Scott Hanselman

Hanselminutes Podcast 44 - Basics of Professional Audio

December 14, '06 Comments [12] Posted in Podcast
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Greetings again, from Arusha, Tanzania! My forty-forth Podcast is up. This will likely be the last one until the new year, where we will emerge from the Holiday Season energized with new listener-supplied topics (both listeners have offered topics! ;) ) and a re-commitment to avoid wasting your time, dear listener.

This final show of the year is a little different, as we turn the microphone around a bit and focus on something that Carl knows piles about, so this is a "Carlminutes" to round out our 44th show at the end of 2006. Carl educates me on professional audio and talks about some of the equipment that goes on behind the scenes to make a (we think) good-sounding show like Hanselminutes possible. I hope you enjoy it.

CALL TO ACTION: We're going to hit 50 shows soon, and let's hope for another 50 after that. What I need from you are topics. I've got about 15 topics queued up, mostly programming topics, which is good. We'll start the year with these topics, as well as any that you send me NOW! So, dear listener, what do you want to talk about?

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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Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 12 - Maids

December 13, '06 Comments [8] Posted in Africa
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CIMG6375It's weird to have a maid. For me as a middle-class American at least. My sister-in-law is also comfortably middle-class, by Tanzanian standards. She works as an Administrative Assistant for the UN...more on that in another post. It's a great job, she does great work, and they rent a lovely stone house where we are blessed to be staying.

With "middleclassedness" in Africa, often comes help around the house. My wife's other sister (Mo is 4th of 7 kids) and her husband were teachers in Zimbabwe and they had a maid. Even folks in the "lower-middle class" in Africa always seem to be able to find a maid. Sometimes the maid is someone who comes by for a few hours in the middle of the day, and might be the maid for two or three families, but just as often the maid is a live-in. Many times the maid is someone from just a bit further out of town than you live, and by hiring them as help you're getting them that much closer to town. The maid in this house sleeps and eats here six days a week, and takes Sunday off for church and family. She's very kind, and very quiet, but as is with the maids I've personally met in Africa, submissive isn't the word, rather deferential in all cases to the other members of the house. A maid might work with you for years, but they are an employee first, and possibly a family member second.

In the states, if you wanted a full-time live-in maid, you'd be paying around USD$25,000 to USD$40,000 to start, not to mention benefits. For nearly everyone this is not only beyond our means, but just an insane amount of money. You can hire a "merry maid" to come by once a week and do the floors and bathrooms and dust, but that'll be at least $50, usually $100 a month, and they don't do dishes or windows. Every country's economy is different, but a maid in Africa might make as little as US$20 a month, or as much as US$100 or more. Still, a far cry from the middle class.

The maids on this continent are really home-managers. Everything is handled, from meals to laundry to cleaning. There's also often a gardener or general handy-man who comes by in the daytime and is "the man when the man isn't around" and handles repairs and landscaping of the 25foot by 25foot patch of grass.

As an aside, not only does the power go out each day, but the water, as I'd mentioned before, comes from a large tank above the house. Turns out there's actually two tanks. One under the ground - a giant cistern - and the tank above. The city water comes in only once every 4 days - sometimes there's gaps as long as two weeks - and is buffered (my word) into this giant cistern. There's a large sturdy plastic balloon on the end of a thick wire - a ballast, just like in an American toilet, that floats up when the tank is full, indicating to the system to stop taking in the city water. Then the handy-man turns on a pump and sends the water up to the tank on top of the house. In the morning around 6am, the maid turns on a temporary water heater - everyone is very focused on conservation, naturally, and saves water and power religiously - and stores very hot water in a 30 liter or so container that stores wicked-hot water for the whole house.

Since we are numbering 11 in the house, we're stacked to the rafters, and I had a lovely cold shower this morning. Cold trickle, rather, but it, and I, was wet, so I consider it a dramatic success. I woke up at 7:30am, a little late, and because I didn't jump at the first shower, I lost. My wife had a stunning (she reported) hot shower. Of course, this house happily and comfortably supports a family of 4, but we're straining it a bit.

Back to the maid. We (the white folks, meaning, mostly my parents) are having a little trouble with it. I'm personally used it having traveled a smidge, but my parents, having traveled as much as a typical West Coast-born individual (from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico, so, exactly, nowhere. ;) ) aren't used to the "distance" and caste-like system that is so pointed outside the states. There may be some liberal "White Guilt" involved, but I doubt it in this case as the castes (my word in this case) exist very often without color. I've never personally visited or lived in a White African's house who has Black help working for them (although there's many of course), while I've personally visited dozens of Black Africans' homes with other Black African folks working for them. This is fundamentally about the separation between the knowledge worker and the laborer, it seems. I suspect in the States, that many people (more than just the very rich) would hire maids to work and live with them if it were possible to pay them a non-U.S.-minimum wage and if the market and society watchful eye would bear it. In this case, as we visit, we have mostly "middle class" guilt. We're all very lucky, and if you're reading this blog, by definition and example, you are fortunate as well. 

