Scott Hanselman

Good mid-level 3D cards

January 20, '06 Comments [22] Posted in Z | Gaming
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Display Properties1Considering that an Xbox 360 is about $300-400 and works great, I'm not really interested (nor would my wife let me) in a $300-400 Video Card, as nice as they might be. That said, I just run the new 3DMark06 DirectX 9 Benchmark on my main system, and could barely eek out 5 frames per second (fps).

The system is a P4 Socket 478 3.00Ghz with 2 gigs of RAM. However, I have a Radeon 9800 Pro with 256 megs. This was a great card two years ago, and still runs Doom, Guild Wars, etc, with around 15-20 fps. However, I can barely find my way around in Age of Empires it's so slow.

Here's my absolute requirements:

  • I need a video that's dual head (that means 1 DVI and 1 VGA) and can run a 16:10 ratio LCD off the DVI at 1680x1050 and a 4:3 ratio LCD off the VGA at 1600x1200.
  • It should have all the latest DirectX 9.0c shininess in the hardware.
  • It should work with (or replace) my Hauppauge PCI Tuner and Beyond TV.

Here's my "kinda" requirements:

  • It'd probably be an ATI, just because I suddenly (not sure why) trust their drivers more, but as long as it has a unified driver model, it's all good.
  • It should be "Vista-ready" in that I can't be buying another card just to get cool Alt-Tab effects.
  • It shouldn't take up two slots because it's a fat-ass or cause my already-hot-computer-that-runs-with-the-cover-off-and-two-fans to burst into flames.

Dear reader, what's a good card for my little AGP motherboard? Is it possible for sub-$200? Or should I just "swap the brains" and go all out with a new Mobo, CPU, RAM and PCIx Video Card?

P.S. Man, back in the day, before Anandtech, I used to know all this stuff. You needed an RLL hard drive put in, I was the guy. Had Norton Disk Doctor in my back pocket. You needed some DIPPs put in to take your system to a meg, call Hanselman. I was even good up until the P4. Now, I don't know my North Bridge from my Piggly Wiggly.

P.P.S. Z is now 7 weeks and 10 pounds, 8 oz., gaining 1.5 oz a day. At this rate he'll be 175 lbs (as big as me) in 5 years. Madness. ;)

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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Media Center Extenders and the Xbox 360

January 19, '06 Comments [5] Posted in Gaming
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WhatsHotLanding_04Just wanted to expand a bit and pull in information from a number of places on how the Xbox 360 displays the Media Center UI. This is a point of confusion for a lot of folks (myself included) and it's a darned interesting thing. The Media Center Sandbox blog has lots of great info on developing on the MCPC, not just now, but in the Vista timeframe. Michael Earls has a nice article on developing Add-Ins with .NET.

Clemens is working on something very cool that's clearly HTML-based and will work great in my Xbox360 as HTML-based apps use Remote Desktop functionality to render themselves remotely. While the UI is cool, you'll be very interested to hear how the backend works.

The MTV Overdrive (download for MCPC) and VH1 V-Spot are pretty amazing examples of what can be done with an MCPC Application that uses only DHTML, AJAX, Flash and Video, and consequently be remoted via RDP to the Xbox 360.

Note: You need the Update Rollup 2 to use the Xbox 360 as a Media Extender.

Charlie Owen offered me this table to express "what's rendered how" and reminded me to check the Media Center "Online Spotlight" more often. It'd be nice if there were an RSS feed I could check instead. NewsGator has a pretty nice interface as well, but their site doesn't mention Media Center 2005 so I'm not sure that it's been updated lately. It works fine though.

Hosted HTML = Remote Desktop
WinFX XBAP (XAML) = Remote Desktop
Media Center Add In (.NET) = Rendered Natively on XBox 360
Media Center Main Menu (added by me) = Rendered Natively on XBox 360

Here's an important note about Charlie's table:

"When I say 'Remote Desktop' I really mean technology similar to remote desktop, but not the same -- expect 3-5 frames per second, full screen updates sent over the wire. Rendered natively on the XBox 360 means we send the MCML over the wire which is interpreted and rendered on the XBox 360 (full 30 frames per second)."

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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Hanselminutes Podcast 2

January 18, '06 Comments [4] Posted in Podcast | ASP.NET | XML | Tools
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HanselminutesMy second Podcast is up, and I believe it's better than the first. We got lots of good feedback - thanks everyone - and had some good fun with this one. We've tightened up the opening, and I've got a little more sleep. Some folks who'd see me speak before thought I sounded pretty "wiped" in the first show. Others found me "anxious" and "monotone." I can tell you that being up at 3am with a baby, while a special joy, isn't conducive to diction and ennunciation. I'm much more myself in this show and Carl does his very best not to waste anyone's time.

