Scott Hanselman

Getting Organized While Drinking from the (Outlook) Fire Hose

October 2, '07 Comments [49] Posted in Microsoft | Musings
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fireboss Microsoft appears to run on Outlook and Exchange. Seems like an obvious statement as many places run on Outlook and Exchange. But I'm saying it with emphasis. These guys used Outlook like it's an IM client. There's also a distribution list for everything.

New job, new fresh email box, time to get organized and serious about ZEB (Zero Email Bounce.) You can't really get your Inbox to zero and stay there but you can "bounce" against zero, which I do a few times a day. If it's in your inbox it's not been processed.

I used a number of techniques and features in Outlook to make my life (theoretically) easier:


outlookfolders[1]I use a "Getting Things Done" style of organization. I've got my folders laid out like this.

I've got Outlook Rules for the Various Mailing Lists I've gotten myself on in the last few weeks. That's the other other "Inboxes" are for.

The "Inbox - CC" folder is for when I'm cc'ed on an email. The actual Inbox itself is only for when an email is sent directly to me. Everything else goes somewhere else.

The Action folders start with an @ sign and are at the top.

  • There's things that require @Action that aren't projects.
  • Topics to @Blog about
  • People to see and things to do on my @Next Redmond Trip.
  • Emails I need to @Reply to that will take longer than 5 minutes to respond.
  • There's things I'll do @Someday soon, but just not now.
  • Things I'm @Snooze-ing on, but I'm not willing to move them completely out of mind.
  • Finally there's things I'm @Waiting For other people do to for me.
  • The Conversation History folder is where internal Instant Message conversations go. This is REALLY useful for reference. Missed IMs appear in the Inbox and are filed as needed.

Anything that comes into the inbox needs to be processed and one of the following GTD things needs to happen:

  • Do It
  • Drop It
  • Defer It
  • Delegate It

Then there's the Projects folder. These are long-running (more than a few days) projects that I'm actively working on. Emails that are important to those Projects go in those folders. It's pretty minimal reference stuff.

The Reference folder is just that, it's Reference stuff. Things I'll want to search for later, and under it is the IT Issues folder which is also for reference, but specific to IT stuff I'm suffering with working through.

When my inbox is at zero I do a quick sweep through my @ folders before continuing work on a Project.


I really like Outlook 2007's calendaring and it grows on me more and more. I use colors to categories my appointments, but I also use multiple calendars more and more using the ICS Webcal standard. I've got four different calendars in addition to my standard calendar.

  • One is fed from - I'll blog about them later, but they're freaking brilliant.
  • One is the feed from my wife's Google Calendar (this is also fantastic)
  • One is fed from my wife and my Project at BaseCamp. We're building a house and we're managing the project, the move and appointments with many subcontractors via this tool and I'm subscribed to the Milestones in Outlook, and she in Google Calendar.
  • One is from my publisher something we're working on.

Note that the tabs are next to each other near the top (under where it says "October 2007"). This way, rather than split-screen, each calendar is transparently overlaid over the other. I've found this to be a REALLY effective way of visualizing up to six different calendars while keeping each one separate.


If you're not using this feature, I'd encourage you to check it out.

The last thing I've done to make it easier for external folks to schedule meetings with me is I've made a redirect from to my published Free/Busy information. This can be done by right-clicking on your calendar and publishing just the free/busy information to the Internet. I just made a single default.aspx file to rediect to the ultimate URL. This makes scheduling meetings with folks outside Microsoft just that much easier.


s620_141x228 Last and least, I've got a Windows Mobile phone and it's hooked up to Exchange and I've made the (difficult) conscious decision to only sync the "Inbox" and the "Inbox - CC" Folders to the device.

The thinking being that there's little that's totally crucial that could happen on a Mailing List (as I don't yet own any) that would require my immediate and mobile attention.

This system has worked for me so far - three-plus weeks. We'll see if it holds up under the weight of the unknown future.

I'd be interested to see if there's anything in this system that you find either interesting/compelling or totally lame. You and your 6000 inbox emails. You freak. ;)

P.S. The fire hose child is not my son.

