Scott Hanselman

The Internet in Zimbabwe is collapsing

September 22, '06 Comments [4] Posted in Africa
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It's getting very hard to email folks in Zim lately...here's why:

"Zimbabwe's international satellite link has been cut off after the national telephone company failed to pay a $710 000 (about R5,4-million) debt in a move that experts warn could spell the collapse of the Internet in the country.

The managing director of Tel-One, the country's sole fixed line phone company, told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that the company had been disconnected from the key Intelsat link.

He added that Tel-One was rerouting Zimbabwe's Internet traffic through other means, resulting in a service slowdown. There are around 500 000 Internet users in the country of 11,6 million people."

Zimbabwe is neck-and-neck with Iraq on economic matters:

Zimbabwe is in its sixth year of economic recession, marked by inflation of more than 1200 percent, acute shortages of foreign currency, fuel and medicines, as well as spiralling poverty and social hardships.

That 1200% inflation number isn't a typo. It was close to 2300% for a while.

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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USB Ports are the next power supply for the world, replacing Car Cigarette Lighter Ports

September 22, '06 Comments [4] Posted in Musings
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9625_superIt's true. Another of my ideas that someone with actual talent, drive, VC money and skill with electronics has taken to market. Rechargeable AA batteries that recharge using the 5 Volts DC that every USB Port carries. Brilliant. Plug them into your laptop or any computer and you can get a little juice for your....um...well, whatever you have that uses AA batteries. Like my Insulin Pump. Or your rechargeable mouse. Next they're making Cell Phone Batteries that recharge via USB.

I wonder if I could recharge these batteries with the headphone-jack-to-female-USB adapter from Inflight Power. With this device you turn up the volume on your airplane seat's in-seat audio and it sips power in little bursts (charges a cap, then releases it at 5V to the USB. Sip 5 min, charge 1.)

180px-CarciglighterIt's official. The USB Port has finally become the next Car Cigarette Lighter Port. It's universal power for all things. How long until my car has four female USB Ports in the dashboard just for power?

The Car Cigarette Lighter was originally a tiny stove-top that would light up red-hot after a few minutes of high current and light up your nasty habit. It doubled as a 12V DC Power Outlet. Later in some new cars the Cigarette Lighter doesn't light ciggies, but is just an official DC Power Source. My car has two ports that are marked for use as power, one in front, one in back.

I actually could use three Cigarette Lighter Ports up front to power/charge my iPod, XM Radio, and Garmin Nuvi, all of which have 12 DV Car Adapters, not to mention my rocking sweet Kensington Alternative Power Source Super Brick Adapter Magic and Blackberry.

But then came USB. First USB had no devices. It was just a slot that we ignored. Then came the Webcams, then the Digital Cameras with drivers. Then USB decided on a standard FAT/FAT32 storage format that meant we could plug in USB stuff without drivers. Then came the USB Flash Drives and Keys. Then came the USB-Powered Noodle Cooker.

You think I'm kidding? You think that they will stop at the Cigarette Lighter Port? No, they'll replace your Wall Socket if they get their way. Check out PoweredUSB. The USB Spec offers 5V and 500mA to each port. These guys are looking to pump that up to +24V DC with 6 freakin' amps per connector with extra pins in a parallel connector. Your next major appliance may run of USB, dear reader.

Well, I'm undeterred. Here's my next great invention that will change the world...the Cigarette Lighter to USB Adapter. Ah, crap. They beat me again. Well, maybe I could use it to power a USB Ashtray via a Cigarette Lighter Port that can no longer light cigarettes.

Superciggie

Enjoy this USB-Powered Drumming Santa Claus and tell me we haven't gone too far.

UPDATE: Here's a nice one...a 5 1/4" Drive Bay for your PC that adds a Cigarette Lighter. Ah!

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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DasBlog 1.9 Released

September 22, '06 Comments [20] Posted in ASP.NET | DasBlog
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DasBlog Reflection 640x480 GrayOmar pulled the trigger and we released DasBlog 1.9.6264. Why 6264 you ask? Because it's 2006 and the 264th day, that's why. Download it.

Here's some of the new features.

