Scott Hanselman

Hanselminutes Podcast 42 - Next Generation Gaming and the Developer

November 22, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Gaming | Podcast
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My forty-second Podcast is up.  In this one, Carl and I chat about what it means to be a "Next Generation Game" and discuss the latest innovations in gaming (graphics is only one) as well as the new Microsoft XNA platform for gaming. Are you getting a Wii, Xbox360 or PS3 for Christmas?

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.

Subscribe: Feed-icon-16x16 Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Links from the show are also always on the show site, although this show had no links to speak of. Do also remember the archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Our sponsors are CodeSmith Tools, /nsoftware and the .NET Dev Journal.

There's a $100 off CodeSmith coupon for Hanselminutes listeners - it's coupon code HM100. Spread the word, now's the time to buy. This coupon is good for the CodeSmith Professional With 1 Year Premier Support option.

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)

  • 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.
  • 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. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

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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Speech Recognition in Windows Vista - I'm listening

November 22, '06 Comments [6] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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In the past I've had a significant number of carpal tunnel like symptoms, and typing grows increasingly uncomfortable.  I doubt that it's carpal tunnel per se, but typing as fast as I do will no doubt eventually break the body down.  In the past I've used Dragon Naturally Speaking as an alternative to typing. In fact, most of my chapters in the ASP.NET book were dictated with Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Of course I was excited to hear that Windows Vista would include lots of new speech recognition features, and today I finally got to try them out.  I plugged in my Logitech USB headset and ran through the tutorial.

You really have to try it to fully understand the improvements that have been made to accessibility in Windows Vista.  While this entire blog post was dictated using the Built-in speech features in Vista, the dictation features, frankly aren't that impressive.  To be clear, they work, and they work well.  But it's the interface, the user experience, that's so amazing.

You can tell that BillG is very much not kidding when he says speech is going to be the way we will interact with their computers. Notice for example in the image below that while I've just been using voice recognition in vista for only 5 minutes, the system has scanned the documents in My Documents and my Desktop and determined that "Wii" (as in Nintendo Wii, a video game system that I recorded a podcast about yesterday) is a reasonable and valid homonym to "we."

But these are speech-specific things, what was really interesting to me is how easy it is to interact with the entire system, the shell, without touching your mouse.  This is going to be Huge for people who CAN'T touch the mouse.

One of the most clever user interface experiences is the "show numbers" interface. When you're using Windows Vista voice recognition and you tell it to "show numbers," the current window has numbered regions overlaid on a user interface elements, so that they can be easily selected just by saying a number.

For example, notice the interface of Windows Live Writer as seen below.  Even though the default interface will click when I say - meaning if I simply say "insert picture" the system will click the Insert Picture user interface element just because it's on the screen - if there's a user interface on it like a toolbar button or something that is difficult to express verbally, I can click it easily using show numbers.

The same feature is used when selecting words that appear multiple times within a chunk of text.  For example if a paragraph contained the name 'Hanselman' four times and I said "Select Hanselman," each instance of the word would have been numbered overlaid allowing me to quickly indicate the one I meant. 

I'm not familiar with the Windows Speech API, but it'll be interesting to see how vendors like the folks at Dragon Naturally Speaking are meant to integrate their speech recognition algorithms to the existing interface experience provided by Vista out of the box.

As the one who fortunately does have the use of both my hands, I find speech to be the most valuable when I can have one hand on the keyboard, one hand on the mouse, and be speaking simultaneously.  It's certainly true that I can talk faster than I can type, and it's very very difficult to beat really good speech recognition software by just typing. 

It's worth noting that they've removed all of the speech recognition features from Office 2007 and there are a number of people who were considerably torqued about that decision.  That said, if you're into speech recognition or you use speech recognition software in your everyday life, the improvements in a speech in Vista are reason enough to upgrade your OS.

And sure, it's not perfect, but I'm using a crappy microphone in a noisy room on a slowish machine while speaking quietly so as not to wake the baby.  Not too shabby.

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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Baby Sign Language

November 22, '06 Comments [24] Posted in Musings | Parenting | Z
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UPDATE: Check out http://www.babysignlanguage.com for more info on Babies and Sign Language!

Z and the Giant DogZ's fast approaching his first birthday (can you believe it?) and he's really started letting us know that he's in there. There's a real little person in there who's not just hanging out and pooping.

We've been teaching Z American Sign Language (ASL) since he was about 4 months old. I say "teaching" loosely, because we've just used it every time we talk to him, and figure he'll get the just sooner or later.

Mo and I have both taken ASL at the local community college from a non-verbal deaf instructor and we've taken Z to formal Baby Sign Language classes that use ASL (and as an aside, have a specific respect for the deaf community and don't 'invent' signs) as the source of signs.

We started getting discouraged around his 8 month birthday as it just didn't seem like he was signing back. It was pretty clear he "got" what we were saying, but he just didn't reciprocate.