Update: The flickr member who took the Fire House photo asked me to take it down. I replaced it with another. Bummer. Fair-use and copy-right is a confusing thing.

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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Typing Test twice, once with Voice Recognition

September 29, '07 Comments [13] Posted in Musings
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People give voice recognition a bad name. I use it all the time. I took the typing test that Daniel Moth blogged about (typing test is here) typing the way I usually do. I can't type as fast as I could as my hands are a little rough, but I do OK for old hands.

Here's my results, first try, on a Natural (split) Keyboard:


Number of words typed: 217
Test duration: 3 min
Speed: 72.6 words/min. (363 keystrokes/min.)
Error penalty: 27
Accuracy: 87.6%

Meh. I used to do 100, no longer. (Plus, it's a cheesy test because you have to read, manage the scrolling and spit it back out again on the keyboards. I got flummoxed with the scrolling. And I'm notoriously sloppy.

Here's the SAME test but using Vista Voice Recognition and a cheapo Logitech USB Headset Microphone (I didn't even use my $300 podcast microphone):


Number of words typed: 377
Test duration: 3 min
Speed: 125.6 words/min. (628 keystrokes/min.)
Error penalty: 42
Accuracy: 88.9%

Note the number of errors. I know it's not 98% like some people, but I can almost double my personal typing speed with comparable errors using Voice Recognition.

Note that I only took these tests once each, both times cold, one with hands, one with voice and  the test gave me different text each time.

You have to talk like a newscaster, but seriously, stop giving Voice Recognition a hard time. Videos of Voice Recognition trying to write Perl code are cutesy, but not reality. Yes, it'd be nice to have custom templates out there for writing code with voice (there are some) but CodeRush helps me greatly. Ultimately voice recognition is for things like blogs, email and prose.

Here's a VERY boring, very poor sound/visual quickie video of me actually taking the test. Note that I (gratuitously) stopped to correct two errors, using only voice in the middle. Otherwise I'd probably have gotten 140wpm. Sorry about the poor focus, I probably should have used Camtasia.

And yes, this blog post was written with voice recognition.  So phooey on you. I encourage you to give it a try with a nice microphone, if even only for email and blog posts.

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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Microsoft - Surviving First Three Weeks as a Remote Employee

September 29, '07 Comments [25] Posted in Microsoft | Remote Work
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HanselmanCardToday the business cards arrived, making me (in my own mind, and likely that of my extended family, as well as strangers on a plane) officially a real Microsoft Employee.

Now that I have a whole three weeks experience as a FTE (Full Time Employee) which gives me more time on the job than several hundred other folks that have come after me - n00bs! Ha! ;)

Here's what I've learned in my massive 3 weeks on the job.

