Scott Hanselman

Herding Cats: Organize your Desktop Icons with Stardock Fences for Windows

November 8, '09 Comments [40] Posted in Reviews | Tools | Win7
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screenshot There are few issues that divide computer people like that thousand-year-old question: How many icons should you have on your desktop? Some folks say, "Load 'em up! Make those pixels work for you." Others say, "I like a fresh bowl desktop with no icons." Some folks find a spot in between with just My Computer and the Recycle Bin.

For me, the desktop is my work space. It's where I live and breathe and it's in front of my face all the time. I want as much information on there as possible. If I wanted a picture of the beach, I'd live at the beach and look up from my keyboard.

I'm thrilled with Windows 7. Frankly, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all the free time that I'm saving not dicking around with my computer trying to get it to work. Many of the tools I've espoused over the years simply aren't needed in Windows 7 as they were filling gaps that are no longer there.

That said, Fences from Stardock is one of those apps that extends Windows in such a comfortable and natural way, it should be built in. What's wonderful about Fences is that it is so subtle but so powerful that it truly becomes part of Explorer and feels like it's always there. It's not like to many loud or garish utilities that take over some aspect of Windows and feel the need to announce their presence with bright colors obnoxious splashscreens.

image Kudos, truly, to Stardock for showing not only a sense of restraint but also for embracing what I think of as the "new Windows aesthetic." Years of ridiculous toolbars, poor icon design, the Crayola-color themes of Windows XP and general gaudiness has watered down Windows and made it almost impossible to consider it an "visually attractive" OS. I think it's great that Windows 7 has a definable style that developers are embracing. I'm thrilled each time I download and play with some throwaway little utility but the developer has taken the time to integrate a Windows 7 feature like JumpLists, Taskbar Progress or even just taken the time to create a decent high-res icon. This is definitely a cue we can take from the Apple folks.

Fences Augments Windows Explorer

Back to Fences. It allows you to create just that - little "Fences" around icons on your desktop. The Fences can be any color and can have labels or not, or just show labels on mouseover.

To create a Fence you just right-drag a rectangle and click "create new fence here." Alternatively you can select from a series of presets to jump start your organization. You can also take snapshots when you get things just so. I do this for presentations because switching from 1920x1200 to 1024x768 tends to wreak havoc on icons and fences. Snapshots put things back they way they were.

Once you drag an icon into a fence, it auto-arranges with a satisfying animation as all the icons rearrange themselves to make room for the new addition.Another great subtle feature is if you double-click on the desktop it'll hide your icons. This is not only great for presentations where you might not want to let the eating public see the chaos in the kitchen, but it's also a nice compromise for those of you who want a clean desktop, but can also appreciate a a few icons here and there. You can even exclude specific icons (like perhaps My Computer) from quick-hide.

One obscure bug that I hope the Fences guys and gals fix is that there are some applications that take a regular folder, like Live Mesh for example, and "augment" it to make it more than a regular folder. They might change the icons or plug in a sidebar window. For whatever reason, Fences can't see those Folders while they are different. For now, the workaround is to exit Mesh, move the folder into the Fence, then turn Mesh on. Truly a minor irritant and best, but still it'd be nice to see it fixed.

Regardless, I whole-heartedly recommend Fences and encourage you to go download it NOW and try it out. Note that when you install it, you should pay attention to what it installs, as it also added an "auto-updater" for Stardock products that you may want to remove afterwards if those kinds of extra-applets bother you.

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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Oredev 2009 - LIVE (now recorded) Closing Panel Video

November 7, '09 Comments [7] Posted in Speaking
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bild I was at Øredev 2009 in Malmö, Sweden this week. Øredev is fast becoming one of the premier conferences in Europe focused on the software development process. It's a consciously technology agnostic conference so there was not only a .NET tracks and a Java track, but also tracks like Agile Ways, User Experience and Cloud Computing.

I believe there were something like 100 speakers so it was an incredibly diverse conference. I hung out with some friends from Sun, an iPhone hacker from AT&T, ASP.NET Debugger Tess Ferrandez, Trygve Reenskaug the inventor of the MVC Model, as well as old friends like Carl and Richard and new ones like James Bach.

Oredev was interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that they didn't use regular plates and utensils, but rather organic ones made from collected banana leaves.

I presented at the keynote on Friday. My topic was "Information Overload and Managing the Flow" and I talked about the differences between Effectiveness and Efficiency and how apply some personal introspective and get more work done. That video will be up soon and I'll post it along with my slides ASAP. I also presented on ASP.NET MVC 2.

Recorded Panel of Silly People

One of the random but fun things we did was the final panel of the conference. These are always silly things, presented just before the beer and chips arrive, and they are a nice way for everyone to blow off steam. Basically some of the biggest egos speakers participate in a panel where questions come from the audience and from Twitter.

The Panel was moderated by Björn Granvik, and the folks on the stage were:

  • James Bach - Author of Lessons Learned in Software Testing
  • Ola Bini - Thoughtworker, core developer of JRuby and creator of Ioke
  • Stu Halloway - Author of Programming Clojure
  • Me - Me
  • Oren Eini (Ayende Rahien) - NHibernate Profiler, NHibernate, Castle, Rhino Mocks
  • Chris Hughes - AT&T iPhone Hacker

Here's the video:

I had the idea to stream this panel live (I've done this a few times - fairly guerilla - at other conferences) over UStream.tv. I figured I'd just point my laptop webcam and crappy integrated mic at the stage and while it'd be lame, it'd be something fun to do as I know there's a bunch of people who'd like to participate.