CIMG6450My dad was a firefigher for thirty years and had odd jobs on the side. My mom was a zookeeper amongst other things. My mom puts it best: "Your father spend the last 30 years responding. He has to help. He doesn't know how not to." So, here in Tanzania, Dad's running all over the house fixing stuff. Not that things are breaking more than anywhere else, but you know how it is. A knob here, a clogged faucet there, standard house stuff. He's fantastic at this stuff. I think that the maid and handyman are reveling in the enthusiasm of this upbeat, very compentent, old(er) White guy. I'm enjoying the whole spectacle, myself. I one day hope to be as handy and as much a people-person as my Dad.

From the maid's perspective, it's possible overstepping our bounds as house guests, Mo and I included, by doing chores as we think is appropriate. We've done the laundry (by hand out back), led by Mo's Mom. We sweep and mop and do the dishes, all the while with an askance look from the (again, very kind she is) maid. I guess it's a combination of our very American "we do it ourselves" style, along with my wife's very African "I need to be a contributing member of the household" style. Technically I assume the maid is supposed to do all these things, but we figure since the household has swollen in membership due to our arrival, it's only fair that we step up in some way. It seems to be working so far.

Our host, my sister-in-law, has been fantastic to open her home to us, and even though we've inadvertently sequestered a few family members to the couch and living room floor by our presense, the house and household are holding up nicely.

I remember once in Zimbabwe I was kicked, rather forcefully, out of the kitchen of a Uncle of ours, for stopping in and offering to do the dishes. As the guest, and recent addition as son-in-law, my attempt to help was perceived as a bit odd and I narrowly avoided international incident. Not to mention when I sat on the ground rather than on the couch...I find the floor to be rather comfortable. Again, not cool when you're the visitor, it seems.

I'd love to have a maid in the States, but I think that due to my overdeveloped sense of economic justice combined with a bit of, I fear, a socialist streak, it'll have to be a Robot Maid from the makers of the Roomba.

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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CardSpace InformationCard Extension for FireFox

December 13, '06 Comments [2] Posted in ASP.NET | Programming | Tools | Web Services | XML
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It's happened! Kevin Miller has released his FireFox Extension for CardSpace as reported by Garrett Serack. It's got full JavaScript support and Garrett has posted some JavaScript code that you can use to detect support for CardSpace within any browser, including FireFox.

There's been work by Chuck Mortimore to implement the complete stack without .NET 3.0:

Chuck Mortimore, with great diligence, has begun work on the first true, cross-platform extension for FireFox to enable interoperatability with CardSpace, and the Identity Metasystem. He's made some fantastic progress in getting FireFox up to par with that. The only down side is, that Managed Cards may take some serious, significant effort to implement. And, what if one actually wanted to use the Windows CardSpace identity selector, but from FireFox?

This extension, however, enables the Windows CardSpace identity selector. As we talked about in a recent podcast, the CardSpace system at a protocol level doesn't require Windows or .NET 3.0. There will likely emerge complete stacks, server and client, that include identity selectors for Linux and Mac, and of course, Windows. Here's a Java-based Relying Party and sample Identity Selector from Chuck.

Kevin's extension also supports extension (ha) as well, as a generic identity selector, so when other selectors come out, they can be hooked into his FireFox XPI-based extension. Be sure to watch his site in the coming weeks as he'll be releasing more code and samples. Also, be sure to read these (PDF) Slides on the Mono Infocard Project.

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 11 - Transportation

December 12, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Africa
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Getting around town is a little tricky as while the main road is tarred (asphalt) many of the offshoot roads are not just dirt, but truly rocky and bumpy. It asks a lot of any car, especially the suspension.

We're driving a '93 Mitsubishi Pajero, which is a basic SUV. Petrol (Gas) is about 1200Tsh (Tanzanian Shillings) per liter. In the US, gas is about $2 a gallon. So, doing a little math converting liters to gallons and Tsh to USD...

1 liter = 0.264172051 US gallons so 1 US gallon is 3.7 liters. Coincidentally, then we end up paying about US$3.7 per gallon for gas here if my math is correct. If you consider the average income for car owners, it's easy to see that gas is a significant portion of one's monthly expenses, sometimes out-pacing all other expenses short of rent. We'll be spending about US$300 for gas in two cars to and from Ngorongoro Crater next week.

Sometimes it seems that there are "rules of the road" that apply everywhere but the States. After driving in Europe a few weeks ago, specifically Spain and France, and now driving in Tanzania, I've noticed that folks really use their turn signals to communicate a lot more than Americans typically do. I've been to Africa a number of times, but only driven a bit in RSA (South Africa)

Here's some examples that make sense when you think about them, but aren't obvious to Americans who haven't noticed or asked:

  • When it's dark and a car is coming towards you, you turn on your inner turn signal (the one nearest the middle of the road) to let them know where the edge of your car is as they pass.
  • When someone wants to pass you, you can turn on your inner turn signal to let them know you don't want them to pass.
  • When someone wants to pass you, you can turn on your outer turn signal (the one nearest the curb) to let them know that it's safe for them to pass.

