Scott Hanselman

Review and Installation: Filtrete Touchscreen WiFi-Enabled Programmable Thermostat

June 17, '11 Comments [27] Posted in Reviews
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Ipod:  Filtrete Touchscreen WiFi-Enabled Programmable Thermostat It's amazing what you can automate around the house when you've got a nice, solid Wi-Fi network and a little ingenuity. And $100. That seems to be the gadget freak price point. If it's $100, we can buy it without the spouse totally freaking out. I've setup Alarm.com and automate our home security system from my smart phone. I've setup wifi cameras around the house and plugged them (wirelessly) into the Synology DiskStation as a composite image and 24 hour DVR. All this done with commodity parts and a VERY small amount of know-how. Stuff that only millionaires and folks on MTV Cribs (or Geek Developer Cribs) could have in the past, now we can have just by stopping by Home Depot.

This is how I came upon the Filtrete Touchscreen WiFi-Enabled Programmable Thermostat. My buddy John Batdorf walked by one of these at Home Depot and bought it on a whim. Later that evening he was like "dude!!!" and I did some research. What a clever idea! Not just a programmable thermostat, but one I can control from any connected device, the web or any phone (iPhone, Android, etc).

This opens up a lot of interesting scenarios where you can get the house ready before you get home, where you can keep it colder and save money if you forgot to turn off the heat before you left.

It was $99 at Home Depot and took about 20 minutes to install and we all know I'm not handy. There's only one catch, you really need to have a "C" wire. This is a standard wire that most furnaces have at least run between the furnace and the main thermostat.

However, it is possible you don't have it. In my case, I had the wire but it wasn't hooked up at the furnace. This meant I needed to turn off the power to the furnace at the main electrical switchbox temporarily, then connect the loose wire to the power of the furnace, and turn it back on. I tested it with a simple cheap multi-meter from Radio Shack (or Home Depot, of course). If you like, you can also run a new wire between the thermostat and the furnace. Finally, if none of that works, you can use a standard wall-transformer and plug it into the wall. It just won't be as sanitary.

The installation process was a little nerve wracking initially just because I'm not a wires guy but the installation PDF was pretty clear and the wires were clearly labeled.

Installing the Filtrete Thermostat, wires exposed Installing the Filtrete Thermostat, wires exposed and hooking them up

Once the wires were hooked up and I confirmed I had power and plugged in some backup AA batteries, it was just a matter of registering the thermostat with the Wi-Fi network. I was impressed that it supported WPA security as I've standardized on it. I wouldn't have used the thermostat if it only supported WEP. Nice to know that WPA and WPA2 have finally arrived in cheap consumer devices.

Installing the Filtrete Thermostat, complete Installing the Filtrete Thermostat, in the box

Of course there's a website to manage the thermostat (or any number if you have multiple) but there's also multiple phone applications. I usually access this from my phone. There's of course the ridiculous first world problem of changing the temperature of the house from bed (which is awesome, by the way.) The think I use it the most for is setting the house to "away" mode. I haven't yet measured if this has saved us money (as we in the past have left the house on 74 for YEARS at time without changing it) but I can only assume it has as there's no reason to heat an empty house.

All in all, a great and useful gadget if you're into Home Automation. It is inexpensive without being cheap. Recommended.

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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Introducing System.Web.Providers - ASP.NET Universal Providers for Session, Membership, Roles and User Profile on SQL Compact and SQL Azure

June 16, '11 Comments [65] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | NuGetPOW
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UPDATE #2: Note that the NuGet package has changed its name from System.Web.Providers to Microsoft.AspNet.Providers.

UPDATE: Note that in MVC 4 and ASP.NET 4 and 4.5 the default hash is now HMACSHA256

Crazy random logo of evocative clipart combining the .NET Logo and some universal powerplugs into an unofficial logoI always like to remind folks of the equation ASP.NET > (ASP.NET MVC + ASP.NET WebForms). The whole "base of the pyramid" of ASP.NET has lots of things you can use in you applications. Some of these useful bits are Session State, Membership (Users), Roles, Profile data and the provider model that underlies it. Using these isn't for everyone but they are very useful for most applications, even ones as large as the ASP.NET site itself.

