Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 6

December 8, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Africa | Musings
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It's Friday afternoon, around 1:45pm here in Arusha. Got a lot of random stuff on my mind.

UPDATE: Here's a photo of my family:

HanselmanArusha2006-1

When it thunders here, it's like the whole continent is moving. This thunder is *not* screwing around. It's December, of course, in the heat of summer with temperature in the 100's ;) and the humidity about the same.

I don't know how I've done all this international travel in the past without this Continuous Glucose Meter. Truly. It's a new sixth sense, and when it's gone or off, I'm truly blind and very uncomfortable. The meter has made this trip SO much more enjoyable for me there are no words. It's tricky (i.e. dangerous) being a diabetic here, so planning ahead and information keeps me alive. I've got glucose tablets, granola bars, and this meter. So far, so good. It's a little complex trying to keep the insulin cold, because the power/electricity is off in the daytime. It usually shuts off around 9am and turns on around 7-8pm, so we need to avoid opening the refridgerator.

Yesterday, we went to a Maasai cultural museum and 'snake park' about 30km outside of town. There are supposed to be a half-million Maasai here, but of course, they move around a lot and aren't easy to count. They speak Maa, very different from kiSwahili. You can spot them around town as they tend to dress in bright colors, often red.

We had to take two cars, so our host (my brother-in-law) got a friend to bring his car. Traffic is chaotic - a constant test of wills. On the way back, the car that the friend was driving stopped while going over a speed bump (there's speed bumps everywhere around here). My dad and I jumped out and pushed it off to the corner (which is apparently quite a sight here). The car was out of gas (petrol.) The other car went off in search of petrol, the baby was sleeping at this point. They got back, we put a liter in, and continued on. Then it stopped again. This time we were out of water and oil. We added water, but had no oil. We ended up having to leave that car and get a passing cab. What was going to be a lunchtime outing turned into a whole day event, but a fine time was had by all.

We had a great time though. I'm still working on getting photos up, but when/if they do make it up, they will be on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/computerzen. There's a feed up there if you like as well.

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 43 - LifeHacks 2, an Interview with Gina Trapani

December 8, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Podcast
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Greetings from Tanzania! My forty-third Podcast is up. In this one, Carl and I were fortunate get an interview with the primary blogger of LifeHacker, Gina Trapani. Gina has a book coming out this month called Lifehacker: 88 Tech Trips to Turbocharge your Day. I knew some folks at the publisher and was sent a "galley" version, and it's a great book, and a fine gift idea for the nerd in your life. We did a show on Lifehacks a while back, but in this one we learn about the origin of the word, get ideas for more hacks from Gina, learn how to make FireFox Extensions, and how to blog for a living. Thanks to Gina for her time. Check out the LifeHacker blog, it's in my Essentials list and I read it every day.

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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Controlling a Microbric Viper using .NET and a custom IR Serial Port

December 8, '06 Comments [0] Posted in Coding4Fun | Programming
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The first part of my Coding4Fun article on controlling a Microbric Viper with a custom IR Serial Port controller and .NET. The second part will integrate the robot with PowerShell.

I've already got some complaints about not using the Microsoft Robotics SDK. I will try to get a version out sometime that does use the SDK, but I found it to be a little overkill for this project. If you have experience using the SDK and want to help me understand it, please do email me.

This article is the one that I was working on a while back when I blogged about my troubles with fast timing using managed code while trying to get the serial port to toggle DTR faster (than was reasonable). We ended up taking your advice, dear reader, and building a custom IR port with a hardware carrier. I included that post in this new article.

The Microbric Viper can be ordered online in North America, check out www.microbric.com for North American distributors. It's only US$89 at Saelig and CAD$99 at RobotShop. They have a number of educational robots that can be assembled by kids of all ages and skill levels. They're great for the classroom, and include projects like Sumo Robots, and a line-following bot, as well as a Spiderbot that climbs rope - all from the same kit.

You can order the IR Transmitter/Receiver from IguanaWorks. The serial version works on Windows or Linux, and there's a Linux USB version. It's not just a Transmitter, but also a learning receiver that works with WinLIRC and turns your computer into a learning remote control.

Also, check out the Coding4Fun 2006 Holiday Gift Guide for gift ideas.

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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Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 3

December 5, '06 Comments [8] Posted in Africa | Musings
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I'm writing this via a CDMA 9600bps cell phone modem in Arusha, Tanzania.

It took us 3 days to get here. We went from Portland (PDX) to Seattle on Horizon Air, but apparently a plane fell off the runway and temporarily shutdown the airport for a bit, causing us to get in an hour late. Because we were late, we missed the Seattle (SEA) to Amsterdam (AMS) flight by four (4) minutes. Yes, they wouldn't open the door, and I found that a bit tacky. Consequently my wife, myself, Z and my parents (this is their first trip out of the country) had to stay at the lovely Airport Red Lion Inn for the night, wake up the next morning early and try again for the same flight, which, it so happens, we were again the last to board. It's non-trivial to travel with an infant and 400lbs of luggage (don't ask).

