Scott Hanselman

Do I sleep?

July 14, '06 Comments [10] Posted in Musings
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Strangely today two separate (and presumably unrelated) bloggers questioned whether or not I sleep. David Suruyange posted on it and Ryan Rinaldi did also, albeit in passing.

However, I must say, I do have quite a fondness for Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain (Wikipedia).

"The book deals with the issues of genetic modification to unborn babies and problems that may arrive within society from such technologies. Specifically, the book examines a genetic modification that renders the babies capable of never having to sleep. This allows the babies, as they grow, the chance to accomplish much more with their freed up time as well as a collection of secondary genetic traits. The books charts the reactions of society to the 'Sleepless' from the viewpoint of the 'Sleepless' group as they struggle to find a place in society and battle against the prejudices they face.

The book's protagonist, Leisha Camden, is a sleepless person who comes from an extremely rich family and whose life is paralleled and compared to that of her twin who is born without the genetic modification for sleeplessness."

One sure could get a lot done if they didn't sleep. Do you sleep?


In other news, Scott Bellware (my personal Evil Spock) has proceeded to register Hanselmetric.com and is (very likely) proceding to build a (top secret) Froogle search populated entirely by things I've got in my house. Here is his exceedingly thoughful business strategy:

"What the world needs now is love sweet love, and a website that aggregates the Hanselman product testimonials scattered around all the various websites so that we can plan our future purchases accordingly.  Googling "scott hanselman testimonial" simply isn't accurate enough when arriving up the end of the month with a couple extra bucks in my pocket and a burning desire to spend .  Dammit, I want to know what other products satisfy the Hanselmetric that I haven't been made aware of, and until I do, I just feel sort of empty inside.  The Hanselmetric represents the pinnacle of an aspect of contemporary cultural evolution, and I just don't want to be left behind."

Madness! Hm...maybe we can make some kind of cooperative crossover affiliate work. Let's focus first on getting me on Oprah. Or at least some kind of local cable network or QVC. Give me a call ScottB! ;)

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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A new day, two new browsers compared - Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 and IE 7.0 Beta 3

July 14, '06 Comments [18] Posted in XML | HttpHandler | Bugs | Tools
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Like a schmuck, I can't resist installing beta software, especially REALLY beta software, especially on computers that I really shouldn't be installing beta software on like my computer or my wife's, especially at 2am. After some painful installation chaos/debugging...I got Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 and IE 7.0 Beta 3 installed. Here's my thoughts.

First Impressions:

Firefox 2.0 Beta 1: Still ugly as hell by default. For crying out loud, just make up with the Qute guy and set his theme by default. Sheesh.

IE 7: Different, softer, minimalist. I like the tabs. It's odd, but feels familiar.

RSS

Recall that IE7 installs the new Windows RSS Platform with it's Common Feed List that 90% of Windows Aggregators will start using for storage. Since Firefox doesn't have a Common Feed Store and doesn't recognize the new Windows Common Feed Store (until someone writes a utility to register feed:// with the Common Feed List) it displays a list of registered feed readers on your system. I really like this approach as it works with my FeedDemon addiction, and will work with not only offline aggregators like RSSBandit and SharpReader, but online ones like Bloglines and MyYahoo.

Both browsers show a very nice, styled page rather than the underlying RSS/XML. IE uses heuristics to figure out if it's a feed and also handles lots of malform-edness, while AFAIK Firefox goes by mime/type.

IerssFirefoxrss

In IE, since it includes a feed retrieval engine, there's a number of very nicely designed dialogs for updating the schedules for each feed, as well as their attached (enclosed) files.

Ierss2

Anti-Phishing

The need for a browser to have Anti-Phishing capabilities is huge in my opinion. Comparing Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 with IE 7.0 Beta 3, I visited six brand new, known, phishing sites. (Remember, Corillian knows Anti-Phishing)

Interestingly, and surprisingly to me, only IE detected every single phishing site. Firefox didn't detect a single one. I would point out also, as an aside, that Outlook 2007 went to great lengths to keep me from visiting these sites.

Perhaps the phishing services that Firefox uses at Google were down during my test? When Firefox does detect a phishing site it's supposed to look like this, below. I was hoping to have two identical phishing sites side by side, but again, Firefox didn't detect anything suspicious on these sites, so I visited the Firefox test phishing site. You can also submit naughty sites to Google.

IE7 showing a suspicious websiteFirefox showing a suspicious website

One interesting note, both browsers allowed me to continue working with the known phishing site, even though they knew they were dangerous. I think I'd rather have a dialog that made me type in "I know this is a phishing site."

Usability

IE7 has a new "tile" feature available by default; it's the little 4-square button to the far left of the tabs. It's "exposé" for web pages. There's a number of similar Firefox extensions like Foxpose and Tabexpose, but none for Firefox 2.0 today. Give it a few hours. Interesting that IE7 includes it by default, though, with Ctrl-Q (QuickTabs) as the hotkey.

The little "star" non-committal icon aims to say "click me, it'll make sense soon." This opens a the Favorites|Feeds|History pane. Eh.

