Scott Hanselman

Video Review: Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD Card for Digital Cameras and Your Life's Workflow

January 6, '10 Comments [30] Posted in Reviews
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I'm afraid I'm a utilitarian gift giver. I can't imagine not being this way. I basically look at a person's life-workflow and I look for ways to make some tiny thing slightly easier. Like a teacup with your name on it if yours keeps getting pinched at work, or a key-shaped USB key to fit better with a bunch of unruly keys.

I've added a short 2 minute view demonstration to the right here.

My wife LOVES to take pictures of the boys. But she HATES to upload them to the computer or server. She'll fill 16 gigs of photos and then come find me, "can you put these on the server."

I've tried putting software like Live Photo Gallery on her machine and adding an SD Card slot. Seriously, just put the card in and it'll automatically upload the photos. But, it doesn't fit into her life's workflow. It's not intuitive.

What is intuitive, however, is just bringing the camera home and putting it back on the shelf. And that's her workflow now.

I bought her a 4 gig "Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD Card." Seriously, this thing is bananas. It's an SD memory card, looks, acts, works, IS an SD card. But, it has freakin' Wi-Fi built in. It'll work with basically any camera.

I'm all about miniature. Micro-SD is amazing. 2 gigs and you can accidentally swallow it. But, I'm amazed that this little card can effectively leach enough power from the host camera to run a tiny Wi-Fi client.

image Here's what you do.

  • You get the card for the first time and put it in it's little USB adapter and plug it into your computer.
    • The software is already loaded on the card - nice, thoughtful touch.
    • You install the Eye-Fi Manager little tray-icon on whatever machine in your house will be on the most. It uses 8megs on my machine, and I've already forgotten about it.
  • You sign into their Eye-Fi Manager Website and tell the card what network to automatically connect to.
    • Again, Kudos to them for supporting WPA2 and instantly seeing my network.
  • You tell the manager where to save photos. I chose \\server\photos\2010 and it'll automatically make a new folder for each day, although you can change the format of the folder name.

Boom, that's it. Now, whenever you take photos, your camera will automatically upload them to your computer when it's near your Wi-Fi. It's a dream.

(Here's the cheesy part of the review)

But what, seriously, that's not all. It'll also do "relayed" uploads, so you can upload to an intermediate website of theirs for temporary storage, and when your computer is on later, it'll download the photos.

EyeFiAnother nice feature is that it'll automatically upload if it sees a known public hotspot like a hotel or McDonald's, or WayPort. Still, not a reason to eat at McDonald's, but a reason to get a soda through the drive through. ;)

The final cool feature is the Eye-Fi Geo (or you can upgrade your existing card) will automatically geo-tag your photos (if you like) by looking at a database of known Wi-Fi access points around you. Awesome for trips to big cities.

I seriously don't have a bad thing to say about this card. The wife is thrilled and the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) remains high. I'm not a pro photographer, by any means, but this card works great in my Nikon D40 and my new FujiFilm point and shoot. Some pro folks on the Amazon Reviews have said they've had trouble shooting really really fast or that they've had problems with the speed of upload, but I just haven't. Be aware though and read the reviews to make your own decision.

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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2009 Blogged - Greatest Hits

January 1, '10 Comments [11] Posted in Africa | Agile | ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Back to Basics | Channel9 | Microsoft | Musings | Reviews | Source Code | Speaking | Tools | Win7 | Windows Client
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While I (really) unplugged in December of 2009, you can access a nice calendar of all my 2009 posts (as well as other years) at this link.

In 2008 I published a Greatest Hits post that I will keep updated, but here's a list of links to the posts I most enjoyed writing this last year. I hope you find some of them useful, and perhaps you missed one or two or you just started reading recently and this 2009 "Greatest Hits" Post will catch you up on the stuff I was thinking about this year.

General Geekery

Blogging

Twitter

Podcasts

Programming

.NET and ASP.NET

Gadgets and Product Reviews

Speaking and Presentations

Personal Stuff and LifeHacks

I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed writing them. See you next decade!

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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The (Near) Final Word on Multi-Monitor Taskbars for Windows 7 - Ultramon vs. DisplayFusion

December 31, '09 Comments [25] Posted in Reviews | Tools | Win7 | Windows Client
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Wow, this was the longest time I've ever gone without blogging. It was very interesting being (reasonably) unplugged. I was even more unplugged this time than last year when we spent Christmas in South Africa (where I was blogging near-daily over a cell phone modem).

