some artificial, while putting their own bodies on ice.
  • Software Factories - I made it 3/4 of the way through this before I gave my talk at TechEd, but I need to mark a few pages and highlight a few things. I may actually just give up and read Kathleen Dollard's Code Generation in .NET instead.
  • Be Prepared! A Practical Handbook for New Dads - My wonderful friend Heidi gave me this book. I thought it was just a gag, but it's such a great book written with just the right dry humor that makes the point. It's actually by stand-up comic Gary Greenburg and illustrated by his wife. I'm done with this book, so I need to get it out of the stack and move it into the baby's room.
  • the zen of css design - The book that supports the concepts introduce by the site that more engineers used to convince more managers that CSS can work TODAY. Highly recommended. It's in-depth analysis of a number of themes from CSS Zen Garden and how they worked their magic. I'm about 75% through this. It's a quick read, but more of an "while on the can" book, if you know what I mean.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson - The one that started cyberpunk. I got about 25% into this when I mentally declared that Snow Crash was the greatest book ever and that any thing Neal does should be immediately bronzed. I'll make it through though, but the fact that the cyberpunks in this book written in 1984 use phone booths does make it hard to stomach. But, who ever said predicting the future was easy?
  • What to Expect in the First Year - Mo's on month eight of the other book, and I'm ready to start teaching him the alphabet. But first, we need to make it through the eat, poop, sleep stage first. Not to mention the little "being born" detail.
  • When the Wind Blows by James Patterson - I really enjoyed Maximum Ride, and I heard that this book was the adult expansion of that story. The sequel to When the Wind Blows is The Lake House, but it's being brutalized in the Amazon reviews, so I may shy away. However, Maximum Ride WAS a great book. We'll see. Plus, ALL the Alex Cross books are fantastic.
  • Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice - This is kind of Interview With an Archangel, if you're familiar with the more Tom Cruisey/Brad Pitty Anne Rice book. This one has no vampires and is very biblical and historical. I'd have to ask Patrick Cauldwell if Anne got her details right, but it's moving along at a nice clip.
  • Democracy Matters by Cornel West - More people would listen to Cornel if he'd shave his moustache, but regardless, the man is thoughtful. A fairly balanced and weighty monologue on ways America could pull it together.
  • The Goal - I've false-started with this book more times than I care to say. I'm going to need to just do it in a weekend, because it's not working to read it piecemeal. It introduces the Theory of Constraints that Eli has built a consulting empire around. "It is based on the fact that, like a chain with its weakest link, in any complex system at any point in time, there is most often only one aspect of that system that is limiting its ability to achieve more of its goal."
  • Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy - Man, oh, man, if only I was graceful enough to be a super spy or Navy SEAL. I'm 600 pages into this 900 page beast and it's getting good. You could literally beat a man to death with this book, and that may just be the dramatic conclusion of this international terrorist thriller.
  • Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison - I loved Invisible Man. Ellison's work, along with Richard Wright, got me into African-American History, which I almost majored in before this whole computer thing worked out. When I heard that Juneteenth had been found and finished posthumously by John Callahan, Ellison's literary executor, I immediately bought a copy. However, here it's sat, at the bottom of the stack since. Sigh.

I'll post the Work stack next week during lunch.

Now playing: Alicia Keys - Goodbye / Butterflyz

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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Squishing TV onto your PSP

October 21, '05 Comments [9] Posted in Reviews | Gaming
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I'm a HUGE fan of the PSP. Not for games, although Hot Shots Golf is wonderful, but rather as cheaper Media Center. I was showing it to anyone who would listen at the MVP Summit recently (including a PM in the Portable Media Center group who had a lot of good input and thoughts.)

About a half dozen folks I talked to bought PSPs and a 1 Gig Memory Stick that can be had for less than US$80. So, for a total of US$330 you've got at LEAST 6 hours of video to go, and possibly as much as 10 hours. When my laptop is along for the ride, I pre-rip-squish-burn MP4 AVC videos for later transfer to the PSP.

Last week I was on the road from Sunday to Saturday passing through Denver, Omaha, Cincinnati, Toledo, Chicago, and New York. Ended up missing a flight back to Portland and instead flew to Seattle, rented a car and drove back to Portland. Needless to say, there was time to kill.

For DVD content, like the complete season of FireFly, I used DVD Decrypter to make temporary backups of my DVDs to VOB files. These VOBs were immediately squished with PSPVideo9. I don't save VOBs, they are just a temp file, since I own the DVD.

For TV shows, I squish the AVIs, MPEGs or WMVs that BeyondTV creates when recording TV. I also squish the video from my two ReplayTVs after extracting them with DVArchive.

PSPVideo9 is a VERY easy to use program, and videos can be squished and copied to the PSP with few clicks. However, finding the right compression ratio for you and your tastes can be confusing and waste a lot of time.

