Scott Hanselman

Measuring Satisfaction - We are a Nielsen Family!

July 29, '07 Comments [19] Posted in Microsoft | Musings
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Nielsen Ratings Here in the US (and 40 other countries), for the last 60+ years, Television Ratings have been managed by the Nielsen Media Research company. They have a special magic sauce that let's them calculate "Reach" - the number of unique viewers for any show at any time. There's lots of good details on this at Wikipedia.

They figure there are 115 million TV households and a ratings point is 1%, or 1,152,000ish households. A show might get a 9.2 rating meaning that 10.6 million folks watched that show.

I always figured they had some magic boxes hooked up to televisions, or that they bought data from Tivo, or from my cable company. I mean, my TV knows that I'm watching Dr. Who (love the new Dr. Who), so I figured it told someone else.

Surprise, we're a Nielsen Family, at least this week. An envelope showed up with three US$10 bills and this paper booklet. Ah, how retro. Even the font, color choice and look and feel had a decidedly Mike Bradyesque vibe to it.

Surely since this company has had every American Television network by the short and curlies as a loyal client for the last half-century, they must have developed an extraordinarily sophisticated system for determining what I watch. Surely there's an explanation why Jericho was canceled (fortunately they've ordered new episodes) and the secret must lie within this mysterious envelope. My expectations are high...

Nielsen Ratings2

Wow. That's...lovely. Welcome to the late 1980's. Really. I'm supposed to fill this out as I watch? This is the engine that makes the world's television ratings system spin?

This is such a confusing system that Nielsen has actually put up a website dedicated to decoding the paper booklet! I particularly like Step 5, "Returning the Booklet in the Mail" - truly a must-read if you're behind on sleep.Well, now I see why all the good shows are getting canceled. Why isn't this automated? Why aren't our TV's reporting back to the Mothership?

A TV can't tell if you're satisfied with a show, just if you're watching it. Same with a DVR. Presumably if you taped it, you wanted to watch it. This paper system is silly because it's asking me to copy down manually what someone (Tivo, Cable, whoever) must already know.

Or at the very least they could have created a data-entry website, rather than an interactive help website. Seems like if you're not clever enough to fill out this survey then you may not be able to get your computer turned on and browser navigated to http://tvdiary.tvratings.com, but perhaps that's presumptuous of me.

The only way (that I can see) to determine if someone likes a show is by asking them. Now, turning to other things that capture our attention like games. Xbox Live can tell if someone is satisfied because not only do they know when someone is playing a game, but they can see how far and how hard you're trying by looking at what Xbox Achievements you're getting. The Halo team is fanatical about their statistics. So, it seems much easier to glean the "satisfaction" one has for a game, but still, there's nothing better than asking.

Now, for a segue, but a totally honest question. If you have a piece of software that you've written, what's a good way to figure out if the end-user is really satisfied? I mean, Office, Windows, etc, all sell lots, but does that mean I'm satisfied with them? Should software include a star-ratings interface like some blog posts do on every dialog box? Perhaps when you click it, you're immediately asked for comment? Maybe a "Click here to blog about this feature" link?

SatisfactionBox

One of the coolest most out of the box thinking ideas I saw come out of Microsoft last year was the Send a Smile Tool that was used in the Office 2007 Betas. Unfortunately you had to install it yourself - it wasn't automatically part of the beta experience.

However, the idea was brilliant in its simplicity. A number of bug reporting tools like FogBugz have similar tools for reporting bugs and attaching screenshots, but Send a Smile was even simpler.

You just clicked on the happy smilie or the sad smilie, entered your comment, and checked a box to optionally send a snapshot. That's it.

As a developer, I wish this tool was automatically included with Visual Studio and any major Developer Tool. Talk to the Office team, they have a database and UI and everything to manage these screenshots and smiles. A developer version could even optionally include the text of some code you're working on.

To be clear, there's LOTS of great places to give feedback about the Developer Tools, but the lower the barrier the better. Let me get you my opinions and thoughts with one click.

Have you built satisfaction measuring tools (other than a "click here for a comments page) into your software?

Now, I want this for my TV so I can send Dr. Who and the BBC a smile.

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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VS 2008 and .NET 3.5 Beta 2 Releases Made Easy

July 28, '07 Comments [19] Posted in Microsoft | Silverlight
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image Big day as the Orcas wave begins to crest on the way to release. Seriously, can we get a new clipart guy for the Visual Studio homepage? I've made my suggestion at right. ;)

Do outlines generally look overly complex and scary? Yes, they do. Is this complex? Not as much as you'd think. If you don't want to read the whole outline, just do any of these easy steps:


EASIEST

  1. Visit the Silverlight site, Download Silverlight 1.0 RC. Click Run.
  2. Download Visual Studio 2008 Express.
  3. Install.
  4. Relax with some Sleepytime tea and start coding.

EASY

  1. Visit the Silverlight site, Download Silverlight 1.0 RC. Click Run.
  2. Download and Install the Microsoft Secure Content Downloader 
  3. Select the Visual Studio Standard SKU you want from the dropdown and hit Save As.
  4. Take a Shower.
  5. Install. Run this file post installation. Online MSDN Library help is available.
  6. Relax with some Earl Grey tea and start coding.