Anyway, I'm still on vacation until next Monday, but I have been messing around with a few things I wanted to share, and here is one such project.

Disclaimer: I'm not on the Windows 7 team and I have no knowledge about anything they are, have, may, may not, will, will not do, or did and didn't tell anyone. I'm just a dude who likes Windows.

I've fully converted myself and the extended family over to Windows 7. In fact, Windows 7 was my number 1 Christmas Gift this year. Everyone's running it and everyone's happy. Even Uncle Ronnie, a 90+ year old die-hard Windows XP guy has been upgraded (but hasn't noticed, other than "it's snappier.")

However, the one remaining gaping hole in Windows 7 for the Power User (like me with my four (sometimes five) monitors) is the lack of a native taskbar that works across more than one monitor.

I'm sure someone owns this feature on Windows 7 and I'm sure that it didn't make it into the product for some reason and I'm sure someone is looking at the feature for the future*.

Regardless, Windows 7 has an awesome ecosystem of 3rd party stuff and there are two contenders fighting for the title of "Multi-Monitor Taskbar for Windows 7."

The most interesting thing about Windows 7 isn't a feature; it's that Windows 7 has a strong sense of aesthetic. Nasty looking apps won't cut it any more. Folks want things to integrate with Windows 7 features like jump lists and the superbar. They want clean design and fresh styles. Most of all, they want their apps to LOOK like Windows 7 - like they belong.

Now, back to the taskbar thing. Here are the two contenders and my conclusion. I'm reviewing these products taskbar capabilities, not the many other features they each offer like multi-monitor wallpaper support, etc. For the most part they are similar, but I'm a utilitarian and I'm interested in the bread and butter stuff first.

First, Ultramon, then DisplayFusion. Note the post was written against Specific Versions whose features are in likely flux. Try them both yourself!

Ultramon 3.0.8 Beta from Realtime Soft

Realtime Soft appears to be a one-person company run by Christian Studer out of Switzerland. He's been making software since 1998 and I purchased his product Ultramon when it was version 2 in Jun of 2002. Wow. That's over 7 years for the math-challenged.

Ultramon has long been the only game in town when it comes to multimonitor support on Windows. It gets revised in fits and starts. Sometimes you won't hear anything for literally months, then there will be a flurry of activity, then silence. Christian is very kind when he answers forum posts, but it's no uncommon to hear folks complaining about the speed at which the beta version's bugs are fixed. These days folks want to see code rev'ing weekly, minimum.

That said, Ultramon has always been very tight code and I've had minimal trouble with it. As of Dec 21st, there's a 3.0.8 beta available that runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Here are the things I look for in a Multimonitor Taskbar on Windows 7 and how Ultramon 3.0.8 beta stacks up.

Looks

Here are four apps running in an Ultramon toolbar on my third monitor.

image

Here are the same four apps running in the Windows 7 taskbar on my primary monitor.

image

What's this? Three apps? Well, note that the second and third above were actually Windows Explorer windows. Ultramon not only didn't group them together (per my settings within Windows itself), it also used the actual icons for the folders I was on, rather than the default Explorer one.

I think respecting the grouping option is more important then the icon thing, but I though it was interesting nonetheless. It's a pretty darn good facsimile.

Ultramon also respects the default Windows taskbar settings and will show Text and Icons if you've got that setting set:

image

Animations and Aero Preview

Sadly, this is where Ultramon falls down. There's no Aero Preview. Recall that Aero Preview is when you get a nice tiny window preview as you mouse over running tasks. In this version of Ultramon you'll just get a sad little tooltip.

True, this isn't really functionally necessary, but it's a missing piece that Windows itself does have and as I said before, I want Windows 7 utilities to look like Windows 7. While a small thing, it's enough to give me pause when deciding to use Ultramon. I really like my aero effects.

Now there is "color tracking" in Ultramon buttons. This is when you look at the most prominent color in an icon and create an light or glow effect that tracks with the mouse. Here's the effect from Ultramon (click to watch the animation):

image 
http://screencast.com/t/Nzc0MmE1

Note that the tooltip unfortunately (and constantly) pops up while you're tracking, basically ruining the effect and getting in the way. Also, very subtle, the color tracking effect "jumps" from button to button as you move the mouse. It doesn't "fade out" as it does on the actual Windows taskbar. It's maybe a 100-200ms animation, but I noticed.

Finally, and this may be something that's either not possible or certainly not easy to fix. When you minimize a window on another monitor, the "I'm minimizing" animation is the same one that Windows itself uses, meaning, the app will appear to minimize in a diagonal slashing motion to the primary monitor. This is a bummer, but I suspect tough to fix.

