Scott Hanselman

Give Grandpa and Grandma the gift of an off-site backup of your photos

December 19, '11 Comments [7] Posted in Musings | Tools
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My buddy Jeff Handley tweeted this nugget of brilliance recently.

Exactly. I've talked about backup strategies before. You just can't have too many backups. I have a NAS (Network Attached Storage...a fancy name for a black box in the closet we back up to) but I also have two external drives that are labeled A and B that I rotate between the safe at the bank.

My rules of thumb are:

  • Use an imaging tool like Acronis True Image to create images of the machines you REALLY care about.
    • You can also use the System Image tool built into Windows, but I prefer the additional options from Acronis.
  • Encrypt your external drives.
  • Backup files (and disk images) to two external drives
  • Keep one external drive off-site
  • Test your backups by practicing a restore. The rule of thumb is that backups ALWAYS succeed. It's restores that fail!

Jeff's idea is brilliant. Burn the extended family a nice DVD, perhaps with Picasa or Windows Live Photo Gallery and wrap it up as a gift!

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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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Your New Year's Resolution - Put an end to spinning rust and buy yourself a SSD

December 19, '11 Comments [30] Posted in Hardware
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I'm still using the Ultimate Developer PC 2.0 that I built last year. THE most important aspect of that build was not the super-fast processor or the fancy video cards. It was, and continues to be, the SSD. There is no other single thing that you can do to your computer that will make it feel faster than getting an SSD. If you need terabytes of storage, get an external drive, or a SAN like I did. But if you want to waste less time compiling, get an SSD. I know you want a terabyte, but get 160gigs or 256gigs if you can afford it.

Here's some compilation results from last year where I put the Ultimate Developer PC up against a now 4 year old laptop with an SSD.

In this case I'm building NHibernate 3.0 from the command line. The older laptop is the far level and the new PC is the far right. Yes, the new PC is twice as fast, but if you look at the number of seconds spent building, the laptop does OK and that's directly due to the SSD upgrade.

Times are in seconds Lenovo W500 w/ SSD Ultimate PC 1.0 Ultimate PC 2.0
MSBuild /t:rebuild 36.05 35.52 16.12
MSBuild /t:rebuild /m 24.98 25.57 12.53
MSBuild 6.17 6.99 3.11
MSBuild /m 5.91 6.66 2.72

I love my SSDs so much that I haven't done any upgrades to my machines other than SSDs. The argument is usually "SSDs cost too much." That WAS true. You can get a REALLY nice middle of the road Intel SSD for under $200 now. I've got two Crucial RealSSD C300's that are 256 gigs in two different machines and they are now under $400. They are so worth it, more than any other upgrade.

UPDATE: I'm told by Damian Guard that the newer Crucial M4's are even better, both Crucial M4 128gig and Crucial M4 256gig.

When I upgraded my laptop's HD to an SSD it went from about 68 megs a second read to 110 megs a second. At that point I was limited by the SATA bus on that older laptop.

On a desktop machine with a newer SATA bus I get 230 megs a second (that's megabytes not megabits) and that's not even what the max on the drive can get. If I put it on a 6Gb/s SATA bus it's not impossible to see 300 megs a second or more. Of course, it all depends on what kinds of writes you're doing, sequential vs. random, plus block sizes, but since I'm not Anand, I'll leave that detail to him.

 SSDs are FAST. That is not a lie.

Point is this. Do yourself a favor and breathe new life into your computer with an SSD. You deserve it.

Here's the way to think of it. A $400 SSD will cost you just over a dollar a day if it lasts a single year. It will likely last at least 3 to 5 years, but still, if it lasts a YEAR. That's a dollar a day for hours of daily unmitigated joy. What other upgrade in your life could you do for $400 that would totally change your computer life AND give you time back? Well, a few, but I hope you see the point.

