Scott Hanselman

Small Town Internet

December 14, '07 Comments [20] Posted in Musings
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iStock_000002858133XSmall Story #1

My wife LOVES Lido Cookies from Pepperidge farm. However, I've clearly stepped into a cookie conspiracy. If you Google for Lido Cookies you get this link, which is dead. How dead? Like the Yellow Screen of Death + Call Stack = Tacky level of dead.

Anyway, she loves them so much she sometimes buys the big mixed box of cookies just to get the three Lido cookies. That's like $2 a cookie as I see it. It's a rare thing, but a pregnant or nursing woman wants her things just so, right?

Thus began the nationwide search for the last few bags of Lido Cookies. No problem, right? I figured I'd just Google for them and I'd be on my way. Couldn't find them for weeks. Searched everywhere, called stores, etc. Apparently they are discontinued. I should start a petition.

Then I found this fun little company, Hometown Treats. Basically it's a whole business based around getting folks their favorite local snacks if they've moved away from their hometown. Amazing and only on the Internet.

The young lady who runs the place, Shona, found three bags of Lido Cookies and FedEx'd them to us here in Oregon. The wife was thrilled and the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. This happened yesterday.

Story #2

Today, we set out to buy a tandem stroller (pram) for the boys, and we did our research and decided on a Joovy brand double stroller. So, we were sitting in the parking lot of a sandwich place and I figured I should call ahead to make sure the store we were heading towards had them in stock.

I bust out the WM SmartPhone, open up Google Maps, get the number for Babies R Us and call. They didn't carry the one I wanted. Crap. I hit the browser, open Joovy's website and see their number. The whole thing could have been an advertisement for the mobile web.

I call the toll free number listed on their website (on every page, no less, and no "contact us" button. How revolutionary! ;) ) and the phone rings. I get an actual HUMAN on the first ring. Magical. I ask her where I can find her products in Oregon. She says, you know, you should just call StrollerDepot because they have free shipping. (Here comes the best part.) "Ask for Mary, and tell her Brenda says Hi."

I thank her and point the browser at StrollerDepot. The actually have their phone number and hours of operations on top of the home page. Thrilling! I call and get a person on the first ring. "Um, may I speak to Mary?" "This is Mary?" What? Is this Internet a Small Town? "Hi! Brenda at Joovy said I should call..." "Oh, Brenda, we LOVE Brenda." ....blah blah blah...we bought the stroller, free shipping, and it comes on Tuesday.

So?

Why mention this on my blog? Because just when I'm convinced the Internet is a giant conglomeration of nameless faceless corporate automatons (of which I'm clearly one), I get to interact with a real person running a Small Town Boutique Company that does one thing and does it brilliantly. And I talk not just a regular real person, but one who is an expert in their field, be that cookies or strollers.

At this point I feel connected and contented and happy to be on the web. Long live Small Town Internet.

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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Community is not just Cold Pizza

December 14, '07 Comments [20] Posted in Musings
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Man Eating Pepperoni PizzaUPDATE: I've removed some negative quotes that I felt overshadowed the goal of this post. It's meant to be about successful community events in general. 

Cold Pizza is not a good way to create community. We had a KILLER time in Portland at our InstallFest. Our DE, Jason Mauer, and the crew at PADNUG had 250 people show up - our largest crowd in PADNUG history, I think, and did many things right:

  • Keep it Different with More than Cold Pizza: You can often get nicer food than pizza by having a locally owned business (not franchise) cater, We had Pasta Pronto come by and setup a buffet. A few months back we had Chef Randy from the Fresh Thyme Soup Co. We partnered with Cinetopia for the Diabetes Fundraiser. This is a great way for nerds to give back to their local community.
  • Keep it Fast with Micro-Presentations - Jason and Rich called a pile of local nerds and said "come and give a 5-10 minute talk on VS2008." These "groktalks" are low effort, high-return and high-energy.
  • Keep it Clear with Multiple Projectors - Everyone's got a projector at their company that they could check-out one evening and borrow. Local community events should never want for projectors. Engage with everyone and don't be afraid to ask the group for help. PADNUG had the event at Corillian and had three projectors going so everyone could see.
  • Keep it Fresh - Bring in guests. I try not to present too much locally because folks get tired of hearing me jabber on! Rich and Jason brought Charlie Calvert to talk about C#!
  • Keep It Interactive - Local Community events should never be "push content into their brains." Everyone's got a wide variety of experience and thoughtful heckling (thanks Chris Sells for heckling me and keeping me on track, considering that I was presenting on 2 hours sleep!) is part of the camaraderie that makes technical communities engaging.

