Scott Hanselman

Xamarin Evolve 2013 Talk Video - How C# Saved My Marriage

May 15, '13 Comments [24] Posted in Musings
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My Talk at Xamarin Evolve

In case you haven't heard, Xamarin is a fabulous company with amazing products and their Evolve 2013 conference was absolutely smashing.

The Visual Studio Solution Explorer now has Android, iOS, and Windows all in the same place!I was fortunate enough to speak at Xamarin Evolve 2013 in Austin last month, just after lunch one day. I wanted everyone to understand how excited I am about what they're doing, how Azure and Visual Studio appreciates them and how great it is to be a C# developer right now. So, I did a fun little talk called "How C# Saved my Marriage, Enhanced my Career and Made Me an Inch Taller."

The general story of my talk is that, like VISA, C# is everywhere I want to be. I can create apps now on iOS (iPad, iPhone), Android (Phones and Tablets), Mac desktop apps, Windows Phone, Windows (all flavors), and Windows 8 Store apps. You can use Xamarin Studio, of course, but even better, Xamarin integrates with Visual Studio wonderfully. You can literally write iPhone apps in C# from within Visual Studio and compile them using a networked Mac as a build server. It's amazing.

I teamed up with Greg Shackles and we ported the Pan Tilt Zoom client (I already have Web and Windows Desktop versions) to iOS and Android!

Then Dominique Louis from MonoGame helped me port Daniel Plaisted's "Disentanglement" application to Android and iOS. Now it runs on Windows 8, iOs and Android.

disentanglement

We announced better NuGet support for Mono, took a SignalR pull request for iOS support and more. It was great fun.

Here's a screenshot I took in the middle of the talk. I used Lync and the Xamarin-powered iPhone version of our Pan-Tilt-Zoom app using SignalR to call back to the Seattle Office. Then I turned the camera around so I could see myself watching myself watching me watching the keynote.

Lyncing back to the SignalR team

It's a great time to be developing with C# and .NET. I hope you also join me at the MonkeySpace conference (formerly Monospace) in Chicago in July. I'll be presenting, teaming up with a friend who is launching an amazing soon-to-not-be-so-secret .NET related product that will take C# to even more places!


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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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Chasing Wi-Fi as a Remote Worker: AT&T Unite LTE Mobile Hotspot Review

May 14, '13 Comments [24] Posted in Remote Work | Reviews
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AT&T Unite HotspotI've blogged about how being a remote worker sucks. Sometimes I just need to get out of the home office and wander around town just to be near people. There's all this unspoken etiquette when you're a "homeless" remote worker and you're squatting in a café. How much do coffee does one buy in order to justified downloading an 8gig ISO over a coffee shop's bandwidth? Will a croissant cover it? You mean you don't like me showing up at 9am, taking a seat and leaving at 5pm?

Finding a spot is one thing, but finding good reliable internet is the biggest issue when you're a remote working nomad. I used to collect coffee shops and rank them by bandwidth, but often they are too unreliable. I want to be able to use Skype/Lync in HD, have a clear conversation, share my screen, remote into machines, and download and upload large files without sipping through their bandwidth straw.

I've even stopped using hotel wireless when travelling. It's just useless. For the last four years I've been carrying a Clear Hotspot around. It runs on the Sprint Network and works in all major US cities. I've been generally very happy with it. It doesn't work well inside buildings, but at a hotel if I put it in the window sill I can easily watch Netflix. It's $50 a month for unlimited internet and it's faster than tethering my iPhone 4S (with its fake 4G). Why pay so much? Because Clear is effectively unlimited, unlike my capped 5 gig iPhone plan, even though Clear isn't super fast.

The local AT&T fellow loaned me an AT&T Unite Hotspot for a few months.

The Device

The hotspot is made by Sierra Wireless. It has LTE, a lovely 2.4" color touch screen and a large battery. It's a comfortable size with a decent heft, most of which is battery. The battery for this hotspot is 2500 mAh, in fact and lasts a long time. I've accidentally left it in my bag and found it still on hours later. It's rated for up to 10 hours of continuous use and I never had it stop on me even when using it a whole work day.