Today the Web Platform and Tools team (WPT) is  releasing an Alpha of the ASP.NET Universal Providers that will extend Session, Membership, Roles and Profile support to SQL Compact Edition and SQL Azure. Other than supporting additional storage options, the providers work like the existing SQL-based providers.

Today these are being released via a NuGet Package, but it's very likely that these Universal Providers will be the default in the next version of ASP.NET.

To enable the providers, the NuGet package adds configuration entries in the web.config file. The configuration for these providers is the same as the existing SqlMembershipProvider class, but the type parameter is set to the type of the new providers, as shown in the following table:

SQL Provider Types Equivalent Type for Universal Providers
System.Web.Security.SqlMembershipProvider System.Web.Providers.DefaultMembershipProvider
System.Web.Profile.SqlProfileProvider System.Web.Providers.DefaultProfileProvider
System.Web.Security.SqlRoleProvider System.Web.Providers.DefaultRoleProvider
(Built in provider) System.Web.Providers.DefaultSessionStateProvider

If you install these, the NuGet package will swap your defaultProviders in your web.config. You can certainly pick and choose the settings for each as well. Here we're changing Profile, Membership, RoleManager and SessionState. The latter is nice as it better allows your session-state-using Azure apps to scale with SQL Azure as the backend storage.

Install-Package Microsoft.AspNet.Providers

Using these Universal "Default Profile Providers" means all you have to do is set the right connection string and your  applications that use these services will work with SQL Server (plus Express), SQL Server Compact and SQL Azure with no code changes from you.













enablePasswordReset="true" requiresQuestionAndAnswer="false" requiresUniqueEmail="false"
maxInvalidPasswordAttempts="5" minRequiredPasswordLength="6" minRequiredNonalphanumericCharacters="0" passwordAttemptWindow="10"
applicationName="/" />













Selecting a Data Store

By default, the NuGet package sets the connection string to use a SQL Server Express database (wrapped here for readability):

"Source=.\SQLEXPRESS;AttachDbFilename=|DataDirectory|\aspnetdb.mdf;
Initial Catalog=aspnet;Integrated Security=True;
User Instance=True;MultipleActiveResultSets=True" providerName="System.Data.SqlClient"

If you want to use SQL Server Compact, change the connection string as shown in the following example:




If you want to use SQL Azure, change the connection string like this example (wrapped for readability):


providerName="System.Data.SqlClient"/>

Even though this release is primarily about extending support to all versions of SQL Server, I realize that y'all might not even know about what these things do, so I thought I'd spend a little time explaining. I notice also that there's some confusion on StackOverflow and other sites on how to use Membership and Profile and the like on ASP.NET MVC, so I'll use that for the examples.

Example of Membership, Roles and Profile in ASP.NET MVC (with the Universal Providers)

I'll fire up VS and File | New Project on a new ASP.NET MVC 3 Project. Then I'll right click on References and select Add | Library Reference. The NuGet package id is "Microsoft.AspNet.Providers." After this package is installed, I can also install SQL Compact Edition via NuGet if I like and set the connection string to SQL Compact as shown above.

Remember, this is a very functional Alpha, but there may be bugs (report them!) so it might be updated a few times before the next version of ASP.NET is released.

First, I'll run my app and click Register and make a new user named "Scott."

Making a new user

Adding Roles to a User

Next, from Visual Studio Project menu, I visit ASP.NET Configuration. (I could also write my own admin section and do this programmatically, if I liked).

Selecting ASP.NET Configuration site from the Project Menu

Then from the Security tab, under Roles, I'll create a new Role:

image

Then I'll find the Scott User and add him to the Administrator Role:

Giving the Scott User Administrator Role

I want to show something if a user is an Administrator. I'll add a little chunk of code to the default website's _LogOnPartial. cshtml so we'll see [Administrator] next to their name of they are one.

Welcome scott (Administrator)

I'll add a small line where I ask "User.IsInRole()" like this:

@if(Request.IsAuthenticated) {
Welcome @User.Identity.Name
@(User.IsInRole("Administrator") ? "(Administrator)" : String.Empty)
[ @Html.ActionLink("Log Off", "LogOff", "Account") ]

}
else {
@:[ @Html.ActionLink("Log On", "LogOn", "Account") ]
}



@if (ViewBag.Profile != null) {
Hey, your birthday is @ViewBag.Profile.Birthdate.ToString("d")! Congrats.
}

So now I have some Roles I can assign to users and check against. I can set whatever roles I want, like Bronze, Silver, Gold, etc.

