Scott Hanselman

Podcasts at Audible.com

January 9, '06 Comments [3] Posted in Reviews | Africa
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ITunesSomething's happening over at Audible.com. They've recently updated their site (they say it's in beta) and it's a lot easier to find one's way around. They've also got a mysterious site that's kind of announcing something they are calling Wordcasting.

More interesting to me is that they've added podcasting support for their subscriptions, but they've buried it WAY below the fold (meaning you have to scroll way down to find it) on the "My Library" page. (the link will work only if you're an Audible Subscriber). The link is Podcasts, again, if you're a subscriber you'll see it, and they'll show you a link to your personal podcast channel (see image). The bad news is, it's running on port 8080, so I can't use it at work where that port's blocked, but of course it works fine at home.

They recommend a number of programs to receive podcasts:

For Windows
NewsGator with FeedStation (recommended)
iPodder
Doppler
Nimiq

For the Macintosh
NetNewsWire (recommended)
iPodder
iPodderX
PlayPod

I'm using iTunes and my Black Nano 2gig. I'm still not listening podcasts about random folks and their cats, but professionally done (and SHORT) podcasts are growing on me. It's a nice way to spend the commute, or on a drive to Microsoft. That, or a David Sedaris book read by the author. I really like Audible, and I have subscribed for over two years now. Now that they support "rollover" of your book credits, it's an even nicer deal. I've got at least a years worth of listening queued up. Also a nice way to blow a 30 hour plane ride to Africa.

P.S. If you sign up for Audible, tell them I recommended you and I get a free book. I'm "shanselman" or my email address.

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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Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000

January 9, '06 Comments [17] Posted in Reviews | Z | Gaming | Tools
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96laserkeyboard550x285I was over at Office Depot today with a $15 off coupon in hand checking out printers. What I found, instead, was a deal on the usually overpriced Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000. Apparently it's being discounted deeply right now because it was on sale with a $40 off "instant rebate" (at the register, until 1/14/06) along with a $10 mail-in rebate (and I ALWAYS mail them in, as they always assume you won't) which brings it to a reasonable $49.99 which was made even more palletable with my $15 off coupon.

UPDATED: For the record, I completely agree with both Jeff and Diego that that greatest keyboard ever was, and still is, the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. The fact that the lamer "Elite" version is still being sold is one of life's great mysteries along with Fox cancelling Family Guy the first time and Arrested Development this year. You can still buy the older keyboard, but you'll pay. One of the coolest features of that keyboard, other than the correctly oriented PageUp/Down keys, was the USB hub. It makes NO sense why you'd make a USB keyboard and not add a hub. Hell, why not add a USB port on the top so I can plug my USB disk into the thing straight up and down?

This new set has now replaced my Wireless Natural Multimedia desktop set which I'll likely give to my dad (He'll learn this tidbit when he reads my blog.)

Pros

  • The new "comfort curve" keyboard shape is NICE. I can type at least (ball park) 10-20% faster on this keyboard because there's no space or split. Instead the fourth and fifth column of keys is wider, filling the gap. Sounds weird, but in practice, it's very comfortable. This would be a great "natural" keyboard for folks who ordinarily freak out with the split keyboards. That, along with comfort, is presumably why this keyboard was made.
  • The throw of the keys is very comfortable. They travel well and require just the right amount of pressure. I'll be interested to compare them with DasKeyboard that apparently has weighted key regions that match the strength of each finger. Since this keyboard is probably 55 grams of force then I can see why my pinky hurts from all the backspacing.
  • The keyboard has 5 "favorites" keys where my Multimedia one had Media Control keys. These are just programmable hotkeys that I didn't think I needed. However, after setting them up to point to BlogJet, Password Minder, and a few other choice daily tools, I'm sold. The multimedia controls are still there, just pushed to the side.
  • It has the inverted-"T" arrow keys rather than the astonishingly lame "diamond" configuration of some of the other Microsoft keyboards.
  • CoolmagnifierThe implementation of the "magnifier" is VERY cool. As someone who has advocated magnifier tools in the past, I have to say that I really like this particularly implementation. It's clean, simple and powerful. I may write a .NET implementation of the same thing that would work with any mouse. Shouldn't be that hard considering that there's a bunch of open source magnifiers out there that are 85% of the way there.

Iffy

  • There's a "Zoom Slider" to the left of the keyboard that is of dubious value when you consider the mouse's scroller does the same thing with a Ctrl-Scroll, but I could see where it'd be useful to folks who don't use the mouse and the keyboard simultaneously.

Aside

  • I was able to (mostly) use the whole set without swapping out my existing set's wireless receiver, but the new features like the magnifier didn't work until I put in the new receiver. This was presumably because the unified driver doesn't know to support the advanced features without a newer receiver. They appear to almost identical although the new one says 3.0a and the old one says 2.0a. Interestingly, when you press the "connect" button on the receiver, the old one cycles the CapsLock, ScrollLock and NumLock LEDs by turning them on and off as they cycle. The new one does the same thing but it smoothly fades the LEDs in and out. This is subtle, but leads one to wonder - what was the design meeting like that thought that was an important feature change? That said, it's cool.
  • There's no more cool red optical glow from the mouse. The "laser" is infrared. Note sure if that's a laser, per se, but it's invisible either way. I haven't turned out the lights and put dust particles in the sight line to see if there's something to be seen. It does make it hard to know if the mouse is on, but the software does tell you the status of the batteries.
  • At some point, I'd like to get the Remote Keyboard and see how it works with MCPC and the Xbox 360.