  • Much better multi-user/blogger support including a Top Posters macro and total comments - from Christoph De Baene
  • TagCloud Support - from Scott
  • Support for Mobile Browsers like Blackberries and SmartPhones - from Scott
    • Note the large section in your web.config and the mobile theme that is required for this support.
  • Huge (100x+) speedup in Macro execution - from Scott
  • Support for If-Not-Modified to speed up execution, improve RSS bandwidth and CPU cycles - from Scott
  • Direct Feedburner Support with 301 redirection for RSS and Atom feeds. Don't lose a single subscriber. We're the only blog with direct support for Feedburner and Feedflare I believe. - from Scott
    • I encourage you to check out FeedBurner. You can add FeedFlare to your posts, and modify your feed in ways DasBlog can't. They also handle your Feed bandwidth and provide rich statistics. It's free ($ for advanced stats) and it's very powerful. Do be aware that when you make the decision to move over to FeedBurner your existing feeds will start redirecting folks to FeedBurner immediately. That's part of the power of the whole thing, but be warned.
  • Delete comments directly from your mail reader - from Omar
  • Comment moderation option
  • New themes out of the box, 18 at last count - from Many Folks
  • New XML-RPC support for newMediaObject and new version of XML-RPC.NET from Charles Cook - from Omar and Giuseppe Dipietro
  • Macros for Next Post and Previous Post - Justice Gray
    • Check the DasBlog theme or add this line to the top of your itemtemplate.blogtemplate.
      <%PreviousLink("&laquo;&nbsp;",25)%><%MainPageEntryLink("Main", "|")%><%NextLink("&nbsp;&raquo;",25)%><br/>
  • A few security and XSS fixes
  • Support for Gravatars, images of your choosing that appear next to your comments - John Forsythe
  • Support for limited HTML markup in comments
  • Emails removed to avoid having email addresses stolen from Feeds
  • Added an Email page for leaving comments to the author, includes Captcha
  • New support for RSD so client software can autoconfigure itself - from Omar
  • Pluggable Rich Text Editor, choose from the latest version of FreeTextBox or FCKEditor or write your own adapter - from Josh Flanagan
  • Support for alternate SMTP ports
  • We work with Windows Live Writer out of the box - from Omar
  • Support for CoComment - from Scott
  • Microsummary support for Firefox 2.0 Beta - from Scott
  • Organized source, build, and packing for clarity - from Josh Flanagan
  • New Feed Icons - from Omar
  • Autometic generation of Google SiteMaps - from Scott
  • Automatic disabling of Comments after a certain number of days. Also manual "close comments" support - from Omar
  • ContentLookAhead show future dated posts - from Josh Flanagan
  • Other fixes and suggestions from Tomas Restrepo, Jason Follas, Rene Lebherz and Steven Rockarts. Added entry CPU usage optimizatons from George V. Reilly.
  • Ajax Autosave Drafts support from Steven Rockarts and Justice Gray.
  • Better strings and support for German from Alexander Groß, Portuguese from Adelino Araújo, and Vietnamese from Phạm Đức Hải.
  • Many great new themes
  • Updated readme.rtf from Tim Sherill
  • Single-handed support of DasBlog.info and DasBlog.us to the enthusiastic and tireless Tom Watts!
  • Welcome to new team members Alexander Groß, Paul Van Brenck, and John Forsythe who really did a lot of work to make this release possible! Thanks to Jacob Proffitt for doing some crazy debugging of caching on FireFox that will be in a point release soon.
  • New DasBlog Badges/Artwork from Alexander Groß...download them here: File Attachment: DasBlog Artwork.zip (1015 KB)

Thanks again to all who jumped in this release. The number of bug fixes and patches was fantastic.

If you are starting from scratch, READ THE README.

If you are upgrading, always back up your whole site. You have a number of choices on how to upgrade but mostly it's just merge the web.config and copy over everything else. Read the readme.rtf.

  • If you have made changes to your web.config, manually merge your existing web.config with the one we ship, using a tool like Beyond Compare.
  • If you are running DasBlog 1.8, you don't need to run the DasBlog Upgrader if you don't want to. It'll clean up spam and tighten up your content, but it's not required.
  • If you've modified your themes or an included theme with DasBlog, back up your stuff so you can merge in new features as you like.
  • DasBlog is written in ASP.NET 1.1 but runs under 1.1 or 2.0. Read the readme.rtf and the web.config for details.

Some things to note:

If you want to extend DasBlog...

Regarding Macros:

  • The best documentation for the Macros (so far) is the Macros.cs file itself. Nearly every public function in there is a potential macro you can use in your templates. If you wish a Macro existed, perhaps it already does. You can browse the code in the Subversion Repository without installing anything. Here's a link directly to the Macros.cs file.