UPDATE:This is why I like blogging, and a good way to explain to folks why it’s such a neat aspect of my life. It’s about connecting with folks. It’s about community and sharing information. I just got this email from a reader of my blog.

Hi Scott,
I was reading your blog today and read about your troubles getting from PDX - SEA. 
I am really sorry to hear that you guys missed the flight by 4 minutes. I am a Captain
at Horizon Air and a .NET developer on the side. I was flying that day and it was a total mess in Sea-Tac. 
Here is what happened. Sea-Tac was fogged in all morning with visibilities under 1/4 of
a mile. Horizon has special approval to do very low visibility landings using a special heads-up display. This allows us to get into SEA when the visibilities are below 1/4 mile. (We can land in visibilities down to 600 feet) Anyway the airplane in question flown by a friend of mine, landed in SEA and rolled down the runway to the runway exit. The visibility at the roll out end was extreamly poor and the missed the runway turnoff and went off the runway. SEA has only 1 runway that is capable of landing aircarft in low visibility and they had to close the runway and the airport until the disabled aircraft can be removed off the runway. 
Hope you are having a wonderful time on your vacation. Looking forward to the next
Hanselminutes when you get back. Take Care.

It means a lot to me that I have readers of all backgrounds, not just massive nerds ;), and that we can use blogging as a forum to connect. Thanks for the information about the flight! We all got a kick out of it here in Arusha.

After a brisk 10 hour flight to Amsterdam, a short 4 hour layover, followed by a snappy 9 hour flight to Kilimanjaro, we boarded a caravan with our bags and drove and hour to Arusha.

Oy.

Anyway, we're all here, we're healthy (so far) and the mosquito nets cover the baby's crib quite nicely. Z is a little (+/- 11 hours) jet-lagged, as are my retiree parents, and Mo has a sore throat. My continuous glucose meter is helping me manage my blood sugar excellently and I'm wondering how I ever lived without it.

My sister-in-law works here in Arusha with the United Nations on the Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal. It's a very different town than Bulawayo. I'll hopefully have time to write up some observations on culture and language.

KiSwahili is very different from Ndebele/Zulu - it's more like Shona.

  • Mambo - hello to a peer
  • Safi - response, I'm OK
  • Chigamo - hello to an elder
  • Marahaba, ujambo - response, I'm OK
Give me a week, I'll hopefully have a lot more. Of course, we're speaking Ndebele in the house, and struggling outside, because unlike Zimbabwe, the average local here doesn't speak English.

I'll try to post some photos as I can, bandwidth allowing. We shall see. I'll get more technical posts up at the beginning of the year. We do have two podcasts in the can, and they will appear in the next few weeks. Also, I've got a new Coding4Fun article up, I'll try to post about that also - otherwise, forgive me this month of non-technical content.

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's "Show Compatibility Files" and the Scrumptious Wonder that is File Virtualization

December 1, '06 Comments [7] Posted in Musings | Reviews
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I was trying to convert some (totally legal) video files into MP4 format for use on my iPod for an upcoming trip to Arusha. I used the Videora iPod Convertor, by the way. By default Videora is set to write to: C:\Program Files\VideoraiPodConverter\Videos so I opened an explorer window and watched that folder for my output files to show up. After hours of converting. Nothing. I searched my hard drive high and low. Nada. What was it chewing on so long? I should have at LEAST 2 gigs of MP4s now. Where are they. I tried again. Hours past. Nothing.

What's this button "Compatibility Files?"

Um, OK. Click.

Zoinks!

Then I remembered. In Vista the rules are that if you don't have explicit (by requesting) elevated permissions to write to C:\Program Files, the system lets you think you are writing there but actually redirects (virtualizes) your writes elsewhere. Jerry has some details here, where I took the next picture from.

On the surface, this sucks in a huge way, especially for my Mom in the "where are my files" kind of way.

As far as programs on my system, there's a number of "mal-behaved" programs that are getting their writer redirected to the "Virtual Store." Of note are MSN Messenger, the new Nero, and FireFox.

Ideally apps will write to the places they should be writing to, like Isolated Storage and such. Apps like Videora should include a manifest that explains what they're going to need (security and permissions demands) so that the consent dialog (run my Consent.exe of all things) would be issued automatically.

Personally, I'd rather see a UI with a link or button in the folder rather than in the Toolbar. It is pretty important and blends in there.

The other really bad UI issue is that there's no way to get to the compatibility-based Virtual Store from the common file open/save dialogs.

The same redirection CAN happen with apps that try to write to registry in HKLM, so watch for that also if something "goes missing."

I can see how hard they're working to make Vista more secure while still maintaining extensive backward compatibility. I haven't had any apps (other than one Java app) bork under Vista yet, but things like this Virtual Store will be confusing until new minor releases of apps with a modicum of Vista-awareness come out.

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.