HARDCORE

  1. Visit the Silverlight site, Download the Silverlight Alpha. Click Run.
  2. Download and Install the Microsoft Secure Content Downloader 
  3. Select the Visual Studio Pro SKU from the dropdown and hit Save As.
  4. Considering grabbing the local MSDN Library as well, either with the downloader or directly.
  5. Take a Shower.
  6. Install. Run this file post installation. If your machine ever had previous betas on it, be sure to run "DevEnv /resetsettings" once.
  7. Go download and install Expression Blend 2 August Preview
  8. Go download and install Silverlight Tools Alpha for VS2008.
  9. Relax with some Pepsi Max and start coding.

If you REALLY want to read the whole outline, here's the links and some context sprinkled here and there.

  • Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2
    • Downloads for the full versions here
    • Downloading Fast
      • Consider using GetRight to do your downloading. Set GetRight to use multiple HTTP Streams in parallel.
      • If you really want to get it fast, you might also try the Microsoft Secure Content Downloader (*cough* MSTorrent *cough*) if you're not behind a corporate firewall
        Microsoft Secure Content Downloader
    • Dealing with DVD Disc Image Files
      • The downloads are IMG files - Disc Images - and there's lots of ways you can deal with these. You can use Roxio or Nero and just burn the media. You can also:
        • Mount the IMG directly as a virtual drive with Daemon Tools or Alcohol 52%.
        • Use 7-zip to extra the image into a folder.
        • Remember that an IMG is just an ISO, so you can always rename it to .ISO and mount it
    • Features
    • Extra Special Goodness That's Worth Noting
      • ClickOnce and WPF XBAPs now work in Firefox.
      • TFS now supports Continuous Integration.
      • All the WCF and Workflow Projects and Designers are included in VS 2008 - no extra installers.
  • Silverlight 1.0 RC and Silverlight 1.1 Alpha Refresh
    • Two new Silverlights released today.
      • If you're a user, head over to the Silverlight Install Page for 1.0 RC. This new version will install VERY fast and will automatically update itself to new versions, including the released version of Silverlight when it's available.
      • If you like to live on the edge, like moi, grab the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha Refresh. Remember that this is the one with the .NET CoreCLR running in the browser.
  • Expression
    • Expression Blend 2 August Preview
      • Expression Blend 2 has been rev'ed to support these new Silverlight builds.
      • NOTES:
        • If making JavaScript only Silverlight apps is fine with you, you can still use Visual Studio Express 2005.

Thanks!

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 74 - Jeff Atwood overclocks the Ultimate PC

July 27, '07 Comments [20] Posted in Gaming | Podcast
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My seventy-fourth podcast is up. Back in show #69 folks had some very valid questions and comments about whether a developer machine is just a fast PC. Is a gaming machine also a good developer PC? What about RAID. Rather than trying to learn all this myself, we had Jeff Atwood on the show and asked him.

If you have trouble downloading, or your download is slow, do try the torrent with Āµtorrent or another BitTorrent Downloader.

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Check out their UI Suite of controls for ASP.NET. It's very hardcore stuff. One of the things I appreciate about Telerik is their commitment to completeness. For example, they have a page about their Right-to-Left support while some vendors have zero support, or don't bother testing. They also are committed to XHTML compliance and publish their roadmap. It's nice when your controls vendor is very transparent.

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)

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

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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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How To Sync your Apple Newton MessagePad with Outlook 2007

July 27, '07 Comments [6] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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DSC00003I bought a Newton recently, rather than an iPhone. I bought it from Jonathan Wise (Here's a Wired article with Jonathan and our Newton).

The picture at right is my Newton MessagePad 2000 just after syncing with Outlook 2007. Yay! A few thousand contacts and a three hour long initial (overnight via serial) sync, and I'm in business.

The Newton came out in May of 1992. That evening, while working at Incredible Universe (a computer store) on the side (mostly for the hardware discount) I sold Don Box his Newton. Fast forward 15 years and I'm still Loving the Newton. Not sure where Don's Newton is.  

I picked up this Newton on a lark, and in the process stumbled on a fanatic active online community. There is still new development happening on this decade-dead platform.

NEWTON NEWS: Literally this week a completely new product was released called Newton Connection Tools (download) out of Argentina. Unfortunately the demo is completely crippled and the author wants a Western Union money order for $45. While I think the screenshots look great and I wish the authors well, in this Web 2.0 world, you really need to take Paypal and offer a more compelling demo version. 

Here's what I did to sync Outlook 2007 with my Newton...

The Newton arrived dead/fresh/reset. I turned it on and it had nothing installed. It shipped in its original packaging with all the original disks. Those disks were 3.5" floppies though and I haven't got a machine with a floppy drive anywhere in the house.

The Goal: Newton programs are "packages" with a *.pkg extension. You need to install them via a Package Manager of some kind, usually the Newton Connection Utilities. You run the Dock application from the Extras folder on your Newton and run the NCU and the Newton is connected.