Then, he started showing intense interest in turning on and off lights. So, we showed him the sign for light, which is a downward turned hand with straight, splayed fingers representing the light rays. Sounds complex, but it's pretty obvious when you see it. Anyway, he immediately started using this sign. He just got it. He started signing light frantically one day, and my wife couldn't figure out why; then she realized she was buying a bulb in the light section of Home Depot and was surrounded by chandeliers.

Ceiling fans were next and Z happily announced their arrival with the sign for fan. It seemed he was getting the concrete signs for things, but not the abstract concepts like "more."

Just after Z started walking, he started signing things like "more" when he wanted more food. At this point, it's getting really exciting.

I truly believe that Sign Language is encouraging Z to communicate earlier. I don't keep track of other kids' accomplishments at this age or that, so I have nothing to measure against (nor am I interested) but I feel like I haven't had to wait long to connect with Z. Just a month later, we "talk" about such thrilling escapades as "the Man in the Boat" and "the Banana in your Hair" as well as "the Giant Dog" as seen in the picture at the upper right.

He's also starting to attempt to speak the word while he signs it, like "lala" while signing "Light." The amount that he understands verbally, even at under a year old, is amazing to me. I don't know what I expected, nor again, what other kids do, but tonight I said "ok, let's go take a bath!" and he ran from he kitchen to the stairs, climbed the stairs by himself and ran into the bathroom and tried to turn on the water. That's crazy to me that babies can hold a thought that long. Hell, I can't hold a thought that long.

This tiny little man has something to say, but his tongue just isn't ready yet. His hands though, are starting to tell quite the tale, and I look forward to talking with him daily.

I had a chat with a German fellow while in Spain this last week who had a 15-month old, and I mentioned that we were teaching the baby sign language and that many Americans were trying this technique.

I explained that we felt that there was a window of time, from about 9 months old to whenever the baby starts talking, that was had great potential for not just communicating with your baby, but connecting and letting the baby know their needs matter. That many of us had the idea that babies cry when their needs aren't met and sign language was a good way for the baby to effectively express their intent.

He looked at me like I was from Mars. "My wife knows what the baby needs. There's no need for sign language." The 'that's stupid' was implied, if not expressed. I respect his opinion, but I beg to differ. It really is a joy, and others agree.

We use the Baby Signing Time videos, as well as Dr. Joseph Garcia's Baby Signers, but really any ASL dictionary will do. Z's got about 12 words now, but I suspect he's picking them up as fast as we can learn them ourselves.

If you've got an infant, I really encourage you to try Sign Language. We're a multi-lingual house already and hope Z will speak English and some Ndebele, and I plan to have him in a Spanish immersion program. If you treat ASL as just another language, it helps (me at least) the mental model. We just move our hands while we talk to him, and I'm very happy with the results.

Have you signed to your baby? When did you start? When did they sign back? Do any of you have older (4, 6, 8...) kids that still sign? Do any of you think this is all nonsense? Discuss.

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 41 - WS-*

November 17, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Podcast | Web Services
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My forty-first Podcast is up.  In this one, Carl and I talk about some of the underlying specs that make up what everyone calls "WS-star". It's a confusing bunch of specs, and I hope I explain it correctly as I think it is a useful thing for folks to know.

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.

Subscribe: Feed-icon-16x16 Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Links from the show are also always on the show site, although this show had no links to speak of. Do also remember the archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Our sponsors are CodeSmith Tools, /nsoftware and the .NET Dev Journal.

There's a $100 off CodeSmith coupon for Hanselminutes listeners - it's coupon code HM100. Spread the word, now's the time to buy. This coupon is good for the CodeSmith Professional With 1 Year Premier Support option.

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)

  • 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.
  • 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. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
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Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Downloading Vista RTM

November 17, '06 Comments [16] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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Only 18 minutes left. I'm downloading Vista off of MSDN right now at a speedy 2 megs a second.

I've been running RC2 on my main machine at home since it came out and I've had a MUCH better experience than RC1.

My RC1 experience was very Beta 3, shall we say, and it kind of soured me.

However, I got to play with RTM on a few Microsoftie's machines at TechEd Europe last week, and my own experience with RC2 and ReadyBoost (using an Apacer Handy Steno) has been stellar. Only one blue screen in the last three weeks, and that was an ATI Display Driver bug.

I'm hoping to upgrade over RC2 (ya, I know, that's not very clever, but I'll try it if it's possible, as I REALLY don't feel like paving my machine again this year) and I'm wondering what order I should do things in.

I think I will:

  • Remove all things Office 2007 Beta 2 TR from my current Vista RC2 installation
  • Upgrade to Vista RTM
  • Upgrade to the Beta ATI Drivers for Vista RTM (Catalyst 8.31.100)
  • Install Office 2007 Professional
    • I'll skip the other apps like InfoPath, OneNote, and Visio, until I hear that they've got this whole product key thing fixed. (Right now, even though a product key is supposed to allow 10 activations (and really should be 10 PCs) it only allows one application!)

Sound like a plan? 

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
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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.