You can have up to 10 devices connected to the Unite over Wi-Fi. This is great on trips with a few laptops, phones and tablets. Multiply this by a few people and you'll be happy you can fit 10.

It even has two external antenna spots, which could be useful when using in a building or the home as backup internet for the whole house.

The AT&T Unite LTE Hotspot sitting on a Clear Hotspot. The Unite is much larger

The touch screen is very nice, responsive and totally obvious to use.

photo 1

I love that this Unite hotspot shows not only the amount of data you've used but the numbers of days left until your data plan resets. This is a killer feature I miss on other hotspots.

photo 2

The Pros - Speed

Here's the bandwidth at my local McDonald's, whose Wi-Fi is ironically provided by AT&T Wireless (but clearly capped). Wi-Fi like this is is best for email and small videos, and clearly won't work for anyone who tried to push it (Skype, RDP, etc). Looks like 1.76Mbps.

image

Here's my Clear 4G Hotspot. Now, this is holding it against a window and sitting smack in the middle of 4G territory. The Clear is one of those "works great until it totally doesn't work" things. I love it and take it everywhere, but there's no middle ground. It either has an awesome connection, or you might as well use your 3G phone. The Clear gets 8.94Mbps

image

Here's my iPhone 4S with Tethering (that I pay for) over Wi-Fi. This is with 5 bars on "4G" in the same location as the other devices. It's 3G+ as far as a I'm concerned as iPhone 4S 4G is a lie. I got lucky here with 3.43Mbps, but it's usually more like 1Mbps.

image

Here's the AT&T Unite Hotspot, pumping not only 14.5Mbps down but nearly 6.5Mbps up. This was with just 3 bars of LTE!

image

My conclusion after using this for a few months? LTE is no joke. I've seen it even faster but the net result is that this Hotspot is as fast as average folks' home internet. This extra upload headroom was totally noticeable for me when using Lync or Skype whilst sharing my screen. If you're pushing HD video as well as sharing your screen things start getting choppy with just a megabit.

The Cons

A small device with a large battery pushing 15Mbs nearly anywhere in the US? What's not to like? For me, the data plan.

It's US$50 for 5GB and $10 for each additional Gig. I really like the Clear device being unlimited, and while I used the Unite HARD for two billing cycles I bumped up against the 5GB twice and ended up around 6 to 7GB. Not enough to break the bank, but enough to wish for a 10GB or 20GB plan. If I went to 10GB it would be $100. That said, I'm not the typical user.

Alternatively you can add the Unite onto an existing Mobile Share Plan for $20 a month then add buckets of data to the plan to be shared across all devices.

Conclusion

If you've already got an LTE phone with tethering it's questionable if you would need an Unite, but the battery life is the kicker. My phone can only tether for a few hours when it's being worked hard. It's nice to have a separate device that's just a hotspot. Also, considering my phone isn't LTE and I have a Clear spot I'm paying for now, the Unite is an attractive alternative with almost double the speed and easily double the battery over Clear.

The Unite also has a bandwidth meter and shows the date your plan resets. This is such a nice touch. If you're in the market for a hotspot I can recommend the AT&T Unite. Even easier if you are already an AT&T customer and just want to add the line. The Unite hardware is really impressive. I'm sad to send this device back. The perfect price point for me would be 10GB for $75. At that point I'd switch off Clear in a second as a portable 15Mbps a second for 10 hours is almost too fabulous to resist.


Big thanks to our Sponsor this week. It's Redgate! Check out Deployment Manager – app deployment without the stress. Deploy .NET code & SQL Server databases in one simple process from a web-based UI. Works with local, remote and cloud servers. Try it free.

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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Hanselman's Newsletter of Wonderful Things: April 24th, 2013

May 13, '13 Comments [8] Posted in Newsletter
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I have a "whenever I get around to doing it" Newsletter of Wonderful Things. Why a newsletter? I dunno. It seems more personal somehow. Fight me.

