Scott Hanselman

Daemon Tools and my new Lenovo T60p

January 25, '07 Comments [21] Posted in Musings | Tools
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Wow, that was horrible. I recently had trouble with my work IBM Thinkpad T42. After having used it happily for a few years, suddenly WGATRAY.EXE decided to hang at 100% CPU forever, rendering the machine unusable. I even made a batch file to loop forever and repeatedly kill it.

I figured it was a sign to start over, so I got a Thinkpad T60p from our IT department. I started installing crap (they could drop an image on the machine, but I like things "just so"). I did VS2003, VS2005, etc...all from CD, but then I needed to mount an ISO.

I downloaded Daemon Tools, a great ISO mounter that I've used happily for years without so much as a peep of drama from it. In the middle of the install - bam - blue screen of death.

When your BRAND NEW MACHINE blue screens, it's like discovering your spouse is a spy with another life. How can you ever trust the machine again?

I looked all over the Daemon Tools forum and found dozens of folks having the same problem, but the support folks monitoring the forums were very unsympathetic and less than helpful.

At this point, I was stuck in a BSOD loop, blue-screening after the desktop appeared.

I started up in Safe Mode with Command Prompt, after pressing F8 before the Windows Splash screen. With the Lenovos, you have to be careful wit hF8. If you press it too early - like when the BIOS screen appears - you'll end up in their custom Windows Pre-Execution Enivronment. It's lovely, to be sure, but it doesn't let you open a command prompt. Amazing thing, it includes a version of Opera and will let you surf, but it won't allow you to delete a file.

Anyway, I went into c:\windows\system32\drivers and di a "dir /o-d" to see the most recently installed files.  I deleted st3Wolf.sys and stpd.sys. After rebotting and not blue screening, I removed all the SCSI devices from the Device Manager (right click on My Computer and click Manage, then Device manager) as well as the "PnP BIOS Extension" under System Devices.

It sure seems that mounting an ISO should just be built into the OS and not a whole series of selling one's soul to the device driver devil with fake devices and faux BIOs extensions.

I haven't blue screened yet as I type this post...but I don't know how I'll ever trust her again.

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 48 - Introduction Board Gaming for Geeks and Programmers

January 25, '07 Comments [3] Posted in Gaming | Podcast
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My forty-eighth Podcast is up. I've finally buckled to intense peer pressure ;) and become a board gamer. More and more I've noticed that what I thought board games were like is wrong. There's a thriving alternative (to Monopoly, at least) board gaming world out there, and it's a great place for programmers to hang out. In this episode we talk about board games as an alternative to the HD-Xbox-PS3-Wii overload that many geeks and their families face in this increasingly techo-saturated time.

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. This particular show had some great links, do check them out. 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, /n software and the .NET Dev Journal.

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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2007 African Music List

January 23, '07 Comments [8] Posted in Africa
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A reader wrote in to say that he liked the Afro-pop style of the Hanselminutes theme music, and wanted some African music pointers. I've been an Afrophile for as long as I can remember, studying Amharic while in college and now Zulu (and Bantu languages in general) and Mo and I have amassed a decent collection of contemporary African music. I can't say that my tastes are as broad and diverse as the continent, so be warned that this is a list of music I like, but not a list covering all cultures or current styles. I can virtually guarantee you'll enjoy this music though.

Note also that you'll very likely have to hunt for some of this music in your local town, unless you're living outside the states. I can typically find it at local African-specific record shops in larger towns. You can also buy most of it at the Afropop Shop.

Of course, "African Music" isn't a genre in itself, remember we're talking about 53 countries here, with literally hundreds (if not thousands) of different kinds of music. So I've narrowed the list to 20th and 21st century African music that I like.