Here's what I ended up with for 4:3 and 16:9 formatted content:

  • First note: I upgraded my PSP to version 2.0 firmware over wireless, and I recommend you do the same. Homebrew apps (1.5) just aren't that compelling, and when you upgrade the PSP to 2.0 you get a nice web browser. Cool, sure, but what you REALLY get is the support for AVC compressed MP4 video. These are nearly half the size of the standard PSP video with the same quality.
  • Second: If I'm using DVDs, I rip the VOB from the DVD, making sure to only get the streams I need (specifically English sound and subtitles) - note the link above. That makes the VOB ripped WAY smaller. Why rip the Spanish langage track if you're not going to use it?
  • Third: I ALWAYS AND ONLY use AVC compresion, not SP. SP will always disappoint you. The PSP has two folders, one for each. PSPVideo supports both.
  • Fourth: In PSP Video 9, take the lowest quality AVC Profile the include (AVC/320x240/29.97fps/256kbps Stereo/96kbps) and make a new one (AVC/320x240/29.97fps/192kbps Stereo/64kbps). This one is for your 4:3 content.
    Make another from (AVC/368x208/29.97fps/256kbps Stereo/96kbps) and lower it to (AVC/368x208/29.97fps/192kbps Stereo/64kbps) and us this for your 16:9 content. You'll need to change the bitrates and framerates after you click "New Profile."
    You'll barely notice the difference from 256kbps to 192kbps but the file sizes will be WAY smaller.
    Watch the bitrate while the conversion happens. It should be around 300k/s. If it's 3000k/s you've done something wrong. :)
  • Conclusion: This gives me 16:9 with 1hour = <115megs and 4:3 with 1hour = <120 megs. A sitcom (23 mins) is usually 60megs and an hour drama (43 mins) is usually 90megs.
  • P.S.: Quicktime7 apparently added support for this AVC MPEG4 format, so these PSP-squished videos can be watched locally with just Quicktime.

Yesterday I downloaded and squished all the now legendary BMW Films (that are scheduled to be taken down forever TODAY) and turned them into 8 small PSP videos about 20megs each. I'll enjoy them at my leisure.

UPDATE: Sony is jumping in with their OWN PSP Media Manager, except this one is $20. Hm.

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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Permanent Redirects with HTTP 301

October 20, '05 Comments [5] Posted in ASP.NET | DasBlog | XmlSerializer | HttpModule
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The very latest version of DasBlog uses a 301 Permanent Redirect to send aggregators to my feed's new location at FeedBurner. Because it's a 301, most aggregators automatically update their data with a new location and don't bother asking for the original one again.

Here's how to do a hardcoded 301 redirect within ASP.NET:

response.StatusCode = 301;
response.Status = "301 Moved Permanently";
response.RedirectLocation = "http://www.hanselman.com/blog";
response.End();

You can also do this, which I see a lot while looking at the bathroom wall of code folks call Google Groups:

Response.AddHeader("Location","http://www.hanselman.com/blog");

They pretty much do the same thing, but color me reactionary, I like to use the APIs available just for cleanliness's sake.

Of course this is a redirect, not an URL rewrite. Redirect's go all the way back to the requester and provide a hint on where to go next, while rewrites leave the requested the URL the same and tell the web server that something else was requested.

DasBlog has a lovely rewriting HttpModule that you're welcome to use. Erv Walter extended it and added support for redirecting URLs as well as fixing host names. These things are particularly useful if you do not have direct access to your web server's administrative console.

Fritz Onion, my hero but a man I've never met, also has a great redirecting module that's very elegant and coincidentally uses Craig Andera's "Only Configuration Section Handler You'll Ever Need" which is a fantastically snazzy chunk of code that I just can't seem to get folks here at work to latch onto.

Whichever one of these models you use, or if you write the redirect yourself, remember the "principle of least surprise."

If I type in the URL, I don't care how you get me there, just get me there.

UPDATE: It was asked in email "Whats a [good] way around postback URLs getting f'ed up when rewriting URLs." To answer that, I point you to an oldy, but a goody, a blog post with a clever title that no one really every appreciated, IMHO: "Postbacks for Algernon"

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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The Emancipation of Browsercaps.ini

October 20, '05 Comments [3] Posted in ASP.NET
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Friends and readers, what’s the Microsoft story, do you think, around the BrowserCaps.ini file? The general feel amongst the public is very bad as it’s perceived (and correctly so) that Cyscape has totally dropped the ball maintaining this important file file. Now, there’s a grass roots group over at codeproject to keep the file updated: http://www.codeproject.com/aspnet/browsercaps.asp. Kudos to them for pulling together an update.

If you've ever been confused why a panel renders as a DIV on IE and TABLE on FireFox, you need to update your machine.config right away.

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.