Behavior

When you're using the actual Taskbar in Windows 7, you can rearrange the buttons (tasks, programs) just by dragging them. This is true whether the apps are running or not. You can't rearrange the running tasks on the Ultramon taskbars by dragging, or at all.Choose monitor

When you right click on a running task on the Ultramon "false" taskbar you get the app's System Menu with two added items. Maximize to Desktop and Move to Monitor. The Move to Monitor option is fabulous and I use it all the time. (Although Windows 7 itself includes hotkey support for moving windows between monitors via Shift+Win+ArrowKeys.)

Ultramon also dynamically adds (as an overlay, but you don't know that) buttons to every window with the same functionality. Note the two extra buttons on the left. It's a very nice touch and Ultramon tries very hard to make these buttons the right size and style as if they were included with Windows.

image

There are some odd windows that paint their own title bar and buttons that will look weird when Ultramon puts these buttons on them. Skype and Office Communicator come to mind. You can add these as exceptions in the config for Ultramon.

One other thing of note with Ultramon as a taskbar for other monitors is that this is a taskbar, not a superbar (or whatever the Windows taskbar is called) which means you can't pin icons or make launch-able non-running icons. You also (and this is sad) don't get that apps JumpLists. You can only access jumplists on the primary monitor and even then, only if that app is pinned. Non-pinned apps that are running may have jumplists, but you can't get to them if the app is running on the other monitor. Subtle, but very important, and missed.

Ultramon is US$39.95 with a sliding scale for bulk licenses that bottoms out at $19.95 in packs of over 100. You can read the release notes for 3.0.8 to see what's new and what's changing.

Now, the contender.

DisplayFusion 3.1.6 from Binary Fortress

DisplayFusion is the new kid on the block but it's rev'ing fast and has been really blowing some minds as Ultramon appears to rev slower and be less risky with features and eye candy.

Looks

Here are four apps running on my third monitor using DisplayFusion as my extra taskbar:

image

Here are the same four apps running in the Windows 7 taskbar on my primary monitor.

image

Again, DisplayFusion is pixel perfect against the primary taskbar and identical to Ultramon's. They also ignore the grouping options and show Windows separately.

Animations and Aero Preview

This is where DisplayFusion really shines because at least he's got something to show. ;)

Instead of fading in while simultaneously moving up from the bottom, these previews snap in and wipe up. It's close, but it's not perfect. It's maybe 50% there on the intro animation.

image 
http://screencast.com/t/OGY3M2JiZTAt

One awesome thing though, is that these previews are the true live preview that you're using to seeing with Alt-Tab or on the standard taskbar. That means if you're watching a video, you'll see a tiny thumbnail of that same video appearing in the DisplayFusion version of Aero Preview. While the preview intro animation isn't perfect, the animation when you've already got a preview up and you're moving laterally to another one (the preview transition animation, I'll call it) is darn near perfect. I was impressed. Kudos to them for making the effort. I hope they keep trying to get the animation pixel perfect. It matters.

Behavior

Shift-Clicking on a running item doesn't bring up a new instance like it does on the Windows taskbar. Ctrl-Shift-Click doesn't work either. It should run a new instance as Administrator.

DisplayFusion also adds buttons to the title bar at runtime, although the buttons are more squared off than the Ultramon ones. Ultramon includes two buttons, but DisplayFusion actually has a menu that lets you add many buttons with lots of different options. You can control what buttons do and in what order they appear. I just find the DisplayFusion buttons to be visually jarring. They do offer various themes for the added buttons, but I'd prefer they just pick up the ambient look and feel.

image

Right-clicking on a running item in DisplayFusion shows only the default System Menu, with no additional menu items. There are no jumplists either.

The Windows taskbar includes an option to expand the taskbar buttons to included both the icon and its text, and DisplayFusion can do the same. They don't pick up the default setting, unfortunately. You have to set it manually and the wording is different from the language Windows uses so it may take a second to figure it out. When it's done, however, it looks great:

image

DisplayFusion also allows you to the rearrange the order of running items in their taskbars.

image

There is no smooth dragging like the standard taskbar, but it's an effort that's completely missing from Ultramon.

DisplayFusion is US$25. You can read the Change Log to see what's coming in the next version.

Conclusion

It's a tight race. I like that DisplayFusion has animations and looks great. But I love the Move To Monitor popup window and System Menu additions by Ultramon.