IE7 with four sites open, tiledIE7 with History Pane open

In IE7, I love that CTRL-Scroll is how mapped to the new (and WAY more useful) zoom feature (ala Opera 1997), although I was disappointed to see that the useless Text Size Feature is next to it. Breeds confusion I say. Screw you, Text Size and your lies.

Iezoom

There's dozens of other usability things in IE7 that are obvious, including the revamped Tools|Options for Humans, which I wouldn't be afraid to send my Dad into. Except for Tools|Options|Advanced - that's still scary even to me.

In Firefox 2.0, less has changed, at least, less dramatic stuff. The coolest new feature, IMHO, is the inline spell checker.

Firefoxspellcheck

There's another new feature called micro-summaries. Basically it's your page's opportunity to change the title of a bookmark to provide status. For example, Woot provides a micro-summary by specifying this in their HTML:

 <link rel="microsummary" type="application/x.microsummary+xml" href="DefaultMicrosummary.ashx" />

That HttpHandler might responsd with just this: "$69.99 : Nexxtech 7” 16:9 LCD Portable DVD Player" as text/plain. That text could then be used as the title of a bookmark or toolbar button. It's a little early, and very specilized, but it fills a small gap and adds on to the whole link rel="" vibe nicely. Could really take off ono mobile devices as the equivalent of "tiny RSS."

Firefox also includes the trappings of client-side session support that could take AJAX apps to the next level in the next few years if Microsoft jumps on board also.

Downloads

The download windows of each browser look pretty much the same.

Iedownload

There's a new animation in IE's, but otherwise, not much here. I still prefer Firefox's consolidated view.

Firefoxdownload

Conclusion

Before I was pretty much a one browser guy, Firefox. Now I think I'll try IE more, and even more likely I'll notice which browser I'm in less as they are converging. The RSS features of IE7 are compelling and as soon as there's a NewsGator Online/RSS Common Feed Store synchronization story along with FeedDemon support, I might spend more time in IE7.

Most importantly I won't feel back recommending either of these browsers to family. Both are WAY safer than their predecessors. (Assuming the future parity of their phishing feature)

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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Some tips for saving money

July 14, '06 Comments [9] Posted in Musings
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I met with some family friends today, at their request, to do a simple financial and debt analysis and come up with some ideas on how they could save money month to month.

Here's the list they left with:

  • Don't get tricked by Irregular Pay Periods - If one spouse is paid "every other Weds" and one is paid on the 1st and the 15th, pick one schedule to go with. For example, take the every other Weds paycheck and deposit it into a separate account and "pay yourself" on the 1st and the 15th.
  • Be aware of Irregular Bills - Have an interest bearing account where you pay a "simulated monthly bill" (much like a mortgage escrow account behaves) that builds up until the yearly/biyearly payment comes out.
  • Turn off everything in the house (as if you were on a trip) - When you go out for a long trip you likely prepare the house by turning things off. Why not do this all the time and work out a system where minimal things are on while you're at work? LCD or not, your computer monitor is a big light bulb. Forget screen savers, just turn it off.
  • Save for Property Taxes Monthly - In Oregon, Yearly Property Taxes tend to sneak up on folks. Save for those taxes, and everything irregular, in a regular way like your paycheck. Money in, money out, same every month, makes for a predictable lifestyle.
  • Call the Electric Company – Some electric companies give out Coupons for High Efficiency Lighting (fluorescent). Call yours.
  • Library Book/Videos Box near the Front Door - Don't pay late fees. Leave a shoebox near the door you leave from. Make it a habit to put things like library books and rental videos in that box and take them with you as you walk out.
  • Minimize Cell Phone Time - Somehow you survived the 80s and 90s without a cell phone. Save $75 a month or more by getting the plan that is the cheapest and hang up while driving.
  • Check Tire Pressure Weekly - Get a tire pressure gauge, or better yet, check your pressure everytime you fill up. Good tire pressure can get you another 5 MPG or more.
  • Know not just your Car's Mileage but your Dollars Per Mile - How much does it cost you to drive a mile? Is it 80 cents to the video store to rent a two dollar video? Maybe you should walk, or ride a bike.
    • Fill up, write down ODO. Drive. Fill up, write down ODO. Take Miles Driven and divide by Gallons. That is your Miles Per Gallon. Then take the price of a gallon of gas and divide by your Miles Per Gallon. That’s how much it costs to drive one mile.
  • Consolidate Trips - If you're out, get all your errands done in one trip. Avoid the "hub and spoke" model of returning home and heading out.
  • Cancel the local paper delivery - You pay for Internet, use it.
  • Cut Coupons and avoid waste - Bread lasts longest tightly bound in its bag, in the dark. Put Fruit in a paper sack in your fridge. Close lids.
  • Consolidate Insurance - Is your home and car insurance with different companies? You might get a discount if you consolidate.
  • Store Credit Cards are Satan - Cut up and close Store Cards. Call your existing Credit Cards and ask them if they can lower your rate. If they want your business, they will. Otherwise, leave them.
  • Know how your Cash Flows monthly - Monthly is usually the way to go if you're paid monthly or on the 1st and 15th. If not, find a boundary that works for you and get your life's inputs and outputs into a simple CASHIN-CASHOUT=SOMELEFTOVERCASH equation. Then, take the left over cash and save it. Take your checkbook down to some agreed upon number. We always "level off" to $300. Then next month you'll get a paycheck(s) and pay bills. Take the SOMELEFTOVERCASH-$300 and save it. Rinse, Repeat.