Turns out the sound and video guys at this conference really know their stuff. We were able to jerry-rig a fairly nice little setup. They took the XLR cables and the complete mix from their mixing board and not only switched it down to a 1/8 male mic jack, but they also change it from line-output to mic-output to deal with my laptops lack of a line input.

Then, a guy said, hey, I've got a Professional Canon DV Video Camera with Firewire. It turns out I had a Firewire port on my laptop and I just plugged his camera in on a lark. Boom, Windows 7 found the drivers online and the Firewire Camera showed up as a webcam.

Using the uStream software, we mixed in video and audio and recorded this 60minute panel discussion.

To be clear, there is likely no actual "content" here. We were asked to "edutain" more than educate as it was the final fun of the conference. We were all pretty good friends by this point so we were flicking the mud fairly liberally.

One warning if you listen to this without headphones, there are about three swear words on the recording.

I hope the fun we had comes out in this spontaneous recording. Also, thanks to the roughly 200 people who heard about this LIVE stream on Twitter and joined the chat and drove the discussion.

If you like this kind of thing, let me know and I'll continue to put together these kinds of web-events. 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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Hanselminutes on 9 - Debugging Crash Dumps with Tess Ferrandez and VS2010

November 5, '09 Comments [3] Posted in Channel9 | VS2010
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Hanselminutes on 9 - Debugging Crash Dumps with Tess Ferrandez and VS2010I'm in Sweden this week at Øredev and I got a chance to talk to legendary ASP.NET Debugger and Escalation Engineer Tess Ferrandez.

In this video Tess shows me how to debug a dump of an ASP.NET Web Site with a pile of awesome and totally new features in Visual Studio 2010. You can open up dump files in Visual Studio directly and see visual representations of parallel call stacks. If you spend any time in WinDBG you're going to be excited by these new improvements in the debugging experience.

I also talked to Tess for an extended Debugging 101 session on the full 30 minute audio edition of my Hanselminutes Podcast out later this week.

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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Offline installer for Windows Live Essentials - WLSetup-All.exe

November 1, '09 Comments [20] Posted in Tools
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UPDATE 2015: Here is the offline link for Windows Live Essentials 2012.

Windows Live EssentialsMy brother and his wife came over today and the kids went trick or treating. His wife mentioned she wanted to make a quick DVD of the pictures and movies we took, so I suggested Movie Maker. However, they only have dial-up and wanted an offline installer I could just put on a USB Stick (I actually figured I'd put it on their camera's SD Card.)

I went to http://download.live.com and searched all over, looking for an offline installer. I Googled with Bing, and then Googled with Google for things like "Windows Live Offline Installer" and found nothing but confusion.

Then I figured out this bizarre bit of UI on the Live Essentials download page. Rather than offering a small link for "offline installer" or a choice, you have to click Download which will attempt to start a Download of Windows Live Essentials online bootstrapper. It will then go and download just the programs you want.

However, if you cancel the download immediately, there's a "Try Again" button and some text that no one (including me) reads:

"Trying again downloads a standalone installer to your computer. This takes a little while, but may work better, depending on your connection settings."

Um, OK. I wouldn't label that Try Again, but OK.

Long story short, here's direct downloads for the Windows Live Essentials English Language ONLINE and OFFLINE installers. They are current as of the writing of this blog post. I'm not sure if they are version-specific downloads but I will try to keep them up to date.

Or, if you want an offline installer in other languages, go to http://download.live.com, click Download, cancel it, then click Try Again. I think it's weird, but there you go.

 

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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Using a Bluetooth Jawbone Headset for BT-Audio (Microphone or Speakers) on Windows 7

October 31, '09 Comments [9] Posted in Reviews | Tools | Win7
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I installed a PILE of new drivers tonight from Lenovo using their most awesome System Update 4.0. Included was a Bluetooth Stack update.

On a whim, I tried to pair my Jawbone Bluetooth Headset, something that has never worked before, and it worked!

Devices and Printers in Windows 7 showing my Jawbone

More interestingly, when I right click on the Jawbone and click "Control" I get this dialog I've never seen before!

Jawbone Bluetooth Dialog

This actually looks and feels a tiny bit unpolished. Note the tight vertical whitespace at the VERY top and the strange blue gradient, as well as the Vista-esque color scheme on the far left. Not sure if this was in Vista and just not updated for Windows 7, but it looks weird.

UPDATE: Confirmed - This crazy wrong looking dialog is owned by Lenovo, not Windows.

Still, then Skype popped up suddenly and said there was new audio devices available!

Skype - Options Dialog

Sure enough, I've got a new Microphone and new "Speakers" in the form of my Jawbone headset. I can even use this headset for Voice Recognition, or even as my Default Communications device for Phone Calls with Office Communicator. Or, I can listen to music through my Jawbone. Deeply cool.

Sound Control Panel

I'm not sure who to thank, Windows 7 for better audio and Bluetooth support, or Lenovo for a Bluetooth 2.1 driver. Either way, I'm thrilled that my laptop can suddenly do something with Windows 7 that it couldn't do yesterday!

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.