You can view all the previous newsletters here. You can sign up here Newsletter of Wonderful Things or just wait and get them later on the blog, which hopefully you have subscribed to. Email folks get it first!

Here's the most recent newsletter that I sent out April 24th.  


Thanks again for signing up for this experiment. Here's some interesting things I've come upon recently. If you forwarded this (or if it was forwarded to you) a reminder: You can sign up at http://hanselman.com/newsletter and the archive of all previous Newsletters is here.

Remember, you get the newsletter here first. This one will be posted to the blog as an archive in a few weeks. 

(BTW, since you *love* email you can subscribe to my blog via email here: http://feeds.hanselman.com/ScottHanselman DO IT!)

P.P.S. You know you can forward this to your friends, right?  


Big thanks to our Sponsor this week. It's Redgate! Check out Deployment Manager – app deployment without the stress. Deploy .NET code & SQL Server databases in one simple process from a web-based UI. Works with local, remote and cloud servers. Try it free.

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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Redirecting ASP.NET Legacy URLs to Extensionless with the IIS Rewrite Module

May 10, '13 Comments [19] Posted in ASP.NET | IIS
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ASP.NET has included support for "friendly URLs" for a while now. ASP.NET MVC has always supported friendly URLs and more recently, so has Web Forms. That means if you don't want to have the .aspx extension, you certainly don't have to.

However, there's a LOT of existing legacy apps out there as well as apps that you may not have full control over. For example, there's a site that I want to influence but it's got dozens (hundreds) of links to foo.html and bar.html existing pages.

Legacy (n): A super-fancy way of saying "already exists."

What I want to do is kind of sloppy and I'm doing it for aesthetic reasons. I'll hopefully get around to updating the site's links later and know that future links will be extensionless. But look at me, I'm justifying why I'm doing this, Dear Reader. You of all people know that sometimes you just gotta do something just because ya gotta Get It Done™©.

I want to:

  • redirect existing GETs to a /foo.html to /foo
    • Redirects are external
  • but, keep rewriting /foo to the underlying /foo.html so it handles the request
    • Rewrites are internal

I can do all this within my web.config using the IIS Url Rewrite Module.  I can do this with ANY file type that IIS can handle, meaning this isn't an ASP.NET-specific thing. This all happens well before your application gets involved. You'll note I did a similar thing with a PHP app running under IIS just last month.

Here's what my web.config looks like. Note that since I have Azure (or in just IIS 7+ and the Rewrite module) I just added this file. There was no configuration needed. The same would apply to any existing site. Be aware that sometimes super-"greedy" rewrite or redirect rules can end up grabbing ahold of your CSS or JS so you'll want to be aware if something odd happens.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<configuration>
<system.webServer>
<rewrite>
<rules>
<rule name="extensionless" stopProcessing="true">
<match url="(.*)\.html$" />
<action type="Redirect" url="{R:1}" redirectType="Permanent" />
</rule>
<rule name="removeextension" enabled="true">
<match url=".*" negate="false" />
<conditions>
<add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsFile" negate="true" />
<add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsDirectory" negate="true" />
<add input="{URL}" pattern="(.*)\.(.*)" negate="true" />
</conditions>
<action type="Rewrite" url="{R:0}.html" />
</rule>
</rules>
</rewrite>
</system.webServer>
</configuration>

This stuff is hard to write, though.

SIDE NOTE: My RegEx expert Ruslan points out that the final Action could be simplified slightly like this:

<add input="{URL}" pattern="\." negate="true" />

This stuff is also hard to test. The IIS Rewrite module has a great UI for IIS that will write a lot of these rules for you and let you test them interactively:

URL Rewrite module in IIS

Hope this helps. I wrote this post (and bookmarked it) for myself because I am always googling around for this particular rule to remind myself. Now I'll search my own blog. ;) Reason #64 to blog, friends.