  • TLAs - There are more acronyms and codenames than you could have though possible. "What? You don't know about Fizzbin? It's going to rock." There's a whole Microsoftlingo that one has to learn. Red bits, green bits, tell mode, ask mode, Zero Bug Bounce. It's all very disorienting, and the worst part is that the folks who've been there > 2 years don't even notice the lingo. You can also tell who has been there a long time because they'll do things like refer to the Registry as "the hive."
  • Email - So far, life and work is in Outlook more than in IM. I assumed we'd all be video conferencing and IM'ing out brains out and sharing information dynamically with Groove. Nope, it's Outlook and Sharepoint so far. Which is fine, it's just not the Jet Set Radio Future I hoped for. Exchange mailboxes are small, for now, and the world is all about Reply To All, +1. I'd expected more internal blogs. We'll see if this changes.
  • HR - I had a really rough "on-boarding" because of a few things. Some admin in HR quit during my hire and some paperwork was missed so my start date was delayed, then delayed again, then put back. IT recycled an old "v dash" account I had from MANY years ago, so I was setup for FTE (Full Time Employee) access but without Remote, which wasn't discovered until I got home, which made week one rough. Then my email display said "Scott Hanselman (CORILLIAN)" - the name of my old employer - for a while, and still does in places. Then there's all the direct deposit, 401k, etc stuff that takes 7-10 days to propagate.  However one all this stuff is worked out, which I hear is very typical and takes about 2 weeks, they are so organized. You don't get a paystub, you visit http://paystub. Want your 401k? Visit http://401k. Even my W4 (American Tax Form) was at http://w4. I think it's really amazing. But, with 80,000 people it'd have to be.
  • Your Machine - I like this aspect of things at Microsoft. You're pretty much on your own. They have Network Boot setup when you're inside corporate so you can get a machine up and running with Vista+Office in 20 min. You can pretty much do what you want with your machine, assuming you're not installing evil software (BitTorrent, P2P) or doing evil things. The expected level of personal responsibility is great. IT is there to get me online, not to get me a computer all setup. I like it.
  • Hardware - I got a desktop and a laptop, then two "reclaimed" laptops for a tele-presence thing that Chris Sells are working on, as well as a Mac. I'm running Vista 64 on the laptop, and Windows 2008 RC0 on the desktop. Not to mention QUADPOWER, my existing machine.
  • Security - They don't screw around. Your cardkey/smartkey is your immortal soul and works for everything from door locks to RAS (Remote Access) to buying food when you're on campus, which I'm not. They are so secure it took me a week and a half to get remote access setup. Of course, now that it works, I've got Smart Card readers all over the house and it's working great.
  • Insiders - Holy crap. I spent 10+ years wondering around the Microsoft Campus a few times a year as a supposed "insider" with a visitors badge. I knew I didn't know all the ins and outs, but I figured I had a decent idea about the new stuff, the code names, the plans, etc. I didn't know a thing. Seriously. The stuff going on here is SO MUCH more interesting and forward looking than I thought it would be. Of course, if I told you, I'd have to kill you.
  • Blogging - There's a lot of angst about Blogging. Everyone wants to talk and listen and be heard and spread the word about whatever their thing is, but they're also paranoid about stepping on Marketing, or PR, or leaking something, or making someone angry. There's nothing sinister going on, but sometimes someone working on a thing might "blog too much" and get a talking-to. The problem being, of course, that then they are paranoid and might blog less. Also, no one wants to sound like a marketer. I'm not running posts by anyone ahead of time, but we'll see if I get into trouble, too. Rule #1 of Blogging: Never delete a blog post during a scandal. Better to just never delete.
  • Admin - Know your admin, because they control all things. ScottGu's admin Christi is amazing and got me out of a half-dozen jams while I was there, helped me find robot parts, smart card readers, got me maps, set up a hotel reservation on a moment's notice, and bought me lunch. And, I'm pretty sure she doesn't need to do any of that because she works for Scott. Still, befriend an admin, and you'll be off to a good start. Good advice at any company, really. Kate at Corillian is the Queen Bee. She holds the printer ink and the batteries, so you'd better be her friend if you want to get anything done.
  • Working Remote - Working from home is very lonely. I've setup lunches at least 2-3 times a week to stay connected and sane, so if you want to have (or buy, nudge nudge) lunch with me, just let me know. I need the war stories. I'm also setting up regular visits with local development shops to chat and trade ideas. Having 3 monitors, and a half dozen computers, interestingly helps, because I have lots of chats and things going at once so I still feel somewhat social.
  • Remote Education - Microsoft films darn near everything and it's WONDERFUL for a Remote Employee. There was an internal security event called "BlueHat" this week that I couldn't be on campus for, but I had video running of even the lighting talks running full screen on one of my monitors. I've dug around and there's thousands of hours of talks, presentations and content for me to gorge on. Very cool.
  • Working from Home - The Wife has been very cool and we've started using language like "I'm going to work" and "Daddy's at work" in order to emphasis that work is a different place all together. That's helping, but it's hard to hear her and Z playing outside when I'm hunched over a machine. I suppose I could hunch over a laptop outside, but that's blurring the lines a bit and Z still works in Black and White. Daddy's either at work, or at home. I haven't gotten to the "hey, let's go to the park on a random Tues at 3pm" place that folks who work from home always talk about. Mostly it's been 8a-8p and that's not cool. But, we both figure that'll change as I get more focused and set hard stops.
  • Work/Life Balance - There's a crush of work to be done and you're basically emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. My wife has already commenting that I'm working way more than I did at my last job, which is telling. This pace isn't sustainable. Gotta get serious about boundaries.