Adding Profile Information to Users

Let's say I want Users to have a Birthday and I want that to be part of the User Profile. I can just use the Profile object and ask for things via string like this:

DateTime? birthday2 = HttpContext.Profile["Birthdate"] as DateTime?; //alternative syntax

However, perhaps I'd rather have a stronger typed syntax for my profile.

NOTE: I've already brought up the issue that User hangs off Controller in MVC 3 but Profile is simply missing. Perhaps that will be fixed in MVC 4. I believe it was a oversight. You shouldn't be digging around in HttpContext if you want your code testable

I'll make a small CustomProfile object like this that extends ProfileBase:

public class MyCustomProfile : ProfileBase
{
public DateTime? Birthdate {
get { return this["Birthdate"] as DateTime?; }
set { this["Birthdate"] = value; }
}
}

Alternatively, I could put the "getting" of the profile in the custom class in a static, or I could use Dependency Injection. It depends on how you want to get to it.

public static MyCustomProfile GetUserProfile(string username)
{
return Create(username) as MyCustomProfile;
}
public static MyCustomProfile GetUserProfile()
{
return Create(Membership.GetUser().UserName) as MyCustomProfile;
}

Then in web.config, I'll update the so the system know the derived Profile class I want used when I ask for one:


...

For older website projects, I can add properties in the web.config like this. There are attributes I can use like SettingsAllowAnonymous for custom derive classes in code.

..



Or I can even use IIS7's administration interface to edit the profile details in the web.config. You can have all kinds of profile properties, group them and it's all handled for you.

Using IIS Manager to edit User Profile schema

If I like, I can ask for the User's Profile (I've got it set for only authenticated users), and set a default as well. I save explicitly, but there is an auto-save option also.

if (User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
{
var customProfile = HttpContext.Profile as MyCustomProfile;

DateTime? birthday = customProfile.Birthdate; //Because I made a strongly typed derived class

if (!birthday.HasValue) {
customProfile.Birthdate = new DateTime(1965, 1, 14); //cause that's everyone's birthday, right?
customProfile.Save(); //or set autosave if you like.
}

ViewBag.Profile = customProfile; //So the View can use it
}

At the very end I put the Profile in the ViewBag so it can be accessed from the View. I could also have added just the things I want to a larger ViewModel. Then I can use it later with some sanity checks:

@if (ViewBag.Profile != null) { 
@:Hey, your birthday is @ViewBag.Profile.Birthdate.ToString("d")! Congrats.
}

Expect to see more cloud-ready things like this in the coming months that'll better position your apps, new and old, to move up to Azure or even down to SQL Compact. Hope this helps. Enjoy.

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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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Announcing the Web Standards Update - HTML5 Support for the Visual Studio 2010 Editor

June 15, '11 Comments [77] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | HTML5
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vshtml5Folks have been asking "When will VS2010 support HTML5?" I've been saying, jokingly, that the answer is "yesterday" as there's nothing keeping you from creating HTML5 in Visual Studio or ASP.NET today. However, there's no intellisense and there's lots of squiggly lines that make people uncomfortable. Combine all that with the fact that HTML5 is a moving target, and it's unclear. We've said before that the next version of Visual Studio will have better support HTML5, but what about today?

Today, a rogue faction some folks on the Web Platform and Tools team, spearheaded by Mads Kristensen are all pleased to announce the Visual Studio Web Standards Update. This adds better support for HTML5, CSS3 and new JavaScript features to ALL versions of Visual Studio.

Note that this isn't an official Microsoft product release, rather improved support from passionate people done in their spare time.

Download the first Visual Studio Web Standards Update

HTML5 moves fast, and this update will aim to keep up with it. It adds support to Visual Studio and the editor for HTML5, CSS3 and new JavaScript features. The goal is perhaps an update every quarter or so as new features or elements emerge.  We want ASP.NET web developers to always be able to use the latest standards, as well as being able to choose from existing standards. Remember that you can use HTML5 today along with JavaScript libraries like Modernizr that allow you to create pages that work across nearly all browsers, including old crappy ones.