SPONSOR: Big thanks to the feed sponsor this past week, Ext.NET (seriously, check out their demos, really amazing stuff!) - Quickly build modern WebForm and MVC (including RAZOR) Apps for ASP.NET. Free pancake breakfast with all purchases!

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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Smart Watches are finally going to happen - Pebble Watch Reviewed

May 8, '13 Comments [41] Posted in Reviews
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iPod nano, Pebble, TI and SPOT Watch - I had to photoshop the SpotWatch as the battery died long ago

The Pebble Watch is shipping and it's revolutionary, fresh and new! Well, kind of. Dick Tracy got his first smart watch in 1946. It seems we've always wanted a computer and communicator on our wrists. I remember wanting to buy a TV watch in the 80s and we all had Casio Databank watches growing up (well, the nerds did).

Animated Pebble Watch FacesThe history of smart watches goes back much further of course as Microsoft Researcher Bill Buxton points out. He has a collection of smart watches going back almost 40 years!

My buddy Karl still wears and uses his Timex Datalink watch, originally made in 1994. Almost ten years ago I bought a Microsoft SPOT Watch from Fossil and loved every minute of it. It had news, sports, stocks, weather and the occasional email. However it didn't connect to my phone (it was mostly PalmPilots back then, and the occasional Blackberry pager) and Bluetooth wasn't a thing quite yet.

Smart Phone sales are flattening out as, well, everyone who wants one has one. There's only so many things you can sell with batteries, screens, and wireless technology, right? Moreover, young people don't wear watches! I'm a watch guy, myself, with a watch case and a growing collection. I like watches old and new. I'm often teased by my younger co-workers who declare "my phone is my watch! Why would I want something else to carry around?" Watches are such an outmoded concept, right?

I for one, think that the wrist is the next big thing. This is a market that's right on the edge of mainstream adoption and has been for at least a decade, if not the for the last 70 years!

The Pebble Smart Watch

I was a backer of the Pebble's Kickstarter campaign and my red Pebble showed up last week. It's worth noting that Kickstarter isn't a store or marketplace, but rather a place you invest in an idea and watch it grow. Many Kickstarters fail. You might invest your money and never see a return on your investment. Fortunately, the Pebble succeeded and almost a year later my investment arrived.

The Pebble Box, closed The Pebble Box, opened

The boxing was very Kindle-esque and classy in its recycled granola-ness. It was simple and served its purpose well. The package included just the watch and the charging cable. Sadly, the charging cable is custom with an unnecessarily clever (and weak) magnetic connector. I'd have preferred a micro-USB port (and in fact, would for every device) so that I might travel with yet-another-unique-cable-I-can't-afford-to-lose-can't-tell-apart-at-a-distance-and-will-eventually-lose-in-my-bad. But I'm not bitter.

Initial Impressions

The Pebble is easy to view in sunlight The Pebble shows fingerprints, but looks great, if a little plasticky

The watch is lovely. Truly. Considering that I paid $125 for it - a reasonable price considering its potential - I'm happy with it and would recommend it. Still, it feels...cheap. It's plastic. It's light. It's glossy and smears easily. I'm afraid it will crack or scratch if I bump whilst walking. It's fine, but it's not, well, it's not an Apple Product. It's not made of magical Surface Magnesium. It's a plastic watch with a rubber wristband.

It's a little too tall, for my taste. This causes the Pebble to be a half-inch taller than the average (read: my) wrist, causing it to stick out just enough that I notice it. I prefer the wider square style of the iPod "watch." The Pebble is not at all unattractive, but I'm assume the creators must be thick-wristed people to not have noticed this.

photo The iPod Nano is a fancier watch with a color touch screen, but no connectivity 

What do we really want? Something with the intense attention to detail and built quality of an Apple iPod Nano 6th generation combined with a Lunatik Watch Strap. Now THAT'S a fantastic watch.

The idea of an iWatch is an attractive one...and the combination of what you get today with a Pebble combined with what you get with a (now discontinued) iPod Nano is near-ideal.