The InstallFests in the US are usually being run by your local Developer Evangelist or .NET User Group. Call him or her and ask how you can help make local events better! If you have an InstallFest coming up in your area, how can you make Stone Soup out of your event?

Talk to your local evangelist and see what can be done to fire up future events.

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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Your Opinion Matters - Screencast Techniques Survey

December 13, '07 Comments [33] Posted in ASP.NET | Microsoft | Musings
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iStock_000004645314XSmall Hi Dear Reader, I'd like you to SOUND OFF.

As you may know, part of my job at Microsoft will be creating technical screencasts, like the IIS FastCGI one and the MVC Intro.

A lot of really smart people and co-workers have created a lot of screencasts and my probing is not meant to diminish anything that they've done. However, I see a lot of screencasts that are fairly static, recorded with fairly low-quality audio and I have a postulate that some post-production and a few dozen techniques with some preparation can turn a good screencast into a great one.

Next year I plan to do lots of these, so I've been practicing. I've watch lots of screencasts and decided that panning, zooming and PIP - when used appropriately - enhance the experience. Of course, it takes an order of magnitude more work to pull off.

That said, I'd like to collect some data about your opinion on the matter. Before I go singing the praises of pans and zooms and talking heads, I'd like to get some actual data.

Do me a favor and please answer this SHORT 8-question Survey on Technical Screencast Techniques. It'll take literally 1 minute of your time. Your answer is anonymous, and your IP address will NOT be collected. I'll share the results in a few weeks.

There are at least 22,000 of you subscribed, so I'd love to get at least 1000 responses. Please do forward this survey to your technical friends, family and neighbors.

Thanks folks, I appreciate your time.

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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ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions - plus MVC How-To Screencast

December 10, '07 Comments [59] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Microsoft | Programming | Screencasts
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Windows Media PlayerDarn that ScottGu, he's scooped me again. Just kidding. Around dinner time this evening we released the preview of the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions at http://asp.net/downloads/3.5-extensions/.

Why?

Why release extensions when we JUST released Visual Studio 2008? There's kind of a sine wave thing going on. We stagger the BIG releases of things like .NET or Visual Studio with smaller releases of things like MVC or the Ajax Framework. So, release Visual Studio 2005, then release Ajax, release Visual Studio 2008, release MVC, dynamic data, new controls, etc. It's sometimes confusing (and believe me, I'm working them) but it gets you fresh stuff sooner.

Should You Fear This Release?

imageNo, it's pretty harmless. If you look in the Object Browser in Visual Studio you'll see that one assembly you already have has had some additions and its version rev'ed. You can see System.Web.Mvc there at the right.

I wouldn't go slapping it on a production machine unless you're living on the razor's edge, but it should be fine on a development machine if you know how to pay attention to what versions your projects reference.

What do I get for My Free's Worth?