The Visual Studio Web Standards Update provides you with intellisense and validation for:

HTML 5 features

Browser APIs

  • Geo-Location - Location aware websites are a clear, growing trend and now you've got full intellisense and validation within Visual Studio.  For a nice sample, view source on the IE9 test drive demo.
  • Local Storage – IE has been supporting local storage from IE8, so now Visual Studio will provide you with full-fidelity intellisense to create sites which can save state within the browser.  For sample of this, do a view source on HTML5 Demo Site

CSS3

Additionally, if you are trying to make websites which work on a variety of platforms and browsers you will love the fact that Web Standards Update not only supports IE specific prefixes like –ms; but also other vendor prefixes like –webkit and –moz.

HTML5 in Visual Studio

When you start up Visual Studio 2010, you can select what version of HTML you want on a file-by-file basis, or set the defaults.

Side Note: See how IE6 is in there on its own? That's been there since before forever. Hopefully it'll be gone soon. Ignore it.

HTML5 in the HTML Toolbar dropdown

You can also set it as the default in Tools | Options | Text Editor | HTML | Validation. Note the options for errors.

Options (87)

All the new HTML5 semantic tags are there, like section, svg, video, etc. This is just the first release, and while it's REALLY comprehensive, I'm sure it has some bugs. But, it'll be updated regularly, so make sure you report anything you find and look for it to be fixed in the next release.

Adding an Audio Tag

There's even support for important (but under-utilized and under-respected) attributes like the WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications)

Adding a main role to a nav tag

Also the aria-* attributes appear not only as intellisense enabled attributes, but also their enumerated values:

Adding aria-autocomplete to an IMG tag

Tags are fun, sure, but how about microdata? Bing, Google and Yahoo are all supporting Microdata and more specifically the schema.org vocabularies. This update will therefore add intellisense to the most popular vocabularies including schema.org and data-vocabulary.org.

Adding http://schema.org/ attributes to an article

Seriously, tell me that's NOT the hotness. Awesome for SEO.

CSS3 in Visual Studio

That's just the HTML5 stuff. There's also CSS3 support. Yes, that's 1 better than CSS2.

CSS3 in the dropdown

It includes all the cool new CSS3 stuff like column-full and of course border-radius as well as animations and transforms. There's also lots of details on vendor-specific prefixes like -webkit, -moz and -ms.

Note the informational tooltip in the dropdown here as we pick a -webkit-transform shorthand property.

Some -webkit attributes

JavaScript and HTML5 in Visual Studio

There's a huge number of additions to JavaScript intellisense in this update. Things like geolocation via navigator.geolocation and DOM storage via window.localStorage.

Geolocation in JavaScript in VS

Here's a slightly less trivial snippet of HTML5 and JavaScript using some new local storage features and showing the intellisense.

LocalStorage in the editor

Say what you like about intellisense as a concept or crutch, but I like to think of it as a just-in-time object browser that helps me explore new technologies as well as discover nooks and crannies that I might not see.

We don't know what all will come in the next version of Visual Studio, or the next version of HTML5, but for those of you who are interested, we hope this "living update" of Web Standards support for Visual Studio will help you out!

Enjoy, Dear Reader.

P.S. This is an update for ASP.NET and HTML5 editing people who want to use HTML5, new JavaScript features and CSS3. I didn't mention Silverlight because it has nothing to do with Silverlight. I said once "just because your favorite technology isn't mentioned in a keynote doesn't mean it's dead." Assume that the same rule applies to a Blog Post.

P.P.S. No, that logo to the right isn't official anything and yes, it's fun.

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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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Productivity and Continuous Improvement - Measurement (and RescueTime) makes it happen, both Personally and at Work

June 14, '11 Comments [20] Posted in Productivity
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The RescueTime Dashboard with charts over each hour showing my productive timeI was chatting with a friend recently about my recent diet and she commented that I seemed to measure everything. I realized that measurement and logging was a theme in my lifestyle, specifically as applied to productivity.

As a Type 1 Diabetic logging and measurement as a precursor to success is not just required, it's darn near mandatory if you to live succeed. I check my blood sugar as often as 10 times a day. Now that I'm also on a continuous blood sugar meter as well, I am able to measure hundreds of times a day and make small adjustments.