The Pebble gets you:

  • Low-power Bluetooth 4 connectivity
  • An open SDK
  • Reasonable battery life of a few days
  • Vibrations
  • Motion-activated backlight
  • Potential!
  • a 144x168 1-bit display

The iPod Nano (6th generation) "watch" gets you:

  • Fantastic build quality
  • A color screen
  • Touch!
  • FM Radio, Photos, Music, Headphone Jack
  • Pedometer
  • Crappy battery life of a day at best
  • a 240x240 color TFT display

The Pebble effectively gives us connectivity and an SDK. If the iWatch does come - and it will - it better have all these things. Although, I expect it won't have an open SDK (Watch App Store anyone?) and it won't play well with Android as the Pebble does. Therefore, iOS people will get iWatches, and Android people will get Pebbles. Check back in six months and we shall see!

What the Pebble does for an iPhone

My main phone is an iPhone 4s. Pebble really shine on Android, I am told, as the open Android OS gives developers free reign. Still, I've been very happy with the device exactly as it is, even if it didn't improve...and it will.

Today the Pebble is a Bluetooth-connected watch that will give you:

  • Vibration notifications and the full text of SMS texts sent to your phone.
    • This is brilliant, and it's the vibration that is the key. I was in the movies just this evening and got a text from the babysitter. The watch discretely let me see that it wasn't urgent without removing my phone from my pocket.
    • SMS notifications are totally reliable on the Pebble with iOS but email notifications barely work. They say they'll fix this soon.
  • Clear, backlit display
    • Go into settings, and turn on Motion Activated Backlight and the Pebble will light up with a gentle shake. This was nice at the movies tonight.
  • Customizable watch faces on a clear screen that is visible in total darkness (due to its backlight) and in bright sunlight (due to its low-power memory LCD).
    • It's great to be able to change the LCD screen with new watch faces, but I admit I'd have appreciated plastic colorful watch covers. It's nice I have a red Pebble, but it's forever red. Why not make the face swappable?
  • Answer and Hang-up the Phone
    • When paired with a Bluetooth headset, this means you can get a call, glance at your watch, see who it is, and answer it without touching your phone. iOS doesn't show the name, just the number. Again, we shall see.

This is the Pebble today. Tomorrow promises apps and better notifications.

Selecting Watch faces The Pebble is connected to my iPhone

What Pebble Needs

The Pebble needs what my SPOT Watch had ten years ago. I want:

  • Weather alerts
    • How about Dark Sky weather alerts on my Pebble? Surely they are working on a notification bridge for 3rd party apps?
  • News, Stocks
    • Breaking news and Stock price alerts would be lovely.
  • Quick SMS responses
    • "I'll call you back" and a few quick choices for responses to texts would be a nice time saver.
  • Motion details...speedometer, GPS, etc
    • This would all be using the Pebble as a "remote view" of an app that is doing the right work, but would be great for exercise.
  • Calendar
    • What's my next appt? Give me Google Now, but on my watch.

The Pebble is typically thick compared to other Smart Watches You can change up your Pebble Watch Face with your mood

The Future of Pebble is Bright

Give people an easy to use SDK and let them download (side-load) apps directly to their device and you'll get a thriving community in no time, and that's what Pebble has done. Watch faces are written in tight "C" and move PNGs around, usually. There's lots of info at http://developer.getpebble.com. One way apps are now starting to show up with two-way apps coming soon (although Pebble will be limited on iOS due to Apple-imposed limitations). Also, there's dozens of great watch faces you can get at http://www.mypebblefaces.com. You can download Pebble Watch Faces directly from your phone which acts as a bridge to the watch. The experience is two clicks, really clean and simple.

Smart Watches are the next big thing. You watch.


SPONSOR: Big thanks to the feed sponsor this week, Ext.NET (seriously, check out their demos, really amazing stuff!) - Quickly build modern WebForm and MVC (including RAZOR) Apps for ASP.NET. Free pancake breakfast with all purchases!

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.