It was a fun evening and everyone left feeling a little more empowered and prepared to take action. If not these actions, some action.

 

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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A better PROMPT for CMD.EXE or Cool Prompt Environment Variables and a nice transparent multi-prompt

July 14, '06 Comments [10] Posted in PowerShell | ASP.NET | XML | Tools
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A number a people have commented on my simple, but customized command prompt. Actually I have a few, but for cmd.exe, I do this. Right-click on My Computer|Properties. Then from the Advanced Tab, click Environment Variables, then add a new User Variable called PROMPT and set it to $p$_$+$g. This came originally from Craig Andera, who got it from Shawn Van Ness. Sahil Malik also has some great command line tricks. Junfeng points out the little known ntcmds.chm.

A screenshot of the System Properties Dialogs

Here's the breakdown:

  • $P = Current Directory's Path
  • $_ = Carriage Return
  • $+ = A plus sign for each level in the PUSHD/POPD stack.

Here's some other interesting prompts. Paste these into any CMD.EXE window:

set prompt=[%computername%] $d$s$t$_$p$_$_$+$g

yields this. Note the use of an environment variables within a prompt. Here's an extensive list of environment variables.

[SCOTTPC] Thu 07/13/2006 22:19:20.40
C:\Documents and Settings\Scott

Another nice one:

set=prompt=$m$_$p$g

yields this when on a UNC Mapped Drive:

\\FREDPC\C$
Z:\Documents and Settings\Fred

There's all sorts of crap that PROMPT /? gives you:

  $A   & (Ampersand)
  $B   | (pipe)
  $C   ( (Left parenthesis)
  $D   Current date
  $E   Escape code (ASCII code 27)
  $F   ) (Right parenthesis)
  $G   > (greater-than sign)
  $H   Backspace (erases previous character)
  $L   < (less-than sign)
  $N   Current drive
  $P   Current drive and path
  $Q   = (equal sign)
  $S     (space)
  $T   Current time
  $V   Windows XP version number
  $_   Carriage return and linefeed
  $$   $ (dollar sign)
  $+   zero or more plus sign (+) characters depending upon the
       depth of the PUSHD directory stack, one character for each
       level pushed.
  $M   Displays the remote name associated with the current drive
       letter or the empty string if current drive is not a network
       drive.

Here's my command prompt. It's transparent because I use the awesome Console 2.00 Beta, build 122 hosted at SourceForge. I blogged about this last November.

Note the multiple tabs. I've got PowerShell, CMD.EXE and two VisualStudio Windows, each in their own tab. I could add a tab for Cygwin, but really, with PowerShell, who needs ls -alogF?

Scottconsole1

Console uses a XML settings file (console.xml) that takes a while to understand. Here's a snippet of my settings. I used short filenames in the VS.NET stuff for simplicity and avoidance of quoted quotes. Remember, DIR /X will give you short filenames for things like this.

...Snip...this is a PARTIAL snippet for illustrative purposes...

<tabs>
  <tab title="Console">
   <console shell="" init_dir=""/>
  </tab>
  <tab title="PowerShell">
   <console shell="c:\program files\windows powershell\v1.0\powershell.exe" init_dir=""/>
  </tab>
  <tab title="VS.NET 2003">
   <console shell="cmd /k C:\PROGRA~1\MICROS~2.NET\Common7\Tools\vsvars32.bat" init_dir=""/>
  </tab>
  <tab title="VS.NET 2005">
   <console shell="cmd /k C:\PROGRA~1\MID05A~1\VC\vcvarsall.bat" init_dir=""/>
  </tab>
 </tabs>

My font is Consolas, Size 15, Kermit Green (0x00FF00). 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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The procedure entry point GetProcessImageFileNameW could not be located in the dynamic link library PSAPI.DLL (after IE7)

July 14, '06 Comments [0] Posted in Bugs
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If you start getting this stunning error on startup, you likely:

  • Just installed IE7 Beta2 or Beta3
  • Also have installed one of:
    • Verizon DSL schmutz
    • Ergodex Manager for the DX1 Pad
    • SmartBridge (MotiveSB.exe)
    • Something else that is distributing an old version of PSAPI.dll

Psapi

The solution is to search your hard drive for all instances of PSAPI.dll and rename them to something like PSAPI.old.

UPDATE: I've received one report where someone had trouble with this tip, and he suggested leaving the PSAPI.dll in c:\windows\system32 alone. I didn't, but you should be aware and possibly try first with that one DLL left alone.

This problem was debugged using ProcessExplorer to ask folks (other processes) WHERE their PSAPI came from...

Psapiprocexp

Crisis averted, at least for me.

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.