Drink one less coffee a day and get an SSD instead and you'll be as productive as two cups of coffee! ;)

There's only one downside to SSDs in my experience. When they do die, and all things do, there is no warning. SSDs don't make noise, or cough or make head sounds. SSDs don't give you warning, they just die. Instantly. So, always have complete image backups of your systems. If a drive dies, you should be able to get back up in a few hours.

Do it. It's the holidays.

Sponsor: This week's ComputerZen feed was kindly sponsored by DevExpress. Do check out their new stuff like DXv2 and perhaps check out a free trial of their complete suite of Developer Tools. I've personally been a huge CodeRush fan for years.

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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Link-bait Hacker Slash News Dot Considered Cancerous Request For Call To Action

December 15, '11 Comments [299] Posted in Musings
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Considered Harmful

Declarative statement opening blog statement. Back away from declarative statement slightly, pivot then double down with even more controversial declarative statement. Insult beloved programming language and assert newer language's idiomatic aesthetic as superior. Including backing statistics with missing Y-axis labels to prop up weak link-bait including declarative statement. Reference Linus, invoke Dijkstra. Oh, everything looks bad if you remember it.

Biased Benchmarks

Supporting albeit equivocating statement. Weak marginally equivocating statement because I want to be on TechCrunch. Farmville.

if 1 then A
else if 2 then B
else if 3 then C
else/otherwise D

Supporting K&R C quote inducing page references with non sequitur reference to Mythical man month.

Use the right tool for the right job. Grep harder. Appeal to authority. Fowler invocation asserting Turing completeness. That's not NP complete. Try to grok harder.

UR doing it wrong

I suggest you try it again. This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct. Finding a needle in a haystack isn't hard when every straw is computerized. Spare me your space age technobabble, Attila the Hun! Soothe us with sweet lies.

There's a cat in that computer. It's running a custom Mint Distro. That's a meme!

 It's a cat in a computer. That's a MEME.

Use the right tool for the right job. SRSLY. Down-voted into oblivion. Obscure Spolsky link justifying contrarian position.. It's a Atwoodian tautology.

Accusations of intellectual dishonesty


Off-handed reference to FizzBuzz, dreamy reminiscence of Programming Pearls, reference to my first Altair and frustration at the current state of affairs.

CmdrTaco name drop, dig at Digg, Y-Combinator sour grapes. I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks *and* blows. Yes, if you make it look like an electrical fire. It's a go-cart, powered by my own sense of self-satisfaction.

Reference to pointless diagram and misplaced frustration at Large Company. Comment directed at patent trolls combined with acerbic witty statement with regards to Lessig and software patents pointlessness.

Random bolded concluding sentence.

Follow me. Read my blog. I have opinions.

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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Apps are too much like 1990's CD-ROMs and not enough like the Web

December 14, '11 Comments [48] Posted in Musings
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Yes, it's Photoshopped but it feels like that sometimes,doesn't it?

I'm starting to resent Apps like I resented CD-ROMs.

I started playing this evil little game called Tiny Tower last week. It's effectively a Sim-Tower-heroin-clone-resource-management game. Every few hours I return to feed the beast make sure the little "Bitizens" are OK. Moving things, managing resources, restocking virtual shelves with new virtual goods. Mindless and addictive, but pointless.

The Update Beast

I realized that I'm doing the same thing with the apps on my phone. I'm always feeding the Update Beast. How often have you looked at Non-Technical Friends phone and showed them how they need to update their apps? All the time.

Installing Apps is like the old Flash CD-ROMs of the 90s. We couldn't do something on the web or over the wire so we used the ultra-high bandwidth of sneakernet along with native APIs to deliver richness. Then we'd endlessly download updates and patches (*cough* Diablo *cough*) until either a new CD-ROM was released or bandwidth increased enough to effectively deliver the whole CD-ROM over the wire.