I have yet to see a traffic light or stop sign of any kind. These things are apparently just understood, although there are a number of roundabouts. The traffic situation is very fluid, much like in Asia...there's no lines in Arusha (there are in Dar es Salaam) so folks just push their way around with some deference to pedestrians.

Interesting aside: The main roundabout in the middle of the Arusha town is the "wedding roundabout" and every weekend there's parades of cars going around and around. They'll park (inappropriately) in the middle of the roundabout and run to the middle to take pictures next to the large fountain. I'll try to take photos next weekend.

Also, it took a few hours, but I've managed to get a few photos up at http://www.flickr.com/photos/computerzen, but they aren't correctly tagged or in the right set. The feed for photos is here.

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 10 - Malaria

December 11, '06 Comments [10] Posted in Africa | Musings
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Malaria is an interesting bug. Lots of locals blow it off. "Sure, I've had malaria a number of times, sometimes every few months, but then I kick it in a month or two." However, it does kill 2 million a year, and if you do survive it's no fun to have. My mother-in-law just got it after only 3 months in Tanzania after moving from Zimbabwe. There's a lot less incidence of Malaria in Zim than in TZ.

Malaria kills more than 2 million people in Africa each year.  Between 300 and 500 million people suffer from malaria, the majority of which are young children; one out of 20 children in Africa dies of malaria before the age of 5.  Families are often forced to spend approximately 20% of their income on malaria treatments, and public health institutions spend up to 40% of their budgets on outpatient malaria treatment.  All told, in addition to the human loss and suffering, the disease results in an economic loss of $3 billion to African economies each year, slowing economic growth by approximately 1.3% annually. [SDP.org]

Here's what we're doing to prevent malaria while we're here. It's a fairly aggressive and multi-pronged series of techniques. Some may call it overkill, I call it thorough. We're fortunate enough to have enough money to be this thorough, although using any one of these techniques is better than doing nothing and taking your chances.

  • Physical
    • Mosquito Nets
      • Treated Mosquito Nets with Permethrin - You can use a standard Mosquito net, but I recommend taking it to the next level and treating the nets with a repellent. There are some concerns about Permethrin as it's technically a carcinogen, but for a short time, I'm willing to take the risk. We soaked our Mosquito nets in backs with Permethrin for a half-day before we came.
    • Treated Clothing
      • You can also treat clothing with Permethrin. We treated our jeans and shirts. It's a simple treatment. You pour the liquid into a bag, with 2 parts water to 1 parts Permethrin, shake, then wait for a few hours, then dry. You can buy pre-treated clothes, but that's a lot of money for something that will only last for 6 weeks or 6 washings.
    • Citronella Candles
      • Citronella smells pleasant enough, but apparently bugs don't like it. You can buy candles and smoking coils that will keep bugs out of your room.
    • Bounce Fabric Softener
      • You can just wipe these on a baby's clothes, and the rumor is that bugs will stay away. No proof yet.
  • Medical - Oral
    • Malarone anti-malarial
      • This is one of the more expensive and newer anti-malarials, but the cheaper ones like Mefloquine and Cloroquine are working less and less as the mosquitos are getting resistance. If you get malaria while you're on one of these anti-malarials it'll be a lot more difficult to treat. Malorone has fewer side effects than most any anti-malarial out there. When I was taking Mefloquine I had some horrible night-terrors - a common side effect. None of us, including Z, who had a specially compounded baby-dose of Malarone, have had any side effects. You'll need a prescription, and it won't be cheap.
      • UPDATE: There have been reports of VERY bad side effects from Mefloquine (Lariam) so do be aware of that.
    • Artemisinin - homeopathic anti-insect
      • This concentrated dose of "sweet wormwood" is supposed to make you less tasty to the mosquito. It's used to treat Malaria, but folks are starting to use it for a prevention. It's been used in China and outside the US, and is starting to get some attention in the US. You shouldn't use it for a long period of time as it can eventually bother the liver, but I've spoken to folks who've traveled in sub-Saharan Africa who swear by it. You don't need a prescription, but it may be hard to find, or behind the counter.
    • 100mg of Vitamin B
      • Loading up on Vitamin B can hurt the liver if you take it too long, but it also makes you less attractive to bugs.
  • Medical - Topical
    • Deet creams
      • We got a combination cream that is 20% deet and includes an SPF 20 Sunblock in one cream for convenience. If you're in Africa, get something with at least 20% deet, or more if possible. It's not something you should put on baby's face though, or anywhere that she might touch with her hand then put it in her mouth.
    • Citronella creams
      • Citronella creams are safer than Deet for children, and if you're not into Deet or if you're anti-chemical, a citronella-based cream is a reasonable alternative, although arguably less effective.

We haven't been bitten yet.

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.