For advanced Newton users the goal is to get their Newton network-enabled with a wireless or wired PCCard, then they'll rarely need to use the Serial Mechanism again. This is an advanced technique I'll post about later (when I get the wireless card.) For now, connecting via serial is fine with me.

Step 1: I run Windows Vista, and there's a number of ways you can try to connect your Newton to your Windows machine. The connection is serial, usually limited to 38400bps but there is a hack that will take it up to 57600bps. While the Newton Connection Utilities run fine on Vista, there are serious timing problems with faster machines. Remember that the NCU was written in a Windows 95 era when machines were ~200 MHz. Now that they are 2 to 3 GHz, things get tricky. Some people have had success using a program called slowdown.exe (or running many copies) to get the computer slow enough to successfully connect their Newton, but I think that's just silly. Others have had success by turning off Serial Port FIFO buffers.

Note: If you're missing a cable, you can build your own.

Neither of these worked for me, so I decided on a strategy that was guaranteed. I used Virtual PC (free download) and installed Windows 98. I found a CD with a copy of Windows CD, and you should too. Windows 95 or Windows Me will do fine as well. Surely you have one of these lying around.

Be sure to sent the Network Adapter in Virtual PC to "NAT" instead of "Bridged" so you avoid exposing your freshly installed (unpatched/unfirewalled) Windows 98 machine to the harsh environment of 2007's Internet. 

Win98 - Microsoft Virtual PC 2007

Step 1b: As soon as you have a working Windows 98 VM, make sure you select CD | Install Virtual Machine Additions and auto-install all the Virtual PC Drivers. Not only will it relax your Virtual CPU (Win98 ran CPUs hot, even in idle time) but it'll enable the most important feature - Drag and Drop between Explorer and Virtual PC.

Step 2: Go get the Newton Connection Utilities for your computer. Get some Newton Software. Start at the motherland, the United Network of Newton Archives. I used uTorrent and grabbed the entire multi-gig archive of shareware and freeware via Torrent. Leave your torrent program running for a few days after it's completely downloaded the archive so that others can enjoy.

There's also a great Wiki resource at WikiWikiNewt, so check that out. There's also a software archive of Newton stuff at Chuma as well as an old, but valuable Newton FAQ.

Drag and drop the NCU (the installer for the connection utilities) on to your running Windows 98 Virtual PC and install and run it. While it is running, connect your Newton to the serial port, ensuring that the virtual serial port is associated with the physical serial port. Run the Dock application on your Newton. You'll know you've succeeded when the buttons in the Newton Connection Utilities application "light up" and the name of your Newton appears in the Communication Status portion of the screen.

Win98 - Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (2) 

Step 3: Now you should be able to install packages into your Newton. Head over to Newton Does It and get LookOut! and the LookOut Shareware Nag Remover (the company disappeared 10 years ago):

Open the Lookout Hack Zip file and read the read me. Rename the LookOutB.pkg to LookOut.pkg and drag it into the Virtual PC. On your Newton, click "Install Package" in the Dock Application, and select the LookOut.pkg from your Desktop, usually C:\windows\desktop on a Windows 98 machine.

Once it's installed on the Newton, open the Extras folder and run LookOut!

Step 4: Sync with Outlook. Fortunately Outlook 2007 still supports the same basic OLE Automation API that Outlook 97, 2000 and 2003 do/did.

Install the LookOut on your Windows Host - not in the Virtual Machine. I installed it on my Vista machine.

Shutdown your Virtual Machine and Save its State so it will release the physical serial port we've been using, then run LookOut on your host. Start the sync and you'll get a warning from Outlook that someone's trying to access your data.

LookOut will sync Tasks, Contacts and Calendars. I just chose Contacts. It sync'ed overnight, taking maybe 3 hours, but I have over 2000 contacts, so YMMV.

Conclusion: I have high hopes for the newly released Newton Connection Utilities, but until he accepts PayPal and includes a time-limited demo or something to prove it works, I'll stick with this free technique.

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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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Hanselforums - Evaluating Forums Software - AspNetForums and InstantForum.NET

July 26, '07 Comments [36] Posted in Musings
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imageAfter reading the very good comments on The Developer Theory of the Third Place post, I put up some forums...

Looks like the group has decided on the AspNetForums for its speed and simplicity. You can visit either /forum or /forums and they both point to (via 301 Permanent Redirect, Thanks ISAPI_Rewrite!) http://www.hanselman.com/forum.

Thanks to all the early adopters and testers. You're a great bunch and I'm happy to call you my friends and my community.

UPDATE: There are now two for evaluation.

Two forums enter, only one forum leaves! You will decide. Please visit both.

So far, the feeling is that AspNetForums is obscenely fast, but doesn't have threaded discussion, so I question what value it adds. InstantForum is amazingly configurable and flexible, pretty and has threads.

For now, consider them an evaluation, and a place for folks to initiate discussion. It's not integrated with this Blog, except by URI, but we can certainly look at ways to tighten things up.

The first is using AspNetForum 4.1.2, but I'm interested in hearing your suggestions and opinions about other and/or better forums choices, perhaps Community Server? The second one is InstantForum.NET.

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.