If you had to install updates to Facebook, do you think you'd use Facebook very long? Auto-updating fixes only part of the problem. Sure, we'll get that feature one day, but the apps are still little islands of functionality that don't talk to each other. It's great that they talk to the Cloud and to various services, but few apps know they aren't alone on my phone. In fact, nearly all my apps live in the Tiny Tower of my phone but think they are alone.

Go Somewhere, like the Web

But as a user, more and more, I want to Go Somewhere and get functionality as opposed to Bring Something To Me to get functionality. Managing apps, updates and storage is as pointless as my managing my growing Tiny Tower.

Native Pressures push the Web forward, The Web pressures Native AppsIf all these hundreds of apps were places I could go, link to, always updated, and always fast, would they still be apps? Would they just be bookmarks? I think they'd be something else. Web Apps are largely a hack today, no matter what browser you're running. But when what you can do in the browser matches what you can do outside the browser, interesting pressures will start to be applied.

Native Pressures push the Web forward, The Web pressures Native Apps

Native apps have the advantage of a richer experience right now.  But the water level is rising and every time I think I've seen it all on the open web someone goes and ports freaking DOOM to HTML. Yes, JavaScript, HTML and CSS is a mess and it's hard, but it won't always be. As browsers get smarter native apps will introduce new interaction models, hardware accesses and new features. Those will get folded into HTML 9, then HTML 10 and the cycle will continue. I agree with Dave Winer that the real win is linking. That's the one thing that the Web brings that apps have yet to replicate.

I would hope that users just see better experiences and developers have more fun using better technologies and one day I'd just notice that the "Tiny Tower" of my phone had become a self-managing and connected system. Kind of like a real tower.

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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Good UX in the Wild: A comic book geek returns after twenty years away to a brave new digital world

December 12, '11 Comments [37] Posted in Musings
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UPDATE: Listen to a podcast I did on Comics and the move to Digital Comics for Fanboy Radio.

Ultimate Spider-man in the Comixology AppLike most folks my age, I grew up reading comic books. I remember the first early printings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the spring of 1984, long long before they were a big thing, toys, or a movie. Most of my favorite memories of "flashlight reading" (reading under the covers with a flashlight because I was supposed to be sleeping) were with early copies of X-Men or X-Factor.

But as with time, life happens, wife happens, and I moved away from my weekly visit to the comic book store.

Fast forward and over the last four years I've been reading digital books more than ever. Digital reading just totally works for me. I have one Kindle device to read on, which is convenient, but I've also (slowly) learned to trust the cloud. I realize that DRM is evil and that I'm not supposed to trust the cloud, but I do so far. Regardless, I've built up a nice little digital library of Kindle books that I've enjoyed very much.

A year or so ago I discovered that comics had made the leap to digital and I tried subscribing to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. It promised a reasonably priced annual plan and 10,000 comics online. Netflix for Comics. Sounds great, right? Sure, but you could only access the comics on a desktop computer. There is no access from portable devices like iPads. This is still the case a year later. What a silly limitation given the fact that a tablet device is tailor-made for comics.

Then I found Comixology. Digital comics done right, in my opinion. You buy them at reasonable prices (there's lots of 99 cents and most are under $3) and they are in your account in the cloud. The client application manages your local storage and you can always bring old comics back.

The most amazing part about Digital Comics is the "Guided View." I've told friends that they should check out comics before and they've said "meh" then I've brought out a reader and showed them how to really appreciate the art and detail with a panel by panel zoomed view and they immediately got it. "Oh, wow. THAT changes things." Here's what it looks like.

Guided View Technology inside the Comixology Reader

It's a brilliant way to make up for a relatively low resolution portable screen. It almost is like turning a standard paper comic book into a motion comic. The panels are smart and you never miss the text. It's optional, to be clear, but GuidedView is really worth checking out.