I've used Ultramon for literally years and I trust it. I know it's fast and I've used it for days without crashing. However, DisplayFusion is closing fast. If they continue to focus on getting the look and feel perfect and adding a few options like "Move to Monitor...", DisplayFusion just may be the Multi-Monitor Toolbar for Windows 7.

For now, I'll keep switching between both products until one nails it. I encourage you to download and trial both.

Related Links

* Because that's how things work at Microsoft. Believe me, for everything you wish we did, someone on the inside has fought for that feature at some point, and very likely continues to.

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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The Three Most Important Outlook Rules for Processing Mail

December 10, '09 Comments [35] Posted in Personal | Remote Work | Tools
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I'm always looking for new ways to process email more effectively. I talked a little about this at a recent conference in Sweden. The topic of my talk was Information Overload and Managing the Flow: Effectiveness and Efficiency and there's video of the talk at the link there.

I've done blog posts on how my Outlook folders are setup in Getting Organized While Drinking from the (Outlook) Fire Hose and Personal Systems of Organization.

However, lately as the flow of email increases, I've added three new rules in Outlook that have really made things easier for me.

The idea is this. Stuff shows up in your Inbox and you need to process it, right? Not necessarily do it, but decide what to do with it. However all email that shows up in your inbox isn't the same. I segment them like this:

  • Most Important: Email that is sent directly to me. I am on the to: line.
  • Kind of Important: Email where I am cc:ed. I was copied on a mail, likely as an FYI to me.
  • External Mail: Mail that was sent to me from outside my company.
  • Meeting Invites: Just that. Someone wants me to show up somewhere.

So I've got these "inboxes" in Outlook now and I put them in my favorites so they show up at the top of the folder list. These are the emails I'm currently processing that came in overnight.

Inbox, Inbox-CC. Inbox-External, Inbox-Invites

Here are the Outlook Rules to make this happen. The main Inbox folder is the main Inbox. The others are just folders named "Inbox - Something."

Processing Meeting Invites

First rule is to move any meeting invitations to a separate folder. This is an easy rule. Just make sure the "and stop processing more rules" appears at the bottom and that this rule is close the top (if not at the top.)

image

Processing External Mail with an Outlook Rule

This one is a little tricky, so be careful. There's no good "comes from outside my company" rule built into Outlook, so you can make one like this.

"Apply this rule after the message arrives
where my name is in the To or Cc box
  and with @ in the sender's address
move it to the Inbox - External folder
except with "yourcompany.com" in the sender's address
stop processing more rules."

Tricky and composite, but works nicely. Now all emails that are from OUTSIDE go into a single folder. Of course if you are a member of external mailing lists, etc, you might want exclusions here, or more likely a separate Outlook rule for that mailing list that is higher in the list of rules. Remember, rule order matters.

image

Processing Mail To: me, rather than mail Cc: to me

Here I just say "if my name is not in the To box" then send the mail to the Inbox-CC folder. However, I have some exceptions for email from certain people whose email goes to my Inbox always, regardless.

Rules and Alerts (6) 

Last one (a fourth possible rule, yeah, I know) and this one is optional. If I get an answer to a mail that's from a mailing list, I like it to come to my Inbox, not show up in a folder deep in Outlook somewhere.

Now you just have a rule for mail that is sent directly to you. You have to say "move it to the inbox" and "stop processing." This will also bring mail up from your internal mailing lists folders if you've been addressed directly.

Rules and Alerts (3)

There you go, that's my four inboxes with three (or four) Outlook rules.

Inbox, Inbox-CC. Inbox-External, Inbox-Invites

Time to get back to "Inbox Zero" by processing emails sent directly to me first!

Important Notes:

  • The order of Rules in Outlook matters for this system, as does the final "stop processing other rules" step. Without that, you may get duplicate emails.
  • If you're using a mobile phone (iPhone or Windows Mobile) make sure that you've set your phone to Sync Mail from these new folders, otherwise you might miss a meeting invite that never went through your inbox.

Hope someone finds this useful. I have.

Related Links

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 191: Solver Foundation and Optimization with Nathan Brixius

December 10, '09 Comments [0] Posted in Podcast
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imageMy one-hundred-and-ninety-first podcast is up. Scott's on campus and talks to Nathan Brixius, a Senior Developer working on the Microsoft Solver Foundation library. Solver Foundation helps break down complex multi-variable problems in a clean, declarative way.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Download: MP3 Full Show

Links from the Show

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 aboutTelerik is their commitment tocompleteness. 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?

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.