Here's to the next three weeks.

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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Raising Money for Diabetes with Halo 3 on Oct 11

September 28, '07 Comments [8] Posted in Diabetes | Gaming | Microsoft
Sponsored By - Windows Internet Explorer (2) Here's the big announcement. Strap on.


Wanna play Halo 3? You might.

Wanna play it in High Def? Possibly.

How about playing Halo 3 in a 50 foot screen in Super Hi-Def (2048p[1])?

Wanna get powned bigger than life? Join us.


It's at Cinetopia, of course. It's in Vancouver, WA, just north of Portland, OR. This is the NW's most awesome theater. Actual waiters with actual food. Leather seats. Top of the line video and audio. Super HD in every theater. Seriously, this is the only theater Mo and I go to because once you've experienced it you're ruined for other theaters. It's a little pricey, but it's great for date night.

It's 18 or older unless you have a parent escorting you - note that Halo is an "M" rated game. We'll have one Large Theater with a 88 seat capacity and a Living Room Theater with 63 seats. The Living Room Theater is 21 and older. We'll also have a number of Xboxes and Plasmas setup. It'll be a social mingling, eating, fun event. We might have some Guitar Hero also.


We're doing this because Halo is fun and Diabetes sucks. We're hoping to cancel them out. The event is being organized by Rich Claussen and fellow MSFTie Jason Mauer and myself.


one of the three living room theatersOk, this is important. We're trying to raise money for the Fight Against Diabetes and get folks to join us for the Diabetes Walk on October 20th. The fee is $25 (or more, and more is encouraged) at the door, with all proceeds going to the American Diabetes Association.

We're throttled to 120 people. We might raise this if some folks can't make it, but if you register for this event, DO SHOW UP because you're taking an actual human-sized slot that someone else could use. We'll have sponsors there with tables (if you'd like to sponsor a table, let me know) with their various geek wares.

Register for this event at with the RSVP code "FIGHTDIABETES". The event is Thursday, October 11th from 7pm to Midnight.

Note that the banner in the upper left of the reservation site does mention the “PRELAUNCH PARTY 09 24 07” even though the center box shows “10/11/07 – Cinetopia”. Just make sure to use the right RSVP code.

If you don't make it, don't worry, we're going to video/photo/save for posterity as much as we can and get it up on Flickr. It's going to be awesome.

Hope to see you there.

[1] Interpolated by a commercial line-doubler.

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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TODO: Update your DVD-ROM's Firmware

September 28, '07 Comments [3] Posted in Musings | Tools
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Wow, ONE more device to flash with new Firmware. I'd completely forgotten that DVD-ROM players have firmware too (what doesn't?) and I'd gotten used to devices that got auto-flashed a driver, like some wireless cards.

Seems to me that firmware flashing is not only something that my Mom and Dad wouldn't know how to do - they shouldn't have to.

Regardless, I started getting a weird error when burning DVDs, and I noticed this string in IMGBurn:


I figured that was a model and version string so I google'ed...

  • The Firmware Page - A portal full of every firmware for every kind of optical drive. Man, there's a forum for everything in the world.
  • CDRinfo's Firmware Page - A list of updates to drive firmware.

I ended up at the Lite-On Firmware Download page, got their little program. It worked on 64-bit also. It would have SUCKED if it hadn't. Flash, and I'm all set, updated to LLOC.

Flash Program for LITE-ON DVDRW LH-20A1H

Of course, firmware wasn't my problem, although it's nice to be up to date.

If you get "Failed to lock volume for exclusive access" while burning a disk, use ProcessExplorer and go to the Find menu item and search for "CDROM" to see the processes that have it open.

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.