  • Pitch Black Afro - Although he's South Africa's "ODB" in behavior, the music is pure Kwaito. Kwaito is a combination of reggae and house music.
    • If you want to experience PBA and a good general into to Kwaito and other South African hip-hop, get the soundtrack album to Tsotsi (a great movie). It's a little heavy with work from another Kwaito artist, Zola, who was in the movie, but it also has Vusi Mahlasela and Mafikizolo's fantastic track Munt'Omnyama (loosely translated to "black folks")
  • Brenda Fassie - known just as "Brenda." Her album "Memeza" is considered her best work.
  • Mafikizolo - Their 2005 album Kwela took Southern Africa by storm and is a very danceable collection.
  • Netsanet Mellesse - It's been a while since Netsanet's Spirit of Sheba album, so it sounds a little old-school with it's traditionally horn-heavy beats, but it's worth the listen as it's representative of a lot of contemporary Ethiopian pop.
    • Many prefer Aster Aweke, a slightly more flexible singer.
    • More recent is Gigi, a rising star to be sure, her album debut is a mix of traditional Amharic beats and Jazz.
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo - This is an excellent compilation that includes not just Ladysmith and their unique singing and dancing style - ingquzu - but other vocal greats.
  • Tuku (Oliver Mtukudzi) - A Zimbabwean Great who is usually mentioned second, after Thomas Mapfumo. The review of his Tuku Music albumn on Amazon is spot-on:
    • His music is more romantic and bluesy than Mapfumo's...He's Ray Charles and Otis Redding to Mapfumo's Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. The music that he creates to carry a song is often light as air, creating a beautiful tension between content and container.
  • Madarocka - Nigeria's Hip Hop queen, she's a little more intense that I usually like, but still a good listen if you like American-tinged hip-hop with an African flavor.
  • Angélique Kidjo - Born in Benin, but currently in Paris, her music might be dismissed by the purist because not obscure and not purely "African," her take on Summertime is worth the album price alone.
  • Pulling from a music list I posted in 2005:
    • Khaled, Sahra - The King of Rai's "Aicha" is an internationally known anthem. Singing in Arabic and French, Rai is pop, reggae and funk.
    • Youssou N'Dour, Egypt - An unlikely title from a man hailing from Senegal, Youssou is the African continent's Paul Simon, pulling in beats from the whole hemisphere.
  • freshlyground - I nearly forgot this amazing group from RSA. Much of the album is in Xhosa but there's much in English. The group is racially mixed, very representative of the New South Africa.

And of course, subscribe to AfroPop, their weekly podcast is pure African gold. 

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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Channel 9 Video - Talking to Jeffrey Snover, PowerShell Architect

January 22, '07 Comments [3] Posted in PowerShell | Programming | Speaking
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Last November (!) I did a Channel 9 informal chat with Jeffrey Snover, the architect of PowerShell. It was a fantastic talk, a blast for me, as Jeffrey and I can talk about whatever, forever. However there was a Perfect Storm of technical problems and two things happened:

  • The ~5min of the video were lost and only audio exists...the video starts up somewhere around 4:45. The Channel9 team did a nice thing and added a splash with a notification. Still a bummer, but nicely recovered from.
  • It was published, but was unfindable and there were problems with the stream.

However, due to some very diligent work by CharlesT and ScottO at Microsoft, the interview is now up, available and watchable (IMHO). Go check it out. You can also download it directly if you like. I don't think i'll waste your time, and you can always watch it in double speed with Windows Media Player!

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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Happy Birthday to Mii - Wii Review

January 21, '07 Comments [35] Posted in Gaming | Reviews
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My Amazon.com Wish ListMy birthday is actually Monday, but my supercool wife Mo got me with a huge birthday surprise today. She organized the whole thing with my whole family chipping in and I never suspected. Without knowing (or caring) what a "Wii" is, turns out she'd been driving all over Oregon all last week, while sick, looking for a Wii for mii. She saw my Amazon Wishlist and went off hunting for a Wii. The amazing part is that she actually thought it was US$450 because I added a "bundle" to my list, and was thrilled when it was $249. Still "ridiculously expensive why do you have so many gadgets," but cool when one finds that something is nearly half what they expected it'd be.

Lately I've been thinking about games and hobbies that would bring family and friends together, rather than Gears of War style games that I can't play with anyone but the sick bastards at work. :) My buddy Eli and boss Chris have turned me on to alternative (my word) boardgaming, and that'll be the topic of this week's Hanselminutes. More on that later. I'm looking for games that are fun. Full stop.