It's this core idea of measure often combined with small adjustments that I believe is the hallmark of success in nearly anything one does.

I have been dieting of late (I'll do a separate blog post on this soon) using an application called LoseIt and a pedometer/metabolic activity meter called a FitBit. These two small and inexpensive (LoseIt is free so far!) measuring devices have enabled me to lose 21 lbs in a short amount of time with minimal effort.

The old adage is "measure twice, cut once." In the computer age, my new agile adage is "measure often, cut often."

One of my favorite tools for measuring personal productivity (and making adjustments) is called RescueTime. It's a little app that runs in the background and keeps track of the application running in the foreground, as well as if you're interacting with it. You can categorize applications with various levels of productivity. For example, for me, reading CNN.com is not productive, but if you're a journalist, perhaps it is very productive. You can categorize from apps down to websites, as well a ones you want it to ignore. They even have a lovely Data API that you can access programmatically and do whatever you like!

Once you've run RescueTime for a while, maybe a week to a month, things become VERY interesting from a data perspective. You can pivot the data any way you like, focusing on Productivity, Efficiency, or by Category.  If you're an hourly worker or consultant, you can even upgrade and us it as an effective time-tracking tool.

Here's some examples of the kinds of insights you can get when you measure, and what you (or I, in this case) can do about it. I'll pick a random day in May, the 17th.

My daily productivity as logged by RescueTime by hour

There's some uncategorized data in there where I'm using an application or website that RescueTime doesn't recognize. Notice that I don't really hit my stride for Software Dev until lunch time. If I look at the week or month views, I find this to be true consistently. I'm garbage with analytical work (development) until lunch. What can I do about that? Well, I can totally avoid that kind of work in the morning. Did you realize that you can be more productive by actually avoiding work at times when you know you'll be lousy/unfocused/suboptimal? If you rock at a certain kind of work at 11pm, then well, organize your day so you can be successful that those times.

If I dig in on an hour, for example, noon to 1pm on this day, I can see that I was developing software (in Visual Studio) for 35min, using utilities for 10min, and googling around for a few minutes. Other distractions used up only seconds.

My productive time for a single hour in May

I can dig in and categorize my programs and their relative productivity/distractedness (it's like Mint.com, do the work once, and it'll add up over time!) and that makes my reports easier to read at a macro level. You shouldn't need to spend much time doing this.

Categorizing my time by program

Then, once a week, during your Friday afternoon "Reflection," go look at your reports and see if you find patterns. Then, make a list of the 3 things you'll do on Monday to make your week more productive. Repeat this each week and you'll find an LEAST 4-8 hours of wasted time. I'm not saying don't read the news or go on Twitter.

I'm saying this:

  • Be deliberate.
  • Time is finite, treat it as a resource.
  • Know what you're doing.
  • Be aware of what the trade-offs are.
  • Measure everything, otherwise you have NO idea what you're doing.

If you don't profile your program, you don't know where it's spending it's time. If you don't profile yourself, you're just hanging out.

Hope this helps, Dear Reader.

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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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Hanselminutes Podcast 270 - Nancy, Sinatra and the Explosion of .NET Micro Web Frameworks with Andreas Håkansson

June 14, '11 Comments [4] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Open Source | Podcast
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Scott chats with open source developer Andreas Håkansson about his .NET micro web framework called Nancy which is inspired by a Ruby framework called Sinatra. Why do we need frameworks like this? What kinds of sites and services can they support and how do they relate to ASP.NET?

Links from the Show

Hello World Example

public class Module : NancyModule
{
public Module()
{
Get["/greet/{name}"] = x => {
return string.Concat("Hello ", x.name);
};
}
}

Download: MP3 Full Show

NOTE: If you want to download our complete archives as a feed - that's all 270 shows, please subscribe to the Complete MP3 Feed here.

Also, please do take a moment and review the show on iTunes.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes or Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes or Zune

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.

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Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface and developer tools, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET AJAX,MVC,Silverlight, Windows Forms and WPF. Enjoy developer tools like .NET Reporting, ORM, Automated Testing Tools, Agile Project Management Tools, and Content Management Solution. And now you can increase your productivity with JustCode, Telerik’s new productivity tool for code analysis and refactoring. Visit www.telerik.com.

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.