Comixology is a book reader, and as such has all the usual UX of a standard reader. Swipe forward and backward, but double-tap starts GuidedView. Embedded in the book is the correct direction to move, not only from panel to panel but also within panel. The camera always knows the optimal direction to move and ensures you can always view the text and appreciate the art. Additionally you can choose to show the whole page in full-screen either on enter, or exit of the page. The controls and interface stay completely out of your way. They aren't even visible in the tablet version. Surprisingly the GuidedView interface works extremely well even on a 3.5" phone screen.

There's Desktop, iOS, Windows Phone 7, and Android  versions of the application. It's a nice solid combination storefront and reader. It's quick organized and has a number of features that really showcase why digital comics are so clever. Of course, the experience is optimized to sell comics, but it's also optimized so that that engaged reader can continue reading.

The store interface is rich with metadata. You can view comics not only by the obvious Series, Title, and Author, but also more comic-specific things like Story Arc. Often comics have a multi-issue plot arc and just as we're used to seeing MP3s tagged with compilation metadata, these comics are as well. You can pivot from author to penciler, creator to story to story arc. It also includes collected editions which are the best "price per page" deal going.

For example, in this screenshot I'm at the end of a Compilation (many individual issues in one collected volume) and as I turn the last page I'm offered the choice to purchase and immediately continue reading the next. It's clean and seamless. Once the purchase is made, I can immediately start reading as soon as the first page is downloaded and the rest of the book streams in the background, buffered, similar to a video. I've actually burned through $20 this way reading entire story arcs of Superman and The Walking Dead.

photo 2

Ironically my new digital obsession with comics also has me visiting the local library more often, checking out collected works and large graphic novels like Compendium One of the Walking Dead:


I've always been a big reader and I devour books on my Kindle but I feel like I've rediscovered comics with the convenience of reading them on a tablet. I've found that if you read the right ones and do your research, Comics (Grpahic Novels) are as engrossing and mind-expanding as a traditional novel.

My 5 year old recently discovered comics and we've used them to teach him how to read. There's lots of little kid appropriate books that are an inexpensive and highly engaging way to get kids stoked about reading.

My New Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels

Here's my favorite comics of the last year. Some of these like The Walking Dead, Invincible, Irredeemable and Chew are still continuing stories so I've used both the Comixology application as well as the local library to catch myself up and am now following them monthly. It's been so worth it.

  • The Walking Dead - The definitive Zombie book. The world has ended and the story follows a small town sheriff as he wakes up in the middle of the end of the world, having slept through the entire thing while in a coma. It's now a great TV as well.
  • Y: The Last Man - A story of Yorick Brown who becomes literally the Last Man on Earth after he survives a plague that kills every one with a Y-chromosome on the planet.
  • DMZ - A gripping story of a near-future world that explores what would happen if America, while fighting wars overseas, neglected the home front and literally lost control of Manhattan. New York itself becomes a DMZ.
  • Elephantmen - "In the year 2162, a madman named Kazushi Nikken creates giant hybrids of humans and animals - elephants, rhinos, camels, giraffes - and brainwashes them into an army of fearless killers. But the United Nations liberates the 'elephantmen' and integrates them into society."
  • Invincible - Possibly the greatest superhero comic ever. It starts largely derivative but quickly expands to an homage to every superhero story ever. A young man is the son of the world's most beloved superhero and one day he develops powers. He eventually learns the story behind his fathers powers and the story moves to other worlds.
  • Irredeemable - What happens when the greatest super hero the world has ever known finally cracks? If a Superman-type turned into the world's greatest villain and started killing millions, how could we stop him?
  • Watchmen - Possibly one of the great comics of the 80s, if not one of the greatest graphic novels ever. A complex and clever a story as any novel.
  • Chew -  "Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he's a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn't mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why." Irreverent and disgusting but always gripping.

What are you favorites comics, Dear Reader? Are you enjoying Comics' move to digital as much as I?

Sponsor: My thanks to DevExpress for sponsoring this week's ComputerZen feed. Introducing DXv2 – Welcome to the next generation of developer tools from DevExpress! Explore what’s new in the latest release.

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.