I did research on the Wii for the podcast on Next Generation Gaming, although I got a few things wrong, I generally had the right idea. The Wii - specifically the controllers and the experience - is built to be fun, and really stretches the classic controller design assumptions.

It's tiny, the Wii is. Quite wee, in fact. It's smaller than the Xbox360's HD-DVD by a considerable margin. It's of course, easy to hook up as it includes Composite RCA cables, and a sensor bar. Everything else is wireless.

The sensor bar appears to be two IR receivers on a foot long bar that has to be mounted either above or below your TV. From what I can glean in an hour, there's two physical transmitters next to each other on the Wiimote and there's two receivers. When you're pointing the controller (folks talk about calibrating, but I never saw those screens. It just worked.) it knows the orientation (if you twisted your wrist) as well as the location you're pointing to. The IR details, along with the internal gyroscope and accelerometer give it a pretty decent idea of where you are. The little floating hand cursor actually twists with you. It's very much like the Gyromouse of years past. (Folks are hacking the Wiimote for Linux and Windows, but it's kind of pointless as that controller is freely available. I use it for my Media Center.) I believe Nintendo either bought or sleeps with that company.

The Wii outputs composite, but you can get Component Cables that'll do 480p. I believe I'm out of Video Inputs though, so I'm just plugging it into the Camcorder front jacks on the Receiver. I seriously doubt the screen quality would get THAT much better, considering that my Onkyo is upconverting the output to 480p anyway and pushing it through HDMI, but I'm probably wrong. I'll try the component cables one day.

I hooked it up, and went through a few menus. It was very Japanese minimalist. Big, clear buttons, simple menus. The hardest part was typing in the WEP key for my WiFi with the on screen keyboard. After that, the Wii went through a lengthy self-update process that seemed to have three parts. Not sure why it took so long.

I popped in the free Wii Sports game and tried tennis. It took literally two minutes to get it. The controllers really work well.

I thought it might just be me, so I figured I'd use my control case - the wife.

"Here dear, try this."

"Oh, lord, what is this. The video game; no you go ahead."

"Seriously, two minutes. Try it."

The video at left is the two minutes. She actually liked it. She liked it a lot. This is a woman who sees little value in the Xbox360 beyond Bejeweled. I asked if it was the controllers or the graphics that she appreciated (remembering to myself that she was wholly unimpressed while I foisted Topspin Tennis on the Xbox360 on her). She said that fact that there was no learning curve, and that we were 'off our butts.'

Wii Sports is a silly little ditty, but addictive and fun. I look forward to having four people playing mixed doubles. I hope that Nintendo comes out with deeper version of Wii sports...even a "Wii Summer Games" would be a blast.

At this point I can say that while the Xbox360 and Sony PS3 are both truly gorgeous, the Wii is just good fun. So far that's based on one game, and what I hear about Zelda. The current Wii lineup appears, IMHO, to be fairly weak. It'll take a year I figure for the developers to really do something interesting with the controllers beyond minigames.

The Xbox is all about community. It really is. I have at least 50 folks on my buddy list and I enjoy that distributed community. I get the impression that the Wii is also expanding the community to the person standing next to you. The DS and Gameboy were like that also with their game sharing and head-to-head features. Yes, I know that there's lot of systems that do this, and yes, I know that Fusion Frenzy was a great party game on the original Xbox. But argue with this: The number of times that Mo has played Gears of War with me is somewhere between zero and bubkes. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the Xbox immensely when I get a chance to play it. But if there's a chance to spend time with the Wife, the Wife always wins. Ideally I'd combine the two hobbies and actually play a game with the Wife. The fact that she picked up the controllers and was losing a virtual tennis match two minutes later is a significant event, IMHO. The Whole Wii Experience was seamless, from Out of the Box to Game Over.

For now, if I were considering buying a console, I could totally recommend the Wii. Even after tonight's few hours with it, I suspect Mo and I will play Tennis a few times a week. I also think that the accessibility and non-existent learning curve might even get Mom and Dad using the Wii.

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.