UPDATED NOTE: The (fairly significant) bandwidth is maxed out and we're looking into more. For now, try the Torrrents listed on http://www.hanselminutes.com. If you really want to get Hanselminutes shows quickly, first download and install Azureus. Next, watch this Flash video on how to set it up with an RSS/Podcasting plugin and use the torrent links. 

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. We're looking into a .zip version for folks who have audio extensions blocked at work.

Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

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)

  • Each show will include a number of links, and all those links will be posted along with the show on the site. There were 15 sites mentioned in this second episode, some planned, some not.
  • 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. IPodder is also a nice, free, client.
  • 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.

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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XM Satellite Radio for Windows Media Center PC

January 18, '06 Comments [9] Posted in Gaming | Africa
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XM Radio on Media CenterYikes, can't believe I missed this! I was literally sitting down this evening to WRITE this application (and probably base on most of Casey's MCPC stuff) then I figured I'd Google for it first.

I loves my XM Radio, and I listen to it constantly. I particularly like that I can jump out of the car and log into http://www.xmradio.com and keep listening over a web stream.

CIMG4347 (Large)Now that Mo's home with the baby, I wanted her to be able to enjoy XM, so I figured I'd get a new Receiver with XM built-in to replace the old $99 Sony from 1996 we have.

However, since this HTML-based app works with Media Center, it works over Xbox 360. Yes, folks, XM Satellite Radio over Xbox 360. Say what you want, but I'm impressed. My digital life is coming together and it's happening on my Xbox 360. I know that gushes, but the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) for the Xbox purchase is now very high. She can happily listen to Ngoma (the African channel for XM that is only available online) at home!

Slightly funny note, the installer says "C:\Program Files\Default Company Name\XMRadio for Media Center\."

I hope XM realizes how cool this integration is and continues to support it.

UPDATE #2: Be sure to read the complete (technical) description on how the MCML (Media Center Markup Language) remotes the main UI. The main Xbox360 Media Center screen is render locally - it doesn't use Remote Desktop. This article also talks about how Vista will make the Xbox 360 Extender experience even better.

UPDATE: The good and valid question of (paraphrasing) "so what?" was brought up in the comments, here's my answer:

XM radio is (basically) protected content. Typically you need a hardware decoder installed in your car. However, if you're a subscriber, you can sign into their protected website that attaches you to live Windows Media streams; everything is behind passwords, etc. You can't just connect in for two reasons - Xbox 360 does NOT support random web browsing, it only supports MCE apps and you can't tell the 360 to connect to arbitrary streaming URLs. I was going to write my *own* MCE app to front all this password and streaming schmutz, but turns out they did it in 2004. The good/interesting thing is that this little app isn't widely advertised and that not only does it work on MCE2005R2 but the whole streams to the Xbox 360. What's significant is that, A. I'm consistantly impressed that the Xbox's remoted UI is so close to the actual MCE (indistinguishable) UI and B. Its nice that XM Radio thought to create one of these even if it's simple and C. The fact that I pay one subscription for XM and the content is provided to me in 3 ways shows (to me) that XM is more than just "in my car."

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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VB.NET and C# - Duplication of Effort?

January 17, '06 Comments [11] Posted in Ruby | Tools
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Patrick Hynds recently used a military analogy to contrast C# and VB.NET and their growing and increasingly obvious similarities. (I've always thought that the differences were just skins over IL myself.) Rocky Lhotka extended the analogy brilliantly:

The problem we have today, in my opinion, is that C# is a flying tank and VB is a heavily armored attack plane.

Microsoft did wonderful things when creating .NET and these two languages - simply wonderful. But the end result is that no sane person would purchase either a tank or an A-10 [ed: a plane] now, because both features can be had in a single product. Well, actually two products that are virtually identical except for their heritage.

Of course both hold baggage from history. For instance, C# clings to the obsolete concept of case-sensitivity, and VB clings to the equally obsolete idea of line continuation characters.

Unfortunately the idea of creating a whole new language where the focus is on the compiler doing more work and the programmer doing less just isn't in the cards. It doesn't seem like there's any meaningful language innovation going on, nor has there been for many, many years... [Rockford Lhotka]

Personally at this point, I don't see a reason for us to have two languages other than we always have. It started with C++/MFC versus VB1/2/3 in the early 90s and we'll never come back together. Some folks think that this is good because humans crave choice. Others think it's just wasting time and effort as we design language and development tools twice.

There seems there's always a need to have vanilla out there to balance out chocolate. Take a look at Billy Hollis' Tongue-in-Cheek "History of BASIC" and "History of C." Personally, I'll write in any language that makes me productive. VB.NET, Ruby, C#, Zulu, Amharic or Spanish. It's all just a way for us to express our intent to the machine.

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.