Cons

  • There's something indefinably light and cheap about this keyboard. I know that a keyboard is rarely lifted up and carried around, but I'd really like it to be heavier and more substantial. The mouse, on the other hand feels very substantial. I'd bet the mouse is actually heavier than the keyboard.
  • The amount of force required to right-click with the mouse has increased enough that I notice it in my middle finger. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but I'm currently thinking ugh each time I right-click. The left-click force required appears to be the same as the previous set.

If you can get this set for <$50, then I think it's a great deal and worth the upgrade. Overall I'm happy with it, and while I know that Logitech is coming up in the Desktop Set vertical market, I'm not ready to switch away from Microsoft.

P.S. Again realizing that you read this blog for the technical content, I am forced to bury pictures of my son in this post script to the post. Here's a shocking off-the-cuff bathtime photo of now-6-week-old Z. Also, for your enjoyment, I give you a complete list of Z's current nicknames. It's said, I know, but I'm told that most kids have at least a dozen good nicks going when they are this age. The current ones are, Zam-zam, Zamunda, Zamfransisco, Zee, Z-Money, Zippy (from Patrick Cauldwell's kids), Khulu (Zulu for Grandfather) and Poopmaster Flex. 

Now playing: Rent - Out Tonight

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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Buy.com 10% off Amazon Books

January 8, '06 Comments [1] Posted in ASP.NET
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Just noticed that Buy.com is offering 10% off Amazon books (not sure how they can do that) and Professional ASP.NET 2.0 is only $29.69 over there. You could probably get a bit more off by signing into, and searching with A9.com. They give you "1/2 of pi" percent off if you use their search engine once a week.

I was over on Buy.com looking at this new Quickcam for use with Skype and MSN8.

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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2006 is the year of Video Chat

January 7, '06 Comments [9] Posted in Diabetes
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This may be the year of Video Chat. Someone is bound to get it right this year.

Skype totally nailed voice chat last year. Nailed it shut. Seven versions of MSN Messenger tried to get voice chat right and Skype totally nailed it. Now they've released Skype 2.0  and it includes Video. If they nail this, it'll be a happy day for me. I'm all about chat with about 280 folks on Messenger and I'd love to be able to chat with video. Their interface is really very nice and polished. It's no iChat, but it's nice for Windows.

Chattingwithjohn

Now Messenger 8 Beta is out and using invites (ala Gmail) to spread the word. I invited 5 folks. The screen shot at right is me chatting with my buddy John. The audio was iffy, but the video was pretty sweet. There's the Messenger Team's blog that points out a nice new feature of this version: type ahead contact searching.

Notniceicons

As a tangent, I run Large Icons on my systems. Note the pixelly icon for Messenger. I'm REALLY looking forward to scalable icons in Vista. The icons (most) in the current Vista Betas are scalable vectors. I hope this ushers in a renaissance for UI and not the Garish mid-90s when Flash (remember FutureSplash?) was first introduced. Flash really put bad designers into motion. You think a static image sucks? Make it fly across the page and you'll discover what it really means to suck. But, I digress.

Video Chat will happen (and really work this time) in 2006. Google Talk will likely add it. AOLs Instant Messenger "Triton" includes video chat. ICQ5 has video. Gaim-vv will soon do video with MSN and Yahoo.

The real question is this: It's 2005 and why aren't our chat services interoperable? Why is there a market for Trillian? Because folks don't want to get together and standardize. Sure, there's Jabber (XMPP) and there's SILC, but I don't see it sweeping the Windows world. Maybe I'm mistaken.

Can't we all just get along? 

Now playing: Freshlyground - Buttercup 

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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Google Pack

January 7, '06 Comments [7] Posted in Musings | Tools
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Google pack1

Via Greg, Google's released the Google Pack, a nice collection of fairly established software along with their own updater. I think this would be great for my mom, although RealPlayer is Satan.

  • Adobe Reader 7 (Evil: Use Foxit)
  • Ad-Aware SE Personal (Iffy: Use SpyBot)
  • GalleryPlayer HD Images
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Earth
  • Google Pack Screensaver (NICE: This is a VERY nice Photo Screensaver that is multi-monitor aware!)
  • Google Picasa Photo Organizer/Editor
  • Google Talk (Eh, not so much: Use Skype)
  • Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
  • Google Video player
  • Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar (Nice way to proliferate Firefox by including it)
  • Norton AntiVirus 2005 Special Edition (Cheesy way to bait and switch with a 6-month "Trial" subscription.") WARNING: This one installs without asking. Not cool. You can uninstall stuff for the "Installed Software" Tab.
  • RealPlayer (Satan: This is how the devil gets your immortal soul, it starts with RealPlayer...)
  • Trillian (Ok, but I'm using MSN Messenger Beta 8...we'll see....)

It's easy to see where this is going, of course, as Google will likely start charging for the prime real estate on their own Add/Remove Programs page. Still, I dig it, and I hope it starts serving up a bunch of Open Source software. This may turn out to be a standard thing I will install on my relatives machines.

Now playing: Freshlyground - Mowbray Kaap

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.