Well, you get a number of things. You get (from the Gu) with my edits:

  • ASP.NET AJAX Improvements: Better browser history support (back/forward button integration, and server-side history management support), improved AJAX content linking support with permalinks
  • ASP.NET MVC: This model view controller (MVC) framework for ASP.NET provides a structured model that enables a clear separation of concerns within web applications, and makes it easier to unit test your code and support a TDD workflow.
  • ASP.NET Dynamic Data Support: New features that enable faster creation of data driven web sites.  It provides a rich scaffolding framework, and will enable rapid data driven site development using both ASP.NET WebForms and ASP.NET MVC. (This is hot...more on this soon...I demo'ed part of this at DevConnections)
  • ASP.NET Silverlight Support: Included will be new controls that make it easy to integrate Silverlight video/media and interactive content within your sites.
  • ADO.NET Data Services: In parallel with the ASP.NET Extensions release we will also be releasing the ADO.NET Entity Framework.  This provides a modeling framework that enables developers to define a conceptual model of a database schema that closely aligns to a real world view of the information.  We will also be shipping a new set of data services (codename "Astoria") that make it easy to expose REST based API endpoints from within your ASP.NET applications.

MVC How-To Video Screencast

I also (as the last bit of work before paternity leave) put together a 40 minute How-To Screencast on the MVC Framework as part of a series that myself and the team will be releasing. There will be a number of screencasts released this week on the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions, but here's a special preview for you, Dear Reader, because you're reading this blog. You can get a WMV of my screencast here days ahead of the general public. ;) There will be a number of additional formats available in a few days up on the site, including iPod and other portable devices. I'm continuing to tweak my screencast style and I did my best to make sure this one looked good on smaller screens. Let me know.

IMPORTANT CODE UPDATE: After I recorded this video, Rob Conery updated some things in his Toolkit codebase. You'll want to change the code for the HTML Helpers to either:

<%using(Html.Form("action","controller",new{id=ViewData.ProductId})){%>

or

<%using(Html.Form<HomeController>(x=>x.Update(ViewData.ProductId))){%>

Where do I get more info?

Everywhere. Be sure to visit http://asp.net/downloads/3.5-extensions/ several times next week as there will be videos coming out every few days this week covering the whole release - not just MVC. There's a forum setup to discuss them, and Phil, ScottGu, myself and others will be blogging things, both good and bad, as we discover them.

Also, do check out Phil's blog as he's digging into some meaty topics while I'm changing diapers. He's got posts already on:

Enjoy!

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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Power Consumption of the HP MediaSmart HP Home Server

December 9, '07 Comments [16] Posted in Home Server | Musings | Reviews
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There's a lot of talk internally at Microsoft by users of Windows Home Server. Many have built them themselves and others have purchased or side-graded to an HP MediaSmart.

I had noticed that my DIY (Do It Yourself) Home Server was noisy and HOT. Like room-warming hot. I kept it in a closet and it was hot to the point of dangerous. That got me thinking about power consumption.

Here are some numbers that I was given permission to share. These are just one person's numbers using a "WattsUp?" device. These aren't official, but they do, I suspect, reflect a reasonable reality. Thanks BethD and BethD's Mystery Friend!

"I took power measurements on your new HP MediaSmart Server EX475 with my WattsUp? Pro power logging meter. There is a power data log in the meter that I can provide if anyone wants to see it.

Test conditions:

  • EX475 has two 500 GB HDD
  • Server and all network hardware on APC BackUPS Pro 650
  • Measurements taken for Server only
  • Server ran for 15:45 hours:minutes
  • Server room temperature 60 deg F
  • Server streamed music to two Roku SB Radios for 5 of 15 hours
  • Server performed three PC backups during the measurement period
  • Min/Max measurements do not show Server start up, only shows running min/max data

Results:

  • Volts: 112 min, 120 nominal, 124 max
  • Watts: 46.5 min, 52.2 nom, 80.2 max
  • Amps: .40 min, .41 nom, .63 max
  • Power factor: 1.00
  • kWh during measurement period: 0.841
  • Calculated kWh monthly average: 38.0
  • Calculated cost: $3.00 per month @ $0.079 per kWh

The HP data sheet does not show power consumption! But I found a UK reference showing EX475 (two drives): ~60W idle state, ~73W full load, so this data supports that claim.

Your previous WHS Beta PC was the ShuttleX and it used 150 watts nom and heated up the closet so much that I had to put in an exhaust fan. The HP Server has had no effect on closet temperature."

Very cool. I can handle 52 watts for a Home Server. Much greener.

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.