We're always looking for help editing the documentation and working on http://dasblog.info/. We also appreciate folks who answer questions in the forums at http://dasblog.us/.

Enjoy, and thanks team!

Now playing: Rent - I'll Cover You (Reprise)

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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Getting FinePrint to work on Vista RC1

September 21, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Musings | Reviews
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Good news for FinePrint owners and lovers. The v5.55 build mostly works under Vista with the caveat that it doesn't print under IE7 Protected Mode, but that's coming soon.

Hi Scott, I did some work on Vista support last week.  if you install the latest FinePrint build (v5.55) it should work pretty well.  The "only" problem (which is obviously quite significant) is that it doesn't yet work with IE7 Protected Mode.  everything else should be OK though. I don't know if you are a pdfFactory user, but the same comments apply to pdfFactory--I fixed some Vista-related problems in the latest build (v3.02).

Here are direct download links for FinePrint 5.55. You may have the Print Spooler Service shut down during the installation but you should be cool after that.

As with all things on this blog, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). 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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Vista and ReadyBoost

September 21, '06 Comments [3] Posted in Musings | Reviews | Tools
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Readyboost1I've had some problems with Vista over the last week, but I'm in communication with a few folks at Microsoft who are helping me work through them.

I've also got word that the FinePrint guys are actively working on getting FP to work under Vista. More on that soon.

But what I'm really digging is ReadyBoost. My wife has a little machine we got for $399 that has 512megs of RAM I think. It has a Windows Experience Index of 1.0 if that gives you some kind of idea of what we're dealing with.

It was doing OK, acting like a slightly slower XP machine. It's had no crashes, blue screens or driver troubles. It's beating on the hard drive though.

I'm loving the idea of ReadyBoost. I told my wife I added more memory to the system, but that's not correct. ReadyBoost takes a FAST (keyword: FAST) USB Flash Drive and adds it into the SuperFetch/PreFetch mix.

According to the ReadyBoost FAQ, a RANDOM 4k read from flash is about 10x faster than from the HDD. Remember we're adding a storage device that isn't as fast as the Hard Drive for big linear files, but it can SEEK around faster than the HDD. When the system is under pressure - that means, in part, disk contention - the system is more responsive.

This is brilliant for me because I'm all about multitasking...I regularly have 100+ things going in Task Manager and I'm whipping between them. However, my machine has 2GIGs of RAM and I'm not necessarily the ideal candidate. My wife, however, runs Excel, Word, IE, and Solitaire on a slower machine and already she's noticed a difference with a 2 gig USB drive connected. My gut says that under load with 4-5 big apps running her system is probably 20-30% faster and the disk is noticeably faster. Again, this is a 512 meg machine with a 2 gig USB disk.

Check out Grant Gibson's growing database of USB Flash Drives/Keys that are compatible with ReadyBoost.

I went over to MWAVE.COM and picked up three Apacer Handy Steno 2gig USB Flash Drives for under $48 each and have them running in my Tablet, Desktop and my wife's machine. I haven't noticed a different in my machine, but my wife's machine . The Apacer Steno is reportedly the USB Drive that Microsoft uses internally for testing, so it's a "reference ideal." It IS wicked fast.

Do be aware of these gotchas I experienced on Vista RC1:

  • You MAY need to run the Speed Test from the ReadyBoost tab in the Properties window more than once to get success. Make sure your system is as quiescent as possible while the few second long test runs.
  • Don't RENAME (change the Volume Label) on your USB Drive once you've set it up. You'll confuse Windows and while the SuperFetch cache file will still exist, it won't be used.
    • I inserted the USB key, and got the "AutoPlay" option to "Speed up your system."
    • I clicked and configured.
    • Then I said to myself, "self, let's rename this drive 'READYBOOST' so I won't mess with it."
    • So I did, and went back to the Properties dialog for the drive and it had forgotten that it was READYBOOSTIFIED. I changed the name back and things worked again.
    • Moral: Change your drive's name before you boostify.

I'll post some speed comparisons as we use these machines more. However, if you have less than a gig of ram, getting a fast USB key should just be compulsory.

THOUGHT: It'd be cool to have a USB port facing straight up in the air on the motherboard inside the case. Of course, one day someone will release motherboards with this built in, just like ReadyDrive.

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.